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Monday, February 27, 2012

Puppy Love For Reading

I remember I was four years old when our neighbor launched a general house cleaning, and disposed a sack-ful of hardbound books. I was outside playing when they asked me to call my mother. The elderly neighbor said we could have all the books if my mother would have a place for them at home. My mother said we might not have enough place for all of them, but offered to look into the pile and chose some. The neighbor agreed. As a result, I got my first hardbound children's books with drawings of white kids playing, praying, and studying.

At four, I still couldn't read, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the books which smelled just heavenly. I remember "reading" to myself made-up stories behind the drawings. I was already a storyteller even before I could read!

Thinking of that, I decided to read to my two nephews as early as when they were two and four, respectively. (They are now three and five. ) Since I couldn't read to them Moliere (Heck, I couldn't read Moliere even to myself!), I chose the book beside it: The Bible. How they loved the Story of Creation, and the Story of the First Christmas! They loved them so much we must have read them repeatedly for a month. Of course, I had to translate them to Filipino first. We have decided early that the children's first language would be Filipino. Therefore, no teaching of English unless they ask for some translation of the cartoons they watch on TV.

Today, we have quite a list of books and stories we've read together. Those in English, I still translate to Filipino. Here's my nephews' reading list:

1. Ang Paglalakbay ni Butirik, ang Dyip na Masungit (a 1993 Palanca Awardee for Short Story for Children)
2. Alamat ng Butanding
3. Putot
4. Ang Alamat ng Ibong Adarna
5. Jesus, the Healer
6. The Ugly Duckling
7. Rumpelstiltskin
8. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
9. Pinocchio (Because of Pinoccio, my 3-year-old nephew now calls banana que "Pinocchio," bananas on a long stick)

Of the stories we've read, it is Butirik that we keep on going back to. They have come to know the story page by page, picture after picture. You cannot fool the kids. They know when you try to skip pages to quickly finish reading it. Even I can tell the story with my eyes closed, flipping the right pages where the scenes go.

Reading Jesus the Healer, they now know what a "synagogue" is, or why a "ketongin" is an outcast in society, and that Jesus has turned evil spirits into pigs.

Oh, how they hated Scrooge and the Christmas ghosts! But sincerely felt sorry for Tiny Tim.

When the right time comes, we shall have a ceremonial handing of the key to the Harry Potter collection. Can't wait.

Domestic Pride

Weekends are by no means rest-ends for me. Weekends are days of the week that allow me to be human in the tradition of land before time. The time when people were left using devices of nature, doing the most humane of human activities. Well, close.

Sunday mornings I do the laundry from six to nine. I love real sunlight to dry my clothes. Doing the laundry for three hours is better than 3 hours in the gym, and a week of brisk walking. This I think.

I cook our meals on weekends, using ingredients we raise in our backyards and those of our neighbors'. Yesterday, I asked my brother to pick malunggay from our neighbor's tree, and pulled some stalks of lemongrass that my father has successfully grown by the road side, our side. For months he tried to raise it by the jack fruit tree by the creek, but failed. Now, we know lemongrass loves road dust for food. Since we live in a barrio, neighbors share what little they have. You live in a city condo, and you only share the elevators with them.

Also on weekends, I am the in-house nanny of my two nehphews (3 years and 5). I am the resident MTRCB Chief for their benefit. Disney Channel, Cartoon Networks and TV5 are their favorites. TV5? Yeah, TV5. I don't know why. (They call it TV5, not Channel 5.)

The 3-year-old nephew and I were watching Ben10: Destroy All Aliens when a scene came showing this character throwing a bottle into the sea. My nephew, in his 3-year-old high-pitched voice, squeeked: "Tita, nagtapon siya ng bote! Bawal 'yun di ba kase babaha." I rejoined: "Tama. Dapat nagtatapon lang ng basura sa basurahan."

Once, we took the jeepney when suddenly it rained hard. Midway, there was a huge flood with trash of all shapes, colors and sizes floating. My nephew then asked: "Tita, bakit may swimming pool sa daan?" Me: " Kase maraming nagtatapon ng basura na bumabara sa kanal kaya nagbabaha." That followed a kilometric series of "Bakit?" from a kid whose sponge of a mind wants more data than any supercomputer can hold.

Adults, specially the working class, should not "vege" the weekend away. It is during this time, the seventh day, the rest day when God asks us to worship Him. By worship, He meant do something for and with his creation.

Above: The kid named "Bakit?"

The nephew and the Tita horsing around. The kid clicking away his own pictures using my iPad.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Laws Pull This Country Down

In today's news, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has sued officials of Madrigal firm whose property in Ayala Alabang Village was turned into a shabu laboratory by some Chinese nationals who by the way were caught and hopefully not just to be deported back to China when convicted. Remember the Filipino drug mules who died in Chinese death rows. However, now this one sucks, Philippine Immigration Law on Deportation of Aliens Section 37.a.1 lists "Any alien who is convicted and sentenced for a violation of the law governing prohibited drugs" will be arrested and deported. Just deported. Now, we know why we are the haven of international drug syndicates.

The Senate and the Defense team of Chief Justice Corona have been constipating about technicalities of the law. The law states this. The law states that. The law says it cannot be done. The law says it is illegal. The law says it is not right. The law. The law. The law. Like we have the best ones in the world.

I've just realized that the Immigration Law sucks as much as the bank secrecy law and the rules of procedure on impeachment trials stink.

Juan Ponce Enrile rejected a prosecution witness yesterday because his testimony would be useless because the testimony would not support any of those allegations stated in the prosecution's articles of impeachment, thus wasting everyone's time. Enrile would not hear the testimony to be given by the Vice President for Sales of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) on the "platinum" perks and privileges given by PAL to Corona and his wife at the time when the Supreme Court was hearing a case filed against PAL. That would have been bribery as Enrile put it. But bribery is not part of the articles of impeachment so let's throw away that testimony to the bin and send that Veep home.

Not to mention last week's Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) for the presentation of Philippine Savings Bank of CJ Corona's dollar accounts which the Senate Impeachment Court upheld. Talk about check and balance. (Insert sarcasm here.)

Now going back to the case filed by PDEA against the owner of the property used for the drug lab, why didn't they file a case against the management of Ayala Alabang Village? Their security personnel allowed the suspects to transport drugs and other related paraphernalia to and from the vicinity. Ayala Alabang is not like Pasig or Tondo that you cannot sue the mayors for having the labs in their turf. Ayala Alabang is a closed, walled, heavily guarded little city which allows entry to their landowners and tenants with a complete snappy salute sans a peek to their compartments or the company they keep, but would give all sorts of SOP bullshit to mere mortals when they try to enter this kingdom. Using for visitors only lane, the one near the guard post, the visitor will be asked to surrender his or her driver's license, give the complete name and phone number of the homeowner to be visited whom they would call for confirmation. If you have an emergency of titanic proportion, but you don't have the right answers to the guard, good luck with that.

Tough and strict and classy, but in their midst were big time drug laboratories. This little kingdom is snuggly protected by the anti-trespassing law.

A lot of our laws are pillows for the wicked and a yoke for the upright.

Laws are not like literature of Shakespearean magnitude which is both timeless and universal. Laws of man aren't like the laws of God - Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal - which are absolute. Laws of man ought to be changed and expanded through time and circumstance.

Otherwise, let's flush all our legislators down the toilet.

How Girls Deal

A friend has just sent me a long ranting text that I deleted as soon as I replied to it. The text went something like, "I know you consider me a PEST when I call or text you. We used to hang out a lot but since you got that BF of yours...yada yada yada...You ought to give me credit for having survived life, etc..."

Half an hour ago, she called me at the office, wanted to chat and asked about this guy I WAS dating. I told her I didn't want to talk about it. I was also pretty straightforward in telling her I had to go because hey! I'm at work and it's only a little past 8. I need to prepare for a meeting. She was home watching Velvet TV.

Then this text. Talk about justice in the world.

