Monday, August 31, 2015

41. Freedom of Assembly

Time was when Illegal Assembly was a cool crime, a badge of honor, a solid proof that not all criminals are crooks. As a high school student studying in San Beda near the fabled Mendiola Bridge, I once saw Senator Lorenzo Tanada being hauled off in a police van for holding a rally without a permit. Tanada even brandished his fist in defiance of the police as the old man got sped off to prison. He got rescued by his lawyers, posted bail, and then prepared for the next rally. As I got older,  I participated in rallies myself: in 1986 EDSA One,  in the late 80's against the US bases, in the 90's against the Ramos planned constitutional amendment, in 2001 EDSA Dos, and then in 2006 at the Black and White Movement's photo ops at Luneta where I met Edwin Lacierda. My protest resume is rather thin, compared to veteran street parliamentarians like Argee Gueverra who even got jailed for it. But this constitutional right to free assembly is something I use for good measure. When I resolve to go to the streets, I don't care about the traffic we're going to cause. The goal is to get noticed, and causing traffic is one of the ways to get noticed. When you're out there, you're telling the people, things are not normal, something is wrong, so stop whatever you're doing, and join us. Now, it's almost ten years since I've attended my last rally. I looked at the  Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) mass actions in EDSA recently and analyzed the grievance. Leila de Lima's actions as Secretary of Justice were perceived as bias against the INC, because she received the complaint for Illegal Detention against the INC's central committee personally, and she created a special panel to investigate the case. If the case prospered, it would be like the entire cabinet going to jail. So, the implications to the INC's followers may be alarming. Well, as a lawyer, I would have to admit that most of my cases never received that kind of special treatment and attention -- not from this current Secretary of Justice or from the others before her. And I have yet to see any rule from the Department of Justice that provides this kind of special procedure for special circumstances, which have also been undefined. Thing is she's been doing this in the hot items in her checklist, like the PAGCOR cases and PDAF cases, and all of them went unfavorably against the respondents. Thus, we now have the INC flock at EDSA, telling us things are not normal. The Secretary is acting as if she's going to send their central committee to jail. Well, I'm not inclined to join them. But, I'm not going to heckle them either.  Max Ehrman's Desiderata, which we memorized in San Beda High, had special lines for these circumstances, "Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story." The INC's reputation among the Catholic elite is not very good, principally because of their bloc voting schemes. They have been depicted as mindless minions obeying the command of their leaders, which is inaccurate and unkind. Yet, I have to concede, regardless of who sent them to EDSA, the INC flock has a story here, which might even be a good one.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

40. Tea is all we need

I didn't used to be a tea fan. I had a classmate in law school who kept a tea bag in her wallet.  She would ask for hot water, which was free from the cafeteria, during breaks, and she would enjoy her cup with a dash of calamansi and a biscuit on the side. I tried it once then,  but I thought it was too complex for me who was used to caffein-laced soda and coffee. Many years later, after I have established my law firm, somebody gifted me with a box of chamomile tea. I served it to clients in the office and tried it once. It came to me then that my taste buds were now ready for that kind of sophistication.  I sought out other flavors: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Chai, Black, Green, and Mint. My wife got me a tea caddie, and the caddie presented the various tea flavors we have collected to clients. Often, while discussing strategies in business and litigation, my clients and I would enjoy pot after pot of tea until the work was done. Recently, I was introduced to a brand of tea called, Basilur, which offered a mix of fruits and flowers. Taking it is like tasting the grand orchestra of teas: a little sweetness there, a little citrus, lots of flowers, some dark shades, vanilla, and some mint. They all come together beautifully in one package.  I served it once to clients after dinner, and we stayed up until one o'clock in the morning, working with the tea as our only elixir of energy. Looking back, tea is one of the oldest commodities traded in the world. The taxation of tea even led to the American Revolution in the affair known as the Boston Tea Party. Yet, with all the magical sophistication of this drink which established its reputation as the drink of commerce and politics, the power of tea is its ability to bring you to your senses. Of all the teas I've tasted nothing compares with the tea that a Chinese nun gave me; it was black tea mixed with brown rice. I took it one afternoon, and instantly I felt being transported to my hometown, relaxed and easy, and with no worries. Never mind the business and the politics. Tea is all we need. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

