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CLAY

It was beginning to get light when I awoke. Feeling the bamboo slats of the floor hard against my back through the mat, I looked up to where the bamboo rafters made light lines against the darker shade of the nipa roofing. Outside, a square of brightening sky was framed by the open window. Afraid Clay would be waiting, I got up, rolled the mat and walked to the kitchen to wash my face. Coming out into the open kitchen, I felt the wind: cold, sharp when I breathed too deeply. A light mist made the other houses gray and indistinct. The split bamboos that made up the kitchen floor were moist and the water in the earthen jar that stood near the stairs was like ice. The water was numbing to the hands and made the skin of my face tighten. I brushed my arms across my face and walked to the stove. The pot held rice left over from supper; although the barracks were only a few minutes’ run, I did not stop to eat. I went down the steps, the rungs wet and cold under my bare feet, and ran out through the still-dark street towards the barracks. The army camp was on the east side of the main street, a few houses away from the river. Clay would probably be sitting on the rail bamboo rungs nailed parallel on upright wooden posts that fenced the camp, his long legs swinging, the tips of his boots almost touching the ground, one big hand holding on to the rail and the other waving, his voice ringing: “Hey Kid!” as I came near.

As I ran on past the dark houses of the town, past veiled women going to early mass, I hoped that he would not be too impatient from waiting.

Clay was not at the fence. The big acacia tree near the road, a few steps away from the fence, threw a shadow across the gate to the camp. The gate was of steel matting; a big chain held it fastened to a log post. The yard was littered with colored paper, wine bottles, and cigarette butts from last night’s dance. The gray, two-story building of concrete and galvanized iron that was the army barracks was silent. The window near where Clay’s cot stood was closed. I walked to the foot of the acacia tree and sat down to wait. Leaning my head on the cool, rough trunk, I could see the light in the tower of the church near the western end of the town sparkle in the dark. Then, the bells tolled for mass. In the distance, shadowy figures were walking towards the church door from which light now streamed into the darkness. The rest of the town had not awakened.

Sitting under the tree, I looked at the road that was Candaba’s main street. It was short and even, barely a kilometer long from where it started at the river bank to where it faded into the clump of trees that hid the cemetery. The Americans had built a bridge and gouged out a new road on the left bank of the river. This hard asphalt road ran up to the far-off Arayat mountain where the fighting was. Now in the early morning, with the mist slowly lifting as the sun rose, the blue head of the mountain lay buried in the clouds. The new road was empty. The steel bridge, silent after the movements of’ the night, was dull brown in the early daylight.

Still Clay had not opened his window to laugh and shout: Hey Kid! I moved from the tree and sat on the fence near the gate. The bamboo rails, wet with the mist, were rapidly drying in the rising sun. The grass growing thick along the fence smelled fresh and clean. In the forest, the trees would be green; the flowers of the bankal trees would fill the air with their fragrance and the water would be very cool. We would have good swimming today, I thought. The pool would be very clear. I wished Clay would come.

Clay was one of the army mechanics. He was my best friend. Sometimes I could not understand him: he talked too fast that I could not always get what he meant. Then I would say: I beg your. pardon? the way Miss Rosete said one should. Clay would laugh and shout: For gosh sakes! You people are sure polite! And he would laugh and laugh. He would curse too, but with Miss Rosete the day I introduced him, his language was all right.

Miss Rosete was my teacher at the high school. She was from the city and she stayed in a boarding house near the school building. She and I had found the pool in the forest together. That was the day our class was going to hold a program, and she and I went into the woods to gather flowers for the stage. She was singing and smiling all the way and she looked very beautiful. There was a light wind that morning and it blew her curls and carried the smell of her perfume to me as I walked before her to clear the path of thorns and creepers. After we had gathered flowers, she sat down under a tree to wipe away the fine beads of sweat that crowned her brow. I stood looking at her while she passed her white handkerchief across her face. Then she stood up and we walked through thick bushes deeper into the forest. Carrying the flowers cradled in her arm, she followed me up a winding path scarcely visible among the thick leaves of the bushes. She stopped and said: Look! My eyes followed where her hand pointed, through a column of trees on the right side of the path. There was the pool: jewelling the forest with its whiteness. We left the path and walked slowly towards it. She sat down on a rock at the water’s edge and made me sit near her. She said: It’s beautiful; very softly. We looked into the pool. You could see the bottom, it was so clear: with white pebbles on its bed. She took off her shoes and dipped her feet in the water. She said: I wish we could go swimming, the water looks so beautiful! She was gently swinging her feet, her legs running like silver in the water. Then she dipped the flowers we had gathered in the pool and gave them to me to carry back to town.

After that, I went to the pool in the forest often. I would sit at the foot of the rock where she had sat and listen to the little forest noises: the water trickling among the stones where the pool was shallow, and above, the trees with their crickets and birds singing. No other noises. The quiet would make me feel I was in church, all the people gone away and I alone, praying: not really praying, but just listening for the sounds of God—not minding the ache of the knees from the kneeling—listening to the birds in the eaves and the children playing in the convent-yard. I would take off my clothes, enter the water and swim quietly, sometimes diving deep, deep into the pool’s heart. I would pretend that she was there, sitting on the rock, smiling at me, her feet silver in the water.

There at the pool I met Clay. I was diving for the white stones at the bottom of the pool and did not see him until he came through the last line of flowering bushes that hid the pool. I looked up as he came near. The early sun struck his face and made his blonde hair glisten. He stood there and smiled at me. Then he laughed. Hey Kid! he said. Nice place you got here. He walked nearer, sat down at the foot of the rock where Miss Rosete had sat, and leaned his head on the stone. He. said: Good swimming huh? I was embarrassed and remembered her teaching. I smiled: Won’t you join me, sir? He laughed and said: Well, what d’ya know? He’s educated! I felt proud. He took off his clothes, put them near the rock and dived in. He said his name was Clayton but everybody called him Clay. He offered to shake hands but I was so shy I merely smiled and told him my name. Let’s come back here again, Clay said.

We went to the pool almost everyday after that. One morning I went to the motor pool to fetch him. He was working on a truck and he asked me to wait. I sat on the fender of the car and watched him work. His face was greasy and flecked with dust; sweat dripped from his face and fell on his arms as he strained, tightening the bolts, running his dirty hands over the engine.

He washed up and changed his clothes. I’m too tired to go to the pool, Clay said. There must be some nice girls in this town; let’s go meet them. He said, teasing me, I ought to let him meet my girl and did I think old Clay was going to take her away from me? I said I had no girl but I took him to see Miss Rosete at the high school. Classes had not begun and she was in the room preparing the next day’s lesson. The door was open and we stood there for a moment, watching her. She saw us and she smiled at me, then, not smiling, turned to look at Clay. I walked in and stood in front of her desk. Clay came into the room, his heavy boots loud against the cement floor. I said: Miss Rosete, this is Clay; and Clay put out his hand, smiled and said: How are you? Now she smiled. She extended her hand. Her hand looked small in his big hairy hand. She quickly drew her hand away and she said she was sorry, she had lots of things to do, but she smiled at me and then smiled at Clay and said she was glad to have met him. We tiptoed out of the room and all the way to the street, Clay was striking his fist against my shoulder and saying: Jesuschrist!! Jesuschrist!

