Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alan, Pico, Rohinton, Jane, Fyodor and Ninotchka...Here's hoping the names ring a bell.

My post recommending (actually, pathetically begging) readers to please pick up a copy of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King generated three reactions. The first one essentially asked to borrow a copy of the book (yes of course, Jerome, but fall in line), the other two hemmed and hawed and in general asked for a summary of the book and wanted to know what other books I would recommend as must read.

I’m sorry but I will not do a summary of The Once and Future King – it is best read on one’s own; it is an experience that can not be replicated vicariously. Besides, who doesn’t know the story of King Arthur? But I am happy to oblige the second request mainly because I have about 20 minutes to write a blog today and writing about books (though not necessarily about what the books say) is something I can do with my eyes closed. So, what other books do I recommend as must read, aside from T. H. White’s The Once And Future King?

There’s Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams. This is a book about physics, philosophy, and life written in such beautiful prose one can’t help but put it down every after few pages as one truly needs to take a deep breath and ponder on the wisdom and profundity of what is written. Very few books have that effect on me – most actually get me racing to the last page. This is one book one wishes would go on and on and not end.

Pico Ayer’s travel books are my next picks – any one of them. They are about the places that he has visited, yes. But more than just being about travel, the books are actually essays and reflections on life, culture, politics, and even religion. Pico writes in a style that is best described as journalism done in a leisurely manner so his essays are easy to read.

Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance would be on my top 5 list anytime. This is one book that truly made me understand India. Sure, it broke my heart. Yeah, it resembled a soap opera that twisted and turned many different ways until it came to its tragic end. But through it all, the book never, not even for a moment, made me doubt that the things that happened in the book was not possible or feasible. Even at its darkest chapter the book spoke truth with a capital T. Such is the gift of this Indian writer.

Of the classics, two stand out in the library at home. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I have this insane propensity to want “get to the source” of things – even genres and such. This is my personal opinion, and I may be wrong, but I think that Pride and Prejudice is a much more fulfilling version of any romantic novel written. On the other hand, The Brothers Karamazov is really a psychological thriller. So if you are into Sheldon, Grisham and their ilk, be aware that there are classics that did better versions of the genre.

To wrap up, I would recommend, any day, any time, any place… Ninotcha Rosca’s State of War and not just because I am Filipino, but because I think she is a damn good writer.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tales From A Parallel Universe

I feel that I was living in a parallel universe this weekend.

My date with Pyromaniacs

Saturday afternoon, I drove over to Quezon City to join in an "atang" ceremony to welcome the coming of the lunar new year. A friend, who runs the company for a Chinese couple, has been holding the
ceremony for five years now and wanted me to come over and experience the annual tradition. So off I went. I was a bit surprised to
see everyone was wearing red - in our company, we wear red to honor the boss (who happens to be Chinese too) on his birthday, but I didn't know wearing red on Chinese new year was also obligatory.

The ceremony essentially involved offering "lucky" food to the gods, lighting incense sticks (they could not agree on how many sticks should be lighted) and bowing three times in every direction possible, burning pieces of paper, and feasting. The pieces of paper were individually rolled and had individual printing on them - golden inscriptions, silver marks, even green illustrations of what I thought were material things. The employees said that their free time in the last three days prior to Saturday were all spent rolling those papers and I believed them - there was a truckload of these rolled papers which had to be burned individually. Apparently, the pieces of papers represented money and other things that would please the dead ancestors.

The pyromania lasted two hours and then it was feast time. We all had to partake of the feast - tradition dictated that we taste each of the food offering from lechon, to crabs, to shrimps, to fish, etc. What an excuse to fill one's self to the gills.


Very seventies

Saturday evening was even more surreal - I found myself tagging along against my will to a private party that is best described as very seventies. I will leave you to your imagination to figure out what happened in that party - but it did involve many things illegal.


The News

Naturally, I was in bed for most of Sunday. However being cocooned in one's room doesn't mean being insulated and isolated from the outside world. There's nothing like your Sunday paper and the idiot box in your room to jolt you to the reality that you do live in a surreal country where everything illogical happens.

GMA 7's cheap antics

Pacman was still very much in the news. GMA7, which was shut out from the actual boxing coverage in light of the fact that ABS-CBN had exclusive rights to the match, did something totally ludicrous last Friday during the victory parade for Pacman. Watching it on TV made me cringe with embarrassment. The Pacman's float was passing through the GMA building when they were asked to enter the compound (the TV footage actually showed people running around trying to get the float to enter the compound and shouting "papasok nga, papasok! Dito! Dito kayo!"). Thereupon, Arnold Clavio actually made Pacman wear a GMA7 jacket and cap (as in pinilit talaga isuot!). Naturally Pacman's handlers immediately tried to take off the jacket and cap. Had it not been for the fact that it was respected broadcast journalist igan Arnold who was involved, it would have been totally hilarious.

Simply out of tune

I do not know what to make of the repeated airing of that duet between Pacman and the President. I do not want to add to the histrionics surrounding Pacman's alleged abuse at the hands of politicians who are clambering all over themselves in the hope of having Pacman's luster rub off on them. But for crying out loud, enough already. Contrary to what many think, I do believe that the President, or whoever is in power, has every right to stand next to Pacman onstage. The people who are rabid anti-Gloria seem to be forgetting one thing - Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is still president and she represents the Filipino people. It is but proper that the President takes time from her busy schedule to be with Pacman. But my beef is more valid - this is a president with a baaaaad, really baaaad singing voice. I actually dread what Simon Cowell will say if he hears her sing. Listening to her duet with the Pacman makes that terrible song more horrid than it actually is (okay, okay, it is far worse than being horrid. That song should be banned!).

Caught in a wig

And then Magdalo leader Faeldon was captured in Malabon along with a lady military officer who turned out to be one of his prosecutors. The lascivious implications of the story was naturally given more play than the details of capture. It seems mediamen were more interested in the relationship between the two military officers. And just for the heck of it, here are two more surreal bits of information about Faeldon. This is the guy who, while on the run, would visit military camps and have videos of him taken as if to taunt the authorities. During the weekend of his capture, one of his supporters was actually distributing the cds of his latest "film" which showed him reading a newspaper, right on the steps leading to the Cebu headquarters of the military. And he was captured while posing as a woman - he was wearing a wig and a woman's clothes.

And how was your weekend?


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pick it up please

I picked up some books at Frontpage yesterday and spent the whole night curled up in bed re-reading T. H. White's The Once and Future King. I knew it was a futile attempt, but I had this uncontrollable urge to finish the book in one sitting. I first read it when I was in high school and was hopelessly hooked to it. For most of my high school life, T. H. White was my hero, my idol, my god. I saw the book carelessly thrown in with a bunch of books that is best characterized as its derivatives - the Narnia books, Dune, Tolkien, etc. It hurt me deeply that no one was picking up the book. I wanted to give a lecture right there and then about how this book is far more superior than the Harry Potter series, or perhaps even the Tolkien books.

But sadly, such is the power of advertising. Bestselling status is determined not by the actual value of a book, but by how well-crafted the advertising campaign is. Case in point: Harry Potter. Before you start sharpening your axes, let me say that I do love Harry Potter as well - though I do not look at it as literature; it is a great read, yes, but it is not something one can discuss in comparative literature class.

I picked up a few books by local authors too. I noticed that there is an avalanche of compilations of personal essays that are being passed off as literature lately. Of course, it is possible that I am simply being an intellectual prick. I do think that the more local authors get published, the better it will be for Philippine publishing. However, I hope that someday publishers would be a little more discriminating in their choices; or that editors would try to establish a balance between craft and popular appeal. Some books I scanned contained personal essays that my high school composition class teacher would have scoffed at.

