Quittable 2013 : a Pinoy’s random thoughts on smoking



[Note : Not proud of it but it’s the proper thing to say : I sincerely apologize to both Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion (publisher) and Ms Meia Lopez (editor) for letting them down the latest issue of the Wellington Pinoy newsmagazine Kabayan, I offer no excuses and humbly ask for forgiveness.  Hope that in time you can forgive me.  It’s been a great week for the anakis:  Panganay‘s hard work as a world-class Wellington film extra has paid off so well that one or even more of his scenes might actually end up (one as a villager, another as an orc) in part 2 of The Hobbit trilogy (premiering in 2 weeks!), Ganda‘s dream of rebooting her aborted tertiary studies has been given hope by the University of Victoria here, and Bunso is fast becoming one of the more accomplished baristas on Wellington’s Golden Mile!  Our fatherly heart is understandably bursting with pride, thanks in advance for the kudos!  By the by, I do a blog like this once a year on the anniversary of my quitsmoking date, and inasmuch as one of my anakis is a smoker, if this can reach that particular offspring, this post will have been well worth the effort, woohoohoo!  Thanks to Nathan P and the Curtis family for the Bryan Curtis video above! ]

More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined… Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. – US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

IS ANYONE still not familiar with the saying Do as I say, not as I do?  Well, anyone who has kids, younger siblings and younger relatives especially in the Philippines will know that this particular bit of wisdom rings so true with regard to one of the greatest health and social evils known to Man, tobacco smoking.

If I received fifty centavos for everytime I heard my folks and elders saying masama ang manigarilyo, huwag tutunan magbisyo (smoking is bad, don’t start a vice), I would have probably retired before 40 and sipping pinacoladas by now.  But because life must be lived through stupidity as well as wisdom, it wouldn’t surprise you too much to know that the more my parents sought to prevent me from trying things, the more I wanted to try them.  Go figure.

But if you were a 7 or 8 year old like me (then) and looked around you, wouldn’t you have done the same?  Dad himself was then a chain smoker, unable to perform his daily functions without a smoke (2+ packs) and both starting and ending the day with a ciggie.  My two older brothers, who were naturally my first role models, were stealing smokes in the backyard and sticks from Dad’s packs in their early teens.  It seemed that for all the opprobrium attached to smoking and blowing that smoke in people’s faces, it was, behind everyone’s backs, the cool thing to do.  All the cool people were doing it, you could see it on ads and on TV, and the “bad boys” and “naughty girls”, don’t you deny it, were doing it!  So for me, while the angel on my right shoulder kept tsk tsking whenever I stared at smokers, the horny dude with a pitchfork on my left just snickered mwahahaha Noel, it’s just a matter of time before you start puffing away.

And light up I did, after high school at around 18 although the first crowd I hung out with in college were exclusive school geeks like me and never even tried smoking.  Unfortunately the next crowd all lit up before and after classes, and even tolerant professors allowed smoking in class.  So it quickly became a way of life for me, in permissive, bohemian Diliman, where even cannabis smoking wasn’t that unusual, as long as you knew where to smoke it, and believe me, in campus, there were lots of places to suck on those funny cigarets.

Even Dad’s short bout with a lung infection mid 1970s didn’t deter me, or my two elder brothers who were already moderate to heavy smokers.  All-too-expectedly, since I was young, fit and healthy, it necessarily followed that I’m bulletproof, and nothing, not even all the health and mortality statistics, my hacking cough, black sputum-congested throat in the morning and that repulsive dragon breath would make me stop, for another 24 years.  By then Dad made a complete turnaround, became a strict anti-tobacco reformist, much to our chagrin.  Everything even remotely connected to smoking, ashtrays, the slightest smell or hint of tobacco smoke, was all but banished, for good reason, from our household.

After I got married, when the stress of family, work and sedentary living creeped in, smoking became an inevitable crutch and my one reliable friend.  All the rationalizations were there : I need it to deal with all the stressors in life; I don’t have any other vices; can’t I have just one outlet for my hard work?  and all other nonsense that ultimately wilted against the fact that I had burned out struggling alveoli and was slowly strangling the remaining healthy lung cells I had.

***               ***               ***                ***                ***

It wasn’t any epiphany that allowed me to confront and slay my tobacco smoking, fire-breathing dragon in 2007, despite the fact that  I was a wheezing, overweight and pasty-faced Pinoy attempting to stay in New Zealand.

It was rather a combination of several reasons that made me to decide to just stop cold turkey : the $11 to $12 cost per 20-pack of cigs was something I could ill afford; my sister-in-law wasn’t saying it out loud, but she didn’t approve of smoking in their house, where I was staying until I could rent a flat of my own; and at 42, I thought that the time was right to stop smoking, after nearly a quarter century of playing Russian roulette with my lungs.

Literally, however, you need just one reason to quit smoking : to continue living, and continue living a healthy life, at that.

Because of Divine Assistance, exercise that helped keep the withdrawal jitters away, and the cold realization that an early death would prevent me from seeing my children grow up with families of their own, I have kept away from, and have in fact been tobacco free for the last six years, the sixth anniversary falling last 17th November.

