Valedictory Post-Its for Ganda

Worrying about her exams, no doubt

[Note from Noel : Coincidence of coincidences, both Ganda and Bunso’s schools copped the NCAA and UAAP crowns this season, now how lucky is that?  Happy birthdays to Atty Edlyn Verzola, Cathy Gruba and Pinky Pineda (all on 2nd Nov), Dexter Lim (4th Nov), Atty Vicky Suarez (5th Nov) and Tess Reyes (6th Nov).  Happy Halloween and undas to all ! ]

Dearest Ganda :

THE NIGHT (day) before the start of night shift week (11.00 pm to 7.00 am), I can never trick my body into turning in early.  It’s Sunday afternoon, and not only did I turn in late last night, I also slept in Sunday morning.  In short, including the weekend things you have to do, the overactive environment (everybody else is outside basking if the sun is shining) and the preparation for the long week ahead, it’s the worst time to try to sleep.  In fact even before going to bed I’ve already given up getting the usual eight to nine hours of winks; I already I’ll spend at least half an hour in broad daylight tossing and turning.

The silver lining is writing you is the best way to while away the displaced insomnia.

I’m sorry we got cut off the last chat, the old PC can only go so far before it realizes it’s not supposed to be working anymore, at least not while its plate is full running Yahoo!, Facebook, WordPress and Multiply simultaneously.  All it’s good for now is the in-house solitaire called FreeCell, composing e-mails to Immigration NZ that I need to print anyway, and sending e-mails to the money transfer lady who always gives us a generous NZ$-PP rate, I think she and Tita H come from the same region.  (They usually chatter unintelligibly on the phone when I’m near, baka praning lang ako.)

I know it’s a bit early and you’re as superstitious as anyone, but it’s a good time as any for a pat on the back, you’ve turned the last corner and are heading for the homestretch.  Almost on your own and with the minimum guidance from either me or your mom, you’ve stuck by your convictions, chosen your own career path, and have hurdled the hardest subjects on your way to, may I say it? Graduation.  Wow. 🙂

I know you’ve insisted on what you wanted to do, because your mom wanted you to major in something else.  Whether you’ve made the right decision, only you can tell now, might as well stick with it till the bitter end.  I know you’ve gotten over the hump of the academic grind, because on your enrollment form I saw Quantitative Marketing, and another course title had Calculus or some dreadful sounding subject, did I not?  I know that although you still have at least one more semester of matriculation, you passed up a summer practicum so you could prepare for an overload of units this sem.  All told, you have done quite well for yourself.

I have the minimum benefit of hindsight, I continue to make mistakes along the way and far be it for me to tell you what to do after you have overachieved your way this far, but I would always be second-guessing myself if I didn’t at least try to give a father’s unsolicited advice to a graduating daughter, albeit one who is mature beyond her years :

Don’t be afraid to hook up with something less than your dream job.  Especially, if this is your first job.  You and I have heard of endless stories of people starting out full of fire and momentum for their first job, which they naively think will be their ideal job, and even more naively, for life.  We both know neither of this will turn out true, for an overwhelming majority of jobseekers.  The first danger is you will lose interest and momentum looking for that ideal first job, because unless you are a COO (child of the owner) or phenomenally precocious for your rookie status, you will not be considered for anything more than an entry-level position in whatever field of endeavor, particularly in the professions where cadet engineers and under-bar law grads are expected to fetch coffee and do scrub work for their superiors for at least a year.  Don’t worry about this, as you have time on your side.  The alternative is to wait and wait until time will have passed you by, while your contemporaries have moved on to the bigger world.

Don’t be afraid to take on a job with a wage/salary dramatically lower than your expectations.  This is true particularly on two counts : first, you will have the satisfaction of negotiating for better pay when you have proven yourself, and second, you are still learning the ropes and you are actually getting paid to educating yourself about the realities of your career.  Let me enlighten you further.  The staff at Tita H’s sushi place are filled almost exclusively by migrants like us.  One in particular worked quietly and took the worst hours and shifts without complaint.  No one knew that after a year or so, she and her husband would open a sushi place of their own.  She was actually learning everything about the business and was quite willing to do anything to acquaint herself with the ins and outs, the nuances of this particular niche of the food industry, and how much they would need to shell out to undertake a business just like the one she was working for.  The smart ones I guess are willing to work for free, if they can learn in the process.  The lesson for the rest of us here is if we are absorbing something important (like tips and tricks for getting ahead in our chosen bread and butter), and we’re getting paid for it, it’s not such a bad deal, no?