The sun was growing hotter. Somebody struggled with the nearest window and then it was open and Clay was there, blinking as the light struck his face. Hey Kid! He waved his hand. He was trying to put on his shirt. You are damned early, he said and disappeared into the darkness of the building. After a few minutes, the gray door of the barracks opened and Clay walked to where I sat, waiting.

We started down the road towards the river. The clay path was hot under my feet and the grass, now that the sun had dried the dew, was turning brown with dust. Clay said: Damn hot, ain’t it? He took off his khaki shirt. We walked on, he in his gray undershirt, his shirt dangling from his right hand. Where the undershirt left off, his skin was red and blotched with freckles. Already, drops of sweat were beginning to form on his forehead from the walking.

Just before the bridge, we turned left and climbed up the mound behind which lay the woods. The path winding up to the top of the hillock rose steeply; we clutched at the bushes along it for support. At the top of the mound, we stopped to rest. Below, we could see the road and the ugly bridge, now alive with trucks and people crossing. The noise of their passing came to us low and indistinct. The river flowed brown, foaming along some logs that were tied near the bridge. Looking away from the road to the woods, we could see knee-high cogon growing where the hillock sloped and the first low trees began. Clay and I ran down the slope and into the forest. Clay’s heavy boots crushed fallen leaves and rustled against dead branches from the trees above. The sun came through the leafy sky in bright patches that flashed as the trees stirred in the wind.

Clay said: Let’s sit down a while. He pulled a handkerchief from his hip pocket. His face was pale red. There were little dark lines under his eyes. He wiped away the drops of sweat that glistened on his nose and gathered in furrows on his forehead. He put his handkerchief back in his pocket and sat down heavily on the ground. Sit down, he said. He rubbed his eyes. Boy, but am I tired! Raking leaves together, he bundled his shirt over the pile they made and there pillowed his head. He closed his eyes. Nice dance last night, Clay said. He grinned. He sat up suddenly, put out a big hand and rumpled my hair. Say, did I ever thank you for introducin’ me to that dame who teaches you or something? His hand balled into a fist and softly struck my shoulder. Clay chuckled and rolled his eyes, making strange noises with his tongue. Boy, he laughed. But is she good! Boy, did old Clay have a good time! His hand, rough and moist. rubbed on the back of my neck. Seeing the look on my face, he laughed. Say, how old are you anyway? he asked. I said nearly sixteen. Aw, you are too young, junior! Clay said. You wouldn’t get what I mean! His harsh laughter tore the silence of the forest.

Still laughing, he got up and we walked on towards the pool. The wind had risen a bit. and under the tree where the sun could not get through, it was chilly. Clay put his arm around my shoulders. His arm was big and hairy, little drops of sweat clinging to it. Boy oh boy, Clay said. But did I have a helluva time last night! He laughed, showing his teeth, his face close to mine smelling of pomade and perspiration. Jesuschrist, Clay said. Jesuschrist!

Clay suddenly let go of my shoulder and leaped up to grab at the branch of a guava tree that grew along the path. He clung to the branch. swaying his body, sending flowers from the tree falling to the ground in flurries of whiteness. Yippeeee! Clay shouted. Yippeeee! Birds flew up and, chirping, fluttered above the trees. Clay dropped to the ground beside me. He was breathing heavily.

Here Kid, he said. Have a guava. You look hungry. He laughed, bowed elaborately and opened his palm where a guava lay small arid white, its flesh exposed where bats had dug at its core, the marks of their teeth leaving red gashes on its skin. I broke the guava open. It smelled sweet and over-ripe. Little worms stirred in its core. I threw the guava away. Clay laughed. Get ya ’nother one. I said never mind, I was not hungry. Well, come on then, he said. Let’s not keep the old pool waiting. He ran ahead of me, his big body swaying from side to side, his boots tramping the bushes along the path.

Now the path narrowed and was lost among the thick undergrowth. The bushes that hid it were here and there stained with mud stray carabaos had left behind them. Brown grass grew in tangles, their blades sharp, drawing white scratches on the skin. The ground, where the sun never shone, was muddy. But where the pool began, the grass thinned, the trees were taller than in any other part of the forest: straight, white-limbed columns with singing life in their branches, below them the water breaking into a million separate diamonds.

Clay was taking off his undershirt as he ran. Reaching the water’s edge, he flung his clothes on a bush and, stamping his muddy boots on the rock, fumbled with their laces. After he had pulled the shoes off, he scraped them against the side of the rock to clean them of the mud they had gathered from the walking. Hurry up, Kid, he shouted. The water looks good! He sat down at the edge of the stone and dangled his legs in the water. The water swirled darkly where his feet touched bottom. Clay lit a cigarette and started to chant softly something about a blonde who couldn’t say no. His voice rose and fell in a grating monotone.

The sun lay hidden behind the trees and I was a long time taking off my clothes. The water’s going to be cold, I thought. What the heck’s taking you such a long time? Clay shouted. He flipped his cigarette butt into the middle of the pool and dived noisily after it. Then he was splashing water, making a lot of noise, shouting: Yippeeee! Yippeeee! Hey come on! Hey come on! I went into the water slowly, first wetting my feet and chest. The water was cold. Come where it is deeper, Clay said. He arched and dived into the pool’s writhing heart. His feet thrashed the water wildly. Then his body broke the water. Look, he said. Black sand filled his open hand. Water dripped from his face. A thin trickle of mucus ran down the corner of his nose. Clay laughed; I touched bottom! He spat and laughed. Let’s see you do it, Kid. Let’s see you do it. I said I couldn’t. Clay threw the sand at me. You gotta learn, he laughed. You gotta learn. He laughed again and began swimming towards me, his arms and feet flailing the water.

Birds in the trees flew away as something heavy came stumbling up the path. Then a young bull carabao lumbered past the bushes and walked towards us, its feet leaving muddy tracks on the grass. Standing at the edge of the water, the carabao gazed at us with red, heavy-lidded eyes. Flies hovered over its head and settled on the black mud that encrusted its back. The carabao looked mean. I climbed up the bank, picked up one of the stones gleaming there and threw it at the beast. The stone hit the carabao between the horns, bounced, and fell back at my feet. Flecks of foam and saliva dripped down the carabao’s mouth as it snorted at me and bellowed angrily. I dipped my hands in the pool and threw water at it. Still bellowing, the carabao turned and silently went away, crashing down the undergrowth.

It would have made the water dirty, I told Clay. Probably strayed from its herd down the hill.

Come on Kid, Clay said. He splashed water at me and ran into the pond, his feet sending clouds of mud swirling up the water’s surface. A dull-brown circle rose and spread from around his body.

