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Komadrona

MARAMING marikit na ala-ala na bumabalik kay Alice de la Jente, 65, batikang komadrona.



Tag-araw noon, latigo na humahagupit sa katawan ang init. Mabigat na ang pakiramdam ni Alice. Kahanay siya sa kapwa pasahero. Siksikan. Siksik pati bagahe’t dala-dalahan. Mahaba ang pila. Matagal umusad. Paakyat pa lang sila sa barko, palakbay-Maynila. Inip, inis, at init na init na siya.



Nagulat siya nang may humawak sa kanyang kamay—lalaki, mga edad-40, masuyo ang paghawak. Ni hindi nakaiwas ang komadrona nang halikan siya nito sa pisngi.



“Ninang,” anito na nakangiti, “ako si Banhao.”



Banhao! Patay na nabuhay! Bangkay na Lazarus na napukaw, bumangon mula hukay sa panawagan ng buhay. Gumuhit ang gunita sa utak ni de la Jente—ito nga ba si Banhao?



Ang sanggol na si Banhao na inagaw niya sa kalawit ng kamatayan? Noon pa ‘yon at napakarami nang sanggol na iniluwal niya. Mula sinapupunan ng kani-kanilang ina, sinapo niya. Dumaan sa kanyang mga kamay. Komadrona siya. Batikan. Malakas ang loob. Hindi sumu…

Singkamas

MAYAMAN pala sa tinatawag na phytochemicals o sangkap na panlaban sa samut-saring sakit ang singkamas—na sa alias nito sa Latin ay talagang kahindik-hindik na ang dating, Pachyrhizus erosus. Tunog erotikong suso sa dulo.

Jicama ang pangalan nito sa pinagmulang lupalop. Mula pa Mexico, nakarating sa ating pampangin nitong kasagsagan ng kalakalang Manila-Acapulco. Jicama. Sumablay ang bigkas dahil kasintunog ng “higa kama.” Nabalbal. Naging singkamas sa ating wika.

Pampigil sa salakay ng kanser, pampababa ng antas ng masamang cholesterol sa dugo, likas din na antibiotic o pamuksa ng mikrobyo sa katawan. Pampalakas sa likas na panlaban ng katawan kontra sakit. Anti-oxidant o pampahupa sa pagiging amoy-lupa. Karaniwan ding gamit na sangkap sa siomai at lumpia.

Hubad na lumpia! Opo, hindi hubo’t hubad ang tawag sa naturang lutuin. Hubad lang. Masarap kung may kalahok pang budbod na mani.

Kaya nakagawian nang talupan ng mga hayok. Ilalantad ang kinis-labanos na laman na pinipithaya (kahu…

Inn and out

NALINGUNAN ko pa ang lalaki. Malagihay na ang lakad. Nakalingkis-lamutak sa baywang ng kasamang dalawang pokpok—tiyak na kinahoy saanmang singit o kili-kili ng Avenida Rizal, papalo mula P200 hangggang P300 samputok. Baka pinakyaw ang dalawa, nagkasundo sa P500 sabayan. Sa konting halaga’y ubrang maglublob sa laman. Kaya sa bulsa. Sa bulsa.

Sa naturang bahay parausan na kahanay ng Avenida, kalye Trinidad, doon din ako nagpalipas ng magdamag. Palipas-pagod lang. Tagilid ang laman ng bulsa— P180 ang bayad sa 8 oras na pagtuloy sa paupahang silid. Kapos ang laman ng bulsa para umupa ng paupahang laman. Saka na ang paglulunoy ni manoy saanmang kanal.

Katreng may sapin na kahit limahid na kumot—ganoon lang ang pakay. Basta mailatag lang ang likod sa katre. Ganoon ang hinihinging limos ng katawan. Pagbibigyan. Kahit tulog-manok lang sa magdamag. Panakaw ang pag-idlip. Iglap na magigising kahit sa mahinang kaluskos. Mahirap nang mabulaga. Maunahan.

