Masyado ka nang malaki para kargahin ko.

Kagaya nang ginagawa ko dati kapag kinakabag o giniginaw ka.

Pero malaki ka na para yakapin ako at ang malalaking takot ko.

Marami akong ganito at nababatid mo yan tuwing ikakawit mo ang maiigsi mong braso sa aking leeg.

Habang pilit pinagtatag-op ang dalawa mong kamay sa aking batok

Ikaw ang nagpupuno sa mga pagkukulang ko sa iyo

Sa napakarami mong sugat at galos na di man lang nakilala ng mga labi ko.

Ang mga luha sa pisngi mong natuyo na at di ko man lang napahid.

Namamaalam na ako sa kanila, at ang pamamaalam na ito ay pamamaalam ko sa iyong kamusmusang nakalampas sa akin.

Di na sila babalik, kagaya ng mga inosenteng tanong at tawa mo

Di ko na ito maririnig mula sa iyo.

Anak sana ay maunawaan mo kung bakit lagi kong sinasabi na yakapin mo naman ako ng walang kasing higpit.

Dahil lagi kong nararamdaman na parang mababasag ang pagkatao ko.

Tuwing sinasabi mo na kaya mo nang magsintas ng iyong sapatos

O huwag na kitang subuan kapag kumakain.

Nagdadalamhati ako.

Ngayong di ka na musmos at matalas nang mag-isip, sana ay maunawaan mo, sana ay patawarin mo ako. At anak, mahal na mahal kita.


{August 31, 2010}   Confessions of an Epileptic

Sa isang kisapmata

Di ko rin namalayan na

Walang nakapansin

Walang nakapuna

Tanging pasa, galos at bukol na kasinglaki ng holen.

Ang sumasaksi sa mag-isa kong pagkahulog

Sa napakalungkot kong

pagbangon, pag-ahon.

Mula sa malalim na balon (kahit ang palaka ay wala).

Lalo na sa pagtanggi kong

muling umahon.

Paakyat saan?  Para muling ano?

Mabilis gumaling ang pasa.

Nagkulay berde, naging violet, at nagbrown.

Samantalang madilim pa rin ang kinasasadlakan ko.

Sa kalaunan, ay mamamaalam na rin ang mga pasa, galos at bukol.

Upang mag-isa kong iunat ang namamanhid kong mga hita

Dumilat sa walang katapusang kadiliman.

At walang gagawin kundi hintayin ang muli nilang pagbabalik

Pagkatapos ng susunod na isang kisapmata.

{March 19, 2010}   ADOBO

Ang pinakamasarap na adobo ay yung niluto ko habang kinukulit mo ako.  Paulit-ulit, tanong ng tanong kung luto na ba o matagal pa ba.  Gamit ang top of the line na karneng binili natin sa talipapa habang halos malaglag ang panga sa galing magchop ng tinderang siyam lang ang daliri.

Pinakamasarap ang adobong pinakuluan ng matagal sa toyo at sukang nabili natin ng tingi.  Yung may kasamang isang ulo ng bawang na surplus galing Taiwan.  At habang hinihintay na kumulo at maluto ang suka na sa totoo lang ay diluted na muriatic acid ay lalagyan ng dinurog na buto ng papaya na pinilit magpanggap bilang paminta.

Ang pinakamasarap na adobo ay yung adobong nilagyan ng asukal galing sa garapa ng mayonnaise.  Kaunting asukal lang, para may matira pang pangkape pagkatapos nating pagsaluhan ang pinakamasarap na adobong ito.

Pinakamasarap ang adobong niluluto natin habang sumusumpa tayo na di natin yun lalagyan ng betsin, MSG, umami o kung ano pa mang gustong itawag duon ni Rosebud.

Ang pinakamasarap na adobo ay yung na-accidental slow cook sa maliit nating kusinilya.  Gumamit ng karneng ginayat sa sarili nating chopping board, gamit ang sarili nating mapurol na kutsilyo.

