Friday, December 31, 2010

CHARITY Scrutinized

Have we ever considered how we employ and deploy the virtue of charity in real-life situations? Let’s rephrase that a bit to make it more familiar, replace charity with the word love after all they mean the same thing essentially. Now, all of us are familiar with love, saddled both with good memories and nightmares about it. We have all experienced it countless times in countless ways. We know it inside out and sideways. Love runs the entire gamut of our human experience. We show love for God, our parents, our sweethearts, our children (bless their souls), our relatives, our friendly neighbors, even our cats and dogs, and even inanimate things like the shiny red car in the garage. No doubt we have chests of lovey experiences that can fill a room.

However, can we with some certitude build a hierarchy of our loves so we can readily determine which subjects of our loves deserve more loving than the others, apart from the ready surety that definitely people deserve more love than things, or pets? Thus that same expensive shiny car or your multi-fangled smartphone, smarter than your blessed offspring, rates low in the totem pole of charity.

Are we even aware that we have one? Don’t we just rate our loves uncritically based on some preconceived notions handed down to us from one generation to another? Anyway, let’s test how well yours rate in the scheme of things. Let me throw this in. Who should we love more our neighbor or ourselves? Or what about this. Who gets the ribbon your wife or your beloved parents? This is good because growing up I had neighbors who castigated their wives when the latter were at odds with their live-in parents. The wives were curtly dismissed with the threat that while wives can be replaced any time parents cannot be or are irreplaceable.

Anyway if we follow Christian doctrine, or say teachings as assiduously formulated by church authorities like Thomas Aquinas that hierarchy ought to be built this way.

First, it is the virtue of Charity (one among 3 theological virtues, the other 2 being Faith and Hope) that leads man to love his God more than he loves himself. The reason for this primacy being that God being the source of all love and goodness deserves the ultimate love that has no equal. And being a jealous lover, He abhors competition.

And because of man’s love for God, he then is conscripted to love everything else in the same way and order that God loves them.

Thus, man must love himself more than his neighbor because he must love his share of divine goodness emanating from the Ultimate Source more than that of his neighbor.

True, with regard to his own body or any fleeting material pleasure or attachment, his love for his neighbor should take precedence.

Man will also love some men more than others because of their more significant roles in his own life. Thus, friends and relatives rate more than strangers who do not share common goals of salvation with him.

Man must also learn to love his children more than his parents because the former are more closely fused to him. He is an integral part of them as they are integrally part of him. That man’s parents stand on a different level. While he is part of his parents, they are not part of him.

He will love his wife more than his parents because in marriage he becomes one with her. Biblical passages can attest to that. And remember man must love himself more than others.

And lastly for that same reason, man will love more those for whom he does good, over those who do good for him. Those who he does good are loved more because that love is the effect of that man’s goodness and he must love himself more than anything else.

And if perchance we find ourselves experiencing eternal bliss in heaven, there too will have a hierarchy of charity. And the order above may also hold, though with some modifications with regard to other men. In heaven all those saved will conform perfectly to God’s will, though there will be those who will conform more or better than others. And since God loves more those who conform better to his will, man therefore will love more those better than him.

Christ Image Credit

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES: Spending Time Around Lepers

As a species we are wont to throwing around what we believe are truisms, like that as we get older and become adults we are at the same time losing the innocence of youth. But upon closer scrutiny that word,innocence,is quite heavily loaded with so many possible implications. Is innocence then inborn from childhood? All attributable to a child lacking the necessary experiences to make informed decisions? Or is it because a child’s perceptions of values or life experiences are still pristine and pure and untainted by the corrupting influences of adulthood?

In all likelihood it is all that and more.

But definitely a short and quick journey into the halcyon days of childhood could shed some more light.

This little journey therefore is undertaken with that in mind, an attempt to discover or re-discover the “innocence” that was in childhood.

As a mere “innocent” child of 6 or 7 years old, from a brood of 9 brothers and sisters, as deep as my recollections can reminisce I had the distinct privilege of being chosen the traveling companion of my dear doting grandmother who was widowed early and thus lived by herself in the beautiful island of Cebu.

Though my grandmother had a trusty companion in the house who had been with her since her younger years, she had need for somebody to be with her when she went avisiting her one married daughter who had lived away from afar, first in Manila and then to some remote island in Palawan. Her other daughter, my mother, though had also lived away from her could be reached by an overnight boat trip that she could handle on her own. One other daughter, the 3rd and the last of her children, had married a US Air Force veteran and was living in the US. So visiting her was out of the question.

I had surmised that as a young innocent I wasn’t expected to be fully aware of the grave responsibilities a traveling companion for an elderly lady had. Still I found myself summarily shipped off with no hustle to Cebu so I could join her for that long trip which with delight turned out to be very eventful and memorable.

The trip as planned was for an extended visit to a remote island in Palawan, called Culion, which was operated by the government as a leper colony – away from the peering notice and noisy bustle of normal community life. My grandmother’s son-in-law and my uncle was a dermatologist or skin doctor permanently assigned to the colony. His family had lived within the vicinity of San Lazaro Hospital in Santa Cruz, Manila. The hospital was and I believe continues to be the premier hospital in the entire country for diseases of the skin. Thus, my uncle most probably decided on his career as a result of exposure to the hospital and its work. During those times being a doctor was akin to entering the priesthood and carried with it the same respect and admiration from the citizenry. It was considered an alternate kind of priesthood where the concerns were of the body rather than the soul. And as kids we all had held my uncle in quiet respect and with the same high esteem accorded priests, idolizing him for his selfless work among lepers and for doing so under grave threat to his own welfare and health.

Given the generous accommodations and liberties he had in the island made me believe that he was one important doctor in that colony, maybe even the main doctor. Very recently I learned that in the 30's Culion was the biggest leper colony in the world housing over 16,000 patients.

And our sojourn may have been an extended visit not by design but because of the inherent difficulties in getting in and out of the island. To get to Culion one had to start in Manila in order to catch a boat going to Palawan with stopover in the island. And trip schedules were not very often, maybe dictated by the economic needs in Palawan and that of the leper colony.

Anyway after that boat trip to Cebu, I was on a boat again with my grandmother bound for Manila. In Manila we were met and billeted by some of her relatives, in wait for the boat that would bring us to Culion.

Granted that boats then were no luxury-liner types, but the boat we took for Palawan was definitely worse. The local shipping industry then made use of warships either left by the departing Americans or given to the government as reparations. They were generally unkempt, dirty, smelly, and congested with passenger cots lined up on the decks. I suppose the best among this odd lot were used to service the more-traveled routes. They were freight ships commissioned as ferry boats. But then we did not know any better, thus for me it could have been the regal Queen Mary of its time.

You board on shaky gangplanks, commandeer some dirty unwashed cots for your use, and essentially wait for departure time which was when the boat’s business was done. In the meantime, there is frenzied activity all around, with burly and smelly stevedores heavy with oversized luggage on their shoulders and assorted passengers with bulky packages and children in tow. And outside the docked boat in the dimly-lit pier you hear the incessant creaking of steel booms loading cargoes into the boat’s cavernous hulls.

It is only when things start to get settled and some semblance of quiet is restored that one, even a small child, can begin to observe more intently the suddenly unfamiliar surroundings. And since my grandmother was not talkative one was left to play with one’s idling thoughts as one looked around one’s limited ken. At that age like a good guard dog one simply sat as close to the old lady, trying hard to sit still and not be moving around.