Don’t be afraid to use back doors, school connections, family relationships, and insider referrals to get to your job.  I know that the moralist in you takes a dim view of using anything other than merit to get hired.  Well guess what, my dear ? You can use networking to get ahead job-wise without compromising your ideals.  I concede that the proverb it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts is pretty Machiavellian but you can prove you’re worth being hired later.  Now, what’s important is just getting your foot in the door and getting a word in edge-wise.  Everyone else is fighting tooth and nail just to get an interview with the HR guru; all you’re doing is leveling the playing field.  Put it this way : if you just go with the flow and rely on a pretty face, perfect CV and outstanding references to get a coveted job ahead of hundreds, if not thousands of candidates with identical credentials, you might have a long wait.  And lastly…

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  This is not so much related to job hunting as with the real world after you’re hired.  There will always be people who will do things for you, to please you, and to get on your good side.  There is always a trade-off, or payback time.  Taken another way, it is usually a good rule of thumb that when something is too good to be true, it usually is.  Of course, when you anticipate that you rub each other’s backs, then there’s no real harm.  But when potential bosses, colleagues and work mates do more than the expected courtesies, then you have to step back and ask yourself why?  Take it in more than one sense since you are a young woman and your mother has probably told you all about men, the latter almost always carry a perennial agenda behind the visible one ; sometimes it’s the only one.

That’s it, for now.  You have already gotten this far and are aware of your gifts and shortcomings.  I’m so happy you have turned out as well as you have and no matter what happens to you before and after you graduate, I am already proud of you anak.

God bless you always, kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos.


PS. Please kiss and hug Bunso for me, and tell him to get enough rest always.

A Pinoy demystifies All Blacks Magic & the 2011 Rugby World Cup

[ Note from Noel : Above is how the All Blacks start every international match, called a “test”.  It’s borrowed from the Maori, the indigenous population of NZ, and the dance is called a “haka”.  It’s psychologically supposed to be very effective, and the opponents are NOT allowed to ignore it, or even turn away. Belated happy birthday to kabatch Dr Peggy Ting!  This blog is dedicated to an Aussie-Pinoy we did a stint at the Philippine Collegian with, Mr Raul Zamuco!  See you in 4 years bro! . PS : Thanks to a new friend, AJ Villarante for pointing out a glaring error ! Daghan salamat bro! ]

I HAVEN’T timed it down to the exact decimal second, but since Sunday, every daily news broadcast starts with at least five minutes of All Blacks news.  Not rugby news, which is suffocating enough, not World Cup rugby news, which is understandable, given that NZ just finished hosting more than a month’s worth of RWC matches, but All Blacks news, from how each member reached the peak of his career, to how each All Blacks game brought them to the finals, to how the finals reached its expected end, in a most unexpected manner.

Three victory parades will be held for the Rugby World Cup champion All Blacks.  Auckland on Monday, naturally (where the finals was won), Christchurch on Tuesday, which because of the twin earthquakes missed its chance to host World cup matches, and Wellington Wednesday, where your accidental migrant currently resides.

Within this whirlwind of emotion, intensity and success, it’s easy to get caught up in New Zealand’s living dream of winning the Rugby World Cup, 24 years in the making.  But for a Pinoy like us, it’s more awkward than anything.

Appreciating a game like rugby does not come easily to a typical Pinoy.  For one thing, close-contact, high-trauma team sports is not exactly popular to a culture more obsessed with basketball, billiards and boxing, the three B’s of both participation and spectator sports in the Islands.  I won’t be making any new friends among kabayan and kakosa , but famously being pikon or poor sports is a trait many Pinoys are known for , and the game of rugby is definitely not for the pikon.  Knee trips and sharp elbows in basketball seem positively kid gloves in comparison to bone-crushing body blocks, head butts and occasional eye-gouging (think Richie McC & Thierry Dusautoir) that rarely elicit more than the cursory groans and grunts from rugby players.  As regards physicality and roughness, the game resembles closely its American counterpart, NFL football, but to this accidental migrant the game of rugby seems a bit more visceral ( no visible body armor or helmets), bloody and relentlessly cruel to bone, muscle and ligament.