Ang pinakamasarap na adobo ay yung niluto sa sarili nating kusina, ng sarili nating bahay.

Di ko alam kung makakatikim pa ba ako ng pinakamasarap na adobo.

{March 19, 2010}   THE OTHER WOMAN

You are having an affair,
I discovered.
Explaining the years of waiting
Ignoring the nagging feeling.
Only to finally realize that
The Other Woman
Is me.

{February 20, 2010}   The good places

It was tough growing up with 3 other siblings all older than me; as I was the subject of their pranks and always bullied to run errands for them.   But being born three years later after my sister was tougher because it means I don’t get to wear new clothes or get new shoes.  For as long as I can remember, every thread of clothing I owned was my sister’s three years ago.

My parents did all their best despite their very humble means to feed, clothe and send us to school.  A piece of hotdog which was a rare treat was equally divided into four salivating mouths. Sarsa parilla was only a bribe to coax us to swallow that bitter paracetamol if we have fever.

So new clothes let alone new shoes was a luxury we can hardly afford.    

Imagine my joy when my mother told me that we are going to Manila to ride the LRT, the train that travels on air with the birds.  For the next few days, my thoughts become filled with imagined scent, sights and sounds of the big city.  Counting the nights until the Big Day, I endlessly bugged my mother to tell me things about Manila.  She gamely recounted how as a student she strolled at the Luneta Park eating salted peanuts.  And how she would walk aimlessly around the shops of Escolta trying on one shoe after another.  I whispered to her that maybe if we can afford it, we can buy my Ate really good shoes in Escolta. 

My secret intentions in buying my sister new shoes might have been too obvious to my mother because the day before we left for Manila, she came home with a present for me. My mother bought me new shoes, the prettiest one I’ve ever seen in my whole 6 years of existence.  It was a black canvas with thin rubber soles.  We call it kung fu shoes because one can only buy it from Chinese stores and it is similar to those worn by the Iron Monkey and the Drunken Master.  My mother reminded me over a thousand times as I excitedly tried it on to take care of it because good shoes take you to good places, she said.

We left our house at four in the morning, each of us carrying a plastic bag in case we get sick in the long bumpy ride to the city.  Being the clumsiest, rowdiest and having the least care for grooming among all of her four children, my mother was impressed when I came out of the bus looking like a neat and proper little lady.

As we stopped to light candles at the Redemptorist Church, I profusely thanked Papa Jesus and the lamb constantly sitting on his lap for my new shoes and for blessing me with a good aim on that day for I have managed to throw up inside the plastic bag without making a total mess out of my shoes.

While we were hurriedly boarding the train, I worriedly asked my mother if we are ever going back.  And she said, yes, of course.  Again, she told all four of us to be in our best behavior, otherwise the driver will send us out of the train.  The train ride was almost magical.  At that time I really believed my older brother’s stories about men traveling in space and that the same train we were on took them to the surface of the moon.  Why not, we’re only inches away from the sky, I told myself.  We saw big buildings taller than coconut trees, huge houses much bigger than the house of our town mayor. We were awed and waved to the biggest watch on top a house.  It was where the mayor of Manila lives, my mother said.  Everything we saw seemed to be larger than life.

On our equally enchanting ride back to Baclaran, I asked my father if we can probably exit to same door we used to enter the train but he told me he’s not sure.  Finally we reached Baclaran and I felt a little regret that the experience was over.  As we were getting off, my mother herded us to the direction of the stairs but I immediately protested. I told her we need to go to the door we entered in when we boarded the train and pointed to my bare feet. 

I purposeIy took off my shoes right at the doorsteps of the train! 

I told my mother I don’t want the train driver to think that I was not taught to remove my footwear before entering someone else’s doors.

