Monday, January 28, 2008

High Jinks!

In ex-Yugoslavia, Tito-era nostalgia - International Herald Tribune

Nostalgia for the past --- yeah, and I'm sure the old hardline communists (and those neo-fascists in disguise, as well, ehem) are wishing for the good old days when labels were more convenient and it was easier to draw the lines.

* * * * *

Overheard at a Filipino patient's bedside after he suffers a stroke: Ano ba ang increment ko? (Mentions name of Admin Manager), alam niya kung ano ang increment ko! (BTW, thank God he is alive and declared fit to be repatriated).

* * * * *

Favorite movie quote of the past few days, from "Billy Madison" featuring Adam Sandler:

(After Billy Madison finishes long-winding speech on the Industrial Revolution):

Principal: Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Billy Madison: Okay, a simple "wrong" would've done just fine.

* * * * *
Girl gets thrown off bus for wearing a leash. Yeah, that should give you some headlines.

* * * * *
Movie moment of the week: The Elisha Cuthbert nipple show opposite Christian Slater in the feature film "The Quiet Man." Dumb movie, but still. Yehey!

Sunday, January 27, 2008


My last post should have read Day 25.

Coupled with the host of errors we have to deal with in last-minute calculations, I guess I'm not lucky with numbers these days.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Second Milepost

(Edit - January 27: Am reconstructing this from memory as something must have happened to the original post)

It's Day 24 of Year 2008 - and I'm marking this day by working, though I'm taking some time to laze away a few moments updating you what's been happening. I'd like to pat myself on the back for keeping to more than one month of solid work and sleep deprivation to complete the major set of salary adjustments for Company. This is the first of many hurdles that I expect to face this coming year.

Last year has been so up-and-down the peaks and valleys have settled into a bumpy drive. To celebrate that experience, I am dubbing this year the Year of No Expectations.

First, this is in part thanks to all the people who made last year special, and given the way things have turned out, expecting more would be a crime. Second, throughout the almost four years I have spent in Saudi Arabia, I have accomplished the very minimum of my expectations both personally and professionally. That there is still a wide gulf to bridge to get to the maximum goes without saying, but hey, I've gotten to first base. For me to move forward, perhaps I should concentrate less on the result but on how I'm getting there. That's the best way I could repay all the people who have shared me so many kindnesses.

And finally, as memory serves, I put on myself the onus of living my life with a greater sense of purpose, and part of this is to shatter my current set of expectations, and instead put myself in a constant state of BEING, not BECOMING.

(If that last part sounds evasive or Zen to you, well, tough luck!)

It would have been nice to share all of these realizations knowing that there is someone special who inspires me, or more importantly, that there is someone in particular whom I especially inspire. That would happen, or that would not, and given the recent disappointments I have had in this area, knowing that I am capable of feeling THAT FEELING is enough. What happens next is less within my control, so I'll have to let that be.

So for this year I honestly pray that I will be swept away, to be infused with a sense of wonder, and to shine a love that is ever-shining.

(George Harrison / The Beatles)

It's all too much
It's all too much

When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me
And the more I go inside, the more there is to see

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much

Floating down the stream of time, of life to life with me
Makes no difference where you are or where you'd like to be

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around here
All the world is birthday cake,
So take a piece but not too much

Sail me on a silver sun, for I know that I'm free
Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea

It's all to much for me to see
A love that's shining all around here
The more I am, the less I know
And what I do is all too much

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much

It's too much.....It's too much

With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue
With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue

You're too much... too much too much too much ...

Postscript: This piece was composed for the "Magical Mystery Tour" album but it ended up on the soundtrack album of the "Yellow Submarine" movie. George's work is revealing in its simplicity. My original post had an embedded copy from, but it got killed in uploading. Ah, well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Usual Sandwich Filler

While the world pauses to mourn the recent deaths of chess genius Bobby Fischer and Australian actor Heath Ledger, I'm trapped in the office still on salary patrol. I would be glad to have this whole episode over.

I did find time to post on one of the e-forums, where one hot topic was de-sizing government. I just had to butt in. Here it is:

We just missed saying happy anniversary on the lifting of Proclamation 1081 just a few days back.

Just my two cents':

1) The original criticism on creation of new congressional districts and provinces is the bureaucracy that comes with them, whereas it is possible to do more with less bureaucracy in government. I tend to agree with this - how much more government service do we need really when its quality at the primary levels ( i.e. barangay) tend to be cosmetic? And let's not get started on the macro level, that's a whole other debate.