The guy she was so anxious about, the boyfriend she thought I had, and I have not met for close to month already. And as we speak I have been trying to find out what went wrong and what was wrong with me: why my relationships don't end up like the ones in the movies; why my relationships end up like those written by Nobel awardees: bleak, sad, stream of consciousness reality.

Girls have different ways in dealing with broken hearts. Some assemble a conference. Others do text and e-mail blasts. Others cut their hair, go shopping, eat chocolates, ice cream and cakes, cook and go fat and ugly. Some drink. Some make booty calls to ex-boyfriends (not the most recent one, of course).

I DON'T. I get on with life. I keep the mashed heart to myself while I put on a smile and a happy mood. I look more beautiful.

I carry it so grandly this so-called friend accuses me of having the time of my life with this guy who in fact dumped me for no #$@&*^*($*!!&* APPARENT reason!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whitney's Eulogy By Bodyguard

No, this is not the eulogy delivered by Kevin Costner for Whitney Houston. This is the eulogy given by Ray Watson, Whitney's bodyguard of eleven years.

He said: "We gotta give a little back to all our entertainers. We gotta treat them with dignity and treat them with love and start really caring for them. It means so much that we just give a little love and not just buy their tickets. We buy their tickets then we go home. They give their lives to you. They're not with their families. They're in and out, onstage, offstage, on planes, off planes, on buses traveling, doing everything so we can have some entertainment. Whether they own a court or whether they own a stage, whether it'd be on TV, they've given us entertainment to make our lives just a little brighter and our nights a little smoother. So let's give it back to them. Let's give them love other than just a ticket. This lady right here (pointed at Whitney's casket), she loved you. And I know that. I was with her every day almost."

What a lovely insight! This received a resounding applause and several standing ovations from the audience at the funeral service.

Entertainers, like doctors and teachers, are individuals who have their own place in the sun for a reason, with a special purpose. Yes, we gossip about our teachers. We talk about the boss's current woman. But nobody's personal life gets ripped apart and ridiculed than a celebrity's. We say it comes with fame and fortune. A little price to pay for owning part of the world.

As it is, talent is not enough to entertain us. We need scandals. We need to see them break down, to be at their worst; to see them get busted for drugs; to watch them handcuffed; to see them ugly like their mascara running ugly. We need to see them live life worse than we live ours. We make them our excuses for being mediocre.

Superstars in whatever field got to where they are because no one else did it better at the time they got there. They were raw and perfect with dreams and talents. Then we start screwing it all up for them.

(Video courtesy of and

K+12 and Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"

With the government's project to push K+12 program to "to raise the country’s basic education course to world standards and produce high school graduates ready to be employed even without a college degree," (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Oct 7, 2011) we wonder if our education system will improve and make our youth globally competitive.

I hope our teachers will focus on improving themselves and truly get serious about not only what they teach, but more so on how they teach. The best teachers I had set themselves apart from the common ones by telling me, showing me, explaining to me, making me feel about a subject matter. Subject matters are generic - it's in the syllabi - but only the great mentors can lead you to the heart of the matter.

Here's my review of Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."

(Picture from Wikipedia)

I have always believed that education is the greatest catalyst for change. But education is not measured simply by knowing how to read and write or count from 1 to 10. Education does not mean having a PhD or an MA after one's name. Education means more than knowing who Plato is or what the square root of 4 is. Education can be meaningful only if it serves some purpose, meaningful purpose.

As a catalyst for change, education should be the bond to link humanity into one brotherhood. Education ought also to change man's flights from poverty to economic freedom. Education should liberate mankind from oppression and from their oppressors. This is the kind of education Paulo Freire is heralding in his masterpiece the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" (1970).

What is the "pedagogy of the oppressed"?

As Freire puts it, pedagogy of the oppressed is the "pedagogy of men engaged in the fight for their own liberation." And liberation, according to him is "a childbirth, a painful one." This liberation then brings forth a "new man" which is no longer the oppressor, no longer the oppressed, but a man in the process of achieving freedom.

But that is the ideal. To be able to understand why there is a need for this so-called "liberation" or "childbirth," one has to examine where the world is as far as the majority of the indigents are concerned, and where it is as far as the powerful minority are concerned.

Who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors?

It is not difficult to categorize an oppressed from an oppressor. One can simply look at them, and he can identify who is who. There is no dividing line between these two classes of people, but a big marginal difference - that which makes pinpointing as easy as identifying black from white, day from night, the poor from the rich.

Basically, the oppressed suffer from two social maladies: fatalism and self-depreciation. The oppressed rely greatly on fate, and see their sufferings as a will of God, as if God is the "creator of the `organized disorder.' "This distorted view of God leads the oppressed to give credence to the power of fate and fortune. More than being fatalistic, the oppressed are seen to be consciously or subconsciously internalizing the opinion, mostly negative opinions, of their oppressors on them. When they are told that they are sick, lazy and unproductive, the oppressed would in the end be convinced that they indeed are what their oppressors brand them - sick, lazy and unproductive. This very low self-esteem somehow hinders them from raising above their lot.

Ironically, the oppressed want to be like his oppressor, to imitate him, and to follow his style. In asking for agrarian reform, the oppressed do not particularly want to be free in their toil, but to acquire land, and then become themselves landowners, i.e., to become bosses. As Freire puts it quite bluntly, the oppressed find in the oppressors their ideal of "manhood." The oppressed's ideal is to be "men," but for them to be "men" is to be oppressors.

The oppressors, on the other hand, believe that the term "human beings" belongs only to themselves, and the others who are not like them are simply "things" at their disposal. They find it normal to dehumanize others, and to violate their rights. For them, the only rights that exist are their rights: "their right to live in peace, over against the right of the oppressed to survival." For them, money is the measurement of all things, and profit the primary goal. "For them, `to be' is `to have'." Thus, their goal is to accumulate all the money they could put their hands on. They put their fingers on every pie so they could have a share of everything.

Who process the childbearing of liberation?

The great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and their oppressors. It is given that the "liberation" cannot come from the oppressors, in the same manner that "violence cannot be initiated by the oppressed but by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons."

As the oppressors steal the humanity of the oppressed, they too are stolen of their own humanity. This very act reduce them to being beasts, completely dehumanizing themselves. On the other hand, as the oppressed fight for their freedom and try to take away the oppressors' power to dominate them, the oppressed, too, somehow restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in their practice of dehumanization. It is like giving their oppressors good bread after the oppressed have taken away from them the spoiled loaf. Simply put, it is the oppressed giving their oppressors the gift of salvation.

Who are the "developers" of the pedagogy of the oppressed?

As mentioned earlier, pedagogy of the oppressed is "the pedagogy of men engaged in the fight for their own liberation." And from these same men came the developers of this pedagogy. They are the ones who recognize or begin to recognize themselves as oppressed. The "childbearing of liberation' cannot be processed by the oppressors neither can they develop or practice the pedagogy of the oppressed. Developing the pedagogy of the oppressed by the oppressors would serve only as an agency of their egotistical nature as they make the oppressed "objects of their (false) humanitarianism."

In this regard, Freire envisions the "libertarian pedagogy." This libertarian pedagogy is a kind of education that encourages learners to challenge and change the world, not merely uncritically adapt themselves to it. The content and purpose of libertarian pedagogy is the collective responsibility of learners, teachers, and the community alike who, through dialogue, seek political, as well as economic and personal empowerment. Programs of libertarian education support and compliment larger social struggles for liberation.

As empowerment is the result of a libertarian pedagogy, it is distinct from building skills and competencies. Education for empowerment further differs from schooling both in its emphasis on groups, rather than individuals, and in its focus on cultural transformation, rather than social adaptation.

Freire clearly shows that education can indeed be a catalyst for change. He truly understands that change cannot come from one person or from one sector. Change has to come from the majority who values freedom. And to liberate man from dehumanization is to educate him that he should not allow himself to be dehumanized.