I would be less than completely truthful if I didn’t admit to you, kabayan and friends, that I’m not completely free from smoking, mentally that is.  Not a day goes by without me thinking of smoking.  Every time I see a person or persons smoke, I imagine smoking myself, especially after a full meal, when imbibing alcohol, and all those other activities you associate with smoking.

The reason for this is that there is a cocktail of powerful drugs released in every hit of tobacco smoke that goes directly into your bloodstream from your lungs and straight into your brain.  These drugs cause your brain to produce dopamine, which is closely associated with the body’s pleasureable feelings and sensations.  There is no denying it : six years after quitting, I still can’t deny that smoking gave me pleasure.  It’s just the health and social costs that has made me stop.  THAT’s how powerful smoking is.

There is no magic formula to quitting smoking.  The two pieces of advice from this lucky quitter : seek professional help if you can’t stop cold turkey, and better to not start at all.  It’s that simple.

Please spare a thought to quitting today.  Too many people have died, or are now dying from smoking for you not to.

Thanks for reading!

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three things that drive foreigners crazy bout us pinoys


[Note : if there’s one thing I’ve learned the past two weeks, it’s that fatigue and blogging don’t go along well.  thanks very much tugang Aline Parrone for the video above, Waray-waray is a popular folk tune that originated in Tacloban and the rest of Eastern Visayas region.  Waray is also the common term for the ethnic group in the region.  Let’s continue praying for both the living and the dead there.  thanks Kevin Ayson for the video below! Mabuhay po! ]

I HAVE excellent sources for this blog post’s research : word-of-mouth, urban legend, and tall tales.  Seriously, tidbits and morsels of anecdotes here and there are probably the only thing/s I can share with you, given that everything else is already on the internet, that I’m relatively so isolated from both homeland, family and friends, and finally that my life and schedule are governed by my hours at work (not that I’m complaining).

But you and I have seen on the world stage how the international community has reacted to the death and destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan : an outpouring of love and generosity, in both aid and effort, from nearly every country on the face of God’s Earth.  You and I know the reason/s for this.  the unshakeable spirit of humanity and the fact that this was probably the strongest storm (on record) to ever hit land.

Last but not least, I have to believe that the groundswell of altruism also has to do with the fact that Pinoys are so visible on the world stage, whether as skilled workers or tradesmen, artists, performers and athletes, or what have you.  We can count ourselves as one of the most charming, visible and engaging people on earth, and that’s not just because I’m a Pinoy.  You can see it everywhere.

But like anyone else, we’re not perfect.  Here are some things our foreign brothers and sisters (foreigner is actually a rude term, when I am in NZ the word is never used on me, it’s always guest or visitor) find simply inexplicable about us, given the general positivity we generate :

we smell and look like roses, but live in generally dirty surroundings.  This is one of the most hurtful comments I’ve heard, but it’s true.  A Scottish prosthetics specialist I know told me once, how can you observe such good hygiene, yet live next to a dead, polluted river?  How can you dress so immaculately, yet walk casually among rubbish and filth?  At first I took offense, but I realized that it was true.  We do pay scant regard to how our rubbish and waste are collected.  We do see our countrymen spit and urinate everywhere.  And yes, we do live in an environment of dead rivers, streams and lakes, for so long now that it looks like it hardly matters to us.  (And does it, really?),

It looks like an incongruity because Filipinos in general are so clean and neat in their appearance, we bathe and take showers like water was running out tomorrow, and use perfume and colognes liberally, no matter what our station in life is.  If we showed half the concern we do on ourselves as we do our environment, how different it might be for the health of our  environment.

we are politically correct when it comes to recognizing women, but not among the poorest of our poor.  Ahead of the US and some older democracies we have had our first lady president, Supreme Court chief justice and senior lawmakers, we honor and lionize our beauty queens for leadership roles, and give prominence to the role of women and society.  All very good.  But we don’t bat an eyelash when our kababaihan are forced by poverty and hardship to prostitute themselves at home and abroad, turn our heads away to the willing (and unwilling) exploitation of our women on the internet, and shrug our collective shoulders when Pinay workers get a raw deal abroad.

We pay lip service and say the right things when it comes to recognizing our countrywomen, but accept it as a fact of life when women are objectified and become victims of white slavery wherever criminals and unscrupulous governments take advantage of our women.  It’s almost become a curse.  Our Filipinas are among the most beautiful in the world, defer to male elders and menfolk by force of tradition, and are taught early in life that it’s better to be seen and not heard.  Because of these perceived virtues, our sisters are preyed upon by those who earn blood money in the flesh trade.  And you know what they say : all that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.  I can just hear commonsense asking: Is there a shortage of good men in the Philippines?

Groundhog day.  we experience a dozen plus typhoons every year, a dozen plus major and minor earthquakes in the same period, and a couple of volcanic eruptions every now and then.  But we still scramble to save lives, property and reduce suffering everytime the wrath of God comes in various shapes and forms.  It’s like a foreigner saying, you know what’s gonna happen, you know what it’s gonna do when it happens, and you know what to do to avoid it, so why don’t you do it???

