Monday, October 19, 2009

Hello, PLDT?

I came upon a little-known fact about my PLDT subscription because of Typhoon Ondoy. The phone services in our area in Pateros/Pasig went down in the evening of 10 October 2009. When I called up PLDT's 172 hotline, I was told this was due to a major cable problem, and that they would not be able to provide an estimate on when services can be restored. In the past week or so, I have been calling their repair hotline, and in the few times I got lucky and was able to talk to a customer service representative, they still could not provide a commitment on this.

However, what really surprised me was their answer on whether we are entitled to a rebate for the disruption of service. All the customer service representatives that I was able to talk to confirmed that when services have been restored, I should call their Billing Department to apply for the rebate. Otherwise, no rebate will be made. This is even if I have already reported the problem to their call center.

Are their Technical and Billing departments separate companies that are not capable of sharing information? I am pretty sure the Technical Department is aware of the service disruptions, especially those as massive and as persistent as what happened to our service area. Can they not share this information with their Billing Department so that rebates can be automatically credited to affected subscribers? Why are they passing on this responsibility to the subscribers?

Let's do some math.

Assuming that each subscriber is paying P999 a month, and there was a 10-day service disruption. This translates to a rebate of about P333 per subscriber. Assuming again that out of 10,000 affected subscribers, 80% are not aware of this policy or do not have the patience of Job to wait to be connected to the billing department. That is a whopping P2,664,000 overpayment to PLDT! Now imagine how many household have been paying PLDT for non-existent services since they implemented this patently stupid policy.

Is this onerous policy of PLDT not covered by the Consumer Protection Law? If they can grant a rebate for service disruptions if the subscriber asks for it and their Technical Department verifies the complaint as valid, why can't they do this on their own and provide the adjustment automatically? They have the system and all information in place, why put the burden on the consumer who may not even be aware that they need to call the billing department to get the rebate that they are entitled to in the first place?

Highway robbery. Scam. Predatory trade practices. Is that how you call it?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The rain just kept pouring, without letup, without mercy. It rained like it never did before. My Tatay, who is all of 84 years old, could not remember any other time in his life when it rained like this before. It simply was unprecedented.

Thus, when we woke up Saturday morning, the flood water was already creeping up the ground floor of our house. When this house was built in 1976 to replace the old one, my parents made sure that the ground would be higher than road-level. When they raised the road some years back, it was still fairly within the same level. However, when the non-stop rain came, both the road and our house were not ready for the amount of rainfall that came.

In a way, we were still lucky. The water subsided after a few hours. In other areas, waters were as high as 10 feet. People were trapped on attics and rooftops. Yes, we were, and still are, inconvenienced with the power outage. But who are we to complain? We are dry and well in our own homes. Others are not so lucky, still waiting to be rescued from rooftops amidst what had become a waterworld.

We can only thank God for sparing our homes from further damage, and for making sure that all family members are safe and sound. We continue to pray for those who were not as fortunate.

7 Reasons to vote for Noynoy

From: A Family from Baguio City, Philippines
(courtesy of Nato Villanueva, NoyPI member)

1. We see the handiwork of God in his candidacy –Ninoy died for the country and his widow became president after people power. After battling cancer, Cory went home to the Lord which ushered in an unprecedented showing of support and love for a former president. This showing of support miraculously bankrolled into a people’s call for Noynoy to run for president even if he had no plans of doing so. These events could only be orchestrated by a sovereign God who has compassion over nations shackled by the blight and darkness of arrogant and shameless corruption.

2. He inspires hope — Prior to Noynoy’s candidacy, we were resigned to our fate of just choosing the utopian lesser evil among traditional, same old, eager beaver presidentiables. None of them inspires hope. But all that changed when Noynoy responded to that God-given calling in his life to serve the Filipino people whom his father died for. Tears of hope from the hearts and eyes of ordinary Filipinos flowed when he declared his candidacy. Upon learning of Noynoy’s candidacy, a Bureau of Customs employee said, “Salamat. Pwede na ulit mangarap.”

3. He is honest — Ballsy Aquino Cruz, Noynoy’s sister declared on national media that she is willing to be shot if anybody could present evidence that her brother is a thief. This sincerity is unparalleled even among the closest family and relatives of the other presidentiables.. None of the other presidentiables’ sisters or brothers would like to end up dead. Noynoy was reared in an environment of honesty as exemplified by the lives of his parents. Indeed, an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

4. He has strength of character — We don’t need a president who will hang a shingle in Malacanang that reads, ” Business as Usual”. He is the only candidate that we believe when he says he will clean house because he is clean.

5. He is humble and not in love with power — Everything about him is not contrived. Ordinary people like us could see through spin doctor- managed acting among public officials and candidates. But we see in Noynoy the sincere simplicity of a simple man, who although pedigreed, is not self-centered, power and recognition hungry. He doesn’t mind having thinning hair, simple clothes and a down-to-earth manner of speaking. More so, his humble spirit was manifested when he sought God’s direction first before plunging in the presidential race.

We could see that his reluctance to seek the presidency is genuine. We believe that power should be given to those who have strength of character because they are not obsessed nor in love with it. And yes, Mr. Gary Olivar, Malacanang spokesman, Noynoy is his own man because true manhood could only come from a humble spirit.

6. He alone could mobilize people power — No other presidentiable could ask the Filipino people to bankroll his campaign and credibly call for volunteers. In this country where the norm is patronage politics and presidentiables spend billions just to win an election, Noynoy is the only presidential candidate as of press time who is being swamped by a snowballing groundswell volunteer support from unknown, ordinary Filipinos from Luzon to Visayas without any budget. Noynoy is the anti-thesis of patronage politics because he could ask for volunteers to spend time and resources to campaign for him.

7. He is the good in this fight between good and evil — No other opposition candidate had earned the most vicious attacks from Malacanang and the other political parties who are fielding candidates in the presidential race than Noynoy.

In fact, some parties are already demolishing the people’s perception and argument that the 2010 presidential race is a fight against good and evil. Noynoy’s detractors would like to brush aside the morality of the elections because morality in government leadership is not a campaign strategy that could propel their traditional, same old, eager beaver presidential candidates.

It is true what Earl Spencer said ,that true goodness is threatening to those who are on the other side of the moral spectrum. In this fight versus good and evil, Noynoy credibly represents the good.

In his declaration speech, he was unmindful of politics or a possible loss of votes when he said he desires justice over the unresolved issues and cases the Marcoses committed against Filipinos. That to us, is true goodness, because it is a conviction that stands up for what is right no matter what the consequences are.

Mabuhay ka Noynoy!

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Sa wikang Pilipino (isinalin ni Angelo Guison):

7 Dahilan Kung Bakit Dapat Suportahan si Noynoy

1. Kamay ng Diyos ang kumikilos sa laban ni Noy- Namatay si Ninoy para sa bayan at naging pangulo ang kanyang biyuda matapos ang People Power. Nang ginupo si Cory ng kanser at bumalik sa piling ng Panginoon, nag-umapaw ang pakikiramay at pagmamahal. Ang suporta at pagmamahal kay Cory ay nagbunsod ng panawagan upang tumakbo si Noynoy sa pagka pangulo kahit wala ito sa kanyang mga plano. Tanging ang dakilang Panginoon lamang na may pagmamahal sa bayang binalot ng kadiliman at ginapos ng tanikala ng korupsyon ang may ganitong kapangyarihan.

