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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When the Bus Flew Off Skyway

December 16, 2013. I left Southwoods Exit at 4:50 AM. South Luzon Expressway was pitch dark save for the headlights of vehicles taking the route. The roads were slippery from the rains. These two are ingredients for disaster. Never mind who is cooking. I took the third lane, running between 60-80 kph for safety while vehicles whizzed me by. I wondered what important matters they needed to deal with to risk it.

At about a quarter after 5, I was under the Skyway along SLEX. The concrete road was dry. The Skyway kept the rains to itself.

Without me realizing it, a few minutes later, a red bus would fly off from above it, killing dozens, injuring more.

At 5:45 AM, I reached the Pope Pius Catholic Center and joined friends in what was left of the 4:30 AM Misa de Gallo. The celebration took longer than scheduled. The Choir sang some carols as we made our way out of the Church.

But back in SLEX below the Skyway...

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Mirror of Each Other - Yoling and Yolanda: 42 Years Apart

Typhoon Yoling struck on November 20, 1970. Those in their 50s and 60s and even 70s still remember it well like a nightmare. In the province, pigs in their sty drowned. Nipa huts were shredded like palay stalks fed to rice granaries. In the city, glass windows shattered in hospitals and concrete homes and buildings. Flood washed away everything in the way -- that went without saying, either. "Climate change" was still grammatically incorrect and Al Gore was only 22 years old.

November 8, 2013 CE, Super typhoon Yolanda - billed as the strongest typhoon ever recorded in world history (never mind Noah's and Gilgamesh's accounts of The Great Flood BCE) - struck Central Philippines and how!

News feeds remind you of Hollywood movies; what happen to the victims in the aftermath reminds you of novels telling the theme of dehumanization: The Call of the Wild, 1984, Lord of the Flies...

The world has come together to extend a hand: countries (developing and highly developed, friends and foes), leagues (big and small), individuals (popular and notorious; known and unknown; rich and poor).

The world has shed tears, some bent their knees, too.

There is a lesson here. May we pass the next open book exam henceforth.

(Hopelessness and Hope)

 (They have had enough posing for aerial views.)

(NYC's Empire State Building in Philippine Colors to show solidarity with our people) 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Anti-Epal Law? Just Scrap Pork.

Mr. President, 

You don't need to admit it, but quite a number of people know it. You need PORK to bribe senators, congressmen, and the powers-that-be to pave your dream "daang matuwid." You need PORK as a carrot to push the rabbits, nay, the crocs to do your bidding. 

I wouldn't be surprised if you used PORK to ensure Corona gets impeached. You used PORK to get more allies. Mr. President, seriously, aren't the majority of the Filipinos, those who voted for you, not enough to cover your back? Aren't we enough to stand by you while you do the right things you promised in your campaign? We have your back. You do not need the dirty, greedy politicians. 

Just scrap the goddam pork! Enough of the Mayors and Congressmen and Senators putting up Pamantasan ng Lungsod/Baryo/Iskinita ng ___ then marking school buildings as Gusali ni Mayor/Senador/Gov/Cong. Enough of Mayors/Govs/Senators/Congs distributing ambulances for I have not seen a public ambulance that has no politician's name on it! Enough of every bit of public infrastructure from roads, to footbridges, to day-care centers, to public markets, to bridges, to basketball courts with names of politicians on it! Enough of putting name tags on every property bought and acquired using OUR money! 

Anti-epal law? That will be the thing of the past, if you scrap pork. So save people's money and people's ears from Sen. Miriam Santiago's grandstanding about her anti-epal bill.

Let your agencies do their work. Let CHED, TESDA and DepEd build schools and provide scholarships. Let DPWH build infrastructures (and allot one CCTV for every 10 employees of this agency, too.) Triple the manpower count of COA. Let DOH provide for ambulances and other medical needs to cities up to and down to the remotest of villages. Let DSWD provide for the emergency needs of the poor and even the not so poor - from the simple fare to one's province to caskets and burial expenses. Let NHA build houses for the disenfranchised, but I don't mean here the informal settlers. Let DENR take care of the environment. Let DA take care of the farmers. 

