Monday, May 23, 2011

What's the most precious for the young Filipino generation that makes them happy?

I used to be merely reading my students works to spot for grammatical and syntactic errors, evaluate their logical organization of ideas and their development of thoughts as expressed in words. But that bored me a lot oftentimes, so now I tried to listen and think at the same time of what they are saying, orally and in their writing.

Out of 120 students that I listened to, this day I found out that everyone of them are saying that their family is the most precious for them. Second to this are their friends, and the third is God. Only 3 or 2.4% said that their self is precious for them. Only one said, that her future is precious for her, and she is not a Filipino but a Chinese student.

We agreed on the concept of precious to mean closest to one's heart and important in life. The same findings and congruent with my earlier observations on what makes young people ages 16-21 happy. Out of more than 500 student essays I read so far, the most recurrent concept is that of the family for Filipino students, with Korean students it is material possession and money.

We qualified the concept of happy as 1) something that makes one feel positive, 2) something that has implications to relationships, 3) something that makes one feel so good, 4) something that one does not want to miss; and 5) something that is to die for. The students listed several things which they think make them happy, after brainstorming for 15 minutes, they have to discriminate from their list to chose only the top 5, that includes all those they tagged or labeled based on the constructs of the happiness concept.

The findings are interesting and worth of pondering. Amidst the access, availability and these kids power to purchase entertainment gadgets, the corollary evidences I got reveal that for the Filipino digital natives, the thing that makes them happy and most precious for them is not really a thing after all.

The family is a priceless possession, non-material yet so valuable. It was a also a recurrent response that it is through their family that they find strength and support. Others say that they will risk their lives for their families, and it would cause them ire if any harm is done on their family members.

These are young people, as a fresh graduate student I had believes, later on they will turn to their friends, and friends will become more important for them. Perhaps, that is why friends rank second. One soda company did market survey among young people back in 1990's, and its findings were the same, family and friends are important in the Filipino young people's lives.

I have no further evidences to explain, empirically, why? Sociological explanation of the family as a basic unit says that most of what we are have been taken from our family, or that we learned the basic skills, including dependency from our family. Being young, and not being exposed much to the world outside the homes, the family is really important.

Across demography and economic status would this figure be the same? Now I turn the issue here to mature adults guiding these young people. While teenagers know what is valuable for them, and that is their family, are parents and relatives supportive to acknowledge that fact and really pay attention on spending quality time?

The order of response is also critical to consider the relationship between the two in the life of a Filipino teenager. First is family, when there are family problems, friends become the support of young Filipino. When the family finds that the young is spending more time with friends, that causes conflict resulting from envy confused with misunderstanding.

Then the kid rebels, moves away from good friends and find other groups of influence. When everything fails for that kid, that's time he goes to find the value of God in his life, and then back to his family. It's a cycle, a triadic relationship among Family, friends and God which happen to be very influential elements to the life of young Filipino.

Let's test this concept in mass media. I suspect that advertisements combining the three elements or at least two of them have great appeal to the viewers, to the Filipino family in general. Because what the young reflects is that of the shared value which they first learn from their family. Don't get me wrong, we all like to be treated in our workplace, in our organization, in our cliques as a family member.

We can also suspect that the students response is but a mere convenience, for them to have an answer. But they answered individually several other questions, included that of what is precious to them. The convenience of answering family as most precious or cause of happiness is not a mere scapegoat. The response reveals that the ideals and value of family to a young person is there in the immediate experience and their present reality, as it could surface immediately. Or does it also inform us, of the value of being selfless against being self-less?

The value for family can also derive from the absence of it not just in its felt presence. The family is another concept which is richly attached to a sense of security, comfort, guidance, strength, support, respect, understanding and most importantly love. For parents, losing their children to their friends or to other material things does not require a survey or profound research, they only need to feel that as how, perhaps, these young students felt the importance of their family.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Of Prophecies and Predictions

The terms prophecy and prediction can not be interchangeably used and confused with each other. Prophecy has spiritual implications to affirm another with wisdom while predictions extrapolate on existing human knowledge to foretell or forecast a future phenomenon.

Prophecies are to prophets while predictions are to scientists and fortune tellers. Prophecy is a spiritual gift that is different from the gifts of discernment and vision. However, great Biblical prophets showed their wisdom in handling these three gifts altogether. These prophets never engaged in predicting events to get others' attention on them.

Discernment is close to wisdom, and it is evident in coming up to a noble judgment on certain issues or matters. It carries decisiveness in action with certainty in faith. A discerning spirit can read signs, actions, situations and words, without getting worn out from making interpretations. Discernment is not confined to the process of subjective interpretation.

Discernment brings enlightenment and it comes with peace and joy. To discern does not need any vision, but the gift of vision may bring discernment. It is Biblical, that men in the latter times will dream dreams and see visions. Those gifted with vision has discernment of what they see means, but they do not further interpret them in their own understanding.

