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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011, The Year In Poem.

Spin, my poor head does,
In writing what I must,
Events that have passed this year,
As the end of it draws near.

A penis on a deity,
Reactions were anything but dainty,
Hell's fury wrought on Cruz,
As an artist, he did not lose.

Supsup was named a hero,
For winning a tilt so shallow,
To be judged solely on one's shell,
This is, indeed, fresh hell.

Enrile, Cayetano and Sotto,
With their mantras and singular motto,
Supplicants to the Catholic fraternity,
The RH Bill, they deemed unnecessary.

With lies, fear and religiosity,
They thwarted our path to democracy,
Where everyone has the right to plan,
Their family to the last wo/man.

Pacquiao was once again victorious,
Though the manner was anything but unanimous,
A pugilist, a lawmaker and a singer,
The list goes on, we shudder.

And this country, whose faith is "strong",
Whose norm is the corrupt and wrong,
Was brutalized by Nature's Song,
A hurricane by the name of Sendong.

The blame game is once again in season,
While the ones who lost their reason,
For living, struggling and loving,
Must cope with the deaths surrounding.

Who can forget the little lady,
Who would have loathed to be in solitary,
Demanding a suite for incarceration,
In the guise of a "medical condition".

This country has come full circle,
A horrific past is a mere hurdle,
When the Marcoses are back in power.
This generation, none the wiser.

So as the year comes to a close,
And we cheer the same variety shows,
It pains me to say with shame,
2012 will be more of the same.



(Photo courtesy of freechristmaswallpapers.net)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Feminism, The Rated K Way

A week or two ago, I settled in early on a Sunday, resting for the workload ahead. The television was on, and Art had the controller under his palm, and while we may have different views on what constitutes "entertainment", sometimes those paths do cross.

Rated K, with Korina Sanchez, was on. They were promoting - after yet another lengthy commercial break - a woman who had turned her life around from rags to riches.

(Photo courtesy of tfcnow.abs-cbn.com)

Which was interesting to both of us, to say the least. (And very Pinoy teleserye mentality.) It has a romantic ring to it, a sort of I-triumphed-against-all odds feel and in a time where right does not necessarily mean legal (as long as you have Supreme Court justices in the palm of your hands, or the weight of your mole), I needed to hear a feel-good story.

As a student of history, I know that there will be something amiss when Korina -and her team - makes their report.

I wasn't disappointed in that regard.

They dramatized her "origins", how she grew up in a poor family, and had to walk miles just to get to school. She went on to get a degree in teaching, but because of financial constraints, ends up having to take a job abroad as a domestic helper. It was during this stint in her life that she met her "Prince", a Caucasian guy who swept her off her feet, married her, and now has settled with her in her hometown, back in the Philippines, in a grandly designed house built for them.

The clip then fast forwards to how she has become some kind of saint to her hometown, giving financial support and books or supplies to the local school/s.

All well and good, on the "end" part.

What bothered us both was the "means" to her "sainthood".

The unsaid meta-message here was that a woman can become rich, powerful, immersed in philantrophy, giving, a hero for the people around her - if she marries the right guy.

It is the year 2011. We have had 2 female Presidents. Worldwide, women are breaking down all kinds of glass ceilings to prove that it isn't only a "man's world". What used to be unheard of is slowly seeping into the public consciousness, to the point where no one blinks anymore seeing women in "traditionally male roles".

Framed against this reality, I don't know how to even begin describing this episode of Rated K.

A friend of mine, a devotee to the Altar of Feminism, had more than a few choice words, though.

None of which I can print.

A Letter For Angela Zhang

Dear Angela,

When I heard the news that you, at your young, sprite-filled age of 17, have just created a cancer-killing nanoparticle, a flood, no, a torrent of emotions came rushing in. A heady mixture, for sure, but know one thing: I am in awe of what you have just accomplished.

(Photo courtesy of geek.com)

17 seems like a long time ago, for me, anyway. But what I do remember from my 17 was:

(1) I tried out smoking for the first time, and stayed with it for years.
(2) I was present in my classes only in the physical sense.
(3) I was more excited about the possibilities of a life outside of school.

Years later, I am seeing the same thing repeated in this generation's 17's, in a different context. There seems to be an inordinate obsession with fame, regardless of what one has achieved intellectually, physically, socially. It doesn't matter, as long as you're famous. So you see all the gyrating onscreen, on national television, by kids who should be burying their noses in mounds of textbooks, or teenagers getting into fights just so the "local media" will get a whiff of their "event".

Yes, you may be a genius. (Which means you are in the minority in a statistical sense, and only in that sense.) But beyond that, you have shown me, and everyone else, what single-mindedness, dedication and passion can do, how it can be utilized, and funneled into something that potentially has the chance to change the course of cancer treatment - and humanity - forever. And you're only 17 - I can't imagine what other things you will continue to develop and create over the course of a lifetime that is singularly focused on honing what you have been gifted with.

I salute you, and wish you all the support that is possible to continue doing what you obviously derive great pleasure from. I can't imagine how incessantly proud your parents must be of you - we're not even related and already, I cannot help but feel pride in what you have achieved. Score one for humanity against cancer.

Shine a light, both for our teenagers, and for everyone else in this world. (How apropos that your work is somehow tangent to the world of imaging and optics.)

May you, and your tribe, not just increase, but go forth and multiply.

Sincerely,
The Guy With A Blog


Angela Zhang, 17, has just won $100,000.00, and the Grand Prize in the Individual Category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. The title of her project was "Design of Image-Guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells." Let me quote from the article I am drawing this from:


"Her nanoparticle is award-winning due to the fact it has the potential to overcome cancer resistance while offering up the ability to monitor the effects of the treatment in real-time using existing imaging techniques."

To read more about Angela's achievement, click on this link. And be amazed.


http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-cetera/17-year-old-wins-100k-for-creating-cancer-killing-nanoparticle-2011128/

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Hammer Principle

Don't worry, this isn't a throwback to MC Hammer's hit, U Can't Touch This.

This is about my brush with death yesterday. And it still feels unreal, after having had almost a full day of viewing it from the perspective of the immediate past.

(Photo courtesy of cksinfo.com)

I suppose it's because the manner and the time it took for the entire event to be consummated was over in mere seconds.

Having conducted a private class for a client, I decided to walk over to the bank three buildings away from where I was. Lugging around that enormous mat I used for work was only slightly neutralized by the use of comfortable sandals. As we were in an area that was well-established, with more projects "in development" (I didn't there there would be any more parcels of land to do so, but never underestimate determined real estate companies), one of the buildings I had to pass by was in such a "developmental" stage.

I remember making a mental note of avoiding the immediate "work area" on the sidewalk where the construction workers were mixing water with cement. I am an honorary member of the Order of the Sprain, and my ankle wobbly stands as a testament to the amount of excruciating pains I have had to endure over the years as a result of the excessive pronation it seems to enjoy (?) like a heat seeking projectile. Seeing any uneven surface makes me instantly wary of an impending sprain. (Which is also the reason I have never been bitten by the running bug that has all but swept the metro, nor will I be mountain climbing anytime soon - two activities that enjoy terrain that is both rugged and rustic.)

Having sidestepped the cement obstacle, I now came to a narrow path that was framed by a large acacia tree on the left, and a ladder leading up to the constructed building on the right. I remember looking up to the building and seeing the makeshift "roof", a safety precaution in case objects might fall on unsuspecting pedestrians.

As I was passing at the point right in between the tree and the ladder, I then heard - and felt - a thundering BOOG! 

I'm sure my stunned state was in milliseconds, but it felt like an underwater scene as I saw what caused the sound.

A large, worn-out hammer fell on the concrete sidewalk, not more than 2 inches from my right foot.

I looked up, and saw that it came from the worker at the top of the ladder propped against the building, under the "safety roof". He had on a shirt that was wrapped around his face, so all I could see were his eyes.

Eyes that refused to acknowledge what had just happened. He merely shrugged - if it had been his voice, that shrug was clear and audible, no mistake - then he refused to go down to get the hammer and just stayed at the top, pretending to be occupied with something-or-other.

I had an intense desire to pull the ladder towards the road. I thought ahead of the evidence of his splattered body in a well-known street and I decided against it.

The security guard in the next building (beside the bank I was going to) witnessed the whole thing, and was just as amazed that the worker didn't bother apologizing. He hollered to the idiot in my stead: "Hoy! Dahan dahan ka sa mga kagamitan mo! Makakapatay ka ng tao kapag tumama yang martilyo sa ulo ng mga dumadaan!"

