Monday, June 29, 2009

Curiosity very nearly killed this blog

In a bid to be more adventurous with the layout design of this blog, I tinkered with the templates and the HTML and God-knows-what-else. And then when I thought I was done and I wanted a preview, the page wouldn't display. It said something about an invalid xml form.

Good thing, I recovered my old template. I don't know how I did it, but I did. My little adventure cost me the bookshelf picture below my header.

I have learned my lesson. I will never ever ever ever experiment again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Karen and Sherlyn

I logged in to Facebook earlier and was reminded through Prof. Judy Taguiwalo’s status post that today marks the third year since the forced disappearance of UP student-activists Karen EmpeƱo and Sherlyn Cadapan.

Karen and Sherlyn are active members of the militant groups League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan. They were doing research for their theses when they were abducted by military men on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

A local farmer, Manuel Merino, who was also abducted with Karen and Sherlyn, eventually managed to escape after months of captivity. His testimony in court has confirmed that the AFP is behind the abduction.

I remember being horrified while I first read the blotter reports and eyewitness testimonies, while I interviewed Karen and Sherlyn's families for a news article for the Collegian, while I read Manuel Merino's tales of torture. My horror was rivaled only by my new-found disgust and anger at what the government can do to "neutralise" anyone at the slightest suspicion of being an "insurgent."

I remember being enraged by Jovito Palparan's nonchalant denials of his involvement, because he projects the easy demeanor of someone who is above the law, who can get away with whatever he does.

What has happened since the two disappeared? Writs from the courts have been issued and the high tribunal has ruled that the military is behind the abductions. A UN rapporteur has declared that the government is responsible for orchestrating extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. Human rights groups and other progressive organizations have tirelessly fought in court and in the streets. But like in many other cases of missing, jailed, or murdered activists, it seems as if these otherwise valiant efforts have yet to yield results.

Three years is a long time for waiting. To me, it seemed as if it happened just yesterday, but to the closest friends and family of Karen and Sherlyn, three years must have felt like an eternity. To the mothers of Karen and Sherlyn who have fought relentlessly, who have attended numerous court hearings and protest rallies in the hopes of being reunited with their daughters, it must have been a long, lonely, and painful process.

Three years is a long time. What to do? I guess we don't just wait for justice to be served. We fight for it. Personally, I don't know everything that I could do to help and I suspect I alone could not do much. I could start, though, by saying I have not forgotten. I remember.

(Artwork by Jether Amar)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind (2001)
(La Sombra del Viento)
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
translated by Lucia Graves

Carlos Ruis Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind was a reminder that I read because well-written stories, unlike many things, always tell the truth.

The Shadow of the Wind of course begins with an eerie premise: ten-year-old Daniel comes upon a book by Julian Carax, a shadowy author whose books are nearly all hunted down from bookstores and libraries and then burned by an unknown specter. What follows is a long winding gothic drama that recalls into memory the eclectic themes of Borges, the family histories of Marquez, the bibliophilia and coming-of-age themes of Caldwell and Thomason's The Rule of Four, and the cheesy twists of Thalia's noontime telenovelas.

I'm yet to read another book that could pack in so much thrills in one novel; it's almost like the ultimate perfection of 90s Filipino film making: throw in a bit of melodrama, a bit of action, a bit of romance, a bit of horror, a bit of hilarity, and everyone is made happy. (see Tatay Nic)

The book's publisher says Shadow is the "most successful Spanish novel ever"--in terms of book sales, of course.

Special kudos to my friend who recommended the book to me. Despite your abhorrence of Atwood's huge hairdo, I am beginning to trust your taste. :D

Books in the pipeline:

1. Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and The Road (suggested by the same friend)
2. Jeffrey Eugenides's My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead
3. Anne Enright's 2007 Booker Prize-winning novel The Gathering