39. Coffee anyone?

Fresh beans make the best cup. Ground them, but not too fine. You don't want the granules to be seeping through the sieve. One tablespoon per cup is the proportion of granules to water in the coffee press. The water must be boiling. To keep the glass from cracking, put a spoon on the coffee press to take some heat off the glass as you pour the water. Stir it well, and be amazed at the marriage of coffee and water; it will swirl as the aroma flies off in the air. Then, let it rest. Prepare your cup and saucer while the granules settle at the bottom of the coffee press. When you see that almost everything has rested, it is time to enjoy your coffee. Press it now slowly and pour it in your cup. Savor it well. It's good coffee prepared with the coffee press. The coffee press has not always been the way we prepare our coffee. My grandfather used to put ground coffee and water in a pot in a slightly different proportion and boil them. Once it boils, the drink is poured into cups as well, and the remaining coffee stays in the pot for reheating and drinking anytime of the day. Soon, my uncle bought a drip method coffee maker, and from this method,  the aroma of the coffee became a sub-highlight of the coffee experience. For many years, I thought the drip method was the only way that I could prepare a decent cup, until I discovered the coffee press. There are other methods like the capsule type, which is quite fancy and expensive, but nothing beats the coffee press. Legend has it that drinking coffee is associated with energy and rebellion; that's why Charles II tried to ban it in  Europe in 1676 only to back down two days before the ban was supposed to take effect. Indeed, the experience of coffee -- from preparation of the beans, the pouring of the water, the mixing of water and coffee, the way the aroma is diffused, until the tongue tastes the bitter sweet flavor of this concoction, which runs through your throat and  nestles in your belly -- triggers moments of epiphany when you seem to know what's really going on, and you want to rebel against all the bull shit around you. And then, you sober down. It's just coffee messing with your mind.

Friday, August 28, 2015

38. Gambling as a National Policy

As of my last count, there are thirty-five casinos in the Philippines of which twelve are outside Metro Manila. Three more are under construction, and other gambling licenses being peddled around in coffee shops and law offices by this government's power brokers. I have not counted the ubiquitous E-Games kiosks that offer electronic slot machines catering to the middle-end crowd who have no access to the hotel and resort casino establishments. A check with wikipedia showed there are 102 E-Games, but I think there are more. I have also not counted the bingo places, which are found in the malls for the mass market gambling crowd. The real deal is the online casinos, which are like portals for all gamblers with a credit card and an internet-connected computer. Indeed, there appears to have been a remarkable increase in the number of gambling havens in this country under the current  administration. I can't help but ask, are there really that many gamblers in this country to sustain these establishments? They claim these casinos are for tourists, which is probably why they have one in Ilaya, Mandaluyong, in a hotel they call Madison Square Garden.  The casino appears to be intended as come on for tourists in Mandaluyong who may be led to think that they are staying in a hotel affiliated with the Madison Square Garden in New York. Seriously, I think the government gets it wrong when it looks at these gambling havens exclusively as money-making machines for charity. Fine, the house never loses, they make millions, but these gambling havens are not manufacturing money. They are taking it from people. The only way for these gambling havens to sustain themselves across time is to create and nurture a culture of gambling. They want people to make a good living and gamble it all away in an all night splurge on the gambling tables. In other words, the vision is to turn our kids into gamblers. I believe there is genius in the Filipino race. But like the genius, Niccolo Paganini, who enthralled the world as a violinst in his time and lost his fortune playing cards, our geniuses are going to be gamblers, and they will put everything to waste.  This is all because we had a President who made the growth of gambling a policy of his administration. To describe this administration as an idiot is such an understatement.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

37. An argument for cameras on the dashboard

A truck tailgated us this morning at Katipunan Ave. The driver kept his truck close to our rear. And then at the stoplight, he took another lane. I got my phone and tried to call the number on the truck's body, which was a hotline for complaints. No one answered and soon the truck started moving again.  We saw it swerving left to right on two other lanes, the driver and his companion looking jolly and pumped up by their speed. I tried to record everything on the phone, but I forgot to press the record button unfortunately. My wife said it was alright, and we'd just call the hotline maybe later during office hours, so someone would be there to pick up the phone. Thinking about this incident, it came to me that this is an argument to attach a camera on the dashboard to record these wayward drivers on the road. A camera, that is always on whenever the car is on a trip, will never tell a lie. It is primary evidence if presented in court; it should bring some integrity in motoring disputes. No more influence peddling or bribes to obtain favorable police reports. If any policeman will stop us for violating any regulation, the video on the camera will prove him right or acquit us of the accusation. Of course, it is never going to prevent any accident, but it's use will be in court disputes, when people are just settling scores, as it were, so they can move on. These car cameras will be like the CCTV's that are revolutionizing crime detection and prosecution these days. And we don't hear a lot from the privacy rights advocates about these cameras being constitutionally problematic. Indeed, this might be so, because the cameras that populate our lifestyle currently are not quite how George Orwell depicted them in 1984. In the Philippines these cameras are not integrated into one system, so there is no one person yet all powerful to see eveything that's happening. Yet, surely the court system will benefit if that happens, because there is one thing that George Orwell got right: cameras don't lie so put them all over the place. Next time I see that truck, I'll make sure I capture that bastard on cam.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

