Women with balls

[ Note : Congrats to the families of Tom and Ineng Agustin and Eric and Hope Bautista as well as other Pinoys in the Wellington Round The Bays half-marathon earlier today for their participation, go go go !  And a belated happy birthday to the Flipino’s Filipino, Ms Didith Tayawa – Figuracion !  Advanced happy birthday to our Fil-Danish blogger-kabatch, Ms Catherine Vi – Clausen ! ]

Great journalism has the power to change the world every bit as much as a great political speech, and Marie Colvin reporting from the cauldron of Homs was in the tradition of the finest there has been. – Peter Oborne, Telegraph Group

The sight above is about as far removed as can be from the glamorous image we like to maintain, of the intrepid, roving, frontline journalists that file their stories in the midst of heavy shelling and bombing, pursuing romantic conquests during the lull and leaving the scene before peace treaties are signed.

Marie Colvin chose the most dangerous assignments, put her body and Western establishment name on the line when civilians were in danger of being massacred by desperate miltary regimes, exposed the truth when no other reporter had the guts to do so, and in the end paid for her convictions with her life.  Sexist as the statement may be, but she had more balls than any male in her profession, and died the way she wanted to : on the firing line, reporting the news.

We won’t dwell on the details of the last moments of her glorious life, just that she continuously asked for the most perilous posts, in failed states, dying dictatorships and war zones where the militia had no qualms about exterminating who they thought were the enemy, never mind if these included unarmed nursing mothers and children barely starting to walk and talk.  There is a good opinion piece on her though, which tells as much as any the uncompromising life she led as a journalist and as a person.

By her death (although it should be the least of her worries) she has just set the bar sky high (or higher) for any person setting his/her sights on a journalistic career.  After all, beyond the perks, trappings and supposed elegance surrounding the profession, the career should be defined by delivering the news, uncluttered by slant and ideology, to the people who need it the most, which is everybody.

I hesitate using the words objective and journalism anywhere within 20 feet of each other, for after all it’s rather impossible to tell a story without subjecting the same through a prism of perspective, worldview or slant  developed by years of education, lifestyle and training.  In my jaundiced view,  probably a better modifier would be dispassionate, when a reporter seeks to be guided by everything he/she sees.

I was fortunate enough to serve on our university paper in the late 1980s that had three things going for it : a decent budget set by the school, fiercely protected editorial independence, and a talent pool that was constantly replenished by competitive editorial exams. The year of the multiple coups that threatened Tita Cory’s government, our editor-in-chief changed printers almost every week in a three-month period that spanned parts of both semesters, not just because of the volatile situation, but because we needed printers that could accommodate us at a moment’s notice.  We considered ourselves (rather naively in retrospect) every bit as important as the stalwarts of mainstream and alternative print media, and put every weekly issue to bed amid distant rumblings of mortar shells and short bursts of  semi-automatic machineguns in Quezon City.  But that was about as close as we got to occupational hazards of being journalists.  It felt so romantic then, but would any of us campus journalists have given up our lives in the pursuit of press freedom, so many years ago and today?

Marie Colvin never let a bullet or mortar shelling get in the way of a good story, especially when nobody else happened to have the guts to tell that story.  If in the process she could save fifteen hundred refugees from maniacal mercenaries, so much the better.  Compared to this, will you forgive us if everytime we are told of an “envelopmental” and press-release dependent media man (or woman) back home, the words “waste of oxygen” come to mind ?  Mabuhay ka Marie Colvin !

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Children of the 1990s and cable diehards will remember with fondness Xena the Warrior Princess, and Lucretia in Spartacus who was adept with battleaxes and swords as she was with a sharp tongue and eloquent repartee to kings and emperors.  After the shoot she was Lucy Lawless, one of the finest actors New Zealand has produced.

She is also one of its most fearless environmental activists,  Along with a group of Greenpeace protesters, she recently boarded a ship owned by Shell Oil pursuing a drilling operation and bound for the Arctic.