One then begins to notice the assorted passengers crowdedly encircling your little space, crammed as it is with your own luggage. While observing all and sundry, a child especially tries to evade eye contact and thus disguises his own curiosity from other prying eyes. Though in this instance the people around were just as careful in evading eye contact. It is then that some itchy realization dawns on a young inexperienced mind. Many of them do not look like me or my grandmother. Somehow certain parts of a picture are missing. Some fingers are missing, parts of the nose are not there, and the ears especially have been ground close to the face. And the skin all look like those of very old people, badly wrinkled and mottled, though some were not that old.

Suddenly the boat’s shrill whistle breaks not only whatever silence or subdued noise there was but all activities inside the boat. It is the loud startling announcement that the boat is ready to leave. So all thoughts and activities turn toward the next phase of the trip – the days to be counted and endured before we see land. It was good because the attendant youthful concerns about the passengers were relegated to the background replaced by more pressing ones. Like, can we even get some sleep once the boat is at sea and starts to rock? What about food? There would be some food from the boat’s pantries, but my grandmother with her trusty companion had provided enough provisions to last the trip. What about toilet needs? Better try to postpone or risk having to walk on shaky decks and maybe throw up in the process.

And in celebration of still another oft-quoted truism, we got through all that with the firm hope and prayer that this too would pass. And it did.

And the lull occasioned by the long anxious wait for the boat to dock and unload from its belly the antsy passengers was yet another occasion to observe the assorted passengers, standing as close as they could to the exits that led to the gangplanks, loaded with packages and kids, and packed like sardines ready to burst at the seams.

They indeed looked different and the light of day made that even more so. But nobody made any mention. Not even my grandmother who always had something to occupy her time – prayers and reading of devotionals. I am sure she knew but found it not noteworthy enough that her traveling companion should be notified.

The following days and weeks, I believe we stayed there for at least two months, were happy, exciting, and memorable ones. Imagine a small kid from the province who was mostly housebound transported into a lush andverdant island that seemed like paradise. Like I said I believe my uncle was an important personage there because he had a very nice spacious house for his and his family’s use, and he was supplied with ample foodstuff like canned goods and other usual amenities like newspapers and yes, comic books. There were tennis courts nearby where the loud voices of players could be heard. The house was built close to the side of a mountain, facing toward the ocean and from there we could see the island’s small decrepit pier and beyond, the horizon. Even from a distance one could tell that people fished along the pier.

During our entire stay, I do not recall having visited inside the colony itself which was fenced and gated as far as I can recall. But aside from the leper colony itself and the staff houses in its own compound, there were other houses scattered throughout the island.

So we never had any direct contact with those who were still suffering from the disease, only the doctors and their staff I suppose.

So we had very good accommodations when we stayed with my uncle, maybe better than home. I particularly remember being called the Spam kid because of my strong proclivity for the product which has endured to this day. And as I kid I enjoyed even more the fact that there were comic books I could read, being very much attached to them during my entire childhood. They only negative if we can call it that that I could take away from the experience was that everything we touched there had the smell of antiseptic or Lysol. The packages you received, the news, the comic books, and maybe even the canned goods delivered to the house. And yes, definitely even the people who worked inside the colony. Anyway, as a kid I did not know enough for me to be bothered by it. But it was a constant reminder to all that we were in a different place.

There were also activities outdoors where I too participated, like a little jeep trip exploring the mountain by the back of the house and trips to the pier to enjoy the cool afternoon breezes and to be among fishermen as they fished with their backs turned to us.

One vivid recollection happened in this manner. As we were walking along the pier, I had veered a bit from the group and went near one of the fishermen whose back was turned. Though I had sidled as quietly as I could, he suddenly turned to look at me. And again that face that looked at me seemed different, that certain parts of a picture were missing. Again the missing digits, the snubbed nose and ears, etc. My uncle must have sensed my discomfort because I do recall somebody explaining that those fishermen and their families lived around the island. They were cured lepers who because of the social stigma could not return to their homes in hopes of picking up their former lives. So instead they opted to stay in the island where they were more accepted and could less obtrusively blend into the overall environment.

Before long our extended stay had ended and for the love of me I cannot recall anything about the trip back home. Though I can well remember the exciting times spent with my cousins and the youthful fun we had in that little island. My uncle was eventually returned to Manila and that ended any possibility of returning to the island.

Surprisingly after all these years, I cannot bring back any strong uneasy or fearful recollections about lepers and leprosy during that long past trip; and yet during those times, and maybe even today, sufferers of the disease were shunned socially – considered outcasts and isolated in very remote places away from sight and smell of the rest of the population.

**********
Credits for the pictures:
http://thecheenee.blogspot.com/2010/05/travel-culion-palawan.html

http://reesefernandez.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/my-up-engagement-story-and-a-strange-wonderland-on-top-of-the-mountain/

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Gnawing Pangs of Aloneness


In the frenetic days of youth and in the hectic daily rushes of work days, those of us harassed by their stubborn cares, pined in silence for some needed solitude – if only to allocate little precious time for ourselves and our cumbersome thoughts. And in hindsight, countless precious times spent in aloneness during those trying times were welcomed opportunities, especially because during those times extracting oneself from social contacts and responsibilities was such a daunting task, because for one the strong pressures from societal forces always seemed able to pivot better for ownership of our time and attention. Or work responsibilities could not be easily delegated or ignored all together. Those who could afford or were so inclined, simply dropped everything literally, packed up, and were on their merry ways doing whatever fancied them but all in search for elusive solitude.

I am sure we each have our little treasure caches of stories accumulated while in search for our solace.

But then the other side of this is self-imposed or contracted solitude that we all must bear in the pursuit of goals, or simply as one of the requirements in life when certain things have to be done and cannot be either delegated, postponed, or shunted aside. At times we find ourselves taking solo trips and living by ourselves, even in big empty houses, because we have to. Though not necessarily sought for, solitude had to be trudged through to accomplish goals considered worthy of the sacrifice.

It is in this second light that I now confess that this self-imposed aloneness can be achingly lonesome and produces a sense of emptiness that can tug harshly at feelings and emotions. So that even in the midst of a throbbing city, within reach of the warm presence of other family members, a listless soul can still feel cavernous emptiness likened to the vast expanse of the universe.

An eerie feeling that emptiness is not necessarily of matter or creation, that it worms deeper into such finite realities and transcends beyond what one can touch, feel, or think about. An emptiness that extends beyond but just the same is and can be felt by us while in sojourn here on this earth.

And this we can confirm because when we do get back to familiar territory and warm familial ties it is relieved only for a time, and then in the ripeness of time, it harkens back and ushers in the vacant existence that we thought had been driven to its end.

But no, it stubbornly adheres since like all fleeting emotions which come and go unexpectedly, such emptiness partakes of a similar nature, continually haranguing our listlessness or inconstancy of mind at times least expected.

Life, you see, is one big bowl of impermanency. Nothing stays as it is. One continually plans to get to a place, only to plan again how to get out of that place.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Genealogy: Neri’s of Bohol

Click on image to enlarge

Presented herewith is a more detailed graph of the origins of the Neri’s of Bohol, its earliest progenitors dating back to the early 1800’s.

Confirming our earlier data as plotted out in the earlier genealogy blog on this site, this branch’s known ascendants start with the union of Mariano Neri with Ambrosia Fortich in Bohol.

All the new data here were taken from an Excel file which based on the format and entries must have originated from the heirs of Felipa Neri who married Gregorio Pelaez, Sr. in the town of Medina, Misamis Oriental. It should be noted that in our first listing the data came from the family of Romulo L. Neri, the two branches sharing the same lineage.

This early it should be emphasized again that the descendants of Mariano Neri still cling to the belief and oral tradition that the family of Mariano Neri originally came from Mindanao. It is no wonder then that his descendants started waves of migration back to this southern island, Felipa Neri and her siblings being good examples of this migration.