Granted what happened in the Visayas region was beyond the anticipation of even the most prudent government effort, but given our experience with such similar and parallel events, I can’t help but wonder if more lives couldn’t be saved.  It is so much water under the bridge, sumalangit nawa ang mga kaluluwa ng ating mga kabayan, but if Haiyan doesn’t change the way we face disasters and relief efforts, I guess nothing will.

As mentioned earlier, this is all a simplistic compilation on how people overseas see us.  Whether or not it helps, it’s just food for thought.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas, and thanks for reading!

why does it hurt so much to lose? (or why the pinoy is lovingly pikon)


Team NZ and Team USA, tough competitors of the America's Cup

Team NZ and Team USA, tough competitors of the America’s Cup

[We’ve been through a particularly stressful time, and hope that if there’s at least one person out there who’s been waiting for us, you’ve been patient enough, and thanks for waiting.  Woohoo! ]

IT’S ALRIGHT to talk about it now, but I was in a sorry, sorry funk the first few days.  Towards the deafening anti-climax, you fought the good fight and hoped against hope, but deep down you knew the game was already lost .  It was verily a living nightmare that built upon itself, collapsed upon itself and both obliterated and extinguished my brightest hopes and laughed in my face when I dared to dream my fondest dream.  Now, multiply this very personal nightmare by about four million, and you begin to approximate an idea of what I’m talking about.

What the eff are you talking about kabayan Noel?  I can hear you say.  I’m just  relating to you the humongous meltdown experienced by Team New Zealand after leading Team USA’s Oracle 8-2 (first to win nine races would’ve won) to last week lose what was painfully within reach, the America’s Cup.

In boat racing, the America’s Cup is like the NBA’s World Championship, Major League Baseball’s World Series, the four tennis majors and golf’s four majors melted into one.  It was a sublime, transcendent win for the Americans in what is almost undoubtedly the greatest comeback in all of sports.  But to the losers it was a tragedy that is hard to accept, much less live down.

It’s too painful to recount to you how Team NZ lost their mojo after racing through seven of the first eight races effortlessly as if they were destined to win.  It’s still inexplicable how after the Kiwis looked like they could do no wrong, suddenly smashed into windy conditions and made error after error.  It didn’t help that people were already talking about the huge economic impact to Auckland where the next America’s  Cup would be held, as soon as Team New Zealand won.

That was the key phrase.  As soon as.  Meaning, Team NZ hadn’t won yet.  And they haven’t, two weeks later.

I noticed that it wasn’t so much the fact that America won the America’s Cup (it is after all named after them) but the fact that New Zealand, my temporary adopted country, lost.  I realized that in many many occasions where I am an active partisan and an active spectator, almost like a stakeholder in the fortunes of my favored team, what hurts more than the other winning is my team’s losing.  The only thing I can’t stand more than NOT WINNING is LOSING.  I know each outcome is synonymous with the other, but it makes a world of difference if you take your partisanship seriously.  Particularly if the team you’re losing to is a worthy victor.  Crazy, right?  But more often than not, it makes sense.

When I was a high school student and a PBA fanatic more than a few years ago, I was usually in the minority whenever I rooted for my  beloved Toyota Tamaraws (which became the Toyota Super Corollas).  I didn’t mind my team being upset  occasionally by lesser teams like U-tex Wranglers or Royal Tru-Orange but whenever there was a matchup with arch-rival Crispa Redmanizers, I was all wound up not by the thought of thrashing the hated first five of Co, Fabiosa, Hubalde, Cezar and Guidaben but by being outcoached by the master tactician, Baby Dalupan.  It was not quite the ideal, but I was actually rooting for my team to not lose, instead of winning.

I found that I was not alone in my particular brand of not-losing-is-better-than-winning.  It was alright for my UP Fighting Maroons not to win, we were in fact never expected to challenge for the UAAP title year after year (except that golden moment in ’86 when Benjie Paras & Co. won it all).  As long as first, we didn’t end up the doormat, and two, we didn’t lost to particular teams like Ateneo (our neighbor in Diliman), UST (for some reason we hated them) and co-cellar dweller NU, who is not so weak now.

I notice that as long as we don’t lose to regional rivals Taiwan and Korea in basketball, no campaign is too miserable.  But most of all, it’s the fact that if ever we lose, we don’t want to lose badly, we don’t want to be embarrassed when we lose, and again, we don’t want to lose to certain teams that make losing a double-jeopardy thing.  You lose, and you lose to someone you dislike.

Did you ever notice that we Pinoys tend to excel in certain sports to the exclusion of a whole lot of others?  Remember the time when Pinoys were known to be great, the world over, in sports that began only with the letter “B”?  Of course it’s not true, but we certainly have a surplus of great billiards and basketball players that can compete among the world’s best, anytime and anyplace.  And I don’t need to tell you how we punch above our weight, literally, in nearly all boxing divisions save for the heaviest ones.  Reason?  We are physically talented in those sports.  Because we won’t stand a chance in many other events, we’d rather not compete.

