Men crying

Danton Remoto
Remote Control

News, www.abs-cbn.com
Posted March 25, 2008


Jun Lozada started it all. In the porcelain dawn of a February morning, he held a press conference at De La Salle Greenhills, telling the whole world he had been abducted by men sent by the government.

Deriving courage from the army of nuns around him, he said that the country is not only one family, driving a spike straight into the heart of the ruling family. And in words echoing that of his hero, Jose Rizal, he said that sometimes, it’s worth taking risks for one’s country. His voice broke, and then he wept copiously, for all the world to see.

He would do that again during the first Senate hearing that he attended. I was sitting a few feet away from him. Before he started, he embraced a nun, one of around 20 sitting behind him. Then he drank from a bottle of mineral water, wrung his hands, and put his head in those clammy hands. And then he spoke, haltingly at first, then later, the words flowing like water.

Tears also flowed three weeks later. This time, they came from Lozada’s assistant at Philforest. Claiming that he went to the government TV station because it was near his office, he also cried buckets. He said that Lozada was also a scoundrel and a thief. And then he wept. You could call that lachrymus crocodilius, the tears of a crocodile.

In between his crying jags, the OIC would dab the corner of his handkerchief to his eyes. I am sure, I told my friends later, that the handkerchief was daubed with Vick’s vapor rub, and touching it to his eyes stimulated the flow of tears. It’s an age-old technique found in the movies, and his crying was a parody of what Lozada did. If this were a Lino Brocka movie, the great Cherie Gil would already be in a catfight mode, screeching the words: “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard copyat.”I cannot even remember the guy’s full name, Edwin something or other, but nobody seemed to believe his crying game.

And yesterday, on national television, Senator Noynoy Aquino and Queen of Philippine Game Shows Kris Aquino announced in the show of Korina Sanchez that their mother, President Cory, is ill with cancer. Kris tried to control her tears. But on late-night TV, the close, male friends of Tita Cory buckled under.

The first was Mayor Fred Lim – the nemesis of drug pushers and criminals of Manila, the terminator of corruption and graft. Why, this crusading mayor even lauded the police officers who caught his son allegedly using and selling shabu two weeks ago! He congratulated the cops for “doing their duty,” and vowed a hands-off policy towards the case.

But when told that President Cory, who endorsed him as President in the 1998 elections, has colon cancer, Mayor Lim muttered: “She is a great lady . . . a great President.” And then, a film of tears covered his eyes. The film broke, and the brave and fearless Alfredo Lim wept for all the world to see.

The next was former Executive Secretary, Senate President, and Department of Labor Secretary Frank Drilon. Used to the backroom battles of politics and to endless meetings with hardened, striking laborers, Drilon also wished the former President well. She has my prayers, he added, and then he bowed down, because slivers of tears began to glisten in his face.

The phenomenon of men crying is not a new thing, of course. But it’s a new thing when done by men who are in politics, or governance. The mold of the political warrior is that of the stern taskmaster, the great helmsman. The eyes are fierce, the lips shut tight, the jaws set. The focus is on the next battle to be won, the next vision to be enfleshed, the coming elections to be won.

But I welcome the sight of men in power crying. It gives them a halo of humanity, an aura of vulnerability. It’s not a chink in the armor, but the glisten in the armor. But, of course, the tears should be real -- the emotions starting from the gut, running riot in the heart, water free-falling from the eyes.

Because the Filipinos, bless them, are not stupid. We can sniff the real from the fake. We have a name for the fake ones – SBM, or style mo bulok. We will see more of these fake emotions, in what Pete Lacaba has memorably phrased as “our days of disquiet, our nights of rage.”

How Good That Friday Was

Lodestar
Philippine Star
March 24, 2008

How Good That Friday Was
(An excerpt from Iceberg, a novel

When the temperature began to rise it threatened to make the barometer explode, trust that Holy Week was here.

That morning, my mother gave me a palaspas, the young leaves of coconut folded and woven to form small globes and arcs, even fingers tapering to the sky. The palaspas would always be yellow green, the color of lemon.

We all went to Mass. The churchgoers were more hushed then usual, striking dutiful poses of piety. A woman was worrying her rosary beads behind me, her eyes tightly closed. Her eyelashes seemed to flutter, like the wings of a butterfly coming out of the cocoon, and I stopped the impulse to touch her trembling eyelashes. My sexy classmate Mariani was standing on the next pew, her fingers forming a steeple. Any moment now, I thought Mariani would raise her hands, spread them apart, and shout “DARNA!,” turning her lacy white dress into Darna’s red silk bikini.

The long sermon of the now white-haired and semi-senile Padre Pelagio made the men look at their watches, to check if their timepieces were dead again. One or two even took off their watches, put them to their ears, and then shook them vigorously. The other men slowly walked out of the chapel, out onto the garden, to smoke. When the Mass was finally over, Padre Pelagio descended from his pulpit, holding a bowl full of holy water. He dipped the censer of the bowl, then sprinkled the water all over the palaspas we had raised for him.

Suddenly the color of the air turned lemony green, humming.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. . . The countdown would begin. My grandmother would forbid me from taking a bath until Hesukristo had come back to life. In the comatose heat of summer-sometimes the temperature blasted past 100 degrees – and not taking a bath would be an act enough to expiate for all your sins mortal, venial, and in-between; done in the past, present, and future; whether committed in your waking life or on the slippery landscapes of your dream.

We usually stayed home on Good Friday, listening to the Seven Last Words on the radio with circuitous and flowery explanations from the politicians, their voices grainy with sorrow. Or we would go to church. While there, I would pretend I was listening to the seven generals of the air base explain for us Jesus Christ’s seven last words before He was hung on the cross.

They would all be there:

1. The General who had a mistress in every town within a radius of 50 kilometers.

2. The General who headed Finance and Logistics and, of course, would line his pockets first than requisition new combat boots for the men murdering the Muslims in Mindanao.

3. The General who wore all the medals (spurious or not) he had won, gleaming like bottle caps on his chest.

4. The General who had cornered the forest concession for the still-virginal forest on the edge of town, on the slopes of the Zambales Mountain ranges. He headed the Environmental program of the base.

5. The General who was the “think-tank” behind the Cultural Minorities Integration Program of the base, but who had all the virgins from the cultural minorities brought to his house. Then he would rape them and sell them to Madame Uring, Ermita’s reigning pimp.

6. The General who was turned on by the smell of gunpowder and blood. He led the expedition that torched the southern town of Jolo, burning everything-men, women, children; bud, flower and fruit-to banish the brave, freedom-loving Muslims, on whose sharp, fatal kris--double-edged swords that can decapitate cleanly and swiftly--the sun glinted.

7. The General who said he did not intend to die. Thus, the main road was named after him, the park after his wife, and the three commissary buildings after each of his sons.

But enough of this game of the generals!

And so we spent one Good Friday in San Fernando. My father was driving; my mother sat beside him, determined to be poised even if the strong wind blasting from the window was strong enough to crumple her red bandanna. I sat at the back.

I looked outside-sugar-cane fields stretching into infinity, nipa huts and wooden houses roasting in the sun, a warm hush over everything. I went with them because there was nothing else to do. Incorrigible kibitzer that I was, I also wanted to see Daniel Rexroth Jr. have himself nailed on the cross.

As my father put it, Daniel had a panata, a yearly vow, to have himself hanged until his American G.I. father, who returned to the United States just before Daniel was born, would return to the P.I., the Philippine Islands of old. And like the great General Douglas MacArthur, the father would return and spring Daniel from the nails of poverty with an American visa, preferably immigrant, and then on to the Kingdom of Citizenhood.

The nailing on the cross was held in the middle of the barren rice fields in Barangay Pedro Cutud, San Fernando, in the insane heat of summer. Gathered around Daniel were shirtless men with their faces covered with cloth. Earlier, they had used broken glass to slit their backs. Afterward, they deepened the wounds by flagellating their backs with whiplashes made of rope tipped with split bamboo. Shards of glass were also glued to the ropes. The whoosh! of the whiplashes biting against skin, their backs a merthiolate color, the blood even splattering on the passersby.

And then there was Daniel. It was a good show, all right, with Daniel wincing and his hands dripping blood and the Americans recording everything with their video cameras. But I walked away from the rice field toward our jeep, telling myself that when I grow older, I would spend my Holy Week in Sagada and watch the fog erase everything, hut, hill, and mountain; or walk on the calm beaches of Palawan, as the sun drowned.

Still in the Running by Karla Maquiling

Note: I am re-posting this interview done by Karla Maquiling and posted in www.pinoycentric.com last August 7, 2007. Karla did a three-hour interview and cut it down to manageable size. This will partly answer the very few but very venomous e-mail from closeted and bitter members of the gay community who are asking me in another site why am I running again when 1) I lost in the last elections; 2) I have no money; 3) I am just full of "delusions" and I am just a "glamorous mendicant." I love that last phrase, but I think it comes from a gay painter who became a has-been before his career peaked, and is now reduced to paying his neighbors' gardeners south of Manila for a . . . posing session?

Happy Easter ;-)

***

Filipino voters must have thought gay rights advocate and award-winning author Danton Remoto had come out of nowhere when he showed up at the Comelec office earlier September of 2006 to represent the party-list group, Ang Ladlad, in the May 2007 elections.

But really, this English professor from the Ateneo de Manila University has been around.

While Danton is identified mainly with the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual party that he chairs, his reading public and the academic community know him for the gay anthology Ladlad (the precursor of the party-list group), which he edited in 1994 with UP professor J. Neil Garcia. (Ladlad 2, the sequel, followed in 1996. A third one is set to be released this year.)

Not to say that Danton’s earlier works in poetry and fiction were not as significant. Danton wrote Skin, Voices, Faces in 1991; released a poetry compilation, Black Silk Pajamas, in 1996; and Pulotgata: The Love Poems (2004); and edited Buena Vista, Alfredo Navarro Salanga’s poems and fiction, in 1989. He also won the 1987 Palanca award for the essay, and has also published three collections of his columns.

Ladlad, however, was groundbreaking in Philippine gay literature because it opened doors for other books of similar themes.

Lodestar

Despite the support of the LGBT community (the “Pink Vote,” which Danton says accounts for 10 percent of the entire voting population), Ang Ladlad’s foray into politics didn’t go as smoothly as expected. Never mind that it already had the support of the “trapos” in the provinces or the Catholic Church, since Danton teaches at the Jesuit-run Ateneo.

