Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sweltering Sentiments

Last night the induction ceremony for our officers finally pushed through after some amount of delay (i.e. the school break for Filipinos, my prolonged vacation right after that). I would be the fourth President of our volunteer organization, and the first to be working on a two-year tenure. Whoo-wee, whoppee-do-do, there's another sight for you: me riding the boss chair! Oh, please don't misunderstand, I don't mean to say I don't like it, but looking at me in the boss chair does look rather funny. I pulled out the old barong we had commissioned when my sister got married last year, and I was rather glad I had reached peak dimensions last year because my current weight status is just as bad, only I'm less healthy now.

It was one sweltering afternoon --- and the "feel good" quotient of the event, at least, helped perk up the mood of many of my fellow Core Group members.

Being in SPA-TDG, until this time, remains one of the biggest privileges in my life. The first question that came to me after I was elected was “How can I continue to inspire the people who until now continue to inspire me? “What can I say that they haven’t heard before?”

I thought about what makes us special, and let me tell you: it is our being ordinary, our being common OFWs that make us all the more extraordinary. We are certainly not geniuses in the sense that Mozart was a genius, Einstein is a genius, Bill Gates is considered a genius.

That we are ordinary makes us capable of valuing the inner genius that is within all our children. I was just speaking with Jun Urbano, our Voice Clinic facilitator recently and he told me about how proud he is of the progress made by some of his students. One student (whom I will not name) was literally crying because she had lost the confidence that she would make any progress as a singer.

Then Jun made a deal with her and her mom that if she didn’t improve after a few weeks, they would call off the lessons. And after those few weeks, she was able to get over her fears and with Jun’s guidance, was able to express herself fully through singing.

The lesson that I have learned is that we can always do something to make ourselves better. We should never let our age, nor our habits, stand in the way of being learners.

Looking back and looking forward, I would like to challenge each one of my fellows to define, and then live out, their personal vision for SPA-TDG. Not only to show up, because I would like to see more of them more often, but to make it worthwhile. During activities, I try to listen. I try to laugh. I try to see through differing points of view. I hope, and I would like to believe, that I work hard on being a good friend to everyone. For in the end, our work here – in terms of how many productions we have completed, how many students graduate, are just numbers.

What’s important --- what really counts, is what each of us carries away from what we are doing. I pray that all of us will treasure what our friendship has built over the past three or so years we have been together. This group started out as a group of parents who had a common vision. In time, we had become friends, and though there have been many instances where these friendships have been tested through our work, we are still here.

Of course, I never stop thinking about the children. It was these children, and still are these children, that provide the impetus for us to keep doing what we have been doing. Almost all of our members had to struggle through life to fight for each inch of enjoyment we enjoy now. While we live our personal dreams here and now, I'm looking toward making the future of the kids better --- if only for the OPPORTUNITIES they enjoy now that we never had.

I still have loads of people to thank, but I think I should do more and say less. They have paved the way, all I have to do is to keep on going and along the way, just screw up as few times as possible.

* * * * *

Inviting the OFW Storm

There has been a lot of comment about this issue about Malu Fernandez deriding OFWs, some informed, some just outright mean, some outrageously funny. I picked out a random post which presents a more or less balanced view.

I have had some time to digest many of the posts in the blogsphere and what many people miss is that it wasn’t the writer’s fault her personal opinions on the issue, or even her own defense, were printed. It was the fault of her editors. I don’t know the branding of the People Asia magazine (as I’m not into glossy magazines – except for the obvious one like FHM, natch), but for Ms. Fernandez’s magazine editors to allow this potentially sensitive issue to blow up in their faces is downright irresponsible journalism. For the Manila Standard to have a brain fart over Ms. Fernandez is just as egregiously stupid. Ah, but that’s Filipino journalism for you, congratulations.

On my part, I found the original article cloying, pretentious, and vapid. It offered nothing instructive for the random traveler. It was more of a travelogue of another social-climbing dilettante – is that all that’s fit to print nowadays? Or are Ms. Fernandez’s friends so well-heeled they could support circulation of obscure magazines?

