Saturday, October 28, 2017

Day 79: How do you like to spend eternity hazing?


And so it comes to pass that our law students are going through the old and barbaric system of hazing again to initiate a member into fraternities. Hazing is an eternal recurrence — nobody knows who invented it, for what reason, and why people engage in it. It is probably as old and as returning as an army of soldiers assembled to defend a king. 

With the recurrence of this foolish practice, I am reminded of the Doctrine of Eternal Return. It is said that what you do on earth, you will do in eternity. It is the phenomenon that follows from the cyclical nature of time. Thus, every event in the universe, in all its details and in its whole cosmic context, will recur an infinite number of times in exactly the same way that it has already occurred an infinite number of times in the past. 

 I’ve often used the Doctrine of Eternal Return as a tool for discerning my actions.  Before doing something, I simply ask myself — is this action something that I can do in all eternity? In the Philippines, I’ve heard declarations that mirror this Doctrine as, for example, the saying “Ang nabuhay sa baril, sa baril din mamatay.” (Live with the gun, die with the gun.) On a lighter note, I’ve heard men professing their love to maidens and say, “Pakakasalan kita sa lahat ng simbahan.” (I will marry you in all the churches.) 

But to go back to hazing, I ask each prospective neophyte and senior frat members to think about this before they find themselves in a hazing incident again. Is hazing something you are happy to do forever?  There is no escaping the curse of eternal return — it is as certain as the sunrise and the sunset — you will be the hazer or the hazed for all eternity. And each death that occurs in a hazing has and will be occuring in an infinite number of times. If you even try hazing with a promise that you will never do it again, you will be engaging in wishful thinking  — for like the others before and after you, hazing will forever be in your fate. It will haunt your dreams. The vision of this madness will be on endless repeat mode in the Youtube playlist in your minds. 

We are all on this earth only for finite number of years.  And whatever we do in these years we will do infinitely. Is hazing really worth doing forever?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Day 78: Hope

"Master, why do we repeat our mistakes?"
asked the pupil to the Master.

The Master shook his head.

"We're no different from a dog with a piano.
There is a chance
it can play Moonlight Sonata
even as it keeps pounding 
the same keys."



Monday, September 25, 2017

Day 77: Purpose

“Master,” the pupil asked,
”does anything happen by chance?”
And the Master made a frown,
“When the universe speaks to you,
it is never superfluous;
everything,
like the dirt in your dog’s paw,
is the message.”

Friday, September 08, 2017

Day 76. The Wisdom of a Rat

Asked the pupil to the Master,
"Master, why is life so difficult?"
The Master looked at him and smiled.
"Try asking that to a rat," the Master said.
"It would probably say it doesn't mind, 
but you with your big brain,
you pester yourself with silly questions."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bar Boys is a topnotcher

The danger in having a lawyer watch a film about law school is he might see things in the movie that aren’t there. Going through the maze of more than a  hundred years of law and jurisprudence while honing the legal 4Rs — reading, recitation, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic, and being constantly subjected to an ultimatum, law or videogame cohorts, law or your girlfriend, law or your sick parent,  is an experience a lawyer is not inclined to repeat. There is a possibility that a film about law school will generate ghostly apparitions in the lawyer who went through the hard years and came out scarred but alive.

But I’d like to think I managed well, as I sat through Bar Boys, a film supposedly premised on the ultimate horror experience of law school, letting images and scenes trigger memories from the period in my 47 years on earth which I often describe as  being “on leave” from everything else. I was both laughing and teary-eyed at the shock of recognition upon being shown images of bundles of photocopied cases, markers, heavy volumes of law books, and the law school characters: the arrogant professor with a twisted-tounge, the violence of the frats, and the esoteric but crucial difference between the curve and the cut-off grading system. Indeed, Bar Boys delivers the authentic law school life. I have to check myself now — yes, all of those things were in the film.

Bar Boys is a story well told. It got an “A” rating from the Film Ratings Board, because  it is not a strung up gag show about law students, but a solid and coherent film about four young adults going through law school hell. 

There are at least four stories here finely woven into an easy running time of 71 minutes. Christian is the rich Harvard-bound looker with a perfectionist father and a displeased girlfriend. Toran is the fratman who becomes part of a hazing session that shakes his moral compass. Eric is the struggling son of a security guard who experiences the ultimate test of emotions, taking the bar exams while grieving the death of his father. And Joshua is the one that did not make it to law school; he probably ended up us the client.

