BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Friday, December 11, 2009

The collapse of the Lehman Brothers

A classmate from London sent me this book. I strongly recommend it. It's a very perceptive inside story of that fateful incident that now affects the whole world. Truly a page turner!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

about a carnage

Somewhere between the long road to Shariff Aguak and the heart of darkness, at least 57 people breathed their last. They were brutally murdered, in broad day light, in an island they call home.

Theirs is a story so brutal, so senseless and so evil.

There's nothing like it I've seen in my years as a journalist. The November 23 carnage in Maguindanao has come to define this period in Philippine journalism. Our generation. My generation.

I can't fathom what happened. Yes, it was the first time I ever encountered such evil.

I weep for all the victims, the men, women and children left behind. I weep for a nation who continues to have a government that is as evil as the atrocities that it allows.

I weep for the women, the mothers and the female lawyers killed in the massacre. I weep for the women including the pregnant ones, who were, witnesses say, were raped before they were killed.

But most of all, I weep for the death of at least 27 journalists. They set out that early morning of November 23 thinking they would, like any other day, come home to their loved ones after a day's work. They just wanted to get the story. They, like all of us in this profession we dearly love, just wanted to tell the truth. They just wanted to be there. They just wanted to tell the world what is happening in a place they call the Promised Land.

They weren't able to tell their story. But the world knows about it now.

It is a story of courage and hope.

Let us not forget their names.

Benjie Adolfo, Gold Star Daily.
Henry Araneta, Radio dzRH.
Mark Gilbert “Mac-Mac” Arriola, UNTV.
Rubello Bataluna, Gold Star Daily.
Arturo Betia, Periodico Ini.
Romeo Jimmy Cabillo, Midland Review.
Marites Cablitas, News Focus.
Hannibal Cachuela, Punto News.
John Caniban, Periodico Ini.
Lea Dalmacio, Socsargen News.
Noel Decina, Periodico Ini.
Gina Dela Cruz, Saksi News, General Santos City.
Eugene Dohillo, UNTV.
Jhoy Duhay, Gold Star Daily.
Santos Gatchalian, dxGO.
Bienvenido Legarte Jr., Prontiera News.
Lindo Lupogan, Mindanao Daily Gazette.
Ernesto “Bart” Maravilla, Bombo Radyo.
Rey Merisco, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City.
Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, Midland Review.
Marife “Neneng” Montaño, Saksi News.
Rosell Morales, News Focus.
Victor Nuñez, UNTV.
Ronnie Perante, Gold Star Daily.
Joel Parcon, Prontiera News.
Fernando “Rani” Razon, Periodico Ini.
Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, Manila Bulletin.
Napoleon Salaysay, Mindanao Gazette.
Ian Subang, Socsargen Today.
Andres “Andy” Teodoro, Central Mindanao Inquirer.

There is no writing 30 for these people. Their story will continue. Each and every journalist in the Philippines today is outraged. I salute all of my colleagues in this beloved profession who in spite of their grief, continue to endure and tell the story of the evil that happened in the early morning of November 23 so that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

As Inquirer columnist Patricia Evangelista said, there is no journalist today who will not stand up for those who were lost.

(Thank you to Romel Bagares of CenterLaw for the list)

Monday, November 23, 2009


by Inday Varona-Espina

The abduction and murder of around 45 persons, including around a dozen journalists, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is a spear thrust in the heart of our fragile democracy.

Let us grieve not just for our media colleagues -- though theirs is an especially tragic fate, to die in the line of duty, serving a profession that more often than not deprives provincial practitioners of a living wage and social benefits.

Let us grieve, too, for the other dead: the wife of a mayor, lawyers, drivers and followers. Let us grieve most for democracy, for election-related violence violates our people's right to an enlightened choice of leaders. Election-related violence prevents people from asking tough questions of prospective leaders; that violence is almost always aimed at subverting a people's free will.

Today's outrage brings this country closer to failed state status, and not just because of the number of persons killed. What is truly chilling about today's tragedy is, that the alleged perpetrators were not just excitable henchmen of a local politician -- in this case, Shariff Aguak Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

The perpetrators, according to military reports, included not just the mayor and his men but also practically the entire local police force, para military forces and senior police officials.

One hundred men; that's the equivalent of a company in the military. One hundred men; it's no wonder that journalists who tried to follow up the carnage could not get a word out of anyone.

Anyone includes the top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame.

Even as media was getting the names of those killed, even as the mayor of Mangadadatu told television reporters about how his wife called him to report being waylaid, even as Major General Alfredo Cayton of the 6th Infantry Division and Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr. confirmed that the 21 bodies had been recovered in Ampatuan town at around 4:30 p.m., the Public Information Office of the PNP continued to insist they knew nothing of the incident.

We have heard the usual statement of condemnation from Malacanang. They might as well condemn themselves.

The Ampatuan clan played a major role in the fraud that marred the 2004 elections; the fraud that allowed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo another six years in power; the fraud that many of us chose to ignore because the alternative was another outsider-actor in Malacanang.

Maguindanao was where they tried a shutout of Fernando Poe Jr -- a zero vote. Maguindanao, as the Hello Garci tapes told us, played a big, big role in ensuring Mrs. Arroyo's continued hold in power.

Five years since that election, Ampatuan can strike at will, almost reassured of impunity because, after all, nobody ever got punished for the fraud of 2004. On the contrary, many elections officials and military officers implicated in the fraud reaped promotions and other rewards.

Now we are told the government is about to place the entire Maguindanao under military and police control. God help us all, because with protectors like these, we don't need enemies.