2) There is also a valid criticism on the nature of congressional spending, i.e. CDF. Time and again, we should take this discretionary spending power away from congressmen.

3) To take the structure of government further --- what were the original bases for setting up provinces --- geographical, linguistic, economic? I'd put my money on one major point: politics. We can look back to history given the way the Americans organized the territorial government when they came over. There is some good reading that this organization is the first root of our Muslim separatist problem - I don't have the link now, but Manolo Quezon does discuss this on his site.

4) Ah, benchmarks! If it were that simple to quantify the role of government in our lives.
==> I was late today because some woman passed out on the street and the usual gaggle of kibitzers got in the way of paramedics. #$% government!
===> My daughter was walking on the railroad tracks outside our shanty. The train ran her over. #$%!!$^ PNR! the mayor! etc. etc. etc.
===> I need a job. Anyone, please hire me! Someone, give me an allowance!
===> There are a bunch of drunks on the other corner singing on their darned videoke on full blast until the wee hours of the morning. What to do?
===> A shipment of smuggled chicken is being sold at bargain basement prices at our discount center! Screw the bird flu, time to shop!
===> Damn! We sucked at the Southeast Asian Games! Where's the pride here, kabayan?

If we are to look closely at the things that work for us --- private initiative in providing services for those who can afford them, courage and determination to work overseas to make extra dollars, contributions by the sectarians in moving education to a higher level (memo to UP on the celebration of your centennial: in five years, if not less, DLSU will overtake you as the pre-eminent Philippine university in terms of academic reputation, quality of graduates, and infrastructure. Accelerate reform now!), innovation and ingenuity in micro-level enterprises --- is that in an environment where individual effort and contribution, fairness, excellence, and quality are observed, we do well.

Government's role has expanded to that point where it has to intervene in everything. When it does that, it tends to stultify initiative and individualism and thus promotes mendicancy and stagnation. Instead of helping themselves, our people point the finger on others, and mostly on the government. Unfortunately, despite our socialist policy efforts, we cannot aspire to become a welfare state like those in Scandinavia. Given the mad scramble of these states to enlist foreign workers to support their retiring citizens, that system is flawed as well.

Methinks the government's role in most public spheres is to generate consensus to reduce duplication of activities, support innovation, set fair standards. and then punish violators vigorously. This model will definitely work in business, education, sport --- while the government can focus on securing our borders within and without, fostering healthy international relations, and promoting cultural identity.

Still, while we can go on theorizing models of government, it still bears to remember that without a proper culture of public service, any model is guaranteed to fail, as it is doing poorly right now in the Philippines. Change must come from the top, while those below must keep on pushing to ensure that happens. To be a truly "strong republic" the citizens will have to be "strong" in mind themselves.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breaking Out of Isolation

Rent - Broadway - Theater - New York Times (registration required)

I was introduced to "Rent" almost ten years ago by a colleague who in turn was introduced to the musical by another of our colleagues. I knew it would score big in the Philippines - and when it did, I was proud to say I loved "Rent" before all the duffers got on the bandwagon. I loved the musical before Hollywood inflicted on us the disaster of a movie adapatation.

I immediately gravitated to the material --- the musical seemed to be written for me, if at all there is any relation between me and drug users, people combatting AIDS, homosexuals, and the bohemian lifestyle in general.

(Or maybe I am closer to all of the above than what I originally believed. In my dreams, hahahahaha!)

My personal favorites were "Glory" and "What You Own" since I'm sure almost everyone connects to "Seasons of Love." "Glory" is all about flawed heroes and lost dreams, and yet, it is also about hope despite bleak times. "What You Own" fills in the seams of a society that has reached the ultimate disconnect, as shown in Jonathan Larson's lyrics - "So I own not a notion / I escape / and ape content. I don't own emotion / I rent!"

This lesson is all so clear while I am stationed in Saudi Arabia --- we have fled our homeland for what is, essentially, a chance for the ones we love back home on a better life. I'm sure, like me, Filipino workers based abroad always say that the sacrifice so that others may have a chance to live better is worth it. I am not sure whether to readily agree.

We live in an age where image and not substance takes precedence, where dysfunctionality becomes the rage and the loss of privacy the most coveted "drug" and the last taboo to be shed. Guilt may always gnaw at one --- at lost opportunities, at lost chances --- but not shame, shame that one has let others down.

This age is a growing age of isolation, and even when people are together their minds --- or at least their fingers --- are elsewhere sending text messages. We bare our souls to someone we are chatting with online, but not to our friends and family. With all due respect to the romantics out there, but this is not real life.

