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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Serena On Top Down Under!

"The Williams sisters changed the facade of women's tennis with the power and sense of style they brought to the game, that without them, women's tennis is not what it is today."

Serena Williams has just captured her fifth title in Melbourne in the sweetest way possible, beating her archrival Justine Henin in a thrilling finale. She is now tied with Billie Jean King with the most number of grand slam titles with 12 apiece. Now the question as to who owns who, between these two tennis greats can be laid to rest. Serena was also able to defend her doubles title, along with sister Venus a night before. Serena Williams is indeed the queen of tennis.

Justine Henin's story on the other hand is nothing short of spectacular. In only her second tournament and a second final after coming out of retirement, she once again displayed her formidable form in court to shame higher ranked opponents. Her sublime backhand and ferocious forehand are being described by critics as the most beautiful in women's game.

The match started rather shaky for both women as this was the first time they met in a grand slam final. While it was evident that the full-packed crowd was rooting for Henin, the champion in Serena cannot be silenced. The unranked Henin was aiming to emulate compatriot Kim Clijsters, to win a grand slam while unseeded and unranked. But this time she has to be contented with the runner's-up trophy.

However, not everyone seems to be pleased with the outcome of the championship. All Williams haters suddenly came in droves, and inundated various sports forums with venomous racist rantings. These pathetic bigots are just so upset at the sight of a female African American, reasserting her dominance of a widely white-dominated sport. What is so appalling is that - even (white) inflated egos in America, lambast these terrific sisters who represent America no less. But there is no denying, the Williams sisters changed the facade of women's tennis, with the power and sense of style they brought to the game, that without them, women's tennis is not what it is today.

And to you Williams haters - this moment belongs to Serena and Venus Williams. Hit them hard with your racial slurs, call them apes and Congo dwellers! They would care less - they're immune to prejudice - they've been through a lot - and they're still up to the challenge! Your hatred will bring you nowhere, rather it only reinforces your reputation of being bereft of humanity, rotting with overflowing envy. The Williamses are here to stay! They are rich, beautiful and famous!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Matter Of Life And Debt -- For The Less Prudent

"For when you have already enjoyed the convenience of buying on credit, and is mired in debt -- there is no more turning around and blaming anyone for your bad judgment."

I used to be in awe of people who carry multiple credit cards. The first thing that runs in my intuition is that - they must be blessed with a nice-paying job. This may sound bizarre, but I did have that feeling of self-pity or envy of sort, because I really had that dream before of having one. For what and why? I did'nt know. I think I was just being innocent or ignorant. I supposed, just to have one in my wallet, period.

Here in the Middle East, this credit card phenomenon is not new to every Filipino expatriate. A lot of stories have been told about credit card related incidents involving compatriots. Mostly troublesome and worse than that, in some cases self-inflicted deaths. These incidents have so far alarmed Filipino communities here and our government officials in the country.

It has been reported that countless OFWs in Dubai are in big trouble because of credit card debts. Some unconfirmed reports speculate that an alarming number of suicides involving Filipinos in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are credit card related. Their desperation to get out of the debt trap had caused them to settle for their gruesome end. And yes, this is really happening.

Even on Oprah, world-renowned financial guru Suze Orman, advises Americans to promptly pay in full as soon as they get their statements, because if they're not able to pay the complete amount in their statement, the amount due becomes a loan. And since there is no moratorium on interest payment, it just goes on until you pay-off your loan completely. And so, this is where most of them fall into a debt trap. No matter how they struggle to get out, the misery just continues.

Had it not been of a former colleague, I would have not thought of delving into this edgy issue. He just lost his job in Dubai. He is very talented and highly qualified for his job. He is well-travelled, courtesy of his topnotch position in the company. His demise from the company was due to his own credit card episode, that the company deemed him to be redundant. He was not alone though, more Filipinos from his company had suffered a similar fate.

Here in Jeddah, I know of many compatriots who own multiple credit cards, but their own ATM cards are pawned to loansharks and private lending establishments. They get their salaries from these loansharks after hefty deductions, and then scramble to pay off their credit card debts from what is left of them. Some of them could barely send money to their families in the Philippines.

