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Game over!

17 Apr

Isinulat ni Joy Rebanal-Laygo

Masamang-masama ang loob ko nung araw na iyon. At para ma-relax ang puso at isipan ko, naisipan kong maglaro ang mga games na naka-download sa celfone ko. Iyong “brickbreaker” ang napili ko. Ang instruction, bibigyan ka ng 3 buhay. At habang nilalaro mo ito, may mga bonuses na lalabas para dumami pa ang buhay mo, ammunitions at iba pang gamit para ma-break mo ang lahat ng bricks sa bawat level. Nakaka-addict kasi sa tuwing mauubos ang buhay ko, mas lalo ang pagnanasa na makataas pa ako ng isang level at malaman kung anong merong bago sa level na susunod. Doon ko ibinuhos ang lahat ng aking panggigigil. Lahat ng sama ng loob, lahat ng hinanakit na nararamdaman ko ng mga sandali  na iyon. At habang sige ako sa panggigigil, siya namang dalas ng pag-game over ko. Ni hindi ako makaalis ng level three. Pero wala pa rin akong sawa sa kakapindot ng “New Game” sa tuwing mauubos ang “Life “ ko sa laro. Hanggang sa di ko na mamalayan na tumatakbo na ang oras.

At habang walang tigil ang pagpindot ko, na halos, sumakit na ang mga daliri ko sa ginagawa ko, ay naisip kong sana ang buhay gaya ng celfone or video games. Kahit may game over, pwede ka pa ulit maglaro. Pwede mong ulit-ulitin ang paglalaro hanggang sa ma-master mo na ang tricks at makaabot sa mataas na level at makakuha ng highest score. At sa tuwing makakakuha ka ng highest score, gagawin mo pa rin ang lahat para ma-beat mo ang nakaraang highest score mo. Kung minsan nga, nandaraya pa ako. Kapag alam ko na malapit na akong ma-game over, di ko na tatapusin ang laro at restart ko na ulit ang game para makapag-umpisang muli.

Sana ganun nga lang kadali at kasimple ang buhay. Pero hindi nga. Hindi ganun ang instructions sa laro ng buhay. ‘Pag start na, sa sandaling huminga ka na ng hangin, umpisa na ang laro mo. Istrikto ang laro. Walang three rounds gaya nung ibang games. Isang beses lang. Isang life lang. ‘Pag natapos na. Tapos na nga talaga. No turning back. No going back. ‘Pag nangyari na, nangyari na. ‘Pag nagkamali ka, wala nang bawian. Kailangan, ituloy-tuloy mo na lang. Unless, mabuwisit ka na sa paglalaro at ‘di mo na hintayin ang game over mo dahil kusa mo nang inihinto ang laban mo kasi pagod ka na at ayaw mong umabot ka sa puntong talunan ka na. Eh buti pa nga ang electronic games, pwede mong pindutin ang “pause” para uminom ng tubig o umihi. Eh ang buhay ba natin pwede nating itigil saglit, lalo na pag ang bilis na ng mga pangyayari sa ating buhay? ‘Pag di mo na kayang huminga sa hirap o sagad na sagad ka na sa problema? Walang pause na pwedeng pindutin. Tuloy-tuloy ang buhay. Tumigil ka man sa pagkakatayo mo, wala siyang pakialam, tatakbo at tatakbo ang oras mo, bagalan mo man o bilisan ang ginagawa mo. Ang bottomline, walang pakialam sa iyo ang buhay. Kaya dapat, ipagpatuloy mo lang hanggang di natatapos ang laro ng buhay mo.

Pero napansin ko, habang naglalaro ako ng “brickbreaker”, mas nanggigigil ako, mas galit ako sa tuwing nababawasan ang buhay ko, mas lalong hindi ako nakakaalis sa level 3. Kaya tumigil ako saglit. Nag-inhale, at exhale. Saka ko ulit sinubukang maglaro. Buo na ang concentration. Wala nang panggigigil. Ang objective ko na lang, makaalis sa level three. Tinandaan kong lahat ang mga tricks na natutunan ko para di agad mabawasan ang “3 lives” ko at sa halip ay madagdagan pa ito. Iniwasan ko ang mga dapat iwasan para makarating ako sa mas mataas na level nang buong-buo ang mga “life” ko sa laro. Pinagpawisan ako, nangati ang pisngi ko pero di ko iyon pinansin. Hindi ako nagpa-istorbo sa ingay na naririnig ko. Para bang “the greatest performance of my life” ang drama ko!

At di nga ako nagkamali. Mula sa level 3, nakarating ako sa level 6. Tuwang-tuwa ako. Parang batang paslit na tumatawa ako. Kaya ko naman pala! Madami pang levels ang “brickbreaker”, ni hindi pa nga ako umaabot sa ¼. Pero uunti-untiin ko hanggang sa tumaas nang tumaas ang level na pwede kong marating. Para kahit na ma-gameover na ako, alam ko, nakarating ako sa maraming levels na pwede kong ipagmalaki kahit sa sarili ko na lang.

Hehehehe. Naisip ko muli, puwede ring i-apply sa buhay. Siguro nga, kailangan, harapin natin ang lahat ng levels ng buhay natin ng walang panggigigil. Dapat walang mabibigat na bagahe. Para buo ang konsentrasyon natin sa pagtahak sa direksyon na gusto natin. Mahirap gawin sa aktuwal na buhay pero kayang subukan kung gugustuhin. Wala namang mawawala. Ewan ko sa inyo, pero ako, pangarap kong makarating sa kadulu-duluhan ng buhay ko nang alam ko na ginawa ko ang lahat bago man lamang ako umabot sa “gameover” ng buhay ko.

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Ang galing ng Pinoy…pagkatapos, ano na?

