Saturday, December 25, 2004

The day freedom was born

Here I go again.

Blogging for myself, hoping someone somewhere would care to read it someday. It was like any other Christmas, today.

As I left my flat for work, youngsters were debating on TFC whether or not Filipinos should master Shakespeare’s language and throw away our national tongue forever.

A boring non-issue it was.

I felt sorry people waste time yakking away at the utility of being a master of another patois. Our own hero, Jose Rizal, spoke four or five other languages (including Arabic, German, Spanish and French, and some English).

Nobody noticed he also spoke perfect Tagalog. The two novels he wrote in Spanish language has overturned the theocratic rule in the Philippines.

Aren’t people supposed to ape their heroes? Besides, English is no ordinary language. It may been f**ked by the Indians forever, after the Brits f**ked India for more than a century of colonisation.

What’s wrong with learning the machine language of computers and global trade? The closer we get to mastering Shakespeare or C or Java, the better for our dollar reserves.

Yeah, one may always say the Japanese developed without knowing the language of others. That's why we don't expect the Japanese to come up with something akin to the internet.

One little-known bit, however, is that an army of Japanese youngster went to the West to study engineering and other tough disciplines at the turn of the 20th century.

Japan has the Samurai's dedication, a Kimikaze's work ethic, zero tolerance for defect and keeness to detail that has made it something like a floating factory.

But have you ever heard of a Japanese-made software? Cartoons, especially the sleazy types, yes.

Among the guests of the talkshow, I only recognised Tado, who was all for Tagalog. Anyway, the debate was an off-season issue.

Which made my Christmas even more just like any other day, except for the cold that’s been hounding me since the last Simbang Gabi (Dec. 23).
The anticipated masses were held in the biting cold since January 15. I played the keyboards for the Dec. 23 mass… add to that the practices and carolling. A holiday recipe for overstretch.

Except for some warm greetings from colleagues that remind me of what a day it actually is today, it went on almost like any other.

I haven’t visited the gym at Emirates Towers in a long time. Maybe it's time to go swimming again (in temperature-controlled water, I hope, coz it's freezing cold here now).


* * *

I wanted nothing more than a text or a short phone call from someone who seems so near yet so far on Christmas. A curse would still be better than nothing at all.

I guess love has its way of inuring one to its unpleasant attendants. Otherwise, how would married people deal with each other’s quirks until they are grey? The answer can only be love.

But sometimes, you just can’t help it.

Moping is no way to live a good life. You feel cheated, regretful, taken for a ride. Regretting that your heart chose the wrong person and wasted precious youth for nothing.

There’s just no refuge from a broken heart.

But at least one must take consolation from experience, especially if it's a sad one. Delight not in being hurt but in being human, of making one’s own choice, even if wrong, and ultimately taking responsibility for it.

When you deeply love the wrong person, at least you’ll know how to make it right the next time — if there would be one.

The best way to learn a lesson, they say, is to get it wrong — and be wounded deeply — the first time.

I guess life allows everyone a second shot at love.

* * *

Last night, absolution was granted by Bishop Bernard to parishioners who attended the midnight mass. It’s good to know God gives people the chance to have have access to a lifetime of renewal.

* * *

Christmas with the maids

Was just too happy to have found meaning in spending part of my Christmas Eve with the runaway maids at the consulate.

Joy writ large on their faces was palpable. They sang along with a Karaoke and screamed in excitement during the parlour games.

Some 40 runaway maids had the party of their lives.

That party was the perfect little place to find the meaning of Christmas — in others. It was the best I ever came close to forgetting about myself during a season of giving.

As visions of abuse they went through flashed in my mind, I can’t also avoid thinking about a lost love once again.

Enough already!

My mind’s become so mixed up.

These thoughts naturally creep into to my mind like an unwelcome guest.
Guess this is what one goes through when he’s riding the emotional wave, especially when its happening for the first time.

I’m almost always on the verge of crying these days. Maybe the idea of not going this Christmas to prove my heart in invincible was a bad one.

I fear the loss of the love of my youth, the loss of the taste of forever. I don’t like it at all. Enough already. It’s been many months.
But if love never lasts forever, then what’s forever for?

* * *

What a futile effort to resist the urge to read Yeetot’s blog.

I can’t help but feel woozy. Hardened by my own habits, I can only feel nothing but loss — loss of a love that was strong, faithful and true.

(Until I was called a gago over a misunderstanding. I don’t like such labels. For being forced to take an early Christmas only so she could be introduced to someone else. Endless bouts of jealousy, which was all nonsense when seen from the prism of freedom.


* * *

Esther, 25, from Visayas, worked as a housemaid for a family in Ras Al Khaimah for one year before she ran away.

The reason she left, she explained, was her workload. “I worked hard for the money. But I started feeling bad about my work when I was not getting any day-offs and I was not allowed to go out. I wouldn’t have ran away if I’m treated well,” she said.

On Christmas Eve, Esther and 40 other runaways tried to momentarily forget their grief with a Karaoke fest and in-door games at the welfare centre of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) here.

The centre, run by a social worker, is part of a network of more than 30 such centres in four continents around the world and a testimony to the Philippines’s status as a leader exporter of housemaids.

A Philippine law mandated the establishment of such half-way houses to ensure runaway Filipina housemaids don’t end up on the streets.

At the centre here, thew mood was festive. Some groups brought native Filipino delicacies, cakes and goodies for the runaways while one group gave phone cards to allow the housemaids to call their families during Christmas.

Three of the housemaids were lucky enough to have obtained from their previous employers their passport and one-way ticket home on Christmas Day.

Merliza Makinano, director of International Labor Affairs Service under Manila’s Department of Labor & Employment (Dole), said the welfare centers only give distressed Filipina maids an option.

With more than 30 overseas welfare centre in four continents, Dole assists some 1.2 million overseas Filipino workers in over 174 nations.

“Our laws require us to have these centers in place... The welfare centers do not encourage housemaids to run away,” said Makinano, who spent the Christmas Eve celebrations with about 40 Filipina runaway housemaids last night.
That number is less than one-half of one per cent of 5,000 estimated housemaids working in the UAE, she said.

It was people at the centre in Dubai who assisted Mary Jane Ramos, who was jailed after being accused of killing her employer who attempted to rape her, but was later acquitted. The post raised the blood money to enable Ramos to return to Manila.

Apart from assisting OFWs, the Polos have also been working aggressively to explore and improve Filipinos' access to employment opportunities especially in Asia and the Middle East.

Some 2,800 Filipino workers who fly out of the country everyday to work overseas, many of them are housemaids.

“In a liberal democracy like ours,” Makinano explained, “the Constitution guarantees the freedom of movement. So you can’t really prevent people from going overseas to work as housemaids. Besides, any ban on the deployment of housemaids simply make it worse. People would always find a way around it.”

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