Monday, July 31, 2006

Putting On A Good Face

INQ7 Business - Show me the money

I'm going back, a little, to Philippine politics because Tanya Lat wrote me back. She apparently read my post last March and decided to write me back. Seventeen years! Golly, that's a long time.

I purposely did not listen to the SONA or read the SONA of President Arroyo until recently because I knew it would be long on hyperbole and short of at the very least, honesty. Vision? PGMA threw that away the very day she threw her hat into the 2004 presidential derby. I did not even read up the sound bytes until today. As usual, most image-hungry politicians had reason to revel or to ravage the speech.

I only have the best wishes for those enlightened souls who struggle to give forth light to our people. It's just so inconvenient that the worst of alternatives to PGMA are the ones who are making the most noise.

So, for the benefit of the unprincipled, undiscerning, or the uncaring (take your pick) it's all about putting on a good face --- packaging rubbish in an expensive box, ring it around with tinsel on the one hand, or in another vein, giving out expensive, but fake, gift certificates. It all looks good, neh?

Would our people exchange their liberties for the image of material comfort, or the illusion of stability? But hey, the boat that easily sinks is the one that springs a leak in calm waters.

What we have here, is a simple mindtrap that we Filipinos must learn to unravel. True, it's great that we have democratic institutions and a seemingly free press. However, these are empty shells, in the words of F. Sionil Jose, "because the real essence of democracy does not exist here. And that real essence is in the stomach -- as when the taxi driver in Tokyo eats the same sashimi asthe Japanese emperor, or the bus driver in Washington who can eat the same steakas President Bush in the White House."

Would a man, then, surrender his freedoms for the prospect of having a good meal three times a day?

The thought comes to me that many of the freedoms that our people enjoy have been taken for granted, because they have not been hard-won. Or, at the very least, because we have not really encountered what it is to start thinking for ourselves and then be suppressed. The British, and by extension, the Americans, hold their liberties very dearly because of the long struggle they had to secure them.

Us? I don't think the synapses have started firing in many of our fellow Filipinos' minds. Our state of mind, our politics, have been more dependent on patronage, top-down so to speak. As I have very well experienced in the HR field, the top-down means of communication is really weak if the leaders are opportunistic or worse, lack integrity.

Filipinos have always been used to leadership providing benefits: allegiance is a matter of "what can you do for me?" instead of "how can I help?" Progress is given to us and made available to us by the State. We still believe that Great Leaders will show us the way into the Promised Land, instead of all of us pulling together for a common goal. It's ironic where bayanihan is a common Filipino trait, we often fail to recognize the bayani in our own fellows!

It should be the reverse. We don't lack morality because we are poor. We are poor because despite our Christian tradition, we lack morality in the public sphere. We cannot go on blaming government forever. Morally reprehensible any government can be, this is the same government we tolerate. The more we take responsibility for ourselves, the more it is possible for us to make our families better, to improve our communities, to reshape our nation.

But to do so, we must be free to think, free to choose, free to decide. Free to chart the course which leads to what would make us happy. Free, eventually, to mold ourselves and develop a sense of discipline not driven by fear of punishment but instilled with a zeal for the common good.

We don't need a mailed fist to enforce order if we ourselves CHOOSE to bring it about. The mailed fist just shuts up dissent, it doesn't change hard reality. That is the tragedy of Martial Law --- people have been conditioned to ignore hard reality for the comfort of lies. Our economy did not stagnate overnight; it was killed by rent-seekers who did no more but curry favor in exchange of monopolies or oligopolies. We lost the drive to compete because of the comfort of puwede na.

Placid waters do not mean there are no violent undercurrents.

We can no longer put on a good face that our administration is a rabid dog that has perverted the rule of law for its own purposes. No amount of perceived economic progress can hide that, and should the currents swirl their favor away from Asia, what then?

At the very least, we have to swallow the bitter pill that the rule of law would mean going beyond our comfort zones of puwede na. The rule of law made Japan, Korea, and Taiwan economic powers. Coups d'etat were a staple of Thai politics during the '80s but there was no interruption of foreign direct investment or concentrated government/business cooperation toward their objectives.

At the very least, we must not disassociate ourselves from the hard truth that our chain of progress is only as strong as its weakest link. There is no "Strong Republic" that allows the amount of disparity we have in our society.

