Influences (or Why I Write the Way I Do)

Natalie Goldberg (free-flowing writing)
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (wild woman writing)
Jane Hutchison (direct-to-the-point writing)
Ernest Hemingway (simple words writing)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Baguio

Baguio has not lost its grandeur as a lovespot, the destination-to-be of lovers, families, da-barkads etc. it doesn't matter if session road is all too clogged even at 10pm, or traffic gets convoluted by the bends of SM Baguio. never mind if social space is shared with a multitude of tourists, the young population most of them. Baguio is still Baguio with its cool air, the fog that dominates the mountains in the morning, pine trees, people on horseback, of the Igorots and their proud colors, strawberries, hand-made shawls and silvers, peanut brittle and ube jam, kulangot delicacies and even the pikoy-pikoy souvenirs. it is a respite for lovers longing to leave the heat and the monotone of manila, withstanding the 8-hour bus trip along marcos highway, the numerous stopovers and the stasis suffered by aging joints. one gets to live another reality to the one left behind. lovers need the change although they stay the same. for once, it is the environment that leads lovers to be like little children again. to live outside of schedules. to just let the feet lead, with hearts and minds at rest. one gets a good look at the Mines, a popular German shepherd named Doglas, the Bell House; eat strawberry ice cream, fresh garden salad, and yummy rib-eye and porterhouse steaks. working life gets suspended and the peace of just loving dominates. a time to dream even bigger dreams, craft even bigger plans. one enters Baguio in love and leaves it committed even more.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Techie KOs Love

my love is there
but can't
SOS to technology
that won't
much misses
as there are hits
time running out
on love spawned
sustained
in cyberspace
so there my love
awaits in patience
trying not
to lose his head
as we lose the chance
in minutes ticking

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fake

i would always reflect --- what kind of a person am i? the falling out with woodfields cost me a lot of friendships, one of them a 'bestfriendship', so i thought, with a person of the same name as yaman's father. back in the old days, i would confide on him, treat him as a bosom buddy and get him even as yaman's godfather in 2005. early this year, we would sort of reconcile out of the efforts of a common friend, who is also in consulting. but i did call on him last may, for a reconciliation dinner which never materialized because edsa traffic and consulting commitments went in the way. yet as we talked, i knew something was missing. i knew, i could never be a friend again to this person. we would reconcile but just for the sake of it. but to imagine, us, having a laugh over buffet, discussing trade secrets over coffee, and attending each other's birthdays and special occasions, requires a lot of effort and would never be a reality anymore. i know i have forgiven but i realized that forgiveness has its limits too. and i realize that fights are not useless at all, in revealing the kind of person we are and how we really value people. i realize that although i valued this person as a bestfriend, what he did to me showed how he valued me less. unequals can never be friends, much more bestfriends. it may not be that something has been lost between us. it is much the fakeness revealed that tells me i could go no farther on the friendship road with this person.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Invictus (William Ernest Henley, 1849-1903)

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid


It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

I especially dedicate this noble poem to my fellow-researchers at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, most especially to Elaine, Stephii, and Nicole.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Juggling my Realities

in less than 4 weeks, i will be off for perth again. i don't know which is which, my reality. is my reality perth and the writing i'm supposed to do? or is it naga and manila where my two loves await and suffer my absence? we call it realities when we are thrust into situations where a better alternative is possible but just within reach. we make do with what is available, even if it is not our hearts' desire.  as if, i need to be away, isolated to make sense in writing. so here i'm off, the writing fool alone in the silhouette of dark juggling realities, torn in the obligations of choices.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Closing

the shadow sleeps
while the light keeps toil
burning the midnight oil
for days ending
like burning wire
to a time bomb
about to blast and
mark the end of a phase
to explode with air suspended
as if waiting for
the next round to spare
unbelievable space
yet to dominate
hallowed the ground may be

