Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Of Social Mores and Beauty Pageants and More

Current social mores are at the very least confusing, but at worst, hypocritical.  And without the guidance of traditional moral virtues will continue to be so.

Societies have over the ages gone and progressed a lot, but a little examination will reveal that in spite of all this, we still continue to pursue activities that in truth expose us to greater dangers from the baseness or coarseness of our primordial instincts as human beings.  We like to celebrate how far we have untied ourselves from the prudishness of yesteryears while at the same time have curbed the prurient tendencies that sat at the other extreme.  But we appear to have leaned too much one way, at the grave expense of the other.

 These stubborn concerns came to the fore when the results of a beauty pageant were thrust into the world stage because of an error committed by the emcee.  The end result was that instead of the candidate initially proclaimed, the real winner was the participant coming from the Philippines.  And the entire world it seems is in a gnarled twist not so much about the pageant itself, but about the unintended ramifications on all the parties concerned – from the candidates to the emcee, the countries represented.  It would appear further that countries of the participants are being suckered in to get involved in this petty controversy like it had the makings of serious national security issues. This news eclipsed many of the more pressing news in the world, relegating them to the sidelines until maybe when all this pageant brouhaha subsides or spends itself to ennui.

 Many no doubt, and they indeed did based on entries/comments on social media and other on-line sources, wonder why the fuss about all this.

 It is the usual run-of-mill beauty contest after all, where women are paraded around publicly before adoring eyes of judges, mostly male, in different sessions of dress and undress.  From traditional attire to the skimpiest of attire, passing as bathing suits.  The latter of course getting the most attention and media coverage.  Thus, when in the news it is expected to see a gallery of these women baring all that exercise, diet, sun, cosmetics, or what have you, have enhanced in the natural beauty nature has gifted to their bodies from birth.  These contests do have segments where their mental acuities are tested, like a question or two about some worldly concerns such as peace, wars, etc.  And of course, a talent segment where these ladies get a chance to show their favorite hobbies whether singing, declaiming, or playing an instrument.  But truth be told, the contest is about how well physically developed their bodies are and more to the point, how desirable they appear to those countless males looking for partners to  mate.  One can then say sensuality becomes a critical measure in picking the likely winners.

 I doubt anybody will dispute that any normal, healthy, hetero-male exposed to such paragons of desirability and sensuality, and being allowed or allowing himself to savor those moments, does not instinctively feel his desires for procreation stirred up and started.  And I say, instinctively, with not much prodding.

 And the popularity and pervasiveness of beauty pageants, from the local, to the national, to the international, have created different niches in different industries inexorably developing to a point where it won’t be long, this will become an industry all its own.  From cosmetics and outlets such as stores and parlors, to physical fitness trainers, to coaches of different modalities, etc.  Already certain So. American countries are noted for such push to ensure winners in their contestants.

 And these thorny moral issues are true not just in beauty pageants, but in a gallery of socially acceptable activities that we now have permeating all levels of our societies.

 We go next to the modelling business which traditionally had been intended to highlight the creations of those who manufacture apparel and various accessories.  Now we know that instead of the clothes, the ones wearing them get more attention and benefits.  The men and women, but mostly the latter, have become the centerpieces of this industry.  And like beauty pageants, the lady models have become the luscious bits to be ogled at.  And these same ladies have gladly obliged by parading in the barest of clothing and in most seductive poses. And again a critical factor in popularity is the degree of sensuality exuded.

 To digress, read an online item about how the models of a famous lingerie store behave when they are off the limelight.  That they allow or pose themselves being photographed without those little patches of cloth passing for lingerie.  How shallow, when for all intents and purposes they have already paraded themselves naked in front of throngs of animated people.

 Then we have the glittering world of Hollywood which feeds us our just desserts via movies, TV programs, etc.  It is typical fare now to see episodes of scantily-clad or immodestly-clad actresses in scenes of “simulated” sex as naked as it can get.  Never mind the foul language thrown every which way.  It does deserve it then to be called soft-porn when such scenes are described.  But again hypocrisy shows its slip when we read that one particular actor whose real girlfriend was in the movie with him that they actually had real sex for the movie.  No simulation there it seems to say.

 So far what we have described are currently all acceptable socially, with the caveat of course, that there are “strict” rules governing these.

 Now comes the kicker.  Porn, or hard-core porn as differentiated from Hollywood’s soft porn.

