Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Headlong To June

in(s)ane ramblings: This Week's Friday Five

Let's face it - I'm not getting anything significant done today or anytime soon. So I'll stop pretending and let my mind range onto other things.

The benefits of anti-depressant medicine - yeah, I'll get romping and stomping to finish each and every project assigned to me! Hahahahahaha! (more diabolical laughter in the background). Yup, even my own private jokes aren't that funny, so chuckling to myself isn't all that great either. *Sigh*

Rant for the day: F**ckin' Saudi banks and their f**ckin' inefficiency. Well, just one particular bank, whom I will not advertise since they don't deserve it. Yada, yada, loads of cash, no customer service initiative, faces of discrimination everywhere. And they do it even with their own citizens. Go figure!

I go this morning to the designated bank (branch of which is in the vicinity of our office) for encashing my vacation cheque and the system is down. The bank staff say that they have no clue as to when the system will be up and running; they tell me to run along to their Dammam branch to see if I can encash the cheque. A few minutes before midday I arrive at one of their Dammam branches and this bank's staff say the system would be up in 30 minutes' time; problem is they have broken time and won't open 'til four in the afternoon. So I return to the office and go back to the original branch. Which isn't really that bad, except their lines are notoriously long, it's baking out in the early afternoon sun, and I didn't have convenient land transportation (translation - walking out).

I dig the exercise, mind, but not the heat! Ruins my office-boy complexion, hahahahahaha! Turns out the system is down, likely for the entire f**ckin' day. Great --- just post a sign that says "This bank no do business because system crappy!"

Yummy Saudi meals - the many ways Middle Easterners cook their rice (something, I think, they picked up from the Indians) astound me. My tongue and taste buds, I mean. I bought a rice meal with half-a-chicken (two packs of it) and brought it back to the office to eat. Man, the rice tasted awfully good! However, the oily stuff got to me and that always does funny things to my stomach. Yup, I'm having a really fantastic, fantastic day.

At least there will be airport pick-up for me when I get home. I also got my passport and packed all my stuff for the air cargo to pick up later this evening. Guess I will have come to work tomorrow just to have my cheque encashed. Well, I'm pleased I got most everything I wanted today. Wished that I could have it all.

Rushing headlong to the month of June! First time in many years I've looked forward to this month --- for the longest time it was the month that school started, which meant the end of the summer vacation (and all its languor). Now, it's a welcome respite from the Middle East. Hope it will last longer and that I spend more quality time instead of boozing.

(Fat chance, meathead. And this is your conscience talking, buddy. You're weak, YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO WILLPOWER! No cojones! Grovel, you worm! Grovel and beg for release! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

Linking now to one of my friends's sites and putting in my own contribution.

1) When you were little what was your favorite TV show(s)?
Sesame Street! Fraggle Rock! Most of the Saturday Fun Machine shows, but particularly Blackstar and Zorro. Dedicated Superfan of the Superfriends! Lots more really, like CHiPs, Three's Company, Benson, The A-Team, The Incredible Hulk.

2) What was your favorite movie?
Tough question. Watched too many - but going by viewing, "Transformers the Movie" (about 20 times, still remember 80% of the dialogue). Going by effect, "The Godfather."

3) What is your favorite TV show currently?
"24" and "CSI" (Original)

4) What is the best movie you have seen so far this year?
The only ones I've seen on the wide screen this year are "Mission: Impossible 3," "V for Vendetta," and "16 Blocks." The best ones I've seen on video are "Crash" (a mediocre movie, but o.k. enough) and "Brokeback Mountain" (overrated and overdone). The most fun I had is an oldie from five years back - "The 51st State."

5) If someone was going to make a movie or TV show about your life, who would play you and why?
It's tough to cast an actor to play me --- the closest would be Dinky Doo, Jr. and Bayani Agbayani. And they won't be able to pull it off, I think. I was once called a "Roderick Paulate" (still mystifies me to this day, though it still gives me the chuckles up to now) and no, I don't want him to play me either. ... Of course, that's assuming some idiot would want to put up money for my movie (tough chance!).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Latest Friday Five edition

Honey, I’m Home!

1. How many places have you lived in your life? - On a prolonged basis, four, and I've been in two places here in KSA. Been all over, but the rest is no more than two weeks at a time.

2. Which was your favorite and why and what street was it on? - Still the original - Saint Joseph Street all the way! Best memories of my life, still consider it home.

