Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rizal Day Rape

“In view of all these factors, I have decided not to run for president during the elections of 2004. If I were to run, it would require a major political effort on my part. But since I am among the principal figures in the divisive national events of the last two or three years, my political efforts can only result in never ending divisiveness. On the other hand, relieved of the burden of politics, I can devote the last year and a half of my administration to the following: First, strengthening the economy, to create more jobs, and to encourage business activity that is unhampered by corruption and red tape in government. Second, healing the deep divisions within our society. Third, working for clean and honest elections in 2004.”

--- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, 30 December 2002.

Anybody want a refund?

Vicissitudes

Just a mere three years after the Indian Ocean tsunami its presence have been mostly wiped away from the world consciousness ---so many other things have taken precedence, this fad and that, what baby would Jamie-Lynn Spears have, the network wars, the continuing morass in Iraq, the presidential derby in the United States, and most of all, the collapse of the US dollar against the world's currencies. But the lives that have been affected are changed forever, and no headline would change that.

There is one headline, though, that gives pause --- the death of former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto in a wanton act of violence. This closes a loop on one of the watershed events of world history --- the rise of "People Power" and the eventual dismantling of Communism. Many of the heroes of that era - Mikhail Gorbachev, Vaclav Havel, Mario Vargas Llosa, Corazon Aquino, Benazir Bhutto, Lech Walesa, the Tiananmen Square martyrs --- where are they now? Memory and circumstance have dulled their sheen.

This, I pray, would be a martyr's death that will galvanize the elements in Pakistan toward unity. Let's not talk of worst-case scenarios --- if things can get any worse in Pakistan, the long-term stability of both South and Southwestern Asia will be compromised.

Closer to daily events, salary increase time has come a lot earlier this year --- thanks to our series of studies we are upgrading our salary scale (yay! more money), which naturally, has ignited some premature celebratory speculations --- the grapevine is seething more than ever.

It's still so easy to get caught up with these things - love, life, loss, our lives may be changed by things outside our control ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hmph. Yes, Hmph.

I'm just not happy with the look on this blog. Wish I could customize it further but this @##$%#$%#$ webwasher Internet police we have in the Company is stopping me (serves you right, Chief, you should be working!).

Still waiting for inspiration for that rockin'-sockin' super blog entry designed to floor everybody. In the meantime, am posting an adaptation of Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough." With all due apologies of course. I didn't have the heart to mangle the final main verse, I just changed the POV.

Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow)

God, I feel like hell tonight
Tears of rage I cannot fight
I’d be the last to help you understand
Are you strong enough to be my man?

Nothing’s true and nothing’s right
So let me be alone tonight
Cause you can’t change the way I am
Are you strong enough to be my man?

Lie to me
I promise I’ll believe
Lie to me
But please don’t leave

I have a face I cannot show
I make the rules up as I go
It’s try and love me if you can
Are you strong enough to be my man?

When I’ve shown you that I just don’t care
When I’m throwing punches in the air
When I’m broken down and I can’t stand
Would you be man enough to be my man?

Lie to me
I promise I’ll believe
Lie to me
But please don’t leave

Speaking from man's point of view, my version:

Look at all the stars tonight
Why must we even start to fight?
To love you means I’ll understand
I must be strong enough to be your man.

Who cares who was wrong or right
I’ll still be with you here tonight
You make the difference to all I am
I’ll be strong enough to be your man.

Lie with me
I love you, please believe
Lie with me
Oh please don’t leave.

Times will come when I won’t show
Or you’ll want to stay but I have to go
We’ll try to make the best we can
I am strong enough to be your man.

When you’ve shown me that you just don’t care
When you’re throwing punches in the air
When you’re broken down and just can’t stand
I’d be man enough to be your man.

Lie with me
I love you, please believe
Lie with me
Oh please don’t leave.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Edifice Building

This is a re-hash of an old post which I never completed. Still merits a little saying.

DAM
(Gary Granada)

Sa ngalan ng huwad na kaunlaran
Ang bayan ko'y sa utang nadiin
At ito na ang kabayaran
Ang kanunu-nunuang lupain

Ang mga eksperto'y nagsasaya
At nagpupuri at sumasamba
Sa wangis ng diyus-diyosan nila
Ang dambuhalang dam

Damdam damdam damda dadam
Damdam damdam damda dadam
Damdam damdam damda dadam
Ang dambuhalang dam

Ang mga tribu'y nagtatatangis
Nananaghoy at nababaliw
Habang ang mga turistang mababangis
Nalilibang at naaaliw

Sa mga pulubing nagsasayaw
Mga katutubo ng Apayao
Na napaalis kahit umayaw
Alang-alang sa dam

Damdam damdam...

Titigan ninyo ang gahiganteng bato
Nagsasalarawan ng lipunang ito
Tulad ng mga gumawa rin nito
Walang pakiramdam


Modern man needs his edifices in order to churn out the idea that progress --- the concept of
development --- continues and that change, as a constant that change is good.

The Ramos administration was founded on the paradigm that infrastructure was the key to development - that better edifices define the spirit of modernism in the Filipino --- in a sense, the pundits in his team were right --- bigger government spending spurred growth, and though businesses suffered in the interim, long-term growth was assured.

Of course, in the Philippine context, any public works improvement worth its salt must be budgeted thrice the amount in order to be called a worthy infrastructure project. A joke goes like this:

The city government was building a new garden and among the attractions was a wrought-iron gate. The contractor didn't have the skills to do it himself, so he opens a bidding and the top three participants were left - an American, a Mexican, and a Filipino.

The American submits his bid - $800 - $600 for materials, $200 for labor. The Mexican follows with $700 - $600 for materials, and $100 for labor.

The Filipino's bid was $2,700. The contractor asks: "How come this is so high?" The Filipino answers: "$1,000 for me, $1,000 for you, and $700 for the Mexican to do the job."

Guess who won the contract?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blowing Invisible Kisses



Malamig. Mahirap magsentimental sa panahon ng Pasko, baka atakehin ka sa puso.

Still, this song reminds me of lazy days of drawn-out summers back home when the novelty of vacationing from school has worn off and that reality that you are stuck with nothing to do sets in...

This reminds me of languid afternoons curled up in bed with a book as the storms raged in the heavens and school has been cancelled (or I wish they would, eventually)...

When love finally came to full flower as I reached my twenties it reminds me of stealing the last few kisses even as I part from her, fearing that there would be no tomorrow for us to be together, and then despairing when she decided that indeed, there would be no tomorrow, at least for us together...

Mostly it's about those quiet times, those times in between those regular crises, flare-ups, the wailing about paying the bills and someone's lost keys --- when you are with someone you love and the air between becomes richer, as if pregnant and alive with the invisible kisses you are blowing one another. And that you take comfort in such silence, knowing you need not speak, for in your silence lies the greatest passion of all.

Astrud Gilberto is such a genius. Someone, quick, pin her another medal.

"Parting with people is a sadness; a place is only a place." --- Frank Herbert, Dune

A CERTAIN SADNESS(Astrud Gilberto)

Look out the window when that rain storms
I let the wind blow up a brain storm
. . .and now I'm wondering
Whether weather like this gets you too

It may go on like this for hours
Too late in fall for April showers
So what we got here
Got a thought or two
I need to share with you

Here goes:

Darling tell me now
Have I done wrong somehow
That you won't look at me

Need it pointed out
Can't keep my wits about
When you won't look at me

Is there something I oughta know
You're finding hard to say?
Well there's just a trace
Hiding on your face
And I learned it that way

Just another soul
That really knows my soul
And you won't look at me

Does that take the prize?
How much I love those eyes
and they won't look at me

Now the rain has gone
But something lingers on
There's certain sadness here
Now that the sky is clear

And it's so so clear
yes, it's all so clear
To me now

And I can't help but feel
That certain sadness's here
To stay.

Stuck at First Gear

So I'm revved up, excited on getting started on all of the perfomance appraisal sheets for one of the companies in our group. The catch is --- the system is DOWN. It has been for the past few days. The bright boys in IT went for a maintenance run and scheduled it during the Christmas break of our provider in Europe. Pure genuis. So now I'm stuck filing other papers, or worse, I might actually start on meaningful work. Crap!

I decided to wear my leathers this morning because I wanted to look formal for the first time in weeks --- I've stopped using my Docs because they are absolutely killing my feet. It's still a toss-up if I want to exchange arthritis in the feet for a more malignant, yet less painful ailment --- but I guess the Man Upstairs won't help me out on this one. Anyway, I'm stuck waiting in front of our apartment building for fifteen minutes because my carpool was late. It was cold, and I couldn't sit on the steps because our maintenance man decided to take a vacation too. And oh, I may have forgotten, our elevator is broken too.