Joseph the dreamer was a visionary. He has the gift to discern the visions others dream, with wisdom to reflect those dreams in reality. He could not just discern and interpret visions, but he could make his visions into reality. With those gifts he became a leader of his people and those not of his father's descent. He sees yet he does not predict.

Isaiah, Exekiel, Jonah, Daniel are among the great prophets in the old Bible times. John who saw visions in Patmos, wrote what he saw, and what he was told to write about. This visionary did not make any prediction at all about his visions. The visions of the end of times are consistent with other visions and prophecies in the Bible. But the very word of the Bible's greatest Prophet, Jesus, teaches that no one knows when that hour is coming, and we should not bother about it.

Why then do we read the Bible as if it is coded, and that we had the ability to decrypt its codes with human knowledge? There is no gift of prediction, only the gifts of vision, discernment and prophecy, and the many other gifts that Spirit pours to whom He chooses.

The gift of prophecy is a gift to strengthen the weak, encourage the hopeless, affirm the needy, enlighten the unknowing, and guide the unwise. The Bible code is but simply read in four letters, L-O-V-E that is God's unconditional love for His creation.

Many had attempted to predict the end of times. It was only Jesus who taught with wisdom about it. He also warned of people who will speak in his name, preach of His coming again, but affirmed the faithful that those who do so are not of Him. He will come, that is another mystery in our faith. If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus' Salvation, and we believe in him then we should hold steadfast, until that hour of His coming.

A true prophet is never treacherous for his intent is pure to bring people closer to the Lord, like how a shepherd would care for his flock when he knows that a storm is coming. A true prophet brings enlightenment to the world and not darkness in fear of impending doom. True prophets do not make profits out of their Spiritual gift. Woe!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Making history and breaking orthodox confines

We are an awesome foursome dweebs (probably to the rest of the world) who took the boldest step many educated person will more likely dread. Bea, Chitchat, Jenny and I, we belong to two batches of UP-CMC's centinneal PhD in Communication students, but strange serendipity brought us closer. Woh! We are just in sync, in the same wave with our own eccentricities that we became a clique!

Let me chronologically pull this awesome experience we had together. Bea and Chitchat got in the program on the 1st term of AY 2008, while I and Jenny were accepted in the 2nd term. The first two went ahead to take cognates without completing their coursework, while I and Jenny started (right) with the prerequisite refresher courses.

First term of 2009-2010, we became classmates in quantitative and qualitative data analysis. We would criticize each others works, in the class and sometimes behind each others back. Then we would lounge to do some rethinking about our lessons and a lot chatting on non-school matters. Term break came, we took the qualifying exam together. Not all of us made it on the first try, but we all manage to see each other again the next term.

Second term of the same year, we were classmates together plus 1 and 2 minus 1 students on two classes. Incidentally, the two electives we enrolled then had the only one professor handling. We conferred to ask if the two classes could just be fused on single but extended meeting. Luck and logic gave us the opportunity to stay from 6 to 10 pm at school, but once a week, plus our cognate in other colleges. What a dweeb we are!? Because despite the odds we maintained scholarly standing.

While no working students then dared to enroll nine units, we did and we got through with it very well. On the 1st term of our second year, we were classmates on one elective again. That probably bonded us more closer as the course required us to go places and give some meaning and understanding about them. Bea was on her last term of coursework. While the three of us needed one more term.

In the last term, we agreed to take the comprehensive exam together, right after the semester. I thought I could not make it, because I didn't have time to enroll residency for summer so I can be eligible for the candidacy exam. But, Chitchat did a heroic act to save my ass and put me in the turmoil of taking 4 days of comprehensive exam this summer. In return, these slave drivers made me errand to file our application for the said exam.

That was a first, because previous students (according to stories told) took the exam single handed. Other stories (that seem fantasies) tell that a proctor would sit during the exam and even go with the candidate to the restroom on wee breaks. We know and we respect the value of that exam. Without the proctor, we knew and practiced self-regulation.

We responsibly understood that it intends to measure not our memory capacity but our competence to organize our thoughts and put them into writing as an evaluation exercise of our fitness to write our dissertations. Humans and friends that we are, we could not avoid to ask how we are doing and how we are feeling during the exam.

Given to make sense of an infinite universe and tasked to put that understanding into writing for a whole day, definitely tired our fleshly bodies. Our spirits though had the strong will, as we are motivated on checking each other as to how many pages or how many words had we written so far. It was brain draining, the four days of exam, taken two and two, afterward just put us looking up the sky and staring blankly on the wall. Humans as we are, we would wring, contract our bodies, pull our curled legs up and stretch.

I'd go out with Chitchat and smoke, of course we would talk. Bea would follow sometimes though she doesn't smoke. Jenny when she needed would sit also with us outside. We'd talk about the difficulty of the question, but guarded by our commitment to keep the integrity of the exam, we'd avoid talking about our answers. We'd just laugh out the difficulties we felt and boost each other's steem to relieve us of the anxieties and stress that go with answering the questions.

Anyway, the questions differ for each of us. Rational us we are, and scholarly as we are trained, we have confidence that we know the answer, and we know what to say, it's just that we are greatly challenged how to make whatever we have to say in a logical and sound manner and the whole day-exam was really washing our physical strength out. So, we made another history, to surprise one teacher as she noticed our informality, unexpected non-verbal languages as we get tired, and our frequent breaks.

Such violated an "expectation" never set before us to cause cognitive dissonance to an observer. But the observation was construed as a precondition to a presumed untoward incidence that was extended to suggest invalidating the exam. This goes to show how fast the mind thinks and process visual information than actually confirming those inputs as to what they mean.

I have to raise my legs, because they are tired and I want to keep my blood flowing to move to my brains. I don't want to have varicose veins at an early age, so charge for me for vanity, and blame me for that informality, because I did not want to wear Barong with my skinny jeans on. We are 100% sure that whatever we inked in those exams are our thoughts and of course others' that we met in the empirical thinking world whom our professors introduced us with.

We know we can't qualitatively place a margin of error on this exam because we all wanted to push through with our dissertation right away and finish it the next school year. This is another history we want to make. We are just passionate learners, we are just normal people who enjoy communication and learning together.

We are so casually informal, because that is our way to keep at ease and focus on the exam. That is how different we are and that's how we made those historical moments towards our PhD candidacy. Blame nature then for it selected us to be the way we are - wonderful people, excellent scholars, awesomely honest friends. I am esteemed to have you in my great education, Dr. B., Dr. C. and Dr. J-O, and our wonderful professors who are part of who we are now.

P.S. This is not a valedictory address, (yet? meganun?). Dissertation isn't over yet, I'm just draining the little juice left out of my brain.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Child Lost at the Golden Arches

Name: "Nanna" Age: 2 years and 4 months old Height: 2'5" Possibly lost from her grandmother's care and elder cousin, at the newly opened McDonald's branch in Sta. Ana., Manila, today at around 4 pm. Suspect: 'young mother' between the age of 25-30, height ranging 4'5", black hair, fair complexioned, petite body built; seen with daughter of height around 2'7", skinny and left at the counter unaffected by her 'mothers' disappearance.

Surely, our house would be in chaos right now, blaming and worrying and grumbling to find her if what happened was not a "preempted kidnapping". Say that I am overreacting but the narratives of the tragic drama that was thwarted by my mom's defensive maternal instinct to keep her granddaughter safe in her watchful eyes, tell an angle of a failed modus operandi.

Parents, nannies and kins going out with children should learn from this story. I could not imagine how we could manage the emotional chaos of grief, worry, guilt, and the business of working this case out with the police, and the burdening 'obligation' of recounting to the curious what could have happened. Indeed, panic, would wreak us all down, helpless and hopeless.

Mama, 72, must have missed her granddaughter that much, that when she got home with her parents from Bulacan, she decided to go with Nanna (not her real name), her mommy, and my other niece, 17, to try the new fast-food chain and then go to the grocery store just beside it. Inside, they bought some dessert, and then my sister went to the grocery.

After wards, while they were about to leave, another woman took Nanna by the hand, getting out of the fast-food chain. My niece did not react in anyway that seemed alarming to her. It seemed that manner how she was held was safe after all. My mother screamed, caught the guard's attention and other customers inside. They were just a few steps away.

The guard even consoled my mom, that they are still just near. My other niece grabbed Nanna by her arms, and told her that the woman she was with was not her mom. Nanna looked at the woman and slipped off from her clutch. The woman said "Di ko anak to, 'san yung anak ko?" (This is not my daughter, where is my daughter?), calmly and un-alarmed by her 'mistake'.

The woman went inside to pick her daughter near the counter, who like her, was not affected after all by the situation that she was not with her mom. The woman did no scolding, did not express any anger, or panic. The two left the store without buying anything. While they leave passing by mom, the woman apologized "Sorry po, sorry po, 'Kala ko anak ko" (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I thought she was my daughter."

No eye-contact between my mom and the woman, or with my niece. Like nothing happened. The two went to buy some dessert in the store's dessert shop outside. Still no eye contact, but as my mom, Nannah and my other niece, passed by them to go to the grocery store, the woman looked at them. These accounts were based from the stories my mom, and my niece could recall.

I must have bias in framing the drama in this post. I can assume that it was just a plain mistake, and I could admit I am jumping into conclusions. Read the accounts again, and then think about my subsequent points on what con-artists in their modus operandi do, and what for they are doing it? Or you may have the same assumptions as I have.