3. If you could live anywhere for the rest of your life, where would it be? - Beachfront property, possibly in Mindanao provided it's peaceful.

4. What would your ideal home have in it? - The "have to have" would be a well-equipped kitchen and a place to entertain people. It doesn't have to be loaded with all the other things but of course I prefer to stay connected with what's happening via Internet/satellite TV.

5. Can you describe your current crib? A minor disaster. Been planning to bring in new furniture but it seems I could hardly keep it fairly clean to deserve new fixtures, hehe.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In Praise of Beer...

You Are Heineken

You appreciate a good beer, but you're not a snob about it.
You like your beer mild and easy to drink, so you can concentrate on being drunk.
Overall, you're a friendly drunk who's likely to buy a whole round for your friends... many times.
Sometimes you can be a bit boring when you drink. You may be prone to go on about topics no one cares about.

I Still Believe

paolo's pen: My two cents' worth on The Da Vinci Code

I normally shy away from religious topics. It's a no-brainer that you will reap the thunder everytime you bring it up and therefore it's a no-winner to even start a discussion.

Whenever some kind of religious content such as "The Passion of the Christ" two years ago or "Da Vinci Code" I am more apt to shut up than invite some form of discursive debate about the religious merits of said movies. Like discussions about politics, religious discussions can be really energy-sapping.

Now, I haven't really seen "The Da Vinci Code" and didn't think about the books of Dan Brown until some acquaintances who have illusions of being literati (as I do, incidentally, hehe) and most of my friends were raving about it. Shocker! Shocker! There is a hidden story in the life of Jesus Christ! There is a grand conspiracy behind the biggest business venture of all time! People should really come off it ---a little hurting is useful for a lot of learning. With all due respect, one source of our accepted history and world-view is not necessarily the best.

I've read a lot of the literature built into the history of the Church, including some of the liberation theory-inspired works that emphasize Jesus as a harbringer of social consciousness that echoes in the need for human development in the poor countries of this era. We even spent a whole deal of our Religion classes in the latter part of high school dealing with social and moral issues --- rather than pinning our minds to some of the absolutes.

I can spin as many yarns as possible on the true value of spirituality in making for good living --- as opposed to pursuing holiness for its own sake. Well, nobody did credit for me being one of the true believers, anyway. But I won't spin, not at all.

You see, if a thing of fiction like "The Da Vinci Code" insults you and offends you, then shoot, you can exercise your due right not to watch or read it. Do everyone a favor though, and get your information straight before shooting off your mouth. I can attribute the majority of this type of misunderstanding from pure ignorance. Boycott the movies of Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, Ron Howard, and the production company. They're blasphemous, good heavens! We must rally to protect the faith! Suddenly, I find myself wanting to laugh out loud. The utter pretension of such do-gooders! If God is as rock-solid as you say you believe Him to be, He will find a way to work this out in the end.

Or, on the other hand, if "The Da Vinci Code" (the book, because I think the movie will be formulaic and passe) awakens you and disturbs you about your faith, it is prudent not to go overboard. A germ of doubt is always the seed of faith. Doubting is not the absence of faith. Rather, it is all about one's wanting to believe.

As for the atheists and the nihilists, I'd listen to you but I'll mince no words about it --- it's hard for me to care about what you have to say. I like science and the "religion of science," but deep down, I am still a believer.

I still believe in a true God who is not bound by the usual borders of our own conception. God is beyond sex, beyond race, beyond dietary practices. Since I have been immersed in the Christian mysteries, I choose to follow this path of enlightenment, and it's not for me to say whether a Muslim, Buddhist, or any other person of whatever creed is dead wrong. What I find most disturbing is that people anoint themselves as "guardians of the faith" and attack others for their different beliefs. If all of these absolute moralists are correct, then no one is bound to be saved. All of us will expect a Hell or its equivalent.

Earlier this year the Muslim world went up in arms over a lampoon. Could we Christians afford another kind of narrowmindedness?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Almost Friday

in(s)ane ramblings: may 19's friday five

I'm not really a member of their circle, but doing this is just as fun even if I know my friend Nikki's friends won't read my blog as regularly as they would read hers.

1. What type of mood are you generally in on a rainy day? - lethargic, sentimental, and if I'm with the right person, romantic.

2. What are your favorite things to do when the weather is gloomy?- curling up with a good book is the best. Having some warm soup. In the old days, burning the phone lines with someone.

