Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Open Letter to my Son (and the world) on Occasion of Christmas...

“IT’s been more than a decade since I stopped believing in Christmas. I am puzzled in the fact that my dad runs through the metro early every 24th to buy every kind of toy he could fit into his tightly budgeted salary, stuff them all in a huge bag made of raggedy cloth, park them in our front door and finally knock at exactly 12 midnight—only to pretend in front of his kids (and even to himself, perhaps) that it was Santa Claus who brought all those gifts… I do not believe in it, but Christmas might mean everything to storm-stricken families. Tonight, what are they going to have? That question, I admit, struck me deeply today.[--excerpt from my son DUANE’s Facebook post. Manila, Philippines]

DEAR SON,
The beauty and wisdom in being children is BELIEF, just because… Because kids believe in Santa Claus—their dads and moms believe in them, too. But that “belief” in Santa, isn’t really about Santa—it’s about belonging, love, joy, acceptance, being there, being “saved”…
     What could’ve happened if you didn’t believe in Santa, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in the thought that dogs and chimps actually can talk (yes, you did believe in those)—then you could’ve felt my pain. I could’ve handed you my sorrows because you understood those—you become my sounding board, my punching bag, my blues comrade. It’s all because our “realities” were one.
     But no, you deserved a break—you deserved some peace, you needed to play. I was happy that whenever there’s chance to frolic and have fun, you did. Each time a hiphop song came out of the radio, you went bouncing like rubber ball wherever we were: our tiny living room, my work place, jeepney and bus, moviehouse aisle, you were unstoppable. Funny that when that horrid July 1990 earthquake was rocking the `hood, you thought gods were dancing up in the sky. You exclaimed: “Gods will be done dancing soon, Papa…”
     Or what if, I told you, those rap lyrics were bad and violent, and maybe Batman was misogynistic or sexist? And Superman was a capitalist devil who invaded so many poor planets for their fancy pineapples and gold nuggets? Maybe you will understand me? Or will you simply resign in the corner (in the dark, like I was when I was 5), and weep because there’s no one to call a hero anymore? That all that I could share you were bad news? What if I simply handed you a grown up world’s bitter pill and said, “Hey son, this life sucks! Let’s be angry, you and me. Swallow this pill, you got no choice.”
     Your lolo always said that I was the most questioning, doubting child he had: I questioned many things when I was a kid—why a transistor talks, a car runs, an airplane flies, my mom weeps, my dad was always gone, the sky pours rain, the sea is endless, why my dad was always fighting with aunt about an ancestral house, why six kids share one Ligo sardines and one kid throws away pork chops to his dogs, why everybody hates Marcos when Imelda says “All Filipinos are my children”? Because of that, I felt the pain, and it tormented almost most of my childhood—I couldn’t understand the world of grownups. Why were they always complaining about stuff, and the only way that they could settle differences was to fight first?
     My dad or mom never gave me answers, or responses that would’ve satisfied my child’s mind. So I sought out my superheroes for sufficient answers. I found the time to find my Santas—my superheroes: Buck (the dog in Jack London’s books), Batman, Spiderman, Sgt Saunders (in “Combat”), Huck and Finn, Charlie Brown, the sirena (mermaid) and Darna, my komiks heroes. At a time, when I saw many children starving and dying in typhoon areas while politicians feasted in the palace, and barrios were bombed because tribes didn’t want to leave their land, I found solace in the thought that there might be superheroes who’d save these kids.
     And when I became a dad, I made it a point to share toys and burgers from my meager salary to/with these impoverished kids in “da riles” and squatter areas every time I brought you and your sisters your “pasalubongs.” Those poor kids called me “Ka Pasckie,” and it was like I was a savior to their days… and I believed I was Ka Pasckie all my life, like some superhero.  And it felt good to be one at a time when heroes were all washed away by monsoon rains and swept to oblivion by typhoon floods.
    So my son, it’s okay to be cynical because it gives you an other vantage view of life, the grim version of reality. But it’s also okay to believe. Balance keeps us sane, balance makes us write poetry or paint or craft a song. Artists are dreamers and realists that find peace in their work—it balances them, hence they survive. Because if they couldn’t—as did Van Gogh, Hemingway, Woolf, Plath, Cobain etc etc… their world will cave in. I was far from being those guys, but my world almost “caved in” in 1995—and I “died.”
     I wasted myself because I thought life was so real, so fucking painful that I couldn’t take it anymore. But why did I choose to call out loud to God (“If you are true, and you are such divine and superhero, fucking make me live again—because my kids believe in me, they need me, and I don’t want to go unhappy. Just make me live again, please!”)—God was my superhero and he/she made me live again because I wanted to be Santa knocking at the door on our Christmas eves again, or stay a Ka Pasckie in squatters areas. I wanted to share my little superhero-ness to the world…
     BELIEVE that it’s possible, my son. It’s okay to dream…
     Where do I find wisdom in life? In those poor typhoon areas: each calamity, these poor humanity weep—the truth cut them to pieces, they weep until no tears are left to shed… but on Christmas days and fiestas, they celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. They exalt life’s little blessings like a sack of rice or a small hand-me-down shoes or a toy actually came from superheroes and Santas who will be gone by the time the first rain comes down in July… And when the next devastation happens, they will take it—but when they survive, they will celebrate again.
     In an affluent country like America, most stopped believing, or we have become more cynical. We suspect control, abuse, and manipulation in all fronts. We stopped believing that there is a God… in saints, in Santas, in the beautiful pristineness of the past, in “politically incorrect” characters, in heroes real or imagined—we only believe in what we can touch but not those that we can feel… Hence we are sadder than the wounded but smiling and laughing humanity in 7,107 islands back home who still believe that some superhero will blow out of a bleeding rainbow and save them from misery—even for a day, a Christmas, a fiesta. They believe no matter how crazy things are…
     Believe, my son—because if we don’t, that dude that knocks at the front door on Christmas eve will not be a jolly old grandpa in red with a bagful of gifts—but a grim ripper with a box of misery. The world needs a break sometimes, and Christmas is the time to hang out and chill.
     Stay cool! Happy Christmas!
--PAPA
Asheville/Candler, North Carolina

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Asia Isn’t Occupying

THERE was a time, not too long ago, when street turmoil ruled Asia: Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines etc. There may be a number of far in between civil disturbances lately—but certainly, not in the magnitude of Occupy Wall Street’s ruckus and its loud ripples all over the US and Europe.
     Why is that? It’s because Asians are less frustrated with its financial well-being compared with its Western neighbors. While the US and Europe sink in economic quicksand and shudder in mass protests, most of Asia remains relatively unscathed… As early as 1994, I observed that the East has already prepared good, and smartly.
     (And, mind you, I am not talking about China, which started their ascent to capitalist firmaments in the 80s… Beijing pretty much acts on its own—in utter disregard of its regional neighbors, but that’s not my object of discussion at this juncture.)
     The four Asian Tigers—Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan—spelled out economic policies that ignored the neo-liberal ideas by the US (that serve the greater interest of huge banking systems). Instead, they pushed for workforce education, technology advancement, and import substitution. These days, all four nations have developed into high-income economies, and have become world-leading financial centers…