I think I was in a trance while depositing in the bank right after.

The rest of the day passed by in a blur. I knew I ran a million errands, I weaved through insane traffic conditions, motorcycles sideswiped side mirrors as if they were pinball levers, things the rest of the day went lousy because I was able to only have lunch at around 4PM.

And I still had a silly grin on my face, sans my usual bitching and moaning.

It really is a matter of perspective.

If I had a piece of metallic equipment wedged in my cranium, there would be nothing left for me to bitch and moan about.

People, that is The Hammer Principle.

(And a few hours later, I heard of Hitchens passing away. Which made The Hammer Principle resonate even more.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

When Religion Met Reality

Sometimes, life is really, really good for a blogger. Especially when topics present themselves unbidden - and believe me, I appreciate it.

And I thought I would be having a quiet, relaxed breakfast after two hours of training sessions.

Digging in my vegetable omelet, I noticed - well, everyone else in the cafe did - a trio talking animatedly as they entered.

One was a statuesque woman, which is not to say unattractive, as is often associated with that word. Her face was rather flushed, and against her white flowing dress, it made the color stand out.

The two other people, a man and a woman, were dressed equally nicely, although in a much more conservative manner: the other lady had her hair pulled back, and her face framed with glasses that screamed "librarian". The man had an air of self-confidence around him, and he relayed this quite successfully without uttering a word. (Note to everyone: What you don't say actually says much more.)

As luck would have it, they sat in the booth next to where I was. Score.


Statuesque (S) begins: "Kaya nga, eh. That's the reason I called you here, I am burdened."

Conservative Man (CM) responds: "You know that we are here for you, sister. You can always count on us."

Conservative Woman (CW) quips: "You can call us anytime."

S: "I am so tired, honestly. Lagi nalang ganito kasi. He wants me to take care of everything while he is gone for months, and one time, even more than a year. Yes, it's work, but this is not what I signed up for."

CM: "But this is the vow of marriage." (CM smiles in a knowing fashion.) "For better or for worse, remember? Remember when you first met and made those vows. Remember."

S: "Naandyan na ako, OK? Don't tell me that, I made those vows so I know them. But does that give him the right to hit me when I am too tired to have sex?"

CW: "Language, please. There are people here."

S: "YOU BROUGHT ME HERE!!!"

(You could cut the tension in the air with a serrated knife.)

(Photo courtesy of zazzle.com)

CM: "I think we're losing focus here. Let's regroup: You called us because you had problems in your marriage. Let's try to work them out. Lahat naman ng mag-asawa may problema. I think the popular expression is weather-weather lang yan. So, what do you think should be your next step?"

S: "I've tried everything. I reasoned with him that we are not working on our marriage...Paano namin gagawin yun, eh nasa ibang bansa lagi?"

CM: "But this is your life. The life you both built together. Hindi ba?"

S: "Again, I understand your point, brother. And siguro my fault is that I agreed to this. I wanted to work so that he didn't have to leave to support both of us. But he insisted, kesyo it is the man daw who earns, and the woman takes care of the home."

CW: "That is our assigned role."

S: "Teka...may asawa ka na ba?"


CW: "Uhm...no."

S: "Ayan naman pala. Eh, di tumahimik ka nalang, PWEDE?!?!?"

At this point, CW excuses herself. I suppose to pick up her face in the next store.

CM: "You didn't have to go ballistic on her."

S: "What do you expect? Alam ko naman ang papayuhin nyo, eh!"

CM: "Don't be so sure. Remember, I'm on your side: I only met your husband through you, we have been friends for a long time."

S: "Kaya nga ako lumapit sa iyo. I need some semblance of familiarity, as I feel like I am going into uncharted waters. I need an anchor, something to keep me sane and in place."

CM: "Why would you feel like you are swimming in waters like that?"

S: "Because I am going to the lawyers next week for an annulment."

CM turns quiet. He looks down, then faces Statuesque in grim determination. "Do not do that."

At this point, Statuesque begins sobbing, but manages to still speak audibly. "I can take everything, pati yung distansya at tagal, but not the beating. That is not negotiable."

CM: "It is wrong to have an annulment. You have to work through it, this phase in your life. It is just a hardship you are given presently, be patient. God will hear you and your pleas, you will be protected if you only..."

Statuesque stands up, lifts up her left sleeve to reveal a welt that would make Manny Pacquiao wince. "How will I be protected from THIS?!?"

Silence.

Statuesque delivers her parting words: "I didn't ask for your help in order for you to judge me. OK? I came to you, I wanted a listening ear, a sympathetic touch, one that would say "I don't know what you're going through but I am here for whatever you need." Since we met up, you have been telling me God does this, God will do that...you keep sidestepping the fact that I have been beaten repeatedly by my husband! Hindi kita tinawagan para husgahan mo ako!!!  Tapos may sinama ka pang iba, eh mas lokaret pa pala yan pag dating sa relihiyon!"

I don't know about you, but I just had a very fulfilling breakfast.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eternal Flame. Massive Stupidity.

Anyone who grew up in the 80's could not have missed the another-school-week-collective-groan anthem "Manic Monday", one of the more popular hits by erstwhile "girl-group" Bangles. I stopped counting how many Mondays I have heard at least three people singing to that song back then - helped, of course, by radio airplay. And they also introduced the "Egyptian Dance" - to go with their massive hit "Walk Like An Egyptian" - even guys were doing the dance whenever that song came on.

(More trivia than you care to know: One of their earlier names was "The Bangs", but legal considerations forced them to drop the 'The' and add the '-les' at the end.)

Silly. Fun. Singable. Danceable. And as one Youtube commenter noted: "Back then, MTV still played real music, not the trashy reality shows we see today." (The) Bangles were part of - can I say this now - a mini-Renaissance of music, at least the ones in popular form. The hairstyles of the 80's were deplorable (tigilan na ang Aqua Net!), and the fashion tastes were largely suspect and self-indulgent (spandex, layering, shoulder pads to high heavens), but few decades can match the lyricism, the melodies, the mood and the je ne sais quoi of this particular decade's contribution to popular music.

(Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

A girl group that occasionally - if ever so lightly - tread over to the light rock genre, one particular song of theirs caught the ire of a religious high school teacher of mine, and for the most inane of reasons.

Eternal Flame.


Close your eyes
Give me your hand
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming
Or is this burning
An eternal flame?


I don't know of anyone from my generation who has not heard this song, and I know some who have memorized it in and out, back and forth. It was one of the group's most defining songs, seeing as they don't play ballads too often, but this attempt saw a more vulnerable side to them and is considered their best-selling single.

And so we come to the teacher who had a bone to pick with this song.

As I have mentioned in my past posts, I came from an ultra conservative religious high school of the Protestant variety. And this particular teacher had a knack for, or more properly, delighted, in pointing out the "you're doing it wrong" parts of everyone, save for a few "favorites".

There was some kind of class presentation, so we had to bring our own casette players (remember those?) to play the background music, for a skit, if I remember correctly. And since we had the player already, I turned on the radio during recess/lunch break. When this particular teacher passed by, Eternal Flame was playing. Standing by and listening, the song had not reached midway when I heard this question:

"Why are you listening to Satanic music?"

If I was more dexterous with my jaw, it would have literally dropped to the floor.

"What?" I was trying to stifle my laughter but knew that any betrayal of levity on my part would result in a lengthier discussion, which obviously, I had no intention of pursuing.

"That song. Isn't that a song glorifying the Lake of Fire?"

"The Lake of...You mean, because of its' title? Eternal Flame?"

"That is the eternal flame. Hell. Why would you sing a song celebrating Hell?"

"Because it doesn't? She's singing about her love for someone and she's hoping for it to last..."

"The lyrics alone...wasn't the first line 'Close your eyes'? It's attempting to draw you to the dark."

"Huh?!?"

"And then over and over, she keeps mentioning the Eternal Flame. This song is Satanic! I will bring this up with the principal! This song should be banned and should have no place in our school!"

"But it's a number 1 song, it's been number 1 for weeks now..."

"Yet another proof that this is from the devil! Only things that are popular in this world are the machinations and instruments of Satan! Shut that radio off! Shut it off!"

I did. I endured a monstrous stare from this teacher, as if I had proposed to eat children and sell their carcasses to the neighborhood lush for furniture. From that point on, I could feel a burning glare from you-know-who, with whatever I did, presented, organized, joined in.

You can't blame me for thinking that too much religion makes people stupid. I had these particular adults to show me the way. And they displayed their mental emaciation in stunning, drop dead fashion. And I mean dead as in nonexistent grey matter.

So, to all "Satanists" (according to them), here's to us, and while we're on that note, here's a link to the video of the song in question. It's a good thing we didn't have portable video players back then, the "flickering fire" in the video background would just be more fodder for the imaginary battle against an illusory "evil influence" in a song that had nothing to do with religiosity.

You can sing along. Loudly. Without guilt or fear of reprisal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1gUXZ4rvYU&feature=related

(Courtesy of youtube.com)





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

Is it just me, or is Christmas on steroids this year?

(Photo courtesy of dailymail.co.uk)

The feasting began certainly early enough.  Barely have we entered the first week of December, I have been invited to more than 10 "celebrations" already - take note, I have been accused of being "anti-social" often so that makes that fact even more perplexing. (I can't imagine what the "socials" calendars would look like.) Whether in the office, at school, neighborhood socials, food, glorious food in its various manifestations, preparations and presentations have begun to unravel both before our eyes  - and inside our bowels.

Let's not leave out the horrendous (understatement of the year) traffic. It's as if everyone - at least in Metro Manila - has decided to go to one mall (pick any) and challenge the possibility of creating a black hole voluntarily by squeezing everyone and everything into a single space. And the rudeness level? It's at an all-time high. You see parents pushing their strollers and using them as battering rams to get just a few more inches of space, shoppers of both the harried and lazy variety aimlessly ambling along in an omni-directional pattern so you really have to dodge and weave every which way so as not to get schmoozed - yes, that is the scientific term.

And we've all been hearing about how the Philippines is so poor, and how our economy is so bad...really? Judging from the amount of shopping bags, carts, gifts, credit cards, booze, cigarettes and everything else that's being consumed, bought, gift-wrapped, thrown away, I find myself having to suspend my disbelief every day because all I see is spending, spending, spending. Even the kids who ask for alms already turn down 5 and 10 peso coins because they aren't "good enough" - and you thought beggars can't be choosers!

So, really, we should just redefine Christmas. Let's be honest and fair, whatever the original intent was for the season has long been pushed into a distant background, in a moldy box at the back of the closet of your least favorite relative. I propose that Christmas now should stand for this:

C Christmas
H Has
R Really
I  Ignited
S Superficial
T Tendencies
M Masked
A As
S Spirituality

Enjoy the head-splitting holidays.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Piolo-KC Breakup As An Inkblot

By now, everyone who has a TV set, internet connection or otherwise "wired" must have known/seen/read about "actress" KC Concepcion's tearful tell-all (can we label it that?) of her break-up with local heartthrob Piolo Pascual. (I use the term actress in quotes to denote "one who acts onscreen". I cannot use it in the same way I would describe Meryl Streep as an actress. And before anyone hisses, I have seen at least two of her "films", time I cannot take back.)

After her revelation, online activity was rather singular in its assumption and conclusion: Despite the lack of anything substantive actually spoken, what KC didn't say led most everyone to advise her to "move on, girl, he's not into girls!"

(Photo courtesy of asianpopcorn.com)

A sticking point in Piolo's long career, he has always been speculated as gay, and of the closet variety, which makes for more interesting "scoops". I remember how he tearfully appeared on TV denouncing a sex video that had gone viral (the video implying he was a party to a sexual encounter that involved another man). There was also that picture of him holding hands with Sam Milby, another "actor" who is also the subject of many get-togethers and gossip sessions as "questionable" in the sexuality department, which was later found out to be edited and photoshopped. And when he came forward to introduce his son with a non-showbiz woman, it was summarily judged as a "beard" action, something used to stop people from casting any further doubts into his sexual orientation.

What people fail to realize is that how they reacted revealed more about how they really thought and felt, vis a vis attitudes towards sexuality, homosexuality and gender roles. Hence, the inkblot analogy. (For more on Rorschach and the inkblot test, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test as a springboard for further links.)

One, despite pushing by some sectors to be more "politically correct", we still are largely homophobic as a nation, and as a culture.

Notice how when someone is thought of to be "gay", you will hear - without missing a beat - the screeching "Aaaaaaay!" by certain females in radius. Or, the also equally ubiquitous "sayang" ("what a waste") under someone's breath.

Why is it a "waste"? That's your libido talking.

The screech would be an ode to "screaming" queens, one where the terms effiminacy and homosexuality are considered synonymous. How I pity the men, who by dint of choice or circumstance, are by their nature soft spoken, have a non threatening voice, updated on things related to skin care, actually have the talent to do pirouettes or play Chopin, who also happen to be heterosexual. They are reduced to hiding what they really want to do, to act totally out of their characters just so not to be mistaken as "bakla" (adopting a deeper voice, acting brusko).

Two, it is also an ode to how stifling, rigid and unyielding our gender roles are, and coupled with our national obsession as being seen as some sort of pious, religious nucleus in Asia (you can't hear me, but I'm laughing), anyone who challenges the predetermined order is seen as "abnormal" and must be derisively dealt with posthaste. We've all heard of fathers beating up their sons who were found to be playing with dolls, as if somehow it was a form of "evil spirit" that could be "exorcised". Nothing more embarrassing than to be thought of as having an "abnormal" child, better beat the living daylights out of you before you "manifest".

Yet, strangely, we give mixed messages when it comes to adults.

How can anyone not note the hypocrisy? Below is a sampling of why I find this attempt to be gender-specific laughable.

Boys don't play the piano! (But those considered "masters" in it are predominantly men.)

The kitchen is a woman's place! (Yet most "star chefs" are male.)

Designing clothes? Hello! (Do I need to state the obvious?)

Apparently, it is considered "acceptable" for a man to be in a field traditionally viewed as "feminine", if the man is seen as a "captain" or "the best" in that industry. (Feminists, feel free to rant now.)

One message that is made resoundingly clear by "authorities", though, is that "men should be paired with women". But even though Piolo has already, repeatedly and categorically, stated that he is straight, and is dating women left and right, he will always be seen as "faking". No one will cut him any slack. Assuming that he is gay - he will be doing what has been expected of all males in this country and will still be thought of as a liar. In a continent halfway around the world, we have people like US Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann telling gay men they can get married, "to women". Add to that our religious neuroses to submit to the will of Catholic prelates and doctrine - regardless of actual chosen religion - and gay men are in the proverbial no-win situation.

The only "moral" recourse - as per the Catholic handbook - is for gay men to be celibate.

Considering the source, you'll excuse me if I guffaw like there's no tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seeing Red

My thoughts turn to this singular statistic on December 1: a thousand babies are born with HIV every day. (See http://www.2015quilt.com/?t=red26 for the 2015 Quilt Project by (Red).)

(Photo courtesy of powerfortoday.org)

And with these thoughts, I also think of how we could have prevented the spread of this disease with education. Scientific, factual, medical, accurate information. How can we even hope to stem the tide of these HIV cases if we choose to surround ourselves with hysteria and arm ourselves with rumors about what this disease is, how it is transmitted, and what can be done to arrest its' further spreading?

It has been decades since the HIV/AIDS virus first came into our collective consciousness. I remember discussing this in 2nd or 3rd grade class in vague terms, and the only detail that still resonates and stands out is that actor Rock Hudson was afflicted with it, and the unsaid (but thoroughly implied) thinking was that he got it "because he's gay." If memory serves me correctly, it was initially called GRIDS and not AIDS, the GR standing for "Gay-Related".

And, viewing it against the backdrop of the RH Bill discussions, it is time we put our foot down. Time to move past religious bickering - a painful fact in this country that truly weighs all of us down. Knowledge - the kind that saves physical, actual lives - is beyond personal beliefs and spiritual persuasions. Science is getting there (See http://www.aidsmap.com/page/1577949/, with links to details of how a man has "cautiously" been called "cured" of HIV with stem cell transplant.) Unfortunately, our attitudes towards it is a disservice to the strides that the medical/scientific community has been making in combating and defeating this disease.

HIV/AIDS is not a "bad person's" disease. (Line taken from Blanche from The Golden Girls.)

It is not something that only afflicts "degenerates".

We can prevent its spread if we know the facts about it.

