Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who was born on Christmas Day?

As early as December 1 every year, small children would already start their caroling, going house-to-house in the Philippines, particularly in urban areas. But, sometimes, the households (like our own household) would just ask them to come back beginning December 16, which is the start of the dawn Mass in Catholic churches, a nine-day Novena Mass culminating on Christmas Eve. Actually, the Philippines is touted to have the longest Christmas season celebration in the whole world. As early as September (which is the start of the so-called BER months leading up to December), radio stations already play Christmas songs, and small stores and big malls alike start putting up some Christmas décor. Even if the décor mixes with some Halloween décor, in preparation for All Saints Day/All Souls Day in November, which almost all Filipinos always commemorate with fervor, trooping to the cemeteries in drove to visit their dead. The Christmas season in the Philippines extends to around January.

Going back to the children doing their caroling, their typical get-up would be their house clothes—tshirt, shorts, slippers, or whatever they wear at home. They’d come in twos, threes or more, sometimes even solo act. Some would be pounding on an empty tin can or other makeshift instrument to accompany their singing—or what sounds like singing. In the many years that we’ve had little kids caroling at our front gate, I think I’ve heard it all—from offbeat tunes to incoherent words, to rapidly sung songs (to cover more houses in one night), to single songs to a medley. The songs are in Pilipino and some in English. Very few children sing well. But the offbeat tunes and incoherent words are all forgivable. The kids are probably just having fun while going around with their groupmates, trying their luck to get some decent amount or some nice gifts as they go from house-to-house, night after night.

But, sadly, I sense some kind of materialism creeping in on some kids. Some will really scrutinize how much they are given by a household, counting each coin before putting the coins to their pockets or little bag. When in a group, others can be heard asking “How much was given?” to the one who was handed the money by the household.

But the worst part is that, when I ask the children carolers why there is Christmas, and whose birthday is celebrated on Christmas, some of them, even a few bigger kids, would reply that they don’t know. Well, if they say that they don’t know, I give them a little lecture on Jesus being born on Christmas. Some turn wide-eyed, as if it was really the first time that they were hearing about the meaning of Christmas. Many, if not all, of those who replied that they don’t know who was born on Christmas are the kids who come from poor families. Hopefully, their little hearts and minds will start discovering the true meaning of Christmas from their caroling.

(By the way, when I was a kid myself, my youngest sister and I tried just once to go caroling in our old neighborhood. We were so shy that we ended up singing at only one house--our own.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The lipsynching doctors

My nephew Marlo wants to be a doctor someday, and is studying hard for it. But for now, he's also busy practicing his lipsynching skills with his fellow "boyband intern" members. He's the second fellow from the left when they're all lined up swaying their doctoral hips, and also the one lipsynching second in turn, 15 seconds into the video.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Streetkids on the beat

They sleep, wake up, walk, sit, run, play, eat--if ever they get to eat--on the streets of Manila. They are the streetkids of Manila. They dress shabbily, if they are lucky enough to have clothes to put on. They are even luckier if they had some kind of footwear as they hit the streets. During summertime, they look even dirtier and their sun-drenched bodies emit even a stronger smell than they do the rest of the year as there’s hardly any rain to at least wash down the stickiness from their young bodies. But the rainy months are a different story for these kids. Its bath-galore time under the rain, and the streets are an instant swimming pool of floodwaters where the kids can jump in and out with wild abandon. Never mind the murky smell and dark color of the waters, that’s good enough for these kids whose heads happily bob in and out of the waters all around, oblivious to some vehicles still trying to negotiate the streets hidden underneath. They are the streetkids of Manila. They run after vehicles, tap on the windows, hands outstretched for alms. They tail pedestrians, poke a finger on passerby to get their attention, the other hand outstretched for alms. They get hold of something resembling a rag, get up on passenger jeeps during the red light, kneel to wipe the footwear of the passengers, then stand up with hands outstretched for alms. They are the streetkids of Manila. They hungrily watch customers gulping their food and drinks at fastfood joints, their runny noses pressing against the restaurants’ cold glass walls that seem to separate the haves and the have-nots. They mix with the crowd at the markets, outside malls, at the parks, at the churches, virtually anywhere where there are people. Hands outstretched, they ask for money to buy bread, to buy food, "kahit konting barya lang po" (even just some loose change), they will usually say. There are some who are moved by the weary eyes looking directly at them and so fork out a few centavos or pesos. But there are also those who are reluctant to help these kids lest they just end up either gambling the money, or turning over their day’s collection to some syndicate whose “big boss” had actually let them loose on the streets. Every now and then, an agency rounds up these kids and places them in shelters. But if, indeed, some of them are able to start a new life through the shelters, other children soon take their place on the streets, with similar hunger and need for care. Every Christmas season, there is sure to be charitable groups that will hold gift-giving sessions left and right for these kids, with some entertainment thrown in. But after those events, the kids are again left to look after their own welfare. Some organizations do try to have a longer-term assistance for the kids, but the funds aren’t always enough, and the kids are always very many. Most of these kids are hardly literate. Most were born on the streets, as their parents, and their parents’ parents, were also born there. There’s no telling if the streetkids of this generation will also build their own families on the streets, or will also perish from this Earth on the streets. Every now and then, the news carries an item on some adult street inhabitant discovered already frozen dead on a street corner where she or he is usually seen begging or hanging around.

