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Old Beach House location, UP Diliman

If there is one fond memory I have of my graduate student days in UP Diliman (yupielbi girl forever here), it’s this: eating outside the small canteen called Beach House adjacent to the UP Diliman Main Library. Brought my classmate (whose undergraduate school was Letran, hence, her ignorance of the place) here to eat after our Anthropology class (something that I regretted taking because it was just an utter waste of time). Two barbeque sticks, veggies, rice and soup for less than PHP 200. After that I usually went to the library to do my thesis (when I finally buckled down to work on it after leaving it to stew underneath my aspirations to become the best business reporter my newspaper had–but failed on that front, i guess). Or sometimes pretended to do my thesis. I have slept with my head on the table among the musty copies of theses that I painfully had to read. Then I would go out here again at the Beach House, by that time it would have already been closed for the day, to sit and ponder my future.

I haven’t been to this spot for a long time. Probably time to visit.


I had been singing this haunting song to my twins when I put them to sleep since the day I brought them home from the hospital until tonight. Yeah, I know it’s not a good lullaby but it’s the only song I could think of that I couldn’t sing without my entire being shredded into little pieces and stuffed into each note that comes out of my vocal chords.

I got to know this song through Patatag‘s Nagbabagang Lupa album, which my parents brought home one day. It was rare that my parents could buy tapes then because money was really tight so it was a novelty for us to have a tape of any musical genre at home. That tape was played to death on our lone radio/cassette player that sat on top of our mala-cabinet black and white TV.

I think my youngest sister and I had our first heartbreak with that album. I remember that same sister crying after hearing “Tano” because “kawawa naman sya.” I was six years old and my sister was five. The country was about to see its first mass uprising to get rid of a dictator. The housewife of a murdered senator was about to run for president.

Fast-forward, my parents again brought home another tape but this time it was by Joey Ayala, his first album. I discovered he was the composer of the song that has haunted my sleep for so long.

I saved bits of my small weekly allowance to buy his succeeding albums. I was in grade school that time. Later on I fell in love with “Walang Hanggang Paalam.” (That’s for another future blog entry.)

Anyway, the Patatag’s rendition was the one that got stuck in my head for 30 years. It was painful and at the same time beautiful. Joey Ayala’s song was so visual and yet deep. It was a song told from the point of view of a bird, seeing the desolation caused by war. A village caught in the middle of gunfire.

Well at least that was my interpretation when I was in high school and college. I have yet to Google its real meaning or the circumstances surrounding that song.

Years later, I had a gig writing for a series of 2-minute spots about child soldiers for RMN. Dong Abay was one of the musicians working on the series. We spent an afternoon or two figuring out how to incorporate the revised lyrics of “Pen pen de sarapen” with granadas and armalites and my script into 2-minute spots (In the end we used one of his original songs for some of the spots instead).

I was too shy to chat with him about Patatag then. I was also probably starstruck (hey, he was one-half of Yano of my highschool and college years!) and all I managed was “Yeah, I’ll email you my script.”

A decade later, I got to work with AR Sabangan when we were doing investigative stories for InterAksyon. I learned that she was part of the Nagbabagang Lupa album and she was the one who recruited Dong Abay and Grace Nono to join Patatag. Parang, whoa, my youth revisited (sorry, AR, alam mo namang malaki tanda mo sa kin hehehe).

One hazy night (well, hazy because my head was already cloudy with all the stuff we had been doing for our investigative gig), we were able to go down the Patatag memory lane, allowing me to ask her about some of the lyrics of the songs that played on a loop in my head for 30 years.

And I told her that Wala Nang Tao sa Sta Filomena is one of my favorites and their rendition is the one I could never forget.

I hope this song will be remembered by my kids as something that their mother had sung to them while they slept. A song that would remind them that all is not well in other parts of this country. I just hope when they grow up, there won’t be any Sta Filomenas anymore.

I was reading my old blogs and deleting spam comments when I encountered two comments that prompted me to resurrect this blog today.

The entry was about Joel Abong, the symbol of poverty in the Philippines, the poster child of the sufferings of the sakadas in the 1980s. He haunted my childhood, changing me forever and ever. (No, he’s not the reason why I am fat today. Let’s just say I’m scarred forever because there will always be a part of me that would hanker for a meaningful job, instead of getting rich and have a happy ignorant life.)

