Monday, December 27, 2004

A Mother's Wrath

Indonesia, Sri Lanka and parts of Malaysia and Singapore recently felt Mother Nature's anger at full throttle. No one was spared, not even the innocent nor the most environment conscious citizen of these nations. Death was the toll you pay for thousands of years spent in wreckless abuse of the planet's natural resources - our only planet.

A few days back, 13th and 14th December nature displayed a joyous spray of meteor showers. Beautiful from afar, awesome and undoubtedly lethal had it been quite near. From a distance, the bulging tidal waves would look like a dolphin's playful fin rising from the waves. Have you seen how the eye of the storm looks blissfully white and harmless from a satellite projection? Yet we know better.

And still we seem not to...know anything or learned anything at all. We continue to plunder our natural resources despite constant and often painful reminders from Mother Nature herself. Despite our differences in race, faith or social stature; indeed despite the famous battles of the sexes or even political affiliation; we all belong to one human race - living, struggling, surviving in this singular planet that is livable, for now. If we continue with our ways and not heed our Earth Mother...there is one definite destination and that is six feet under!

I should really start by truly recycling things at home rather than the easy way out which is to bin it. I must start now, this instant! For my daughter's sake and her children's children. After all, Earth is their home too...their only home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Christmas Pinoy Style

As it is the season to be jolly, I'd like to share that Filipinos probably have the longest Christmas celebrations in all cultures...and one occassion that takes precedence over all others. As early as November, you already have shops decorating their windows and showcases in Christmas themes and usually Christmassy music can be heard over radios and malls.

Christmas in the Philippines begins on the 16th of December where people attend dawn mass for 9 days until the 24th. Young people are encouraged by their parents to wake up and attend mass to prepare themselves for the birthday of Jesus. Aside from the chance of sleeping in church and upsetting your local parish priest, you get to see most people still in pajamas some of whom haven't even brushed their hair, teeth, much less washed their faces of have taken a bath!

It is a joy to see people as sleepy as you in the pews of a still cold church. You exchange smiles of solidarity - perhaps you both have not brushed your teeth! There are giggles as some elder members jolt up in the middle of the homily (priest preaching) from an obvious sleep of snores start getting louder from an inconspicious dozzer!

After mass, people eat rice cakes and native sweets outside the church with hot chocolate or coffee to keep them warm (and awake!). You feel a different air of the Yule season. The weather is cooler, the air is crisp and you are - for that single instant - thankful for God's blessings.

On Christmas Eve, Filipinos attend midnight mass (talk about all these unGodly service hours!) and after that feast to a media noche of ham, lechon (roast pork) and other fancy party fare. Even the poorest of familes would at least have chicken or pancit (noodles) on the table to celebrate the coming of Jesus and no matter how poor, a Christmas tree or a decorated parol (lantern) would hang on a Filipino home to signify the occassion.

On Christmas Day we visit relatives and friends, give presents and eat, again! Children sing Christmas carols and visit houses where they receive either sweets or money for their efforts. This is a good time of the year to look up godparents who must (by tradition) give you presents in cash or kind.

A few days rest from all the partying and it's the New Year so the feasting continues. Schools and businesses are usually closed from the 24th of December till the 1st of January to allow people to go home to the provinces and be with their families.

Christmas officially ends on the Feast of the Three Kings where people give presents. Three Kings used to be on the 6th of January but in recent years the chruch decreed it to be the first Sunday of January.

having spent Christmas for the past 10 years now here in the middle of the desert, I miss the Christmas that I grew up with in the Philippines. The people I love spending Christmas with are scattered all over the world. I hope that with them, they bring and share the spirit of Pinoy Christmas we all miss so much.

Happy, happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The King is Dead

Fernando Poe, Jr. has a special place in the hearts of many of my family members, including me. We have watched together as a family, many an FPJ movies, with the Panday series being our favorite.

Growing up with two older brothers - my cinematic exposure in my pre-teens were mostly Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and locally, FPJ movies.

Secondly, he is married to Susan Roces, an Ilongga and student of UNO-R, where my mom and aunts too, went to school.

Thirdly he endorsed San Miguel Beer and embodied the 'iba ang may pinagsamahan' line to a tee.

In an indirect way, his father is the model of The Oblation, my alma mater's famous statue espousing freedom of thought and education.

So his death, just at the end of an unsuccessful political career, has brought me sadness and a bit of nostalgia.

To The King of Filipino movies, ikaw pa rin ang tunay na panday!

God rest your soul and give you eternal peace.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A tree-less world

Philippine trees have gone. The very few that remains are all struggling to survive what with illegal loggers and the small "kaingin" farmers to contend with. The once green landscape is marred with huge patches of brown, empty, earth.

The country has recently been hit by two huge typhoons, Winnie and Yoyong and flooded a huge part of the lands. People died, homes were destroyed and millions of pesos worth of crops and the hope of an economic recovery drowned with the mud and animal carcasses.

