Author Archives: Jasmine Barrios

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Our love-hate affair with America

Tuesday, 5 July 2016 | Written by
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usand ph flags It has been running for the longest time… and into our deepest veins. It all started in 1898 when the United States of America was booming economically and decided it was ready to expand its territories. This was the year when the American Republic transformed from a country with a traditional non-interventionist foreign policy to an imperial power, imposing control over and sometimes outright annexing of overseas territory. It had cialis ad slogan the perfect excuse when the USS Maine sunk in the Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, leading to the American intervention in the Cuban War of Independence and the acquisition of Spain’s remaining colonies in the Pacific including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. The Treaty of Paris that ended the 10-week American-Hispanic War led to the cession of the Philippines to the United States of America cost difference between cialis and viagra to the tune of 20 million dollars so that Spain would give up its priced possession in the Far East. 1898 also marked the beginning of our Inang Bayan’s love-hate relationship with Uncle Sam. The Mock Battle of Manila which eventually led to the bloodier Phil-American War was also the defining moment for patriots to be heroes and for fence-sitters to play safe. Jerrold Tarog’s biopic gave a clear picture of this crazy affair in its early stage. While General Antonio Luna and his men were sacrificing their lives in the battle field, businessmen were trying to strike a deal with the Americans. This led to the outburst of the maverick official during a cabinet meeting of then President Emilio Aguinaldo, “Negosyo o Kalayaan? Bayan o sarili, pumili ka! (Business or freedom? Our native land or one’s self-serving interests, choose one!)”. We all know his tragic ending. He was murdered by his own fellow-Filipinos because their vested interests were at risk by his nationalistic fervor. It was no different for Senate President Jovito Salonga who steered the 9th Congress to sildenafil medac 50 mg kautabletten its finest hour when he led the Senate to a majority vote for the ouster of American forces in the Philippines. His bid for the presidency died as businessmen withdrew their support because of his courageous decision to sever ties with the Imperialist in 1991. The true statesmen lauded the unshackling of colonial chains but not for long. Seven years later, the Visiting Forces Agreement was signed between the Philippines and the U.S.A. on February 10, 1998. It was not surprising that the Agreement was forged under the helm of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, a known product of West Point, the United States Military Academy for his Military Engineering baccalaureate and University of Illinois for his master’s degree in Civil Engineering. The “visitor status” overstayed with the renewal of the Agreement on April 24, 2012 which continues to this day. Along the way, human rights were violated and the latest transgender victim was even killed but it seems the courts are kept from letting the White suspects feel the full measure of the law. The provisions of the generic cialis tadalafil 20 mg VFA states that the Philippines can prosecute American service members, but that the U.S. has custody over them “from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.” U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide and sentenced 6 to 12 years in jail. The family of victim Jennifer Laude wanted him to be held responsible for murder. It was a bitter-sweet victory for his loved ones. Pemberton may be imprisoned but with lighter punishment. While the political stage is at play with the see-sawing of the principles of patriotism versus practicality in dealing with the so-called American ally, the same theme is played like a broken record down to the grassroots level. Street parliamentarians always take to the streets to condemn imperialist abuses and accuse Philippine presidents as lapdogs of their Caucasian leash. At the same time, many Pinoys choose to leave their motherland to pursue the American dream in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Latest data show there are 1.8 million Filipino immigrants in the U.S.A. making the fourth largest group by country of origin following Mexico, China, and India. Some Filipinos even choose to denounce their citizenship while others go dual. Whichever side of the fence cialis 5 coupon we stand, for hate or for love, it is undeniable that the four decades of American colonial rule and their continuing presence in the Philippines have seeped through the very fiber of our society. Activists scream their hearts out against the unwanted presence of the visiting forces to establish influence in Asia. It is undoubtedly admirable. But take a closer look at the so-called leftists and we observe a subconscious adaptation of lifestyles with strong Western leaning- sporting shirts, jeans and shoes with Stateside brands; listening to Western music; eating at fast foods with American franchise; watching shows and movies that are Hollywood-made; using emails, apps, websites and search engines designed by techies of the Silicon Valley. We may look Filipino but we carry the American twang, unmistakably adapted from the English-curriculum of universities where we attend, most of which were established during the Colonial period. Majority of us cannot fully accept our exotic looks. Cosmetic and dermatological companies earn millions from supplying a huge demand for skin whiteners, papaya soaps, glutathione and other bleaching substances. The moneyed ones even go for surgery to have their nasal bridges lifted and their almond eyes widened then wear colored lenses to make them more mestizo in appearance. Colonial mentality also borders to discrimination. English-speaking children are perceived to be more intelligent than kids who are more comfortable with the local tongues. People schooled in the States are side effects of alcohol and cialis considered for higher posts and issued fatter paychecks. Some politicians even go to the extent of glossing up their resumes with their Western education to make them appear more credible than their opponents. No matter how hard we go against the Western tide, there is no denying that the influence has formed part of our psyche. We should learn to embrace the good and reject the abuses. As Heneral Luna puts it aptly, “May mas malaki tayong kalaban sa mga Amerikano–ang ating sarili. (We have a bigger enemy than the Americans – ourselves).” Our sense of nationalism has long been diluted by centuries of Spanish and American “debriefing” that they are better, to maintain a slave

