Saturday, March 03, 2007

Take note

IT DOES matter where one takes notes.

Among mountain barangay students holding class under a tree or a sky, a notebook is just paper held in place by wire, thread, or a small hand keeping the penciled scrawls from flying away.

But try googling. As a meta tag, “notebook” will yield at least 84 million online sites, most of these dealing with just one type: notebooks that need batteries.

The websites discuss, without any hint of irony, the varieties that are “ultraportable,” have “unlimited memory,” or suffer from “shock, overheating and explosion.”

One website even poses an existential dilemma: what will humans do if deprived of notebooks for a day?

According to, “one of the biggest experiments” on the Internet has this website urging many people to go without a computer for 24 hours at the same time.

“Shutdown Day” may loom to be an Armageddon or a loony scheme for Netizens.

That's nothing unusual for Cebu City schoolchildren who, for one reason or another, had to start school without their “free” notebooks from local officials.

According to a July 13, 2004 story by Sun.Star Cebu's Linette C. Ramos, public school students waited for nearly two months after school started due to the need to re-bid 400,000 notebooks.

Two suppliers priced the composition notebooks of 90 leaves a little over P13 each, or at least P3.50 more than the ceiling set by City Hall.

The source explained that the notebooks were more expensive due to City Hall's design: glossy cover, high-quality paper, the office seal and various labels like “Say No to Drugs!” and “Not for sale: property of the Cebu City Government.”

Also, the covers featured blue and yellow, which are the colors of the ruling political party, as well as the faces of the mayor and his councilors.

The same report stated that the cost of printing 400,000 notebooks and 120,000 pads of paper would be charged to the Special Education Fund as part of City Hall's “subsidy of public education.”

Notebooks and City Hall again came into play recently.

In Sun.Star's Feb. 26, 2007 report by Rene H. Martel, Cebu City Councilor Edgardo Labella urged his fellow legislators and local Parents, Teachers Community Associations to lobby that suppliers print on notebook covers more educational and useful illustrations, such as national heroes and mathematical tables, rather than the usual faces of celebrities.

While admitting that notebook sales soar when covers feature movie luminaries, the local legislator said that businessmen should not focus only on profits but also contribute to raising the students' civic-mindedness or Math proficiency.

Does a notebook have a line of demarcation to hold at bay politics and keep it from playing on those irreproachable fields of pulp and fiber?

More than an exploding one, an imploding notebook boggles the mind. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Mar. 4, 2007 issue

Runners and not

TO STAND out in this season of runners is easy: don't run.

Sun.Star Cebu's Feb. 23, 2007 banner story was memorable for this reason. Its headline was: “Dodong: 'I won't run'.”

Written by Rene H. Martel, Linette C. Ramos and Jujemay G. Awit, the page 1 story reported that Jose R. Gullas announced during a presscon that he had decided not to run for mayor of Cebu City.

“History is full of what-might-have-beens. If I would run, would I make it or not?” The former congressman raised and then immediately squashed speculations--his own, as well as others--when he announced his decision not to run in the next breath.

Gullas' question stayed with me as I commuted to work very early on Saturday morning.

Unlike the harried weekday crowd, Saturday morning commuters remind me of shrink-wrapped books and corpses. A preternatural stillness envelops each person, shaken to motion only at trip's end or the next transfer.

Even the gossip of two nurses meeting by chance in the V-hire and the tinny harangue emanating from the V-hire radio seem muffled, as if absorbed and diminished by layers and walls of private thoughts.

There is only one child during the entire trip. She is more heard than seen, her voice piping songs non-stop from Opon to Cebu City.

Unlike the man who would be mayor, my companions seem not to be bothered by any uncertainty over their arrival. If the jeepney in front of us would suddenly flip back, crash into us before crushing us, and scatter our bodies or whatever discernible pieces left across the road and put a sudden, sticky halt to this drugged and peaceful Saturday pace, I'm thinking we might be convinced to ponder That Question--but then, only if.

Although anything with feet runs, it's only the human activity that seems complicated and ungainly, paling beside the grace and power shown by the beasts.

Homo politicus, for one, needs a reason to run. Better yet, a cause.

The rationale is supplied by family, creed, affiliation, or at least a million strangers signing a manifesto. It can also be the plain old self speaking through these intermediaries.

Political infrastructure and grassroots machinery must be in place before the politically inclined will flex a tendon.

And then there's winnability. This concept, unknown in the animal kingdom, stands on its head the question posed by the man who would not run. It is the Statesman's Rule: I run because I can.

Viewed against such intricacy, the decision not to run for office seems to be more in favor of, rather than countering, humanity. Gullas said he deferred to his family's wish that he continues to serve as the president of The University of the Visayas.

The Feb. 23 Sun.Star article also mentioned former Cebu City mayor Florentino Solon as another one disinterested to run again for public office.

Solon, an “internationally awarded nutritionist,” now heads the local counterpart of a developmental federation. The Nutrition Center of the Philippines director said he can “serve the people more as a private citizen.”

When my jeepney took an unexpected detour, I decided to walk, not run, the remaining kilometers to the office. Running is unkind to my 41-year-old joints.

Besides, walking is the best way to trawl a city just awakening to the weekend. I walk past a man curled with his cat on top of a food cart, an old lady reading a novena, her head, back and hands tilted up to the morning light.

Beside rancid, crooked tables, a sidewalk plant droops long red cat tails. It's a plant I last saw as a child, prone to singing on Saturdays, the start of the weekend break.

Some persons run, or not, for their lives. Others walk or ride. But I'd like to think all of us, by nature, incline towards the light. 0917322-6131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 25, 2007 issue