3. Have you ever been kissed in the rain?- No, I did the kissing.

4. After the rain stops, do you continue what you were doing, or do you run outside to do something else? - Are you kidding? I'd rather stay where I was.

5. What is your favorite drink/food to have when it's raining outside?- The instant soups are always the ones available (sigh). Otherwise, La Paz batchoy with all the trimmings or steaming beef bulalo matched with some deep-fried hito or bangus. Wash it down with a little beer when I feel like it.

Yeah, I'm getting hungry just about now. (Shoot, you're always hungry, chief!)

Gut Check

Your Job Dissatisfaction Level is 45%

Well, you don't have the worst job in the world, but it's not great.
And don't worry, you're not the problem - your company is.
Start looking around for another job, even if you're not totally fed up.
Because in time, you're going to be dying to quit!


"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."
-- the Mentat Piter de Vries

I spent the better part of Wednesday through Saturday trapped in the hospital nursing an acute case of gout. I guess I had it coming. I hadn't been taking good care of myself lately and with my mind focused on the "Otherness" of my vacation I wasn't paying attention to ME.

I had taken Sunday off as I had posted earlier but I couldn't shake off the hurting in my right foot. Meantime, I was apprehensive of self-medicating as both our Company medical policy and common sense were built-in restrictions. On Tuesday evening the throbbing was unbelievably painful I couldn't sleep. It wasn't a biggie on the Scale of Unbelievable Pain --- I haven't reached that state of physical pain for a long time --- but it was still painful, mein Gott!

Tuesday evening I loaded up on water --- lots of it --- to help relieve the pain. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate was my mantra. Problem was, every now and then I had to do number one and I had to drag my fat ass to the toilet on a bum foot. I had to sleep on the couch just to be able to manage the distance.

Finally I gave up. I lay back and thought of all the scenarios so that I could get to the hospital in one piece. My landlord (the leaseholder) and his family were all on vacation, leaving my other flatmate and I in charge of the apartment. I asked him eventually to bring me to the hospital at about 7 am. I was figuring that a little shot of painkillers from the ER would do me wonders and I could go merrily go on my way to work.

Secretly though, I knew that I couldn't have gone to work in my current state. Instead of the self-medication regimen, I decided to take advantage of our full-featured medical plan. Still, I've always hated the notion of going to hospitals even if the whole hospital experience was balanced out by seeing pretty nurses and/or doctors (the chances of the latter are slim here in KSA). The last time I was hospitalized was a life-changer: I could say that my life turned around beginning that last hospital stay in May 2001. Of course, backsliding, physical and emotional, happens once in a while, as evidenced by this latest bout of sickness.

Waiting time at the ER took almost five hours --- they got my blood work, x-rays of my right foot and my chest, even an ECG --- before the insurance company finally decided to admit me to the hospital, during which, to my dismay, all my plans of going to work and having a productive day were ripped apart.

It was noontime by the time I got to my room on the fifth floor of the hospital. The room was bright - it was facing the sea - but otherwise it was warm. Something must have been wrong with the ducting of the room or the a/c unit itself, since according to the nurses the temperature control was linked to that of the ICU. Since I didn't know I would be in the hospital for longer than usual, this didn't seem too bad to me in the beginning.

(Yeah, I know I regretted it...)

I'm familiar with the drill in hospitals - I've stayed long enough in hospitals as companion or as victim (ehem, patient) that I could go with the schedule and routine with my eyes closed (even if there are special conditions for each patient, the drill is still the same...). Blood tests as required. The butt injection. Intravenous nutrition (yummy!) as required. Getting yourself awakened by some nurse so that you can take your lousy medicine.

The things I hate most ---being immobilized by the IV and then having to take a dump or a piss, and clammy bedsheets! (Warm room + hospital bed + fever + medicine = sweat). And --- since I didn't wisely bring any clothes, I had to put up with the dressing gowns provided by the hospital. They gave me the large ones which were still a snug fit; I actually looked an Arab wearing those long hospital gowns. We-ell, give me an extra two or three inches of height I'd be a lot happier. Not because I won't look like an Arab.

About the only consolation I had was that the nurses were pretty and nice. I had one favorite in particular, but only insofar as I believe that she is still single. I'd keep that illusion going for the meantime. Plus, they have this notion that a private room means one is mudir or boss in the company. I'd like to believe I'm important to the Company, but not so much as being one of the bosses. Lots of extra money would do just fine, thank you.

