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Monday, December 19, 2011

When We Least Expect It - Even On Christmas

"When they call on me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them." - Psalms 91:15

We thought Ondoy was a big blunder and the last of such scale. Then we saw all fingers directed toward government inefficiency. Those affected thought they had not been properly warned. The president in his rage sacked the Pag-asa chief for incompetence. Ondoy had claimed many lives though it poured out its wrath in daylight. But who can escape such a fury unleashed in the middle of the night the way Sendong did?

People of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities did get warned. They knew they were at the storm's path. As to the extent of the damage it had to leave, they could only predict, it was to be another storm meant to be forgotten, as oblivious as history should put it to be. Older folks had no recollection of a storm that ravaged their cities in the past, and the young were told so, as history validates, then people flirted with complacency. After Sendong had left, the lives of those lucky to make it will never be the same again.

The figures are staggering: over a thousand dead bodies piled up with debris strewn across the city, hundreds more are missing. Funeral parlors have no capacity for such a deluge of cadavers streaming their gates, not even a chance to identify the victims. The pictures are horribly graphic. Jessica Soho of GMA likened the onslaught to be that of a 'thief in the night', albeit the culprit took no accountability.

Take note of this: survivors frantically looking for their missing loved ones were advised to go to the city's dumpsite to search for their mothers, fathers, sisters,  brothers, babies and relatives. You don't believe this is happening. The sheer number of bodies recovered rendered the city incapable to bury them that they are left with no choice but  to dig a mass grave to contain the stench and a likely epidemic.

What's even incomprehensible is how human hands had actually played a role in the fate of those who had perished. Whether people still remain clueless and  have the temerity to point a finger at nature when thousands of logs and tree trunks swamped the city, is totally beyond me. Now people realize that they are paying dearly for the endless rape of our forests due to unabated illegal logging. Now, no one wants to take responsibility. How many times entire communities get wiped out and thousands of lives taken as a result of illegal logging? Even if someone gets crucified for the wrongs of many, I bet lessons will serve no purpose, as long as human greed comes in abundance.

Life always remains a mystery. When we think all is well, suddenly destruction hits. At times when we think we have security and things are going alright in our lives, tragedy comes our way. Then most of us don't know what to do when we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We don't know where and who to turn to and how we are going to get by. But if we were offered a way to live without ever having to worry about anything ever again and it won't cost us a cent, would we jump on it? Judging by the world trend, things are  not going to get easier, they are going to get worse, especially that materialism and greed by some come before the good of many.

In facing repercussions, there will always be more at the losing end. In life, there are countless possibilities that we may face but only one thing is certain - death is forthcoming - in whatever manner, we are left clueless. It will come still, yes, even at a time when we least expect it. But no matter how much people weep for those they've lost, their lives will never be the same again, because indeed very few find the real reason for living. He is in fact the reason for Christmas.

I still wish my kababayans in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities a happy Christmas! We from Saudi Arabia may not be able to hand you a bottled water or a noodle, yet our prayers at your time of distress abound for you. Life is short but as long as we are blessed with air to breathe, there is hope, and that hope is just within your reach. In fact, He is the reason why we celebrate this season. His name is Jesus. Have a blessed Christmas!

Please click HERE if you wish to make a difference in the lives of those who survived.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For The Love Of Banana

"These fruits and vegetables resemble the male penis and could arouse women or make them think of sex" - A Muslim Cleric

Before this tragic fate of getting to task our scientists and horticulturists to do away with a next-to-impossible mission,  my deep sympathy already goes out to them, well, except if they happen to be non-Muslims, who do not feel obligated obeying a fatwa. If only to be tasked to modify the shape of a banana into something else except its natural shape, then it guarantees some heads spinning or brain cells squirting out of ears and noses, all for the cause of Muslim women who might be in danger of going to hell for a banana-driven sexual fantasy, let alone from humongous ones that are ubiquitously sold at lovely prices anywhere.

For the sake of ensuring chastity among their women, a fatwa has recently been declared that women should keep their fingers off anything that resembles a male reproductive organ so as to avoid sexual thoughts and risk getting dumped into the lake of fire. The fatwa was announced in Europe by an unnamed Muslim cleric and any devout Muslim who shares the same belief is expected to obey. I don't know if this is a cause for celebration for men who envy bananas getting massaged and pressed by women in the supermarkets (to check worthiness), or sad news for women who love their potassium supplement taken from their well-loved Chiquita, Dole or Del Monte brands.

