Thursday, March 24, 2011

Family Picture


When I was 10, my paternal grandmother(+) took me for a vacation in Bicol. I stayed there for two months, and that was the longest time that I would have to be away as a kid from my mom and my home, miles and miles away from Manila. There was excitement in the first days while I explored the place.

It was fun in the first weeks, but my excitement passed and homesickness crept in, especially when I would hear my lola joke that I would stay in our ancestral house. That, was the first time that I celebrated my birthday away from home.

As I remembered the days with my family, sadness caught me. All I could do was silently cry holding a picture of our clan that my lola kept in a box. I would run to the room after a tiresome day helping in doing the chores, and after I would get scolded for some mischief. I would look at our family picture.

And I would wish that everything were just a dream, that when I woke up, I would be back home. The fondest memories in that family picture became my refuge, my room a sanctuary to relive happy moments, which then I was not sure I could find again because my Lola as the family matriarch could just keep me there with her.

Today, I had to hold my tears as one student in my speech class shared what all she wanted in life -- a picture with all the happy smiles from her family. She broke in tears in front of the class as she told us how she was affected witnessing her family broke because her mom left.

She said she went through being an "emo-suicidish" girl with less interest to be with others or even excel. Then I felt, I was blessed, even though I spent only seven years with a dad, and the rest with my widowed mom. My siblings and I were like orphaned without a father.

We did not have studio photos of our family or pictures outdoors having bonding time. I could count the pictures where my father was there with us. I could not frame or hang any photo of my family on the wall. That is if I keep believing that a family is composed of a father, a mother and their children.

In my heart's memory is a picture of me being carried by dad going home, my mom walking by her and my elder siblings following behind. This was the usual picture of us, going home from my dad's car shop. There it is vivid, how my family values each other, how my mother loves my father, how my siblings respect and trust my parents, and how my dad cares for me.

My family was not also ordinary. I had a sister(+) from my mom, before she became my dad's common law wife. My dad had four children, then he courted my mom when his first wife died. I grew up with my four half siblings and two full consanguine siblings. But there was no difference at all, with and without my father, we identified with each other as a common family.

What makes a family a family is that of the concern, care, respect, trust and above all love that one shares with another. The picture of a family is not always perpect as how many idealize it to be. We are blessed with a family, even if that one caring for us is a single parent, a sibling or a plain relative, or not of our same blood. A family is a relationship, filled with memories, expectations and emotions. The picture is not always the same in everyone's life.

Traditional old school pictures fade, digital photos can be corrupted. The picture of family varies from one group of people in relationship to another. When I recall my father's physical presence in our home, I would miss him a lot, but what I have left is still my family, whatever the picture is like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Be Still!


I remember a story from the Bible, were Jesus was asleep on a boat with his disciples. A storm came, and the disciples were scared. They woke Jesus up, as they lost faith amidst a tempestous storm. Jesus calmed the waters and commanded the wind and clouds to be still.

Be still! Jesus rebuked them for they lost faith when they were scared. Be at peace! Have faith! This is what Jesus tells his followers. Jesus also gave his peace on this earth to those who believe in Him. With that, we can be still.

Tonight, while I was in the classroom, the ground crumbled. My students who were all sitting, felt the tremor first. It was probably at 3-4 magnitude in the Richter scale, that was felt in Manila. From the epicenter in Mindoro, it was at 5.7, felt at 6:37, and then at 9:29, another earthquake was felt in the Bicol region, the epicenter was at Camarines sur with a 4.5 magnitude.

Last March 4, there was also an earthquake with the epicenter somewhere in Batangas and Mindoro, it has the same magnitude of 5.7. I was at the 9th floor administering listening quiz. From the ground floor it was not really felt, but up there, the building was really at shake.

As a teacher, I should be composed in front of my students in such a situation. I remember while we were still, while the we could all feel the tremor and the dizziness that it cause us. I was still, and one yelled out. "Am I gonna die?" I replied, "well dear, if you will from this earthquake, then we all are".

Back in June 16, 1991, when an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 billowed so many infrastructure in Baguio and the Northern Luzon, I was playing in the school ground as sophomore. I was really scared then, as I felt the ground moving, and I could not even stand on my feet.