What is the Banking Concept of Education as opposed to Problem-Posing Education?

Most of us, in one way or the other, have been educated the same way: the teacher talks and we, the students, listen; the teacher asks questions and we students answer; the teacher narrates the chronological order of Philippine presidents and we students memorize the order. Freire says that education has long suffered from this "narration sickness." And it's high time that we took some medicine.

Freire differentiates two educational concepts namely, the Banking Concept of Education and the Problem-Posing Concept of Education.

In the banking method of education, passive learners receive deposits of pre-selected, ready-made knowledge. The learner's mind is seen as an empty vault into which the gold bars of approved knowledge are stored. This approach is also referred to as "digestive" and as "narrational" education. In the banking education, the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the students are objects or containers that are filled by deposits of information. The more full the container, the better the teacher. Those students who are easiest to fill are considered better students, and those who are difficult to fill are judged to be "problem" students.

The banking method of education therefore serves the oppressive society by 1) "mythologizing" reality (by giving false, superficial and inane interpretations of culture and reality); 2) resisting dialogue; 3) treating students as objects of assistance; and 4) inhibiting creativity.

In opposition to banking education, Freire supports a problem-posing education designed to help people "come to feel like masters of their thinking by discussing the thinking and views of the world." In problem-posing education, the teachers are no longer the bosses but "co-investigators" who approach a community of learners from the standpoint of the students. The students are guided to learn about the important themes that govern their lives.

These themes are what Freire calls as "generative themes" which are the "codifications" of the learners' experiences of political significance and are likely to generate considerable discussion and analysis. Obtaining these generative themes of discussion from the learners necessitate that the teacher represents situations familiar to the individuals. Peasants, according to Freire, become interested only when the codification (representation of the learner's day-to-day situations - a drawing, a photograph) relates directly to their needs. The teacher then asks questions that trigger various levels of interpretation and critical reflection of the learners.

Moreover, there have been failures in the "moralistic education" which sermonizes against certain vices of the peasants (alcoholism), and that which presents examples of virtue something which the peasants do not exactly consider as a manifestation of virtue (having one room for eating -dining room, and another for cooking - kitchen).

Problem-posing education is a libertarian pedagogy in the sense that it: 1) demythologizes (as opposed to the banking education's mythologizing) reality by posing problems about these facts of life; 2) regards dialogue as indispensable in the recognition of reality; 3) motivates students to become critical thinkers; 3) bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection of reality; and 4) takes people's experiences as a starting point.

Given that education is a political act, the teacher, being a facilitator, and the class, being a cultural circle, the two must be directly and connectedly engaged in the critical analysis of social reality. And it is not enough that both parties know what the reality is, they also have to understand and recognize the causes of this social reality - on why there is the reality of poverty and illiteracy among the oppressed and why there is a massive wealth among the oppressors.

It can be told that through Freire's work "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," our awareness has been stirred of the need to educate properly not only the privileged, but also the underprivileged of the role of culture in social change, not only in developing countries but also in developed ones. Today, in the context of global and social extremities, increasing levels of marginalization and new and larger range of poverty, these ideas of libertarian education must be re-thought, adapted, challenged and if need be, re-invented to face the new global neighborhood.

However, in a country where democracy reigns: a vote is a vote regardless who cast it. Scheming politicians and power-starved political dynasties keep the masses from knowing any better. For to educate a poor means to liberate him from being a fool. And only fools vote for these leeches. (Gawd! I hate being so negative!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Road Courtesy Where

I should have posted this a couple of days ago, but I was pretty sick.

Anyway, South Luzon Expressway is my daily route to work and I have posted quite a number of not so happy experiences I had taking that way.

The accident that took place last rainy Monday afternoon, February 13, involving a JAC Liner bus that hit the railings along Alabang Viaduct, and tilted on its side is something no one wants to see happen but will definitely happen as long as we have drivers who disregard traffic rules.

The bus driver claimed he was running 60 kph, that the road was slippery, and that the brakes failed. That's a lot of crap. The video clearly shows a bus running like it was after the devil. In my years of driving and commuting down SLEX, I have not seen a bus run 60 kph, rain or shine, night or day. Except perhaps when a bus suffers a breakdown or when it is just impossible to run faster than 60 kph (road under construction,nd bumper to bumper traffic).

But bus drivers aren't the worse kinds. Private vehicle drivers who take the Filinvest Corporate City streets are no better. Each day (every day of the work week) there are two or three drivers (my maximum count was 5) who drive through the red lights at intersections of Filinvest in Alabang. This morning, in fact, a white SUV abruptly swerved to my lane (leftmost part reserved for those turning left) as I was approaching it, and zoomed past the red traffic light. This car and the others like it are bound for Ayala Alabang, Westgate, Northgate, and Madrigal business districts. And you'd think road courtesy levels up when...Oh, never mind. It is still crap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day

The President's Executive Assistant e-mailed us her thoughts on Valentine's Day talking about a student who asked her, "Is love legally demandable?" She teaches Obligations and Contracts in one college.

She said although love is a basic right and "no state, law or government may take that away from you," we cannot "sue a person before a court of law compelling that person to love you."


And because yesterday Valentine's Day was our Mancom, I asked the EA, "Is kindness legally demandable during financial reports?" She must have told the boss about it, he ordered tons of ice cream to be served during the meeting. I wasn't floored by the gesture, just huh?! Too bad I'm not an ice cream fan. This in the same league with pizza and ice cream and sugared coffee.

On Valentine's Day, it is sweetness I walked all over. I bought this pair because the shoes I was wearing had broken when I slipped. Yeah, Happy Valentine's Day! Why red? VNC offered 25% off on red and pink shoes ONLY.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Medea: Too Evil For Deus ex Machina

Written and produced by Euripides in 431 BC, Medea is a drama of self-absorbed individuals in a society where reputation is more important than guilt; where "every single man cares for himself more than for his neighbor" (Euripides, 3). Medea presents a woman who, for her savage passion to get what she wants commits two unpardonable crimes: first, she kills her brother for the love of a man, and second, she murders her own children for the sake of pride.

Medea is that kind of a story one gets to read in the tabloid. A news about a man from a slum killed by his own brother over a fight on money will find itself a column at the lower portion at the back page of Abante. From our experiences in reading periodicals, we realize that the value of a news article is determined by its place in the paper, and what news daily carries it. That being the case, we can see that the value of the news about the man's death by his own brother can be measured only as such. But what happens when the characters in the story are altered? Instead of the man from the slum, in the story is a man whose father is a gunned, is gunned down by his own brother? Will this news make it to the front-page headline, and the broad sheets as well? It will, most definitely. We have seen it recently. It is a classic tragedy. But what is a tragedy?

Aristotle, in his work, The Poetics, tries to define "tragedy." According to Aristotle, the hero or the heroine in a tragedy must be essentially good, who, due to a fatal flaw, will bring upon himself his fall. Where the character is not good, the audience will not care at all if he collides with bad luck. "Serves you right" will likely be the general comment. The incidents in a tragedy, according to Aristotle, must inspire pity and fear. Hardly do people take pity on a "bad" person effecting his downfall. People usually "feel for" an individual whose suffering they deem undeserved, whose punishment they believe is greater than his crime. Moreover, the hero in the tragedy should be of the nobility. Where the hero is not noble, the audience would care less about his destruction. For a fall to have immense impact, the fall should come from some degree of heights. An ordinary cobbler losing his job is a triviality when compared with a king losing his kingdom. Suffice it to say that people in general are afraid of falling, of losing. But what greater fear will it inspire than to watch a person of prestige and supremacy fall; to realize that this person in spite of power and authority can still have such gruesome fate? If despite all, he is still vulnerable to misfortune, then no one can claim security.

