Tuesday, July 10, 2007

DESAPARECIDO: (The Disappeared)

Sigurado ako na kung nandito ka, tutulong ka para sa pamilya ni Tito Jonas. Kung mas malapit ka lang, masasagot mo ang mga tanong ko at masasabi mo sa akin kung ano ang pwede kong gawin para kahit papano ay makatulong. [I am sure that if you are here, you will help find Jonas. If you are just here, you will be able to answer my questions and you will tell me what I can possibly do to help them.]
—Letter from Demi Patricia Pascua, 16

(Manila, Philippines to Asheville, North Carolina, 27 June 07)

Desaparecido. The Disappeared.
These days, desaparecido is more geared at what non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch refer to as “forced disappearances.”
A forced disappearance occurs when an organization forces a person to vanish from public view, either by murder or by simple sequestration. The victim is first kidnapped, then illegally detained in concentration camps, often tortured, and finally executed and their corpse hidden.
The term desaparecidos specifically refers to South America’s so-called “Dirty War,” particularly in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, which cooperated together, along with other dictatorships, in Operation Condor. (Operation Condor was a campaign of state terrorism and intelligence operations implemented in 1975 by right-wing dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in South America from the 1950s to 1980s, heavily relying on numerous assassinations. This systematic state terrorism aimed both to deter democratic and left-wing influence and ideas disseminated in the region and to control active or potential opposition movements against these governments.)
According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which entered into force on July 1, 2002, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, “forced disappearances” qualify as a crime against humanity, which thus cannot be subject to statute of limitation. (A statute of limitations is a statute in a common law legal system that sets forth the maximum period of time, after certain events, that legal proceedings based on those events may be initiated. In civil law systems, similar provisions are usually part of the civil code or criminal code and are often known collectively as “periods of prescription” or “prescriptive periods.”)
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec 20, 2006, also states that the widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearances constitutes a crime against humanity. Crucially, it gives victims’ families the right to seek reparations and to demand the truth about the disappearance of their loved ones.

DESAPARECIDOS are a common “reality” in the Philippines, the country of my birth, during the height of the dreaded (Ferdinand and Imelda) Marcos dictatorship in the late-70s up to mid-80s. This swath of terror remained unmitigated and unabated in the 90s—despite the end of Martial Law—continuing to the globally-celebrated “people power” government of Corazon Aquino and later, in the midst of the administrations of Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, two former close-in allies of the Marcoses.
Up to this date, cases of desaparecidos still hound the Filipino people like bloodied nightmares that refuse to cease or subside.
Hence, the history of the desaparecidos remains a huge blot on the Philippine government’s human rights record. More than 1,600 Filipinos were abducted or disappeared under mysterious circumstances since the Marcos regime, according to a human-rights group that keeps count. Almost always, fingers pointed at the military, which has not kept secret its dislike of left-leaning organizations and individuals.

JONAS JOSEPH “JJ” Burgos, a son of late Filipino press icon Jose “Joe” Burgos, has been missing for almost three months now. JJ is now declared as a desaparecido (the disappeared). Joe was my first-ever editor and most staunch, lionhearted “people’s journalism” guru.
JJ was barely on his late-teens when I last left Manila in the summer of 1998. He was just a kid when me and his Dad’s ragtag staff of cocky, hotshot recruits ran possum with the military regime’s monstrous shadows – dismissing death threats as “chicken shit,” hauling off typewriters and IBM composers onto hidden, pitch-dark lairs as our loved ones prayed nonstop for God’s guiding, protective hand... wading through flashfloods, playing hide-and-seek with some high that kicks up from utter danger, “running between typhoon rains and wind.” That was the apex of my life’s subversive romanticism.
I survived those years—when a number of Joe’s “ragtag staff of cocky, hotshot recruits” didn’t make it at all. Some fled to China or to an East Bloc country to pursue Maoist or Marxist ideals, some escaped to the US and lived as self-exiles...
Some became desaparecidos.

