Thursday, June 30, 2011

Manila trip that nearly landed me in jail

"I came. I saw. I experienced. I escaped." Alex P. Vidal


TORONTO, Canada -- WHEN Manila hosted the 30th FIDE World Chess Olympiad at the Philippine International Convention Center on June 7-25, 1992, I sailed into the Big City via M/V Princess of Negros (this "provinciano" newsman always hates to take the plane--until today).
Unlike chess guru and columnist Amante "Boy" Espejo (he is the only chess authority that I respect most) who secured an accreditation for the mammoth event, I failed to get an official ID and ended up "outside the kulambo (mosquito net)"; so I spent my time in Manila both as tourist and "undocumented" sportswriter.
Anyway, the rare opportunity to see in person Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik and British Grandmaster Nigel Short was more important to me than joining fellow sportswriters wrecking their brains and belaboring themselves in annotating the Nimzo Indian Defense and Queen's Gambit variations of the world's best woodpushers in the conclave that missed the presence of former world titlist Anatoli Karpov (his absence enabled reigning world champion GM Garry Kasparov to take over Board 1 for the talented Soviets that romped off with the title edging Uzbekistan and Armenia).


In between matches, I hopped to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) office located inside the Rizal Memorial Stadium (now Ninoy Aquino Stadium) and in nearby Ermita "red light" district during day time.
It was in Ermita at around past 3 o'clock in the afternoon where a very unfortunate incident happened inside--again--a moviehouse.
As usual, my purpose in entering the moviehouse (which had been demolished to pave the way for construction of SM shopping center Ermita branch) was to sleep.
This time, I paid for the cheaper orchestra section. Inside, I noticed a "standing room" or no available seats for those who arrived late. 

It was a Tagalog Rated "R" film and most of the patrons were males who came not to sleep. 
The seemingly dilapidated air-conditioner inside had no match to a horde of warm bodies elbowing each other to get a better space and clear view of the big screen.


After worming my way into the darkness and struggling like a trapped miner to get past and hurdle one body after another, I landed on a wooden wall facing the screen. 
My view blocked by silhouettes, I rested my back on the wall while standing.
In only about three minutes, I felt uneasy and uncomfortable. 
Heat was unbearable and the atmosphere no longer was fit for human convenience and decency.
If my purpose inside had been defeated, the realization did not sink immediately in my mind until what happened next.
As soon as I was figuring out my exit plan, I felt something moving, a strange object crawling horizontally on my upper left leg. 
Not a spider. Not a cobra. Not a caterpillar. Not anything associated to any paranormal phenomenon. 
I relaxed, maintained a calm mind, and observed the proceedings. 
The crawling master stopped and retreated when I moved my leg to send a curt notice.
Seconds later, the mysterious invader was back again this time with unbelievable boldness and ferocity: it landed smack inside my pocket. It was a human hand!


The situation was very familiar: "pickpockets!" I quickly told myself as I made a deep breath and swallow--and summoned my courage.
Without any hesitation, I grabbed a small knife disguised as ballpen placed in the left pocket of my polo shirt and lunged it to my pocket's uninvited guest.
When the owner of the hand let loose an ear-piercing and loud scream, it was when I realized he was not actually a pickpocket.
"Ahhraaaaaaaay! Anoh vah ang khasalanan koh sa 'yoh? Huhuhuhu" (Ouch! Why did you do this to me? What is my fault?).
Chaos ensued when some confused moviegoers started running outside thinking there was a rumble.
While those in the hearing distance were stunned, others who didn't want their earthly pleasures interrupted, were undaunted and ignored the noise coming from a hurting effeminate voice.
When the security guards responded, I thought I made the fastest run of my life and disappeared in the crowd.
When I went home, Leonardo "Nards" Dellero, a singer-composer and one-time barangay captain in Guimaras, borrowed the ballpen-cum-knife. 

I didn't bother to take it back from him anymore.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011



Exactly 21 years ago inside the balcony section of the Crown Cinerama, a moviehouse (now Allied Bank) on corner Ledesma-Quezon Streets in Iloilo City, I witnessed a murder.
If not for the victim's personality, this item would not merit any attention from readers, murder being a normal crime that happens every now and then in any metropolis -- big or small.
It was at around past one o'clock in the afternoon, a rainy Tuesday on June 27, 1990 when I decided to enter in the moviehouse to take a nap (we inherited this habit from the Spaniards -- not the watching of movies but sleeping) after a late lunch. 
As member of the editorial staff of News Express, a regional community paper, I was always carrying a small camera. I paid for a balcony seat and bumped into Jimmy de la Torre, the Southeast Asian Games marathon record holder, who was with his wife, Celia, in the ground floor. They also secured two tickets in the balcony. My purpose was to sleep so I didn't care about the title of the movie, but I remember it was a cartoon film. A marathon king interested in cartoon film? Hmm.


Several months earlier, I covered the Bombo Marathon in the town of Pavia (I was also the paper's first sports editor) and was standing in the finish line when De La Torre, 27, breasted the tape, beating arch rival Herman Suizo by the skin of the teeth.
"Jimmy, you broke the record (in the 20-k event)," I told him. "Ha, na break ko? (oh yeah?)," he replied happily. "Ay salamat (thank you)." I then interviewed him before the awarding ceremony. That was our last brief conversation before the chance meeting in the moviehouse.
De La Torre was the first back-to-back Filipino champion (1981-1982) of the lung-busting 42.195-k Milo Marathon. He also held the record of 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 16 seconds (Cresenciano Sabal currently holds the record at 2:21:33 he registered in the 29th edition in 2005) for that distance, the fastest in the country and in the SEAG at that time.
Future SEA Games gold medalist Suizo avenged the defeat in Yakult Marathon where I was one of the participants but finished by the wayside--good for a certificate!
Inside the theater, I went up ahead and saw a handful of people inside the balcony section. I occupied a seat in the middle row with many vacancies on my left and right. I was seated a spit away from the area where the main lights that transmit the film to the screen were coming from.
Minutes later, I saw the couple occupy two seats or about five seats away on my left. They didn't notice the person they met a few minutes ago downstairs. I reclined and closed my eyes.   


From time to time I opened my eyes to check the surroundings (I always do this because of bad experiences in the past with sexual predators I sometimes mistook for pickpockets because their hands crawled like snakes and crabs going to sacred areas thus disturbing my sleep).
After about five to 10 minutes, I saw De La Torre's wife leaving her seat and going outside either to buy snacks in the canteen or go to the women's room.
Celia returned after about five minutes. Some 10 minutes later, a lone gunshot exploded followed by a scream from a woman's voice. 
When I checked, I saw a fat guy throwing a hard object on the floor and hurriedly walking to my right, passing at the back where I was seated, before going down the stairs, mixing with fleeing moviegoers and exiting the main door. 
As pandemonium broke loose, the lights went on suddenly. I quickly grabbed my camera and approached a man on the chair twitching in pain and shaking, blood oozing from his temple. 


I positioned myself in front of the victim and saw his eyes rolling as if begging to save him. By the time I fired the first of my series of camera shots, I already knew the victim was Jimmy de la Torre.
I couldn't do something to save a dying man as I was shocked and on the verge of tears myself out of pity and sympathy for a sports hero gunned down in a treacherous manner in a senseless murder and whose exploits I had covered as sportswriter several times.
I didn't leave the place and observed the wife's demeanor. Budyong TV Patrol broadcasters Ibrahim Calanao and Ranie Jangayo arrived and interviewed me. They then interviewed the wife who was crying but didn't do something or at least embrace her wounded husband or attempt to bring him to the hospital -- or plead to about four people present to bring De la Torre to the hospital.