2. Kinakatawan ni Noy ang pag-asa- Taun-taon bago ang kandidatura ni Noynoy nasanay tayo na ang pipiliin lamang natin bilang Pangulo ay yung “lesser evil” o pinaka hindi masama sa mga masasama, walang ni isa man ang nakakakitaan natin ng pag-asa. Lahat ng ito ay nagbago nang harapin ni Noynoy ang panawagang Pagsilbihan ang Sambayanang Pilipino na siya ring pinag-alayan ng buhay ni Ninoy. Nabuhay ang pag-asa sa mga puso ng bawat Pilipino nang idineklara niya ng pagtakbo bilang pangulo. Sabi ng isang taga Bureau of Customs matapos malaman ang pagtakbo ni Noy “Salamat. Pwede na ulit mangarap.”

3.Matapat si Noy- Sinabi sa telebisyon ng ate ni Noy na si Ballsy Aquino-Cruz na handa siyang magpabaril kung mayroong makakapaglabas ng mga ebidensya na nagnanakaw ang kapatid. Ganoon ang kanyang pananampalataya sa pagiging matuwid ng kapatid. At walang pamilya o kamag-anak ng ibang nagnanais na maging pangulo sa 2010 ang makapagsasabi nito. Lumaki si Noy ng matapat dahil ito matapat ding nabuhay ang kanyang mga magulang. Tunay ngang ang bunga ay hindi babagsak ng malayo sa puno nito.

4. May integridad at maganda ang reputasyon ni Noy- hindi natin kailangan ng pangulo na maglalagay ng karatula sa Malakanyang na nagsasabing “Business as Usual o Tuloy Lang ang Lahat”. Siya lang ang kapanipaniwala sa lahat ng kandidato kapag sinabi niyang itutuwid ko ang mga baluktot dahil ako’y matuwid.

5. Mapagkumbaba at hindi ganid sa Kapangyarihan si Noy-Ang lahat kay Noy ay totoo. Walang palabas, walang pakitang tao. Naamoy at nahahalata ng kahit simpleng tao ang mga pagkukunwari at mga pakitang tao ng mga pulitiko at kandidato. Ngunit ang nakikita natin kay Noy imahe ng isang simpleng tao, kahit na nanggaling sa prominente at makapangyarihang angkan ay nanatiling di makasarili at di ganid sa kapangyarihan at yaman. Hindi malaking bagay kay Noy ang pagnipis ng kanyang buhok, simpleng pananamit at pananalita. Lalo niya pang pinatunayan ang kababaang loob nang humingi siya ng patnubay sa Diyos bago nagdesisyong tumakbo bilang pangulo.

Kitang-kita na totoo ang pag-aatubili niya sa pagkandidato noong una. Naniniwala kami na dapat ipagkaloob ang kapangyarihan sa taong may integridad at matuwid dahil hindi kailanman siya mahuhumaling dito. At oo G. Gary Olivar, tagapagsalita ng Malakanyang, si Noy ay may sariling pagkakakilanlan at pagkatao dahil ang tunay at malinis na pagkatao ay nagmumula lamang sa kababaang-loob.

6. Si Noy lamang ang makakapagpakilos sa taumbayan- walang ibang kandidato sa pagka-pangulo ang maaring humiling sa Sambayanang Pilipino na tustusan at magkusang-loob sa pagtulong sa kanyang kandidatura. Sa ating bansa na kung saan talamak ang pulitika ng pagtangkilik (paggamit ng yaman ng bansa upang makakuha ng boto) at gumagasta ng bilyong piso ang mga nagnanais maging pangulo, si Noy lamang (habang sinusulat ito) ang kandidato na inuulan at binabaha ng boluntaryong suporta ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino mula sa lahat ng sulok ng bansa. Si Noy ang kabaligtaran ng mga pulitiko na nagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan kapalit ng boto-dahil kaya niyang humingi ng oras, tulong at rekurso sa sambayanan.

7. Si Noy ang mabuti sa labang ng masama at mabuti- wala nang nakatanggap ng mas marami, kaliwa’t kanang pambabatikos mula sa administrasyon, sa lahat ng kakandidato bilang pangulo kundi si Noynoy.

Ang totoo, may ilang partido na nagsasabing ang halalan sa 2010 ay hindi laban ng masama at mabuti. Nais nilang isantabi ang moralidad ng eleksyon dahil ang matuwid na pamumuno sa gobyerno ay hindi aayon sa kanilang mga pambatong atat sa kapangyarihan at trapo- silang mga “lumang tugtugin”.

Tama ang sinabi ni Earl Spencer na “ang tunay na kabutihan ay magsisilbing babala sa mga taong ang moralidad ay nasa kabilang dulo. sa laban ng mabuti at masama, si Noy ang may kredibilidad na kumatawan sa mabuti.

Sa kanyang pahayag ng pagkandidato, isinantabi ni Noy ang pulitika o ang posibleng kabawasan sa boto nang sinabi niyang hangad niya ang hustisya para sa mga biktima ng mga Marcos. Ito ay nagpapakita ng tunay ng kabutihang loob, dahil ito ay paninidigan para sa kung ano ang tama maging ano man ang kahihinatnan at kapalit.

Mabuhay ka Noynoy!

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Papaano nga ba?

Hindi masama ang maghanapbuhay. Sa katunayan, dapat lamang na ang bawat isa sa atin ay mayroong pinagkakakitaan. Ngunit ang bawat galaw natin ay dapat nasa tama at walang ibang minumolestiya. Ito lamang ang tama at makatarungang paraan upang lahat tayo ay mabuhay ng marangal, mapayapa at maunlad dito sa ating bayan.

Bilang isang mamamayan ng Pateros, nais ko pong idagdag ang aking munting tinig sa dumaraming hinaing ukol sa lumalalang kalagayan ng trapiko sa ating bayan, lalo na sa Poblacion.

Una, hindi dapat payagan ng pamahalaan ang anumang uri ng terminal ng jeep, ng FX o ng traysikel sa anumang bahagi ng mga lansangan. Ang mga lansangan ay ginawa upang daluyan ng mga sasakyan, hindi upang gawing garahe o terminal. Napakaliliit na nga ng ating mga kalye, ginawa pang terminal ang halos bawat kanto. Ang sino mang magsabi na walang terminal sa mga lansangan ay bulag sa katotohanan. Mayroong mga nagsasabi na ang mga terminal na ito ay hindi ilegal dahil pinahintulutan ng munisipyo. Kung mayroon mang ordinansa na nagpahintulot sa mga terminal na ito sa lansangan, dapat lamang na ang mga ordinansang ito ay ipawalang-bisa sapagkat ang mga ito ay ilegal at hindi naaayon sa pangkahalatang kapakanan ng mga mamamayan. Ang mga lansangan ay para sa kapakanan ng lahat, at hindi ng iilan.

Pangalawa, hindi dapat payagan ang mga may tindahan sa tabi ng kalye, lalo na sa Poblacion at sa iba pang pangunahing lansangan, na magpatuloy sa pangangalakal kung wala silang sapat na lugar kung saan maaaring manatili ang kanilang mga kostumer. Dahil sinagad ang tindahan sa kani-kanilang mga boundary, ang mga kostumer ay napipilitang manatili sa bangketa, at ang mga pedestrian ay walang magawa kundi maglakad sa kalye at makipag-agawan ng espasyo sa mga sasakyan. Higit pa sa una, hindi dapat payagan ang mga ilegal na pagtitinda sa mga bangketa. Pinahihintulutan ng pamahalaan ang mga may-ari ng mga tindahang ito na magnegosyo ngunit hindi para makapuwerhisyo sa mga tao.