mentality and for us to tolerate servitude. The hatred we feel against the Kanos today may well just be a projection of our inability to accept our confused Pinoy identity. It may then help to trace the origins of who we are as a proud and pure race. Being radical is positive to the extent of getting back to our roots, relearning our values as a people and being vigilant of our rights. These will be our best warning device when excesses are committed beyond the “visiting” status and we must be moved to action to protect our own welfare as a person and as a nation. Hate may start battles but it never won a war. It is always love that wins the day.   Photo credits: globalbalita.com

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2 PERSPECTIVES: My take on the Marcos Years – 1

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 | Written by
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A FLIP SIDE TO THE UGLY PICTURE OF MILITARY ABUSES

The recent national elections saw the re-opening of old political wounds as Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., only son of the dubbed dictator, took a bid at the vice presidency. The Liberal Party did not waste any tempo in reminding the public about the abuses under the Martial Law years. They even used it as a warning against the alleged dictatorial tendencies of maverick presidentiable Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.

During the last stretch of the election campaign, Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III went so far as saying that the legacy of democracy left behind by his parents Benigno Aquino Jr and former Pres. Corazon Aquino will be put to waste if the Duterte-Marcos tandem won.

Political analysts pointed out that a Duterte-Marcos victory would mean a rejection of the so-called Aquino legacies.

On May 9, 2016, the vote of the silent majority spoke out. 39 percent of the electorate propelled Duterte to the presidency and Marcos finished second in a tight race with VP-wannabe Leni Robredo.

Incoming Pres. Duterte recently hinted on appointing Bongbong as Deputy President. If this happens it would be the realization of the Duterte-Marcos team-up for the new administration especially when Robredo’s VP-hood is in hot waters for her political party’s failure to meet the COMELEC deadline for the submission of the Statement of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE). This may be tantamount to her inability to carry out her functions as the second highest post-holder in the land.

This compels the public to take a second look at the so-called Martial Law years. While the military abuses undeniably paints an ugly picture of the Marcos administration, there is a flip side to this reality that is seldom hyped by the media and cited in history books.

As a Martial Law baby growing up under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos  I have seen the brighter  side. As a public school pupil, we received daily rations of nutri buns and powdered milk, had regular dental check-ups and received scheduled vaccinations. Other children in remote areas experienced the same. The government made sure that the future generation was properly nourished and healthy.

A strong sense of patriotism was inculcated among the youth as songs on the love of country and pledges like Bagong Lipunan (New Society)  and Panatang Makabayan were sang and recited everyday during flag ceremony. We had an awareness on caring for the environment with daily cleaners tasked to tidy up the school grounds and classrooms regardless of status.

The youth were given ample participation in nation-building and policy-making at the grassroots level with the creation of the Kabataang Barangay. This was later translated into thenSangguniang Kabataan.

Everybody was  involved in the Green Revolution by planting vegetables in the school yard and at home. Muddied hands were nothing compared to the excitement of reaping the fruits of our labor.

On weekends my mother could hardly walk straight with her two big bayongs filled to the brim with rations from the market good enough to last until the next payday. Our parents had a good value  for their hard-earned cash.

There were also Kadiwa Centers where vegetables and rice were sold at reasonable prices. Marcos effectively deleted the cartels and middlemen out of the equation with farmers directly selling their farm produce to the Kadiwa Centers.

Rice and sugar importation was practically unheard of. The only ijmported stuff we knew were PX goods like chocolates, corned beef, meat loaf, apples and grapes.

