Saturday, August 12, 2006

What's your phobia?

ARE you afraid of ghosts, snakes, or heights? If you are, you’re not alone. These are some of the things most people are afraid of.

I know somebody who has claustrophobia, the fear of being confined in enclosed spaces. For instance, in a church with overcrowded people, he wouldn’t go out as soon as the mass is over because he cannot tolerate being cramped in the middle of congested people at church doors. He feels being squeezed and wrapped, making him feel suffocated. I have also a friend who is phasmophobic—afraid of ghosts. She doesn’t like reading horror books or watching films with ghost themes. We make fun of her during Halloween because she never goes out nor head to the cemetery every 1st of November.

According to Bessie Head, a South African writer, “the terrible thing is that, those who fear are always in the majority.” The phobia, however, that majority of the people have, is the fear of heights known as acrophobia. We could see in reality-based TV shows like the defunct Extra Challenge that most of the show’s contestants admit that they don’t like jumping off from the top of the building nor attempt skydiving when given such tasks. But some faces their fears by defying challenges. On the other hand, in a foreign TV show like Fear Factor, we could see different challenges that would ultimately confront the fears of the challengers. For example, one contestant would continue eating disgusting worms although he looks like he would cry and he wants to puke. Some may also endure being piled up by hundreds of snakes and bugs creeping at their legs and neck. That’s why they believe that fear is not a factor and winning because of luring green bucks is obviously their motivation.

Other phobias that are common to many are cynophobia, the fear of dogs; arachnephobia, the fear of spiders; and xenophobia, being afraid of strangers. If you have hematophobia, don’t dream of becoming a doctor because it is the fear of seeing blood, or don’t take an engineering course if you're numerophobic because you would probably hate numbers. If you smell a friend who is stinky, assume that he is aquaphobic, afraid of water. I believe that people with genophobia are certainly safe to acquiring STDs because it is the fear of having sex. If you are insomniac, for sure you have clinophobia, the fear of going to bed. Thanatophobia I think is the most fearsome; that is the fear to die. Loveless people have philophobia and they fear falling in love.

Remember that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mind-freezing reads at Friendster

I'm sitting in front of a blue screen ready to strike the address of Yahoo website when I found myself logging in at different address—in the Friendster, that is. Anyway, it didn't bother me since it reminded me of the fact that my last visit with my account was already three months before. At least I saved it from being crashed to termination.

I know I'm not a Friendster addict. But who knew during my visit that time let the piece of bulb appear on top of my head when I read an article posted on the bulletin that undoubtedly stuck to my mind. Let me share it to you.

John, who was about to graduate, is the only child in a wealthy family. He topped his class and received several awards for his academic achievements; he was the most intelligent student among his batch. Expecting to receive the highest honors during his graduation, his father proudly asked him what reward he wanted. John was silent for a while. He decided to demand an expensive car he's been dreaming to own. No heck, since they have all the money in the world anyway. Back at home after the graduation day, his father handed him a gift. John was excited to open it and expected to receive a car key. He was surprised to see a Bible. John was disappointed and threw it in front of his father. John ran away from home and never returned for years. While keeping his resentment with his father, he lived alone, found work, and eventually brought the car he wanted. One day, he received a call from his mother informing him that his father died. When he got home, he saw the Bible his father once gave him. He opened it and a car key fell to the floor. He just cried.

If you assumed the role of John, how much money in the world is needed to bring your father's life back? See, regret comes in the end. You can blame no one but your materialistic ego. When somebody loses his life, we begin to realize how much pride we have kept in ourselves, and the pain it leaves. In the case of John, imagine how discontented a person he is considering his God-given intelligence and abundance in his family while not many of us could have them. Intelligence will mean nothing without God's faith and guidance. Some say it's better to have less brain because you tend to follow your heart's desire while being intelligent is useless when your brains go to your head. But to maintain a balance, both must co-exist with each function.

In the story, the Bible will forever mean the existence of God that he must be above everything and the car key, a hidden grace that we must discover ourselves in good or bad disguises. So, start saying “I'm sorry” to the person you've hurt or “I love you” to the ones you've failed to tell because life is indeed short.

The worst of times

ANOTHER political hullabaloo has swept the entire nation in total muddle. Everyday, we wake up as onlookers of massive uprising for PGMA’s ouster, endless bickering of trapos and jumping fences of politicians in an attempt to stay in power. All these contribute to the unceasing hardships of the common tao; everyday, we see the nation plunging into a deeper crisis.