To answer my own question, yes, I see this betrayal every day. So each day, for short-term benefits, we trade away our right to think, our right to question, our right to truth.

Until the next SONA, we will continue to eat stale crumbs pretending they are freshly-baked bread.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks."

Over the last weekend, I have finally coped with the separation from the Philippines. I realize that every time you go back and/or encounter your loved ones after a long absence the task of disassociating from them becomes more and more difficult. I wonder how I’d be able to cope next year. We’ll see.

One of my friends, who is also based in the Gulf, has been ribbing me about the nature of my recent posts and my unnecessary preoccupation with an infatuation bordering on teenage puppy love. You can bet that that piece of foolishness serves its own purpose.

Oft-times, I reflect on the relevance of my own life and what the future bodes for me. I’d like to think that my life is proceeding on some sort of plan, some sort of central theme that would define my life when my time has come. That I do one particular thing should be indicative of the kind of value I would like to give.

I am under no illusions that I will be doing earth-shaking, now far removed from the days of my youth when such things seemed possible. Funny, when one is young one would love to conquer the whole world; a few years of perspective later, one would simply be content with a patch to call one’s own.

I also see clearly that the tenor of my life would not change even if I were to find someone in the near future and finally settle down. The focus may change, the perceived end-products may be different, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be drastically different. Instead of diffusing my passions all over the place, they would be centered on my own family.

Will my attaining my image of romantic love serve as a life-changer? Perhaps. I do hope so. But if it doesn’t, what then?

I live. The world goes on. I trust I’d be living my life in pretty much the same way, and know that love waits for me when I come home. With my family, it’s not something I have won for myself, but that doesn’t make their love any less true. With my friends, it’s something that reflects what I have given --- and when I expect less or nothing at all in return sometimes they surprise me.

So now, I’d rather admit to be alive and frivolous, rather than numb and serious. I may protest loudly and rail against being left behind. It may sound tawdry and may prove to be tedious for some, but it’s not their call anyway. It’s mine.

Sure, I'd wax poetic and cry, apparently, over seemingly trivial things in this world. I'd wear my heart out on my sleeve and hope that what I'm sharing will help someone realize his or her own life lessons.

The alternatives? Stay in my room and despair over the apparent end of the world? Rapture, indeed, say the TV evangelists. Else be bound to the demands of my job which will neither give me an award for my efforts nor miss me when I am gone?

It's a no-brainer, baby! Mine thinking to protest much more, I daresay.

* * * * *

Some random thoughts . . .

Is it me or is our Internet service getting slower and slower? Getting harder to post!

Ugh! I haven't written in Filipino so long I've become constipated in the language. Have to do something about that, hmmm... Thanks to Mals for her short comment.

It's the hot and humid time of the year in the Dammam area and it isn't too much fun to go out. Most fellows though who have notions of losing weight say this is the best time for exercise. However, the reduced oxygen and increased moisture in the air can do bad things for you. One of our senior colleagues thought to play a little tennis during this time of the year. The guy suffered a mild stroke, and he got away lightly, I would say. Sans air conditioning, it is likely people will drop like flies in the heat.

We're back to rehearsing my second directorial job, Manuel Buising's "Tumbampreso" (Palanca First Prize Winner for One-Act Play in Filipino, 1988). It's good to get going on this again. Still struggling with the translation of the title for our marketing campaign though. Is it "Hit the Can" (in the mechanics of the game), "Drop the Target" (again more on the mechanics), or "Bowl for Prisoners" (theme of the play, but I'll give the story away)? Whatever. It will come to me. Soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dahil Ayaw Po Nilang Magpaawat

Dahil ayaw po nilang magpaawat
Ilang daan ang nasalanta
Dahil ayaw po nilang magpaawat
Pati bata naging mga biktima

Maipapakain pa sa mga gutom
Ang kanilang ideyolohiya?

Dahil ayaw po nilang magpaawat
Dati'y gusot ngayo'y sugat na
Dahil ayaw po nilang magpaawat
Nadamay na ang walang-sala.

Kung nais mo ng katarungan

Maging karapat-dapat ka
Kung nais mo ng kapayapaan
Maging malaya't payapa ka

At kung nabasag ang katahimikan
Nawa'y magpakahinahon ha
Kung gusto mo lamang magkaganti
Matigilan ka lang naman sana

Kahit sa kabilang dako ng mundo'y
Naglalagablab ang giyera
Hindi maaaring tumalikod
Hindi maaaring magbalewala

Kapag dumayo si Kamatayan
At ang mahal mo ang ginapas
Puwede bang iharap ang prinsipyo
At ito ang gawing lunas?