A Cunning Artistry of Maternal Drama

A modus operandi is a scam, there are templates in it, but we are not all aware of. All forms of con-artistry put individuals in a highly emotionally charged situation, that confuses us to think sensibly. They take place in public spaces, and the con-artists blend in the naturally occurring social interactions, dressed up for the occasion and the place. Con-artistry is a well-planned staged drama, that its primary actors are well rehearsed about.

The actors know their script, their actions are calculated, but they can never fake the spontaneity of human emotions. The victims are participants, the actors have anticipation of how the participants will react to their staged drama. Like any stage performance, there are other people around unseen to the participants, but helping to finish the drama successfully. The participant-victim are mostly vulnerable, the very old and the very young, the seemingly unaware and the gullible, the frail and the unable to defend their selves.

I assumed it was a modus operandi that anyone who have concern for their children should be aware of. While, I gave the story, there are some pieces of information, that I could connect to my immediate conclusion, particularly examining the communicative behavior of the primary actors. Most of these things miss our sight and sense, because what we are really interested is the grand narrative or the obvious drama, and not of the other texts that tell something else:

  1. The woman who took my niece was near the door, while her daughter was meters away visible to her and standing by the counter.
  2. The woman left the fast-food chain without buying anything from inside.
  3. The daughter was all calm, unaware but not alarmed by my mother's created commotion, calmly leaving with my niece.
  4. The woman did not react in a way that a mother losing her hold of her child would naturally do.
  5. The woman's daughter was skinny, taller, with long tied hair, and wearing clothes so different in color to my niece's, and no similarity to my niece's physical features.
  6. The woman though apologetic, did not project her face much, that neither my mom nor my niece could recall to describe her face.
  7. The woman was carrying a plastic bag to show that she was from the market, but the bag only has a bundle of kangkong (water cabbage) in it.
  8. A mother knows her daughter, even if she's just holding it by her hand.
  9. Going out the door, maternal instincts dictate that the woman should see that it is her daughter with her, and that she should get out safe.
  10. The woman was able to hold my unattentive niece so she would not react violently (this takes some practice).
You know what, the police station is just 50-100 steps away from the market. My mom was not so aggressive and as assuming as I am, but I think that such "mistake" should be subjected to investigation. I have to say this, though it counters to the interest of my hometown which is being promoted as a historical site in Manila, but syndicated modus operandi have been going on in our community, particularly the market area, at unsuspected time, and where there are visible security personnel and the public around.

I am thankful, Nanna is safe home with us. I hope I am misreading the clues, for all our safety. It could not be preempted kidnap for ransom, because our town, even though we have the Golden Arches now, is not known to be a community of wealthy residents. But it could be preempted attempt of kidnapping for reasons I don't know, and later on this crime syndicate will sell the kids they took if not use them to beg for them in the streets, or take their vital organs to sell. I hope I am just misreading the clues, because all I have are reasons to suspect a possibly innocent woman.

What to do in this kind of situation?

Do remember that the con-artistry is staged calmly so as not to get others attention. Aside from being very attentive and watchful of your children, at such kind of situation, poise and etiquette are out of your concern. Here, are possible things you can do:

  1. Alert others of the situation or that 'mistake' you sensed right away, the criminal would always just like to slip away smoothly;
  2. Shout for help, because that's how you get others' attention;
  3. If the suspect is apprehended, take that suspect to the authorities for further investigation and to record a report of the event;
  4. If you have any gadgets and the offenders are getting farther, take photos or videos;
  5. When the offenders have get away vehicle, take any means to follow them, and bring others with you as much as possible.
When you've done those practical things, go to the authorities, the nearest police station, report it, then discuss the situation with all those concerned, calmly and with hope, that things will be fine later on. It pays to be always vigilant, and suspicion makes sense to trigger our senses to act appropriately. Why do hens act like a fighting cock, when their chicks are attacked? That's the same as our protective instinct to defend what we most value.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Your Time's Up!

"If I knew Jesus were coming at 4 pm today, I would be out there in the field playing football with my friends because its probably there I would get to see him up close". These were the words my godfather shared to me, when I was just beginning on getting up on my feet from a spiritual renewal. That came after I went through a crisis which really ruptured me to give birth to what I am now.

I used to be so afraid of the end of days. I am not a Biblical scholar who claims to know when it will come. But I believe, that it will come. Some years ago, when I was a teenager, I would watch the free rupture movies of start up sectarian Christian groups. That scared me even to my dreams. They were preaching the same thing, the coming of life to an end.

But I believe in the salvation by grace. I believe in the resurrection into eternal life. I hold that promise of salvation with faith in Jesus who redeemed me and forgave my sins by dying on the cross. Shall I be afraid that my time will be up someday, soon or later? I also believe that my life is a gift by grace, that I did not choose be in this life, yet I found myself in it.

I am not perfect, I am a sinner like anyone else. I fall, fail and falter in my journey of faith. But as I said, I enjoy this life that is blessed me because of that mustard-seed-size of faith that I have been saved. I look forward to that eternal peace, and that ecstatic bliss if it would come here on this world. But this world, has no space for that, because its people has no sense of bringing heaven into this world.

I used to be afraid of death, of dying, because I do not want to lose my love ones. But when I realized that even if I depart from this world, those I will leave behind will be in the shelter of God's wings. I could not hold away from the world, because I had plans and dreams that were not fulfilled yet, because I had in my memory things of the past, both good and vain, that I could not withdraw from.

However, light shone on me, that it is in dying from the world that we are renewed. It is in emptying that we are filled. It is in letting go that we are held by the hands of a greater Power to make us soar. It is in looking at that blinding light that we see truth. It is in having our calloused stone hearts shattered that we are given a flesh one.

We have to be ruptured, we have to die of our old self. That's a truth to live a full life in this world as we journey to our eternal home. We have to be consumed in fire to be pure so that we can be ready to join the creator. Dying is about living, and living does not end in dying. To live in faith is to love for all that it means in godly ways.

I am saddened by the "good news" that some claiming Christian groups teach about the end of days. Their good news preaches of doom, scaring people, for them to run to God, by joining their flocks and offering their money to their churches. They flood the anxious with Biblical texts to fit their knowledge, as if God's wisdom about the times can be calculated by human understanding. The Jesus that I know does not speak in their language.

Jesus speaks of God's unconditional love, infinite mercy, and eternal promises, a guarantee of a fullness in life and a reward of eternal life. Metaporically and allegorically, Jesus preached of the meaning of life, of making wise decisions and choices and of living a life for others in godly love. When Jesus talked of damnation, tribulations or judgment, it brought spiritual consciousness and reconciliation but not anxiety.

Has Jesus ever spoken to any sinner, that he or she is bound to doom? Where are these end-of-days preachers coming from? Their rhetorics are bold and fierce, as if presenting facts and total knowledge of God's mind and will. How many of them have passed this world, and passed the days they attempted to dictate on God's calendar, in reference to the semiotics and hermeneutics of numbers that men constructed? Yet, none of their predictions, revised several times, ever happened.

To these claiming prophets who have amassed great amount of wealth, I say, your time is up too by then, be that May 21, 2011, tonight, tomorrow, next year, on the third day, in the next 7000 years. Your gift of prophecy is not spiritually affirming. Remember too that everything you have here in this world is worthless and with whatever you have spoken and done you shall be judged on the final day. If you are so sure of what you are preaching, give up what you keep for yourself to the poor people of this world, to those whom you judged as damned that in the remaining hours of their lives they will have a taste of heaven by your hands.

Happy living everyone! Life is a beautiful gift from God to live and enjoy with all those God blessed us to love in all our days of our life, until that hour comes to us. Give your biggest smile and hug, for those also mean heaven to some.

It isn't nice up there!

Moving up the career ladder is perceived in various ways, by those who intently are looking but without ability of understanding. One could suspect politics, favoritism, coercion or other things taken when someone moves up in several steps in the career ladder. For those who lag and who remain in ranks, this generates false assumptions and bitter work-relationships later on.

Five years ago, I applied in the college where I'm still currently connected because that was the only one that had opening by the time I left a foreign language center. I wasn't hired immediately, but a term passed that I was called for an interview. Because of my teaching experience, local and abroad, I didn't go through the usual selection process. I skipped the demo lesson, and even the dean's interview.

I accepted the part-time teaching offer. The school pays generously, because of the hazard of teaching community-college students. I began with six units. I got very satisfactory to outstanding evaluations. So my teaching load was increased by the next term. With consistent performance, I managed to enjoy the reward of teaching overloads
In my earlier years in the college, I was most often invisible to my colleagues, but I would audaciously share my opinions during our assemblies. I would also be involved in activities that department organized, taking responsibilities, how difficult they may be. Because I was not always in touch with others in the department, sometimes I would miss deadlines, but never the very important ones.

When I am at fault, I appreciate to be rectified. I admit my faults and take actions to do things right the next time around. Incidentally, I got hired in the college when my previous university professor was in position as the area chair. I was even surprise to see her there, while I was expecting someone else. Definitely, I would not have been hired because she was my former professor, for during our college days, we were really not that closed. So, I am sure I got in, because I have the competencies that the job needs.

When opportunities came, I would accept training jobs and consultancies, but of course I made sure, their schedules do not conflict with my work. I started as part-time faculty, but I demonstrated the same concern and responsibility of full-time teacher. Two years passed, I was invited to teach full time. That came a term after I earned my Master's Degree, and when there was a need for it. Though, it should have been earlier.

I enjoyed a term of being off from studying, before I decided to enroll in PhD program. While I am under a three-year probation for a permanent tenure, I managed to complete my coursework. To make use of my education, I engaged into doing researches that are relevant to my field. At several times, I generously share my findings to the department. Further, I succeeded in presenting papers in national and international conferences, published some works, and still keep on performing extremely well in my classes.

From an invisible nomad, I am moving next week to my own desk and office. Since last year, my name rings among the faculty to be replacing our area chairperson. But things turned differently, and I had to wait, until my permanency is approved. While waiting, I busied myself in doing a research that would help the department. This project hit three birds with one stone, it helped the department, it helped me complete a course requirement, and helped my research assistant in her graduation requirement for an MA.

Others think I was just lucky, that I completed my PhD, got permanent, and then promoted in rank and promoted in an administrative position. Surely, this would come to the envy of others. Silently, all these came at one term. They did not come out of luck; they were the fruits of all hard labor, love for work, passion for teaching, commitment to sharing knowledge, and being in accord and collegial relationships with the people I work with. I have thought of them before, I aspired and not just wished for them.

Some others think, that I got to where I am now, simply because I have the right connections and that I am nice to the right people. I am nice to everyone that I am in good working relationships. But my being nice stops when I think I need to say the boldest truth. As I am in rapport with others, I don't hesitate to tell even the most bitter truth that could hurt. Because being nice is a licence to lie. In most cases, the truth hurts, but it is liberating.

As I have set my mind to all those good things, I tired my body to realize those dreams. No, they were not just dreams, they were my visions, my aspirations, things that I hoped for and things that I wanted. When I have set my mind as to how I could get them, my body tuned in to working them as I wanted. Great things happened in my life, because I set my eyes on far greater things, while I keep a heart of flesh when it comes to dealing with people.

But, not everyone thinks like the way I do. They still think that nice things come to nice people. Greater things, things of high value are a result of great work. It is not just being nice. Because being nice is less than mediocrity. It only appeals on the surface of human character. Being nice is just a feeling. In reality, in complex and competitive world, nice is nothing as to excellence.

People driven to be highly effective, aim for excellence in everything, and so they excel. They move up, and those people who thinks moving up nice tells that succeeding person, it's not nice up there. Great people would push others to move up and they see it as the consequence of meritorious actions. Those who keep on doing excellently has no other way but up! Those up there and below who say it isn't nice up there, are just not worthy to be anywhere.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Can you read my mind?

Oh, I thought I could give my mind some rest, after completing the half of our four-day comprehensive exam for my PhD candidacy. But I could not leave a soul in pain of her confusing relationship problem. Then, blink, relationships are built on communication, and I am a communication doctor (pretty soon), so might as well practice with free consultation.

I knew I had to get in her mind by letting her share her thoughts, as initially she was so hesitant to tell about her problem. I had to wait, joke, play less serious to make her feel more comfortable until she begins to be more open. Her problem is that she's been dating someone from the same school where she is studying, without any formal understanding of what relationship is all about.

Candy (not her real name), in her early 20s, confesses that during their dates, she and Enchong have been holding hands and kissing. Then, lately, for almost a month now, Enchong has been very busy and they have not been going out. Candy thinks of those kissing and holding hands as non-verbal cues of something, yet this is not confirmed formally by communication, what they actually mean for each other, and what each of them means to one another.

She is confused about their relationship arrangement: what they are, and why they did those things lovers would do without formalizing any romantic arrangement. She is looking for some meaning to make sense of her self within an informal relationship she perceived so. She wanted some sparkling romantic relationship, but this seems to be not what their situation is. Yet, the experiences with unspoken messages and verbal abstraction confuse her even more. She thinks Enchong has the answers, even though she is the one knowing the problem.

After sharing her problem, her question was what she should do. As a consultant, I begged off to tell her what she should do. Instead, I went through a series of laying to her some truths about what I understand in her situation. She agreed to four points I underpinned: 1) Individuals are different in their way of thinking and behavior; 2) there are wide-ranging differences between how men and women deal with communication situations, most particularly in handling relationships; 3) spoken words and non-verbal cues have meanings, and these meanings are confirmed by their consistency in communication interactions; and 4) communication fosters relationships and makes ideas clearer to affect life realities, decisions and actions.

Of course I have to point those to her in simpler terms she would understand. Then she admitted, she got more confused, but she understood her situation much better. She retorted of asking me again what she should do. I gave her three questions to guide her decision, because what I told her, is that I am not in the position of telling her what to, I could only show her a map of the various ways she could get to where she wants to go.

