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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Monday, November 30, 2009


(For archival purposes, this short story by Albert B. Casuga is being posted as part of the September 2009 post on A Harvest of Tales)

I’m going back home to get killed. That’ll humor the Old Man. I’ll get myself shot so they will have a martyr. After that, compadre … the real revolution. What did the French guy say, “Après moi, le Deluge”? Hah-hah.

He must have liked what he said, he even chuckled with the same naughty smirk he would put on when pulling newsmen’s legs.

On the plane back to Manila, Lorenzo Pimentel sounded hauntingly like the young motor-mouth senator he once was who doted on us press “gents” (a label he used that also included the women – he thought newshens was sexist, besides the male hounds can’t be called newscocks, can they?) He made sure no one in the Senate press gallery forgot that, as a teenager and (like most of us) a college dropout, he covered the Korean War, and he had seen guts spilled, blood pour, brains blown out, and, Jesus, writhed with the spasm of war in his testicles. So death is really nothing to him. Piece of cake.


Dealing with the American press has not taught you how to answer questions briefly, eh, senator? I ribbed him for his response to the Globe reporter’s reminder that there were warnings from Manila – and the Old Man himself – about some plot to kill the homebound senator as soon as he got off the plane.

Canada has taught you well yourself, compadre. You use the Eh? As our Batangueños would. Ala, E!

He was always quick at repartee and with sudden bursts of impressions like that. I told him that I needed to go back home before my accent got too good and visit the old haunts before the country got annexed by America, and before downtown Quiapo’s Chinese restaurants got so sanitized I’d miss the roaches, Ling Nam’s noodles, and tsia sio pao.

And the Times building? Yes! The taverns on Soler? Yes! The cabarets of Mesirecordia? Yes! And the seedy hotels of Ong Pin? Yes!

Ah, the debauchery of Nick Joaquin’s Manila. Sin City, here he comes!

Then, he fell silent. I looked away then.

Looking at the camera, he said, when we land, they would have to execute me. How else will they stop me from leading the opposition party back to power?

The cameraman zoomed in on his once chubby face, youngish but gaunt, a bit wrinkled now from the winter bites of Boston and the long nights of remonstrations with his wife — she pleading he must take advantage of the American asylum and forget about ever going back to Manila, and he insisting his life would not mean anything if he could not convince his people to throw the Old Man out and restore democracy . . .

Inside or outside of the stockade, and Christ, Nenuca! I cannot stand being a beggar in America!

Hyperbole was part of his style. Every issue, every election, every fight was always the last best fight.

I can still feel how I ached in the groin watching him play up to the cameras, being senator once again, trying hard to inject the odd joke even as his Mandarin eyes betrayed the utter fear: Will his death matter anyway?

On our way to the plane’s rear, I asked him if it was worth it at all. Would his dying for the old country matter to anyone, anyway?

Sensing I was being facetious, he raced me to the toilet, and he took time to pee.

When we arrived in Manila, Pimentel was promptly killed.


As I relieved myself of the pitchers of pilsen I must have consumed while keeping Mother awake with these remembrances of a plane ride, she called out from her room: When will you tell me why you’ve come home suddenly from Canada? Or is it the States? Saudi? Or are you going to stop talking about Pimentel and revolutions at all? How are your children? Are you drunk? Maybe you should get used to San Miguel beer again. Sure, it’s not like your Canadian beer because water here is pure.”

I puked. Oh, my God, she has just heard me describe a carnage worth the Pulitzer and she — like those students waiting at the airport, waving banners, welcoming their senator back from his exile — did not seem to care who he was, why they shot him, and what for.

O, my people.

Her voice trailed off to an explosion of dry cough: “You should have brought your son, Bertito, home,” she said in an almost cavernous voice. The old house was an echoing chamber. The long, clean, and wide planks of polished hardwood floors were now shorn of the tender and gentle bodies sprawled for relief from the cruel season’s heat. I felt like lying down on them while I purged the memory from my system, while I told Mother the story, like I used to when I would wait for Father to come home so he could pick me up from the floor, half asleep, still in hot pursuit of the elves and the naked fairies.


Lorenzo Pimentel was there sitting beside me, insisting I call him “Pim” like old times — he has never really lost his charm, Mother. All those years in the military stockade, the constipation in Boston, did not affect his manner of speaking — still in torrents; you’ll certainly feel something had gone wrong, however, because he spoke of God and the Virgin Mary more often than you would.

Then he told me why he was coming home, despite the news about his imminent destruction.

You see, I am already a dead man, he said as the plane passed over California.
But when the Old Man’s wife came to New York, he continued, winking at me, I went to see her at her Manhattan penthouse. Rather, she ordered for me to see her. He winked again.

Partner, out of the blue, she asked me if I wanted to come home and join her new party – to take over when the Old Man died. He was dying anyway. For the country, she said. For you, I said.

“By the way, how is your rich and shameless wife?” Mother’s inquisition was earnest.

O, my mother.

But Mother turned to the well-preserved jukebox of a radio she promised was an heirloom, and she turned it on.

“Pimentel’s death is still on the radio! Santisima! They have even cut off the afternoon drama!” She spat out of the gaping window, but her saliva fell on the sill. “Punieta!” she cursed.

“And has your wife finally poisoned your mind, too, that you rant like a mad man?” Mother looked at my face, eyes, palms, and nape, looked away and sighed:

O, my son.


It was a single shot. Not unlike shooting a cow. Entered the right ear, bored a large hole, out through the chin. That could not have come from an assassin on the ground, Mother. No way. In any case, the soldiers shot an ugly man on the tarmac. Their goat.

A Member of Parliament, Pim’s old frat brod, screamed through his bullhorn: “Now is the time for all men with cojones to wage the battle in memory of Lorenzo Pimentel!”

A longhaired young man in the audience shouted: “Kill the soldiers!”

In the crowd, I spotted my old professor who used to moonlight for the Old Man’s press secretary (until the Secretary was fired for unexplained wealth); he was spoiling for a fight. “The Government killed him!” he shouted in his Batangueño dialect. His gaunt frame shaking, eyes bulging out of their sockets, he began to sneeze. He even exposed a fan knife tucked halfway into his hipwatch pocket.

Bewildered, the rest of the welcomers asked: What’s happening?

At lunchtime, Mother, all the welcomers had quietly dispersed.

It was single shot, the mortician told Pim’s mother when she picked his body up from the morgue. She touched his forehead and whispered:

O, my son.

“It was a single shot, Mother.”

