HOHOL with History: The Game

I been in this game for years, it made me an animal. There’s rules to this shit, I wrote me a manual.
A step-by-step booklet for you to get your game on track.”–Christopher George Latore Wallace, street reporter

Chief among those, of course, is to never get high on your own supply. The moment you start thinking you’re close to legit because you know how words go together and can get information from a handful of important people, someone breaks a story that the Ombudsman has charged Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with graft and your frantic calls to contacts will go unanswered while you watch the story develop before your eyes. (It could happen.)

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Christmas rush may slow flow of goods to calamity areas

FOOD and other consumer items meant for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, cities hit by sudden floods over the weekend, will take longer to get there because of a shortage of container vans caused by the Christmas rush.

This will not mean higher prices, however, as the Department of Trade and Industry has already issued a freeze on price increases in calamity areas hit by Typhoon Sendong.

Corazon Curay, vice president and director of the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP), told Sun.Star that shipments to the Southern Philippines have been difficult because a peak season for cargo means less containerized vans to go around.

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Barry R.

THE years have not been kind to Barry R., foreign correspondent to the Philippines since Martial Law and my seatmate at the Senate press office.

Barry, if his stories can be believed, was the first to predict that Japan would let the yen float in the 1970s, earning him curses from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan who had been scooped and also lost a bet that he was wrong. He was also at Camp Aguinaldo when then Defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew support from Marcos and set the 1986 People Power Revolution in motion. Enrile, he says, had tipped him off at the lobby of a Manila hotel that something was up.

Photo by Andrew Taylor

Before that, he covered Fleet Street with Ian Fleming, whose best friend was friends with his best friend. They weren’t friends, but knew each other enough for friendly nods at the Falstaff and the King and Keys nearby. He also replaced “Freddy” Forsythe as Reuters correspondent at Whitehall. Forsythe presumably left to write this little book called The Day of the Jackal.

In between that and becoming a fixture at the Senate, he has written (and headed the Asia bureau) for Reuters, Newsweek, and the Economist.

Barry says he has known Senator Francis Escudero since he was a boy, has been on a first-name basis with former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and has been “closer than friends” with a government official who shall remain unnamed.

It is hard to tell, seeing him now, walking around with all his belongings in plastic bags, that he has seen and filed reports on more people, things, and events longer than I have been alive. He lost his house in a fire, he said, and has brought everything with him ever since.

He has also taken to eating beans and onions and similar, which he eats at his cubicle while reading online articles about ancient Greeks.

People have also not been kind to Barry R., foreign correspondent to the Philippines since Martial Law and, this month, the subject of a blind item in a local tabloid. Part of it is his being British, I suppose. Foreigners are, after all, fair game for jokes, and it is not like he has not helped this along with the typical sarcastic British humour that is easy to take at face value.

His choice of food, no doubt healthful and the cause of his living past his seventies, does not help either. The food he eats tends to smell, and it is the sort of smell that hits you like a punch in the nose. As the guy who sits next to him every day, I have learned to live with it, but this does not stop people from remarking “Nice food, Barry”, which, perhaps underestimating the elements of sarcasm in Filipino humor, he also takes at face value.

He has also adopted the people he rents a room from, taking on their problems with the police, with rabid dogs, and with general poverty. He takes leftover food from committee hearings and press lunches home for “his people”, slipping sandwiches and buns into his plastic bags while people are busy with briefings and conferences. And this is what put him in the blind item on a local tabloid, this incredibly odd, if noble, compulsion to bring cast offs from this place of power to feed those without any.

I will not lie. I find it odd too, and that I do makes me feel bad about myself especially since I pick his brain now and then on how to write a story, on the general history of the Senate of the Philippines, and on what Ian Fleming used to drink. (Gin is a very British drink,  he says, before launching into how British naval officers drank it while the sailors had rum.)

“I know more about the poor than maybe half of the people here,” he once told me, and maybe that–to people who are supposed to be the voice of the voiceless, proponents of social change, exponents of national development etc.–is the most offensive thing of all.

HOHOL with History: Corona impeachment trial begins

Thirty minutes after suspending the legislative session and shuffling out of the session hall to put on their robes, all 23 senators trooped back in behind the Senate mace carried by Sergeant at Arms Jose Balajadia Jr.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV then administered the oath to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, binding him to “do impartial justice” as presiding officer of the impeachment court, an oath that Enrile then recited with the rest of the Senate.

