Archive for the ‘POC articles’ Category

Life goes on

Contrary to what most young people today think, the martial law years wasn’t exactly the “dark years”, as some would have it. To anyone reading the history books or the countless articles written about those years, it might have sounded scary enough living under the rule of a dictator, but that was far from the truth. While it was true the press was muffled and a certain number of civil liberties were taken away from the citizens but overall, it wasn’t as draconian as one might think, certainly not the Orwellian type of society with “Big Brother” watching your every move (although it could be said differently for some); nor did it ever resemble that of other authoritarian regimes such as, say, North Korea where everything was rationed and strictly supervised. Neither were there random arrests and mass executions in the streets and countryside like what happened in Cambodia. And no, there weren’t any (at least none that we know of) internment camps like those set up in Vietnam after the communists took over where untold numbers were imprisoned. There were illegal arrests for sure but it was an exception rather than the norm. In short, friends and neighbors weren’t “disappearing” or dropping dead like flies en masse. That nightmarish scenario resides only in the minds of those who haven’t lived through the era.

For the millions of Pinoys life remained pretty normal — at least, in some ways — and went on unhampered, and unless politics runs in your blood, one wouldn’t worry about receiving sinister-looking visitors in the middle of the night and risk being whisked away to Camp Crame for an “interview”. Even days after the declaration of martial law there still were no telltale sign of a national emergency. People still went about their daily business without much hassle. Stores, cinemas and even bars and casinos were still operating although people had to rush home no sooner than the hands on the clock strikes 10 to beat the curfew.

To be fair to the late dictator, he didn’t exactly turn this country into a garrison state as some quarters would like you to think, but it still didn’t make everything he did right. The downside to the improved peace and order situation was the loss of one’s basic freedom: the right to free speech. Criticism of Marcos and the military was a no-no as long as you lived under their, err… protection.

While it was true that there were fewer crimes being committed — most notably during the early days of martial rule — one could attribute the “improved” peace and order situation to the imposition of curfew which, in reality, is a curtailment of one’s freedom. Another reason to the surprisingly low crime rate was the presence of more than the usual number of police and soldiers in our streets that, unfortunately, points to the creeping militarization of the country. That creeping militarization would eventually extend even to schools, as basic military training (CAT in high school and ROTC in college) became prerequisite for a high school and college diploma.

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Life during the Martial Law era: part 1

The Darkness falls

The first inkling many people had that something definitely was amiss that morning was the eerie silence of the airwaves. For the first time since the last world war, the radios were silent; it crackled with neither the sound of music nor that of human voice, but rather, of a ghostly, unemotional hiss of static. It was as if Manila’s still sleepy inhabitants woke up to a city seemingly frozen in time.

Even in those early years of the seventies, a full decade prior to the advent of cable news and entertainment services — and years before CNN became a byword — Manila’s airwaves was already a busy tangled web of electronic transmissions (AM was king then) what with its hodgepodge of radio stations and four, if I recall it right, television stations that broadcast a steady stream of daily news and assorted programming during the day.

The all too sudden disappearance of familiar faces and voices from both mediums was, for lack of a better word, unnerving to anyone so used to being bombarded with news from the past day’s events. More disconcerting than the silence of the radios, however, was that those bastions of free speech, the newspapers — especially those that made it their life’s work criticizing the powers-that-be — were suspiciously absent on the stands. It was a clear sign that things weren’t as normal as it should be, at least, not in this part of the world.

Far from becoming a ghost town, Manila was abuzz with life, as people went about their daily lives unperturbed — only to slowly realize that everything was indeed strangely different from what it was yesterday. Maybe it was the sudden appearance of armed soldiers in the once neutral streets of the city, or perhaps it was the absence of the many things that people have gotten used to and have taken for granted all those years that made many wonder what in heavens was going on; because along with the broadcasts and ubiquitous dailies, gone too were the daily rallies and protests that was becoming synonymous to the incumbent’s administration.

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CNY 2011

For the multitude of Chinese people across the globe — and that’s including their billion-strong cousins in the economic powerhouse that is the Middle Kingdom (that’s China to the uninitiated) — today will mark yet another auspicious day, as they welcome the year 4709, or more popularly known as the Year of the Rabbit, in the Chinese calendar. Also known as “The Spring Festival” despite its winter occurrence, the New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar, and end 15 days later which will culminate with the “Lantern Festival”.

The longest and the most important of holidays in the calendar, it is, in essence, a time for family reunions, thanksgiving, as well as renewal and reconciliation. It is also that time of the year when old debts are settled and, for the sake of a fresh start, grudges are all but forgotten… at least for the time being.

While not nearly as universal and as widely celebrated as the western-influenced New Year’s Day celebration, at nearly 5,000 years old it is one of the longest and perhaps only surviving ancient festivity that is still continuously celebrated. And while much of the festivals of the ancient world were all but lost in history along with its people and culture, the festival that had its origins at a time when Europeans in their loincloths were still painting themselves blue, continues to this day, proof of the resilience and endurance of the Chinese culture.


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Note: This is my first POC article for 2011

Of all the pop icons that came out of the turbulent 60s they are undoubtedly the most enduring. It has been nearly five decades — or roughly two generations — since the four lads crossed the River Mersey and made their way out of Liverpool, England and started what was then known as the second British Invasion.  And yet, in spite of the passing of time, their popularity have yet to hit bottom — even in this day and age of Beiber and Lady Gaga.

Although not as wildly popular at present as they were in their heyday, the band remains to this day the gold standard when it comes to music and songwriting — not too shabby considering that the band was active for only ten years (their wilder counterpart from the swinging 60s, The Rolling Stones, are still rocking away and are still packing em’ in). Their songs have transcended generational boundaries, and in a world where the streets are littered with has-beens and one- hit wonders from years past, that is nothing short of amazing.

Known by the monikers, the Moptops (due to their early hairstyles)  and The Fab Four, they are that quintessential band from the 60s whose music influenced a whole generation of music lovers and incredibly, still continue to cast its spell of “Beatlemania” on the suceeding generations; and none of this is more evident than on Juan de la Cruz’s progenies. Mention the names John, Paul, George and Ringgo — the four names that every Pinoy, both the old and the young, seem to know by heart — and the Beatles instantly comes to mind (that is, unless he has four brothers with the same names no thanks to that peculiar practice of naming children after one’s idol.

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20 years later…

It was without a doubt one of the grisliest rape and murder cases to have ever hit these shores during the ’90s. The violence in which the whole thing was carried out was an all-out assault, if you will, on one’s sensibilities. A murder so foul that couldn’t have been carried out by someone in his right mind! — too violent, too inhuman, more so if you consider that a seven-year-old girl was among those whose lives were senselessly snuffed out.

Worse, the case couldn’t be cracked for close to four years, with the police almost giving up on ever solving it. The breakthrough in the investigation came only after the appearance of an unlikely witness.

The “massacre” (ever wonder why it’s called a massacre even though the butchery wasn’t exactly large-scale?), however brutal, wasn’t unique though, nor was it the first time such a thing happened in this crime-ridden land. Cases such as the so-called Vizconde massacre are plenty in the land of Juan. I mean, just open a newspaper and you’d be bombarded with rape stories, and more rape stories. Come to think of it, we were, at one time, touted as the rape capital of the world, weren’t we?

So what is it about this case that has fascinated, intrigued and perplexed so many in these islands? Well, for one thing it has all the necessary ingredients of a whodunit, more than enough to titillate Juan’s voyeuristic tendency, plus more.

The shock, and fear for our own safety and security, as well as the polarization of opinions — depending on whose side you believe — are but a few of the things that have kept this case alive in the mind of the often amnesiac Juan de la Cruz, refusing to be sidelined even after two decades.

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Of all the ancient cultures that still survive, it is perhaps the Chinese who show the most exemplary of devotion when it comes to honoring and remembering their kins who have passed on to the afterlife.

A big part of this devotion stems mainly from the Chinese people’s adherence to the Confucian virtue of filial piety. In essence, the term filial piety refers to the extreme respect that Chinese children are supposed to show their parents, as well as their ancestors. In Confucian ideals, filial piety is one of the virtues to be held above all else.

According to Chinese custom, filial piety is the primary duty of all Chinese, in particular, family members. The parents are expected to be honored and respected by their children. It involves many different things including taking care of the parents, burying them properly after death, bringing honor to the family, and having a male heir to carry on the family name. Ranked among the greatest and most important of virtues, filial piety is a very important part of Chinese culture, and it is widely believed to have helped unite the Chinese people (foremost is having one written language in spite of its different dialects), and the reason why its history, as turbulent as it was, had lasted for so long.

Such is strength of the belief in the afterlife among the Chinese that while most other cultures (western cultures especially) are content with reserving one day of the year in remembrance of both the long and recently departed, the Chinese devotes three days in their calendar in honoring the dead: The Qingming Festival, the Double Ninth Festival and the Ghost Month.

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The 60s (part 3)

While the 60s may have seemed like the good old days for the now aging baby-boomers and nostalgia buffs, in reality, it wasn’t the golden era that it was cranked up to be. Back then; the country was already struggling with a decades-long insurgency led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, or CCP, and its military arm, the NPA, which was an offshoot of the HUKBALAHAP of the 1950s. The country’s feudal past, an era that should have gone the way of the dodo bird in a modern democracy, was still very much in existence, especially in the halls of power where the elites of old ruled.

Still, even with the uncertainty of the times, life was a lot simpler in the 60s and was far from being complicated like it is now. Other than his house rent and basic utility bills — which, by the way, was also a heck of a lot cheaper — the typical Juan de la Cruz of the time had a lot less to worry about than 21st-century counterpart.

Compared to the present with its seemingly unlimited choices and options, life in these islands during the 60s, as I recall, almost always revolved around work (or school for the young ones) and home. Manila was still far from being a cosmopolitan city that it is today and there weren’t as many places to go to, or as many activities that one could indulge in, save perhaps go see a movie, take a stroll in Luneta or window-shop along Avenida, or perhaps go nightclubbing every once in a while.

As simpler and more inexpensive life was in the 60s, the decade wasn’t exactly a big loss for many, and I doubt if anyone from that era would want to relive those days… at least, not in the domestic front.

Long before cable and satellite services, with their myriad of channels to choose from, made their way into our lives — and eons before the Internet and personal home entertainment systems began invading our homes — being homebound, especially during the weekends, was akin to a self-imposed sentence to a life of boredom. Back then, one had no choice but to be content switching between two to three channels (depending on the time of the day), as there were only two television stations — and that is IF you’re lucky enough to be able to afford a television set.

Radio was still the king of the airwaves then and video had yet to kill its biggest stars. Such was the popularity of this simple but effective communication tool, particularly for those living in the far-flung barrios, that families can be found huddled around a beat up transistor radio every night to listen to the news as well as their favorite soap opera (the audio version of today’s telenovela).

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