“On my way home from the airport, I dropped by Amador Yonzon’s house and put a bullet through his head. Thanks to you, amor mio, the whole town knows he had been fucking my wife during her annual sabbatical here.”

“By sunrise, I will have gone to the hills, reached the Sierrra Madre. In a day or two, Mother, you’ll have your soap opera back on radio.”

“Santisima, hijo,” Mother bristled. “You do not make sense anymore.”

(Winner in the Fiction Category, Library Systems Literary Contests, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Published in the Philippine Sunday Times Magazine, Feruary 2003.)

Friday, November 27, 2009



Updating the Massacre of 57 (as of this count) Filipino journalists and civilians in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Southern Philippines, Juan L. Mercado, (inset) veteran and award-winning Filipino journalist, looks at this “Neanderthal brutality” no longer from an angry stance but through a moving sublimation of this tragedy in the Mystery of the Christian Advent and other Holy Muslim Eid ul Adha.

From a journalist hardened by the prevalence of human violence, this column is an anguished but by no means resigned account of what all humanity must learn to forgive. Mercado’s take is a lesson for all working journalists.

Also included is a Canadian association of Human Rights Lawyers reaction, asking the Canadian Government to help install a witness protection programme -- through the United Nations-- that could protect the witnesses to the massacre.

(The column and the Canadian reaction were forwarded to this blog by Rev. Fr. Francisco R. Albano, OSB, seminary rector in Northern Philippines and himself a human rights monitor, and Lingling Claver who sent the Human Rights Lawyers Association letter to her online network.)


by Juan L. Mercado
(Sun Star & other community papers 29 Nov )

“Voodoo? Drugs? Or what?” asked our daughter, a United Nations communication officer in Jerusalem. She read dispatches on the Maguindanao massacre and phoned just before Advent. “Murdering 42 civilians -- including women and journalists, -- is ‘Neanderthal brutality’ indeed.”

“No. Fifty seven bodies were recovered,” we updated her. “And 27 were journalists. The five-man staff of the weekly Periodico Ini was wiped out. Two newsmen are still missing,”

Salvaging journalists hits this girl hard. She grew up in a newspaper-cluttered home. Her schedules partly hewed to deadlines and the old man’s reporting trips. After graduating from Boston College, she signed up as a reporter for Gannet newspapers in New York. Her husband is an Agence France Presse staffer.

Successive governments’ tolerance for rubout contracts on journalists spawned a culture of impunity. Inevitably, that metastasized into the Ampatuan town bloodbath. “This is the single deadliest event for journalists in history” notes the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Under the Marcos dictatorship, no one dared expose killing of journalists. Primitivo Mijares of the Manila Chronicle testified before the US Congress on “New Society abuses. Tibo was salvaged in Guam. So was his son.

Corazon Aquino restored freedom of the press with People Power. “Counting from the 1986 post-Marcos era, a total of 60 journalists had been killed in the line of duty,” the Center for Media Freedom reports. “Of these 48 percent were killed under the Arroyo administration”.

After 2006, the total bolted to over 70 today. No mastermind has been convicted, despite Ms Arroyo’s pledges or ex-Speaker Jose de Venecia’s offer of bounty.

Victims were individual reporters, usually exposing sleaze. These include, among others: Edgar Dalamerio of Zamboanga Scribe, Marlene Esperat of Midland Review in Tacurong, Roger Mariano of dzJC Aksyon Radyo in Laoag.

“When journalists get killed, the citizen’s right to to freedom of information is threatened,” notes the CMFR study: “Journalist Killings Under the Arroyo Administration ( 2001-2006 ).

The result is a cruel paradox, “A country, which was once perceived as having the freest media in Asia, had become the ‘world’s most dangerous place for journalists’ outside a war zone,” CMFR adds.

Individual killings here clone the murder, in Moscow, of the prominent investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. The 48-year old Novaya Gazeta reporter documented, in Chechnya, torture, mass executions and kidnapping, she exposed the sale by, Russian soldiers of Chechen, corpses to their families for proper Islamic burial.

She was gunned down in an elevator in 2006. A Makarov 9-mm pistol had been dumped at her side. Like murders of Filipino journalists, no one has been held accountable for Ms. Politkovskaya slaying. That sends a very clear message: You can kill – and get away with it.

In Russia, 16 journalists have been rubbed out because of their work since 2000, the Committee to Protect Journalists reveals. Only one has been convicted, and none of those who organized the killings has been nailed. Just like the Philippines.

“There can be no free speech in a country where the best journalists are afraid for their lives for doing their jobs,” says a European Union official.

TV network Al Jazeera, meanwhile, aired an interview with a witness who claimed: Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. “ordered that reporters accompanying the convoy also be killed. That would cover-up what happened.”

That’s crass but standard covering of the ass. But do political warlords here understand the press’ role in a free society. “There are Three Estates in Parliament;” Edmund Burke once said. “But, in the Reporters' gallery yonder, sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

Death tolls, in other massacres, have been higher. In 2008, for example, terrorists slaughtered 173 hotel guests in Mumbai and wounded 308. Massacres, within Kosovo, in 1999, saw Serb police and military murder Albanians. Death tolls ranged from 206 males killed at Velika Krisav and 70 at Dubrava prison. But in none of these were journalists singled out.

The Maguindanao massacre occurred just before Muslim and Christian festivals: Muslims around the world celebrated, starting Thursday, the Eid ul Adha. This 'Festival of Sacrifice' commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God.

Christians marked Sunday as the start of Advent. The Latin word “adventus” – coming -- is the translation of the Greek parousia, It is a season of expectant joy for Nativity, overhang this year by self-made hell that is the Ampatuan bloodletting.

At Advent, “come, we say, and rescue us from all the harm and ruin of our own making” –or Neanderthal brutality’, theologian Catalino Arevalo wrote. We believe that He comes in answer to our asking. Yet (as Maguindanao shows) it seems things have become worse.

But He has come…to be Emmanuel: God with us. He wants to be with us, no matter what, no matter where. To all our perplexity, despair and fears, there is a God who loves us, and gives only one answer. One only. Look. “Behold my Son is born.”


JUAN L. MERCADO started his journalistic career as a reporter for one of the community papers in Cebu. He then joined the staff of Evening News, serving first as a Senate reporter, then later as associate editor. Mercado was the first director of the Philippine Press Institute (1965-1972). He instituted PPI's first training programs as well as hands-on courses that helped facilitate coverage of sensitive beats like street demonstrations, the stock exchanges, the police and military.