Maguindanao carnage

(According to the National Press Club, members of the media will gather for an indignation rally tomorrow, November 24, at 6 p.m. in front of the Central Police District Station, Kamuning, then proceed to Camp Crame along EDSA. Let's all wear black.)

MANILA- Bodies of at least 30 kidnap victims, including the wife and relatives of Buluan town's vice mayor, were recovered by government troops in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province Monday afternoon.

Map of Maguindanao province, showing the location of the capital town Shariff Aguak, and the municipalities of Ampatuan and Buluan. (ABS-CBN News Graphics)

The killings are the first reported violence related to the May 2010 polls, which are still 6 months away. Most of the victims are women. Some are members of the media.

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, Buluan Mayor Ibrahim "Jong" Mangudadatu confirmed that at least 30 bodies have been recovered as of Monday evening.

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. confirmed to the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that 13 female and 8 male bodies were found by members of the 601st Infrantry Brigade of the AFP around 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Buluan vice mayor Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu told ANC that his wife, Jenalyn, his sister, and some relatives were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy on his behalf when a group of about 100 armed men abducted them.

Mangudadatu, who is running for governor of Maguindanao, said some 15 media men who went to cover the event were also seized.

The Mangudadatus believe the abduction was politically motivated. Madaser "Toy" Mangudadato, a member of regional legislative assembly of ARMM, told ANC that they sent their female relatives to file the certificate of candidacy for "Toto" in the hope that their political rivals would not harm them.

Toy said they were warned that if Toto will personally file his candidacy, he will be hurt.

The entourage left for the provincial capitol at around 9 a.m.. Toy said the group could not be contacted because the cellphones of those in the convoy were "blocked."

Toto said his wife called him at around 9:30 in the morning to say an armed group, supposedly of the Ampatuan clan, a political rival, flagged down their convoy on their way to Shariff Aguak town, where the election office of the province is located.

He said his wife's parting words over the phone was about the armed men slapping them around and commanding them to swallow the certificate of candidacy forms.

He told ANC it was the Ampatuans who beheaded and mutilated the bodies of his wife, his youngest sister, a lawyer, various relatives, supporters and other civilians, after robbing them.

ABS-CBN News has tried to reach the Ampatuans for comments but they could not be reached.

Family, political feud

The Mangundadatus were long-time allies of the Ampatuans, whose patriarch, Andal Ampatuan was re-elected governor of the province of Maguindanao in 2007.

Last year, the Mangudadatus went to Shariff Aguak to ask the senior Ampatuan to allow a member of the clan to vie for the gubernatorial post in 2010, according an Newsbreak's military source who is familiar with politics in the area.

According to the source, however, the Ampatuans were displeased because the Mangudadatus brought with them about 200 fully armed men. This, according to the source, contributed to growing animosity between the two camps.

Buluan Vice-Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu denied the Shariff Aguak incident during the ANC interview.

The senior Ampatuan wants one of his sons to succeed him as provincial governor, according to the Newsbreak source.

Sources in the military say Andal is known to control his own private army, which includes two CAFGU companies and a host of civilian volunteers.

Brawner said there were about 100 gunmen, most of whom were militiamen deputised as government guards by Ampatuan's family.

Brawner said the leader of the militiamen who staged the kidnapping was one of Ampatuan's sons. Ampatuan could not be reached for comment as of posting time.

Revenge killings and clashes among rival political families are common in Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao island, where unlicensed firearms proliferate and parts of which are lawless.

Islamic militants on Mindanao have also been waging a separatist rebellion for decades.

(Read background on Maguindanao clan and political wars here and here.)

Toto Mangudadatu told ANC that he will proceed with his plans to run for governor next year. "No one can compel me not to run for governor. And I just want to state this in the presence of the people of the Republic of the Philippines, especially [those from] our province that I plan to run for governor to reform our province."

Election violence

In a radio interview, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said, "Dapat malaman kaagad ng kapulisan natin kung sino ang may kagagawan nito, para maipakita rin natin sa publiko na hindi natin mapapalagpas ang ganitong karahasan."

She added that the incident should be a warning that security is a priority in areas where election-related violence are high.

Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said it was the Philippine National Police (PNP) that was in charge of the security in the filing of the certificate of candidacy at the provincial capitol in Sharif Aguak town.

Cayton said they have sent a battalion of soldiers and 5 armored vehicles to help the PNP restore peace in the province.

Brawner said no arrest has been made yet.

Mangudadato convoy

In a phone interview with ANC, Toto Mangudadatu enumerated the following names as part of the group who accompanied the Mangudadatu family in filing Vice Mayor Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy on his behalf:

Next of kin:
1. Eden Mangudadatu (Vice Mayor of Mangudadatu municipality and sister of Buluan Vice Mayor Toto Mangudadatu)
2. Jenalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu (wife of Toto Mangudadatu)
3. Mamutabay Mangudadatu (aunt)
4. Rowena Mangudadatu
5. Farina Mangudadatu
6. Wahida Ali Kalim (civilian)
7. Faridah Sabdullah (aunt)
8. Zorayda Bernan (cousin)
9. Rayda Sapalon Abdul (cousin)
10. Pinky Balayman (cousin)
11. Ella Balayman (cousin)
12. Rahima Pyuto-Palawan (relative)

13. Atty Cynthia Oquendo
14. Atty Connie Brizuela
15. Mr. Oquendo, father of Cynthia
16. Unto (driver)
17. Razul Daud (driver)
18. Eugene Demillo (driver)
19. Miriam Kalimbol (business supervisor)
20. Civic Edsa (driver)
21. Patrick Pamansang (driver)
22. Chito (driver)
23. Abdullah Haji Dolong (driver)

24. Ian Subang (Dadiangas Times)
25. Leah Dalmacio (Forum)
26. Gina dela Cruz (Today)
27. Marites Cablitas (Today)
28. Joy Duhay (UNTV)
29. Henry Araneta (DZRH)
30. Andy Teodoro (Mindanao Inquirer)
31. Neneng Montaño (formerly of RGMA)
32. Bong Reblando, Manila Bulletin
33. Victor Nuñez (UNTV)
34. Macmac Ariola (UNTV)
35. Jimmy Cabillo (UNTV)

Mangudadatu said he cannot account for 9 of the 44 who joined the convoy.