Personally, I do not see much differences.  Many “adult” actresses are just as physically gifted, some very knowledgeable and articulate on different subjects, with some even very adept at marketing (themselves) and creating business.  But they do leave nothing to the imagination, and everything is real.  No simulations there.  And porn is still socially taboo in most places, though very pervasive and well patronized.  Its secretive patrons stealthily partake mostly in darkened solitude, and speak in hushed whispers when dealing with the subject.  It is also a highly regulated activity, both as to form as well as for health requirements.

So where are we going as a society?  With regard to morality, and maybe, with regard to our respect for women as co-equal partners of men, rather than just as objects of wanton desire?

In our polite society most of us know how to behave morally and to regard our fellowmen, but our actions sometimes do not jibe, though we still pretentiously maintain our supposedly high moral stance.  How different to the brutal savagery shown by certain groups in the Middle East, where their actions are fully synched with the warped beliefs they cling to.





Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Local Public Transport System

Our local public transport system in the city beyond its chaotic jumble is one that appears to defy logic and common sense.

First of all, the size of the urban poblacion is so miniscule, one wonders why walking is not the preferred option.

Using Divisoria as a point of reference, it is only a little over one kilometer to get to the Capitol and its environs, which include other government offices, hospitals, and heavily-patronized businesses like banks and restaurants.

From Divisoria to City Hall, is a few short blocks away; same with the churches and large schools.  Even the pier area is not more than 2+ kilometers away.  Cogon is definitely within walking distance.

 What more?  Plenty more within striking distance for what one needs critically or necessarily for daily living.


Our streets are a sorry mess, to say the least, with a messy coterie of vehicles of all sorts.  From sikads, to relas, to jeepneys, bicycles, motorbikes, and yes, assorted carts and caritons that defy justification and description.   And added to the motley mix are the mindless pedestrians on the streets.  Should we wonder why traffic most times is at crawl pace in many chokepoints?

Why so.

For one thing. Our “door-to-door” mentality most likely brought to the fore because of laziness or sloth.

When we take public transport, we demand to be loaded and/or unloaded where we stand and/or where we want to alight, not an inch less, whether legal or illegal, or whether affecting traffic or not.  And even ambulatory vendors have to be within inches of us, thus they are all over the place.  And our dainty selves need to take transport for distances beyond a block or maybe even less.  Neither the cost notwithstanding, nor where our economic station in life lies.  Nor our years of earthly existence, since many of the sikad riders I see are young and able, with very sparse carry-ons on them.  As a matter of fact, many are neatly uniformed students.

Why, in our gated subdivision beleaguered residents found the need to have available sikad services, for the few blocks in and out of it.  So they can hop to regular public transport which they need to bring them to the poblacion, the closest area of which is less than a kilometer away.

Need we wonder why many of us live unhealthy lives, or unhealthy lifestyles overall?




Thursday, October 15, 2015

Growing up a Neri-San Jose – in Cagayan de Oro in the 50’s


As I watch the grandkids on my rare visits to their places of abode, I cannot help but be amazed at their almost unbelievable growth compared to the last time.  It feels like one has traveled to some distant misty future to witness the changed images of them in adulthood.  In another vein, one becomes sullenly introspective about one’s own travel through aging.   If they have grown this fast, then time must have lapsed sufficiently to make one feel and look old or older.  The latter definitely is my case.

 One cannot then help reflect on one’s own childhood, as a way of comparing that past to the startling present that has caught one unawares, and off-guard.  One accepts that it cannot be helped since man is innately reflective and wants to be assured of some continuity either with life in general, or selfishly, of one’s own perpetuity or immortality.

But how does one reminisce about one’s own childhood without being biased or partial since one reflects through the prism one has developed growing up?  In other words, how does one write about personal experiences without investing too much of one’s emotions and acquired prejudices into that narrative?

Nothing like putting things in writing and finding out or allowing third parties to make judgments.  This bit of autobiography undertakes this rather intimate narrative with an intent to allow those privy to it to maybe also introduce their own versions on the same incidents.  That way many sides are exposed and brought into the mix, and one can hopefully arrive at a truer depiction of events of an era gone by.

An early challenge to this attempt at impartiality may be the particular way I grew up as a child.  Though I had 8 other siblings in the family, which was headed by my mother, I pretty much grew up on my own.  Most times alone with my adolescent thoughts, and making decisions without counsel from anybody else including my mother.  Family conversations/discussions, beyond the casual or cursory exchanges necessary to maintain minimal functioning in a household, were mostly non-existent.  Rare indeed were the deep interactions I had with all my siblings.

