Thursday, February 28, 2008

Made in Hong Kong

I haven’t blogged for the past few days. I’ve been too focused on a topic that I later on realized has not really matured enough for me to write about and comfortably air to the blogging public. That one underwent more revisions than all Philippine laws combined before I decided to let it simmer for a while.

A friend suggested that I blog about Hong Kong instead. My immediate reaction was “should I blog about how I hate it?”

Fine, hate is such a strong word unless I direct it to GMA, George Bush, and all the other persons and topics
that make my caffeine-nicotine combo addiction rise in direct proportion to my work.

Nine years and I haven’t really
defined how I feel about this place.

Hong Kong. This small former British colony whose name means “fragrant harbor”. Looking at and smelling its harbors now makes me think that history does creates ironies.

For many people, Hong Kong is Giordano, Bossini, U2, and Baleno. It is Gucci, Armani, DKNY, YSL, LV and
the whole alphabet soup. It is Li Ka Shing, Stanley Ho, the Kuoks and other filthy rich names. It is Jackie Chan, Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, Tony Leung and recently, Edison Chen (sorry, can’t post his winning photos).

It is Disneyland, Ocean Park, Victoria Peak, Ngong Ping, Giant Buddha, Lan Kwai Fong and Night Market. It is the MTR, the Star Ferry, high-rises, Chek Lap Kok, double-decker buses, trams, and the IFC 2 that is considered to be one of the tallest in the world but for me just looks like a giant … sandworm from Dune. (see pic)

Maybe Hong Kong are all of these. Some of these I’ve seen, many I’ve only read about.

But the Hong Kong I’ve really known are the migrant workers I’ve been with for the past years. The “manangs”, “nanays” and “titas” who surprise you with free pancit, halayang ube, or a steaming cup of coffee every now and then. Those women who are more giving than any charity foundation and more courageous than a million GMAs combined.

My Hong Kong are the housemates and colleagues I’ve been with since the start. We have are own pet peeves, eccentricities and orientation but we do manage to live together quite well without scratching each other’s eyes out. Ok, so there was a hair-pulling incidence once.

My Hong Kong is my coming out. No more peeking out of the closet for relief. It’s a life I now fully embrace though still trying to understand.

Then there are the ‘beckies’ that are becoming part of my Hong Kong. They are the newfound friends I am still getting to really know and tremendously enjoy doing so.

My Hong Kong are the people I’ve met and known. My Hong Kong are the experiences – joyful and sad, painful and liberating – I’ve had. The yam chaa in the mornings and evening hot pots with guests. Movies from time to time, eating out, gay nights. The gimiks we had, the rallies we organized, the blunders we committed, and the victories we won.

My Hong Kong is the life I made and now living.

So no, I do not really hate Hong Kong. Maybe just its freakin’ weather.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

(Not) About Sex and Politics

It’s Saturday morning. I just want to write something before I plunge into my work again and I’ve decided NOT to talk about gayness and politics.

Asexual and apolitical. These are the guiding words for this post

So I thought I’d write about memories of a travel. Some immediately came to mind but this one stood out: Bangladesh, September 1998.

I went there to take part in a conference on education. It was my second trip outside the Philippines and I was really excited and kept thinking what “firsts” I will experience in a country touted to be poorer than ours.

Upon arrival in Dhaka, I was able to check out smoothly enough. Looking at the throngs of well-wishers and greeters, I didn’t get to see the person who was supposed to pick me up.

Armed with a printed info of the conference’s venue, I thought I should just go ahead and get a cab. Besides, it couldn’t be much worse than the cotton buds I had to stick inside my ears during the flight or the seat that wouldn’t recline.

Stepping out proved me wrong. I was immediately mobbed by several guys – with some clinging on to my backpack and a couple of others holding my hands – and pushed in a hundred different directions. They were taxi drivers competing for passengers.

So yeah, being the center of a horde of men’s attention is not always nice. (Strike one! So much for no gayness.)

