Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas stamps of the Philippines

Philippines' first Christmas postage stamps
Above is the first set of Christmas stamps, printed in 1967 to be used as legitimate postage, unlike the TB seals, which were first printed in 1946 and continue to be sold to date as charity labels with no actual postal function, with option to affix along with the recognized postage issues. The 1967 Christmas postage set were printed in Japan for the Philippine Bureau of Post (later acquired by Philpost or the Philippine Postal Corporation). Ten million of the 10-centavo values and five million of the 40-centavo values were delivered to the Bureau of Post and were released starting December 1. The huge quantity makes the set affordable to today's collectors. Dealers sell the mint stamps for P50 -- relatively cheap for a 53 years old set.

The 10-centavo Christmas postage stamp was used for local mail in 1967; as a young student I got some used issues, soaked off the envelopes of letters. It was many years later that I saw and fell in love with the blue 40-centavo issue, not knowing the existence of such a bright partner to the so-familiar 10-centavo nativity scene. Lovely is the concept of Mary in saya carrying the haloed Jesus, and Joseph in barong holding a stalk of sugar cane, probably acquired in the field leading to Mt. Mayon, lighted by a star shining brightly. Completing the scene is the carabao, replacing the western donkey. I learned that 40 centavos was the air mail rate, and, receiving no mail from abroad, I did not get to see it until my allowance was increased to start my collection of Republic stamps.

1968 Christmas caroling set
The caroling set was released on 1968 December 16. Then, for some reasons, no Christmas postage were printed in 1968-1971. The next set was the Lantern-making set of 1972 (December 14), which showed people indoors because a curfew was imposed after the Dictator Marcos placed the entire country under Military Rule.

1972 set

There were no Christmas stamps again in 1973-1975. The solemnity of the midnight mass set in 1976 set, however, made up for the three-year dearth. This was followed by another caroling set in 1977. And the post office issued no Yuletide stamps in 1978; 1979 gave us a miserable pair, followed by a pedestrian single in 1980.

1976 set
                                1977 set
1979 set
1980 Christmas Tree single and FDC
1980 and 1981 surcharges of 1979 set
 Also a 1979 issue was surcharged in 1980, and the other was surcharged for 1981. Then followed the issues 1982 to 2016.
                                 1982 Santa in Barong set
                             1983 Lechon strip set with first Christmas S/S
                                   1984 se-tenant set
                             1985 set
        1986 set

1987 set

1988 set

1989 set

1990 set
 1991 set

1992 set

1993 set

1994 set
1995 set
1996 set
 1997 set

1998 set

1999 set
2000 set

 2001 set 

2002 set

2003 set 

2004 set 

2005 set 

2006 set

2007 set

2008 set

2009 set

2010 set

2011 set

2012 set

2013 set

2014 set

2015 set

2016 set

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Loving Cory

Cory the builder fish

Cory, a yellow Midas cichlid who joined our family six years ago, passed away last December 5, maybe of old age, or of having pebbles in her belly, or probably a combination of both. In 2010 Cory and other colorful cichlids, plus some goldfish, enlarged the population in the 80-liter aquarium. It takes only a molecular jump of the imagination to connect her vivid yellow coloration to a certain president, although that president was never admired here. The Cory we had learned to love was the fish.

"Ang galing natin, no?" I told Sogo, my assistant/yaya/adviser, "Paano nga ba natin nalamang babae si Cory?" It turned out that after the arbitrary naming, came the assumption that every Cory is certainly a female. Never in her entire existence, from fingerlinghood to adulthood, did Cory reproach us for such an unscientific approach; with neither a word nor an eyeblink did we discern any displeasure on her part. We did not have to offer the excuse that we had been used to determining genders by peeking at rear ends of numerous kittens and puppies that had become part of our large menagerie of mammals and fish, which included us, of course.

