Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some Totlec thoughts and the parable of the lost boy

YESTERDAY WHEN I arrived from Cebu, mother handed to me a book given by my cousin from California. Under normal conditions, having come from travel, I would just sit on the low chair and watch TV. Instead I flipped open the book’s avocado green cross cover with expressionistic flowers growing in each plot, delved and found myself meditating on the pages. This is the first time I read “something” about “Toltec” thoughts and “wisdom”, and how pleasantly surprised I was to note how the spiritual insights arrived at by inhabitants of that ancient civilization in Mexico can be so applicable to contemporary Filipino settings.

Take this for instance: “…it is important for you to master you own dream; that is why the Toltecs become dream masters. Your life is a manifestation of your dream; it is an art. And you can change your life anytime if you aren’t enjoying the dream. Dream masters create a masterpiece of life; they control the dream by making choices. Everything has consequences and a dream master is aware of the consequences”…”the freedom we are looking for is the freedom to be ourselves, to express ourselves. But if we look at our lives we will see that most of the time we do things just to please others, just to be accepted by others…the first step toward personal freedom is awareness. We need to be aware that we are not free in order to be free. We need to be aware of what the problem is in order to solve the problem.”

There’s a story—a parable—I want to tell of a rich boy who loved going to a mountain (one that looked like Magsanga). He was a privileged boy with life befitting the comforts of a king: red, blue and yellow cars, air conditioned rooms and a sense of sure security. For who else would inherit the business empire that took his parents their entire life to build. But unfathomably and paradoxically the boy took no interest in the

business, its perks and pampered seats. As David Larrabee said in “Sabrina” when asked why he appeared to care little of their family fortune ran by his elder brother,” why should I when he’s there”. Instead the boy loved to sit on mountain tops or roam outdoors, his arm skin brushing against blades of grass. He loves to see the twirling sun set. A “fool on a hill” for some, but for me he it is who “sees the world spinning round”. But his parents, not getting any younger by the day, will have none of this and pressed and egged him to start taking charge, for does not logic tell who else will? The boy gave in, got married, and stopped going to the mountain. That place for him has become a memory, a glass framed fixture standing on display cabinet in a corridor blanketed by dust and gloom. He never did get to figure out that which his heart in the beginning pointed would be his own life’s original pathway.

If that parable were a play of Aeschelus in olden Greece, the “chorus” will probably appear and sing wearing masks of long faces and sadness saying: “why so sad and blue and uncertain when I have seen you easily climb the swaying palms? You can tell the speed of the wind, height of the tallest hill. You can flicker your full lamplight to say hello to southern friends at the other curve of the bay. You fit into the blue wind, as the bird and clay earth like the color of your shirt and sun burnt hands. Groping for answers that day I want to stop the twirling sun. How I wish to let you know. Someone’s watching those lean and confident lizard steps. But would you never know. I’m using binoculars.”

(June 4-10, 2001)

Dear Cousin

IT’S BEEN a month now, since classes opened. Seeing your maroon vehicle parked outside school. I assumed you opted to go on teaching this semester. In our talk during the summer break, you were not sure whether to accept “loads” or not. I’m happy you did.

Being a teacher myself for over ten years, I know what pains sweat and chalk stained shirts, among others as well as moments of soul searching of the never ending kind one goes thru to be able to stand an hour or so before a class. For “shy” types like us the effort is probably double. Yet here we are, both finding ourselves positioned in a place where doors opened and opportunities pointed “go” for that is your mission. Like Jonas in the days of old egged by some Higher Purpose we do just that, active participants in the cultivation of hearts and intellects. In our case our wards are really young and impressionable minds, coming from sometimes incompatible social backgrounds, with varied religious, economic even political orientations. These minds may appear unwieldy at first. Remember they are in life’s phase where hormones and energies are nailed at peak levels. There’s a cauldron of “boiling” things our there inside their heads expressed in infinitely restless acts like reading novels, or doing homework during your time. One student curls his upper lip and puts a pencil there bother me no end. Yet, as teachers one has just to learn to be “above” hate and irritation (not an easy thing to do) and understand. Indeed I was told love equals understanding and that a true teacher cannot afford to be malicious to his or her students. One has to gently guide them back to the lesson’s main intent and purpose, with particular sensitivity to their peculiar upbringing, needs and wants. After all teachers exist because of and for students. The philosophy their welfare is our welfare, seems to me to go straight to the core of what it means to be a true “maestro or maestra”. We must, to borrow Abdu’l-Baha’s analogy, be like the seed that

sacrifices itself so that the seedling may grow to full fruition. I know older teachers losing voices or “precious” breaths due to chalk allergy and respiratory problems. Yet their tales of persistence going back to classes undaunted, for me bespeak of the essence of self-sacrifice and heroism that teaching profession is well known for.

