Friday, January 28, 2011


What I remember are the legs. Best gams in town and some of the snazziest shoes, too.

She could afford the shoes and the matching leather bags, the pair always a shade lighter than her dress. Miss (she snorted at Ms) Rosario Perocho was single, from a middle class family with surplus income. I never saw her in heels shorter than three inches. And these were always tapered, mirrors of how her calves swept down gently into ankles with smooth knobs and white valleys even in areas that normally catch dirt.

Miss Sayo loved flowing georgette dresses and the occasional pencil skirt. All the feminity was from the neck down.

She tried her best to present a grim face. She often sported a bulldog's ferocious snarl, the kind you see before the bite. Other teachers screeched and yelled and, from time to time, swung books and bags at hooligans. Ms. Sayo froze even the most rambunctious high school kids with a glare atop those spread legs and the hands on her hips.

But up close, that effect was often ruined by the mischievous glint in her eyes. She also liked to chortle, and her wards, especially the girls, took that as a message: We could give the world some concessions -- and then do darn well as we please.

She taught algebra. Math was the bane of my life. But for some reason, she refused to believe that. Miss Perocho got through my addled brain; and taught me to overcome fear of math. Then again, this was the teacher who transformed my older sister, Manang Grace, from an almost-failing math student into regional math champion -- in less than a year.

She often scolded me for reading secretly from pocketbooks hidden behind the bigger math book. But then she'd tell a different class a few hours later that if students must read on the sly, she'd rather have them like Ma. Salvacion, reading Greek mythology, instead of trashy romance novels -- which I also devoured, hehehe, but she didn't know that.

She read perfect scores -- and the zeros -- after quizzes. I squirmed and cringed as she terrorized dear old boyfriend for getting zero while girlfriend aced the test.

But this is the scene I shall always remember. Ms. Perocho calling on a classmate, Francisco Catalan... Aaaah!

"Catalan!" (waving the results of a quiz)

"Catalan, stand up!" (Walks around the poor boy.)

"Tell me, Catalan, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Catalan says, "seaman, ma'am."

Walks right into it....

"Aha! A seaman!" (Striding off and gliding back. Stands with arms akimbo.)

"A seaman? A seaman!" (Stares down at the quivering boy.)

"And when they ask you to calculate the distance between Manila and Guam, you will end up in Cotabato!!!!"

Poor Francisco. But that must have done him some good. Last I heard he was a high-ranking merchant marine officer :)

They don't make them like the old dragons anymore....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I miss the Love Bug. The little beetle at least chirped a happy song with psychedelic abandon. And she'd chug and chug for miles with a just a lil slick of oil. Now we've got road monsters that people kill for. And racy coupes to make up for the lack of luvin'.

Turns out, Ms. Porsche's the least of our problems. At least, the hot babe's sometime driver doesn’t off folk; some car collectors' gals end up very dead.

We got to drive off them devils. So we got to do another extravaganza. A dozen chopped heads should do the trick.

Go, call the maker of “Chicago”. Tour him around and show him our glam crime bosses who strut as gorgeous dames cling -- or imagine themselves as gorgeous dames. Designer handbags and tortured designer shoes, designer dusters. One doo-doo-wop-wop needed to complete our musical. Bekimon, go duet with that Dominguez moll on the perils of leveling up. And while at it, jive with a judge or two to the tune of Bail-Out Rock.

The Engineer’s got nothing on Raymond; he and a certain golden boy can warble a ballad on the finer points of love and leather. You want exotic? We’ve got exotic! Somalia’s got nothing on Manila!

Pretty boys go up in flames. Buses go boom. The sweet, sweet smell of dynamite. Priests firing guns, cops hiding goons. A Liberian haunts our airport; gatekeepers out-ghoul the ghouls. A man spends 24 hours perched on a bridge and another twitches in a necklace doused with gas. Cops like red, soldiers prefer white and yellow’s what you call that tub of lard conveniently scarce these days.

On the brighter side, we’re moving up; hah, the cost of murdering a journalist just zoomed from P10,000 to P150,000. Lady Progress smiling, though maybe only for Palawan with its oil and honey.