He continued writing exposes on graft and corruption in government using the Philippine News Service as outlet, while still PPI director. Among the more notable stories he wrote were: the plight of sacada workers in Visayan sugar fields; customs corruption and widespread leakage of questions in a (nationwide) civil service examination for professionals.

He joined the Press Foundation of Asia as its Joint Chief Executive and started (DEPTHnews), an experiment in developmental journalism. He worked as editorial director of the service.
Mercado also served as correspondent for the Financial Times of London; the Honolulu Star Bulletin as well as The Bulletin of Sydney in Australia.

He was among the 22 journalists detained in the first wave of arrests by the martial law regime. Upon his release, he became communication officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand. Thereafter, he was posted in FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy as Attaché d' Cabinet.

Juan L. Mercado graduated from the University of San Carlos, Cebu City. He also took special courses at the American Press Institute in Columbia University in 1964 and at Henry Kissinger's foreign policy seminar at Harvard University.

He was named Journalist of the Year by Manila Rotary Club and received an Outstanding Alumnus Award at the University of San Carlos in 1970.

Source: Press Club Golden Jubilarians (thesis prepared by students of Miriam College) with revisions by. J.L. Mercado



Subject: Massacre in the Philippines: Call on Canada to provide witness protection
Received: Thursday, November 26, 2009, 7:06 PM

Dear Ambassador Desjardins:

Re: Massacre of 57 people in Philippines on November 23 2009.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) understands that there are 3 or 4 witnesses who survived this massacre. We are writing to ask the Canadian government to act immediately to ensure the safety of these witnesses.

As you are no doubt aware, recommendations made in 2007 to the Philippine government by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, regarding the creation of a witness protection programme have not been implemented. These recommendations were made to encourage witnesses to extrajudicial executions to come forward and to ensure their safety. Witnesses to such killings were seen as being at heightened risk because of allegations of complicity by government agents in the killings.

Professor Alston made four recommendations, none of which have been implemented. His recommendations were:

“The witness protection programme should be reformed and fully implemented:
a) It should be proactively administered by an office independent of the NPS;
b) Witness protection should be unstintingly provided to all those who will be put at risk by an individual's testimony;
c) Individuals should be permitted to remain in the witness protection system for as long as they are at risk, even if a case stalls;
d) Housing and other benefits provided under the witness protection programme should ensure the security and comfort of those protected.”
LRWC and the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) have called for an independent international inquiry into the massacre of these 57 people.

LRWC calls on the government of Canada to immediately provide protective measures for the witnesses to the massacre. It is necessary that adequate security be provided immediately to these witnesses who are clearly at great risk: only one of the estimated 100 gunmen involved in the actual executions has been taken into custody. In addition immediate adequate protection is absolutely necessary as a preliminary step to ensuring that the perpetrators—including those who authored, planned and executed these terrible crimes--are properly identified and punished through investigations, prosecutions and trials.

We hope that Canada will be part of the solution. I look forward to receiving a prompt reply indicating what assistance Canada will provide.

Gail Davidson, Executive Director, LRWC

Gail Davidson
Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada - LRWC
3220 West 13th Avenue
Vancouver, BC CANADA, V6K 2V5
Tel: +1-604 738-0338
Fax: +1-604 736-1175
Skype: gail.davidson.lrwc

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights. LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

(Source: Email from Rev. Fr. Francisco R. Albano, OSB, of Isabela, Northern Philippines, forwarding a pooled email from Lingling Claver to Human Rights Monitors.)


If there are two issues I would like to address with great urgency, such that I would do a Cromwell or a Trudeau and storm the Parliaments or any forum that could lend sanity to these abominations, they are: 1) The Catholic School Board’s plan to make an approved list of books (literature) that may be used to advance the curriculum on reading, writing, or social studies; 2) The same Board settling human rights issues based upon complaints of ethnic discrimination or outright racism as perceived by diverse groups in the community with the least amount of noise.

The first is a proposed resolution of a complaint brought by one of the parents of a student who claimed that Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not appropriate for classroom use because of the use of racial epithets considered denigrating to the black members of the community. The school’s principal performed a knee-jerk reaction and removed Lee’s classic civil rights novel from the list of books appropriate for the development of the curriculum on language, literature, and character education.

A great hue and cry about this action smacking of a return to “book burning” and the Dark Ages forced the board of trustees to task a committee of teachers and other stake holders (parents, students, and church representatives) with the production of a list of all books acceptable to the school and community for the advancement of the curricula.

The first consideration in making this decision would be the qualifications of the “screeners” who would decide on this list. How qualified are they? Would this group not constitute a “censor librorum”, a censorship group, whose bias could unnecessarily delimit the vision students would be exposed to in the course of their development as knowledge users and educable and educated citizens who will uphold the values of a democratic way of life?

Should not the professional teacher as a specialist be encouraged to mediate between the perceptions of diverse cultural groups and the goals of education as enshrined in this country’s Constitution? Committee lists and curricular requirements based on ethnic interests have the potential of creating discriminatory, unjust, unfair, and myopic world views that will only serve to sever one already disparate culture from the other in a pluralistic and diverse society like Canada.

Of course, while this creation of a list is a more “positive” approach compared to simply banning a book, it might just mutate into an unwitting monkey wrench on the freedom of speech and expression. Like a Frankenstein monster, it could come back to sully what is the most sacrosanct human right – the right to think, speak, and acquire all knowledge man needs to develop his human potential.

Book banning has never really worked in the collective guardianship of value system formation and inculcation. The Catholic University where I graduated from had to scrap its Index of Prohibited Books that catholic students should never be seen reading. It became instead the list of books popular to the students who read them all outside of school.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover prohibited? That’s what the bookworms all looked for in the bookstores. Don’t even mention works by Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and the writers of erotica.

There was a time Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were disallowed in the Catholic University which I attended (University of Santo tomas in Manila). That banning did its job: we read them cover to cover. In fact, I did not bother reading the English translations in class (when they were finally legislated to be “readable” in all institutions of learning in the country), since I have had the privilege and luck of having read them earlier in my youth in the library of my erudite grandfather who, as a Mason, had Rizal’s books at par with the Holy Bible.

I had the advantage of reading these prohibited books in the language in which they were originally written. The Spanish friars who ran the University up to that time I matriculated in 1959 thereat said that the novels painted a bad picture of the Church and its role in the colonization of the Philippines by Spain.

Rizal, of course, browbeated the friars through his characters not the Church. Certainly, his accounts of Spanish friars fathering children with their maids and keeping mistresses even in the convents or the nunneries made them Rizal’s enemies.