I struggled out of their grip and ran back inside the comfort of the arrivals area. Catching my breath, I was approached by another guy who asked me politely what happened and offered help. The trauma of the past minutes made me agree.

The details are now unclear but finally, I was inside a cab with the helpful guy chatting away about my flight and other mundane stuffs. After almost an hour, I realized that I was literally being taken for a ride to up my fare. Since it was my first time in the country and inside a car with two men I barely knew, I decided it was more prudent to keep my mouth shut and just think that, anyway, I’ll get to where I should be before the end of the year.

At last I did get to the hotel. I was greeted by the hotel manager who asked me if I was Filipino and after I said yes, replied “putanginamo”. With all smiles I said back, “putanginamorin”. Nothing beats smashing cultural barriers than politely said cuss words.

The four-day conference was successful. Other than the fact that I had to eat chicken curry and vegetable curry three times a day for the whole duration of the event, I didn’t really have any major complaint.

Of course, the curry overload made the toilet my second most-favored place in the hotel. There I learned about pink coarse tissues. After several uses, it made me realize that pink a-holes are not always sexually stimulating. (Fine, strike two!) Good thing I grew up with tabo.

Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy Bangladesh. Meeting new people, seeing and experiencing new things, having lively discussions, being exposed to a different culture and ways – these and more taught me a lot of lessons. I saw similarities and differences. I learned about solidarity.

By the way, cows freely roam the streets of Dhaka so lots of cow dung were also around. Thinking about this now made me realize that what they have was better. Their cows and dungs were on the streets while we have ours right inside the Palace.

(Darn it, strike three. I’m OUT!)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Numbers Game

I got this from my e-mail and would like to share excerpts and my thoughts on it. The Philippine Collegian had a section akin to this before. It made the fact that there is something seriously wrong in our country more glaring and concrete.

What is $130 Million?

6,500,000,000 PHP for ONE FAMILY

Luxury cars they could parade in the streets with no speed limit, coding, or any respect for traffic policies
Vacation houses that would be empty for 11.75 months a year
Family vacations in Europe, the US, the Moon, etc.
Handbags that are more expensive than low cost houses
Watches that could send a dozen scholars to school from pre-school to high school

6,500,000,000 PHP
is EQUAL to:

108,000 families that would be given decent homes that they could live in for 15-20 years
77,380 employees that would be fairly supported for one year
135,416 Scholars who could go to decent colleges for four years
40,000 people who would get health insurance for a year
11,607 Scholars who could study in ATENEO or LA SALLE for 4 years with stipend and school supplies allowance
9,285 Public School libraries that would serve 18,570,000 public school students


It could probably feed the 50 OFWs in Kuwait who were forced to scrounge trash bins to eat expired food. It could also probably repatriate the 198 Filipinos stranded in Jeddah for running away from their employers due to various forms of abuses, maltreatment and contract violations.

It could also be used to prevent more Glenda Lorios, Jocelyn Dulnuans and Marilou Ranarios from happening again. Probably, it could have also assisted the thousands of OFWs in Hong Kong who sought the help of private NGOs instead of the government.

It could have saved thousands of women from sex trafficking. It could have also eased the minds of many OFWs who are desperate to have their sick family members hospitalized.

It could have probably done all of these but obviously, it was not used for such purposes.

The good thing that it is doing now is mobilizing tens of thousands of Filipinos against greed, corruption and disregard for the hardships of the majority. Probably, it can go to hundreds of thousands or even more, later.

Probably, US$130 million can be a small step to take us closer to this:

"We dream of a society where families were not broken up by urgent need for survival. We dream and will actively work for a homeland where there is opportunity for everyone to live a decent and humane life."

A simple dream. If only.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This Gay Boy’s Life

A common question that gay guys usually encounter is: when did you realize you are gay?

Honestly I don’t have an exact answer. But I do know that when I did admit to myself I’m gay, it was the second most important turning point in my life. The first one, by the way, happened on July 15, 1997 but this story will never see the light of day on this blog.