Just last night, while I was waiting for a jeepney ride on Visayas Ave., Quezon City, a very slim woman passed by in front of me, with three small very hungry-looking and dirty-looking kids tagging along with her. It was a pitiful sight. I remembered I had inside my shoulder bag leftover food from lunch I was about to bring home. I groped for the plastic bag that contained the food, and called out to the woman to give it to her. Her eyes lit up, and she gave her sweetest smile. "Salamat po (thank you)," she said. The kids quickly dived their small hands into the bag. I wish i could have done more.

’s streetkids, what’s in store for them? If citizens of this country want to know the real state of their nation, they need only to look out to the streets and watch as the streetkids do their daily (and nightly) beat.

Monday, November 24, 2008


THIS WILL DO. No steel is too hard, no bench is too narrow, no color is too pink—the crisscrossing pipes of a waiting shed along Elliptical Road, Quezon City, is temporary haven from the noonday heat to this homeless person (a.k.a. "taong grasa" or literally "a person covered in grime and grease") who just needs a place to rest and maybe sleep away hunger, Or, perhaps, beneath the cloth covering his face, he is awake, pondering when he will be unburdened of the crosses in his life. Meanwhile, his hand tightly grips his little treasure bag of odds-and-ends, lest he wakes up to find it lost to others like him also wandering in the big city.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

FEU high school e-group and friendship

I currently moderate a Yahoo e-group called “feu_magkababata.” Members are alumni of Batch 1981 of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Girls’ High School (GHS) and Boys’ High School (BHS). FEU is one of the popular universities in the Philippines, located in the area popularly known as “university belt” in the capital city of Manila. Back when I was studying in FEU (from the early 1970s--Grade 1 to High School [HS]), FEU was already famous for giving good educational training and having a nice, wide campus. The university belt’s streets (like Morayta or N. Reyes where FEU is located, Recto, Legarda, etc.) are home to a number of colleges and universities, as the moniker obviously implies. Our HS was established in the 1940s, and we were the last batch to graduate where the boys were segregated from the girls, and even teachers of the boys’ high were mostly different from those of the girls’ high. Boys were also housed in one building, and the girls in another, with the two buildings several meters away from each other but almost face to face. Needless to say, the batch after us already had mixed-sex classes, thus we were called “the last of the segregates.” And FEU continued to operate the HS facility up to around early 1990s, so we heard.
Anyway, going back to the feu_magkababata e-group, it was set up on August 30, 2005 by myself and Requito, upon his suggestion actually, since about four or five among us classmates/batchmates from way back grade school (where boys and girls were mixed in class) going all the way to HS were already exchanging e-mails at that time. Actually Requito and the four or five people I mentioned were among the few people who were my classmates from grade school to HS with whom I’ve remained in contact after many years. But we wanted to renew our communication with many other “missing” classmates/batchmates, especially the HS batch, for some reasons like we just plainly sorely missed one another and also that our batch was to celebrate its silver anniversary the following year. Requito said that the idea of forming an e-group was fine and worth watching out for “if it will soar,” especially since we were hopeful that many batchmates had access to the Internet and, hopefully also, had e-mail addresses given the prevalence of Internet usage. I volunteered to form the e-group.