Here are some personal observations culled from the new data provided by this graph.

A common thread we find is the size of the families listed.

Sps. Graciano Neri and Paula Flores produced 11 children. But 3 of these children died early: Sotero at 6 years, Maria at 1 year, and Gregorio at 1 year.

In the next generation, Emilio Salvador Neri, who married twice, sired a total of 16 children. But 5 of them died early: Salud at 3 years, Amparo 2 years, Sofronio 1 year, Venancio 5 years, and Josefa less than 1 year.

In the same generation, Hospicio Neri, who also married twice and from whom Romulo L. Neri’s family originated from, had 10 children. But very surprisingly, 7 of them died very early or at early adulthood – Elena 17 years, Vicente 20 years, Salvacion 10 years, Fermin 27 years, Lorenzo 4 years, Carmen less than 1 year, and Jose 1 year.

With this more detailed rendering, it is hoped that those Neri’s, especially those with origins in the Visayas, seeking connections can somehow hook up with the names listed here.

NOTE: Subject for confirmation, based on the graph coming from the family of Romulo L. Neri, Mariano Neri/Ambrosia Fortich had four children: Eustaquio, Wenceslao, Graciano, and Maria. Rather than only 2 as plotted out by this current graph.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Man I Used To Know...

...so goes the haunting lyrics coming from the dulcet pipes of Jimmy Rodgers, one of the 60’s popular singing idols.

And truly if one lives long enough, one will invariably arrive at that decisive moment, the fork in the road, to pause and reflect if indeed one is looking at a virtual stranger in the harsh mirror of one’s own eyes. Credit a quickly evolving and changing world coming and going at a fast clip. Nothing stays static. Everything is in flux. Time becomes a fast slideshow of events and things that most times are missed by startled viewers.

And it is only when one decelerates from the pace of life and ponders that one realizes the rapid changes exploding all around, causing one to somehow get estranged and disoriented, confused and maybe even, angry.

Thus, an assessment becomes critical to recover focus and relevance.

First, to understand and accept that changes permeate to the very core of what makes a man. From physical looks, to cognitive abilities, outlooks, and even to long-held and maybe even considered “absolute” values (social mores, morality, ethics, etc).

Nothing escapes the very powerful and all-encompassing whirlwind called change. Thus, a re-assessment becomes imperative, or one loses one’s compass that one uses to steer one’s life to its avowed ends.

In schools run by Jesuits, part and parcel of student life were scheduled annual events designed precisely for this purpose. Surprisingly it was called an Annual Retreat, assumedly in keeping with the temper of its founder’s milieu, Ignatius of Loyola, loyal soldier and defender of his kings - first of his temporal king in his home country then after founding his religious society that of Mystical King of the world. Upon closer scrutiny, the term does suggest some kind of running away or turning back from a fight, rather than the more apropos retrospection and introspection of the myriad of events that shaped the year just lived. And in keeping with the military milieu, more like a transient but tactical regrouping with the intended purpose of engaging a better fight.

And in this respect, there were devised strict written standards and procedures designed to accomplish optimum results for the spiritual exercises, which were in the real manner of speaking, religiously followed by its adherents, both in the clergy and lay apostolate.

And one must confess that those exercises were very cathartic, a necessary balm in reviving a flagging animo or a welcomed medium for fresh instructions to clear the path of strays, confusion and puzzlement, or put differently, a steerage change in course away from the “road to perdition”.

In fine, it was a total exercise in “getting back to the basics” for Christians, and I suppose for all those following true religions.

Take stock of virtues and see if they align with the standards – both moral and theological, both natural and divinely infused. The moral virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. And the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Electoral Fraud: Around the Globe?

I bet you any serious primer on electoral fraud or voter fraud worth its salt would contain most if not all of the following examples; and this would be relevant to any place in the world where some form of democratic voting is regularly provided for and exercised.
1. Commands to Vote - Where election judges or election officials sign voters in and instruct them on whom to vote.

2. Mass Illegal Assistance – where for example voters are herded into booths by political operators and instructed on how and who to vote.

3. Phony Voters – like when voters are not properly ID’ed.

5. Absentee ballot signature mismatches – Signatures on file not consulted.

6. Cash for votes – buying of votes whether inside or around premises of polling places.

7. Loiterers – where regulations on who can enter polling places are disregarded.

8. Intimidation of poll watchers – by political operatives.

9. Poll workers voting for voters – Workers themselves instructing voters not only how to vote but who to vote.

10. Software glitches – Many charges claimed where electronic voting is used.

11. Counting errors – where manual counting is still being done.

12. Politicking inside the room – Political operatives not only loiter but engage in campaigning.

13. Would you like to vote a straight party ticket? – In some places where straight voting is still practiced election officials favor only their party of choice.


And after having gone through with some disgust at the rather long list one is probably thinking this as typical in some obscure developing country where elections usually are messy, chaotic, and maybe violent, or littered with illegal practices. And one could be right to assumed so. I myself had just witnessed my first local election ever after having been gone for over 30 years from the old homeland. And the verdict in media and other sources has been almost unanimous – the election was rigged, or more benignly, tainted because of massive vote-buying which has over time become the common fare in elections hereabouts. And mind you, these were elections for the lowliest political subdivisions in the country – the barangays. Served with some unique side dish called election for Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) (Youth Council) where underage residents also vied for positions and got elected, supposedly to form part of a national youth legislature. Anyway, there were claims that vote-buying permeated through that level, too. What a way to start future voters on the road to civic duty!

A local Jesuit priest had thrown in some nuggets of wisdom on the just-ended elections which prompted my quick personal response that somehow got stuck in inertia and never got out. So here it is:

From all appearances electoral fraud epitomized by vote-buying and cheating has become the handmaiden of Philippine elections. Thus for “good” candidates to stay above it is hard and difficult. The “daang matuwid” people speak about is narrow and precipitous and thus daunting to travel.

The dilemma is that if “good” candidates find it near to impossible in getting elected, governance is then littered with people infected with their own nefarious agenda. And I would be bold to say that that is precisely our situation, if not nationally then for sure, locally. Elected “public servants” gunning for their own self-interests.

The solution then is as much a function of “good” candidates as the very people who have been empowered to choose. The electorate deserves the governance it voted for.

Given the realities, there is the huge task of re-educating and re-calibrating the minds of an electorate long poisoned by the tempting allures of petty cash and sappy promises. And in tandem, of stirring the long-lost virtue of eternal vigilance in the segments of the electorate that continues to care about honest elections and dedicated public servants.


Going back to the original topic, allow me to disabuse any knee-jerk judgment that those examples of voter fraud listed above must of consequence come from third-world countries. Because in this one particular case, this list came from this source in the US of A and is a cautionary tale for the coming mid-term elections scheduled on the 2nd of November. All those examples listed have precedents in the US setting and for some examples, already in the running in the context of the forthcoming elections where early voting is allowed. So this shining example of the grand experiment on democratic principles and representative democracy is currently toiling and groaning under electoral vicissitudes most common and vile in developing countries.

From the start these bitterly-contested elections exploded in ways one would find atypical and not likely in a more stable and experienced state like the US. But they did.

And this commenced some 2 years ago when this current president was historically and surprisingly elected. The interim period has been wracked with ugly political fights and wide dissensions that have cut across the country and divided it into clear and marked battle lines. And now even illegal aliens have thrown their weight into the fray. Cautions in ethics, civility, propriety, you name it, and yes, even law have been thrown to the winds, producing a dirty, savage, and brutal free-for-all not seen during my entire stay there.

