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Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading: Not an Excuse

My former mentor warned me against making reading as an excuse not to have a life: love, sex, and night.

I'm guilty.

I could have easily pursued all three mentioned above had not the other option been too easy and enticing: reading.

Powerbooks is the number one culprit. Where in the world can you buy a Chinua Achebe for P75? Or an Isabel Allende for P150? And thrown in Ben Okri's "The Famished Road" and Vladimir Nobokov's "Lolita" side by side a shelf.

Over the weekend I bought three Chinua Achebe novels, a Milan Kundera, Isabel Allende's 2010 novel "Island Beneath the Sea" (hardbound copy), and Ben Okri's "The Famished Road" all for a little over P1,000. "Lolita" will have to wait.

Reading Isabel Allende, the female Gabriel Garcia Marquez I dare say, I ask myself why can't a contemporary Filipino author soar as high. And easily I have an answer, most Filipino authors write in English. Ironically, the best contemporary works of literature are written by non-native speakers of English who wrote in their own tongue and have/had their works translated in English and other languages: Paulo Coelho, GG Marquez, Jose Saramago, Allende, Nahguib Mahfouz, Boris Pasternak, Dostoyevsky, Thomas Mann, Haruki Murakami, and Yukio Mishima.

But I will leave that thought to the politics of languages and linguistics.

So I'm the reader sans life: love, sex, and night. And it makes it more difficult if you're a reader of these books, and you can't talk about them during dates. So instead you talk about Steve Jobs and his notable quotes in his Stanford speech.

And yes, reading should not be an excuse to have a life outside the pages of a book. Neither should the characters in these works be made the benchmarks of the people we will choose to love.

Reality should be separated from fiction. Writers may be considered as creators, but they are not gods.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aleph and Forgiveness

 I read Paulo Coelho the way I read Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams back in the day. A month ago I read "Aleph," Coelho's latest novel. A novel that reveals much about him without the usual rants. Albeit, a lot of excuses and defensive remarks. We know, Paulo, you are a faithful husband. There was no need to put in every other line the obvious. (Evil smiley here) (Another cute smiley here)

For neo writers who want to be as famous as him as a writer, Paulo advised not to write about who and what you are not. Or something like that. Don't entertain people, rich or famous or both though they are, who come to you and ask you to write their great story. (Unless you are that writer who earns a living by writing biographies like that teacher I know. Now, getting it from Paulo, I realize how cheap that job really is.)

From Aleph I realize why Paulo writes about the philosophy woven into the fabric of magic, spirituality, journeys, and destination. He writes about the person he was and is meant to be.

Paulo Coelho is one writer Leo Tolstoy would have embraced and kissed. The degree of infectiousness that Coelho puts in his writings is so high it spreads like an epidemic. We can all ask the hundreds of million who read his books.

In a world where people no longer turn the other cheek, we find minty-fresh bound leaves that speak of forgiveness:

“I forgive the tears I was made to shed,
I forgive the pain and the disappointments,
I forgive the betrayals and the lies,
I forgive the slanders and intrigues,
I forgive the hatred and the persecution,
I forgive the blows that hurt me,
I forgive the wrecked dreams,
I forgive the stillborn hopes,
I forgive the hostility and jealousy,
I forgive the indifference and ill will,
I forgive the injustice carried out in the name of justice,
I forgive the anger and the cruelty,
I forgive the neglect and the contempt,
I forgive the world and all its evils.

“I also forgive myself. May the misfortunes of the past no longer weigh on my heart. Instead of pain and resentment, I choose understanding and compassion. Instead of rebellion, I choose the music from my violin. Instead of grief, I choose forgetting. Instead of vengeance, I choose victory.

“I will be capable of loving, regardless of whether I am loved in return,
Of giving, even when I have nothing,
Of working happily, even in the midst of difficulties,
Of holding out my hand, even when utterly alone and abandoned,
Of drying my tears, even while I weep,
Of believing, even when no one believes in me.”