Thinking of an e-group name
But Yahoo’s steps to forming an electronic group were quite easy to follow; the tough part was thinking of a name for the e-group that should capture our school’s name, carry the essen
ce of our batch in the FEU GHS and BHS, and be welcoming enough for other batchmates so that they will feel easily right at home from the moment they receive the online invitation to join the e-group. Well, after I came up with a few names, I finally decided to use feu (name of our school)_magkababata (Pilipino term for people who’ve been friends with one another since their youth). And, so, our little e-group was born with the initial four or five members. We rarely used the e-group in the early months. One member even e-mailed her USA vacation photos to the e-group, and she asked in her e-mail if anybody was actually opening and viewing the messages in the e-group. All the members replied "yes," all four of us. Well, in the latter part of the year that the e-group was formed, it had slowly grown in number as more contacts were added through referrals (like some batchmates knew how to contact others, and I immediately sent out invites to them for the e-group). Also that latter part of the year, several of us had already began meeting to talk about the holding of the batch’s silver anniversary reunion in 2006. Thus I got hold of more e-mail addresses to add to the e-group. Since all of us in the committees formed for the reunion were busy and still had to adjust our schedules for our face-to-face planning meetings, we agreed to hold discussions via e-mail. I thought that the e-group would be perfect for that. But since we were planning a May 2006 reunion already, I thought that adding all these new contacts to the e-group would take up a lot of time since many of them I found out had e-mail addresses but not too Internet-savvy. Or they weren’t into checking their e-mails that much. I then decided to form a separate e-mail loop for our batch, especially at that time for the purpose of gathering people who would know and be interested about attending our silver reunion coming up in just a few months. Well, news sure spreads like wildfire. Almost everyday, I would be adding many names (new referred contacts) to our e-mail loop, and I would be sending out e-mail to this loop everytime I had three to five new contacts, to announce their inclusion into the loop. At the back of my mind, I was always wondering when I could transfer all these people to the existing feu_magkababata e-group, without losing anyone in the email loop who could be uncomfortable with going through the steps in joining an e-group. The steps were actually quite simple but could be a bit of a challenge to those who were, like I said, not much into the Internet or computers for that matter, or for those who weren’t using Yahoo e-mail addresses. But then I was also starting to ask myself how long I could sustain or maintain the e-mail loop, whose list of contacts had been growing longer and longer. And I was aware that Yahoo could already consider e-mails from this loop as spam, at some point and thus block the e-mails.

Transfer to the e-group, we must

But I knew the time to take action had come. Whether they liked it or not, the e-mail loop contacts had to transfer to the e-group, fast. To guide them painlessly, I hoped, I wrote the steps to take in accepting the online invite from the group owner (me) and posted it in the e-mail loop. I gave them a deadline to take the necessary steps to transfer to the e-group, or else, they wouldn’t be “in the know” of the latest in the batch, especially w
ith the forthcoming reunion. Happily, most of the batchmates obliged and joined the e-group. A small number really couldn’t because of Internet limitations in their offices (where they mainly accessed their emails), and other understandable reasons. I maintained a small email loop for these hopeless cases, ha! ha!, sending them e-mails every now and then for important news about our batch (like parties, events, fund-raisers).

ow, our then struggling little e-group has grown to 190 members (especially after we successfully held our silver reunion in May 2007 in the Philippines, complete with 14 teachers whom we gathered from everywhere). (See our photo at the Holy Mass we held at the FEU Campus, with some of those who attended, a week before our reunion celebration.) The 190 is still a small number considering that we had a thousand population in our batch (for morning and afternoon classes, boys and girls). But I consider this 190 (and still growing) big enough, and a success number already. I’m saying this for many reasons. First, 190 is far more in number than the four or five original members.
Secondly, apart from garnering members from all over the Philippines, we’ve also touched base with batchmates in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Sweden, USA, Canada, Middle East, and they’re all active in the e-group, whether as posters and/or readers.
Thirdly, many in our batch who’ve lost track of their friends in school have joyously found them back in the e-group. In fact, after our May reunion, many have had small reunions or get-togethers with their friends.
Fourthly, new friendships or acquaintances have been formed through the e-group, as we all get to see e-mails written or forwarded to the e-group by batchmates we didn’t get the chance to know before when we were still studying, especially for the opposite sexes who were separated by buildings but were in the same Batch 1981.
Fifthly, through our e-group, other batchmates have come to know of the need of some other batchmates and have generously provided help like financial assistance or job referrals, and even prayers.