Sadly, she was also confused of what she wanted. First, she told me, she wanted what ever arrangement they have to stop. Furthermore, she told me she wanted to talk to him, without justification or elaboration what for. Then, she continued she would talk to him, in the opening of classes, for that time she's sure that they will run across each other. Then she posted on the chatroom the message Enchong posted on her FB wall:
"Sometimes I wish that the girl of my dreams has the power to read my mind, so that she will know how much she means to me and that all my efforts and endeavors are actually for her!;)"
Next, I started to tell her of what I think about her and Enchong, which at some she agreed and in others she got shocked. But then, I have to tell her, that those are my views and they may not be necessarily true for them. I also told her of my personal love story, and another story that she was able to relate to. In the end though, we stopped talking about her feelings and thoughts about her situation, rather, we got in sync of having fun in badmouthing Enchong's vain characteristics, particularly of taking advantages of the situation.

The moral of this narrative are many: 1) we can read minds, it is not just a wishful thought, but it takes skills to do so, albeit it is not available for all; 2) the best way to overcome a problematic situation is to go through it and be problematized by it because there is no easy solution to a problem; 3) solutions are available, we can not restrict ourselves to a single idea of being able to solve a problem, and so we have to be ready for the consequences and implication of our decisions and actions towards any problem; and 4) love is a meaningful abstraction that we find it strange to understand most often, but it is something worth taking risk, over time.

Most people look for things in common to say that they are in complementary relationships. But, the sweetest part of keeping a relationship includes that of understanding, accepting, and living through differences, settling disputes, becoming aware of what each other really feels. Fidelity is best demonstrated in the openness of one to share what one feels and think about another. Being in sync is coming together to face the situation that affects two people in relationships. Caring for one another is foremost carried out in being sensitive, conscious and concern of other's feelings spoken or not.

I would like to believe what one artist shared to me about love, "that it is a trap", and we don't know what it is in there, yet we want to be in there. That's the beauty of it, we are vain to possess it, we fear to lose it, we are problematized to keep it, and we get confuse as to how we should express it. This is Candy's issue and it will remain an issue until she clearly understands and live out that mystery of finding love and making love a reality, be that true love or otherwise. I hope Candy can read my mind :) .

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For the Most Special Woman in the World

Blessed is she for hers is the power of nature to bear human kind into this world. Perfection is her beauty that nurtures the best in every child. Patience is her virtue that guides children in their preparation for an adult life.

She is a woman, one of a kind, a sanctuary of love and affection. Her tenderness and concern strengthen a weary soul. Her wisdom enlightens a gloomy home. Her caress lifts the downcast spirit in her family. Her smile germinates joy in her house. She wipes a crying child's tears away with her compassion.

She nourishes her husband and children with the meals she passionately prepares. She protects her young from fear and anxieties. She tends to be possessive and over protective because she feels what her children feels. She clothes her household with the warmth of her love.

With her instinctive knowledge she teaches her children to have sensibility in life. Before they go to school, her children learns from her their ABCs. While a father would point to their children what they did wrong, she would, in her volition, tell her children what to be done and what is the right thing to do.

She heals by her touch and embrace. She keeps watch of her bed-ridden children until they recuperate. By the side of her sick children's bed, she would whisper to God to take her children's pain away from them, and bear it upon her. She is her children's refuge.

She is the most special woman in the world. She is called in many languages, mother, mom, mommy, mama, nanay, inay, inang, nay, iloy, mudra, mamu, madir, maderaka... You can call her by many other names, but she will always be one and the same - a mother who bore the pain of labor for you to be in this world. A mother who took care of you so you find yourself to where you are now.

She deserves more than any gift that your wealth can afford - loving her back. You can never repay whatever she has done for you. Besides, she never asks that from you. A big hug, a kiss, and saying "I love you mom, and thank you mom for your love", sincerely coming from your heart is the best gift this mother's day for the most special woman in the world. If you can't physically be with her, an unexpected call from you is something she is waiting for.

To all moms in this world. Happy mother's day, and thank you for bringing us into this world and in giving us life. Thank you for understanding us, when we do not understand our selves, and when we want to get away from your protection and care because we are lost to feel that love from you. Thank you so much mama, you are a gift in our lives and a blessing unto our world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How I feel when students fail

Marking a student's course card "R" which means repeat instead of failed, is a moment that really leaves me with a heavy heart. Some could think that I am mean when I fail students. But I never failed any, they earned that for their selves. The modest thing that I could do is to explain to them by showing the records what they have done.

Ethics and professionalism guide me, to keep any grade untouched, unadjusted to accommodate favor to those students who failed. Since there is a higher virtue that keeps me stronger on my stance, I get to feel more secure of my decisions, and I become more conscious of the various implications of this situation to my status as a teacher and as an ordinary social being who feels humanely as possibly required.

Objective as I might have been, still I have to deal with students with failing marks tactfully. One rich kid who failed in the other component of the course, passed in the component I was handling. But his midterm grade was way too low and failing. I saw him tried his best to do what I said for him to pass when he got failing midterm grade. Sadly, he did not do well in the other component. When all grades are in he got a failing mark, which I did not expect.