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mens

when i was little, my memory of my mother when she has her mens has never been good. mommy is always 'sick' every time she has her period. she's in bed the whole day, complaining of terrible migraines, with a washcloth draped over her eyes to shun the light out, throwing up occasionally, and eyes closed to forever. this morning until mid-afternoon, i was in the same state. downed by migraines and the hot heavy summer here in naga. today's the worst, i think, since the heat was searing as early as 10am. but i was luckier than mom because at 4pm, i managed to get up and about to care for yaman, her yaya being off on a 3-day vacation. but i am aware this is not just coincidence, a confluence of lack of sleep, periods, and the weather.  the mens is already becoming an event to reckon with, a day which will soon interfere with the rest of my days in a month, and would have to be taken care of. an indication of how close i am to the twilight years, of normalcy drifting away and morphing anew.  human-ness, so to speak, wouldn't have come any closer, than today.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Swim

i am engulfed, totally. we swim fluidly, the softness of water quickening my heartbeat. in swimming, it matters not struggling with the waves. we kick along with the flow, and while sometimes we struggle, it is in challenging limits that we are able to explore the next peak. then we do it again, we keep on swimming.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fidelity and Forgiveness

it was an uneasy talk, permeated by stories of infidelity between best lovers within his and my social circle; of the double standard against women who must forgive their partners' infidelity but could not expect the same, more so from society; until it came to my own experiences specifically the 'infidelity' issue leveled against me by that old man. the talk of infidelity could be quite disconcerting because it commits you to assure against a future unknown, unpredictable. you don't want to be a hypocrite or sound like compromising your principles but as futures unfold how could we really know the extent of our fidelity if not for that test forthcoming? it could be tricky. and as if the promise has to be met by one only. true, love's unconditionality is tested, not the lover's promise. this is probably the context why love is held apart from forgiveness. love and forgiveness are two different things. both prevail over seemingly impossible things but forgiveness has the kinder cruder face. as much as one loves, one must also learn to forgive, for love to grow once more from and for the discarded, the assailed, the rotting, and the unforgivable.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Where I Belong

our lives are intertwined like our legs under the covers. no complications as our breathing goes in deep sleep. heartbeats strong and one as we wind our way to a shared future. we belong. fulfilling a purpose long set out. as i look at you i find my place. i find my peace.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Memory Falls

i used to have excellent memory. dates, names, trivia. vestiges of it are still my ability to rattle off my 16 digit credit card number, 10-13 digit bank account  (4) numbers, 6-digit life insurance policy numbers (2) including numbered passwords for my aussie accounts. they embed because of their repetitive nature, like prayers 'Our Father', 'Hail Mary' and even the 'Angelus' which one could just rattle off without thinking. but recent memory lapses get me quite frustrated. like when i missed out the details of this transaction yesterday. i transferred funds to an account which i recently unenrolled and atm access of which was blocked because lo! i forgot its only 6-digit password. i felt so bad i had to slap my head. lately, i would find my clothes left scattered after showering or changing after arriving from the field. that is unusual, because i am rarely this disorganized. just this afternoon, while i was preparing my traveling bag, i found my crocs lying by the dining floor. only to discover, that just minutes ago, i was about to put them in my bag. it is frustrating indeed for someone aware of such gifted memory. what if this extends to what i do now? the details i'm collecting from the field? that's why i have become a notes and back-up freak. but then again, unless i forget where i put my notes and my back-ups. that requires another blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Love is Sick and the Bakulaw Plays Facebook

my love is sick
nose swollen
it's beginning to look
like christmas
but no one's singing

the bakulaw plays facebook
in her corral playing farmville
counting harvests
while losing blessings
the cow a total loser

it makes me wonder
how badness is a trait
without consciousness
like viruses and bacteria
hitting awry
anyone in its path

my love and the bakulaw
in a mishit of circumstances
a total misfit
connived by a fatal love
the only answer is abandonment
total death to a love
devious and undeserved

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A New Tack

as phase 1 fieldwork draws to a close, i am considering whether i should start now, and not wait for phase 2 (oct 2010-jan 2011), to interview all 36 organizations assisted by the naga city government in kaantabay. since i have interviewed 11 orgs already from dec 2008 and june 2009, and since march, 4 more (excluding the 30+ household interviews), this means covering about 21 organizations in the coming month.  but far from confusing, i welcome this fresh tack as another option considering Yin's multiple case study method. This method calls for exhaustive investigation of peculiarities. the point of 'exhaustion' being when all peculiar cases have been covered. thus discarding investigation on similar cases because where there is duplication, there are no new insights left to gather. this thought have arisen since two organizations postponed my schedules for household interviews because one leader is too busy with city hall politics, or the other is away to another province, perhaps nursing his defeat in the recent local elections.  at the same time, i have this nagging feeling still whether my selection process is 'fit'. how would i know the peculiarities if i don't know the profile and history of each organization?  so it seems to make sense this new tack. while on the other hand, i could concentrate on the transcripts and timelines on the 5 organizations interviewed since march.  this would mean 5 organizations per week starting march 25 until june 20. i could prioritize by selecting one urban poor organization per barangay. i'll see how this works.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cutting my Hair Short

