Saturday, December 02, 2017

82. Two Women and a Baby (Part 3)

3. King Solomon got this right, or didn't he?

That a mother should have custody of her child is as obvious as the sun rising on the east. The meaning of motherhood is as definite as it can be. It is a reality beyond which the words can ever describe, but it is there. These preceding sentences are the ones that one can expect to hear from St. Thomas Aquinas, a proponent of natural law if asked about this investigation into King Solomon's judgment.

In the Tagalog language, there is a term, lukso ng dugo, which has no English equivalent, but a literal translation is, the blood leaping. It arises out of the phenomenon that when two unacquainted relatives find each other, at least one of them experiences lukso ng dugo (his/her blood leaps), which hints him/her about the unknown blood relation. It is accepted as knowledge, an intuitive insight, that has to be confirmed eventually as a fact by further investigation.

This might explain why the true mother reacted in the manner expected of her by King Solomon, who obviously was aware of this phenomenon that when he posited the trick question,  the true mother would act by instinct as expected, be discovered, and awarded custody of the baby. What else can be as natural as when a mother acts to protect her child at the point of self-sacrifice?

To refute Derrida, saying that the reality of motherhood is a concept to be  interpreted that may be repeated and altered is to miss the point. The reality of motherhood is that which cannot be captured by terms but exists in the bond between mother and child that is a biological tie and so much more. In other words, there is a state in which the meaning of motherhood is beyond interpretation. Motherhood is a phenomenon among humans, specifically between a woman who bore a child in her womb and gave birth to that child. But the relationship extends to the nourishment of that child by the mother. It is a relationship that should not be deprived of mothers and their children. It is not a concept, but a real phenomenon beyond description.

To take the child away from his/her mother is against the natural law. The Spartan's law and that of Plato's Republic are against the natural law --it is not the nature of things. The state cannot be superior to the mother-child bond, and the child is not a creature of the state.

In this respect, the naturalist view could be contrasted against the Derrida view in two: 1. That the facts are verifiable in themselves and beyond the interpretation of words; and 2. That the law on motherhood should conform to the natural law, which is likewise discernible.

Yet, philosophers have issues with the fundamental precepts of the naturalist view. Are the facts indeed verifiable? Is natural law indeed discernible. In this regard, David Hume posits that we can’t really know these things, the facts and the natural law, because what we can know are only sense impressions, things that could only be perceived by our senses. If our senses are wrong, and fallible as they are, then we cannot know the facts. We cannot know the natural law. 

In the case of King Solomon, what he was trying to do was reconstruct the truth about the real mother, and all he relied upon was his perception on how a true mother would  react when given a command to split her baby. What if he misheard the parties, interchanged their words, or confused them in his head? And his law that the mother should have her baby, how did he conceive of such notion? Moses was not with his mom, and it was, providential to his people that he wasn’t as he was adopted by the Egyptian princess. And did the great king’s notion admit of exceptions — are all babies supposed to be with their mothers? How did the great king know the case before him is not one of the exceptions?

Let’s fast forward King Solomon’s case to the present. A modern trial may ensue with the Plaintiff probably presenting testimonies to attest on the factual background of the case and the DNA profile of the parties, which may provide for a compelling case. Yet, the judge could be presented with evidence that reinforces his prejudices, such as for example, proof that the women are all prostitutes, the baby was a product of an all night orgy, and so the baby might as well be born of a pig, neither mother actually deserving to be such. The judge might disregard the evidence and order the baby to be adopted instead, which is not exactly impossible. The judge is limited by what he perceives, and it is not a guarantee he will make full use of his powers of perception in rendering a decision. 

The most stunning blow that David Hume can throw is this: What ‘is’ doesn’t mean it ought to be. The fact that King Solomon has seen mothers and their babies together doesn’t mean mothers and babies should always be together. The syllogism is invalid.

So, how are we to know King Solomon got it right?

