Monday, March 10, 2008

Mitts Down, for now

Willing Exile: Acts in Prose

I'm posting a song that has among the best hooks in pop music - "Until I Hear It From You" by the Gin Blossoms from the soundtrack of the 1995 movie "Empire Records." The movie is significant to me because there were two smokin' hot babes in it, namely Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger (really slutty in this piece, but she fit the bill well, plus Robin Tunney, but no-uh) many of the movie's themes --- asserting one's identity, keeping it real through the music, encapsulated my state of mind.

Robin Wilson / Jesse Valenzuela / Marshall Crenshaw

I didn't ask
They shouldn't have told me.
At first I laughed, but now
It's sinking in fast
Whatever they've sold me.

Well, baby ---
I don't want to take advice from fools.
I'll just figure everything is cool
Until I hear it from you.(...hear it from you)

It gets hard -
The memory's faded.
Who gets what they say
?It's likely they're just jealous and jaded.

Well, maybe . . .
I don't want to take advice from fools.
I'll just figure everything is cool
Until I hear it from you.(...hear it from you)
Until I hear it from you.(...hear it from you)

I can't let it get me off
Or break up my train of thought.
As far as I know nothing's wrong
Until I hear it from you.

Still thinking about not living without it.
Outside looking in.
Still talking about not stepping around it.

Maybe . . .

I don't want to take advice from fools
I'll just figure everything is cool
Until I hear it from you . . .(. . . hear it from you)
Until I hear it from you . . .(. . . hear it from you)
Until I hear it from you . . .(. . . hear it from you)
Till I hear it from yo-ou

(Won't take advice from fools)
(I'll figure everything is cool.)

I guess for now I don't have to struggle until I hear the news FOR REAL --- apparently the memorandum that I'm a Grade-A jerk making the rounds hasn't gotten to me yet. Oh well, it's not so much as its truth would hurt me, but that I'll start believing it myself.

So mitts down, for now, and if that knockout punch comes... well, OUCH!

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Saturn's moon Rhea has rings

When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger. --- Chinese proverb

Bruce Lee makes a similar point to his young student in the prologue of his smash movie, "Enter the Dragon." It was this movie, plus Jacky Chan's "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow," both of which I watched together with my father, that really got me hooked with kung fu movies. The occasions were made all the more special because it was just my brother and me watching with him, back in the day when the Recto cinemas were really "theaters" in the old sense of the word and yes (and I'm dating myself here), they were still the places to go to. The vertical signs of the moviehouses blared out their names while the elaborate hand-painted billboards (replicas of the movie posters) provided a splash of color.

Fernando Poe, Jr. was THE movie star, with a strange aura of invincibility, and seeing him 20 feet tall bedecked with six-shooters was a sight to behold. I wonder if this trade, which would be a major piece of Filipino folk art, has survived, now that printed billboards are more or less du jour in Metro Manila.

Old downtown Manila, and those moments with my parents, remain powerful memories. There were those afternoons in Binondo when we would go to the old Ma Mon Luk - the delightful pungent smell is almost inexplicable but it would tell you whether the restaurant was "authentic" or not. Divisoria was a virtual warren of stores where any bargain can be found. I didn't appreciate going there, really (I was, or rather still am, hateful of long waits during shopping.) But it always paid off to pester my mother after she was finished with shopping - there's a quick reward of hopia somewhere or better yet, ice cream.

Speaking of which, the old Magnolia plant along Aurora Boulevard and its diner-style ice cream house was a great place to bring the kids or to have a date. I almost always ordered an "Ernie & Bert" sundae even though as a child I hated strawberry ice cream. I was always Ernie, and my brother was Bert. (I wouldn't even want to think about the rumor of them being gay.) Broadway Centrum was chic, if a bit small, and the sight of trees along Gilmore and Hemady, or even along Ortigas, almost always conveyed a sense of tranquility and stateliness. I rather envied those people who had their homes there -not because their houses were big, mind you, but that they were surrounded by nature.

.... And on and on and on and on. And on.

Seeing the world with wonder is a privilege for children ... one of my pet fascinations then was space (finally, a relation to our link!). I loved everything about space. I had my share of playing with spiders and mucking about in the dirt like other kids, but I would rather have laid down beside the glossy pictures of planets, astronauts or whatnot. I read up on Cassini, Herschel, Galileo, even bothered memorizing the history of Pluto's name (from Percival Lowell, the scientist who predicted its existence).

I even dreamed one day that I would join NASA. Or perhaps find a way to communicate with alien races.

Well, life has progressed in its own fashion, and I am nowhere near being a space agency, much less the scientifice profession - what I loved about science was the romance of discovery but not so much the discipline of achieving the result (my artistic temparament getting the better of me). But there is still that romantic notion that OUT THERE the delicious, unlimited UNKNOWN would defy any sort of explanation of what we have here in daily life, on dreary perfunctory Earth.

Space has a way of humbling one - that one's existence is but a nanoportion of the iota of the infinitesimal space our solar system occupies in the Milky Way, which is again one of many galaxies in the universe. Of which we know.

New discoveries here in what is virtually in our neighborhood in the galaxy serve up a reminder that all is not lost, that perhaps all those hours devoted to telescopes and sending probes to space would give us a clue to the machina, to the design of the symmetry/asymmetry of what we know is life. This one in particular just touched another space within my heart --- that of the younger me still floundering about, enraptured by the wonder of life.