Despite the poverty and economic hardships, many offered what little they have to share with the unfortunate many who were directly hit by the storms. In this season of giving, Filipinos still stand true to the very tenets of being a true Pinoy and that is "bayanihan" - the act of helping a neighbor, a fellowman.

Indeed it takes the gravest of tragedies to see what is most important. In the rush of the capitalist driven Christmas season, it so touches my heart to see many, many ordinary men and women so involved in re-building the nation, offering a helping hand or at least sharing what they have with those who have none.

If only we could apply these good values and traits with the rudiments of daily life, we could help improve our country much more quickly. And perhaps, we can begin the task of repopulating the planet with trees and not leave our children and their children's children such a tree-less world.

A Green Desert

My thoughts lately is back to my homeland, especially the current state my country is in. With two huge typhoons devastating the nation, it is sad and tragic that our once green archipelago is now virtually barren and desolate.

In strong contrast, here I am working overseas in the midst of the greenest desert I have seen. Arriving here in Febraury 1994, I gazed down from the plane's window to see, for the first time, the boundless Arabian desert. Gazillion masses of minute sands with colours ranging from dark to light brown and light to dark red, depending on the city (also called emirate) you are in. I had this vision of a huge tent where I will be working in, with camels parked around its perimeter and sand touching everything, everywhere.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a thriving metropolis with luscious greenery and a very clean environment. Without thinking, you can imagine yourself to be in any other thriving metropolitan city - without a desert. You have to drive off to the desert if you want to be in the desert. Inland - it is concrete but with much planning because the concrete is laid out with a lot of green.

It is a fact that the UAE government spends millions of dirhams a year to constantly water and care for their plants. Every street is lined with trees and shrubs on both sides plus shrubs and flowering plants in the islands between the lanes. Here in Al Ain, the city is full of roundabouts of varied sizes, that are unique flower gardens in themselves - plus a piece of art or two in the middle.

If a country struggling with water resource especially during the hot summer months can keep their land this green, how much more can a country that has rains half the year and a land that will nurture anything that's sown in it?

We've been doing the easy and the quick for far too long. Perhaps it is high time we start doing what is difficult but right.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Simplicity in Death

There is no other event in a man's life more unknown to him than his own death. I mean, whatever happens after our last breath we do not really care much about do we? It is strange in the Filipino culture when we give more deference and pomp to the departed when they should have been given that whilst still alive anyway.

This thought I've been pondering on since the Eraserheads dished out that song "Oh honey when I die, dress me up in a coat and tie..." so funny how most Pinoys go puruntong in their everyday life and go off with a tux. At times, much to the financial difficulties of those left behind.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi (including his hometown, Al Ain) passed away last December 2nd. He was a great ruler and a man who could buy anything he wants. And yet, when he died, his body was wrapped in white cloth, his coffin a simple wooden receptacle of his mortal body witht he UAE's flag as cover. He could easily have had the black mahogany with gold gilded casing and cushioned satin linings that Pinoys often see in funeral homes usually costing a fortune, being a country's ruler yet he embodied simplitcity even in death.

His death echoes in many places and the sadness is more than enough testimony to a life well lived and a nation well founded. More than the trimmings and trappings that go with the passing away of a great man - the parade, the TV specials, the songs and peoms in his honour - I think the simplicity of having a void in one's heart, be they Caucasians, Arabs, Asians like the many Filipinos in this part of the world, is a more satisfactory tribute to the man who shaped this country from tribal and warring emir states. Sheikh Zayed is terribly and sorely missed.

Aw SH _ T!

The first time I heard it, it was pronounced "Aceed!" like /acid/ with a long /i/ and so it didn't twig. This is my two-year-old spilling ice cream on her shirt in the mall.

Then I heard it again, this time she spilled water by accident on herself while at home drinking. And my mouth stayed open for a few seconds longer than it ought to (giving me a slight jaw ache afterwards) and my eyes turned larger and a bit watery towards the end...of the realisation that my daughter is cussing. Not only that, she was cussing like me. Thoughtless git that I am, I'm a creature of habit and "Aw shit" has been a long time favorite expression of mine be it said in anger, joy, panic, frustration, sorrow, excitement - the works. You name it I have an "Aw shit" for any conceivable situation in the world.

This made me stop and think about cleaning my act a bit, for my daughter's sake. I've now modified it to "Aw shucks" a very lame version of the original which does not really embody the correct semantics of its predecessor. But shucks, I've got to try, right?

So Amber now says "Aw shucks!" like me when she accidentally does something that she shouldn't have. But impishly whispers the previous expletive and laughs like she's had one up on me. And that's coming from a two-year-old girl (she only turned two yesterday)! Shucks!

I knew some way or the other, I'm going to screw up this creature entrusted to me by the workings of biology...Aw shit!