Friday, October 30, 2009


HAVE YOU WALKED alone on a dark woody place under a full moon on a Good Friday dawn?

I have and it was quite unpleasant.

I was assigned then as an anti-illegal drugs operative in 1998 at Police Station 7 of the Cebu City Police Department and I was on a surveillance mission prior to a raid. It was 2:00 AM.

I went inside St. Jude Acres Subdivision in Bulacao then to Santa Filomena Village. From St. Filomena Village I traversed through a short-cut for Inayawan Elementary School. There were a few houses I passed by and, although there was a full moon, the path that I traveled on is very dark. Just wisps of moonlight penetrated through the tree foliage.

Just imagine someone is walking along with you and so invisible from your eyes. You meet a pack of dogs, maybe fifteen or sixteen in number. You thought, by their sheer number, they will bark and snarl and intimidate you. Then, all of a sudden, the dogs started to howl at the same time.

It was so eerie and my hair stood up. I didn't know that I have an invisible companion that only the dogs could sense.


On another time in 1997, I was with three other people walking in a pathway above a water dam in Awayan, Carcar. The path was lighted and up ahead it was dark. It was 2:00 AM.

The area was deserted. Then the dogs began to howl in the distance. While we were beginning to walk on top of the dam we saw on the other end of the dam a teen-aged male and female. Both of them wearing something white, walking hand-in-hand towards us. They just appeared all of a sudden.

It looked like they were not walking at all. They seemed to be floating or gliding towards us. A lady companion suddenly grasped my arm so hard, burying her fingernails in my skin and she was shaking. She noticed something that I didn't saw.

I felt for my gun handle and it was so reassuring. As they were nearing I greeted them a good morning. The two passed by us and disappeared in the dark. My lady companion's face was ashen white and she was crying from sheer fright. So do the other two who were with me.

They asked me if I have seen their faces. I said no. “Of course not, they don't have faces. They are ghosts.” They chorused in their reply. That made my hair stand up when I heard their answer. But, too late.

They told me that they could not breathe and say a word when the ghosts were in our front about to pass by and my timely greeting to the ghosts broke the ice and so they left us alone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

THE "NEW" CEBU SOUTH BUS TERMINAL: A Rough Gem in the Making

IT WAS IN THE night of September 22, 2009 when Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and I, for a change, visited the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Operated by the Cebu Provincial Government, it is located along the Natalio Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City and is in close proximity with the offices of the Land Transportation Office, CITOM and the Bureau of Fire Protection. It is the gateway to the south and west of Cebu Province.

Well, we kind of liked the idea of observing the new system put in place in the said terminal a week after its inaugural. The brainchild of the governor's brother and security consultant, Byron Garcia, it is patterned after the system used in airports and modern seaports. Yet within that span of one week there have been already numerous flak reports and unkind commentaries attributed to the new system in the local newspapers, in radio programs and in

Boy T drove the car through the vehicle entrance and we paid ten pesos after the gate sentries checked the baggage and inside compartments. We taxi on the main thoroughfare after that and parked on a parking bay reserved for buses plying the route for the cities of Dumaguete, San Carlos and Bacolod in Negros and Tacloban City in Leyte. It wasn't busy at that hour the parking bay vacant and a courteous guard allowed us the use the area temporarily.

The bus terminal has two separate entrances for both pedestrians and vehicles and the same number of exits. People on foot seeking access to the terminal as commuters or as send-off and welcoming parties pay five pesos and allowed the free use of the airconditioned departure-lounge areas, clean toilets and lavatories, electric fans and TV sets. There are three of these dedicated for passengers of small buses bound for Carcar and Sibonga; for medium buses bound for Santander and Samboan; for big buses bound for Negros and Leyte; and all are well-lighted.

Each of these departure lounges are built with clear glass panels and doors. There is one glass entrance for each and several numbered exit glass doors which are kept locked until a paging system announces the availability of a bus in the parking bay and a gate is opened. Nobody is allowed to loiter outside of these lounges and it brought the chances of vehicular accidents to a nil. Really, the feeling is it's as if you are into an airport terminal You hear an announcer's voice, then passengers queuing for the door and out into the parking bay where priority numbers are checked and bus closes door prior to departure.

Along the passageways are food shops, bakeries, refreshment and pizza parlours, even an Internet cafe. Gone are the topsy-turvy days and chaotic conditions brought on by ambulant vendors, street barkers and suspicious characters lurking all over the terminal. Embarkation are done only inside in an orderly manner and passengers opting to board the buses elsewhere are discouraged. The closure of bus doors during departure have forbidden the old system to seep in and that caused resentment to those who are being inconvenienced by this innovation.

Buses are timed during boarding and parking time. Bus drivers, conductors, dispatchers and porters are encouraged to wear uniforms and shoes. Sidewalks are cleared of vendors ensuring smooth flow of pedestrians to and fro the terminal. Security guards are all over the place ensuring a safe environment. We saw a platoon of them on formation in the center of the terminal and they wore shiny black shoes and reflectorized traffic vests and they looked snappy. Surely, the Cebu South Bus Terminal today is a different animal from the ones we have known. All are in order. Maybe.