It’s unfair, but I think that’s the reality.  For a country with athleticism and physical intensity such as ours, have you ever wondered why we’ve never won a gold medal in the Olympics?  It may be hare-brained for me to say so, but it’s probably because we have preconditioned ourselves into thinking we’ll never be world-class in sports where we traditionally don’t do well.  So there’s no concerted effort to develop our grassroots sports in those areas.  Kesa mapikon lang tayo at masaktan, huwag na lang.

One last anecdote.  We Pinoys are pikon (sore losers), although we don’t openly admit it.  (the Kiwis are the reverse; they are good losers but love their country too much to admit that other countries send better teams.)  The only time we admit we are pikon is when first, our numbers are so strong the other side can’t be pikon and fight back; and when, while being pikon, we can still make fun of ourselves.

And for it’s for this reason that Barangay Ginebra, eternal inhabitants of the PBA arena, will always exist.

thanks for reading!

videos that make my day (& hopefully yours)


IT’S BEEN quite a while since I bugged you, and anytime that happens I’m a little guilty.  Bugging you through my bloggy posts has been such a part of my schedule that when a situation like now intervenes, as in, lack of time and my laziness conspire to prevent me from saying anything more than a few paragraphs, I feel rather incomplete.

Instead, may i just share with you a few videos I’ve seen here and there that make me (1) marvel at the beauty of life and living; (2) so thankful of where I am now  at this point in my life; and (3) make me proud to be a Pinoy, no matter what happens?  You may have already seen one, two or all of them, but still and just in case, here they are.  No commentary planned (but you never know) :

(2


if the video doesn’t grab you, give it a minute or two.  We are so lucky with our fitness and health that we inevitably take it for granted.  We need to be inspired, ironically enough, by those who are “special” and need to go above and beyond the usual effort just to be taken seriously.  Galing-galing, diba?

Who sez Pinoys are the only ones good in creating tearjerker ads?  I don’t know who the advertiser here is, and what product or service they sell, but if you don’t shed a tear after watching this ad, you’ve got a heart of stone. 😉

And lastly…

I confess I hadn’t heard of  the group Blake, or their concerts back home, but I’m sure that after doing THAT (pointing above), they’ve earned thousands of adoring fans in the Philippines!

thanks for reading (and watching)!  Thanks and acknowledgment too to the YouTube posters!

ganito kasi yon : more awkward situations pinoys confront everyday


[ Note :  The video above has nothing to do with the post, just touched me in a very positive way. here’s hoping the pain and misery following the massive floods back home is minimized, and that a sea change on our pork barrel culture starts to happen.  Yeah, right.  Btw, “ganito kasi yon” is Tagalog loosely for this is the short explanation.  Thanks for reading! ]

CALL US A lot of things, but don’t call us Pinoys (also known as Filipinos) anti-social.  We smile and laugh easily, engage with other people like it’s second nature to us, are great listeners, and can easily wriggle out of a potentially embarrassing situation via diplomacy or tact.

But more than all these, Pinoys are good talkers.  We love to show our facility in English to fellow English speakers (maybe sometimes too vigorously), love to show how we can discuss government and politics, even if we sometimes don’t have the slightest idea of what we’re talking about, and even use the smallest excuse to show off our familiarity with international showbiz, cable entertainment and even socially relevant issues where our region is concerned.

Trouble is, no matter how sociable we are, how cosmopolitan or how well we pass ourselves off as citizens of the world, there will always be aspects of our culture that will remain imprinted on our collective selves.  Conversely, there will be aspects of other cultures that will grate on us, simply because, like the proverbial fingerprint, no two cultures are alike, although on surface we may seem similar.  Whenever we confront face-to-face other cultures, there will be an inevitable clash, and it will be folly for us to compare these cultures with our own.   At the same time,  when these cultures try to compare ours to them, it takes every bit of our strength not to react negatively and instead tell them, live and let live.

Below are just a few examples of how these awkward situations surface whenever different cultures clash.   They are not theoretical or abstract  scenarios but actual vignettes of what happens when what we consider questionable (or sometimes disgusting) happens to be completely acceptable in other cultures.  And vice versa.

it's just more fun ! :)

it’s just more fun ! 🙂

Unwashed hair.  Let’s talk about our hosts first.  Because it’s a temperate climate here, dreadlocks and braids are acceptable hairstyles, especially among those who pursue the so-called alternative lifestyle.  Frankly, it’s a look that fits a certain body type and personality; and if you can wear a mop on your head and pull it off, well kudos to you.

Unfortunately, it’s a style that precludes daily washing of your hair, and such lack of washing is aggravated by the volume of hair and the resulting need for grooming.  It becomes worse when the temperatures rise and the owner of the hair adds sweat to the natural oils trapped in his dreadlocks.  I think you begin to see (and smell) the picture.

Now, about us Pinoys.  Washing our brown bodies is a daily essential, and our hair is no exception.  We like to smell good not just for ourselves but especially for those around us.  We think nothing of anointing ourselves with lotions, colognes, perfumes and other fragrances twice or even thrice a day, especially our ladies.  Does it follow that we should expect others to do the same?

