WELCOME TO MY HUMBLE ONLINE ABODE!

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Thank you for dropping by!

I realized that the internet is an extremely vast universe where everyone can create a comfortable niche for himself. Many netizens are brilliant enough to write highly informative and helpful articles, and generous enough to share those articles with others. Thus, the advent of blogging.

I, myself, love reading and learning from blog posts. It’s reassuring to know that my plight is not unique – that there are others out there who also go through what I am going through on a daily basis. And since I am fairly good at writing and can come up with decent articles, I decided to put this up. My very own blog. Yay, finally!

In this little corner of the Blogosphere, you will meet a mother who loves sharing with everyone who would care to read all her random musings, dignified rantings, profound thoughts about family, love, parenthood, home and life, personal advocacies, dreams and experiences, observations, opinions and impressions, everyday exploits, confessions, and innermost desires. I would also like to connect with all of you so do not hesitate to leave me a message (I am an active Facebooker, and as soon as I get the hang of all these, I will also be a familiar face and voice in Instagram and Twitter!) or a comment at the end of my every blog entry.

Happy reading!

IS THE FILIPINO REALLY WORTH DYING FOR?

“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?

I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for…..” –Ninoy Aquino

August 21, 1983: Ninoy’s Homecoming and Death

He didn’t know exactly what awaited him in the Philippines once he gets home.

There was the possibility of his plane getting ordered to turn around. Or house/hospital arrest. Or imprisonment. Or even death. Yet, fully aware of the potential danger that his decision entailed, and against the advice of relatives, friends, and well-meaning political colleagues, he still returned to the Philippines — the only country he considered home. He used to tell his wife, Cory, that he had “always wanted to die for our country,” so if the government would have him killed, “that’s the best thing that would happen to me.”

Ferdinand Marcos was seriously ill, the economy was in shambles, insurgency was becoming a major problem, and the cronies were fighting among themselves like ravenous vultures. Moreover, the opposition was fragmented. Ninoy Aquino, the Wonder Boy of Philippine politics, felt the urgent need to go back home after three years of self-exile in the US. Fearing that a military takeover or armed conflict would ensue should the strongman die or rendered incapacitated by his illness, Ninoy wanted to talk to Marcos, believing that he could somehow convince the latter to restore democracy in the country. (Marcos already ended Martial Law two years prior, but according to Ninoy, ”Without dismantling the apparatus of dictatorship, the lifting of martial law is [just] a cruel deception.”)

Ninoy was warned countless times — by government emissaries, by Gen. Fabian Ver, and by Imelda Marcos herself — that there were intelligence reports of assassination plots against him. Thinking that it was just a desperate ploy to dissuade him from returning to his beloved homeland, he went on with his plan.

I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis,” he was quoted as saying. He added, “I will never be able to forgive myself if I have to live with the knowledge that I could have done something and I did not do anything.”

Fraternity brothers, Ninoy and Marcos were longtime political opponents, archrivals, bitter foes. Ninoy was the bane of Marcos’ existence, the thorn in his side, his political nemesis, and the greatest threat to his insatiable greed for power. Fearlessly outspoken, Ninoy was known for his legendary charisma, the gifts of gab and eloquence, his brilliance, and his indomitable spirit. Since he became Senator in 1967, he would grab every available opportunity to speak out against Marcos’ authoritarian rule. He was relentless in exposing the Marcoses’ plunder of government coffers, their lavish lifestyle, and their numerous excesses and abuses. He was the most dauntless, staunchest, and most vocal critic of the Marcoses and their cronies.

When Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, in an apparent effort to suppress the growing opposition and to legitimize his extended rule, Ninoy was among the first personalities that he ordered arrested and jailed. He was sentenced to death by the military tribunal based on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms, murder, and subversion.  In 1980, after 7 years and 7 months of imprisonment, he was allowed to fly to the US to undergo triple-bypass heart surgery. After a successful operation, he proceeded on attacking the Marcos administration, delivering speeches across the country, and serving as one of the most prominent overseas front fighters for Philippine democracy.

When he landed on Philippine soil on that fateful day of August 21, 1983, Ninoy was assassinated.

His death, which triggered a series of civil disobedience campaigns that eventually culminated in the 1986 revolution, proved that a dead Ninoy could be a more formidable opponent to the Marcoses than the fearless, fast-talking, hard-hitting political leader that the latter was when he was still alive. Ninoy’s death inspired and empowered the masses to go out to the streets and shout, “Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!” It resulted to public outrage that eventually put an end to Marcos’ 21-year oppressive rule.

It changed our country’s history.

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photo credit: Inquirer.net

 

August 21, 2018: 35 Years After Ninoy’s Death

Anyone in his right mind would have thought that, considering everything that we, as a nation, had to suffer, had to sacrifice, and had to fight for even with our very lives just to win back our freedom, we would have already learned our lesson. We would have thought that from then on, we, Filipinos, will do everything and anything just to ensure that history will never repeat itself. We would have thought that we now have all the more reason to prove to everyone that we are, indeed, worth dying for.

But look around you.

Holding the highest office in the land is an incompetent, quick-tempered, vindictive, treasonous, misogynistic, narcissistic, tyrannical, foul-mouthed, bigoted psychopath.

More than 25,000 Filipinos, mostly poor and innocent, and all without the benefit of due process, have already been killed in the name of this administration’s War on Drugs. And the war is “far from over,” according to the butcher in Malacañang. “It will be as relentless and chilling as on the day it began.”

In a blatant disregard of the Hague tribunal’s ruling on the Philippines-China dispute over the West Philippine Sea, our islands are now generously given to China – and on a silver platter, no less. The ass-licker in Malacañang continues to kowtow to China despite the bully-nation being the source of tons of illegal drugs, smuggled goods, illegal Chinese workers, blacklisted contractors, and casinos that are granted easy access into the country, and of “friendly” loans that are potentially part of China’s debt-trap diplomacy.

Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator who made our countrymen’s lives a living hell during his dictatorial reign, and whose economic sabotage left us with an external debt that we are all still paying for until the year 2025, is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani – no thanks to the dictator-wanna-be in Malacañang who thinks that Marcos is the best president our country has ever had.

Marawi, once a thriving city, was transformed into a virtual ghost town when it became the battleground between IS militants and government troops, where countless soldiers and civilians perished. This happened after a loose cannon in Malacañang dared the Maute Group to attack Marawi. The firefight prompted Duterte to declare Martial Law, not just in Marawi but in the entire Mindanao, and despite the conflict eventually being resolved in October of last year, ML has been extended twice. It will take effect until the end of this year.