it was the feeling of shame of facing the world so untidy as it is. i had to cut my fieldwork short at noon and decided against going to the city hall just to return borrowed reports, because the waves and flyaways have gone so berserk i have begun to wonder how my participants wonder on my sense of organization and efficiency with messy hair like this! i didn't need to negotiate with ShadowMan. he understood well as my voice was wavering, close to tears as long hair is no longer me nowadays. its quite hard to recapture the allure of long hair from 26 years back. perhaps someday, a more resolute me would arise. but not now. not now on fieldwork when my presence makes as much as impact as the questions asked.  i would not want to test love this way either.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Tough Gets Going

what will monday bode? for four community leaders who wouldn't answer back (Tabuco, Austria (2), Igualdad), 1 in Sorsogon (Del Rosario) and two without cellphones or even telephones (Mabolo, Abella). as the saying goes, kapag walang tiyaga, walang nilaga (without patience, rice will not cook). so go for broke, but go nonetheless. i will be able to speak with these people because i have pure intentions and i respect their authority over their organizations. i need no shortcuts now. just plain old-fashioned research focus on the questions and sources of answers. i won't budge. i'll continue believing.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Social World of the Ukay-Ukay

ukay-ukayan are stores that sell second-hand clothes from abroad at a bargain.  since being an avid ukayera since 2000 (in pili where bestfriend angeline lives and back to the time when it was all kalkal), i have bought timberland boots, red leather knapsacks, and shirts and polos with the brands of LLBean, Esprit, Benetton, G2000. the closest thing i resisted and have not gone to the point of regretting was a leather brown Gucci sling bag being sold to me at P5000 from the original price of P8500.  always, my goal in buying is comfort and style rather than the brand. ukays have diversified from shirts, polos and jeans to jackets, wallets, bags, ladies heeled and unheeled shoes, rubber shoes, hankerchiefs, bras, panties, and even stuffed toys.  in downtown naga, ukays could be seen in all north, south, east and west portions, even going as far as isarog in a lone stall along the street far from the crowded centro.

the concept of it as a social world with its own rules and norms began to hit me lately with two recent experiences. one was mine in this ukay store on the same block as oyster's. i already picked out three polo outfits when an elderly woman had the nerve to get one from my hand to inspect it! good that she was old because if not, i would have yanked it and reprimanded her for such rudeness. because one does not do that in ukay stores. first get, first try, and first refusal.  what one person has in hand is hers or his until it is brought back to the rack for others' consumption.

the second experience was my sister's who is so addicted to ukay that she labored to be first in line, as early as 8am today, in the ukayan at the back of mcdo to get to the new arrivals.  she got into a quarrel with a fellow buyer. my sister's technique is systematic inspection. she goes from rack to rack and in each rack, she starts from the farther end, pushing the clothes back and sliding them one by one while inspecting it. she was doing this when at the far end of the rack, a lady pushed the clothes back to her thus 'invading' and 'destroying' her 'system'. she made a face so the lady blurted, 'pag ganyan ka, mamili ka na lang sa department store' (if you're like that, then shop at a department store). then she retorted, 'so pag-ukayan pala, bastusan na' (so one can afford to be rude in an ukay store).

this rudeness, and awareness of such rudeness constitutes tacit awareness of social rules and norms that should govern ukay.  these are unwritten rules and norms that people just learn by doing, and even,  reflective of one's upbringing. it doesn't need teaching. so ukayans are not just places of buying, selling and bargaining (as in bargaining has social norms). there is social decorum in it.  one must learn how to respect boundaries; to wait; to be aware of facial expressions and gestures registering likeness or unsureness and the best timing to snap up the object of desire. one must learn how not to be greedy (buying for the sake of depriving the object from others). one must learn humility and self-respect (to not insist and try out outfits because they look pretty but really a few sizes smaller --- accept it!). thus, one must learn to give away, and give way.

i know that there are still a lot of social rules out there practiced in ukayans, and these are just one of them. but on balance, we must all heed. informal and dusty a place it is, the ukayan is a place where people congregate, mingle, and relate. dito din, bawal ang bastos.