However, as much as we liked the new system employed in our bus terminal, we deem it as a patriotic duty if maybe we could add some suggestions and ideas that would help shave off the coarse edges of this rough gem. Thousands of people come and go by way of the Cebu South Bus Terminal and, most of these, either go to work or study in Metro Cebu. About a fifth belonged to the aged and, mostly, they are half-educated and could not comprehend better the announcements given in English. Most likely, they will be confused and be left behind or going the other way. It is suggested that Cebuano should also be used in informing the commuters.

Everytime a bus is available for departure, we recommend that the bus flash its hazard lights on the loading bay to signify its purpose. A system of flashing lights should also be installed above the exit doors in the departure lounges and these should be switched on to stand for its function – that of guiding the commuters where would they queue or go to. A flashing green or orange light will invite attention to a waiting commuter above the din of noise and crowded rooms.

The present garbage bins are inadequate for the volume of garbage thrown or left behind by passengers inside the bus which, in turn, are collected by bus conductors and left on the parking pavements of the terminal when no one is looking. These plastic bottles and shopping bags are an eyesore to visitors especially if they are left to the mercy of the wind and carried elsewhere.

A covered sidewalk is a good compliment for the terminal during extremely busy days especially on a Lenten season and other important dates and activities wherein not everyone could be accommodated at the same time. Bus line operators should be encouraged to sell their tickets outside or to contract booking offices so as to decongest the terminal. Holders of bus tickets shall then be given priority over “chance” passengers (those that have no tickets yet) in entering the bus terminal.

The lighting system in the center parking areas and in the corners are inadequate. Conditions such as this is conducive to littering and people urinating in partly hidden areas to save the trouble of paying for the use of public toilets. We thought it would also help if a big digital clock is installed somewhere conspicuous where terminal administrators, drivers, dispatchers, commuters and security guards won't get into verbal jousts because of different versions of time.

In the final analysis, the Cebu South Bus Terminal have gone a long way since it was established long ago. The old chaotic system has to go and a better one is put in place. Those unfavorable remarks are maybe fruits borne from a frustrated mind. We just have to change our mindsets and adapt and follow the new system and get rid of a stressful disposition. Love it or leave it – that's what we can advise the critics.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

Friday, October 16, 2009


MOUNT BABAG IS ALWAYS there and I have no excuses why I shouldn't go there. It's only 752 meters above sea level and eleven kilometers away from downtown Cebu City if you draw a straight line. It's just a pygmy if you consider it against other Philippine mountains and a molehill if you have Mount Everest in mind. Nevertheless, it is MY mountain and you would find me and others tackling her trails there every weekend.

I am of the opinion that there is no mountain, even though how high, that cannot be overcome as long as you have the heart and the commitment to propel yourself up there. It is of my opinion also, that you cannot be an instant climber without having to go the rigors of basic hard training in a gradual phase and the discipline to withstand the monotony of the same trail. Be that and you will not be injured.

I am of the opinion too that Mount Babag has all the elements and challenges that you may need when you are on another mountain trail. You will find pure mountain trails here on its rolling terrain. Some of it are steep and slippery, some are too narrow and deceptive. There are rocky terrain, loamy soil, talus and scree slopes plus pocket forests of endemic and second-growth trees and ancient mangoes. Yes, lots and lots of mangoes. You may walk or carry yourself here on all fours or run.

By the way, Mt. Babag has a perfect downhill trail for running in Kahugan and it is for that reason where, on May 24, 2009, I decided to take a solo hike up in Babag upon knowing that Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon are in the south in Osmeña Peak. It will save me the trouble of watching over them. I will run in Kahugan today without them. Oh, freedom...and silence! They're hard to come by these days.

After attending a Holy Mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu, I immediately went outside to buy fifty pesos worth of bread for Manwel Roble and his family. I bought also another set of bread for a street urchin sleeping on a wooden bench. My heart always bleed to see children who have less in life. I am a different kind of outdoorsman, mind you. I will give even sacrificing my shoe-string budget to accommodate charity.

From an eatery I bought a meal for lunch and packed this inside my plastic containers. My backpack is heavy. I carried an 11-mm thick 17-meter long dynamic rope inside the bag as my training load. At 7:30 AM I left Guadalupe for Napo and arrived there at 8:10 AM and five minutes later I was off crossing the Sapangdaku River. I arrived at another river crossing at nine and filled my water bottle from a nearby spring.

Refreshed, I continued on my way passing by an upland community and arrived at Manwel's house at ten. Delivering my present of bread to Manwel I rested for a while and savored the cool breeze and the view overlooking Metro Cebu. Later, four guys arrived and rested at the bamboo benches and I held conversation with them. They brought chocolates and some snacks for Manwel and his brood.

Instantly, they recognized me through my blog and were familiar with my advocacy. They have become regulars on these trails and have availed of Manwel's guiding services. I'm glad that my blog post about Manwel have rubbed off on other people. We capped our pleasant meeting with fresh young coconuts that Manwel and his mother have gathered. Ohhh, I've never tasted such coconut water in its most perfect state until now. They were so so so sweet! Wow!

