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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Velarde And Villar: The Holy Alliance Made In C-5

"This twin entity composed of Velarde and Villar had been meticulously working together since the Ramos administration to get this one a done deal."

Scrambling to salvage his dipping popularity after the C-5 controversy, Manny Villar has found a worthy redeemer in Bro. Mike Velarde - the founder and patriarch of El Shaddai movement in the Philippines. Signs of the times? It depends on how one sees it. Politics and religion as we all know don't really make strange bedfellows, rather they complement each other's notoriety, when it comes to self-gratification and self-serving interests.

Amidst the seemingly immortalized C-5 issue that has continuously badgered Manny Villar, which may have caused his survey ratings to skid, the flamboyant Velarde is coming out supposedly to take the blame, but apparently playing out the good kid with zero intent (?) of causing harm to government coffers, and in the process exonerating his good friend Manny Villar. This coming out by  Bro. Mike should once and for all put this issue to rest against the 'Innocent One'. It was Velarde who authored the realignment and not Villar. ("Tell it to the doomed fool Mr. Velarde.")

This 'righteous servant of god' has emphatically confessed, that he was the one who directed the realignment of C-5, which has consequently benefited his own company including the companies of Henry Sy and Manny Villar. He only gained a modest and measly 1.2 billion pesos, from aggrandizing the value of his properties as a result of his genius. Manny Villar has absolutely nothing to do with this and has not lifted a finger on the said anomalous transactions. ("Tell it again to your repainted orange sheep Mr. Velarde.") Kudos also goes to Joseph Estrada whose notorious midnight deals made this political payback, a landmark act of worship to those who could serve up his whims. Let's not forget that Bro. Mike endorsed Estrada's candidacy in 1998 and got the support of millions of his faithful followers. But why now ditch Estrada for Money V.?

This latest revelation from Velarde himself is not that surprising, to think that from the very start Velarde and Villar colluded themselves to gain from this anomalous C-5 transaction, according to Senator Jamby Madrigal. This twin entity composed of Velarde and Villar, had been meticulously working together since the Ramos administration to get this one a done deal. And the prize of their hard work - billions of pesos from taxpayers of which a big chunk came from minimum wage-earners, and sick Filipinos who have to endure Value Added Tax (VAT) from every purchase of medicine.

This epiphany of questionable credence only ignites more suspicion, (or  in this case conclusion), that the nearly two billion pesos worth of infomercials is deemed insignificant, compared to the colossal profits Villar had gained from that shady C-5 transaction. Though the general perception surmises that Villar once seated, will take back his campaign investments from government coffers, the man has  already enjoyed immensely from its benefit, and there's no way he could end up in the red. He is after all an exceptionally shrewd thinker.

Now his adrenaline running higher, the tangerine idol grins from ear to ear, and goes on with his celestial campaign slogan of eradicating poverty. Not a few, but multitudes of hopeless gullibles are putting their trust in him. Who would dare to cast doubt in his capacity to snatch the poor out of the shackles of hunger, when he had once swum in their turf literally? And who would choose to ignore the 'anointed one' by the righteous servant of god  Bro. Mike Velarde? One needs not to be in the loop to know, that this 'holy alliance' was conceived for the greater cause of them that worship the golden cow.

While it becomes apparent that Mike Velarde is excited for a Villar presidency, (God forbid), the servant leader (to his flocks) has something else in mind. Not the usual financial favor associated with his endorsement, but a political reward is now being cooked up for the 'man of god' - a likely seat in Congress for party-list group BUHAY, of which Velarde is being groomed to become its representative. If early on he signified his intent of running for president and becoming president, this time around, his eyes are set on the speakership, which is not remotely imminent given the support of a possible Villar presidency.

Although the law bars a religious organization from running as party-list group, Mike Velarde is not keen on giving up his ambition, neither his leadership from El Shaddai. His resoluteness on this  matter,  is all the more firmed up by the support of El Shaddai's spiritual adviser Bishop Teodoro Bacani. According to these 'two holy men', their single most important agenda in Congress, is to prevent the passing into law of the Reproductive Health Bill. So, it is quite clear that these two make up a formidable gang of  constitutional rapists who would strip Constitution of its credibility, when it admonishes that the separation of the Church and of the State is inviolable. To be able to push for their self-serving agenda, not for the common good, but for what its dogma and doctrine dictate, the Catholic Chuch and El Shaddai as one entity, sees no problem in what the Constitution rants.