When we had dressed and gone back down the path, carefully avoiding the mud flecks the carabao had left on the bushes, Clay said: We are gonna have ’nother party tonight. He grinned, showing his white teeth. I’m bringing Imacool-ada again. He had trouble pronouncing Miss Rosete’s first name. Come to the barracks, Kid, Clay said. We are gonna have real ice-cream. He put his hand around my shoulder. I’ll get ya some. Clay smiled at me and winked his eyes. I’ll get you some cake too.

After lunch, I dressed for school. The sun was hot and the street was empty. I kept to the side of the road where the fences of the houses offered shade against the sun. Near the school building, a squat one-story building near the town square, there were a few figures walking. Students, boys and girls, were gathered on the stairway, talking and laughing. They turned to look at me as I brushed past them and walked up the low concrete stairs. The sudden darkness of the corridor, after the brilliance of noon, brought flashes of light to my eyes as I walked toward the classroom in the western end of the building. The stone slabs of the floor echoed my footsteps. The door creaked as I pushed it open. The room was dark and empty. Big chalk markings on the blackboard spelled: No Classes.

I went in and sat down in the front row near the table. Sitting in the half-dark, I could smell the odor of old dust heavy in the air.

I got up and pushed the dusty window open. Even with the sunlight coming in, the room was still empty. A shaft of light struck the empty chair where Miss Rosete should be, smiling and talking to me. The flowers in the vase at her table had not been replaced with fresh ones. I wished I had remembered to pick flowers at the pool. As I sat silently in the empty room, the patch of light rose higher and was caught among the dusty cobwebs that laced the eastern corner.

The church bells tolled three o’clock. The last silver sound of their ringing was still in the air when the old janitor came in. He walked so silently I did not see him until he was at the door. Peering into the room where I sat, he said: Miss Rosete is not coming.

I rose and walked out of the room. The old man closed the window and the door behind him and melted into the shadows of the corridor. In the light of the afternoon sun, my shadow crept along the stone floor ahead or me as I went out into the street. In the classroom nearest the stairway, they were having a program and somebody was singing.

I walked to the town square and sat down on a bench. I wanted to go to the pool but I was afraid it might rain.

Later, going homeward, I passed the house where Miss Rosete stayed. The iron gate at the head of the walk gaped open. The door of the house was closed. The windows of her room returned my look with a stolid, unseeing stare.

I lay in bed until it was dark. Then I dressed and walked to the army barracks.

The camp was ablaze with lights. The acacia tree, slumped in the darkness facing the road end, seemed to shrink from the sound of the soldiers’ merry-making. Through the dark barracks door, music blared out into the night. I crept through the open gate into the yard and peered through one of the windows on the ground floor. The glass on the window was dusty and I could not see into the room clearly. A thick haze of smoke whirled and made weird patterns over the heads of the soldiers and the women gathered there. The girls of most of the soldiers were there but I could not see Miss Rosete in the room. In a corner, a woman was sitting on a soldier’s lap. The soldier was nuzzling her nape with his mouth. She was giggling shrilly.

In the yard near the door, several men were sitting in the dark, talking and smoking. As I neared them. they laughed loudly. Somebody slapped his thigh and shouted: Looks like old Clay’s been stood up. Our pretty boy’s been stood up! Everybody guffawed. Then I heard Clay’s voice. It sounded hoarse and thick. He laughed. Aw, he said. She don’t worry me none. But I sure convinced her last night, he said. I sure convinced her. Once ya get one of those babes convinced, they’re just like the girls here.

His cigarette glowed in a red arc as he waved a hand in derision. The little babe’s just playin’ hard to get, that’s all. She can’t stay away from me. After I get through with them, they can’t stay away. Everybody laughed.

Clay, somebody said through gusts of laughter. Clay, you sure are a fast one. Clay threw his cigarette butt through the fence to where the moonlight made the road a pale ribbon against the dark. You guys known old Clay, he said. Old Clay always convinces them. She didn’t even know how to kiss. Boy, I sure learned her!

I turned back toward the gate. Clay rose and walked towards me. Hey Kid, he shouted. I didn’t see ya. Com’ here. I got somethin’ for ya. I ran to the road. Hey Kid. Com’ here. What’s the matter wi’ ya. His big body lurched against the gate as he clung to it for support. The soldiers laughed. Clay was clinging to the gate, the chain rattling as he swayed. Hey Kid! Here’s your ice-cream!

I ran and ran. The voices and the drunken laughter grew faint in my ears. I ran swaying from side to side, not knowing where I was going. Then I was stumbling up to the hillock. The mist had settled and the bushes were cold and rough against my hands clutching for support. Below me, the lights on the bridge made reddish circles against the mist rising thick from the river. Music from the camp came faint and strange to my ears. I ran down the slope, the cogon grass lashing at my legs. Brambles along the trail clutched at my body and an owl hooted in a tree as I ran past its lair. The darkness of the forest swallowed me.

When I stopped, there was the pool, white in the moonlight. Breathing heavily, smelling the sickly sweetness of the flowering bankal trees, I stood at the water’s edge. Something dark stirred and rose out of the water. It was the carabao. Raising its dark head, it snorted at me. Its eyes glowed fiery red in the darkness. Dark water trickled down its nostrils and mingled with the slaver from its mouth as it glared at me. I threw stones at the carabao again and again, but it only moaned and refused to go away.

AT WAR’S END: AN ELEGY

THE DINNER PARTY

THE evening before he killed himself, Virgilio Serrano gave a dinner party. He invited five guests—friends and classmates in university— myself included. Since we lived on campus in barracks built by the U.S. Army, he sent his Packard to fetch us.

Virgilio lived alone in a pre-war chalet that belonged to his family. Four servants and a driver waited on him hand and foot. The chalet, partly damaged, was one of the few buildings in Ermita that survived the bombardment and street fighting to liberate Manila.

It had been skillfully restored; the broken lattices, fretwork, shell windows and wrought iron fence had been repaired or replaced at considerable expense. A hedge of bandera española had been planted and the scorched frangipani and hibiscus shrubs had been pruned carefully. Thus, Virgilio’s house was an ironic presence in the violated neighborhood.

He was on the porch when the car came to a crunching halt on the graveled driveway. He shook our hands solemnly, then ushered us into the living room. In the half-light, everything in the room glowed, shimmered or shone. The old ferruginous narra floor glowed. The pier glass coruscated. The bentwood furniture from the house in Jaen looked as if they had been burnished. In a corner, surrounded by bookcases, a black Steinway piano sparkled like glass.

Virgilio was immaculate in white de hilo pants and cotton shirt. I felt ill at ease in my surplus khakis and combat boots.

We were all in our second year. Soon we will be on different academic paths—Victor in philosophy; Zacarias in physics and chemistry; Enrique in electrical engineering; and Apolonio, law. Virgilio and I have both decided to make a career in English literature. Virgilio was also enrolled in the Conservatory and in courses in the philosophy of science.