Okay, yeah, it's a bad start for the day. Thank God it's Christmas, I could be bugshit about anything but the Lord celebrates his birthday today. Ummm, yup, that sure more than evens out everything in the greater scheme of things.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The World is Still Flat

"Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”
--- Robert Heinlein, science fiction writer

“You should never try and teach a pig to read for two reasons. First, it's impossible; and secondly, it annoys the hell out of the pig!”
--- Will Rogers, humorist

I must have been blessed to awaken feelings in people that makes them want to argue with me. Or else, I'm choosing to hang around with people who, for some reason, rub on me the wrong way or vice-versa.

Just yesterday, I had a long discussion with one of my buddies on relaxing the vow of celibacy so that Catholic priests can marry and raise families. While I certainly agreed with his contention that it should be allowed (which I'm sure would spark some debate from those who care enough to read this blog and chime in an opinion), we never could agree as to the why it should be allowed. Like anyone who has some exposure to the Socratic method, I wanted to pin him down on how and why he thought his original statement was valid. For some reason, I found the way he flung about his statement as misinformed and irresponsible. Anyone can express an opinion, but for me to agree to it, I have to find out why.

(Sue me --- I was hung over, semi-depressed, and perhaps in need of a hug.)

After we broke off (both of us had to go back to work), it just occurred to me that we have been debating a lot lately. I don't know if it's me, or the things we talk about, or the way we go about our lives in general. Personally, I'd try to avoid expressing an opinion that is not backed up by something solid --- in matters of politics, of the heart, or of science, evidence does help --- but since I'm a bit offbeat myself, being a contrarian is something that is almost impossible to avoid.

Another time I got into an e-mail dispute with someone I hardly knew over my opinion over their choir's performance and repertoire. Looking back, I believe I was at fault over how I expressed myself, but then again, it wouldn't have gone that way if the other person wasn't as stubborn as I was. Eventually I had to concede and granted him whatever moral victory he could get, not because I agreed with his viewpoint but because at some point, trifles such as our discussion could be, and should be, avoided.

Still, another .... but wait, I think what I would add would reach the same conclusion --- it doesn't pay to argue when a) the issue to be decided affects no one in the end; b) it is outside my area of expertise; c) it is only a matter of conjecture.

But I just love arguing. I can't stop. So these quotes are for me --- no, people whom I argue with aren't pigs (though some of them seem that way, sometimes), but arguing the (somewhat useless) point solves nothing.

So if anyone wants to pick at something with me, let me forestall you ---yup, I agree with you the world is still flat.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Kids, Don't Read This - Which Means You Will

This is for the buddies back home.

I'd rather not name my buddy who brainstormed with me (well, not really a brainstorm, it was like reaching deep thoughts while sitting on the crapper), but I can't take full responsibility for it, either. This was one of our favorite car songs, especially in those days when radio stations started to play the same old stuff and we were too poor (and cheap) to put in a cassette or CD of some other tunes.

It also gave us some form of solace that we were being creative and that someday our talent would get arrested (you bet we would, but for altogether different reasons, hehe ...)

We first wrecked "Pare Ko" by the Eraserheads (which was easy, just change "pinaasa" to "ginahasa" and there you go, plus some other combos), and then we moved on "Toyang" (which is by far the best, but one I'll share only in person), and then to this piece, which is funny, but not as much. We later tried "With A Smile" and "Ang Huling Al Bimbo" but by then we had started doing our own material, but the jokes were so in-house the songs just didn't have "mass appeal."

Naturally, this isn't the best side of all of us who chipped in with these songs --- but it does work if you're young, carefree, and it helps if you're drinking, though for the record we were not on ANYTHING when we did these songs. With all due apologies to the original composers.

To all those people who put in a vote of confidence in me, now's the time to think about possibly taking it back.

SONNY (sung to the Eraserheads' "Shirley")

Hayok na naman si Sonny
Sa dalagang masikip ang p*ki
Sila'y nag-f*ck sa may Antipolo kagabi

The next week, hot item na sila
Nagkakan**tan papunta sa CASAA
Kung maglampungan akala mo walang katabi

Ganyan kalibog, ganyan kalibog
Ganyan kalibog, ganyan kalibog

Parati na siyang tulong sa eskuwela
Gulo-gulo palagi ang buhok niya
Tumitirik ang mata kapag naglalakad sa kalye

Ganyan kalibog, ganyan kalibog
Ganyan kalibog, ganyan kalibog

Ngunit isang araw sa may SM sila'y nag-away
Nag-umbagan, nagtadyakan
Hanggang sila'y malupaypay sa away
Umiiyak silang umuwi dahil sila'y may AIDS!

After three days, tumawag ang duktor ni Sonny
Diagnosis pala niya'y mali!
Hala! Punta kay dalaga at sila'y nagkan**tan uli!

Ganyan kalibog, ganyan kalibog
Ganyan kalibog, ganyan kalibog!

Hayok na naman si Sonny...

Cold Realization

Show me a good and gracious loser, and I'll show you a failure.
-- Knute Rockne

Eid Mubarak!

So here I am in the office, trying to recover some of my fried brain cells from having to work during what is supposed to be our vacation. Well, IT IS salary increment computation time, and like it or not, people would want to see some form of salary increase on their paychecks within the first quarter of 2008. Then we get this directive that we have to get it done before January payroll. If holiday had not happened, I bet they would have steamrolled us to get it done before December payroll. You have to love management's devotion, but some fool is going to have to bear the brunt of getting the job done; in which case, IT'S ME!

(Maniacal laughter in the background).

I'm not really complaining; after all, it is my job portfolio and this is what it means to hold my job title. It's just ... yeah, I hate to admit it, this part of the year really tugs at those homesick heartstrings, and it has struck me that this season marks the third year I haven't spent Christmas back home. I absolutely hate the whole commercialization of the holiday season, and for some I may seem to be the prototypical Scrooge, I did appreciate Christmas for what it was and is --- an opportunity to be with the people one really cares about.

I would like to bitch about how the system's down for preventive maintenance.
I would like to bitch about my aching body parts.
I would like to bitch about the timing of my work and events in the year.
Even if I shouldn't --- there isn't any predetermined unfairness here.

To be fair, I have friends, some of whom have children who help fill the void. But try as I may, capturing all these feelings and experiences, and bottling them into a drink, if I may, would not slake my thirst for the people and things I miss back home. It just isn't the same, and it will never be.

It's hard to be lonely -- and even in the midst of other people, it becomes all the more obvious that I'm alone. Put any silver lining on this, it just isn't possible --- so for this year, I'm asserting that this state of events is unacceptable.

Until next year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Coming of Homo Superior

Human evolution speeding up--study - INQUIRER.net

Maybe the editorial teams at Marvel or of shows like "Heroes" have gotten it correctly. Hope these changing genomes won't mean why certain people from certain regions have really bad B.O., smelly turds, or chronic halitosis. Yup, it's hard not to be racist when you're in a public toilet and get to see so many examples at work every single day. I do clap for mutations that work ot for bigger, fluffier breasts and better "packages," hahahahaha!

The downside to all of this is some misanthropic, racist pyscho will go on about how his or her race has a "manifest destiny" --- it's o.k. if they blog from the comfort of their own PCs, it's another thing if they start cults, wage wars or launch mass-murder drives. But wait, hasn't the Bush administration already done this?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Diversion



This track is testament to why The Rolling Stones were named "the greatest rock & roll band of all time." Though I will always be a Beatles homer, the Stones have earned their props. They were prolific, lived through several personnel changes (including the deaths of founders Brian Jones and Ian Stewart), and have kept themselves relevant with every changing generation, while continuing to inspire other acts to do as well as they did. The solo efforts of principals Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have hardly detracted from the overall identity of the band.

I'm catching on quite slowly with the Stones (yes, I am still a Beatles homer), but given time and opportunity I'll ramp up my playlist with their tunes.

I have come to like this tune by virtue of its being a central motif in some episodes of the first season of "House, MD" which I saw for the first time only during the past few days. I found Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House downright offensive but totally compelling, which was what he was supposed to do, I surmise. Well, he did earn awards from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild for his portrayal of the idiosyncratic diagnostician, made all the more credible because he is a British actor pulling off a flawless American accent. And, the dude is a musician and novelist on the side. Cool.

Of course I have a crush on Dr. Allison Cameron, not so much because of Jennifer Morrison herself but how the character concept and actress meshed perfectly. Sue me, that's how her character is supposed to appeal to my particular demographic.

One notable film I saw during that span was Denis Dercourt's "La Tourneuse Des Pages" (The Page Turner) with Deborah Francois, all of 20 years old. She's a stunner, though the film itself is memorable for its direction and photography. It had a few technical goofs with the wardrobe, and the script could have used some more fleshing out of inner motives, but the result is still worth the price of the ticket, so to speak. However, I had to watch it in the original French without any subtitles! (What a downer.)

