Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Musing at 12:39 AM, 19 December 2010

And where else did I get the inspiration to write this piece?

You bet. It’s on loo again. (This got me into thinking. Could it be that my muse loves to stay in the toilet. Hmmm...)

Apologies for the "l" world. But this blog entry is more of a reflection on my interaction, dialogue and experience with friends, colleagues and strangers and the lessons in-between.

  1. We are not lucky every day. Just when we think everything is okay, things turn out jia lat (Hokkien term for trouble or terrible situation).
  2. Help comes in different forms and colours. But a hand offered by a stranger is always genuine and warm.
  3. We remember moments and experiences, and we associate them to a person.
  4. Success, no matter how glittery and tempting it may seem, is sometimes an empty pursuit. Be warned of a Chinese saying that it is cold on top.
  5. Sometimes, success comes from sheer luck. We just happen to be in the right place at the right time.
  6. No matter how much money we accumulate, we will never be satisfied until we share it with others.
  7. We do not lose if we give money to who need it. We only allow the person to experience the same level of comfort we enjoy. This is what we know as sharing.
  8. Jealousy and pride are two sins that consume us in our chase for success. But we can put them into good use. Jealousy as a leverage to improve our lives ; and pride as a shield from unscrupulous people who take advantage of the weak.
  9. Passion or money? Take the plunge or gawk on the edge, and figure out the depth of the ridge? Unknown or sure answers? We are all tempted to do the former but ended up doing the latter.
  10. Passion is something that defines us. It is not an itch that cannot be scratched by money alone.
  11. If we strongly feel for something, do not let go. We may not achieve it now, but we will later.
  12. Creative people have passion for what they do. No matter what other people say about our art and pursuit, we just go on, try harder until we are happy with our results.
  13. People who do creative things but do not know how to respect the style and uniqueness of another person limit his growth. We do not set boundaries, parameters and formula for our craft.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Simbang gabi, a century-old tradition that is still very much part of Pinoy Christmas

Pinoy Christmas will not be complete without observing the novena at dawn popularly known as simbang gabi. Held at 4 o’clock in the morning and kicks off every 16th of December, simbang gabi is a novena held during Christmas season and being followed by Catholics in the hope of receiving special blessing from God. Filipino Catholics believe that by completing the novena, God will grant their wish.

Simbang Gabi culminates in the Misa de Gallo or Rooster’s Mass held on Christmas Eve. Why rooster? It is believed that the rooster was among the first to witness Christ’s birth, hence the name.

Simbang Gabi scenes

Churchgoers clad in maong and wool jackets. Lolos and lolas trying to focus (and not sleep) during the priest’s homily. Bright church patio or altar.

These are the common sight of simbang gabi in the Philippines with the backdrop of shadows of teen couples lurking in the church corner or garden.

And who will miss the queue of tinderos and tinderas in front of the church during this season? They offer churchgoers a variety of local snacks, drinks and dishes from:

  1. bibingka (flour and egg cakes cooked on top and under) to
  2. puto bumbong (a purple colored rice pastry, seasoned with grated-coconut and brown sugar) to
  3. kutsinta to
  4. higute (how natives of Morong, Rizal, Philippines call porridge) to
  5. hot chocolate

Did you know?

That simbang gabi started in the Spanish colonial era when Filipino farmers and parishioners would hear early dawn masses before toiling the land. But Wikipedia noted, “The Simbang Gabi timing originated not just out of devotion, but also due to practicality (sic).”

The Spanish friars (frailes y cura parrocos) wanted the majority of Filipinos, who were mostly farmers, to hear the novena during Christmas season and since Filipino farmers then worked early in the day, the Spanish friars compromised and held the mass at dawn. As the farmers did not have much to offer, offerings then were sacks of rice, fruits, vegetables and fresh eggs, which the friars shared to parishioners and thus became the tradition of breakfasts after simbang gabi.

Up to today, most Filipinos believe that completing the novena of simbang gabi will make one’s wish come true. So be it a boyfriend, a baby or money, let’s be part of simbang gabi, wherever we may be.

Simbang gabi in Singapore

Please click here to view the schedule of Simbang Gabi in Singapore.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Still proud to be Pinoy despite major-major blunders

Note: This article was written at the height of the issue of Manila hostage crisis but was left out in the inner recesses of the writer’s laptop. Apologies for the late posting. But regardless of the publishing date, the stand still remains: I am proud to be Pinoy.

