Independence, Dependence, Poverty and America

Today, we celebrate The Philippines' Independence Day. Supposedly, our country has been independent for the last 109 years. Wow, that is something!

But I do not know about that. If we are independent, how come the Siamese twins World Bank-Interational Monetary Fund dictate our economic policies? How come American servicepersons entering our territories do not need to acquire visas and need not even present their passports? How come the Philippine government cannot commit Corporal Daniel Smith to its prison system? How come George Bush tells Gloria Arroyo how to run the affairs of our country?

As far as the struggle for independence goes, nobody can beat the Igorots. Unfortunately, they are less known for having resisted Spanish colonization than for being uncivilized. Of course, it is farthest from the truth that Igorots are uncivilized. That was the lie often repeated that became the truth. At least, it is the truth for the prejudiced minds and those who do not have enough gray matter in their cerebrums to analyze history.

While the Spaniards succeeded in lording it over our lowland sisters and brothers (and many of them resisted. Do not forget THE national hero, Andres Bonifacio.), they failed in the Cordillera. Unable to accept their defeat, they gave the word Igorot a new meaning: barbarism and its synonyms. Actually, Igorot simply means "from the mountains" from the root words "i" meaning "from" and "golot" meaning mountain. But that is telling Igorots what they already know. Anyway, I am writing it here for the sake of those who do not.

Then the Americans came. This is where the story shifts to another theme. This is where the self-determining Igorots suddenly become docile without knowing it.

The Igorots warmed to the Americans. After all, the white men came with their smiles, not with rifles as the Spaniards did. They taught Filipinos to be proud of the nipa hut. I remember that song we sang as kids: "My nipa hut is very small, but the seeds that I grow -- See, it houses them all!"

I ask my students: Which was the worse colonizer? America or Spain? Most students say it was Spain because the Spaniards were cruel. The Americans were benevolent. Hmmm. Why not? The Spaniards forced their subjects to pay bandala and render polo y servicios. And they did not even teach Spanish to the indios. They thought our lowland brothers and sisters were not fit to speak a word in Spanish. But the Americans did not shoot at us with guns and cannons. They came and patiently taught us their language (A is for apple.). They introduced us to the American way of life. The Spaniards were around for more than 300 years. But it seems Spain merely made a stopover, farted and left us fuming mad.

America was with us for 50 years. But it seems as if it were around from the time Bugan and Wigan first saw the light of day!

Here I am blogging, not in the language of my ancestors, but in English. I think in English. I argue best in English. And at home, we speak English. I am very American, in more ways than one. And I am not thinking of migrating  to America which became the Land of the Free at the cost of stealing from other people their freedom. When things get from bad to worse here, hmmm...Let us cross the bridge when we get there.

Our gold, our lands and even our soul - where are they? Philex is an American company. Lepanto is an American company. Because of the poverty situation in the Cordillera, many would like to move to America. Is this poetic justice - the parasite will have to play host to the host it reduced to parasitism? For we were born rich but we are poor. In America we can live the good life. The opportunities stolen from us here are there in America for us to embrace.

And the song "My Nipa Hut" which we melodiously sang in four voices as children? If you ask me, I am a bit suspicious of that song. The nipa hut is, to me, a symbol of poverty. The song teaches us to be proud of our poverty. It almost became our national anthem as it sank into our collective consciousness. Now we remain agricultural producing singkamas, talong, sigarilyas, mani, sitaw, bataw, patani, sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya. We keep supplying USA with raw materials while it concentrates in the production of electronics and high-tech products. Meantime, when will the Philippines industrialize? When will it be able to produce the safety pins that we need in emergency situations like when a button falls off, or when we shrink in the waistline but can't afford to buy new pants that are two sizes smaller? The Philippines is one of the richest in the world in terms of natural wealth, but why are its people poor?

Anyway, here is something I wrote when I was mad at George Bush. It reflects what I think of US colonization.


They presented to us their friendship;
We accepted and invited an invincible enemy.
They rewarded us with their saccharine smile;
We accepted and misplaced discernment.
They bequeathed upon us independence;
We accepted and became their pliant slaves.
They delivered to us chocolates and honey;
We accepted and found ourselves hungry.