36. Traffic

For a man with impressive credentials, Sec. Abaya can be mindless at times. Asked about the bad traffic in Metro Manila, he quipped that traffic is not fatal. It is a statement that professors of logic would call, non-sequitur, an irrelevant statement more fitting to be uttered by a comedian, rather than the incumbent Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications who also happens to a be degree holder in Military Science and Law. Come to think of it, traffic is indeed not fatal, unless you are having a stroke with a few minutes to make it to the  hospital, and you're in EDSA on  a rush hour. Yet, bad traffic is not a problem unique to the Philippines or the current secretary of transportation. We're not even in the top five countries with the worst traffic. And all of us contribute to the worsening situation, because 1) we are all here;  2) whenever we leave, we leave at the same time; and 3) we're not leaving for good.  Thus, no one can really pin the blame exclusively on the government and its leaders if traffic is bad. It will help if insensitive comments are not uttered, and people in government realize that they are a provider of solutions and not an oracle telling us to accept our plight, because we're not going die from it anyway. Still, a mindless comment like Sec. Abaya's  shows the mental disposition of a besieged secretary who seem to have tried a lot of things to solve the problem but is hardly appreciated; it is an indication of what psychologists call learned helplessness. I can't imagine how salvation history would have turned out if Moses said something like that to the Chosen People. It would have ended right there and then I suppose.  Yet soon, it will surely be over for this government. And the honorable Secretary will fare better in its last few months if he stops talking to the media without a teleprompter, so he can't infect us with a candid show of his stressed out mind. For in the end, what we really want from the government is hope -- hope that we're not just going to live, but also live well.

35. The Guy in the corner of Panay Avenue

There is no rain or sun for this guy. Any day is business day. We see him every morning, with his makeshift cart, and a throng of his patrons. Once he had too many people lining up for his meal, he blocked off the entire corner of Panay Avenue with a rock, so his customers would not be disturbed by the onslaught of traffic leading to Capitol City Medical Center. My wife, the stickler for traffic rules,  complained to the authorities. The following day the rock was gone, but it was still business as usual for the guy.  I told my wife that he must have discovered a secret recipe, because he never seemed to run out of customers. I wondered what it was, until one Saturday morning, our maid complained of numbness on the right side of her body, and we decided to bring her to Capitol's emergency room. I decided it was also time to try my guy's secret recipe; he was there in the corner with his patrons as usual. I asked what he had. He replied, "Pares sir?" I said sure. He got a bowl of fried rice, and scooped from his large aluminum container of soup. It was thick clear soup, a little sour and little sweet with chunks of liver and other pork innards. He garnished it with scallions and red peppers.  I swear I must have eaten something like this in some fancy Chinese restaurant. This food is premium compared to the common street offerings, and he just calls it "Pares" because it is paired with rice. I handed the guy a thousand peso bill, and said sorry I didn't have a smaller bill as I just came from the ATM machine. The guy smiled. No problem and handed me the change. I walked back to my wife who said the maid would be fine. I told my wife the guy was serving delicious Chinese soup for sixty bucks. For a while the mythical story of Edgar Sia, the man who made billions selling Mang Inasal to Jollibee, crossed my mind.  Who knows? The guy is never absent from his post, and he knows his customer relations. Now, if someone can just give him a break.

Monday, August 24, 2015

34. Rainy Days

Back in the 80s, the most anticipated voice was Nilo Rosas from the Department of Education. Every rainy morning we would turn on the AM radio, and would await for his live interview. The interview would begin with a few pleasantries, and we would learn that Mr. Rosas was just having breakfast or that he was already in the office, and then the question would be asked. We would be all ears as he laid the premise of his announcement. He would say that he was monitoring the radio reports, that he had a call with the weather agency, and yes -- he decided there would be no classes. And it was mayhem from there. We would leave the radio, drop our school bags, change back in to our house clothes, and turn on the TV and indulge in the morning shows. I would spend my time with the guitar or the piano, trying to learn new songs with Jingle Magazine or Jingle Songhits in hand. Nowadays, my kids would get there 'no classes' announcements from everywhere.  Aside from the tv and radio, the announcements are passed on in text messages, twitter, facebook, viber, and email. Yet, you would  anticipate the same reaction when they learn that there would be no classes. It would be mayhem alright. All computers, tvs, and gadgets in the house would be fired up; everyone would be racing to get entertained, just like the kids that we were in 80s on rainy days. Indeed, there is a common inter-generational experience and understanding in 'no classes' announcements, which might be uniquely Filipino. Somehow, we all need a relief from the daily grind. The constant demands of  getting educated, or getting work done could be boring and tiresome. And when everything else would let you down, like the rock ceaselessly rolling down from the top of the mountain and we are like Sisyphus working daily to push it up, there is nothing like the weather to change all that, and give a break just for a day.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