The film is an adventure to the sub-realm of the legal world. In the process, the characters experience the heartless system that separates the elite group who makes it to the other side of the bar and those who are left to stay in the same side as the masses. The characters hurdle their own tests, often less about the law but more about themselves, and their friendship itself is tested at the climax of the film.  

Joshua, the non-lawyer among the leads, judges his friends, “mga nilamon na ng systema” (those who have been eaten by the system), reflecting the idealist lamentation of our lost hopes that we put on our lawyers and the legal system.  But what is the alternative to the legal system that we often complain about but the reckless and brutal authoritarianism and lawlessness of dictatorship? Hobbes be damned. The legal system centered on due process as an absolute is a great system. Oops, that one did not come from the film. Yet, Bar Boys pulls out Ranier Maria Rilke from the Book of Images  as a professor consoles the bar flunker close to the end of the film,  “The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” So, fine,  we’ve been eaten by the system, but it is a damn great one.

I hope Bar Boys generates enough interest to break ground on a new film genre about the Filipino experience of the law. It is only through stories like these, well-told and entertaining, that we can reconcile with the alienation that most of us feel with the law and its disciples.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Day 75

Asked the pupil to the Master,
Is it good if the evil man
is killed by evil means?

And the Master replied,
Careful with your words.
To the eagle killing a snake,
the snake is the evil one;
to the snake,
it is the eagle.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Day 74: Tanong

May pilosopo ba
sa langit?
Kung nakita na ang
katotohanan,
at ang diwa ng kataga ay
ngayon at magpakailanman pa man,
kung ang misteryo
ng pag-ibig at pagkasuklam,
ng tapang at takot,
ng meron o wala
ay nasagot na,
ano na ang gawain ng
dating pilosopo sa lupa?
Kung wala,
dito na lang ako.
Mas maligaya ako
sa tanong kaysa
sagot.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Day 73: The Face Bandit

She enters the room
silently as a cat does
and murmurs to me
the accomplice to this task
that she wants
Pares Sais.
In this place,
breakfast is our guise,
covert is our goal.
She finds a spot
in the corner,
her eyes on fire,
hunting her prey;
she unpacks 
the charcoal on the table.
A look to the left and
her victim she finds.
Without  noise 
nor haste, she scalps
the broad outlines
of his nape; in sharp glances 
she catches the meekness
in his eyes, the sparkle of light
that bounces off the 
bones on his cheeks.
As her meal arrives,
she munches a bit
and washes it down with 
tea, but her eyes never
leave him and follow
his every pace.
She worries that he does not sit;
rages when he stooped to pick
a wayward paper that he flicks
to the basket of waste.
Patiently, she watches 
as he finally settles on his desk;
she seizes the moment 
to mark the dots and lines 
on the space.
It seemed the paper 
always bore his face and 
needed only her hand to blacken off 
the excess light. 
Quick strokes here and there,  
then it is time.
I approach him 
like a game master at the conclusion of a show.
Poor guard about to end his shift.
Please come to her table, 
she has something for you.
He scratches his head, 
leaves his bag on his chair, 
and walks to her.
Meet Lecaroz, I say, 
thank you for being here.
The portrait is yours.
In a few years, you might become rich.
Who knows?
And she shakes his hand,
and they take a picture,
the artist, the subject, and her art,
little man in a little joint
caught by the face bandit
until she strikes again.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Day 72. From a Legal Memorandum

Respondent can find as a many contradictions as he pleases with the irrevocable special power of attorney and the Memorandum of Agreement, mostly imagined than real. As the philosopher Jacques Derrida said, there is never a moment in language where meaning is definite. Words, especially legal words, are subject to interpretations of subtexts and contexts. Even the meaning of social justice is essentially contested. Yet, Respondent by signing the Memorandum of Agreement is prohibited from exploiting this basic fragility of the legal language. He is in fact duty bound to try to supply these nuances and bridge the spaces where words fail. Yet, by insisting on not drafting the irrevocable special power of attorney himself and choosing to nitpick on why and which provision of the irrevocable power of attorney is inconsistent with the Memorandum of  Agreement, he has hostaged the Project. He has chosen to filibuster, and for that he is in bad faith. That should never be countenanced in any modern justice system. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Day 71. Karma is a hoax

One of the most fascinating songs of the Beatles is "The End" from their last album Abbey Road. The song is the last in a medley of sorts and is preceded by the Ringo Starr drum solo before the harmonized vocals sing, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." John Lennon was proud of it as a sort of the group's contribution to philosophy, which he described as a cosmic equation. 