Given this rather dysfunctional conundrum, one could not again help feel inadequate in certain assumed qualities needed to make for a more adjusted or well-balanced growth as an individual.  And certainly I can point to certain personal quirks which may be fruits of this unwanted situation.  I judge myself quite timid and ill at ease in my social interactions with my peers and those in authority.  Since I knew that I had to rely solely on my own, my actions came out appearing bereft of moral certitude and with a big dose of tentativeness. And so much hesitation was quite normal in making actions that were clearly in hindsight easy to do, and with no shame or reservations attached.

I vividly recall the case of a green glass flower vase of my mother, who in introspect was quite solicitous with the few things she had in her life,  that I had used as altar ornament for the school’s chapel, having been assigned in class for the purpose.  But for some unrecalled reason I was too timid and hesitant to approach the caretakers of the chapel to ask for my mom’s vase back, though there obviously was no reason why I could not do it.  I was just too timid to even try.  So that every time I passed by that chapel I would be reminded of the vase.  And every time I recall taking a furtive look at the altar to see if it was still being used.  I believe this whole thing was slowly forgotten when I noticed the vase missing in the altar. My mother never knew about it and she never asked about it.   

Another very stubbornly-remembered incident which happened in early high school was a book borrowed from the school library.  That book may have been a James Fenimore Cooper classic, like Last of the Mohicans, or maybe even, Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Since I was quite slow in reading it or procrastinated too much, the return date had expired by the time I had occasion to attend to it.   And there was then a penalty assessed for any late return.  I believe it started at 10 centavos for the first week or so, then more added as weeks passed.  I again found myself unable to approach the librarian whom I knew anyway (Mr. Portillo) that I allowed that book to be late for a long period of time, though every time I passed the library this gnawing feeling of anxiety and frustration would inch up to bedevil my mind.  How I finally resolved that simple dilemma, I cannot now recall.  But somehow it got returned.

All things considered, I did manage to grow up not too bad, though I would still be nervous in front of a crowd and especially in front of ladies.  I just couldn’t help it.  My speech would at times be rushed, high-pitched and shaky.  And my mind would draw a blank, running mostly on reflex. Relief would come only after I would be back to being alone.  And to this day, this remains a mortal challenge for me, incessantly focusing on controlling and setting aside this very cumbersome and frustrating behavior.  Though I am getting better in control as I age, more and more.

Those preliminaries resolved and shunted aside, let me proceed to committing to print the many vignettes and homely sceneries collected during my youth, as I still continue to remember or recall them.

Life in the idyllic 50’s in rustic Cagayan de Oro City can be randomly described as the following.  A city of maybe 40,000 souls, each mostly known by everybody else with familiarity sufficient enough to qualify as a typical nodding-acquaintance kind of a relationship.  A city of narrow streets defining grid-iron type of city blocks, some paved with asphalt and the rest of graveled pavement.  Open drainage canals laced both sides of the streets, fed by the outflows coming from each house.  Drainage consisting of water from kitchen and bathroom sinks, from bathroom showers, and soupy waters from laundering done, etc.  We lived a mere block away from Divisoria Park, the central locus of life in the city, where parades congregated, important events held, political campaigns germinated, where most community-wide activities transpired.  At some point, we had lived right along the perimeter of the plaza, with our second-storey windows looking into the square; where by the way, the public market was once conducted.

No television, and only one radio station to provide listening entertainment or as medium for news both local and national.  Vehicles were few giving streets their perpetually empty look, save for the ubiquitous tartanillas noisily plying city streets. The two most popular schools in the city, one run by RVM nuns and the other by the Jesuits, were both a block or two away from where we lived.  Even the cathedral, the place of worship for most residents was a few minutes’ walk away.  And of great significance to the city, the river that traverses the city and which probably figured prominently in the location of the city was again a few hurried steps away.

In fine, the world that my youth gravitated in was very miniscule and provincial.  If we were not at school which was located two blocks away, we were gathered in the town plaza which was a block away.  And if we had some loose change for movies, we hied over to the few decrepit movie houses right in front of the plaza, or two blocks away.

Loved to be alone in movies to enjoy my kind of pubescent escapism at a very cheap price (the cost of a day’s baon). And during hot summery weekends we had the run of the beaches located some 3-4 kilometers away going east where relatives had beachfront properties.  And for household needs the public market was right in the plaza occupying two of its many sections.  And if out-town trips were made, the pier area was only 3 kilometers away going north, from which distance many hardy individuals could simply walk to.  In the very scant occasions where air travel was had, the rudimentary airport was maybe 5 kilometers from the poblacion.

In this rather isolating environment my childhood travels and experiences were similarly defined.  Most of our activities and interests were centered on our even smaller and rather quaint little neighborhood, consisting of a few blocks, and bound closely not only by its minute size, but by the fact that most residents were more or less related to each other.

