This is the talk I delivered at the 40th United Architects of the Philippines National Convention last Saturday, April 12, at the SMX, redacted to be read rather than be heard and seen as I had a lot of visual support.
On my 65th birthday in June this year, I plan to launch my own sensual photography book of women. I love taking pictures and I love women in a universal sense, so I thought I could combine the two loves by coming up with a third love, books. There are sixteen women featured in the book, from age 17 to 62. All of them are personal friends, including my wife. Except for one, none of them are professional models. These are strong, lovely independent-minded women who discovered more of their power through the exercise.
Why Nude Women?
Now, if your question to me is how did I convince women friends to shed their inhibition and show some skin, you are out. I think the most essential question at this point is why am I coming out with this book at all. And I say to you: why not? It is a dream. It is a fantasy. So why not go for it?
Less than ten years ago, I was telling people, I would be okay just to live up to 60 years old. But then, I thought, that would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, considering that when we visualize strongly enough, scenes do come true. So when I was about to reach 60, I said, Lord erase, erase, erase! I want to live up to 100.
Climb Your Mountain
I keep seeing and admiring photos of Mt. Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines. They show clouds dancing with the orange burst of dawn. I told myself, I’d want to take such photos myself. Of course, the only way was to climb Mt. Pulag. So I did. It was February and very cold, the air rarified. I was the oldest person in that horde that ascended that day. I wasn’t easy. I have asthma classified as COPD. I almost died. But I got one item on the list, checked.
The questions that beg to be asked are: how safe or how risky are those things-to-do in our list? How far would we dare venture out of our comfort zone? How much pain are we willing to take in for a moment of joy? Having built our career, would we raze it down and rebuild it? Could we be like children? We may patiently construct a Lego castle only for them to kick it down soon after, with laughter. We are born free, curious and expansive. Those of you who have small children or apos in their house will remember how we ourselves acted.
One of my grandchildren, named Jaiichi, is deeply fascinated by keys. He observes how a key is inserted into a knob and a panel opens. He observes how a key is inserted into a slot, and a car starts. It is magic. So he demands for a key and tries them in holes. We had to buy plastic outlet covers to prevent further accident. Because he got jolted by electricity before that and he just gave a sheepish smile. Only for him to try inserting the key again!
That is how we are as children, we explore. We are full of wonderment.
To Be A Child
But as we grow up, we get clamped down by norms and conventions. We start to create our bubble – to protect ourselves from the pain, the embarrassment, the rejection, the disappointments in life. Sometimes we measure our worth by how people rate us, or by the number of likes on Facebook. Sus ginoo. Can’t we be carefree or stupid sometimes? In the creative industry, brainstorming is one of the most liberating exercises. Here, there is no such thing as a stupid idea. A stupid idea could lead to a brilliant concept.
I asked the guests not give any gift but to donate cash instead to an advocacy that I was starting. In the same year, I was gripped by a vision, a vision that obsesses me up to now. And this is: the creative content industry could be a substantial contributor to our economic growth as well as to a robust culture.
Together with some colleagues in the comics and animation sectors, we planned a festival. We had exhibits, drawing competitions, workshops, foreign guests, recognition rights, talks and lectures, the works. But these cost a lot of money and we were working against negative factors. One, we represented two moribund sectors. There used to be a Golden Age of comics and the Philippines was the choice of animation producers. But now these are neglected, exploited sectors. Who would support losers like those?
Walk the Talk
I had to put my foot where my mouth is. So, with the consent and support of my wife, I borrowed money against my insurances. Plus, we mortgaged our property and borrowed from individuals. For something that was non-profit and non-stock – if you are a banker or a finance officer – that was pure madness. What makes the position of creative people in the Philippines difficult is the establishment bias and stereotyping, and not just apathy, against the arts.
We have forgotten that it is innate for man to draw. The caveman not only wanted to record his world and the events that occurred herein, but he needed to comprehend and even beautify his world. So, while he hunted for food and sought protection from the elements, he drew his apprehension and aspiration on the wall. He probably invented primitive pencils first way before the wheel.