With the Comelec’s dismissal of Ang Ladlad, Danton and company aimed for a Senate seat instead, despite the fact that they were not ready for it. Considered a nuisance senatorial candidate by the Comelec, Danton finally opted to run as representative of the third district of Quezon City, going up against and losing to Matias Defensor.

But of course, it doesn’t end there. Danton is not going down in defeat so easily, his detractors be damned. “The good thing about losing,” he reveals, “is that the day after the elections, everybody started calling me and asking me to run in 2010.”

In this interview with PinoyCentric, the ever-quotable Danton tells us about his experiences during this year’s elections, how he’s preparing for 2010, and how he put his foot down on botox and skin whitening.

PinoyCentric: You ran for representative of the third district of Quezon City in the May 2007 elections. How much did the entire campaign cost?

Danton Remoto: The Comelec says we can only spend P3 for each voter. Since I have 150,000 voters, legally we spent P450,000. It’s a small amount. My kalaban spent like P50 million.

So the bulk of it came from donations?

Yes. I got donations from Filipinos with dual citizenship. Not all of the P450,000 is money. Half of it was money; the other half was food, and kilos and kilos of dressed chicken. Some people gave me clothes and free rent for the political headquarters. Somebody gave donations for tarpaulin, posters, and flyers. Somebody even gave me a pair of shoes. I don’t say no to anything. I accept everything.

What does the third district cover?

It covers the rich areas of Corinthian Gardens, Loyola Heights, and Ayala Heights, and the middle-class areas of Quirino, Project 2, 3, and 4, and Cubao. And of course, Camp Aguinaldo where I lost, Eastwood, and an area there for Iglesia ni Kristo, where I got zero.

But in these areas there are pockets of really poor people. I used to call them slum areas but napagalitan ako, because the politically correct term is informal settlers. The third district also covers Balara and Pansol. Hindi ko napuntahan lahat 'yan.

How big is that district?

150,000 voters, but only 40 percent voted. Doesn’t that tell you anything? The 60 percent thought nobody was running against [Matias] Defensor. If only 20 percent voted, disqualified ang aming results.

When I lost, I just forgot about it while my followers were crying and wanted to protest. Allegedly, there was vote-buying and tampering with results, but I have no evidence of that. So I said pabayaan niyo na lang 'yun.

There was an anti-Defensor feeling in the district because the family has been there for, like, 12 years. And Tito Mat and his son Mike are with GMA. So malakas ang anti-GMA feeling dito. I was ahead in the surveys. Kaya lang, the local election is an election where the candidate has to know the people. 'Yung mga kalaban ko, they have networks everywhere.

I wasn’t able to go to the areas of the informal settlers. If you want to go there, you need five days and you have to crawl because their houses have such low roofs. I have no problems with the poor. I really go there and talk to them, but physically it was impossible and we didn’t have enough money. Some people who promised money never gave money. This big clothing company—this famous underwear company—promised me tarpaulin and T-shirts, and they didn’t even give me. So I won’t sit on their bench next time.

Could I quote you on that?

Yes, you can quote me. [Laughter] Ang taray ko ‘no. The media tells me, “My God, Danton, you’re like Miriam; you’re so quotable.” English major din 'yang si Miriam.

Do you remember how many votes you garnered?

I think I got 10,000. And none of that is bought.

Did you expect to lose?

No. It’s like this: I thought, in a clean election we would have been neck and neck. If I had campaigned earlier, I would have won because the surveys said I would have won if everybody knew I was running.

If we had run as Ang Ladlad, we would have won two seats because the surveys showed we were number 2. We were behind Bayan Muna and before Mike Velarde’s party list, Buhay. But [Comelec chair Benjamin] Abalos said I had no constituency so he didn’t allow us to run. So I filed as senator but was considered a nuisance.

That’s problematic because they allowed [actor] Richard Gomez to run. Sabi nila, they allowed Gomez to run because when he filed his papers, there were celebrities with him. He had Ben Chan and his wife. So if I had brought my friend [talk show host] Boy Abunda and [hairstylist] Ricky Reyes, okay na ako? I mean, what is the problem there?

In a February survey of 5,000 government workers, [Cong.] Butch Pichay, who had spent a lot of money was number 38. [Former senator] Tessie Aquino-Oreta was number 34. I was number 28 to 30. I was ahead of these rich people. I was even ahead of Sonny Trillanes (now senator), who was number 32 or 33.

If I had campaigned as senator—I am not saying I would have won—I would have landed in the top 20, which is a dry run, a preparation for my 2010 campaign, when I’ll really be running as senator. As we speak now, I’m meeting three groups of people running for president and I might say yes to one of them.

So that’s certain: You are running for senator in 2010.

Yes, I’m running. I cannot run for party list anymore because I lost as congressman. I don’t want to run for congressman, because in a local election there’s vote buying. So I’m running as senator because you cannot buy the whole Philippines.

Danton Remoto at the campaign trail

How are you preparing for 2010?

Right now, we’re planning this national campaign focusing on the DE market. The DE voters constitute 90 percent of the entire voting population. We really have to reach out to them.

I am starting a tabloid column and an AM radio show. And we’re having this nationwide tour every month, teaching seminars and livelihood programs. In short, I’m bringing my name to the grassroots, to the masses.

I keep on resisting this but they want me to co-anchor a showbiz TV talk show. I said no. It will destroy my reputation as an English teacher.

So aside from the radio show and the tabloid column, what else are you busy with?

I write twice weekly for the Philippine Star. I write an arts and culture column every Monday and discuss youth issues on Friday.

I’m also hooking up with Mother Ricky for her Isang Gunting, Isang Suklay livelihood program for the poor. Also, I’m launching a reading and literacy program. I’m asking someone for free books. My friends in the medical profession are giving me medicine for my health missions in the informal sectors.

What’s your platform?

It’s not just GLBT [gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender]. It’s national. That’s why I’m focusing on my education program because I’ve been a teacher longer than I have been a gay rights advocate. Of course, LGBT pa rin ako. But the bigger campaign—and the more important one—is education because it’s in bad shape. If you go to the public schools, they have three shifts a day. What can you learn? I was in grade school 30 years ago and we had classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How strong is the Pink Vote?

The Pink Vote is like this: If you have 45 million voters, 10 percent are pink, so that’s 4.5 million. So how do you tap that 4.5 million? That means you have to have chapters in all the big towns in all the major cities. So what we’re going to do is reach them by provincial radio stations. Maganda 'yan because we can reach the farthest nook and cranny of every region. Talagang yung mga tatawirin pa ng dagat, ng isla, a radio show can reach that.

Tell us about your most memorable experience during the campaign.

'Yung isa, when we went to Brgy. Silangan in E. Rodriguez. There’s a bridge and a river there, and there were houses beside the river, so I went down [to the riverbank]. I saw this old woman who was almost blind, and I said, “Lola, lola, I’m running as congressman.”

“Ano, councilor?”

“Hindi ho, lola, congressman.”

“Ah, congressman. Sa wakas may lumaban din na di nabili. Mananalo ka sa amin.”

I’m just quoting her. I’m not saying that Tito Mat is doing that. Anyway, I was staring at her and when I turned at the corner, the river was there and walang harang between the river and the houses. May nahulog na mga bata doon. Imagine, we’re here talking, and the river is just there. Walang wall! So sabi ko even if I lost, I want to erect a wall kasi children have fallen. Kaya naman pala their house is two stories because when the water is high, they’d go up.

These poor people were so happy because when I ran, I had no illusions of winning. If I lost, I’d teach again and forget about it. But then, after the elections, I got all these calls from people asking me to join their senatorial slate for 2010 because they said I fought a clean and brave campaign.

What were the lessons you learned during the campaign?

This is terrible, but I have to say this. You cannot trust anybody. Terrible, terrible. And you really have to plan way ahead. In fairness to our group [Ang Ladlad], we planned for it. We were number 2 in the surveys. We had been campaigning since 2004. So when we ran in 2007, winner na kami. Itong Abalos na ito, ayaw talaga. Maka-karma 'yan, I'm sure.

So we prepared for Ladlad, we had everything—we had alliances with traditional politicians in the provinces. But when I ran for senator, the group was not prepared. Pero takbo pa rin ang mga baklers para hindi makalimutan.

In the congressional campaign, we were not prepared for the close contact. Like somebody died, they’d come to me and ask for money. Somebody’s going to give birth and they want money. Somebody’s having a baptism and they want money. My policy is not to give money to them, so I lost a lot of votes.

Sabi nila, “Eh bakit si ano namimigay.” Sabi ko, “If I count all of that, what is the legal salary of a congressman? P35, 000 a month. Less witholding tax, P20,000, saan naman aabot 'yan? Pang gasolina lang 'yan ng congressman.” In short, I tell them, “I will have to steal money for you. Do you want that?”

Pag sinabi mo 'yun, nasa-shock sila. Sabi ko, I don’t have money because I did not accept money. People I do not know were giving me lots of money-in cash. Will you accept P5 million from someone you do not know? You do not know where the money comes from. They say, “We’re giving you the money because we like you?” And I think, “Ah. Why didn’t you like me before? Why only now?”

So when I did some investigation, I would find out that these were dirty money. Ipabaril pa ako ng mga 'yan later. So I didn’t accept money. My hands are clean. I’m not on anybody’s hit list—yet.

During the campaign, my cellphones and my landline were tapped. So for the first time in my life, my father had to give me a bodyguard and a driver. [Now that the campaign is over,] I’m happy that I was able to ride on the LRT again, which I did for our interview today. Everybody was staring at me on the train. Ay naku, wala akong pakialam.

So I lost my privacy. At one point I couldn’t even enter the mall because people were staring at me and talking to me. Siyempre I have to talk to them; they’re voters.

My campaign team banned me from wearing slippers. I was banned from wearing shorts or laughing so loud in my TV interviews.

If you’re a politician, you will learn that people will make you do things you don’t want to do. I was supposed to go to a cosmetic surgeon for botox and all this reduction for wrinkles and scars. Ay naku, I said no. They were also forcing me to undergo a skin-whitening regimen. Can you believe it? It’s so funny but many politicians do it.

They do?

Of course! Ninety percent of them did that.

I also underwent training on how to deliver three-, five-, and ten-minute speeches. I underwent sessions in grooming, smiling, waving, and walking. I promise, parang beauty queen. Sabi ko, “I feel like a horse.” Sabi nila, “No naman, feel like a beauty queen.”

I underwent training to speak in Tagalog. While I taught Filipino in Ateneo, I have to be taught conversational Tagalog because my Filipino is so Ateneo, very polite.