It started with the exposure of the controversial “Hello, Garci” tape which contains the wiretapped conversations between President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and COMELEC Chairman Virgilio Garcillano. According to the opposition, it was PGMA’s attempt to rig the 2004 Elections in order to lead by more than one million votes over the opposition candidate. Eventually, the scandal triggered various groups and political affiliations to form massive rallies calling for a full investigation of her alleged election fraud. And despite PGMA’s “I’m sorry” statement, Filipinos were not convinced of her sincerity and moral ascendancy to lead the country. As a result, the country is now divided into two opposing factions: the ‘pro-GMA’ who still believes in her administration and the ‘anti-GMA’ group which demands for her immediate resignation.

Now, amid the worst scenarios where extreme government and financial crisis drags us into a deeper quandary and where prices of commodities as well as oil and fare hikes rise due to deregulation, liberalization and privatization policies, can we afford to remove a president? Do we have a commendable, if not better, alternative who deserves to replace PGMA? Are the Partido ng Manggagawa’s call for Transitional Revolutionary Government or the debated Charter Change (Cha-Cha) effective solutions to the political crisis?

The answers depend on our own decision and actions. Politicians we put in positions during the election are showing their true colors after shifting sides and capriciously taking advantage of the situation. Their lusts for sheer power is always clear as crystal. They are the same fat cats who grow immensely fatter from tireless corruption. We, the major players in every revolution must think a hundred times of the consequences of our own actions. Let's not just put the blame solely to our leaders since we abet in the burden of the country. In fact, the mistake begins from us and we tend to repeat it over and over again. We must hope and cooperate for economic reform and exercise democracy at its advantageous form. Let not our personal interests hinder us from preserving good and honest governance. After all, we are all Filipinos and we live in the same country.

(Published in The Augustinian, July 1-Aug. 15, 2005)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Day of the dead

I FIND it entertaining to swap horror stories with comrades during Halloween. It’s even less frightening to hear their ghastly real-life experiences at the cemetery. I would usually the first one to relate some stories and the rest would just grippingly unveil theirs. Afterwards, we would play some sort of prank like spirit of the coin, and see if lost spirits wandering around would cooperate.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m gutsy enough because I’ve never in the flesh encountered paranormal creatures or supernatural elements. As to admit that I’ve seen one, for skeptics I might sound stupid; but to say ‘I believe’ even without even seeing one, for me it sounds more stupid. You see, none of those ‘true’ stories from my close peers would convince me that these unearthly beings exist. Unless there is an apparition of a dead neighbor with a knife stuck on his chest who jeers me at 12 midnight sharp, or a quick catch of a floating coffin passing by the peripheral of my eyesight, I won’t be scared. I’m not your average scaredy-cat, but gee seeing is believing.

I wonder how our lolo visited me on November 1st (I assume he paid me a visit since I had failed to light a candle on his grave, or at least uttered him a prayer during ‘their’ day). Perhaps, I don’t like the idea of going out on that date to avoid the stampede of visitors flocking to and from the cemetery.

While they did, I was chilling out myself scoffing some helpings of suman and valenciana while drastically abusing my eyes from blockbuster hits and horror movies at home. You know, I barely had a rest and this was my typical idea of spending a semestral break, whereas some people I knew were having the time of their life at the hottest night spots in town. In my case, I just relaxed at home.

Halloween, which falls on the eve of All Saints’ Day, is also known as Allhallows or Hallowmas, a holy day in the Roman Catholic Church. Hallow means to make sacred.

Well, it’s funny to note that many could still afford to have fun and go party-crazy on that ‘holy day’ while they forget to remember the dead ones on their resting grounds whose spirit would want to commune with the living. The occasion would even translate as bread to some. While taxi drivers, hotel owners and disco bars are excessively squeezing partygoers’ pocket from their trick-or-treat publicity stunts, some of our business-minded folks are peddling their overpriced flowers, candles and jack-o’-lanterns in various sidewalks.

Paying homage to the dead must be done not only during this time but everyday in our lives.

(Published in The Augustinian, Oct. 1- Dec. 31 issue)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Of Chinese feng shui

We, Filipino people, are believers of astrology when it comes to cosmic alignment of the stars and the planets, positions and movement of astronomical bodies, horoscope reading, fortune telling, palmistry, zodiac signs, and the most interesting of all, the Chinese feng shui. Good fortune, luck year for the whole family, and acquisition of positive energy are the most common reasons why people spend their money in purchasing feng shui paraphernalia for their home.

