POSTING here a statement by women's rights advocacy group Likhaan Inc. supporting Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

Since February 14, we have witnessed the singular example of a cabinet secretary who thinks nothing about putting her neck on the line to promote the right of couples to information and services on condoms and contraception.

Nine years before, her predecessors at [the] Department of Health (DOH) had passively allowed or actively facilitated the health department's cooptation by Catholic bishops' dogma. Nine years of toeing the Vatican line of 'no condoms, no contraceptives' has brought forth a resurgence of HIV and possibly AIDS, and the continued epidemic of unintended pregnancy. With so much life and health at stake, Sec. Cabral's appointment to the DOH seems heaven-sent.

Less than two months into her appointment, Catholic bishops are after her head. Predictably, what are riling them are precisely what make her presence so vital in the DOH: her Valentine roses-and-condom campaign affirmed the normalcy of sexual intimacy in people's lives at the same time that it warned couples to beware of causing each other harm. The DOH-led public distribution broke the stigma around condoms and repeated the scientific fact that up to this time, condoms continue to be humankind's most effective weapon against sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Finally, Cabral's no-secret support for the reproductive health bill and contraceptives attests to the soundness of both the bill and contraceptives, and to her own medical competence and independence.

That the bishops can so brazenly threaten her ouster based on their judgment of her 'morality' while Malacanang vacillates whether to allow or restrain her is a sad reflection of Philippine bishops' discernment and accountability, the Church-State divide, and the inability of top executive officials to be updated on medical science and the needs of small and ordinary people.

Standing apart from the current batch of presidentiables who hedge and haw around the issue of condoms and contraceptives, and very opposite to her own president, GMA, who uprooted RH long after it had been established by the Ramos and Estrada administrations, Cabral is demonstrating the unique quality of informed and principled leadership that we hoped to find in our top officials.

At this time when the health of our mothers, children and men are threatened by sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy complications, strong leadership of the DOH is a must.

Cabral has shown this kind of leadership.

Let us support her, and let us work to keep her there in the DOH. We hope that her kind of reasoned, independent but responsive leadership rubs off on the candidates.

Mabuhay kayo, Sec. Cabral, at mabuhay rin ang mga taong pinagsisilbihan ninyo!

1 March 2010 • Likhaan Center for Women's Health Inc.
88 Times St., West Triangle Homes Quezon City 1104 Philippines
Tel: (63 2) 926-6230 • Fax: (63 2) 411-3151 E-mail: • •


I slave for you

I, invisible
in Pagoda Park
in the scent
of Seoul's Air,
am your slave.

I toil for you
I, visible behind
rust-dyed iron bars
red greasy buttons,
keep your country
tidy and neat.

I trudge daily
with aching soul
to that cramp space
in Incheon, in Pusan,
where gold footprints
are rare sightings

and where slaves
like me are made
invisible. I, who
sweat for you
for the won you

dangle listlessly
before my arid eyes so
I punish my body,
I punish my memories,
forgetting how
freedom tastes like,

as it feeds my hunger
I bleed for you.
I, visible in
welfare reports,
in election speeches,
in casualty stats,

in dollar amounts
for my awaiting masters
as I slave for you:
a habit I've grown to
in the place I left
where slaves like me

are daily born


GETTING stuck in traffic sometimes help practice mouth and throat muscles, more than the trigger finger.

The guy who rammed 20 cars last week must have done that -pouring alcohol down his esophagus- before encountering a gridlock that set off intolerance.

And Ivler must be an exception, since I and good friend and savvy technician Leo reached for an imaginary microphone rather than a semi-automatic pistol and allowed our vocal chords to reverberate and fill the Revo one day after Christmas.

We were stuck between a tricycle and several other vehicles along the Sta. Rosa road from Tagaytay when Leo belted out the first two lines of the Bohemian Rhapsody.

Maybe he can't believe the predicament we're in that's why he crooned if this is the real life or is this just fantasy.

Maybe I wanted to drown out the snoring of Bhotskie so I chimed along that we're caught in a landslide.

No escape from reality.

That began the flood of songs, mostly from aging or dead guys.