You are not going to be the president forever. Scrap pork in your term so that the next government regardless of its president will be hard put to undo it. If you scrap it, the Filipino may be assured that those running for public office will not be running after PORK.

So just SCRAP it!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing About "Before Midnight" After Midnight

Ethan Hawke in an interview for this movie said he hates romantic films that make you feel bad about your own life. He loves the idea of being in a romantic film with real men and women in it, where people aren't perfect so it doesn't make you feel bad about your own relationships.

That is the reason why I love the trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Never mind that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are attractive actors. Heck, but they cannot help it. But their characters are everyday people with everyday worries and aspirations and inanities.

I want it to be my own story. Umaasa lang! Hindi masama!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Not So Thoughtful Take on "Man of Steel"

My 7-year old nephew is the fire that bends the Iron Me.

Watching movies has ceased to be one of my favorite things. It is expensive as it is impractical. At what other period in human history when a movie pass is more costly than a book? Moreover, the high cost of going to cinemas doesn't guarantee you will see a movie so beautiful it makes you cry. That's all gone now.

These days, movies are about computerized effects and a blue backdrop. As Alan Rickman expressed of his final scene with Ralph Fiennes in the effects-riddled last installment of the Harry Potter Series, "Finally, there are just two actors acting."

And since my nephew is the fire that bends the Iron Me (I feel that's a good line, it begs to be repeated.), he turned my Sunday plans to smoke and steered me toward the cinema where "Man of Steel" like the low density, high strength titanium paper weight, sits on some hapless films brave enough to clash with Superman with an "S" which according to the movie is really not an "S."

Weed out what has been written before the film showing, these are my thoughts of it:

1. One half of the movie reminds me of 2011 Thor starring Chris Hemsworth, and 2012 The Avengers. Hollywood has to stop imitating our very own ABS CBN and GMA 7 in being recycle experts.

2. The city is ripped apart, turned upside down, blown to smithereens, bombed every square foot, and what else do you see? Those splendid city lights giving Kal-El and General Zod a dazzling metropolitan backdrop as the two unbelievable superheroes give the Cullen's and the Volturi a run for their immortality bid. Oh, I forget, in the superhero world, you don't need to turn off the power grid when disasters strike. Calling off Apocalypse. Oops, that's from another movie!

3. One fourth of the movie is Twilight. Clark Kent doing an Edward Cullen surliness. Man, you have everything going for you: strength, power, good looks, sexy bod, killer abs, great dad, great mom. But you need to search for...truth. Pft!

4. Every child, including the one with me, came to see Superman in the red cape fly. What does this film do? It takes its sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet time unfolding while giving us a bearded Clark Kent for a hundred or so excruciating minutes. My nephew has been this way and that on his seat, asking for this and that, this close to throwing in the white towel and storming out of the movie house. The kid just has so much pride. It is the other nephew who cannot finish a whole movie in the theater, not him.

5. And why is there no "(Ninoy) Hindi ka nag-iisa" in the movie? The world is manned by our OFWs. We need our own translation of "You are not alone."

I am not going to shoot down the film in this blog's entirety. It has its own shining moments, too.  It happened in the last sixty seconds of this two hours and 34 minutes long movie. If only for those few seconds, I am going to watch the sequel.

Oh, and also for Laurence Fishburne.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Time To Say Goodbye

Living alone in a 2-bedroom apartment is the loneliest that I allowed myself to be. So a month later, I took you in. That was in 2005. 

You have grown to be such a big masterpiece of a creature who acknowledges only one master: me. You can be playful and smart and soft and sweet. But you can also be dangerous and fierce. 

Having two kids in the house (now that I moved back in to my parents) while you are around is like treading on a wire 10 feet off the ground.