We learned one vital thing about raising fish: Cichlids and goldfish do a colorful aquarium make, but certain species are not meant to be together in one place. This fact was driven home when one morning we saw one of the goldfish wagging its tails erratically, because its prominent eyes were gone, just empty, dark sockets left; while in a bottom corner floated the fleshless but intact skeleton of another fish -- the kind we see on cartoon shows on TV, when the cat drops a fish into his tummy and pulls out a skeleton complete with fishhead, ribs, and tail -- mini scenes befitting a Stephen King novel, if the thought crosses his mind to write about terror in 80 liters of water.

The quirk that made Cory memorable as well as adorable was her ability to make a small hill at the right front corner of the aquarium. Whenever the water was changed and after all the fish were returned, Cory right away sucked into her mouth some of the pebbles that served as the surface of the aquarium floor and then disgorged them at her regular corner. Without stop she went to get more pebbles and added to the stack until the floor in the vicinity became clear glass.
In her youth, when her coat was full yellow, she was even able to build two mounds, one on each side of her. The first time I saw the high mound she had built, I was so impressed I took several cyber photos of Cory beside her engineering feat. My wife made some video records.

At the beginning of December I happened to look at the aquarium, and I sensed that something was out of place. Then I realized what was wrong: every pebble was in place -- no big mound, no busy Cory sucking and disgorging pebbles! I looked at her preferred corner, and there she was, bigger but paler, and slower. She was just in her corner, just floating in a way that alarmed me. In my school days I also raised goldfish in a smaller fishtank, and I learned that when a fish swimmed in a way that its body pointed vertically rather than horizontally, it was just a matter of days when it would float belly up. And that was how Cory was coping, fins slowly waving while her body tilted upward. I asked Sogo to take pictures of Cory, to remember her by.

On December 5 I heard someone say Cory was no more. Now not only her corner but the entire aquarium seems dark without her coloration and movement, and it doesn't seem foolish to write about a fish who kept building mounds as long as she could, the clicks of the pebbles resonating in my memory.

Cory was interred below the mango tree in the garden, where she joined Rex, the Chow Chow patriarch, and the numerous kittens who died at birth or of illness. They say beloved pets who die go to The Rainbow Bridge, where they romp and play all day. I'm hoping that below that consoling bridge is a lake or river where fishes can swim in delight and find worms or pebbles to put in their mouths.

Cory in happier days

Protect Leni

Now it's official: VP Leni has quit her post in Duterte's Cabinet. She has confirmed that moves are underway to oust her from the vice presidency. 

Duterte has been actively working for the reinstatement of a Marcos to the presidency, since he was coaxed, cajoled and financed by the Marcoses to grab the power offered him. And the Supreme Court has shown its adherence to the "feed our piggy bank" rule of law. Estelito has ensured the burial of the dictator (along with that EDSA 1986 event); now he's transferring some stolen wealth to some SC justices's secret accounts.

The peasants' tepid protests after the Marcos burial, with full state honor, plus a wreath from lackey Duterte, show how enfeebled our sense of outrage has become, how we respect institutions that, instead of being excoriated, are obeyed and respected without question -- the SC, which cited an AFP regulation as the basis for its decision to let the thieving and treasonous Marcos join the resting place of real and valiant soldiers; the PNP, which now serves as a killer squad for the loony president; the AFP, which Duterte has been courting with pay raise and housing incentives, because it will soon enforce a burgeoning tyrant's powerplay; the Cabinet, which now consists of leftists mellowed by perks of positions, foolish men drunk with power, lying in their old age to explain Duterte's twitches of insanity; pompous reporters and bitchy bloggers lifted to lofty positions their grammar cannot reach; a Justice secretary whose wig cannot hide his incompetence; and Asecs and Usecs drawing high salaries from the high taxes the boobooisies squeeze out of their sweat every month. 

In a country where servility is the norm, education and knowledge are mere tinsels that lack the strength to strangle the criminals in high office. It is the tragedy of this country that not one leader in its entire history has really cared for its citizens. And what is there to love in a people whose loyalty sways to where the money flutters? Rizal wrote two books about this, and on the morning he was executed in Bagongbayan Field, people brown and white cheered, under holiday buntings, after his body hit the grass. When I see Duterte's eyes, I see a man who will not let that kind of fate befall him, because that is not his definition of "wise," and, with that kind of mindset, respect and patriotism and service and honor become mere catchwords to beguile dumb voters. "The more things change, the more things stay the same."