The great thing also was that my friends really filled up the place while I was at hospital. However, it was only good for Wednesday evening since I expected to get out on Thursday (see my rant below). As of today, I'm still eating apples, oranges, and crackers that they provided. My boss said one time that being hospitalized becomes an exercise in self-pity. We-ell, yeah, but it never felt that way to me, since I was surrounded by people who cared.

Never get hospitalized close to the weekend over here, and if you do, guarantee an extended hospital stay. Now, I wouldn't want to knock the professionalism and the ability of my fine team of doctors (who spent a grand total of 20 minutes checking up on me during their various rounds), but this I know about the medical profession --- some doctors aren't just meant to be, but convention and family demands put them there. I really wish I would get some straight answers --- the group prognosis was an acute case of gout.

Say goodbye to those big portions of roast beef. Say goodbye (for the meantime) to caffeine and tea. Skip the sugar! Eat more fruit and vegetables! (on the side - say goodbye to drinking sessions, to treating yourself to pork, to oily fried meals, to stuffing yourself...)

Uh-huh, yak it up. As if I'm really listening. Shoot, I'm going to have a really lousy vacation.

But seriously, I don't want to be stricken again. Let me recite the mantra:

"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by fruits and vegetables that fat becomes lean, the body gains fiber, the fiber the signs of weight loss. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."

Until I backslide again and land in the hospital again, that is.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Vacation Mode

The mind refuses to acknowledge it, but I'm officially on vacation mode.

That's right, I don't want to work any more than I have to. It's not been a great week for me - after Dubai I was sickly and couldn't do more than usual. It's great that I'm teaching again and we're starting to do something for the play festival this September.

I felt crappy not greeting my mother on Mother's Day but after the trials of sending more money (again) back home for house repairs, I was decidedly smug. Not that I deliberately forgot, mind; it's just that I was lying back wheezing and coughing last Sunday so the thought of calling anyone was furthest from my mind.

Meantime, the bakery beneath our apartment burned another time in less than three weeks. The first one was actually dramatic (my flatmate and I actually had the chance to play heroes); this time the fire was puny and looked as if it were an act of vandalism. Expensive vandalism.

After the excitement of the TFC PopStar final and the Gloria visit Khobar life is back to its normal dullness. Yup, it can be that pathetic when the most exciting things to do are watching a hackneyed, formulaic contest and lining up to see the Merry Midget Mistress of Malacañang make mendicant promises. I did catch the "Band of Brothers" on DVD while recuperating (I still am now, my ankle is swollen and is absolutely murdering me).

The clock is now running... one month to go before my sister's wedding. I have all the reasons to be happy for her and intellectually this is something that is semi-ecstatic in nature. Deep down, of course, if I take it the wrong way it can be downright depressing.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

What do I have to cheer for anyway?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Thoughts of the Just

The President of the Philippines dropped by Dammam last night, the last leg of her journey here in Saudi Arabia to shore up whatever support she has among OFWs as well as to work on some face-saving diplomacy. Oil discounts and promise of buffer stocks were negotiated, as well as pardon for over 200 condemned prisoners and runaway maids.

I can't help but say that she has succeeded. For good or for ill, she will stay in the saddle until 2010. Amid the clang of bells and the thundering of "righteous" anger, she has survived the vicissitudes of being a plurality President. She has staggered and has almost been unhorsed, but she soldiers on. I can't help but say BRAVO without any bitterness.

I cannot, however, abide the smugness of many of her supporters who conveniently gloss over her faults in search of "pragmatism," that her being an economist is the salve to "fix" whatever ails the Philippine economy. Before they crow about her success in turning things around, it hasn't exactly been her program that has driven such growth. One of my batchmates conveniently pointed out that the bull run in the Philippine Stock Exchange has been going on for the past three years. Hard to believe, maybe, as PSE's charts at http://www.pse.com.ph/ only go back for two years but he says that you can look up Philippines (PHI) at bigcharts.com - and one can conclude that there is a high run-up if PLDT is used as the surrogate indicator of Philippine stocks.

Speculation hovers about the war in Iraq as the start of such growth, as money once pumped into traditional investment markets now looks for second-tier markets such as the Philippines.

However, stripped of the fancy slogans and the proud drum-beating and self-preening of this administration, it is that success was reached despite the administration's utter lack of charisma, PR bungling, and consumer-oppressive policies. Or that this success is still being fueled by us, the exiles. She rightfully should court our support. Her continued stay in power depends on it.