Two books I picked up were Adrian Fulhorn's series of essays on management (the essays are interesting both in terms of content and in terms of the writing style - the management gobbledygook is trimmed down and there is a major effort to be understood) and Umberto Eco's book of essays. It was very heartening to note that Umberto can write sentences that do not require 500 mg. of paracetamol to go with it. The essays are actually very easy to read, unlike his novels which require superhuman effort to keep focused on.

Why do some writers write in a deliberately heavy style?!? Sometimes it does seem to me that the whole world is playing a literary version of "The Emperor's New Clothes." Very few people can understand so much of what is written but no one seems willing to admit it. Somehow, there is this misguided notion that if something can't be understood, it must be very intelligent.

Well, excuse me. I think that if I do not understand something, it is not necessarily my fault. It is the writer's fault. Why bother writing something if it can't be understood anyway?

But back to T. H. White and his ilk. Guys, if you do come across a copy of The Once and Future King, please pick it up. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bliss, Pure Bliss...

Now I know what my definition of a truly good life is. I lived it from 8:00 am to about 5:00 pm today. As part of this year’s book purchasing committee at the College where I teach, I had the very enviable job of picking books that would be added to the country’s leading learning resource center (in other words, library). Along with 10 other academics, I visited a warehouse and a bookstore where we were allowed to wander aimlessly, pick books that struck our fancy, and choose which ones the College should buy. The fact that I wasn’t paying the tab (and the budget was very, very generous) was pure bliss. For once, I was able to pick books whose price tags approximated my weekly payroll without guilt or pangs of withdrawal.

What’s the big deal, you ask. Well, for someone who exhibits withdrawal symptoms when he doesn’t get to visit a library or a bookstore in a week’s time, nothing is more fulfilling and more pleasurable than buying books. Picking up a book, then scanning through the pages, and then making a decision to buy or not to buy sends blood rushing through my veins. Now, think warehouse where there are thousands and thousands of books most of them still unreleased to the general public, where books are spotless and have not been handled by other people, and where you are given the absolute privilege of using your own judgment to pick whatever book you think deserves to be read by the academic community and expense is not a major consideration. Tell me if that doesn’t appeal to you too.

Whew! I wish that someday I would have the resources be able to do just that be able to afford any or all books I like (and there would be many) and then have all the time in the world to sit in a hammock under a tree somewhere really cool and read, read, read to my heart’s content.

Pure bliss!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Woodstock Meets Ragnarok Again...

"Let me share with you my observation about our new breed of employees. Gone are the days when employees will take on every opportunity to shine. Gone are days when additional responsibilities are taken as a chance to advance one's career. In the industry I am in right now, people work not because they need too but because they choose too. Employees (in the call center industry) are very specific in terms of what they should do. It's a dilemma, but I foresee that this is how it is going to be for awhile. With the sudden growth in the industry, the competition for talents is very stiff, its employees market now. And applicants are demanding the strangest things on earth."

The above is a real posting in one of the email groups I subscribe to. It's actually a common lament among HRM managers today and while I have spoken up in the past about the topic, I chose to keep my peace this time around. I figured someone else might just take up the cudgels for the current generation...perhaps someone from this terribly misunderstood and misjudged generation. Unfortunately, no one did. Maybe that's another thing that can be quickly added to their growing list of supposed shortcomings - apathy. But then again, this labeling thing and tendency to make judgments is so old generation.

It is very easy to make comparisons between the current and the old generation. Unfortunately, it is not wise to do so. Not only is it like comparing apples and oranges. Worse, it is like comparing apples ten years ago, and oranges today. Not fair and terribly unscientific.

It is also easy to kill the discussion by throwing in the blame card - who shaped the current generation to be like that? Isn't it parents who encourage their kids to stand up and fight for their rights, to demand that everything be made black and white? Isn't it parents who pressure their kids into getting a better car, or getting a more lucrative job? If the members of the current generation are "selfish, materialistic, lacking in focus, etc." is it possible they are so because that's exactly how we trained them to become? But while somehow valid in a twisted kind of way, the blame card does not truly address all the contours of the issue, or at least the important ones at least.

The real problem with the above comment is that it does not acknowledge a basic flaw - the yardstick being used to make the evaluation is dated and may not apply to the current generation.

Oh sure, loyalty, job performance, initiative, etc., all these things are timeless concepts - but their definitions are not fixed and constant. These concepts are defined differently across generations. Thus, my father's concept of hardwork, which may have involved dogged manual labor may not be aligned with my son's concept of hardwork which may involve mental exertion. Career advancement may not always be vertical today - and in fact, may not be as attractive as a come on anymore. Kids today operate in a different environment than in the past.

So instead of knocking each other off and trading labels and accusations, a better tack actually is making an effort to understand. That is the essence of diversity - it does not only mean differences in race and gender and suchlike. It actually also includes generational issues.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This Is So Sick..It Made Me Laugh

While trawling the blogs out there, I came across this blog that featured lots of funny stuff (although it took some time to load because of its graphics). I don't know who this blogger is, but he sure sounds fun. He says he is a TRISEXUAL - and defined it as someone who will try anything sexual (and not necessarily just once). Hmmm... Anyway, I have filched this entry from his blog because I am so tired today the nerve connections between my fingers and my brain must have short-circuited. For more funny stuff, please visit Lester's blog.

Dear Husband:

I'm writing you this letter to tell you that I'm leaving you for good. I've been a good woman to you for seven years and I have nothing to show for it. These last two weeks have been hell.

Your boss called to tell me that you had quit your job today and that was the last straw.

Last week, you came home and didn't notice that I had gotten my hair and nails done, cooked your favorite meal and even wore a brand new negligee. You came home and ate in two minutes, and went straight to sleep after watching the game.You don't tell me you love me anymore, you don't touch me or anything. Either you're cheating or you don't love me anymore, what ever the case is, I'm gone.

If you're trying to find me, don't. Your BROTHER and I are moving away to West Virginia together! Have a great life!

Your EX-Wife


Dear Ex-Wife,

Nothing has made my day more than receiving your letter. It's true that you and I have been married for seven years, although a good woman is a far cry from what you've been. I watch sports so much to try to drown out your constant nagging. Too bad that doesn't work.

I did notice when you cut off all of your hair last week, the first thing that came to mind was "You look just like a man!" My mother raised me to not say anything if you can't say anything nice. When you cooked my favorite meal, you must have gotten me confused with MY BROTHER, because I stopped eating pork seven years ago.

I went to sleep on you when you had on that new negligee because the price tag was still on it. I prayed that it was a coincidence that my brother had just borrowed fifty dollars from me that morning and your negligee was $49.99.

After all of this, I still loved you and felt that we could work it out. So when I discovered that I had hit the lotto for ten million dollars, I quit my job and bought us two tickets to Jamaica. But when I got home you were gone. Everything happens for a reason I guess. I hope you have the filling life you always wanted. My lawyer said with your letter that you wrote, you won't get a dime from me. So take care.

I don't know if I ever told you this but Carl, my brother was born Carla. I hope that's not a problem.

Signed Rich

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

An alternative career...Or not

I just came from a new gig - as motivational/inspirational speaker at a sales/marketing rally for brokers/dealers of a major real estate company (was tempted to write another slash there, but resisted the urge). Until today, I never really fancied myself as a rah!-rah! kind of trainer or speaker - I thought I was more of the let's-reflect- share-and-try-to-be-profound facilitator. But a friend in need is a friend who threatens - so I was coerced into accepting the gig, all for the love of saving friends from deep shit.

