Monday, December 26, 2005

Sad Story

Last year the world had to deal with a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The relief effort is ongoing, but rebuilding the shattered lives may take more than just a lifetime.

That tsunami wiped slates clean all over the world. In my mind's eye I can see families rent apart or decimated.

But the sad story I am about to tell is not of this tsunami --- it's this small thing, when you look at it. But it's a life forever changed.

Last year my uncle introduced me to this nurse from one of the hospitals over here. She was a nice girl, really, and she did a whole lot for my boss while he was confined in their hospital for a few days. As I was just new to my job and my colleague had gone for vacation the pressure was mounting.

I was hoping that something may come out from my few phone calls and text messages. While I was normally a penny-pincher, I was willing to plunk down a month's worth of airtime on my mobile just to talk to her. And I actually did. Two months' worth, actually.

For some reason or other, we just didn't connect. I first saw her during my boss's confinement...and then later she admitted to my uncle she didn't like me because I was ...FAT.

Her words, not mine. Anyway, they're true. No mincing words about it.

For the longest time, I took my weight problems in stride and I accepted that some people would never be attracted to me because of it. What surprised and hurt me at the same time was that I didn't know that she would be THAT kind of person. I tried to forget about it, and eventually I forgot all about her. My uncle told me to try again, but then I said to myself and to him, why try? She has already dismissed whatever good points she may find when she chose form over substance.

Comes now he with the latest news: she found the boyfriend she apparently wanted. And now she is bearing within her, if she hasn't given birth by now, his child. The problem: he was already married. (Did she know? It does matter if she did or did not, but nevertheless...) The second problem: she lost her job. The third problem: I don't think he will support her through this situation.

When I heard the news, I didn't know whether to gloat or to commiserate. After all, I could have prevented something from happening had I persisted. But heck, my pride was hurt and I wanted to get back some measure of self-respect. She didn't want me! There are so many other people out there who would appreciate me for who I am.

On the other hand, I could have tried, and taken away with me the satisfaction that I did my best to let her know how I felt. Of course, I could have hurt myself even further had I taken some risks and still she chose some other guy.

It may be nothing in the tapestry of humanity, but this is a sad story which has impacted so strongly upon her universe. Another sad thing is that this kind of thing happens every day. Somewhere out there a girl struggling with her prospects is betrayed by the man to whom she gave her heart and with whom she shared her body. Somewhere out there some girl is a hapless thrall who has no control over her reproductive rights.

This girl's problem is not unique. Yet I can't help but feel sad. She made some wrong choices I wish I could have helped her avoid. (Yes, to my benefit, but I would like to believe that I am an honorable man and will do the right thing).

I can only pray for her and hope that she comes out a winner in the end.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Couch Potato

I watched four full movies during the weekend - a long lazy weekend for me, one that I haven't had for some time. The first was, "The Wedding Date," the next one was the Hollywood remake of "The Grudge," the third was "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and the fourth was "Must Love Dogs."

Why should a guy like me indulge in chick flicks (yes, even the aforementioned "Smith" is a chick flick pumped up with a little testosterone - uhh, that brings up really unpleasant images)? Simple: in a place like Saudi Arabia, hiding the sensitive side just doesn't work. Besides, I'm sick and tired of bang-me-ups, except if there is an inkling of Strong Sexual Content. After all, I'm not feeding my brain and I'm not raising my IQ with those movies. Better look at them the way they really are.

For the first, I wasn't a fan of Debra Messing because I hardly saw "Will and Grace" on TV. I have been, she is one righteous babe! I don't regret missing "Will and Grace" but after I Googled her and realized that I had watched some of her work, it's remarkable I didn't remember her for her outstanding cameos in "A Walk in the Clouds" and "The Mothman Prophecies." Dermot Mulroney appears as her romantic interest. So-so guy, I guess it's the Southern accent and the designer body that stokes up the female attention. Matt McConaughey would have been a better fit, but I guess he wasn't available.

High points of the movie --- none really, except for the odd voyeuristic moments with Mr. Mulroney. Debra is "hot", but only as the complete package (her character is a bit shallow and self-absorbed, but heck, would I notice?), because her specific parts wouldn't match up well with the products of cosmetic surgery. The story is lame, in the sense that "Pretty Woman" is lame --- where do we find enlightened hookers these days? Not that I would know where to look.

Verdict --- A safe choice if you have time to waste. Also, if you want to talk shop with your girlfriends. Not a good movie for guys, except if they happen to be fans of Debra Messing. Or of Alicia Silverstone, since she is virtually a redhead version of Alicia.

I started on the Smiths but instead worked up my appetite for "The Grudge." Chills and thrills for this movie, but since I watched "Ju-on" the remake falls a step back even though they brought the original director back to do the Hollywood version. Still good though, though some of the horrors were predictable. But then, I've seen "The Eye," "The Ring" and a host of similar works, so nothing much to report. Sarah Michelle Gellar looks OLD. They shouldn't have cast her as a nursing student. Too much of a stretch of the imagination. The Japanese actors were a credit to the production.

High points of the movie --- All the thrill portions, but they come few and far between, and the use of the face is very predictable. The device loses its capacity to scare you midway through the movie.

Verdict --- Thumbs up if you want your date to cuddle up to you. Not good for a first date. Great for vacationers during Holy Week or Halloween holidays. Ruins the Christmas spirit, so drop it when seeing it with family. And oh, it's a cool movie to watch with your buddies.

Now we get to "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." Downright disappointing. Angelina Jolie is her usual luscious self, but there is not enough tension to show a genuine animosity. The characters are too likeable and flat. It's not their fault, really. It's just the design of the movie. On the other hand, there are not enough brain-numbing, rock 'em-sock 'em, blow-me-up scenes in the movie to qualify it as a testosterone flick. Brad is his usual bland, blase self, so chicks digging him wouldn't have trouble finding opportunities to drool (alas, not enough of Angelina to go by...).

High points of the movie --- The fight scenes between the leads. However, offense to the ladies, but the Angelina character is just a bit too resilient to be plausible. That, or Brad Pitt's character fights like a wuss. Well, I've never been much into his style, anyhow. The scenes with them cooperating just look too choreographed. Stylish, but not enough sizzle.

Verdict --- A mediocre offering for typical dates. Great if you are a fan of either, or of both. Good enough to watch with your steady, but not enjoyable fare for husband and wife. Single women may like the independent streak of Jane Smith, but true married women wouldn't buy her lack of perception over her husband's true persona. As for John Smith, if I had a trophy wife, I'd knock her up pronto so that I will tie her down to me ASAP. Yup, he is a wuss.

Finally, "Must Love Dogs." Ever since "The Outsiders" (one of the first movies I ever watched on video) I was really into Diane Lane. Despite her lack of quality movies for the rest of the '80s, I believed that she would get to the top eventually, though belatedly, when she really whipped up a storm in "Unfaithful." Something about prodigality always get winners. John Cusack is like a proto-male (in my terms), though he is actually 6'4", white, American, and miles away ahead in the looks department. In "Say Anything," he defined one generation coming of age (high school to college) and in "High Fidelity" and "Grosse Pointe Blank" he typified a man coming to grips with the important things in life.

And oh, he gave girls the shaft (as in arrows of love) in "Serendipity" though I know it was a bit of a dumb movie, if I weren't so in love with Kate Beckinsale.

Yeah, I wish I could be like John Cusack. Only not in this movie. If I weren't a fan of his, his character in this movie was that of a total LOSER. Not the loveable loser in "High Fidelity" but just a loser, period. I mean, even such a total dork like Dermot Mulroney's character could trump him in charming the lady into bed (Yes, I got positively sick of watching Dermot Mulroney getting the girl this weekend).

But oh, Diane, Diane. Such a delectable neurotic...

High points of the movie --- I just enjoyed watching Diane Lane. The freaking copy was like, uh, really bad (you could see silhouettes of the people in the cinema!). Aside from that, there wasn't even a high point with the dogs. I mean, the only siginficant part with any dog was during the last part, and even then, the dog was just a set piece, some imperfect deus ex machina. Stockard Channing, Christopher Plummer, and Elizabeth Perkins were great foils. Liz in particular is my favorite, dating from "About Last Night."

Verdict --- It's a loveable loser, if only for Diane Lane and her interchanges with her family and friends. I gather it's a better read. If so, maybe some ladies will get some more value for their money should they buy the book. And young Julie Gonzalo is up-and-coming. She should get more screen time.


So I was. By the way, I was able to sneak in "Polar Express" on satellite TV in the wee hours of Friday morning. Great Christmas fare. Typical, but good only for the kids. I'd throw in "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" had I finished the movie, but our satellite signal got scrambled in the middle of the darned film. Shame.