Her policies, just like that of any President before her since Edsa, has served to deepen and widen the gap between rich and poor. Before she and her supporters claim to sleep the sleep of the just, let them think of primary causes.

Before her opponents continue with the cycle of blame, let them think of who are the real victims.

Rights don't mean a thing on an empty stomach. Economic progress means little if the poor don't share in it. And I don't mean just dole-outs or remittances - I mean for real, like having jobs and opportunities that help them escape the povery trap.

Until then, let no one claim "the sleep of the just" for in the clenches of poverty there can be no true justice.


The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. ~ Pearl S. Buck

Meditation XVII by John Donne
from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, morieris. Now this bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that the church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all.

When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingrafted into the body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined that they should ring first that rose earliest.

If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery or a borrowing of misery, as though we are not miserable enough of ourselves but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels as gold in a mine and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction digs out and applies that gold to me, if by this consideration of another's dangers I take mine own into contemplation and so secure myself by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Things We Miss

“Labing-isang buwan kang naghihirap dito tapos ang katapat mo lang ay maliit na hiwa….”

This topic has been a constant source of laughter in our service van on the way home. Men dealing with the difficulties of separation from their womenfolk 11 months out of each year – this is the burden so many of us have to go through just to get by in Saudi Arabia. During the mornings, the mood is often somber, as each man is lost to keep his own thoughts (or go back to sleep), traveling to another day of work which is no better than a prison.

At least prisoners can get the usual visit . . .

It is not unusual then, that living in Saudi Arabia breeds unusual variants of normal relationships you would find back home. The men here are more vocal of their emotions, are more in touch with themselves, and calling somebody a “friend” carries with it a deeper meaning. Finding a friend, though still a test of hit-and-miss, can be somewhat of a risk, too, but can have its own rewards.

By this criterion, there is no real stigma for a man to be homosexual here in Saudi Arabia, where he is less bound by convention, and maintain a family back home in the Philippines. It is even more usual that a man and a woman can have two separate family lives – one back home and another here, and with as many partners as possible.

(I can consider some guys to have all the luck. Some dickhead managed to get “married” to two women at separate times, only for both of them to find out the nasty truth when they were assigned to the same shift in just one hospital. And oh, he still maintained his own family back in the Philippines. The girls were deceived, but somewhat naïve, but I can only admire the guy’s “man-gina.” Such cojones on that asshole!)

And so on and so forth…women may have an easier time of keeping their legs crossed, but sometimes only with Filipinos --- if it comes to Arabs (Saudi or otherwise) or Westerners, it’s business as usual. Sometimes Filipinas can really go slumming and go out with Pakistanis, Indians, or (gulp!) Bangladeshis. That I had hoped Filipinas would be more virtuous was a given. That such a hope was so easily dashed to pieces is semi-tragic.

It’s not all about sex, mind. There is so much more than the communion of two bodies in finding a sense of belonging. For some, too, the idea of being desired by someone else is so addictive. Even the prospect of 24/7 porn television (captured free to air, just buy the kit for about SR700) is not enough to quench that kind of desire.

And… the prospect of an eternal boner saps your brain power and deludes you to a twisted sense of reality. Don’t ask me how and why. I know.

I once said in another forum it would be interesting to derive the metrics of the status of OFW families – how they handle the separation on the one hand and what values do the children develop as a result of it. Several years ago, our organization administered retreats to high school students in Lipa. An interesting statistic was that many of these kids were sent back to live with their relatives or with one parent (mostly the dad, since the mothers were mostly domestics in Italy). Imagine the adjustments they had to make.

Money flowing into their hands, and money does not solve the need in their hearts…

And so back to the “things” we miss. Do I miss sex? (Ummm… dumb question. Let’s pretend that never came up. Move on…). Mostly, it’s the idea of being with someone. The benefits that come with it, of course, are just, I hope, as pleasurable as they can be. As a bachelor, I am what you call “deprived.” Time will only tell if I become “depraved.”

All the same, I am proud to say: I confess to being repressed! Thank God for Filipinas and the Internet!

With many thanks to Jay’s Greatest Compilation, one site that is pushing the envelope to tantalize the viewer without getting blocked by the Saudi internet police! You rock, buddy!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

By The River of Dreams I Still Wait

I'm horribly sentimental, but I hate to admit it. Who wants a sentimental goon, anyway? All those ladies who keep on saying verbal ability is something they want in a guy seem to overlook the fact that it's overrated when measured against old-fashioned good looks or masculinity.

