Friday, August 28, 2009


I grew up in a house full of people. My mom left us when I was barely a toddler, so my dad whisked me and my older sister to live with our grandparents. My dad is the eldest in a brood of eleven, so with the grandparents plus house help, there were at least 16 to 17 people in the house.

From age 13 to maybe 20, I actually dreamed of living alone. As in ... alone. In high school, my imagined pad was composed of a sofa-bed, a stereo component, and a personal ref full of cola. It didn't occur to me that food and water were actually essential to life. At least I had a sofa-bed to accommodate people to drink coke with me. One room would suffice. My imagination didn't even get as far as a bathroom.

In college, I become more realistic and realized the value of furniture. So my imagined pad now has a Japanese-style living and dining room. The Japanese dining table was important because that meant that I wouldn't need any chairs. Oddly enough,I still didn't picture a bathroom.

After college, now being a woman of the world, my imagination drastically changed. I now had provisions for actual food preparation - a neat kitchen. It finally dawned on me that I would need a bathroom... and a bed, Guests would probably appreciate chairs and so I mentally filled that in too, along with bookshelves,closet,and some sort of space to wash things in.

And that's where the major snag happened.

Every human activity involves some sort of cleaning up after. We eat, we have to wash dishes, pots and pans. We wear clothes, we have to launder them. We have a room, we have to dust it. The doozy is having to clean a bathroom - a toilet, to be specific.

I would like to believe that one's biggest luxury is having a clean bathroom. Better than a shiny new car, better than diamonds. The diamonds I will get to use about five times in my life, tops. A bathroom is forever. And since this is the one place I do visit many many times in a day, its conditioning is of prime importance. Above all, cleanliness.

Even when we are not rich, we had the privilege of having a household help. I eat and, lo and behold, the dishes are clean for the next meal. I put my used clothes in the hamper and then they disappear and reappear all nice and pressed. I Have never once had to dunk a brush in a toilet and swish. It's like having magical elves around!

Now why would I want to let go of that? Living alone in my own, what was I thinking?

Oh maybe it was almost every twentysomething's dream. It sure was mine when I was that age.

What's yours?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Woodstock, revisited.

Woodstock turned 40 last Saturday, an event whose culture, or social, significance went past music, thus giving it an iconic luster.

Actually, someone says that forty years ago, Max Yasgur’s farm was overrun by mud, musicians, and beatniks. Yes, it was three days of peace and music’ but it was also three days of drugs, chaos, and not enough bathrooms.

Not really.

The drugs and chaos and lack of bathrooms were not part of the downside of Woodstock, they were part of its charm. Yes, charm, including the drugs, which were not yet the brain-frying chemical types that would flourish through America in the 1970s. But the chaos and lack of bathrooms, you can’t have a better metaphor for going back to nature than that. It might have made for a lot of s--t, but it did not make for a lot of bull.

Many have a special fondness for Woodstock, mainly because it goes beyond seeing Carlos Santana and the others in all their youthful and ragged glory—or Jimi Hendrix frozen in time,(a platform Elvis and Michael Jackson may not share)—which makes a lot the 60’s generation feel young again – like AA who always felt young anyway, even as his joints ache on cold days or Sid's , who's wrist turn into a map of hills and valleys from gout. I'm just kidding, like me they were so young then to have witnessed Woodstock, but we live through the music of that era. Some people have Camelot. That generation has Woodstock.

Woodstock I believe was the culmination of a period that longed, and strove, to change the world. We do not have to imagine John Lennon’s “Imagine,” we have only to look at Woodstock. That was “Imagine” in real life, or in living color, as Sony TV used to brag in those days.

Woodstock starts with music and ends with music. The music is etched forever by Santana, Joan Baez, several months pregnant, Crosby, Stills, and Nash. But above all, and this is AA’s favorite, Jimi Hendrix. His guitar wailing out the strains of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” his fingers becoming a blur, transforming into the sounds of screaming jets and screaming children, the bombs bursting in air, giving proof clear as day, of what America had become in Vietnam.

That was Woodstock.

Can you remember that era and the music of that time?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A social butterfly, I am not.

I grew up in the province where parties meant being invited to a birthday, wedding, or christening celebration. They are always an ‘eat and run” affairs.