There is of course, the current me, all worn out in some places and finding it convenient to be cynical and jaded, though I have no right to be. Not when I have a decent living, eat three squares (sometimes, ehem, oft-times more) a day, and manage to have a peaceful sleep at night.

Out there, there are answers to questions we yet have to phrase. If we keep that sense of wonder, of hope, of joy in unlimited possibility, maybe there is hope for us after all.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The OFW Wake

ADB doubts RP can sustain economic growth -

Some reading just heading into the last remaining hours of our rest days and the weekend for the rest of you out there.

While it has been quoted as to make it as trite as the tritest of cliches can be, the relationship between the size of remittances from outside the Philippines and its economic health cannot be underestimated.

Let's be fair and honest with ourselves. I don't want to go into that oft-quoted survey sometime ago that at least one-fifth of the Filipino population would prefer to leave the country. It's not necessary for me to quote that, when our collective gestalt has been brainwashed that succeeding outside our shores, against foreign standards, is several times better than succeeding on our own.

It's the success of Filipino A performing in award-winning foreign musical that gets our kudos. Never mind if Filipino A's talents pales in comparison with the plethora of talent we have back home. Just no breaks, really.

It's Filipino B graduating with a degree from Harvard University who is being awarded intellectual wattage - an opportunity, I'm sure, made possible by the fact that his parents were able to afford to send him there. I'm not blaming the parents, nor the student, or blaming anyone, but it doesn't mean Filipino B is any better than the graduate from our own homegrown educational institution.

It's the mestiza/mestizo phenotype occupying our notions of physical beauty.

It's the literati ooh-ing and aah-ing over the latest foreign bestseller and not being troubled by the fact that little impact has been made by any major Filipino author either in our local scene or worldwide in the last twenty (or I daresay forty) years. Or that where excellence is recognized, few Filipinos get to appreciate this excellence (that is, if they ever hear the news) - either they can't afford the books, or much worse (and most probably true), they don't have the inclination to read.

It's molding and shaping our physical environment, where we can, to a First World ideal when we haven't built enough classrooms, irrigated enough fields, saved enough forests.

It's promoting a culture of communication through SMS but not developing and nurturing the skills (and the responsibility) that are really needed.

Filipinos want to leave the country to experience foreign sights, earn foreign money, spend dollars and showing off how fun it is to touch snow. That is not an ignoble aspiration. But we needn't build our futures on that belief. Before I left for the Middle East, I looked down at the people who scrambled queueing to become OFWs. Now that I am here, I empathize with those like me who are separated from the land and people we love.

The Philippines is breeding mediocrity, and left in the OFW wake is that we have failed to build our country in the image of what we want it to be.

In the beginning, I was sorry for leaving the Philippines and was ashamed of "selling out." Now, I am just sorry. On the one hand, there are those who have succeeded in making a life for themselves, have helped their families, and are providing opportunties for their children to be potentially better than they are. On the other, there are those who are just relieved to be away from the wreck they see the Philippines to be, and would find every opportunity to disassociate themselves from being Filipinos.

There are those in varying degrees in between.

What is presented before is a quandary - OFWs represent the greatest potential for social and economic change for the country --- both human and financial. But our absentee voting system doesn't work, we don't have any major political figure advancing our agenda, and for all their good intentions, our primary organizations that receive national attention have been hijacked by the radicals, both from the Right and the Left for their own agenda. Try naming any moderate OFW organization and you will be hard-pressed to find one.

What we have essentially, in the Philippines is a factory where workers are created, off to contribute to the success of other countries, while the oligarchs in our country suck out the dollars we indirectly send to them through the local spending of our families. But one day, in their greed, these people will invariably kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

And where will we be then?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sun is Good!

Promise of sunshine stirs an Arctic town - International Herald Tribune

Well, yeah, if it were up North. Spring is here in KSA, probably the most pleasant time of year. But after that brief period, sun definitely no good.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

After, Again

This is after all, a different context, but here goes...

The big inter-faith rally went down and did SQUAT in promoting the idea that change will be good for the country. Sending the wrong message by putting Cory Aquino and Erap Estrada together. The message just got hijacked by all the politicking...

The Armenians are showing us again how to wake up civil unrest. You go, people! The Israelis and Palestinians have demonstrated just why eugenics may just be a good idea --- if their shooting each other doesn't wipe out each other first....

The second batch of salary increases have been laid to bed and now people are complaining about their increases. It would have been great to lay some smackdown and slap people around for being plain stupid. Pity the fool who messes with me! And then smile for the folks who come in, "Sir, please help me..."

The Oscars have come and gone. Shoot, I miss good movies. I think a part of my heart got ripped out when I started living here. Some parts have grown back, but good movies do play their part...

So I'm moving to a new flat. Canvassing for this and that. Everything has gotten so expensive. After several years of working here, the real value of my earnings has only gone up 20%, but everywhere prices are rising...

Wishing I can get my hands on my own car! Uh-uh, no finances yet.

Wishing for some downtime back in the Philippines.

Wishing I'm no longer in love with her. Well, just wishing. This too, will pass.

And on we go again....