Demonizing this disease is passing judgement, and in the fight for life, it should have no place in the struggle. Either you have it or you don't, period.

Here are the facts from WHO: http://www.who.int/hiv/data/en/. More than half the adults afflicted are women, which should lay to rest the bogus propaganda that "only gay men have it." There are more than 3 million children (age 15 and below) who have it. And last year (2010), there were 2.7 million people newly infected with HIV.

Growing up in the time of HIV/AIDS means making sure that safe sex is part of the discussion for every couple. A mighty feat, daunting even, given how our society has essentially made sex "dirty". It is when people are prohibited from talking about it that misconceptions arise - I remember reading a post of a woman saying that her birth control method was to stand up right after sex with her husband so that the "sperm won't swim upwards." With notions like this, it is no wonder new HIV infections are in the millions.

If I asked you to stop thinking about lechon, I'll bet it will be the thing that you can't stop thinking about. By telling people to "not talk about sex", you (you know who you are) are cultivating an environment hospitable to ignorance and erroneous "facts".

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Remember those who have left us, and fight for those still with us so that we will have a future where this disease will be a memory.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Life As Approved By Ads

Carbs are evil, so take CarbTrim.

Fat is disgusting, buy Xenical.

Fat is abhorrent, run to Belo Clinics for liposuction. Or the new "non invasive techniques".

Nothing worse than dark skin, so take whitening pills. Who cares if they mess you up internally? It's what's outside that counts. Glutathione is here to save the darkening day.

Take that whitening soap as well. You should be ashamed of dark skin. Yuck.

But don't get too fair, or you'll wash out. Here, apply this tanning lotion.

And while you're at it, why aren't you in the gym? Everyone should look alike, and no one should deviate from the models, who accurately represent reality for 100% of the population.

(Photo courtesy of socialitelife.com)


You shouldn't have love handles, they're a sign of decay.

Anyone without a six pack should be ashamed of themselves.

Speaking of which, here's a six-pack of San Miguel. We have a premium line now, in case you didn't know.

And to go with your drink, here are some cigarettes. It ain't a set without them.

Don't worry, you can run in a marathon sponsored by a network, an organization or a pharmaceutical company, to work off any toxins you may have ingested as a result of drinking and smoking.

Pony up the 1000 pesos as your entrance fee to run. Sure, you can run for free in the park, but you won't have a singlet.

Besides, that park also has a weekend market, where lamb chops and chicken cordon bleu are served alongside "fresh" produce. Wouldn't want to be tempted.

Adidas now has new gear for your next run. Which will be updated by the end of the month. And next door, Nike is also gunning for your wallet, with funkier styles.

How can you forget your music player? Ipods only need apply. Anything else is a come-from-behind-wannabe.

Complete the entire Apple collection, or you're "uncool".

And refresh yourself with the latest Milk Tea in the market - those models got their bodies by drinking tons of the milk tea they're pushing, can't you tell?

If you want "real" milk tea, you can fly to China or Taiwan at 11 pesos a flight! Budget airlines are here to whisk you at midnight to have the trip you always wanted. Even PAL is offering their version of "discount fares".

So why not charge the whole trip to your credit card? Points, miles, gifts, sandals, just lay it on the card. Nothing says "shame" more potently than not having a piece of plastic. Whoever told you that cards are "utang" (debt) is a lying, disapproved rumor-starter.

Insurance has no use, don't bother getting it. But if it's for free, why not? After all, everything in life is free, like that song goes, right?

Who cares? As long as you have a pair of shoes that cost 43,000 pesos.

If you don't follow these rules, you won't be fulfilled, and your life will be worth nothing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Is He?"

That question was posed to me by someone who saw that short clip of Atty. Midas Marquez that has been circulating in Facebook recently, and if memory serves me right, there were (as of last count) more than 20 people who have shared that video as well on their own Walls.


(Photo courtesy of philstar.com)

The completion of that question, of course, is "Is He Gay?"

I wouldn't know. I don't know him. And it's none of my business.

What I find odd is how quickly this video shifted the public's focus on him as a spokesperson of the Supreme Court into the alleged poster boy for the "atengs". (Approximated by the slang "sistahs".)

Here is the video that sparked the wagging tongues (courtesy of youtube.com).


Suddenly, everyone has to know if he's gay.

Which brings me to the point that has always struck me as illogical and unscientific, but in the minds of most people (not just Filipinos), serves as "definite proof" that a man is gay.

One's actions/mannerisms are supposed to "betray" your true sexual orientation. "Common knowledge" dictates that if you qualify for any of the items below, you must "be one."

He eats his salad with a knife and fork. Gay.

Uses an umbrella walking to work. No doubt there.

Listens to jazz, and specifically female jazz singers. Gayville.

Talks softly, and places hands on hips. Gay as Lady Di.

All the while, we are conveniently forgetting one salient - obviously not to the majority - fact: actions and mannerisms are culturally determined and subsequently labeled as "masculine" and "feminine". (This is such a throwback to the social science courses I had in college.) And the underlying truth that everyone just denies outright is that, from a scientific perspective, there is no truth whatsoever for one's mannerisms serving to determine one's sexual orientation.

The ONLY thing that matters, where this topic is concerned, is "to which sex are you sexually attracted to?" And for all intents and purposes, Atty. Marquez has publicly shown himself to be married - to a woman - and having children, which, in the same cultural context in which he is thought of now as being gay, would make him as straight as a ruler.

My friend persisted, "But what if he really is?"

If he is gay, he shouldn't be forced to come out. I am not a fan of forcible outings, the reasons for which are varied. No one should ever be forced to do things they aren't ready for, certainly not one which has the potential for untold and horrible repercussions, something that straight people will never have to ponder because no such fate await those who are indubitably heterosexual.

I told my friend that it is a moot discussion, as only Marquez himself knows himself to answer that question. Everyone one else is ridiculing him for something that we all, at turns, have done in our own lives: acted contrary to what we have been expected to. It is this weight of cultural expectation that I find utterly fascinating because even at the expense of personal freedom, most of us would rather succumb to "what they want" rather than to celebrate our individuality.

No wonder the word "sheep" has always been thrown around in this context.

Oh, and speaking of science, here's an article you may find very interesting: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-big-questions/201106/homophobic-men-most-aroused-gay-male-porn

Even though the title is self-explanatory, here's the Cliff Notes version: If you're homophobic, chances are, you're gay yourself. Well, the one part of you that is aroused says that, even if you verbally lie.

Uh oh.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Better Bill Proposals. Please.

A month or two ago, I was railing at the fact that while our beloved solons - some of them, anyway - have been moving sky and earth to ensure that the Reproductive Health Bill (a comprehensive bill that will enable our citizens have both the knowledge and the means to enact the best family planning method for themselves, to give our women the services they so desperately need and must have in order to continue their pregnancies safely, and to educate our citizens on a matter as sensitive as sex in a clinical, scientific fashion, among other meaningful goals) will never see the light of day, a news item immediately came out after Shamcey Supsup placed third runner-up in the beauty pageant "Ms. Universe", and it stuck out because it came from one of our solons.

Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, wife of Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr., proposed a "resolution seeking to honor Supsup for the honor she brought to the country." (Full story here, as well as the other solons with similarly aligned thoughts: http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/top-stories/13328-2-lawmakers-eye-shamcey-as-ph-tourism-booster)

And now, we have news of another solon, Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos, seeking to change the name of EDSA (Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue), the major thoroughfare in Metro Manila into Cory Aquino Avenue,  who said that "Congress should give additional recognition to Mrs. Aquino being the first woman president of the country and an icon of democracy when she led the people in the 1986 People Power Revolution." (See: http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/national/18124-solon-rename-edsa-to-president-corazon-c-aquino-avenue)

(Courtesy of dearbloggery.com)

How can we even hope to compare proposals to honor a "beauty queen" and changing a highway's name, with a comprehensive piece of legislation that will effectively arrest unwanted pregnancies, curb the number of abortions in this country, and respect our free will to make our own choices regarding our own bodies?

Meanwhile, close to two decades after it was first brought up for legislative discussion, the RH Bill remains a non-entity, languishing in the halls of Congress despite the fact that every time people are polled, we want information that will save lives, we demand better public health services from our government, and it is our right to have all the scientific and factual information on hand to make decisions that can change each of our lives.

We need a better brand of legislator.