We can't stop because the kids obviously liked the way we sang, as evidenced by the palm on their ears. My daughter even hit high the volume on her ipod so we chimed along, taking cue from this audience disapproval.

They obviously enjoyed the torture to their cochlea that when we reached Walter-Mart, Bhotskie thought of buying a videoke set, one that has a microchip stored with 3,000 songs.

The god of music may have been smiling at us that he was able to get one nearly an hour before the store closed.

I considered Bhotskie's act an honor and privelege so we hurried back to his place, installed the videoke, and popped out a half-filled bottle of Cuervo.

My daughters Katha and Ani, Leo's Gabbs, and Bhotskie's Alyssa, Utoy, and Zoei shared our excitement that they went into another room and locked it from us.

Leo and Bhotskie have been my friends since High School in 1982 so we didn't mind the brush-off of talent from our kids.

They were bonding, and so were we.

So we sang the rest of the evening away until the Tequila bottle rapidly evaporated and we had to open a new one: a mango-flavored vodka.

I got worried that the neighbors would report us to the police since the mini-concert has gone on for more than two hours.

And in UP Diliman where I live, singing via pumped-up speakers are only allowed until midnight.

But Bhotskie said it was the first time their neighbors heard how someone can mangle Led Zep's Stairway to Heaven.

That's the last time Leo and Bhotskie said they saw me conscious.

The last song they heard from me was snoring.

And instead of the microphone, I was clutching the bottle of Absolut, which they said they had to pry out with a crowbar.


But I know that when I sang the last line about a lady buying a climb up the stairs, Robert Plant was smiling.

I think he approved of my snoring.


PSSST, you want in on a secret?

This is strictly off the record, okay?

And when i say off the record, I mean you can listen to what i'm gonna tell you but you can't store it anywhere, not even in your head.

That means you just have to listen, ayt?!

You must turn off all recorders, close that notebook, slip back that pen back into your pocket, shut up and listen; just listen. Because what i'm about to tell you is very, very confidential. You can't write about it; you can't broadcast it in whatever form or manner.

What you're gonna do about it is nothing. It's just strictly FYI. You can't tell your wife, girlfrienf, boyfriend, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt: no f'ng anybody. It's between you and me and, nobody else.

Why would I tell you this? because I trust you, y'know? You've been covering me as a reporter of this paper -what's your paper again? Yeah, right, right, that one. It's pretty f'ng popular isn't it? Read by hundreds -no, sorry, hundred thousands of Filipinos! Right, right.

Yeah, you can't even tell your editor, not even your editor-in-chief, especially not him because he's in the pocket of L...hey, that's also off the record. And that's not what i'm gonna tell you; it's bigger than that, I tell you.

And I'm gonna tell you this and you alone because you were writing some pretty nasty thing about this thing I'm gonna tell you. Yeah, all you write about is negative, pessimism, bad news, ya know. That ain't right by many people I know.

Yeah, journalism should accentuate the positive, no matter what f'g financial deeps't we're in. Ya gotta rally the troops, so to speak.

And that's what I'm gonna tell you off the record: we're bullish! Bullish! I tell you!

Right, we're optimistic with the business and confident that we can leverage our core strength as a veteran organization; our track record can speak for itself. Not only that, we're "cautiously" optimistic about the economy.

Whaddaya mean that's bulls't? Whaddaya mean everybody says that!

Hey, hey, listen to me, you don’t write that so it’s not everybody’s sentiment. You don’t write it so it isn’t worth a sh’t, right?

Hey, you can't write that, it's off the record!

Go ahead, you dimwit, but don't quote me, ayt? It's not for attribution.

Hey, you forgot your GC!

Whaddaya mean I got the wrong reporter?! Dimwit!
-Author's imaginary conversation with a real-life journalist's source.


THE Philippine Jesuits’ history apparently carries much weight; two pounds, in fact.

That’s how the coffee table book 150: The Ateneo Way [Mediawise Communications Inc. 2009] weighed.

But the book’s physical weight was less than the depth of its contents, which is as much the colorful past of the school run by the Society of Jesus as the profound history of ManileƱos.

