Alex Maskara

Thoughts, Stories, Imagination of Filipino American Alex Maskara

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It is quite clear to me that I pursue blogging because I get excited in doing it; as excited as I was in my youth when I first delved into writing. I delayed writing for decades and worked a different job to support my family but I am very free now. I have time. I have better control with my time.

Today, I will meet up with the code lady at 10:30 AM to inspect my rental condo and issue my license. After that I will proceed to the healthcare facility to complete some paperwork for some of my patients. That would probably take me 2 hours more or less. From work I’d go straight home. I will continue my blogging and updating my websites since I gather a few readers now and then. My blogging is very low-key, I write my ideas whether they make sense or not. I bear no grand delusions about what I post. The only reason I blog is due to the lack of resources I am interested in reading about. I observed there was nothing in the old country discussing the things I wanted to be discussed. I want to read about ordinary Filipino lives, how their regular lives are spent in ordinary times, in ordinary places, in ordinary crowds. Based on my superficial research, most bloggers in the old country, for want of income perhaps, join the bandwagon of lifestyle and luxury and travel blogs. Otherwise they fill the digital space with vlogs. This is where their audience comes from, and thus, their income. And as far as Filipino technology is concerned, it looks like they are more users than creators.

It is worse in social media where Filipinos are its greatest users based on world data. And I don't see Filipinos creating frameworks or venues or hosts for self creativity. They are great content-makers using frameworks created by others. This is not due to lack of brain capacity, it is the lack of an environment conducive to creativity. Worse, creativity for most of them is content that is mostly confined to visuals; not ideas. It is likewise lamentable that people mostly rely on their looks, their bodies, or comedies debasing themselves to earn that dollar. Exposing themselves to the public and relying heavily on gay-driven events and competitions are sure ways to lose respect and not be taken seriously.

So, (and I am NOT claiming any expertise on politics and society or anything I talk about), I am sharing with you my own 2 little cents. That’s all.

The Filipino society failed to put emphasis on what is most valuable in human development. The value of curiosity, learning, thinking, creativity and initiative. First, however, is the importance of housing and health. No amount of mental exercise will create anything of value in a person that faces hunger, lack of sleep and lack of a quiet place to enjoy the task of learning. I have been there. When I was in college, no amount of studying improved my knowledge on my empty stomach. I was always on the brink of failing my exams.

It is imperative to work on a few things first.

Poverty and hunger should be alleviated especially among children whose brain development is at its peak. This will involve everybody: parents, community, social services and welfare, non-governmental organizations, and the government itself.

BUT the most basic and fundamental here is the role of the SELF.

Housing is a must. A person can never advance towards any high-level endeavors without the security, peace and comfort of a home or place to call his own. A person who moves from place to place, who lives in an environment full of noise and distractions, who cannot listen to his own thoughts due to the constant barrage of social engagement and conversations especially in a crowded house or room, cannot be expected to focus on whatever idea he likes to focus on. There is nothing more important than quiet and peace and single minded focus in learning and creativity.

Housing is mainly the responsibility of the self.

A person must plan his life around self-sustenance and housing for himself. It would be cruel for a parent to subject his children to an environment of hunger and displacement when he should have avoided having children in the first place. Once a child is born without food security and stable housing is already a predictor of that child’s bleak Dickensian mental capacity.

It is likewise wrong to rely heavily on external resources (or blame them) when a person fails his own family and children and self due to lack of insight and discipline. I have never married nor have I produced children because I knew I have a great responsibility in life that may become difficult to fulfill by having a family of my own, or a lover or something. It puzzles me to see people who are already in dire straits yet keep on producing children they could not feed or house. Existentialism refers to a person who is responsible for his own self. You are born as a matter of existence. It is your freedom of choice how to manage that existence. And yes, life is difficult because of this freedom. Existentialists compare life to a man who is standing on a cliff with heavy winds blowing. The world around you is fogged and you cannot see the depth if you jump. In that state, you become confused and tempted to either take the plunge and die or to keep existing. It is called existential anxiety. Everyday we are all confronted by this anxiety which is nothing but an unwanted side effect of freedom. Do you want to live or die? Do you want to direct your life towards poverty or wealth? Do you want to trust God or trust your own self? Do you take this or that course of action? Do you want to be alone ro surrounded by people? Do you want to make love that will produce a new life or avoid it because you know you cannot support a new life? Do you want to blame all your life’s miseries on others instead of owning them and correcting them all on your own?