It would be a long time until I get an opportunity to vegetate in front of a screen, so this weekend was a welcome relief.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Two quotes from Albert Einstein, progenitor of the theory of relativity:

"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men."

"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. "

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Try my Kung Fu?

Your Seduction Style: Sweet Talker

Your seduction technique can be summed up with "CHARM."
You know that if you have the chance to talk to someone... Well, you won't be talking for long! ;-)
You're great at telling potential lovers what they want to hear.
Partially, because you're a great reflective listener and good at complementing.
The other part of your formula? Focusing your conversation completely on the other person.

Your "sweet talking" ways have taken you far in romance - and in life.
You can finesse your way through any difficult situation, with a smile on your face.
Speeding tickets, job interviews... bring it on! You truly live a *charmed life*

Arms of Love

Just to say thanks for all the blessings I have received this year, I am posting Amy Grant's "Arms of Love."

I'm pretty deflated that I won't be spending Christmas back home. Not because of anything else, but Christmas is the best time to reconnect with all the people you've missed during the entire year. As to the trappings of Christmas, those are the things I can do without.

There is just this gaping hole in the middle of my chest that keeps on asking, "Will I ever be that someone in whose arms some girl would want to be?"

Insh'Allah. Insh'Allah.

Lord, I'm really glad you're here.
I hope you feel the same
When you see all my fears
And how I failed . . .
I fall sometimes.

It's hard to walk in shifting sand.
I miss the rock and find
I've nowhere left to stand.
I start to cry . . .
Lord, please help me.

Raise my hands
So you can build me up
Hold me close
Hold me tighter.

I have found a place
Where I can hide . . .
It's safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who's held
Throughout a storm
You keep me warm
In your arms of love.

Storms will come and storms will go
I wonder just how many
Storms it takes
Until I finally know . . .
You're here always.

Even when
My skies are far from gray
I can stay
Teach me to stay there . . .

In the place I found
Where I can hide . . .
It's safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who's held
Throughout a storm
You keep me warm
In your arms of love.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Way of Self-Awareness

Chapter 33 of the Tao Te Ching reads:

Self-Knowledge & Self-Mastery

Intelligent people know others.
Enlightened people know themselves.

You can conquer others with power,
But it takes true strength to conquer yourself.

Ambitious people force their will on others,
But content people are already wealthy.

Prudent people will abide.

People unconquered by the idea of death will live long.
People who live according to their means last long.

I remain intrigued by the quote "We have conquered outer space, but not inner space," meaning we have achieved technological but not psychological maturity.

Self-mastery is the key to the development of inner peace, and with inner peace as the means, outer peace is the end.

31 Things

I'm a bit lazy to write something new, so I'll answer a few dumb questions.

  1. Your horoscope sign? Libra
  2. Single or taken? Single
  3. In love? Always
  4. Have you ever been seriously hurt by the person you loved? Yes, they're the only ones who could, anyway.
  5. What would be your reason if you turned suicidal? I haven’t gotten there yet.
  6. Is suicide really killing yourself? Du-uh, no? (what a dumb question!)
  7. Country or classic? Classics.
  8. Prefer cute/idiot or smart/ugly? Cute/idiot. Pambalanse.
  9. Are you in a stable relationship with your bf/gf? What relationship?
  10. You’d expect a text message usually from: Orgmates from SPA, my family
  11. Have a best friend that is in the opposite gender? Yes
  12. What do you like doing when you’re depressed? Park myself in front of a TV set and watch videos.
  13. Cheerful or boring? Cheerful. Hmmm, aloof, but cheerful.
  14. Describe a perfect date? Let me tell you when I have one … and it doesn’t necessarily have to have sex in it (always wishing though).
  15. Ever wondered why nobody knows why the sky is blue? No.
  16. Ever been hurt by love? Yes.
  17. Will you ever make the same mistake again? Maybe not.
  18. Ever hated anyone like hell??? No.
  19. What will you do when a person breaks up with you after one day? If we’re married, probably go amok. Otherwise, nothing (what a relief!).
  20. Give one word that best describes what you’re feeling now? Bored
  21. Do you believe in yourself? Uh, no? What a question!
  22. Ever physically hurt yourself?? Yes
  23. Ever verbally hurt yourself? Yes
  24. Motto in life? Get paid, and get laid! But seriously, I don't have one, but the one I most often quote is "Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well."
  25. What is your purpose in life? Aha! It remains a mystery. I just live life as best as I can.
  26. Have you ever had feelings about a friend from the opposite gender? All the time! Now if you ask about the same gender, I'd say "why do you ask?"
  27. If yes, what did you do? If it persists, I consult my doctor! But seriously, if the feeling can no longer be controlled and I must confess, I would.
  28. Are fame and money the most important things in your life? No. Money sounds good, though.
  29. Do you make any movements or sounds when you’re sleeping? Yes.
  30. Are you difficult to wake up? Mostly, no.
  31. How often do you sleep? Only once a day if I can manage it. Sleeping at the desk is fun to do, but a no-no.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Pain of Knowing

"How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be
When there’s no help in truth!"

--- The prophet Teiresias, "Oedipus Rex" by Sophocles

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Throw out the L-sign...


I think.

In earlier days, the L-sign was for "Laban!" (Fight) and signified the Yellow Movement of the political opposition to the Marcoses. Of recent vintage to Filipinos is the L-sign as used by Americans, which meant LOSERS. Or, as Jim Carrey puts it . . . LA-HOOOOO-ZERS!

Just for these times, let's think of being winners for our own sake, not because of any political agenda or ideology to prove. Winning for the sake of excellence is the best card Filipinos can lay on the table, be it abroad or back home.

There are just too many mental L-signs still hung over people's heads.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Valuing Truth

The high minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.
- Aristotle –

Yes, but...
  • The lie is sometimes more palatable than the truth.
  • Self-delusion is often the only handhold left for sanity.
  • "Truth" is a plastic thing compared to the permanence of hypocrisy.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What's in a Name?

I used to have fun that I had an original nickname. At least among the circle of people I knew. People who had my name had "Joey," "Joe," "Jojo" or even "Pepe" but few actually had "Otep." It is part of our family apocrypha that I was the one who invented my nickname, because when I was a toddler I couldn't pronounce my own name. Or so the story went.

It quickly lost originality because one of my cousins nicknamed one of her sons Otep too. Ah, nothing beats the original, I say.

In grade school, I hated the sound of my nickname so much that I decided to go with "Joseph" full-time even though most of my classmates called me "Angelo." On the one hand, my 10-year old mind could only process that using "Joseph" would save me from being teased with a "cutesy-baby" kind of nickname (mix that with being a nerd, and you'll understand why). On the other, my name patches on my uniform had "J. Angelo" and surely, calling someone two names is like giving him a rapper nickname though rap wasn't the in thing then.

High school came and like some teenagers I got caught up in a wave of nationalist fever. "Joseph" sounded colonial, American, and worst of all, I gain nothing special from it.

Also, some misinformed folks (not their fault, really) started calling me "Mark Joseph" after that character actor who made a small splash in Philippine cinema after graduating from X-rated movies. Ah, those were the days. My personal favorite though was being called "Tam Babauta" after another obscure skin-flick actor. The catch there was, "Tam" is short for "Hippopo-TAM-us."

So, by my junior year in high school I had reverted to being "Otep." There you would see who and when I met my friends. The ones who know me the longest or the best (my family and closest friends) have their secret name for me (I'll let you know if you try hard enough). The ones who call me "Otep" vary from their vintage, whether late high-school, college, or during my volunteer days. The ones who call me "Joseph" are the ones who have been with me in school the longest. Most of them are not comfortable calling me "Otep" but repetition does build a habit.

Of course my professional alias has always been "Joseph" though folks here in KSA call me "Jo" (good enough, but at times it still makes me cringe), but at other times I was also called "Jell-O." One boss called me "Satan," but that's a story for another day.

Then there's this heavy-metal lesbian and her eponymous band who share my nickname.

I heard only two tracks from Otep's "Sevas Tra" and the rocking is good. There is Otep Shamaya, the vocalist, Scotty CH on guitar, Doug Pellerin bangs the drums, and bassist eViL j. Great rock names. Please note though that Otep is an anagram of "poet," and that's how she arrived at her nickname. Funny thing though, I did have illusions of being a poet once.

Still, death metal is death metal. Too much aggression, noise, heart-thumpers. Such adrenaline may be great for an occasional high but you'd end up deaf listening to that stuff. I haven't heard anything from "House of Secrets" which was released in 2003, but I look forward to it (NOT!).