The Vatican once prohibited the reading of Galileo’s notes on cosmology and astronomy to prevent the spread of the concept of geocentricity (the Earth as the center of the universe not the sun). Scientists and learned men of that time read him instead.

It is the inherent aspiration of man to know and to accumulate all information he requires for his comfortable development as a homo sapiens which makes him rebel against all prohibited lists. Those tasked with making the “appropriate” list of books to advance the curriculum have the unenviable job of making sure that the list will truly be representative of all those possible sources of a value system that is consistent with the rational and reasonable nature of man. The list could be viewed as an equivalent stricture on the academic freedom which is an educational institution’s sine qua non.

There remains the danger of foisting the committee’s biases and prejudices in the creation of such a list. In such an event, who will guard against this transgression? In the end, it will have to be the individual who will decide what he will or will not read. The best that schools can do is provide him with the perspective and the equipment to choose those that are salutary to his physical and intellectual development as the reasonably-situated steward of all that is possible on Earth.

This is just one of those that branched out from racial issues those fearful parents protective of their children’s well-being in campuses have raised.

The other issue which I am concerned about because it has all the makings of an unwitting apartheid is the haste in which institutions curry favour with ethnic minorities who perceive discrimination even in innocently uttered descriptions like “black people tend to look younger than their age.” “Asians generally look younger, but when they really grow old, they look truly wrinkled.” Harmless generalizations, but these have been complained about in schools.

The Catholic School Board has had several occasions in which they settled court cases brought by the ethnic minorities who were awarded money to drop these charges. This seems to have encouraged the outright effrontery and temerity of ethnic groups to see something racial in even the most innocuous expressions in a diverse society like Canada’s.

Somehow, dealing with ethnic minorities in tenterhooks has created a backlash of cultural ghettoization which has exacerbated the balkanization of communities. Cultural diversity has become apparently a hindrance to civic mindedness and Canadian citizenship that stands foursquare on being Canadian first before one is a hyphenated Filipino-Canadian, Indo-Canadian, French-Canadian, African-Canadian.

Creating inter-national, inter-cultural borders within a multicultural society has proven more enervating in that it prevents the immigrant to love Canada as a Canadian, not an exile who needs to hyphenate his origins because of an inordinate desire to remain Indian, Filipino, or Chinese even when he has traded his original citizenship with Canadian citizenship.

National Post columnist George Jonas expressed this fear when he wrote: “I’ve always hoped that where we’re all going through generations of historic time is a nation descended of many elements, informed and influenced by many traditions, but still one nation with a clear identity of its own, based on the heritages of its own history, combined with the histories of its two founding peoples. In other words, the Canada evolved from New France and British America to which most immigrants had chosen to come in the first place.

“I doubt if this ideal has been served by multiculturalism --- not to mention dual passports and the rest of new, “relaxed” definitions of citizenship. Instead of a unique and unified Canada, multiculturalism has ended up promoting a xenolith: a fragmented patchwork of separate communities, each upset about the supposed privileges of the other segments, while viewing its own privileges as entitlements. Multiculturalism has perpetuated old solitudes within Canada, and created new ones. This may not have been anyone’s intentions; but it is the result.”

It was Trudeau who suggested that all Canadians would overcome this hyphenated inferiority if we but considered ourselves “citizens of the world,” because we share with the rest of humankind the right to live and partake of the benevolence of this Earth which is not the private fiefdom on any race or country.

This retired school board trustee is itching to address the board on these issues. They are worth spending precious life time on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Over the weekend, a group of some 46 Filipino journalists and political sympathizers of Ismael Mangundadatu were ambushed, massacred, and buried in a common grave in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, in the southern Philippines, while they convoyed to help register the candidate at the town centre.

The Toronto Star today reported that the candidate was not harmed in the convoy, but the waylaid Filipinos, still smarting from the violence of sporadic insurgencies of Mindanao separatists and terrorists, were allegedly executed by armed groups identified with the civilian auxiliary forces of the government military units in Maguindanao.

An early indication of electoral violence facing the country in 2010, the incident inspired Philippine poet Mila D. Aguilar (inset) to write a bitterly prescient poem in sad riposte to another protest poem by American poet Denise Levertov when the same type of violence occurred in El Salvador.

The poem, emailed to this blog by Filipino Seminary Rector Francisco R. Albano, OSB, indicates the continued celebration of social and political protests in that Pacific country.
(The Reuters picture below shows relatives of the victims digging through the common grave prepared earlier by the waylaying assassins.)

Answering Denise Levertov

by Mila D. Aguilar

Here, Denise, they don't
Chop off heads by the day
They just waylay you
On some lonely byway
Or highway
As the case may be
Whether you're alone
Or with
A convoy of journalists
Meant to protect your
Filing of candidacy.
One, two, fifty killed
Numbers don't matter
It's the principle that counts:
The principle of power
Over people
Of family
Over fold.
We know
No other life
We are the walking dead
Straddling the centuries
Without remorse
Shouting ourselves hoarse:
Producing nothing.

- November 24, 2009
9:30 - 9:59 pm

Denise Levertov's poem:


by Denise Levertov

Because every day they chop heads off
I’m silent.
In each person’s head they chopped off
was a tongue,
for each tongue they silence
a word in my mouth
unsays itself.

From each person’s head two eyes
looked at the world;
for each gaze they cut
a line of seeing unwords itself.

Because every day they chop heads off
no force
flows into language,
think themselves worthless.

No blade of machete
threatens my neck,
but its muscles
cringe and tighten,
my voice
hides in its throat-cave
ashamed to sound

into that silence,
the silence

of raped women,
of priests and peasants,
teachers and children,
of all whose heads every day
float down the river
and rot
and sink,
not Orpheus heads
still singing, bound for the sea,
but mute.

(Bio from, Philippine Literature Portal)
Mila D. Aguilar
Mila Aguilar (a.k.a. Clarita Roja) was born in 1949 in Iloilo. She started writing poetry at the age of nine. She edited the school paper at the UP High School. At 18, she was features editor of the Philippine Collegian and graduated with a BA English degree at University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. Then, she took her master's degree, taught English at UP, and joined Graphic magazine. A progressive writer, she was among those hunted when Martial Law was declared in 1972.

The Women Color Press, New York, published her poetry collection, A Comrade Is As Precious As a Rice Seedling (1984). Its second edition, l987, includes twelve from her collection of prison poems, Why Cage Pigeons? Some of these poems were also published in Pintig (1985), an anthology of prose and poetry by political prisoners, as well as numerous other publications in the Philippines and abroad. In 1996, the UP Press published her collection of poems, Journey: An Autobiography in Verse (1964-1995).