At eleven, I bade them farewell and proceeded on my own to Babag by way of Ernie's Trail. The vegetation have become so thick it covered much of the trail. Without a trained eye you would find yourself losing your way. I have no trouble following the trail as I am very familiar with it; but what I'm worried of is that there might be some reptile curling along the trail beneath those vegetations, especially a Philippine cobra, which is very common in this area, that you might accidentally step upon.

Conserving my strength with just an easy pace, I tackled Ernie's Trail step by step, rock upon rock, stepping over dead branches and slippery boulders. During the most steep and slippery stretches I tried and practiced my old unorthodox foot placements which I have perfected on so on many different occasions in the early '90s with which technique have lain idle for so many years, particularly during my “warrior pilgrimage” years, that is from 1997 to 2005. With aching knees, I am still agile to do those old stuffs.

I arrived at the ridge at 12:15 noon and proceeded to pass by the highest shoulder of Mt. Babag that is not fenced and walked a couple of a hundred meters down a dirt road to a store overlooking the city and took my lunch there. After a while, the four guys whom I just left moments ago, came together with Manwel. They hired Manwel to guide them on another route – the Babag East Ridge Pass. They took time with me and ate their packed lunch at the store.

Over music of a local FM station, my digestive system began its work as I took a short nap. At exactly 1:00 PM, I bade them farewell again. I backtracked and went down for Napo via the Kahugan Trail with Manwel while they went the other way going the easy Babag Ridge Road towards Garahe in Upper Busay.

I began to walk and trot, hurrying down until I crossed a river. From the river I snaked myself amongst jackfruit, breadfruit and star apple trees that abound on this stretch of the trail and climbed a short uphill route traversing a ridge passing by the junction of the Babag East Ridge Pass where Manwel bade goodbye to me. Then I came upon a pocket forest of madre de cacao trees and there among its trail is a very deceptive route wherein loose talus rocks abound. I slowed down my pace when I heard the unmistakable melody of the black shama, locally known as siloy. Perched on a tendril of a thick bamboo thicket nearby another upland community is a juvenile siloy singing its song.

From there, I pushed on passing a trio of tamarind trees that marked the end of this difficult route. I reached the community chapel at 1:45 PM and, here, the trails of Kahugan widened; just wide enough for a solitary traveller running loose on the trail at break-neck freewheeling speed! As I took a little rest, I readied my camera and switched it to video mode, intending to record myself trail running and then have this moving image uploaded in my personal blog at Blogger and at the community website in Multiply.

It took me just three to four minutes to reach the next river crossing where a drinkable spring is located. After resting for a full two minutes I proceeded for Napo following the trail above the meandering Sapangdaku River. This time, I took an easy pace, intending to take time and savor the view the route afforded. I met many locals passing the other way and exchanged nods and greetings with them, at the same time, practicing trail courtesy.

I arrived at Napo at 2:45 PM and took just a very short rest before I proceeded for Guadalupe. The asphalt and concrete road at three in the afternoon were stifling hot and, at that angle of the sun, the shades from trees where not yet wide enough to cover the whole width of the street. Inconvenienced by that, I opted to compensate by protecting my feet and stepped only on soil, weeds and stones, usually found beside the street curbs. The temperatures here were ten degrees cooler than that on the pavement itself.

I walked on, never minding the heat and the numb on my left shoulder. My water is about gone but I never swallowed a drop. I am on training today; at least, my feet are alright. Finally, at 3:30 PM, I reached Guadalupe and took a rest at the parish grounds when Boy T called me on my phone just in time. I was awfully tired and, here he is, with his vehicle to ride on and a promise to douse my extreme thirst with ice-cold liquid, uh, like beer...and a lot of tales to talk about. Ernie joined company and made it sure that there will be many “tales to talk about”.

I have concluded yet another perfect Sunday in the mountain trails of Napo to Mt. Babag while Boy T and Ernie did also with their trip in southern Cebu. Yes, there were no stupid rules here and there and that made climbing mountains simple again.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


THIRTY-FIVE SUMMERS ago, I lived in Cebu City when there were wide open spaces, few people on the sidewalks, fresh and clear air all around, clean seas to swim and tap water was still drinkable. I still live in the same place but I am now in a crowded neighborhood, sidewalks that are difficult to navigate, breathing polluted air, shying away from murky seas and forced to drink bottled water. Oh, yes, before I forget – constant flooding!

For many years, I have felt the temperature getting hotter and hotter every year and the rainwater getting higher and higher although, at times, the el niño and la niña phenomena visits the country every ten or eleven years and brings with it extreme drought or an abundance of rain fall. It has been like that and, I assume, it is normal. Yes, it has been like that and it is just normal when I analyzed the Philippine meteorological records from 1905 up to 1995.

But something weird happened when unabated development punched a hole above the Antarctic. It grew in size until the whole world became alarmed and asked how could that be? I think it was in the early '90s when I came to know of the news about the ozone layer getting thinner and thinner. The community of scientists and social activists were able to trace chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs as the main root of this grave issue although trapped CO2 gases and other harmful pollutants contribute also to this world-wide malady.

Now going back to my little place in the fringes of the Pacific, I find it perplexing when a visiting typhoon make its mark on the topography of the land. Yes, we have been ravaged by super typhoons in the past but it was rare and far between. It does result to overflooding and sheer destruction caused by an abundance of rain and spurred by 200++ kph winds brought on by its strength.