Parties in the city though are different and gatherings here generally make me feel uncomfortable, unless I know everybody in the room and, even then, I find myself wishing I were elsewhere, like in my room watching TV.

I have always envied people who can stand around in a party, drink in hand and chat and giggle and look totally happy. I generally just blink at the crowd in a wide-eyed, froggy manner. Yes, I have come to terms with the fact that I have the social grace of a frog.

Through time and experience, I have developed a very small but safe repertoire of party topics: the weather, how stressful life in the city is, or how peaceful life in the province is (depending where I am). I have learned that if I don’t stray from these issues, then I can sustain a quasi-meaningful conversation for about 5 minutes, which is all one needs in most social functions anyway.

Ok, I thought I’d share a few tips with fellow social frogs, who are on the brink of despair. For example, here are good conversation openers:
“It’s been so hot, (or cold, or raining…depends on how it really is. Remember, this is small talk, not fiction) hasn’t it? The person you’re talking to is bound to agree, since what you just said is a factual statement, after all. Then you say: “I like it ( or don’t like it) because…(state your reason)” Again the person you’re talking to will still agree because they don’t want to contradict you. For that would be rude. Then you say: ‘It’s good it hasn’t affected the party.”

As for the topic of stress, that’s very safe. Everybody’s stressed. All you have to do is open with something like: “Isn’t the traffic so stressful!” or “It get so crowded in malls, it’s so stressful!” The person you’re talking to is bound to launch into a litany of stressful things so that you wouldn’t have to talk again.

Ok, if however you are determinedly anti-social and yet do not feel the calling to join a monastic order, self cloistering can be an alternative. Just stay home and never ever accept a single invitation.

Of course, this has always been a tempting prospect fro me. However, I have found that the barrage of conversations I have to carry on explaining why I didn’t go can be just as hard to cope with, as showing up. So far, I have but a handful of excuses and there’s but only so many times a person can get sick. Oh well the script is still in the making. So until I manage to get avoidance down to an art form, I have to grit my teeth, show up at these functions and talk about the weather.

If you have a good excuse, let me hear it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Be true.

First, I would like to thank Sid for the graphic I have displayed above. His collection is just amazing! And looking at those graphics had given me an idea of what topic to write.

So here it is...

I presumed that most (if not all) of us here have experienced the pain of living life not as ourselves, but as others want us to be. Maybe at some point in our life, we recognize that we are not being true to ourselves but are in fact, being just the opposite. We try every conceivable effort to deny who we are, all in the name of being what we are 'supposed' to be.

Why? Because unfortunatley, there is no shortage of people wanting to tell us how we ought to live our lives. I wonder how they always seem to know better than us - as if they have come by this 'knowledge' by some divine providence. The fact of the matter is that it is nothing more than their own personal opinion as to how things ought to be. And even if others might agree with them, does not make their opinions any more correct.

On the other hand, I also believe that it is a twisted notion to think that being yourself means not changing anything about yourself. As changing ourself might be the most life affirming thing we can do. But I dont want to spend my time longing to be able to look or act or dress a certain way. There is nothing wrong in changing our looks, so long as they are done because they are what we want to do and not because we have been told do it.

But we don't need to set out to change the world to be ourself. All we need is to do is just one thing, and that's to be honest with ourselves.

Only we can know what will or will not help. Only we can know when we have reached a point where we are happy. All that others can offer are just opinion. Therefore we may take them for nothing more than just that - opinions. Some will feel right, others won't. In the end, only we can know what's right for us.

Bottom line: Be yourself and be true in your heart.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Have broom, will travel.

There is a distinct advantage in being Filipino when traveling, especially in Asia. White people and Japanese look ever so much richer, and this gives us one incredible benefit - we are less likely to be mugged!

It stands to reason that a mugger would go for the American naturally endowed with dollars rather than the Filipino who actually brings around instant noodles to save on food. Heck, a mugger probably can't even tell which one is the Filipino on the street of Southeast Asia.( I was mistaken for a Malaysian or Chinese when I was in India)But you know, a fellow Filipino can always spot another Filipino because we are the ones who are haggling hard, like we are squeezing water from a rock.