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Fieldwork: Recap and Gratis

my original plan was to cover 10 case study sites based on cost recovery or the extent in which the costs of acquiring land for the urban poor and other related efforts have been recovered by the total repayment of monthly amortizations paid by urban poor household beneficiaries, or awardees of lots on a certain piece of land. on my first week, i discovered to my dismay that cost recovery is not repayment performance. thus, a community could register 100% cost recovery even if its members are not paying! cost could be recovered by donation or by getting funds from a congressman (or woman) to pay the cost of land.  so on my first week, i was nudged with the bitter truth that i always seem to forget due to slackness:  always clarify your assumptions. don't assume. if you assume, you make an ass of u and me (a quote from the Silence of the Lambs) --- got it?

now on my third month, i have covered five urban poor organizations/ sites: (1) TUPHOA in Triangulo (100+ households), an onsite fairly 'closed' community living within the new central business district of Naga City; (2) UPVILLE in San Felipe (80+ households), an open offsite community about 2km from the old downtown area; (3) Pook Mangga-Sta. Cruz (12 households), a closed on-site community less than 500m from the old downtown area; (4) Good Neighbors-Igualdad (10 households), a closed on-site community within the old downtown area; and (5) Neighborhood Shelter Assn (NASA)-Cararayan,  an open offsite community about 3-4 km from the downtown area.

what is an 'open' and 'closed' site? from my visits, i noticed that there are some communities whose original settlers, before the site was placed under the city's socialized housing program, is still intact.  these i observed in onsite communities where settlers have lived since birth, with their forebears.  another type are 'open' communities where settlement has been fairly open to outsiders also, not only from original settlers in the barangay. here one is able to observe a mix of households who might have transferred there within the last 5 years, and even shorter.  these i noted among offsite communities where settlers could consist of original urban poor in the area or urban poor coming from other barangays in naga city. 

why did i choose the sites? TUPHOA was in my original list of 10. UPVILLE was just a replacement. but i chose to start with both to sort of 'field test' my interview guides in barangays in close proximity to my location. TUPHOA was onsite while UPVILLE was offsite so it was a convenient choice. but to my gratitude, these were good choices because of their very cooperative community leaders who shared not only the histories of their organizations but also went as far as assisting me in making a 'walk' all over the community to check which lots are still being occupied by original awardee-households and which have been vacated or 'sold out'.  i credit the UPVILLE leader for being very candid about the many types of occupants present in his community --- which we were able to classify to about 13 types! from thereon, after UPVILLE, i became more aware of these informal typing of occupants in the next 3 organizations or others that i will cover in the future.

you will observe that Pook Mangga-Sta. Cruz and Good Neighbors-Igualdad are quite small communities and very similar (open and onsite) so why did i not choose just one?  they are replacement sites actually.  i was supposed to penetrate MITRA-Penafrancia and NSA-Cararayan, which belong to only 9 assisted urban poor communities with titled households. MITRA-Penafrancia is onsite while NSA-Cararayan is offsite.  The crux here are the titled households because in TUPHOA and UPVILLE, not one household is titled. going next to MITRA-Penafrancia and NSA-Cararayan constitutes another round of investigation on the titling issue. but i encountered resistance from MITRA, supposedly the largest community with a lot of titled households (200+). the present community leader was busy campaigning for the local elections as a repeat councilor while a board member was quite hesitant, being at odds with the city government over the status of his land.  the long-serving community leader of MITRA unfortunately died three years ago and along with him, the social memory of the ups and downs of MITRA. in my exasperation, i decided to drop it (for now) and replace it with similar onsite orgs with titled households. in the list i found Good Neighbors-Igualdad and Pook Mangga-Sta Cruz, which are fairly small so i decided to cover both.  NSA-Cararayan i still covered to represent one of the oldest offsite communities assisted by the city government since 1989. 

what differentiates the sites? there are two major distinctions, for now: (i) onsite (titled vs. untitled) and (ii) offsite (titled vs. untitled). the first are represented by Pook Mangga-Good Neighbors vs. TUPHOA respectively, and the second by Cararayan vs.UPVILLE respectively.  There are intricacies within. Pook Mangga-Good Neighbors and TUPHOA sit on private property; NSA-Cararayan on government property and UPVILLE on Church property.