All I could do, was kneel on the ground,and slouch there, while I was praying for God's protection to all of us in the school and to my family. Then, I saw the building shaking, the light post shaking, the cables like being wagged by a huge hand. That earthquake took many lives.

I was just right in the safest place in case of any emergency such as an earthquake. Tonight, I thank God that I was still, composed at peace. I even continued the lesson after the tremors, while my students were perhaps oblivious about my actions.

But, I am saddened, by comment I read from the internet, which reads: "I hope God can protect us from all these." With confidence and certainty, I would like to tell anyone who thinks like this, to be still. For God who has given Jesus to us in faith, promises us that his mercy, love, and grace endures forever. If ye have faith, then you should be still, for the Lord God is mightier than any other power on this world and even under it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Moonstruck


Our retreat master shared to us the myth of the "moonstruck". The myth could inspire those yearning for a lover but already in their middle ages.

It tells of a folkloric belief that for a woman to find her lover, she needs to look for a man sleeping under the full moon. She needs to wait for him to wake up, and that when he does and sees her from his awakening, he will be moonstruck and fall in love with her.

I do find the full moon strikingly fascinating and romantic. Hence, this allusion of moonstruck to falling in love, romance and relationships. Sadly, I missed to witness the rare lunar perigee this evening.

Honestly, I was at all times in sleep mode during the retreat even though I worked on the activities that we were assigned at. I would sleep through out the bus ride to and from the retreat house.

It's just now that I am in reflection mode and happened to be moonstruck if not affected by lunar lunacy perhaps. I am urged to pause and go over what happened, and of what I heard, felt, said and did in that experience, prior, during and after the retreat.

The retreat that we had was more of bonding for the department and a break from the regular tedious routines of our work. My expectations were met so far, but they were mostly not for me, but for others in the group. First, I really wanted that for our department so that we could have time to know each other more and so be closer with one another.

I went there in faith that something will happen for those who are there. I did not go there, because I felt I had baggages to unload and some troubles to run away from, so that I can find emotional sanity and spiritual refuge. I went there to join my colleagues, and I found myself more of an observer and intercessor.

I was guarded by a conviction of listening only, that the event was not really for me to be talking as I gave more chance for the newer teachers to open up so that I can know them more. I hope I listened well. This is very unlikely when I was still struggling with my faith some five or six years ago.

Back then I would mix my personal baggages with spiritual ideas because I felt I had obligations to be an element for others' renewal. I am moonstruck but what I shared about me, as an individual in a journey towards God alone. Now, I am trying to figure out the impact of what I said to those who heard me.

I feel no guilt at all as to what I have said, but a thought lingers in my mind that I could have been misunderstood. Nevertheless, my heart convicts me that everything that happens, happens for a purpose under God's greater scheme of things. Why was I there, if I my faith is strong and I am not troubled?

With that question, I am struck to know the answer later on, and to listen to my heart as to whether I am still moonstruck with people I love -- my family, or am I lost by being self-rightous?

With self-rightiousness, I could just be really moonstruck, because I am seeing light that is but a reflection of the Original, and in the dark. Even, so it is still light and can help me go through if I am in the dark.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Disaster Risk Communication 101



While I read the news coming from top western new agencies online, I am saddened not by the images of the aftermath of tsunami engulfed a wide area in the north eastern coastlines of Japan, but of how the news on disaster risks are framed by the journalists. In disaster risk management, the people need to be informed of the situation, updated as necessary; to alert everyone affected, but never to alarm them.

If you have been following the situation in Japan but you're stuck in watching BBC or CNN, or you're referring to western-based news agencies, try to look at what's happening there through the Japanese' eyes via NHK. There you will know the big cultural difference in presenting the situation to the global audience, and the way the Japanese are handling the situation.

The libertarian principle of journalism is that of being socially responsible as a watchdog of the government for the people, and they have a developmental function to emancipate the people from ignorance that inflicts on them various social dilemma. At this early, it becomes obvious how non-Japenese journalists are framing the news to sustain readership or audience share.

The operatives of these journalists, I fear, could add to the pressure now levied on the Japanese parliament. While the lenses of these journalists try to capture the human drama, they fail because the drama is not there at all. In writing, these journalists present the information as dramatic as possible to make the issue hot at an alarming level, even if it is not.

