I watch my grandmother
As she patiently winnows the grains
Moving the winnowing basket
Up, down; up down
Tossing its content into the air.
I see the chaffs being blown away
Leaving behind the grains.

Then, when there are no more chaffs left,
She stops, but she’s not yet done.
She spreads the grains out thinly on the flat basket
And looks for pebbles that might have
Been mixed with the grains.
She picks the pebbles and throws them away.

I stare at her hands, rough from hard labor;
Amazed at how patiently she works.
Then I begin to realize, life’s like that —
A continuous process of winnowing;
Of separating the grains from the chaffs.
Only that sometimes, we throw away
The grains; not the pebbles, not the chaffs.

[And then we spend the rest of our lives
Staring at the empty husks of our choices
Wondering where the grains went,
Chasing after them, and not seeing them
Amidst the mountains of chaffs
With which we have surrounded ourselves.]



Kaya Pala!

A piece of the puzzle fits; understanding finally dawns. “Kaya pala…”

Someone sheds light on an issue, and finally we get a glimpse of the other aspects of things which we couldn’t see before. “Kaya pala…”

Kaya pala. Such a lovely phrase. It speaks of enlightenment, of finally seeing that which remained obscure for sometime.

It is also a phrase of admission, that before, there were things that we couldn’t see, which now, thankfully, we see rather clearly.

Kaya pala. How many times have I exclaimed it? Countless already. But every time I am gifted with the chance to exclaim it, I am always awed at the wonder of it.

I say kaya pala and I wonder…

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bataan-shrineToday is the Fall of Bataan, and tomorrow is the 67th anniversary of the start of the tragic Death March.

During the past weeks, I spent some time reading several books on the defense of Bataan and Corregidor during the Second World War for my articles for Manila Times (Bataan Rising) and, God, it was very difficult to stop the tears rolling down my cheeks.

Friends, let us all bow down our heads and pray for the heroes of Bataan, and thank them for fiercely defending our freedom.

To our war veterans — living and dead — our great salute to you, Sirs/Madams. And to everyone who suffered from the Japanese atrocity, please know that I share your pain.


As a Bataan Day special, please let me lead you to my article on Bataan. It’s posted on my main website because I couldn’t seem to arrange the pictures properly here. Please click HERE.  //Photo by Sherma E. Benosa

Through the Arts

1-kalahi-artists-for-a-cause3-resized2In an article in 2006 (Art not just for Art’s Sake published in Health and Lifestyle), I wrote:

“Art accomplishes rather easily, what lectures, symposia, and other conventional awareness campaigns often fail to accomplish — an overwhelming impact upon and tremendous response from the audience. For when art speaks, barriers — be they religious, linguistic or cultural, are easily transcended; and the message, however subtle, is readily translated to a language we all understand, and echoed at a pitch too difficult for us to simply ignore. And with the barriers effectively reduced, and the message staring us in the face, we then become more equipped to listen attentively and act accordingly.”

I have always believed that the arts can be utilized to address our social problems and to put into proper perspective our idea of who we are as a nation.

The raping of our collective soul by our invaders, especially the Spanish, has made us believe we are lowly, and made us forget that we are as good as any other race in this world. And so now we have a fragmented idea of who we are. But focusing on the arts and getting deeply reacquainted with our culture can bring us the healing we sorely need. The arts can help us connect deep inside us, and remember and appreciate who we are as a people. Like a looking glass, the arts can help us what we are made of and make us realize that we have what it takes to effect the kind of changes we need to turn around our current situation.

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Today, I read an article that made my blood boil: an opinion piece by a Chinese “journalist” named Chip Tsao published in HK Magazine. Here’s the article plus my comments in italics.



The War at Home

By Chip Tsao


The Russians sank a Hong Kong freighter last month, killing the seven Chinese seamen onboard. We can live with that—Lenin and Stalin were once the ideological mentors of all Chinese people. The Japanese planted a flag on Diàoyú Island. That’s no big problem—we Hong Kong Chinese love Japanese cartoons, Hello Kitty, and shopping in Shinjuku, let alone our round-the-clock obsession with karaoke. [Is it just me, or is there really a big flaw in his reasoning?]


But hold on—even the Filipinos? Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the Spratly Islands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: There are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as US$3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter. [Yes, indeed, there is something wrong with his reasoning. Any high school (or even younger student) who knows a bit of logic can see breakdowns of reason in his sentences. Tsk! But I won’t discuss his logical fallacies anymore. I’d focus on some of his factual errors. US$3,580 a month for a maid in Hong Kong? He better check his figures. They pay our kababayans much less, just about US$300-350 a month! And no, we are not a nation of servants. We do have degree holders who need to go overseas to find employment, even as domestic helpers, but not everyone in the country and even those who are working overseas are servants. We have lawyers, engineers, and other professionals as well. Besides, what’s wrong with being a domestic helper, may I ask? At least, our maids can make logical statements and sound reasoning. Also, are the employers still called masters in this age? I thought the master-servant relationship no longer exists. Isn’t it already an employee-employer relationship in the modern world?]


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We put on many things that we often end up confusing these things as us.

Sometimes, it’s hard to separate our diplomas, positions, titles properties, stocks, and so on from us — that often, we fear being stripped of them, because having mistakenly equated our self-worth with our possessions and titles, we fear we would be nothing without them.

But while these are among the things that make up who we are, they are not just what we are.

The positions we hold can buy us semblance of respect — the kind that are afforded to the title, not necessarily the person who holds it. Our money can buy us those sorts of friends that scamper away as soon as we are broke. Our stocks and diplomas can give us some kind of security — one that could crumble the moment the tides start turning against us. But they can never buy us honest-to-goodness peace and happiness. They can only sow upon us discontent. And distrust.

If these are the only things with which we have clothed ourselves, then we have every reason to fear being stripped of them, because without them, we would be naked.

But the thing is, it is only after we undergo some stripping that we realize that these things we have sought to clothe ourselves with do not really matter — not in a way that what’s inside each of us matters.


Continue reading…

Conquering Poverty

For someone who had always had everything he needed, even if he had to work hard for it, imagining how it is like to be poor in the real sense of the word would be very difficult. It requires one to experience getting on in an empty stomach to know how it’s like not to have a roof over one’s head, or to send your kids to sleep without supper. Seeing emptiness on the eyes of people whose only possession is ‘nothing’ would never be enough to comprehend the desperation and the self-pity that set in in them who subsist on almost nothing.

I’ve been poor myself. No, not the kind of poor that required me to walk on streets to beg for alms, but I’ve experienced not eating three square meals a day. And I tell you, it was so hard, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the things my family and I had to go through.

My parents are hard working. And I know for a fact that they started our family okay. But a series of wrong decisions and some misfortunes brought the whole family to its knees, long before my brothers and I were old enough to remember how it was like to be born to a family with a thriving small-scale RTW business. As long as I remember, we had always been poor. I remember, Dad had had to divide our food equally so we all would have enough to eat. I still couldn’t fathom what kind of magic he and Mom must have exercised that they were able to feed the whole family on a regular-sized-fish meal, or a three-egg breakfast for a family of six.

Yes, we were poor, but we were doing fine. Until everything went further downhill.



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