The band itself of course is into self-promotion, and one good thing for them is that they remain on edge with their music, something which deserts good musicians when they achieve fame, such as the Black Eyed Peas or Evanescence. Fame can kill perspective. Well, I can always go back to Slayer or Korn, two of Otep's influences.

A Google search yields "Overseas Territories Environment Programme" or "Ongoing Training and Evaluation Program." Then there's Omnium Technique D'Etude Et De Precontainte, which is a company specializing in pre-cast concrete for the construction industry.

And back to full circle, as the Otep of here and now is working with a company that is into all the construction-related trades. Cool.

So what's in a name? More than just a word. More than just the letters. There is history waiting to be told.

(I had wanted to post this on my Friendster blog --- more personal --- but the darned thing just has so many glitches! *&%##$%! So now here it lands.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Guide to Blogging (Something I Should Heed)

I pulled this out from the online version of the New York Times (July 24, 2005) and I was only able to verify it after a few months:

Write All About It (at Your Own Risk) By MATT VILLANO

Q. You've embraced the daily catharsis of blogging, but given the recent spate of blog-sparked workplace controversies, you're worried that posts about work may jeopardize your job. How can you pontificate about your career in a manner that doesn't end with an unemployment check?
A. The safest way to approach blogging about work may be not to do it at all, said Nancy Flynn, executive director of the ePolicy Institute, a training and consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. "Blogging is such a subjective form of expression," Ms. Flynn said. "What you think is a silly little comment could get broadcast into cyberspace, hurt the wrong person's feelings and put you at risk of reprimand or something worse."

Q. What types of work-related posts should you avoid?
A. Nobody likes to be criticized in public, especially corporations that rely on customer support. Ms. Flynn said that bloggers should steer clear of attacks, both implicit and direct, on their employers, as well as personal diatribes about co-workers. Corporate confidentiality policies may also prohibit employees from blogging about news announcements or topics like products under development or marketing strategies. Ms. Flynn added that to avoid accusations of insider trading, bloggers from public companies should also refrain from posting anything the Securities and Exchange Commission could equate with forward-looking financial statements.

Q. What about seemingly harmless musings?
A. Posts about everyday issues like cubicle cohabitation or communal office refrigerators should not cause much trouble. Sometimes, however, it does not matter what you write - the mere act of opening up could cost you a job. In January, Mark Jen started a programming job at Google - which, by the way, provides services through its Web site that enable anyone to produce a blog. Mr. Jen, 22, used a personal blog to chronicle his first week for family and friends. He wrote about the company cafeteria, employee orientation and after-hours get-togethers. When his supervisors learned of the posts, he said, they asked him to remove posts that made them uncomfortable. He said he complied but was fired two days later. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on his situation, but confirmed that he was no longer employed there. "I didn't intend to cause trouble," said Mr. Jen, who now works at Plaxo, a software company in Mountain View, Calif. "But because I was more transparent to the outsider than any of my co-workers, I stuck out like a sore thumb and the company didn't like it." Although many Google employees have blogs, most are anonymous, he said.

Q. What about blogging anonymously?
A. If your employer can prove that you wrote critical posts, it may be able to dismiss you. Heather Armstrong, a graphic designer who created the blog, learned this the hard way. In February 2002, while employed at a private software company in Los Angeles, Ms. Armstrong complained colorfully about everything from her boss to obnoxious co-workers. Though she never revealed the name of her employer, a reader figured out where she worked and sent an e-mail message about Ms. Armstrong's rants to company executives. Ms. Armstrong, who now lives in Salt Lake City, was fired immediately. "I thought that since my blog was my personal Web space, I could say whatever I wanted," she said recently.

Q. Are there any advantages to writing about work on your personal blog?
A. From a psychological perspective, blogging about professional life can be a constructive way to vent after a frustrating work experience, said Alexander C. Halavais, professor of communication at the State University of New York at Buffalo. And Mike Masnick, chief executive of Techdirt, a technology and business news blog based in Belmont, Calif., said employees whose blogs defend their employers against criticism could help counter negative news media attention. "Individual blog entries about a company can humanize it, instead of making it seem like a monolithic organization," he said. He added that positive posts could be a recruitment tool for a company's human resources department.

Q. What if you don't use your blog to discuss work?
A. Keeping work issues off your personal blog does not mean that your employer won't hold the blog against you. "It doesn't matter if you blog about skydiving or pornography," said Daniel M. Klein, a partner at the Atlanta law firm Buckley & Klein. "If your employer feels the blog makes you a poor representative of their corporate values, the executives have the freedom to disassociate themselves from you." Laws prevent employers from acting against employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion or disability - and, in some places, sexual orientation. Many workers have few other protections, employment lawyers said.

Q. How can you find out your company's stance on blogging?
A. A joint study released in May by the ePolicy Institute and the American Management Association in New York indicated that 25 percent of 526 organizations surveyed had policies on blogging, and Ms. Flynn of the institute said that number had since increased. If you're not sure whether your employer has a policy, it may be prudent to ask first and blog later.


"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell

Especially if the problem is one's face.

Getting Through the Week

I spent the weekend in the doldrums. It was literally the long pause before the plunge. Very busy week this week. Sana everything would turn out o.k. I hate it when there are problems back home that I couldn't take part in fixing. That's something I have to live with for as long as I am here in KSA.

My "feel-good" piece for this week was inspired by watching "50 First Dates" with Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider and Sean Astin - slim and trim after "Lord of the Rings." Bad movie, passable soundtrack. Here's the best one of them, sung by the Beach Boys ----

Wouldn't It Be Nice
Brian Wilson & Tony Asher

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong
You know its gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through
The happy times together we've been spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending...
Wouldn't it be nice?

Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray... it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do...
We could be married and then we'd be happy,
Wouldn't it be nice?
You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let's talk about it...
Wouldn't it be nice?

Monday, November 28, 2005


I am inspired by what I read in:

F. Sionil Jose is probably the most eminent living Filipino author. Nick Joaquin may probably be more brilliant in his turns of phrase and perhaps in his palatability to the upper crust. I consider Sionil Jose a better read, and in novels he is miles ahead of Joaquin.

Filipinos have the curse of short memories, and in this piece, the author harps on a most valid point: we will not progress until there is a complete change of mind-set among the people. I believe the true middle class is the Overseas Filipino Worker community - we are better educated, we keep in touch with national issues even more fervently than the average Filipino.

OFWs are more prone to react to the burning issues of the day than the Filipinos who live oblivious to the events occuring around them. OFWs put in hard work, sacrifice, and separation from home to help keep the Philippines afloat. Personally, I don't believe in the sincerity of the government. Of any Philippine government. Our leaders have hopelessly overdrawn on our bank account, fiscally and emotionally.

I doubt it if my colleagues would feel the warmth of being hailed as "heroes." Please, I'm just doing my own bit for my family, and the country could go hang. Rarely has a Philippine administration matched its rhetoric with true reform. I couldn't care less about being a "hero," but that for the country's leaders to discharge their duties with probity and true love of country.

Beyond the tourist-y campaigns and the half-hearted tributes, we OFWs are left with an empty bag. The government has robbed us blind in processing fees and in medical benefits we and our dependents cannot even fully use. The government is weak in providing reintegration services and displays more alacrity in securing more berths for those who wish to go back.

Most of all, the government is largely inutile in protecting our workers from employer abuse. They are already inutile at home, so what can we expect them to protect our interests abroad? Media has hyped the Flor Contemplacions, the Sarah Balabagans, the Delia Magas, the Angelo de la Cruzes, the Robert Tarongoys. But I'm sure they also fail to mention so many others. Some have literally chosen, in the stupid words of former DFA Secretary Raul Manglapus, "to lay back and enjoy it."

We have no choice but to send money home. It is our fatal mystique, our vicious cycle. We have no choice but to swallow pride and all, for the sake of a better future. And it's funny --- many of our intellectual snobs laud the movement of people from the lower rungs of the economic ladder but decry the departure of those from the middle --- when it's those who have less in life who should receive the majority of our attentions, because they need more help. Here we are, squeezing blood out of a stone.

All for the sake of a fighting chance to make things different.

But even the best of fruits bear bitter tidings. The manufacturing industries are all virtually wrecked. Health services may go next, and soon we would lose the capability to invest more in our human capital.

We have already set the stage for the next generation of families --- indulgent children who fail to connect with the reality of hard work, and parents who for their own reasons, make the fateful decision to sever ties from the Philippines. We have boors of men who drink away the money their wives have slaved for.

