In the Philippines, many businesses and industries follow a Chinese superstition regarding starting projects on August, which they call the “ghost month.” I’m too lazy and filled with so much deep and personal writing from last night to actually try and discover the exact origin of the “ghost month.” All I can remember is that the Chinese don’t believe in starting projects or new enterprises during this period and try to curb spending and actual releasing of money because of the nature and atmosphere of the “ghost month.”
I’ll call it the ghost month for other reasons, as of the moment, because it has been a wild, emotional ride, as of late.
I’m being pulled and tugged in all sides and while my passion for writing has been renewed and I am energised and so ready to work on new projects — many new projects have come to me that I’m excited and raring to begin working on — I have two projects that are hanging around my room, like literal ghosts, waiting for me to finish them. They are pulling me down, mostly, because I’ve been working on them for so long, and I am being a brat about not working on them because of all the fiery hoops I was made to do for the past year on one project, and the artistic conflict I’m having with the other. Both projects were shining so brightly when I first began on them and time has made it so that they barely flicker. I’ve moved on, the world has moved on, and I’m a different person now than I was when I started these things.
Finishing those two projects would be like bringing back the dead. I’d have to perform a seance and a resurrection over the course of the next few days so that I can finally finish it, and lay it to rest in the proper rest, once and for all.
I cannot begin my new journey and explore these new worlds until these stories are finally put to rest.
And this PDAF scam brouhaha has just taken a turn for the worst. She surrendered and now she is being treated like a queen as she has turned into a state witness. Lest we forget she is a suspected mastermind of a scam that involves ten billion pesos of tax payer’s money. This whole circus has begun and it has been days since her surrender and no one is under the trial yet; it is still being investigated and they are taking their bloody time and all the guilty parties are taking this opportunity to clean up their books, fix their records, and manufacture their alibis.
The money is still lost and unaccounted for, and only God knows what’s happening to the money that is appropriated for this year and the next! And the worst part, people have stopped clamouring. Some still do, some are trying to stay vigilant, but the tens of thousands of people who were there at Luneta last August 26, most of them have gone back to their day-to-day lives, back to the grind. Back to survival mode, it seems. How sad that we cannot sustain our collective anger enough to enforce justice, to demand change, and to instil a sense of what is right in our society.
And then, Sonata is coming out in ten days. My movie. It’s coming out very soon. And while I want to spend the rest of the days working on getting the word out, it feels a little wrong to talk about Sonata when all of this has happened — and then there’s Syria and Russia — and is happening, and it is pulling me in all directions.
The ghost month. I don’t know what it means. One of these days I will check and find out what it really entails. But until then, this month, I feel like I died on an emotional level, and then resuscitated by an ideal, by art.
The ghost month. Boo!
Last night, Janet Napoles has surrendered to the president a day (or few days) after he placed a ten million peso bounty on her head. Janet Lim Napoles is the woman who was tagged as a major benefactor in the pork barrel scam and the person who created fake NGOs in order to receive large sums of money from the government and pocketed thirty percent of it (giving the rest back to the politician who authorised the fund’s release to the fake NGO).
My Facebook newsfeed and Twitter feed is running rampant with cries of foul and that the whole thing was horrendously scripted. Public trust is lost and we can all see the strings being pulled and the machinations of government mind control at its worst. Someone wrote on his Facebook wall, saying:
The handling of the Napoles surrender is so naively conceived (yes, conceived dahil judgmental ako). Last night while I was watching the news, 3 key triggers were strung to create a net-take-away (and luma ng concept) a. Napoles, nagparamdam na susuko kay Tagle. b. The President goes on cam to say that there’s a P10M reward for Napoles’ capture. c. Napoles surrenders to the President (then Napoles will be turned over to Roxas). Expected public perception outcomes : a. Tagle is outside the scam-loop, he is trustworthy = the President is like Tagle therefore he is trustworthy. b. The president trusts Roxas, so he is a trustworthy successor. c.The P10M reward ensures everyone is paying attention. None of that is happening, instead: a. Who is footing the P10M reward? Pera nanaman naming yan! b. The President is not the hero of the day, he is diminished by directly dealing with a perceived criminal. c. Napoles, is more powerful than the president and manipulated the whole system all the way to the President d. Napoles will turn state-witness therefore she is not the mastermind. d. Roxas will run in 2016, please give him a chance. Utang na loob ito ni Presidente kay Roxas. e. This smells too much of a script. f. Gawa ito ng mga Ancient Aliens. The President’s advisers should be fired.
This has to be carefully played out because the people are angry, they are still angry, and we want answers, and we want people to fall. We want a fast and precise investigation and we want the guilty parties all to receive the harshest penalty that the law provides.
We want a total uprooting of the current system that obviously does not work. We want transparency.
I wrote an article about the #millionpeoplemarch for YoungStar yesterday, and it was impassioned and full of hope, stating how significant that gathering was. Many might have seen it as unsuccessful, but I saw it as a powerful opening salvo of what we can do now that we have a common enemy. Different groups with different political ideologies can work together if the cause is great enough. Just because we didn’t hit one million people doesn’t mean we can’t reach that number.
But I wrote that article before Napoles had surrendered. The situation has changed and I wish I had written the article as something more hostile; more of a warning than a hopeful expression of my ideals. I hope that there isn’t enough space in YoungStar tomorrow that my article didn’t come out, or that someone else wrote something better. I feel that, with the situation what it is now, that it is off-key as an article.
This is far from over. People are watching and they are watching closely. Too many people have been implicated and words are not going to be enough this time round. All their statements and declarations about a corruption-free government and the “Daan Makatuwid” is all just bullshit, as of now. Their words are as effective as band aids on a cancer patient. We want action. We want to see actual results.
This isn’t over. It is far from over. We are not even in Act II of this sordid play just yet. We are still somewhere in Act I, I think. We were all ready to take to the streets and we can do it again. Truth of the matter, it’s in our blood. It’s in our genetic structure. We did it so many years ago when we toppled the Spanish regime back in the 19th Century, and we took to the mountains and brought the fight to the Japanese during World War 2. We marched in EDSA and deposed a dictator and we did it again to impeach a president.
Do not think, for one second, we aren’t ready to do it again.
they gathered in droves,
the majority dressed in white
stripping away the individual,
inadvertently making each person’s face
more prominent, more pronounced.
they were all angry, they all had enough
and most of them wore white.
they spoke amongst each other
a hushed drone that reverberated,
though some brought their megaphones
and chanted and screamed,
raising their fists and punched the heavens,
hoping stars would fall,
hoping clouds would bruise.
but it wasn’t what was uttered
that was the loudest voice;
the shout took the form
of thousands of people;
the sight of it was thunderous
mountains crumble not from one drop
but from the constant fall of rain.
What is rain?
It is thousands, millions of rain drops
falling and crashing unto the mountainside
stripping it away of everything
that keeps it solid and together.
Even mountains crumble,
scattered by the wind as dust.
Let ir rain.
Let it rain drops of white,
one by one by one,
until the mountain stands no more,
I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I was hoping it would feel like EDSA 2; when we all banded together at EDSA and, hand-in-hand, voiced our distaste and displeasure of then-president Estrada. We toppled that administration, only to usher in another corrupt demon; this one was more canny, though. This one was tougher to beat.
I guess I was expecting that. I had so much anger and energy and drive but there was no where to direct it to. I arrived late after having stayed up toying with ideas for a project that is born from all of this. That’s the thing about art, I guess, if it is any good it will last. While this protest gathering is important and significant; the numbers are staggering and serves an important purpose which is to show our collective might and for us to become comfortable with each other; to recognise each other as kin, as people with the same anger and rage, but the truth is, it serves only this purpose. We will voice out our anger, try to implement change.
Art — really good art, anyway — strives to be a reminder; a lasting, permanent statement (or question, or call to action) that hopefully can be taken in again for future use. History repeats itself while the artistic products of such passions tend to last forever, to constantly remind and to comment and to warn.
The gross misuse of public funds — this PDAF/pork barrel business — and all the other manners of corruption that plague our government is bringing us together. Not just here, but in key cities all around the country as well. No leaders, no speeches, no agenda but to gather together and as one people, say that we are done with this.
We want justice. We want accountability. We want transparency.
People said that it was anti-climactic. They said that it didn’t do anything. Or people will say that. I thought so too until I was on my way home, until I talked to my Dad. No, this wasn’t insignificant or unsuccessful. This wasn’t for naught. We are angry, but if you came to Luneta and Quirino Grandstand in Manila, you would have seen all the other people who are angry too. Rich and poor, young and old, men and women. All these people who feel that enough is enough.
Like I said on Twitter: “Today was peaceful. The government better clean up its act. It won’t always be peaceful. We are more awake now.” It can happen. We measured our potential energy. We bared our fangs. If we don’t see the changes that we want made, then we could do it again, and this time we will do more than just show our teeth.
What do we want? We want justice, accountability, and transparency. We want our taxes to go to making this country better. We want our elected government officials and all those that were assigned to their posts to do their jobs. We want the Freedom of Information Bill. We want the corrupt politicians caught, tried, and punished, as severely as the law allows.
And we don’t want this to ever happen again.
That’s the important part, really, that it never happens again.
What surprises me, most of all, is how I am reacting to all of this. The last time I remember being this angry was during the impeachment trial of then-president Estrada and that momentous moment when the vote kept the sealed documents unopened, and the prosecution walked out, and then the whole thing exploded and we were at EDSA, in the streets, all chanting and screaming at the same time.
The past few weeks, I had difficulty thinking of anything but protest poems. I worked out a story, for film, that delved into this whole issue. Last night, I couldn’t sleep and I received a message from a good friend who was tossing around ideas and we ended up chatting online until three in the morning, fleshing out the idea until we knew we came upon a solid concept that we want to work on. It was born out of this. All this passion. All this anger. All of this.
As a protester, I don’t think I’m any real good. I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did. I don’t complain and I’ll do as I’m told. I’m another body if we are counting bodies. That I can do, that I can contribute. But all I have are questions. I don’t have answers. I don’t have solutions.
But what I am is a writer. I can write, I know that much. And I have every intention, for the next few years, to always try and put out something that says something about what’s going on. Because if history repeats itself, art tends to last, and it can serve to comment, illustrate, and warn. This won’t happen again. Not if we can help it.
Maybe not a million people marched today. But that’s okay. There’s a whole lot more where the people today came from. And the pictures and the stories and the artwork that will come from all of this will number more than that, and hopefully, will last much, much longer than what transpired today.
I have two paintings of you,
in my room, in my home in Negros,
watching over me.
In a cafe, listening in on the conversation
of the table behind me, in every sarcastic comment,
I hear your voice, I hear your laughter.
In every art gallery, I can see you
tracing a circle in the air and reciting
the name of Italian painters.
In the middle of a traffic jam,
I can feel your anger rising
and can hear you cursing the high heavens.
In the movies, that moment I gasp
when all the elements come together on screen;
I can hear you say, “Now, that’s cinema.”
Tattoos; books; classical, folk, and country music;
exotic cuisine; when people talk of history as if it happened
just yesterday; when someone forgets the word he’s looking for;
tufts of long white hair, and every time someone doesn’t want
his picture taken
you are there.
I see you.
You are there.
I look at the mirror and I see my face
and I trace a circle before me
and whisper, “Ghirlandaio.”
I whisper, “Caravaggio.”
And I hear you whisper in my ear,
“Now that’s cinema.”
(for my Dad, on his seventieth birthday. Happy birthday, Dad!)