Pasensya na't ganito na lang ang aking maibabahagi sa ngayon. Araw-araw na lamang ang sumasabog na balita ay ang giyera sa Lebanon. Nagmula lamang sa pagdakip ng mga sundalong Israeli at ilang rocket sa mga siyudad ng Israel, ngayon kay rami nang namatay.

Bato lang ang hindi maaantig sa mga makikita sa telebisyon - mga wasak na gusali, mga nakaratay na bangkay, mga nasusunog na sasakyan, at higit sa lahat, mga sugatan at patay na bata.

Hindi na maiwawasto ng mga Ingles at ng mga Amerikano ang kahayupang nagganap sa mga Hudyo noong World War II. Ngunit hindi titigil ang digmaan hanggang mayroon pa ring bansang Israel.

Hindi ako galit sa Hudyo at Israeli, pero isang malaking pagkakamali ng kasaysayan ang pagkakabuo ng modernong bansa ng Israel. Ilang dantaong itong hawak ng mga Arabo at walang sapat na kapangyarihan ang mga Hudyo para mabawi nilang ang kanilang lupain, ang Lupain ng Pangako.

Hindi rin naman ako kontra sa nakalathala sa Bibliya, pero ang huling malayang estadong pinamumunuan ng Hudyo ay bago pa pinanganak si Kristo. Simula noon, pumailalim ang Palestine sa iba't ibang kaharian at lahi -- mula sa mga Griyego, sa mga Romano, at sa huli sa mga Muslim na Ottoman hanggang sa mapunta ito sa mga Ingles noong ika-20 siglo.

Nasaan nakalathala na karapat-dapat ibalik ang lupang ito sa mga Hudyo?

Sa kabilang dako, iba ang kahalagahan at papel na ginagampanan ng Hezbollah sa buhay ng mga tao sa Lebanon. Hindi lamang siya isang lugar para ipahayag ang paniniwalang pulitikal, siya rin ay isang huwaran ng maka-sibikang mamamayan. Kumbaga, parang kasama na ang Hezbollah sa bituka ng masa sa Lebanon.

Paano mo susugpuin ang kaaway na ganito? Sa bawat isang namamatay ngayon, lalung-lalo na kung walang kinalaman sa Hezbollah, ay tiyak dalawa o higit pa ang papalit sa kanya. Kahit lusubin ang bawat purok sa timog na bahagi ng Lebanon, hindi nila makukuha ang lahat ng bomba dahil ang iba'y tinatago sa ilalim ng kama ng mga kaalyado nila.

Ilagay mo ang sarili mo sa kanilang katayuan --- sinong tutulungan mo, ang iyong kababata't kapanalig sa pananampalataya, o ang dayuhan?

Gayunpaman, prinsipyo ng karuwagan ang pinaiiral ng Hezbollah. Kay tagal na silang nagkaroon ng pagkakataong ilunsad ang kanilang paniniwala, ngunit mistulang nagtatago sila sa saya ng mga Lebanese. Ang unang pumisil sa gatilyo ay ang maysala, kahit sabihin nating makatarungan siya. Ang masasabi ko lang ay ganito: Gagawa ka lang ng kagaguhan, lubus-lubusin mo na at siguraduhin mong panalo ka. Eh kung pisil lang ginawa mo at sakmal ang ibinalik sa iyo, pasensya ka na. Tapos hindi naman ikaw ang nababawian. Duwag.

Malabisan man ang pagganti ng Israel, mauunawaan at makikita mo rin ang katuwiran nila sa kanilang pagsalakay. 'Yun nga lang, sila rin ang naghuhukay ng sarili nilang kabaong.

Syria at Iran. 'Yan ang nakaabang sa inyo. Kahit tumalikod na ang karamihan ng mga bansang Muslim sa panig ng Hezbollah, ito lamang ang mga pamunuan at hindi mga mamamayan nila. Asahan ninyong maitutuon sa isipan ng henerasyon ngayon ng Muslim at sa susunod pa --- dapat pawiin ang Israel para sadyang mawala na ang mga kinasusuklamang Hudyo. Dapat pahirapan at pagpapatayin ang mga Amerikano at ibang hindi kasama sa pananampalataya.