The total number of those who joined the convoy remained hazy with some accounts reporting up to a total of 65.

The number of media practitioners in the convoy is yet to be confirmed, too, with some accounts reporting up to 35 - with reports from Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza of, and AFP

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Autumn in Germany

(I scribbled this piece while waiting at the Dusseldorf airport for my flight back to Manila but had no time to upload it then.)

GERMANY - A visit to this European country has always been on my bucket list -- albeit somewhere at the bottom -- but still there.

So when my editors assigned me to join a study tour and cover a press conference here, I didn't have second thoughts. I accepted. I didn't even care what the assignment was. Whatever it was, I knew I could pull off something. Even if I were to search for Hitler's descendants or compete with the journalists around the world to cover the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, I would without doubt, take the assignment. It would be my ticket to Germany.

And so I left Manila at midnight for the long plane ride to the western part of the world.

Germany, here I come. I was beaming with excitement and not even a temperature of four degrees would dampen my spirits.

After more than 15 hours on an economy flight, I made it here. I rushed out of the Dusseldorf airport to realize the dream I had for a long, long time.

Like most dreams I had, however, there's that momentary rush you feel when you realize it. And then, the exhiliration disappears, blown away by the autumn wind just like the dried cherry color leaves.

That's the downside...You'd think...ok so it's done...what now? That big constant dream is suddenly demystified. There's nothing more to look forward to. It's crossed out. Over.

There is that yearning to go home soon. Suddenly I missed home like I never did in absolutely every out-of-the-country trip I had since I was 13 years old.

This is not to say I did not enjoy. Sure I did. Germany did not disappoint. It is as European as it can get -- old churches, castles, different dishes, German beer, good wine and cheese, chocolates, interesting people, efficient train system, the breathtaking view of Koblenz along the Rhine Valley from the train, the football stadium and many, many more.

The coverage, too was interesting enough. The usual corporate blah-blahs notwithstanding, I picked up enough interesting points. I was happy talking with fellow journalists from other countries, learned from them, drew inspiration from the older ones and enjoyed the interviews, too.

I even had the energy to extend my stay for several days to go backpacking to other parts of the country with some friends. And I certainly had a good time especially with all the festivities during a very historic period.

So what was missing?

I am waiting here at the airport trying to figure it out.

And then a mother with a baby girl in her arms appears from nowhere. The girl, probably two years old, has curly, golden hair. She has freckles on her rosy cheeks. The mother carries her with her right hand and pushes a stroller with the left hand. She doesn't seem to mind the load. They laugh over something. The baby girl claps her hand.

My thoughts drift back home. I can't wait to board the plane.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

typhoon Ondoy

BAGONG SILANGAN EVACUATION CENTER, Quezon City - In the middle of all the dead people, a mother tries to breastfeed her baby. In another corner, a group of kids while the time playing with one another. A grandmother weeps in desperation. She lost eight of her grandchildren. A father stares at his dead son in disbelief. There is a mad scramble for hot lugaw by the door. Bags of clothes are strewn grotesquely around. Candles for the dead are burning. The victims need all the help they can get.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Budget deficit balloons to P210 billion

By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated September 19, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The government’s budget deficit swelled to P210 billion as of end-August, only P40 billion shy of the revised fiscal gap ceiling of P250 billion for the whole year and a sharp 561.5-percent increase from the P31.7-billion deficit registered in the same period last year, the Department of Finance (DOF) reported yesterday.

Poor tax collections and higher government spending caused the deficit to balloon to P210 billion, the DOF said.

A sharp fall in revenues also caused the August fiscal position to swing to a P22- billion deficit compared with a P1.7-billion surplus in the same period last year.

Despite the widening shortfall, fiscal authorities are still maintaining the P250-billion budget deficit ceiling for 2009. “We will try to contain it at P250 billion,” Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said.

He said the interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) has yet to meet to assess if there is a need to revise the 2009 deficit ceiling of P250 billion which is 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

A widening deficit means that the government is spending more than what it is earning.

For the eight-month period, the government’s total revenues reached P739.1 billion, 6.5 percent below the P790.3 billion generated in the same period in 2008.

One of the culprits for the low tax take was the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the government’s main revenue generating agency. The agency collected only P500.8 billion from January to August, or 5.9 percent below the P532.1 billion it raised in the same period last year.

BIR officials blamed the global economic crunch for poor tax collections, saying that this has affected businesses.

Similarly, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) also performed poorly compared to last year.

The BOC, the government’s second largest revenue agency, collected P147.1 billion during the eight-month period, 12.1 percent below the P167.5 billion it generated in the same period last year.

Revenues generated by other offices including the Bureau of the Treasury – which complete the P739.1 billion total revenues for the eight-month period – amounted to P46.2 billion, slightly higher by 1.3 percent compared to the P45.6 billion recorded a year ago.