Despite being placed under arrest, they have declared that they have a “moral obligation” to stay with the ship unless Shell Oil discontinues its oil drilling and exploration of the Arctic, which is obviously one of the last remaining untouched ecosystems on the planet.

As fearless and principled as the characters she portrayed in the film and fantasy world, Lawless (despite her surname) nails my vote as another woman with balls the size of ten of her male counterparts (in showbiz) combined.  (To see the video of her commitment to putting her body on the line for the environment, click here.)

Marie Colvin and Lucy Lawless.  For today and until futher notice, they are the best examples of why I sometimes wish I was as brave as a woman.  Mabuhay ang mga kababaihan!

Thanks for reading !

We have not forgotten

TAKING AWAY a beloved member from any family under violent and sudden circumstances is always traumatic.  It becomes even more painful when multiple members are taken away from us.  Which is why it was so cruel and unfair when exactly a year ago today, 11 cherished members of the Pinoy family were abruptly removed from our circle, their bright hopes and dreams dashed to pieces by the February 22nd Christchurch earthquake.

It is not for us to question the hows and whys of God‘s will.  Much more so when our 11 kabayan who perished were part of the greater number of 185 from different countries of the world that fateful day.  No less than New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who was among the first to condole with the shell-shocked families of the lost ones that day, observed that it was undoubtedly “New Zealand’s darkest day.”

What we can do is to make sense of the motive force that brought those 11 of our kayumanggi brothers and sisters to their appointment with eternity that day, the spirit behind their actions, and the dreams that live on despite their passing.

Without a doubt, our kabayan, who were practically all nurses who had finished hurdling their government licensure exams and had a year or two of practice under their belts, were in New Zealand to try their luck as medical practitioners in the potential-laden NZ environment.  It wasn’t so much the financial remuneration that attracted most of them, although the compensation was handsome; it was more likely the futures of the families they would bring there as permanent residents, once their status as permanent residents were sorted.

And the best way to start doing this was to pass an orientation course being taught at the CTV building in Christchurch CBD.  No one could’ve known that the earthquake that would visit that day and the weakened structure of the building from a previous tremor would combine to cut short lives just beginning, careers most promising.

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In Christchurch today, each of their names, among the 185, were called in a roll of honor by rescuers and firemen, the heroes of that day.  Two minutes of silence were observed in their memory, by a New Zealand that remembered those left us too soon.

Lalaine Agatep.  Mary Louise Ann Amantillo.  Emmabelle Anoba.  Valquin Bensurto.  Ivy Jane Cabunilas.  John Kristoffer Chua.  Jewel Francisco.  Jessie-Lloyd Redoble and Ezra Mae Medalle. Rhea Mae Sumalpong.  Erica Avir Reyes Nora.

**               **              **               **               **

The purpose of this little note is not to assign blame, nor to make others feel guilty for whatever part they played in the events of 22nd February 2011.  Life goes on in Christchurch, in New Zealand, even in the Philippines around the lives of those primarily affected by the earthquake of one year ago.

It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially from their loved ones, but if from the seeming senseless tragedy of the loss of lives we can draw both lessons and inspiration from their demise, then their sacrifice will not have been in vain.

The entire Filipino community in New Zealand, as well as all our kabayan back home, salute the Christchurch 11 for lives well lived.  Mabuhay kayong lahat !

bleeping your thought bubble every 7 secs

OUR VALEDICTORY year of 1982, Saint Jude Catholic School (SJCS) batch 82 was caught in a perfect storm of defining actor and unique moment.

Our hormones-gone-haywire and fascination with puberty was the unstoppable force that moved into the immovable object that was the set-in-stone policy of our Beloved Leader/s, principal Fr Peter Yang, to implement boys-only (and girls-only) classroom plans and chuck in the garbage the co-ed environment that had served SJCS’s students so well the previous dozen years.

Out the window went the soiree-like atmosphere that kept the inmates normal; preserving the reality that you grew up with members of the opposite sex (as well as yours); that you could eat, speak and act better and more sensibly if the fairer (or stronger) gender made you conscious; and finally that being around people other than those of the same sex prepared you to be a normal member of civilized society.  We were the convenient guinea pigs in a social experiment : separate the yins from the yangs, don the safety goggles, step back and see what happens.