Out of this microcosmic tapestry, my childhood memories were woven into whole cloth to form my youth.

Being born a Neri-San Jose came with some preconceived notion about being high-born, whether deserved or not.   The name itself was easy ticket to all that was deserving of those who carried the same name, duly earned by them because of wealth, renown, and influence.  Or even notoriety, like that of two of my grandfather’s siblings who were noted for their very miserly ways.  And their rumored deceptive ways of acquiring wealth.

Typical of the misconception about the name then was that being a Neri-San Jose denoted being born of wealth and influence, typically shown in real estate holdings.  The local historical facts were given as default reasons by those outside of family circles.  Clearly it is not logical to assume that all who carry that name would necessarily be similarly privileged.  And my father’s family being worthy to that fame did not necessarily hold true or carry over the next generation or two.   And of such was our case.

Being always embarrassed by that undeserved adulation which truly did not apply to us though others would continue to insist on it, one had perfected the response of either being quiet about it or simply saying that we did not belong to that class though we carried the same name.

We did derive some pleasure and satisfaction associating and confirming our close relationships with those relatives who did deserve the renown and popularity.

Part of my precious youth was spent with relatives.  During early HS I lived with an aunt as companion for her only son.  They lived in a big and new house in Lapasan District, which then seemed like some distant barrio, not serviced by electricity.

And true enough, we lived in a little neighborhood were a number of our rich relatives also lived.  Though their houses were more worthy of praise than ours, we did belong with them in that sense, that we lived close to each other.  Though it rarely went beyond living close to each other because we never really developed closer personal interactions with them.  But we did not mind that much, since we were contented knowing we lived in close proximity.

A sister of my grandfather was steeped not only in the pious practice of her Catholic religion, but also overly generous in her show of support of its mission.  Thus, any call for donations would be responded to not only with gusto, but with unprecedented generous amounts.  Thus, in the periodic listing of donations, which would prominently be posted at the main entrance of the cathedral, one would see her name on top of the list, with the rest way down below her in terms of amounts given.  I confess it elicited some personal pride knowing the same last name was shared.

To end and in fine, after making this pained comparison, I judge my own inauspicious and materially-sparse childhood almost diametrically different from those of my grandkids.  How blessed they have been.  This rapidly modernizing world has opened countless doors of opportunities for them to develop and choose the kind of lives their dreams can weave for them.

But I am quite willing to let go of my own and move on without much regrets but filled with hope.  Ready to pass from this life.  With the firm hope that our succeeding generations can forge better in forming their lives and being worthy contributors to humanity.

For sure, better than what our generation has been or will be.


Friday, May 08, 2015



Nothing could be a looser definition of friendship as social media giant Facebook has presented it for us.  Click away and you can be friends with most anybody you desire, including complete strangers.  Clearly a way that could cheapen the deeper meaning of the word.

But why would it be of any significance to have regard for the word?  Because in times past civilizations had always kept it in high esteem, an enviable state to earnestly aspire.   Think of the classic friendship of Damon and Pythias of lore.  When Judas appeared before Christ for what possibly was the last time prior to His passion, Christ addressed him with the title of friend, to add to his other titles of anointed apostle and trusted keeper of the purse.  Christ had the intention of bestowing upon Judas a pinnacle of human relationships.  One that made him almost at par with the divine kinship of Christ.  And even Shakespeare in the impassioned speeches of Brutus and Anthony, made liberal use of the word friends to address and appease the restive and mutinous crowd after the assassination of Caesar.

Our revered elders had officiously held almost sacrosanct the concept of friendship, way beyond the BFFs we assign randomly with some of our FB friends.

It behooves us then to revisit this concept, dissect, and ultimately redefine and prioritize it, from the heights of platonic relationship down to the casualness of nodding acquaintances. 

BTW, I often hear about love and friendship in the light of unconditional rigor and dedication.  Thus many expect parents to shower their children with love that knows no bounds and without limits.  Or among friends, taking nothing off the table to maintain and grow that friendship.  I say that these are such unattainable standards, bound to suffer failure once tested to the fore.  After all man is not only flawed and weak, but is intimately tied down to a hierarchy of values he has to follow. 

Like that all things considered, for example, man is expected to save his own soul over and above everybody else, children and BFFs included.  God has said that when man comes to Him in judgment He demands no witnesses or intercessors.  One comes with the deeds he had done in life and that alone will provide the basis to convict or acquit him.  That will be the only criterion for one to merit heaven, or hell.  Not even the testimonies of your benefactors will mean anything.  At that instance God’s mercy is shunted aside, and only God’s justice will come into play.

