Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unloading Your Backpack for 2011

We look forward and hope for the best in the coming year. Hope is a kindling light that can guide us through the next year. Looking forward is setting our vision towards greater things that we want to happen. With vision and hope our actions can be at pace for everything that is desirable to happen in our life.

To move on, we need to set our mind and eyes to greater things. Likewise, we need to be still for a little while and look back to what we have done. This is because in our journey in life, we can not carry too many baggages, or else we will lag that we will not get to where we want to go.

We are backpackers in this life's journey. Our backpacks can carry only as much as we could. If there are too many unnecessary things in there, we will soon find travelling tiresome. Unloading that backpack is essential so you may have space for the truly important.

But what should really be in there? Nothing too heavy or unnecessary should be in your back pack. All these loads pertain to those feelings of guilt, regrets, worries, bitterness, relational coflicts, vices, unimportant preoccupations, financial debts and other unresolved issues you have with your personality. When you carry them through the next year, you'll surely find the journey too difficult to complete it successfully.

Surely there have been regretful events that you experienced, but don't fret about it, just charge that to experience for your own learning. You may be guilty of doing something wrong as per you moral or ethical standards, maybe you need time to disclose that, ask forgiveness if you wronged someone and express commitment in not doing it again. You must have been wronged too, that you feel bitter, but let not that bitterness eat you away to be more anxious.

People are important, just like how you think yourself is important. We journey with other people, and if there are just things that you don't agree about remember that there are reasons for some disagreements. You don't need to please everybody, just try to be civil, professional or the least cordial. Your family and dear friends are those most important, the rest you can have them as frenemies.

Vices are bad habits, and surely they are hard to break. They are just like the other preoccupations you have that you spend more time with, than those that are important. Habits are learned, and they can be unlearned as well. The first step is to really stay away from them and replace it with something else. The next steps are all up to you, whether to keep that habit or quit it.

Healthy financial state is essential for you to prosper this coming year, or at least for you to have something that you can spend for the necessary and for your own pleasure. But with financial debts above your neck, things will really be difficult. You might need to avail some refinancing for your loans and credits, but you sure need to have them paid in the first months of the year if you can. If not make sure to commit yourself in paying your debts this year.

Nobody can change your personality, and it can not be done in an instant. Because who you are is a product of so many years, people, events and your lifetime experiences. But you and only you can take the initiative to do the fixing for your personality. If you think you have to change something in you, let that be first pleasing to you and not simply to please someone else or to be like someone else. Remember you are you, that thing that makes you different is what makes you unique.

For the next year, make sure you check what's in your life-backpack. Take only what is really important for you. That I think are good memories of the past year, positive outlook for the next year, and just plain you with that hope and vision for the best of this coming year. Enjoy your life journey.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Say the Magic Word

We have family traditions, I mean my family's traditions. We are not well-off, but through time as we learned the value of good education, the virtue of hard-work and the nobleness of having a kind heart for others, we see change in our economic state. So in return, as a sign of thanksgiving we come together to make the children in our family and the those from our neighborhood happy on Christmas eve.

One of our family traditions that we started back in 1998 is holding a Christmas Party for children in our family and within the neigborhood. We initiated it because we got tired of going out on Christmas eve to attend a party in Pasay where we used to live because it was really a hussle to be rushing to go home for the noche buena. Besides, were a big family to be in that party.

We start this party at around 7 or 8 pm. The moment we play the music, children will draw in. We are not sure where they are from or who they are, but we welcome all of them. With my cousins who are working we contribute for the food, the prizes and the gifts that we will share to those kids. Then we have fun, lots of fun through several party games.

Sometimes, we have a cake. Children will blow this cake after they sing happy birthday to Jesus. "Happy birthday Jesus" is the magic word. We understood the even as not merely to have fun and party at Christmas. But, we celebrate it because that day is the day we know or we believe Jesus came to this world.

We have the traditional paper dance, stop dance, best dance, blow the flour, planting rice, break the pot and the pabitin on queue for the activities for that night. The last part of the program for the children in the neighborhood is to have fall in line to get their loot bags. In this, each has to greet Jesus on his birthday, simply by saying "Happy Birthday Jesus".

I take that magic word seriously, because that is the essence and the meaning of our celebration for that night. I take it seriously so that the Children will be reminded of what Christmas is all about. That beyond the fun,food and presents that they have, Jesus is the center of the celebration.

On this Christmas eve, those children one by one greeted Jesus, except for one my nephew who has grown up and now 13 jokingly greeted me. While all the rest greeted Jesus, he greeted me. I asked him was it my birthday, he said no. I told him to say what the other kids said, he said no. No that he will not take the loot bag anymore. I had to force him to say the magic words, then he said so, but did not take the loot bag anymore.

I felt he was embarassed with my prompts and his actions. But that's the way it is. That can be criticized to be too conservative, but I stand firm on my point that such expression of faith as way of giving thanks is something of great importance that can not be made into a joke. The virtue of being grateful and showing that gratitude through this party that we organize for the children is our share to give Christmas some meaning for our family and others.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Taking Ownership of Learning Performance

Today was the last day for my six laboratory classes, so as a responsible teacher I have to return all their graded paper works and show their grade. I did not show their grades, I allowed them to compute their grades and gave them an opportunity to add value to their class performance. The grading period is that component of teaching that tests a teacher's virtue, beliefs and values for education.

What I am actually doing contradicts the traditional scheme of other colleges and universities as to how teachers evaluate the student's performance. Where I am teaching places high premium on learner-centered grading, that is based on the merits of students' works and not just on how the student look or behave in the class, or in cases as to how the teacher could recall the student's name and faces.

I don't have a knack for looking up the ceiling, casting the die or spinning darts for my students' grades. I do adjust the grades, but when I do, that would be for all. That I think is fair enough without lowering the bar of students' performance measures. Where I graduated from and where I am studying now, the professors have all the rights and priviliges in the responsibility of giving the students their 'due' grade, even to the point that students do not really know how they were evaluated.

To eliminate the bias of grading, I don't put higher weight on my measure of their class performance or standing. The weight of their grades comes from how they completed the tasks done as classroom exercises. This time though, I tried to include one component in the grade, which I asked them to give their selves.

That is a personal evaluation of their class standing based on their attendance, task completion, deportment,skills development, knowledge acquisition and recitation. Here, they can give themselves as high as 30 points which will be computed as an addition to the exercises we did in the class.

I found this exercise reflective for the students to consider a criticism of their self and their learning performance. Then I gave them their papers and compute for their grade. There are some students who changed their self-evaluation scores on class standing to pull up their grade, but of course that one component could only do so little if their grades in other components are really low.

With a small sheet of paper for this evaluation, I also asked them to describe how the course helped them. In their responses I could see how they think they have improved and their ideas on how to improve the course. These questions were rather intended for the teacher's use.

Then there are those students who happened to have incomplete exercises, looking for their papers as if they have submitted them to me. Those students who were reckless not to turn in their papers or to be absent from the class, came forward asking what they are to do.

My response was simple: You should have asked that beforehand not at this time. Here is one conversation that I think teachers would learn from as to how to deal with students who lack the virtue of self-regulation:

Student: Sir, I don't have two activities?
Me: Why don't you have two activities?
Student: I was absent...
Me: Why were you absent in those days?
Student: Pause...
Me: If you had been absent definitely you would missed those activities.
Student: Can I take them now?
Me: When should you have taken those activities?
Student: Before, when I was absent.
Me: Will it be fair others, if I give you consideration because of your unnecessary absences?
Student: No, sir.
Me: Who should be responsible for you learning?
Student: Me, sir.
Me: Have you done it so?
Student: No sir.
Me: That's the fair due, compute your grade then as to what you have done. The least thing that I could do for everyone, I will do.

This student and others have failed in the class. Simply because they did not take ownership of their learning performance with self-regulation. None of them could put the blame on me. I am simply an instructor, a guide, facilitator in their learning experience. It is they who have the responsibility to learn, mine is merely to help them in the process.

While many others succeeded, some did not. Those who did not need to go over the process again until they would have really learned the life lessons that they can not just read between the lines of the lesson content -- responsibility and determination to learn. That I think is the D within an every F student, or is it the discernment of that responsibility in learning?

On My New Year's Resolution

After Christmas comes our hopes, desires and plans for the next year. Although not every one is into writing down their life-story, there is a part in all of us to resolve issues that we have had in the passing year. This I understand to be drawn from our construct of constancy of change and motivation to be a better person.