But back to the high drama surrounding All Blacks and their recent conquest, the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC).  To grasp the drama of their recent RWC success is to know the misses, near-hits and failures that NZ rugby has suffered.

For a sports tradition where anything less than being the very best is unacceptable, each of the All Blacks selections the last 24 years ( after the first and only RWC won by NZ ) has fallen short of the ultimate goal. There have been spotless performances in regional tournaments (Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cups), perfect records on European tours (vs. powerhouses England, Ireland and Wales) and unblemished success versus all comers, but in the prize that mattered most, the All Blacks have been found wanting since 1987.

The nearest analogy I can come up with off the top of my head is Phil Mickelson, who for years endured the tag “best player never to have won a major” (0-46 before the 2004 Masters), NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who ended his stellar career after 16 seasons without once winning an NBA title, and the Boston Red Sox of Major League baseball, who waited 86 years between 1918 and 2004 before winning another World Series.  You have to admit though that New Zealand would not want to be part of this tradition of futility.

But make no mistake about it, the undisputed most popular and powerful team in rugby prior to last week hadn’t won rugby’s highest honor since Ronald Reagan was President.

In a country where rugby is without exaggeration almost a religion, winning the Rugby World Cup was no less than the Ark of the Covenant returning to Israel, the Balangiga Bells returning to Eastern Samar, or Odysseus finally returning to Ithaca.  Nothing less than a homecoming, although the outcome remained in doubt until the final moments of the final game of the tournament.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

After 24 years, the nation’s post-RWC  euphoria was equal parts happiness and relief, relief that surprise finalist France didn’t pull off an unthinkable upset after all the talk of being unworthy finals opponents to the All Blacks.

Caught up as I inevitably became in the maelstrom of rugby fever, my housemates didn’t share my newfound interest.  Kuya Flatmate had loads and loads of OFWs, relatives and long lost loves to chat with, Panganay was constantly preoccupied with his hip-hop routine, and esposa hermosa would rather catch up with much needed sleep.

Onwards from the quarterfinals I had no choice but to follow, by my solitary self, the oval ball stalwarts in their quest to become the best in the rugby world, for at least the next four years when the next RWC is contested.

It wasn’t by any means an easy trip to the finals, as the All Blacks outlasted upset conscious Argentina, blitzed archrival Australia and beat 2007 nemesis France by one solitary point, equivalent to less than a free throw in basketball.

On the team’s broad shoulders rode the hopes and dreams of the “Stadium of Four Million,” the slogan of the NZ home crowd, and though they agonized injury after excruciating injury, they did not falter.

Bucking two major earthquakes in Christchurch (September 2010 and February 2011), the worst mining disaster in years (November 2010), and the all-time worst environmental disaster early this month, and now a humongous natural gas/energy crisis just early this week (losses of NZ$40 million a day), the RWC triumph is certainly a bright light in the darkness of the last 18 months.  Moreover, the Pinoy in me couldn’t help but compare our country with this tiny nation (with less than half the population of Metro Manila) used to punching above its weight (like Manny P), used to bullying, and used to licking its wounds inflicted by overbearing giants.  And emerging stronger than ever.

Pinoys could do a lot worse than internalizing the Rugby World Cup lessons from a similarly sized, newly crowned Kiwis.  Mabuhay All Blacks and Mabuhay Kiwis and Kinoys!

Thanks for reading !

Reblog : Popo Lotilla’s Vow of Poverty by Benjamin Pimentel

Prof Popo Lotilla in an international conference. I have no doubt that he has kept true to the saying, "a public office is a public trust."

[ Note from Noel : Just so there’s no mistake, the subject of this reblog is an actual, living person.  A few antecedent facts : the writer, Mr Benjamin “Boying” Pimentel, is a legendary editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian, in itself an icon of student journalism.  He wrote a column in the online Inquirer version about another Collegian editor, former Energy Sec. Popo Lotilla.  Even without my personal connection with him, his column would’ve been remarkable enough, as you will read below, kind reader.  But I was fortunate enough to have served under Prof. Popo during his term as Collegian ed. (as a newswriter), enrolled in one of his classes during a forgettable stint at his law school, and lived a few weeks in the Narra Residence Hall, another iconic UP institution (and in whose FB page the column was also reblogged).  So there.  Just to illustrate to you how ridiculously remarkable he is, have you heard of any cabinet member who DIDN’T own a car, or even a TV set?  I can confirm this, because… well, because!  This column is a bit dated, and many of you have probably read this, but I reiterate that Prof Popo is a remarkable individual, although he may have forgotten about little old me.  Doesn’t matter, may people like him continue to serve in government !  PS. Thanks Boying for the reblog! ]

For some unexplained reason, Raphael Lotilla preferred the path of frugality.