Maybe my gayness started when I got excited with Steve Armstrong and his sideburns, and not with Voltes V the robot and its fight with Bozanian monsters. I didn’t grow up with Sesame Street so Bert and Ernie’s influence was of no consequence. I was into Batibot, and Pong Pagong and Kiko Matsing can’t surely turn even a drag queen gay.

Or maybe my being gay began when I felt both indignant and at ease when I was about seven and a distant cousin of the same age taunted me “Bakla, bakla!”. I did throw the same taunt at him until a memorable fistfight happened. The last time I saw him, he was even “gayer” than I was then which proved to me that birds of the same feather fight each other.

Or how about when I tried on my mother’s housedress and posed at the top of our staircase? My mom just laughed and ordered me to change clothes.

Or maybe it started when I saw beyond the aesthetics of a male physique. I think it was the same time that I became uncomfortable being called “pare” complete with slaps on the back and even the occasional bearhugs.

Or maybe it was when I had that overrated “first experience”.

Or maybe it was when I got introduced to the activist world and discovered that it is alright to be gay and what’s important is to situate gays and the gay struggle in the people’s movement.

I do not really know.

It was more of a journey of self-discovery. It was not without contradictory emotions, thoughts and actions. It included a series of steps, leaps, jumps, runs, walks, rests, and even some steps back (like when I had a girlfriend … yeah Kiks, jeer).

When I became an activist, I plunged into it. With my gayness, it was more of touch and go until I finally got to exorcise from inside me the vestiges of fear and shame that our society instilled against homosexuality.

So when did I realize I am gay? It was like this: a long time ago, there was a princess who lived in a tower and her name was Jericho

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Of Valentine's and Victories

I wasn’t planning to write anything today aside from what I really have to do. In fact, I wasn’t planning to blog until I finish my deadlines in the office. But what the heck, here I am writing my take on Valentine’s Day while on break to get it over and done with.

For the record, I do not look at this day with disdain. I may despise the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, but those who have cause to celebrate – homos and heteros alike – have all the right to do so. I may be a little jealous of you, but don’t mind me. It is not something that rules my day and I’ll be over it by tomorrow.

I am not bitter nor jaded with Valentine’s Day and corollary to it, with romantic love. Past experiences (that are so very few and far between by the way) have left me a little scarred and scathed but definitely not cynical. I prefer to believe that I’ve learned some lessons and unlearned some beliefs. How the lessons can be applied and how the beliefs are really changed remain for me to know.

My take on Valentine’s Day: it is a good day to celebrate love with our feet firmly planted on the ground. It is a day to realize with fondness that we have loved and have been loved. It is a day to be wantonly happy if we are in love and loved in return. It is a day to look forward to being in love again and having a loving relationship.

Some may say that these can and should be done any day. Maybe it is. But today is a sweeter reason to do so.


Ok, so I may not have a lovelife. Nothing new there. But this news made my day.

Blanket suspension of the POEA MC-04 may not be equivalent to scrap. Still, definitely a victory.

This development further affirms my belief in the movement and people’s collective action. It is great to be a part of this movement and to take part in these actions.

It doesn’t end here of course. More fights to face. They don’t get tired of their antics and neither should we.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ain't it shameful?

In our rally last Sunday, there was this guy who watched on the sidelines while OFWs assembled for the march. Someone approached him and gave him some materials on the issue then I overheard them talking:

Guy: "Hindi ba kayo nahihiya at dito pa kayo nagra-rally na kitang-kita ng ibang mga lahi?"

OFW: "Bakit naman kami mahihiya kung karapatan namin ang nakataya?"

Fantastic answer to a stupid question. (Incidentally, upon further probing, she found out that the guy was from the Philippine military and refused to answer when asked why he was there.)