I have always thought of quitting smoking as a new year's resolution.Yet, I have never resolved that issue. Maybe because I don't take the sense of having a new year's resolution seriously. Another concern that I would like to be resolved is over-expenditures.

We usually keep our wishes for the coming year with a prayer of hope and faith, that in God's will things will fall into place. However, just thinking about what we wanted to be improved in our lives would not really work well without our commitment and action.

The commitment to change begins in introspection. That is taking time to evaluate your self, your thoughts and your actions in the time that has passed. This is like self-management. The first step is to evaluate your self in all its aspects if possible.

Next is to level up that reflection a bit by examining what caused those failures you may have had. Those causes must be resolved to find a resolution to your concerns. Let's say you are not so punctual. You can make your resolution and tell yourself you will be punctual. But the thing is, have you ever considered what makes you late? You could think that the problem is you wake up late, but have you thought of the reason why do you wake up late? Perhaps, you sleep late and spend a lot of time doing things that are not necessary.So, the resolution must address what really causes the problem and not the problem in the surface. That is the third step to making workable resolutions.

The last step would be the action. The resolution to your personal problems will demand actions. These should be workable, to be done. Don't just say to yourself what you want, but mean it upon determining what you can do. Believe that you can do it and do it. When all these have been clear to you, reexamine them as to how they may affect others or what will be the repercussions of those actions. Remember that you are not all alone in your life, and so you should make sure that your commitment into actions should also benefit those people around you who are most valuable to you.

No one is perfect, we all have personal issues to resolve and it is necessary that we take the step to coming up with what will resolve our issues. So what is my new year's resolutions? Let me go over to my life-vision mission I wrote 5 years ago,and reflect on the passing year, for me to write those resolutions down just yet.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Wish to Grow More in Faith

What present do you want for Christmas? When I asked my nephews this question, the older one had a sure answer, while another leaves it up to me. So I somehow I found myself in trouble of whether to give that sure child what he wanted.

My nephew wanted a magic kit, that box with several tools that can make him do some tricks. The price of which ranges from 300 to 2700. As an adult I am now in the position to make a little child happy, contrary to when I was young.

Christmas in my childhood just passes like one happy day because I could attend party that adults from our neighborhood organized for all the children there. I did visit my ninongs and ninangs, and they would have presents for me.

As far as I can remember, I never really had any Christmas wish, back when I was still a kid. No one would really ask me what Christmas present do I want. Except for my aunt and my eldest sister who would take me to the department store and buy gifts, hardly would I receive a Christmas present.

That was the past, now I am at least financially able to support my family, pay for my schooling and spend some nights out. I am now in the position of giving presents and making the kids in my family happy. I may not be able to make all their wishes for Christmas come true, but at least in my little way I can share that joy of Christmas.

My wish for Christmas goes for everyone. Good health, financial strength, understanding, peace, compassion and above all love. As for myself, all I wish is the security that comes from faith in the Lord, with that everything else will suffice.

I have no need for any material thing, because all those that I would need physically can be dealt with the wage of my labor. I am happy and blessed with a family that is full of love and concern, so I have no desire to look for that love somewhere else. I am blessed with a wonderful community I work with, although there are some hardships I can surely overcome.

More than that what people can sees of me, I share with them a deep sense of spirituality. That I can not brag about, or shout to the world, but that is just something between me and my God - a personal relation of sort. Hence, the manifestations and demonstration of faith is so essential to complete me. So I wish that in the Lord's compassion he draws me more to be faithful.

My wish for security in faith is not because I am insecure. But it is anxiety that troubles me. With security that comes from within me in Christ, I am safe and at peace. When I have peace, I can have joy, when I have joy I can love. When I love I can do all things in the most excellent way. When I am excellent in everything, I can humbly say that I did not do it alone for God is with me through out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"When You Group Up You Should Be Just Like You"

Everyone of us has childhood dreams, wishes and ambitions. As we look at others as to what they have, who they are, how they look or what have they become, we find ourselves dreaming or in wishful thinking.

A little girl tells Lucy: "When I grow up, I want to be like you." Lucy replies coming from in front of the dresser's mirror: "When you grow up you should just be like you." That was a scene in the latest movie of Narnia, adapted from C.S. Lewis' literary masterpiece.

I remember that after watching the first Narnia movie, I was so fascinated with C.S. Lewis in his skillful use of symbols that signify his religious belief. Like Lucy, who got tear a page from the book of incantations, I took out a book from the stack books left unread in a store room in a parish. Huh, I am guilty, because I took a book C.S. Lewis wrote and I haven't returned it yet.

The book was not about Narnia, but some short writings of Lewis, his life-story, his beliefs and some words about his works. Now I realized what Aslan told Lucy. That there are thoughts and things in this world that can take us away from how we value ourselves.

When I was kid, I wanted to be a doctor, an architect, an engineer, and artist. But I found myself teaching and enjoying it. Maybe that is me... simply fulfilling my desitiny. Just like how those Kids, Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmond will find their selves in Narnia out of their will, from since the earlier movies. While in this movie, they have to fulfill their choices without losing connection from the past experiences of Narnia.

Narnia is a different world from that of those children. Its environment may be surreal and so are the creatures there, but it is so human. What captivates me the most to this piece of literature in a movie, is that of the creativity in fictionalizing religious and moral constructs without losing their sense.

Narnia, its world, its life, its creatures, its virtues and values exist as figment to a child's imagination of dream-world. A world that have struggles but with aspirations for peace, justice, liberty and integrity for all creations. Such world is what is missing, although possible to happen in our world.

Although I was watching the movie with a voracious appetite for images, I could not hold myself from thinking while I find myself a witness and a participant to the world of Narnia. I was thinking of its representations of our world and the Christian faith. While I was wathcing as mature adult and a critique I could not help myself wanting to be a child again and hoping that that child's dream world would never end or at least realize in my life.

In life and in our Christian growth, when we grow up, we should really be just like us. Just like a child. Wanting and believing. Dreaming and wishing. Creating and enjoying. Imagining and not worrying of anything. Never envious of other's, never anxious of ourselves, and never bound to time. Always believing that there is something to hope for and to look forward to.

I have grown up, and I am just like me. Nobody made me as who I am now, although others and many things must have contributed to who I have become. Yet, I still know that most of who I am happened to be my personal choice. I am still growing to maturity...but I don't want to lose my connection to that wonderful child I was. And, that is for now and for the time thereafter that I will have in my life. That I will have no regret in living the life and everything that goes with it as gift from above.

In the latest Narnia movie, I got a surprise that there were alot of viewers in the movie house on a weekday. Probably it was due to the holiday season, or maybe Narnia is really a good movie to watch. For me, it is a wonderful fantasy movie to see and to learn from, a classical literature of the 20th century.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So You Want to be Doctor

Some naive questions from my smoking buddy: What's the difference if you're a PhD degree holder as compared to a Master's degree holder? Is it difficult to take a PhD?
Those two questions had me think, why in heavens did I take PhD anyway?

Practically, for an academic like me, a PhD is a guarantee for higher pay and promotion. Its the only way to be granted the rank of a full professor, the highest rank that an academic would get. But that was not in my mind when I enrolled for a PhD.

Back in 2008, I took the liberty to finish my M.A. in Communication Management. I was required to take 3 units as penalty course, but I enrolled 9 units, as I saw that I needed to learn more. While I attended the courses, I was teaching part time training part time, and doing my thesis. I thought, I just had to learn, and to do what I have to be in school and in the field.

I had to learn so I can share more to my students and be a better teacher. On the other side of it, earning an M.A. degree guarantees me security in teaching in a college or university, since that is a basic requirement. While I successfully defended my thesis and saw value in my work, I began to think beyond the here and now. PhD is the next step if I would be faithful in my personal vision to contribute to the academe. The same degree will add credibility to my initial contribution to knowledge.

My options were, PhD in Applied Linguistics, PhD in Educational Psychology and the least of it was PhD in Communication. I decided for the latter because it would make me a real expert in the field of communication. It is a vertical advancement as to my field of specialization, since I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication and an M.A. in Communication Management.

What for is PhD if I have master's degree already? I can say without it, that I am expert already. But there is a body of knowledge and means of knowing them that are not taught or learned in the M.A. or undergraduate levels of education. The horizon of understanding the world is so different, that it indeed makes one a philosopher.