Thanks to late Captain Roland Mendoza and Venus Raj. The Philippines is in the world map again – albeit in a bad light.

Since the dreadful August 23 hostage-taking of several Hong Kong tourists by disgruntled ex-police captain Mendoza, the Philippines is reduced to:

  1. being unsafe and can be forgotten in the holiday lists of non-Filipinos;
  2. not to mention the sheer madness of the incident.

Its post-mortem: the incompetence of the Philippine police; the flawed justice system for allegedly not hearing Mendoza’s case properly; the free hand of the media on the hostage-taking coverage, which to some experts, jeopardized the police operation; the lack of control of President Noynoy’s government in the hostage crisis and the lame answer of Miss Universe fourth runner up Venus Raj in the Las Vegas pageant all seem to support these assumptions though.

But, are we? Hearing the “s” reference is unsettling. The Philippines being unsafe is a fact with unquelled rebellions of red and Muslim fundamentalists; end of discussion. But the Filipinos’ sensibilities being questioned is something that cause rage in me. Mendoza was at fault; Raj was lame. But the Philippines has a lot of reasons and people to celebrate with the likes of CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida, International Designer Monique Lhuillier, The Incredibles Animator Virginia Cruz-Santos, Hot Shot Lawyer Kiwi Camara and 2004 Best Public Speaker Winner in London Patricia Evangelista.

Sure I am on a defensive stance. But this is my way of looking at the brighter side, my way of standing firmer on my ground as a Pinoy overseas worker. I have no choice but to accept the gaffes of Mendoza and Raj, which were unfortunately covered by the global media; but taking these isolated cases as a general view on the capabilities and sensibilities of the Filipino people is equally ridiculous and falls short of the thought process.

Update: As of posting date, the Philippines had filed administrative charges to government and police officers held accountable for the hostage crisis and released the second report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee, which was received by the Hong Kong government with disappointment. See more reports here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Loo seat

We always look for the best place to brainstorm but little did we know that it is our friendly loo seat that is sitting idly in our home and perhaps serving us tirelessly; that fills this very need.

Since I discover that I am creative in some way, it is when I am on loo that my head is pumped with outrageous thoughts and pesky ideas. It is when I do my business that my aha moments take place.

Realizing the loo’s importance, I’ve been in awe with her patience and just dispositions. I do not hesitate to reveal myself while on it. It could be the stillness of the environment, the serenity I feel inside her – like the moment inside the mother’s womb, where one can think of anything and everything without being judged.

Surprisingly, a study by the National Express in UK seemed to affirm this observation. Two-thirds of those 500 surveyed said that while on loo seat, they thought of crazy (they call it out-of-the-box) ideas like having a product launch for a harness by letting 500 people jump off the top of Petronas, using the newspaper as tissue alternative in the name of saving Mother Earth or thinking of some connections of 100 and one cutting-edge ideas such as – yeah, this article.

Though the purpose of the study seemed to be a bit suspicious, as the result was used at the launch of luxury loo in National Express coaches, the point, however, is still worthwhile – at least for someone who is most productive while ditching her **** – like me.

Lessons from Plants vs Zombies

It’s my free time and it’s Plants vs. Zombies (PnV) time!

Waiting for the laundry? Play PnV! Could not sleep at night? Tire yourself in PnV! Waiting for the food to be served? Feed zombies with veggies in PnV!

This seems to be the daily order at home as most of us (7 – 6 adults and one child - out of 11 housemates) are hooked by the game. Whether it’s on iPad, iPhone or PC, you will see seven of us fixed to our devices busy defending our virtual homes from the mob of brain-hungry zombies. Our dearest allies? The zombie-zapping plants!

Our home is considered a community of Plants vs. Zombies enthusiasts who find the game a good way to de-stress and yeah, bond together. Over breakfast or dinner, we share tips and tricks on what plants to use on particular zombies. Oddly enough, the zombie talk would spice up our appetite! Watching a fellow gamer on a defensive stance invites another gamer to help, lest the zombies eat his or her brains (PnV term of losing the game).

But more than the game’s entertainment value, I see PnV parallel to an education platform that instils us the principles of strategy, creativity and perseverance. It’s not a mere means to kill time but more than a dollar worth of lessons in career and life.

Below are some eureka thoughts on Plants vs. Zombies one Saturday afternoon after I failed to defend my virtual home four times:

  1. Know your enemies
    From Sun Tzu to Pop Cap, this passage holds true. It is when we know our enemies that we know best how to win the game.

