Category Archives: Latin America

Mr. F. Sionil Jose, how does kissing the barrel of a gun make a country happy?

People often have a misconception about progress, about moving on, about how today and tomorrow will always be better than the already receding past. This misconception sometimes comes hand in hand when a leadership is replaced by what appears to be a far better one, one that proclaims a new order. When there is disillusionment toward the past, the future always seems brighter and brimming with hope. There is an accompanying euphoria, a deafening celebration even, as nearly everyone is overcome by a singular energy emanating from an apparently bold new power.
In the case of the recent Philippine elections, facts show that the new leader was not actually swept into power by a majority vote. A much bigger voting population did not choose him, which partly reflects a fault in the electoral system that may need tweaking. For the record, it must be recognized that Mr. Duterte’s presidency was not an outright landslide victory as is often parroted by foreign media correspondents.
Mr. F. Sionil Jose, you welcomed and bestowed such glowing praises to this new order. I cannot help but disagree with you. Allow me to say this outright: your metaphors may be simple and clear, but none of them can ever bring back the lives of those who have been killed and will continue to be murdered under Duterte’s watch. Not a single one. But they don’t matter, do they? Not in your view that fits nicely in the pocket of the new power who, on each and every occasion, has said human rights do not matter and that they are a hindrance to progress.
You cheered when Duterte criticized (as if he were the first to do so) the Catholic Church – an institution that arguably has many faults as well as merits, which its own followers and long-time critics know well enough. His first outbursts made mythical were but toilet-related.
You called him an Indio or a commoner (because of his looks perhaps, or his way of speaking?), yet he is among the elite – bank accounts, if ever they are revealed, or funding during his campaign should clarify that. His reign in Davao City, infamous for the death squads of recent memory, is now securely extended in the hands of his children. Do tell us, Mr. F. Sionil Jose, what this amounts to.
Your statement on the country’s free media completely disregards the fact that the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Surely any PEN member would know this. Those who fear exposure begin by branding the media as irresponsible and arrogant. Then they find other excuses such as allegations of being linked to some illegal activity. Not far down the line, the dark barrel of a gun.
The phrase “collateral damage” was coined by the CIA, as I’m pretty sure you are familiar with. It is nothing more than a lame excuse for murder that may as well sound like this: “We did not mean to kill the innocent, they were just caught in the crossfire. Sorry, sort of. Thank you for your understanding, your sacrifice.” Say that to the family of a victim and see how they react, I dare you. I’ll deliver you right to their doorstep.
That word, sacrifice, you invoked more than once, like a prayer. True sacrifice involves choosing to perform something that would normally be resisted. It involves giving up one’s own freedom in a way, with a complete understanding of the weight of that decision. But your idea of sacrifice here brings to mind a master telling its slave to choose either to be thrown into the fiery chasm of a volcano or to be fed to a wild beast.
There are far too many disturbing points in your article, but all of them boil down to what you said in your opening paragraph. You seem to have missed the very core of EDSA 1986, that momentous time in our country. The whole world was astounded when Filipinos from all levels of society – your belittled poor and the “privileged” and everyone else in between – came together and silenced the destructive power of guns. People knew the fragility of flesh yet they faced the brutality of the regime, believing their actions will awaken the inherent sense of humanity among the armed soldiers. Do you understand the true force in that?
Mr. F. Sionil Jose, you tried to justify surrendering human rights as part of the sacrifice that must be made so that a promised better way of life should come to fruition. I guess you mean only for the survivors, as the victims are of little value. The greater good, the bigger picture, that promise which, in Duterte’s twisted logic and in your claimed revolution, means bloodshed rising like a storm surge.
Although there are many hopeful plans by the Duterte government, these are in deep conflict with the essence of nation building which treasures each and every citizen, including those who may seem to be a lost cause. In passing, you mentioned the case of Venezuela as a warning without recognizing how the people of that country continue to fend off the imperialist moves of your benefactors. It may do you some good to read other views of what has happened in that country.
Our very constitution states in many ways: each human life is precious and must be respected.
Human rights, Mr. F. Sionil Jose, cannot be set aside in this country of ours precisely because of its experience with dictatorship. Martial Law was a time when those who knew how to please certain masters were certain to benefit, while those who showed the slightest opposition due to their moral convictions were dealt with in various and devious ways. The violations began with so-called evils of society – the alleged criminals or drug lords – then moved on to student activists, the free media, then anyone else perceived to be opposed to the regime, or, for that matter, anyone who fell on the wrong side of a petty official or his goons. Investigations were rare, if at all. Everything and everyone was swept under the carpet. It was the New Society. Remember?
Similar events are taking place in this country. You do not just condone these, you sit up and applaud as people are silenced forever. It is so close to Martial Law, what with all the dead bodies turning up, except for two main differences: the dead are left to be seen and those who elected Mr Duterte (and horrifyingly even those who did not) see progress.
You and Mr Duterte, along with numerous others who these days clamor for more blood, need to read, at the very least, the UN Declaration on Human Rights. If it is too difficult to comprehend properly, I am sure there are individuals who would sacrifice their time to enlighten you.
The barrel of a gun seeks to plant fear in everyone’s minds. Not reason, not communication, not healing, not understanding, and definitely not the building of a nation. Every person becomes a possible target, at the mercy of the most petty killer.
This president sees no value in human rights. His response has repeatedly been “I really don’t care.” Where do we turn when we hear the howling of a hollow heart?
Being human means more than having gleaming new bridges of steel connecting islands, or a network of train lines that covers cities and provinces, or orderly streets swept clear of informal vendors, or emergency numbers for those in need of immediate assistance, or even silence in the dead of night.
Mr F. Sionil Jose, as one writer to another, we know we all seek to write imagined lives as if they were real to us. If we cannot believe them, their possibility of existence, then how can we convince a single reader? In order to achieve this, we seek the heart of a character, the world s/he sees, the voice of one that might be. We may even be thought of as mad as we laugh or grieve with them, as if they were real. I shouldn’t have to tell you to imagine what real people are beyond the page, yet I feel I need to after reading your article where you’ve discarded with a sense of humanity.
Being human means trying your very best to see each person as possessing the same rights you hold dear. It means looking at the details of a life with value, a life as if your own. To be human is to see the frailty as well as the possibility in each person that should never be so quickly extinguished and disregarded, silenced by a bullet and a sign on a piece of cardboard.
This one man’s order that brands anyone (for whatever reason) as unwelcome in the new order, and thus deserving a swift end, is a violation of this right, this life.
With each bullet, each drop of blood, monsters come to life, painted with the crudest brush. Let us not be led back to the days of scrawling on caves.




