Monday, July 17, 2006
SOME MORE LETTERS
DISPATCHES IN BETWEEN THE ETHEREAL
A storm is brewing. The affection of friends and family as well as the exigencies of work can shelter us from lashing winds or cold nights. As a writer, I am thankful that the pathways of work and comrades and kin converge every now and then, though, of course, being mortal, I often want more and constantly hope that the congregation of ideas and affections can take place more frequently.
So. Here are a few of such convergences, via letters from readers and friends.
Cesar Torres, a reader on this blog's mail list, wrote again last July 5 in reply to my lengthy response to his earlier letter: "Thank you sir. Of course, I shared your piece with some e-groups hoping that the members would read, pause, think, and act accordingly about the profound issues you raised.... You are not the snotty intellectual that I originally perceived you to be."
You are welcome, Cesar. Thanks for writing.
The other week, Judith Lacandalo, who belongs to a fine group called Peace Advocates Zamboanga, emailed a letter with a thank you note for the essays sent her way. "A friend of mine lost his son on a car accident last month," wrote Judith, who added that she "got some excerpts" from the Perpetuity and Impermanence article I dedicated to a good friend who passed away some months ago, Arlie Nava. The work that Judith and her organization is doing is difficult but thoroughly inspiring and I was only too glad to tell her that I was happy I was able to give back something to her by way of words.
Across the seas, writer Melody Kemp, whose writing ship has been berthed for some time in magical Laos, tapped me on the shoulder the other day to say that she had just re-read this one" [Perpetuity and Impermanence]. "It glows and I am totally delighted by your talent. It's the ineffable Filipino muse fine honed to 'delicato'. Now let me know what your travel plans are so I can lay in supplies." I intend to see her soon but I am hoping that a brewing storm does not acquire mega-gale force winds.
Logistics for Melody, my correspondent friend, being a choice between merlot grapes, cabernet sauvigon, shiraz, cab shiraz or syrah, I confessed early in our exchanges that I possessed the wine expertise of a barbarian, which is perhaps why I am looking forward to seeing her since, apart from expecting a sumptuous exchange of foibles and nearly noble adventure stories, I am looking forward to taking the first step in reaching -- through a real connoisseur such as her -- the status of Wine-Barbarian-Tolerable-Enough-Not-To-Be-Thrown-Out-Of-The-Room-In-Two-Minutes.
The letter Melody sent regarding the Perpetuity essay is very much welcome since it reminds me of a letter that she had sent around February last year in reply to a chronicle I had written about Kyoto. "I sip at your words like a fine cabernet. Well, after seeing Sideways I can hardly drink merlot..." Reading her letter again gives me a smile bigger than Ernie, the eternal buddy of Sesame Street's Burt. Melody maintains a column for the Cobra Post, an online South Asia-based news site.
You can read about some of the Laotian wind blowing on the sails of Melody's writing ship by clicking on this link.
Well, fluid's flowing; I end this now so I can work on other pieces of material with hopefully little hesitation.
The nice photo at the top of the page was emailed by Butch Turk, who is based in the US and who has still not been sent a copy of my book (sorry... coming soon) and who, among his more proper, notable attributes, is a man abundant with good friends. In the picture beside this text, Butch is the guy wearing shades, behind the beautiful, frail Crizel, one of the many victims of the huge cancer-causing toxic waste left behind by the imperial US armed forces in many parts of the Philippines. Butch and Crizel, along with the Tunisian mechanic, Mehdi, ship captain Pete Wilcox and Danny and other activists, are seen here riding one of the inflatable boats of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, which was on a campaign tour of Asia about six years ago. It was one of Crizel's last wishes.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006
I suppose it's silly to maintain a blog site and yet end up mostly posting what I have written and sent to others for publication. And 'mostly' is an understatement. The nearest blogging I've done is posting the poem that crept out of my pen last June, and posting some family pics a few months ago.
Well. So. Let's try and correct that bit by bit. One device may be to use reaction letters. Below is one letter, which was emailed to me and also copied to many yahoogroups none of which I belonged to, responding to the Collevecchio piece, and after that is my reply to the letter writer. Despite its obvious brevity, I chose to post it because it dips into the pallette of cynicism and daubs the color quite thickly. I hope it's enough of a nudge to make me set aside more time for blogging. I will try to post letters every now and then in case these help to get me to blog more. But don't hold yer breath.
