Filipino Genocidio

an army of lesser mortals
descended upon the crimson arc
ready for battle
ready to die


am Private Liit
of the 1040th infantry
granted amnesty on this
year of our Lord
0001 AD.


stand firm with the militia
no more shall we take refuge
in your fantasies and lies,
we, of the shackled ones,
come armed,
come what


burned my hand
when I told him I wanted out
cigarettes smoked my hand
don’t burn my hand
don’t burn me


the patient was admitted
and he now admits that
he has nothing.
admittedly, there’s
we can


our men are being
calm down, calm down,
we have plenty to spare.
now sit back and relax
for we shall
win this


Joe, do you want to spin
my brain, my body, my soul
do you want me to swallow my pride
and let the world know that I’m your


in the name of the law
gaddemet stop,
but I did stop,
I told the reporters,
as I bled from my stomach.
tell my wife I’ll be late for dinner.


Filipino Genocidio is a poem I cannot remember writing, much less why I wrote it in the first place.

The Mean Streets of Filipino-Style Society: Quijano de Manila in 2017

First published in the Philippines Graphic, January 16, 2017


The national artist Nick Joaquin (who goes by the name of Quijano de Manila as a journalist) can be read in several ways: as a master fictionist (having written “May Day Eve” and “The Woman Who Had Two Navels,”) as a critic of nationalist culture (as exemplified in “Culture and History,”) and finally – as a journalist who rolled with thunder and fire whenever he sat down to write his unique reportages that spanned stories of crime, romance and of course, the endless mire of Philippine politics.

To read Quijano de Manila in 2017 is akin to asking: why read him at all? Why reconnect with his brand of journalism, crafted seven decades ago and shaped by the conditions of post-World War 2 Philippines?

Apart from the fact that dahling Nick has captured, in excruciating detail, the endless absurdities of his time, his reportages serve as ripe planes for biopolitical critique – one that allows readers to easily access the segmentation and unique mutations of cultural and political life in “Filipino-style society,” as he would call it.

This year, at Nick Joaquin’s centenary, we dive into the action, violence and intrigues that shook the country in Reportage on Crime: Thirteen Horror Happenings That Hit the Headlines.

A solid volume of crime reportages from 1961-1969, first published in 1977, Reportage on Crime takes the reader into the bruised and erratically beating heart of Philippine society, as unpredictable minds and selfish passions conspire in a malignant number of ways – one horrific crime at a time.

In many ways, Reportage on Crime accentuates and lends coherence to a volatile area in an equally explosive decade in Philippine history. Crime is something that is often discussed in hushed tones, behind closed doors. Quijano de Manila gleefully smashes the reader’s conservative locks and throws the hatches wide open to show everyone who cares to see and know, what the Philippines in the sixties was like – again, in resplendent narration and unequalled detail. For it is one of Quijano de Manila’s greatest talents to recreate and weave the tightly enmeshed lives of his journalistic subjects with startling and often frightening clarity.

It is through QDM’s dedication in capturing the seemingly humdrum and plain details of Filipino life as they relate to crime that his committed writing radiates through the decades. More than a master storyteller, QDM acknowledged and acted upon his responsibility as a social critic.

He wore several hats in the process: a street historian, a journalist faithfully working in his assigned beat and a critic who saw crime not as events in vacuum or “strangeness” cast upon an idealized Filipino nation, but rather, symptoms of widespread and horrific societal issues that involve everyone – not just politicos and movie celebrities whom Filipinos have a strange love-hate relationship with.

Among the 13 tales in Reportage on Crime, three stand out as representatives of QDM’s critical journalism: The House on Zapote Street, The Boy Who Wanted to Become “Society” and A Prevalence of Witches; or the Exorcists – Filipino Style.

The House on Zapote Street is a crowd favorite and likely the most familiar of QDM’s journalism to students and teachers in the country. However, it stands out in this analysis not because of its popularity but because it focused on the extremes of familial repression in the guise of fatherly affections and “keeping the family together.”

The antagonist, Pablo Cabading, personified the unstable, rippling swell of the Filipino patriarch. Obsessed with no one but himself, Cabading used his family as pawns to his satisfy his endless fancies. Every single day, he holds his entire family hostage – they must listen to his words, for his words are gospel. His narcissism also forced his wife and Lydia, and later on Lydia’s husband Dr. Leonardo Quitangon, to bow to his hallucinatory demands as if they were ordained by God himself.