33. Journey to Maguindanao

Book Review A la Borges*: Journey to Maguindanao by Juan de los Reyes (New Avenues Press: 2012)

The absence of published Maguindanaon literature for consumption of the general public seriously undermines Maguindanaos assimilation to the archipelago. We've scored the web for stories, songs, and poems from this ethnic group, and all we are led to is a thin volume of Maguindanao folklore published by the Notre Dame University of Cotabato, and it is not available to the public. No wonder the Maguindanaons are probably the most misunderstood ethnic group in the Philippines, leading to many years wasted, thousands of lives lost, and millions of pesos spent on the Moro wars. This absence is now filled by Journey to Maguindanao, which features a Tom Wolfe approach to the subject, immersed  in the details of day to day Maguindanoan life, and full of insight and respect for the Maguindanaons. The author shows us the subsistence life of the farmers, their clan wars, and the dependence on their leaders who are used to running in elections unopposed, and the violence the Moro wars have brought upon them. The book is a significant contribution to the dialogue of cultures in the archipelago and the world, and breaks ground for more books on Maguindanao that might actually be the key to peace in the south and not some law pass to make some President become a Nobel Peace Prize winner. 

*A review of books that have not been written by authors who have not been born.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

32. Cooking Paella

The process is about cooking and enhancing the rice. The soffritto -- sauteed tomato, garlic, onion, peppers,  paprika, and pork in olive oil -- gets it going. The rice is mixed with the soffritto; and it pops and fries as it is enveloped in all that aroma and flavor. The broth is then introduced, and the mixture of soffritto and rice is engulfed while the heat from all that sauteing is diffused by the liquid. In a matter of minutes, everything boils. At this precise moment, the saffron is infused, dissolving and turning the meal into a splendor of orange and yellow. Then, as the liquid is about to dry, the seafood is arranged on top of the rice. It would be cooked at about the same time as the rice. The meal is then covered with foil and removed from the heat. Soon, it is ready to be served. 

In spite of faithful adherence to this age-old recipe, I still cannot claim that I have cooked paella, as some people say that paella can only be cooked the way it is cooked in Valencia, Spain, using Valencian rice and water and by a Valencian male on a Sunday at noon. It is therefore a mistake to call paella, paella outside of Valencia -- as if  people's bellies mind. Yet, for all this conservationist cuisine advocates woe for their lost  culinary heritage, surely they should recognize that paella as cooked in Valencia cannot be divorced from the paella cooked in various parts of the world. To paraphrase Rizal, genius, especially culinary, is everyone's patrimony. I call mine Arroz de los Indios Bravos, or simply paella mio, and enjoy the cooking and eating experience. Ole!

Friday, August 21, 2015

31. Happy to Be Around

Turning forty-five means I have been on this earth as it completes forty-five revolutions around the sun. If we count the nine months that I was in my mother's womb, that makes it forty five and three-fourths times. If, by the grace of God, I live up to the age of ninety, forty-five means I'm in the third quarter of my life. In basketball, the third quarter usually decides the outcome of the game. It is when the dominant team builds the twenty-point lead, or when the underdog, which has been lagging the first half, gets back in the game. It's when the coaches decide to adjust the game plan, or anticipate the adjustment of the opposing coaches for the win. So what will it be in the third quarter of life? Einstein debated with Neils Bohr on quantum mechanics at this time. Hemingway wrote the Old Man and the Sea. Rachmaninoff composed Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. Karol Josef Wojtyla became a Cardinal. Picasso painted the massive Guernica. And Churchill rose from Secretary of War to Prime Minister. It is indeed the time to be alive, the period when experience tames reckless passion,  when discipline meets energy, the time when we slay the dragons of our quest and find our treasures in the cave. This only means I'm far away from being done. To everyone who has greeted me today, thank you for your kindness. I'm happy to be around and even happier to finish this game.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

30. Journeys

I no longer have any doubts  about evolution. My kids are better evolved as compared to the kid that I once was, thanks to the benefit of my wife's genes. They are tall and broad-shouldered teeners and tweeners, adept in communications, and comfortable with themselves. They are all also better students than I was; technologically savvy, with advanced musical skills and veterans of music recitals. My then lanky frame as a fourteen year old, with no passion but basketball and Spandau Ballet, will be out of place with this brood. Yet, what is amazing is that as early as ten years of age, these kids already know what they want to do with their lives:  An engineer, a human resource manager, an anime artist, and a teacher. Me, I didn't know until I was already in college. Of course, these life plans can change, and what is even more amazing is that my kids know the value and importance of choosing their own life journeys, whereas I would have serious doubts about life's purpose until I read Joseph Campbell and re-read the life of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