Friday, November 18, 2011

An Afternoon Coffeeshop Sermon

Not having fully recovered from a cough-cold combination this past week, I decided to repair at a known coffee shop chain to have some tea before a yoga class. Mint tea has always worked wonders when I am in this state, and I certainly needed to be delivered from my suffering, if only for a brief moment.

Little did I know that my "deliverance" would take an entirely different form. The fact that it comes in the most unexpected fashion serves to only up the incredulity factor.

As circumstance/luck would have it (depending on what you believe), the barista regretfully informed me that they have run out of the particular tea variant I wanted. So I settled for a good old Americano, anything that would keep my throat warm.

Downloaded e-books, ready for devouring? Check.

Cozy seat at a slightly secluded area? Check.

Appropriately cool temperature from an artificial source? Check.

Barely delving into my copy of Sex, Bombs and Burgers - an excellent read, by the way - I was jolted when someone pounded on the table, and exclaimed: "That is why God is our salvation!"


(Photo courtesy of divinecrash.com)

I look up from my reading and see three men seated two tables away from me, with Bibles open, and instantly, I am whisked into a religious sermon I have no wish to be part of.

One of the men is obviously a "convertee", the one being preached to. Reading the body language, it is clear that the "sermoner" thinks of himself as the alpha dog in this scenario: an overbearing position even when seated, forceful voice, showy gestures. The listener was seated in a calmer fashion, head tilted in an inquisitive manner, trying to digest the "sermon".

There goes my quiet time to read and sip my cup of coffee.

"You cannot have any other gods, and any other means of salvation!" bellowed Preacher.

Listener responds: "In my religion...(he utters something a little muffled as he turns to his book of reference)...and we are responsible for that."

"The way is clear!" responds Preacher. And then he looks around the room, eyes ablaze with the fire of his intent to proselytize, looks just for a brief moment at Listener, then addresses the "congregation" (read: the clueless customers of the coffeeshop):

"You, or anyone else (gesturing to all of us) will not be saved by your own merits! You are damned, damned, I tell you! Know Him! Know God! Only He can deliver you from eternal damnation!"

To the credit of Listener, he isn't backing down that easily. But because he is hunched over, speaks with a softer voice, and his back turned away from me, I could barely hear his response.

I immediately get my earphones and turn on my iTunes library, lest I be subjected to more "damnation".

Why is this man using a coffeeshop as his personal pulpit? Is it to "attract" more followers? Basic commandment in interpersonal relationships: Starting off a conversation with "You're wrong, I'm right!" tends to be seen as offensive and an affront. Not to mention rude.

But I gather that all religions have that same stance: A predilection to tell anyone outside their own fold that they cannot be happy/saved/fulfilled unless they follow "their" way. After all, religious leaders fancy themselves as arbiters of absolute morality and therefore have to be thoroughly convinced of their own self-righteousness. And followers are always told that "you will suffer for your faith, you will be ridiculed, maligned and tested!"

The only maligning I saw was from the Preacher telling us of our "uncleanliness", sitting on his moral high horse, content in being judgemental.

Freedom of religion also means the right to be free from religion.

I respect your right to have your own faith, wear whatever religious iconography you deem makes you feel "closer" to your chosen deity, say your own prayers, read your own religious books. You can conduct a seance or dance naked in your garden, I don't really care.

Why do people like Preacher have such a hard time returning that same courtesy?

I went to a coffeeshop to have my caffeine buzz, to read and to be relaxed. I did not go there to have someone make ill pronouncements on my character or the state of my being in an afterlife scenario. I have made my disdain for organized religion abundantly clear. I loathe anyone exhibiting intolerance - which I cannot tolerate at any level.

It is not a personal attack on you if someone doesn't subcribe to your faith. It merely means I am living my own life, on my terms. Deal with it.

And as for the third person in that hallowed table? It was an acolyte of Preacher, who kept nodding at every pronouncement made or every text read. Someone whose purpose was merely to say "Yes" at every turn.

It's your choice to turn off your mind.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of Characters And Scrotums

Watching the morning news in the aftermath of the airport standoff between the DOJ and the attempt of the Arroyos to "seek medical treatment abroad" (the official line from the GMA camp, so let's go with that), I certainly wasn't disappointed in my expectations that both GMA's/the Arroyos' lawyer and spokesperson would play the "We're the victim here!" card.

Predictably, they did the publicity rounds, deploring their "shabby treatment" at NAIA on national television.


(Photo courtesy of pinoyambisyoso.com)



(Photo courtesy of faxiamen.com)


And while Elena Bautista-Horn, spokesperson of former President Arroyo is not above turning on the waterworks to elicit sympathy for her cause, the legal counsel - how many are under GMA's employ this very moment? - who answered questions on TV took a different tack.

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio set Twitter ablaze as a trending topic when he pronounced over ANC's (ABS-CBN's News Channel) program Headstart his willingness to have one of his balls cut off, when asked about the certainty of the Arroyos returning should they be allowed to leave the country. "Papatanggal ko yung isang itlog ko kapag hindi bumalik ang mga Arroyo. I am confident they will return." (See clip and reactions here: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/11/16/11/topacios-got-balls)

Good thing I wasn't eating breakfast at that very moment.

But the statement that caused me more pause was when Topacio also said, "I'm a good judge of character.", and that he never would have accepted the case of the Arroyos if they were not sincere. (See full story here: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/11/16/11/topacio-ill-have-my-ball-cut-if-arroyos-dont-return)

Did I hear that correctly?

Why don't we have a run-down of issues and questions that have been raised about GMA and her husband/family, in an effort to understand what Atty. Topacio may have been referring to as the dial on his moral compass that convinced him to take the case. (Many thanks to the PCIJ article I am drawing this from for memorializing these lovely moments. Just type "GMA scandal" on their website and you will find pages of articles. Details are here: http://pcij.org/stories/shame-and-scandal-in-the-family/)

Awarding a controversial $470 million contract to Argentine firm IMPSA (Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima), just 4 days after the Arroyo adminstration assumed office. Then Justice Secretary Hernando Perez was accused of receiving $2 million from ex-Representative Mark Jimenez, who brokered the deal.

From 1992 to 2004, non-declaration in her SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) of the properties she and her husband amassed in San Francisco, through his realty corporation LTA Realty Corp.

A personal connection with alleged jueteng boss Bong Pineda.

Overpricing by over P600 million of the construction of the 5.1-kilometer President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard at the Manila Bay reclamation area.

PIATCO/NAIA Terminal 3/Fraport fiasco.

Senator Lacson accusing then First Gentleman Mike Arroyo of being "Jose Pidal", and allegedly siphoning off campaign funds to this account. Arroyo's brother, Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo, came forward to claim that he was Jose Pidal.

The alleged diversion of P728 million from the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program to President Arroyo’s campaign war chest in the form of development assistance funds to local government units - and we were introduced to the name Joc-Joc Bolante. (Then Agriculture Undersecretary and a classmate of Mike Arroyo, as well as a colleague in the Rotary Club.)

Two lawyers from PRO-CON(stitution) filed a disqualification case against President Arroyo before the Comelec, saying she was behind the enhanced Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s Greater Medicare Access or GMA program, which they claimed was meant to prop up her candidacy.

The First Gentleman was the subject of another controversy over his alleged use of a $20,000-a-night suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada during the boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Mexico’s Erick Morales.

The Le Cirque meal.

Talking to then Comelec Commissioner Garci about her "votes" while elections were taking place, and calling it a lapse of judgement in her televised apology to the nation. (That infamous "Not Once But Twice!" video of Susan Roces, wife of deceased actor and presidential contender Fernando Poe, Jr. still fresh in everyone's minds.) And who can forget GMA's "I am...sorry." clip?

Here's a snippet of GMA's conversation with Garci: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPln-yPn-HQ

I don't think this list is by any means exhaustive.

My only question about Atty. Topacio is, was it Opposite Day when he was interviewed?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chess Match With GMA...Anyone?

And by GMA, I mean Grandmaster Arroyo, "Grandmaster" being a term appropriated for those who have excelled in the game of chess. (See http://www.fide.com/component/handbook/?view=article&id=57 for the techincal definition of a Grandmaster, as defined by FIDE, the World Chess Federation.)

I would not want to have a chess face-off with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.


(Photo courtesy of Reuters UK/Stringer)


She has proven herself to be incredibly adept in reading what her opponents would execute three or four moves later, and preparing her garrison for what would come next.