Pangatlo, kailangan ng disiplina para sa mga mamamayan. Huwag sumakay sa mga jeep or traysikel na nakakaabala sa daan. Huwag bumili sa mga tindahang nakabara sa mga bangketa. Maglakad lamang sa tamang lugar, huwag sa lansangan. Kung walang tatatangkilik, maaaring matutong lumugar sa tama ang mga pasaway na driver. Konting tiis sa paglalakad at matatamo natin ang bepisyo ng maayos na daloy ng trapiko. Ang mga paaralan tulad ng Pateros Catholic School at Pateros Municipal High School ay dapat tumulong sa pamamagitan ng pagtuturo at pagpapaalala sa kanilang mga mag-aaral ng wastong ugali at pamamaraan ng paggamit ng ating mga lansangan. Kung gagawin ng tama ng mga bata, baka sakaling mahiya ang mga matatanda.

At ang huli at ang pinakamahalaga, dapat may political will ang pamahalaan upang ipatupad ng patas ang mga batas trapiko. Hulihin at tiketan ang mga lumalabag na driver. Pagsabihan ang mga mamamayang naglalakad at nakatigil ng wala sa lugar. Gawing "no parking" zone ang Morcilla St. Huwag pahintulutan ang mga jeep at traysikel terminals sa mga lansangan. Bakit nga ba sa dinami-dami ng mga traffic enforcers na nakakalat sa bayan ay para bagang wala silang magawa sa mga driver na ayaw sumunod sa kaayusan? Mag-compute tayo: sa bawat jeep or traysikel na pumapasada sa Pateros ay mayroong 2 o 3 na driver, sa bawat driver ay mayroong 5 hanggang 10 na kapamilya na maaaring bumoto. Hindi ba nakakatakot na banggain ang ganitong karaming mga botante? Kailangan natin ng malawakang programa upang hindi lamang maisaayos ang ating mga lansangan, kundi maisaayos din ang kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayang umaasa sa mga hanapbuhay na maapektuhan. Sa huli, ang lahat ay dapat makinabang sa anumang pagbabago tungo sa kaayusan ng ating bayan. Kailangan lamang ay ang paninindigan at tapang ng loob na maisakatuparan ang mga pagbabago.

Taga Pateros po ako. Disiplinado at may kapwa-tao!

Friday, July 24, 2009

San Joaquin Gridlock

I am a very patient person. But today I am taking an exception.

It's there for everyone to see and experience - day in and day out, night and day, rain or shine.

Whether you are on a jeepney, an FX or in your private car, you are fair game. No one is spared - unless you can brave the heat or the rain and start walking instead of frying in your seat.

I am talking about the worsening traffic condition on half of the San Joaquin intersection in the boundary between Pateros and Pasig. I say half because traffic seems to pile up only along the Pateros - Bambang leg of the four-way intersection. In plain language, those coming in and out of Pateros better be ready to sit it out as traffic moves inch by inch.

Anyone who passes by this route will not fail to notice this anomalous injustice to Pateros residents. Traffic typically comes to a halt in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo chapel. Then it slowly inches its way past the intersection - two to three cars at a time. You try not to be angry, telling yourself this must be a very busy intersection.

But then when you are just two or three cars away from the front of the line and the precious intersection crossing is within sight, the anomaly starts to unfold right before your bewildered eyes. If expletives coupled with overheating engines and wasted gas and time can kill, those Blue Boys manning the intersection would all be serenely smiling from under a glass cover. Parang natutulog lang...

The intersection falls within the jurisdiction of Pasig, and their Blue Boys are all over the place. And you do not need to have an IQ higher than your age to understand what these Blue Boys are trying to do.

It is quite obvious that they are there not to make sure that traffic is running smoothly in this very busy intersection. Instead, they are there to make sure that traffic coming from M. Concepcion St. gets into Elizco Road as fast as the blink of an eye. Never mind if the people on the Pateros side fry on their sweat.

The heck! These Blue Boys keep vehicles on the Pateros side at bay even when vehicles from Buting have been wheezing by so very far and few in between. While trying to recall some anger management tips I read on the Internet, I tried some simple math. I counted. For every 3 or 5 vehicles coming from Pateros, there are about 50 that they let pass from the other sides. Now, is that not protectionism or what?

One for you, two for me. Three for you, six for me. Fair enough? The rich kid sure knows how to share his blessings with the poor neighbor.

But we cannot begrudge the Pasig Blue Boys for making sure their portion of the intersection is traffic free. After all, they will protect the businesses that make sure they get their salaries. What gets my goat is the seeming apathy of the local officials of Pateros. I wonder where they pass by when they have to go Megamall? Are they so blind to this obviously unfair practice of our more wealthy neighbor?

Illegal settlers who hold the vote in Makati killed the Pateros River. They choke the national road leading to our town with illegally parked vehicles, illegal FX and jeepney terminals, illegal vendors above and under our bridge. They even have the gall to call our beloved "Toll Bridge" the Comembo Bridge in a billboard they put on both sides of the bridge. We let Makati trample on us, now are we letting Pasig do the same? Who's next, Taguig?

If we let our neighbors treat us so shabbily, we might just as well elect a Barangay Chairman for Peteros in 2010 instead. Will it be Taguig, Pasig or Makati? Take your pick.

Me? I am staying put. I love my little town, warts and all. This is home like no other.

Taga Pateros ako. Disiplinado at may kapwa-tao!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are we safe in our own homes?

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

How do you tell a 3-year old kid that his Daddy will no longer be around to bring him to Timezone?

A week after they celebrated Father’s Day, my niece lost her husband in a most violent manner. Their kids – the younger one not even a year old, lost their father forever. They were together not more than four years, a young couple going through the ups and downs of building a bright, happy and secured future for themselves and their children. And then it was all over in a few minutes one early Saturday morning. It was so sudden, so unexpectedly brutal that we could not even begin to comprehend the gravity of the crime committed against this very young family.

At half past one in the morning of 27 June 2009, Douglas Duane Javier Lim – Dingdong to family and friends, went home to get ready for work. Work for him was the graveyard shift at the airport as a Special Agent of the Bureau of Immigration. As he always did, he went down his green Ford Expedition in front of their house in Bahay Toro in Quezon City and opened the gate. He then went back to the car, parked it inside the open garage and then went down again to close the gate.

Three successive gunshots punctuated the night air. Roused from sleep, his brother rushed outside to check the noise coming from the garage. Although still dazed, he saw two men by the gate and another one driving the Expedition out of the garage. When they saw him, they pointed the gun at him with the menacing look of the devil ready to drag him to hell. The two men then also boarded the car, all three of them now on the front seats, and then fled into the dark. Still too shocked and bewildered by what had just happened, he rushed to where the men left Dingdong.

Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw.

Dingdong was sprawled face down in the small walkway leading to the side of the house. He was bleeding profusely. His father and another brother, who had also gone out of the house, rushed the barely breathing Dingdong to the hospital. Although very weak from massive loss of blood, he managed to complain how hard it was for him to breath. And then he closed his eyes for the last time. Twenty minutes after he was admitted to the emergency room of the Capitol Medical Center, he was declared dead due to the gunshot wounds he sustained during the attack.

In what may have been less than 5 minutes, 34 years of a beautiful and promising life got ended violently. Nobody saw what really happened during those fatal minutes. The autopsy indicates gunpowder burn on his left hand. He could have held on to the gun when it fired, wounding his palm and wrist. There were also 2 shots in the chest, with one puncturing his lungs. Of the 2 chest wounds, one was inflicted while he had his back turned away from the gunman, and the other was inflicted while he was already sprawled on the pavement. The fatal shot went through the side of the abdomen, slicing through his liver, intestines and right kidney.