I got to think of this while reading the running account of the Senate hearing on the US$329.5 million NBN-ZTE scandal. The magnitude of corruption, bribery and political maneuvers involved is just astounding. Garapalan! To hear that a 20% cut from public contracts is the "norm" makes me want to puke especially when one considers that there are the Marianettas who die of poverty.

Ain't it more shameful?

Then there are the news of more abduction of activists in Central Luzon and in the Visayas. Recent victims included the vice chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (AMGL) and a leader of the Central Luzon Aetas Association. I remember last year when we interviewed six teens whose activist parents have been forcibly disappeared by military elements and have not yet been surfaced - the pain, the anger and the hunger for justice were already in their young hearts and minds.

Almost 900 people - many were activist peasants, workers, women, lawyers, churchpeople, students, journalists - have been victims of extra-judicial killings and more than 200 have been forcibly disappeared since GMA assumed power in 2001. Nobody has been convicted and no justice has been done.

Ain't it more shameful?

And then there is this letter I received last night from an OFW who helps us a lot when we have welfare cases in Kuwait (excerpt):

Roberto Panganiban was a typical OFW. He went to work in Dubai in order to provide the best for his family. During his long years of work abroad, cancer, unfortunately, struck and forced him to go back to the Philippines. As a paying OWWA member, he approached the government body but was refused assistance because accordingly, cancer is not among those covered by the OWWA insurance. Sadly, Roberto succumbed to cancer very recently without help coming from the government. Francis Oca of Riyadh wrote to the OWWA head and even to President GMA last September 2007 after Roberto exposed his case over to the Filipino cyber community. Despite those letters, no help was given to Roberto!

Ain't it more shameful?

Ain't she more shameful?

If I was not busy taking videos that time, I would have given that guy a tongue-lashing: "Isn't it shameful that you stand here asking us to be ashamed?"

This is not me ranting. This is me enraged and unashamed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Random Ramblings and Grumblings 2

Sya, sya ... aaminin ko na. Sa lahat ng mga nag-appreciate ng bagong blog header ko, salamat ng marami. Full credits should go to none other than: Kiks! Taga-tango lang at taga-tili ng "gusto ko yan!" ang naging papel ko. Photoshop idiot pa po. Dalawang seasons at 13 episodes ng Avatar: The Last Airbender lang yan. He may do it for free if you say Scrap POEA MC-04. Kidding. He does favors for friends. But I did say Scrap POEA MC-04 ... a lot!


For whatever reason, I felt dejected last night. Then a chatmate started harping on his ex and asked me what I thought he should do. I told him to just stop caring. Stop caring about what he does and doesn't do, what he says and doesn't say, what he thinks and doesn't think. Indifference may just do the trick until he just simply doesn't care about him anymore.

I went to bed, turned on my Creative for some tunes and berated myself: ipokrito! You do know the reason. You do care. Finally fell asleep at 2 am.


We had a great rally yesterday. Napagod ang braso ko sa pagbi-video. Sobrang lamig pa. Still, t'was worth it. Some pics:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Scrap the crap

They caved in. Or so we think.

While on one hand, Hong Kong OFWs have something to celebrate with the news that they'll be exempted from the new POEA Guidelines on Direct Hiring, there still remains the question of whether the guidelines should remain in the first place.

The obvious unpopularity of the new rule is evident with the actions done and planned by OFWs. Under such a situation, the government appears not to want to clash headlong with migrants' groups and thus had to offer something to douse the rage of OFWs.

But then, why only Hong Kong, Italy and Canada? Though it's true that the three have a relatively big concentration of Filipinos, their numbers combined will not even reach a third of the number of OFWs to be affected, say for example, in the Middle East.

So basically, the government's "caving in" is not much of one. It is a ploy to diffuse the tension that the guidelines created and take off some of the heat the government has been receiving not only on this issue but with the recent developments on the NBN scandal as well.

The POEA is sly and scheming. It figures for the mistress of duplicity sits in Malacanang.