Poot at kasamaan ang itinanim ng bawat kampo dahil sa gulong ito. At araw-araw na may digmaan, ilan pa ang gustong makialam --- bukal man ang kanilang pakay para sa kapayapaan o HINDI. Mas malamang HINDI.

Magpaawat na kayo, kaibigan.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So That I'll Know

Plucked out from one of the old Friday Five entries. It's nice for me to look back.

1. 10 years ago what did you think you would be doing now? --- Working in show business. Really. Not as an actor, mind, but writing songs and scripts. On the flip side, running my own hip night spot.

2. Where do you think you will be in 5 years from now? --- Most likely, working outside of the Philippines. I hope not in Saudi Arabia. Correction, I pray it wouldn’t be in Saudi Arabia. Alternatively, I would have figured out a great way for me to come back to the Philippines.

3. Do you live life one day at a time or look to the future? --- Both. It’s not like I plan every moment of each day, but I do have set time frames to achieve some goals and/or assess how well am I getting along in my life.

4. Do you wish you could go back in time and undo something in your life? --- All the time, baby! All the time.

5. If you could send a message back in time and give a younger version of yourself some advice, what would it be? --- I’d say to my 15-year old self: “Things will turn upside down and everything will be a lot more difficult. But never sell yourself short, and my goodness, never start anything you don’t mean to finish!”

Just Because It's Sweet

I'm posting an oldie from Manhattan Transfer - "Smile Again" (Music: Jay Graydon/David Foster/Bill Champlin, Words: Alan Paul). My eldest brother was an R&B fan (he got into Earth, Wind & Fire particularly) and he bought MT's "Mecca for Moderns" which features this cut. We also had the previous LP "Extensions" on cassette but I prefer "Mecca" more.

I just realized this song is 25 years old. I first heard it when I was 10 years old. Shoot, I'm getting old. I remember, back when I was a freshman in high school, answering one of those scrapbooks girls collect and the question asked was: What's your favorite song? Most of my classmates invariably answered a New Wave song after the other ("Melt With You" and "Blasphemous Rumours" topped the list) and guess what square old Moi answered?

You bet. This song. I also put in "Alone At Last" by Neil Sedaka, which was SOOOO WRONG. Neil frickin' Sedaka? R&B and jazz could make you a little more hip, as in older, more sophisticated, but Neil frickin' Sedaka? I bet the girl who owned that book would have ripped that page out for that comment alone, and it probably cost me one million pogi points, not that I had that amount to start with, anyhow. It's like hanging an "L" sign over my head, or better yet, spray-painting the word HOMO on my chest. Neil Sedaka indeed. Come to think of it, there were yet other comments I vaguely remember that give me cause for regret.

Back on track again. I'm puttting this on just because it's sweet, because it did, indeed, make me smile and chuckle again for by-gone times, and most especially, because of the hope that there would be a person that would make me sing this song wholeheartedly.

This song is for all those spending time away from their Significant Others tonight...

Endless nights I'd play solitaire
Imagining that you were here
One night flights -- such heartless affairs
They froze the hopes of love in me

You suddenly appeared
Melted all my fears
Filled me with the love I need

You make me smile again
Like a child of three
And I believe it will turn out right baby
Oh you make me smile again
Hold me in your arms
Oh love, my love

Heart to heart our souls intertwine
Make love and float away with me
Twins of flame a love so divine
I want to spend my life around you

Now, now I have the strength
Now I have the hopes
You give me all I need

To make me smile again
Like a child of three
And I believe it will work out right
Oh you make me smile again
Hold me in your arms
Oh love, my love

You make me smile again
Like a child of three
Oh I believe we'll live a dream for two
Oh you make me smile again
Hold me in your arms
Oh love, my love

Enriching Your Vocabulary

F Word - The F word and its many uses

Haha! I just had to share this one. Never thumb up your nose for whatever knowledge out there... I posted this in test blog by mistake.

Thanks to Robert. Meantime, the quest for a compelling blog topic continues . . .

I'm sick of self-flagellation and Middle East politics is so darned predictable it's downright boring. Ideas, anyone?

Monday, July 17, 2006

And Then The House Fell Down...

eveningdrive: Summer, S.H.A.R.E. and Alicia Silverstone

I can't believe it! My buddy Robert has finally made it to the blog scene!

That means the world must be ending --- this house of cards is falling down, baby!