She has written for Manila Standard since 1995 to complement the underground tracts she wrote on the woman question, democratic centralism, the united front and revolutionary mass movements in the period when she was hunted. Her 48 video documentary titles, produced, written or directed by her (1989-1997), can be seen on her Web site: As a webweaver, a term she invented, she has designed her own web pages as well as the website of an NGO.

She is teaching at the DECL, CAL, University of the Philippines. Aguilar is at work on her seventh book of poems, tentatively entitled Poemes Suisse. She has temporarily postponed finishing her semi-autobiographical novel, One Woman's Testament, as she completes her long-delayed work on Tricksterism as a Filipino Survival Mechanism.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TAKING STOCK 2 (PART 3): The Third Decade of my Exile

TAKING STOCK 2 (PART 3): The Third Decade of my Exile

It occurs to me now that the cycle my life followed in the Philippines is quite similar to the one I pursued in exile. In Canada as in the Philippines, I earned a livelihood as a writer and journalist for my first 10 years, taught in Career Colleges for the next 10, and ended up in politics for the last 10 before retiring to a more “civilized” life of reading, writing, travelling, and avoiding the urge to prepare to “kick the bucket.”

When I quit teaching here, Career Colleges started sprouting all over Canada. Every hapless immigrant wanted some kind of training to earn a living. PhDs in physics think it is criminal to work as taxi drivers when this country of some 35 million needed scientists, not to mention first class minds.

Doctors from the Philippines have to go back to school to get themselves certified to work as physicians whatever specialties they have. After a year or two, they immigrate to the United States and work there as physicians. Our loss, their gain south of the border. Nurses and teachers from the Third World countries end up being nannies, caregivers, or even masseuses in sex parlours that masquerade as spas.

Little wonder then that fraudulent schools and diplomas sprang from the woodwork. Now, the government is running after these institutions that somehow bridged the gap for the professionals who immigrated here only to be treated as second class citizens. Oh, they would employ the doctors as operation room nurses, academics as pizza delivery boys, and engineers as Casino croupiers.

Teaching in the International Business Schools (they have since folded up when enrolments dwindled because the Ministry of Education realized that high schools here could teach the same vocational skills to help immigrants get jobs as soon as they win landed immigrant status or citizenship after three years), provided me with insights into how public education could easily take over from these “career colleges” which, after all, charged criminally exorbitant tuition fees only to issue diplomas that are scarcely respected by employers anyway. I met a good number of disillusioned professionals who thought coming to America would get them better professional and economic lives.

Certainly, business entrepreneurs hereabouts still skirt hiring educated employees because they join unions and demand higher pays. “Slave labour” from “seasonal labourers” temporarily employed from Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and other Latin American countries has become a source of embarrassment.

From my occasional appearances on television promoting these career colleges, I gained some dubious exposure, wide enough to win me a school board election after my academic stint. I wanted to get my hands on education policy.

Filipino expatriates thought I was foolhardy running in Mississauga’s most affluent area – wards made up of the wealthy and established gentry (both the Federal Member of Parliament and Provincial Parliament Member, and two City councillors lived in my riding). I had twenty years of “work experience” and I was ready “to give back to my community.” I also needed a job.

In that first campaign in 1999, what stands out is the closeness I had finally developed with my family (children, in-laws, and even grandchildren) who doggedly fanned out to a vast area (the largest riding in Mississauga, Wards 2 and 8, with a population of practically one third of the 700 thousand that populated this sixth largest city of Canada, Mississauga).

On a weekend, during the campaign, one of my grandchildren, then 3-year old Taylor Lauren Kwan, wanted some candy while helping to distribute those leaflet trumpeting grandpa’s credentials. Grandpa said, “Ask your Mommy. Candies may not be good for your little teeth,” I pleaded.

From out of left field, she screamed: “Vote Jim Dore! Vote Jim Dore!” That’s my school activist, White Anglo Saxon, long-time Irish emigre, opponent’s name!

I gave her the candy. Lesson in political quid pro quo, I muttered. I thought the campaign was going the wrong way. But I won by 33 votes. The next elections, won 86% of the vote, and by my ninth year, I had served as Chairman of the By-laws, Policy, Procedures Committee , Contracts Committee, Faith and Education Committee, and Administrative Committee. I thought I was ready to run for Chairman of the Board; I was denied that honour twice, having run against a long-time British-born chairman and a young veteran trustee from a neighbouring city.

I needed to steer the board to more progressive educational matters. I knew I was one of those outspoken trustees who challenged the wisdom of the Ministry of Education when it took over the board for not balancing the budget. I was a marked man. I lost the elections in 2006.

But I lost valiantly, realizing that I was bucking the Provincial Government’s effort to emasculate the Catholic Education Board, and cutting funding wherever they found it politically expedient. The effort to micro-manage the school boards seemed to have extinguished the fire in my belly. I ran to serve, not play petty politics. (More of these issues later.)

Summing up, nevertheless, I feel proud of having written policy that reemphasized the core of Catholic Education – the development of students according to the teachings of Christ and the Holy Magisterium of the Church. Catholic education need not clash with secular society’s goals.

I protected as best I could the right of my constituents to retain school bus service for their children when cutting these seemed fashionable.

I fought for a more dynamic cooperation among the three pillars of Catholic education: the triumvirate of school-Church-parents. I wrote policy to inculcate in the curriculum the development of Christian Catholic values that strengthened a democratic way of life.

In the schools (some 22 of them that I presided over), we introduced Schools for the Arts, and improved courses that would equip the high school graduates with vocational skills that could get them jobs as soon as they finished their secondary education. This was calculated to help them earn money for their college or university education, if they decided to pursue tertiary education. Scholarships and student loan subsidies were scarce.

There is a small Filipino community in my riding. I hardly heard from them except when a parent would ask me to intervene for a child suspended for some misdemeanour. Or a paisano wanted a job at the school board – maybe as a principal, a teacher, or even a maintenance man (janitor, really). It was no different from when I served as a civil servant in Malacanang, with the Department of Public Information. Filipino politicians are largely still regarded as padrinos, short cuts to advantage, really.

But I am happy to have worked hard for a Filipino Senior citizens organization, the Sampaguita Seniors Association, to get Provincial and Federal funding for their activities – among them physical, educational, social, and cultural activities that kept them participating in the community as exemplars of good citizenship and inspirations for the youth.