Sorry kabayan but the short answer is no.  I have a dreadlocked colleague who is otherwise a decent chap and pleasant enough, but even in the cold weather, his hair is beginning to reek.  I thought that it was just me being an odor-sensitive Pinoy, but a tactless workmate hit it right on the nail : he mentioned that even with a hairnet and cap, it looked (smelled) like Dreadlock Guy hadn’t washed his hair for a week.  And with winter ending soon, the warmer weather was going to make it worse.  Now the million-dollar question is : who’s gonna be the one to tell Mr Alien Predator  (of the famous braids) that the hair ain’t helping his social life??? 🙂

kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap :(

kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap 😦

Corruption and lack of honesty in public service.  As they say in all democratic countries, public service is a public trust, although in many developing countries like ours, this rule is usually honored in the breach.  In those same free states also goes the saying  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s more : Graft exists in all societies, to the victors in public office belong the spoils, and if you want to avoid more trouble, think twice before reporting a crime to the police.  We’ve all known these truths to be self-evident back home, so much that a political career untainted by corruption is probably beyond comprehension, it’s simply inconceivable to us.  And yet, whenever a New Zealander asks me any detail about how pervasive corruption is in our political culture, I hasten to justify it, explain it away, or compare it to other countries where dishonesty is tolerated as much as it is condemned.

The truth is, we accept the evils of crony capitalism and the old-boy network as part of the necessary evils that make modern government work, as long as it doesn’t offend our sense of proportion or some vague moral boundary (a line which I think was crossed by that Pinay found to own 28 houses in the Philippines and several more in the USA).  But the moment people in other countries try to pass judgment or tsk-tsk the way our government  runs things, the usual instinct is for Pinoys to circle the wagons and defend ours as the Confucian way of governance (which usually means look the other way or your time will come, mwahahahaha).

digital stealing.  We like to do the right thing, watch movies as they actually come out in the moviehouses, borrow DVDs from the corner rental, and wait for the clearance sales on movies we missed.  But the temptation to go to the dark side is too strong sometimes, when people give you the latest, unreleased films on their flash drives, when they talk about the newest pictures even before the reviewers do, and when a lot of people do it, you begin to wonder if it’s worth being one of the good guys.

It’s even worse back home, where frankly speaking everything can be downloaded without paying for it if you know your way around the internet, intellectual property is a joke, and paying for licensed software is something only big companies do.

Don’t think that Kiwis don’t know that Third World countries do this with impunity, because they automatically assume that Asians use software, listen to music and watch movies without always paying for it, and that’s putting it mildly.

To them I fashion, as usual, a defensive response.  The day will come when everything on the internet will be shareware, free-to-use and for everyone to download as they please.  Besides, I like to delude myself into thinking that the world is divided into two : those who pay for stuff and those who can’t afford to pay for it, but ultimately still end up using it, I mean who doesn’t depend on gigabyte power these days?

What I mean is, those who pay for movies, music and software, unless they opt for a lifestyle change, won’t consider downloading it illegally, while those on the other side of the fence have much more important issues of survival and won’t  have the money or inclination to buy the digital stuff.

Yes, we Asians download stuff like it’s the most natural thing, without even considering paying for it.  We watch the latest movies and listen to the latest hits, and only pause to buy the movies or music as an afterthought,  And software we buy, if we buy it at all, is of the bootleg variety.  But we also have mortgages to maintain, rents to pay, groceries to shop, tuition payments to meet, and yes, bills to pay.  These, out of a puny paycheck that’s running on fumes.  Is it still a surprise then that I can hardly think of respecting intellectual property?

If it sounds like I’m justifying stealing things I should be paying for, I’m not.  But as sure as the sun rises at dawn and sets 12 hours later, movies, music and software will always be stolen (or copied, as simple as that) outside the so-called Western world.  It’s just a fact of life.

Now, how do I tell all these to my Kiwi hosts and keep my straight face on?

is it just me or r u no longer surprised when a kabayan gets a bullet, garrote or hot chair abroad?


It won't be as crude as this summary execution in Tibet, but the end result is the same : a bullet in the head for our kabayan,  unless our VP produces a miracle. :(

It won’t be as crude as this summary execution in Tibet, but the end result is the same : a bullet in the head for our kabayan, unless our VP produces a miracle. 😦

[ Laziness alert : Even less than the usual 5% of all the sentences here are backed up by research, statistics or catatonic Googling or use of other search engines.  If you want an entertaining read, please sample The Emperor’s Last Parade, the new e-book of my friend Fer Cao by clicking on this link, it’s a modern-day twist on a well-loved fairy tale.  Reviews very welcome, and by the way, the e-book is free until midnight today! ]

OO NA (yes I know) she’d been a drug mule 16 previous times, oo na her crime would’ve made life miserable for thousands and thousands of drug addicts (who would’ve gotten their fix elsewhere anyway) and oo na, she was literally sealing her doom by bringing a maleta-load (thirteen kilos!) of heroin to a country well known for executing more people annually than the rest of the world’s governments, combined.