I am speaking of my experience from studying for a PhD from the Univesity of the Philippines. I can not say that my experience would be the same for those who took their PhD from so called diploma mills, and what one is taking up also matters. To be a Doctor of Philosophy in a specific field does not only add a title to my name, but it entitles me to have my contribution in the existing body of knowledge.

What's the difference? In gradeschool, we learn the terms that identifies the objects in the world and we describe those terms. In high school, we learn the concepts out of those terms and definitions we were supposed to know from grade school. In college, we try to derive concepts from generalizations that we can see applicable in the world, so that we can at least have a life outside school.

In the master's program, we thread the theories with the concepts we learned in college and determine how those theories apply in the social world. In PhD, we make the theories that make sense of the world. In other words, we contribute to the body of knowledge that perplexes the world.

A sophist, who has a passion for knowledge, persistent curiousity, and eagerness to learn, would not really need to attend a PhD courses. Who among the great Philosophers of classical times attended a PhD program? They merely gave theirselves time to learn, reflect and think about how people think. They argue with others and they argue with their thoughts.

But knowledge does not flourish in a vacuum. Learning is a social and cultural endeavor. Learning is assisted. Being in the PhD program have broaden and deepen my understanding of the many realities in communication. Which I will not have learned on my own even if I have those inclinations of a sophist. A PhD does not only teach what those early philosophers taught, they enable us to understand why and how they think they way they do.

In taking PhD, one learns to rediscover, uncover, recover, construct, deconstruct, theorize, synthesize knowledge from the existing and previous. Those who have gone through the path of knowing will have a lot to share to the new learners like me. And I appreciate all their contributions to what I know now.

A PhD holder, becomes a doctor of the field. Similar to a medical doctor, he sees, listens and observes the patient(phenomenon) and can identify the causes, implications and possible prescriptions to treat the pathology. In taking my PhD in Communication, it has enabled me to have the right senses and competence to understand the communication event and its elements in all its aspects.

The way to knowing is similar to taking that narrow road, and that narrow road does not allow for others to accompany the PhD student in his sojourn. My mentors are of great help as they introduced me to their mentors -- their professors in the letters of their published works. They are the beacons of light that guided my knowledge. They are enlightening as well as excruciating with their requirements and fanaticism.

If teachers require a student to read a book in a term in college, in the PhD program, several books have to be read in a few weeks. Reading may be easy, but understanding the complicated knowledge in those required reading materials is a pain in the neck. If to complete a bachelor's degree one needs to write a thesis, the PhD student has to write theses, one for every coursework in every term. Writing not just about what you read, but what you think of what you read is another gruelling task. One has to read so many things and construct meaning to all those things. That is PhD.

I still love it though despite all its odds.Like many other children, I too dreamt of becoming a doctor, but then I realized I got eeks for blood and open wounds. A Doctor of Philosophy does not carry a stethoscope, but the right lenses to provide understanding to the problematic world.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When Photos Speak

There is a new generation of photography, digital photography that innovates itself from the traditional manual photography.More and more photographers are enjoying their DSLR cameras as their shots can immediately come to life, since these cameras are also equipped with multimedia capacity. With the available computer applications and softwares, they can recreate these images into evocative presentations.

Photos remind us of our experiences and the memories of our past. One of my student is joining a photography contest with human rights theme. I remember him, from his creative works with photos and powerpoint presentations. I told him that he should take photography or multimedia arts and not hotel and restaurant management to hone his craft. Now he is the chief photographer of the school's student paper.

He asked me a favor to like his photo entry. I did not immediately heed to his request. Instead, I have to ask him a few questions first. As I saw his entry, I remember an issue from an international news program about the responsibility of photojournalists.

In the news, images of war victims were shown, and photojournalists merely took shots of them. The question is whether they have the responsibility to help those people whom they took pictures of. I could not immediately like my student's photo until I am convinced that his answers would have satisfied me.

He took a shot of a boy playing with a toy gun on the streets, with other kids. He said it was a candid shot and the boy was not a model. What came to my mind was the thought of creating a culture of violence, and that to these kids, they could be desensythize to the idea of violence.

I asked my student what did he do, after he took the shot. He said nothing. He replied, that it was a just a toy gun and that for him, it was photo opportunity. My issue here, is that a photojournalist is not just an eye or a lens. A photojournalist is thinking social individual, who has responsibility for other members of the society, most especially to the subject of his craft.

I argue that objectifying human subjects is dehumanizing them and dehumanizing the photographer. My student passed my gatekeeping by responding well to my second question. I asked how did the image impact him. He answered that the shot was taken two years ago, which influenced him to take photography seriously, and he wanted to tell other people through those kinds of shots that we have situations like that. Further, he explained that taking such images made him more aware and socially proactive, that he joins rallies and advocacies for such cause.

So he got my like on Facebook for that photo. But I would like to go back to an idiom that pictures speak a thousand words. An image will have multfarious meanings. Hence a caption or a story would help to clarify to the viewer what the artist intends to say about the subject.

He got my like because he was true to his words. That when he joined a seminar on photography, he came up with a multimedia presentation of the pictures he got about the aetas. For a novice, he got my approval. This is the link to his work on another human rights blog. In this blog, his photos speak, as he narrates a story on the plight of the Aetas of Zambales. If you like his photo, like the fan page that hosts it and like his photo. Share the photo as well to your friends if you like it.

Lastly, I would have to say that worst toy you could give any child this Christmas is a toy gun, whether it shoots water, foam or pellets. If you do this you participate in the promotion of a culture of violence.

As an update, the photo taken by Mario Espinosa, won both the people's choice award and the grand prize winner for the 2010 Tinamaan ka ng Lente, photo competition.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shopping in Divisoria?

If you're shopping for gift-giving this Christmas, going to Divisoria is a good decision if you are tight on budget or you are going to shop in bulk. There are many reasons why Divisoria is the best place to buy gifts for the season, but there are several things you have to consider if you decide to go there.

Divisoria is the center of commercial trade in Manila where wholesalers and retailers flock together. Most Chinese merchants have maintained the area to do their business there, from since the Spanish times. From textile to everything else that you will need in your home, to the food you can serve in your table, you will find them there. Since Divisoria is a huge and busy place to shop especially near Christmas season, you will have to plan your shopping and prepare to be bumping with other people as you walk the streets.

First of that plan is to make your list. Make this list as detailed and organized as possible. This list will make it more easier for you to do your shopping and it will do a lot convenience in terms of moving from one place to another at a lesser time. In your list, make sure you have the names and a guide for you on what to buy for them. Example if you're buying gifts for kids and when you're thinking to give them toys, write down on your list your preferred type of gift to give that person. Then, you can sort this list as to the types of gifts that you would give.

Second, you should know where to go. Divisoria is known for suppliers of all kinds of goods. The shops that sells similar products can be found concentrated in an area. For a variety of goods, Divisoria Mall, Cluster Mall, Tutuban Mall and 168 Mall may have all you need. There are also other shopping stalls inside the building nearby. Don't hesitate to explore them because you may find good buys at a lesser price there. If you are going to buy toys for kids and you want to save some more from your budget, it would be better to drop by at a building across Divisioria Mall.

Third, check the goods you buy for some defects. As a consumer you have the purchasing power and the right to quality products. While we shop we tend to be tired and so we just want to finish shopping as soon as possible. Another thing is that we tend be visually attracted to the design and color of the products that we are looking at. With these, we tend to forget to check the quality of the products that we buy, to find our selves regretting later on what we bought. Check if the product your buying is working, especially if they operate mechanically. Check the clothes your buying for some stains, holes, loose seams, fabric quality etc.

Fourth, haggle beyond the last price that they will give you. Divisioria is a bargain mecca. If you go to shops, you will find that they post price tags on cardboards. But as you approach and pretend that you are thinking, they will whisper to you the last price. That last price is just for retail. Remember, if you buy in bulk they will give the wholesale price. The wholesale price is always lower than the retail price. A shirt sold for example at 80 pesos can be bought for 150 if you buy two. But if you know how to haggle, they will give that to you at 75 for a piece. If you're buying 6 or dozen, you should be able to get that for 70 or 60 pesos.