Thus the need to be smart and practical in the conduct of our friendships, lest we go beyond the bounds and cross over to sacred grounds where other relationships cannot tread.

Let me bring in a personal anecdote showing why we need to bring out into the open honestly and dispassionately our differing understanding of friendship.

I worked in California for a quarter century, toiling hand in hand with people from all over the world including other parts of the US.  And in the process, developed work and personal relationships with all sorts of people from very diverse locations and cultures.  Some relationships more intimate than others depending on common interests and orientation, and depending also on work assignments.

I worked mostly in IT which from the start was always defined under a very small department.  In the earlier days at the cusp of the computer revolution it was then called EDP, that is, Electronic Data Processing.  For us, most times that miniscule unit was composed of two people, me and a fellow employee that I had known at the start of our employment in the hotel industry.

In short, we got very close beyond just the work environment, exchanging info about our families and past lives.  Though we had different homelands, the discovered similarities were quite striking as to make both of us share many similar backgrounds.  Him coming from a small country in Central America, he was intently proud of his old country and his upbringing.  Not much different from my own views with regard to my life and times in the old homeland.

Anyway, one day he confronted me with a hypothetical case about friendship, with obvious reference to our own.  Supposing if, he said, he traveled to Mexico and was wrongfully detained.  Not having any other viable option, he called me up in the dead of night to seek my help.  Would I drop everything and immediately attend to his request?

Taking time to couch my answer, I was quite deliberate in my reply.  I said it would depend on other circumstances.  Like my family situation, for one.  I drove my wife to work daily since she did not drive and the same with my 4 kids to their schools.  And I would have to see how to provide in my absence for the needs of my elderly mother who lived with us.

Relatedly would I be the right person to undertake such a crucial mission?  I had never been to Mexico, did not know the culture and language.  Etc.  The point being that there are many prior commitments that have to be assessed and prioritized; to be factored in to arrive at informed and effective decisions.

In other words, in reality one cannot be unconditional in such things because we all have prior commitments that may have higher priorities than others.  True especially if one has a family to consider.

The ironclad quality of being unconditional does not fare well when juxtaposed with realities.  It is bound to failure in observance because of prior commitments.

But in the middle of all of these are the countless friendships many of us hold and cherish, friendships that will not consummate beyond delightful camaraderie during joyous times, and quite rarely going beyond this during difficult times, not really requiring unconditional support and dedication.

Our fondest hope is that our friendships will not be so demanding as to be too difficult to maintain.  Because again after all, we individually have very committed responsibilities within our circle of family and relations.

In ending it is well to remember also that in the arenas of love and friendship, our God is a very jealous lover and friend.  He would not countenance sharing, nay, He would demand that our love and friendship be exclusively His.  The eye of our intention being singular – to love and please Him alone.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Are We All Judases?


 We know scant little about Judas and his life, apart from his ultimate treacherous act of betraying Jesus Christ for some silver.

But we do know enough from biblical sources to flesh out a picture of him that will have enough data to show us what kind of person he was.

It might surprise us to learn, since it would appear that depicting him is much like looking at the mirror image of ourselves.

Among the Twelve, he probably was a cut above.  He was not just an ordinary Galilean, he was from Judea and stood most probably above all of them in worldly experience and wit.   And for this, it may be the reason he was given grave responsibilities, like caring for the common purse, which to poor and lowly people counted much for their continued existence.

And everybody else must have thought highly of him.  After all when Christ declared that one of them would betray Him, not one of them offered any suggestion or clue.  Therefore, nobody even guessed that it was Judas.  As a matter of fact, when they learned it was him they were all struck with amazement.

So who was this man?

Scattered references about him can be gathered to learn more about him.

We learn that as an apostle he took on this life with eagerness and zeal.  He followed Christ everywhere and had said enthusiastically that nothing could separate them.  And he must have avowed faith and loyalty to Him in every occasion that presented him with the opportunity.

So what went wrong?

He was disappointed for He was “only Jesus”.  And even more disappointed that the kingdom he preached and promised was “not of this world”.  And even more so, because the kingdom was promised to those who were “poor in spirit”.

We may not be easily aware of it, but aren’t we all like that?  Not necessarily disappointed but blindly pursuing a kingdom that is of this world (temporal pursuits and pleasures) and tightly clinging to material things that invest our spirit with so much baggage.

Consider the plans we make and the associations with other people we join with and treasure, even those that partake of quasi-religious bent.  We are quite devoted to gathering ourselves together to declare our being Christian and Christ-like in focus.  But what have we truly done with regard to our dispossessed neighbors and even with our own personal lives?

On material possessions, a good number of us have barely enough to cling to  the kind of living we have been used to and could bear, but just as numerous are those of us who find our financial situations more than sufficient to pursue the kind of hedonistic living that society does not necessarily frown upon. 

So all of us go about our merry unequal ways the worse for wear from scarcity, or not really feeling surfeit for having pursued so much pleasurable temporal delights.

But “being poor in spirit” does not necessarily refer to the scarcity or abundance of material possessions.  It is more the spiritual nonchalance of one under both conditions so that the dearth or plenitude does not in any way detract from the destined purpose of man’s existence, the pursuit of Christ’s Kingdom.

No, not the temporal one but the one that comes after.





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shining a light on Christian-Muslim Relationships in Cagayan de Oro

Graphics taken from this link:     http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=399351&page=8.


Before anything, let me state that for me and the people I grew up with, the word, Moro or Moros, as used in our dialect, is indeed a name loosely ascribed to the Maranaos who reside in the Lanao provinces which abut our own province of Misamis Oriental, and as previously stated, since they were the most likely Muslims we had early contacts with. 

 But in a strict sense, many of my generation do have a deeper connotation of the pejorative, Moros, which judgment was derived largely from its usage in our island’s history.  As that of stubborn, bellicose and recalcitrant “bandits” who wrought mayhem and havoc in the southern parts of the island and also in the Lanao provinces.  And from whose numbers we got rudely introduced to the dreaded “juramentado” killings. And who also entertained no peaceable desires to integrate or be part of our communities. For my generation, the name Hadji Kamblon easily comes to mind because of his well-reported misdeeds when we were growing up.

By the way, the term Islam was largely unknown or unmentioned during our milieu, and credit this to our Catholic upbringing which demanded strict exclusivity derived from its claim as the only rightful religion, which then even discouraged fraternizing with any members of the Protestant sects.  But we did use the terms, Moro and Muslim (though usually spelled as Moslem) to refer to persons of that particular ethnic group. Thus, their religion was a non-issue in the many perceived differences we thought we had with them.

Thus while the experiences of other locals have partaken of a different color, in our own circle of relatives and acquaintances, we do not believe that we sheltered any anti-Moro bias toward them as an ethnic group.  Though we may have nurtured very strong and unequivocal negative feelings about particular Maranao personalities.

We definitely are able to provide anecdotal evidence to buttress this.

To the present day, any resident or even non-resident of the island who can trace his/her lineage to the Neri genealogy at the drop of a hint, will proudly declare to one and all that he/she is descended from the stock of Sampurna one of the royal families of the Maranao people.  Though the veracity of this claim may still be hazy or unresolved based on historical evidence, or in a worst case scenario, the basis of this claim may be woven largely with the stuff of legends, Neri descendants, even those too far removed from their Neri roots, continue to blindly adhere to this.  This touted legacy is valued largely for the renowned bravery and fearlessness of the Muslim heart and soul.  

It will indeed look at odds for the Neri descendants, which to this day represent a large swath of the population in the island of Mindanao, to house very negative attitudes toward this Muslim tribe while at the same time hitching their genealogy and fealty to this stock.  Unless, we can admit that they do have pride for this ethnic group, however romanticized it may have become.

As a kid of the 50’s it was not unusual to get visits from our supposedly-related Muslims from the Lanao provinces, dressed in their tribal garb.  My father being a lawyer, the visits were mostly for legal advice or to engage his services regarding certain cases.  I distinctly recall accompanying my father on his jeep as he drove to Dansalan City to represent certain Muslims in a case.  I carried and took care of his portfolio case, filed with his notes and other documents.

In the early 60’s, an elder brother, newly hired as a salesman of San Miguel Corporation, covered the Lanao areas, including Marawi City.  And it was then considered nothing out of the ordinary for Christians to be in such a position.

Then as late as the early 70’s, working for a bank in Cagayan, I and our manager drove to Iligan and to Marawi to conduct an economic survey of the two places for possible branch sites.  Again, we went around by ourselves, freely and unhampered by any untoward incident.

These and more clearly indicate that though during those times inter-migration was not that rampant, there was co-existence, however delicate or even uneasy it may have appeared.  And now we have within our midst large numbers of Muslims from other tribes originating from as far away as Zamboanga, Cotabato, Davao, and Sulu.

So is there anti-Moro bias in the city, enough to be labeled as common and pervasive?