IT should be recalled that Asia, at least for a time, wobbled in currency crisis that sent South Korea reeling when its stock market crash in 1997—although Singapore and Taiwan were relatively unshaken… Hong Kong came under intense speculative attacks—but then HK is China, so how could you beat Beijing? The crisis didn’t last long—all four economies rebounded strongly (as well as Southeast Asian neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia). South Korea has managed to triple its per capita GDP in dollar terms since 1997.
     Then there was the initiative of the Tiger Cub economies: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. These nations pursued an export-driven model of economic development, focused on developing goods for export to highly-industrialized nations. Domestic consumption of foreign products was discouraged through government policies such as high tariffs. Then, education was singled out as a means of improving productivity… Like South Korea and Taiwan, most Tiger Cub nations are now doing great in manufacturing information technology.
     And why is it most call centers are in the Philippines? And why even my two kids are training/teaching Koreans to speak conversational English? Asians didn’t have to travel to the US to study English, they could learn right next door, and less expensive at that.
    The West recognized progress in Asia, hence—they brought their business there to the detriment of their own people. How could giant financial institutions lose or resist the temptation of amassing more money from very low wages—plus the benefit of employing a relatively “obedient” workforce and highly-educated, at that? Profit. Gargantuan profit—none else.

IN a related discussion, Europe’s leaders—notably, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy—recently negotiated with banks to rescue its ailing economy. Sadly, most of these remedies are band-aid solutions that only benefit giant financial institutions more.
     And what do you know, the European Union also plans to borrow money from China—and private lenders (which are essentially, banks), instead of putting up more of its own money. What has happened to Greece’s vaunted shipping industry? Vietnam’s resins trade has soared up in the last two decades, coming from the ruins of war…
     Global power has tilted, indeed. China is the scary one--esp. when time comes (knock on wood) when it finally seized control of the oil-rich South China Sea/Spratlys etc. Meantime, Asia/China holds the West by the neck because of our consumerist mindset and over-dependence to oil-driven technology. They got the factories and the microbytes/workforce that build our e-baubles and computers.
     The West may have controlled the oil in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait--and now Iraq and Libya--but who process those crude oil and petroleum products before we, in the west, can use them? Asians, or workers beyond America and Europe.
     As an aside... Macau, which is (again) essentially China, has collared most of casino investments out of Las Vegas and Reno. The Chinese has the West all figured out: they even know how to lure "sin city" out of the desert...

MOREOVER, the US dollar and Euro keep on competing/investing in the classic brinkmanship style, but these are obviously not working. Wells Fargo et al are so greedy they want everything of the world (WF is trying to buy a huge chunk of Swiss giant, UBS, as well), giant firms bring factories out of the mainland—in expense of their own people.
     Now, the people are out in the streets. Compared with Asia… maybe 20 or 30 years ago, social unrest was ripping Asia apart—but now, they just work, get paid, enjoy their electronic gizmos, and be splurging tourists in the US and Europe (the Chinese, for example, have spent billions in the US in the last 5 years by just being tourists).
     Years ago, export of workforce (called “overseas Filipino workers) saved the Philippines’ economy; now, it’s the importation of work (via call centers and export processing zone contracts from Taiwan, China, and South Korea) that saves the country’s economy…
     This is a lesson to Washington: while thinkers and wizards at the Oval Office were busy head-butting with Iran and Venezuela and North Korea etc, Asia was silently focusing on what should be prioritized, internally: It’s own economic standing and how to utilize their own people serve those plans and policies.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A CASE in re ALABAMA’s H.B. 56: “What if I am a Small American Farmer?”

WHAT if I am a small American farmer? I may have inherited my apple orchard and potato farm, as well as my current Mexican farm-helps, from my dad or grandparents. The Garcias from Juarez, Mexico have been working for the Smiths of Somewhereville, Alabama for 50 years now…
     I am paying $4 an hour—plus free rent and some food—to my Mexican workers and they seem to be fine with the arrangement. My wife, who’s an accountant, pre-calculated that if I pay my workers $8 an hour, I won’t be able to spend or invest more on other farm implements and expenses, including internet marketing. I am always scared that the giant retail store, or stores that seem to be all over these days, will easily gobble my business up.  
     And because I only pay $4 an hour to my amigos and amigas, I am able to lower my apple’s cost that I haul off to the farmers’ market with Luis, my able helper, each weekend. We also drive cross-state to Georgia and elsewhere to deliver some more of my produce. Definitely, my apple is less expensive than what these huge retail stores are selling. With that, I am able to keep my business… I can “compete.”
    Now, my Mexicans/$4-hr workers are gone. They are scared and furious. But then, I can’t miss Luis and the Garcias although I love Luz’s burritos and enchiladas. I have a business and farm to run.
     Most Americans want jobs, like my college buddy and golfing partner, Dantley Cooper, who just lost his job as supervisor in a frisbee plant next town because his job—and the plant—have been shipped to Guangzhou province in China. Darn, he’s been there since graduation—like, 30 years! Hell, I don’t think Coop is cool with $8 an hour though.
     But my other neighbors is fine with it, of course… $8/hr at least, and 40hr workweek. To be able to pay their salaries, I need to cut down on operational expenses, as well. Besides that, my $8/hr workforce only wants to work 40 hours: I won’t be able to meet my week’s and month’s delivery quotas. My current American workers may oblige to $4/hr but, that’d be insane—that money isn’t going to pay their bills, mortgage, car loan, college loan, health insurance, and other credit card acquisitions (computers, cellphones etc). They may get some orchard/farm job but only for a time until they get “real” employment…
     Meantime, my fear has evolved into paranoia. As a small farmer, how’d I be able to keep my business? The store space that I am renting has also jacked up lease cost because it has been bought by a real estate owner who also runs a bank in town. Also, I need to raise the price of my apples to at least recoup the extra $4 than I am paying my current American workers. And I also need to pay my own bills.
     Holy mackerel! A longtime customer exclaimed, “What? Your apple costs $5 now?!? What’s wrong with you, Junior? The apple that my wife bought is only $2! But, hell, it’s imported from Taiwan!” Lordy, I am losing business! I heard, my stall may be taken in by someone who just moved in from Florida, who pays better. I heard he also put up a café beside his store, and has some unemployed kids providing free music. Hell, my son even plays music in there…
     Listen, last week, a dude on Brooks Bros suit, approached me and offered to buy my farm (that I inherited from dad and his ancestors). Tough! My son and daughter are about to enter college… My son said he’ll go to war so he could continue college. Hell, no! I am also behind my mortgage payment on my 7-room house. I only wanted a better life for my kids, you know… life that I didn’t experience growing up.
     Another lady who looks like Dolly Parton, sans the big hair but equally huge breasts, talked to me about simply marketing or distributing apples imported from China. She certainly doesn’t look like Chinese to me yet she seemed more concerned with China than Alabama… Kidding aside though, her deal seems doable. If I cut her a deal, I don’t need to go out there under the sun and cold and supervise my farm anymore… And I won’t be able to hire workers—Mexicans or Americans anymore—and worry about accounting and taxes and stuff. I will also have some front-office help from a calling center in Manila and Hongkong. My wife and daughter don’t have to do that: they have all the time in the world to Facebook and Tweet, whatever.
     Meanwhile, I sit down and contemplate: Do I need my Mexican farm-helps back, really? Or should I just do away with my farm, sit in front of my iMac, text buddies who left their family behind—like Coop—who’s now working in China, advising Chinese workers how to make awesome Frisbees.
     I don’t know. I gotta get going though… The wife wants me to buy her some new shirt at Target. I just hope that it’s not made in China. Ah, I miss Luis—he should be driving me to the mall, my back starts to ache and my insurance says it doesn’t pay for bad back that emanated from working a farm with Mexican workers.
     Hell, I’m just kidding.