And just like that, the Senate became an impeachment court and not the collection of “independent republics” it usually is.  Days–even minutes–before, some senators had been labeling either  impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona or President Benigno Aquino III a threat to democracy and good government.

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HOHOL with History: A scene from the sidelines

A SMALL crowd of protesters, comprising both critics and supporters of Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, melted away in the rain late Friday morning as it became apparent that the former President was nowhere near the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she was ordered transferred by a Pasay City court.

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Good News For The Week

I know, I know. Online news is the wave of the future and the dead-trees edition is a dying model but I’m pretty pleased that a story I helped write made it to the front page of our Cebu edition with my full name on the tagline.

I mean, it’s really a small thing to get excited over but the only time I’ve ever been to the journ school at UP was to get some documents signed (and to use the restroom once) so every bit of recognition counts. And I did the work on this too, reading through old stories for background and making long-distance calls to Cebu for comment. I called Lapu-Lapu City hall to get the number for the congressman’s district office, and from there was referred to his lawyer’s office only to be told they hadn’t heard about the graft charge yet.

I know this one story does not make me a journalist or anything like that but it means a lot to me because I remember reading Sun.Star in Cebu when I was a child, and because maybe my mom will see it and maybe she’ll think that she doesn’t have to worry so much about me.

But also because, come on, who wouldn’t be pleased at getting a pat on the back for the assist?

News From the Front: Japs* Lose Foothold Behind USAFFE Lines

Imperial Japanese Army troops make a desperate charge before being overrun

PAMPANGA, P.I.–THE air is still thick with smoke as elements of the Philippine Scouts pick through the remains of an Imperial Japanese Army unit that had managed to slip behind the Orion-Bagac line covering the US and Filipino retreat to Bataan.

An American officer walks up to the wounded. “No prisoners, no prisoners,” he mutters as he shoots each one in the chest with a pistol. Filipino troops not tending to their own wounded pick up swords, pistols, and other souvenirs.

A group of Scouts cluster around one of the few jeeps the defenders have managed to keep running. They cheer and preen for photographers and for no one in particular. Victories have been few in a war that has seen Manila fall to the Japanese in less than a month of fighting.

A cadence call starts then falters as the surviving Scouts, who hardly number enough to form a platoon, form up and march away. Around 2,000 Japanese soldiers have reportedly broken through defensive lines and the Scouts will have to find them and root them out in the next few days.

In a Pampanga town still held by defending forces, the only evidence of war are the soldiers conspicuously not in it. Scouts in their khakis saunter around and the radio in the town hall alternates between military marches and swing music. Jeeps line the main street and a Dodge troop carrier sits in front of the town hall in defiance of invaders creeping steadily towards the town.

The enemy is, for the moment, too far away to matter as a lone observation plane drones lazily overhead to see how many days the soldiers have left before withdrawing again. Their backs are to the mountains and sea and they cannot withdraw much further.

The United States Armed Forces in the Far East are hoping reinforcements come before they finally run out of room, bullets, and men.

Short on everything, USAFFE forces can spare neither provisions for prisoners nor men to guard them
A rare victory for US and Filipino soldiers on a delaying action against Japanese invaders
Fighting has yet to reach this Pampanga town but it will likely be abandoned as the Japanese continue to advance

I covered (on my day off)  the first historical reenactment in Asia today and was geeking out all day. It was done during the Christmas meet of the Military Vehicle Collectors’ Club of the Philippines which meant I got to see dozens of vintage jeeps, many of them with the complete kit of mounted machine guns, rifles, and a folding bicycle.

More on that in the next post. In the meantime, here is a video of the mock battle complete with an expletive that was not uttered mockingly. 

*Probably not PC to call them Japs any more, but political correctness matters little in war.

December 1st

This. Except it isn't.

I used to love to tell the story of how we got together. Of how I met her when I was a college freshman and she was still in high school and that I knew even then that she was the one and we ended up together six years later and have never been apart for more than a few days.

I can’t tell that story any more. It was a great story, though, and I do not regret a minute of being there for it even though it fell apart in the end. It was a great ride and I will always miss her.

My 1999 self was not wrong for thinking we would end up together, it was my 2011 self that fucked up by not making it happen.