Fifth, be mindful of your belongings and your safety. Divisoria is a market place. It is not a place for social function to flaunt how wealthy you are. Don't come with accessories, even if that is fancy because you don't want to cut your ears. Make sure your money is placed where no other hands can get in without you noticing it. Place your money in tight front pockets, never inside your bag that someone can pull from you. Never bring handbags because you don't want those pretty bags slashed with surgical knives. Take a big market bag with you where you can put all the things you buy. If the things you buy get heavy, you can politely ask some store attendants whether you can leave the packs you buy in their stores for a while.

Sixth, for your protection and support to our economy, make sure that you get your receipt. Your receipt will compel the store owners to pay their due taxes, and the same receipt is your proof of purchase, so in cases that you may need to return the product you bought if it had defects you may do so. But some shops don't have any recipts. If they are shops inside a building they should, so you must demand for a recipt. Only those stalls outside the building don't have receipts, because they are selling retailers and micro enterprises. Buying in these stalls do not give you any warrantee aside from the fact that the prices there are really no comparison with those from wholesalers.

Lastly, take your time in shopping. You might find yourself in a Christmas rush, but don't be in a hurry. Take your time as you shop, choose and have some time to rest. While you are in Divisoria, you'll be walking and walking, and stop only to ask for price or check goods. Being in a hurry is a compulsive buyer's behavior. You would need to think of what you are buying, as to its price, quality, brand or authenticity. Find some time to rest also when you feel tired. Try some authentic chinese cuisine from the area. Try the streets foods for your gastronomic delight, but if you're digestive track is sensitive. But if you are prone to easily get sick because of what you eat, dine in the fastfood and drink only bottled water.

I hope those stuffs I mentioned here may be useful for you. There is idiom for compulsive buyers: "Shop till you drop". With the many things you can find in Divisoria, I'm sure you'll drop as you will have all the fun and adventure of shopping. I was there today, and yet I was not able to finish my shopping list so I guess I'll find another day of shopping there again soon.

Puwede Bang Tagalog sa English Class?

After three meetings that I did not meet my class because of suspension, holiday and a simulation exercise, we all missed each other. The worst of it is that some of my students have either missed the fact that they are in an English class with me, or that they have missed how to use the English language.

I was teaching them about the use of the American Psychological Association's referencing and documentation style. Our lesson focused on how to cite sources of borrowed information in the body of the text. I have read several versions of the APA manual except the latest one. I have as well given seminars on its use to faculty members in the school. Lastly I have been using it for the many research papers I did since my MA years. But that's not the story I want to tell.

The challenge in our lesson is that I didn't have to tell the students the rules in APA in-text citation. Instead, I presented them an exhibit of how it is appropriately used. So they had to read through a one page document using the APA referencing style. Then, they had to come up with 15 rules they can think of, but they should justify why those are the rules.

I noticed one student was having difficulty in the task. She said, "Sir, bakit di mo na lang ibigay sa amin yung rules? Alam ko na yan nung high-school pero nakalimutan ko na". (Sir, why don't you just give us the rules? I know them from highschool, but have forgotten them already). So she knew it before, just half year ago from highschool. I told the class, that she had a legitimate comment, but I could not grant the request.

I told the class that I can read them all the rules, and explain them, but they won't withstand the gruelling task of listening to me, because there are just so many of those rules. I also emphasized that if i give them the rules then show them examples, they will just forget them anyway after all. But if they examine the text, think of the applicable rules, then they own the knowledge they have learned on their own. So, after a few minutes that the class was having some trouble in thinking of the rules, I called their attention to focus on the exhibit.

So I taught for a couple of minutes, blah blah blah blah. I asked them to look at one line where there is a citation, and then I asked why and why and when and where and how. Then I called one. Hmm. He was for a minute so articulate, and he was making sense with the rule and explanation he was bringing up. Then I asked him another question for another line.

He articulated for a while in English then ran out of words. Suddenly he squinted, "Sir pede po ba ipaliwanag sa Tagalog?" (Sir,can I explain in Tagalog?" I retorded, "Maari mo namang ipahayag ang kung ano ang iyong nababatid na paliwanag patungkol sa tuntunin na nakikita mo sa teksto. Gayundin, ang sinuman rito ay maaring manaGalog, kung kanilang nananaiisin. Ngunit, kung kayo ay maghahayag ng inyong mga kaisipan sa Tagalog, nais kong matuwid at pormal na paggamit ng wikang Pambansa. Ayaw kong makarinig ng anumang Taglish."

One student answered. "Sir, Nais ko pong magbigay ng aking haka-haka." I told him, "Hindi maari, dahil tinawag mo akong Sir,at iyan ay hindi Filipino." The class rolled in laughter. Then he switched into using English, and so did the rest of the class.

After a while when my students have shared some of the rules they could think of, the task was easier for them to complete.Never again, did I hear anyone from that class, speak to me in Tagalog. Check this cartoon, that explains why our students can't speak straight English.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Love and Apathy

What is the opposite of love? The common answer to this question is "hate". But it is wrong. Another would be "anger" but again it is wrong. Responding to this question, one needs to reconcile himself with his knowledge of love.

What is love? Love is a feeling. It is a positive feeling. Hate is a feeling which has negative connotations, but which could still lead to something positive. We hate because we feel, and we hate because we have learned to love, have loved and experienced love. Yet, at one moment, that love seems to fade.

Like hate, anger could result positively. First, it places the furious individual into a catharsis. Second, it makes the other person aware of what another feels. Anger could be another expression of hate, or a result of hate. Now, again, both can be traced to love.

Sometimes, hate turns into anger, yet anger will also subside. Hate may also subside, like anger. But with love, we may only fall out of it, if we fell on it. But love will remain. And, we will love again. Love can dissolve hate, love can ward off anger. But patience which is a cord that holds civility or propriety, can be broken by the fuming wrath of anger.

Anger is a natural human emotion. Suppress it, then you'll turn berserk. Let it explode uncontrollably then you'll strain yourself to your demise. I personally feel that it is not wrong to get angry, it is not wrong to let the other person important to you know of the things you hate. These are not moral or ethical issues. Simply because, things about you dislike or like has to be clear for better understanding.

But there will never be understanding, until both persons consider their selves to be on the same ground. Talking things out at different planes will not really work to better a relationship. Malcolm Gladwell emphasizes this point in "BLINK" that couples who go into conflict and never settle things on the same plane, end up in divorce. Another cue to this impending break up is when persons in relationships tend to attack each other by attributing the wrong deed to the identity of that person.

The human frailty is that we get so inflicted with even a little doze of painful anger or bitter hatred. That must be recognized, for they are emotions, they are natural, they have reasons to occur, and they have meaning in the relationships. They can not just be kept, or shrugged off like dandruff from one's shoulder. They have to be processed.

The process to overcome anger and hatred is turn to love. First, identify and recognize what you feel. Then, charge that positive emotion by refocusing your attention to things that you love, to your self, to your family, to your career, to your friends, to your interests and to God. Stay away for a while to what causes your anger and hatred, but do not leave that fragment of your memory as if nothing really happened. This should give you the time and space to reflect and find where you are coming from. Then, learn from it, unlearn some things and relearn those that really matter.

The departure from anger or hatred should be but temporal. It can never be eternal. You have to face them anew to deal with them. For those who remain unforgiving only burdens himself with a cross that he should never carry. That would be masochistic. A street smart philosophy that could work is "why bother yourself with anything that stresses you". That perhaps is their purpose in life, to be a burden to others and to stress others. They will be surely successful in that. So you must be cunning to find your space where you can be nurtured positively.

So what is the opposite of love? It is apathy. It is indifference. It is numbness to other's feelings. Again you can hate without losing love, you can be angry without losing love. But when you are apathetic, you can neither love nor hate, neither can you be angry. If this is where you find yourself, no one else can love because you can not feel love, as no one else matters to you. If what is more important to you, is your self, and no one else, that is pathetic. If you feel that you can never do a mistake and you can just blame someone else for your own wrong decisions, words and actions, that is egotistic. If you can play with other's feelings or ignore them like they don't matter, that is apathy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Differentiating a Champion from the Fighter

Via unanimous decision from the judges Manny Pacquiao won over Antonio Margarito, which gives him a new title as Super Welterweight world champion. This gives the pinoy champion his eight world title.

Margarito is taller by 6 inches and a little heavier than Pacquiao, but the Boxing Congressman from Saranggani had 3 cuts for Margarito,in a bout to the 12th round. Speed and precision were Manny's advantage over the Mexican boxer.