Another concern that surfaces here, is that the tide of information that is not normatively undergoing gatekeeping anymore because the media wants the news out immediately could have an implication as to how authorities should be dealing with the issue. The media seems to be taking an ominiscient role, that is all knowing and all seeing, but blind to the repercussions of their newsframing decisions.

Top western news agencies are focused now on the quantities of death, impact to the Japanese and world economy, and the threat of a nuclear leak. Most often, they refer to experts and authorities outside Japan who also rely on the news that they watch, as if those have an insider's look at the case, while they thousands of miles away from the location.

Indeed, the scene may look 'apocalyptic' , the threats 'at worst fearsome'. But, if we look intently on the actions and the behavior of the Japanese at the foreground of those images, there we see calm, composure and confidence that they can go through with what happened in their own way.

How did the Japanese recover from WWII after Hiroshima was blistered with hydrogen bombs? How they prosper amidst the fact that the Japanese archipelago is sitting on the Pacific-ring of fire, with earthquakes every now and then, and tsunamis from dating from prehistory? The answer to these lie on the matrix of their culture and their values. But, these are often ignored by those outside Japan.

Lastly, the Japanese is not only rich in its culture, but in its openness to share to the world its knowledge. The Hyogo Framework which is model disaster risk management models all over the world is mostly Japanese. What we can see now, is that Japan is setting up a model as to how communication should take place in disastrous stations. Ironically, many do not understand this.

That 19th century painting of the Kanagawa Wave shows how the Japanese mastered their environment by understanding as well as reverring nature. That nature is not an enemy. Even if it demonstrates its strength and power, the Japanese knows what it means and respects that as they remain still. Panic or alarm is an absent element in that cultural artifact.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Can you tell me what I should do?


What should I do? This is the most difficult question that I cannot answer for my consultee, even so for a friend. Answering such question, for me would be subverting the individual capacity to think and be responsible for his or her own life, and this puts the burden or blame back to me, if things don't work well the way they should.

In very confusing life situations, all of us our vulnerable to experience cognitive dissonance. This takes place when what we think don't happen to be aligned on our precepts or existing schemas. When we encounter something odd or unknown which should not be happening as we expected, that triggers cognitive dissonance. So, we turn to others for some help.

To some people, seeking help is a weakness. To other's seeking help is a strength and a way to reinforce, assess or challenge one's frame of thinking to determine a solution that is congruent to what is already preconceived. Meaning, we seek help when we already know what help we need, but we are just seeking confirmation that our intended actions are right.

I feel that the question "what should I do?" is different from that of "tell me what you think should I do?". The first relieves the one asking of the responsibility and accountability to the personal obligation of resolving his or her issues. The second, is seeking opinion that may have value to coming up with an informed decision. The first critical and the latter is socially healthy.

The question "what should I do?" has an underlying tone of desperation, dissonance and confusion, while the latter has an attribute of personal capability. Both questions manifest a need for communication, and some clear, tangible and logical solutions. The first obviously seeks empathy from the surface, but the critical part here is the need for empowering the individual to assess his or her own problem and self-initiated solutions.

One time a friend told me how she was not so happy with her marriage or her husband. She asked me, what she should do. First, I am not in the position of giving her any advice as marriage is out of my schema nor my specialization. I resolved to just give her so many available options and illustrations of what other people have done. Until now, she is in the same situation, simply because she idealizes a life she is not in which she is not doing anything about.

The question "tell me what you think?" goes with an embedded question "what should I do?". The embedding suggests that the one being consulted has the capacity to rationalize things and help the seeking party. As the latter is embedded, it is evident now that what is important to the asking individual are ideas that can help clarify the issue and resolve it later on. This requires comprehensive understanding to the listener and sharing of critical insights.

A strong-willed woman I know approached me about how her academic plans were devastated by a decision she never expected. She asked me what I think she should do. Coming from her schema of having everything in her life planned and written out, I understood that her dissonance is due to some violations of expectations. She expects something which the other party does not know anything about. Recursively, we went back and forth her issues, her feelings and her expectations, as we go through the pros and cons of many possible actions she can do. She resolved to adjusting her expectations and rewriting her life-script.