To THOSE who have hurt me and THOSE who are atill hurting me, I forgive you for all the things the world will not allow me to forgive in you, and for all the things you think you did not do to hurt me, and for everything that you did, but did not know that hurt me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Sending Kids to Jail

Because you can't catch the big fish, you settle for the fingerlings.

Because you can't catch the mastermind, you arrest the house guard.

Because you can't improve the economy, and can't abolish corruption, you blame it to population.

Why can't we give the right medicine to the disease?

A bill is being pushed to lower the age of children that may be jailed for delinquency. As it is, a person below 18 years old who commits a crime will be sent to DSWD and some government agency in charge of the delinquents, but not to jail.

Adults have gone so scared, they want child criminals: killers, thieves, drug users, drug pushers and rapists to be sent to jail. Then what? Earn a degree in crime while staying in jail with free board and lodging?

Are our prisons good enough for children? Have we not seen enough gore in city and national jails for adults, we want to throw in children too? Have we reached the renaissance of jail management that getting in prison is now corrective rather than punitive?

Yes, let us punish the children because our society has gone blind. We have children becoming parents at the first strike of puberty. Do we offer them condoms and contraceptives to avoid pregnancy? Or do we offer shelter, food, education, and care?

Let us punish the children committing crimes from petty to bizarre. That is the easiest way, so much easier than taking care of them, right?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Steve Jobs was only 56; William Shakespeare was 52; Michael Jackson was 51; Jose Rizal was 35; and JC was only in his 30s.

At this day and age when man wants to live forever, and look young every day of his life, there are individuals like Steve, Shakespeare, Michael, Jose, and JC who show us beyond their years on earth that it is not the number of years we live that matters, it is what we do with those years that counts.

We complain about the difficulties in life, but we never lift a finger to change them. We rely our happiness on other people's competence, our success on other people's sweat.

Perhaps it is too late to ask the great dead folks how they did it. But it is neither too late nor too hard to be inspired by what they have left us.

As Steve Jobs said, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." We are all part of a great design. And it is not about looking good and feeling fine. It is about being a gift to the world like the sun in the sky, like the Apple in your hands.

Steve Jobs, thank you!

Monday, October 3, 2011


"Hukbong Panghimpapawid ng Pilipinas" emblazoned mightily on the side of the sleek, black bus that suddenly loomed big on my left side view mirror. Like "Jaws," the bus came fast I thought it was going to devour me. I could hear the main Jaws soundtrack play as the bus passed by me.

In a split second it was in front of me, way ahead of me. I was doing 80 based on my speedometer, running on the slow lane. I decided to take this morning slow. Anyway, it was only sevenish down SLEX between Southwoods and Susana Heights exits. The bus changed lane to the left, then to the next, then eventually to the leftmost lane. I couldn't believe a bus that big, of the Philippine Air Force, would weave through four lanes of SLEX like an eel. It definitely can, but should it? Is there a terrorist attack? Is there another coup d' etat?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blank Certificate

I'm not done.

How does one feel to receive a blank certificate?

I was insulted.

A week ago I received an e-mail reminding me to pick up my certificate from a conference where I was one of the paper presenters. I worked on that paper for a month and braved a typhoon to present it.

And what do I get for the effort? A blank certificate.

The person who handed me the certificate apologized for not having my name written on it. He said they were afraid they might have my name wrong. Excuse me??? My name was everywhere in your program, in your souvenir pamphlets, in my EMAILS to you, in your EMAILS to me, in my bionote, and in my face you made that excuse?

I know it was not the man's fault if the organizers were inefficient. So I didn't lash out at him. But on our way out, my friend, who was with me, said I should have. She said it was both insulting and disrespectful. She's part of several events organizations and she knows what she's talking about. A big event like what I have been a part of should have competent people. Never mind respect, mind only that they do their jobs right so that certificate issuance is done correctly.

And it has been three months!

Of course, I have a good mind to give them my feedback. It is a gift.

University of the Philippines Diliman, when will you ever stop disappointing me this week?