Friday, December 21, 2012

Is the end of the world for real?

This morning while I sip coffee, looking at the cloudy sky, my nephew hugged me and asked. "Is the end of the world for real?"

He was just eight years old, two years younger than I am when I first learned of the end of times. I was ten, back in 1985 when I watched a free movie sponsored by a Christian protestant group. From then on, I was scared and had bad dreams related to the apocalypse.

That was the selling point of such group to win people towards their congregation: scare the people to repent and turn back to God. I never joined their group, but I  browsed on the book of Revelations, from the small Bible they gave free. What did I see in the movie that scared me?

People killing each other, people dying, people hiding and fleeing from the evils of the human world, which stressed on the rise of the antichrist. Very few were saved, and found life anew in the new world. The recent movies like Armageddon,  2012, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow share the same doomsday message, but with hope that human civilization will survive after all.

I've heard of the end of times since the news on the depletion of the ozone layer broke out in the 80s, and the many other viruses discovered back then which plagued societies around the world. I've heard it again in the 90s when war broke out in the Middle East. I've heard of it once more spurred by the Y2K bug scare. Then again when the Twin Towers in New York billowed to dust.

Now, natural disasters are ever getting worst. World economies are up to keeping their security and beefing up their military. There is a threat to human life, in a wide scale with amassing nuclear arms, biochemical weapons, and global scale terrorism. There is threat to human life in small scale, but with huge emotional impact, just like that of the massacre of school children in China and in the US. There is threat to my country's sovereignty over issues of territorial waters. There is threat to our lives as natural resources are depleting to give way to modernity. There is threat to life when the values that we hold degenerate and lose power over our sanity and morals.

"Is the end of the world for real?"

I could not answer my nephew's question, though he really wanted an answer that time. In my mind I reconciled that I don't know, though I believe its real and it will surely happen. I wanted to keep that hope, that dream for living life in these kids - another generation who in their own time will try to ask the same question again as they grow older.

To me the end of the world has several perspectives. It is dying from decaying worldliness and rising up to a new life which values life in its best. It can be brought about by natural disasters which humans are responsible for. It could be brought about by the greed for power which strikes war and eradicates societies. It could be brought by our neglect to care for other lives, in our own little way. It could be the lost of hope that there is something to live for.

With those in my mind, I could never answer an eight year old's question whether the end of the world is for real? I don't want him to grow up in fear, but rather hoping and believing that life is a beautiful gift God gave for us to appreciate in every minute of our lives. 

Funny, just tonight, I went out and heard of young kids cracking jokes of the end of the world. Traffic should be really heavy on the road due to Christmas rush, not so many cars are around, not so many people in the streets, and no queues at the gates of the malls. Are people really that scared for something so catastrophic we could not expect and would not want to happen, that they ticked off schedules tonight? I wonder how it would be like tomorrow?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wath's skouling four smone width dyslexia?

I've heard of dyslexia, but I had to learn more about it when someone in my class had it. The empirical works I've read so far enriched my knowledge about this reading disorder, but it was with the Bollywood film "Every Child is Special" that I understood by heart the feeling of suffering from dyslexia and what schools should do about it.

Indeed, being knowledgeable with a special learning need is important, but without empathy knowledge is just put to waste. After watching the movie, I cried a river and then I thought I would like to make a difference and never repeat a mistake of letting go of a beautiful mind from my care. To my recollection, I did not stand for what is right and just for a student who is challenged by dyslexia.

He came in my class, sat at the last row, but with the best view of the projector and me in the center during our lectures. Mac, that's what he wanted me and the rest of the class to call him. He was the only student in that group of challenged learners who could respond wittingly with intelligent answers. With the first writing diagnostics they had, I was baffled that he was committing gross mistakes in spelling.

It was just carelessness. Then I thought it could be dysgraphia. Later on I realized that he had dyslexia. That encounter with Mac, forced me to do some research and readings on his condition. He could not tell it to me, until his mom intimated his condition during our parents-teachers consultation. What surprised me the most is that with his writing, he demonstrates proficiency in the language structure, and understanding of the grammar rules and word functions. Except that he has difficulty in spelling.

He passed the first term. He passed the second term. While he was under my instruction in the first term, I invited him for tutorials, and we started relearning phonetic reading. He's got little progress. In the second term, his teacher complained of the same thing - his spelling errors. I explained that Mac has dyslexia and he has determination to overcome it. As he has that reading disorder, I advised the teacher to adjust the evaluation for him and allow him to use tools such as a laptop in writing.

He got one of the lowest mark in his writing class, but he passed the subject anyway. Third term was about reading. Although, I was able to advise his teacher regarding his condition, he did not make it in that term. The teacher's observation was that he had slow reading ability, and he had lower comprehension and that he's handwriting could not be understood, and that most of the time he is distracted and would be talking so much. That devastated me.

Mac had the talent for the arts. He could capture what his eyes could see in his artwork. I could remember how he draw me on the board, showing how I look like when I smoke outside the school. He is artistically intelligent, and he has no intent of majoring literature or linguistic. He is much interested in completing a degree in multimedia arts. I knew he would be successful in such field. But, I could no longer see that dream fulfilled because he failed in his last English subject and for that he was dismissed in the college preparatory program.

He was one my brightest student, and he has great potentials. He has the determination and persistence to overcome his reading disorder. It is the school's means to help a student like him which is lacking. It is the teachers' empathic understanding of such condition that is preventing a child like him to achieve something.  It is the standards of "normal" that keeps a learner with special needs who has special talent that makes the school harder for the challenged learner.

I could only do what I can, and I cannot compel other teachers whose mind are narrow to consider one student unprepared and unfit for college. I pity them more, than those students who persevere to overcome their personal challenges, because they think that the classroom is a box for manufactured learners that passed strict quality testing.

Dyslexia is a reading disorder, resulting from a brain malfunction. It has implications to the cognitive ability to comprehend, read and write. It is worsened by the learning environment's lack of knowledge, attention and support to the needs of the learners suffering with it.  It is a reading disorder and not a psychological disorder, it can be remedied by reintroducing the language and helping the learner connect the symbols to the sounds and to the objects in their world. Giving up on them, is giving up on giving them a beautiful life they can have in this world.

What's the school for anyway?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Big Question Mark

One of my student drew a big question mark in that space where he should draw a symbol he could associate to his dream career. A big question mark it is, which he explained to best describe his present situation: that he did not have anything in mind yet or still unsure of the course he would take. He furthered that he is waiting for what God wanted for him.

I listened intently as I allowed him to share his ideas to our group discussion. It is understandable for him to have no career choice, yet at his age and because he is in a college-preparatory program. But since he applied to college, he should placed several choices in his entrance application. Yet, he did not tell of anything specific about the course he wanted.

Earlier, he introduced himself as a Christian and not a Catholic. I admired him for his expression of faith, and being bold to tell about it. In our recent activity where I asked my class of 22 students to draw any symbolism of their dream career, this boy just put a question mark. I knew what it meant, but I had to wait for what he would say.

When he was done, I had to share my thoughts about his thinking right there and then. I told him it is alright to spend some time thinking about what he wanted. He said he wanted what God wills for him. That is one very beautiful thought from a young believer. I told him that God speaks in many ways, through other people. I told him that to know what God wills, one needs to see where he is. What God wants is where we are, and the best of what we can be.