QDM’s development of this reportage focused on the slow decay of the Cabading family and its final smashing when Leonardo wedded Lydia. Smashed beyond recognition and with rays of hope finally streaming in, Pablo Cabading resorted to threats and even imprisoning Lydia in their house in Zapote Street. Narcissism at such depraved heights can find no sufficient vessel to serve as its permanent home. Since narcissism thrives with a servile audience, Pablo Cabading chose the only ‘acceptable’ path in his final jealous rage: death to the entire family, no less.

The Boy Who Wanted to Become “Society” is a wild jaunt on the wild side of Filipino middle class society. Napoleon Nocedal, alias Boy Nap, is the subject of QDM’s analysis. QDM traced Boy Nap’s evolution from an unremarkable, poor boy to a remarkably violent thug who did everything to remain in a gang littered with wealthy buddies. Brought up poor and scant of all material things, Boy Nap did not have the financial and cultural capital necessary to integrate seamlessly with the middle class crowd. Cunning and adaptive, he resorted to the only forms of capital he had: his brawns and an unyielding loyalty to the “top dogs” of the gang.

After gunning down a man, Boy Nap flees and is eventually caught at Orion. The realities of poverty and class caught up with him faster than he built himself up as a new ‘society boy’ who rolled with the “it” group of the neighborhood.

QDM’s sustained crescendo up to the point of Boy Nap’s sudden incarceration reveals the text’s close reading of middle class corruption at the micro level that no amount of money or political clout can cure or clear. More than anything, Boy Nap was victimized by the glittering promise of ‘friendship’ that was nothing more than a vaguely constructed illusion meant to keep him interested – because he followed his ‘friends’’ orders without question.

A Prevalence of Witches; or the Exorcists – Filipino Style brings out QDM’s fictionist prowess as he scores and carves away at the bark of various mythologies to create a meta-narrative for the horrifying events that took place in Mr. & Mrs. Situn’s house in San Andres Bukid.

QDM’s vibrant transliterations (e.g. “asuang,” “oraciones” and “cafre”) lend the text a unique Filipino feel that tugs happily at the local literary palate.  For what is a journalist to do when the story revolves around a father and mother who think they are being chased by asuangs and so they proceed to kill their children out of fear of being mangled by the mythic creatures? In the face of a world turned upside down, QDM resorts to an analysis of the family’s death drive through a study of the father’s life as the son of an unchallenged and well-respected herbolario. QDM’s psychoanalysis revitalizes the reportage’s structure and subsumes the events that led to the murders as logical effects of a lifetime of unfettered superstition.

Truly, Quijano de Manila’s Reportage on Crime is the old-new book of crime that reminds every Filipino that the sixties, seventies and eighties are merely artifices of convenience. The beasts that dwell in the hearts and minds of man reverberate through time and space to bend the will of those eager enough to dance with death one last time.

hey young writer

hey young writer.

i heard your heartbeat last night.

i heard you cry your eyes out –

for one reason or another.

i heard that family

is causing trouble

and things aren’t going as planned.


hey young writer.

i heard all those things last night.


i am a thousand miles away right now.

but don’t you worry.

because my ears and eyes are special,

they hear and see things

from beyond the horizon.


hey young writer.

i heard you’ve been trying hard.


i heard your hands silently tapping,

tapping, tapping.


tapping because your

soul needed release.


you saw the ink

taking shape on the

computer screen like

your life

as you took

control of it.


i heard your laughter in the dark,

your tears that

the morning sun took away.


i heard that you wanted to quit,

but writing won’t let you.


and so now we’re here.


hey young writer.

i heard you conquered your fears last night.



promdi sa up

(Filipino text)


may nabasa akong istatus kanina sa peysbuk tungkol sa mga tiga-mindanao at visayas na minamata raw ng ilang mga tiga-maynila.

kesyo raw…

– sila ang nagpapasikip sa maynila.
– di daw sila magaling.
– at kung anu-ano pa.

di ko na babanggitin ang eskwelang involved, pero sige na nga, sa la salle daw. ewan ko lang kung aling la salle at maraming la salle.

di ako tiga-la salle kaya wala akong alam sa kultura nito. ilang tao lang din ang kilala kong gradweyt dito at mabubuting tao sila kaya talagang hindi pwedeng mag-operate mula sa punto de bista ng isang outsider.

parallel reading na lamang ating gawin, base sa personal na karanasan ko.

iku-kwento ko na lang ang mga karanasan ko bilang promdi sa UP.

simula tayo sa umpisa. ang UP taon-taon ay sinisikap na maabot kahit papaano ang mga tiga-probinsya sa taunang UPCAT.