This, I think, is the greater tragedy.

For as long as this possibility of a better life continues to exist, we will have people lining up for the exodus for the promise of economic salvation.

For the sake of the memory of our Filipino nation, OFWs must discover and remember what it is to be Filipino, beyond the "economic patriotism."

OFWs now have the vote. We must be able to wield our power through this franchise. We must not lose hope that our vote still counts, and then be vigilant in ensuring that the proper tallies are submitted and not subverted.

OFWs have long been organized. Now is the time to exercise the power of our organization, to better educate not only ourselves but our fellows and our children on the issues of the land.

OFWs also have learned the secret --- that mediocrity is bred, that Filipinos can aspire to the best we can be. The secret of success lies in pure industry and a respect for the rule of law. That discipline is not imposed from without but developed from within. That getting along is not the first rule of professional life, but that getting results is.

If only we would remember and then strive to come back.

I don't believe in "remittance nationalism." We cannot change the inertia just through the remittance, whether in excess or scarcity. What I do believe in, is that my sense of self as a Filipino is stronger now that I breathe the air of a foreign country. But my struggle, my life teaches me that it is possible the transcend our own mental boundaries. I have this dream that my fellow OFWs continue dreaming and working to change our country, not just from without but from within.

I don't really cherish my self-imposed exile. For it to end, life in the Philippines must change.

The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.
- Aristotle -

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another ISU Block

Just today, the zealots at ISU tagged my site:

Access to the requested URL is not allowed!

and I can't even access it!

Boys, I do hope you are really reading my blog. I honestly wish you would!... I hardly hate Saudis; in fact, I'm just rather disappointed. So much wealth, so much human potential, but so little drive to do what is necessary.

If I hate Saudi Arabia, I'd be out of my freaking mind to stay here. If I were a subversive, shucks, I'll go out there and subvert more minds.

Let's dispense with the hypocrisy that freedom and democracy are essential for a society to function. Billions get by without said items so long as they are free NOT TO STARVE. With that, let's also dispense with the hypocrisy that the US is the bastion of said freedom and democracy.

If anybody believes that lie, well ... there are a lot of names to call them, but "clear-thinking" and "rational" wouldn't be among them.

Freedom and democracy are in the mind. Whatever land I trod on - be it the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, or any of the seven other countries I have so far visited - it's all the same to me, if I can think freely as I do right now.

So, whaddya say, ISU boys? Clamping down on blogs in general won't solve anything. If you don't want people to notice your country's armpit stains, you can patch them up, but you can't hide the stink.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Exodus Continues, Rebuild...

It won't be a great rebuild, but then I'll try:

It all started with this story:

This led to my rant that the Philippine situation won't be cured when the Philippine dream is to get out of the Philippines and live in America. I'd like to add that it's just not America now, it's Japan, Taiwan, the Middle East (Dubai and Saudi Arabia, in particular), the UK, Italy. Name a country on the map that pays better wages and a ticket to leave the Philippines, you will have a willing comer.

We can't go through the hypocrisy of fixing the ills of the country when there is not enough money to buy food, to shelter people, and to clothe them properly. How can there be a brighter day when the promise of a new day is warped by the wrong priorities?

I know this to be true because during each day I was last back home in the Philippines, my three objectives were to relax, load up on alcohol, and get laid. Oh, I did give my mother a vacation to celebrate her 70th birthday, but not much else. Yup, that's why I would never be a candidate to run the country.

But I digress. The Philippines is screwed-up because of the wrong priorities --- in governance, in development, in culture. A really long story. Maybe I will get this Grand Theory casserole cooking some time in the future.

My friend and former classmate Eric says, in response to my first post:

"The past week, the Inquirer has been running stories on the medical situation in the country, putting out at least one article a day on several aspects of the crisis. Then last Thursday, they printed an article which quoted Labor Secretary (Patricia) Sto. Tomas as saying that there is no medical crisis in the country by citing just one (baseless) theory that is solely hers alone: that countless nursing schools are mushrooming. Hence, she concluded, that the number of nurses leaving the country are easily replaced by fresh graduates. Her comment nearly drove me nuts and highlighted how little she truly understands about the problems facing the industry. First, the number of nursing schools is not so much as important as the declining percentage of nursing graduates that are passing the nursing board exams. Second, these graduates will be leaving the country and are not planning to practice in the philippines (if they can help it). And third, the nurses who are leaving (or have already left) are the experienced group, thereby leaving the country with fresh graduates. It is alarming when you consider that those who are leaving include the nursing professors. How can we come up with quality graduates when the teachers are gone?"

I would have to agree with this article also from the Inquirer:

I for one am a beneficiary of the demand-pull factor - they had to find the best professional possible without sinking the budget. So here I am.

The Philippines is losing the capability to train new human resources. Everywhere, the diaspora is a lose-lose situation. We train people, others benefit - in terms of the worker contribution and the hidden discounts in finding trained workers. The knowledge is there for anyone to distill - the problem is building the proper mind-set that produces results. And you get that with Filipinos, whether it's the VIP-room lay or the dedicated nursing care.

A quote from today's front-page story in the Inquirer:

"Due to robust inflows from OFWs and investments, the BSP expects a balance of payment surplus of about $2 billion by the end of 2005, exceeding the government's $853 million surplus target.Relative to the size of the economy, the amount of OFW inflows is now equivalent to about 10.5 percent of gross domestic product. Also, it now accounts for about 20 percent of the value of the country's exports of goods and services and about 1.8 times the value of net electronic exports.

OFW remittances have also exceeded the amount of gross inflows of foreign direct investment since the 1990s. In the past two years, annual OFW inflows also approximated 45 percent of the country's gross international reserves."

Per capita, we are the largest exporter of human resources in the entire world. In a few years, we will also outstrip Mexico and gain the unwanted distinction as the country most dependent on foreign-based workers.

It's crazy. I can hardly talk on this, given that I'm also a beneficiary of an overseas posting, but someone UP THERE at the Philippines control box should wake up. It's our rent-seeking political and business culture that's wrecking our country! As of this point it's beyond unseating Gloria and her ilk (a good start, but still...), there must be important restructuring of our society.

Somebody said line up the lawyers on a wall and shoot them all, but I don't think that's funny (I wouldn't think the lawyers I know would think that's funny, either).

Sometimes, one can't fault why many of our young people resort to escapism. Violence in video games? Pornography on video? Heck, there's a greater evil being wrought, and it's right in our midst everyday. A young man who just got out of college (and soon leaving the country) could only provide perspective: we just try our best to remember and enjoy the things which make living in our country bearable. Soon, there won't be enough, because everyone that matters is either gone or about to go.

Meantime, our leaders see it fit to live it up while the people below languish.

So, the exodus continues.

Human Relations and the Toastmasters Experience

A contribution to our Newsletter for our upcoming Chartering Ceremony.

For the record, I did not want to join Toastmasters International.

Let’s do that again, I did not want to join Toastmasters International. But now, here I am, almost completing my term during the start-up phase of the _____ Toastmasters Club.

I was a reluctant contributor during the start-up of this club and for whatever plaudits I received, I have to say “thank you” for your kindness. Should you want to cast brickbats, yes, you are most welcome, as well.

The reluctance stemmed from my lack of understanding what Toastmasters was. It was additional work, it was not within my mandate, etc. etc. Technically, it could become a “lose-lose” situation. I just had no time to go around during those times. Aside from my job, I already was involved with a community organization which demanded a great chunk of my free time. So adding another involvement would not be logical.

But in the words of Thomas Alva Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I’m glad I took the opportunity, mainly because it was an opportunity to let my boss down or to support him fully because he had the mandate to get the club going. Or so it went in my mind.

In many respects, managing just as well in Toastmasters and with other things in our lives is all about BALANCE --- the balance of the human priorities and the task priorities. More often than not, it’s the human part that is more difficult to resolve. Tasks are straightforward, clinical, scientific --- it’s just a question of finding the right person to do it at the right time. The part of putting it all together? That’s the human part, and it’s tricky.

Communication occupies more than 70% of our time, and it is apropos that the purpose of Toastmasters is to improve the way we communicate with others. On the one hand, there is the TECHNIQUE of getting the point across. On the other, there is the human factor of VALUING the process and BEING, not just BECOMING, a good communicator. Good communicators have the advantage of having the right tools to manage their relationships better. To take it to the next step, a good communicator must have the essential SINCERITY to make his tools have the proper purpose, the proper direction.

