Saturday, January 31, 2009


For a few days now, I've had the urge, the craving, to feast on green, crispy mangoes (and I get that urge often, especially whenever my vehicle passes by near the market, and I see the mangoes stacked up on the shelves or still on the baskets, fresh from the farm). Mango slices dipped in fish/shrimp paste we call "bagoong" (ba-go-ONG), uhhmmm..yummy. Bagoong's taste and smell may be too strong or too different to the uninitiated. It may just be the Filipino's version of caviar. But just thinking and writing now about mangoes and bagoong (and seeing those pictures!) make my mouth water, as I imagine biting into the sour, juicy slices. Maybe I'll really go to the market tomorrow after Sunday Mass and finally get myself some mangoes (I already have bagoong at home).

Yummy green mangoes photo from Yummy bagoong photo from

Quite recently, my co-workers and I were on our way to visit a co-op out of town. We were kind of lost, and our driver parked by the roadside to ask directions from some bystanders. As we were parked, a woman crossed the street from the other side. Passing by our van which had tinted windows that were closed, the woman looked straight into one window and used it as a mirror to fix her hair. My friend who sat by that window was at that time also looking out to the street, and all of us inside the van had a good laugh seeing the woman on the street fixing her hair while my friend was looking straight at her from the inside. I remarked jokingly that the woman outside must have somehow seen upclose the image of my friend inside the van while fixing her hair, and must've thought to herself "How come my face is different?"

At a high school party early this January, I saw former classmates whom I haven't seen and talked to for more than 25 years (since our graduation, where we had our last communication). Although I've not seen these guys for a long time, and some changes in their features would've made me stop for a few seconds to think about who they might be, the eyes were the key. The hair might have changed in length, style, or color. The height might have changed, too. Even the body weight (although no one ever seems to want to hear remarks about body weight, heheh). But the eyes. A look straight into my friends' eyes, and I knew in an instant, deep in my heart, who they were. Suddenly, I feel that connection between us, for the eyes never change. They never hide the memories that I share with these former classmates of mine. The memories that have binded us together, even if time and distance kept us apart for so many years.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Too much, too early

Just after the oath-taking of new US President Barack Obama, Mr. Eduardo Ermita, the Executive Secretary of my own President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, remarked in a press conference in Manila that the former can learn from latter since she's been in office longer than him. And also that, he mentioned that because of Arroyo's presidency, the Philippines "continues to be an 'island of calm" despite the current global economic crisis.

Well, I found Ermita's statement superfluous considering the lowest ever satisfaction ratings for a president that Arroyo has been getting from the public. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, interestingly an ally of Arroyo, also termed a "hyperbole" Ermita's statement. She said it doesn't really matter if who has served for how long, if lessons are to be imparted about leadership, something along that line.

Indeed, Ermita spoke too much and too early. Especially since the economic calm that he was bragging about was shaken by the news that came just hours after his Obama-Arroyo remarks, that long-term Philippine investor Intel was closing its factory in the Philippines, giving a job loss to 1,800 Filipinos, mostly women. Also in the TV news along that time was the confirmation of what many feared and found hard to confirm because of the earlier repeated denial by the concerned companies. Philippine pre-need companies (e.g., for educational plans) were losing money and could be unable to pay or pay quickly their beneficiaries' claims. Of course, before this, there was the news last year that one of the biggest, if not the biggest, insurance companies in the Philippines is up for sale because of the losses of its parent company in the USA. And early this year, a number of rural banks have suddenly closed, leaving the fate of the depositors' money in limbo.

So, this is what Obama must learn from Arroyo?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Peace, please

A frontpage photo a few days ago on a local leading newspaper sums up the foolishness of war--the bodies of three little kids lined up side-by-side on the street, after being hit by a bomb in the ongoing Gaza Strip carnage. An adult man wept near the bodies, one of which was that of his child, according to the photo's caption.

Days after, more news filtering out of Gaza tell of more deaths among civilians of all ages, male and female. Rescuers are said to be allowed, if at all, inside Gaza only by foot, ambulances kept away at a distance. Video footages on TV show overcrowded hospitals and treatments centers with medical supplies almost running out, with the wounded arriving in scores at any moment.