To say and defend that Medea is a good person require a lot of understanding of her motivation on why she did the things she did or rather in some instances, on why she had to do the things she did. In Colchis, Medea meets Jason who tries to take with him the Golden Fleece being tended by Aeetes, the King of Colchis and Medea's father. She, then, slays the dragon which guarded the Golden Fleece and saves Jason's life from the fire-breathing bulls. Medea kills her brother Absyntus to escape the attack of Aeetes.

Medea helps Jason to bring the Golden Fleece to his uncle Pelias who unlawfully reigns over the throne of Thessaly and promises to surrender its dominion to Jason in
exchange of the agreed ransom. And as if not enough blood has already been shed, Medea makes the daughters of Pelias kill their father. All these nefarious exploits Medea has done, for her love is stronger than her prudence (Euripides, 9).

Medea is good to Jason because she loves him. The big question is, can somebody be considered good if she is good only to people she chooses to be good at? Medea kills her brother because he is in their way. She defies her father because, he, too, is in their way. She kills Pelias because he is in Jason's way. Medea is good to Jason because she loves him and savage to others because they are Jason's enemies.

At the end of the drama, Medea kills her own children because Jason decides to take for himself the king's daughter for a second wife. Although, she swears she loves her children and says, "My heart gives way when I behold my children's laughing eyes" (Euripides, 19), her raging passion has "triumphed over her sober thoughts" (Euripides, 19). Medea suppresses what love she has to serve herself. She says, "I can endure guilt, however horrible; the laughter of my enemies I will not endure" (Euripides, 15). It is an appalling euphemism stating that her pride is more important than her children's lives.

Can it be said then, that Medea is a "good person"? Perhaps. Who are we to judge other people's character and motivations? But because her only purpose is to survive at the expense of others she is inherently unlikeable. Disgust, not pity nor fear, is the only emotion aroused by the character of Medea.

Also in The Poetics, Aristotle says that a tragedy, to be effective must contain the elements called anagnorisis or recognition which refers to the change from ignorance to knowledge, and peripeteia, the reversal of fortune from good to bad.

Medea recognizes the beginning of her downfall when she finds out about Jason's infidelity. She is ruined the moment Jason asked Glauce's hand for marriage. Jason tries to pacify Medea by saying that he is marrying the king's daughter not because he loves her but because he wishes to insure Medea's safety and to be the father of royal sons bound by blood to his own children. However, the reverse happens. Medea knows better and sees Jason's motives clearly. Jason loves no one. His concern for his sons is based on the practical hope that they may someday protect him from his enemies. This infuriates Medea further.

In the hope of redeeming herself, Medea obliterates the source of her misfortune. Through witchcraft, she kills King Creon and his daughter Glauce with a poisoned gift. In the hope of "stabbing her husband to the heart", she kills her children. Notwithstanding, she may have successfully stabbed her husband's heart, but she fails to redeem herself. The weight of her crime drags her down deeply to her ruin.

As human beings throughout time have struggled with the idea of justice, Medea resorts to the extremes to attain this. Justice may mean reward for a good deed or punishment for a bad one. Medea like most literary works on justice centers on the latter. Medea is wronged by her husband so she has to hurt him back. In killing her children, she means to inflict more pain to Jason. The heroine pursues justice even when it is costly and painful, and despite the consequences that may lead to her annihilation from the society whose opinion she holds most important. In Medea, justice has become a mask for pride in an unjust world.

Aristotle also said that tragedies must conform to the three unities - of time, place and action. Medea does, indeed, occur in real time, without gaps or jumps in the time. Past events that happened a long time beforehand are discussed or told by various characters, such as the nurse relates how Medea met Jason.

Everything happens in the same place. All the action takes place in the house of Jason and Medea in Corinth. Again, events that happen elsewhere are related by one of the characters. Such is the case when the attendant arrives and narrates how King Creon and Glauce died of the poison sent by Medea.

Finally, there is the unity of action. The play concerns itself only of Medea's lot on the day she kills her children, Glauce and King Creon. There are no sub-plots or other distractions. We do not learn how Jason got intimate with Glauce or how particularly King Creon rules Corinth.

As regards the structure of the plot, Aristotle says that the poet should aim either at the necessity or the probable. Should a poet require the use of deus ex machina, it should be employed only for events outside the scope of the tragedy: "for antecedent or subsequent events, which lie beyond the range of human knowledge, and which require to be reported or foretold" (Smiths and Parks, 4). Medea falls short of this.

In Medea, Euripides makes use of deus ex machina to facilitate Medea's killing of Glauce and King Creon, a way of undermining the audience's sensibility. In reality, however, murder cannot be executed so simply as sticking out one's foot to trip one's enemy. Pre-meditated murders do not come cheap and easy. Euripides must know this, thus, to have the most convenient way out, he uses witchcraft to carry out Medea's act of murder.

Euripides seems to have quite a number of problems thinking of ways to untangle
conflicts. At the end of the play, Medea escapes through the sudden introduction of a chariot drawn by dragons. Like manna from heaven, comes the chariot to suit the requirements of the plot. And the poet expects the audience to believe that, and hopes to get away with it, the way Medea just got away with the crime.

(In the picture, Clio-Danae Othoneou as Medea in Peter Stein's 2005 production at the Theatre at Epidaurus. Picture from Wikipedia.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

We Will Always Love You

It reminds one of 2009 when Michael Jackson said goodbye. Before his death, he was both the blessed and the cursed. Alive, he was maligned and ridiculed. Never mind what he did for music, what he gave the world. Mind only that he was not a saint, and oh what a sinner he was. So we have been told. And he died, and came alive the outpouring of love and sympathy. Geez, I can't make this writing right! What I can't express fully I make do with cliche. I'm sorry.

Today, it is Whitney. And what a day she chose to go: the eve of Grammys. The superstar wanted to be remembered, her songs recalled on the night where musicians and artists converge, where the best of the present time is called to stand up alone and be recognized. She didn't want to die a fallen star. She wanted her star to be up there alone in the limelight of Grammys. I, a speck in the universe, won't take that against her. She deserved it when she was still alive, she deserves it now even when she's gone.

Like Michael, she learned how cruel people can be. It is the kind of cruelty like no other. One time you're an angel, the next you're treated like dirt.

We say she had it coming, doing drugs, abusing alcohol. But who are we to judge people whose shoes we have not seen, much more walked in?

Whitney, you are Toni Morrison's "Sula."

Nel: You can't do it all. You a woman and a colored woman at that. You can't act like a man. You can't be walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking what you want, leaving what you don't.

Sula: You think I don't know what your life is like just because I ain't living it? I know what every colored woman in this country is doing.

Nel: What's that?

Sula: Dying. Just like me. But the difference is they dying like stump. Me, I'm going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.

Ms. Houston, we will always love you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Biggest Joke of the Century: Supreme Court of the Philippines." I Second the Motion.

Chief Justice Renato Corona is under an impeachment trial. He goes to the office he leads and uses it to protect him. How convenient!

Now the Supreme Court has granted the petition of PSBank to withhold production and disclosure of the Chief Justice's dollar account before the impeachment court. Why? Because PSBank is afraid of violating the Foreign Currency Law. Surely it is okay to trample upon the rights of the people to know the truth, but it is unthinkable to compromise their business interests.

And the Supreme Court bought that shit. Eight justices bought that shit. Forgive me for the language. Five voted against it. Two inhibited. One of the two is Chief Justice Corona himself. He should have joined the eight to form the lucky nine. He couldn't have possibly been ashamed of himself. Delicadeza is obviously alien to him.

Today is the first time I've watched this trial, and what a waste of my time. What a joke! What a sick, sick joke!

I should have tuned in to Discovery Channel, and watched primates soak in spa instead.

NOTE: I am not the first to call the Supreme Court the "biggest joke" in recent history. Senior Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales did last year. I am just seconding the motion.

On Sending Kids to Jail Part 2

Yahoo news reads "Mo. teen gets life with possible parole in killing."