MEANTIME, when Joe opted to retire in a small farmland that he purchased for his wife Editha, a daughter and two sons in the late-80s – we, his small minion of idealistic but fatalistic “alternative media” warriors, continued to fight the protracted war for “truth and justice.”
Apart from my other “rock journeys and sublime madnesses,” I published two biweekly newspapers and then formed the first incarnation to what is now called Traveling Bonfires, towards the end of the eighties. JJ’s older brother, Jose Luis (JL), used to play session bass for my band, Duane’s Poetry, which was the centerpiece of The Bonfires’ road performances. In the mid-90s, I hooked up with Alfredo Roces Guerrero, nephew of Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Joe’s main benefactor and most avid supporter, and edited/co-published seven “pulp” magazines. (The Spanish-Filipino Roces-Guerreros own the biggest and largest mass-market publishing empire in the Philippine Islands, perhaps the only traditionally-rich clan back home that didn’t accede to Ferdinand and Imelda’s fantastic whims and bizarre dictates.)
I chose to stay for few more years in Manila, and started work on a film that would chronicle a turbulent summer in the northern provinces—specifically in a tiny village called Marag Valley where three staffers of a multisectoral fact-finding mission to investigate military atrocities in the region were reported missing (later found dead). I wasn’t able to finish the movie (but I handed over pertinent footages and a boxful of interview cassette tapes to another journalist-filmmaker buddy who later finished the documentary film). Meanwhile, a near-fatal lung ailment demobilized me and had me airlifted to Manila.
But that wasn’t the deepest reason why I decided to “slow down.” My growing disillusionment and disenchantment with what I believed were “liberators of the people,” exacerbated by economic woes that continued to befell the country, finally made me declare, “I gotta take a break.”
I left Manila for New York City on my 38th birthday, almost eight years ago this month. That was the time when the once-vaunted Southeast Asian Tigers were declawed by Western World’s unswerving intervention (otherwise known as “The John Soros Hook” AKA “speculative investments”)—while China’s formidable open-door policy, all in all, rendered the region’s economic life a virtual wasteland. My seven “pulp” magazines, including a prototype of what I later called as The Indie, were all sideswept by that paralyzing economic crunch.
So I set out to an open-ended journey... Weary and tired, frustrated and disillusioned. I knew right there that I was looking for peace. A very personal peace—a quiet within.

JJ IS AN agriculturist who has lived quietly and simply all his life. He is a member of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (AMP, Alliance of Farmers of the Philippines) and was active in its farm training program. AMP is an affiliate of the more militant, Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP). When I was in my late-20s, I edited KMP’s organizational newsletter and news dispatch in between my work as desk editor for a national newspaper, and worked as farmers community organizer in Central Luzon’s (main island) farming villages.
JJ was kidnapped April 28 with two companions at a restaurant on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City (a suburb of Manila). Witnesses said they were dragged into a Toyota Revo outside the restaurant. They furnished the police the vehicle’s plate number. Many believed that the abduction was perpetrated by the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has denied any involvement in the disappearance of JJ Burgos. The license plate of the Toyota Revo used in the kidnapping, however, was traced to another vehicle that was impounded in the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion in Norzagaray, a town of Bulacan. The army said the TAB 194 plate was stolen by “trouble-makers” living near the camp.

MYSTERIOUS disappearances of usually individuals with direct or indirect involvement or interaction with activist organizations, or simply “mass-based” sectors (ie farmers, fisherfolk, labor, urban poor, militant students), were “ordinary” occurrences in the Philippines when I was in my 20s/30s. Once a colleague is reported or deemed “missing,” we—more or less—were certain that he/she’s going to surface as a lifeless, decomposing lump of flesh by the riverside or dumpsite later.
I revisited all these gruesome tales and stories of decades-long “summary executions” and “desaparecido” kasama (comrades) in my working-novel, “Waiting for Winter,” and in my piano/violin sonata, “Awit kay Clarita” (Song for Clarita), which was interpreted through a 15-minute dance in a social realist “Art of Resistance” exhibition in SoHo (Manhattan) in the fall of 2000. I also tackled the same subject in a tribal musical, “Dara” (Ilocano/Igorot tribal word for “blood”) that I wrote in 1991 while I was in India, and in an unproduced screenplay, “Dundungoen Canto” (“I’ll Watch Over You”).
Desaparecidos occupy a bloodied room in my heart. I can almost see my own (dear departed) Mother’s agonized face in JJ’s Mother’s grieving, waiting...

