Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aesthetically Speaking . . .

I like the skies in the Philippines, away from the big cities. The big cities remind me too much of Los Angeles back in the days when a fine layer of brown grit hung over the entire city.  Huge gulping mouthfuls  of diesel exhaust is not my idea of sweet.

The Philippine skies are somehow deeper than the arid blue expanse that arched over the Colorado plains in the US where I grew up. The mountains are very different, too. Here they are smaller and muddier, lava and red clay. And richly green. The US Rocky Mountains are taller and rockier, made largely of gray and sandy granite (pronounced gran'-nit, not gran'-nite). The greens are darker in Colorado, sometimes almost black.

I miss pine trees from time to time, especially around Christmas.

I don't miss the snow or ice. My once frostbitten ears no longer ache here, and, besides, I never learned to ski. I broke a toboggan with my ass once. We veered left, went off a small cliff and I punched right through the wood. We slapped the sled on the back of my '57 Nash Rambler with the seats that folded all the way down, and headed to a warm fireplace. I limped to the sofa and sat gently.

The Rambler seats are a story for a different telling.

But the skies here are fabulous, moving cloud sculptures, carrying a lot of moisture that condenses and falls by the ton. I caught a rainbow in front of a range of green, cloud-draped mountains the other day. Fantastic. And sunsets are like Van Gogh in his crazier days deciding red and orange and pink should be plastered across the entire upper canvas.

Filipinos run around looking for heroes, looking for reasons to be proud. Chasing boxers and movie stars.

I don't get it.

All they have to do is look at the landscape. Or the seascape.

My most enjoyable place is down by the pier in my hometown, 5:30 in the morning, looking out toward China. Islands in the distance. Green, cloud-whisked mountains to the north. Never the same cloud sculptures. Always a pleasant breeze. Air fresh and pure off the West Philippine Sea. A variety of boats, so natural here and strange to me, plying the choppy or calm waters. Boats in Colorado are called canoes.

Cherish is not a word that comes easily in the Philippines, I think.

Or we wouldn't see such abuse of the land and the oceans here.

Dynamited coral. Desert oceans.

Clear-cut foresting. Mudslides washing the mountains to the bottom of the seas.

Mining that rips the mountains apart and throws the leftover poisons into the nearest river.

Warm springs that can't be enjoyed for the shit-laden runoff that sits in them.

People run around looking for a God to worship and don't realize He sits right outside the door, in a view that strikes harmony like a jolt of lightening across the soul. He is in a clump of coral, orange or blue, inhabited by the richest diversity of sea life on the planet.

Harvested for money.

God is MIA in the Philippines. Kidnapped. Held for ransom.

He has been plastered into a statue behind the altar, in a building made of cement.

I suppose what is missing to many Filipinos is perspective, especially those without money. They have not traveled to other lands. They live where they live, and have been there so long they don't see what is there. They only see the need to find a way to eat today.

If they could see it, really really see it, they would understand the word "cherish".

They would have no need of heroes, for they would recognize that they have been blessed with the richest, most ecologically diverse, most beautiful place on earth. There is no need to prop that gift up with manufactured glory, with artificial pride, with a hunt for something other than what is right outside the door.

Glory is there.

God is there.

I thank Him for the gift, the lift He gives my spirit, every day. I cherish it. Right out there.


  1. Once upon a time, maybe 40 years ago, in Manila, you could go up to Antipolo and watch the sun go down in Manila Bay. Clearly. And you could be on a hill in Sta Mesa and see the Montalban Hills to the East and Mt. Makiling to the South. Clearly. Things began to change towards the late sixties. Manila became over populated and all the things that come with it came to be. By the 80s, all that was gone. You had to drive way out of town if you wanted to see something farther than a mile. Today, you can find Manila from Tagaytay by looking for a thick brown haze. The cause if environmental degradtion is not material poverty. The cause is poverty of the soul.

  2. God has left long time ago when Lapu-lapu garroted God's messenger, Magellan despite Lapu-lapu's bolos and spears versus Magellans guns and cannons.

    Magellan came for peace. Lapu-lapu ambushed Magellan while he and his crew were wading to shore from cora-strewn beaches of Mactan Island. Lapu-lapu's savagery made him a hero.