Expenditures, on the other hand, rose to P949.1 billion from January to August on account of the government’s pump-priming efforts. This is 15.5 percent above the P822 billion spent in the same period last year.

For the month of August, total revenues declined by 20.1 percent to P95 billion from the P118.9 billion recorded a year ago.

Of the P95 billion, the BIR collected a measly P67.6 billion or 14.4 percent below the P78.9 billion it collected in the same month in 2008.

BOC’s revenues also declined by 28.5 percent to P18.2 billion – mainly due to low import volume – from P25.4 billion it raised in the same period last year.

Revenues of the Treasury also declined to P3.5 billion or 61.1 percent below the P8.9 billion it generated in the same period last year.

Only the revenues generated by other offices – comprising mainly of fees and charges collected by government agencies – registered an increase, hitting P5.8 billion or three percent above the P5.6 billion recorded in the same month last year.

Expenditures in August alone were almost unchanged at P117 billion, 0.2 percent below the P117.2 billion recorded in the same month last year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Madam Palerma

She stands out from the crowd. One glance and I instantly notice her almond-shaped eyes, the kind that would make you look again. Her high bridge nose is perfect and her cherry red lips smiled the whole time I was talking to her. Strands of her chestnut brown hair fall just right on the forehead, concealing the wrinkles of her 81 years.

"I am Madame Palerma. I was also a journalist like you," she says in perfect English. Her voice is deep, firm and solid and not once did it show her old age. She is just right outside the door of what she calls her home -- a dark, one room shanty.

It is a rainy Sunday afternoon and I am in Valenzuela, Bulacan with photographer Jes Aznar. His task is to shoot, mine is to interview and take a video as he shoots. We reach the interior after two hours of struggling against heavy rains and tormenting traffic. I offered to take the wheel many times as I sensed his frustration but (to my relief) was always turned down.

We are working on a book project and our second assignment is to search for a 52-year old man who lives near a basketball court and a tricycle terminal in a depressed community in Barangay Mapulang Lupa, Valenzuela.

There are at least three basketball courts with a tricycle terminal nearby in Barangay Mapulang Lupa. For a while there, I didn't think we would find him.

We succeed after a few more minutes and after asking bystanders for the nth time where our mystery man could be.

Journalism, after all, is about "finding it." The editors won't really care how you find it but you better damn be able to find it -- your subject, your assignment, your interviewee, the story -- because no amount of excuse would do unless it's a matter of life and death.

That's what Madam Palerma congratulated us for. The former radio announcer, as she introduced herself, said I reminded her of her early days.

"I used to be a radio announcer. I miss the radio booth. I miss being a journalist," she says.

"It's good to see press people here. We're the same. We're the same. Like you, I was also a journalist before and I would go to different places for my assignments," she adds enthusiastically.

"Thank you for being here," she says. "We hope you can come back."

She talks of the old times. That she would go to different places in search for stories. That she laughed many nights away during her shifts at the radio booth. That she met so many people in the course of her work.

I am holding the video camera while talking to her. Jes sends me a signal that it is time go. We are off to Caloocan for another assignment.

I thank Madam Palerma for the chat. She seems so happy to see the two of us working as she used to.

"I hope you can come back and visit my house," she says.

As we drive out of the community, I think of Madam Palerma and her passion for her work.

I don't know if I'll ever see her again but I'm sure I'll never forget her face. It is a picture of a contented and proud journalist who is rich not with material wealth but with stories of her years of experience.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My notes on a 15-hour coverage

It was still dark when I left the apartment. The fresh smell of dew wafted in the early morning air. The world must still be in deep slumber except for the neighbor's roosters crowing loudly, I thought. And except for the crowd gathering at the Manila Cathedral.

I didn't want to leave so early. I wanted to stay snuggled in my bed, still tired from the previous day's work. But I told myself I'd cover former president Corazon Aquino's burial. I wanted to write and to shoot the story. Or maybe, I just wanted to be there simply because of the kibitzer that I am.

I thought I was all set for the day's event. I tucked inside my green backpack everything I thought I would need – press I.D., camera, lenses, batteries, notebook, jacket, umbrella, crackers, drinking water and an extra set of clothes.

The veteran lensman I would tag along with had been waiting for me. He just had a small camera bag and a belt bag. “You're late. Let's hurry,” he said. We still have time for breakfast. He said I should eat a heavy one.

“There'll be absolutely no time to eat later,” said the lensman who had been covering the wake since day one.

The events that unfolded throughout that day surprised me and tested my patience. Because I thought I prepared for the coverage well enough, I had no idea I would be soaked in rain not once but many times over. I had no idea that I would wait for eight grueling hours for just one or two minutes of history. I had no idea that all the photojournalists that covered the event were prepared for rain, mud and what have you. (Despite carrying small bags). Not only did they have water proof clothes but more importantly, they came with protective gears for their cameras.

What a bunch of professionals I was with. They waited patiently. Photojournalism, they said, is 90 percent waiting and only 10 percent shooting. I'd say, it's also 90 percent going hungry and 10 percent shooting. I was counting the hours. I could hear the grumbling in my tummy with each passing minute. I barely finished the story I sent through my mobile phone.

(In contrast to the professional photojournalists that covered the day's events were three hobbyists waiting with us under a makeshift stage put up by one of the television networks. They are of a terribly different breed. They went there apparently to show off their expensive cameras and obviously slightly used camera bags. They blabbered about their thousand peso cameras and boasted of their technical know-hows. They used press cards to be on the frontline but arrogantly disregarded unwritten rules about “sapaw.” And while every journalist on standby was fighting off hunger and thirst, the three conos bought hamburgers all for themselves. And devoured this in front of all five of us waiting under that stage.