No one in this universe though has an inherent right to judge a person by his appearance, creed or association. But one's show of character calls for careful discernment. A person who claims to be 'a man of God' is above all beyond reproach. His life exemplifies humility, servanthood, modesty and contentment. He is not a subject of accusations of being greedy and a fraud. He does not enrich himself and his family while his followers wallow in abject poverty. He shares in their predicament. His ministry focuses more on salvation of the soul, and not on earthly promises of prosperity and abundance, using inanimate objects such as a piece of cloth. Here calls wisdom. You will know a tree by its fruit.

From a color perspective, it now seems that the political wave inundating the Philippine archipelago has turned sweetly orange. From so-called religious to righteous, to political turncoats in Cebu of late, to the well-wishers of the fancied Villaroyo marriage, to the balut vendors, and to the scholars of the state in Diliman - there is one synonymous clamor prevailing - an orange presidency. Not completely out of one's conviction, I guess, but this clamor I doubt stems from desperation in the case of the poor, and for the deemed wisest, not a fervent belief in him, but of 'rewards' so strong to resist.

Less than two months ahead, we will be witnessing how the Filipino electorate has grown with time; which message resonates across every household, and if 'change' indeed proves the word to watch. Yes, there are clear favorites, but there is no guarantee that is the change everyone screams from their guts, we will all know nonetheless. And I am extremely excited.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Send Arnel To Jail!

"At the end of the day, everyone thinks and agrees that it is not the way the rendition sounded, but the sense of pride and honor manifested in how the singer performed it."

Here we go again people! This controversy doesn't seem to see its end. I think everytime the Philippine National Anthem is sung at every Pacquiao match, the National Historical Institute or NHI doesn't blink a bit to keep watch of any "transgression" a performer would commit. Poor Arnel, before his plane lands at NAIA, the NHI people had already deliberated to file a case against him. That is what we call "passion beyond reason."

I can't help but applaud the NHI people for their unparalleled patriotism, indicating they are very well alive and never into slumber as they vigorously safeguard the dignity of our National Anthem. No, I'm not being sarcastic! Instead of us criticizing them, please understand that they are just doing their job. But wait a minute! What has happened to the previous offenses by Charice, Martin Nievera et al? Were they sued for their crimes? Hmmm...I can see some lapses here. They should have been punished for "desecrating" our "Lupang Hinirang"!

According to the NHI, these offenders have violated Section 37 of R.A. 8491 or the 1998 Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, which states that the national anthem whether played or sung, should be in accordance with the original composition of Julian Felipe, which follows a marching-type beat. Violation carries a fine of at least twenty thousand pesos and an imprisonment of not more than one year.

So here we go! It is quite clear there was an offense and a corresponding punishment. So what the heavens are you waiting for NHI? Go and get them! Do not delay! People need to know that our law is not toothless. If this is not enforced as soon as possible, similar violations or shall we say similar crimes are bound to happen in future. Let's not forget the biggest boxing maniacs in Hollywood will not stop unless Pacquiao gets the arrogant Mayweather on the ring. 

Then if you can't, why froth on television about this so-called irreverence of our national anthem?  Don't let also this brave Jennifer Bautista off the hook for singing the funniest version of national anthem, with her monumental off key rendition that gave the Mexicans some sort of redemption. That one can be considered a gross violation. And what about Christian Bautista? He slaughtered the national anthem with its quickest rendition in history.

The NHI has all the necessary tools to apprehend violators  at their disposal. So what makes it unable to enforce the law? Is there something that keeps them from netting these quacking un-patriots why this  endless acrobatics of the rendition doesn't seem to halt? Why after a flurry of complaints, still the R.A. blah blah doesn't stand in the way of would be violators? What does it manifest? They're inutile? I didn't say that. I just heard it. And if so, revise it! So simple. The law is being violated. No cases filed against the violators. Apocalyptic condemnation is all what you can hear from the NHI. For what?

If they only heard how various artists in the U.S. perform the "Star Spangled Banner" in their own versions, one would say which is which? Yes, we are not Americans. And not even close to their sense of patriotism. But they don't make a fuss over this triviality. Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston, all sang very distinct versions and only gained praises, without threats of them going to jail. Imagine that? And Marvin Gaye's rendition? That was preposterous! What about Charice singing the Star Spangled Banner at a baseball game in L.A.? Was it not tantamount to being unpatriotic?

I have one relevant advice though to the NHI, to ensure there will be no future violations of the sanctity of our national anthem - to cajole if not coerce future performers into signing a contract stipulating that  the original Julian Felipe arrangement is to be followed. Without the contract, they will not be allowed to leave the country.  And if they still violate the terms in a slightest manner, don't let them come back. Absurd? Not at all! Quickie remedy for a perpetually frothing NHI. Dig?