The problem is, these new typhoons visiting us are not of the super genres but are mere tropical depressions and low pressure areas that grew in size to signal number two typhoons, at the most, but, they bring a lot of rain. Not only that, they come regularly as they wished and they bring flood and destruction that equal in intensity brought on by signal number four typhoons! Yes, climate change may have a hand in that, but, I'm quite sure it does. IT IS ALREADY HERE!

Why? There was a movie titled A Perfect Storm starring George Clooney that told of how two hurricanes crossed paths in the Atlantic and wrought havoc upon a fleet of fishing vessels. Tell you frankly, it is just kid's play. You know what, three typhoons entered the Philippine area of responsibility at the same time on November 25 to 27, 2007 and, I presumed they were more than “a perfect storm”. I featured this in my blog on March 25, 2008.

Lately, Metro Cebu have been experiencing subtle weather changes that goes scorching hot to cold, rainy and windy to scorching hot again and, believe me, it has caused many sick calls upon the hardy populace. These micro weather changes have been consistent that most residents begin to believe that they are typhoons of a smaller scale! They call it “mini-typhoons”.

On September 26, 2009, a squall visited the metropolis and little did I know that it has caused injury to many commuters at the Cebu South Bus Terminal when the steel railings blocking an access road collapsed under the weight of a gusty wind. Also, it has resulted to the damage of a see-trough steel gate at the Cebu International Convention Center. Not only that, the play of the winds uncorked a mini-maelstrom in CICC's small man-made lagoon! Jeez, I am fully convinced that climate change had finally made its mark in this part of the world!

Elsewhere, typhoon signal number 1 Ondoy (International Name – Kistana) ravaged Metro Manila and its outlying areas and brought with it water levels of a magnitude that is unsurpassed in 40 years! Flood waters surged on the streets leaving residents no time to evacuate to higher grounds and trapped them on their own rooftops. Death piled along river banks while garbage and other debris hang on to tree branches showing the waterline at levels of two-storey houses.

Following its trail is typhoon signal number 2 Pepeng (International Name – Parma). People in the National Capital Region braced for its arrival but it swerved to Northern Luzon and stayed there for a week causing massive landslide and mudflows and lots and lots of dead people! I could not believe a tempest staying in its grid for a week! It is unbelievable.

I hope this short article of mine would get the attention of the United States, Canada, Japan, China, Germany, Brazil and Russia to change their attitude of how we, the small poor nations, have been suffering due to their indifference and shortsightedness in steering their energy programs and managing their excesses. Their large industries caused the globe to get warmer causing water levels to rise and to an abundance of excess moisture which small weather disturbances siphon off.

It was for this reason that I opt to join a community of bloggers to give voice to Blog Action Day 2009 (as I have done in 2008 for poverty) to help create a better world to live in.

May God bless us all!

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


From the page of Manny Amador.

All over the world, approximately 4,792 unborn babies lose their voice every hour! 115,000 every day. 42 million every year!

These are not statistics; these are lives, silenced as the result of the choice their mothers, and fathers, made.

We have chosen to be silent today in solidarity with the millions of babies silenced through abortion and the use of contraceptives.

Join us. Lose your voice for a day. These babies have lost their voices forever. October 20, Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity; a world-wide event.

Pro-Life Philippines is supporting this special day. From the 1st Silent Day event in 2004 where several hundred schools in the US participated, the activity has drawn together an enormous number over the next years, having over 4,000 schools, some 400 homeschools and 1,000 individuals and non-students in 25 countries taking part in 2008.

The event only consists of keeping silent for one day in solidarity with the silent voices of the unborn. In the States, the students and other participants are encouraged to wear red duct tape across their mouths to signify their solidarity. For the Philippines, we suggest the wearing of red bandanas to cover the lower part of the faces of participants. It would be a nice touch if the area over their mouths were painted over in black or covered with duct tape. Participants could also just wear red armbands to mark them as participants in the Silent Day.

Participants don't actually have to say anything the whole day. Sometimes, people ask questions and the participants answer. The U.S. organization has stories where such conversations have led women who were considering abortions to change their minds after being informed of the consequences of their possible actions.

Participants who go to class can join in class discussions, but should refrain from speaking when outside the classroom. People at work can limit their non-work related conversations.

Though probably very difficult for most people, the campaign could include doing away with texting or e-mailing for non-essential matters. This would reach more people than simple physical appearance. These actions would be voluntary.

Participants would also be encouraged to distribute flyers explaining the Silent Day event. This action will also help minimize their having to speak. A flyer explaining the activity in the Philippines can be downloaded at:

The FAQ page on the Silent Day ( will prove helpful as well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


ILYICH RAMIREZ SANCHEZ, monickered by a capitalist- and Zionist-controlled media as "Carlos the Jackal", first gnawed into my consciousness when, as a first year high school student, I read in front of my classmates the news for that day: "...members of the PFLP (People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine) led by a certain Carlos hostaged Sheik Zaki Yamani and other prominent officials during an OPEC Ministerial meeting at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria on September 16, 1975".

That was a class act.

Three years later, in 1978, I and several others held "hostage" our teachers and our school prompting the Recollect fathers to expel us all from ever enrolling again from their exclusive and expensive school. It wasn't a class act and it became clear that I was beginning to be a disgrace to my family.

By the early eighties, I was now following the footsteps of my idol – Ramirez Sanchez or Carlos; and have become active in democratic student demonstrations calling for reforms in the government and an end to militarization of far-flung villages and mountain hamlets.

I was in this habit of being targeted by the authorities for the simple reason that I am that someone who threw my rocks accurately at my target and that they were not successful in their manhunt for me either. It's also a habit for me to run rings around my pursuers and it was getting to be quite real exciting -- and quite dangerous.

In all that time, I was hiding behind bushes and hovels I hear only a fleeting glimpse of him through the news of airline hijackings and bombings in places like Paris, Tel Aviv, London, Frankfurt, etc., etc.; and mystified me the more when I read novels by such authors as Frederick Forsythe, John LeCarre, Jack Higgins, Tom Clancy and others.

His name has been linked and associated through every other group like the Japanese Red Army, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigade, the Organization of Arab Armed Struggle, the Red Cell, etc. as the capitalist and Zionist press see it fit to destroy the man's reputation and to jack up his bounty all the more. He never had a chance to settle down and live an ordinary life due to threats to his life spawned on by this unfair media blitz unleashed against him giving him no venue to answer their accusations.

In the 1990s, Alberto Fujimori, a descendant of a Japanese immigrant, became president of Peru. He usurped the powers of the legally-elected parliament by giving him total and sole control of the whole country and emasculated the regime's military by enforcing anti-people policies and mechanisms. It was a time of desperation and it was a time to take another option -- armed struggle! I grabbed a Kalashnikov available and tucked myself away in the hills.

My parents thought otherwise. My father pulled some strings to make me leave Peru unhindered while my mother took care of my stay across the Pacific, in the Philippine Islands, where she has a complete roster of relatives. For six-and-a-half years I lived a bourgeois lifestyle playing futbol, partying, chasing skirts, completely safe, unaware and far away. Bitten by the mountaineering fad in the Philippines, my cousin and I joined a mountaineering club and, together, we climbed several mountains there with a group or by just ourselves.

It was in this paradise-like interlude that I got to know of another form of a popular people's struggle being fought here just like the one's I just got out of. It was also there that I was able to hear tidbits of news of my beloved Peru as my former comrades-in-arms either got unjustly arrested, being made to disappear, or being ruthlessly killed for no apparent reason except to voice one's opinion.

I saw in prime time news Sendero Luminoso's inspiration, the poet Abimael Guzman, unjustly tried in court inside a steel cage! Then the wanton massacre of 25 Tupac Amaru Democratic Party members inside the Japanese embassy in Lima, who were still negotiating for truce with Peruvian police negotiators, being blatantly gunned down in front of the international press resulting also to the death of an embassy guest caused by this fascist regime's totalitarian war against people's democratic groups.

It was there in the Philippines in 1994 that I heard the news of my beloved revolutionary hero and freedom-fighter being kidnapped from Sudan by French military agents and brought to France in violation of existing international laws. It was unlawful for France, in the first place, to conduct an illegal action in Sudan in defiance of that country's internal law which is existing, functional and quite legitimate.

It was quite unlawful for France due to the absence of an extradition agreement between them and Sudan. For fifteen years until now he was not granted a fair trial for alleged crimes which he himself has no knowledge of except that it was convenient for capitalist regimes to associate his name to that of "terroristic" groups so as to get back the embarrassment they suffered long ago at Vienna in 1975.

Ramirez Sanchez is now in total isolation confinement in a maximum-security prison in Clairvaux, France as prisoner number 868286X awaiting countless manufactured accusations that seems to have no end. He is 60 years old on October 12, 2009. A mere old man that could do little except to spend the rest of his years with his only daughter.

I returned to Peru by way of a Philippine passport in the waning years of the Fujimori regime and immersed myself well back to my hometown and to my family. As of now, I am taking care of my family's business and, not far away, is my Kalashnikov, my Colt 1911 and a Sig Sauer (plus two frag grenades); accessible in just one move. Just like what Carlos used to do under the imagination of those authors in their dime novels.


Happy Birthday Ilyich...

Document done in AbiWord, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CHILD MOCK WARS: Airsoft to Slingshots

SUNDAY, JULY 26, 2009. I went to the Mandaue City Reclamation Area to watch an ongoing airsoft battle on an open lot nearby the Cebu Doctor's University. It is my first time to see an airsoft event. I saw grown-up men running; their rattling plastic weapons spewing off plastic pellets at opponents. The ground is very muddy but they were very serious with their game. I was quite amused and I shook my head unable to believe seeing “aggressive” grown-up people doing things that only children used to do.

I was wondering what were their past time during their childhood years? What sort of games did they play as a child and what kind of neighborhood where they were reared in? I'm not sure if this bunch of men are late bloomers yet, I was wondering also if they have experienced our old-school war games?