This administration continues to aggressively campaign for federalism through constitutional amendment amid its apparent unpopularity, the citizens’ disapproval, and the warning of their own economic managers that the shift could have “dire consequences” and could “wreak havoc on the economy.” In an effort to get Filipinos talk about federalism, Asec. Mocha came up with a jingle video popularly known as Pepedederalismo. She got the Filipinos talking, all right.

Sen. Leila de Lima is languishing in solitary pre-trial detention for exactly 544 days now. For fearlessly launching a Senate inquiry into the spate of killings happening under the guise of a drug war, the Fentanyl-addict in Malacañang vilified and demonized her in an attempt to break and silence the unbreakable Senator.

For the adversarial positions she held against the various policies of this administration, Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Her colleagues at the SC acted on the quo warranto petition filed by SolGen Jose Calida – a petition that was not only baseless but, more so, unconstitutional. The entire proceeding was believed to be part of an effort to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

Instead of improving tax collection measures (In 2015, only 25 of the top 50 richest Filipinos are on the list of top 500 taxpayers.), the TRAIN Law was passed and implemented regardless of its debilitating impact on the poorest of the poor – our most vulnerable socio-economic class. The poor are “made to pay for the government’s failure to collect from the wealthy.” That’s the TRAIN Law, in a nutshell, according to former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

Oligarchs, in cahoots with political dynasts, continue to control and run the country despite Duterte’s promise that he would “destroy oligarchs embedded in government.” Our current DPWH Secretary and Duterte appointee, Mark Villar, is a perfect example of an oligarch, while members of political dynasties include the likes of Cayetanos, Arroyos, Marcoses, Estradas, and, yes, Dutertes.

The government appointees of “the best president in the solar system” are “only the best and the brightest.” Take, for instance, Mocha and Andanar of PCOO, Cesar Montano and Wanda Teo of DOT, Bong Go (the national photo bomber), Vit Aguirre (Jack Lam extorsion and his plan to make Janet Lim Napoles a state witness), Nicanor Faeldon formerly of Bureau of Customs, and so on. This should be expected when people are appointed out of “utang na loob” instead of their merit. “Even a whiff, or a whisper, of corruption and you’re out,” Duterte warned. Government officials sacked due to corruption should not worry, though. Under this administration, terminated appointees can still be recycled.

P6.4B worth of drugs actually smuggled in Oct. 2017 and another P6.8B “speculatively” smuggled this month. On both occasions, what were most conspicuous and interesting are the President’s deafening silence and utter lack of interest. When will his “relentless and chilling” War on Drugs come in?

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now out of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and, miraculously, out of her neck brace and wheelchair, too! She is now the Speaker of the House of Representatives after she overthrew Bebot Alvarez as a result of the most brilliant and totally unexpected political machinations. She could also be our next Prime Minister under the Federal form of government. By the same token, Jinggoy Estrada is out of detention and will “most probably run in next year’s mid-term elections to reclaim his Senate seat.”

Sr. Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Australian missionary who has been staying in the country for 27 years now, was ordered by the Bureau of Immigration to leave the country. Davao’s most-feared thug in Malacañang claimed that Sr. Patricia is an undesirable alien and that her presence “poses a risk to public interest.”

The bully in Malacañang has been attacking and threatening the media because of their critical reporting on the relentless killings that his brutal war on drugs both entail and incite. He also tried to curtail press freedom by advising them to tone down their reporting.

According to the Commission on Human Rights, the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples such as the Lumads are considered sacred. However, the real estate agent in Malacañang said that, to help the Lumads generate wealth, he would personally invite investors to develop the ancestral domain areas in Mindanao. Under this administration, 30 Lumads had already been killed and at least 30,000 were forcibly evacuated “due to aerial bombings to pave way for the entry of foreign corporations and big local businesses.”

The CPP rejected the guidelines of the peace talks proposed by the government. Duterte, the habitual promise-breaker in Malacañang, “has been responsible for repeatedly terminating peace negotiations,” according to CPP founder and NDFP political adviser, Joma Sison. “We can no longer negotiate with an administration headed by Duterte,” he added.

The favorite punching bag these days of the blasphemous tenant in Malacañang is the Roman Catholic Church, along with its leaders, its Bible, and its God. The worst attack he has made, so far, was when he called our God “stupid.”

Duterte is notorious for making sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and even racist remarks and insults, and for acting vindictively against his female critics. Among the most notable victims of the filthy-mouthed wimp in Malacañang are Sen. De Lima, CJ Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, VP Leni, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Fil-Am philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, and Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Pia Ranada.

Under this administration, we are now experiencing a rising inflation, rising unemployment, rising debt, rising power rate, rising prices of basic commodities, rising fuel costs, and rising interest rates. And all these are not mere fake news being fabricated by the babbling liar in Malacañang.

Our democratic institutions are being demolished. “Congress is a rubberstamp, the Senate is a circus, our legislators carry on with their political plays as if the EJKs are not a thick red line that takes everything off the table. Both the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman are embattled, and the CHR’s existence is jeopardized by the specter of a new constitution.”

Finally, look at what Duterte has spawned in this country: historical revisionism and/or historical amnesia, widespread apathy, aggressive ignorance, unspeakable cruelty, smug complacency, misplaced nationalism, pervasive hopelessness, crippling fear, wretched ungratefulness, and pure, unadulterated stupidity.

All these could not have happened if we did not put someone like Duterte in Malacanang.

So, if Ninoy were alive today, do you think he would still consider the Filipino worth dying for?

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WHAT AN AWFUL BOSS LOOKS LIKE

A boss plays a vital role in any organization. With a good boss, a difficult or unpleasant job can be tolerable. Conversely, with a bad boss, an otherwise gratifying job can be miserable — a nightmare, even.

The following are the telltale signs that you are extremely unfortunate, as you have ended up with an awful boss.

Poor you.

1. Your boss applies a double standard in dealing with people. He/She is known to play favorites, is selective in dishing out disciplinary action to erring employees, or is unfair in granting perks and privileges. He/She seldom shares valuable and beneficial information with his/her subordinates who fail to get on his/her good side. He/She may even go as far as creating a new position just to accommodate the promotion of a favored employee. Yes, you now have a social media specialist in the construction site, and she’s the one whiling away precious hours in the boss’ air-conditioned room while cozily “interacting with cybercitizens.”

2. Your boss inspires fear in his/her subordinates. He/She takes pleasure in knowing that they tremble and shudder whenever he/she is around. Having a tendency to be a yeller, he/she believes that congeniality in the workplace equates to likely neglect of duties, which thus adversely affects productivity. Okay, hush now. Here comes The Boss.

