Aside from the fact that trolls abound during elections and candidates pay people big sums to attack on rivals, here’s why Brian Poe Llamanzares’ choice of sneakers matters.
Here’s also why, contrary to some friends, it IS also important to distinguish whether the “special edition” Nike sneakers were genuine or fake. Someone on Twitter, who says he knows shoes, insists the pair shown on Brian’s pix (since taken down) are fake.
Context makes a great difference. There are different kinds of wrongs.
If those shoes were genuine, the price would be in the vicinity of P90,000 to P100,000.
We then ask:
a) Does Brian have a trust fund? b) Do his parents (or Lola) give him that kind of allowance?
If the answer is yes, I might start thinking, “oops, entitlement” — and be concerned about insensitivity.
If the answer to a and b is NO, then we ask:
c) Does a fledgling reporter, even for CNN Philippines, earn enough to afford such expensive shoes?
Journalists, unlike government officials, do not have to submit SALNs. But there are written or unspoken rules of ethics that caution against ostentatious displays of material wealth.
Mainly because, aside from a few gods in the media, many of us are right smack in the middle-lower or middle-middle classes — most, actually, in the D class. And because our profession, which is in the business of trust, is also burdened by public perception of corruption.
I don’t think Brian is corrupt. Word easily gets around about that. (Neither is he distinguished for brilliance or exemplary diligence.)
Sen. Grace Poe doesn’t come across as a materially promiscuous mom. I don’t doubt her surprise over her son’s purchase. (To many of us, sneakers are sneakers. She’s probably just as clueless.)
The senator has had many, many opportunities from childhood to young adulthood to strut around like, say, Janet Napoles’ girl — nobody has yet accused her of extravagant displays.
And so we come to the second possibility: That the shoes were fake.
That is not an impossibility. Even the rich look for the best fakes — for them, it’s about bragging rights: “Look! It looks exactly the same as my Rolex!”
For most people, it’s an accommodation between aspirational tendencies and life’s realities.
It’s not a high crime, but if true, then Brian should come out with a quick, clean apology and promise never to do it again. Hey, Ronald Llamas did it, too.
Brian isn’t a child of minor age. He’s an adult, a former reporter. And he has some role or another in your campaign.
Whether you like it or not, his public standing and behaviour will affect you. You either sit him down and drum the fear of god into him — or ship him off to where he can do no harm.
If there’s good reason for him to afford the shoes, say so, acknowledge that it may have been a bit insensitive to show these off — considering his mom campaigns for hungry, malnourished children. Then move on.
If the shoes are fake, acknowledge and apologise. Do not justify breaking the law because millions of other Filipinos are, too. Just apologise and move on.
It’s actually an opportunity for the candidate to explain some economics — without condoning piracy and theft of copyright; instead, urge people to patronise our own, affordable goods.
What you do not need, Madame Senator, are more verbal and mental acrobatics that will just twist you again in knots.
HE SLIPPED in past midnight, a dark, hunched shape under a nylon parka.
Perhaps it was his stillness. It took almost an hour before the night watchers at the wake noticed him, though the women of the family were suckers for eyes and his were dark and piercing, alternately flashing light or sucking in the room’s glare.
Someone approached with drinks, smiled, and inquired for the stranger’s name.
He gave none. His answer was a shrug.
The teenager smiled politely; and where was he from.
“Bukid,” he said.
The young host puzzled. That could mean farm — or the mountains.
The mountains, the visitor said. “Kaupod.”
The young man knew that word. It was what they called the men and women who stopped briefly every few months, dropping off letters, or receiving the same, or just talking and sharing a meal before moving on. Some of the family were also called that, though most had moved on, too, for less perilous occupations.
The young man caught the eye of an older one.
Silent signals shot through the women of the clan and they converged on the visitor.
They flashed smiles. Their hands fluttered and tugged at hair strands, and their heads swiveled and their eyes searched the hall and the corridors and the outdoor courtyard as they chirped about this or that friend to mask the low tones and more serious conversation between two siblings and this stranger.
