Thursday, September 29, 2005

Teaching Blues part 1

Two times a week and on Saturdays, I roll up my sleeves, put on a serious face, unlock my reservoir of patience and stand in front of a sea of faces whose expressions range from the bored, to the apathetic, to the cynical, to the annoying. Yup, I teach. On weekday nights, to HRM majors at Benilde; and on weekends to slightly older (and sometimes really old!) HRM practitioners at some graduate schools.

Why I do it is a question that is easier to answer (because I want to!) than the other question - how do you end up not committing genocide while at it?

I have been asked many times how it is like to be a teacher. I realize that teaching is shrouded by many myths that being a teacher can make one feel he is Yoda (Filosopo Tasio), or worse, Darth Vader (Miss Tapia). It is difficult to act normal when being with students because the connection that is cemented in a classroom does last; so much so that even if you try to establish friendship afterwards, one will forever be a "sir" to another person. Of course there are students who successfully breach that dividing line, but those are few and hard to come by. Even my first thesis advisees (the students who can claim to be closest to me) still call me Sir, try to put on their best behavior and limit their use of cuss words in my presence. So how is it like to be a teacher? You get a sense of being "old" (not necessarily chronologically), of being deferred to; which means that you need to act and talk mature in their presence. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it messes up your spontaneity.

I think the real question that is foremost on people's minds actually is "how is it like being a teacher to today's generation of students?" That is a question that requires a thesis.

First of all, I would say that much of the perception about the current generation is precisely that - perception. And most of them are really unfounded, although the bit about the prevalence of ADHD is sadly true. But to be fair, I think that the predisposition to be truant, to challenge authority, to slack off, to make diskarte - all these and more are deviant behaviors not limited to the current generation. What is more accurate I think is that older generations tend to be more critical of the younger generation and tend to judge using mindsets that do not apply to the current generation.

For instance, there is this nagging suspicion that the current generation is hung up on materialism, branded clothes, expensive gadgets, etc. But what people conveniently leave out of the equation is that it is the older generation that taught the younger generation to be materialistic to begin with. When kids go to school with daily allowances that are more than the minimum wage, how can we expect them to settle for jobs that pay the minimum wage? Very often, it is parents who pressure kids to have new cars, to compete with other kids, to go abroad, etc.

Anyway. Am I any good? I can be better at it. But then again, to paraphrase Anna from the King and I, "I don't think any teacher is ever a good a teacher as he could have been or would want to be." It's just one of those professions that has no frontiers - dealing with people and minds is pretty much unchartered territory. There's just so much to explore. Outside of sexual harassment and corporal punishment, there are no limits.

So what do I have to show after almost a decade of mentoring and tormenting?

It does account for something when once in a while you get a hi! or hello! from a familiar face in the middle of Ayala even if you can't put name and face together. There is something about being instrumental to another's personal growth that gives you a feeling of worth, never mind if the position of reverence can be sometimes inconvenient.

Teaching also teaches the teacher many things. Being a teacher requires one to be passionate about learning. A teacher need not be the only authoritative source about learning, but it would be a great tragedy if he or she does not know the stuff he or she teaches, and teach it in engaging and interesting ways.

(more to come)

Christmas In My Mind

First, a disclaimer: I love Christmas, I really do. Christmas is my favorite time of the year and not just for the usual reasons. I love Christmas because it is fun.

This piece is not about debunking old Christmas beliefs and traditions but rather about recognizing that some things in this world don’t make sense at all. But then again, who really cares as long as it is fun? And having fun is enough justification for most anything.

Anyway, I knew Christmas is just around the corner (more like the next toll station) not only because the nights have become colder (just had to bring that cliche in), but because the radio stations have started playing Christmas carols, darn it. It is as if people need to be reminded or else it will go away. Why do we start playing Christmas carols in September 1? And why must it be Gary V's Pasko Na Sinta Ko? Is there a conspiracy somewhere to get people to fall in love before Christmas otherwise... you'd be what the song is about?