My father had to carry me all the way back to the bus station.  I must have cried buckets of tears that day, enough to drown the whole of Manila.  I sat on my mother’s lap like a lamb on our journey back and she gently asked me to wave goodbye to the line of people on the streets.  I, on my very young mind, waved goodbye to my once new shoes.  I threw up again and managed to make a total mess out of my and my mother’s dress.  But of course, she didn’t mind.

My first pair of shoes took me to the good places I only imagined existed.  But my parents’ love took me – messy or barefoot – to the best places in life.

My first Sony Experience would be the day when my elder siblings came home with a 14 inch Sony colored TV.

I and my siblings were born in a small town in Cavite. And because farming is the only source of family income, we never had the luxury of owning Nintendo, Sega, Lego or Barbie dolls. We used to entertain ourselves with sumpit, tirador, bahay-bahayan or playing with empty sardine cans.

tv-setWe owned a television set, a gift from my grandmother. It was my mother’s prizest possession. But we only get to watch TV for 2 hours a day fearing that it might overheat. TV time aside from daily trips to the nearby river to do the laundry was my Nanay’s idea of quality time with us lot. After doing our home work, we flock to the living room and wait for my mother to finally turn the TV on. It was 2 solid hours of sheer bliss and awe. I remember betting with my brothers and sister on what’s going to be the next advertisement. And to make the game more fun, my mother said that whoever loses the game will wash the dishes the following night. Being the youngest, I always end up washing the dishes piled high up to my nose (aside from always being asked to get up to turn the dial to switch channels), but I didn’t mind. Just the idea of betting with my siblings made me feel so much more grown up.

When I finally managed to wash a million dishes, my elder siblings packed up and went off to the big city to work or go to college, leaving me alone with a beat up black and white TV. After so many years of fighting for my legitimate right to have a say on what TV show is good, I suddenly had the liberty to watch any show that I want without any big brother who doesn’t seem to run out of basketball championships to watch. When they all left, primetime TV viewing suddenly lost its appeal to me. I had a major falling out with TV commercials and station ID’s. Our living room that used to buzz with catfights and bickering grew so quiet and still. I could even watch TV until 11 PM with out my mother asking me to turn it off every five minutes or so.

After sometime, the dear old TV finally took its cue and bid farewell as well. I never thought that losing a TV would that be painful for such a young soul like me.

And then one weekend, my elder siblings came home and surprised my Nanay with a brand new, remote controlled Sony TV. That day was probably one of my mother’s proudest moments. Suddenly she became her old self again. She gave marching orders to my father to catch the best native chicken in our farm and pick the sweetest papaya. This calls for a celebration and she’s going to cook tinola. My Nanay not able and willing to contain her happiness went to her kumare and bragged that we now own a colored telly (we were probably one of the last households to own one). She was smiling from ear to ear as she watched my father position our new TV on a wooden TV stand. There… A 14 inch box in all its beauty and splendor.

After the hearty dinner, I sat in one corner and listened to my mother complain on how little my other siblings ate, how much they lost weight and they should never forget to utter a small prayer while aboard a vehicle.

And then finally I spoke, “binyagan na natin ang TV!”

Ceremoniously, my oldest Kuya gave the remote control to my Nanay. She pushed one button. The 14 inch box turned on. That instant she beamed like she never did before. She said, “I never thought Vilma Santos looked that good in red”. For the first time, we were certain that Ate Vi really is wearing red and never had to guess the color of her clothes she’s wearing. Another button was pushed and she switched channels. We all clapped to cheer her on. Then the remote control was passed from one hand to another. Every one wants to experience the spell of our new TV. Before I knew it, the remote control fell to my lap. And everyone’s attention was drawn to me.

Watching my parents so happy again and being reunited with my brothers and sister on such an occasion was too much for me. So to save myself from being teased for being a cry baby, I swallowed hard and said, “unahan sa patalastas!”

That moment we all became our mother’s children again, gathered under one roof, under her watchful eyes.