However, do you really have an idea of the origin of Chinese feng shui? As defined, it is a Chinese art of arranging an environment. Feng shui works on the principle that people should be in harmony with their surroundings. Feng shui (pronounced “foong shway”) means “wind and water”, and originated in China about 3,000 years ago, but is based on the philosophy of the I Ching (Book of Change), which is about 6,000 years old. It was first used to determine the best position for burial sites, but was gradually extended to other spaces, and can in fact, be used in any space—home, garden, room, office, restaurant, or car, to name only a few examples. Since then, even the West adopted the beliefs.

More than the supernatural explanations behind these things are our attitude, faith and positive goals in life. Instead of displaying that red octagon-shaped mirror before our door to shoo away the bad spirit, what if we shun first our bad attitudes from ourselves. Surely, the good within us is more than a protection against any invasion from wickedness and bad luck.

House of Flying Daggers: My favorite martial arts film

From the star of the Academy Award-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the director of the most expensive film in Chinese cinema history, the fantasy epic Hero, comes a spectacular Chinese love story set in a conflict a long time ago in imperial China’s history—House of Flying Daggers.

“House of Flying Daggers” or “Shi Mian Fu” in Mandarin, which literally means “an ambush from ten sides”, is the second contribution of director Zhang Yimou’s to the Chinese swordplay or wuxia film genre. It features a bamboo martial arts sequence better executed than the one in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; computer generated flying daggers; a jaw-dropping fight scene; adrenaline-pumping sword-fights; and a story centering on two men in love with the same woman. Plenty of moments send the audience into a state of awe, or artistic arrest.

Basically, a simple “love triangle” was created among the main characters. This time Zhang Ziyi’s portrayal delivers a stunning performance but not as impressive as in Crouching Tiger where her strong character as a fighter is impressive. Pretending as blind at the beginning of the movie looks convincing bringing the audience into surprise when she was actually not. The way she acted the impeccably choreographed Echo Game really proves her real-life artistic feat in modern and folk dances plus, her beautiful aura stands out.

Another remarkable thing in the movie is the shooting place where thousands of flowing flowers in the background are breathtaking.

The resulting House is an astonishing work of cinematic beauty; filled with strong primary colors and evocative storybook forests of green bamboo or autumn leaves. The sound design is remarkable, staging a series of ritualistic combat scenes that are stunning in brevity.

Conclusively, House of Flying Daggers tells of a passionate emotional journey, in which three people suffer for love—it tears them apart, yet they are willing to sacrifice everything for it.

I need somebody to help me answer these questions

1. Does Jennifer Love Hewitt?

2. Where did Vicent van Gogh?

3. Why is Norman Black?

4. Where did Sandara Park?

5. Is Chow Yun Fat?

6. What did Henry Sy?

7. Is Lucio Tan?

8. When will Orlando Bloom?

I don’t know the answers really. I’m sure Wilma Doesn’t, too!

What’s wrong with the world?

THE chart topping hit “Where is the Love?” of the Black Eyed Peas say so much that we should understand more than just sing along. Before we completely overlook the wicked things that could possibly bring us to hell, let us open our eyes and realize first that the world is not anymore a better place to live in. This cruel reality is much feared; what if the countdown for the end of the world begins now? But before I give you the scenario of the likes in the Revelation, let me dissect the lines of the song and why also should we need to cry out loud Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.”

People killin’, people dyin’. Children are hurt and you hear them crying. Indeed, people kill their neighbors—even themselves and their own children. Within the month of September alone, turning on the TV and catching morbid scenes of brutal killing of a life or worst of hundreds of lives, will make you lose your appetite. First, the incident of a father who committed suicide, carrying his year-old son, by leaping off from a skywalk is an unspeakable act of cowardice. In this world of economic crisis, poverty and pressures there is a great suicidal tendency in many. The equation is simple: hopelessness + despair = suicide. What about the life of the child that was lost in a split second?

Second, the terrorist encroachment in Beslan, one of the schools in North Ossetia, Russia that kept the young students-hostages for days was a deliberate attempt to end the lives of innocent children, treating them as toys without food and scaring them with guns and explosive bombs, causing a traumatic ordeal to the surviving kids. The terrorist group led by two Chechen leaders, executed their rebellious authority after the Russian government failed to free them and their land. They would rather barter the lives of the children for $10M ransom. As soon as the hostage-taking was over, at least three hundred of the victims were recovered dead and the remaining were physically wounded and emotionally shocked. More families, and the world once again, were brought to their knees after the condemnable terrorist outbreak.