Seriously, from where my buddy comes from, he is so left-field his mind works in another ballpark! And then some!

Okay, let's see where this leads. Compare the following stuff from Robert 10 years ago with what I wrote in "Worshipping Beauty":

Unless of course, you females, being the sneaky lot you are, have found another way to twist us poor men into pitiful wretches, helpless puddles of slime who are always there for your convenience and your endless, impossible demands, and then leaving our withered husks by the roadside to the carrion eaters as you move on to your next game, your next conquest, your next prey. Watching. Stalking. Waiting intently for the time when he is most vulnerable, then snatching his soul and ripping his spirit apart into bloody shreds, rending him with claws of malice and guilt, tearing him with fangs of lies and promised affection, revelling in the spiritual, bloody gore that spills from his shattered being, then howling with delight at the full moon, as what was once a man stares at you with the eyes of the dead, with life gone, spirit broken, dreams shattered into a thousand tiny shards of despair. The memory of your face, a wraith feeding on his fevered brain, the sound of your voice a curse burning his ears 'til he can no longer hear the screeching sound of his heart breaking , his agonized shouts begging to break out past gray, cadaverous lips. Lips that still remember the sweetness of yours, never tasting the poisoned taint 'til it was too late! Lips of yours that kissed and drew blood, a kiss of cruelty that shouts louder than the deafening silence of the night, unformed tears surrendering to your call: "I own you now. To do what I will, to be crucified along the roadside to entertain the passers-by, to tell them that I have taken you, and there you will rot. You will consume yourself in your desire to please me, you will forget who you are to always remember me, and you will toss away your dignity because I have no use for it. For you are mine, to do what I will!" Harbringers of pain and misery, agents of passion and bedevilment, what weapons can we men wield against you? What shield will protect us from your angelic smile and the hidden, venom-wrapped blade behind your back? What wall can we cower behind, to hide from the spectre of your touch and its dark, forbidden promises? What can save us from your infinite, deadly charms? What will eventually earn us redemption from the purgatory that you make of our world?


And so we die.


Yup, I did unscrupulously rip him off. Best praise I can give him yet.

Welcome to blogging, Robert!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I Want to Be Happy...

in(s)ane ramblings: happy talk

The link that Nikki provides is fab --- I'd like to turn it around several times to see where the argument goes, but granted it's true ---

Saudi Arabia at 89? Over Denmark at 99?


Well, don't know what they used as factors for the study but let me put it this way:
1) I sleep better when I'm living here
2) I watch my diet better too
3) I'm less likely to abuse my body
4) I get more meaningful exercise
5) I'm much more self-reliant

Shoot, yeah, malling and the night life in the Philippines are a different experience, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to women, and cable TV is much more value-added.

Apart from those?

Export my family and loved ones over here, and you can keep the Philippines all to yourselves.

Yup, you can never be too happy but you can definitely try. (and Niks, I totally empathize. The miles apart from someone you love can be SOOOOOOO frustrating and heart-wrenching. O.k., o.k., I put my foot in my mouth again!)

Some bits and pieces...

I'm midway through A Storm of Swords, the third installment to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The first two books (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings) have been riveting enough ... I've been reading the series only one week or so and I can't wait for the next installments. The series doesn't have the grand scale of Robert Jordan's A Wheel of Time, but the writing is soooo much better and the characters are much more palpable. Speaking of Jordan, I haven't read Knife of Dreams yet. I can hold off my desire on this, I'd rather look for A Feast for Crows by Martin. Shame the last book in Ice & Fire is still being written...

Odds for a repeat for Miami are 5:1, about the same as the Spurs winning the championship. Mavs take first spot at 4:1. The Motor City Boys dropped from 5:1 to 7:1 after the Big Ben trade, and the Bulls moved up from 30:1 to 12:1 via same trade.

Want to make a pile of money on a real longshot? Put some money for the Knicks (150:1) to win the whole enchilada, and while you're at it, double the fun with the TrailBlazers (300:1)...

Isn't it interesting how so many people got into the Zidane headbutting issue? Now that's the World Cup for you. Sooner or later, we'll have peace conferences about behavior on the soccer pitch. Come on, give us a break! The guy behaved badly, his antagonist is less than forthcoming about what was said that caused the fracas, and sport is sport, no matter the trash-talking.

