Category Archives: Discography of Thoughts…

Beyond the Culture of Consumerism

It’s cool to own, to repair, to preserve, and to really love our personal belongings until these become really really unusable.

My two oldest t-shirts were given by my parents. The first one, as you can see below, is a Cebu shirt which my Father gave me 20 years ago! Yes, it was a gift back in 1997 when I still had a crush on *tooot*, played “baril-barilan” with classmates while wearing this white shirt (now not-so-white) with its sleeves almost past my elbows. The second one is a Voltes V (Choudenji Machine Voltes Five) shirt my mother gave me in 2000. This one was really way beyond my body frame as its sleeves were very much past my elbows, but kinda appropriate enough for the hip-hop style of oversized shirts popular back then.

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Anyway, happy new year and gong xi fa cai! Time is the most valuable gift you can give. (and sorry for the crappy Photoshop editing). 🙂

Tales of beginnings: marriage customs among indigenous peoples

According to Katherine Warner, anthropologist, “…men move out of their natal area to another hamlet to find a wife and settle there, or go on journeys that last for years.”

***

We traveled around 2 hours from Chiang Mai to the borderlands of Chiang Rai province, north of Thailand. A German, Malaysian, Bangladeshi and an Ibaloi-Northern Kankana-ey Filipino decided to end days of academic presentations and discussions with a visit to an organic coffee farm, sing songs, and witness the lives and culture of fellow indigenous peoples, the Lahu.

Suan Lahu Farm is a project started by my good friend, Carina, together with Lahu partners, which aims to empower local peoples in appreciating organic and sustainable coffee farming. Seeing the farm reminded me of home, as relatives also plant coffee along mountain slopes, breathing fresh highland air, living in a tight-knit, culture rich, indigenous community. I felt so at home, excitement flowed in each step through the farm, hearing Carina’s stories, seeing Lao-ue explain coffee processing, and asking questions of our own about her research, organic farm project, and future plans to come.

As dusk covered us, we sat around the simple cafe for coffee, alcohol; and funny, sad, and interesting stories. Yes, the coffee was really really really good, I did not need milk, creamer, nor sugar. The alcohol was even better (smoother but less potent than our Philippine 2×2 or 4×4 San Miguel gin). To make things best, our shared stories and singing sessions made everyone laugh here and there, listening to songs of various tongues and tunes, and appreciating the diversity and beauty of the moment. At around 6 pm, Lao-ue told Carina that a community dance ritual will be performed and asked us if we wanted to see it. Yes of course, but first, everyone had to sing.

I sang “Anak” by Freddie Aguilar as Carina requested it. It was just that I forgot the lyrics, and I only reached the 1st stanza! Deym! Hassan sang two beautiful Bangla songs, Kamala did a meaningful, religious Hindi song, and Carina sang a Spanish and German tune. To compensate, I did a “pitik” or a prayer to toast a newly opened jar of rice wine. I blessed everyone in the group and for some reason I cannot now remember, they asked me how young I was and if I’m married or in a relationship.

Well, I told them bluntly that I was looking for a wife (cue Katherine Warner). *lol* On the other hand, I also told them that I need to choose my future wife carefully and honestly. Marriage means spending more than half of your life with the mother (or father) of your kids, so, one has to choose wisely. Additionally, my family follow local customs, so if I ever get married, I need to feed a thousand well-wishers, as relatives to the 4th or 5th degree are invited, as well as invitations to friends and their friends who want to see one of the many traditional forms of Igorot marriages. The marriage ceremony is also an all-nighter, and the bride and groom also need to dance every now and then. To oblige to their request, I demonstrated one of the dances during such occasions.

But we had to see another kind of dance and we are now at the dancing ground of the community, seeing men stomping to a 4/4 beat (I think), while playing a flute-like instrument. They were circling around two lit candles made of beeswax, while the women were dancing in the inner circle in a forward-backward marching pattern. Carina soon joined the dancing women, and the men continued playing, either with the flute-like instrument or a stringed instrument. We sipped on tea, and watched the revelries. They said that the occasion was for a member of the community who just came back from another place.

As we were about to depart, the folks told us to stay for a while, as they had just killed a snake along the road, a bad omen perhaps. So we went to one of the houses for dinner, ate with our hands of a meal of stewed pork and highland rice, dipped things in chili, and in no time we finished our food. We said our thank yous and started our journey back to Chiang Mai.

In the car, Carina told us about a Dutch man who was looking for a Lahu wife. Arrangements were made and a ritual will be made in the morning. The Dutch man and the Lahu woman were considered married the night before, so when the people went to see the man in the morning for the ceremony, they were surprised to find the man sleeping and apparently uninterested! To make up for such grave and foolish decision, a horse (or was it a pig?) was required (and to be paid for by the man of course) for a ritual to break down the marriage.