Living in and around Manila gives one an innate craftiness that is very useful when shopping in a foreign land. You see, we are armed with the following truths:1) of course souvenirs are overpriced;2) of course the sellers will tell you anything to make a sale;3) of course those aren't real antiques. Anybody who believe they've got an unbelievable bargain too good to be true grew up in Neverland.

A Filipino haggling is a thing of beauty. Watch closely as the Filipino asks for the price, then inspects with much skepticism the merchandise, then gives a counter-offer (usually around half the original). Observe how the merchant acts insulted and gives a slightly lower amount nowhere near the Filipino desired purchase price, then watch as the Filipino pretend to walk away as the now-frantic merchant agrees to the Filipino stingy offer.

The level of expertise though of the Third-worlder ends about there. Sometimes our lack of exposure to wealth can be a drawback.Take deposit boxes, something I have absolutely no need for and therefore feel strange when I come into contact with one. It's because I don't actually have anything worth putting in a safety box. I don't have much cash nor jewelry. But I do have my passport and ticket and no money to replace them if they got lost. The thought of using the safe was just for fun.

But I know there are people out there who seriously need a safe. On the immigration card, there is a box that needs to be ticked if one had more that $10,000. That means there are people who actually think of bringing around that amount in cash! I wouldn't even know what $10,000 looked like if it were ahead of me in the baggage claim counter.

That's too bad though because I'd like to have $10,000. With that kind of money, it wouldn't be hit and miss with the hotel. It will also buy me a seat in business class where they serve drinks in real glasses. A business class seat also means being able to move one's arms and legs around a bit.

But then, first class all the way somewhat kills a bit of the travel. If all I wanted was to stay in a fancy hotel, I could do that here and save money. I always felt traveling has to be about getting immersed in other worlds. And if that mean wandering aimlessly in the streets of a city where people don't understand English, then so be it.

How about you? What would you want to gain in your travel to foreign land?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do not lose hope.

Remember, all of the famous man
Who had to fall to rise again.
They picked themselves up, dust themselves off
And… start all over again
(Diana Kroll)

Many times living can become very painful and our problems can seem overwhelming - even hopeless. This is because many things trigger our depression.

It can be a breakup of a relationship which is important to us, or becoming unemployed or being unemployed for a long period of time. Even loneliness can cause anxiety. We also get depressed when someone has done something to us that are hurtful. The same with the guilt of having done something, or having problems which we cannot find solution to.

Yes we all have dark days in our life. Sometimes we’re just a little low while some other times we’re so depressed and it makes us feel like we lost all ways to believe in ourselves. We lost hope.

Hope is what we hold in our heart when we want to believe our sorrows will end eventually. Hoping is waiting for a better perspective. Hope is never giving up

Always remember my friend, that clouds will inevitably appear. Even the most perfect sunny days may get really cloudy sometimes. But only the weak give up and lose hope. There’s no such thing as perfect. So do not focus your energy on wanting to reach perfection.

Be realistic and most importantly, keep faith, it can make wonders.

I am.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The beauty and the breast.

We live in the day and age of breast implants. It is like any other normal add on to enhance one’s physical self.

Unfortunately most of these breasts are easy to spot because they look unnaturally hard and bulging. I don't know about you, but there seemed nothing soft about them! When watching celebrities on TV, quite often, I hear people say, “They’re fake.” Or “I bet they aren’t real!” And almost always, commented in a put-down manner.

Yes I know that someone's appearance is important. We all are guilty of favoring or liking someone who looks better than someone who is ordinary looking. Even in job interviews, those who look smart are given more importance. But the main reason women want to have breast augmentation is because she believes that men will find her more attractive. Maybe these women harbor visions of increased mate and job opportunities.

However, I can not help but wonder what’s going on with men who can only be caught by big breasts? And what woman in her right mind would want to attract such a “Shallow Hal”? Is he such a desirable catch? I’m absolutely certain many a husband married to an implant recipient cannot tell the truth to her now for fear of hurting her obviously already fragile self-image. I suspect a simple, "My preference would be that they were normal" would devastate their wives.

Maybe it's only me, but I’m equally turned off by males, who claimed to be turned on by fake hard imitation breasts, more so, because now women feel such a need to satisfy them!


Monday, August 17, 2009

A neat solution, indeed.

