Yolanda Aftermath: Where to Go from Here?

When September 26, 2009 happened in my life, I really thought that my world was crushed big time. Residents of Metro Manila and the nearby provinces will never forget that day because that is the day when the typhoon, Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) submerged parts of the Luzon island in the Philippines.

Our house never experienced flood prior to Ondoy. However, that typhoon brought so many rains that it made La Mesa Dam overflow. It overflowed so much that it sank our two-storey house up to my neck in our second floor. It forced my mom, my brother and our house helper to climb the roof of our house. For seven hours they stayed there helplessly. We only rescued them that night. The next day, when we returned to our house, we cannot enter it. Debris of everything, mostly the ruins of the informal settlers, was somehow gathered in front of our house. With the help of our neighbors, we were able to make a tiny passage to our house and when we got in, everything was a mess covered with gunk. The stench was deadly. Almost everything is wet. In fact, it took me a week to wear clothes of my own. For days all I’m wearing was clothes coming from relatives and friends. Everything was ruined and the big questions then were “Can we ever go back to normalcy?” and “Where will we start?

And now, flash forward to November 2013, I really felt guilty that I even questioned God why that Ondoy tragedy happened to us. Yes, a lot of our things were ruined but our house was intact. We also never went hungry. Our money could still buy goods and services of people who helped restoring our house. Electricity was restored in three days. We have relatives nearby who has a house big enough to provide us shelter at night. Some of our electronic gadgets were restored after just cleaning and drying it. In five weeks, our lives somehow returned to normal as we returned living in it. The best part is none of my family members or neighbors were seriously injured or worst, dead.

Thus, even if I am a typhoon victim too, there is just no way to tell those typhoon victims that I know what they are going through and they could make it like we did four years ago. Despite that very misfortunate day, I just fully understood recently how blessed we were then. People in Visayas region who were victimized by the wrath and power by the Super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) truly need our help now. Almost a week has passed but there are hardly any help or relief being given to them. People, especially the Waray-Warays, have lost everything. Some houses were completely swept away. Even sturdy houses and buildings made of concrete were also severely ruined by the typhoon. In footages by the local and international media, I hardly saw a house or a building with roof still in place. All the shops were looted so money at hand is basically worthless. Communication is hardly restored and realistically speaking, I don’t think that electricity would be restored in Tacloban and the rest of Leyte before Christmas. Everyone is just walking like zombies, mindlessly walking around with no destination in mind. Everyone is grieving for a family member or for a friend but they have no energy to put them aside properly. Bodies were left in the streets. Everyone wants to survive and leave their homeland as soon as possible. Basic necessity of shelter, food and water is a luxury in there. It’s almost as if they live in anarchy with hardly having a government to take care of them. That is why how can you tell a typhoon survivor that, “At least you survive” casually knowing that they lost everything they have?

Erased. Practically
Erased. Practically, Yolanda/Haiyan erased big parts of the Visayan region because of its wrath. But we are stronger than any typhoon. We could recover from this.

Meanwhile, here in Metro Manila, where we are barely touched by the clout of Yolanda, we are also not in peace. For instance, in our home ever since that typhoon hit the country, we have no choice but to be glued on our TV and computers for updates. My dad have cousins in Leyte and Ormoc and our house helper hails from Palo, Leyte. While we are sure now that our relatives in Ormoc are safe, we are still not sure with our relatives in Leyte. We heard some news that they somehow survived the typhoon. However, there is absolutely no news yet on what happened with our house help’s family. Two days ago, her brother and niece came to our house to ask for money so that they could travel to Palo and check on what happened in their family there. There is still no news about them as I write this down. People here are still so agitated and cannot concentrate on our daily lives having no news yet on the state of our loved ones.

Wiped Out. This is Tacloban
Wiped Out. This is Tacloban City, the Regional Center for Region VIII or the Eastern Visayas and is considered a highly-urbanized city. Or at least that is what it was a week ago.

Please do help them. In the first place, life is hard in the Visayas region, most especially Leyte, even in ‘normal’ days. My house helper told me that there are days where they only eat rice with rock salt when they do not have money to buy food. Region VIII, where Leyte is included, is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. That is why most of the families in Leyte have relatives working in capital cities in the Philippines or abroad to make their ends meet. And while people there are used with storms or with hunger, nobody can withstand almost a week without food, water and shelter.

I really don’t know where to begin in their restoration. I cannot even hypothesize on when will they return to their work and the children are attending school again. But we could at least reestablish communication to them and provide them with food, water and proper shelter and also security. We must let them know that reliefs are coming and rehabilitation is on its way. Let us help restore integrity and hope in their selves for them to start again. And please, let us focus on helping them and do not dwell on issues on what Anderson Cooper and Korina Sanchez had said or by adhering too much with I-told-you-so statements from some people or by spreading unconfirmed reports or rumors that would just worsen our situation now.

I know that our Visayan brothers and sisters could rise up again from this catastrophe like what they did twenty-two years ago when they were also stricken by tropical storm, Uring (international name: Thelma) and flashfloods killed thousands of people especially in Ormoc. For now, let us do our part. Our brothers and sisters in Visayas need us more than we know.

help
Help NOW. This is some ways in which you could help the typhoon victims. Please, give as much as you can. (from my favorite on-line news source, Rappler.Com)

(The two images above is taken from Twitter. I was retweeted so numerous time. So if you own the image and you want me to remove the image or give you credit, kindly comment down below. Thank you.)

Worth the Hype?: Unlocking the Mystery of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter

Happy Halloween or Blessed All Saints’ Day, wherever in the globe you are. Anyway, I decided to make a review on the sweet yet ever so mysterious Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter and its variant, Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl for this Trick-or-Treat season.

SPECU—WHAAAT?!

First, what on earth is Speculoos? According to the almighty Wikipedia, is a type of spiced shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ feast in the Netherlands (December 5), Belgium (December 6), and Northern France and around Christmas in Germany. In recent decades it has become available all year round. Speculoos are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat.

So it’s basically some sort of holiday cookie. It’s also called as Belgian Spice Cookies or Dutch Windmill cookies or more importantly, Biscoff cookies. So yeah, I assume that the taste of Lotus Biscoff Spread which is sold in some stores in Metro Manila could be similar to Trader Joe’s products. I can’t really compare the taste of the two because I never tasted Biscoff.

THE HYPE IN THE PHILIPPINES

I did notice early this year that some of my friends in Instagram are uploading pictures of what look like ordinary jars of bread spread or palaman in Filipino. People who upload it seemed to do so to make their other friends envious through tagging them of their bread spread picture. I really did not get it. I’m in love with Lady’s Choice Creamy Peanut Butter but you would not spot it any time in Instagram.

Anyway, when we returned from the United States, a friend said, “I thought you were still in the US. I was supposed to contact you to buy Speculoos Cookie Butter for me there!”

“What is that?”

“It’s a type of bread spread. It is very yummy but it’s very expensive and hard to purchase here in the Philippines.”

“Oh.”

I initially thought that it was a cookie dough flavored type of spread. Sayang, I thought. My siblings and I loved cookie dough ice cream in the US but sadly, there is no similar ice cream flavor in the country. I thought that it would probably be great having a spread that kind of taste like cookie dough. But no. It was really, really different. Then again, am I the only person who has thought about that? Anyone else? No? Awww…okay.

As the months passed by, there are more and more pictures of Trader Joe’s and Biscoff Cookie Butter pictures were seen in my timeline. The ever so raved spread Nutella was no longer the thing talked about on-line. Wow. Why is everyone going crazy over some bread spread?

