Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bang the drums slowly...



It will be just hours before New Year’s Day in the Philippines and Filipinos will literally welcome 2007 with a big big Bang!

Yes, we are a riotous lot and very loud revelers at that; just drive by or walk around in every nook and cranny in the 7,107 islands be it low tide or high tide when the clock strikes at midnight and you will know what I mean--

From the loud, energetic dancing in the streets to the boisterous drinking sessions like there is no tomorrow to the never-ending explosions in the air and smoke-filled surroundings, we’re one hell of a nation that really knows how to party come hell or high water.

And many of our countrymen will pay the heavy price literally and figuratively in terms of money and limb for we really are a stubborn people and inherent in each one of us is his/ her own set of beliefs/ views on things that would put Rizal’s Filosofong Tasyo to shame and the most glaring one in our character is that we don’t want to be told, period.

So, the usual warnings from authorities on the dangers of firecrackers or firing guns during the revelry will once again fall on deaf ears and we can be sure of hundreds of horror stories about the celebration gone awry the day after.

I remember when I was a little kid in my hometown of Tiwi, Albay where my playmates and I would scour the riverbanks where the bamboos are a-plenty looking for the biggest ones in order to have the best and loudest bamboo cannons in the barangay. All you can hear during the night are the booming exchanges between the bamboo cannons manned by different group of kids trying to “out- bomb” each other in a safe and friendly manner. The distinct sounds of the bamboo cannons fueled by kerosene were unmistakable that usually brought joy and happiness to the neighborhood kids, burnt eyelashes, hair and all. Alas, firecrackers were unheard of then. Now the native bamboo cannons are extinct at least in our place.

I remember when I was in my teens, where my friends and I would play with firecrackers until kingdom come. We literally burned whatever money in our pockets then and everything else in our way for at the stroke of midnight; we would light up some used automobile tires on the road and explode those Whistle Bombs, Rebentadors, 5- Stars, Super Lolos, Pla-plas and Bawangs with wild abandon to the consternations of the “old-timers" who could only shake their heads in amusement as well as resignation regarding the way we welcome the new year. Some show - offs would even hold the tip of the firecracker until it exploded; fortunately for them they emerged from their stunts unharmed. We surely had fun and more.

Believe you me, I’ve seen every conceivable and inconceivable act perpetrated by our countrymen just to celebrate the new year -- numerous victims of bullets, knives, fists and firecrackers all being rushed to the emergency room screaming in agony and some were ultimately hushed by death.

I’ve seen a friend rushing to help an uncle being ganged up by a group of drunken men and getting stabbed 13 times in the process. My friend survived but his uncle did not what with the “beinte -nueve” being stuck into his neck and hitting the Carotid Arteries that spurt blood like a fountain until he staggered to the ground lifeless.

I’ve seen a drunk old man brought to a nearby clinic with a towel wrapped around his right hand and when the young intern removed the made- up bandage, she screamed in horror for what’s left of his hand was just the three metacarpals and you could see the “white” bones protruding amid the scarlet liquids oozing from within. Just another case and a useless entry on the notorious “Pla- pla” in the hospital’s log book.

I’ve seen a very young boy with a bullet hole in the face courtesy of his drunken uncle- policeman doing an impersonation of Dirty Harry with his supposedly “empty” pistol and “accidentally” hitting his nephew with a “phantom” bullet or so he claims while doing the “make my day“ dialogue.

I’ve seen a young man with an ice-pick lodged in his chest, courtesy of his best friend obtained from a drinking session gone sour where they argued on some inane subjects like the “chicken and the egg.”

I’ve seen a 12- year old girl with a broken skull lying in a makeshift stretcher, a hit and run victim followed by a broken man who was driving under the influence earlier and tried top sped away from the crime scene but was chased and caught up by the angry crowd when he ran into a dead end and was meted street justice swiftly. Both he and his victim were brought to the same place where despite the interventions and everything, nothing could really save them.

In all of these tragic events there is only one common denominator---

Alcohol.



Drink responsibly and have a Happy New Year!


And here's something that I have written on New Year's Eve a long time ago during a lull in the chaotic ER of one of the busiest hospitals in Quezon City, Philippines...

Chemical Warfare

Throw the bomb
before it explodes
right into your own hands.

In this age of broken bones
and mangled hands,
you explode firecrackers for fun!

But I don’t have the heart for such
I am nothing but a fat coward.

So, whenever I want to have some fun
I have my gaseous fart to trust!

It’s the safest that you can get
Without endangering any limb.

Try it if you must
And you can kick my butt
If it doesn’t work out right.

Manigong Bagong Taon po sainyong lahat!

Monday, December 25, 2006

X-mas Three




Three poems on Christmas, that is.

Written on three different occasions that show my moods at a certain time.
It’s nothing special though, just some inane scribbles on my notepad while trying to pass the time.

Anyway, read ’em and weep...

It's midnight and here I am once again tapping on the computer keyboard
Trying my best not to fall asleep as I try to write my piece.

It’s been going on like this since I started this pointless exercise one quiet and cold evening a month ago today--

I am still here at the crossroads unable to take the necessary steps to move on
and get on with it.

I wonder if how many people in this place are still awake at this very moment?

I can now hear the noise of the people next door;
the hurried footsteps, the gaily laughs and inaudible chatters
The rush of people passing by at my doorsteps.

I wonder why they’re also up and about at this very unholy hour?

At a distance, I heard the Church Bells ringing.

It was only then that I remember that it is

Christmas day!


Blue Christmas


Icy December, lonely winter
Dreamily watching the snow flakes falling
In my flat just south of Lansing

Weary thoughts circling in mind-boggling proportions
To a far away country, a warm home in the tropics
Noche Buena, Puto Bumbong, and Misa de Gallo.

Christmas in a foreign country, alone in a cold bedroom
Just passing the time with nothing else to do

This time when I call home long distance
I'll tell my mother that --

I was blinded by the snow.

©2003 Philippine Daily Inquirer/ YOU Section




Tomorrow
Instead of frolicking in the snow
I will have to color my world in sorrow

Tomorrow
Instead of wearing green and red
I will have to wear the color of the dead

Tomorrow
Instead of going to the ballgames
I’ll have to go to church and pray
For the people who lost everything.


Requiem for the dead…

Albay 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

' Twas the night before X'mas...

Christmas Eve
unlike last year there is no snow yet
but the wind chill is quiet cold--

Numbing your skin
tearing into your bones
freezing your emotions…

In the dead of night I am awake--
lying in my bedroom
staring into the gloom with nothing else to do

But I like the quiet;
the stillness of the place
the serenity of the moment.

For I am at peace with myself when I am alone in total darkness.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Albay is in the Heart



I was about to punch in to start my day at the Emergency Room of Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in Michigan when my cell phone buzzed. I could feel the heat of my blood rushing under my skin when I heard what the person on the other line have to say. It took me a moment or two before I summoned the courage to ask the Clinical Coordinator for the day to allow me to go home and check the news online myself--

And there it was on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines Star, ABS- CBNNews and other news websites the grim reality and horrific pictures of the devastation brought by the super typhoon Reming (International codename: Durian) to Albay Province and Legaspi City, places that I am very familiar with and known like the palms of my hands.

I scanned the pages and my eyes caught the heart-rending, gut-wrenching stories of tragedy and despair of the people; my people, of whom I am very much familiar with their way of life and customs but you could only take a deep breath to relieve the heaviness in your chest and grieve alone in silence half a world away.

I grew up in Tiwi, a rustic and sleepy town almost 50 kilometers from Legaspi City, the capital of Albay Province where I went to college for four years to earn my Bachelor’s Degree for my Pre- Medical course years ago from the College of Arts and Sciences in the Dominican- run Aquinas University, a university by the heavily silted Yawa river that make our school look like Venice minus the gondolas in those days usually right after a heavy downpour especially during the monsoon season that have earned the university a derisive name albeit jokingly of being the only “floating university in the Philippines” among its students.

It was in this city by the sea where I spent some of my formative years; my rude awakenings to the real world; my youthful fire and enthusiasm for things that were once forbidden. It was also in this city where I spent some of the happiest times of my young life.

It was in the streets of Legaspi City and the neighboring town of Daraga where together with some childhood friends, we had our baptisms of fire about the joys of friendship and the sad realities of life. Barangays Bonot, Rawis, Arimbay, Pag- Asa, Padang, Victory Village, Baybay and San Roque in Legaspi City used to be our playground as well as dark sections and alleys of Daraga.

There we were-- young, care-free, wet behind the ears teenagers tasting “freedom” for the first time in a city far from home doing crazy unimaginable stuff like watching four movies in succession until our eyes were bloodshot and dry in those dingy and rickety downtown movie houses; making countless pranks in school and not being caught; bloody street fights and numerous fisticuffs with other gangs that left some of us with busted beaks or two and broken bones on the side; darting in and out in those seedy smoke- filled beerhouses near the Legaspi Police Station with names like Mark Anthony, Vejors, Melon Patch, etc.; chain smoking Marlboros like there is no tomorrow; heavy drinking sessions with the stainless Ginebra from dusk until dawn; sleeping along the shores and on the sands of the beach of Lagunoy Gulf while fighting a nasty hang- over and of course, chasing girls while living in the fast lane. Those were the days and they were really damn good days.

All these things occurred under the watchful eyes of the tempest and temperamental volcano that is Mayon, towering over the city and the province of Albay with its nearly perfect cone that makes her natural beauty beyond compare, a Daragang Magayon in our midst and like the dusky beautiful Bicolana maiden, she is not only a beauty in her peaceful slumber but a fiery and deadly one in her wrath and anger.


Mount Mayon
is legendary for her volatile temperament and Bicolanos are so accustomed to her fickle-mindedness and constant grumblings. In fact, it was only months ago where I had written about her in this blog (see Daragang Magayon) when she had shown once again her legendary temper and spewed ashes into Albay’s azure sky and red- hot lava flowed on her belly that left a lot of people, locals and tourists alike, awed and captivated by her beauty and splendor especially in the night time where the spectacle is far more grand and colorful.

After some fireworks here and there, she was back to her quiet self or so we thought until…




Reming
entered the picture and conspired with her to change the landscape of the city that I am so fond of and the province of my roots. The once peaceful, happy and lively place that I know of has been obliterated from the face of the earth and death, devastation and despair replaced it. When disaster struck so close to home, a piece of ourselves is also lost no matter where we are.

The people never had a chance. They never knew it coming. It was sudden and deadly, in one stroke, their lives and property were gone and washed by the strong current into the vast Pacific Ocean. We may never know the total number of casualties in the tragedy but I know that I have lots of friends, classmates and acquaintances who live in those places. And I know for a fact that some of them never made it back alive after the deluge. Their lives and property were now buried under the mud, the place is deserted and now a wasteland but their memories will forever live in my heart.

How come something like this happened in this day and age? How come nobody in our so- called “experts” has predicted this to happen? After all, the build- up of lava in the slopes of Mt. Mayon does not happen overnight, it has been months before this thing happened!

As usual, the inept and incompetent local politicians have no idea and the national leadership was blind as a bat as well. Finger- pointing on who was to blame for the disaster is the name of the game. Some even blame the people who were living there whose only fault was trying to earn an honest living which cannot be said though of our political leaders who were busy amassing ill- gotten wealths and playing political intramurals rather than attending to the basic needs of their constituents.

As long as the Philippine political system is corrupt and our so- called leaders are indifferent to the plight and sufferings of the people, tragedies like this will always occur. It will be just a vicious cycle of death and destruction. It’s not too late for our “leaders” to change but change has to come first within ourselves. I know this is just another pipe dream but hope springs eternal they say. Hopefully, it will be for the better of our country.

Now, I grieve for those who perished and pray for those who survive for life will be a long struggle for them to get back on their feet again.

But I believe in the human courage, the Bicolano spirit and the resiliency of the Albayanos in particular. Mga Uragon baga kita!

And just like the mythical Phoenix, the people of Albay will rise from the ashes and will crawl out from the rubble and rebuild whatever’s left of their shattered lives.

I know that we will succeed for that’s how we Bicolanos are, we are a hardened and determined lot and at the end of the day we will always have those beautiful smiles on our faces, those glowing sparks in our eyes and the inherent kindness in our hearts to live by.



Note:

The official death toll of Typhoon Reming (International Codename: Durian) is currently pegged at 1,266 people dead or missing based on body counts and survivor accounts and is growing day by day. It was believed that nobody could really tell the exact number of casualties due to the lack of official data or census of the number of people living in a particular area during that particular time.

Hardest hit were Barangay Padang in Legaspi City and Barangay Maipon in Guinobatan, Albay where entire families were buried alive.

The boarding houses that dotted the banks of the Yawa River near Aquinas University were swept by the rampaging waters into the sea taking with them the students who were sleeping at that time in the process.

The loss of human lives and damages to properties in the province of Albay is enormous and can never be quantified. Power and communication lines were cut, roads were damaged and rendered inaccessible. Food, gas, and water shortages are a sad reality and the probability of a disease outbreak is a given.

The whole province is in a State of Calamity.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2006 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor


While waiting for the 10:00 pm CSI Miami on CBS, I went channel surfing last night and chanced upon the 2006 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on PBS and decided to watch the show instead and did not regret it.

It’s a star- studded affair honoring this year’s recipient, Neil Simon whose works is said to have been the most widely performed next only to Shakespeare. He was feted with accolades, tributes and testimonials at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by friends and colleagues who in one way or another owed their careers to the foremost American playwright.

Neil Simon, the prolific writer who at one time have a record of four Broadway productions running simultaneously has authored more than 40 Broadway plays since 1961 most of them light-hearted and humorous plays but is best known for his autobiographical Eugene Trilogy (Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound) and Chapter Two which critics considered as his finest work and was written shortly after his first wife died of cancer.

His talent is enormous and has contributed immensely to both theater and film as he was also a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, a Golden Globe, an American Comedy Award, a Drama Desk Award and now, a Kennedy Center Award that was named after Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), the 19th century American satirist, humorist and writer who William Faulkner called the “Father of American Literature” and was widely known for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Mr. Neil Simon is in good company with the list of the past recipients a veritable Who’s Who in the business--

Recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize have been Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004) and Steve Martin (2005).

Now on it’s 9th year, the Mark Twain Prize was taped at the John F. Kennedy for the Performing Arts on October 15, 2006 and was finally shown last night on public TV and it was a good hour and a half of showcasing the talent of the man and stories behind the scenes; of his writings and the performers acting in it.

Christina Applegate performed a smooth rendition of Big Spender from the musical revival Sweet Charity accompanied on the piano by the multi- talented singer, pianist, songwriter, arranger and producer, Allen Toussaint whose seminal works earned for the New Orleans native an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Ms. Applegate essayed the role of Charity Hope Valentine for her Broadway debut that earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. I watched Sweet Charity twice when I was in the big Apple, one with her in it and the other with Charlotte d’Amboise who also played Roxie Hart in Chicago when I watched the said musical at the Ambassador Theater. I’ll write about my take on the said shows next time if my time and schedule permits.Ha-ha.

Matthew Broderick, the two-time Tony award- winning actor (He got his first for Brighton Beach Memoirs) thanked Neil Simon “ for making it possible to purchase a small golden palace in the Himalayas" paraphrasing his Tony award-winning lines of the teen character he essayed upon seeing a naked woman for the first time in his life.

"He allowed me my whole professional life, he got me right." "Oscar-winning actor for the movie The Goodbye Girl, Richard Dreyfuss said of the role Mr. Simon had in his career.

Jonathan Silverman, the versatile actor who was recently seen in the independent feature film Laura Smiles which won the Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Denver Film Festival this year jump-started his acting career when he “made” the character of Eugene Morris Jerome (Simon’s other self as a young man in the trilogy) “His” on Broadway but graciously credited the playwright of changing his life when he “plucked him from obscurity!”

Tony award- winner Heather Headley who originated the role of Nala in the Tony Award Winning musical The Lion King and cemented her status in the Elton John/ Tim Rice collaboration Aida as one of the Great White Way’s best made a very beautiful rendition of the song “What do you get when you fall in love?” from the 1968 show Promises, Promises, the Burt Bacharach classic which was in turn based on the 1960 Billy Wilder film The Apartment written by who else but Neil Simon!

Other Stars who came to sing praises to Mr. Neil Simon were Robert Redford (who talked about his friendship with him and about the “mountains in Utah.”), Emmy Award winner Patricia Heaton (who revived the role of Paula in the new version of the classic "The Goodbye Girl" for TNT), Malcolm in the Middle’s Jane Kaczmarek who once appeared on Broadway in Lost in Yonkers, Mad About You star and co- creator Paul Reiser.




Lucy Arnaz (who played Sonia Wolsk in They’re Playing Our Song), fellow New Yorker Robert Klein (1979 -They’re Playing Our Song), Nathan Lane (who was recently seen in the movie The Producers and also starred with Matthew Broderick in last year's The Odd Couple on Broadway), Seinfeld’s George Costanza (Jason Alexander) and Carl Reiner (also a Mark Twain Prize recipient in 2000) .

Here’s a short list of his works and let’s hope that he will continue writing and share his talent with us.

Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Lost in Yonkers (1991)

Tony Award – for his plays:
The Odd Couple (1965, Best Author, Play)
Biloxi Blues (1985, Best Play)
Lost in Yonkers (1991, Best Play)

Golden Globe – The Goodbye Girl (1978, Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy)

American Comedy Award – for his life work (1989, Creative Achievement Award)

Drama Desk Award – Lost in Yonkers (1991, Outstanding New Play)


In his speech, Neil Simon was modest enough and admitted to being nervous speaking in public (a case of “better read than heard?”-which is considered an enigma for some very good writers) as he shared to us the journey that he took for his “Come Blow Your Horn.“ ---



”It took me six years to write my first play” and openly admitted that he took the title from one of his daughter’s nursery rhymes books that turned out into a “so-so play” that was then made into a “so-so movie” with a “so-so Frank Sinatra" in it.

But it was successful enough that, “For the first time, I had money in the bank,” and softly added, “Yes sir, yes sir three bags full!!” as the audience broke into a hearty laughter.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Grey Matters



Today is the 62nd year anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the greatest battle in the history of naval warfare. It occurred in the Philippines in the closing months of the Pacific War in a desperate effort by the Japanese Imperial Forces to draw the US Navy’s Seventh and Third Fleets into one final engagement hoping to annihilate them in the process that will result in the isolation of the Allied Invasion Force in Leyte from its lifeline and prolong the war and the survival of Imperial Japan with the knowledge that once the Philippines is lost, the war is over.



I am a self- confessed history buff and ever since I was a young boy I was always fascinated by the men in uniform and their exploits--

--Blame it on the proliferation of war movies at that time. I can say that I watched a lot of war flicks ( “Tora! Tora! Tora!” “A Bridge Too Far,” “The Longest Day”, “Force 10 from Navarone,” etc.) with my Mom and Dad in the movie houses of Tabaco (Jojo Cinema) in Albay Province as well as Lola Theater in Legaspi City.

The epic “Midway” is one of my earlier favorites where incidentally if memory serves me right was the first movie shown in the only air- conditioned theater in Albay during that time in the late Seventies which is the La Trinidad Theater. I remembered my playmates and I had a grand time picking up the hundreds or so movie leaflets that were dropped by a single- engine- propeller -driven airplane one afternoon in Tiwi, Albay to herald its opening.

--Blame it also on the toy guns and soldiers that I got as gifts while growing up back when the world is way, way different in its outlook with regards to these kinds of toys. I spent countless hours playing with them in the backyard of our house plotting the offensive and counter- offensive in the see- saw battle between the Allied Forces against the German Afrika Korps while pretending to be a hotshot General ala Monty or the Desert Fox in the Battle of El Alamein. I carried the notion of becoming a military man into my early teens that I even entertained the dream of taking the entrance examination into the Philippine Military Academy and become an officer in the elite Philippine Army Scout Rangers albeit it did not push through for so many reasons and thus it remained just that, a pipe dream.

--Blame it on the books that I have read while rummaging into the dusty book shelves of my Grandfather in the house. Books like the Erich Maria Remarque’s classic "All Quiet on the Western Front," the Leatherneck’s "Guadalcanal Diary", a Priest’s daring exploits in Mindanao in "Guerilla Padre," Churchill’s "History of the Second World War," William Shirer’s "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," Capt. Rikihei Inoguchi’ and Commander Tadashi Nakajima’s "The Divine Wind" wherein both officers served in the Philippines under Admiral Ohnishi, the originator of the “Kamikaze” concept and countless William Hoyt’s Books about the subject as well as a cover-less book on legendary Col. Wendell Fertig’s war adventures in Mindanao whose title now escapes me.

Old Soldiers

During the course of my journey I have encountered men and women from the Greatest Generations who are now in the twilight of their lives; people who once in their lives have “talked the talk and walked the walk.”

I am very fortunate that they shared their stories with me. I have a lot of unfinished manuscripts and recordings that someday when I have the time and money as well as the courage---I will write a book about them and their stories.

I remember Mang Berting, an indigent patient in Antipolo during our Medical Mission in the 1990’s who shared with me his story about the Liberation of the more than 3,000 American Prisoners- of- War interred at the University of Santo Tomas as a member of the Philippine Scouts that was attached to the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division under the command of Col. Haskett Connor that led me back to writing after years of self- imposed hiatus.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get the full name of Mang Berting for a daughter of one of the POW and a Nurse that was held there contacted me after the said article was published in Mandirigma (an on-line web site that features the exploits and stories of Filipino men in uniform -- http://pinoysoldierstories.tripod.com) in 2001 for she is in the process of writing a book about her parents' wartime experiences and needed some eyewitness accounts on the matter. It was also her who informed me two years later that Col. Connor passed away quietly.

I met a lot of War Veterans, both men and women, during the course of my work in the hospital here in Michigan that in one way or another has some “Philippine Connections” where they have told me about their beautiful experiences in the Philippines and its people.

I met Mr. Daniel Pedro, a USAFFE enlisted man barely out of his teens in War Two and a 50 year- veteran with the Michigan State Police who was so nice and his eyes immediately lit up when I told him I am from the Philippines and he immediately told me stories during his time there that were both sad and hilarious as only he can dish out in his loud and uncensored fashion with special mention of our native “Balut.”

Then there was Mr. Julius, a veteran of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and a survivor of the escort carrier USS Gambier Bay, the only carrier lost in World War II to the guns of the Japanese Imperial Navy when Destroyers and Cruisers of Vice- Admiral Kurita’s Center Force slipped through the US Navy's defenses undetected through the San Bernardo Strait under a shroud of mist just off Samar and attacked them. He and the other survivors were at sea for more than 24 hours until they were rescued by friendly forces ending their ordeal, burned skin and all.

Mr. Zandro, an Italian- American who was a “replacement” soldier of the US Army’s 81st Infantry Division a.k.a. the Wildcats Division in Leyte, told me about the mopping-up operations they did in May 1945 against the remnants of the Japanese Imperial Army as well as the warm welcome they got from the Filipinos in the islands.

Mr. J. Hovokar, a member of the 5th Marine Division who participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and survived its volcanic sands and horror; a veteran of one of the fiercest combats in the annals of the US Marine Corp and WWII. He told me that he was once interviewed during one of the Iwo Jima Veteran's reunion by the author James Bradley regarding his experiences during his research of the book “Flags of Our Fathers.”

How can I forget Ms. Prudence Burns Burrell, the 80 -something bubbly African- American who was once an Army Nurse with the rank of 1st Lieutenant and was stationed in the Philippines in World War II. She and her fiancé eventually got married there wherein her wedding dress was fashioned out of parachute materials. She gave me the book, "Hathaway", her autobiography that in some chapters detailed her wonderful time in the “Philippines Island. “

And Mr. Michaels, who was a young Ensign in Leyte when his aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid saw action in that decisive naval battle and who took his precious time and served as my tour guide and walked me through the USS Intrepid (now a Sea, Air and Space Museum) in New York City last year during the 60th anniversary celebration of Victory in Japan Day (VJ-Day) that was held on the flight deck of the said aircraft carrier that was aired in the History Channel.


Yes, I was in the Big Apple in August 2005 where I was able to witness in the process the re-enactment of the famous “Kiss in Times Square” between an unknown Sailor and a Nurse at that time. 60 years later the names and faces of the personalities involved are now known to us except that they are older and grayer but that will be reserved for another story.


These are just some of the members of the Greatest Generations whom I am privileged and honored to have met, talked to and shared stories with. May their stories never be forgotten.


Today is a day of paying homage to all the brave fighting men of both sides who perished in battle fighting for a cause that they believed in and also to those who survived and were scarred for life so that their sacrifices will never be forgotten and a prayer that we will never see another global war in our lifetime again.





Monday, October 23, 2006

Divine Wind




Chariots of fire
Racing against the tide
Blowing in the wind
Rushing into the fire

Struck by lightning
Roaring like thunder
Defying the gods
of the sea and sky.

Goaded by the blazing sun



Restless spirits
Wandering souls
Warriors of the past

Kamikaze!



Too young to die
For a cause that
We will never fully
Understand.




Two days from now on October 25 will mark the 62-year anniversary of the first successful attack of the Japanese Special Attack Units (tokubetsu kōgeki tai) popularly known albeit erroneously in the West as the Kamikaze Special Attack Force. It was recorded on the U.S. escort carrier St. Lo to mark the beginning of a new form of warfare never seen before in the annals of war that brought terror in the eyes of the Allied Navy during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the waning months of the Pacific War.

"Kamikaze" roughly translated in English as Divine Wind (kami= god; kaze= wind) was the name of the legendary typhoons that crushed the Mongol Fleet in the Sea of Japan in an attempted invasion by Kublai Khan in 1274 & 1281 and thus save the Kamakura Shogunate from annihilation by the Mongols in the 13th Century.

The "Kamikaze" in the Second World War had its birth in the young pilots of the 201st Air Group of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s First Air Fleet based in Mabalacat Airfield, Pampanga Province in the Philippines that history will tell us as one of the most bizarre undertakings made by the desperate Japanese forces to delay the US Forces' juggernaut to the their homeland.

For ten long months, young and brave fanatical Japanese pilots mostly in their late teens to early twenties plunged to their deaths that in the end did not prevent the inevitable-- the Victory of the Allies against Imperial Japan.

By the end of the Second World War --1,228 Japanese Pilots were lost and a total of 34 US Ships sank while damaging 288 more with heavy loss of life.

War--

--no matter whose side you are on or whatever cause you are fighting for is always sad and tragic and let us not forget the lessons of history as we move on with our daily lives and confront the issues that our world is facing nowadays.

And to quote the ex- Beatle named John, “All we are saying is to give PEACE a Chance.”






"Like cherry blossoms
In the spring,
Lets us fall
Clean and radiant."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Paraskevidekatriaphobia




Are you superstitious?

It's odd to wake up early in the morning and the first thing that greets you when you open up the door is the piercing cold wind that immediately numbed your face and you wished for a warmer weather that you are so used to several thousand miles back home across the Pacific.

It’s even eerier when the only sound that you can hear is the sound of your footfalls echoing in the sleepy neighborhood and you realize that today is Friday the 13th, that day of days dreaded by a lot of people all over the world.

I don’t particularly pay much attention to these things for I am not superstitious but today an uncanny thought immediately crossed my mind while I was walking through the wet walkway on a stormy morning heading to my parked car in the deserted parking garage of the flat that is my “home” for almost three years now.

I can’t help it but I remember my old friend Jason, he of the notorious sequel- rich urban legend cum slasher flick, Friday the 13th and visions of him standing behind the lazy lighted lamp posts began to haunt me but soon vanished the though from my silly mind.

When I was about to reach for my car’s door a black cat suddenly materialized out of nowhere and as if taunting me began ogling me while I buckled up my seat belt and started the engine and slowly drove off into the road and accelerating into the freeway while humming to the music of Aerosmith.

I was already cruising at over 90 miles per hour in the freeway and pretending to be Michael Schumacher or Dale Earnhardt, Jr when I realized that in my hurry to get to work and beat the clock I forgot my wallet in my computer desk and in it all my pertinent papers and money that includes my ever precious drivers license. So, I was in the dilemma of either turning around and head back for my flat and get my driver’s license or just continue driving along.

I chose the latter and almost regretted it for after exiting the freeway and as I stopped at the first traffic light on the way, an unmarked police car pulled up beside me and the uniformed lady officer ask me to roll down my window and told me,

“Sir, you’re going 50 in a 30 mph road.”

I smiled sheepishly and apologized to her for speeding over the limit and it’s a good thing that the police officer was still in a good mood at 6 am or probably as the old saying goes, she woke up on the right side of the bed or perhaps my sweet smile and inherent charm did some magic(ha-ha) or probably the scrubs I’m wearing for police officers are kind to the health profession or lady luck just smiled on me or a thousand other reasons but I did not really care to boggle my mind for she let me go without much ado. Just like that, she let me go and in the process keeps my driving record immaculately clean saving me a lot of insurance money in the process!

To make the long story short I beat the clock at work with plenty to spare and drove home in the afternoon with Schumi and Formula One on my mind but this time I decided not to push my luck and stayed within the posted speed limits.

So, who said that Friday the 13th is unlucky?


Let me just leave you with some points to ponder courtesy of Dr. Donald Dossey a psychotherapist who is also a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun---

"What you think about, you begin to feel. What you feel generates what you do. And what you do creates how you will become."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

For Whom the Bell Tolls



“My God, what have we done?”
- Colonel Paul Tibbets
B- 29 Pilot, "Enola Gay"



HIROSHIMA

leap of faith
jump into the water
soar into the sky.

run like a mad man
go for the stars
and catch the sun.

a race for life
a contest between
the devil and man.

split the atom
drop the bomb
run for your life,
hide from the fall out
or be doomed
like the rest of us.



Note: The Atomic Bomb nicknamed Little Boy was dropped from the B- 29 Enola Gay exploded at approximately 8:15 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on August 6, 1945 killing more than 200,000 people...



Nuclear Winter

I am standing under the evening sun,
its iced heat cooling my burned soul.
Quickly, the zinnias and marigold wrinkled in despair,
fading into oblivion. Our shadows lasted a lifetime
of insanity- the petals dropped,
my chocolate skin sagged.
The acid rain finally fell from the great beyond
Standing at the dusty crossroads, time stood still for a moment
Reaching for my folded-faded umbrellas;
I tried to ward off the heartless attack from above.
Alas, boldness as it may be, useless in reality.
My golden tan and all, dreams of eternal
salvation came to a tragic end.



First Published in Poetic Voices C2003
http://www.poeticvoices.com/Poetry/0308poems.html

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Daragang Magayon




The Philippines’ Mt. Mayon, the most active volcano in the island has once again shown the world her legendary beauty albeit dangerously during the past few days. But I can only watch the colorful but deadly spectacle on the videos available in the Internet having been left the Bicol region a couple of years ago and now living half a world away from my hometown of Tiwi in Albay.



Mayon, which rises at 2462 feet above sea level, is one of several active volcanoes in the Philippines (the Country being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire) and one of the most destructive wherein in 1814 buried the town of Cagsawa, killing an estimated 1,000 residents where the only reminder of that fateful day is the famous Church ruins and its Belfry which is now a National Park that attracts thousands of tourists year round.


The volcano, which is famous for its almost perfect cone, was named after the tragic maiden in the Bicolano legend of Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden in the local Bicol dialect) is always a beauty to watch from near or afar; its near perfect cone always elicited aahs and oohs from natives and tourists alike whether in her peaceful slumber or fiery grumblings. Her towering splendor whether in her moment of silence or in her fiery outbursts is beyond compare.

Bicolanos especially Albayanos takes pride in Mayon’s unique place in Albay’s landscape and their daily lives; her predilection of erupting every now and then have only added to her mystique and people have grown accustomed either by choice or necessity to her legendary fickleness.

She is a beauty- a tempest like no other. A wonderful work of nature and God’s miracle and gift to the pliant spirit of the Albayanos hardened by their daily struggle; battered by typhoons and other elements that came their way year- in and year- out but always have a ready smile for everyone. The Mayon and the Bicolanos have co- existed for thousand of years and their lives and fate will forever be intertwined in happy times and tragedies.

I remember when I was growing up in the sleepy town of Tiwi, we were fortunate enough to have seen and watched her dazzling show of ferocious pyroclastic explosions from afar, the unique spectacle you can appreciate more after dark and far away from the dangers of lava flows and sufferings of some of our fellow Albayanos for Tiwi is far enough for her destructive powers to reach. All we got is a shower of ash falls once in a while that was usually evident in the leaves of every plant and tree in one’s backyard in the morning and that also usually depends on the direction of where the wind blows.

I also remember being asked by our teachers in school to bring whatever we could give in the form of food and used clothing to our less fortunate brothers and sisters who were evacuated to school buildings and other evacuation centers to escape Mayon’s wrath and fury that left countless lives lost and destructions in livelihood through the many years of her unexplained destructive behavior.

It is always bittersweet whenever the beautiful Mayon erupts- it is always a delight to watch her magical fireworks especially at night time and at the same time be in awe at nature's power but you can also feel sadness deep inside your heart just thinking of the people who were displaced from their homes as well as the peril that she brought to your fellowmen in her moment of anger.
.



Such is the drama in the age- old relationship between the native Albayanos and the beautiful but dangerous Daragang Magayon

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bikini Open



The Bikini is believed to have been around for centuries, as seen on some Minoan wall paintings dating back to circa 1600 B.C., but the widely held belief of its “invention and creation” as well as its popularity today is widely attributed to two French designers: Louis Reard and Jacques Heim (although it was the former who was credited for the name), and made a big splash into people’s consciousness 60 years ago today at a fashion show in the French Riviera when a French nude dancer-stripper, Michelle Bernardini, modeled the explosive two-piece swimwear for all the world to see, and the rest as they say is history.

It is amazing how a piece of clothing, a swimsuit for that matter, can be the subject of so many debates and discussions over the years. It revolutionized the way common people viewed and perceived the human body and how we dressed in public. It has captured the imagination of every one of us. Its influence and relevance was studied and analyzed repeatedly by so-called experts: scholars, moralists and sociologists.

For the feminists, it is nothing but an instrument of men’s sexual gratification. For the moralists, it is an abomination that will send anybody into the fires of hell. To some, it is a form of sexual liberation where women can wear what they like and expose their skin without being ostracized by society. But for most people it simply a statement of oneself, a form of self-expression and freedom from the “oppressive norms” of man.

But the Bikini, popularly believed to have derived its name from the Bikini Atoll, a part of the Marshall group of islands in the Pacific, where the United States used to test the atomic bomb in 1946, proved to be too hot to handle and too explosive to suppress: thus, it refused to go away and instead gained worldwide popularity and acceptance. It has evolved into an art form, a popular and cultural icon as well as traversed cultural and racial lines. It is the great equalizer.

Everywhere you go -- from the surfers at Waikiki to the sunbathers at the white sands of Bora-Bora to the frolicking beauties on the beach of Ipanema or from one local school’s beauty contest to the prestigious Miss Universe pageant, the conspicuous presence of the Bikini is there.

It even spawned hits in music like “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and other stuff from pop to rock to rap. It was also the subject of countless movies and TV series (read Baywatch). It became a status symbol in Hollywood, where movie stars are judged on how they carry the two-piece wonder, Princess Leia in Gold in the Return of the Jedi notwithstanding. It is also the official uniform of Beach Volleyball and helped the sport creep into the mainstream (e.g. Walsh and May). The prestigious Sports Illustrated magazine has had Bikini-clad athletes/models on its cover since the 1960s.

And who can forget the bombshell Ursula Andres in the 1962 James Bond’s Dr. No and the sultry Halle Berry in another 007 flick -- Die Another Day 40 years later sashaying in their two-piece beauty?

The Bikini’s phenomenal success can only be attributed to everyone’s determined quests for self-expression and today in her 60 years of existence, we can only say that “Freedom” has come a long way and it is here to stay.

And as Aaron Levenstein once said, "Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital."

And who can tell the line between what is acceptable and obscene? What is beautiful and tasteless?
All I can say is that, Beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder. And with that I say, Thank God for the Bikini!




*07052006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6, 2006- 06/06/06/ - 666



Today in the Gregorian Calendar is the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the third millennium or in short it is 06/06/06 which many people especially those who believe in esotericism is the number of the beasts which was further reinforced by the Holy Bible in--

Revelation Chapter 13, Verse 18, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast: for it is a human number; his number is six hundred and sixty- six.”

The number 666 which was attributed as the Devil’s number by blind followers of religious zealots is also studied extensively by mathematicians as well as cryptology and numerology enthusiasts for ages and you’ll be amazed by the hundreds if not thousands of results with both scientific and inane relevance to our beliefs and knowledge that will further lead us to think on how complex the human brain works. The study of Gematria came to the fullest here.

It has affected a lot of people and even inspired a cult among heavy metal followers, subliminal messages and all. From Black Sabbath to Metallica to Iron Maiden to Marilyn Manson, the devil is alive and kicking. It has been said in countless tales and urban legends that if you play the cassette tapes of any heavy metal and rock bands backwards you’ll hear the devil’s music in its purest form a classic example of which is said to be found in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and the Eagles' Hotel California. It is also said that it is also part of the 11:11 phenomena and at a time circulated in the net that the next terrorist attack in the United States could take place today at the Sears Tower in Chicago which has a zip code of 60606 perpetrated by some enterprising Conspiracy theorists.

But in the true spirit of American Capitalism, many people have actually cash in on the “Devil’s day” with a devil may care attitude and jump on the Devil‘s bandwagon and laugh their way to the bank. Case in point is the opening of the remake of the 1976 movie The Omen which opens today in many theaters across the US of A that features a boy named Damien as the Devil’s spawn with 666 written all over his scalp.

Another is when more than 5, 000 people descended into Hell for the 6/6/6/ Party some of whom arrived in style in motorcycles and hearses in this small town in Michigan which is about 45 minutes drive from Detroit. Its 72 residents overwhelmed by the sudden deluge of people who flock to Hell’s gate and earned the right to proclaim upon their return to their hometowns and cities that they have been to Hell and back.

I will posts some examples of the religious, mathematical, and hilarious trivia here for your perusal and challenge your beliefs and knowledge as well as entertain you in the process, just like killing a lot of birds with pellets from a wayward 12- gauge shotgun, Dick Cheney notwithstanding.

So read on…

Some religions opposed to the Roman Catholic Church say that the Pope is the Anti- Christ by citing the Latin “Vicarius Filii Dei” or "Vicar of the Son of God" which if you put the corresponding value of the letters in it using the Roman Numerals the total would be 666. The Catholic faithful though never called the Pope by that title but the “Vicar of Christ”.

Some religious interpreters and other self- proclaimed Evangelists have anointed today as the Armageddon or the End of Days and that the Anti- Christ will reveal himself in due time which is so far proven to be false ( I hope ). Bear in mind also that the anagram for Evangelist is Devil’s Agent.

Many famous and notorious personalities and organizations were even branded as the Anti- Christ which includes Pope John Paul II, JFK, Pat Robertson, Sun Myung Moon, Freemasonry, Illuminati, Arafat, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Gorbachev, Clinton and Bill Gates just to name a few.

In the case of Gates whose real name is William Henry Gates III, where “III” means the order of third. By converting the letters of his current name to the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)- values and adding his “III” you will get 666 (66+73+76+76+65+84+69+83+3=666).

Also US President Reagan’s full name contains six letters each in his first (RONALD), middle (WILSON) and last (REAGAN) names, thus earning him the “lucky” number "666".

Here are some compendiums of mathematical “facts” related to the subject:

The sum of the squares of the first 7 prime numbers is 666:
666 = 2² + 3² + 5² + 7² + 11² + 13² + 17²

The sum of the first 144 (= (6+6)·(6+6)) digits of pi is 666.

A good approximation to pi is 355/113 = 3.1415929.
If one part of this fraction is reversed and added to the other part, we get
553 + 113 = 666.

The Roman Numeral representation of the number 666 (DCLXVI) uses once each the Roman numeral symbols with values under 1,000 and they occur in exact reverse order of their respective values (D = 500, C = 100, L = 50, X = 10, V = 5, I = 1).

Trivia

>“Well they said the beast would appear today", the tagline used by BMW who used the date of June 6, 2006 in its promotion of its M6 Sports Car in the UK
> In UNIX and similar operating systems a file permission of 666 grants all users read and write permissions on the file.
> The Apple I, Apple’s first computer was priced at $666.66.
> 666 is the sum of all the numbers on a typical roullete wheel.
> Organic molecules are based on carbon-12, with 6 Protons, 6 Neutrons and surrounded by 6 Electrons.
> The powerful insecticide Benzene Hexachloride's chemical formula is C6H6Cl6.
>U.S. Route 666, “the Highway of the Beast”, was renumbered as U.S. Route 491 in 2003 after controversy erupts over the supposed reference to the Biblical beast, which unfortunately also made the road signs a common target for souvenir hunters.
>Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- the fear of number 666

So, is this the end of the road for us?

Nah, I don’t think so. I know for a fact because I am the man.

I am what I am.

I am your D’ Bill.

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