Its time has come to die peacefully, this pet my children grew up with; love and attention it did all get, save freedom from its own confine; between living in the wild uncared; love and freedom compared. ~
A rare photo of Dr Ofelia Dimalanta with Dr Abe V Rotor (left) who won two awards for his books, Living with Nature Series the Gintong Aklat Award, and the National book Award. At her left are Fr, Joseto N Bernades OP and Dr Armando F De Jesus, regent and former dean respectively, of the Faculty of Arts and Letters of UST
The late Dr Ophelia A . Dimalanta was all of poet, critic, academician. As poet, she published six books of poetry, namely: Montage, The Time Factor, Flowing On, Lady Polyester, Love Woman and Passional. Aside from collections of poetry, she published a book on literary criticism, The Philippine Poetica, play in two acts, Lorenzo Ruiz, Escribano, five textbooks on literature. She was widely anthologized not only in the Philippines but also in the United States, Russia, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, and Thailand. She won almost all literary awards in the country, and among, a lecture grant at the prestigious Modern Languages Association in Chicago, and the prominently, the SEA WRITE award given to Outstanding Southeast Asian Writers. She was chosen one of the one hundred outstanding women of the country, as part of the Centennial celebration. As critic, she was a founding member of the Manila Critics Circle which gives out the National Book Awards annually. Professor Dimalanta was dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters of UST for nine years, while concurrently holding the position of Director of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies. Full Professorship at the UST Graduate School.
NOTE: This poem was published in Tomas, the Literary Journal of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies, Issue 1, Vol, 1 February 2000
Mangrugi manen. (Dawn ushers daily grind of life's drama and comedy) dawn photo 2. Ti ukoy-ukoy, Agur-uray diay abut Iti agbiddut. (The antlion waits for prey that blunders and falls into its pit.)
3. Nakasutsutil - Bacchus, Ambrosius Venus, Tulongandak! (Help me from tempters - Bacchus, Ambrosius, Venus. From Greek mythology gods and goddess of ostentatious living.)
4. Igudagudmo, Agsangit, agkatawa; Langit ken daga. (It's the violin being referred to. It cries and laughs with heaven and earth.)
5. Kapanunutan Ken takyag iti mangged, Puso ti tured. (Intellect and brawn to earn; courage is in the heart.)
6. Saan nga ammo, Nat-natay diay adayo, Ilagip tayo. (Reverence to the dead - even those unknown in distant land.)
7. Kapanunutan, Narigat nga abaken, Malaksid kukuam. (You really can't win an argument, except your own.)
8. Umisemkan, Tapno maturogen ti Dakkel a bulan. (Your sweet smile makes the moon sleep. ) 9. Nakadumog, Labaslabasan ti angin, Agngil-ngilangil. (Refers to good harvest: Heavy panicles bow low, ducking the passing wind.)
10. Naturoganna't Panagbaliw ti lubong Ni Rip Van Winkle. (From Washington Irving's story, Rip van Winkle, about a man who slept for twenty long years amid changes going on in the world.)
11. Panagkakadua, Awan iti baetna, Mamagsisina. (Too close for comfort, referring to friendship. )
12. Malinlinay, Lumakay, agbabaak, Ag-gigiddiak. (Getting old and aging don't mean the same thing.)
13. Gura ken ayat, Bumtakman wenno umpes, Arig ti ulep. (Love and hate may be compared to a cloud - it dissipates or falls as rain.)
14. Diay pag-gugubatan Ubbing laeng ti matay, Ilida’t lumakay. (As the young die in the battlefield, the country unprecedentedly grows old.) 15. Warnak inaldaw, Amin nakaragragsak, Daksanggasat. (A daily reminder: Too much fun may lead to sorrow.)
16. Toy agkabanuag, Adut’ pakairamanan, Pakairanudan. (The youth have good and bad things to share.)
17. Kapapategan, Dua laeng iti pagpilian - Kappia ken Kappia. (Peace is peace. There is no other choice. It is the most treasured thing.)
18. Flanders, Bataan, Agur-uray ti turay, Kappia, pakawan. (Forgiveness and Peace reign in the WWII memorials in Flanders Field in Europe, and Bataan in the Philippines.)
19. Uray laglagip Tinubuanen iti ru-ot Didiay Austerlitz. ("I'm the grass, I cover all," says a poet, referring to the dead in this battlefield in WWII. It covers also memories)
20. Akasia’t malem, Ti panagawid ammuem, Makaturogen. (Call it a day when the leaves of the acacia tree droop.)
It is remiss and folly of not showing true feelings to those we love, living or dead, all because “I am always busy”, and because there will be someday to make up for it. There are always reasons or alibis for failing to offer them prayers, to visit their graves, or just to make those who too, are close to them happy. Oh, there are many, many ways.
Dr Abe V Rotor
This is a true story. I went to bed
very tired. For the whole day before my birthday I put on extra effort to
finalize the manuscript of my forthcoming book which I was going to submit the
following Monday. The title is Light from the Old Arch, a compilation of
essays I wrote through the years. Dad and my sister Veny
It was just past 10 in the evening and Cecille, my wife, who had gone to bed
ahead of me stirred. “I’ll just check what we will have for breakfast. I’ll be
back,” she said as I stretched my aching back and tired brain and apparently
Soon I found myself in complete darkness. I could not trace my way to switch on
the lights and after several attempts locating it on the wall and under
curtain, an inexplicable fear crept, a fear I had never experienced before. I
was in a strange domain yet it had the features of my home. There was total
darkness, total silence.
Dad died in 1981 at the age of 78. He died here in our residence at Lagro after
battling with the complications of diabetes. We buried him at Himlayang
Pilipino. Our oldest son, Pao who died at three, soon joined him in the same
grave two years after.
Dad was deeply affected by my Mama’s death during the Second World War. My
sister Veny was four then, and my brother Eugene was three. Dad suffered much -
emotionally and physically - even after the four years of Japanese occupation.
The war left our family and the country in ruins.
We continued to live in San Vicente which is adjacent to Vigan, the capital of
Ilocos Sur. Dad confessed when we were already big that he feared so much we
would not make it through in life. I know how extremely difficult it was even
if dad owned farmlands and a neo-colonial house which my grandparents built in
1900. The three of us children knew little of the joys of childhood. My only
uncle, Uncle Leo left dad to raised his own family in Pangasinan. He seldom
visited us and spent time in our big house where he, like my dad, and their
four siblings were born. Uncle Leo was the eldest and dad was the youngest. The
rest of their siblings died at a very early age of smallpox which killed many
people in Ilocos.
Basang my auntie and yaya took care of me from the time my mother died. I was
less than two years old then. She never left us even when I came to Manila for
my studies. She died three years after dad had gone. Manang Veny called me to
come home when Basang died. We buried her in the town cemetery close to our
departed relatives. Just before she died she gave me an antique narra aparador
which I now use in keeping my personal things. In our dialect, she said, “This
is the only thing I can give you.”
“You have given me everything,” I said.
Going back to the incident of October 21, I called dad three times, then called
Basang once. It was a call apparently in fear. I felt helpless and lost. I froze.
I could not move. I could not shout. And when I knew no help would come, I
struggled. I succeeded in moving my fingers, my toes, until I was free.
Cecille had returned to our bedroom. “Why, you are pale and perspiring? What
happened?" she asked, perplexed. She fetched me a glass of water.
“Was I shouting?” I asked automatically. “No,” she said calmly.
“I was dreaming,” I said and told her the whole story.
Anatomy of a Dream
Dreams are visions of the unconscious part of our brain. That is why they occur
in our sleep, when we are not aware of things the way we perceive them with our
senses. Dreams are not fashioned by rational thoughts and actions, and
therefore we have no power to decide and to act according to that decision. We
are entirely under the control of our unconscious mind.
“Even when we are deeply asleep the psyche is still actively producing dreams,”
says Carl Jung. “We may not always be aware of these activities, any more than
we are aware of our physiological activities, but this does not mean they are
not taking place.”
According to Jung we remember only a few of our dreams, yet recent evidences
suggest that we dream continuously throughout the night. There in our
unconscious mind our psyche is very much alive, performing psychological work
such as perceiving, remembering, thinking, feeling, wishing, willing, attending
and striving – just as breathing, digesting and perspiring are physiological
But can we choose psychic values? According to Jung, when a high value is placed
upon an idea or feeling it means that this idea or feeling exerts considerable
force in influencing and directing one’s behavior. A person may place a high
value on beauty. Another on power. Or knowledge. On the other hand, there are
those who place a high value on wealth, even on sex and vices. These create the
themes of our dreams.
This is the realm of our unconscious mind. This is where Carl Jung parted way
from his friend Sigmund Freud’s as he blazed the trail of the psychology of the
unconscious, which led to applied psychology - psychiatry. We are governed not
only by our conscious mind. We are actually governed in a much deeper and wider
sense than we ever think. As we feed the unconscious with conscious thoughts
and experiences, so the unconscious feeds the conscious mind. And this cycle
goes on throughout everyone’s life, starting in the womb.
Even when we were children, the mind did not lose the information it received.
They were deposited. First in the conscious, then deposited in the unconscious
part of our brain, which are saved like in the computer. Now, the information
is ready at hand to be retrieved. Touch the key and the info comes out on the
screen – the screen of our consciousness.
How will this affect our present mind now that we are older? Jung said that the
previous information serves as archetype. To better understand how this
archetype works in relation to what we think at present, here is an example.
Suppose here is a person who happened to be a witness of a murder with his own
eyes when he was still a small child. When he sees a suspicious person, the
image of the murderer he saw many years ago flashes. It is the archetype coming
Or take another example. A kindly gentleman comes and asks for a favor. We size
him up in relation to people who have the characteristics this man possesses.
If our experiences are agreeable, it is likely that we going to entertain this
The images of people, places and events are fashioned in many ways by
archetypes. Unlike the computer, the mind spontaneously brings out the
archetype that the brain appropriately needs at that moment. This is the basis
of many of our decisions – and prejudices.
Through dreams the loaded unconscious finds relief. Information flows out in
the form of dreams. Dreams may be happy or sad, fearful or pleasant. Or at
intervals of moods and settings and characters, as if information keeps on
flowing out. Nature has given us a safety valve to maintain our rationality and
to release us from the prison walls of memory. Thus the other safety valve is
Psychiatry is based on this principle. Lying on a couch the patient unloads his
burden, fears, and uncertainties. He releases the pressure. Through this
process he reaches a state of catharsis. He is relieved. He can now sleep. He
can now work again.
People who cannot attain catharsis may suffer of psychiatric problems and may
resort to drugs. Do you often wonder why people resort to drugs? Why there are
more and more people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol?
Why, many people try to “escape” reality?
October 21 is a memorable day for me. By reading this story one is led to think
that something supernatural controlled the event and situation. I told Cecille,
“Dad and Basang came.”
“Let’s pray for them,” she answered and made the sign of the cross.
I know they did not come; I went to them. It was a special day, my special day.
I realized my fault which lays not so much in not remembering them often, but I
have ceased to see them as the models that shaped my life. That was too long
ago. I no longer see the lessons I learned from them that are still relevant to
my present life. I do not call them anymore in the midst of my problems. I have
grown up. I do not seek their intercession and guidance anymore.
It is remiss and folly of not showing true feelings to those we love, living or
dead, all because “I am always busy”, and because there will be someday to make
up for it. There are always reasons or alibis for failing to offer them
prayers, to visit their graves, or just to make those who too, are close to
them happy. Oh, there are many, many ways.
Time has changed, and change has polarized our worlds. So with values of old
and of the present world. The generation gap syndrome is creeping fast, more so
with my own children who too, will have a world of their own in the near
future. There in the dark I called Dad and Basang, their names clear and loud, but my
voice just faded without answer, not even its own echo. It was eerie and
mysterious. The unconscious was swelling and it found an exit in the dark,
psychic energy released in dream. And there as I called them, I realized I was
the one who is lost – and found myself again.
This is a true story. x x x
Uncle Cippi, Naturalist (San Vicente IS Series) Dr Abe V Rotor
Faded photo of the late Uncle Cippi, grassroots' naturalist
We, boys in our time, soon after the war ended, found ourselves a bit of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer who knew well how to catch fish and crabs with bare hands, drop a bird from its perch with slingshot, hook a purong (mullet) with roasted lumot (alga)as bait - among many other skills that would qualify us today to take a survivor's test.
It is because we were disciples of a ranger in his own right, self-taught and tempered in the field and wildlife, and along the Busiing River that runs like the Mississippi River in Mark Twain's novels. He built the most accurate slingshot - perfect-Y, the most sensitive fishing pole that quivers at the slightest touch, and bird trap (taay) that ensnares small and big bird alike. He would point at the North Star or Big Dipper in a starry evening, "You won't get lost at sea, just consult the stars." And he would tell the phase of the moon, when ipon (dulong) would enter the sabangan (mouth of the river), or the mother bangus arrive to spawn.
Believe me, Uncle Cippi - a title for being a distant relative of my dad, and trusted guide - knew when a typhoon is coming just by looking at the sunset, if rain would spoil our sipa game in the afternoon, pointing at the hovering dragonflies, or know if a suha (pomelo) is sweet or sour or bitter just by glance. "We have to walk fast," he would urge us curious at many things in the field, pointing at the drooping leaves of the acacia. Dusk is a time of the kibbaan and the unseen. Angelus is holy. Supper brings the family together. And he would be telling all these to us kids in low tone as we quickened our pace home.
Monument of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, characters in Mark Twain's famous novels
"Don't go near that hole," he would warn. A snake could be hiding. He knew if it's a rat tunnel. "See how smooth the entrance is?" And we would retreat to arm ourselves with stick or anything. "No," he would calm us down. "He is harmless, just leave him alone." And when we became cautious with the large holes on the river bank, he explained, "These are holes of burrowing crabs (gammarong). And he would set bamboo traps over the holes. (You can keep a gammarong as pet - just tie it around its carapace in a damp place and feed it regularly with morsels. This, he taught us, too.)
We would comb the riverbank for kappi (small crabs), shrimps and fish, picking along the way edible fruits of tul-tullaya (herbaceous weed), applas (wild fig), and during summer longboy (duhat), bugnay, salamagi (tamarind), and to quench our thirst, sugarcane or coconut. Who would think of the sun going down fast? Then we would go home and dad would be waiting at the gate. But on seeing Uncle Cippi with us, his anxiety and fear would soon vanish. And he would offer an ungot (coconut shell cup) of basi wine to our day's guardian, and listen to our day's adventure, looking at us with pride and appreciation. It was purong time. Old and young tried their luck in fishing near the bridge going to San Sebastian, the farthest barrio. Historically this is the Bantaoay River where the Basi Revolt of 1807 took place. The river has not changed as history tells us, and it has not changed since we were kids. Oh, how nostalgic it is to visit the scene in old age!
There I see myself hooking apurong- probably half a kilo but with deceiving pull. I see my late brother hooking one fish after another. Now he has a dozen, but all medium. Then Uncle Cippi lands a big one after a struggle with the fish tiring itself. You can hear a chorus of hurrah! Along the bank and across the river, and clapping that joins the lapping of the shore. Our fishing guru bears a broad smile and takes off his wide brim hat.
We had no camera. But the image remains fresh and vivid to this day. There was no trophy. But there was a champion - a champion of all time. A champion of boys growing up fast and strong to face the world of men.
Sixty five years had passed. I asked my sister if she can find a picture of our folk hero. She sent me a worn out photo of his, seated on a wooden cart we once rode - the cart that took us boys to reach our dreams.~
Dr Abe V Rotor He has been there for some time now filling up a well he made in the sand with water from the sea. “What are you doing?” I asked nonchalantly, knowing what a silly thing he was doing. I acted like a teacher with the critical nature of one showing up. “You know, you can’t really fill your well, or empty the sea either.” I said with an aura of authority. He looked up at me and beamed a smile in the sun. He was not just pouring water into his well; he was decorating it with seashells, seaweeds, corals and plants growing nearby. He was making a landscape. Fish were not biting that morning so I folded up my fishing rod and passed by the boy's well again. Why it was an oasis model he made! Complete with a sandcastle, a pathway, a retaining wall and waterhole. The boy was no longer there. That was a long time ago when I had the luxury of spending a whole day or two fishing, when weekend is a day of leisure and unwinding from pressure of work. Who cares about one boy out of millions of boys building oases and sandcastles. What is the boy’s name? Oh, the only thing that lingers in my head under graying hair is his lovely innocent face and charming smile. Years later, in my last year in government service I was sent to Israel to attend a Food and Agriculture Organization sponsored conference. What a luck! A pilgrimage to the Holy Land! Tourists in general, love to take side trips, and I am no exemption. After touring Israel “tracing the footsteps of Christ,” I decided to continue on to Egypt where the Holy Family, according to the bible visited. So I joined a tour from Tel-Aviv to Cairo via the Sinai Peninsula, crossing the Suez Canal. In the middle of the desert, we the passengers were told to register somewhere at the border of Israel and Egypt, before reaching the Gaza Strip. We left our bus and proceeded to an isolated police headquarters. The inspector looked at my passport and started questioning me in Arabic. I didn’t understand a word. He presented me to the officer-in-charge who spoke a little English. He said they are on a lookout for terrorists who attacked a tourist bus. After examining my papers which included those about the conference I had just attended, he sort of apologized and let me go. Outside I met a blinding sandstorm. I lost my way to my bus. When I saw it, it was already far and moving way. I ran after it shouting until I was exhausted. Was it a mirage? When the sandstorm subsided I found myself alone. “Where is the station, the road?” I was talking to myself, feeling abandoned. In the desert the reference for direction is the sun, and at night the moon and stars. I remember the pilot lost in the desert in The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. And Coleridge’s Water, Water Everywhere about a mariner lost at sea. The sun was now going down. I reckoned, “If you go west, you will reach the Mediterranean.” So I walked toward the sun. Sand trapped in my shoes made my feet sore. “Surely there are buses, cars and people around,” I said, always keeping an eye on the horizon. But there was none. I remembered what the tourist guide said, “Vehicles travel on the Sinai in convoy. You can’t travel alone on the long stretch of sand.” What if my bus was in the last convoy for that day? I had never felt so hungry and thirsty in my life, and now fear was creeping in. I was empty handed; I left everything in the bus. “Now where is my hand-carry bag? My medicine? My camera? I had left them, too. Why did my bus leave without me? They should have made a roll call, at least a headcount.” I was in soliloquy. I was like the old man in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea talking to himself in the middle of the sea. “But he had a boat. I have none.” I used to tell tall stories, “You know, I was assigned in very dangerous places,” referring to Cordilleras and Samar island, bailiwick of bandits and rebels. But here the enemy is different - it is emptiness. And I would continue, “You know, I was twice taken hostage by dissidents and never gave in to their demands.” What if they tagged me an Arab terrorist! Here courage just turn into bravado, a kind of bahala na stance. I began to despair. Sitting on top of a dune I imagined Alexander the Great searching for the Oracle at the Oasis of