The thing that pissed me off most was that when a stampede occurred at the Manila Memorial Park, they went ecstatic, so eager to shoot while the other photojournalists dropped their cameras and helped those injured.)

More than fifteen hours later, I joined colleagues for some ice cold drinks. I was hungry and exhausted but fulfilled. I was happy that I woke up to cover the day's events. I learned a lot by shooting and writing about the events that unfolded. I learned a lot by just being there.

By the time I got home, my daughter was already sound asleep. It doesn't happen all the time but it happens. She's probably getting used to it. I'm sure she knows by now that journalism, although it comes only second to motherhood, makes me truly happy. (The day my waterbag broke, I whispered to her, "Not now please. I have a 5 p.m. deadline." She heeded my request and came out into the world 36 hours later.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mang Rudy

I am savoring my last sip of ice cold Tanduay Ice when Mang Rudy arrives. He is wearing his usual striped t-shirt, ragged jeans and his good 'ol classic guitar. Tightly holding his wife's arms, Mang Rudy navigates his way through the tables.

It is almost 12 midnight but Mang Rudy and wife Amy are just about to start their day.

Mang Rudy makes a living by making people laugh or cry. In dark corners of bars filled with old rags, corrupt politicians, media practitioners, lonely husbands and depressed mistresses, Mang Rudy belts out songs that pierce straight to the soul. He does this for a few pesos. On good nights, he gets up to P500 or more.

He hasn't changed at all. He still looks the same, exudes the same energy and has the same amount of love for his work.

He joins our table and asks who is around. Mang Rudy has been blind since birth. The Oakley shades conceal the pain of not seeing the world around him.

He sings "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone."

I utter a greeting. I haven't seen Mang Rudy in years. What happens next surprises me.

Mang Rudy stops his singing and glances my way. "Iris!!!" He seemed so genuinely happy to hear my voice. He recognizes it without anyone telling him.

"Ang tagal mong nawala. Halos tatlong taon!" Mang Rudy says.

I am jolted out of my Tanduay-induced stuppor. I was shock to find out that Mang Rudy noticed how long I was "gone."

Yes Mang Rudy noticed that I've been gone from this particular world where real friends talk until the wee hours of the morning -- no hang-ups, no pretensions, no walking on egg shells but just real stuff on life and the kind of journalism that stands witness to it.

Mang Rudy sings a song for me. My soul falls into a good slumber.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

globetrotting in the time of influenza

I would normally jump on any invite for a trip abroad, whether it's business or pleasure. That's me, bitten by the travel bug since I was a child. However, when I was given this assignment, I hesitated.

But assignments are assignments. There's no reason to say no unless you have absolutely no choice.

So, I'm hoping I didn't catch THE flu. These days, however, maybe that's almost like asking for the moon. At the Centennial airport, it's a crowded Sunday morning. There's no escaping the virus if it's there. Everywhere you go, there's a crowd, a line or a gathering of people.

Some are wearing masks, some seemingly isolating themselves from the crowd while others couldn't care less.

As for me, I didn't have the time to worry. I was late for my flight and could hear my name already being called on the P.A. system by the airlines. My plane is about to leave.

On the plane, I wanted to sit alone. I wanted to stay safe for the sake of my two-year old daughter back home. Unfortunately, the airbus was crowded.

At the hotel where I and another journalist was billeted, there were some precautionary measures. There were lots of signs on what to do and what not to do to prevent the flu from spreading.

A friend in the area wanted to meet up with me. She told me to meet her at this coffee shop. On the way there, she said, I should avoid the crowded streets. Whew!

Oh, and that I should avoid touching my ears, eyes and nose.

At the airport, on my way back to Manila, I saw the girlfriend of a former housemate. She was wearing a mask. A big one. It was good to see her but we had to avoid the usual beso-beso.

On the plane, the French guy seated beside me was trying to strike a conversation. Photography, diving, Paris and Bordeux...he wanted to talk about these things. Oh but he kept on sneezing!

A few hours later, I'm back in Manila. I went to a dear friend's office to wash and change clothes -- my futile attempt to keep clean.

It's been less than ten days. I don't have the symptoms so far. But who knows what tomorrow will bring.

the single mother's story (part two)

I was barely awake when my phone rang. The voice on the other line was trembling. "Maam, may picture po ba kayo ni Borek? Nawawala po kasi siya..." It was M, the mother I interviewed recently for a book project.

Her son Borek, diagnosed with Down syndrome, went missing. He left the house, went biking around the area and soon, he was nowhere to be found.

She was crying and crying. I didn't know what to say. "Yes, I have photos. I will ask the photographer, too. I will send them now," I answered. Was that the only thing I could do? Sigh.

I called Jes Aznar to break the sad news and to ask for the photos He was in Mindanao for a coverage. He was so shocked to hear the news.

We were just playing with Borek a few weekends ago. I barely finished my stories for that day. I was shocked, bothered and frustrated.

I thought of M's ordeal. You really can't protect your child from the world 24/7. Sometimes, bad things just happen.

Six hours later, I get a text message from M.

"God bless, nakita na po si Borek maam. Maraming salamat!"