And once you’ve secured your food and health and housing, it is time to look into your high-level wants. You go to school and study what you want instead of taking courses because that is the trend. I have made a decision long ago that I’d take a healthcare-related degree because through it, I would earn dollars abroad to help my family. And many Filipinos in the past did the same thing. We abandoned our personal passions and interests to favor economic survival. I wanted to be a journalist but that would not support my family. Many are passionate about Engineering, Architecture, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Medicine. Nursing, Law, Business, Accountancy, English PhDs or even skills that require only apprenticeship and training - plumbing, electricals, carpentry, construction, welding, etc but instead took college courses that were more in line with making the most money to support families, mostly healthcare. There is nothing wrong with that so long as you will find the chance to get back to your original passion (which requires being healthy and financially stable).

I still see that misprioritization among the young. They take college degrees with half-hearted desires. Millions who take courses that will give them work abroad instead of giving them personal satisfaction. Some call it sacrifice. But this self-sacrifice may not stay for long. Life is much better now in the old country. Most people can choose what they are good at, the gifted ones. Follow your gift, that is what I say. Follow your bliss. As for me, I am truly blessed and excited that I can now afford to follow what my heart desires. I want self expression through writing. It is a delayed satisfaction, it took me 30 years to return to it. But it is never too late.

It is time for Filipinos to rebalance himself by shifting their reliance and blame from and on outsiders (powers that be, politicians, bureaucrats, working abroad) to themselves. It is time to say to oneself: I am in this state because I chose this (yay, that is so existentialist). Saying that to oneself will produce a new way of reasoning and thinking. You start looking into your own self, your attitude, your perspective, your thinking, your past mistakes and corrective measures in the future. Focus on the self, consider the rest as distractions.

This does not acquit the people and government being paid by the people to
A). Address the social and structural problems that inhibit people from their desired self development.
B) If there is no food, the government and infrastructure should provide it in the best way it can to sustain a healthy society.
C) If people are homeless, and I am talking about real homeless people driven by misfortune and ill luck, then the taxes should be used for providing housing.

Tax is the fund given to the government to address people’s needs and even-out the playing field. To house the legitimate homeless, to feed the hungry, to take care of the abandoned children and families, to reduce the corruption that impact the economic development, to reduce abuses such as business monopoly and to remove excesses such as overfunding things that make no sense, to regulate and legislate reasonable rules to advance the nation in economy, peace and order and providing the environment and resources so each person, no matter his social status, can have access to his own self improvement. Without sustenance, access to resources, a good environment, there will be no self improvement no matter how intent a person is to develop his SELF.

Schools and universities should focus more on developing the innate capacity of students to analyze, critique, create, learn what interests them the most, to engage them and give them the freedom to speak out and ask questions and form their own thesis and theories and opinions no matter how stupid they may sound. I personally disagree with the current emphasis on board exams. Every university in cahoots with the media are so overly concerned about who topped a board exam in any field as if it is the only criteria for each university's success. A board exam, according to an American educator that I met, only tests a new professional's minimal skills in the field he sits an exam for. It doesn’t matter whether he topped it or not, everyone is on the same boat whenever they start a career. They all possess the same set of minimal skills.

Is it any wonder the Philippine universities lag? Take the number of Filipino academic outputs in professional journals, how many do we submit and successfully publish each year? How many academic papers? How many books do our academic specialists produce? Anyone? In Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Medicine. These are the best criteria of a university’s power. I remember taking a Computer degree at a local university in my state. I thought it was hard to complete an assigned computer project each week (mostly software). Until I learned that Stanford assigns six each week. I remember taking Calculus ( which I never took in highschool or college) and despite taking days off I was glued to the computer screen solving at least 100 problems each week. Good thing I was a diligent student. I took College Algebra advanced placement and aced it. I took 2 college Calculus and got A's on both. I don’t mean to brag about it, but I can tell you that the Filipino brain can still learn even after decades of non-learning. But first, I had food, I had a home to study undistracted, I had money to pay my tuition, and the university and community have enormous resources whether it is a computer or libraries. I can spend my entire day in a library (which closes at midnight) and the university lab is open for almost 24 hours so one can spend his time with his team (doing a software project for example).

I dream of the day when the Filipino will have all these wonderful resources available in the future to develop himself in whatever area he is passionate about. At the end of the day I still turn back to what I love doing since I was young - sharing my thoughts through blogging/writing. I don’t have grand illusions about writing anymore, all I know is that I am happy doing this. And whether I am good at it or not, only time will tell.
2024-07-03 14:06:54

Mod Dream


The Long, Boring Monologue of Mod’s Dreams

Upon waking up in the morning, Sonny didn't see Jaime anymore. Neither did he see Rene. What caught his eyes was a small bond paper tacked on the wall, just above the study table that bore a message in bold letters:THANKS A LOT GUYS, Jim.

Sonny smiled while reading this and rolled on his side and hugged his pillow. It's great that this morning is cool. The room is much much quieter compared to last night though he sensed something else is different.

The after smell of Jaime's vomit lingers, yeah, the drawers that were disturbed last night are now fixed into proper places, but the fourth bed, which used to be empty, has on its top a trunk, a bundle of clothes and assorted items, pillows, sleeping blankets and a carton box of books holding novels of classic titles. It seems the fourth member of the room had finally arrived. Sonny felt a little excitement.

And a little desire, hoping that this last newcomer, may this newcomer be better than the other two. He thought that although the first two roommates are colorful and quite full of ill tempers and abnormal behaviors, they are disappointing as far as his expectations of ideal room mates are concerned.

He hears the hard, dragging steps of someone in the kitchen. Which reminds him of the steps of Lola Sabel.

...Lola Sabel always moves about their hut at five in the morning to 'beat' the sunrise. Her wooden clogs are worse than a morning alarm. Noisy.Sharp. A pain in the ears. And with the smoke billowing from the firewood firing the kettle, Sonny has no choice but to get up even in the most inglorious of mornings. It is her belief that people must be awake before the sun spreads her beams to catch all the morning grace of God, even when there is no sun to look forward to like during the typhoon season. The dawn is always her lightest part of the day filled with morning rituals: sweeping, cleaning and cooking. And her shrill voice - enough to arouse the whole neighborhood - joins the roosters' calls, the pigs' growls, the horses' neighs, and Sonny's grunt and noisy yawn. With Lola Sabel, the world is secured in its repetition, like sunrise and sunset, like being born and dying. It's a beautiful monotony, reassuring, mixed with the morning air that acquires the cold temperature and smell of fresh water as it passes over the fishponds.

While waiting for the rice to boil and get cooked, Lola Sabel steps out of the hut, a rake in her hands, ready to sweep and collect the remnant dirt of the previous day - mostly garbage from her sari-sari store: plastic wraps, paper bags, peeled skins of fruits and vegetables, all she gathers into a pile. Then she attacks the backyard with the energy of a twelve year old, raking fallen dried leaves from mango and guava trees, which, again, end up in the pile. The pile easily fills up like a small mountain surrounded by a yard marked by uniform lines made by the rake. The world becomes beautiful again. The backyard becomes a man who had just taken a bath after all his sins had been cleared by God. He becomes a clean and beautiful man. And his discarded sins become the pile of garbage standing at the far corner of the yard. Lola Sabel, bless her heart, becomes the Angel who burns the sins away. And then the sun peeks in between the mountains of Bataan. And birds begin to chirp. And neighbors gather around the garbage bonfire which Lola Sabel has made. Sleepy but restful. Neighbors share their story-telling before they go about their businesses. Lola Sabel by this time is opening her sari-sari store as people begin to purchase the necessities of their day...

"Good morning", greeted his new roommate whose smile extended from ear to ear. Sonny initially had difficulty seeing, his eyes blurred a bit by sleep. After a while, this roommate appears like a ghost from the kitchen with coffee in one hand. His name is Mod.

Sonny gave Mod a drowsy salute then quickly buried his head into his pillow. If Sonny is a common provincial, Mod is a more common provincial. Perhaps these are the best words to describe him - common of the Commons; simple of the Simples; ordinary of the Ordinaries. This is by no means a measure of who Mod really is. But the impression he creates is hard to stomach even for a freshman college student like Sonny. Sonny's bell-bottoms look much more sophisticated than Mod's rubber slippers, shorts obviously cut out of once long trousers, Mod uses a pomade? The very fact he came to Maliwalu City and in the State University wearing this fashion made Sonny shiver. If he himself with all his barrio fashion has a hard time going around the State U, how much more would it be for Mod?

Mod appears very relaxed, not really unsure or excited. What he carries is the calmness of a man who is just passing by, like a transient or a tourist who doesn't care whether he stays or not. He walks slowly, like he's in a dream state, which can be suspected of one who takes drugs or something. He stares around the room as if anticipating to read some long graffiti on the walls. And yet, he seems to have done the cleaning of the lodging. He is definitely a poor provincial, the one who assumes he's to clean a dirty house upon entering it. He immediately assumes he's underneath everybody.

"What are you taking in college?" Sonny inquires.

"I'm taking Literature", Mod answers.

And Sonny regretted to have asked that question.