Commemorating the 2015 Day of the Imprisoned Writer

I have been invited by PEN SA to read on 16 November 2015 at Kalk Bay Books to commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Here is a LINK to the PEN SA website regarding the event. I’m thinking of reading some poems from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN and perhaps a new work, if things fall into place.

If you are anywhere in Cape Town on that day, please do join us.

Copy of fist heart

Listen to Matt Damon and Howard Zinn

I should have said HI to him when he came to South Africa to ride with Francois Pienaar on the Argus Cycle Tour around the Cape. His film choices and the things he reads and says in various interviews show a truly thinking person so rare from someone so popular.

Here’s one more from him, reading from Howard Zinn… click on the LINK.

TPP – ever heard of it?


Apparently it’s something like the Death Star. Need I say more?

Follow the links and find out for yourself:







English translation attempt. Original Filipino follows – for those who are interested in seeing the random rhymes that got lost in translation.

November 23: No One Can Bury Shadows
remembering those slain in Maguindanao and other places

The door is a gaping mouth,
the afternoon’s final gasp
before it goes dark.

Those footsteps
that left this morning
will never again
come knocking. In their place
news of violence
drags the weight
of darkness encroaching.

Is it a miracle, a blessing, or a ghastly
burden to escape
the piercing of bullets?

How heavy the echoes of silence
in pursuit of the last
drop of lead?

Pretending to be dead
in order to live.

What kind of joy
was set free
by those who pulled the trigger?

