Saturday, December 01, 2007


Dear Bru,

Help! Is there a Bumblebee still left standing in a toy store shelf in New South Wales?

I’ve given up hope new stocks will ever arrive from Manila. I suspect there’s a conspiracy of parents keeping watch on all their ports. The chance of any shipment of these yellow-colored robotshifters arriving soon in Cebu—and ending the panic of all parents besieged by nine-year-old fans of the Transformers—is only slightly better than any hope of a silent night on Christmas eve (unless you’re in Davao).

Of course, I am hyperbolic. Life in this country is slightly enlarged beyond truth and reasonableness. So I am not exaggerating that I am considering flying so many
miles out to buy a toy Juan might outgrow during the two-week Christmas break, despite the fact that I cannot even buy a spot on a bunk on economy class in a slow boat from Pier 1 to Talibon. For how many times have I watched that Transformers DVD until my son was reasonably convinced I could recognize, even blindfolded, a yellow alien masquerading as a Camaro?

Really, I’ve lost all appetite for boring reality.

Since we’re on this subject, do you remember the scene when Optimus Prime and Megatron, grappling in their death clinch, fly into and through a downtown highrise?

“That’s wicked!” howls my son every time that grand battle flashes on screen. I, too, watch, gape-mouthed, my shock as undiminished on our 77th rerun as on the 7th.

Is it a good or a bad thing when children remember nothing of 9/11? That ordinary working day in New York when two planes from out of the sky, beyond belief, rammed into the World Trade Center. While people lost lives, innocence, faith, the boys and I were in bed. They were telling me how their day went. In the dark of their room, I listened, just glad that homework was done, the hostilities over.

You know that expression, “beyond belief?” Among other things, 9/11 relegated this to the recycle bin, to borrow some computerese from Carlos. Really, is anything ever “beyond belief”?

In 2007, Hollywood released the Transformers film. Apparently, movie executives judged that, based on preview reactions of test audiences, it was now okay to put on screen a grand battle reminiscent of that unbelievable day in 2001, except of course, this time, it’s not ideologies, geopolitics, humanity warring against itself but just two leviathans of the Decepticons and Autobots, races from somewhere deep in space.

“It’s just a movie, Mom,” as Juan would say, exasperated again that mothers are so without imagination. “Those are autonomous robotic organisms, not people.”

Did I copy Juan’s shrug when I saw the photo of the Marcoses emblazoned on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s lifestyle section last Nov. 22, 2007? Though the years have added a few more chins on Imelda, the smiles of the Iron Butterfly and her children, Bongbong, Irene and Imee, look genuine, far from robotic.

In their place, I would be as sparkling. Though the 21-year-old news photos are grainy, there is no mistaking their long faces when they cowered on the balcony of Malacañang, the late dictator making his last stand just before fleeing the country.

For the first time in my 20 years, I didn’t go home that night. Many students and teachers kept vigil in Lahug, a scene replicated in many campuses across the nation and the people-clogged streets of Manila. We pooled money to buy batteries for the few radio sets that transmitted Radio Veritas’ coverage of People Power.

Warming some of our mats were day-old copies of opposition papers, including the Inquirer. People boycotted the crony papers for printing news manufactured by Malacañang. Like a few that were not afraid to print the truth, the Inquirer was scarce on the streets.

Now, 21 years later, the same paper fawns over Imee’s birthday party. The Marcoses have cause to smile. After all, they are even better than Lazarus. They were never dead at all; they don’t stink. The son is a member of the House of Representatives.

But I am digressing. When you have cornered a Bumblebee, do not let it out of your sight. So I can relieve you of the unbearable tension of possible suicide attacks from other parents, do secure a roundtrip eticket for me to and fro New South Wales. I will reimburse you as soon as I get my yearend bonus from newspapering and teaching (this is unreal because this is an email from the Philippines, remember?).

Your loving sister 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Dec. 2 issue

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