Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Of course I am frustrated.

You ask me if I am still happy with the things I do and I replied, "I am happy with what I am doing ... but I am not necessarily happy with what they expect me to keep on doing." And you said that I did not make sense. So for the umpteenth time, let me try to explain.

It is easy for you to pass judgment, to criticize and to even make fun of not only what I do ... but what others are doing. That is because you are not in here.

It is easy to exist on two separate planes of reality: you sit and watch while I sweat and make sure that things are moving. You grab your remote control, turn on your tv set and punch on the digits to change channels while I am out there with more than fifty people braving winds, rains, hailstorms and studio executives trying to deliver a piece of work on time, within budget and for airing.

You sit back, snicker and feel holier than thou while reading cheesy stories, absorbing rancid gossips about television stars and personalities while I have to deal with them. You know them from what you read about them or how they are presented or sold in showbiz talk shows ("Now na!". On the other hand, I see them face-to-face. I know the press release from the truth --- the marketing strategy from the bare and raw essentials of who they truly are. I can provide a more valid estimate not only of their intelligence quotient but the quality of their personality as well. And these are things you can never really know by just watching them in films or on tv, reading about them in tabloids and fan magazines ... or absorbing an opinion sputtered by showbiz talk show hosts.

You think that I lead a glamorous but empty life because I abuse whatever intellect the Creator of the Universe has given me. You say that I promulgate predictable dramas, encourage mediocrity and standardize vulgarity. You say that my sole purpose in this present reincarnation is to provide you and your Balikbayan relatives with the best seats in the live performance of next Sunday's A.S.A.P.

But then again, it is not your responsibility to understand what people like me go through.

You are there to receive whatever it is the networks have to offer, that's all. Yours is the choice to be bewitched, bothered and/or bewildered. Or to throw up. And you are not under any obligation to understand why things are the way they are. You are there as part of the multitude of consumers, validated by your patronage and exercising your right to be critical. You are merely a statistic on the AGB and TNS surveys.

No, I am not about to make excuses. I am neither going to apologize for being part of television.

Neither will I be heroic to assume that this is entirely my fault. Of course it is my fault because not only have I chosen to work for media ... but because I have chosen to remain here. If there is a far greater sin, then maybe it is because I love working for media not only because the pay is good ... but because this is what I have chosen to do. And despite all these invectives you hurl at my direction ... and more so ... all I have to endure while dealing with the pantheon of gods of various degrees of power in the network, I know there is still so much work to do.

Yes, I can almost hear you snicker and call me a sell-out. You tell me that I know what is being done is unforgivably wrong --- that encouraging more of the same is a bigger sin than skydiving into sure failure. You tell me that by even being polite to people who continue to mummify the brains of the masses with formulaic trivia, that I, too, have become an enemy. An enemy of the thinking people.

Perhaps you are right but I have chosen to stay in television. I am happy in this world where in a span of two hours, audiences can have an audio-visual feast of a great variety of facts and misinformation, illusions and delusions, important details and downright trivia.

For it is only in television that in a span of three hours, you can get lurid accounts of politicos beating up their mistresses, learn about the latest variations of government abuse and corruption, appreciate the aesthetics of Carlo Caparas as preached by Manoling Morato --- then swing straight into the world of flying heroines whose mammary glands are popping out of their sculptured brassieres or special children who call the Son of God --- "Bro".

Yes, it is my fault that I have chosen to stay here. It is true I could have severed myself from all these people who run networks who you hastily accuse of being cretins.

( I remember that right after that long argument of ours ...I had this strange compulsion to sing Bayan Ko and make a vow that I will only watch cable channels where they show True Blood and Gossip Girl. You made me feel ashamed to have obtained a graduate degree and still work for Philippine television.

But then again, after watching a couple of reality shows on cable, I have come to realize that foreign networks may not be as bad as the way you describe our stations ... but they aren't that much better either. The only thing you made me realize is that junk comes in a variety of flavors. )

Well, my friend, I could have been so high and mighty too. I could have gathered the courage to barge into an executive committee meeting where the demigods and demigoddesses of the network cluster and determine the fate of their version of mankind. I could have given a speech as well- worded as yours in the process of accusing them of being bureaucratic, manipulative, exploitative.

I could have charged them with abuse of power because they have used their skill and expertise to perpetuate the shallowness of thought in the programs being designed, in the shows being aired. I could have told them that they have turned television not as a medium for information or even self-examination but as a syringe containing the most lethal dosage of anesthesia called senseless escapism.

Strange enough I would have done all that even without your prodding if I had not known the real score. Let me just remind you (again) that those who populate the most sacred quarters of these networks are not imbeciles you perceive.

These are smart people --- some even smarter than you and all are better-dressed --- who are just playing the rules.