At the end of the day, everyone thinks and agrees that it is not the way the rendition sounded, but the sense of pride and honor manifested in how the singer performed it. But since we have a law that dictates how it is to be performed, then let's go back to the basic - obey the law! Jail the offenders! If they can't, revise the law before Mommy Dionesia prevails in getting the Pacman retired!

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

His Eye Is On Me Too: Life's Journey

"Shattered lives. Dreams crushed. Grieving orphans. These are the gifts these thugs and their gangs of sympathizers could serve up on a platter."

For now, I am departing from my usual staple of palatable issues I may say, with broader relevance.  The urge came to me these past few days to write about me, my family and the things that are central to my existence. Perhaps a symptom of nostalgia that evokes how life metamorphosed into what it has become today.

Growing up in a big family like  mine with scarce resources available, I could barely remember the days when we were basically pampered with little luxuries in life. We practically led modest lives. No goals set or ambitions to follow. What I knew  then - to be able to  finish elementary school was to be my greatest achievement. 

We ten siblings were born and raised in a mountainous part of Northern Negros. My father was a farmer and worked for an haciendero as an overseer. My mother would occasionally sell homemade puto and bibingka around the hacienda. As the  ninth child, I was the one least concerned of our economic status. As long as I didn't get interrupted playing, I was not a bit too worried of how life went about in the family.

Days passed, and I would see my mother sobbing. I was too young to understand then, that my older siblings were leaving us one after the other. I just heard that my sister then 18, was leaving for Calinog in Iloilo. She will have to do baby-sitting for my cousin while studying  night school. My older brother also went to South Cotabato in Mindanao to work in rice plantations. Another sister who's 15 was hired by a neighbor to work as housemaid in Mandaue City, Cebu.

Life indeed was hard for us albeit literally. I could remember stones raining on our roof and slingshots aimed at our windows. Weeping hysterically, my mother would grab the bolo from my father who was rushing through the door to confront our attackers. We too were so scared to death. These mobsters all belonged in one family who were envious at my father's supposedly nice job. They once tried to find fault with him  but his boss couldn't find any wrong with him. During those difficult stages, my father steadfastly held on for our sake. 

Those also were the days when the advent of the so-called  NPA phenomenon became ubiquitous in every corner. Those were scary and turbulent times when everybody trusted nobody. It was difficult to recognize who were the communist sympathizers and who played neutral. Both members of the military and the Left were in a frantic race to recruit new members. News of fierce clashes between them frightened the communities. Ambushes, massacres, strafing and systematic killing of rumored traitors were randomly done at will by the NPAs. The scenes of them being ushered to our home in midnight is still current in my memory. They would knock in the middle of the night and demand for support to "advance their cause" - be it 2 kilos of rice, dried fish or a live rooster.

I was in third grade when my father decided to quit his job. Those were the times when some hacienderos had to give up their trade because lack of support for the NPAs would mean hectares of fully-grown sugarcanes are outright candidate for torching. This meant we had to toil our ass off just to fend for ourselves -  and there were no plenty of options to choose. At that stage, my life abruptly changed. We had to completely rely on our small farm, plant rootcrops and bananas or vegetables, to sell in the nearest market some 17 kilometers away. 

Life had been that cumbersome in every sense. I was already resigned to the fact that after completing elementary, high school would be amiss in my agenda. I had so many goals that went down the drain. Once I aspired to be a marathon runner, having been influenced by our local municipal team that perennially won every national competition. In my elementary days, no one could beat me in an endurance run.

The threat of insurgents brainwashing young people had intensified in our area.  Barely a teen, I myself did not escape from the prodding of the members of Propaganda Organizing Team (POT) to join their core group.  The leader of the group was a former valedictorian in our school who personally spent hours "enlightening" me about their cause. At his budding age, I was so amazed at how he could spontaneously articulate things that I myself find incomprehensible. Years would pass when we received news, he was gunned down by a "Ka" or comrade while hogtied. His remains have not been recovered till date.

Upon my graduation from sixth grade, my mother decided to send me away, perhaps to another relative. But Lady Destiny had something else in mind. My oldest brother who never visited us for years had emerged from obscurity. After his marriage, he started a small buy-and-sell business in the northernmost part of Negros where they settled. He came to know that I did not enroll in high school and so decided to take me with him. He promised to enroll me in high school, but required me  at the same time to miss my classes occasionally, to babysit my niece when they're both away on a business. I gladly accepted the rules just for a thrill of what high school life will be about.