From this autopsy report, we can only try to painfully reconstruct those horror-filled final moments of his life: When he was already closing the gate, the three men suddenly barged in with a gun pointed at him. Startled, he might have tried to deflect the gun with his left hand. He was not left-handed, but it was the free hand at that time as he was probably using his right hand to close the sliding gate. The gun went off the first time while he was still holding it by the barrel, piercing his palm and wrist and then going though his abdomen area. Although already wounded, he might have managed to run away from his attackers. As he turned his back and made a dash for the house, the gunman shot him again. He might have fallen down, but still tried to make it to the house. The gunman still went after him, and with another merciless shot hit him in the chest while he was already down and bleeding.

And then as quickly as they came, they fled using Dingdong's own car as the getaway vehicle. The lone guard at the gate claims there were no other vehicles coming in or out at around the time of the crime. Nor did he find it strange that three unfamiliar men, who do not include Dingdong, would squeeze themselves in the front seat and drive like madmen through the exit.

The men who attacked Dingdong did not just leave behind a dying man. They also ended the hopes and aspirations of a young family who now must mourn his untimely death even as they ponder a future without a husband and a father. Theirs was a family trying to find its roots. Theirs was a love that have sailed through rough waters, and made it through each time. Theirs was a dream that was just beginning to unfold. With 3 shots of a gun, all these were gone.

It was a story straight out of the daily tabloids, the kind of news that screams out of our TV newscasts to feed on the insatiable hunger of the masses for sensationalized police stories. We smugly dismiss them as those things make us shrug our shoulders – shit happens to people, tough luck. We become complacent, jaded and apathetic even. Until it happens to us, or to people dear to us. Then suddenly we realize that just like everyone else we are fair game to criminals lurking in our streets, in the dark corners of our communities and even in the what is supposed to be safe havens of our homes - like vultures waiting for the right time to strike.

On Thursday, we sent Dingdong off to his final resting place. The endless rows of flower offerings and the many people who came to condole with the family at all hours of the day are testament to Dingdong's endearing and enduring ties with people he touched during his lifetime. When we looked at his fallen body for the last time, we remember his mischievous laughter, his ready smile and warm embraces and the many memories we shared in the short time he was part of our families. He leaves behind a grieving family and friends who must come to terms with not just the sudden loss, but more so with the senselessness of it all.

When asked if he wants to go to Timezone, Dingdong's little boy shook his head. Asked why not, he simply said, “Daddy’s gone”.

A husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend is gone - so soon and so painfully. So is our mistaken notion that we are safe in our own homes. Will we ever feel safe again?


You can post your online tributes and eulogies for Dingdong at


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Viva Santa Marta de Pateros - Fiesta 2009

It was quite a pleasant surprise when the procession passed by our street early in the morning. We somehow got used to having it after lunch, after each barangay went their separate ways due to some disagreements with the caretakers of the original image (I still do not know the entire story behind this schism so I would not dwell on it.). Anyway, the marshals said this procession was the officially sanctioned one, and that it will go through all the traditional route.

And of course, I'm happy to note that the old ladies and gentlemen who dance the Pandango for Sta Marta were in full force in their colorful patadyongs and swaying graciously to the lively folk music. Unfortunately, music was again provided not by a brass band but played through an amplifier mounted on a truck. It would have really been better if the organizers had tapped the services of a brass band instead of using canned music. I went to both the Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan and the Sto Nino procession in Roxas Blvd last January, and in both occasions there were as many as 50 brass bands and/or Drum and Lyre contingents! Why can't we have at least one brass band provide real music for our beloved Sta Marta? For the life of me!

Do you remember the paper mache horse? This used to be a staple in the tiange that would miraculously spring up in the main road in front of the church come fiesta time. Seems like it's making a comeback as well.

Everyone was worried that this chubby little boy would accidentally lose grip of the mock bolo he was holding and spinning around while dancing. Again, a happy return to traditions, although in the olden days a fully grown up man is designated as the magbabalut who slew the crocodile. And where was the crocodile, by the way? As the good Bishop San Diego noted in his homily the previous day, the river has dried up so the crocodiles are now amongst us. Touche!

Young people also made their presence felt, and made a very clear statement that the new generation of Pandango dancers ang mamanata are here to stay. Their shirts say it all: New Generation. Hail to the Youth!

I am not sure if what they brought out for the procession is the Sta Marta Matanda (original image) or the Callejera or Bata (new image). During the Mass to designate the San Roque Parish Church as the Diocesan Shrine of Sta Marta, people were talking about the return of the old image in the place of honor. I do hope that the conflict had been resolved, and that the designation of Pateros as the Diocesan Shrine had brought about its first miracle in the hearts of the devotees of Sta Marta!

An of course, the pasubo will always be awaited by the throng of people following the image. Although balut is no longer thrown to the the people from houses along the procession route, goodies still abound. And people are getting smarter and smarter year after year, employing a host of tricks to get the most out of the pasubo - including the use of upside down umbrellas and big boxes.

The government and the private sector are still trying their best to clean up the Pateros River. I look forward to the day when we can have the Pagoda in the river again. Who knows, the ducks may yet return to a clean river once again - and the brass bands can start playing the pandango instead of the empty canned music played from loudspeakers. And yes, maybe we can find the courage again to slay the crocodiles in our midst.

Viva Sta. Marta!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Si Santa Marta at ang Alamat ng Buwaya ng Pateros

(Note from the Author: English version is available below.)

Nuong ako ay musmos pa, buong pananabik kong hinihintay ang pista ni Santa Marta tuwing ikalawang Lingo ng Pebrero at ika-29 ng Hulyo. Di tulad ng malungkot na prusisyon ng Semana Santa, ang prusisyon tuwing pista ni Santa Marta, na kung tawagin ay Pagoda sa Daan, ay masayang idanaraos sa pamamagitan ng pagsasayaw ng pandango sa saliw ng musika ng banda. Naiiba rin ang pagdiriwang na ito sapagkat mismong ang andang nagtataglay ng imahen ng Santa ay buong giliw na isinasayaw ng mga kalalakihang may pasan dito. Habang pinagmamasdan ko sa kalayuan ang parating na prusisyon, animo'y umiindak si Santa Marta kasabay ng kanyang mga sumasayaw ding mga deboto!

Bukod sa masayang sayawan at ang paghahagis ng mga kakaning kung tawagin ay pasubo, ang tuwina'y pumupukaw sa aking pansin ay ang kakaibang anyo ng Santa Marta ng Pateros. Kung karamihan ng mga imahen ng mga santo ay may mahahabang kasuotan na nagkukubli sa kanilang mga paa, ang kay Santa Marta ng Pateros ay sadyang nagpapakita sa mga ito. At ang lalong nakapagtataka ay kung ano ang nasa kanyang paanan – isang malaki at nakakatakot na buwaya.

Maraming mga alamat at salin-kwento sa Pateros tungkol kay Santa Marta at sa buwaya sa kanyang paanan. Sinikap kong maghanap ng anumang nasusulat na nagtataglay ng salaysay tungkol sa kung papaanong ang imahen ng Santa Marta ng Pateros ay nagkaroon ng buwaya sa kanyang paanan, ngunit walang akong natunton.

Ayon sa isang matandang kwento, nuong unang panahon ay isang maunlad na pamayanan ang bayan ng Pateros. Ang ilog nito ay malawak at malinis, at naging sentro ng kalakalan na naguugnay sa lalawigan ng Morong sa Maynila. Dahil sa mayaman sa mga suso at ibang lamang-tubig, ang ilog ay naging mainam na kanlungan ng mga pato o itik na inaalagaan ng mga nakatira sa pampangin ng ilog. Ang itlog ng mga patong ito, na lubhang mas malinamnam kung ihahambing sa yaong mga nanggagaling sa ibang dako, ay ginagawang balut - na siya namang lalong nagpatanyag sa bayan ng Pateros. Nabuhay ng maunlad at matiwasay ang mga taga Pateros.