They munificently taught us their urbane language;
We accepted and dropped our collective mind.
They gifted us with free-thinking education;
We accepted and unlearnt our ancient culture.
They introduced us to refinement and civilization;
We accepted and became ruthless barbarians.
They convinced us that dog-eating is brutal;
We accepted and started eating their GMO's.

They persuaded us that tribal war is evil;
We accepted and fought WWII with them.
They bestowed upon us protection from harm;
We accepted and endangered our security.
They told us Saddam Hussein is a mass murderer;
We accepted and killed innocent Iraqis with them.
They offered us jobs in the mines in our land;
We accepted and lost our ancestral domain.

They paid us minimum wage for a day's work;
We accepted and waived the value of our labor.
They lent us generous loans from their banks;
We accepted and squandered trillions of pesos.
They granted us multi-billion dollar investments;
We accepted and wasted our national wealth.
They accorded us free trade and liberalization;
We accepted and gave up economic sovereignty.

13 November 2005

Happy independence month, for whatever it is worth.

Love (Or Why Some People Can't Talk About It)

This time, let us get a bit mushy and talk about love.

What if you are so in love with somebody and s/he with you but you have to keep your relationship a secret? I imagine a desperate call of nature that must be ignored. Is that possible?

I have a friend in Switzerland who is in that situation. This friend emailed me today about it. He loves the other person so much I could feel his heart burst. However, he and the other person have to keep their relationship a secret and this he finds very frustrating. Why the secrecy? The way I understand it, their entanglement is a risky journey into the forbidden. I mean that is how a prejudiced society would look at it. Secrecy is their protection from the sharp thorns of public judgment guaranteed to inflict deep punctures into their friable souls.

“Maybe you could write a poem about us,” my friend said. His story affected me the way the Greek tragedies did. I found myself feeling the same angst after reading “Noli Me Tangere” and "El Filibusterismo" the first, second, third and last times. I will read them again and wallow in the inconsolable sorrow of Maria Clara upon receiving news of Crisostomo Ibarra's death, and of Simoun upon Maria Clara's death. (By the way, and this has to be said: Joe Rizal is, to me, not THE Philippine national hero, but I consider him the finest writer ever produced by the Filipino nation because of "Noli Me Tangere".)

It was providential. I was looking for inspiration to weave words into poetry. Voila, it was there right at my doorstep, or rather, my mailbox. So I sat down in front of my computer and played with the keyboard. Here is the finished product. I am not really sure if the title is the best I could come up with.

(For Fred as He Dreams on the Foot of the Alps)

He is mine in opaque spaces
unexplored by the public eye
Holding his hand, I see the
Alps twirl in rapturous delight
The perishing dark flirts with the
early morn as it kisses the dew
The wars are stilled by peace;
nightmares are soothed by dreams
The summer rain capitulates to
the sunshine; they resuscitate a
stiff edelweiss struggling from
the cold under the white snow
Life is beyond Death’s reach

I am a hideous flower transformed
to beauty after its maiden kiss from
the handsomest bee in Eden
I know how Bathsheba felt under
David’s admiring, eager stare
From my lover's lips freely stream
the words I implored from every
lover in my honeyed fantasies
Juliet, my heart capers as yours
did when Romeo professed his
love; it was too beautiful to end
Death had to give it eternal life
in the lovely legend it became
It is no myth from Shakespeare’s
gossip mill; it is my reality when I,
within the confines of invisible
places, explore his naked body and
enter the farthest corner of his soul

Alas, in the parks, in the church,
in the presence of the crowd
I am a stranger to my lover
and he to me, it hurts so deep
I feel like the scorned kept woman
in the shoddy love triangle movies
But I am not his kept woman

Ecstatic in the absence of light
Heartbroken without the dark


-8 June 2007-

The cat is out of the bag! My Swiss friend is a man in love with another man. If this makes you throw up or otherwise gives you some discomfort, you just flunked the “open-mindedness” test and passed the bigotry examination with flying colors. I warn you: Do not watch Brokeback Mountain. It is too beautiful a love story to make anyone puke. I suggest that you watch Autumn in New York, or Love Affair, or The Notebook, or Message in A Bottle, or City of Angels or Anna and the King(Alam ninyo, sumama ang loob ko sa tadhana. Kasi, masyadong maagang pinanganak itong si Chow Yun-Fat. Doon pa sa malayong lugar. Nawala lang ang tampo ko nung pinagtagpo kami ng kapalaran ng asawa ko. When God closes a window, He opens a door. Iyon pala ang ibig sabihin).