Last night's standoff at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport merely served to highlight her skill in reading her own fate, thereby giving her a clairvoyant advantage. (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/94265/sc-allows-arroyo-to-travel-abroad%e2%80%94official)

In less esoteric terms, nakapaghanda siya.

By positioning her knights and rooks in their advantageous - to say the least - positions, it has allowed her and her family ways to jump over possible impediments to her "right to travel" (suddenly a term that everyone is using in conjunction with constitutional rights).

All eight Supreme Court justices who voted to allow her the right to travel to seek "medical assistance" for a non-life threatening condition are her appointees.

You be the judge.

As soon as the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) was announced, GMA "suddenly" had three different flights "ready", two million pesos in bond money (one of the prerequisites of the TRO, and if we do a comparison, I'm guessing asking two million pesos from GMA would be like asking .005 cents from an ordinary person like me, to put things in relative perspective), a coterie of lawmakers and lawyers - and that ever composed but sometimes leaning-on-the-dramatic spokesperson of hers - by her side, and a doctor's appointment scheduled for November 17 in Singapore.

You be the judge.

GMA being filmed in a wheelchair with that contraption around her, transported around in a wheelchair, and in one segment, they were inching her wheelchair down the stairs, when they could have used the escalator which was just adjacent to the stairs, or asked to use an elevator, if they were truly after her "ease" and "comfort".

You be the judge.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima now threatened by Arroyo's lawyer to be charged with contempt for defying the TRO, because she ordered the authorities to prevent the Arroyos from leaving - at least until the government's oral arguments can be heard, which was scheduled for November 22 - when she merely used DOJ Circular 41 to put them on a Watchlist, a circular that was created and used during Arroyo's adminstration. (See the details in this excellent piece by Raissa Robles: http://raissarobles.com/2011/11/09/how-gloria-macapagal-arroyo-got-caught-in-her-own-mousetrap-halo-vest-and-all/)

You be the judge.

And, let's get a passage from Ms. Robles' article, to appreciate the bigger picture:

"This Tuesday November 8, 2011, lawyer Estelito Mendoza filed an urgent petition with the Supreme Court on behalf of Arroyo to declare DC 41 unconstitutional and to void it."

Teka nga.

A circular concocted by GMA's adminstration is now being petitioned by GMA's lawyer to be declared unconstitutional. It begs the very obvious question - it's practically screaming - if this particular circular is unconstitutional to begin with, why did GMA's adminstration create it in the first place?

You be the judge.

This current political telenovela we're seeing right now is - P-Noy supporters, please look away now - largely, in my estimation, the result of no charges or cases filed against the Arroyos until this very day. I seem to remember P-Noy making statements to that effect, that one of his biggest thrusts should he be elected would be to take the people who have plundered this country to court.

I have yet to hear of a SINGLE charge filed against GMA herself.

And, playing the devil's advocate, even if charges were filed against an ordinary citizen like me, I would STILL be presumed innocent until anyone can prove otherwise in a court of law.

Imagine how something like not having charges filed against her would embolden someone like GMA to make travel plans, as they say in today's parlance, "on the fly" (immediately).

Eh, wala ngang charges, eh.

Unlike GMA, though, most of us who are - silently or otherwise - cheering for de Lima know instinctively that what is legal does not mean it is necessarily right. And while it punches a hole in my gut to see GMA thwart the justice system this way, de Lima is constrained to follow the Supreme Court's TRO, as an "officer of the Court", as SC spokesperson Atty. Midas Marquez has said.

Like criminals who have used minute technicalities and loopholes in the way laws are written to get away from attaining true justice and serving their proper dues, GMA has somehow used the very underpinnings of our Constitution to serve her ends without being made accountable for the massive irregularities and endless questions and doubts accumulated over her nine year stay in Malacanang that still have no answers.

Justice - true justice - sometimes cannot be found in august halls where laws purportedly see their very incarnation and purpose in action and realization.

Let me repeat: Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right.

I still refuse to play chess with GMA.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"We Are A Christian Country"

That's according to Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, who recently chastised the Kapisanan Ng Mga Brodkaster Ng Pilipinas (KBP), for not regulating certain radio disc-jockeys on the late night circuit who "are using indecent and vulgar language." (Read the full story here: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/93841/bishop-wants-foul-mouthed-radio-djs-disciplined)


(Photo courtesy of philamnation.com)

While that is certainly an expected statement from a member of the Catholic hierarchy, it does not mean that is the only viewpoint we should be listening to.

First off, I wished the (Philippine Daily Inquirer) reporter asked the bishop to give specific names of disc jockeys or radio programs which offended his religious sensibilities, that way, any one would be able to gauge that statement for themselves.

I haven't listened to FM radio in a long time, since they seem to be more focused on yakking about inane personal details than playing music - which is the reason my mind shuts off when I hear an inkling of AM radio, the commentators don't seem to tire out from their monologues. (If they're on something, I wish they'd share it with the rest of us. There are days when 2 cups of coffee just ain't doing the job.) With the advent of digital music players, it's easier to just cut off the background noise.

If the disc jockeys/programs in question are indeed guilty of breaking the law, then by all means, the government and the KBP should exert all efforts to ensure that they are punished accordingly. (Offhand, legal provisions on that broad category of "indecency" would probably be enough to charge any offenders.)

What I find disturbing - monumentally - is why Bastes was complaining: his contention that "we are a Christian country" certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, particularly for those who have been advocating a more secular space and tone where discussions of laws and government are brought up, in the context of a democratic government and country.

And what bothers me is that his statement is no different from when the Spanish conquerors claimed these islands for their king centuries ago: He makes it seem like the Philippines has been conquered, and is now the property of the Catholic Church, Inc.

So much so that the way things happen and are run in this country should be to THEIR specifications. Here is a small list of what I have observed as things they want to have or happen:

No talking about sex.

Presidents of a democratic country should bow down to us and our whims.

Catholicism IS Christianity. All other "Christian sects" are invalid.

We don't care about offending other religions and "their" feelings. But no one should dare say anything negative about the Catholic faith! (I wager they must miss the days when beheadings still took place.)

What our religion says SHOULD be inscribed into secular law.

Feel free to add your own observations here: ____________________________________.

Let me reiterate: if laws have been broken, then prosecute, charge and punish. And by laws, I mean secular laws, the laws by which all citizens of this country are bound to, regardless of religious preference.

The bishop is forgetting one important fact: Catholicism does not hold the monopoly/trademark on what is to be deemed moral/correct/righteous.

Unless we have transformed our form of government into a theocracy, we would well be reminded of a basic truth in a democracy: Religion is a CHOICE.

Someone reacted to my previous post about Mary the Catholic deity, saying that we cannot fault anyone for thinking that all Filipinos are Catholic, seeing as majority subscribe to that religion. Bellowing out statistical data is not the same as respecting everyone's rights under a democracy. Being the religious majority does not give anyone the right to summarily disregard other religions. To paraphrase what Father Joaquin Bernas has stated (one of our Constitution's framers), in a democracy, all religions are seen as equal, and no one religion is to be treated as "superior".

And rightfully so.

Everyone should be seen as equal, under a democracy.

Unless anyone wants to contest that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Passes As Traitorous

I am writing this the day after Cong. Manny Pacquiao has once again prevailed and triumphed against his erstwhile arch-rival, Mexican pugilist Juan Miguel Marquez, amidst a barrage of questions and negative comments in cyberspace over the majority decision that - can we say this now? - "settled" the question of who is the better fighter between them.


(Photo courtesy of boxingph.com)


I decided it best to sleep over it, lest I make the mistake of writing something that would be done "in heat", maybe not the best way to put it, but one that describes it well: as a reaction to the adulation that Pacquiao has gotten for "uniting" the country when he fights.

I grew up at a time when we never knew this Southern boxer, so I was able to witness before me that meteoric rise (in wealth, prestige, fame and position) of the boxer who has appropriated the name of one of my earliest favorite video game characters, Pac-Man. (Speaking of which, do the inventors of Pac-Man get royalties of any kind when Pacquiao uses this name?)

My feelings and thoughts haven't changed after a good sleep.

We have unnecessarily placed Manny on a pedestal, one which we have appropriated for some figures in our country, so much so that any one who tries to hint at having a voice of dissent is summarily cast as unpatriotic, unfair, and worse, a traitor to "Philippine culture" and "national pride".