And her story continues...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson

"Gone Too Soon"

Like A Comet
Blazing 'Cross The Evening Sky
Gone Too Soon

Like A Rainbow
Fading In The Twinkling Of An Eye
Gone Too Soon

Shiny And Sparkly
And Splendidly Bright
Here One Day
Gone One Night

Like The Loss Of Sunlight
On A Cloudy Afternoon
Gone Too Soon

Like A Castle
Built Upon A Sandy Beach
Gone Too Soon

Like A Perfect Flower
That Is Just Beyond Your Reach
Gone Too Soon

Born To Amuse, To Inspire, To Delight
Here One Day
Gone One Night

Like A Sunset
Dying With The Rising Of The Moon
Gone Too Soon

Gone Too Soon

Saturday, June 20, 2009

dito, sa aking mundo

Sa wakas, nakakahinga na ako muli. Halos tatlong taon din akong hindi naka-apak sa aking mundo. Maraming dahilan pero hindi na importante yun ngayon dahil nakabalik na ako.

Kasama ko na muli ang mga kapwa mamahayag at kaibigan sa magdamagang huntahan, kwentuhan, tawanan at higit sa lahat, sa paghahanap ng mga makabuluhang kwento sa malawak na daigdig na ito.

Isang halimbawa ay ang aking byahe kahapon. Kasama ang isang kapwa mamahayag, inabot kami sa malayong lupain ng Ascoville para sa kwento ng isang mag-ina.

Napakasarap makinig. Napakasarap magsulat ng makabuluhang kwento. Napakasarap matuto. Napakasarap makabalik sa mundong ito.

Napakasarap makahinga muli.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the single mother's story

I was fighting back tears as I walked out of the building. Her story ripped my heart. How, I wonder, does she manage being a single mother to four children including one with Down Syndrome?

Her husband, their father, just walked away one day in the dead of night, leaving all the burden to her. One day, after so many years, he just showed up again. And then he left again. And then the cycle continued.

He breaks her heart again and again. And their children's hearts, too.

"It has become a joke among my children," she said during the interview.

"'Hey daddy is here. Let's cook dinner. Let's celebrate' My children would say in jest," she said.

Left with no choice, she had to give up two of her three daughters for adoption. She had to focus on taking care of the little one with Down.

Why did I cry?

Because I wonder how she could take it all. Her wrinkles and white hair could not conceal her pain. Yet she manages to smile. The strength of the human spirit is indeed unbelievable.

Music Is Language

All roads lead to the Metrowalk on Saturday, June 20, for this year's Fete dela Musique. I'm excited! I've an assignment to cover one band. I'm keeping my fingers crossed :) See you all!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

on assignment: Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Crisologo Street, Vigan/June 2009

Went on a travel assignment to Vigan. Brought home with me bagnet, Ilocos blanket and muscovado. Yummy!

Next assignment, please.

Friday, May 22, 2009

MOJO, the multimedia journalist

I was happy to be part of the the Multimedia Journalism Workshop at the Ateneo last week. I saw a lot of my classmates, still juggling their time between classes and work.

Though I wasn't able to finish the workshop because of a deadline, I still picked up some interesting points. (Ofcourse, all of these are subject to debates, with purists on one side who still refuse to embrace the advancement of technology).

Dr. Stephen Quinn, a multimedia journalist and author of several journalism books said:

- Every journalist should be a MOJO
- You already own the mobile phone, maximize it
- Be prepared with a reliable internet connection
- Make sure to ask permission in filming or documenting subjects
- Newspaper reporters have to develop digital skills

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mamma Mia!

So I wake up with a flurry of text messages greeting me "Happy Mother's Day!"

The messages just kept on coming. There were phone calls, too.

But seriously...I'm thinking...Oh C'mon...What is Mother’s Day but just an opportunity for businesses to make more money out of women's emotions and supposedly extraordinary role in this world.

One message sender put it this way: "Happy Mother's Day to us super women of the world!"

I almost dropped my cellphone after reading the message.

Are mothers really super women? For sure, my loyal friend, keeper and tyrant -- my one and only mom -- is one super woman but not me. No. Ofcourse not. I'm not a super woman. I know I'm not. I wasn't cut out to be a mom.


So, no way! I'm not a super woman. Maybe other mothers are.

As for me, I’m just trying to be a mom. I’m not good with children but I love my child. My relationship with her is the only relationship that I was and could ever be faithful to.

Besides, I have no choice, because as a politician I once interviewed told me, mothers have no choice but to be mothers because they gave birth to their children. I agree. There lies the difference between faith and knowledge.

A woman will always know that she is the mother of her child. Men can only hope. They will never know.

Maybe that’s what makes mothers different. And the difference is a period of nine months. And terribly agonizing labor pains.

But I still believe, Mother’s Day isn’t really necessary to celebrate this amazing gift from the universe. Everyday with my offspring is mother’s day. The magical moments are endless.

So I’m thinking…really, there’s no need for Mother’s Day anymore.

Oh but all these thoughts just vanish into thin air…when…as the day almost comes to an end…(perhaps she was saving the best for last)…the little miss comes storming into my room…pauses by the door…holds her breath…

and shouts with glee:


My little heart melts. Wow. I so love Mother’s Day.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Kapag ang anak ay nababalot ng sakit,
at ang dating sigla ay nawala,

Kapag halos hindi na siya makahinga
dahil ang baga ay puno ng plema,

Kapag wala ng gana kumain
at ang iniinom na gatas ay isinusuka,

Kapag ang mga mata ay mugto at mabigat
at ang katawan ay inaapoy ng lagnat,

Kapag sa magdamag ay hindi siya makatulog
at ang tanging daing ay mama, mama,

Paano ba maging ina?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


By Edita T. Bugos, OCDS
Message: Commemoration of the 2nd anniversary of the abduction of Jonas

The last two years has been like an eternity of uncertainty. We were able to proceed only because in these two years of affliction, the family has been blessed with relatives, friends and unnamed supporters especially artists and those in media who have provided all kinds of assistance. We have commended them in a special way to Him who will thank them. In my dialect “Ang Diyos ang mabalos.” (God will thank them.)