Three decades later, no one’s the wiser, we can’t qualitatively or quantitatively determine if separating the boys from the girls did any of us a world of good, if teaching us the way they did in Ateneo, Xavier, Miriam, St. Scholastica’s or any of the other so-called “exclusive” schools made us more focused, less naughty, or less predisposed to fornication, which was (and remains) probably the prime directive of all Catholic schools and their downstream industries.

The only thing that remains crystal-clear from that senior year so many years ago was that, from Day One, with very few exceptions, in Section B ( of which Your Loyal Blogger was a member ) from 7.30 am morning prayers till 4.30 flag retreat, we joked about, thought about and of course, talked about sex and most everything related to it.

By sex I don’t mean graphic images of sex acts, pornographic material or obsessions with sexual dysfunctions, but how we perceived the forbidden world of sexuality and how soon we would enter it.  Some of us, obviously the ones who had matured sooner, had already entered such world and were naturally the sort-of authority on the matter.  Others, like me, were late bloomers who didn’t have a clue on why this or that was sprouting out of our bodies or why some “default settings” were springing to life whenever certain persons, images or memories were brought to our attention.

By the way, I’m talking about these things because I heard on one of the thousands of mass media outlets we’re desensitized to, the oft-repeated urban legend that men think about sex every seven seconds or that only :07 separates one sexual thought from the next in the average man’s brain.

While it’s not an outrageous stat, personally I think there are too many other things that occupy modern living for us men (incidentally, your crazy blogger happens to be a circle-and-arrow) for us to think of doing the nasty every-so-often.  A more revised number, around 19 times a day, seems a bit more plausible.

But back to our St Jude days.  We were a disparate and motley crew of neophytes to the world of the worldly, each one of us harboring a unique universe of preconceived ideas regarding sex. The only common ground among us was that each was insatiable in our thirst for knowledge about what was happening with our rapidly evolving hearts and minds (and other organs).  Well at least, that’s how I saw it.

On the one hand, you had classmate X, taller and bulkier than the rest, who knew almost everything that you needed to know as a man on the cusp of young adulthood.  Then there was comrade Y, who was brooding and thoughtful, but also athletic and creative, and so attracted admirers like ice-cold Coke attracted thirsty construction workers in the middle of the summer day.  Seatmate Zwas the wholesome boy-next-door and was humble as pie, but already had a pair of relationships under his belt, so he knew what he would be talking about every time he opened his mouth.  And then there were wide-eyed babes-in-the-woods like me who were just tagging along for the ride.

Every time a joke was cracked, a double entendre was uttered, or a popular girl’s name was mentioned, you would expect the usual gaggle of snickers, follow-up jokes or punches-in-the-arms to follow, but more than that, the discussions generated would likewise never end.  Why was the joke funny?  (if you have to ask…) Are they really an item now? (What planet have you been on?)  Or I get the joke, but can I repeat it to the girls or the folks?  (better not.)

All in all, it was a time for secret thoughts, forbidden jokes and hurried peeks at verboten pictures that we dared not think, laugh or stare at, but when you think about the mind and sense-numbing of our culture today, hardly elicit more than a chuckle or twinkle in the eye now.

It was the age of magical mystery, wonderment and discovery, when everything was new to the eye and hot to the touch, and not just the obvious enticements.  Higher knowledge, sophistication, financial independence and of course, sex or sexuality.  They were all part of the intensity of adolescent attention.  And depending on how we turned out as scientists, fashion gurus, captains of industry or oversexed suburban dads, the charter members of Batch 82, section 4B, the very first gender-separated SJCS class, are probably as OCD when it comes to their favorite distraction, as they were 30 years ago.  Seven seconds, far from being the new normal, is the old normal.

Thanks to all my 82 kabatch, especially 4-B, and thanks for reading !

Reblog : Who is Raissa Robles?

by Carolyn Esposo Espiritu
( the writer and the subject of the article are a boss and former colleague, a long long time ago!  The latter was recently involved not as deliverer of the impeachment news but part of the news herself.  Thanks for reading !)