I never run out of black bruises caused by your excitement when I arrive home. 

But tonight has been the worst so far among all the accidents you have inflicted. Each time, I looked the other way. But not this time.

Kunot, my beloved and faithful dog, I will have to let you go. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Hearing Mass and Keeping the Faith

SWS survey says there is a huge drop in the percentage of Filipino Catholics going to Mass. The bishops are reported to deny this. They say the number of churches being built and the increased number of church goers each mass, some churches offering six masses each Sunday, just don't add up to support the survey results.

As a Catholic going to church to hear mass albeit irregularly, I can attest to the claim of the bishops. If you don't come at least 15 minutes before the scheduled mass, you will have to stand for the duration of the mass along with hundred others like you. This is true at the Greenbelt Chapel. But definitely there are churches with poor Sunday and Saturday anticipated mass attendance. I can name our parish as one. But poor attendance may be attributed to factors other than a Catholic losing faith in the Church. Who would want to go to a Church whose priest is a drunkard and wakes up late for the mass and who has to be awaken because he was out drinking the previous night? Who would want to go to a Church where the "servants" and "ladies" are blabbermouths? No one. So you go to a decent church.

Yet, faith tells you that the place of worship and the instrument used by God to deliver the good news are of no consequence. He is with you every where.

Pope Francis showed us that. You can hold Mass in a prison with its inmates and God is there. You come from a country that legalizes same sex marriage and God is also there. Pope Francis shows that to us, too.

What the SWS should have surveyed is if Catholics follow what their faith says. The Church does not tell us to be robotics. It tells us to listen to the heart of faith.

If all Catholics going to Church to hear mass follow the faith, (not what they think the Church asks them to do), we will all find life in the living, love in doing the right things, and not count faith by the numbers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

On Progressivism and Successful Undergrads

(This paper I submitted to the Philosophy of Education class.)        

I have always been fascinated by stories of successful people who make it big in their field and make it on their own without the benefit of higher education. Some of them went to school only for a few years. In the field of science and technology we can name Steve Jobs, the man who gave us Apple computers, smartphones, Ipad, Iphones, and other technologies that changed the world, particularly people’s lives; Bill Gates, the man who changed the way businesses are run all over the world with his Microsoft company; Albert Einstein, the Man of the 20th Century who immortalized the theory of relativity that has become highly applicable in today’s technology-driven world by way of the Global Positioning System (GPS) used in airplane navigation, oil exploration, bridge construction, and so more; Thomas Alba Edison; Henry Ford; the Wright Brothers; Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook that connects one billion people in the planet; and Larry Page, founder of Google,  the largest library in the world accessible to everyone with a device connected to the internet. 

In medicine, there is Vivien Thomas, a black American who helped develop the medical procedures used to treat the blue baby syndrome which has led to the development of heart surgery as we know now. Vivien Thomas was a carpenter who finished high school and was hired by a surgeon as a laboratory assistant to take care of dogs used during medical experiments. The doctor-researcher Alfred Blalock discovered Thomas’ extraordinary abilities and love for the science of medicine that the former took him under his wing and taught him not book-theories but real-life situations. Without any degree in college but pure brilliance and determination, Thomas ended up teaching doctors in Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In the field of the arts, we can name more successful people who did not complete their education but became famous because of their contributions: Nobel Prize for Literature awardees John Steinbeck, Jose Saramago, and George Bernard Shaw; renowned painter Claude Monet; Academy Awards winning director Quentin Tarantino; and American film producer and innovator in animation and theme park design, Walt Disney.  In politics, we can name Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. In business, John Rockefeller, Jr., the self-made billionaire American businessman-philanthropist, is always remembered alongside George Eastman, the founder of the Kodak Camera Company; Harlan Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken; and Frederick Henry Royce, co-founder-designer of the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Company.
The above are notable people who did not complete their education but accomplished great things. It can be argued that they may be simply exceptions to the rule. However, these individuals as documented in their biographies and what the world knows of them, had the intense passion for learning but in an environment not bound by specific structures of the academe. Instead of handing their future over to the hands of professional teachers, they found themselves curious about the world around them. Their test results could be failed experiments, non-performing formula, one-dimensional characters, stories that did not make sense or unfriendly-user applications. Yet, the more they fail, the more they strive to be better, knowing that tests have no equivalent GPA, and results are so much more than outputs reduced to mere numerical digits. They saw problems as opportunities for success and liberation.