  2. Know your enemies’ weaknesses
    Similar with the above, it is when we know our enemies’ weaknesses that we can position ourselves better. It is when we know their pain points that we set the right weapon and win over them.

  3. Think before you act
    Fascinating, this passage is not only applicable to our dealings with our family and loved ones. It also applies to our careers, business decisions and games of strategy such as PnV.

  4. Never give up
    After the zombies ate my brains for four consecutive times on the roof of my virtual house one Saturday afternoon, I told myself not to give up. I took a rest for a while and prepared myself for the next battle. It was quite difficult for me to accept defeat but the game reminded me of not losing perspective.

  5. Overcome the challenge and win over
    This is what I had in mind when I returned in the game. Not only that I was more relaxed to face the challenge head on, I had planned my strategy well that eventually led to the zombies’ defeat. Nyahaha.

  6. Prepare for the worst
    Life in reality is not always sunny and so is life in PnV. It is good to be always on the winning side, however, if some stroke of misfortune happen, we must be ready as well.

  7. If defeat is inevitable, let it be. But know what to do in the next encounter.
    This is so true even in real life. If we stumble upon a rock in our journey home and it is inevitable that we stop for a while, so be it. There is no harm in putting up with some dose of disappointment from time to time. Even Michael Jordan missed thousands of shot attempts before he became the basketball legend. It is the attitude to continue and finish the battle with triumph that matters in the end.

  8. They are just zombies. They stand no better than you.
    So are petty co-workers. What should we do then? Shrug them off.

  9. Work hard but play harder
    I learned this catch-phrase from my previous company who pushes its people to excel but instils them the value of enjoying work despite of stress and busy schedules. How they do it? They have team-building programmes to let their employees loosen up a bit in an environment where they can play but meet business objectives. These programmes boost productivity and make employees feel good about the company.

    My view on PnV is the same. Fighting against zombies can be quite tedious. And rewarding me after a tiring battle is but necessary. How? A good night sleep, a shopping spree and a blog entry.

  10. Take good care of the things you hold dear
    In PnV, I hold my virtual home so dear, thus I fight hard to keep it safe and secured from the brain-hungry zombies.

    In real life, I value my spouse, family and career most, thus not letting anything mess up with them. I hold them so dearly as they define the way I live .

Gassing of Dogs

It is disturbing to see how some local government units in the Philippines address the issue of street order by summary executing stray dogs via the tambucho or gassing method.

For the benefit of non-Filipinos, tambucho is a colloquial term for car exhausts, which sadly, are used currently for gassing the poor man’s best friend.

In Kidapawan City, Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental in Southern Philippines*, the local government units created groups to specifically oversee the clearing of streets through caging of stray dogs and keeping them in 5 days until owners claim for them. If no owners show up, the poor dogs (usually in batch of 8) are to be placed in an enclosed steel compartment; a tambucho will be inserted to it, run the car engine and suffocate them. It will take 7 to 8 minutes to finish the business*.

For some cash-strapped local government units, this is the most cost-effective way to meet their objective - that is to make sure that streets are clean and orderly.

But far more than addressing the issue and providing a solution (for the sake of "taking action"), it is a question of the means rather than the end. Budget has always been a concern. But is it the case? Or are our local government units just lazy to think through and come up with a long-term solution for this issue – as they have always been for a number of issues that beset our country?

Dogs are not humans, but they deserve to be treated well. They may seem to clutter our streets, but clearing up this mess can be done in a number of creative ways.

Marikina’s APCO **

Marikina City created the Animal Protection and Council Office (APCO) to look after stray dogs and keep them off streets by penalizing their owners thru fines and community service.

If a dog is gone astray, APCO will take the owner into account. If a dog causes damage to another person’s property, the owner will answer for it. If a dog is found to have a communicable disease, APCO will confiscate it. APCO also prohibits the slaughter of dogs, sale and transport of dog meat in the city.

Marikina City and APCO show how the issue of street order via eradication of stray dogs can be tackled positively and creatively. By making the dog owners accountable for the safekeeping of their pets, APCO is able to meet its objective while the community shares the responsibility, which should be the case. It may seem to be more complicated (for the sluggish), but it proves to be a win-win situation in the long run.

This also reminds us to care for others-be it an animal or a human being.

*  Data are from Mindanao Examiner
** Data are from Marikina APCO