We were all in awe of Virgilio. He seemed to know everything. He also did everything without any effort. He had not been seen studying or cramming for an exam in any subject, be it history, anthropology or calculus. Yet the grades that he won were only a shade off perfection.

HE and I were from the same province where our families owned rice farms except that ours was tiny, a hundred hectares, compared to the Serrano’s, a well-watered hacienda that covered 2,000 hectares of land as flat as a table.

The hacienda had been parceled out to eleven inquilinos who together controlled about a thousand tenants. The Serranos had a large stone house with a tile roof that dated back to the 17th century that they used during the summer months. The inquilinos dealt with Don Pepe’s spinster sister, the formidable Clara, who knew their share of the harvest to the last chupa. She was furthermore in residence all days of the year.

Virgilio was the only child. His mother was killed in a motor accident when he was nine. Don Pepe never remarried. He became more and more dependent on Clara as he devoted himself to books, music and conversation. His house in Cabildo was a salon during the years of the Commonwealth. At night, spirited debates on art, religion language, politics and world affairs would last until the first light of dawn. The guests who lived in the suburbs were served breakfasts before they drove off in their runabouts to Sta. Cruz, Ermita or San Miguel. The others stumbled on cobblestones on their way back to their own mansions within the cincture of Intramuros.

In October, Quezon himself came for merienda. He had just appointed General MacArthur field marshal of the Philippine Army because of disturbing news from Nanking and Chosun. Quezon cursed the Americans for not taking him in their confidence. But like most gifted politicians, he had a preternatural sense of danger.

“The Japanese will go to war against the Americans before this year is out, Pepe,” Quezon rasped, looking him straight in the eye.

This was the reason the Serranos prepared to move out of Manila. As discreetly as possible, Don Pepe had all his personal things packed and sent by train to Jaen. He stopped inviting his friends. But when the Steinway was crated and loaded on a large truck that blocked the street completely, the neighbors became curious. Don Pepe dissembled, saying that he had decided to live in the province for reasons of health, “at least until after Christmas.”

Two weeks later, he suffered a massive stroke and died. The whole town went into mourning. His remains were interred, along with his forebears, in the south wall of the parish church. A month later, before the period of mourning had ended, Japanese planes bombed and strafed Clark Field.

Except for about three months in their hunting lodge in the forests of Bongabong (to escape the rumored rapine that was expected to be visited on the country by the yellow horde. Virgilio and Clara spent the war years in peace and comfort in their ancestral house in Jaen.

Clara hired the best teachers for Virgilio. When food became scare in the big towns and cities, Clara put up their families in the granaries and bodegas of the hacienda so that they would go on tutoring Virgilio in science, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy and English. After his lessons, he read and practiced on the piano. He even learned to box and to fence although he was always nauseated by the ammoniac smell of the gloves and mask. Despite Clara’s best effort, she could not find new boxing gloves and fencing equipment. Until she met Honesto Garcia.

Honesto Garcia was a petty trader in rice who had mastered the intricate mechanics of the black market. He dealt in anything that could be moved but he became rich by buying and selling commodities such as soap, matches, cloth and quinine pills.

Garcia maintained a network of informers to help him align supply and demand—and at the same time collect intelligence for both the Japanese Army and the Hukbalahap.

One of his informers told him about Clara Serrano’s need for a pair of new boxing gloves and protective gear for escrima. He found these items. He personally drove in his amazing old car to Jaen to present them to Clara, throwing in a French epée that was still in its original case for good measure. He refused payment but asked to be allowed to visit.

Honesto Garcia was the son of a kasama of the Villavicencios of Cabanatuan. By hard work and numerous acts of fealty, his father became an inquilino. Honesto, the second of six children, however made up his mind very early that he would break loose from farming. He reached the seventh grade and although his father at that time had enough money to send him to high school, he decided to apprentice himself to a Chinese rice trader in Gapan. His wage was a few centavos a day, hardly enough for his meals, but after two years, he knew enough about the business to ask his father for a loan of P60 to set himself up as a rice dealer. And then the war broke out.

Honesto was handsome in a rough-hewn way. He tended to fat but because he was tall he was an imposing figure. He was unschooled in the social graces; he preferred to eat, squatting before a dulang, with his fingers. Despite these deficiencies, he exuded an aura of arrogance and self-confidence.

It was this trait that attracted Clara to him. Clara had never known strong-willed men, having grown up with effete persons like Don Pepe and compliant men like the inquilinos who were always silent in her presence.

When Clara told Virgilio that Honesto had proposed and that she was inclined to accept, Virgilio was not surprised. He also had grown to like Honesto who always came with unusual gifts. Once, Honesto gave him a mynah that Virgilio was able to teach within a few days to say “Good morning. How are you today?”

The wedding took place in June of the second year of the war. It was a grand affair. The church and the house were decked in flowers. The inquilinos fell over each other to, supply the wedding feast. Carts and sleds laden with squealing pigs, earthen water jars filled with squirming river fish, pullets bound at the shank like posies, fragrant rice that had been husked in wooden mortars with pestles, the freshest eggs and demijohns of carabao milk for leche flan and slews of vegetables and fruit that had been picked at exactly the right time descended on the big house. The wives and daughters of the tenants cooked the food in huge vats while their menfolk roasted the suckling pigs on spluttering coals. The quests were served on bamboo tables spread with banana leaves. The war was forgotten, a rondalla played the whole day, the children fought each other for the bladders of the pigs which they blew up into balloons and for the ears and tails of the lechon as they were lifted on their spits from the fire.

The bride wore the traje de boda of Virgilio’s mother, a masterpiece confected in Madrid of Belgian lace and seed pearls. The prettiest daughters of the inquilinos, dressed in organza and ribbons, held the long, embroidered train of the wedding gown.

Honesto’s family were awe-struck by this display of wealth and power. They cringed and cowered in the sala of the big house and all of them were too frightened to go to the comedor for the wedding lunch.

Not very long after the wedding, Honesto was running the hacienda. The inquilinos found him more congenial and understanding. At this time, the Huks were already making demands on them for food and other necessities. The fall in the Serrano share would have been impossible to explain to Clara. In fact, the Huks had established themselves on Carlos Valdefuerza’s parcel because his male children had joined the guerilla group.

Honesto learned for the first time that the Huks were primarily a political and not a resistance organization. They were spreading a foreign idea called scientific socialism that predicted the takeover of all lands by the workers. Ricardo Valdefuerza, who had taken instruction from Luis Taruc, was holding classes for the children of the other tenants.

Honesto was alarmed enough to take it up with Clara who merely shrugged him off. “How can illiterate farmers understand a complex idea like scientific socialism?” she asked.

“But they seem to understand it,” Honesto expostulated “because it promises to give them the land that they farm.”

“How is that possible? Quezon and the Americans will not allow it. They don’t have the Torrens Title,” Clara said with finality.