The French already lost the Cup, most probably because of Zidane's send-off (he could have given the French some more confidence in the penalties). I'm of a mind they should have awarded the Golden Ball to someone else as a matter of principle, and worse things have happened and people have hardly battered an eyelash. Let's move on! ...

Our satellite TV service got the E! Europe channel and I got to watch an episode of "Girls from the Playboy Mansion." As you can divine, watching TV over here has a reason to become pleasurable, hehe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Small Imposition

This will be my 200th post. Not exactly in the chronology of this blog, since I started this only in February 2005 and the posts dated prior to that were just my means to capture my thoughts since the beginning of my stay here in the Middle East.

Please forgive this small imposition of this short prayer written by Trappist monk and renowned mystic Thomas Merton - I'm not sure whether this is the original text or derived from it, since I got it second-hand from the La Salle Brothers. This prayer has always inspired me even in my darkest hours.

No matter how lost I may seem, He has made it possible for me to find Him and know the right way.

* * * * *

My Lord God, I have no idea of where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are with me.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Just to show you that I can poke fun at myself, I'm offering some of the sappy songs of the Beatles from their early albums to show to what depths I could fall into if I were actually singing them (with feelings, natch!) ---

I'll Cry Instead - vocals by John Lennon - from "Help!"

I've got every reason on earth to be mad,
'cause I've just lost the only girl I had.
And if I could get my way,
I'd get myself locked up today,
But I can't so I cry instead.

I've got a chip on my shoulder that's bigger than my feet,
I can't talk to people that I meet.
And if I could see you now,
I'd try to make you sad somehow,
But I can't so I cry instead.

Don't want to cry when there's people there,
I get shy when they start to stare,
I'm gonna hide myself away, ay hay;
But I'll come back again someday.

And when I do you'd better hide all the girls,
I'm gonna break their hearts all 'round the world.
Yes, I'm gonna break them in two,
And show you what your loving man can do,
Until then I'll cry instead.

Don't want to cry when there's people there,
I get shy when they start to stare,
I'm gonna hide myself away, ay hay;
But I'll come back again someday.

And when I do you'd better hide all the girls,
'cause I'm gonna break their hearts all 'round the world.
Yes, I'm gonna break them in two,
And show you what your loving man can do,
Until then I'll cry instead.

I'm A Loser - vocals by John Lennon - from "Beatles for Sale"

I'm a loser
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be

Of all the love I have won or have lost
There is one love I should never have crossed
She was a girl in a million, my friend
I should have known she would win in the end

I'm a loser
And I lost someone who's near to me
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be

Although I laugh and I act like a clown
Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown
My tears are falling like rain from the sky
Is it for her or myself that I cry

I'm a loser
And I lost someone who's near to me
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be

What have I done to deserve such a fate
I realize I have left it too late
And so it's true, pride comes before a fall
I'm telling you so that you won't lose all

I'm a loser
And I lost someone who's near to me
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be

* * * * * *

Okay --- that's enough for now.

Italy kicks butt at the World Cup! Nice to see that adversity has allowed this squad to bloom. Anyhow, the squad was pretty much untouchable throughout the tournament, torching its group rivals before revving it up another notch in the semifinal against Germany. Yup, the Australians could have handed their lunches to them during the Round of 16, but luck --- and that pinch of anima --- carried the Azzurri through and they pretty much bitch-slapped Ukraine in the quarters.

I would have wanted Brazil to win its sixth World Cup --- I'm not much a fan of European football but what the Germans and the Italians brought was GREAT! I'm not a fan of the French, or the British with their constipated way of playing football. France, of course, were the superior team throughout the crossover stages, upending favored Spain in the Round of 16 and then surprising Brazil in the quarters with a 1-0 victory. How they could have had a major meltdown in the final after progressively growing stronger is inexplicable --- well, they did blow hot-and-cold in the group stage and barely qualified.

I'd like to salute the Germans for putting forth a well-organized, memorable Cup.

* * * * * *

Federer swats Nadal, then outlasts him at Wimbledon. I don't like Rafael Nadal. Correction: I dislike Rafael Nadal, his less-than-welcome pugnacity, his overblown panache. I do like his enthusiasm, his never-say-die attitude, and his relentlessness. These attributes are great for the sport. But never call him a master of anything so long as he only wins primarily on clay. Thomas Muster used to be like a machine on clay, and look what respect he got (to the point that Andre Agassi refused to recognize his No. 1 ranking). To his credit, Nadal is a quick learner on grass, and the rivalry with Federer looks to be more legit than the so-called rivalry between Federer and Andy Roddick (who, incidentally, falls out of the top 10).