Meantime I say to Fred: The only hope is liberation. We should not relent in our struggle for it. Homophobia is a harsh prison society constructed for itself. No wonder we are stranded in the period of Inquisition, except that the forms of torture used against victims have evolved. The task of convincing society to stage a jail break is not an easy one, but this should not discourage us.

The longest journey starts with a single step.


Tomorrow, we mark the first death anniversary of Rafael Markus Bangit.

On 8 June 2006, Makoy, with his eldest son, Banna, boarded a Baguio City-bound GL bus. It had a stopover in San Isidro, Echague, Isabela where the passengers took dinner. By the time the bus was to resume its trip, it was dusk. On his way back to the bus, Makoy was suddenly shot four times by a hooded man who got off a dark-colored van. Another passenger, Gloria Casuga, principal of Quezon National High School, screamed upon witnessing the violence. The assassin trained his gun on her. She sustained two gunshot wounds. Thankfully, Banna was unhurt. The assassin immediately rushed back to his vehicle parked in a dark corner. Nobody took note of its plate number, or if it had one at all. The atrocity was, perhaps too numbing that witnesses were robbed of their equanimity and concentration. Both Makoy and Mrs Casuga were rushed to the Echague District Hospital. They gave up the ghost there.

Before the killing, Makoy reported that he was being cased by unidentified men in Tabuk, Kalinga where he was residing with his family. Why would they do that?

At the time of the killing, Makoy was a servant of the masses. A leader of the Malbong Tribe of Tomiangan, Tabuk, Kalinga, he was the spokesperson of the Bodong Pogors Organization, a federation of indigenous community elders in the Cordillera. Furthermore, he was a coordinator of the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance' elders desk and Vice Chair of Bayan Muna-Kalinga Chapter. Everybody knows that the CPA and Bayan Muna are progressive organizations that have consistently been critical of the anti-people State policies.

Makoy died a martyr and hero like Albert Terredaño, Alyce Claver, Romy Sanchez, Pepe Manegdeg and others like them.

In November 2005, my friend Atty. Manja Bayang and I met with Pepe Manegdeg in a restaurant somewhere in Baguio City. In that meeting, we talked about the human rights situation in the Ilocos and the Cordilleras. I remember that he was agitated at the way the government was violating human rights left and right. We talked about extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. Halfway through dinner, the leg of Pepe's chair broke. It just broke. We had a good laugh. Surreptitiously, we put the broken chair in a corner (We did not inform the owner. Hah! That was mischief on our part.). Pepe pulled another chair for himself. That was the last time we would see Pepe. Manja would later remark that the breaking of the leg of the chair may have been a portent of things to come.

Three nights later, he was dead in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur.
He was to pick up his wife Dom-ay from the airport. (Dom-ay was coming home from Hongkong where she was an OFW.)
An unidentified assassin took his life while he was waiting for a bus that would take him to Manila. The assassin pumped twenty-two bullets into his body. Twenty-two bullets. Did the assassin believe Pepe had more than one life that he committed his dastardly crime as if he was killing twenty-two human beings?

The next day, Albert Terredaño died a similar death. Subsequently, Alyce Claver died. And then, Makoy. There were more before them. There were more after them. From the looks of it, there will still be more like them. The government won't stop until everyone is too terrorized to resist oppression and injustice.

The Cordillera martyrs' deaths, and similar deaths in other parts of the Philippines made me so livid with anger more than sad. These people and others like them dedicated the most productive years of their lives working to alleviate the poor's dismal condition.

How painful that their deaths would inspire me later to write a poem. But how liberating is the thought that their deaths are not really about death; they are also about life.

We Have Not Fallen at All
(Remembering the Cordillera Martyrs)

We are as leaves that have fallen
from puny twigs on a blustery day
Soon verdant leaves will bud
from the trunks of the hoary tree
Such is how death becomes life.

