Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mindanao to Suffer 150 MW Power Shortage Next Year, says EDC Official

The entire Mindanao will experience power deficiency by at least 150 megawatts starting next year, according to an official of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the country’s biggest producer of renewable energy.

EDC resident manager Alejandro Catacutan of the Mindanao Geothermal Production Field (MGPF) said that there is already a shortage in terms of power requirements for Mindanao.

“Our dependable capacity is not enough to cover such deficiency,” Catacutan told Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo in a briefing on Mindanao power situation.

Robredo, together with Cotabato 2nd district Rep. Nancy Catamco, Cotabato Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza, and officials of the Kidapawan City government, visited the Mindanao geothermal production field where they were also informed of the EDC’s plan to construct another geothermal plant at Mount Apo.

The construction of the project dubbed as Mindanao 3, according to Catacutan, is ‘indispensable’ or ‘necessary’ to respond to the looming power crisis, which will affect Mindanao starting next year.

“Under normal power system, your capacity should be at least 20 percent over the peak demand. So, this is necessary because you should have some contingency in case a power plant bogs down or if it needs to undergo a scheduled maintenance,” said Catacutan.

The deficit in power requirement next year is between 3 to 5 percent, which, data showed, is estimated at 150 megawatts.

Catacutan said the construction of Mindanao geothermal power plant 3 is set to commence in August next year. The company needs some US$ 150 million to complete the project, he added.

While Mindanao 3 can help, it is, however, not the ‘total solution’ to the power crisis, since the plant can only produce 50 megawatts.

“In effect, it will only answer a faction of the deficit, because it’s only 50 megawatts as against 150 megawatts for next year,” Catacutan told media.
In 10 years time, data showed, Mindanao needs some 800 megawatts of power supply to meet the demand of a fast-growing economy and increasing population.

During the briefing, Robredo asked about the requirements that must be complied by the EDC before it could operate another plant at Mt. Apo. One of the issues he raised was about the permits.

Catacutan admitted the firm has yet to get an endorsement from the LGU before the project could start.

Earlier, City Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco said he is not keen on endorsing the project after EDC was granted an exemption to pay some P45 million of real property taxes starting this year.

Gantuangco said the exemption has affected the Special Education Fund (SEF) of the city LGU, which is used to pay the salaries of some 189 locally-hired teachers.

Catacutan, however, is optimistic the city LGU will see the importance of constructing an additional power plant to respond to a bigger problem starting next year and the years to come.

“What is so nice about Mindanao 3 is that it can operate all-year round. It’s not affected by weather. Besides, Mindanao 3 is a renewable energy, so, it has less carbon dioxide emission and is very clean. We have all the advantages if we construct Mindanao 3. It will answer partially the crisis,” he said. (PNA)
Source:  Zamboanga Today

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Manila, Philippines. Santol Mansion.  

"Typhoon! Typhoon! Rain! Rain! Go Away. Come again another day." We would utter this in a sing song voice as we jumped up and down.

Above us, his wings glided, almost touching the ceiling. That was our 140 year old cockatoo Fray Paco. He out screeched us all by reciting the same words.

"You are a Divo. Yes you are," my Grandmother Esperanza chided him gently. "Now come down, let's say the rosary," she said sweetly but with her inevitable imperial air.

We would sit in the vast Sala -Salon. Fray Paco. as usual, stood on a cushion on her lap. He always said the Sign of the Cross in mangled Latin. We had no choice. A stream of the most horrifying oaths and curses would follow if he could not lead his family in prayer.

"In nomin Patre, Filio, et Spiritu Sanctus," begun Fray Paco  In nomine Patris et  Figlio et Spirito Sanctis.

When I was a child in the Philippines, Halloween or Hallows Eve was sometimes fearsome and sinister. A typhoon, packing winds of 200 kilometers an hour would hurtle down over Manila. That meant that the masked party for 300 people  my grandmother would be hosting in bejeweled splendor was canceled. But we did our best to enjoy ourselves despite the winds bombarding us.
My grandmother used to lead us in reciting the Rosary.

"If it saved the day for the Christians at the Battle of Lepanto, against the Ottoman fleet, praying the rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary will certainly protect us."

It was a clever way to get our minds of the hurling winds which never seemed to stop.  We would be plunged into darkness because the first thing the force of the winds did was knock out the power lines. Hence, we found ourselves without electricity. 

That was when my Uncle Michael and my Mother Camilla who both had operatic voices would break out into song. Almost all the members of the domestic staff had guitars and mandolins and they did not need to be asked to play the Rondalla. (a Castilian word for  rounds of Music) Then we would all join in the songs. We sang in Spanish, Italian,  Filipino, Hakka, Waray, English, Visayan and Ilocano.

We had our own generator but one never knew how long we would be without electricity so candles  twenty centimeters in circumference and over six feet tall mounted on 16th century candle holders were lit. The force of nature would sometimes be so overpowering that even with all the shutters and the strong mansion hunkered down, the wind blew into any and every little crack. 

We sang in darkness, but we seemed to be in the Light. I shall never forget that sensation of total blackness but being surrounded by light in the outer fringes of our gathering. The Music did that, I think. It had a transcendental power of overcoming anything negative.

We couldn't use the telephones. Dona Esperanza had walkie talkies to dialogue with our Security -Sikhs who had come to the Philippines  after the Sepoy Rebellion in India against the English. Don Cesar, the Tycoon trusted them more than any other ethnic group and Bashir and Kabir headed our Security and private Army.

Our Hakka amahs held our hands and always reminded us, "In China we all dead. Houses built bad and poor."

Nothing has changed. The world is as dangerous as ever. The deadly typhoons seem to turn ever more lethal with the years. Apart from that, much has changed. Santol Mansion no longer stands. The vast land was sold to make way for a shopping mall in Santa Mesa.  

Dona Esperanza, our parents, some of our cousins, Bashir, Kabir, and most of those who made up out private army have all died. Idem for our domestic staff that constituted our extended family. In particular, our Beloved Fray Paco died a few years after the Matriarch. Experts calculate that he must have been about 150 years old. What a glorious and adventurous life he led. few men and women except the members of our clan could rival him in that.

Thousands died in that savage typhoon. The lowland areas of Manila turned into Venice and Huangzhou. Except for our nude acacia, balete (similar to the baobab), avocado, mango and guava trees which still stood majestically tall in spite of  everything the typhoon had put them through, all of us had lived through that fearsome Halloween Night unscathed.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Super Typhoon Megi hits northern Philippines

An intense "super typhoon" has made landfall in the northern Philippines, lashing the area with heavy rains and winds of more than 225km/h (140mph).
Thousands of people in the path of storm Megi have fled their homes. Emergency services are on high alert and schools are closed in many areas.

Megi is the strongest storm the Philippines has faced for four years.
In 2006, a storm with winds of 155km/h triggered mudslides, burying villages and killing about 1,000 people.

Tropical cyclones formed in the Pacific Ocean are called typhoons, but are classified on a scale of one to five in the same way as Atlantic Ocean hurricanes.
Category Five typhoons, with sustained winds of at least 155 knots (140mph; 250km/h), are commonly referred to as super typhoons.
Forecasters said Megi was a super typhoon as it made landfall, but was likely to weaken slightly as it made its way across the northern Philippines.
'Preparing for war'

The northern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela are on the highest storm alert.
One man in Cagayan was reported missing after he fell into the fast-flowing Buntun river. The man was named as Vicente Decena, a candidate in next week's local elections.
Officials have warned that the heavy rain and high winds could damage buildings, power supplies and agriculture.
Emergency services have been stocking up on food and medicines, says the BBC's Kate McGeown in the capital, Manila.
Government forecasters say waves off the east coast could be greater than 14m (46ft).
Sea travel has been banned. The coast guard has been instructed to forbid all fishing vessels from setting out to sea in the north, says AFP news agency.
Thousands of soldiers and officers are on standby to deliver aid and rescue people stranded by the floods.
Trucks, rescue boats and food packs have been pre-positioned near vulnerable areas, said Benito Ramos, a senior disaster-response official.
"This is like preparing for war," he told the Associated Press. "We know the past lessons and we're aiming for zero casualties."
Farmers were urged to harvest as many of their crops as possible before the typhoon hit, our correspondent says.

The area in the storm's path is one of the country's main rice-growing regions.
In July, President Benigno Aquino sacked the head of the weather bureau after he failed to predict a typhoon which unexpectedly changed course and hit Manila, killing more than 100 people.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the US Navy says Megi is expected to weaken to typhoon intensity as it crosses the Cordillera mountain range.
However, it will then re-emerge into the South China Sea and re-intensify as it heads for southern China.

Source:  BBC News

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Obama meeting hangs ally's flag upside down; No big deal though, it's only the Philippines

 Yes, yes, the Philippines is a close American ally. A practicing democracy in Asia with nearly 100 million people. And a whole bunch more living -- and voting -- abroad in places like the United States.

And, yes, the island nation's president, Benigno Aquino III, was sitting at President Obama's left elbow at their ASEAN meeting in New York City last week. And directly behind Aquino the American staff placed the Philippines' flag, well, kind of upside down. (That's it second from the right in the photo above, the one with all the blue at the bottom, which should be at the top.)

In the Philippines displaying the flag like that means the nation is at war. Which, of course, it isn't. Not yet anyway. And the country's laws provide for a fine and up to one year in prison for disrespecting the flag.

President Aquino kindly didn't make a big deal out of such modern-day diplomatic ignorance by its World War II liberator.

When you think about such an international gaffe by American hosts, it's really pretty much the Filipinos' fault for choosing a national flag with no clear top or bottom to American eyes.

Look at the savvier Canadian allies next door, for Pierre's sake. They were smart enough to pick a lone leaf that has an obvious stem so even Americans would know which side goes down.

A couple of days after the embarrassment, a U.S. spokeswoman followed the Obama administration's Geithner Apology Protocol, admitting it was "unfortunate" but quickly adding that it was something called "an honest mistake." As opposed to a dishonest mistake like, say, not paying taxes.

With so many larger guns, a nuclear arsenal and a Harvard-educated president who knows they speak Austrian in Austria, the U.S. really shouldn't need to apologize anyway. Such a superpower can't be expected to keep track of the globe's gazillion funny-looking flags that don't have a big blue box of stars to show top vs. bottom.

Obama's meeting with the ASEAN nations was designed to bolster both economic and cultural ties with the region's increasingly powerful nations. Maybe starting with a staff class on flag recognition.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Source:  LA Times

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Senator Honasan

Gringo Honasan has propagated the myth of the warrior-hero and used his mystique to stoke the rebelliousness in the barracks.

Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan has not only made his mark in this country; he is also an inspiration to people in other parts of the world. For those who remembered the 1986 EDSA Revolution, he was that battle-hardened hero who helped restore democracy in the country. For his comrades in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he was that defiant colonel who fought for reforms within the Armed Forces of the Philippines. For his junior officers, he is their father figure and their mentor. For his family and friends, he is the eloquent, gentle-mannered soldier with a compassionate heart. For his opponents, Gringo Honasan is a formidable advocate of healthy diversity in a democracy. For the younger generation who did not witness the Gringo Honasan of 1986, he is the dashing, medal-bearing soldier and senator who has lent his face to a new brand of politics--- one that is pro- people and pro- change.

Gringo Honasan is indeed a man of many colors. Yet, friends and foes must equally agree: the man behind the legend is one who knows how to stand his ground when right, and to fight against what is wrong. Gringo Honasan is a staunch advocate for reforms, a gallant opponent of corruption, and a fighter for freedom.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Abu Sayaaf - Freedom Fighters or Terrorists?

In the rain forests pregnant with orchids and ylang ylang, a new terrorist front - Abu Sayyaf has been formed. It is in Southeast Asia, in the Philippine Archipelago, on its southern most tip, the Sulu Archipelago. It forms part of Mindanao , once predominantly Muslim until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. The people were Malays,with lithe bodies and shiny brown skins. They fought ferociously. The Spaniards called then "Moros" Moors, as they had called the Berber Muslims from North Africa who conquered Spain and occupied most of Andalucia for 800 years.