There are times when I think we sweathogs deserve our fate. Who does not bow to this democracy -- this system where the majority rules? Let me state this another way, and see if the taste remains the same: Our lives are governed by what is decreed by the lowest common denominator of our society -- the uneducated serfs, the miseducated diploma-holders, the stressed-out employees, the dregs of society -- mostly ignorant, superstitious, fearful and cowering every day and every tomorrow, rude, noisy, dishonest, sycophants, hypocrites, and other characteristics that make us imbeciles. All, except the wily and the crooks, entrusts in form of taxes a third of their earnings to thieving government officials who should be hanged by their intestines on the nearest electric posts. Yet, as Stephen King said, we all float. The sea of humanity has become huge, and polluted. At least we are consoled by the thought that the young thugs who are shouting about the beneficence of Martial Law will soon get a personal taste of the New Society-the sequel, sponsored by Dodirty.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ode to the Uod

Ang Paraan sa Paglilibing sa Isang Magnanakaw by ISAGANI FUENTES

Isang Peklat na Pahimakas

Aba, ginoong Marcos, ginulat mo kami!
Para kang magnanakaw sa dilim ng gabi --
Diretso sa hukay, kulang sa paalam,
Dagdag-bawas pati iyong pasiyam.

May nagmamarkulyo, di ka raw santo.
Okay lang kay Digong, bato rin ang puso.
Sasamahan ka hanggang impiyerno --
Sabihin kay Imelda, mag-LBC ng yelo.

Paalam, sundalong pulpol,
Tangna nyo, loyalistang ulol.
Kahit na marmol ang iyong puntod,
Lakay, pulutan ka ng uod.


Isang baku-bako at tulalang tula na isinilang matapos makita ang painting ni Isagani Fuentes. Salamat, Igan, sa permisong magamit ko ang iyong obra dito.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Simulan na ang piging ng mga uod

Putsa! Nagsisimula pa lang sa DZMM ang MMK kaninang ala-una at inilalatag pa lang ang love story ni Rica Peralejo nang ibinulabog ng newsbreak ang napakawalang-kwentang anunsiyo na nagdesisyon na ang Korte Suprema na ilibing si Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Eh di ilibing! Alisin na sa eskaparateng aircon yang berdugong yan at ibaon na sa lupa. Simulan ng ang Piging ng mga Uod.

Ewan ko ba bakit binibigyan ng respeto ang mga putanginang mga hukom ng Korte Suprema ganyang halata namang nasuhulan ang mga impakto (at dalawang impakta). Ngayong November 8 nagkunwang nagbotohan ang mga tarantado, pero kahapon pa ay kalat na ang magiging desisyon, di nga lang sigurado kung walo o siyam ang lihis ang wisyo sa kanila. Ngayon alam nating siyam na nga, at posibleng sampo, kung di maipaliwanag nang mabuti nung isa bakit tumabla at nag-recuse siya. Ang sigurado dito, kumita nang malaki ang ilan sa kanila at inaareglo na nila ang pagtago ng hidden wealth mula sa BIR. Di sila takot na malaman ito ng nga anak-pawis: Tingnan mo, nagwawagayway ang maraming hakot na loyalists, ni hindi nila alam na ang ipinambayad sa kanila ay matagal nang ninakaw sa kanilang ninuno.

At ang oposisyon? Ha ha ha! Tingnan mo si Colmenares, kukumbinsihin daw niya si Duterte na bumaligtad sa pagbigay ng dangal sa kapwa berdugong pangulo. Hay naku, yan ang bayad ni Digong sa mga Marcos para dun sa solid na boto ng mga panggalatok sa kanya nung election. Ginamit lang front si Miriam para humatak ng boto para kay Bongbong. Ano pa ang sabi ni Colmanares? Magmo-motion for reconsideration pa raw! Anong akala niya, isosoli ng mga ganid na hukom yung ibinayad sa kanila? Itong kay Digong talagang napaka-voluntary ng bayad niya sa mga among Marcos -- sa patay na Marcos, sa matronang Marcos, sa mga anak ng Marcos na ewan lang ba't magkadikit ang itaas at ibabang mga ngipin kung magsalita. Himod-Marcos itong ating loyalist na panggulo ng bayan. Pero itong mga ganid at dupang na mga hukom, laging gutom ang mga bank account ng mga pinsang-buo ni Satanas na mga yan. Respect the rule of law daw. Pwepwepwepweh!

Speaking of the devil, pag ililibing na ang Marcos na yan, di ba aalisin na sa kanyang estante? Di ba mainit sa labas kung wala nang aircon? At di ba mas mainit du'n sa pupuntahan niyan? Anyway, bago sa final and sizzling destination niya ay pararangalan muna siya ni Digong -- military honor bilang dating presidenteng pinagnakawan ang mga kababayan na ang karamiha'y pati mga sira-ulong anak at apo ay pumapalakpak pa; at bilang dating sundalo nung World War II, na pinaghahanap ng mga Pilipinong gerilya para bitayin dahil kasabwat pala ng mga Hapon. (Nasa record na pinatay ng mga gerilya ang kanyang tatay noon dahil tauhan ito ng mga Hapon.) May 21-gun salute pang pa-bon voyage sa kanya, sa halip na bala ng firing squad ng mga gerilya noon. Anyway, kahit gaano pakintabin ni Duterte ang seremonya, bandang huli ay ibabaon din ang Marcos na yan sa lupa -- wala nang preservatives, wala nang eskaparate, wala nang freon -- kung saan naghihintay ang mga barkadang uod para gawing pulutan si Mr. Maharlika.

Pero pupunta nga ba ang kaluluwa nito sa impiyerno? Assuming na hindi halang ang nabanggit na kaluluwa at pumalaot nga sa Super Sauna sa Ibaba, marahil ay dapat kumapit nang mahigpit itong si Bad Boy Lucifer sa kanyang trono at baka isang nagliliyab na umaga ay magising siyang iba na ang hari ng Hell 1081. Ang lakas pa namang mag-power extension ng mamang iyan, kuwidaw ang octopus outlet.

Natatawa ako minsan sa mga Marcos, kay Digong, kay Estelito at mga kalaro niyang mga hukom, sa mga nagtitilamsikang mga loyalists -- nagplano, nagpondo, nakipagbulungan, nag-buy and sell ng ilang kaluluwa, para makarating sa araw na ito, na sabihing puwede nang itulos sa hahalayin nilang libingan ang labi ng isang kung di lang engot ay dapat kampante na sa 24/7 na air conditioned Funko Pop case niya. Doon ay mananatiling buo pa sana ang kanyang katawang lupa at nakapustura pa. Pero ngayon, kahit magpumiglas ka, dedong Marcos, mag-uusap ang iyong junior, at iyong airhead na asawa, at iba pang alipores, para itakda kung kailan ka i-e-evict diyan, at pababayaan ka nang maagnas, at maging lamang-tiyan ng mga bulate. Weather-weather lang, ika nga: nung bata ka may bulate ka sa tiyan; ngayon, ikaw ang nasa tiyan ng bulate.

Sinong may sabing walang hustisya sa lupa?

Psycho Presidents

I hate Donald Trump, but some of my friends like him, to the extent that they are restricting me in their FB settings, blocking my anti-Trump quips, and I think I have been unfriended by some. But not by the important and valued people in my life, so precious and few. So, nothing really important has nudged me from my quiet niche.

I suppose it's not unusual that the same equation applies with Duterte, who, like Trump, I believed and defended during the heat of the campaign, then I backtracked from when I realized that we were electing a foul-mouthed paranoid to high office, and now am shouting against in the din of heated opinions.

Eight years ago, had Trump battled Obama, -- who was then fresh and shiny like a new, dark penny, and offering an alternative to the blundering Bush -- the tycoon easily would have been exposed as the sleaze artist he is. Trump's white eyeliners, which go back to the early 80s, would have glared in stark contrast to Obama's ebony complexion. Racism would have been shouted down back in 2008 because then nobody but rednecks in the Bible Belt, die-hard Klanners, and neo-Nazis would have agreed that a black man in high office would be ineffective, would make America weak, which Russia and North Korea would take advantage of. In 2016 a third-rate psycho from Davao who attained the presidency in a banana republic told the head of the most powerful nation to go to hell, and the black president -- the shine of his blackness tarnished by the years and by his lack of skill in handling international bullies -- he let the insult pass, maybe forgetting that it's not a personal attack, but a symbolic showdown: whether America will let any tinpot tyrant besmirch its international dignity.

In 2008 Syria's Assad, his army backed by Russia's Putin, had killed more than 8,000 civilians. Based on the strength of two strongmen determined to stay on in power, against the feebleness of alliances with Western countries and the ineptness of the United Nations, it was easy to forecast the result: By 2016 more than 100,000 Syrians are dead, including children, while the inept and careless Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, fumbled and tried to offer traditional palliatives to unconventional situations. John Kerry is no better, and may be worse, than Hillary. And most Americans, reeling from domestic ang international woes, concluded that anyone opposite Obama and Hillary must be strong and effective. If the Obama of today tackled the scam artist Trump of today, the nigger will be chained to modern history in The Rise of the Rednecks.

Trump, knowing nothing but saying everything in every voter's mind, edged Hillary out. Hindsight shows how clueless the Democrats were, to the point of asking Obama to step into the ring instead of shunting him out of sight. And Trump and his advisers pushed and intensified the issue, repeating over and over the link between crooked Hillary and namby-pamby Obama. And Trump won, and the voters who did not come out to vote for Hillary last Tuesday are now marching in protest -- of what, democracy? Trump's boobooisie delivered the required number; Hillary's mob did not care enough for her.

Duterte:Trump = Aquino:Clinton.
Almost everything Duterte is -- dynamic, noisy, decisive, womanizer, intolerant, Type A psychotic, Grade B killer, liar, rude and crude, megalomaniac, messiahyad -- Noynoy is not. The only characteristic they share is that they are both psychopathic -- they lack the ability to feel what the common people feel. Thus in times of calamities, Aquino stayed laid-back even if dead victims littered the streets of Taclocban after Yolanda ravaged the province; Duterte even blamed those killed in his anti-drug operations, including the non-pushers, accepting the deaths of two young girls as collateral damages. But these consecutive psychos in Malacanang are ultrasensitive when it comes to their own tangled emotions -- striking back at the slightest hint of imagined slights.

His street-fighter instinct as sharp as ever, Duterte has repeatedly made clear of his awareness that he might not finish his term. Trump, unexpectedly winning a game which he had joined mainly for publicity and for distraction from the cases filed against him by Trump University victims, is now taking traditional steps which his advisers are urging him to follow, with slight missteps in his presidential tweets. What is only certain with these petulant blabbermouths is that their terms will not be boring. Enraging, yes, but when did our leaders fail to give us high blood pressures?
Barring acts of God in the months (or years) ahead, such as lightning, falling airplanes, people power, Trump and Duterte will perform verbal and physical contortions and somersaults-- to incense the opposition and to entertain the fanboys and dumb girls.

“I believe that you have the absolute right to think things that I find offensive, stupid, preposterous or dangerous, and that you have the right to speak, write, or distribute these things, and that I do not have the right to kill you, maim you, hurt you, or take away your liberty or property because I find your ideas threatening or insulting or downright disgusting. You probably think some of my ideas are pretty vile too.”
-- Excerpt from Neil Gaiman's Credo, in “The View from the Cheap Seats"