And here I am, and so many others like me, toiling for that vision. These days I am not so sure whether the vision is still true, at least as to the nobility of it all. There is no nobility here, only perseverance. It is something to be done, and nothing more. Only the politicans made out the big deal about overseas workers being the new heroes of the economy. And yet they've done little more for us than platitudes.

Breaking out of this cycle, at least in my case, was to find others who shared my thoughts and aspirations. So SPA-TDG happened. Being part of a community organization was never in the plan. But then again, I never planned all that much during those early days on my arrival here in KSA. I always thought I'd meet someone, we'd fall in love, and then make plans to settle down. After this latest disappointment (which, in all honesty, was something for which I set myself up), once again I'm not so sure.

In two months I will mark the four-year milepost of my sojourn in Saudi Arabia. When I arrived, I couldn't wait to leave. Now, even though it makes no sense, I can't find any reasons for me NOT to stay. One of my closest colleagues tells me that his own lack of a steady relationship is a continuing source of frustration. After listening to him, my realization is that while he holds on to his success here, he has not let go of all the what-could-have-been back home. I empathize for him, because at one time I was traveling on the same boat with him.

I will find someone, or I will not, but there are people and friends I have met here whom I have come to love. True, there is so much I have lost --- friends and family who have moved onward, valued people who have scattered to different corners of the earth, the perpetual guilt of having walked out on my homeland --- the platitudes even more hurtful when I declare my readiness to die for her - "ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo."

But there is so much I have gained, and at times I struggle how to verbalize it, as I do now.

I may be all alone as I am right now, rushing to meet a deadline and sitting on my desk in an otherwise empty office building, but I am not alone. It's hard to say it, or even start to believe in it, but there is no greater chance for me to be happier than where I am right now.

WHAT YOU OWN (Jonathan Larson)
Mark - role created by Anthony Rapp / Roger - role created by Adam Pascal

Don't breathe too deep, don't think all day
Dive into work, drive the other way
That drip of hurt, that pint of shame
Goes away just play the game

You're living in America at the end of the millennium
You're living in America leave your conscience at the tone
And when you're living in America at the end of the millennium
You're what you own

The filmmaker cannot see

And the songwriter cannot hear

Yet I see Mimi everywhere

Angel's voice is in my ear

Just tighten those shoulders

Just clench your jaw 'til you frown

Just don't let go

Or you may drown

You're living in America at the end of the millennium
You're living in America where it's like the Twilight Zone
And when you're living in America at the end of the millennium
You're what you own

So I own not a notion
I escape and ape content
I don't own emotion - I rent

What was it about that night
What was it about that night

Connection - in an isolating age

For once - the shadows gave way to light
For once the shadows gave way to light

For once I didn't disengage

Angel- I hear you - I hear it
I see it- I see it
My film!
Mimi I see you- I see It
I hear it- I hear it
My song!

MARK (On the phone)
Alexi - Mark
Call me A hypocrite
I need to finish my own film
One Song - Glory
Your eyes


Dying in America at the end of the millennium
We're dying in America to come into our own
And when you're dying in America at the end of the millennium
You're not alone

I'm not alone
I'm not alone

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Making Sense of It All

Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

--- Frank Herbert, "Dune"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


ESPN - Celts celebrate as Pistons shrug - NBA

I didn't catch the entire Celtics-Pistons game at Detroit just the other day as I still don't have a TV set and I'm not inclined to pay for subscription TV anyway. I did manage to catch a few clips, and knowing the histories of these two franchises and some of their players (particularly principals Garnett, Allen, and Pierce on the Celts and Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Hamilton on the Pistons), some commentary:

* Ray Allen is decaying, and badly. He's showing his age, like, in dog years. Then again, he did have two ankle surgeries over the past few months so full recovery is still possible. On a different note, that's what they told me when I passed the 90kg range.

* Paul Pierce, and the bench, would be the key to get the Celts over the hump. KG as their Prime Mover can only do so much to get them there by setting the mood and doing all the little things, but he can't do everything, especially if he is on the pine saddled with fouls.

* KG for MVP. 'Nuff said. I always liked Tim Duncan's game more, but perhaps managerial ineptitutide has robbed the paying public of what could have been a really dominant force in the NBA.

* Did I just catch Chauncey Billups sourgraping? When do you start consoling yourself over a loss with something like, "this win meant more to them than it did to us." Uh, hello? Isn't this is what your fans pay you gazillion bucks to do? Put your butts on the line and try to win the game every time, every game? Come on - I admire the calm-come-hell-or-high-water approach of these fellows, but it won't cut it when you're looking for an edge. That being said, Billups has the competitive fire to lead this bunch, but unfortunately for him, I think he is buying more into the "Mr. Big Shot" reputation than he should instead of proving it on the court. (And oh, by the way, Mr. Big Shot had a big brain fart in the endgame. Figures.).

