happy thoughts and worthy causes

Archive for August, 2013

A Poem (for Toni)

“The moment my lips touched yours,
we sealed a promise
that our hearts conveyed
over hundreds of miles and numerous phone calls.
I was yours, as you were mine;
hands clasping for the first time,
we embarked on a journey
that proved to be the adventure of a lifetime.
It will culminate in a celebration,
a sharing of mutual vows,
bonds that will never be broken,
as yearning turned to reality the day we found each other…”
GPL 8/9/2013

Captivating Capiz 2: Visiting Panay

My travel agent, Ms. Vickie and her family took an unintended holiday to serve as our tour guides the day we arrived in Capiz. Eager to make our first visit memorable, she took us to the nearby municipality of Panay which also happens to be her husband’s hometown.

Panay is the second Spanish settlement founded by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi when they left Cebu for lack of food. With meandering river networks criss-crossing the land and the lush mangroves constantly inundated by the sea’s tides, food sources were clearly abundant. The Spanish then built ports that were used for the galleon trades and even a shipyard at one time for constructing their boats. One river channel actually boasts of a sunken galleon, and when it’s low tide, some fishermen claim they can still see part of it under water. Unfortunately, this attraction has been closed to the public when some local politician insisted on claiming it’s on his private property.

Besides being one of the oldest towns in the Philippines, Panay was also the original capital of Capiz. Crossing over from Roxas City proper to Panay town, Ms. Vickie pointed out that the bridge was destroyed and blown up numerous times in history; but that has saved them from virtual massacres that happened to Roxas City’s people. Houses along the road enroute to the famous Sta. Monica Church used to be so numerous, but they were also burned down by the Spaniards after discovering these were Katipuneros’ homes. In church, they wore these red bandanas on their necks while attending mass as a sign of protest until the local friars found out. What remains now are rebuilt homes of the descendants of these early settlers.

Sta.Monica Church is already a common tourist destination in the travel brochures. As one of the oldest in the Philippines, it was the first parish established on Panay island. Like its contemporaries, this church was constructed by the Augustinians, hence, its imposing and formidable design. Made up of coralstones bound by molasses and eggs, it has side supports similar to the church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

Sta. Monica boasts of a gigantic bell – the largest, and possibly, the heaviest in Asia. While it has a replica of equal size near the church entrance and beside the convent, the actual bell is housed in the 5-story belltower. One must climb the 60-or-so steps of some very steep stairs and brave the heights before one can experience its magnificence. Constructed using 70 sacks of coins collected from the townspeople, the bell was cast in 1878 and weighs 10.4 tons.  At 7 feet in height and 5 feet in diameter, it dwarfs its companions, the 8 other bells that share its tower.

There is also a clock on this belfry, but its mechanical contraption has long ceased to be. One can still see its old, rusted mechanism on the last platform before the bells. They say when the bell tolls, it can be heard for miles across the plains of Capiz, the same area that can be viewed from atop the belltower.

The church and its giant bell aren’t the only attractions at Sta. Monica. Beside it is the parish convent that houses both the parish office and the church museum. Although recognized as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1997, Museo de Sta.Monica was only opened in 2008. The museum contains church relics and artifacts that range from old priestly garbs to statues and carvings of saints and other religious images, to even remnants of the original hardwood used as church foundations which can be bought as souvenirs.

Most interesting was the Old Spanish Well at the back of the church. Still intact in its original state, it has long dried up, but it once served as an important water source for many generations. Beside it are 12 pots of chilli pepper plants reminiscent of the same potted plants sent over by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first Governor-General to King Phillip and Queen Isabella of Spain from the settlement of Panay, Capiz.

