Sitio Talidong, Impig, Sipocot, Camarines Sur: An Open Letter

This is our Home
This was taken after we settled in on our new home in Sitio Talidong, Impig, Sipocot, Camarines Sur.

    Putting my foot forward, I am genuinely pissed. I mean I am a very angry resident, a registered voter and absolutely flabbergasted to say the least.
I have learned not to vent online, for a couple of valid reasons: One) It’s always a burden to back up what you say, and Two) There’s always a possibility of getting misconstrued, however factual the statements are. But here, now I am making an exception. Because I have lived in Sipocot for 10 years now, my wife and I built our home, not just a house up there in Sitio Talidong, Impig. Our daughters are growing up hardened by country living, beautiful and well adjusted, getting the best of both worlds – good education and the homegrown pride of frugal living. We are happy in our little corner of Sierra Madre, amongst the trees and birds, in a community of hardworking people.

    But one Monday evening, November 5, 2018, between 11:00pm and 12:00mn, my wife and daughters were still awake, when outside our house, someone was attempting to force his way inside, trying to open the door. My wife is 44, with a bone affliction that atrophied most of her limbs, limiting her movement, my eldest daughter, 17 was working on her homework and my youngest, 13, is fast asleep. In Talidong, at 9:00pm is very much like midnight, quiet and serene. So an intrusion at the hours mentioned, most horrific, is to hear someone forcing any opening to get inside. We are not rich, no expensive gadgets nor anything worthy of fencing, that even my wife with her presence of mind concluded it must be our daughters the perpetrator (or perpetrators, will discuss this later) are trying to get to. Good thing she managed to call our nearest neighbor, Yaying, who works for the municipal government, and as any good neighbor, readily went to their rescue. Apparently, the perpetrators did come with one or two cohorts, because the man on the door was alarmed and they all skittered away before our neighbor got to our house. And placated my family, called up barangay tanods and inspected the immediate vicinity several times before leaving the tanods to watch over my family.

    No harm no foul, right? Nobody got hurt, everything is fine and dandy.

    Far from the truth.

The rock bridge that we used to take to Coloy-Coloy.

“This is our land, our home and you told us to leave?”

    As a father who works far from home, I have been confident to leave my wife and daughters behind, because like I said, there is where we have built our home, and my family are true-blue Calayo blood that those reasons alone made me believe that they are safe.
Now for people who have not experienced being a victim, or at least a witness, you will never know the horror and terror on the blunt end of crime.

    Several years ago, as I was working for Tv5, I got off from work in Novaliches to come home to our shared apartment in Mandaluyong just to identify my friend who was alone then, dead, tied up like a pig for slaughter, her room bloody with more than 30 stab wounds. This scene played in my mind as I got the news from my wife when she told me of what happened to them while I was away. I felt helpless and afraid, useless and spent. If nobody had come to their aid, I could have been coming home to a crime scene, with the results too terrifying to consider.

    What could be worse? Our neighbor could have suffered the brunt of the perpetrators frustration to get inside our house and turned on him, had he got there in timer to catch them in the act, leaving him impaired or worse, another dead victim. This is not too farfetched, as you can read from newspapers or hear on the radio, some people have been murdered for lesser things.

    What burns me, what really raised my ire is the way our Barangay Chairman seemed to treat the incident as just another case of disrupting the peace. I won’t resort to name calling, but that, at least is a straighforward home invasion. To treat the incident as such is to take things for granted. There were rocks that do not belong to our homestead, this was noticed by my wife and daughters, apparently brought along by the perpetrators, now I say it in plural form, because the lamp posts that should have been lighted that night were turned off, and to pull off something like that would need at least two more cohorts to act as lookouts. They were carrying “itak” because weeds were growing profusely around the house and there were areas that the grass were cut down. A common tool in this context, is a weapon for deadly intentions. And another thing, that boils me up is this: The only advice our good Barangay Chairman gave to my ailing wife is: to get far away from our house and stay away so that he can make queries about the incident. In my broken Bicolano the words were something like this – “ Tita, mag hali na lang kayo at baka balikan pa kamo dyan.”

    Lame. Utterly Lame.

    This is our land, our home and you told us to leave?

    We lived through storm after storm up there. When Typhoon Glenda hit Sipocot hard with her strong winds, we held on to each other, even when my kamalig got the hardest hit and was torn down. But we went through it. Because it is our home and we can rebuild.

    This is our land, our home and you told us to leave?

    We did. Why? Because such a half-assed plan of action is so tv dramaesque, that we had to make our own actions to keep my wife and daughters safe. Even if it meant depleting our meager finances, asking help from family and friends, just to sustain an uprooting and settle, even if temporary, elsewhere.