Our blood streamed through vile holes
created by shells, into empty cups
of our weary comrades who drank as
thirsty athletes on a hot summer day
now eyes slanted towards the finish.

Our flesh putrefied into fecund ashes,
amalgamated with the parched earth
A new plant eager for life will burgeon,
a moribund tree will be rejuvenated
on that spot nourished by our dust.

Our memory will suckle those who
will be born from our senseless death.

We have fallen but they will rise
Then we have not fallen at all.

-30 June 2006-

Long live the dead heroes. May their tribe increase!

Martial Law is Here!

On May 27, 2007, UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero was abducted at gun point by armed men in Biñan, Laguna.He was then on board a tricycle with his wife and children. He was released the next day. The government now claims Guerrero was not abducted. Rather he was arrested for crimes.

The following is his statement:

What does it take a government to have the nerve to abduct, torture, and terrorize my family on the basis of an old inciting to sedition case and a baseless murder charge?

Far more absurd is the accusation that I am the Secretary of the CPP Provincial committee in Cavite. This lie that they tried to extract from me by means of physical, mental and psychological torture and projecting me in public as a "hand-gun and grenade carrying rebel."

I am a Pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and never participated in any killings, illegal or unlawful activities, or any common crime.

My family and I have just taken a tricycle from the local church which I have served for two consecutive years (June 2006-2007) where we just celebrated UCCP's and the local church's 59th and 72nd anniversaries respectively (On May 27, at around 5:30 pm, a white van cut the tricycle's pathand military-looking men quickly alighted to grab me; despite my plea that they show me the warrant they said they had. I was man-handled and forcefully shoved inside the van, put a handcuff on my hands behind me, covered my head with a cloth and packing tape, was beaten, punched and kicked repeatedly.

They brought me to a place I didn't know. Here, still handcuffed, men would take turn interrogating and beating my head with their fists and blunt objects. (Like a 1,000 ml mineral bottle and other objects). All throughout, layers of plastic bags covered my head. My torturers would tighten the bag until I could no longer breathe. I passed out two times and urinated in my pants.

They made me shake my head for about an hour and beat me whenever I stopped. They said they would do these things to my family if I did not cooperate. I was forced to give names and addresses of my whole family, officers of church and conferences, name of my administrator at Union Theological Seminary where I am studying theology, leaders of progressive labour and peasant organizations in Southern Tagalog.

They opened my computer by forcing me to give the password, got my e-mail password. They erased all of my church, school and personal files and replace it with documents that belong to the so-called underground left.

After about twelve hours, they put me back on the van still handcuffed and blindfolded. They threatened to kill me, burn me or bury me. They continued to beat me and make new names for me. They got my sim card.

They called me Pastor-Impostor. And lectured me on the "evils" of communism and how the church, legal people's organizations are "used" to create trouble by criticizing the government.

When the van stopped, it took an hour before they led me down, made me sit down and lie down. After an hour, they removed my blindfold. Here I learned I was in Imus, Cavite specifically at Camp Pantaleon Garcia, Cavite Provincial Police Office (PPO).

Later on in the afternoon, that was the only time I saw the warrants of arrest and to what unit of the PNP I was turned over to by my abductors.

Now that I have the time to collect my thoughts and view my situation inside what police offices "call a subhuman" cell, let me make a preliminary analysis of my unfinished ordeal.

(1) The unit which abducted me is an organized AFP unit which operates covertly or below the law. It is composed of elements coming from different units of AFP's Intelligence Community. As a counter- insurgency unit, it uses ex-NPAs. They are lawless enforcers.

(2) Making use of court cases which involves suspected personalities of the left, no matter how weak, these cases may be served and used to make the arrest legitimate. In my case, I am implicated in a Murder Case in 1990. Case files show that I do not have a direct or indirect link to the crime.

(3) To bring me to the court by means of the arrest warrants is secondary. Their primary objective is to extract information from me by means of torture.

(4) It is also meant to terrorize my family, my relatives, friends, church members and practically everyone I know and who know me. It creates a thinking that this repeated attack on a person's right, which may end in incarceration or death, can
happen to anybody.