TASTING THE MYSTERIOUS COOKIE BUTTER

It turns out that there is no local distributor of Trader Joe’s. People who get the hand of it usually get it on-line or are given to them by their returning Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) relatives. I think there is one store somewhere in Makati that actually sells it but it’s always out of stock. Also the price of one Cookie Butter jar ranges from P450-P700 plus shipping fee! No, I am not that desperate to shell off that much money just to understand the hype is about but apparently, some people are. And because it is mysterious and hard to find, it probably adds flavor to its taste. Do you get what I mean?

Anyway, the first time I had the taste of it was when Mochiko made a variant of their product made out of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. By the way, Mochiko offers a type of dessert that consists of Japanese mochi outside and ice cream in the inside. I did not think it was great mainly because I had greater expectations with the taste of Cookie Butter and I love the other flavors Mochiko had. After that, I did not bother thinking on how I would get my hands over that freaking Cookie Butter.

By mid-October, some of my relatives from the US returned and handed me two mysterious jars wrapped in black paper.

“What is this, Tita? Oh wow…”

“I really don’t get it. The Filipinos in the US are hoarding these stuffs to bring home to their relatives. Personally, I did not think they are that great but we decided to buy these thing, too, as pasalubong.”

Yes, that golden moment. I now have two Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter in my very hands. And even though we did feasted on Filipino food in Romulo’s in Tomas Morato, the first thing I did upon returning home is open those Cookie Butters!

The Pleasant Surprise. The much awaited jars of joys were given unexpectedly by my Aunt from the States.
The Pleasant Surprise. You know the saying that you get what you want when you don’t want it that much anymore or something? That pretty much what happened with my Cookie Butter story.

THE VERDICT

The original flavor tasted like crushed cookies in a creamy, buttery texture. It is not greasy like some peanut butter. Also, that cinnamon and gingery tang eventually explodes in your mouth as soon as it melts in your mouth. It taste better and better every single bite. I really cannot think of something close to that.

The Cocoa Swirl variant is a wonderful unification of the original Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and Nutella. Truly, a match made in heaven.

Everything it touches turned magical. Even the everyday pan de sal seemed so exquisite with ti.

Nonetheless, after five days of having it as my breakfast, it lost its touch. It still tasted good; however, it lost its magic now.

I guess it’s really worth a try but to get lost in its hype and spend hundreds or worst, thousands of pesos over and over again for some bread spread is so impractical and foolish unless you are some rich person who has no problem with money.

I’m hoping that one day, Trader Joe’s would really have a local distributor in the country so that we could buy it in our local supermarkets at hopefully, half the price on-line. Then again, I’m still sticking with my peanut butter no matter what.

Pea
The Timeless Classic. Nothing beats this little baby for me.

UAAP Season 76: Broken heart, Brotherhood and BROs!

First of all, I’m really sorry for not updating my blog especially last September where I did not post a single entry. The long and short of it is life has taken a toll on me, specifically my academic and family life. And in cases where I am not busy (or supposedly busy but I chose not to), I am closely watching this University Athletics Association of the Philippines or UAAP Season 76 of the Men’s Basketball.

THE ELIMINATION ROUND

Last year, I’ve mentioned on how excited I’m going to be this season but I did not expect it to be this exciting. Of course, I rooted for University of Santo Tomas where I am an alumna and University of the East where I am currently a law student. But this year De La Salle University Green Archers earned my respect so much. I loved how they matured as a team and the trust they gave to each of their teammates and coach. It was a tough road for De La Salle because during the first round of the season, they were on the bottom four of the standings. There was a long break after that because the Philippines hosted the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship and one of the venues of the UAAP Games, Mall of Asia, was one of the venues used for such basketball championship. Yes, we know what happened next—Team Gilas Pilipinas made history and would be going to Spain on 2014 FIBA World Cup! But somehow, this changed De La Salle, too. When they returned, they were unstoppable. They won all their games in the second round just like that.

Madrid, baby! Smart Gilas' Historic Win.
Madrid, baby! Smart Gilas’ Historic Win.

Everyone was surprised as many people then were already predicting that Far Eastern University Tamaraws is going to be the new champions for this season for sweeping the first round. But yeah, personal issues among players like irresponsibility and immaturity blocked FEU to the winning goal. Sadly, their MVP, Terrence Romeo, acted more like a liability as their campaign to the championship slowly approached its end. He returned to his old self—brash, cocky and a ball hog in crucial plays. I wished that he would have redeemed himself for next season but he chose to go pro instead.  Well, I wish for all the luck in the world for UAAP’s favorite “BRO”.

MVP.
MVP-worthy? Well he did managed to get the title of the MVP of UAAP. He got the most haters, too.

There was one more favored team at the end of the elimination round and that is the National University Bulldogs.  Three schools—NU, DLSU and FEU—finished the elimination round on top of the standings with 10-4 win-loss record. The Bulldogs ended on the top of the standings because among the three, they had the best quotient value. However, they were stopped by the fourth seed, University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers. UST was a great team however what hurt them the most during the elimination round was the injury made by Jeoffrey  Javilionar to UST’s top gun and team captain, Jeric Teng, almost ruined UST’s campaign to the Final Four. The sad part is, Javilionar was not punished at all! Unfair as it may seem, I believe that this has been the driving force of UST in passing through that tough twice-to-beat advantage of NU.

With the rest of the teams, this is the quick things I have to said about them. For Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles, you nothing to be ashamed of. Five-peat is still five-peat and you cannot always be on top. Then again, you must really do something and discipline your mega-arrogant coach. For University of the East Red Warriors, words cannot express how your talent was wasted because of useless sanctions given by the UAAP Board to our players especially in crucial games. Maybe this is not our year but maybe next year, it will be. Igma Kadima! For Adamson University Soaring Falcons, I really wondered what is wrong with such a good team. A part of me dies whenever I see you crumble after you take the lead in the first half of the game then completely losing it. But you can do it! For University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons…what on earth is happening to you? I had been a UAAP fan ever since a I was a college freshman back in 2005 and so far, UP is the only team that never reached the Final Four. And despite that P5 Million donation from Manny V. Pangilinan to improve their basketball team nothing happened. In fact, they did not win a single game. But as the saying goes, once you reach the rock bottom, there is no way but UP. Good luck, UP. You can so do this.

THE FINALS

Teng vs. Teng! Sibling Rivalry at its finest!
Teng vs. Teng! Sibling Rivalry at its finest!

De La Salle University and University of Santo Tomas finally reached the finals together. Now, this was a feat. For some reason, the fans of DLSU and UST were so supportive with each other since last season. The fans even call this union as DLSUST! A big factor in it was when Jeron Teng, the younger brother of Jeric Teng, entered DLSU. Everyone loved them together! I’ve seen brothers joining UAAP but they had always been on the same team. The Tengs are different—they are rivals but after the game you would see that pure brotherly love, support and respect emanating from them.

UAAP Finals is only for best-of-three. Game 1 came and it’s a pain that I could not watch them because of my Remedial Law finals. But what a game! UST owned it with a solitary point!  Also, that ended the winning streak of the Archers.

Everyone in the UST community went ballistic. The UAAP statistical records show 71% of the time, there is no Game 3. But DLSU was really determined.  On Game 2, they dominated UST almost the entire game. They took Game 2 with a hefty 7 point lead.

