When lower and slower are better

IRAIA thoughts
IRAIA thoughts

Some of my friends and colleagues were curious why I chose to take the six-hour train ride from Amsterdam to Berlin (and the same ride on my way back) instead of Easyjet, which is cheaper and faster.

This became the topic of conversation during a Berlin dinner with Tanja, Susanne, and other Misereor friends. At first I explained my choice with practical reasons such as train seats being more spacious and comfy, and the Hauptbanhof being a short walking distance from my hotel. Then I ended with a cryptic “It’s a philosophical question, actually.” They seemed to pick up my line of argument quickly enough, and I promised them a blog piece on the topic when I have time. Which is now.

Continue reading “When lower and slower are better”

Leaving cemeteries as clean as we found it

Shouldn’t it be obvious enough, like it’s staring you in the face?

The news today is that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has collected stupendous amounts of garbage that accumulated over the November 1-2 weekend in the various cemeteries of the metropolis. Well, you buy flowers and candles, you bring them to the cemeteries, and you leave them there. What do you think will happen? That the dead will later rise and clean up after you?

IRAIA thoughts
IRAIA thoughts

I’m thankful we made the decision not to bring flowers and candles to the cemetery, but just ourselves, with our mindful presence, deep thoughts and memories.

If we had to offer flowers and candles, I’d rather that we offer them at home, or wherever we are staying, so that the flowers and candles are kept fresh as long as possible, and don’t go to waste in one universal implosion on the night of November 2.

And of course, if I had given more attention to it, like in past All Saints-All Souls days, I would have made an additional offering of wine, in copitas for easy gulps,  so that my dead ancestors and and I could sit down once more for an evening of relaxed reminiscing. Other gentle souls in the vicinity would have been welcome, and in the morning, we would have emptied a bottle or two.

We would have cleaned up afterwards, and not rely on MMDA to pick up our self-inflicted trash. Leaving cemeteries as clean as we found it — I’d have thought our ancestors taught us how it’s properly done, all these years. #

“Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.”

When activists and progressive writers started to seriously and consistently write in Tagalog-Pilipino in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were quickly confronted with the issue of how to spell Spanish or English words rendered in Tagalog. For example, should it be sitwasyon, situwasiyon, or situweysyon? Rebolusyon or ribulusiyon? Even how to spell native Tagalog words often became problematic: Lalake or lalaki? Babae or babai? Ibaksak or ibagsak?

IRAIA thoughts
IRAIA thoughts

As a rule-of-thumb solution, many of us adopted the rule, “Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.” How you say it is how you spell it. The premise was that there was only one correct way of pronouncing words in Tagalog-Pilipino. Thus, if we were faithful in spelling a written word the way it is spoken, then the assumption was that we should quickly agree on standard spelling.

But anyone who’s been around the Tagalog provinces or with friends from those provinces will easily realize that there are quite a number of dialect and accent variations in how words are pronounced.  Following the bigkas-baybay rule, we should accept “Isuksok mo ang sanrok sa ringring” of Eastern Rizal and “Eka ko e tama, pero eka niya e mali” of Nueva Ecija as normative for written Tagalog. We often see roughly painted notices (“Bawal omehi ditu”) on walls, and make fun of them as examples of low literacy among street-educated Filipinos. But how do we know, really? Maybe those who wrote them are as educated as we are, but are merely following the bigkas-baybay rule. Continue reading ““Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.””