And yet, I dare to raise an interesting conspiracy theory question : if the drug mule was not a Pinay kabayan but a Caucasian from the US, the UK or even Australia, would the conviction, the affirmation (of the “guilty” decision) and the dismissal of the appeal be as resoundingly in favor of keeping the Pinay’s appointment with the Grim Reaper?

As warned above, I would rather that you not rely on anything here as hard data or statistical reference.  But I’ve noticed that while at least four Filipinos have been executed in China after their death sentences were affirmed, none of around 28 death sentences in the last few years (imposed on Pinoys) have been reversed, or overturned.  I hope I’m wrong, and I hope for justice’s sake they really did courier the drugs, but are we a suki (or regular customer) for death row because (1) we don’t belong to the First World and (2) and we don’t possess any economic clout with the world’s largest economy?

[ And note that we’re not even gonna mention the current Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal brouhaha between us and China. ]

It’s pretty well-known in both criminology and legal discussions that the less legal assistance and representation you can afford, the greater the chance you will be convicted, whether you’re guilty or not, and relatedly, the greater the chance you will get the maximum penalty.  It’s unfair, but a fact of life.

I’m extending this to a state-to-state level : the smaller the state, and the smaller its economy, the greater the chance its nationals committing capital crimes will be executed.

How many times have you heard of our kabayan getting beheaded, garroted, shot not just in China but in Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East as well?  More than just a few times this century I’ll bet, and I’m sure you can count on your one hand the times a kabayan was literally snatched from the jaws of death.  In fact (no names here) I can remember someone who did it, begged the head of state for a pardon on the condemned’s behalf, and later made it the pillar of his political campaign.  And you know what?  I don’t blame him.

On the other hand, how many times have you heard of US servicemen after committing rapes, pedophilia and other interesting crimes not just in the Philippines but all over the world being convicted, having their sentences commuted from death to life (or life to a lower sentence) then being sent home to serve their sentence ?  And of course, never to be heard from again?  Start counting. 🙂

I don’t condemn death-penalty nations from using the draconian laws as a deterrent and as an example for other future or potential offenders.  In fact, I know how vicious and destructive drug abuse is not just to the individual, but to their families and to communities as well.

It’s just that I fear that in many places a double standard exists and countries like the Philippines are on the losing end, because frankly, countries like China have little to lose if they apply the fullest extent of the law against criminals from small fry like ourselves.

If a high-profile offender from the US, Europe or big country gets into trouble abroad, every kind of legal assistance will be given him by his embassy, and the local authorities will 9 times out of ten treat him with kid gloves.  No matter what the crime is.

When one of our own gets caught overseas as a drug mule or sex crime, expect him at best to languish in prison while he gets the third degree and worst penalty, affirmed all the way to the host country’s supreme court.  At worst, he or she will mysteriously die in prison.

And why?  Take your pick :  no money, no honey.  Money talks. Or, your credit is good but we need cash.

We may be the nurses, construction workers, caregivers and IT engineers of the world, but no doubt about it,  we are the small fish in a big pond of big, fat fish.

Kawawa naman po tayo.

reblog : the Philippines 70 years hence seen thru a Pinoy youth


thanks and acknowledgment to scottbrownscerebralcaffeine.wordpress.com!

thanks and acknowledgment to scottbrownscerebralcaffeine.wordpress.com!

[ Note : I’m so happy when Generation Y-ers can engender nostalgia for values of a bygone era, even happier when the member of Generation Y is our own son.  It acquires triple satisfaction when it coincides with today’s commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan.  Lifted with permission from both the author and publisher of Issue No.1 of Pinoy Stop  (Wellington) newsmagazine, maraming salamat po! ]

Every journey begins with one step.  We go on for miles and miles, sometimes knowing where we are going and what we’re looking for. Most of the time we just walk down roads idly, letting our instincts lead the way. We see different things along our different paths. Some things we wish to take with us or at least know more about. We share our experiences to other people but some things we won’t even bat an eyelash for.

That is how I saw the Philippines five years ago, a country proud of its people and their achievements but apathetic to its misgivings and failures. A country that has taken a path unique in many ways, such as being an Asian democracy albeit a flawed one at that. It has millions of skilled workers, all with warm hearts; countless natural resources, filled with so much unrealized potential.

This is what thousands of Filipinos and Americans died for during the infamous Bataan Death March They marched down a seemingly-endless road their captors forced upon them. Many of them did not survive. Whether by starvation, dehydration, exhaustion or by a bullet, their death neither came quick nor easy. Now in remembrance of their deeds and what they fought for, the Philippines commemorates the said event the same day it happened seventy­-one years ago on April 9.

April 9 is a public holiday in the Philippines, with most of the workforce and the student population exempted from work and school, respectively, and the usual Filipino past times would follow such as going to the mall or just resting. As a young person myself I can recall that I did the same on that holiday, enjoying my free time and disregarding the story behind it. That I regret doing, not only because I feel that as a Filipino, I am indebted to those people who died on that road but also because  there are lessons to be learned. Our country’s history has shown us many things. It has shown us that we as a nation bend. We do not break. We have been given a myriad of paths through the years, all of which would not have been possible if not for the people who lost their lives during the death march.