There are people who seem to have waited for one simple question all their lives that they accumulated, through all those years of waiting, a very very long response. With one simple question, Mod burst into a long long long monologue, as if delivering a lecture in a symposium. Sonny has no choice but to stare at the ceiling, out of politeness, and listen. While listening he imagines animals suddenly bursting after getting startled. They are all creeping and walking on the ceiling: a snake, a tiger, a lion. You don't startle animals like that. They can get dangerous, just like men that go into long talk once asked a simple question. Like Mod, his new strange room mate.

Like a man in a trance, Mod begins talking about his thoughts; thoughts that he gathered like pebbles along the brooks; thoughts imagined while on top of the water buffalo; thoughts that were picked up together with the edible snails and locusts in the rice fields. Thoughts that found their way from the muddy grounds of his barangay highschool to the great walls of the State U. Mod believed in the brightness of his future. He believed in the tales of his land: stories of people moving in poverty and wealth; the prose of those in hunger and abundance.

It was too late for Sonny to change the topic.

"I'll write about our country", Mod talks unmindful of everything, "I'll compose the story that truly comes from the heart of the Filipino. Our literature today sucks."

Indeed, Sonny thought as his jaw dropped while listening to his new room mate.

Mod continues, "It deals with romanticism that borders on the most unreal situations. Our fiction is too illusory. When our nation is suffering from a thirty billion dollar debt, our literature deals with men and women who spend lavishly in Europe and America. I find it an ironic insult to me. I find it so contrarian to my Filipino nature. I have thought about our literature all my life. Literature for me is a reflection of one's time. It is the mirror of generations. Time will produce different conditions. I can not write about the condition of the generations before me or the generations after me. But I would like to fix my condition today in writing. I come to Maliwalu to learn how to write good literature."

Ow? Sonny's eyes are now wide-open.

"My literary goal is to fix time - here, today, this hour, this minute. For tomorrow, everything that happened today is forgotten."

Sure.Sonny's jaw keeps dropping.

"In the process of fixing it I will not sacrifice truth and realism the way they do in our present day literature. Look at our literature today,like it is occurring in another place; like it is acted on by another people."


"I'm tired of the same usual plots. Literature of usual suspects: sentimental love stories, historical sagas that can not be felt by the common people, anti- American novels, anti-social plays, poetry that can not be understood. All of which have sacrificed relevance and art. Where are the simple folk, the ordinary people in ordinary situations in our literature ? Forgotten and buried in the annals of oblivion. The stories worthy of fixing in our literature are overlooked. There is nothing wrong with the literature we have today but anything that is over-discussed, over-contemplated, over-written will just bore a reader to hell. Especially when it involves only the elite.

"Just look at our movies to see what I mean. It's all plastic. The actors and actresses don't know how to act, notice how many of them did not study acting and drama and filming. In this country, if you happen to look a little foreign with Caucasian features, you're a star! If you happen to be the son of a "star" you're a star. A star of what? Of the screen that represents fantasies. The screen that tells you the star is foreign. The screen that teaches you how to become a passive spectator. Screen-writers create images from farcical imaginations, producing cheap interpretations. The very idea of pretending we're savvy without sufficient resources proves our incompetence in the art of writing and filming."

Now he talks about movies? What happened to Literature? Sonny is totally puzzled.

"And when the local audience gets tired of the same stuff our Artists produce, these Artists shout Foul! Foul for what? Foul for losing to the competition with foreign movies and literature? They say their works are rendered invisible by the proliferation of foreign works. Oh, blame! Blame anything and anybody except themselves. Poor Maliwalans. First, we are introduced to poor works resulting in our poor tastes; then, if we come face to face with the greatness of foreign works that dwarf ours, these Artists scream, unable to accept the fact that they couldn't show their works as better. The problem is not poverty of taste or sloppy work alone, it is lack of relevance. It is a lack of variation to the monotonous plots and stories these Artists churn out every day of our lives. In the name of conformity and profit, our artists are too careful, too neat, too proper, too prim to even venture into something out of the standard. Who cares about language, grammar, diction, form, style, plots ? I don't mind writing about the intestinal organs of Rizal if there is something colorful in them. And no matter how the others would condemn me for doing it, I would still write something about the sex life of Tandang Sora if there is a lesson or two to learn from it. I don't care if Cardinal Sin would excommunicate me for writing about the boy found making love with a buffalo, or about the grasshopper who turned into Francis of Assissi."

Ok. Where are we now? Movies or Literature?

"My work would be so simple that you won't look for a Thesaurus or Mr. Webster to understand it. Have you noticed our Literature? It is too painful to read. As if the utilization of high words means depth of work. Never! Why don't we start writing stories that could easily be understood, something that we could sit back and understand and just smile at while reading? That is the trouble with our present day writers. They can be difficult to read at times.