29. Trip to Davao

To catch a 4:00 am trip to Davao, we woke up at 1:00 am, and left the house at 1:30am. The court hearing is at 8:30am, and like most hearings, the admonition is your case is gone if you miss the hearing.  You can imagine the contingency planning required if things fall apart, i. e., the plane is late or is cancelled, which flight is the next and so on.  The toughest part of the trip is trying to catch some sleep while the plane is in flight. Airplane economy seats are not comfortable for sleeping. They are fine as seats, however, for one to two hour trips. But that's how far it goes. Food is something to look forward to in the place of destination. Davao tuna, anyone? And the get-up should be spotless. Davao lawyers can easily outdress the sartorialists of Manila, which I don't like, especially if the judge is thinking the lawyer who is better dressed is more prepared, because he had time to get suited up. Indeed, working trips can be troublesome for creatures of habit. Yet, these temporary displacements provide for an opportunity to be mindful again of little things, how we sleep, eat, and dress  up; matters that were once a source of pleasure and insight that soon became matters to be ignored in the daily routine. It is rather annoying to be worried again about such stuff, but being mindful is always a good thing. Mindfulness is the essence of our brain. So, here we go Davao. Engage me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

28. Senator Butz Aquino

Senator Butz Aquino, brother of Ninoy and uncle of the President, died yesterday. Seeing his face on the headlines somehow triggers a load of memories from childhood. The marches on Mendiola Bridge -- Senator Butz led the way with the August Twenty One Movement (ATOM); they were not that many to begin with. Once I monitored the ATOM run which covered many kilometers from Tarlac and ended in the tarmac where Ninoy was shot, and there were barely ten of them there. But Senator Butz, he marched on until that fateful early morning of February 22 when he gathered the people in EDSA that eventually ended in the departure of the Marcoses. I voted for him in his senatorial campaign, especially because he had this hip jingle sang by Freddie Aguilar that connected with the young voters then. Senator Butz is dead now; and the world is left poorer, because it lost the pair of eyes, which were among the first to see that a dictatorship could crumble with marches and runs alone. Rest in peace dear senator, you are not just the brother of Ninoy, you have been your own man all along.

Monday, August 17, 2015

27. Fr. Roque Ferriols, S. J.

I can think of at least ten people who have mentored me in many ways in the path of life. But today it's about Fr. Roque Ferriols. I've always called him mysterium tremendum. The old man, it is easy to piss him off. Speak to him in English without knowing what you're talking about -- "Ano ang kalansay? "Father it's part of the anatomy...," "Ano? *%!¥£€!!...kalansay it's your bones!" Tell him you can't attend your oral schedule because of a conflict with Fr. Green. "$:&;&! Father&;@;&:@) sabbathical£€|££}£\£!" Ask if there will be class in the afternoon, ";&/&akdj&;&:$/You are pressuring me not to hold classes with your question!" Yet, he is also mysterium fascinocium, especially when he picks a line from his book and speaks it in Greek, Latin, French, Ilocano and Bisaya. Then he reminds us that, if sometimes our love for knowledge is not enough motivation, then perhaps fear will settle it as he threatens to give a quiz that will cover everything we have discussed from the first day of classes. But what I  am eternally grateful for is his having taught me what a wonderful pre-occupation it is to engage in a life long adventure into discovering the mysteries of being. It's one thing to be taught a skill, but it is a great blessing to be shown your life's purpose. Thank you Father.  I'm still working on my quest. I have been happy so far.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

26. Filipino humor

Three girls, with nothing to do one evening, decided they were going to act bitchy on video and uploaded it on youtube. The eleven year old
played the meanest bitch, called themselves "Pabebe girls"; she didn't have eyebrows and youtubers thought it was all part of the act. The twelve year old took the cue from the first and she had a mouthful to say as she stutterred, no one should mind what they want to do on their video and no one could stop them. While the two played their act, a third voice was heard, "Tama na yan" pleading to stop it as if what was happening was an oppression. The video went viral and was soon lampooned on national tv, earning a lot of laughs. The three appear as themselves, and said they made the video because they were just bored. They were not like some gang of girls with shaven eyebrows. And Filipino humor, which for once I thought was limited to slapstick and language puns, extended its bounds to the fascination of the weird and bitchy.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

25. The 4Rs of Education

 Book Review ala Borges*:  The 4th R by Emiliano Cruz, Phd  (New Studies Publications 2014)

Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, and, what is that?A fourth R: Running. While the net savvy world is gradually embracing an international school curriculum that will include computer software coding, this book proposes half the time of Filipino children in school be spent on human kinetics. The thesis is simple: kids in elementary and high school should spend four hours a day in academics and another four in P.E.. Emiliano Cruz, Ph. D. in Education from St. Petersburg-State University, proposes that we follow the former Soviet model of education emphasizing the development of the body as much as the mind. He cites various studies that show healthy children learning better and quicker in academics after rigorous physical activities. He also goes through the educational histories of ancient Spartan society and communist Russia's as case studies to highlight the qualitative effects of such a system. He concludes his book with the argument that his proposal is also a counter-measure to the growing obesity epidemic among children and the increasing risk of sedentary life that may actually shorten the average Filipino lifespan in the future.

*Books that have not been written by authors who have not been born.

Friday, August 14, 2015

24. Questions

Are we born good and learn to be evil, or are we born evil and learn to be good? When we were babies, and  we began to sense our world, were our eyes looking to destroy or did we see to create? Do we learn about greed, or do we learn temperance? Are we wired for love, or are we programmed to hate? Are we disposed to helplessness or do we start with hope? When we face death, do we regret all the bad we have permitted ourselves to do, or are we grateful for all the good we have done? Is it relevant to know how we start or is all that really matters is how we end? Are we questions or are we answers?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

23. The Good Man

A good man is always a beginner. He thinks his job is always new, half-expecting things to work out the same way they did, and half-expecting they won't. To him, it's always a surprise whatever happens,  like laying bricks on the wall. Even if he planned it well and lay everything with care, he knows the bricks may chip and the wall may collapse. But the good man, he looks at what he has done and what has been wasted. He smiles and he begins again from where he left off or from whatever is left, if any is left.  Although he may complain, it is all a part of the rhythm of his day. He starts. He stops. He starts again. The endless cycle of ending and beginning -- the good man knows there is more to this than meets his eye.  It's not about him. It's about what has to be done. And if he dies, he knows, somebody will take his place, another good man beginning from where he ended. And soon the wall is built, perhaps to protect humanity from the elements, the violence of ofher men or the turbulence of the sea. But the good man is not done as there are more walls to build, and he should be ready for the next one. It is the ethic of the good man that the universe is greater than himself, but he is undaunted in what he has to do however he can. Call it hope. Call it love. Call it the energy that keeps the good man from going down. He will rise and begin again so sure for himself that every morning the sun will rise from the east; yet, he knows he can't be too sure.   

Monday, August 10, 2015

22. The Return

What is it in the human psyche that makes you want to go back? It is the story of the prodigal son returning to his father,  Rizal returning to Manila after Europe, Ninoy returning to the airport where he would be shot, Ringo Starr going back to Liverpool, and Pacquiao, with his beautiful JLo home,  going back to Gensan. It is the phenomenon of the balikbayans, the fundamental urge to return to one's roots. It is as if our lives traject, not in a straight path, but in a circle, eventually reaching the end where it all started.  Indeed, one of the saddest things in life is to go on an adventure and to return to one's home only to discover that it is no longer there.

Happy Birthday Justin! One day, I hope you understand this 

21. The Mangyan Boy

There once was a Mangyan boy who was captured by a kaingenero and was brought to the lowlands. The boy was clothed and given a Christian name. The kainginero sent the boy to school where he excelled in his class. He studied at the University of the Philippines and soon he got a scholarship in Stanford University. Meanwhile, his Mangyan parents looked for him. They travelled around Mindoro to find him but they did not have any trace of his whereabouts. Soon, they gave up hope of ever finding him. One day, the boy, who was now a scholar researching on indigenous communities, turned up in the Mangyan resettlement in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro.  He didn't recognize his parents and neither did his parents recognize him. Just then a group of Mangyan teenagers started making sounds with their kalutang, the large bamboo sticks used to pound on the ground in rhythmic harmony. The scholar noticed them and soon he was crying. He grabbed some of the sticks and joined the group recalling the sounds and rhythms that he used to enjoy as a boy. Suddenly, he recognized the surroundings where he grew up. His Mangyan parents wept as they had found their lost boy. Perhaps other memories were shared but the boy had to leave and return to the lowlands. Writing about a similar story in Argentina, Jorge Luis Borges wrote, "I wonder what he felt in that vertiginous moment when the past and the present were confused; I would like to know if the lost son was reborn and died in that moment of rapture, or if he managed to recognize, like an infant  or a dog at least, his parents and his home."

Sunday, August 09, 2015

20. Bulungan: Inside Malacanang

Book review ala Borges*: Edited by Gerald Toledo Ph. D. (Our Heritage Publications, 2015)

The three volume work contains an encyclopedic look into the whispered secrets behind the men and women in power who occupied Malacanang through the years. Written by generations of waiters, maids, janitors, barbers, and gardeners who served the presidents and their families, the book weaves anecdotes, history, and the myth of hero as president of the Philippines. From Manuel Roxas's Japanese friends,  Magsaysay's soup, the story behind Ferdinand Marcos's elevator shoes, to Gloria Arroyo's favorite brandy, the book shows how human and Filipino the presidents have been while governing a tumultuous country. The book also reveals the story behind the awarding of the shoe supply contract to Ang Tibay by the Philippine Army following the election of Manuel L. Quezon. It contains a description on what was happening in the Palace while Ninoy Aquino was about to be killed on that tragic Sunday afternoon in 1983, the work habits of Erap Estrada, and the phone calls of Gloria Arroyo. One of the most recent entries shows the details of the minute by minute discussion of Janet Napoles and President Noynoy Aquino as she negotiates the terms of her surrender together with her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan. A unique section of the book shows the newspaper headline and the annotations by the resource persons on what details were missed, slanted, twisted, and blocked before publication. Bulungan represents the subverted speech of generations of silent workers of the most powerful people in Philippine history. It's publication is an event that highlights that no secret is ever safe from the judgment of history. Carefully edited and verified by a noted scholar from Cornell University, it unmasks the truth behind the theater of state propaganda and shows that the men and women of the Philippines who were once clothed with power are only as weak as the myths they made to stay in power.

*This book review series features works that have not been written by authors who have not been born.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

19. The Plant

Bootstrapping with hydroponics lately, I was fascinated with this miniature money tree growing on pumice with no direct need for sunlight and surviving on as little as a tablespoon of water a week. It's a low maintenance indoor plant. I decided to take on another plant, the name of which escapes me now, and asked my wife if I could put in the toilet. The plant has elongated leaves that sprout from stems making each branch look like a crown. Everyday, when visiting the toilet, I look at it to make sure it doesn't get too dry. It seemed fine for many weeks. But one day, I noticed the leaves were starting to rot. I kept on observing, sometimes putting the  plant near direct sunlight, or putting more water, to no avail. The thing with plants is they never talk back. I always have to guess if what I'm doing is right. Finally, I decided the plant should be taken away from the restroom. Maybe all that methane was bad for the thing. I put it beside the money tree, yet soon all the leaves were shed. The rescue operation was lost. Perhaps, I should have taken it out of the toilet when it showed signs of rotting? Perhaps, someone else was watering it not knowing it could drown?So much for this adventure with little indoor plants. I think it died. But last week,  a new crown sprouted. It's alive! It's probably the closest feeling I had gotten to be being a doctor -- when a thing dies, or looks like it died, and it is suddenly back to life. My plant and I fought and won over entropy. Well, it looks like it. So far. But, no, It's not going back to the toilet. I guess no plant could survive the conditions there. It must have been hell for the poor thing.

Friday, August 07, 2015

18. Ripped off by a doctor?

Friday night it was satay sauce. Saturday, patis with calamansi  Sunday -- mango and bagoong. Monday, it was the stress of losing the iPhone and the race to protect the data on the phone. Tuesday, satay sauce again. So Wednesday, my blood pressure shot up to 150/112. My head was turning as I tried to remember the things I needed to do to bring down the blood pressure. I rushed to the doctor to find out what to do. He greeted me, the familiar face from three years ago, and reminded me of what he told me then. Ditch the salt. Exercise everyday. Avoid stress.  I asked what would I do in case my blood pressure shoots up again. He said the same thing. Ditch the salt. Exercise everyday. Avoid stress. He apologized for doctors being importunate and smiled. I walked away from the clinic shaking my head and wondering if I was ripped off. I paid 600 bucks for something I already knew.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

17. What is the value of beauty clinics?

Jobs. I don't mean nose jobs. I mean real jobs, the ones with employer-employee relations,  salaries, and withholding taxes.  Salaries that feed families. Taxes that build roads.  Beauty clinics provide jobs. More importantly, beauty clinics teach enterpreneurship. They show us how to make money on people whose self-esteem depend on the shape of their nose, the size of their bra, the whiteness of their armpits, and the fats on their butts. Beauty clinics have made this business of convincing people they are ugly, and their ugliness can be fixed, into an art.  Everyone should learn it. Finally and most importantly, beauty clinics are prophetic. Some of their products show how zombies would look like when the apocalypse happens. Imagine a skeleton with boobs. A nose without a face. Butts without legs. Beautiful. So, what is the value of beauty clinics? If you want to give people jobs, learn how to make money, and prepare for the apocalypse, go to beauty clinics.