Now the task of reinventing a banana shaped as square or triangle or even a round one rests on the shoulders of  Muslim scientists, who have the moral mandate to uphold the chastity of their women who are prone to temptation by the tasty and shapely bananas. (Or better yet take out the round-shaped from the option as it may still resemble a proud scrotum.) The cleric who issued the fatwa however did not zero in on banana, as zucchini, cucumber, carrots, aubergine (eggplant) and a lot other elongated produce products also qualify for the criteria of being a temptation for women who potentially see these products as penile substitutes. Well, if these are to be eaten other than the conventional way then it surely poses health hazards to women and the cleric certainly has a case. He even went on saying that women should not lay their hands on these fruits and should require someone else to slice it for them, adding that these should be kept from their sight as this easily provoke them into making sexual thoughts.

The article has been shared by as many people on Facebook, who feel the sense of urgency that this fatwa has to be circulated in the earnest so that more Muslim women could be warned of the danger of even touching a banana so as to stop them from free-falling to hell. I have taken note some of their suggestions (and the reasons) that deserve a second look and should have a rightful place in the cleric's list and therefore be taken off from shelves:
  •  upo (bottle gourd) and patola (sponge gourd) - more powerful and sturdy
  •  Ikea scented candles - easy to cut and shape
  •  markers and ballpens - comes in handy at all places
  •  energy drinks such as bison and red bull - has no tendency to become flaccid
Though this fatwa certainly is a source of saving grace for Muslim women, vegetable business could soon be  a thing of the past in Muslim countries, given the burning desire by every Muslim woman to avoid the temptation for fear of populating hell. If in the future a rising incidence of suicides among vegetable sellers can be attributed to this fatwa, it will be a difficult situation for Muslim governments that will be faced with  dilemma between upholding the salvation of their women and killing off livelihoods of their small vegetable sellers, who some of them have inherited the trade from their ancestors. I think at this point a government bias needs to take form by prioritizing the salvation of their women from eternal fire over sustaining the livelihood of vegetable sellers, who in turn could be introduced to other trades away from selling bananas, carrots, cucumber and some other 'sinful' elongated vegetable produce.

In fairness to the cleric, he did not say it is haram or unlawful to sell bananas, cucumber, carrots and other vegetables and fruits of similar shape. He only emphasizes that women fondlingly touching these things can be lured into thinking sexual thoughts and therefore risk sinning and will be in  danger of going to hell. So his advice is tantamount to keeping women from entering the vegetable section except if they are able to convince the store-in-charge that they will only lay their eyes on broccoli, water melon and some other leafy stuff that pose no harm to their chastity. 

If this scenario becomes prevalent in the future, I can see supermarkets in Saudi Arabia with their vegetable sections devoid of black-clad shoppers, especially banana section, with a stern warning hanging as boldly, and even bigger than its price that says: "Muslim women are banned within 5 meter-radius except non-Muslim maids". (Non-Muslims are called 'disbelievers' and therefore have no place in paradise, their fate is sealed, hence the exception.) 

In light of the potential complication this fatwa could cause, Muslim women who are die-hard banana lovers in Saudi Arabia are not expected to weep in one corner and may in turn set the following trends:
  • Saudi women could suddenly develop an adoration for non-Muslim maids especially Filipino maids, as they will surely be allowed access to well-loved bananas in supermarkets by showing proof they are Christians in their iqama. (Please note that any Muslim woman, Saudi or not, is not allowed to even look at bananas, let alone get close or touch them.)
  • There will be a renewed negotiation between Saudi and Philippine governments initiated by the former, to lift the ban on Filipina domestic helpers with the Saudis bowing to the demands by its counterparts to put in place worker's protection and implement salary demands for Filipina household helpers - a move foreseen as a boon for jobless Filipino women - a surprise Saudi concession, all for the love of banana. 
  • Indonesian and Filipino drivers will be finding their niche soon around vegetable sections in lieu of their usual routine of huddling around in malls' parking lots and benches as if they are permanent ornaments in squatting position, while waiting for their women bosses do their shopping. Hmm, could be another worthy cause for a wage hike which is not impossible.
  • For families without non-Muslim maids, kids may get their early training of picking the best bananas in supermarkets, while their mothers employ a baton-less conductor skills  15 meters away as to which one to pick.
  • There will be unreasonably high hoarding incidence of bananas, as mostly Filipino maids are deployed profusely in all supermarkets nationwide and parading home hunched up with loads of bananas. Filipino maids don't always have to go with their masters when they go shopping, so it is understandable that they invade the supermarkets at once and buy tons of bananas for the love of it.
  • Expatriate families that cannot afford a maid may soon find themselves paying for a service charge when the nearest baqala (mini-store) salesman delivers a cluster of banana to their doorstep.
  • Finally, women may develop a deep interest for banana as to its mystery and why the warning that could send them rolling into hell. In this case, cucumber, carrots, aubergine, sponge gourd and bottle gourd  with their own powerful lure, could give banana a run for its money.
Given the scenarios above, it will be safe to assume that a widespread protest in Chiquita plantations in South America and a similar one in Del Monte in Mindanao is still remotely possible due to massive sacking of their employees. If a status quo remains, except of course for some imminent changes in policies at our favorite supermarkets (re women have limited access to bananas), there is no need to panic just yet as the Gulf region's  favorite bananas are here to stay.

Dear banana, out of sympathy for  these poor women who would soon be bidding farewell to your irresistible taste and seductive form, I wish you were designed into another form not resembling a mighty truncheon that could weaken their resolve. But who am I to question the wisdom of your Creator? It is my wish that not a single Muslim woman  falls into your sexy trap and be thrown into eternal damnation. We also dread the day seeing you transform into another shape as you would certainly lose your appeal. But it's up to Muslim scientists if their skills and knowledge are up to what is required to get you into another form, hmm probably in a shape of a bulb? If anything, the Christian world prefers that you stay as you are...yellow, sweet and long.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Tale Of Two Beauties

"None is righteous, no, not one." - Romans 3:10

Finding Facebook and other social media steaming hot over the past few days with the Piolo-KC and Mo-Rhian sagas that almost killed off the laughable  "putting a tiny tot to sleep forever"  sort-of-plot buzz did not only amaze me; yes, I even see myself now tapping my thoughts together into a post. Would you believe that? Anyway, I can only imagine which obvious pair from the duos gets the sympathy, and the obvious half passed off as evil. I have read substantially enough to know the pulse and not be so surprised at the reactions. Guess what, the immoral label is readily tagged to a villain aka fetus murderer, and  what more to an unforgiving homophobic society's wrath on a celebrity's hunky image that turned out (allegedly) to be the biggest hoax ever - next to the vomit-inducing assertion of a purported Ampatuan innocence?

On KC - Piolo saga:
Why a flurry of criticisms on Piolo as though the man owes every Filipino an apology  for ditching such a desirable woman? Why every gossip-mongering citizen especially feels entitled to force him to parade his skeleton in public? Just because he ruined the libidinal fantasy of the third kind from this confirmation? On people hell-bent to hammer him against the wall till he declares to the world that he willfully swallowed the stone or Ding forcefully shoved it down his throat, is totally beyond me, and that's not just right. If early in his career Piolo did a Bebe Gandanghari, would the public actually adore him for everything that he is made of? Sort of unthinkable for Piolo to shed his macho image, get rid of those muscles till he pass for a worthy torchbearer for anorexic community and strutting around in red stilettos and thick lipstick and go around telling the world that the old persona is dead.

Whether there is truth to it, most people would be so frustrated not to see him come out of his closet and duplicate Bebe's exploits. Not even in this lifetime, I bet. But still the question remains:  is the frenzied public which has successfully nailed him on the cross ready to forgive him for his  'transgression'? And who are these 'righteous' to demand he satisfies their whims at the expense of him getting flogged so that they gloat over in victory? God knows people don't care about his predicament. But still he is left with no choice but to shrug off taunting eyes that feast on his agony. Sadly, what's all the more telling is that people seem to live off on the misery of others. To them, they play the role on how society works, how to shape the norm - to be yourself, that is, and that you cheat them when you're acting out what you are not. But wait till  tabloids banner news of  philandering celebrities if it appeals to them. Not even a snout even if one sired three quarters of a hundred progeny. It is a requirement though when your estrogen level outweighs your testosterone: the public expects a revelation party anytime soon or else you're rewarded public flogging if the delay takes forever.