And if you haven't read The road from Collevecchio yet, all you need to do is to click on this.
Cesar T., responding to the essay The road from Collevecchio:
A very sad story Mr. Constantino, of a Dream World.
So how do you propose to do attain this Dream World Mr. Constantino: "It is possible because we will work for a world where dignity is the main currency, justice fuels our economies and interactions, and solidarity is the only debt that people shall owe one another."
Hello Cesar. I reply only to you since I do not belong to any of the ten or so yahoogroups you copied your email to. But you have my permission to forward my email, if that is your intention.
Well, I do not propose to attain what you call a dream world. The essay says so. Perhaps in fundamental disagreement with some who demand that another world is possible, I insist that that such a world already exists, though always on the interstices, and somehow, often, never more than a passing moment in a day or week or month or year. Or not more than a few years. But it is there; it is here, however ephemeral. I think too many keep looking for the distant thing, or a different planet, or a time gone by or a world that supposedly will be built all over again from scratch, and so they miss building on what they already have. They miss working on the clay that is in front of them, what they wake up with almost every day and go to sleep with almost every night, the things that make them feel they are more than just automatons, that make them celebrate and rage and weep and exalt and feel joy.
The thing is to make these things grow and occupy vastly more than the margins that they inhabit every now and then.
Indifference is a tragic thing, perhaps equal to the tragedy of eager resignation when there is so much to rage against, to build with and to celebrate. Insane, blind optimism? Maybe, or maybe not. Yet how can you even begin to start from where you are and to build with what you have when you speak of dreams as something sad, which is even more sad than all the killings put together?
A group of elderly Filipinas asked themselves a few years ago what they wanted most for their next birthday. One said good health, another said a great resort where she can retire and live out the rest of her days in peace and quiet, and another said she wanted to live one more year so she can wish for another year after that. But one said that what she wanted most was to keep her capacity to always feel joy, and also anger at injustices, because these are the things that keep her from growing old. I think, for all my enthusiasms and frustrations, that I am so much older than her and so from the time I first heard her story I have reordered my goals, and on top of many is the aim to age enough so that one day I can be as young as her.
My thanks for your feedback.
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Photo: A beginning: A new fishing boat being built in Aceh some months after the tidal wave. Pic by Red, taken from his Nokia.
Reaction to The road from Collevecchio
FROM THE AUTHOR ALAN ATKINS:
July 4, 2006
Another beautifully-written article and it filled me with envy. Red, you know I love you like the brother I never had. My envy was not your writing style, but rather that you are such a fucking dreamer, while at my age, I believe I am a realist. You believe firmly in the possibility of Utopia, while I advocate Animal Farm. You rant against oil use, yet the thousands of gallons attributed to your air travel this year does not count. In my own country that has legislated for 10 percent of all electricity generation to be sourced from renewable means, there is now outrage at the once-beautiful skylines being ruined by wind generators and their whop-whop-whop noise.
You dream of everybody being brothers, but in my short life time never a day has passed without their being a war fought somewhere. You blame World Bank and similar institutions for the woes of the people, yet these institutions were set up with good intentions, but were corrupted by the receiving governments, including those of the Philippines. You will probably know the Spanish author who wrote: “A country need not have foreign rulers to be a colony; it can be a colony run by its own people.”
Yes. I agree with you. Capitalism is the biggest enemy we have. Democracy doesn’t exist – and it may shock you to know – it never did. General Motors has a bigger budget than the Philippines. Our lives are governed by board rooms in Europe and the United States. Who voted for these people? A few with money at their disposal. That is life. The one chance the human race had – the 1918 Russian revolution was blown – because as Orwell correctly predicted – when it comes to power, nothing changes. The Philippines had a great opportunity in 1986 – but what was it really? Just a family quarrel over who should hold the reins of power and money – and the Philippine people lost again. But at least we have monuments to mark this folly – both the EDSA monument and Our Lady of the Cockroaches – for that is surely what is depicted climbing up her back. The Philippines can still build monuments. There is a massive monument to corruption – called NAIA 3, I pass it every day.