Game 3 did push through one week after despite the typhoon scare. Nobody is really sure what is going to happen. Both teams are almost equally matched. They both have what it takes to defeat each other. UST got an early lead with as much as 15 points. But soon afterwards, DLSU managed to run after that lead. An overtime was needed to know who really deserves the crown and unfortunately for us, Thomasians, DLSU took it with a cold 2-point lead from Almond Vosotros.

Gahhh…I swear that it was one of the most painful moments in my life. The bad news was Studio 23 kept on replaying that game several times this week.

Why can’t UAAP have a best-of-five for finals instead? 😦

THE AFTERMATH

Life moves on, as they say. I went back to school and finished my course. There are still no results yet but I do hope that they are positive. Yet every time I remembered that the time went out, I die. I also thought that it was good that I have another school to think about. If this happened within the years I am in UST, I won’t really know how I’d cope up.

tengg
AWWWWW. This photo gives me goosebumps. Every time. Cheers to the Teng brothers!

There were cheers and celebrations in DLSU. Their player, Arnold Van Opstal, was so happy that he showed his abs to everyone. Their players were everywhere this week, from TV guestings, to radio shows and the front pages of the newspapers.  But the DLSU crowd was the most gracious opponent ever. They cheered the infamous “Go USTe!” after the game and even in their Animo Night to show their respect to the Tigers.

Most Improved...Abs. Green Archer AVO is giving the crowd some fan service!
Most Improved…Abs. Green Archer AVO is giving the crowd some fan service! Yes, he is the Most Improved Player of the year, too.

Finals MVP Jeron Teng was an instant celebrity together with his brother Jeric. Who wouldn’t go “AWWWWW” seeing how they hugged each other after the game. The lesson that the Teng brothers taught us: Basketball is just basketball. Be very professional in dealing with it. But after the game, it’s back to being brothers again. Anyway, Jeron revealed in the interview that they did not celebrate his victory in his family knowing how his brother grieves for their loss. Well, Jeric is now preparing for his PBA Draft so we’re very much excited for him. What we didn’t know that our favorite “BRO” also enlisted for PBA draft. Yup, it’s bye-bye time for Terrence Romeo for FEU, too. Sayang, he has one more year to redeem himself.

So yeah…it’s good bye Teng Brothers’ Chowking Memes. Goodbye to our Bromeo, too. It’s the start of a brand new era.

Oh. And there’s one more person.

Who would not forget Tiger Aljon Mariano? I really feel bad for the boy. He was playing very well for the UST Team especially when Jeric Teng was injured, If it wasn’t for him, the UST Team should not have reached the final four. His efforts in defeating FEU was outstanding. However, his meltdown started even before the finals. When UST entered the Final Four, we had not seen any stellar games from him. This went on until the finals. His biggest fault was when he failed to listen to Coach Pido Jarencio’s instruction to make Jeric Teng take a shot. Probably, he wanted to take that hero shot and decided not to pass it to Teng. But I cannot just particularly blame him. That 15-point lead of UST cannot just slip from UST’s hands is not just his working. Also, if he did not make those two free throws, the game could not have reached overtime. What pains me is the fact that UST “fans” are making malicious accusations that DLSU paid him. This is totally not cool and very childish. It’s a good thing that Aljon was matured enough to understand his mistakes and gave this message via his Twitter account:

Breaking the silence. Al
Breaking the Silence. Aljon thanked everyone and said sorry for his shortcomings. But the best way for him to express his sincerity…bounce back next season! 🙂

I can’t wait for new season. I’m particularly scared of the DLSU Green Archers because none of its players graduated and they are threatening everyone with that big import, Ben Mbala. Ateneo is also very much determined to regain that crown or at least return to final four. Their top player, Kiefer Ravena’s brother, Thirdy, is joining the team. And he played exceptionally for the Junior’s team. There are a lot of graduates of FEU so it’s a big challenge for them to have their veteran player like Cris Tolomia, to really step up. UE said goodbye to 6 of its players but their main men, topbilled by Roi Sumang and Charles Mammie, are still there. UST bid Jeric Teng and Clark Bautista farewell but everyone else is there. For National University, they would struggle without Emmanuel Mbe and probably Ray Parks, too. I have no idea what would Adamson and UP do but I hope that they are cooking up something really great for Season ’77!

Yes, this season had been full of B’s for me: Broken heart, Brotherhood and BROs! Sadly, my UAAP fandom would now lie low starting now because of another B. I would definitely take the bar exams next year. But surely, it would be a blast. And hey, UE’s the host next season!

***Disclaimer: Almost all the pictures are from UAAP NCAA Memes. The Jeric Teng and Jeron Teng picture embracing each other is from Philstar. AVO’s abs shot is from DLSU Sports. I can’t find the exact link now so please just inform me so I can link it back properly. 🙂

Ang Pakikibaka Laban sa Pork

Patapos na ang ‘Million People March’ sa Luneta habang isinusulat ko ang artikulong ito. Naging matagumpay nga ba? Ayon sa Twitter, umabot lamang sa mga sisenta mil (60, 000) na katao ang sumali subalit may mga nagsabi na ito ay umabot sa tatlumpu’t limang daang libo (350, 000). Anuman ang numero malayo ito sa isang milyon na inaasahan ng mga tao. Maaring dahil makulimlim ang panahon. O baka pagod lang ang tao dahil sa isang linggong panglilinis ng kanilang kabahayan at komunidad matapos masalanta ng habagat at ng bagyong Maring. O siguro mas maraming naging interesante sa VMA o Video Music Awards ng MTV. Halata naman dahil minsan mas nagte-“trend” pa ito kumpara sa #MillionPeopleMarch.

Sa totoo lang, wala ako doon sa Luneta. Ang mga magulang ko ay hindi ako pinayagan. Totoo na bente-singko anyos na ako at may sarili ng pag-iisip subalit pinapaaral pa rin nila ako ng abogasya. Hanggang hindi ko pa natatapos ang tungkulin ko sa kanila na matapos ko ang kurso ko at kumuha ng bar exam at kumikita na ng sarili kong pera ay wala akong balak suwayin sila sapagkat ginusto koi to at pinagbigyan nila ako kahit hindi na nila responsibilidad na patapusin pa ako ng isa pang kurso. Ngunit, ginawa ko rin ang kakayahan ko para ilabas ang aking mga sentimyento sa Twitter. Oo, ilang oras ako nasa Twitter. Pero nakalulungkot, masyadong maraming tao ang tila nanlalamig sa isyu. Ayaw raw ng PDAF o Priority Development Assistance Fund o mas kilala sa tawag na Pork Barrel pero wala man lang ginagawa. Hindi ko alam kung naiintindihan nila ang PDAF. Hindi ko rin alam kung nanlalamig ba sa isyu dahil namanhid na sa politika. Ang masasabi ko lang ay hindi palusot ang kamangmangan lalo na ngayon na bukas ang informasyon para sa lahat dahil sa Internet. Isa pa, para sa taong nagbabayad ng buwis, hindi ka man lang ba kinikilabutan na binabawasan ka ng lima hanggang tatlumpu’t dalawang porsyento (5-32%) ng suweldo mo. Kahit ba estudyante ka at hindi pa sumesuweldo katulad ko, wala ka pa ring kawala sa buwis. Kahit anong bilhin mo, mapasa kaliit-liitang kendi hanggang sa mga rosas na alay mo sa crush mo, ay sumasailalim ng 12% na Value Added Tax o VAT.

Pero saan nga ba napupunta an gating mga buwis?

Una sa lahat ano ba ang PDAF o Pork Barrel? Bali isa itong alokasyon ng pera sa bawat kongresista at senador upang mapondohan ang mga proyekto sa kanilang distrito. Sa unang tingin, parang maganda naman ang layunin ng PDAF subalit ito ay discretionary o nasa kongresista o senador ang pagpapasya kung saan mapupunta ang pondo. Parang wala uling mali sa litrato no? Ano ngayon kung nasa kanila pagpapasya nila ito? Ang malaking problema ay hindi na ito inuulat pa o sinisyasat ng Commission on Audit o COA. Kaya naman kahit saan puwede nila ilaan ang pera. Yung ibang kongresista nga, gumawa ng sarili nilang “foundation” at doon inilalalaan ang pera. Malay ba natin kung may natutulungan nga ang foundation na yun o kung tunay bang umiiral ang foundation na iyon. Yung iba namang tao tulad ni Janet Lim-Napoles ay nakaisip ng paraan para makakuha ng pera mula dito. Gumagawa sila ng kung anu-anong organisasyon na kunwari ay mga samahan para makatulong sa mahihirap, pero wala naman palang ganoong organisasyon. Saan napupunta ang pera? Sabi ng mga nakakakilala sa pamilya Napoles, hindi naman talaga sila mayaman kundi biglang yaman nga lang. Kaya naman pepuwedeng napunta dito sa ika-21 kaarawan ng kanilang anak:

Isa pang problema sa PDAF ay kontrolado ito ng Pangulo. Malamang, hindi yun magbibigay sa kanyang kaalyado. Kaya naman tignan mo, nung nanalo si Pangulong Aquino sa pagkapangulo, agad-agad nanumpa ang mga kongresista at senador sa partido niyang Liberal. Kinalimutan ang lumang partido nila na Lakas-NUCD dahil hindi kaalyado ng dating Pangulong Arroyo ang nanalo. Siyempre, paano sila makakakuha ng parte nila sa PDAF kung hindi sila kakampi sa nakaupo? Ika nga sa Ingles, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Malinaw na malinaw na kailangan ng Pangulo at ng pinagsamang kongresista at senador ang isa’t isa. Kailangan ng Pangulo ang suporta ng ating mga mambabatas para masuportahan siya sa lahat ng batas na nais niyang mapatupad. Isa pa, protektado pa siya sa distabilisasyon. Paano nga ba siya matatanggal sa posisyon o mai-“impeach” kung hindi ito uubra sa kamara? Sa kabilang banda, ang PDAF ang bumubuhay sa ating mga mambabatas. Bakit sa tingin niyo ay nagpapatayan pa ang mga kandidato para makaupo sa puwesto? Dahil ba ito sa sobrang pagmamahal at sobrang dedikasyon sa pagsisilbi sa gobyerno? Ikwento mo yan sa lelong mong sumakabilang-buhay na.

Aminin na natin na walang kapararakan ang sistemang ganito. Ang resulta nito ay alinman sa dalawa: binubulsa ang pera ng mga mamamayan ng ating mga mambabatas o ng mangilan-ngilan na tao o mga walang kakwenta-kwentang proyekto tulad ng pagbabati ng “Kung Hei Fat Choi” o sandamakmak na waiting shed o paggiba ng kalsadang nasa mabuti namang kondisyon. Wag na tayong magtaka sa ganyang mga proyekto sapagkat mga mambabatas naman talaga sila na ang tunay na trabaho ay paggawa ng batas. Wala naman sila talagang kapangyarihan o alam para ipatupad at gamitin sa pondo ng bayan. Ang masakit pa, hinding-hindi na magkakaroon ng kalinawan sa gitna ng Pangulo at mga mambabatas. Hanggang may PDAF, patuloy na pagtatakpan nila ang baho ng isa’t isa. At dahil walang accountability and transparency sa ating kasalukuyang gobyerno, nasisigurado pa ba natin na tayo ay nabubuhay sa isang bansang demokratiko?

Subalit, tinitiyak ko na hindi dito nagtatapos ang laban sa PDAF or Pork Barrel. Naniniwala ako na nagbukas ito ng kamalayan upang magpatuloy ang laban sa isa sa puno’t dulo ng kabulukan ng ating sistema. Walang masama sa pagbabayad ng buwis. Bilang mamamayan ng Pilipinas, katungkulan pa nga natin magbayad ng buwis. Pero kailanman ay nakalakip dito na may karapatan na ang iilang tao para nakawan tayo. Marami pa tayong pangunahing pangangailangan tulad ng efektibong edukasyon, matitibay na tulay, makabago at sapat na armas para protektahan ang ating kapuluan na hindi man lang matugunan. Kaya naman wag tayo tumigil sa pag kalampag sa ating gobyerno. Karapatan nating makuha ang tunay na para sa atin. Wag tayong tumigil at patuloy na magalit sa kabulukan na ito. Ika nga kay Dylan Thomas, isang manunulat na Amerikano, sa kanyang kathang, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

dd
Makibaka wag Magbaboy. Ito ang “tagline” ng karamihan ng mga anti-PDAF. Pero sa totoo lang, hindi naman marapat na ikumpara ang mga magnanakaw sa ating kaban sa kawawang baboy. Higit na mas mababa sila doon.

Beyond the Gay Archetype: A Review on My Husband’s Lover

There are so many types of loving in the world. The unconditional. The vengeful. The remorseful. The unrequited. But what everyone is talking about now is the most controversial one—the gay love.

If you are living in the Philippines, surely you have heard about the much-talked about drama of GMA 7, My Husband’s Lover. It is the first television soap from the Philippines which explores homosexual love. And it is not just any homosexual love but a homosexual love entangled as an extramarital affair. Homosexuality is taboo in our country mostly because of the strong influence of religion (both Christianity and Islam) in society. Anyway, this is the summary of the story. Lally (Carla Abellana), a poor but determined college girl, was impregnated with her boyfriend, Vincent (Tom Rodriguez). Vincent promised to marry her which she agrees. After all, Vincent is the kindest man ever and not to mention his good looks and money. Unknown to her, Vincent is actually a gay man who is still in love with his ex-boyfriend, Eric (Dennis Trillo), who eventually returned to his life after his marriage with Lally. Eventually, they secretly became a couple again. Ten years later, Lally suddenly had that powerful, women-only, sixth sense that her husband is actually cheating on her. And last night, on the show’s 24th episode, she confirmed it. She caught her husband making out with his “friend” Eric in the latter’s condo.

So what now? I was a bit shocked that Lally discovered Vincent’s skeleton in Eric’s closet only at the 24th episode. I thought that the writers will prolong this hide-and-seek game of Lally, Vincent and Eric to prolong the show. I mean that’s how ABS CBN murdered, I mean tactically present, their noon drama, “Be Careful With My Heart”. Will the drama focus now on WWLD or “What Will Lally Do?” Will she keep her husband’s secret for the sake of their marriage and their children as well as her pride because in a way, she is boasting to everyone that she is “very lucky” to have a husband like Eric? Then again, will she choose separation from him? Assuming she will separate from him, will this start the happily ever after of Vincent and Eric? Or will the drama intensify by adding some more shocking twists like an “agreement” between Lally and Eric that they will “share” Vincent?

Well, there are many more struggles that a closeted gay man that could be answered in the show. For example, how will Eric make the people near to him understand his homosexuality most especially his retired military man dad? And how can a middle-aged man with children who acts like a perfect husband and father “come out” suddenly? What could happen with his marriage to a woman who thought he was straight all along? (The Philippines is devoid of divorce laws. However, this type of marriage is annullable under the Philippine law, by the way.)