I was also able to sneak in seeing the latest installment of those trendy reptilian martial artists, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in "TMNT." Yeah, the movie blows, but who cares? Turtles rule!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Weather Report, and Bowls

It's almost the end of the year and I realized that I have posted less than half of my total posts in 2006. The quality of the writing rose and ebbed as well, but then again, I did mention sometime during the first half of the year that I found something else with which to express myself --- mainly gouge my eyes out doing work, then finding out it made no sense at all and now I'm on the verge of giving up.

Do I hate myself a little? Yes. But then, now I know I'm hating my job situation, I have to choose the right solution. Put up, or shut up and go man your station.

It's the Yule season again in the Philippines and even here homes have picked up some festive spin. Since winters are cooler here you don't need reminders that it's once again this time of year.

Speaking of which, one of the great stories of December was in 1994 (or for most other Decembers in my life, save for those of my earliest childhood), when most of our people in SHARE were in one way or another connected to the World Youth Day organization. If I were to play my experience in SHARE from start to finish, I think we had peaked right there and then as an organization that could have had national status. We didn't play it the right way then, and being the idealists that we were, many of us thought everyone else was the chump for not being who we were. Yeah, I could have used that memo reminding me otherwise.

The English call it "Boxing Day" - the day after Christmas. Some of our closest friends went out together to get ourselves prepared for the grind. Our group was mostly involved with General Services, which mainly dealt with housing and food services. We had become ingrained in the spirit of the event that we were actually staying over at headquarters in Intramuros. So going out that day was a treat - with about three weeks to go and preparations nowhere near finished. From where we stood, that is.

The core of the original "Bob-Boys" (in tribute to Bob Millanes, our section chair, and a pun on how much we were the pigs that we were) was there - Gerard, Feds, and me. (Robert found the work a little on the side of drudgery, so he dropped out in the work but kept our spirits up just the same.) Our buddy Des, who had just returned from vacation from the States and found no room in GS but joined the Marketing group instead, was also there.

The main players, who were peripheral to the WYD but were our main reason to go out (aside from the usual reason of getting drunk) were Jenny C, who was wrapping up her last few terms with DLSU and volunteered to be at HQ, and Rommel F., who was her steady at the time, who of course had to be there, since he did the driving.

Intramuros is grand in the evenings --- it has both the romance and Old-World charm that was colonial Manila, plus the inexplicable but palapable thrill of the possibility of having oneself witness or directly experience a random mugging. I'm sure you snobs who drool over Hong Kong, London or New York have this, but in different doses.

We didn't do the sights - the guys who were camped out at HQ were tired of Intramuros, but hey, we did want to drink, and the place to be, then as now, was Malate. We all met up and then proceeded to Tia Maria's in Adriatico (I don't know if it's still there ---I haven't been there in almost five years) and proceeded to wolf down the chow and wash it down with some liquor.

I know people have been known to go into heights of ecstasy over rare vintages or choice cuts of meat, but nothing beats the simple pleasure of eating too much food and drinking so much alcohol because you can afford it, and it feels good too, dammit! So it was for us right there and then. At that time, the place had no band, but the house music was pretty good and we were stacking it up there with the fajitas, nachos, and the beer, not to mention our own orders of food.

In his usual funny-scrappy-weasely-but-so-helplessly-hilarious-you-can't-help-but-laugh-or-else-have-an-embolism way, Des took over the conversation. He always had the japes for everyone, but that day, I was his whipping boy. The fact that I couldn't remember what he said meant that it was just one of those days. But I was in too good a mood (or too numb, I can't say which) so we went back-and-forth for most of the meal. He could act drunker than any efficient beer guzzler, but the Des was actually drinking iced tea.

Here comes the kicker - Jenny absolutely loved laughing at our jokes. For once I put up a comment (which until today I still can't remember, though everything else was clear) which cracked everybody up, though Des started the line. We sent ourselves up in stitches, though Jenny was probably shrieking compared to us. It was an effort to stop from breaking out in guffaws, and by the time we stopped Jenny was breathing heavily. Even the group at the other table, who were loud in the first place, looked askance at us -- though there was this guy that laid the Eye on Jenny. Rommel had a semi-stern look by that time (probably because of the guy, though the man on a good day would never run out of jokes) but seeing that Jenny was taking on the color of green carpet I couldn't have blamed him. She warned us too --- to stop.

We went on for a more seconds until Des delivered the super-finish of the blow, and out came the laughs again! But all of this was suddenly erased when Jenny suddenly choked, coughed, and hiccuped (and in that order, too) before she hurled almost everything she had that night! Lucky for us, Rommel was really razor-sharp and got the saucebowl for our fajitas to catch all of her vomit.

Lesson: always have a quick hand to catch your vomit.

The rub to all of this thing was while Jenny hurled in front of our faces, she actually brushed back her hair in a flirtatious-but-conservative-I'm-prim-and-proper manner that was even far funnier than her giving us flashbacks of The Exorcist.

Second lesson: you could still be pretty while disgorging the contents of your stomach.

When we had the stuff all cleared and the service crew helped us with everything (Jenny was pretty neat - everything landed in the bowl. I give that feat 100 points - mainly by giving me a reason to cite something gross and still be complimentary of the one who did it!), Des, still the usual kidder, asked the waiter for another bowl, just in case, well, if she went at it again.

If this were a cartoon world a huge mallet would have come out of Rommel's pocket and he would smashed all of Des' brains. But since he was a doctor, and knew how Des needed his brain, he just forbore on vengeance and just issued stern warnings, while at the same time sucking up to his girlfriend by being solicitous (I didn't find this cheap. It was actually endearing that a couple could still go all saccharine at the notion of vomit).

Well, yeah, she did hurl at least two times more on the way home, but nothing could have beaten what we had just experienced. The night ended semi-badly, but Jenny made the rounds of all our stories for three straight years. If she gives me an excuse nowadays, with all due respect, I'd still make her remember, hehe.

I need more of those days and less of what I'm having right now.

But as the good poet Mick Jagger said, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes - well you might find - you get what you need."

Willing Exile: Talking It Up A Little

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Star Wars Horoscope

I haven't done this in a while. So here goes:

Star Wars Horoscope for Libra

You are on a lifelong pursuit of justice and determined to succeed.
You convey the art of persuasion through force.
You always display your supreme intelligence.
You have a great talent in obtaining balance between yourself and your surroundings.

Star wars character you are most like: Obi Wan Kenobi

The Hits Keep Coming . . .

Jakarta floods blamed on climate change - CNN.com

Sifting through the Middle East headlines is like an exercise pulling your teeth with dental floss. You got that right. For all of the positives of economic development in the region, everyone's getting the collective shaft in Iraq --- and though I don't really like the U.S., I feel for the poor average-Joe soldiers getting shot at and killed while their puppet masters make off with the cash (shades of Oliver Stone - I know, I know, but that man may have a point). Meantime, Iraqis are killing their fellows with a vengeance. What a mess.

On the "local" front, the big issue is a Filipina getting the death penalty in Kuwait. Really a sad story - Filipinos are not just peons you can rub your boogers at, so I guess that employer had it coming. But still - you tell me why our government still keeps on allowing these issues to continue. Filipinos, domestic duties, and abusive employers are a bad mix. Throw in desperation and homesickness and you have it --- you produce these kinds of cases. And now the Philippine government sends the VP over to perform heroics. It's unfair to Ka Noli to give him this task and expect great results, and nobody put a gun to Marilou Ranario's head to take that job.

And oh, don't get me started on the new round of peace talks on Palestine. One sh*t pile of deception after another, and no side comes clean. What a train wreck.

On to the main feature --- the troubles in Indonesia as a result of climate change are a sure sign that worse things are also in store for the Philippines. For an archipelagic nation such as the Philippines, the signs are already there - killer flash floods, the smog in Manila, the receded coastline of Manila. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Climate Change report some few days back. Al Gore wasn't kidding. The tragedy in Bangladesh with typhoon Sidr is not incidental. We need to make changes now.

Some fast facts:

• We are fast losing snow, and Arctic summer sea ice has been reduced.
• By the start of the next century, average surface temperatures could rise by between 1.1C and 6.4C, compared to those of the '80s.
• Sea levels will rise by at least 18 cm.
• Expect more forces of nature acting against us -- heat waves, rainstorms, tropical cyclones and surges in sea level --- more frequently and to a greater degree
• The first and the most to lose will be the poor nations, as always, particulary small island-states, and developing economies where people live in river deltas.
• Expect more famine in Africa as water and rainfall would be ever more scarce. Half a billion people will be affected by 2020. Crop yields will be cut in half.
• Thirsty? By the middle of this century, lots of water due to flooding in the coastal areas of Central, South, East and Southeast Asia, but fresh water for drinking will be less available due to depleted water tables and aquifers.
• We are losing more forest cover than those industrial foresters are claiming to replenish.

Them hits just keep on coming. It's never too late to start conservation efforts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Landing the Big Fish

Craigslist Meets WallStreet

Courtesy of this post from Jessica Zafra.

I can't say I'm not surprised. If the premise that women go with the money were true, maybe I should bamboozle (or con) my boss to give me a shagadelic-level pay raise. That is, of course, if I'm aiming for a trophy wife. Under the circumstances, no, I think I'll pass.

I don't believe Pinays are really out for money, but if you mention the notion of "security" collective ears are perking up.

There's this joke going around our friends since most of us in our relative peer group are married. Only my colleague in our department and another from our Finance Department are eligible bachelors (we do have other bachelors, but I believe they're "bachelorettes," to use a kinder term), so we often banter about why we aren't married. Here in Saudi Arabia, money is of course an issue but less so since the working women here are relatively independent, even more so financially, than their counterparts back in the Philippines. Security is a bigger consideration than money. Which leads to the joke....

A veteran OFW from Saudi Arabia talks the issue on security: "Huwag mong sabihing gusto ng babae ng security para magpakasal. Ang security, umiinom ng tuba. Ako, driver, may pambili ako ng beer!"

(Translated: "Don't say women like security for marriage. Security (guards) drink coconut wine (easily available, just like moonshine). I'm a driver and I can afford beer!"

Which leads back to our conundrum - if I'm doing so well (relatively) compared to many of my peers, how is it I am getting nowhere? Hmmm... maybe I'm in the wrong circles. Or, maybe I'm not putting myself in the right market. Or (and a big "hmmmm" to follow) I'm not that inherently desirable to women in the first place!

(Small voice: Yes, Chief. Do start angling for that pay raise. The dollar value is really shrinking, anyhow...)

I'm not really that vain as to my physical person to start with (maybe that's why I get little attention as well), but I do have that little vanity that I can manage to attract someone because of me, not of any personal success or money that comes along.

But, in any case, dollar-sense or otherwise, the facts of the matter are clear -- it's not the money that gets them, but that you're willing to spend it (hahahaha!). Still, if I need it, I will take surrogate affection for the meantime -- which leads to an even older exchange with some of the buddies back home ---

"If you're on a one-time date, whom would you rather have --- a girl who could possibly be girlfriend material, or a porn star?" My buddy Robert pipes up - "I'll pick the porn star. I don't have to spend much on the date and I will have a guaranteed good time!"

A woman never forgets the men she could have had; a man, the women he couldn't. ---
Anonymous

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Uninvited



Look closely at the kid in the picture. He is my youngest nephew, my middle sister's eldest child. They named him Jeremiah Angelo, partly after me. I don't know why, really. I am tickled pink of course. :-)

New life is all around us. It's a beautiful thing.

The biggest downer to all of this is how Death creeps up on those of my generation. Another of the people in our high school batch passed away, due to a massive heart attack. I have to admit - I'm scared. Not of the fact of dying in itself, but that my death would leave a gaping hole in the lives of those who depend on me. Death is that one guest that always comes uninvited but one you can't turn away at all. Unless, of course, you put in the security system that is called "sound living."

Living that kind of well-balanced life can sometimes be brutal especially if one has picked up so many bad habits along the way. Building a wholesome discipline is an arduous task, made all the more difficult by the necessity of losing the bad habits along the way.

So there, I am not in the best of shape these days. I try, but the trying can be trying (ugh! ugly pun, buddy). I don't need a wake-up call --- I'm in that situation where I've stuffed three pillows on top of the darned alarm siren!

I still believe the passing of time can be a good thing, but the memories are starting to become more vivid. That's a bad sign. It's time to make a new set of memorable experiences. That uninvited guest will eventually pay a visit, but I'd rather put myself in that situation where his coming isn't all that bad, though I'd never lay out the welcome mat, naturally.

"The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man is when he is a baby." - Natalie Wood

Monday, November 12, 2007

Missing Out on Trivia

Myleene Klass - The Official Website - myleeneklass.co.uk

It's official - I'm out of the pop loop.

Man, how could I miss referencing on this girl? Well, yeah, she's mostly in the Anglo market rather than the American, but still, she's a Filipina! At least half from her mother's side. A poll from a British media outlet named her the Best Celebrity Body for 2007 - for the guys it was Daniel Craig.

On another note, Miss Canada won the Miss Earth contest in Manila.

That's about it for pop references.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Literary lion Norman Mailer dies - CNN.com

Two of my favorite quotes from the man:

"Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment."

"Tough guys don't dance. You had better believe it."

One of the last authors whose personal legend exceeded their own fame. I hated going through his books, but at least I could claim I was cultured by reading them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Denied! And Then Some

Boy hires hitman to kill parents after grounding denies PlayStation, TV - Engadget

Some guys are just plain dumb. Yep, video games can do that to you.

I wouldn't recommend it, but try going through a 20-volume encyclopedia when you're grounded. That's what I did if my parents were angry at me or we weren't allowed to go out. It took me some six-odd years in between (of course, by the second year I was fully hooked, even though our Encyclopedia International was about 15-odd years old by the time I started reading it) to finish the darned thing. That's a lot of downtime. A lot.

And oh yeah, that process of indoctrination is irreversible. If you would consider me sane, that is.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fed Up

Posturing - INQUIRER.net

Let the commentaries begin.

Money rules, losers drool.

I'm posting just as I have wrapped up another directing job, this time for the concert of friends who are part of the all-male a capella choir Saringhimig. I was happy with the result considering all the challenges we faced prior to the show. The dynamic in the choir is not altogether healthy and I foresee them making changes after the concert. On an objective level, they do need to address the talent quotient among their members plus they have to figure out how to handle the other aspects of the performance business than the actual singing itself.

I posted about these guys during the 2006 TFC Pop Star competitions and they have undergone a lot of flux since then. Well, at least, two of the winners of the Saudi nationals, Kim M and Jasmine A, made it as guests. While I may not agree personally with how their parents and mentors are managing their careers (as if I had the right, but still...) , I'm sure these young ladies will have a bright future. They have the talent to do it, certainly.

Anyhow, one wonders what relation does our link for the day have with this concert --- the scale of the events happening in the Philippines is incredibly disturbing, to say the least, notwithstanding the tragedy befalling the Saguisags, which is a situation I'd hardly wish for anyone. Maybe we need some human interest stories such as this to take our minds away from the rest of the political landscape. Otherwise, we will just turn numb.

It's money. Money and influence and all the influence- and leverage-peddling that goes on in our government and society --- they gnaw at the tatters of our moral fabric. We have a generation of young people who know no better, who have forgotten the cruelties of Martial Law and the struggle to regain our democracy --- they who only know Erap and how many betrayals have taken place since he was elected.

We have people wishing for the show of the iron fist to put back the country back on track. How foolish, how naive would it be for us to expect that the "savior" will slink back into obscurity once they have tasted power and all its trappings and perks. We asked for Erap to leave and we got Gloria, who proved to be little better.

Yes, do cheer up that our country's fundamentals have been healthier since she assumed power. Forget the involuntary disappearances, the "Hello Garci" incident, the Macapagal Boulevard scam, the fertilizer scam, the ZTE broadband scam, the endless allegations of jueteng, the shameful handling of the Subic rape case, among many other things. Forget that the continuum of President Arroyo's administration spans cases from the absurd to the downright galling. The economy is doing great, hurrah!

Meantime, family incomes are shrinking as prices rise. Having hope is a great exercise, at least to tell ourselves it would turn out all right.

The chain of events up to now is only leaven for more cynicism. Avoiding the news now is more of a given than a choice. I've had it - I'm officially fed up with the state of affairs in the Philippines. Making me care would be a stretch --= from now on, I'll try my best to talk about positive stuff.

This is where all current events begin to intersect --- obviously there is garden-variety corruption you can encounter in your own backyard. MalacaƱang sounds impressive, but guess what? Sneak-thieving is even more frustrating when it's not even supposed to happen. Then again, anyone with a modicum of power is likely to abuse it.

The concert was held at the Filipino community school in Al Khobar - a favored site because of its accessibility, sufficient size, adequate stage, affordability, and most of all, the positive vibe of conducting the activity without drawing too much attention from the local authorities. The organizers got a call from the school on Wednesday morning saying that they needed a permit from the government to conduct the concert.