Lodge o inn ang karaniwang nakasupalpal na p…

Noche buena mano | Inciting to seduction

Noche buena mano

THE manufacturing sector of the nation’s economy is looking glum. Consumers aren’t on a buying binge. Stocks begin to gather dust and hardly stir. And this Christmas is about to turn a bit more of famine than feast.

Rather than sulk at dire prospects of an unkempt, unkept Christmas for most Filipinos gnashing their teeth— dentures and gums, too – at a more probable coup coming to pass than a cheerful Pasko, rosy-eyed polyannas are a-busy to keep the season’s spirits alive. And kicking.

And cooking up whatever’s for picking should bring joy to this glum part of the world.

Look at the goodies that we can gladly sink our teeth into. Call ‘em yummies. Call ‘em whammies.

This eight-curse, oops, we meant eight-course feast of sorts ought to make Christmas tables groan, liven up the traditional noche buena. Dig in. Enjoy. Weep.

Daing ng bayan – something kippered, sun-dried and ought to last for a long, long while, this dish is ersatz jamon and comes with piquant notes of …

An earful of Garci [People's Journal editorial 28 November 2005]

AS a relic of current history, the “Hello, Garci” chit-chat won’t ever make it as valid proof in any Philippine court, so sage lawyers have reminded the nation. In response, a firebrand butcher from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI also offer an impolite albeit impulsive counsel: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” We’re not taking any of these two cents.

We’re smack flat with “People Power” fatigue and we don’t give a fart if the Malacañang occupant is president or resident.

We’ve heard the “Hello, Garci” dialogue over and over. We’ve grown numb from an earful like that. Kailangan pa bang i-memorize ‘yan?

“Hello, Garci” has evolved into a ring tone for cell phones. The ring tone has traveled abroad and, despite the catcalls, sneers and jeers that greeted this splatter of dialogue, it went on to become a global smash hit. Proudly Philippine-made!

We’re also struck flat with “Hello, Garci” fatigue now.

Garci’s chat-mate in that chit-chat admitted it was her voice alright …

Stakeout, then, take out| An eye for tomorrow (Pananaw sa kinabukasan) [PJI editorials 13-14 November 2005]

IT WAS an idea for murder whose time has come. And none suspected the worse until the mangled bodies turned up in the streets, cold and dead.

Nobody guessed a game of sorts was afoot. And the sordid game’s a reality TV show plied out from country in a universe parallel to ours. State-of-the-art surveillance equipment and cameras with ultra-high resolution of images had been fitted in several government offices. Those gadgets (each no bigger than a microdot using nanotechnology) allowed millions of viewers to witness whatever passes off as high drama, low comedy, even luscious pornography in government service.

The show was tabbed “S/Takeout.” Its concept was murderously brilliant.

Initially, viewers do a stakeout on culprits. Then, they take ‘em culprits out. Poor, unsuspecting rank-and-file denizens of government offices just won’t know what would hit ‘em.

The populace of this dimension was simply stumped, a lot horrified as civil servants and their circle of cronies and cohorts w…

Meron pa 'kong P200 sa bulsa

DALAWANG taon na'ng nakalipas nang masulat ko 'to. An'daling pihitin ng daloy at ligwak ng pangyayari para maging kuwento-- na maipapalimbag sa nalalabing lingguhang babasahin na naglalabas pa ng prosa-- walang 5,000 na ang national circulation nito-- at mababayaran ng P300 na kakaltasin ang 10%. Tumataginting na P270 ang sasalampak sa palad!

Maglilimi. Magtutuos.

P325 ang umiiral na pinakamababang arawang bayad sa karaniwang obrero't kawani sa Metro Manila. P280 ang national average daily minimum wage. Titimbangin at matamang sisipatin ang P270 at P280 saka uusal ng 'sangkatagang taimtim na dasal. Hindot!

MATAPOS tumanggap kamakalawa ng dalawang bulig mula pangkokolum, nahagilap agad ng aking unica hija-- nilambing ang aking bulsa. Pigtas ang sambulig nang salidahin ako sa aking tanggapan.