--Pasckie Pascua
Just a dude--not Chinese, Mexican, or Alabaman--just a dude like you and him…

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recycle the Cycle

FIVE summers ago, as I sat by a curb on Mission Viejo in San Francisco on a coverage assignment, the sight of a middle-aged man laboriously dragging a pile of trash – or recyclable trash – mostly plastic soda bottles, empty aluminum canisters, and beer cans meticulously stacked on three grocery carts caught my fancy. I reckoned, he earns dinner money and probably, his rent (assuming he wasn’t homeless) by translating his garbage bounty into cash.
     This enterprising gig is made handy via The Dream Machine, a reverse vending machine manufactured by GreenOps that provides access to on-the-go recycling. Consumers can drop off recyclables and receive points redeemable at either the host venue or Greenopolis.com, an interactive community provided by Waste Management that promotes recycling and rewards recyclers.
     Interesting.
     Back in the islands, when I was a kid, I remember a man who visited households on Friday afternoons to trade rice cakes for emptied bottles of all sorts of condiments, spices, and stuff. He then transported these “reusable” vessels to the open market and sold them to vendors—who, in turn, refilled them with homemade and cultured soy sauce, cooking oil, rice vinegar, and what not. The man also collected old newspapers and magazines that were refurbished as bags for rice, salt, beans, veggies, fruits, and sugar.
     Such an ingenious way to recycle, isn’t it? These “consumed” materials didn’t actually go to complex recycling machines—they were simply passed on to the next user, and so on and so forth. Used softdrink (soda) and beer bottles were returned to the store—to be handed back to delivery trucks… I assumed, they’d wash those bottles again and filled them up.
     Imagine how much will the government save if such “recycling cycle” is practiced in America? For example, New York City alone spends something around $55 million per year in recycling efforts, based on 2002 data. As early as 2003, Fort Worth in Texas was making $1 million from their recycling program. But the question is – who earns that dough? Most of these recyclables go to privately-owned MRFs (Materials Recycling Facility). Let’s do the math—billions of dollars go to private companies that recycle our trash… Americans dump an average of 4.6 pounds of trash per person per day, the most in the world. That’d be 1.5 pounds of recycled materials per person per day in the US. Translated, that would be 251 million tons of trash per year.
     Lots of money.
     So is it possible that what I saw when I was a kid in my island days could be done here? I don’t think so… How could that be when we are so scared of catching colds and all sorts of skin infections in case we reuse these used vessels, boxes and cans? Besides, how do we tax these people who collect trash for money? That’s the reason why our carefully sifted recyclable trash are collected separately. These are “golden” commodities—big money to government and huge profit to business…
     Times have changed, indeed.
     A long time ago, hog feeds and dog food were rehashed leftovers. We didn’t use aluminum foils for grilling; banana leaves were a lot better and easy to obtain. There no Goodwills or thrift stores even—people randomly traded clothes and shoes in the same way we traded chicken pork adobo with chicken noodle soup.
     Transactions were easy, uncomplicated. I learned meditation and tai-chi from a 72-year old rice farmer, in exchange for work in his farm. My family’s laundrywoman was the village herbalist and massage therapist and got paid with a dozen eggs or few kilos of rice. Cost of commodities and foodstuff at the open market were not fixed and food staples were mostly negotiated right there. What was called daily interaction is now called business transaction; spontaneous sharing is now “upgraded” as professional consultancy…
     Oh well, oh well—I digress.
     Meantime, I can’t help smile whenever I think about that middle-aged dude in Mission Viejo dragging a pile of recyclable trash. Imagine how many small entrepreneurs in open markets or farmers tailgates would be so happy to buy his merchandise. And how many kids will be so glad to welcome him—and surrender those emptied bottles of Coke and canola oils—for a bag of blueberry muffins…

[From, "The Indie of Asheville," Nov 2011, Asheville, North Carolina]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Barbershop Community

by Pasckie Pascua
[column article, The Indie of Asheville. Oct 2011 issue, print version]

HOW many of us suspect that the “creepy” guy, a loner with a weird goatee, who just moved in a block away, could be a pedophile, an Al Qaeda cell recruiter, or a fugitive running away from a whatever crime in South Dakota? Who knows…
Or how many times have we typed in a precautionary post to the neighborhood yahoogroups mail list about a strange-looking, dark-haired man who frequents Mr Smith’s front yard. Maybe he’s a lookout for some Mexican gang, casing the gated village for house to burglarize?
We don’t know.
We don’t know who our neighbors are anymore. We are all busy googling what could be the profile of a prospective terrorist or thief or rapist or drug dealer. We don’t have time to drop by our new neighbor’s house and offer a chicken lasagna because we need to drive to our 3rd job after we just logged in 10 hours on our 2nd job for the day, or maybe—google has all these figured out, anyway.
Or maybe it’s more convenient to just check out the `hood and the world online or via tweets sent out by some paranoid divorcee or Facebook post by a transplant from California who had too much to drink last night and forgot her pills.
There was a time when we hanged out in the corner barbershop or coffeehouse for hours and bantered and chatted about the new girl on #46 Washington Drive or what’s up with the President’s State of the Nation address? We all played checkers or chess and made fun of Mike’s funny moustache or Jennifer’s new boyfriend from Kentucky—and nobody castigated us, like: “Hey, you’ve been sitting here for 5 hours and all you bought is a $1 green tea. Haven’t you got anything to do?”
That’s it.
Maybe, sometimes we need to do “nothing.” Nothing but hang out and get to know our neighbors and laugh and play checkers or make fun of Michele Bachman or Chad Ochocinco. Or, maybe we could all watch the Super Bowl in Mrs Jones’ backyard?
Who knows, maybe the “creepy” guy who just moved in a block away is actually a cool guy who cooks kickass mung beans soup and an expert in bedbugs? We’ll never know—unless we stride into the barbershop this afternoon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A WRITER’s daily routine seems easy and effortless. Just like what ordinary people do, probably? Not really…
Although my long journalism so-called career – that stretches several decades, from age 14, onto three huge cities (Manila, New York City, Los Angeles) and the internet universe – was punctuated by “do it or die” deadline kick, I find myself struggling to keep a certain semblance of routine these days. My deadline mindset is shot. I am in so dire need of nagging… The superhomey koolcat, Cyd, has been watching me 24 hours on rotation, staring at me like a wolf, seemingly saying: “Dude, quit fiddling on your laptop, quit the freakin’ Food Network crap, quit the procrastinations, quit shuttlin’ from a dozen or so writing projects to a dozen more unfinished masterpieces. JUST WRITE and GET IT DONE!”
Three days ago, I nailed down 4,327 words in two days, then—I am stuck again…
Anyhow, why the hell would I be obsessed with “routines,” anyway? Everybody hates routines. All my life, I have been kept playing hide-and-seek with spontaneity versus system, radicalism against conformity?
I was born and grew up Roman Catholic—you know, Sunday church and rosary rituals and grace-before/after-meals, twelve years of rigid pre-college “boot camp-styled” tour of duty, and “appropriate” behaviors in the house and neighborhood and stuff. Then, I was trained by a fiery editor who literally spewed flames like a paranoid dragon on newsroom crunch time, from 5:15pm to 7:45pm day in and day out—on my birthing years as newspaper reporter. I needed to conform with SOPs and workman’s dogma because that’s what things were supposed to be like.
Indeed, I had a blast protesting such a rigid, uptight regimen, but then—come to think of it, did I really? Did I ever, actually, fully explore or navigate my elongated romance with this thing called, “spontaneity”? Or it was all a struggle between “random” and “method,” and still is? Or, well—what am I ranting about here, really? Isn’t life a silent war of attrition between system and disarray, convention and chaos? And since, I am such contradiction—I am doomed to wrestle with the bleeding truths of my unpredictable existence.