Kudos to GMA 7 for coming up with this drama. It is refreshing because it is novel and very well-written and beautifully acted by the cast. I mean come on; we are getting tired with the haciendas, the children separated from their parents for years, the rich man and poor woman love story, the poor and ugly women who gets plastic surgery in the end anyway, the recycled fantaserye and the like. Also, the timing of this is impeccable. I believe that this was even talked about more when weeks after this launch, twin victories were obtained by American LGBT community. This again sparks the talks on the possibility of having homosexual marriage between Filipinos.

I just want to say that hands down to the acting prowess of Dennis Trillo and Tom Rodriguez. I can’t choose who the better actor between them is. Both are deserving of an award. You are also going to love the chemistry between their characters that drives the viewers wild. I used to hate Carla Abellana’s acting especially when she started in Rosalinda where she gave a stony version in of Mexican actress Thalia’s beloved character. She greatly improved from there and she could act with her eyes at times. But I must point out that the weakness of the drama is probably Lally’s over-narrating the scenes sometimes. I hate how she states the obvious. Nonetheless, this was gradually lessened. Also, you got to love the side characters, too. I particularly love Sol (Chandra Romero), Eric’s supportive yet logical mother. She loves and accepts her son into bits. However, she cannot accept his relationship with a married man. Other notable characters are Danny (Kevin Santos), Eric’s best friend who often provide comic relief, and David (Victor Basa), who is Vincent’s ex-boyfriend who loves him still. By the way, it is interesting to take note that Vincent, Eric, Danny and David do not play your archetypical gays who are flamboyant, cross-dressers, speaking in bekimon, Madonna fans and salon people. They all act and dress like straight men. They play basketball. Heck, Vincent is even a mechanical engineer. All of them are good looking and you could practically hear women sigh every night saying, “kung bading talaga ito, SAYANG!” I believe this step of GMA in making them as such is a huge step for society to view homosexuals in another light. I love how this show depicted homosexuals in a more realistic fashion.

The main problem of GMA in this drama is how they will conclude this. Usually, with forbidden love such as this, the protagonist and/or his lover will die and it will be hinted that their love will continue in afterlife. I guess this is not a good conclusion as a lot of people here still believe homosexuality is actually a sin. Another possible ending is that Vincent and Eric will break up for good and Vincent will “man up” for the sake of Lally and their children. This is another weak conclusion because if they do this, I could imagine a lot of loyal viewers about to smash their televisions or yanking their hair off because of annoyance. What’s the point in watching the whole thing for several months late at night if everything would return to the status quo? Well, maybe they will break up and Eric will probably end up happy with another gay man who will accept him for who he is (like Danny or David, perhaps?). Then again, it would still be very bland. I believe the people are more interested in seeing the conclusion of Vincent’s character because he is closeted rather than the free character of Eric. Lastly, maybe Lally will let go for her love for Vincent and Vincent and Eric will spend the rest of their lives together. Now this is the conclusion that could spell out a difference for everyone. But if the writers of GMA choose this path, I could imagine protests from everyone, especially the religious groups. Many will misinterpret this as encouraging homosexual relationships. Then again bad publicity is still publicity.

Then again, like everyone else and CBCP, I will just wait and see.

Image is from http://entervrexworld.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/gma-network-launches-another-groundbreaking-series-via-my-husbands-lover/
My Husband’s Lover: Who Will Win in the End?

My Reply to Ate Wendy (and to the World)

yes, your intuition is telling you something. i’m glad you listened and took action. 

i know i get those too. i think that’s also my reasons for doing yoga, it helps for me. having period sucks and mine’s irregular so i don’t know when it’s coming. and eating proper nutritional diet helps too and of course less stress.

i’m happy to see that you have your 13 units to graduate. before you know it, it is time for graduation. just keep doing what you are doing. you are doing great! 

yes, christmas in the philippines is wonderful. i know your aunt and uncle will have a fabulous time. how i wish to be there especially during the holidays. sigh…

well maybe sometime in the future you can get enrolled in a gym. are there other ones that are cheaper? in my case, i always look for better deals or no cost at all to register. i’ve learned where and how to budget income/expenses and make it work somehow. meditation practice, i volunteer. yoga and tango, they go by donations but i give what feels true to my heart when i give and i also see the benefit and importance to the practice.

food, that’s where i invest the most. it is a difficult process and i try and educate myself on all different kind of foods out there and what works with my body. so far i am having fun experimenting and trying out new and different kind of vegan/raw/vegetarian recipes out there. i am beginning to like making breakfast food and desserts. wow, so yummy and healthy ones too. i can’t resist desserts. must have sweets. aw.. thank you! you are too kind. i think my main intention/ingredients to my sorcery is i try new things and keep doing that makes me happy and and to have appreciation & gratitude on the little things in life! 

alrighty! it’s a gloomy day out here for a summertime in san francisco. but i’ll make the most out of it. i hope you have a good day and talk to you soon! how is the weather out there right now?

luv,
wendy

 

Hi, Ate Wendy!

Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been busy lately because of school and helping my family finding a new home. Last Friday, Daddy finally retired from work and now he has all the time in the world to find a new home for us. I am with him on his quest during my free time. It isn’t easy finding a new home and we have tight budget, too. All of us are still studying and sending my sister to medical school cost more than we estimated. But I’m happy that she’s doing her best despite the fact that she is now losing her mind with homeworks and quizzes given to them almost every day.

In the meantime, pray that God shall not send extraordinary rains in the Philippines. The reason why we are looking for a new home is because whenever the dam near our place overflows, it submerges our home. It happened to us twice. Once in 2009 because of the typhoon Ondoy. The flood was so deep that almost half of our second floor was submerged in flood. Almost everything was broken in our house including a lot of irreplaceable things like our parents’ wedding videos and pictures of us growing up. Anyway, we hoped for the best and decided to stay here. However last year, a very strong rain flooded our house again. It wasn’t as bad as the first one, however, it did submerged our first floor and damaged things there. But nobody really have the time to search for a new house then. Also, part of us didn’t really like to go. We love Fairview. The air is cleaner here compared to the rest of Metro Manila. People are nicer. Also we live near our cousins’ house. It is also near Le-Anne’s med school. I also don’t want Daddy to waste all his retirement money for us. I mean, that guy started working ever since he was 13. Throughout college, we was a working student. He even managed to send Uncle Ding to medical school. Lastly, he retired without any of his children helping him with some expenses in the house because all chose long courses in college. I somehow feel guilty about that.

Anyway, I bought a DVD on basic yoga yesterday. I’ll check it out next week perhaps. I hope I could like it. Maybe after I take the bar, I could resume gym. I don’t want to ask for any more additional expenses from my family. Nonetheless, ever since I resumed school, I decided to count calories of what I am eating. I shed few pounds ever since I did that with some Zumba. I really want to lose some weight so I will look better in my graduation photos. Hahaha! And also, truthfully, I gained about 30 lbs in law school. Can you believe that?! Well, I’m trying to lose weight for health reasons, too. I mean, I do not have any disease that developed yet because of my being overweight—yet….but why on earth should I wait for something bad to happen to me before I take action? There are people who have the same age as me and are thinner than me but they are now suffering hypertension, diabetes and gout! So there, I’m now limiting the food but at the same time I give some treats to myself. I also love sweets so I eat some dark chocolates occasionally and only with one serving’s worth of it. I know this sacrifice will bloom to my betterment.