A well-worn expression but an apt one is “There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” To get people to work, one would have them volunteer their hands, hearts, and minds into the project. The simple (which is sometimes complex to others) answer is that we cannot control people, much less expect them to work our way, whether in Toastmasters or in other areas of our lives. There is only one thing we do control: OURSELVES.

We volunteer our hearts to the task, we awaken others by our conviction. We volunteer our minds to the idea, we inspire others by our brilliance. We volunteer our hands to what needs to be done, we move others to do the same. One belief that has been strengthened by my Toastmasters experience is that we do what needs to be done, regardless of our status or circumstances. Then we reap the satisfaction of being a part of any accomplishment, major or minor.

In other words, we must be the model of that we wish to see. I would like to share a few words that I know to be true, and I hope they serve as guideposts to us in our continuing involvement with Toastmasters and in our lives in general:

The SIX most important words: "I admit I made a mistake." Nothing disarms people more than saying, “I’m sorry.” The second part of this of course is offering true restitution.

The FIVE most important words: "You did a good job." We share all of our accomplishments with the contributions others make to our lives, and affirming their share fuels their greater involvement in the work.

The FOUR most important words: "What is your opinion?" Everyone is important, so every member of the team must have a say --- and any opinion is valid especially if it comes from deep within the person.

The THREE most important words: "If you please." There is nothing so important or so urgent that a little kindness wouldn’t help.

The TWO most important words: "Thank You." We are grateful because we are presented with OPPORTUNITIES. We are grateful because there is someone else standing beside us, sharing something to help our cause.

The ONE MOST important word: "We.” If it were not for everyone pulling together, I doubt if there is anything like the _____ Toastmasters Club today. In keeping with the two most important words, “Thank you,” for all things big and small you have done for the Club.

The LEAST important word: "I." It’s not as if the person is not important, but that in any undertaking, the “I” is contained in the first commitment one makes, that commitment signed in the heart. So this is not the first thing that comes to mind to any undertaking, because once one has signed on, getting credit is less of a necessity.

It has been a privilege to be of service during the formation of this Toastmasters Club. I look forward to more growth from our Club and I trust that all the members will take advantage of all the learning and service opportunities that will come our way.

Respice, adspice, prospice!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Exodus Continues...

(Some crap happened while I completed this post. Nothing posted after I finished writing it! I can no longer recover the same inspiration... so F*ck!)

(Damn, that felt good. What would I have to do to get this blog noticed? Say something controversial? Mouth off obscenity? Chronicle my dissolution? It's not as if my mind were sanitized... then again, there is no, no need to glorify my own vulgarities. The banalities are enough.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reaching for Your Dreams

My speech for our Toastmasters Club Humorous Speech Contest last November 19. I wasn't really consumed with winning, but only to provide a good effort. I managed to get third place.

When I was a younger man just coming out of high school I was aiming to become a mover and shaker in this world. Maybe I would make a career in human rights law. Maybe I would make a career in politics.

Nowadays feeling my footsteps on the floor as I walk, I’m sure at least I can make the earth shake around me.

We all have dreams. We dream of a better future. We dream of world peace. We dream of good things for our families.

I say one thing, it’s wonderful to dream, but please, don’t dream in front of your desk.

Speaking of dreaming and sleeping, I remember one of my close friends back in high school who said, “One day I will marry my dream girl.” When we were in college, he devoted himself to nothing but the attainment of this goal. When I met up with him last March, I asked him, “how is it being married.”

Then he said, “My dream girl turned out to be a nightmare wife!”

Ah, wives. You can’t live with them, but you can’t kill them either. The old saying goes, “Behind every successful man is a woman.” Some of you may agree. My friend, who has been married for ten years (since he married straight out of university), has this to say: “To be successful, a man has to earn his money. To be successful, a woman just has to marry it.”

Seriously, women, women, they are the blessings of our lives. They make this world beautiful. I once had my heart broken over religion. I was broke, and my girlfriend worshipped money. I loved that girl so much, I suffered from asthma. Every time someone would ask me to do something, or go anywhere, I’d simply say, “Asth-ma girlfriend, she’ll tell you.”

But let’s get back to reaching our dreams. It’s really important for us to go out and do the things which would help us realize them, instead of letting things pass us by.

Sometimes, though it can be tough, balancing your personal, professional, and community life. There can be tough stretches at work. I can attest that my boss is a disciplined taskmaster, but he is also compassionate and considerate. I used to work for a very hard-driving boss and we had the most wonderful of conversations. For example:

Boss: Where is my presentation? I need it this very minute!
Me: If I do what you tell me to, will this change the world?

He was a difficult boss to work for, so there was this one time, some of us staff sent him a memo, saying, “Sir, please absent yourself from the office. We perform so much better without you!”

Then there’s one time when I made a mistake…
Me: Sir, I’m sorry I made that mistake in the presentation…
Boss: Sorry, sorry, sorry! What would your sorry do now?
Me: At least I felt bad, sir.

Then there’s this other time where we really had a bad argument. So finally I said, “Sir, whatever it is I am doing wrong it’s not my fault, it’s yours. After all, you’re the boss!”

Bosses are human beings. I’m sure the people around here have supervised people in one way or another, and really, sometimes it’s tough.

When you climb a mountain to reach your dreams, sometimes it’s difficult to see the end in mind. A wise man once offered this piece of advice “A goal only looks difficult from afar. Watch the mountain disappear when you start climbing it. From the top of a mountain, you cannot see the mountain.”

Just this weekend, I fulfilled one of my childhood ambitions to act onstage. When I was smaller (if you could imagine me being smaller), I had an intense case of stage fright. I would mumble whenever I spoke in public, I stuttered, I had a tendency to eat my words while speaking. But I was determined to get over it. One setback that stopped me from pursuing acting until recently was this dramatic scene I was playing while I was still in high school. I had just reached the most climactic scene, bursting out in tears, when all the audience laughed. Laughed their hearts out.

You see, in all my exertions, my pants zipper gave out.

Gentlemen, laughing is a gift. Let’s laugh, especially if the joke is on us.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

God Only Knows . . .

We've just finished "First Snow of November" under the aegis of Entablado Filipino on Wednesday and Thursday and had a quick cast party last night.

I had the privilege of directing this show - and then acting on the second night. I just wish that the play was more open to the public - it would have been nice to win over a few more fans, hehe. Alas, the Saudi Aramco Employees' Association has very specific ideas as to whom they will make entertainment available.

Being onstage awakens so many vibrant and poignant memories. On the one hand, there is the thrill of doing a part well and being recognized for it. On the other, there is all the work that goes into it. Being in a play is, in so many ways, like preparing for life.

As a first-time director on a full-time basis (most of my other "directorial" work was simply patchwork), it was exhilirating to have a vision for a play and then see it unfold. It was fortuitous that the material wasn't even a choice. In life, there are things that my old mentor Bro. Vic used to call essential accidents - and there were some essential accidents that made it possible for me to direct the play:

--> That we had to re-schedule "Kulay Abo ang Madaling Araw," which ruined the timetable EnFil had to make this annual presentation.
--> That "Kulay Abo" was so tough on its cast and crew (including me) that there wasn't creative juice in the Juventation Machine for people to come forward in directing a play.
--> That Francis Sobrevega was so gung-ho about having his choice of script produced.
--> That Francis, for some reason, was reluctant to direct the play himself. He could have, and probably a better job at that, if I were asked that question.

I'm thankful for these essential accidents, for they provide the blessing for me to be part of this experience.

I'll just attach my e-mail of thanks to all the cast, crew, and organization staff...

* * * * *

A pleasant good morning to all!

I haven't shoveled a lot of "Thank you's" to all the people involved in "First Snow of November," but after last night's cast party, I was finally able to get a grip on what I wanted to say.

Thank you for making this first turn at the helm memorable. With all the lows and the highs, all of you members of the cast and crew have made this experience worthwhile and God willing, something I would look forward to repeat (though not so soon, let me recharge my batteries first).

To BoyM, have a safe trip and a wonderful vacation helping our swimmers in the SEA Games. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Working with you is an exercise in seeing humility and willingness to learn in action. By what you have done in this play, it just goes to show that the best is yet to come for everyone. You were always my first choice for Fil, just as soon as I had read the script. It's just one of those things, just like having a Ben Kingsley around when Richard Attenborough wanted to make "Gandhi."

To Lovell, thanks for bringing in your energy to the show and thanks for pulling us out of a tight spot when we couldn't find an actor to play Tony. Thanks for your workmanlike demeanor during practices, through all the brainstorming on how to shape your character. I was wondering if we had actually gotten you to channel Elvis for the role, but thank God we didn't. It would have ruined your natural take on Tony, which worked out just fine.