I am outraged by their branding me as a "Pastor-Impostor" because it is an affront to the sacred office I have sworn to serve God Almighty who knows every heart and mind.

Finally, I hold the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government responsible for the abduction and torture I have suffered and the subhuman captivity I am forced to accept. The GMA Administration should listen to the repeated cries of the people to stop violation of human rights and the political killings.

They may have put me in jail, but my spirit is free and firm because God is with us always.

United Church of Christ in the Philippines
Inside the Camp Pantaleon Garcia
Cavite Provincial Police Office
Imus, Cavite
May 30, 2007

Please pass on the statement to your friends.

Scary. In this country, when you fight for the oppressed, you are labeled a communist or a member of the underground New People's Army. When you are an oppressor, you get elected to Malacañang, or Congress or the Senate or you get appointed to a top government post. Either way, you get in and out of the corridors of power. The Martial Law of the 70's that our parents talk about with sadness is here.

Here is my poem (already published by Northern Dispatch Weekly) related to the experience of Pastor Guerrero:


(on theday the Queen signed
the anti-terror law)

With her sun-kissed hands
callused from working the fields
She cups her young daughter’s face
“Whisper your dreams
in the dead of a noisy night
when the crickets ululate
and the frogs croak in unison
The dark has grown wide ears.

The neighbor’s young son isn’t back yet
His mother hasn’t taken off her veil
She has caressed bead after bead
while I scribble notes on a pad
The list has grown longer
I’m spent counting them who vanished
because they took the trajectory of truth
which is the path of the doomed.

Run! Run! Run into the light
Seek the cover of the day
which Darkness shed
Escape the dusk, escape the night
of the 70’s which is back with that
paper they signed last night.
The shadows that were are once more

a strong presence in our midst.”

-7 March 2007

What's In That Married Woman's Name?

This month being the wedding month, allow me to still delve into one of the most beautiful, and yet sometimes oppressive, products of cultural evolution: marriage.

In the early egalitarian societies, men and women were equal. In more concrete terms, it meant they had equal access to wealth, power and prestige. A woman was her own person. This was evident in the fact that the only name she was known by was her own name. (The indigenous Cordillera societies were one-name societies. According to Dr. June Prill-Brett, among the Ifontoks and Kankanaeys, the women were named after female forebears as the men were named after male ones. I believe that it was when the educational system was introduced in the Cordilleras that the indigenous peoples started using surnames. The schools simply required surnames.)

In Karl Marx's historical determinism, primitive communist societies evolved into master-slave societies, then into feudal ones. During the stage of feudalism, women and children were regarded as properties like cattle and heifers. As proof of the ownership of the feudal lords, the cattle were stamped with insignia using heated iron. The burning iron was pressed hard to the animal's skin until it inflicted a third-degree burn sure to recede into a deep scar fashioned after the owner's insignia! Fortunately, even at that age, it was inconceivable to burn human beings in that manner. Surely, however, the world had to know who they belonged to but how?

The alternative was to make the women and children carry their husbands' and fathers' names, respectively. You knew whose possession a child or wife was by the surname she carried.

Vestiges of this belief that women were properties of the men are evident in the traditional church wedding ceremony. During the ceremony, the bride is "given away" by her father. Never by her mother, in case you haven't noticed. In fact, if the father predeceased the bride, she will be given away by another male relative, usually an uncle or a brother.

To "give away" means to transfer possession from one person to another. Argg!!! Did I have to explain that one? Talk about insulting other people's intelligence. But I only want to overstate the obvious so that the significance of that part of the wedding ceremony will sink into everyone's subconscious. :-)

Because she is given away to her groom, the wife is expected to bear her husband's surname to tell the world who she "belongs" to (Ang sama ng dating, ano?). It is as if the life cycle of a woman is seen in the metamorphosis of her surname. From birth until before she gets married, she is the property of her father and must therefore wear the badge of his ownership: his name. When she marries, she sheds off her previous badge and puts on a new one-her husband's surname. Sigh.