(To be continued)

Friday, December 01, 2017

81: Two Women and a Baby: Law and Justice as an Epistemological Adventure (Part 2)

2. Where could the great king have gone wrong?

Let's start with the analysis by going back to the original biblical story from 1 Kings 3:16-28New American Standard Bible (NASB)
16 Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, [a]this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18 It happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house. 19 This woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on it. 20 So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom. 21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne.”22 Then the other woman said, “No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” But [b]the first woman said, “No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king.
23 Then the king said, “[c]The one says, ‘This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one’; and [d]the other says, ‘No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’”24 The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26 Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for [e]she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!” 27 Then the king said, “Give [f]the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had [g]handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to [h]administer justice.
Perhaps, we should start with motherhood. Jacques Derrida, philosopher of the 20th Century, would probably say to know who is the real mother, we have to determine the meaning of motherhood. But the meaning of motherhood is infinitely deferred, so we will never know what is motherhood and who is the real mother. To Derrida, there is no ultimate meaning of motherhood as to understand it is to interpret it. And interpretation is both repeatable (capable of correct application) and alterable (capable of misapplication or radically new interpretation). Considering that it is subject to interpretation, then interpretation could be varied, and there can be no one moment in time that everyone can agree on its meaning.

Let's explain that by asking, for example, when does motherhood begin? The Catholic interpretation is life begins from conception, and so motherhood begins from that point. But this is not so with the US Supreme Court, which ruled in Roe vs Wade, that life begins only after the first trimester of pregnancy, and from this premise we can say therefore that a woman does not become a mother until after the first trimester. And how about the case of the surrogate mother and the mother from whom the fertilized ovum was obtained -- who is the real mother or should both be deemed mothers? I have also taken notice that fathers who raised their babies alone call themselves mothers too, seriously or otherwise, this maybe an indication that motherhood is no longer exclusively premised on the biological tie between mother and child. These differing positions on when motherhood begins already show the cracks on the universality of King Solomon's decision.

Yet, the tale gives us the parameters clearly. The false mother's baby died and exchanged it with the living one while the true mother slept. From here the motivation for exchanging the dead baby with the living one was greed, a worldview that the baby is a thing, susceptible of appropriation legally or otherwise. Yet, when the false mother told King Solomon to go ahead and split the baby, the motivation is suspect. It is an absurdity. The false mother also knew that the baby would die and so whatever stake she had on it was useless and wasted. But from what she said she seemed to be spiting only the other mother  when she declared that no one should have the baby then. This  raises the question, was she in her right mind? 

Yet, let's take the proposition that she was in her right mind, and her decision to push for splitting the baby was in her own belief a correct decision. This means that she had a radically different idea of what motherhood means. To her motherhood is ownership of a thing -- a baby. To keep a baby is to appropriate it and to be in a dispute with another on ownership of a baby, the just way is to split it -- even if the baby would perish in the process. It's akin to ownership of a livestock. Nobody knows whose chicken is it, then split it for each of the disputing parties' enjoyment. This is the conclusion we arrive at if we discount the fact that she was insane, because if she was insane, she might also be the true mother but she did not have enough mental faculties to give the great king the right answer. That only makes King Solomon's method really erroneous.

But is it really possible to have an interpretation of motherhood as absurd as the false mother? This is where Derrida's insights can help. As Derrida said interpretations are subject to repetition -- that is capable of correct application -- and alteration, which is capable of misapplication or a radically new interpretation. Motherhood as said earlier has been interpreted in many  ways different from how King Solomon has interpreted it. Take the Spartan interpretation or Plato's interpretation in the Republic where motherhood is subjugated by state interest. The surrogate and the adoptive mothers are variations of the meaning of motherhood. If this different interpretations of motherhood as shown is possible, then any other interpretation motherhood is also possible.

Which brings to the point again -- King Solomon's interpretation of motherhood may have been different from that of the false mother, but in her interpretation of motherhood, the false mother is as right as the US Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade or the male homosexual couple who have adopted a baby and called themselves  mother.

It is impossible to reconstruct the true story before the case was brought King Solomon's court, and the great king did not even bother with it, which is how a modern judge might have done it. King Solomon bet it all in his bait, unfortunately the conception of motherhood that the false mother had in her mind might have been radically different from the King's, but it did not necessarily follow the false mother was not the real one.

I'm sure some dead philosophers are now turning in their graves. Let's check them out in the next post.