To Francis, thanks for being THERE. Yes, it was not necessarily great all the time, but your constant presence has made it possible to bring so many disparate elements together. You were the glue that held the show together --- and in all the hubbub, I for one wish I had appreciated your efforts more. We sorely missed you last night.

To the regulars of Enfil, thanks for according me the welcome which I yet have to earn. So, I still owe you. Your dedication to the craft is inspiring.

To Cynthia - the phrase I remember here is "every little thing she does is magic" in the words of Sting and the Police. To Arnold, Grace, and Precy, thanks for giving it your all in the dances, even though it was all so convenient to say "it can't be done in this short time!" Special thanks to Grace and her gift of song. Special mention to Arnold who danced through an injury, and to Precy who can probably dance the tinikling all night.

To the latik boys - Dhaz, Erwin, Rene (and Arnold again) - thanks for giving it your best and adding more life to the show. To Dhaz, who put it in his best on short rest, physically and emotionally. You're a real trouper. To Erwin, I understand your sharing the other night. I was in that same boat just a few weeks earlier. To Rene, thanks for putting in the small things.

To Direk Dennis and Romeo, once again, it has been a privilege working with you. This time, it feels a little strange being the bus driver for the show and you guys are among the passengers. Can't wait for the re-stage of "Kulay Abo ang Madaling Araw." Great dancing job by Romeo, and I've always known Direk Dennis to be a painstaking artist, and it was great seeing you work your magic on Lovell's make-up job.

And speaking of make-up... many thanks to our make-up artists for making us stand out on stage. Too bad you can't make me up to be thinner, hehe. Alas, even your artistry can't work miracles with my weight.

To our young dancers from IPSA, many thanks for putting forth your best effort despite the short practice time and changes in personnel. I feel I've shortchanged you a little by not being there during your rehearsals (there just wasn't enough of me to go around), but you came in ready and prepared during the show. My little secret to everyone is that you girls were the big question mark TO ME before the play. My reward is that my faith in you was warranted. We missed you and your parents last night too. My thanks to them for all their support.

And of course, to our choreographers, Ma'am Virgie and Arvin, for breaking down the dances and see them performed. Arvin, I know you were surprised to do native dances for this show, because your dance background is from the modern school. But I'm so very glad you went out on a limb and did it anyway. To Ma'am Virgie, who lent her expertise that resulted in two-dances-in-one.

To Arnold Villasis, who spent even the last days prior to his vacation being a big help to the artistic concept and execution of our souvenir program. The talent is one thing, but the willingness to go the extra mile was an even bigger contribution.

To our lightsmen for getting the job done on such a short learning curve. Thanks for lighting the way, literally, for us, during the play.

To our front-of-house personnel, thanks for doing an essential service. I wish you'd acted in this play, too (hehe, I'm sure some of our guys would appreciate that. Can't blame them at all, though). Bobby B, it's fun trading stories with you! I'd be honored to work with you should the right project come along.

To our other supporters, like Jojo and Oren, for covering the show - and being the essential part of every Filipino activity - the inevitable Kodak-an! To countless others who helped in the little things that made the play possible.

To Alfa and Wojtek, thanks for all the support - Enfil has gone on because of your drive on the one hand and nurturing on the other. I am honored to be part of the EnFil experience, and since you've set me up for the next two years as Vice-Chairman, we would be running into each other more often. You'll have to put up with me for just a little bit more time, I'm afraid, hahaha!

Thanks to all again, and this is the time to sign off, bye!..

You wouldn't think I'd forget about one piece of the show, right?

To the amazing and otherworldly talent of Rey, I'm reminded of this WWF commercial with two idiotic wrestlers saying, "WE are the CHAMPIONS! Everybody wants what we've got, because man, what we've got, is the BEST." I have to agree with Direk Gerry that you are one of the best guitarists we've seen. Bon voyage, and best of luck in the States.

To Raymond, thanks for being the crafter of all our sound effects. I read the script again on Thursday morning with an observer's eye and I realize that without the sound effects the play would have been DEAD. So, your contribution to the sounds has animated the play, truly.

To Sonny, thanks for being the benchmark of a stage player - the one that always asks questions, the one who works hard at doing his thing well and as perfect as possible, the one who looks for the little things to work on, the one who provides support to his fellow cast members. Also, the one most likely to make his director have a hissy fit. Yes, you're just the guy! I'm glad that you were part of this team.

And to Direk Gerry, for signing me up to this play like willing his estate to an unknown relative - and of course, for providing the material for one of the highlights of the show, it being a highlight because of its originality and charm. This is probably the first time this play has been performed, and I hope in future, should someone want to produce it, they would be inspired by our interpretation of the material and your unique contribution in the comedy skit.

While far from perfect, I'm pleased that the show went well. The jury is still out on how we really did (my critic's hat is not yet on), but in terms of our humanity, I would rate "First Snow of November" five stars.

And, by way of thanks, I'd like to share this Beach Boys classic (from summer of '66), which I unearthed during my research for the soundtrack of "First Snow..." Its lines sum up how I feel (with some pangs of regret), now that the show is done:

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I'll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I'd be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?

God only knows what I'd be without you
God only knows what I'd be without you

If you should ever leave me
Well life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?

God only knows what I'd be without you
God only knows what I'd be without you

Thanks. God only knows what I'd be without you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Handing out the Saccharine... and then Some

This will be my last blog for the next few days. Preparations for "First Snow of November," my first formal theater directing job, are underway. Since I will be playing the lead for one performance, I need all the artistic energy for this.

So I'll hand out the sweet nothings while I can. My choice for today, before I sign off, is "My Foolish Heart," version of Astrud Gilberto. Now that's a lady with a voice to kill for.

The night is like a lovely tune
Beware my foolish heart
How white the ever constant moon
Take care my foolish heart
There's a line between love and fascination
That's hard to see on an evening such as this
For they both give off the very same sensation
When you're lost in the magic of a kiss.
Her lips are very close to mine
Beware my foolish heart
And should our eager lips combine
Then let the fires start.
For this isn’t just imagination
Or a dream that will fade and fall apart…
It’s love, it’s love this time
My foolish heart.

More Quiz Things


Your Inner Child Is Surprised

You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

Your Hidden Talent

You are a great communicator. You have a real way with words.
You're never at a loss to explain what you mean or how you feel.
People find it easy to empathize with you, no matter what your situation.
When you're up, you make everyone happy. But when you're down, everyone suffers.

Your Ideal Relationship is Serious Dating

You're not ready to go walking down the aisle.
But you may be ready in a couple of years.
You prefer to date one on one, with a commitment.
And while chemistry is important, so is compatibility.

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to obedience and warmth.

In love, you feel the most alive when everything is uncertain, one moment heaven... the next moment hell.

You'd like your lover to think you are loyal and faithful... that you'll never change.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was ruthless, cold-blooded, and sarcastic.

Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage as something precious. You'll treasure marriage and treat it as sacred.

In this moment, you think of love as commitment. Love only works when both people are totally devoted.

Some Quiz Things

I took some tests I picked out from the links in other blogs when I started my own blog in February, and the results are sort of funny. I think in the last test I was pretty dishonest or else some other tendencies indicated in the test cancelled each other out.

As to my being a dreamboat, hahahaha! That one is a laugher.


Sunny/Dark: 7/10
drY/Gross: 5/10
Traditional/Offbeat: 4/10
Active/Passive: 7/10

You are a DGT--Dark Gross Traditional. This makes you a Prankster.

Comedy for you is when a person is kept in the most discomfort for the longest period of time. This means practical jokes, pranks, and sticking a hair up a sleeping person's nose so he slaps himself awake.

You are probably locked in some terrifying practical joke one-ups-manship with a like- minded soul. You are also probably a dude.

You are able to acknowledge that Dumb and Dumber was a good movie, and that makes you a good person.

You might like Meet the Parents, Punk'd, and that part in Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill where he convinces a friend that his car has been shoved off a cliff. I'm not describing this adequately. You got to read it.

Of the 11177 people who have taken this quiz, 13.9 % are this type.

Your Active humor score of 7/10 means you are ju-u-ust right. You're probably pretty popular -- a walking social lubricant. You know how to take someone from on edge to relaxed, and from relaxed to larfing. You're kind of like an episode of Arrested Development. That show is good. Anyway. Rave on, funny one.


Wackiness: 46/100
Rationality: 24/100
Constructiveness: 80/100
Leadership: 76/100

You are a SECL--Sober Emotional Constructive Leader. This makes you a Politician.