Sta. Monica has its own local tour guide, and he explained that the church compound used to be built like the walled city of Intramuros. Not only was it a church, it also served as a fortress for the Spaniards. Hence, throughout history, even the Americans and Japanese used it as a military fort. And as a grim reminder, the area at the back of the compound used to be a dumping ground for those executed by the Spanish and Japanese alike. It is said that there used to be a dirt path going to a cemetery, but sometimes soldiers didn’t even bother for a decent burial anymore. Hence, it is no wonder that people tell of eerie stories in the area. Although now densely populated and with several constructed houses, people still speak of hearing strange moans and groans, of women and children crying in the dead hours of the night. It is also not surprising that some houses seem unoccupied and have difficulty selling. Ms. Vickie admits even her psychic/sensitive-travel agent friend who came for a visit once complained of feeling weird about the place when they dropped by the church.

The richness of the historic significance of Panay cannot be highlighted enough. Ms. Vickie’s own home is evidence in itself. At her husband, Marlo’s ancestral house, their family heirlooms alone make for interesting museum pieces. In fact, Ms. Vickie was right on the mark as she is in the process of transforming their home into a mini museum. She has bricks from the old sugar central, original bottles from the Spanish distilleries, porcelain plates and genuine, heavy duty silverware. In their backyard, while they were developing it as a restaurant and butterfly garden, they uncovered an old Japanese latrine-bath area. Old folks say it was because the neighboring public school was also used by the Japanese during World War II as their headquarters. And so this lends credence to the fact there may be hidden treasures in and around Capiz itself, as some Japanese tourists keep coming back to the province with strange maps, looking for secret locations even the locals know nothing about.

A taste of Capiz left me wanting more, and so I promised Ms. Vickie, and myself, I will return one day for another sampling on Capiz’ wonders.

When the Fruit Falls far from the Tree (disappointing Lagman)

They always say a fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree..but so it goes that some offsprings are often big disappointments compared to their parents. Too often have we seen this in the Philippine setting.

The LGBT Community was one with the women’s sector in supporting Edcel Lagman’s RH bill, and rightly so for this concerns gender and sexuality issues that go beyond female sexual and reproductive rights and health. Now, his son turns around and betrays us.

Grex Lagman’s bill seeking to punish LGBTs who have affairs with married folk is an obvious over-reaction after the nation’s seeming preoccupation with the telenovela “My Husband’s Lover”. For those living deceptive married lives, this show clearly raised some ghosts and it has scared many people in heterosexual relationships who are by no means monogamous and faithful.

Lagman, Jr. claims this is a step towards “gender equality”, but his intentions are painfully misguided. As a lawyer, he should have known that the “gender equality” being proposed in harmonizing the Revised Penal Code’s adultery and concubinage provisions relates to the circumstances by how the offenses are committed. Married women are easily punished under the adultery provision while married men’s infidelity is harder to prove under the concubinage provision. Remembering one’s criminal law from the college of law, even mere suspicion of a woman’s conduct makes her liable while a man must be proven to have brought home his mistress or has actually put her up or maintains her some place. The equal treatment of sexual infidelity under the law is the objective here. For LGBTs, this will only reinforce the stigmatization of same-sex relations.

Grex Lagman obviously doesn’t grasp the real situation of Pinoy LGBTs who by virtue of the prevalent homophobia, many are forced to enter into heterosexual relationships. It is because of societal pressures that they eventually get married, but in the long run still fall back into the homosexual proclivities. So because of this “weakness of character” and sheer cowardice, LGBTs will now be doubly punished for living secret lives and their same-sex lovers along with them.

Already in many annulment cases and child custody battles, an alleged homosexual or lesbian affair is thrown in to muddle the issue and portray one party to be immoral and unfit as a parent. Now, besides this family law complication, an LGBT who has decided to be true to himself or herself will run the risk of being criminally sanctioned as well.

This is a “no-win” situation for Pinoy LGBTs…because you were a “coward and stupid enough to get married”, you stand no chance at achieving happiness or even a respite from your lie-of-a-married life. Similarly, woe to an LGBT lover who falls for a legally married partner. The “misery” currently being experienced by Filipino LGBTs from homophobia and discrimination every day of their lives is bad enough…no need to add unto this suffering by criminalizing them.

I believe the Filipino LGBT Community’s “real” friends and supporters in the women’s advocacy, as well as enlightened legislators and policy-makers truly comprehend this, not just those masquerading as gender advocates and human rights defenders.