EVERYBODY adheres to a sort of routine, I guess. The working class, like perpetually-exhausted urban urchins tugging along concrete jungle’s rotating valves… they just have to do it. We don’t really have a choice. We all need to conform with the machine’s machinations like toil weary spare parts of fluid production lines.
But what about the ascetics, those who seem to follow vibes and wavelengths and universal ebbtides? How do Buddhist monks keep a certain spiritual flow, for example—amidst a haze of meditative bliss? I mean, I observed (when I backpacked in Southeast Asia and elsewhere) that most “monks” wake up at the crack of dawn, meditate at a given moment on a day… I mean, they got some routine going on somehow.
I call my little existence a spontaneous flow of reflex and regimen, a sort of carefree adherence to a daily work checklist, yet I still fit in my writing schedule in and around my obligatory house chores and personal responsibilities on a methodical pace. Do I believe that suddenly, life has become so crowded—so tedious and pressured? No.
Thing is, I prefer such a daily pattern… I knew it’ll help me get back to my focused, one-story each day reporter’s routine. I need that discipline back and if I don’t, it’s only me to blame. I am basically the only lump of mind and body here, wrestling with my focus and consistency. There’s no one or nothing to blame anymore (like in the past): Not my parental obligations, ideological commitments, societal pressures, whatsoever…
Years ago, it was a lot different—in fact, there’s not much physical room to operate with, yet I was churning out work at an astoundingly consistent way. To think that, at that time, I was raising and feeding little kids—juggling 3 or 4 jobs at a time. But I was right up the flaming cauldron of youthful zeal: activism, romanticism, curiosity, adventure. Those days—I produced quite a body of work: hundreds of songs and poetry, street plays, movie scripts, paintings and murals, stuff. I was all over: a social/political life that tiptoed between subversive frolic and ferocious idealism.
A couple more decades hence, I am here—beaten and battered like driftwood lounging by a riverbank. There’s so much to remember, reflect, redeem—and write. But it’s not that easy… I so want to put system to those memories as they seep through computer pages. I know that the past’s eccentric production of bodies of creative work came at a time when my gung-ho, “hit it anywhere you want it” zeal was a milky way of exploding chakras. But age (or something cosmic maybe?) has overtaken me, I couldn’t be what I was anymore.

I USUALLY begin my day at around 10:30 in the morning—since I normally hit the sack around 3 or 15 past 3 before dawn. That’s already about 7 hours sleep time… Not bad. I may prolong that “rest” into indolence, an hour or so more in bed—if not for Georgia and Chloe (the batcave’s babedawgs) diligently waking me up at 10:30am each day, no fail. Thanks to these lovely animals…
Let the dogs out, bathroom ritual, fix some coffee, switch on the laptop, turn on some 70s music—check emails and Facebook for an hour… My day officially starts.
In between fiddling with my insane list of “works/writings-in-progress”—I attend to about one and half hours obligatory housework. Sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, dishwasher, washer-laundry, beddings… This is not a tiny house and I always prefer to write after a housework (and/or yardwork) and shower, my kind of OCD fix. More or less, I’d be able to devote a good 4 hours daytime on writing each day—that’s excluding more time at night, usually from 10:30pm to 3am.
So mathematically, I can actually work or write and finish something at a given deadline…
At this age, I feel I have “researched” enough of life and living. There are so much in me that I need to reflect on, ponder, process—and then methodically put on paper, like a neatly-arranged stack of emptied wine glasses on a shelf at the cellar. A collection of bad wine and good wine, each bottle tells a different story. These vessels of divergent shapes are empty anyhow—but I’d like to remember how it was when the bottles were full and beaming and sweet and sour.

SO HERE I go again. It’s 7 minutes past 1am on a Monday. MONDAY. Perfect day to restart some kinda routine again? I NEED TO. I’d be cool if I follow through with these words and FINISH a book! I just have to keep on doing it, keep on trying, you know what I mean. Until these daily struggles—uhh, routines—become easy and effortless. There is hope.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

THE freeflowing, living room-feel of MariJo Moore’s reading/group conversation at Crystal Visions in Hendersonville on a Saturday afternoon (June 4th) was very conducive for instant reflection. Ms Moore, a townmate in Candler (12 miles to downtown Asheville), draws on her Native American roots in her poetry. I could easily relate—since most, if not all, of my work take immediate, convenient access to my lineage.
MariJo read and discussed a few excerpts from her new book, “A Book of Spiritual Wisdom.” The part that caught me was her exploration of humanity’s connection—or, if I may, “connectedness”—with the past… Suddenly, I was thrown in reflective memory.

