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Sunday, March 13, 2011

When We Least Expect It: Japan Tsunami

"You know, I'm heartbroken by this tragedy. I think when you see what's happening in Japan, you are reminded that, for all our differences in culture or language or religion, that ultimately humanity is one". - President Obama 

I must admit it - I along with countless others here in Saudi Arabia was feeling nervous and a little paranoid in the lead-up to the well-publicized "Day of Rage" that supposedly took place yesterday March 11, 2010. Thankfully enough, it failed to materialize and subsequently gained a reputation as the "day of little rage", in reference to the group of very few disenchanted citizens who nevertheless showed up in their otherwise subdued rage in the quiet town of Qatif in the Eastern province. With Saudi Arabia assuredly spared from man-made turmoil, half a world apart in Japan, disaster struck in an utterly devastating and heartbreaking episode caught and beamed worldwide.

Scenes from the moments of destruction were of unbelievable proportion that even apocalyptic movies in Hollywood would pale in comparison. You will totally run out of words for it. I could not believe my eyes I was watching live footages of a raging ten-meter tsunami ravaging towns, communities, an airport and homes with such fury and destruction in its wake. What if I or my loved ones were in one of those running cars in the highways that got outsprinted and swallowed by the mighty wall of waters? And the boats and vehicles that got tossed about in such furious power of raging waters really provided a gripping display of might that once again proved every human being is an utterly helpless creation.

Thousands are believed to have been buried alive in the mud. But make no mistake. Japan is considered as the most high-tech nation on the planet. Every building and structure in Japan is designed to be quake-proof. Its people are well-prepared in times of earthquakes that occur every now and then. One foreigner even described it as a daily occurrence that every jolt in the building just goes unnoticed. This has become an experience one certainly has to live with when in Japan. If one wonders why Japan is one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world - it is because Japan is at the center of the "Ring of Fire" in the Pacific Rim along with some countries in the Pacific including the Philippines. And this hard fact has taught Japanese citizens to be smart and resilient in times such as these.

Friday's earthquake in Japan will certainly go down as the strongest recorded in its history with its tremor registered at magnitude 8.9 in the Richter scale. With a country that prides itself on how to get people to places within the minute or two even in the most perilous circumstances, no one could have predicted the scale of devastation it would cause, not even the Japanese themselves. If they could laugh off earthquakes in cities where tall buildings show proof of man's genius, another angel of death couldn't pass them over without leaving harrowing scenes of death. People in Japan are still grappling to comprehend how an earthquake could have triggered a tsunami that could be so devastating that have killed thousands. This is a very difficult time for all the Japanese people who were caught offguard by such a tragedy. And let us understand the number of dead was somehow minimized because most of them were prepared and well-drilled.

Japan has been known for its reputation for being one of the greatest donors of humanitarian aid in every catastrophe elsewhere - and one of the quickest too - but at the aftermath of this unheard of devastation in its own- it is Japan's turn to receive an outpouring of condolences from all over the world. With the Japanese people known for their resilience and unparalleled discipline, no one casts a doubt that it could easily rise up from the rubble of destruction given its history. But a strong underlying question surely casts a doubt as to the other nations' capability to rise up when it is their time to face the same situation - because it's only a matter of time. And what's next?

What if the same happens in the Philippines? As much as I would like to avoid this question, still reality hangs tough that it is not a remote possibility. We are not as prepared and ripe to face this kind of catastrophe, much less our  resources available are inadequate. While first-world countries are obsessed with upgrading their capabilities to counter such catastrophe to its minimal effect, in the Philippines our officials are equally obsessed with squandering state coffers to their end. The greed and gluttony in the government routinely prevails over the very few with honest and truthful intents. With all these tales and scenes of destruction facing us everyday, still we have fellow human beings choosing to drown themselves with greed oblivious of what tomorrow may bring.