I'm not fighting any truth over this. It just is. It's hormonal. It's the fundamental law of nature.

I spent nine days in Dubai, four days of which were for training, and most of the evenings and the rest of the other days were spent on R & R. One of my friends I met through my life here in Saudi Arabia has just been relocated to Dubai, while my sister is following her own dreams in this land as well.

In the beginning, I tried to keep track of my observations of Dubai so that I could write them here from a fresh perspective (we-ell, not really, since I vacationed a few days in Dubai last year too). All I could remark are some of the truths about people.

My sister is not what you may call a "spring chicken," and she has had her share of time on the relationship rollercoaster, some experiences of which I privately disapproved but tolerated since she was happy. She is getting married this June. I've made a few references to this in some of my previous posts, but since I haven't met her fiancee I couldn't say much.

Alan is not exactly what I think my sister is looking for - but then again, I'm in no position to judge. Still, he represents a rock of practicality and solidity that is so easy to appreciate, and if one is a woman, grow to depend upon. I have no doubt that he thinks of himself as the lucky one in the relationship, and maybe he is (actually, I believe all men are privileged to be in a loving relationship. It sure beats the animal longings of plain sex.). Even so, observing them together it appears to me that it's the opposite. Right now I can't explain why, but it just feels that way.

There is a vast desert - not only physical, but also emotional - here in the Middle East. I've been called cynical in my early incarnation as an adult, and even looking through the world through those younger eyes the measure on my cynicism meter is off the charts! I wish it could it be different, but that is just the way things are here. One just has to make the best of it.

In Dubai, the irony of it is more glaring as one would see the beauty of "progress" --- the marks of financial speculation and money laundering are everywhere. Where else can you find some model of unabated economic growth than in Dubai? The place is growing so fast the pace is downright scary. And yet, in this oasis of riches, what makes it possible is that so many talented human beings are being ground by difficult times. The more "pragmatic" ones check their morality on the airplane and leave it there --- wielding their lives as a stick in one fatal piñata game --- where the stick is actually a bludgeon. So here my sister found a love that she could call her own and something that she would like to build on for the rest of her life.

I recently read Paulo Coelho's "By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept" (there was enough time in my sojourn to Dubai for me to read) and I finally understand why it has so much power to move so many people looking for answers.

I'm afraid that it's not the answers that bind me and stultify me, but the questions that arise when I look at my life and where I am going. It's not that I'm unhappy. I'm looking for signs that all of this, all of this meandering, all of the smoke-and-mirrors, is real, and that my life as it is means so much more than the alternative.

Is it too selfish to have all that I have and dare to dream of one love, a love which has so far eluded me or I have sent away?

Own Version

in(s)ane ramblings: friday five

I'm responding to Nikki's post (she's really pouring her heart and soul into her blog, typical of a newbie), and since I'm just clearing my desk of papers dating from last week before I left for Dubai, it's not such a bad idea.

1.) Do you like your birth-name? Why?
— Yes. When I was younger, "Joseph Angelo" was the only one that stood out in our family since everyone received mostly Spanish-sounding names. It didn't feel right to me then. Now I like it just as it is.

2.) If you could change your name to anything else, what would it be?
— Tough one. I never really thought about it, though there was one time I wrote down about 20 other names on my test paper after I read that one guy had a name for every letter of the English alphabet. I once wanted to have "Steve," "Mark," "Richard" or some other name of some cartoon hero when I was younger. Now, if it helps at all, the name I'd like would be Brad Pitt.

3.) What names would you consider giving your children?
— I'd rather my prospective wife choose the names, since the children would have my last name as part of their name forever. I even thought of having every child with the first name "J" just like for our family. The names I would pick would be: Boys -Conrado, Felipe, Victor, Joaquin, Emmanuel; Girls - Margarita, Catalina/Katrina, Christina, Victoria (naturally, yes?), Carmela. For the girls, it's easier because one of them should be named after my wife, her mother or my mother.

4.) If you had a band, what would you name it, and why?
— The first name I thought of was "Zaxxon Magma" but that was way back in the 80's. My buddy Des thought of the name "Pots and Pans" for a vocal group some ten years ago. Now I'd pick the band name from my blog title.