When I was old enough to understand it (which was really old), I realized it was about karma; you reap what you sow as the cliche goes. If you've been bad, bad things happen to you. To put it in a positive sense, if you've been good, good things happen to you. As John Lennon puts it, it is the mathematical equation of the universe. 

But it is not so if you're a Christian. Why -- because we didn't bring anything to the table. It's not equal; it's all God. And even if we've been bad, good things will still happen to us. In the same way that bad things also happen to the good people. God's forgiveness transcends our sense of morality. This helps explain the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is revolting to the good people. Karma seems to come too late to the bad people, if at all. 

It's Good Friday today, a day when we commemorate the day when men executed the Christ. I put the Jesus Christ Superstar album on repeat in my Spotify playlist. No Beatles paganism today. Come to think of it, the mystery of Good Friday is we got away with it. Two centuries since the killing of Jesus Christ, God's Son, and humanity has not been abolished and continues to flourish. Karma is a hoax. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 70: Animal Talk

Is greed an emotion?
asked the bull to the monkey.
The monkey shook his head, saying
Why do you ask silly questions? 
The bull
munched on grass
and said, my apologies my friend,
I wanted to tame it
like my anger.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Day 69: Fashion Mishaps by Chuang Tzu

Well pressed shirt
with purple tie
dimpled at the
middle where
the knot is —
a perfection taking
years to master, then
your pen blots it all, 
a dark patch of ink
turning your outfit
no different from a rug.
Lesser men will have 
their hearts melted
But greater ones will call it 
unfortunate without stammer 
or hiccups in their voices.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Day 67/68 Nietzsche the Clerk

You should have 
told me a day before
yesterday
if it was due
yesterday.
Power is
you with the bottle
of Scotch as I
miss dinner, tv, and
sleep,
imposing on
my time
what you cannot
impose on
yours.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Day 64/65/66: I missed a poem

yesterday, as I hopped from isle to isle
first stop Bulalacao, darling town of Mindoro; 
a thrilling ride on the hills overlooking the sea 
to be at a nestled resort haven for the peace-hungry;
my father of seventy declared how blessed he was to have lived to see this day, and we feasted on roasted pork crabs, and noodles. I sang John and Paul’s In My Life on the karaoke and rode the ship for Caticlan, gateway to the famous Boracay. At one hour past midnight I waited for dawn for my flight, Visayan chill I savored over ginger tea. My plane left as I looked
at the white and silver sands.  One of these days said I, I’ll be back and do more than see. In Manila, I arrived and joined the clan of hundreds, listened to Great Aristeo speak of Nanay Irene and Mamay Isko with ten children they lived with unsurpassed unity. Misty-eyed all who heard him speak and happy they came to hear and see. And I, who pledged in January to write verse everyday, I failed; all energy spent, no sleep for hours, and worried silly.  No poem can be as good as this day of revelry.  Life happens and we know love matters more, yes love matters more than all the poems, all the poems, that could ever be.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Day 63: Coffee Talk

We entered the cafeteria
unwelcomed by that smell of cow 
innards stewed in ginger.
You asked —  is there a 
difference in the conversation
over instant coffee vis-a-vis
the kind priced astronomically 
prepared in a French press
and served in pin-lighted 
polished wood interiors 
with tall chairs?
I’ve always thought musings
over brewed coffee are superior, 
you said — they’re better, relaxed,  
if not philosophical, compared to the cheap
fuzz-free sugar, coffee, cream
3-in-1, tit for tat.
As we stood to leave the table
finishing the quick in and out talk
over our cups
getting the business done in 
what is called short term 
give and take
I was ready to agree with you,
save for the fact that we never 
had it this good
in a coffee chain or 
hotel lobby which disproves
everything so far said.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Day 60. Joseng Sisiw sa Manila

Tanong ni Joseng Sisiw 
sa batang eskwela —
May tula bang makikita
pagtayo mo sa kalsada
hawak ang pansahod ng barya,
trabaho’y sumenyas sa rumaratsada
ipahiwatig parating na tren o wala pa?

Sagot naman ng bata —-
Kay hirap ngang humanap 
sa buhay na sinapit.
Maaring umawit, magbilang, sumayaw,
 bago ang tren ay dumating. Ngunit
sa malamang sa hindi
tula ay wala sa kalyeng mainit.