As I try to ponder on the ruthlessness of nature whereby we are reduced to being helpless spectators when it unleashes its fury, I cannot help but wonder how human beings can be so greedy  when all the riches in this world can be easily reduced to rubbles and turned to a swathe of debris when it is retribution time. How much wealth would compensate for this life when we are faced with certain death?  Not even the powers and glitters of our riches could buy us refuge to shield us from the sting of death.  How many 'lesser' people die daily in their tens or hundreds fighting for their rights to live decent lives yet deprived of them by the 'greater' ones?  Not even the Ben Alis and Mubaraks of this world nor the arrogant Gadhafis in all their powers and riches will be able to stake their claim in the fight for incorruptibility - for the greedy will only have his days numbered before he is put to shame.

"Life is too short".  For most of us, it has become a cliche lost in the maze of the relevant. But when confronted with grim realities, where do we really go? And so we realized, life indeed is short. For those of us who believe there's a Force behind all these that controls the future, we can only pray away that we be spared from the same predicament. And for those who find it weird that this theory carries some weight - live your life to the fullest - but don't stop searching for an answer to this paradox - so that when in the midst of tragedy - you already have the answer - and peace will come - who knows?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Imelda, Gadhafi And Ahmadinejad Are Relatives?

"Ambitious or greedy rulers are tyrants. Instead of using authority to benefit their citizens, they covet more power and wealth, which leads to oppressive legislation and policies." - Proverbs 28:16

No, it's not a headline in one of the prestigious broadsheets nor a pop-up in your Yahoo homepage. Guess again.  Seems like a preposterous joke only jerks are able to weave out of disgust. Well, let's understand and put it in perspective how this supposed theory could generate facts that could establish a new gene pool of astronomical liars. Understandably, they have very similar reputation as big time liars. Ahmadinejad out of hatred for the Jews declared that Holocaust did not happen at all and it was an invention by the West. And the notoriety of this bearded sinister-looking man to change history had won him over the admiration of Imelda Marcos. She on the other hand, is of no lesser icon for her notoriety to twist and twirl the history. This twentieth century-reincarnation of Marie Antoinette whose extravagance would shame the latter's exploits have another to look up to as her model in Evita Peron. But history would prove that our diva from Leyte outsmarted and outshone them both in the 'greedy' category. She "loves all things of beauty" - of grandiose beauty cohesive with ostentatious display of excesses. That's her unchanging mantra only identifiable to her and her epitaph when the gods call it a day.

The vintage Imelda recently stole the limelight one more time with her unequivocal guiltless declaration that human rights abuses did not happen during the twenty-year rule of her husband. That having said a vintage liar only she personifies. Also recently, her son, senator Bongbong Marcos beamed to the world his take on EDSA that had it not happened the Philippines could have been another Singapore. What a shameless sarcastic affront to human intelligence only this magnificent tandem of liars can pull off! While the advent of social media has played a role in repressive regimes downfall one after another, one wonders why no one would ever dare to bust up the lies of this history-twisting family of plunderers. Why is it so? Because they are as equally as powerful as they were before. Their clout did not seem to erode. The  son elected to the senate overwhelmingly. The 'personification' of all greed elected to Congress unopposed in her district. The elder daughter as governor. That is despite a court's conviction of plunder, a world recognition as one of the greediest families ever in human history, of being champions of human rights abuses, among other titles and accolades appended to their resume.

Certainly it is noble to forgive much more to forget. But if you look too closely, nothing has been manifested that is worthy of forgiveness. The Filipinos have easily forgiven. In fact, they all suddenly fell into a deep amnesia. While it is hardly a bad thing, the pulse of a forgetful common man (read as stupid) has led to the revival of arrogance in the Marcoses. Instead of  faking out (at least) a show of remorse, they have been bluntly giving out a message of self-vindication and feeling sorry for the Filipino nation that the EDSA 1 episode had figured in history that according to them, it effectively  brought  the end the nation's opportunity to become the next Singapore. If some of the equally-twisted minds are happy to take that, then good for them. Their idols, instead of languishing in jail for their crimes against an entire nation, they are being glamorized and revered by a disgusting army of fanatics who are too delusional and blinded to be awakened from their idolatry. On the contrary, I do believe that we could have been another Singapore had this family of plunderers not invented corruption that became the norm in the government since their enthronement.