So it appears that all’s well with the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pre-Sarah Palin Era

Long before even astute Presidential candidate, John McCain, knew enough of Sarah Palin so as to list her as a VP contender, this little blog already considered Sarah a possible good choice.

While Sarah’s VP candidacy may have lost out to Barack Obama’s historic but now considered by many, misguided win, few will doubt and question that the former is now a force to reckon with in US politics. Friends and foes alike cannot anymore afford to disregard the quiet power and driving influence that a Sarah statement and presence now wield as she stumps around the country, galvanizing and electrifying the electorate with her popular causes. Kinetic causes and issues which resonate loudly with majorities of the American people.

Who would have believed that this unassuming pretty face from faraway Alaska would in a few years command the respect from like-minded voters and sow fear and intimidation from those who oppose her? Now, even her hard-fisted or clueless detractors are beginning to see the light and acknowledging what was quite obvious to many regular folks like us.

A cursory walk-through media in its many manifestations will undoubtedly yield pieces about Sarah Palin – where she is at, where she is speaking, and her anticipated comments on the daily important issues oozing out of Washington DC and the White House. They cannot now seem to have enough of her, though she continues to be a private citizen without the traditional bully pulpits establishment politicians usually with carry with them wherever they sidle into.

The way things are shaping up, Sarah will deliver for the GOP the wins needed to put this country back to its traditional and enlightened path, one election at a time. Today, the midterm, and next the presidential. Just you wait and see.

UPDATE: This just in . . .
I was told on the record that the fire Marshall allowed 6600 in the main room, it was full, there is also an over flow room that hold about 2400, there were 800 people or so there plus another 200-500 outside. So figure maybe 8000. That means that president Barack Obama, Deval Patrick and Barney Frank were unable on a Saturday 3 weeks before an election to outdraw Sarah Palin on the Boston Common in April on a Wednesday. Democrats be afraid, be very afraid.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Doing our Darnest Best At Getting By

In one’s honest examination of one’s own life, one is constrained to cede that most times, one is content with getting by with what life throws around. Finding ourselves innately flawed and gapingly wanting in many respects, we can’t help but be resignedly accepting of less than stellar performances in our many responses to innumerable events.

While deep in our dark psyche many of us would rather confront life’s challenges armed to the teeth with skills, resources, preparation, including the kitchen sink, and thus be utterly well-prepared to do eternal combat with our many challenges, we typically end up with results which are largely less than excellent, though some maybe a tad better than being mediocre but definitely littered with many failures. For the countless many of us that appears our default role. We never really become what we had envisioned for ourselves when we started tackling life’s adult challenges.

Those that do show stellar performances stand out way above the levels of madding crowds and are also far fewer than many would like to imagine. And it is in their scant numbers that the rest of us can readily spot and recognize their outstanding achievements and their brightly-lit personas. We can only sigh and gape in awe at what these few have garnered for themselves.

Ensnared in this lowly lot assigned largely by fate (of course, a number from the same lot are able to aim higher and do end up higher), many of us aim to do our best – at simply getting by.

It is not a spectacularly pretty sight, but what can one do? True, we still can dream our fanciful dreams and expend our darnest best to execute herculean tasks. But let us be pragmatic, for the many of us it will not be as expected . So best to expect the worst, while aiming for the best. And thus, failure materializes as more palatable and acceptable.

Many will holler and dispute this kind of a defeatist or fatalistic attitude and would rather we engorge ourselves with inspirational and motivational programs designed to lift us higher. And I can agree with that but extra efforts notwithstanding, the majority of us will still fall by the wayside in the category of achievements or accomplishments. And in consolation, for life after all is not in the accomplishing, but rather in the trying where one is measured and sorted out.

But does it denigrate any noble purposes if we are also accepting of the realities or maybe realistic possibilities that we will not be able to accomplish what we have envisioned? Or get what we aimed for?

Does it detract from or put a damper on our efforts the fact that we are also accepting of the odds involved? Many would say that what we are sliding into could be considered self-fulfilling prophecies.

It may be the envied choice to be of determined singular minds in pursuing goals and shunting aside feared possibilities of failure, but the pragmatic person should be humble enough to take into account the odds on failure. Prudence dictates that we take into account all the factors at play and not be blinded by the glare of sterling virtues that could steer one into reckless and imprudent actions.

That’s all I am saying, in a sort of roundabout way.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Remembering Tony Curtis

After hearing of the demise of Tony Curtis on cable, I immediately and dutifully walked to our little den where I kept “old” stuff from my youth. Plucked out one item from an array of old pocketbooks comprising the few artifacts I have which catalogued those heady days of youth when we spent whatever free time and money we had watching Hollywood movies in the few theatres we had in the city.

For Tony Curtis, it was of course, the black and white Wilder film, Some Like It Hot, with three very popular stars in their own rights – Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. Friends and acquaintances liked it so much, I had then thought of and decided on memorializing our exciting experiences by purchasing the pocketbook version of the movie. So here it still is almost as fresh as when we first viewed and talked about Tony in the movie.



Needless to state, as teenagers we tried in our own little ways to look like Tony. His lush dark hair was just right for us since we all had dark black hair. And even better that he did not grow sideburns because very few of us could.

And when Elvis came with his equally stunning good looks, it made us even happier that Elvis himself would admit to his idolizing Tony’s dark looks, tarrying inside a theatre where he served as usher to watch Tony on the big screen. And also imitating his hairstyle and all. He was known to dye his hair black in his later more popular years until his untimely death in 1977.

Personally, Tony is equally remembered for his earlier films. Houdini - where he starred with the actress who would to be his wife some years later, Janet Leigh. And in a comedic movie, Don’t Make Waves, where he was paired with rising but ill-fated starlet, Sharon Tate.

True, Tony starred in many lightweight costumed movies, but for us then he personified and made somewhat real some of our fanciful escapist fantasies.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Equality At Any Cost


This collage of images of man and woman slowly unravels in a nutshell the distinct anatomical differences between the two genders, our current attitudes on gender equality notwithstanding.

The image on the left to a degree represents our politically correct perception that man and woman are essentially similar differing only in some superficial externalities and in manner of dress. Then the middle image shows two very attractive creatures with almost identical physical features making them look like twins. The last image however shows in stark contrast the obvious differences in the anatomy of the two figures.

Over the years we have been conditioned to think and believe that women are just like men, and as such should be able to do most everything a man has traditionally been consigned to do – construction work, athletics, firefighting, soldiery, and most everything else. Ardent feminists constantly hammer out this fact and insist equality should be applied most everywhere. Not surprisingly, we now have women soldiers in combat zones, women firefighters fighting conflagrations, and yes, women boxers and extreme sports combatants engaged in those brutal sports not seen since the departed era of the Roman gladiators. I saw recently a segment on TV delving positively into the viability of females in the navy serving on very cramped quarters in submarines. Why not?

So, all’s well with the world?

I do not know why but suddenly some people are starting to talk about sexual dimorphism. Don’t worry, it is simply the study of the differences in the anatomy and physiology of the two sexes.

I hope we can discuss this dispassionately in the interest of science.

Anyway, how many of us know about these facts that differentiate man and woman purely from the standpoint of anatomy and physiology.

A good doctor on the subject has taken the task of showing these differences. Now honestly how many of the facts did you know already?

Anyway, let me count the ways.

Muscle Mass
Men carry as much as 50% more muscle mass in their bodies than women. The latter carry more fat for the difference or instead. Obviously, differences in strength between the sexes occur.

Organs
“Men have bigger hearts, airways with large diameters, higher hematocrit, and increased lung volume.” Thus by nature, men have better endurance.