My advice was for them to get one posthaste, so that there would be no static from the school. It was standard practice that the organizer of the event would secure the permit (the SH boys did not read the fine print, so sorry, and boy, were they sorry!), though this never came up as problem for us in SPA-TDG since our activities involved the school's students. After some messages were passed back-and-forth, I surmised everything would be okay by that afternoon.

Surprise! The school board met during the afternoon and then issued a directive that the show didn't have a permit, and therefore should not proceed. News of a raid at the Indian school was still fresh as there seems to be some initiative from the locals to kick expat butt and maintain law and order. Or so how these things normally go; after the raids either the passion ebbs or grease money flows, and it's back to business as usual.

I was elsewhere that evening to prepare the lights for the show and received word that there was a problem. So off I went to talk with the school authorities

What I feared was that they would throw SH out but at least they were reasonable enough to allow the preparations to proceed without any interference from the school provided a permit would be secured by 4:00pm the following day, thus begging for some legerdemain since government offices close on Wednesday evening. One of the choir members said that their company had a strong connection with the government, so we worked on the assurance that we would secure a permit. It was really rolling the dice at that point.

I almost lost my head listening to the Chairman of the School Board and the Principal defend their position that the school would have no liability arising from the cancellation of the show. It was a defense buttressed by denials, hand-wringing, and overall disavowal of any responsibility for the fiasco that was looming in front of them.

1.) The reservation was secured in September and though SH did not read the fine print, the school, having ownership of the premises and thus final responsibility, did not even follow-up on the permit which, as far as I'm concerned, should have been quid pro quo if they were really conscious of the regulations. SH, of course, should take full responsibility for the lack of the permit, but they redeemed themselves by doing what it took to get the show going.

2.) The school called the week before asking about the permit but did not press the issue. I don't know what's going on in the heads of these school authorities. You're taking the organizer's money, for crying out loud! Where's the "ownership" of the situation? As I was not in the loop when this conversation happened, I wasn't able to advise the group of what to expect.

3.) The school authorities were well-aware of the events surrounding the raid and took steps only when it was too late, i.e. on the last day. Even given that situation, they took the entire afternoon to discuss whether to grant approval, which is pretty much putting the cart before the horse.

4.) There is no fixed procedure from the school on how to secure the permit that will assist users should they want to get one. If there is one, they haven't educated their front-liners how to answer questions.

5.) What made it galling was that when I asked for their inputs on the matter, we were met with "that's your problem, not ours."

6.) The school had a Foundation Day event on the following day, Friday, with --- you guessed it --- musical performances and dance performances on the schedule. They couldn't have missed the schedule for the concert --- and could have taken safeguards earlier, if they were really concerned about local regulations.

Work on the venue proceeded as scheduled --- and it was only the guarantee of one of the show's sponsors that we were able to proceed.

Some things which disturbed me before and after the event:

1.) The school had scheduled a big chunk of activities for its Foundation Day without regard for the reservation schedule. There were practices, practices, practices in the venue until the kids were asked to leave and brought home by school buses.

2.) A parallel activity with one of the community organizations was scheduled at the same time as the concert - and one of the participants actually went to the school, even asking if the program had started.

3.) The primary equipment for the school's sound system was removed just right before we started preparations, and we found out later that the system was brought to this community organization's event.

4.) After his big show of concern over the permit of the show, the Chairman was rather dismissive when the "cavalry" arrived, conveniently passing on to the Principal the responsibility of resolving any untoward incident that could occur.

5.) The Chairman happens to be one of the prominent members of this other community organization.

It's easy to put two and two together, though for now I would give the Chairman, his cohorts, and the school authorities the benefit of the doubt over their actions. Still, this has not been my first experience with the arbitrariness of the school authorities as regards their venue. Nor has it been my first encounter, both first-hand and through trusted sources, of the Chairman's underhanded practices and his arrogance.

The Chairman is dependent on the votes of his fellow parents to stay in office. Recently, there have been signals from their Board that they want to forestall new elections and that the Chairmanship be rotated among the incumbents.

The school is a lucrative business --- understandably, to operate it the costs are passed onto the students and their families. The cost of educating a student at the school is similar to the cost of sending a student to a top private school in the Philippines. The control of financial transactions --- both for educational and non-educational purposes --- rests with the Board. That is a large cash flow managed through the hands of few individuals --- and there is no power to audit their actions except through election, though by that time damage would have been done.

Raise your hand if this reminds you of something.

Case closed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Looking for a Laugh Trip


Plasma 2, originally uploaded by Off beat Mum.

We all need a laugh and I guess you’re just the one. - Rod Stewart, Silicone Grown

It seems things get interesting for bloggers when they start to whine. Yap, yap, yap, yap, yap, yap! When does it end?

I stubbed my toe last week. It hurt like hell and it's all bruised. Yap, yap, yap.

I dropped my cellphone and now the sound's all screwed up. Yap, yap, yap.

I got up late, missed my ride, and my boss chewed me a new asshole when I got to work. Yap, yap, yap.

The President of the Philippines pardoned her predecessor for corruption charges that could not be proven conclusively, while her political fate still hangs in the balance. Yap, yap, yap.

The peso's value has risen but our earning power has fallen. Yap, yap, yap.

No one really knows if the proverbial shit hit the fan in the mall explosion or if anyone is still shoveling shit in our faces to avoid blame. Yap, yap, yap.

If it were possible, I'd like to stick my finger into a wall outlet to find out if I can get a buzz, much like this interesting photo I just found. Man, I need a laugh trip. Movies won't do it --- I recently watched "Blades of Glory" and the movie was so ghey, though there were only a few scenes where I laughed out loud. I did find Rob Zombie's take on the "Halloween" franchise a tad hilarious.

Anyhow, I've watched too many slasher movies ---the type where most of the pretty girls get chopped up and the somewhat virginal plain Jane survives --- in the past few days (Vengeance is mine, b*tch! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! --- but that's maniacal, not jovial. ).

I surmise even getting myself soused up won't do the trick. As far as I know, waking up with a hangover is a poor excuse after laughing it up in your own snot and puke.

And no, getting laid is not the answer, but it does me give stupid ideas. Then again, no.

Maybe I'll post this ad in our intra-Company classifieds:

WANTED: A laugh trip that would leave person in stitches. Substance abuse and pornography optional but not necessary. No moving devices required. Misanthropes need not apply.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Riskies

How Scared Should We Be? - Health - New York Times Blog
(registration required)

Just a short rejoinder though --- how do they count people jumping in front of cars?

In Force on Friday

Save the day - INQUIRER.net

Well, back on track. The situation back home is not good for a number of expatriates over here - martial law in Pakistan as the situation has greatly deteriorated. In the Philippines? The circus is in town, but no one really knows who the ringmaster really is. It's so easy to be dismissive of the events and the politicians, but then again, everywhere, Filipinos always find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot when opinions clash.

One thing that bodes ill for the current administration is the lack of protest over the pardon of convicted former President Estrada. The pardon itself shows political savvy, but this short-term move shores up nothing for the future.

What a mess.

I don't know what I will be able to do on Friday. But I will don my passable black t-shirt to show that I am one with others in the nation who care about the way the administration and many other politicans have mortgaged the future of our collective soul.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

For Lack of Better Words, This! ...

Willing Exile: And the Word Is ... Love

I wish this could be easier, but I am way past adolescence to agonize over it. So here goes (sigh).

I’m way deep into what I’d like to say intense infatuation. Yeah, I won’t kid myself about it. I’m in love.

Who is she? That’s not important. At least to you, Constant Reader, would it really matter if she’s just the girl who bandaged my knee at the hospital the other week or the woman whom I’ve helped with her remittance back home at Western Union? What she does is less important than who she is.

Who is she? No, she isn’t the girl in the billboard commercial, or the girl swaying her hips at some reality show. She isn’t a voyeuristic fantasy, though it may feel that way after these months of enforced solitude.

I’m in love with this girl, this woman, not because she has some ethereal beauty that would take one’s breath away. Well, maybe to other people, but to me, she does. She has the fluid grace that fills my soul my heart just wants to stop and be forever overwhelmed. But even then, that’s not the reason why I feel for her the way I do.

I’ve always longed for connection, where there is a true meeting of minds that eclipses the idea of physical intimacy. It’s been long in coming here in Saudi Arabia, mainly because I have been reluctant to allow myself the opportunity, no, the beauty of finding someone. Is she the one? Maybe.

It really seems unfair to you, Constant Reader, not to let you in on the details of this. But that is where suggestion and perception will do their part --- I will pretend I am making a suggestion to this effect, and you will pretend that you have perceived my actual meaning. In that way we can lie to one another that I have actually achieved my goal and you truly understand what I intend to say.

Anyhow, I’m stalling since I have not reached into the true heart of the matter.