He taught at the UP College of Law and was already serving as university vice president for public affairs in the early 1990s when he chose to continue to live at Narra Residence Hall, the senior dorm notorious for bad ventilation, leaky bathrooms and poorly-lit corridors and rooms.

After more than 20 years in government, Raphael “Popo” Lotilla announced recently that he was leaving.

“I would like to end my vow of poverty and all the ancillary vows that come with it,” he told reporters.

I chuckled when I read that. I’ve heard him talk about leaving government for more than two decades. He had considered going into business or returning to the place many of us always thought he would spend most of his career: academia, specifically UP Diliman.

With his departure, the Arroyo government lost even more of its already diminished credibility.

Still, I was glad Popo has moved on. And I suspect many of his other close friends also did.

We first met in 1983 when he won the editorship of the Philippine Collegian and I joined his staff as a section editor. A few months after his term began, Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, triggering the events that eventually led to the fall of Ferdinand Marcos. The assassination also led to the first and only crisis in our friendship so far.

Faced with reports that Aquino allegedly had been killed by one of the soldiers sent to escort him from the plane, Popo and other Collegian editors argued heatedly over how to present the story. Being a reckless campus hothead, I was among those who pushed for a more aggressive headline, while Popo calmly pushed for a more even-handed approach.

Nearly a quarter of century later I humbly concede : Yes, Popo, “Reports Conflict on Aquino Slay” was a more journalistically-sound headline for that story.

We’ve kept in touch through the years even after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, he frequently made San Francisco one of his stops in his travels so we could meet and catch up – and so he can engage in one of his vices: looking for antique maps of the Philippines. We once embarked on a half day expedition from Menlo Park to downtown San Francisco, going from one antique shop to another.

It was great to see him emerge as a national figure over the past 20 years, first as a NEDA official and later as energy secretary. But it also was sometimes tough to watch him associated with controversial administrations. To put it bluntly, it was not always cool to see him in the company of politicos accused of rigging elections and ripping off taxpayers.

But there was one thing about Popo’s career that I and many of his friends took comfort, even pride, in: It always has been crystal clear that he never enriched himself while serving in government.

How could anyone think otherwise about a guy who doesn’t own a house, doesn’t have a car, and as the Inquirer reported, doesn’t even have a TV set, making him eligible to become one of Meralco’s lifeline customers, those who use less that 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month.

Just to be clear, Popo’s no cheapskate. Eating out with him has often meant having an argument at the end of the meal over who should pick up the bill: He always insists on paying. His frugal ways are also striking for someone who comes from a landed family in Sibalom, Antique. Like most children of elite families, he learned to play music, of course. Not just any kind of music, mind you. Popo plays the harp.

From Narra Residence Hall, Popo later moved to an apartment room near UP’s Stud Farm. It was not exactly a fancy bachelor’s pad, but we often joked that he privately took pride in being able to say that he lived near the Stud Farm

A friend of ours, Susan Villanueva, also one of Popo’s former students and is now an attorney with Villaraza Law, once visited him at his apartment with her husband, Joey Ochave. “I remember the spartan (read empty) atmosphere of his place and an open balikbayan box in the middle of the living space. The small dining room had a water feature: the roof had leaks so water ran down the walls. Seeing his living space, it dawned on me that Popo may have moved out of Narra but you could not remove Narra from Popo.”

In fact, at one point, Popo’s Spartan lifestyle and passion for the law and public service inspired many of his former students and colleagues at the UP College of Law (including Susan and Joey) to consider embracing their own personal vows of poverty.

“We were a group of young lawyers who were inspired by Popo to join the academe and to serve,” Susan said in an e-mail. “Somehow, without at all being preachy and through sheer example, Popo made us believe and want to change the way things were through our abilities and expertise as lawyers. “

The group included former defense secretary Ruben Carranza and other prominent attorneys such as Teddy Te, Tony LaVina and Meilou Sereno.