It’s a surprisingly sunny afternoon in Quezon City now. I hope it will be like this all this rainy season. Then again, with some rain. I love the rain…but not too much. You know what I mean.  🙂

See you soon I hope. Who knows, you might come to the Philippines really soon.

Love,
Maica

Our US Trip FAQs and Facts!

If you were following me closely in Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you know that I went to the United States just a few weeks ago.  What you probably didn’t know is that it’s my second time there. I first went there when I was 16/17 years old. What’s with the 16/17 part? Well, I first went in when I was 16 years old then I celebrated my 17th birthday in Disneyland. Best. Birthday. Ever.

But now that I am 25 years old, I realized that United States is not all about Disney or the cool weather or the land overflowing chocolates we, Filipinos, imagine it to be.

Before we go deep with some details, let me answer the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that me and my family encountered from Filipinos in and out of the country.

First, why did we go to the United States? Answer: To meet our relatives that we have not seen for years. You see my parents are both very thrifty individuals. Everything they do has dual purpose. For example, if they decided to take a leave from work to watch my siblings or myself perform in school, they will also use that leave to pay off the bills or call someone to fix some things in our car that day. Thus, since 2005 (our first US trip), we never really had a vacation except some swimming trips with their officemates or staying overnight in a hotel in Pampanga on December 31st. What’s with December 31st? Well, my parents want us to have a refuge from all the smokes our neighbors make on New Year’s Eve because one time when we were children, we all welcomed the New Year with bronchitis.

Anyway, two of my mother’s siblings were there together with their respective children and grandchildren. Also, my Dad has super close cousins who migrated there.

Second, how did we obtain the Unites States multiple-entry tourist visa? Answer: We applied like any ordinary persons applying for visa. The secret for our approval, you ask? Candidness. Americans appreciate candidness. Be calm. Answer their questions politely and directly. Do not show documents that they did not ask. You will only look suspicious in their eyes. Also, make sure that you send to them the message that you are willing to return to the Philippines after your vacation. That’s all.

And hey, America is a very beautiful place to visit. I’ve been to California and Nevada for this trip and I really want to see more. It’s a rich and progressive country with so many places to see, cultures to immerse with and people to know. I want to explore more of California and I want to see the West Coast next time. Yes to New York and Florida! Also, we met an Australian tourist. She claimed that Alaska is so beautiful. I want to see more of that but I guess I must practice to get used with the cold. Oh and do not forget that Hawaii is also part of the Fifty States! I know I sound ridiculous and ambitious with my future American itineraries but hey, a girl can dream.

Third, do you have any business in the United States? Answer: None. That’s why it hurts my parents’ wallet a lot touring there because they earn nothing but peso. Yup, it also means nobody will petition us so we’ll be Filipinos for the rest of our lives! Haha! Also, I noticed that prices of the goods there severely inflated compared to the first time we had been there. Probably because when I computed the gas prices, their price is just a few centavos cheaper compared to ours and diesel there is more expensive. Also, it is obvious that their economy is just starting to pick up again. The news of retrenchment from fellow Filipinos there are common, too.

That’s it for this blog entry. I’ll continue writing more about it in my next blog entry. I decided to put in some of my favorite pictures from the US to end this post. Let the pictures and some captions give you the gist on what happened for our two weeks in there. 🙂

Paris
Ooh la la, Eiffel! Just Kidding. The infamous Las Vegas Strip (which is surprisingly NOT in Las Vegas City) is home to  beautifully themed hotels and Casino. That is Paris Las Vegas
New York
The City That Never Sleeps. Yet another faux famous landmark in Las Vegas Strip. This is from New York-New York Hotel and Casino
MGM Grand. Of course as a Filipina, I'm a huge fan of Manny Pacquiao. It is an honor to walk in the place where some of his most unforgettable matches were held
MGM Grand. Of course as a Filipina, I’m a huge fan of Manny Pacquiao. It is an honor to walk in the place where some of his most unforgettable matches were held
Happy Accident
Happy Accident. My Dad and his cousin, Rolly, were BFFs when they were in college and later in their adult life. But Uncle Rolly found out that he was a US Citizen later on in life because his father worked in the army. Anyway, I first met him 8 years ago when we first went to their house in San Jose, California. But it was unbelievable that they were in Las Vegas the day we were there. And get this, although Uncle Rolly and his family was staying there for 20 years, it was also his first time in Las Vegas!
Reunions
Reunions. My uncle was petitioned by his daughter when he was 61 years old by her daughter who was working there for ten years. It was quite a surprise for us. But it seems he is happy. Anyway, this is in Ventura, California. There aren’t many Filipinos here and it isn’t a famous places either but the place is so beautiful and clean. There are many clean public beaches and also we even had campfire in the backyard. I’m telling you, Ventura is California’s best kept secret.
Happy Accident
We Made It. My cousin Rony, who is working as a seaman (chef) in that luxury cruise ship “Grand Princess” messaged me that his ship will stay in Pier 35 for a few hours. His wife found out in Facebook that we are in America. My parents were hesitant to go there first because we have to commute all the way from our place (South San Francisco) to San Francisco. But it was fun! I love riding in the BART.
Blessed.
Blessed. My family with my cousin Dino’s children. I love then all so dearly. I’m glad that I am their aunt.
248170_10200766478271647_1948335526_n
Sunset. This is the beach near my cousin’s apartment in Pacifica, California. Yes, they named their beach after the Pacific Ocean. I think this is my ideal place. After a long day’s work, I will stop by the public beach and meditate. It is kind of difficult in this beach, though. It is freezing! But you see how wonderful it is. It is also bittersweet to think that that this big body of water is the only obstacle of us, Filipinos, to America…
Old and New
Old and New. My father was able to meet his closest cousins in the US. We were able to meet their children and their children’s children. Some of them for the first time in my life. Yes, Filipinos have many, many cousins. Haha!
Cousins
Kinship. I was close to my cousin, Marian, before they left for the States. It’s surreal to see her again. She is also is with her brother Michael. Michael was a very little boy when I last saw him. Anyway, he is now an incoming sophomore in the renowned Columbia University in New York taking up Biomedical Engineering in full scholarship. Just wow. I’m so proud of him.

Partial Truths

 “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;  but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with.

—1 Corinthians 13:9-10

One of the funniest yet worst feelings is when you go on-line to relax yourself but ‘lo and behold, you were instead stressed of all the envy you felt after seeing the images of friends in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

It is easy to feel sorry about yourself after seeing how well your friends are doing once you login to your social network accounts. While you find that nothing remotely interesting is happening in your life for months or perhaps years, you see your friends marrying the love of their lives, eating in the most expensive restaurants, watching the latest Iron Man film in IMAX 3D theatre, attending the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and obtaining the same afterwards and going places like the beaches because it’s summertime in the Philippines or even Paris. Believe it or not, all these events appeared in my social networks in a span of a week.

And what am I doing? Let us just say, our house helper just arrived from her two-week vacation yesterday. Guess who took over almost all her job?

When I saw all of these things on-line a year ago, I probably feel sorry about myself again for having a very “boring” life. But I came to mature and realize one of the most basic natures of every human being: We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves. First of all, it is no secret how many people, especially girls, who Photoshop their images before posting it as their profile pictures in the social networking sites. I saw some of my Facebook friends who are so blemish-free in their profile pictures that they hardly resemble such pictures in real life. I never altered my pictures but I am guilty in a way that there are times where I take about ten shots just to have that perfect profile picture. Sometimes, I even go beyond ten. This is a fact that I can never be proud of myself. The point is, if we choose carefully or even alter our profile pictures, most certainly we do the same of our posts in our social networking sites.