Then and there, nostalgia visited me. I played war games when I was of elementary age. At those years, my aggressive nature where already harnessed. Boys of my age or older, when I was able, urged me to join them in “battles” against another group of boys a block away. Neighborhood were pitted against another neighborhood and there were many many ways to play a war – depending on the season.

In October, when young bamboo shoots are sturdy enough after the first rains, we make pop guns with it. Small strips of wet paper balled to fit inside the hole of the native pop gun are used as bullets. It pops out one paper pellet at a time and then you retreat and take cover to reload while another would take your place. A balled wet paper will hurt and sting your skin if the air pressure pushing it is just right. It will even hurt you more if a very itchy seed of a certain plant is used as projectile.

This same bamboo pop guns with large bores are used to squirt water at opponents when caught unawares. Water most often used are either those laced with red pepper or from a canal or, worse, urine. In the heat of the battle, some boys will use the bamboo rod that pops the paper out and use it as a dagger in retaliation or when cornered. When pinned down, you have to wriggle and fight your way out. Rescue missions are rare in those times.

We fought head on without the use of cover and body protection unlike those “big boys” I saw in that airsoft event who fired their plastic guns behind obstacles without looking at their opponents. They used a lot ammo and hitting nobody! In our case, it is one bullet one kill. Supplies are limited. We do it in mass-frontage attack shouting battle cries with counter-attacks and lateral strategies. It is a very close close-quarter affair. Sometimes, it became so personal with flying fists settling the issue.

In another season, we used the rubber slingshots. The typical projectile is rolling two-inch strips of paper up to three-eighth of an inch thick and bending it in the middle to look like an inverted V. You squeeze the two ends of the V together over the rubber sling and pull it taut like pulling a bow and release it at your intended target. This will hurt twice more than that of the bamboo pop gun especially when released from an exact distance of 6 to 10 feet. Farther than that, the paper arrow will swerve, made off-course and off-target by a passing breeze.

We solve that by using the flower stem of the tikog grass. The tikog is heavier than the paper; will hurt more and is effective even in distances of ten feet or more. The juice of the tikog can cause allergy on the skin. The good thing about it is that our neighborhood is the only place where this kind of grass abound. With that luxury, we won many wars and made many allies and our numbers increased and we became confident in waging wars in far-off places, even crossing district boundaries.

Our opponents, upon seeing that their paper bullets are no match to our tikog arrows, used strips of GI or copper wires encased and hidden inside the rolled paper and it became so ugly to each side that naked metal wires flew all around and nobody dared to meet in the middle. The good thing about our generation is that we exhibit a spirit of sportsmanship and fair play, in imitation of war movies, and resort to ceasefires and parlays complete with white flags. We either settle for a truce or continue the war with other weapons.

Sword-fighting is one of them. Inspired by medieval knights and samurai movies, we arm ourselves with three-foot bamboo sticks with garbage or cauldron covers as our shields. Three or five of us would meet head-on with the same number of our opponents and, sometimes, when the pain is too much for one boy to take, the sword becomes a spear; then a retreat and shouts of victory and taunts; a foot of territory gained.

Another is the Indian-pony fight. One boy would ride on another boy's back and square off with another pair and try to kick each other down until a rider fell off or the “horse” will buckle under bringing with it his rider. Another is using rubber-powered rifles. With the same principle of the hand slingshot, this wooden “weapon” fire small pebbles and green manzanita fruits. The range is much farther and battle tactics are inspired more by that popular TV war series – Combat.

One childhood game I hate to play is imitating Bruce Lee. Every school recess (yes, it's like a ritual), ten to fifteen boys will come at you with flying kicks and tiger claws and you end up at the bottom kissing dirt with big bumps on the head and a soiled uniform. Tears are forcibly restrained else the taunts will be more nasty and cruel. No regrets there. I learned later that this is the typical “school of hard knocks”. A good training ground.

We fought our battles at schoolyards, in abandoned buildings, on the streets, along riverbanks, grassy fields, on open basketball courts and at the waterfront area. Escape and evasion are part of our “maneuvers” and parkour-like running were developed and mastered; well ahead of its time.

These were how I relished my childhood together with other kids of my generation. We improvised with what we had and we enjoyed much more than those airsoft guys could have imagined in their lives. Besides, it was not awkward doing our thing then like these grown-up men are doing now. I'll bet their moms would give an approving smile at their just-harnessed battle skills. Maybe. But I'm sure the missus don't want to be part of it. Especially the muddied military outfit.

My aggressiveness were fine-tuned at that early age and have been handy when crunch time came in my adult life; especially with the real thing! I have my resourceful generation and my tough neighborhood to thank for for being mediums of my passage to these rites.

Going back to that airsoft war, I saw an organized mayhem. The field were pockmarked by parties upon parties of untraditioned men who fought not as a single unit. All the contingents were ill-trained for the business of battle. All ran helter-skelter for cover and friendly fires a-many. Umpires raised yellow flags on the premise of a “hit”. Blaring music and a commentator all joined in the chaos drowning out the essentials of an engagement – the passion of the game and their sounds.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

Thursday, October 1, 2009


From Dedicated to the victims of Typhoon Ondoy.

All I wanted to do on Saturday morning was to go to my doctor. After getting off the MRT station in Kamuning (about 10 am) I waded through ankle-deep floodwaters to accompany my wife to the TV station where she works. The rest of the day was already clear in my head: Go to the doctor, finish my business there by around lunchtime (there are usually quite a number of patients, and I wasn’t expecting to finish earlier than that), pick up my wife and we go home for some needed time with the kids.

I thought nothing of it when the doctor’s nurse texted me to say that the doctor’s clinic was already flooded. The clinic is in the low-lying Kamias area. Fine, I told myself, I’ll just go to Hi-Top and buy a bottle of wine and ingredients for dinner. My daughter had requested that I cook for dinner.

After Hi-Top, I proceeded to the TV station where my wife works. I was walking the whole time because of the rain. I felt no danger despite the rain. The rain wasn’t that strong by the time I left Hi-Top. Then I reached the corner of Panay Avenue and Sergeant Esguerra. Holy shit. The floodwaters were neck-deep in Esguerra!

I turned left on Panay, planning to take the train at the Quezon Avenue MRT then disembark at Kamuning station, so I could just walk towards the TV station. I reached Hen Lin (a Chinese fastfood) which is right under the MRT station. I was surprised to see that Edsa was flooded. The area in front of the McDonald’s outlet was waist-deep in flood.

There was a guy—he was soaked from head-to-foot—who was warning people getting off the Quezon Avenue MRT station. He was telling everyone who could hear him:

O, wag na kayo dyan sa Esguerra. Hanggang leeg doon. Dito sa may Edsa hanggang baywang. Mamili na lang kayo kung saan niyo gustong magpakamatay.”

[Don’t go to Esguerra. The water there is neck-deep. Over there at Edsa it’s waist-deep. You guys choose which side you prefer. You choose where you want to kill yourself.]

The guy was trying to be funny. I went up the MRT station, boarded the train and got off at Kamuning. When I reached the TV station, my wife texted me that she won’t be going home. All TV news staff were required to stay because of widespread flooding.

I called the kids at home. Thank God there wasn’t too much rain in Cavite. Finally, I saw what was happening in Marikina and Rizal on the TV set at the visitor’s area. Shit. I won’t be able to go home. Then I also learned that the way to Cavite was impassable.

After talking to my 9-year-old daughter some more and assessing that Cavite would likely not be affected by the typhoon, I made up my mind to wait for my wife. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to let her go home alone, with floodwaters rising in Quezon City.

People were coming to the TV station. Every single one was asking for help. They had loved ones trapped inside their house by floodwaters. There were loved ones already on rooftops. The floods were rising too fast in some areas. And so began my long day: filled with the weeping of women, worries about friends trapped in rooftops, worries about my kids (what if the typhoon turns and hits Cavite?), and a feeling of utter helplessness.

My wife worked till about midnight. We tried to get to Cavite but even before we reached the tollgate of the expressway leading to Bacoor, huge trucks were already turning back. We were in a cab. I decided not to risk whatever was ahead. There could have been floods, an accident, etc.

My daughter kept calling my mobile phone. She was crying. When were we going to get home? After getting assured that there was no flooding in Cavite, that our kids were not in danger of any flood, I told my wife we should just wait for morning. We turned back and stayed in a hotel—the hotel lobby to be exact. All the rooms were booked. It was already 2am. We couldn’t sleep. We simply waited till the sun was up.

When I finally got home today, the first thing I did was gather wife and kids for prayers. We prayed out of gratitude. We were all safe. Then we prayed for all those who were still trapped, who were still struggling to stay alive amid floodwaters. I was crying.

I find myself unable to sleep after being awake since 6 am yesterday morning. I’m still keyed up. My wife’s asleep, finally, after getting a massage. I want to sleep but each time I manage to doze off, I jerk awake at the slightest noise. So I’ll just write.

I can’t get the sound of weeping mothers out of my head. That’s how I spent the night while stranded in Quezon City. All these mothers kept talking about their kids. One mother, Lina, could not help but cry for her kids, who were trapped in the third storey of a neighbor’s house for out eight hours already by the time she spoke to me. Her husband was also trapped by floodwaters—he could not leave his office in Quezon City.

Here are some things I learned from the experience. I can write them down in the comfort of home with my wife and kids safely with me. I actually feel guilty that I’m in this situation. I feel guilty that I’m not out there on a rubber boat saving people.

So I’ll write some more and go to bed. After I get some sleep, I might have a saner perspective.

Our families are not prepared for climate change. Typhoon Ondoy was true to its name, which means “little boy”—it wasn’t a supertyphoon. And yet, we all failed in so many fronts.

In our own home, we don’t have an emergency kit. The flashlight is no longer where I always put it. Furthermore, I’m not aware of any evacuation plan in our community. Who do we call? Where do we evacuate when waters start rising? I have no idea. It’s the sort of ignorance that kills.

One friend of mine lost her possessions in the floods. Her husband and kids are safe. She had the quick and sensible thinking to have her family evacuate shortly after the water began seeping into their house and after the power was cut off. They left everything and booked themselves in a hotel. “I lost everything,” she told me over her mobile phone. I told her that the most important things in her life were saved.

