Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poor Choices?

"Oh no! It costs 2.50 per text. Only people with cash will be able to vote."

If there is one thing that adherents both for and against the proposed RH bill have agreed on lately, it's that they both lack the resources to make themselves heard.

Why is there this mad rush to plead poverty? Is it because we believe that any claim to the moral high ground begins with a low savings account balance? How does such a position encourage reasonable discussion on an issue that is already too emotionally charged to begin with?

One does not need to be poor in order to identify with the poor.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Road Trip: Naga City, Bicol

plaza rizal  Naga CityImage by rodrobles™ via Flickr

I thought that my recently concluded road trip to Naga City, Bicol, would be a test of endurance. Instead, it was an affirmation of faith.

I fell in love with Naga even before I got there. Penafrancia Tours has such excellent buses that even the one I ended up taking, which wasn't supposed to be their premiere bus service, conducted me from Manila to Naga comfortably. There are only two seats per row on each side of the bus, and these seats were both well-cushioned and well-proportioned. Moreover, the video player that they installed on the bus was excellent. The movie never skipped or stalled throughout the trip, which was more than can be said for me. Due to the meager offerings onscreen, one of which featured the Queen of Assembly Line Romantic Comedies, Katherine Heigl, I sort of watched two and a half movies. The sleep which normally eludes me in Metro Manila snuck up on me during the 9 hour trek, which was a welcome surprise. And so, I got to Naga refreshed and just a little hungry.

Make that a whole lot hungry. Fortunately, my friend Derek Forbes brought us to Naga's finest hotel, Avenue Plaza Hotel along Magsaysay Avenue. I had one of their signature dishes, Bagnet with Bicol Express, which was succulent, crunchy and spicy.

After finishing some work, I proceeded to Crown Hotel along Francia for even more rest. While the Crown Hotel isn't as luxurious as Avenue Park, it is conveniently located in the heart of the city, and the rooms are clean and well-maintained. I've always maintained that the quality of a hotel can be gleaned from the quality of their bathrooms, and Crown Hotel did not disappoint. While their bathrooms are small, they are clean, well-designed and the faucets dispense hot and cold water almost immediately.

But the true beauty of Naga is revealed only in prayer. I love the fact that there is a church (both Catholic and non-Catholic) within a five minute commute of the city center. I love the fact that the churches I visited subject all visitors to the following experience the closer that they get to the heart of worship: inviting, then solemn, and finally intimate.

Angel in Our Lady of Peñarancia

And because I have ceased to entertain the vanity that my words could do a better job of recreating the wonderful sense of discovery that accompanies encountering a place for the first time, especially through prayer, let me leave you with two of my favorite Naga pics.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventures in Gastroenteritis

It's that time of the summer once again. One minute, the kids are healthy. The next, they're not.

Lucia was hospitalized for gastroenteritis, a development which gastroenteritis itself came to rue. Our little darling bended the illness to her will, and got a whole day's worth of television in the bargain.

Vengefully, the loathsome inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract migrated to our darling Carmen.

Nonetheless, there is much to be thankful for. Forewarned is forearmed. We know what the enemy is, and how to combat it. We replace vital fluids constantly. We cover ourselves in prayer.

Gastroenteritis won't know what hit it.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Azkals: World-Class Football!

Courtesy of Fritz Gerald Dalida Photography

The Azkals play world-class football.

Does this mean that our players possess the vision and creativity of Lionel Messi?

Or the pace and strength of Didier Drogba?

Or the on-the-ball skills and selflessness of the Spanish World Cup team?

Maybe. Maybe not. But the Azkals play world-class football.

Whenever they play, we forget that a good number of the players hail from foreign shores. Whenever they play, we forget that for the most part, the players communicate largely in English. Whenever they play, we forget that in a country that divides itself all-too-easily along class, social or ideological distinctions, they embody unity in diversity, and the strength that comes only from being, in the end, truly Filipino: a mélange of influences, bound by love and joy.

The Azkals play world-class football. Whenever they play, they bring our world together.

Many thanks to Mikhail de Guzman of Soccer Central Philippines, Andi of The Official Azkals Fan Page on Facebook, Fritz Gerald Dalida and the inimitable Ebong Joson for making the viewing experience truly memorable. Kudos also to Bob Guerrero for educating Filipino fans everywhere on the offside rule.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Binibing Paniqui 2011: Keeping Love Real

Paniqui, TarlacImage by ~MVI~ via FlickrThe city of Paniqui, Tarlac is beautiful in a way that only provincial cities are beautiful. Everything is but a street away. The ice cream parlor where I feasted on a generous meal of thick, sliced crispy fries for only Php 25 is but a street away. The night bazaar where I slaked my thirst on a mango shake fortified with milk for only Php 10 is but a street away. The auditorium where the Binibining Paniqui 2011 pageant will be held is but a street away.

The city of Paniqui, Tarlac is beautiful in a way that only provincial cities are beautiful. You cross the street and you fall in love. There are two schools of thought on preserving the charms of small-town life. You can wrap it in plastic and try to keep things just the way they are. Or you can let the town grow, but carefully, mindful of the pains that growth can bring.

The Binibing Paniqui pageant represents the best of Paniqui. When you meet the candidates, you don't only marvel at the sight of their natural, Filipina beauty. You marvel at the way they see themselves. They want to show that it is important to be beautiful inside and out. The candidates are beautiful in a way that few pageant candidates are beautiful nowadays. They are lovely to look at, but they are even lovelier when they start to talk. You cross their path, and you fall in love.

I came here to give a talk on how strong Filipina women should make the decision to be free, and how that decision also involves being chaste. But, as all fruitful encounters are wont to go, I ended up learning how many Filipinas have already made the decision to take responsibility for their freedom. I ended up learning that many of the candidates already demand that they love and be loved in a manner that respects their vibrant femininity and their desire for a healthy family.

