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Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Call To Conscience: Spare Sakine From Stoning!

"170 people were sentenced to death  including young people and children, and 18 others, men and women for being gay. Two other women also await death by stoning including a 15-year old girl and a 25-year old pregnant woman."

The collective world may not know about her, but this poor soul along with countless others are awaiting their fate - effectively a gruesome death at the hands of the merciless government of Iran. Stoning  no less, is the manner by which these human beings have been and will be subjected to, at the behest of their government, for their being 'sinful' in an otherwise 'blameless' society of religiously devout Muslims. Why this topic? Unsavory it may seem, but as a human being bestowed with the gift of life, it is my obligation, my duty, in my own way, to condemn this country's barbaric judicial system that knows no mercy in the name of religion and chastity.

Today and infinitely,  I join the conscious and conscientious world in a global protest against the imminent stoning of a 43-year old  mother of two in Iran who is accused of having an illicit relationship. Saturday July 24 marks the International Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani Day, a day of public protests and demonstrations around the world against the impending stoning of Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani. She has been languishing in jail for five years now and has already received a total of 99 lashes, and with no civil complainant coming forward against her.

Sajjad, her 22-year old son raised the alarm of her imminent stoning because according to him, there is no more further legal recourse to save her mother, at this point in time. My senses just cannot comprehend how her children are able to live through this ordeal. They wouldn't even entertain the thought of her dying by stoning because the word itself is chillingly gruesome. Notwithstanding the official verdict by the judiciary in Iran, Sakine's children wouldn't let go of a tiny hope that their mother could still be saved from stoning. They're desperate to save her life, just like any children, mother or father, or any sane human being, who would be in the same predicament. And this desperation amounts to them begging to the whole world to intervene for their mother. 

As a result of global outcry for Sakine, families of others held in the notorious prison of Tabriz have come forward with news of another 170 people sentenced to death that includes young people and children, and 18 others, men and women  for being gay. Two other women also await death by stoning including a 15-year old girl and a 25-year old pregnant woman. Without the media sensationalizing the story of Sakine, and her children's brave call to the world, the world would have not known there are countless others in Iranian prisons awaiting their fate by hanging or stoning. In the case of Sakine who has no complainant against her, it only makes utterly heartbreaking to realize, that the government that is avowed to protect its citizens, is determined to put on a worldwide spectacle by plucking the 'sinner' out from the 'righteous' by virtue of stoning.

With the world swiftly reacting in rage as  awareness and condemnation began to take its hold, Sakine's son Sajjad has come under a 'pro bono' persecution from government authorities for his brave effort of outing the story to the world. He was reported to have been summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence, and only God knows and the resilient people of Iran, how it is to be subjected to a state-sponsored persecution. Reports of more than a hundred cases of  stoning that have already taken place surfaced, as the world media is increasingly putting  a spotlight on the case of Sakine. More and more barbaric stories and glaringly awful tales of death have emerged subsequently.

July ninth this year, barely two weeks ago, when a 16-year old girl took her own life inside her cell, because she could not bear the reality of literaly counting the minutes into her date with the rope that will put an end to her otherwise young existence. She was accused of murder as a 14-year old girl. One other pregnant woman awaits her delivery before she could qualify to have a date with her stoners. We may ask, are we in the 21st century yet? How could this be happening? When most people are anxious for the countdown to begin for them to grab hold of that haloed Ipad in one part of the world, some are in agony of theirs too in another, albeit the countdown of death!

Sadly, most of us prefer not  to open our eyes or even stare at the facts that these things indeed happen. Most of us may be too busy trailblazing the exploits of heiress cum queen of weeds Paris Hilton from South Africa down to her vacation in France, or perhaps we are too infuriated by LeBron's 'betrayal' of his hometown team that we started to hate the Floridians? Or perhaps our minds incessantly create conclusions why LeBron's half-namesake in another part of the world got ditched by his wife - a famous presidential sister? That all of us have our preoccupations un-trivial enough to neglect, that form part of our happy existence? Is it because we are too disconnected from the greater consciousness and nobler ideals that we frown upon hearing or reading such 'obnoxious' topics as yucky as 'death'? Or perhaps our master's degree is only evident at blogging the latest high-end discounts in town? Are we no better than these stuff?

Where do we stand in a wider perspective as a people? If nobody wails of  the agonies of a fellow human being, who else will? Family is a relevant word these days. We have composed poetries, essays, songs and blogs in celebration of our love for our family. But we are somehow oblivious to the facts that some are losing their family members in a horrific yet legal way before their very eyes. Can you feel their pain? Or do you have overflowing empathy for these co-species that you want to revolt, yet find their story un-bloggable? Are we not blessed? I think I am. And I think you are too. And you are more blessed, because  you  have now mustered the courage to speak up, write about or even Like a Facebook group, condemning the barbaric killings in Iran. I encourage you guests, to sign a petition on Facebook or any other social networking site, condemning this vile practice in a country known for its oppressive regime. Our show of compassion will in no way bring us harm, for a compassionate heart only reinforces the conviction that we are humans, loved by our Maker and ought to love our fellowman. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

PEBA 2010: Focus On Strengthening OFW Families

"Earthquakes can't shake us, hurricanes can't break us, cyclones can't take away our love."