* Michael Jordan should shoot himself for trading Rip Hamilton. Of course, him being the legend at all, he'd rather shop Jerry Stackhouse first (and the Wizards did). Rip is the new Reggie Miller incarnate --- only he's cooler-looking when he wears the face mask. And he has a much-more developed mid-range game.

* Maybe somebody should have shown Rasheed the memo that talent won't be enough to get you over the hump. Get it done consistently, and that takes a lot of the mental juice (he may have the hoops IQ, but not the EQ). That said, I think his reputation as a whiner and brawler is much ill-deserved.

* Barring any spoiler job by LeBron and his Cavaliers (all apologies to Dwight Howard and the Magic, it's not your year yet), these guys should have established their rights to go at it for the Eastern Conference crown, and at this pace, I don't think the Western Conference representative would have much of an edge. Should Boston shore up its bench performance when its three stars are underperforming or Detroit hone its killer instinct in the next few months, these two teams would give the favorites --- the Spurs, Mavericks, and Suns --- a serious dogfight for the 2008 NBA crown.

(Other notes: I had an interesting conversation with someone when I asked, "Who is more valuable to Phoenix - Nash or Amare?" I said Nash, he said Amare. My premise was that if you replaced either one with another player at their respective positions, replacing Nash would be a bigger blow to Phoenix as Amare's strengths can be matched by distributing the scoring load among his teammates, while his suspect defense can be filled by a superior defensive player. After all, they did manage with Amare out and Diaw playing center. Marion did have a career year that time.

At some point, the other guy lost the point completely when he said that instead of replacing Nash with another point guard, he would start Leandro Barbosa, move Marion and Amare to the forward spots, and at center start Dwight Howard. I was tickled by the idea, of course, if you're playing fantasy or video games. Naturally the conversation lost all sense at this point. He did stick with the question "If you had to replace one player with another ---" Ah well, that's why sports arguments are more fatal than those in politics.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

First Milepost

How do you go about mending a broken heart?

The answer: YOU JUST DON'T.

It's just Day 7 of this brand-new year and it feels like my heart was put through a meat grinder. Great way to start this year. Of course it isn't permanent, but it's fun to wallow, at least for a while. The melodrama puts all of my senses on overdrive. I will bounce back.

Hamburgers, anyone?

Saturday, January 05, 2008



I was in the office yesterday trying to catch up on a lot of work --- though I couldn't see any reason why I should want to go because it was supposed to be a rest day.

I have had little sleep lately --- mostly my own fault of course, I'm moping like a teenager. I know it is so. I just couldn't bring myself to kick myself into shape. It will happen, eventually, but in the meantime I'm just chugging along.

So it was that I paid little attention to my cellphone ---I had acknowledged a text earlier, chatted with my buddy traveling with me (I was seated in the back), and alighted from the cab. I forgot about my phone completely.

As soon as I realized my mistake (almost immediately) I asked my buddy to call my phone pronto. I also dialed it myself and finally I was able to contact the Pakistani driver, who promised to show up in 20 minutes.

I waited a full 10 minutes before he was supposed to arrive and another 15 minutes after that but he didn't come. Expectation gave way to panic and then to resignation ---I gave up waiting outside the office and dialed again several times. My buddy also tried it from his side. After a few minutes he got through and the man said he would arrive.

When he did, I thanked him profusely and shelled out some SR50 for his trouble. He seemed unduly apologetic, which seemed odd at the time. I regretted my forgetting to ask for his good name and phone number --- he may be a useful asset should I need a ride in the future.

But the mystery and the regret disappeared when I saw my call history and saw a lot of calls to Pakistan and to some other places. Crap! However, I consider it fair trade since he did return my phone in one piece, and didn't ask for a reward.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

First Thursday

"Ano ba naman 'yan, unang araw na walang pasok sa bagong taon, nagsesenti ka na?"

Well, this song is nice. Not exactly the feeling I have right now, but somehow pretty close. I haven't found a CD rip or mp3 of this, the copy we had was on cassette from almost twenty years ago. I don't know who bought it - maybe my sister did. A shout out for anyone who has a decent copy.

Just this morning I felt like writing a script while I was walking home. I had spent the night at a friend's place, trying to get myself a little soused up but it didn't work. In the end, we played NBA 2k7 on PS2 - 'Sheed Wallace was a monster in that video game, he torched Stevie Nash and the Suns for 101 points in two games, which the Pistons and Suns split.

But I digress.

SCENE. Int. Man on the landing of the stairs, gently turning the joint of left leg. He is wearing a jacket ill-suited for winter weather, and on his left shoulder is a black laptop backpack. Pulls out a set of keys. Keys jingle in his hand. His POV shot looking down the steps. A slight exhalation of breath. POV shot uneven and unsteady as he climbs down steps.
Ext. Still dark. Ululations from the the various mosques calling the faithful to prayer resonating in the distance. Focus on some paper touched by a stray breeze. Otherwise, there is little movement.
Man walks onto the sidewalk. His POV shot is direct at a nightwatchman all bundled up with jackets, dozing while a radio blazes a prayer broadcast. Man takes short steps at a time crossing the street. He stops and takes a look, sighs, and walks.
Ext. He is looking into the grocery store of window, no particular interest on anything.
Int. He is inside a building with marble floors, pressing an elevator button. Shot on elevator floor read-out it is off. Sigh heard again, and his POV climbing up a dark stairwell.
Int. We hear a door shut, a little quietly. It is a small bedroom with little furniture but clothes and papers thrown about - a bachelor's room. Man drops his backpack, raises his right arm to his nose and smells something unusual. Takes off the jacket. He stares at some papers strewn about, and what looks like some pictures or a theater playbill. There is no focus.
Man kicks off shoes and takes jeans off. His POV is on the ceiling as he lies in bed. Enter music.

For the definitive version, get one from George Benson's "Tenderly"

You don't know what love is
‘Til you’ve learned the meaning of the blues
Until you’ve loved a love you've had to lose
You don't know what love is

You don't know how lips hurt
Until you've kissed and had to pay the cost
Until you've flipped your heart and you have lost
You don't know what love is

Do you know how lost I've been
At the thought of reminiscing
And how lips that taste of tears
Lose their taste for kissing

You don't know how hearts burn
For love that cannot live yet never dies
Until you've faced each dawn with sleepless eyes
You don't know what love is.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Greeting 2008

As we enter this New Year, let us be thankful for all the blessings we have received and all the people who have made it possible for us to enjoy these blessings.

Let us be thankful for the gift of family, who are our anchors in this world --- this is made all the more too obvious particularly for expatriates like me who are uprooted from our homeland.

Let us be thankful for the gift of friends, the people who support us and are proven best by their need of our help and most especially, when we can show that we are vulnerable and weak in front of them.

As with any other year, 2007 has its own set of triumphs, challenges, and trials - some of them of our own creation, others beyond our control.

My personal learning in 2007 is the power of words --- how they form an integral part of our lives and of how much influence they have in building us up, or as the case may be, bringing us down. Certainly I had more than my fair share of hurtful words, and since they can no longer be taken away I can only hope to match them with words and acts that heal.

My personal resolution for 2008 is to make people feel more valuable --- each of us is a central character to the play/movie/concert of our lives, and my role, as a supporting player in each of those grand presentations, is to be a positive.

As the old year closes and the new one begins, I would like to thank each one of you this year for being part of the movie of my life. Certainly the script could have been better written, the direction more focused and consistent, and of course, the acting leaves so much room for improvement. As I am my biggest critic, I would have to say that my main character could certainly use a brush-up, so for the episode of 2008 I hope, at the very least, you'd stick around with me to see how the movie unfolds.

I hope you got your money's worth, and if you didn't, I would like to say sorry, I'll do better next time.

For those with whom I disagreed or hurt in the past year, I would like to thank you for teaching me the value of remorse and the necessity to make amends. Where there was sadness and pain, there could only be joy and laughter, if time and forgiveness permits.

For those who inspire me and for those who have gone above and beyond what I have expected of them, my thanks will never be enough but still I'll have to say them. May I be given an opportunity to do the same for you, and I hope that it will be soon.

Finally, let us be thankful for the gift of life and its wonder --- for each today that ends there is a tomorrow for us to look forward. There is so much unhappiness in this world, and in our own little corner, I pray that each one of us adds, and not detracts, to the happiness and well-being of the people around us. It is all that we have, and with God's help, perhaps we'll have a chance to make a whole new better world in 2008.

May we have the strength and wisdom to recognize that for each moment that passes, our past grows and our future shrinks. May we always then make the most of today.

May the Lord bless you and make it possible for you to have all the love and happiness that you deserve.

Happy New Year!