But really. Christmas is near. And that means...expenses!

It means parties: one for every group conceivable. Your grade 2 class will have a reunion, even if there are only three people left and the rest of the people who will show up are not even your classmates, but people who just needed to go to another party to meet a quota of parties for the week. Your former officemates will have another get together all in the spirit of reliving the good old days when you backstabbed each other and could not stand being two feet from each other.

It means gifts, gifts, gifts. It is not enough that you buy gifts for your baby (in my childhood they were called monito) - you have to buy a gift for your "mom" as well. And they actually set a price range for the gifts nowadays. Talk about commercialism! Yes, we will have exchange gifts to celebrate love and giving, but they must be worth at least three hundred pesos or else. And wrapping is now included in the computation, otherwise, you will have to add a few loose change in the gift to meet the requirement. Tell me that is not sad.

And pray tell, who started this illogical bit about Santa Claus watching out for kids and preparing presents for them somewhere in the north pole? This bit about Santa teaches kids how to be morons - every single detail about him is not only illogical, it is downright stupid. If Santa were to watch every single boy and girl in the world if they were bad or good, he needs more than the combined number of policemen in the whole world to do it. And where in the world is it big enough to manufacture presents good enough for hundreds of millions of kids? Certainly, not in the north pole, or for that matter, not in any place on earth.

And what have those tiny, twinkling tivoli lights to do with Christmas? In case you haven’t noticed, these lights are now the standard Christmas decoration. No household can be without them at Christmas. Forget about mistletoes, forget about Christmas wreaths, or the traditional belen. These days, those tiny fireflies-like lights symbolize Christmas more than anything else.

I am told those lights have to do with the giant star that appeared on the first Christmas. This explanation does not help any because, my dear, it was a giant star, probably a comet that appeared. In my childhood, Christmas lights came in Christmas colors and they were not tiny at all. They were CHRISTMAS LIGHTS! And one did not have to wrap the whole house with lights to feel the cheer.

And whoever started making those awful parols in the shape of tulips and gumamelas deserve to be shot on the spot. What the heck do they have to do with Christmas?

And then...what is with this trendy colors for the Christmas tree? I swear I went to three houses last year that took pride in having a Christmas tree all festooned in orange, lavender, and pink. Pink??? At Christmas? You have got to be kidding. Blue I can understand, although I think that is too literal and can't relate with - but at least I can hear Elvis Presley croonign in the background (I'll have a blue Christmas without you...). But pink? Hot pink? What's next, black? Brown?

Some things in this world just don’t make sense.

But anyway, I guess that is what makes Christmas magical. Such is the beauty of life, I guess. If we are all willing to suspend disbelief for a while, if we can all be as innocent as kids, even for just once a year, I guess the magic of Christmas will continue.

Getting Wired

It finally dawned on me that I am a certified netizen.

In the past, I would have withdrawal symptoms on only one, and only one instance: when I haven't visited a bookstore or a library in a week's time. Today, not having logged into the net can produce the same sweating palms, generally uneasiness, a sense of foreboding, you get the drift. I can not get things done anymore without logging on to the net! To get updates I have to download. To work on a file, I have to access my yahoo accounts. To talk to people, I have to buzz them at ym! To look at pics, I have to...arrgggggggh.

I guess the signs were all there all these time. For example, to be able to have meaningful contact with an officemate on the other side of the floor I have to first text him, and then we log on to ym to talk. To get to talk to another friend who in Makati who is a certified night owl, I have to log in at night, get connected to Binondo (where my ISP is), log on to Atlanta Georgia or Oslo, Finland (IRC undernet server), and then go to a channel to locate him. My friend’s telephone line is connected to the internet from 8:00 pm up so talking on the phone is out of the question. The channel, incidentally, is in Manila. Whew.

My students (both present and former) track each others' whereabouts on the net. Two particular former students (one in Australia and the other in Pasig) throw emails back and forth every ten minutes or so, as if they are passing on notes to each other in the classroom. And they send the emails to a loop of about 5 people. So you can just imagine what it feels like downloading 20 emails representing bits and pieces of a conversation in progress. Good thing is there is a thread that one can follow if one feels in the mood to eavesdrop on a conversation. Otherwise...well, deleting the whole thing is just one click away.

I tell you information technology is reshaping the way we live.

It does get the complicated simple but unfortunately, it also complicates the simple. Consider this: one can send and receive documents, pictures, programs to and from anywhere in the world, access all kinds of information, chat with anyone anywhere in the world, etc., all in a matter of seconds. But on the other hand, it reduces communication to typing messages on a keyboard and reducing feelings to drawing figures or cryptic descriptions. And thats the obvious part.

Top 10

I surfed through some blogs last night, and got -ehemmmmmmmm- struck by what people are writing in them. I didn't realize the extent to which a lot of people are baring their innermost secrets and displaying (maybe parading is more apt) their heart out. Anyway, I figured, I can do that too.

In my household, Sundays find the teenager in the house glued to FM radio for the usual rundown of the top ten hit songs of the week. Although the cynic in me tends to suspect that the ranking of the songs is arrived at through very subjective selection processes, I grant that listening to the weekly countdown simplifies lives. One gets instant access to the hit tunes without having to wait for them played in between the usual warbling, crooning and preaching that some people dare call music.

Listening to the countdown over the weekend got me thinking about the other top ten lists in my life.
First, books. Topping the list would be Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, then Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, then State of War by Ninotchka Rosca. And then there’s The English Patient (in the novel form) which is brooding and sad but oh so beautiful - I have read it twice already. The other books would be God of Small Things and A Fine Balance, both written by Indian authors. Love in the Time of Cholera or 100 years of Solitude (Gabriel Marquez de Garcia), The Redundancy of Courage (Mo Yan), and kissing in manhattan by David Shickler.

Ninotchka Rosca, incidentally, is a Filipina writer based in the US. Catcher in the Rye was required reading in College which meant that many students did not appreciate it because it was imposed material. Of course, when assassins got caught holding a copy of the book, it became an instant accessory. I doubt very much if people actually read it, but I know many many people who owns a copy of the book. Perhaps they fancy themselves to be assassins in some previous life?

Next, songs. I’ll wear my heart out on my sleeve and say that the songs I love are those that have - snicker, snicker – meaning in my life. I guess this is what some people refer to as a "theme song." For the record, these songs were never consciously chosen. They just somehow wormed themselves into my life and my failed relationships.

Topping the list would be If I Loved You from Carousel, The Goodbye Girl, I Know Him So Well from Chess, Losing My Religion by REM, Every Breath You Take by the Police, I Hate Mondays by Tori Amos, and slowing down a bit, When the Winter is Gone, and finally, Something Good from The Sound of Music. The more astute reader will notice that the selection of songs run a wide range of musical categories from classic rock, to broadway tunes, to mushy love songs, to something from the Sound of Music.

Movies now. The Godfather movies would top my list anytime. It’s a pity Martin Scorsese won’t do them anymore. I guess that’s really the way to go: end when the going is great (politicians wake up and smell the coffee!). The next two movies closest to my heart are Torch Song Trilogy, and then Moment To Moment. I like Torch Song for its wit, humor, politics and heart. Moment to Moment was a movie from my childhood – and it has stayed on in my memory mainly because of three reasons: that powerful scene which showed a fastastic sunset on a cliff while thousands of doves soared by, the haunting song from the movie, and the fact that the movie introduced me to psychology (one of the main characters was a pyschologist).

The movies of my childhood would also be there: Dr. Zhivago, Gone With the Wind and Ten Commandments. Oro, Plata, Mata and Himala as well as Scorpio Nights would definitely be in my top ten list of all time. Oro, Plata, Mata and Scorpio Nights are movies by Peque Gallaga. I like Oro, Plata, Mata for its brilliant structure and visual feast (hectares of sucar cane fields set on fire!, majestic old houses in Negros!). Scorpio Nights was one of those movies that defined the concept "riveting" - watching it was a real physical experience. It was too bad some people could not see through the sexual content of the film and failed to see that the movie was a political allegory. Himala is, I think, is the best Filipino film ever made. It was made without any commercial consideration at all.

Why am I doing this? Wala lang. Just that someone pointed out that my blog is too heavy. So here’s the corny stuff, guys.

Excuse me, I need to brush my teeth.

On Top of The World

In the last seven years, I have been working with a splendid view of Quezon City and Marikina on my left. My (glass, ehem) office is at the 29th floor of the Philippine Stock Exchange Centre (also known as Tektite Towers after the street where it is located).

I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking this guy must feel like he is on top of the world. Well, I used to think that working on a high rise tower would be cool but… not really. It has prestige, it has a good view . But it can get boring after a while. And it can get pretty inconvenient.

You see, no matter how "intelligent" the building might be (and Tektite is presumably an intelligent building, but with ADHD problems ) it is still puny when subject to the basic laws of nature.

First of these laws is the first law of nature: gravity. The higher you go, the more difficult it will be to bring stuff to you. If you forgot something from your car, or worse, from your house, it will take a while before you can get it to it. It won't be as easy as running to the parking in front.

And then there is the stuff of life - water. Sure, there are technological gadgets designed to supply water to the high rise buildings but when Murphy’s law operates, the high rise buildings are the first to be hit. And a building such as Tektite which has 34 storeys (technically, it is 33 because just like most buildings it does not have a 13th floor) is often hit by scarcity in water. When the water level is down, the dominoes fall - the aircon malfunctions, the elevators go kaput. And when these happen, it can be verrry inconvenient as a tall tower gets direct exposure to sunlight.

The second of these laws is that the higher you go, the more accessible you will be to the clouds and the farther you will be from reality. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Up on the 30th floor, when it rains, you see nothing but the mist. Watching the rain fall down can be a depressing exercise, but just hearing about it and not seeing it can be tragically depressing. When the clouds darken, you get a terrifying sight akin to that scary scene in the movie Independence Day.

And then there is the problem with the elevators. This building has 32 elevators. Yup, that’s right: 32, 16 on each tower. Eight elevators on each tower are assigned to serve the top floors – these elevators jump from the ground floor to 26th and then stops at each floor thereafter. Cool, huh. Wait.

Problem is, it can take time for an elevator to move from one floor to the next because passengers take some time to get on and get off. During mondays and heavy trading days (this is the stock exchange building after all), human traffic is so heavy that it can take forever to get to the office from the ground floor. It is during these times when one yearns for the usual one level government offices where you dictate the speed of your own movement from one office to another –either you walk or you run.

Tektite has a food court in the building that can rival that of Megamall’s. But tough luck if one hankers for banana cue, turon, storck candy or even Marlboros sold tingi (by the stick). In here, each hoards his or her own food supply. And yes, those TV advertisements about employees having instant mami noodles for a meal is for real. Those quick meals, along with chocolate bars and skyflakes biscuits are the three major food groups in high-rise buildings.

Being modern also means being politically correct. This building does not allow smoking within its premises. I think declaring a whole building as a no smoking zone is merely a copout. The answer is not in prohibiting people from smoking but rather assigning specific areas for smoking and putting in place air filter systems that eat up cigarette smoke. This is a sensitive subject in any discussion, one that automatically puts people into two categories: for or against.

The result? Either people sneak out to smoke in the bathrooms right under "no smoking" signs or they smoke at the lobby of the building. It’s a weird site to behold: people of all types and makes standing around gesturing with their Philip Morris’ and their Marlboros. Since I also happen to be an occasional smoker averaging 2 sticks a day on weekdays and a pack on weekends (which is a fitting subject for another blog), and being a person who hates conventions, I find this attempt at political correctness untenable.

And sometimes shit does happen. One day last year, the building’s electrical connections went haywire and they could not be fixed. It was the humpty dumpty syndrome come to life. The electrical engineers may be the best in the country but the system is computerized so no amount of human effort can work when the computer system has bogged down.

Guess what happened. We all walked down this dingy, dark, airless, narrow staircase all the way from the 30th floor to the groundfloor.

I tell you, that was one scary experience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lets Just Get on With EVAT and Our Lives

Today, I got an email from another bleeding heart harping about the EVAT and how it is another ploy of the imperialist countries, yadda yadda yadda. Nice piece of work; at least as far as grammatical correctness and syntax are concerned.

What we need to remember though, is that this is the point of view of the opposition and the "ideological"
forces in congress. Note the inevitable anti-IMF and anti-foreign investment slant. I know, I used to write these things too.Nothing wrong with that as long as we take that context in the evaluation.

The issue is also ideological. The email does make a valid argument on the inefficiency of the tax collection
system in the Philippines. And this is a very ticklish issue for don't we all try to get around taxation? Yes, the government is to be blamed for the leaks - such as when it grants perks to foreign investors and etc. But what
about the investment they bring in? What about the employment they generate? There is a lot of static surrounding tax collection as a social and cultural issue and any tangible effort to fix it would be most welcome.

But armchair diagnoses and advocacies and demands for nothing but the PERFECT SOLUTION is plain intellectual and ideological masturbation. Yes we can try to find that perfect solution, but in the meantime, we need to do something and hopefully not just rant and bitch about it.

To begin with, it is the working class, that is actually heavily penalized by all kinds of additional taxation. We whose salaries are automatically taxed and who - by the way- also eats sardines and noodles and avail of
services that are subject to tax. But it does not make for good propaganda to advocate the rights of the working class. It does not make for drama.

It is the poor, the masa that is better fodder for drama.

Maybe this is what it really is all about - making headlines. Those of us who work hard and pay taxes honestly will grin and bear it not because we can afford it, but because we continue to have faith in Filipinos, we continue to trust that despite the childish tantrums and power trips of our leaders, they have our best interest at heart. So we do not go to the streets to oppose what hurts us because we know in our heart of hearts that we need to do our part.

Meantime, the poor - the real poor, not those who can afford to march all day and not work - will struggle on. Majority of them will not go to the streets either - they will try to survive in their own way. Sure, they will
have to tighten their belts some more. Sure, those who subsist on noodles and sardines will have to work an extra hour to be able to afford it. They will pray harder. They will drink more. But they will grin and bear it.

The Filipino will survive with us, without us, despite us, inspite of us. The Philippines can do without GMA, but the country can also survive without Drilon, Pimentel, Erap, Cory, and the bleeding hearts in congress and the senate.

The majority will work harder and not waste their time going to the streets and throwing tomatoes at the government. Without being agitated by the bleeding hearts who live in posh residences and swagger around in Pajeros (yeah right, those Congressmen and Senators care for the poor!), they will see the whole thing as their contribution. They too, will try to keep faith burning in their hearts.

Of course there is a better way. Of course the VAT is oppressive. Of course things are not equal. Of course we are all suffering. Of course the poor need more food on the table. Of course we need to get out of the rut we
find ourselves in. Of course we are in a mess.

But I doubt very much if the solution can be found in the dramatics and the hysterics of well-meaning individuals. I doubt if we can liberate ourselves by throwing stones at each other in the streets and shouting ourselves
hoarse. I doubt if the solution is in the horse trading and favor swapping that happens in the halls of power. I doubt if the solution can be had by getting a new president or by enacting or not enacting the VAT law. I
really doubt it.

So here's what I think. Our dear senators, say your piece but please stop the hysterics and the sanctimony threatening walkouts and political mayhem on a measure that you passed and approved. Move on.
There are gazillion other laws that need to be enacted. You were not elected into the Senate or the Congress for that matter to show the depth of your acting skills or the range of your childishness.

To our friends from all sides of the political spectrum, yes, educate us and enlighten us with your propaganda. But just because we do not see things from your perspective does not mean we are wrong - it is just we see things from a different perspective. No need to throw stones at the buildings where we work at or stage die-ins in front of our offices. And quite frankly, your rallies and protests only make traffic worse making it harder
for us. Do not get angry at us for seeing your supposed courage and act of patriotism as just another pesky inconvenience that is costing us more of that precious gas getting stuck in traffic.

But go ahead - it is your right. Just please be honest and say the issue is ideological.

If we all just do our jobs and leave government to do its job too, maybe there's a better chance we can
get there sooner. Yes maybe GMA is a crook, maybe there are better options. Let's explore them. But in the meantime, let her do her job and let's do ours the best way we can.

Let's just move on.

Self Destructing Our Way To Doomsday

Here we go again.

The Senate is all agog over whipping up the latest political extravaganza, the more salacious and controversial, the better. The Opposition is perennially at least two feet away from a media person, all ready to dish out his or her soundbyte. The Government is hostage. The media is circling around like vultures for the carcass of the next political victim in this deadly game of political opportunism. Let us not discuss who the real victim is in this sorry state of affairs.

The really sad thing is how each claims to speak for the Filipino people. Each claims to have a bleeding heart overwhelmed with compassion and affection for the ordinary Filipino. Oh please. Spare us the sanctimony. Quite frankly, you all look like Imelda Marcos claiming to be destitute and poor in a Chanel dress and bling blings worth a poor man's household budget for 50 years.

Quite frankly, I am sick of it all.

I feel like throwing up everytime I see Drilon and his constipated demeanor on TV. It really must be uncomfortable to put on a suit everyday to appear honorable.

I feel like smashing the TV with anything handy everytime Pimentel starts spewing vitriol. My god, 40 years of bitterness over failed presidential ambition must be finally boiling over. This old man has nothing good to say about anyone in his old age.

I feel terribly deppressed and utterly devastated everytime Chiz Escudero attempts to be profound and sober while spinning mountains of garbage over a single thread of yarn. If anyone needs proof that wisdom is wasted
on the young, they do not have to look further. So young and handsome and intelligent, yet so wily and sleazy.

I have the compulsion to run screaming out of the room everytime the two bondyings in the Senate, Jamby and Jinggoy, open their mouth. She with the ahh-I-am-ahh-masa-ahh-because-ahhh-I-ahh-am-Judy-ahh-Ann-ahh-lookalike and he with the 30 second gap-I-30 second gap-am-30 second gap-qualified-30 second gap-because-30 second gap-I-30 second gap-am-30 second gap-30 second gap-a son30 second gap- of a former- 30 second gap- president. Who died and made these people experts at anything?

I can go on and on...but you get the drift. There.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Bar Exams On Taft Avenue

I got down from the LRT Station on Vito Cruz Avenue last Sunday to witness an orgy right smack on Taft Avenue. No, it wasnt the sexual type, although it very well could have been, or should have been. There were wet bodies all right. There were gyrating people on makeshift stages. There were drums and ati-atihan. And there were people, lots and lots of people all jostling for space on that tiny strip of road half of which were already crammed with cars. The right side of Taft Avenue, from Vito Cruz to Quirino Avenue was transformed into a parking area while the other side was site of the circus (pardon the mixed metaphors - I really could not find one word to describe all that hoopla).

Every once in a while, some groups would launch into cheers and slogans complete with fists on air and chest beating, somehow reminiscent of gorillas staking their territories. And maybe they really were, I mean stalking their territories on that narrow road.

The bar examinees were walking out of La Salle, site of the bar exams, and were being "greeted" by their frats, schoolmates, parents, lovers, etc, with bouquets of roses, balloons, champagne, drizzles of water, beer, dancing, chanting, etc. There was food on the sidewalk. There were streamers professing support to their BAR examinees (there were streamers for specific individual BAR examinees too!), streamers bragging about BAR records (100% passing rate again! Ten topnotchers in x years!). There was hugging and jumping up and down.

What the heck was that all about???

As I snaked my way out of the orgy to get home to my place on Leon Guinto, I had to restrain myself many times from shouting "what the fuck are you doing?!!"

To begin with, what is so special about the bar exams- say, from the medical board exams or the CPA board exams that merits that kind of attention? What is so special about being a lawyer in this country where justice is hard to come by and most of the problems are caused by lawyers anyway? Okay, okay, I am not exactly a fan of lawyers, but do't get me wrong - I don't hate lawyers; they may be up there on the food chain as predators, but to my mind, it is just another profession.

That whole Sunday bash got me really thinking about the sad state of society. If you wonder how lawmaking in this country has reached an all-time low, you just had to be there on Taft Avenue to find some of the answers.

On the last day of the bar examinations, with results a good five months away, the examinees were already being welcomed into the fold with hoopla, booze, and lots and lots of self-serving posturing. It was one big fraternity of bullies out there claiming a major thoroughfare for themselves, spilling beer on the sidewalk and shouting themselves hoarse with silly slogans about loyalty and solidarity.

In the meantime, right on Leon Guinto, traffic was hopelessly snarled with sielined commuters trying to inch their way across a street meant, appropriately, as a side road. I reached home to find some relatives trying to find solace in our house from the bedlam a few blocks away. And there was a townmate from Leyte. She just took the bar exams. There were no bar ops for her, no bouquets, no confetti, no hugs and rejoicing offered. She was from an unheard of law school in the province.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reinventing heroes

These are stories about real people who are heroes in their own right. Let me tell you why. I can not tell you what their names are because real heroes that they are, they prefer anonymity. But I assure you they are there, and their lives and what they do is a composite of those of many others like them who continue to do what they can in many seemingly insignificant but valuable ways.

The first friend is someone who works in the local capital markets – known among laymen as the stockmarket. There was a time (which seems like long, long ago) when working in the stockmarket was something one wore like a badge of honor and prestige. Then, being a stockbroker conjured images of someone who made tons of money both for himself and for his clients, someone who drove fast cars and lived The Life. Today, being a stockbroker is almost tantamount to being irrelevant. With the local stockmarket stuck in the ICU ward, most stockbrokers have abandoned their portfolios and their clients and have found other career paths.
But there are some, like my friend, who are still there. During trading in the stockmarket, the figures in the electronic boards that represent the value of shares being traded are color-coded. An increase in the value of a share is colored green while a decline in its value makes it a red. Most days, it is a massacre – the boards are predominantly red with some splashes of an occasional green. And everyday the brokers who continue to believe in the market, and by extension, in the country, come to work and suffer the heartbreak of watching the bloodbath occur.

Why do they do it? The answer is simple. The stockmarket is an important barometer of the economic performance and promise of the country. The market performs and moves in relation to perceptions about the viability of the country. The stockmarket functions almost like the litmus test of the country’s situation. Thus, it is the first one to suffer the blow when a negative event in the political front happens, such as when our elected legislators act like delinquent juveniles which is often these days.

Most of the foreign stockbrokerages have closed their offices in the country. The task of sustaining the market has been left to the care of some local stockbroker houses that continue to prop up the market. They are still there, barely surviving but making do because if they leave too, like the foreigners, what will happen to this country? In the words of my friend, if we can not have faith in this country, who else will?

The second friend is a cinematographer. He works in the movie industry. If the stockmarket is in the ICU, the local film industry is in the morgue. A number of factors have caused the demise of the industry: heavy taxation, greed, government apathy, piracy, etc. For sure, the industry has its own share of the blame and not just because they have and continue to insist on putting one of their own phonies in Malacanang.