Can you practice what you preach? And would you turn your other cheek? If only people are considerate we wouldn’t experience devastating incidents. I have recently read in Time magazine that the failure to check the passengers and their baggage caused the explosion which tore down the Superferry 14 last February 26 and claimed a hundred or more lives. The perpetrator of the attack hurled a cardboard box containing a TV set packed with 3.6 kg TNT and was able to slip away just before the ferry cast off. It was a scenario of floating inferno when the bomb exploded and fire engulfed the ship. What’s wrong? The security officials failed to check the ferry-passenger lists which could have set off deafening alarm bells because the person responsible for the assault is an Abu Sayyaf who used the name of the group’s former member and who is also notorious for carrying previous attacks.

Father, father, father help us. Send us some guidance from above. These are mere indications that the world is like a bomb triggered by a timing device ready to explode anytime. A portrait where terrorists continue to rampage around, people kill their own fellows and where lives are not given freedom to exist. Just when you thought you live with security and safety, think again. It’s either you join the countdown for the end of the world or do something to turn back time. Then, you ask, where is the love?

(Published in The Augustinian, September 15, 2004 issue)

Puppet show, anyone?

SO don’t treat me like a puppet on a string coz i know how to do my thing. If you’re familiar with the lyrics of MYMP’s “Waiting in Vain,” you’re not an alien to this line.

When I was a kid, puppet shows on TV used to amuse me. Call it curiosity, but I would wonder how puppets comically move and talk since they’re lifeless. According to grandma, they “are made up of mere wood pulled by strings behind curtains by people called puppeteers.” Oftentimes, my grandma would bribe me with her kitchen-made ice cream every time I’m hooked to my favorite puppet show in exchange of her lackluster worship program.

Being rowdy, I would simply break figurines and flower vases once our favorite shows will be aired simultaneously on different channels but mine is not preferred to be watched. But I would win with my personal choice since I was only a kid. Anyway, that was several years ago. I’ve completely realized that puppets are being manipulated by other people as if they’re moving and talking before the audience in a show. Yes, they don’t have a mind and life of their own.

Nevertheless, I will not be talking about Pinocchio or Jim Henson’s glove puppets in The Muppet Show. I want to share some thoughts that we, humans, can become puppets too. See, regardless of a stage, strings and audience, one can put up a moronic puppet presentation.

Anybody can become a puppet, are you? Literally, of course, you won’t encounter a friend walking in the street with strings attached on both ends of his arms and feet. Simply put, there are people who allow themselves to be used by other people with or without knowing their intent. Unfortunately, people who are opportunists take advantage of the weaknesses of others for their evil plot.

Human puppetry is like slavery. However, don’t mistake puppetry with witchery where a person is under a magic spell or for instance, possessed by the disturbed spirit who happened to be his terror professor. Human puppetry willingly suppresses his prudence and deceives others by his malicious acts. He becomes a direct replica of the persons behind him. When he shows off as a monster, then he’s under the command of his master.

There is agony in every puppet. Even Pinocchio did want to be emancipated from being “puppeted” by his villain. Like him, all puppets want to break free from being subjugated. Perhaps there are inevitable circumstances in their lives that the let themselves succumb to such rebellious act and perpetrate damages to their enemies. Sometimes, they steal center stage and divert others’ attention. How stupidly pathetic!

Puppets are not anymore a mere form of entertainment; far from the values my grandma has taught me. Now, I simply started to hate puppets.

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A summer to remember

FORGET the raging political war, it’s time for me to scribble my latest summer experience. I don’t qualify myself as a globetrotter since I don’t travel a lot. I just love going to different places. And every time I get home, I’d make sure that my adventure box is chokeful of experience.

It was a stroke of luck going with the class in a ten-day educational tour last April. I thought it was impractical (thinking that I would be spending thousands of pesos while I can content myself by conducting my OJT here and could purchase a new camera phone instead). Anyway, the main reason for holding the trip was to visit manufacturing plants, semiconductor and telecommunications companies in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces such as Laguna and Cavite. One thing that I knew about Laguna was the cornucopia of hot springs and private swimming pools that some residents made business out of. Luckily, the resort where we checked in was opportune to have a giant pool which relieved our body from the exhausting all-day sitting in the bus. The visit to Laguna was never exciting without the exhilarating ride-all-you can at the Enchanted Kingdom.