By the way, a Hematocrit is a blood test that measures the percentage of the volume of whole blood that is made up of red blood cells. This measurement depends on the number of red blood cells and the size of red blood cells.
The hematocrit is almost always ordered as part of a complete blood count.

Other Organs
“Female skin is thinner, and women are endowed with lower levels of blood clotting factors; they are more likely to cut and more likely to bleed. Female bones are less dense, thus more susceptible to fracture. Women’s ligaments and tendons are thinner, a crucial factor in surviving joint locks without injury. Less upper body musculature means less resistance to the head accelerations that cause brain injury.”


On The Other Hand

“Women have greater flexibility and a wider pelvis -- particularly advantageous in MMA. Female skin heals more rapidly and women recover more quickly from exertion and injury. Women have superior immune systems, protecting them from infection. Fascinatingly, women also have a greater density of neurons in many parts of their brain. This may give female fighters a precious advantage in enduring repeated brain injury.”


But who yearns for brain injury?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pseudo-Populism of the Elitists

A week or so before the November 2008 presidential elections, my support of VP-candidate Palin through one of my blog posts, caught the attention of Journolist founder Ezra Klein. He had then deigned to respond to it with a blog post entitled Populism of Mediocrity. In his short rebuttal, Mr. Klein submits that he may not fully understand why ordinary people like me could identify with Palin and could throw our unstinting support for her causes. But the title of his blog post tells us already what he thinks about the kind of people I presumably stand for and of course, about Sarah Palin herself. Our populism has been judged as that of mediocrity.

Sadly but admittedly, the ensuing election proved that more people found favor with the way Mr. Klein’s candidate was glowingly presented before the electorate and thus Obama was awarded the presidency. Though buyer’s remorse may now be a common wail of many who threw their support to him like many Independents, finding his governance miserably falling short of his high-minded campaign rhetoric. And if we are to assume good faith and goodwill on the part of his many supporters in media and elsewhere, many ought to be suffering from this malady, too. But I suppose not for the proud or the hard-core partisan ideologues in media who continue to find Obama’s governance as just fine.

But the many revelations exhumed by the leaked emails from the Journolist put in clearer perspective why certain media/political operatives think the way they do about ordinary Americans.

That first, they appear to consider themselves specially privileged and thus separate and distinct from the world inhabited by the many of us who toil each day trying to make a good living while diligently obeying the laws of the land and trying our damned best to be ethical, honorable, equitable and fair in our conduct with government and our fellow citizens.

And maybe insulated or isolated from such everyday realities, it is no small wonder many in their numbers are quite disconnected with regular folks, what the latter consider ethical or what they aspire for. In their echo chambers (as exemplified by the almost secretive membership in cabal-like Journolist), they can let their hair and their guards down and really be what they truly are – smug in the tacit acknowledgement of their avowed cognitive superiority and conversely quite condescending in their treatment of the rest of the country – the great unwashed that need to be babied and cared for and guided by the big hand of government and its many omniscient bureaucrats, bolstered and validated by the able assistance of their intellectual counterparts. And in their blinding zeal, they truly are convinced that they are doing God’s work, for after all they have the best of intentions. To protect and care for humanity.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Enduring Interest In Motorbikes







Over time I have had more than a passing interest in motorbikes. And to this day, I continue to look with interest and nostalgia every time I see a motorbike whiz by. For some inexplicable reasons my interest is always piqued whenever I see a bike. Reasons ranging from the machine itself to the joys and thrills of riding a motorbike can all be factored in to explain the durability of this interest.

I purchased my first motorbike right after I had had a year of gainful employment on my very first real job. Granted it was second-hand and bought from a classmate in high school, still it was a jewel of a purchase, the transaction completely financed by savings from that first job. It was a 1965 Honda 250cc SS, the only one of its kind in the entire city. And it gave such a sense of power driving it around town with the two diffusers from the two exhaust pipes removed. With engines revving up like the rat-tat-tat of machine guns, it gave new meaning to the saying that riding a bike makes one feel the power between one’s legs. This love affair lasted for almost two years.

In that same milieu I was fortunate to have had other bikes at my disposal, all the result of my father deciding I was the one who should have them. One was a Honda 90cc and the other was also a Honda 90cc but a Trail model. Both were eventually harnessed to pull what is locally called, the motorela, a means of public transport quite common in the Philippines. It is a unique invention consisting of a bike fitted with a cab where passengers can sit comfortably and be protected from the elements.

And additionally I also had use of a smallish Honda P50 50cc, a very fragile model configured in such a way where the entire engine was part of the rear-wheel assembly. It had pedals like those of a bicycle which required their use to start the engine. It was such an unsteady and slow vehicle, it almost seemed like riding a bicycle.

Then later on I had another Honda, a 125cc twin-cylinder road bike colored red. It was good enough for our little family to serve as substitute vehicle for short trips. Though by then four-wheeled vehicles had become the preferred mode of transport for our family.

This year with the influx of Made-in-China motorbikes into the local community, the bug bit again and I found myself acquiring one that most resembled the bike I had loved the best. This time it is a Dayun 125cc bike tagged as a cruiser. Since most bikes nowadays have only one cylinder, including ones as big as 250ccs, this one indeed has only one cylinder, but with one caveat, it has two exhaust pipes.

The images here are the exact models and colors of the ones I had owned secured from the Internet, except for the newest acquisition which is actually featured here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Measured Issue Of Height

Growing up in a country where the average height of the male population was 5'3" my being 5'8", or a good 5 inches taller than the average, opened up to certain privileges or treatment not otherwise proffered to the rest. For example, during pick-up basketball, where hoops was the only game in town (with us, anyway) almost always I got to be offered without much competition the role of center; though in most cases I would decline preferring instead to play guard which I thought was the easier position to play given my personal circumstances. I abhorred close guarding leading to contact which was required as a skill for the other positions. But being the recipient of a first offer made me feel good.

And personally I confess it felt good not having to look up to people when talking to them. Looking down at them was a better personal preference; if not, then at least looking straight where the other person would be as tall. And with the ladies, who during that time had even a shorter average, it also felt good giving one the devilish satisfaction of being physically superior (whether justified or not, regardless). Their being shorter resulted in a chauvinistic feeling that during times of distress or when one is called upon to rescue a damsel in a bind it definitely would be a lot easier to carry a shorter and thus lighter lady than one of the same height and weight. Imagine being unable to lift off the ground a lady one is trying to rescue. How unimpressive, and shameful!

So I enjoyed this privileged status while I continued to live and work in the old homeland. But the time came to migrate. And off to the US of A with the entire family to live and work for a living.

And how ego-deflating then to find in the adopted country many women taller than my suddenly puny 5'8". Granted most of them were either white or African-American. Still it was such a jarring revelation, bringing me to uneasy situations where I had to stealthily avoid having to stand side by side with women taller than me. And the men of course were much taller. I bet you the Lilliputians were burdened with similar discomfiture meeting up with Gulliver in one of his travels. Factor in the larger than life mental images we had erected for our heroes in the sports and entertainment world and it could only lead to trouble. Thus, it continues to be difficult to describe the panoply of feelings I had meeting up with Irish boxer George Cooney in the lobby of the hotel I worked for. He truly was a gigantic presence, albeit a gentler one since he had a very unaffected smile and an air of grace in his friendly hand gestures to fans. And meeting face to face with NBA players was even more disconcerting. Of course, there were occasional instances where the accidental meeting experiences elicited strains of self-approbation, like with the famous Jane Fonda. Got caught by total surprise looking up from my front desk counter to see a very petite woman approached almost timidly. It was only past the last instant when her husband then, Tom Hayden, had asked for hotel keys that I realized in whose presence I was in. But well, it definitely did not register as larger than life.