The two situations I illustrated are different and maybe incomparable. But, what is common there is our personal need for other's help to inform us in our life-decisions. We need others, but we can not totally depend our decisions on what others think. Our life is our life, not someone else's. We need others to listen to us, as we need to listen to what they think.

Our tendency to mirror our lives with that of others' will affect our very own understanding of our self and our directions in life. As we need to live with others we also need to stand strong in our own feet, that includes being accountable and responsible for our decisions and actions. Then, and only then that we can tell our selves and exclaim to others that we have lived our lives and completed our own race.

Lastly, with those two situations we need to see who we really are in terms of our dependence, independence or interdependence. There are instances were we need to be dependent, as an infants to their parents, or as the elderly to the young. But we grow and as we grow we need to be independent in many things and interdependent at some others.

Witnessing the Struggle of Man against Nature


I was glued on TV the whole day watching the 'unfolding drama' of a great earthquake and the following tsunami that devastated Japan. I have to be honest that I was a bit desensitized to the issue eventhough before my eyes was a real deluge.

I should have been more empathic, scared, sad, anxious or whatever, particularly when my mom started calling her friends and relatives to alert them of what's happening. She even told us to go to the church, because a priest in the parish said so.

I was just composed, looking at the repeated video on BBC, CNN, FoxNews, CNBC and NHK. What I witnessed is the reality of stronger and greater natural disaster, which some scientists have warned the world, but the world leaders did not attend to. When the tsunami struck, I remembered what happened in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

video

What I understood of the event is that man is helpless with the power of nature. Of natural disasters, we do not know when and where they will happen. But this does not mean that we should not be prepared. One thing for sure, the Japanese had the best preparations when it comes to disaster risk management. The Japanese who are naturalists have advanced in science and technology to keep their citizens safe as its people knew that their archipelago sits in the ring of fire and most vulnerable to all sorts of natural disasters.

I must have felt desensitized as I felt more informed through the news and through my earlier knowledge on disaster risk management. I knew Japan can handle the situation. No, not in the way of stopping an earthquake or plugging the way of the tsunami - but in alerting its citizens to safety and composure.

Disasters strike, and we are not sure when and where. One thing is to be aware, another is to be prepared and alert in our actions when it happens. With climate change more is to be expected, nature has become more unpredictable as its unleashes its strength in greater intensities mostly unknown to us.

I have confidence that the Japanese people can go through what inundated them. First because they possess great resiliency amidst natural and man-made disasters. Second, they place high value on living in harmony with others. Third, they have the technology and material resources to recover from their situation. Fourth, historically Japan has stood and survived so many deluding events. Lastly, the world is not indifferent to their need and call for help.

At this point, we need to learn from what happened in Japan, in Thailand, in Haiti, in New Zealand and in many places in the world, to help in our disaster risk management efforts amidst the unresolved fate of this world as a result of climate change. Now, while disasters reach at high scales, international efforts must be geared to a global readiness for every one in this world.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be Consoled and be Filled with Joy


I am driven to post this today, for reasons I do not know. But I am certain, that somewhere, this post would be of value.

Console yourself with the Scripture if you believe in God, "with our suffereings come perseverance,in perseverance, character, and character hope - and hope never fails" (Ro.5:4). God knows our hearts. He knows who among us puts faith in His Son.If you know the Son and believe in Him, your joy must be complete.

If you think you are suffering now while you walk your faith in the Lord, that is not a test but a training for you to give you perseverance, to develop you character so that your faith may be whole. While tests can be failed, trainings only calibrate.

This world offers so many things for us to experience momentary happiness. In watering holes, they have happy hours and casual sex. There is 'ecstacy' sold in tablets. There are new age techniques to change your aura, yoga to breath in 'joy', mantras, chakras and charms to bind negative energies.

There is Feng Shui to drive off bad luck, and fortune tellers that give false hopes; narcotic drugs to hallucinate and detach one self from reality, modern day witchcraft to cast spells and renew self-esteem. But can any of these really give joy?