    The Great Flood, the first ever recorded wanton, indiscriminate waterboarding was a cruel and unusual punishment. The pro-God loves to relive and retell the stories of savagery. Their God is now a hero.

    The everlasting torture in hell, is another celebrated cruel and unusual punishment. The savagery is told and retold over and over again to children.

    The sins of my fathers is my sin, is another cruel and unusual punishment. Americans have gone to Africa and the Philippines to redeem the souls of these children from perpetual bondage. This brutal violent cruel and unusual punishment is celebrated.

    All major, major cruel and unprecedented unusual ingenious punishment made their Gods HEROES.

    I'd rather be punished by AMerican Government than punished by ever the merciful loving God.

    Thank you.

  3. The dark ominous foreboding clouds gives me hint that I am in Manila Airspace. The Jumbo jet touch ground on Manila's potholed runway amidst clapping of Filipinos. A foreigner next to me asked why Filipinos clap their hands when jetplanes land, i explained, because seldom Filipino pilots land their airplane safely.

    I hurriedly run to the jetway to the terminal to give my mother a call in one of their pain-phones.


  4. My parents, cousins, relatives, friends, VIRTUALLY THE WHOLE BARRIO, met me at the airport. They came from the province in rented for-hire mini-bus. They fought over who'd sit next to me. One whispered, "Kuya, yung shoes mo sa akin, na, ha?" The other in front said, "Your Levi's is mine, dude!". Next my sunglass, my watch, my shirt. I haven't even arrived home I am already stripped naked !

    Those that were not able to sit next to me were sulking. Tanduay rum poured from NAIA all the way to Cebu. I was drunk. TOTALLY. I AM HAPPY, TOO. Get to see my parents and my friends and the whole barrio.

    My parents slaves were toiling in the house when I arrive. There was Pepe, must be 14-years-old, cleaning the last tiny spot of dust. There was Pilar, maybe 17-years-old preparing my favorite adobo. Of course, my parents tsuper, is a 21-year-old lad, or he'd never be issued driver's license.

    There were older slaves that commanded like General Patton with sticks on the hips.

    I ask my parents why they are here when it is a weekend. "Son, they do not have days-off, remember. They never did. Only one hour to church services and that's it"

    "Tatay, the old slaves, they have not retired yet?"
    "Son, they retire, they die. No food. They are happy to be here. Free food, free room, little something extra for load of their cellphones"
    "Tatay, what if they get sick?"
    "Son, if they get sick, I'll send them home. We save, too. No work no pay. They do not have sick time, no vacation time, they work 24/7, cannot be allowed to have dismenoria or headache. They must wake up 4:00a.m. and sleep when I sleep in the evening. My slaves is yours"

  5. Gosh, what a beautiful country! Brown-skin-punk'd nose Filipinos enslave fellow brown-skin-punk'd nose Filipinos. My parents pay $60.00 equivalent american money for one month of toil for free food, free room, works 24/7, no sicktime, no vacation time, no break time, no lunch time. WORK! WORK! WORK! WORK! WORK! Cannot even take a nap.

    "Son, America is different. These brown-skin-pygmies never gone to AMerika. They are happy here. They have 500 pesos cellphones and a load is heaven to them. Seeing Makati and SM and Ayala is like being in Amerika. If they do not like the working condition they can always go back to their barrio."

    Gosh, I cannot believe it.

    These dodos followed me around with chilled coconut water to the creek upon orders from older slaves because I might faint of heat and humidity. I jumped into the creek. I did not mind the carabao wading next to me. Nor the lavanderas. The other children were amused. A city-boy, in the creek, by the carabao and the lavanderas with giggling 14-to-15 year old slaves.

  6. Mariano, classic. You are getting downright literary on me, dude. Jonathan Swift's satire also had a bite. Kids who read Gulliver's Travels, watered down, are not aware of who he was pillorying (everybody). He proposed that Ireland start a program of eating babies to solve the poverty/hunger/overbirthing problem. The piece is called "A Modest Proposal".

    What do you think/feel when you fly away, heading back to America?

  7. MB, I always mean to look up the definition of apathy, but I'm too lazy.

  8. Joe,

    just wanted to congratulate you on your 22nd article of the month. You've surpassed your average pal.

  9. 1DC, thanks. Rain here. Staying indoors a lot.


Please take up comments at the new blog site at

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.