I explained, that God gave us the freedom to choose, and the will to become the best of us. We have the gift of mind that comes with the gifts of life and time. With our will comes our choice, and God wants us to make better choices every time. We can choose to act, but in some instance our actions may not prosper - because that is not what God wants for us. "God wants the best for us, and the best in us." I told him. The best in us is making a choice for our life, for our future and offering everything we do for God's glory.

I told him so many things, and he was just paying attention. Then he said: "Right, sir. I should make a choice for me."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Everyone will get old

When I was invited to watch the Phantom of the Opera at the CCP, I decided that I'll get two tickets. One for me and the other for my mom. She's at her 70s and with an arthritic knee, she carries her big body a little slowly now. I will have to wring my arms over hers for support if we walk together. I will have to walk at her pace and always be at her side when we go out.

I am nearly half her age. If she would have been a little younger, like twenty years younger, I could have taken her with me in the places I've traveled. Oh yeah, I did take her recently, when I toured her to Bohol and Cebu. As I know that she might need some company, I took my sister to assist her. That time, she has knee pain, and even so I insisted that she take some walks.

She wanted to, but she just couldn't. When we were in Bohol, she tried to climb up a reserved area where they keep the Tarsiers. She was able to get maybe 10-15 meters climbing slabs of stones. Then, she decided to stay up there and let me and my sister continue with the trail. I had to pick her up when we're done site seeing. Because she was with me then, I could not just be the adventurer. I hired a car to tour us for a day. When we were in Cebu, we had to take the cab and limit our travel to that with less walking.

Recently, when I took her to CCP, I had no idea where we would be seated. We were at the balcony, and getting up there was not easy for my mom. She managed though, but I sure could see how age is trying to beat her enthusiasm. She enjoyed the show, really, and that fills my heart to know. But when we stepped out of the theater I felt so bad that access for the elderly was not available in the building.

Everyone was going out, and that left the escalators and elevator jam-packed with people. Politely, my mom just stood there behind the long queue. No other staff assisted the people to make sure that they get to leave the theater smoothly and safely. The elevators were not adjusted to service only going down at that time the show was over. One side kept scrolling up when no one is going up.

Thankfully there are people who would give way to an elderly, but many are just not that mindful of them. When we we were going down the stairs, my mom would stop. She told me to "let others pass first". True, there are many people behind us, and my mom's slow movement seemed to her as blocking others' passage. I told her not to mind them, encouraged her to just keep on walking at her pace. I thought "they should know that my mom is an elderly and everyone will get old". At the escalators, two young ladies allowed my mom to go down first. I had to quickly be at her back, and return that kind gesture with heart felt thanks.

With the hurrying crowd, I could sense how she would try to rush, like trying to tell her legs and knees to move a little faster. When we got out to cross the street so we can dine by the bay, there were just so many people outside. One man was blocking the pedestrian crossing by the gutter. My mom would say "makikiraan po" (excuse me). That guy should have sensed that he was blocking the way.

While crossing, my mom was trying to hurry. We were left behind a few meters from the crowd that had just crossed. I told her to relax, and just walk at her leisure,  for those drivers should know that an elderly is crossing. Then, memories flashed in my head, when my mom would help me crossed the busy street as going and coming from my first grade school. Then, my pacing could not beat hers, and my hand reaches hers because I was still small then.

Now my mom's height has shrunk, and I am taller than her. Her body has gained weight, and her slenderness is gone. Her back has curved.  Her hair has greyed. Her agility has weakened. She doesn't walk that fast anymore. My mom is old now, and I am aging too. We all are.

Everyone will get old, but while we are still young, while we hold the time and energy and while we have the resources, we ought to give the best things for our elderly love ones. For when they are no longer with us, those are the memories that we will keep dearly in our hearts until our own breath is taken by our limited time in this world. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Trees and my childhood memories

Last night, the thoughts run in my mind, way past bedtime as strong wind blows from the window, when I could hear the leaves from the branches swish as they hit our roof. I thought they needed some trimming soon. Then, the memories of the trees of my childhood appeared liked screen shots in my head.

I was born in Manila and grew up in its concrete jungle. When I learned to walk, I'd stumble on cemented floors and hit my head on concrete walls. A little more years, nobody would know that I would get on the roof of our two storey-high house in Pasay, to pick some Santol from our rich neighbor's backyard. Up there I would wonder how the unreachable giant guavas taste, from the backyard of our other neighbor.  Sometimes, I would stand on a friend's shoulders to reach for some Ilang-ilang that fills the street with the scent of its blooms.

In the school where I spent kindergarten until second grade, there too were trees, bananas, coconut, narra and acacia, surrounding the swamp that was turned into fish pen. One big sampaloc tree also stands in nearby compound where I would play with friends in its vast lawn. In Sta. Ana, where my dad had put his car service shop, he would find often on top of the Aratiles tree, if I am not throwing my slipper to make a star apple drop to the ground at his friend's backyard.

Then we moved to Sta. Ana Manila. My family had lived there before we moved to Pasay, but we have to moved again to the new lot my father found for his car service shop prior to his passing away. There were six trees in there as I can recall, one sampaloc tree stands boastfully at a corner, a pico mango tree gives shade to my dad's working area, three guava trees on separate locations, and one achuete tree near the gate.

That was thirty years ago. All those trees I mentioned are not here in our place anymore. The sampaloc tree was cut down because my cousin extended their house. The mango tree was uprooted by one super typhoon. One of the guava tree withered because of the salty water coming from our pozzo. The tallest guava tree was cut down little by little until it died, because my uncle complained that its leaves are hitting their roof. The youngest guava tree died too when my uncle placed rocks on its roots to put a walkway. The achuete tree died because its always hit by the vehicles coming and going from the garage.

Though I am city boy, I had the chance of being able to climb up on trees, be it in our backyard, our neighborhood or in the province. Where my mom came from, I learned about the variety of trees that my grandfather planted around our ancestral house. Every time I would travel to Ilocos, my eyes will wander on the sight of the mountains with tall trees, as I try to identify what trees were those. Just the same, I was able to climb the trees and pick their fruits in my father's ancestral house in Bicol. My grandmother had kept there until her death several species of fruitbearing trees: kasoy, avocado, guyabano, balimbing, bugnay, langka, rimas, papapaya, caimito, suha, and a variety of plants.

Trees never really vanished in our backyard. At the time I knew the older trees were trying to bid goodbyes, I would pull up some shoots by the road and transplant them in our backyard. My mom claims, she planted the four fruit bearing trees we have left. I too claim I planted them. We'll I would not argue with my mom, if that pleases her.

We have two mango trees, the one in front our house was planted some 20 years ago. The other one I planted where I put a compost pit, this younger mango tree grew faster and bigger than the first one. The younger one is Hawaiaan, and the older is Indian. I planted a duhat tree also, it replaced the guava tree near where we placed the pozzo. It is huge and eating up the sunlight that prevents the older mango tree from growing bigger. At one corner, I also planted a santol tree from the variety of Bangkok santol. This used to bear a lot of fruits, until my uncle built a clinic for my cousin which kept it from growing.

When these trees are in bloom, everyone in the family would gaze at them. When the mangoes are in bloom, our compound will be filled the scents coming from their flower buds. When the younger mango bears fruit, it could fill several baskets. When the duhat bears fruits, they will just drop and turn the ground black and red. Sadly, the santol has lesser and smaller fruits now.

I would not want anyone cut them. At one time, when the duhat tree was uprooted by a typhoon and so is the older mango tree, we made them stand again. It took years for them grow, and we all benefit from their shades, their fruits and their ways of filtering the air. Even in the heat of the summer, we find comfort under these trees. Unfortunately, even though we still have a big space for some more trees, no one else among my younger broods have the attitude and interest to plant one. Rarely would I find my nephews attempt to climb the trees, but they would enjoy the fruits when someone else picks for them.

In my younger years, I'd pick seedlings and transplant them, or intentionally throw seeds in rich grounds, hoping that later on they will grow into sturdy trees. Others say I have a green thumb. I'd joked, I have a green mind, and my heart just can't take ignoring that we need to take part in keeping a green environment. Had I not have the trees with me in my childhood, I would not pay interest in planting one. Now, in our compound there are eight families, sharing the benefit of four trees I planted in my childhood.

Back then, when I would travel and see the barren mountains, I'd wish that I were rich. If I were rich, I'd ride a helicopter and bring seeds with me, and throw them from the sky, thinking that they will find their way to grow and make the mountains green again. Those were the days, when flooding and the threat of climate change were never existent in my young mind. My hope now is that trees won't just be an image in this generation's childhood memories.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On LIfe's Storms

When one says his life is in a storm, he means he is in trouble. In another way, the word storm is used positively as in "the people stormed the show". We've been having stormy days lately in Manila. Due to a shallow low pressure, the storm named Gener has been devastating northern Luzon.

In central Luzon, floods inundate low lying areas, and landslide cover communities. Well, my country is an archipelago, surrounded by water, and in monsoon season, typhoons storm the islands. Storms can be devastating, life may be lost as well as properties. Hence, we apply it as a metaphor to our very own struggles.

Thankfully, life is going smoothly for me, at least when it comes to my personal concerns. With my mom and my kins I don't have any problems dealing with them. With my work, I deal well with my colleagues. Amiable as I am I keep smooth interpersonal relationships, not to avoid disagreements but simply to maintain influence that I need in most situations.

Ah, something reminds of that repeated question I was asked as to whether have I been in any disagreement with my colleagues, superior or any one I work with. I could not really remember anything. Disagreements are conflicting situations. I find them arising like storms when one of either parties think better of his self or thinks unequal with others.

It's like the storm, when the wind shows its strength over the waters, it brings water and gusts to destroy lands. I answered that question, fairly well I guess: that I am a peacemaker, and I act as mediator in most situations. I do enter into arguments. I do disagree with some views. But, I have my way in the argument and so accept my defeat with a better debater. I can cash in my ideas and obtain agreement without really disappointing anyone.

The point is I treat people equally. I don't think highly about myself. I appreciate, while I keep an eye on areas of improvement. I call it that way because I'd rather see the positive in things than otherwise, so I get to be in sync with others. I also apply this in dealing with my students and superior. The thing is I don't have to create a storm to make myself known. I'd rather be the humble breeze that chills a restless soul. I'd rather throw a sunny smile and vent my rage somewhere else, to keep my day bright.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Warning: Tricksters and Scammers Await Arriving Tourists and Travellers

Taking Philippine Airlines from Cebu, we arrived at quarter to 12 midnight in Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The difficulty is finding a budget friendly taxi that is safe and secure to take us home. There are taxis in queue at the lobby of the arrival area, but I brought my mom and my sister to the departure lobby instead. I thought that there is a likelier chance for us to get a taxi from there, since there will be those taking passengers for departure.

It took us more than fifteen minutes, one taxi came by but the driver said he would be out of the way since he was going to Cavite. Then the security officer whistled for that taxi to leave. A lady guard approached us and asked where we are going. She warned of "kuratongs" in the airport - taxi drivers getting into the departure area to pick passengers for a higher price.

Kuratong means scam. The guard explained that there are taxi drivers who get inside with fake passengers dropped off at the area, so they can enter the airport. Sometimes they would bribe the guards of the terminalto to let them in. The thing is they ask more excessively than the franchised taxis operators in the airport. Worst, those taxis could be colorum - unregistered to operate from the Land Transportation Office.

After that first taxi that came by, we waited. I was conscious that I had my mom and sister with me. My mom could n ot be standing for long at the lobby, as it was past midnight and she had been complaining about her arthritic knee. Another taxi came. I asked the driver if he could take us to Taguig to drop my sister off her house and then to Sta Ana to take us home, with a hint that I would just add some amount to the meter rate.

The driver agreed. I loaded our luggages while my mom and sister got inside the cab. The taxi moved, but the meter was not still on. I informed the driver about the meter. He pressed a button then told us that he would be charging us 70.00 per kilometer. We complained it was excessive, but I was thinking of just getting to Taguig while I kept my eyes on the meter.

I uncomfortable inside the cab. The aircon was not working well, the doors have no locks and it smells like soiled socks in it. It was very dark outside, no lit public space that we could drop off. Seeing Terminal 4, I thought of getting off there, where security officers where standing by, but the car was running fast.

On the road to Villamor, the driver swerved left going to Tramo without informing us. Immediately, I asked where we are going. Then, he said, he would just be gassing up. That was rude for me. Passengers should be informed by the driver of what's going on and where we are going. The meter then was at 2.7 kilometers. I said uncalmly, "Yes, go get some gas, and we're getting off at the station."

I thought, the gas station would be a better place to get another taxi. It was safer for us to get off there, take our luggages off the compartment and argue with that driver. I told my my sister and my mom to get off the taxi which surprised them. But, they knew something was wrong, and my voice was not calm at all. We paid the driver 180.00 which he asked from us, though I told my sister to give him only 100. Then I took a picture of the cab's plate which was PWC 721.

I felt the need to get off from that taxi, not only because of its excessive charge and uncomfortable feeling I have. The driver misinformed us in the first place, unlawful, and swerved out of the way. He could do things he wanted. If I tried to pull him off the road, we could get out of the cab and he could run away with all our luggages at the back seat compartment. He could hold us up somewhere, drive us off road and still run away with our money and luggages.

Regulated taxi meter rate is 40.00 flat for the first 500 meters and additional 3.50 for every 300 meters.  From the gas station to my sister's house was 16.7 kms. If we proceeded with the first taxi we took, we could have been charged more than 1,000.00 pesos. That is more than the charge of the franchised airport taxis. Although, the driver of the other taxi we rode was amiable and accomodating  I noticed a discrepancy too in his taxi meter, it added 3.50 every 100 meters.

Airports and piers seem to be a vulnerable place for tourist tricksters and scammers. In Tagbilaran, trycicle drivers would offer 200.00 per ride to the terminal in Tagbilaran, while outside the airport the regular charge is just 20 per head. In Cebu pier 1, taxi drivers would offer a ride to the Capitol area for 200.00, while regular meter rate is just 70.00 to 80.00, and jeepney fare would just be less than 20.00. In Cubao, if you are taking the bus and getting a taxi to nearby Manila, taxi drivers will mug you with their contract price of 200.00 or more, while from Cubao to Manila, the meter rate is just less than 150.00

Tourists may be informed of tricksters and scammers. Upon arrival, whether by air, land or sea, the tourist is not ready for any haggling. They are in a hurry if not excited to get home and rest. It is unhospitable, unaccommodating and rude to trick the tired passengers. Tourists and travellers alike, local or foreign are generous to tip the warm, hospitable and accommodating driver. Drivers need not deal with contracted price because for sure, a soul consoled with a safe drive home rewards another heartily.

Now I wonder, is this how fun in the Philippines?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The genius in three Idiots

This review may be a real late, but a great movie for me deserves the best review it could get, no matter how late it might be. It will be idiotic for me not to speak wonderfully of a film that leaves a lasting impression as it rouses the viewers emotions and intellect to look at college education and life with heart, mind and soul.