And then came Manifest Destiny, America desperately needed a country in Southeast Asia to fight counter act Japan's hegemony in the Pacific. The Philippine Islands, strategically positioned in the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Straits of Malacca seemed like the best way to initiate its first foray into Empire. In order to do that, Spain had to go, one way or another. Spain was less than a shadow of its former self. She had two colonies left. Cuba in the Caribbean and the Philippines in Southeast Asia. There were daily protests in the streets, continuous upheavals in government. Insurgencies were common. Spain was in deep trouble economically and politically.

An American ship "The Maine" anchored in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, mysteriously blew up. Historians today ascribe the explosion to carelessness on the part of the seamen on board rather than to an act of terrorism by Spain.

That did not stop the media, particularly William Randolph Heart who said " Just go to Cuba and the Philippines and I'll give you a war."

President McKinley was reluctant to send Commodore Dewey to Manila. He called the Filipino people "My little brown brothers". God spoke to him as well, it seems that many Leaders since the world begun have dialogued with God about their warlike intentions towards a weaker country. God has always approved. The weaker nations always fought back because God also seemed to urge them to never cease the struggle for their independence. Invaders, even enlightened ones, if such a thing is ever possible, remain invaders - from the Latin 'INVADERE" which means to enter a territory which is in no way yours, take it and hold it by lethal force.

The assassination of President McKinley cleared the way for the regal Theodore Roosevelt, the Vice President to order the conquest of the Philippines.

It was a bloody war. The American media called the Filipinos insurgents. In truth it was an all out rebellion,much like Ho Chi Minh would do 50 years later against the French, the Japanese, the French once again,and then the Americans.More than 650,00 Filipino civilians died, according to Gore VIDAL, one of America's most esteemed and charismatic historians.
The Filipino Muslims became known as Moros, as the Spaniards had called them. They were ruling various parts of the Philippines when explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521. Indeed, he was killed by Sultan Lapu-Lapu because he and his people wished to remain Muslims.

They were just as intransigent with America as they had been with Spain. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Sulu Archipelago, Mindanao, Sabah and parts of Borneo formed part of the Sultanate of Sulu. A treaty was signed with General Bates in the early 1900's which stated that the Sultanate accepted American rule and administration. Not so claimed the Moros. The Treaty signed by them was changed and added later on. In one form or another the Moros have not ceased their centuries old struggle.
It is important to note that many of the officers and soldiers who fought in the Philippine jungles were hardened, ruthless veterans of the Indian wars back in the States.The Colt was created and perfected in order to kill endless Moros and Flip bandits (unsavory term for Filipinos).

Mark Twain denounced the war, much as Gore Vidal does today. Both found themselves in the position of finding that their articles were not being published. Censorship? You bet!
The Philippines is the only Catholic/Christian country in Asia. Out of a population of 90 million people, 80% are Catholic. In Jolo, capital city of Sulu, Muslims predominate. Now this is where the situation gets dicey. A new vicious and well organized group of terrorists who call themselves Abu Sayyaf which means" Sword of God" in Arabic hold sway. Its founder was a rabid religious leader, a Wahabi Imam Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani. He was killed in a shoot out with Philippine government forces in 1998. Now they had unwittingly created a Martyr. His declared objective repeated ad nauseam by his followers," An independent state for the Sulu Archipelago".

The Bush administration prided itself on the success of their mission in Sulu, Hw they could do that remains an unsolved mystery. The Philippines has been and remains to a certain extent, the only official colony of the United States (1898 to 1946). Behind the black curtain of geo-political affairs, U. S. advisors are back in Mindanao and Sulu. The success bragged about by the Bush neo-cons was nothing but spin.

Should one pay attention to inflammatory statements such as "the total independence of the Sulu Archipelago" which may be just political rhetoric? No one really knows. Abu Sayyaf today has a thousand followers, according to the western media. Three to five thousand seems more realistic.Their sympathizers remain an unknown factor to us.

Abu Sayyaf should be taken seriously. Since 1998, they have kidnapped four Italians and an unspecified number of Westerners. The most recent Italian kidnapped was Father Giancarlo l Bossi, a Catholic missionary. He was held for 39 days and released after a huge ransom was paid. Everyone involved is silent about details. That is why Abu Sayyaf are so insidious. Their expertize is kidnapping. They also possess the ability of receiving huge sums of ransom money.

The local Muslims declare unequivocally that Osama Bin Laden hid in the jungles of Suu and Tawi-Tawi. How? When? Where? No one is saying.

One of the most dangerous moves Abu Sayyaf has made is an alliance with The Wahabis of Saudi Arabia.That was like an announced action. Who in his or her right mind would ever doubt that its jihadist founder would join forces with Saudi-Arabia.There's more than contradiction here. Are they not allies of the United States, replete with bases?

What is really giving the West nightmares are the theological universities that have sprung up in Indonesia teaching Islam to the Youth. They are so rabid that they make the Wahagis look like Hollywood Liberals. The recent joint venture operation in terror and struggle is the unholy union between Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu and Jamaa Islamiyah in Indonesia. That is what is giving some in the West who know a great deal about terrorism - nightmares.

Because of its strategic location in Mindanao and Sulu, Abu Sayyaf is the main training camp for Indonesian jihadists, That should give anyone who knows anything about geopolitics the worst jitters. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world , with over 207 million people, it now constitutes the world's third largest democracy after India and the United States. So far, notwithstanding the effort of destablization by the Wahabis and other Indonesian terrorist groups, its experiment with democracy looks promising. Three elections have been held and one of them was won by a woman, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The massacre in Bali linked to Al Qaeda and local groups killed 200 people. 300 people perished in Mumbai.Attacks in Pakistan are almost a daily occurrence. Often they go unreported unless hundreds are blown to bits.

Indonesia was an important ally in the "Containment' of Communism" during the Cold Wr. More than a million Indonesian Communists were killed during the 60's and 70's because the U.S. feared that they would attempt to take over from the ailing President Sukarno, Father of Indonesian Independence against the Dutch.

There are serious doubts among the Catholic and Christian intelligentsia that the recent bombing of a Church in Mindanao was the work of Aby Sayyaf. " We suspect that it might be a false flag operation," said a local Bishop.

In the entire history of the Crusades, the Conquest of Spain, the take over of Constantinople/Istanbul, Muslims never destroyed Churches. They converted them into Mosques. Terrorist strategies and tactics mutate especially in the 21st century.

President Barack Obama spent some years in Indonesia. His sister is part Indonesia. In his book, he writes about waking up at 4 in the morning, to the call to Prayer by the Muezzin atop their minarets. He needs to move fast. He is going to need more than lovely memories to stop the ugliness unfolding in Indonesia and the almost eternal armed struggle going on in the Sulu Archipelago, deep inside impenetrable jungles.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

(note: If you haven't already done so - I recommend you read Holy Thursday first, by way of background).

Taking of Christ by Caravaggio

It was twelve o’clock noon in Manila on an unbearably hot Good Friday. The mourning bells of the dozens of Churches and Cathedrals throughout the city began slowly tolling in agony. Twelve times.

In Santol Mansion, the six children; Lucrezia, Zita, Heinzie, Dolly, Jaime and Freckie,followed by their respective amahs, struck a bronze gong in the gardens of Santol with a heavy, ebony doy doy (hammer). Twelve times.

Doña Esperanza and the clan were seated on the first six rows of the auditorium of Ateneo University, the Jesuit University founded in the early part of the 17th century. Father James Reuter, a young American Jesuit orator, was going to deliver the sermon on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.

Uncle Matt was the only one of the clan who had stayed behind to keep the children and the amahs company. All the domestic staff was attending the “Last Words” in Quiapo Cathedral near Chinatown. The priests spoke not only Tagalog but other dialects such as Ilocano, Ilongo and Cebuano. There was a splendid Cathedral in Chinatown . The learned Jesuits officiated at all the religious services because they spoke not only Mandarin, which few Huas Chiao – Overseas Chinese knew and understood. They were fluent in Shanghainese,Cantonese, Fujianese, and Hakka.

The children and their amahs tarried in the gardens of Santol Mansion. N.B. It continued after the short explanation of the Crucifixion.



The Crucifixion of Jesus, or Yeshua in Aramaic, is recorded in all four gospels of the New Testaments – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

THE Crucifixion is the most agonizing way to die by the hand of another. A human being is tied or nailed to a cross or a stake.

The Persians, with their great civilization and culture, first employed the practice of Crucifixion on their hardened criminals, their conquered peoples. The Egyptians learned it from the Persians. The Carthaginians frequently resorted to Crucifixion for their condemned. It is logical to presume that the Carthaginians, a Semitic people had exposed Crucifixion to the Proto-Israelites.

Alexander the Great brought this brutal way of death to the Mediterranean- the West. He was in awe of many Eastern practices. As is inevitable with us humans, he passed on the sublime along with the malevolent.

The Romans had obliterated Carthage. They absorbed the best and the most foul from all the people they conquered and/or wiped out.

The Persians, Babylonians, and the Proto-Israelites also employed crucifixion as the most severe form of execution.

Crucifixion was therefore not confined to the Romans. Indeed, the Roman way was beheading or the use of exotic poisons.

But, the Romans - with their cohesive yet heterogeneous Empire, their Senate, their deep love of Law and Justice, Order (as in order in the Cosmos), engineering, communications, their ideas on the Sovereign State - perfected crucifixion as a means of capital punishment.

Since they happened to be efficient rulers they had permanent stakes plunged into the ground in their designated places of execution. The victim or the condemned carried the crossbar on his back to the stake. They usually weighed between fifty to seventy five pounds. Sometimes the victim was nailed to the crossbar or he was tied to it with rope, which left searing rope burns on his wrists and legs. The crossbar and victim were hoisted into place. One way was to raise the crossbar to fit inside a notch on top of the stake so that the letter T was formed. Another method was to place the cross beam a few feet below the top, creating a cross. The imagination of humanity to kill their fellow beings, then as now knew no bounds. Where there was a scarcity of wood, the condemned was nailed or tied to a single stake in the ground.

A soldier walked in from of the condemned person, carrying a small wooden placard in which was written the crime he had committed. This sign was then nailed to the cross above the head of the condemned.

In the case of Jesus, nails eight inches long were pounded through the wrists (ulna), between the radial (elbow) and the ulna. The nails never went through the palms. The nails would have torn the palms away as they could not hold all the weight of the body.

Out greatest artists did not know this or chose to ignore it with customary artistic license. Leonardo (da Vinci) possessed an intimate knowledge of anatomy because he dissected and studied corpses relentlessly. A crucifixion by Leonardo does not exist or did not survive the upheavals of time. As far as I am concerned only two painters portrayed the Passion passionately and vividly. One is Mantegna, who shows the dead figure of Jesus sculpted in such a way that one would swear it is a fresh corpse. The other is none other than Caravaggio. He portrayed religious themes more realistically with his interplay of light and darkness.

The flagellation of Christ by Caravaggio

Some scholars and forensic experts argue that it may have been possible to plunge the nails through the wrists if the victim had a small stand for his posterior to rest upon.

I think that may have been the case when thousands of early Christians died on crosses in the Coliseum in Rome and in others similar to it throughout the Empire. Nero, Trajan and Diocletian harbored no mercy towards the believers of Jesus. Indeed, every catastrophe was blamed on them.


The children and their amahs tarried in the garden, fascinated by the reverberations of the gong. It seemed to bounce off their majestic acacia, avocado, and mango trees. It was Freckie who broke the spell.

“I’ll race you all back to the house,” exclaimed Freckie who was a swimmer and a runner.

Heinzie, a bit plump, and Jaime, wiry and thin, refused to lose face. “Okay,” they replied reluctantly.

