My father

Sorry for not posting the past two weeks. My father, Francisco O Remoto Sr., died October 18. We buried him Oct 24 at Holy Cross Memorial Park in Novaliches. He was a soldier, and received a well-deserved hero's burial complete with 24-hour vigil, flag-draped casket, and a 21-gun salute. Here is my poem for him:

Papa
(Francisco O. Remoto, Sr.
June 4, 1933-October 18, 2009)

And I will remember
the flag--

held aloft
over his casket
being lowered

into the unremitting
hole
in the ground,

six Air Force
soldiers
with their crisp

salutes,
left hand
on the edges

of the tricolor,
the brilliant eye
of the sun

over his cold
face,
shielding us

from the ravages
of grief.

Erap-Jojo, Chiz-Loren in 2010

By HANNAH L. TORREGOZA, EDMER F. PANESA
October 13, 2009, 5:30pm
Manila Bulletin

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile confirmed Tuesday that former President Joseph Estrada would be running for president in the May 2010 elections with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay as his running mate.

This developed as party-list Rep. Florencio “Bem” Noel said that the tandem of Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda in 2010 is a done deal.

In an interview with Senate reporters Tuesday, Enrile said that as far as he is concerned an Estrada-Binay tandem seems to be a “done deal” already and it would only be a matter of time before the ousted president formally announces his presidential bid.

Enrile is chair emeritus of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) which Estrada founded.

“Palagay ko done deal na iyon,” Enrile said when asked about the issue.

“I think that’s it. I think that’s it,” Enrile repeatedly said.

In contrast with other presidential tandems, Enrile compared the Estrada-Binay tandem to Texas fighting cocks and described them as “very good.”

“Magagaling. Kung sa pintakasi yan ay meron din kaming manok na Texas,” Enrile pointed out. (They’re excellent. Like in a cockfight, we have good breeds.”)

“Alam mo itong eleksyon na ito (You know this elections) it’s a joust. It is a political joust, maiwan ang matibay (let the tough survive),” he added.

Enrile also warned Binay’s rivals in the vice presidential race, saying the mayor should not be underestimated.

“Don’t underestimate Jojo (Binay’s nickname). Maraming Ilokano, maraming Ibanag, maraming mayors sa Pilipinas na makokontak nya,” Enrile said citing Binay’s influence and connections. (“There are many Ilocanos, Ibanags and other mayors in the country that he can contact.”)

Enrile also confirmed that aside from him, Estrada’s son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada would be running under the PMP senatorial slate.

Grace Poe, the daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr., is also being considered by the group, but Enrile said he could not yet say if she would be joining the group.

Meanwhile, Noel, a staunch supporter of Escudero, said the decision of Legarda to become Chiz’s running mate served as her “belated gift” to the latter who celebrated his 40th birth anniversary last Saturday.

The Escudero-Legarda tandem was “sealed” following a meeting among NPC members at their headquarters in New Manila, Quezon City on Monday night, Noel said.

He said the meeting was attended by 20 congressmen, including Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of NPC founder Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.

“Based on my understanding, although I am not authorized to speak in behalf of them, I believe that Sen. Legarda will be Chiz’s running-mate. That is her belated gift to Chiz,” Noel said.

Noel said Escudero will make a formal announcement regarding his political plans after things shall have settled down a bit. The young senator, he said, believes that making a political declaration in the midst of natural calamities is improper.

Neither Escudero nor Legarda has confirmed reports that they already have a decision on who would be the NPC standard-bearer.

But Legarda herself had said they have already agreed that they should be together on one ticket in 2010.

Legarda said they both believe that she and Escudero are strong together as the surveys show.

She said they are now in the process of fine-tuning the NPC platform and they have to finish it first before announcing their collective decision.

Writing features painlessly

REMOTE CONTROL
By DANTON REMOTO
10/13/2009 12:45 AM
www.abs-cbnnews.com
Views and analysis


Of course, there is no such thing. Any kind of writing--be it a poem, or a short story, a novel, a play, or yes, a feature article--involves some kind of struggle. The poet T.S. Eliot called writing "this intolerable wrestling with words," and I know you will agree with him.

The Random House Dictionary defines a feature as a "newspaper or magazine article or report of a person, event, an aspect of a major event, or the like, often having a personal slant and written in an individual style."

I love to write features. They don't have the cold objectivity of news, or the rigid logic of the editorial. Of course, we can argue that news writing by itself isn't "objective." By our choice of words alone, by the slant we take, by the very fact that we are individuals with our own biases, doesn't guarantee the "objectivity" of news. Of course, the editorial can also touch lightly, like feathers against the skin. But there is always a direction, something relentless, in the editorial.

In high school, I wrote a lot of features for the school paper: harmless little articles that had no teeth in them. In college, I wrote about the National Assembly (Batasang Pambansa) and called it a "puppy parliament" that followed every whim of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In a grand stroke of irony, I would later work as an Editor for the Secretariat of the Batasan.

My officemates were great, but I slaved in that job. I corrected the transcriptions of the plenary sessions. I edited lines like "Excuse me, Your Honor, but you're barking at the wrong train." Either that or this line: "We should be careful with the national airline, Mr. Speaker. The airplane I took yesterday almost collapsed." It was impossible. Every afternoon, I would go home in a bus full of employees in their immaculate uniforms. I would stare at the sun beginning to sink behind the mountains, and felt sad because I had written nothing again on that day.

After college, I applied for a job at the National Media Production Center, which wanted to revive Archipelago, the art and culture magazine of the Bureau of National and Foreign Information. For my application, they asked me to interview the now-departed historian Teodoro Agoncillo. His wife, Anacleta, who was a medical doctor, said I could do so.

"But only for an hour, Mr. Remoto," the good doctor said, "since the Professor is busy writing his next book." And so I read what I could about him--his CV, his previous interviews published in various magazines, one of his books. Thus armed, I went to his house.

Professor Agoncillo and his wife lived in a big, white house beside busy Quezon Avenue. Their house was a stylish version of the Filipino nipa (grass) hut. The sloping roof was painted red, though, and the walls were made of thick concrete done in white. His wife, a small woman in glasses, opened the gate and ushered me inside the house. Professor Agoncillo was wearing a loose, white T-shirt and light-brown shorts that reached down to his knees. He had thick eyeglasses, and a shock of black, too black, and wavy hair.

The professor was in his element, slashing at his critics with the scythe of his tongue. I sipped my coffee with trembling hands. When I asked him about the five-volume history of the Philippines that Mr. Marcos was supposedly writing, the professor said he read the recently-published volume one. And what is his prognosis? "It's beautiful, it's a beautiful piece of fiction." He laughed merrily, and then cautioned me not to quote him verbatim, things being what they were at that time.

What about the volumes of history published by another professor whose politics leaned to the Left? "Well, I read them too," said the good professor. When his eyes began to twinkle with something that hinted of wickedness, I knew he would release another volley of words.

And what, I asked, is his prognosis on the gentleman’s books? "Oh they're excellent, they're excellent pieces of political analyses." But most of his comments were off the record, he cautioned me, so I just put down my pen and paper, turned off my tape recorder, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in the spacious living room.

This, after all, was the man who wrote The History of the Filipino People which, then as now, is the standard text on Philippine history required of many university students. This, after all, was the prize-winning poet and short-story writer who turned his generous gifts into research--and the writing of tomes on the country's history. This, after all, was the man who wrote about history from below, from the point of view of the poor and the colonized, and not from the point of view of the colonizers.

But Professor Agoncillo was also a man capable of great tenderness, especially when he spoke about his children. "One of them," he said, "is sick. We have had to take care of him since he was young. A father loves all his children, but he is really the one that my wife and I love the most."

His wife gave me only one hour for the interview, but the good professor and I talked and talked for three hours. I was only too glad, because I had a lot of material for my feature article.

He even brought me to the second floor of his house, to his library full of books and magazines dating back to the 1920s. He also showed me the first drafts of his books, which he had bound in black leather, and the awards he had received. Only then did I discover that the historian, Professor Agoncillo, also wanted a place in history. Nothing wrong with that. We all write because we have that dim hope that our books will outlive us.

I guess one secret in interviewing for a feature article is to do your homework. Have you read the author’s books? Do you have a copy of his CV? Who among his friends could throw in an anecdote, an episode, which could illumine the subject’s inner life?

All of us have inner lives that go on and on, sometimes in contrast to the masks we wear in public. Good journalists should ask the right questions, probing but not prying. If they are sensitive enough, or lucky enough, the subject will say or do something that will open a door to that inner life.

But I interviewed the professor years ago. Now I myself teach English at the Ateneo, write columns, work part-time in publishing. When I can tear myself from all these, I write my poems, stories and essays. And oh yes, I sometimes take a look at my first novel, with an eye for revision. Again and again.

But I will never leave journalism, even when some wags call it “literature in a hurry.” If done well, it’s still literature. The glory of the byline is one of the few pleasures in life. As the Random House definition states, you can put your own indelible stamp onto your feature; you can impress your thumb mark on it. That’s why good journalists should always be alert, their noses sniffing for news all the time, and for the possible feature story behind that news.

Moreover, their mental muscles must have definition and tone. Sadly, many young journalists today seem to have flabby minds. I still get frantic calls from editors of daily newspapers asking me to edit raw copy for them fulltime. Aside from sound grammar, feature writers, as Kerima Polotan once said, should be able to capture the time of day, the subject’s emotional weather, and make them come alive before the reader.

How to do all these?

Try to use the tools of fiction in your features: crisp dialogue, the telling detail, description with the clarity of water. Read Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, and learn the art of New Journalism. Well, not really new, but still helpful.

Observe people with the sharpness of a spy, with the delight of a lover. Open the pores of your skin. Listen to gossip, but don’t believe them. Believe the essayist Michel de Montaigne when he said, “Nothing human is alien to me.” Write with daring and with dash.

Live.

Our boon is Gloria's bane

NO HOLDS BARRED
By Armida Siguion-Reyna
The Daily Tribune
10/06/2009


NEW YORK — Skype-ing with my brother Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile the other day was an unusual treat for both of us, but especially for him, as it was his first time to use the technology. The Ilocano in him made him ask how much the conversation was costing, and boy was he amazed to find out it was for free, thanks to VOIP or voice over Internet protocols.


Johnny chortled at the first sight of me, and laughed when I said, "Sorry, ha? Natagalan ako, kasi nagkilay pa ako. Pagka ganitong nagkakakitaan na tayo pag nag-uusap, dapat naman, magpaganda ako."


"My sister," he said over and over again, "my sister." He was clearly amazed at what was there before him on the computer screen, as I was when my children introduced Skype to me sometime last year.


The Senate President and I are not "techies." We were born years before World War II, the age of manual typewriters and heavy, clunky telephones that first came into use with party-lines and operators that connected overseas calls, light years away from cell phones and computers and even just the concept of Internet.


As a probinsiyano from Cagayan on his way to meet our father for the first time, Johnny entered the Soriano Building, or the "Edificio Soriano" as it was then called, intending to go to the seventh floor where Papa’s law office was. Johnny stopped in the lobby, awed by people rushing in to go inside a small room where "there was an arrow similar to the arrow of a giant clock on top of the door."


Natatawa siya, to this day, pag naaalaala niya ang una niyang enkuwentro sa elevator. He found it strange that those who entered the small room were not the same ones who came out. "The arrow, as it moved forwards, pointed to numbers 1 to 7... now and then it would stop at one of the numbers... then it would move again... it took me a while to decide whether I would enter the door or not. This was my first time to see a thing like that, I was afraid that I would not get out of that door."


Senior citizens like us exhibit childlike delight when state-of-the-art gadgets are brought to our attention, even if we are not "techie." It takes me forever to learn using a new cellphone, lalo na si Johnny, whose anger at his "vanishing" prepaid cell phone loads really came from his not knowing how to use his mobile phone the way teen-agers do. Informed by the telcom that he was charged for "downloading" a ringtone, he bellowed: "I cannot even text on my own, how can I download?"


Our generation is unable to master the ins and outs of digital stuff, but I tell you we appreciate it. We are grateful to have reached the era where scientific breakthroughas occur every other blink of the eye. The results of this medical exam I’m going to have, for instance, will be sent to me in Manila, through e-mail. X-rays and MRI’s are now sent through e-mail, from a doctor, say, in Manila, to a doctor in New York. The two doctors are able to confer if not through e-mail, through chat, then through Skype.


And just as you think Skype is the latest in computer overseas communication, hindi pala. There’s a newer one called Oovo, the free version makes it possible to simultaneously converse with two other persons at the other end of the line for a mini-conference of sorts. Of course I’ll never be able to operate this on my own, as even Skype has to be set up for me, but it’s heartwarming to think of how much easier the new protocols make it for families who live apart. Isipin mong nasa Dubai ang anak mo, and you don’t need to rely on snail mail that takes days to arrive. You also needn’t rely on texting alone. Pag talagang miss na miss mo na ang asawa, anak, magulang o kapatid, go on the Internet!


The recent "Ondoy" rescue and relief operations could not have been mounted without computer audio/video technology. Digital video shot on cell phones were transferred to Facebook and Multiply and other such Web sites with such speed, kaya naman ang bilis din ng response.


Two of my US-based granddaughters were fund-raising via Facebook. Another granddaughter based in Hong Kong was doing the same. And this were just my grandchildren, there were thousands out there, forwarding video of swirling water surrounding a family huddled on the roof of a shanty, of cars and vans trapped in the whirlpool of a center court of a hospital, shots through cell phone MMS showing how deep water was in specific spots, so please, can someone come to the rescue?


Kalinisan Steam Laundry Inc., in Quezon City does more than provide food and shelter to flood refugees and announces, first on FaceBook, free washing sa lahat ng apektado, for bed sheets and comforters, curtains and clothes that drowned in the muck, and again the response is swift. So, too, the praises.


And this turns out to be another wondrous thing about the technology. Ang dapat purihin, agarang napupuri. Ang dapat punahin, agarang napupuna. Heroes are lauded, heels are thrashed, pictures of styrofoam packs marked "Tulong ni Manny Villar" are displayed as are packs of noodles stamped by stickers bearing the likeness of Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga.


Hark back to way before Ondoy and recall how the tastelessly expensive Le Cirque dinner was discovered and so quickly spread, but through the Internet. As were all other fancy-schmancy high-priced meals. At the height of the storm a picture quickly made the rounds, that of someone who suspiciously looked Mikey Arroyo, squat on his haunches facing the liquor section of Rustan’s in Katipunan, looking for hard liquor.


The First Brat reportedly got depressed by the posting, saying it was malicious and completely untrue as he was in Malacañang "trying to mobilize rescue and relief operations for the people of Metro Manila."


That Saturday of the storm, thanks to the Internet we knew that Malacañang was still at a loss and didn’t know what to do. Gloria Arroyo’s first declaration of the Palace as a relief center was recalled, it took days before evacuees where brought to the Ceremonial Hall "where the President traditionally meets foreign dignitaries." The Press Office had to say this over and over in case we still didn’t get how philanthropic Arroyo truly was, but was curiously quiet over the congressman from Lubao’s claim that rescue and relief operations were going on in the Palace at the height of Ondoy.


The Internet is our boon, it’s the government’s bane.


(For comments, write to armida114@yahoo.com)

When the wind blew

By Danton Remoto
(An excerpt from a novel)
Remote Control
Views and analysis
www.abs-cbnnews.com

Typhoon Yoling traveled at a dizzying 200 miles per hour, in its wake a tail of fierce winds. Like the moon, it seemed to have raised water from the sea, for when it fell on land, it rained so hard it seemed the very skin of sky had been torn.

We had no classes for a week. That day, my fingers touched the windowpane. Cold, covered in mist. With my forefinger, I trace my initials. From my initials the world outside began to form.

Our duhat tree seemed to be getting a trashing. Its small round fruits and leaves whirled on their twigs, and the branches seemed to have gone mad. They convulsed violently, and then came a sound that made my skin crawl. A low, loud moan, then a gust of wind that blasted against our duhat tree. Our tree tried to hold its ground, to weather the dervish wind, but I heard something snap. I hurriedly brushed away the mist on the windowpane, and saw that the tree had been split cleanly in two, around three feet from the base. The tree—fruits, leaves, and all—lay on the wet ground. I remembered the hot summers when I climbed this tree, its dark and sweetish fruits rubbed with salt and popped swiftly into one’s mouth, and felt a pang run through me.

When my father turned the TV on, there were widespread appeals for relief goods and aid. The whole of Central Luzon—those five provinces that were the country’s rice bowl—was deep in floodwaters. An Air Force helicopter with media men inside took a pan of the area—water everywhere! When the choppers came closer, there were houses submerged in the flood, with only the roofs showing. And on top of those roofs, like the inverted arks of Noah, huddled shadows. No, blackbirds, flapping their wings. But as the helicopters came closer, the figures changed to people, clothes sticking to rain-drenched skin. Not waving, but drowning.

And the reports flew thick and fast.

Of a woman whose whole family was completely wiped out (“I tried to save my children, but their hands slipped from my grasp, and suddenly there was only dark water”). She was saved because she happened to be near the huge styrofoam box that contained the soft drinks they sold in their small variety store. When the floodwaters came, she grabbed the box, turned it upside down, and ran to the room where her children slept.

Of a town whose inhabitants were completely wiped out. Pabanlag (population: 5,000) was a town between the mountains and an estuary that drained off to the sea. The mountains had been dutifully denuded of trees, thanks to the mayor who had found an ally in the provincial military commander and the corpulent governor. There was gold in them thar hills, really, but not the one that could be beaten into the sheerest filigree, but hardwood shaped into tables and cabinets and chairs, especially now that there was a rage for “modern antique,” furniture newly carved but lacquered and painted to look like heirloom pieces.

So when the rains came, no trees stood to hold the water. The flood slipped down the mountains, like vomit. By that time, the river’s estuary had been swelling and swelling. It had been raining for a week and the river had overflowed its banks. The town was now under three feet of water.

When the water rushed down the mountain, it cascaded like a great waterfall. They said they heard the sound of a thousand hooves, louder and louder by the second, making the blood run cold. And then, complete darkness. The people were borne away by the water, holding on to coconut trees, doors, windows, anything.

When the darkness lifted, the whole town was gone.

Houses were wrenched away as if by the roots, and scattered miles and miles away. A broken window, a door, a wall. And everywhere, the dead. In the backyard of what was once his house, a man lay, his fingers in a half-curl, his eyes staring blindly at the sun. On the street lay a mother embracing tightly her baby. And swept out into sea, an old car with the whole family trapped inside. Around the car floated men and women with torn clothes and torn skin, their bodies bloated, floating in the luminous blue of the sea.

Oh, there were the usual recriminations against illegal logging. The President promised a thorough investigation that would spare nobody. The First Lady chaired Task Force Yoling, which gathered plastic bags of rice, sardine cans, salt, mung beans and soap into cotton bags with their design of faded flowers, recycled from B-Meg Poultry and Pig Feeds, and stamped outside, “GIFTS FROM THE FIRST LADY AND FAMILY,” the words blazing in her favorite color: fuchsia.

When the First Lady was auditioning for a role in the movie Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (Python in the Old Belfry) for Kantutay Pictures in 1952, the producer, Mother Tiger Monteagudo (for her clothes were always in tawny stripes) was impressed by her screen test and still shots. Whereas the producer asked the First Lady her favorite color.

“Oh, it’s like a slumbook question,” she simpered.

The producer smiled quickly, then waited.

“Well, push-shi-ya,” she answered. Trying to impress the producer with her answer, the words coming nasally, as in the American movies she watched.

“So how do you spell it?” the producer asked, her left eyebrow rising like a question mark on her bleached face.

“Err, well,” one foot shifting, then the other, size eight feet sweating in cheap leatherette, “ay, my favorite color is red na lang.”

The First Lady did not get the role.

And so when the President came to power, one of the new First Lady’s first decisions was to buy Kantutay Pictures lock, stock, and barrel—and burn the negatives of all its movies.

The other was to hire an English teacher, a dropout from Oxford who would never split his infinitives ever, even if a thousand typhoons came tearing at his door.

Comments can be sent to www.dantonremoto2010.blogspot.com

Deluge

After the deluge of waters comes the deluge of help -- and the deluge of unimaginable acts coming from some politicians.

Re-electionist senator told a barangay captain that the captain's request for a truck of potable water is possible ONLY if the media takes a picture of the re-electionist senator shaking the hand of the barangay captain in front of the truck of potable water. Hay naku, hindi ka na talaga magna-number one senator kapag maitim ang budhi mo.

Other candidates rode their helicopters to drop off the relief goods. I am sure their names and Boy Botox faces are stamped on the plastic bags that contained the relief goods.

My heart goes to Mayor Ilagan of Cainta, whose eyebags are now the size of big coins. He still has to reach the inner subdivisions of his town, and this hardworking man has worked round-the-clock and hardly slept at all the past week.

And the other candidates? Oh they are busy posting messages and press releases in their websites, as if the light-less houses of the desperate and the drowned could read their words that have -- at this point -- no meaning at all.

Ashes. Everything is ashes.

Useless

By Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
October 1, 2009

Those of us who had the good fortune to be spared from the life-and-death crisis that was the killer-weekend Typhoon Ondoy brought about, and whose only annoyance was being caught up in endless traffic, or having had to suffer the inconveniences of flooded streets and brownouts, will do well to ponder at the travails of our fellows --- friends, relatives, as well as simple kapwa-tao.

My friend Ric Golpeo, who is the executive director of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, was on his way home with wife Emma to their thirty-year old Provident Village residence. That house was built in the last years of martial law, after Ric had saved some from his years of working for the Puyat interests. They had just come from a nearby supermarket, and used to flooding in this Marikina neighborhood, they parked their car at the entrance, which never got flooded in the three decades they had lived there.

What happened next came too fast. They didn’t even have time to walk or wade to their residence. The rush of floodwaters came too fast that they soon found themselves clambering through rooftops in the establishments fronting the Provident Village gate. They stayed atop the highest rooftop possible, along with twenty other men, women and children shocked at the awesome inland tsunami that confronted them. They were there all afternoon and all night Saturday, way past the wee hours, into Sunday morning, hungry, cold, desperate for help. Only on Sunday afternoon did they find the courage to come down, when the floodwaters had abated somewhat to chest-deep. They finally reached their house, more than 24 hours since Ondoy poured in torrents, only to find both first and second floor ceilings collapsed, and all their lifetime savings and possessions destroyed. The car in the garage was ruined, and the car they left at the entrance gate had tumbled along with others.

Ric and Emma are thankful just to be alive.

***

My friend Rollie Estabillo is similarly situated. His house in the Tandang Sora neighborhood is beyond repair. Rollie has retired from communications work at the Philippine Airlines, before that a news editor of long standing and respected stature. Again, to be alive is a blessing he could only thank the Almighty no end.

Our editor, Joy de los Reyes, who had lost his wife to the Big C just months back, is in similar straits. And Nonie Pelayo, Weng Salvacion, Delon Porcalla, Claude Vitug, Cielo Banal, countless more colleagues in the media, suffered terribly at the hands of Mother Nature gone berserk.

Picking up the pieces of shattered lives will not be easy. Possessions saved through years and years all lost, and the more painfully expensive means to move on, to re-build, to rehabilitate, all these face them now.

***

My daughter’s friend is at his wit’s end. Three years back, he became a young entrepreneur, putting up a small company selling corporate giveaways. Peak season is of course Christmas, and so he had stocked up on raw materials and supplies to be assembled and packaged for his clients in time for Christmas distribution. Deep in short-term debt, to be recovered once the clients pay him probably well after Christmas Day, Ondoy’s waters rendered his shop and factory useless, and all his merchandise gone or destroyed beyond utility.

How many others are similarly situated? Internet cafes with now zero value, stores with their wares beyond salvage, and picking up the pieces virtually impossible because all those pieces are gone?

***

Worse is the sense of frustration. The anxiety of staying in rooftops through rain and cold, and waiting interminably for rescue that never came, and now, relief so niggardly because so many have to share so little.

Let me share with you this sad story, which was sent to an FSGO member by someone trembling with disgust, seething with justified anger, at a government that simply melted from existence when crisis struck:

"Yesterday, at the height of the floods, my sister’s husband Rey, whose family lives at Provident Village in Marikina, got a call from his brother. They were at the roof of their 2-storey house --- his wife, his brother, 2 kids, his sister, and their 85-year old father who just got out of the hospital last week.

"Not wanting to rely on our USELESS government to rescue them, Rey went to Makati and scoured the stores for a motorized boat that he could buy. At around 6 p.m., he finally found a store at Reposo street selling a six-seater motorboat for over 100 thousand pesos.

"Immediately after, he put the boat on his pick-up and motored as far as he could to Marikina. The nearest dry land was the Sta. Clara Church, still way too far to Provident. Suffice it to say that for somebody who was maneuvering a motor boat for the first time, Rey arrived at Provident at 12:30 a.m. When he entered the village, everyone was screaming, thinking that it was already the government’s rescue team. Rey was the first to brave Provident on a motorized boat with nothing but sheer will steering him.

"Meanwhile, our useless government was holding a press conference announcing relief operations delayed fatally because of excuse after excuse. They kept saying that they could not get through because the currents were too strong for them! HELLO! Why couldn’t they while my private citizen of a brother-in-law who does not even know how to use one before he purchased it, could?

"Rey had to turn a deaf ear to people screaming for help as he entered their village because he had his family, especially his 85-year old dad in mind. The waters were too high that he was actually holding on to the Meralco wires! He was shouting for his brother’s name as he could not even locate where their house was amidst the sea of mudwater. When he finally found them, he had to hold back from breaking down as he saw his dad at the apex of their roof holding to a string of blankets just so he will not get swept by the currents!

"It took Rey 2 hours to navigate back to Sta. Clara church to drop off his dad and nephew, came back for his sister-in-law and another nephew. It was 3 a.m. by the time Rey reached Sta. Clara church again… By this time, media were there and NDCC people assisting his sister-in-law to get off the boat. Gibo Teodoro had the gall to tell media that government rescue operations are now on-going, alluding to the footage of my brother-in-law rescuing his family!!! And these stupid NDCC people were even asking Rey’s sister-in-law to remove her life jacket and return it to them! Hello, everything was theirs, from the boat, to the life jackets, to the sheer will and determination to keep their family alive!!!

"He wanted to keep coming back to save other neighbors but his tired body could not take it anymore. So he decided to take a rest at his sister’s house at Valle Verde till around 9 a.m. today. Then they went back only to find how cars were piled up like matchboxes. His brother’s Patrol, Camry, and Galant were supposed to be safely parked at the village main avenue as historically this was the highest point of the village. Sadly, the cars were nowhere to be found, washed away like toy cars... but what was even worse was seeing bodies already floating around, including the body of a 3-month old baby stuck in a car windshield!

"As it was too devastating a sight for them to take already, they decided to just lend the boat for others to use to save more lives.

"Meanwhile, we see our government making all these excuses why they cannot save people faster... and we remember GMA spending 800 million pesos in contingency funds for her endless travels abroad…and Mikey Arroyo shamelessly admitting how his net worth ballooned within the few years that his family have been in power. Such shameless greed!

"I love the Philippines and I do wish for a better Philippines for my children’s sake. But during times like these it makes you wish that you were living in another country where you dial 911 and help will be forthcoming.

"Rey had the presence of mind, sheer will, and financial resources to buy a boat on the spot and put matters into his own hands. But what if it were the other way around and he had to wait for our USELESS GOVERNMENT to rescue his dad? We only shudder at the thought of what would have happened to his family, especially Lolo Manny, if and when rescue finally comes --which for many less fortunate souls, until now have not (yet) come!"

Further this writer cannot comment on the above cri de coeur of a narrative.

***

Another friend, Art who comes from Cebu, had a simple, common-sense idea. What if Gibo flew a helicopter in the afternoon when the rains had stopped (yes, Gilbert Teodoro is a licensed pilot, just as poor boys played with paper planes, and we from the middle-class played with plastic), and simply threw "salva-vida", or salbabida the way we pronounce them, inner tire tubes, into flooded neighborhoods, which probably cost less than 200 pesos each, instead of scrounging around for rubber dinghies and not knowing how to bring them through tangled traffic that Ronnie Puno’s police could not solve enough for military trucks to pass through (kuno)?

What if? But bunker mentality got the better of the NDCC and their president, who made a great to-do about riding in a military 6x6 to preside over a conference in Aguinaldo, and two days after, open Malacañang in a silly propaganda effort to (kuno), become some kind of evacuation center for the victims of Ondoy, only to be repulsed at the numbers that lined up, numbers her pusillanimous staff could not even manage efficiently, probably because the idea was so hare-brained to begin with.

Dear God, why do you punish your people with useless leaders?