Whose voice unleashed
the dogs?

Dear President,
I presume you feel
loss such as this?

Your clan bears the stain
of those who usher darkness.

Tomorrow, as we turn
the day’s paper,
new names will darken
the pages, our fingers.


Nobyembre 23: Walang Makapaglilibing sa mga Anino
paggunita sa mga pinaslang sa Maguindanao at iba pang bayan

Bukang bibig ang pintuan,
nasa bingit ang huling hininga
ng hapon bago dumilim.

Hindi na kailanman papalapit
ang mga hakbang na pumalayo
kaninang umaga. Sa halip
kaladkad ng marahas na balita
ang mabigat at papalaganap
na karimlan.

Himala, biyaya, o malagim
na pasanin kaya ang makaligtas
sa pagtagos ng mga bala?

Gaano kabigat ang alingawngaw ng katahimikan
kasunod ng pagbagsak sa lupa
ng huling tingga?

Pagkukunwaring bangkay
upang mabuhay.

Anong uri ng ligaya
ang pinalaya ng mga pumisil
sa gatilyo?

Kaninong tinig ang nagpakawala
sa mga aso?

Kagalang-galang na Pangulo,
inaasahan kong dama mo
ang mga ganitong pagyao.

Maging ang iyong angkan
may bahid
ng tagahatid ng karimlan.

Bukas, pagbuklat ng pahayagan
iba na namang mga pangalan
ang magpapadilim
sa mga pahina, sa ating mga daliri.


Please tell me if the translation works? Or if the poem itself works? The date has been declared International Day to End Impunity – after this massacre.

Strangling the Whistleblower

From a Guardian Online article:


WikiLeaks could be driven out of existence by the new year if it is unable to challenge a financial blockade by banks and credit card companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, the website’s founder Julian Assange has said.

Announcing a “temporary suspension” of the whistleblowing website’s publishing activities, Assange said the site had been deprived of 95% of its revenue by the “dangerous, oppressive and undemocratic” blockade, and now needed to direct its energy purely into “aggressive fundraising” to fight for the organisation’s survival.

“This financial blockade is an existential threat to WikiLeaks. If the blockade is not borne down by the end of the year the organisation cannot continue its work,” Assange told a news conference in central London.

The announcement is the most open acknowledgement of the site’s perilous financial situation since a clutch of financial operators blocked donations in the days after its publication of leaked US embassy cables in November last year.


The gang of financial institutions – Paypal, Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America, Western Union and Post Finance – that have refused to take donations for Wikileaks since November last year must be laughing in their golden cages.



UNDER THE STORM: an anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry

cover for UNDER THE STORM - red marks are places where journalists have been killed

Just found out that my poem, “Sea Fireflies of Mindoro,” has been included in this anthology of contemporary Philippine poetry. Yippeeeeee!!!!

Here is the list of authors and other details:

UNDER THE STORM: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry

by Joel M. Toledo on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 3:49pm

1 Anne Carly Abad: December 18, 2008

2 Diego José Abad: The Unfaithful Men


4 Anina G. Abola: In Place Of Emotion

5 Jose Marte Abueg: I, Pontius

6 Ericson Acosta: Ika-anim na Sundang: GABUD [Sixth Knife: WHETSTONE]

7 Arbeen Acuña: eraserase002

8 Jim Pascual Agustin: Sea Fireflies Of Mindoro

9 Arnold O. Aldaba: Fruit Of Knowledge

10 Kislap Alitaptap: Wala Na Sa Quiapo Ang Nazareno [The Nazarene is not in


11 Rio Alma: Seaman

12 Jovsky Almero: Train Dodge

13 Tofi Alonte: SHOES

14 Donato Mejia Alvarez: Apat Na Larawan Mula Sa Tagaytay Ridge [A Short Quartet

From Tagaytay Ridge]