The only solution is not sat in a courtyard in Italy – but education, education and education. The distorted power of the priest is only dissipated with personal wealth. The Church thrives upon keeping people illiterate and poor, and always has. Educate the people and they become discerning and probably make money. If they make money, the power of the priests and their dreadful superstition is gone – witness Eire. This is not to say that I am not a Christian – far from it. Jesus spoke eminent sense, but any relationship between Christianity and Catholicism is purely coincidental. The salvation of the people in this country, whether you like it or not, is mining and its down-line industries, (plus pills, UIDs and condoms, of course). The Philippines has so much wealth under the soil. The only problem is equitable distribution of the wealth – this is the basic problem. Our knowledge allows mining sites to be restored. Witness Ipoh in Malaysia.
I am now writing in a small fortnightly journal, Philippine News Explorer, and would be happy to debate you in this forum.
Genuine best regards,
July 4, 2006
Hello Alan. My thanks again for your candor. From your letter, I fear your longing for the brother you never had has more to do with being deprived of someone to whom you can give a regular Indian burn...
I don't believe in the possibility of another world. In fundamental disagreement with many in my 'ranks', I know that such a world already exists, though always on the interstices, and never more than a passing moment. But it is there. It is here, however ephemeral. Everyone keeps looking for the distant thing, or a different planet, or a time gone by or a world that can be built all over again. And so they miss what is in front of them, what they wake up with, the things that make them feel they are more than just automatons. The thing is to make these things grow. And yes, of course, education fuels that search, creates the necessary disonnance, shows that this is not as good as it gets. But then where does education begin and where does schooling end?
Whop whop noise -- debatable -- vs. ugly stationary behemoths that are like scars on the ground which produce radioactive waste that will remain dangerous to everything living for millions of years at the cost of billions of pounds of taxpayers money without which none of the nuclear stations would be built, and similar costs and scale of consequences for oil as well as coal. This is the choice you are asking me to consider? I am of course surprised as well that an individual Filipino's travels -- and attempts to broaden his mind -- is being put at par with the industrialized world's consumption of the global commons.
You advocate Animal Farm? Ah, my friend, I cannot support you - I would rather stick a spit and grill the beef and poultry and pork; why waste good meat just to ponder over cattle oratory?
But it's hard enough confronting indifference and brutal regimes without big banks continuously giving loans that sustain the brutalities. I refer to Nigeria today, and the Philippines during the time of Marcos. If the support from the hypocritical global institutions and governments of big nations was not extended so generously and fawningly, likely the dictator would not have lasted as long as he did. As for present day Philippines in relation to the Spanish author you quote - I would buy the Spaniard a beer because he is right...
Regarding 1918 and other variations, in the context that you have provided, these are reminders that it is folly to keep waiting for the thunderclap of revolution, to forget that everyday is subversion. That is why education itself is so subversive. Education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave. But are you referring to education or schooling? What do you mean by education? And why hold it against the simple folks who, because of their education, found it meaningful to share their experiences and learn from each other? You speak of Rizal frequently. Are you saying he came out of his mum uttering already the language - and values - of Cervantes? That he did not break bread and try to learn from others as well? To listen? At least he wrote down - in his own way - the things he believed in so that others may learn and be educated as well. But then, I seem to remember that I have acquired this terrible itch to write and write and that I thankfully am able to scratch the itch often. Others in the courtyard had the same itch too...
Your proposal for a debate regarding these things and mining as the rocket ship that would take the Philippines out of Planet Misery I welcome but cannot take up seriously. I do not have the time right now to reciprocate the seriousness of this exchange. If we exchange places, and you still say yes despite knowing the uncertainty of being able to respond adequately and in a timely fashion, I would take it against you.
But send me a copy of what you write, for Chrissakes, or at least tell me when an issue comes out which carries something you've written, and where I can get a copy of the PNE.
You bring up the Catholic Church in vain. Whatever bile you have, or rage, I will top it. [editor's note: Red here is referring particularly to the Church's position and clandestine and aboveground operations regarding the issue of women and reproductive health]
I have to rush. I am going by bicycle tomorrow to Batangas, while you will use some fossil fueled vehicle to reach your destination, but I won't take it against you because you said you'll buy me plenty of beers. And I hope you noticed I made the bubbly offer plural.
Warm regards, as usual.
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READ THE ROAD FROM COLLEVECCHIO
READ OTHER LETTERS TO RED
Photos by Red, taken from his Nokia. Corridors of time from a temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2005.