If the pen were truly mightier than the sword….

img_20160914_135325

…do I have an arsenal or just a piddling handful of rusty weapons?

When I was in high school, my dad enlisted me to help a Korean maker of pen and paper products break into the local market. I attended a focus group discussion with a few other young people, and we talked about using gel pens, which were still somewhat new in terms of pen technology at the time.

Maybe that’s where my attitude towards pens with excessively fine points / nibs comes from, because, yeah, tiny handwriting looks pretty great with fine points, but I have never mastered that skill. So I’m not a big fan. I like my ball-point pens to lay down thick lines, thanks.

After they were successfully introduced into the Philippine market, colorful gel-ink pens became very popular at schools, for art projects, and even in offices where they could be used to organize notes and lists and similar things.

(Not even my mom is immune to the lure of colorful gel pens.)

As for the fountain pen thing…I guess I’ll just wind up blaming a combination of Wikipedia and my friends? All I know is, I wound up asking for a calligraphy pen for Christmas one year, and then after that, I felt like I’d started falling down that endless rabbit hole.

You can see my pens in the photo above. When I noticed that I had two or three fountain pens to carry around I decided to buy something more proper to place them in. The flat case I have is for paintbrushes and art supplies, but — hey, my pens fit in the slots, and it didn’t cost much, so win-win.

I favor medium to broad nibs in my fountain pens, which are on the left side in the photo. Like I said, I like pens that lay thicker lines. Even the gel pens on the right side in the photo have fairly thick points. I like their sparkly inks.

The leftmost pen in the photo is a Japanese fountain pen. Apparently people in Japan favor pens with very fine points or nibs, and that’s partly because of the paper that they write on, but primarily because of their various alphabets. I bought that one on a lark, and actually like the color of the ink. I might convert it into an eyedropper pen in the future.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I probably have very weird penmanship. I’m left-handed, but I have never used fountain pen nibs that are specially made for left-handers. But my pens write well in my hands, except for the occasional skip and scratch. I do have to deal with the traditional ink-stains on the side of my hand, though.

(Maybe I should try to write something down, and then take a picture of it and post it here, and then you’ll see what my handwriting looks like. That’s an idea for the future. I’ll put a pin in it.)

Yes, I’m planning to buy a fountain pen when I go to Singapore. I can’t pass up on the chance.

Why are fountain pens sorta pricey in my part of the world, I gotta ask….

Because commemorating Martial Law means mourning the dead and the living

I wrote this a few months ago, when I was angry at the news. (So what else is new. In the Philippines, and in the rest of the world.) Today, 21 September, is the anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’s imposition of Martial Law in 1972, thereby plunging my country into a long and dark night from which there would be no waking up until around 1986. Some people will necessarily be happy about this date, because they think the Marcoses are not sinners.

I always feel like sackcloth and ashes on this date. 

“Martial Law is trivia.”

“Martial Law is history.”

“Martial Law is done and over with, so let’s move on.”

Well, let me tell you a thing: Martial Law — and its horrors and abuses and all the other things that are far too terrible to merely be subsumed under the farcical term shenanigans — is not trivia to me.

Trivia, they say, and who are they? Imelda Marcos. Imee Marcos. And the current arch-sinner, Bongbong Marcos, who whines about being cheated precisely because he thinks that what he says, goes. The Marcoses who stole billions from the country’s coffers and threw them away to buy art and real estate and atrocious displays of conspicuous consumption are the same Marcoses who are trying to get back into power — for what? So they can do it all over again!

And we are letting them do that, because we are bombarded on all sides by their own self-serving claims that Martial Law was good and beautiful and not, say, a howling wilderness of hunger and poverty, a blank bleak silence of the tortured and the maimed and the disappeared and the raped and the dead.

None of those things are trivia, by the way. Just the opposite. Imagine a student who dared to put his hand up at an open forum. He wanted Imee Marcos to answer a question. The student in question was — ahem –– dealt with in the parlance of the time, meaning, Imee Marcos only had to nod at her bodyguards and the student was picked up, assaulted, and killed. On the same day as he asked the question.

The name of that student — Archimedes Trajano — is not trivia.

Again: Imagine a sixteen-year-old boy. He would have had his whole life ahead of him — he would have still been around today — had he not been the son of a man who had had enough of the Marcoses’ terrible deeds, the son of a man who stole away from the regime and wrote a book whose title has since passed into common parlance. Ever heard the phrase “conjugal dictatorship”? Then you know the title of the tell-all book that Primitivo Mijares wrote.

And that means you know why Primitivo’s son was abducted and tortured. Boyet Mijares got his skull bashed in, got his hands smashed to bits, got turned into bloody dead pulp –and for good measure his corpse was thrown out of a military helicopter.

The names of those two people — Primitivo Mijares, and his son Boyet — are not trivia.

I’m hammering at the topic of Martial Law being promoted as trivia and being written about as not trivia because the entire idea was introduced to me as, yep, you guessed it, trivia. Specifically, as facts and figures that I needed to remember, because I was going to be competing in a nationally televised quiz show.

And now I feel like some of you are going to look at me funny and go, OMG, you were on Battle of the Brains?

