Friday, November 20, 2009

Philippine Christmas lanterns galore

The Philippines reputedly has the longest Christmas season celebration in the whole world, and homes and establishments, from the simplest to the grandest, are never wanting in lights and decorations to help mark the occasion. No matter what the economic situation is.

Philippine Christmas lanterns (locally called parol) of various shapes (usually star shape), sizes, designs, materials (some use recycled or reused materials), kaleidoscope-like flashing colors, lighting patterns, and prices are among the most popular Christmas decorations in the country. They are also among the favorite items to bring along for Filipinos who live abroad and foreigners who visit the Philippines. The most favored and prized of these lanterns for their designs and quality are made in the province of Pampanga, north of the country’s capital Manila.

But other places outside Pampanga have also produced their own versions of the Philippine Christmas lanterns. Many of the Christmas lantern manufacturers in the country are home-based, with family members and close neighbors pitching in the work. The lanterns are, therefore, not just a showcase of craft and creativity but also a labor of love. But, most of all, a wonderful reminder of Filipinos’ joyous celebration of the best occasion of all—the birth of Jesus.

Buyers of Philippine Christmas lanterns need not go to Pampanga or other provinces to get their stuff. Although going direct to the sources can have advantages as in any other kind of purchase. But the lanterns are also available in the cities from sidewalk stalls, some ambulant vendors, department stores, and malls. (Some years ago, they weren't that easy to be obtained.) Prices range from a few hundred pesos to more than a thousand. A gift for haggling for a lower price comes in handy. But each lantern is a creative piece and a joy to the senses, so paying some big bucks for it is definitely worth the price.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Berlin 1989, 1991, and 2009

This November marks the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. In November 1991, or 18 years ago, two years after the Berlin Wall was brought down to merge the two Germanys, I left the former East Berlin after staying for six weeks to take a journalism course in a school that was in a middle of a forest. The International Institute of Journalism-Berlin (IIJB) hosted me and 11 or 12 other young journalists, and our teachers from different countries who--along with IIJB’s own German journalism professors--taught us students the ins and outs of the trade that we would bring back to our organizations. Our organizations were mostly in the development and co-op field as our course was aimed at young co-op journalists. Students were sponsored by different agencies, and I was sponsored by my employer the National Confederation of Co-operatives (NATCCO) in the Philippines, the Canadian Co-operative Association (ICA), and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), along with other event organizers, including the IIJB itself.

Where we came from
I was the only student from the Philippines, and only one of two students from Asia (India was the other Asian country). Th
e rest of us came from Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Egypt, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia. It was my first trip abroad. It was a wonderful and lesson-filled experience. It was also tiring but had lots of fun moments (or we students managed to have fun although we were pretty much left on own at the school’s dorm especially at night, with a radio in each of our rooms to keep us company). We had good interaction with our teachers--Dr. Claus, Dr. Janke, Mr. Williamson, to name a few, and I’ve continued to keep in touch with Mr. (Iain) Williamson via e-mail to this day. He’s based in Britain. My classmates and I gave each other great company throughout our stay in beautiful Berlin—Geoffrey, Nathan, Phil, Serina, Shahira, Monica, Sethu, and the others.

Nice Berlin
I met an old German couple in the small church near our school. The couple invited me to their home every Sunday after Mass, for lunch and afternoon treats. German-English dictionaries helped in our random conversation. Berlin was beautiful. Old architecture blended well with new structures. Our boat ride along the winding Spree River was a pleasure, seeing old those old bridges and well-manicured riverbanks. Even if I emerged from the boat ride shivering as my two jackets failed to keep out the cold. And knowing that just up to two years ago before I arrived, the area where I was gave very limited access, if
at all, to “outsiders” gave me a different kind of feeling and an urgency to explore the location, even though I had quite a limited time to do so. But Berlin and my experiences while I was there will always have a special place in my memory and my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Twitter Tweet Retweet

Twitter is one of the most popular social networking sites around the globe, although I don’t know how useful it has been for non-English-speaking citizens. Anyway, I find it interesting how the people behind Twitter has managed to put some sense into quickly interchanging (or using) the “i” and “ee” in between the “tw” and “tter” to mean different, although somewhat related, words pertaining to Twitter. As a basic example, consider the following: Twitter is the name of the site. Tweets are posts on Twitter sent by Twitterers (a user of Twitter, the site). (But Ztwitt means to tweet very quickly.) Retweets are posts of Twitterers that are posted by other Twitters. Twithead is someone who is constantly twittering, but a Tweetaholic is someone who is addicted to Twitter, which might already indicate an actual problem, it is said (gasp!). (To be Attwicted also means to be addicted to Twitter.) By the way, a Twitterer is a user of Twitter, a term that is also similar, however, to a Tweeter, who is, in turn, a Java-based client with customizable URL (see?). lists more explanations of Twitter-related words, from letters A to Z, with some twit or tweet words derived from “old/ordinary” words, given new spelling or twist (or tweest?) as they can apply to Twitter. But words are yet to be listed under the letters V and X. Perhaps the Twitter staff doing the Twittonary has, for the moment, run out of bright ideas and still drawing up twit or tweet words to put under V and X. Twitter users worldwide can perhaps send Twitter dot com some of their “brighttweet” ideas. Hmmm, brighttweet. Hey, Twitter! Can I suggest you add "brighttweet" under letter B, please? (I guess I don't have to explain what the word means.) Or, maybe you prefer it to be spelled "brighttwit"? Now, I'm suddenly confused if it's Tweety Bird or Twitty Bird? :)