Well, I ain’t got a Porsche, ain’t got a Lexus, ain’t got no entrée to gay society. All I want is to duck and live long enough to cuddle with my pup. And now they roll out the latest ditty: Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie in Your Bed Can Kill You.

Sleep well, peeps!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Forgiveness, yes, but justice above all

Paul Ouano Licuanan was still digesting the latest commentary of “Ramatak” anchor Gerry Ortega when he received a text message from his wife. (*Photo courtesy of Paul)

Just a few minutes after his radio program on RMN Puerto Princesa local affiliate, dwAR, Ortega died from a gunshot wound to the head while shopping for clothes in a second-hand store in Barangay San Pedro.

Licuanan rushed to the crime site. He managed to take photos of the slain man fondly called Doc Gerry by Palawan’s environmentalists. Doc Gerry’s body lay in a pool of blood, so fresh it was still bright red.

He was the second journalist in Palawan killed allegedly for their intense criticism of mining activities in this tourist paradise.

First, there was Dong

Doc Gerry was a good friend of the first victim, Fernando “Dong” Batul. Also among Doc Gerry’s other friends are journalists forced to leave Palawan after environmental reportage led to a barrage of death threats.

Doc Gerry had received numerous death threats, too; some of these he read during his radio program. The danger posed by his environmental advocacy had forced him to hire a personal aide.

“We already got him a bodyguard kasi mas marami na yun threats lalo na before the May elections. I thought nga na nawala na. I never thought people will actually do this. In his fight for what is right he made a lot of enemies," his daughter, Mika, told ABS-CBN.

Still, the gunman had managed to get close enough to shoot Doc Gerry at pointblank range. And he could have gotten away, too, except for the valiant chase by Doc Gerry’s aide and the timely help that came from responding fire department workers.

The alleged gunman, Marlon Dicamata or Marvin Alcaraz, is with the police. He is either from Taguig City or Pagbilao, Quezon. Such is the way of hired killers, who shed identities as easily as they throw away murder weapons.

Doc Gerry was a hard-hitting commentator. But his environmental work also had a softer side. He was project manager of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bayanijuan in Puerto Princesa.

His project had just launched five ecotourism sites in Puerto Princesa: the Pacific Asia Travel Association Gold Awardee firefly watching in Iwahig River, Dalubkaragatan Bacungan river cruise in Sitio San Carlos, Pambato Reef snorkeling, dolphin and whale watching in Honda Bay, and Ugong Rock spelunking and zipline.

“Gerry's death comes as a total shock and only serves to increase my determination that his dreams come true,” ABS-CBN Foundation managing director Gina Lopez said in a statement.

“He loved Palawan, and his greatest passion was to protect its natural resources. He could feel the pain of the communities that we’re adversely affected by mining. He loved from his heart the communities we were helping. I personally commit to make sure his dreams come true.”

Under siege

Palawan’s pristine environment is perpetually under siege from economic activities, ranging from the small-scale subsistence kaingin to multi-million peso mining concessions. Recently, environmentalists in Puerto Princesa have reported that quarrying, which has been banned, has resumed on the city’s outskirts.

Ortega would have met tomorrow in Manila with other anti-mining advocates under the Global Legal Action for Climate Change (GLACC) network.

Doc Gerry was no flash-in-the-pan, no mouthpiece for whatever flavor-of-the-month issue attracts nongovernment organizations (NGOs). He and Batul were already hard at it in 2006, the year two gunmen hit Batul with 12 bullets, including one that him right between the eyes.

On May 22, 2010 a short poem appeared in a blog.
Many have died before you.
And after you.
Some more gruesome.
Only a few got justice.

It was Batul’s 4th death anniversary, and the first time for poet-blogger Ely Valendez to tackle “sensitive stuff.” Now Valendez will have two anniversaries to commemorate.

Political strategist Peter Sing remembers Ortega this way: "There are two things i can fault him with - his uncompromising st...and against corruption and his inexhaustible drive to protect and enhance the environment. Rest in peace Doc, but please guide those you have touched in Palawan to remain strong and pursue the dreams you share with them."