Must it come to this? Such bloodiness, terrorism, hatred, murder seems so unlikely in this day and age of globalization, where we are surrounded by the glitz and polish of information technology (IT) that supposedly makes the inhabitants of this world a little bit closer to one another. All those social networking sites that litter the Internet pave the way for faster and easier communication and relationships-building, crossing countries and continents in a second. Or does this boil down to the division of the have and have-nots? Where the haves with their dizzying and seemingly endless access to the benefits of new IT modalities, especially the Internet, as the showcase of IT, seemingly becoming somehow unconcerned or blinded to the needs of the have-nots, and being satisfied with the situation of their own lives, never mind the others. In fairness, in some cases, this is not of the Internet-savvy people's own undoing and not all Internet-savvy people have become like that. But the have-nots, for which accessing the Web is the least of their concerns or, perhaps, on the other side of the coin, one of services that is denied them, still have as their day-to-day main priorities food on the table, shelter over their heads, and clothes on their bodies. And this radical division between the haves and the have-nots, persisting through the ages and now even includes the digital divide, continues to spawn misunderstanding, violence, invasion, and war. An equally radical spin may be needed. The way I see it, we are only still scratching the surface of the uses of the Internet. I believe that the Internet, fully utilized and its use more liberalized (to include more the have-nots, including those to whom their countries have restricted access to the Internet) can provide a very effective means for in-depth peace-building, and greater understanding and cooperation among different nations and races. This is going beyond social networking, which the Internet seems to be serving more at this time for many people. I do know of efforts by some sectors, especially development organizations, in tapping IT and the Internet to help people improve their economic lives, especially in the community or grassroots level. This is a good start. People's economic improvement, especially when they directly and in suitable timeframe enjoy the fruits of their own labor, is a step toward attaining a good quality of life, and peace.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The good rain

I've experienced a New Year's Eve or two in the Philippines where there was a very light rainshower (ambon in the vernacular) around midnight. But the light rain failed to dampen the fireworks that lightened the sky and the firecrackers that deafened the ears, as how Filipinos always celebrate the occasion. The brighter and more complicated the fireworks display, the better (and more expensive). The more eardrum-shattering the firecrackers, the more that Filipinos love to fire 'em up. For some people, they believe that the brightness and the loudness of the pyrotechnics will ward off bad spirits from the incoming year. Indeed, fireworks is big business in the Philippines, as we even have a "fireworks capital," that is, Bocaue town in Bulacan province, just a few miles away from the capital city. Most fireworks factories are located in Bocaue. But it seems that the brightness and, particularly, the loudness of the crackers bring bad luck, to the contrary, to many people. Before and after midnight, year after year, Philippine hospitals are filled to the brim with people bleeding to the hilt from some firecracker accident--a cracker that exploded in the hand while being lit up, a cracker that failed to lit up on the ground but fired up when handled by the reveler, a viewer of the fireworks display who had the misfortune of being in the path of a wayward boomer, a bystander who suddenly dropped to the ground after being hit by a stray bullet fired by some trigger-happy gun owner.

But this New Year's Eve of 2008/2009, thank God for the rain that fell over most of Metro Manila (where most of the Philippines' pyrotechnics seem to be fired off). There was a rainshower earlier in the day (actually even days before New Year's Eve), which continued till early evening. Just before midnight and after midnight, the rain became a bit stronger. There was therefore less pyrotechnics, and less pollution. And even the better news, the health and police authorities say that injuries were at an all-time low for the country. Although the news still carried some grim items like the young boy who lost a hand while handling an lit up but unexploded cracker, and the young girl who face got burned by the hot sparks from the a "fountain" that fell flat to the ground (facing her) from its standing position while spewing out its gunpowder and stuff.

What the authorities fail to do every year, that is, dissuade Filipinos from firing up those sometimes dangerous crackers, the rain was able to do so. Well, now, two days after the first day of the year, I can still hear loud explosions of leftover crackers around the city, as the rain has abated somehow. And the hospitals are still on heightened alert nowadays for some cracker injuries. The merrymaking goes on!!!