The Filipino people salute Manny Pacquiao for this National pride. Once again, the roads are clear of traffic and crime rate will be lower if not zero on this day. This is simply because the people's attention are in the arena to watch Filipino boxer in his bout.Then when he comes home, he will be received with a hero's welcome.

2000 years ago, the Emperors of Ancient Rome have built coliseums and arenas for the entertainment of the publicans and patricians, as they watch clad warriors fight for their lives against man and beasts.In this ancient spectacle,the one who wins becomes the public's hero, winning his life and freedom from slavery.

Pacquiao's feat has glorified himself as Filipino masses' hero. His image as a fighter that goes with his humility and heart for the ordinary people, like he was, made him win a legislative post. He has freed himself from poverty, coming from humble beginnings in life. If it were not for his potentials, his genius in the boxing sports and his determination to win the matches, he would have been like other has been boxers.

I saw the HBO's feature on this fight. In the feature, a viewer can clearly distinguish the character of a champion from a mere fighter. Margarito spoke confidently about his preparations, his previous bouts and his physical advantage. Believing that he was the 'tornado'. While Margarito is proud and confident, Manny's confidence comes with acknowledgement of his physical disadvantage and his preparations. He humbly tells that he knows what to do because he is conditioned and he has prepared for the match.

Manny may have been enjoying the fruits of his feats with a high-stature lifestyle. He deserves so. But as a sportsman, he understands his obligations to keep his body and mind fit for the game. He spends months of preparation for a game.He can be luxurious and extravagant in his life, but he knows where and how to invest his earnings.

While the two boxers are both Catholics, there is something that differentiates Manny. He has this ritual of praying in a corner of a ring. He keeps this rosary hanging on his neck. For faithful, this can be understood as an act of submission to God's will and invoking God's guidance. This is simply Manny's. I've seen other Catholic boxers make the sign of the cross, and others hang big crosses on their necks. But, it is only Manny who kneels and prays even though others are chaotic in the stage. Manny knows himself, and he knows the source of his strength. He believes in the power of physical strength that is reinforced by spiritual power.

Another trait that is admirable about Manny is that he never speaks of anything evil against his opponent. He speaks about himself and him alone and leave anything else to the bout's fate.

I am not a boxing fanatic. But I guess I am now a fan of Manny as boxing hero that young Filipinos should emulate. He is a champion, in character and spirit, not just fighter who finds satisfaction in violent blood. I could give Manny the title as the Boxer of the 21st Century.

Acknowledgement: Photo from AP by David Philip, Nov. 13, 2010 from

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Finding Meanings to Vivid Dreams

Dream interpretation is a hermeneutic effort that aims to explain by constructing meaning to the symbols incorporated in the dreams. Scientist are baffled by the dreams that the conscious mind can recall from the subconscious.

Dream interpretation is not a science neither it is scientific. I'd rather consider it as an art that struggles to fortify itself with bits of scientific knowledge. One explanation that sounds scientific is that dreams are metaphors that the subconscious mind creates and is subject to interpretation by the conscious mind. It can only be understood once it is shared as an object to be understood in the wake life context of the person.

Science knows when we dream. Thus we have the term REM or rapid eye movement. Which signals when the eyes are moving rapidly, the person in deep sleep is actually dreaming. But science did not take much effort in collecting those dreams and documenting them for analysis, except for Sigmund Freud that used it for his psychoanalysis.

Once I was baffled by vivid a dream. The one that I could recall from a night's sleep. Science says that we dream dreams but we can not recall of all them. Those that we can remember become significant because they are so vivid in our subconscious that it could be perceived once more in the conscious or waking life.

I dreamt I was on a small boat without a paddle, sail or rudder. The boat was moving to the east. I saw myself standing on the boat, my arms were spread as if I want to catch all the breeze that touched my face. The sky and water had no end, I could not determine where the blue sea and white sky meet. There was the sun, so bright, and the boat was moving towards the seemingly rising sun. The boat was white, and I was wearing white clothes. All I could see was my back as I was there facing the sun while the boat was moving by itself on the silent vast sea.

That dream came to me, 6 years ago, before I went back to the Philippines. "Dream experts" say that dreams are either re-cognitions or pre-cognitions in the subconscious. Thus they are contextualized as to the wake life of the person. Those precognitions can not be determined as such until it has happened as it was interpreted to be. Those re-cognitions are metaphorical representations of what happened in the waking hours.

Dreams, to me, are the efforts of our subsconscious to alert us on the waking life we spend, in ways that are symbolic. If they are pre-cognitions, it alerts us to what our mind understand of what is happening and what is going to happen. Dreams should not impair or debilitate us. If a dream puzzles us, then what we need is to reflect on our lives and not to subject it to other's interpretations.

If there is a rationale for everything, and there we create meaning to things, dreams as a system of symbols can be explained, interpreted and understood. Before it can be understood, it must be recalled down to the details.

I have a personal belief that dreams have meanings and they are influenced by our waking lives and as they are part of our mental processes, they affect our waking lives as well. Both dreams that we construct consciously or subconsciously are part of our wake life. My belief in dream interpreation stems foremost from my faith and secondly from my limited understanding of what psychology and humanities understand dreams to be.

I see dreams like an abstract painting cast in the canvass of our subsconscious. It is our minds constructions that which come from a lot of things while we are conscious. They are so fast, that we could be dreaming of a lot of things in millisecond. The Bible speaks of meanings of dreams, science speaks of the relation of our dreams in our lives, and hermeneutics account for various meanings of the symbols of our dreams as life metaphors. Socio-cultural archetypes are often the symbols in our dreams.

While I was in the Middle East, there was a night that I dreamt I travelled to the Biblical times from Genesis to the Apocalypse. I didn't try to interpret what that means. I was just so happy that I got a chance to experience that holy pilgrmage in a dream.

I feel that the dream I had while I was on a boat speaks of my repressed thoughts of moving out of the job, and returning home where I will have my peace of mind. The boat was still and so the waters, suggesting that there is nothing that I have to be worried about. The presence of the blue sky and the blue sea suggest of the many potentials and opportunities that I have. The image of the sun, represents light, enlightenmnent and spiritual calm to my part. The dream also speaks of the fact that I am free to make the choice, and the joy is mine to make that choice.

That dream of my life journey was recognition of myself and precognition that I was going back home or starting a new journey in life. I could give meaning to my dreams as well as I could direct my dreams. The latter is another thing that I will blog sometime soon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What if God Was One of Us?

Joan Osborne had her hit album Relish (1995) with this song One of Us. Her question, what if God was [were] one of us? Undoubtedly no one dare ask these question in fear of blasphemy. For in the Bible it is said, though shall not put the name of God in vain. But such question, to me, is not loaded with heresy and blasphemy, for it intellectualizes on a possibility that happened, is happening and will continue to happen.

What if God was one of us? To the skeptic, this question asks of an unreal condition. Hence, it is with a grammatical flaw, as it should be worded with were and not was since it is in subjunctive mood. As an assumption though, it is correct, but it speaks of the past and not of the present. So still the issue of God's existence here is brought to the past condition, that does not matter in the present nor the future. That's if our cultural view of the time is ageric and not a continuum.

Yet, such is the language of the blues, and therefore, the writer deserves her right to use such language as to her poetic license.

God is one of us. If so, where, how, when, why. How does he look like and what's his name? For the radical feminists, why is God he and not a she? What is the question of God's prior existence called for after all?

The song brings out the question of God's existence in relation to the people today. Rephrased what is God to you, amidst your busy life and where is He amongst you. I am using here personal pronoun He, referring to God because this has been the cultural archetype that humans know in reference to that Supernatural Supreme Being. All religions and mythology glorify the power of that God that is He.

Whereas, cultures around the globe also use he as referent to a person or a human being. My apologies to this politics.But as a writer, I also deserve the right to use the terms and referents that I am more accustomed to for convenient purposes.

The conditional "if God was one of us" tells of a past condition. He was in Christ, in Jesus who was born into form of a man although he is God. To deny this is to debate whatever logic can be found in the Old and New Testament of the Bible. If God were one of us? relates much better to pose a proposition for argumentation.