Sometimes it is very embarrassing to think, that some of our compatriots could have been factors to the credit crunch that has resulted to the global economic downturn -- albeit to a lesser degree. Why I suspect so? I've known some former colleagues in Dubai and here in Saudi Arabia who just simply disappeared after securing substantial loans from the bank. Some had even used their credit cards to withdraw cash before fading away . As this scheme became endemic to our compatriots, banks have soon alerted airport authorities to apprehend would be fugitives -- and one of my former colleagues had been a recipient of an embarrassing spectacle at the airport, and could face prison terms.

At first, the prospect of getting a credit card is very tempting. Applying for one, has now been made easy and effortless. Amid all known unfavorable effects it may render -- without proper discipline and self-control --the person concerned still has to take responsibility of his deeds and decision-making. For when you have already enjoyed the convenience of buying on credit, and is mired in debt -- there is no more turning around and blaming anyone for your bad judgment.

It is noteworthy though, that this scenario has shed light on my ignorance. That a credit card is not meant to adorn a wallet. That it is not a requisite to a fine status symbol. That it does not solicit envy, instead it necessitates a great deal of responsibility. Because at the end of the day, without excercising self-restraint and discipline, one could find himself at the mercies of the authorities.

When a struggling OFW finds himself in a predicament like this -- losing his job, gets incarcerated and after serving time gets blacklisted -- or worse resorting to taking own's life -- what is left in store for him? What about his dreams? I do not imply that credit card is a menace, in fact to many, it is convenient. It only becomes menacing when one lacks judgment and loses his sense of self-control. And truth be told that remorse always comes at the end -- that is without a doubt.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"For There Is No God", Says The Arrogant

"For what profit is it for a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).

I woke up today to a shocking news of a strong earthquake that devastated the impoverished country of Haiti. All media outlets are simultaneously carrying the same news. In one of the videos, people can be heard screaming, "End of the world, end of the world!" This is certainly not the kind of thing that we would want to welcome us for the new year.

Devastations are indescribable. The capital city of Port-au-Prince is literally flattened. Piles of dead bodies are littered everywhere. Officials and aid organizations estimate the dead to be in hundreds of thousands. Even the presidential palace was not spared from earth's fury.

On hearing such stories, one's natural reaction would be to feel sorry for the victims. Then our eyes fixated on television, eager to see graphic details of the news. But when reality starts to sink in, we start to forget and go on with the mundane concerns of our day-to-day lives. We tend to forget to thank our Creator that we were fortunate not to have experienced that awful thing.

For me, every event, phenomenon or occurrence, always brings an unlimited opportunity to tell your own story. And so, this is my opportunity to express my own gratitude to Him who remains faithful and just. For He is able to destroy in a blink of an eye, but is also able to spare us when He pleases.

As the world is becoming more complex, so are our creeds and beliefs. Humans have been overwhelmed by science and mainstream media. Technology is such, that we think our human prowess is invincible. People get the best education available, that they become boastful and arrogant. Man thinks that the world is his oyster, that he controls the universe and that everything revolves around him.

Facebook for one, can become a powerful platform to shout out one's arrogance. In a conservative and deeply religious society like the Philippines, one's show of utter disgust of the Bible is totally unheard of. This man may be famous, eloquent and highly-intelligent, but his reference of the Scriptures as some ancient book filled with crap and heresies, caught me in disbelief.

I am aware though, not all people share a similar view or belief about certain things. Many people may find my own thoughts old and bland, or my way of putting things in perspective abrasively irrelevant. But I am in no way imposing my own belief on anyone. Just like in the early days, when people already had propensities for topics that tickle their ears; and so frown at corny issues.

On a personal note, I am deeply grateful for this blogging thing of late. And I may say, I am a reluctant blogger, because I am a natural sloth and indolent, not so inclined to writing because of my fear of ridicule. But in here, I was able to motivate myself to express my thoughts with so much conviction. In here, I can write what my heart dictates, and refutes the knowledgeable of their worldly wisdom. For the proud always says in his heart, "there is no God".

And this is my thought --that wealth, intelligence and fame is vanity if you don't acknowledge your Creator. People might be in awe of your worldly knowledge, yet you lack wisdom to even explain how your eyes were formed in their sockets and failed to establish, how your belly is able to hold up your organs in a wonderfully and meticulously-crafted way; then maybe you need to rethink that there is One up there who holds the key to that question.

For no amount of fame and riches will ever spare us, when the time comes for us to be hold accountable to what our tongues have spoken and our thoughts have blasphemed. For if God wills and this Haiti thing suddenly befalls us, we will surely be weeping in contrition and acknowledge Him, He that brings the arrogant down to their knees.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Call It Plain Stupidity!

"If this is not plain stupidity, then what?"

This isn't just fair. A fellow OFW was apprehended and detained on December 31, 2009 in Qatar. His crime - he is a suspect in a road rage murder that took place in the Philippines.

The murder happened in the evening of November 18, 2009 in Manila. The victim was the son of a Cabinet Assistant Secretary, thus a high profile case. The alleged assailant was Jason Aguilar Ivler. He is the nephew of the singer Freddie Aguilar. Ivler is an American citizen.

Meanwhile, the arrested OFW in Qatar is named Jason Aguilar, working as a welder who came to Qatar barely two months ago. Obviously this is a case of mistaken identity and for his part this is the cost of his being a "namesake" of the real criminal.

Since the name Jason Aguilar Ivler has already been on the Red Notice List of the Interpol, he can be arrested abroad and deported back to the Philippines at any time. And this is what the Qatari authorities did. They apprehended the namesake of the real murderer, and the poor OFW is headed back to the Philippines on January 7.

So now, let us commend the concerned authorities for a job well done. We should give credit to whom it is due. First and foremost, the NBI, for inspite of firmly believing that Ivler is just hiding somewhere in the Philippines, they were able to alert the Interpol for their cooperation.

Second, the Qatari authorities who were so passionate with their jobs, that they were able to apprehend and detain the purported "criminal" right in their own turf.

And third the DFA and the DOLE, for being clueless as to their functions in this case, wherein a poor and similarly clueless OFW became a hapless victim of this hugely atypical stupidity.

I just cannot comprehend how this was being done to an unsuspecting victim, by an humongously imbecilic minds in the NBI and the Interpol. Whatever protocol is being observed by them, as though an entire novel can be ruined by a mere misuse of comma for a semi-colon, then the poor welder must suffer the consequence!

According to Qatari authorities, the poor OFW has been cleared already, but nonetheless he will be deported back to further ascertain his identity. What an exponential idiocies!

And moronic? No scarcity from it:
1. Jason Aguilar the OFW, is never a namesake of the real criminal. The criminal carries Ivler as his family name, Aguilar is only his mother's maiden name.
2. Granting they are namesakes as the NBI would call it, what about all the 181 Jason Aguilars on Facebook alone?
3. Ivler is an American citizen and never a Filipino. His features are more of a Caucasian.
4. The crime took place in the evening of November 18, 2009. While the poor OFW left the country in the morning of the same date.
5. The NBI confidently suspects that the criminal Ivler is still in the country.

So what the hell are you doing to this poor OFW, who was detained since December 31 last year and spent his new year at the detention? Why no one would come to rectify this monumental blunder? If this is not plain stupidity, then what? Protocol? SOP?

And what happens next to this poor man? Why is it still necessary for him to be deported? After he gets deported, will he ever be allowed to come back to his job? Will the Philippine government extend help to him? How are they going to compensate for this man who could lose his job and help him start anew?

This is just bad, unfair, plain stupid, irrational, illogical, wrong, out-of-order, unconscientious, inhumane, imbecilic, idiotic, moronic, foolish, unChristian-like, unIslamic...yet perfectly legal!

To Jason Aguilar, I am just furious at the predicament you are in. I really am. I realize though, it pays to have an uncommon surname like mine. Something that I should be grateful of.

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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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