how did i choose my samples? because of my experience in UPVILLE, in a community, i interview a mix of households representing tenure types and repayment performance: original awardees (titled, fully paid, partially paid, never paid) and non-original awardees (secondary occupants, titled and non-titled). the minimum is 3 households (Pook-Mangga) and 9 households (TUPHOA).  for me to have an overview of the types to cover, i always observe the standard protocol of talking with the community leader first on the organizational and settlement history of the community before immersing at the household level.  by then, i already have an idea of the mix occurring in the community. it was fairly simple in Pook Mangga (all are original awardees, with 3 now transferred to relatives) while it was very complicated in UPVILLE (13 tenure types) to the point that i have to make another special interview guide entitled Legalized Occupants, a hybrid tenure type found in it.  like today, after working on Cararayan, i thought the Legalized Occupants interview guide will work there until i found out, in talking with the households that they did not undergo legalization at all as per a 2005 city ordinance on legalization. instead, their 'legalization' was done under the auspices of department of social welfare and development (dswd) so right there and then, i had to improvise on the questions. and this still happened even though i've already talked with the community leader. this is one reason why i'm doing the research alone. i would be a survey trainee's nightmare since my questions keep on changing to suit the conditions and experience of the person i'm talking to!

future plans? in the next five weeks, these are what i want to do and the context of each:

1. on june 2009, before i left for perth, i already interviewed 11 urban poor organizations in naga. two of them are TUPHOA and UPVILLE. i have this gut feeling that it pays to go back to these organizations now, to apply the methods used for the five orgs above.  i will prioritize 5 of them: DRUM-Del Rosario (offsite, government property, untitled); Calzada-Mabolo or Tabuco Tenants-Tabuco (onsite, private property, untitled); Jolly Neighbors-Abella (offsite, private property, titled, allegedly with mega-gentrification); and, LUPA-Lerma (onsite, private property, titled, under Community Mortgage Program with city as originator). 

2. i hope to penetrate other organizations. my priorities are Zone 5-Igualdad (offsite, private property, titled, CMP and comparable with LUPA); Austria-Lerma (onsite, government property, untitled, the oldest onsite and comparable with NSA-Cararayan, the oldest offsite); Metroville-Sabang (offsite, private property, titled, the urban poor org who contested their transfer against the city government); GK Maogma-Balatas (offsite, private property, co-sponsored by the city with a private housing NGO); and MITRA (i'm not giving up on you kid! onsite, private property, titled, the largest urban poor community with titled households). though this reminds me, an afterthought, that i should re-study the original 10 in my list and see which could still be added or be used as substitutes in my frame. 

3. government and non-government decisionmakers like the outgoing and ex-city mayors, city councilors, ex and existing urban poor affairs chiefs, and NGO/ private sector partners.

4. transcripts, timelines, tally sheets for interview information etc...............................

as will be observed here, the sample covers a mix of communities with features that could variably explain the tenure situation, courtesy of the multiple-case method pioneered by Dr. Robert Yin. the more cases i investigate, the more i could gather and understand the whole picture of what happened in kaantabay for the past 20 years.  stories worth telling and sharing, from the perspective of the urban poor, ordinary members and leaders, fully/ partially paid and unpaid, titled and untitled, feeling secure and feeling insecure; and from government, private sector, and NGO implementers.  because (1), (2) and (3) are too much for five weeks, some i am reserving when i  return for phase 2 in october 2010-january 2011.

i still doubt whether i have done something worthwhile but at the least, i have done something for the past 16 weeks, amid the heat, the sneezing, the coughing, the skin asthma, the red eyes, the fear of chicken pox, and the fear of the unknown when penetrating or even revisiting a community.  i thank the Lord for keeping my head about, for making my heart stout every time i'm about to snap. i thank my Mom for finally giving in to understanding and making me appreciate and love home still. i thank my sis, elvie, ira and the whole network of valenzuelas for filling in my absences in yaman's company. i thank Jane for visiting, for listening, for making me think through my methods continuously. i thank ShadowMan for hovering, for welcome and farewell texts on the field and at home, for worrying when i don't answer, for nudging me on, for being my steady strong partner in this phd.  i thank Yamani, my bright lovely inspiration who has never failed to bring me flowers from school, even insisting not to ride the padyak (pedicab) to our house from the waiting shed in our subd's entrance (a 100m walk) so she can pluck gumamelas and violets on the way. i thank all participants and government personnel, those who hesitated and still agreed to be interviewed, and agreed to help, even though my approach did not seem to subscribe with ethics rules imposed from down under.  and all the friendships, the good tidings, light blessings, and prayers received over the airwaves, the web, and in silence. these all are paving the road, crooked still on some places, but going forward nonetheless.

Growing My Hair Long

went on field today as early as 8am. that time, i was on board a taxi, going past a landfill in balatas amid the remaining sprawl of ricefields extending till cararayan, my case study site. i combed my hair the time i left the house and did so no more. i did not even bother when i reached the house of the community leader. so lo and behold, by the time i was having lunch at the community leader's house, my hair was in a mess. a wave here, ruffled here, stringy here. and all the while that whole morning i was speaking with 5 women, the last a hairdresser who, if not for basic courtesy, would have suggested a neat cut for my unruly mane.

ever since i promised Shadowman that i'll grow my hair long, i have not bothered looking at mirrors lately. and i've gone from crying and bawling over wavy manes to finding a blindspot somewhere there in the back which i don't look at, earnestly and consciously, when combing my hair in front of the mirror. now i just comb my hair back, away from my face. that's it. outside of the house, i just use my hands and it's done.

it may be too little, too insignificant a sacrifice but it really matters a lot to me.  because for the past 10 years, my hair has never gone past my shoulders and i have lived not caring about hair dyes, not even carrying a comb in my hand bag. not a few times, seeing a woman with short smart hair still leaves me breathless, and envious. but i'm heading on to the long of it, for the sake of love, and in honor of a promise. till then, mirrors are not my friends.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Deception In The Visual

my household hates jejomar binay. because of his color. because he is short. because he is so masa bordering on ugly. in another teleserye, an aspiring singer gets a chance to popularity and riches, after getting plastic surgery, bleached, and a total makeover. the visual is always a case for otherness. what people see, what manifests in front of them, is a fulcrum of one's bias and faith. thus, to ruin a woman's day, tell her she's fat. to a man, notice his receding hairline. some dark-skinned filipinas i know spend thousands on gluta injection
and umbrellas, and shun the beach to protect themselves from the sun. i myself am struggling with weight problems for the past 22 years! thus to change, one practically must work on the visuals first. so will binay do the same for his impending vice presidency? or true to form, just say wa sya care for people to go pass the visual and see the elemental in his leadership. i care to know, to take this weight off.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lord of the Rule?

when all the latak has settled and mar has finally learned to accept defeat the second time around, let us all be reminded that the test of the Philippine presidency is not in the winning, but in the ruling. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Urban Poor Politics in Naga City

vulnerability is always an entry point. being in the position to serve has intrinsic power in being able to command allegiance, obedience, and subservience. that the urban poor is being 'used' for electoral purposes is very obvious here in naga city. it is no wonder that for the past two months that i've been in and out of the city hall for research purposes, so have i rubbed shoulders with them, having their zoning clearances signed, their electric and water connections endorsed, even their prescriptions from the city health center. these signed endorsements from city councilors are the pass to have zero connection fees, and zero medicine bills. i stand in line with them as they have their papers photocopied and mine, upao documents. the city planning and development office nonchalantly shared that during no-election season, they normally review only 6 zoning clearance applications a day from the urban poor. now, for the past six months, their going rate is about 60+ applications a day. the upao chief also mentioned that lot awards rise significantly months before elections. a woman whom i shared a seat with in the plane ride from manila to naga last feb, a cararayan resident, intimated that the urban poor are always rounded up during elections for 'give-away' meetings, or meetings where upao gives away unsigned certificates of lot awards or lot number allocations to them.

