Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Joc Joc and his masters

Bolante: "FG, FG, I am sick. Please call Gloria very quick."(When Gloria appears) Bolante, with a doleful countenance: "Gloria, Gloria, shall I die?

Gloria (reassuring her pet, in excelsis): "No, my Joc Joc, just lie and lie".


So many friends sent me that text message during the weekend dedicated to the dead. Mukhang walang magawa sa sementeryo.

See how idly we spend our Todos los Santos and Dia de los Difuntos? But year in and year out, we troop to the cemeteries, travelling long distances even, to reunite with kith and kin, over the cadavers of our dead. If Americans have family reunions on Thanksgiving with their roast turkeys, we Filipinos have reunions in cemeteries, complete with packed dinners, made "fine" dining by candles lit all over. And fresh flowers too.

Life is a joke in these thousand islands. Except with Gloria y su esposo around, the joke will always be on us, her "pobrecitos muchachos".


Our cook left us almost a year ago, having been lured to a well-paying job as second cook in a luxury cruise vessel. Which was all right because two of the kids no longer stay with us in the house, and so very few of us really miss his well-prepared meals. I hardly eat in the house these days anyway.

He has always kept in touch via the net. Always, at the end of his e-mail, he would ask, how is Joc Joc? Joc Joc to him is one of the dogs in our backyard, for whom he would lavish, not leftovers, but scraps of meat trimmed fresh from his kitchen work table. The dog was born in 2005, when Jun Magsaysay made the real Joc Joc banner material in broadsheets as well as tabloids. And my cook, who has a fine sense of humour, baptized the puppy with the same monicker. Joc Joc is now big, and he barks quite loudly.

Wonder if the real Joc Joc would likewise "bark" before the Senate? If he listens to his soul, he should tell the truth, and boy, what a howl he would make.

But if he listens to his Gloria y su esposo, it would be nothing but a whimper, of lies grunted and groaned, recycled at that. His Gloria y su esposo would smile and just whine, "pobrecito muchacho." Pobrecito indeed su muchacho, having suffered more than two years of his life in a prison cell, just for you. Just to keep silent. Just to keep living a lie. And all that for la Doña Gloria y su esposo Don Miguel.


We’re not really fond of dogs though. I used to fancy a pet called Duchess, a fine dachshund who I’d bring even on out-of-town trips to the beach or mountains. But that was long ago. My kids didn’t like pets, except for one, who asked me for a beagle on her ninth birthday. Later she gave it away when the beagle’s "loving" ways would soil her clothes.

But we’ve always kept one or two dogs in the house to bray and make noise. Before Joc Joc, there was Saddam, and he was the driver’s pet. That Saddam was a real bully, and he was ours even before George the Dubya decided to spend billions of dollars in a fruitless war against the Iraqi strongman. Strangely, when Saddam Hussein was captured, our Saddam started losing his appetite, and soon enough, died.

Stranger even, our Joc Joc kept barking loudly last week, at about the same time that the real Joc Joc was returning to face the music.

At least these dogs are transparent enough. They howl when they feel, they bark when they sense. The real Saddam was executed, but the real Joc Joc malingers in a suite at St. Luke’s. That’s how everyone thinks of Joc Joc, who was rushed to the hospital after being met by Iggy Arroyo’s lawyer, Tony Zulueta, right inside the Northwest plane. So much so, that a running text joke which you yourselves must have received, went like this: "Tumaas ang blood pressure ni Joc Joc. 220 over-acting". Kawawang Joc Joc.

But I feel sad for the family, his children especially. It should hurt when the sins of the father are vested upon the children. More so if the sins are not necessarily his, but his masters’.


In any case, it’s back to the salt mines, I guess, for me and for all of us. One thing struck me when I started listening back to the news on radio, after a four-day respite elsewhere. The reports say the cemeteries weren’t as clogged as they used to be, and the traffic wasn’t as bad. On the evening of Sunday the second of November, traffic seemed light even in the expressways.

With costs having zoomed astronomically, and incomes frozen by the recession, even the annual reunions in honor of the dead seem to have become a cost-cutting victim.

Which is probably well and good. I have often wondered why we suffer the bedlam and the noise, the traffic and the hassle, just to pray over and remember our departed. Wouldn’t it make infinitely greater sense if we stopped this two-day annual ritual, and visit the graves of our departed on their birthdays or death anniversaries?

Traffic to the cemeteries wouldn’t be as bad, and remembering would be more private. But then again, that would be so "un"-Filipino, right?

We are a nation who immortalize the death anniversaries of our heroes more than their births. So we recall Ninoy on August 21, not on November 27, and Jose Rizal on December 30, not June 19, and we hardly remember anyone else who were not "martyred," who did not die for the country, even if they lived a full life of service to nation and future generations.

Que lastima. This penchant for the morbid is probably one reason why the country is always in this state of lastima.


As we write this piece, we were informed that Senator Panfilo Lacson’s 87-year old mother, Maxima "Imang" Morena Lacson, passed away, after a lingering illness that saw her in and out of the hospital for more than six months.

She lived a full life, raising eight children the old-fashioned way, through dint of hard work and devoted prayers. Getting all eight through school by honest toil is no mean feat, considering that income came from a jeepney driver’s pasada and her own little income selling dry goods at the Imus public market. But all eight finished college, and all eight lived fruitful professional lives.

My sincere condolences to Ping and the rest of his family. Losing a mother is one of life’s saddest moments, something I dread myself, and pray will never come.