Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pigs in Geneva, Not in Space



Miss Piggy was one of my favourite characters from Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Show” – oh, so many years ago.  “Pigs in Space” gags still run in my head with that echoing voice over of the title.  One particular scene has to do with a wall of their space ship that had been damaged.  Props are being sucked out to space.   Panic ensues, one thing leads to another until Miss Piggy ends up plugging the hole with her snout.  Problem solved.  You have to consider that I am recalling these scenes from a childhood memory, so the details may not be as accurate as they should be.  But I am pretty certain about that snout in the hole.

Now how did we get there?  Ah,  the pigs in Geneva!  Some weeks ago I signed up on’s campaign to try and convince the WHO (World Health Organization, not the band) to verify the link between the “Swine Flu” or H1N1 virus (are they expecting more, hence the seemingly ‘Episode 1’ title?) and an American-owned factory farm in Mexico.

Well here’s the thank you note from Avaaz, and perhaps a better explanation of the campaign.


We stopped traffic in Geneva on May 27th as we descended on the World Health Organization (WHO) with a herd of cardboard pigs to deliver our petition! The 225 cardboard pigs represented the 225,000 Avaaz members that had signed the petition. We certainly got our message across — our campaign delivery went out around the world on ABC news, EFE TV, the Wall Street Journal, France 24, Kuwait News Agency, and Intellasia – as well as many other major news outlets.

When we handed over our petition, it became apparent how important our campaigning was and how valid our concerns were. Initially, the World Health Organization’s Food Safety and Zoonoses director, Dr. Jørgen Schlundt, told us that the WHO and the FAO had not found a definitive link between the H1N1 virus and a factory farm and that the source was still under investigation. But he then admitted scientists have seen more disease breeding and mutating between animals and humans with the massive increase in industrial meat production; he agreed that certain company’s farming practices (Smithfields in this case) were dangerous; he warned that new operations propagating in developing countries could make ‘mistakes’ in food safety that could be seriously risky to human health; and most importantly he indicated that the political processes that determine the research and rules on factory farm biosafety are dominated by the industrial meat lobby. He said strong global regulations were essential, but, to date, unless there is a huge scare like BSE and people die, scientists are unable to push through the laws needed to prevent animal borne pandemics.

The message was clear – our public campaigning for investigation and regulation of factory farms is vital to ensure our food safety and counter the powerful meat industry. Our action showed the WHO that the world does not want to wait for another disaster – we want funding for scientists to investigate factory farms and we want preventive measures put in place that ensure public heath standards.


They could have made the campaign more effective and classy (har har) if they had invited the dame of pigdom, Miss Piggy.  Snort.  Snort.

Click this sexy photo and see one of her amazing performances.

Care for Some Blood in Your Coffee?

nestle has blood

“Nestlé workers in the Philippines under the United Filipino Employees-Drug Food and Allied Industries -Kilusang Mayo Uno (UFE-DFA-KMU) have been on strike since January 14, 2002 for their right to retirement benefits. To this day, Nestlé refuses to include the workers’ retirement benefits in the collective bargaining negotiation despite a Supreme Court ruling ordering them to negotiate. The strike has both directly and indirectly resulted in the deaths of 23 union members, including union president Diosdado Fortuna, who was assassinated on his way home from the picket line on September 22, 2005, his predecessor Meliton Roxas was also murdered and the current leadership continue to live in fear of their lives.”

Slideshow: Solidarity Protests Vs Nestle in Vienna, New Zealand

Posted using ShareThis


Over three years ago we got a free ceramic coffee mug for every jar of Nescafe Classic we bought from the shops.  It was a nice promotional idea, very novel and rather fancy, we thought at first.  We didn’t know how much instant coffee we were consuming at the time, but the mugs started to pile up in our cupboard.  We ended up with far too many while the promo was running that eventually we started giving them away, sometimes to thankful shop employees who probably buy the cheaper range of coffee or coffee-tasting mixture (using chicory I think).

I thought that was the end of it.  Then we flew with our kids for the first time to my family in the Philippines.  They had had the same promotion running there.  Or so we thought.  There was a big difference.  The mugs were made of plastic.

I bet no one else knew about this double standard except their ad campaign managers.   It turns out they don’t just scrimp on their promotional materials when it comes to the “third world” (how I hate that term!).

Puddles After the First Monsoon Rain

monsoon kuno

The secret breath of summer
curls from his lips, blurs
the gray, melting world
on the other side of the glass.

Early monsoon runs
lightly on tin roofs,
then swiftly retreats
to the greens of distant hills.