“I’ll join you boys,” cried out Dolly, not wanting to be left out.

Lucrezia and Zita exchanged “here-we-go-again” looks. “We’re walking back. It’s too hot for contests,” replied Lucrezia.

“I’m with her,” assented Zita.

Freckie crossed and uncrossed his eyes. “Why do you always have to ruin everything?” he asked, addressing Lucrezia directly.

She ignored his remark and tried to think of Jesus.

Zita lashed out, “You’re my brother but you’re such a pain.”

Ah Wei became the referee. “No bad words on Good Friday, eh? They who wants to run, run. They who likes to walk, walk.” She put her arm around Lucrezia’s waist, turned back to reassure Ah Tat, Zita’s amah, who followed her example.

“Hurry, children,” Uncle Matt called out from the veranda as they began to walk up the grand, circular, marble staircase of Santol Mansion. “The broadcast will begin in a few seconds,” said Uncle Matt, adjusting the dials of the Philips radio. “For the first time, we are broadcasting the Agony of Jesus live. In a few seconds, we’ll be right there at the Ateneo Auditorium.”

Uncle Matt ran the radio stations and television channel owned by the Nieto Ortigas clan in the Philippines.

They waited in silence, not moving. Lucrezia clutched her white handkerchief tightly. Then, out of the Philips radio came the familiar, low, caressing voice of Uncle Matt.

“It was pre-recorded,” he told them. The announcement was in English, more widely spoken than the national language, Tagalog, or Spanish, which was known only to the elite or the intellectuals (i.e., the oligarchy).

“I wonder if the children will last three hours?” pondered Uncle Matt. He wasn’t concerned. Their amahs would insist they take the siesta if they noticed any sign of restlessness or sleepiness.

“The Seven Last Words of Jesus. The First Word from the Gospel of Saint Luke. Jesus says, ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do,” boomed out Father Reuters voice.

Father Reuters voice was made for broadcasting. He seduced the microphone. His voice was a rich baritone, full of colors. He’d raise his voice, then it would shake, then they had to strain when he whispered.

The Jesuit took all his listeners to Jerusalem on that torrid Good Friday so long ago, to Golgotha, Aramaic for “the skull.” This is where the Romans crucified the condemned. Jesus was nailed to the cross as it lay on the ground. Two thieves - one on his right, one on his left - were also being prepared for crucifixion.

“Let us ask ourselves: do we know what we are doing? Do the leaders of the world in politics, finance, industry, art and culture know? Do we in the church know?” thundered Father James Reuter.

The narra (mahogany) ceiling fans were whirling at their maximum speed, the volume of the radio was pumped up. Good Friday in Manila was scorching. Ninety percent humidity and not a hint of cross currents. Heaps of mangoes, tiny yellow bananas and huge, sweet, green bananas sat on a wicker basket on the side table. There was plenty of cool water and iced calamansi juice to drink. No one moved. They listened in rapt attention.

Lucrezia thought, “I don’t always know what I’m doing.”

Uncle Matt said loudly, “Our autocratic Pope (Pius XII) won’t like that one bit. That might be a barb aimed at him too. We don’t know what we are doing, we just think we do.”

“Are you not the Messiah?” mocked one of the criminals on the cross beside Jesus. The other thief berated him. ”Don’t you fear God? Both of us are guilty. We deserve to die on the cross. But he is innocent,” And then he addressed Jesus. “Remember me Yeshua, when you come as King.”

Over the airwaves, the listening audience, which, numbered in the millions, sat spellbound by Father Reuter’s delivery.

“Yeshua?” asked the children.

“Yes, that was Jesus’ name in Aramaic, the language spoken throughout Palestine, Judea and Syria at that time,” explained Matt.

Father Reuter recites Jesus’ reply in a cracked voice. ”Today, you will be with me in Paradise", from the Gospel of Saint Luke.

“The second death word of Jesus is about acceptance, forgiveness and affirmation in Jesus.”

“My belief in Jesus will inspire me to be a good person so that when I die, I shall also be in Paradise. I still don’t understand why the terrorists did not kill me four years ago in Montalban. I remember Uncle Ben yelling ’’No Victor!” I heard the blast of the gun, and moaning. And then Victor squatted right beside me and stared into my shocked eyes long and hard. I never told anyone that. He massacred all forty-one men, women and children. He only left Uncle Ben and me. He deliberately shot off one leg and one arm of Uncle Ben. What cruelty. Why? Did Jesus in some way penetrate his hard heart? I am not sure,’’ mused Lucrezia.

“I must say this,” began Father Reuter.” The women close to Jesus showed no fear, unlike some of his disciples, apostles and friends. The people typified all oppressed beings through the ages. Why do you think I am using the word oppressed? Because they were so. First by their own harsh Talmudic Judaic Rabbis and of course by the merciless Pontius Pilate.

“So, I repeat, the people were terrified and crushed except when they taunted and lashed out at Jesus. The Apostle John tells us that Maryam, Jesus’ mother Mary, her sister wife of Clopas, Mary of Magdala also known as Mary Magdalene and John himself, were standing by Jesus’ cross. John was probably a cousin of Jesus. He may have been his youngest disciple at the time of the crucifixion. We know from several accounts that Jesus loved him the most.”

“They wept in silent horror and disbelief. Jesus addressed his Mother. “Woman, behold your son.” And then to John who is the Narrator of this Gospel he said,” Behold your Mother.”

“These words are full of passion and love. Listen carefully. Jesus is saying that all women are the mothers of all the children of the earth. Then as now. Semitic cultures - Arab and Jews alike, for they are brothers - looked after their own people in times of tragedy, regardless of blood ties. In a way, they are all born of Woman and therefore sons and daughters. Even as Jesus lay dying an excruciating death, he was thinking of his loved ones.

Lucrezia was struck by something Father Reuter had left out. “Jesus referred only to mothers and sons. Why did he leave out Mary Magdalene and his aunt? That is strange.”

