Category: People

That Filipino Look

He was heard to say: “There’s a very attractive girl in the second row, dark… and dusky. We’ll maybe put a wee word out for her.”

Mr McAveety went on: “She’s very attractive looking, nice, very nice, very slim,” before adding: “The heat’s getting to me.”

The MSP also said: “She looks kinda… she’s got that Filipino look.

“You know… the kind you’d see in a Gauguin painting. There’s a wee bit of culture.”

Frank McAveety quits over ‘attractive girl’ remark (BBC)

I’m confused about the racket that this quip generated. So is it wrong to admire “that Filipino look” now? Is it a slap in the face of Glutathione beauties/manufacturers/endorsers? Is there anyone married/in a relationship, man or woman, who has never found another human being other than their spouses/partners attractive? Is that so wrong now?

A cursory search on Google Images for Paul Gaugin paintings showed the following in the results:

Dusky ain’t so bad.

Open: An Autobiography

Andre Agassi's Open: An AutobiographyThe moment I opened Andre Agassi’s controversial book, Open: An Autobiography, I was hooked on this brilliant retelling of the story of one of tennis’ most colorful champions. The Golden Slam winner (7 grand slams and 1 Olympic gold medal) held nothing from his readers and instead offered an insider look at the lonely world–at least his world–of tennis.

The son of a tennis-obsessed, violent Iranian migrant, Agassi was practically forced into the sport at 8, his father believing all along that he would become world number 1 someday. Thus began his hatred for the sport that would make him one of its most successful players. We all know that tennis rides equally on the mental strength of its players and on their physical agility, and Agassi provided page after page of insight into the mental savagery that went on in every game, including the psychological maneuverings on- and off-court among players, their supporters, and the pesky press.

Much has been said in the media about the crystal meth and Agassi’s lying to the ATP to escape a possible banning from the game that he never failed to mention he hated to anyone who was willing to listen.  People derided his wild mohawk then, and the public made fun of the hair when it was announced that it was fake after all. The fear that the fake hair would fall during a rally even cost him what could have been his first French Open title.

However, the real story is what went on during the years of his fall from the top of the ranks to outside the 100 circuit because of depression. I remember somewhat following tennis back in my college days on the news. While Sampras won slam after slam, the supposed competition between Agassi and his fellow American helped make the sport very popular in the US in the ’90s. I listened to news of his marriage to Brooke Shields and then found months later that Agassi had fallen so far below the rankings that it only made me believe that the actress caused his troubles. In Open, Agassi does not necessarily blame his first wife for his bad results, but it surely factored in the depression over the sport, his life and the treatment he suffered in the hands of the press.  However, if ever their relationship had any redeeming value at all, it was that Shields convinced him to ditch the wig.

Months after their divorce, everything started to come together for Agassi. The humbling experience forced him to play in qualifying rounds and challenger circuits in order to be able to compete in more serious tournaments. Eventually, his efforts paid off and he managed to become the fifth man to complete a career Grand Slam and the oldest to be world number one at 32.

The best part, however, is reserved for his courtship of Steffi Graf whom he had already admired even before he won his first major title, how he set up practice sessions with her, followed her around the tennis circuit, and waited for her to call him back. To this reader, “fraulein forehands” represented the elusive but eventually attainable French Open title, and if the cosmos had played any part in their fates, both players won their last French Open titles on the same year.

The implications of Agassi’s meth use might have had a bigger impact on tennis although it was just a recreational drug instead of a performance enhancer (I’m no expert on this). His fake wild hair was his way of hiding his confusion over who he was instead of being his way of rebelling against the norms of the sport. But I would dare a guess that what spurred him on to achieve greatness in the sport that he hated was his equal hatred for losing in it. I wonder how much he would have attained had he loved tennis.

Damn Good Woman!

This is the eulogy that Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and formerly ardent critic, Conrado De Quiros, gave at last night’s necrological services for President Corazon Aquino.

I’ve written a good many things about Cory this past couple of weeks. I guess it’s time I got a little more personal.

I wasn’t an ardent fan of Cory at the beginning, I was an ardent critic. I came from the ranks of the red rather than the yellow, and looked at the world from the prism of that color. It got so that in one program Kris Aquino invited me to (I don’t know if she remembers this), she took me to task for it. It was an Independence Day show, and during one break, Kris turned to me and said: “Why are you so mean to my mom?”

I was, to put it mildly, taken aback. It’s not easy finding a clever answer to an accusation like that put with breathtaking candor. I just flashed what I thought would be a disarming smile. I don’t know if it disarmed.

What can I say? Maybe I’m just naturally mean. Or maybe I just say what I mean and mean what I say.

Years later, when the world had turned, and not for the better, I got an unexpected phone call. Cory was at the other end, which awed me. She said she was calling just to express her appreciation for something I had written about her. I do not now recall what it was. What I recall was mumbling something about not being the best person to say those things in light of what I had been saying before. She said that wasn’t true: I was the best person to say those things because of what I had been saying before.

I appreciated the appreciation.