Those and other stories made the trip back to Chiang Mai a very memorable one. There is love in Chiang Mai (oh yeah!) and I blessed everyone again as we parted and I went back to my sleeping place. Another great day indeed!

In reflection of these events on this 1st day of the year, I ruminate upon notions of marriage, love and family as a theme for times like these: new year… beginnings… life. That again, we should think of these things deeply, seeing these events as serious but happy and fulfilling moments. Let us just be ourselves then, not putting up our ideal facades, and showcase our honest, raw, and unique personalities and character. In this way, we begin with truth to know our significant other, and eventually live a phase of our lives with our lover, friend and partner in growing love and life. 😉 And for all the married folks, bless you still as you also continually grow in love and life.

***

So at this point in time, greetings of a happy happy new year and of enjoying your journey in discovering yourself and your partner in life this 2016! Makko wishes you all the best this year and throughout all the days of your life!

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Of an Angel, a Spirit, and Death (A short story… stories on the “road”)

DSC_0778(makko’s adventures: somewhere in Los Baños, between the 30th of April and the 5th of May 2014)

It is important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise, you are left with words that you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. (Piscine Molitor Patel, “The Life of Pi”, a novel by Yann Martel published in 2001)

 

***

 

Rice fields passed by. Electric posts, and its spaghetti wires entangle, as my eyes try their best to follow their paths. Clouds float carelessly. The sun is shining bright, and here I am staring through the bus’ window, traveling somewhere. A place I do not know, yet I could not care much more. Worrying only proves to sap your energy; thinking about something that has happened or will happen is useless. What’s important is you did what you had to, and will do what needs to be done. I was content that all I had had during that moment was a great sense of adventure, a bag filled with things I may be needing, and a confidence that I will surely be alright for a few days into unknown territory.

Passengers here and there, minding their own businesses. A young girl about four or five, whose curious stare I would sometimes catch. An old man, asleep with his head bowed down. Tourists, judging by their backpacks and their manners of speaking. And two foreign-looking men (probably of Mexican or Spanish descent) who sat at the seat behind me. They were missionaries.
Indeed they were missionaries. Priests? Probably. Their clothing had hidden any hints of such profession. At any rate, their conversations of God, of parables of the Muslin faith, of spirits and angels and death, made me less and less interested with the scenes that passed by. Eventually, my eyes went blind, I did not care much of the smell of the bus, and my ears grew into large monitors that followed every word they spoke.

***

Once, a nurse had told me one of her nights on duty at the emergency room. Like many of the nights that have passed by, time was spent playing games on the iPad or chatting with colleagues—nothing out of the ordinary. Just some minor injuries here and there, cases of high fever, and other trivial stuff.

And then, a bloodied man was hurriedly rushed in. He was unconscious, but his two other companions were very much alive, shouting, as if their voices would be able to bring him to life. The man’s blue-green shirt was soaked in blood, and his skull seemed to be a well of blood, the redness of life rushing out, as he laid still, dying. She cut open the shirt as she applied a piece of cloth to his head to stop the bleeding. At that instance, she realized the smell of something very familiar. The smell of that spirit that she knew, that had possessed many others before him. And she knew what has been said of that spirit, “When you are drunk, you die.”

***

There is a spirit named CH3CH2OH. It lived in a bottle. Not just any bottle, but a bottle of all sorts. Amber bottles. Clear bottles. Square bottles. Bottles with corks. All kind of bottles. And this spirit has been in existence since who knows when. But humanity knew that this spirit could do a lot of things. Sometimes, this spirit named CH3CH2OH possesses people. And that is when a lot of things, good things or bad, happen, as a result of being under the influence of CH3CH2OH.

***

A story goes that Allah had cursed a man to die because of his sins. Out of compassion, Allah said to the man that he can forgive all of his sins, except one. Out of all the stealing that he has done, the women that he had raped, the lives that had he murdered, and the alcohol that he had drunk; he begged Allah to forgive all his sins, except for his drunkenness. Allah granted the man’s wish and was allowed to live in order to atone for his remaining sin.

The man went on to live his life. His thirst for wine however, proved to be insatiable. Already under the spirit’s influence, he went to his neighbour’s wine cellar to steal more to drink. As he was about to exit with his contraband, his neighbour’s daughter caught a glimpse of him. He saw her too, and in fear of getting caught because of a witness, hurried and thrust his arms to her neck. A woman’s body seemed to have raised not only his hands but also his manhood. And thus, emboldened by his drunken state, raped and killed his neighbour’s daughter.