Thanks to the strategic location of our hotel while in Manila, we never missed to stroll in Baywalk at Roxas Boulevard, the aromatic cuisine from the flanking night bistros in Malate and the historical glimpse at the Luneta Park. Also an anticipated destination in our itinerary was Baguio City; even the previous meningo outbreak didn’t bother us from nibbling sweet strawberries, rowing at the Burnham Park and bustling at the famous ukay-ukay. The climb to the Grotto located at the top of an almost 300-step stairs was a tiring yet worthwhile experience and the side trip to Benguet provided us the chance to hand-pick fresh strawberries at the Strawberry Farm. In Benguet, we ventured on a rare mine tour where we experienced real dynamite blasting while inside the Balatoc mining tunnel.

The astonishing sights and relaxing climate at the Palace in the Sky in Tagaytay didn’t fail to amaze us while some of us satisfied themselves with taking pictures and scurrying over the best souvenir buys hoping to keep a memento of the place. What a rare opportunity also to see endangered, exotic flying foxes inhabiting the trees and brown monkeys dwelling within the lush forests in Subic. My vacation did not end when the pack went home. For two months, I experienced the life in Manila when I stayed to conduct my OJT. But I knew that the first week of June would spell another escapade for me here; I wished I could return earlier!

The usual Boracay getaway by the Pub Pipol during summertime had its change of plan this time. The three-day Nagarao Island trip in the southern part of Guimaras was the place of our annual evaluation and strategic planning this year. It’s a fascinating place blessed with bountiful mini-forests and the serene ambience, private luxury, and the mouth-watering seafood could make you feel the wonder of nature. It was fun being with the Pub Pipol breaking the tranquility of the place with our boisterous laughters.

Last on my adventure list was the unexpected visit to Roxas City. An hour away from the city, we took advantage to clamber at the peak of Mt. Agtalin in Pilar, Capiz to see the 85-foot Blessed Mary statue, the tallest Marian Statue in Asia.

Truly this is one unforgettable summer, a break from the usual hustle and bustle at school and a story that is of envy to my friends.

(This article was published in The Augustinian, Aug 16-Sept 30, 2005 issue)

Culture of reading

THIS is my first column for this year and unfortunately, my second to the last. But it took me one sleepless night to brood over a sensible topic while being preoccupied by late-night haunting of deadlines. Worrying over tons of unfinished academic tasks prior to graduation is equivalent to drinking five cups of coffee in succession within one hour–the high dose of stimulant is strong enough to bleed “everything” dry inside my head and leave nothing but an accumulation of caffeine.

I remember that last December, I came across with a book entitled Stacking in Rivertown by Barbara Bell, aside from a tech-oriented magazine and two more novels which I haven’t managed to finish reading. I owe the former from a close friend, as a sacrificial gift, during our kris kringle. It tells about the tragic story of a part-time writer-cum-prostitute, her painful love affair with a sadistic pimp, how she overcomes the recurring memories from haunting her, and how she ends up finding requited love in another woman.

Now, I won’t talk so much about the book. I mention this novel because for one, it’s set against the backdrop of Valentine’s celebration, and two, I want to emphasize that reading is a healthy and enjoyable mental exercise. But take note: about 2.8 million Filipinos could NOT read and write according to the Functional Literacy Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS). Imagine the number of “unhealthy” minds not being treated! Perhaps, an average Filipino’s lack of devotion and time or laziness in reading concerns with this figure.

I have classmates who are “loyal” when it comes to Hollywood’s giant productions such as the LOTR trilogy and Harry Potter series. They would not miss watching those all-time literary classic and contemporary ones as adapted on the big screen. One time, I asked one of them how they could appreciate the films rather than the book, and he said, “The movie versions are great but I don’t read the books. Para ano nga showing sila sa sinehan?”

Nevertheless, this is just a sad reality. For example, during weekends, if you try to compare the number of students reading a book inside a library and the number of students (yes “students” since you see them in their school uniform) in a nearby Internet cafe that offers online games, for sure you will see the disparity in numbers, having the heavier weight in the latter case. Then again, we blame this defect to the Filipinos’ reading culture, either because of poverty or technology, or even both. Poverty, because a large number of children which belong to poor sector of society could not go to school and learn how to read; and technology, because of, well, its diversionary effect.

Whatever the reason is, we should bear in mind that reading is a habit. As early as in childhood, a person must be trained to read so that s/he would get accustomed to reading and consider it as a way of life. If a person grows old without enjoying the pleasure of reading, he will die without dreaming of opening a book.

(Published in The Augustinian, Jan 1-Feb 15, 2006 issue)