Simply put, the Internet is an avenue of partial truths. We get to decide what people see and what they don’t. Yes, one may seem very blissful of marrying the love of her life but what we don’t know is deep inside she only married the man because she was impregnated by him and she is currently unemployed and has no means to support her baby. Yes, a person may be seen eating with friends in an expensive restaurant but we do not know how he starved for several weeks just to meet with his friends’ expectations that he could actually afford such place. Yes, one may have watched the latest movie in IMAX, but she only did so in order to escape her abusive father temporarily who beats her up and her mother whenever he gets drunk. Yes, one may appear to buy all the latest gadgets and thingamajigs but would one be crazy enough to post his credit card statement of account which he only pays the interests for years?

The infamous Greek philosopher, Plato, once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We all have our own crosses that we bear and do not burden ourselves further with envy with the partialities our friends posts in the Internet. Also, we must ask ourselves if we do really know these people that we really follow or observe. Personally, I have more than 800 friends in Facebook and I could say that I really know and care only about 50 persons there. The rest are high school batch mates (almost all are my friends and we are almost 400 students in our batch), friends from gym (I lasted only for four months and I do not really contact anyone from them), distant relatives who added me (my surname “Ayuyao” is a very rare surname), old classmates and friends from college and my first law school (majority of them I do not talk to anymore), some are my old teachers or professors (who I admire and I just added so that I could still get some bits and pieces of their wisdom whenever I feel lost), some friends of friends who I met only once in my life, and some people in my current school now (we added to have groups to share files, make announcements and ask for help in some matters). There is no point comparing ourselves with these people. Reality bites that even your closest friends before move on, have a life of their own and live a life separate from yours. There is a point when you do not really know them anymore except of the life they tried projecting to everyone by their posts in the Internet. And since we hardly know them anymore, what is the point of comparing our lives with strangers?

Sure, we cannot say adios anymore to the Internet at present. For many of us, the Internet became not just a luxury but a necessity. The Internet inspires, teaches and connects us. But do not use it to compare your life to another person. Instead of comparing, start living your own life.  Life has a fair share of surprises for all of us. The only way to do find it is by logging out of your computers every once in a while.

ddd
Unplug. Take a break from all the social networking dramas. Start running and living your life.

‘Perfecting’ Oneself: Beauty and Madness

We all have imperfections. I am the best example of a perfectly imperfect person from head to toe. I battled insecurities from the way I look especially my nose, being overweight, acne and bruises and scars due to clumsiness. When I was in high school, it was so bad that I could not look at myself in the mirror and I feel nauseated just seeing any of my pictures. I saw myself as a very ugly person that I thought I was cursed.

Nonetheless, I eventually accepted my flaws. I learned to wear better clothes. I understood the purpose of skincare. I found joy in applying makeup. Actually, I only learned these things for roughly a year now. Regardless of that, I now laugh at my imperfections because I fully accepted them together with my good qualities. It makes me who I am. I am no longer a prisoner of my imperfections.

In less than two weeks, I’ll turn 25 years old. I feel old but at the same time, I feel blessed that I was born earlier in this world. These days, people are so obsessed with what they look like that there are some teenagers asking their parents for plastic surgery as graduation gift. When my brother graduated high school last year, one of his batch mates had undergone plastic surgery before they graduated. Now, it is understandable that such act of going through knife at a very young age is shocking to sub-urban Fairview, Quezon City, Philippines. But in South Korea, it is really very normal for girls to have cosmetic surgery after high school graduation. People there are so obsessed with ‘perfecting themselves’. As proof, kindly examine the image below:

484605_10152740488120533_1071052154_n

At first glance, they seem to be a picture of a woman who just wears different hair and clothes. However, believe it or not, they are the contestants of the upcoming Miss Korea 2013. Notice the same small face, refined but soft eyes, impeccable nose and thin lips. The ratio of the distance of the features is so noticeable. Yes, they had undergone plastic surgery according to my source although it is uncertain if all of them went through it. Their similarities are probably not an accident because that face portrays what a “perfect” woman is for the South Koreans.

Yes, I must admit how pretty they all look. If God had made me choose my physical appearance, especially my facial features, I would have really considered this look for myself. If I were born this pretty, I’d take no hesitation and join a beauty contest. But what good is a beauty contest if all contestants look so similar that they look like clones of each other? If everyone on earth looks the same, who could be called beautiful?

If there’s anything I learn in looking at that picture, I realized that “perfection” can really be boring.

Plastic surgery is an ethical issue that is so sensitive to touch. We are born with our own bodies and graced with freewill, we could do anything we want with it. How we treat, dress and accessorize shows our attitude, our feelings and our self-expression to the world. Perhaps, altering parts of our body is also part of our freewill. However, did it occur to you that you are beautiful enough?

I know none of us remember the day we were born. I’m glad I couldn’t. When I was born almost twenty-five years ago, it was a beautiful Sunday morning. Most importantly, it was Mother’s Day. However, before my mother went emotional because of meeting her firstborn a little bit late in her life, she was bothered by my aunts’ nasty comments.

Naku, Angelo…mapapagastos ka niyan. Sapad na sapad ang ilong ng anak mo!

(“Oh no, Angelo [my dad]…you are going to spend so much money [on your daughter]. Her nose is so flat!”)

Wow. Epic welcome. Like, hello…that my first day on this freaking earth! Growing up, I didn’t like my facial features so much but I have this incredible hate for my nose. It is so large and looks flat because of the bulbous tip. When get colds, it looks even more ridiculous because it looks like a tomato due to redness. It is so annoying because the nose is the most conspicuous part of your face because it sits amidst of your face. I really considered having plastic surgery before. I thought that it would be better if I made it look like my mother’s nose because she has this subtle, pointy nose. But now that I’m all grown up, I fully accept the shape of my nose. Actually, I believe that it made my face so distinguishable that people easily recalls what I look like. I now embrace it as part of my uniqueness.

Plastic surgery is becoming more and more prevalent in the world. In fact, before in my country, it is a big scandal when actors and actresses go under the knife. But nowadays, they even explicitly express their gratitude on national television their cosmetic surgeon like Dr. Vicky Belo or Dr. Manny Calayan, who are some of the famous cosmetic surgeons here. I guess in most parts of the world, plastic surgery is really becoming more and more acceptable. Also, in various parts of the world, media and society dictates what is beautiful. In Korea and other parts of Asia, it’s about softening features and putting emphasis on the ratio of the distance of the facial features. In the western world, it’s all about exaggerating on what you have. Girls there want bigger boobs, sharper butts and have those big, luscious Angelina Jolie lips. Truly, what is beautiful in the east is not necessarily what is beautiful in the west. So who is beautiful then?

The problem I see in plastic surgery is once you ‘perfect’ a part of your body, you will go on and ‘perfect’ the other parts. Over and over you can see imperfection on yourself and try to alter those flaws. In the end, you will never be contented on what you have and if you are not contented in life, chances are you will never be truly happy.

I will not judge you if you still chose to undergo cosmetic surgery. It is your body and life anyway. But one piece of unsolicited advice that I could share with you is this: Do not let media, society or other people make you believe that you are not beautiful. After all, the perception of beauty always changes overtime. For example, see those paintings made during the Renaissance period. Do you see girls who have this sought-after hourglass figure in any of the paintings? No. Well, during that time, curvier women are thought to be more beautiful. Just look at the famous “Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli. In our modern day standards, that woman posing as Venus would probably be called as ‘fat’ by some people. Also, someday, when the world forgets about Angelina Jolie, women who tried copying her lips would probably look ludicrous. Like fashion, the perceptions of what is beautiful come and go. The bottom line is, accept yourself. In the first place, if you do not love yourself it reflects to the world. If you do not love yourself, chances are the world will not love you back. Do not focus much on what you don’t have. After all, the truth remains that you can never be perfect no matter how much surgeries you have. Feel blessed because you’re unique. Focus more on what is eternal like kindness rather that which comes and goes.