A period of nation-building followed the war.  We chose the paths we have taken. We took the lead. Our neighbors looked up to us. As the rest of Southeast Asia grappled with nation building, weak economies and civil wars, the Philippines was the shining beacon of prosperity and democracy in the region. Unfortunately because of dictatorship, we entered a period of economic stagnation and political crises.  We then, overthrew that regime in a bloodless revolution. After the democratic transition, the expectations of the international community was high. We did not meet those expectations, we didn’t even meet our own. Now under the current government we are seeing  a slow but steady and assured resurgence of our country, not only in the economy but with our political ideals, moral and ethical principles as well. If we have any captors at present, it is us.

We as a people have always chosen what we want to tell others about our experiences. We  are proud of our country’s rich history and culture and are known for our resilience, perseverance and work ethic.  But we ignore the lessons from the past.  Events such as the ‘Fall of Bataan’ and the subsequent death march should serve as a reminder to us all of the hardships our people have experienced.  That is something we should never take for granted.  We owe it to them to aim higher to accept criticisms so we can make ourselves better and make our country proud of all our actions.  We may be forced down a road we have not chosen but we persevere through it and learn from that experience.  We survive — stronger and wiser.

To my countrymen, we do not take holidays so we can take a break off from work and rest.    It has a far greater purpose than that.

into each life some rain must fall


satellite images showing the onward march of debilitating New Zealand drought this year.

satellite images showing the onward march of debilitating New Zealand drought this year.

WORST DROUGHT in 70 years declared the paper here in Welly.  You can’t get any more eloquent than that.  The Philippines may have its problems, it may be a daily overdose of drama back home and more than half of us live below the poverty line, but few problems are more urgent and gamechanging than the consequences of weather extremes, and this definitely qualifies as one here.

I have three memories associated with the extremes of weather, the most recent of which was when it rained for two days straight and then some some ten years ago, cutting off first our subdivision, and then our little group of houses from the rest of the subdivision, which was already cut off from the rest of the world.  What little provisions we had at home were all but used up, and we relied on radio news to find out when we would rejoin the world.

"thank you master, I will guard your house for life." :)

“thank you master, I will guard your house for life.” 🙂 thanks and acknowledgment to backwoodshome.com!

When we were brave enough to venture out after a maya returned with an anahaw leaf :), we saw cars floating in miniature ponds, swollen streams and streets that were rendered impassable because the latter were even lower than the already-low main street of our subdivision.  Our row of houses was fortunate enough to be sitting on the higher areas, but many others were not so lucky.  Furniture, appliances and everything of value sitting on ground floors were damaged beyond repair, and this among many was the harvest of one of the more brutal storms that decade.

Another strong weather-related memory was an unlucky combination of a suffocatingly hot summer and the power crisis somewhere between the late Cory Aquino and early FVR years.  It was so hot you couldn’t even move, and unmercifully there was no power during much of the day for either electric fans or if you could afford it, air conditioners (we couldn’t).  It became fashionable and quite practical to purchase backup generators for the home and industrial ones for businesses, hospitals and the malls.  The only good thing I remember about that time was the 50% discount on ice cream; practically given away by blackout-conscious shopowners who didn’t want an inventory of melted sundaes and popsicles messing up their freezers.

it happened again in the Central Luzon-Metro Manil area July 2010, thanks and acknowledgment to okasaneko.wordpress.com!

it happened again in the Central Luzon-Metro Manil area July 2010, thanks and acknowledgment to okasaneko.wordpress.com!

Two things I actually welcomed during that water-starved and blackout-weakened summer were (1) going to work where the offices were at least air-conditioned before the power outage was scheduled, and (2) the monsoon rains which brought a welcome relief from the blistering, exhausting and sweltering heat of the dry, dry summer which incidentally I always identify with Semana Santa where either you meditate in the city or vacation in the beaches.

The last memory is that of our very own drought back home (a year or two before Y2K), where literally the ground turned to dust and every breeze threatened to mutate into a sandstorm, the soil cried out for moisture and leaves turned orange, yellow and finally into brown, months before harvest time.  I don’t think anyone would say I’m exaggerating, but it was a good ten months before anyone saw a drop of rain that year, and considering that the Philippines receives so much rain on an average year, the drought must have been catastrophic for agriculture, not to mention industries and manufacturing that need agricultural products as well.

Here in our part of New Zealand, it will take a good number of years to recover from the drought, and the dairy, beef and lamb and downstream industries have been all but written out of medium term planning until they have been properly resuscitated, rehabilitated and nurtured back to life after literally drying out from the drought.

Because the Wellington region (as opposed to Wellington City) is relatively compact and everything, including water consumption is easily measurable and desperate times call for desperate measures, government, media and every usyusero has understandably become OC over the issue.  I overheard my favorite deejay broadcast optimistically that due largely in part to the total effort, weekly consumption has gone down from 128 million liters to 120 million, truly mindboggling both in the amount saved and the dedication to monitoring the figures. (imagine the time spent counting those liters!)