Tumalima ang makata, eskwela ay biniro 
—Ay huwag hamakin, 
gawaing tapat at marangal. 
May galing din namang matatawag
sa hamak na hitsura,
galing sa pagkita
ng mailap na kuwarta. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Day 59: Usapang Lasing

Walang rebolusyon,
wika ng isang namundok
sa kanyang dating
kasama sa kilusan.
Ang kapangyarihan
ay kakabit ng
katakawan; ang 
bayani noon,
punong malupit ngayon,
sabay lagok ng 
isang basong serbesa. 

Sagot ng kasama,
bakit ka pa umasa sa 
mga pangako ng libro?
Sa ‘king buhay, nakamit
ang pagbabago,
nang maging ama at
nag-alaga ng mag-ina,
tuloy tagay ng baso
at lagay ng yelo.

Tumahimik ang nauna,
Bakit nga ba, isip niya,
mas mahusay makinig
sa kausap na lasing
kaysa sa politiko sa Luneta?



Monday, February 27, 2017

Day 58: The Wrong Thing

Said the Master 
to his pupil,
Superman dying
is not a possibility 
any one likes to imagine.
The glory from saving 
the little child trapped in a fire
or Lois Lane captured by Lex Luthor’s
machine, even the cat stuck
in a tree — they too perish as their 
memories. What foolishness 
to believe that power 
is not fleeting, that order will not lead to 
disorder. Superman’s death is 
no different from that of a seedling;
Only time and space will
tell his bitter end. 
And the pupil replied,
So, what are we to do?
The Master answered,
Disengage your desire
to be like him. 
And the pupil shook his head,
All his life he dreamt 
of the wrong thing.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Day 57: The Man Who Cried Wolf

There is no wolf he cried
when asked about
the dismembered body
of the boy of four
his heart missing
his clawed face
all bloodied.
The villagers said,
the boy must have been 
a thief in his past life,
the witches came for
reckoning and took
his evil heart as offering.
Not long after, they found
a woman pregnant with a child
sprawling naked on the earth
her eyes gouged, the marks
of a beast’s great bites on her chest.
The man declared,
there is no wolf, I say.
It must have been the vultures,
the villagers declared,
this woman of ill-repute, dead like
her bastard child, must accept
her karmic fate.
And months since then,
the man confessed to the villagers
I’ve spent sleepless nights
my soul cries every moment
for the boy, the pregnant woman and her child —
I am the wolf.
But the villagers they said,
why should we believe you
you lying crap?
Leave us alone,
There is no wolf.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Day 56: Why your Dad is not in EDSA

Imagine if General Tadiar
channeled your Dad,
“Tadjak” they called him
fierce marine, trained to kill,
a sea of people barricading his tank
nuns holding flowers and rosaries
and on the radio -- 
Artemio, this is your Uncle Fred. Your Aunt Florence and I and all your cousins are here in Crame. Now, Boy, please listen to me
Make the right decision on the basis of evidence and intellect. Bear in mind, the future of this generation is at stake.
Ukininam! Your Dad would have said
The tanks roll, and he would 
have flattened them all,
heads, bodies, arms, and legs
the road glistening red
as he enters the gates.
Blood is his water, remember?
But the General knew better,
as he got out of the hatch
and embraced his uncle,
Yeah, he made a lot of uncles,
cousins, brothers, and sisters
that day. And your Dad,
who fondly calls the dictator his idol,
I bet he calls the General
bayot.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Day 55: Fr. Gomez Contemplates Sen. De Lima's Arrest

Dawn in the month of February
I walk uncertain 
what lies ahead
A leaf, I say,
doesn’t move without 
the will of the Creator; 
Zamora’s gone mad, 
Burgos rages.
I smiled to bless 
the children who 
kneel on my path. 
145 years hence 
and people remember 
the man who walks 
calmly to his death. 
The curse of tyrants it is 
to be the heroes of newspapers 
but the evil men of memory. 
Poor victims who suffer
their names be whispered fondly.
So, walk sweet Leila, 
Today, you go to jail;  
Forever, the best seat in history!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Day 54: Wika ng Maestro

Wika ng maestro—
Ang galing ng tagak
kung magtungo siya
sa tabing-dagat
hindi maaring wala
siyang huli
kung sumablay
man sa una
walang kiyemeng
susubok, babalik,
at muling tutuka
parang kinakatam
ang pandama 
sa bawat tuka
at sa ilang sandali
nadali na
ang agahan,
panlaman ng
tiyan.

Bakit ka matatakot,
kaya mo namang
maging tagak?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day 53: Solved is the Mystery

Ay! Ay! Solved is the mystery!
The Mayor, the Mayor,
Lord and king  of the 
great city
who’s no way a sissy,
became our prexy
because God wants
us to see
you and me
what the Mayor
has done yeah
what the Mayor
has done yeah 
to God’s people
God’s poor people
of His beloved city.
It's God’s trap,
a Divine trap,
you give the Mayor
the country,
yeah crazy country,
so he will leave,
leave the city
Oh wow pearl city
God's precious one
of the parable,
Wow, great wisdom 
The city is free!
The city is free!
Bow down our heads
the great hand of God
the mighty hand of God
of history!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day 52: Tatay Tatay

Tatay, tatay

huwag papatay

ng lamok

ay, ay, 

ay, away

insekto

Ay dugo 

palit buhay

Why? Why?


Why Tatay?

huwag papatay

ng baboy

Oy, oy, 

oy, gutom

ng tao

Di na lang 

maggulay

Why? Why?


Why Tatay?

huwag papatay

ng tao

O, o, 

o, init

lang ulo

Gago man 

ay tatay

din di ba?

din di ba?

Ha, ha, 

ha Tatay?

huwag papatay

Please. 


Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 51: My Wife, the Painter

My wife, the painter, 
says as she whips the
canvas with her brush — 
In Bhutan they fear the 
empty; evil creeps in &
fills it up the way 
darkness conquers
the sky as the sun
sets in the unsuspecting 
world. 

Entropy it is — I said, 
matter combusts
and scatters, the spaces,
like silence, mark the blasted.

And so, she continues --
to take up the palette
and draw on the wall
a castle on the mountain
the dance of the takins
a weave of colors,
is the act of the
free and righteous.

I bit my lips as I thought,
without speaking,
it is not like
the poet who
shelters the good
in silence.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Day 50: Judas phone

Your android won’t betray you
like the call that never came,
pm that denied your request, or
email that promised millions
from Nigeria. It is what it is.
Like the boyfriend you thought
was your boyfriend, turns out to be
a playmate who sends you a text that
you should separate just like that,
and the dream is over; 
so you turn to Instagram, 
a picture of you sprawling naked,
no scars from that episode. No lies. 
How can you accuse your 
android of such a thing? 
The palm-size gadget with no heart, 
but a traitor it is not.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Day 49: Ang Mananayaw ng Harlem

(Salin ng The Harlem Dancer ni Claude Mackay)

Tumawa ang nagpalakpakang kabataan kasama ang mga batang puta

At pinanood ang kanyang perpektong
katawan, may kalahating saplot sa pag-indak

Kanyang tinig ay parang tunog ng timpladong mga plauta

Hinihipan ng mga itim na manunugtog sa araw ng piknik

Umawit siya at sumayaw ng kaaya-aya at kalma

Sukbit ang kanyang magaang na gasa ng kanyang hugis

Sa aking tingin wari siya ay mayabang na umiindak na puno ng pawid

Na lalong gumanda sa paglisan ng unos

At sa kanyang malakayumanggi, 
abot-leeg, itim, at makintab na kulot

Ang marangya ay nahulog, naghagis ng barya bilang papuri

Ang mga namula na sa alak at laki-matang mga binata at kahit mga dalaga

Nilamon ang kanyang hugis sa sabik, madamdaming pagtitig;

Ngunit sa pagtingin sa kanyang mukhang may huwad na ngiti

Batid kong ang kanyang sarili ay wala sa kakaibang lugar na iyon. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Day 48: Starts with the letter "G"

I am concerned about
the mangoes, I said
as my daughter 
lunged a spoon 
on its yellow flesh for lunch, 
why do we have them 
all year? We used to
have them from March to May
and they start to vanish
in June. How come 
they are sweeter than
before, not that I complain,
but are we allowed to 
do this - mess with the
fruit because we want
them more often or sweeter
than they can ever be?
Should somebody think
of turning them into blue,
do we still eat them,
call them mangoes?

She said, “Oh Tatay, 
It’s called technological
innovation. The great modern
work of genetic engineering.”

I smiled at her answer as she
left the table, and proud how
smart she’s been to reply to
my question. But I knew 
Chuang Tzu has a word for it, 
she would not like to hear.