When Metropolitan Police District Command (Metrodiscom) chief, Col. Achilles Plagata, a future city councilor, and his team of investigators arrived, the wife became more hysterical. They recovered a .38 "paltik" revolver on the floor used in the killing.
The exclusive photo made a headline story in the Visayan Tribune when I gave the paper's editor-in-chief Herbert Vego a copy.
It was my second eye-witness account exclusive crime photo. Five months earlier during the Dinagyang Festival in downtown, City Proper, I was "at the right place at the right time" when an off-duty cop from Arevalo was peppered with bullets while drinking in a sidewalk in the corner of Ledesma and Valeria Streets.  
Murder charges had been filed against the suspect in De La Torre's murder but were dismissed by city prosecutor Efrain Baldago for lack of evidence.
Some people closed to De La Torre as well as some family members believed the marathon king, who made waves in the Boston Marathon and made many Filipinos proud, was a victim of love triangle.
This theory has not been proven until today and his unsolved murder remains a mystery.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Homosexual president is non-issue


All these speculations about President P-Noy as being gay because until now he has not yet tied the knot with the country's future first lady--whoever she is--will not help improve our economy and life as a nation.
If he is gay and the Filipinos eschew homosexual leaders, he would not have edged the macho man Erap in the presidential race (being single or unmarried does not automatically make someone a gay unless the concerned party will announce it with hoopla on Youtube and Facebook). 
But assuming that President P-Noy is gay, the issue is irrelevant in as far`as affairs of the state are concerned. 
As long as he is doing his job as mandated, to hell with the color of blood running his veins.


We did not elect President P-Noy to be lampooned for his sexual preference and ridiculed for picking handsome executives to join his cabinet. 
We elected him with hopes to lead us in crushing poverty in particular, and with trust and confidence of ensuring that each Filipino will live in dignity and security amid fight against abject poverty and graft and corruption in general.
The president can always stop critics of his status in their tracks by keeping his romantic life under wraps (he must scold Kris Aquino for her blabbermouth) while he is busy charting the future of the country.
If he does not intend to marry soon or maintain a girlfriend -- or boyfriend for that matter (no offense meant; we must call spade a spade here), he should stop being a "trying hard" (euphemism for giving false hopes to ladies he allegedly dated and the gullible public) just to prove his manhood.


But President P-Noy must also be wary of his "role and obligation" as member of the male species. 
In ancient Judaism, not to be married was considered abnormal and wrong. "An unmarried man is not a man in the full sense," says the Talmud.
A similar attitude was prevalent in ancient Greece and Rome, where remaining unmarried was considered an impious affront to the family gods.
Moreover, celibacy seems to have been forbidden by law or subject to certain penalties in ancient Rome, in Sparta and other Greek city-states.
In the revered beginnings of our own religious tradition, the union of man and woman is held to be essential to the attainment of full humanity as well as to the continuance of the human race.
The ancient attitude was that the individual has no right to halt the transmission of the family and racial life that has been handed on to him.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Pinoy Pulitzer winner Vargas won't be deported


AS long as he did not commit a serious crime, the government of the United States will never waste its resources to zero in and deport confessed undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas.
US has a lot of problems to tackle and prioritize than throw the books on the 30-year-old journalist who shared a Pulitzer award with his American colleagues for their Washington Post coverage of the Virginia Tech carnage three years ago.
In fact, we presume Vargas mustered enough courage to reveal his status in a no-holds-barred article entitled "My life as an undocumented immigrant" he wrote for the New Yor Times recently because he was aware of the ongoing efforts of the Democrat Obama administration to tilt on the side of those advocating for the mothballed Dream Act bill, which would give children of illegal immigrants educated in the US the chance to become permanent residents.


As founder of Define American, which seeks to change the conversation on immigration reform, Vargas is a high-profile personality in immigration reform debates. As a campus figure, he was outspoken and is not a fly in the ointment.  
Narrating the circumstances of his case could be part of his mandate as immigration reform activist representing a large group of people with similar advocacy. 
The disclosure of chronology of events starting when his mother "woke me and put me in a cab" sometime in August 1993 when he was 12 years old to prepare him for a trip to the US in the company of a fake uncle on fake passport and fake name, was necessary to document his case and gain sympathy.
Having paid his state and federal taxes religiously while working for several newspapers and fast food chains on bogus Social Security card, Vargas is a shoo-in for amnesty which the Obama administration has been reported to be cooking in collusion with some moderate Republicans who admire Ronald Reagan.