Ortega may have been a fiery commentator, but his oldest daughter, Mika, says Doc Gerry had publicly forgiven the murderer of his father.

“It’s not conventional but even when in deepest pain, my father would still choose to do the right thing,” she notes.

‘”And as his family, we follow suit. We will seek justice but we will forgive. My father would’ve wanted that,” Mika adds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mad, mad world

Is it the book? (Dune, after Frank Herbert's death, still with no-ships falling through fold-space and landing on strange worlds, much like "Inception" with a more interesting cast of characters.)

Or is it just the pull of the fool moon, the jester chortling from his safe orb? Such an array of off-kilter news about off-kilter lives and minds skedaddling down the rabbit hole.

The odds for "bowel cancer" appearing in tandem with "red musical tie" -- and, natch, taking a bow in London's august Parliament -- would probably be up there with one person winning a P300-million Grand Lotto prize.

Husbands are for the taking at $17/hour in Georgia. They're probably hirsute and gruff, and secret grandchildren of Stalin with cellars full of arms, but they can pound hard and harder;that's all that counts when you got a couple of loose screws. Plus, in an area where jobs are hard to come by, you probably can get them to agree on some more punting and panting after hours.

Cubao's urchins are exercising their nascent capitalism skills as Donald the Chump proclaims the death of the same, unless the US of A decimates the enemy called China. I'm praying the enemy doesn't sic Rosie on him because the Donald could just hire Joan to dump on Rosie, who'd then scream for Gervais, and then we'd have a year's worth of baaaad stand-up routines.

In some courtroom, a man who calls himself a lawyer posits: It's not murder if you unleash bullets a second or two after someone succumbs from a heart attack or asthma, which presumably is what happens when dozens of armed men herd folk to the edge of a hillside crater in Maguindanao.

It's not murder; it's called a helping hand. Maguindanao is a special place, where people commit suicide by hacking their heads off. And you don't even have to believe that because in that swathe of land ruled by people called Ampatuan the only capital allowed are bullets and bolos. I don't know what the Ampatuans snort in the comforts of their mansions, but some Florida burglars, high before the deed, mistook the ashes of a man and his best friend for cocaine. Depending of what mighty medicine Andal and siblings are taking, they can probably plead for mercy by claiming lousy timing.

As car thieves and murderers thumbed their noses at our cops, pimps and killers and hit men were being roused from their homes across America and Italy. Eight hundred law enforcers took in 127 men who probably have very serious sexuality issues -- you would, too, if given the name Junior Lollipops. By the looks of them, very serious weight problems, too, from wolfing down all that pasta and beef shanks smothered in sauce while debating when Junior gets to off Senior.

The East Coast may have its rough spots but that apparently didn't stop two precious-looking guys from their Big Apple winter rendezvous. I'm hoping they're not like the Brokeback boys or, if they are, live in some decadent, scandalous devil's hole where Chris Colfer can sashay down Main Street in peace. Because you never know which passionate patriot reads Sarah Palin's many tweets and decides to act on behalf of We the People.

There are all kinds of champions, of course, and an ailing "investment guru", which is more than a bearded man with a piggy bank the size of Alaska, has decided to mark the end of his life with a 66-page book on, well, investment advice... although you and I do not need to spend precious dollars to realize that, "Wall Street brokers and active money managers use your relative lack of investment expertise to their benefit, not yours..."

It's a digital world so the day's not complete without a giant or two brawling on the world wide Web. Mozilla blocks Skype toolbar, claiming crashes and slowdowns. Twitter Gets Sued For Creating "Virtual Community of Famous People". If they provide enough incentive, I'll take the stand and earnestly prove my fame and wave around a canceled visa as proof :)

Maybe if I get those 15 minutes Anna, mistress of José Saramago, the dog not the writer, will probably add me to the list of endangered species once she gets tired of the Ibex and decides to use her bootcamp Pinyin to start an Asian empire.

By that time, Jose would have mastered programming,each little paw with its own PC, the better to rule the world. Anna and Lillipop III would be playing Bocce in a Shanghai bar as Georgian hunks challenge Andal, the tittering Sarah wannabe, to take aim, fire and blow the brains of folk too stubborn to believe in the gospel of Ampatuan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? (Miriam's bill expands the umbrella of media)

"Journalism is a profession. I am just an opinionated BUM."

