SKETCHES. By Ana Marie Pamintuan

(Transcribed from The Philippine Star, September 22, 2000)

ET in the land of ST                                                                                                                                                                            

Let’s take a break from the Abu Sayyaf, rising oil prices and the sinking peso to listen to Antonio Israel, a 37-year-old Website consultant.  Some of you may be familiar with his story by now: Tony awoke from a late Sunday nap at 7:30 p.m. last Sept. 3 and opened the venetian blind on the ground floor bedroom of his two-storey house in Pamplona, Las Piñas.  Peering at the sky, he noticed an unusually bright crescent moon flanked by two red orange lights that seemed like big stars.

Suddenly the “stars” started moving in a strange way.  The erratic movement was unlike any made by shooting stars, comets or aircraft.  Startled, Tony cried, “Ma, UFO!”  Out rushed Tony, his mother, wife and children.  Soon they were joined by their neighbors at Camella Homes IV, watching in amazement as the two blips of light were joined by two others that flew in formation for a while.  One came closer, spinning like a disc.

Tony caught 30 minutes of this show on his 1998 Sony Handycam 220x (magnification 0-Lux with night shot).  Since then he has been trying to find out what it was exactly that he had captured on video. I don’t have the expertise to tell a hoax from the genuine article.  Experts from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), who watched the video at Tony’s house last Sept. 11, could offer no explanations.  Tony hopes experts from the United States can take a look at his video footage.

I didn’t warn Tony that a genuine sighting of an unidentified flying object could lead to his disappearance from this planet – I think we’ve seen the same movies about Roswell and Men-in-Black (MIB).

I also didn’t have to warn him that anyone who announces he as seen a UFO is dismissed as a crackpot or a charlatan.  Already, some people are saying that the horrid traffic in the city of “ST” king Speaker Manuel Villar Jr. is making residents hallucinate about ETs or extraterrestrials.

And yet for the past decades, people from all over the world have claimed to have seen UFOs. The stories have a similar ring: saucer-shaped craft are “scouts: that guard the mother ship, which is not – contrary to Close Encounters of the Third Kind – disc-shaped but usually a huge cigar-shaped object that eludes radar and hides behind clouds.  The theory is that these spaceships are powered by electromagnetism, the natural energy manifested in thunderbolts.

There are books claiming that extraterrestrials built ancient structures such as Machu Picchu in Peru, Stonehenge, the colossal stone statues on Easter Island, even the pyramids of Egypt.  There are even books claiming that the sin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were zapped by a nuclear bomb, but this is tantamount to heresy in the Christian world, since it indicates that God is an ET.

Religion is behind many people’s outright dismissal of alleged UFO sightings.  We are supposed to be special, God’s children, made in the image of our Creator.  This is spoiled by the idea that we are not alone in this universe.

But scientists exploring the possibility of life outside this planet point out that space is too vast, and what a waste if there are no other forms of life out there.  In the past centuries we’ve already had some “special” myths shattered: the Earth is round, not flat, and it’s not – we are not – the center of the universe. The Earth is just one planet – not even the biggest – circling the sun that isn’t even the largest in the cosmos.  And the universe, vast as it is, continues to expand. 

Think about it.

I devoured books on UFOs in my teenage years the way I devoured other books about the unknown:  the afterlife, parapsychology, ghosts and voodoo.  It doesn’t mean I believe in them.  But there are still too many things that remain unexplained, and I, like many others, keep trying to look for answers.  We still don’t even know what happens when we sleep, much less when we die.  Plus, UFO stories, like the X-Files are quite entertaining.

At the very least, exploring the unknown is a good way to escape bad news.  On the day I learned that Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang, alias Commander Robot, had hired a lawyer and was invoking human rights, I decided watching Tony Israel’s video was more worthwhile than watching the news.

BUZZ:  The word from the Air Force is that there’s no carpet-bombing in Sulu, only selective bombing.  The military is trying to avoid spots where the Abu Sayyaf could have stashed its multimillion-dollar ransom payments.

[Click here to view portions of the video on youtube:


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