5.) Is there a name that you completely hate? Why?
— None I could think of. I haven't hated somebody with that amount of passion. As for my name, some classmate called me "Baby Gopher" (derived from my name, but I forget the reason why) and another "Josephus," while still another "Peto." These are the only times I hated somebody making a play on my name. "Joey" and "Joe" are tolerable nowadays. Also, I hate anyone trying to make nice with me by using my nickname when I hardly know them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ill Will, 2

There are succinct reasons why I did not post for the past few days, mainly because of the distractions in Dubai, but mainly because posting from here in Dubai isn't as easy.

I've had the opportunity to think about the ill will and the inherent parochialism of many Filipinos. It wasn't really my fault that something happened to the CD.

Dagger looks were the order of the day right from the occurrence. It was just something I knew I would never live down, and by extended effect, the whole of our organization. The contender's mother was on the lookout from thereon in the program, to see if any other shenanigans would occur. But of course by that time the worst was over and it was pretty much smooth sailing. Still, the crowd would have probably killed me on the spot had the worst happened. No, they probably wouldn't have killed me, but I just narrowly missed being lynched.

(It feels sort of "cool" to be the subject of a lynching. At least somebody cares enough with a passion to want to hurt you. It's a twisted feeling, and it behooves me well not to dwell on it.)

The judges had a twist in the announcement of the winners. The contenders were grouped into clusters of three. The first three names to be announced were those who were disqualified - I had expected Camille not to make it - but I know she is still young and good things may happen to her yet. That's the beauty of this entire process - she lives to fight another day.

Then the names of the three qualifiers were called out - and when the first name called was Jasmine's, the entire house went down. Even the neutrals were won over by her sweetness and charm. It is because of this fact that I believe she just has to watch herself and train well - the Riyadh crowd will, I hope, see her as the way we see her. Then Kim's name was called, to raucous cheers. There was, however, some derision because the first name called wasn't hers, even though the judges had patently made clear that the order of the announcement of the names did not follow any specific pattern. In any case, the scores wouldn't matter come the next round in Riyadh because they start from zero.

Finally it was down to the last name - and after a few tense moments, Alma's name was called. I was already betting on Tim or one of the other contestants, Ariel G. (a great vocal talent but not really a "Pop Star"). She too had a large gallery, and the cheering nearly brought down the house too.

All in all, except for that unfortunate incident, it was a great evening.

The fathers of the two qualifiers almost came to blows following the show. I admire their devotion and all, but I believe they are sending the wrong message to their daughters. Come on, no rivalry is worth it! There is some history to this --- our group began because of the dissatisfaction of the parents over the perceived (which was eventually validated as actual) discrimination by which Kim's father and voice coach applied to his students. Under his system, only his favorites were given the opportunities to grow. So eventually the parents who came to form SPA left his group to form their own (just about the same time I arrived in KSA, which was a blessing to all concerned). The charge of favoritism was finally validated with the opening of the TFC contest. The vocal coach refused to train any of his other charges who joined the contest - and two others qualified, Jasmine being one of them. The other went home to the Philippines for vacation and pulled out of the contest.

Now, as to the politics of this situation, I pretty much have no comment since I hardly know any of the parents personally. It's just surprising (and alarming) that Kim's mother wanted to seek me out and hunt me down for my perceived wrongdoing. I have no complaints with the handling of our organization of the entire matter, but even so, the rivalry, if at all, should be downplayed. There is enough room, and enough "business" for us to do our own community work. If at all, we should be exchanging information and sharing best practices.

I do, however, have some reservations since I trust my fellows in their perception that Kim's father is into the vocal training just for the money, and not much value-added at that. I'd like to meet him and share views with him on this, but I'm afraid it would be hard to give him that chance since I'm not much of a "glad-hander" to win him over, and I'm pretty certain he wouldn't do the same for me, either.

One part of me mourns this turn of events. Why do we have to persist in this kind of parochialism? Ennui? A need to compete? Genuine antipathy? And these are not even our day jobs! That's why I feel so sad that any ill will has to exist, and that I have to be party to its kindling. I would have hoped to build more bridges rather than burning them down.

I'm sorry that such a thing had happened under my watch, and if there's anything to blame, it is that we have put too much trust in technology when all of us knew that Murphy's Law grows geometrically with the introduction of more technology.

As to any lynching campaign, all I can say is: BRING IT ON! There is some good karma to have such notoriety. The lynched are also called another word. They are called saints.