One of the comments in my old blog directed me to Kim Komenich‘s page devoted to his coverage of the Philippines during the tumultuous Marcos regime leading to Cory Aquino’s ascent to presidency.

Photo by Kim Komenich/San Francisco Examiner) Young tuberculosis/malnutrition victim Joel Abong is among the hardest-hit of the children at The Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. The hospital is home to a clinic where about a dozen kids are being treated for third degree malnutrition as a result of lack of food due to sugar layoffs. Joel’s father, a fisherman, cannot make enough money to feed Joel and his six siblings. It is doubtful whether Joel, photographed on May, 4, 1985, will recover. (revolutionrevisited.com/remember)

I remember Joel Abong as a sakada child whose emaciated body was plastered all over the newspaper’s front page (and for the life of me I cannot remember what newspaper was that because I’m not sure if it was right before or after EDSA I). Now I don’t know if my parents mistook him for a sakada child, the newspapers mistook him for a sakada child or, as one of the commenters in my old blog claimed, his parents were paid by the photojournalist to pass him off as a sakada child.

Little did I know that this child — skin and bones and all — would haunt me for eternity.

My mother always showed me the newspaper clipping of Joel Abong whenever i threw tantrums and didn’t want to eat. I was really a picky eater then. She often reminded me that I was fortunate that I had something to fill me up whereas this child did not. (Don’t get me started–my parents didn’t care about the psychological repercussions of my harsh education as long as I grew up to be a compassionate and mulat na Filipino).

Because of that, I could not forget that image and his name.

His memory was again resurrected in my head when I watched Maalaala Mo Kaya four years ago featuring a sakada family. Two of the letter sender’s siblings died of hunger and neglect, because of their parents’ ignorance and because their situation was further aggravated by their father’s abusive nature and irresponsibility. I cried towards the end of the episode and I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason why… Maybe because the drunkard, abusive father asked for forgiveness from his son whom he banished more than 15 years ago or because of the plight of the letter sender’s family.

When MKK showed the ashen corpse of the letter sender’s youngest sibling, the image of Joel Abong suddenly flashed through my mind. No, they didn’t look alike but their lasting impression on me was the same: it was that of horror.

At the back of my mind I know people like them die everyday and stark realities like these every now and then get shown on TV. I’m angry that a child could die like. What makes me more frustrated was that I don’t know if my being a journalist is making any dent to their situation. I don’t know if I am making a difference. Our housekeeper that time asked me (she was watching MKK with me that time when we were having dinner) if it’s true that such things happen. Yes, I replied. It happens everyday. And I don’t know if I am doing anything about it.

We, the burgis crowd, are lucky we don’t know the realities of what this woman lives with everyday. We only get to do stories about them. We only get to read them. Like poverty pornography in print.

I remember my friend of so many years became so disillusioned with multilateral/bilateral projects/grants/loans after being part of one of those “aid” projects in the country. Part of her job was going around the country, to the most depressed places you could think of, and see the areas that needed “development”, to put it simply.

She met a family from a province down south who cut and gathered firewood for a living. All of the children had to work alongside their parents day in and day out so that they could earn a maximum of P250 a day. Collectively. for a day’s work each of them only earned P50.

In contrast, her bosses — the project consultants — were earning at least P350,000 a month. She complained that some of them weren’t even reporting to the office and weren’t doing any work at all since most of the “work” just piled up on other people. As if these consultants were just milking the project of those much-needed dollars that should be going to these impoverished families. She knew they weren’t doing anything much to help solve the poverty problem and all of what they were producing were papers, recommendations — those sort of stuff that wouldn’t really put food in those wood gatherer’s stomachs.

She asked whether there were any sense at all in these projects. She asked me, why can’t these multilateral or bilateral agencies just use the P350,000 paid to each of those “consultants” to help the wood gatherers and their kind instead?

She was so distraught and disillusioned. She resigned from her high-paying job (at that time) and wandered around for a while until she found herself again.

I couldn’t blame her. I would be questioning my raison d’ etre if I were put in her shoes.

Was my father right all along? The debate still continues if these loans do really help the poor.

And now back to the sakadas, I wonder about the sugar workers of the azucareras in the south. I wonder what happened to Joel Abong, his family. I wonder about the farmers who continue to suffer, with climate change, with the failure of WTO agreements and the so-called safety nets that economists promised two decades ago.

I wonder about where I will be going.





After my husband and I had dinner with my in-laws last night, we came across these people, mostly youth pilgrims, walking along major thoroughfares leading to Antipolo.