Can anyone tell me how Bob Arum earning -illions (I don't have the exact figure, but I'm betting it has those last 7 letters) or HBO PPV raking it in contributes to national pride?

It has also become "fashionable" to say "I'm doing it for the country" - rabid Pacquiao fans, please turn away now lest you wish to wince - but lining up your coffers as a professional boxer does not equate to "fighting for the country" for me.

But then again, as I have mentioned in a previous post, this is a country that feels that a third-runner up finish in a beauty contest also is considered a boost to "national pride". In that absurd universe and context, it makes sense. (http://theguywithablog.blogspot.com/2011/09/have-we-redefined-words-honor-and-hero.html)

As we now say in online lingo, WTH?!?!?

The decision that Manny won yesterday has been - even Pacquiao fans will have to agree - deemed as "not a slam dunk", or in other words, it wasn't a decisive victory by any stretch of the imagination.

And this is where it diverges into a fork in the road: Those who focus on the word "decisive" and the other half - in the Philippines, maybe 95% - focusing on the word "victory". It all depends on whether you value the process or the outcome.

It has now become inconceivable to even doubt or question any of the moves that Pacquiao makes, both on and off the ring. And if anyone raises a ruckus over his victory as "not spectacular", you will hear any/all these words being tossed around: crab mentality, negative, doomsayers, walang magawa sa buhay, jealous put-downers, traitors. Of course, these comments are reserved for other Filipinos. When Mexicans or other nationalities do the same, they're called sour-graping, sore losers, and most quizzical of all, racists.

After their 12 rounds, I was following the analyses of boxing pundits and I never saw one of them remark, on a round-for-round basis, that Manny won. All the comments have been either each round was a draw, or Marquez won some rounds. It was only when I saw some Facebook status updates saying "We Won!!!" that I realized the judges thought differently when they cast their votes. (Yes, I've seen that FB photo being passed around now, one with a "professional punch analyzer" on a piece of paper, saying "technically" Manny hit more percentage-wise. You don't need to send me a copy.)

What was particularly telling to me was how Manny himself reacted after the fight was declared over. It wasn't one of a "warrior" who felt vindicated or victorious (and quite the polar opposite from how Marquez felt and exhibited). Neither was Jinkee's (Manny's wife) reaction just before they announced who won. It seemed more to me like someone steeling herself for settling for last season's Prada - or some equally horrible news.

Judging from the online brouhaha now, it was far from being a "satisfactory" outcome. (Today's Inquirer has the word "Controversy" to describe the match decision.)

Unfortunately, I live in the Philippines, a place which worships Pacquiao. If you wish to be mobbed for whatever reason, or have a death wish, just go to a public square shouting "Pacquiao Sucks!!!" and I doubt you would have a minute to draw your last breath.

I am not a boxing fan. I see no difference with boxing and the gladiator "sports" of yore, a way to assert whose balls are bigger through violence. Yes, these are basic instincts and urges, the need for validation, satiating our lust for war and violence. But I cannot help but note the massive hypocrisy, that on hand, we teach our children, day in and day out, that hitting someone is never a good way to solve conflicts, that violence only breeds more violence, and that we are supposed to be "better" because we can use our brains instead of our fists to settle matters; and on the other hand, we cheer and bet massive amounts, we would fly all the way to Las Vegas for ringside seats, we pat ourselves on the back for, even just a short while, laying down our arms and "solving" our traffic problems, all because this minute boxer from Mindanao who has become larger than life is beating up another man.

Stripped to its' very bare and core, this is what boxing is: a spectator "sport" where we not only allow, but glorify one man hitting another. It is not, as one Facebook comment I saw goes, a "gentleman's sport". Is that how we define a gentleman? To see who is better at getting another person beaten black and blue, and in some cases, causing permanent brain and body damage? THAT'S the epitome of a gentleman?

I already made this same observation a year or two ago, and when I posted that I found it disturbing how we, as a nation, glorify violence through boxing, someone tried to rationalize it by saying, "It's only for sport! Lighten up!"

That has to rank as one of the worst defenses for championing boxing.

And who can blame Manny for entertaining thoughts on running for Vice President and even President? After all, no one finds it improper that a Congressman of our Republic has to take time off from Congress - I don't care if they're on recess, that's not the point - to train for a championship boxing bout. For that matter, our legislators must have an easy time crafting laws because you see them on TV judging talent shows, or advertising for computer schools, hosting their own shows as well as promoting their upcoming movie! Ganon ba kadali maging kongresista? (Makes it rather plain to see what's really keeping the RH Bill from being passed into law.)

No wonder, come elections, we manage to up the ante on the ridiculous scale.

We willingly put our blinders on.

Who cares, as long as we have our entertainment. Bloody or otherwise.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Piece On Whores

There was a time in my life that I was fascinated by whores.


(Photo courtesy of stanford.edu)

For one thing, they seemed to have stricken the word "shame" from their vocabulary. As a young kid who grew up in a Chinese household, a common weapon of choice by parents would be to instill shame in children, the better to leave a lesson's mark on. (Which I gather is something shared with kids who grow up Catholic. The difference being, adult Catholics are still susceptible to this form of torture. And quite effectively, seeing how our politicians bend over backwards in order to appease that religion's headmasters.)

So it has always come as amazing - to me, anyway - that anyone would have no inhibitions whatsoever.

In my (young) eyes, these are some of the characteristics that defined a whore.

The brassy, loudmouthed, cant-stop-from-cussing mouth, the type my mother would most likely slap at any chance she could get.

Bubblegum optional. Cigarettes mostly for show.

Clothes that always seemed "too much": too gaudy, too short, too loud, too much cleavage.

Accessories and "jewelry", plied on their persons, as if tomorrow they would never see a single one of those "precious stones" again.

Heels that would announce how "talented" they are in their trade.

A shade of lipstick deemed inappropriate in circles that would feign horror at the mention of prostitutes, but secretly (?), some members of that clique have been known to enjoy the services of those they deem "unmentionable" in polite society.

(I never knew that there were male prostitutes then.)

I've always heard of prostitutes peddling their sob stories in order to "get through life". They had no choice, they had no other way to earn money. I suppose this explains part of their "charm" to me when I was doe eyed. (Yes, there was a time I once was, you can wipe off that smirk, thank you.) They seemed to be "working" so hard, for causes that were so "noble": an unfinished college education, sending 10 other siblings to school, paying for mom's medical expenses.

I was reminded of this nostalgic frame of reference when I recently crossed paths with a prostitute who I have known for almost a decade. In that span of time, this self-confessed whore has transformed into something verging on "respectability": a steady job, a nice condo, a mid-range priced car, and a "husband" who is oblivious to all the talks around detailing the sexual proclivities with various strangers of his "spouse". (They live together but are barred from being legally married.)

And ever since we made an acquaintance, I slowly began changing my views on whores.

One, they are ruthless. The very word seemed designed for them. Me against the world, so take no prisoners. Everyone is a bug just waiting to be crushed in order to take that next rung up the social or financial ladder. If you have something of interest, the whore will entice and then discard once its objective is met.

Two, they prey on the insecurities and fears of individuals who do not recognize their own self-worth. They are masters at sniffing this out. This particular whore acquaintance of mine - by no means a friend - has stated, repeatedly, how the gym is such a veritable marketplace to work the trade. (I guess whores have a leg up, in this scenario: A large percentage of people who go to gyms are dissatisfied with their looks, which generally means a not so firm grasp on the contentment scale.) One look, one glance, that's all my acquantance needs. Then the dance of seduction begins - hopefully not consumated right there and then! - and just to give you an idea of this whore's "powers" - two victims that have fallen include a well-known local writer as well as a former foreign service official to our country.

Three, their timing is impeccable. They know when they have to leave the dance floor, and move to another club, so to speak. The nature of their work is such that there seems to be a sell-by date, an exasperation date, so to speak - when the "escort" is hinging low on the "charm scale" and the victim realizes he has no more "finances" to speak of. (I wager they would do well in comedy as well.)

And four, they recognize that sex is a basic human need, and that there will be no shortage of "customers" willing to pay for a little happiness. In this respect, they are streetwise pseudo-psychologists, ably attuned to what makes people "tick", and playing into this knowledge to serve their own purposes.

Back to my whore-acquaintance: suddenly, this being feels some form of superiority over me, owing to the financial and occupational (the regular "respectable" work, not the "sideline") success achieved after years of clawing and tearing people's lives apart.