Let us then review what some of these people think of education. George Bernard Shaw said: “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent disturbing and chaperoning their parent.” Shaw’s main complaint about the school is the standardization of the curriculum, which he believed deadened the spirit and stifled the intellect. 

Steve Jobs, founder and innovator of Apple Company, said of America’s education system: “was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union workers... Teachers should be treated as professionals, not as industrial assembly-line workers. Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were. It was absurd that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using books. All books, leaning materials, and assessments should be digital, and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.”

John Steinbeck had once said when a friend of his, upon reading a just completed chapter of The Grapes of Wrath, told John that his punctuation was terrible and his spelling was worse. Steinbeck smiled and nodded and said he didn't worry very much about either of those skills. He knew his publisher had a roomful of college kids who got paid forty dollars a week to correct spelling and punctuation but he doubted if any of them could have written Of Mice and Men.

Jose Saramago, the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature awardee said, “The wisest man I ever knew in my whole life could not read or write."  In his Nobel lecture, Saramago talked about his grandparents, both illiterate farmers, who during winter nights when the cold grew to freezing point, would go out into the sty and fetch the weakling among the piglets to take them into their bed. "Under the coarse blankets, the warmth from the humans saved the little animals from freezing and rescued them from certain death."

These brilliant minds never got to march to "Pomp and Circumstance" to get their degree diplomas. Instead, these people took education in their hands and invited the best teachers in the world: hardship, opportunities, failure and everyday people. Surely classroom teachers need to learn from them. What was it that these people did outside the school that teachers can bring into their classrooms?

Having studied the different philosophies of education, the closest one can get to mirror this kind of phenomenon is what the educational progressivism offers. Looking back as a student, this philosophy ought to have been what my school offered me. I was not interested in high school because I was not interested in most of what my teachers talked about in class. I hated our textbooks so I read the bulky anthology books I borrowed from our next-door neighbor. I hated memorization but my teacher kept on asking us to memorize whole chapters of terminologies. I wanted to do things with my hands. I loved to cook, to sew, to crochet, to write stories. But my school thought otherwise.

Based on that, I decided to become a teacher “that the child I was would like to have learned from” as Bliss Cua Lim laments in her poem “Chalk Dust on My Fingers.” Like the progressivists’ view, I believe that the goal of education is “to enhance individual effectiveness in society and give learners practical knowledge and problem-solving skills.” Students need a strong foundation where they can stand on to survive regardless where they end up in. They are supposed to be taught skills which can help them to metamorphose into something they need to be given our society’s shifting situations.

I believe in a non-authoritarian student-centered approach to education where a teacher is one with the students in their individual objectives, skills and beliefs.

In school, I hardly use the prescribed textbooks and outlines. The bases of my being a teacher are my students. Still, the challenge is to know what makes the individual student tick. However, if the teacher always thinks of the end in mind, she will know exactly what to look for and how to draw out the interest of the individual child.

Progressivism as an educational philosophy may seem impractical, but the world tells us that the best and the brightest thrive on impracticality defying the norms and those that are easy. As one teacher once told me, the student does not remember what you taught him in class, but he will always remember what he did in your class.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Discovering Rickman

A friend gave me a copy of the complete Harry Potter audiobooks which I listened to over the holidays and finished about a week ago.

My friend was right in saying I might have missed some points in my reading of the books and/or watching the films and listening to the audiobooks might just help me bridge the gap. How right he was!