how important is the urban poor population in naga city? the benchmark is 25%. one in every four households in naga city are classified urban poor. technically, they generate a gross income not exceeding 15k per month for a 5-member household although the 15k figure was pegged as early as 1998. so by that time, the bar must have been raised very high so much so that all households then could qualify urban poor! until now, that income requirement has not been adjusted or even corrected to reflect real income conditions based for instance on the latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) by the National Statistics Office (NSO). the urban poor are found in all 27 barangays in naga city if we are to consider formerly far-flung uninhabited barangays 2-3km from the city center where some urban poor have been resettled starting 1989.  during elections, the urban poor are vital informal labor, receiving temporary pay and perks like t-shirts, food rations, meal allowances and free travel, to be on the wagon of running candidates. they make up not only crowds or the source of votes, but also the labor force of running and would-be politicians. to be part of this labor force is strategic because the urban poor, starting from barangay officials to the lowest magtataho or karpintero, have extensive social networks, knowledgeable of the grapevine. in so being, they are able to mobilize fellow urban poor. it would be demeaning to say that the urban poor willingly join election bandwagons because of the money. but i observe that they really do. our carpenter is a supporter of a mayoral candidate outside of the present administration because of his open coffers. our sewer joined the campaign of manny villar because she couldn't stand not getting PhP300/day (enough for a day's household spending) when all other urban poor households in our neighborhood are at it. the lure of money is just too good to resist especially for wage laborers who have no permanent jobs.  i am not saying that they have no party affiliation, as expressed by our carpenter and sewer. some clearly draw party lines like staunch supporters of the incumbent mayor and his team, some of them coming from the urban poor coordinating council, and even from the NGO program partner of kaantabay, the program i'm studying.

what i'm saying is the politics of engagement is mixed with the economics of vulnerability.  as such, the urban poor is in the position of being 'used' to benefit politicians and political parties. but on the other hand, they are also in the position to use their position to benefit themselves, on a permanent and more long term basis (like in lot awards and free water and electricity connections) or even if temporary (e.g., election fever). they would make do of whatever opening is possible; the material and political entwined because they too have interests worth serving.  but i want to know further though how much of these interests are worked at collectively and in which aspect this collective interest fails. like, how individual claims are shunted when collective moves become necessary. are these a matter of transaction costs only? what other factors are at play? because from the point of view of the politics of poverty, the poor are aware of their 'used' position but they know how to play on this position.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Once More ShadowMan

except for my eyes, ShadowMan has never been visual. he is a listening person. not surprising at all for someone who has a knack of cleaning his ears every morning, the feel of buds in his earlobes a soothing thing daa. so no matter how many times i tell him this and that, he always demands repeating. as if gestures and acts have to be validated by the word.  he is makulit, a trait of someone who already knows the obvious but still demands explaining, confirmation, affirmation,...and repeat. pa-cute. mabuti na lang cute ka din. so, one more time, for the nth time, since 10:08pm today: I love you. I would never leave you --- i see no cause for that, ever. I am your love, your wife, your bestfriend, your confidante, your passionata, your alter ego, your only half, your oneness, your soul, your forever.  here's putting it all in black and white lest one day, i lose my voice, the command of words. i am never gone my love.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Rock

it is rock
that could stand
a thousand bursts
of sea spray, foam
and the wrath of heaven
it is a rock
solid and deeply rooted
summoning powers unrivaled
to stand mighty
when all have succumbed
it is a rock
protruding
to mark and surround
driving the stake
through soulful territory
capture and release held
to much rejoicing

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hubby's Home

after driving since 6am from manila, at about 3:35pm today, the hubby arrived in naga. feeling not at all tired. all part of him wanting to jump. his words. and in a little while, he will be here. to fetch the wifey and the daughter. a family in the making but a family nonetheless. because the want, commitment, and the love is there. it's true. Love is really enough. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Losing Her

i don't have to wait for alzheimer's. i have lost my mother since she stopped saying 'i love you' in texts and phone calls years after my father died in 1994. since she could only blurt out a curt 'bahala ka' (it's up to you') when consulting her about major life decisions after getting pregnant by someone who wouldn't marry me and getting married to a great soulful man whom i couldn't be pregnant with, this time. since one morning, out of nowhere, she cursed me and her life with us, how she made the wrong sacrifices, how she is not at all proud of our 'achievements', her children, and how she wished another life other than this.  since my heartache with woodfields when after telling her my side, she only looked at her plate, with a hard face, and said nothing. since she stopped asking, 'how are you?', 'how's your studies?' or even just a simple question like 'have you eaten?' when in perth, i'm online with yaman and the family.  since her comments to me would center only on how fat i'm becoming and that, hay, i look lousy in house clothes. these are the conversations we have. and i'm supposed to have a mother?

