saddam hanged

rumors were rife throughout the week that saddam might be hanged today. still, nothing prepared me for news about his death in the gallows just hours ago. i was half-expecting an islam holiday (eid al-adha, feast of the sacrifice) would stall the execution until after january 7. but they did rush his execution, just before 6 am in iraq, saturday, dec. 30, 2006 to beat the start of the holiday.

perhaps best known for invading kuwait in 1991 and for resisting bush's ultimatum in 2003, saddam was executed for ordering the killing of 148 people in dujail in his own country in 1982. this he admitted during the trial, although he said it was because of a failed assassination attempt on his life. throughout his reign, he was accused of political oppression and genocides.

bbc sums up immediate reaction in one line: hated by many, mourned by few. for his victims and their families, justice came with his death. bush considers saddam's hanging a milestone in iraq's path to democracy.

but really, was justice served with his execution? will iraq finally be at peace with his passing? i don't think so.

although i did say before that death by hanging would be a fitting end to such a controversial existence, but that would be like glorifying him, giving him the end that he deserves, assuring him of a place in history. if you want justice served, i'd say it would have been better to let him rot in jail and let him die in obscurity like all other dictators. but i bet the us would not want that, since they can never be too sure that a change of government would not bring him back to power.

my fear is that his death will only escalate the tension. saddam was himself happy to die in the hands of his enemies, since that would make a martyr out of him, what with all the allegations of a sham trial and the presence of u.s. troops in iraq. it's only a matter of time before a younger breed, angered and enraged by the fate that he suffered, will take his place. and the conflict lives on.


on a personal note, news of saddam's death saddens me a bit. no, i don't idolize saddam and neither will i grieve for him. it's just that, to me, he had always been a part of world politics.

growing up, i heard stories, mostly in the form of jokes, about a terrifying man named saddam. in bisaya, we even have this parody of a christmas song: whenever i see boys and girls selling lanterns on the street / i remember saddam, namaligya ug time bomb (i remember saddam selling time bomb)...and so the song goes. as a five-year-old, i remember an uncle coming home to our province from kuwait at the height of the gulf war; he had grown thin with his beard and moustache all over his face. all i could comprehend was that a terrible man named saddam was the reason for his coming home.

now that saddam is dead, it's as if there's a missing piece in the chessboard.


incidentally, saddam's execution took place on the very same day rizal was shot exactly 110 years ago. in my previous entry about saddam, i wondered if he ever read about rizal because at the time his verdict was handed down, he requested that he be executed by firing squad. apparently, his request was denied but he did die curiously on the same day as rizal, just before sunrise i assume.

saddam, surely is a farcry from rizal. i'd be committing blasphemy if i even attempted to compare him to our national hero. while rizal died for his cause, saddam died because he wanted to save his life.


while i was writing this, dzmm erroneously reported that saddam was hanged 10 pm in iraq. the anchor quoted cnn. but cnn reported that saddam was hanged shortly after 6 am then placed "10 pm friday et" in parenthesis to indicate time in the us eastern zone. if you check al jazeera and bbc and other news outlets, they all reported saddam was hanged before 6 am, with bbc explicitly stating it was local time, meaning, the time in iraq.

interestingly, i compared how the three major international news networks reported on the execution in their websites.

us-based cnn highlighted saddam's emotions during the execution: hussein executed with 'fear in his face,' its headline read, quoting a witness. british broadcaster bbc settled for a factual account: saddam hussein executed in iraq. qatar-based al jazeera english did likewise, albeit in a more dramatic manner: saddam hanged at dawn.

cnn lead: Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator who spent his last years in captivity after his ruthless regime was toppled by the U.S.-led coalition in 2003, was hanged before dawn Saturday for crimes committed in a brutal crackdown during his reign.

bbc lead: Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at a secure facility in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.

al jazeera lead: Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president, has been hanged, according to Iraqi and US officials.

both bbc and al jazeera said saddam was hanged just before 6 am, quoting the iraqi deputy foreign minister while cnn said it was 'shortly after 6 am,' quoting the iraqi national security adviser. they must have different watches, i assume.