You are beautiful. Do not just believe in that. Know that.

‘Rebuild My Church’

Habemus Papam!

First and foremost, I would like to extend my gratitude to our former Pope Benedict XVI. I understand that it was not easy stepping down especially if you are at the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church. This greatly needs humility in action. With this act I felt that he is genuinely doing this for the great love for our Church. I believe that he must be an illustration of what a great leader must be. I am saddened that there are many politicians, members of the Bench or even clergymen like our Pope is who are already incapable of doing their task properly due to poor health, old age or even questionable reputation who would do practically anything in order for them NOT to relinquish their positions. My friends, this is a challenge for all of us. We had learned from Spider man that “With every great power comes with great responsibility” and the responsibility of every leader is to serve others with the best of our competency. Remember that what really measures our worth as human beings are not the titles and positions that we had held in our lifetime but with our service of others. Pope Benedict XVI could have just spend the rest of his papacy inactively because after all, the Church could move without him doing much because many could substitute works for him. However, he understood that this is the trying times of the Catholic Church. He humbly offered his seat in the Vatican to another worthy person in the College of Cardinals. Therefore, we thank you, Holy Father. We are thankful not just for your humility in stepping down as our Pontiff but with your almost 8 years of service with us. Even if you acquired this position at a relatively old age, you defended the conservative doctrines of the Church as well as being brave in opening the sensitive matters on the sexual abuse of some of the priests and did actions towards this problem. Again, thank you, Holy Father.

Anyway, the last day of my final examinations was Monday of the week before Pope Francis was elected. I was so freaking tired. I had about three to four hours’ worth of sleep and if you know me well, you will know that I need 8 hours of sleep usually. I thought the sleepless nights would be over by Monday but it went on because of the conclave. Yes, that smoke from the Vatican comes out at about 3AM in our time. I really do not know why I was so engrossed by it. Okay, I actually know why I am engrossed by it—our local cardinal, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, is ALWAYS on the list of the papabile or the list of possible popes of the international media. I adore Cardinal Tagle with all my heart. He has this weekly show on the cable news channel ANC entitled, “The Word Exposed”. In there he discusses and comments on that Sunday’s first and second reading and the gospel. Sometimes, he answers the questions of his followers in Facebook or he discusses various topics on Catechism which enlightens and nourishes my Christian faith. Imagine having an Asian pope again after several centuries and the best part is it could be a Filipino. However, I think I was only disappointed for three minutes seeing another person other than Cardinal Tagle as Pope. It only took a few moments for me to really fall in love with our new pope, Pope Francis. Looking back, I thought that I was so foolish. I was praying so hard that the Philippine delegate might win that in a way, I looked at the conclave as an international beauty pageant. Then again, I am now exultant because with Pope Francis’ election as the new pope, I believe that all of us have won.

Pope Francis is a man of many firsts being the first pope from South America, the continent with the largest population of Roman Catholics. He is the first Jesuit pope which is why some people thought he chose the name “Francis” because of the founder of the religious order, Society of Jesus. Of course he is the first person who picked Francis for his name because he was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s genuine love for the poor.

I believe that he is the perfect man for the job. I am deeply touched and inspired by his humility. When I first saw him, I wasn’t sure that he was the pope. He was wearing plain white vestments without the signature red velvet cape or the mozzetta. The other priests beside him seem to be more regal in the black and red vestments. He also quietly waved to the people and smiled. This is also a little strange because both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI outstretched their arms when they first faced the public. But the more I research about Pope Francis, the more inspired I become with his humility. When he was cardinal, he refused living in a mansion-like place that is reserved for him as cardinal. He instead rented a small room and even cooked his own meals and rode on Argentine public transportation. In Vatican, too, he refused the room where the popes in the past stayed, remarking that it was “too big”. He chose a much smaller room.

Nonetheless, what really touched me is the fact that he again removed the bulletproof glass in the Popemobile. Of course, I could completely understand why Pope John Paul II established that bulletproof glass in the Popemobile. After all, some insane guy shot him four times. Pope Benedict XVI was also not spared as an insane woman tackled him down one Christmas Eve and attempted to do it again a year after. However, it is truly remarkable seeing that desire of Pope Francis to go very up close and personal to the people. He even goes down at times to bless the children and the sick. I know that this make him like the security “nightmare”. However, I guess that deep inside, Pope Francis care little or not at all for his own life. I feel that as a person, he wanted to embody true goodness, kindness and love which Jesus taught us. He also shows us this deep faith that God will protect us if we obey and do his will even at the riskiest places. Thus, Pope Francis is really a person who always leaves me smiling in my heart.

I could genuinely say that he is the pope that we need at these trying times. Like St. Francis of Assisi, he is humble, warm and welcoming. He truly loves and cares for the poor. We are a world filled of ‘poor’ people but in varying ways of suffering. In Japan, the United States, Canada and European countries, where everything is provided, people are killing themselves because of pressure, stress and extreme loneliness. In emerging economies like the Philippines, Vietnam and China, there are many people who do not get what they deserve. Employers who are driven so much by profit underpay their employees. Of course, there are people from failed states which are mainly in Africa where the people are so poor, they have hardly have food to eat, clothes to wear, and homes to speak of. Additionally, their lives, as well as the lives of their offspring, seem to be doomed by civil wars which they ancestors started. There are countries in the Middle East whose life is a great struggle each day. People kill each other or commit suicide bombing because of religion. But why would the God who is taught with goodness, mercy and love in the conflicting religions want to start wars in His name? We must not forget that He is the very same God who appeared before Abraham, a key figure in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In essence, we are all poor in varying degrees but contain some richness deep inside of us that we could share to one another. Some people who have everything materially are so poor in spirit. But on the other hand, there are also some people who hardly possess anything but are so filled with cheer. Pope Francis, a very simple man, is who we need. You can see clearly in this man that he is a true embodiment of God’s virtue. He is very welcoming, warm and kind—a perfect father-figure for our church. These are the trying times of Catholicism. The number of believers is not increasing in years. States keep on legislating laws which are against the teachings of the church like abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce. Also, the borderline between ethical and acceptable is now ambiguous. It seems like the world is very much against the rectitude taught by the church without understanding the reasons behind the prohibition such as the sanctity of life, marriage and relationships as well as having intelligent choices for ourselves. This is very immature for everyone is acting like a teenage child who thinks everything that his parents impose upon him is revolting, absurd or simply uncool. We need a father-like figure like Pope Francis who knows how to listen and understand with so much compassion but at the same time, he is firm against the unscrupulousness against the teachings of the church just like the time where Argentina legalized same-sex marriage.

Francis, go and rebuild my Church,” Jesus told St. Francis of Assisi this before and perhaps, this is also what he is telling Pope Francis now that he is our pope. I have high hopes in him. But in the meantime, I say a little prayer for him just like he first requested to all of us when he first appeared to the public. I know he could do great things for the church but he’ll definitely do better with us praying and supporting him as well as living through the righteous teachings of the church.

Image
True power is service. The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable.” —Pope Francis, via Twitter (username: @Pontifex)