Friday, August 24, 2007

Finding solace

This week, some of my questions have been answered: the answers came unexpectedly but not in a surprising, jarring way. It was like a butterfly lightly landing on your shoulder. You feel it very, very slightly; it becomes more palpable only when it's gone.

On a late Monday evening, I was just sitting in my study, staring at the silent PC. I was just sitting there, hugging my knees, my eyes surveying the room for something---something I did not know. There was that searching, seeking feeling in me. I knew I had questions inside but I didn't know what they were exactly. Just when I was about to stand up to finally go to bed, my eyes fell on Joyce Carol Oates' "Small Avalanches and Other stories". I haven't opened this book for quite some time. I remembered savoring each story in the collection, never wanting the stories to end.

When I opened it to a random page, to the story "The Sky Blue Ball", I was gifted with this: "In a long-ago time when I didn't know Yes I was happy, I was myself and I was happy. In a long-ago time when I wasn't a child any longer yet wasn't entirely not-a-child. In a long-ago time when I seemed often to be alone, and imagine myself lonely. Yet this is your truest self: alone, lonely..." What does it mean, I asked myself? What is it, what is it?

That particular story is about a high school girl who "encounters" a sky blue ball soaring over the fence and lands in the path in front of her. She figures that a child in the other side of the fence is probably trying to play a game, and so she throws the ball back into the fence and the game continues. As the game with the unknown playmate continues, the girl is reminded of her childhood. After a while, the ball doesn't come flying back to her anymore and she wonders...she decides to go around the other side of the fence, looks for her "playmate" and the ball...but finds nothing...

What is it, what is it? I still don't know what it means, what this particular story is trying to answer in my head, but I know there is something...I know something has been answered because after I read the story, there was that calmness, that recognition, just like that little butterfly on your shoulder.

And then last night, P and I watched "Stranger Than Fiction", and again, another question has been answered.

Who is writing my story?

Why are you doing it?

How will you end it?

How comforting, isn't it? An answer to a question could be another question.

For now, that is enough.


Ms. Malu Fernandez's travel columns "From Boracay to Greece" (*People Asia*,June 2007) and "Am I being a diva? Or do you lack common sense?" (Manila Standard Online, July 30, 2007) continue to draw negative reactions from Filipinos here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While we, the Filipino Press Club in the UAE, believe in press freedom and the wide latitude given to writers in expressing their conscience, we believe that Ms. Fernandez and her editors overstepped the bounds of responsibility with these stories.

The incident recounted in her flight via Dubai to Manila in which she berated fellow Filipinos (who had already endured the misfortune of working away from their families) on board Emirates for wearing "cheap" perfumes had no significant bearing to her story.

This particular anecdote did not provide any form of entertainment, learning opportunity or even delightful trivia to the readers. To suggest all Dubai-based OFWs smell awful because they are unable to afford expensive perfumes like the one she's wearing is high-brow snobbery.

It is the same snobbery stamped on the psyche of some members of the Philippine society's elite that has caused the yawning gap between our rich and poor, and the economic exodus of which millions of us Filipinos have now become a part.

To enlighten Ms Fernandez and her editors, Consul General Maria Theresa Taguiang from the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi cited unofficial estimates (as of December 2006, submitted to the Philippine Congress) that there are now 250,000 Filipinos in the UAE. Of that figure, 24 percent are professional workers, 35 percent are skilled, 24 percent unskilled and 16.89percent household workers (housemaids, personal drivers, nannies,cooks,tutors, gardeners, among other household staff).

More local as well as foreign companies in the UAE are employing Filipino workers because of their proficiency in English and admirable work ethics.

A print medium that aspires for relevance in today's competitive media world
cannot hide under the skirt of press freedom for its licentiousness to insult a group of people. One's freedom to poke her fingers begins where someone else's nose begins.

Ms. Fernandez's unrepentant response to the barrage of angry reactions from OFWs and their loved ones ("I obviously write for a certain target audience and if what I write offends you, just stop reading"), simply adds fuel to the fire.

A nation like the Philippines that aspires for renewal and regeneration needs a responsible press with a high level of sensitivity to all sectors that comprise it.

We strongly demand that the publishers of People Asia and Manila Standard Today to take full responsibility and do the right thing: give Ms Fernandez and her editors a disciplinary action and apologise to the people insulted by these articles.