Ateneans and the Jesuits should thank historian and priest Jose Arcilla, who wrote much of the stories in the book and took out of the shadows rare photographs of our urban roots.

Arcilla, Cruz’s former teacher, is known for the keeper of the keys to Ateneo de Manila University archives in one of the white-washed buildings in the school’s Quezon City campus.

Arcilla’s painstaking care of the photographs –some of which are wedged between two square glasses in a traditional slide projector cartridge– and documents –some of which are too old they need to be held with cotton gloves– is the secret behind “150”.

The photographs, notably printed liberally to the edge of pages, give the book its weight, which is equivalent to an ordinary laptop computer, literally and figuratively.

It could be held on a lap on a quiet balmy afternoon, leafing through the pages sparingly to suck in the images and stop the passage of time per era.

That is how publisher and businessman Ramoncito Cruz and Arcilla arranged “150” –photographs showing a specific era– to show how Ateneo influenced and have been influenced by the Filipino.

The photographs and the book are arranged in three chapters, beginning with the arrival of ten Jesuit missionaries in Manila up to the period prior to the take-over of American colonialists from the Spanish friars.

The final chapter, titled Filipinization, shows more photographs of the contemporary post-war Ateneo de Manila University, from its relocation to its present campus “on a bluff overlooking Marikina Valley” to the plains where the psyche of Philippine socio-political and economic elements rest.

As such, the thinly-inserted text compliments the depth of the visuals.

“We designed it as so not to highlight just any specific person but the richness of a particular segment of the people that had, in one way or another, took the Ateneo way,” Cruz said.

One of these is Jose Rizal, whose very young life was alien to many Filipinos but given by Arcilla a rotund attention in the book.

There, Rizal is quoted as a student falling deeply in love with literature and, like most young Filipinos grappling with puberty, analyzes himself.

“By dint of studying, of analyzing myself, of reaching out for higher things, and of a thousand corrections, I was transformed little by little,” Arcilla wrote citing the national hero’s youthful memoire written on the eve of his graduation.

The young Rizal expressed gratitude to his professors who cultivated in him love of poetry and rhetoric.

“Virgil, Cicero, and other authors showed me a new path which I could follow.” After humanizing Rizal, Arcilla bared the valor of lesser-known heroes, like Jesuit priest Jaime Neri and American Maryknoll nuns Sister Trinita and Sister Brigida.

One notable figure, a lay, was Manuel C. Colayco, who was also editor-in-chief of student publication The Guardian and of the underground paper Collaborator.

Aside from the pen, Colayco also wielded the sword, according to Arcilla, when he helped American prisoners at a concentration camp in the University of Sto. Tomas campus.

“At the gate of the university campus, they were met with gunfire. A Japanese sentry hurled a grenade which landed neatly on the floor of the jeep in which he was riding, and exploded. Still, he had enough strength to empty the clip of his Carbine against the enemy. All the prisoners were freed, but they failed to revive [Colayco] and he died in a hospital a week later, 10 February 1945.”

There used to be a statue of Colayco at the UST but “edificial” aims rather than perpetual memorialization prevailed among Dominicans.

“150” allowed Colayco to be immortalized at least in paper.

His eyes, and that of Rizal’s, and many others in the photographs say it all: we have been witnesses to the pinnacle of the intellectual renaissance and to the nadir of gunslinging humanity.

And still they transcended such ignominy inherent in the frail human spirit.

Hence, “150” rests on the foundation those who were in one way or another involved in the shaping of the Ateneo de Manila University, whether Jesuits or lay, followed a path and surpass the limits imposed by the physical elements.

For Cruz and Arcilla, that can only be the Ateneo Way.

SALE INFORMATION “150: The Ateneo Way,” co-published by Ateneo and Media Wise Communications Inc., is sold at the Office of University Development & Alumni Relations, Loyola Schools Bookstore, Ateneo Press, Jesuit Communications, Fully Booked, PowerBooks, Mag:Net, and online at for P4,500 (US$97.80) each. Portions of the sale will go to a program for ailing and elderly Jesuit priests.

DISCLOSURE: The writer received a copy of the book for this review originally submitted to the BusinessMirror where he works as a reporter.