Friday, November 06, 2009


I have always dreamed of playing a musical instrument. Any musical instrument. But my day-dreams always zero-in on a harp. Yes, a harp - that contraption attributed to angels mounted on clouds floating endlessly above our heads. Silly you say? Methinks it takes a real man to be seen playing a harp considering the rarity of finding man and harp playing beautiful music together.

The harp is the national symbol of Ireland. Its romantic charms were first enjoyed by the Celts in the 7th Century A.D. The remains of several Celtic harps have been unearthed from the buried ship Sutton Hoo near Suffolk, England. The harp's mesmerizing sound did much to spread its popularity. One Celtic legend proclaimed that there were but three things necessary for a happy home - a virtuous wife, a chair cushion, and a harp.

Some harps were found in an archaeological dig at Ur in Sumer, dating its origins to some 3,000 B.C. The Ur harps, whose shapes are thought to have been formed to copy a hunter's bow, were curved instruments with 12 to 15 strings that apparently did not sound at all different from the later Celtic versions. And, for reasons yet to be satisfactorily explained, the harp seems to have been exclusively played by women. Still today, most harps can be found as orchestral instruments, played mostly by women.

I think my next musical instrument day-dream will be centered on a nose flute. It could at least help clear my sinus.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Former world heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali (a.k.a. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) must be painfully asking himself if the fame and fortune he had reaped in the many years as a prized boxer are worth the condition he is in now.

Ali is a broken man afflicted with strong uncontrollable body tremors, blurred speech and lack of coordination of body functions. He has what is known as Parkinson's Disease.

A medical report had said that, as shown in a cat scan, powerful blows to Ali's head from powerful boxers like Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes and George Foreman had caused neurons in his brain to "drop out." A radiologist said that the same condition afflicts more than 50 percent of boxers with over 20 bouts.

Ali's sad case gives support to critics of the sport of boxing who have urged that it be scrapped especially among the youth since it is barbaric, degrading to human dignity and encourages violence. A good example here is Chavit Singson, a widely-known supporter and patron of Manny Pacquiao, the former beating up his girlfriend black and blue. But this was a mis-match.

I recall the case of another black heavyweight champion Joe Louis who attained fame and fortune like Ali did, but died a poor man in a flea-infested flop-house after he was fired from his post as a bouncer in some honky-tonk joint. These poor boxers, mostly blacks and latinos, are exploited by mostly white promoters and agents who luxuriate in posh retirement in Miami and Mexico while their wards end up punch-drunk in charity homes. Better we keep a tight watch on Freddie Roach. He could be living up to his surname.

In our country, boxing is big business. It even sends a mob of our congressmen to fight venues like Las Vegas, all expenses paid for by Filipino taxpayers. Time for re-examination of our values.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


A jihad is a war against the enemies of Islam. Muslim fighters are asked to take an oath (juramentar in Spanish). Jihad is a venerable institution sanctioned by the Qur'an and the Hadith. It arose in the Philippines during the Moro wars, notably among the Tausugs and the Maguindanaoans as a patriotic action against the Spanish invaders.

A mujahid goes to war against enemies of Islam and actually desires to be killed to ensure immediate entrance into paradise.

Jihad constituted one of the most effective and terrifying weapons by the Muslims against the Spanish and American colonialists. Because of this, the Americans had to develop the Colt .45 and the Krag-Jorgensen rifle to stop the frenzied, attacking mujahid dead in their tracks.

Haven't the Muslim rebels declared a jihad yet against the government forces? And how many times have we heard AFP spokesmen and fattened generals say that the Abu Sayyaf will be history soon? Is our AFP scared of a jihad on them? Is there some secret negotiation here between the Abu and the AFP? Time and again, our military brass have declared that the Abu Sayyaf's days are numbered. This I have heard countless times before, just like a broken record. Our generals should just "tell that to the marines."

Monday, November 02, 2009


SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. A prominent Manila society matron was sitting next to President Quirino at a smart party.

"Oh, Mister President," she said gushingly, "you are so silent. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you."

"You lose," the President replied.


Meet Mang Terry, barber, 71, married with 5 kids. He cuts hair all day long at the Alabang Public Market. His mind is as sharp as his scissors and razor when it comes to politics. He knows the heroes and the heels in government. And much more.

I must admit that I look forward to my haircut day with him every 12 days. The moment I sit on his swinging chair is the same moment he starts telling me stories like a storyteller would to a 7-year old kid. Amazingly and astonishingly accurate this Mang Terry. His stories almost always confirm things I had previously heard from another source. It always keeps me guessing where he would get these news. From other customers perhaps? From the radio? From palengkeras? Whatever his source, it must be from an unimpeachable one. The only time Mang Terry would stop blabbering is when my haircut was over and I would step down from his chair. He would then continue with the next customer I suppose. I never fail to reward him with a generous tip for his 'breaking news.' He should be employed at the Office of the Press Secretary where I am quite sure he would be a threat to all the fibbers in that department, I thought. He knows his politics like a true scholar of the subject. They only know how to juggle them.

On the other hand -

Meet King Archelaus, perpetrator of that ancient joke about replying "in silence," to the barber who asked him how he should cut his hair, and how he would be pleased to know that his tradition is occasionally carried on in the modern era.

A man, who might well stem from this kingly line, handed the barber a coin and then climbed into the chair.

"Why, sir, thank you," said the astonished barber, "never before have I been tipped in advance."

"That is not a tip," snarled the customer. "It's hush money."