    We are good to our Talidong community. My wife when she was still able move around, was a volunteer secretary for our electricity bill collection. When an arrogant DSWD officer wanted a land donation to build a day care center, we donated, because we felt it the right thing to do, so that children up there can have their own place to learn. I even did the letterings on the wall so that we could save up on expenses, since I’m good with art.This same DSWD officer denied my sick mother in law her request for a wheel chair. And the Barangay Chairman then, respectable as he was, did not do anything to support our claim to a badly needed wheelchair. Now this current Barangay Chairman, nearing his term is very much oblivious of what had just transpired. A failed home invasion is a precedent of crimes that are rising. If this could happen to my family, it could happen to our next neighbor. There are daughters, nieces, kids growing up in our little Sitio, and I dread the day that these crimes will be perpetrated by these no-good bums, just because our elected officials are just interested in taking their photo-ops and their names on tarpaulins on projects.

    Yes, I am fuming. If the situation was reversed and the incident happened to our Barangay Chairman, and was told to leave their home while police went about the investigation, would he have left his home? I don’t think so.
The incident was recorded on blotter. Reported to our local police. If our Chairman was interested, a whole lot of information could be gleaned from the community, as these bums are in a small circle of lazy males who get their rocks off drinking, sitting all day, and some even do drugs (this has become common knowledge). I, without asking people, learned about these facts. And oh by the way, several months prior to November 5, my nephew reported a malingering male lurking in our close proximity that he asked the tanods to do quick rounds to make sure everything is okay. And a peeping tom early in the morning, who lives a ways off, to exert the effort of waking up early just to get a glimpse of my daughters taking a bath deserves attention, doesn’t it? Because it’s the same guy who we suspect did the deed on the night of November 5. I mean if this were down there in the town proper, a hue and cry would have driven the guilty person to pack up and leave, right?

    It’s election season early next year. We will all vote. I don’t really care if the incumbent Barangay Chairman finishes his term or gets a post as another wannabe statesman. All I know is I will select my government in the most meticulous way. I’m staking the safety and security of my family while I work away from home. I need someone I can depend on. We all should be mindful about these things, not just photo ops and parties, fiestas and weddings. Up there in Sitio Talidong, we’ll be starting some things that will benefit the community and no public official will be dragging his name to get pogi points off our hard earned actions. You know who our incumbents are. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, as to why, it’s to keep the memory of our Mother who insisted that we work with the community, and give back something to it. Harboring petty criminals and addicts do not belong in our quiet sitio.

I am Eman Paelmo. I am a registered voter for Sipocot, Camarines Sur. Our home is at Sitio Talidong, Barangay Impig. We love our place. No lazy ass bums nor bystanders should be able to drive out peaceful, law abiding citizens from our community. This will never happen again. If we ever get back to our home, I will be taking actions against trespassers, should they try again. I used to believe everybody should be welcome in our humble abode. I’m setting limits.

German “Eman” Robale Paelmo, 2018


Noun: dichotomy [dI’ko-tu-mee or di’ko-tu-mee]

  1. Being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses
  2. Branching repeatedly into two

Recently I got an invitation to attend a gathering of old high school friends. I was downhearted and forlorn, thinking how could I, at my current state of unemployment and almost nonexistent financial sources, bring myself to this take that bus ride and savor the camaraderie and joy of peole who I have come to love as I grow up.

It was very difficult for me.

Here I am,  getting all social with my Twitter and Facebook, and continually posting on my WordPress and Google+, and it has come to my attention that, for all  the reality of poverty, I seem to give off a seemingly well-off character trolling the interwebs constantly. Mainly because I choose to speak in English, with my writing and my so-called social presence online. The music I listen to, the videos I am often fond of posting on my timelines, gives off some sort of content and comfort one sees with the millions of people trying to look larger than life with their selfies and OOTD’s and foodie post. Though I am not prone to doing all these, sadly, I see the analogs.

Whenever I post a finished inked drawing, likes and exclamations of appreciation, to other people look like I have made it. Which is far, really far from the truth. For several months now, I have survived from dole outs and charity from friends. My family is better off within the warmth of the countryside and the people supporting them. I was abandoned by other people, too, though I couldn’t blame them for doing so. Sometimes, in the deep of the night when I feel I deserve something better, my thoughts turn to negative, with anger and rage at the people whom I fairly given my talent and skill and loyalty, only to be treated like rag, too dirty and worn to be of any use. They could be right you, know, in their twisted version of altruism.They have their reasons. But sometimes it rasps like P1330221sandpaper in my soul. But to dwell on it would be courting disaster so I am moving along.

I didn’t care to weigh myself, but I seem to be just a few pounds short of 80. I know I used to be a heavy 120++ and my clothes seem to hang like laundry on hangers.

I got a rousing compliment about my newfound drawing skills with pen,ink and brush.

My  rented room is just a few notches from being too unwholesome and downright  trashy, probably the best description is the setting for “Scorpio Nights”, but without the sex, just the weathered, broken down dwelling.

And the cat smells.

But online, some find it humorous that I comment on my cat housemates as if, it’s a regular thing, and not at all annoying.

So this invitation, try as I might, may not push through, and did not actually, because I have not the the means to do so. I declined without getting into the full details of my absence. If I tell people I only eat two meals a day, they would laugh and dismiss it as just one of my witty quips.

Which is true. The two meals a day, I mean. Most of the time, the only food I get in my system is accompanied by brandy  provided by my Mayor Street Preacher friends here in Makati, one of the few saving graces handed to me: a brother’s unflinching love, a best friend’s undying loyalty, a couple of friends who have gone out of their way to give me something more than what I asked. But there is one other saving grace that wants no part of me whatsoever and just up and went. I suffer in silence. I have never been ungrateful, but some peole tend to be impatient with the returns, given my circumstances. To hear them talk would sound like they don’t care. But they do.

People may talk of not caring what others think, but they do care about what peole think.

But things are looking up.

My gig with Mike is now on for 8 more weeks, with a new show requiring comics/drawing as the show intro in the offing, my komiks portrait seem to be gathering enough interest for people to actually ask about it, hopefully more want theirs too, and my own stories are getting fuller everyday – drawing and adding new aspects of the story by writing a bit more each day – has made me more determined to see this through. Very much like an MMA fighter who is losing with every round, but resolved to finish the whole bout.

For respect.

Now, a new invitation, this time from a bunch of hooligans I went out with, got mugged with, got stoned-faced drunk with in my youth and early adul life is calling. Do I make myself available?

Damn well, I will.

Solitude is something I have learned to live with since my childhood. But sometimes being with friends does wonders to my being. I could get some hard facts slapped in my face, the guys would probably berate me for being too scarce these years, and I may get a lot of flak from stories I haven’t told, but dammit, I miss mingling with real people, not some online community.

So come the 23rd of July, I will be taking the trip back to my hometown…

And I will enjoy myself.

Postscript on Father’s Day

I could be coming home to a home with my daughters scrambling for a hug or a kiss, or my wife smiling with promises of a delicious dinner waiting at the table. It’s what fathers, stereotyped providers that we are, were led to believe, the whole happy family trip our teachers and catechist seem to have hammered into our innocent minds back then – the unmoving, immovable, strong pillar that keeps the house standing through fire and rain. Well, maybe not fire, but rain, flood and storms.

The rock.

The superhero.

Instead, I open the door into my third floor apartment, what nowadays get categorized as studio-type, dark, with a hint of stale cigarette smoke, leftover clothes from the weekend washing that didn’t make it to the estimated time and detergent considerations, and here I am, 400 kilometers from my wife and daughters, renting space, no one to welcome me home but a small mouse stealing bits and morsels from my trash bin.

The things we endure to make a living.

Postscript on Father's Day

Most of the time I spent thinking is when I come back to this matchbox of mine, after I put the water to boil, and linger by the kitchen sink while I read the days text messages on my mobile phone. But I had to smile, from the greetings my three angels sent, greeting me Happy Father’s Day last Sunday.

I am a father.

But how can that be? How can I be a father to my daughters if  my works keeps me in the city, and they are growing, fast and furious, beautiful and intelligent, while I’m away. How can I be a husband  when I don’t get to kiss them goodnight? Is that what a father has come to? Earning barely enough to pay for the bills, for new shoes, school supplies, food on the table. This is very much like going abroad and just work till my back breaks so I can send some home.

Is this what a father is supposed to be?

I never knew my father. That is, literally I don’t know him. Oh. I know his name and how my mother and father met, and why I have this music bug ringing in my ear. But that is all. I often look at his portrait when I was young, a tall, handsome man in starched white uniform, holding a trombone. I may even imagined him as Rogelio Dela Rosa, suave in his slick, swept back hair with a cowlick neatly dangling on his forehead, carving and shaping wooden blocks into jumping horses and “last suppers”, madonna and child, football figures and trophies. I secretly thought, well maybe my dad is that good-looking, maybe also had girls swooning, you know, stuff you thought up as a teenager.

Mythos. Stories. Maybe even fiction.

But my father died of  liver cirrhosis when I was two years old, hence what I know about him is really just third hand information, from my brothers, from my mother, from relatives. I have never seen him in the full light of day. Never spent some time playing around with the trombone. We have never had an argument. He never had the chance of hitting me low on the gut If I ever did something that might have roused his anger. I will never know how he would have handled any of the bad things I’ve done, the triumph of having been to the  provincial meet at Quiz Bee, or maybe we could have shared a beer or two for some man to man talk.

I’m chasing a ghost.

I do not, for the life of me, know what or how it is to be a father. I do not know my father.

No behavioral pattern to follow. No discipline measures to emulate. Nothing to copy.

Sipping my coffee, I often wondered what could be if my Ama and Ina were still alive today. I could use  some thoughts on raising a family. Not that I’m bungling all the time, but sure could use some  info. Of course, I could be entirely off the mark. An uncle once hinted that he knew my father to be short of temper. Maybe that liver gave out because, well, usually it was from too much alcohol.

Too many maybes. Too many nevers. A whole lot of  guessing.

And as I try to relax a bit and sit in front of my laptop, I’m still guessing at what to do next. Draw some more? Maybe. Write? Guess so.  Will it rain hard tomorrow? Hope the kids get to school dry and on time. Will I find some quick solution to this financial rut I’m in? I hope so.

But then again, when I feel a bit unnerved by what’s happening, there’s this vestigial hand that often slaps me sober and asks –

‘What would Father do?”