United, we e-mail
In our feu_magkababata e-group, the GHS and BHS are united as one, exchanging hellos; memories of our being students then; the current updates in our lives; hopes for the future; jokes and more jokes; and even then-and-now photos in the e-group’s website. Some of the e-group members are active in posting messages; others are happy being silent readers of the posts. But whatever the sort of activity they do in the e-group, I sense that all of them, well, maybe except for one or two who couldn't cope with the deluge of e-mails every now and then—surely, we can’t please everybody although we try to—are happy being in the e-group. It does takes a bit of my time and some effort to be the moderator of our e-group. I keep an eye on things to make sure that there are no hitches in the e-group (like there are no problems in posting messages, new contacts are promptly invited and given welcome messages in the e-group, online applications to join the e-group are screened to make sure that they are really alumni of our batch). I’ve also been posting every start of the month the birthdays of the e-group members. But this time and effort spent feels worth it when I get thank-yous from some batchmates for keeping the e-group together, and who say how happy they are for finding their friends again in the e-group. I also get great satisfaction that the homesickness of batchmates living or working abroad has somehow been eased by thier participation in the e-group. I am also happy that even people I know who were/are shy are also in the e-group, even as readers. Well, I always say to my batchmates that I’m just moderating, just doing my share, but the success of the e-group is really up to all the batchmates as e-group members.
In 2011, our batch is celebrating its thirtieth year. There are initial talks to hold a reunion like we did in our silver year. And we’re glad that the e-group is already around because it’d be of sure help in getting more batchmates together in planning and implementing a possible big reunion in 2011. This would be so unlike in 2006 when we were then just starting to build our contacts (via e-mails and phone numbers), and had quite a difficult time with lesser people in the committees, with such short period to prepare for our silver year celebration.
By the way, I requested May, a batchmate based in Canada, to be my listed co-moderator in the e-group. I told her to be my co-moderator since I think it would be good for any e-group to have more than one in case something happens to the e-mail address of one of the moderators or registered group owner (like if her or his e-mail suddenly closes down).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

Mary, you showed yourself to Bernadette in the crevice of the rock. In the cold and grey of winter, you brought the warmth, light and beauty of your presence,

In the often obscure depths of our lives,
in the depth of the world where evil is so powerful,
bring hope, return our confidence!

You are the Immaculate Conception,
come to our aid, sinners that we are.
Give us the humility to have a change of heart,
the courage to do penance.
Teach us to pray for all people.

Guide us to the source of true life.
Make us pilgrims going forward with your Church,
whet our appetite for the Eucharist,
the bread for the journey, the bread of life.

The Spirit brought about wonders in you, O Mary :
by his power, he has placed you near the Father,
in the glory of your eternal Son.
Look with kindness on our miserable bodies and hearts.
Shine forth for us, like a gentle light,
at the hour of our death.

Together with Bernadette, we pray to you, O Mary,
as your poor children.
May we enter, like her, into the spirit of the Beatitudes.
Then, we will be able, here below,
begin to know the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven
and sing together with you :
Magnificent !

Glory to you, Virgin Mary,
blessed servant of the Lord,
Mother of God,
dwelling place of the Holy Spirit!


Praying online is the website (in English and French) of the Grotto of Lourdes, France. Amid the influx of information and some disinformation that can happen in the World Wide Web, here's a site that's a respite from all that. Through the website, one can virtually visit or make a pilgrimage to the Grotto. One can make online intercessory petitions to the Mother. One can listen and meditate to the Holy Rosary, although it's presently recited in French. The Daily Word of God is available for easy viewing. Webcam shots and videos of the Shrine are also available. The site has many other features available. Starting my day interacting with the Lord gains a new perspective by tuning in early to this website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Losing a dog; losing a cat

A friend told me the story of how her niece quite recently got back her missing dog after several months. One day, her niece's dog was gone from their home in a village. Days and weeks went by, and the dog couldn't be found. Soon after, the niece had to transfer residence to another village. One day, the niece's former neighbor was walking near a small pile of garbage in the old village. The neighbor saw a hungry-looking and dirty dog going through the dump. Despite its pitiful appearance, the dog looked familiar to the neighbor, who promptly called out the name of the niece's missing dog. Upon hearing its name, the dog quickly turned its head and looked to the person. The niece and her dog were reunited.

Now, here's the story of my missing cat. Every November, I can't help
but remember Panching's disappearance because he got lost on November 23, 1997. It was the day after a priest blessed our home to which my family and I transferred a week before. Despite our house being with a screened door and windows, we couldn't fathom how he could have ever gone out without our noticing it. And he rarely left the house that week that we moved in. He was an ordinary-looking brown cat, and he was about three years old when I lost him. I got him from the local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), while still a teeny weeny kitten (neutered, by the way, by the SPCA when I got him, as it was their regulation for adopted cats). I'd keep him in a small cage overnight near my bed in his growing-up years for fear that our poodles will eat him up during the night, ha! ha! I'd patiently give him milk through a medicine dropper, until he could learn to eat. He was good cat, very obedient and smart. He'd sleep where he was told and motioned to sleep (he slept a lot to the point that you'd mistake him as a figurine on top of the piano or the ref). He'd shake hands if asked to. He was a good mouse-catcher. Later, he was already good friends with our poodles, and, sometimes, would sleep in the same bed with them. But he was also a brave cat. Like one morning, we woke to the sound of fighting cats in our living room, with matching falling objects. Panching was fighting it off with an intruder cat. I instinctively grabbed him to protect him from the bigger, more ferocious cat. But he instinctively turned his fangs to me, too, giving me a big bite on my left leg. Well, I don't know whatever happened to him after he got lost. Some friends told me that perhaps he returned to our old house, which was several miles away in another city. They said that cats and dogs have a good sense of direction and will often find their way back home when lost, especially if they are familiar already with where their homes are. But a check at our old home yielded no Panching. My sister's explanation is that after the priest blessed our renovated home (the priest also fondly petted Panching when he saw the cat sleeping on top of the piano), perhaps the bad spirits, if any, in our home were absorbed by the cat, and he was just zapped out of existence. Here's a picture of Panching, fondly remembered, in one of his sleeping poses. Shy, no?!

Monday, October 27, 2008

He moves in mysterious ways

In 1997, my parents and I moved from the Philippines’s capital city of Manila to the adjoining Quezon City (QC). It was quite a difficult decision for us to move out of Manila to take residence somewhere else because we had stayed in that beautiful, busy city for more than 40 years already, at that time, in the same house. But the constant floods that occurred almost all-year round in our area in Manila (even if the rain was not that strong—“flash floods” as they were, and my friend Monching would always joke that all it took was 10 lizards to pee at the same time to have our streets flooded) was a major convincing factor for our transfer. There was also the rather expensive cost of the needed renovations for our old house, which had stood in that corner lot since the 1950s. Our mostly wooden house was already showing many scars inflicted by time and the elements, and by various pests that got attracted by the moisture brought on by the floods. Our house was, in fact, just among the few remaining wooden, original houses in the area. Other similarly old, wooden houses nearby had already given way to concrete apartments and townhouses. We were also among the very few residents in the area who had their own houses. Many of our neighbors were renting the apartments and townhouses they were living at.

The decision
Weighing our opt
ions, faced by floods and the hefty cost of renovating our house which we thought actually needed rebuilding and not just renovations, our family decided to sell our old house. We were more convinced to sell especially since during the time that we started to put it up for sale, we saw a modestly sized house and lot for sale in QC that needed just a few repairs to suit our needs and taste. We surmised that we would be able to afford to buy this QC property, and its repairs, from the proceeds of the sale of our Manila house. Now, that is one of the early ways in which I know God was moving his hand to help our family transfer residences.

His hand
He guided my brother in chancing upon that house in QC for sale in a nice, low-key village, with a “For Sale” sign put up by a bank to which the original owner had failed to pay her mortgage. In QC, which is highly urbanized, it is not that quick to find a bungalow residence that is quite easily affordable. One will see more of rather costly large houses, townhouses, or condominiums in many of QC’s major districts. God’s hand moved once again when it did not take us long to find a buyer for our Manila house. The tran
saction with our buyer lasted for only a few weeks, and, soon, we were also able to close our own deal with the bank that owned the QC property. But as we were still waiting for the renovations to be finished in our new home in QC, we were still staying put in our Manila home, with our things all properly bundled up and ready for transport. It was in our local Catholic church in Manila where I really and very immediately saw God’s hand moving. He paved the way for me to serve in the Mass for two consecutive Sundays, and He made sure to make it happen just before I transferred to QC. Before these two Sundays, I had never served in any way in this church, which was a few blocks away from our Manila home. I just went to Mass there and that was that. But in one of those two Sundays, while I was seated in church waiting for Mass to start, one of the women assisting in the Mass approached me and asked if I could be a collector for that Mass. Initially I wanted to refuse her because I was nervous. I had never done that thing before, much more touched even just the tip of the collection bag’s wooden pole. But, well, I said okay to her. Come collection time, I stood as if at the back of my mind I was answering God’s call, and made a beeline to the altar with the other collectors to get our collection bags. Going around the pews to gather the Mass goers’ contributions, it was quite an experience for me. Like I said, it was my first time to do such a thing, but I felt light-hearted after that.

Then, the next Sunday, I was surprised that I was called again to serve, in the same church. Another woman assisting in the Mass approached me early on while I was already seated and asked me to carry one of the floral vases to the altar during the Offering. This time, I had no apprehension, and immediately said yes. I was happy at the chance to serve.