ito ang unang kontak ng mga isko at iska sa institusyong ito. at mula rito’y malalaman mong may mga pagdadaanan ka nang kakaiba. mahirap ang UPCAT, eh. ako nahirapan ako. in fact bagsak ang geometry at maths ko sa UPCAT.

unang araw ko sa UP, sa sobrang nerbyos ko pumasok ako isang oras bago ang aking unang klase, sa ilalim ni Prop. Naida Rivera.

wala akong alam – as in wala. ni hindi nga ako sigurado kung paano latag ng kursong ipinasa ko sa UPCAT.

may tinanong si Prop. Rivera, alam ko ang sagot. tumayo ako. nagpaliwanag. naupo ulit.

medyo natigilan ang klase, may ilang tumawa sa likod.

bago matapos ang klase, tahimik na nagpaliwanag si Prop. Rivera:

“the students of UP in the fifties fought for the right NOT to stand up in class when answering professors. as such, i do not require any of you to stand up when answering questions.”

syempre hanggang tanghalian medyo namumula tenga ko.

isa-isa kong nakilala ang mga kasama ko sa programa. karamihan, tulad ng inaasahan, galing sa gitnang uri at galing sa iba’t ibang lugar: Davao, Laguna, atbp. ako naman ay galing sa Cabanatuan, sa Nueva Ecija. para kaming mga buto mula sa iba’t ibang lupalop ng Pilipinas na isinabog sa UP.

isang kulumpon kami na iba-iba ang punto tuwing nagsasalita, iba-iba ang kinalakihan, iba-iba rin ang estado sa buhay. minsan may mga bagay silang sinasabi na di ko agad nauunawaan, at ganoon rin sila sakin. tulungan lang kami, hanggang sa graduation. (nahuli pa ako gumradweyt!)

bisaya? marami akong kasama sa programa na bisaya. alam mong bisaya ang kausap mo kasi hirap minsan sa Filipino, pero maganda karamihan mag-ingles. bukod doon, HINDI MO MALALAMAN na sila’y tiga-visayas o mindanao.

malamang e bibigwasan ko rin

ang magsasabing promdi ako

dahil sa aking sinasabi.

what the hell is that supposed to mean?

nagkasundo ba kaming lahat? bilang isa sa tatlong lalaki lamang sa programa, masasabi kong hindi ako namata ni minsan. hindi rin naging isyu ang pagiging promdi ko. nakakatuwa pa nga at tuwing uuwi ako sa probinsya, sasabihin pa nila: uy, ingat ka ha! kasi alam nilang sa malayo pa ako uuwi. madalas din, naikukwento nila ang kanilang mga buhay-buhay sa probinsya.

ang buhay sa probinsya ng gitnang uri ay hindi nakaugat sa kalabaw o magagandang tanawin. nakaugat ito sa kakapusan ng pera, sa pag-aaway sa loob ng pamilya, sa pagpupursiging matapos ang nasimulang kurso.

Ang aking mahal na kolehiyo. Di mabilang na stick ng sigarilyo ang tinambutso ko rito, kasama ang mga barkada at katoto na walang katulad – sila amang Jun Cruz Reyes, Bomen Guillermo, atbp. Napakarami kong natutunan sa tambay sa UP. Marami rin akong nakaing sisig sa KATAG na nagiisang eatery na malapit sa CAL. Di naman ako mahilig sa kape kaya di ko rin gaano tinatambayan yung cafe na malapit dito. Isa pang paborito kong tambayan (di ko alam kung naroon pa) ay yung mga maliliit na tindahan sa harap ng Palma Hall. Dati doon pa ako nakaka-iskor ng Winston Lights. Tapos C2 litro at siomai. Dadalhin ko ang C2 at siomai sa klase at aamoy sa klase ang bawang. Ayun. Gutom lahat ng tao.

sa apat at kalahating taon na inilagi ko sa UP, napakaraming uri ng tao ang aking nakasalimuha. ang isa sa mga kaibigan ko noon ay nagsimulang straight, tapos naging lesbian, tapos naging confused, bago nagsettle na lesbian talaga. naalala ko pa noon na kakain ako sa Katag, isang canteen sa College of Arts & Letters (CAL).

pinakilala niya sa akin ang isang skinhead na dalaga.