My wife’s aunt, Mrs. Ephrena Chaves, an 82-year-old senior citizen who emigrated from Cagayan de Oro City in the Southern Philippines, keeps herself busy organizing the tenants of the retirement home for their regular socials, exercise sessions, karaoke nights, picnics, computer-training programs, excursions, and volunteer activities to teach the youth baking, the arts, and other cultural activities.

The one time another Filipino got in touch was when I got a call from a columnist of one of the Filipino newspapers, urging me to run for Provincial politics. I said I was happy serving in the lowest rung of Canadian politics, where I am closest to those who needed services for the most important legacy of the community – education. It was a little recognition that I valued for what it was worth.

Where I was unsuccessful back in the old country politics, I made it here where the citizens are truly sovereign and demand the best of its civil servants. I have come full circle.

When I lost the 2006 elections for a fourth term, I was awarded the usual severance salary for civil servants. I told my wife that we had enough to bring the entire Casuga clan for a long-needed vacation. I thanked my family for helping me realize a third dream in a strange and cold country. We had a week-long summer break in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where one of my daughters conceived my ninth grandchild – Louis Martin Lalonde.

I have retired. I am “re-tired”. That’s why I got myself into this “blogging” business. I am still working on something I like and love.

How can you top that?

Oh, en passant, I am taking a week-long pre-Christmas break in St. Lucia, in the Caribbean on December 12, with my wife, Veronica.

In exile, I have built within me and my family, a happy country.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


(Click on the image to read through the monograph)

I am. Afraid.

Look for shudders below. (Meantime, welcome to one of those "potboilers" a writer can line his bare pockets with in a strange and cold country, in exile.)

Computational Infrastructure has wreaked havoc on my plans to live a simpler life.
In the essays above, I cheerfully advised all and sundry that the computers have arrived as handmaidens of the "knowledge industry." One has to learn how to use them, or they will "use and wear" you down.

I am, therefore, a case of a prophet who got entrapped in a prophecy gone berserk.

Computers, the Internet, the web --- all computational infrastructure from the satellites to the servers and down to the home station --- they have promoted "high-tech" mayhem: theft of identity via the internet, real-time pornography via cameras attached to desk computers or even laptops, hacking into bank accounts that salt away even hard-earned pensions of senior citizens, ad nauseam.

Of course, I should have also written about these; but who would pay a Cassandra who would warn that the Devil lurks, too, in the bytes, the hard drives, and even the high-tech vandals' worms and viruses?

The whole week, last week, I fumed and ranted because my personal computer crashed. I lost all saved documents and all types of stored memento (Baby pictures of the grandkids, for instance). Forgot to "back-up"; so, when the grinning techie "fixed" it so I could get online again, my curses got out of line, and I am glad I grunted my expletives in Ilocano, Filipino, Spanish, and, because he did not bother to learn French in this bilingual country, in my most nasal Francophone m--de yet. (Multilingual violence, too, Dr. Cruz of LOL)
He shot back: "Backed it right up for you, too, Sir." A compu-whiz grandchild thought aloud: "Did he say 'right back at you,' abuelo?"

And I thought as a communications man, I have also learned the language of the "knowledge industry." Dread is all there is left to hope for.

Beware then the Word that has twisted around to confuse all men unto sanity! Welcome back to Babel.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


How I survived as an Immigrant worker, Writer in Exile, and Academic Manque

1980. That’s when I left the Philippines for Canada. I endured two lonely years without my family; they left in 1978 for this North American country for reasons I am still angry about.

I was not prepared to lose my job as a civil servant at the Department of Public Information under the Martial Law Government. Francisco S. Tatad, the university classmate who recruited me to work for President Ferdinand Marcos’ s government, had left the Information Department which he headed as the youngest Philippine Press Secretary in the country’s history.

He ran successfully as his province’s (Catanduanes. “The Philippine island which is geographically closest to the United States,” Tatad describes his province, tongue-in-cheek.) representative to the Philippine House of Representatives, but I could no longer go back to my academic post at the De La Salle University (as an English and Literature Senior Instructor) where he recruited me from. Tatad had to fend for himself, too, having been accused of “unexplained wealth” by the Martial Law government. The case did not prosper while Marcos stayed in command. Nor thereafter.

Labelled as one of his “cronies”, I was not about to retain my job as Technical Services director under Tatad’s replacement. Even as a career service civil servant, I could not be “salvaged” by then Presidential Executive Secretary and Civil Service Commissioner Jacobo “Jake” Clave. I asked that I be posted as Region I Information Director (the region included Clave’s Pangasinan province where he was hoping to run for governor before Marcos would leave his teetering government) so that “I could be of some help to him” when the time came.

My credentials did not count. So much for being a civil service employee, a established writer, and an academic from two of the most prestigious private colleges in the country (San Beda College (Benedictines), and De La Salle University (Christian Brothers). I was writing for Philippine periodicals, television, and ghostwriting speeches for business and government leaders. I was not information man enough for Gregorio Cendana who took over Tatad’s job. Clave said Cendana thought I was “arrogant”, and I proved him right by not begging for the job.

(Cendana, himself, left the Philippines for the U.S. of A. when Marcos was toppled.)

So I left for Canada, a repentant husband and father, who could not hack it as a La Union province politician, unlike Tatad who made it to the Batasan (Philippine National Legislative Assembly) even when he parted ways with Marcos, and I was a Kapisanan ng Bagong Lipunan (Marcos’ New Society Party) wannabe politician in my home province where the dynasties (cronies of Marcos), then as now, reign – yes, the Ortegas are still there. Three of them (Francisco, Jr., Pablo, and Manuel) were my students in high school and university. And I was a come-back kid of the old Casuga dynasty (San Fernando Mayors and La Union governors, Lauro, Mauro, Alejandro, and Constante, who were there even before the Ortegas. But their issues could not win elections thereafter, and I was an ambitious grand nephew who would like to raise the dynasty from its political grave.)

So much for dynasties under the revised Constitution under which present President Gloria Arroyo ran -- she herself has perpetuated these dynasties with two of her sons serving as Congressmen in the province of her husband, Miguel, and her own province in Pampanga.

How did I fare in Canada? In my exile, did I like James Joyce “forge into the smithy of my soul, the conscience of our race”?

No. Like any father and husband reconciled finally in a strange, cold country, I had to find a job quickly, so I could resume the job of “provider” while the children grew up. Started from scratch. One thing I am proud I did not do was the suggestion of a sister-in-law that I “could always pump gas at the kanto station if I could not find a job in my field.”

I found that self-esteem-preserving job with my skills as a writer. I was not licensed to teach in any school, so I settled for a copy editor’s job at the Metroland Publishing Company, a subsidiary of the Torstar Corporation, publisher of North America’s biggest daily, The Toronto Star, and owner of the most profitable romance/pulp book publishers, Harlequin.