If God were one of us, what? He would not be against us. He would be teaching us his ways, but He would not interfere with our freedom. He would do miracles to those who believe. He would walk the way we walk. He would talk to us the way we speak. He would eat and drink like us. He would play, laugh and cry. He would take the bus, and get stuck in the traffic. But the the thing is, like what happened before, many of us would not know Him. He would be blasting his message on line. He would be replying to a text message when you pm him. He would be praying for others while helping them in their lives.

If he was able to born into human form, God that he is, he could always set his foot into the world in another human form. The point of question on what if God was one of us, should be directed to the mind and character of each one of us. If God was one of us, then we could profess and express the same love that He has for everyone. He should be one of us, as He is in us, in faith and in Spirit.

Then His love should manifest as we share our lives, time, treasure and talents to others. He is one of us, amidst us when we stand strong for justice, peace, equality, freedom, truth and well-being in this world. He is one of us and amongst us when we love, as to whatever that means.

On the contrary, where there is war, poverty, hunger, disasters, death, tragedy,terrorism, violence, abuse, injustice, dehumanization, inequality, political struggles, division, where do we find God? All these are world problems that God did not impose on us. As I see it, God is not testing us either through these, for he knows whether we will fail on it or not. These are what we created to what was beautiful in the world in our humanity. If God is one of us, then we would try to face and resolve these concerns in a Godly way. That is the sense of God being with us.

Soon the Catholic and the Christian faith will celebrate Christmas. Christmas is that time of remembering that God, who was the word made flesh, was is and forever will be one of us. We can only find Him in us in faith, and our works and deeds will confirm that as tested by His Spirit. God in us as we manifest genuine love to all God's creation.

(Photo: Acrylic on Canvass, Face of God by James Prattas from

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What do Moms Teach Kids?

Last Saturday, I was obliged to take my nephews to Mall of Asia for this Ben10 affair. Joszcef my nephew made kulit to me to take him there on that particular day, because he said, there will be Ben10 freebies. He loves Ben10 a lot. So he negotiated earlier that week that we should go there.

He knew the schedule, its at 2pm at the Mall of Asia, but he didn't have any idea where it would be. So our first stop was at the Toy Kingdom. He would always ask me about the time and check my watch. He would not want to be late.

I took with me four of my nephews there, Bothchok, Bitoy, Dadao and Jozcef. After dropping by Toy Kingdom, we went to the Atrium where the event had started. Kids were so excited to see an alien from the containment unit. But they got dismayed when the unit was opened and the kids were told that the alien escaped.

I got dismayed too with what one mom did to my nephew. After the program, the crew started giving out sticker freebies to the kids. Adults mugged the crew, and kids where there squeezed, competing with adults to get some freebies.

When Dadao, my nephew, came out from the throng of adults, he was holding some stickers by his right hand. He was sweating, like coming from a struggle. I was happy to see that he got some freebies. Then there came this mom, with her fat son. She slowly pulled the stickers my nephew got and then give it to her son. She even had him to keep the sticker tucked in the boy's armpits.

Sitting on the stairways, I couldn't stop getting her attention. "Excuse, me miss, I saw that, that's not fair. I saw what you did." She looked at me, but as if she did not hear anything. Deadma. My nephew looked at her.

I stood up, got my nephew in my arms, told that mom frankly. "I just saw what you did to my nephew, you took the stickers from his hand. That's not just fair". I was speaking English, and there that mom appear to be dumb of what I was saying.

My mom told me never to steal anything from others, never to take anything that is not mine or which others own. Freebies are free, they are given for free. To whom it is given first, becomes the rightful owner. What can a kid at 6 do against adults? What would a kid think of adults who take away things from them which they deserve?

For my mom, stealing is next to murder. I knew from my mom, how she defended from one my relative who blamed me for his lost wallet, which was actually stolen by his own son. We were not fed from anything stolen, and she who is a widow from when I was 7 took the responsibility of rearing us to who we are now.

Kids will be kids, but they have to be trained in the way they should go. The adults role in training the child is not realized only by verbal exchange. Kids learn more from modeling. What is noble with the action of taking something from someone, to please your own child?

To spoil the child with material pleasures, without them knowing the pain of work, can only turn the child to be too dependent on their parents, and consquently be a rebel who turn their backs on their parents when what he or she wanted can not be given. Giving your child something you did not work hard for teaches them complacency. Stealing for your child teaches them to become thieves later on.

Moms have a vital role in molding their children. Kids look up to their parents as models, and when they grow they measure the worth of their parents as to how the latter made them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Compete with Me so Let I beat Me

Most people think that "first impressions last". Surely they will last when the first time you've known the person is also the last time, because that limited interaction is the only schema you will have about the person for the rest of your life if you did not have any other time spent to know him or her better. To rectify this: "distinct impressions last, whether first or whatever, as figments in human memory".

Competitive, competent, concerned, caring and critical are some adjectives other people use to describe me. On the other hand, a crisis emerges when some people allude these traits to conceit.If I were to describe my self -- I is me, and me is me.I can't force myself to morph to the mold anyone wants me to be. I think and my being depends on my personal choice of how I want my self to be. I don't compete with others, because my competitor is me.

My identity, personality, character, values, thoughts, expressions and actions do not make me. They are parts of me, but I am more than me. I am me. What people sense in me are not all of me, and most often others are not aware of the I in me. I feel that most people who are so insecure of others are not really secure of their selves, and the only business that they can prosper is to mouth about others and not look into their selves.

When I was a child I didn't know of the I in me, and I didn't even know who is me; neither do I have a choice to define who I am and what is me. It was they, who told me things about me, they took care of fashioning me as they thought me to be. Thus, how others find me, is not all that I wanted me to be. The world has no longer hold of me, as I have learned that I am part of creating this world. I am empowered to be in control of not only examining my world but also making it.

I am not a child anymore, in age and in mind. Yes I do want to be childlike as God wants all his children to be. I am an adult,a young adult, But I share the same rights and privileges of making me, as I want me to be. I can choose to be excellent or to be dysfunctional, I can choose to be near or to be far. I can choose to hide, or to expose, I can choose to talk, or be silent. I can choose to help, or be helped. I can choose to affirm, or disagree. I can choose to value the respectable, or ignore the ignoble. I can choose to cooperate,or to be separate. I can choose to work, or to stay idle. I can choose so I can be. I can choose who I want to be.

I can be competitive or passive. I can be competent or incompetent. I can be concerned or pathetic. I can be caring or indifferent. I can be concerned or self-centered. I can be critical or dumb. I can stand tall, but others will think of that as conceit. I can be assertive of my thoughts, but others will think of that as arrogance. I can be expressive of my feelings, but others will see that as extreme audacity. I can think aloud, but others will think of that subversive. I can be what others will like and I can be what others will not like.

But I can not be a mediocre to please two opposing sides.So with these, some people have impressions that I am conceited. That is not me, and that is not who I really am. This is the adult world's crisis. Adults train the child to be independent and confident, and when they have grown to be such, adults think that the younger should find their place lower than them. Socially, hierarchy and caste are constructed to keep the status quo even to the point of tearing the whole system apart.

I am competitive, competent, concerned, caring and critical. That is me, others can think of anything about me. I will think about them also, reflect and examine my self, but anything else beyond what I see my self can not immideately change the way I see me to be. Should I drop these, then what is me? I am not you, nor they nor anyone else, but me. Being so is not in anyway contradicting to my faith in God who wants all that is excellent for his children to be. He knows me, more than anyone else, and little by little I see that revealed in me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love: A Cross Cultural Experience

Elizabeth Gilbert was an unhappy woman, needing balance while desiring control over her life circumstances. After being married for eight years, she found herself divorced from her husband Steve, then sleeping with a yogi named Dave, wishing to have an affair with Giovanni, dancing like a flirt with another guy, and ending up crossing over with a divorced man named Philippe.

This is the biography of a woman who wanted to become a mother after being the best wife that she thought she could be, from years of marriage. A writer, she thought... "I don't want to be married anymore". Such is a decision she made, a decision she painfully had to deal with, a decision that lead her to eat, pray and love across borders, in Italy, India and Indonesia.

I wanted to see this movie because I was intrigued by the plot and theme as I understood it from its trailer, and plus the cinematic locations. I haven't read the book, but I think it is a fascinating read.

It was one night that she prayed, asking the God whom she has not spoken with for so long a time, to tell her what to do, because she felt her marriage was in trouble. Then the decision not to be married anymore, turned her life into a quest.