Aside from my natural aversion to doing rah-rah-siz-boom-bah, my beef with being inspirational speaker in these sales rallies is the time element. You are given 30 minutes, perhaps 45 minutes, 1 hour tops if you are lucky - to do your thing. Within that span of time you are supposed to rouse them from sleep and make them do cartwheels while shrieking Kill The Competition!!! Tough job. At least that was what I though I was supposed to do.

But I figured, why be like everyone else, do it your way! (Actually, the more accurate reason is - you can't do it their way, so stick to what you do best which is tell your sob stories, make them think, and then move them somehow).

I am so glad I accepted the gig - it was one of the most exciting 45 minute talk I ever had. Whew! Now I am seriously thinking of buying fuschia and golden suits and begin my own religious congregation. Just kidding about the last sentence.

Anyway. What did I do? I made an outline of topics to cover and developed three sets of talking points, each set with its own bullets. For the first set, I developed quick one minute quizzes and teasers such as optical illusions and trick questions for each bullet and learning point. It was fun and interaction was quite high. For the second set of talking points, which was on paradigms and positive attitudes, I developed metaphors and pictures. And for the final set of talking points (5 attributes of successful salespeople) I looked for really dramatic and short stories.

My last set of talking points were on Belief, Optimism, Courage, Conviction and Action. For belief, I told the moving story of Viktor Frankl and his book "A Man's Search for Meaning." For optimism I told the story of Socorro Ramos of National Bookstore fame. For Courage, I told the story of John Nash of A Beautiful Mind. For Conviction, the story of Christina Bugayong, the 12-year old poor girl who returned Php300k worth of cash and checks simply because "they are not mine." And for action, I told the story of the "man dancing on a seashore picking starfishes."

Of course I spent the whole night (until 3 am) trawling the net for pictures and images for these stories. But it was damn worth it.

Anyway, I'm ready for my next gig. Keep it coming!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Short hair again

After almost three years, I finally had it with itchy face, bad hair days, triple shampoo and conditioner expense, etc., etc. So yesterday, right after the Pacquiao-Morales fight, I marched into the neighborhood "beauty saloon" (for men and women, the sign said), bravely resisted all kinds of offers for all sorts of expensive things one can do to one's hair and insisted on a haircut.

"Sir, rebond?! Cheap lang!"
No thanks, just a haircut.

"Sayang naman your long hair. Maybe we can just trim it, layer it, and then relax."
No thanks, just a haircut please.

"Maybe we can cut it tapos we can wax it to make it shine."
No thanks, just a haircut pretty please.

"Hot oil na lang sir, tapos pedicure na at foot spa na din kayo."
No thanks, just a haircut and an axe and a shotgun please.

After 30 minutes, the long tresses were gone, and I could see my big wide ugly face again- fat deposits and all. Unfortunately, the hair style did not come anywhere close to the one in the poster they showed me. According to the hairdresser, it would soon be, i.e., after two weeks when the hair has started to grow some volume; at which point, I wanted to tell her that if she cut correctly, I wouldnt have to grow the hairstyle anymore since I had very long hair to begin with. But then again, I knew it was futile to argue since in all honesty, I did not approximate the face in the poster to begin with not to mention the fact that she was holding a pair of scissors. Actually, I was afraid the harassed hairdresser would tell me "I just cut hair, I do not do magic that could transform Jules Ledesma into looking like Brad Pitt." Why Jules Ledesma? Long story. Forget it.

Anyway. I am not really sure I like my new hairstyle. But then again, I never did like any hairstyle on myself. More to the point, I never really cared about my hairstyle. Up until three years ago, I only had one and only one hairstyle - barber's cut. I never was fussy about my hair.

There. Just wanted to share something about myself.

And yes, I have a lawyer although I do not intend to sue the hairdresser.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pacman mania

Unlesss you have totally given up on Filipinos and have decided that there is absolutely no hope whatsoever for the Philippines and its countrymen, you could not have missed the greatest spectacle this country has ever seen since The Estrada Impeachment Trial. The roads were practically empty and when the TV coverage of the fight started, you could hear every television set in the neighborhood tuned in.

What a fight it truly was. Am no great boxing fan but I was suddenly an expert on the game contributing my own two-cents worth into the very heated and animated blow by blow commentary in my household. Everytime PacMan would score a hit, the whole neighborhood would be in uproar. The last time I heard something similar (but not quite close) was many years ago when Jaworski was still playing for Ginebra and a championship match was on.

What a great moment to be Filipino again!

I wasn't surprised that immediately after everyone it seemed had something to say on the matter (yes, including me!). The President immediately called Pacman on the phone to congratulate him and the phone conversation was aired on TV as well. Why, even the stars of ABS-CBN had something to say about the victory as well.

A friend of mine who happens to live in Texas texted me to tell me that Filipinos in that state were feeling so victorious they were streaming out of their houses and driving around waving the Filipino flag in front of the hotel where Pacman was billeted.

I hope that Pacman's victory would bring some respite from all the divisive and childish taunting of our leaders. Let's savor unity for a while, please.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Joke Time

A mother and daughter were coasting along EDSA and got stuck in traffic in front of that giant billboard of clothing store Folded & Hung. The mother says out loud - that store should be closed down for using a description of the male organ as its name. Silence. And then the daughter quips: folded?

Oh no, not again!

We are just halfway through the first month of the new year and yet the extreme torture of seeing our elected officials make fools of themselves on TV has already begun in earnest. Arrrgh!!!!!!!! It's enough to make one seriously consider leaving this country for good except that what our elected officials do create animosity for us wherever we go.

Yesterday, the senators who are still smarting from the threat of being rendered obsolete due to the charter change movement, took turns denouncing the US government for not giving up custody of the four US servicemen accused of raping a Filipina at Subic. Many of them actually called for the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement, even if it means losing millions of dollars worth of aid from dear old Uncle Sam. "Our sovereignty and our national pride is not for sale" the feisty Lady Miriam intoned, I mean shrieked.

I would like to advice the good senators to please give up whatever reality-altering medication they are taking - we have been exporting and selling Philippine pride for so long now, the income from which is the only thing propping up our economy. Our best principals and supervisors are working as teaching assistants in the US, our doctors are working as nurses, Filipinos with masteral degrees are working as lowly clerks and even fast food attendants (not that there is anything inherently wrong with these jobs, just that these jobs do not require the aforementioned educational qualifications), our cousins and friends are working as entertainers in Japan and Korea, ad nauseum.

I am not saying that we should let the US get away with bloody murder. All I am saying is that please spare us the sanctimoniousness and the overacting bit. There are better, more sober ways to get a message across.

The hearings at the Senate has resumed. Senator Biazon has presented the surprise "power witnesses" he has been talking about since last year. As it turned out, they were the same suspects - the same shady characters, the same incoherent babble of miscasts and misfits. Senator Biazon says the "children of the tape" (bad, really bad attempt at being pacute) shows that the ISAFP has been wiretapping everyone in the Philippines. If there was any doubt as to what the real intentions of the hearing were and at whose doorstep they intent to drop all the bullshit, the good Senator quipped "This is worst than Watergate where President Nixon ordered the bugging of the opposition." Hearings in aid of legislation my foot! This is another round of efforts to discredit and shame GMA.

Again, please do not get me wrong. I do not mean that people with valid and real grounds should stop discrediting the president. All I am saying is that they have been at it for sometime now and all they have been able to do is waste time and resources and precious TV time. They have not been able to achieve anything except create more problems and more trouble for the economy. For a change, why don't they just do their jobs well?

Are the senators getting any job done at all, I really would like to ask. Are they legislating anything?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

It's unfair!