(A mutual support group of Filipino professional journalists from the print,
broadcast and web-based media in the United Arab Emirates)


From last night's news:
Ms. Fernandez had resigned from her stint at the Manila Standard and People Asia.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


from a story fragment I wrote two years ago, on Valentine's at that:

She’s still reeling. She can’t forget the way he would look at her, his eyes screamed her name, in a voice suffering in anguish because he could not touch her, should not touch her. He watched her walk towards where he was standing with his friends, shivering as she glided past him, the scent of midnight suddenly descending upon him. He wanted to breathe in her scent, behind that small circle of her ear, the pulse on her neck, her graceful collarbones where a delicate strand of silver flowers rest like fingers on ivory keys. He wanted to grab her, shake her, and embrace her till it hurt both of them. He would have kissed her, bitten her lips till they bled. Such desire he has never felt and it frightens him that she could have this power over him, seizing him all over.

He stayed outside the bar until they told her they were to start playing. He was playing the surdo that night. The sound of all the drums beating was inside him, rising like fire, all too loudly in his ears, in his chest. He beat the surdo with the palms of his hands with every cell of him screaming her name, Christine, Christine. Somewhere in the dark of the bar, she was dancing, the passionate rhythms of the samba captivating her; her arms circling her as her hips sway towards the fiery crescendo building up in her feet, her thighs, her stomach, sweat between her breasts, chests heaving; her head swirling with the sound of drums and her name which his eyes screamed…

Friday, August 17, 2007

Malu Fernandez: Huwag Tularan

Isa lang ang pakiusap ko sa mga taong kagaya mo: wala kang karapatang tawagin ang sarili mong Pilipino. Nakakainsulto.

Lahat naman tayo ay may kanya-kanyang hinaing. Lahat naman tayo nasusuka sa gobyerno, sa mga pulitikong walang inatupag kundi, ano oa, eh di mamulitiko. pero maski na, mahal ko ang pinanggagalingan ko... Pero ito, walang tatalo dito...

Mula sa isang article sa People Asia na isinulat ni Malu Fernandez:
"However I forgot that the hub was in Dubai and the majority of the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) were stationed there. The duty-free shop was overrun with Filipino workers selling cell phones and perfume. Meanwhile, I wanted to slash my wrist at the thought of being trapped in a plane with all of them.

While I was on the plane (where the seats were so small I had bruises on my legs), my only consolation was the entertainment on the small flat screen in front of me. But it was busted, so I heaved a sigh, popped my sleeping pills and dozed off to the sounds of gum chewing and endless yelling of “HOY! Kumusta ka na? At taga sann ka? Domestic helper ka rin ba?” Translation: “Hey there? Where are you from? Are you a domestic helper as well?” I though I had died and God had sent me to my very own private hell.

On my way back, I had to bravely take the economy flight once more. This time I had already resigned myself to being trapped like a sardine in a sardine can with all these OFWs smelling of AXE and Charlie cologne while Jo Malone evaporated into thin air."

Nakakahiya ka. Nakakaawa.

At humirit ka pa

“…Just recently, I wrote a funny article in my magazine column and my friends thought it was hilarious. It was humorous and quite tongue-in-cheek, or at least I thought so, until the magazine got a few e-mails from people who didn’t get the meaning of my acerbic wit. The bottom line was just that I had offended the reader’s socioeconomic background. If any of these people actually read anything thicker then a magazine they would find it very funny. Most people don’t get the fact that they need bitches like me to shake up their world, otherwise their lives would be boring and mediocre. I obviously write for the a certain target audience and if what I write offends you, just stop reading.

Although it may sound elitist to you the fact is this country is built on the foundation of haves, have-nots and wannabes. One group will never get the culture of the other. Although I could mention that it is easier to understand someone who has a lower socioeconomic background that would entail a whole other page and frankly I don’t want to be someone to bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes. I leave that to the politicians in my family who believe they can actually help. Now I seriously ask you, am I being a diva or are people around me just lacking in common sense? Perhaps it’s a little of both!” - Malu Fernandez

(emphasis mine)

Pu@%*&$@!!!! "Acerbic wit" ba kamo? "Funny"? Pakshet.


P says: "You dare go to a beauty parlor? You should go the zoo and have yourself groomed at the hippopotamus department, you fat ass!"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I was one of those who have been praying for rain, first, because our water reservoirs definitely needed it (June's heat was too much!), and second, because I needed it: a bathing, a cleansing.

So yesterday when classes were called off, I was one happy girl. But today, another no-school day, why am I as gray as the sky outside? Why does it have to be such a rollercoaster ride?

At 28, should I still be asking questions like this?

Maybe it's time for me to explore a new space, a new world. Time to go.