5 Mar

(Bukas po ang blog na ito sa lahat ng gustong magbahagi ng kanilang mga nasasaloob. Ipahatid natin sa buong mundo ang ating mga kuru-kuro, hinaing, papuri, pagpuna, drama o komedya ng buhay natin gamit ang ating mga panulat kagaya ng artikulo na ibinahagi sa atin ni Gng. Joy Rebanal-Laygo)

‘Di na bago sa akin ang mga balita na naglalaman ng papuri sa mga Pinoy sa ibang bansa. Magaling magtrabaho, masipag, malinis, matapat, magaling makisama, matalino, matiyaga, at marami pang iba. Nakakataba ng puso. Parang mas lalong nakakagana magtrabaho. Bayani nga…Pero teka, teka lang! Bago tayo malunod o malasing sa dami ng papuri at paghanga, ‘di ba kayo nakakaramdam ng konting kaba? Di ka ba pressured? Parang kasunod ng mga salitang naglalarawan sa isang manggawang Pinoy ay ang napakataas na “expectation”.

Parang katulad iyan ng isang beauty queen, parang si Miss Universe. Siya ang hinirang na pinakamagandang babae sa buong universo. So dapat, lagi siyang maganda, kaaya-aya, kaakit-akit. Hindi siya pwedeng tumaba, pumangit at mabungi kasi baka bawiin sa kanya ang korona niya. Kailangan mamuhay siya ayon sa “expectations” ng mga taong tumatangkilik sa kanya. Hanggang sa hawak niya ang titulo, hindi siya pwedeng mag-asawa o mabuntis kasi  kailangan niyang patunayan na karapat-dapat siya sa isang karangalan na ipinagkaloob sa kanya. Ang tawag dun, obligasyon at responsibilidad.

Ang Madrid at ang Barcelona ang dalawang ciudad sa España kung saan napakaraming Pilipino ang naninirahan. At pagdating sa larangan ng trabaho, lalo na sa “servicio domestico”, tayong mga Pilipino ang “in demand”. Ika nga, “most requested” ang mga Pinoy. Kasi masunurin (pag baguhan pa lang), malinis magtrabaho, may “hygiene”, marunong mag-Ingles, matatalino at mapagkakatiwalaan lalo na kung may alagang mga bata sa kanilang papasukan. Kung sa trabahong restaurant naman, ganun din, madali daw ang “pick-up” ng utak ni Juan dela Cruz, kahit di nag-aral ng culinary arts, bigyan lang ng pagkakataon, sa konting panahon, kaya na niyang gampanan at gawin ang halos lahat ng trabaho sa loob ng restaurante. At napakarami pang istorya ng kagalingan ang pwedeng ikuwento kung Pinoy rin lang ang pag-uusapan.

Pero dahil nga nakakalasing ang tagumpay o papuri, may mga kababayan tayo na nakakalimutan na obligasyon niyang alagaan ang kanyang imahe bilang mabuting manggagawa. Yumayabang. Napapariwara. Kasi magaling daw sya. May nalululong sa droga hanggang sa mapabayaan ang kanyang trabaho. Mayroong suki ng sugalan. Iyong iba nga, kasusuweldo pa lang, imbes na kay misis i-entrega ang sweldo, eh kay “Martinez” nag-eentrega ng buong kinita nya. May mga kumukupit sa mga amo (dahil malaki na ang tiwala sa kanya). Tabi-tabi na lang po sa maaring tamaan. Pero ito po ang katotohanan. Masakit pakinggan ngunit kailangang may magpapaalala. Ilang Pilipino na dito sa Barcelona ang nasangkot na sa droga? Gaano kalaking pera ang pinapatalo ng mga Pilipino sa sugal? Ilang pamilya na ang nawasak? Eh, ano na ang nangyari kay “Pinoy” na ang galing-galing?

Kahanga-hanga ba ang isang komunidad na hindi ginagampanan ang kanyang responsibilidad sa kanyang pamilya? Ang obligasyon mo bilang ano nga ba iyon? Bagong Bayani? Paano ka tatawaging magaling kung wasak ang pamilya mo? Paano ka hahangaan kung ikaw mismo ang sumisira sa sarili mo? Minsan, ang kagalingan, mas mabuting inilalagay sa puso kaysa sa isipan. Mas mabuting ang galing ay pinatutunayan at hindi ipinagyayabang.

Isang hamon ang inihahain ko ngayon sa aking mga kababayan. Tapos na tayong ipakita sa lahat kung gaano kagaling ang Pinoy, ngayon, patunayan naman natin, na ang lahat ng iyon ay katotohanan at hindi pakitang-tao lamang.

Viaje, Barcelona-Manila: A Conversation With F. Sionil Jose

3 Feb

I had forgotten all about it-Manila traffic. And I’d forgotten all about those 3 important Filipino traffic factors: that it was raining, that it was 3 days before Christmas, and that it was Wednesday, Baclaran day. If one wishes to arrive anywhere on time on this side of Metro Manila, these 3 things must be very well considered. I called to apologize and say that I would be late. ¡Que Vergüenza!

We were on Sucat Road in Parañaque on our way to Padre Faura Street in Manila, and traffic moved lethargically. So, I observed, just as I used to. Only this time I was observing with new eyes, ones that had been away for several years. There were street vendors selling peanuts to bored passengers, people getting on and off crowded jeepneys, others randomly crossing the street, zigzagging honking cars and totally ignoring the pedestrian overpasses built by their generous city councilor or mayor (prudently announced with big and bold letters painted on them.) There were also children playing games on the sidewalk, joyful and unmindful of the holiday rush and smoke of vehicles just a few meters away from them. Everything looked oddly familiar; nothing much seemed to have changed.

Traffic ebbed and flowed and suddenly we found ourselves just behind the CCP, in that cultural complex built by a woman with a once-famous edifice complex. I was getting more and more nervous as we neared Padre Faura Street. Ten minutes more and we were finally walking towards Solidaridad Bookshop, where I was to have an interview with a truly inspiring Filipino thinker-lover-critic, a prolific writer I deeply admired— Francisco Sionil Jose.

After profuse apologies, I was kindly taken up to the office of Mr. Jose- Manong Frankie to many. I was warmly welcomed by the publishing house staff, Manong Frankie’s wife, and later, Manong Frankie himself. He asked me to sit down, and with very little introductions, I began my interview. What ensued in the next hour was in fact more like a friendly conversation, given the ease with which Manong Frankie generously shared his thoughts and feelings to this ‘balikbayan’ in search of some answers.