“All of us graduated at the top of our class. Most of us were in the top law firms or had lucrative private practices. Yet, we wanted to take the road less traveled,” Susan continued. “…I would have left Villaraza Law and taught and done policy work full time. The idea was to make UP, through the UP Law Center, a premier policy center that could provide expert advice to government on matters ranging from intellectual property, law of the sea, trade, human rights, international law, and environment… Imagine a public policy center that had in-house expertise, beholden to no private interests that could help shape government policy.”

The group had expected Popo to lead them down that road as dean of the College of Law. But he lost his bid for the deanship. Many of his former students were disheartened. Some of them changed career plans. Susan Villanueva called his defeat “one of the seminal events in the lives of so many people.”

“Had Popo been appointed, I would have also taken the vow of poverty he had taken. I can’t believe now why I was even prepared to make that sacrifice but that time was different. It was a time for possibilities. We all felt then that a Popo deanship would have been a turning point in UP Law’s history, the golden age. There was a critical mass that could be led by Popo who was primus inter pares. Someone we all respected who could lead us to make the change happen.”

In April, Popo and I had dinner with a carafe of red wine at the Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach district. We were there to celebrate my decision to leave the San Francisco Chronicle after 14 years, for a new gig at Stanford University. I didn’t have a clue then that he would also be making a major career move in a few months.

“Sorry, I missed you, Mara and the kids on your recent visit,” he emailed me recently, referring to my recent visit to Manila with my family. “But I think we will have more opportunities to see each other now that I am out of full-time public service.”

Name the time and place, Popo, and Ill have a bottle of red wine ready. Time for new adventures, buddy.

(published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb 15, 2008)

Nexus between alternate realities : Pistang Hamilton & beach cleanup

[Note from Noel : Belated happy birthdays to Mr Oliver Uy and Prof Harry Roque and happy birthday to Engr Nelson Tan ! Good luck to all the participants of Pistang Pilipino 2011, particularly the Wellington and Auckland teams and contestants, and don’t forget to congratulate each other after every game OKs? ]

EVEN BEFORE I saw the YouTube teaser I had a pretty good idea what the Pistang Pilipino 2011 to be held in Hamilton, New Zealand would contain : a beauty pageant, talent quest, the all-important basketball-dominated sportsfest, and mini-reunions everywhere between Pinoys separated by fate, job assignments and love.

And if you look at the teaser yourself, you will see all the well-loved activities that unite and bond Filipino communities everywhere: Pinoys love to showcase their superlatives under the bright lights, grace under pressure, and to celebrate the best among the best, be it physical beauty, athletic talent, or the performing arts.  All under one umbrella, and that of course is the Pistang Pilipino 2011 hosted by Hamilton, involving almost all the Pinoy communities throughout the Land of the Great White Cloud, New Zealand.

It’s a safe bet that anyone who’s part of the Pinoy community who has any form of talent, and who’s adhered to any of the basketball clubs throughout Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, or any of the another cities and towns in all of the regions will attend this annual gathering of migrants from the Pearl of the Orient.  And if you can’t make it, you will either eat your heart out by listening to the tales of those who made it, or promise yourself to make it next year.

Each major event, be it the beauty pageant (Ms Philippines NZ), the talent quest or the sports fest, not only has its own Facebook page, most of the participants therein have their own FB pages where you can participate by “liking” your favorites, interact with the actors, or inquire about related activities that take place year round, not just during the Pistang Pilipino.  There are various activities that you can enjoy, and if they are not for free, admission may be gained for very reasonably priced tickets.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Over at the Bay of Plenty on the eastern NZ coast, not far away from Hamilton, a different kind of community bonding is set to take place.  Pinoy volunteers since early this week (17-23 October) have been raring to take part in beach cleanups as a result of the MV Rena grounding in early October.

We don’t have to emphasize that of the principal actors in this tragedy, one was and is a kabayan, and therefore most of us feel the pangs of conscience to pick up not just the solidified oil that has washed up on beaches but the contents of containers displaced (as much as 50-70 forty-foot containers) from the Rena.

Operation Beach Clean Up very courteously told the various Pinoy volunteer groups that, while their assistance was very welcome, logistics and the excess of volunteers required that most of the Pinoy volunteers cool their heels until further notice. [ Thanks for forwarding the e-mail, Mr Ody Lumanglas ! ]

Well, at least we wanted to help. Kudos to the organizers and Hamiltonian hosts of Pistang Pilipino 2011, advance congratulations to all the winners of the various Pistang Pilipino events, and to the kabayan beach cleanup volunteers : mabuhay kayong lahat !


Angry Birds & A Pixellated Pinoy Sea Captain : Early Xmas wishes

As of last count, 1100 birds have been found dead, but many more have sunk to the bottom of the sea, and we'll never know how much have perished. There were pictures markedly worse than this one, enough to drive you to tears. Thanks & acknowledgment to Dominion Post / for the photo.

[Note from Noel : Not angry actually but dead, and those who are really angry are the birds left behind, and unable to propagate rapidly diminishing species. Belated happy birthdays to Carol Ng Sy , Cherry Ong, Robin Tan (11th October) and Penny Rose Tan ( 14th ), now let’s brace ourselves for NZ‘s biggest rugby match in eight years tomorrow, All Blacks vs Wallabies ! Go go go ! ]

Dear kabatch, kabayan, brods, officemates, iskolar ng bayan, Huttmates and friends :

BEHOLDING Man and the dilemma of this plane of existence, there seem to be very few absolutes in a sea of relatives.  The purest good may sometimes be poison in unlimited amounts, for example.  Or the tics and tackiness of even the most satanic dictators can sometimes provide quirky (if a bit too entertaining) distraction from the monotony of daily life.

Which is why it’s quite unusual to see something as absolutely and unequivocally awful as an oil spill, particularly one in a pristinely preserved idyll like New Zealand.  There is no upside or pogi points to be philosophized about it.  It is despicably, horribly and unqualifiedly bad for all concerned, and it tends to stay around even longer than is expected, which is believe me, long enough.

Please excuse the uncharacteristically blunt language. By nature, I try to be PC, diplomatically pleasing all around and all that, but there is simply nothing the spin doctors can do about this debacle.

An additional thorn on our side is that one of the principal actors in this tragedy is a countryman and there is no way (not that we want to) we can deny that.

The captain of the Rena, granted name suppression but not back home. Thanks to the Dominion Post for the picture.

But two things : this isn’t a race thing, any more than a plane crash piloted by two Caucasians isn’t a white issue, as many Kiwis have pointed out.  Notwithstanding the well-considered prudence of the judge granting name suppression against the Pinoy ship captain in court two days ago, the danger to him and his crew was probably overstated.

And this is the second thing : efforts of Kiwis now are not focused on the blame game but on cleaning up beaches, saving wildlife and preserving what’s left of the Bay of Plenty, which is one of the most immaculately beautiful showcases of nature in this part of the world.  Having said that, I humbly present seven early Christmas wishes in light of recent events.  The 7 represent each of the weeks before December and Christmas season , which we all need to remind ourselves that in the light of bleakest tragedy, Jesus Christ is there to give us grace and hope :

The last 72 hours, the ship has been listing in various directions. Strong winds previously feared to have pushed the Rena to a doomsday position have actually helped right itself from a previously precarious state. Thanks to Dominion Post / NZ Herald for the photos.

I wish that the endangered species further placed in peril by the oil slick will find pockets of surviving members of the same species elsewhere in New Zealand.  At least three to five species of the birds affected by the Rena oil slick number less than 2000, meaning they were already in trouble before it happened.  But there is precedent for finding the same species in isolated areas of the country, and for the sake of continued biodiversity and preservation of precious wildlife, I hope this happens shortly after the cleanup, or even during such event.

I wish the cleanup volunteers, despite the many discomforts, continue to perform their heroic tasks.  This might be the only country where, out of pure community spirit and do-goodness, you want to clean up your beach but are prevented from doing so.  There are now actually more volunteers than official cleaners of the debris and oily sludge washing up on the 22 kilometers of beach, but because they are not properly trained and the Government doesn’t need to expose itself to any more liability, are carefully selecting who can volunteer to do for free, pardon the French, a totally shitty job.  Now how outrageous is that ???  Anyway, I hope the volunteers don’t give up, cuz even if (and maybe because) my kabayan was partly responsible and I want to help, I would think twice about going out there, for obvious reasons.

I hope the winds cooperate and don’t make it too hard for both the salvage operation and the beach cleanup.  Strong winds, which are notorious all over NZ, are a bane to the oilslick operations in two ways : they make it more difficult to remove the oil, and they also endanger the position of the vessel stuck on the reef.  If Divine Intervention makes it possible for calm winds to prevail the next few days, it would mean a whole lot for everyone here.