For the next 10 years, until my whole department – Editorial Production -- was replaced by editorial-staff-handled computers, I edited copy (stories, ads, promos, and what-have-you). Talent will out; and I got a short-lived whack publishing and editing one of Metroland’s 24 publications, S.M.I.L.E., the life, entertainment, information features magazine that supplemented the 24 community papers, (mostly advertising rags, really) that remain to this day as the Torstar’s moneybag.

It was at this time that then Globe and Mail business-page reporter Oscar Rojo and I invited the owners of the Filipino diaspora “newspapers” (Atin Ito of Vic Lee, Balita of Ruben Cusipag, and Bong Koo’s Filipiniana – all distributed free to Philippine expatriates through the countless convenience stores and bakeries ran by Philippine immigrant workers) to put their resources together, form a corporation, and publish a decent weekly paper to service the needs of the Philippine community in Ontario (about 90,000 paisans then).

It was also at this time that the Corriere Canadense, an Italian newspaper, was being published monthly like those Pinoy papers. The Filipino publishers demurred; they wanted to have their own niches, thank you.

Today, ((two decades later) the Corriere is a daily and it pays its staffers handsomely, while the Filipino-run papers are still handouts, hardly subsisting on ads from tardy-paying Philippine-run businesses, and in fact, they have grown to more sporadically-published monthlies and bi-weeklies, that are really advertising sheets of the Filipino-run restaurants and stores that seem to fold up after a year or two. Writing for the ethnic diaspora here will not pay. I could not have put up my own paper in this clime of mediocrity and ego-sustained vanity publications. The writers are volunteers who can hardly put sentences together. The “society” news is staple – drum up a party, publish pictures in Balita, and you have something to boast about in the “community”.

As of this writing, Hermie Garcia’s The Philippine Reporter is still around (he was with the Manila Times before it shut down under the martial law government). It is the best-edited diaspora paper hereabouts, but advertising ads are barely shoring the monthly up. Ace Alvarez has the monthly Media Monitor, and some other stragglers that have served the Chinese grocery stores as wrappers for tilapia and lechon . Not unlike the 7000 islands or so in the old archipelago, Filipinos anywhere on earth will always be “islands on their own.”

There are also associations for every two Filipinos that can excite a “ningas cogon” (brushfire) interest in an issue that get scuttled by court suits on who is stealing whose contribution to donated calamity funds for the old flooded country. Whose election was legitimate? Who is the “bida” (starring role) in the diaspora?

When I ran for the school board after my retirement (served for nine years) from wage-earning, I did not depend upon the so-called Filipino community hereabouts. There is no such thing as “Filipino” community. There are only permanent Filipino individual interests. But that’s for another blog.

When the Toronto Star, our mother company newspaper, could not absorb me into their retrenched staff (that was a bad recession Canada had in 1990), I accepted a teaching job at the International Business Schools (at the Toronto School of Business) teaching English as a Second Language, Writing Effective English, Business English and Communications, Marketing and Promotions.

I fell back on academic skills I had back home, and the writing skills were always something I could fall back on. I put up my own marketing and promotions agency, between jobs, and managed to hold on to writing copy jobs that augmented my severance pay and pension from Metroland. In fact, I parlayed this to become the Communications director of the school that IBS got me into, The Toronto School of Business in the cities of Mississauga, Brampton, and North York.

In that school, I was commissioned by the IBS to write a Career Education and Employment Trends monograph for its schools in Canada, which I reproduce below, (see part 2) to give blog followers an idea of what a writer gets into when one is pushed against the ropes to earn a living.

At that time, futurists writing about what’s in store for the years 2000 and beyond were in vogue. Toffler, Naisbitt, and Kiechel III were authors whose future-visions were quoted like mantra in business circles and in the graduate schools.

Because I had to teach immigrants (Chinese, Indian, Nigerian, Filipinos, Romanians, Easter European, Italian, etcetera, a diversity that astounds me up to now) how to speak and write English, not to mention effective business communication and English, I got IBS to publish my Fundamentals of Writing (English), which is a carryover from my penchant in the Philippine schools to write a book for every course I taught.

I did not get into full-time secondary or tertiary education teaching in my adopted country, but being afforded gainful opportunity to write compensated for the regular cheque. (I would even win literary contests for the cash! No vanities here. Cash is good.) Besides, when I got elected as a member of the school board, I had a chance of writing policy for education in Canada.

Was this a vast departure from what I had going for myself back in the Philippines?

In a new country, it could appear that way. After all, in another life, in another country, one could have had a cycle of it. Yes, I lived by writing, too, in the Philippines. While I taught, I wrote those textbooks for my classes and earned royalty which I surrendered to my wife to augment family income. I wrote for Philippine television (“Our Doctors” – Tommy Abuel et al, directed by Geoge Rowe; “Oh, Rosemarie” directed by Kitchie Benedicto, starring Rosemarie Sonora et al). I wrote arts and culture features for the Philippines Herald circa Nestor Mata editorship. I wrote for the pittance that magazines could pay me for the poems, short stories, and features (Philippines Free Press, NOW Magazine, Sunday Times, Asia-Philippines Leader, Graphic Magazine, Solidarity, Philippine Writing, La Salle’s Library Magazine edited by Marcelino Foronda. Jr.) I even won first prize for poetry in a national contest, Parnaso, where I was awarded a handsome 1000 pesos that my wife gleefully received to add to her grocery money. (Yes, all the paltry sums I earned writing went to her bank account.)

I knew I could not live by writing alone, but I was able to live in order to write by earning through other writing venues.

This habit continued in Canada, my strange and adopted country.

It is for this reason, that including this in my blog of recherché du temps perdu, means including for archival purposes where (what clime, what hapless instances) writing could bring the writer to – if only to prove true to his reason for being alive. To write until he writes 30.

Next: Taking Stock 2 (Part 2)

(Click on Images to read the monograph).

Monday, November 2, 2009



My daily constitutional is a three-kilometre walk to my daughter’s house where, by noontime, I am able to join my wife and grandchildren, Chloe Dominique and Louis Martin, for lunch.

Along the way, on Garbage Day, I distract myself with the refuse I espy on thrown pell-mell into the city-mandated bins. Mississauga remains a clean city because of these containers; and I --- willy-nilly --- guess at the ethnic backgrounds of the sources of this garbage as I walk along the bin-lined sidewalks. A diaspora of diverse immigrants, their garbage is equally diverse; I find discarded mementoes among litters of ethnic newspapers, (French, Italian, Indian, Portuguese, Irish, Scots, Filipino, Spanish, German, Chinese, a truly multicultural community) on Fifth Line West Street.