Youth pilgrims from various parts of Metro Manila on their way to Antipolo on foot

Taken along Raymundo Ave., Pasig City. April 5, 2012. Photo by Likha Cuevas-Miel, InterAksyon.com

Source: Uploaded by user via likha on Pinterest

I learned about these pilgrims about 5 years ago when Mel and I left home (we used to live in the Pasig-Cainta area) and drove on a Maundy Thursday night to Los Banos to spend the rest of the Holy Week with my family.

Anyway, back to last night’s walk-athon, I only came to realize the size of the crowd going to Antipolo when we finally got to the Ortigas-C5 flyover and saw a sea of people occupying almost the entire east-bound lane of Ortigas Ave. extension.

You see, Metro Manila starts flushing out people and their debris starting Holy Wednesday, so by Maundy Thursday you can do cartwheels along EDSA or C5. But it was not the case last night. Major traffic jam along Ortigas Ave., Major, major.

I think this is an un-organized gathering of people, which is the case with religious pilgrimages. What was nice about the whole thing was that police stations and other volunteers had set up water stations for the pilgrims. No politicos and their banners and faces plastered on every water container—well I guess that was true for the areas where we’ve been to (pasig-cainta area).

The sad thing about the whole thing was this:

Massive trash left by Antipolo ‘Alay-Lakad’ devotees

06-Apr-12, 11:43 AM | InterAksyon.com

MANILA, Philippines – An environmental group campaigning for a “litter-free Pilipinas” decried the “massive breach” of the country’s waste law during the penitential walk to Antipolo City that began on Maundy Thursday.

“By sunrise of Good Friday, the ugly mess left by the tens of thousands of mainly youth pilgrims came to full view,” lamented Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patroller.

“The unbridled littering during the ‘Alay-Lakad’ has blighted what was supposed to be an act of atonement for wrongs committed or an avowal of faith and obedience to Christ the Redeemer,” he said.

“What happened was exactly an ‘Alay-Kalat’ to the max: a massive breach of R.A. 9003 as if littering was OK and devotees were exempted from observing the law that clearly forbids and penalizes littering,” he observed.

R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits several acts that could endanger public health and sanitation and the environment, including the littering, dumping and burning of garbage.

Litterbugs can be penalized with a fine of P300 to P1,000, compelled to render community service at the local government unit (LGU) where the act was committed or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.

“LGUs would have made a killing in collected fines if only R.A. 9003 and its parallel anti-littering ordinances were duly enforced,” Calonzo said.

“LGUs would have enlisted thousands of warm bodies to help with community cleanup activities such as the removal of garbage in clogged canals and esteros if litterbugs were not let off the hook,” he also said.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted the rampant disposal of trash along the Alay-Lakad routes, particularly along Ortigas Avenue Extension, Sumulong Highway and in M.L. Quezon St. and P. Oliveros St. and adjoining streets in Antipolo City…” 

Read more here

Ok now I found the blog entry i did about these youth pilgrims a couple of years ago.

Other Half and i left pasig-cainta for elbi at 9 pm last holy thursday and while we were passing through mercedes ave, we saw throngs of teenagers walking (in groups), carrying bags and water containers as if they’re going to some picnic in the middle of the night. Other Half told me these kids were bound for antipolo for some kind of panata…going all the way to antipolo church (or some grotto — i don’t know which) ON FOOT! *hithit ng hangin*

(photo courtesy of antipolo.com)

i guess these teens were magbabarkada since they walked in groups. i tell you, andami nila sa kalyeng naglalakad na parang nagpuprusisyon. unfortunately, i wasn’t able to get a snapshot since Other Half was going so fast and all i managed to get was just a blurry photo.

i guess inumaga na sila sa pag-akyat ng antipolo. i muttered to myself, “goodluck na lang sa init ng panahon ngayon.”

i surmise that it’s not really about the panata or because of religious reasons why these kids go through the trouble of walking all the way to antipolo. it’s more about the journey. you know, it’s some kind of barkada gimmick. it’s kinda fun, if you think about it. it’s also a way of getting out the house with permission. a way of getting out of their parents’ way — or the other way around.

anyway, the sight of these people and their quest for antipolo reminded me of what my cousins used to do when we were teenagers. every summer and christmas vacation we went home to our parents’ hometown in batangas to do our thing there — just hang out. we climbed mt. maculot out of boredom, we went down the slopes of the ridge (i.e. lumusong kami) to swim in taal lake or to bathe in the batis where our aunts used to wash their clothes.