But my friend, like many others, are still there working under very intolerable conditions. To them, Philippine cinema is not just about movies – it is about strengthening the very soul of this country. What is a country without art?

What is sad though is that the real story of the local movie industry is not acknowledged and appreciated. And it is a story of heroism. Yes, the industry is a veritable garbage can festering in its very own often-trashy output. But it can not be said that people like my friend are lacking in spirit and grit. For where else in the world can you find people who will make do with very little support and money and yet still continue to plod on and produce movies?

I asked my friend why he continues to hang on when he could make more in another job. He says the industry needs more committed people now more than ever.


I came across this recently, and it has been top of mind lately. What struck me the most about this piece was how it simplifies life into a series of steps. I wish I can do that - I mean look at life with such utter simplicity.

It amazes me how many people can actually preface their statements with "It's this simple..." as if anything can be that simple. Is anything really simple? Last I looked they have not been able to explain majority of the seemingly simple things in life. How exactly does one fall in love? What truly makes people smile? Etc.

1. Don't force a fit--if something is meant to be, it will come together naturally.

2. When things aren't going so well, take a break. Everything will look different when you return.

3. Be sure to look at the big picture. Getting hung up on the little pieces only leads to frustration.

4. Perseverance pays off. Every important puzzle went together bit by bit, piece by piece.

5. When one spot stops working, move to another. But be sure to come back later (see #4).

6. The creator of the puzzle gave you the picture as a guidebook. Refer to the Creator's guidebook often.

7. Variety is the spice of life. It's the different colors and patterns that make the puzzle interesting.

8. Working together with friends and family makes any task fun.

9. Establish the border first. Boundaries give a sense of security and order.

10. Don't be afraid to try different combinations. Some matches are surprising.

11. Take time often to celebrate your successes (even little ones).

12. Anything worth doing takes time and effort. A great puzzle can't be rushed.

13. When you finally reach the last piece, don't be sad. Rejoice in the masterpiece you've made and enjoy a well-deserved rest

In a carnivale mood

Last Sunday, I was able to get my grubby hands on the dvd set of the second season of Carnivale - the HBO show that features, well, out of this world characters and plotlines. Since then, my bedtime stories have mostly been about macabre, gruesome, Neil Gaimanish stuff. Not that I have been able to make heads or tails of the convuluted plot, nor am I able to understand exactly how the pieces fit together. All I know is that I am hooked. It is a virtual kaleidoscope of colors and taste and textures.

There is something about shows like these that appeal to people of my generation. Perhaps it is true, I belong to a generation sorely and desperately in need of our own myths and stories. Sure, I loved LOTR and yes, I find Harry Potter strangely appealing. But Carnivale takes all these into a whole new frontier.

I can't wait to get to the next season.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hello world.

I am not really sure why I am doing this. I mean what the heck, I have two proposals to write both of which were due yesterday. I have a book to write too - and this one has been paid for two months ago and was due two months ago as well. In addition, I have a zillion other stuff to do, all screaming for attention. But there is something about having to start my own blog that has been gnawing inside for quite some time now. So here goes.

Since College, I always had this weird compulsion to write down thoughts - on the pages of books I was reading, on stationeries, on countless notebooks bought for the purpose of starting a personal chronicle. Some of the notebooks I still have to this day, and quite frankly, most of them do not even have more than 3 pages of stuff written. It's not a good idea for one to read stuff written years ago unless he has this overwhelming desire to laugh at one's self or to feel extremely foolish, but sometimes I do come across the notebooks and I...well, I cringe and get almost hysterical. I mean...what was I thinking then? So what do I have to show for those years of pure intentions? A trail of unfinished writings - gooey, yucky, icky, idiotic ramblings that are best cast off to the memory bin and blamed on youth. And thus, I get this sense of... i don't know... being unfinished.

I hope to be able to figure out how to work this blogging thing out. If someone is actually reading this... give me a break. Am not even on the starting line yet.

So there.