No, this world has nothing for us, when we start to walk our life in faith. This way of life in our modern world is not something new, and we are being tempted to sin by many things int his world. It's been this way ages ago. The Scripture reads: "Surely, you know how it has been from of old, ever since man was placed on earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment" (Job 20:4-5).

We are challenged in this life. There are no annointed Biblical character, prophet, disciple or saint who have never faced troubles nor committed sins. Jesus himself, suffered temptation, persecution, deserting, humiliation, pain and death, to forgive us our sins and save us from the debt of our sins.

The difference between a Christian and an unbeliever is that compared to them, we are certain that when we suffer troubles, God's hands will be there to move and save us. To us, challenges are but a training and not to test our faith but to strengthen our faith.

God knows our hearts because He implanted that faith in us. The Word inspires Jeremiah to say: "Before I knew you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart... (Jer. 1-5). There is no small or big faith.

Didn't Jesus say that even if your faith is as small as a mustrad seed you can command a tree to be uprotted and groundted to the sea (Mt. 17:20). We are set apart by the Lord for Him so that we may have life to the full; and that Hs joy may be in us and our joy may be complete (Jn. 15:11).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Persistence


Persistence is the unfailing spirit of man to reach his goals. It is the willingness to succeed and gain victories amidst trials and tribulations. Not everyone though has the persistence to endure.

Persistent is a man whose heart is full of hope and trust. A man endures and overcomes with persistence. Persistence comes with faith, and those who endure are strong in faith. This faith is not only that of coming from himself but that which is faith in the Divine.

We all fall, falter and fail. If we can not stand up from our fall, then we can not gain strength from enduring. Without faith, we cannot endure and we cannot overcome or prevent failure. When we keep on failing, we might fall in the trap of no longer persisting to succeed.

He who is full of hope, never fails anyone who trusts Him. He pours out persistence to the weary-hearted and guides them to His glory. We can only trust in Him whose hope never fails.

There is nothing too difficult to accomplish in life. There is no problem unresolvable. There is noting impossible for everything is possible in our perfector of faith. I can say this boldy, because my life is living witness to this certainty that comes in faith.

There is a saying that the body is weak but the Spirit is strong. It is definite the the body which is formed from dust is weak. It's very nature will not last. But it is that Spirit which resides in the body that makes our spirit strong. We should then let the Spirit takeover our body to give it strength and endurance to persist in faith.

Today is Ash Wednesday, it is a symbolic ritual to remind us of where we came from. From dust we were, from dust we shall be. But that is just about our physical body. We should see as we belieive that we are brought to life from the dust with God's breath of His Spirit. Without his Spirit and our faith in Him, we can not persist.

Hence, we can endure all this world's troubles in faith, if the latter persists in our hearts and minds, and in our words and deeds.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life Burn Out


How could you manage to still blog when you have so many other things to do?

I myself is fascinated because I am keeping two blogs, writing reflections from our lessons in my PhD, doing two or three researches, glossing on 10-20 books, checking papers, preparing lessons and updating my Facebook account.

I am not superhuman, I am just an ordinary guy like anyone else. Honestly, I really don't know how I can do so much with the little time I have for my self. To others, they may find me burning both winks of my candle.

I could be doing so many things, but I am not burning both winks of my candle to waste. It just so happen that I know my priorities and I am passionate in doing all those things.

Frankly, I have no financial gains in doing all of them. I just enjoy doing them because they are meaningful to me. What drives me are intrinsic, so what would burn my wink out is also intrinsic.


I could stop myself from doing all those things, and just sit lazily in front of the TV, or browse the Internet for nothing, read tabloids or just gossip with my colleagues. I could just ignore the fact that I have students who would like to learn from me. I could miss my PhD classes and just get an incomplete grade.

With all those many things, it would be easy for me to get burned out. But life for me only has meaning when right things are done for the right purpose. I believe things unfold in their right time. My time to do so many things may be so little, but if I can do them so I must do them.

As I understand that I chose to do these not just for myself but for others, then I must also understand that I have to find the best ways so I can accomplish them. Life is not so cruel to burn someone out.

Life is the most beautiful thing that has ever come into this universe. We must live it meaningfully. Those people who feels burnt out in their lives are not really enjoying their life, rather it is the circumstances in their world that master them and not them in their lives.