YOU'D think I should be jaded by now, unaffected by whatever I see; having to watch, live, and read the news everyday for more than half of my life.

No, as I cringed from an indescribable pain upon seeing that old man with his wife talking to the news reporter on television that all he got for his lining up and long, endless years of wait for justice and compensation at Hacienda Luisita was P700.

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The amount released, the reporter said in the voiced-over part, depends on the length of service given by the individual.

But what is P700? It's not even half a month of legal wages, and they had to make those old people line up for that pittance.

Rage. Muted rage? No, more like immobilized rage, like raving mad while hogtied. And so I cringed instead. For who am I, I'm not even a lawyer who can defend such cases, and I don't intend to be a lawyer just to do that because therefores, wherefores, and whereases grate into my nerves.

But P700... For what? For all those years where lives have been lost and livelihoods have been taken, a tottering old man whose productive life has long been spent waiting for just compensation gets P700. Now try building up rage while hogtied.

Malacañang was quick to yank President Noynoy out of the mess. He has nothing to do with the compromise deal, Malacañang says, as bile rises up my throat.

And then I shrug. I may not have lost my outrage and hurt for people who are trampled on like they were just inconveniences -- like shooing a beggar off with a peso -- but I have lost all hopes for politicians to ever have a real heart. I've just seen too many politicians and too many suffering people. My heart continues to bleed for the people but has turned to stone against politicians. We had the worst of the lot, that's why.

Seven hundred pesos... That could easily be gone after a buffet dinner for two, and even a couple of rounds and some pulutan for five.

To receive P700 in the twilight of your life from someone who just thought of giving you P700 would be God-sent. But from a compromise agreement made after all your will and fire and spirit have been lost due to long years of waiting and hoping for just compensation in the context of an agrarian reform dispute is trickery to the max. I wonder how those who wheedled that compromise agreement are able to sleep at night. I wonder how they can admit to themselves and their children that they were the ones who wheedled such deal. I wonder how they even thought of such a deal.

Most of all, I wonder how much they got for their services. I'm sure it's more, a thousand times more than P700, maybe even much more.

Cry... that's all we can do because the moneyed and powerful haven't had enough yet of what they have been stealing from our people -- dignity included.

And no, their PNoy has nothing to do with it. Definitely not. Because their PNoy is clothed with the saintly aura of his mother and the heroic image of his father. No, PNoy can never do that. Repeat that over and over again like you were saying a never-ending rosary and let us close our eyes as we do while we pray, so we will not see what is staring and glaring at our faces. No, PNoy can never do that... No... No... No...

*****

At a wake of a friend's dad, five women walked up the coffin, whispered that they were about to start prayers, kneeled on the floor and then started... to speak in tongues.

Oh, no, not that praise-the-lord-alleluia-I-am-healed type of speaking tongues. But it sure sounded like tongues to me: incomprehensible.

"Do you understand what she's praying?" my companion asked.

"Just some words here and there," the bereaved friend replied.

"Now we can truly admit, we are definitely not Bisaya," I said because all that my brain could pick up were "kalag ni Romeo" and "Ginoo" and to think that the ladies were saying the same lines over and over again like in a rosary. But not one passage sounded like anything taken from the rosary, except "Ginoo", and we were pretty sure the prayers were said in Visayan. Still, we didn't understand.

That was before the prayer leader broke out in Latin. Again, we are not Latin and could not comprehend Latin; we just recognized the prayer as Latin because of all those -mus, -nus, -cus that you will not find in Bisaya, Tagalog or English.

While listening, uncomprehendingly, all throughout the long prayers, I wondered... if you were to lead the prayers, aren't you supposed to be understood as well? For how can you lead when the people around you (except the four other members of the praying troupe kneeling in front of the coffin with the prayer leader) cannot even decipher what you were saying.

But maybe that's what's wrong with us.... we allow our leaders to speak in tongues understood only by those surrounding them. And those surrounding PNoy today is saying, PNoy had nothing to do with the Hacienda Luisita compromise deal.... PNoy had nothing to do... PNoy had nothing... PNoy had... PNoy... Aba ginoong Maria napupuno ka ng grasya... saestremera@yahoo.com