I’ve known Raissa from way way back. She was a reporter for Business Day and subsequently, Business Star where I had been one of the editors.

In Business Day, there was a strict rule governing receiving favors from people who are –or potentially could be–subject of the news.

Our most eminent publisher Raul Locsin imposed a non-negotiable rule on this:  We will pay for the coffee, lunch or dinner of sources we interview.  We are not to ingratiate ourselves,  when offered cash,  we are to donate the cash to a named charity,  in the name of the company or government department where the giver of cash belongs.  In case the source is an intermediary or a mere representative,  this will also expose his dishonesty in case the un-receipted amount he or she gave the reporter or reporters  is less than what he declared to his superiors.

When Business Day closed, we both became part of the pioneering staff of the now defunct Business Star where I was Chief of Reporters.  Thanks to our also eminent publisher Gaby Manalac,  we were encouraged to continue the practice of  ethical journalism.  We also hired mostly fresh graduates and journalists with proven professional probity.  We encouraged independent coverage as against pack reporting which was the norm then as it is to a certain extent, now.

Having free rein to cover the news brought out the best in Raissa.  She got the big stories and despite our limited circulation, she did earn the awe and respect of the business community on the one hand and the anger and spite of those exposed for wrongdoing.

Raissa is the scholastic type, always circumspect and even  self-effacing.  She has always been very passionate and serious about  her craft and her profession.  She always lived within her means, was never conscious about being trendy.  She shares a love for good food with husband Alan and had once put up a restaurant called “Bakers St.” along Mabini  where she made me sample her specialty “Hungarian Goulash“.

But even if she loves good food, don’t get ideas.  I invited her once, long time ago,  with client IBM for a friendly  lunch and she insisted on paying for her share.  But she did not have a credit card and the restaurant did not accept payment by ATM card so she had to go out of the building to withdraw the money.

Raissa reminds me of what a mentor once told me.  Quoting Joseph Pulitzer, he said “Newspapers should have no friends.”

Even I will hesitate to call Raissa my “friend”–at least not when she is practicing journalism.  I think our good “friend” Bobi Tiglao knows that too well….

Raissa, I am so proud of you!

Thanks for reading !

Valentine’s Day lessons not found in Wikipedia, Google or YouTube

Dear Ganda & Bunso :

I start this letter the same way I’ll end it : someday you’ll thank me for this.

I don’t know why I waited till Valentine’s Day to tell you all these.  Every parent should tell the sum total of their experiences in love to their children, not just so they’ll be spared the embarrassment of repeating the same mistakes, but also that the folks will be spared the awkwardness of not knowing what to say or do when an oh-so-wrong BF / GF is introduced by their kids to them.  In short, this is for me as much as it is for you, tongue-in-cheek.

Ninety percent of the things I will tell you here, I learned as the direct result of my experiences with love, infatuation or any other intense attraction for anyone other than myself.  Did I say ninety percent?  I meant three-quarters.  (Last chance, Papa.)  OK, at least half of these golden nuggets of advice I learned from my own quests for love :

If you have a crush and change it monthly, weekly or even daily, don’t fret.  That’s why they’re called crushes.  You’re meant to be crushed because of an infatuation that runs its natural course.  You will always, always survive.

Nine times out of ten when a guy says to you I love you he’s just fishing.  He’ll probably be more surprised than you if you respond anywhere approaching positively.  (Obviously that was for Ganda).  For Bunso, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.  The person you say I love you to might be the one in ten who’ll respond positively.  Woo-hoo!

Not all the pretty girls get the best guys, and even the nerdiest geeks can and will get the pretty girl.  Oftentimes being lucky in love means being in the right place, being persistent enough, excellent timing, and choosing your battles.  Ganda, you will know in your heart if the guy means what he says, and Bunso, you will know in your heart if the girl you’re eyeing is really for you.  But you have to try, and you have to keep trying.

There is no shame in giving love a shot, finding out he/she isn’t the right fit, and trying all over again.  Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  Extending that:  better to take it one day at a time than believing that you’ll fall head over heels in love.  That kind of love is a bit risky, and you can end up biting off more than you can chew.

They’re a bit rarer these days, but take time to pick out the gentlemen over everybody else, they’re the ones raised well by their folks, and more often than not will do the right thing over the popular thing.  If old-fashioned means being modest and soft-spoken, polite and respectful to elders, then an old-fashioned girl beats cool and outspoken any day in my book, Bunso.

Don’t be guilty to be physically attracted to potential boyfriends / girlfriends who’re good-looking and gorgeous, because that’s the preliminary consideration you need before determining qualities that lie within.  Let’s face it, you have at the outset no other features to assess before selecting from candidates that you’ll share the time of day with.  So literally, you have to take him/her at “face value.”

There may or may not be love at first sight, often it is really an intense attraction that needs to be tested by time.  However, one of the greater delusions is believing in the existence of one true love.  Not only does genuine love between committed partners take a lifetime to develop, it needs constant work and renewal to outlast all obstacles.

Love is the one thing on this earth that cannot be bought, yet at the same time gives you both the greatest joy and profoundest sorrow.  So it makes sense that it will take a lot out of you, more than anything that you have prepared for.  The irony is that Love is also something you cannot prepare yourself for, because by being yourself, you are ready as you’ll ever be.  By removing all your preconceived notions, by not taking yourself too seriously, and above all, by being interested in persons as persons (and not as polished shells of themselves) you’ll be, as Hillary Clinton says, ready from day one.

Like I started this earlier : Even before that someday comes, you’re very welcome.

I miss you both terribly, kaawaan kayo lagi ng Diyos.

And oh, happy Valentine’s Day!

Love you very much, Papa

PS.  Kuya already has more girlfriends than I ever had, if you’re asking why I’m not writing this to him as well.  Don’t worry about him. 🙂

Whitney Elizabeth Houston : Aug 9 1963 – Forever

Oh, if only she could've taken care of her One Moment in Time 😥

I’M SORRY to be posting three blogs (with one repost) within 48 hours, that’s quite chatty even for me, but I was feeling like not all was right with the day even before the depressing news.  I usually jump out of bed on a day off, with so many non-chorelike things to do like a leisurely breakfast or browsing through library books.  But I wallowed in bed till nine, coffee, cereal and last night’s leftovers tasted like blah, and even the sunshine didn’t agree with me.  How wrong is that?

I found out why later when the depressing news filtered over FM and talk radio, when Whitney Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hills Hilton, dead at 48.  No other details were given (at the time) by internet.

I know Whitney’s been an influence in my/our cultural life.  I can name five songs off the top of my head without flinching, The Greatest Love of All, I Have Nothing, I Will Always Love You, All At Once, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (or something like that, those are the lyrics that jump out of the chorus),  and given my short- and long-term memory diarrhea, my ADHD and premature dementia, that is quite a feat for me.  I can probably name a few more if you gave me a few more minutes.

With Pinoys, she’s a beloved favorite, combining her unerring talent with beautiful arrangements and made-for-karaoke standards, influencing a generation of supersingers both at home and internationally.  Name the top three idols of any belter of our current crop of singers and likelier than not they’ll tell you Whitney’s in their top three.

Impromptu karaoke get-togethers, inuman, reunions, sing-along contests, Whitney was always part of the occasion, either in a sing-along CD or as a perennial request in your MagicSing, Mediacom or whatever videoke contraption you favored.

She made the beautiful ordinary, the sublime commonplace.  It was a common joke among professional singers that Whitney always had to sing an octave higher than everyone else, the high note over the simple note, she always had to set the bar higher everytime she sang.  She made everyone else look bad, just by being her super self.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of her life is also the greatest lesson she can impart :  I won’t dwell on the messy details of the later part of her biography, the bio-films and the tell-all unauthorized stories can do that.  I do know that with all her great, great talent and born-for greatness gifts, it went to naught because of substance abuse and too much devotion to pleasure.