THE PHILIPPINES is an eternally impoverished country – with 15 million of its huge population (or 1.5 percent of the people) living on a $1 a day subsistence... There is no visible sign of light across this dark, cold tunnel.
Oceans away and almost ten years ago, the cadaverous stench and torture-chamber cold of memories of the many years of struggle against military oppression still rouse me from sleep. Just like before—when I treaded ricefield foottrails with landless farmers and sailed improvised bancas with small fisherfolk in the barrios, when I scoured citystreets for “people’s news” and then marched “kapit-bisig” (arms clutched together) with the masa (common people) afront soldiers and cops with their firearms drawn—I still feel the surge of blood running up and down my spine, onto my heart and spirit. Day in, day out – no warmth and comfort of America can ever heal the wound. I can feel a moment’s joy but healing will always be my life’s journey.
I survived those years. I “physically” survived those years. But I can never survive the memories—especially that they keep on coming back.
JJ may still be alive... or maybe he has already joined his Dad somewhere in another world. At this moment, his family and friends are grieving. There is no way to make them happy. They want JJ back...
Last week, my youngest brother Alvaro left Manila for Macau to work so that he could somehow help give his sickly wife, and young son and daughter a decent future. His family sent him away with tears but with hope.
These are my people.
Last month, just like many summer Saturdays of the “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” in the last four years, I saw families – younger mothers and fathers danced with their kids, families enjoying a moment of peace and love – families who may not have the same pain and misery as my people thousands of miles away... But just the same, I feel the quiet joy inside me. My day mattered, my life is worth it. I feel like I never left “home” whenever I see these people dancing out there. I am “home” in my little space in my little park.
Again, the rain threatened to fall and stop the joy on that last Saturday’s “Bonfires for Peace”—just like many times in the last four summers. But again, it didn’t rain. It will never rain... because moments like these keep hearts close together and spirits communicating. In case it rains, we will all dance under God’s blessings – life is here, life is a gift.
My “bonfires” have traveled far from the countrysides of the Philippines to the mountains of North Carolina. But they never failed to lighten things up and gather people together. Even for a moment’s time. It will always be that way.
To JJ Burgos, wherever you are – be brave, keep faith. “Home” is wherever you are. Spirits fly, fires burn, life carries on.

RAMBLE ON: Flint to Cary, crashing computers, missing e-poems, good ole’ linotypes and Underwood, full-moon fevers... oh my, I am so depressed!

WHERE'S CARY, North Carolina?” my Bay Area homey Beaver The Fever rang me up at 2:17am on a bright full moon June aftermidnight. “How far is Cary from Asheville? You gotta tell me, man. I am freakin’ out!” I’m quite sure Ms Padgett Lee Feaver III (her real name) was fine, I’ve known this li’l pesky critter – a good friend I call, “a turbo-boosted chipmunk on perpetual imaginary acid trip,” since age 17 not to know better of her irksome nocturnal buggings. “What’s up with Cary? Why would you want to go to Cary?”
“Because I can’t go to Irvine CA or Amherst NY! That’s why!”
Hmmm. “Why not Asheville? I live in Asheville. Don’t you miss me?”
“Nah! Asheville is some contradictory, oblique, crisscrossing juxtaposition of maddeningly bottled inertia! I’ve got enough of your Asheville! I got enough of you, rock star!” (Ah! What arrogance! Didn’t I just say Beaver The Fever is some turbo-boosted chipmunk on perpetual imaginary acid trip? So I forgive her for the acerbic sarcasm. No problemo.)
Uhh. “What do you mean? You prefer Cary over Asheville?”
“What do I mean? Cary is all I want and need right now. Asheville is just like you or my ex, who adores you like you’re a demented alter-ego of Holden Caulfield, or some fantasized nutcase-dreamer. Besides, I am done with all these best-of WNC bugaboo. Damned PR! I just want to get to Cary.”
Oh, man... Do I deserve this wayward missile right now? But what are friends for anyway, right? I just have to understand Ms Feaver III. Just like all of us chronically New World-harassed earthlings, Beaver The Fever wants PEACE. For her, peace is the absence of war—aka violence. “Violence” also translates to an emotionally/mentally-tortured marriage. (THAT is WAR for her, and I can’t blame the poor soul...)
Right now, Padgett lives and works in Flint, Michigan. Yes, Flint – Flint of Michael Moore’s “madness,” beside Bob Seger’s sprawling Metamora ranch – the town that currently ranks as the US’s “most violent” or dangerous city. According to the most recent FBI data, Flint owns 26.0 violent crime per 1,000 people – compared with Cary’s 1.2. (Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.) Irvine, CA (0.7) and Amherst, NY (1.1) are the two top “least violent cities” in North America.
For some reason, Beaver opted for Cary. I don’t know—maybe Cary means Cary Grant, her everlasting-muse. Bottomline is, she is, as she calls it, “On the verge of doing a Thelma & Louise kamikaze move” right now. Tough, isn’t it? I gotta help her.

