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Estrus

THE WORD reads so unfamiliar, right? It’s also spelled with the letter “O” preceding “E” or oestrus.

Hmmm… let me try explaining what the word is all about because, I tell you, it’s not making me sleep – and I’m over and done with insomnia since time I can’t remember.

Estrus or oestrus, in feline language, is that period in time when our female (called the queens) furry animals that purrs and meows are heads down, fore legs bent, rear quarters are raised to bare their vulvae, their tails hoisted and seized to the side of their bodies, ready to admit the tom cats’ sex organs. In the process, the female cats’ legs will hoof it rhythmically, as if walking in place.

Is that enough explanation for easy understanding, or did I beat around the bush, and I’m not even near any clump of bushes?

O, sige… estrus means our meow-y friends, the queens, are “IN HEAT.” This is January; the furry queens’ heat cycles begin and then last until August. No wonder I couldn’t sleep… I keep hearing mating meows in the neighborhood, sometimes on our own roof. This clearly indicates more nights that I’d be wide awake. There should be a mission here to spay all the female cats.

Truth is… mating cats are not the only reasons why I couldn’t catch sleep even if I’m ready to be fully unconscious to restore myself. And h**k no, it’s not my own estrus cycle that’s doing it, hahaha!

Something… or someone is really making an effort. An anonymous tom cat who’s been sending me lewd photos since December; and I don’t have an iota of trace about who he might be. But that’s only for now.

The photos were all UGLY (in my real sense of the word). So ugly, my goodness! If I find out who he is, and I am going to… he’ll learn how to respect himself.

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IT’S BEEN so many weeks since I got back from a trip to Dipolog City to attend our national convention. It wasn’t one of the sweetest travels I’ve had lately within the Philippines, but it was certainly unforgettable.

Beautiful sunrise in Dapitan City. Taken on October 8, 2008.


Dipolog isn’t Dipolog yet if you’re coming in from the ocean via slow boats from Cebu. The boat docks in historical Dapitan, a second class city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. It is historically significant as the place where Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our national hero, was exiled by the Spaniards during their colonization of the Philippines.

I have stories about Dapitan, but let’s backtrack a bit as I want to (I need to) recall our Cebu gig that only lasted from 2 p.m.-9:30 p.m., and yet, felt like a lifetime for me.

Our arrival in Cebu in the afternoon of October 7 was welcomed with a mentally shocking thud made by the Cebu Pacific plane that landed on the airport tarmac like a taxi with broken wings. I couldn’t stop myself from being nervous. Remind me next time not to watch National Geographic Channel because it’s there were I’m getting all my paranoia about riding planes — INVESTIGATION OF FLIGHT so-and-so CRASH — who wouldn’t be obsessed with paranoia?

In the same blog that I had posted here in October 2006, I recall complaining about the same incident; Cebu Pacific planes land like the pilots were trained to maneuver taxis. Right now, however, it’s the only airline that offers the best travel fare… so why not?


This isn’t really the prescribed sleeping position at GP Lines. I wonder why they all had to face that wall there… hmmm… maybe SLEEP is there?


Cebu is the second fave big city of this irritatingly trying-to-be-self-confident-itinerant (hahaha!). I’ve always been amazed by the Cebu International Airport’s vigorous and forceful quality. It doesn’t make me think of what else is living and breathing outside its perimeter — crazy. Yep, I had been told!

I can live inside the airport, and I’d feel comfortable unlike Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) in that comedy-drama-romance movie The Terminal. As long as nobody chases me, or forces me to leave, or do latrine duties, I can probably do a LIFE there.

From the CIA, some of us (we were 7 in the group) packed ourselves in JCI Sen. Bobby’s Palawan Pawnshop car. We didn’t fit so Ian, Malou and I, hailed a taxi to reach Estancia. He has a house for his staff there, and if we decide to stay, we could.

I’ve been to Cebu a number of times, but I think it’s the first time I moved on foot there. There’s nothing spectacular in Estancia except for the water dispenser we found in one sari-sari store that has a hole for a coin before it allows a drink. That was a first encounter; the idea can be picked up in Palawan… probably!

The whole street is only a slight wider than J. Abad Santos Street where I live. The only mighty difference is that my house is in front of a barangay hall with a basketball court, while JCI Sen. Bobby’s house stands next to a line of small stores that sell different kinds of things — from Good Morning mineral water, to spare parts, to fried and grilled chicken, etcetera.

Friend and grilled chicken… ewww! Not ewww because the food’s horrible; I just realized I’m dead hungry. Super hungry, my goodness. All of us were.

We all left the place with the possibility of acquiring the wickedest kind of all psychiatric conditions as we were all delusional about FOOD, FOOD, FOOD… none of us ate before leaving Puerto Princesa. We couldn’t stop — no way, we still had to endure to find the office building of Cokaliong and GP Lines and get our tickets first to get out of the place as soon as possible. Susanne, Carlo, and Bong have an academy to attend the next day.

At about 4:30 p.m., with tickets carefully kept somewhere in the jungle in Malou’s bag, we headed to SM Mall to finally eat. We were so hungry, we all look like fried chickens to each other. Susanne gave me that stare I didn’t like. Hahaha!

“The proof of the travel is in the adventure,” this thought kept running in my head quietly because I don’t want everyone to hear it from the facial expressions I was making the whole time. We only stayed in Cebu for a few hours and yet, like what I’ve already said, all the hassle made me feel like I’ve lived there a thousand years. I wish I was back at the CIA as it was my connection to Palawan — besides, I like it there.

Quarter to 9 p.m. was the best laugh I’ve ever had that day. It was living on the edge of insanity. I think food didn’t do me good because I still think crazy.

By this time, a bus of the GP Lines had taken us to the pier. Upon reaching a terminal building there, it made a U-turn and stopped at the edge of the water. My calculation brought me to realize that I was only about 9 inches or so away from falling into the murky sea. It was night time, for dios por saint!

Talk about living on the edge, I got scared. I had to warn everyone to move carefully when they go down as I don’t want the bus to keel over with me sitting by the window.

Next stop… TRIP TO DAPITAN.

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I have above the teaser video of “Ploning” which was written and will soon be directed by my friend Angga Garcia in Cuyo in January. The film’s inspired by the fact that Angga’s Cuyunon and he wants to show the world his birthplace because he’s proud of it and its unique culture and traditions.

The first time I saw this teaser video was at cuyopress.com — a website started by Mandy Perez a.k.a. Banbanen for Cuyunons living all over the world. Angga had placed it there in the hope of encouraging all Cuyunons to be proud of their roots, their customs and traditions that are truly exceptional.

I have a copy of the first and second scripts, and I’ve started reading them. But because I was busy the past few weeks, I didn’t understand a single of what I’ve read. It’s embarrassing, I know!

Anyway, I promise to get back with a few of my thoughts after reading them again in the following days. In the meantime, relax and enjoy the video.

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“SILK has been revered as the Queen of Fibers for millennia. Monks and princesses have smuggled its secrets from country to country; bandits have stolen it from camel-back caravans. It is light, soft, shiny, and strong: a cabled silk yarn has more strength, per weight, than a cable of steel, but silk can be made so light that it will float on a breeze. Silk is more available now for Western spinners than at any time before in history; it can be purchased in any form from raw cocoons and carded top all the way to finished yarns, plus special forms that are specific to silk, like hankies and bricks.” http://www.knitty.com/issuespring06/FEATbombyx.html

The other day in the office, I had the privilege to meet a Japanese couple who are here in Puerto Princesa for a few days to train women on how to loom and weave silk threads from Eri-silk worms (Philosamia ricini) with Tagbalay Foundation, a non-profit environmental organization.

Before the year ends, my goal is to make me a nice silk shawl with the help of Adelfa (I’m not sure if I got her name’s spelling right) of Tagbalay who has been training with them for a long time.

Kit Kitatani represents WIN International or Women in Need International, Inc. and his wife, Akiko, is the director of NPO 2050, another non-government organization based in Japan whose goal is to empower women in different countries in Asia to be independent. They’ve been coming back to Puerto Princesa since 2000, when IRREN Foundation, also an NGO, introduced the farming of Eri-silk worms in Palawan.

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Eri silk worms being reared in a farm here in Puerto Princesa.

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Akiko untangles a silk thread ready for weaving.