I am a fan of chaps like Federer --- and along the same line, Tim Duncan, Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, the oft-forgotten Marvin Hagler, Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, Paeng Nepomuceno, the little-recognized Miguel Indurain, and gulp! (jologs alert!) - Alvin Patrimonio. They bring their A-game most consistently, play with beautiful fundamentals, and let their games - not their agents or press handlers - do the talking.

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Miami win the NBA championship, and then some. This comment is late --- but I have to say it. You've got to hand it to Shaq - he promised a championship, and the Heat got one. Of course, it's all about Dwayne Wade, but without a legit low-post presence, the Heat couldn't have done it. As to Dallas, I tip my hat to Dirk Nowitzki, but he still has to prove he has the heart of a champion. Well, maybe next year. And please, Mark Cuban has to stop whining.

As to the negative karma of Pat Riley (finally --- he sheds all of the burdens he carried since he backstabbed the Knicks in 1995) and Alonzo Mourning (don't serve him up any pity, he had to earn this one really badly), they just had enough mojo to get through --- given that only Detroit was the only real competition.

However, Detroit was a step slower (mainly because Ben Wallace is in decline) and coach Flip Saunders just showed he's only great for the regular season but is a choker during the playoffs (pencil in Rick Adelman and Mike Dunleavy here too). That they released Wallace through free agency was a foregone conclusion. That the Chicago Bulls overpaid Wallace with $15 million a year for four years is also certain. Maybe with their moves, including dealing Tyson Chandler to the New Orleans Hornets for PJ Brown and JR Smith, could win them the title come next June. Or maybe not.

As to the West, I feel only Dallas and Phoenix can make major noise - Dallas mainly by fielding the same team minus (probably) deadweight like Keith Van Horn, et al, Phoenix because Amare Stoudemire is coming back. Who knows? They might face each other in the Conference finals. I still like San Antonio, but after losing both their centers in the offseason and still some iffiness in their guard line-up (no back-up for Tony Parker), questions remain. Hope they convince a veteran free agent to sign for less bucks like they did with Michael Finley.

Lakers? Come on! The guys to watch in L.A. are the Clippers. Here's to them dusting off their rivals and I hope this time they'll hold up long enough to finally undo all the bad karma and even worse decisions made by management that have plagued their organization.

These 2006 playoffs, I had them and the Spurs meeting in the West finals (even if the Mavs did hold a 3-1 cushion). I also had the Cavs winning the tiff with the Pistons, but it looks like Lebron James is not that good or experienced enough (besides, his supporting cast sucks) to lift his team over a tested team like the Pistons.

If the Celtics pull off a major trade and give Pierce a legitimate sidekick, I have them winning the Atlantic. I just love the Celts, so sue me. New Jersey is the wise pick though. The Sixers are washed-up, while Toronto may surprise with their new line-up. Forget the Knicks, are they still in the NBA?

In Central, it's going to be tough with Cleveland and Detroit banging it out for the lead. Intriguing dark horses would be Chicago and the new-look Milwaukee Bucks, who dumped TJ Ford for Charlie Villanueva. As to Indiana, maybe they will, maybe they won't finally come out with a sure-win team.

Down in the Southeast, Orlando, not Washington, would seem to be the threat to Miami's reign. Will Dwight Howard finally make the Big Leap and become a true superstar? Atlanta and Charlotte will fight out for the scraps. The blueprint for Charlotte looks well-thought out, they just need luck at the lottery and hopefully attract a good free agent when they could finally afford to splurge. Plus, they Michael Jordan at the helm; maybe his basketball brains would count for something despite his bombing-out with the Wizards.

Over at Southwest, Dallas-San Antonio is the top draw but this division is loaded. You've got the Grizzlies and the Rockets as legit threats and the Hornets almost made it to the playoffs last year. Despite the talent of McGrady and Yao, I think overall the Rockets team is poorly-constructed and what's worse, they have the wrong coach. Maybe Rick Adelman as coach could help, he did revive the Sacramento Kings back in the day...

As to the runt of the Western litter, the Northwest, it's a division that is Denver's to lose. Portland is rebuilding, Seattle is going nowhere, Minnesota is mired in mediocrity and Kevin Garnett's monster contract, and only Utah is the bright spot assuming the Jazz are injury-free.

