Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 9, 2009

Our nation's enduring hex is forgetfulness. If only we'd remember the word.

It's like we have a national reboot button and every three weeks someone steps on the big clicker and everyone stops mid-step in a bazillion tiny pieces of a second. Then the music lurches forward again and we do a little skip and we sneak furtive looks left then right and our mind squints, as if it's staring at the sun.

Blink, blink.

Same, same.

That's been our lot for a while.

Insipid, shabby future.

Godawful present.

A few curious blips of past glory that's somehow able to reach back to only two decades of mostly clich├ęs, if at all. Oh boy. As a blogger once wrote in Mickey Z's place, "We're so screwed galactic parentheses aren't big enough."

Buti na lang may chicharon.

We're never without choices and so the other day the family made one.

Push back a bit, just a bit. Make a day trip to elsewhere. Make it a Sunday and make it count.

Binoculars and 7B pencils in the tote bag, check! Crayons and a puppy for Luna. Check! Rio secures his new book, David Borgenicht's "The Worse-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: How to Wrestle an Alligator, Perform a Tracheotomy and Escape from Killer Bees". Kala brings with her the best mag in town called H.I.P.P. (Happy, Intelligent, Progressive Parenting).

It'll be a whole day so get the playlist right. Roy Orbison, Stevie Nicks, the Zombies. Radioactive Sago Project. Check!

First stop, Malolos, Bulacan. Around forty kilometers from Manila and everything's still beautiful and depressing despite the years.

Barasoain Church. Seat of power with three legs. The perfume of slow and angry days. Regal mansions of old wood; royal families built on sand. Rice fields. Betrayal, redemption and betrayal. Slumber.

A hundred and ten years ago the first republic in Asia was inaugurated in Malolos, in the House of Barasoain on January 23, 1899. Yet we celebrate June 12, 1898 instead as our country's main marker, the day Aguinaldo issued his so-called proclamation of Philippine Independence -- "under the protection of the Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, the United States of America."

Only protectorates celebrate their vassalage. Talk about lasting heritage.

Masses of penitent, smiling texters stream out of the church as holy mass ends. We troop to nearby Casa Real, where the printing press which published revolutionary papers during the days of the Philippine Republic is housed. Then we go searching for the street Kamestisuhan in search of the Bautista home, which we found after a few tries. And then more grand old houses kept erect by the ballast of dust, stone and mildew.

The kids are singing with Bob Dylan now. "They're selling postcards of the hanging / They're painting the passports brown / The beauty parlor is filled with sailors / The circus is in town."

Too many questions.

When in doubt, head for Citang's. Best dinuguan and puto in the entire country. I remember going there from Quezon City on a bicycle a few years ago with Francis, Beau, Teban and other characters from Batibot.

But this time we arrived at 1 p.m. - an hour too late. All the hot fare was finished; that's how great Citang's is.

We had to settle for rice cakes and pastillas de leche and we ended up at Bahay na Tisa with laing, pinakbet, sinigang na hipon and asadong dila.

The day's just past halfway done. Lots of time.

Run to the car. Roll down the playlist. Search for AC-DC and North Luzon Expressway. Proceed to Mall of Asia and look for Science Discovery Center. Discover that the place has space for many things. Except science.

OK, let's be fair; it's not zero. There are things at the center that make a scientific attempt.

Armpit chemistry. Astroboy. A global warming video warning viewers against the climate changing perils of butane but not coal-fired power plants. A theater called "planetarium" showing madly spinning planets as a five-minute screensaver and a main feature about "flish" -- really flying fish -- and other incredibly strange inhabitants of the Earth five, ten, twenty million years from today.

No attempt to explain anything about why the future creatures came to be. Tortoises as tall as buildings. Care Bears with snouts; a bird with six wings; a squid on high heels. No explanation.

The center has its moments. There's the Grossology section, which attracts many kids. Of course. Barf, burp and fart. Ok. Bodily emissions, spurts and squirts -- human anatomy -- these are important things that can get young ones thinking. Earthquake simulators - they're pretty important too.

But why was there nothing on Sumerian or Chinese astronomy? All it would have taken is a panel and some photos and a few diagrams; no need for electrodes or blinking lights. The place had Daleks and feet fungus. But nothing on Filipino inventions or inventors. Nothing on Philippine geological history. Nothing on abundant natural resources that our people have yet to really harness, such as power from the wind, geothermal sources and moving water, or scientific wisdom from centuries of indigenous stewardship in the country.

We walk out of the cold place, none the wiser but a thousand two hundred pesos poorer.

We head straight for the breeze and Manila Bay. We order a plate of jellyfish, nuts and sesame seeds.

The sun is setting. Luna is pointing to stars emerging with the approaching night. The sky is coagulating, turning from bright orange to ultramarine blue. Rio's demanding to know why flish are more important than planets.

Dalawang Pale Pilsen nga, waiter.

From somewhere Lourd de Veyra's Sago entourage is spreading jazz-funk-chacha gospel.

"Nakaupo sa kalye, sa kalye, sa kalye / Ang utak gumagala para bang may bulate ... / Maraming sinasabi ang ate, ang ate / Ipasok mo sa maliit mong kukote ... / Hello, hello, hello, hello / Sino ba ito, sino ba ito, sino ba ako." #

How does one translate a Sago song? One doesn't, but here's a feeble try for the last para in this piece -- "Sitting on the street, on the street, on the street / The mind's wandering like a worm ... / Sister's saying many things, many things / Drill it in your tiny skull ... / Hello, hello, hello, hello / Who is this, who is this, who am I". (See? Completely silly in another language.) Malolos and Mall of Asia photos by redster and Rio.




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