For years, journalist organizations have struggled to trim of their ranks of those who want the label but not quite the job. Now, blogger Dean Jorge Bocobo -- who's also often invited as an analyst by current affairs television hosts -- says thanks, but no thanks.

"I don't want 'Govt protection for bloggers'," says Bacobo on Twitter. "Before you know it we'll get Official Guidelines and become LURKERS."

Bloggers will probably not thank Bacobo for his generosity. But then the irascible teacher/pundit does not claim to represent them or other digital communicators.

Senate Bill No. 455, authored by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, amends the Penal Code so that the killing of broadcast and print journalists immediately qualify as murder punishable under Article 248 of the same code.

Santiago wants to expand coverage of the bill. A release from her office notes: “There is no reason why only members of the broadcast and print media should be included in the proposed law. Due regard must also be given to practitioners of the ‘digital media,’ or those whose mode of communication is the internet and mobile phones.”

Santiago points out that many media practitioners use digital media to relay information, citing the country's major newspapers and broadcast stations that have websites and multi-media ventures. More from her release:

“Further, with the popularity of blogs and video-sharing websites such as YouTube, there are now a lot of people who regularly post sensitive political commentaries online, with content similar to those traditionally published in newspapers or broadcasted over the television. Even though they are not traditionally referred to as members of the media, they may actually be exposed to the same dangers encountered by institutional media practitioners,” Santiago explained.

Santiago cited as an example the case of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who was reportedly subjected to harassment and threats after his website published sensitive and confidential information, including hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

The senator also cited the 2009 case of an online journalist in Russia who was forced to go into hiding after receiving threats for an article critical of the Russian government, which he published on his website.

Many print journalists, reporters included, transform into bloggers online.

There IS a distinction, despite what angry bloggers claimed the last time I ventured to say that on TV.

That distinction is not just due to rearguard action by haughty professionals who (supposedly) fear for their livelihoods in the face of a swarm of Young Turks. Nor is it in any way a reflection of one's gift of gab.

The difference is mostly rooted in economics.

A journalist's output is almost always the product of more than one person. Even a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter or photojournalist, for example, will be working with at least one of these folks: a) researcher; b) desk person; c) senior editor; d) proofreader. At the least, a major American newspaper will have a layer of fact-checkers -- though, admittedly, that has not stopped sociopaths from smearing hard-earned reputations with lyrical, funny, even brilliant but totally made-up stories.

Most Philippine-based newspapers will have a lean team of guardians at the gate. Most broadcast stations here have producers of various levels and skills, writers, editors, camera people and sound technicians, engineers and other technical staff who work so that the audience can laugh, fume, weep or retch as they eat breakfast or dinner or midnight snacks.

Numbers do not necessarily reflect the quality of output. I have chortled (or raged) over glaring errors of fact and grammar on the front pages of some newspapers or major news websites. We've all furrowed our brows, at one time or another, as some broadcast reporter with a gorgeous voice and even more gorgeous face chatters "live" with no rhyme or reason. Indeed, the comfort of a crowd can make us lax, lazy or arrogant.

At the other end, there are very skillful lone rangers. We all probably have favorite bloggers, ranging from the "I_amHolo" with his gentle-funny wit, the professorial Danilo Arao, Ellen Tordesillas and other investigative journalists, outrageous Reyna Elena, and the very angry bunch over at

Sometimes they're brilliant, sometimes they're juvenile; even the best will have their bad days.

I am a journalist. I am also a blogger. THIS is a difference: As a journalist, I submit my work to peer review (and/or have peers to help me prepare a report). As a blogger, I am answerable to no one.

Whether writing for a newspaper, a magazine, a broadcast script or a dotcom analysis, I try my best to abide by the ethics of journalism and all those other hard lessons. That does not change the fact that as a blogger I am accountable only to myself.

Having said that, I recognize the need to protect people's right to expression. That protection starts way before the act of expression -- whether on print, on stage or the digital page. (Part 2, 'We Are the World')