15 Panch Alvarez: Pointing According To Heraldina

16 Angelo B. Ancheta: BIR-IT, JAN-NY!

17 Mark Angeles: F/LIGHT

18 Rebecca T. Añonuevo: Anumang Leksiyon [Whatever Abides]

19 Roberto T. Añonuevo: Dalawampung Minuto [Twenty Minutes]

20 Teo T. Antonio: Sa Dulo Ng Malay [At the Edge of Waking]

21 Lystra Aranal: Hands Down

22 Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles: EROS

23 Cesar Ruiz Aquino: THREE VARIATIONS

24 A.M. Azada: The Lion

25 Mads Bajarias: Entropy & The Shrike

26 Desiree L. Balota: manoy

27 Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr.: LABERINTO [LABYRINTHE]

28 Joi Barrios: Mga Tala Sa Isang Pagpatay [Notes On A Political Execution]

29 Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor: Futura



31 Dave Buenviaje: Because Pandesal is never the same in another country

32 Regine Cabato: Touch Me Not

33 Jose Wendell P. Capili: Carnivalesque

34 Ronan B. Capinding: Pagdidilig

35 Ronaldo Carcamo: Ha-ha-ha

36 F. Jordan Carnice: Stones

37 Lito Casaje: Tsunami Blues

38 Ian Rosales Casocot: The Smallness Of The Everyday

39 Marella Castro: Hinatak Sa Kahulugan [A Catch Of The Infinite Pull]

40 Jose Jason L. Chancoco: Barber Shop Brainstorming

41 Ayrie Ching: Learning Curve

42 Frank Cimatu: THE YOYO ROUTINE

43 Mikael de Lara Co: Kundiman

44  Kristian Sendon Cordero: Stabat Mater

45 Michael M. Coroza: MAGNANAKAW [THIEF]

46 Keith Cortez: The Current

47 Lope Cui, Jr.: Multiple Choice

48 Dakila Cutab: P’wera Contra

49 Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.: Bound For Saudi

50 Ramon Damasing: On the Feminine

51 Carlomar Daoana: Brutalism

52 Mes De Guzman: Ang Katiwala [The Caretaker]

53 Ainne Frances dela Cruz: Speed

54 Christa I. De La Cruz: After Impeng Negro

55 Khavn De La Cruz: ang dalawa ang puso [the twice-hearted]

56 Noelle Leslie dela Cruz: Absence Muse

57 Nikki De Los Santos: aporia

58 Karl R. De Mesa: Preparations For History

59 Iñigo de Paula: Paramdam

60 Ricardo M. de Ungria: The Ambivalence Of Staying A Tree

61 Lourd Ernest H. De Veyra: SUPREMACY OF THE TEXT

62 Noel del Prado: Rebolusyon [Revolution]

63 A Despi: Social Blowtorching Transcends Scab Worship

64 Glenn Diaz: Definition Of respite

65 Lav Diaz: IN MEMORIAM

66 Alain Russ Dimzon: Tinkling

67  Jan Brandon Dollente: The What

68 Jacob Walse-Dominguez: folding boxes

69 Simeon Dumdum Jr.: The Last Rain of Summer

70 Marjorie Evasco: In Baclayon, Reading Levertov’s For those whom the Gods love less

71 Israfel Fagela: Siberia

72 Bendix M. Fernandez: english lyrics to a japanese seduction

73 Boni Fojas-Almirante: Erotica

74 Luis H. Francia: SMOOCH KING

75 Marc Escalona Gaba: Blinds

76 Eric Gamalinda: Hydrazine

77 J. Neil Garcia: Coda

78 German Villanueva Gervacio: Procorpio’s Night

79 Lolito Go: What Else

80 Eva B. Gubat: Blind Date

81 Ramil Digal Gulle:

82 Asterio Enrico Gutierrez: Death Poem Exercise 64

83 Luisa A. Igloria: What I Don’t Tell My Children about My Hometown

84 Neal Imperial: Tandang Sora

85 Marne L. Kilates: Morion

86 Phillip Yerro Kimpo: How The Americans Liberated Northern Luzon, 1945

87 Jeanilyn Kwan: The Revolution Will Be Printed, Not Televised

88 Jose F. Lacaba: Tagubilin At Habilin [Will and Testament]

89 Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta: Tampuhan

90 Marra PL. Lanot: Ina [Mother]

91 Christine V. Lao: What Ol’ Injun told the carnies

92 Gian Lao: Here, at your grave

93 Elaine Lazaro: O

94 John Francis C. Losaria: NPA mula sa Tatlong Daang Salita at Dalawang

Pulgadang Pagitan [from Three Hundred Words and Two Inches in Between]