The writer with Manong Frankie and a copy of his novel Viajero.

***

Of course, the very first thing I wanted to hear from the author of Viajero, a brilliant book about the physical and moral journey of the Filipino people throughout history, was his very thoughts on the Filipino Diaspora…

“It should never have happened!”

“It started when Marcos took over and he was faced with this problem of so many Filipinos educated and unemployed…all dressed up and nowhere to go…They saw to it that the Diaspora would be encouraged.”

“Kaya galit ako sa Ilocanong iyan, eh. (That’s why I’m angry at that Ilocano) He wasted two decades, which would’ve enabled us to progress like Korea, Taiwan, even more so than Singapore…What should’ve happened was, he should’ve hastened the development of this country, industrial development. Just like Park Chung Hee. And for sure, we would’ve absorbed all these Filipinos who went abroad in innovative export industries…because we’re a very talented people. As you can see, when they leave the country they are very industrious, very enterprising, because they get out of their old comfort zone…they know they have to. They work hard. You know, the immigrant culture.”

He spoke of this in his book— the immigrant culture, ours.  Also, in Viajero, he suggested that we’ve had this long history of leaving. I wondered, is it really in our blood?

“Traditionally, yes… well, because we’re an archipelago, we’re a seafaring people… And that’s another thing, we’re a maritime people but we didn’t build up a maritime industry. So we end up working as captains, stewardesses, sailors, but we are not building our own ships.”

Hay naku hija, I get very angry when I think of all the opportunities that we missed because of lousy leadership…Nagagalit ako, I get so angry and frustrated. Matanda na ‘ko…”

“One time I was talking to Nanding Roces, a contemporary of mine. He would’ve been 87 last July…We were talking 2 or 3 years ago, he told me— Frankie, isn’t it sad, we are living in a country in far worse shape than when we arrived. Which is true… very, very true. Ten years ago nobody was sleeping in front of our bookshop, now occasionally there’s a family there. Some people…many people now eat only once a day. There’s hunger in Manila, even in Manila there is hunger.”

“I grew up in a village. Now, when I was young, the poorest farmer there ate twice a day during what we call the Gawat. These are the months of June, July, and August, the planting season. It is in these months when there was still no harvest, because the first harvest comes in September. These 3 months were the most difficult for the farmers because they only ate twice a day— at 10 in the morning and at 4 in the afternoon. Now, many people, both in farms and cities, eat only once a day… do you know what it’s called? ALTANGHAP- Almusal, Tanghalian, Hapunan (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner). That word has been used for almost 10 years now…In other words, for the last 10 years people have been eating only once a day!”

“And then this Diaspora…you must’ve been told about the many social problems this Diaspora has created… dysfunctional families… it’s been worsening. Earlier I was given a report, results of a survey… It’s worsened, it’s worsened…”

“Yes, they keep the country afloat. But then what is happening? The money sent here is not spent wisely.  They want to come back… but how can they come back here if they don’t have money? They don’t have jobs here. Eventually, the solutions must be here not abroad.”

What will happen to all these uprooted Filipinos scattered all over the world? Will Filipinos just keep leaving the country?

“I think so…but you know, it’s not so much the Diaspora I’m worried about. I wrote about it the other Sunday…I’m worried about the specter of an implosion, hija… it will collapse, not explode…but it will implode. And one morning we will wake up to find that we no longer have a country, because it has imploded. All the institutions have been destroyed…anarchy, murder, rape, robberies… these will be commonplace, because we have become a failed state…like Somalia and these African countries that were first destroyed by corruption, then dictatorships. That’s the fate of so many of these countries in Africa…and the symptoms are here. The widespread anarchy, the absence of confidence in the police, the moral malaise…”

I remembered all the Occupy movements in the West, the beginnings of which were not very far away from my current home. Barcelona, Madrid- Los Indignados…then there’s the Arab Spring. People are fed up, people are tired and speaking up and will not let such darkness take over…What about us Filipinos?

“I wish there were more social unrest because that means people care…that they are fighting.”

“But it’s apathy… And when that’s what is happening, that’s it, it will collapse…and people will know how to adjust to it because they know that if you act morally or according to the rules, nothing will happen to you. So people act and adapt to the conditions…”

“Reading the letters of the exiles, particularly del Pilar’s, he recognized their anguish, the stringent pull of memory that Buddy himself felt for those fractured images of his early boyhood. How he wished that del Pilar had kept some journal…” ** MEMORY… is this unique to the Exile? Does one need to be away to remember?

“No, we all need memory- it’s memory that bonds a nation together. Racial memory. To keep this memory, to rejuvenate it, that’s the function of writers and teachers…”

“Memory is very important! It’s important for all Filipinos, whether you are here or abroad…because your nationality is where your heart is.

I’ve met Chinese who go to China thinking they are Chinese, and then they discover they are really Filipino after all…they get homesick for the Philippines, for wherever they come from. One time in the 60s I attended a conference, there was a Chinese writer, I kidded him saying that his loyalties were to the mainland and not to Malaysia. He corrected me, he told me- you know when I’m homesick I don’t think of China, I think of the palm trees of Penang, Sate Babe, the beaches where I swam as a boy… no, I don’t think about China… I speak Chinese, but you know…”

“This is a true story, ha… in Hong Kong when we were living there in 1960, there was a Chinese girl named April Velasco, who was staff artist of the magazine I edited. It turned out she grew up in Binondo…She was a Binondo Chinese. We talked in Tagalog. She told me, when the communist took over China, she returned to help in rebuilding the homeland…She thought she was Chinese. So she went. Then of course the communists were there, and she had to work in a commune. She said life was very difficult. She said—‘you know Frankie, I was so homesick for Binondo…So, I took a trip to Manila, then when I got to Manila, I climbed to the tallest part of the ship… up to the very top. And I looked over to Intramuros and Binondo. But I didn’t go down, because if I went down I’d be arrested as a communist. So after that I went back to Hong Kong. I just wanted to see Binondo…’ sabi niya. ‘I speak Chinese I look Chinese, pero hindi na ‘ko Intsik, Frankie, I’m Filipina!’ So, things like these…”

“…at least these are people who can still identify with this country, because many Filipinos cannot. And that’s why we’re like this. The Zobel-Ayalas, do you think they’re Filipinos? NO, they are Spaniards. Some of these Chinese who send their money to China, they are not Filipinos they are Chinese. And Marcos, he wasn’t Filipino, he sent his money abroad…They are here but they are like the old imperialists. What is the logic of imperialism? You exploit the country and send the loot to the mother country. That’s the logic of imperialism. So in a sense, that’s why we’re like this…We are colonized by our own people, by our own leaders. And the reason is first, we don’t recognize this form of colonialism, and second, we don’t have the patriotism to love this country as we should.”