At the end of it, POEA MC-04 is still crap and should just be scrapped.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kung Hei, Kung Hei

So yeah, tomorrow is the Chinese New Year.

It's that time of the year when a mass evacuation happens in Hong Kong. Taking advantage of the long holiday, many people - expatriates especially - leave the hustles and bustles of busy Hong Kong life at least for a while.

Many shops close for a day or two. On the eve of CNY, panic buying sometimes ensues and banks are mobbed for last minute transactions.

Lan Kwai Fong - the bar hub of HK - is of course open to cater to party animals.

Then there are the migrant workers. CNY means more days off for our kababayans. Many also receive the fabled red packet or lycee.

CNY and the period preceding the holidays is also usually the time when domestic workers in Hong Kong do more work than usual. Cleaning the house until it sparkles, work in parties employers organize, take care of kids while visiting grandparents - and a whole lot of other tasks covered by the vague term domestic work.

There is also the annual fireworks display. I've only seen it once even if I always spend CNY here. After the 2000 CNY, I guess I was just not up to elbowing people to get a better spot and saying "waaaaahhhh" every after spectacular display of lights anymore.

Pending my mood and who will be the company, I may try to watch the fireworks display this year. At the minimum, for the sake of the holiday spirits.

As all CNY goes, it'll be quite busy for us whose line of work deals with migrant workers. If I don't get a chance to say this to friends and fellow bloggers during the holidays, let me say it now:

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Monday, February 4, 2008


I do have one now. However, this is not me thinking about him but me asking myself: what the hell am I doing with such an insipid feeling that does not even have a definition anywhere except in good ole wiki?!

Alright, crushes are natural. We had them, we have them and most probably have more of them as long as our basic faculties are intact.

But when you are at a certain age - like 30 - what I think about crushes is that they are 24-hour (ok, maximum of a week!) things that have to be resolved one way or another. It is not something that you let fester under a coat of warm, fuzzy, gooey emotions. For pete's sake! You're not six anymore and blithely telling your elder sister that you've a got a crush on Steve Armstrong of Voltes V.

I can tell myself that "You've been there and you've done that" but I will not for I haven't been really there and I haven't really done that. But I can definitely tell myself that "You should be old enough to know better."

Do something! Either get on with it or get over it. Push it on or push it off. Build something or crush it to tiny pieces and just be happy with the company.

I haven't made up my mind yet. But somehow, I will learn whether I do know any better.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Farewell and Some Fun

(Off-topic first: For fellow OFWs, check out this critique on the new POEA Guidelines on Direct Hiring. Protests and rallies are being organized everywhere. Hurray!)

Tonight, two worlds shall collide.

Alright, I exaggerate. This is what will actually happen tonight:

A fellow activist is leaving Hong Kong for good and moving somewhere in the Pacific. He's originally from Switzerland but I'm not sure if he's really rooted anywhere.

Mike is a human rights activist and a darn good one. We were together in the 2nd HK Mission for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines last October. In one of the few moments when the schedule was not so tight, Mike and I engaged in a discussion on HR, peace, non-violence, revolutionary violence, the armed struggle in Nepal and the Philippines, etc. etc. It was a good talk over bottles of SMB and San Mig Light.

But I think the whole time that I have known him, his best moment was when he literally trashed the statements of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera in our meeting with her. He was so good I could have given him a crown!

His colleagues called for farewell drinks for Mike. I'll definitely attend that one. I've known many activists who have come and gone. I don't mind. As another activist friend has told me: we may be traveling on different roads, but we are heading towards the same direction. Hope to see them there!

After the farewell drinks, it'll be time for a gay night with my new found friends. It'll be a night of chit-chat, food (drooling over thoughts of Rye's kaldereta now) and drinks. For sure it'll be fun to meet again those I already know and get to know those I haven't met yet.

A good start of the month night, eh?

It'll be a full night for sure. But one I'm looking forward to - both the activist and the gay in me.