Why not write about discards, this avenue of the rejected? This salon of the rejected? By the time I got to Robin Drive, I had a poem heavy on my head. I jotted some notes before the two Francophone grandchildren could overwhelm me with chatter that I look forward to at the end of my walk.

Because the context provided me with a chance to write a poem using the languages of this diaspora, I thought I would get Dr. Isagani R. Cruz’s attention by putting form to his theories on multilingual literature.

Blog-time got me playfully writing a poem that stretched from one to six sections, a virtual objective correlative to my constitutional. From garbage, I would find some haven that centrifugally spun from the images of the garbage-lined street.

“Basura Days” took on the format of a Wasteland. When I got feedbacks from literary scholar Isagani R. Cruz and Philippine poet Francisco R. Albano, OSB, I was surprised to realize that the poem virtually wrote itself on a centrifugal-centripetal energy that was described by Rev. Albano as mystical.

Here’s Fr. Albano’s take:

(Firing me an email, poet Albano analyzed the poem)

“In the name of all, specially of senior citizens, thank you for the poem.
“My reaction after reading: Silence. Then sartori. I shall read the poem to my Aesthetics class this semester.
"Word" of multilayered meanings, of the last stanza climbs the ladder from garbage to dangerous historical memories, to book, . . . to Verbum Dei which blesses the poem with transcendent mystical quality.
“And I remembered an old journal entry of mine:

Today I complete another year in God’s Kingdom.
I awoke, rose to the chirping of swallows,
Went out to the veranda to praise the Lord
For wide sky and long sierras and a valley heavy with corn.

And suddenly I remembered a parable from Down Under:
There was this master of a an estate who called
One of his servants and gifted him with a superb stallion.
This is for you, the master said.
And what about me, said another servant. Do I get anything?
Oh, said the master; see that stable there? It’s yours.
And the servant ran to the stable, opened it and saw it
Full of shit from ground to ceiling.
At once he got a shovel and started digging, saying:
There’s got to be a horse in here!

[This is the word of the Lord.]

Poetry in garbage-shit.”

In response, I sent this e-mail:

Dear Dave,
Because of readers like you, I continue to write the poems that otherwise would be left unwritten, buried in my skull. Thank you for the the reminder on the WORD, and the parable from Down Under. Isagani Cruz sees the parable, too, in Basura Days...Sa Basura may langit din -- Indeed, has anyone written about basura in mystical measures? I like your last line: poetry in garbage-shit. Poesia hallada de basura mierda. Much like the Dhamyatta -- one dies in order to find life. One digs deep through this stable of mierda (Styx, the last time we looked) in order to find the horse there. There's got to be a stallion down there. Abrazos, hermano. Until the next poem? ALBERT

* * *

In his LOL Literature in Other Languages, Dr. Isagani Cruz reacted to “Basura Days”:

Multilingual poem by Albert B. Casuga
“There are all kinds of variations to the saying that "we use German (or English) to talk to dogs, Italian to talk to lovers, French to talk to cooks (or soldiers), and Spanish to talk to God." For example, some old folks in the Philippines say that we use Tagalog to talk to maids, English to talk to foreigners, and Spanish to talk to God. While sayings of that sort today sound racist, they do point to a genuine theological problem: what language does God use to think (assuming that divine beings think in the way we understand the word)? The answer, of course, is that God thinks in all languages. The best way to reach God then is to write in as many languages as you know at the same time.

Albert B. Casuga's most recent poem, "Basura Days," takes the theme of Christianity as T. S. Eliot understood it and applies it to today's most universal phenomenon, namely, garbage (trash, junk, shit, or whatever you want to call it) and builds a modern parable taking off from the Biblical insight that whatever we do to the least of God's creations (animate or inanimate), we do to God”

In my blog comments to Dr. Cruz’s comments, I facetiously asked if he is providing a theological rationale for multilingual literature.

“A theological rationale for multilingual literature, Dr. Cruz?

It was a playful percolation of refuse images, then it turned pious, angry, and -- for old friends --- solicitous. Pray that I have not elevated garbage to a status of Eucharistic surrogacy. We might yet find a good poetic excuse for colonization. Their languages for our Weltanschauung --- fair exchange?

It occurs to me at this point that multilingual literature could be an antidote to an inchoate Phil Lit.”

* * *

For the archives, here is a translation of the Filipino section of “Basura Days”.

Onto my dying days, I, an old man on the streets of dung,
Shall recall to any lad or lass who would listen: Ang Kagalangalangan,
Kataastaasang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan ay siyang gumulpe
Sa mga Kastilang nagbenta sa Amerika ang Inang Bayang Pilipinas,
At tumuli sa mga dayuhang Yanqui upang ang Pilipinas ay lumayang muli.
At ang mga Bolomen? Hindi nga ba sila ang mga gerilyang pumutakte sa
Mga sakang ng Bayang Hapon nang ang Pilipinas ay muling nagwagi
Maski na hindi nakabalik on opportune time si Heneral Douglas McArthur
Upang kanyang tuparin ang kanyang pangako: I shall return?
Sila man din, itong mga kababayan ay lahat mistulang dukha, pulut sa basura
Ng tadhana, namayani, ang tuloy na ring sumugpo sa karimlan maging ito’y
Digmaan or dili kaya’y baha, martial law, GMA, at iba pa. Sa Manila ngayon,
Basura sa baba, basura sa gitna, at basura para rin sa kataastaasan.

English translation:

Onto my dying days, I, an old man on the streets of dung,
Shall recall to any lad or lass who would listen:
The Honourable and Supreme Organization of the Country’s
Children (KKK) destroyed the Spanish colonial master
Who sold the Philippines to America and also cut the Yankee
Balls asunder so that the Philippines would again reign free.
And the Bolo Men? Did not its freedom fighters wreak havoc
On Japan’s bow-legged troops to win yet another war despite
The tardy return of General Douglas MacArthur who pledged:
I shall return? They, too, these impoverished compatriots,
Veritable recruits from the dumpster bins of Colonial Fate
And fortune, have overcome the grim disasters be they wars,
Floods, martial law, GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo), etcetera.
In Manila this time around, there’s garbage below, garbage
In the center, and garbage, too, above.

Poems are hard to come by these days, but when I find them pummelling my brain while I walk for my senior-citizen’s santé, I grab the ligne-donne, and run away with it.