Also, being a resident of San Franciso Bay Area, Vargas can't just be easily touched with a ten-foot pole for being an undocumented immigrant. 
San Francisco is known as a "Sanctuary City" where illegal immigrants are protected by a local ordinance. Sanctuary policies instruct city employees not to notify the federal government of the presence of illegal aliens living in their communities. 
The policies also end the distinction between legal resident aliens and illegal aliens--so illegal aliens often benefit from taxpayer funded government services and programs too.
Even gays like Vargas enjoy equal treatment from the city's tolerance and liberal atmosphere.
A former Philippine senator afraid of the wrath of the Catholic Church back home for being gay reportedly wore a lady's dress openly everytime he was in San Francisco. 
California is a Democrat state with Gov. Jerry Brown having been catapulted into power through the strong support from the Hispanic community which constitutes the majority in the 11 million illegal immigrants all over the US.
Even if the US Government adopts a hard-line policy on undocumented aliens, Vargas, despite his confession, won't be locked in jail and sent to the Philippines on the first available flight as his name can not be found in the data of illegal immigrants that have committed serious criminal offenses.
The Obama administration has deported 800,000 illegals in the last three years. But those deportees were hardened criminals involved in drugs trafficking, kidnapping, rape, murder, among other heinous crimes. 


The Philippine Government must also refrain from its knee-jerk reaction on Vargas' case unless he really was serious about wanting to leave the US for good and see his brother and sister in his mother's second family in the Philippines and he needs travel documents.
Malacanang deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte was reported to have “coordinated immediately" with the DFA after learning of Vargas’ predicament.
Across the United States and all over the world, for that matter, there are thousands of Jose Antonio Vargases longing to go home to see their loved ones and who have either been neglected by the Philippine Government or could not bring to public attention their predicament.
The only difference is that they are unknown and bunched in the "among others" list of faceless individuals. And they have not won a Pulitzer prize.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reporting a wrong bank deposit


AN amount of US $19,623.60 or an equivalent of Philippine P845,814.80 was wrongly deposited in my (name of bank deleted) California branch checking account recently. 
I can withdraw the money via ATM (or part of the full amount), leave the United States surreptituosly and pretend I'm innocent (unless I have no plans of coming back). 
But money is not everything in this world. Peace of mind is. 
To have a peace of mind, we must have a clear conscience.
But, my gosh, I badly needed cash; I was going to the Philippines and, believe it or not (I'm not making this up, I swear), I only had Philippine P1,250 cash in my wallet (the P200 I always reserved for terminal fee at the NAIA domestic airport for my Manila to Iloilo PAL flight. Shuttling from the United States to the Philippines back and forth twice in two months proved to be costly for an ordinary journalist).


Clear conscience, can we eat it? Can it help defray for our daily expenses in these hard economic times? No. But it is the moral law that governs our whole moral life. No external laws or sanction are required.
Conscience forbids us to lie to ourselves or do harm to ourselves, as well as to others -- in this case, the bank as institution!
Before I was tempted to withdraw part of the amount (and face the consequences later as what normally happens in many cases), I was quickly struck by guilt and zapped by a specific kind of consciousness-moral awareness, an inner sense of right and wrong that has compelling power.
The feeling was so familiar with me as I recalled having experienced a similar encounter, nay clinical test in Pasadena, California when I visited my psychiatrist last year.