Nahagip din agad ng isa pang bata, 21 anyos rin tulad ng aking si Podying. Iisang petsa pa nga ang kanilang kaarawan-- Abril 15, 1982. Sa Quezon City Medical Center isinilang ang an…

Gone to the dogs and loving it

KALAHOK sa lugaw na buto-buto’t durog na mais (naglalaro sa P18 hanggang P20 ang kilo) ang kung ilang dakot ng balatong aso’t ulasimang aso. Para sagana sa hibla o fiber ang pagkain ng aming mga aso-- potsotsoy ang naging term of endearment namin sa mga damuho.

Lumilitaw na panlaban yata sa Alzheimer’s disease ang ulasimang aso. Panghasa daw sa mapurol o pulpol nang utak. Pampatalino raw. Pampa-----tuliro?

Kinukutuban na akong baka sa aso tahasang tumatalab ang bisa ng ulasimang aso.

Delikado ito: mahirap mag-alaga ng gifted canine sa panahong ito’t baka maisuplong pa ako ng mga kumag sa pag-iingat ng weapons of mass destruction, pakikipaghuntahan sa mga mikrobyo, pagbigkas ng mga ipinagbabawal na oraciones mula sa mga aklat na itim… Huwag naman silang magkakamali. Baka ito na ang simula ng bagong pangkatin ng Dominicans—sila ang kapural ng matinong irrigation system sa bansa, nagtatag din ng pinakamatandang pamantasan sa Pilipinas. Magugunita ang katuturan ng Dominicans—Domini canis…

Cancer

I’VE lost several friends to cancer. Ex-combat pilot-turned-painter/preacher Lino Severino. Erstwhile PCGG head Haydee Yorac. Hausfrau Avelina Lasa Mata. Stage actress Adul de Leon. Iaidoka, movie villain and sparring partner Ernesto Ortega. They passed away not exactly in that order.

Cancer remains on the list of the nation’s top three killers. That bothers me, the “killer” tag. It’s bruited about as a lifestyle disease. We can take that to mean a lethal lifestyle. Cancer can be seen in a different light, though, something of an unwelcome growth within, an emerging factoid in the flesh. Maybe an insistent call for change, more likely, total transformation of being.

Could be a tugging for the human organism to evolve some more, yes, attain its true potential-- to take a go at Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere and become truly human, maybe a try at becoming Friedrich Nietszche’s uberman or superman? Far out and far-fetched twitch of the imagination I’m having.

I’ve wondered what…

Embattled residency | Living under the gun (PJI editorials 16-17 October 2005)

Embattled residency

THERE are presidents. There are residents.

One globe-trotting, now probably grave-dwelling Virgilio Garcillano ought to tell us which is which. He can tell the difference between president and resident, whether a Malacañang occupant is one and not the other.

Garcillano still haunts the nation. Ghosts do that, haunt. He has to be properly dead, feasted on by worms; his remains are at large and may likely be fully bundled and trussed by the presidential Executive Order 464, a gag order of sorts. So he won’t be allowed to spill the beans. Too, dead blokes tell no tales.

It might be Garci’s remains or Garci remains as the missing key to the Malacañang dilemma that we can’t make heads or tails of. She’s president. She won the presidential polls, did she not? So asserts Macapagal-Arroyo fans in Congress. She’s resident and ought to be evicted, so maintain the restive rest of the nation. Garci couldn’t be haled or exhumed to clear the air. He could be dead and fully corr…

Rezos para los muertos

THE workaday commute adds up to a total 5-6 hours— turbo-broiled chicken, ratatouille, dinengdeng, raw fiddlehead fern salad, steamed fish or beef stew takes lesser time, a lot less tedious, and tastier, too.

Me ruego no juego—honest, I prey, oops, pray while in transit. See? It’s more fashionable these days to pray solely at wakes for the dead. Take note: passengers and commuters are in transit. The condition’s too close to that phase “in transition”— a crossing beyond the pernicious reach of taxes and lousy governance, a going to the great six feet under.