95 Bienvenido Lumbera: Kartolinang Ibon [Craft-Paper Bird]

96 Soleil Erika Manzano: Ganoon dumating ang balita— [How the news broke—]

97 Carlo Angelo V. Marcelo: A Better Good Morning

98 Edgar B. Maranan: The life and times of a seditious poet

99 Luchie Maranan: Estranged

100 Pia Montalban: Saleslady

101 V.E. Carmelo D. Nadera Jr.: BALIMBING

102 Joanna Nicolas-Na: On The Way To Market

103 Homer B. Novicio: Dark Birds In Winged Chapel

104 Emil Os: hyperlink

105 Voltaire Q. Oyzon: Mag-aabroad inin akon mga buhok [My hairs will travel


106 Doms Pagliawan: Philippine Eagle

107 Don Pagusara: Alibangbang Sa Ulan [Butterflies In The Rain]

108 R. Torres Pandan: Ars Poetica, As Actually Practiced

109 Ned Parfan: Disturbances

110 Allan Justo Pastrana: The Soul Of The Town

111 Carlos M. Piocos III: Prehistoria

112 Axel Pinpin: Nang Salakayin Mo Ang Aking Pananahimik [The Night You

Assaulted My Deep Silence]

113 Zosimo Quibilan, Jr.: Vers.

114 Jun Cruz Reyes: Bunso [Lastborn]

115 Fidel Rillo: Sa Ganang Akin Po Naman Ay Ito Lamang Ang

Ipinamamanhik [Thus Do I Humbly Express Myself]

116 Virgilio A. Rivas: Eternal Juju Recurrence

117 Deedle Rodriguez-Tomlinson: Euston Road on an Autumn Afternoon

118 Patrick Rosal: Despedida Ardiente

119 Darylle Rubino: Today After Time Immemorial

120 Roger B. Rueda: Carabaohood

121 Jose Leonardo A. Sabilano: SpaMusic

122 Joseph de Luna Saguid: CORRESPONDENT

123 Joel Pablo Salud: Meandering

124 Edgar Calabia Samar: Vocabulario

125 Rafael Antonio C. San Diego: Poem About Nothing

126 Benilda Santos: Púgot [Beheaded]

127 Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr.: Massacre

128 Tanya Sevilla-Simon: Balikbayan Box

129 Danny Castillones Sillada: Yang Pagtagád Kang Alyana [Waiting For Alyana]

130 Bebang W. Siy: Ang Bisita [The Visitor]

131 Bert Sulat Jr.: I Love Poetry

132 Ramón C Sunico: HOW TO ENJOY A CONCERT: Mula sa Concert Notes ng

Francisco Santiago Hall ng PCI Bank [From the concert notes of Francisco

Santiago Hall of PCI Bank (now defunct)]

133 Christian Tablazon: BLUEPRINT

134 Alyza Taguilaso: Leviathan

135 J.I.E. Teodoro: Banal na Buntis [Pregnant, Holy]

136 Andrea B. Teran: Weight without gravity



138 Ricky Torre: An Appointment, And Variation On Federico Alcuaz (or Monologue

as Portraiture)

139 Denver Ejem Torres: where my Barbie was safe, lest, if it came out in the open

140 Charles Bonoan Tuvilla: Sa Panahon [On Seasons]

141 Roberto Ofanda Umil: Ang Tiwalag [The Defected]

142 RM Urquico: The Blues

143 Czeriza Shennille Valencia: Every dawn you dig your own grave

144 Eric Tinsay Valles: Independence Day In Hong Lim Park

145 Joel Vega: NIMBUS

146 Eliza Victoria: Crime Scenes

147 Santiago Villafania: Rekindled

148 Michael Carlo C. Villas: Vestibular

149 Arlene J Yandug: I think therefore I Ant

150 Alfred A. Yuson: The Ten Most Memorable Moments with D. Thus Far, & Why I

Can’t Let Her Go

Book Design: Piya Constantino

Cover Art: W Don Flores

“Reported Incidents, 9/27/09 to 9/29/09 2”

Acrylic on canvas

24 in. x 32 in.