I finally summoned the courage to call up a friend and inquire about the health of someone I love very dearly. She has had cancer in the last five years and has gone through several cycles of chemotherapy. The cancer has come back - again, and more virulently this time. There was more sad, deppressing news. But she is hanging out there although our common friend says she seems resigned and ready to let go, with dignity.

This is painful news. This friend - a former boss and mentor actually - plucked me from nowhere and guided my personal growth and professional development through nine years and through three companies.

This is a person who was so health conscious - she worked out everyday, ran regularly, did not smoke, did not drink, practiced meditation, etc., etc. Her only vice, as far as I know, was clothes; not jewelry, not shoes, not bags. Just clothes. And, oh, ballroom dancing, which when you come to think about it, is also a form of exercise. And yet she got cancer.

I know many people who smoke like their bodies need to be cigarette-cured, who drink like their systems are fueled by alcohol, and essentially make life difficult for everyone else in this planet and yet they live up to a century (or seem like it). Life is not fair.

In situations like these, I often end up making rationalizations that will not earn me points in logical deductions but somehow brings comfort no matter how minimal and fleeting and borders on being escapist: she needs to rest already (true, she has been working non-stop for 30 years), that she has done her life's work (probably, although who am I do say that? - but her only daughter is done with school and already working), there is a reason for everything (her condition is a warning and reminder to all of us that life, even at its longest, is still truly short. Whatever.

But I am sad. Really sad. Life is just unfair.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bhutan over Lunch (and merienda)

Since last Monday, I have been conducting a training program for a group of Bhutanese at one of the buildings in Makati. It's not really the first time that I have shared the same room with Bhutanese people, but it is the first time that I have spent three days (so far, tomorrow will be day 4) with them exclusively as the whole training group is composed mainly of Bhutanese.

I have always been interested in the countries at the Himalayas, particularly Tibet and Bhutan. I don't know why, but Nepal and the rest do not intrigue me. India, of course, will always mystify me. I think I can live in India. So what do I know about Bhutan so far?

The King (Jigme Wangchuk) has four wives - and the four are sisters (as in siblings). He married the eldest daughter and then proceeded to marry the rest of the package as well. All in all he has 12 children among the four queens. Bhutanese people love their king so much they think he is the world's most handsome man (I kid you not! I actually challenged the ladies in the group to compare their King with Brad Pitt in the looks department and they all unanimously said their King was better looking). Of course, this is not an indication that this is the truth, just that it is their version of the truth.

Men in Bhutan can marry as many wives as they want, provided he can afford to have those many wives, and provided further (and this is where it becomes really interesting), that the previous wives agree. The number of men who have more than one wife is actually very small they say. Hmmmmm...one more proof that when you give people the freedom to do something previously forbidden, they lose interest in it. Technically, the same also applies to women. They can have as many husbands as they want. The same provisions apply. I did not get to ask what happens at night in the privacy of the bedroom because at that point, the ladies began to blush.

The Bhutanese people eat chili like we do rice. They put it in everything. And they munch on it while eating as well. Yesterday morning, we had -pancakes for morning snacks and I was floored down to see many of them reach out for the chili paste and begin smothering their pancakes with it. Maple syrup and chili sauce....Aarrgghhh....

Bhutan only has summer and winter. During winter, their work hours are shortened (9-4 only). During summer, it is 9-5. It snows in some parts of Bhutan during January and February and their average temperature in the northern part is 1 degree. To compare - Baguio at its coldest ever, registered 5 degrees.

Naturally because they live in the Himalayas, they do not have beaches and oceans. Many of them saw the sea up close for the very first time last weekend when they went to the Manila Bay. They will go to Batangas this Saturday and they have been asking all kinds of questions about how waves are formed and how strong the pressure of a wave is, etc. And by the way, the only fish they have in Bhutan is trout. All others, they have to import.

But they grow apples, oranges, peaches, pears, apricots. They import the best peaches and pears to Japan and everywhere else. They say peaches in Bhutan are commonplace, practically everyone has a peach tree - probably like santol in the Philippines.

In Bhutan, marijuana grows freely - as in it is everywhere, but they do not have a drug problem. So getting stoned is really a cultural thing. Many of them have not even tried smoking marijuana although some of them have confessed to getting stoned while burning dried leaves and twigs in the trash. There's an interesting idea: you want to get stoned? Clean the backyard, rake the dry leaves and burn to your heart's content. However, cigarettes are banned in Bhutan.

They only have one five-star hotel (called Boutique) and it is opening in August of this year.

They do not have family names. The lama of the town simply assigns names to kids. And yet they say they know everybody. Internet is very accessible because the king fell in love with the whole concept in the mid-nineties and the whole country is wired. Their are no prostitutes, no lesbians, no gays (that's what they say).

What a country!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dating daan vs INC

I know I have been harping on this for some time now but I just can not help it. Everytime I watch the TV, or read the papers, I can not help but feel this urge to shout at whoever is pontificating: "that's just your opinion, that doesn't necessarily mean that is the most brilliant solution!" But sadly, in this country, most people who have access to the media think so highly of themselves, they think their drool is holy water.

People in this country do not disagree. They demolish the other side either through obfuscation, intimidation, or by simply overwhelming the other side through whatever means possible including, yes, flooding the surrounding area with saliva.

Last night I was coasting through the channels of Destiny cable and noticed that there were two channels of the INC sect. Both shows featured attacks on Ely Soriano of Ang Dating Daan fame (or infamy, whichever part of the fence you are perching in). I must say that if we are to go by the detailedness and the thoroughness of the scathing attacks, there must be a group in the INC hierarchy that does nothing all day but monitor Ely Soriano's utterances on TV and radio. And by God, were they serious about their demolition job!

I just wonder how the acrimony between the two religious groups started. I mean, what starts a war between religious people? By definition, shouldnt religious people be about forgiveness and all that? But looks like even religious people are into using the media to attack their opponents. Who knows in the future, they might even produce their own movies, or TV shows.

Instead of wasting airtime resources (and money on the host's heavily starched barong tagalogs) attacking each other, maybe the feuding parties can spend the time praying. God knows we need them badly.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Sinulog On TV

Being proudly Bisaya, I always make it a point to watch the Sinulog extravaganza on television every time I couldn't go to Cebu for the festival. Unfortunately, only Channel 4 (National Broadcasting Network) covers the festival -- and to point out the painfully obvious, NBN isn't CNN. All right, am sorry, that's not a fair expectation. And thus today, the TV in my room was tuned in to the station although I was merely watching passively. One has to be a masochist to be able to watch the coverage from start to finish.

Whoever picks the people who serve as "hosts" or commentators or annotators of the Sinulog needs to be sent to a basic TV course asap! These people, did not know what they were doing, had godawful grammar, and were simply not teleginec. I had to fight the urge to change channels everytime they came on board. For example: "The sinulog of course, also celebrates the arrival of Magellan hundreds of centuries ago - in fact, centuries of centuries ago." Oh my god, they made the Sinulog older than Jesus Christ, probably older than the dinosaurs. And I shudder at the thought of a festival that honors Magellan! Towards the end of the coverage, Asean dances were featured to hype up the fact that Cebu will be hosting the 2006 Asean Conference. Quipped the brilliant hosts "The Asean Conference is not just a national event. It is bigger as it will feature countries from all the parts of Asia." Arrghhhhhhh! Asean and Asia are two different concepts!

The Sinulog this year ended with a number that featured the Governor of Cebu dancing onstage. The anchors made a big deal out of it -- like talking endlessly about it, plugging the "big surprise" every time they had to go on commercial break. Since they kept on announcing that the Governor was dancing, what was the big surprise about it?

And since that finale number was sanctioned by the government and even had the Governor on it, couldn't they at least make that number more culturally accurate and relevant? Instead, they went for bongga costumes, spectacular props, etc., etc.. All of which screamed "hollywood!" "Olympics opening!" "GMA supershow!" "Bella Dimayuga!" Wheeeeeee.

The same can be said of the other Sinulog entries from various provinces and delegations. The Pampanga delegation was a ballet production, the group from Iligan had snatches of Lambada, Copacabana, and Mr. Suave in their production, etc. All the delegations had giant cardboards and styrofoam sets.

The sinulog has become more and more...commercial. It has become a TV production rather than an ethnic festival.


Anyway, Pit Senyor!!! to everyone. And may the infant Jesus bless all of us and keep us safe, healthy, and happy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Surreal but real

The title is not original - it comes from that Hugh Grant-Julia Roberts movie. It came to mind today while I was having lunch while the television at the pantry was on. The one million question on Game Ka Na Ba was what is paraskevidekatriaphobia and the contestant lost. Answer: fear of Friday the 13th. Is it just coincidence that they had to ask the question on a Friday, the 13th? Surreal. I don't know if it is surreal that the contestant could not decipher the gobbledygook. I mean, treskaidekaphobia, which I think is a more "popular" fear is the fear of the number 13. But well, what is more surreal that having someone like Kris Aquino on lunchtime TV hollering "may tama ka!!" with relish.

Other recent surreal events:

Last night on the way to school, I was driving along Zapote Street leisurely until I turned right on a side street towards Pasong Tamo. Since middle of this year, many of the side streets of Makati have been designated one-way streets for reasons only City Hall knows. But in fairness, the one-way signs are pretty visible and I guess there is some logic to be had, no matter how minimal, in such harebrained schemes. The side street I was on was one-way going to Pasong Tamo and it was not moving. The problem became obvious after a few minutes. There was this woman who was blocking the road going the opposite way. Naturally, since it is a narrow street, there was gridlock as the cars going towards Pasong Tamo have already occupied both lanes of the one-way lane (naturally, it was a one-way street after all!). The most logical solution would have been for that woman to go back to Pasong Tamo. But no, she adamantly refused to budge. She was on the phone as if seeking help from someone out there.

And when we were finally able to figure out a way to go around her car, there she was, with her windows down and hollering at us: mga dupang! I looked at her car's plate and noticed that she was covered by the color-coding scheme. In other words, she was violating two traffic rules: going against a one-way street, and being on a street when her car was covered by the color-coding scheme. Whew! I lowered my car when I passed her and couldnt resist telling her "Color coding ka pa, nasa one-way street ka pa!" She looked at me with a petulant expressiona and shouted "Eh ano, babae ako eh!" I shouted back "Boba!" and deeply regretted the fact that she probably did not hear me anymore because my car was already moving. Surreal!!

At lunch today, I was waiting in line for my turn at an ATM machine in Tektite. Being a Friday, the lines were expectedly long. But the line was moving unnecessarily slow like a snail with a terrible hangover. I was wondering why the people ahead of me in the line were not making a fuss. Ordinarily, people would make their annoyance felt by constantly peeping at the glass door of the ATM booth as if to say "ano ba, ang tagal mo naman!" The reason became clear when the door of the booth opened...and out came Andrea del Rosario and Katya Santos. Hmmmmmm. Surreal. They actually greeted us while standing there waiting for their service vehicle. And then someone asked to have her picture taken with the two sexy stars...she looked around for someone to take the picture and picked me. Surreal. Why would anyone lug a digital camera around?

And how was is your Friday the 13th?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hello World!!

Whew! When I started this blog September of 2005, I only had one objective in mind - to keep a journal of my thoughts and rants and raves and hang ups and whatever. I never imagined that it would be read by others, or that it would become some kind of a newsletter about myself, or that it would encourage others to blog as well. I also was not, at that time, aware of the extent to which blogging has become a phenomenon.

What do you know. I have started receiving emails from long lost friends and former students who comment on my blog for the day (or week). Some have referred their own blogs or other blogs that they like. Thus, I have started to expand my blog community by visiting other blogs and clicking on their links. And what a huge community of bloggers it is out there!

I am truly amazed at how generous people can be. There are blogs that offer all kinds of advice - from cooking recipes to techno gadgets, to books, to music. And I discovered that many columnists actually maintain blogs of their own.

This got me into thinking...maybe I should also post a visitors' counter in this blog although quite frankly I am scared that the traffic would be similar to the number of passersby on foot at Balete Drive at 2am. But I am trying to reconstruct my links - in a fit of rage, I deleted it because it just wouldnt open correctly. At least my friends can also get to check out the other blogs that I visit regularly.


So what's up?

Woke up today with this muscle pain in my batok. My friends know that I am psychosomatic and will not be surprised that for the best part of the morning, I was actually fretting and was on the verge of having an anxiety attack because I kept on thinking...oh god, I am having an aneurism. But my blood pressure was quite low (100/70). Sigh. Someone told me that the symptoms of hypertension are the same as those for low blood pressure. So I called up a friend, who promptly told me that 100/70 is normal and that it is probably muscle pain. I took some muscle relaxants and hopefully the pain should go away in a while. I hope.

Oh, I actually was up until 1:30 am tuned in to Channel 2. Payong Kapatid was on and their featured "advisor" was my good friend Doktora Margie Holmes. The topic was on sexual problems. Anyone who watched the show for educational purposes and not just to ogle Dr. Holmes couldnt escape the inevitable conclusion that in this country sex education is painfully inadequate. The questions run the whole gamut of basic and sometimes commonsensical questions (oh I know, common sense is uncommon among Filipinos). Does size really matter? Is it okay to have sex when the woman has menstruation? How often should people masturbate? Is Bong Austero really good in bed and available for sex? Just kidding about the last one. As usual, Margie was her usual engaging self.

Today I read in the papers about female fetacide in India reaching an alarming 5 million every year. Whew! I thought this thing only happened in China and that the incidence was declining. Female fetacide refers to deliberately aborting a fetus as soon as it is determined to be female. In China (and in India too as well as other parts of the world), male offspring is preferred because..well, males work on the farm, require less attention, etc. etc. We can all romanticize the notion that children are gifts from God (and I believe they truly are), but the language of poverty speaks more tragic truths.

And finally, FVR and GMA has left it up to the Lakas Congress to decide if GMA should cut her term or not. Hmmm... all that posturing in the media was empty chest thumping after all. And just a thought. The SWS reports that in a survey they conducted last December, more than half of Filipinos agree that GMA should cut her term. I would truly want to know where they conduct their surveys and what type of questions they ask. They have been trundling out survey results for decades now but I still have to meet one person who participated as respondent in any of their surveys.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Photo from the Krocodile Bar reunion of sorts with former
students last Saturday. Photo courtesy of JT.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Missed List (Part 1)

Today, is the birthday of my daughter, and well, there is just something about birthdays that tug at the hearstrings of our lives (fade in Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler On The Roof, fade out). There. I just acknowledged I am...old. And growing older by the minute (and yes, Jerome, you do not have to rub it in any further).

Anyway, I have been thinking about some of the things I truly miss, or have missed last year.

First, what I missed...

1. Any of the movies of the 2005 Film Festival. Forgive me, Direk Joel and Mother Lily, I can not empathize with your cause. Besides, I have given up on Direk Joel after that over-emote bit at FPJ's necrological service (he did it again on TV in over-emote mode, voice breaking..."ka-ta-ru-ngan!"). I do have this soft spot for Mother Lily partly because I was with Solidbank for seven years - and she was a diehard fan of the bank ("Akin lahat issue tseke Solidbank kasi hindi talbug, swerte.") and mostly because I find her an interesting character.

2. Other movies I missed...Starwars 3 (Revenge of the Sith), Spiderman 2, Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (mea culpa, I know this is utterly unforgivable). In fact I think it would be easier to just enumerate the three movies I managed to watch last year: Phantom of the Opera, Harry Potter 4, Can This Be Love (yes, I watched that film! Now you can pelt me with tomatoes). All the others, as in ALL others shown on regular moviehouses, I missed.

3. I only went to one and only one play last year: R'meo luvs Dew-liette (jologs adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet). And I am truly grateful I caught that one. I would have wanted to watch Once On This Island (with my friend May Bayot on it), Aspects of Love, Saint Louis Loves Them Filipinos (with my friend Miguel Castro in the lead), Man from La Mancha, etc., etc., etc.. I missed all the other productions of PETA, Repertory, Tanghalang Pilipino last year. Sigh.

4. I missed attending the graduation of any of my students last year (all three terms!). Okay, to be honest, I have not attended any of the graduation ceremonies at Benilde; and I really should. After all, it should be fulfilling to watch your former students in their black gowns.

5. I missed all my derma appointments last year. Arrgh. People tell me I should really do something about the fat deposits on my face (not that it would bring any more pogi points, ehem, and maybe I do not really care anymore about raking up pogi points anyway). I promise I will try to make an effort to meet my derma appointments this year, I swear.

6. I missed all appointments with my hairdresser last year. Ooops, this is not entirely correct. I did went to one shop to have my hair "relaxed" last April and it was a horrid experience. What I mean is that I intended to have my hair cut last year and I didn't get to do it. So I am still sporting long hair which I intend to shorten before the Chinese New Year.

7. The visit to the Philippines of my dear friend Weng. Well, not entirely my fault, since I did not even know about it at that time.

8. Needless to say, I totally missed my financial targets. Am still indebted to credit card companies, etc. etc. Sigh.

And what I miss.......

1. Friends I haven't seen in ages: Olan (in USA) Arthur (at Louisiana State U), Franz (at Bicol U), Sean (in USA), TJ (also in USA), Aldy (in very very far Makati!!!) and Jojo (in very far Malabon).

2. Performing in a serious play. Honest. The last time I acted onstage was...god, so long ago. I miss my college days (and early career days) when I was very active in theatre.

3. I miss eating greasy, decadent food. Eversince I became hypertensive I have stayed away from fatty, salty and overly sweet stuff and my blood pressure has since become stable at 110/70 so I guess it is worth it. Still, there are times when I have this hankering for...aahhhhhhhh...kaldereta, chicharon, balat ng lechon, sugpo, alimango, chocolates.

4. I miss the rituals associated with smoking. I do not miss the feel of cigarette smoke going through my throat and lungs. What I do miss is the feel of a cigarette on my fingers, the act of lighting it with a lighter or better still - a match!- and then the sight of white billowy smoke emanating from one's mouth. I know this does not make sense to non-smokers, but for one who started smoking at 18, there are certain things that become part of your life's rituals, like drinking coffee in the morning while reading the papers, or reading at the throne, or arranging your pillows in a particular order before turning in for the night.

5. I miss the Binondo environment. For two years, I held office at Binondo and to this day, I have fond memories of the place. There is nothing quite like having lunch at restaurants that you know have been there for 50 years like Sincerity or Savory still serving the dishes that have become comfort food to many. Too bad Smart Panciteria has since moved to Libis - this was the restaurant that was the setting for too many FPJ movies in the 70s. Of course, there is always Carvajal St., which is mentioned in Noli Me Tangere, and to this day still sells the most exotic finds: dragon fruits which they always had even when they were still uncommon, fresh cherries, plums and peaches when in season, and lots and lots of ingredients used in Chinese cooking. And let is not forget that Divisoria is just a few blocks away.

6. I miss the old Malate - the days when we could still drink outside the bars on Adriatico Street without being sideswiped by vehicles or count on our fingers the people walking by - and these were mostly tourists who just wandered by. I miss the old Penguin Cafe where "artists" - both real and pseudo congregated. I miss Khaki Bar with its pebbled floor, Blue Cafe and their chairs which had pictures of famous stars on it - one could sit on the face of Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, and the old Library before it sold out to commercialism. Today, Malate is simply the ghetto for the underground party scene - but the culture is gone.

Visting IRC...Again

Where was I?

As I was saying, there was a point in time, not very long ago (ehem), when I lived to chat. I would log on to the net (and the IRC) upon getting home, and chat with friends and strangers until dawn. And at work the following day (technically speaking, later is more appropriate as those were days when I averaged 4-5 hours of sleep), I would cyberloaf shamelessly - as in chat while working, or at least while going through the motions of working.

I would meet up for lunch with friends (yes, my friends from the irc - we had regular lunches to talk about, what else, but life on and the people in the IRC and the channels we hibernated in), and then go back to work (and the IRC). After a hard day's work (chatting 80% and working 20%), we (and this means the IRC pals still) would meet up at SM Mega Mall for dinner, or bowling, or sing along, or whatever. And then it was time to go home...and chat again.

It was crazy. And looking back, I still can not believe the extent to which my friends and I were truly addicted to chatting.

It was fun though, although, fun in an escapist sort of way. To many, chatting was the only real contact with the outside world, the only means of interaction with other people. Not that we were introverted or painfully shy. There was just something about thinking and seeing your thoughts in actual words, rather than hearing them that was somehow satisfying.

I don't know how and why we sort of lost interest in chatting. The channels we formed got less and less human traffic and it just died a natural death. Every now and then, we would see familiar nicks register in our notify lists, but after the customary hi-hello-how are you - conversations would sputter and come to painfully long moments of silence as we struggled to think of what to say next. Eventually, we stopped chatting.

I guess it is true, we eventually outgrow everything.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Visiting IRC

All right, I admit it, there was a point in time (seemed like ages ago) when I lived some semblance of a life in the virtual world of the information superhighway (the internet to those uninitiated). I have no idea why I was addicted to chatting in the net and all my training in pyschology could not explain why a supposedly normal, social, intelligent (ehem) person would prefer to interact with other people under the cloak of anonymity. Oh, I did have some theories (who doesn't - everyone fancies himself to be a psychiatrist, or at the very least, a talk show host!), but nothing I could hope to win a Pulitzer for.

There was comfort to be had in being able to put one's feet up and exchanging ideas with other people from any part of the world while eating like a pig in one's pajamas. One can bully, submit, purr, moan, impress, beg, dominate and be anyone one wanted to be. But eventually, eyeballs became the order of the day and boy, oh boy, were they truly an experience beyond words! It was either hilarious (as in the chatter did not resemble the person that he claimed to look like), scandalous (as in the chatter turned out to be someone you knew all along - or someone you wouldn't want to be caught in the same elevator with in case of a brownout), exciting (as in the chatter far exceeded your expectations), or just plain boring (the person was best read, not seen live). I went to a number of these EB parties (I only went to two one-on-one EBs and both were eyeballs from hell!) and in fairness, I have made many friends who continue to be my friends today.

There was this fun thing we would do with our friends then. Whenever one would be in a situation that can only be described as "EB from hell" we would send a SOS text message to our friends who would call promptly. So the conversation (in front of the EB from hell) would go like this:

"Hello? Tito! Napatawag ka?"

"Gago! Tito ka jan, sino naman yang EB mong gusto mong takasan?"

"Ah ganun ba Tito? Naku nasa labas pa naman ako..."

"Sige, magkunwari ka pa...yan ang napapala ng mga taong nakikipag eb nang hindi sigurado kung tao ba talaga ang makaka EB."

"Kailangan ba talaga, Tito? Pano po yun? Sige po...pupunta po ako. Hintayin nyo po ako?"

"Hayop ka talaga sa akting! Sige iwanan mo na yan. At humanda ka pag nagkita tayo at katakot takot na pang aalaska ang makukuha mo sa barkada."

"Sige po, Tito, aalis na po ako ngayon na. Magpapa alam na po ako dito sa friend ko."

One hilarious incident involved a friend who continued to have the "urgent" conversation even when the cellphone connection was cut off due to signal problems. He was still pretending and was talking at a loud voice when the phone rang again while he was talking. Buko!

Last night, I logged in again to the irc after not having been there in like, years. Whew! It is true, the speed of change is truly amazing - today, the chatters are more up front, more aggressive, more demanding, and more... in-your-face.

More about this later.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Just Another Saturday Evening...

If this is going to sound like an entry to a diary, I beg your indulgence.

I was reading the weekend paper very leisurely when I got a text on my cell. It was from a family friend, bearing tragic news. A childhood friend of mine who was blessed with a second chance in love (her previous marriage got annulled the other year and then she got caught up in a whirlwind romance that ended at the altar last year) and a second chance to be a mother again (she became pregnant immediately and was due to deliver within the second week of January 2006) gave birth to a stillborn baby boy.

Very tragic indeed. The little boy, named Theodore Lorenzo, has been dead inside her mom's womb for 24 hours already. It was another case of cord coil -- while he twisted and twisted inside his mom, the umbilical cord got caught around his little neck and then around his left leg. So he literally strangled himself with every movement.

It is truly sad that while technology enabled all of us to view pictures and videos of the little boy with the cord twisted around his neck and leg - all the technology and science couldn't, didn't save his life. It seems there are still many mysteries about life that can not be fully explained or remedied by science.

I meant to stay at the wake for only a few hours, but there was something about being in the wake of a little angel (he had to be an angel -- he didn't get exposed to the outside world so he must have gone straight to heaven) that seemed to draw all of us together in comfort. Of course, there was this unspoken feeling of "sayang" hovering in the air, but gone was the usual morbid sense one gets while in a wake.

I still can not make sense of little Theodore's death. But I am a little comforted at the thought that there is a little angel up there watching all of us.


At midnight, I dropped by Krocodile bar in GB3 to meet up with former students from Benilde. It was comforting to note that many of them are doing well in their HR careers - and they brought more comforting news about their colleagues (former classmates) who have also embarked on a career in HR.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Noli Me Tangere 2: Touch it not

I am one of those people who have more than three copies of this Rizal book. The first one was inherited from some relatives who bought the book because it was required reading in College. I remember it was lying around in the house when I was in grade school and so I started reading it then. This is probably cliche - but this book did have a profound effect on me and probably helps explain my decidedly leftist orientation early in life. The second copy of the book was bought on a whim - it was a new translation by this Locsin matriarch. And then one day I came across a version of the book that featured a really arresting book cover: it was of a billboard on EDSA that screamed something controversial (I do not recall the exact sentence now) so I bought that one too. But I do admit that it has been almost four years since I last reread the book. I plan to reread it soon.

And so, when I read in the papers that there was an updated version of the book entitled "Noli Me Tangere 2: Where to now, my country?" I made time to go to National bookstore during the Christmas break to grab a copy.

I started reading the book on December 26. It is now January 6. I still haven't finished the book. I am still struggling through it. And what a struggle it is because modesty aside I can finish a book overnight (and if it truly is a great book, in one sitting).

Ever been in one of those situations where you stagger on valiantly hoping against hope that things will turn out better - and they don't? Instead, it keeps getting worse. But you still wanna give it a chance - and you justify your dogged determination with all kinds of flimsy excuses...the writing can't be this bad - maybe it is just the first few pages...and then the writing gets even more tedious. Then you justify why you are still reading it by thinking maybe the plotline will save the book (it doesn't either, the awfully convoluted Mga Anghel Na Walang Langit is a gem compared to the plot of this book). And then you just keep on reading out of empathy for the writer and his intentions.

This is a book that simply doesn't get there. It goes around and around but rarely hits a target whether emotional, intellectual, psychological, sociological or even political. The metaphors are confused and sometimes get bogged down in the attempt to be lyrical and profound at the same time. And the dialogues - oh dear god - I have never read dialogues so artificial and unnatural. The characters in the book must all have masters degrees in philosophy because they converse with utmost clarity and coherence. And the situations are so... so...Pangako Sa Yo, the telenovella.

And to think the book is proudly endorsed by Senators Jovito Salonga and Joker Arroyo. Whew! Did they actually read the book?

If you buy the book and feel like you want to sue the publishers after - call me, let's do it together.

20 Truths

Everyday I receive all kinds of emails from all kinds of people out there. Some are truly worth reading - you open them, read, and then finish it with a feeling of gratefulness for whoever invented email. There are of course emails that make you think of email as some kind of a curse.

But I have learned to take all these in stride. Yes, including those emails that promise you 2 more inches (you know where), threatens mayhem unless you forward it to 200 others, etc. etc.

This one I got today - and somehow, it just arrived at the right time. I have been having difficulty sleeping in the last four days on account of a disturbing pain in my stomach (read my previous postings on gastroscopy). A doctor friend advised me to give it a few more days and then see a doctor as this may be induced by the holidays food intake.

But well, this gave me some comfort.

1. Faith is the ability to not panic.

2. If you worry, you didn't pray. If you pray, don't worry.

3. As a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home every day.

4. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

5. When we get tangled up in our problems, be still.God wants us to be still so He can untangle the knot.

6. Do the math. Count your blessings.

7. God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.

8. Dear God: I have a problem. It's me.

9. Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.

10. Laugh every day, it's like inner jogging.

11. The most important things in your home are the people.

12. Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.

13. There is no key to happiness. The door is always open.

14. A grudge is a heavy thing to carry.

15. He who dies with the most toys is still dead.

16. We do not remember days, but moments. Life moves too fast, so enjoy your precious moments.

17. Nothing is real to you until you experience it, otherwise it's just hearsay.

18. It's all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are done.

19. Surviving and living your life successfully requires courage. The goals and dreams you're seeking require courage and risk-taking. Learn from the turtle -- it only makes progress when it sticks out its neck.

20. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Shoot the messenger!

Watching the news on TV and reading the newspapers used to be enlightening experiences. I remember up until about two years ago, I would always make it a point to watch the news before going to bed at night (of course, it was a practical thing to do then because the news was always on at 10pm; unlike today when the late night newscast is on at the ungodly hour of 12:30 am or sometimes 1:00 am, depending on how heavy the commercial load of the TV station is). I still read the newspaper at breakfast, although quite frankly, I think my newspaper is one of the reason why I have hyperacidity.

Today, reading the newspaper and watching the news on TV are almost always unpleasant experiences. It is not just because the news is often bad, or gross, or both; but because more often than not, the treatment and reportage borders on sensationalizing, editorializing, and the titillating. I am sure the media people are ready with their standard defense: do not shoot the messenger. In other words, they do not make the news, they just report it. What nonsense! Anyone who actually believes that deserves to be stuck in warp where the television set features no one else but Cristy Fermin.

The media actually creates a spin on everything that happens and packages the news according to the dictates of their bosses, their sponsors, their political beliefs, or simply, their mood for the day. This explains why ABS-CBN is always critical of the government, PTV4 is always all praises to the government, and why GMA7 (fighting to keep the lead) tends to please everyone - and I do mean everyone.


What got me thinking about this is the fact that today, newspapers can not agree on why Ramos, Drilon and Sotto had a clandestine meeting a few days ago. According to the Inquirer, an alliance is shaping up among the past three presidents (Ramos, Aquino and Estrada) to topple down the current President. Hohummm... this is the problem in this country, past presidents do not fade away, they want to become presidents for life (and this is sadly true for all Filipino organizations including professional organizations). The Manila Standard Today says Ramos is not going to take up any of Estrada's causes (and I believe this is the logical thing to do - many people may be against GMA, but many more are anti-Erap). The other newspapers simply gave the story the usual cursory item - and stayed away from speculating. Of course, the Inquirer always speculates.

But one thing did get my attention. Practically all newspapers reported that Ramos has an axe to grind against GMA because she did not speak out against the no-elections proposal before January 1.

I think this is truly the root of the problem in Philippine politics: whenever someone takes on a different opinion or point of view, we automatically look at that person as an enemy. Why can't we all just agree to disagree? What is with this giant sense of amor propio that compels people to break away or lambast those that disagree with them? This is very Darth Vader: if you are not on my side, you are not my friend.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

MRT blues

The car was covered by the color-coding thingie (why they insist on calling the scheme "color-coding" when colors do not have anything to do with it is beyond me) and since I was on leave from work, I did not have to wake up early to beat the 7am deadline for using Metro Manila's streets. But I had a 6pm meeting at Pasig City, so naturally, I had to commute. I thought that since classes have not started yet, taking the MRT was a better alternative. I mean, the MRT does not get stuck in traffic, it is generally clean, etc., etc.. So what the heck, I took the train at Vito Cruz, got off at Taft/EDSA and prepared to transfer to the MRT line to get to Shaw Boulevard.

The ride was smooth and fast. The trains were efficient and clean. The passengers were well-behaved. So what went wrong?

If anyone out there needs a clear example of how government agencies do poorly in serving ordinary people, I suggest they go to the EDSA/Taft station of the MRT. This is the start of the MRT line, and as expected, there is a deluge of people at this station all wanting to get into a train.

Yesterday, the lines were long at the entrance to the station. There were only two security guards doing the routine security checks. This is the Philippines, so of course, expect everyone to be carrying a luggage or two in addition to the back pag slung over the shoulder, the plastic bags on each hand, and another bag of peanuts in a third hand (yeah, it looks like it). The conditions were ripe for a civil unrest and I am truly amazed at the fortitude of ordinary Filipinos - they stood in line in the midst of pollution (this is the middle of the country's main thoroughfare!).

After that ordeal with the long lines and a very unfriendly guard who must be into S&M in his private life - he seemed to like touching people roughly I thought the worst was over. No cigar.

The lines to buy tickets were longer - as in looooonnnnngggggeeeerrrrrr. And there were only two counters open. Why couldn't they open more counters to make the lines shorter and the traffic move faster? It took me another 10 minutes before I could stand in front of this guy behind a glass case who looked very bored and constipated. Whew. And the place was actually not built to accomodate long lines - we who were standing in line were blocking the exits and those getting out of the station had to squeeze in between people standing in line to get out.

What is truly annoying and extremely bothersome in the whole scheme is that the problems were actually quite simple - find ways to sell tickets quickly: vendo machines, more counters, etc.

I guess it boils down to attitude. The government agency that runs the MRT simply does not have very high regard for Filipinos.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Desperate housewives

Got home late last night from a quiet intimate dinner with three lady friends. A friend wanted to show me the pad she is currently crashing in and I guess a New Year is as good an excuse as any. So she invited me and just for the heck of it, another common friend, and voila, a night of sharing intimacies over red wine, grapes, and kiat kiat.

I do not know if this bodes well for the new year - but boy, did I learn so much about their lives in four hours. Halfway through, I couldn't help but confess that I thought Desperate Housewives was far too twisted to be real; what I didn't realize is that truth is truly stranger than fiction. These ladies had lives that were not just soap opera material - they were grander that the standard soap opera.

No wonder many people could empathize with the real-life TV fare that the major networks seem to be up to. They not only mirror reality - it is reality. When the man in the street says that what they see on TV happens in real life as well, they are not engaging in poetic license, they mean it literally.

Funny thing is, up until last night, I have always thought that these ladies had it so good. I mean I never would have imagined that they too had their share of life's grief and that their shares were peppered with more spice than the usual. Not only does this show that looks can be deceiving - that people can look so put together and yet be crumbling inside; more importantly, it shows that everyone has her own trials in life, no exceptions.

I guess it is true then: life gives you a hand of cards, you make do with yours.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

My First New Year's List

Happy New Year!

After brunch today, I resolved to sit down and make a list. It just occurred to me that I really need to (as in seriously need to) reassess where I am in the larger scheme of things.

In the last seven years, I have been in career limbo mainly out of a sense of loyalty; I need to reassess this vis-à-vis larger career plans and practical considerations. Had I not gotten stuck where I am, I would probably be earning double my current rate and probably driving around in a new car. But then again, I probably would not have been able to teach and indulge in my other passion which is mentoring young people. Anyway.

In the last few months, my body has been showing signs of serious malfunctioning. I have this constant pain in my right elbow which I ascribe to some kind of carpal tunnel syndrome (it hurts after I spend some time in front of the PC). My hypertension has been relatively low and stable (110/90) in the last three months although it can be argued that that’s because I am taking medication every day. And my tummy has been acting up a lot lately. The strange thing is that I have seen many specialists who, while not exactly baffled at my condition, basically give the same advice: take some medicines for two weeks, watch what you eat, and get some exercise. Maybe it is time I take their advice seriously.

So given this context, here is my New Year’s list of to do things:

1. I will exercise more regularly. Yes I will. I swear to enroll in a gym within this first quarter, and make sure I schedule a fixed time and day for a serious work out every week. At the same time, I swear I will begin brisk walking at night, or probably use my old stationary bike again. Whatever.

2. I will watch what I eat. In the last six months, I have lost some 20 lbs already doing my own version of phase 2 of the South Beach Diet. I will continue doing this. I will also continue watching my salt intake as well as my general carbo intake.

3. I will limit my involvement in PMAP to the three committees I signed up for, no more.

4. I will accept no more than two thesis groups per term at school. I will also try not to do all the work for students – I will give my students most of the work, and this term I will start reporting tasks. Let us see if they can do it.

5. I will seriously reevaluate my career. I will seek professional help and counseling to get me out of this fix.

6. I will be debt free at the end of the year. At the same time, I will start saving up.

7. I will seriously consider submitting an entry to the Palanca awards in the essay category (yeah, laugh now…I swear I will win one of these days).

8. I will learn to say no.

There. I made my first New Year’s list.

Au Revoir 2005

As I write this, the clock on the wall says it is barely 45 minutes before the changing of the year. Already, the air is thick with gunpowder, my lungs are asphyxiating from the pollution, and my ears are beginning to go deaf. In these conditions, it is truly a wonder anyone actually lives to see the changing of the year.

Traditions are truly difficult to let go. Every year, the health department makes frantic appeals to people to please, please…do not explode firecrackers. The media does that too – they even go as far as show gory footages of appendages being sewn up, blood squirting all over, and people screaming in agony. But then again, they also show (and probably devote more time to) how the business is doing in Bocaue (the lines were very long, it was shown on TV that it was bumper to bumper traffic out there) and even does interviews of buyers and sellers (one buyer was shown on cam buying 20grand worth of fireworks, whew!). Talk about conflicting messages. Ano ba talaga?

I’ve been thinking passively about whether I should make a list of resolutions for this year. I have never really (as in not even once) made new year’s resolutions before – my family has never been big on reflections and all that. But so much has happened to me this year and I think it is about time I did so. Maybe I should.