Still, the irony of her existence is that it was cut short, and yet her music will live on after all of us have passed away into dust as well.  Because of the magic of technology and eternal music, her voice will fill discoes, dance halls, stereos, iPods and CD players hundreds of years from now.

Of no little significance as well for your crazy blogger is the fact that Whitney met her Maker at 48, an age I will reach a year from now.  If anyone represented my generation, with all its joys and follies, triumphs and tragedies, talents and blunders, that person, better than most people, would be Whitney Houston.

Thanks for the 170 million albums, CDs and videos Whitney.  Your music will live on forever.

Thanks for reading !

Pleasure delayed = pleasure magnified : things better done back home

THERE ARE easier ways to discover you have no easy way of recovering lost teeth, but for sheer drama and mindlessness, almost nothing beats biking down a footpath at roughly 70 degrees with balding brakepads, finding a pedestrian in your way probably three seconds before impact, involuntarily bailing out of your bike, and using your mouth to break your fall.

The result was losing one tooth and chipping another, and more than the trauma and shock of losing close friends in such a violent way, I simply had no idea how expensive getting back my teeth (or their replacements) was going to be.  The dentures were costly enough, costing around $750, but the same dentist who created them told me that with a generous subsidy from Accident Compensation Corporation, I could enjoy titanium implants that would certainly outlast my fossilized bones.  I almost went for it, if I hadn’t read the initial quotation that totaled $6000 requiring only half, or three big ones, as my participation.  So much for the generous subsidy.

My tradesman’s wages and very modest side income (zero) couldn’t accommodate that; come to think of it, any dental work done here for a non-permanent resident will cost you an arm and a leg (figuratively), and so the next trip home would have to be devoted to extensive denture work, landscaping for the rest of my remaining teeth, and urban planning to reconstitute a dazzling smile.

That’s my little self-help lesson to new NZ migrants but especially to guest workers, work visa holders and other accidental migrants like me.   There are certain things that although available here are a bit pricey because of the premium placed on fees and professional services and wages.  You can’t complain because it’s precisely the regime of decent wages that brought you to the First World diba?

Buying specs of Sir Elton, Cee Lo Green or Gok Wan.  Another near-essential that we would do well to sort out before getting here is your spectacles, and whether you use the generic kind or favor the Armani, Gucci or YSL frames, it’s much better to have them done at home.  Because the market is so much bigger in the Philippines, a lot more optical shops compete for your myopic peso and the prices are definitely friendlier.  Here, just to have your eyes examined may cost $60, the actual preparation of the corrective lens between $100 to $200, and we haven’t even discussed the kind of frames you fancy, which may cost as much as your week’s pay to a month’s pay, depending on your work.

Back home, if you want the bargain basement discount badly enough, meaning you’re willing to scrounge around in musty antediluvian shops in Recto, Raon and elsewhere in Manila‘s Old Quarter (forget about Makati or Ortigas Center), you can get a decent pair of glasses, tests done, frames and lens all for P1,000 tops, decent meaning you get a razor-sharp prescription eyewear that makes you look semi-hot to the opposite sex without alienating the geeky nerdy.  And how cheap is that?  We all know that P1000 won’t buy you a fancy lunch anywhere in White Man’s Land.

Non-urgent / cosmetic procedures.  By non-urgent I mean non-life threatening, slightly inconvenient procedures you’re willing to join the queue for (where the state underwrites all health care) but for which you’re not willing to shell out too much money, especially if it’s otherwise free.  I refer to a hodgepodge of procedures, anything from cataract removal, hip replacement, wart removal, etc.  But nowadays non-urgent is frequently code for cosmetic procedures, and who can blame you for wanting such?   You’ve reached that stage in life when you can financially afford them, and aesthetically can’t afford not to use them, PERIOD.

I’m talking about major derma work done, permanent eyelashes and eyebrows, nose jobs, boob jobs (yes, not shocking anymore), tummy tucks and other facial recontouring, body resculpting that Modern Man (and particularly Modern Woman) now  undergo without a second thought.    Given the buyer’s market and comfort / conveniences available back home ( family support system, less stressful recovery and more affordable / accessible professional services ), that makeover you’ve been contemplating is a perfect complement to a balikbayan junket to meet long-lost friends and cherished contemporaries of yesteryear, all the better to reinvent yourself figuratively and literally.

Miscellaneous.  Watches cleaned, your indigenous condiments, jewelry polished, Pinoy DVDs, hobby supplies, sexy wardrobe replenished (Asian sizes not always available in NZ), but for the accident of geography and DNA, these details and items would not be terribly interesting to anyone, but because they matter to us, we want our Tag Heuer watch in superefficient, sparkling condition, our kare-kare paste and ginisa mix at our fingertips, Swarovski bracelet as clean as it was before the box was opened, watching as many scenes possible of KC and Piolo before the Big Reveal, and kinky sleepwear just the way we want them.  And you know that as regards acquiring all these goodies, there’s no place like home, where we know exactly where to shop for them and who to buy them from.

From what we’ve heard, delaying all these pleasures until we get home makes the gratification all the more worthwhile.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a first time migrant, a temporary expat, or going home for the first time in years and years.  Stretch that OFW dollar and spend it patriotically in the Motherland.

Thanks for reading !

JS prom Noel vs silver reunion Noel : random notes & worn-out throats

advance happy valentines to all lovers and those in love; happy birthdays to Sammy Ngu (5th Feb), Catherine Lim (9th Feb) and Lucy Linda Lee (11th Feb) !

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS ago, I became a family man for the first time.  Picked up a little work ethic and accepted some responsibility as both dad and head of a young family.  Like a rolling stone I acquired a few habits both good and bad but on the balance I learned to be a well-oiled cog in the giant wheel of human society.

Since then the kids have become adults themselves, I’ve grown quite a few liver spots and wrinkles, but all things considered, I’ve held up quite well.

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Just last night as I had a bit trouble getting to Dreamland, I wondered when was the last time I struggled with mild insomnia, and since I had some time on my hands, realized that it had been years and years.  For some reason I’ve had no problem with sleeping unless I’m going through stressful times, and from this I started to think of other things that I hadn’t experienced for some time besides insomnolence and came up with the list below. They’re not grouped into any area of interest, not as well thought-out as I might want, off the top of my head actually.

Pig out and not feel anything afterwards.  Of course you can still eat a tub of ice cream, sprinkle bagoong liberally all over your kare-kare or ask for gooey pork sinigang filled with gabi and blubber, but the chances of your BP, cholesterol and resting heart rate raising the roof the next day?  Bet on it.  I remember polishing off five (5) plates of rice between breaths and picking (and sucking) bulalo to the bone, inhaling donuts the way Bill Clinton did and munching giant chocolate bars after their expiry date, without even the afterthought of a burp.

These days, after a lipid-filled weekend, esposa hermosa makes sure I comply with a menu that goes essentially this way : raisin bran cereal + honey oatmeal mix = (arggg) breakfast, banana and coffee for (awful) lunch, and raw salmon sushi and seaweed salad for (omg, but at least it’s free from her workplace) dinner.  That’s just for Monday, and if I’ve been particularly reckless with my bacchanalia, there’s more insane diets planned for the rest of the week, and I pray she’s exhausted enough to turn in before me (unlikely) so I can attack my chichirya stash; I have no choice given my restive bulati.  Given my delicate age and family history, EH has no choice, fitness isn’t only a trim waist and well-oiled joints but freedom from hypertension, arthritis and diabetes in our health-paranoid world.  I have little choice but to agree with her impregnable, ruthless and time-tested logic.

Smoke like a chimney, drink like a fish and not worry about tomorrow.  It sounds scarily common sensical, but those chainsmokers and alcoholics actually made sense at the time : You’re gonna die anyway, so why not die doing what you like, which was inhaling a thousand poisonous chemicals straight into your lungs and bloodstream, or killing off irreplaceable brain cells via Markang Demonyo?