The agricultural sector had the proper infrastructure, research and monetary support to make sure that the Filipino nation would not starve. There were agricultural research and rural development centers in Nueva Ecija and Laguna benefitted not only the local planters but their Asian neighbors as well.

The Labor sector had decent wages and security of tenure as ensured under the Labor Code which was enacted in 1974.

The poor were given shelter through the BLISS housing project which started in 1979 by then minister of Human Settlement, Imelda Marcos. These housing complexes still exist today with most of its residents having improved lives. Not to mention the specialized hospitals like Heart Center of the Philippines, Lung Center of the Philippines and the National Kidney Institute as well as he CCP Complex structures designed for international gatherings, events and entertainment.

Surviving 5 presidencies after Marcos, no one seemed to compare to  his brilliance. He was a man with a plan. He came up with a long term vision of development that would unite a seemingly divided archipelago. Mahathir Muhammad  and Lee Kuan Yew looked up to Marcos as a mentor and adapted his blueprint of development, turning Malaysia and Singapore into the progressive countries they are now today. The Philippines used to be the leading ]nation in Asia in the 70s. Now, it lags behind the rest of its neighbors.

No other predecessor admitted that they took off from Marcos’s long term plan but they did.

Under the Marcos blueprint, spectacular infrastructure were built like the San Juanico bridge connecting Samar and Leyte over the vast sea waters of the San Juanico Stait. The North and South Diversion Roads now known as Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX)  and SouthernLuzon Expressway (SLEX) linked the national capital to the suburbs and far flung provinces. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continued this concept with the Roll-on Roll-off or Roro Inter-island transport system, which was also part of Marcos’ unfinished plan.

The Metro Rail Transit System or MRT which was started under Cory Aquino, built under Fidel Ramos, inaugurated under Joseph Estrada and expanded under Noynoy Aquino were mere continuation of the first Light Railway Transit (LRT) that plies the Manila to Pasay route.

As early as 45 years ago, Marcos foresaw the power crisis and had the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong constructed. Unfortunately, Cory had it shutdown before it even went fully operational right after the EDSA Revolution, using the explosion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant as peg for the scare campaign against nuclear power.

Back then, people  knew and felt where their taxes went with projects and policies  directly benefitting them.

Fast forward to the so-called Aquino legacy. The Aquino Family was given twice the chance to propel an ailing nation to the path of progress but where has it gone so far?

It seemed that Cory as the symbol of democracy remained just that, a symbol. What she left behind is a tradition of contractualization that placed the labor force in a very vulnerable position, being terminated at the whim of the bosses.

The  move towards privatization which was adapted by her son through the Public Private Partnership  rendered government seemingly inutile and inefficient to run public schools, hospitals and agencies and building infrastructure projects.

The very people who accused Marcos and his cronies of abuse of power, gave even more clout to their capitalist friends and relatives being direct beneficiaries of the PPP projects. One of the latest multi-billion PPP projects was the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway Project granted to the San Miguel Holdings Corporation. where Noynoy’s uncle Danding Cojuangco is chairman of the Board

The PPP renders the public at the mercy of oligarchs especially those holding utility companies like electricity, water, transportation, oil and power. Consumers are helplessly held hostage to poorly justified price increases. They have no other choice but to pay.

The Aquinos constantly accused the Marcoses of cruelties under their regime. People were killed for their political beliefs are definitely immoral but then again Martial Law was imposed under the context of Communism growing strong in the rural areas and universities. Martial Law actually spared us from a larger scale of suffering that happened in North Korea, North Vietnam, China, USSR and other Communist-turned countries that deprived their citizens of precious freedom.

What is harder to comprehend is the killings of innocent people under a democracy and in peaceful conditions.

Under The regained democracy, farmers took to the streets to air their sentiments on lack of support from government, no land of their own to till and no food on the table for their families but they were gunned down.

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program under the Cory Administration may have been a program with good intentions but it was never fully realized. Case in point was the Cojuangco-Aquino- owned Hacienda Luisita where the sugar planters never got their share of the land. They were even massacred during their protest.

The Luisita farmers won their case at the Supreme Court with the decision penned by then Justice Renato Corona. When Noynoy was voted president, Corona was later impeached as SC Chief Justice for failure to disclose his Statement of Assets and Liabilities to the public. He was found guilty by an LP-majority led Congress.

The massacre of farmers were duplicated in Mendiola under Cory’s term and in Kidapawan under Noynoy.s helm. Poor starving farmers taking to the streets to air their sentiments were fed with bullets to silence the increasing discontent.