It was many days after that I was able to reflect on my two Sundays’ worth of experience in that Manila church. And I thanked God that He gave me the opportunity to serve Him at that church just before I left it, where incidentally I was baptized, and had studied Kindergarten in its parochial school. (image from

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The ex-General is back face the music (From Russia with Love,,or with Euro?), from the National Police Commission to the Ombudsman to the Senate to the Philippine media hot on his trail since the time he arrived at the Manila airport on October 21, 2008, returning home from Russia where he and his wife were held before departure for non-declaration of a huge amount of excess Euros (millions of Philippine pesos in conversion) (see previous post). Former Philippine National Police (PNP) Comptroller, retired general Eliseo dela Paz is the man of the moment, the scorching Philippine weather failing in comparison to the hotness of the seat he now occupies. There are early accusations of corruption, of a botched money-laundering scheme, with the former General in danger of losing his still-to-be-released retirement pay while also facing the possibility of spending the rest of his retirement years in jail. Or so say his accusers. Tomorrow he faces the Philippine Senate's investigation, with the feisty Senator Miriam D. Santiago leading the pack of senators hungry for information, for answers to questions long held back by the General's prolonged stay in Russian territory. Now, the Senator, head of the Senate's foreign relations committee, is not known for mincing words and questions against corrupt government personnel. But she is also known for knowing how to give it, to play it up when the news camera is focused on her. Here's hoping she will not use the investigation only as a stage for her sometimes seemingly theatrical acts. Here's hoping the investigation will be worth the taxpayers' money. And that it will lead to strengthened laws that will help the Philippines be a better country. It is, after all, an investigation in aid of legislation, as Senate investigations are premised to be. The General said upon his arrival in Manila that in all his years of service in the force, he had been a committed official. And what happened in Russia was a "lapse" on his part. I wish him luck that in the many investigations he will have to face in the following days, he will be acquitted if he really wasn't into doing some hanky-panky.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Classic Vocal Standards

Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Sammy Davis Jr., Matt Monro, Dean Martin, Ethel Merman, The Ames Brothers, Jo Stafford,Gene Kelly, they're my friends on the Yahoo! Music Launchcast, which is, of course, one of the fringe benefits on getting online (while being invisible as I wait for any e-mails to come in heheh) on Yahoo Messenger or YM for short. Tony and the others are on the Classic Vocal Standards station that takes the listener years, years back on the musical time machine. Well, for me, it does takes me several years back from my birthyear of 1964 as many of the songs on the station were recorded before that. Or, I was just too small then to remember any songs starting from 1964 up until perhaps I was in Grade 1 (1971). Who Can I Turn To, Come Fly with Me, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Chances Are, Autumn in New York, The Way You Look Tonight. Indeed, many old songs have been re-recorded by other (and sometimes younger, newer) singers in recent years. But still nothing beats the original sound of the original singer, with the original tempo of the song. The mellow voices and the mellow songs, with the occasional upbeat tune--they are the comfort food for the soul. Okay, Louis Armstrong is now singing about the ramblin' rose... (billie holiday pic is from; the ames brothers pic from

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

PNP at it again?

The recent news that a recently retired top cop of the Philippines and his wife were held at a Russian airport prior to their departure back to the Philippines is really disturbing. They are still holed up at a Russian hotel as of today (I think the incident happened last Friday yet) while they are awaiting documents from the Philippines (to be translated to Russian) that will supposedly prove that the excessive amount of undeclared euros that they were carrying to fly back home is "legal money." Philippine National Police (PNP) top brass back home are now busy explaining to the media that the big money that the retired cop and wifey were carrying was for contingency, in case they and their co-Filipino delegates to the convention in Russia would suddenly need money in far-away Russia/Europe. But the inquisitive Filipino media is also asking other questions aside from the origin of the large amount of money. Questions like why is this former top cop still in the official delegation when he's already retired, albeit just recently? And whose paying for the expenses of the four wives of four Filipino official (government/police) delegates, especially since the Philippine government is now on a cost-cutting binge? I just hope that all this ends well. If not, this could be one more proof for some Filipinos who always find (dis)pleasure in saying that even (Filipino) cops, just like ordinary criminals, are very good in breaking the very laws that they're supposed to implement.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally, a footbridge…

Up to until a year ago, I was among just a few people who would cross North Ave., the street fronting the SM North Edsa Mall, Quezon City, navigating our way through a small opening in the fence that blocked the middle island of the street. We were crossing to get a jeepney ride, usually, at the other side of this wide street, as the nearest official jeepney terminal is still many meters away on the left side of SM, and the long and tall footbridge crossing EDSA was also many meters away on SM’s right side. And it was hard to go to these two spots if you’re carrying many grocery bags from SM, as was usual in my case (and I wouldn’t want to spend so much more on taxi fare). It wasn’t really illegal to cross that street from SM--the genius traffic enforcers just wanted to make the pedestrians suffer a little more, heheh.