Last October, our local news was agog and commentators were on a frenzy over a bill being pushed in the Lower House that proposes to lower the age of children that may be jailed for delinquency. This came after a group of kids were caught opening taxis trapped in traffic, and the barely teen rascals robbing the passengers while traffic police took shelter under the glare and heat of the sun. One of the kids later died in a vehicular accident.

The bill pushers said sending delinquents to DSWD is not enough because most of these kids are under the protection of syndicates composed of professional lawbreakers. That delinquents just go through this whole cycle of breaking the law, being sent to DSWD, being released to the streets, then going back to breaking the law until they're 18 (If they ever rich that age.). By that time, they have already turned into hardened criminals, and it would be too late.

Now, going back to this Yahoo news about an American kid facing a possible life sentence for a cold-blooded killing of another kid.

"A Missouri teenager who had described the slaying of a young neighbor girl as an "ahmazing" thrill made an emotional apology Wednesday to the girl's family and was sentenced to a potential lifetime in prison.

"...during her two-day sentencing hearing, prosecutors referred repeatedly to an entry Bustamante wrote in her journal on Oct. 21, 2009 — the night of Elizabeth's death — in which she admitted to having just killed someone.

"I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead," Bustamante wrote in her diary, which was read in court by a handwriting expert. "I don't know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the 'ohmygawd I can't do this' feeling, it's pretty enjoyable. I'm kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church

"Bustamante then left for a youth dance at a Mormon church her family attended while hundreds of volunteers began a two-day hunt for the dead girl. Although she initially lied to authorities about Elizabeth's whereabouts, Bustamante eventually confessed to police and led them to Elizabeth's leaf-covered shallow grave.

"...Under Missouri guidelines, Bustamante would have to serve 35 years and 5 months in prison before she is eligible for parole, said Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Cline. It's also possible that the more than two years Bustamante spent in jail while awaiting her sentencing could be counted toward that time.

"After spending several weeks at a diagnostic prison, Bustamante could be placed in either one of Missouri's two female prisons or sent out of state. Cline said department officials also would evaluate whether Bustamante should be kept separate from other adult woman inmates."

Now, wouldn't that be a great material for those pushing for the bill of lowering the age of kids who can be sent to prison?

But look here:

"Defenses attorneys had argued for leniency after presenting evidence from family members and mental health experts about Bustamante's troubled childhood. Bustamante was born to teenage, drug-abusing parents; her father was imprisoned and her mother abandoned her, leaving her in the legal custody of her grandmother."

That's a girl we are sending to jail. She has been sentenced to life's cruel prison even before she was born. So what's new anyway?

From On Sending to Kids to Jail, posted October 12, 2011.

"Let us punish the children because our society has gone blind. We have children becoming parents at the first strike of puberty. Do we offer them condoms and contraceptives to avoid pregnancy? Or do we offer shelter, food, education, and care?

"Let us punish the children committing crimes from petty to bizarre. That is the easiest way, so much easier than taking care of them, right?"

(Please, click Part 1 here for the link.

Where is Slovenia?

I only learned to view the Stats of this blog only very recently. (Not really a proud moment there.) The first time I saw it I was so excited I had to tweet about it!

I have never been a tinkering person. I don't care about functions and freebies and apps! I get a thing I use only its most basic and most obvious tool = the reason why I got it in the first place. A friend whom I haven't met in monthssss literally pulled his hair when he found out I'm not into cloud computing yet. He is also one of my two friends who yell at me for not using my Gmail actively. Alright, shoot me!

Anyway, where was I? Oh! Where is Slovenia?

I checked on my stats for the day and realized that I'm not read in Asia outside of the Philippines. Most of my audience is from the US and I have 3 visitors from Slovenia! Slovenia sounds like a kingdom in a fairytale. So I Wiki-ed it (wicked!), and learned a lot. How I love not knowing everything! It means I have tons of opportunities to learn more! So condescending, I know!

If interested, click the pic for a larger view. ;)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Paying the Price of Free

So I have these 200 books readily available to read, but the curse of not knowing what to read is upon me! Is this the price of free books? Argh!

I have started reading seven or so different books, and have yet to find chemistry with at least one of them. These are prospective lovers, and I can't decide whom to bed. Oh. That doesn't sound right, does it? But...but I really take my books to bed...

First, I read Elizabeth Coatsworth's novelette "The Cat Who Went to Heaven." Didn't finish it.

Next, I tried the erotic "Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" by John Cleland. Failed.

Then came Colleen Mccullough's "The Thorn Birds." Couldn't get through the two boys harassing the little girl, deconstructing and synthesizing her brand new doll.

Tim Tebow's "Through My Eyes." Just went through the pictures and passed.

John Fowles' "The French Lieutenant's Woman." Next.

Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." Looked interesting up to the second page, but maybe next time.

Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses." Yeah, I dared. But not yet.

I am tempted to read another Murakami, but that's going to be my fourth of his in a row. I'd like to avoid author fatigue.

And finally! I think I'm finding my equilibrium with Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose." Sana ay ikaw na nga!

(Picture from Wikipedia)

Who Killed PCER?

It was one of the things that Erap Estrada did right during his short-lived presidential stint: Executive Order No. 46 - Establishing the Presidential Commission on Educational Reform (PCER) whose main points are used by PNoy's K+12 initiative, namely:

1. Establishment of a One-Year Pre-Baccalaureate System

"Decreasing NCEE (now NSAT) scores, deteriorating mathematical ability and low achievement/scholastic levels, on the whole, have been attributed to inadequate schooling at the basic education level. The ten-year pre-college preparation has appeared to be inadequate either for higher education or work. To address this problem, one of the recommendations of PCER is to propose a bridging year between high school and college." - No. 4 in PCER's nine (9) doable reform proposals

2. Expanding the Options for Medium of Instruction in Grade I through the Use of the Regional Lingua Franca or the Vernacular

"Pushing for vernacular use in the primary grades, at least, in Grade I, seems the practical thing to do. UNESCO's stand in favor of the use of Mother Tongue instruction is worth mentioning. UNESCO Regional Director for Asia Victor OrdoƱez (1998) has stated that "it is part of our [UNESCO's] task to protect and celebrate the diversity … between cultures and not homogenize it to the point that we lose our individual identities." UNESCO has been known to be a staunch supporter of the idea of developing functional literacy through the vernacular." - No. 7 in PCER's nine (9) doable reform proposals

A friend was part of the team under the Office of the President (Erap) who worked on this project. I remember her always staying late at the office trying in vain to beat the deadline. I used to wait for her to finish work at their DECS office in Ortigas, Pasig on a work week, and even accompanied her there some Saturdays for additional work. Man, she was a slave!

One day, I was bored waiting and out of nowhere I blurted out, "Why don't we put your PCER report on a website? It will be accessible to everyone and people can critique and give their feedback." Her eyes lit up (It was early 2000, you know.), and said she loves the idea. But after a split second, she changed tone and said their office didn't have a budget for it. And I go, "Who said you'd need a budget for it? I can put it together for you using for free. Ask Sec. Ordonez if he agrees." At the time I was crazy putting together this personal journal which I started in 1999. These days, we call it blog. My friend jumped off her seat, clapped her hands, and hugged me... Corny...No, she didn't hug me. :P

The following week, we received the go signal. And my friend started sending me confidential files, including reports, Erap's electronic signature, logos, etc. And I was like What the hell did I put myself into?! All these without me signing any confidentiality contract. I was not even part of their payroll! Heck, I was only an accidental volunteer. But things changed hence. Now, whenever I came to their office they would feed me siopao or puto. My friend would always introduce me to everyone as their web developer.

The website was crude - Tripod was crude in 2000 and free with nary a pop ad - but after everything had been put in place, PCER became the most informative government website at that time.

As a token of appreciation, my friend got me an official invitation to the Malacanang during the launch of the PCER report, with Erap Estrada presenting it to the press and stakeholders. My name was also included in the PCER book acknowledging me as the website's developer which I found embarrassing.

Fastforward to 2011, I checked on the PCER website and to my amazement, the site was still active!