First off, let me say that I envy America for their health care system. We, in the Philippines don't have such system and we are left to fend for ourselves when we get sick or need medical services.

But I am not going to talk about the US health care crisis debate as I am not familiar with the pros and cons of the issue. Rather, let me share with you an amusing Nursing Reform Act introduced in congress by a Republican Representative John Shadegg from Arizona.

The bill calls for increasing work visas for foreign nurses. He said this will eliminate the shortage of nurses. Hurray! This is good news to thousands of Filipino nursing graduates.

Indeed, this bill is great on so many levels. For one, Americans know that health care is costing them an arm and a leg (pun intended). They say the biggest cause are obviously nurses and nursing unions. They claim that nurses are way overpaid, but unfortunately the health care corporations have not been able to break the nursing unions because of the shortage of nurses. So by bringing in lots of foreigners, they can flood the market with labor, break the unions, and get nursing salaries down. Isn't that brilliant?!

But take note, that this is the same approach that was so successful in cutting the salaries earned by information technology workers about 10 years ago. US corporation complains of high IT costs, so their brilliant Congress increased the number of H1-B visas so that companies can hire cheap workers from India and other places. Later, many of these foreign workers returned to their homelands and brought the work with them. Now, corporate America doesn't have to pay high salaries, and they don't even have to look at the foreigners anymore - they can just write a little check to India. Bravo!! Fortunately, information technology salaries have never rebounded to the levels where they were.

Now, back to nurses. Let's face it, nursing is a difficult, degrading work. Nurses sometimes have to wipe feces, and Americans are better than that! Sure, they can certainly find some Indians, Filipinos, or Chinese people to do that work thus, ridding self-respecting Americans of the need to perform that dirty job. In fact, they have rid themselves of the burden of almost all manufacturing jobs, call center jobs, and as mentioned earlier, many information technology jobs.

This bill is also the first step down the same glorious road for health care. I had read an article which says over 6 million Americans will travel abroad for surgery. See related topic here. Once these foreign nurses have become adept in "American-style health care," many can return home to help set up cheap health care services to those Americans that can afford to fly overseas. Think of the opportunities this will create for the airline industry!

Well, my only criticism of the bill is that, it doesn't go far enough. Perhaps it's not too late. Someone should urge Mr. Shadegg to expand this legislation so that America can bring in an additional 50,000 foreign doctors, 50,000 foreign dentists, 50,000 foreign lawyers, 50,000 foreign engineers, and 310 learned people for government positions (254 to take the Democratic congressional seats and 56 to take the Democratic Senate seats, ha ha ha!!!!!).

Did that make you laugh, AA? Mission accomplished, then.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pls. explain the science of romance.

How we fall in love may be the hardest human behavior to explain. We can't explain why we feel inspiring sense of tenderness toward a person who sparks our interest. Or why we get an uplifting feeling of relief and reward when the interest is returned.

I think we human beings make a terrible fuss about lot of things but none more than romance. Oops, let me correct that, I know eating and drinking is important for keeping the species going- more so actually, since a celibate person can at least continue living, while a starving one can't. Yet, while we build a whole society around the simple ritual of eating, it never turn us flat-out nuts. Romance does.

Imagine just how people compose poetry, novels, movies, sitcoms for love. They even live for love, die for love, kill for love. Love seems stronger than the drive to stay alive. So what I and maybe the rest of you want to know is, Why? What makes us go loony over love?

The problem with romance also is that it doesn't always deliver the goods. For all the joy it promises, it can also play us for fool, particularly when it convinces us that we've found the right person, only to be disappointed later. It seems any overwhelming emotional experience that ratchets up our sensory system can distort our perception, thus allowing us to take a chance on someone we should have avoided.

So, why do fools fall in love? And when we do fall, why do our faculties of reason - and decency and self respect and even right and wrong - sometimes not come along? I am aware of those who has ended with an obsessive, possessive and even dangerous partners, yet for some reason they stick around - often at their own peril.

I know we can't precisely measure love, but we can't deny that it comes in different temperatures: cool, hot and scalding.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chit chat.

Are you afraid of conversation?