Just watch young students eyes in unguarded times and you can see beyond those “black pools” strange things and feelings: initially and rather understandably there’s fear and hesitation yet these same eyes can easily tremble with boisterous laughter and mirth when placed in funny situations they could relate with. Give to them illustrations and explanations consistent with their experience and watch those eyes glow and widen. As soon as you capture their chief interests and “needs” these minds can be very easily switched to eager and moldable modes, fit for higher-finer-technical even moral learning. You will be surprised though many come from rural high schools yet a lot possess solid and brilliant minds, comparable with counterparts from bigger schools in Cebu. Well, maybe ours are not as outspoken or grammatically correct as their big city brethren but given reading and language exposure our homegrown minds can really be honed and motivated to deliver great results. Remember 9 of 11 passed the midwifery board last year.

Those eyes are my keys and portals to their hearts. Hearts that only wait for that soft smile of the teacher—one you already have in abundance—bearing the message: “hey everything’s gonna be all right”. When they “feel” this they not just lend their ears, but link their souls to yours, ready for growth. Indeed they would open up, in every imaginably wonderful way. This is our best gift and consolation.

(July 9-15, 2001)

round springs: encounters in south missouri

Round Springs

encounters in south Missouri

gil marvel p. tabucanon

holding on

The campers have slept

Pitched their tents on the hill

Silence blankets the sky

dotted by snores and shooting stars

Earlier we trekked the riverside

Fishermen readying their gear

We focused our lights on the thickets,

and found peering eyes –

luminous spider eyes

We sat around the fire

Much like cavemen did

Munched cookies and apples,

Talked of dogs and Gilligan Island

(what’s that? a tv show)

Then, everyone rested

Now the fire’s all mine

The cold drove me to it

A spotlight circled the flame and me

Sparks danced on my pants

My tuesdays are like that

An island of flame, amidst the white sea,

dying to pale blue

before my toetips,

as cold wishes to redeem,

while my thoughts



r u


g l


to remain.

(14 october 05)

speak river

A swath, a ribbon, a thread,

a flat glass spaghetti –

Servant, temple, tunnel, freeway,

a taciturn friend

to all --

The shirtless, pointless, eager-eyed, bored

We glide, swirl, descend, unpack, go back

There poised turtles, kite vultures,

hornets in hanging homes,

solitary salamander,

eagle presage the moon.

You float your questions to the sun

and hear echoes in a dream, a stone,

a leaf, a bone, a stare, a smirk,

a chiropractic heal.

Nothing’s the same each time.

None’s wasted.

Every bit speak.

(16 october 05)

Dear Son

Dear Son

So you’re a freshman now. A high school kid, no longer a boy but not yet a man either. Your voice has cracked now. Your mom at first thought you have colds. Instead I hear the off key song of a young man full of confidence bordering on the bravado, optimism and vigor of what lies ahead of him. You are in full possession of youth. Your hormones are now bursting up. You are rearing to try it out there in the “real” world. Your parents are understandably nervous because we’re overprotective and wish you would just stay at home instead of explore the outside world little by little in the pretext of “playing” with computer games at the internet stands in the city.

I remember three days after you were born, a coup d’etat ravaged the country. I have slug it out among the throngs of panic buyers in the Cebu supermarkets filling the store carts with canned food for the adults but mostly your provisions of “special” infant milk bearing in mind your helplessness having been born slightly premature amidst the tug-of war of power going on outside your hospital walls.

While your tiny, lizard-like frame of just over 5 pounds struggled to breathe, rebel soldiers padlocked the capitol and city hall buildings, or so I heard. Bomb threats were hoised amidst petroleum depots while in MalacaƱang warplanes hovered above and all around Filipinos killed fellow Filipinos. Homo homini lupus, man became wolf to fellowman.

How ashamed am I to take you on “tour” to the “real” world out there. What is there but a jungle of convoluted

self-interests and agenda all seeking print in the limited publicity of national and regional headlines? What is there that our so-called “leaders” and politicians can offer to kids like you? Peace, peace is on everyone’s lips while each one’s hands are clenched and positioning for war. Yet I believe that man is still basically good in birth and “essence”. In his relaxed state he is even fun to be with. He can even pull in quite a few surprises of goodness and heroism. Man for instance is the only creature capable of jumping of top of an unpinned grenade rolled on a crowded street so that others lives may be spared. We hear that story of a boy plunging inside a burning house just to save a younger brother. But he is also the same man who when steeped with ambition (whether political, economic or for religious domination or hegemony) can be capable of extreme ruthlessness surpassing in cruelty and savagery the worst of beasts. Because only in man is hatred distended, calculated and precise.