After the divorce, she went on a quest to find her self.She planned it so well, that she wanted to go to Italy, to learn a new language, to India and end her year in Bali, Indonesia. It was in Italy that she ate and spoke Italian like one eats it. It was in India that she learned to meditate, a sort of prayer to focus her mind and align the elements in the cosmic universe to positive thoughts that could give her the balance in life. It was in Indonesia that she loved, others, her self and another man.

The crosscultural context of this movie is indeed a wonder to examine. Gilbert is a global citizen, someone like having 49 stamps on her passport, someone who is from the borders of the earth, an individual who's identity is of various culture. To understand others would be easier for her, than to understand her self. This personal crises brought her into a quest to find and know her self.

Italians as depicted in the movie, are people who have value for the joys of life and the security in family. Marriage seems to be necessary to make one happy. That if one is not married, he or she is either a queer, or not normal. Indians as depicted in the movie is culture with close connection to the cosmic realm, and bound by traditions and religious beliefs. Their animistic and unorthodox faith reflects to the personal desire of being in control of one's self and circumstances. Irony is seen in the story of one young lass whose marriage was arranged by her family against her self will. Indonesians are shown to be very accomodating to foreigners, welcoming, hospitable and warm to help others, yet still influenced by socio-cultural traditions and beliefs that are strong in them. Love of self is expressed equally as love for others in that place in Bali, and happiness is found in the simplicity of letting go of one's self to love another.

Various emotional elements in the movie kept my interest in wathching it. The narrative is like a bead of pearls or thread of flowers that has continuity without being predictable. It shares quotable quotes for those interested about self, life and living happily. But as this movie presents cultures that are different from what I am accustomed with, I have treat the narrative with openness yet with a critical mind.

Life and love are two facets connected with faith. The main character in the movie has strong faith in her self, but lack faith in God. In her marriage, as she wanted to be the best wife, she lost control of her self, turning that faith to her husband. God in the movie is neither the Christian, the Muslim or the God of Buddha. "God is within you, as the god in you." This is the god who can keep balance, who can bring happiness. Praying in the form of meditation is that unlocking one's power to master the universe, and draw that universe's energy back to one self.

Understanding faith in cross-cultural context does not see neither the oriental nor the western to be true and correct, great or inferior. In this same case, how people feel, speak, eat and heal their selves vary from one culture to another. Love, faith and food are three universal facets that manifest as culturally influenced. Just like a turkey is not the main dish in thanksgiving in Italy, if thanksgiving is celebrated there. While kissing and petting is common in Italy, it is a taboo in Indonesia. While divorce is common in New York, it is not fashion in Bali. While the Balinese can cure wounds with banana leaf, this is not the usual medical practice in New York or Italy. While praying to Saints is common in Italy, animals and the gurus pictures are the icons of worship in India. While coke in New York has less sugar, thumbs in India has five times sugar content.

All these present a kaleidoscop of a rich world culture. This is the beauty of human culture. Wathching this fascinating movie reconnects a viewer like me to my culture and to my self, vis a vis my relationships with the people whom I should care for and keep.

Julia Roberts who played the role of Elizabeth Gilbert, has not loss her flare as the elegant pretty woman who charms men. Director Ryan Murphy gets my thumb up for putting a great ensemble of cinematic elements in a fun, romantic and witty way set in four corners of the world.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fine Thin Line that Dichotomizes Teaching

There is a fine thin line between teaching as science and as an art. Yet, this thin line like a river can present itself as gorge that divides educators in their bifurcating worldviews of teaching. I embrace both the science and art of teaching that experience taught me.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and consequently earned Master of Arts in Communication Management. Contrastingly, I have set my foot on the field of education - mentoring, inspiring, transforming, enlightening, motivating, coaching, helping and teaching learners. Experience gave me a degree in both pedagogy and andragogy as I taught children, young adults, and mature adults while I worked as a teacher and trainer-consultant.

I lacked the scientific knowledge that formal schooling provides for teachers, so I turned to creativity, imagination and reflective thinking to master the competencies of a teacher. Because of this personal limitation, I engaged my self into developing a model for teaching that applies the art and science of communication. I merely modeled my personal approaches to teaching from the best teachers that mentored me, and through pinning my head on literature about education. This model is my personal contribution to the body of knowledge about teaching and learning. It is an imaginative work based on empirical works, and it has applications not only in teaching communication arts, but also in teaching the sciences.

The question as to whether teaching is an art or science, is not a common discourse among college faculty that I worked with. My colleagues never speak of the results of empirical efforts that examine education with scientific lenses. It seems to me that they have their own art and science of teaching. That teaching is rather msytical if not a result of trial and error.

The lack of scientific knowledge and philosophical foundations are merely compensated by a teacher's overboard confidence that she or he can teach. Teaching could be easy, when it is viewed as a mere transmission of knowledge, but when teaching is measured as to the students' learning, it is another story.

I no longer think of teaching, or what to teach and how to teach. Rather, I think of why the students need to learn what and how and they will be able to learn them in the given time allowed. Simply, because I am called to teach for students to learn.

If I assume that teaching is a vocation, then I have to consider it as a mission and ministry. As a mission, I am responsible to help learners achieve learning goals. As a ministry, I am to serve the academe and these younger generation with respect to a higher principled and philosophical goal. A vocation is noble calling that requires the demonstration of high morals and professional standard. A vocation is not a profession, for it finds gratification not in the remuneration, but in the reward of being able to share one's life for another's transformation.

Pedagogy, scientifically, is all about changing behavior permanently. But this should not imply that teachers utilize behaviorist approaches. Rather, it must continuously aspire to find the right means for the betterment of a learner and the learning process. The process that science offers is not fool-proof, and socially, it is unethical to use students as guinea pigs to try out techniques, tools and other things.

Scientifically as well, psychologists have determined that individuals are able learners, who learn by him/her self, in groups and in their social interactions with others, that learners are constructive and they will learn best if schools can provide the needed scaffolds for them to move to a competent state. In this case, the teacher is not central in the process - but also a scaffold.

The latter is an interpretivism, my personal imaginative thought. The art of teaching is not magic, and not pure teacher-performance. The art of teaching, for me is engaging the learners to recognize the value of education and willful commitment to its process for their personal transformation.

Teaching is performance that should enable the students to learn, it does not end as a mere spectacle that learners watch. Teaching is beyond oratory and rhetorics to fascinate learners, but a dialogue in which discourse and authentic knowing would take place. That is the art of instructional communication. As an art, there is no exact or deterministic method, because it is dynamic and evolving.

Since there is fine thin line between the art and science of teaching, there is no pride in claiming that teaching should be approached in one way against the other. Teaching is for learning, and learning is achieved scientifically and artistically.

Friday, September 24, 2010

School Kills Family Time and Robs Kids of their Childhood! No More Assignments for Kids - DepEd

Recently, the Department of Education ordered all primary school administrators and teachers "not to give assignments during weekends to their pupils, for them to spend quality time with their family, without being burdened of the thought of doing alot of home works" (DepEd Memo 392, s. 2010). Children and parents should celebrate this unconventional directive from Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, primary teachers are likewise lifted off the extra burden to check those assignments.

The directive, as presented in the news, was framed to offer alternative perspectives, but without actually hearing the sides or views of teachers, the DepEd and the pupils. I find the move radically progressive, but needing sustained monitoring, evaluation and support. The news actually intrigued me and moved me off my seat, with a "WTF?" is the DepEd thinking. But, as a critical and reflexive teacher, I have to process my thoughts and feelings to render a fair and constructive evaluation of this directive.

In the news presentation,not much is explained about the side of the Department of Education, except for the reason that Yolanda Quijano of the DepEd Bureau of Elementary Education. The reason suffices, but to understand its value and meaning to the Filipino family and to the learner needs deeper exploration.

The DepEd's directive is a response to some parent's complaint about their children's homework. This I would like to interrogate, as to the quantity and quality of data that the deparment has that ground its decision. Although by reason alone, the directive's intent is logical, but I can not rest convinced that there is an empirical basis on the displacement of quality family time due to assignments.

I could assume that the amount and type of assignments can undermine the quality of relationships between parents and children. But, then I argue that relationships can be fostered by the parent-children collaboration to do school-related tasks. This also adds value to the construct of social learning that should begin at home.

The directive has been perceived to be controversial because of its lack of empirical evidences. So the local news agencies relied on limited resources and informants to thread a narrative together that leads to question the decision.

How do teachers in the primary school give assignments? What kind of assignments do they give and why? What is behind the assignment that teachers think which should contribute to the development of a child? How much do these assignments affect the family relationship and childhood of school kids? How will this prohibition affect the quality of learning for the school children? What do empirical works tell about assignments?

Popular opinions diverge as influenced by the people's attitude towards the government. I saw myself to be also influenced by the fact that Br. Armin ordered the directive, because I am a teacher who shares similar views about education, which he also carries. Now, I suspend that personal bias and question the decision, relative to my critical self-examination of being a teacher.

When I taught English to primary children in the Kingdom of Bahrain,I was limited to four contact hours with them, in school. I never gave them assignments, everything that should be done, we did them in the class. The only reminder I would give them is to read and try to answer the exercises in our workbooks. Even if I give them assignments, I do not expect that they would do it. I would only tell them to speak English when they are out there.

Perhaps, that situation is indeed different. Kids do need to enjoy their childhood, and schools should reinvent to be more child-friendly. Basing from the comments of those teachers interviewed in the news, their reactions indicate a more teacher-centric perspective. Those in favor of giving assignments see that they help a child to review and prepare for the lesson. Those who do not give assignments reason that they want to give children quality time with the family, and so relieve from the burden of checking the assignments in the class. The reasons are all self-serving to the teacher, and not indicative of a true child-centered primary education

Assignments can reinforce, by supplementation and complementation, a child's learning and a child's social and family life. But this depends on the purpose, the type, quality and quantity of assignments that teachers give. Learners in primary education are children, ages 12 and below. Some teachers are wary of how the kids would spend their weekend. My question here is that do they get to feel the same anxiety as to how the children would spend the weekdays with them in their classrooms?

Its not in the sheer quantity of assignments, or the time spent in completing assignments. It is the purpose of these assignments that should be reexamined. The home is not an extension of the school, neither should the school extend to the home. One thing that a teacher could do is to reinvent its way of instructing the child, during contact hours. The home is no longer their domain. But, making sense of schools and learning into the community or family life is another thing.

If such will be explored, the assignments of school kids should not be limited to completing the exercises in their textbooks. That is a confinement of the child to the domains of the school. Rather, the teacher should give assignments that will enable the kid to construct knowledge, make sense of what he or she learned from school by experiencing authentic interactions at home, in their neighborhood or wherever they usually go in the weekends. Teachers should tap on the student's awareness and knowledge constructing skills applied to their authentic experiences.

My six-year old nephew, do not know the meaning of the words hakbang or steps. He learned these from leisurely reading with me a Children's book I bought him. Then I asked him to count the steps in the stairs, add and subtract number of steps.

Parents are also wary of the implications of not giving assignments to their children. My question is directed towards their sincerity towards their aim of providing their children quality education. They are in their own right mature adults. Many of the knowledge and behavior that the children bring to school are modeled and learned from them. Teachers find themselves in a difficult situation of trying to bend the child from things that were not taught correctly to them.

I say there is a need for assignment. Not for kids to make projects or answer exercises, read a chapter of a book or so. But for the parents and guardians of the Filipino school children to bond with them, keep track of their learning development, and support them by actually teaching them lifelong learning knowledge and skills. In this action, the school kids are not expected to specifically write, memorize or answer exercises or solve arithmetic problems.

Lifelong learning is fundamental to every learner. The fundamentals of living may be taught, discussed or read in the class, but they are not necessarily learned inside the classroom. Life is learned in life. Schooling is just one segment of kid's life. In this case, it should be the parents that should be given assignments that they will do for their own kids, as they are the ones who are directly in contact with them, for probably a lifetime. Anyway, assignments are actually done this way, either with the full intervention of a parent in the house, a sibling or a specially hired tutor.

The idea in this life learning assignment is to teach the parents how to teach their children about the fundamentals of living. With these assignment children are only expected to bring into the classrooms stories that they will share when they go back to school after the weekends. Say, a math teacher can require that parents help their kids identify the various shapes of objects in their house. A science teacher can require parents to tell their childish understanding of where does the sun go at dusk. An English teacher can ask parents to tell about their favorite fable and the lesson they learned from reading or hearing it. A social science teacher can ask parents to tell their children about a knowledge they have about a particular time in history or particular place in the world. From these many other things can be taught of.

Family relationships are built in communication. Knowledge also shared and constructed through communication. The narratives and oral traditions are viable means to build family relationships and reinforce the knowledge that the schools are processing. With what I suggest, assignments can be more meaningful to parents, learners and the school.It is the parents' responsibility to teach their kids the lessons of life, and the schools can help them learn this. The worry that students will be lost to their childhood is mitigated if the parents can be more engaged in training their children.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Downtown Took Me to Past Memories

It was a Sunday afternoon when we met at the long famous old Chinese fast-food restaurant in Quiapo. Our first stop was at Ma Mon Luk. We didn't actually eat but we just took pictures.

The restaurant kept most of the furnishing and interior from probably since it started, the marble-top table, wooden chair, old cash register, earlier models of ceiling fan, stainless hot and cold water dispensers, and the old China plates and bowls. Its service crew are mixed of older men at their 50's and some other younger men at their 20's. The restaurant still serve its original specialty, siopao, siomai and mami. One can openly see how Ma Mon Luk creates those delicacy in the traditional fashion.

Going to Ma Mon Luk was my third time. The first was five years ago when I came back from working abroad because I want to reconnect to my sense of being a Filipino-Chinese. That Chinese portion of my identity can't be seen in my complexion, but manifest in my eyes as my late grandmother was full-blooded Chinese. The second time was just a week ago, I was with my Mom, from whom I heard so many things beautiful and amazing about Downtown Manila.

Quaipo, Sta. Cruz and Binondo. I have known these places as an urbanscape, from whence I was a kid, from 30 years ago. I've passed through Binondo several times, when my Mom would take me with her to buy some fabrics and sewing materials in Divisoria. I am familiar with the streets connecting Binondo to Sta.Cruz, as we could stroll down to the Church from Ongpin onto Carriedo. The books that I used when I was in High School were mostly bought from Recto.

A small kid's eyes would find the buildings in Downtown to be skyscrapers, although they were just less than ten stories tall. Things were just gargantuan, and everything else displayed attracted my attention like how gravity pulls everything together to the earth's center. Downtown was Manila's center then - the best option for shopping since its a haven for numerous number of department stores and specialty shops."Everything one needs is there".

Thirty years, hence, I trail the stretch of Quezon Boulevard, Recto, Avenida, Raon, Echague and Hidalgo. Along with me are scholars from the University of the Philippines and we witness and experience Downtown in its present form.

From Ma Mon Luk, we traversed up Quezon Boulevard. A block away after the G.Puyat overpass, is a line shops selling videoke machines. I see this as a cultural artifact that tells how Filipinos love music. From DVD-Karaoke to a full set Videoke Machine, Music CDs, and 500,000 songs DVD Music players, everything that is up and about Music is there.

The next stores sell second hand TVs, second hand refrigerators, second hand components. Going around the area, and just right across are stalls selling many other things that are second hand. Second hand watch, second hand camera, second hand video, second hand tapes and name it, they have it. There are also many Ukay-ukay shops, selling second hand items, clothes, books, toys, electronics, curtains, bags, shoes, slippers, medical equipment... and the list goes on. These second hand shops have replaced the small department stores of Avenida and Quezon Boulevard.

But know "everything you need is at the mall", the mall just "got it all for you." My pilgrimage to Downtown is intentional, to experience the remaining standalone cinemas in the central business district of Manila, that should lead to writing a sociohistorical and ethnomethodological accounts of it. Hoping, of course that I could contribute to the existing knowledge of the cinema.

What we witnessed was cultural erosion, the neglect of cultural heritage, the loss of value for the historic past, and the lack of direction of a future. Empty spaces, vacant lots, closed shops, uneven walkways and potholes, dark verandas, unlit neon signs, unattended structures, uncontrolled vehicular traffic, and rushing flow of pedestrians. There, surely one will forget all his trouble, if not forget himself.

Downtown has become a historical artifact, a center dislocated, a sensually erotic place, a treasure lost to the pirates, a cinematic location in silhouette. Downtown, is not anymore in its upscale status, instead a distant memory of a glorious era that have faded in its luster.