She recalled the words of Great-Uncle Jaime Pardo de Tavera, an influential and rich Sephardic Jew who was linked to the Nieto Ortigas clan as a brother in all but blood.” Both Jews and Arabs are in reality matrilineal societies. The women are more powerful than the men will ever acknowledge.”

Father Reuter continued. ”Darkness covered the land at the ninth hour. From Jesus’ lips a lament pierced the heavens. Eloi! Eloi! Lama Sabachtani? My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me? This is from the Gospel of Saint Mark. Father Reuter paused and then asked the millions listening “ Is this a cry of desperation? Yes!” he cried out.

Lucrezia’s vision was blurred from her tears. “Why was he desperate? Was he asking God if humanity was worth dying for?”

Amah Ah Wei was weeping quietly. Heinzie, who adored Lucrezia but had lost his eldest brother Bubi a couple of years ago, begun to cry. Soon, all the amahs were drying their cheeks and blowing their noses. Matt could not contain himself and covered his eyes with a fine linen handkerchief.

The listeners heard Father Reuter whisper hoarsely, "I thirst, I thirst.”

“To have a proper impression of the state Jesus was in, I am going to ask you to close your eyes and imagine what I am about to tell you,” said Father Reuter with ardent eloquence. The soldiers of Caiphas, the High Priest entered the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest him. They did not know who he was. He was identified by an affectionate kiss given him by Judas, his right hand man. After the shock of this betrayal, he was roughly led away by the soldiers and brought before the Sanhedrim. It was a council composed of Pharisees and Sadducees. The very rabbis he had relentlessly attacked for their corruption, greed and violence. When Jesus questioned Caiphas, the High Priest, a soldier brutally struck Jesus in the head.

“The High Priest has not given you permission to speak, much less query him.”

His captors blindfolded him and punched him in the face repeatedly. With his eyes covered, Jesus could not see and instinctively roll with the punches. The blows would have been that much more deadly. His face was unrecognizable. Like ground meat. Wait! His torture was just beginning.”

“His clothes torn and ripped off his body; Jesus was naked. What better way to humiliate a man than to show him naked before a body of his enemies?”

The faithful listening to Father Reuter seemed paralyzed. They had never stopped to think what the Passion of Christ was all about. After 11 painful years of denial, Filipinos had to confront the holocaust they had survived during the War through the agony of Christ the Savior.

Father Reuter did not mince words. He was not the sort of priest who would do that. He wanted the faithful to realize the suffering Jesus had undergone to save all of Humanity. Nothing any human being suffered would ever compare with the ordeals of Jesus. That is what he wanted them to realize. They needed to do that to move on. The bloodletting in the Orient never stopped. After the war in the Pacific, there was Korea. It had ended with an angry peace, a sort of truce with no clear Victor. Now Vietnam was in the throes of once again throwing off its foreign Masters. The Japanese had been driven off, then the French. Now the Americans had come by the thousands as advisors. The People in the Philippines did not wish to confront these realities. Theirs had been so overwhelming. He cleared his throat as quietly as possible and continued.

“Then the scourging initiated. A soldier used a flagrum, a whip made of leather thongs imbedded with sharp metals and glass fragments. Small, heavy metal balls sewn into the end of each thong ensured maximum piercing and carving out of flesh, bit by agonizing bit. The flagrum was brought down with fiendish fury against the back of Jesus. Thirty-nine lashes was the number of mercy according to Judaic Laws. The flagrum tore off his skin, pierced his tendons and muscles. Perhaps they even exposed his spinal column. Jesus’ back was a mass of mutilated flesh. He was in unbearable pain, flitting in and out of consciousness due to loss of blood and bodily fluids. Yet, he did not ask for water.”

“A robe of rough linen was brusquely placed on his butchered body. A crown of thorns was crushed with great force on his head.”

Father Reuter stopped to ask the faithful abruptly. ”Do you know what happens when that many thorns are inside your head?”

There was only a reverential and awesome silence from the faithful.

“I’ll tell you. The thorns penetrated his scalp and skull and ripped at the skin. Slivers of scalp and hair mixed with the thorns. Heavy hemorrhaging followed, along with yet more excruciating pain. Jesus was covered with spittle from his torturers who knelt before him, mocking and laughing and yelling’ Hail, King of the Judaics.”

“The sight of this young, dying man covered in blood, saliva and gore, who bore all this with dignity and acceptance, enraged his torturers even more. What did they do? He was senseless yet they beat him again and again.”

“I thirst,” rasped Jesus, as the Apostle John tells us. A Roman soldier offered him some wine; it was probably vinegar, which had been doused on a cloth wrapped around a sharp end of a lance. Jesus refused it. I will say it again. Jesus refused the assistance, as he lay on the cross. Was it because he refused to lighten his agony? Did he thirst for water? Perhaps he meant compassion? Love? Tolerance?

Consumatum Est. It is finished,” he whispered. His loved ones barely heard him. John the Apostle informs us.

This reminded Lucrezia that she longed for water for her dry throat. “Wait. Don’t be soft on yourself. Wait a few more minutes. Are you feeling faint? No, then wait!” she scolded herself.

“Remember,” pronounced Father Reuter. “Jesus was already dying when he was led away for crucifixion. That is why he could not carry his own cross. That is why he fell down three times. That is why a strong man, a stranger from Cyrene named Simon was ordered by the Roman centurion to carry the cross for Jesus.”

Father Reuter said something, which brought chills to all the millions of faithful. “We Jesuits are familiar with the physical aspects of crucifixion. Not only as medical doctors, scientists and biblical scholars. Many of us together with thousands of Japanese Catholics were crucified in Japan in the 16th century. In North America, Jesuits were once again nailed to the cross in the 17th and 18th centuries.’

‘Now listen carefully. Do you know what happened when those eight-inch long nails were hammered into his wrists? The median nerves are severed, producing a burning pain and inevitable paralysis in the hands. Once Jesus was lifted to the cross, his feet were nailed to the beam, which sank I the ground. In order to do this properly, his killers bent his knees and raised his feet so that they could lie flat against the stake. When a body hung this way, the force of gravity dragged the weight of the body down. As a result, both shoulders and elbows were dislocated. They popped out of their joints, ripping all his tendons and ligaments.”

“Oh! This is horrible. I can’t bear this,” cried out Lucrezia.

Her cousins agreed, except Freckie who called out ”You are all nothing but silly ninnies”

“Silence!” ordered Matt, who was visibly touched himself by Father Reuter’s realistic portrayal of the Agony of Jesus on the Cross.

“Freckie, I am going to ask you to go to your room unless you apologize to us.”
“Sorry,” said a chastised looking boy of thirteen.

“Those of you here in this auditorium who came expecting a sermon on the Seven Last Words of Jesus may be disappointed by my unsparing description instead of his suffering. You may leave. I will understand,” explained Father Reuter.

For a full minute, the microphone was silent.

“No one will dare to leave this auditorium. They fear the comments of their peers and their families more than the wrath of God. Of such stuff are we humans made of,” pondered Dona Esperanza with sadness and a little bitterness in her heart.

“You are all staying until Jesus breathes his last. Whatever prompted you to remain in your seats, I am grateful to God. Those of you listening in may leave the room or turn off the radio.”

No one did. On that portentous Good Friday of 1957, the faithful got a clear idea at last about the acute Passion of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

“I have not minced any words so let us go on the same way,’’ said Father Reuter.

“Jesus’ arms were now almost against his chest. The chest cavity was ever so slowly being crushed. Every breath was sheer torture. Jesus had lost a great deal of blood from the unrelenting and severe beatings, the scourging and the crown of thorns. He was dehydrated. Therefore, there would have been less oxygen in his blood. His heart begun to beat faster in a vain attempt to compensate for the oxygen, which he needed badly, but which was denied him. In order to take one tortuous breath, Jesus had to propel himself on the nails in his feet. This was almost impossible for him. Indeed, every few seconds he would pass out. His back, in pieces because of he scourging, would constantly scrape the stake full of splinters. The whole agony of trying to inhale and exhale became more intense and unbearable as the hours passed. The heart literally exploded or the man died from asphyxiation.”

“Suddenly the sky was now black. Jesus was near death. He used his last remaining breath to say,” Father, into they hands I commend my spirit.”

“He stopped breathing. Jesus had fulfilled his mission on earth. God and the Cosmic Forces had taken their son back.”

Father Reuter waited a few seconds and then explained. “Because Jesus had been savagely beaten, scourged, tortured with the crown of thorns and forced to carry his cross; he died in a very short period of time. The Romans did not break his legs to make sure he was truly dead. One of them pierced his side with a spear. There was no blood on the spear, just liquid trickled out.”

Not a sound came from the faithful at the Ateneo Auditorium. “As I look at some of you, weeping silently, many of whom I know and love, I can’t help but remember the first Holy Week we all observed a few months after Manila was liberated. Destruction was everywhere. The dust was so thick no one could breathe without a cloth or bandana over his or her mouth. The stench of death penetrated our nostrils. We moved like automatons. No doubt about it, we were all in shock. Pontoon bridges were hastily built by the US navy Seabees - there was not a bridge large or small left standing. So many of us dead, missing, maimed, mutilated and wounded. So many of our homes, churches, schools and buildings bombed if not obliterated. That did not deter us from observing the Passion and rejoicing in the Resurrection of Jesus and of our once beautiful city. God bless the Philippines. May the Filipinos endure and prevail

In the hushed auditorium of the Ateneo University, Dona Esperanza blew her nose and stanched the tears from her face. Almost everyone was occupied with the same actions. Fray Paco stood on a black silk cushion on her lap. Not a peep for three hours had ensued from his beak. Not a piece of feces had marred the perfection of the black silk. He was used to this services on Good Friday. Fray Paco had first accompanied his Beloved Don Cesar to church on Good Friday for the sermon on the Seven Last Words. At that time, the service was in Castilian. This tradition continued for 40 years. The learned Jesuits had given him the name of Fray (Little Friar in Castilian) and Paco (the diminutive of Francisco – Francis) in irony because of his blasphemous and oath filled beak. They said that he did not fully understand the meaning of the Passion but that he was intelligent enough to sense that it was an event, which had shaken and changed the world. It would continue until the end of planet Earth and perhaps beyond it. Hence, his long silence year after year for forty years during the observance of the Seven Last Words. 

Father Reuter had finished his Elegy on the Seven Last Words of Jesus. High up in the hills of Santa Mesa, where Santol Mansion sat like its most magnificent pendant, the dirge of the bells tolling the death of Jesus came from all directions.

Without a word, because all of them felt cleansed and purified by the cathartic and awesome effect of Father Reuter’s words, the six cousins – Zita, Freckie, Dolly, Heinzie, Jaime and Lucrezia, together with their Hakka amahs struck the bronze gong in their garden.

Rex and Ruhr, the handsome German Shepherds, sat in perplexed silence.

Uncle Matthias followed from a distance. He was lost in his thoughts. His beautiful baby girl Teresita, she of the ebony curls and skin like Snow White had died on a Good Friday.
Her death remains a mystery. She was on her mother Fautina’s breast for over a year, which meant that Teresita’s immune system would have been strong enough to fight off any infections. Matt himself put her in her crib for her nap. When it seemed to Faustina that Teresita was sleeping way beyond her time she hurried to pick her up.

‘Dio Mio. E morta! Ma perche?’’

His family and clan wept with him long into the night of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Something splintered inside Matthias’ heart. He could see Faustina corroding herself with grief. After the funeral they both decided to practice birth control: the church be damned. She had lost her parents, both sets of grandparents as a result of the Japanese Occupation. She could not cope with the mere thought that she might lose another child.

“We are emotional cowards when it comes to having children of our own. Our numerous nieces and nephews really are a joy to us. We give thanks for that,” he ruminated.

He saw the pygmies Lakan and Danga. They had crouched behind the broad trunk of the balete tree nearby. They began systematically banging their heads softly against the bark of the tree, enough to bleed copiously but not enough to injure themselves seriously.

Why do they always do this on Good Friday?’ asked Lucrezia.

“It is their way of mourning. We must respect that,” explained Matt.

“It is really too damp and sticky out here,” whined Freckie.

“We can go back to the house. We have all struck the gong twelve times, said Matt.

Now the flamenco cante jondo would be played on the high fidelity system. Cante Jondo are the laments of the Andalusian gypsies, the race of Cale, who came from India in the 13th century Spain under Arab domination. Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived in such harmony that it created an intellectual and philosophical flowering hardly ever seen again.

The gypsy – Gitano- zingari chants of Good Friday are called saetas. It is a word lost in time, probably of Sanskrit origin. If you want to hear music from the depths of the soul, listen to the saetas, No other instruments are ever used. Sometimes the sound of a hammer on a nail is heard,” said Matt.

Lucrezia felt herself quivering.

“There is something atavistic about the human voice chanting from its entrails to lament the Crucifixion of Jesus. Many of them have their own beliefs, which are never revealed to us. This much we know, they are attached to the Virgin Mary. Jesus, his life and his death seem to have struck them in particular.”

"Sometimes the cantaoras (female flamenco singers) chant the saetas in unison," Zita told her cousins.

Other saetas are sang by a lone cantaor,” said Dolly.”

"Our ancestors did not come from Southern Spain,” spoke up Heinzie. "We are Aragonese, German Jewish and Chinese."

“Well? Where do you think we come from?” asked Jaime, “Aragon, Catalonia and Milan."

“No one is more mixed up racially than we are,” opined Lucrezia pointing to herself, Zita and Freckie. "Let’s see, I’m Italian, Ausro-Hungarian, Jewish, Aragonese and Filipino-Chinese.”

“I am the only mestiza (half breed of three quarters European in this group. The rest of you are really mongrels,” stated dotty Dolly with disdain.

“Look children,” Uncle Matt intervened, raising his voice over the ululating voices of the cantaoras. No one in the world is pure anything except for autochthonous people like the pygmies, aborigines, the Maoris. Inca, Yaqui, Aztec and other Amerindian tribes. We Europeans drove them away at best, enslaved or exterminated them at worst.”

Then Amah Ah Wei made one of her unfailingly true statements. 'Too much marry same-same not good. Make for idiot children and very ugly children. Look at Japanese and Jews. God love them, but difficult to find beautiful people there.”

No one replied to that. And then Lucrezia asked, “What about you, Amah and all the other Amahs?

“We Hakka first, Chinese second.” Replied Ah Wei without hesitation. After a long pause, she added, "before all, we are for Jesus first. Him we love, the son of Light who dies for everybody white, yellow, black, brown, round eyes and slitty eyes. All.”

“The tahong (fresh water clams) with fresh pieces of ginger and kangkong (a leafy, green vegetable brought from Southern China by Chinese merchants centuries ago) were delicious,” said Dona Esperanza to the assembled family members.

On Good Friday, dinner was served early in Santol Mansion. In the background, the saetas’flamenco laments still played softly on the hi-fi system. The cousins ate in silence. Tonight, conversation was limited only to the necessary. Time enough tomorrow-on Saturday of Glory and on Easter Sunday to exchange impressions and opinions about Father Reuter’s impassioned oratory.

Fray Paco, perched on a small, carved ebony chest from Tonkin muttered softly, no one knew what. Matt rose from his chair, walked towards the matriarch and slid her chair quietly. Dona Esperanza knelt beside her chair on the rare narra (mahogany) floor. With a minimum of noise, everyone followed her example. The amahs and the staff entered with their padded and embroidered silk chinelas (slippers) and proceeded to kneel as well.

“Let us recite a prayer to Michael the Archangel,” murmured Dona Esperanza.

Everyone knew it well as the celebrant and the faithful recited it at the end of every mass. It is a beautiful and powerful prayer.

“Saint Michael the Archsangel,”intoned the Mater Familias.

“Arrrkangelo Mikel,” repeated Fray Paco reverently. Fray Paco’s religious mangling was drowned by the strong voices of adults and children.

“ Defend us in battle. Be our Protector against the snares of the devil. We humbly pray, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.”

As soon as they were all seated. Dona Esperasnza nodded her head discreetly at Lucrezia.

“Ah! That’s my signal,” she said softly as she rose from her chair. Instinctively, she waited for all eyes to be upon her.

“Nena, va! (Child, go),” shrieked Fray Paco.

“Trust him to always hug the limelight and try to steal the show,” thought Lucrezia in amusement. She began.

“How did this prayer to Saint Michael come about? It was the late 19th century. The great Pope Leo Xlll, while attending a Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Peter’s Basilica, saw in a vision demonic spirits gathering on the Vatican. The Pope walked out in the middle of the Mass, gray and stunned. He headed straight for his private study. His entourage followed anxiously. This prayer is the fruit of that experience. Leo Xlll himself wrote every word and instructed that it be printed and sent to all the Bishops around the world. It is the prayer that we recite at the end of every Mass. It is an ardent plea to Michael the Archangel to drive Satan away from us, back to their dark world.”

Freckie overturned a glass of water on the table.

“That’s Sevres crystal. I hope he did not do that accidentally on purpose. He is awfully good at those tricks," mused Lucrezia.

Everyone ignored the accident. Of course the glass of Sevres crystal broke into pieces, but their Grandmother was not attached to objects, which she could replace. She was more concerned with human beings.

“Are you all right Freckie?” she asked.

He was fine. He nodded respectfully towards his Grandmother.

Camilla and Edmund, Lucrezia’s parents, smiled contentedly. This explanation had been their daughter’s idea. Her Grandmother had considered it appropriate.

The cousins were collected by their respective amahs. Their parents hugged and kissed them good night. One by one, they filed past their Grandmother, took her proffered right hand, and respectfully bent and touched their foreheads towards her had. All the amahs followed suit.

“May Jesus and the Angels bless you. I wish you peaceful dreams,” Dona Esperanza told each one in a soft musical voice.