But more notable than that is my subconscious adaptation of the British sound what with Stephen Fry stuck on my ears for weeks!

And another miracle happened. I fell in love with the character Snape who turned out to be The Other Hero in the series.

I started watching the HP movies if only to rediscover Snape. But instead of rediscovering Snape I discovered Alan Rickman.

I started with Sense and Sensibility which also featured the pre-Titanic Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. The movie is so good I had to read Jane Austen herself. It was weird hearing Snape reading romantic verses to Marianne (Winslet) but he was so good! So darn good! And that scene when Emma Thompson realizes that the character played by Hugh Grant is not married after all was remarkably and emotionally explosive it broke my heart and sent torrent of embarrassing tears to my eyes.

Next I watched The Search for John Gissing where Rickman played John Gissing, then Truly Madly Deeply, and followed by Blow Dry. What a gem of films those are. And Rickman! He dominates almost every scene he appeared in. Fantastic!

Next on my Rickman movie list are:

Closet Land (Watched some scenes) 
An Awfully Big Adventure (Watched some scenes)
Dogma (Done)
Love Actually (Done)
Die Hard (Done)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Done)
Close My Eyes (Done)
Dark Harbor (Done)
Something the Lord Made (Done)
Snow Cake (Done)
Nobel Son
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street  (Done)  
Bottle Shock (Done)
Rasputin (Done)
Michael Collins (Done)
The Winter Guest (which Rickman directed)

Given enough time, I will definitely write reviews of these Rickman films. I swear most of them deserve to be written about.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unorthodox Jukebox Review

Released in December 2012, Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox' album shouldn't be played in a rickety old DVD player which emits raucous mono sound as I had the mistake of doing! The songs came out awful, I shelved the CD in disappointment until days later when I found it under a heap in my room.  But it sure was not a cheap trash! It says P450 on its label!

Mars’ sophomore album definitely deserved a second hearing if only for its tag. I took the CD out from the gorilla-by-the-jukebox covered case and plugged it in the Macbook on the bedside table.  Then there was magic, an enchantment, a spell, a charm, a curse, a hex you thought only JK Rowling could conjure! From the first track to the tenth, all were songs that had the vibe and soul of a world, the only world I’ve known: from the 60s Michael Jackson Motown to the groovy 70s of Cool and the Gang to the reggae-by-the-beach of Bob Marley to the Umberto Tozzi’s  late 70s rock (Am in love with this Italian, that’s what.) to the 80s Police’s Roxanne.  It’s punk, it’s rock, it’s R&B, it’s reggae, thank God, no rap! No wonder there because Bruno Mars can sing anything including The Constitution, The Bible (All Editions), and of course, Randy Jackson’s Dictionary!

But note to parents, this album reeks of sex it has parental advisory stamped on it.

Be that as it may, here’s the track list and why I love it!

1. Young Girls

“All these roads steer me wrong/But I still drive them all night long, all night long/All you young wild girls/You make a mess of me/Yeah, you young wild girls/You'll be the death of me, the death of me.”

The mark of a Bruno Mars song is a story in its fabric, a mouthful of lyrics in the tradition of Meatloaf, Queen and yes, Air Supply!  Not that memorizing them was an effort. Oh, no! They float with the melody that sticks to you like a plague, a nice kind of disease!

Young Girls acknowledges a sin and its repentance. (The sin part was from another review. The repentance part, totally mine.)

2. Locked Out of Heaven

“But swimming in your world is something spiritual/I'm born again every time you spend the night “ sounds like Freud’s “ I am Oedipus and I am going back to the womb”  sexual longing. As Mars sings: “Cause your sex takes me to paradise/Yeah your sex takes me to paradise/And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah/Cause you make feel like, I've been locked out of heaven.”

This Roxanne-inspired number goes far into the metaphor begging “Open up your gates cause I can't wait to see the light/And right there is where I wanna stay.”