3. Your boss hates to see you and your colleagues shine. He/She underrates your accomplishments and contributions to the organization and tends to grab credit that rightfully belongs to his/her subordinates. When his/her own boss gets impressed with an innovative design that you just presented, he/she is quick to claim that it was actually his/her idea – not yours. Hey, I know you’re flabbergasted by his/her audacity, but will you please shut your mouth? As in, literally. It’s been hanging open for a while now.

4. Your boss has unrealistic demands and unreasonable expectations from his/her subordinates. As a modern-day slave driver, he/she seems to think that your life should revolve around your work, and your work alone. Work-life balance is an alien concept to him/her. Huh, work-life balance? What’s that?!!!

5. Your boss is apathetic about your situation. He/She regards you more like a robot rather than a breathing, feeling human being who is also susceptible to emotions, frailties and physical limitations. He/She is annoyed that you’re not your usual jolly and witty self when you were made, despite your protestations, to take on the emcee role for an event. Hey, boss, give that poor guy a break. His 10-year-old cat just died!

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photo credit: headhunterconfesses.wordpress.com

6. Your boss has a strong natural tendency to bully you and your colleagues. This constant display of A-hole quality is a clear manifestation of his/her personal insecurities. He/She is often on a power trip to boost his stature or feelings of self-worth. He/She gets a kick out of humiliating you or wielding his/her power over you, particularly in front of others.

7. Your boss is so self-righteous and self-centered that he/she thinks he/she is above everyone else. A certified narcissist, he/she is arrogant and thinks that he/she has a monopoly to great ideas. Also, he/she never apologizes even after realizing that he/she commits a mistake. It’s always about him/her, not the team he/she manages. So, better keep your suggestions and comments to yourself, pal. Or, better yet, stop thinking altogether.

8. Your boss lacks integrity. He/She has a propensity to cut corners, to kowtow to his bosses (and is a notorious ass-kisser!), to lie and manipulate people, to break promises, and to promote personal interests no matter the cost. Cunning and easily corruptible, and with “the end always justifies the means” as his personal mantra, his idol is Niccolo Machiavelli. No surprise there.

9. Your boss is an advocate of the blame game. With virtually no sense of personal accountability, he/she points an accusing finger at everyone else except him/herself when something goes wrong. Make sure, then, that your presentation before the board would be impeccable. Otherwise, you would surely be left high and dry by your boss.

10. Your boss does not exhibit flexibility. Being a stickler for the rules, he/she has difficulty adjusting to particular situations or the individual circumstances of his/her subordinates. That deadline, for instance, won’t be extended just because your house happens to be submerged in floodwater for three days now. So, c’mon, go up to your roof and start working on that report. Asap!

An awesome boss, on the other hand, is someone who is a great mentor to his/her subordinates.  He/She is a motivator, an enabler, a problem-solver, and a team player rolled into one admirable package that people want to emulate or, at the very least, work with. As a true leader, he/she incites inspiration, builds trust and confidence among his/her direct reports, develops a safe and enjoyable working environment, and creates opportunities for growth for each and every member of his/her team.

If you’re in your office right now, look around you. Are the people you see working grudgingly, unhappily, or nervously? You might just be under the thumb of an awful boss.

Or you, yourself, might actually be that awful boss.

DE-VILIFYING SEN. LEILA DE LIMA

Imagine this.

You were an academic achiever as a student, consistently finishing each school year at the top of your class. You took up Law and managed to graduate as the class salutatorian. You ranked 8th in the bar exam. You became a professor of Law. As one of the most prominent election lawyers in the country, you handled and won high-profile cases for candidates such as Koko Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano, Grace Padaca, and Ed Panlilio, among others.

When you were appointed Commission on Human Rights chief, you fearlessly investigated extra-judicial killings, abductions, and human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, like Jovito Palparan, and by government officials, like then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. As Justice Secretary, you were at the frontline in bringing those who were involved in the multibillion-peso PDAF scandal to justice. You filed cases that led to the arrest of prominent personalities such as former Pres. Gloria Arroyo and sitting Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. You filed a 5-billion peso smuggling case against Phoenix Petroleum, a syndicated estafa case against Globe Asiatique, and a murder case against then Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes. You probed the Ampatuan Massacre, the Atimonan blood bath, and the alleged INC abductions. You were the first DOJ Sec. who dared to raid the New Bilibid Prison to dismantle the perks accorded to the high-profile inmates there. In doing so, you single-handedly disrupted the operation of their lucrative drug business that was apparently operational inside the supposed maximum-security facility of the said penitentiary. You were part of the government’s legal team that received the favorable ruling over the country’s case against China’s WPS maritime claims from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. As head of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, it was under your watch that the Philippines was removed from the US Human Trafficking Watchlist, which paved the way for our upgrade to Tier 1 status. As a newbie Senator, you were one of the most productive legislators with a total of 90 bills and 108 resolutions filed. You also fearlessly launched an inquiry into the spate of killings happening under the guise of a drug war.

But this administration had a special way of honoring people like you.

You became its favorite punching bag and target of character assassination and slut-shaming, and of its supporters’ scorn and ridicule. You have been vilified and demonized for being Pres. Duterte’s most vocal, most fearless, and staunchest critic. On February 24, 2017, you were arrested and jailed.

The case against you? Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act for allegedly extorting money from the Bilibid inmates who traded and trafficked drugs inside the prison!

Not an ounce of illegal drug was found in your possession, not a trail of the purported drug money was established, and not a single witness of unquestionable reputation and motive was presented, yet for more than 17 months now, you’ve been languishing in solitary pre-trial detention.

The world is watching, though.

They have seen that, even behind bars, you continue to perform your legislative duties largely through the capable hands of your staff. Via your hand-written statements, the Dispatches from Crame, you continue to share your voice and speak truth to power. You remain steadfast in your commitment to freedom, justice and the rule of law. You stay vigilant and fearless in expressing your dissent and condemnation over the countless killings, the wanton violations of human rights, and the culture of impunity and travesty of our democratic institutions, religious faith, cultural and moral values, legal processes, and constitutional sovereignty.

They have witnessed that, instead of allowing this wicked regime to break and silence you and to weaken your spirit, you have used your incarceration to find your inner strength in asserting and fighting for what is right and just amid the formidable odds. And the grace with which you accepted this “detour” in your life’s journey just solidified their conviction that, indeed, all this is nothing more than a work of a deranged and vindictive president who uses all his power and influence and all the government machineries at his disposal to fabricate lies, fake news, and black propaganda about and against you, and feed them to his gullible supporters and paid army of trolls.

Since you were thrown into prison, and for your exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights in the Philippines, you’ve been reaping international recognition left and right — and from prestigious award-giving bodies, no less. You are also being referred to as a Prisoner of Conscience.