The visitor got it. In the same dialect but with a hard accent, he whispered assurances. He would not bother anyone. He just wanted to keep vigil this night, just a few hours; by the morrow he would be out of their lives.
He was welcome to stay the entire wake, someone replied. But a recent rebel ambush had sent white heat across the land and the monsoon heightened tempers. The family did not want another death.
There was also the fact that the night watchers did not know him, though someone would later vouch for him.
The woman who sat beside the visitor searched his eyes but did not voice the question. What if this man was just an impostor, sent to keep an eye out for another one, the way other ex-friends also kept watch for him?
They did not want to offend him with their doubts and so they danced around the topic until the visitor offered a simple tale.
A decade back, he said, there was a father who rushed his young son to the state hospital, only to be rebuffed and ignored by staff that were overworked or just beyond caring.
He was then a masa, a sympathizer of the struggle that gripped the island, with no knowledge of the doktora’s kinship with some of the kaupod. He did not even know her name but he was desperate and found her checking up on some child patients.
He could not remember what he said, only that she took one look at his face, at his child, and rushed them to a corner table, asking a nurse why they had not received care.
Too busy, said the ever-forgiving peasant, with a casual wave to encompass the whole staff and the hall bursting with crying children. He was not about to pick a fight; he was happy just to finally have someone’s attention.
He could not forget, he told the wake watchers, how the doktora’s eyes glinted in quiet anger as she ministered to his son. He could not forget, he added, how she called over another doctor and delivered a rant.
A soft rant, he hastened to add. About how you would feel if your child was convulsing in your arms. How doctors and nurses insisted on lucid answers and poise from terrified parents who had probably walked miles from hacienda hovels to the nearest ride. How she didn’t mind if they fought on every policy, so long as they treated patients with respect and compassion.
The son lived, was now in high school.
His father hadn’t seen him for months.
The visitor said he heard the news early morning, the day after doktora died. He had asked time for some errand, had not told them of his real reason.
He smiled. “You are right, it is dangerous.”
A child piped up. Where are your comrades?
In the dialect, the word also meant companion but the child knew that difference and tried to peer out into the streets.
Around, the man replied.
The child pressed on. In the mountains?
On the plains, he answered.
With a smile, he opened the tattered jacket to respond the craning of the child’s neck. He passed hands over a flat belly, gave a slight shake of his head.
The child’s interest disappeared. But another boy, more daring, sidled up and in a stage whisper, asked: “Do you know _____________?”
They had loved him, the small, gentle man who could not live outside of war, and they continued saying prayers for his safety. Never mind that they weren’t exactly sure what the fighting was all about now; never mind that his stilted slogans, pitched slightly higher than his normal voice, roused polite smiles more than meditations on the various isms.
The man nodded but would not answer other questions, and finally drove away the curious by assuming a prayerful pose.
By 5 a.m., he was gone, without saying goodbye. People weren’t even sure he was real, except that too many saw him, and someone later verified his presence in the city.
The following day, typed messages came with the wreaths.
Visitors were oohing at the flowers from the vice president. The doktora’s children pointed to a space beside it. The florist smiled as he positioned blooms draped with a ribbon that read, “National Democratic Front.”
The messages spoke of a fascist dictatorship, of the doktora’s commitment to fight policies that violated medical ethics or humanitarian concerns, of her local fame as a friend of the poor. Not that the pious Catholic doctor had ever approved of armed struggle. It just didn’t matter to her where one came from.
Young boys exclaimed, as they read messages from the communist underground and whistled as they checked out other, more famous names they often saw on newspapers and newscasts.
But hours after a cement slab clanged over the little space that held the doktora’s coffin, the children had forgotten the big words, the big names, even the startling crowd of several hundreds that had flocked to the funeral, and were still talking of the night visitor, role-playing his vignettes of intersecting lives.
There are some images that won’t go away.
The silent boy marshals a fleet of plastic cars at 4 a.m. in a cramped flat on Leon Guinto St. Midway through an obstacle course of shoes, slippers and backpacks, he abandons the toys. His mother feels the weight of his gaze. She gives him a smile. This is their quiet time. She is 25. He is a serious two-year old. He rubs an index finger around a red corvette. She stops writing. The air prickles at her neck. They stare at each other.
It takes a long minute for his tilted little eyes to fill up. First comes a pink flush at the corners of the orbs. It is his “counting” look, the one that tells you he’s looking at all angles before accepting an answer to “Why?” She doesn’t know what’s coming but knows enough to let him run with his thoughts.
“Mama.” She almost misses the low whisper, too husky for a toddler. He is standing. He is shaking his head. She sees he has done the math. It is a lesson she had hoped he did not have to learn so early.
“Wala na si Papa.” The tears fall. “Patay na si Papa!”
Almost 30 years later, she still wonders. How did he make a leap from Papa-is-with-Jesus to Wala-na-si-Papa. (Papa is gone. Papa is dead.)
The girl has bigger eyes than her brother, but there is that same upward tilt and the same stubborn chin.
Strangers wail over the orphans who have just lost “Tatay”. The girl smiles, says thank you. She bears the hugs and the hands that muss her hair. Like her mother and brother, she does not tell them of the decade of separation, of the chasm that loomed when Mama turned her back on the fighting.
In the car, away from the strangers, getting ready to head for home, the boy weeps. She holds her older brother’s hand.
The girl does not cry. But in her room is a rough carving of a rifle-totting guerrilla. Above her bed is a framed picture of a slight man in a green beret with a star; he sports a square jaw and light brown eyes that mirror his smile. The girl does not cry. Her eyes say she will not weep for what she cannot have.
She does not cry but she makes people weep, up there on stage, at nine-years old the youngest of the contestants, in a simple lace dress, singing, vowing to be “part of your world.”
Two children: The one who weeps is stolid, steady, dogged but laid back. The one who won’t is mercurial; with an all-or-nothing approach to life.
His wit is gentle, the humor deadpan. Hers is sharp, like a rapier. And she knows just where to flick that tip.
They come up with surprises. She is the artist who rushes in to fight back to back with friends. Yet her work space is a marvel of order and logic and she has color-coded notes and fine penmanship medical school could not ruin.
His writing scrawls and sprawls. Yet he never swaggers. He stands back and observes and then, with impeccable timing his mother has never figured out, pounces to claim his prize.
She is bold but her art is delicate. He is gentle and serene but churns out a dark painting of an apocalyptic world and a short tale of animals in a jungle power struggle.
She is questing, a lover of fiction, a raider of her mother’s library, a singer, and the partner of a tattoo artist. And she is a doctor.
He sticks to news and science and anything that doesn’t deviate from reality. And he creates fantastic, unreal, scary burger sculptures.
She was a holy terror of a child. She needled her brother. Yet she was — still is — his protector, rushing to lawyer for him the very few times he got in trouble with Mama.
He always was more conservative. Yet he thrilled to her wilder ways, promising “suportahan ta ka” with an admonition to decide what she wants from life.
He always knew what he wanted — mostly what Mama didn’t have, couldn’t give. And so he learned to cook with his high school gang of wrestling aficionados, the first experiment the result of former President Cory Aquino on TV, cooking some Hawaiian chicken dish.
She liked to scold and could cut friends to the quick. But she got suspended for keeping faith, being there for some little lost girl.
In that, they were her children, sure they could approach her when friends were in great need, when mothers got cancer, when fathers went missing. Home was where they brought their friends.
He started working as a student and went off right after school to work on a cruise liner. He wore hip-hop shorts and sports jerseys and that cap tipped backwards. Colleagues stared, asked if he was of legal age, and then comforted their bunso for having to leave the family so young to work for our survival. He smiled. His companions scoured Walmart. He went to see the Aztec pyramids. The seafarers wouldn’t believe him on the plane coming back home. He couldn’t be an OFW, they said; he looked like a college freshman.
She ran away briefly and Mama couldn’t rail. Mama was living life on the lam herself at 18. She sold banana-q on the streets, this daughter who couldn’t even cook hotdogs. And then she came home, as quietly as she left, and took up where she left off, surprising everyone but her Mama and brother with a smooth transition to medical school.