"Three Idiots" is a typical Indian movie that follows the Bollywood formula of having song and dance at the height of the drama and action. Written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and directed by Rajkumar Hirani, it is not the usual comedy that would make the audience laugh their hearts out. Its representation of college education, the life of struggling students, the common Indian family's hope for a future, opportunity and helplessness in society, love and happiness are like a blend of spices that put the movie to become a world-wide hit: a delectable Indian dish that fills the taste buds with a soul.

The movie, starred Aamir Khan as Rancho, whom his two other college friends, Farhan (R. Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) lost after graduation. It was flash back of memories as Farhan and Raju searched for Rancho who was the wisest amongst them. They were the three idiots in their batch, for they did the strangest things, made worst decisions, cracked the wildest jokes, and resisted the system. They were not the normal college dudes who took the studies seriously, as to the eyes of the school director Mr. Virus and their other teachers and classmates.

Rancho, Farhan and Raju were three idiots for they violated the expectations of the society, they did not live to the norms and standards of the school. The movie is a myriad of stories that unfolded as Farhan and Raju happened to have knowledge of the whereabouts of their long lost friend. Idiocy has been represented in the many egotistic life-decisions of the characters, and the dysfunctional school system and the society that looks at status and achievement.  

Rancho was the son of gardener who ran for errands at the residence of rich family. This was a secret his friends have to discover later. He has a brilliant mind ahead of his academic grade. He delights in learning, so he skipped into school with his master's uniform, and would complete and attend school in behalf of his master. While his master had no knack for schooling, he was sponsored by the older master of the house to pursue engineering for the latter's son. He excelled until college, but he has his own way of learning and expressing ideas. He topped in their batch, although he was often pointed to be influencing his friends badly.

He was a wise counselor and gives good advice but he has no courage speak about his feelings to Pia, the daughter of the school director. Pia is engaged to Suhas, a rich guy who has price tag for everything. Until Rancho made him discover about Suhas, Pia began to fall in love with Rancho. Their love affair did not progress until the end of the story, when Pia will run away from her wedding to find Rancho.

Raju is one poor guy who dreamed of earning an engineering degree so he could buy a car as dowry for his sister and medicine for his dad who uses up his mother's pension. Farhan is an excellent budding photographer, but ended up taking engineering because that is what his father wanted for him. He found himself always at the bottom of the list in terms of academic performance, next to him is Raju. The story of friendship among these three idiots were glued by the passionate desire of Rancho for life.

Rancho has simple philosophies in life, grades don't matter, they actually divide people into classes. Life must be lived for one's happiness and not for others'. One must stand on their own feet and learn to live well for others. "Pursue for excellence, and success will chase you." Rancho's character was built to represent a happy-go-lucky, non serious, college student but with a passion to learn the profession. He gets to be scared too and lacks courage, but he takes heart as tricks his own heart with a belief and mantra that "All is Well".

After years of having lost each other. Farhan pursued his dream of becoming a photographer, an advise he heeded from Rancho. Raju became successful to as an engineer. Rancho, who took a degree for someone else was revealed to be Pukshin Wangdu, a popular scientist with hundreds of patented invention, who worked his passion for learning as teacher in village so far away. The search culminated with Rancho fulfilling his dream of seeing Pia getting off the scooter in bride's dress and removing his helmet to kiss him. But of course, it did not happen with a kiss, instead a spank from her.

There are many scenes in the movie that would really make the audience laugh, but it also has a lot of tearjerking scenes, mushy moments that would wet the audience's eyes. The movie is indeed amazing with all the lessons it imparts to everyone. I have to admit that I watched it 3 times in a row, the whole afternoon and cried the same way I did as the first time.  It is a commentary about life as a school.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Splurge of Travelling

To others what I have gotten into recently must be a splurge. To me, it's all worth it. Since April I have spent the days mostly off Manila. I've been traveling in places where I have never been. After my first trip in Banawe and Sagada, I went up there again. Then to Aurora and Quezon, next to Tarlac and Mt. Pinatubo. The last one I had was in San Antonio island in Northern Samar and Calbayog City in Western Samar.

It's a splurge if I am to account how much I've spent. Nevertheless, my eyes will never behold the beauty of my country if I don't spend for it. Even if I take the expenses at budget line, I will still be spending. The joy of traveling, seeing places, learning things around the countryside, getting lost in the outdoors and finding my way back, being greeted with warm smiles -- these are perks I could not get from being couch potato in front of the TV.

One time, my cousin asked me an honest upfront question. It must be out his curiosity that I've been away from the house most of the time. "Do you have mission?" He got me there, and I replied. "Yes, I wanted to see the Philippines, that's my mission for now." And, I am really enjoying it.

I am not running away from any obligation. I have my research proposal done, with very little revisions needed. I just needed that prodding, sort of internal motivation. I have this time "now" to be away from work with pay. I have dogged into work for years, and never really had myself a long break for myself. Should I spend it in another way?

I did not save any money for my travel. I actually loaned for it. My mom and my sister, sensing that I had money asked me if we are going to do some house renovation. In my mind, I don't want to be watching over construction men break and refurbish the house, not on days that I should be recreating myself. I also know that moving one beam in our house will need a lot of money, because almost everything above the ground needed to be replaced. Budget wise, my money won't be enough.

I saw an SUV on sale, the day before I left for Aurora. The money I had would be enough to pay the down payment, and the monthly dues are affordable. I wanted a car for me, but I had to let that one pass. I thought, if I get the car it would just sit in the garage more often than when I am going to use it. I still can get along commuting and I know the right time will come when I'll be driving my own car.

Staying in a house where I have my own room, and driving my own car to where I want to go. Those are fine things I want too in my life. Earning my PhD by completing my research this year, that too is a priority of mine. Traveling came to me as a new discovery and I am really enjoying it. It was never in my plan. I may not be able to see all of what the Philippines has to offer, but I am taking this time to see whatever I could, given the resources I have.

Call it a splurge or perky, to me traveling recreates a person to know himself better in relation to other people, to learn what books and online articles don't say about places and culture, and to reinvigorate the burnt out body and down stressed mind. Those things perhaps keep me moving as traveling feeds in me great memories of everything my senses could feast on - that's the splurge of traveling.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mamu's Shoes and her Shopping Attitude

All the rest of her grandchildren call my mother Mamu, except for the my eldest sister's children who call her Nanay. Though I don't often take her to the mall because it would tire her, I make it sure that in some occasions, she could get what she want and eat at nice restaurant when I take her out.

She's just so frugal, when it comes to clothes. Rare were the occasions that she allowed me to buy the clothes she could wear for some special events. Most were during the weddings of my siblings, and my graduation. For the rest of the occasions, she sew her own clothes. She makes her own dress, for the shoes, we buy them of course.

"Just give me the money, and I would buy my shoes in the market. So you would not spend much." We laughed in the sala as she was drinking coffee, just before we hit the mall. I had to buy her shoes again because she is attending two weddings, one this month to her niece's, in July to her granddaughter. Taking Mamu out and buying her stuffs she would like are small things I can do for her, which could never repay what she has done in my life. Now, that I can afford her that perk, I am more challenged since she is not perky nor picky at all.

She's not picky at all. When buying groceries, she would just pick anything, without actually checking at the price tag. She'll fill the shopping cart of a lot of things, unmindful of their cost. That's a fun thing to see. At several times, I'll have to pay more than ten thousand pesos for grocery stuffs which will run off in a month. Now, I'm more careful, when I'm with her I told her to compare prices. It works.