I don’t mean the kind of conversation you have with your friends, or your family, or your officemates, but with someone you don’t know. Like striking a conversation with someone seated next to you in an airplane, or in a waiting area, etc.

I, personally, enjoy starting random conversations with random people mostly because I like to see what their responses will be, but also because I just think it’s stupid to stand next to someone when you’re on a bus, sharing an elevator, seated next to each other, and to not say anything at all…

I want to talk about the random funny things. Things that will, at the end of the day make you feel good that you have made a conversation with someone. But does “first impression" count in a random conversation? Will you use those few seconds of a new encounter to form an opinion of what a person could be like from everything he /she says?

Picture this conversation in an elevator:
Me: Hello, that color look nice on you!
Her: Can you press 5 for me?
I press it.
Me: Five it is. I’m on nine.
Her: Great.
Me: I’ve always found five to be a better number than nine.
Her: I prefer double-digit numbers, to be perfectly honest.
Fifth floor it is. Doors open. Seriously, she reaches in and hits the buttons for six, seven and eight.
Her: You talk too much.

I love having random conversations with people, despite the strange looks they sometimes give me. You never know what you’ll learn by engaging in a conversation with a total stranger. I wonder why so many people are scared to talk to each other.

Are you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I've been tagged again.

I have been tagged by Cal and Tracey and Kirst. I figure anyone who’s been reading my blog knows way more than SIX things about me, so it just feels a little repetitive. But, as always, I can not refuse these lovely friends, so I’m doing it. I know I need to come up with SIX people to "tag", mention them here and notify them on their blog, along with revealing SIX things about me. This is darn hard, people!!!

Ok, so here's what I can come up with...

1. I love boys - my sons, you goof! I got three of them and they are the true joy of my life. I am the type of parent who refuse to re-live my childhoods through them, know what I mean? It is their life and they need to live it. I'm merely trying to lead them down the right path (cross your fingers; it's a work in progress).

2. My three kids are aged 16 to 20. Some people complain about losing the cuteness factor of babies when they grow up, but I’ve been enjoying all phases until now. You just have to constantly adjust to everything, including pimples!

3. I have worked in the same industry - petroleum for the past 22 years. Most days I still like it, and it also amazes me. It’s like love songs: the basic story has been the same for ages, but I seem to constantly find new ways to tell it. Yeah, I like love songs, but that's another story.

4. If I had just inherited Tracey's creativity and Kirst's strong personality, also Sid's humor, then I would have been ruling the world by now...instead I’m just this simple over forty something woman that a few people have heard about.

5. When I like a shirt, I would buy them in different colors. I don't care if they are identical. Same with pants. I buy them in two's or three's.

6. When I am home alone, I can often be found in my skimpy short and spaghetti shirt singing silly songs while ironing clothes. (Please call before stopping by.)

I would like to spare other people from such tedious task. So I am not tagging anyone. Besides, Sid had already been tagged by Kirst, and AA will never write something like this - ever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Conversation with an American - Part 3

Paul went back to the Philippines. For ten straight months this 43 year old American had to put up with things that no man should put up with. He had snakes drop from the ceiling while he slept. Crazed turkeys trapped him in the bathroom. Many of his friends ended up on the dinner table. And oh yeah, after nearly a year of waiting, his Filipina wife still do not have her immigrant visa.

"I don't ever want to see rice again for as long as I live" Paul laments. "I miss my crappy American diet. I miss my barbecue chicken cooked over the black jack oak. I miss my big refrigerator with thousands of snacks. I miss my cable TV, my aircon, the toilet that flush, all my appliances that work." The biggest assault on his sanity, however, was the lack of anything to do.

He was so bored that he became close to many of the village animals, spending hours watching their silly antics and conversing with them. But the problem with this was that many of his friends ended up on the dinner table, which upset Paul greatly. And it was not that he was constantly losing his friends to the evening's menu, it was the way he lost them.

Being an admittedly spoiled Westerner, Paul's idea of grabbing meat was to go to the refrigerator section of the supermarket and make a neatly packaged selection. In Tapaz, however, if meat was on the menu for dinner, they would just grab a turkey or a chicken from the backyard and slit it's throat right in the kitchen sink. Paul's favorite turkey used to chase people around the house and sometimes trap them in the bathroom. Because of their high-brow attitude, Paul named one turkey Tough Guy and the other Tough Guy Jr. Upon their gastronomical demise, however, Paul became rather unhappy.