Speaking of patriots, aren’t all OFWs the best of them all? The new heroes of our time? The BAGONG BAYANI?

“The overseas workers are not bayanis, they are just poor people trying to make a living, you know…That’s consuelo de bobo (a fool’s consolation). They are just ordinary Filipinos.”

“But this I tell them, ok— when Sun Yat Sen mounted the first revolution in China in 1911, the greatest help came from the overseas Chinese… they gave the money.”

“But what I would like to see is that the overseas Filipinos get ORGANIZED… really get organized, to pressure this government, to see to it that the money they remit home is used properly, for infrastructure, and not to buy the luxuries of the rich. And that can be done through proper organization… through political clout! Because the rich Filipinos, our leaders, will not move unless they are forced…that is the common attitude of people in power. People in power- they won’t move, they are enjoying it…unless they are criticized or pushed…So if overseas Filipinos are organized and they have a strong voice in government, they can make a difference…”

“But that’s the problem. Filipinos tend to divide. Too much ego…ego, hija, ego…in San Francisco there are about 300 Filipino organizations. I suppose you can say the same thing in Spain.”

“In San Francisco, out of these 300 Filipino organizations, from my hometown of Rosales there are 2 organizations. I told them- our town is so small why can’t you just work together…No answer. I told them they were too arrogant.”

“So, now, that illustrates the diversity in this country. That’s OK, but there should be issues wherein this diversification should be avoided.”

“Why are Filipinos united when Pacquiao fights?”

“So, maybe those who are in charge of organization should look for the commonalities that would bind people together rather than emphasize the diversities. Because those diversities will not disappear…They are ingrained in society… but it’s possible. EDSA 1 is an example of diversities uniting together…”

“It’s a difficult problem because it’s ingrained in Filipino culture. But like I said, these are issues that people like you should look carefully into. What are the issues that unite us rather than divide us?”

Questions, questions…all of Manong Frankie’s questions reminded me of his writing, the ideas found in his eloquent prose that had kept me company in my own share of loneliness abroad. “…the epic diaspora needed to be recorded if only to show how the Filipino had become the proletariat of the world.”**  What more did he have to say to Filipinos abroad?

“Huwag nilang kalilimutan ang malungkot na bayan nila. (Don’t forget your lonely country.)”

“But usually they don’t, eh. And many of them realize how Filipino they are when they are abroad than when they are here. So you feed on that, that hungering for identity, which grows among the loneliest of people. This is where a sense of community will help very much.”

Manong Frankie, the writer Kay Abaño, and her mother Barbara Abaño.

We said our goodbyes, and after buying some books from the bookshop – like rations for the next few years abroad – my patiently waiting mother and I made our way back to where we’d parked our car. Walking down Padre Faura Street and through Robinsons Galleria mall, I silently observed my fellow Filipinos. Manong Frankie’s words echoed in my thoughts.

Getting out of that part of Manila had always been quite a task. The streets were full of people and jeepneys, equal owners of the narrow road! But we slowly found our way out, crossing Taft Avenue and going up Leon Guinto Street, then making a turn at Vito Cruz which, after a few more narrow turns, finally led to the South Luzon Expressway. It all started coming back to me, this route I used to take.

I began to remember. I could remember it all.

***

F. Sionil José or in full Francisco Sionil José (born December 3, 1924) is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers in the English language. His novels and short stories depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society. José’s works – written in English – have been translated into 22 languages, including Korean, Indonesian, Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian and Dutch.

His many awards include the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award, Chile, 2004; (Kun Santo Zuiho Sho) The Order of Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, Japan, 2001; and the National Artist for Literature, Philippines, 2001. (Lifted from Wikipedia)

F. Sionil Jose signing copies of Viajero for Ang Bagong Filipino

** Quoted text from Viajero, a Filipino Novel by F.Sionil Jose (link: http://www.fsioniljose.tk/)

** Interview was held last December 21, 2011 at the Solidaridad Bookshop in 531 Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila.

** Solidaridad Bookshop Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Solidaridad-Bookshop/245546608820458?sk=wall

Kabayan is home for the holidays

26 Dec

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

“This is my first Christmas with my children in nine years na nandito ako sa Spain. “

7:07 a.m. Two hours before boarding. Terminal 1. El Prat Airport.Barcelona.  Tita Dorothy sips her coffee, looks at the people milling around the coffee bar  and  breaks into a smile. Even if she is coy about it, she can’t hide her excitement.  In almost 21 hours, she will be with her three sons.

“Hindi na ako nakatulog sa kakaempake at kakaayos ng tatlo kong maleta. Kalahati ng laman ng maleta ko, halos mga padala ng mga kaibigan.  Hindi naman ako makahindi. “

At Christmas, homesickness doubles. This is the time of year when our overseas kababayans are reminded of the distance between them and their families.  Christmas here in Spain is still different from how we celebrate the holidays back home.

As early as September, which is by the way the unofficial start of  Christmas season (September being the first of the BER months, months ending in ber), radio stations race among themselves who plays the first Christmas song of the year. Malls are already starting to gear up for the longest and much-awaited jolly season of all.

Christmas officially starts after All Saint’s day when Christmas trees and parols are proudly displayed in most of the households and offices. As the month of December approaches, everybody is busy buying gifts and cramming their schedules to fit every Christmas party there is. Crisis or no crisis.