The flaw in the argument which these same philosophies discovered too late was that you did die young, but courtesy of a ugly, painful death that ate away your innards and strangled you with exquisite slowness.  My epiphany came after two-plus decades of smoking when I saw enough of male relatives succumbing to COPD, cancer, emphysema or a combination of all three.  Alcoholics suffered the added indignity of being a burden to their loved ones as incoherent, imcomprehensible and forgetful before their time.  The irony of these fatal diseases was that after some time, you no longer cared that you wasted your life, because ending it all would be a welcome relief.

I’m lucky in two respects : I didn’t have the alcoholism gene so I couldn’t tolerate alcohol long enough to soak myself in the stuff.  When you think about it long enough, after shrugging off the non-macho references, intolerance is actually a blessing in disguise.  Re smoking, two weeks of cold turkey and the sin tax pushing the pack price to NZ$11 (no tingi in NZ) was enough to get the tobacco monkey off my back in 2007, and I have reaped the rewards since.

So many more wonders of wasted youth that you can’t replicate today, and for your survival and peaceful existence, it’s probably just as well.  I can’t say I’m wiser after 25 years of trial-and-error, but the fact that I’m alive and well, in full control of my mental and physical faculties and none the worse for wear is cause for rejoicing, and counting my lucky stars.

Thanks for reading !


Why Chichi Abadingo is my favorite Kinoy*

honor and glory to Senyor Sto Nino, the Child Jesus, photo taken by John Vincent P. Villanueva 🙂

[Note : Please excuse our scattered thoughts today.  Happy birthdays to Wilson Lu and Jannette Yu Lit – Tan (5th Feb) ! ]

ASSEMBLING SEVEN THOUSAND-plus attendees anywhere in New Zealand for a non-rugby, non- top draw concert is a challenge.  Even A-League Wellington Phoenix soccer, NZ‘s only professional team, hardly manage that as an average, so generating a robust 7000 for any excuse better be a good one.

And it IS a good one, at least for the religious of the Filipino community here in NZ, as devotees of Senyor Sto. Nino or the Child Jesus filled the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland last January 15th.  For our favorite Kinoy today, she would like to believe that each one of these 7000+ souls has a personal relationship with the Almighty, represented by Senyor Sto Nino.

It is that conviction that fuels her commitment to Sinulog NZ, which is arguably the most energetic, organized and emotional Filipino-themed annual event in New Zealand today.  On paper she is the stalwart Communications Officer of NZ Sinulog, responsible for fielding communications, messages and statements extrinsic and intrinsic to the Sinulog effort, but in reality she is one of the totally committed personalities steering and helming the giant effort.

She will also be the first to disabuse you of this notion, pointing to the collective energies of the laity, the laymen (and women), ops volunteers, performers and everyone else who makes Sinulog a religious, socio-civic and community success.

Like many of her co-devotees in the Sinulog committee, Chichi is involved in every aspect of the event, from Day One to the Feast Day, which is the third Sunday of every January. Planning, organizing, fund raising, recruitment of volunteers and making sure that the 45 Pinoy community groups across New Zealand are aware of their jobs and do it when and where it’s needed.  Chichi and Co. draft, fine-tune and recheck a massive checklist just to make sure every detail is executed without a hitch and the sum total of all efforts is converted into an event that the entire Pinoy community, Catholic or not, can be proud of.

Fittingly, this story starts and ends with an emphasis on a personal relationship with God.  Chichi wouldn’t have it any other way, because it is the same relationship she enjoys that is the basis for all the work she has done for Sinulog NZ.  It has been there even before the 18 years the Sto Nino fiesta has been celebrated in New Zealand, back to the time she was a little girl in Bohol and part of a family blessed with a lifelong devotion to the Sto Nino.

As long as there is a Pinoy community in NZ to serve, her spirit of service will never die.  That kabayan is why Chichi Abadingo is my favorite Kinoy !

Thanks for reading !


PS. For an up-close-and-personal view on Chichi’s apostolate, pls visit http://santonino-nz.org/2012/01/01/pagsaulog-sa-pagtu-o-a-celebration-of-faith/, thanks!

*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand.