Thursday, August 24, 2017

Without me

What you see is a comic book published and sold in 1950, and this surprises me and a lot of baby boomers that are still functional this side of the grass. This issue qualifies as part of the Golden Age of comic publishing, sold at 10c, containing 52 pages, and sort of expensive now. But that is not the reason for our griping -- it is that the world had already been functioning even without waiting for us to be born into it. We missed two World Wars and their heroes and villains, like Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler. At least we got involved in the Cold War, though not actively; the 1969 moon landing, the Hubble telescope which expanded out view of the universe.

This universe has been going on for at least 15 billion years, and the Hubble reveals very distant galaxies that range from a close seven million light-years, practically a cosmic neighbor, to the distant cluster of more than 10 billion light-years. Of course the images that reach us are very, very old, so old that those galaxies, nebulae and whatelse do not look like that now. And they keep changing at distances that even light, with its tantalizing speed of 186,000 miles per second, cannot hope to update us. Many images are older than the Earth, which is estimated to be a toddler 4.5 billion years old. So, in a cosmic scale, our planet, like its baby boomers, had been left out of the preliminary game.

All these data hinge on the fact that we Earthlings believe that the half-life of Carbon 14 is accurate enough to determine the age of things that existed before this planet was borne out of cosmic dusts. We also place our faith that photons, light particles, live forever and can travel through the vast spaces and time to reach our eyes. There's a caveat though: we can look into the distant past, but not into our immediate past. So we cannot see how Jesus looked like about 2017 years ago; whether he looked like a blunt faced, shaggy haired, slightly crossed-eyed Arab, like most people in the Middle East looked at that time and locale, or is he the brown-haired, bearded, handsome idol that was painted by an European much later. We will not know who instigated Oswald to shoot Kennedy, if Marilyn Monroe really died of overdose, where the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were located, if it's true that Russian soldiers found the Fuehrer's corpse and Stalin had it shipped to him. A consolation is that we will not see people having fun even if we were not here yet. What is offered is the events that occurred before the whole planet joined the galaxy. The Milky Way did not wait for the birth of the Earth; in turn, this blue globe is not waiting for anyone. A cosmic tit-for-tat.

I have framed some magazines having Einstein in the covers. He died months before I was born, and I'm sure many people, born weeks or months after he died, had entertained the notion that the genius' soul had reincarnated in them. That notion died in me years later, after I got my report card and saw Math and Physics gasping for breath, just hanging on by a thread to keep from failing the grade and making the teachers smug with their "I though so!" smirk. And I realized I was not alone in thinking myself particularly special, destined for great achievements and honors. A fad appeared, when seers and psychics made a bundle by claiming to see people's past lives. Many Hollywood stars declared that they had been Cleopatra or at least a high personage in her court, or they were Mary Magdalene gasping as Jesus' face materialized in the handkerchief she had wiped his face with, or Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Czar Nicholas, Genghis Khan, Shakespeare. Not one is a stinking peasant of the Middle Ages, gap-toothed, lice-infested, ignorant and superstitious. 

And so I awoke from my delusion: this Earth can do well without me, and I don't want to be a part of its hoary past, when cavemen hunted not only bisons but those of other tribes -- for food. Europe in the past was a mud-hole where citizens spat on the squalid alleys and in their hovels, where water was not sanitary and more likely a source of typhus, pigs and dogs and horses defecated in dirty streets, where night soil of citizens were thrown into the mix. The past offered only a filthy, stinking, disease-ridden existence. Even in the royal courts, lice crawled all over the queen with her hair piled in a high bun sandwiched with honey and attendant insects. Princesses, princes and other members of the nobility believed that taking a bath is detrimental to one's health, and they kept bottles of scented water to ward off their grimy smell. It's not Games of Throne, where every character is fashionably coutured, hair groomed with fragrant shampoo, where women appear ravishing to gallant, full-toothed dukes or earls. Hygiene in medieval time is TV fiction. Truth shows many pigsty palaces and germfilled homes.

I'm only consoling myself, I know, from an imaginary and indulgent slight. Now I think of the million sperm cells I bested decades ago: they lagged behind, then swam in confusion, then died off, never seen nor heard nor thought about. And I, survivor of the race for life, grew up, fooled around, wasted 25% of my lifetime in enforced slumber and, now, at old age, grumbling about how this cosmos did not make me its fair-haired boy, had not led me to the Yellow Brick Road, or bestowed me with the facility of a bard. Anyway, I will settle to be a petkeeper, with an occasional kitten to keep me company. I never heard a kitten whine like me. Kittens are better than humans.

Diffident but lovely Tintin

P20k per Filipino soul

The Senate has approved a big increase in the President's discretionary fund, money meant for national contingencies like earthquakes and typhoons, outbreak of diseases hitting fowls, livestock and humans, and, now, to pay for each soul killed by police during legal and extra-judicial operations.

The cops who salvaged 17-year-old Kian are waiting to be exonerated by the Internal Affair Service, which has become notorious for letting rogue cops loose to commit havoc on the criminal justice system again, and again, and again. Not that Justice secretary Aguirre or Duterte care, as long as the cops are not made to pay for attack on a government facility like a prison compound, murder, planting of evidence, and perjury -- like what Supt. Marcos and his cohorts did in their operation to erase Albuera Mayor Espinosa. They had even applied for a search warrant to serve Espinosa, a prisoner already secured and under control in prison! How else could these rogue cops gain access to Espinosa, except by pointing their guns on the prison guards, and to hide their criminal acts by stealing the prison's CCTV? The Senate panel eventually concluded that the Marcos operation was no less than a heinous murder. But Duterte declared that he believed the rogue cops' moronic version of what had transpired. 

It's a given that Espinosa had controlled the illegal drug trade in his territory, had destroyed many lives, had presumably ordered some rivals intimidated or killed. To eliminate him, the president allowed, and still allows and encourages, cops to become wayward and commit several other crimes to get the big drug lords -- unless they are Chinese. Early in his term Duterte has declared he will give P20,000 for each drug pusher killed. A reward bigger than an average cop's salary is a powerful incentive for good cops to turn sour, and many are tempted. And the budget for public schools is about to be sacrificed so that Duterte's criminal decree can be maintained. 

When Duterte ordered Supt. Marcos to be reassigned to his former post, despite ongoing investigation, Senators Gordon and Lacson protested, pointing out that their hearing had produced definite proof that murder had been committed. Then silence. What else can be expected of a legislative body, headed by Koko Pimentel, to be coopted by the executive branch? So the country's system of checks and balances is now tottering on a crippled Judiciary's leg. The mining conglomerate in Congress has succeeded in ousting Gina Lopez out of the DENR. The depredation of natural habitats continue, the price Duterte paid for his insane programs. Taguiwalo followed, and somehow we are beginning to suspect that this president is not fighting for the good of the citizens but for the benefit of his cronies. What a group surrounds this Duterte! -- The entire Marcos family with their puppy Erap Estrada, now crunching Manila's coffer (father, like son Jinggoy, has not learned during their first incarceration); Gloria Arroyo and her dubious allies in the fake minority in Congress; Tessie Aquino has been resurrected; of course Tito Sotto and Manong Johnny Enrile are in attendance, Bible quoting Pacquiao apparently replacing the dead Maceda burning in hell, to name a few. 

But are these criminals to blame at all? We ignore the fact that the people of Ilocandia gave us Ferdinand Sr. And Jr., Imelda, Imee, FariƱas, and others who have robbed the entire land. Pampanga nurtured Gloria and her thieving family, and Davao spawned the evil loyalist Duterte. Who protested when Recto filed his law introducing VAT in our economy? As if the crocodiles in Congress have not grown fat with the bounty from our sweat that more are extracted, excise and confiscatory; we financed their stately homes and townhouses, and the apartelles where they keep their mistresses in style. We are feeding Pacquiao's idiot brother in Congress too. We are breaking our back to get food to our table, yet the government is taking 32.5% of what we earn to pay the very large (to us) salaries of poopymouth Mocha Uson and airhead Matin Andanar at the Presidential Communications Office. We are also paying other hoary Abella and weirdo Panelo to lie to us from time to time. Now Duterte is surrendering territories to China in our behalf, even making threats for China gratuitously. Are missiles really pointed at the Philippines? We are surrendering too? Even rats fight for survival when cornered, but this Duterte is a whining dog with his tail between his legs. Like any coward he strikes only at foes that are helpless behind bars, or let rogue cops kill, at his instigation, under-age citizens whose alleged crime is not as heinous as the president's setting the price of a Filipino soul at P20,000. We do not forget the death of a seven-year-old girl: she was eliminated by cops who gunned down her grandfather while they were taking a stroll. Yet other Filipinos who are supposed to be decent, educated, professional, religious and adherent to God's admonition against taking a man's life, are openly declaring support for state-sponsored murder. Where is the bottom to this hypocrisy?

What is clear is that the citizens have surrendered their rights and patrimony long ago -- first to the Spaniards, then to the Americans, now to Filipinos who control every aspect of our lives -- to the Ayala family and Pangilinan, who control the flow of water and overpriced electricity to our homes; and to their Singaporean and Malaysian partners, who decide how much the citizens can endure the slow broadband signals in their desktops and gadgets. Investors may be inveigled to roost in the Philippines, but it does not take long before they eventually flee to Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, where electricity is cheaper and more dependable, where wifi thrives on 4G, where electric wires are buried underground and not shamelessly littering the skylines like thick and dirty cobwebs. ASEAN's 75th anniversary was celebrated here, but the world leaders were gathered at Pasay's PICC, far enough from the sight of the squatter shanties hugging Manila's Pasig River. At least there is subtlety now in hiding our shame. In Marcos' time, in 1981, the sides of the roads, from the airport to MalacaƱang, were fenced with whitewashed galvanized sheets, to hide the unsightly home of the poor from the eyes of the visiting Pope John Paul II. The Pope found the Coconut Palace, constructed for his stay, too lavish and he decided to stay elsewhere. Pope John Paul II held dear in his heart the impoverished Pinoys. He saw that the people's material impoverishment does not reach the core of their happy acceptance of what life offers them, even if the offering is often meager. 

Maybe by this attitude we can understand a piece of the puzzle here, why Filipinos allow themselves to be abused so much. The Filipinos, even after a fire that razed their community, after a typhoon or raging volcano devastated their homes, can still afford to smile in the face of adversities. We let the crooked politician, businessmen and government officials take our money, with the corresponding headaches, backstabbing, envy and intrigues, and we let events slide, as long as our children, unshod, wearing uncoordinated garments, eating cheap noodles and headless sardines, still manage to laugh at play and once in a while remember to toss a kiss our way, then we are alright. The thieves may be buried under ornate tombs, but the undiscriminating worms devour their earthly presence and burp off their atrocious schemes. In the end, what counts is how much fun we did have in the Philippines.

Omanignatup, Duterte!

Sunday, August 20, 2017


As I type this on my desktop computer, part of the wifi signal is not working properly -- no YouTube now; but at least this is better than not having anything online. I call customer service and I'm required to press many options on the phone before I get to talk -- after a long wait -- to a human service personnel. This time I get a sympathetic one, an old hand who knows all the kinks of the system. But the new system, since Bayantel has been absorbed by Ayala's Globe, has slower signals, longer schedules before their technicians can check and correct the trouble: No more "A technician will be there today or  tomorrow, at least within 24 hours." Now Customer Service checks when a technician will be available -- last time one was scheduled for one week after my call; this time it took only three days before they "fixed" the problem. But the signals are still either misaligned or incomplete. Still, I'm grateful that some windows enable me to work on, even though a message has appeared right now on this site. It says, "An error occurred while trying to save or publish your post. Please try again. Dismiss." I click "Dismiss" but the message reappears, like the wifi problems now, which seem to have no end. 

World without end, with an infinity of high-tech problems that did not exist before 2005. I used to think that the future generation is luckier -- to see travels to Mars; 3D printing as part of everyday leisure, hobby and lifestyle; highly efficient ultrasound to dissolve blood clots or defective genes, with no more expensive and invasive surgery. But I realize that with new technologies, new problems will crop up, like evolved virus meeting the challenges posed by new cures. A never-ending battle so that the human species will survive and grow while other species are decimated to make space for the billions more that are coming.