In 2017, you received the following accolades: Time Magazine, World’s 100 Most Influential People; Amnesty International, One of the Most Notable Human Rights Defenders Under Threat; and Foreign Policy, 100 Leading Global Thinkers.

In 2018, you were conferred with the following distinctions: Fortune Magazine, World’s 50 Greatest Leaders; The Asian Correspondent, 5 Power Women of Southeast Asia; Amnesty International, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender; Amnesty International, first ever Ignite Awards for Human Rights; The Diplomat, Woman to Watch in Southeast Asia; and just recently, Liberal International, Prize for Freedom.

The members of the international community recognize political persecution when they see one. How I wish I could say the same for our countrymen.

 

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Image from VICE News

PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH SEN. LEILA

When I went to the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame last July 15 to visit Sen. De Lima, I had virtually no idea what to expect. I was just asked if I’d be available on that day from 9 am until 12 noon. When I excitedly said “Yes!,” I was told that there would be six of us from the #BabaeAko Movement, that I should wear comfortable clothes because it could get very hot inside, and that it was okay to bring food. That was it. Oh, and a message that said, “Excited daw si Sen. Leila to meet you!

That made me so nervous I wanted to throw up.

Bearing a pot of flowers that I picked up from Dangwa on our way to Camp Crame, and a box of pastillas and two packs of chicharon I brought from Malolos, I was among the first to get to the appointed meeting place. After signing on the logbook, surrendering our mobile phones, having our bags checked, and being thoroughly frisked twice, we were ushered into a small room with around twenty monoblock chairs neatly arranged to face the small table at the front. There were three stand fans scattered around the room, and an abaniko atop each chair. Good thing it was drizzling outside so the temperature didn’t bother us as much.

In no time, the little room became packed with around thirty people. Some, like Sen. Leila’s family, spiritual advisers, and friends, were obviously “regulars,” while others like me were first-timers.

Someone carefully laid a white cloth over the table, and positioned my pot of flowers at the center, and a standing crucifix, a candle, and sacred vessels beside it. The room was transformed into a chapel.

When Sen. Leila waltzed into the room with a beaming smile, sparkling eyes, and arms outstretched in warm welcome, everyone’s attention inevitably turned to her. She was like an instant ray of sunshine on that gloomy day. Dressed in a comfy sleeveless blouse, a pair of leggings, and her trademark scarf, she was a perfect vision of excellent health, a mind at peace, and a joyful heart. I could not help but notice the glow in her cheeks, the lilt in her laughter, and the bounce in her every step. According to one of her spiritual advisers, Sen. Leila’s solitary detention has allowed her to reflect more intensely on herself, her soul, and her mission. That should explain her serene and pleasant demeanor.

She greeted each of us with a hug, a beso-beso, and brief yet friendly pleasantries. The holy mass was about to start.

Three priests — Fr. Robert Reyes, Fr. Albert Alejo, and Fr. Flavie Villanueva — officiated the mass. After the homily, all the first-timers and latecomers were, one by one, asked to stand at the front, face the crowd, and share something inspiring. I was the first to be called (ugh!), with about ten others who followed suit. The last to speak was Sen. Leila’s 34-year-old son, Israel, who gave a short but extremely sweet and innocent speech. Israel is one of Sen. Leila’s angels and sources of strength and inspiration (the other one is Brandon, her 11-year-old grandson. Like Israel, Brandon has autism, too.). Sen. Leila’s own reflection on the gospel immediately came after.

The mass lasted for two and a half hours.

While the group dispersed into smaller groups, there were people (Sen. Leila’s family and staff members, I assumed) who set up a buffet table at the back of the room. From a place of prayer and worship, the room is yet again transformed — this time, into a dining hall.

I was fortunate enough to be seated at the only dining table in the room. With me were a fellow activist from BabaeAko, Fr. Albert, a husband-and-wife tandem (who, I heard, would like to refer to themselves as the writing couple), and our gracious host, Sen. Leila.

It was during this interesting lunch-cum-discussion interaction (they did all the talking/speculating/bantering while I, all the listening/observing/absorbing) and the ensuing interviews I conducted with her and some of the people who know her best that I learned a great deal about the good Senator — pieces of information that ranged from amusing and entertaining to fascinating, enticing and intriguing.

TIDBITS ABOUT SEN. LEILA

Recalling her life outside of detention, I learned that she has always been a keen and voracious reader –the proverbial bookworm. Like you and me, she also loved to watch TV series and movies. To de-stress during weekends, she used to drive around (sans her bodyguards), go to the wet market, do her own shopping, buy her own groceries, and play host to her family that she invites for either Sunday lunch or dinner. She knows her way around the kitchen and can cook a mean Bicol express and laing. Her sotanghon guisado is also something that her family always looks forward to.

Sen. Leila loves to dance; she is particularly good at ballroom dancing. She plays volleyball, a sport that she was active in even way back in high school. She co-founded the Lambda Rho Sigma Sorority at the San Beda College of Law. And she has 13 dogs at home – labradors, jack russels, chihuahuas, and dachshunds. Her favorite, though, is Coco, a Japanese Spitz.

She regularly went to Manaoag to attend the Sunday mass. It was part of her panata, as was joining the 5-km Good Friday procession in her hometown in Bicol. It’s also her family’s tradition to celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to indigenous peoples in the province – a practice that was started by her late father.

Growing up, her father, former Comelec commissioner Vicente de Lima, was her confidante and guiding light, especially when it comes to making major decisions. He was the one who raised her to be studious, focused, and principled. However, it was her mother who “balanced her out” by exposing her to regular activities girls grew up with in their town. Just before her father died in 2012, he warned her against joining politics.

Now, she knows why.

Going into public office, let alone dipping her toes into the murky waters of politics, was actually never in the senator’s radar. When she was younger, she only dreamt of becoming a lawyer like her father. But, then, duty called. However, she never imagined herself being criminally charged and/or jailed, as “being dirty and corrupt is not in (her) DNA.”

After she had been judicially annulled with her former husband, Atty. Plaridel Bohol, she promised herself never to marry again. Asked what she looks for in a man, she said that it is neither the looks nor the intellect. It’s not his bank account, either. Attitude is what’s most important for her.

She is a workaholic by nature, which, she says, accounted for her shortcomings as a mother to her two sons. She thus considers herself immensely blessed for having understanding children who love her despite her flaws.

She is very protective of her ailing 84-year-old mother. In her want to shelter her from the painful truth, she and her three other siblings concocted the story that she is in the US for an extended study leave.