Consciously or subconsciously, Mars and company know their Freud, De Beauvoir, and Sophocles!

3. Gorilla

And comes more sex.

“Look what you're doing, look what you've done/But in this jungle you can't run/Cause what I got for you/I promise is a killer, you'll be banging on my chest/Bang bang, gorilla.”

It is the rock vibe that fills an auditorium like a surging orgasm. The Umberto Tozzi’s “Ti Amo” magic that hooked me from the back of my navel like the sensation of an apparition spell in Harry Potter. (Note to readers: I am on a fresh journey with Stephen Fry with the seven Harry Potter audiobooks as I write.) 

“I bet you never ever felt so good, so good/I got your body trembling like it should, it should/You'll never be the same baby once I'm done with you/Oh you with me, baby, making love like gorillas/You and me, baby, we'll be f-ckin' it like gorillas/You and me, baby, making love like gorillas.”

The same guy who came out with Cee Lo Green’s monumental 2010 “F**k You” hit, Bruno Mars couldn’t be persuaded to not call spade a spade.

4. Treasure

In the tradition of “Just the Way You Are,” Bruno Mars sings an ode to the ladies:

“I know that you don’t know it, but you're fine, so fine/Oh girl I’m gonna show you when you're mine, oh mine/Treasure, that means what you are/Honey you're my golden star/I know you can make my wish come true/If you let me treasure you.”

Sounds Motown. Sounds like Cool and the Gang Meets New Edition with Bobby Brown. The lyrics high-schoolish, but what writer hadn’t gone through it?

Here is where I forgive Bruno. But this one’s better than “Count On Me.”

5. Moonshine

A couple of weeks ago, I caught Notting Hill on HBO and yes, did watch it for the 8957367th time. This song’s opening could have very well been William's reply to Anna Scott in this after sex dialogue:

Anna: Rita Hayworth used to say, "They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me."
William: Who's Gilda?
Anna: Her most famous part. Men went to bed with the dream, they didn't like it when they'd wake up with the reality. Do you feel that way?
William: …

“Hello, you know you look even better/Than the way you did the night before/And the moment that you kissed my lips/You know I start to feel wonderful/It's something incredible/There's sex in your chemicals/Ooh, let's go, you're the best way/I know to escape the extraordinary.”

6. When I Was Your Man

Need I say more?

7. Natalie

I’d like to think that this song is an allegory to his arrest for cocaine possession in 2010.

“Oh, I never done this before
Never wanna do this again
Long turn on a dusty road
I did it too much so I cant pretend

“Well, I learned just a little too late
Good God, I must've been blind
'Cause she got me for everything
Everything, everything, alright

“Like my daddy I'm a gambling man
Never been afraid to roll the dice
But when I put my bet on her
Little miss snake eyes ruined my life.”

His revenge was that of a phoenix coming back to life after a fatal fall. He has learned his lesson and paid the price.

8. Show Me

It’s reggae, it’s tropical, it’s sexual. Instead of saying “F**k me," he sings “Show me.”

“Your eyes say amazing but your lips came to ask/No need to fight it, when you know it feels alright/You say you're a woman who knows what she likes/Then show me, you gotta, you gotta show me/And tell me all day that you're lonely/But show me show me, show me tonight, yeah.”

A perfect Boracay song, this should come with a couple of tequila shots leading to a dance of lust.

9.  Money Makes Her Smile

Musically this is my favorite song from the album, tied with Gorilla. I just dislike the thought that it is also a perfect strip club anthem. It is one those songs a girl could dance to herself in the mirror, door and windows closed.

This one makes Bruno the boss!

“It's not complicated, so this won’t take a while/You see music make her dance, and money money money make her smile/Money money money make her smile.”

10. If I Knew

This is one song that our mothers would fall in love with. Old school, crude and return to innocence.

“Baby I, I wish we were seventeen/So I could give you all the innocence/That you gave to me, no, I wouldn't have done/All the things that I have done/If I knew one day you would come.”