WHO…

(Do you really have to know?)

IS…

(Well, if I’m actually going to admit…)

SHE?

If you know your Kevin Costner movies, her first name is the same as the true name of Mary McDonnell’s character in “Dances with Wolves.” Okay, that’s a dead giveaway, unless you don’t know your Google. If you want another giveaway, try the name of Arnie Cunningham’s best friend. It’s a name that was very popular in the 1960’s, or so I’m told. It’s one of my favorite names as well, as far as the girls I have had relationships go --- once during high school and another during that short time I taught in Pampanga.

But anyhow, I let her onto the secret and she turned me down. I asked her permission to proceed, and she shot me down.

I’m sure she has her own reasons, valid in her own mind, and since I asked her stand on it, I’ll have to let it be and respect her decision.

Sure, I was devastated. I still am. I was one of those idiots who said being good friends is enough. Hell, no! Nobody says that thing with any certainty unless he isn’t really invested in having a relationship. Oh yeah, I lied, or better yet, I wasn’t really thinking straight at that time. Being in love turns my brain to mush.

But hey, a few months ago I almost broke my leg and it still hurts like hell. I’m still alive. (Side note: when she and I danced, I budged my knee a little --- TWICE --- and the pain was excruciating. Yeah, I’m not kidding about that kind of pain). I was about to play Lennon-McCartney’s “I’m A Loser” but then again, it wasn’t ALL that bad. It’s not as if I put my heart through a wringer pining for her affections.

(Small voice: By the way, don’t believe any word of good humor here. I’m a sore loser.)

It’s funny --- in a different way --- that we get along so well even when we agreed to disagree. I don’t know what about having a relationship with me makes it “uncomfortable” for her… maybe she has some secret thing that I am completely unaware of, or that she has some unbreakable commitment. I honestly don’t know, and at this point, I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to know the answer.

I hope it’s not the last of these things, and until she tells me differently, I am waiting for her to change her mind. Scratch that, I’m praying for her to change her mind (and if she happens to read this, well, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).

Sure, in this place and time I’ll manage to find someone else. It’s not impossible, but it sure feels like it. And I’m not about to lie about my heart. It stays broken until a true love comes to fix it.

BAKIT BA GANYAN? (Male Version)
(Marvic Sotto)

Bakit ba ganyan?
Ang ibig ko'y lagi kang pagmasdan
Umula't umaraw ay hindi pagsasawaan
Ang iyong kagandahan.
Damdamin ko'y ibang-iba

Kapag kapiling ka, sinta.

Ewan ko, kung bakit ba ganyan
Damdamin ay di maintindihan . . .
Kailangan ang pag-ibig mo
Dahil sa ako'y nagmamahal sa 'yo
Magmula nang kita'y makilala.

Bakit ba ganyan
Kung minsan ay nauutal sa kaba
Kapag ika'y kausap na?
Ngunit lumalakas ang loob

Kung ikaw ay nakatawa.

Ewan ko kung bakit ba ganyan
Damdamin ay di maintindihan . . .
Kailangan ang pag-ibig mo
Dahil sa ako'y nagmamahal sa 'yo
Magmula nang kita ay makilala (oh)

Ewan ko kung bakit ba ganyan
Damdamin ay di maintindihan . . .
Kailangan ang pag-ibig mo
Dahil sa ako'y nagmamahal sa 'yo
Magmula nang kita ay makilala.


Postscript: This song brings back memories of 1979 and the year Dina Bonnevie first broke out into the Philippine entertainment scene. Sure, she's a mother twice over and all that, but nothing changes that first flush of awareness that females are an altogether interesting subject. Naturally, I can't use her version --- the duet version with Vic Sotto is the definitive one, though in the late '80s Melissa Gibbs, during her peak hottie days, released a version that is widely available on the 'Net. It's not my song for HER, not until there is some sort of affirmation, but the song does leave a positive touch to an otherwise dreary post, don't you think?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Acts in Prose

This should have been datelined much earlier, but I have had only so much time to post an entry just recently.

The pic I posted is the promo shot I did for our production "Haplos ng Panahon" under Entablado Filipino for which I directed the "Sandaling Tagpo" segment and did the lighting. It was not a box-office success --- we struggled with venue issues and by the time we secured one, it was too late to sell too many tickets.

"Haplos ng Panahon" was staged at Al Waha South in Dhahran, within the Saudi Aramco main camp. The production did score well with the audience who were normally used to the melodrama we served up in previous productions. I believed that our audience would respond that way --- but still, there were tense moments all the way.

We did two plays back-to-back for "Haplos ng Panahon" - "Sandaling Tagpo" by Jose Victor Torres and "Sa Huling Gabi ng Palabas" by Rolando dela Cruz. Both were third-place winners for One-Act Play in Filipino at the Palanca Awards. My SPA-TDG colleague and friend Gerry L was the one who pushed for "Sandaling Tagpo": he was so enamored with the script that he translated it into English. He sold me on the idea of the play so many months ago but I had to turn down the English version - it read well, but since the first version was in Taglish already doing the play in straight English, would, I felt, rob the dialogue of some of its nuances.

The play is about a university professor of "retirable" age who comes face-to-face with one of his most gifted students after more than a decade of being apart. He has recently been asked to retire in order to avoid the scandal of a sexual harassment suit. But there's the rub: he hasn't exactly been innocent, even before, and his replacement has more than just a few stories of her own ...I liked the play mostly because it was multi-layered - the lines had so many possible interpretations my own personal take on it would have spelled one direction or the other --- it did help that Gerry was a true student of acting and that he was really into the play, and that the lead actress was a newcomer and thus was tabula rasa --- a clean slate that we could work magic on.

This production is special to me because of the many dramas that came before it was even produced --- the first a small misunderstanding which led to a major flare-up between me and one of my colleagues in SPA-TDG, the second an even deeper problem which threatened the integrity of our organization, of which I wasn't even aware until the so-called aggrieved came forward with their complaints. This whole chain of events was painful to me that it made me doubt whether I have the proper leadership skills to lead our organization.

Eventually, the truth came to light and it was all sorted out --- I still can't get over how gossip could run people and organizations. With our group that is so small this could happen, how badly can things go on a macro level?

I haven't been myself since that issue --- actually it's been sort of a struggle to regain the momentum I lost since before I left for my vacation in June. I haven't posted as I had wanted --- I started a few things about the Erap conviction and subsequent pardon, the Glorietta bombings, and so many other things on the world scene.

Maybe I'm burned out. Maybe I need to stop and reassess where I want my life to go. I'm more than thankful so many people stood by me and gave me the support I needed --- while I wouldn't want to thank my adversaries, I feel they owe some props as well. They certainly made these last few weeks another life-defining milestone.

Or maybe I have looked more inward, somewhat unhealthily, instead of focusing on things at hand and what I could do. The whole premise of "Sandaling Tagpo" was that love is not a fleeting thing, that it defines people, however flawed they may be. Oftentimes we do grow up and find that the people whom we put on pedestals are fallen idols, but time and forgiveness reveal to us that the lens that we examine the world is the one shaped by those people we have grown with --- the very people who scarred us, and at the same time, molded us into what we are today.

Life imitates art imitates life -- we define our acts, and our acts define us. Where one ends and the other begins --- that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And the Word Is ... Love

We are not held back by the love we didn't receive in the past, but by the love we're not extending in the present.
--- Marianne Williamson

I'm such a jumble of emotions right now. I wish this could be easier, but it isn't. Have I lost the eloquence for me to say that which my heart contains?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Phantasy

THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT
(A. Lloyd Webber/T. Rice/R. Stilgoe)
(The Phantom of the Opera - role originated by Michael Crawford)

Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses
Helpless to resist the notes I write...
For I compose the music of the night

Slowly, gently, Night unfurls its Splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Hearing is believing, music is deceiving
Hard as lightning, soft as candlelight.
Dare you trust the music of the night?

Close your Eyes –
For your eyes will only tell the truth
And the truth isn’t what you want to see
In the dark it is easy to pretend
That the truth is what it ought to be.

Softly, deftly, Music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
In this Darkness which you know you cannot fight,
The Darkness of the Music of the Night!

Close your eyes -
Start a journey through a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before
Close your eyes -
and let music set you free.
Only then can you belong to me

Floating, falling, Sweet Intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each Sensation
Let the dream begin, Let your darker side give in
To the Power of the music that I write,
The Power of the Music of the Night!

You alone can make my song take flight
Help me make the music of the night.

I was a latecomer to the theater. In fact, I was late to performing altogether. Up until my third year in high school, I was hardly interested in theater in any kind. I did like opera as a listening experience, but as far as acting was concerned, I was, like many of my contemporaries believed that acting was for others of a different kind of artistic bent (the nice way to say that I didn't want people to have any ideas that I was gay, which I wasn't, but yes, I was and remain a homophobic a-hole).