Ang maganda diyan, I met a lot of people whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. We’re talking about the poor, the young, and of course, those politicians and political operators.

Some of them were horrible, and I cannot name them. Not all of them. Maybe 80 percent are horrible. And all they talk about is money. When they talk about P1 million, for them it’s like, nothing. It’s like . . . [he snaps his hand].

There are so many promises. “If you join us, we’ll give you P5 million, an SUV, a lawyer, and an agent who’ll take care of you and make sure you win in the elections.”

Of course, I did not bite because I am not stupid. If I say yes, they will control me for the rest of my life, all for P5 million or an SUV or a lawyer. What if I ran as senator in 2010 and I win?

So I had meetings with several people. They’re very strange. One of them told me, “You know, we like you because it’s easy to campaign for you. You deal with issues; you don’t deal with personalities.” Isn't that what a politician is supposed to do?

Another one said, “We like you. It’s easy to campaign for you because you did not steal anything.”

Still another told me, “It’s so easy to campaign for you because you don’t have skeletons in the closet.” So I told this person, this ambassador, this venerable person, “Ay, I have no more skeletons in the closet, sir. I’m already out of the closet!”

In short in 2010, walang issues of corruption or stealing can be thrown at my face.

The amount of money I said no to from last year until May was about P35 million from three different people. They wanted me to join their party, or not to run as congressman anymore but to run as a councilor of Q.C. They belong to two parties, which I will not name.

People laugh and tell me, “You’re so funny. You’re so nice. Everybody likes you when you’re on television. Who’s your speechwriter?” And I say, “Wala, I’m an English teacher. I’ve been teaching for 21 years. You give me a topic I’ll talk about it.”

Most of the candidates have to be trained how to speak and even what to say. They have to memorize keywords. Someone told me, “With you, Mr. Remoto, we will save a lot of money because you don’t have to be trained. You will even train your fellow candidates.”

They say the 2010 elections is for the young people. Johnny Flavier is not running anymore. Miriam Santiago has a heart problem. I think Johnny Ponce Enrile and Joker Arroyo are not running. So all the people between 60 and death are not running anymore. I’m convincing Adel Tamano [Genuine Opposition spokesperson] to run.

I think he should.

Yeah, I’m pushing him to. So many young people are running. And of course the ones who lost this year might run again. You know who they are. They have lots of money. I hope they lose again. [Laughter] It’s not their money they’re spending. Like me, when I campaign, it’s not my money. A politician has to accept donations. I don’t have a hundred million pesos for 2010. Where will I get it. Hello?

I also notice that since I’m a teacher, everybody I meet, whether opposition or Lakas, is so polite and so respectful.

They ask me: “What can we offer you, sir?” “Do you like the food?” “Can our driver pick you up and can we bring you home?” “Where do you want to go?”

Ang bait bait nila. Their image is so maton, but when they talk to me, they’re so kind. Sabi nila siguro, “Naku, teacher yan sa Ateneo,” kaya they speak in English kahit mali-mali. So I talk in Tagalog. [Laughter] I just lost another 10,000 votes.

Let’s talk about something other than politics. Someone wants to know: Are you fond of queer cinema?

Ay oo. I watch them. I think the last gay film I watched was Brokeback Mountain. There was this old couple behind me, and during this scene with two cowboys kissing, sabi ng matandang lola sa kanyang asawa, “Pedro, Pedro, iba na pala ang mga koboy ngayon, naghahalikan na sila.” Sabi naman ni Lolo Pedro, “Oo nga, dati sila John Wayne walang ganyan.”

I could hear them. I was giggling. I was shaking in my seat. That’s why I don’t want to watch movies with gay themes in the theater because you get a lot of reaction.

I like queer cinema if I can watch it. But people lend me tapes. I hardly have the time to watch because I teach three times a week at Ateneo.

Do you have a blog?

No. My staff started one last year but since we didn’t have enough money with Ladlad, I told them to look for other jobs because we couldn’t pay them anymore.

It’s in my list of things to do. Somebody gave me money to start a Website. The blog is important, especially if you want to raise awareness in the Internet. My problem is I need people to do that on a regular basis. By August I should have that. I’m just busy right now because I have to attend weddings and meetings and funerals.

The others running for senator in 2010 already have blogs and websites. It’s hard to squeeze that in, especially when you’re running for public office.

Do you go online a lot?

Only when I read my e-mail or the news. I read all the newspapers online. The major four. Favorite sites? The local newspapers and the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, and the Financial Times.

Do you read Jessica Zafra’s blog?

Yes! She’s my friend, actually my evil sister. I also read Manolo Quezon. Ellen Tordesillas. PCIJ. Newsbreak.

So what has been the weirdest question you have been asked?

Actually it’s more of the weirdest experience.

When we were launching a book at Powerbooks Megamall in 2006, there was my picture on the tarpaulin and I was reading from my book and this man stood up and began to caress my face on the tarpaulin. So I looked at the assistant and the guards and they encircled me. I know some aikido, but if this guy had a gun I’d be dead. He was so strange.

I’ve been coming across all these people. Indecent proposals over the phone. Phone calls at 2 a.m. Annoying e-mails offering sex.

Someone allegedly circulated a naked picture of me on the Internet. Know what I said? “I hope they pasted a nice body to my face.” Imagine? Samantalang I’m rarely online.

You mentioned in an interview that you have two adopted children.

One of them is my nephew. My sister’s abroad so I’ve kinda adopted him. The other is my yaya’s daughter. She’s a single parent. They're bright kids. I see them once a week because I’m very busy. I’m an absentee father, but I’m the one who’s strict with them. I call them every night and check whether they did their assignments. They’re used to saying “opo.” I’m a terrible father, ano? I’m such a tyrant.

“Naiintindihan mo ba 'yung sinasabi ko?” “Opo.” “Nag-aral ka na ba?” “Opo.” “Kumusta ka na?” “Opo.” “Bakit opo ang sagot?” How dreadful.

Kasi I’m an old person. 'Yung upbringing namin, you don’t answer back. You always say yes. You study hard. You sleep early and you fold your blankets. My father was a military officer and my mother was a teacher—very strict and very Catholic. So when people ask me, “Why are you so disciplined?” I tell them I grew up in the military base.

Your last book was Buhay Bading. Is there a new one coming out soon?

Three, actually. Ladlad 3, Rampa, then the gay dictionary called The Gay Dict: The Uncut Version. All with Anvil. I’ve been with Anvil 17 years and I have no problems with them. We think along the same lines.

In your campaign and your interviews, you talk about what you want to change about the Philippines. My last question is, what qualities does the Filipino have that you think is worth keeping?

What I want to answer first is what we have to change. Filipinos talk a lot. We should talk less and work more. Work is more important than words.

What I want to keep? Filipinos are generally kind and hospitable, which I saw in the last elections, maybe because I’m a teacher. Pagbaba ko minsan sa may informal settlers’ community, there was a fire, and people kept screaming, “Ay, si Danton! Si Danton!”

The bodyguard my father just assigned to me said, “Sir, ganyan ba talaga sa mga campaign ninyo?”

I said, “Ay, oo, the people scream.”

“Galit sila?”

“No. I think they’re so kilig. They’re happy I’m here.”

The Heart of Summer, a short story

On the first day of April, we moved to a row house in a subdivision carved out of the Antipolo hills. A row house is a nice word for houses that somehow managed to fit into 120-square-meter lots. They looked like matchboxes, really, built near the riverbank. The larger houses, of course, stood grandly at the center of the village, in front of the chapel. We’d be renting the house from the mayor’s mistress, one of three houses she owned there.

The living room of the house spilled over into the kitchen. The house only had two tiny rooms, but it was enough for us. The owner of the apartment we had been renting in Project 4 wrote to us (in pink stationery with the letterhead “Dr. Antonina Raquiza, Ph. D.”) to say that she’d raise the monthly rent to five thousand. If we couldn’t agree to her new terms, we’d have two months to leave. Mama glared at the letter, then said something obscene about our landlady’s father. A day later, she began poring over the ads, looking for cheaper rent in the suburbs. Papa’s monthly remittances from his engineer’s job in Saudi would not be enough if the landlady raises the rent, since he was also sending some nephews and nieces to school. Noblesse oblige is how you call it, but it was actually more oblige than noblesse. And that was how we moved to Antipolo.

It was a long, hot summer. The days were dull and endless, a desert that stretched into infinity. During the afternoons, the heat fell on your skin like a whip. The water in the village water tank began drying up a week after we moved in, so our housemaid Ludy and I had to fetch water from the fire hydrant in the street corner. Even though I hated studying in summer, this time, I actually looked forward to the first day of summer classes at the university.

But since Ludy also went home to Albay that summer (to look for a boyfriend and dance in the baile), I did the chores myself. Mama left the house every day for her piano tutorials. I did the laundry and fixed lunch. In the afternoons, I gathered the laundry so easily dried by the oppressive heat up here in the hills. I folded the clothes, then sorted them while watching old Nida Blanca and Nestor de Villa cha-cha-chas on TV. Sometimes, I would read the stories of Estrella Alfon (Ay, Magnificence!), or sketch faces and places on my drawing pad.

Then in the blue hour before dusk, I would pick up our red plastic pail and walk five houses away to the street corner to fetch water.

I would line up before the wooden carts full of drums, pails, and recycled gasoline containers. I carried only a pail, but I was too timid to elbow my way to the head of the line. The short, stocky men nudged each other’s ribs and exchanged stories: “Pare, Vodka Banana did it again in her latest penetration movie, Only a Wall Between Us.” The women gossiped about their movie idols: “Sharon’s legs are like a washerwoman’s paddle,” said one, whose varicose veins strained on her legs like netting. After a long wait, I finally reached the fire hydrant. From its open mouth gushed water whose pressure was so strong that it swirled round and round my pail, the foam spilling on the dry earth. Then, I walked back to the house where I carefully poured the water into the drum. Then back to the street corner. Again.

On my way back, darkness had already settled on the hills. The chickens would be roosting on the branches of the star-apple trees, and the cicadas would begin their eternal buzzing. When I reached the street corner again, a young man was standing at the head of the line. He wasn’t there when I left earlier. He must have asked his housemaid to stand in for him, and returned only when it was time to fill his drum.

Dusk slept on his rumpled hair. Smooth, nut-brown skin. Eyes round as marbles. He wore a maroon T-shirt silk-screened with Mapua College of Engineering. Cut-off denims on long legs, then brown sandals from Our Tribe.