He is stolid and steady, but she is the one the cousins come to for advice, for blunt lectures tempered by compassion and a wry humour that often makes an example of her foibles.
Commie is now Zarks and he is made. He is also an exceptionally dotting Dad who makes much time for Sophie — as mercurial and talented as his sister — and Vitto, just the little man he was, and Sam, who is the spitting image of Lei, the woman he chose because she had brains and the feminine, more traditional skills Mama lacked. He is a capitalist and his math thrills his mother: Happy Workers = Happy Customers = Happy Boss.
Mutya has the style her Mama didn’t have as a young woman. She is outwardly brisk, secretly introspective. She laughs at setbacks, her eyebrows as arch as her mother’s.
Motherhood. How else does one talk about it, except to describe one’s babies, now all grown up?
Last year, Mutya’s training elders asked her to write about a memorable experience. Mama always thought it was the boy who had the writer’s eye, except that he decided making money was more fun. Knowing she was wrong was one of the best days in her life.
This is Mutya’s tale. Reading it, I thank our Nanay and Daddy. Reading it, one thought flashed: Errors a-plenty; but in all those turbulent years, I must have done something good.
Her white uniform. Black shoes. And the required pin reading – Junior Intern. It’s the usual start to her day. Getting ready. Preparing for the day ahead.
Goodmorning – a greeting thrown at every person she sees. Guards. Co-JIs. Patients. Folks. Nurses. The whole hospital team. Thereafter, she knows she’s almost half ready to welcome the hustle and bustle waiting for her. Always with a smile put on – to shield her thoughts of another tiring day – an armor, a defense, nearly perfected to conceal her emotions. Excitement. Nervousness. Anxiety. Its 7:30. It’s her cue.
Bed rounds. Questions fired but left unanswered – disappointed. Patients to accompany. Laboratory results that are hard to interpret. And the never-ending ward calls.
She’s tired. With only a quarter of the day done. Her patience tested and gradually diminishing. Her smile waning but still carrying on. Getting her work done. Wishing for a 15-minute break. Wondering for a moment – for everything to come to a halt.
Suddenly, she was called by the nurse-on-duty. One of her intubated patients was arresting. She ran to her patient’s bedside.
She knows this patient – an old maid living with her nephew. She started CPR. First dose of epinephrine done. CPR continued. Another dose of epi. Patient’s folks were already crying. CPR – her patient is not responding. Her heart is beating hard – in the recesses of her mind she is talking to her: “don’t give up on me now”. 3rd dose of epi. Still, no sign of life.
She asked the nurse to replace her and decided to appraise the family. The patient’s nephew was not around. She talked to the wife, who told her he was on his way. He is a pastor. She was also told that they already prayed over the situation days before. They had already asked for guidance. The wife only asked her for a single favor – to continue to revive the aunt until her husband arrived. They wanted to bid her farewell with their last prayers.
4th epi.. She asked one of her co-JIs to lend a hand. They alternated doing the CPR. The nurse provided the 5th dose..She thought she was ready to lose her..6th..Her mind repeating the words: “get back, get back. Please”..7th epi..the nephew arrived. A brave soul. Prayers were started. 8th epi. He took hold of the JI’s hand and looked her in the eye: “It’s alright. Thank you”.
She backed away. She felt defeated. She touched the shoulder of the nephew and his wife: “I’m sorry”. She was about to turn her back when the wife took a step forward: ” thank you, I Iknow you all did your best. She is happy now. Thank you very much”.
Coming towards her with outstretched arms, she knew: “”please..don’t..”. She stammered. She was given the embrace of life. Her eyes welled. She embraced back and walked away. Tears now pouring down her face. She was humbled.”
Congratulations, Mutya. At the graduation ball message, you expressed love, quipping that, like me, you weren’t good at showing it.
But words are easy, especially when the going is good. When chips are down and you are called to pour out your love, and you do it unstintingly – this is what matters.
To see Nanay in my children is this mother’s greatest gift.