Wednesday, December 04, 2013

For Mama on Your 70th Birthday

My dear Mama,

As you read this, I am still about 1, 700 miles away from you. But, I know that you’re thinking of me since I am your favorite (As stated by M.A. when she asked you :D). I am not there which is a bit painful since tomorrow is your big day, your 70th.

I just want to say what every child must say to his/ her mother. Thank, you. Thank you for a very simple reason that I owe you who I am today. Perhaps, I did not grow up in a perfect family or raised by a perfect mother. But, the fact is, nobody did. I know that with all your difficulties in raising 11 children (8 girls and 3 boys), you have given your best. There was a time that I forgot what you did for all of us because I just simply wanted to fly out of the cage that our home represents. But, God brought me closer to you when I got so sick. I was given another opportunity to know more the mother who lost countless nights of sleeping just to be able to provide everything that we needed.

One fond memory I could remember is our travel together going to Legazpi for my scholarship. You told me then, be somebody so nobody would step on you. Probably, that is why you worked so hard for our education. Remember how when you were gone for several days because of work, you arrived that night discovering that we had our NSAT the next day. Immediately, you gave us money to buy things that we needed and snacks during the test. That somehow inspired me and could probably be the reason why I became the top of the test. Yes, you used to nag us too much but don’t worry, I understand now what are those for. They made me who am I today and probably who will I be in the future. 

There are many more reasons why I must be thankful for having you as our mother. You see, despite of all the intricacies raising so many children entail, not one of us was given away. Yes, you had your shortcomings but we had too you know, as your children. What matters most is that you tried your best. You did not give up on us. Whenever one of us fails, you remain steadfast on your resolve to understand and just simply forgive.

Yes, makulit ka. Minsan masungit. Most of the times you talk too much. But, you are our mother and we owe you all our accomplishments. You cry so easily which sometimes irk us, but, it also shows your compassion. I know you miss already being tickled by me, just wait and 10 days more you’ll experience it again (with vengeance :D).

On your 70th birthday, I want to wish you a longer life. We will lose the light if you leave us so be mindful of your diet. With all your imperfections, there will never be another mother like you who raised eleven children without giving up in all the difficulties. Thank you, Ma for my life and I will be forever indebted to you.

Happy birthday, Ma. I miss you and I love you. See you in ten days. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Written by my youngest sister from one of our sisters. :)


I rummaged to an old stack of documents and letters earlier and I found one I considered to be my most prized possession.

A letter from one of my most fave sister, I was in a convent when she sent me the letter dated Oct.6, 2001. She was working in Malaysia.

The first part says;

"Dearest Candy,

I've been wanting to write you for a long time. For you alone. How are you? The truth is I don't know a damn thing about you. If truth be known, I can't really understand you. It's like you're from another world, different from mine. I regret that I never bother to reach out and seek your world. Maybe, if I was a better sister I could prevent what happened but being selfish and cold I let you down..."

At the mid part of the letter she told me that 'Eternity' by Robbie Williams was playing and she dedicates it to me.

The song goes like this:

by Robbie Williams

Close your eyes so you don't fear them
They don't need to see you cry
I can't promise I will heal you
But if you want to I will try
I'll sing this somber serenade
The past is done
We've been betrayed
It's true
Someone said the truth will out
I believe without a doubt in you..."

She asked me to try to understand the lyrics, I obeyed her after 12 years.

Only now I realized that the letter she sent me helped a lot more than anyone can whenever I needed reassurance in life.

Some of us, like me, lived in our own little world. But what's important is that we are willing to share it to those who care enough to be part of that silly little world.

To my sister, you know who you are, remember the letter? It was appreciated and treasured.

Looking forward to seeing and spending time with you. So many things happened but one thing remains, we are connected by our own blood and that 'something' that only you and I can understand.

I love you :)


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Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Memoriam: Jesse M. Robredo (An Essay)

In commemoration of the first death anniversary of the late Sec. Jesse Robredo, I am posting this essay which my former student wrote with my assistance.

Jesse and Jose: The Tale of Slippers 

(Chryz Angelo Jonathan Bagsic) 

At a young age of fifteen, there are two important lessons, which I know would help me in my whole life of existence. What is ironic is that the two J’s whose lives were intertwined by slippers exemplified them. Jesse and Jose- their tale of slippers.

My mom, like the mother of Jose Rizal believes that parents must teach the first lessons in life. She planted in me the value of selfless sacrifice thru the inspiring story of young Pepe on the boat. Mom shared how the national hero, after losing one of his slippers, was said to have thrown his remaining slipper with the hope that somebody might find both slippers and be able to use it. Unknowingly, her story told with much ardor taught me that we could detach ourselves from useless material things. That seed of rectitude planted at the age of six would haunt me when I finally reached high school.

It was during my Journalism class in high school that the second important lesson was embedded in my heart. It was that of “Jesse”. My teacher who is a native of Naga City asked our help to gather votes for a man introduced to us as, Sec. Jesse M. Robredo, the then acting secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government. He was one of the finalists in the World Mayor Contest joining other leaders from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, Mexico, and other European countries. My teacher’s accolades about her former mayor somehow amused us. After all, in the world defined by materialism and power of the politics, who would believe that the mayor of a first class city would attend government functions in shorts and slippers and walked along the streets devoid of armed men to protect him?

Though my stubborn mind refused to accept the veracity of what she was saying, the tale of young Pepe on the boat reminded me of the secretary. In the deep recesses of my mind, I was hoping that my teacher’s story was true and it was not only told because of over loyalty to her native land. When my teacher added though that when she was still in Naga City, Sec. Jesse would be the last person to go home during typhoons and the first to go out of the house after the storms wreaked havoc to the city, doubts lingered. I was a young person whose idealism was trampled by endless controversies on corruption and dirty traditional politics. Unbeknownst to both of us, she was instilling in me through the secretary’s kind words and deeds the value of simplicity and honest service. 

I have finally forgotten my teacher’s story or so I thought when most of my times were eaten by academic demands and pressure of coping up with different extra- curricular activities. Until that one fateful day when the country was shaken by the news, which captivated not only the Philippines but also other countries as well.

Tears, wails, grief’s, and unfathomable pains embraced the Filipinos with the news about the plane that crashed in the vast ocean of the province of Masbate. The secretary’s fate turned into upheaval with his sudden death. Surprisingly, I was one of those strangers who cried with his death. Little by little, while the search and rescue teams were scouring the colossal waters and islands of Masbate, all the amazing deeds of the secretary were dramatically unfolded. I have never shed that much tears in my whole life.

I cried with the loss of his children and wife. Their pain might be agonizing, thinking of his love and devotion for them. I cried with the people of Naga City, whose loving hands transformed the sleeping city into a multi- awarded first class city. I cried for the country, losing him was like an end to the long fight against dark tunnel of corruption and thievery in the country. I cried for myself. I felt like I was robbed of a good future. Who would continue his fight for good governance? I was angry and filled with desolation. Then I was reminded of the stories of my teacher about the good mayor of Naga City. I cried more and wept for losing one good man from the government.

It was the shadow of misery that brought me back into contemplation of the story told by my mother. Young Pepe and his slippers. If Jose Rizal is alive today, he must have felt so proud to write about a man of integrity. Jose once exemplified that, “The example could encourage others who only fear to start.” Jesse undeniably set an example which is slowly encouraging people to start the quest for good governance.

Paradoxically, the more than century old Jose must have felt amused that just like him, Sec. Jesse received part of his education in other country but opted to come back to the Philippines to continue his service to his fellow Filipinos. The path trekked by Jose is the same path trodden by Jesse. Only slippers intertwined their lives but both hearts were embraced by ardent love and commitment for the country.

The country has been cloaked with dark colonial mentality, greed of power, and helplessness of the dirty hands that once fed the foreign invaders of the country. Despite of this, Jose Rizal fought for sovereignty while Jesse Robredo fought for good governance. The former said, “Filipinos don’t realize that victory is the child of struggle, that joy blossoms from suffering, and redemption is a product of sacrifice.” While the latter explicated, “The most important ingredient of leadership is character. Most of the proficiencies can be learned, but what’s inside you is something that is difficult to change.”

For many years, the country has been embraced with shadow of uncertainties. Probably, majority of the Filipinos has given up that change would eventually bring progress and hope to the country. With everyday news about wars, poverty, and countless plagues that haunt the country, Jose with his death showed that change could be achieved. While Jesse, fought a different battle to free the country from the shadow of doubt in administering the government.

More than one hundred years ago, Jose Rizal freed the country from the oppression of foreign hands. With his words, he bravely fought the Spaniards against their tyranny. This caused him his death but just like what he said, “One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and will not present itself again.” On the other hand, Jesse Robredo continued to fight the same battle that Jose Rizal fought. Jesse’s fight however, was not against the enemies with foreign hands but with the people in power subjugating the ordinary citizens. He championed good governance and in doing so represented the poor and the oppressed. He “walked the talk” as elucidated by all his accomplishments.

Amidst the turmoil that brings confusion and wretchedness to the country today, Rizal clearly elucidated what he would have considered as the main obstacle to the country’s progress when he said, “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” Unless the country acknowledges the contributions of the past, we will never be able to move on toward the progress that we are all hoping for. Jesse however showed that he learned from the lesson of the past with the way he lived his life.

Two different lives. Two different eras. Two different persons. Each with unique achievements but very much alike with their wisdom, character, belief and aspirations for the country. Two lives whose experiences and legacies formed my values at a young age. 

In deeper retrospect, Jose and Jesse’s similarity did not end with the tale of slippers. Theirs were intertwined with the way people celebrated their lives and accomplishments and mourned their deaths. My life on the other hand has just started. The way I will live it would be defined if I can be a Jesse and Jose in my own way by letting the seeds of values planted in me grow into a beautiful tree of hope and sacrifice. Then, the shadow of doubt as to the country’s future would vanish completely. Perhaps the tale of slippers would one day continue. My slippers would one day find the light illuminating hope and love for our motherland. Then, I could follow the shadow of hope of Jesse and Jose.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In totality: The Face of Fraud

"Parang nadudurog ang puso mo na, kaya bang gawin ito ng tao sa kapwa tao? Kaya ba talagang sikmurain na magagawa ang ganito kalaking kasiraan para sa bayan?”
-Cardinal Tagle

Apparently, the answer seems to be yes for Napoles, the woman behind the 10-billion pork barrel scam. I know everybody is innocent until proven guilty under due process of law. But, evidences and witnesses seem to affirm all the allegations against her.

Despite the fact that I’m far from the Philippines, news about this woman greets me everyday. At first, I just shrugged it off as another scam which seems to be so common in the country. Reading more and watching videos about her shed light on what is truly going on. Greediness at its worst for Napoles family. Ritz Carlton for a home? Wow. She had it really BIG.

What irked me most though was the verbatim transcript of a roundtable discussion between Inquirer editors, columnists and reporters, and Janet Lim- Napoles. There, she averred that most of their wealth came from their coal trading and housing business in Indonesia. However, she also said that she never visited Indonesia BECAUSE OF FEAR. Obviously, she didn’t know what she’s talking about.

The woman has the nerve to talk about fear when she did not even exhibit any fear at all while she was robbing the Philippines. For somebody who got most of her wealth (as she claims) in Indonesia for coal trade, it’s such a wonder why she is afraid of going here. Why will you invest in a place which you think is dangerous and something you must be afraid of?

Well, I’m fuming in rage for many reasons. While her family was swimming in the tub of money (LITERALLY), many of the nation’s poorest of the poor are suffering with scarcity of basic needs to have decent living.

With the rate things are going on, I can’t help but to think, does she know it’s definitely safer to be in Indonesia than to be associated with her? Somehow, I can’t stomach her face which speaks of nothing but FRAUD.

Disclaimer: I do not own this photo of Janet Napoles. Credit to ANC Yahoo News.  

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Goodbye is Forever (Letter for My Dead Brother)

August 15 is yet another day to commemorate the seventh month of your passing. I thought that the months would teach me how to just simply let go. But sometimes, my thoughts drift to the time we could have seen you still alive instead we were greeted with the sight of you lifeless covered in a sheet. The pain is still raw especially at times that I am alone in my room, miles away from home, and nobody to talk to.

I guess, I would always be plagued by my conscience for failing to see you during your last moments. I traveled for 14 hours just to bring Mama to you while you were still alive but we were late for about 30 minutes. Before leaving the Philippines, Mama would always ask me after your funeral, “Why did I not see him alive? He’s been in the hospital for several days.” The answer is quite painful but I tried to amend in ways that I know you’ll be proud of.

Try as I might, the memories of what happened in the past continue to haunt me. Sunday when I woke up around 3:00 a.m. to prepare for our trip in another competition when I read the post of my eldest sister, Nene. It was the news about one of my brothers being brought to the hospital. Immediately, I tried to call her but the call was not able to go through. I then tried around 5 a.m. when I was already in school waiting for our departure on the way to the contest venue. I was surprised to learn that the brother she was referring to was Nestor, I always refer to him as the high and mighty. Not only because of his physical built but also his perceptions about things which seemed to be always inarguable. What he said was final and irrevocable and indisputable so it seemed.

Around noon time, his condition continued to deteriorate according to my sister. I tried to make arrangements for my coming home knowing that my mother would not be able to make the long travel without me. By Sunday night, my sister told me it was inoperable and Nestor was unconscious. His condition then worsened and the news was the same, he wouldn’t be able to make it. By Monday night, I received more calls from my siblings urging me to go home so Mama could travel from Batangas to Bicol. My brother then, was already brain dead.

By Tuesday, I was awakened by a very loud bang of a door in the classroom where we were staying coupled with the howling of dogs. I left the school 5:15 a.m. to endure the long travel from Nasugbu to Rosario and Rosario to Bicol. It was 11:30 when I arrived in Rosario and immediately packed the things of my mother telling her we’re going for a vacation in Bicol. She was too happy with the news to even bother asking why I was back a day earlier from a contest. On that day, my eldest sister was calling me nonstop. Hurry. It would not be that long anymore.

Same thing happened in the car. She was calling me nonstop and during the travel, we didn’t even think of having stop- over. I whispered many times to the driver to make it fast and thankfully, my mother did not even notice. Around 20-30 minutes before arriving in Naga City, my eldest sister called me again to go directly in her house instead of the hospital. Thinking that she was just probably wanted to have Mama rest first, I heeded but opted to just stop first in Jollibee nearest to her home for dinner. It was beside the hospital.

While waiting for our order, the children of my brother, Nestor arrived also. They immediately cried and my mother looked puzzled but again she did not ask anything. I needed to make eye signals to them to make sure that nobody would say anything about the condition of my brother since my mother didn’t know yet.

I called my sister and told her to meet me outside of Jollibee. Within minutes, she went out of the hospital. She then told me that my brother was already dead and that he would be brought out of the hospital. I was in shocked but couldn’t cry since Mama who was inside the Jollibee would notice. The inexplicable raw pain same with the one brought by my father’s death engulfed me. My youngest sister joined us but again we control our emotions for fear that Mama may not take it well with her frail condition. My eldest sister told us that arrangements were just being made and my brother will be brought back in our hometown.

I told her I wanted to see him first then we all ran in the hospital. Everything was happening outside Jollibee with our emotions concealed only by the car. As we neared the door of my brother’s room, everything crumbled and I finally let go of my emotions. It was a very painful feeling knowing we could have seen him alive if we only arrived 20-30 minutes earlier. I remember the blinding pain and when I remembered the last time we saw each other, when he gave me a pat in the shoulder and told me, they’re leaving already, I never thought that it would be the last time I would see him alive. What’s more painful? It was knowing that my mother was just in the next building oblivious to the fact that her son has just died. There were many what ifs. But, I know despite of my grieving heart, that God has reasons for everything.

Death is part of life. However, the circumstances that embraced it are what bring more pain. My brother was not a saint. We fought and argued a lot just like what he loved doing with my other siblings. But, deep inside him, I knew how much he cared for us. When I was so ill six years ago, he gave me a call and told me to ask for another opinion in Manila. More than the financial support, he made sure that he monitored also my health progress.

It’s been seven months. The brother who probably never got sick, never complained about any pain, and acted as if he's the king of arguments, and told me so smugly back in first year high school that I would only win in the Regional Chess competition if I defeated him first, and the one who's constantly annoying his sisters about boyfriends and husbands, was really gone. The pain was the same yet there was also that dawn of understanding. Had it not been with his death, where am I now and what am I doing may be totally different. I knew that with his demise, we just gained an additional angel in heaven. It pained when you knew that goodbye you utter was already forever but God has ALWAYS reasons for everything.

Tor, you rest now. We miss you and Papa. Thank you for everything…words I failed to tell you before you passed away. 

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