(photo courtesy of waypoints.ph)

there was a time my ate, my cousins and my aunt climbed maculot to reach the grotto on Good Friday more than a decade ago—mga 15 years ago. my female cousin suffered from vertigo upon reaching the grotto. so they camped for the night and they had nothing but emperador brandy to keep them warm (during those times malamig pa dun kahit summer).

hmm…come to think of it i also climbed maculot on a Good Friday seven years ago. i chronicled the climb and the article was published by another daily i was “working for” at that time (contributor lang naman ako nun). it was my penitensya at that time. didn’t have the strength to go up the summit so my friends and i decided to go down the next day and head home to elbi. wala lang, nagpakahirap lang kami.

anyway, my cousins and i spent the rest of our summer days in batangas and we planned “gimmicks” with friends like going to the lake (twice) or beach (na hindi matuloy-tuloy) and other stuff that would keep us busy. we formed teams (together with some barkada there) for the ligang barangay and i just end up humiliating myself infront of everybody since i was (and still am) not really a volleyball player (i was really bad at it)…ewan ko ba bakit laging volleyball ang laging nilalaro sa mga barangay.

then there are town/barangay fiestas. barkadahan kaming pupunta sa mga bahay. there was this time my ate and cousin threw up becuase they ate too much. sobra kasing masiba. *guffaw*

and oh, don’t forget about the elections. there was this time we went around town campaigning for an uncle who ran for mayor. he lost. hehehe. it was fun but it sure was a lot of work.

some days we just hung out in my lolo’s porch, eating junkfood and drinking fanta (remember those?). we played pingpong in the parking area or or played the guitar and sang like drunkards until the wee hours. we played cards to while away the time. we laughed our guts out until 3 am with our barkada.

there was this time my ate climbed our aunt’s mango tree with salt and kinfe in her pocket and stayed there the whole afternoon picking and eating green mangoes. then she suffered from extreme (redundant na) hyperacidity and puked all the way home. she could barely eat the following days. she lost a lot of weight that summer. *snigger* that was before the era of kankunis and bangkok pills.

before the advent of cellphones and landlines (grabe wala pang landline doon noon kungdi sa munisipyo) and cable tvs, my cousins and i were dependent on four channels na malabo pa. nasa deadspot kami so our radio was useless to us. unfortunately, my cousin was on a different planet when it came to music so we were stuck with casette tapes of the very best of chicago , lilet (remember her?), and wilson philips that we played to death the whole summer. saulado na namin ang mga kantang yun hanggang ngayon since those were the tapes that we played over and over every morning when we did our chores.

uhhmmm…i think the wilson philips album was mine.

anyway, i had so many fond memories of my sisters and cousins, of our summers and christmases in batangas, manila and davao. my ate and i were just talking about it this holy week. dati di pa uso ang cellphone and email and wala pa kaming mga landline nun (dahil sa PLDT na yan inaabot ng 10 years bago pa kami makabitan) pero we managed to keep in touch palagi and nakakapag-usap kami ng matino like pag may usuapan ng ganito, magkikita-kita talaga kami.

ngayon, we’re just one text or one friendster message away from each other pero — wala…i guess dala na rin ng pagtanda yun…

kaya nga the image of those teenagers — those barakadas — brought back bitter-sweet memories to me because we would not be able to go back to those days and do all those happy and stupid things that we’ve done.

shucks, i’m getting old. *sniff*

Unfortunately, hindi na magandang umakyat ng Maculot ngayong panahong to because everybody’s doing it and and sobrang masikip and magulo dun ngayon. Parang palengke na daw, maraming mga vendors.

…I spent my Holy Friday climbing Mt. Maculot in my parents’ hometown of Cuenca, Batangas. By 3 pm I though I had already died. Exhaustion can play mean tricks on you.

And I wrote about it for the Philippine Daily Inquirer when I was still a their lifestyle correspondent.

Yeah, I was a lifestyle writer. Parang anlayu sa business.

Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas

Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas. Photo by Likha Cuevas-Miel

life in business journalism

crazy. exciting. boring to some but hey, you get to understand the world better when you're a business journalist. you learn to be patient with tons of documents, make sense of numbers and charts. all geeky stuff. this is my story, behind the scenes.
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