Things changed when I discovered that there was a voice inside me waiting to be heard (since I'm into euphemisms and parenthetical thought today, the day I first fell in love) and then I took an active interest in what girls did. It didn't help that I was well-nourished by regular doses of my sisters's Mills & Boon and Sweet Dreams romance novels. Little by little, I wrote sappy poetry (as opposed to the agit quality that was the hallmark of this angst-filled phase), and seriously thought of becoming a writer - as opposed to being a lawyer or scientist, which my parents had hopes for me to go into.

And then came the Phantom of the Opera.

Understand, of course, that my closest friends were geeks of the highest order, and I was the worst of them - I disdained sports, loved books more than cars and video games, had a regular column in the school paper, and was even part of the school band. (I would have played D&D but I found it, uh, limiting, and besides, I was more Asimov than Tolkien). So our group definitely skipped over the genesis of the hiphop/rocker wars, the beginnings of grunge, and of course the local band scene. We were hooked on the drama of the Phantom and Christine, disdained Raoul (as we did most of the pretty boys), and celebrated the freakishness of the Phantom. Being different may leave you scarred, but who wants the usual adulation when one can be a genius?

Phantom was the biggest cultural thing that hit us that year. In between readings of David Eddings' Belgariad series and the Dragonlance novels by Weis and Hickman (Wheel of Time wasn't out yet in paperback, and yes, I am dating myself here), Phantom filled our landscape. In the days pre-cable and pre-Internet we managed to get a libretto and listened avidly on cassette.

I liked "Music of the Night" the best (Billy Crystal mocks this song in a famous scene from "Forget Paris"), though "Think of Me" and "Masquerade/Why So Silent" were close --- though the rest of the material was singable --- the premise of the show was a bit flimsy, but the grandeur of its scale was revealing. It was inspirational to me, at the very least, in the way I appreciated musical theater, and theater in general.

Yup, you could call me gay but at least I was in touch with global culture. Or so I believed at the time. Later that year, our class put out a short play which we rehearsed in less than a week - I'm racking my brain for the title but the story was of a sick man who until his deathbed suspected his wife and best friend of cheating together on him. I won the lead at the last minute as our choice for the role begged off. We didn't have a girl to play the wife's part, so we changed the circumstances to that of a young son.

I couldn't play the living "cadaver" the best way possible as I was portly then as now, but still we managed to get a good review from the moderator of the high school drama club, and he encouraged me to consider honing my skills in acting (I didn't know I had any at the time) . . . I even received an invite to the summer workshop of the Cultural Center of the Philippines care of the school but I gave it up to concentrate on my training as a peer counselor.

I left it at that until I was named as one of the officers of the drama club for the senior year. I didn't do much, though we produced two small plays that year. There were a whole lot of other organizations which took priority, so I allowed myself to drift into the background, even for the two plays the class staged which won prizes. We formed our own independent theater guild before we graduated, but again, other things took precedence.

That didn't mean I stopped performing. As a trainer for the next few years, we did a lot of role-playing and depended on structured experiences where my voice was put to good use. I even invested a lot of my own allowance and some hard-earned money to watch plays everywhere.

All throughout the late eighties and early nineties, we lived through a surge of popularity for West End musicals - Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Starlight Express, Chess, and even Aspects of Love and Sunset Boulevard. But Phantom remained my favorite. So it was with some disappointment that I found that Michael Crawford was less than a paragon outside of his performance as the Phantom. Yup, he blows big-time singing material other than his songs in the famed musical.

I wasn't too glad with Joel Schumacher's take in the film featuring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, but at least the movie got made and I'm sure in time fans would be kinder to it than during its initial release. However it goes, Michael Crawford was the Phantom, for all his faults singing non-Phantom material.

At night, I sometimes have this fantasy that the brilliant singing would take me away and that tortured genius, despite its pain, definitely has its rewards in eternity.

How I wish I would have more moments like that in my life. It doesn't hurt to wish, anyhow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mood Music



I am posting this piece sung by Esther Satterfield and featuring jazz legend Chuck Mangione on the flugelhorn. It's an inspiration for one of the plays I'm directing this October.

Saving Lives

I'm sharing this story I first heard sometime in 1991 care of Br. Ceci Hojilla, FSC during one of the SHARE renewals. I didn't know what it meant to me personally until I found myself in a situation where there was a conflict of interest. I found out soon enough.

Journeys was a program of which I was the main contributor and conceptualizer --- it was originally designed as the "signature" retreat program for the seniors of De La Salle Alabang High School. It was a mishmash of of the structured experiences that were not part of the organizations/retreat programs in which I participated. After the school administration turned us down, I decided to offer it to the alumni of the Discovery program, who had been looking for an outlet for their service aspirations after they had graduated from high school.

Those were strange times --- I wasn't exactly the paragon of virtue and hardly the role model for those students. The hard part of it was, I was already active as a member of SHARE and as one of its movers as part of the Core Group. Needless to say, I was caught in between not one, but two rocks and a hard place. I had to give Journeys up, and without me to keep the group animated, even with the best of leaders I had left behind to keep things going, Journeys collapsed.

These days, my own organization - the Society of Performing Arts-Talents Development Guild, is in the exact same situation as this story is outlined. The biggest question that arises now is --- is the ideal we are sticking to the one that is true?

Once there was a land whose coastline stretched for miles. The people depended on fishing and trade. However, the seas around the land were rough sailing, and there were a lot of reefs where ships could run aground.

In the port, a group of enterprising fishermen decided to get together to help one another during emergencies. They guided ships around the coast to steer clear of the reefs in the harbor, and oftentimes they would help one another sell their catch. They eventually formed a Harbor Safety Club with a small clubhouse for meetings. The “clubhouse” was a makeshift shelter along the beach.

During their meetings, the members concluded that what the place needed was a lighthouse to guide the ships and to serve as a beacon to light passengers from sunken or damaged vessels. But the fishermen were poor; they didn’t have enough resources to build one.

One time, during a heavy storm, a luxury liner bearing many dignitaries and famous people onboard ran into one of the reefs and sank. The Harbor Safety Club members conducted a daring rescue mission – putting their own lives at risk in order to save the passengers. In an operation that spanned two days, in heavy rains, they managed to bring every single passenger to safety.

This feat put the Harbor Safety Club members in the news. One of the people they had saved was a multi-millionaire who led a fund drive among his fellow passengers to raise money for the club and the lighthouse. Money poured into the Club’s coffers – not only were they able to build a lighthouse, they were able to buy better life-saving equipment and built a fleet of more modern boats for their rescue operations. They were also able to move out of their beach shack to a real clubhouse.

The money also helped the members go into business and they also personally prospered. Soon they were having parties at the clubhouse. Members were often giving interviews to the media on the value of saving people’s lives.

Things progressed to a point that many of the club members no longer had time to attend to their work of maintaining harbor safety. Some of the members who experienced some luxury did not want to go back to risking their lives. Eventually a point came where the members could not agree on what they wanted to do.

A big meeting was called and several arguments broke out among the members. Some of the members said that they were forgetting their mission of saving lives. “Too many things are happening at once – let’s remember why we have this club in the first place.”

Some other members, particularly those who have been hobnobbing with the rich and famous, begged to disagree. “But look, we have done so much to raise awareness about harbor safety. People are building better boats, and the lighthouse has managed to save many lives.” Still some others could not decide.

Finally, the members who wanted to continue with their mission got fed up and said, “You can keep the fame and glory for yourselves. We’ll go back to saving people.” So they gave up their memberships and built a small shack on the beach right outside the clubhouse. They called themselves Safety First Club.

One time, a typhoon lashed the coastline while the club was having a party. The Harbor Safety club members stayed inside but the Safety First club members, the ones who put up their shack outside, were busy making plans on what to do for the ships caught in the storm. Their diligence paid off --- a government boat capsized and most of its passengers were in the water. The Safety First club members went on a rescue mission and retrieved all of the passengers.

Again, the media made a big event of this rescue. Donations went to the Safety First Club and once more the members of the club equipped themselves with the latest gear and technology. They also built a clubhouse over their old shack. Little by little, their clubhouse grew to a size comparable to the first one.

In time, business and leisure took over the club’s activities and some of the members realized that they were no longer paying attention to life-saving. Again there was a big meeting and once more there were arguments and accusations being thrown about. People left the Safety First Club and built a small shack beside their clubhouse.

But somehow few learned from what happened before. The chain of events happened again and again and again --- people raised money, built bigger clubhouses, enjoyed prosperity in business. Over the years, clubs came and went.

Nowadays you can see the whole beachfront lined with expensive clubhouses.