But what do we hear? Hoy, ano ba yang pa-art arts mo dyan, makakain ba yan? Early on we curtail the natural tendency of our children to express, which is what art is all about. We try to subdue his right brain and impose the preference for logic over intuition even when management schools teach that when all approaches fail, use your intuition. Blink!
Defining Who We Are
These grown-ups become heads of government and custodians of institutions. That is why we do not have a Department of Culture or a Department of Creative Content, unlike other countries in the world. Our adults think that art is some esoteric pursuit, meant only for street dancing and external beautification, when art is a continuous process of defining who we are as a people. When nurturing art feeds our own rationale for being.
It is a nagging thing. Today, I have called on a larger circle of friends, from television, film, animation, comics, fashion, graphic design, photography, the academe, and yes architecture, to form an organized, united constituency. The ASEAN Economic Integration remains a serious concern. More than the threat to livelihood, what to us is critical is the onslaught of cultural influences. For a nation with a rich reservoir of artists but uncaring supra structure, that is scary. We are in danger of losing our soul, because we have reduced our survival to just our stomach.
To me this is a battle worth waging. If we are given to have one last shot at life, what would be your choice? When said I almost died climbing Mount Pulag. I was not dramatizing. I think I was the first individual to head for the summit of Pulag that early morning. But the oxygen was so thin, My heart was pumping hard and my vision was getting dim. I was gasping for life, my lungs were not expanding, I defecated. It was sheer will that pushed me to reach the summit, the last guy to do so. I was thinking that if it was really time for me to go, it would be comforting that I went trying to realize one of my dreams.
[By Weng dela Peña]
A Personal Account of the Zamboanga Hostilities
SEPTEMBER 8, 2013. It was the night of the Feast of the Nativity when my Aunt Lucita and I were exchanging text messages about the condition of my Lola Basing who was rushed to the Brent Hospital in Zamboanga city the day before.
She was in their home in Lustre Street with her husband Uncle Bong, along with my other aunt, Aunt Malou and Uncle Vic, who came all the way from Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur to attend to my lola. They all just came from the hospital and have decided to spend the night there, in that soon to be ill-fated Lustre street.
Past 6am the next morning, I got a call from our radio station in Zamboanga requesting me to call back ASAP as they are about to report an attack happening in the city. By 7am, as I read the news, headlined was my beloved city under attack by heavily armed MNLF men in the barangays of Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon and Sta. Barbara, where Lustre Street in located.
After my program, I called my father, who was living in town, and he confirmed that police and military are engaged in battle with rebels who were spotted near Fort Pilar, near the city’s shrine of the Holy Mother.
Shortly after our talk, I called my Aunt Lu. With a worried voice she told me about the presence of armed men just outside their house, the presence of the MNLF. They cannot get out because of gunfire.
They were just inside, taking cover silently, not knowing what to do.
We were all at a loss. All I could tell was just to keep calm, stay down when gun fires erupt and pray that these men would go away. But they never did.
I contacted our radio station there and gave them the address of my Aunt Lu so authorities can be alerted that there were civilians in their houses along lustre street, and that they need help to be evacuated. Help never came. Rescue seemed impossible. The street was taken over by the MNLF and government forces were facing heavy resistance in the area, so I heard from news reports.
Reports keep coming in of sightings and encounters of MNLF and government forces now spreading and a school, the Southern City Colleges was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. People who were up at dawn that day got the chance to run away from the barangays now occupied by rebels. Reports of residents being taken hostage were all over the news by then. Monday afternoon came. My Aunt Lu with her husband Uncle Bong, along with my Auntie Malou and her husband Uncle Vic were trapped in their house. She told me that their neighbor slipped in from their back door bearing the news that these MNLF men were picking up and holding hostage residents in the area. None of them attempted to leave their homes for fear of being spotted.
Night came and in our brief communication she told me in Chavacano, “Brownout aqui aura noy” (there’s brownout now).” We said our goodbyes and told her to hold on and that we’ll be praying for help and safety.
The next day, Tuesday, September 10, 2013, I texted her, but got no reply. I called her up but her phone was unreachable. Hers was the only phone number I had. I assumed her phone got discharged because there wasn’t any electricity. That day I went to be in touch with my father to know how my Lola Basing was doing. We began to worry about when this situation will end because both of my aunts are trapped in their houses and are unable to go out. News came that my lola wasn’t doing good and it got us worried that only my young cousins were looking after her in the hospital for it was really risky to go out. By nighttime, I still can’t reach my Auntie Lu. My cousin Mercy, the daughter of Auntie Malou, called me up to say that she was worried too as she can’t reached her mother in Lustre. Then we went on to talk about Lola and how we can coordinate for her care while we wait for news from Lustre.
Wednesday morning, September 11, 2013, was my daughter’s birthday.
My cousin Mercy called me up bearing the news I never expected I’d hear. That Aunts Lu and Malou, Uncles Bong and Vic were taken hostage. She said, she got a call from a friend who saw their names flashed on TV as the latest hostages of Kumander Malik in Lustre. I texted a few Cabinet secretaries to appeal for a peaceful means of ending this crisis for the safety of all hostages. But it seems the way to end this was with hostilities.
Government forces kept on with the assault saying they meant to contain the rebels. The agony is in the waiting, the uncertainty of it all. Sunday came and my beloved city is in ruins. The number of deaths were increasing. Food supply was limited. Zamboanga city is devastated. By this time, my Lola Basing is now dependent on medical tubes for her life, while her daughters are held somewhere in the dark.
Around 1:30pm of Sept. 16, my Uncle Nestor texted me to call him.
Lola Basing was critical already and it was only a matter of hours, he said. My uncle told me that they were all there, my father, my two other uncles, their children. The only ones not there were my aunts Malou and Lucita, Lola’s eldest daughters. I cannot think of words to describe this moment that came before us. My uncle asked me if I wanted to talk to her even though she cannot respond anymore she may perhaps be able to listen to me with her heart.
In tears, memories of my Lola Basing when I was a little boy came flashing back and how I saw her smile the last time I visited her in Zamboanga last February. I showed her pictures of her great grandchildren and gave her my hug of goodbye that day of February and she kissed me then saying her usual, “Ta resa gayot iyo cun cuntigo pirmi pati dituyu mga anak, mujer y mamang (I always pray for you, you wife and your children and mother).” I spoke to her softly to say thank you and that I wanted her to hold on and she has yet to see her great grandchildren in person. And that I love her very much.
My Lola Basing a few days later from pulmonary disease and heart complications. But up to her death, my family never told her about what happened to her daughters. But, I guess she knew all along…she knew from the very beginning even if she never could open her eyes, she never could talk.
Early morning of September 17, news of the release of around 60 hostages broke out. Among those released were my Aunt Malou and Uncle Vic. While being attended by the medical team as part of their debriefing procedures, a relative of mine informed them that Lola Basing was gone. With my Aunt Lucita and Uncle Bong still being held hostage we waited for a miracle to happen. As I close this writing, I pray that Auntie Lucita and Uncle Bong be granted the strength to hold on for they have come a long way already. I pray that God will be their protector, their liberator and freedom will be theirs any moment now.
[Editor’s Note: Mr. Dela Peña’s Aunt Lucita and Uncle Bong were eventually released a few days later, along with the remaining hostages who were caught in the battle between MNLF and government troops.]
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by: Linggoy Alcuaz
AS column titles go, my column last week, “Six Decades of Politics and Protest” would have been more appropriate for this week. My title for this week should have been the title last week. A few Wednesdays ago, the Fernandina Media Forum at Club Filipino featured Jun Lozada as a Guest and Resource Person. Jun is now known as the “Crying Whistle Blower”. Among his original supporters, many who also supported Noynoy for President in May 2010, are now sorry, sour and sore that they supported Noynoy and the Liberals.
Jun called our attention to the fourteen year cycle, examples of which I listed down and narrated last week. I did not limit myself to strict numerology. I also went ahead and listed down thirteen, twelve and fifteen year cycles. Actually, I could go down to ten years and up to twenty years. Actually, I believe in one to two decades as the necessary length of time to form a cycle in Politics and Protest. #OpinYon #opinion
read cont | http://bit.ly/16NieFL
(image used under Creative Commons)
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