She's so careful in spending money, the perk of buying expensive things in the mall is just a waste of money for her - particularly to clothes. Like last year, she told me she needed a red blouse, which she doesn't have and no one else in the house has, because only she has double x-large to triple extra-large size in the family. She saw one which she really really liked. I told her it was fine to take.

While going to the counter, her granddaughter saw the price and jokingly told her how "social " she was. The blouse cost 2,000 plus. I didn't really mind buying that for her, but she insisted to find a less expensive one.  For me, I'll be happy that people find her clothed well, but she'd rather stay humble and simple. We ended up not buying any blouse.

With shoes it's different. Because of her size, she goes for the flats, nothing glittery and other fancy accessories. Just the plain, black, brown or cream colored sandals type. She's got good practical choice with shoes - Hush Puppies or Rusty Lopez. In our first stop today, she did not like anything. Then they went inside Hush Puppies store. She found a nice pair of sandals, which she thought was just less than 500 pesos.

That was the same case when I bought her first pair of Hush Puppies sandals. We thought we got a good them in the sale price, since the sale signage was on that shelf. They were not on sale, but I got them for her anyway. She would not just go for a pair (LOL), she would get another pair somewhere in another store. She would tell me, this pair is for this, and the other is for that.

She's not really brand-conscious, it just so happened that the shoes from those two stores fit her soles very well and suit her preference.

We'll that's fine with me. Her shoe shopping habit is just unique. The same thing happened today. She thought she got a good deal with the shoes she tried on. As we walked towards the children's clothes. Mamu was still looking and trying some other shoes. My eldest sister asked why our mother was taking another pair of shoes. She told me "why they are just 249.00?". I saw the box, it was Rusty's. "I uttered yes right, it' alright".

I told my sister, never to talk about the price when you're with Mamu at the mall, because she would not take them, if she realizes they cost more than a thousand pesos. What a Mom! I so love her shopping. She's got the attitude.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Power of Collaboration

Great ideas are like fruit juice. You cannot have a glassful of it just from squeezing a single head (at least with oranges and others, except the Pineapple). Innovation, that is authentic creativity, is a product of several minds put together working spontaneously towards a clear and common goal.

We are to come up with a new syllabus for a course, as necessary to meet the existing identified needs of our students. I know I could do it on my own, since I was able to do it previously. Ah! Not really, because what I did was simply extend or add to an existing syllabus. It was not really something new.

Last night, knowing that I will be meeting with other teachers about this syllabus, I started to prepare. I spent hours staring at the blank document on screen and not even finishing anything. One of my colleagues emailed to me what two of them were able to come up with. At the surface reading, I knew it needed some improvement. Since, I will not be teaching the subject this term, I opted to quit in my attempt of coming up with the syllabus for them.

The reason was simple, no juice could be squeezed from my head that time, except for a schema of what the course should be and my recall of experience in developing course syllabi, as well as my perception of the needs of the types of learners we have in that special program. I thought I'd just moderate the brainstorming. That's the point of putting minds together anyway. I know I could do it, but I also know that I don't have the monopoly of knowledge and that I am not the savior of all.

Our meeting started with examining the proposed syllabus, against the previous and with the understood goal for the course. We eliminated three objectives from the previous, and considered the two objectives left which coincides with several of the seven objectives identified from the proposed syllabus. We came up with five objectives, SMART objectives from the existing material that we have, the proposed syllabus which we all agreed to.

From there, we visualized the culminating activities in the midterm and finals in which the students will have to demonstrate the communication competence we desired. Then we went backwards to identify the content of the lesson which would build to help the students acquire knowledge and develop and enhance the skills they would need to complete the final requirement of the course. We missed write down specific lesson objectives for the content, but we were able to discuss them as we rationalize on the significance of each content against the course objectives.

At the end of the meeting we were able to come up with an "eclectic", student-centered, and "competency-based" course syllabus for Basic English that applies a communicative language teaching (CLT) model, through a backward design to pen what we want students to "become". It was a constructive effort deliberate of gaining from collaboration.

I could have not done what five brains could have done. I could not see what they could, nor think as they would, but through collaboration we were able to come up with the course description, course objectives, course content and course requirement. It took us only two hours, which could have taken days for me (alone) to accomplish. Our outcome received immediate consensus, as we worked together for it.

A team is a strategic group, it is formed for a specific task. It can accomplish great things when they can work in sync for a common goal. I know two teachers in that team had had uneasy working relationships, but that did not matter. Personal preoccupations don't matter in a team, the point of being there is that you are to work for the completion of a task, the time and place to build your relationship isn't the team's meeting, unless the conflict arises from that meeting.

A team is temporal, and it doesn't spring like a group mushroom unexpectedly. Its members are put together by a call, and someone takes the call to steer the team in the expected directions, without missing the virtue of working in parity. In teams a leader is tested to guide the team and motivate the team to work purposely in the most efficient way. The team leader is only at his best at the success of the work of the team.

Teams provide multiple perspectives to an issue; various solutions to a single problem. Teams provide checks and balances. Teams allow for extension and refinement of ideas. Teams share the weight of a task and so reduce the stress and pressure at work. Teams enable each one to contribute at his or her best for the good of everyone and  to rest of the organization outside the team. Teams function to extend the power of one in numbers while distributing the power to everyone and for each to succeed. 

What comes next in working with this excellent team is something greater than the course syllabus. I know we can get there, because we have proven that we can create something out of nothing together. That's the power of collaboration. Dream teams work their dreams into realities.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Taking Some Time Off

Officially, today is the first day of my service leave. It's a benefit I could get for four years of service. Prior to this, I had taken a straight five-day off from work and from home, just to finish the revision for my dissertation proposal. I thought, it was best for me to do before going for a long vacation ahead.

I got a book with me, my dissertation paper, my laptop and a few clothes all packed in my bag, then head back to Sagada, Mountain Province. There are many options for me to go, but I thought it would be better there as I would be so far from anyone I know.  I found the place conducive to writing, because of the climate, besides there are not just much to do there except eat, sleep and walk.

I needed a time off to revise my paper. I needed a place where no one could distract me. I found the right place in Sagada. Arriving there on a Wednesday afternoon, I spent the rest of the day sleeping as I did not much get sleep in the bumpy ride up to the mountains. When I woke up, I turned on my laptop and started reading through the comments on my paper.

My mind was still not there; I found myself undecided to what I was writing. So, I turned to the paper instead, read through the comments and commented on them, and by hand wrote my revisions at the back of the paper. After that, I went out to take supper, then got back to work. The next morning, I decided to take the whole day writing. I told myself, I could not go out for fun without completing the revisions.

That Thursday was so fruitful, that I myself was surprised to my mind to work and complete the revisions I needed to do. So, then I could take a real time off. I went out that night for a drink with Aldrich, a local guide I met in my first trip to Sagada, and retired to wake up to a cold Friday morning.

My plan was to do some mountain hiking, that morning with Aldrich but he was asleep through the morning, and when he replied that we would go in the afternoon, it just rained so hard. Consequently, I had to spend that lazy Friday, looking at the pine trees from the veranda, reading the book I brought, watching TV and sleeping.

I was getting bored. Good enough, that on Saturday morning, Aldrich was ready to go with me hiking over Mt. Ampacao. That Friday I spent half of that day overlooking the towns of Sagada and Besao, and the nearby towns, after hours of hiking to witness the serenity of Lake Danum and the gaze at the magnificent mountains of Bontoc, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. We had lunch together afterwards, then planned our next adventure.