***

He was a happy man. A man of love, you can say. He was confident, that in spite of being in an altered state of consciousness, he would still be of his essence—which is love. Love in its pure form of caring and doing good for one another. Love which is essential for life to be what it is meant to be, and that is, life is to be enjoyed and experienced. He read Buddha, the Bible, books like “Beyond Ego: Transpersonal Dimensions in Psychology” and was confident that indeed, he was on the road to enlightenment. He meditated occasionally, seeking the path that would lead towards Nirvana, towards a life that is more than life. He wanted to be what Nietzsche calls an Übermensch, or an Overman, an Overhuman, an Above-Human, a Superman, a Super-human, etc.

And in believing to be able to achieve such, was confident that in order to be such, he would be able to do well in his self-mediated social experiments. Experiments of love (which is kind, not boastful, and good), that in spite of being unconscious, subconscious, or any other state of consciousness, he would still be talking about love.

***

“Alas, man’s great ideals are sometimes hung on a thin strand of thread.” The man’s angel spoke as it watched this supposedly happy man, bit by bit, being engulfed by the spirit. “He says, he is happy, but he’s sad. He’s sad over some trivial understanding of love. He says he is love, but he has contempt. Contempt of silly things that need no attention. He wants to be enlightened, yet look at him!” The angel could see the spirit work its way through the man’s vessel. The man’s vessel was unfortunately unreliable because of two critical factors: first, the vessel’s capacity to metabolize the spirit was not as fast as the rate it is being introduced; and second, its carrying capacity was not enough to hold a good volume of the spirit to be metabolized, and thus maintain a state of homeostasis.

“Man’s philosophies are sometimes complicated. They think of achieving Nirvana, of overanalysing love, of undergoing complex plans to achieve a very simple objective. They think of things in very abstract ways, yet, the truth is out there, in its simplest and most understandable form. That love is love. Love is kind and nothing else. Love is good and nothing else. Just do you what you need to do, and you are already in Nirvana. Just think what needs to be thought, and you are already meditating. Take good care of your vessel, and you will live life, the way it is meant to be. Life is to be enjoyed. Life is good.”

And so, the angel just watched at the man. The man who thinks a lot, but knows less. A man full of flaws and contradictions. A man. A man that needs to be watched upon.

And so, the angel looked upon the man more and more. And so was death. Death was looking upon the man.

It was night.

***

(And now, they are talking about death. They were just talking about angels. Maybe that is what they call a guardian angel? I don’t know. Their stories are a strange mix. But I did not bother, I knew their stories were about to end. And the end parts of stories are usually the parts where lessons are emphasized)

 

***

Death saw the man’s angel. Death looked upon the man. Death got ready, but in truth, death is always ready. In fact, death’s arms are holding the man. Right now. There will be death tonight.

***

The angel followed him. He, or more appropriately, because of his companions, was able to walk home. They were walking him home. The angel watched death, also walking with them. “To endanger oneself is understandable, but to endanger others with you is unforgivable,” spoke the angel.

Still, because the angel’s task was to guard lives, lives which were created for life and not death, the angel was there. The angel had to guide the man’s life without the man knowing it. To guard life, in order to fulfill the purpose which was meant for life. Which to repeat, as if a mantra, life is to be enjoyed, and not to be destroyed.

The angel took another form. The angel sat inside a car. A car which would eventually reach a group of people, assisting this one drunk dude who had endangered not only his life, but also the life of his companions… and they were walking this drunk dude home. The car was now behind them. It could run them at any moment. But it passed by them. The angel shouted at them. A message so clear, it should be emphasized, that it needs to be shouted. “WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK, YOU DIE!”

***

The man heard his angel’s words. Although he did not know it was his angel, he knew it was not right. For him at least. So, he got pumped up. Death got pumped up too.

***

“Will he shout back at the car? Will the car’s driver get down? Will the driver get a hold of a wrench, which I see to be hidden under the driver’s seat? Will the driver hit this drunk man in the head? Will an ambulance be able to come in time to take this dude’s body to the hospital? Will the nurse on duty at the hospital be ready with a piece of cloth to minimize the bleeding on this man’s head? Will the nurse be able to save this dude’s life?,” Death mused.

***

And so the man, drunk as he is, got pumped up. But he did not shout back. It was only his ego, who he thought was no longer there, that got pumped up the most. The spirit’s doing was so strong that the man’s essence was no longer in essence.

***

The man in the car was in a rush. His brother got into an accident, and his head was severely injured. The nurse which called him said that his brother was drunk, and may be in the brink of death. As he was rushing towards the hospital, he saw a group of men, one was obviously drunk. They were blocking the road, which irritated him. His brother is at the hospital, he needs to get there as fast as possible, and here is one drunkard blocking his way. He screamed to vent off his irritation. And he thought of his brother. “When you’re drunk, you die.”

***

My eyes stared blankly through the window as I heard more of their strange but amusing stories. It was already night, and soon, I will be getting down the bus. Where will I go afterwards? I don’t know. But I know one thing for sure. There was death that night. The death of stupidity, and the growth of wisdom.

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