Wednesday, December 29, 2004

New Year - Facing Adversity

"Authorities across the region are running out of places to put the dead -- lining them up in schools and stacking them in the street ..."

Watching the images of the aftermath of the Indian ocean tsumani unfold on my TV set doesn't give me a lot of confidence that New Year would be great. On the one hand, I could say, "The quake didn't happen to me." On the other, how could I say it can't affect me at all?

I am all the more thankful that for whatever dire straits I think my life has fallen into, I am still on my feet ready to face another day. I may be down and out, broke, depressed, lonely, or what-have-you, but I have life, and that means something. I have still the chance to do something good that matters in someone else's life.

I don't think I could say there is a just God. Not today. But I'd like to believe there's a reason we can find someplace. There's a reason to be happy, and that is I live and exist to give happiness to others, as much as I can, when I can.

Happy New Year!

"There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." - Edith Wharton

Sunday, December 12, 2004

First Christmas, KSA-style

Our organization had its Christmas party last Friday. I was in the middle of the program when my eldest sister called, which was funny to me because I was at the podium at the time. I didn't want to host but then again, I was the only guy funny enough and hip enough (and stupid enough, to boot), I suppose, to do it. Thank God I didn’t have to do a Santa Claus. We had something like 70+ (maybe 100) people arriving. Lots of games, song numbers, and a bunch of idiots (nice idiots) lined up to join “You’re Da Man” that we channeled from MTB Ang Saya Saya! Needless to say, it was a rousing success.

For the Christmas reunion for the clan, the responsibility passed on to our family. The last time we hosted the gig was in 1997 and while it wasn't the best of parties, it was well-remembered. Needless to say, I was involved in it (Oh, don't you worry about modesty. I don't have any of it.)

I suggested that the family do something of an SCQ-TV Idol sort of thing for the children. I also sent them questions for a “Game Ka Na Ba?” simulation. I had plans to use this during our Christmas party but we did not have enough time.

Favorite song this week: “Que Sera Sera” by Doris Day. I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” with Jimmy Stewart and Ms. Day and the song was prominently featured in the movie, one of Hitchcock’s better ones (shame I couldn’t get a copy of “Psycho”). It’s really dumb singing: “When I was a little boy/I asked my mother/what will I be?/Will I be handsome?/Will I be rich?/Here’s what she said to me” in the morning.

I hope the folks would find a good place for the reunion. The traditional place - the Teachers' Association assembly hall beside our house - is ghastly.

If I had Christmas gifts back from home, I would wish for an MP3 collection of the Beatles’ albums. If not the bootleg CDs of the albums or their Anthology series should be selling in Quiapo. Tough luck for any of that stuff to pass through Saudi customs and immigration. But I can dream of my old tapes of Green Day, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Guns and Roses, can't I?

On the other hand, I could go domestic and ask for a sewing kit to darn my clothes. (Damn, that washing machine is EVIL! A necessary one, anyway.) The weather has moved to the level of Tagaytay/Baguio-type cold, but not enough for me to want to wear a jacket yet. At least on a regular basis. I like the cold, anyway. It reminds me to wrap myself in a jacket and pretend I am hugging someone I love from back home.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


“The world may not always understand a person’s profession of faith but it can understand service.”

My thanks to Nicky Templo-Perez who gave me this apt greeting on World Volunteers’ Day, today… and to all the people who keep that torch of volunteerism bright, here’s a cup of the best Turkish coffee for you. And for those who have tried the real-deal Turkish coffee, you know what I mean that it’s a real pick-me-up on a slow day. Assuming you like it, of course.

There’s this grade-A mush (moosh) line in Pearl Harbor that goes “There’s nothing greater than a heart of a volunteer” (or something like that) mentioned by Alec Baldwin, but somehow to this day it still rings true.

Somewhere out there people are still doing their thing, volunteering whatever they can give, and here’s my note of thanks for them.

I somehow got untracked with my regular routine since I moved to a bigger apartment in the center of town last weekend. Don’t have a TFC connection yet (has its advantages and disadvantages), my refrigerator and kitchen utensils are not properly set-up and I have lost a lot of inclination to do my own cooking since all the good eating places are just a stroll away. When there’s a gaping hole left in my wallet I’ll probably start. At least I have my own bathroom but …. (go on to the next paragraph if you feel you’re not close enough to me, hehe) ….the toilet is in the Eastern style, so doing number two means having to squat. This is not so bad since one would really want to get out of the bathroom quickly as temperatures run into the friendly teens (Celsius) for the better part of the day.

Christmas here means a whole lot more to the kids and to those who have kids. I really cannot relate for the most part since I’ve stopped thinking about Christmas as a season a long time ago, starting from the time I started paying my own bills (a solid thirteen or so years running), and going without a steady relationship (except for SHARE, bless her) for about 80% of that time. I do reflect a lot on the whole meaning of Christmas these days, and try to get whatever spiritual nourishment I can get from meditation, prayer, singing a few hymns and occasional reading of contraband Bibles. On the last matter, such items normally belong to those who are either Born-Again or are part of avidly Christian groups with whom I have personal or ideological differences. It’s nice to have faith on a daily basis but some people can get to be a drag. Moving to an additional level of acceptance is not as easy as it was ten years ago, alas.

Classes in my literary writing clinic are winding down for the season since most families in our group are spending the Christmas holidays back home. Maybe if I stay here long enough I will probably find the opportunity to go home during December. I try to focus on the here-and-now as it is difficult to think about the might-have-beens back home and all the difficulties many of our countrymen are experiencing. We are organizing our own fund-raising efforts here for the families and communities ravaged by the succession of storms, but a number of us were affected. My boss, for instance, lost some P1M in investments on his farm in Mindoro following typhoon Unding.

I’m glad that for the most part everyone in my family is okay, though I do hear reports that one of my uncles is in failing health. While we are not on great terms, I sent my best wishes to him and pray for him as much as I can.