Monday, July 14, 2008

No, I Am Not a Pescatarian

Merriam-Webster's has added, yet again, about 100 hundred words in the dictionary -- from the clearly preposterous-sounding to those which should have been included a long time ago.

Pescatarian refers to a vegetarian whose diet includes fish.

Thus, definitely, I am not a pescatarian. I prefer meat; pork to be exact. On the other hand, I can also be possibly called a netroot, or one whose grassroots advocacy - human rights for me actually - is made known through the internet. But I definitely am not a wing nut -- or one who advocates extreme measures or changes.

But this is not the reason why I began this blog entry (and to be sure a spontaneous one). The reason is that unlike any other manifestation of human intelligence (humint in spy-speak but which of course means something else altogether), language evolves and perhaps will never die. With it, language becomes more dynamic, more alive.

The dynamism of language can be seen in every culture, nation or state. Poetry and novel are perhaps (my literature professors would probably kill me for saying this) archetypes of language. In all forms and lengths, poems and stories can be found in all the corners of this earth. This is what keeps me drawn to language and to all the fruits of man's fascination of and playing with it.

I am including here one of my favorite poems, in fact my favorite of Rainer Maria Rilke, entitled:


Spanish Dancer

As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white
flickering tongues before it bursts into flame:
with the audience around her, quickened, hot,
her dance begins to flicker in the dark room.

And all at once it is completely fire.

One upward glance and she ignites her hair
and, whirling faster and faster, fans her dress
into passionate flames, till it becomes a furnace
from which, like startled rattlesnakes, the long
naked arms uncoil, aroused and clicking.

And then: as if the fire were too tight
around her body, she takes and flings it out
haughtily, with an imperious gesture,
and watches: it lies raging on the floor,
still blazing up, and the flames refuse to die -
Till, moving with total confidence and a sweet
exultant smile, she looks up finally
and stamps it out with powerful small feet.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell, Spanish Dancer embodies what poetry in motion is really like. With every word and enjambment, I can see clearly how the flamenco dancer flicker and flit from a dart of white tongue flame to a furnace that consumes not only her dress, but the attention of the audience; consumes them so much that the visual is the Spanish dancer and nothing, and no one, else. Everything around her is dark, despite the luminescence of the rattlesnake uncoiling; the fire of the dancer spreading like an uncoiling snake.

The visual impact is simply stunning, and I can't help but clap with the dancer and to stamp with her as she stamps the last ember of the dance with her powerful small feet.

This is language at its best.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Permanent Disability

Author's Note: Since, I have not yet finished a new entry for this blog, I am reposting this article which was published on Page A11 of the May 18, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

My mother is soft-spoken, but she stands her ground on issues that most people shy away from. Just recently, our “barangay” [village] captain asked her to sign up for the campaign launched by the supporters of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Realizing that it was the signature campaign, which the Arroyo administration unashamedly calls the people’s initiative, my mother declined, saying she was against it.

This morning, while we were enjoying the cool morning breeze, my aunt’s house help, “Ate” [Elder Sister] Mile, mentioned that my cousin had asked her to sign a piece of paper. My cousin, a barangay official, told her it was the minutes of the recent barangay assembly. Ate Mile signed a yellow piece of paper and another white sheet.

My mother, who is the barangay treasurer, told her the yellow paper was indeed the minutes of the barangay assembly, but the other one was for the signature campaign. When told that it called for Charter change and the possible extension of Arroyo’s term, Ate Mile protested in our native tongue: “I did not know that! I wasn’t told it was for that purpose. We will be going backward, if she does not step down.”

That’s the “people’s initiative” for you. Whatever the Arroyo administration officials say, the only ones they manage to convince are themselves. But that is not surprising. For two years now, the squatter in Malacañang has been convincing herself that she is the legitimate President.

I guess it is not difficult for her to convince herself that she is indeed the President. After all, the candidate I voted for is dead and the duly elected president is also dead. She has Garcillano, Gonzalez and Defensor to defend her, and they are such brilliant, logical and truthful people!

When I wrote in my blog what I thought about the current political situation, my dentist wrote back to ask why I was so angry with Arroyo. She was surprised, because I had taken part in Edsa People Power II.

I replied that I was not fighting for Arroyo then, but I was there, like many others, to protest against President Joseph Estrada’s conduct. I never questioned Arroyo’s constitutional right to succeed to the presidency; I had to respect what the Constitution mandated, even though I never liked her. Now, what I am questioning is her legitimacy, and her behavior and that of Jose Pidal and Jose Pidal Jr.

And she has the temerity to push for the revision of the Constitution!

She started by creating a commission, which was not even permitted by the Constitution. Moreover, on the day we were supposed to attend the assembly sponsored by the commission, I received a call from a classmate who told me that attendance was by invitation. We had to represent a sector of the community to be admitted to the convention center in the capitol where the assembly was being held. Well, that’s consultation for you.

Now here comes Speaker Jose de Venecia announcing that by July this year, we would already have a parliamentary government. No surprise there. Even before I was qualified to vote, I already knew that the Speaker had dreams that were bigger than Dumbo’s. They are such big dreams that even a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official was surprised by them. The official pointed out that it would take some time to verify the signatures, and the Comelec would need almost P3 billion to do it and then conduct a plebiscite.

Someone ought to tell our people that the money they paid for the expanded value-added tax will be used to satisfy the whims of those who want to change the Constitution in order to fulfill their dreams of: (1) having a graceful exit; (2) extending their stay in power; (3) at last, becoming the head of the government; or (4) all of the above.

But I am not really worried, for several reasons. The first is that the Senate, or at least the more sensible members of that chamber, will not let Arroyo and the House of Representatives bully them into changing the Constitution. The senators are more knowledgeable about the Constitution, while most congressmen seem to be uninformed or misinformed (or pretending to be either, which is idiotic) about the provisions of the Constitution.

The second reason is that the Supreme Court, the vanguard of the Constitution, is still there. And I pray that it will continue to perform its noble task of defending the Constitution. I have faith in the Supreme Court even though most of its members have been appointed by Arroyo. And that faith has been strengthened by their decisions on Executive Order 464 and Presidential Proclamation 1017.

But my best reason for believing Charter change will not happen soon is that the people are very well aware of the current political situation. The surveys show that a big percentage of Filipinos do not only want Arroyo to resign but also want the Constitution to stay as it is. In fact, a classmate told me that his boss, an elected government official and a known Arroyo supporter, is against the revision of the Constitution. Of course, I cannot verify that, but if it’s true, kudos to him.

As to some Filipinos living abroad who say that Arroyo is the best person to lead the country, I would believe it only if they said that after living here for a few months. The Filipino is intelligent, and there is no doubt about that. Only the administration says that Filipinos are more concerned about what they have on their tables. Such demeaning utterances could come only from officials who do not value the people’s opinion.

Only administration officials say that the people still want Arroyo to lead the country, that she was put there by God, that she is the best person to lead the country and that the only solution to all the problems of the country is the revision of the Constitution. But these statements are little more than the incoherent babbling of persons who are prone to self-deception, like someone who continues to believe in the legitimacy of her presidency.

Does that constitute permanent disability? And that is one legitimate ground for removing her from office.