Sunday, October 29, 2017

In Memory

I TOOK A COURSE called History of Cultural Minorities under Henry King Ahrens (aka the great William Henry Scott) when I was a student in UP Manila after dropping out of the Ateneo and before moving to Diliman. He wrote me this letter of recommendation for a scholarship in an American university which I did not get, but this document and his gesture were more than enough for me. His death after what was considered to be routine gall bladder surgery is still baffling.

William Henry Scott, Jul 1921-Oct 1999

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Language Of Special Interest

I DID NOT KNOW when I started working for the Feds that speaking the wika would be a skill that pays. Tagalog is apparently considered by the agency as a "language of special interest" in the mission against terrorism. So around Thanksgiving each year (after the previous fiscal year ends in September), Uncle Sam pays me an easy Black Friday bonus just for employing it to process passengers and interact with cruise and container ships crewmen (90% Pinoy, they offer you food from the galley) when boarding vessels for inspections, Abu Sayyaf or ISIS operatives apprehended or not. The union says this is another program in danger with Trump; enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, October 13, 2017


I WOULD CHANGE some line breaks, but this poem by Zosimo Quibilan, Jr. (encountered on Vince Gotera's wall) reads well for Pinoy Halloween.


They inhabit these acacia trees like children
playing grownup, cooking with corroded
cans a concoction of things lost
then found. Here, a broken piece of a toy gun,
a fistful of leaves and shorn hair and dead ants
and homemade candies. They would improvise names
to address each other — Hey Lover. Oh, Son. Mother! So soon
a daughter is swaddled in stolen shirts and dirt.
Between their palms they will roll
cigars as tall as stories they will have whispered
to one, then another, to while away
summer nights when neighbors insist
on bringing back the deceased by playing
at least a hand of peculiar cards with bent coins
and peculiar currencies. Some will see this night
darker than others. Silhouettes then become
trees. A movement here, to explain their grief’s origins.
An illusion of light there brims with expectations
like a steward for keeping sigils. Spirits turn
into giant limbs, lingering among intermittent glow points.
They would feel the air collapse in their own
weight. Shush, breathe this thick aroma. Hear
their diabolical laughter, mocking
among other things, our innocence,
our believing without seeing.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

In Memory

"BAPA" ANTOON passed away this month last year in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. He is best known for deciphering the Laguna Copperplate Inscription and for documenting the Hanunoo Mangyan script, notably the poetic form ambahan, verses inscribed on bamboo tubes, which he collected in a book called Treasure of a Minority. Here he was in action with a ballpen in his hut a decade before his death, and another one as a priest long before Anya was born. Proud to have been baptized by this Mindoro legend.

Antoon Postma, Mar 1929-Oct 2016