Society counts on a married woman using her husband's surname. For years, I did not, a decision he and I reached (Thankfully, my husband is a women's rights rah-rah boy). I found out it posed problems. Before foreign affairs officials, I had to justify why I opted to use my maiden surname. I had been barraged with questions on the state of affairs in the home front simply because of the too conspicuous absence of the HIS name in some papers I wrote or signed. And to think that my marriage has always been one of the most stable in the world! Largely, this is because we respect the other's individuality. Nobody was beheaded when we got married (See my earlier post on Gender Inequality). Sometimes, I use his surname to save myself from too many questions. Like in this blog. Sige na nga.

The basic question that is seldom asked: In the Philippines, is the wife mandated by law to use her husband's surname?

Let us look at what the law has to say about the name of a married woman. Article 370 of the Civil Code says: "A married woman MAY use: 1.Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband's surname; 2. Her maiden first name and her husband's surname; or 3. Her husband's full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is
his wife such as "Mrs."

The use of the word MAY indicates permissiveness. In other words, it is a woman's right to use or not to use her husband's surname. I do not know if my friend Harry Paltongan will agree.

Now, how many of you, married women out there, feel duped? :-)

More than ten years ago, I wrote a poem relevant to our topic:


On her wedding day, the sun shone
with either warning or promise
She looked delicate in a dainty
white dress tight around her waist
And she could not escape away
fast even if she wanted to
Was it a blessing or a curse? I
am sure, not even she knew.

With a nervous smile, she reached for
her father who “gave her away”
Like she was an object to be
alienated despite what she would say
Branded once more like a
product under a new owner
She assumed her husband’s name after
shedding that of her father

Was it a wedding or a turn-over?
Is there a difference, I wonder?

Oh, I noticed that wedding ceremonies haven't evolved yet. My sister is getting married this December. I am sure my handsome Dad whose surname I still wear proudly like a badge of honor will give her away to that very nice man who will be my brother-in-law. Good luck to him, by the way. .

What the The Authorities Say About This Blog

I just arrived from Gonogon, Bontoc, Mt. Province. I opened my mail and was excited to share to everyone the good news that for the first time in 20plussomemore years, I drank water straight from the tap in the Philippines without experiencing any form of stomach upset. This says a lot about how the people of Gonogon treat Mother Nature. We will have to put off the discussion because I discovered something else in my mail.

There was a stream of good wishes and nice words about SRT. (By the way, my daughter Karminn Cheryl Dinney, a young poet, is in charge of the design. I just input.). Melchora Chin of Australia is encouraging me to publish a poetry book and she said she would be happy to buy one. I planned this more than 10 years ago but I was so busy working, earning my masters, and learning the ropes of motherhood and marriage. All I could do then was have my works individually published by some papers. Last year my friend Atty Manja Bayang and I were talking about collaborating. Maybe, times are better now.

Atty. Harrison Paltongan, a bar topnotcher, future Supreme Court Justice and poet-in-the-closet, said in his email:

Chyt, you are indeed gifted and you articulate your excellent talent in a classy way though mostly in a poignant and somber tone. I admire your unrelenting crusade in favor of the less-privileged and even in poetry, you are their champion. Regards to Leandro. His honorable shortcoming in the election count is nothing compared to his having you. Though it may be tougher to be the hubby of one like you than to be Mayor of the City...haha.

Harry has been listening to all those election loose talks. Hahahaha. Bad ear, Harry. Thanks, anyway. Please contribute your poems on the greens and the breeze. Then SRT would not be so somber.

Bill Bilig, an Igorot blogger whose From the Boondocks is larger than life, emailed to say he thinks my poems are great. From the Boondocks is in SRT's list of recommended blogs and website. It is the most popular blog of an Igorot. Bill was the source of my inspiration to finally create SRT. I discovered his blog when Ferricardia of Bibaknets, the largest dap-ay in cyberspace shared Bill's post on a peeing Igorot statue in front of Baguio's Hotpot/Barrio Fiesta Restaurant. It was Bill's expose that inspired the revolution which culminated in the removal of that offensive statue. Anyway, I became a regular visitor of Bill’s blog, a library of social and political concerns. He told me in so many words to create my own. SRT is the result. It was actually an “attempted blog” from October 2006 until it became a consummated one a few days ago.