Meanwhile, nobody was out there rescuing people and saving lives.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Half-Full

Eyes on The Rose

Another View

I am now 35 years old. On a reference I picked up from Dante's "Inferno" (and then based on the life of King David of Israel). I am exactly at the halfway point of my life.

I celebrated my birthday on the 5th with little fanfare. I finally bought myself a laptop PC as I had needed to use one - I sent my TV set and DVD player back home and I had been using the office laptop for my own personal entertainment - which to my mind is not exactly kosher (but yes, I did it anyway). We had dinner at a midscale restaurant (if I am to use price as an indicator) and then off we went to the store (s).

My personal choice was to have gotten a MacBook - I am partial to Apple for the built-in features and the fact that its OS is not Windows Vista - which seems to come with every unit these days. I'm not a big fan of Vista (And yes, yes I am using it right now, so sue me).

However, prices were not exactly friendly to the wallet, and so I ended up looking for value-added units instead of a killer machine. This is the unit I ended up buying, and using right now for this post.

I used to think at 35 I'd be really set in my life and then I will be starting my progress to be an old man. Well, the part about being set is far from being accomplished, and then there's the part about being old.

My body is betraying me, as I am not exactly in the best of health. I am walking with a slight gimp as my left knee needs some therapy in order to get back to full strength. My ankles often fill up with fluid, most likely uric acid, and if the fluid starts building up in the heels it would be almost impossible for me to walk.

But here's the thing - I don't really feel old. I feel young as ever - maybe because at this stage of my life everything is starting to feel new again - going from a dead-end place where my life was back in the Philippines, I am reborn into this new place.

Hmmm... it doesn't really have to sound metaphysical. I just find this experience in Saudi Arabia a different kind of channel for my personal growth - of course this isn't exactly the place to start spreading your wings and start flying - but instead you'd open your eyes and try to see where you're going before you jump off that cliff and start flapping like crazy.

The point being, the only restriction I find in this place is the one that one builds for oneself. It's only the prison of the mind that keeps us a thrall to limitation.

I guess the glass is half -empty from one point of view, but from where I'm standing it's half full.

It's not perfect, and I know it would never be, but everything is just turning out fine. I'm raring to find out what the next 35 years would be like (I do hope I live that long of course).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Country Road In Autumn


Country Road In Autumn, originally uploaded by jeffuwo.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fall of the Dragon

Robert Jordan's blog

Give me your trust said the Aes Sedai
On my shoulders I support the sky
Trust me to know and to do what is best
And I will take care of the rest

But trust is the color of a dark seed growing
Trust is the color of a heart´s blood flowing
Trust is the color of a soul´s last breath
Trust is the color of death...

Give me your trust said the queen high on her throne
For I must bear the burden all alone
Trust me to lead, and to judge, and to rule
And no man will think you a fool

But trust is the sound of a gravedog's bark
Trust is the sound of betrayal in the dark
Trust is the sound of a soul´s last breath
Trust is the sound of death...


Robert Jordan passed away Sunday, September 16, 2007 from complications arising from cardiac amyloidosis. I had prayed earnestly that he would hurry up his writing and, like, Stephen King, dodge the call of the Grim Reaper before he finished his magnum opus, in Jordan's case the Wheel of Time series. For Stephen King, he got a two-minute warning after his accident in 1999, and maybe he would have died before he finished the saga of Roland Deschain and the Dark Tower. But survive he did, and at least the fans were appeased.

For all its twists and turns, and essentially poor pacing from the seventh book (A Crown of Swords) to the eleventh (Knife of Dreams) the first six books of the Wheel of Time stand out as classics of high fantasy. I liked Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and Katherine Kurtz, and of course the maestro Tolkien himself, but Jordan rolled all of them up and put them together in his work.

I trust that his estate would commission a good writer to finish the last book --- he did pass on most of the plot developments to his wife and family before he died. Tor Books would have had to invent a new binding system to reportedly accommodate that monster of the last book.

Perhaps it's only apropos that he died before he finished the book - Stephen King seemed to be so conscious of his mortality that he had major plot holes in the last book of the Dark Tower. I would have been the first to scream "Blood and bloody ashes!" should that happen to Jordan's legacy. Now, his memory lives on and we are left to wonder what would have been.

Rest in peace, RJ.

Willing Exile: Waiting on Robert Jordan

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Epiphanous

"I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I've met."
--- Dwight L. Moody, evangelist and publisher

Oh yeah, oh yeah, how true.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Face in the Mirror

Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon

In memory of this day, a song for change from Wacko Jacko during one of the most productive phases of his career. I actually prefer the Tuck & Patti instrumental version (Tuck Andress with an amazingly lyrical guitar performance), but Jackson's words ring true.

People may hate on the idea, but I honestly believe America had it coming after successive administrations have failed to heed the lessons of history. The attacks of 9/11 are a horrible crime against the whole of the spirit of humanity, but they happened because despite the good intentions of the American majority, their leaders have lost a great sense of proportion when dealing with the countries of the Middle East. Now, I'm not about to split hairs on blame - better people than me with a whole lot more personal experience have argued on this issue more cogently than I can ever hope to.

Suffice to say that there will never be room for understanding when people get stuck with the "us against them" and the "who is not with us is against us" thinking.

My own life lesson here is that so many people act so differently from what I expect. Their faults loom less than what I could do to change ME.

MAN IN THE MIRROR (Michael Jackson)

I'm gonna make a change, for once in my life
It's gonna feel real good,
Gonna make a diference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on
My favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets,
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard,
A broken bottle top
And a one-man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
(Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me,
Pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
(Washed-out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
(Starting with me!)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror (Ooh!)
I'm asking him to change his ways (Ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror (Ooh!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways - ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that..
(Take a look at yourself and then make that..)
CHANGE!

I'm starting with the man in the mirror,
(Man in the mirror-Oh yeah!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
(Take a look at yourself and then make the change)
(You gotta get it right, while you got the time)
('Cause when you close your heart)
You can't close your... your mind!
(Then you close your... mind!)
That man, that man, that man, that man
With that man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror, oh yeah!)
That man, that man, that man
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
You know... That man
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself and then make a change)
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah
(Oh yeah!)
Gonna feel real good now!
Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah! Yeah yeah!
Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah
(Ooooh...)
Oh no, no no...
I'm gonna make a change
It's gonna feel real good!
Come on!
(Change...)
Just lift yourself
You know
You've got to stop it. Yourself!
(Yeah!-Make that change!)
I've got to make that change, today!
Hoo!
(Man in the mirror)
You got to
You got to not let yourself...
Brother...
Hoo!
(Yeah!-Make that change!)
You know-I've got to get that man, that man...
(Man in the mirror)
You've got to
You've got to move! Come on! Come on!
You got to...
Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!
(Yeah-Make That Change)
Stand up and lift yourself, now!
(Man in the mirror)
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Aaow!
(Yeah-Make that change)
Gonna make that change... come on!
(Man in the mirror)
You know it!
You know it!
You know it!
You know...
(Change...)
Make that change…


Sunday, September 09, 2007

After


SUNSET III, originally uploaded by M2 DIGITAL.

SARIWANG HANGIN
(Joey Ayala)

sariwang hangin umihip ka
dahon ng puno’y dalhin mo na
sa kaibigang wala rito
naroon, naroon sa malayo

sariwang hangin umihip ka
ipaalala mo sa kanya
may punong-kahoy na naghihintay
sa dulo ng paglalakbay

at sa ilalim ng puno
may nag-iisang nakaupo
sariwang hangin naglalaro
sa mga dahon nitong puso

at sa sanga sa tugatok
kay raming bunga nangaalok
sariwang hangin pitasin mo
ang mga bunga nitong puso

sariwang hangin umihip ka
bunga ng puso’y dalhin mo na
sa kaibigang sinisinta
hinihintay, hinihintay kita


The production has ended and the stage is dark --- the beams stand alone until another production sheds light on them.

The hall is still alight and people are still clapping themselves on the shoulder, some are smiling. The young boys have started strumming on the guitars while their parents hovered back and forth with their little errands.

Some of the adults are wiping their hands across the brow. This one is officially over.

On the steps to the main entrance of the school classrooms, the three of the four girls who were seniors in high school were crying.

Their sobs rose above the din as their fellow workshoppers celebrated while others were all itching for a ride home. It was that kind of day. It was that kind of night.

I know triumph was among us that day, but somehow the sheen of it was missing. Rather like a glorious sunset --- it's a sight to behold, but it won't ever, ever come back.

The reminder, and the solace, I can give is that somewhere in this world the wind blows us a kiss for all the love we have in our lives. So the Beatles say: "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

Time will never stand still, but this beautiful memory will remain forever.