Yes. Yes, I was. I competed in two separate seasons, actually. And every time I got ready for the competition I studied the hell out of the quiz topics. David Celdran had all these questions to ask on Science, Mathematics, History, General Information, and Arts/Literature, and those of us on the team had to be on our mettle every time. We needed to have all these facts and figures and answers.

We competed on the show some time after 1995 and that meant that people were actually still talking about Martial Law, because in that year ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation had released through its film and TV production arm Star Cinema a movie called Eskapo: a dramatization of the company’s fortunes during the Martial Law era. The title in this case refers to Eugenio Lopez, Jr., at that time the media network’s head, and to Sergio Osmena III, currently Senator Osmena III — who were political prisoners under the Marcos regime and who broke out of prison in a daring escape.

If nothing else, the movie had a point to make: that it was a true story, that most of the people being portrayed by the show business stars of the day were actual real and living people, and that these people had emerged from the horrors of events that were well within the idea of recent. After all, 1995 was less than a decade removed from 1986 and People Power. It was possible to find those who survived, or the families of those who didn’t, and it was possible to remember some of the terrible deeds that were committed under the aegis of the “Bagong Lipunan”.

And the point is this: it is still possible to find those who survived, and it is still possible to find the families of those who didn’t. It is 2016, thirty years after the EDSA Revolution, and to these people Martial Law is not trivia, and it will never be: for Martial Law is stamped upon them, more indelible than the ink we get on our hands when we go to the polls.

Martial Law is not trivia to me: it started out that way, with having to memorize when it began and when it ended, with having to memorize the perpetrators and the heroes and the living and the dead.

But knowing the dates and the names, knowing the faces, led to –- and still leads to -– talking about the horrors. To discovering what else was done. There are books upon books devoted to these dark deeds that were done in the name of staying in power. Trivia? I say no: this is history, this is our own history, this is the history that has shaped and scarred the Philippines for the past thirty years and more.

I’ve been reading about Martial Law for a long time. And I can in no way claim to be an expert. There is still too much to learn. There is far, far too much to understand. And understand is a conditional thing, because: how can you wrap your head around a family so obsessed with money and riches and worldly goods and reputation that they had so many thousands of lives so casually snuffed out?

Is it possible to say that the victims of Martial Law are items of trivia?

Is it even rational to say that Martial Law is something to move on from?

You tell me, after you’ve been confronted by the testimony from the living and the dead and from the perpetrators. Not trivia, but evidence. Specifically, evidence against those who are even now seeking to revise history, to deny that Martial Law ever happened.

Martial Law is not trivia. And it should never be.

About me

pen02

Out of darkness, yet shall I follow a path of greater darkness. From the mountain crest, far-off moon, give me light.

(和泉式部
izumi shikibu, 978?-)

My name is PJ. I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m from the Philippines. I was previously a PR agency writer and an English teacher. Now I spend my time doing what freelancing work comes my way.

I have a mental illness. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in the first quarter of 2015. I went to therapy. I was put on a course of medications. (I can still tell you what the generic names of those meds are.) At present, I’m off the meds, and I’m not seeing my therapist.

I was, or I guess I should say I still am, married. I loved my husband for the 13 years before we got married, and I loved my husband for the better part of about four more years after we got married, and then, well, there was a sudden breakup.

Or maybe it wasn’t that sudden. Maybe things had been heading towards the precipice, and over it, for a long time. He loved other women, and never stopped looking for other women to love, and for a while I let myself become a willing accomplice and enabler for his needs. For a while I gave up all of my own wants and needs for the sake of staying together with him.

All of this is in the past tense now, except for the fact that I am technically still married.

I saw my husband today. I had braced myself to feel like a wreck after seeing him. I had been getting ready to console myself. I had expected to have to stop and take a moment so that I could focus on the rest of the day.

Today, I looked briefly into his face, into his eyes, and realized that there was nothing left of “us”.

I’m a little surprised that all the feelings that I used to have are gone, and it’s only been six months since we broke up.

I’m surprised and relieved.

Which doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped feeling lonely and sorry for myself. But those things are not exclusive to a breakup. Those things are part of my depression, and always have been. They have been my constant companions through the years, so — well, literally speaking, what else is new?

I’m not new to the blogging thing. And I’m not new to the journaling thing either.

Here I’ll write about myself, and my mental illness, and the things that affect me and make me think. Maybe I’m doing this in the faint hope that someone out there might find some kind of help in what I have to say. Maybe I’m doing this to remind myself of what I need to do and what I have already been through.

(Which means I’m really going to need to put some kind of organization on this blog. Tags or something. But even when I’m writing for myself I only ever pay lip service to the idea of outlines and organizations and things like that….)

(Can I possibly trick myself into thinking that organizing my thoughts here might also help me to organize the rest of my life?)

If you read this and got all the way to the end, thank you. If you read this and decide to follow me and my blog, thank you. If you read this and decide I’m a little bit full of it, well, thanks for reading anyway.

Here I am. And here is my road to that elusive place called Recovery — which is just another step to the promised land called Happiness.