“marius! asawa ko. my wife!”

syempre ako bilang promdi, nagulat. nangiti ako at kinamayan ang asawa ng aking kaibigan. ok sa alright. no problem. e ano naman kung asawa nga niya yun? wag lang sigurong sabihin na asawa niya isang bangkito o isang backpack. baka umangal na ako ng kaunti.

kung sa diskriminasyon, mayroon din naman.

pero hindi dahil ako’y promdi, ngunit dahil ako’y galing sa humanidades (humanities).

tandang-tanda ko pa noong ako’y nasa 2nd semester ng first year. kumuha ako ng biology class. sa unang meeting ng aming propesor, ang sabi niya:

“lahat ng humanities at non-science, please sit at the back. lahat ng engineering at science, please sit at the front.”

walang kaabog-abog, walang paliwanag. e di lumipat ako sa likod, kasama ng iba’ng hindi galing sa sciences. magkakasama sa harap ang mga engineering, biology major, physics major, economics.

mula noon ay hindi ko na gaanong pinansin ang propesor na kumikislap ang mga mata tuwing malalaman na tiga-engineering ang kanyang kausap.

di ko kailangan mga katulad niyang may sayad.




*This is a work of fiction… Really.

Lady and Missy are good friends. Aged 18 and 16 respectively, they come from poor families. Having nothing to their name, they sought to earn money any way possible.

One day, they discovered that they could get some easy cash by stealing panties, bras, handkerchiefs and other stuff from boarding houses and apartments. Rubber shoes are disposed of for as low as 30 pesos.

Once, during Christmastime, they entered an apartment building and came away with shirts, an empty wallet and a pair of rubber shoes.

They felt emboldened and decided one day to return to the same apartment building.

Missy, the younger of the two, decided to wear the shirt she stole from the apartment that day. She thought that no one would notice. With all the houses they’ve stolen from, it was also difficult for her to remember which shirt came from which house.

The noon sun blazed in the sky when they scouted the street again for an open door or unguarded window to enter. They pretended to be scavengers, opening garbage bins and taking plastic bottles where they could find them.

A female college student recognized her shirt on Missy’s back. She pointed at Missy’s retreating figure. The apartment building’s maintenance staff heard her and chased Missy and Lady. They were ordered to go back and explain themselves.

The female college student, together with others who have lost their belongings from the same apartment unit, surrounded the two. Soon enough, barangay tanods were on the scene. The two were taken away.

They were first brought to the captain, who promptly smacked them in the face with such force that they buckled. Hot tears painted their faces.

“You m—–rf—–s

better stay away next time!”

At the barangay hall, the two chose to keep mum for some hours.

The owner of the apartment building came by to see how things were going. The college students, tenants of the apartment building, wanted to see the two punished and stayed to give their statements. They opted to skip classes that day.

After five hours of detention, Lady finally spoke.

“We stole their shoes, wallet and shirt. We can take you to the misis who buys them from us near the wet market. I’m not really 17, I’m 18. I am also one month pregnant. My live-in partner, a tomboy, is the father.”

The barangay tanods nearly mauled her for saying that a tomboy impregnated her.

Word of their inquisition spread quickly. Within hours, students from other boarding houses and apartments nearby flocked to the barangay hall, complaining of stolen clothes, shoes and other items. The barangay hall was filled to capacity.

Lady and Missy sat quietly in a dark corner, not knowing what to do.


Venuses of the Masses


A recent, memorable non-fiction piece that I’ve read, written by a Filipino, is Joel Pablo Salud’s “A Venusian Tale.” This essay is part of the Blood Republic non-fiction collection.

It talks about the author’s short stint as a “creative manager” for a swanky Malate bar. I’ve written elsewhere that “A Venusian Tale” had a steady pulse that I found refreshing and intriguing at the same time, because the journo explored prostitution in Malate in a way that defeats common ‘outsider’ attempts to make sense of how it works.

Prostitution is often explored in as nothing but defilement, as if in the process of uncovering the underground economy of warm bodies, the spectator also becomes a merciless judge of humanity and morality – and the women involved are turned into helpless commodities.

We can see this process of unwitting dehumanization when prostitution dens are ‘busted’ on TV.

The maceration of womanity plays out easily enough, usually at dinnertime when everyone’s eating and hankering for the day’s news from any of the TV networks.

A footage rolls of a camera zooming in on the dark entrance of a bar/hotel/house. Then come the red flashing lights – signaling the onslaught of police forces.

Sometimes, random pistol shots will ring out. These are called ‘warning shots.’ The scene darkens and resumes in harsh fluorescent light. Women of various ages and builds are herded into police trucks like cattle. Some are even in some stage of undress – the police don’t care.

The women cover their heads in shame, fear or sheer terror.