In Manila, he thought they were ready for the climactic interview with the official of the US embassy who wields the ever elusive visa stamp. The embassy, however, threw him another curve when it suddenly asked for a Singapore police clearance for his wife. "I'm very frustrated with the process," Paul said. "The length, the time, the expense. And after you go through the entire process, they can still say no. In Cuba, they were handing out US passport to any Cuban that wanted one," Paul said frustratingly. "I am an American citizen, this is my wife. It's absolutely ridiculous!"

The ordeal had it's bright side though. "I liked the fact that it has been a massive learning experience in my lifetime, something most American will not experience. They don't realize how hard life is here. I respect these people very much. But I'll admit, I'm a spoiled Westerner. I like not having to worry about spider crawling into bed with me. I like not having to slaughter animals in the kitchen sink."

But at least Paul Burns now has a loving wife and a lifetime full of stories. Thanks to an old magazine and a $2 gamble.

The end.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Conversation with an American - Part 2

Vic-Vic accepted Paul's marriage proposal, but her contract in Singapore would not end for another year. In the ensuing year they exchanged over 400 letters, sometimes writing twice a day.

When Vic-Vic's contract ended in June the next year, Paul flew to Singapore to meet her and to take her back to the Philippines. He said, "It was like seeing someone I had not seen in a long time as we got to know each other well through our letters."

Of course, Paul wasn't naive about the Philippines as he had done a lot of reading. However, he did not expect that she live in a remote village in Mindanao. Her village is nestled between the mountains of Agusan del Sur. It is so remote that jeepneys do not even go there. If people want to go somewhere, they usually just hop on a carabao (water buffalo), and go.

Tapaz was like going back in time 150 years. In fact Paul was shocked to see them using bolo to open cans. When he bought them a can opener during a rare trip to the nearest city, they didn't know what to do with the damn thing. They just sat there and look at it. That's how far behind they are.

In Tapaz, Paul lived in the family's small, simple house with no ceiling and a native nipa roof. They had electricity but mostly at night only. There were no glass on the window and no interior doors. The house was made of simple boards nailed together. Rooms were created by tacking up blankets and sheets. They get most of their drinking water by catching rain water. Paul said, "If it doesn't rain, you don't drink."

Everything Paul did drew an audience. When he took a bath at the village well, it drew an audience. He chopped woods, it drew an audience. Everybody thought he was rich. "A girl said to me, "You're rich.' I said " Why do you say that?" and she said," Because you are wearing a ring."

The marriage between a Filipino and a foreigner brought on the biggest party Tapaz had ever seen. Over a thousand people turned out to celebrate. They slaughtered 3 pigs and a huge water buffalo. A disco was set up and they played, among other songs, a warped version of Achy Breaky Heart. After two week and with his ticket about to expire, Paul went back to the States.

"Suddenly I was back in America alone again. Psychologically it crushed me. I have to go back and stay until she accomplished all the paper works in order to get her an immigrant visa to go to America."

Paul didn't expect his second trip would be a nightmare.

To be continued...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Conversation with an American - Part 1

He is Paul Burns, 43 years old, from Jacksonville Florida. He narrated that he had been living an incredibly unexciting life in America. He co-owns a pet shop and also works as a chef for a chain of chicken restaurant. He works six days a week, worked nights,and when he came home, he would watch television until dawn, go to sleep, get up after lunch and then prepare to go to work again.

He never went out and he never dated. He is comfortable in his boring life. His partner however, began urging him to find a girl."Paul, you need an Asian girl." When he asked why, his partner answered, "Because you need someone who is super dedicated to her husband, who's a good cook, and who will take care of you." It was then that Paul realizes he isn't getting any younger and he don't want to die alone. However, he had no idea where to start.

At home he said, he found an old magazine with an ad for a company called Japan International, which promised to bring together Asian women and Western men as pen pals. So Paul, sent in the $2 for information and they sent him back all the brochures. He said the company actually looked legitimate, so he sent the $35 sign up fee as he figured he got nothing to lose.