There were two more athletic scholars who failed under me, but the Sports director only sent me a text message for one of them. That reads: "Good afternoon Mr. Rivera. This is sir G from XXX office. I would like to ask about Student F if she could still pass your subject? Because she wont be able to play if she really fail in your subject." The director sent this message to me twice, because I did not reply first as I felt privileged not to do so.
Running in my mind is a question about what this director thinks of me. I am not market vendor for him to haggle with me. Then, I have no business with him, as he is not my student. I first replied a single word to that message: "NO", thank God it failed to be sent, and I got the chance to give him a more professional response...

"She knows were she fell short, she knows d consequence of her shortcoming, she knows as well how attendance affects fulfillment of requirements 2 pass. Her rounded off grd is 69, due 2 failure in lab. She was made aware of her chances n abscns from midterm. Let her learn focus n priority if she loves sports as student of this school."

The director's reply was brief, "OK sir, thank u." I sure do want all my students to pass, but I can only do so much. And, whatever I may do as a mentor will have no value neither yield positive results when a student does not really put his mind, heart and body to what he or she ought to prioritize. Grades are final marks of achievement, if they are not finalized they are not student's grades for their performance, but a teacher's whims and subjectivities.

A true mentor has a deep sense to make the meaning of education clearer to any student, grades are irrelevant when expected competencies in a course are met by the students. They merely become symbols of achievement and performance. Over extracurricular activities, the learning that students may obtain in the academics are more important than anything. That is, if it teaches them the values and virtues of facing life as learned men and women.

I empathize with my students based on their needs and observable patterns of behavior that needs remediation or intervention. I know what it feels to have a failing grade. I know what it takes to evaluate and measure student's learning performance. I know that my responsibility is not to preclude any student from succeeding and achieving the learning objectives.

I feel slighted when someone of my rank or coming from authority asks me such question of possibility of passing someone whose records show otherwise. I find it more disparaging to transact with other officials seeking favor or asking about chances, and of giving considerations, when everything of those has been done. I have and I always make it straight to my students to challenge their selves to exceed their expectations and mine, and so is to challenge me and my actions if I err so that I may learn too by others-self-rectification.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The True Face of Christianity

Pope John Paul II has been beatified today, a step so soon made towards Sainthood, 6 years after his death. Pope John Paul is the most traveled pope and his charisma is said to have influenced the fall of communism. Ironically, his beatification is set today on Labor day, a much left-leaning celebration.

Pope Benedict said that Blessed John Paul II "restored the true face of Christianity as a religion of hope". In his burial, the crowd who witnessed it, shouted "santo subito" exclaiming sainthood now for John Paul. Only 1 more miracle is being waited by to make John Paul a saint. This beatification to me is symbolic and meaningful, and for each and everyone the Pope had shared his life with. Watch this video

I reserve in my heart a pride that twice in my life I have met a "blessed" a "holy" man. The first was in 1981. I was just six years old then when we joined the throngs of people hearing the mass to be celebrated by John Paul II, in the Quirino Grandstand. My mom took me there with her wedding godmother, Lola Penny who was also my mom's spiritual shepherd, along with her two kids.

Because I was small, my mom had to carry me, when Pope John Paul II came in. There was a beautiful image of the Virgen Santo Rosario de La Naval de Manila, that got my attention. I asked my mom, who was that lady. She said, it was "Mama Mary". I asked back, "Does she know me?"

Mama was perhaps startled with my question. Lola Penny answered for her, "Of course hijo, she knows you. She knows every good little boy in the world, and she loves you, just like how Jesus loves all of us." The Pope really didn't matter to me that time, my understanding of the Catholic church's hierarchy would of course come later on in my growing years.

It was perhaps in that first encounter with the Pope that I learned about Mama Mary. I don't have devotion for her like the other religious. But from then on, I'd see my self more involved in the church, first in attending Sunday school and Catechism, then in serving as a choir and lector. I even remember that I won the first Bible quiz bee in the parish when I was 10, beating someone 5 years older than I was.

The second time that my eyes set on Pope John Paul II was in his second visit, during the last day of the World Youth Day in 1995. In the same location, where I first saw the Pope. The event's hymn sings to all that we ought to tell the world of God's love. In this way, I understand John Paul's mission of bringing the people of this world closer to God.

That said, Benedict XVI is right to say that John Paul II showed the true face of Christianity as a religion of hope. It lingers in my thoughts and feelings that beatification of Pope John Paul II ushers hope to the people he met across the world. He is a man of the new world, who kept the fire of faith burning in him and for this world, amidst the exposed errors of bishops and priests, the threats to his life, the fear doom sayers wreak, and the declining number of faithfuls in many other states.

John Paul II, to me is not only blessed, for he has lived his life a saintly life, his is the symbolic face of Christianity as a religion of hope to this world.