“Carding Valdefuerza has been saying that all value comes from work. What we get as our share is surplus that we do not deserve because we did nothing to it. It rightly belongs to the workers, according to him. I myself don’t understand this idea too clearly but that is how it is being explained to the tenants.”

“They are idle now. After the war, all this talk will vanish,” Clara said.

When American troops landed in Leyte, Clara was four months with child.

THE table had been cleared. Little glasses of a pale sweetish wine were passed around. Victor pushed back his chair to slouch.

“The war has given us the opportunity to change this country. The feudal order is being challenged all over the world. Mao Tse Tung has triumphed in China. Soon the revolution will be here. We have to help prepare the people for it.” Victor declared.

“Why change?” Virgilio asked. “The pre-war order had brought prosperity and democracy. What you call feudalism is necessary to rebuild the country. Who will lead? The Huks? The young turks of the Liberal Party? All they have are ideas; they have no capital, no power.”

The university was alive with talk of imminent revolutionary change. Young men and women, most of them from the upper classes, spoke earnestly of redistributing wealth.

“Nothing will come of it” Virgilio said, sipping his wine.

“Of all of us, you have the most to lose in a revolution,” Apolonio said. “What we should aim for is orderly lawful change. You might lose your hacienda but you must be paid for it. So in the end, you will still have the capital to live on in style.”

“You don’t understand,” Virgilio said. “It is not only a question of capital or compensation. I am talking of a way of life, of emotional bonds, of relationships that are immutable. In any case, we can do nothing one way or the other so let us change the subject.”

“Don’t be too sure,” I said. “We can influence these events one way or another.”

“You talk as it you have joined the Communist Party,” Virgilio said. “Have you?”

But before I could answer, he was off on another tack.

“You know I have just been reading about black holes,” Virgilio said addressing himself to Zacarias. “Oppenheimer and Snyder solved Einstein’s equations on what happens when a sun or star had used up its supply of nuclear energy. The star collapses gravitationally, disappears from view and remains in a state of permanent free fall, collapsing endlessly inward into a gravitational pit without end.

“What a marvelous idea! Such ideas are art in the highest sense but at the same time, the decisive proof of relativity,” Virgilio enthused.

“Do you know that Einstein is embarrassed by these black holes? He considers them a diversion from his search for a unified theory,” Zacarias said.

“Ah! The impulse towards simplicity, towards reduction. The need to explain all knowledge with a few, elegant equations. Don’t you think that his reductionism is the ultimate arrogance? Even if it is Einstein’s. In any case, he is not succeeding,” Virgilio said.

“But isn’t reductionism the human tendency? This is what Communism is all about, the reduction of human relationships to a set of unproven economic theorems,” I interjected.

“But the reductionist approach can also lead to astounding results. Take the Schröedinger and Dirac equations that reduced previous mysterious atomic physics to elegant order,” Enrique said.

“What is missing in all this is the effect on men of reductionism. It can very well lead to totalitarian control in the name of progress and social order,” Apolonio ventured.

“Let me resolve our debate by playing for you a piece that builds intuitively on three seemingly separate movements. This is Beethoven’s Sonata, Opus 27, No. 2.” Virgilio rose and walked gravely to the piano while we distributed ourselves on the bentwood furniture in the living room.

He played the opening Adagio with sensitive authority, escalating note to note until it resolved into the fragile D-flat major which in turn disappeared in the powerful rush of the concluding Presto, the movement that crystallized the disparate emotional resonances of the first two movements into an assured and balanced relationship.

When the last note had faded, we broke into cheers. But at that moment, I felt a deep sadness for Virgilio. As the Presto flooded the Allegretto, I knew that he was not of this world.

Outside, through the shell windows, moonlight softened the jagged ruins of battle.

THE INVESTIGATION

ON July 14, 1950, in the evening, Virgilio killed himself in his bedroom by slitting his wrists with a straight razor and thrusting them into a pail of warm water.

His body was not found until the next morning.

He did not appear for breakfast at eight. At eight-thirty, Josefa, the housemaid, knocked on the door of Virgilio’s bedroom. Getting no response, she asked Arturo, the driver, to climb up the window to look inside.

The three maids panicked. Arturo drove off at once in the Packard to get me. After leaving a note for the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, we stopped at the police station near General Luna to report the suicide.

Two police officers were immediately assigned to investigate. They came with us in the car to the house in Ermita.

They started interrogating me in the car.

“Who are you?” Police Officer No. 1 asked.

“Why are you involved?”, Police Officer No. 2 demanded.

I was somewhat nervous but as calmly as I could be, I answered.

“My name is Nestor Gallego. I am a second-year student at University of the Philippines. Virgilio Serrano, the deceased, and I come from the same town, Jaen, in Nueva Ecija. I have known Virgilio since 1942 and I think he considers me his closest friend in university. That is the reason the driver came to me.”

The policemen brought together the household staff. “Did you touch, move or remove anything in the bedroom? Did any of you go out of the house after the driver left for the university?”

To both questions, the maids answered, No, whereupon they were told to stay within the premises for separate interviews later in the morning.

Police Officer No. 1 went out to the yard presumably to look for clues. Police Officer No. 2 made a sketch of the scene and then searched the bedroom systematically. He opened the drawers of the tallboy carefully, he felt around the linen and underwear. The wardrobe and the aparador were also examined. But it was on the contents of the rolltop desk that No. 1 concentrated. The notebooks, a diary, and address book were all neatly arranged around a Remington typewriter.

He was looking for a letter, a note even, to give him a clue or lead to the motive for the suicide.

On the first page of one of the notebooks were the “Down There” and then “To my friend and confidant, Nestor Gallego, with affection.” Although unsigned, it was in Virgilio’s spidery hand.

“You know anything about this?” No. 1 said in a low, threatening voice. He handed it to me.

I leafed through the pages. It looked like a long poem that had been broken down into thirteen cantos.

“No,” I said. “I have not seen this before.”

“But it is for you. What does it say?”

“I don’t know, I have to read it first,” cuttingly.

My sarcasm rolled off him like water on a duck. “Well then—read,” he ordered, motioning me to the wooden swivel chair.

A frisson ran up my spine. My hands trembled as I opened the notebook and scanned the poem. There were recognizable names, places and events. There were references to his professors in university and his tutors in Jaen. The names of some of his inquilinos appeared again and again. But the longest sections were about Honesto and Clara Garcia and Ricardo Valdefuerza.

From the tone and the words, it was a satire patterned closely after Dante’s Inferno. Virgilio, like Dante, had assigned or consigned people to different circles “down there.” It ended with a line from Valery, “A l’extrême de toute pensée est un soupir.”

“I cannot say truthfully that I understand it. I know some of the people and places referred to but not why they appear in this poem.”

“I will have to bring this back for analysis,” No. 1 said, giving it to No. 2 who put it carelessly in a plastic carryall.