Ngunit ang kasaganahan at katahimikan ng Pateros ay ginambala ng isang malaking buwaya na nanalanta sa ilog. Kinakain nito ang mga itik at pato, at nanganib na maubos ang mga ito at mawalan ng kabuhayan ang bayan. Nang sa kabila ng lahat ng paraan ay hindi mahuli at magapi ng taong bayan ang mapanirang buwaya, sila ay taimtim na nanalangin kay Santa Marta. Sila naman ay di nabigo at kapagdaka ang buwaya ay nahuli at pinaslang. Bilang pasasalamat, ipinagdiwang ng buong bayan ang pista ni Santa Marta sa pamamagitan ng pagsasayaw sa mga lansangan (pagoda sa daan) at maging sa kahabaan ng ilog ng Pateros (pagoda sa ilog). Sa ilog man o sa daan ay laging nakasunod ang isang buwaya na gawa sa yero bilang paggunita sa pagliligtas ng Santa sa mga itik ng Pateros. Sa ibabaw o tabi ng malaking buwaya ay may sumasayaw na mag-iitik at may hawak na tabak o bolo, bilang pahiwatig ng pagtatagumpay ng mga taga Pateros laban sa salot sa kanila kabuhayan.

Marahil, ang kwentong ito at katulad ng iba pa ay mananatiling buhay na lamang sa pamamagitan ng mga salaysay na isinasalin sa bawat salin-lahi ng mga taal na taga-Pateros. Nakakalungkot isipin na sa hinaharap ay maari ng tuluyang maglaho ang mga kwentong ito katulad ng pagkamatay ng ilog ng Pateros at ang unti-unting paglaho ng mga kinaugaliang tradisyon katulad ng pagpaparangal kay Santa Marta sa kanyang kapistahan.

Muling napukaw ang aking pansin sa kakaibang imahen ni Santa Marta ng Pateros ng minsang nakapagsimba ako sa parokya ng San Pablo sa Timog, Lungsod Quezon. Aba, mayroon din itong malaking buwaya sa kanyang paanan! Dili kaya't taga-Pateros ang naghandog ng imaheng ito sa parokya ng San Pablo? Nagtanong ako, ngunit walang makapagsabi kung paanong ang imahen ni Santa Marta na akala ko ay sa Pateros lamang matatagpuan ay napadpad sa Lungsod Quezon.

Gayun din ang aking pagkagulat ng minsang ako ay nakapagsimba sa Estados Unidos, napansin ko ang imahen ni Santa Marta. Katulad din ito ng imahen sa Lungsod Quezon ngunit hindi isang buwaya ang nasa kanyang paanan, kundi ay isang nakakatakot na dragon. Maliban dito, ang pagsasalarawan ay katulad ng Santa Marta ng Pateros - may hawak na Krus sa isang kamay at sangang may mga dahon sa kabila. Ito ang nagbunsod sa akin upang saliksikin kung may kinalaman ang mga nakagisnan kong tradisyong sa Pateros sa mga pagdiriwang ng kapistahan ni Santa Marta sa ibang lugar.

Sa aking pananaliksik, nalaman ko na ang pagsasalarawan ng mga taga Pateros kay Santa Marta ay hindi naman pala nalalayo sa kanyang tradisyonal na pagsasalarawan mula pa nuong ika-labintatlong siglo. Ang pagsasalarawan kay Santa Marta ay bunga ng mga alamat at saling-kwento tungkol sa naging buhay niya, at ng mga kapatid na sina Santa Maria Magdalena at San Lazaro, pagkatapos ng muling pagkabuhay at pag akyat sa langit ng ating Panginoong Hesus.

Ayon sa mga alamat ng simbahan, si Santa Marta at ang kanyang mga kapatid ay mula sa mga dugong bughaw ng Hudea, sa Betania at Magdalen. Ayon sa tradisyon, ang Panginoong Hesus ay madalas na bumibisita sa kanilang tahanan at naging mabuting kaibigan ng pamilya lalu ng ng kanyang kapatid na si San Lazaro. Ito ay pinatunayan ng mga salaysay na napapaloob sa Banal na Aklat ukol sa mga magkakapatid at ang mabuting pakitungo sa kanila ni Hesus. Ngunit nang ang Panginoon ay umakyat na sa langit ay wala ng nabangit pa tungkol sa magkakapatid.

Ayon sa mga kwentong pinagsalin-salin sa mga nanampalataya nuong mga unang panahon ng Kristianismo, ang mga labi ni Santa Marta ay nakalagay sa maliit ngunit napakagandang bayan ng Tarascon sa lalawigan ng Provence sa Pransya. Ayon pa rin sa tradisyon, si Santa Marta ay dumating sa lugar na ito nuong ika-49 taon ng unang siglo. Ang pinakamaagang nasusulat na sumusuporta sa paniniwalang ito ay mula kay Arsobispo Raban Maur ng Mayence, na nagsulat ukol sa buhay ni Santa Marta nuong ika-9 na siglo. Nuong taong 1275, si Arsobispo Jacobus de Voragine ng Genoa ay isinulat ang aklat na "Ang Mga Gintong Alamat at Buhay ng mga Banal".

Sa aklat na ito ay itinala ang mga salaysay ukol sa buhay ng mga banal na tagasunod ng Panginoon, na sa mga panahong iyon ay napatiling buhay lamang sa pamamagitan ng pagsasalin-salin ng mga salaysay sa pagitan ng mga nananampalataya. Kasama na nga sa mga isinalaysay ang naging buhay ng tatlong magkakapatid na sina Marta, Maria at Lazaro.

Matatandaang nasusulat sa Banal na Aklat na ang tatlong magkakapatid ay matatalik na kaibigan ng Panginoong Hesus. Nang si Hesus ay dumalaw sa kanilang tahanan, si Santa Marta ang nag-asikaso sa pangangailangan ng mga bisita, lalo na ng Panginoon, samantalang si Santa Maria Magdalena ay nasa paanan ni Hesus at nakikinig sa kanyang mga pangaral. Nang mamatay ang kanilang kapatid na si San Lazaro, ipinatawag ni Santa Marta ang Panginoon at buong pagpipighating sinabi na kung Siya ay dumating lamang ng mas maaga, ay hindi sana pumanaw ang kanyang mahal na kapatid. Ang Panginoon ay di nag-atubili na tawagin ang ngalan ni San Lazaro at utusan siyang tumayo at lumabas mula sa kanyang pinagkalibingan. Ang himalang ito ay patunay sa matalik na pagkakaibigan ni Santa Marta at ng ating Panginoong Hesus!

Ayon sa aklat ni Arsobispo Jacobus de Voragine, dahil na rin sa pagkakaibigang ito ay naging lubos at matibay ang pananampalataya ni Santa Marta sa Panginoon. Nang Siya ay umakyat na sa langit, si Santa Marta kasama ng kanyang mga kapatid at ibang mga nananampalataya ay nangaral sa mga pagano at Hudyo tungkol sa kaligtasang handog ni Hesus. Dahil dito, sila ay dinakip at isinakay sa isang bangka na walang sagwan at walang layag upang sila ay anurin sa karagatan ng walang tiyak na paroroonan hanggang sa mamatay.

Ngunit dahil na rin sa pagtatakda ng Diyos, sila ay napadpad sa Pransya, sa lugar ng Marseilles. Mula doon ay nagtungo sila sa Aquense, kung saan maraming tao ang humanga sa pangangaral ni Santa Marta at itinakwil ang kanilang mga diyos-diyosan upang manampalataya sa ating Panginoon.