Kit and Akiko speak very, very good English that’s why it wasn’t so difficult for me to talk to them and ask a lot of questions about Eri-silk worms. When I complemented Akiko on her fluency in the English language, she said it was because they were also based in the U.S. for quite sometime. Now, they try to visit there three times a year.

Also known as endi or errandi, Eri silk is produced by the Eri-silk worms that love to feed on castor and kesseru leaves. In tropical Philippines, the worms can feed on cassava leaves.

ERI-SILK WORM CYCLE

Kit said it is easy to grow this type of silk worm in any tropical country as long as there’s enough food to feed them. The cultivation of silk worms is known as “sericulture” — the small eggs (about 300-500) of silkworm moths are nurtured until they hatch into worms. They are placed under a fine layer of covering ensconced by chopped cassava or caster leaves.

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Kit (left) in an Eri-silk worm farm.

Once the worms mature, they change their skins four times and this is called “molting,” before they start to make 4.5 cm to 5 cm cocoons for four days. Female Eri worms make the largest cocoons, while the male, the small kinds. Eri-silk worms are voracious leaf eaters in this part of their life cycle. After 7 days, the moths inside the cocoons go out and then “mate” to start a new cycle.

The cocoons are then harvested and boiled with perla soap (Pinoy laundry soap) to soften, hanged and then dried before they are spun into threads that can be weaved or loomed into silk shawls, wraps or scarfs.

PUERTO PRINCESA ERI-SILK ASSOCIATION

Here in the City, there’s an organization of women called Puerto Princesa Eri-Silk Association. Its president is 58 years old Helen M. Quijana, a retired radiology technologist of the Ospital ng Palawan (Provincial Hospital). The association has 11 members, all women, some of them unemployed housewives.

“I love to crochet and to knit that’s why silk weaving intrigued me when they came here to train more women. I was part of the second batch that they trained,” Helen narrated, adding Kit and Akiko would bring silk yarns for them to buy and weave. Later on, the two brought a sericulture expert who trained them to farm Eri-silk worms.

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Helen and another member of the association help each other learn how to weave silk using the big weaving loom tool given to them by Ken and Akiko.

“They convinced us that it would be better for us to raise the worms ourselves because they’re easy to rear as long as we have cassava leaves to feed them,” she said.

The Japanese couple soon brought other trainers to teach them on how to improve their weaving and looming skills; gave them free tools to use in training their co-members and were bringing their produce back to Japan to be sold in a “fair trade” event. A good shawl made of Eri-silk fetches more than a PhP1,000.00, she said.

Helen said that since she started seven months ago, she has already sold about 13 pieces of good lengths of shawl through Ken and Akiko. “It’s additional income for us women who have no jobs or who have stopped working regular jobs,” she said. She has earned more than PhP25,000.00 selling her silk shawls.

Kit said the ability to earn additional income is equal to having “independence” for the women in Puerto Princesa who now know how to rear Eri-silk worms and weave them into beautiful shawls.

“When they’re given the opportunity to earn additional income for their families, then they’re also provided the opportunity to be independent economically, socially and politically. Women have got to have some skills in order for them to be able to function alone and not dependent on somebody,” Ken said.

NO SILKWORM INDUSTRY

In Japan, Akiko said, Eri-silk worm farming and weaving them into fine silk shawls is a “completely dead industry” because China is beating them at it. But Japanese people love silks, especially during the cold season.

Only a small population of Japan has taken the interest to continue it, and its produce is not enough to cover the market, according to her. “We thought that providing the women in Puerto Princesa and Palawan the skills and the knowledge about Eri-silk worms can start a viable industry for them here, at the same time encourage them to be self-governed and be confident about themselves,” she said.

As part of their commitment to make women self-sufficient in the City, NPO 2050 has provided the association an amount that it can loan to members who are interested to rear the worms, make silk yarns and weave. It may also be used to provide more trainings they need in partnership with Tagbalay Foundation.

Other than my interest to make me a shawl I can use this Christmas when it turns a bit colder here, I’m really into helping women become independent and self-governing. I know there are still problems before the silk industry flourishes here: majority of the members of the association have no lands where they can start their worm farms, more funding is still needed to train other women (11 women are not enough); etcetera. But if there are organizations that are willing to help, then there is hope.

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Schloat with Mrs. Hagedorn. He brought his WW2 uniform and medals with him all the way from San Diego, California and proudly wore them.

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Standing with “historical man” outside Plaza Cuartel with Mrs. Hagedorn and Dr. Ganapin and an ex-pat whose name I missed getting.

WORLD WAR II veteran Don T. Schloat might be 86 years old, but he’s still very healthy and well. Looking at him would tell you he was really good looking during his youth.

I was excited to meet him because I was told he was once imprisoned at Plaza Cuartel, which was utilized as a garrison by the Japanese in early 40’s, just a few blocks away from where we live in Jose Abad Santos Street.

History isn’t one of my passion — well, not at least until June 12 this year, the Philippines’ 109th Independence Day which we also celebrated here in Palawan. I managed the event under the Writers’ Pool and Events Management of the City, and since then, I’ve been converted.

For me, history’s only a subject I needed to learn in high school and pass in college as it’s a prerequisite to getting a degree in political science. Other than that, I don’t really spend time reading books about history a lot. Although, I must say I like old things and stuff like antique potteries, paintings, sculptures, etcetera. When I visit new places, the first thing I always want to do is visit museums and be awed by old, old things I see.

So why not a love affair with history? After all, it is said, “a country without a memory is a country of madmen.” In my case, if I don’t know anything about the country’s history, I’m a madwoman. I don’t want to be that.

Lamartine said “histoy teaches everything including the future” and I believe that. Here’s another I strongly believe now, which is a version of that, “knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.Right!

History is important, even in tracing certain illnesses in the family, or in the discovery of our own personal roots. We shouldn’t really be strange to it.

Don, at age 19, became a prisoner of war during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1942 when Bataan fell. That year, he was a medical corps man escorting patients to a POW prison camp in Manila. HBO.com related his war story, and it said during one of their movements, they were separated from their patients and were sent to a POW camp in Cabanatuan, Central Luzon.

At the prison camp, 300 of them were recruited to go to Puerto Princesa to construct an air field for the Japanese. They stayed at Plaza Cuartel. He said the Japanese gave the POWs a difficult life inside the garrison, all they could talk about was escape. In February 1943, Don with two others escaped from Plaza Cuartel and walked along thick mangrove forests, but they were caught. They were brought inside a school in front of the Catholic church and were interrogated there. There was a Filipino man who knew how to speak Japanese and other languages and he was interpreting for them.

But the interpreter would often twist what they were saying, and they would be beaten for them. I believe they were called “Makapili?” They were sent back to Manila later for Japanese court martial. About the same period in Puerto Princesa, on December 14, 1944, fearing that the American forces would repatriate the POWs, the Japanese soldiers ordered them into air raid shelters they built, doused gasoline on them and set them afire also with the use of hand grenades. Those who were able to escape were “gunned down, bayoneted, decapitated and clubbed to death.”

The Japanese court martial sentenced Don to 5 years isolated imprisonment. He related that they were kept in pairs inside 8×6-meter prison cells and were ordered not to talk to each other. A Japanese guard would always check on them to enforce this silent isolation. They were each ordered to face the wall, only two feet away, and their arms were not allowed to touch the ground. He slept in the same place at nighttime.

“Food was scarce in the prison camp so we were all feeling the symptoms of malnutrition,” he said, adding he himself nearly died because of it, but he was brought to a POW hospital. When he was well enough, he was ordered back to the Japanese prison camp to resume his sentence.

Details of Don’s story is compiled in a book which he had written sometime ago. Mrs. Ellen M. Hagedorn, wife of Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, now has a copy of his book.

Last week, news of Don’s visit 65 years later spread fast in Puerto Princesa. I saw and met many ex-pats I haven’t seen before (I really don’t go out a lot) who were also excited to meet him.

It was Dr. Linda Ganapin, vice-president for academic affairs of Palawan State University, who spotted him a couple of days ago at Plaza Cuartel. She spoke to him and to her surprise, found out he’s one of the 11 names listed in a marker that was built in the plaza in memory of the fallen American POWs.

Information about Don is in this website http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/5850/prisoners.html in case anyone’s interested.

I’m just excited that I was able to meet someone who’d be able to confirm what happened in the plaza during WWII. He said he’s still overwhelmed by the fact that there are Palaweños who are interested about what happened to him and the other POWs, and it would take him a while before they all sink in.

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