Sen. Leila’s daily routine nowadays starts at around 5:00 in the morning by praying and reading her daily Bible devotionals. Then, she does some exercises, cleans her room, and takes a bath (using timba and tabo). Between 8:00-8:30 a.m., she takes her breakfast while reading the newspapers. Then more reading, this time around, though, it’s of work-related papers and drafts from her staff. To let her eyes have their much-needed rest, she gets a 20-30 minute shut-eye. Then, back to her reading. She takes a late lunch before she goes back to her reading.  Between 3:00-5:00 p.m. (on weekdays), she receives visitors. (She calls her three spiritual advisers, her most frequent visitors, her very own Oscar Romeros.) After that, she is all alone in her quarters with only her pet stray cats to keep her company. Her evenings usually consist of more reading, dinner, prayers and Bible reading. She hits the proverbial sack at around 10 p.m.

After much reflection, Sen. Leila views her incarceration as both a blessing and a curse. According to her, there’s actually beauty in solitude. She says, she has become more prayerful, a little tamer, and less judgmental as a result of her incarceration. She has also become less of a perfectionist. Now that she is in jail, she sleeps more soundly at night but “loneliness comes like a thief in the night, from time to time, which causes tears to fall just before I close my eyes.”

 

PHILIPPINES-POLITICS
Image from gt.foreignpolicy.com

LESSONS LEARNED FROM SEN. LEILA

There are people whose lives could be a rich source of valuable lessons. Sen. Leila is definitely one of those.

According to her, nothing worth doing is ever easy. From her words and actions, she taught me to always stand by my convictions without fear or favor. If I am doing what I think is right, I should have neither regrets in life nor fear of death. She said that righteous anger and indignation is also a virtue.

The fighter in her has also taught me to always hope for the best yet be ready for the worst – to not show my enemies any weakness that could be used to kick me even when I’m already down on my knees. But I also learned that I should not allow anyone or any situation rob me of hope because, sometimes, that is all that is left to us.

I learned that I should forgive myself as nobody is perfect. Hatred, for her, is an energy-draining exercise; it is best to not let it consume yourself.

I learned that I should love my work but I should not let it be the center of my life. My relationship with my family, friends, and God should always be at the top of my priorities.

Finally, I learned from her that when there’s nothing or no one else to cling on to, there is God. Always.

THE 44-YEAR-OLD KOLEHIYALA

Yup, that’s me. And this is my story.

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HOW IT ALL STARTED

I have never denied the fact that I totally suck at Math. When I was studying in UP during the early 90s, it had always been my waterloo. I took Math 11 (College Algebra) three times, Math 14 (Trigonometry) six times, and Math 101 (Statistics) three times. During my last sem, I got a conditional grade of 4.0 in Math 100 (Calculus) so I took a removal exam. That was back (way, way back!) in 1994. I was already working and pregnant with my first child when I learned that I failed the exam. However, things that were much more important than trying to pass my Calculus started to happen almost all at once.

First, we had baby #1. Then, I had to quit my job because my husband’s work required us to move to the province. Baby #2 came along, and baby #3 after just another year. A few short years later and it was time to send them all to school. Then, we had to move to another province.

Before I knew it, more than two decades had already passed me by.

When two of our children were about to graduate in the same university that brought me and my husband together many years ago, I decided to take a leap of faith and enroll Math 100. I’ve been thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if the three of us all graduate at the same time? A mother and her two children. Also, I wanted to surprise my parents. They had no idea that I didn’t graduate in 1994. I just fed them with the lie that, during that time, I didn’t want to march with a protruding belly.

 

IN PURSUIT OF A DIPLOMA

Going back to school had not been easy for me, though. It was, in fact, extremely difficult and challenging.

Every Tuesday and Thursday for a total of four months, I had to wake up at 3:00 AM to prepare my family’s breakfast and make the commute from Bulacan to UP Clark for my 2-hour class.

My classmates were too young, younger than my youngest child. They called me Tita, and would always talk to me with po and opo. Thankfully, my teacher was almost my age. However, she had the annoying habit of addressing me Ma’am. In shame, I wished the ground would open and swallow me up each time she would do that.

In my desire to pass Math 100, I had to rekindle so many long-forgotten relationships that I would rather bury in oblivion — with X and Y, with Sin and Cos, and with Limit, Derivative and Integral. As a long-time wife and mother, my brain has been wired to dealing with and solving domestic issues and conflicts, no longer to decoding the complicated relationships between equations and functions!

I also had to endure the humiliation of being tutored by my son. I knew that it was equally hard for him (he was often my shock absorber cum emotional punching bag especially when I would get frustrated due to a difficult lesson) but, as a parent, I had been used to doing the teaching to my children. It should not be the other way around.

During exams, I was always this one big, useless, confused, mumbling ball. Nobody at home would dare talk to me or ask anything from me. I was so focused on reviewing days and nights before the exam — only to have the various topics mixed up in my mind during the examination itself or to forget everything I’ve meticulously studied. For the first five minutes of my first long exam, I got completely immobilized by nerves. My brain refused to function, my heart was racing, I was breaking into a cold sweat, I was feeling dizzy and lightheaded, and I had difficulty breathing. When I eventually managed to will my hand to move, it was shaking uncontrollably. I thought I had to run to the clinic!

Unsurprisingly, I earned a singko for that exam.

Things didn’t get much better during the succeeding exams. I still suffered from panic attacks or would be prone to pre-exam “catastrophes” such as the flu, early arrival of the monthly period, and diarrhea.

During the final exam, I was among the “walking dead” or those students sporting eyebags the size of a golf ball, disheveled appearance, and glassy eyes.

I had a perfect attendance and I was always the first one to arrive in the classroom. I was attentive and I always did my homeworks. At one point, I even got the highest score in our exam (but that still failed to push my grade to a passing level.) My teacher knew that Math 100 was the only thing that was keeping me from my very elusive diploma. She knew how badly I needed to pass that subject.

In the end, though, she still gave me a grade of 4.0, with no option to take a removal exam.

I was devastated.

I was furious.

I was embarrassed.

I found comfort in my husband and children’s assurance that there was no shame in what happened. I did my best, and that was what’s most important, they said. In hindsight, I realized that if my teacher gave me an undeserved passing grade out of pity or sympathy, my high regard for UP would be shattered.

So, when the hubby and kids urged me to re-enroll Math 100 the following sem, I did just that. That time around, I chose to enroll in UP Diliman.

 

THE SECOND CHANCE

On the very first day of class, I wanted to quit.