I hope the Rena itself doesn’t crack like a rancid coconut, as this would be total catastrophe despite everything that’s happened.  It’s estimated that around 300 to 500 tons of the ship’s fuel (which serve as ballast as well) have seeped out of the hull after the vessel crashed against a shallow coral reef, and this has already incurred extensive damage to marine life.  But it’s nothing compared to what will happen if the balance of the 1700 ton fuel capacity empties into the Bay, which is a virtual certainty if the ship sinks.  The consequences are too dire, and in fact for me are unthinkable.  Fortunately it has not come to that yet, and everything ( I hope) is being done to forestall that.

I hope all the remaining containers teetering like carelessly connected Lego Blocks on a giant kid’s creation don’t fall off, and are salvaged in time to not cause any more damage.  Most of the 70 containers that have fallen off contain consumer and food items but one or two contain hazardous materials that will be extremely difficult to contain should it spill out to the water. This means the earlier the containers are retrieved and placed on other vessels, the better.

I hope New Zealand wins the Rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia tomorrow night, and against the Wales-France semifinal winner at the finals next week. God knows NZ needs the cheering up, after all the things that have happened the last 12 months, the twin Christchurch earthquakes that killed 182, the Pike River mine blast that killed 29 coal miners, and the thousands left homeless and vulnerable from all these events.

I hope, lastly that my mother who celebrated her birthday yesterday continues to enjoy good health and the love of family, who she has taken care of and loved back for so long.  I love you very much Mom !

Thanks for reading !


A Low-tech tribute to the Man who Shaped This Century

You can't fault him for not trying to keep up right? Humble thanks and grateful acknowledgment to to55er's blog at wordpress

[ Note from Noel : Belated happy birthdays to Jocelyn Sy- Chionglo (1st October), Dexter Yu (4th), and happy birthdays to Richard Yao (8th) and a wonderful, wonderful friend, Arlene Ayuste (8th) ! ]

Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Your time, is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. – Steve Jobs, on self-motivation

YOU’VE PROBABLY guessed that, just between you and me, I’m one of the most hopelessly low-tech persons I know.  To my everlasting discredit, I’ve resisted change at every turn, and I’m technologically handicapped to the point of embarrassment, and I’m not exaggerating.  If someone even more destitute than me hadn’t asked for it, I would still be using the Nokia 5110 albatross forming a huge bump in my back pocket today, still pause to ask if it’s possible to send telegrams to the provinces, and wonder why they don’t sell typewriter ribbons at the bookstore, rent out Betamax tapes or use Dymo labels like they used to.

But I do recognize that technology is a primal force that properly harnessed, can change our way of life, enhance all the beauty all around us, or destroy the planet beyond recognition.  Indeed, who was it who said that there is one thing more powerful than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come?

Surely it wasn’t Steve Jobs, but it might as well have been him.  As I implied earlier, I’m the least qualified person to put on electronic paper a tribute, eulogy or short-notice bio on him (we all know h0w much has been written about him since he died Thursday morning) but I CAN tell you how he changed my life personally.  And that’s the awesomest thing about him : how he has touched almost every life on Earth not just with his extraordinary gifts, but the way he pushed himself to make best use of those gifts.

From the thumbnail obits that I read, his story was larger than life, and it was like life imitating art.  From the Personal Computer (PC) prototypes he soldered together in his dad’s garage with Steve Wozniak, famously cutting the latter out of his share of bonus  for helping develop the iconic game Breakout for Atari, to his admitted use of recreational and mind altering drugs the early part of his adulthood, walking miles across town for a free meal from Hare Krishna, tramping around India with little more than the clothes on his back on a road of self-discovery through Buddhism, his seduction of and selection of John Sculley as Apple CEO, the man who would later oust him from his own company, his tyrannical helmsmanship of probably the most important company in the 21st century, Apple Corp, and his near-fanatical focus to produce the perfect multimedia consumer good/s namely the iPod, iPhone and recently the iPad, his made-for-cinema estrangements from and reconciliations with a daughter and long-lost sister, to his scrambling against time to do as much as he could before pancreatic cancer killed him … really, it doesn’t end.

If you were looking for a fairy tale about genius and drama, serendipity, and the realization that one man acting purposefully is capable of changing the world, then your search would start and end with Steve Jobs.  Except that every blown up detail of his life, which he vainly tried to keep private, is real.