Strengthening OFW families as this year's PEBA theme is timely, and an emphatic admission that failed marriages has gotten to the forefront of social cancer maligning an OFW family. The call to strengthen the very basic unit of society is a necessity to underscore the importance of a strong family ties that defines a prosperous nation.

Working abroad to fulfill your dreams for your loved ones is paramount among all OFWs. No man in his right senses would ever leave his family for a job in another country. That used to be the norm but not anymore. As an OFW myself, I would rather be away from my loved ones than we stay together, and die together. Anyway, economic  reason tops our agenda why we leave our family back home. The benefits are just tremendous.  All these benefits however come at a price. And sometimes the price proves too costly. In the end, an OFW may have achieved his dreams economically, but if unfortunate, his family could also fall apart.

The call to strengthen an OFW family may be a noble one. But this effort may sound boring and futile to some who have been in real situations  for a variety of reasons. One may protest, "it is not as easy as  preaching to the transgressors without getting to the bottom of the transgression". Another would say, "before you throw judgment,  fill my shoes, then and only then you could understand why we are in this situation".

Philandering, as the PEBA president announces, is the main culprit why an OFW family crumbles to pieces. Infidelity among married couples knows no dispensation, and is expected to outlive even the strongest brands such as Coke and Microsoft. But does it say of our compatriots' propensities to illicit affairs when away from their spouses? My good judgment is yes. I've seen and known them. Plenty of them. And some readily smarting out their rationale, "life is a gift meant to be enjoyed and shared with" - even if it is the wrong partner. Having said that, I am in no way vilifying the "lonely hearts" brigade, neither I am validating this kind of behavior.

Our family always tops our priority. We persist to exist even at times when we almost refused to - and the reason is them. We at times choose not to narrate our sad stories to keep them from worrying about us. That we subsist on Indomie, and scour for a five-riyal shirt at a flea market in downtown Khobar, or fighting with a Panda Hypermarket cashier who slaps you with a Batook chewing gum, when you actually prefer your fifty-halala change - is beyond them. That says of our sacrifices for them. But sacrifice is only acceptable and valid when made out of good intentions. And we don't think twice to make them repeatedly for their sake. This intention with all its nobility can however go down the cliff when the rope that binds them together snaps.

Every OFW family deserves the sweetest reward of reaping the fruits of their sacrifices. For no amount of material and temporal things will ever equate with the beauty of an intact family. A hefty bank account, a modest house, or the most flashy gadgets play only second fiddle to the glory of having a complete family. Just like our own Charice preaching  in her pyramid analogy, so is the importance of the relationship in the family. "Earthquakes can't shake us, hurricanes can't break us, cyclones can't take away our love", says the song. Comes a mini-Ondoy and everybody drowns, because they forget to take the fridge off their back.

As the OFW family gets the monopoly of the spotlight this year, the well-being of every OFW and his family back home tops the agenda of PEBA. Kudos to the PEBA people  for putting together an endeavor of great substance, especially the PEBA president (Desert Aquaforce), who did a great job in sending his message across that serves as eye-opener. The reality he put forth is too powerful to ignore. Credit also goes to the witty post by Mr. Thoughtskoto  for gently prodding bloggers, to show some support by blogging about the theme, that had me rushing and tapping at my laptop in no time to create a few paragraphs for PEBA theme. Way to go guys! We support and salute you all!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jeddah Bloggers' EB In Balad!

"If I am in this circle of intellectual minds gathered today, then I can stake my claim to a little slice of prestige among Jeddah bloggers? Wow!! I don't think I deserve to be counted in this 'community'! Ok, I'm about to coil now. But I already did haha!"

It started  months ago, long before the great Mr. Jebee Kenji Solis of Thoughtskoto shuttled from coast to coast - to yet another not-so-unfamiliar territory of Jeddah, when the EB of bloggers was conceived by the El Presidente of PEBA - the quintessential 'kuya' of Jeddah bloggers - the ever generous and gentle yet intellectual powerhouse  Mr. Nereus Jethro Abad of the famed Desert Aquaforce blog. Eighth of July when Jeddah bloggers gathered and exchanged pleasantries for the first time.  Five of us showed up brushing aside - say a drop in man-hours wasted (squeezed in from tight schedule) in tit-for-tat with fellow bloggers.