“When you are done with it, can I have it back? I have a right to it since it was dedicated to me.” I wanted desperately to read it because I felt that it concealed the reason for Virgilio’s suicide.

They spent another hour talking to the household help and scribbling in grimy notebooks.

Before they left past one o’clock, No. 1 said: “It is clearly a suicide. There was no struggle. In fact, it was a very neat suicide.” He made it sound as if it was a remarkable piece of craftsmanship. I hated him.

I went with Arturo to the post office to send a telegram to Jaen. “Virgilio dead stop please come at once.”

The undertaker took charge thereafter, informing us that by six o’clock, the remains would be ready for viewing. He asked me to select the clothes for the dead. I chose the white de hilo pants and the white cotton shirt that Virgilio wore the other day.

“It is wrinkled,” the undertaker said. “Don’t you want to choose something else.”

“No,” I shouted at him. “Put him in these.”

THE FUNERAL

FATHER Sean O’Donovan, S.J., refused to say Mass or to bless the corpse. “Those who die by their own hand are beyond the pale of the Church,” he said firmly.

“Let us take him home,” Clara said. She asked me to make all the arrangements and not to mind the cost.

The rent for the hearse was clearly exorbitant. I bargained feebly and then agreed. Victor, Zacarias, Enrique, Apolonio and myself were to travel in the Packard. Honesto and Clara had driven to Manila in a new Buick.

The hearse moved at a stately 30 kilometers per hour while a scratchy dirge poured out of it at full volume. The Garcias followed in their Buick and we brought up the rear.

The rains of July had transformed the brown, dusty fields of Bulacan and Nueva Ecija into muddy fields. We passed small, nut-brown men, following a beast and a stick that scored the wet earth; dithering birds swooped down to pluck the crickets and worms that were turned up by the plow.

The beat of sprung pebbles against the fender of the car marked our passage.

The yard of the big house was already full of people. In the sala, a bier had been prepared. The wives of inquilinos were all in black. Large yellow tapers gave off a warm, oily smell that commingled with the attar of the flowers, producing an odor that the barrio folk called the smell of death.

Then the local worthies arrived, led by the congressman of the district, the governor of the province, the mayor of Jaen, the commander of the Scout Rangers who was leading a campaign against the Huks, with their wives and retainers. They were all on intimate teams with Honesto and Clara. Except for the colonel who was in full combat uniform, they were dressed in sharkskin and two-toned shoes. They wore their hair tightly sculpted with pomade against their skulls and on their wrists and fingers gold watches and jeweled rings glistened.

They all knew that Honesto had political ambition. It was not clear yet which position he had his sights on.

With the death of Virgilio, the immense wealth of the Serranos devolved on Clara and on Honesto and on their 5-year old son, Jose Jr. Both the Nacionalista and Liberal Parties have been dangling all manner of bait before Honesto. Now, there will be a scramble.

Honesto shook hands with everyone, murmuring acknowledgments of their expressions of grief but secretly assessing their separate motives. Clara was surrounded by the simpering wives of the politicians; like birds they postured to show their jewels to best advantage.

They only fell silent when Father Francisco Santander, the parish priest, came to say the prayer for the dead and to lead the procession to the Church where Virgilio’s mortal remains would be displayed on a catafalque before the altar before interment in the south wall side by side with Don Pepe’s.

I left the sala to join the crowd in the yard. My parents were there with the Serranos’ and our tenants.

There was a palpable tension in the air. A number of the kasamas had been seized by the Scout Rangers, detained and tortured, so that they may reveal the whereabouts of Carding. They were frightened. From what I heard from my parents, most of the tenants distrusted Honesto who they felt was using the campaign against the Huks to remove those he did not like. The inquilinos were helpless because Clara was now completely under the sway of Honesto.

I walked home. When I got there, Restituto, our caretaker, very agitated, took me aside and whispered. “Carding is in the house. He has been waiting for you since early morning. I kept him from view in your bedroom.” He looked at me, uncertain and obviously frightened. “What shall we do?

“Leave it to me. But do not tell anyone—not even my parents. He shall be gone by the time they return.” I put my arm around Restituto’s shoulder to reassure him.

Carding wheeled when I walked in, pistol at the ready. He was dressed in army fatigues and combat boots. A pair of Ray-Ban glasses dangled on his shirt. He put the pistol back in its holster.

“You shouldn’t be here. There are soldiers all around.”

“They will not come here. They are too busy in the hacienda,” Carding said.

The shy, spindly boy that I knew during the war had grown into a broad muscular man. His eyes were hooded and cunning.

“I have to talk to you. Did Virgilio leave a last will and testament?”

“Not that I know of. He left a notebook of poems.”

“What is that?” Carding demanded, startled.

“A notebook of verses with the title ‘Down There.’ You are mentioned in the poem. But the police has it,” I answered.

“Did it say anything about the disposition of the hacienda in case of his death?”

“I did not have a chance to read it closely but I doubt it. Aren’t such things always done up in legal language? There certainly is nothing like that in the notebook. What are you leading up to?”

Carding sighed. “In 1943; Virgilio came to see me. He had heard from Honesto that I have been talking to the tenants about their rights. Virgilio wanted to know himself the bases of my claims. We had a long talk. I told him about the inevitability of the triumph of the peasant class. Despite his wide reading, he had not heard of Marx, Lenin, or Mao Tse Tung. He was visibly shaken. But when I told him of the coming calamity that will bring down his class, he asked ‘What can I do?’ and I said: ‘Give up. Give up your land, your privilege and your power. That is the only way to avoid the coming calamity’.

“He apparently did not have any grasp of social forces. He kept talking of individual persons—tenants that he had known since he was a child, inquilinos who had been faithful to his father until their old age, and all that nonsense. ‘The individual does not matter,’ I yelled at him. ‘Only the class called the proletariat.’

“But even without understanding, he said that he will leave the hacienda to the tenants because it was probably the right thing to do. But Clara should not be completely deprived of her means of support. It was exasperating, talking to him, but he did promise that in his will the tenants would get all.

“Obviously, he changed his mind.” Carding said in a low voice. “That is too bad because now we have to take his land by force.”

I was speechless. In university, talk of revolution was all the rage but this was my first encounter with a man who could or would try to make it happen.

“When I get back the notebook, I will study it to see if there is any statement that will legally transfer the Serrano hacienda to you and the other tenants,” I said weakly.

“I will be in touch,” Carding said. He walked out the door.

The day of the funeral was clear and hot. Dust devils rose from the road. In the shadow of the acacia trees in the churchyard, hundreds of people of all ages crowded to get away from the sun. Inside the church, even the aisles were packed.

“Introibo ad altare Dei” Father Santander intoned.

“Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam,” I answered.

The mass for the dead began.

My heart was racing because I knew the reason for Virgilio’s suicide. But nobody would care, save me.