Anyway, I am now accustomed to my new role in that society as the odd man out, the short guy. But my return trips to the old homeland have again turned things out of focus. Initially, the old feelings started to lurk out of their unhappy slumber when I got back and started experiencing old feelings of vainglory, feelings of height superiority that is. Until much recently when to my chagrin, I had suddenly realized that the local population had changed greatly, in a short span of 3 decades. Maybe as a result of its exponentially expanding numbers?

It is now not unusual for me to meet up on any street corner with young men and women who are not only as tall but a lot taller than me. Sometimes there would saunter by a rowdy parade of giggling young kids in their sneakers and with jerseys slung in shoulders telling me that they were a line-up of a basketball team. And most of them would be 6 feet and more, at the very least. In some unjustified disgust, I had asked: what gives?

What happened in that short absence? Has evolution now turned at an accelerated pace?

Another stray observation contributes even more confusion to an already clouded mind. I noticed looking at people older than me and those who figured quite prominently in my youthful adulatory stages that for some inexplicable reasons, they now look shorter and less imposing. Since I definitely have not grown in size except in age, what happened to them? Were the rusty mental images of them just plain wrong? Does considerable absence simply throw things helter-skelter? Go figure.

Do you?

Let me end with light banter.

I am wont to regularly encumbering precious space of the sidewalk, whatever is left of it anyway, in our downtown building to mindlessly observe both vehicular and human traffic in the busy intersection. Much like a fly on the wall with camera cocked and ready at times, I would while away a small part of the afternoon to idle leisure in quiet and unnoticed observation.

One late afternoon found me in my usual allotted spot and noticed 3 young people walking toward our slice of the sidewalk. The three were approaching fast in single file, 2 guys at both ends and a towering reed-thin lady in the middle atop an inch or 2 of heels. So towering was she that I could not help myself remarking as they started to pass us: You must be at least 6 feet!, to which she nonchalantly replied, yes, I am.

Then just as suddenly I was brusquely reminded by one of my companions: Remember that "she" is a "he"!

But I muttered mentally: but does it matter?

Tall is still tall especially in the land of shorter people.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Certain Itchy Urges

When certain itchy urges assail, one is left with either to simply ignore and suffer through them or give in and give them expression. Like urges to write something or anything. When they do happen and one is too weak to resist, they can result in a spate of inanities or worse, confusing nonsense. Found the following below from the desktop of one of the laptops shunted aside for future upgrade.

I wonder which part of me produced them.


My Next Blog?
I agree somewhat with B....O's reaction re your rather harsh put-down of Americans. And I come from a somewhat skewed perspective compared with yours. While you had spent a good part of your life living and working in the US, mine is the opposite. I was born, raised, and worked in the islands, more particularly in and around Mindanao, but have now spent 3 decades in the US, more particularly in California. Though currently I now shuttle between the two destinations still laboring to eke out a living during these extremely trying times.

I had my own particular personal reasons for leaving the islands, not necessarily all partaking of any economic nature. For one, I was particularly excited at the opportunities of being able to broaden my perceptions of the world and what better place, in my mind, than the US. Being islands-bound can be constricting to the point of being claustrophobic. I wanted badly to spread my wings. Certain deep-seated frustrations in the Filipino community no doubt helped my decision-making. Chief of which may have been the creeping ennui from having to deal and interact with compatriots who were too earthbound and bereft of the drives for more human perfection in the areas of relationships, work ethics, and entrepreneurship. I was in commercial banking, and was one who agonized under the endemic burden of having to deal with banking methods and practices that were geared toward the lower common denominators and baser standards afflicting the industry. A banking system of economic opportunism and greed, and non-attention to the more noble purposes of the industry as a vehicle for economic development and financial education for all. A banking system held hostage by a dominant ethnic minority which kept a tight chokehold on most vital economic activities and which group was not too keen about promoting sound business ethics and social responsibilities. Making them qualify as seminal progenitors of the current abhorrent version of crony capitalism.

The Supremacy of Nothing?
One could be, or want, or desire, that or this. But regardless, our choices are still fraught with flaws and shortcomings for such are the lot of worldly living. One or the other does not translate to choosing one that is perfect over one that is decidedly imperfect. All our choices are about picking one that is better than the other or others. Whichever we choose or turn to, it is still about things that will one day or eventually disappoint, fall short, or become undesirable. It is never about making choices that will hold or sustain for life. Our fleeting worldly existence can only lead to transistory actions and results.

Isn't there then supremacy in choosing or being nothing? Isn't there then glory and wisdom in being nothing? Why bother to try to be something when our lowly existence here is designed for us to lead to nothing. Truly, there is cruel wisdom in the saying, you cannot bring anything with you when you die. Not your worldly treasures, or even your loved ones. Not even the good that you have done. Being all material, they all are wrenched away from you and stay earthbound after you leave this material world.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Getting Back Access

After being in some kind of netherworld darkness, we finally got our on-line access back. It took the local phone company almost a month to bring us back to virtual reality. Now we have DSL Broadband connection at home, much improved with a wireless router attached to it. The company promises 1.3 Mbps speed for their connection, with landline upgraded to fiber all the way to the house.

This is a very welcomed development. And glad to be back and on top of things.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Canned Sardines In A Tight Fix

Packed like sardines! Sardines are for the poor! Tiny as sardines! All idioms that have leaked into our local jargon, all referring to the much-derided (because of its smell) but nutritious canned sardines that were quite a common fare during my youth. A youth spent in a developing archipelagic country where fish was a default part of diet. But now here in the US a canned food item typically relegated to share shelf space with other unpopular menu items in discount and warehouse stores. Or in some rarely visited sections of the many upscale urban grocery chains.

This little bit of news the other day continues to signal the continual decline of the canned sardines:

Production at Maine canneries has been sliding since peaking at 384 million cans in 1950. Faced with declining demand and a changing business climate, the plants went by the wayside one by one until, five years ago, the Stinson plant was the last one standing. Last year it produced 30 million cans.

Blame it on the changing palates of consumers bringing about declining demands for production. And in a significant way, blame it on the new kid on the block, the tuna, which has gained acceptance for most people of all economic status, shabbily pushing aside the rather very fishy smell of sardines.

A product which was so commonly part of our diet is slowly dropping by the wayside, and yet we know so little about it – like what kind of fish is typically used. Most would know that the typical fish variety used is related to the herring, but less would know that there are many species, about 21, that could be referred to as sardines. Or that among the knowledgeable sardines are called pilchards. Or that the name sardines was given because many of them could be found around the island of Sardinia. Here, learn more.

Regardless, canned sardines had and will continue to have a well-deserved place in this writer’s frugal diet. Opening our cupboards would reveal several flat tincans of different brands, all claiming to be sardines or wannabe sardines. Why just yesterday, I pulled and rolled one can, emptied all the contents to a deep saucer and added butter/margarine. Crushed and mixed all of it thoroughly and made it the filling of a sandwich in a bun. Yummy!

If so inclined, here’s a link that will provide one with ideas on what to add to the drab or unglamourous contents of your can of sardines.

Enjoy a very cheap (usually way under a dollar per 4oz can ) snack or meal that should give one some points toward a more healthful and satisfying diet.

Friday, March 05, 2010

What Makes FICCO Unique

This Thursday morning things got done early and by past 9am I was empty-handed but ready for anything to pop up. Noticing the extra cash in my wallet, I decided to saunter over to the main office of my favorite credit union, FICCO (First Community Cooperative), and to aspire to be dutiful with one of my defined responsibilities as a member of “good standing”. The brisk walk buoyed even more my already elevated spirits, so grabbed a number, which was an even 100, and sprung up the flight of stairs.