You cut deals, you change minds, you make things happen. You would prefer to be liked than respected, but generally people react to you with both. You are very sensitive to criticism, since your entire business is making people happy.

At times your commitment to the happiness of other people can cut into the happiness of you and your loved ones. This is very demanding on those close to you, who may feel neglected. Slowly, you will learn to set your own agenda--including time to yourself.

You are gregarious, friendly, charming and charismatic. You like animals, sports, and beautiful cars. You wear understated gold jewelry and have secret bad habits, like chewing your fingers and fidgeting.

You are very difficult to dislike.

Of the 86503 people who have taken this quiz since tracking began (8/17/2004), 7.4 % are this type.


eXpressive: 10/10
Practical: 6/10
Physical: 4/10
Giver: 6/10

You are a XPIG--Expressive Practical Intellectual Giver. This makes you a Catch.

You are a magazine-cover, matinee idol dreamboat. Parents love you and want to set you up with their kids. However, first dates are tough because it takes time for your qualities to come out.

You are generous and kind. You think first and act later. You are cool in a conflict, but your practical side means if your partner throws out emotional appeals ("why can't we do what I want for a change?") they will grate on your nerves, even when the conflict is resolved.

You're a romantic. You enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and you don't just fall into bed with anyone. You pay close attention to your significant other's needs, and this makes you an excellent lover and partner. The problem is that your friends and lovers may find it so easy to express things to you that they lose sight of whether you feel as comfortable with them! This doesn't necessarily make you feel under-appreciated -- you're too well-adjusted and self-aware for that -- but you may feel restless. Thus you seek adventure in your life outside the relationship to prove and actualize yourself.

Of all the types, you would make the best parent.

You are coiffed.

Didja see "Big Fish"? 'Cause you're like Ewan MacGregor in "Big Fish."

Of the 187092 people who have taken this quiz, 9.3 % are this type.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Never Been Away

Can miles truly separate you from friends?...
If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?
- Richard Bach -

It’s a time for me to remember anniversaries, November being a month of significant ones.

In the first few weeks of November two years ago, I realized that I had reached rock-bottom in my professional life at RFM Corporation. Though I had verbalized my feelings to my erstwhile boss earlier, this was the turning point to my making my decision to leave the Philippines.

During the first week of November four years ago, I had the first experience of performing Secretariat duties for an international meeting of which I did not have final ownership. Still, those few days in Jakarta are among the most precious moments of my professional life. While not exactly groundbreaking, the first ASEAN-China Business Council meeting did sow the seeds for future interactions.

In the same month seven years ago, Cristina Castillo and I were the SHARE representatives to the Luzon Assembly of the First Lasallian Synod, and subsequently we were selected to the National Conference during the following year. Sadly, that year was also the Year of the Big Decline of SHARE, though the indications of failure were already well-entrenched by then and beyond Cris’ powers of leadership to stop.

At the start of November eleven years ago, my buddies Gerard, Feds, Robert and I formally joined the General Services Committee of the World Youth Day 1995 Secretariat. This was the same experience that enabled me to dispel my agnosticism for good.

On the 10th of November twelve years ago, my Father died. Enough said.

From November 8 to 10 fourteen years ago, we trained Batch 10 of SHARE and in the process I met one of the greatest loves of my life (lost to me, but in the words of W. Somerset Maugham, “The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.”) This batch was also the harbinger of greater things to come for the organization.

Beyond that, the spark of memory sputters a little and the milestones of November begin to fade.

Always November brings that nostalgic rush --- from the cemetery visits to the start of colder weather, to the ubiquitous (and cheesy) Christmas carols, to the somber-yet-anticipatory mood of Advent, and for its own reasons, Bonifacio Day.

Since my social life in the Philippines is held in abeyance until I get back home, all I have is the gift of nostalgia and the memories of so many kindnesses of friends and even perceived enemies.

While I yearn to be with the people I love back home, my spirit is already lifted home. Everything else over here is just gravy. And when I'm back home, I'm also warmed by the thought that there are people over here who I care about and who care about me.

It's like I've never been away.

However, I am presented with a quandary - shall I rely on the seductive transience of my stay here in the Middle East, or wait for the roots of home to engulf me?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Getting What You Asked For

From sportswriter Bill Simmons:

When you dream about doing something for a long time, and then it happens, it's never actually as good as you think it would be. There's almost a surreal letdown of sorts after the fact. And it's impossible to explain unless it's happened to you. For instance, ever since I was in college, I dreamed of having my own sports column and covering a Boston team when they won a championship. That's all I wanted. In the spring of 2001, ESPN found me. Nine months later, my beloved Patriots went to the Super Bowl and shocked the Rams in New Orleans. I wrote about it every day, and on the morning after they won, my column ran on the front page of this Web site. Greatest professional moment of my life, right?

Well, something weird happened. After that game, I couldn't stop thinking, "All right, what happens now? What do I do? How can I top my dream moment?"

And the thing is, you can't. The moment happens, it ends, you celebrate and feel good about yourself … and then it's on to the next day, and you have to figure out what the next challenge is, and deep down, you're wondering why you didn't enjoy that watershed moment more than you thought you would. I don't know Theo [Epstein, erstwhile manager of the Red Sox], I have never met him, and the experience of being the general manager of the first Red Sox championship in 86 years was roughly 100,000,000 times more profound and important than my experience in New Orleans. But the fact remains, after that Super Bowl column, I struggled writing this column for the next seven to eight months; eventually, I ended up moving to California to write for a fledgling late-night television show. That Super Bowl trip changed everything for me.

Did something similar happen to Theo after winning the World Series? Is this what happened to David Caruso when he said, "Screw it, I don't need 'NYPD Blue' anymore?" On a much, much larger scale, is this what happened to talents like Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jordan and everyone else who either walked away from their alleged dream job or sabotaged it in their prime? Is that why the Peggy Lee song "Is that all there is?" rings especially true in moments like these?


Eid Mubarak!

The end of Ramadan signals renewal in the Muslim religion --- where the body and spirit are cleansed of impurities and the believer faces another year of trials. In Islam, there is no place but to surrender your SELF to a higher force --- for in its very name "to submit," Islam is more of a community religion than Christianity ever aspires to be.

But that's nitpicking, and as a heterodox Christian myself, I have no right to pontificate.

I'll space out for a few moments and reflect on what has happened to me while I have been here in the Middle East. The months of discovery have long passed and now it is a struggle not to be possessed by ennui. My initial reactions and impressions have been largely validated (or debunked, in a few minor cases), and in any case, I haven't written anything outside the OFW canon.

Life in the Middle East is a challenge to get used to, but once you get acclimated to it, it tends to become boring.

But hey, if I had wanted excitement, I would have taken the hard-knocks route to success here - either participating in, or being the instrument/victim/dupe of, illicit or immoral activities, or both. Or all of the above. Life is too short for us to bother with trifles, isn't it? (Kidding!)

This year I was hoping I could top the good 2004 that I had --- only to find that I am still working on last year's fumes. This could be dangerous, as there are rumblings that we will face job cuts --- while I am no slouch myself, my portfolio can be easily deemed "non-essential." I have also established myself as a sure-fire non-favorite of my Filipino boss. My fault entirely of course, though sometimes I give in to immature thoughts that he shouldn't play favorites... and then reality steps in and gives a firm slap: of course he should! He's human, after all!

Well, if and when I do end up getting the pink slip come this March, I've been a realist enough to gather as many back-up plans as I may be able to use. It's a survival mechanism from the old days when I was more job-shopping than holding down a permanent job. I don't want to leave this job - the pay is o.k. (of course there could always be more), I found some good friends, and so far I am still learning. The hard part really is that this may all end when I have just gotten people to accept my existence.

But there's no healthy ending to indulging in "what if's." Should that day come, like the professional that I am honing myself further, I will walk out with no regrets. I did enough for the job, and if they wanted more, well, they should take a reality check, given what they were paying, the work culture we were besmirched in, and what resources we were provided to accomplish the job.

Sigh... those words had to be said. Then they become part of the reality in which I choose to work. As if there is permanent positivity. Fat chance, buddy -- you need a little more growing up to do. Transience, transience is the theme of this life I have chosen, more so than any other lifestyle choice I have made in the last five years.

Things, though, have been looking over the past half-month or so. I arrested a few of my bad habits, got my groove to somewhat-normal levels, and lit a fire of urgency somewhere in my bowels. That's where the romance of discontent can bring you, dude. Excitement in the ride means creating a few moments of personal hell.

The pretension! The grand degree of it all! --- Oft-times I have to slap myself a little more to wake me up. This universe doesn't revolve around me --- it just feels that way, everyday.

But I love this life. As far as it goes, this is the best I have felt about myself for more than 10 years. Finally, this is a place where I can belong. Uprooted as I may be from the Philippines, I am more at home here in Saudi Arabia than anywhere else.

That is the gift transience has given to me.

I will light a candle of remembering in my heart for those who have passed. Papa, how I wish you're still around. You may not be altogether happy with what I cobbled together with my life, but at least it's mine.

Monday, October 31, 2005


One of my friends told me that when I stopped posting on our e-group he would know that things were going well here in the Middle East. For him, he would rest easy that I did not have to unburden myself through my e-mails.

That isn't necessarily so. I am saying now that it ain't so.

I've been striking a balance between my tendency to go off-tangent on the things I MUST DO (i.e. work), the things I have been asked, and agreed to do (i.e. requests from friends, organizational stuff), and my regular, singular INDOLENCE.

These past two months have been pretty tough. I am feeling the regular downspin of my biorhythm on this job. "Romance of discontent" or not, I have been fending off the seeming lack of purpose on the job.

Bruce Lee wrote and acted one of my favorite cryptic lines ever put down on film in Enter the Dragon. In the opening sequence, Lee's master asks him: "Who is your opponent?" And Lee answers, "There is no opponent, because there is no I."

As unconnected as it may be, that line works for me.

I am encumbered by my own self, and not all the talent or the goodwill will prevent my personal meltdown if I allow it to happen.

Simply put, my best opponent is my own self.

So now, I'd go back to doing what I am supposed to do ... working hard and at the same time, watching and waiting for the relevant thing to say.

Expression can also be found in silence, and for my last quote today (my only Tom Clancy quotable) --- Silence is the greatest passion of all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Happiness Is... (Part 2)

  • Finally kicking your nemesis's butt on your favorite fighting game (in my case, Tekken).
  • Getting brain freeze from slurping down a really cold drink or shake after a hot day.
  • Breaking wind with an earsplitting splat and yet finding your underwear dry.
  • Mastering the swear words in a new language.
  • Being the first person to reach a newly-opened queue at the checkout counter (and leaving everyone else stranded, hehe).
  • Getting new electronic gadgets and popping the bubble wrap in which they were wrapped.
  • Enjoying nipple slips and other wardrobe disasters (intended or not) of otherwise virginal female showbiz personalities.
  • Waking up to a mountain or sea view with a hot cup of coffee, letting the crisp air and the sunrise soak in.
  • Reaching that unscratchable spot and giving it a good rubbing.
  • Hunkering down on the bed and having your loved one beside you.
  • Watching someone else shed tears of joy.
  • Letting out a primeval yell of pure emotion.
  • Hearing an innocent child say "I love you" with him/her meaning it.

Happiness Is...

  • Breaking that pesky high score some twelve-year old set on your favorite arcade game.
  • Getting the same stuff your best buddy was proud of at a huge bargain.
  • Being able to run up three flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.
  • Eating fried chicken and french fries while watching a "Godfather" or "LOTR" video marathon
  • Getting to the toilet before your bladder gives way after holding it for at least five minutes
  • Seeing some schmuck get what is coming to him
  • Holding a deep thought you couldn't believe you had in you.
  • Hugging someone while passing a rainy afternoon.
  • A clean pair of socks.
  • Eating at the most gargantuan buffet table ever.
  • Losing weight without diet, exercise, or stress.
  • That oh-so-sweet, but uncertain first kiss.
  • Falling in love for the first time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Change Agents

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
- Aristotle

One of the main tendencies of an expatriate professional’s life in Saudi Arabia is mediocrity. I’m not saying this to denigrate any of my colleagues who have dedicated themselves to living in Saudi Arabia --- it’s just that the prevailing culture in Saudi society has been one of paternalism and to some degree, relies more on SIR (smooth interpersonal relationships) than Filipinos ever do back in the Philippines.

This is evident in how people regard meeting deadlines, starting meetings on time, making small adjustments here and there instead of adhering to a strict discipline. The regard of many Saudi citizens to traffic rules is just one example among many. The continuing fiction that Saudis must be promoted even beyond their capability is also another. I have to admit that this country belongs to the Saudis and they should take over one day. All signs for that coming day are still relatively far away.

Many people remain critical of the Saudi royal family and sure enough, I’m certain that family is not perfect. But the culture permeates every one – and in some way, the practices of some expatriates help perpetuate, instead of blunting and reforming such mediocrity, which in the end, transform itself into mendicancy. While the royal family would have to do its share, the people would have to make their own changes.

This country has oil wealth – more than enough to pay for three lifetimes of its current population (perhaps even more) – but it has some ways to go in making it a more balanced society. Mind you – the balance does not have to mean it has to change its fundamental structure – but somewhere along that line, reforms would have to be carried out.

This is where Filipinos and other expatriates must play a crucial role – to be change agents instead of being changed ourselves. The pay is great, but I hope it disturbs people to think that WE ARE NOT MEANT TO BE HERE. We are just visitors, and before we get too comfortable that getting out is too difficult of an option, we have to plan accordingly – not only financially, but also professionally.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


The very nice people at the ISU have officially logged as a pornographic site. I cannot even log on to my own blog! Cripes, this is ridiculous. I will say this, though, I don't know what kind of damage these blogs do to the morals of the general public here in Saudi Arabia...

True, there are really irresponsible people out there who post as if their heads were stuck up way into their posteriors. But closing the source will only lead to more irresponsibility

This world is already a wholly-connected one - so damming the Internet to keep a few loose cannons away is like letting people die of thrist because you fear a few microbes flowing on the surface. (But let's see how they react, some people may request for unblocking...)

Age and Opportunity

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Happy birthday to me!

It's strange but I don't feel older. If anything I feel younger, having come to Saudi Arabia and experiencing some parts of my life on my own terms for the very first time.

I am conscious however that as time passes, the doors to any meaningful relationship with a woman are soon banging shut, and the windows, if ever they are available, are starting to close as well. It's not as if I didn't want to have a relationship with a woman; it's just that I haven't really "crossed to the other side" as I have with so many other things.

On the good days, it isn't all that bad, as I am surrounded by children that I get in touch with; on the bad days, I end up asking myself why am I busy taking care of someone else's children. On the ugly days, which don't come often (thank the Lord), I struggle so as not to wallow in self-pity - working in a land that is not my own, devoting myself to the success of strangers and upon coming home, finding that the people you love are becoming strangers.

I just hope that this experience prepares me, cleanses me, and purifies me for what lies ahead. I can't predict the future, all I know is that the choices I make right now would blaze me a new path for my life.

You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. - Psalms 63:11

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Red October

On silent feet it came
Breathing a sheet of flame, it came
Closing it on its rightful prey
Burning a hundred years away
The Morning of the Dragon
Truth lit up the street
The tiger we were stalking
Walked on paper feet
And in the clear white heat of dawn
Was gone
-- "Morning of the Dragon" from "Miss Saigon"

The anniversaries of the founding of the pre-eminent Communist regimes, Russia and China, are in October (of course, the Russians actually had theirs in November, since their calendar at the time was about 11-12 days behind ours). Now their great revolutions are likely to disappear - the Soviet Union of Greater Russia has dissolved into constituent republics, while the People's Republic of China is being challenged by the success of its semi-feudal capitalist system now in place.

But even so, the Chinese Community Party is still going strong. Congratulations, comrades. May you get your just deserts for the blood you shed in the name of the Party.

The real question now is whether the capitalist/materialist/humanist paradigm that is currently ruling the roost is the one which will be the most sustainable. On the one hand, we've seen capitalist economies turn to socialism and the welfare state to protect their "dispossessed." With Evil (with a capital E) falling to the wonders of science, it is no wonder that many of our people today lack a moral compass - and thus lacking the middle ground with which to deal with the activist sects in Islam and Christianity.

Somehow I'm not convinced in this brave new world that there is no room for the ideal of dedicating oneself to the STATE --- whether an earthly one as envisioned by the communists, or the heavenly one. However, I fear that extremism, and the lack of understanding, will continue to tear our world apart.

May all our children learn
The tide of right will turn
Giants fall, tigers burn
Someday with the dawn
They're gone.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


I realize that there's a lot of sentimentality spouting off from my fingers - onto the keyboard, and finding its way into cyberspace. Not to sound too self-indulgent would be my current maxim; however, being otherwise is an altogether different (and more difficult) thing to do.

Still, to quote the pertinent chapter from Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet" . . .

When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Yep, that sounds just about right.

Crap on that reality-check. Sentimentality would do me just fine.