Several weeks later they sent him back an information form where he had to describe himself and also describe what kind of a girl he liked. He wrote that he desired someone semi-young, attractive with long dark hair, preferably a farm girl who enjoys music and writing. A few days after, he received a brochure with pictures of about a dozen women inside whose bio-data fit his interest. There were girls from Japan, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. He picked the domestic helper from Singapore.

Actually, he said, hers was the worst photo of them all, but for some reason Paul kept coming back to it. He eventually picked out three girls and wrote a letter to them, but he only mailed hers. A week later he got a reply. It was then he found out that Vic-Vic is a Filipina. They corresponded and by the third letter he asked her to marry him.

"I didn't want to waste time. I wanted to know if she just wanted to be a pen pal or something more."

To be continued...

Friday, August 7, 2009

The nipa hut.

It's been raining here again for days on end. I am not surprise anymore as July and August are the rainy months and foul weather during this time is always a possibility. So while the rain and wind pounded on, I cannot help but think of my nipa hut.

Yes, I have a nipa house in the province. The foundation is actually a cement and the frame is made of lumber and not bamboo, but the key element is there - the roof made of palm fronds. I know that people associate nipa roof with province life. You see, people in the province build nipa houses when they are poor and not have enough money for concrete tile and tin sheeting.

I associate nipa though with being cool. Not cool as in hip as nipa is hardly hip nowadays. I mean cool as in not hot. It's amazing how nipa actually makes the most sweltering days pleasant and tolerable. It is as if the nipa absorbs the heat and cushion it, rather than radiating it like when you have aluminum or concrete.

I remember one afternoon while i was there on a vacation, when a typhoon began approaching and the sky quickly started clouding up and turning nasty. When the wind and rain started raging I thought for sure we were doomed. I especially thought this because all I had for shelter is my flimsy hut. Having lived in a big solid house, the nipa hut seemed no match against nature's destructive fury.

Me and the kids while huddled inside our hut, had expected the horrifying winds to quickly blow our house of twigs to smithereens. But amazingly, though, the nipa hut came out unscathed! It swayed, it bent, but it didn't break. It lasted the night. In the morning the worst had passed and we were all safe. Maybe it was meant to absorb the wind, thus cushioning the impact of nature's blustery wrath. Of course, it felt good to know that people can protect themselves from nature's anger and we don't have to go to the hardware store to do it.

My nipa hut's sole purpose is not necessarily protection from the elements, but as an escape from the oppressive heat and a sanctuary amidst the chaos in the city as my house is located in the farthest end of the village. Just getting inside my house, I seem to enter a new world as if I am far removed from the tumult and fray around me. In fact, for me my nipa hut is practically magical.

Not bad for something simple, cheap and definitely not very trendy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who is in denial?

Most people think of the “mentally disordered” as a delusional lot, holding bizarre and irrational ideas about themselves and the world around them. Isn’t a mental disorder, after all, a distortion in thought or perception? At least, that’s what we tend to think, and many would agree that realistic thinking are considered essential to good mental health.

Ok, example, as an average individual I may hold cognitive biases in certain key areas like: a) viewing myself in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing I have more control over my environment than I actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify. As a typical person, I depend on these happy delusions for my self-esteem to function through a normal day.

So where does the difference lies?

Actually depressed individuals have more realistic perceptions of their own image, importance, and abilities than the average person. While it is generally accepted that depressed people are negatively biased in their interpretation of events and information, depressive attitude only suggests that they are often merely responding rationally to realities that we, the average person cheerfully denies.

These people with paranoid disorders can sometimes possess a certain unusual insight and in their every delusional system, there exists a core of truth—and in their pursuit of imagined conspiracies against them, they often show an exceptionally keen eye for the real thing. It's funny how those who may have interacted with them are taken aback as they find themselves accused of harboring some negative opinion of the person which, secretly, they actually do hold.

So how does one convince a depressed person that “everything is all right” when her life really does suck? How does one convince an obsessive-compulsive patient to stop religiously washing his hands when the truth of what gets left behind after “normal” washing should be enough to make any sane person cringed with horror?