It is funny how small things can make people happy. For me and my family, it is just watching TV together. Only, it just got better when my siblings came home with that new TV.

It definitely gave significance in my life just like the Sony’s World’s First RGB LED Backlight LCD TV which brings to life colors and images in the screen like no other TV in the world can.

{November 2, 2008}   Tax paying call center workers…

{November 2, 2008}   Not Obama nor McCain

“We don’t foresee any major changes or outcome from the US elections. In fact, we’re confident that the US will continue to do offshore outsourcing especially with the recent economic crisis,” says Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) Chief Executive Officer Oscar Sañez when asked whether or not there will be changes in the BPO Industry under a new American Regime which will be decided a few days from now.

With all due respect to the BPAP CEO, I seriously think there will be major changes to the BPO Industry in the Philippines after the US Presidential Elections.

About 84% of this Industry supports US clients. Fears of call center agents regarding the turnout of the elections are not unfounded.

Since Mr. Barack Obama started his $230M presidential campaign, he wooed American voters by promising that he is going to focus on creating local jobs and bigger tax incentives to businesses who would keep jobs within the country. Most of my co-call girls and call boys fear that if Obama wins, it would mean large-scale pull out of accounts and campaigns from the Philippines by US clients.

My colleagues therefore favor the more pro-liberalization Republican candidate John McCain who would most likely maintain the present order of things with regards to off shoring and outsourcing of services by US businesses.

The US economy is deeply imbedded in crisis. Since the Great Depression of the 1930’s this crisis is unprecedented. Small businesses are closing down while public funds are being used to bail-out giant companies from bankruptcy.

We must all remember that this same crisis is the main reason for the existence of off shoring and outsourcing. Because domestic workers in the US won’t put up with the wages these companies are willing to offer, they looked for cheaper labor, and more cooperative governments with pro-investment labor laws. Together with all Third World countries, the Philippines has become a major part of the global assembly line of giant companies in the US.

And because it is always imperative for companies to cut down on overhead to maximize profits and optimize the return of investment rate, the turnout of the US elections amidst an unprecedented global economic crisis would NEVER translate to pulling-out outsourced jobs to the Philippines. It would mean stricter requirements for call center applicants, lower basic pay for new hire agents, delayed or deferred salary appraisals for the tenured and harsher company policies to meet service level agreements with the client.

So before we put our customers on a long hold on November 4 to pray that McCain win the elections, we must all think that it is not about who is the better egg between Obama and McCain. Because it is not a question of who wins the race. It is the present economic crisis in the US that will draw the fate of the 320,000 BPO workers in the country.

“QA”, “queuing”, “EOP”, “ACW”, “AHT”, “avail”… If you are familiar with these terms, then you are one of the thousands kolboys and kolgirls in the Philippines.

We belong to the sleep deprived, nicotine inhaling, cab riding new breed of Filipino youth. We infuse our anemic, caffeinated veins with ferrous sulfate everyday just so we won’t be ‘NCNS’ (no call no show) on our next shift. Literally, ginagawa naming araw ang gabi.

Glamorous? Well if you consider swaying down Ortigas Avenue wearing Paris Hilton shades at 8am in the morning looking dog tired while everybody else is fresh and new as glamorous, then we are the kings and queens of glamour.

Bohemian? Ha ha! Fat chance! We follow a very rigid schedule; we cannot go on over breaks, we cannot hang-up on cursing customers, cannot refuse calls. And be still my complaining urinary tract, have to ask for approval first to answer nature’s call.

We are like prisoners in our own stations for 8 whole hours. To shed some light into this, it is not in any way Bohemian; I’d like to call it Spartan.

I can’t help but be catty and melodramatic about it. We say good morning when we all know that everybody but us (at least in this part of the Pacific) is in their deepest sleeps. We say (with an audible smile) “I’d be glad to assist you”, when we left our feverish son under the auspices of his yaya.