Anyway, that was until about a year ago, like I said. It’s a different story nowadays ever since the Trinoma Mall (of the Ayala family) was put up on THAT other side of SM North Edsa Mall (THAT other side used to be a vacant lot with the nearby last terminal of the MRT—the EDSA train--which I believe was a government property; how that was purchased by the Ayala family maybe worth another story). People in droves now cross the same street that I and just a few others before were crossing. Of course, there’s now a wider space and not a just a small opening on the middle island that people can use in going to both sides of the street. Problem is, however, with two big malls now sandwiching North Ave., it’s a big headache for the traffic enforcers (and the mall guards) on how to control the flow of the people and the increased number of vehicular traffic. And believe me, the not-so-efficient-trafficking skills of these enforcers is even a bigger headache for the pedestrians and the vehicle drivers.

Well, the good news is that a footbridge (although a small one) is now being built over North Ave., connecting the sidewalks on both sides. The construction started a few weeks ago with the laying of big posts on the sidewalks. Yesterday, a large metal sheet with small posts was already up there on the center of the road. Hopefully, the footbridge will be usable next month, when even more people and more vehicles will traversing along this mall avenue because of the coming holiday season. What a comfort that will be, indeed! (I have to ask my friend Tess who works in Ayala company on who financed the footbridge. Did the Sy family ([of SM Mall with branches all over the Philippines] and Ayala family [of Trinoma Mall and other big malls in the metropolis] finally cooperate and put their money together? It will be gratifying to know if they indeed do cooperate, and not just compete, with each other.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Way ahead of my time? :)

The Philippines is said to be the texting (or Short Messaging System [SMS}) capital of the world. Nw, dat1 hs bin txtd2me by frends a kopol of tyms. Judging from what I see everywhere, (and that's only counting Metro Manila,where I am located, out of the whole Philippines), nine out of 10 Filipinos have a mobile phone or celphone (as we usually call this contraption in the Philippines) (and sometimes one Filipino owns more than one celphone, especially with the promos launched by various telecom companies and celphone manufacturers that give discounts and freebies to celphone owners). And apart from the great number of celphones owned by Filipinos, the fact is that we just love to text all day long different kinds of messages ranging from official (business-related) ones to inspirational messages, to jokes to simple "hellos." And Filipinos text wherever they are (as long as there's a signal, of course), and even if we are already half-asleep. (And, by the way, we also use our celphones to mainly text not call, mostly to save on load credits, since many, if not the majority, of Filipino celphone owners still use the pre-paid load rather than post-paid lines. Pre-paid, after all, seems still to be cheaper than post-paid for the celphones, even with all the post-paid promos of the telecom companies.)

Shortcut it is
Anyway, what I actually want to say in this post is that it utterly amazes me that the shortcut way that words are typed or encoded into the celphone's keypad to be sent to the text recipient is actually how I used to write my notes when I was in high school and college in the Philippines (and this would be from 1977-1985, when celphones were still unheard of, at least in the Philippines, although some people perhaps were already using pagers at that time, which was the most "mobile communication" one could get in those years.)Especially when the teacher would be talking fast while we the students would be taking down notes in our notebooks, I'd drop most vowels from my words and all I'd have were words (and sentences) composed of mostly consonants, which allowed me to save time on note-taking. Mercifully, when I reviewed my notes, I'd still understand what I wrote. But my classmates would get angry because if they borrowed my notebook to read or copy my notes (like especially if they weren't listening to the teacher or were absent during the class), they couldn't understand what I wrote! Hahah! They would sort of castigate me on why I wrote like that. They said that my notes were useless (only to them, of course).

Well, am sure most of my former classmates would have celphones nowadays, and I'm sure how they use der fones 2txt msgs wud b how I used 2ryt my notes in iskul which dey uterly hated! I'm surely having the last laugh :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

For a friend who passed away

For my first-ever post on this blog, am reproducing below a piece i wrote for my friend Ramon "Monching" Aragon who passed in the early hours of September 16, 2008 in Bangkok. He was a co-op trainer for the National Confederation of Co-operatives (NATCCO) of the Philippines for 18 years. He was 48 years old when he died. His body was brought back to the Philippines on September 18, and he was buried on September 21 in Paranaque City, Metro Manila. He was a very dear friend of mine (he's the second from the right in the picture, that's me to his right).

Monching—a Man for Others

When I was first told that my friend (and everybody’s friend) Ramon “Monching” H. Aragon had passed away earlier that fateful Tuesday, my mind sought to find the right words to capture what Monching was in his life and what he meant to the many people that he had left behind—family, friends, co-workers, co-operators. My mind raced back to events and activities that Monching and I both attended when I was still a NATCCO staff, and other co-op events where we still met even after I had left NATCCO, and also to our daily interaction as co-workers, and later our interaction still whenever I would visit NATCCO and he would be there. And knowing if he were in the spacious NATCCO Building wasn’t a hard thing to do with his booming voice reverberating around the structure. “Seeing” in my mind Monching in those past events, I realized that one of the best descriptions that can be given to Monching is that he was a “man for others.” In his own way, he was a dependable ally to us his co-workers and friends whenever we needed a listening ear, a helping hand, a solid advice. Even at times that he was busy, or maybe even sleeping while sitting in front of his desk [during office hours, yes, that’s Monching—always sleepy whenever he sat down], he would be there for us if we needed him—for his advice on some co-op matter, his technical expertise on the computer, his opinion on some pressing office issue. Of course, being Monching, we “disturb” him (especially when he is sleeping—during office hours) and we get a dose of his trademark ribbing and profanities before or even while he’s helping us. Monching wouldn’t be Monching without his never-ending profanities that weren’t really offensive but actually quite endeared him to his friends. For that was Monching, down-to-earth, walang arte (no frivolities), what-you-see-is-what-you-get, take-it-or-leave-it. He was a simple guy. His only vice, it seemed, was the itch to have the latest techie gadgets, be it a celphone, PDA, camera, computer, etc. But he never bragged (well, not too much) about his latest acquisitions. He even let us borrow them if truly needed. Oh, he had another vice--music. He loved music—from the Carpenters to the latest hits. But music never seemed to like him back, and we never gave him the mike during videoke sessions. Wait a minute, I almost forgot, he had yet another vice—eating. He loved good food, and we his friends enjoyed sharing good food with him, with matching kwentuhan (small talk) (but we were always careful to cover our food when he talked because we joked that he always made a “shower” while talking).

Monching and his jokes

Monching was a man for others. He was there with his witty jokes if we needed cheering up. And even if we didn’t need cheering up (and we didn’t want him around, heheh), he would still be there, with his jokes. Most funny, others not-too-funny but which still made us smile because he always delivered his jokes with facial expressions and hand gestures that conveyed warmth, more of like big brother cheering us up. And Monching, the big brother, would always remember something in each one of his friends that would be his take-off point in making his funny pangungulit (persistent teasing) to us (like he would always ask me if I’ve already seen my house cat that I lost years ago, which, he surmised, had committed suicide or something). Of course, there was always his FPJ-style pose that was always patok (a hit) (FPJ was Fernando Poe Jr., considered the "Action King" of Philippine movies, who had also recently passed away). But Monching was never pikon (easily hurt) (except maybe when we gave him the “shower” joke). Whatever ribbing he got back from us in return, he would take it with a happy disposition. I remember in one workshop where Monching was one of the participants who were asked to describe their real selves, he admitted that he was always the happy-go-lucky type. And his friends couldn’t agree more.

Serious moments

It’s hard to remember moments where Monching was in a serious mood. He was a jolly person, and he always liked others to be happy, too. In fact, I can remember only two moments that he would be in a serious mood—one, if his friends would engage him in a conversation about corrupt government officials whom he absolutely hated and always wanted to feed to the crocodiles, and, two—if he’s talking about co-operatives. Yes, Monching was THE dedicated co-op trainer. It seemed that he was happiest when he was conducting a seminar or training somewhere, whether for a small or big group. And he was among the most knowledgeable, skilled, and dedicated co-op trainers in the Philippine co-op movement. Like he was born into co-ops and meant to be a conveyor of the good news about co-ops. Which could actually be the case as his younger years were already spent around a co-op in his San Dionisio, Paranaque community—Monching was a batang ko-op (a child of the co-op). Growing up and taking up civil engineering in Adamson University in Manila, he was soon back to his co-op roots through his work in NATCCO starting around 1990, and that’s where I met him (I came in a year earlier to NATCCO). We worked together in the training department—he as a trainer, I as a distance education course writer.

Monching the co-op trainer/educator

When Monching was conducting a training, everybody listened. Not only because his booming voice actually commanded attention but also because one could feel that what he was relaying about co-ops came from his heart. Not too long ago, the Philippine co-op movement lost to a fatal illness Ms Alma T. Gabud, another NATCCO staff, who, like Monching, breathed and lived co-operatives. Alma was another excellent co-op trainer, and, in many events, she and Monching were a training team. Monching lost his life doing what he liked doing most—amid a training conduct, on foreign shores even. With the loss of Monching, and before him, Alma, both great trainers, the co-op movement in the Philippines and even in Asia have lost staunch workers and allies in its development. But the innumerable co-op leaders, staff, and members that Monching had trained, inspired, and transformed will be his legacy to the movement that he loved very much. And for sure, he will always be one of the inspirations for his co-workers and friends in NATCCO and its partner-agencies not only for their continued efforts for the movement but also for their personal lives that he touched with his commitment, his pakikisama (camaraderie), his antics, his laughter. We are truly blessed to have known this man for others—Monching.