"Have you ever wondered why we prefer foreign authors? It is because they're down to earth and simpler. Here we are, writers directed by our own inferiorities, driven to American universities to learn how to write. Our authors are more proud of their degrees from so and so universities and this and that award instead of seeking to be read by as many of our people as can be.

"If I would write, my work would deviate from the usual stuff like the cheap love affair between a rich girl and a poor boy or the struggles of the urban poor or the battles of tribes or the anguish of the NPAs. Of such, our literature is so fond. Instead, I will take note of the ordinary dreams of ordinary people. I will contemplate on the aspirations of the youth. I will tell the next generation about today's movements, today's drama in today's language.

"Here, here I am with my strong arms, brisk legs, alert and coherent mind; a few years from now these strong components of my body would become weak and troublesome - my eyes would lose their clarity, my ankles would turn wobbly, my gait would become slow, my hands would no longer write because of arthritis, my mind would no longer have the capacity to imagine - When these changes occur in me, I want to retire and rest feeling satisfied in having used them to their maximum in my heyday."

Now, this is getting a little bit too much. Sonny did not ask for this long self-introduction. Sonny wishes Mod to just shut up.

"When I grow old, I shall not be overwhelmed by regrets and guilts because of doing nothing in my good years. Everyday, I'm confronted by this question: Did I do something good today? Did I write something right? Did I give my best? Did I make good use of my body and my soul?

"There is always an invisible force in my heart that longs to do that good thing. I really don't know. One thing that is sure is that a good thing remains waiting to be fulfilled for I haven't seen or done it yet. Do you think the desire of doing good and seeing good is a natural phenomenon among humans? Or is it just me who is aspiring for it?

"Being able to do that single good thing is a treasure to me. It is like a raw diamond waiting for me to shape it, through heat, fire and stress until it turns into a precious and coveted jewel. Perhaps that desire for doing good occurs in me because everything I see around me is bad. Bah, all you need to do is to read today's newspapers. Every media banners crimes, poverty, and social inequality, adding of course the other problems of prostitution, urban housing, land reform, military bases etc. Is there anything good left for us to see? Is our time just made up of bad things bah? Is there no good left? Or are we simply covering our eyes and fail to see them?

"There is something good in our time! If no one could see it, I'll write about it! My dream is to write something good about simple folk; how the people move in this city; how we talk, quarrel, act; how the city streets look like; the university; the church, even the vehicle. These are all beautiful. And my dream is to make them known to the next generation that will follow us.

"There are so many good dreams to dream about. There are many lovely lovely things today contrary to what our media portray. The things that are happening now in this country are much better than what they actually say. Yes, the country is poor. Yes, the people have lost so much... but listen to Dostoevsky or Dickens or de Balzac, do you find in their works their countries in extreme abundance? Well, you should listen to the wailing of Petersburgh or London or Paris in the eighteenth century. Listen to Maliwalu today. There is not much difference.

"Maliwalu is indeed luckier. There is hope here. There are enough lessons throughout the world born out of painful experimentations that could guide Maliwalu. Don't you see the significance of all our troubles today? God is giving them to us to test our endurance, our patience, our perseverance and strength. So that, like a golden sword constantly immersed in the furnace, we would emerge sharp and durable. Why should we deprive ourselves of the joy of being poor. Why can't we shout for joy in times of suffering because, you see, only in suffering can we learn great lessons. And do you see? Do you see the many lessons we are gaining today? Do you see how creative and entrepreneurial we become when we experience extreme want? Why can't we look at the sky and thank God for teaching us all these things? Why do we keep on telling ourselves that we don't have good lives, that our people keep on migrating to earn dollars in foreign lands as slaves.

"And here we are turning bitter and hopeless. Our minds are constantly contemplating about relativity, comparison, contrast, and regrets. Our radio commentators have nothing to say but "twenty years ago, we were only second to Japan, today, we are totally below the heap; that we are incomparable to our Southeast Asian neighbors in poverty; that our exports are way way below the rest of Asia; that we must work towards more industrialization by the twentieth century." Why can't we look into our innermost selves and find if we are really losers. Chances are, we would discover that we are a lot better off in other ways. We have so much in this world that we fail to consider and appreciate. That is the good thing I want to write about".

Sonny couldnt bear it anymore, he just covered his ears and screamed, "SHUUUUUUT THE FUCK UUUUUUP!"

Mod turned very quiet, he turned around to leave the room.

Sonny said "I just wanted to know what you major in college. Wow!” he sighed deeply.
2024-07-01 11:59:19


Mod Dream


Sunday Thoughts and Book Review

Lazaro Sembrano