In my opinion, the “squeaky wheel that gets oiled” issue in our comparative relationships with these ethnic groups continues as before to be the undesirable things reported segments within these groups perpetrate,  not only within our communities but including in theirs.  Such disdainful acts as the at times senseless terroristic bombings, the often indiscriminate gruesome killings, widespread use and ownership of deadly weapons, corruption in government positions occupied, the widespread sale and purchase of contrabands, and yes, even undesirable behavior in social settings.

For the last item mentioned, how many of us have Muslim neighbors close enough to be considered part of our extended circle of friends or families?  Or have neighbors that one can openly and unabashedly proclaim how good that has been?  For me personally, I cannot point to any one family, though tried I did to be inclusive in our renting out a few residential spaces we own.  And I cannot point to any of my close circle of friends or relatives who can relate incidents of this nature beyond whispers.

Maybe it is not anti-anything, but more  like keeping a safe distance from possible problems.  Thus our unsaid reservations may not be due to ignorance or misconception, but stemming from an innate desire to live safe and secure which ought to be most crucial to any society.

Lastly, so far it has been about observations and attitudes expressed and espoused from the eyes of the Christian population, and how the group has acted and responded when confronted with these thorny ethnic questions. 

So what about our ethnic brothers, what have they done toward seamless integration with the rest of the population who clearly are the overwhelming majority?  How will they answer the question whether they do or not shelter anti-Christian biases, especially as reflected and taught in their religion?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Legacies We Think About


No doubt as we approach the back-nine segment of our short temporal lives, we start poring over the likely things that are past beyond our sojourn here.   When our bodies start the descent toward the sunset of its existence, we start worrying about what worthy mementoes to leave behind for our progeny, things which will endure beyond the years after our lives.  We weigh and sift through about some things fleeting, and about those that endure.  Fleeting because we live life in the flesh, but lasting because we believe in a soul and an afterlife.  Man being an inextricably composite being.

 We are talking therefore about legacies to be bequeathed.  Public officials and corporate bigwigs all the way to presidents and heads of state constantly talk about them, prepare for them, or gear their consequential actuations with them in mind.  So why not the ordinary mortal man?

 So what should we think about during our greying years?

 Many of us would focus on non-material things, rather than the temporal wealth which many view as not only petty and mundane but by their earthbound nature as beneath bequeathing to beloved children or grandchildren weaned on noble and mystical dreams.  We constantly are reminded that we should not leave much material wealth since they are prone to spoiling the receiver, dissipate their passion and intensity for living, deprive them of the purifying challenges necessary to make their lives more purposeful, etc. But again we  remind that man lives life in the flesh with all its wants and needs, and the easier that process is the better for him to think about his nobler goals and purposes. Expressed differently, man is more able to contemplate at the stars if he is not constantly looking on the ground for his food and sustenance.

 So with that in mind, we proceed to the task at hand.  What should our legacies be to the generation/s that come after us?

 For something more enduring and noble, we earnestly wish that the things we taught them, the examples that we lovingly provided, would all carry over to them like genes or DNA encoded in their very bodies and souls.  For we believe that would truly be timeless legacy.  And we add the caveat that defines our honesty, that everything we pass on to them we not only believe in but that we earnestly pursued them in our own lives.

 But for more temporal legacies we can list a few.

 Provision of shelter, adequate and decent, is one driving concern of modern families which lifelong pursuit eats up a good part of their time and resources.  A crucial and necessary accoutrement for living productive and decent lives, lives with integrity worthy of his kind.  And many lives have been less than commendable because of the dearth of good shelter, coupled and in tandem with the scarcity of financial provisions for the family.

 A good many of us spend our productive lives in employment.  From the start of our education we already have conditioned ourselves how we can become good, loyal, and faithful employees.  Of course we do not discount the fact that we would prefer being employed doing things that suit our likes and disposition.  Still many are employed concerned more about what that employment brings to the family and its existence rather than how well liked or adjusted one is to the employment.

 Wouldn’t it be a great legacy therefore to leave behind some business or enterprise that our progeny can continue after?  Many current entrepreneurs started much like that, inheriting the business from their well-provisioned ancestors.  And then on their own made the business even bigger and greater than before.  Look around and you will see how true this is in real life.

 Molding leaders rather than followers would indeed be a great legacy to leave.  Being in business and striking on your own is one surefire way to test not only one’s acumen and wits, but also bring out and hone leadership qualities dreamed only by many.

 Personally, imagine this as coming from one veteran of various employment.  If after years of employment, one engages in economic activities on his own one then experiences a role quite alien, from the learned perspective of an employee to that of employer.  In other words, after looking at things from one perspective, one suddenly opens a vista where one looks at things from the other side.