Translations by: Piya Constantino, Eduardo Dayao, Mikael de Lara Co, Paula Maria Diaz, U Z. Eliserio, Ryan Fuentes, Luisa A. Igloria, Cecilia B. Imperial, Marne L. Kilates, John B. Labella, Aila Lenard, Paolo Manalo, Mark Pangilinan, Chuckberry Pascual, Sue Prado, Nonilon V. Queano , D.M. Reyes, Sandra Nicole Roldan, Amoz Ezra Salazar, Ronald V. Verzo II, and Xenia-Chloe Villanueva

The Filipino is NOT a theory. We must weather these storms.


The 4th .MOV International Flim, Music, and Literature Festival

September 1-6, 2011

Book Launch: 2 September 2011

Ayala Museum, Makati City

6 PM


The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster CapitalismThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Naomi Klein book I have read. I might look out for more.

Klein starts with a clever, very intimate portrait of a Canadian woman who was given shock therapy for many years. The attempt was to erase her memory, make it like a blank slate, so that a new self could be created to replace the broken one she had. Sounds very sci-fi, really, but what horror. This woman has resorted to a strange ritual of trying to recover her memories by writing on bits of paper memory fragments that come to her out of the blue. This is the tortured self trying to piece together what had been damaged by “treatment,” an experiment fully funded by the CIA.

With this personal narrative set, Klein moves from country to country, examining dictatorships, invasions, disasters, and other nasties that have been splashed on most TV screens. She throws in astounding yet little known facts, or facts that were omitted by the perpetrators in order to support the myth of free capitalism’s shoulder to shoulder march with democracy.

It’s an intriguing book and does not apologize for its stance. Perhaps not as well written as Arundhati Roy’s The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, but the ocean of information that Klein has put together here makes it a worthy read.

View all my reviews

39 Strikes

Not as bothersome as what’s been happening in North Africa, but caught my ears as I was driving with the radio on, was a news item on the number of deaths caused by lightning in the Eastern Cape. 39 so far this year.

Quick Google search says Brazil (as of 2002) has the highest in the world at 100.  Well the Eastern Cape is doing a good job at challenging that right now.

Why the fascination?  Here goes… Alice, the amazing woman who took on the daunting task of helping new parents (me and my wife) take care of newborn twins, told me stories of mysterious deaths by people she knows.  Apparently lightning is one weapon someone with magical powers uses to inflict vengeance on an enemy – or so they believe.

Hmm. Enough blabber. Just throwing some thoughts around.

Here’s a LINK TO PHOTOS of lightning strikes in South Africa.  No, no mangled, burnt bodies.


Oh, bit of news.  My sample pages of my new books are now available for free browsing at — just type Jim Pascual Agustin — and they should come up.  🙂  enjoy.  And hopefully one day buy when they become available online at  I’ll keep you guys posted.  Thanks.

The ALIENS have landed

The cover for Alien to Any Skin, photograph and design by John Marin Flores

Well, the copies of Alien to Any Skin, that is.  🙂  Now “Skin” can keep her twin sister “Karu”  (Baha-bahagdang Karupukan) company.  They can both wait together for new homes.  A bit like orphans, but definitely unlike Annie.  Oh my.  I need my coffee.

The kind folks of UST Publishing House will need two weeks before proper marketing and distribution can start, not that there are masses of eager readers at the gate.  🙂

This news comes as the world spins into further chaos and re-arrangement — floods, explosions in buses and airports, street protests, volcanic eruptions, drone fighter plane murders, new births.

ps I have foolishly convinced myself that a blog for each book should be put up.  so here: ALIEN TO ANY SKIN and BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN