Small world

HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose - The Philippine Star

I am back at the venerable Makati Medical Center for a possible angiogram, and if necessary, an angioplasty. My children and my wife object to these procedures. My son, Alex, who is a dietician at a hospital in California, says that senior citizens 95 and above are no longer allowed angioplasty. I am 97.

The procedure is going to be performed by Dr. Charles Galang, as recommended by my heart doctor, Raynato Kasilag. It takes one year of further study to be a specialist in this cardiac procedure.

The architect of the Makati Medical Center, Luis Araneta, was a personal friend. He was a collector of old books, furniture and all forms of antiques. When his son, Greggy, got married to Imelda’s daughter Irene in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, Imelda borrowed all his antiques for the church decors and all the antiques were painted white.

At a dinner at his house, we were having a discussion on Philippine architecture, and I asked, who was that moron who designed a French villa with French windows in a country where you have 100 typhoons a year. He smiled and he said, he did it, because that was what the owner, Elvira Manahan, wanted. I was, of course, very embarrassed, but Luis always appreciated my candidness.

Way back in the 1950s and ’60s, when I was editing the Sunday Times Magazine, Dr. Constantino Manahan, Makati Med’s first director, appeared on the cover. He appreciated that, and he delivered six of my seven children. He was married to this socialite and TV personality, Elvira, whose laughter was infectious. On one of her visits to our Solidaridad Galleries, she took fancy to a Shan drum which I hand carried from Rangoon. How can I say no to her?

One of my visitors at the hospital was Dr. Janice Caoili. She told me she knew the University of the Philippines’ president, Jose Abueva, and his younger brother, the sculptor, Billy Abueva. I knew them both when they were still single. I was in the United States in 1955, and Billy was in art school in Michigan, and so was Pepe, who was a graduate student at Ann Arbor.

Sometime in the ’80s, Billy and his wife and my wife and I were guests of the Japan Foundation. At a dinner given us by the Foundation president in Tokyo, Billy was asked what his parents were; outright, Billy replied, they both were killed by the Japanese.

Dr. Vince Gomez, a very dear friend, called up to say that he had talked with Dr. Kasilag about postponing the angiogram. I met him way back in the ’80s when I fell on the sidewalk near La Salle and dislocated my elbow. He set it back using the X-ray machine at Makati Med. I thought that was a very neat trick.

Dr. Gomez is not just a good doctor; he is also a thinker, and we had so many exchanges on the Filipino condition.

In the meantime, as we now probe into the New Year, we know that the days ahead are grim, what this pandemic had rendered, this tragedy has been aggravated by that monster Typhoon Odette.

The Padre Faura area is a microcosm of urban Manila. It starts in the vicinity of the Paco cemetery in the east and heads towards the west, passing residential areas. Then it crosses Taft Avenue where major government offices are located – the National Bureau of Investigation, the Supreme Court, the Philippine General Hospital and the Padre Faura campus of the University of the Philippines, the Department of Justice, and the Court of Appeals. On the left, Robinsons Mall and then across Mabini and M.H. del Pilar towards the American embassy across Roxas Boulevard and Manila Bay that is now being handsomely rehabilitated.

Many of the shops have closed, but the old food chains, McDonald’s, Jollibee, Mang Inasal and Chowking are still open. Ibarra’s, which was beside my Solidaridad Bookshop, closed, and after a year, it was rehabilitated with bright lights, a new owner and a new name, Apogee.

Behind our bookshop, the famous Hizon’s restaurant was closed, but it has maintained its bakeshop. During this Christmas season, it is doing very well with lots of customers lining up for the bakeshop’s famous ensaymada.

Solidaridad never closed shop, but this is only possible because it is ours, and there are many days when we have no sales. Along M.H. del Pilar and Mabini, many people sleep on the sidewalk at night. Towards the Luneta on any day, we see crowds of seamen gathered there waiting for their contracts, and on the sidewalks are many homeless families. The whole Padre Faura area – Ermita and neighboring Malate – are now well lighted, as well as Taft Avenue. It has also been cleaned of garbage and hopefully rendered crime-free.

Meanwhile, many of the jobless Filipinos have taken on new careers for which they haven’t been trained. Economists say that it will take at least three years for us to recover. I think it will be more than that, and with this coming election year, that economic development might be derailed.

In the meantime, Raffy Tulfo in Action is a very unusual development in media. I have watched Idol Tulfo, arbiter of domestic problems and issues involving battering of women, nonsupport of children and scamming of foreigners by their Filipina girlfriends. It is a first-rate TV soap opera, sometimes gripping when the opponents lash at each other verbally. Idol Tulfo listens carefully, aided by audience participation, then makes a decision on who to support, financially or legally. But in whatever case, Idol Tulfo tries to be very fair and states clearly the limits of what he can do.

His program illustrates what private media can do to help resolve problems of injustice which the justice system cannot handle. Because of the program’s popularity, Tulfo has been nominated to the Senate, but if I were him, I would refuse; for he’s doing very well on his own. A wonder of it all is that he has not been replicated by other media celebrities.

The Tulfo program illustrates the great damage that the overseas workers, solution to the unemployment problem, is producing, the tragic breakup of so many families, the conditioning of dependents to be lazy, relying on the OFW largesse which, because of Filipino attitudes, is not used properly in production enterprise. All the billions of OFW remittances could have gone into the set-up of industries that, in themselves, will inhibit this diaspora. But again, the absence of vision, planning and honesty have always hobbled the best laid plans for development.



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