Daily radio broadcasts here remind us that all outdoor activity requiring water, washing of cars, etc. have been banned until further notice.  Only the most crucial water needs like bathing, cooking and drinking are allowed now, and for good reason : for Wellington region, water has been free to household consumers for the longest time, and everyone wants it to remain that way, most of all Asian migrants like Your Loyal Blogger.

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter to all!

when see hear & speak no evil won’t do : confronting nega press on phils


34513ACCEPTING ALL the opprobrium that I expect will be flung at Your Loyal Blogger kabayan, I admit that I’m as non-partisan as non-partisan gets.  Despite matriculating at the so-called bastion of student activism (true only during the early Marcos years) and apprenticing under the school paper, I hold no strong worldview and just want to live out the rest of my years earning my bread, enjoying sparklingly entertaining books, living long enough to see my grandchildren and playing Tri-Peaks Solitaire.  And maybe filling in the blanks in this DIY and user-friendly blogsite.

But like many non-partisans out there (whether or not you admit it) I love my country, and still feel a lump in my throat when a countryman/woman does well in the sports / cultural / scientific fields and chafe at the worn points when any of us Pinoys, individually or collectively, fall into shame or disrepute.  Within our circle and among ourselves it might not hurt so much, we after all know each other cheek by jowl and can’t deny our warts and moles.

To strangers and outsiders though, it stings through and through, knowing that other peoples and races know of our faults and inner rots.  It hurts even more when, seeing but not understanding, they only see the results of our complicated cultures, hierarchies and histories.  Like any other tribe, Pinoys are the product of their assimilations, subjugations and contradictions.  Can we explain why we are Catholic, modern, pro-American, anti-American, Islam, autonomous, secessionist, protectionist, populist, elitist (and sometimes a combination of some, most or all of the above), and never seem to be able to decide what we are?

Most of all, we are onion-skinned (I know I am), when we hear of negative press about the Philippines overseas :

How do we explain this in one paragraph?  Muslim rebels engaging in the kidnap-for- ransom industry can do as they please because they are the proxies of military, police and political officials in the South.  The warriors of Islam are actually slaves of the almighty dollar, who know only too well that dangling a sword over captives from the First World is the surest way of earning foreign exchange, without forgetting of course that their  bemedalled, khaki-clad and high-handed masters claim their share first…

Vernon Gardiner in a Catanduanes detention center.  thanks to tv3news.co.nz for the pic!

Vernon Gardiner in a Catanduanes detention center. thanks to tv3news.co.nz for the pic!

This will take a little more than a paragraph, but still I will try.  Because many of our statutes are remnants of an era where civil and criminal laws had the same purpose, specifically the protection of the propertied and the landed, we often punished the commission of crimes against property as severely as those of crimes against persons.  One of these is fraud or deception, which to this day is punishment-wise on a level with attempted homicide and serious physical injuries.  Another special crime is illegal recruitment, probably because so many Filipinos want to go abroad to earn money.

The result?  A visitor unfortunate enough to be caught committing both those two crimes will probably rot in jail for the rest of his life, like the Kiwi pictured above.  It’s so hard to explain that it’s not just the NZ$5,000 owing to the Pinoy duped but the fact that through sweet enticements and trickery, such an amount changed hands, that caused the New Zealander to languish behind rusty bars, but the law is the law.  That, and the fact that just returning the money will effectively restore the status quo.  It’s that bizarrely simple.

[our friends overseas might also want to remember that the amount is about half a year’s pay for many of our kabayan back home, not that we’re nitpicking but it does make a bit of a difference for a family of six or seven struggling to make ends meet. ]

Surreal, inexplicable, upside-down bizzaro-type situations like the above two happen everyday in the Philippines, yet Pinoys like myself blush and grope for words when the rest of the world finds out about them.  What to do, what to do?  At this moment I’m not sure, but one thing I do know.  Instead of aping (pun intended) those three chimps covering their eyes, ears and mouths, we would do better to confront, verify and spin these facts, and indeed show them our true (Pinoy) face, nunal, kulugo, and balat, moles, warts and all.

Thanks for reading!

pinagmamalaking kabayang nars sa USA, UK, NZ atbp :)


Pinoy engineers, IT professionals, caregivers and other careers are equally deserving, but because Pinay nurses are well-known and well-loved all over the world, they hog the limelight.  The rest of us dutifully stand back and give them their due.

In his State of the Union Address last Feb 12, US Pres Barack Obama honored kabayan Menchu Sanchez, a New Jersey nurse, for devising an impromptu evacuation plan for 20 newborn patients, without regard for their own safety, while Hurricane Sandy was howling.

And just over a week ago, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, chose to speak to a Pinay nurse over two of her colleagues in a hospital visit and joked that the Philippines must be “half empty” with so many of our kabayan in the UK’s National Health Service, the equivalent of our Department of Health back home.

They carry our cultural DNA, represent us everywhere, and for good or bad, are the face of  the Filipino all over the world.  At least one in ten OFWs is a nurse, and we are proud to call them our own.  The above instances are just the most famous, but every day a Pinay nurse makes us proud to be Pinoy.  A big big hello to our kabayan nurses here in New Zealand, Americas, the Europe and everywhere on God’s good Earth!

Mabuhay po kayong lahat!