I WAS already on midlife age when I decided to live in America. Tons of heavy baggages clogged my chest as I nonchalantly, albeit willingly, immersed myself in the heartland, so to say. At first, I wanted escape from my past—a long history of relationship struggles and loss of self-worth. More significantly, I was fleeing from gaping wounds of my long work as fiery supporter of the organized Left in the Philippines—which, at that time, was in the process of correcting errors that created huge organizational crack on the revolutionary movement for more than a decade since its founding in 1968.
When I flew to New York City in 1998, I hadn’t an iota of idea what’s in store for me—I just wanted to leave. I felt lost and “spiritually homeless.” The private battle within me that almost cost me my life in 1995 when a near-fatal lung ailment befell me was still crawling in my system like an insistent spider pushing its way out.
Quite naturally, my logical impulse—being a writer and artist—was to write and create work that speaks beyond my personal experiences. I wanted to run and forget—and eventually, regroup somewhere far as a new person. I planned to maybe pen my own “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” kind of stuff—some diversionary excursion that is beyond my realm of realistic immediacy. Or maybe an Elmore Leonard noirish crime caper set in Brooklyn, or why not tackle a subject that is way off my cultural background and geographical reference—probably an Appalachian-inspired mystery thriller?
So I tried…
While in New York City, I cranked out volumes of words—in between editing a weekly Filipino newspaper in Manhattan—and spent most of my non-working days detained in an Ozone Park, Queens basement studio, writing like an avenging crow, painting like a serpent on fire. It was winter of 1999. I was consciously pushing myself to forget by banging my head on just about any idea that popped in my head—while intermittently attacking canvases like a madman. Spray paints, scrounged latex, found objects etc. As a result, I ruined my lungs and had to subject myself to surgery eight months after when a toxic lump accumulated on my right lung.
Then I flew to Asheville, North Carolina a few weeks after being discharged from a Secaucus, New Jersey hospital to recuperate. I purposely schemed to be in a place where no one knew me or nothing reminded me of my past. It served my purpose pretty well. No one knew where the hell I emanated from in the backwoods of Weaverville, a few miles to city proper.
But that was just temporary. It wasn’t about the people around me. It was about me. I was struggling to create, to write—to make sense of my life. But I couldn’t craft anything new. Nothing made sense. The thousands of words that I produced in New York amounted to rubble, so I thought at that time. I wanted a continuum, but I couldn’t move on—there were so much to remember. The more I ran, the more I kept coming back. I couldn’t get pass 2,000 words of focused writing. Just when I felt I was on a roll, I started hitting bumps and humps. I get derailed so easily.

IT WAS then that I came to accept that it’s impossible for me to write a totally make-believe work of fiction or a story that is beyond the parameters of my real existence. There was so much to deal with in regards my past… I was and still am connected to those days—where my spirit emanates and palpitates. I have to let go and find release to all the wounds, joys, misery, and celebrations that traversed through my life’s roadsides and alleyways and then gather them on the middle of the highway or desert isle. And, like spare parts of a giant puzzle—I’d like to rebuild my life, piece them together, through those memories… those words, as I write them.
The memories aren’t just linked to my own personal realities. These were attached to everything that I was born into, grew up with, and evolved as a human being: those endless monsoon rains, destructive floods, unmitigated hunger and sickness in urban slums and rural towns, senseless killings. All these crisscross with tiny details: a creaking Underwood typewriter that pierced through the nights, half-naked kids running around streets, endless Christmas celebrations, festive chaos during fiesta seasons, my beaten-down pair of street sandals, my grandmother chopping up onions and garlic for arroz valenciana, my grandfather gesturing around like the way he was at war in Bataan and in his mind, my mom and dad fighting over silly jealousies and insecurities, my 4 brothers and 4 sisters before fate took me oceans away from them.
I have to let go off these memories before I sit down, write a new book, and find peace and quiet. It’s a journey within. I am still struggling—but I am almost there… I just have to keep on remembering the past than running away from it.

[MariJo Moore’s new book, “A Book of Spiritual Wisdom—for all days,” is available at Crystal Visions, 5426 Asheville Highway, Hendersonville, NC 28791, (828) 687-1193, and Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801-2834, (828) 254-6734. http://www.marijomoore.com/ / PHOTOS by Jimmy Ancheta Domingo]

Friday, May 27, 2011

NEWS: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is buzzing in Yahoo! Search for an unusual reason: his eating habits. The social network pioneer told Fortune Magazine that he is challenging himself to eat more responsibly and sustainably. He's not separating himself from meat; he's getting closer to it. "The only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself," the 27-year-old billionaire told Fortune. "It's easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day." So far he's slaughtered a goat, slayed a pig, and boiled a live lobster. The response around social media has been positive. Many say they applaud his thoughtful way of eating.
Slaughter, slay… sounds bad, eh? I can name a few hundred of friends—good tax-paying citizens, cool and responsible families, and peace-loving human beings—who own small farms and… well, also “slaughter and slay” animals that they raise, so they could feed their kids and neighbors.
Something is wrong with this news, huh?
I believe what we should be concerned about--and should spend more energy on--is to protest the wholesale and massive “slaughter, slaying, and boiling” of humans and environment in war, just because humanity love drinking OIL instead of toxic soda and contaminated bottled water. Imagine the extent of devastation wrought by war and big business annihilation in rainforests and farmlands that are so far away from our comfort zones… and here we are blabbering about the so-called political-incorrectness or “inhumanity/cruelty” of our reality-TV mentality.
If some people want to eat meat that is murdered by a minimum wage earner with 3 kids in Birmingham, Alabama, or killed by a billionaire who, well—just committed genocide to animals that he gobbles up, or some people prefer a healthy diet of hummus, tempeh and tofu, organic fresh produce and non-antibiotics meat products… so be it. Good eating, be happy. Let's leave them alone in peace and quiet while they enjoy their dinners.
NEXT NEWS, PLEASE…

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WHEN I write love poems, my flow seems unaffected, freefalling, easy. The creative moondance isn’t so constrained, guarded, or pondered so deeply—like my usual high-handed, mostly politically-charged, sermonizing writings. It’s relatively hard to judge a love poem as incorrect or self-righteous, judgmental or condescending (like what I usually get when I discuss/argue a sociopolitical discourse). Love poems are very private and personal yet they easily, effortlessly cut across a wider audience—irrelevant of cultural background, ideological leaning, sexual orientation, or age level. Everybody can freely own them… And I like my work to always tread that wavelength—so that I can reach more humanity…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MANY times when I am asked—or I’m motivated—to speak my mind about how I feel about America (or the west in relation to east/Asia/rest of world)… I’m left with two natural options.
[1] KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT, stay glued in my “ethnic” community’s comfort zones, and “mind my own business.” Bothersome… since, this would mean that – if I opt to be safe and silent and distance myself from what’s going on around me, that’d be tantamount to willingly plastering a duct tape on my spirit’s mouth. Have you ever hogtied your own hands and arms on a concrete picket fence? Probably, you did—but clamming up our own mouths is gross self-abuse. Sado-masochism.

