Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Ideas That Have Not (Yet) Seen Print

Since my last post, I had wanted to write about:

  1. The Cory magic, and how I observed the week of mourning for her. I have some shots from the queue outside Manila Cathedral. Never found the time to write that piece.
  2. The beauty of the City of Manila and how I want to clean it up. (I even have a blog title: My Giant Feather-Duster).
  3. The presidentiables and the state of Philippine politics.
  4. The worsening traffic problem and the undisciplined drivers of Metro Manila.
  5. The things we learned in school that have yet to be applied in real life.
  6. The moves to change the name of my alma mater, Manila Science High School, to Cory Aquino Science High School (CASHS?). We love Cory, but we love our name too. I'm looking for a way to talk to Mayor Lim. If you have suggestions and connections, do let me know. Thanks.
My thoughts are too scattered at the moment. I wrote this list down so I won't forget my ideas. If I don't get to write them, ask me and I'll share my thoughts with you when we see each other. Over coffee. Preferably at some beautiful place like Cafe by the Ruins in Baguio, or Bag o' Beans in Tagaytay.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Day High

It took me a week to blog about this because these past few days have been among the busiest of my life. Yes, The Obiter Master got even busier, if that was even possible.

Anyway, the truth has to be told. Especially when the truth is this eventful.

As a student, I was big on the first day of school every year. My parents could not afford to buy five children new stuff all the time, but I made sure that my shoes were shined, my pencils were sharpened, my hair was tied, and that I was the picture of the perfect student, so I could make a good impression on my teachers and classmates, and to set the tone for the rest of the year.

That excitement had diminished through the years, especially when I started working. I had entered many workplaces with wrinkled clothes and dated hairstyles on my first day, so focused was I on the "work at hand", and finding all the effort required to meet my standard of perfection too exhausting.

I went back to my old ways for this job, as I got more comfortable under my own skin and at the prodding of good friends who remembered me when I was neater and more confident. As I needed to make it work in my new work, I slowly planned everything and psyched myself mentally, spiritually, and physically for the task at hand. That meant wearing crisp office attire, sporting a low-maintenance hairstyle, and putting my best foot forward.

I was not able to sleep the night before my first day at the Supreme Court. With too little sleep, I finally got up and brewed some coffee. I had my prayer time and wrote (using a pen) on my journal. I ate adobo and rice for breakfast, and braved the rain to drive from Commonwealth Ave. to Taft Ave.

Only it took me three hours to get to the office. It had rained all throughout the weekend before that, and traffic was bumper to bumper. I increasingly grew anxious during that long drive that could have taken me to Subic, and kept texting my officemates. I wanted to make a good impression on my first day, to be in by 8 a.m. with a smile on my perky face. Instead, mourners for Tita Cory clogged the roads leading to Manila, and I was late.

I parked at the nearby mall and steeled myself for the long walk to the office. I didn't realize that the guards would not allow me to exit through the mall. I was encouraged to take the ramp. The wind was blowing so hard by the time I got out of the parking lot, and my little umbrella, which I got free from Watson's, got turned inside out. My new shoes did not have enough friction for the slippery road. I missed my Crocs so badly that morning. A couple of workers sitting outside the parking lot commented, "Miss, sira ang payong mo (Miss, your umbrella is broken)," and I ignored the urge to retort, "Really, you think?!"

I got disoriented and believe it or not, could not find my way to Faura. I asked for directions and the people were not so helpful, as if Padre Faura, on which stood the Supreme Court, the Philippine General Hospital, and a whole lot of other famous landmarks, suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. Finally, I saw something that I thought I would never ride again - a pedicab! I hailed it and asked the driver (more like pedaler, if there is such a word) if he could take me to Faura. He said yes. Note how he lied.

A few minutes had passed, and I could not see clearly because of the plastic covering around the pedicab that shielded passengers from the rain. I had a sinking feeling that the pedaler did not know where he was going, for he kept pausing to look at street signs. Finally he stopped to ask for directions, and true enough, the man pointed to the opposite direction.

I complained and complained but the pedaler did not reply. I realized that he could not hear me through the rain and the wind and that ugly plastic rainproof shield all around me. I felt like The Girl in the Plastic Bubble.

I recognized Padre Faura and shouted out directions to the Court. I wanted to strangle the pedaler when I got off. It took him FIFTEEN minutes from Pedro Gil to Faura, on a pedicab. Can anyone beat that? I told him to memorize Faura as he was in the pedicab business. He just smiled and charged me Php30.00, the equivalent of my whole day's parking fee at the nearby Robinson's Mall.

I shook the rain from my clothes, hand-combed my hair, and entered the gate. I could not pause to admire the cobblestone steps, the imposing columns, and the life-sized statues of former SC Chief Justices. I was very late already. When I entered the elevator, I noticed something. My new linen blouse had an ugly stain on the right arm, and it would not go away despite my furious rubbing with alcogel. I must have gotten it while I staggered against the wind and walked close to the walls for protection.

So there I was on the morning of my first day, with disheveled hair, wet shoes, stained blouse, and pounding heart, the latest employee to enter the chamber to offer the Republic of the Philippines my personal best, which of course was always far less than perfect.

The rest of the day went better. My boss welcomed me with a smile and two thick folders to work on. I found lunch mates immediately. I went to work, got a migraine, and drove for another two and a half hours going home. I could barely move by the time I got home and fell asleep immediately when my head hit my pillow.

Sometimes, things do not go as planned. Tomorrow is another Monday, another first day, another exciting day. I have resolved to plan less. It's a new resolution. I plan to break it again tomorrow.

I cannot sleep again.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Had Coffee with Cory

My generation can sing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" from memory. We can boast that we were able to enter Malacanang to gawk at Imelda's shoe and perfume collection; that we joined the authentic People Power Revolution; that our parents voted for Ninoy Aquino's widow, Mrs. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, during the 1986 snap Presidential elections; and that we attended mass at Sto. Domingo celebrated by Cardinal Sin just to get a glimpse of her privileged daughter, Kris Aquino. Probably the latter is not something to boast about, really.

My generation is in mourning today, for former President Cory Aquino, Tita Cory to all of us, has passed away.

After 20 years of Marcos dictatorship, Mrs. Aquino represented at the time all of our hopes and dreams as a people. She was the David pitted against Goliath, and willingly sacrificed her private life to become a revolutionary President, Time's Woman of the Year, the Mother of Philippine Democracy, and now, the Saint of People Power.

She was not perfect. She had a family to take care of, controversial properties and unsatisfied employees just like everyone else. She had a daughter who broke her heart several times, a product of recessive genes probably, for I wonder how a heroic father and a saintly mother could produce such a character. But this is not about Kris.

Mrs. Aquino united the Philippines and brought out the best in each of us. Her actual resume, which the Shoe Lady mistakenly summarized into one word, "housewife", awed everyone, me included. She studied French and Math in college, and was a brilliant student. She willingly sold some of her inherited properties to finance her husband Ninoy's campaigns. She was the widow everyone tried to emulate. From pate-making to flower-painting, her skills went beyond leading bloodless revolutions and impressing the U.S. Congress.

I was in grade school when the EDSA Revolution happened, the event that saw Hollywood stars using the "L" sign, that stood for "Laban" ("Fight!) rather than "Loser" during our time, and swathed the country in yellow. I watched her much-applauded (live, not canned) speech before the U.S. Congress, barely a few months into her presidency. Mrs. Aquino had a natural rapport with her audience. She knew what to emphasize to whatever crowd she was addressing, and her sincerity and wit shone through. She could inject humor even in the most ironic situations. I always applauded her speeches, even when she was already retired and just making her appearances to lead the country against her erring predecessors.

When I was a senior in high school, one of my batchmates appeared on a TV show with her, and she was impressed by him. She asked him where he went to school, and he said, Manila Science High School. Then she, President, Heroine, Mother, visited our little school! Oh, how we shined the floors and rehearsed our songs. It was our single most important high school memory, even eclipsing the J-S Prom. She went even further to invite all 318 of us, including our teachers, to Malacanang Palace, for lunch. We walked slowly on the carpeted floors, stared at the chandeliers, and marveled at the food. We even got a souvenir each - a yellow mug that simply said, "I Had Coffee with Cory". Most of us have kept that mug.

"Write to me", Tita Cory told our batch. "Even after my term ends, I want to hear from you, I want to know what you have become, and what you are doing for our country," she said, although not exactly in those words. So I did write to her, and asked one of my uncles, her Times Street neighbor, to give it to her. I told her that I had become a lawyer and that she had inspired me to love my country and to put others first above my personal comfort. She did not reply, but it was enough for me that I had written it.

What has the country become after those golden days of Philippine democracy? What has become of that batch from Manila Science High School? What has become of me, whose ideas of freedom, democracy, and service were shaped by the legacy left behind by former Sen. Ninoy Aquino and his widow, former Pres. Cory Aquino?

The years have not been all that kind to us. We Filipinos have kept on repeating EDSA, as if its formula could again transform us into the world's bastion of democracy. Our high school batch has gone our different ways (although this year, efforts to support our alma mater have materialized). And I, I have become more jaded as the years have gone by.

Just as in life she had inspired us to do our best, Mrs. Aquino in her death reminds us to safeguard our freedom, to speak the truth, to live in faith, and to love unconditionally.

What will happen to the Philippines after she's gone? I end this tribute with some words from "As Time Goes By", allegedly one of her favorite songs, which we performed in Malacanang Palace (I was part of the Senior Choir) during our historic Coffee with Cory:

It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.

Rest in peace, Tita Cory, President. Mother. Hero.