In all her glamour and splendor, Imelda simply has no tendency to cave at a psychological warfare vis-a-vis historical facts, much less retreat to her turf a wounded beast. Not even a scar from a plunder conviction could deter her from shouting to the world that the Marcoses are innocent. Her world is full of ironies that she made herself believe that they are being oppressed and disrespected by the EDSA architects, namely the millions of Filipinos from all walks of life, who felt the need to drive an evil regime out of the country that has produced countless of heroes for the sake of its people yet reigned over by perverts. The Filipinos were wrong she would assert, that they had driven out a great leader for twenty years in Marcos. Wrong because there were still rooms for billions of dollars worth of gold bullions in Swiss banks reserved for the Marcoses on top of the billions of dollars of cash already stolen from the typical hand-to-mouth Filipino family. That is where Imelda sees beauty that she's preaching to spread. There is beauty in plundering the whole nation that resulted to the advent of communist insurgency.  And there is beauty in possessing thousands of pairs of expensive, some diamond-encrusted shoes, and jaw-dropping hundreds of millions of dollars worth of jewelry that even Queen Elizabeth II would salivate in envy. And these discoveries were made a world spectacle attributed to  Imelda era that helped made the Philippines a famous country on the planet, apart from its reputation of being a Spanish colony for over 300 years. Such fame was undeniable that gave claimants of original English language a jolt and warns that one's lexical knowledge would be incomplete without adopting the word Imeldific to its fold. Well, pretty much the coined word says everything about Imelda.

This brutal battle of what and who decides who is right and who is wrong surely will not end, even history refuses to decide. Those human rights victims by the Marcos regime who have recently been awarded compensation  believe that it is a classic affirmation of good triumphing over evil; that the courts of law have proven that the evil regime had done terrible acts to its people and therefore it must own up to its abuses. While the world applauds this supposed victory, Imelda on the contrary is buzzing with her rhetorics screaming on top of her lungs that there was never a so-called human rights abuses during their reign and that the succeeding regime of democracy icon Cory Aquino had committed more human rights violations. And that is what we aptly call a brand of Imelda Logic. Good news though, she's not expected to be alone in her stratospheric schizophrenia. She has recently invited Gadhafi of Libya to join her into her world of fantasy where they can be each other's shoulder to cry on when the rest of the world does not believe in what they are fighting for. And together they join hands in fending off the infidels in their ululation of victory with the tune of "You And Me Against The World". They very much agree on a certain degree because unconsciously they agree on the saying "misery loves company". Of course, Mr Gadhafi is a multi-billionaire virtually 'owning' a country that sits on one of the world's largest oil reserves. And he claims all Libyans love him, the people of which a third of them subsist on a two-dollar a day, and the very same people that he swears to annihilate till there remains a soul that opposes him. After more than forty years in power and his  subjects wallowing in poverty in a supposed rich country, the Libyan citizens Gadhafi claims love him. There is no violence happening in his country despite the thousands dead bombed and fired at by his troops -  he still claims -  the troublemakers are those clueless foreign elements.

Let's not forget that our Lady Protagonist had once bonded with Gadhafi, and now that he is in trouble, being a friend to him she did not come short  of showing her support and sympathy for him when the US decided to freeze his assets, obviously for a familiar reason she finds affinity with. Yes, for her it still hurts that some of her assets, ill-gotten at that, were returned to the Philippine government because all of those 'rightfully' belong to Imelda. The paradox here surfaces of the peculiar similarity of mindset and behavior of the greedy. And a school of thought may emerge inevitably in the future that Gadhafi and Imelda might be of compatible genes that would put  Ahmadinejad whose denial of Holocaust dwarfs any single biggest insult in the history of mankind -  a first class liar but of inferior genes by virtue of his lesser appetite for  wealth and extravagance entrenched in the Imelda-Gadhafi personas. Just a thought - greed is the only other thing that does not change apart from the word change itself -  at least for this dispensation. It's scary to think that the world is full of greedy people as observed by Bernard Madoff in his defiance to world's condemnation of him  asserting that he is only one of the many. Another barbers' tale validated in a world of coincidences that "birds of the same feathers are indeed the same birds". :-)
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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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