 (For Vinnie who still can't find the answer)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

16. The GINI Index under PNoy vs. The World

The GINI Index is the measure of income inequality in a country. If the index is 0, there is perfect equality. If the index is 100, there is perfect inequality. I have been waiting for this index to come up in political discussions, but sadly all we have, on one hand, is the leftist cliche of the inverted pyramid, which I've always thought to be mostly agitation propaganda.  And on the other hand, we have the GDP trumpeters, to whom the academics argue that GDP fails to measure the qualitative effects on the general population. So here it is the GINI index -- the measure of how income is divided among the population. The data show no country with a perfect 0, which means there is no absolute equality on earth. Neither is there any country with a 100 index, dictators and their cronies notwithstanding.  Perhaps, we can benchmark ourselves with other countries? South Africa's index is 65. Canada? 33.7. No wonder, most of my relatives are there. Mexico? 47.2 The US? 41. And the Philippines, 43. Not bad at all, considering that Brazil has 52.7.  Click here for the complete data from the World Bank.  I'm not an Aquino apologist. But the index is what it is. From 2010 to 2014, our GINI index shows more than half of the country shared its income. No inverted pyramid. Thus, even if PNoy has been the darling of big business, big business has not been the exclusive beneficiary of income in this country. Of course, we should aim for a lower index, but now we're better than Brazil and Mexico and just a little behind the US.  And look at that curious thing - Cambodia 31.8. I'm sure the GINI Index has limitations. In basketball, you can have thirty points and still lose the game. Thus, statistics like this should be analyzed with other tools. Yet, the GINI Index should not be left out in the debate, especially if you have a Vice President saying more people are getting poorer as a campaign premise, and you know he's lying.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

15. To catch a thief

I'm playing James Bond today. A thief stole my iPhone yesterday. We caught his identity in the CCTV and alerted the authorities. The phone has a passcode. There are 9999 combinations to unlock the phone. Assuming he's been trying to unlock it, it will take him days and numb fingers to get pass through the screen lock. If he is successful, he will find out that the number is blocked. I already have new a sim with my old number from the phone company.  I've reconfigured all email accounts. So, the phone is useless. He can change the sim and reset the phone. But it is going to stick to my iCloud account. The fun part is if he tries to connect to the web, the phone will declare itself as stolen and send me an email. I can then erase all the contents remotely and catch this son of a gun. Have popcorn. Will catch a thief. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

14.The right to an uncluttered view of the Rizal monument

I haven't heard of the law that prohibits lot owners from building around a public monument. The general principle is that the right to use private property, including the right to build on it, is regulated only by the State's power to protect the public good. What is the public good in the case of preventing neighbors of a monument from building around it? An uncluttered view of the monument. The Civil Code has provisions on easements on light and view. Thus, for private disputes on having light and view, the mechanics of establishing one are all there, but for public monuments? It's a tricky proposition, considering there is no law. In the Torre de Manila case, where you have this massive building cluttering the view of the Rizal monument, the key issue is whether there is a law providing the basis for the removal of the building. In the absence of that law, it would be a stretch to expect the Supreme Court to craft one on the basis of equity or the motherhood statements of the Constitution on preservation of culture and heritage. Yet, only the Supreme Court can tell us if there is really no law. Sometimes, there are provisions lurking in the small corners of law books that the Court brilliantly finds to support a cause, especially one which has been the basis of public outcries. Until then, this issue of the right to an uncluttered view of the Rizal monument is more political than legal, Rizal fans notwithstanding.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

13. The bottle

It's a bottle with a womb. The womb opens from outside. That's where the ice goes. So, it doesn't dilute the sake and ruin the taste. I pour the sake in a small shot glass, the choko. The ice melts but it doesn't disturb the sake. And the sake stays chilled. The science behind it is that ice takes the heat off the glass, and the glass takes the heat off the sake. Yet the water stays off the sake. Hence, the sake stays a little sweet, a little bitter, it's spirit staying consistent with every shot. What kind of artisan could think of such an imaginative contraption? Was he a glass maker or simply a lover of sake seeking to solve this age old problem -- how to chill the sake? Did the idea come to him in trickles as he pondered on the problem; perhaps, it came to him by accident or in a dream? Why shape it like a womb? I stare at the sake as it rests quietly chilling inside this bottle, It would work for wine or beer. Brilliant execution of an idea. Like the sake it's supposed to chill.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

12. Does God play SIMS with people?

I'm sure Descartes will object. The SIMS cannot do the cogito. They don't have independent thinking that can assert that because they think, they exist. They cannot step out of the game and tell their gamer, we think you don't exist. Neither can they praise the gamer and start a religion. I would add that "play" is a tricky word. It's half serious than work, albeit I think God has a sense of humor. Yet if by play we mean spontaneous directionless interaction, I would definitely join Descartes in his objection. This cannot be all spontaneous combustion by a deity tapping on an iPad. So, no. God doesn't play SIMS with people. Wait a minute, did I hear you say there's a free will mode on?