Taong 48 ng mapadpad si Santa Marta sa maliit na bayan ng Nerluc na malapit sa ilog ng Rhone, sa pagitan ng mga bayan ng Arles at Avignon. Hindi lubusang makapanirahan ang mga mamamayan ng Nerluc sa lugar dahil sa isang malaki at nakakatakot na halimaw na nagkukubli sa ilog. Ang halimaw na ito, na tinawag na Tarasque, ay pinaniniwalaang isang malaking buwaya, ngunit isinalarawan bilang isang dragon sa mga panulat alinsunod sa nakagawian na ng mga panahong iyon. Ang kinatatakutang dragon ay pumapatay at kumakain ng mga taong naliligaw sa dakong iyon, at naging sanhi ng lubos na pagkatakot ng mga mamamayan sa bayang ito. Ang mga mamayan ng Nerluc ay nakiusap kay Santa Marta na sila ay tulungan na mapuksa ang halimaw.

Buong tapang at puno ng pananampalataya sa kapangyarihan ng Panginoon, tinungo ni Santa Marta ang kinaroroonan ng dragon at doon ay nasumpungan niya ito habang nilalapastangan ang isang kaawa-awang tao. Umawit ng mga papuri sa Panginoon si Santa Marta at ipinakita sa dragon ang tangan niyang Krus, sabay wisik ng Banal na Tubig na galing sa sisidlang tangan niya. Kapagdaka'y naging animo'y maamong tupa ang Tarasque at ito ay mapagkumbabang nanikluhod sa harap ni Santa Marta. Ang halimaw ay iginapos niya gamit ang sinturon ng kanyang damit. Dinala niya ang napaamong dragon sa mga mamamayan ng Nerluc na lubha namang natakot sa halimaw at kagyat na kumilos upang ito ay mapaslang sa pamamagitan ng kanilang mga sibat. Hindi nanlaban ang halimaw at namatay na payapa sa piling ni Santa Marta.

Ipinangaral ni Santa Marta ang Kristianismo at marami ang nanampalataya at nagpabinyag. Naawa ang mga taong-bayan sa sinapit ng Tarasque at sila ay nagsisi sa pagkakapaslang nila dito. Bilang paggunita sa milagrong ito, ang bayan ng Nerluc ay tinawag nilang Tarasconus bilang ala-ala sa napaslang na Tarasque. Mula nuon ay nanatili ng payapa at ligtas ang ilog ng Rhone at ang bayan ng Tarasconus at nanatili duon si Santa Marta hanggang sa kanyang pagpanaw.

Naging tanyag at mapagmilagrong pinuno ng mga mananampalataya si Santa Marta, at maraming mga simbahan at kumbento ang itinatag sa kanyang karangalan. Sa kanyang pagpanaw ay lumawig ang pananampalataya sa Panginoon at tuluyang kumalat ang Kristianismo sa Pransya at sa buong Europa. Maraming tanyag na mga tao, kabilang ang mga hari at obispo, ang naglakbay ng malayo upang madalaw ang kanyang libingan. Ang kanyang ulo ay inilagak sa isang rebultong nililok na kahawig niya at gawa sa 25 kilong ginto! Bilang pagdakila sa kanilang tagapagligtas ay ipinagdiwang ng mga mamamayan ang pagpapaamo at pagkagapi ni Santa Marta sa dragon.

Bilang pag-gunita sa kasaysayang ito, isinasalarawan si Santa Marta sa kanyang mga imahen na nakatayo sa ibabaw o malapit sa isang dragon. Sa isang kamay ay hawak niya ang dahong aspergillum na gamit sa pagbabasbas ng Banal na Tubig, at sa kabilang kamay naman ay ang Krus na ipinakita niya sa Tarasque upang ito ay mapaamo. Ang mga sinaunang pagsasalarawan ni Santa Marta ay nagpapakita rin ng sinturon sa kanyang baywang o sa leeg ng dragon, na ginamit niya upang igapos ang halimaw, at ang sisidlan ng Banal na Tubig.

Karamihan sa mga makabagong imahen ni Santa Marta ay di na makikita ang sisidlan ng Banal na Tubig at ang sinturon ay nag-ibang anyo, ngunit ang dahon at Krus ay nanatili sa paglipas ng maraming taon. Sa imahen ng Santa Marta ng Pateros, kalimitan ay makikitang ang sinturon ay nakasukbit mula sa balikat o dibdib pababa sa baywang (tignan ang unang larawan sa itaas).

Mula pa noong unang panahon hanggang sa kasalukuyan, nananatiling laganap at masidhi ang pagkilala kay Santa Marta sa mga lugar na nabanggit sa salayasay na ito. Tulad ng mga sinaunang panahon, patuloy pa ring ipinagdiriwang ang kapistahan ni Santa Marta sa bayan ng Tarasconus sa pamamagitan ng pagpaparada sa lansangan ng imahe ng Santa at ng dambuhalang dragon. Ang mga larawan sa ibaba ay hango sa mga lumang postcards mula sa Pransya na naglalarawan ng kahintulad na prusisyon sa Pateros. May kaugnayan kaya ang ating pagdiriwang sa tradisyong ng bayan ni Santa Marta?
Ang masayang paggunita sa pagkakapaslang sa halimaw ng Tarasconus, na ngayon ay kilala na bilang bayan ng Tarascon sa lalawigan ng Provence sa Pransya, ay tanyag sa buong Europa. Tuwing huling araw ng Lingo ng Hunyo, ang mga mamamayan ng Tarascon ay nagsusuot ng makukulay na tradisyonal na kasuotan at ipinaparada ang isang dambuhalang manyika ng halimaw ng Ilog Rhone na kung tawagin nila ay "Tarasque". Ang Tarasque ay animo'y isinasayaw ng mga kalalakihan, na tinaguriang mga "Chevaliers" o "Tarascaires", dahil hinihila nila ito ng pakaliwa't pakanan sa saliw ng musiko ng isang banda habang sumasayaw ang mga taong kasama sa prusisyon.

Sa lungsod naman ng Venice sa bansang Italya ay mayroon din kahintulad na pagdiriwang ni Santa Marta sa Canale della Giudecca. Ang simbahan ng Santa Marta ay nasa pangpang ng ilog, at ang kanyang kapistahan ay ipinagdiriwang sa pamamagitan ng masasayang tugtugan, awitan at sayawan sa bisperas ng kanyang kapistahan. Sa bayan ng Pontevedra, lalawigan ng Galicia sa Espana, ay ipinagdiriwang ang kapistahan ni Santa Marta sa pamamagitan ng prusisyon sa dagat.

Sa bansang Espana pa rin, may naiiba namang pagdiriwang ng kapistahan ni Santa Marta. Sa tabing-dagat na bayan ng Villajoyosa sa Valencia ay may masaya, magarbo at makulay na pagsasadula ng digmaan sa pagitan ng mga Kristiyano at mga Moro kung saan ang pagkapanalo ng mga Kristiyano ay dahil umano sa pangangalaga ni Santa Marta. Ayon sa kasaysayan ng bayan, nanalangin ang mga mamamayan kay Santa Marta nuong 1538 ng sila ay lusubin ng mga Moro. Nagkaroon ng malaking pagbaha at naanod ang mga Moro pabalik sa dagat! Mula noon ay ipinagdiriwang ng mga taga-Villajoyosa ang milagrong ito ni Santa Marta.

Kung ating susuriin, ang mga alamat at saling-kwento sa Pateros ukol kay Santa Marta ay may pagkakahawig nga sa mga sinaunang salaysay at tradisyon. Ang pagdiriwang ng kanyang kapistahan ay maihahantulad sa mga pagdiriwang sa Europa. Sa halip na Ilog ng Rhone ay ang Ilog ng Pateros ang pook ng pagtutuos ng halimaw at ng Santa, at sa halip na isang nakakatakot na dragon na kumakain ng mga tao, ang ilog ng Pateros ay mayroong malaking buwaya na kumakain ng mga pato at itik na inaalagaan sa pangpang nito. Nang ang dragon ay pinaslang ng mga taong-bayan ng Tarasconus, gumamit sila ng mga sibat. Ang buwaya ng Pateros, ayon sa mga alamat, ay pinaslang sa pamamagitan ng tabak.

Maaaring ang pagkakahawig ng mga pangyayaring ito ang dahilan kung bakit malapit sa puso ng mga taga-Pateros si Santa Marta, at kung bakit sa paglipas ng panahon ay itinugma nila sa kanilang kasaysayan ang pagsasalarawan kay Santa Marta. Maliban sa dragon, na sa imahen ng Santa Marta ng Pateros ay isang buwaya (na siya namang tamang pagsasalarawan kung pagbabatayan ang pagsusuri ng mga mananaliksik), naroroon pa rin ang mga simbulo na nagpapaalala sa kadakilaan niya - ang Krus na ginamit niya upang paniwalain sa Panginoon ang mga pagano sa Pransya at upang paamuin ang dambuhalang halimaw ng Ilog ng Rhone, ang dahon ng aspergillum na ginamit na pangbasbas ng Banal na Tubig sa halimaw, at ang sinturon na ginamit na pang-gapos sa halimaw upang ito ay tuluyan ng magapi sa pamamagitan ng sibat ng mga taong-bayan.

Tunay ngang makulay at hitik sa kasaysayan ang pista ni Santa Marta, hindi lamang pala sa Pateros, kundi saan mang sulok ng daigdig kung saan siya ay kinikilala bilang tagapangalaga. Ang mga taga-Pateros ay buong pusong niyakap ang mga kasaysayan, alamat at tradisyong may kaugnayan kay Santa Marta at isinaliw sa kanilang sariling kasaysayan at pagkatao. Nawa'y mapanatili nating buhay at masigla ang mayaman nating kultura at tradisyon, at sa pangangalaga ng ating mahal na Pintakasing si Santa Marta, ay maging maayos, mapayapa at maunlad ang bayan ng Pateros.

~~~ oOo ~~~~~~ oOo ~~~

In my younger days, I always look forward with great anticipation and excitement to the twin celebrations of the feast of St. Martha every second Sunday of February, and again on the twenty-ninth of July each year. Unlike the somber processions during Holy Week, the procession in honor of St. Martha in Pateros was joyously and exuberantly celebrated both in the streets and in the river with people dancing a native folk dance called the "Pandanggo" accompanied by lively music from brass bands.

What makes this celebration more unique is that the dimunitive image of the saint is carried on a flower-bedecked platform that was borne on the shoulders of the town's menfolk while they swayed to the rythm of the pandanggo beat of 1-2-3-step-1-2-3-4-step! Looking at the procession from afar, the saint's image appears to be graciously dancing with her devotees as they make their way through the narrow streets and alleys of the town.

Aside from the lively street dancing and the traditional throwing of foods and other goodies called the "pasubo" (offering) to the people joining the procession, what caught my attention and curiosity was the iconography of the St. Martha in Pateros. While most, if not all, saints of the Catholic realm are traditionally garbed in long robes that flow past their feet and pedestal, the robe of the town's beloved patron saint has a shorter cut. Even more interesting is what is revealed by the shorter robe - a big and nasty-looking crocodile at her feet!

This interesting variation in the iconography of St. Martha in Pateros has spawned many stories and legends. I attempted to look for early writings about these stories and legends surrounding the town's devotion and tradition relating to the saint. Unfortunately, I found none so far. What currently exist are quite recent writings by writers in Pateros who have the good intentions and foresight to write down these oral traditions before they completely disappear.

According to one oral tradition, Pateros was a previously known as "Aguho", a prosperous settlement by the bank of a tributary of the Pasig River. The Pateros River, as it was called then and now, was wide and clean, and was a center of commerce between the capital city of Manila to the west, and the settlements of Morong (now Rizal province) to the east. The river was a natural and rich source of snails and other water creatures that were the main source of food for the ducks raised by people living on the banks of the river. Thus, duck-raising became an important industry of the town. The eggs laid by these ducks were reputed to be far more better-tasting than those found anywhere else and spawned the most famous product of the town - the balut (boiled fertilized duck egg). The town and its people enjoyed a peaceful and abundant life.

The peace and prosperity of the town was shattered when a huge crocodile came to stay in the river and terrorized the ducks and the people. The crocodile had a voracious appetite and devoured the ducks to the point of endangering the livelihood of the town. The townspeople tried mightily hard to get rid of the pesky crocodile but failed each time. Desperate, they prayed earnestly to St. Martha for deliverance from the monster of the river. Their prayers were heard, and the crocodile was slain by a local hero not long after. Some variations of the story says the crocodile simply disappeared and was never seen again.

In gratitude for the miracle, the entire town celebrated the feast of the saint by dancing on the streets and even along the meandering Pateros River. They created a huge replica of the slain crocodile and had this follow the image of Saint Martha whether the procession was on the streets or on the river. So huge was this mock crocodile that people can actually stand on its back while dancing the pandanggo. The highlight of the parade is a man, presumably a balut-maker (magbabalut) who dances either on top or ahead of the mock crocodile while brandishing a local sword called an "itak" or "bolo". It was symbolic of the triumph of the people of Pateros against what seemed to be an insurmountable adversity.

This story may well be lost among the younger residents of the town like its other traditions, and can only survive when passed on through generations. Unfortunate as it may look, the rich traditions of the town's devotion to its patron saint may soon be lost and forgotten - going the way of the Pateros River which has died due to abuse and neglect of the very same people it had served and nurtured so well.

After many years, I again became interested in the story of St. Martha when I happened to attend mass at the St. Paul Church in Quezon City - in the Timog area to be precise. There I saw an image of the saint, and I was quite surprised to see that it also had a huge crocodile at its feet. Curious, I asked around about the image, but no one could provide me information on its provenance. Could it be that it was donated by someone who used to live in Pateros? No one could tell me how such an image that is so peculiar to the town of Pateros had found its way to this church in Quezon City.

A bigger surprise awaits me across the seas. When I had the chance to travel to the United States, I went to hear Mass in a church that also had an image of St. Martha. It was similar to the image I saw in Quezon City but instead of a crocodile upon her feet, the saint was standing on top of a fiery dragon. Other than this, the image was pretty much the same as those in Pateros - with one hand holding a branch with leaves and the other holding up a cross. These
variations in the iconography of St. Martha inspired me to find out if there are other places in the world where similar stories and traditions about the saint can be found.

Thanks to the Internet, I found out that the iconography of the St. Martha image of Pateros did not stray too far from the traditional representation of the saint since the medieval ages, around the 13th century, when devotion to her was at its peak. Her iconography was a direct offshoot of the legends and stories about her life and those of her siblings - Lazarus and Mary. As the Bible only mentions three events of their lives prior to Jesus ascending into heaven, most of the stories about their life after the resurrection of the Lord was culled from apocryphal writings and oral traditions.

According to the traditions of the church, St. Martha and her siblings were descended from a noble family from Judea, in Bethany and Magdalena (although the part about Mary being a Magdalene is now in question). Based on biblical accounts, it was presumed that Jesus was a frequent visitor to their household, and would have been very good friends with Lazarus, if not with all three siblings. However, after the accounts of the resurrection and ascension into heaven of the Lord, the Bible is silent on what came to be of the siblings.

The early church did not have written records and relied on oral accounts of what happened to the disciples of Jesus after he ascended to heaven. Tarascon in the province of Provence in France holds on to the tradition that the mortal remains of the saint is in the Collegiate Church of St. Martha in this town. According to local history, St. Martha arrived on this tiny settlement by the Rhone River on 49AD.

The earliest writings supporting this tradition were from the 9th century by Archbishop Raban Maur of Mayence, who wrote that he had knowledge of the life of the saint and those of Mary and Lazarus. In 1275, the life story of St. Martha was included in the book "The Golden Legends - Lives of the Saints" written by Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine of Genoa. Up until that time, all accounts of their lives and missionary exploits remained mainly as oral traditions passed on from one generation to the next.

One should remember that the friendship with Jesus that the siblings enjoyed was evident when He came to their house for a feast. In that gathering, Martha was the gracious host who toiled in the kitchen and who made sure everything is in order, while Mary sat by Jesus' feet and listened to His teachings. When their brother Lazarus died, she sent for the Lord and sorrowfully complained that had He came earlier, her brother would not have died. Post-haste, the Lord called on to Lazarus from the grave, and he came out of it alive. Such is their friendship that she is totally at ease complaining to the Lord!

On the other hand, according to the Golden Legends, when the Lord ascended to heaven the disciples dispersed to evangelize the people. Because of this they were persecuted by non-believers. The 3 holy siblings, together with some other followers of the Lord, were captured and put in a rudderless boat that was set afloat into the stormy sea. But with God's grace, the boat landed in Marseilles in what is now France. From there they proceeded to Aquense, where many people were amazed by the eloquence of St. Martha in preaching Christianity. Many turned their back on their pagan gods and embraced Christianity and became believers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was in the year 49AD that St. Martha came to pass by the small settlement of Nerluc near the river Rhone, between the towns of Arles and Avignon. The river was rich in resources but the townspeople could not get near it because a huge dragon came to live in there. The dragon, which they call the Tarasque, was believed to be actually a huge crocodile, but was represented as a dragon in legends and myths as was the custom in the medieval ages. The much-feared Tarasque killed and devoured people who strayed into the river or the woods around it. Desperate, the people of Nerluc implored the saint to deliver them from this pestilence.

With courage and faith in the Lord, St. Martha went into the woods and unto the river Rhone, and there she beheld the Tarasque about to devour a hapless man. She started singing hymns and prayers to the Lord, and brandished the cross she was carrying in front of the dragon. Thereafter, the dragon became meek as a lamb and knelt before St. Martha. She took the belt from her waist and put it around the dragon's neck as she led it to the town. Upon seeing the dragon, the people became filled with fear and slew the dragon with their spears and arrows. The Tarasque did not put up a fight and died peacefully in St. Martha's company. The saint preached about the Lord and the people were converted instantly. They pitied the dragon, and in remembrance they renamed their town Tarasconus. Since then, the town prospered in peace and St. Martha settled there until her death.

St. Martha became a great leader among the believers, and the faith flourished due to her tireless work. Churches, convents and monasteries sprung in the area, and upon her death, Christianity spread all over France and the whole of Europe. Many famous people travelled far and wide to visit her relics in the church built in her honor. One of the kings of France had a bust made of 25 kilos of gold made to encase her head! In memory of St. Martha's taming of the Tarasque, the people of Tarascanus instituted a feast to commemorate this great religious and historical event.

This is the one event that forever shaped the iconography of St. Martha. She is represented as either standing on top or beside a dragon, with one hand holding an aspergillum branch and a cross on the other hand. The aspergillum branch was used in olden times to sprinkle holy water, while the cross was what she used to tame the dragon. Other representations of St. Martha also include the belt that she used to lead the dragon into the town and the vessel for the holy water.

Most fairly recent iconography of the saint no longer includes the belt and the vessel for the Holy Water. In some images, like those used in Pateros (see image at the top of this article), the belt had evolved into a decorative sash that is slung across the chest from the waist up to the shoulder area. But no matter how her iconography had evolved, the basic elements of the cross and the aspergillum branch remains.

From the earliest days until now, devotion to St. Martha among the people of Provence, especially in the Arles and Tarascon region, have remained strong and vibrant. As in ancient times, the feast of St. Martha in the town of Tarasconus (now known as Tarascon) is celebrated by parading a mock Tarasque around the streets of the town. These early postcards show the people of Tarascon parading the image of the saint around town with the mock Tarasque in tow. The similarities in the celebrations of Pateros and Tarascon raises the possibility that there could be a link between these two towns separated by seas and

The joyous commemoration of the defeat of the dragon of Tarasconus in the city of Tarascon in Provence, France is quite a renowned festival in Europe. Celebrated on the last weekend of June, the residents dress up in medieval costumes and accompany a huge mock up of the Tarasque in a parade around the city. Selected menfolk, designated as "Chevaliers" or "Tarascaires", accompany the dragon as it is swayed from right to left in rhythmic movement along the streets, followed by dancing costumed residents.

Some other festivals in Europe honoring St. Martha appear to be all connected with bodies of water. In Venice, the people of Canale della Giudecca celebrates with singing and dancing on the eve of her feast day with festivals held at the bank of the river. In the city of Pontevedra in Galicia, Spain, they celebrate the feast of St. Martha with a fluvial procession.

Still in Spain, they have a unique and colorful festival in the coastal town of Villajoyosa in Valencia. During the festival, the entire city is transformed into one huge stage and all the residents become actors in a play that commemorates the victory of Christians against the invading Moors in 1538. According to local history, when the Moors invaded the city, the people implored the intercession of St. Martha. Thereafter, there was a great flood that swept away the invaders back into the sea. Since then, the people of Villajoyosa celebrated this miracle that they attribute to St. Martha with a colorful re-enactment of the battle between Christians and Moors.

Based on these accounts, and I'm sure there are many more similar celebrations around the Christian world that honor this great saint, it can be said that the local lore and celebrations in honor of St. Martha in Pateros is very similar to these ancient legends and traditions, albeit already imbued with local color. Instead of the Rhone River in the little town of Tarascon, we have the Pateros River in our little town. Instead of a mighty dragon devouring people, our local lore has a huge crocodile terrorizing the town and eating its prized ducks. When the dragon was slain by the people of Tarascon, they used spears and arrows. In Pateros, the crocodile was slain using the native sword called "tabak" or "bolo". No matter the context by which the story was told, it follows the same basic story line.

It is maybe because of these similarities that have endeared St. Martha to the people of Pateros, and why as this devotion grew over the years they claimed her as their own and her iconography evolved to incorporate the components of the local legends. Aside from the dragon, which in the image of St. Martha in Pateros is depicted as a huge crocodile (which historians believe is actually the more correct representation as dragons remain to be regarded as only mythological), the local image retains all the traditional representations - the cross that was used to tame the dragon and to convert the people to Christianity, the aspergillum branch used to sprinkle holy water in subduing the dragon, and the belt that was used to bind it when it was led into the town to be eventually slain by the townspeople.

The festivals honoring this great and ancient saint are truly colorful, unique and remarkable, not only in our little town of Pateros, but in many other parts of the world where she is venerated. The people of Pateros whole-heartedly embraced the stories, legends and traditions associated with her and fused them with their own traditions and legends - which to this day we try to hold on to and nurture for future generations. May we always strive to keep the rich culture and traditions that bind us a people alive in our town and everywhere else where Pateros folks have come to settle, and through the protection of our Beloved Patron Saint Martha of Bethany, may our town be always prosperous and peaceful at it should be.

~~~ oOo ~~~