As I cleared the stairs, immediately noticed that the priority screen had 67 on it. Not to worry. Though not a glutton for punishment, I did have time to while away and the air-conditioned ambiance of the main office was an added bonus. Had I stayed in our building I would have had to pay for the electric bill for that comfort. So settled down on one of the lounging sofas after a quick glance around the gathered slew of members waiting for their precious turns – moms with antsy kids in tow, prim ladies in their neat office uniforms, and the like.

Neatly attached to the comfy sofa, I started looking around for anything to occupy my attention, aside from deftly cocking ears while listening to loud conversations from the waiting crowd.

There to my left was a huge framed board measuring maybe some two square meters occupying most of that wall. It had the title, What Makes FICCO Unique. Quite a catchy title. So started reading the all-text yellow board starting from the right since I did not want to crane my neck too much, the board being too close to where I sat. It was generally quite exhortative and inspirational, extolling the exemplary qualities of the coop. I nodded in agreement as I went through the points highlighted. Had time to reread since my number was still far from being next. After which, I craned my neck even more to try to get to the left portion of the board, which as we all know is where the start of the message would be. Again had time to re-read, soak, and ponder on the issues highlighted. More nods, though I confess I started having itchy reservations with some of the glowing statements.

From my perspective, the gist of the message of the board was as a kind of general exhortation for members to feel unabashed pride for their organization, and maybe to answer back on some detractors who may have disagreed in the past. Okay, that I understood perfectly well. But in time my reservations became more like itches that needed itching and more attention.

Finally decided to reduce them all to prose and this is what I came up with, randomly selected as good as fading memory could work.

Firstly, there was mention of members “being of good standing”, and that struck a sore chord since I confess I had that issue addressed to apply to my own membership where I was declared as one lacking that quality and thus not qualified to run for elective office in the upcoming elections. Based on the rather very draconian strictures currently in place, one wonders how many in the entire roster of almost 130,000 members can qualify as such. I suppose in the local context, becoming a member of good standing in organizations similar to this can be a very daunting task. It appears that gone are the days when being a member of good standing involved the very elemental or minimal requirements that many are familiar with – pay your basic dues, or obey basic rules, and make sure you have not been found to be seriously remiss in the discharge of your defined and assumed duties and obligations like paying your debt on time, not to lie, cheat or steal from the coffers, or discharge duties of your elective office decently or creditably. Now, the demands are more stringent and restrictive.

Secondly, as an opening act to increased speed and efficiency in bringing in more membership and resources, mention was made of delayed counter services brought about as unavoidable consequence for the former. After all, one cannot expect more from harried staff and personnel who are over-stretched attending to more clients. True and to illustrate, it took me about 40 minutes to get my little chore (a cash deposit) done from start to finish. The unavoidable trade-off appears tolerable from the organization’s point of view. But lost in the shuffle are the lost man-hours of the clients forever counted out from the daily grind of long waits which are now the typical scenario. Consider productivity lost in the process. Is there a way to mitigate this? I can think of one that could work, but leave that for another discussion and occasion.

Thirdly, the piece speaks of a culture developed through the years which has served the organization well and augurs well for its future. It speaks of an organization that views transparency in its officers’ actions as primal to its continued existence and thus welcomes all voices, big or small, major or minor. But then parenthetically qualifying that even “sour-grapes” are entertained. (Chuckle here.) But I do believe such language does not belong in such a serious piece. No need to demean a voice that may be outlandish or too extreme, it is enough to welcome all voices, whether in agreement or dissent. I have to believe that FICCO is unique because it is also tolerant.

And here is an honest affirmation of a truism that should pervade any financial services organization such as this that “new members add to the capital pool”. Yes, yes, new members should first be encouraged to learn how to save before they learn how to borrow. The capital pool cannot increase if new members are immediately focused on borrowing.

And lastly, I postulate an added quality that makes FICCO unique and will continue to make it so. It continues to be a work-in-progress. While other coops may indeed be considered "works-in-progress " compared with the tremendous strides FICCO has made, I hope that we at FICCO are cognizant and humble enough to declare and believe that we ourselves continue to be a work-in-progress, not a perfectly molded model that cannot stand any more improvement, re-examination, re-recalibration, re-alignment, etc. We must continually learn as we grow, and adapt where necessary because remember times are continually achangin’, too.

It was odd that during my turn in front of the teller, unsolicited I was advised to borrow, the teller obviously a total stranger and did not know me from Adam and least of all my overall financial situation. My typical reply as always has been, I will borrow when the need to borrow arises. And not before then.

BTW, how did she know that I have not borrowed as far as I can remember? Is my account flagged and labeled as to show outright where I stand in the organization?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Pictorial Chronology of Two Mayas : From Birth to Adulthood





Last June it was shade of serependity when I had the rare distinction of intruding into a maya’s nest deceptively hidden in one potted bush lodged in our building’s roof deck.

One bright morning, I almost stepped on a small wriggly mass of pinkish flesh on the slowly heating concrete floor of the deck, being devoured by a frenzied horde of small black ants. Stooping closer I could make out the crude outlines of an organism whose internal organs were visible from its diaphanous outer flesh. It was a newly hatched bird that much I knew. Picking it up and shooing with my fingers the busy clinging ants, I settled it on a small cup cushioned with a folded paper napkin and positioned the makeshift nest on top and in the safety of the observation deck I had constructed. Hoping the mother would return and minister to her young.

Click to read more.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Street Names As Memorials

Life is replete with humanity’s overt manifestations of its innate longings, or maybe dread, to honor and perpetuate it heroes, its renowned forebears, or simply its dead. For example, statues are cast and installed in publicly prominent places precisely to make known and remind the viewers or passersby of the dead and gone real person behind the stiff and drab image sitting or standing out there in the rain and exposed to all other elements. Gilded books are written laboriously tracing the extraordinary lives of people and/or relatives admired and expressing desires to emulate. Buildings, places, even nature, etc. are not spared from our ardent aspirations to perpetuate and propagate the chosen names of those consigned to our eternity.

And quite common in most places we have been to, whether of considerable renown or not, is the practice of naming streets after those admired personages. The ubiquitous signage makes for one sure route to give more mileage (in a manner of speaking) to that person’s honor and name. After all, street signs are installed in most intersections and/or long stretches of roads for easier negotiation or faster access to destinations.

Let it be said though that at times street names are grudgingly given for more mundane and practicable reasons, like because the named person used to own the real estate traversed by the roadway or maybe in a generous gesture donated the real estate for the roadway. At times certain places are known by a person’s name, simply because that person whether renowned or not was domiciled in the area, or again maybe because people know he used to own property in the vicinity.

But clumsy distinctions aside, the street names given can be a good glimpse into a bit of local historical narrative of a place or locality, like as if history has crept into a place’s consciousness through the dead-giveaway uniqueness of its street names.

A little tour around town or even a more studied look at the street names of places we travel through our workaday lives can be revealing of both the past and the possible reasons for the nomenclature.

Thus, the street name of the place where we live is Paz Neri San Jose situated at RER Drive Subdivision, which is bounded on the east by the Rodulfo N. Pelaez Avenue. The sprawling compound of Liceo de Cagayan University lies on the other side of the said avenue, stretching maybe a half-kilometer wide. Why? Because the family of the late Rodulfo Neri Pelaez owns the university and the subdivision was once part of their landholdings. And our street being one of the main streets of the subdivision is named after his beloved mother, Paz Neri San Jose. Why RER? – the subdivision was named after the first letter of the first names of both parents and daughter.

Trying to skirt the usual heavy traffic around the Carmen Market area during commute periods, I chanced upon a rather obscure side street named Matilde Neri that stretches westward. Again an old resident can readily tell why. Matilde Menciano Neri was the widow of Faustino S. J. Neri, and her family used to own large tracts of land around the Carmen Market area.

And right smacked in the center of the old poblacion anchored by its premier plaza, Divisoria, is the street named Tirso R. Neri stretching from one end of the plaza to the other and defining its northern boundaries. Tirso Neri made a name for himself locally in both peace and war times, serving creditably in government and doing other exemplary work. Thus, it seems appropriate to name an equally important street after him.

There should be more, even if only for the visual benefit and easy entertainment of members of the extended Neri clan. Just give me time to reach those places. Or better still, bring them to my lazy attention and I shall schedule the legwork. Our subdivision is a veritable gold mine, since most streets are named after Neri ancestors.

Oh, by the way, I do have a street named after me, announced by two lonely rusty signs that have fallen into quite ugly disrepair as to be almost unreadable.

Actually, it was intended for my father. Being named after him has at least one spurious benefit, I guess.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not Your Everyday Cloud Formation

After just backing out of the house, saw this rather unusual cloud formation looking up at the eastern skies off Cagayan de Oro at 8:45 on a clear bright morning.

Shots taken by a point-and-shoot camera, filtered by the windshield tint inside the car.




Monday, January 18, 2010

A Child’s Face


One bright morning furtively seated on the warming sidewalk by her lonesome, this forlorn child maybe no more than 10 looks up with those sad eyes, conveying maybe a world of privation, loneliness, and definitely hunger.

But what change a somewhat curt offer of a few pieces of bread can bring to a child’s face. It is definitely enough to warm one’s heart, a truly valuable exchange for a pittance of an offer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Made-In-China Motorbikes

So are we still looking with askance at products made in China?

Consider a few facts. The other day the on-line news broke the story about China being now the biggest exporter in the world, finally overhauling leader Germany for the first time. Granted per capita Germany still leads. Also, for long enough China has enjoyed the position of being the 3rd largest economy in the world, outstripped only by leader US of A and second-placer Japan. But it is expected that China will take over the second slot.

And lastly, the news also highlighted the fact that China is also now the biggest auto market in the world with its over one-billion population finding new purchasing power to get into the markets. And the Chinese government stung by the global recession has been focusing efforts on domestic markets to move its excess products.

So are we then surprised that China-made vehicles are finding market niches in other parts of Asia, and the rest of the globe, too?

Here in our little corner of the world, Cagayan de Oro, China-made motorbikes are making crucial inroads rigorously competing with industry leaders like Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. With one overall advantage – price affordability. And where price differentials can range as high as 100%. Thus, a China-made bike could be priced at 50,000 pesos while comparable units of the other brands are going for 100,000 pesos.

Are they comparable or better than the other well-known brands?

Personally, I believe the jury is still out, and thus it remains to be seen. Though China-made bikes have been in the local markets for several years. Some reports have been negative, but admittedly one sees on the city streets some of these bikes still operating decently and looking good.

But credit China for competing very well in the looks and design departments. Take a look at this.






It is a Dayun 125cc, single cylinder but twin exhaust pipes, street bike that sells complete with crashguard and carrier at the back. Carrying a curb net weight of 126kgs, or 277lbs. It sells for under 50,000 pesos (about 1,000 US dollars) where comparable bikes could sell as low as 75,000 to as high as 100,000 pesos.

It is obvious to see that its looks and designs mimic those of the classic Hondas or Yamahas, or the European models like BMW and Triumph, etc. One more expensive model is trumpeted as a BMW look-alike.

And many China companies are competing for these same markets. You see such strange names aside from the one above as Skygo, Longin, Motorsport, PMR, Kimbo, etc.

Some parting words. Remember it was not too long ago like in the 90’s that fledging upstart Hyundai from Korea started marketing cars in the US. Many consumers snickered at its first models. Now it has become mainstream. Same with Kia.

And in the 70's Honda first marketed in the US its 1000cc Civic touting it as the American consumer's "fun second car".

Pretty soon these Chinese models will become mainstream, too.

Just wait and see.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Layman's Political Look At Voters In Cagayan de Oro

Okay, so I have averred on several occasions that the population of the City of Cagayan de Oro may top over a million. Nobody really knows for sure anyway, so it appears as valid as any guess.

Anyway, here are some irrefutable facts. For the last election cycle in 2007, the total number of registered city voters came out at 219,206. Of that number about 76%voted, coming out to a total of 166,451.

For the current election cycle it is forecasted based on early new registration returns that an increase of 10% will be added to the election rolls, for a total of about 240,000. If we get the same number of people voting during this cycle we should have 182,000 actual voters. Remember both 2007 and 2010 are national elections.

As is arguably implied, three candidates from a total of seven for the city’s top executive position are expected to slug it out for the prize – the incumbent Vice-Mayor, the current Congressman of the 1st district, and our outlier dark horse, former councilor Berchmans Abejuela. A close struggle is expected to ensue, dividing city votes 3 ways. If true as projected, a candidate who is able to garner at least 60,000 votes has a good chance of winning, assuming the two other candidates are able to accumulate similar numbers of votes.

So where are the votes for each major candidate expected to come from?

For the current congressman of the 1st district, he is expected to perform well in his own bailiwick. He resides in Carmen, a district that already has over 20,000 registered voters.

Surprisingly, the entire poblacion of 40 barangays has a total voting population of only about 22K, topping 25K taking into account the projected increase, with Carmen projected to register 22K. Both Carmen and the poblacion pegged 74% actual votes from registered voters during the last cycle.

The first district has total registered voters of 92,929, quite less than the 2nd district’s 126,237.

Aside from Carmen, the first district has the following heavily populated areas registering voters in the high four figures – Balulang, Patag, Kauswagan, and Bulua.

But the 2nd district aside from the poblacion also has high concentration areas like Camaman-an, Macasandig, Bugo, Gusa, Macabalan, Puntod, and with Lapasan registering at the low five figures. Others figuring out prominently are Agusan, Cugman, and Tablon.

We expect Berchmans to perform well with the younger, more motivated and untainted voters so the populations from four city universities will be a constituency that he could court, impress and win over as a solid core constituency.

Another huge, though seethingly silent and disgruntled, constituency should be the many disaffected Cagayanons scattered throughout the city, who have been resigned over these many years to the doggone idea that they have lost their city in many respects. Berchmans comes across as one of them – giving flesh and expression to their once devoted concerns and homegrown values.

Both contending opponents are not only well-entrenched politicians with deep pockets, but are currently public officials which undoubtedly give them better exposure and access to resources not otherwise available to an outside non-officeholder. Look around, on government-installed billboards, signs and images plastered conspicuously on government vehicles, etc, and it is easy to see why they do. Government largesse, or call it pork or whatever, from the ways it is disbursed and accounted for is mistakenly acknowledged to have originated from the personal resources of the government officials named. When in fact since it comes from tax money, really comes from the people themselves.

The current Vice-Mayor of course is the uncrowned kingpin in the city. He had served forever as mayor, governor, and then slid down to vice-mayor because ostensibly it was the only way to perpetuate power. And now, he wants to reclaim his much-desired title.

This will be an interesting election, hopefully a hotly-contested joust majoring in clashes of ideas and public programs of government, rather than the typical toss-up between candidates spiraling down the path of who can outspend whom, or a flagrant contest of temerity or gall to finagle ways to a dubious, or less than honorable, victory.

In the issue of honest transparency and to better appreciate the attendant political capability and credibility of each candidate it is hoped that public forums or debates are held before election time.