I came here to tell them that it is important to be "safe", but that it is more important to make good decisions in love and life. A condom might safeguard one's burgeoning exploration of intimacy, but that's only so far as sex goes. What about an even more vital organ? What about the heart? There is no condom for the heart. 

But the candidates, even though they could not articulate it before our discussion, already knew that. They already see themselves as more than just "beauty and brains". They see themselves as something precious, and undeniably loving. They see themselves as women of worth and character, who love and are loved in return.

You can wrap it up in plastic, or you can take care of it. In Paniqui, Tarlac, they've chosen to take care of it. It's a beautiful place. You cross the street, and you fall in love. 


Many thanks to Anna Varona-Rivilla and Mayor Miguel "Dors" C. Rivilla. I can't wait to bring the Sweetness and the Sweetlings over one of these days. Mabuhay! 

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bad Writing? Good Parenting!

The Secret of the CavesImage via WikipediaSometimes, the worst writing conceals the best of intentions. I learned this from Gene Weingarten's heartwarming article on the man behind the popular Hardy Boys series, Leslie McFarlane.

Weingarten first writes of how he felt betrayed by the unbearably bad writing that characterized the adventures of his boyhood heroes, Frank and Joe Hardy:

"The dialogue is as wooden as an Eberhard Faber, the characters as thin as a sneer, the plots as forced as a laugh at the boss's joke, the style as overwrought as this sentence. Adjectives are flogged to within an inch of their lives: 'Frank was electrified with astonishment.' Drama is milked dry, until the teat is sore and bleeding: 'The Hardy boys were tense with a realization of their peril.' Seventeen words seldom suffice when 71 will do:
'Mrs. Hardy viewed their passion for detective work with considerable apprehension, preferring that they plan to go to a university and direct their energies toward entering one of the professions; but the success of the lads had been so marked in the cases on which they had been engaged that she had by now almost resigned herself to seeing them destined for careers as private detectives when they should grow older.'

Physical descriptions are so perfunctory that the characters practically disappear. In 15 volumes we learn little more than this about 16-year-old Frank: He is dark-haired. And this about 15-year-old Joe: He is blond.

These may be the worst books ever written."

Monday, March 07, 2011

Snarky Reviews on a Beautiful Monday

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19:  Children w...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Imagine this on your pants. Still cute?
Allow me to start the week on a light note by presenting the most impressively snarky product reviews on Amazon. I would link directly to the source, but some material isn't safe for work.

Here is a review for American Flag Workout Pants:

Even otherwise ordinary products aren't safe from snarky reviewers who seem to have nothing to do but make, uh, snarky reviews. Here's a couple of appropriately tongue-in-cheek reviews for a Bic ballpen:

Who are these people who have all the time in the world to do this? Moreover, is it possible to be paid for this? Ah, the possibilities!

Enjoy the start of the week!

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bannister Academy is Giving Away Scholarships for SY 2011-2012

At Bannister Academy, we’ve realized that education isn’t just about students learning from teachers. It’s also about teachers learning from students. That’s why we have lofty aspirations for our students. We don’t just want to teach them. We want to be inspired by them.

That's why Bannister Academy is giving out two full financial scholarships for one male and one female child this school year, 2011-2012.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Alternatives to RH: Keep Love Real

The proposed RH Bill isn't only a flawed piece of legislation. It is also the single, most divisive proposed bit of legislation in Philippine history. Many intelligent individuals have argued both for and against the Bill. And while they might have their differences, they are concerned with essentially one thing: LOVE.

And so, instead of focusing on the many things which divide us, allow me to remind everyone of the really big thing that unites us. Love binds everything together. And it is this concern for the future of love and loving that has everyone drawing lines in the sand regarding the RH Bill.

Rather than rehash all my arguments against the Bill in this entry, allow me to make a recommendation. Let's explore alternatives to the Bill. One such alternative was proposed recently in Time Magazine. Do you really want to fight poverty? Invest in girls.

But if, given the recent global financial crisis, you are adverse to "investing", then maybe you should consider doing something more concrete. Jason Evert, the character education speaker, is in Manila. You might want to drop by Real Love Revolution 2011. Love shouldn't just be about protecting yourself from your mistakes. There is no condom for the heart.

There are alternatives to legislating love. There are alternatives to pontificating about love. But most of all, there are rational approaches to love. Some of them are even mathematical. Because, as the pundit quipped, love is like mathematics. Joy is added. Sorrow is subtracted. Our friends are multiplied. And our love, undivided.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Movies that Move: Inception

Inception - Character Poster #6Image by Profound Whatever via Flickr

Ten years ago, I watched Christopher Nolan's Inception. It was intellectually demanding. It was visually engrossing. It had memorable dialogue that I could imagine myself sharing with friends over a couple of cold ones. "What's the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it."

It was such a well-crafted cinematic experience that I start a blog and begin the long, lovingly painful process of dissecting the film and what it means.

But that was sometime ago. Things are different now.

Yesterday, I watched Inception with my wife. It was intellectually demanding. It was visually engrossing. And the dialogue? Memorable.

But I couldn't imagine myself sharing the Inception experience with friends, not even over a few cold ones. All I could think of was how important it was to live a life that you created. How important it was to always tell the truth. And how one must always confront their demons and embrace them fully one last time before letting go.

I couldn't wait for Dom Cobb to get home to his kids. And it killed me when he finally saw their faces. I'm not sure if what I felt, watching this cinematic gem with the wife I treasure above all jewels, was what Christopher Nolan intended. But I do know that it is an affirmation of what I have come to learn about love and families.

You have to make a leap of faith.

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