I HAVE always considered myself a devout non-believer of Prozac Nation – depression, melancholia, writer’s block, or the “a-lot-of-things-are-goin’-on-in-my-life-right-now” stigma. But then, in the past few weeks, it’s like I’ve been hit by a some kind of gung-ho Scud myself, leaving me sleepless, irksome, difficult, and aloof. Oh yes, there are graspable physical reasons that usher these unmitigated blues and funk (although, many times, I refuse to accept these “excuses” ... “not my culture, not my gig!)
My two work-computers conked out on me twice in three weeks – thereby deleting most of my Indie and Bonfires files, “lovable hate mails,” poetry drafts, three unsaved chapters of my novel-in-process etc etc. My computers have always been objects of magnificent jealousy and insecurity of my past girlfriends – but at this juncture, when my “ancient” PCs gave up, it’s like I lost it all.
Lessons of life, you know—come so bitter and painful, most of the time. The words of my last GF, Lacy Miss Molly, before she dumped me were, “You will realize, one day, that you need me a million times more than your Dell or your iMac!” (Well, I didn’t have an iMac, actually.. but then, she dumped me, just the same, saying Hendrix, her redhead Pekingese Poodle, is 300 times more sensible and sensitive than I really am!)
Anyway, I’m probably “depressed” that I lost most of my files – and here, I am, frantically emailing/calling friends and past GFs (yup, including Beaver The Fever and Lacy Miss Molly) in case they somehow kept some of my work, you know. (Lacy: “Hendrix devoured all your printed poems, m’dear! Poor kid, I mean—Hendrix. He had indigestion all night!”)
Ah, whatever. When computers give up, it’s gone—kaput, vanished, disappeared! But then, I believe in the inherent goodness of the human heart – no matter how people hate each other, there will always be a way to retrieve some shared “gifts” like a cool love poem or a “classic” fiction-on-the-works, right? Well, I never trashed my ex’es’ mementoes and memorabilias– I actually keep them, secure them, in five Office Depot boxes on my basement. (Although Marta The Nicer almost mistook them as “throwable treasures” that we sell in our weekend yard sale fundraisers.)
“Yes, I know you hate me until now, and I sort of remind you of your ex whatever his name is... but did I somehow cc’ed you a long poem that I wrote when I was in Lyons... I think when I was living in Great Neck, Long Island... no, I think when I was in a train to Brussels or Antwerp—remember that one?”
Beaver groaned, “Ah! You never changed! Men don’t change! You don’t even remember where the hell you wrote the silly poem, do you remember who you’re with at that time, or to whom you wrote the freakin’ poem for?”
“That’s why I am asking you! Because I lost the poem or poems...”
“Then, go and fix your freakin’ computer?! I am asking about Cary, North Carolina—and here you are, whinin’ about some poetry!” Then she hung up the phone. Just like before, just like the bad ole days—they just hung up on me... Sometimes I don’t understand women. They call at 2:17am without a warning, bug you out of your deadlines, demand undistracted attention. And then, they hung up. Click!
So here I am still “depressed.” In the past few weeks, I think I’ve only been sleeping for three hours at a time. But then I found out, I am not alone on this wonderful predicament. The Wall Street Journal reported that only 26 percent of adult Americans get eight hours of sleep a night these days, down from 38 percent in 2001.
What’s going on? What’s up with all these funk and blues? PCs that conk out paralyze an entire month of media mobility, cellphone “drop calls” are equal to massive breakdown of communication, missed appointment with the shrink earns you another six months of Zoloft prescription.
Depression... My Key West buddy, Merwin The Merlin, refers to this annoying malady as “a necessary readjustment of Mercury retrograde” due to realignment of Pluto’s pizza delivery on the next curb to Jupiter, or something to that effect. Some full moon fever, you know?
Check this one out – police in Brighton, England, recently announced plans to deploy more beat officers on nights with a full moon. “From my experience,” said Inspector Andy Parr, on full-moon nights “we do seem to get people with, sort of, stranger behavior—more fractious, argumentative.” I recall how I yelled and cussed at this pair of mischievous squirrels jumping up and down my front yard trees – it was a full moon, ha! I actually thought that these annoying pests were the ones responsible for my Charter wireless or Belkin router’s failing signals that midnight. (Are these squirrels working for Homeland Security?)
Come to think of it, do we deserve such stupid stress levels? I believed I was doing something relevant and urgent that evening. I was blogging bigtime, and then—wham! All my 1-million KB worth of spam email messages and blog updates went pfft! What’s going on?
Now you tell me—why there is no large-scale, organized opposition to the war? There are several reasons. But the biggest factor, according to Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune, may be the Web, or overdependence to the Internet. Instead of gathering in smoky coffeehouses or in massive rallies on the street, today’s activists fire off mass e-mails or update their blogs. Blogs may reach a lot of people, but they siphon away energy and indignation into angry words, instead of action visible to all. It’s “counterintuitive,” but the vastly improved communication networks of the modern age “may actually be taking a bit of oomph out of political activism.”
Glorious madmen like George Orwell, Alvin Toffler, and Kurt Vonnegut already sent out precautionary warnings before, but we are not listening. I am guilty, as well. There was a time when I actually believed Judas’ exhortations in Jesus Christ Superstar – “Everytime I look at you I don’t understand / Why you let the things you did get so out of hand / You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned / Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? / If you’d come today you would have reached a whole nation / Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.” No. That doesn’t work at all.
Do I have to tell you how 32 (11x17 pagemaker 7.0) pages of the supposedly June 1-15 issue of The Indie – plus maybe 6K kb worth of “other writings and files” – got wasted because a mass communication device like computers crashed on me? Yeah, I can email, text-message, make a cellphone call etc to my ex-GFs and homeys with an objective to retrieve some valuable “words” that I’ve written – but, no dice! (Hendrix, Beaver the Fever’s redhead Pekingese Poodle even ate some of my Neruda-like “poemas.” Lord, have mercy!)
I remember those days of yore—during the early years of my little journalism career, back home in Manila. When my scoop news stories, proletarian verses and Brechtian street plays were neatly typed on Underwood typewriters and pressed-printed on linotypes, stacked up on sturdy molds (then later on IBM Roadrunner composers racked up on galleys). My songs? We simply sang them in front of starry-eyed villagefolk – and voila! They memorize the songs! They even reminded me of missed verses whenever I sang them during barrio fiestas. Cool, isn’t it?
Now, it’s so easy to get depressed. I did not save my volumes and volumes of work on zip disc, CDs, or external what... drives? I did! But when I went to Best Buy to retrieve the poor, pitiful manuscripts, some Borat-looking dude on pink goggles informed me that my iOmega zip disc wasn’t compatible with their machines! Oh, man...

DEPRESSED, DEPRESSED. One morning, as I nervously sifted through my bills, I noticed that I was actually paying recycling fees for many years now. And with those fees, I could have bought myself a cool new MacIntosh or maybe I could have eaten raw chilled oysters at Magnolia’s every Sunday of the week for the last seven years. (I don’t get depressed when I eat oysters, you know...)
Now hear this. A total of 1,643 pounds of trash was generated per person in the US in 2005. (No data yet for 2006.) Some 32 percent of this waste was recycled, a rate that has doubled in the past 15 years. The estimated annual revenue of the US recycling industry is $236 billion.
And how much did the superich G-8 countries pledge to deliver to Africa to fight AIDS, malaria and TB? A “measly” $60 billion. Now, that is something to be stressed or depressed about, right? I am lawfully paying the city government “recycling fees” — whether I recycle or not — and then they keep the money, and they don’t even share a decent fraction to poorer people? Bad!
Not good. That is why we poor humanity is so stressed out these days. But although I am apparently upset and desperate, I am not suicidal. And, Beaver The Fever – after a really nasty divorce – isn’t being suicidal, as well. (“Thelma and Louise kamikaze move” means she’s gonna find herself a Brad Pitt cowboy in Cary NC.)
You see, suicide is so uncool! As for me, I just invoke what my “other-Muse” Cher retorted to Nicolas Cage in “Moonstruck”: “SNAP OUT OF IT!” Yeah, I just take a deep breath, heat some ramen noodles, chow `em, watch “King of the Hill,” and think positive. That’ll work. (Do you know that for every 100,000 Chinese citizens, an average of 23 commit suicide each year? The Chinese number is 50 percent higher than the global average.)
SNAP OUT OF IT! That’s what I’m gonna do with my chronic, pesky little funk and blues these days. But I’m not gonna pop in some multicolored pill or go find a shrink or some Lily Tomlin-lookin’ madam with a Dollar Tree notepad to “heal” me. I’d rather buy either Terri The Terra or Marta The Nicer a slice of Mellow Mushroom mozzarella or mug of Westville Pub PBR – and listen to what they gotta say. That works better. Listen to those who love you, and then things will be just fine. No shrinks for me.
We in the super-affluent First World might blame the fact that there’s only 1.3 psychiatrist/s per 100,000 people in China—so the staggering number of suicides? In the US, it’s 14 per 100,000. (Iceland has the highest ratio, with 25... duh, hello? Live in a world of ice day in and day out, do you expect to be jolly?) Do we really believe that shrinks could un-depress the vaunted Chinese production line? Nah.
The scandalously massive Chinese workforce just have to take some time and chill, y’know—after hours and hours of factory work. These guys invented the CD, you know that? Before the Western Merchant called it “compact disc,” it was called “Chinese Disco.” CD. It’s because during those bygone years, the Chinese have real, cool, unadulterated fun—that they invented discotheque. (Do you know that before the Bee Gees made millions with “Saturday Night Fever,” Barry Gibb went on a secret trip to Beijing to study how to effectively sing “Stayin’ Alive” and “You Should Be Dancing”?)
The Chinese are depressed because they are also bored. Look, they mass-produce all kinds of stuff – push-up bra, birdfeeders, Pablo Picasso paintings, Rolex watches, coffee mugs, vibrators and dildos, DVDs, mug-wheels, all kinds of Cup-a-Noodles, boxer shorts etc etc. You name, they got it—ready to go. They might even mass-produce irksome imps like me, in case there is a market for such merciless pests, you know what I’m saying?
Crazy, crazy world! Indeed!
Oh, man... I am just depressed. So depressed.

