The Cinderella curse

Perhaps it was the choice of song.

After all, if there is one song that could potentially set back the anti-violence crusade by at least 50 years, it would be Bato sa Buhangin. Don’t ask me why. Some songs are just like that.

Invariably, they start off with a major 7th chord, the chord of choice being C major 7th. Then, almost imperceptibly, they shift to a minor 7th — E major 7th, for instance. Then here’s the catch: an unexpected diminished chord, such as an E flat diminished, follows.

And here, you might as well kiss your pending criminal investigation, and the whole criminal justice system upon which society is founded, goodbye.

Or, as a veteran prosecutor I interviewed, and who asked not to be named, suggested: “There is something about Cinderella, and that whole 70’s Philippine pop love song genre that is inimical to the orderly administration of justice.”

Dalawampu and Tajanlangit should have seen that sinister chord progression coming. Salatandre, the defense lawyer, very well knew that nothing muddles a criminal investigation like Bato sa Buhangin. They could have objected soon after “Kapag ang puso’y natutong magmahal…” and well before that harmful refrain.

Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, while downplaying the incident, conceded: “But it appears there was fraternizing between the defense and the prosecution. We are looking into that.”

What Gonzalez will never say is that there are disturbing reports that somewhere deep in Mindanao, another criminal investigation was effectively sabotaged after lawyers for the defense successfully lured prosecutors into joining them in singing another 70’s Cinderella hit, T.L. Ako Sa ‘Yo.

The problem, it would appear, is bigger than everybody thinks. Anti-violence crusaders and disturbed radio commentators should not lower their guard against this musical menace that threatens the very integrity of law and order.

God forbid Cinderella’s Ang Boypren Kong Baduy should find its revival in another prosecutor’s office in another town or city in this country. That would truly be disastrous, because heinous crimes are especially vulnerable to heinous songs.

We need proactive measures. If singing in the course of an investigation cannot be stopped, then Gonzalez should at least come up with a play list of DOJ-certified songs. Songs that have been tested in simulated criminal investigations and found safe for use in sing-along sessions between prosecutors and defense lawyers.

This task is admittedly formidable, but should not meet difficulty in enlisting the participation of lawyers, anti-violence crusaders, radio commentators and concerned columnists like me. The problem, after all, is urgent. And it is not everyday that one is given a reason to grab the mike and sing.

As for Favila, the suspect, I’ve reviewed the tapes and listened closely to his performance in this sing-along. I leave his legal defense to his lawyer. But musically, I believe he should have invoked his right to remain silent.

SunStar Cebu
28 October 2004

Wedding junkie

Admit it. More than once these past few weeks, you spent your weeknight watching somebody else’s wedding on cable TV.

Sure it began innocently enough. There’s no reason to sound so defensive. You were clicking your remote during a commercial break and stumbled on Channel 44, The Party Channel (you believe it is called), and watched, bemused, as the bride began the first day of the rest of her life getting her eyebrows plucked by tweezers in the expert hands of a local genius.

But you stayed longer than you thought you would. So you clicked your remote back to National Geographic to assuage your guilt. Hoover Dam. All that concrete. There.

But then, yes, there’s the matter of whether there would be a dramatic descent down a winding staircase, with a six-foot train slithering behind the putative virgin, like the serpent in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So you click back to Channel 44.

And that is how it started, this dependence that threatens to stay forever.

You can’t even explain it. You thought wedding videos were meant to be stashed away, safe from vicious relatives, unimpressed guests and, God forbid, the cavernous mouths of the uninvited. The latter are the most brutal: they remember your names forever, and condemn them to that part of hell on which are written the sequin-and-Styrofoam names they didn’t get invited to see.

Wedding videos are explosive stuff. But here they are, on cable TV. And you’re watching.

And it’s catching on, too. Amid the ratings war between the major television networks, where they’re unleashing weapons of mass media destruction, there’s a low intensity conflict brewing in this region of cable television. You know this region. It’s the South and North Poles of cable. Last I heard, The Party Channel has just dislodged Taiwan TV Shopping, DW Germany and that channel where the computer monitor shows whether the cable signal is strong or weak.

But Channel 44 shouldn’t relax, because the issue of sustainability worries its faithful junkies no end. It should continually reinvent itself if it is to beat the market share of that channel where they tell you what’s on in the other channels.

I’m thinking reality TV. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy stuff. Maybe a panel of men and women who’ve separated from their wives and husbands punctuating each of the weddings’ segments with searing commentary.

“I don’t know how they’re going to live down the embarrassment of that awful gown.”

“Uh-oh. Not too much wiggle room in those vows. Tsk, tsk.”

Or an awards night always makes things more interesting. I think, for instance, that after watching hours of wedding videos, we deserve to know who’s Best in Getting Women to Stand Up and Catch That Darned Wedding Bouquet.

SunStar Cebu
21 October 2004

Clearing the throat

Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought this was the door to the men’s room.

Or some excuse like that. The sign fell off. I didn’t mean to pop up, uninvited, and invade your morning reading. I meant to knock. I meant to clear my throat. But columnists don’t do that, even if they could. And if I had you wouldn’t have noticed, anyway, because you obviously were as mesmerized as I was about this newly renovated opinion page, lost in thought, admiring the big fonts.

So I’ll just make myself comfortable here, and not apologize for walking in like this with big ideas about how our lives should proceed in light of reports that George W. Bush walked into the second presidential debate with a listening device stuck inside one ear. Why wasn’t it visible? I don’t know. Sound technicians say it’s easy to do that when there’s substantial space between the ears.

Speaking of space, yes, this one here is mine. I was told by my editor that I could put anything here. I haven’t moved all my stuff yet, although my friends say I shouldn’t cram it too much, that I should throw away a lot of the old stuff. They say they were getting kind of tired, you know? These friends. They just don’t understand columnists. We’d been recycling before environmentalists caught on. We beat deadlines by beating dead horses.

Like George W. Bush says “It’s hard work… It’s hard work…” when he doesn’t know what to say. We do that to fill space.

It’s hard work, when you can write about anything. You think of all that blank space to fill, and that blankness fills your mind. The trick is to pretend you can write about anything. My father always said: “Treat a man like an expert, and he’ll act like one.” Imagine how he must feel about my being a columnist. All that irony, lost in transmission from father to son.

I’m sorry: did I say “anything”? No, not anything. I can’t write about local politics. I’m unable to do that due to some congenital condition, something in-born. It’s no big deal, really. It just means I’ll have to dig dirt elsewhere for material.

How long have you been here? No, tell me what it’s like in here. It feels so important. I’m beginning to wonder if all that stuff I’m about to bring here won’t somehow mess up the scenery. I’m going to write about Boy Abunda, after all, and his 100 questions.

I’m going to contemplate on the reasons why they put the payphones near the toilets at Ayala Center and wonder whether they’re somehow trying to create “call centers”, because you go there to make a call or to answer the call of nature. I’m going to compliment that mall for that splendid idea of putting the electric meters of their tenants there, too, to provide entertainment to the men while they wait forever for their wives or girlfriends.

You don’t know? Which way, did you say, was the men’s room?

SunStar Cebu
14 October 2004

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