We afford to miss the family occasions, national holidays because we know that we will be compensated. Every birthday of a family member that we miss means P700 more to pay the bills, rent, and tuition fee. Heck and the pay for every national holiday that we worked for are allotted for the high government taxes that we are paying. Yes, my friends, we are paying for the supposed street lights along the avenues and highways that we brave every night.

Contented as cats are? No we are not. Laway lang ang puhunan, so they say but we are in one of the most stressful, brain cell draining jobs. We are just like the rest of the working class, overworked and underpaid. We are forced to defend the big banks, superstores, telecoms or any account that we are handling. Just like any proletariat, we are alienated from these giants that we work for. We apologize for things that we do not have anything to do with. We fix problems that to start with, we did not create. We are the cheap, apologetic and docile answering machines on the other end of the line. The receiving end of the ire and rants of shortchanged customers.

Apolitical? I beg to disagree. As I’ve very well stated above, we are tax paying citizens like the rest of the Filipino population. Yes, most of us only get the latest news from Libre (while riding the MRT on our way to work), but we’re also appalled on the P200, 000 bonus those solons got last Christmas, we are also furious with this government spending half of the national budget on debt servicing so that it can borrow more.

Much more, we’re also enraged when this shameless woman cheated her way to Malacanang.

We may be speaking in English more than half of our waking hours, but it doesn’t make us less Filipinos. We share the sentiments and burdens of every landless farmer, laid off factory worker, out of school youth, every hungry Filipino mouth. We give time to mourn over slain activists, priests, journalists and innocent civilians.

Most importantly, we share the aspirations of the Filipino people to build a just society where we can say “I’d be glad to assist you” and actually mean it.

(article written for January 08 issue of Pinoy International)

{October 3, 2008}   BYAHENG MRT, BUHAY PINOY
“Mangyari po lamang na humawak sa mga safety hand rails. At mag-ingat sa mga mandurukot.”

Di mo maisip kung matatawa ka o matatakot kapag narinig mo ito habang lulan ka ng MRT. Ako, mas pinipili kong matuwa, at least nagmamalasakit ang drayber. Kapag narinig ko na ang safety reminders ng friendly MRT driver, bigla kong kakapain ang cellphone at wallet ko. Mahirap na, baka masalisihan ako. Di ko maiwasang isipin, sa mga 1st world countries kaya, ganito din ka-caring ang mga tsuper ng tren?

Mahigit 500,000 pasahero ang sumasakay ng Metro Rail Transit (MRT) araw-araw. Para sa kalahating milyong pasaherong ito, wala nang ibang pinakamabilis na paraan para makarating ka ng on-time sa trabaho kundi sumakay dito. Binabagtas nito ang kahabaan ng EDSA, mula North Avenue hanggang Pasay Taft Rotonda.

Sa mga mapanuri ang mata at malikot ang isip, mabubuo mo na ang istorya ng mga Pilipinong nagtitiis makipagsisksikan sa treng ito. Pati takbo ng pulitika at ekonomiya at bansa, kaya mo nang pag-aralan. Iiwan ng MRT si Pigafetta kung pagkokronikel ng buhay Pinoy ang pag-uusapan. Bakit ika nyo?

Si Erap pa ang presidente ng Pilipinas noong unang nag-operate ang tren kaya ang mga tiket, may mukha ni Erap. Nung kasagsagan ng EDSA 2, naging official carrier ng mga rallyista ang MRT papunta sa EDSA Shrine. At parang inaalaska pa si Erap, may istasyon ng tren sa Ortigas! Kaya kahit na ano pang gawing pagharang ng mga pulis sa mga alam nilang papunta sa EDSA, wala silang nagawa. Aba ay paano mo nga naman haharangin ang tren.

Kung gaano kabilis sumulpot si Gloria nang magtagumpay ang mamamayan sa pagpapatalsik kay Erap, mabilis pa din sa alas kwatrong, pinapull-out ni GMA ang mga tiket ng MRT na may mukha ni Erap at nagpaimprenta ng mga bago. Hulaan nyo kung kaninong mukha na ang nakalagay sa mga magnetic tickets?

Labingtatlo ang istasyon ng MRT. Habang iniiwan nito ang mabagal na usad ng mga bus at kotse sa EDSA, tanaw na tanaw mo naman ang kung paano ang inog ng buhay ng ating mga kababayan. Pag-alis ng tren nula sa North Avenue Station, makikita mo na sa gitna ng squatters area ay sumulpot ang isang dambuhalang mall, ang Trinoma.

Ilang istasyon pagkatapos nito ay sasapit na ang Cubao-Araneta Station at sigurado, maraming saleslady na kontraktwal ang magbababaan dito. Sunod na hinto, Santolan-Annapolis. Halos walang gustong bumaba, halos wala ding sumasakay. Ewan ko, siguro dahil pagbaba mo ng hagdan ng istasyong ito ay Camp Crame at Camp Aguinaldo na. Di ko rin alam kung nagkataon lang, katabi ng mga kampong ito ang isa sa pinakamahal at eksklusibong subdibisyon sa Pilipinas, ang Corinthian Gardens .

Sinisikap kong hulaan kung ano ang tumatakbo sa isip ng construction worker habang nakamasid sa mga naglalakihang bahay Corinthian. Malamang, nag-aalala siya dahil tatamaan ng road widening ang barong-barong ng mag-anak nya. Mula Ortigas hanggang Ayala Station naman ay makikita mo ang mga yuppies na parang hinahabol sa pagmamadali. Nagmamadali siguro na maging boss ng kumpanya na kahit kailan ay di magiging kanila. At mula Magallanes hanggang sumapit ang dulong istasyon ng tren, mga factory workers sa Taguig, construction workers sa Alabang at mga deboto ng Baclaran na lang ang maiiwan.

Lalo na kung rush hour, di mahulugan ng karayom sa dami ng taong gustong sumakay ng tren. Kahit di ka humakbang, di mo maiintindihan kung paano ka umuusad. Sa mga ganitong pagkakataon, bawal ang maselan at mareklamo. Dahil ang mga pasahero, sa sobrang dami, lahat nagiging close. Ipinatupad ang segregation ng mga pasahero. Ang ibang coaches ng tren, nakalaan lamang sa mga babae, bata, elderly at may mga kapansanan.

Habang nalilibang ako sa panonood ng trapik sa EDSA, narinig ko ang piksi ng katabi ko. Ang kapal daw ng mukha ng katabi nya. Pansamantala, binigyan ko ng pagkakataon na makisimpatya sa kanya at inalam kung sino ba yung katabi nya. Pagsipat ko, isang lalaki na hindi naman senior citizen, wala ding kapansanan at nakauniporme. Aba , pulis pala. Makapal nga ang mukha!

Talagang walang ipinagkaiba ang byaheng MRT sa buhay ng Pinoy ngayon. Habang ang mga simpleng sahurang mangagawa ay nakikipagsiksikan sa tren, may iilan namang magriribbon cutting lang ng bagong bukas na golf course ay nakahelicopter pa. Habang nagbibilang ng barya ang saleslady na katabi ko, may pamilyang nakatira sa palasyo na nagbibilang naman ng secret bank accounts sa Switzerland at Germany .

Muli, pumailanlang ang boses ng friendly MRT driver. “Huwag po tayong magtulakan.  Iwasan po nating sumandal sa magkabilang pintuan ng tren at mag ingat sa mga magnanakaw.”

By instinct, kinapa ko ulit ang bulsa ko. Safe pa din ang cellphone at wallet ko. May nakapa pa ako, tiket ko sa tren. Nang ilabas ko sa bulsa ko, nakita ko ang mukha ni Gloria. Tsk tsk, nasalisihan na naman ang sambayanang Pilipino.

et cetera