Nobody has the monopoly of this unique feeling. Not even saints, demigods and hollier-than-thou moral preachers in the pulpit. 
We are all actually bound by it as it commands us--including the ruffians, dolts, money launderers, 5-6 operators, pimps, and bloodsuckers. It is our Pyramid of Cheops. 
If we disobey it, we feel remorse or anxiety. To experience or feel it is to believe!
Therefore, the first thing I will do upon my return in the United States is to report the matter to the bank management (assuming that they still haven't discovered the error yet). 
I am embarrassed to admit that I am guilty of not immediately reporting the matter to them. No excuses!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." BERTRAND RUSSELL

By Alex P. Vidal

George Santayana was right when he cautioned that we must understand life backward and live it forward.
Before we die, we must be able to to know the truth and understand the roots of our sufferings, what precipitated our ignorance and why many of us are ashamed of our culture and why we are wallowing in insecurity and lack of pride as a nation. 
The murder of Ferdinand Magellan by Lapu-Lapu sealed our fate.
Although Magellan's death delayed the Spanish colonization of the Philippines by more than 40 years, what happened next became a horror which had unleashed irreparable damage and wrought unimaginable havoc on our psyche until today in the computer age.
Desperate to enslave the Filipinos after efforts to conquer them by force had failed, the Spaniards shifted to Plan B: they instituted an organization which would disable the development of our critical thinking, an IQ reducation program aimed at making the natives dumb. 
And they succeeded!


According to Dr. Carlos Alfonso Santos, this program was called the National IQ Reduction Commission (NIQRC) founded in 1521 "by a bunch of starving Spanish conquistadores in Limasawa."
"The conquest was not doing well," wrote Santos. "They were hopelessly lost (they were really looking for Malacca) and Lapu-Lapu had just killed Magellan. The Spaniards realized that if they wanted to claim the land, they would have to make the natives dumber. So they began a number of IQ reduction programs, all coordinated by the NIQRC."
The most successful initiative at the time, according to Santos, was taken by the Catholic Church. "The fraile (Spanish word for "horny cretin") pretended to preach the Gospel, but actually aimed to impose blind obedience and servitude."
"Every Sunday, homilies throughout the archipelago essentially revolved around one them: You are dirty, uneducated, learning impaired idiots who need white men to manage your affairs."
Santos revealed that when the Americans bought the Philippines three centuries later, they asked the Spaniards what the secret was to holding on to a colony for so long. A former governor general reportedly answered: "It's simple: keep them stupid."
"The Americans took this advice to heart and did their utmost in keeping our IQs low. Instead of using the Church, however, they established the public school system," Santos narrated.


"Practically every government ministry was eventually turned over to a Filipino--except the Department of Education. With a condescending smile and a great deal of false charm, the Americans taught English and Math and the Boogie, but left critical thinking out on purpose."
The Americans reportedly were afraid that if anyone actually started thinking, "we would realize that it was just a little bit weird that the United States, itself a former colony that had to wage a bloody revolution to win its freedom, was now taking the rights to self-determination away from another people."      
After World War II, the Americans left when they reportedly realized it was too expensive to fix a war-torn country and kept Guam for posterity sake.
In the history of Western thought, according to Dr. Mortimer Adler, freedom has a number of distinct meanings: 
A man is said to be free when external circumstances permit him to act as he wishes for his own good. 
A man is said to be free when he has acquired enough virtue or wisdom to be able willingly to do as he ought, to comply with the moral law, or to live in accordance with an ideal befitting human nature.
All men are said to be free because they are endowed by nature with power of free choice--the power to decide for themselves what they shall do or become.


Meanwhile, Santos said the Philippines' new leaders retained the NIQRC and is now "a major albeit invisible force."
"They had to find another way of keeping us stupid though. Sunday Mass was no longer effective since no one went to church anymore and those who did invariably fell asleep after the entrance hymn.
"The public school system, on the other hand, was too expensive. If the government had to build schools, pay teachers and buy books, there would be hardly enough funds to set aside for graft and corruption which eats up 50 percent of the budget.
"So under the auspices of the elected officials of the newly independent Philippine Republic, the folks over at the NIQRC received a new mandate: set up a cost-effective IQ reduction program. They, of course, outdid themselves and cooked up the best scheme yet: the soap opera."
Santos said, "it is a scientifically proven fact that soap opera decrease an average human's IQ by half a point per episode. The characters and story lines are so flat and utterly lacking in depth that the viewer's IQ almost invariably drops."
It's never too late actually to unshackle our minds from the bondage of this age-old system. We all watch TV and today's sophisticated cable network offers a smorgasbord of programs. The choice is ours.