So, it’s simply apt and fashionable to mutter or mumble a ton of prayers while in transit. A feast of prayers can be construed as a diet of sorts. It’s glorious food. Call it manna. Maybe it’s ambrosia, godly ichor or intoxicating liquor. Something burns inside, probably in some unexplored regions of the psyche—and it needs to be filled and well-fed to keep its fierce fire alive. Dull embers and cold ashes are for the dead-starved o…

Padasal sa patay (2)

NAHALUNGKAT: sa rosarium o halamanan ng rosas pala nag-ugat ang katagang “rosaryo.” Matinik na lunan iyon—hitik sa tinik ang mga tangkay ng bawat humahalimuyak na bulaklak.

Sa halip na lumuhod sa paanan ng dambana, sa piling ng mga tinik, tangkay, at talulot nakagawian yatang maghasik ng dasal noong unang panahon. Baka sa ganoon ding sulok ng halamanan makakalkal ang pinagmulan ng isang sinaunang sawikain. “Walang matimtimang birhen sa matiyagang kumain nang kumain nang kumain.”

Magugunita tuloy ang mga kakatwang tagpo mula nobelang Como Agua para Chocolate ni Laura Esquivel— sumulak sa sidhi ang libog ng bawat lumantak ng putaheng pugo na may salsa mula talulot ng rosas. Pilit ipinagpag ng isang dilag ang utog—naligo pero nagliyab pati ang paliguan, nadarang sa matinding init na sumingaw sa hubo’t hubad na katawan.

Maidadagdag pa ang kuntil-butil ng Doctrine of Signatures mula kay Theoprastus Paracelsus. Saklaw daw ng planetang Venus ang rosas— sakop niyong planeta pati na puson at ka…

Padasal sa patay

NAGLIPANA marahil ang mga pusakal barumbado’t walang budhi sa lansangan. Kaya may isa o dalawang pasahero—karaniwang babae, karaniwang nasa dapithapon na ang edad—na may hawak na dusaryo, umuusal ng sandaan yatang pagpupugay Ave Maria. Saka ilang Ama Namin at pahayag ng pananampalataya. Sambungkos na dasal ang alay habang naglalakbay.

Pakay ng panalangin habang lulan ng pampublikong sasakyan na makaiwas sa sakuna. Makaligtas sa mga mandurukot, manlalaslas ng bag, mga bangag na naghahanap ng makukursunada. Lalo nang dapat ipag-adya sa mga holdaper. Talagang tigib sa panganib at amba ng trahedya ang biyahe sa araw-araw. Walang katiyakan.

Aantig sa paningin ang isa o dalawang may hawak na dusaryo. Kawing-kawing, bungkos-bungkos ang ipapailanlang na dalangin sa hangin. Tila mga butil ng binhi ang taimtim na ihahasik upang sumibol. Siguro’y yumabong kahit paano.

Para silang nagpapalipad ng saranggola. May ikid ng pisi, ilalarga na unti-unti—pataas, pataas, pataas. Ibig humalik o humaluka…

My beloved god-daughter Tintin

‘TWAS your mom Rivs who told me that I’m a godfather to a doctor—and it’s you pursuing medical practice in that land of the not so puissant greenback. After all those 24 birthdays of yours, add two dozen Christmases past—include the token pakimkim sum—I’m neck-deep indebted to you, perdoneme por favor hija mia.

Don’t you come home and dun me. I’ll take that as grave threats, my dear,

Somebody did proxy for me at your baptism, so I was told. The rite could have gone zany had a priest asked me to renounce Satan, Belial, Mammon, Astaroth, or any of those diabolical oafs who shower temptations galore to every willing and witting sinner. That fairy tale author Oscar Wilde averred ages back, “I can resist everything except temptations.”

Believe you me, I might have taken exception to renouncing Mammon, honest. Soy un llano jardinero pero puedo pase muchos dinero.

But I’m not about to nudge you to come home to these god-forsaken islands where Mammon reigns supreme and the Roman Catholic fait…

Bye, bye American spy | Lawmakers’ souls for sale—cheap! (PJI editorials 17-18 September 2005)

Bye, bye American spy

SPIES are usual condiments of life and politics in these god-forsaken islands.

Unlike the bulk of readers who poke their snouts into useless trivia and intrigue in show business circles hereabouts, those shadowy figures among us zero in on strategic and tactical information—the sort that can be used to grab key politicos and industry leaders by the balls, that is, if they have any.

It is likely the bulk of such gathered information provide American policymakers a voyeur’s glimpse into the workings of our so-called ‘amokcracy’—make that gone amok democracy.

Who knows if those shadowy oafs may have helped the ‘Hello Garci’ protagonist to fly the coop? They might have even given an eager hand in kneading the poll tallies and kneading numbers in the air-conditioned comforts of a hotel room to foist a president upon a gullible populace who won’t care if either Darna or a hippopotamus is enthroned in Malacañang.

Politically useful information costs a bundle of money. A…

Run, Garci, run! | Read and weep | Small minds, loud mouths (PJI editorials 10-12 September 2005)

Run, Garci, run!

FLY, Garci, fly.

No, we’re not talking about zipping up trousers and pantaloons. Not about a pesky pest that lay eggs on filth or carrion to turn up a wriggle of maggots and such disease as diphtheria.

You’ve flown the coop. Why, we define ourselves by what we do. What you did spoke for what you really are—you flew the coop.

So you’re chicken—likely with a wishbone for a backbone.

We don’t really want you to come home after you took off for parts unknown. These days, we can’t be sure. You may have turned into a carrier of the dreaded avian flu virus. Probably chicken pox, mites, cholera, botulism, blackheads, halitosis, fits of cackling or any odd undiscovered ailment that usually afflicts fowls.

Fly, Garci, fly.

Please spare us the plague, Garci. We can’t handle any of such risks to the public health and political wellness. You’ve already caused us truckloads of trouble—you and your chat-mate in that infamous “Hello Garci” chit-chat made us walk on egg shells not …

Show must go on! (Tuloy ang ligaya!) [PJI editorial 8 September 2005]

Show must go on!

THOSE clutch of full-page ads that saw print in several broadsheets before the House of Reps went on vote the other day must have cost a lot of money. It was earnest money to convince us chaos could erupt if Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is ousted.

Some pockets must have erupted and there flowed cash—that we know.

Money talks and it’s the dough talking through those ads. In that truism we are convinced.

The buck stopped there. We wish that some of those bucks went our way, too, we really could use some—these aren’t exactly easy times and we’re looking with grim expressions at the prospects of the expanded value added tax causing some more expansion of our expenditures while adding nothing of value into our lives.

The people’s reps need not have wasted precious spittle and man-hours to explain their stand. We can understand any lapse of judgment. We can comprehend how sorry they are at turning up (after a record-setting session) a set of numbers we can’t even ply at lotto o…

Yakap sa pag-akyat

HINDI mahikayat ang damuho kong anak na akyatin ang katabing puno rin ng alibangbang (Bauhinia malabarica). Para ‘kako makarami agad sa makukuhang talbos— nakatikom pang mga pakpak ng lunting mumunting paru-paro ang anyo. Para agad na makauwi’t maisalang na ang lulutuing ayungin. Sinigang. Talbos-alibangbang ang sangkap na pang-asim.

Pakpak-paruparo’t palikpik-isda ang itatanghal na lutuin. Payak man sa tingin, sasagi ang masining na pagsasanib ng magkahiwalay na larawan mula kalikasan—mula himpapawid na palaruan ng paru-paro’t mula lilim sa ilalim ng tubig na ginagalugad ng mga isda. Lutuin na tila hinango mula sa mga likha ni Dutch printmaker Maurits Cornelis Escher—pinagsalit-salit na larawan ng mga isda’t ibon. Parangal iyon sa mga nilalang sa tubig at hangin.

Parangal din marahil na yakapin ang puno sa panimula ng akyat. Nabanggit sa anak—si Kukudyu—na tatlong puno lang ang may sigasig mabuhay kahit masibasib pa ng apoy ang kanilang kinatitindigan. Karaniwang silang tatlo lang a…