Like any cog in the machinery of the bureaucratic structure, the survivors are not necessarily the most intelligent and most informed but the most resourceful and pragmatic. And there is not a single one of the commandments hand-chiseled on the tablets from Mount Sinai that pinpointed to ruthless economic and capitalistic considerations as a sin. Nowhere did God ever include "Thou shalt not be ambitious" in His Great Instruction Manual. Neither did God say, "Thou must be loved for thy work in order for thou to work." Whatever.

My friend, I have chosen to stay because I love my work, I love making stories. I have chosen to stay despite the fact that even if the demand for greater production value has made tv shows look more fabulous and expensive, the substance of programs have gone from bland to tasteless then to downright devoid of nutrition.

I never argued with you when you accused Pinoy tv shows of being beautifully-wrapped garbage. But remember that I clarified that even if you called these works trash --- they have remained recyclable. Why? Because you see the same stuff over and over again. Isn't that what you call recycling? Does that make tv programs eco-friendly and biodegradable?

Yes, I have chosen to stay.

Now even if you have accused me of selling out, prostituting myself by associating with mental trollops and not being able to extend my growth as a media practitioner, I never refuted your allegations.

In a way, you are correct. There must be that very fine line that distinguishes someone who is simply compromising from someone who has sold his soul to a Platinum Visa Card. There must be that lofty differentiation between the Child of Art --- from someone who willingly plays the buffoon to entertain people in order to serve his personal interests.

That is why there are the aesthetes as there are the plebeians, right? The aesthetes are obsessed with Aristotlean unities, allow literary theories roll so comfortably on their tongues ... while the plebeians are gratified by the sheer volume of applause received or measuring the sheer extent of the popularity of their works. Now charming the masses must be no greater sin or sanctifying grace than say ...whacking off via mental calisthentics.

What you (as well as all of the remaining Unreasonable Idealists) do not see (whether out of choice or as a result of intellectual snobbery or myopia) is that television is first and foremost a business. Uhm, you hear that there is a difference between films and movies, right? Cinema Paradiso is a film; GI Joe is a movie --- a bad movie. City After Dark is a film; Gingangooley-Giddiyap-Giddiyap is definitely a movie.

Unfortunately the medium of television offers no distinctions. They are all just programs. They are all shows. This is a medium that will not make any pretense nor attempt at art because this is only a function of economics --- pure and sure money, that's all. So don't expect anything.

Despite all claims, my friend, television shows carry the maximum nutrients offered by junk food. And the way that programs are being prepared and cooked nowadays, there is no longer anything organic about the process. Everything depends on recipes ... and preservatives. That is playing it safe. That is a strategy for insuring a higher chances for profit. That's all. Anything else is all for show.

So do you understand why I am still here? And can you also see why I am trying to find a way of quietly slipping away ... and perhaps finding a better way to validate my life?


Honestly I like him.

I like Noynoy Aquino because he is unassuming. I like Noynoy because he presents himself as no one except himself. Although I do not know him personally ... nor have I been given the opportunity to really know him as a person (much less as a politico), I like him. I like him because he comes across as someone who is unrehearsed and unassuming. I like him because he does not give himself all that much self-importance.

Maybe I feel this way because I saw him at National Bookstore in Quezon Avenue some time ago and he looked like Joe Normal. He made no big deal about who he is as he moved between the shelves to make his purchase.

Well, he is not like the way his father was preserved or remembered in history. Noynoy is like his mother. He is very much like all the other children of Ninoy and Cory --- except for one. He prefers to keep it low-key, he does not care for flash and pompous rituals. In short, he likes to see himself, present himself ... and now sell himself as Everyman. He has none of the vanity or the pre-packaged, pre-sold persona that image-makers tend to create. Otherwise, how else can you possibly explain his hair-don't.

No one even considered Noynoy Aquino to be a presidentiable before his good mother finally passed on.

Although names of eligibles were shuffled and reshuffled, tossed in the blender of surveys and measured in various realms of public opinion, Noynoy was nowhere within that field of vision. Whether it is truth or urban legend, in the past every political move made by Noynoy still required the approval of Cory. Hopefully it is merely braggadoccio, he has a sister who openly announces that Noynoy needs her financial help in order to remodel his humble abode. Hmmm . . .

But honestly, I like him well enough to accept him for what he is. He strikes me as a good person whether or not he has national heroes for parents ... or he has a sister who is the most vocal of family philanthropists. However, we are talking politics here ... and governance and not a contest on assessing virtues or weighing popularity.

Amidst all the handshaking and horse trading, the Opposition cannot seem to get their act together. Yeah, yeah, yeah: there is that general sentiment about the Fine Diner who still lives in Malacanang as scandals unfold one after another and as she hops from one point of the world to another. There is that mood of anger and frustration, pushing people to undertake whatever measures necessary just to hasten 2010 and simply eradicate miscalculations from the past.

Yet those who want to provide the change are all too eager and gung-ho and running on maximum overdrive: for a country smaller than the state of Texas, there are just so many people dying to be its next president.

What a great nation this must be. For where else can you find more than eight people wanting to be president and trying to outnudge each other in a dance of political musical chair. Where else in the world can you find such a wide variety of rhetoric and a spectrum of patriotic declarations with undying promises of bring back greatness to our battered republic.

(It is as if being a resident of Malacanang is the only way to make any dent or help improve the condition of this nation and its people. But I guess being a His/Her Excellency has its perks including fifteen minutes with Obama.)

And then Cory died.

The nation wept. Hearts bled as what was due this simple woman pushed into the corridors of power to displace a dictator. Whereas Ninoy's spilled blood annointed Cory's rise to the highest position in the land --- the widow's casket laid to its final rest beside her husband's grave became the imprimatur to annoint her only son to carry on the fight. I am still trying to figure out whose great idea was that? Or was this spontaneous combustion --- like spirits rising from nowhere, the muses conjuring inspiration or the Holy Spirit suddenly dousing the population with the Gift of Tongue?

I wish it were as simple as that. I wish there were such miracles.

I wish life and its struggles can be so easily mapped out as a series of battles between good and evil. I wish the age of chivalry, the legend in the magic of noble blood ... the blessing and curse of heredity (even down the tradition of good old Harry Potter) can be so easily translated to the terms of real life. I wish it were that easy to find the happy endings --- by following the motifs of fairy tales.

Honesty I like Noynoy enough to worry if he has done the right thing.

The goodness of heart is sometimes not enough to change the course of nations, the treachery that fuels history ... or the cruelty that insures the power of some for some. Honestly I am not sure if people see Noynoy for what he is and rather prefer to deify him for who he is ... if only to serve their own particular purposes. It would be great to think that it is the for the nation.

Honestly, I hope it is. And honestly I feel bad for this man whose life has been so blessed as much as it is cursed, pressured by forces so large around him ... and living each day based on expectations of others rather than what he indeed wants for himself.

Honestly I like him ... but honestly too I doubt the promises of happy endings. Certainly, this cannot be found in a world where dragons and demons come dressed in either fine suits or the simplest streetwear ... certainly not in an arena that is discolored by selfish intentions and vested interests and prospects of positions of power. I have seen this happen before. I do not see why it cannot happen again.

Honestly, I like Noynoy Aquino and I do not wish that he become a sacrificial lamb, that one who has been bamboozled by the shouting of throngs and made to believe that this is Divine Destiny.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Filipinos have this thing for romance.

We love to romanticize. We love to transform everything into the simplicity of the telenovelas we watch. We are addicted to convoluted stories, the battle between good and evil ... the twists and turns that test heroes and heroines to prove their worth and eventually warrant the blessings from the gods above.

Filipinos can simplify life into a moro-moro for perhaps that makes everything tolerable. Even comprehensible. For Filipinos, there are no shades of gray ... for not even in its vocabulary can you find a word that directly points to such a color. It seems that gray areas are not within our consciousness.

Filipinos see life as black and white. Or red.

And with this love for romance, we create epic tales out of real lives ... and even out of our history. In our desire to make life more delicious than what it seems, we allow our imaginations to embellish the hardness of facts. Somewhere along the way, as we attempt to interpret everything as larger than life, even the most intolerable situations become part of a grand design, of God's plot to constitute the narrative of our race --- even the very design of our history.

I remember the lectures given by my professors in Folklore about the importance of heroes. Early literature overflows with that. Even religions are enriched by heroes now dressed up with their own theological robes and interpretations. But the bottom line is that we need them. We romance the heroes --- for the heroes, in turn, provide us with the immortal stories of romances. The kind that illustrates the battle of good and evil. The kind that keeps us alive ... and thriving. The kind that convinces us that there is always hope.

And, maybe just because of sheer luck ... or perhaps the product of centuries of endurance, of learning the value of patience... of equating suffering with the reward of eternal life ... Filipinos manage to mystify their history with a sense of God-centeredness. We glamor ourselves into thinking that the course of our daily lives is part of some Divine Plan. And everything about us ... in each and every step we make ... leads to the fulfillment of this Divine Plan that is unfolding.

For how else can we explain the events that have transpired for the past three decades in this country? How else can we deny that we are indeed a blessed people ... succeeding in booting out a dictator while filling up a major thoroughfare with the atmosphere of a mind-boggling fiesta?

The foreigners failed to completely understand that. But they were fascinated. And inspired.

History has captured in a series of images common men and women, holding rosaries and kneeling in front of tanks, the civilians protecting the military ... and the wonderful image of a Mother liberating her people from years of tyranny under a dictatorship.

That is the stuff that legends are made --- no, the kind of material that is generated by oral literature and perpetuating the grandeur of heroes at a time when blessedness seemed to have become obsolete. This is the license to create modern day myths.

Filipinos embraced that collective experience --- in the same manner that what others would have conveniently labelled as a "mob" suddenly gained reinterpretation as the power of a population. Filipinos treasured that ... and with good reason. For all that it was worth, in 1986, the romance of heroes and heroines changed the way the world saw this tiny archipelago. This seemingly insignificant set of islands situated at the gateway of the Pacific suddenly warranted the attention of the world --- for its sheer bravery, nobility ... or even daredevil attitude.

The courage of the people came from the legend it created in its collective consciousness. And even if events proved disappointing, even if the aftermath of that precise split second of euphoria seemed like downhill all the way, deep inside the faith in the Divine Plan remained unwavering.

Even if legends do not and can never guarantee happy endings, Filipinos have nurtured their heroes, forgiven them for their trespasses and loved them for their vulnerability. For this is a people who value weaknesses as part of understanding strength. Clad in its strong Catholic beliefs, the underdog earns the greatest sympathy. He or she who sacrifices, braved the most cruel of trails and struggled to achieve triumph deserved the utmost patronage and attention. From the details of the battle emerges the romance of the hero.

That is the hero who provides hope. That is the symbol who will eventually liberate the people from suffering and degradation because that is the Divine Plan. Nothing in the world can change that for in the end, the Divine Plan is far greater --- far stronger than the will of men or even the power of governments.

Such is the beautiful panacea Filipinos yearn to embrace. Such is the way Filipinos like to think of their history --- not as a series of manipulations and betrayals, not as a recurring pattern of the intelligentsia claiming to have all the solutions but never really knowing the real problems. Not as a motif of the treason of those entrusted with the brains, the wealth and the power going against the needs of the larger good but only serving their own social class and believing that this is the only way to preserve a semblance of governance.

And so here we go again.

Here we are creating legends, designing myths as we reach crossroads where battles between Good and Evil are at hand. In a culture that knows not how to discern gray, the fine lines dividing black and white have also been so blurred as they have been so corrupted. Here we are creating heroes if only to fill the void ... that nagging, aching and even humiliating emptiness in the pantheon of the admired and the admirable. We feel proud as much as we regret that the very few who have won our hearts and assured us that nobility does and can still exist have ceased to walk among us and only provide us now with that all too ambiguous term called inspiration.

But we need more than heroes who inspire. We need heroes who can think ... and from whose thoughts shall come motivation. And that is where the problem lies.

Gone are the greatness in the available men ... that we have resorted to the least common denominator to fill the gap. In so many ways, we have compromised our standards because we crave for heroes ... we demand greatness while in the process ... we have failed in our definitions of what can still be considered great.
Today, Filipinos claim to have made yet another important step marked in history. We have allowed our romantic notions ... our delusions to provide a sense of hope and even a semblance of direction. While others are jubilant, there are those who are doubtful. And those who doubt are branded as cynics --- simply because they cannot ride on the wings of romance and fairy tale endings, of the happily-ever-after syndrome the people aspire to reach ...but would not really sacrifice to obtain.
A new messiah is born because we have not learned our lessons from the past --- that the battle between good and evil was never and can never be one straight and narrow path. There is fear in further disappointments --- but there are those, like me, who refuse to be surprised.
So let the romance live. Let us be entertained by the fabrics we cut as truth ... and the illusions we think are moral lessons.


So here I am again, trying to blog.

I have done this before and ended up forgetting or neglecting. There are too many thoughts in particular days. And you get to think if there is anyone who will really be interested in what is going on inside the privacy of your mind.

But I guess it helps. Even for purposes of therapy. I have kept journals since I was in high school. I have a closet full of journals, all neatly handwritten in black or blue/black ballpoint pens, overflowing from the shelves. I consume three to four of these journals per year --- and I never review them. I never re-read what I have written.

Maybe that is for somebody else to do years from now.

Maybe there shall come a point in time when somebody will literally plow through all these books and try to decipher my abused or misused Palmer Method of handwriting learned with utmost dedication from the Christian Brothers. Maybe some day someone will find interest in piecing together what went through my mind through all the years of celebrating my public self and treasuring the privacy of what remains as my own thoughts and perceptions of people.

Maybe one day people will be shocked to find out what I really thought or felt about them. But chances are ... we will all not be around when it happens. The distance of history can be forgiving ... even in a subculture of voyeurism and exhibitionism.

So why a blog?

Because there is still much to share.

Because there are certain ideas that should never be restricted to the privacy of journals that can only be read when it is finally safe to do so.

Because at this point in my life, I have so many things to say and even much more to share.

And perhaps it is, after all, still a good idea to go public with your thoughts ... and exercise less of the politeness that goes with being politically correct ... or simply manifesting civility.

So I am blogging again. Another attempt at telling the world I am so much more than just another pretty face.