Bill also posted a generous review of SRT in From the Boondocks. I am humbled by it. Indulge me by allowing me to reproduce it here.


You got to love Smorgasbord of Random Thoughts. It is the blog of Cheryl Daytec Yangot who, if you remember, caught our attention way back at the time when we were just making our first steps in the blogosphere (being encouraged by more established bloggers like Miskina Ano Naisip which I thought was a blog on tennis player Anastasia Myskina, Kayni's Meanderings, and Gandang Igorota). Anyway, as we were saying, Cheryl caught our (and certainly the nation's) attention because of her crucial role in exposing the board exam nursing scandal which you can read in our post here.

It's good that Cheryl now has a blog because we are sure she will be adding valuable insights to our corner of the blogosphere. As we've said in the past, the more Igorot/iCordillera bloggers there are, the better it will be for us in terms of increasing our visibility as a people, in correcting the negative stereotypes held by most people about us, in articulating the many concerns that we face, at marami pang ibang bentahe.

Smorgasbord is, for the most part, a poetry blog so Cheryl joins the ranks of Jocelyn Noe and L. Angeleo Padua who publish their poems online for us to read. Yay!

I haven't read all of Cheryl's poems yet but I really like the ones I've read so far like Love Has a Hand and Invisible II. Here's a paragraph from Invisible II so you won't think that I'm just raving for nothing:

We were invisible. They did not see us
when they came with their bulldozers
and made plains of our mountains, our
home and refuge for millions of years
In the sacrosanct name of development,
they erected chateaus for the bourgeois
We looked at our home--

If that is not an excellent poem, I don't know what is. Cheryl's poems actually reminds me of the prose of Inquirer columnist Conrad de Quiros. I love reading Conrado's column because it is always beautifully written. I have to admit though that I sometimes avoid said column because it usually makes me sad and mad.

Yup, de Quiros makes me sad and mad (not at him of course) because he has a knack for capturing our tragedy as a nation and our failures as a people and I sometimes don't want to be reminded of these. But even if I actively try to not read de Quiros, his writing is just too good to miss so I do always end up reading him. And really we can't run away from the tragic truth, which he often writes about, can we?

So Cheryl's poems have this "Quiroesque" quality to them: they can be depressing because they speak the truth but they are too good to miss. So if you are in the mood for reading excellent poems about Igorots then visit Cheryl's blog here. You might get sad a little bit as I was when I was reading them but the poems are good food for the mind and soul.

Uy, what more shall I say? Accolades are embarrassing and at the same time humbling. I take them as reminders never to stray from the path and to keep striving to live a life of meaningful existence. Matagotago tako amin!

Reinforcing Gender Inequality in Traditional Church Weddings

June is the month of the weddings. It was named after Juno,the wife of the Roman god Jupiter. Juno is the goddess of marriage and she takes care of protecting marital bonds from breakage. Widely, it is believed that people who tie the knot in June will enjoy wedded bliss "until death do them part." No wonder many women aspire to become June brides. Who does not want to remain in a perpetual state of marital happiness?

The sad truth is that there is absolutely no guarantee that people who get married in June are sterilized from the possibility of being "uncoupled." Furthermore, it is not correct to assume that those who get married during the other months are doomed to suffer from the breakdown and eventual dissolution of marital relations. I need not cite statistics. I can tell you though that one of my clients in a case for declaration of nullity of marriage got married in June. And I can also tell you that the parents of Dr. Thelma R. Leal (outgoing Head of the St. Louis Uiversity Political Science and Social Sciences Departments) celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary on April 27, 2007. That stretch of time the Leals remained faithful to each other is an entire lifetime for many of us! I have yet to hear of a couple who achieved their record.

Anyway, the traditional church wedding ceremony-whether held in June or the other months- reinforces patriarchy and the misconception that women are subordinate to men. I have attended several church weddings. I watched several foreign films with scenes of a church wedding. In all of these weddings, the bride's head was covered during the veil ceremony. The man's head was - shall I say, spared?

I wrote a poem more than ten years ago expressing how I feel about the veil ceremony. Here it is.


Half covered the groom’s shoulders
Half obscured the bride’s head
The groom’s crown stuck out proud
like the lone survivor in a test

The bride’s head was buried
Under a flimsy, white cloth
Flimsy or not, it shrouded her
As if her identity did not matter

For scenes like this, I have cried:
Why must they behead the bride?

I think there is no debate that gender inequality impedes development. How? It prevents the women who make up half of the population from realizing their full potentials. In the ultimate analysis, their contribution to nation-building is not maximized.

If gender inequality prevents our forward leap or slows it down, then the structures that immortalize it should be dismantled. We can start with our own consciousness.

Of a Generation That Ignores its Culture in Its Development Efforts

Wearing Pierre Cardin neckties, they
come and go through the corridors of
dominion bearing surnames that divulge
their ethnic origin and cultural heritage
their air without a modicum of faint link
to the values that thrived on the bond
between the land and their mothers’ wombs
They care not that Bugan and her sisters
were pushed to bare their breasts to drive
away the usurpers come to destroy the
sacred burial grounds of their ancestors
They have not partaken of the wisdom
breathed by the dap-ay that shielded their
ancestors’ harvests and health from curse
In their swivel chair they dream of the cash
that gush from the water falls and the money
sprouting from trees in the thick forests
They ignore the cries of the womb
as it pleads for the land that sustains it.

From their cold dap-ay seats now of concrete,
the guardians of the ancient way of life
that perpetuated the womb watch helpless
like beaten war soldiers at the insolence
of the men whose time has yet to come
How they callously flaunt the power to
delete their people’s nexus to the past and
catapult the culture of the doomed; all that
matters is the clinking of the gold, oblivious
that love for it is the harbinger of death
They who are orphaned from their
surnames while their fathers still breathe,
they are alienated from the land that
perpetuated their bloodline since ages
A life of greed is the scourge of a lineage
It steals the rice grains of generations
and causes the gut of the few to burst
as they party in their Pierre Cardin ties
The womb that endured a wing of long
insults will commiserate with the abused
land and massacre the kernel it nurtures

Land is life; the bloodline ends with it.

From a Five-Year Old to a Sick Mother


Do you realize that I am your world? Every time you sustain bruises which normally happens to a hyperactive child like you, you run to me and ask me to kiss them. And, you always believe that my kiss could make the pain vanish. I always feel good knowing that you would turn to me in times of difficulty.

Remember those weekends when I would wake up late to the sight of an Impatiens beside my pillow? You would be at my bedside to greet me with the words, “Mommy, I got those flowers for you.” You always wanted to help me with my garden. I would let you. Of course, you messed my garden more than you fixed them, but I just let you.

Last month, I was so depressed. I stayed in my room for more than two weeks, refusing to eat and to talk to anyone. That was after God took your brother Kendorf. One afternoon from pre-school, you came to the room. You shook me, obviously to awaken me. You looked scared. You were crying and you said to me, “Mommy, Mommy, please wake up. I do not want you to die. What will happen to Dinney and me when you die? Nobody will kiss my bruises. Nobody will say that I am the most handsome boy in the world.”

You saved me. I got up from bed and realized that I had been selfish. I had been thinking of my pain, overlooking the bigger pain troubling the frail, innocent soul that you were, that you still are.

I wrote this poem for you, not so that I will not forget the day you saved me because I cannot. It will forever be etched in my memory. I wrote it so that you will remember that day and how you saved me from the land of the living dead. I wrote it so that you will remember that even as a child, you were a good boy who loved his mother more than any mother could hope for. I hope when you grow older, you will appreciate the poem.

I love you, little boy.

9 Feb 01)

Who will kiss away my pains when you are gone?
Who will say I am good when I feel so down?
Who will water the flowers near your window?
Who will tell me things a little child must know?

Who will wipe my tears when I cannot stop them?
Who will tell stories about brave, little men?
Who will defend me when others are just mean?
Who will soothe my fears when I have a bad dream?

Who will show how caterpillars will soon fly?
Who will tell me why my brother had to die?
Who will say why a bright day ends in darkness?
Who will share my laughter when I’m free from sadness?

Every child is helpless without a mommy.
So please do not go, do not ever leave me.
When your eyes close, I ‘m afraid they will not open,
Stay with me forever, don’t go yet to heaven.