Sorry, this letter has gloomy cloud linings. It is not a happy time to live in this country these days with bombs erupting in the key cities, shopping malls, movie houses, buses even comfort rooms are bombed. The peso has fled to the edges of 43 to a dollar. Yesterday it was reported in the papers that many schools are raising their tuition fees this year. In spite of this, we your parents still believe that education is your only key to well-being and sanity in this confused world. Not just intellectual education but correct education of character and spirit. We your parents have faith that though the

world today is in the throngs of self destruction, but that the process is more like that of painful childbirth giving life to a new world way of believing and looking at things. It is a belief, which regards mankind as members of one human family as “flowers of one garden” and “waves of one sea”.

It is an assurance from God Himself through His teachings that the whole world is “but one country” and mankind its “citizens”. That the foundation of all religions come from one source, that is all religions come from One Creator and that the essence all these religions teach good things. For one Golden Rule is found in the teachings of all the Holy Books of God. Rightly so for really all these religions trace their roots to one common spiritual source. It is, a case of “Eadem, Sed Aliter”, one and the same thing but expressed in different ways. That is the faith, which we want you to learn son, and not just learn, but from where you life’s outlooks will spread and grow and from where you must take your roots on. Good luck to you and enjoy your new phase of education. Like what my own father used to say to me, be a good boy always. Love Papa

(May 29- June 4, 2000)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meditation on Old Lawyers

Meditation on old lawyers
LET’S face it. The young cannot truly understand the old, unless…both open up and become eager to know more about each other. Fantastic? I believe that old people are like ancient cities. There is so much one can learn from there, if one is willing to ask and explore. The young’s energy however is more often than not too clawed up on their respective pursuits they have no more time for all else. What a pity since the old would have interesting things to tell and I’m not only talking of those Icelandic sagas, family traditions and “secret” recipes handed down generation to generation by word of mouth, but old sailors tales how they managed to survive life’s twists and turns.
A few days ago I appeared in court in a far town from Ormoc. Nothing extraordinary happened that day, except that I began to notice old lawyers presence, still active practitioners in the arena. There was something about them that made me a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. How come they still work when they could have “easily” lived retirement life perching down the years writing memoirs to pass on to younger folks. Would have liked to talk to them, query on their experiences but do not know what to say or do. So I just sat on my chair like nothing’s happened although in reality I was observing.
One of them hardly stood (can hardly stand?) during the proceedings, yet his bearing without unnecessary movement or speech, spoke of dignity and style, although I also noticed the case of his eyeglasses embossed in metallic letters: “for the rich and famous”. Yet his objections were exact and substantial, and his language courtly, punctuated by “with pleasure” when he agrees doing to what the court suggested were ways to expedite the hearings. It is the language of cooperation and friendliness. Of reaching our rather than individualized bravado and ego-tripping in court. Attitudes like this make one think that there is still hope in litigation. That is, one may still part
as friends ending up in settlement or plea-bargaining for instance. I was told once that beyond the purely “legal” issues, there are conflicts that outwardly appear “legal” but in reality are mere issues of “pride”, “face saving” and “amor propio” and where the law is used as a vehicle for pent up hate and even unconscious revenge. Back to the old lawyer, heard he was an ex-judge in his heyday and quite strict, though reasonable, in procedure.
Another—older—one arrived, and before I know it I found myself offering him a seat. I thought he is the judge’s uncle since he arrived, of all places, not from the entrance but from the door of the judge’s chamber. Well, that is also where the comfort room is located, where he probably relieved himself. Tottering and with bent frame that seemed almost unable to bear his weight, he was leaning on his metal cane, the kind with four “fingers” at the base. Yet when he spoke one can still discern certain firmness, even strength. It is a voice that has rang in many battles. And those eyes are sharp as eagles.
I wonder what’s on their mind? Looking at us, young enough to be their grandchildren, would they give out knowing smiles looking at our still imperfect trial techniques? At our still hazy legal intuitions, that is, the sixth sense of veteran lawyers able to smell truth from falsehood in a testimony or vanity clothed with respectability? Would they want to help us when we cannot uncrack the hard nut phony alibis and subtle yet devious fallacies passing off as truth? I wonder.
What challenges and trials faced them eyeball to eyeball during their lifetime? Why have they remained strong in spirit, retaining passable sharp wits?
What habits and techniques maintain them that clients continue to entrust their core concerns though their skeletons wobble? On which side of the universal, unchanging principles of truth and
fairness do they stand when confronted with
puzzling, grey and tricky sets of facts? Lastly, are they more interested in justice and fairness rather than the temporal honors reaped by lesser lawyers therefore lesser mortals, who win their ways through unfair influence peddling?
My father never got a chance to answer these questions as he took flight early. Or if ever did, I was not there to listen, or else to young to grasp his words. Indeed old lawyers can do a lot to speak many things to the young. Speak, sirs, for we will listen.
(October 16-22, 2000)