I woke up to a beautiful Sunday, texted my travel buddy to go to Echo Valley and Bokong Falls. I planned to meet him near the Zipline that morning, but after he agreed to see me there, he did not appear. I thought, time is not just an element in the laid-back life in Sagada. At past nine, I walked back to the inn, and watched TV. It was around 3 PM till my travel buddy was near the area.

I sent him a message to inquire, if we're still going, and he replied. On foot we walked the trail to the Echo Valley, it was behind the Anglican cemetery over the church of Saint Mary the Virgin. We went nearer the hanging coffins, it was vertical descent on steep, rocky and muddy trail. After some rest and kidding around with those on top, pretending to be echoes, we took the trail by the river to Bokong Falls.

That trail got me to see several caves where the river water goes through. It was explained to me, that the water going through the underground river gets to Sumaguing cave. I had to climb over big rocks, crossover waters, and pass through a cave, then up to the road, and down to Bokong Falls, which is near the Masferre Photographs museum.

It was all worth it. A dip in the cold mountain water overflowing from Bokong falls seemed to washed off my tiresome feeling. we got to Bokong Falls at half past four, but because of the rain clouds coming together, it looked like it was nearly six. We stayed there until half past five and got to the Poblacion, soaked in the drizzle just in time for dinner.

A light drink over bottle of beers would be nice for that night, but my travel buddy slept and could not accompany me. So, I retired that night after packing my things for my trip back home the next day. I had fond memories of the first time adventures I had. I was fulfilled that I was able to complete my paper revisions and had some days for adventure.

Everybody needs a break, a time off from what tires the body in the life's daily routine. That time off gives the needed break to rejuvenate, be refreshed, rest and recreate. I'm so blessed I have my time off. From today, my mind is preoccupied of where to go next.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Daring towards Danger

Human instinct drives an individual to survive danger so as to remain alive. With awareness of imminent danger, a person may take the fight or flight. One can take the risk or don’t risk anything at all. This is what I learned in my first Cave trekking experience in Sagada.

It was my first time to visit Sagada, and it was my first time to take a caving adventure. While we are going to the Sumaguing Cave, I've asked the tour guide of how long it could take us down the cave, and how far the cave was from the road. I've missed to ask how the trek was and what are there to expect in the trail. 

Going in and out of Sumaguing Cave is said to take 750 meters. It means that the cave could have a depth of 300-400 meters. From the store by the road, the mouth of cave is not really visible yet. We took several steps down until the huge mouth of cave was there open for us to be swallowed in its dark depths. Around the cave were huge rocks, and as we go down, we needed to take bigger bolder steps. 

 We stopped and waited for our tour guide to have the lamp lighted. From walking on flattened rocks, we found the trail to have changed to dirt which was a little slippery sometimes because of the bats' feces. We didn't really have any orientation of what kind of trail will come next, but we headed on. We had to squeeze ourselves between boulders, walk with on fours with our butts because we don't want to be outbalanced. We had to lay our hands on bat shits yet think it was just soil.

The limestone formation was still so far even if we had been going down for 30 minutes. Then we stopped. The trail to get to another level suddenly became vertical. I had no experience of rock climbing, no one among us had. The tour guide showed us how to go down. My legs are still tired from walking six kilometers the other day, but I just have to go down, because we were there already. We should not be going back or else we don't get to see those beautiful rock formations.

One hand holding on a slit between rocks, another pushing on the other side, one foot weighing down on a sharp crevice and another leg trying to reach a stable ground. Whew, that made like Spidey. After that was the first rock formation of virtually of an image of elephant, under it was like a wall for a huge well. I knew from there that we have more beautiful things to see.

They call it a porn cave, for its rock formations, like that of the queen's vagina, the king's dick etc. To me it was a magnificent natural creation, rocks formed from thousands of years. Limestone formations that in one's eyes seem to be so slippy, but which could hold one standing still and non-sliding. The temperature dropped, water drips from above. With all the rock formations, water is just flowing, cold water from the mountains, pure and pristine.

I just had to dip in that cold water. Because the air seems to be constricted, even if the water is so cold, I did not feel any chills. We took several pictures. We wanted to get as deep as we could. When the tour guide explained to us how we could get to the last point in the cave, we backed out because one was so afraid. I asked if there is an alternative route, but we backed out to because going down there seemed to me to be really dangerous.

It is dangerous, really high risk and could even be fatal. One slip, one wrong move, could make one fall on rocks. One hit could spell death. We did not have any harness, no safety hats, no ropes that could pull us up we slip and fall. The only rope that was there was for rappelling to go up a huge rock formation.

We did not dare the risk. Anyway, we already saw the last point of the cave trek. That should suffice. But, that tour guide was just so amazing as he could go down and out of the cave with his two feet, like as if he has memorized every place of the rocks and is aware of every slippery sides of the cave.

Trekking that cave was an adventure I would never forget. It put me to a daring situation when I have to put myself toward danger, learning every time from an expert, calculating risks and mindful of my personal situation and conscious that I have responsibility with the people I am with. If I took the lead in going down and climbing, I have to tell others following of what it is like and what should they do. When someone is ahead of me, I would be watchful of his actions and do the same. 

Inside is an individual survival, I could push others, pull others, help others only when I know that I am in the right position to do so without putting myself to very high risk. But again human instinct compelled me to stick with others and help them get through the trek safe and sound. There I learned, the meanings of determination and survival.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Trail to Batad Terraces

When we do not know where we are going, we will have no idea if we have reached it and what if that place doesn’t satisfy us at the least?

I knew we were going somewhere, when he headed to our trail to Batad. It is a place where one of the original rice terraces in Banaue could be found. Stories told to us that said it was where we could one of amazing farming fields built for a thousand years and have lasted thousands of years till now. That must be truly an awesome thing to see.

We were told that the trip from the poblacion to Batad will take us to the mountains for 1 to 2 hours, and the trek down to the mountain would take 30 minutes. We had no idea of what the road would be like because we were not informed of it. The same way, we were not told of what we could expect from the site. We were there to appreciate the ingenious farming technology of our native ancestors. 

We were excited that we could jump off the jeepney that took us through a rough ride looking over ravines on the sides along the way. The road to Batad is an adventure, exhilarating really breathtaking and not for those who have fear of heights. It was like you are on a sky but with the bumps of the clouds as the road alternates from smooth to rough, going up on rocky narrow steeps. 

From the viewpoint, only a slice of the famous Batad Rice Terraces can be seen, but I was awed with the great mountains dressed in lush green and kissed by huge white clouds. The temperature was a little low, but it would not give a chill. The scenery just took my senses away that I did not bother to ask how we are going there. I was with some people at 40’s and 50’s, a girl at 8 and a teenage girl. I am in the mid 30’s by the way, but I haven’t really gone on a mountain trek except that of walking for 6 hours from Manila to Antipolo on Holy Wednesday.

We took the trail down the mountain to Batad terraces for almost an hour. The trail was rough, but the natural scenery was awesome although walking to see that site was tiresome. But our tired body was relieved with the sight of the first group small terraces we saw, beautiful layers of green and brown fields of rice. A stop for five minutes kept us going again. We weren’t even midway, and I could see that we have probably walked a kilometer down from where we came from.

I love how we were greeted in English by the lady tending the store in the Midway of Batad, but from there, it seems that we need to walk more than a kilometer down. Minutes after, we saw a sign, five minutes to Batad Viewpoint, but that five minutes took us like 20 minutes of non-stop walk. Time is not just the same in that place. People there could probably walk up and down that trail in less than an hour, but our legs don’t seem to match that of theirs, more so our energy.

From the guest registration area, I searched for that amazing rice terraces. But, to my dismay, what I saw were eroded fields, no greens, all soil flowing from the mountain top. We just took the time there to have lunch and some rest before we got our feet back up to where our ride was parked. The trail took us almost an hour. While going up, the clouds turned dark. It would be a dark rain, and lightning is hitting some parts of the far mountains. Our best option was to take the 450 steps up the main view deck. In my mind, were the complaints of the elderly I was with. In my mind was a question could they make it?

Pressure was on us, to take that tiring climb up the steep paved ladder. Some steps are as high as 1 foot or more, others are just 6 inches high. We were able to climb, everybody did, even the asthmatic did. 
We got to Batad expecting an awesome view, which we did not see. However, the trail will be part of our memory. To the elderly I was with, they could not believe they were able to make a 6 kilometer walk. I myself could not believe it. We all felt great, yet tired, not because of what we saw but because of what we were able to do. Then the hard rain fell. We rushed to the jeepney, before the road would start to get really muddy and soft. 

A life's adventure is not really about seeing what you want to see, but seeing how you can go through its trails to get there and get back. That is the most magnificent wonder in every man. I just hope that the people of Batad could get the glory of this once magnificent terraces back.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Erratum for Errata

Our human inequities could result to wrong decisions, when we do not consult experts, policies and even laws, and when our decisions are based on precedents we know yet we did not happen to really know. Organizations operate based on its policies that have been debated upon, evaluated at several times, voted upon and written out in its finest form to guide practices. This is the same framework in which societies are built, the least in a democracy.

The constitution stands as the statutory law of the land, all other laws are subsumed under it. All other governing policies that guide practices and decisions are based on the law that is grounded in the constitution. In the academe, in the honorable ones, the faculty intelligently adapt their practices according to the manual. So are the students, they are to perform and behave according to what is inked in the student handbook. For both, all other decisions, policies and memorandum must be aligned to the existing manual or handbook.

Violations of which are also sanctioned according to what is stated in them. Management prerogatives are also subject to the manual of operation, and to the laws of the land. A position in the organizational hierarchy does not excuse anyone to do anything that is not according to the manual, which is supposed to be deterministic of what is right and just for all. All are subject to consult the organization's Constitution.

In juridical procedures, precedents do not merely refer to cases. They refer to decisions on cases, and those decisions are based on the law. The counsel can pose an inquiry to the previous decision, and when that plea is made, the judge will have to act justly on reexamining the case. For it is possible that a human error can be made. The just court treats a case, as it is, and the wise judge judges justly based on the merits of the case, and not immediately on precedents he know about. In this matters, the case can be brought up to the higher courts, and appealed at a certain period of time. When a decision is challenged, the law and the constitution is reexamined, all over again, until justice is served.

Non-alignment of decisions to existing, out of the knowledge of precedents, is tantamount to lawlessness, in the organization. There the law becomes flesh, not the word that is powerful to excise order and propriety. Then, what is the policy for, when decisions are made based on precedents, and the preceding decision was not according to the policy. Is this not perpetuating the vicious cycle of error? Then where is righteousness? What then is the policy for?

A righteous leader, with authority and position who happened to be a victim of the same precedent should have had wisdom after all, when he got into the position, to straighten the path, which others would also walk through. A righteous man who knows that there is something wrong with the previous practice, upon realization, should exert effort to correct it. Following a wrong decision does not make anyone right. It is but cowardice, lack of authority, and impervious thinking.

Now, I don't wonder, why it becomes possible to send out an official communication to everyone with an error and another with an error correcting the previous erroneous communication. Or, an addendum to the addendum. If this is so, then it is possible to have an erratum to the errata. Correcting a mistake is not wrong, it is an act of righteousness. An errata is a correction, when it is evident that we have committed many mistakes in the past, as we knew of the error, we need to make the correction.

Monday, February 27, 2012

When people want change

February brings memories of the historical EDSA revolution that put Corazon Aquino as Philippine's first woman president, throwing out of office Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the country under dictatorship. This makes me realize that when people put their mind and hearts together towards a specific goal, they can get the change they want. People can be the change they want to be.

Two weeks ago, I went to order my lunch at a fastfood in front of DLS-CSB. I was craving for salad. I wanted to take out a pack of it along with some chicken and fries. I was aware of the Zero-styro campaign of the school, so I checked with the service crew if their salad is packed with styro. Unfortunately it is.

The manager approached me, and offered her apology, although she told me, that they have fully noted the school's campaign. I notice that their cupboards are filled with boxes for the chicken and their other products. The manager explained that they are still exploring other packaging products for the salad in accomodation of the school's zero-styro campaign.

I left the fastfood with products not packed in styro. Although I was starving, I could not stop thinking that people have the power to create the change they want. I ask: "how come the school can have influence to the stores around the campus?" Then I realized that majority of these stores' customers are students, faculty and personnel of the two La Sallian Schools. While there were no legislations on zero-styro use, the stores were just compelled by the simple law of supply and demand.

The schools may have not demanded anything from these stores, but the La Sallians took a strong stand against styro-use. The stores adjusted to that. This is the same with the fastfoods in Muntinlupa City. However, it was because of a city ordinance that stores were compelled to stop using plastic bags. Stores in this city now use paper bags instead of plastic. There was change in the stores practices that have implications to how people think about the environment, and so in their consuming behavior.

In my illustrations, power to change consumer behavior resulted from a community commitment and legal dispositions. Even without a legislation, a community can be organized and committed to change that have impact on businesses and our personal behaviors. Through legislation, the larger community can benefit from change in our daily practices. In both illustrations, commitment to change for protecting our environment becomes possible.

When people want to change, change can happen. People must want that change first and make sure that the change they want will benefit the community. How I wish to see that more people will commit to change their wrong mindsets about the environment and be more active in stirring the change towards a more positive attitude and relevant actions for the environment.

Monday, February 13, 2012

If God is Love

Last Sunday, while I was listening to the celebrant's homily about Jesus healing the leper, my mind was drifting with a thought of human suffering in this world. While God's presence is felt, experienced and manifested in some people's lives, I ask what about in the lives of those who suffer? If God is love, where is God's love in the life of the sick, the poor, the victims of injustice, the unloved, the unwanted and the dying?

I recalled the anecdote of the barber who doesn't believe in God. Then, I realized that in God's great scheme of things, there is a purpose for everything.There is purpose in unbelief, that faith shall be known. There is purpose in darkness, that light shall shine. There is purpose in sickness, that there shall be healing. There is purpose in injustice, that we shall seek righteousness. There is purpose in being unloved, that we may know of compassion. There is purpose in being unwanted, that we may understand kindness. There is purpose in dying, that we may find eternal life.

There is purpose, I guess, in all the human suffering in this world. However, the understanding of that purpose only comes in the light of knowing who God is in our lives. Jesus healed the leper who came to him, and all those who were suffering and called in His name in faith were relieved of their pains. That's God's love. It reaches those who seek for it and believe in it. And, those who believe share it with others in their everyday encounter with people in this life.

The God I believe is merciful and kind, just and righteous, magnificent and wonderful, kind and generous, and slow to anger. He sees the heart of his children, and in Jesus God sees his own. Thus, those who live in faith in His Son find the joy and love in God, amidst all sufferings. They see the light, even in the darkness of life. They have something to hope for, when everything seems to crumble. They feel secure and never anxious, for they know things shall find their places and everything will end well. My God is infinite in love.

I too suffered. Seven years ago, depression got me break down, and doctors thought that I would be forever dependent on medication, if I don't want a relapse. I took their advise for a few months. But, I clinged on to God and patiently waited for healing. Everyday I would pray that God bless the medicine I took, until a time came that I have to demonstrate my faith. I stopped the medication, instead had a doze of God's word daily and I filled my mind with God's promise. I thought, sickness could not break me down, for God is my rock; but I would If I did not let go and let God. And, God had His way in me.

I was fatherless at 8. We were poorer than the mice. My mom had no good education to get her full employment. All my father left us was a junk car we could barely sell for a penny. My older siblings then did not finish college to get better jobs, instead they opted to have their own families,which left me, my mother, my sister with a broken back, and our family-adopted younger sibling to God's care. Our house squat in a lot we don't even know of the owner, but we've been threatened for eviction from it several times. Yet, God put us through in all of those days.

It's valentines day today. I had been asked several times who my date was. I replied, what is valentines anyway? We can love 575,600 minutes of our lives in a year. Loving should never cease in just a day. I am happy as I am, for I know God is loving me from since the day I was conceived and until eternity. That's a sure promise that I hold in my heart. With that I am so grateful, and in return for that favor which I can never compensate, I love.

I love the family God gave me. I love the people where God put me to work with. I love the students that God put me with respnsibility to teach. I love my friends whom God brings to be at my side to share my joy and pains. I love my mentors whom God blessed with knowledge that I can learn from. I love my work, for the fruits of my labor are my offering to God. I love as much I could in everything that I do. With loving others, I also receive their love back. Well, that's basic: do unto others what you want others do unto you. Rephrased: love others and they will love you back. And, when and where there is love: God is.

Happy hearts day everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Trouble with Punctuations

Today, I ran into an argument with a fellow teacher on the use of colon, semicolon and comma in introducing a list. And, I felt really bad about it: that I rested on a wrong assumption; that I dragged another to an argument that compelled her to follow my instruction; and that my wrong assumption was not corrected immediately in that argument.

My assumption was that: "the rule of introducing a long list with a colon that tells of a certain order and sets of elements separated by a comma, also applies in the short list". She had no arguments with my other suggestions in the test she made, but it was in this part that we had taken much time. Yet, at the end I was not convinced, so I insisted on my false belief.

That argument bothered me, so I had to check several references, credible references online. My intent was to know what rule applies in short list introduced by a colon. Aha! I WAS WRONG! Immediately, I sent my colleague a text message, expressing my apology and affirming that she was right all along. I even tried to call her, to sincerely say how sorry I was, but I could not reach her.

I was troubled about dragging someone into argument while my claim was unsupported. I felt anxious of probably making another person believe something that is not following the rules of punctuation. The sense of knowing that I was wrong made me anxious, not just because I held a wrong belief, but because I allowed myself to insist on that wrong belief. What bothered me most is that I was not wise enough to check a credible reference, at the time we were arguing.

That was unscholarly for me. That was unprofessional. That was unforgivable because as an academic I should know what I am saying, my claims should be substantiated by knowledge that is generally acceptable. Perhaps, what brought me to check some references was that argument implied a conflict in knowledge. To resolve it needs a mediator and that is a valid and reliable source of information.

That argument on the troublesome use of punctuation, raised so many questions about myself: my integrity as a senior teacher, as learner myself, and as a person. Had I been close minded? Had I been so opinionated? Had I been conceited of my learning? Had I not been listening well? Had I been egotistic? Or was I was just not challenged to consider another's position? That again was a concern to me. I wish I were I just burnt out and demented to be unknowing of my mistake.

Prudence dictates my life that wisdom is above knowledge. Hence, I desire truth and knowledge, credence and validity, trust and integrity, responsibility and self-regulation. However, at the time I should be wise, I rested on a wrong belief and argued instead. Neither, I nor her sought a credible reference to mediate between our conflicting views. Thus, I was not corrected immediately.

As I desire truth and knowledge, at the moment I was unwise, no wiser advice came to my assistance. It was rather late for my initiative to find truth in knowledge. The argument is over, yet I still feel the guilt of being unwise. I feel bad of my unknowing self. I feel sorry that I was stubborn. I feel anxious of not being corrected by someone who at her behest knows of truth.

In this troublesome use of punctuation, the lessons I learned: when unsure, check with a credible reference; when wrong, humbly accept correction and sincerely apologize for the mistake; when right, support the claim with proof; and above all never repeat the same mistake. That I think is the most prudent thing to do when troubled with punctuations. Ouch!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where's the Good Samaritan Online?

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) teaches Christians on authentic charity, love and kindness for others. This teaching challenges our faith to be demonstrated in good deeds, right at the moment when it is needed. As faithfuls, we are commanded to love one another, and love others as we love our self.

It is not surprising for me to know, that a good Samaritan is a rare find. In the parable, the goodness in that Samaritan who helped a person in need is something inherent, and it was contrasted to that of the Jewish faithful. But, Jesus commended the act of the Samaritan who helped the robbed man in extraordinary ways. For Jesus that response was something that Christians should take as a model.

Today, while I was browsing my Facebook wall, a picture of a skinny 15-year old girl with a rare skin disease caught my attention. The one who posted the picture had the interest to have it shared that it may stumble upon a good Samaritan's heart. That is his way to help the girl. His note reads that he had initiated a conversation with her and personally took her picture.

There have been many pictures posted and shared in Facebook of people needing help: cancer patients, missing person, victims of abuse and maltreatment and many others. In some causes, it was acceptable to see those posts in the social network, as they were necessary. The network was of use to get the attention of those concerned.

However, I am disheartened to know that the chance of being a good Samaritan is just passed on to someone else who would like to take the role. I feel this way, because I am aware of how that person could help the girl, more than just posting and sharing her picture online. I know because he could boast with me of how rich he is, and he would also post several pictures of his expensive cars.

The note that goes with the picture reads: "I wanna ask your help guys if we could share this photo and I wish that this will catch the attention of any Public affairs program in the country like Kapuso foundation or Wish Ko Lang to assist this poor, little girl for her treatment as well as for her Lola." This implies that the heroic attempt to help the girl is hopefully passed on to other organizations.

True, that effort may help the little girl, when the image becomes viral to catch the interest of those media programs mentioned. Media networks will profit in it anyway. But, what does that girl really need? Is it the media exposure? Is it sympathy? Is it online publicity?

I wonder how much of the sampaguita which the girl was selling was bought that time, when the picture was taken. I believe it would not be enough for her to bring food for herself and her grandmother. I do not want to discount the intent to help the girl by posting her picture online. It might work. I am discontented though about the intent to help being passed on.

There are good things that come in posting such pictures. One is that it creates an awareness to online users about people's situation and even the illness. Another is it encourages open and continuous conversation. Although, the process of having such picture shared is far from genuinely helping her, when the very people who were aware of the situation could barely help even when they can.

The Good Samaritan in Jesus' parable, is the person who in his own way helped someone in need in ways that are felt, relieving the man's pain and even sustaining him in his way to getting back in life. There, the Samaritan has touched a life, without anyone's help, because he can. There, the Samaritan did not call others and did not announce his intent to help. My prayers go, that the stranger who met this girl realizes that he is the Samaritan who can help her. Everyone who have seen this picture and shared it in his wall is a stranger challenged to be like the Good Samaritan.