Siwa near Cairo. According to history he got lost, but how can a man destined to conquer the world get lost? That’s legend, and legends are for great people. And here I'm but a lost soul. Oasis! That’s a bright idea. I could almost hear the melody of the song, The Desert is Hiding a Well. Yes, if I find date palms and olive trees, there must be an oasis nearby.” And perhaps people living there, and travelers passing by. Climbing on to the crest of a taller dune reminded me of Golgotha. "I would rather die on top of sand dune than be buried under it." So I stayed there straining my sight to where an oasis might lie. Again I remembered the Little Prince, not the story but what he symbolized – inner vision, unending hope. I needed any kind of encouragement now. I was desperate. Suddenly, something reflected at the foot of a crescent dune, hidden by another. Water? Eureka! Eureka! And down the dune I ran, sliding and tumbling, and in a record time reached a greenery of date palms and olives, a waterfall pouring into a small lake, its water shimmering with the rays of sunset. I cupped the precious liquid with my hands and immediately quenched my thirst. And slept. I saw a boy repeatedly filling up a well he made in the sand with water from the sea.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “You can’t succeed filling your well, or emptying the sea either.” He looked at me, his face beamed in the sun, and continued with his craft. When I returned I found a beautiful landscape - an oasis! When I woke up I was in a clinic, in the same headquarters I was earlier interrogated. A search team found me unconscious of dehydration and delirious with high fever. “What is the name of that beautiful oasis?” I asked. The attendants just looked at each other. One of them wearing a stethoscope said, “You need more rest. Tomorrow we will take you to Cairo” Today, I care about that boy, and millions of boys making oases and sandcastles. What is the boy’s name? It does not matter. For the best thing that lingers in my head under graying hair is his lovely innocent face and charming smile, and a lovely masterpiece he made. ~
Acknowledgement: Internet photos
I have just finished a manuscript, a sequel to Living with Nature series. I have chosen for its title, Living Earth in my Palm, because the palm is the seat of human thought, emotion, and spirituality. It is the seat of truth when we take an oath, seat of execution after a decision. In this particular case, it is in the palm where an idea comes as a snap, where creativity is born and nurtured. Where dreams can be realized, we are known, and finally, we are received by God.
One can surmise the depth of Rodin’s Thinker in the palm of a clenched fist, more than his pensive mood. I can imagine Helen Keller, born blind, cup the face of a person to express love, or to photograph the person in her mind. We gauge cleanliness by the palm; we appraise the value of articles, examining their details and hidden secrets.
What could be a higher level of expression of respect to the flag than a palm placed on the breast, and an open palm to pledge loyalty? And is there a deeper sense of contrition than cupping both hands and drawing them close to a bowed head? The faithful raise their hands with open palms in praise and exultation, building a spiritual bridge that unites humanity and God, the world and the Creator.
And among the grassroots, the farmer gathers a handful of grain in the field, examines it to know if it is ready for harvest - and not so much for its bounty, expresses thanksgiving to Mother Earth. It is also in the palm of the Man with a Hoe, made rough by hard work, that the soil is known of its readiness and suitability to a crop he is going to plant. The young Lincoln would brush dirt and wipe his palm as if to release some burdens of the day’s work, while looking far into the railroad he was building.
We extend our arms of welcome and reconciliation with open palms. Genuine handshake is felt by the palm. Cold and sweaty palm is a barometer of our emotion. The warmth of our palm has a deep source in the core of our being. It is a thermometer of our anger or calmness. And to believers, the map of our lives and fate.
On my palm is a living earth, the microcosm of nature and culture. It is in the palm that we ponder over Rodin’s sculpture, feel Helen Keller’s love and kindness, hear a schoolchild sing before the flag, the faithful whisper a prayer, feel the soil, know the grain when it has turned golden. Of the young worker brush dirt and look into the horizon. It is in the palm that we can hold the world, live a life of eternity, find heaven in simple beauty, and infinity in our short sojourn on this earth. ~