Sex is beautiful, sex is a gift, sex is good

Talk about stuff. Import liberalization, objectivist epistemology, cultural imperialism – faulty heating, broken windshields, missing buttons— Daisuke Matsuzaka, Sanjaya Malakar, Don Imus. Talk about stuff—there’s always a lot of stuff to talk about. It’s all stuff, nothing big deal. Life, you know... We just have to talk, speak our minds out.
Talk about sex. Cool stuff to talk about, right?
Sex is a subject that is unfailing as Buffalo NY’s blizzard, unmistakable as krispy kreme cholesterol, and undeniable as sin. Sex is something that we can’t argue, rationalize, intellectualize, idealize, trivialize—although we all try to. We all go back from where we started from. Nobody says, “No, I don’t do sex...” and feel proud of it. Or, “I don’t like sex, it sucks!” Why would you say such a thing?
Sex is beautiful, sex is a gift, sex is good. So let’s talk about it.
I don’t, however, intend to question or validate or debate the where and wherefore of sex. Whether we live up in a West Central Park penthouse or in a trailer park in Murphy, NC – whether we consume precious time musing over capital management at a Wall Street board room or laze around at the backwoods of Bristol, Tennessee, impersonating William Shatner... sex is something that we all share equal right to, equal passion to, equal ruin to. Nobody says “corporate sex” is different from “proletariat sex,” or “sex at The Hamptons” is better than “sex at a Camden, NJ `hood,” or “sex in Amsterdam” is a lot better than “sex in Bangkok.”
Sex is some subject that can be nonsensical and preposterous, frivolous and significant – yet it’s some subject that we can’t refuse or ignore.