The final scene adds the necessary element of guilt, one that people love watching. A reporter saunters close and asks one of the women: “what were you doing in there?” The woman will answer “I don’t know anything” or “I’m just a waitress.”

These women are now subjects of the state. They are also immediately held hostage by popular perception. You see, imprisonment has many forms. Iron bars are just one of the many ways that a person can be incarcerated.

They are now part of the Philippine zarzuela that is occupied by both “good guys” and “bad guys.” These women are the unspeakable ones – women who have gone over to the ‘other side,’ the irredeemable side, the side where humanity is exchanged for cash.

Salud’s “A Venusian Tale” tells a strikingly different story.

For one, the accomplices and operators are clearly outlined. Abstracted society disappears from view. The portrait of the immoral streetwalker is replaced with an image of a tired woman who cannot wait for the day to end.

Endings are beginnings. What the night ends is the struggle for material survival. Daylight reconciles the women, the streetwalkers, with the other struggles of life – parts of their lives that we know nothing about.

The cover of darkness provides the enticement to participate in alcohol binges and partake of the warm touch of a willing woman. Desire, longing and lust are rolled into a convenient transactional activity with no strings attached and no awkward calls the morning after.

Near the end of “A Venusian Tale,” the author comes into contact with one of the sex workers – a lovely lady by the name of Venus. Venus helps the author one night, when customers weren’t streaming in as they used to and the bar where the author is an undercover journalist was at risk of losing money.

Nothing in the text suggests that Venus is anything but a woman who, by chance or circumstance, works in the clandestine corners of society, sought out by the ‘respectable’ middle class locals and moneyed foreigners.

This is not to say that the fabric of her being does not buckle under the weight of her work’s hefty toll:

“During those rare occasions when she needed to squeeze out the little of what had remained of her faith in God, Venus would visit the Baclaran Church in the wee hours. She did this to avoid being seen by those she knew.” (Salud, Joel Pablo “A Venusian Tale” The Blood Republic, Makati: The Philippines Graphic Publications, Inc. 2013 p. 21)

Anonymity is a streetwalker’s shelter from pockets of moralistic rain and the harsher and more insidious hurricane of the state’s brutality. In the end, Venus, like so many others, remains in the shadows and fringes of society so that she can be left in peace.

Let the Venuses of the masses speak.



I have been hungry for days.

But no matter: in my blood I know that the best things come when one is most patient. It is only a matter of time when I earn my feast. I have been studying their movements, their routines, the muddy paths that they use to feed and drink. Nothing out of the ordinary. And surely, nothing that I can’t handle. Everything feels so natural and easy after a time.

As the moon rises, I keep an eye on them as they stir in their uneasy sleep. They know. They’ve seen me. The natural laws of the land allow us to cross the same vast grounds used by those who have come before us.

Coexistence is a bittersweet proposition, one that I drive hard to my advantage when my hunger causes my haunches to crouch close to the earth, so that I may pursue with relentless speed.

Speed. My ally and worst enemy. My body is on fire as I run. I lose speed after a lengthy chase. This is why I must be precise. It is a matter of life and death in my slice of the wilderness.

The moon is brighter than it’s ever been. This is the right time.

I have picked out two from the throng. A youngster with weak constitution. An old male, blind – by the way he moves uncertainly, often in small circles.

My muscles power through the marshland. I feel heat rising from my heart. I pant hard. I only have a few opportunities before I am worn down, even without a fight. My spots prevent them from seeing me as I prowl, hidden by wild grasses and knotty barks of old trees.

I spring at the youngster as he touched his lips to the surface of the cool water. He vocalizes panic to the members of the herd. I clamp down and pull him to the ground. He is heavy! But not too heavy for me. I grip the side of his neck, punching through the tough hide. His blood is warm, new and invigorating.

My objective is to crush his neck. Fast and clean, the way my kind does it.
A large female tries to ram me off the youngster. She makes contact.

The force sends shockwaves through my spine. I hold on, using my claws to stabilize myself. I clamber upon the side of my quarry who is only slightly bigger than me. My tail swings from side to side, countering the erratic escape of the juvenile wildebeest.

I win.

I lick my chops, now red with his blood. My sons and daughters approach tentatively from the shadows, panting hard in this harsh African night. I sit calmly by the hunk of meat, after I’ve had my fill. I get to eat first. The wives and young ones can now have the rest. We leave the bones, hooves and some entrails for a pair of old vultures who have been watching us inquisitively for some time now.

It is a good night to be a hunter.




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