The Pacific may be the emerging powerhouse with a revitalized Kings squad featuring Ron Artest pushing for space at the top against Phoenix and the Clippers. The Lakers may surprise; they do have Kobe (guaranteed 15 wins with him alone) and maybe with more guard help they'll win more games. The Warriors are terminal; let's forget about them.

Barring injuries and bad luck, I see a Miami-Cleveland face-off in the East. With the new playoff rules in place, I figure it would be Dallas-San Antonio, though it could very well be Phoenix or the Clippers who would take either one or both their places. Now THAT would be intriguing.

Can't call for a champion just as yet, though a Cleveland-LA Clippers NBA final series would be a DOOOOOOZZZZY! Imagine two franchises formerly consigned to obscurity finally reaching the top of the heap. (sidebar: I watched a classic game - the Christmas Day 1977 game of the Cavs and the then-Buffalo Braves. Only Walt Frazier and Cazzie Russell on the Cavs rung bells. No others -though Sven Nater and Randy Smith of the Braves brought some memories. What a game!)

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Yup, I'm recovered. George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is great! Should have started my collection ages ago.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Un-selling the Drama

I have just returned to my desk in Dammam and it’s been quite a while since I put anything into this blog. First, it was in part to the horrendous connection speed our home PC puts up. In part because we only have one telephone at home and I can’t hog precious airtime. In part because our home PC is in a room that I have to share with other people and I can’t stay up late and disturb their sleep.

It was, also, in part, that I’m learning not to put down my feelings as if SOMEONE OUT THERE would notice. No matter how many times I put my heart out on my sleeve, no matter how I try to be clever, there just isn’t anyone.

I would like to believe that someone would understand my despair. Now, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I live my life to the fullest, and discharge my duties as best as I could to those to whom I am accountable.

During my vacation, the best times of my days were offered to my family – my sister who had gotten married, my sister who was tested by illness, my mother. Naturally, being the kind of person I am, it was hard for me not to play the part of reprobate against the part of quintessence of morality which defined my life overseas.

I offer no excuses and seek no absolution. Still, what dominated my life emotionally was my pushing for a resolution --- to find an eligible young woman who, given time, would agree to be my life partner. Apparently the one to whom I have concentrated my efforts did not agree with my assessment.

My first instinct was to find something to blame. As it is, there was … nothing. I wasn’t the person she had in mind and I had little opportunity to make her see me in the best possible light. I tried to make the best out of being disappointed and heartbroken. I almost succeeded.

Do my feelings really matter in all this? We-ell, considering the state of affairs where…

…children in Africa are under constant threat by warfare, disease, and famine
…the war in Iraq continues to be an even bigger quagmire by the day
… Jews and Arabs really cannot get along and so the vendettas, air strikes, suicide bombings, kidnappings, and prisoner torture go on without let-up
…nukes in Korea and Iran may spark a conflagration that would end the world as we know it
…gas prices keep on going up as a result of the tensions in the Middle East
…fellow Filipinos will kill each other for gambling winnings (never mind what else is going on in the country)
…somewhere out there this very minute a child is being raped, abused, or otherwise demeaned

I’d like to say it would be an even match, hahahaha! The delusion ends right there, and all around me, life goes on --- and the drama of my life is just what it is: another drama. It is the only universe I know, but out there, with the lives of other people where

… a rags-to-riches story like Manny Pacquiao would capture the heart of an entire nation, and inspires more worldwide
…young people continue to volunteer their time and talent to provide learning and economic opportunities to those who have less in life
…professionals strive despite the physical and emotional difficulties of working overseas to provide a better life for their families
…couples keep the faith to their marriage vows in the face of so many broken relationships
…new and wonderful things are being discovered about the nature of our life and our universe, mostly by young scientists
…young voices are making themselves heard --- literally in the field of music and figuratively through their expressions in dance and literature

My life drama is only as significant as I make it to be. So now I got to chin up, face tomorrow, whatever. I can’t be fixed today, maybe I can’t bring myself to fix myself tomorrow. But hey, I’m still alive, I draw breath each day and I am in command of my faculties to be of use to somebody.

The hurt would go away. Yeah, maybe. But I am still broken.

For the first time in so many months, it doesn't really matter if no one OUT THERE really cares.