Malaybalay City

Monastery of Transfiguration-Bukidnon, Malaybalay CityHISTORY

The original inhabitants of Malaybalay were said to have come from the seashores of Northern Mindanao but were driven inward by marauding pirates and the colonizing Spaniards. Before the final conquest of the hinterlands of Mindanao, Malaybalay together with Sumilao, Linabo, Mailag and Silae had been known settlements in Bukidnon. In 1850 the entire village of what is now Kalasungay (an old settlement site of Malaybalay) was burned down during the battle against the Spaniards. All male adults were killed on sight. All women and children were taken hostage. It was the last recorded resistance by the inhabitants against the conquering Castillan Army.

A few years later, those who survived and fled to Silae slowly came back and settled near the Sacub River (what is now the Rizal Park) under the protection of Datu Mampaalong. This leader led 30 other datus on June 15, 1877 to accept Spanish dominion and embrace Christianity, 356 years after Spain first discovered the Philippines. On that day of 1877, Malaybalay became a pueblo with the name “Oroquita del Interior” with a territory covering the land area of what is now the entire province of Bukidnon. But the original name of Malaybalay remained. From 1877 until the end of the Spanish rule in the islands, which covered a period of 20 years, Capitanes who were appointed from among the acknowledged tribal chieftains governed Malaybalay. They were Mariano Melendez (Datu Mampaalong), Doroteo Melendez, Juan Carbajal, Alejandro Bontao, Esteban Tilanduca and Faustino Abello.

Malaybalay City, the capital and the first city of Bukidnon Province, is in Northern Mindanao. It is bounded on the east by the Pantaron Range separating Bukidnon from the Provinces of Agusan del Sur and Davao del Norte, on the west by the municipality of Lantapan and Mount Kitanglad, on the north by the municipality of Impasug-ong and on the south by the city of Valencia and municipality of San Fernando. The whole eastern and southeastern border adjoining Agusan and Davao called Pantaron Range are elevated and densely forested mountains, which is the remaining forest blocks of Mindanao.

The city is a landlocked area, the nearest sea and airports are in Cagayan de Oro City, which is 91 kilometers away.

Data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) year 2000 census show that population of Malaybalay City has reached 123,672. The figure was only 112,277 in the year 1995 census, which means that the rate of growth is at 1.95%. The projected population then of 2001 is 126,086. The provincial growth rate is 2.43%, while the neighboring city of Valencia is 2.45%.

TRANSPORTATION

Inventory of roads in the City showed that there are about 749 kilometers of road linking the different parts of the City. About 103 km are classified as national road, 60 km provincial road, 26 km city road and 560 km barangay roads. Paved roads, either concrete or asphalt, are about 11% of all roads, while the bigger portion or 88% are unpaved (gravel or earth filled). The forestal communities in rural barangays are usually linked by old logging roads that are passable by farm animals and motorcycles.

The national highway passing through the City also serves as the urban center and main thoroughfare contributing to the congestion of the area. Buses that ply the Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, Cotabato and Davao route, as well as jeepneys, multi-cabs and vans pass through the main highway contributing to its heavy traffic. Inner streets are served by three-wheeled motor cycle motorelas and improvised bicycles (trisikads).

WATER SUPPLY AND DRAINAGE SYSTEM

Recent data (2001) from City Health Office and Malaybalay City Water District (MCWD) showed that 65% of the total household population has access to safe potable water, while the remaining 35% have doubtful sources like undeveloped springs, rivers, and creeks. A closer look at those with access to safe potable water reveals that only 20% of the total household population is on Level III (Water District) connections, and 12% and 33% respectively for Level I and II systems. The MCWD serves only 14 out of 46 barangays of the entire city. The areas served are concentrated in the 11 urban barangays and 3 of the urbanizing barangays.

The main terminal for public transportation is beside the public market. With the increasing vehicular traffic and people going to the market, the need for higher capacity public terminal and market has already seen.

ELECTRICITY

Forty-four (44) out of forty-six (46) barangays of the City have electric connections served by the Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative (BUSECO). However only 53% of the total household population has connections. Chart 1 below shows that the gap between household with and without connections is wider in the rural barangays, which are found in the uplands with mountainous terrain.

TELECOMMUNICATION

The City is served by two telephone companies, Southern Telecommunications Company (SOTELCO) and PhilCom. Both companies recorded a total domestic connection of 1,988, which is only 8% of the total household population. These two companies also provide internet services that have a total of 238 connections. Mobile cellular phones are also widely used in the urban center of the City, which are within cell sites signals.

There are 3 radio stations (2 AM Bands, 1 FM) and 1 cable television network. National daily newspapers circulating the city are the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin, while there are also two local newspapers; Mindanao Gold Star Daily and Bukidnon News Watch. The major mail distribution center of the City is still the Philippine Postal Office, though other private companies like Aboitiz, LBC Air Cargo, RCPI, JRS Express, PT & T and DHL are now providing messengerial services.

The urban center is coping up with the latest technological advancement of telecommunication but the rural areas are still using the traditional letter sending through vehicle drivers and broadcasting over the public radio stations for their messages. To communicate (especially emergency cases) with the barangay officials in the rural areas the City government has issued two-way radios to the barangays.

ACTIVITIES

The City is mainly an agricultural area, with products including rice, corn, sugarcane, vegetables, legumes, root crops and commercial crops such as rubber, coffee, banana and pineapple. During the past years, corn used to be the pre-dominant crop in the city.

But as the corn areas gave way to sugarcane, agri-farms (poultry, hog), and residential areas, sugarcane (306,600 metric tons) and rice (30,318 MT) came out presently as the predominant crops in terms of production volume. These products are usually sold in the local market, or in nearby municipalities of the province. There are also farmers producing larger volume of corn and rice who sell their products in Cagayan de Oro.

AGRI-BASED INDUSTRIES

Agri-based industries primarily poultry and piggery, now flourish in the City. These farms are assisted by big corporations such as San Miguel, Purefoods, Monterey and Swift. Other agri-based industries in the City include Asian Hybrid Philippines (feeds processing), Rubbertex (rubber shoes manufacturing), and Monastery Farms (peanuts and other preserved foods). Also notable are the 12 cattle ranches that produce an average of 470 heads yearly.

for more info visit http://www.philcom.ph

A Born-Achiever

So many children are born into poverty thinking they are bound to the same fate as their parents. But there are those who refuse to accept the obvious but strive for something better.   12-year-old Shena’s definitely not settling for poverty all her life.    “Gusto kong hindi na magwork si mama sa malayo para magka sama-sama na kami. Gusto ko din na makapag-aral ang mga kapatid ko, susuportahan ko sila pag nakatapos na ako. Gusto kong maging office clerk! Gusto kong mag-suot ng pang-executive at humarap sa computer.”– at her young age, Shena has already set clear goals and she’s working hard determined to achieve them. 

