the first mayor

Manila, 25 August—When I was growing up, the only mayor I knew was Mayor Sanchez.

Truth be told, I did not even know who Bacoor’s mayor was at the time, even when that was where we lived, nor was I aware of any other mayor, except perhaps Las Piñas Mayor Aguilar, because his name was everywhere our car went in those days.

But other than that, my concept of mayor had been defined by former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who lorded over the headlines in the mid-90s in connection with the 1993 rape-slay of University of the Philippines students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. He was convicted along with six of his men in 1995, after almost a year-and-a-half of highly publicized trials.

With no social media and no newspapers (what 9-year-old would, really?), all I knew about Mayor Sanchez was fed to me via a nightly dose of primetime television news at the dinner table and a daily serving of early morning radio commentary the morning after, on the way to school. At the time, I had no hand in choosing what goes on TV, nor had I any preference of what to listen to in the radio. In effect, I was shaped by the media habits of the adults around me—my parents and my teachers, most especially.

Life had been so simple, so black-and-white. And I know that isn’t really all true, but I am thankful that I was not forced to deal with all the moral grey areas of serious issues at 9 years old. So yes, my impressions of mayors at the time—that they were rapists, murderers, drug users and in all bad persons—may not have been 100% accurate, but at least I knew for a fact that rapists and murderers were bad persons, and that sometimes, the outwardly pious—like Sanchez, who was also depicted as a Marian devotee in the same breath as he was called a rapist and murderer—are not so pious after all.

Looking back, I realize how limited my interaction had been with the news when I was younger. I suppose it was because my parents, the busy professionals that they were at the time, also had no inclination to dwell on the news outside of the cursory round-ups on primetime TV news which we just happened to watch alongside dinner, or the radio news updates in the mornings, which we caught on the way while waiting for the weather and traffic updates in between.

How the hell I got into journalism in the first place is a mystery. The seed was certainly not planted in the home.

In any case, I’m sure that today, my uncritical consumption of news would definitely not cut it. I can only wonder at the difficult conversations they are having right now in schools about the recent news of Sanchez’s possible release in line with a recent law reducing prison terms for “good conduct”.

And I’m sure this conversation will not be merely led by teachers—it will also be likely initiated by students themselves, discussing among their peers. And what’s especially challenging is that they will not just discuss vetted information from media gatekeepers—they will discuss things they’ve seen online, even the graphic ones that are being shared over and over on Facebook.

I don’t know how to parent in the age of unmitigated information flow. When I was a kid, my parents held the TV remote, and it wasn’t even that interesting because all we had without cable was less than 10 free TV stations. Today, with unlimited Internet access, cable TV and on-demand streaming, I have no idea where to start.

Information literacy tips! Rec pls

Movie rec: Parasite (2019)


We caught a screening of Bong Joon-ho’s award-winning movie Parasite, and we loved it. Personally, I am not a fan of the horror/thriller/suspense genre, but after hearing a lot of good reviews about South Korea’s entry to the Oscars, we decided to give it a shot.

At the heart of the movie is an impoverished family that gets entangled with a super-rich family initially in need of an English tutor. After the son is employed upon the recommendation of his friend—the outgoing English tutor—the movie unfolds as they find a way to get every member of the family employed as well. The sister becomes the Art teacher for the younger son, and after plotting against the family’s existing employees, they also manage to get their father hired as the driver, and their mother as the housekeeper as well.

As with all deception, we know that none of this would go down well. The only thing that matters is how the movie will trigger the unraveling. ‘Parasite’ executes its twist extremely well, and once it starts, your heart remains in your throat throughout. I know mine did until the end.

I appreciated the movie’s storytelling and its tight metaphors. I enjoyed how it depicted its class-conflict in terms of location—the rich living in their mansions up on a hill where thunderstorms are lovely, while the poor live way, way below, in sub-basements, vulnerable to floods during such rains. I also noted how it showed micro-aggressions as subtle as scrunching up one’s nose in the presence of someone else, pointing out how different the rich and the poor smell.

The movie is a comment on the gap between the rich and the poor—the ridiculously lavish lifestyle of the former and how oblivious they are to the pains of the latter. However, I was looking for the context of the poor family’s poverty—why were they poor? I think my lack of exposure to Korean storytelling may have been a factor in my lack of knowledge re South Korean context.

In any case—if you can still catch it, please do! Trailer below, if you haven’t seen it.

Album rec: Lover by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has released much-awaited album ‘Lover’, which is now on Spotify.

Anyway, I’m loving Cornelia Street (reminds me of All Too Well) and Cruel Summer (which, as my brother pointed out, is Getaway Car 2.0).

Strongest 'Lover' track for you?

Enjoy your long weekend, xo,