ACCORDING to a recent study by the National Survey of Family Growth, men aged 30 to 44 have had a median of six to eight sexual partners in their lifetimes; the women’s median was about four. Surveyed were 12,571 men and women aged 15 to 44, as contracted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
That’s nothing to crow about, I reckon. My friend, simply called Rainbow—who used to be Christine Green, Brown, Black, White, Jones, Smith and Robinson—was married and divorced seven times. I mean, she’s talking about marriages-that-failed – not just sexual partners. “You’re asking me how many men I slept with?” her heavily-shaded pair of virulent eyes speared at me. “You are silly! I am 42 years old, Christsakes!” What my good friend was trying to say, I guess, was that—in case, she married all the men that she slept with since age 15, she must’ve had 517.5 divorces by now.
Nothing to crow about. Sex is part of life and living – whether you are single, divorced, or whatever. And it is also beautiful—sex is a gift, sex is good.
Few weeks ago, I chanced upon this news from Fox TV. Two pairs of high school students engaged in sex during class hours while their teachers were in a meeting. Their classmates stood as lookouts. For these “kids,” sex is good albeit “forbidden.” But high schoolers can also have sex (if they can’t help it), as long as they do it beyond school premises. Besides that, the school system provides for steady supply of condoms.
My friend Rita K barred her 14-year-old daughter, Kristi The Krispi, from venturing downtown because “it’s dangerous there, shady guys and all.” But she generously allowed her “baby’s” 15-year-old boyfriend stay over at night, anytime... “What are you having in there?” she questions them. “No beers, no weed, OK? I don’t allow you kids to even think about them. You are both minors!”
Kristi responds, “We are just having sex, Mom!” Mom was so relieved, “Oh, okay, don’t forget the condom... otherwise just do oral sex.”
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) 2005 findings indicated that oral sex is very much part of the teenage sexual repertoire. According to the survey, more than half of all teenagers aged 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex - including nearly a quarter of those who have never had intercourse.
Whatever the case, although most “teen-aged” youths don’t consider oral sex as “sex really,” sex (“really” or “not really”) is still good, sex is something that need not be argued or debated. Sex is beautiful.
Meantime, the religious has also “mellowed down” in regards its revered outlook on sexual intimacy. Well, at least for a 41-year-old Florida pastor, Matt Keller, who’s most prominent preaching subject is sex. “Sex is beautiful, my brethren, go and have sex tonight... over and over again! Jesus wants us to have plenty of sex!” Membership to Keller’s flock has grown 30 percent since he started sermonizing on the carnal topic. A website, www.mycrappysexlife.com, serves the purpose.
Nothing to crow about, I guess.

SEXUAL adventurism or sexual ambivalence (I’m at a loss for words here) is also very much a part of the current humanity. Active sexuality among homosexuals and bisexuals—especially between females—has also been an important facet of the same NCHS research. Fourteen percent of women aged 18 to 29 reported at least one sexual experience with another woman, more than twice the proportion of young men who reported having had sex with another man.
Almost 3 percent of men between 15 and 44 and 4 percent of women reported having a sexual experience with a member of the same sex within the past year, and over their lifetimes, 6 percent of men and 11 percent of women reported having such experiences. About 1 percent of men and 3 percent of women said they had had both male and female sexual partners within 12 months.
Nearly 6 percent of all men between 15 and 44 reported having oral sex with another man at some time in their lives, and nearly 4 percent reported having anal sex with another man.
Again, whatever the case, sex is good. Sex is beautiful. Oral sex, anal sex, gay sex, straight sex, whatever sex.
Needless to say, sex is amply marketed in America—a lot more passionately and enthusiastically pitched than political happenings or health concerns.
Popular Hollywood movies like “American Pie” plus a slew of low-grade teen-age films, and multi-awarded TV fares like “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex in the City” articulate the “importance” of sex in human bonding and day-to-day living. Sex isn’t just fun—sex is needed. Magazines and publications from Christian-lifestyles to fashion subjects to sports world to music/recording industry to health readings – dovetail marketing trends and variables on sex.
More sex between spouses mean a deeply spiritually-committed marriage; flimsy, strawberry-scented lingerie lures the hubby off Sunday football in favor of more sex; trimmer abs and bustier bosoms mean stronger sexual charm... Fergie’s cleavage and Christina Aguilera’s nude shots sell more Rolling Stone Magazine ad space, and Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition tops ‘em all... Paris Hilton, J-Lo, The Bachelor, “Who is the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.” It’s all linked to sex, sexuality, sexual intrigue, sexual fascination.
Nothing to crow about. Indeed, sex sells!—especially in the Western world.

A UNIVERSITY of Chicago research, conducted last year, revealed that couples in Western countries are the most sexually satisfied, while countries in the East appear to be less satisfied. Only 49 percent of “foreign” men and 32 percent of women indicated that sex was extremely or very important to their overall life. Most of these are Asians.
Moreover, Asian countries all reported low levels of sexual satisfaction and moderate to low levels of satisfaction with their relationships and the importance of sex. Israeli women placed the highest value on the importance of sex — the lowest score came from women in Taiwan. Among men, Brazil scored the highest and Thailand the lowest. Overall, people in Austria are most satisfied with their sex lives, and Japanese are least satisfied.
However, I believe that not having a lot of sex doesn’t necessarily mean, “dissatisfaction.” The study was conducted coming from the standpoint that sex is needed, an exigency or very basic human want. That doesn’t entirely follow.
My sister Alicia’s husband of almost 15 years is an OFW or Overseas Filipino Worker. A few months following their marriage, Jose—an on-call carpenter who barely managed a high school education—flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to work as hospital janitor. Since then, my bro-in-law has worked in Dubai, Saipan, Taiwan, and United Arab Emirates – visiting home for only one and a half months each year. Alicia and Jose have four kids.
I remember, during their early years of marriage, when they were still living in the ancestral house in Manila—they would lock themselves up in their room for days, coming out only to have dinner. I don’t think they were having Novena or saying the Rosary, either.
Alicia and Jose’s case is simply an example of how impoverished cultures view sex. Food on the table, basic education, simple housing, and gut-level health/medical needs occupy significant faculties of the human brain—no much time to discourse sex. Sex is good but sex isn’t really good if there’s no fish for dinner, or sturdy roofs come typhoon season.
In poorer countries where “basic human needs” doesn’t necessarily include assured orgasm or sex-3-times a week, sexual pleasure is numbed or downplayed by economics.

IN MY PERPETUALLY clueless American journey, I always get confused with relationships, friendships, sex and love. Until now—I don’t know what is “going out with,” “seeing someone,” “hanging out with,” “dating someone,” or “sleeping with.” I still don’t have the nerve to follow what I thought was the “real thing” (am I having a relationship or just having sex?)—for fear of being bitch-slapped or sued (for sexual harassment?) or misread as “gay.” Many times, I didn’t even know if I was dumped or I just dumped a girlfriend. “Breaking up” doesn’t necessarily mean that we aren’t hooking up or hanging out anymore—to make out or f—.
I also “slept” with some women friends because they said, it’s okay. So I “SLEPT” with them in their bed... One time, I got into trouble because I responded to a question on the affirmative, whether I “slept” or not with a lady friend that I traveled with in a Greyhound, alone, for 12 hours. I said, “Yes, I slept with her.” What I meant was, we slept side-by-side by our seat, that’s all.
Until now, I remain clueless about a number of American English “double-talk.” Why do we call sex at a swimming pool or backseat of a car for 15 minutes, “sleeping with”? We don’t sleep, you know... and that, why would I be misread for saying “I slept with her” on the same seat while traveling by bus for 12 hours?

AH, AMERICA! We consume excessively... sex is all over from high school to older age that it becomes a necessity. When it becomes too much, we try so hard to snuff it out altogether, that is why it becomes such an issue.
Take this example. Harvard University seniors Sarah Kinsella and Justin Murray decided to fight back against what they see as too much mindless sex at the Ivy League school. They founded a student group called “True Love Revolution” to promote abstinence on campus. The group, created earlier this school year, has more than 90 members on its Facebook.com page and drew about half that many to an ice cream social.
Harvard treats sex — or “hooking up” — so casually that “sometimes I wonder if sex is even a remotely serious thing,” said Kinsella, who is dating Murray.
“Sometimes that voice on campus is so overwhelming that students committed to abstinence almost feel compelled to abandon their convictions,” Murray said. He acknowledged he “slipped up” and had sex earlier in college but said he has returned to abstinence with Kinsella.
Nothing to crow about. Sex is good, sex is beautiful. But why abstain—why simply engage in (or consume?) small, reasonable doses? Sex isn’t sugar, caffeine, or nicotine—or is it for most?
Anyhow, while sex is generally viewed as imperative and a necessity, certain “thinking” patterns figure a lot in people’s decisions how to treat their sexual lives, as well.
Sexual behavior includes a lot more than sex, according to Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. She argues that three primary brain systems have evolved to direct reproductive behavior. One is the sex drive that motivates people to seek partners. Second is a program for romantic attractions that makes people fixate on specific partners. Third is a mechanism for long-term attachment that induces people to stay together long enough to complete their parental duties.
Whatever the case, sex is still the end result... Sex is still a good subject to while away hours with – as I brainstorm what’d be my next heavy topic next issue. So what am I trying to say? Nothing really, I don’t intend to rant against the war or complain about my Charter phone/internet bill this time out. I just want to talk about sex, that’s all.
You have any problem with that?