Still years later, I would have cause to appreciate yet one more thing. That was February this year when, from out of the blue, Cory visited at the wake of my mother. I did not bother to ask, “Why are you so kind to my mom?” I knew by then it was her nature to be so.

She stayed for about an hour, and did much of the talking. Boy, could she talk! I didn’t know that before. But I’ve always been a good listener. She talked, I listened. What we talked about is best left for another time. But afterward, I thought: What strange directions life takes. What strange forks, detours, and crossings life takes.

I’ve seen activists who began by serving the people, or exhorting the world to, end up serving only themselves. And I’ve seen students who thought only of saving their families end up saving the world, or trying to. I’ve seen the best and the brightest turn only into the worst and greediest. And I’ve seen someone who was walang alam, or who was made out to be so, teach the world a thing or two about honor and courage and grace.

Maybe it’s not so strange that people who start out being enemies on grounds of principle end up being friends on those same grounds. And people who start out being friends without principle end up being enemies on that same ground.

I wondered, like someone who had come back to where he started and saw the place for the first time: Maybe colors are there to unite us more than separate us. Maybe red is just the blood that pulses in the veins in love and war. Maybe yellow is just the pages of a letter from a loved one that magically bring him back to life. Maybe blue is just the sky, however cloudy, when looked at through the bars of a prison cell. Maybe green is just fields promising plenitude. Maybe black is just the tangle of our fate, the twists and turns of our life, as we grope our way forward. Maybe white is just the grace to push on, amid the darkness.

I wondered with the wisdom of innocence and the naivete of age: Maybe we’re divided only into good people and bad people. How people are so, or become so, I’ll leave others to divine. Maybe they are just born that way, maybe like scorpions they sting because it is in their nature to sting. Or maybe they are made that way, as much by the circumstances that mold their character as their character that molds their circumstances. But bad people are there; we know that only too well. Just as well, good people are there too; we know that even more so.

We know the latter because we had someone walk with us who was so. Someone who was so disinterested in power she accepted it gravely as a matter of duty and gave it up gracefully as a matter of trust, for which she remains an awesome force even in death. Someone who, while she lived, showered not very small kindnesses on others in their hour of need or bereavement, having known bereavement herself and the comfort of empathy as much as the empathy of comfort, for which she continues to live with us even in death. Someone who proved once before as Joan of Arc and who will prove once again like El Cid the terrifying and wondrously prophetic vision of her faith: The exalted shall be humbled and the humble exalted.

In life and in death, Cory has been—pardon my French—one damn good person.

Good persons of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your bane.

Two more very good and touching eulogies were those by Teddy Locsin and Mel Mamaril.

From Teddy Boy Locsin, Cory Aquino’s former speech writer:

Because she doubted my capacity for self-reformation, she made it effortless for me by being herself. I did not notice that I was doing right by serving a woman who never did wrong. I am not sure how to take this moral self-discovery. It is so unlike myself. But if it will bring me before her again, I am happy.

More on Jessica Zafra’s blog.

To me, the most touching eulogy was that of Cory’s close-in security of 23 years, Mel Mamaril. After his eulogy, he gave the flag-draped coffin of “Ma’am Cory” a salute for the last time.

Inspector Mel Mamaril, Aquino’s security detail, recalled one afternoon, in 1998, shortly after she had become Citizen Cory, “we arrived at her home after coming from her painting lessons in Forbes Park, Makati.” When they arrived, there was no food for the household help and Cory prepared the food and served them herself.

“She takes care of people around her no matter how big or small. She didn’t treat us like employees but she treated us like a mother who took care of her children.”

Even when she was very sick, Cory “was always very concerned about us,” he said. (Business Mirror)

“Nahihirapan na nga sa kanyang sakit, kami pa rin ang iniisip.”



ni Nino R. Calinao

Pumanaw na kagabi ang aking pagkabalisa
At magdamag na ibinurol ang aking ilusyon.
Kanina tinungo ko ang naglamay na lapis sa mesa,
Habang sumusulat ay ikinukumpas ng aking panghihinayang
Ang kundiman ng aking kalungkutan
At mga titik ng ponebre ang aking nabuo.

Ayoko na sanag ituloy ang pagkatha
Pagkat lapidang marmol ang papel na ito
Kay hirap iukit ng mga salita.
Sa puntong ito
Ay nasa huling hantungan na
Ang aking mga pangarap.
At sa huling tuldok ko itatarak
Ang krus ng aking paghihirap.

This is one of the saddest yet hopeful poems I know. The author was a classmate of mine back at UP School of Journalism, and although I never got to know him personally, it was rather shocking when his death was reported on the  news, and more so for the sheer violence of it.

According to reports, he was killing time with friends at one of the places in uni where many students hung out when two men approached him and shot him point blank. And while his friends still managed to rush him to the hospital, he succumbed to his death due to the number of shots he received from his assailants. Weeks later, it turned out that the bullets that killed him were in fact meant for someone else and he was simply a victim of mistaken identity.

The saddest part about his death was that he was a poor yet promising man who was just a few weeks shy of getting his Bachelors degree and start working in order to support his family, which was the fact about his life that he implied in his poem, if one understood what it was like to be poor and to struggle through life.