When he saw me at the end of the line, he walked to me and said: “Uy, pare, you can go ahead, since you only have this pail.” Cool, deep voice. “Thank you,” I said. Then I smiled at him and followed him to the fire hydrant. I kept on looking surreptitiously at his hairy legs. When he looked at me, I would shift my attention to the water beginning to fill my pail, swirling round and round, until it flowed over the lips. I thanked him again, and then gave him my name. He mumbled his name. I smiled, and then walked away. I walked away because I was afraid that any moment now, I would tell Rene I liked him not only because he was considerate, but also because he had such well-muscled legs and clean toenails.



That summer, the Bermuda grass in our lawn turned brown. We had hoped for friendly neighborhood, similar to the one in Project 4, but we were disappointed. A young childless couple lived in the house on the left: Both were working, holding down two jobs each like everybody else. We only saw them at Sunday Mass. On the right lived an elderly couple with an only child, a teenage daughter named Maribel, who liked to bike around the village in midriff shirts and very abbreviated shorts. Her father was a big man with the face of a bulldog, his voice booming across the yard when he barked, err, spoke.



The minibus station in Cubao slouched on the street right after EDSA. It was housed in a big, abandoned garage. On the hard, earthen floor, the spilled oil looked like lost, black continents on a map.

That summer, I enrolled in two courses: Business Statistics and Financial Accounting. I took up Business Management in this Jesuit university because my father said it would make us rich. And so I signed up for the course, although the only thing I wanted to do in the world was to draw. Pencil to paper, lines forming faces. Or watercolor to paper, letting the paper soak up the rainbow of colors, forming oceans, skies, the infinity of blue.

But I had to go to business school. And so I left the house at one o’clock in the afternoon, after lunch, preferring to take the minibus rather than risk my life in those jeepneys whose drivers think they are Mad Max. More mad than Max, actually.

During the first week of classes, I was still adjusting to the hassle of commuting from house to school to house again. It was much easier in Project 4. I would just hop aboard any Cubao-bound bus, get off behind Queen’s Supermart, and then walk all the way home.

But here, I would have to wait for the minibus to fill up with passengers before we could leave. The street would be choked with hawkers selling everything: freshly-sliced squash and okra good for pinakbet, apples from New Zealand, jeans with fake brand names sewn on the back, tabloids with their headlines in red ink blown up to 72 points Times Roman (“Boa Constrictor in Dept. Store/ Dressing Room Swallows/ Up Female Customers”). Food stalls offered everything, from cow’s entrails floating in lemon-spiked congee to day-old chicks smothered in orange flour, then fried to a crisp brown. And in the air, a cumulus of black exhaust fumes while the Marcoses bled the country dry. Him with his decrees; her, with her diamonds and tears.

Oh, how I wish I could just flee from all of this. There is nothing here, really, in this city and in this country except a big, black hole that sucked you in and drowned you in its ooze of oil. I wish I could go away, but to where? To forestall what W.H. Auden called thoughts of “elsewhereishness,” I just fixed my eyes on my textbook, even if I could not read by the faint light of the minibus. I was doing this one night and when I raised my face, Rene was just coming in. His white shirt was tucked in his baggy jeans. His shirt revealed the curve of his chest. He carried a T-square in one hand and two thick books in the other. His wide forehead was furrowed. Must have had a bad day, I thought, moving to the right side of my seat so I could see him better. I wanted him to sit beside me, I wanted to feel the warmth of his hand and thigh against mine, I wanted to comfort him. But a man with halitosis sat beside me instead.

The driver finally came. The engine sputtered and roared, then crawled slowly out of the narrow street. Near the street corner, the air became smokier, loud with the cries of hawkers vending barbecued chicken’s blood, barbecued chicken’s entrails (IUD), barbecued chicken’s feet (Adidas), and barbecued chicken’s head (Helmet).

The shrill sound of a policeman’s whistle rose above the vendor’s cries. At whistle’s cry, the hawkers picked up their wares, then scattered madly in all directions, the charcoal embers glowing eerily in the dark.



I was sitting in our front yard, admiring my mother’s orchids, whose saplings she had asked from friends and which she had nurtured with uncommon care, now fully grown, the leaves shiny, with the texture of skin, and the flowers mottled with magenta and amber, the petals opening themselves layer upon layer to the dying afternoon sun.

But as the petals opened, I felt myself entering a forest of limbs. Hair like seaweeds embraced those limbs. The thighs of the men were smooth like river stones. The V-shapes of their bodies glistened with sweat. Leaves like eyes covered their crotches. But under these leaves lay breathing things.

I bolted upright with a start. I looked at the clock. The luminous hands pointed to almost midnight. My back was beaded with sweat, and in the room there was only unbearable heat. I remained motionless for a while, as my dream slipped away, and I was alone, again.



I stepped out of the room and headed for the kitchen. I turned the light on and made myself a cup of rice coffee—toasted rice turned into coffee. Cheap—and good for the heart.

Cup in hand, I opened the front door. My skin brushed against the dry, brittle air. I sat down on the stairs. The cement was cold. To my left, the skeletal branches of the neighbor’s alibangbang tree cut the moon into many, fatal fragments.

I first smelled rather than heard the oncoming rain. The sound seemed to come from so far away. It was like a voice calling my name. The sound grew louder and louder by the second. I left the cup on the stair landing, stood up, and then ran barefoot in the yard. The whole house, the whole yard, the whole village was tense, waiting.

And then it came, puncturing holes in the night sky, rattling on the roofs, pelting the flowers and the leaves: Agua de mayo! the first rains of May!

In the darkness, the rain’s fingers caressed my hair and my face. It began licking my eyelids, earlobes, and lips. I opened my mouth and let the rain’s tongue roam inside me, while its fingers traveled downward, on my inner arm and my chest. Its lips went around my nipples and navel, laving my warm, innermost spaces.

Like sunlight, heat rose from the earth, musky heat that entered my soles, warmed my body, and then broke out of the pores of my skin. It was brief but it pierced me beautifully, suddenly.

I knew now what I would do. I would soap myself in the bathroom, rinse my skin clean, change into fresh clothes that smell good and are crisp to touch. Then I would look for my sheets of Oslo paper in my drawer. I would run my fingers on my sketches of Rene. The rumpled hair and the dark, melancholy eyes. How can I tell him that there is nothing else in the world I want than to be with him? Ludy said that Rene would soon join his mother, who was working as a nurse in the States. Many departures, few arrivals. But now, I have him: He is here, contained in the purity of my ache.

I would turn the lights off, plunging the house in darkness. Then I would turn myself over to the arms of sleep. Outside, the leaves would still be moist and breathing.



This story won Third Prize in the 2005 Philippines Free Press Literary Awards

Photos, videos and spelling checker

It is Holy Thursday and I am home in Fairview. I like it because the housemaids cook, the aircons are in full blast, and it is so quiet in here.

Also, I am happy to know that I can, actually, post photos and videos in my blog. I just discovered it now. And I can even check the spelling! See what you learn during Holy Week?

Thus, I will post photos and videos here, and check my spelling from now on.

Regarding the Erap 2010 bumper stickers, the camp of former President Estrada said it did not come from them. Okay, all right, as Ate Vi would say.

The presidentiables are just resting for Holy Week, but their April schedules have been fixed down pat. It means more visits out of Metro Manila, to give speeches at commencement ceremonies, or attend the birthdays and anniversaries of the political giants in the provinces, or crown fiesta queens.

Why not attend the crowning of Miss Gay Beauty Contest winners as well -- and be surprised how prettier they are that the so-called queens you are used to crowning.

As my friend in Thailand would put it, happy holy week.

Political powwow


I saw Adel Tamano going to the holding area for speakers after he spoke. Pau, the transgender with me, said Adel was so cute and maybe we could take photos? That is easy, I said. I waited for the hubbub to die down around Adel, then I called him.

He left he people swarming around him and sat down with me. I think the pink delegation was impressed :-) Adel and I have known each other since our days at the Ateneo: I as a very young teacher, and he was a student. I am friends with some of his relatives in Mindanao.

I pushed him to run for the senate. He pushed me to do likewise, and said he would be happy if he both ran under one party. Uh-oh. I said that is one thing I cannot guarantee. Have to talk to all of them first.

The intensity of our conversation on 2010 could be seen in my crumpled, avocado-green bag and in Adel's piercing look.


If Adel and I would not be running as senators in 2010, we would be extremely happy just teaching (he is president at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila) and reading tons of books.

I think 2010 would make history, because some of the young people running, friends of mine all, are really, in our heart of hears, just nerds and geeks.


But maybe, salvation would be at hand, because we would be too busy reading books and not thinking of tong-pats, bukols, success fees, and commissions...

Signs of the signs by Jessica Zafra


Have you seen those tarpaulins attached to the pillars under the MRT? The ones with the portrait of MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando looking sternly at the motorists? Is this supposed to be a deterrent to traffic violations? Will Manila’s drivers observe traffic rules and regulations because an authority figure/bureaucrat/father substitute is standing there in a barong tagalog glowering at them? Is this anywhere as effective as, say, knowing that if you break the rules you will certainly get caught and penalized, and that if you get pulled over it’s for a real, actual violation?

Note the words printed at the bottom of the tarp: “Mere possession of this sign is punishable by law”. Meaning the MMDA is aware that these reminders for motorists will likely be stolen. So maybe there should be a second tarp of Mr Fernando glaring at the culprits who intend to steal these signs. These tarps are government property. They belong to the people. Stealing is wrong. But then you’d have to put signs everywhere to remind thieves that what they’re doing is bad, and then. . .

Meanwhile, there are bumper stickers saying Erap 2010. Oy, the theory of eternal recurrence. We can’t even say “Now I’ve heard everything”, because we already said it years ago.

Loren's edge, from a Manila Times column

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The Manila Times

SUNDAY STORIES
By Marlen V. Ronquillo

Loren’s edge


Young Filipino voters can be broken down into two types. The first one vote for leaders. The second type vote for saviors.

The youth leaders who reportedly picked their presidential preference several days back and named Mar Roxas and Manuel Villar as their number one and number two choice definitely belong to the first type. They voted for their kind of leaders and role models.

Career-oriented and success-oriented young men and women obsessed with upward mobility tend to go for Roxas and Villar. Roxas and Villar are rich, relatively young and they move in the circles of the rich, young and powerful. Appended to their names are impressive corporations and holdings, which they or their families own.

They are, undeniably, ideal role models for young men and women that have high aims and big ambitions. Who would not covet top-of-the-line SUVs?