 A chance to look at things differently, and more importantly, to complete and round off the economic picture so commonplace in our lives today. 

 Get a chance to see how the other lives, the other side that has so few select members, and so uniquely privileged in many areas such as opportunities and access to the many beneficial things in life brought by progress and wealth.  And thus a chance to live a more fulfilled life.

 For most of us, Mother Teresa was the epitome and icon of personal sanctity, given what she exhibited in her solitary life in the mean streets of India and thereabouts.  But I also find Bill Gates as another likely example in a similar vein and on a grander scale.  A philanthropist on steroids who can declare with effective intention to an entire impoverished nation in Africa that he will undertake to educate all of its little children so that they can realistically hope for   a better life for themselves and their families.  An entire nation given the opportunity to live better lives.  And now in terms of impact and efficacy that is really something!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wondering if Nonchalance has become a Virtue


Having lived in a foreign developed country for over a quarter of a century, one had tailored for oneself a suit of expectations meant to make life more smooth, less stressful, and contentment-defined.  A place to hitch one’s temporal future to. A defined environment where one would get clean and climate-controlled environment, both in private and in public.  Where people behavior in public places and roadways could easily be predicted as to make reaction and interaction reflexive and expected.  Or in fine, where things look or work well enough as to be satisfactory and demandable. 


It was thus that in that milieu while one could definitely become nonchalant about the things beyond one’s own personal life, that would be considered  generally unacceptable.  Because in that milieu such attitude is frowned upon.  One cannot be unconcerned and passive.  The minute any thing goes awry the citizenry is expected or conditioned to howl in protest and demand redress at the soonest possible time.  Things being or done right was expected and demandable, with deviance from that standard not to be tolerated or be nonchalant about.  Overall, this made for a nice living for most concerned.  At certain places, things like the climate and the geography were factored in with desired sets of expectations.


Now fast forward to life back to the old homeland, in other words, life in a third-world country, where even the typical climate may be said to conspire to bring about its benighted state.  And immediately adjustments have to be made in expectations if one desires to retain one’s composure or sanity.  Occasioned by wholesale penury and squalor not only in the countryside but in all the nooks and corners of city life.   Where people behavior in public places and roadways have so deviated from what could be considered acceptable behavior, as to tread into the purview of illegality.


Being thrust into such a now challenging environment one’s hard-earned idealism had easily waned, or more appropriately, had been rudely blunted by continued exposure or immersion to the harsh realities.  One then starts thinking about nonchalance in a different light, as apt defense mechanism befitting the challenges of the times.  This time as a virtue?


Others may rather prefer the use of the word cynicism which we know is more judgmental.  But I say nonchalance is more apt, more middle of the road, or better, as safe fence-straddling.


Illustrations may shed light on this exposition.


We now live in a gated private subdivision with a perimeter fence, which is quite makeshift in certain areas.  And every day, we labor thru a commute of about 2 kilometers from the residence to our place in the poblacion.  Because of chaotic traffic conditions, our daily route has become circuitous and long-winded resulting in a doubling in distance.  This is done to avoid traffic chokepoints as much as is possible.   From this, one may be led to believe that we are living hunky-dory lives, albeit spotted with a few petty inconveniences.  From that score, one could not agree more.


However, a more involved exposition would show dark underbellies that reasonably concerned people should not be able to ignore or be passive about.  At first, at least.


Thus to escape the madding crowd entry thru our gate brings us to more calming place where one could put one’s hair down and be at peace.   This however is only illusory since in my case looking beyond my back fence one becomes witness to penury and squalor elicited by squatter families living in decrepit shanties, slapped together with any material that can provide shelter and privacy.  With no indoor plumbing, no electricity, too many children per family.  Not even any defined access and egress to their land-locked place.  Clambering over the fences being one scarce option.


And that daily sortie into the rest of the city provides more evidence of the things wrong in the place.  In some places streets have been constricted by makeshift dwellings of squatters living practically on the streets.  Where street drainage systems are either non-existent or if present appear to work only during dry season, since runoff water coming from rain or the dwellings are ever present on the curbs and streets.  Sidewalks too in some places have become non-existent preempted by people living in very congested quarters.


Such a dire outlook, but I feel they all need to be said.  Since one now feels a pervasive and ever-growing sense of nonchalance on the part of the ever-lessening numbers of those others blessed and free from the clutches of penury and squalor.


Pretty soon these and worse will become the new normal in this society.  If they are not already.