Everybody behaves well during these days. It is like everyone is careful not to be blacklisted on Santa’s list. Good things seem to happen at Christmastime too: promotions are announced, enemies make peace, couples reconcile and so on. All in the spirit of Christmas.

The countdown towards Christmas Eve starts on the 16th when dawn or early morning masses start until the 24th of the month.  Churchgoers brave the cool December breeze and battle sleepiness just to complete the nine-day dawn masses in the hope that prayers and wishes will be answered. Outside the church, rich mouth-watering aroma of native delicacies wrap the air and at night children go house-hopping singing  Christmas carols hoping for some aguinaldos.

And these are just some of the many good things that our kababayans abroad dare not miss at Christmas in the Philippines. Some are lucky to be allowed by their employers to go home. Several are fortunate and can afford 1,200 to 1,500 euros of return ticket. But some are not. To those who don’t have the resources and can’t make it,  they contend themselves  to join their loved ones celebrating Christmas virtually.  I cannot blame why Tita Dorothy looks very excited.

“Iba pa rin ang Pasko sa atin.  The best.  Kasi palaging summer ako kung umuwi dahil sa trabaho. Kaya this year, ginawa ko talagang Pasko ang uwi ko. Magsisimba kaming lahat, kakain sa labas, mamamasyal!”

When she checked in her suitcases an hour ago, she exceeded three kilos.  Deterred, she was not.  She charmed, haggled a bit and “won”.  Her excuse: “It’s Christmas after all and I am a frequent flyer!”   The airline attendant was charmed and gave in not knowing that the long queue behind  Tita Dorothy will do the same: exceed,  charm and haggle; as thousands and thousands  of balikbayan boxes will flood  international airports around the world this month of December. The exodus begins.  Destination: Philippines.  According to Immigration officials at NAIA airport, around 200,000 balikbayans arrived home first week of December alone in 2010.

Tita Dorothy is flying Barcelona-Singapore-Cebu. She is arriving at two in the afternoon the following day.

“Mahabang biyahe ito.  Makapag-muni muni ako ng mabuti. My Christmas wish?  More  blessings from God, good health and pagmamahal sa pamilya ko. At sana next Christmas, makauwi uli.”

Indeed, nothing beats celebrating the yuletide season with our loved-ones.  Merry Christmas, Tita Dorothy!  And to all our kababayans all over the world, those who couldn’t make it and those who are now with their families  munching their sumptuous Noche Buena at home…

Maligayang Pasko po at Manigong Bagong Taon!

Schwoooshing his way to the top

12 Dec

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

What is interesting about fencing?

It’s like playing chess. Para siyang chess with movements.  Kailangan mo talagang mag- isip. Hindi ka na lang basta  sumusugod . Kailangan mong i-check ang situation kung papano ka a-atake. 

Joel Landicho. Top Filipino fencer in Spain

When did you realize that you wanted to do fencing?

Noong nasa University  of the East pa ako.  It was by accident. ‘Yun lang kasi ang tugma na P.E. subject  sa sked ko. Then I decided to try it. Tapos okay naman.

But before that, did you have any idea what fencing was all about? 

Before that, wala kong  idea about fencing.  Sa  P.E.  lang talaga. Yung first days talaga, I liked it na. Interesting kasi ang fencing eh. Tapos unti-unting  naging maganda ang performance ko.  Sa mga laro namin sa P.E., hindi ako basta-basta natatalo.  Ang training ay two days a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays . One hour and a half.

How many students were there in your class?

Sa P.E. namin, ilan lang kami,  mga 16 to 20 students.

What happened after you finished your P.E. class? 

After one year, since interesado talaga ako , nag-try out  ako sa varsity ng school.  Nakapasok naman ako. Then, I trained with them. Dalawa kasi ang purpose ko noon, gusto kong maging  part ng varsity team at makakuha ng scholarship.

Was the competition for the scholarship stiff?

For the scholarship, yes.  Kasi bago pa lang noon ang fencing sa UAAP kaya konti lang ang binibigyan ng scholarship.

How did you prepare for the scholarship application?

Actually walang preparation na kailangan. Basta nag-training lang ako kasama ng mga varsity. Isa sa mga requirements ay isang medal sa UAAP. Kaya hindi agad ako nakakuha ng scholarship kasi wala pa akong medal.   

When did you get your first medal?

After a year. First medal ko, gold.  It was   a team effort actually. Inter-university lang.  Naging three times a week na ang training ko   sa school.  Tapos sa sa Quezon City Sports Complex  and ‘pag Friday  sa Philsports.  I was in my  second year.  I was taking up Electronics and Communication Engineering.

Then I got the scholarship on my third year. Halos naka-20 medals na ako noon.  Interschool, UAAP and National Open. Yung sa scholarship ko, my tuition was covered and  may konting  allowance.  Tapos ang requirement ay  dapat mapasa ang majority ng subjects.

Joel harvesting medals during his varsity days at the University of the East.

 Why  is fencing  not popular?

Hindi siya popular kasi pag naisip ng mga tao na expensive  ang fencing, hindi na nila tina-try.

Do you plan to be a professional fencer?

Yes.  It’s really a dream.  I want to be a professional fencer.

What was your ranking?

Sa Philippines,  I was number 8. 

Were you able to compete outside the Philippines?

No. Kasi top 4 lang  ang nagco-compete internationally.

Why did you come to Spain?

I came here in  2006. After passing the board exam I decided to join my family.

How did you learn about the fencing club in Spain?

Through a friend, Ignacio.   It was my second year in Spain, in 2007. But before kasi, akala ko mahal mag-fencing dito. Pero hindi pala.  Papahiramin pala nila ng mga gamit  ang mga  new members.  Pero hindi nagtagal,  unti-unti  na akong bumibili ng  mga gamit.  Fencing shoes lang kasi ang dala ko from the Philippines. Meron din kaming membership monthly fees na  binabayaran sa club. Masaya ako.  At last, makakalaro uli ako.  Nagtre-train ako ng 2 to 3 days a week after work. Sa training, nagpakitang gilas na agad ko.  They saw me perform and  sabi nila magaling  daw ang coach ko sa Pilipinas. Hindi ko sinabi  na number  8 ako sa Pilipinas.

Joel now in a Spanish team

How are  your clubmates?

Alam kong maraming magagaling dito.  Iyung mga nakakalaro ko natatalo ko naman. Magaling sila pero bihira yung magaling talaga. Tapos later on nalaman ko na  yung mga magagaling wala  sa club. Nandoon sila sa national team nagtre-training.

What  do you do during the fight?

Yung natutunan ko sa Pilipinas, ina-apply ko sa moves ko .  Siempre, mag-attack ka muna pero fake lang  para malaman mo ang moves ng kalaban.  Based sa reaction niya, malalaman mo na kung anong klase siyang kalaban.

When  was your first competition in Spain?

After one year na.  I competed under the  name of the  club, Cardenal Cisneros.  The competition was in Barcelona and I was the only Filipino.  I placed 36th out of 75 players. Maraming natuwa sa result ng performance ko. I was congratulated  when I came back to Madrid.

Winning with the rest of his teammates

What was your most memorable  competition? 

It was also in Barcelona, October 2010. I placed second.  Nanalo ako ng Cup.  I was very happy. It was my first time.

Joel’s first win outside the Philippines

Is the Filipino community aware about your achievements?

Only my Filipino friends.

Do you think it is important  that the Filipino community  is aware that somebody is representing the  Philippines  in competitions here in Spain?

Oo naman.  Kasi at least may konting suporta, moral support.

With your Spanish citizenship  coming out soon, will you be representing Spain in your future competitions?

At the moment, since hindi pa ako Spanish citizen, hindi pa ako qualified mag-represent ng Spain. Pang-team lang ako.  Pero kapag na-grant na ang citizenship ko,  mas maraming suporta ang natatanggap ng Spanish citizen. Hindi ko naman  kayang suportahan ang sarili ko ‘pag nag-represent ng Pilipinas.  Dream ko kasi  mag compete internationally.  I competed in La Coruña for the World Cup and I represented the Philippines. I placed 64th.  Alam naman nila doon sa Philippines na I was representing our country and they know about my Spanish citizenship application. I coordinate my participation with them.  In February  next year, kapag hindi pa ako Spanish citizen,  I will represent  the Philippines.

Have you competed outside of Spain? 

I played at  the Campeonato de Europa representing  the fencing  club of  Spain. It was in Italy last April  2011.  The Russians were really good.  Also, the French Olympic medalists. We did not win.  But  it was a good experience.  I learned a lot from that competition.  Dapat palaging confident ka.

Whenever you lose or win, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Magtraining pa ng magtraining.  ‘Pag nananalo naman ako, ganoon din. More training. Siyempre ‘pag tumataas  na yung ranking mo, gusto mong mag improve ng mag-improve pa . Training pa rin.

You live in both worlds and you have competed internationally as a team, what are the things that should be improved by the Philippine fencing team?

More international competitions.  Kulang kasi sa  budget. Kailangan nilang pumunta sa Europe para magtraining. Nandito kasi  yung magagaling.  Normally yung mga magagaling katulad ng mga North Americans and South Americans,  pumupunta sila sa Europe para magtraining sa Italy, sa France.  Kailangan mong makalaban ng madalas ang mga magagaling.  Para mahasa pa. Kung ka-level mo lang yung kalaban mo, gagaling ka pero konti lang. Pero kung talagang magaling yung nagiging kalaban mo na  talagang binubugbog ka, tiyak na malaki ang magiging improvement mo.

Of all the competitors, who do you think are the best fencers?

The  Italians, French and  Russians.

What are your plans in the future?

I want to play until I reach 37 years old. Although meron ngang players na 60 years old na naglalaro pa rin.  I want to be a coach in the Philippines.

 Do you have a favourite fencer?

 I admire this Japanese  fencer, Ota Yuki.

Your dream competition?

 The Olympic Games.

Achille Marozzo, a Bolognese fencing master, once said, “In these modern times, many men are wounded for not having weapons or knowledge of their use.”  For his part,  Joel Enriquez Landicho,  not only knows that he’s got a weapon in his hand but also knows how to use it. 

Last October 8, 2011, he competed at the TNR FLORETE FEM Y MASC MADRID 2011  organized by the Real Federación Española de Esgrima (Royal Spanish Fencing Federation) where he brought home the  second place cup. This victory (added to his previous points in 2010 and 2011) catapulted him to the number one spot according to the  Ranking Nacional   Florete Masculino Absoluto.

Congratulations, Joel! Filipinos in Spain are proud of you!

Spain through the eyes of a travelling Pinoy

22 Aug

Plaza España, Barcelona

 

Why Spain?

“Spain because our cruise was departing from the port of Barcelona.  We took the opportunity to go around Barcelona before the cruise since Barcelona is also known to be one of the most visited places in Europe.  Spain was also a highly recommended place to visit by family and friends.”  

What was your first impression of Spain before coming here?

“Interesting food and culture. We thought that many people would be practicing Catholics since Spain was the one which introduced the religion to the Philippines.”

How long was your stay in Spain?

“Total of 8 days.”

Any favourite place(s)?

“Barcelona! It is a definite must-see.  It is very tourist-friendly.  Easy to go around the city because of the efficient transport system.  Lots of interesting places to see. They have a well-established infrastructure to support the tourism industry.  I also love the food in Spain.”

Was it an organized trip or you did it on your own?

“Yes, we organized the trip on our own. Using booking.com to book our hotels and getting the 2-day Bus Touristic package to go around the first 2 days.   We also used internet to research on the nice places.”

Who were your travel buddies?  

“I travelled with family.  I was with my husband and 2 kids (ages 7 and 4).”

How did the trip go? Was it hassle-free?

“Yes. We did not encounter any problems during our trip.”

Did you go beyond your budget? 

“Definitely! We went over our budget for food because we wanted to try many kinds of restaurants.  We also overspent with our transportation expenses since we rode the cab when we were too tired to walk to the train station or if kids were already sleepy.”

Do you have friends in Spain?

“Yes, Nick and Fe Martin-Smith – British. They have a small orchard at Camarles, Tarragona. They drove us to Lourdes and back to Tarragona.  And Nats Villaluna Sisma – Filipino! Nats was our tour guide at night and gave us a lot of useful tips about Barcelona.”

Any peculiar things that caught your attention during your trip?

“We noticed a lot of graffiti on the wall.”  

What was the most unforgettable moment from the trip?

“I like the solemnity and magnificence of Montserrat.  We were able to enjoy the place because we stayed there overnight.   There were very few people left in the late afternoon.  I love the tapas – small plates of big gastronomic surprises. I also love churros con chocolate.  Ciudad Condal had many friendly Filipino staff. My kids loved Port Aventura.  This place delighted us. My kids also loved their visit to Tito Nick and Tita Fe’s small orchard because they are very much into ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ these days.  They were so excited to see different kinds of plants…especially the sunflower. They also picked oranges for the first time. My 7-year-old enjoyed Camp Nou because he is a football fan.  He was so excited to get the new FCB Qatar Foundation shirt.”

Bloopers along the way? 

“We went up to the top of the Sagrada Familia only to find out that we cannot use the lift going down. It was torture for us going down the winding staircase! 15 floors down with a 4-year-old in my arms is NO JOKE! Haha…”

Going back to your first impression of Spain, what can you say now after your visit?

“Upon hearing Sunday mass, we noticed that there are very few practicing Catholics.  We went to church at the Sagrada Familia, which is a very big church, but the mass was just held at the back part of the church behind the altar of the main church.

What did you learn from the trip? 

“We learned that tourism can really help a country’s economy. We also learned that it’s hard to stick to your budget when in Europe.”

Any recommendations and tips to those who are planning to visit Spain in the future?

“They should look at the cruises that depart from Barcelona.  If you want a more religious and spiritual journey, Montserrat is a must.  They should stay at the hotel (Hotel Abat Cisneros) right outside the Basilica. For those with kids, Port Aventura will not disappoint you.  They have rides for kids of all ages.  Its well-maintained and a delightful adventure for the whole family.

Are you coming back?

“Definitely! Not anytime soon but will definitely save up for another European vacation!”

Montserrat

Ay-Ay Tanalgo is from Quezon City. She works as an Assistant General Manager of a restaurant chain in the Philippines.  She came to Spain in May 2011 with her husband, JM Tanalgo and their two kids, Mico and Diego where they checked out Barcelona, Montserrat, Port Aventura and Camarles in Tarragona. Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna

The boy who can K.R.U.M.P

29 Jun

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

Misa, Rodney and Jun 2wiggz (the Japanese who won in the Krump style)

The dance docu-film “Rize” opens with a disclaimer that says  “The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way.”   This refers to the general movements and swift body contortions that are characteristic of Krump dance which  are done with such rapidity and intensity.

“The steps were weird. They were fast. They danced like monkeys.” 

This was Rodney’s first impression when he first saw “Rize”.  The said American docu-film exposes the new dance form known as Krumping that originated in the early 2000s in Inner City, Los Angeles.

After watching the video, Rodney was both intrigued  and taken by the moves and steps of the dance.  He decided to learn it.

But before Rodney Paul Cueto Montero discovered krumping, he was already dancing when he was only seven years old.  And a self-confessed huge Michael Jackson fan at that. 

“My Papa had this VHS  tape  of Michael Jackson in  a concert in Budapest. I fell in love with “Beat It”.  I copied the moves and  that was the time I taught myself how to dance.”

He saw friends dancing at the parks or  at school. He got hooked. 

“When I finally had a computer, I checked out all the new dance steps and practiced them at home.”

And when “Rize” came into the picture, he finally realized what he really wanted to dance.

“Para silang loko-loko kung sumayaw. But later in the middle of the film, I understood the religious message it was trying to convey, through their moves.”

Rize movie poster. “The first Krumpers created the dance as a way for them to release anger, aggression and frustration in a positive and non-violent  way.”

He showed his new moves to several  friends at school  and introduced Krump to them.

“But they said,  “What are you doing?”  They didn’t understand the steps. Soon however, they caught up. Nung nag- umpisa kami ng bestfriend ko sa school, there were some who were critical to the  weird steps.  But hindi ko sila pinapansin. This is my style, my moves, I didn’t mind them.”

Krumping is characterized by  mostly exaggerated yet  expressive, often free and highly energetic movement involving the arms, head,  chest, the legs and feet and is danced to upbeat and fast-paced music. The first Krumpers created the dance as a way for them to release anger, aggression and frustration in a positive and non-violent  way.

The root word “Krump” came from the lyrics of a song in the 90s. It is often represented as K.R.U.M.P., which stands for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise, making krumping as a faith-based  and spiritual form of art.

At that time, there was already a group who was dancing Krump. Rodney tried to join the group, who also happened to be his friends.  

“They were older than me and they were already familiar with Krump.  They had more experience.  Lumalabas na sila sa ilang shows dito sa Spain at sa ibang bansa. I danced in front of them. Some sort of an audition to join in.  But they told me, I still had a lot of room for improvement.  I wasn’t taken in.”

Rodney felt rejected.  They told him to practice some more.  He was very disappointed, he decided to stop dancing. He stopped practicing at home.  He stopped watching dance videos.

For a while, he focused his attention on other things like his part time job at Hardrock Café and  his studies. He is taking up Tourism.

Then May came and school break was fast approaching. He didn’t have anything to do. His stint at Hardrock was coming to an end too.  He found himself bumming at home. One day, he tried dancing again. He checked out dance videos and started  some new moves.  He went to see old friends who “rejected” him and showed them how he got his groove back, and more. 

“They were surprised . It was nice that they kinda missed me.   Tapos nag-usap kami , sumayaw ako in front of them. They liked what they saw.”

Several months later, in between juggling  his part time job  and his studies, Rodney created his own group. It came easy for him to find more than willing members because apparently, the former dance group was falling apart with disgruntling members wanted out. They opted to join Rodney’s.