I learned that, unlike in Clark, I had to go to Diliman four times a week for a one-hour class each day. Every Tuesday and Thursday, my class would start as early as 7:15 AM and my classroom was on the third floor! (On Wednesdays and Fridays, it was a little later at 8:45 AM. Class was on the fourth floor, though.) My teacher was really young, just a little older than my eldest child. And when I saw the course outline, I knew right away that the pace would be brutal, the coverages (particularly for the first two quarters) would be long, and no exemption from the final exam would be allowed.

My children could take as many as seven subjects in a sem, and I would expect them to bring home impeccable grades, while there I was, allowing myself to abandon my long-time dream of earning a diploma, to give up the fight even before it started, to be daunted by the obstacles that a single subject entailed.

And so, with my children as my inspiration, I went ahead and kept going.

After two sems, I acquired more white hair and reacquired migraine; nightmares and panic attacks became my constant companions before exams; I reconnected with caffeine; I lost at least 15 pounds of unwanted fats (this, I considered a positive development); the sight of square roots, absolute values or greater integer functions no longer frazzled me as much; and I have come to appreciate more the effort that my children have been putting into their studies. But, most importantly, I was able to accomplish my goal.

Together with my two children, I am going to graduate tomorrow!

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LALA, OUR CUM LAUDE!

We already had two sons when Lala, the youngest and the only girl in our brood, came along. I’m not sure if it’s the same with other parents, but there was something about the arrival of a daughter – our daughter — that instantly inspired a farrago of emotions in me.

I was, of course, ecstatic for being the recipient of such an amazing divine blessing, and excited to take on the challenge of raising someone who could be a little version of myself. However, I was also anxious knowing that the world she was about to open her eyes into was not an ideal place for what the society calls the “inferior and weaker sex.”

And that was when my protective instinct as a mother started to kick in.

I know that this sounds a lot like stereotyping (I didn’t feel the same way with my boys, after all), but I’ve always had this irrational notion that our daughter was as extremely delicate and fragile as my grandma’s fine China. In fact, when I first heard her cry and felt her warm body comfortably nestled in my arm, I had an instantaneous desire to pull her into a tight embrace and never let go. The urge to shield her, to protect and defend her, was so strong, so immediate and so unbridled, it was almost stifling in its intensity. I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself that no harm could possibly come to my precious one — especially since we were still at a hospital at that time and were closely surrounded by family and friends.

She was a crybaby as a toddler, so I expected her to be whiny and petulant. As the youngest in the family, I thought she would develop a sense of entitlement. Being the only girl among all the cousins in her father’s side, I was expecting that she would be vain, frivolous, and superficial, and would grow into a temperamental prima donna. Her brothers were already academic achievers even then, so I was already preparing myself if ever she would turn out to be an academic non-performer and a quitter.

Growing up, though, she proved to everyone that she was made of tougher stuff.  She did not only defy my expectations; she managed to surpass every one of them.

She would display fierce independence early on. I could still remember this one time when, as a 3-year-old toddler, she stubbornly refused the hand offered to her by her ninong while we were all climbing the unfamiliar stairs in the latter’s new house. We were worried because even a single misstep could be fatal. But, she kept going — slowly, painstakingly, resolutely. And when she reached the top of the stairs, she faced us and beamed with utter pride and an undeniable sense of accomplishment.

She had been like that ever since.

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As a schoolgirl, she was competitive yet accommodating to her classmates who would approach her for help. She was focused and driven, and she knew her priorities. Her perseverance and diligence were admirable. She would have her notebook/reviewer with her all the time in case there was a lull in her busy schedule. But when, finally, she was able to tick off every single item in her to-do list, she would relish the time she spends with her family, friends, and orgmates. For her “me time,” she loves to bury herself in her novels.

As a friend, she is amiable, forgiving and easy to please. She has a ready smile for everyone and is loyal, even to a fault. Don’t be fooled by her small frame, though, as to attempt to intimidate her. She could hold her own and could even be a merciless bully to someone twice her size when provoked.

She is so simple that she doesn’t see the need for any makeup, accessory, jewelry (even a wrist watch) or perfume. The only indulgences that can bring a spark to her girly eyes are clothes and shoes. But even with those, she is never impulsive. She knows the style and color that she wants, and she sticks with it.

She is self-assured and confident in her own skin, and is fair in all her dealings. She is morally upright — hating shortcuts, quick fixes, and palakasan system.

She is beautiful, both inside and out. She is compassionate and empathetic to the plight of others. Secretly, she has a dream to change the world for the better, or at the very least, to be part of that change.

She may not look it, but she is a voracious eater. She eats almost anything except those with mayonnaise and ketchup.

She is politically aware and socially conscious, and is a girl of principle and conviction. Whenever her schedule permits, she goes with us to talks, rallies, and other protest actions.

She is an amazing ball of contradictions — demure yet tough, soft-spoken yet assertive, and gentle yet fierce.

Now that she is growing into a young woman, we are discovering, much to our delight and surprise, that the two of us have much more in common than we previously thought. I used to think that all those talk about mothers and daughters growing into best friends is just romanticized. But, not anymore. Increasingly, we find ourselves giggling at the same girly stuff, swooning at the same gorgeous hunk, crying at the same scenes of some telenovela or movie, smiling conspirationally at some naughty idea, and getting enraged by the same societal injustices.

The moment she smiled at us for the very first time when she was a baby, she had us completely wound around her little finger. She was like a warm ray of sunshine on a chilly morning, a cool breeze on a humid afternoon, a glimpse of heaven here on earth, and a reminder that there is still hope, after all.

Today, she still continues to amaze us. As if all her academic achievements were not yet enough to make us eternally proud as parents – she was accelerated and conferred with the second highest honor during preschool, she was hailed the batch valedictorian in grade school, she passed the Pisay entrance test joining the company of 239 other academically-gifted high school students who bested 20,000 examinees all across the land, she managed to get into the University of the Philippines with a quota course of BS in Biology, she bagged a DOST academic scholarship, she earned a 99+ percentile rank when she took the National Medical Admission Test, and she was accepted to the medical school of her choice—, she has recently managed to surprise us with yet another accomplishment.

Our daughter is graduating Cum Laude!!!

DIGONGMYLABS, YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A WIMP!

With your tough-talking macho image, overplayed bravado and exaggerated tales of virility, you wanted to impress us. To intimidate us. To scare us.

But, Digongmylabs, we can see through you. We know that, behind that veneer, you’re nothing but a coward who is terrified of China. You can’t even bring Sen. Trillanes down, for crying out loud! All you can manage to pick on are those that you either perceive to be weaker than you are or too decent to fight you at your own game — the poor, the people of faith, the diplomats, the media, and the women.

DIGONGMYLABS’ MISOGYNY

Even before you were elected President, we already knew that you had this deep-seated hate for women. Yes, you would often say that you love women so much that you are seldom monogamous. You brag that you have two wives and other “spare tires,” even claiming that to be the norm for lawyers and politicians. But, you see, womanizing is one of the most fundamental signs that you have virtually no respect for women.

During the campaign, you gleefully claimed that when you were younger, you used to molest your housemaid in her sleep. You boasted that you did not give in to your girlfriend’s request for a car since you would only enjoy a “short time” with her. To defend womanizing, you said that it simply couldn’t be helped as “there are so many women and so short a time in this world.” You’ve also repeatedly displayed how you would make some of your female supporters sit on your lap and kiss them on the lips for everyone to see. (Just recently, you kissed a female OFW onstage during a meeting with the Filipino community in South Korea. On the lips!) Your most tasteless, most insensitive and cruelest joke came, however, when you said that the death of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill was such a waste because she was so beautiful, you should have been first in the line of those who gang-raped her. That “joke” made you an international sensation, albeit infamously.

Your supporters are always too eager and too quick to defend you, though. According to them, they elected a president — neither a priest nor a saint. You’re really one lucky devil, Digongmylabs, as far as the blind loyalty of your minions is concerned.

During a press conference shortly after your inauguration, you catcalled Mariz Umali, a local female reporter. Immediately after that, your apologists came up with an unacceptable explanation that catcalling is actually a compliment and is part of one’s freedom of expression. That was why, during your next press conference, another fearless female reporter, Pia Ranada-Robles, felt the need to cite “Section 8 of the Women Development Code of Davao City which states that ““cursing, whistling or calling a woman in public with words having dirty connotations or implications which tend to ridicule, humiliate or embarrass the woman” is a form of sexual harassment.” That city ordinance was enacted by none other than you, Digongmylabs, in 1997 when you were still the Mayor of Davao.

During the anniversary of Supertyphoon Yolanda and in front of hundreds of the typhoon’s survivors, you admitted to ogling at VP Leni’s knees during your cabinet meetings. That wasn’t the only time that you made her the butt of your sexually charged jokes as you believed that making those jokes during speeches were necessary to make your audience laugh. Speaking of Typhoon Yolanda, do you remember what you said? You said that you wished only the ugly had died during that calamity and that the beautiful ones were spared.

Digongmylabs, that one right there came dangerously close to your Australian missionary rape joke as far as callousness was concerned.

The first victim of political persecution under your administration is Sen. De Lima. On national TV, before you had her thrown in jail due to trumped-up charges, you would relentlessly slut-shame her, even referring to her as an X-rated actress a number of times. You gossiped about a sex video that you alleged she had with her ex-lover, threatened to have that shown in public, and used that to ridicule her interminably. You even joked that you would show that video to Pope Francis when you heard that he sent Sen. De Lima a rosary in prison. You already got yourself into trouble once for previous rude remarks about the Pope and, yet, you were at it again. You just never learn, do you, Digongmylabs?

 

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Photo credit: Jover Laurio of Pinoy Ako Blog (PAB)

DIGONGMYLABS’ VINDICTIVE TENDENCIES

You’ve been notorious for making sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and even racist remarks and insults, and for acting vindictively against your female critics.

You called Agnes Callamard, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, “malnourished” and “skinny,” and referred to Fatou Bensouda, an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, as “that black woman.”

When the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its World Economic Outlook, you lashed out at Christine Lagarde, the IMF Managing Director, by saying that one could easily change the latter’s gloomy outlook on the Philippines by pulling her into a corner and kissing her.

Without presenting any substantiated evidence, you publicly accused Fil-Am philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis of having a hand in the preliminary examination conducted by the ICC into your war on drugs. You added that she is capable of conspiring with the ICC to indict you for crimes against humanity because “she’s rich.” (The Davao City Council declared Lewis a “persona non grata” in Davao City based on that allegation alone.)

In a televised address, you publicly denounced Sr. Patricia Fox, the 71-year-old Australian missionary who caught your attention when she came to the Martial Law-placed Mindanao as part of a fact-finding mission. You had her arrested and ordered deported.

Enraged by the relentless and critical reporting done by the mainstream media on the killings that your brutal war on drugs both entailed and incited, you targeted, first, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, then ABS-CBN and, finally, Rappler. PDI owners eventually sold their controlling stocks to Ramon Ang, a close friend of yours and a campaign financier, while ABS-CBN continues to toe the line in the face of your threat to block the renewal of their franchise which is set to expire in 2020. Maria Ressa and the Rappler team, meanwhile, continued with their fearless reporting amid all government efforts to quell and silence them — you claimed (again, without any verifiable evidence) that Rappler is “fully owned” by Americans; you declared that it is a fake news outlet; its incorporation papers were revoked; its Malacanang Palace correspondent, Pia Ranada, was barred from the palace premises; and it is being investigated for tax evasion.

DIGONGMYLABS, A COWERING WIMP IN DISGUISE

Recently, you said that you could not count on women at all times; that they could not stand threats and intimidation; that they should be prim and proper; that the next Ombudsman and Chief Justice should not be a woman. With such a mentality, it is not hard to assume that you are terrified of women in power.

In the Philippines, there are five women whose power, independence and strength you either despise or fear. And since you don’t know how to handle or deal with them, much less to subjugate them, you resort to insult and threat. You want to control them. You want to silence them. You want to break them.

But you are learning, much to your chagrin and frustration, that you can never put a good woman down.

Even from detention, Sen. De Lima continues to painstakingly perform her duties as a member of the Senate and of the opposition bloc. She doesn’t pull any punches — her criticisms of your administration remain scathing — and her spirit is still indomitable.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, despite the administration’s attempt to put her in jail supposedly through the machination and connivance of VACC and the DOJ, remains relentless in her fearless fight for her various advocacies, among which are her courageous battles against any form of human rights violations, the declaration of Martial Law, and corruption in government.

VP Leni Robredo, even after you virtually forced her to resign from your cabinet after you issued an instruction (via text!) for her to desist from attending all future cabinet meetings, continues to fulfill her duties and responsibilities as our duly-elected Vice President. She has been vocal in condemning many of your pronouncements that she deems inimical to our country’s interests. As a consequence, she is now facing an imminent loss to Bongbong Marcos in the Vice-Presidential recount because “your” Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal denied her plea to follow the threshold set by the Comelec for shading of ballots, the very same shading threshold used for the 2016 national elections.

You said that you will file an impeachment case against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for “selective justice” and conspiracy to oust you —this, after the Office of the Ombudsman had conducted investigations into your family’s alleged unexplained wealth which supposedly amounts to billions. At one point, you also challenged her to resign. Morales, however, remained unfazed as she reiterated that she won’t abandon her constitutional duties.

There are many instances that you and CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno have had public clashes, compelling you and your sycophants to do everything that you could to rid of her. You threatened her, you demanded her resignation, you had the House Justice committee hear the impeachment complaint filed against her by a pro-Duterte, pro-Marcos lawyer, you had your chief attorney, Solgen Calida, file a quo warranto petition to nullify the CJ’s appointment, and you had “your” Supreme Court act favorably on that petition.

These five strong, independent and powerful women are the faces and voices of all the Filipinas who, despite harassment, coercion and threats, continue to fight everything that you stand for — tyranny, fakery, murder, plunder, treason, incompetence, vindictiveness, indecency and misogyny. They will be the proverbial thorn in your side as long as you keep promoting words and actions that are crippling to the gender equality movement, damaging to women’s dignity, and threatening to the safety of women all over the world. They will serve as the constant reminder that you, Digongmylabs, are nothing but a big, spineless, pathetic, filthy-mouthed wimp.

WHEN OUR CHILD’S WORLD CRUMBLES

In the entire span of your life as a parent, you will undoubtedly face countless challenges. You will soon discover, however, that the toughest and most hurtful are those which cause your children immense pain and suffering.

I should know.

As a parent of three young adults, I have already witnessed innumerable times how my children would struggle and, each time, my heart is ripped into tiny pieces.

  • Emar losing his front tooth when he, as a toddler, tripped on the pavement.
  • MD as a baby with a heart murmur.
  • Lala getting her hand burnt when I was cooking while she was in my arm.
  • Emar experiencing his very first loss in an academic competition.
  • MD being bullied by his classmates due to his big voice. (He never talked in school for an entire year because of that. Irked, his adviser locked him up in a tiny, dark storage room.)
  • Lala being fed by her teacher with a piece of crumpled paper.
  • Emar caught up in the throes of his first romantic break-up.
  • MD relentlessly compared with his siblings, and always found lacking.
  • Lala finding herself struggling academically in high school after she graduated valedictorian in grade school.

Just recently, Emar, our firstborn had to contend with a disappointment so great that caused his world to crumble.

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Emar has always been an academic achiever. The impressive array of medals, certificates, scholarships and scholastic commendations and citations he has received and amassed since his preschool years can easily attest to his unquestionable love of learning, and to the discipline, hard work and perseverance that he continues to consistently demonstrate as a student.

It, therefore, pained us to witness how devastated he was when he learned last year that he could not graduate alongside his friends and batchmates from the UP Dep’t. of Chemical Engineering.

He was a candidate for Cum Laude, so when he and his group encountered a trouble in their Plant Visit subject, he opted to drop the said subject rather than earn a grade of 5.0 which could adversely and irrevocably affect his ‘Laude status. In UP, though, there are certain subjects that are strictly offered on a seasonal basis only. Sadly, the subject that he had to drop was one of those. (It was also a prerequisite to a subject that was a prerequisite to another subject.) So, he was left with no other option but to take his 12 remaining units in 3 successive sems (5, 4 and 3 units for each sem respectively).

We were, of course, disappointed and dejected. He was, after all, the first grandchild from both sides of the family and, thus, the first one expected to graduate in college. The entire clan, especially Tatay Bebot, his paternal grandfather, was excited to see him walk up the stage to receive his college diploma. (Sadly, Tatay Bebot would no longer get to see that day. He died of brain aneurysm last year.)

However, when we saw how miserable Emar had become because of what happened and how he would beat himself up for it, we put aside our own personal feelings to provide him with the support and assurance that he so badly needed at that time.

Thankfully, he was able to bounce back, albeit painfully, diffidently, slowly.

He used his ample time to pursue productive endeavors.

During his first underloaded sem, he became an active tutor in the three tutorial centers he was affiliated with. He mastered not only one-on-one but even class tutoring. Also, he found himself teaching not just students like himself, but also professionals reviewing for the Civil Service exam!

The next sem saw him busy completing his 300-hour internship with Petron Corporation. Assigned to its Research and Development department, he was always excited when he would learn new things and gain additional knowledge, and when he was able to actually apply the lessons he learned in the classroom into the actual processes he was allowed to be exposed to in the company lab.

He also learned how to drive, much to our chagrin and worry.

For his last sem, he planned to work while he studies. Unfortunately, his schedule didn’t permit that so he went back to tutoring, instead.

We all though that a one-year delay in his graduation was the worst ordeal that he has had to bear as a student. We thought wrong.

Yesterday, we learned that his appeal to be allowed to graduate with honors (despite underloaded sems) was denied. (Incidentally, it was also yesterday that we learned that Emar’s baby sister, Lala, who is also studying in UP, will graduate cum laude. That story would have to be for another blog post, though.) Emar has a General Weighted Average (GWA) of 1.587432, safely within the university requirement of 1.450001-1.75 for Cum Laude. Two of my children should be graduating with honors come this June but, since Emar’s reason for underloading is not considered valid under the Revised UP Code (health, employment and unavailability of subjects are the only justifiable reasons cited, a fact which we learned belatedly), only Lala will do so.

This entire experience will, undoubtedly, leave a scar on our son. The thought that people might be talking about him with either pity or ridicule (“Our high school valedictorian did not even finish college on time.”) could sometimes stop him in his tracks. The regret of not having his Tatay Bebot witness his graduation will always bring tears to his eyes. The pain of having disappointed us when he failed to graduate with honors will gnaw at him like an itch that doesn’t go away. But, this entire experience will also instill in him some hard-earned lessons on grit, humility, the values of time and family, and the uncertainty and fragility of life — valuable lessons that will, hopefully, stay with him when he is dealt with tougher challenges in the future.

Emar, anak, the path that led you to this particular moment had not been easy. It was strewn with trials, adversities, uncertainties, disappointments, difficult choices and hopes — fondest, cherished, dashed, renewed and, finally, unfulfilled. But like the true warrior that you are, you persisted. You strove. You overcame. You triumphed.

Congratulations, anak. You may not graduate a cum laude but we are still very proud of you. We are certain that you will accomplish greater things in life. Just remember never to lose heart. When you feel that the universe is conspiring against you, when trusted friends turn their backs on you, when adversities simultaneously assail you, when your best efforts are greeted with indifference, when you fall flat on your face again and again and again —just keep on going. Don’t give up. A miracle may just be around the corner, patiently waiting for you. And rest assured that when that happens, I, your daddy, your siblings, and the entire Baldonado and Aquino clans will all be by your side, cheering you on until all your dreams turn into reality.

 

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM:

Emar received a correspondence from the University Council exactly six days prior to the university graduation. The decision was reversed. My son is going to graduate Cum Laude!!!