But eventually, after the morbid interest that you and I voyeuristically maintain in other people’s lives (and admittedly his is more interesting than most) dwindles, our shock and awe will be reduced to that machine that sits in front us (the PC / laptop, as if you didn’t know), as well as the mouse we use to make such machine useful to us.  As it was with T. Edison to the light bulb, Jobs didn’t invent the PC, the mouse, or even the operating system that makes all these usable and useful to the 6 billion people who inhabit God’s planet, but at one point or another, he made all of these wonderful things accessible, socialized its benefits, integrated the various systems on which they ran, and ultimately made it possible for them to make life easier and liveable for us, our children, and our children’s children.

Again like I said, I’m basically a very  low-tech person.  I bike to work, I’d rather read a good book than play a video game, watch a movie only when it’s hyped enough, and still enjoy writing the occasional letter to my folks.  But when I bike I like to listen to my outdated iPod Shuffle (that’s already bored with OPM and 1980s ballads it drones out), when I watch a movie it’s sometimes recorded on a USB drive that benefitted from Apple-related technology, and of course when I write to Mom and Dad it’s on a PC clunker that traces its roots from the Palo Alto, California garage where Steve and Gary tried to put magic in a bottle, and in a roundabout sort of way, succeeded in ways they could never have imagined…

Or could have imagined, but we’ll never truly know now, sadly.  Goodbye and thank you, Steve Jobs.

Utterly domesticated but no longer utterly clueless

Typical Pinoy dishes that Mahal would create, and which we would devour 🙂

I REALIZED IT when she was asked to work late on Late Mall Night Thursday.  No merienda when I got home, no dinner, and no updates on any replacement meals.  My response to such a development was telling.

I stared at the empty dinner table, went away for a quarter of an hour doing nothing, and came back to stare at the same dinner table.  Repeat process until around half-past nine, when she returned.  Mercifully, she brought takeaway sushi and katsudon, which of course I gobbled up, without forgetting to ask why no food was around.

I was taken aback by her response.  Anong ginawa mo bago ako dumating Mahal, and in a mock-gesture of indignation pointed out that I should at least be considerate enough to improvise as she did all the cooking : breakfast, straight through lunch and supper.

Truth be told, I had been spoiled rotten since esposa hermosa arrived.  Where my diet was limited to McDonald’s , meat pies and mooching from my flatmate whenever I had a craving for Pinoy fare, since Mahal reached NZ shores I could now ask for (almost) anything on the Barrio Fiesta menu, and as long as she wasn’t tired and the ingredients were available (usually soy sauce, cane vinegar, ginisa mix, menudo mix, tomatoes, sinigang mix or ginger) she would readily sashay to the kitchen and magically whip up a dish that made me misty-eyed (and moisty-tongued) for home.

In return, all that was asked was that I complement her tasks, and follow intelligently her tips and cues to make her life easier.  By complement I mean this : when she prepared her inspiring meals I was expected to fill the rice cooker (which a first-grader could do) and wash the dishes.  If she did the laundry and made every article of clothing fresh and fragrant, it was logical that I would hang them on the clothesline for drying (we don’t have a dryer), and later fold everything for the aparador.

I hardly realized it, but she had taken over every useful activity around the house, devised simple ways to make the latter easier and more efficient, and turned me into a content worker ant in a self-contained colony of satisfying household chores.

And because she’s OCD about toilet being spotless, she prefers that nobody else clean the bathroom and does it herself.  Who am I to rain on her parade?  Even Kuya Flatmate gets out of her way on that one, especially since the lavatory always ends up looking like a 5-star facility afterward.

Such dependence I sometimes took to extreme lengths, as I told you about in the first paragraph.  I no longer went out without her, or at least asking her first. The few times I ventured out alone were to the library (she chooses cooking over reading anytime, who’d complain about that ???) and to look at action figures and McDo Happy Meal toys at weekend markets to update my toy collection (she likes toys even less than reading).

E.H. hates it when I waste time looking for toys like these, but at least I leave her in peace to cook. 🙂

Filling the clothesline, folding laundry, flicking the rice cooker switch, taking out the garbage and checking the mail.  Odds and ends, bits and pieces and making sure everything’s in place.  For doing these small favors, I get three squares, my stomach’s never lonesome for homeland and homestyle cooking, and did I say the bed’s always warmed up, sheets Downy fresh and pillows patted down?  Not a bad bargain.

Thanks for reading !