I'm not sure if I should laugh out loud or just look condescendingly with pity at the whore's delusions. Suddenly, something flashed in my mind, something I learned from Desperate Housewives. I gave the whore a smile. One that was incomprehensible, and infuriatingly enigmatic.

Nothing is more ambiguous than a smile that cannot be read.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I (Somewhat) Respect "Celebrities" Now

I finally know what it feels like to be a celebrity.


(Photo courtesy of bling.com.au)

I don't mean the fame (which I never aspired to), or the money (which I won't deny I need more of). Instead, why I now feel a kinship with those who live their lives in a glass bowl is that we have both been accused of doing something and the "press" going on and on about it without fact finding, or worse, despite knowing the facts.

And I have to say, this part of their job is tough. Kudos to them who have to withstand the bricks thrown their way and coming out unscathed - at least, on camera.

There is a rumor going around that I spread rumors about someone to my friends, who told someone who knew someone and who, in turn told the subject of the rumor that I was the origin of the rumor.

Still with me? (This sounds like week 42 of Melrose Place.)

The affected party asked me directly about it. I denied I ever did that because it's the truth. And after only a short time talking about it, we considered the issue dead.

And now someone is going to the "press" (a.k.a. social media) saying how she hates rumor starters.

Substitute the cast of characters in this tale with any of today's "stars", and it could be as current as the latest showbiz news you had automatically sent on your phone.

I'm bothered by this latest development because of two things.

One: I take people at their word when they say "this issue is done and over with". I am thankful that the supposed injured party came directly to me and asked the "supposed" source, instead of feeding the flames. But if you say "the end", then I will take you at your word. If you weren't really fine with how this was resolved, (or should I say "resolved", since someone is going on and on about it like a live feed from CNN) then say so. Don't say "OK" when you are obviously bothered by it.

Two: I am very clear with what the word "friend" means, and part of that word means an intimate knowledge of the other person. If there's one word that has been associated with me for the longest time, it's that I have a tendency or I leave an impression of being "anti-social". I am unlike the other people in my profession, who are bubbly, cheery, all smiles. I don't feel like a game show host wanting to interview people and getting them to share their stories. Many clients will attest to the fact that as soon as I am done with work, I leave right away - I don't have the stomach for the "social game" - where I have to feign ooh-ing over things I don't have passing knowledge of when I would rather be home eating my beloved's cooking.

And people who like spreading rumors are anything but private. In fact, they count on a large social circle - many of those in that circle coming under a hideously dubious description of "friend" - in order to trade gossip with.

If the injured party, after all our years of friendship, thinks that I have the disposition and the characteristics of a social butterfly who flits all over the place, then I must have overestimated the depth and breadth of our pagkakaibigan. And that truly saddens me.

If you can't be honest with friends with how you really feel, who does that leave you with? And just like that song goes, If you don't know me by now, you will never, never, never know me.

They say that with celebrity come the perks.

Excuse me if I don't go out trying to get a reality show of my own. If this is the "reality" of what it means to be well-known and talked about, then my parents have taught me right all along. I can't imagine setting myself up for a steady diet of rumors and intrigues - and to think, "stars" willingly go through this on an almost daily basis. I suppose the trade-off is worth it in their estimation.

Not to me.

And now, a much-needed caffeine boost to get me out of the doldrums. Or I just need an update on how Kim Kardashian - talk about poster girls for reality shows - has divorced her husband Kris Humphries after 72 days of marriage.

Either way, I'll feel better soon after.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Taking A Bite Out Of Beijing

And when I say a bite, I mean it. You'd have to stay for weeks, maybe months, to have a proper meal.


(Photo courtesy of kinabaloo.com)

We were forewarned that it would be nippy, and that people from warmer climates would have to bundle up. In fact, the day we left for Beijing, China, the weather reports indicated a low of 1 degree Celsius! We would practically be in a freezer! Gloves! Boots! Oversized coats! A baggage problem waiting to happen!


(Photo courtesy of kaboodle.com)

A 6AM flight meant that we had to be at the airport at least by 4AM. You can imagine what that does for my sleep cycle. But the prospect of missing the flight - as part of a packaged tour already prepaid for - was much more disconcerting. That singular thought, more than anything, kept me up all night.

Seeing the area where we boarded gave me a dismal, sinking feeling: The carpets were even dirtier than I remembered, and we were asked to line up along the stairs, as the person checking the boarding passes was seated at the foot of the stairs. I felt like a college student back in Diliman all over again.

Thanks to some of our credit cards having "aerial" benefits, we were able to stay at the MIASCOR lounge before departing. It had a comfortable seating area (though not really suited for sleeping if that was what you wanted to do), and a spread of canapes, cereals, sandwiches, rice, chicken, as well as coffee, juices and other soda drinks, that you could keep going back for over and over - I guess we'll go with the description of "buffet".

We boarded our Air China flight on the dot. It turned out that every Filipino on that flight was part of our tour group, and when a get together like that comes to pass, you'd have to be prepared for the decibel levels, snarky asides and gales of hilarious laughter. Already, you could feel the involuntary body jolt, as if we were holding on to a live wire: This was a trip to remember.

Breakfast from the airline took a long time coming, so Arthur suggested that we take a look at some movies stored in my iPod. And that's when we discovered - I must have left the iPod at the boarding area, where I was looking at weather reports and any last minute news about China.

I was determined NOT to let this tragedy color the tone of my trip.

Breakfast consisted of an omelette that would make plastic goods manufacturers proud, some fruits and yoghurt, as well as a choice of drinks. When you add the snotty flight attendants to the mix, you could have thought all of these things to be a bad foreboding of the trip to come.

The moment we landed, things changed - all for the better.


(Photo courtesy of panoramio.com)

Where else in the world did you have to take a train just to get your luggage?!? To say that Beijing Capital Airport was "huge" would qualify as one of the year's grossest understatements. Someone from our tour group reprised us of the fact that all of the glitz and beefing up of their airport was really fast tracked in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

I wonder how we would fare should the Olympics be held in our fair islands.

As with most modern airports, the theme was sleek and modern. Shades of silver and grey, a smattering of white, metallic furniture and automatic gadgets - all of which lead to a frame of design that screamed "future".

One question kept popping up in our collective minds whenever we would drop in on the sights in Beijing, which was started in their airport terminal: Where does it end?


(Photo courtesy of crystalinks.com)



(Photo courtesy of noholidaynolife.com)


Whether it was Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, or the Great Wall, they all looked like they were stretching into infinity. While our lovely tour guide Laurie kept peltering us with facts about how many square meters each site was, my mind could not wrap around their metric measurements, as the visual landscape continued to stun and amaze me, one of the few times in my life where I am left in awe, my jaw dropped to the floor, and my mind was abuzz figuring out the amount of work it took to achieve these monuments and feats that can only inspire joy and wonder.

By the end of the trip, I had concluded that the Chinese were really size queens.

(More of these adventures in the next post.)

A Post Beijing Trip Dinner

I am currently suffering from withdrawal symptoms. From a trip to Beijing, China, that was at turns marvelous, infuriating, awe-inspiring, gaudy and most of all, unforgettable.

We had no recourse but to commemorate it with a dinner that would keep the experience alive. Well, that's how I felt, anyway. The older I get, the more often I observe how we project what we want as something that everyone else wants. Hmm.

(I apologize in advance for the grainy state of the photos. These were taken with a camera phone, not a professional grade camera.)

We started off with this dish.



The bean curd skin was fried to perfection, and topped with that savory dark sauce and mushrooms - a very good start.

Then we had the house special for rice offerings.



Special Fried Rice, that was paired with their Special Sauce, seen below.




I know, it looks like a pot of soup. I was surprised at how filling their "rice sauce" was, that was the only thing Art and I didn't completely demolish. In the mix were peas, roast pork, fish cutlets, squid, shrimp and mushrooms - unexpectedly filling.

And this is how you "formed" your rice.



We had two viands, which were pretty standard in our repertoire when we ate at a Chinese restaurant: Squid with Garlic and Pepper, as well as Spareribs in Red Sauce.



Aaah. Burp.

What better way to relive the memory of our recent trip to the land where the inspiration of these dishes came from. It may come as a surprise that we never had any of these dishes while we were in Beijing. Not even the fried rice.

What we ate and what happened in Beijing will be for another post.

But for now, dine with us. Visually.