ERGO: Beyond the popular thinking that a proverbial evil came with colonization and invasion, somewhere—I also saw a light of wisdom that inched through the cracks when the beautiful, articulate White Man landed in the islands (of my birth). With a saintly smile painted across his immaculate face, the White Man persuaded the Brown Man to come out of his warm, easy shell—and inspired/coaxed/motivated the native dude to speak his mind and trade crafts, arts, food, merchandise and all that good stuff—with him and the rest of the world. Beautiful synergy.
So White Man, Brown Man talked.
In no time at all, the White Man provided a gorgeous ship for the Brown Man to reach America. The Brown Man farmed the earth for apples and grapes, cleaned frozen fish for canned food, leveled the mountains to usher railroads, hopped in another kind of ship to help fight his friend’s adversaries in war, etcetera etcetera.
While doing work, most Brown Men chose to keep quiet and minded their own business… Yet, some were thinking otherwise. They saw the beauty of speaking their minds out—in music, poetry, art, media, activism—despite the risks and dangers and discomfort that “free speech” may invite. The sublimity of speaking one’s mind is a hallmark of American Democracy, they reckon—but why is it, as a koolcat dude named Cat Stevens once sang, “… from the moment that I could talk, I was ordered to listen.”
So, the Brown Man was called so many English words that he never knew before: Judgmental, critical, condescending, rude, narcissist, arrogant, disrespectful, egoistic, inconsiderate, loud, unreasonable, holier-than-thou, one-tracked-mind, asshole.
Sadly (or fortunately), I belong to that Brown Man Group. 

[2] I SPEAK MY MIND—the way I feel it.  While many favored (and took pleasure) from my words, some vehemently resisted them. While I heap praises and acceptance about/to so many stuff and things—ie FREEDOM—in America, I also pose so many contradictions and anomalies around it. But it all sums up to: As we savor the freedom to agree, we also exalt the freedom to disagree. Take it or leave it—everybody has their own community and sectors and friendships and cults and religions and circles to dance around with.
When people speak their minds in a social forum or work of literature or media that is shared with the public, I don’t believe it is an imposition of political advocacy, religious dogma or personal aggrandizement. We speak because we have a mind that beats and functions as deliverer of messages. If we are mute and deaf, we will find a way to express our inner truths… Unless we let the nuzzle of a  gun or the blade of a machete to express that truth, “speaking”—no matter how people’s ears reject them—is a gift of humanity.
I doff my hat to those who dared let their spirits fly with words than those who choose to be nice and quiet… Wake up and speak!

Monday, May 9, 2011

BELOW is a reaction/elaboration to a previous comment on my Facebook page—in regards one of my poems. Here is the poem—adapted from a Diane Burns poem of the same title:

Ask Me a Personal Question

You are puzzled and want to know.
No, I'm not Chinese. Not Thai, not Hmong.
No, not Mexican or Puerto Rican.
So you think I am maybe American Indian;
an Indian, but not from India.
So you think we are extinct?
A Navajo. Sioux? Or maybe just Indian.
But sorry, I can't make it rain tomorrow,
check the Weather Channel out.
I don't know how to powwow
and I haven't been to a sweat lodge.
No, I don't know where to buy Navajo rug
real cheap. My necklace, I didn't make this,
not at all. I bought it at Wal-Mart,
and this came from China.
No, we don't drop on our knees
at a tip of a hat to pray to our God.
But we do pray to a God with a face
and body like yours.

So you also think I am Filipino.
from the Philippines; but sorry,
It is not a province in India.
Although sometimes you think
I am not actually Asian,
you do believe that I drink sake at sunup
instead of coffee, when all I want
is Heineken or red wine.
No, I don't eat snakes or crickets.
And certainly, I don't eat dogs,
except when it's Super Bowl weekend
(but, of course, I am only kidding).
I don't use chopsticks or my bare hands
when I chow down lasagna at Olive Garden either,
and I read Kafka and shakes my hip
to Li'l Wayne and Foo Fighters
just like my homeys in South LA.
I also know how to negotiate Interstate 40
without a GPS. But I don't listen to the wind's
direction either.
I do speak English--yes, I do
I am sorry that you can't make out any sense
from my weird accent
but like my friend in Tennessee,
I just love the sound of her words
each time she talks--
sometimes that's all that matters.

Yes, some of us maybe American Indians
and Filipinos do drink too much.
But some of us don't even drink Corona Lites
or Diet Pepsi.
We did not come from Mars.
This is not a stoic look.
This is just my face.

by Pasckie Pascua
(with apologies to Diane Burns)


MOST of us, especially Americans, came from so many ethnicities/bloodlines… Same with Filipinos—we are very mixed (Austronesian, Malayan, Spanish, American, and other Asian-Pacific lineage)—and our (acquired) sensibility/sensitivity are influenced by colonizers (Spain and America) and other people who traded business with us in the past, up to the current times. The Philippines’ strategic location in the South China Sea is very significant as trading post for sailing/wayfaring merchants and refueling station and defensive fort during war for the US, primarily. But then, that’s an entirely different discussion, although significantly related to my point.
Main subject, my poem: Am I offended by questions/queries about my ethnicity? It’s more a question of how these questions were formulated or delivered. Let me cite two contrasting sets of questions/questioning (in public) posed to me:
(1) “What is your ethnicity? You have an interesting face…” A young lady at Westville Pub (where I usually hang near my `hood in Asheville) asked me. I noticed that she’s been staring at me for minutes. It was an honest curiosity… which is fine. Many Americans are not aware or well-informed of ethnic/tribal backgrounds of people beyond whites and blacks (Afro-Americans). I taught or lectured in public schools here and I am a bit fascinated and mildly surprised that many (American) youths thought that the Philippines is a province in India or a part of Hawaii, some even believed the country is located in South America. So when they see a Filipino who look like white or Chinese or Mexican, they get confused. So I explain… (Besides that, as I suspected, the Westville Pub lady thought I was Native American Indian, “but not really, I think…”)
(2) “Do you know how to speak English?” / “Do you have cable TV and computers in the Philippines?” / “Do you eat dogs in the islands?” Surely, these questions reek of ignorance—it sort of dismisses Filipinos as illiterates and/or savages. I must admit that some Filipinos dine on dog meat—but it isn’t a sweepingly simplistic issue of carnivorous disregard of animals just because most Americans treat their pet dogs as intimate members of the family. In the same way as some Hindus or East Indians don’t eat cow meat and Muslims don’t eat pork, there is always a cultural/religious/creed-related reason to people’s behaviors, eg some northern tribes in Luzon island (in the Philippines) regard dog meat as medicinal, eg some Vietnamese people regard cobra blood in the same light… Otherwise, what’s the difference between dog meat and hog meat when it comes to food… So when defensive or offended “ethnics” counter-charge: “So you don’t eat dogs, but you justify your wars, instead?” the counter-slurs remain unabated.
One time, I was reading a New York Times at a subway in NY. A white man was kind of ogling at me and/or the newspaper on my hand. Then he asked me, “Do you understand English?” So I glared back at him and said, “Yes, I do. I am Swedish.”

QUESTIONS like those exemplify ignorance and sometimes connote a suggestive air of “I am better than you, you don’t even know how to eat the decent way or understand simple English…” I get a lot of these… One time, when I was reading in an open mic in Los Angeles, a white lady—a former university professor at that--approached me (in two different occasions) and offered: “Why don’t you just let someone else who speaks the language better read your poems?” 
For me, that is gross insensitivity. Obviously, based on my accent (which isn’t really that bad, my friends say)—I am a foreigner. I was translating my (cultural) truths on a borrowed language. I wasn’t teaching English 101 or selling vacuum cleaners to an Orange County house… We need to know other people by being sensitive of/to the truths within and not just look at spoken language/nuance on a superficial way, or based our reaction only through our sociocultural standpoint. I don’t want and cannot speak with the same accent as people who were born, grew up and educated in the US. My accent is a product of what/who I am. When I recite my words, these are more human sounds, music—a juxtaposition of sounds, cultural sounds…
The lady ex-professor, she asked me (after I told her, I came from the Philippines, a former colony of the US and a country that is practically guided/governed by Washington’s foreign policy): “Do you speak English in the Philippines?” My response: “Why don’t you google it?”

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother...

I CAN STILL remember, so vividly – a distressing and ghastly, but poignant sight… One rain-drenched late September afternoon of my childhood, as I wandered my 5-year-old worth of sensibility at a typhoon-ravaged ricefield from outside my weeping windowpane, many years ago… Claws and talons gallantly hoisted like flaming arrows and spears, a mother hen shields her infant from a tenacious dahongpalay (ricestalk viper). She’s ready to fight to the death—but, no—no deadly fangs or menacing thunderstorm can take her child away, as long as she’s there. I watched in frightened awe as the hen bravely staved off the equally intent ferocity of the snake, and then successfully drove the slithery intruder away. After a few seconds, however, mother fowl shook, fell, and slumped to death. Fatally bitten, bloodied and weak, yet she managed to stand her ground and to protect her little child, to her last breath—till the viper crawled away, blood oozing from its beaten body.
Painfully heart-wrenching, spontaneous, survival instinct. A Mother dies so that a Child lives. I wondered out loud, in perplexed innocence, at that instance—does my own Mother love me that way, too? Will she fight for me, die for me—to protect me from clear and present danger?

MOST OF THE 40+ years of my life, I didn’t really spend with my Mother or with my other four brothers and four sisters. I was always the kid-on-absentia, the incurable loner, deep thinker – always the one who opted to be isolated, physically far but near enough to feel the parental warmth and affection that weren’t necessarily, exclusively directed to me but nevertheless geared toward all of us, collectively, the nine siblings.
Since a child, I always preferred to exist independently from my immediate family—I’d rather travel and live with distant relatives and friends in far-flung barrios, “hideaway” mountain cities, coastal/beachfront villages… Hence, I jumpstarted my journalism career at age 14 so I could always have an excuse to be away. My voracious wanderlust spirit didn’t subside even as I willingly, freely, and deeply immersed myself in my work as years passed by. Yet, I know that I tried my darndest best to spend most summer months and Christmastimes with my Mom and family, either in our ancestral house in Quezon City, a bustling suburb of Manila, or in the many towns and cities that my Dad hustled most of my younger bros/sisters and my Mom—although most times I was somewhere, not home. When I started traveling to the far southern islands of the Philippines, and eventually in other countries—many times, my family didn’t even know where I was. Amazingly though, my Mom always had ways and means to find out.
When the 9/11 tragedy struck New York City, my Mom thought I was stranded in Manhattan, or worse, caught inside World Trade Center—where I was supposed to take the Path Train towards Newark Airport on my way back to North Carolina on that fateful Tuesday morning. It was never my practice to call my family… and at that time, I was (as usual) fighting with my Dad. I didn’t want to communicate…
Whenever she had the chance, my Mom never failed to reassure me that she’s always praying that I’d be safe wherever I choose to be, and I always believed her… Days before 9/11, when she found out from a friend, that I was flying to NYC (from North Carolina) for a gig at CBGB, she prayed so hard for my safety.
Imagine how many nights, how many days, how many years did my Mother pray to God so that I’d be safe, protected, taken cared of… I was always the warrior without a weapon, the madman who discovers purpose in life only when I am healing the wounded, speaking/writing for the downtrodden—and that, I could only satisfy that sublime thirst for life on the dark side if I hit the road. So my Mom was always far away from me, somewhere, praying and praying that God never forsake me.
Deep in my heart, I actually believe—till now—that God or The Blue Sky God/dess is watching over me, all through my triumphs and tribulations, bad deeds and good deeds... as what my Mom told me.
From a very young age, I accepted that, indeed, I was clearly the odd-kid-out in the family. With eight other siblings running around the house, I believed and understood that my parents, especially my Mom, simply didn’t have enough time to pay attention to my rambling inquisitions about life, my grand tales of fantasized adventures, and such and such. My Mom always listened, quietly—although, many times, I insisted that she should listen more to my stories.
My Dad loved cars, electricals, and yardwork – but I chose to spend hours and hours inside the library or in my room, writing my little dreams down on those crazy sheaves of bond papers that my Mom scrounged from everywhere, or I simply fed my small-mind with black&white Christopher Lee-Peter Cushing horrors or Cowboy-Indian movies or Huckelberry Finn stories, almost every night. One persistent wish that lingered in my young mind was that – Mom would, one day, give me more time… just her and me.

MY MOTHER didn’t have a profession or a career, although she managed to get to the freshman year of a Law degree and she once worked as a part-time travel agent and unsuccessfully managed a family business or two. But she was always obediently and attentively watching my Dad, whatever my Dad ventured to frolic on or dabble about. Her life was simply Dad and the kids…
In those years of insecurities and vulnerability, a profound and beautiful sense of tenderness and forgiving humanity continually exuded from my Mom’s heart. She was a martyr, the self-sacrificing Wife and Mother who will always sit there by the porch, patiently waiting for the Husband and the Children, coming home from work and school, with a ready smile and caring touch. She was always there beside us kids, all of us, whenever one is sick… never mind if it’s just a slight summer fever. So much so that having a fever or flu was something that I actually hoped I always had—so that my Mom will surely be there beside me.
I remember those days and nights, when I was a child, when she tenderly wiped my forehead with lukewarm cloth all through the night, waiting for my temp to fizzle down… It was the same attentive, patient Mother who spent days and nights—for more than a month—sitting beside my bed in a Jersey hospital after a surgery in 2000. The same warm hands, the same soft voice. In those moments, I never accepted or allowed visitors. I preferred to have her, all by myself – for, after all these years, finally—I had her to myself.

BUT THEN – despite all these, I never thought my Mother understood my language or spirit or my dreams. But does it matter? All I knew was, like a loving Mother, she supported EVERYTHING that I did. She never protested or even tried to control my decisions—even though, many times, it meant that she had to worry endlessly for the safety of my well-being.
My Mother has always been a Catholic Conservative but she never pushed her religious convictions or even her personal beliefs on anything—she was a follower, she was for something that makes us all kids and my Dad happy, it’s as simple as that.
I remember one day, when my brother Alberto (17-years-old at that time), came home with a drunken prostitute and declared, “She will be living in our house from now on.” My Mom simply said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.” All my sisters vehemently protested but Mom pacified them all by saying, “That makes your brother happy, please understand him. He loves her...” When three of my other brothers got into all kinds of trouble, from drugs to neighborhood brawls, she’s the one who instantly encashed money and bailed them all out, no questions asked. In her old age, there were many instances that she even lied to us about buying her medicines… she kept money all year long so she can readily buy birthday and Christmas gifts for her growing number of grandchildren. After her heart bypass in Philadelphia in early 2002, we tried in vain to convince her to stay more years in the US so she’d get better medical treatment… but she always whined and was constantly sad because she said she couldn’t stand being away that long from her grandchildren in the Philippines.
I remember when the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos’s soldiers raided and padlocked our newspaper office in 1982, and I (against the soldiers’ order) decided to remain inside the building to make sure that no “bad documents” will be planted by the military that could be used against us… my Mother stood vigil outside. I was very young, and I haven’t even had a clear grasp of the danger that I just got into. But she waited and waited outside, with a rosary on her hand… I can remember the tearful sight of my Mom—scared, tired and relieved—when I finally emerged from the building and into her waiting arms…
I never thought my Mother’s incessant tears, and low, meek voice were proofs of defeat or fragility. She is the strongest woman—deep within—that I’ve ever known in my life. It’s primarily because she had the most potent of resolve to love, and commit to it, like it’s all that matters in this life. Without that love that was freely and selflessly given out to us all her children – without that indefatigable, unswerving love for my Father, we don’t have a family at all. We wouldn’t survive the hard times—all nine kids—given all of my Father’s miscues and mishaps.
When my Dad worked in Saudi Arabia for almost ten years, only visiting home one month each year, my Mom stayed faithful to him and responsible with all of us. My other brothers and sisters recall that there was never a day or a span of five or six hours straight that my Mom was away from their sight. She was always present around the kids… she wouldn’t even have a 30-minute afternoon coffee with a male friend.
That strength in my Mom’s beautiful vulnerability and staunch loyalty are the power that melded us all—because it was coming from sincerity and honesty, not from practical reason, but from sheer love and devotion, straight from the heart. For me, that is the Force that should stay within humanity—a love that can’t be swayed or broken or crushed. Love is strong, real love isn’t physical so it can never be broken or destroyed… My Mother had that kind of Love – which makes her an embodiment of true human strength.

MY MOTHER passed away on Aug 6 in a Manila hospital—around 1 or 2pm in Asheville, on a “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” day. Almost at the same time, last year, she slipped into a coma following an almost fatal stroke… On both occasions, the rain fell all over downtown Asheville like fresh tears from heaven, halting my “beautiful madness.” My brave and courageous Mother survived more than 12 months of physical pain, emotional sacrament, spiritual misery—to assure me that, when she’s finally gone, her strength will envelope my journey and my dream should be, will be realized. That’s what she told my eldest and middle sisters Tess and Alma months before she finally went away.
The Sky wept that day… My Mother knew all through her almost 70 years of life on earth, that nothing will stop me from pursuing what I set to pursue. I was always the odd-kid-out in the family, who opted to “run away” and seek my peace in humanity—in turn, I turned my back on my family. Yes, indeed, it took Divine Intervention, like the benevolent rain, to stop or make me pause from my neverending journey, to tell me, “Please, remember, you have a Mother…”
A Mother will always be—ever be—around to nurture, nurse, heal, reenergize their children, no matter what, in whatever course in life the kids choose to venture… Right or wrong, a Mother stands upright and brave to their children’s choices. My Mother, for once, never questioned why I had to take to the hills and commune with the underprivileged, why I had to leave my people because I believed it’s only in America where my calls for peace and justice will be heard. Even though she couldn’t comprehend what was it in my grandiose lunacy that keeps me going, she always said, “Be careful… I am proud of you.”
When a copy of an article (at the Mountain Xpress) written about me reached her in Manila, it was like I “came home,” my sister Alma told me. My Mom’s brain halted by medication, a tube stuck to her neck, nevertheless her heart was very articulate—she ran her fingers across my photo in the article and pressed the magazine to her chest, and muttered, without words, only her lips moving, “That’s my son… my son.”

MY MOM WAS a Mother more than a parent—her sincerity was more of devotion than responsibility, commitment than a duty. She was more of Wife than a partner—her love was eternal and ethereal than reasonable or effective. She was there, always there, to fulfill an obligation—not because she made an oath to society’s conscience, a-front the watchful eyes of religion, but it’s because she made a vow to a boundless, selfless humanity that gives without necessarily receiving. Blind and upfront even in the face of apathy, defeat, and utter vulnerability… she exorcised enough strength and power from her resilience, stubbornness, and unswerving faith to keep the Family and Marriage alive.
It is hard to pin her down because of her faults and mistakes—that are often judged and written off as stupidity and martyrdom—because her honesty and loyalty towards her choices in life are simply beyond human deduction and “educated” sense of logic. She’s like a freefalling leaf that flies and floats and wafts, depends on how the wind chooses to blow and ebb but patiently and persistently negotiates her choices of destiny with whatever situation is handed down to her… In other words, she’s not a fighter, she is a lover—her armor is her vincibility. Because of that, she survived the turbulence and cruelty of a perpetually threatened motherhood and marriage… it’s all about faith, it’s all about that unflagging belief that life is a gift, not a privilege—some God-given garden of roses that should be nurtured and caressed than watered and sheltered.
Such is a Mother. She is the inspiration, the Muse that makes us believe that Love is still possible and Family still exists. She is the Nurturer of Dreams that makes me believe that even my most quixotic madness has a destination, someone who believes in her child’s madness even though she couldn’t understand it… For, how am I supposed to understand the bond that connects a child to the mother—that was forged right from conception in her womb and carried there for nine long months, then delivered to earth with fresh blood and sweet pain? And when the umbilical cord is cut, that streak of tears running down her face as the baby screams the first cry of life—that is magic, that is love, that is the world. How am I supposed to experience that? It’s beyond me, beyond my limitations as a man…
A song says, “The time between meeting and finally leaving, sometimes is called falling in love…” For my mother, falling in love is eternity, it will only grow and grow, it’s ceaseless, it’ll carry on, on and on. She has fallen in love with Life and it stayed in her heart until the heart’s mortal beating stopped… Because of that, her Spirit will never leave this Life.

ALL OF US, within, is a child, and there will always be a time when the child goes home, looks around for warmth, for peace, for quiet—of a soft touch, a comforting shoulder, a kiss. All these will only happen, will only be possible because there is always a Mother whose hand are always open, whose heart is always ready to welcome us home, waiting… No questions asked, no words are necessary—a Mother will always be there, waiting.
So wherever I am, whenever, whatever happens… I will always be home in my Mother’s spirit. And I will always be taken cared of. I am very sure of that. Although I haven’t had the chance to fully thank her before she left… The Blue Sky God/dess is always there around me to relay my message, to bridge me, to link me up whenever I need to, wherever she may be—and The God/dess will bring me home to her heart and then I’ll let my Mother know that I thank her for letting me live in this world… a beautiful life, a beautiful love.
I’d like to heal within the glory of your love, the wisdom of your memories. Mom, thank you for making me, thank you for giving me the gift of life.

[--by Pasckie Pascua, written few days after my mother, Georgiana Ravanzo Pascua, passed away in the summer of 2005, at age 68]

Painting by Pablo Picasso