“It was like a blessing in disguise.  I decided to form a group, I named it “Impact Spain”. The group had its first 10 members.”

Their first stint as a group was at the Asian festival organized by Casa Asia. However, he was not able to perform with his group due to an unavoidable conflict of schedule at work.

“Duty ko kasi noon. I had to report to work. No choice. But I was able to make it even if I arrived late. I was their camera man.”

While Rodney’s group has been krumpin’ around town, Krumping has slowly become popular in Spain with the help of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.  As of last count, there are now  five active groups in Spain.  In Barcelona alone, there are two and majority of the members are Pinoys.

Then came a dream.

“I attended this hip hop competition. That was when I first thought, why not a competition for Krump.”

For this dream to come true, Rodney  didn’t wait for others to do it for him. He found himself jotting down his ideas, brainstorming, planning and calling people.

“I named the battle as “NO MERCY”. Because in this competition, there was only one round. In most battles each contestant was given 2 rounds to show their moves. Mine was merciless.”

Flipside (Center), from France is one of the best Krumpers in Europe. He was one of the judges.

Having worked in several shops in Barcelona helped Rodney gained friends and won their support. It was not difficult to find sponsors.

“Marami akong kaibigan sa Barcelona. Yung  The Hustle  Store, I used to work there. They helped me. Sunod-sunod na after that. Ang sarap ng feeling. I was doing the right thing. But I had also to be careful. I had to know what to do next. Like, the sponsors, the venue, the budget. Everything.  Yun nga, ang telephone bill ko ang laki dahil sa mga calls ko. My crew helped out promote it.”

With the undeniable popularity and clout  of social networks like Facebook, Rodney didn’t have to “beg” people to come to the said event. People visited his account and signed in.

“Maraming nakakita. They saw my flyer on Facebook.  They said, “ah this guy is serious”, I was not just making some pranks around.   They wanted to be part of it.”

Rodney only expected around 50 people to come. In Accounting terms, he was way too conservative for such a glum estimate.

“Hindi ko akalain na maraming pupunta. Expect ko lang mga 50 people at dito lang sa Barcelona. Plan ko nga maliit na room lang. Pero, nagtatanong sila kung paano makabili ng cheap flight tickets. People  from France, Germany and even Japan were inquiring. They didn’t care how much they just wanted to come.”

The choice for the venue proved a bit tricky.  His first set his eye on a small place somewhere in Barceloneta. The venue can hold 100 people.

“I needed a bigger venue. Later on  I realized: Why only Krump? Why not a bigger battle? Like a huge event with Rap battle, Jerk, Hip hop and Krump all in one fun night.”

 In Hip Hop style, the Barcelona-based Polish girl bagged the first place.

Raiart Theatre in El Borne was finally deemed appropriate for a bigger crowd.  However, amidst all these preparations, pressure   and all, took a  toll on Rodney’s health.

“A month before the main event, I was really stressed out. I was bedridden for one week. I took a rest and recharged.”

After recovering his energy back, he was ready to go to battle. On the day of the competition, he  personally  collected some  of the guests from the airport and took them to their hostels.

“But the two Japanese guests stayed in my place. They didn’t speak Spanish and their English was quite limited, takot ako para sa kanila. 

On March  12, 2011, at exactly 3:30 in the afternoon, Rodney couldn’t believe his eyes.

“We assembled in front of Hardrock Café… and oh man, there were a lot of them. It was raining and I was seeing hundreds of umbrellas. We all walked to the venue together.”

The battle officially started at 6.  The host was from France. The contestants as well as the judges came from France, Italy, Japan, Germany, Madrid,Valencia, Zaragoza, Canarias and Barcelona.   Rodney was “speechless” when he was called on stage to give welcome remarks. The place was full to the rafters. He found himself reciting his  speech in front of about 230 people including a Mexican  documentary director who just came to Barcelona to film the event.

In the Rap category, this 15-year-old Catalan dancer, the youngest dancer of the night, emerged as victorious. 

Given a smooth start, one would expect a hitch-free ending, wouldn’t it? Not.  As the battle was heating up, Rodney was told by the owner of the place that they were only allowed until half past eight.  Beyond that, lights would be out. He argued that the agreement was until nine. He demanded a good reason but the manager was firm.  With grace under pressure, he haggled. They met halfway. Eight forty five.

“I had to act quickly. I had to change the rule. I went  onstage and apologized. The original rule was 1 minute and 30 seconds . we had to change it to less than one minute.”

The battle carried on. And  before the bargained  eight forty five ticked, winners had been  declared. In Hip Hop style, the Barcelona-based Polish girl bagged the first place. At 15, the Catalan dancer who was also the youngest dancer of the night emerged victorious in the Rap category.  In Jerk style, the Barcelona-based Filipino dancer was declared the winner. And in Krump  style, the much coveted first prize went to the Japanese krumper. They each pocketed 50 euros as top prize.

The champ in the Jerk style

“I was a little bit disappointed because of the abrupt ending. But then, people came to me and told me how much fun they had. I felt good.”

More than the success of Rodney’s maiden project, it was the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie  that proved to be  unparalleled.

“I remember that it was the time when Japan was hit by tsunami and  I was really worried about my Japanese friend. He called all his friends and family in Japan. When he won, he took us out to dinner and used his prize to treat us. He told meKrump is  family, krump is not money,  with my  prize we will eat together” I was touched kasi pumunta lang siya dito from Japan not for  the money but for love of Krump.  He is my idol.”

What did Rodney learn from this event?

 “Unity is very important. Unity is our strength. We  have to praise our  originality and moves, hard work and practice because this is an inspiration to make all things go better.”

Any future plans?

“Lie low muna. Maybe, to organize  future events  or to start a new group worldwide. Who knows?”

For this Filipino Krump dancer, Rodney can easily disclaim that his journey to krumpin’ has  been sped up. It took a lot of hard work, perseverance and patience to show to the world that he too,  deserved to be  called a true blue krumper. Pictures courtesy of Rodney Paul Cueto Montero.

A sample of Krump: