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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jeddah Rain: A Blessing Or Otherwise

"If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with a little rain" - Dolly Parton.

I thought I was awakened by a strange noise today. The not-so-lovely timing of its arrival has added to my misery. Already had an early feel of dawn light slowly creeping up the hollow windowsill. Yet sleep was not coming. It's been two weeks and this stubborn cough seems to enjoy its vacation in my anatomy. When its rage finally settled like a rabid dog so exhausted,  had no idea already it was raining cats and dogs outside. Yes, thunders and lightnings have put up a race to scare Jeddah residents another time, and the massive downpour had most cars outside stuck in deep mud. Feeling grouchy and head throbbing, I had to keep my balance and reach for the window glass to see  heavy rains pummeling the pavements.

Curiosity aside, I will be condemned had I not gone out to take this stupid thing for scanning at the internet cafe. This obnoxious thing called Body Temperature graph that some nice people had wanted me to add up to the slide I am making for them free-of-charge, really tested me. Of course it's borne out of generosity to be able to help out, but really the troubles of playing long jump not to get wet and swim in the sewer almost killed off my patience. Before deciding to venture outside, I was kind of waiting for some nice people to place some planks or sort of as walkway outside of our accommodation to avoid wading in the floods. Unfortunately for me, our building watchman chose rather to hide his skin. (He is only most visible when harassing my door  for that 10-riyal water duties when the tank gets dried up.) So  I thought I had to crawl on top of the cars lining up by the roadside for me to get out of the building. That was gross! (Next time I swear to cut down a bit on my generosity. It only spells trouble and getting no appreciation at all. :-)

Although raining in Jeddah can be considered a rare occurrence, many would still prefer a rain-less Jeddah especially motorists. The difficult part is, the troubles it could cause are beyond annoying. Some motorists could easily get into fisticuffs or sandal-whipping with patience hardly a virtue on the roads.  Just a litttle rain could be potent enough to clog roads and highways, gifting taxi drivers an opportunity to rip off hapless commuters. Accidents also come in abundance. After the floods, potholes and sagging cracked roads emerge, courtesy of substandard works done by the contractors. So, it's not really a happy moment in Jeddah when rain pours out, though I want it to be always raining (to validate my reason of no-show in work :-).

All things considered, it was not the best idea to venture outside to see whether this rare phenomenon has wreaked havoc the scale of November 2009 Jeddah flooding. That few hours of rain considered normal by tropical standard already claimed scores of lives in Jeddah. And that is what every Jeddah resident is praying for not to happen again. Thanks to that disaster, corruption in the government has been brought to light as the real culprit behind the deaths of those who drowned in areas where no drainage system had been put in place. The simplest of thing that the Jeddah government is able to implement has not been done because of the corrupt city officials who pocketed the budget for drainage projects that could have saved many lives. Who would have thought anyway that flooding in the midst of the desert could kill those who were caught offguard by the deluge in highways and residential areas?  Now, those who were found responsible  have already made their cells their homes.

If rain is a blessing, I hope and pray that Jeddah will rain the whole time of next year. But if it is otherwise, let it it fall some other time. I remember sometime in 2004 when the whole company accommodation was awakened in the middle of the night with hailstones as big as poultry eggs. I and my roommate scampered for the heavenly  pieces that tore through the balcony and kept them in the freezer. We were so amazed at the gorgeous find that is considered rare in this desert country. Sadly for us though, what appeared to be snowy white in the dark had turned muddy brown on daylight. So the next thing we did was discard them from the freezer and had them pelted on the kitchen sink. We couldn't be blamed for picking them up like snow virgins in a frenzy. :-)

This quotation from James Whitcomb Riley has caught me, "It is no use to grumble and complain; It's just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and sends rain - Why, rain's my choice." And for a hosts of reason, rain will be my choice too. Rain reminds me that nature always gains an upperhand against man's conceit, be it nourishment  for a dry land or a curse when she asserts her fury. Happy New Year  to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

In The Thick Of It: Blue Christmas

"Never regret anything that has happened in your life, it cannot be changed, undone or forgotten so take it as a lesson learned and move on." - Unknown
I cannot explain what my insides feel like when Christmas is looming large at my doorstep. With certain responsibility falling on my shoulder, I feel helpless being helpless. Yes, at some point in our lives we do stupid things and make stupid decisions as well. Crying over spilled milk will do no help nor lessen the burden you carry. Things may be that sweet at a glance. Your whole being is gravitated towards a rare gem that has a tongue of honey; and you are cast under its spell. Until you realize you suddenly snapped. Then go figure why things do not seem to be what it seemed to be.

I don't get stressed about things that other people might. What I do let get under my skin are things like deadlines, bills, unnecessary throw-aways, wasted efforts, cunning minds taking advantage of the gullible, and  even Christmas traditions, among other things, that fall heavily on my mind.  But does it make any difference if December happens to be a Christmas month? Yes and no. It does because this month happens to be my tightest, and it falls on Christmas. No because Christmas has to pass anyway before we welcome another year filled with hope. Eye staring down at the negatives helplessly tore at me and made me wish away each passing day, and oh yes even on Christmas day.

Seriously though, I said way back when I started this endeavor, that I was excited to see what I would become at the end of this road and how would the experience change me. I hoped then that it would be for the better. As long as I can accept the lessons that life is throwing my way, and learn from them ... truly learn from them, I can say with certainty that this is for the better. Lessons learned indeed are a gem that adds to the pearl of wisdom drawn from the experience of life's adversity. I hope peace on earth will still have a chance. Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thank You PEBA!

“The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better" - Barbara Pletcher

My 77-year old mother riddled me with incessant queries over the phone; forget that my yelling reached  a cracking decibels yet unaudible to her as much. My younger brother had bombarded me with questions too. Why am I sending my two sisters to Manila for what? Turns out a rather difficult task to explain to them what I am up to apart from being the most responsible breadwinner on the planet. My woes just started. I vowed not to make promises again - even for a birthday's worth. Earlier, I was not too ecstatic about PEBA night knowing my odds of winning tipped the other side. I knew I had a strong entry, written from the heart and experience. But there were other criteria that my blog fell off from. Silently though I had promised a birthday present for myself if things get my way.

Two weeks preceding PEBA night, I had somewhat a realization that I'm not gonna make it as one of the awardees. Looking at the trend: Alexa ranking - I'm almost dead last - on online voting a perennial bottom dweller - oh yes I have one of the most boring blogs too. Even myself hated my own style of writing - impulsive, preachy, daring - Nebz would call it vitriolic sometimes. To unwittingly lunge it into a lighter sphere suits not my persona, observes a fellow blogger. And so I stopped begging for votes. I'd been mum on Facebook about this obnoxious vote-for-me boo-boos. "I had other things to get obsessed about", my mind consoles my psyche. But my mind has it. If I ever get to the top ten, I will send one of my siblings from Negros to represent me to the awards night.

Exactly a week before PEBA night, I received an email from Yanah Bautista informing me that I have been chosen to receive an award. I had hoped I was in the top ten. As to the kind of award, you certainly won't know until the awards night itself. Hmmm...I remember PEBA site announces 40 plus trophies are to be given out. So I was not sure whether my blog landed on the top ten, or perhaps a special citation for the most melodramatic entry. As I recall, other entries were more of a tearjerkers too so I am not alone contending for that plum. Plus the fact that I was told to make a video of myself or acceptance speech for the awards night. "Oh this is cruel", I resented. I will not in a million years do that - humiliating myself in front of hundreds of people? No way! The message certainly won't get through but my thick Ilonggo accent. Let me just make an essay about world peace or Gloria's mole in fifteen minutes but not this thing called public speaking, albeit a recorded one.

Whether I was in the top ten or not reigns incredulously in my mind. Shall I send my sister to Manila or not, plays tug-of-war in my mind. Over lunch that day, my mind vacillates between the pros and cons of my decision. If I throw a fortune for a two-way ticket plus accommodation, I will have nothing left to help my family tide over this Christmas. Okay, comes the impulse. I had to summon my strongest will. I texted my sister in a spur-of-the-moment. She replied like "are you serious?" kind of thing. Honestly, they have no idea what is this thing called blog. They have the slightest idea what I am up to apart from religiously sending my monthly remittances to them. After much deliberation, one will not go unaccompanied so I had two of them baptized in their first ever taste of air travel. And so, the bleeding of my pocket gushed like no other. What else?

Accommodation though was not sort of a problem because we have  friends in Bicutan who are more than wiling to offer them  a couple of night's sleepover. But as so often happens to those innocent enough to venture  the concrete jungle webbed with superhighways and skyways, heading to the event venue certainly guarantees another headache. And so I had to beg the organizers a couple of seats more to accommodate certified city slickers to chaperone them. Grateful to have found willing volunteers, I instructed them not to come late so as not to avail of SRO. True enough, they arrived at the venue an hour earlier and were duly ushered to the front row. An hour and half past six, the program has not commenced yet as the venue is slowly filled with guests who either got stuck in hellish traffic or got dazed with a finding nemo predicament.

Before the live streaming got to air, my cellular phone was already mired in traffic - this time complaints that the program will not start  a little too soon and some midsection already started to grumble as well. I thought I missed out on the awarding of photo entries as should have preceded the blog entries. Due to time constraint or some  lapses perhaps, the photo awards were not given out that instantly became an issue of seismic proportions. Special blog awards were given out first for different categories. Some blogs even scooped up multiple awards like Friendster, Facebook and Nokia awards. This is what you call misery loves company. "If I ended up zero that night, I think there will still be more losers than winners", I conceded. "So I am in the majority's side", me consoling myself. :-) But wait, I was told I'd be getting one. Until the best blog award for Mideast and Africa was announced. So the rest will have to contend for 2nd to 10th place knowing fully well that most of the strongest entries come from this region.

When my blog was announced, my sister glided the stage elegantly and held up my trophy as though she too won an Oscar. And yes, she was very proud of his small brother - a college dropout who has become his family's breadwinner since eighteen. This blogger had been through so many tough times in life - of being a sidewalk vendor often harassed by police, of getting duped by employment agencies, of becoming homeless in Abu Dhabi, and jobless in Jeddah, what else he has not gone through? There were times I cried reading my own posts about me, my struggles and my regrets. Though my mother does not understand about this blogging award, I'm sure she is proud of me too, for what I have done for our family.

On arriving home in Silay City, my two sisters have not run out of stories to tell. Maybe not so much about the glitz and glamor at the venue or the freebies that they took home with them. Not even the dizzying skyways and colossal traffic that confronted them, but on feeling proud of the recognition that I got. One of them asked me why I had to choose my nickname to be written on the trophy instead of my real name. By the way, in Negros I am Isoy or Isiock to most of them. Rarely do they call me Nelson. Since the title of my blog is !Soy Negrense! they read it as Isoy. Believe me I could not stop laughing at the blooper. So I had to explain to them that it is Spanish which means I am a Negrense. And my mother had her moment too. She said is this all my 'pasalubong' for her? A Plate? She would further argue that we had a lot of plates already and that she doesn't prefer glass because it breaks easily. :-)

Whether my blog deserves to be in the top ten or not is for anyone's opinion. I too have my own set of favorites and seven of them got to the top ten. And I am very happy that my predictions held true. So more or less the judges got it right. Winning fifth place is not bad on a first try. To me, there are greater reasons why sometimes we are compelled to write our own stories and share our lives to others. With PEBA's advocacy on strengthening OFW families in light of rising incidence of failed marriages and broken families, I could not find a bettter and more visible platform than this to be able to tell the world of what is actually happening behind the sacrifices of an OFW family brought about by diasporic migration in pursuit of a better life. There are still countless other stories that waited to be heard - of love, sacrifices, dreams and sometimes failures that become fixtures in a life of an OFW.

My deepest gratitude to the PEBA founder Mr. Jebee Kenji Solis and PEBA president Mr. Nereus Jethro Abad,  for their enormous efforts and sacrifices to make the PEBA event a resounding success - and of course to all the PEBA people around the world - and in the Philippines for their extraordinary passion and dedication to make PEBA a real platform for OFW excellence, whereby blogs are a powerful tool to get OFW sentiments heard across the world - sending out inspiration and strong statement that we are not just another group or sector but an organization, a genuine one, founded with a genuine vision and mission - to carry the torch of  OFW causes - and be a catalyst for change one way or another. I salute you guys! Thank you for making my birthday a truly memorable one! Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

She's A Good Witch After All

"Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will." ~Vernon Howard

I bet critics of this piece of monumental blooper  lashed out at its author mercilessly, and rolled onto floor in laughter. This prized find may have rotten down the sink, but it sends me up into a convulsive state everytime it reminds me of my own back in high school. I was studying then  in a barangay high school located in a hilly part of Sagay City. I would say, I'd been an average student since freshman high - not necessarily existing in class if not prompted, nor a bottom-dweller in every quiz. I also dread Fridays then. I have to be absent again to babysit my three-year old niece. Her parents are away the whole day going about with their wares. They are into buy and sell. (I don't have any choice - or I get stuck in my parents' home - mind and body stunted under the tall rows of sugarcane. So goes my excuse letter to my class adviser, " Please excuse me for making absent in your class because I care my niece today."

The following Monday, our adviser would do the roll call  and stop at me like ten minutes 'applauding'  my brand of English on top of my Friday absenteeism. We call her "aswang na bardot" which means slutty witch, obviously because she puts on thick and red lipstick and bathes in cheap perfume. The appearance is no more than a piece of stick with bulging eyes that could  horrify Linda Blair in her fiercest. Mind you, she's one of the most confident English speakers I've ever met  punctuated with her bizarre accent. Her mannerism in class is ridiculous too. She would flake off her dead skin cells wherever her hand touches, while her mouth froths tirelessly with her boundless vocabulary. So nobody really takes her seriously that's why she remains a spinster.

While most of us students did not bother to give her a damn other than her being a circus fixture, I guess I somehow gained a few from her wit. She would yell on top of her lungs if you say, "roses blooms". Or she would curse at the hopeless sets of genes you inherited from your ancestors for saying " she has a nice pair of eyeglass".  Of course we would go on to finish high school, and some of my lucky classmates have gone on to become nurses or engineers, until we heard that she had retired already. I thought I admired her secretly for her passion to teach us the right English, though no one really showed her she's being appreciated. I didn't get a chance though, I tell you I was so shy to even recite in class much more to say thank you to her personally or some eyelashes bat collectively.

Just I remember her. Wherever she is now, this is my way of saying thank you to her. 'Cause I got nothing to write and my mind is empty. Trash bin stinks. Mind in wanderlust. Just a little laugh at this piece of genius brushes aside my worries of an empty fridge. What the heck! Christmas is drawing near and nearer, still it floats in the air haha! I hope my landlord doesn't freak out if I've got none for my dues. Merry Christmas in advance!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Pope Says 'Yes' To Condoms!

"If it scares them to realize that they are losing their 'special places in heaven' for not being completely amenable to what the pope has said, then let them be warned."

It's simply unheard of. Unprecedented that hard-core Catholics are reeling from the debacle that is papal 'slip of the tongue' - (read as: his own personal conviction) as opposed to what the church pontificates.  Pope Benedict is still human - he is aware that the world is beset by poverty and diseases. He cannot close his eyes to the glaring anomaly that is overpopulation and the spread of HIV. The Catholic church has long stood firm on their stand against condom - claimed to be the single most potent defense to combat HIV infection. In the Philippines where the Catholic church wields formidable power and influence, any member of the church can be threatened of excommunication if he publicly airs his opposition against any of the church's doctrine and stand, particularly on  contraception. Such is the perceived power that even a sitting president is not immune to the threat.

To many Catholics the pope is infallible. What he says and decrees upon is the ultimate law by which all members are bound to obey. On the issue of condom use, however, the recent interview on him sent shockwaves to the billions of Catholics worldwide. Those progressive Catholics who support condom use to be a deterrent against HIV and overpopulation, have only praises for the pope for his timely but unexpected statement favoring condom to combat a worldwide AIDS epidemic. But for those who have staked their souls on the vilification of the use of contraceptives, the pope's statement was a product of an ambush by a media-savvy infiltrator and interpreted to be differently. They insist his statement to be misused and taken out of context. But, whatever interpretation they want to concoct, it was clearly a papal stand that cannot be retracted. The pope is the head of the church and his belief and conviction represent that of the church's and so its followers ought to follow.

In the Philippines, you don't just raise your voice over the presumed pragmatists insisting your litany of logics. You don't expect sympathy to pour over your sorry bone if they pounced on you. Let's admit it. Those who refuse to open their eyes to the oppressive effect of poverty brought about by overpopulation have their conscience already seared with religiosity. They would fume as hell  if you say they are blinded by their religious fanaticism that you in turn are branded as satan. You will have multitudes of them - politicians, academicians, intellectuals - most notably some middle class and remnants of Spanish colonialism. They have strong and well-funded organizations to name and shame those who are opposed to the Catholic church's doctrine against the use of contraceptives. And they too maintain one common belief that condom kills a life inside a woman's womb. (Oops,don't say it is absurd reasoning, don't forget these are highly intellectual people.)

What has been a week of confusion over the pope's personal stand on condom use has proved to be a problematic one for the church. Even the smartest and most clever minds within the hierarchy are scrambling to find a way out of this unexpected dilemma. Cautions are also being exercised not to wholly contradict the papal statement or they risk losing their moral ascendancy. Now this question is inevitable - if the pope as head of the church approves of condom use to be 'moral' to prevent further spread of HIV, what do the priests and devout members make of it? If they believe that the pope as head of the church is the ordained representative of Christ on earth, why disobey him? Which way is moral - to listen and follow the pope so that more people can be spared from dying, or to stand guard on your habit of vilifying the most honest method of safeguarding lives from incurable disease such as HIV and other sexually-communicable diseases?

Now, some hard-core Catholics dare argue that what the pope probably meant was a selective condom use - appropriately for male prostitutes and transsexuals. So, what could be the reactions of those legal couples and lovers who only want  to share intimate moments without the fear of unwanted pregnancy? Are they not being deprived of their right to basic needs according to Maslow? Let's face it people. Even within the Catholic ranks, they fail to stop pervert priests from sexually abusing boys. If  Ahmadinejad of Iran boastfully announces to the world that in his country there are no gay people, let us understand that he purged his country of gays because they are being shamed and executed in public. But in the Catholic church, gay priests are significant in  number (though you will only find out later as evidenced by the mounting sexual abuse cases filed against them worldwide). So, in effect, you cannot rein in the sexual urges of certain individuals whose degree of 'holiness' and self-control do not at least come close to those of the 'righteous' members of the church.

Look, I suppose this is not just another contentious issue, this is in a sense a real breakthrough. We cannot just watch and allow these fanatics to disempower the moral argument made by the pope. If it scares them to realize that they are losing their 'special places in heaven' for not being completely amenable to what the pope has said, then let them be warned. But behind this snare of which is moral or not, lies the seed of sheer immorality - that our people mired in utter poverty because of children unable to eat and school is not a priority more than an empty stomach. Where has our conscience gone and a shred of tiny logic, to say that condom is evil when everyday dead babies and fetuses are being offered to dumpsters for mice and bugs to feast on? What did the church do to the fortunate ones who have been found on church's doorsteps? True enough, they reacted quickly - quick to condemn the soul-less mother - and quick to call the DSWD. From their end, they have no capacity to care for these babies, when there is the state that 'should'  take the sole responsibility. And so why play the greatest meddler in the history of mankind? If anything, a thinking person would assert that if you do not pay your taxes to the state despite your huge profit-making, you have no right to dictate or interfere with the affairs of the state, whose only aim is to uphold the interest of its citizens. You have no right to play bully to those who are weary of your influence and power.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm no sarcastic unrespectful person especially when we talk about religion. I will tell you. I was born Catholic from a generations of devotees who would mop out the aisle of the church from the doorstep to the altar. Growing up, I had my share of frightening experience being a devout Catholic. When I turned seven, I got bruised by a wooden statue of this certain male saint that the parish aide hurriedly draped on my head. People shoved one another to get to the altar first, some kids crying, arms twisted, as mothers tugged at the base of the statue to lay on their children's foreheads. We were made to believe that, if you missed out on performing your mother's religious vow when you turn seven, you certainly will miss out on the blessings to come for the rest of your life. And those who get to the altar first at the signal of the statue bearer, will get the most blessings all their lives. But not after you have paid  the charge of 30 pesos as donation to the church. What  made the ritual even special was that - it was done only on first Sunday of the month. And we had to get up before dawn as the church is four towns away from our place."

So, in light of this stunning abrupt "change of policy" of the church, which many hard-core Catholics dismiss as one, there is no denying that a confusion amidst this debacle has led many casual Catholics to think that there now exist  two popes. The first, and the familar one is, the stern, conservative and moral theologian. And the second, a  revolutionary one who apparently wants condoms for all. But, whether the pope has thrown overboard the long-standing Catholic ban on the use of condoms, or that his aides could only dispute that he was only speaking in a limited context, for instance to prevent the spread of HIV, it is a fact that the pope had spoken his mind and conscience, with a sense of urgency. There was no "crisis of journalism" committed there, as opposed to the accusation of some Vatican offficials. The message is clear - the pope follows his own conviction. Whatever repercussion or hostility it brings forth within its ranks, be it an unthinkable coup d'état of the papacy, the message had been sent out already - that enough to hypocrisy and doctrines that have enslaved the world - from diseases, illiteracy and poverty. So does this prove that the pope after all is human and not infallible?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Warning: Evil Revisited (Maguindanao Massacre 1st Anniversary)

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - Martin Luther King Jr.

The massacre of 58 men and women including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao will forever be remembered.  The victims pleaded for dear lives but were granted death. Mutilated bodies, eyes blown off their sockets, female genitals whacked in a taunting orgy of gory -- graphic images of death you will plead did not happen in your lifetime. For all its monstrosity, even the most ruthless of criminals do not deserve such a tragic piece of history. These are but innocent people going about with their lives, yet received the harshest method of death in the hands of the evil blood-thirsty Ampatuan clan.

Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu had the slightest hint that his intention to challenge the primacy of Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao could trigger the wrath in them and unleash the most evil deed one could only pray did not happen. The dead were 58 innocent men and women including those unfortunate motorists who happened to be in close proximity with the Mangudadatu convoy. The brazen act of concealing the bodies in a hastily-dug hole by a government-owned backhoe is proof of an utter contempt of the law unimaginable in a democracy.

From the words of the people themselves of the third most impoverished province in the country that is Maguindanao, "the Ampatuans are the law" and that "they own practically everything even the souls of the people". It's either you say "yes" or you get killed the next few seconds. Such is the magnitude of fear that even a Mangudadatu now sitting as governor of Maguindanao province, very few residents dare speak of the atrocities that marked decades-long rule by the Ampatuan clan. However,the culture of impunity that has become a way of life for the powerful Ampatuans did not just happen spontaneously if not for the blessing of the Arroyo government, which until now does not own up to its role as modern Frankenstein. Their ruthless rule of the entire province has seen its peak during the Arroyo presidency, as quid pro quo for delivering a clean slate victory for the administration in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

One year on and the victims' cries for justice  continue to reverberate down our cold spine - its grandiosity of an event now seemingly forgotten. We are back to our fetish self of craving for anything current and relevant. This demeanor though is understandable because we seem to have lost our faith in our justice system. Now pundits believe that the multiple murder case against the beastly Ampatuans could drag through many years, and now we are resigned to the fact that even justice fears to tread the path of the oppressed. Yes, even Satan's deputies are accorded the fairest trial  and still possess the temerity to mock the law of man. That being said their dominion is seemingly irrefutable over those who worship gold and riches at the expense of true justice.

Being the hapless spectators that we are, we can only collectively sigh in utter disgust how these brute criminals can dispense influence even behind bars. Their all-reaching tentacles are without boundaries preying on those whom they sense to let out a scream of their evil exploits. How many deads have been accounted for at the behest of the primary evil inside his cell? There is no denying the fact, that Andal Jr. is still capable of taking down anyone who could jeopardize his steely determination of laughing his way out of  jail. He has the best pool of lawyers behind him out to die for their master, and his billions. These billions of pesos plundered from state coffers are the very same bulks being used to hypnotize the most brilliant of lawyers to ensure their freedom. And only time will tell if the most evil amongst us defeats Lady Justice, and if that dispensation arrives, the moral fortitude of that generation will no longer pose a challenge to the myth that is justice.

Until when are we going to weep with contempt at the slow dispense of justice? Until when are we going to witness criminals and plunderers go free and welcomed as hometown heroes in a wanton travesty of justice? And until when are they going to feast with their loot if the law of nature refuses to intervene? We have witnessed the unthinkable yet the wheels of justice seem stuck in oblivion. Insatiable greed and an unquenching  lust for power proved to have driven people to shrug off conscience and usurping remnants and bits of innate human compassion.

We weep for those whose voices were silenced by the guns of the murderers. We lament for those who happened to be at the wrong time and the wrong place. The women who despite begging for their lives imploring their god received a painful death and their dignities violated. We grow weary due to hopelessness because we see partakers in the assault of democracy and complicit to the murders of the innocent, continuously disrespect the wailing souls of their victims - their arrogant taunting smile even becomes fixtures in the halls of Congress. No remorse, not a miniscule of sympathy for those they had murdered and the relatives.

To Andal Ampatuan Jr., Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: Let us revisit the spectacle you have created,  so that you can party once more and reminisce the time you shared a crisp laughter together while gulping a wineglass that runs over with the blood of your preys. You have certainly entertained the thoughts that you are beyond the reach of the law.  You are a fool to believe that you won't live to see the day of your downfall. In your delusion, you are convinced that you are entitled to possess the riches of this world at the expense of those who are powerless living under your shadows. You all have enriched yourselves to ensure the children of your grandchildren will have their plenty even when you're all long gone. But those innocent who bore the brunt of your blood-thirsty soul had their lives stolen abruptly from their loved ones in a  most savage fashion. You are no better than the brute beasts of the field that devour any living being that their eyes have set upon. And with reverence fit for royals, you are cordially welcome to take a peek and giggle at the magnitude of your triumphs. Enjoy your time your royal highnesses!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Salvo Is Fun!

"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built." - Eleanor Roosevelt

I don't go crazy over  horror stories much less if it begs your apology for visual incapacity. What is required of you is just a pair of attentive perfectly working eardrums all to get your time tricked into passing.  The room is no mundane setting.You have to submit to proper etiquette and compassionate instinct.The storyteller is gushing with hair-raising tales of the paranormal. Linda Blair and Emily Rose figure prominently at the ghostly scenario, not the fictional superstars but the 'made-up' stories and characters he insists to be real-life experiences. His audience is keen to add life to the deathly plot by agreeing to the script.  Though no loud reactions. Only a couple is in tune,  in fact there is three. And that makes them four together.

While three are visibly active, the fourth person is the real protagonist but hardly exists yet taking command of every scenario. Everytime  mucus inundates his airway and prompts wheezing, he takes  the attention of all, and their touch. The reciter of tales who loves spotlight on him quickly picks up an undersized pair of plastic gloves to lend a hand. And we are back from virtual world. Nurse Jennifer is quick to fix the machine and the tubings. She will be extracting mucus secretion from the patient to clear his airway. We are pretty quick too. We tilt the head and assist in the method. We extracted a bounty. Breathing suddenly normalized. The patient has been comatose since one week. A case of intracerebral hemorrhage with severe hypertension. He is a 66-year old  African. And the bad news is - the prognosis is not good.

It was my first OJT and my assignment was ICU. Nerves was all over me. I was not alone though. Benjie and I were picked to assist at the ICU. He is a PT grad so more or less he is inclined to doing this and stuff. After taking down notes on patient's profile and medical history, we proceeded to don our gloves and plastic apron. The patient is being fed via nasogastric tube and so we had to assist in his feeding. Turning the patient every two hours is also necessary to avoid bedsores and skin ulcer. The patient is on foley catheter so we had to drain his urine every now and then. We also did oral care on him to contain the stench coming from his oral cavity. His BP has been consistently abnormal and so cardiac arrest could be imminent. He has to be under our careful watch. Other than that everything is pretty normal and peaceful in the ICU.

The yawning gap in between administering care for a comatose patient could steal one's sanity away, says Nurse Jen. Gladly, we came that day to her aid. So she won't be humming around appeasing those naughty unseen gliding over the room in a cold breeze. Nurse Jen has had company that day. To shun away  lulling moments  in the ICU, Benjie had spooky stories dug up from his footlocker. Deathly tales, exorcisms, nightmares and creepy adventures made good fodder for the three of us. There was no escaping from pinning your auditory cells to the convincingly credible storytelling of the "cold compress king". Did I say he used up more than a dozen pairs of gloves for his cold compress regimen on his inert listener? :-)

If there was an award  for tibial stamina we could have run away with it too. And surely the fun diminishes when you feel some grumbling within. And this is what Benjie has been blabbering about - tons of pizza that he ordered that made my midsection even loudly complaining. Little did we know, down a ceiling below, some of our co-trainees were already on a frenzy over a huge pizza and salad that Chris had ordered for the batch. He happened to be the birthday boy (it was announced at school) and so he had to oblige us. (Poor Chris! :-)) Benjie surely had eavesdropped on the activities below. He made a trip quite a number of times down. (He must have bullied reluctant Chris into obliging for a pizza treat :-)) Of course there's no way we could miss out on the 'plunder'. We eventually found ourselves sprinting down the stairs.

Now I won't have to weep with envy everytime I see a flatter belly. Pizza is the single most atrociously irresistible reward you could possibly get for enduring the day. The  smell and sight of it is going to make every carb skeptic crawl out of the woodwork and ignore a beeline for a first grab of a bigger slice, pepperoni at that. Apart from the pizza, salad and cookies, Jasmine too had brought a basin of pancit  with matching white loaves. There you go a food trip in the hospital. Haggard faces suddenly lightened up. A co-trainee recounts how his boy patient is practicing high jump in his bed. Another, his patient touring around the hospital with  the entire socceer team with him, you would think there is a football match in the lobby. Ours though is not exactly a happy one.

At the onset, everyone thought our OJT will be an entirely nerve-wracking experience. On the first foray, we were overwhelmed with nerves and pressure, but it wouldn't take long before we realized that the experience helped boost our morale and self-worth. And yes we had fun too. Patients are people with varying needs. A little tap on their back and reassurance that everything will be okay already lights up their faces, and it does contribute to their recovery. True healthcare providers don't just focus on the patient's physical well-being, they are bound to go the extra mile too. Expertise and science alone do not at all complement the healing of the infirm without compassion. After all, homo sapiens is not only made up of flesh and blood, there is more to what our eyes can't see. Good luck to all Batch Four!

Monday, November 8, 2010

He Is Deeply Missed

"It was nice growing up with someone like you - someone to lean on, someone to count on... someone to tell on! I wish  you had stayed longer."

It's dawn yet, to him extended sleep is a vice. Time to violate again Maslow's assertion on requisites to exist - albeit one of the basics. His clock ticks quicker than the ordinary. His movements even quicker. Noise does not figure in his way so as not wake his wife and two kids. After all, they are the reason to his unenviable routine. He is used to forgo a decent breakfast. A glass of coffee warmer than lukewarm sometimes will do. Before he gets to the saddle of his second-hand motorbike, he sees to it that he glances once more at his two angels and his beloved.

Pastor Nilo is off to work. The journey is long and unpredictable. Still he is not privileged with the comfort of a bundy clock. Oftentimes he leaves home at dawn and comes back before midnight. Despite the day's ordeal, the smile in his face is genuine. And gladly he masks the tiredness with glee at the doorstep of his mother's home. She is eagerly awaiting to see him. The wait is agonizing till she sees him because she worries about him - all the time. She is old and weak and restless till she sees him. She knows too he had no decent meal during the day. And she always keeps a better one for him. And this routine home doesn't change as well. Before he gets to hug his wife and kids, he sees to it that he visits his mother with his present for her, her favorite 'ensaymada'. Her home is just in a neighborhood that dots alongside ponds and narrow alleys.

If one wonders why he does not work full time in the ministry?  In fact he did. For a young pastor and newly-wed at that, it was a challenge to minister full-time in a mountainous part of Silay City. The place was not blessed with electricity, not anytime soon. Almost everything man requires does not come in handy. The only accessible rarities are the clouds that sit atop the hills that hug the stilt houses decked out in cogon walls. A visit to the place can be likened to a pilgrimage fraught with penance and glorious bruises. For humans who have known and tasted civilization, a three-year tenure in such a place is a divine stamina. But the streak would ultimately be halted when their first baby warns of its arrival. Hospital or clinic is generations away to happen in such an awful setting and so it was best not to take the risk. A lot of prayers and subtle persuasion for new volunteer later provided relief. A bachelor worker finally took the stand and heeded the Master's call.

The pastor and his pregnant wife then took to the city till she gave birth. Being a man of God, he does not believe in luck. He argues that all things happen for a reason. They too are burdened with not having a regular income to support a now growing family. A high school certificate and a year stint with bible school do not at all guarantee him employment. But it didn't take long before he got his real job: a collector for a semi-NGO micro-lending company. The job requires him to be college graduate and a Christian. Obviously he was not up to the criteria save for the latter. Part of his job would be to conduct Bible studies among cell members made up of borrowers who would meet up on a specific day to pay up their dues. His job would continue for years  till he got promoted as field supervisor, till he was blessed with another child.

Negotiating dirt roads from the outskirts of the city plays part of his job. And his area of assignment would later expand. From the farthest towns and cities to hinterland barrios, he would meet up with local cell members for group BS while some members go in a hiding when they sense him coming. He however understands that it is no easy thing to oblige them when they are literally dried up and unable to pay their dues. This has become a mundane scenario until he was able to help them develop some discipline and trustworthiness evident at people who fear God. Wherever Pastor Nilo goes, he is being loved and respected. His daily routine  though is not without trouble. There were attempts to rob and harm him but he was repeatedly spared from those dangers. He knows why and he is not at all astonished.

It is just any ordinary day. His itinerary would be Cadiz City - a three-hour drive from his place and so he has to get up a little earlier than usual. There were no indications of what lie ahead. At midday, a news report on radio reverberated all over their neighborhood. Pastor Nilo figured in an accident along the highway south of Cadiz City and he was brought to the nearest hospital. His identity was confirmed from his ID but  reports would not confirm as to his condition. His wife and siblings would soon troop to the hospital praying as hard as they can for miracle. What greeted them was the most gruesome state of his body in the morgue. Only his head was spared. His chest down to his toes can be likened to a butchered animal violated of its dignity with tibia and fibula sticking out of its integuments on a display of hellish gory. Women present took turns collapsing if not simultaneously. You would not believe your eyes how graphic the way life can be lost. 

Witnesses told police that he was almost off  road giving way for large and fast vehicles when an approaching truck behind swerved towards him - instantly tossing him  under the truck and got dragged over thirty meters before the driver realized he had killed someone. His helmet spared his face from getting disfigured from his ordeal down between the tires that curtailed his young life. He was still breathing when volunteers took him to the hospital. The truck driver was said to be high on marijuana. He got jailed but was later freed because Pastor Nilo's wife did not file a case. He was reported to have eight kids.

Pastor Nilo's eldest now an eight-year old bright girl was provided a scholarship by his company (until she goes to college), aside from a monthly support for his two kids. It's been five years since his death but his memory still lingers. He lived a life of humility, never complaining and always grateful. He was such a good son, a good brother, a loving husband and father. He was closest to me too. Last night I had a dream of him -  he was full of life, cheering me up and urging me on not to forget my foundation - the Word of God. He kept on encouraging me to press on towards the goal, for he is now in a lovely place not wanting me to miss out on that place. I suddenly awakened and tears streamed down my eyes. It was very vivid. He was real I even touched him. I just missed my brother so much.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Remembering My Halloween

"This tradition of remembering the dead is already ingrained in our culture which is uniquely Filipino and that makes it a part of our identity."

As a kid, I did not know exactly what my mother was up to. At exactly six at dusk, she would light each of the twenty four candles on two opposite rows at twelve each. A pair of neatly cut fresh banana bark served as holders for the candles. In between the rows were different kinds of speciality dishes offered to the souls. (And there is tuba too, a fermented sap collected from a lopped-off tip of coconut trees which is mildly alcoholic.) Everytime she lights each candle, she would utter a name as though she is summoning a spirit. Each candle is assigned to a dead family member from both my maternal and paternal side. (Till now, I'm still puzzled at the figure, what if there is more than twelve dead relatives from both sides, certainly jealousy and envy exist among the dead for the favoritism, hmmn...) And whenever a moth gets to land on the offerings, my mother would tell us, "that's probably one of my dead sisters or one of my relatives!". Yuck!

My mother of course is not a witch or a sorceress (before you let fly of your creepy imagination), she just follows tradition inherited from her ancestors. Every eve of first November, the rituals are ever present and really exciting. I remember rescuing one of her 'relatives' helplessly bulldozing its way out of the sticky suman that I accidentally de-winged it. I screamed rushing to the kitchen and told my mom of my supposed botched rescue effort. "Your relative must be dead again!" I was only five or six that time and a very scheming mind. Of course we would see our supposed moth-relatives coming in a whisper and seem to be enjoying every bit of the feast but not the foods per se but the bright lights that torched most of them. (Stupid kins!)

Early morning of first November, every home in our place is abuzz with their own preparation for "Fiesta Minatay" or Feast of the Dead. Local folks do not bother as much whether it is the All Saints Day or All Souls Day. As long as it is first of November, it is a feast in every sense of the word. This day has been a great tradition that everyone believes it is an obligation to offer foods to the dead so that the living gains approval from them and receive more blessings the entire year. This same day is rather sobering if you think pig is cute. The sounds of them wailing in unison in every neighborhood punctuate the atrocious porky appetite of these 'dead souls' who supposedly demand swimming in oily humba  or valenciana come visiting time. Even as a kid, I never liked watching these poor pigs being butchered. "Why can't the souls eat just suman and drink tuba?"

If you think everyone dresses up for the occasion, no we do not. There is no Halloween costume parade just like in the US or any parts of the West. First off, our place is one of the unfortunate spots on earth where electricity fears to tread, (there were attempts before but blame it on thieves and the NPAs that those with good intentions just spontaneously shy away from thinking over), so nobody ventures outside deeper into the night. If in the US they have the ubiquitous 'trick or treat' at night (albeit an eve earlier), unconsciously we too have our own version. We would make improvised torch using kerosene to go house to house and ask for ibos, (a sticky rice cake cooked in coco milk and wrapped in coconut leaves), for which the hosts willingly oblige, and cluster them around our waist so that when we get home we have a bunch of them. Sometimes we would hear scary sounds from the rows of sugarcane fields and run as fast as we could. Bigger kids would make fun of the 'pale-balled' little ones howling in fear. Others could get stuck  in  dirt mud while trying helplessly to salvage a doomed pair of slippers.

Time has changed since but tradition remains. Over the years, man's perception of life could also change. As for our family, we still celebrate the occasion but no more offerings for the dead. The dead do not come back in the form of a moth or any other insect just like my mother told me. (My mom has already repudiated her old-aged belief of the dead coming back on the eve of Halloween.) This tradition of remembering the dead is already ingrained in our culture which is uniquely Filipino and that makes it a part of our identity. Whether it is appropriate for Christians to celebrate Halloween is a matter of one's own conviction. As I said it is a tradition identifiable to certain cultures that gives honor and in remembrance of dead loved ones. There is no right or wrong answer why Halloween is celebrated by those who have found the truth. At the end of the day, one's own conviction must be individually sought, independently found and personally followed. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Rules For Hiring Maids: Take It Or Leave It

"If the Philippines can pioneer  unshackling this evil bondage through its very own, the world will be on its feet, then other third-world countries will likely follow suit."

It is as easy as one plus one - if you cannot protect your guest workers then do not invite them to come over. The same is said of the Saudi government's seemingly desperate attempt to get Philippine counterpart to have a change of heart towards the latter's stance on the hiring of Filipino domestic helpers. This early, the Philippine government has stiffened its conditions set on hiring of domestic helpers - which the Saudi government finds absurd - because the prerequisites set by the labor-exporting country do not conform to the whims of the indolent and masochistic culture existent in the Saudi society.

In order for a Saudi family to acquire rights to hire a Filipina domestic helper, the Philippine government sets forth the following criteria:  The basic salary of the worker should be pegged at SR.1,500 - lower than that is deemed illegal and unacceptable. The head of the family should have at least a monthly basic salary of SR.9,000. - to ensure he is capable of paying his 'servant' (the term they label their household helper). And the prospective employer should attach a detailed map of his residence, for easy access of their whereabouts should an abuse is committed against their worker. If you see, the rules constitute protection of the worker but what the Saudi government fears about is that - its citizens are not yet ready to be bound by such rules.

Obviously if the Philippine government holds firm to its stake, the rampant abuses of Filipino domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia will be a thing of the past. And that is what their Saudi counterpart is keen to neutralize - in their favor. If this is the best way to teach Saudis a lesson - moral and diplomatic that is - then the Philippine government should remain firm to its advocacy.

If human rights wathcdogs will have their say,  Saudi Arabia will always be classified as a dangerous country for unskilled workers where there is no assurance of protection given to them . Most of them are household workers who exist at the mercies of their employers. Countless of documented and undocumented cases of abuses happen everyday in all corners of this country. They're lucky if they get to find way to escape from their abusive employers. Some of them have also found their ends here. Scores or sometimes hundreds of these distressed workers crowd temporary shelters inside Consulate in Jeddah and embassy in Riyadh awaiting months or years before being repatriated. And the bad news is - government's fund is slowly drying up for the cost of their subsistence and repatriation.

Acting the role of 'good and desirable' hosts, the Saudi government is not slow to sweet-lemonize the standoff between two governments saying there are domestic helpers from other countries waiting in large numbers offering their services to their nationals. There you go! If so, why bother to get Philippine officials to a dialogue hoping the rules set by them could be bent in mutual favor? The truth is, simple and fair the rules may sound, yet they are not willing to comply with it because they cannot guarantee the safety and protection of the worker inside a Saudi household.

How servants are being treated by them? In most instances, a servant is being enslaved by the whole clan. Her 24-hour day to day existence is offered to her masters. She is on-call even at the most unlikely of hours. She does not take offdays. After she finishes her work in her master's house, she is also being offfered  to serve in another house with the consent of her master. If she is thought to be pretty, she will be locked up in the bathroom by the wife before the husband comes. She could even end up a sex-slave by her male masters. If her masters are also monsters she could get a battering everyday. Even kids join the orgy by showering her with their spittle. ( I don't stereotype all Saudis, but my over a decade of stay in Saudi Arabia could attest to real stories of this kind, they're aplenty you would regret arguing with me.)

If the Philippine government plays its card smartly, I don't think this development is a bane to overseas employment for our household workers. Given that Filipinos are still the most preferred household workers for obvious reasons, good Saudis with penchant for quality skills possessed by Filipinos will be unperturbed by the rules. But those majority that raises the alarm are those inclined to be abusive, financially constraint and wanting  only to 'possess' a slave to flaunt to their ilks. If they cannot afford to give decent pay to their 'slaves' then it's about time that they move their asses off and wake up from their couch and start to declog their arteries because 'owning' a slave comes with responsibilities...and risks.

The astronomical cases of abuses to domestic helpers in general across the Arabian peninsula has been at the forefront of human rights groups' agenda all over the world. Various media and independent entities have documented the atrocities done to these poor individuals and how abusive employers get the luxuries of not being prosecuted for their crimes. From Lebanon and Jordan to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, records of abuses and deaths are dizzying that calls to end this modern-day slavery are mounting. If the Philippines can pioneer  unshackling this evil bondage through its very own, the world will be on its feet, then other third-world countries will likely follow suit. And if this trade persists to exist, it is because better reforms have been put in place. Now I put my stake on the strength of the Philippines' stand. If they stay firm (which I still beg to doubt), then it's about time to bid abusers goodbye, or one more time, "take it or leave it"!

Friday, October 15, 2010

When Water Spells Life And Death (Blog Action Day 2010)

"Reports would indicate that unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence including war."

Imagine a day or two without a drop of water in your faucet. Dishes pile up in the kitchen sink. Cooking may require patience, eating out may be costly. A decent bath postponed for another day.  The day ends with patience thinning . This becomes a common scenario when water vessels are bottoms up and supply from the municipality is cut for a day or two. Dreadful - if you sum up the experience in brief. This is more or less the situation that prevails in every household in Jeddah where water problem  perennially exists. Nevertheless, this is nothing compared to the situation that prevails in most countries in Africa where water problem causes  death of thousands each week.

If we lack appreciation of the fact that in this part of the world water flows naturally in the comforts of our homes, then think again. In Africa people walk miles for hours to fetch drinking water that is not even guaranteed to be safe. In some cases people fight over who gets to grab the rope first down the well. Children barely able to carry heavy cisterns are forced to walk miles sometimes spilling half the content along the way. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. In some cases, the water that they gather can be contaminated. Children too are being deprived of school in favor of this daily ordeal of carrying heavy cisterns that put a strain on their otherwise frail bodies.

Inhabitants of developed countries may not be aware that water problem in most poor countries is dire. Even till date the scenario is grim. Reports would indicate that unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence including war. Unsafe drinking water is a potential breeding ground for bacteria and can incubate various diseases such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Cholera and Hepatitis. So it does not ring a surprise that unclean drinking water and its lack thereof causes 42,000 deaths each week in Continental Africa. The figures may raise few eyebrows but that is a fact. And we cannot refute the fact because the collective inhabitants of this planet do not care as much. True?

Research also shows that more people have access to a  cell phone than to a toilet. This is a shocking reality of unbelievable proportion. In this world of extremes where technology dictates how people live their lives, an astonishing 2.5 billion people still do not have access to proper toilets. This means that sewage spills into streams and rivers can contaminate drinking water and cause diseases. This way of life is not strange to communities that do not have access to clean water, thus the problem exacerbates and seeing no resolution.

While we don't see any concrete and viable large-scale solution at our disposal, the world is slowly coming to deep awareness that water problem poses a great threat to humanity. Earlier this year, the UN declared that access to clean and safe water is a basic human right. Thus every inhabitant of this planet is likewise duty-bound to obey the very tenet that governs human existence - to preserve our nature that provides our very basic needs.

Study shows that in America, an average person uses 159 gallons of water every day - more than 15 times the average person in a developing world. From showering to washing their hands, to watering lawns and washing their cars, Americans use a lot of water. And to put things in perspective, their average shower will use about 10 gallons of water, enough for a decent bath,  cooking, doing laundry and to quench their thirst. A couple of years back, saw an alarming drought that ravaged the Souteastern states in the US prompting authorities to ban people from watering their lawns even putting violators in jail. Now the question goes, when nature decides that man should be cut down to size for his neglect of her, where does he really go to hide?

The present is dire: the future looks grim that it must be entirely unmanageable, says the forecast of environmentalists. But what can the person of the present do about it? Yes, if we only have power to reverse that trend. It is chilling to the bone knowing that the picture emerging from today's data and tomorrow's forecasts is so complex and appalling that it leaves us feeling powerless and helpless. One cannot change the fact that this world cannot increase its supply of fresh water but it is not running out. It is just that there are more of us to share it, and we are steadily increasing.

Economists would further warn that the world's growing water shortage will even  put substantial pressure on the supply of the basics of life - food, water and power, which will have significant social consequences in both rich and poor countries given the current pattern of its use and abuse. Two global trends they say have added to the pressure on water and both are likely to accelerate in the coming decades. First is demography. Over the past 50 years, as the world’s population rose from 3 billion to 6.5 billion, water use roughly trebled. On current estimates, the population is likely to rise by a further 2 billion by 2025 and by 3 billion by 2050. And demand for water will rise accordingly.

The other long-term trend affecting water is climate change. There is growing evidence that global warming is speeding up the hydrologic cycle—that is, the rate at which water evaporates and falls again as rain or snow. This higher rate seems to make wet regions more sodden, and arid ones drier. It brings longer droughts between more intense periods of rain. This sounds more or less comprehensible to us how climate change brings tremendous effect on water - as to what extent though, nobody can really say. Analysts would further warn that some regions of the world will become drier, others wetter. Deserts will spread as in the case of Spain and China. Rivers also shrink but floods become more frequent. It is also beyond argument that climate change is slowly effecting some drastic changes in the formation of the earth. We just don't ignore its effects, because the signs and evidences are tremendous.

There is only one solid fact though that nobody can refute. Man's ignorance hastens any impending disaster because he refuses to stare past beyond his today's existence. Large metropolises have been predicted to submerge in water in future while desertification of massive arable lands has become a shocking phenomenon. It is because this earth has lost its state of balance, a fact that some skeptics still refuse to admit. Whether one does not have faith on the doomsayers or otherwise, the fact that we habitually neglect our responsibilities as stewards of this planet, spells trouble in the future and it's only a matter of time before it comes back to haunt us. And when mother nature is on a rampage, nobody would dare say, "I am innocent".

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank You Chileans For The Spirit And Lessons Learned!

"I'm very happy for all the beautiful things that were done for us. I'm very excited to be up here again. I am proud to be Chilean and proud of my president", says one rescued miner.

What the world has just witnessed is a testament to an incomparable strength of human spirit manifested in the face of hopelessness. Today all 33 miners who were trapped underground in a mine in Chile have been successfully hoisted to safety. Their ordeal that lasted 69 days is considered to be the longest ever recorded in history and the most succcessful too. Today I join with the rest of the conscious world in rejoicing for this miracle that no one thought possible. I am happy for the families of the rescued miners who must be very overjoyed and grateful for seeing their loved ones alive and well.

For days, I've been closely monitoring this worldwide spectacle of human resilience and fortitude rarely seen in real life. As the rest of the conscious world were glued to the unfolding drama on television, I had only hopes that each of the 33 miners be lifted up to safety. My mind was playing with the supposed emotion-packed conversation among them as to who gets to ride the capsule-like tube first and who elected to give way. We know that in this kind of rescue operation no matter how well-planned and executed, there will be tendencies of failure. What if the tube broke down and some did not make it?

If there was someone most responsible for the orderly atmosphere down the surface, it was the shift foreman Luis Urzua who acted a worthy and calm leader of the group. He saw to it that each one maintained a calm demeanor amidst their fear of not being able to make it. He had the food rationed to them equally divided and budgeted among them. And at the latter stage, he facilitated the order of who gets to safety first down to himself as the last one to emerge from the pit. This is a true leader exemplified befitting a hero.

The world also has only praises for Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, for braving day and night to stand side by side with  family members of the trapped miners, until their moment of freedom from beneath the earth. At the onset, he never entertained the thought of abandoning any rescue effort despite the almost-impossible scenario given the odds and the costs. His administration did not hesitate to enlist the help of experts and most-advanced technologies available to lead the unprecedented, most expensive and most daring rescue operation yet in the history of his country. That only shows how much this president values each citizen of his country. He lacks no precision in his decision-making knowing that the world watches him.