This morning, I Googled it, and what did I find? This message:

"410- Website No Longer Exists
The page you've requested is from a banned site and has been permanently removed.
Please remove all references to this page."

The site had been used and acknowledged as a reference by researchers on educational reforms including a paper published by a UNESCO Bangkok report in 2009. The last time I checked its Guestbook, there were hundreds of positive feedback which came in years after Erap was ousted. Read: During the time of Gloria.

Who killed it? The website I created before it is still alive at Tripod.

Someone played smart, and decided to limit and police the cyberspace.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Face to Face: The Marginalized and The Elite

Admit it. You've heard about it. You've sneaked in to watch it. Face to Face. It is that show that gathers all those strong enough to spill out all their guts in front of your television. Washing dirty linen in public pales in comparison.

It is a discussion that hopes to settle differences among neighbors, friends, couples, family members, etc. It is a show that starts with a fight, progresses into more fights, and ends with hugs and kisses. That's the formula. Come to think of it, everything that comes out of TV these days has formulaic tendencies, formulas like drugs, formulas for babies. It puts to shame Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folktale.

In Face to Face, TV people have outdone themselves, placing two opposing sides like gladiators in the arena. The combatants are armed with all types of colorful verbal abuses to entertain audiences with violent confrontations, and who in the heat of passion morph into wild animals and condemned souls.

You want colorful portrayals of how people sin against the Ten Commandments, watch Face to Face. But most galling of all, this show does not run out of examples on how to covet your neighbor's wife or how to commit adultery.

Despite all, the show tries to offer some semblance of decency by forming a panel of experts to supervise the "discussion." The distinguished panel is composed of a priest or a minister, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and a lawyer. Each panelist gives snippets of wisdom that will eventually and will almost always (?) lead to a happy ending. Nice, eh?

My brother - oh, I don't know what got to him - watches this show every day like a prayer. He's been waiting for that one episode that will show a distinguished and wealthy man, his (ex) wife and his current girlfriend discuss their issues on prime time television. I told him it will never happen.

And whaddya know, recent events (er...the late Congressman Iggy Arroyo, his wife Aleli Arroyo, and his recent companion Grace Ibuna) have shown us that distinguished people don't need scripts. For life is stranger than fiction as they say. Such tragicomedy!

Moreover, we learned to respect the people who dared appear (Do they get talent fees, tokens, etc?) in Face to Face. Although staged and scripted their lot in life might have been shown, there were no pretenses and excuses in the way they faced the world.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Here's Chekhov for the Nincompoops

I have read Anton Chekhov's play "The Cherry Orchard," one summer in High School, and again in college for my Introduction to Literature. You'd think I remember everything about it up to now, a million heartaches later. No, Sir! The only thing I remember about the play is the word "nincompoop." A word which I so often used to describe classmates, teachers, and movie actors in the '90s.

A nincompoop is a fool, a stupid person who does not know he is one because he is that stupid. Some smart folks said the word originated from Dutch; others said from French; and a few from Latin. Whatever, it didn't come from Tagalog like "boondocks." (Taga saang bundok ka ba? :P )

As for me, it came from Chekhov.

For our dear would-be writers...Now, why all of a sudden specifically for writers? One ought to be really smart or downright stupid to wish to become a writer. My take.

Chekhov has this to say:

1. Know how to carry a shotgun.

A famous line given by Chekhov says: "A shotgun introduced on page one must go off before the end of the story." This unity of effect has something to do with the organized relationships between the various elements or aspects of the story. Each part functions in its relationship to the whole. The effectiveness of a pattern is that the reader follows it to its completion.

In one of the twenty-three stories in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio -- "Hands," Wing Biddlebaum is first described through his hands - their slender fingers, forever striving to conceal themselves in his pockets. It achieves the unity of effect as the same hands are described at the end of the story as picking up "the crumbs, carrying them to his mouth one by one with unbelievable rapidity" (17).

2. Know how to use a razor.

In a short story, almost every word has to be almost exactly right. It demands a nearer absolute exactitude. Chekhov's "razor" is known to throw out the first three pages which do not really amount to anything but circumlocution.

An advice given to Maxim Gorky by Chekhov: Cross out as many adjectives and adverbs as you can. Art must be grasped at once, instantaneously.

Looking again at "Winesburg, Ohio," one notices the use of short sentences, a sparse vocabulary, and uncomplicated syntax. It shows that a complex idea does not have to be presented in a complicated manner. As in this line used by Louise Hardy to describe the Bentley farmland owned by his father, to her son David: "It is an atmosphere not corrupted by my presence" (65).

3. Check your time.

A sense of an unfulfilled present is set against an ungraspable past and future; e.g. landowners look to the good old days, and the youth look to the promise of the future; but all are stuck in an unfulfilled present.

4. Check your morals at the door.

Chekhov was not against social change, but he did not believe that social change was the answer to human condition of loneliness, unkind fate, unobtainable beauty, sadness and boredom.

Each character in "Winesburg, Ohio" represents human condition which may or may not be self-inflicted. Enoch Robinson's loneliness, Kate Swift's unconscious longing for an unattainable beauty, Wing Biddlebaum's unkind fate, and Seth Richmond's sadness, do exist and are very much alive in them, but none of them asked their society to change. They went through these conditions, hoping to emerge victoriously in the end.

Chekhov's stories seek not to find answers to these human problems, but merely examine them.

All the twenty-three stories in "Winesburg, Ohio" are the examinations of the characters' problems and conditions. The stories mean to understand human conditions and not necessarily to mend them. But the understanding of one's existence and the reasons for that existence offer more than solutions to problems.

Chekhov's characters accept the absurdity of life. They do not try to cheat death or loneliness. They accept these things as being a natural part of life.

Wash Williams is poisoned by the foulness of his wife. That women are a trick of nature was something he had to accept if he is not to kill every woman he meets on the street.

Like most girls, Wash Williams' wife Elizabeth thought marriage would change the face of life. "It changes things to have a man of your own," she was told. But later she admitted that these were all lies. Yet, Elizabeth stuck with her family, knowing that eventually it will all end.

Alice Hindman adhered to the inescapable human condition which makes all of us bear the burden of loneliness. In the story "Adventure," Alice turned her face to the wall and tried "to force herself to face the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg" (112).

(From my post-graduate essay "Chekhovian Strain on Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.")

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ibsen's "The Lady From The Sea": A Symbolic Discourse

(Picture from

The study of archetypes begins with the study of the world of myth - a world of fictional and thematic design, and of metaphor in which everything is "potentially identical with everything else" (Frye, 1957).

However, the presence of a mythical structure in realistic fiction usually poses a technical problem, in the plausibility of the work. Thus, a device is presented to solve this problem - displacement. This displacement of myth in a human direction aims to "conventionalize" content in an idealized structure.

The central principle of displacement, according to Frye, is to link mythical concepts with realistic fiction by some form of simile, such as analogy, significant association, incidental accompanying imagery, and the like. Therefore, in a myth, we can have a sea-goddess, in a realistic fiction, we may have a woman who is significantly associated with the sea, like Ellida in Henrik Ibsen's "The Lady From The Sea."

There are three organizations of myths and archetypal symbols in literature, according to Frye. These are: the undisplaced myth which takes the form of two contrasting worlds - the desirable (apocalyptic) and the undesirable (demonic); the romantic, the tendency to suggest implicit patterns in a world more closely associated with human experience; and realism which gives the emphasis on content and representation rather than on the shape of history.

Looking at archetypes as natural objects with human meaning which form part of the critical view as a civilized object, the author will now embark on the task of discovering the archetypal symbols present in Ibsen's "The Lady From The Sea."

Based on Frye's organizations of myths and archetypal symbols, "The Lady From The Sea" may be classed under the category of the romantic archetype where archetypal symbols suggest mythical patterns associated with human experience.

The title itself exposes a symbol which presents a literary structure which can be isolated for attention - the sea.

Ellida, the young wife of the country doctor Wangel, is known in the neighborhood to be the "lady from the sea." Her almost extraordinary attachment to the sea gives her this title. That she gets perfectly well and happy when communing with the sea is the one excuse/reason her husband would give an acquaintance when the latter typically inquires about Ellida's affection towards the sea.

Another character who is linked to the sea is Jackston/Friman, Ellida's former lover, who does not only come from the sea, he being a ship officer, but also has that effortless power that draws Ellida to him.

As an archetypal symbol, the sea denotes purification and redemption, death and rebirth. In the play, this is clearly outlined through the characters. Ellida, having this illusion of love for a complete stranger, finds herself purified in the end with the realization in this context:

"Your (the Stranger's) will hasn't the slightest power over me anymore. To me you are a dead man - who has come from the sea, and will return to it. You hold no terror for me anymore - nor my fascination" (Ibsen, 328).

This purification has led to her redemption from utter forlornness and desolation in what could be her life with the Stranger, the red-headed man of violent passion.

The Stranger who has held power over Ellida for years, comes back hoping that he can still take her away with him. He also has gone through the same process of death and rebirth, as he awakens to the truth that he has long lost the woman he has hoped to possess. Thus saying:

"From now on, you are no more to me than a shipwreck that I have come safely through" (328).

Dr. Wangel, who has always thought that he is giving Ellida what he thought is best for her, comes to the realization that -

"It was really a crime against Ellida to take her from out there (the sea) and bring her here…I should have been like a father to her, a guide…but I'm afraid I've done absolutely nothing" (317).

Fortunately, in the happily-ever-after ending, Dr. Wangel cancels the bargain and sets Ellida free to choose her own path. And by freeing her, he leads her to come running back to him on her own free will.

Another character who has gone through purification and redemption is Boletta, Dr. Wangel's daughter who has always disliked her stepmother Ellida who is not much older than she is. Her antagonism towards Ellida is brought by the fact that the latter never showed Boletta and her sister Hilde some motherly affection.

Boletta, who has always considered herself like the carp pond that has never been able to swim beyond the little pond and explore the vastness of the sea beyond, is saved by her former tutor Arnholm. Incidentally, Arnholm also realizes that his existence is only made meaningful by the possibility of helping Boletta to see the outside world and teach her what she longs to learn and make her impossibilities possibilities. Boletta's and Arnholm's rebirth is born out of the recognition of a need to be loved and be needed.

Other than the sea, the play also presents other archetypal symbols. The story takes place in summer. The Mythos of Summer as part of the four phases of myth, signifies romance, the triumph phase, and the entrance to paradise.

This play with the summer backdrop does not go charging straight to paradise. The Mythos of Summer, as a cyclical movement of nature has to go through three stages. The first stage is the age of conflict where the protagonist Ellida is confronted by her past, her mythical marriage to a stranger who has the "unexplicable power that he has over her mind," and the fear that it will never be over as long as she lives. She is also haunted by the "unspeakable thing" that is her dead child who had the stranger's eyes which "changed color with the sea… when it's calm and sunny…so where when it was stormy."

The second stage is the pathos of death where there is the battle between two opposite forces. Ellida asks to be left alone that she may be completely free when she meets the stranger. For it is only in being free that she can have a choice and can give a decision. She wants to be completely free to choose whether to be with the stranger or to let him go away.

The third stage is the anagnorisis of discovery. Having laid all the cards, Ellida, Wangel and the stranger have reached their epiphany, realizing what each must do, and what each has failed to do. The discovery leads them to the doors of paradise as they triumph in the Mythos of Summer, the Mythos of Romance.


_____________. Northrop Frye: `Archetypal Criticism: Theory
of Myths.' Anatomy of Criticism of Criticism: Four
Essays. Princeton, NJ. 1957.

Fjeld, Roulf. Ed. Ibsen: Four Major Plays Vol 1. New York:
Signet Classic. 1970.

Sula and the Women at The Bottom

(Cover picture from Wikipedia)

(Original Title: Looking With an Eye on Gender at Toni Morrison's Female Characters in Sula)

In the critical essay "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown," (1924), Virginia Woolf discusses with "greater boldness than discretion" what character in fiction means . She begins by identifying the Edwardian writers from the Georgians.

The Edwardians, represented by Arnold Bennett, are those who have "laid an enormous stress upon the fabric of things" (Schorer, et. al., 1948). They built a house for the character (Mrs. Brown); gave her a father, servants, insurance policy; then, looked outside her window to the murky district where a flour-mill emitted enough smoke for everyone to choke. The Edwardians gave Mrs. Brown these necessities in the hope that they may be able to "deduce the human being" in her.

If one holds that novels are in the first place about people, why put so much store on houses and peripherals, and not so much as look at Mrs. Brown who happens to be just sitting in a corner? Woolf asks.

The Georgians, which Woolf favors, and are represented by James Joyce, have to begin by throwing away the tools set by the Edwardians, and will be left alone facing Mrs. Brown without any method of conveying her to the reader. But that is not totally so. We have been bewildered by the complexity of our feelings. In a day, thousands of ideas and emotions have coursed through our brains, meeting, colliding and disappearing in astonishing disorder. These are the very tools of the Georgian writers in creating a reality in Mrs. Brown.

As Edwardians busy themselves with the description of Mrs. Brown's outside world, the Georgians converse with her, and look into her eyes and drink in the mystery which later will be resolved.

And if one will talk about characters, writers and readers must never, never desert Mrs. Brown.

In talking about Mrs. Brown, the first thing to be considered perhaps, is her femininity - that which sets her apart, that which we cannot separate from her, and that which defines her identity. We look closer, and we will see how she is treated, how she is placed in the world created in the design of a male creator. Does she need to be rescued from the stereotypical association with inferiority? Or has she been liberated from this age-old design and association?

Adrienne Rich, as cited by Elaine Showalter in "Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness" (1981), enumerates what feminist reading can do to liberate women behind bars of the dominant patriarchal order.

"A radical critique of literature, feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and move - and therefore live - afresh."

It is in this same breath that the author would like to look at the female characters in Toni Morrisn's 1973 novel Sula.

This novel, peopled by powerful and enchanting women, traces the lives of two black women who must come to terms with their beings. Set in a Midwestern black community called The Bottom, the story documents the life story of two friends, Sula and Nel, from childhood to womanhood to old age and death.

"In the place, where they tore the nightshade and blackberry patches from their roots to make room for the Medallion City Golf Course, there was once a neighborhood" (Morrison, 11). This is the opening sentence of Sula.

More than style, this opening beckons the readers to follow the lines of a community which serves as a master narrative of the differences between Sula and the other female characters in the novel.

In the place called The Bottom, the racist and patriarchal nature of Sula's society places women, especially black women in a position of powerlessness and vulnerability. The Bottom community, however, also serves as a protective shield within which women must function in order to survive.

Eva, Sula's grandmother, is a one-legged handicapped who, according to stories, had one of her legs run over by a train to collect insurance to support her children, having been abandoned by her husband who "liked womanizing best, drinking second, and abusing Eva third" (47). She may not have worked miracles to straighten up her children and a granddaughter, but she is the looming presence carrying the load when a male strength should have been instead.

Hannah, Sula's mother, is widowed early. She refuses to live without the attentions of a man, and has had a steady sequence of lovers after the death of her husband. She makes no demands in these men and makes them feel complete and wonderful. Because of this, she is liked by men and hated by their women.

Helene, Nel's mother, is the daughter of a Creole whore after whom she takes her custard-colored skin. She is that respectable (She's worked hard to be one.) woman who "never turned her head in church when late comers arrived." She loves her house and enjoys manipulating her daughter and husband.

These women have done "wild" things outside the dominant male boundary. They have spoken that which is repressed. But just when one thought they have reached the feminine ideal, here comes Sula breaking in the male barrier twice over. As Nel confronts Sula in this final conversation:

"You can't do it all. You a woman and a colored woman at that. You can't act like a man. You can't be walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking what you want, leaving what you don't" (181).

Nel and Sula grew up together in that small Ohio town. On their path to womanhood, both decide to walk the road the other didn't take. Nel chooses to stay in the place of her birth, to marry, to raise a family, to be a good citizen of the community. Sula turns the other way. She leaves Ohio, enters college, and submerges herself in city life, to return only to The Bottom as a rebel and as a seductress.

These differences give rise to two opposite worlds - Sula's and Nel's. Thus, in this context:

"You think I don't know what your life is like just because I ain't living it? I know what every colored woman in this country is doing" (Sula).

"What's that?" (Nel).

"Dying. Just like me. But the difference is they dying like stump. Me, I'm going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world" (182).

In the novel, the community provides a context for the story and a residence for the characters. It neutrally works as a setting for the story, and negatively as a model of conformity.

The dangerous results of conformity is seen in Nel's lack of independence. She does not know what to do with herself after Jude is gone. She has been trapped by a social convention which believes that a woman needs a man/husband to make her whole.

On the other hand, Sula, the non-conformist, retorts when accused of being lonely having been left by her lovers:

"Yes. But my lonely is mine. Now your (Nel's) lonely is somebody else's. Made by somebody else and handed to you…A second-hand lonely" (182).

A major mover of the rule of conformity in the community is gossip. The threat of reproach, judgment and isolation keeps most of the women do what is prescribed and behave according to what is considered appropriate for females.

In the community where Sula and Nel live, gossips spread fast like fire (as fast as that which killed Sula's mother and Sula's uncle Plum). Sula, through gossips, is made the meter stick for morality - she being the classic type of evil force. And Nel, as one of the pillars of the community, is the good one, the one to be sympathized for she is the one left by her husband for a wanton friend named Sula.

Even while Sula is dying, she questions this social assumption:

"How you know?" Sula asked.
"Know what?" Nel still wouldn't look at her.
"About who was good. How you know it was you?"
"What you mean?"
"I mean maybe it wasn't you. Maybe it was me" (186).

Sula defined herself by rejecting conformity. The primary symbol of her transgression of conformity is her departure from her community. Sula leaves after Nel's wedding and returns without warning ten years later. Sula's rejection of conformity is also expressed through her sexuality. Her sex is self-identifying and self-expressive. Here, the community is able to provide her with men with whom to express herself, including Nel's husband Jude. Her need for self-expression is fulfilled by the same community whose standards she has violated. Sula's sexuality is a demonstration of her love for life and for herself - the very thing for which her community condemns her.

We may ask why the community does not condemn the likes of Jude who leaves his wife for his wife's childhood friend? Why does not the community condemn BoyBoy who left Eva for womanizing and drinking? Why does not the community condemn the husbands who left their wives' bed to join Hannah's and Sula's chambers? Why only the women are condemned when it has always taken both a woman and a man to commit adultery?

Yet Sula believes that they (the community) will love her:

"It will take time, but they'll love me…After all the old women have lain with the teenagers; when all the young girls have slept with their old drunken uncles…when all the black men fuck all the white ones; when all the white women kiss all the black ones…then there'll be a little love left over for me" (185).

Through Sula, we have conversed with the female psyche. She has spoken and we have listened attentively, paying little attention to the things outside her window. However, we could not help but turn our gaze with her as she beholds for the last time the "boarded-up window Eva jumped out of."

The women at The Bottom emerge and rise up from the muck.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Downloading "Free" Ebooks Same as Buying Pirated DVD's?

One of the President's men was caught panic-buying pirated DVD's in a Quezon City mall recently. This was the same man whose SUV bore high-powered assault rifles when searched after a vehicular accident. The man still clings to his post.

I will cut the man some slack. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. No, I do not buy pirated DVD's. I either buy originals or borrow from friends (original or otherwise in whichever medium the film came in). But I download ebooks. Am I as guilty?

Buying pirated CD's and DVD's won't put you to jail or fine you a fortune, according to the Chief of Legal Division of Optical Media Board, Atty. Cocoy Padilla. Only those who make and sell pirated copies of copyrighted materials like software, video and audio discs can be punished under the Anti-Piracy Law.

Those who buy and own pirated DVD's, CD's, etc. are not covered by the penalties under RA 9239 or the Optical Media Act of 2003. People who buy pirated materials for personal use and not for commercial gains and activities have no liabilities under the Act.

Anti-Piracy Law is unlike the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 which mere possession of illegal substance shall warrant a penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) to ten million pesos (P10,000,000). So said Google.

Be that as it may, if downloading ebooks in open websites is not punishable by the Optical Media Law, is downloading them a cyber crime? Sheesh! This world is getting cooohhmmmplicated.

Still I should sleep soundly at night until they revise RA 9239 and make clear what cyber crimes really are. But till then I shall keep my 230 PDF books safe in my iBooks.

I thank my online sources: Project Gutenberg (;; and this ebook gold mine which I cannot divulge right now lest it be besieged by people who read my blog (about ten of them :P ). Clue: It is a Chinese website with Chinese characters. Chinese? OK, so what's new there?

I thank some of the authors, too:

T.H. White, George Orwell, Haruki Murakami, Anthony Burgess, James Agee, Evelyn Waugh, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Nevil Shute, Mary Helen Fee, Madelein L'Engle, Erich Maria Remarque, Robert Penn Warren, Philip Roth, Mikhail Sholokhov, Agatha Christie, Hans Christian Andersen, Nance Garden, John O'Hara, Jude Blume, Flann O'Brien, Ayn Rand, GG Marquez, Felix Salten, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, GB Shaw, John Fox, Jr., Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean Webster, Arthur Koestler, Nikolai Gogol, Willa Cather, James Dickey, Ian Fleming, Bram Stoker, John Steinbeck, Paulo Coelho, Orson Scott Card, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, John Cleland, Ivan Turgenev, Germaine Greer, Edith Nesbit, James Baldwin, Margaret Mitchel, Michelle Magorian, Thomas Pynchon, Knut Hamsun, Joseph Conrad, Saul Bellow, Louis Sachar, The Brothers Grimm, Michael Ondaatje, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Walt Whitman, Thomas Wolfe, Henry Green, Kingsley Amis, Anne Rice, Mahatma Gandhi, George Eliot, Salman Rushdie, Maxim Gorky, Orham Pamuk, William Burroughs, William Gibson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Doris Lessing, Jack Kerouac, Peter Carey, John Milton, Jane Austen, Joan Didion, Daphne du Maurier, Dashiell Hammet, Dan Walsh, Hubert Selby, Jr. Richard Yates, Tatiana de Rosnay, Thomas Keneally, Hermann Hesse, Robert Keable, Kurt Vonnegut, Neal Stephenson, Lisa See, Stanislaw Lem, Ken Kesey, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moore, Moliere, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sylvia Plath, Christopher Isherwood, Raymond Chandler, Margaret Atwood, Thornton Wilder, Elizabeth Coatsworth, JD Salinger, David Baldacci, Rousseau, John Le Carre, Jonathan Franzen, Josephine Tey, Nathaniel West, HG Wells, John Fowles, Lois Lowry, Shel Silverstein, Mario Puzo, Carson McCullers, Brad Meltzer, Sinclair Lewis, GK Chesterton, Mikhail Bulgakov, Wilkie Collins, Umberto Eco, Homer, Walter Isaacson, Sheikh Nefzaou, Albert Camus, James Cain, Graham Greene, Patricia Highsmith, Muriel Spark, William Gaddis, Stendhal, Rosamunde Pilcher, Goethe, David Morrell, Murasaki Shikibu, Colleen Mccullough, Gunter Grass, Selma Lagerlof, Aravind Adiga, Elizabeth Enright, Lawrence Sterne, Henry Miller, Iris Murdoch, Malcolm Lowry, Samuel Beckett, Richard Adams, and Zadie Smith.