The problem is there is not much in the country’s current demographics—youth demogra­phics to be specific—that indicates that Roxas and Villar automatically gets a political edge because the young and the ambitious are backing them.

Of the total youth population, only 20 percent go to college after high school, and a very negligible share of this 20 per cent gain entry into premier schools such as UP and Ateneo de Manila.

The bulk of the 20 per cent that enters (or gets admitted into) a non-premier college and university has very modest ambition in life. This is to secure a decent job so he or she can help defray the family expenses or send a younger sibling to college. There is no ambition to be a Master of the Universe.

The 80 percent that does not go to college either gets a voc-tech education or joins the armies of drifting, aimless young men and women.

There is a wall that practically separates this bracket of struggling young men and women from the class that aspires to be a CEO, CFO or COO. A huge chasm separates their dreams and hopes and life direction. The Masters aspire to lead, the struggling group has modest goals.

The struggling young men and women (and this makes up the majority of the Filipino young) will vote not for role models. They will vote for somebody who they feel will give them a fighting chance in life, a leader cum equalizer. These young men and women are not at all dazzled by wealth and glamour (which they will not have) and by the long list of corporate holdings appended to the names of Villar and Roxas.

These young men and women will vote for a savior. And this is the huge voting bloc that will give the definitive edge to Senator Loren Legarda in case she runs for the presidency.

This is a silent voting bloc that is outside of the media and polling loop. It is a giant of a sleeper that is capable of delivering a tidal wave of votes. More, because its voters are driven more by desperation than ambition, there is a guarantee that they will walk miles to vote for their preferred candidate for president. And their candidate of choice is Sen. Legarda.

The plus of Senator Legarda is this: while she is the unanimous choice of the youth voters looking for a savior, she also scored decently in the poll among youth leaders. The best of both worlds, so to speak.

That she has no corporate baggage to speak is another plus for Senator Legarda . In a long campaign, the long list of corporate holdings attached to the name of a candidate becomes a drag. Questions are inevitably asked on the possible vested interests of presidential candidates. Doubts start to form in the voters’ consciousness.

Admittedly, there is another candidate who will present himself as a savior, Vice President Noli de Castro. But the camp of Senator Legarda can easily eviscerate his appeal with the youth sector looking for a savior rather than a role model.

With the following as anchor arguments, Noli de Castro’s candidacy can readily go down in tatters:

1. He is a stooge of the Arroyo administration;

2. He is a toady of a powerful business family;

3. He lacks the IQ to be a national leader;

4. His integrity is not beyond question; and

5. He has been a fence-sitter for long.

In 2010, the Lakas-Kampi endorsement that Noli will surely get is the equivalent of a kiss of death.

Patuloy ang paghahanap ng katotohanan

Column in Abante
by Ellen Tordesillas


Sa rally na in-organisa ng mga estudyante noong Biyernes sa Liwasang Bonifacio, marami sa mga speakers ang nanawagan na sa kanilang pagbalik sa kani-kanilang probinsya ngayong bakasyon, ipagpatuloy nila ang paghanap ng katotohanan at hustisya na siyang pakay ng mga kilos protesta nitong mga nakaraang linggo at buwan laban kay Gloria Arroyo.

Sinabi rin ng mga batang mga speakers na huwag masyadong magkampante si Arroyo at ang kanyang mga opisyal na libre na sila sa kanilang krimen laban sa sambayanang Pilipino. Sa kanilang bakasyon, ipapaliwanag nila sa kanilang mga kamag-anak at kaibigan ang pinaglalaban dito sa Maynila.

Ipapaliwanag nila na ang kurakutan ng mag-asawang Arroyo at dating Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos ay nakaka-apekto sa bawat mamamayan, kasama na sila dahil ang uutangain para sa proyekto ng NBN/ZTE ay babayaran natin. $200 milyon o P10 bilyon yun ang mapupunta sana sa bulsa ng mga ganid na barkada nina Arroyo.Hanggang kaapuhan natin babayad noon.

Maganda na sinabi ito ng mga speakers kasama na si Grace Poe Llamansares, anak nina Susan Roces at Fernando Poe, Jr; Adel Tamano, ang guwapo at batang presidente ng Pamantasan ng Maynila at spokesman ng United Opposition at ni Danton Remoto.

Naglulundag na kasi sa tuwa sina Arroyo at ang kanyang mga opisyal at hindi raw sila napatumba ng oposisyon. Sabi ng Norberto Gonzales, national security adviser ni Arroyo, na ang pinalakas na raw na protesta ay ang Feb. 29 na rally sa Makati. Hanggang doon lang daw ang lakas ng oposisyon. Kaya libre na si Arroyo. Tuloy na ang kanilang ligaya.

Kampante sila kasi magbabakasyon na at wala ng mga estudyante na sasali sa mga rally. Pagbalik sa Hunyo, nakalimutan na raw ang kontrobersya ng NBN/ZTE.

Totoo yun na walang masyadong rally sa mga susunod na linggo dahil bakasyon na nga ng mga paaralan. At summer na. Grabe na ang init. Noong Biyernes lang, nakakapanghina ang init.

Ngunit makita natin sa pahayag ni Gonzales na ang mahalaga lang sa kanila ay ang maka-survive. Wala silang paki-alam sa katotohanan at hustisya.

Sa kanilang pahayag, ipinapa-alam nila na walang repormang mangyayari habang si Arroyo ang nasa MalacaƱang. Kaya tuloy ang kurakutan. Tuloy ang pagnakaw sa taumbayan. Iyan ang nakaka-ngitngit.

Ako ay naniniwala na hindi kagustuhan ng Panginoon na mangingibabaw ang kasamaan. Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit pinapayagan niyang mamayagpag ang pagnanakaw at kasinungalingan sa ating bansa. Ngunit naniwala akong sa kahuli-hulihan, nanalo ang kabutihan sa kasamaan.

Bagay ito pag-isipan ngayong semana santa.

.

Editorial Note from Inday Varona, Philippine Graphic editor-in-chief

Dear daughter of the old rich.

I’m willing to ignore your simpering and posturing. If you want to act like an overaged debutante, that’s your call. I’m even willing to overlook a level of hubris that dates to place your December 7 meeting with JLo [Jun Lozada] and Romulo Neri in the realm of Pearl Harbor.

But, you have no right, absolutely no right, to blackmail Neri into coming out by threatening to drag his personal life into the public eye.

You’re mad at Neri’s insinuation you allegedly offered P20 million in patriotic money? Just tell it as it is. Call Neri a liar if you will, but do not attempt to drag him into the muck with your prurient threats. You want to wallow in that sty, be our guest; don’t drag others into it.

Bottom line: We do not care about Neri’s sexuality. We’ve never cared about yours, have we?

How Good that Friday Was

(An excerpt from Iceberg, a novel)

When the temperature began to rise it threatened to make the barometer explode, trust that Holy Week was here.

That morning, my mother gave me a palaspas, the young leaves of coconut folded and woven to form small globes and arcs, even fingers tapering to the sky. The palaspas would always be yellow green, the color of lemon.

We all went to Mass. The churchgoers were more hushed then usual, striking dutiful poses of piety. A woman was worrying her rosary beads behind me, her eyes tightly closed. Her eyelashes seemed to flutter, like the wings of a butterfly coming out of the cocoon, and I stopped the impulse to touch her trembling eyelashes. My sexy classmate Mariani was standing on the next pew, her fingers forming a steeple. Any moment now, I thought Mariani would raise her hands, spread them apart, and shout “DARNA!,” turning her lacy white dress into Darna’s red silk bikini.

The long sermon of the now white-haired and semi-senile Padre Pelagio made the men look at their watches, to check if their timepieces were dead again. One or two even took off their watches, put them to their ears, and then shook them vigorously. The other men slowly walked out of the chapel, out onto the garden, to smoke. When the Mass was finally over, Padre Pelagio descended from his pulpit, holding a bowl full of holy water. He dipped the censer of the bowl, then sprinkled the water all over the palaspas we had raised for him.

Suddenly the color of the air turned lemony green, humming.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. . . The countdown would begin. My grandmother would forbid me from taking a bath until Hesukristo had come back to life. In the comatose heat of summer-sometimes the temperature blasted past 100 degrees – and not taking a bath would be an act enough to expiate for all your sins mortal, venial, and in-between; done in the past, present, and future; whether committed in your waking life or on the slippery landscapes of your dream.

We usually stayed home on Good Friday, listening to the Seven Last Words on the radio with circuitous and flowery explanations from the politicians, their voices grainy with sorrow. Or we would go to church. While there, I would pretend I was listening to the seven generals of the air base explain for us Jesus Christ’s seven last words before He was hung on the cross.

They would all be there:

1. The General who had a mistress in every town within a radius of 50 kilometers.

2. The General who headed Finance and Logistics and, of course, would line his pockets first than requisition new combat boots for the men murdering the Muslims in Mindanao.

3. The General who wore all the medals (spurious or not) he had won, gleaming like bottle caps on his chest.

4. The General who had cornered the forest concession for the still-virginal forest on the edge of town, on the slopes of the Zambales Mountain ranges. He headed the Environmental program of the base.

5. The General who was the “think-tank” behind the Cultural Minorities Integration Program of the base, but who had all the virgins from the cultural minorities brought to his house. Then he would rape them and sell them to Madame Uring, Ermita’s reigning pimp.

6. The General who was turned on by the smell of gunpowder and blood. He led the expedition that torched the southern town of Jolo, burning everything-men, women, children; bud, flower and fruit-to banish the brave, freedom-loving Muslims, on whose sharp, fatal kris--double-edged swords that can decapitate cleanly and swiftly--the sun glinted.

7. The General who said he did not intend to die. Thus, the main road was named after him, the park after his wife, and the three commissary buildings after each of his sons.
But enough of this game of the generals!

And so we spent one Good Friday in San Fernando. My father was driving; my mother sat beside him, determined to be poised even if the strong wind blasting from the window was strong enough to crumple her red bandanna. I sat at the back.

I looked outside-sugar-cane fields stretching into infinity, nipa huts and wooden houses roasting in the sun, a warm hush over everything. I went with them because there was nothing else to do. Incorrigible kibitzer that I was, I also wanted to see Daniel Rexroth Jr. have himself nailed on the cross.

As my father put it, Daniel had a panata, a yearly vow, to have himself hanged until his American G.I. father, who returned to the United States just before Daniel was born, would return to the P.I., the Philippine Islands of old. And like the great General Douglas MacArthur, the father would return and spring Daniel from the nails of poverty with an American visa, preferably immigrant, and then on to the Kingdom of Citizenhood.

The nailing on the cross was held in the middle of the barren rice fields in Barangay Pedro Cutud, San Fernando, in the insane heat of summer. Gathered around Daniel were shirtless men with their faces covered with cloth. Earlier, they had used broken glass to slit their backs. Afterward, they deepened the wounds by flagellating their backs with whiplashes made of rope tipped with split bamboo. Shards of glass were also glued to the ropes. The whoosh! of the whiplashes biting against skin, their backs a merthiolate color, the blood even splattering on the passersby.

And then there was Daniel. It was a good show, all right, with Daniel wincing and his hands dripping blood and the Americans recording everything with their video cameras. But I walked away from the rice field toward our jeep, telling myself that when I grow older, I would spend my Holy Week in Sagada and watch the fog erase everything, hut, hill, and mountain; or walk on the calm beaches of Palawan, as the sun drowned.

inday again

opps, inday's blog is:

rpscarredcat.blogspot.com

inday varona's blog

for those who want to read inday varona's letter to jamby madrigal, please go to inday's blog at: rpscarredcat@blogspot.com

Or you may write her at inday.graphic@gmail.com

Inday is the editor-in-chief of Philippine Graphic. She was a guest, along with me and other guys, at the Media in Focus show at ANC last Thursday.

typos + adel tamano + speech reception

sorry for the typos in some of my blogs. it must be the arthritis in the fingers, or the failing eyesight.

before i spoke, i saw my friend adel tamano joined our group of lgbts in the holding area. photos were taken, and even the lesbians said adel was cute. o di ba, crossing gender divides yan. i told adel he should run as senator, and he said: i will run it you run. i told him i will run, and he laughed so loud, drawing looks from the people around us.

adel and i updated each other about the presidential, vp and senatorial candidates' slates (plural) for 2010. we even traded jokes about some of them. adel is bright, witty, warm and wise. he is also a funny guy. but since i am not at liberty to divulge the details of our discussions, let me just say that my previous blog entries seem to be on the right track.

adel invited me to speak at pamantasan ng lungsod ng maynila, where he is the president. then i was called to the wing of the stage. when i was called, i took three deep breaths, then walked up stage, to the blinding lights.

i delivered the speech i wrote. i even delivered a shorter one, because i did not want to go beyond the three minutes allocated per speaker.

half of my me was delivering my speech, and half of me was stunned: for there were 5,000 people,and those at the back were jumping up and down when i was speaking, and those sitting on chairs were giving high fives to each other, and those sitting on the ground were craning their necks and laughing. everybody was having a good time, a warm and wild and happy crowd.

the secret in giving a speech is a short story. or a series of three very short stories. which i did. maybe because i have been teaching for 22 years, i do not fear any form of public speaking. in fact, i relish it. i was born to speak. my namesake, of course, was danton: a brilliant lawyer and orator, who was decapitated during the french revolution.

when i finished my speech the crowd was cheering. backstage i was mobbed with people wanting photos, autographs, media interviews, handshakes.

one muslim lawyer went to me said, "ang tapang pala ninyo." i just smiled at him, because he might be a future comelec commissioner :-)

as i was leaving, one old and wizened journalist went to me and said: "danton, the last time i saw a crowd react as wild as that was during the time of miriam, in 1992."

uh-oh.

Sppech at March 14 Interfaith Rally, Liwasang Bonifacio

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. Ako po si Danton Remoto, ang Chairman ng Ang Ladlad. Kami po ay organisasyon ng mga lesbyana, bakla, bisexual at transgender sa buong Pilipinas.

May kasalanan po sa amin si dating Comelec Chairman Abalos, also known as the BURJER KING ng Pilipinas. Sabi po niya, kokonti lang kami at hindi namin kailangan ng representasyon sa Kongreso. Hello, heller! Ang dami-dami po namin, no. Tingnan na lang ninyo ang mga nakapaligid sa inyo!

Eh ngayon, kumusta naman siya? Sino ngayon ang nag-resign dahil nangongotong pala sa ZTE deal? Sino ngayon ang hindi makatulog pag gabi dahil ginugulo daw ng mga alegasyon sa ZTE deal? Teacher po ako sa Ateneo for the past 22 years. At sinabi nga ni Shakespeare sa dulang Macbeth, ang mga kasalanan ng tao ay dala-dala nila hanggang sa kanilang pagtulog. Kaya siguro hindi makatulog ng mahimbing si BURJER KING at ang kanyang pamilya, may abracadabra na nangyari.

At kumusta naman si Romulo Neri? Kapatid, lumabas ka na! Iladlad mo na . . . ang katotohanan sa ZTE deal. Iwanan mo na . . . ang kloseta ng kasinungalinan . . Kami etong napapahiya sa bintang nila sa iyo na kaya ka nagtatago dahil di-umano’y bading ka. Ang bintang tuloy sa amin ay mga duwag daw ang mga bading. Hello, Heller! Ipinaglaban namin kay BURJER KING ang karapatan namin in the last elections. Ikaw naman ngayon ang magladlad. Sabihin mo na ang lahat. Eto lang ang message ko kay kapatid na Romulo Neri: AMININ.

At kay Tita Glo naman, na dating teacher sa amin sa Ateneo. Tita Glo, masama ho ang sinungaling. Hindi lumalaki. Pumapangit ang boses. Nagboboses palaka. Tinutubuan ng nunal na parang bangaw sa pisngi. At umuusli ang ngipin. Kaya, kung ako ikaw, aminin mo na rin ang katotohanan. Palayasin mo na ang mga opisyal na kasama sa ZTE deal. Sa totoo lang, ang kyoho kyoho na ng Malakanyang. Super-mega-hyper baho na siya. Panahon na para linisan ‘yan. At lilinis lang ‘yan kapag ikaw ay lumayas na sa Malakanyang. Kaya ang message ng mga bading, mga lesbyana, mga bisexual, at mga transgender sa iyo, ay ito: Tita Glo, BABU. Tita Glo, BABU. Tita Glo, BABU!!!

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

i told you so, part 2

i said it last year and i will repeat it now. erap is running again for president. last night, in one of his tuhog-tuhog tours in bulacan, he said that civil society and the businessmen have admitted it was a mistake to oust him in 2001. and then he added, in a low voice with dark undertones: "Nagkamali pala kayo, ba't di n'yo ako ibalik?"

And then the turn around: his previous statement was that he would just unify the opposition. After that, he said he might run if could not unify the opposition. Since no opposition has been united in this country since 2,000 years ago, last night his statement was he might run IF the people ask him to do so. I told you so.

I am sure the 30 percent of voters who belong to this constituency would ask for it. If we have 40 m voters and 30 percent belong to him, then that is an astounding 12 million votes. Already. But that might be split several ways, if more of our presidentiables would just open their eyes and see that, really, the massive voting population belongs to the DE cagetory, and therefore, they are the ones that should be reached -- by handshake, by TV image, by radio voice, by film, by komiks, by word of mouth.

And just now, at the Foreign Correspondents' Association of the Philipping meeting, Erap said that the senatorial slate in 2010 would be a powerhouse, naming Adel Tamano, Roilo Golez and TJ Guingona as candidates.

Only Adel would win in this trinity. Roilo is not known outside Paranaque, and TJ will suffer the fate of Koko. When he begins touring the country, instead of the aging Teofisto they would see the younger TJ and ask: "What happened?"

The political pot is boiling.

the youth vote

i got some notes from you that the youth vote for the 2010 presidentiables would go to mar roxas. i think so. but we are talking about the middle and upper-class youth again, which might indeed go to him.

the youth vote is a big vote -- around 70 percent -- and it will also be split between mar and loren. loren, i think, will get the votes of the CDE youth.

like you, i hope that erap will not run in 2010. but i have it on good authority that he would. oh, yes, he would, if only to clear his name.

i will appear in anc tomorrow, thursday, 6-7 pm, for a forum on homosexuality in media. they asked me to wear my pink barong. ok, i said, even if rey langit abhors it.

and on friday, the united oppposition has invited me to speak at the anti-gma rally between 5-7 pm at liwasang bonifacio. a three-minute speech.

this should be exciting.

column in www.abs-cbn.com, 2010 elections

the moment i have finished checking my students' final exams, i will start a new column at www.abs-cbn.com. the column will deal with education and culture, mostly. they also asked me to write about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. i wonder why.

my radio show with dzrh is still in the works. i think they want to have a full list of advertisers before we start. the show will run during prime time, and will reach the whole philippines. the thing to do is to be just patient, and wait. paying for a radio show costs millions every month; i am being offered one, for free. the least we can do is to wait.

mar roxas might be the choice of the middle classes. but they only constitute 10 percent of the voters. 90 percent of the voters are poor, belonging to the CDE; of this, 60 percent did not finish high school or even elementary school.

and yes, the four presidentiables will have to fill 12 names for their senatorial slates. That is why there will be a mad scramble for the top six names that have been cropping up in the senatorial surveys, coffeeshop talk, rumor mills. The buzz will be louder as we reach the middle of the year.

My fearless forecast is that every presidentiable will have at least two or three winning senators divided up among themselves like bibingka.

You need at least PhP 50 million to run a good campaign as a senator in the 2010 elections. This is because every TV ad costs P10,000 per second. A 30-second ad already costs P300,000. And you need constant ad repetition every day, during prime time!

The top six senatorial candidates in the surveys will definitely get offers ranging from a low of P5 million to a high of P35 million even before 2010 begins.

And why will they get that offer?

Because every top-ranking senatorial candidate can pull up a presidentiable's votes by at least ten percent.

And why do I know that?

Ask Abalos. He thought I was just a mere, stupid English teacher.

Hahahahaha! Now who is the loser? His family says that they cannot even sleep because the accusations of people hound them even in their sleep. The Greeks wrote of that earlier; Shakespeare, too.

Why cannot thou sleepest?

Weknow weknow weknow...

as for the senators

lakas-kampi will field their jurassic candidates, three-termer candidates that nobody has heard of outside their provinces. the following are the strong ones:

1. pia cayetano - if she does not move to the opposition. but why should she? siblings always run with opposite parties, to preserve the territory.
2. ralph recto
3. ace durano -- do you wonder why he's on tv touting tourism, kuno, all the time?
4. cesar montano

the rest can go home and plant camote.

and the opposition, as usual, will be split. the old ones like maceda, tatad, etcetera will still attempt a comeback, pero good luck na lang sa kanila, ano? the following are strong:

1. adel tamano
2. darlene antonino custodio
3. koko pimentel -- if he does not kick the senator from maguindanao, migs zubiri, in his perch
4. riza hontiveros baraquel

5. franklin drilon (comeback kid)
6. jun magsaysay (comeback kid)
7. serge osmena (comeback kid)

8. and of course, the one and only, our former student at the ateneo: kris aquino.

the senate will dominate. whoever lands as numbers 1 and 2 in the 2010 race will be shoo-ins as the VP bets for 2016.

Hmmmm. Vice-President Kristeta Bernandette Aquino-Yap coming?

vice president

and for the vice president?

just listen to the rumblings, the voices of the young.

it is going to be chiz escudero by ten thousand miles away from his nearest rival. i see a landslide here.

2010 combinations for president and vice-president

like numbers in a rumble for the P150-million lotto, we can also juggle names for the president and vice-president candidates for 2010. there will no single and unified opposition ticket that will comprise the so-called Genuine Opposition. everything will be split, like the pieces of a bibingka.

as of today, my pink crystal ball sees the following combinations:

lakas-kampi:

president - noli de castro
vice- president - bong revilla

nacionalista party:

president - manny villar
vice-president - alan peter cayetano

liberal party:

president - mar roxas
vice president - noynoy aquino

nationalist people's coalition:

president - loren legarda
vice-president - chiz escudero

united opposition

president - erap estrada
vcie-president - jojo binay

laban ng demokratikong pilipino faction:

president - ping lacson
vice-president - jamby madrigal

Who will win? I do not know. But if elections were held today, monday, march 10, 2008, this would be the fearless forecast of my pink crystal ball:

1. Erap Estrada and Loren Legarda

neck and neck, possibly at 30 percent each. 30 percent is Erap's consistent percentage of voters, while 30 percent is the average of Loren's last two published survey results with SWS.

2. Mar Roxas and Manny Villa

neck and neck for second place.

3. Noli de Castro -- quite close to Mar and Manny.

Erap wants to prove his innocence, the innocence of the lamb, while Loren is a get-up-and-go gurl. Like race horses, their noses are out there, pointed at the finish line.

The rest has to catch up, work harder, communicate better. Visibility and image are the key.

Remember, one year from now, or March of 2009, it will be all systems go!

Song of the New Politico

“Make it new.”
-- Ezra Pound


We have turned our backs
on offers of jute sacks
filled with millions of pesos
in denominations of twenties, fifties, and hundreds

so, as the imperial messenger
of the donation would say,
“You, Sir, could buy the votes
of the squatters down there.”

We have turned our backs
on offers of Fortuners which,
at first blush, we thought
meant “fortune tellers,”

and why would we need one
to read our futures when we know
deep in our bones
that in the end we will get the thrones?

We have turned our backs
on offers of lawyers
glittering with their golden tongues,
working in the shiniest skyscrapers,

whose motions of consideration
and non-consideration
could always swing decisions
in
favor of our petitions.

We have turned our backs
on offers of agents and operators
who would spy for us,
wiretap for us, even dig




the deepest, darkest secrets
of our enemies—
from non-payment of taxes
to housing of several mistresses.

We have turned our backs
on offers to massage the results
of the elections,
as if the body politic

is full of knots
and bunched-up muscles,
mined with points of stress,
wired with meridians that have clogged.

We have turned our backs
on them who said
that we are young
and, therefore, hopeless,

that we do not have millions
of money to burn,
and, therefore, our plans
will just be ashes in the urns.

We have turned our backs
on those who said that this
is a hopeless country,
and the best country is the one across the sea.

Because now we would face
them all, our arms linked each to each.
We will stun them with words
like grains of gold,

we will give to the people
loaves of hope warm with love
for those who have been sold
down the drain,

fooled beyond belief,
made much of and in the end
left like so many pieces
of rags on the streets.


We are one, and we are many.
Our hands are clean,
and our hearts bursting with dreams.
Our eyes are like arrows

on the bull’s eye of our aims:
a beautiful Philippines,
a progressive Philippines,
O Philippines, our beloved Philippines.



Danton Remoto
December 2, 2007

Song of the New Politico


“Make it new.”
-- Ezra Pound


We have turned our backs
on offers of jute sacks
filled with millions of pesos
in denominations of twenties, fifties, and hundreds

so, as the imperial messenger
of the donation would say,
“You, Sir, could buy the votes
of the squatters down there.”

We have turned our backs
on offers of Fortuners which,
at first blush, we thought
meant “fortune tellers,”

and why would we need one
to read our futures when we know
deep in our bones
that in the end we will get the thrones?

We have turned our backs
on offers of lawyers
glittering with their golden tongues,
working in the shiniest skyscrapers,

whose motions of consideration
and non-consideration
could always swing decisions
in
favor of our petitions.

We have turned our backs
on offers of agents and operators
who would spy for us,
wiretap for us, even dig




the deepest, darkest secrets
of our enemies—
from non-payment of taxes
to housing of several mistresses.

We have turned our backs
on offers to massage the results
of the elections,
as if the body politic

is full of knots
and bunched-up muscles,
mined with points of stress,
wired with meridians that have clogged.

We have turned our backs
on them who said
that we are young
and, therefore, hopeless,

that we do not have millions
of money to burn,
and, therefore, our plans
will just be ashes in the urns.

We have turned our backs
on those who said that this
is a hopeless country,
and the best country is the one across the sea.

Because now we would face
them all, our arms linked each to each.
We will stun them with words
like grains of gold,

we will give to the people
loaves of hope warm with love
for those who have been sold
down the drain,

fooled beyond belief,
made much of and in the end
left like so many pieces
of rags on the streets.


We are one, and we are many.
Our hands are clean,
and our hearts bursting with dreams.
Our eyes are like arrows

on the bull’s eye of our aims:
a beautiful Philippines,
a progressive Philippines,
O Philippines, our beloved Philippines.



Danton Remoto
December 2, 2007

Awit ng Bagong Politiko

Awit ng Bagong Politiko

“Gawin itong bago.”


--Ezra Pound


Tinalikuran natin
Ang alok na mga sako
Na puno ng milyun-milyong piso
Na tig-bebeinte, singkuwenta, at isandaan

Para, ang sabi nga ng mensahero ng imperyo
Na nagpadala ng donasyon sa atin,
“Kayo, Ginoo, ay makabibili ng boto
mula sa mga iskwater na nakatira doon sa ibayo.”

Tinalikuran natin
Ang mga alok ng Fortuner na,
Sa unang tingin, akala nati’y
“fortune teller” ang ibig sabihin,

at bakit naman natin kailangan pang basahin
ang ating hinaharap gayong alam natin,
sagad sa ating mga buto, na sa bandang dulo,
ang korona’y ipuputong sa ating mga ulo?

Tinaluran natin
Ang alok ng mga abogado
Kumikintab sa kanilang mga dilang ginto,
Nagtratrabaho sa gusaling matataas at makikinang,

Ang kanilang mosyon para sa rekonsiderasyon
At walang-konsiderasyon
Ay laging magpapaling ng desisyon
sa direksyon ng ating mga petisyon.

Tinalikuran natin
Ang alok ng mga ahente at opereytor
Na mag-espiya para sa atin,
Magtiktik sa telepono ng kalaban, maghukay




Ng kanilang pinakamalalim, pinakamadilim
Na mga sekreto –
Mula sa di pagbabayad ng buwis
Hanggang pagbabahay ng ilang chicks.

Tinalikuran natin
Ang mga alok na masahihin ang resulta
Ng eleksyon,
Na para bang ang katawan ng politika

Ay puno ng mga bukol,
At namuo-muong mga masel,
Mga minang puno ng kunsumi,
Kinuryenteng mga linyang nagkabara-bara.

Tinalikuran natin
Silang lahat na nagsabing
Ay, kayo ay mga bata,
At dahil dito, ay wala kayong pag-asa,

Dahil wala kayong mga milyun-milyon
Na perang maaaring sunugin
At, dahil dito, ang inyong mga plano
Ay magiging abo lamang sa mga urno.

Tinalikuran natin
Ang mga nagsabing wala nang patutunguhan
Ang ating bayan, at ang pinakamagaling na bayan
Ay iyong nasa kabilang dulo ng karagatan.

Dahil ngayon, haharapin natin silang
Lahat, kabit-bisig ang ating mga braso.
Gugulantangin natin sila sa mga salitang
Tila butil ng ginto,

Ihahandog natin sa mga tao
Ang tinapay ng pag-asang mainit pa sa pagmamahal
Para sa kanilang matagal nang ibinenta
At ibinuhos pababa sa tubo,

Walang habas na niloko,
Pinangakuan, at sa dulo
Ay iniwan na parang maraming mga basahan
Na nagkalat sa mga daan.


Tayo ay nagkaisa, at marami na tayo.
Malinis ang ating mga kamay,
Bumubulwak ang pangarap sa ating mga puso.
Ang ating mga mata’y tila mga pana

Nakakatutok sa gitna ng ating siyang nais:
Pilipinas na maganda,
Pilipinas na maunlad, O Pilipinas,
Minamahal naming Pilipinas.



Danton Remoto
Translation into Filipino
Of a poem written originally in English
December 2, 2007

LAGLAG

Statement of Lesbians And Gays Laban kAy Gloria (LAGLAG)

We, the individual members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, have banded together to call for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo based on the following points:

1. Failure to answer for the extra-judicial killings of more than 800 human-rights activists and journalists;

2. Electoral sabotage in the form of the Hello Garci scandal and the P720-million fertilizer scam;

3. Failure to stop the $329-million NBN-ZTE deal of whose anomalous nature she was already appraised of;

4. Abduction and attempts to silence the whistle-blowers in cases of graft and corruption; and

5. Executive orders that prevent government people from serving as witnesses in Senate hearings, curtail the people's right to assembly, and infringe on the people's right to complete information.

We envision a society that practices non-discrimination in all forms, especially that of sexual orientation. We envision a society that includes the full participation of everybody, especially the poor and marginalized sectors of society. We envision a society with a level playing field, where the tentacles of friends and relatives do not reach into the very heart of leadership itself. We envision a society whose leadership has integrity, dignity, and respect for the people, and for the position it holds.

The present leadership of Mrs. Arroyo has failed us in these counts. It is time to go. It is time to let the people free.

Rally at Liwasang Bonifacio this Friday. 4-7 pm.

Column for today

Danton Remoto
The Philippine Star
March 10, 2008

The Muse of History

In an essay of the same title, Nobel Prize winner for Literature Derek Walcott said that the writers of the Caribbean have to forge literature from the ruins that was their colonial history. Only through this could their texts be called muses – lodestar and light for their readers across the ages.

Legends & Adventures, the latest opus from Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, is written in the same vein. This is the second part in her much-awaited trilogy of memoirs. The first – Myself, Elsewhere – which I thoroughly enjoyed, shot up on the bestsellers’ list of National Bookstore and was lionized by reviewers and critics. Fittingly enough, it also won the National Book Award for the Essay from the Manila Critics Circle, of which I am voting member.

Legends and Adventures has an Andy Warhol-like series of the young war widow – seven photos with the colors of the rainbow, to correspond to the seven incarnations she has had since that awful war that killed her young husband and decimated their resources. It begins this way.

“In the same, arcane castellano we’d spoken at home in old Ermita before the war, and in her gentlest tone, my mother delivered the latest communiquĆ© from Pappy: ‘Your father wants me to tell you that you have been drinking too much and coming home much too late.’”

The 23-year-old Carmen Guerrero did not faint and shrink in the shadows after the war, the way many of the war widows did, sinking in the swamp of their sadness over their fates. Mustering her trademark bravery and wit, she worked as a proofreader in a newspaper, wearing nondescript clothes, then became a reporter and columnist who read the galleys, ate in cheap joints, and went home only after the paper, as they used to say, had been put to bed.

So in the sexist, macho newsrooms sailed Carmen Guerrero of the illustrious Ermita clan. She covered the police beat and interviewed criminals and joined raids on vice dens, but her office mates knew she was different. They all became friends later, but Estrella Alfon (Magnificence and Other Stories), later told her that she had an air of Ermita hauteur that when she entered a room, they all wished she would fall flat on her face. She also did not brook bad manners. Once, when one of the pressmen yelled at her for taking time to finish a theater review, “I went and pushed the front page mat, smashing all the carefully constructed slugs and headlines, the day’s front page, causing alarm and scandal in the entire newspaper world. Was it Ermita or the war that made me a daredevil?”

You must remember the frame for this. El periodismo, or journalism, has always been a cause of alarm for the Guerrero clan. Fernando Ma. Guerrero, the poet and journalist, died at 46, tired and penniless. Her younger brother Leoni worked for the Philippines Free Press and was besotted with drink, and his escape to law and diplomacy was, as the clan must have thought, a way out for another would-be Icarus.

And so it was another scandal when the young Carmen – who was tutored to be a nun or a respectable housewife – entered the brash world of English-language journalism, became friends with riff-raff, danced at night clubs, and brought home in a newspaper truck or an Army jeep.

But trust mothers, our mothers, to put it all so well. “In her indirect, taciturn way, Mammy liked to sigh audibly about the perverseness of men. I would hear her say to the others during Sunday lunches: ‘Men are so foolish. I have three pretty mestiza nieces in Sampaloc. They are well-educated homebodies, good cooks, sensible and sweet-natured. Yet nobody courts them. Instead, a plague of men swarms around the hellion we have.’ It was such a comical and strangely flattering scolding that I would burst into loud, uproarious laughter, the kind she hated because it was so unladylike.”

Freed from the “incarceration” that was old Ermita, she worked with the best minds of her generation: D.H. Soriano and Melchor Aquino, Arsenio Lacson and Jim Halsema, fencing about history, politics and current affairs with the brightest and the best. Things came to a head when the newspaper workers called for a strike.

Carmen Guerrero was a union member and a member of the Civil Liberties Organization. But she was also a niece of the newspaper owner. She chose to join the strike.

“The sky fell on me. A mantle of cold Guerrero disgust overwhelmed me, chilling me to the bone. I became a non-person and ceased to exist. I had been mistaken; I thought the usually righteous Guerreros would understand my joining the strike and see the social democratic viewpoint. I had forgotten that they had evolved into the establishment while I was still enamored with the romance of the underdog.”

After the strike (which they won), Carmen Guerrero was offered a job at the Philippines Herald. One day she was assigned to do a series on “the ten neediest cases” identified by the Social Welfare Department – leper parents nursing their children in squalor, bloodstained TB patients, infants with swollen heads that battered her “into speechlessness and near-tears at every interview. Nothing in my experience, not even the horrors of war, prepared me for this. . . “

Our writer surmised that her brilliant editor, Joe Lansang, must have assigned her to do this, “to fill serious gaps in my education, for I began to develop distaste for luxuries, extravagant partying and the mindless self-indulgence of the other half of the Manila community. My reports turned into Chekhovian stories of the stark ironies in society and a social scheme that tolerated such misery among its weakest members. . . .”

After that she began writing her now-famous essays on history for The Philippines Quarterly, one of which, “The Filipino Woman,” was plagiarized by an American writer wholesale. She sued him and, as Tita Chitang said, he had the good sense to die before the hearing on the case started. The essay caused such a firestorm because, based on pre-Hispanic eyewitness reports, she wrote that, in essence, the Filipino woman were “pagan, pleasure-loving hedonists.”

But nobody could stop her. Her next life was as a columnist for the Manila Chronicle, where she wrote such vitriolic columns that caused PAL to cancel a million-peso ad, or the U.S. Embassy to squirm. “I wrote with such raw vehemence that the U.S. Embassy decided to exile one of its staff to Uruguay or Paraguay because I complained about him. After he repentantly offered to take me to lunch, I wrote, addressing him directly in my column, ‘Do you really think I could put food in my mouth in your presence?’”

Afterward, she suspected the C.I.A. sent her the photo of a revolver aimed directly at the one who opened the letter. She thought she was lucky, because I.P. Soliongco got a letter bomb. St. Theresa’s, her alma mater, wrote her to say they were praying for her soul. The Spanish press called her “anti-white and anti-Spanish,” with some of her relatives taking their side.

One day even her phone was wiretapped by Jose Lucban of the N.B.I. and called her a Communist at a Senate hearing. “Lucban wouldn’t even let my ever so distinguished lawyer [Senator Lorenzo “Tanny” Tanada] in his office and refused to repeat the statement. . . . Tanny and Dingdong [Atty. Claudio Teehankee] were so angry, they wrote the Bill declaring wire-tapping illegal, it was passed as Republic Act 4200, and remains in force, one of the democratic obstacles to tyranny and its latest incarnation in the Arroyo era.”

Carmen Guerrero Nakpil is a cosmopolitan and Westernized woman who could make any racist Westerner wither with shame because, “you needed to become Westernized to resent colonialism.” Once, on a British Council gathering, she ordered sherry as an aperitif for lunch and a Fleet Street type sniffed at her: “Oh, and where did you learn to drink sherry?”

Thus provoked, she replied sweetly: “You forget that the Philippines was Spanish for 400 years, and that your ‘sherry’ is really Spanish for ‘jerez,’ only you mispronounced it. We drink sherry in Manila as a matter of course.’”

Later, she writes about her daughter Gemma winning the Miss International, and her encounter with the young Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Romualdez – when they were not yet rich and famous. As wife to Angel Nakpil, she also attended social gatherings and was asked by Gregory Peck for a dance. You should see the photo folio in the middle of this delicious book. One such photo is of the tall and beautiful Chitang Nakpil with this caption: “President Diosdado Macapagal with his arm around my shoulder and Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez holding on to my elbow, in recognition of the power of the press.”

She also clears some cobwebs of gossip here. No, she and J.V. Cruz and Adrian Cristobal only had a trio of platonic friendships and no, the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko did not court her. When she worked with the National Historical Commission as its director, she found the officers and staff “drab, old and mute.” Later, she wrote her novel, The Rice Conspiracy, in the middle of the bleak and arid sessions of the Executive Board of the UNESCO, where she was elected in the 1980s.

She also talks about Imelda, “who told me years later, especially when I was being fractious and argumentative, that I’d been in the list of journalists to be arrested, but that she had vouched for me, and my name was removed. It might have been because I was in a wheelchair, with my leg in a cast, and quite incapable of subversion.”

Why did she work for the Marcoses as director of the Technology and Resource Center? Simple. It was in exchange for the freedom of her daughter Gemma and her husband Tonypet, then allied with the Left. “At first I saw myself as one of those ancient Greek scholars serving the new Roman dispensation of pelf and power. I eschewed servility and often spoke out of turn, at which Imelda would pause and reprimand me half in jest, ‘There you go again,’ she would say in Tagalog, ‘You’ve always been tagilid.’ It meant contrary, wrong-headed.” Sometimes, Mrs. Marcos would call her ‘pahamak (troublemaker),’ after the journalist she introduced wrote scathingly of the Marcoses.

But despite her closeness to the Marcoses, she was one of the very few that never made money. “I still live on the same piece of land my father gave me, in the house built by my husband, who owns a Benz and pays for my groceries, and I buy clothes from the New Yorker of Slim’s whom I’ve patronized for decades. In my first government post at the National Historical Commission, I donated my salary to the government; in my second, at the Technology Resource Center, it was bolstered by representation expenses which were duly accounted for with receipts. On the side, I worked at my weekly history columns which were syndicated by government-run newspapers for a small paycheck. I founded a Writers Union to be able to host the international writer’s conference. What’s there to explain?”

She flew economy, roomed with fellow officers at low-end hotels, and had no logging concessions or other high-paying government directorship. Neither did she get a pile of diamonds or a Swiss bank account. Yet the clot of malice followed her all the time she worked for the Marcoses.

The day of Ninoy’s funeral there were one million people on the streets. Imelda called people up, but only Tita Chitang came. “I asked her whether she and the President had watched Ninoy’s funeral on TV, and she said, yes, they’d done so, together, in his bedroom. And that they’d been crushed, struck dumb by the enormity of what they were seeing on the video screen. She added that they had felt overwhelmingly humiliated because they had little inkling of the public mood, and that Marcos had said, ‘So, after all these years, all our efforts, our trying and striving, it has come to this?”

And then the trademark Carmen Guerrero Nakpil moment comes: “I was aghast. Had their isolation misled them so completely that they never even suspected people hated them with such unnerving passion? They simply could not plumb the depths of the people’s rage, could not accept the evidence of their wrath. How was it, I asked myself, that they did not know?”

This book is a ringside view of Philippine history in the last 50 years with intimate close-ups of, as they say, its major movers and shakers. Written with fluidity and wit, this should make us on the look-out for the final third of the memoirs. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil does not only write of history. She has become the muse of our history.