The mind behind Baul ni Noel, the at-first-glance shy type Noel Ablon - the runaway winner for punctuality nod was the first on the rendezvous. [The guy just walks down the elevator from his nearby office (I'm not sure of that Noel) haha!] If anything, I and Pepe Cabrera of (Camera Ni Cabrera and X-Spot) didn't screw up with time as we've thought earlier as we sped off from work headed straight to the 'event' :-) We could see a guy (in an office attire) standing in an uncomfy spot busy containing the grainy drops off his face in a serious demeanor. I really thought that's not Noel - could be someone else. After a brief stint of cooling down inside Corniche mall, we spotted the boss Mr. NJ already chatting with the guy - yes the guy was Mr. Noel Ablon!

The ever affable and a seemingly surprised Mr. NJ welcomed us as we joined the table ( understandably, we did not confirm our attendance earlier due to work constraint). Credit to Mr. NJ's Malaysian colleague Sani and another staff Zakir for giving him company from a distant and lonely journey from Al Laith to Jeddah.

In the meanwhile, came the great man - the brain behind OFW Kablogs and PEBA - Mr. thoughskoto himself Mr. Jebee Kenji Solis. [Pretend that I am acknowledging the entrance of the man respected in the blogosphere whose persona is larger than life- (forget that he is petite - yet an intellectual behemoth in his own right) bannering a smile and an inquisitive eye speaking in a subdued  tone]. If I am in this circle of intellectual minds (as The Pope chose to allude to in his FB comment) gathered today, then I can stake my claim to a little slice of  prestige among Jeddah bloggers? Wow!! I don't think I deserve to be counted in this 'community'! Ok, I'm about to coil now. But I already did haha!

Being an enterprising mind that he is (with no dull moments filled with exchanges of thoughts and ideas), Mr. Thoughtskoto grabbed the lull amid the de-clogged traffic of minds to present his agenda and his proposal for a better PEBA and its beneficiality. Everyone could only agree with what has been  proposed - and also thrilled, (not for the shared vision of PEBA)  but mind you - with the next EB, probably in a colder setting. (Mr. NJ what do you have to say? Hmmm.) Hey, not everything discussed in a meeting is for public consumption! So Jeddah bloggers you better be there next EB. (Hey Ron Dacz! Still busy exploring the Red Sea?  Share with us your snorkeling experience when you get down to the city!)

[I could only hope Isla De Nebz will be available but sadly he settles now in Kuwait - he is the man responsible for most of the journals at OFW Kablogs, and religiously lending  his genius into it. I became his ultimate fan on my first visit to his blog. Kudos to you Nebz!]  Don't take it against me please (haha!) A deserved praise is a great incentive! This is my site and I have control over anything I have to say :-) :-)

Well, you may never hear me bossing around as to which is the best restaurant in  town to cool down and relax - ever - but I will be there in tow - as always (kapal!) This is the last thing in my bucket list - not my forte, sort of. But wait, I can do the dishes and run errands too! ( In the restaurant? Chill!) So the group decided to settle for the nearest and most spacious restaurant - the famous and conspicuous Shawly restaurant. Everyone seemed to have pretended to have affinity with healthy living and so all settled for the appropriate - drop the carb-laden and high cholesterol menu - in this case halo-halo did the trick and for Mr. NJ who loathes sugary stuff - a vanilla ice cream did appease the carb-fueled temblors within. (sugar pa din :-))

Photos! Photos! And photos!  Nobody did imagine someone nearby is fighting for his life. Zakir, Mr. NJ's assistant rushed from outside and broke the news - a taxi driver in his parked car just died in his seat, obviously of cardiac arrest. As we rushed towards the view from on top, droves of people congregated around the car and we could see a slumping body wrapped in a foil or plastic sheet or something. The paramedics clearly did what was necessary. As everyone looked mystified by the turn of events, the enterprising Camera Ni Cabrera wasted no time capturing the moment with his lens. Yet the sad reality of life remains. One moment you're here, the next you're gone.

Then the bloggers took one another's contact number before dusk as Mr. NJ and company decided to head home to Al Laith - a couple of hours drive from Jeddah? And of course, the moment we've been waiting for - the freebies- 2 big boxes of big big frozen prawns from the world-renowned National Prawn Company where Mr. NJ is one of the big bosses. Mr. Thoughskoto did not partake the loot (haha!) as his freezer is still filled with them (also courtesy of Mr. NJ from their previous meeting ), or maybe he pitied us because we did not confirm our attendance and practically unexpected? Well, anyway thank you Mr. Solis! And thank you Mr. NJ! So  one went to us and another to Noel. Yehey!

If anyone has said I have an anger management issue in my posts? Well, I'm trying to make light of the one I'm writing now. I did attempt. And so I write nonsense. That's the result!

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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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