Jonas was taken by armed men and a woman last April 28, 2007 at the Hapag Kainan Restaurant, Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City at broad daylight in the view of hundreds of mall goers. Since then we have been praying, appealing, filing cases, searching, yet nothing is known of Jonas’ fate. What is certain is that the perpetrators used a car with car plate TAB 194 which at the time of abduction was in the custody of the 56th Infantry Batallion. And what is more certain is that the state actors have all participated in the cover up so that I would not find out what truly happened.

Jonas remains to be missing, two years after. We, the family and friends of Jonas have not given up. We have been constant and consistent in our efforts to locate him. We shall not forget. Though the forces of evil, now present in the very institutions that are vowed to protect the people, shroud the truth about what befell Jonas, we believe that in His time and our perfect time, the truth will be known and justice will be served.

Jonas like the palay (rice grain) remains to be the symbol of the most basic aspiration of the true-blooded Filipino, to be able to serve one’s country . . . and to a farmer, like Jonas, service would be to produce food for the ordinary Filipino. . . and more than just to produce food, when it was asked of him, to be planted so that he would grow to produce more grains to feed more and to serve more. Did Jesus not say “Unless the grain falls to the ground and dies he cannot live again’?

Jonas continues to live in our hearts. The Burgos family is one with Jonas in his aspirations to serve the Philippines. At this time, this is spelled out as fighting against human rights violations, which also means opposing the perpetrators of disappearances and extra judicial killings.

In his lifetime. Jose Burgos Jr., Jonas’ father, gave everything to fight for press freedom and the freedom of each one to express what he believes in. After his death, Jonas, his son, is deprived of the very same freedom Joe successfully obtained with so many others when democracy was restored to the Philippines after the dictatorship.

We have stated again and again… we shall not be cowed into silence, nor terrorized into paralysis. Though we be ‘ambassadors in chains’, we shall be given the courage and the words to speak the truth.

We now ask all who read and hear this message to pray for those who participated in the abduction, the detention, the torture, and all that Jonas suffered in their hands. Please pray that they the perpetrators would be touched by the Spirit and come out to clean their hands of the blood it is stained with. Our Lord is the God of mercy. If they seek forgiveness they will be forgiven and they shall obtain peace in their hearts. They must come out and say where we can find Jonas.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

tagging along with her mama

The little miss tagged along with me during the two-hour photo shoot (see previous entry). I wasn't supposed to bring her but she was crying when I was on my way out. She enjoyed it at first then got bored and hungry later on. She made airplanes out of small sheets containing gig scheds of the resto-bar.

Oh it's always happiness to bring her along.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

here comes the Sun

The little miss never ceases to amaze me. Her day care teacher said she is the youngest in her summer art class group but the most independent. Wow! Is this really my little girl? She insists on doing things by herself and in her own way, the teacher said.

And unlike some of her classmates, the little miss is not a cry baby. She doesn't go looking for her guardian. She just wants to be in school and with her classmates.

"She's also very focused and attentive," the teacher said.

Wow. Here comes my little Sun, gearing up for the great big world.

Monday, April 20, 2009

teachers' class

I am sitting in the middle of class, surrounded by teachers of all ages, schools and subjects. I am intimidated from head to foot. Suddenly, I am in a world so different from mine, treading a totally unfamiliar territory. Throw me into a room filled with newsmen and I'd feel right at home.

But here I am -- one of only two students who are not teachers in this class of rougly 30 educators.

Armed with nothing but guts, I am taking three education subjects this summer as electives to complete my MA. More than a week into my summer classes, I find myself enjoying the elective. Wow. I have never seen such a passionate bunch of people. I am honored to be in the same class with them.

I don't know if I'll ever teach again in the future but I'd love to. I enjoyed it the first time. With the proper training, I know I can do better. I hope so.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Death, they say comes like a thief in the night. I cried today because a good person died. She leaves behind a loving husband and three children.

At the end of the day, when death calls you, you just have to go.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dr. Ludan, the doctors' doctor.

At the doctor's clinic this morning, a mother's face is a picture of worry and anxiety. Her two-year old son's organ is swollen and she doesn't have the slightest clue why or what to do.

The other mother is a bit worried, too but not as anxious as the other one. Her son has a minor eye irritation and she's wondering what it could be.

As for me, I was beyond worried. Was in so much pain just thinking about how my little girl cried last night when she tried to urinate. She was grimacing in pain so much that all I could do was hide in the bathroom and cry, too. I wish I knew what to do. I wish I knew how to comfort her. I wish my embrace was enough to take away her extreme difficulty.

I panicked. I almost rushed her to the emergency room last night. Then I calmed down. I thought that the family's ever-reliable and passionate Dr. Art Ludan would be the better option. He would know what to do. He would always be ready with an answer.

And as always, as I had expected, yes he did have a solution to my little girl's problem.

I'm lucky that Doctor Ludan -- also the pediatrician of my childhood -- hasn't retired yet. Mothers don't always know what to do. But doctors like him, do. Thank you very much.

