Monday, January 11, 2016

El Chapo Speaks

Sean Penn secretly met with El Chapo, leader of the most powerful drug cartel in the world. Drug cartels - like a rotting building that poses so much danger to life, it has to be condemned. And this Rolling Stone article that he wrote offered me no new perspective.  All the details of his clandestine meeting – cliché.  It just reiterated the Hollywood star that he is. For example:

“It's a clandestine horror show for the single most technologically illiterate man left standing. At 55 years old, I've never learned to use a laptop. Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea!”

In other words: "I'm a rebel!"

“Dick in hand, I do consider it among my body parts vulnerable to the knives of irrational narco types, and take a fond last look, before tucking it back into my pants.”

In other words: “I have the balls to do this.”

And then, he asked El Chapo, Is it true what they say that drugs destroy humanity and bring harm?" 

El Chapo answered, "Well, it's a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn't a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living.”

Oh yeah, as if no one can tell from the countless stories of illegal immigrants risking their lives crossing treacherous deserts, only to cross the border to the Unite States of America.

David Bowie, pray for us!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One Sunday in Prison

Nothing was more exhilarating for us than a weekend with our father. You see he was the chief of police.  Everywhere he went, he made news.

It was during the days when we drove our mother crazy.  She demanded a spic-and-span household. Her only problem was our three teenage sisters who just found out about bell bottom blues among other things, plus us - four kids whose favorite game was proving to ourselves that cats had nine lives. One time, our mother spent a fortune landscaping our lawn, on which we dug up a big hole trying to unearth a cave where we could perform such experiments. However, before we could turn the whole backyard into a laboratory, my father stepped in. He came up with this ingenious idea to take us to Mass inside the city jail every Sunday.

Along the corridor that became the makeshift chapel between prison cells, the chaplain would bless us with a sign of the cross, signaling to us the start of our day.  The sound of scurrying feet would be a familiar sound to all the guards and most especially to our friends behind bars. They would take turns gifting us with handicrafts that they worked on during the week and best of all, telling us stories that entertained us to no end.

"See that red door? Don't go there," said one of the prisoners one Sunday.  So we did.

"Urgh!" Something behind the door groaned so loud it sent us running back to our friend. 

He was about to tell his story when our father, together with a few prison guards, came marching towards the red steel door.

"Curiosity kills the cat, but we're not cats."  My sister said as she ran behind my father.  We had no choice but to follow her.

"Open that door!" My father said with a firm voice that sent the guards frantically searching for the right key.  Our hands covered our eyes as we stood in anticipation. Then there it was - a dark, narrow room with unpainted concrete walls and unfinished floor. We all covered our faces as the foul smelling evil spirits escaped from it.

Then in an instant we watched the prison guards scrub the floor and paint the walls. Soon after that we saw a cot being carried into the room. We whispered among ourselves in agreement with our father that if they were to make somebody sleep inside this room, it better be with a bed.

That would be our last visit.  Not long after, we found ourselves in front of the television watching President Marcos declare Martial Law.  Our father was detained briefly for having been associated with Sergio Osmena, Jr., a staunch opponent of Marcos. That night, I lay in bed with a rosary in my hand, praying hard for him to come home safely, as I had done every night he was out on a mission.

Looking back, while our story of the isolation room ushered in one of the darkest moments in our country's history, it opened to us one comforting truth - our father had the heart to care.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life's Quotes

Facebook has become some sort of a morning ritual to me.  It has served as my daily newspaper, my letters and greeting cards from loved ones to open, a photo album to gawk over, an old or latest music video to find, and my journal.  More recently, it has even become my prophet in the guise of "life's quotes" in the morning before I go to work. (Yes, I have the discipline to log off.)

You see, if you were me, an immigrant who has lived in several towns and cities, not to mention countries, you would consider Facebook like a staple food.  Imagine yourself alone and away from home, missing places and friends, learning about different cultures and values, meeting and choosing new friends, learning a new trade, acquiring a new taste for food or a person to fall in love with. ("Funny enough, society's standards of beauty is always changing as if it were the newest season's fashion collection." - Huffington Post ) In other words, if you were me, you would have been struggling to make sense of why you left the comforts of home in the first place and where you are in the journey called life.

While I still take time to read long feature articles and novels, I must admit that I get a kick out of those spurts of wise words by men of yore while I scroll down the page. There are times when I would contemplate on the daily grind of life as a review, before I go to bed, and find answers or encouragements the next morning on a friend's wall.

A word of caution though - while I move freely in the world of social media, I am well aware of the existence of mind altering science.  In the same way that I choose my friends, I discern what I need to believe in to shape my mind in relation to my goals.

So now, I have friends who make my list of favorites because of their choices of posters on their walls. I even go searching for them.  Believe them or not, they serve as reminders to me about very important lessons learned. Come to think of it, these wise men we quote all struggled like us, before they found themselves living their dreams, be it in heaven or earth.
Here are a few examples:

When I went through some serious moments of doubt about my worth (c'mon we all do):

One time, I struggled through some comments about my blog that were negative, I wanted to eff them back:

During those times when I almost gave up on my dream, I would think of packing up to go back home:

Last, but not the least, and may I add it is not the end of it, I struggled to make sense of my failed relationships and somehow had accepted being alone for the meantime:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Always on My Father's Mind

"He handed me a greeting card soiled with grease," my mother told me when I asked her how she met my father. They were blind dates in a bowling alley during the glory days of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and hair pomade. How they fell in love. She was charmed by his natural ways, my father smitten by her strong yet graceful gait. They became "Paquito and Lil" to their family and friends.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


"Every single decision I make about what material I do, what I'm putting out in the world, is because of my children," Meryl Streep once said.  She recently won her third Oscar and has been nominated seventeen times.  Would it not be apropos to say that her formula for such a sustainable excellence should be our example?


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Philippines After 26 Years: Still Camping in the Desert

It was not too long ago when I contributed an article - Standard & Poor's Downgrade: U.S. Going the Wrong Way - to Blogcritics, a seemingly American Conservative group.  It solicited a response from one American who turned out to have ties to the Philippines, by way of his Filipino wife.  I decided to share it now after reading a few articles that tackled several issues that continue to frustrate Filipinos, 26 years after a peaceful revolution that earned us our freedom. Here is what he wrote:

Hello, Cordi -

Great article, and sure to be panned by the BC conservatives since you lay the blame where it belongs.

But I wanted to mention an observation - I'll be moving to Quezon City in a few months (my oldest son is teaching college and my youngest son is in fourth-year high school, both in Q.C.) for the reasons I listed in this article. It is as I've heard a few Pinoy say, America's a great place to make money, but it's better to grow old in the Philippines.

But back to the observation - when I visited my wife's family there while we were in the middle of the Great Recession here stateside, I traveled from Taguig (which is a modern and beautiful place even by western standards - Google "Serendra") to Baguio to La Union and back to Q.C., and I saw nary a sign of the Great Recession that the U.S. and Europe were going through. I figured this was because of the Pinoy attitude: if you don't have a job, don't sit around waiting for one but go out and make one - start a business, even if it's selling taho in the iskinita. I think that's why most Pinoy stateside are either professionals or businesspeople, or are trying to start businesses of their own.

But that's the difference between America and the Philippines - America has a reliable way to collect taxes, whereas the Philippines doesn't, and so they have to rely greatly on import duties and fees to help finance their government (which is why electronics is so much more expensive there). America, OTOH, reliably and automatically collects taxes, and so can afford the wealth of social programs we have here (not to mention our hideously-expensive military (I'm retired Navy)). If the Philippines had a better system of collecting income and business taxes, they'd be able to afford so much more and provide an actual social safety net.

But I suspect that will not happen in my lifetime...and even though I'm a dyed-in-the-wool bleeding-heart liberal, I sometimes wonder if it's better that it doesn't. Why? Because without the social safety net, the Pinoys are forced to strive harder - witness the bookstores where the fiction books take up less than a quarter of the space, but nearly half consists of professional certification and qualification manuals!

And because they've had to strive harder, they've excelled in much of the world, as is evinced by the fact that one-third of ALL crewmembers on the world's merchant marine ships are Pinoy. It helps that most Pinoy are intelligent - indeed, can America produce an example of a polymath like Jose Rizal who, by the age of 32 when he was martyred, had become a practicing eye surgeon, had published two books of national importance, had traveled the world, and knew twenty-two languages? Perhaps Benjamin Franklin comes close, but that's about it.

Don't get me wrong - I'm no Filipinophile, for there's many problems there that we would not abide here stateside (again, see the article I referenced above). But there's a lot of lessons we could learn from the Philippines. Problem is, America's got this attitude that if the idea didn't come from America, then it must not be a good idea. That attitude is IMO America's greatest shortcoming - the unwillingness of Americans to learn from other nations or cultures...which is probably the same obstacle faced by every nation in history that has stood unchallenged.

Sorry for the rambling comment - it's just that I'm glad to see someone lay the blame where it belongs, and that the same someone can understand and appreciate the observations I've made over the years.

My reply:

Hi Glenn,

I agree with you on your observations about the Philippines. We lost our way a long time ago and have been so far out that we decided to camp. Haha!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enrile: Road to Redemption or Perdition

The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona remains as enigmatic as the man tasked to lead the panel of its judges, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Recently, Esquire Magazine banked on the trend and published an interesting article, What I've Learned: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.  Although he spoke with the wisdom of a man who was "not fortunate enough to be born in a soft bed," one cannot tell at his age of 92 years if he is on the road to redemption or perdition.

On one hand, he professes to believe in a Supreme Being.  On the other, he says, "How does one get anything done in Congress? You have to have friends. You have to maintain connections with people who have the cloud."  By all indications, he is still a politician who can go either way.  There is just no way of getting a sense from him as to who this impeachment trial will end up serving-Filipinos or Corona.

After all, Enrile, who once had to learn from the "art of war" in order to survive in the "jungle" as he referred to life, might just be reserving the right to change his mind in case the fight ends up being a matter of his own survival.  Besides, history often repeats itself.