Our government—both the national government and the LGUs--is not prepared for climate change. If people are safe now—relatively, for some, because it’s again starting to rain and many are still trapped on rooftops, awaiting rescue—it’s because of prayer. So many people were—are still—praying. It seems the prayers were heard because we all got a respite from the rain.

Filipinos have a saying, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (God dispenses mercy but man has to do the work). God has already dispensed his mercy. Will we do our part?

There’s no excuse for the lack of rubber boats, for example. We have floods every year. But every year, we are unprepared. The two rubber boats that began rescuing people in Marikina were a relief to know about, but why only two?

Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Dick Gordon tried to transport several more rubber boats but these had to come all the way from Olongapo. And with the traffic jams at the expressways, they could not get to Metro Manila in time.

The headquarters of the National Disaster Coordinating Council and the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are both in Quezon City. And yet, for nearly 12 hours, Quezon City residents trapped in floods could not be rescued. The AFP, if I remember correctly, usually has the biggest slice of the national budget every year. But where were the choppers? Where were the rubber boats? Clearly something is very wrong.

Then we recall how General Carlos Garcia, former AFP comptroller, was caught (by US authorities, not by Philippine authorities) trying to bring in millions of pesos in cash to the US. It does not inspire faith in the military leadership.

We also recall a lot of things that are disquieting: government resources being used to secure a questionable telecoms deal with a Chinese firm; millions of pesos spent on Presidential dinners abroad; millions of pesos in campaign contributions unaccounted for; millions of pesos spent on a California mansion; billions of pesos spent on foreign trips; and a cancelled plan to buy a new Presidential jet.

How do you explain all that to kids trapped on their rooftop for nearly 24 hours—soaking wet, hungry, crying for their mothers and going insane with fear?

How do you explain the fact that the government can spend millions upon millions on so many other projects, but could only produce two rubber boats to rescue scores of residents trapped in a flooded Marikina village? How do you explain the President’s lobster and steak dinners to Rizal residents neck-deep in muddy floodwaters?

Every year, we get floods and typhoons. Every year, we give money to the AFP and the NDCC. And all that the Marikina residents get are two rubber boats?

And wasn’t Marikina always being trumpeted as some sort of “First World City in a Third World Country”? Clean and green Marikina. Disciplined Marikina, a jewel of law and order in the chaos of the Mega Manila.

The Marikina River floods every year. Every year. But when it really mattered, the City Government of Marikina did not have enough emergency equipment, did not have enough rubber boats. Or if it did, it did not have the capacity to deploy these resources in time. It seemed to have no plan for the evacuation of residents at Provident Village before floodwaters could reach it.

And former Marikina mayor Bayani Fernando wants to run the rest of the country the way he did Marikina—or at least, that’s the impression we get. We could be wrong.

To be fair, none of us expected something like Typhoon Ondoy. But the lack of rubber boats, the seeming lack of coordinated response, the empty promises made over the media—these are simply not acceptable. These do not inspire our confidence in government once the next super typhoon hits.

I mentioned Marikina only as an example. I’m not blaming Fernando or his wife (the present Marikina mayor). I’m just stating how things appear. The real story about the slow rescue, etc. might unfold in the next few days.

[Kris Aquino was talking on TV about Marikina rescue efforts. She said that according to one Marikina resident, there were rubber boats deployed by the Marikina government--but the river's currents were so strong that the rubber boats got overturned. It was also pointed out that Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando did everything she could but "nature's wrath" was just too powerful. In the interest of fairness I should point this out.]

What happened to Marikina can happen anywhere. The local governments of Bulacan, Pasig and Rizal fared no better. Are our local governments prepared for climate change? Are they prepared for typhoons like Ondoy, or much stronger ones? Your guess is as good as mine.

What would have happened if Ondoy didn’t leave the country in the hours following the massive flooding? What if it was a super typhoon that decided to stay for a few days?

The answer is so obvious that we’re scared to state it: Death and Chaos. So many people, so many children will die. Our loved ones will die. We will die.

The next few days, weeks and months will tell us whether the government cares to prevent this, or whether it wants to use climate change as a kind of population control.

The government’s priorities have been clear in the way it spends its money and allocates its resources. For example, the AFP budget keeps growing. But what about the budget for the national weather agency PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration)? There were reports a few years back that the budget was actually slashed.

During a report on GMA-7 news last night, PAGASA OIC Nathaniel Cruz said that there was a piece of equipment that could help the agency estimate a typhoon’s potential amount of rainfall (very useful in the case of Ondoy, which poured a month’s worth of rainfall in about five hours)—a Doppler radar. Does PAGASA have this equipment?

No. The national weather agency, the only one that could warn us if we should evacuate because a typhoon will bring a deluge, does not have a Doppler radar. But it’s on its way, clarifies Cruz.

PAGASA, in Filipino, also means “Hope”. Based on how the government seems to prioritize PAGASA, the weather agency, do we have reason to hope?

It was drummed into my head a long time ago that when we use the term “government” in a democracy, we should really refer to ourselves. After all, in a democracy, governance must be by, of and for the people.

So it’s either we’re not really a democracy (because we always stand back and just let a bunch of evil yoyos run things for us) or we’re all just not getting this governance thing right. We’re not governing things the way we should.

It’s raining again. I hope we get our acts together soon.