Monday, March 16, 2009

the only answer

I remember that early morning, not so long ago. I held this little being, so tiny and fragile. For the first time after carrying her for nine months, I finally saw her. Her big round eyes stared piercingly at me. They’re the biggest I’ve seen – so much bigger than mine, so much rounder than the giant crimson sun setting in Manila Bay. Oh so perfect. I touched her thick black hair – as black as an owl’s dark eyes. Her face is clean now. The flood of my blood as I brought her out of this world, has been washed away by the doctors and nurses. Her mouth, so tiny and amazing, moves into a perfect pout. She has her father’s lips, I remember thinking then.

I held her close to my breast, wanting to feed her but not having the slightest clue how. There inside the nursery, I remember being filled with courage and fear. Amid the wailing of other babies in the room, I think quietly of this life I am holding.

Will I ever be able to be the mother that she needs? Will I ever have the courage to mold her into that human being who will never stop to struggle for what is best for her and for society?

She is a big girl now, growing so fast. Later, when she is in her twenties or thirties, I know I will not be able to smell and embrace her much. She will not stay long. She will be in the arms of others, more important than I am. I know the child’s laughter will be gone. She will be busy with her own life. And maybe, just maybe, I will be alone, restless and worried, waiting for her to come home at night.

In the morning, she will say “good morning Nanay Iris!” (She will be able to pronounce my name by then). And leave again for another busy day. Perhaps, she’s off to practice for a piano recital. Or she’s off to a writing workshop. Or she’ll be gone for a fact-finding mission. Or she will shoot the day’s events with her camera’s lens and shutters. Or maybe, she’ll be giving some art lessons to some kids. Wait, maybe she’ll be dancing the time away.

She will smile when she steps out of the door. I will look at her dimples and see her father’s smile. And I will understand perfectly that she has a place in this world. I can take the pain. She had to be born. The world needs this woman.

And then I know, it’s perfectly fine. I will be fine.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What is REAL?

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"REAL isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are REAL you don't mind being HURT."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You BECOME. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.

But these things don't matter at all, because once you are REAL you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

- (excerpt) Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit story

Monday, March 9, 2009

Don't Think Twice, It's all Right

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe.
It don't matter any how.
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe.
If you don't know by now.
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn,
Look out your window and I’ll be gone.
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on,
But, don’t think twice, it’s all right.

It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe.
A light I never knowed.
It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe.
I’m on the dark side of the road.
Still, I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say,
To try and make me change my mind and stay.
We never did too much talkin’ anyway,
So, don’t think twice, it’s all right.

I'm walking down that long, lonesome road, babe.
Where I'm bound, I can't tell.
But goodbye is too good a word, gal,
So I'll just say, "faretheewell."
Mmm, I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind,
You could have done better but I don’t mind.
You just sorta wasted my precious time.
a-Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal,
Like you never did before.
It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal,
I can’t hear you any more.
I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ all the way down the road,
I once loved a woman, a child I'm told.
I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul.
Don’t think twice, it’s all right

Bob Dylan

Sunday, March 1, 2009

disturbing the kingdom of the dead

Tagged along with a real lensman to the War Memorial at The Fort. This is what I came out with, using a Canon 400D. For once, I stepped out of the "reportage box." And surprise, surprise I enjoyed it very much. Looking at the world through the lens and shutters of a camera is always, always a brilliant experience.

Friday, February 27, 2009


This bill should never be passed. I add my voice to those rallying against the measure that seeks to curtail press freedom in this country.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar moments

Watching Kate Winslet and Sean Penn in one of their finest moments in life was such a treat. Wow. I enjoyed listening to Winslet's passionate speech. She was overflowing with happiness and pride and love for her work. I especially liked the part when she thanked her mom and dad.

I liked Penn's speech which mentioned his work, gay rights and his desire for a better world.

The Oscars, as Penelope Cruz said, unites the whole world. She just might be true. I and many others I know were glued to the television set that night. It's always good to see moments such as the Oscars.

I think of my own little Oscar moments. I know I'll never be able to win an Oscar but I treasure those sweet experiences that make life worth living -- receiving a recognition for my work for the first time -- winning a slot in a journalism program abroad -- seeing my little darling daughter for the first time, hearing her first word and watching her dance to Beethoven's Pathetique.

I know that life isn't perfect but there are many, many perfect moments.

I hope there will be more. As Kate Winslet said, it's ok to dream about it as she did when she was eight years old.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Attention, The Weekend Kusinera

The Disastrous and Inevitably Insecure Kusinera is happy to share with the The Weekend Kusinera this simple Fish Fillet in Lemon Butter Sauce recipe.

I did this last night all from my imagination and a tip from Yummy magazine for the sauce -- and surprise, surprise, it turned out quite okay.


1 pack Dory fish fillet (containing three fillets)
flour (for dredging the fillet)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon
Anchor butter

1) Melt butter in slow heat. (I used about half a bar)
2) Cook capers in butter for about two minutes then set aside
3) Fry the Dory fillet (about two minutes each side)
4) Squeeze some fresh lemon while the fillet is cooking
5) Add some butter again before removing the fillet from the pan.
6) Serve immediately

(you may also add asparagus as side dish)

(photo from Apologies apologies as I was not able to take a photo of last night's dish)

Friday, January 2, 2009


Tough but sweet. Bossy but compassionate. Sensitive. Over confident. Usually bossy when she thinks she can get away with it. Zealous. Curious. Eager. Tall. Obsessive-compulsive. Music lover. Bookworm. Imaginative. Manipulative. Funny. Absolutely amazing.

I am in awe of every little thing she does. Oh...the unbelievable joy of being a parent.