it's heretical i know. to declare to the world that you don't like your mother. but this is the world i have, and it is real.  in my world, it is not true that full-time mothers make the best mothers. it is not true that mothers who cook well are able to express their love in more than just the cooking. it is not true that as women age, they come to terms with their life, they reconcile with their hurts, and build bridges with their daughters. it is not true that mothers make the best of friends. it is not even true that one can sit or lie down, talk and laugh, eat full course meals or desserts, with their mothers like they do with friends. it is also not true that mature battle-hard daughters have no reason to cry anymore, and be sad no more. in my world, the truth about mothers and daughters hurt, and they hurt deep. if there is one thing in the world that my mother taught me, it is to not be like her.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

G Spot

i'm not quite sure how to pinpoint it. i mean, it's untraceable by monitor or even by the stick ob-gynes use to conduct internal examinations. but it's there. on top of that mound forming the upper walls of the vagina. a sensitive spot that heightens arousal and sexual energy. i feel that it's moving, never locked in, in one spot. as if its sensitivity permeates over the entire wall during heightened sexual passion. it's just like faith. the only sure thing to say is it's there, by mere belief in the feeling. that's it. that's my take.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trusting

one person's presence is enough. a living being.  it is enough that he is near, watching you, listening, not exactly agreeing with what you say, but just being there. when people say, 'i'm just here', sometimes we take it for granted. i took it for granted last night. in my first 5 minutes on skype, i wanted to just turn it off and sulk. just not in the mood with someone at that time. but when people are true to their word, and they live to the task of saying they're there, then it becomes to matter. this assurance of being 'just there'. so in my ugly, sulking, crying state last night, he was on the screen. enduring the stories and equally bleeding. i still could not look at him through the tears. i was looking inside my memory of pains and frustrations, of a daughter's stories never before told to a man. i still wonder sometimes over this realization that now, this time, i am no longer alone. because i am used to being alone for the last five years and more. even in the company of friends and lovers, i am alone. alone in the sense that there are some truths i still keep hidden, too ashamed to acknowledge, too ashamed to tell. last night, it was time to shed off that shell, break the crust of memories hidden deep. i have began the dance of trust with the man i pledged forever with.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Orphaned

she doesn't know that i'm lonesome
she doesn't care that i'm sad
in good times she's far away
even farther in the bad
whenever i'm discouraged
she turns her eyes away
oh hell, how can i tell
i'm an orphan in my world?

Adapted from the song "How Can I Tell Her?' by Lobo.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ode to Death

the dying i fear
could be from truths hard to fathom
how dreams could suddenly be reality
for someone undeserving as me
as if the right to be happy
should forever be withheld
and the road to contentment
ever dark and twisted
the rains are pouring blessings
the heart throbs alive and gladly
the sun and strong trees my company
these dreams of death are coming to a close
and should i succumb to death too
the death of fears and questions
to embrace grace that just is
full, shared, mine, and ours

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Unforgiving Sun

i have been defeated by the sun twice since two weeks ago. the second was today. woke up with a nagging headache around 4pm. i thought it was the pillows. i slept on mom's bed and mom has the knack of using rock hard pillows. i thought it was the electric fan. so i switched it further up to no. 2. i thought it was yaman sneaking up on me, slowly pulling a dora pillow from my right side. so i told her to snuggle at my left where the electric fan was blowing directly. at around 5pm, my head was still spinning and as i stood up, i felt the onrush of heat from the window. oh my, this is the worst summer day ever here. around 545pm, i was grumpy from lack of siesta, a headache and a continually oppressive sun. i tried sleeping at the sala but to no avail. i know the mosquitoes will get me anytime soon. so by 6pm, i went back to the bedroom, at the time when the sun has set and resolved to sleep straight, for a full hour. so with yaman aware of my condition and me deliberately leaving my mobile outside, i slept. i slept defeated by the sun but now wary. i am near 40 and the elements are getting to me already. even the sun who has been my friend could not forgive me now. so ok, i'll just give. aircon lang ang katapat mo.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Longing

somewhere in between
the covers witness
sensations rising
and i submit
one can be blind
and still succumb
here words
and voices rule
imagination is King
there are no limits
to soaring, breaking
and endless dying