Really now - so what the f*ck do I care about your travel habits? It would have paid if you had something to tell about the Parthenon or your insights into Greek people, which I’m sure you would have botched hideously just as you have managed to deride your own kabayans. While we Filipinos find some solace in self-deprecation, there are limits to pushing our collective psychological buttons. And her defense was --- well, in the first article she dug her own grave; after she finished writing the second, we were ready to bury her alive in it. Her most recent statement (read this to find out) was, finally, the proper response. Too bad she could have saved herself the public savaging she received for being insouciant, even defiant.

Ms. Fernandez is right about one thing though – traveling with kabayans anywhere is an exercise in frustration. But this is true about Filipinos everywhere --- too much of us in one place at one time can be downright annoying. That’s one of the reasons for traveling --- to soak up your anonymity and to celebrate your uniqueness. No one needs to be reminded about why you left the Philippines in the first place.

However, in her efforts to be flippant or clever (I don’t know which) she just managed to turn her travelogue into a display of her arrant shallowness and worse, bigotry. Sure, she may be great for a few laughs around her so-called well-heeled friends. She can keep them, and they her . As for the conditions in economy class, I would have taken her words and twist them around for her --- if it’s that hard for you to take, you should have gone in First or better yet, don’t even bother going.

A side note to this whole affair was this reality check in the bus this morning (a bit hilarious and insensitive in some way but should drive home the point). If Ms. Fernandez was only aware of the many sacrifices OFWs undergo to sustain the economic conditions that support the lifestyle she and her cronies enjoy, she wouldn’t have written her snide comments at all. At least Axe and Charlie, while repulsive to her pretentious “patrician” nose, are infinitely better than the smells associated with other nationals. So I don’t want to be racist here, but South Asians have hygiene and culinary habits so different from those of the Filipinos they might as well live on another planet.

In short, mababantot sila. As in, uh, well, napaka. Our favorite busmate is nicknamed “Masala Boy” but since we wanted to remain speaking in code, we referred to him as “The Sarciado Kid.” I have nothing against chicken masala (a practical recipe, and to be fair, here’s one for sarciado as well), I sometimes binge on this kind of food (when my health allows me), but here’s the thing: I don’t want its smell on a person as the first thing to greet me on my workday. The man’s aroma filled our van from anywhere he sat. And that’s saying something, since we had another fellow passenger who was our previous favorite when referring to unpleasant smells.

Today, our normal seating arrangements changed because one of our Pinoy colleagues missed work, so I was all alone in the fourth row, with two places available beside me. We were about to pick up another Pinoy (who normally sat beside me) but apparently his alarm clock didn’t work (or most likely, he was just too darned lazy to get up), so we left him behind. Sarciado Kid was our next pick-up so it was guaranteed he would sit beside me as the other three rows had only one place vacant and there were others yet to look for seats.

Oh no, tatabi siya sa akin! Huwag po tiyong, huwag po! Ayan na, ayan na . . . AYYYAAANNNN NAAAA!!!! Umupo na po … how do I handle this correctly? Let me see, a-ha, kanta ba o tulog? Mmm… matutulog! Matutulog na lang ako! So I pretended to be half-asleep, as most of us were, though normally I like having conversations on the morning drive. Please take note that I have been to garbage dumps, have cleaned poop of adults and kids (as well as those of pets) have been around decaying corpses (a story for another day), and the like. This is just to qualify my saying that the sleep mode to ignore the inevitable wasn’t enough to do the job.

Nanunuot ang amoy niya, ang grabe! Kapit siguro hanggang kuko! NOOOOO!!!!! I was just glad I was on the end of our van where the air conditioning was stronger. The direct blast of air from the vent offered that enough amount of relief. Otherwise I don’t think I would have survived. I started out by feigning sleep --- just to make it through I actually managed to fall asleep. Hmm... or maybe the man managed to knock me out. One thing I could say as the last guy to step off the bus this morning was: Ang galing mo men!

So see, let’s be glad that fellow Pinoys try their darndest best to smell better than they normally do --- at least, as a people we have that concern over how our “public smell” affects others. And yes, at times being around our own people becomes a tedious chore in itself, but it’s just like doing the laundry to get fresh clothes --- there may be some unpleasantness in the act itself, but the end result almost always provides the most intense satisfaction (note: I have gotten addicted to the fabric softener smell - Downy is the best, in my opinion. So if a girl wants to attract me, well, you know. So now there's an idea for you.)

No comments: