Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cagayan River: River of All Return

Scores have written paeans about your beauty and grandeur,
While others focused on your awesome powers and nurturing qualities,
Like the plants and trees you make grow and thrive within your reach,
The many colorful fishes that find life and shelter in your bosoms.
But I will do no such thing.

People of old tried in their puny ways to tame your raging tantrums.
Still others tried to dare your isolating paths with bridges of many types.
Kids spent many warm summer afternoons refreshing in your cool waters.
People, from all walks, even desired union with your oneness and eternity.
Building houses in your banks, in the dried-up beds you once traversed in.
But I will do no such thing.

In open defiance of your jealous nature, people tempted their fates.
Usurping precious territory you need to follow an appointed task.
Dumped tons of garbage and debris and called that reclaimed land.
Fit to build their abodes, open season to heap more abuse on your person.
Elected servants conspired to lend credence and legality to such deeds.
But I will do no such thing.

In the pretense of good intentions many harvest your precious jewels.
Like the age-old growth that dot your watershed basins, and deep gullies.
Making empty promises about restoration and proper recompense.
Instead leaving you naked, shamed, ugly, and worst, angry and vengeful.
Anger and vengeance that knows no limits, nor capable of measure.
But I will do no such thing.

I instead whisper my culpable fear of your deadly quiet and simple ways.
I instead keep safe distance from your moods that defy easy detection.
Opting to behold your unrivaled beauty and grandeur beyond your reach.
For you are the jealous lover, born from the same cloth as your Creator.
Demanding the return of all your gifts from your unworthy recipients.
And you will be satisfied with no less.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Seller/Buyer Conundrum

This week we went through two important transactions where we were the seller parties. I sold a Ford pick-up truck that was sitting in our garage for a good part of 5 years. We also signed papers to sell a rental property that we have had for almost 7 years. Again in both instances we all signed on the dotted lines that designated we were the sellers. Since we went through a barrage of documents to sign, in one instance I had automatically signed on the dotted lines intended for the buyer. I initially had paid no mind thinking I just needed to sign again under the dotted lines for the seller. But was summarily stopped by a staff member of the company, graciously informing me that he had to reprint the whole page because of strict company rules. So except for that little glitch, both transactions went quite smoothly. Until a few days later when I started thinking about it.

Why did I instinctively and reflexively sign on the dotted lines for the buyers? What caused that to be so? After much thought and reflection I came up with these observations, and a conclusion.

Because our personal callings in our lives were that of being employed, most of the transactions that we got into in our lives were that as buyer. We bought things and stuff. We bought clothes, houses, cars, etc. In most instances then where documents were presented and required for signature, we typically signed on the dotted lines for buyers. But don’t we sell our services to our employers? True, but we would rather think of our services as being exchanged for money and benefits. Of course, as employees there are instances where we do become sellers, like selling our old houses or cars to buy new ones. But comparatively speaking, we most likely are buyers in transactions. So by default when people like us sign papers, we instinctively go to the dotted lines for buyers.

But entrepreneurs are different. In many instances they are the sellers. They provide goods and services to be sold to third parties or consumers. They are the store owners, the factory operators, the company owners in their nice offices. In short, they are our employers.

In the scheme of things, are the differences quite marked? I am sure there are many similarities and differences, but here I focus on only one aspect of this distinction. The seller creates or produces some things or provides certain services that they hope people will have need for. They design and devise things to give them value and functionality which hopefully the users will be attracted to.

On the other hand, the buyer is in the position of choosing certain things that would be needed in his life. When he looks at a product for example, he is weighing how the product is going to serve his particular needs, and making judgments on how well the product and its features will perform for him.

The role of seller appears exciting and interesting, bringing to the fore our admirable qualities of ingenuity and resourcefulness so that we can bring out products that people can like. While sellers are also buyers since they are also consumers, it does appear enviable to be essentially a seller and secondarily as a buyer. Rather than simply be a buyer all our lives.

The reason being that a seller obviously is a provider, while a buyer is simply a user.

Is it then instinctively so also that at certain points in any one person’s life, there is the innate desire to be an entrepreneur, and thus be a provider, a seller?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Remembrances of My Late Mother

More than meriting title to being quiet and mum as a clam, my mother was truly a woman of very few words. She spoke little. Thus, I doubt I need spend time calculating the conversations we had had as adults. We had very few, and each one went like telegraphic exchanges between two frugal individuals.

In hindsight one can easily recall how those few incidents came about. And thus the task of retelling is that much easier. But they definitely created lasting impressions. How else to explain my very vivid recall.

In one visit and from out of the blue, she framed her conversation in one sentence. And it simply was a curt admonition to take care of my younger brother, and spoken in the vernacular. As was usual with me, it went in and was soon replaced with more urgent mundane matters. But during moments of lull, that statement would come back to occupy my wakefulness. Why the admonition and why me? The mind started racing looking for rationales and answers. As very young kids, all nine of us grew up in that old house along Del Mar and Victoria Sts. The house sat fully on exactly 100sq.m. of land, leaving nothing but the sidewalk to separate it from the two streets. And we counted on the kind graces and forbearance of two aunts who owned the two lots on the other two sides in allowing our little horde to use their free spaces for our purposes. One lot was initially vacant and the other occupied by a house of another aunt. The vacant lot was there to serve as our free space – for a while at least until a house was also built on it.

Nine precocious kids grew up in those cramped and eternally-shuttered quarters in the middle of a busy poblacion, two blocks away from the town plaza. As a small kid my younger brother had assigned quarters in one bedroom on the ground floor which space used to serve as my father’s law office. This he shared with another younger sister. And from all indications that served as some kind of sick bay since the two siblings took cadenced turns being treated with all sorts of ailments – wheezing coughs, fevers, urticaria or hives, bad colds, etc. So many nights one heard the unmistakable sounds of the ailments as one passed through that section of the house, with my mother serving as relentless and indefatigable Florence Nightingale to the siblings in distress. And this went on till early adolescent years.

That younger brother was the first to go a couple of years ago among the nine siblings. Was my mother gifted as prescient or armed with clairvoyant tendencies to qualify her to make such dire predictions? I doubt that. It most probably stemmed from maternal instincts honed from many years and countless instances of service to enable her to make prudent observation and judgment on the physical make-up of her sizable brood. After all, she exhibited the same personal dedication and selfless passion in taking care of all nine of us.

Years later after having married and living away from her, another short telegraphic dialogue transpired. She had received a letter from two distinguished Jesuits, very well respected locally, Frs. A. Cuna and J. Fuentes, regarding a Cursillo course participated in by her youngest offspring. She was being asked to write a confidential letter to be delivered to the above Jesuits. Imagine that!

What does she do? She calls for me and almost demandingly asked for me to write that letter. Why me? The year was 1972 and I was deep into raising my growing family and coping with the burdens of working in a busy bank. So naturally, I balked. No words from her followed, except that I was left holding the letter from the priests.

Without further instructions, and without any ideas suggested on what that letter would contain, I knew that she had expected to receive that letter before it was due. Rummaging through old files, I chanced upon these two letters stapled together. Suggesting without a doubt that the letter required of her was written and submitted on time, and penned by me.

Was she so sure that the ideas that I would put on paper would be the same ideas she had in mind and held in deep trust? I do not recall having to retype anything regarding this letter.

Maybe it was like this. How could revisions be necessary since I was simply being used by her as her instrument?

Thus, more like that most perfect model of a mother who said to the wine stewards at Cana: Just do what he tells you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bi-coastal Life

Last Sunday afternoon after a nice warm bath, I flopped my tired aching body to a nice soft sofa to face my friendly news gatherer – the TV set connected to a local cable company. With remote firmly clasped and electric fan quietly swooning in the background, I was ready to travel.

Held the notch on what is called locally as the Bloomberg Channel. A lively live debate was underway. Splashed across the screen in front of the portly moderator who stood behind an imposing lectern was the statement: California Is A Failed State. Huh, what? I almost lost consciousness. California, home to Hollywood, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Google, Yahoo, the most populous state in the union, among the top ten largest economies in the world taken separately, the most innovative, etc., a failed state?

Anyway after intently listening for a few minutes, I was getting the picture. There apparently is a proposition, or a ballot initiative put forth by the voters, that seeks to declare that the state indeed is a failed state. Probably to be voted upon during the next local elections this coming November. This whole process is uniquely California, an enviable model in its exercise of “direct democracy” - when the people themselves take a hand in governance.

Across one side, the negative side to a debate, I recognize the 3 panelists. – erstwhile CA governor, Gray Davis, who was unceremoniously ousted during a recall election that saw the start of the Arnie reign; Van Jones, of late an Obama appointee who had to decline due to some pretty incendiary statements made by him in his prior life, and Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC anchor noted for his caustic anger against anything conservative.. All decidedly liberal in political orientation. And on the other side, the affirmative side, they had 3 panelists who were not known to me. – a lady editor of a popular website or group, a male economist, and another male panelist who had served in some administration. All who I suppose declared themselves as conservatives.

With a huge enough live audience who asked questions directed to all panelists, the overall discussion was interesting, friendly and civil so that my guess is that everybody walked away from it learning more about the attendant issue.

Of course, the issue itself has been dogging California for a long, long time, way past Grey Davis’ administration. People have been noticing the slow decline of the California economy and the shameful neglect of its government in stemming that downward tide. People have complained of recurring huge state deficits, too many regulations in its economic life from business to the environment, businesses burdened by too many taxes and regulations that they were leaving in droves, cities were deteriorating politically and socially, the latter in the form of unabated homelessness on city streets, infrastructures like roads and bridges were crumbling due to neglect, etc. Etc. Of course add to that, the still teetering housing situation which continues to hit the state harder than others. As we speak some areas have already lost more than 50% of home values pegged from 4-5 years ago. And still spiraling down with no bottom in sight.

But that is not my point. Personally, the issue for me is old hat, yesterday’s meal.

But because I am a naturalized citizen and continue as a resident of California, I am directly impacted by what happens there. While now spending some time in the old homeland, still one cannot ignore the realities there because pretty soon I will be back there for a spell. Most likely spending the same time when the local elections will be held.

What is astounding is that I can live 7000 miles away from it and still vicariously participate in its critical affairs at the flip of a switch, while at the same time still having my ears attuned to the local events that also daily affect my current life here. Straddling between two coasts without loss of any real time! One of today’s wonders!

But how shall I vote on this issue? That is not a “consummation devoutly to be wished”.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Filipinos and US Politics

To the average urban Filipino the topic of politics is often a passion-stirring and hot-button issue, eliciting many avid responses from participants. In friendly family gatherings, or extemporaneous congregations of acquaintances, and most especially in the various forms of media, politics assumes a very focal role, almost like as default features to enliven pages and sell copies. Its discussions are always lively and keenly partisan and in many instances do escalate to shouting matches or ad hominems. No wonder then that when I am in  the old homeland, the question of politics is often asked – US politics, that is.

Compatriots are quite eager to learn how their own kind behaves as political animals in other countries, countries they have adopted after leaving the old homeland.

They are not mistaken to assume that indeed there are many ethnic Filipinos in the US, both legal and those who have decided to stay beyond their temporary visas. Many place the count to as many as 5 million though official stats would probably show their total closer to 4 million plus.

So the typical questions asked revolve around these. Is there a Filipino vote? How do US politicians regard and/or court Filipino votes? Do Filipinos have clout in US politics or in the political process?

But they are usually nonchalant or downcast when they learn of the real lowdown. They assume wrong that their compatriots in foreign lands behave similarly or as intently as with their local counterparts.

They are quite perplexed that there is not even a category of Filipinos in the US demographic/ electoral rolls. That Filipinos are lumped together in the category of Asian Americans which is quite a small category numbering a little over 15 million in a country with a total population of over 300 million. Among others, Asian Americans include Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Indians, Pakistanis, etc. No doubt a very broad category net that catches and bundles together many minorities in the US. From the figures above, Asian Americans make up only about 5% of the total population. Comparatively, African-Americans number 38 million while Latinos top at over 44 million, unarguably the two fastest growing minorities in the land.

While the total number of Asian Americans appears substantial, these immigrants are not that active politically. And are thus said to be quite invisible politically. This group has the lowest proportion of eligible voters, a little over 50%, compared with the populations of other racial groups. Plus, only about 50% of eligible voters actually register. Translated that would be about 7 million eligible voters and about 3 million actual voters. And how many actually vote during elections? Having over 50% of registered voters vote is considered typical in presidential elections and as low as 40% in state elections. Another negative factor for Asian Americans is that only 60% know English, thus many shy away from or shun active participation in politics.

No wonder then that while Asian Americans represent 5% of the population, only 1% of them count among those holding elective offices.

What about party affiliations? In this group a third are registered Democrats, another third Republicans and the last third are unaffiliated or may be registered as Independents. And for the last third, more than 50% were born overseas and thus, politics has not yet become a priority in their lives.

Except that Asian Americans congregate in great numbers in some states. And in order of the size of their presence, they are: California, New York, Texas, Hawaii, and New Jersey. So this may be where they could influence elections and thus be a future force to reckon with.

A most recent special election result may reveal this to be true or may be the inauspicious start of a trend. We refer to the most recent special election in the 9th congressional district of New York to replace disgraced Democratic Congressman Weiner. This district is ceded to be predominantly Jewish and may explain the election of Weiner, though as a Democrat he probably had a lock on it given that Democrats had controlled this district for many, many years. But take a look at its current demographic distribution (2010):

56.48% non-Hispanic White
5.21% Black
18.70% Asian,
17.21% Hispanic,
0.2% Native American,
2.2% other

In an ironic twist, though expected by the polls, a Republican took the win on this heavily Democratic district, a district once held by Democratic stalwarts Geraldine Ferraro and now Senator Charles Schumer.

Without delving into the issues that may have driven this sudden change of wind, what could have possibly happened in the voting?

A given for this district is that Asian and Hispanics have historically voted Democratic. Now taken either singly or collectively, these two groups could have provided the swing votes to change the current history of this district. In this election the actual margin of win for the Republican against his Democratic rival was 6 points (53-47).

Thus, in a race where two white candidates dominate, two minority groups with sufficient numbers could have provided the impetus for the upset. That factor could have made possible an almost political improbability.

It is to be noted also that Asian Americans are trooping in great numbers to some battleground states like Nevada, Minnesota, and Virginia, so the future could see this third-largest growing minority assume more active and decisive political roles.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

US Breaks Some Records

US breaks some records.

This is definitely one instance where the current recordholder would gladly cede the honors - to another US president, or any man or woman for that matter.

Imagine if we allow him to take on a second term. Following the trends, he would start breaking his own records!

If in grave doubts, scan the sources below the list to erase any.


What happened? At the height of the housing boom we were ready to breach the 70% ceiling.

Bits and Pieces of Memory from an Era Long Gone: Elvis and Me

It must have been early 3rd year high school when Elvis broke into our local scene. First, it was the song, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, that blared out of an early morning show of a popular local DJ. That was our first vocal introduction to the world of Elvis. We had then caught glimpses of blurred images of him performing emblazoned in some foreign news items included in our local papers. Then an elder brother brought home a “songhits” booklet that featured a black and white close-up image of the mysterious upcoming singer with the brassy singing style. It was not a pretty picture. He had on almost like a scowl, or exaggerated pout with mouth twisted like one. This led my elder brother to remark: why, he looks like Jack Palance! Yes, that Jack Palance, the quintessential villain of Western movies (think Shane) with the battered nose and boxer-like features. Learned that indeed he did some boxing before getting to the movies.

Anyway, bad comment notwithstanding, we were on our way to getting hooked on the Pelvis. We couldn’t help breaking out into song with wild gyrations upon hearing him sing on any phonograph – at home, on a dance, or in one of the local stores selling records. The addiction was catching and would all collectively conflate into a sort of epidemic. We all wanted to sing and move like him, and look like him. The latter being a very unlikely stretch given our Asian features. But we could articulate some imitation with regard to our voice, our hips, and yes, our hair. And those we did. Thus, those who could all cultivated our pompadours, and took great pains to keep them in place. But many of us could not complete the transformation try as hard as we did, not even with just the hair. Many of us could not grow sideburns, so “fake” ones had to do - done by applying heavy pomade on the portion of hair on the temple and combing it downward where sideburns ought to be.

The crazy world of Elvis took hold of our young lives like no one could. We held contests to find out who could sing and move like him. Local filmdom crowned an Elvis Presley of the Philippines. His songs dominated the airwaves and the hot afternoon jam sessions very common in that milieu. So soaked up and engrossed in our adulation and imitation that it was easy to start believing we were Elvis. Thus any social approbation in this regard was not only welcomed but was considered great honor.

To this day, it is not surprising that I can easily recall events related to this need for social acceptance. And I can narrate two that stand out prominently in my memory

The first one involved a friend and classmate named Nazar. After just getting out of a local barbershop and joining friends in the local plaza, without any prodding Nazar immediately noticed the new haircut and coolly remarked that it was good, Elvis-like and he liked it very much. Now coming from Nazar that was truly something for he was noted not only as quite mischievous but quite stingy in giving praise to anybody. So that remark stayed with me to this day, to be reminisced and valued.

And the other one from a most unlikely source. From one so guarded, circumspect in her statements and comments. It was both difficult to elicit any negative remark from her and just as equally difficult to hear her crow about her own children. Hearing me endlessly singing Elvis-like in front of the radio or phonograph, and inside the bathroom, and watching interminably how I had combed my hair and had dressed in whatever way we could like the King, the better judgment of my mother may have been impaired or temporarily blinded. Because I had overhead her remarked to another relative that indeed I looked like Elvis. The remark boggles the mind because I myself would be the first to admit that the resemblance is almost nil. Except maybe we both belonged to the human race?

We all just liked to be like Elvis.

And that’s the way it was.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Ran Silent, Ran Deep

Sarah Palin runs in Iowa!

Even then, finishing second place is outstanding.

A preview for what's to come in the GOP presidential primaries?

And this time we won't settle for another second place win! - from one runner to another.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quiet and Simple Pleasures of my Youth

As a scrawny kid growing up in a small city made smaller by my inborn proclivity for keeping much to myself, memories of things that happened are easily remembered. One reason maybe is that because there were not that many memories to be remembered or forgotten.

It may be for this reason that certain memorable events in childhood are keenly remembered and recalled. The following is one such series of events.

During elementary grades and early high school, which would be in the early 50’s, I was wont to take extended visits with my cousin who was an only child. His doting mother was the elder sister of my father. Her family had at one time been next-door neighbors of ours in the old poblacion.

The family had moved to a much nicer and bigger house in a nearby suburb called Lapasan. It was only several kilometers from our house, but it might as well have been in a different town because of its stark contrast with the city life that we were all used to. For one, it had no electricity. One had to purchase a generator if one wanted the place electrified. Neighbors were some distance away, though still visible from the house.

Since I was closest to the age of my cousin among my siblings, I had the unchallenged privilege of getting invited to stay with them for extended periods – like weeks and months. During school, I went to school with my cousin since we went to the same school anyway.

I had many brothers and sisters so my protracted absences were hardly felt and my trips were never an issue at a large household already fractured by an absentee father. Though in hindsight, I often wondered why I was never asked whether I preferred staying home or staying with the relatives. In those days, my aunt invited and things pretty much happened as she wished. Though there were times I pined for the many familiarities I enjoyed in my own house – the different sights and sounds of a city that could be witnessed just outside our doors and windows. And at times I longed essentially for the freedom to do as I pleased. To a quiet introverted loner like me that was a big thing.

Anyway, whatever my aunt said, went. Her only son longed for companionship or a playmate, and I was it. I suspect that one of the moving reasons why my aunt chose me was maybe because I was very easy to get along with and I never refused her biddings.

One chore I had to suffer through with her was her fondness for the game of Chinese checkers and regular checkers. So like clockwork, some time in the morning after a hearty breakfast, she would repair to her spacious room and call for me. I would typically catch her sitting by her bed, arranging the game’s pieces on a tiny plastic board that had holes in them. And we would match up for many minutes, just the two of us; which times seemed interminable for an antsy kid like me who not only was not keen on the game but could not muster the longer attention span that adults had. So I always lost and this made my aunt visibly gleeful egging herself to play even more. At other days, we tried the regular checkers, again sitting on her bed and using another tiny plastic board with odd pieces that had different shapes – like wild animals, fishes, etc.

But somehow I survived through all of it, none the worse for wear. And I bet you maybe because albeit all this, my aunt was quite generous and likeable to me. She was terribly fond of movies; she went with us kids in tow most times new programs were showing in the local theatres. And she liked to eat well, so we always had delectable meals of chicken, pork, sea food, etc. Only occasional servings of vegetables. So definitely I got bigger and better portions than I would have gotten at home where nine kids vied for the finite amount of food set at our table.

So under this very personally beneficent environment, I and my brothers could not interpose any serious objection to what my aunt would bid us to do. Play with her son? No problem. Run errands? Okay. Take some abuse from sometimes spoiled cousin? (Chuckles) Hey, we can stand it. What about hard-massaging the feet and thick thighs of uncle as he took his regular siesta after lunch? Grudgingly, we did as told. And this last challenge which happened when we were still next-door neighbors we submit was no run in the park. He was a large person and we had to be at it until he had fallen asleep. And all this under the watchful eye of my aunt who lay beside him reading her magazines.

Anyhow, at some point during one of my extended stays with my cousin, a relative of my uncle from Bohol also came to live with us in that very spacious house. He was being assigned as the superintendent of the local trade school which was located not far from my aunt’s house. His living quarters at the school were being prepared for him and his expected family. And he was to be the first superintendent of that school, which was quite a unique distinction.

He was a very kindly and amiable person with very genteel manners. He always had on a genuine smile and a very soothing tone of voice. Qualities we associated then with the people coming from Bohol.

Unlike my uncle, he was very friendly with us kids, spending time talking and listening to us. That’s probably why he was an educator. There must have been some instant liking developed between the two of us, because the next thing I can recall is me preparing for a trip with him to his hometown of Tagbilaran. All of a sudden I am in a rush gathering the few clothes I had, my wooden clogs (bakya) included, and a few personal hygiene stuff like a toothbrush. But where to put all of it?

Did I decide to use an old heavy leather satchel bag that was sitting at home or did I decide to dump them inside an empty milk carton box? If the latter would it have been an Alpine or Carnation box? Maybe Carnation since they made sturdier and thicker boxes which were somehow treated to protect them from water damage.

I can’t tell which one I used for this trip since all I can recall is that on one boat trip I took the satchel bag and on another an empty milk carton box, the latter making dull sounds when lifted or carried if one had the wooden clogs packed inside.

The boat ride was an overnight trip from the local pier to the town of Jagna, then a quick bus trip to Tagbilaran.

I remember arriving at an old but comfortable and airy house, being welcomed animatedly by my traveling companion’s equally amiable wife and his 2 kids, the elder a boy and the younger a girl. I easily recall the most prominent piece of furniture in the house as a piano. Both kids played on it.

I was billeted by myself in one upstairs room with big windows. But can’t recall much beyond that.

But I do recall with relative ease that they had brought me to a marketplace where I was treated to a cool milkshake that I believe went by the name of mais con yielo. I must have had it more than once during that trip since the recall is quite vivid.

I must have been pre-teen when all this reckoning transpired, but beyond the above nothing much is left in memory, except for that kindly man who brought me to his place, showered me with his and his family’s hospitality, and being treated to a tasty mais con yielo which acquired taste has stayed with me to this day.

Of such were the quiet and simple pleasures of my youth!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Experience or Learning: Which is the better teacher?

Conventional wisdom touts that experience is the best teacher. A child once burned will have learned how to handle fire the next time. Okay, well and good. But which is better? A child is in a situation where it can observe other children – those playing with fire. He observes their action and reaction. Don’t you think that child will have learned his lesson without having to undergo being burned? Learning also teaches without necessarily bringing in any corresponding hurt or pain.

And that I believe is the better path to take in life. Learn your valuable lessons from the hapless experiences of others. Far from just engaging in trial and error methods, learn first how others are doing it and then do your turn. Aside from plain recklessness, laziness, or too much daring, in many instances one finds ego behind many ill-fated decisions one makes. Pride and arrogance at times take the better of one, rather than the humble attempt find out from others how things are done better.

Perish conventional wisdom in this regard. Many of us may not have the convenient second chances needed to correct our mistakes, and thus, miss out completely on certain things that could have been had by learning from others.

Thus, for a child growing up this is where parental guidance plays a most crucial role, teaching kids to learn first before embarking on pursuits that could have long-term disastrous effects on their lives. Of course, in most instances the learning will have to be accompanied by real-life examples originating from the parents or role models. Instructive words are half of the equation, the other half being the examples to round out and complete the lesson.

Imagine the many instances where a child can profit immeasurably from lessons learned prior to experience. The lesser the pitfalls he has to recover from the better the life of that child. And thus he can reserve his extra energies to more daunting challenges where the chances of success are even slimmer. Pick your fights. Life has more than enough challenges to contend with. Keep always a leg or a step up. We are all bound to need that extra push, resource, or hand when the greater challenges come.

So remember, learning is the better teacher. Learning also invites the needed cautiousness and circumspection in tackling the meatier challenges of life. Thus, place yourself in a position where you can profit most from lessons learned prior to actual experience.

Weren’t parenting and then schooling intended primarily for that purpose? In the haste and clutter of everyday life, sometimes we just plumb forget.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Neri Genealogy: New Findings

I quote from the message exchanges I had with Dr. Antonio J. Montalvan II, PhD, regarding my question on the origins of the Neris here in Misamis:

“It was Rizal's Jesuit friend Fr. Juan Bautista Heras (later pastor of Jasaan) who was on a boat trip one day with Misamis Governor Leopoldo Roldan. While they were along the coast of Lanao, they noticed some signals, some commotion on the shore. They proceeded to alight. There they met the Rajamoda Sampurna who asked for their help. He said he was escaping Lanao because of some internal warfare there that endangered his life (appparently a rido). He said he was willing to go with them. And so they brought him to Cagayan. Perhaps the peril he was in must have been so jeopardizing to his safety that in Cagayan he decided to renounce Islam. A solemn ceremony was then prepared by the priests of Cagayan where a native ritual, the "tampuda," was performed in public. It was there that he adopted the surname Neri.

This happened in the last quarter of the 1800s, very recent indeed. I will get back to you on the exact date. I am personally aghast that many Neris claim him as their ancestor. In fact, there were already Neris present in Cagayan before the entry of the Rajamoda. My suspicion is that the reason why he chose "Neri" may have been the fact that the baptismal godfather was a Neri, in the same way Chinese converts to Catholicism do so.

This account can be found in the Jesuit Letters annotated by another Rizal friend, Fr. Pablo Pastells, since then translated by the present day historian Fr. Jose Arcilla SJ.”

Fr. Arcilla was with us at Ateneo de Cagayan during high school as a scholastic and again years later as a priest. He is now stationed at ADM University, engaged in his field of expertise which is history.

As can easily be gleaned, this account sheds some light on the beginnings of the name of Neri here in Misamis. Given that the sources are confirmed historical figures, one is inclined to believe that the data furnished are incontrovertible.

But what does it say about the claimed origins of many Neri families here? Let us see what we can deduce by examining both accounts.

First, we can say outrightly that if we take the quoted account as factual, Neris did not originate from only one source because Neri families already were in existence prior to the conversion related above which was already in the last quarter of the 1800s, meaning from 1875 to 1900. I can show historical Neri figures who were born in the first quarter of the 1800s. Juan Neri, from whose beginnings we have the families today of Wendy Ramos, Mrs. Edilth F. Pelaez, etc. was born in 1807 and died 1857. Two Neri brothers, Salvador and Lino were governadorcillos of Misamis, in 1832 and 1833 respectively, inferring therefore that these two were born in the very early 1800s while assuming further they got their government posts when they were in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Our family came from the line of Salvador Neri.

Now, on to the names Raja Sampurna and Rajamoda Sampurna. I tried to uncover though only cursorily all I could possibly learn about the names. The word raja or rajah though a title which has origins in Sanskrit is a generic name which generally means king or prince. And the word Sampurna we know to be a name of a clan, which today is still extant in the areas around Lake Lanao. Thus, Rajah Sampurna, could be the title of any or all kings or princes of the Sampurna clan at any time during its long history. But would Rajamoda Sampurna be more specific as to denote a particular person at a particular time in history? In Sanskrit, the word moda would mean joy, happiness, or rejoicing.

Now, back to the Christian Neris. Given the above we cannot now claim that all the Neris started with the christening of “a” Sampurna rajah and his family in 1779, officiated by a parish priest of Cagayan de Misamis, named Pedro de Santa Barbara. Though there appears sufficient evidence to show that indeed that named priest served the parish beginning 1775, and that such a specific christening took place (though I myself will have to be shown hard evidence to this effect.), The quoted conversion above refutes this claim successfully.

The second conversion as related by Dr. Montalvan above could nevertheless have another plausible explanation aside from the one he has advanced. In the second instance, one can surmise that Rajamoda Sampurna followed the example of a previous Muslim ancestor and assumed the same name. After all, both presumably came from the same clan. And on its own this could stand a looser plausibility test.

So, which extant Neri families came from the first or the second conversion? I suppose those who cannot show ancestors dating back to the early 1800s could form part of the second conversion. And my graph does show a couple of lines that do not yet date that far back. And these are those of Merced Neri who married a Gabor, and Genaro Neri who married Silvestra Emata.

Back to the first conversion. As I had previously intimated I have plotted out ancestors of Neri families that go all the way to 21 years before the 1779 christening. But I yet have to hear any heirs of these families provide any oral or documentary evidence that point to their ancestors’ part in the christening – whether those ancestors were participants in the christening or their parents were .

These questions and doubts will have to remain standing, until such time that they can be refuted or verified and confirmed.

UPDATE: from Dr. Montalvan:

I now have the data. The year was July 1879. This is the background: The Spanish Jesuit historian Pablo Pastells, who was once assigned to Jasaan, related that on July 1879, Spanish governor Leopoldo Roldan of Misamis was travelling along the Panguil Bay with the Spanish Jesuit and Rizal friend Juan Bautista Heras who visited the missions in northern Mindanao. Passing along the Agus River in the vicinity of Iligan, they saw the Spanish flag being waved on shore. Disembarking, the two met the Datu Sampurna and his companions who presented themselves that they were at war with their people. Days later, the Datu was in Cagayan to formalize his admission to the Spanish crown.

That is my own summary from the Cartas de Mindanao of Pastells. By the way, I have forgotten that the translation I used is that of Peter Schreurs ("Mission to Mindanao," Claretian Publications 1998). The Arcilla translation is another work.

Now let me quote verbatim from the Schreurs translation:

"During the public ceremony, they were assembled under a beautiful kiosk, where a picture of His Majesty Alfonso XII was placed under a richly-adorned canopy. Before the authorities and a bog crowd of people, they cut a fathom length of rattan in one stroke, threw an egg on the ground, and extinguished a burning candle in one blow, by which manifestations they wished to indicate how they deserved to be treated if they were to break their promises. Then the act was signed by both parties, and some cannons were discharged, after which Moros and Christians marched through the streets of Cagayan.

By the way "rajamoda" or the variant "radiamoda" means "heir presumptive." Somewhat akin to a crown prince."

Sunday, June 19, 2011


As everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis (and there are a few of you out there, though this time around it is not about recipes or religiosity), knows I have always been a Sarah Palin supporter, even before she was proclaimed by John McCain as his running mate. And this declaration is not coming from anyone of social or political consequence as many political pundits or social commentators are, holding respectable sways in their respective spheres. After all, yours truly is nothing more or less than a naturalized citizen who has since regularly voted at US elections.

And admittedly this steadfast support did not spring from any dreamy-eyed adulation of what Sarah Palin represents. Therefore, it was not because of her effectiveness or articulateness as a public speaker, not because she stuns and awes with profound or new-fangled ideas, not even because she has very likable or admirable physical and familial characteristics.

It’s just that her political and Christian philosophies jibe with mine and she exhibits that unabashed and unapologetic honesty and earnestness in expounding her philosophies, regardless of how they may be taken by those who read or hear of them. She does not even care much about how all of media would take her pronouncements. In other words, she does not play politics. She lives it. She says what is in her heart, and allows the ball to fall where it may.

Unfortunately, I do not see this kind of honesty, or excuse me, hell-be-damned attitude, in any of the prominent national politicians out there that I know of. They appear to be too concerned or cautious about images and public reaction, even at times when they say they do not care about images and public reaction. Though I must admit that a Michele Bachmann approximates closely a Sarah Palin, there is only one Sarah Palin.

And these same politicians always want to appear erudite, cool, and profound, even when expounding pedestrian bread-and-butter issues that your ordinary man on the streets has to constantly tackle with. In other words, spontaneity or being extemporaneous is not their cup of tea. Neither is connectedness with the ordinary folks.

When it comes to black and white issues, where clearly there is a marked delineation between good and evil, Sarah is not tentative, hesitant, equivocal, and fearful. She is forthright. She has courage where it counts most. She acts not for show, but for exposition of her beliefs.

Amidst all the artificialities, addiction to polls and image, and shameless self-promotion that pervade our social and political landscape, it is ripe that Sarah jogs into the scene to bring this country back to the tracks the founding fathers envisioned. There are enough people out there who share Sarah’s vision, who are in dire need of guidance and direction from a fearless and committed leader who is not constrained by personal agenda. Other than the ardent apostolate of her deeply-held Christian beliefs and unattached and unencumbered desire for public service.

Sarah Palin for President 2012.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Detach from the need to possess…

Handwritten in print letters and inserted under the plastic cover of one of the daily devotional books I try to rigorously go through each day is a summary of an article long-forgotten as for me to be completely clueless about its source or origins. But here it is anyway, copied word for word:

1. Detach from wounds and anger. Forgive all.
2. Detach from – Need to possess. Achieve, Or be the center of attraction
3. Say Goodbye to earth/loved ones.
4. Let go of sophistication. Be simple.
5. Immerse in language of silence.

Why this? Please allow me to backtrack.

Yesterday, I posted on my FB wall a couple of pictures of the new house we are constructing. My kids have seen them, so with some of my FB friends and relatives. Several comments were to my mind very insightful. Wendy mentioned project, while Joyce and Letti mentioned undertaking, all in the context of the new house. These were both revealing and insightful and let me tell you why.

The idea of building a new house was not new; it germinated over 2 years ago. It was triggered initially by the condition of the old one-storey house we are staying in RER, built in 1975 and now hemmed in on 3 sides by similar structures. The heat and humidity inside the house has made living almost intolerable without the constant use of electric fans and air-conditioning, aggravated by our losing battle with pesky termites, waged over many, many years.

That aside, the important concern lies in this. When we mentioned to friends and relations our desire to construct a new house, more than one responded this way: Why a new house at this stage in your life?

Believe me I was not offended. Friends and relations do not wake up in the morning promising to insult or offend friends and relations at the first opportunity. Rather it opened a critical facet that should have been factored in our decision-making but was not explored, touched, or even realized.

Yes, why indeed should we have to go through the whole tedious process – of buying a lot, paying rounds of confusing taxes and fees, engaging professionals to plan on a house that had to be both functional and secure, and of course, affordable, plus a myriad of other stuff that boggles the mind and pocketbook?

We all undoubtedly reach a certain stage in our lives where we begin to feel comfortable with what we have acquired and use. The alluring familiarity of it all is such a strong aphrodisiac making change quite a formidable task. And for me, doubly so. I develop very strong attachments to petty inconsequential things most people would dispose of without much thought. I guard or stow solicitously my hoards of old furniture, old books/pocketbooks/magazines, written documents, pictures, clothes, etc.

But this never came up in all our planning for the new house. How we were going to deal with all this. It did not even cross my mind albeit daily I had to leaf through my daily readings and would have to be blind to miss the 5 points enumerated above. Specifically and ominously in a big booming voice the second of such strictures - detach from the need to possess.

But the die was cast and inevitability had taken over. So indeed, this has become a project which has taken on the nature of an undertaking.

All considered, it is all for the good. As Wendy said – for wife and family. And imagine since it is constructed of concrete and metal, in a hundred years hence, they hopefully should be referring to it as the ancestral home of some Neri family.

That feels good.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Facial History

Contrary to conventional wisdom the human face by many self-evident accounts appears to be the real window to a person’s history and identity and thus defines his significance. A symbol of his inner person that no other part of him can equal. It is the fine recording slate that tallies his failures and successes, the accompanying pains or joys; that bring either frowns or smiles that over time delicate facial muscles learn not only to remember reflexively but to leave more than superficial traces.

Its lines, grooves, ridges, and furrows are the tell-tale signs translated from the panoply of emotions unconsciously exhibited to etch and engrave remains of the life-bearing challenges that man is heir to.

While not many faces may launch a thousand ships as did Helen of Troy, our countless celluloid celebrities swear and live by them. For many they are their sure-fire capital to fame and glory. We remember many of them for their faces, their extraordinarily chiseled features that separate them from the rest of the cookie-cutter world.

But for most of us, our precious irreplaceable countenance reveals the hallowed pages we write on as we age. The concomitant pains and sorrows translated into lines, grooves and ridges – that we now picturesquely describe as crow's feet, age wrinkles, etc.

Here’s a little project for our vainglorious world. Building our own facial history to measure, compare, or simply to view with nonchalance the effects of our lives on our faces as we age. Of course, apart from the inevitable onslaught of aging on flesh and bones. And attitudes.

For one thing, close and long-time friends and relatives ought to be tickled pink vividly recalling the happy times and treasured camaraderie of earlier years associated with the metamorphosing face of the subject. It cannot help but bring floods of smiling memories.

This lazy and petty experiment aims to plot out some kind of pictorial “annual rings” layout, marking down the memorable events of periods as reflected in one’s countenance – say, like the years when we were lean and mean or having too much hair growth was the problem.

Since one’s face typically mirrors the prevailing emotions of the times, do we see a portrait or a series of them as portraying appearance of subdued sadness, or repressed apprehension, or inner peace and happiness? Or have we been more enigmatic in exhibiting our emotions? Why?

With the digital age, this project has become an easy treat, using only, say the MS proprietary app, Paint, which one can find in any Windows version, to collate the pictures arranged chronologically.

I offer mine as a clinical sample. I enjoin my few but loyal readers to try to create their own.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Of Living and Dying: Revisited

Originally posted in 2005.

We are not only a very unique species, but also very interesting, tightly bound together with a strong strand of ironies and paradoxes.

Let me delve on one such interesting paradox.

It almost always makes for good, emotional, and moving theatre when the life or death of one soldier, or it could be a band of soldiers, is plucked out from anonymity and served to us in a platter of glaring and inspiring detail. I call this our “Saving Private Ryan” moment, since which one of us cannot identify and empathize with the unique circumstances of the man Matt Damon played.

When anonymity is replaced with personal details, we are almost always moved emotionally and intellectually and may thus exhibit a myriad of moods and emotions, ranging from respect, love, honor, fear, inspiration, and even to hate. Hate for the powers that be responsible for bringing about the set of circumstances to rain on our perceived hero or heroes.

But in another vein, we appear to be anesthetized emotionally when dealing with large anonymous numbers. We cannot seem to fathom our emotional depths when we are confronted with unthinkably large numbers. Private Ryan was one life and we invested our entire emotional cache on his life, conveniently shunting aside the countless thousands who died on the beaches of Normandy alone, who did not have to die but obviously died for a cause they believed in. But a single life such as a Private Ryan pushes to the fore the idealism of our profound emotional qualities.

We also find ourselves unable to invest emotionally on the countless other young soldiers and civilians who died in wars and conflicts past. About 55,000 GIs died in Vietnam and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. At least 15 million soldiers and civilians died during WW2. Etc, .

Saddam sitting on his cell is responsible for at least a million deaths, from the time he ascended to power, through the Iran-Iraq War, through the first gulf war, through the present war, and down to his jail cell time. Yet we are quite emotionally detached from him and his dastardly deeds, (and others like him) as though he never quite existed or mattered. Yet surprisingly, many vigorously hate the man responsible for taking him out of power. It is arguable if we have invested enough grief for all the hapless thousands who died in the WTC attacks. We can hardly remember how many idealistic young men died during the regime of Marcos, though we clearly continue to reminisce to this day of the billions he stole and the single life of a Ninoy Aquino. What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Several hundred of thousand lives wiped out in seconds. But then we cannot identify with a single Japanese life from those holocausts.

The same would be true with what is presently happening in Sudan where genocide is in progress. We may have to wait until one life is highlighted in detail before we can release and give rein to our profound emotions.

Why is this so? All those who died in conflict possessed the same life, with the same values and potentials, as any other life of any other color, race, and ethnicity.

If one perceives life as having value unto itself then it is most important that everybody lives and not die. But we have been taught that earthly life is not that significant. Christ taught by example about sacrificing a life so a greater good can be attained. Earthly life then has value when it has purpose, not because it is life and has to be lived to its natural end.

One of my sons reminisced about another fellow officer who died. He had known him quite well, sometimes doing duty for him. He was of his age, married also with two young kids. He was off-duty and was riding his bike home on a stretch of freeway when a hit-and-run rig ended his life abruptly. I caught a bit of the news about this officer’s funeral. And the comment of one fellow officer caught my attention. The guy said that the deceased lived and died doing what he liked to do, riding his bike.

He did not say that he died too young, or that some crazy guy snatched this man’s life away from his family, his work, and his friends. But that this young man lived doing what he liked to do.

UPDATE (3/27/2011)

Admittedly, it feels good to get confirmation for some self-arrived conclusions, from such as this one.

In the 1960s, the economist Thomas Schelling performed research demonstrating that people are more likely to be moved by single victims than by statistics.

UPDATE May 8, 2011

Another most recent validation confirming our unexplained bias toward the defense of “single victims than by statistics”. This time with the welcomed demise of the Number 1 terrorist in the world – Osama bin Laden. Again, we have heard many consoling voices, typically from the far left spectrum, decrying the death of bin Laden and condemning this unilateral act of the US of A as unmitigated assassination. Completely forgetting the heinous acts of this individual which have resulted in the deaths of countless people, mostly innocent victims. Even the Arab Street cannot extricate itself from the rut it finds itself in blindly coming to the defense of the dead terrorist. – at any time and at all costs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aiming for Total Human Growth

Human growth entails not only physical maturity, or emotional/mental ripening, but also and more importantly, maturation in consciousness or spirituality or awareness. The last one appears as the hardest to attain and most likely to be overlooked in the development process. When was the last time one was taught to be more conscious/spiritual? This process entails a drastic and even painful break from traditional and learned thinking, which usually tend to be inflexible, too structured and patterned, and most of the time static to a point that it is not open to creativity and tolerance. Putting one’s stakes to tradition means feeling safe, secure, and sure. It usually is the easier path to take rather than the tortuous and oftentimes confusing path of creativity. The former makes it easy on the conscience and mind, and easy to rationalize to an inquiring mind. It also makes it easy to dismiss a petulant mind. Admittedly, one cannot give a workable definition of what this level of spirituality/consciousness is. It does not lend itself easily to words. Or more honestly, because one’s abilities to express are typically not sufficiently honed to enable one to reduce thoughts to words.

It necessarily involves or brings into play one’s spiritual faith. Its seed is initially implanted and nurtured during one’s youth, going through similar but more profound growing phases as one’s physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects. Through our voluntary and conscious efforts, we must probe into, first of all, its existence, and secondly, arrive at a determination that we can rise above that initial level by our own efforts. Of necessity, this requires arduous preparation like serious reading and introspection. Any empowerment attained will be achieved through our deliberate and purposeful efforts and not something taken for granted such as our physical growth.

During childhood, most of what we do and think is purely for selfish motives. We are instructed to do things primarily because of the good that we directly derive from them. In fine, all for our own self-preservation. Very little altruism is involved in our childhood activities. To mature, we should graduate from this pupal stage into a much nobler stage.

It should start with man’s gaining control of himself and his surroundings. His sense appetites which are geared toward whetting his baser nature must be kept in check. Spirituality commences or is enhanced with his ability at self-denial. The initial conquest must be one's own body.

Heightened awareness of surrounding physical and intangible realities can lead to more effective control and/or handling of them, in keeping with their avowed purposes and reasons for being. Maybe this is what is inferred to by the biblical passage about man exercising dominion over all things created.

Some random thoughts about why this spiritual growth is of paramount importance to man’s being true to his noble nature and his destiny.

A. Learning to think beyond one’s self and welfare, taking into account the impact of every act on others; and finally, acting always based on that judgment.

B. Giving a spiritual/metaphysical bent or flavor to most, if not all, of the things that we do and think. To be in the world, but not of this world.

C. Developing a healthy disregard/disdain for earthly life, to a point where one is not saddled by the burden of the prospect of death, nor fearful of death itself, and positively, to a point where one is able to entertain the prospect of surrendering one’s life for a worthy cause if and when the need arises.

D. Nurturing a positive frustration/impatience at the myriad of hedonistic trivialities presently inundating all facts of human living, especially in the more developed societies. A deep longing and aspiration for the more basic and real Christ-like values of daily living.

E. The possible attainment of some form of human perfection in one’s own life. Christ exudes/possesses great powers (as gauged by our present human standards) because he is human perfect, too. He has absolute and complete control of his human self. To illustrate, when he got angry, it was not because he allowed the situation to control his emotional response, although it was definitely beyond the shadow of a doubt warranted. Instead, he willed to exhibit the emotion of just anger. If we can only approximate that level of human perfection, it would be safe to assume that we would then also possess powers beyond our wildest dreams. This would be in consonance with the circumstance of our creation, that we are made to the image and likeness of God. Because we are God’s image, we are endowed with a very complex nature. We must therefore allow the notion that there is still so much to be learned about it while at the same time, it continues to evolve and grow to higher levels. How much then of the inexplicable occurrences around us can be attributed as paranormal rather than as supernatural? The theory of an ever expanding universe hints at how finite boundaries are continually being shattered as our minds probe and explore beyond the known realities. In a true sense, there is no limit to reality in the same way that there is no limit to what we individually and collectively can think of. Creation is a continuous process, and those already created are in constant evolution from day to day. Every human act and thought adds to that pool of creation. God made us such that this creative power comes to us naturally. Philosophers postulate that reality is what we “think” it is. And in the final analysis, all creation owes it continued existence to the Godhead, who must at all times be fully aware of its existence.

The foundation of our faith is anchored on our belief that God revealed Himself to man in the Bible. I submit that man on his own can come to a realization of the existence of God, but being limited and finite he cannot fully comprehend the extent of God. All this is consistent with our understanding that God made man to his image and gave him free will. Nor has many fully grasped the full scope and extent of his own human nature, its capabilities and potentials for growth.

One problem is immediately encountered in accepting THAT basis of our faith. Why did God reveal Himself only to us Christians? What makes us very special? Could he not reveal Himself to all men throughout human history in a special way so that the opportunity to understand and worship Him would be available to everybody in a fair and just way? If we accept this premise, then differences in our perception and understanding of Him would be attributable to the level of awareness/spirituality each one of us will have attained, which as stated previously, is largely voluntary and optional.


Rummaging through yellow-eared papers kept in rarely-visited cabinets is much like reliving one’s past. One discovers old stray ideas reduced to writing and slipped through anonymous folders, and invariably forgotten amidst the many cares of youthful life. Here’s a few self-decided to be fit to publish.

Thinking About Man’s Free Will

The “created” or “creature” both singly and collectively can never equal to the “Creator”, although in some respects the former can be likened to the latter. The created exhibits certain characteristics and powers that are reflective of the Creator. One of them is free will. The question then is: Was this free will given to him at the onset of his creation? If not, at what point of his growth/evolution was it installed so that from that point on, he was on his way to almost unlimited growth and development if he chooses to?

One plausible theory one can postulate given what we now know about how homo sapiens evolved through the ages may be that at the point when man consciously distanced himself from group consciousness and embarked on his own, he became a being singularly responsible for his action. He took a choice and decided not to be an involuntary part of a whole that he had originally been involuntarily assigned to. This probably gave birth to the concepts of law and order, crime and punishment, heaven and hell, ethics and morality, etc. This rending away from group consciousness could be the start of the Genesis accounts. A poor parallel may be how planetary order is maintained, where universal physical laws are in effect. Chaos would ensue when for example certain planets do not follow this order. Unless other laws somehow kick in to attempt to bring back order and harmony.

The integrity of man’s free will is left intact in prayer if we have the proper attitude toward it. One common reason for praying is to ask God for certain things to happen, like work opportunities, job offers, good health, victory in contest, etc. When we pray we access God’s presence but He does not make things happen for us, notwithstanding the worthiness or silliness of our supplications. He simply makes known that various opportunities/options, choices are available. We still have to make free choices; thus, preserving the integrity of our free will. Conversely, we are still fully responsible for our actions, and not Him.

If our plea involves an action on the part of a third party, say, a job offer, He is not in turn infringing on the free will of another. What He does is simply to present/implant/make available certain ideas/options/thoughts to the other person. If it comes out that the reply to your plea for a job offer is favorable, it is because the other party freely chose to make the offer. If the answer is negative, then it is also because he said no and not because God said no.

Role of Self-denial in Man’s Life

The emotions of love/lust/longing are rooted in man’s psyche/mind/soul/inner being, apart of and distinct from his temporal body. However, to express/gratify these, man has to work through his body. He is man because he is body and soul, not a body and a soul. Expression/gratification may be in the form of thoughts about the subject/object, face-to-face vision, interactive communication, touch, intercourse, etc. And if these are not possible/feasible, maybe flights of fantasy are resorted to. These emotions are definite attributes of the nobler nature of man, his soul. Therefore, their expression/gratification do not necessarily signify an inability to control one’s sense appetites, or that man is giving free reins to the needs of his body for truly these are needs of the soul too. Thus, we ought to ask whether we should always deny ourselves these lusty thoughts/longing simply because we grew up feeling guilty about them.

Heaven on Earth?

The Church teaches that being in the state of sanctifying grace is sharing in the life of God and that the ultimate reward is the beatific vision (heaven) which is the face-to-face audience with God. Another tenet states that in the valid reception of Holy Communion, the body and blood of Christ become part and parcel of us, making us God-like, here and now and on earth – a foretaste of heaven.

What exactly does this mean? Is it only symbolic? Or is it attainable in its true sense? How is it manifested in daily life?

To be truly true, there must be a higher level of existence/spirituality attainable here and now, which can be experienced by man under his present state here on earth. The obvious question is how to attain this level and what means to use. Once attained, many should be able to exude powers ordinarily considered supranatural. Some possible examples would be extra-sensory powers, mind-over-matter experiences, etc. – much like what Christ had while on earth. Or on a practicable level, man could become more event- and/or people-sensitive so that he becomes more able to understand and interact in a more effective and enlightened way – be more able to accept human events/realities in a better perspective. Spirituality/wisdom enables us to see through the hedonistic trappings and evaluate realities according to their ultimate purposes and values. These should be attainable by anybody, be he a believer of Catholic dogma or not.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mourning the Passing of Time

Time they say is nothing more than the constant motion of things, whether in deep space, within us in the deep recesses of our body cells, and even in the seeming permanency of things considered durable and steadfast. Everything is in perpetual flux and this we find immutable. We are born, grow up and grow old.

Much as we do not want to at times, things change. Whether in attitudes and beliefs we desire to be steadfast and true. Whether in moods and likes that catch our fancy. We cannot hold on to them and freeze them in time. It is like grasping air. We do at times take pictures hoping to freeze them in time. But we can only recall, not relive.

Many of us stop, though only in a manner of speaking, trying to make sense of it. Others ignore it completely. Still, others do not want to confront it. But it plods along its merry way, unmindful of our acceptance or resistance.

But there is nothing to make sense of. It is simply a matter of living through a fleeting life that knows no better. Like being caught in a swirling whirlpool we typically find ourselves unable to counter the flow.

Thus, we mourn the passing of time, the passing of life. We mourn the regrets we should have entertained, and the happy events we had wanted not to end. Or the good things that could have been.

But is it that simple? That fateful?

Those we try to make sense of it, try to reach for an answer. Those that ignore are not interested. And those that are malleable do not care.

Don’t we at times find ourselves going against the grain? Swimming upstream or going against the tide? Or standing alone? Or wrenching away from the madding crowd?

So maybe there is a way out. A wormhole in time and space that allows us to shake off the fetters of formidable time. A way to freedom.

You tell me. Or go tell yourself, so maybe we can mourn no more.

Maybe it is that simple. Accept its inevitability and prepare for the end.

The end of life and that’s it. Nothing to come after. So we can move along because there is nothing to see here or there. Or expect.

What a useless and wasteful existence, and include there the entire creation. All the intricacies and beauty of nature and man, and all for naught. A creation that continues to this day, in nature and in man. In the vast recesses of his mind and the stupendous resourcefulness and versatility of his hands.

All for naught? In the aught and for all eternity?

There has to be a meaning of life and time. A purposeful meaning that merits all the hassles of its living.

If we can find the answer, then maybe we can mourn no more.

Is it any wonder that mourn rhymes with morn? I for one do not wonder. Mourn brings on morn where things look better exposed to sunlight.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Some Observations on FICCO’s 56th General Assembly March 2011

This year’s overriding theme for another promised historic general assembly was “Blazing the Trail for One Coop, One Vision, and One Nation”. And indeed FICCO has been all that and more. But certain incidents leading up to the assembly date also promised to mark the event as another boisterous event. Chief among them were the now open enmity between certain members of the board resulting in reported shouting matches, laced with serious charges and countercharges; and the falling out of the credit union from the supported partylist, Ating Koop, culminating in the board’s resolution to break away completely from it in spite of the millions of pesos of credit union funds sunk into the effort. And this latter issue has splintered the board into two warring factions, making things look like we are witnessing fierce proponents in some private for-profit enterprise rather than in a credit union famed for its noble purposes of service and volunteerism. Thus, the date came with great anticipation for many members, especially those belonging to the main office.

This is a personal assessment of the whole affair, if only to tie together all the disparate parts. Only this time this will be less about the performance of the credit union which continues to score historic points, but more about the troublesome pressure points rocking the management level of the organization which have patently distracted the elected officers from their primary tasks of steering our huge ship in a singularly focused manner.

This is no technical analysis, or any serious treatise, but rather a randomly compiled narrative depicting how an observant layman member perceived the whole process and had then decided to reduce the experience into print.

To begin thus, this member observed the registration process with a general nod of approval. Attendance was very inspiring. Even with my early arrival of 15 minutes before 10am which was the scheduled start of registration, a sizable number of members of the main office were already in a bit of frenzy jockeying for positions in the many lines assigned. The actual assembly was scheduled for 12 noon but this member had decided to register early expecting an easy sailing and then just come back for the assembly itself. There were 3 lines for senior members bursting with grey-haired members eager to register and receive their package. The only damper was the realization that even for those clearly advanced in age crowding in lines was still in vogue. People still pushed with their bodies and blurred lines like there was a life-threatening emergency that they wanted to get out of in a hurry. Missing was the deference and orderliness that one expected from those more experienced in life.

Anyway, when my turn came it went fast and easy. With package in hand, I was out of there in a jiffy, drove out quickly to do some shopping, and then went through the material given at home. Now, the thick booklet that comprised as the main document of the package, loaded with all the financial statements and tons of critical information which compressed an entire year operation, ought to be given earlier so serious members get ample opportunities to pore over them, rather than cram during the harried time they can scarcely allocate after registration and before actual deliberations. Only a well-informed body can be expected to participate seriously in deliberations of this serious nature. And of course, a well-informed body makes for a more efficient and expeditious discharge of the many businesses attendant to an annual assembly.

Anyway, I was back inside the assembly site at past 12 noon half-expecting an assembly already underway. Thus quickened my pace to the cavernous auditorium to find an amply filled place, though the bleachers looked mostly vacant. But an assembly nowhere near being started. After a quick query from a staff member, I was told it could start any time. It eventually started before 2pm. Being on time has always been a problem with Filipinos and this event was no exception.

While the electric atmosphere commenced early during the readings of the various minutes of the previous assembly, the heat really elevated when the various resolutions were brought to the floor. Thus when the fireworks started was when one had fertile ground to mine for commentary.

And that was when the noise pollution was ramped up, where speakers using highly-sensitive microphones already turned up to full volume, bellowed with their speeches in very high decibels filling the entire place with what could be judged as like noise pollution. With impassioned speakers sounding like self-justified aggrieved parties, throwing both charges and ad hominems against their perceived tormentors. One was made to believe that there was a private confrontation between two factions, unmindful not only of their high calling as elected officers of a credit union but also of the fact that the general membership had little to do with the private wars being waged. Matters that would be better served if discussed and resolved privately, or within the confines of a smaller group like say in a board meeting.

And the irony in this was that recurrent mention was made of both democracy and representation. Justification was made for all this washing of dirty laundry in public as sterling signs of a democratic process and of representative democracy. But in my humble judgment it was neither democratic nor representative.

While granting that the democratic process can be messy and chaotic, the greater issue to remember is that while people can and will always disagree on issues, they need not be disagreeable in the process. We should always defer to ethical standards and show circumspection as a sign of respect to the subject of our tirades and especially to those ears that cannot help but to grudgingly listen to them being captive audience.

And it cannot be truly representative if discussions are hogged by a very select and small number of members and officers. But that was what happened, when turns at the microphones and the floor were exchanged only between the same people over and over again. It should be the task of the moderator to spread around the discussions to as many members as possible. That’s one way of assuring that brainstormed ideas are truly representative of the entire assemblage and not just of a small vocal group who cannot help themselves from speaking out at every occasion that turns up.

But in spite of all the bluster, this corner feels that certain issues which should have deserved more exposure were skirted and glossed over because maybe they did not advance the self interests of those concerned. I refer specifically to the attempted politicization of the organization as epitomized by the officers’ devoted attention to and avid encouragement of the partylist participation which ended in a most disappointing and expensive lesson for the credit union. Though a “timeline” was detailed in a newsletter that resulted in disbursements that totaled over 11 million pesos, this corner did not hear any more clarification from any of those board members who took great pains and efforts to push this agenda to the general membership, a general membership that looks to them for guidance, knowledge, and especially wisdom in the conduct of union affairs. Albeit the millions in losses, the preferred treatment had been that of silence from those directly involved. Where is the owning up and taking responsibility part for those who presented themselves as honorable and transparent guardians of union funds and affairs? I left during the waning moments of the assembly, which was past 5:30pm. Was this issue inserted during those moments? Like the typical late Friday afternoon press releases resorted to by scheming political administrations bent on going under the radar regarding some issues?

First of all, where is the wisdom in having the credit union engage actively in partisan politics, in a reality where politics is inherently judged to be corrupt and divisive? In a series of moves toward this end, one sensed that the union was not only designing itself in order to curry political favors, but to position itself to create a political base purportedly to serve its noble goals and interests. At the start, it was an endeavor that was deigned to fail, and fail it did.

Another misstep not given proper due was the recording of a paper loss of over four million pesos, all because some officers needed to declare income on the investment. And the solution rendered was to redeem the instrument while at the same time re-investing the same amount in the same instrument. Because it was not done on a timely manner, a paper loss ensued. But what was not even mentioned was whether the redemption process involved the payment of fees and commissions which is typical. Never mind the paper loss because it could be recovered by registering a paper gain when the performance of the investment improves.

What is sorely construed in all this is the apparent nonchalance by the parties concerned in owning up and taking responsibility for errant acts done in the discharge of positions of trust and of a fiduciary nature. Is it just invincible cluelessness or deliberate attempts at sweeping things under the rug?

An assembly that was scheduled to end at 5pm may have gone way past the time, and I could not tell since I could not muster enough free time to stay past 5:30pm. And I personally attribute this to a lack of good time management, a task primarily lodged on the moderator of the event. The moderator has to be proactive in making sure time is not wasted on endless discussions with no or scant bearing on the issues at hand, or on rambling speeches by those so inclined. Attention to political correctness or too much sensitivity on people’s feelings has to be curbed for far greater purposes. Like that precious manhours should never be wasted on loopy pursuits.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Was the FICCO Board Had?

Picked up yesterday the latest FICCO Newsletter dated February 2011 and was immediately riveted to an item in the back page that detailed our credit union’s ill-fated relationship with the Ating Koop movement. It was written by former BOD member Gani Daba.

Any layman reading it unaware of any of the inside scoops other than what had been publicly divulged could easily come to the reflexive conclusion that our credit union has become one big and deep-pocketed political action group that was HAD to the tune of over 11 million pesos. Or in a more benign manner, was treated like a wide-eyed suitor who was sent on a fool’s errand.

Reading and re-reading the explosive itemization one is easily led to believe that this whole affair was one deliberately conscious series of actions by all parties involved which spanned two years and which resulted in a series of very substantial disbursements of credit union funds. One has to confess that one is not privy to or conversant with the nature of all the disbursements, whether they were all in fact outright expense disbursements or whether some funds are recoverable.

But what is true is that any cautious person can not help but be amazed at the amounts involved purportedly to “buy” support for our credit union’s goals and interests from a decidedly political and very politicized group.

But as outlined in the news item all these happened.

Thus, at the very least, all members of the board who participated in the process need to have a lot of explaining to do – to reveal what their roles were in the planning and decision-making, and to own up and take responsibility for these huge losses.

And laying in detail what these “continuing threats of lawsuits” are.

The total amount involved is nothing to gloss over, even granting that FICCO has become a multi-billion enterprise. Because it is still made up individually of more than 140,000 members holding on to precious little resources and trying to make ends meet.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Wonders of Life

Even in the ripeness of time, I find I still am not quite immuned to or saved from the many “wonders” so common and prevalent during innocent youth.

Everyday as I continue to expend the time allotted me on this slowly ebbing mortal coil I continue to wonder about many things I witness in the scenic vistas unraveling before my most acutely inquisitive mind. I cannot be content as passive witness to the march of events as they unfold. I have to know more. It is almost like an addiction to a kind of curiosity that could be bordering on morbidity. It does not compute like it is natural for a person to be so in rapt with such mundane preoccupations. But much though I want to get rid of it or not accept its reality, it is cravenly still there. As big as life, and twice as demanding for attention.

Thus, alone with my thoughts during unencumbered moments watching the busy intersection defining the little neighborhood where our little building is, I absentmindedly observe the gaggle of people and vehicles at almost perpetual near collision in the streets and sidewalks that comprise the cross-road. And my thoughts start racing with the usual wonder-ment.

This lady has a brisk gait tethering a bit in her high heels, with neatly-pressed and mini-skirted rust-color uniform revealing a well-toned body, and long wet hair waffling as she strides. I wonder where she works since I see her quite often walking toward the same direction. I wonder where, since she is heading south and away from where the offices would typically be located – in the poblacion. I wonder if she maybe works in a small office tucked away in some big building located in that area.

Along the intersection where many jeepneys tarry to create an illegal terminal, there is always a boisterous group of shabbily dressed kids, crowding around jeepneys and almost manhandling passersby into riding a particular jeepney. They are called dispatchers, who for a pittance will assist jeepney drivers get people to ride their jeepneys. I wonder where these truant kids come from since they do not look like they come from the neighborhood. I wonder what they make each day and whether it is enough to sustain their daily living.

Observing the parade of people each day, especially women, one wonders if one is inside a big candy shop bursting full with all kinds of goodies. You see all sorts of ladies pass by, and I admit I tend to notice more the nubile variety. All tightly wrapped up in curvaceous packages of assorted clothes wear, and typically all looking fresh having just come out of a shower or bath as evidenced by still wet long flowing hair. I wonder why Filipinas always appear to take baths or showers in the mornings before venturing out of the house. I wonder if they realize that they can be cleaner for a longer period if they instead took baths or showers in the late afternoon or night after returning from work or running chores. I wonder if many do take two showers/baths a day, the second one at night. But then why bathe in the morning before leaving? Does not make sense, you wonder.

And I definitely wonder aloud if these women realize that the common thread (nice pun, eh?) in what they wear is so apparent – they all seem partial to tight almost second-skin type of jeans leaving no living space between body and clothes. I wonder if many have to literally force themselves into those body-hugging attire. The struggle seems to continue all day this time with gravity since the pants sit not on the hips but under where body anatomy starts to taper off. And this coupled with equally tight blouses or t-shirts that almost always never meet up with the uppermost part of the pants. Thus, even for the remotely modest there is the constant tug and pull to keep a moving body covered when sitting down, stooping to pick stuff up, or doing any upper body movement that requires some stretching. And I wonder why the womenfolk have to go to such lengths when there are readily available more functionally logical clothing. And I do not mean those abbreviated shorts which could be considered as appropriate wear only inside the privacy of one’s abode or in a picnic event.

Having described it thus, I curiously wonder how these women now purchase their clothes wear. I can just imagine the Herculean task involved in fitting tightly all these women who come in a dizzying array of different sizes and dimensions. It can’t be simply off the rack material. I wonder what happened to the standard sizing so common during our youth – one was either a small, or a medium, or a large, or if none of those, an extra-large. I was dismissively told that most jeans are now stretchable. Yeah, right. Stretchable but definitely up to a certain point. Unless many of them are pushing tightness in clothing to unequaled heights. Or maybe, all these women make their own personalized alterations to store-bought jeans having learned how to hand- or machine-sew from their doting mothers. Yeah, right. And Cagayan de Oro has very good traffic. Anyway, what happened to the familiar sight of ladies in skirt and blouse? Now one has to be inside an office to see it. Or in school. Maybe at home women still wear “duster” to ease up on the day’s tug and pull, err, hustle and bustle? Don’t see any.

And wonder of wonders, I wonder if we can still say that men wear the pants in the family.

But there is no wondering that humor is still the best medicine.

Ah, the wonders of life!