Doors along the narrow line
of houses burst open with children
even as banana leaves bend to drop
the last beads of rain down their palms.

He is among them, this boy
with the breath of summer.
The palpable scent of earth
roused by rain fills his lungs.

He runs in zigzags to his friends,
making sure to hit every puddle
with every leap. The louder
the splash, the better.

Mud must be spread far and wide.
The undeclared ritual
to celebrate the slightest change
of tropical seasons.


This appears in that other website I now loathe due to all the one-sided changes the admin keep making.   They also practice something that I consider stealing.  I should never have joined there, but I did find some interesting folks who have now become very good friends.


In my next life I’d like to be a swallow or a swift.  In Filipino it has a better name, I think.  Langaylangayan.  Just saying it makes me want to be one.  African skies can be the most stunning thing for such a creature.  Hence, some photos of the skies I gaze at to remind me that one day I will be swooping and gliding up there.

2009 may digital pics 006

2009 may to june digital pics low res mostly sky land etc 143

2009 may digital pics 008

2009 may digital pics 043

2009 may to june digital pics low res mostly sky land etc 007

Marne’s Poet’s Picturebook

trees weird sky

A second poem of mine got published in Marne Kilates’s literary website Poet’s Picturebook. This edition (Number 29! Congrats Marne!) has been called “The Monsoon Issue” and, as in all other editions, has a range of interesting images (mostly photographs this time around) that go with poetry about the season.

Marne did a fine job translating my poem, “Pagtanaw sa Siyudad sa Paligid ng Bundok, Siyudad na Yapos ng Dalawang Dagat, 1999.” I know, that title is quite a mouthful.

I am still browsing through his amazing website and I invite readers of matangmanok to visit Poet’s Picturebook.

Here is my poem in the original Filipino.  You will have to visit Poet’s Picturebook to read the English translation.

Pagtanaw sa Siyudad sa Paligid ng Bundok, Siyudad na Yapos ng Dalawang Dagat, 1999

Sinlamig ng bisig ng bangkay
Ang salamin nitong bintana.

Humahagupit ang ulan
At binalumbon ng abuhing

Ulap ang kabundukan.
Nilulunod ng palahaw ng hangin

Ang karaniwang ingay
Ng mga humahangos na sasakyan.

Sino ang hindi pa nakakauwi
Sa panahong ganito?

Sino ang ihahatid ng estranghero?
Sino ang gagawing tahanan ng karahasan?

Pagtanaw sa Siyudad sa Paligid ng Bundok,
Siyudad na Yapos ng Dalawang Dagat, 1999

Full Moon at Dawn

Two days ago I was rushing the kids to school when everything stopped.

It was like all recent memory of hurrying things up – getting them dressed in their uniforms, helping with their hair, sorting out lunchboxes and their breakfast, breaking fights, calming the offended, and all other matters that accompany each insane weekday of having six-year-old twins – had suddenly been swept aside.

They stood frozen in front of the little gate facing west.  Sometimes they would do that when there’s an interesting bug or a spider or some other creature (not chameleons first thing in the morning, far too early for them) clinging to the cold metal latch.  But I looked and there was nothing there.  So I got a little cross.

“What??!?”  I said.

“The moon, daddy!” they both said, then went silent once again.

And there it was.  Close to the western horizon.  Silence struck me like it had them.

We were a little late getting to school.  But it was fine.  It was worth choosing wonder and awe over a few lost minutes.

It was good we didn’t manage to take a picture of that moment.  Yesterday I was ready with the camera, but it didn’t feel the same though it was of the same moon and taken at about the same time.

That photo does not capture anything really.  The size of the moon, the layers of colours that we had seen are not here.

2009 may to june digital pics low res mostly sky land etc 139

Some things are better kept in one’s memory.

Train Ride

Remember? she kept saying Remember?
as if it were the last few
bubbles from her drowning.

But she wasn’t drowning.
Her hair was dry
and she had a smile,
not the frozen stun
of someone sinking.

She could have said the word
over and over like she was
underwater.  And this guy,
her boyfriend, I gather
by the way she lost herself,
threw her the look
of someone pushing a stranger
into the cold, dark water.

I pretended to be still
reading the old newspaper
I found in the station.
Whatever she wanted him
to remember, I’d forgotten.

The train was pulling
again and all of us
felt the jolt.


This was written in March 1995 in a smokey restaurant that used to cater to university students who didn’t care (or know any better) how bad the drinks were as long as they could drown themselves in alcohol in the middle of the day.

I am still looking for the right image to go with this piece.

This poem appears in my book Alien to Any Skin (UST Publishing House, Manila 2011).