cnn's 1:46 am est report, the longest among the three, centered on the celebration after, about the end of a dark era. it did not mention any negative reactions. curiously enough, it reported that bush wasn't awakened during saddam's execution albeit he was briefed about it just before retiring. it quoted the statement from the white house, and interestingly said that no americans were present during the execution.

bbc's 6:35 gmt update gave an account of the execution, reporting that us troops were on high alert for fear of backlash, then went on to say that while shias generally welcomed the development, saddam's own sunni tribe were angered by it. then it quoted bush and the uk foreign secretary, hailing the execution.

al jazeera's 6:27 mecca time report was a relatively shorter account of the execution, quoting sources which confirmed saddam's death. it quoted bush but included the part where he admitted that bringing saddam to justice will not end violence in iraq. it said that saddam was ousted by a US-led "invasion" in 2003, a term the other news outlets did not use. it reported that details about the execution were kept secret for fear of violent backlash, and hinted that it may complicate efforts to reconcile shia and sunni muslims. while cnn emphasized that saddam was convicted of crimes against humanity, al jazeera said saddam was accused of widespread oppression and genocides. it quoted saddam's letter to the iraqis, offering himself as a sacrifice. the report ended with saddam's request to his daughter that he be buried in yemen until iraq is liberated.

both cnn and bbc posted a photo of saddam with the noose around his neck just before he was executed. al jazeera carried a photo of saddam raising his hand, with his index finger pointing upward, probably taken during the trial.

which among them is the most objective?

now consider yahoo: saddam hussein executed, former dictator hanged for crimes committed during brutal regime.

simulblog with pics at: driven 2


full circle

the first time i met rhea, i remember asking her if she had ever written any youngblood article. her full name, afterall, sounds familiar. we were then on our first day in one of our communication classes. it may have sounded like a lame pick-up line but really, it was just an honest-to-goodness attempt to strike up a conversation; as a journalism student then, i was only curious.

anyway, around three and a half years after that initial meeting, i'm getting an answer. here's rhea's youngblood article published yesterday in the inquirer. it's about her trip to china last october.

by the way, i'm not muslim, and i'm not the colleague she's talking about. read on:


By Rhea M. Alba
Last updated 01:14am (Mla time) 12/28/2006

Published on Page A11 of the December 28, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I AM on a 24-hour train ride from Beijing to Guangzhou, China, as I write. My whole body is still stiff from running around the station while lugging over 28 kilos of baggage. And to think that just a few minutes ago, my colleague and I almost missed this train.

We had been delivered to what we thought was the right train station, until we found out, 30 minutes before our scheduled departure, that the Beijing Railway Station we were supposed to go to was on the other side of the city. After making a thousand desperate gestures and spending 135 yuan, my colleague and I finally arrived and boarded this train.

Unfortunately, since we were the last two persons to get in and we had no idea how to negotiate using Mandarin, we have no choice but to take the topmost bunks in a three-layered, prison cell-like structure that is now our cabin. It's not exactly the most comfortable place to be in, especially when you are sharing it with four other people speaking a language you cannot understand. And so we are left with the challenge of doing a careful balancing act every time we need to go down our beds to eat, stretch or pee. We cannot sit up straight, lest we bump our heads against the ceiling. And I'm a little too close to the ultra bright fluorescent light, guaranteeing a sleepless trip the rest of the way.

All this happened or is happening because I don't know how to communicate in Chinese. But it's only now that I have come to realize that in the past few days, I have survived by engaging in a seemingly endless game of charade with almost everyone I have to deal with.

I used to think charade is just a game for kids or noontime show stars who play it as if it's the most intellectually stimulating and entertaining game in the world. But because of my stay here and the dire circumstances I've gone through, I have become the newest recruit to the charade club. To find a shopping center, for instance, I have to take money from my wallet, point to my T-shirt, put them together and pray the other party understands enough to know that I want to go to a clothing store.

I have been lucky enough to have learned a few Chinese words that allow me to order food in a restaurant. For instance, I know that daocha stands for fork and knife, which is important if you are tired of using chopsticks. Bingshui means iced water, which is essential to know because their drinking water is normally served warm. But when we come to the main course, we have to check out the food to see if it is suitable for my Muslim friend. Whenever we are in doubt or we don't know what to order, we settle for chicken, but we have to do it by flapping our arms.