But what do we do? We teach them to develop irrational patterns of thinking. Patterns that would help them view the world as a rosier place than it really is. Yes it may be counter to their belief, but it can be justified because what defines a mental disorder is not unreasonable or illogical thought, but abnormal behavior that can cause significant distress and impairs normal functioning in society. To treat them is to restore them to a level of normal functioning and satisfaction, even if it means building perception that are not precisely “rational” or “realistic.”

Yes, we “normal” individual think it is easier to think of the mentally disorder as lunatics running about with bizarre, inexplicable beliefs than to imagine them coping with a piece of reality that we can’t handle. It is us, who routinely hide from the truth about ourselves and our world because we thought it may help to explain the human tendency to ostracize the abnormal. It is because we have grown dependent on our comfortable delusions, because we can not handle the harsh cold of reality.

Nuff said.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Manila says goodbye to Cory.

It was a stirring sight - even if viewed only through the TV screen. I was moved to tears by the amount of love the Filipino people had shown to our beloved former president Corazon Aquino. She died last Saturday form colon cancer complications.

I can say, that no one, no government, could command such a spontaneous outpouring of feeling and sympathy. True, such crowd could be mobilized and public sentiment could be stirred and manipulated like our previous people power. But no amount of organizing ability could have summoned those ordinary folks who braved the heat and the rains, nor could it have faked or manufactured the feelings that poured out of the public’s hearts.

Watching the cortege moving slowly through the crowd I realize that greater honor does not come from somebody who is in authority (the present administration offered Mrs Aquino a state funeral that the family declined), but it is when people who have no power and no authority honor you according to the manner they want to express it - through their hearts. That, to me, is the greatest honor.

I saw the streets fluttered with yellow ribbons and yellow confetti rained from buildings. Yellow balloons soared and yellow flags snapped in the wind. Many in the crowd wears yellow t-shirt, many has yellow umbrellas. In fact, the street turned into seas of yellow for one brief afternoon.

Motorists honked their horns or rolled down their windows, waved and took pictures of the procession. Even vessels docked at the North Harbor wailed for five minutes as the truck bearing Aquino’s remains passed.

Indeed, it took her death to revive unity in the Filipino. I can feel the enthusiasm of the Filipino people and their desire to fight for what they believe in.

Today we bury the woman who restored our democracy.

Goodbye and thank you, Tita Cory!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The true king of the road.

Do you own a bicycle?

Unlike in China and other Asian Countries where bicycle is a mode of transport, here in Manila you won't see many of them in the road. Yes, there are many kids riding their BMX bikes from neighborhood to neighborhood, but the ones on long hauls never number more than a handful. Sometime I see cyclist in their cycling gear riding their bikes and I cannot understand how they survive Manila's awful roads with those thin tires. One has to literally have iron balls to ride a racing bike in the city.

If you are riding on a mountain bike, you are allowed to travel via the main roads, service roads, sidewalks and any other path. I see riders passed all motorized vehicles which sit and wallow in the constant gridlock. They cut in and around traffic, ride on a sidewalk, ride in the wrong way down a one way street. They even run red lights. You see, bikes here are given total leeway. A person on a bike can do as he pleases!

I understand that on a mountain bike, one can easily get around much faster than a car when you're in Manila. Don't get me wrong, of course, using a car or public transport is faster, but only if every single person in the city came down with a flu on the exact same day and called in sick to work.

But riding a bike has its set back - one arrive to work hot as hell, perspiring and stinking to high heaven. Some people though just don't care what their office mates think about their cologne, Eau de Traffic, as long as they get to the office on time!

I am not surprise anymore why bicycle riders are bold. It's because the surest way to an accident here in Manila is to go out there in the street and be timid and hide from rampaging cars, buses and jeepneys, all of whom so courteously follow one law - the law of the jungle! So that means, in a bike one has to make himself known. He has to put himself out there for all to see. Because while the driving habits of Filipinos are generally atrocious, they are, nonetheless, quite defensive drivers. In fact, there are far less car accidents in Manila and this is not because drivers have any overriding concern about the fellow human being. It's just that they are terrified about getting a scratch on their car! God forbid a Filipino gets a little scratch on his car!!!

Oh I would rather ride a bike in the province where I will be cruising up and down lush green hills, through gorgeous valleys and around shimmering bodies of water while enjoying fresh air and nature's beauty.

So, when did you last ride your bike?


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