  1. 1 Kings 3:17 Lit I and this woman
  2. 1 Kings 3:22 Lit this one was saying
  3. 1 Kings 3:23 Lit this one
  4. 1 Kings 3:23 Lit this one
  5. 1 Kings 3:26 Lit her compassion grew warm
  6. 1 Kings 3:27 Lit her the living child
  7. 1 Kings 3:28 Lit judged
  8. 1 Kings 3:28 Lit do

80. Two Women and a Baby: Law and Justice as an Epistemological Adventure (Part 1)

1. The ultimate question that matters is only this: Do you believe the Truth will reveal itself to you in all its glory?

As King Solomon held court one day, so the story goes, two women and a baby were brought before him.  Each one claimed to be the baby's mother, and therefore should be awarded the baby's custody. King Solomon, ruling as a monarchy -- thus all of rulemaker, adjudicator, and executor -- had before him a problem that his finite mind, in spite of all the rumors that he had wisdom, had to resolve in order to keep his monarchic state intact together with his reputation. How would he know which one is the mother? And if he knew which one, what basis did he have to award custody to her and not to the other? 

The answer to the first question may seem obvious in this day of DNA matching, but in the days when rumors, reputation, common sense,  and prayer were all one had, what method would a monarch with a reputation for brilliance employ to discover the real mother? And even if  he did discover which one, what guarantee did he have that he was correct? At the very least, the great king had a deductive syllogism in his head: If she was the real mother, she would not allow the baby to be cut. If she would allow it, then she is not the real mother. And thus, the woman who would not allow it is the real mother. The logical argument is called the Modus Tollens. In its simplest form, it is described as follows: If A, then B. Not B. Therefore, Not A. Of course, nobody is alive to attest that King Solomon had a special training in logic, but from the Bible, the reasoning is clearly flawless. 

Unfortunately, the deductive reasoning had weaknesses, no matter how carefully laid out it was.  It presumed the real mother had full comprehension of his test proposition: let's split the baby. If the real mother wasn't listening or was too tired to understand the implication, she'd lose the baby. Also, if the false mother knew the premise and the deductive logic that King Solomon was using, she would also not allow the baby to be split. In addition, what if the false mother had a tip from King Solomon's circle, and knew what was the right answer to get the baby? Indeed, considering that the false mother was cunning enough to stake a false claim before the great king, it may not be easily discarded that she could be intelligent as well to prepare herself  for King Solomon's question. Surely, if this question was brought before the great king once again, the litigants would know it was a trick question, and so King Solomon would be back to square one. In other words, not only was the deductive logic potentially dangerous for the inattentive or tired mother (and the baby), it was only good for one application. 

Yet, the great king was not done after hurdling the first question. The second question was did the mother have a right to the custody of the child? If this were Sparta, King Solomon would not readily award custody to the mother. As a matter of fact, a Spartan king would ask, even before he resolved the issue of custody, was the baby healthy? If the baby was sickly or born with a defect, it would be cut and fed to the wolves. In Sparta, the baby was a creature of the Spartan state, it served no purpose but to be a great soldier one day. The Spartans looked with disdain the years that the baby stayed with the mother, because they believed the mother imbibed  upon the baby the weak emotions that would make the soldier ineffective as a warrior one day. In other words,  it is not a universally accepted rule that the baby should go with the mother. In modern day China, if it were a second baby of a mother, it would be killed. In Plato's the Republic, Plato proposed that the kids should not stay with the parents. They would be taken by the Republic and trained to serve the Republic. Yet, King Solomon found a basis for his proposition, the real mother should have custody of the baby. It is what in a modern day litigation is called the law of the case.

Yet, even assuming that King Solomon found a law that the baby should stay with the mother, how did he interpret it? Was the mother fit to have custody of the baby? If one were to investigate this further, why in the first place was it possible that another woman could have a stake at the baby's custody? Was not the baby supposed to be with the mother from birth? Why did she lose custody of the baby? Was she a whore who cared less for her baby but for her profession that she lost control of her own kid? So, did King Solomon really get this right?

What I attempted to illustrate from this discussion on King Solomon's ruling on this case is to show that law and justice is penultimately a question of knowing, an epistemological exercise: what are the facts, what are the laws, how do we interpret and apply these laws, what ends do we achieve when we apply the law, and are these ends absolute?

And what I will try to illustrate in this series is how these questions relate to the ultimate question that I posed at the beginning of this piece:

Do you believe the Truth will reveal itself to you in all its glory?

(To be continued)

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;
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
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

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
if it was due
Power is
you with the bottle
of Scotch as I
miss dinner, tv, and
imposing on
my time
what you cannot
impose on

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

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

Bakit ka matatakot,
kaya mo namang
maging tagak?