To ask whether a place of interest is within walking distance, I let my index finger and middle finger do the walking on my palm. But after walking non-stop in such a big, foreign city, I usually end up making imaginary driving motions to signify that I want to get a cab. The next step? I simply give the taxi driver the hotel's card.

It's a good thing that nodding one's head or making the thumbs up sign are also signs of assent or approval here. In fact, they are the gestures I eagerly seek after a long, tiring day.

Of course, I also had some misses while playing charade with the Chinese, because as my English teacher in high school used to tell us, "Actions speak louder than words--but they are not as clear." One time, my colleague and I almost got lost after taking a taxi. Because it was so dark, all buildings and Chinese lanterns looked the same to us. It turned out that we had been dropped on the right street but at the wrong hotel. Luckily, we only had to walk a few meters in Beijing's freezing weather.

When I joined a group tour to the Great Wall, I could not understand a thing because the tour guide spoke in Chinese all the time. A Chinese guy knew a bit of broken English, but he couldn't keep pace with what the guide was saying.

It was worse when we visited one of the Ming Tombs. I didn't know why all the Chinese tourists had a frightened look on their faces, and why the Chinese student I was walking with shrieked whenever I would step on a line or stone slab. I supposed it had something to do with feng-shui, burial rites and what-not, but no amount of hand movements or facial expressions could get me the information I wanted. Which was just too bad, because the English captions offered little by way of explanation as well.

Some people would say we should have purchased an English-Mandarin phrase book, but we did and it wasn't of much help. Then we should have hired an English-speaking tour guide, right? But looking back, I feel that aside from meeting new friends and seeing the historical sites of China, the curious charades we were forced to play made the experience more memorable for me (we couldn't afford the second option anyway). It forced me to become more creative in thinking of ways to express my thoughts and feelings. I've also realized that my ability to speak in English doesn't guarantee survival in other places. Sometimes, it's more important to hone communication skills that are beyond words to get a message across.

I'm glad that this train ride is about to end in a few hours because I'm so excited about the next thing that I have to do: move my right hand in an upward, diagonal motion and flash a big smile.

See you in the Philippines!

Rhea Alba, 22, is an MA Community Development student at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She was in China for the 2006 Asean Youth Camp.

simulblog with pics at: driven 2


not a bad christmas, definitely (a.k.a. sagada chronicles)

as luck would have it, no make-up classes during the christmas break. what a pleasant surprise! woohoo.

good thing i learned about it while still on the way to sagada two weekends ago with rhea and three of her co-volunteers, mish, maj and hazel. mish came to visit the philippines (she's from uk) and was on her last week so the group decided to take her to sagada.

the pre-departure itself was so eventful that the trip almost didn't push through.

i almost got left behind because i dropped by our block's christmas party at carol's place in marikina. was still on my way there when rhea texted me that the bus was to leave at 9:30 pm, 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. i arrived at carol's place around 8:10 pm, only to find out that my bag did some travelling of its own. after donning a sotanna for a costume, eating a little and having some photos taken while waiting for my bag to arrive, i rushed to dimasalang where we were supposed to take a bus. rhea would later text me i should head to espana instead, because unfortunately for them, they learned firsthand that it was the wrong place to go.

thanks to a very efficient taxi driver, i arrived at the autobus station right on time. then i was told the bus actually leaves at 10 pm. so much for the adrenalin rush eh?

but the adventure didn't stop there. because we dilly-dallied for a while, some other people were already occupying our seats by the time we boarded the bus. we were told we might have been left behind by the bus that had just left. panic overcame us, soon we were embarking on a fruitless chase. we hailed a cab to take us to the gasoline station where the bus was to refuel; too bad the driver either didn't know his way or was just taking us for a ride in the streets of legarda. when we got to the gas station, we were told it was the wrong station. so we took a tricycle (just one for the five of us) and passed by the flowers of dangwa on our way to the "right" gas station. we were rejoicing when we saw buses parked in the gas station only to be told that our bus had already left. as it turned out, we boarded the right bus; why we got off escapes me now, come to think of it.