On the other hand, I have only sympathy for KC for her heartbreak, but cashing in on her vulnerabilities on national television did not help her cause either. She wins outright sympathy for her 'underdog' narratives: a prize accorded to the oppressed helped by compassion-induced tears and occasional daffy demeanor. She could be easily perceived as a classy intelligent woman who could have risen above her circumstances. But  what I see in the interview is a desperate woman, who unconsciously falls into a trap of a cunning and manipulative interviewer by urging her on to wash her dirty laundry in public, albeit the subtle way. People have different opinions on the matter, though  Piolo  obviously is at a disadvantage. My take on this is, when a woman announces that a man is incapable of giving the very basic needs of a woman, what comes to mind of every forthright sane individual is only one thing - sex. As though she wants to keep a little decency for herself, the public was made to make a wild guess that even kindergartens have staked their claims to the prize. 

The public loves this kind of drama: a macho hunk outed from his closet by his woman - the culprit being his inability to satisfy her. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming public sympathy for her is not due to her being sex-deprived but because he cheated her for another man. This is the kind of drama most people would love not to ignore. With time, the moral landscape of any given society has greatly evolved,  and this contributes to people readily accepting premarital sex as a norm that is widely acceptable. Ordinary people look up to showbiz personalities as their models and this is what society gets: premarital sex that sometimes leads to abortion, nursing mothers barely out of puberty, and poor illiterate kids doomed to fail in life even before they reach their life's potential.

The Mo - Rhian predicament:
This is a classic sad tale involving the butcher of a fetus. It is horrible that an innocent child gets a death sentence for being a threat to its mother's blossoming career.  She is on top of her game and getting pregnant is never an option. Then she did the unthinkable. The father of the child seems genuinely disturbed by his conscience for playing the role of reluctant accomplice, and so the confession video surfaces. In here, there's no dearth of moral vanguards who are quick to label the culprit as evil and permanent inhabitant of a place that overflows with sulfur and brimstone. Unfortunately for the culprits, the stench of their deeds will not be  contained for eternity just as they would have wished it to be, until truth finds its own way out.

Putting up a brave face and singing her heart out on a Sunday show while consciously aware of the world bashing her in unison, elicited applause for her brand of bravery; either way people did cringe at the sheer lack of compunction. Sometimes people  tend to be irrational and unforgiving yet living off on another's predicament for a fodder. They always crave for gossips that tickle their ears, often feasting on other people's predicament. Indeed there's no free ride to fame, for you pay what you owe and reap what you sow - and that's part of the deal.

Still people wonder how does she cope with her new-found fame after the turmoil. In showbiz, everything revolves around money and fame, yes even for a wrong reason, so she has not much to weep for, as long as she has what it takes. Of course, people close to her and those who are cashing in on her image have plenty of encouraging words to offer. She's a total package and a face to die for, so seeing her career fade anytime soon is not what seers have predicted. But would that be enough to appease her conscience?

Personal Thoughts:
It's a pity that very few people find the solution to their agony because money, pleasure and reputation are what they value the most. They forgot that there is something of greater value that lasts for eternity compared to the temporal things that only last for a time and then vanish quickly. People are so blinded by fame and fortune that they believe these are the only things that matter. It's sad to know how people can be so clueless that we have a just and righteous God to whom we will give account of ourselves for everything that we have done. He is such a loving God that despite all our filthiness and stench of our deeds reaching Him, still He loves us and is able to forgive us. The Bible clearly says that we all have sinned and come short of His glory and there is none righteous, not even one. That is such a sad state of every human being that we ought not to condemn others for the speck in their eyes for there is only one righteous God who judges us. He only wants us to humble ourselves and repent and turn back from our sins and accept His offer of salvation  through His son Jesus.

All man's possessions such as money, fame, power and good reputation will not last forever. Jesus clearly warns us that, "for what profit is it for a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?" People need Jesus because what He can offer is much more of greater value than all the riches of this world combined. But what makes people reject Him is the life of sin that they cannot repudiate. Yet His grace is abundant and people find it if they seek it, but not until when it's too late. If only people experience the peace that surpasses all understanding, and that can only be found through Jesus who readily gives it to those who will call out to Him.

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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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