The next  four years I spent with them, would  go down as the most oxymoronic stage in my life - the feeling of being the happiest and the saddest. Of being a winner and a loser. Getting oppressed and getting revenge. Those were the days I hoped had not come but grateful they did. If I were to ponder that experience, the bitterness in me will cease not to breathe, for those were gloomy days that had stolen my youth, fraught with anger, frustration and deprivation. I just wish  I could write my thoughts down on this paradox. Someday I hope.

While onstage accepting my high school diploma, I was trying to comfort myself that hell is no eternity. I was lucky then to graduate despite the conspicuously abundant axe-like marks in my report card. Initially, my brother had pledged to help finance my college education maybe because he saw in me some potentials. I  enrolled in a private but cheaper college in Bacolod,  purposely  chose classes in nighttime so that I could figure out how to be productive during the day. Later on, I would find myself playing catch-me-if-you-can  with the Bacolod Police for illegal peddling along the sidewalk of the Regional Hospital. Those were thrilling moments reminiscent of the MMDA stunts behind a backdrop of wailing hawkers.

My being a consistent topper in all my Accounting classes did not help my cause either, as scarcity would later take its toll on me. I was eighteen when I embarked on a self-imposed exile to the Big City. Armed with a few units in college, I ventured working in a garments factory as a warehouse helper. One month would be too short for a first job, but my frail frame would eventually give way to the rigors of lifting cumbrous heavier-than-me loads. Life in Metro Manila indeed offers no compassion for the faint-hearted, and so I did not rest a day in my search for destiny.

I braved rain on a queue just to hand in  my bio-data only to be turned away when I didn't carry proof I worship at the House of Manalo. I also got duped by phony local employment agencies, offering non-existent jobs by charging a fee, to test your analytical ability, but would refuse to give you your result, and advising you to try again for another fee. But I was unperturbed,  thinking that there is no dearth of opportunities here compared to the uncertainties of life that went my way.

Indeed when Mr. Opportunity knocks, one should not hesitate to welcome him. And I did with arms stretched. My six-month contract with a famous bookstore was about to end, when a batchmate told me he had been scheduled for an interview for Dubai. He encouraged me to give a shot at the prospect, but I was too young then to even entertain the thoughts of it. Later, Mr. Jeremy Johnston would wish me luck and whisper   "see you in Dubai" to my astonishment. Sadly for Tom my colleague, he was not picked.

How time flies and it soars so fast.  Almost a third of my years were spent far from the blaring guns and camouflaged sinister-looking comrades of the hills, who brandish their wares in utter arrogance. The culture of impunity now exist in a once serene and laidback community. I had wished to go back there and relive the fresh air that calms my every senses, with its reassuring breeze of  peace and contentment. But those were the days of yore, as the smell of wrath and death now pervades the air.

A father would be dragged down from his sleep and gunned down in front of his terrified kids and wife.  More killings would follow. My younger brother would  barely escape a death sentence arising from suspicion that he carries a gun. Down on her knees, his wife pleaded for their lives and their young girl. "The Bible is what we keep and not a gun", her voice trembling. As God intervened and softened the hearts of the tyrants, they turned to the next house and sprayed bullets on an unsuspecting father of three, who had a rift with a sympathizer.

Awakened to a strange diet of nonsense violence, one day  people had to take different routes contrary to the ordinary; with livelihoods displaced and so began chaotic lives. Such has become to many, who had to endure jostling under a suppressed rented roof in a nearby city, and seemingly eternally deprived of opportunities, at least to exist. Shattered lives. Dreams crushed. Grieving orphans. These are the gifts these thugs and their gangs of sympathizers could serve up on a platter. They will cut you down as they please. They show no remorse for advancing their "cause",  even if it means death - to the defenseless and to themselves as the law of retribution takes its course.

To set foot again on my beloved place does not belong in my agenda, at least for now. Our abandoned house where we were born, our farm that supplied our needs, and the dogs left behind will be sorely missed. The scattered hymnal copies and torn pages of Sunday school manuals, now clutter our once little but lively church on the courtyard, as volunteers had to flee for their safety.

In a sense life is unpredictable. And if the assumption only the fit survives holds true, who else the unfit can turn to? I may say luck was on my side, but behind these iota of questions, lies the answer seemingly beyond our grasp, yet powerful enough to prove that the One who sets his eyes on a sparrow has His eyes on us too. That the trajectory of one's life solely depends on Him, He who has planned no harm for us. My gratitude to Him  for sparing my loved ones from the vicious symptoms of  flawed ideologies, where human compassion is usurped by hatred and cynicism. To Him be the glory!

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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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