was a bit annoyed at this point because i already missed the block party, now i'm missing sagada as well? it didn't help that dec. 15 had been a terrible day: no-show prof for a make-up class early that day for which i cancelled a class i was teaching; no lantern parade; no malcolm madness (at least for the block because of the christmas party). can't pin the blame on anyone though so i tried hard not to look pissed off. besides, i promised rhea i was joining the trip.

the great thing in being with volunteers however is that their spirits never seem to waiver. after having our tickets refunded, we decided to take the baguio route. at 2 am of dec. 16, we were on board a bus bound for baguio en route to sagada. the trip, from then on, fortunately went without a glitch. maybe dec. 15 was just "inauspicious," as the chinese or japanese would say.

the trip to baguio took 6 hours. it took 6 hours more to get to sagada. despite the duration, the trip was surprisingly light. or maybe it was just because we were either sleeping, talking or feasting on passion fruit the whole time.

we arrived in sagada around 4 pm, saturday, dec. 16. the place is way way colder than baguio. it helps that the trees are very much untouched and that not too many vehicles pass by the place. although there are plenty of inns and restaurants, with architecture ranging from the modern to the traditional, the structures have not overshadowed nature's beauty.

we settled in a place called alfredo's inn and restaurant. it looks simple from the outside but the interiors are richly decorated with local wood, providing a homey ambience with a native feel. it used to be the house of one of sagada's greatest sons, mayor alfredo lameng, a legendary figure in that part of the country and the first igorot to run for the senate. two years ago, they converted the place to an inn and restaurant, managed by lameng's granddaughter.

on our first meal in sagada, we feasted on chicken curry, pork adobo, sauteed vegetables and stir-fried vegetables. what's the difference between a sauteed vegetable and a stir-fried one? the former has some sauce, the latter is dry. but basically they have the same kinds of vegetables. talk about vegetables, they have plenty of them in sagada that we never failed to have some in every meal (even during breakfast) in the next two days. the people there really know how to cook their vegetables, not raw, not too cooked, just...right. and they'll cook it especially for you.

after that sumptuous dinner, we were ready to...sleep. at 8 pm, we were already in bed. that's because it's already dark outside, and the place is really quiet. great for relaxation (that explains why we saw a lot of children in sagada, hmmm...). either that or we were just tired from the trip. off to dreamland we went. i was deep asleep for the longest time in months. it felt good just to stay in bed, if it weren't for the sightseeing and the caving that awaited us.

not too early the next day, we visited the hanging coffins and the sumaging cave. we only saw the hanging coffins from a distance (but that, i guess was sufficient to satisfy our urge to pose for the camera). the descent down sumaging cave was the more challenging one. situated 30 to 45 minutes from the poblacion, it took another 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to the bottom of the cave. the trail was tricky, with rocks all over the place. they were either slippery at some point, or had dungs of bats in them. one time, we had to rappel our way down. at another, we had to hold on to the guide for support.

there was no light inside the cave so our guide had to bring a petromax, a gas-fueled lamp, so we could see our way. and if you expected silence, it will come later as the bats will first greet you, seemingly cheering you on to explore the depths of the cave.

what is remarkable about sumaging cave are the stone formations inside. one looked like an elephant. another looked like a woman's behind. the others, i can't recognize anymore but they were astonishing up close. we were told part of the cave used to be submerged in water which accounts for the variety of stone formations we found.

the descent in the cave and back left us hungry and so on our way back, we dropped by the yoghurt house. yes, they serve tasty home-made yoghurt but they also have great meals in generous servings. i opted for pan fried pork with vegetables.

since it was to be a leisure trip, we didn't want to stress ourselves with too much activities. we decided to hit the souvenir shops before...eating again! we were supposed to try shamrock and masferre's but shamrock didn't have much to offer and masferre's chef was on vacation (make that holiday for the britons), we went back to yoghurt house.

to complete the holiday, we decided to give ourselves a much-needed swedish massage. there are a lot of them offering their services in sagada, from shiatsu to the traditional hilot. at 300 pesos, may massage ka na, room service pa! (now this is not a paid endorsement)

the next day, monday, we packed our bags and bid sagada goodbye. i rode my first topload ride (on top of a jeep) from sagada to bontoc. mish was saying we should take some pictures just in case we don't survive. i wanted to tell her that among the superstitious, having your photos taken before a trip was the surest way to have yourself killed, but i didn't want to scare her. too bad we didn't take a photo but i did tell mish the trip's gonna be fine since the drivers know their way around.

i don't think i heeded my own advice because at the start of the trip, both my hands held on to the railings. one side of the road was a cliff afterall, and while the view of the mountains and the valleys below was spectacular, it was also a surefire way to end your life if you fall several hundreds of meters down. i decided i wasn't ready to die yet hehe.

the view from above was nothing less than breathtaking. as we approached bontoc, we passed by chico river, all clean and green, great for whitewater rafting. i find it unbelievable how only 2 or 3 decades ago, marcos would have wanted to put up a dam on it, which would have ruined everything.

the trip to bontoc took a little less than an hour. soon we were on our way to banaue to see the rice terraces. but the fog was heavy that day, and it started to rain. by the time we passed by the viewing deck, there was no view, just fog. we took our late lunch instead, shopped for more souvenirs, and headed straight to the bus station since we didn't want to miss our bus, not this time around. except for mish and me, work awaited the others.

just when we were 30 minutes early, it was the bus that arrived late. we were supposed to leave at 5:30 pm, but 6 pm, 7 pm, 8 pm came, there were no signs of the bus. the bus apparently got stalled somewhere and they were sending a "rescue" bus so to speak. hungry by then, we requested a resident to cook sardines for us (since it was the only one they were selling and we didn't want to go far just to eat). for the next hour, we feasted on family sardines, rice and spicy oishi prawn crackers dipped in fruit vinegar. that's fish and chips, filipino style, my companions, who have all been to uk for their volunteer work, quipped. now that's a volunteer, i said.

finally, at 9 pm, the bus arrived and we were on our way home.

simulblog with pics at: driven 2


christmas not just yet

it's less than two weeks before christmas but life in law school seems to have a calendar of its own.
we really should be looking forward to the lantern parade this friday. malcolm madness, a yearly tradition of lampooning our most-"loved" profs, comes right after. then, this year, our block christmas party happens to fall on the same night. plenty of happenings in one night eh? we should be in a partyin' mood right? not quite.
because on december 19 and 20, we're having make-up classes. and it's not a lecture class; it's a recit-based, 3-hour class with the most "verbatim" of all profs, joint class at that with 2 other sections. that's twice the normal coverage, almost twice the time spent standing and reciting at your wits' end, and with an audience of almost thrice the normal class size (if all are present, that is), before whom you better be ready to lose face. christmas nightmare?
lest i be misunderstood, i'm not complaining. i love going to school. what better way to spend time this christmas than doing what you love best, right? besides, what am i gonna do at home anyway? who cares about christmas? it's a waste of time, and money as well. we shouldn't be having christmas vacations. that way, we don't pretend having christmas vacations when there's really none!
pardon this rant, but just so you'd get the picture, i'm even talking about one of the more reasonable profs. wait til you hear about profs who don't show up and who do not even have the courtesy of informing you that there's no class until, say, 30 minutes before end of the supposed class. not that they have the obligation to inform you anyway. or profs who give you all or nothing exams, when the subject matter is highly debatable. and when you press for explanations, all you get is an "i believe in my heart" statement with no legal basis whatsoever. or profs who'll flunk you because they don't think you'd make a good lawyer.
i have nothing personal against any of these profs. i even like them as persons, but as profs...i might like them someday.
and what are we students doing about this? nothing.
because in a world where profs reign supreme, we mere mortals can only bow our heads in obedience and comply with their wishes. no matter how outspoken the image of a law student is, s/he must remain meek. nowhere is the distance between teacher and student more felt than in the halls of malcolm. some dare to bridge the gap, at their own risk.
to be sure, there are still brilliant, reasonable and compassionate profs. but they're getting fewer and older by the minute. help us find replacements pretty soon. even replacements for the not-so-old but not-so-likeable.
then again, i might just be exaggerating. bitter? nothing to be bitter about, for now. hope there won't be any reason to be so in the future.
and so, ever wonder why malcolm hall seems to be festive these days, what with all the lights outside and the poinsettias almost everywhere in the malcolm lobby? it's to make up for the lack of christmas spirit inside the classrooms.
what the classrooms lack however, we more than make up in the company of our peers, our blockmates.
merry christmas everyone. even if you don't feel it just yet.



i don't know what got into vic agustin's head but throwing water at someone's face will certainly not calm an angry man; it will infuriate him all the more. no matter how cold the water is.
of course, it's inappropriate to pass judgment on someone you don't know. renato constantino, the unfortunate receiver of an instant shower, must have been rude to the point of being annoying in that press conference. i certainly do not think that interrupting a press conference was a good thing to do. he could write all he want in his column, let these congressmen (tonggressmen as conrado de quiros would have it) talk all they want about con-ass in their presscon.
but throwing water at another columnist? that's unforgivable.
such a let-down for a pdi columnist. he must have been a huge fan of bituing walang ningning. lavinia wanna-be hehe.


it could've been us

two years ago, while working on our college thesis, rhea and i (plus her chaperon), boarded an inter-island pumpboat on our way to nonoc island just off the coast of surigao city. it was january and it was raining. the seas were rough and i hesitated for a moment whether we should take the trip. considering the size of the pumpboat, it's not unlikely the boat could capsize, and who knows, that could have been the end of us.
but having flown all the way from manila to do a quick weekend research, there was no other choice but to take that only trip to nonoc.
the anxiety i felt, i would soon find out minutes into the trip, was not unfounded. aboard the pumpboat, we had to take cover from the waves that seemed to batter the wooden boat. we had to slow down to lessen the impact of the waves. at one point, the boat completely stopped because one part of the boat's supporting poles (katig in bisaya) broke. good thing it wasn't the main pole, otherwise the boat would have listed.
imagine the horror of watching the whole thing from inside the boat. i wasn't scared for myself (because once you die, you wouldn't really know what happens after, right?). but i was more concerned about what will happen to rhea. i was responsible for bringing her there. if not for that ambitious project, she should've been enjoying a movie that weekend. whatever happens, it's my fault. i don't think i can live with the guilt should anything happen to her. it's one of those rare times i was wishing i'd rather end up dead.
as luck would have it however, we survived the trip and we're still alive. we finished the thesis, graduated, and well... you know what happened next. (He really must have plans for us, eh?)
and so when i heard the news about mb leonida 2 sinking off the coast of surigao, it struck me as something frighteningly familiar. not only did it happen in surigao, the pumpboat was of the very kind we were in. it could've been us, it could've been us.


looking for the drive

i tried searching for past websites i've made for some class projects back in undergrad. i'm glad all of them are still accessible. i haven't updated them because i really do not have the time. and i think i've forgotten how to handcode. sir arao's going to kill me hehe.

browsing through them however gave me some sense of amusement and fulfillment. amused at the thought that at some point, i was actually capable of creating one. i certainly think i can't make one now. fulfilled because i remembered the countless hours i spent working on them (handcoded pa--class requirement kasi), and the efforts somehow paid off, at least to me. and now, years after, i'm looking at them like some time capsule. memories trapped in the pages--one of the reasons i refuse to update them.

funny how browsing through these websites can give me that warm feeling that i never get out of law school these days.

i think i've lost the drive. i need to find one pretty soon.


was supposed to have dinner with college blockmates tonight for an early christmas celebration, but it didn't push through since most are not available. i spent some time chatting with blockmates and high school friends instead through ym. wasting my time? nah, time well spent i guess. the joys of having a 4-day weekend. tomorrow, back to civil procedure and avena, and a vow never to be made to sit down again for a lousy recit. if things work out, avena might just be the drive i need.

fyi: avena is the name of a terror prof. i have yet to judge for myself. as of now i'm suspending judgment and i'm abiding by the presumption of good faith.