From this deed of greatness exhibited before the whole world, I hope some people out there learned a lesson or at least drew inspiration to do the same degree of concern and excellence in decision-making. The overused, stale and empty mantra of others that "if others can why can't we" became almost instantaneously irrelevant after that stupid decision-making in Luneta that made us the laughing stock of the world. The moment was his platform and the world was his audience. He could have grabbed the moment and shone brightly. It's just that, when you are inherently incompetent and sloth, it will manifest one way or the other. He would not be contented just yet. The real culprits and nemeses of truth  according to IIRC report were to be exonerated later because of their personal friendship with this colossal moron, thus undermining and disrespecting the effort by the panel.

If Chilean people are the most popular race in the world today, where do we find our niche as a people? How I wish we can partake their glory even for a moment. This day rightfully belongs to them and they should get the  monopoly of the spotlight for good reason, the same that we once took three months preceding for the bad. Good luck and best wishes to the miners and their families for a victory of human spirit! You must be very proud of your country and your president.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Soy Negrense Is One Year Old!

"A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip."

When my blogger flatmate feels his spine already hunched deep into unreasonably lengthy hours of net surfing - that signals my turn to feel the mouse too - first navigating the most familiar site as a habit - Yahoo Sport. Around this time a year ago, I have only TFC eating out my entire time after work. I never loved the idea of immersing myself with cheap and false kindness yet abundant-in-rudeness antics of that swelling ego in Wowowee. Somehow the daily routine got into my system, I didn't have much choice. Shared subscription too is costly to forgo the unlikely spectacle.

Never mind the name (brand worshippers might have not heard of it) - I assure you it's the cheapest from the array of  pricey laptops on Jarir Bookstore shelves. I finally bought one I call my own. And you see, it has lived a full year now, and not to mention the 'perks' that come with the 'friendly price'. With economic limbo hovering over receding hairline, the thought of buying another is a pain between a pair of gluteus maximus. Hell no! Will have to settle for how much productivity output it affords me. For now, will have to raise the bar of patience higher when it is acting out everytime.

On October 11th  marks my first anniversary of posting my very first blog. It was a case of another blogger tugging at me literally so that I create my own blog. Had he not coerced me into blogging, I would have not had the platform to enjoy of my little freedom to write about certain things that concern me on a personal level and the large majority.

Normally,  first blog post always carves prestige down memory lane. Unfortunately, mine had to be content to dummy up by virtue of some CNN graphics of Efren Penaflorida imploring support. Thankfully, the prelude did not resonate that of the rest of my posts. That same week Typhoon Ondoy aka Ketsana is wreaking havoc all over Luzon. It was said that the extent of devastation has never been seen in living memory. I decided there could be no better and relevant topic than the exploits of Ondoy. My first baptism of fire that is Ondoy came as a surprise as readers' traffic continued to busy up my site. And no less the inaugural visit by the 2009 PEBA winner leaving his encouraging comment that left me thrilled.

My succeeding posts were topics drawn from my passion to write about certain issues that I feel passionate about. In the course of twelve months, I have written posts that will go down as my personal favorites. Some may not be popular for readers but I had them written shall I say with fire, rage and conviction. One of my favorites is my post on Jason Aguilar, an OFW from Qatar who was mistaken to be the criminal Jason Ivler. The post was written in less than thirty minutes after watching TV Patrol triggered by my anger at the injustice done to him. This post suddenly became a hit to readers with 8 to 10 viewers at the same time. It's surreal because I'm used to be the only visitor of my own page most of the time. At the break of day my readers numbered in hundreds reading the same post. To my curiosity, I tracked down the origin of a familiar link and found out that it came from the twitter account of Julius Babao. Yes, he posted my blog on his twitter account recommending his followers to read "this interesting commentary". True, it was some sort of inspiration.

Another personal favorite of mine was supposedly my open letter to President GMA when after much speculation whether she will quit politics or not, she filed her certificate of candidacy for Congresswoman of the 2nd district of Pampanga. One remarkable name who left her comment on that page is Lila Shahani, the niece of former president FVR who shared the link on her Facebook. My co-blogger and workmate even warned me that I could get killed when I step out of the plane, albeit jokingly. "What? They will waste a bullet on this lowly species?"

And my third favorite is my post about me and my family. I wrote this when I was feeling nostalgic about my beginnings and how certain events factored in my early exile to the big city at such a young age, and even brought me farther in this part of the world. While penning some emotion-packed experiences of mine, tears welled up my eyes reminiscing the unspeakable travails I have had already at age 18, and in deep gratitude - to Him who spared me from  the scourge of ignorance so that I could make a difference in the lives of those I treasure the most. This post also bears witness to some of my greatest regrets in life -  notably of not having a good education that will always be a powerful weapon in anyone's battle with life's uncertainties. Surely, I'm lacking in it, but God always finds a way, His works are mysterious that our human faculties cannot fathom.

If there is a category about the most unforgettable post I've ever written, and one rich in drama and venomous responses, it is the Grace Padaca story that made the Dy clan foaming all throughout. I had resorted to blocking  most of the comments that awaited my approval because of the arsenic contents that you would conclude Padaca is more evil than the inhabitants of hell. No less than the daughter of Benjamin Dy  led the character assassination attempt against then Governor Grace Padaca. Till date, this post remains one of the most popular among readers and very draining too so to speak.

At the onset, one reason that kept my door ajar to the world of blogging is that - my confidence level was at its lowest. As a college drop-out with  few units earned to brag, I easily get scared of the notion that I will be corrected or lectured at by my readers, probably for a misuse of punctuation or for my terrible grammar or that I may be writing a different thought contrary to what I actually wanted to convey. At first, writing in Filipino I thought would do the trick. (The rationale that other nationalities might stumble upon my blog sounded logical to me that I preferred to do this in the language they would understand.) But of course, I did not allow that mindset to overwhelm me, my passion to write about certain issues purged me of the doubts and skepticism that once stunted my optimism.

In a rather exciting reality in the blogosphere, it is unavoidable that some frequent visitors might be turned off by a post or two that you write contrary to their belief, creed and conviction. I must admit though, I do not find myself writing a post about a recent trip to a store and picking up a fight with the cashier for a rude behavior - and/or maybe a post promoting some high end sale in town - or I  quit blogging. With due respect to many brilliant bloggers out there who can write interesting stories over 'trivial' matters, hats off to them for their gift of really exciting their readers - one that I do not possess. Perhaps I just cannot copy that same penchant for writing minus the emotion that is a staple of my blog. I still hope i can reinvent for a change, who knows.

In my fledgling foray into blogging, I  have also come to terms that while you write about sensitive issues, critics also come in abundance. Some may be outspoken in their attack of the writer, others especially fellow bloggers may choose their protest silently. These things are quite the norm if you are a distinct individual with distinct point of view or distinct manner of writing that may sound distasteful or offensive for the majority of the 'goody-two-shoes' mainstream. This is the challenge that I have accepted long before, not a sort of encouragement but a self-styled way of reasserting that it is me, accept me at face value. There is a pitfall though, that passing judgment on the blogger may be a trap one is drawn to that will precariously define himself to be both irrational and judgmental.

A year may be too short, but it's been a journey. Seriously, insignificant he may be, this blogger does not crave for accolades, "awards" or stuff for that matter. He may be a nominee or whatever, or perhaps this early the fate of his being a nominee has been sealed because of his outspoken views about certain things, nevertheless he will not in any way get swayed by treading the safer ground and repudiating the things that define him and his purpose. The core of this blog, "My thoughts and opinion" will stay, unless otherwise he decides to banish this site to purge himself of the criticism and scorn from the Pecksniffs. I hope this site lives another year. Happy First Birthday Soy Negrense!
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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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