Life hasn’t been easy for her; she was only in kindergarten when her father died and the family was forced to move to the province of Missamis hoping to find a new start. Yet, things didn’t go as planned. Not long after, her mother had to return to Manila as a household helper to sustain the family. Shena and her siblings were left with their grandmother.
“Nami-miss namin si mama araw-araw. Sana kasama namin siya, pero naiintindihan ko kung bakit kailangan niyang malayo sa amin,” Shena confides.
All these events in her life only made her stronger. Shena is a consistent 1st honor since grade 1, not to mention other extra-curricular activities she excels in.
Shena is set to graduate from elementary on April as Valedictorian— all her hard work is finally paying off!
“Inspirasyon ko ang pamilya ko sa aking mga achievements sa school,” she emphasizes.
In 2005, World Vision came to their community in Missamis enlisting students for its Child Sponsorship Program. She was in grade 1 when she was enlisted and linked to her sponsor. Since then, she has received support for education, healthcare, and community assistance— that’s when she began to realize she could be so much more.
“Nawala man si papa pero dumating naman ang World Vision sa pamilya namin. Nakaka-inspire din ang tulong na pina-aabot ng sponsor ko,” she shares.
Shena flew to Manila to attend World Vision’s “Flying High” graduation rites. It is her first time to ride a plane. Shena is only one of 2,000 students ready to graduate through the help of World Vision and their sponsors– all of them with their own stories to tell.

 

for more inspiring stories visit :http://www.worldvision.org.ph/stories/born-achiever

Heavy rains seen in Mindanao this weekend

MANILA, Philippines – A low pressure area was spotted yesterday over General Santos City and is expected to bring heavy rains over Mindanao this weekend, the state weather bureau said.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the low pressure area was spotted at 70 kilometers northeast of General Santos City at 2 a.m. yesterday.

“This weather system is expected to bring scattered to widespread rains over Mindanao which may trigger flash floods and landslides,” it said.

PAGASA, however, said the low pressure area was not expected to develop into a tropical cyclone in the next few days.

PAGASA advised villagers in low-lying areas, along riverbanks and near mountain slopes to take all the necessary precautionary measures.

Fishermen in the seaboards of Luzon and eastern Visayas are also advised not to venture out into the sea due to big waves generated by strong to gale force northeasterly winds.

Meanwhile, PAGASA said mostly cloudy skies with scattered rains and isolated thunderstorms will prevail over the Visayas and Mindanao, including Palawan, in the next 24 hours.

Scattered to widespread rains, meanwhile, will prevail over eastern and central Visayas and Mindanao which may trigger flash floods and landslides, PAGASA said.

The rest of Luzon will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rains or thunderstorms, it said.

Binay’s approval rating surges

PUBLIC appreciation for Vice President Jejomar Binay’s performance has surged in February, eclipsing four other high government officials in a survey released Thursday by Pulse Asia.

In the survey conducted a week after Binay was able to delay the execution of three Filipino drug mules in China, the Vice President registered an 83 percent approval rating, up from 78 percent in October 2010.

However, Beijing decided to push through with the execution on March 30 even as Binay plans to make a last-ditch appeal to save the lives of Ramon Credo, 42; Elizabeth Batain, 38; and Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32.

Binay also received a trust rating of 81 percent as opposed to the 78 percent recorded four months ago.

Meanwhile, Aquino posted a trust rating of 75 percent, a four percentage-point dive from last October’s 79 percent. His approval’s ratings likewise plunged by six percent, from 80 percent late last year to 74 percent in the newest survey.

The survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 people from February 24 to March 6, with a margin of error of plus/minus three percent at 95 percent confidence level.

Sought for comment, Binay’s spokesperson Joey Salgado said that the vice president will use the affirmative public response to further improve his work.

“VP Binay is grateful for the people’s support. It encourages him to work harder for our people. The VP knows that our country is facing so many challenges and he asks that we all work together to face these challenges and help President Noynoy move our country forward,” he said.

The 68-year-old official currently heads the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and was also named presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, the same functions held before by de Castro.

Binay’s high ratings failed to elicit surprise from noted political analyst Ramon Casiple, saying vice presidents traditionally get better brownie points than the president because they are not “exposed” that much.

“As usual, the Vice President gets a higher rating because he is not at the receiving end of lapses committed by the president’s men or by the President himself. Remember, the President is always in the line of fire,” he told Sun.Star.

This was exemplified during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, arguably the most unpopular leader since the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

In a separate monitoring by Social Weather Stations (SWS), Arroyo got her highest rating of +30 in March 2004 while then Vice President Noli de Castro settled between net scores of “moderate” +14 and “good” +47 in 2004 to 2010.

Arroyo’s term was rocked by various controversies ranging from alleged rigging of presidential elections in 2004 to condoning corruption involving large-scale government projects.

De Castro chose to concentrate on his work as housing czar and looking into the concerns of eight million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), while remaining loyal to the beleaguered leader.

In Malacañang, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the public’s positive response on Binay’s performance was a reflection of the government’s continuous stride for good governance.

“We’re certainly happy with it because he’s part of the administration. He’s part of the team of the president so we’re certainly happy for the vice president that his numbers are high and we welcome those numbers of the vice president,” he said.

Other officials surveyed include Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who got a 60 percent approval rating, a negligible change from 61 percent in October last year.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., has improved from 45 percent to 50 percent approval score this time around while Chief Justice Renato Corona has suffered a double-digit dip from 45 percent to just 32 percent.

“Actually, believe it or not, I think this is because of more media coverage of the House during the first quarter,” the Speaker told reporters.

Among the events that happened during the survey are the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez at the House of Representatives and the congressional investigations into the plea-bargaining agreement entered into by former military comptroller Carlos Garcia as well as the alleged corruption involving retired military officials.

Majorities in all socio-economic classes approve of the work done by the President (69 percent to 80 percent), the Vice-President (76 percent to 86 percent) and the Senate President (58 percent to 61 percent).

Belmonte also recorded majority approval ratings in Classes ABC and D (51 percent to 54 percent).

On the other hand, majority trust ratings are obtained by Aquino (71 percent to 78 percent), Binay (76 percent to 84 percent) and Enrile (56 percent to 57 percent) in all socio-economic groupings.

Among the country’s top five government officials, Corona scored the lowest awareness rating of 83 percent but this is higher compared to the previous score of 79 percent.

In terms of trust, Enrile received 56 percent; Belmonte got 43 percent while Corona had 28 percent. Expression of trust was not included in last year’s survey.

Public indecision is most pronounced toward the performance and trustworthiness of Belmonte (37 percent and 39 percent, respectively) and Corona (43 percent and 44 percent, respectively).

Filipinos are least ambivalent toward the performance and trustworthiness of Aquino (18 percent and 20 percent, respectively) and Binay (14 percent and 15 percent, respectively).

Issues that also transpired during the survey period were the diplomatic row between the Philippines and Taiwan over the deportation of 14 Taiwanese nationals to China, government efforts to save three Filipinos facing execution in China for drug trafficking, and the evacuation of Filipinos in Libya amid the ongoing civil unrest in the country.

 

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