Despite Noynoy’s declaration that the Philippine economy is getting bullish, stark realities show otherwise.

Poor families continue to live under conditions not even fit for animals, surviving in the streets with their caritons serving as their homes and garbage dumps as source of food and income.This is hardly the realization of real freedom under the a healthy democracy.

The statements on economic boom remain as mere rhetorics if the benefits are not  felt at the grass roots level especially the marginalized sector of society. No wonder the public clamored for drastic, unconventional change.

And the votes have been cast.

Photo credits: alfa-img.com/show

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Looking for our authentic self

Saturday, 25 June 2016 | Written by
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There’s the nature side. The one that says we are a product of our D-N-A, the genes that we get from our parents and ancestors.

 

There’s the nurture angle. The camp that says we are the product of our environment and external influences.

 

Even the Church has opposing thoughts. One side says we were all born with original sin… the sin of disobedience we inherited from our first parent Adam and Eve.

 

The other party is more on the positive. We were born with original goodness for God who is the Ultimate Good, is our Creator.

 

These definitions alone confuse us,  to the point of an identity crisis.

 

Drawing from the insights and wisdom of motherhood, I dare say that we are a product of all these theories.

 

As a mommy of two girls… I have seen very distinct differences. They may come from the same lineage but from birth, there were clear distinctions.

 

While both are fair-skinned, one is chinky-eyed taking from her paternal grandfather, the other has more rounded eyes which must have come from her maternal grandpa. One almost looks Japanese, still from the Barrios side. The other is mestiza from the Bautista partida.

 

It is amazing how nature works wonders in combining traits, too. Our eldest got the lankiness of her Daddy, the hair of her maternal auntie and milky white skin of the maternal side.

 

Our youngest inherited Mommy’s petite physique, Daddy’s lips and her paternal grandma’s wavy hair.

 

But what is more mind-boggling are the early signs of their characters from infanthood. Daughter 1 always smiled at everyone she met. A stranger even commented that the child would grow up to be either as an actress or politician because she was so friendly. Now she is turning out to be a people-pleaser, a strong trait of her Daddy.

 

Daughter 2 was quite a snub. She may have known the baby routines like close-opening her palms, high five and all that but when she did not like the person coaxing her to do so, she just gave her “who are you, I don’t care look.” Now she is growing up to be a very strong-willed, independent individual so characteristic of her Mommy.

 

Given these genetic predispositions… the challenge remains to be how to raise children as confident, compassionate and God-fearing citizens.  This is where parents as the first environs come in. They may take the Original Sin slant and focus on the negative side and use punishment to straighten up their child. Or take the more optimistic paradigm of catching them doing good and emphasizing on rewards to better persons. Or have a balance of both.

 

The way we were raised, judged by elders and authorities, and treated by peers… all these come into play in defining or diluting our authentic selves. Somewhere along the way, we lose our anchor and get lost in knowing who we really are.

 

When we commit mistakes, we hear voices in our head echoing the rants of people who constantly put us down. When we achieve something, we cannot get ourselves to fully bask in victory with culture telling us that it is not okay to boast.

 

Getting lost in the confusion of what others tell us and what we falsely believe about ourselves, we deprive ourselves of getting to know our authenticity and lose the opportunity to tap our full potential

 

So how do we get to the center our being?

 

In his article, Define Your Core Gift and Remain Faithful to Who You Are, Preacher in Blue Jeans Bo Sanchez maintained that “unless you remain faithful to who you are, you have no gift to give to the world… Don’t let anyone force you to be who you are not. Your gift won’t be for everyone.  So don’t try pleasing everyone.”

 

But first, you have to get hold of yourself and learn to accept every aspect of your life, good or bad. Strengthen further your strong traits and use this to help others.

 

If you know deep down that you are an introvert who would rather get down to business and write your thoughts down, then do so and stop forcing yourself going to parties you do not enjoy just because your friends say so. Who knows, when you decide to publish your stories, other people out there would identify with you and connect with your insights.

 

If you are the bubbly type, then let not your spirits be dampened by prim and proper people who get irritated with your “noisiness”. But of course it would help to be sensitive to others’ need for silence, too. Use your chattiness in a more positive way like encouraging people to bring out the best of themselves or make new friends or employees feel more at ease.

 

If you are good at music, then pursue your passion even if loved ones tell you would starve pursuing a career as an artist. Everybody has to start somewhere anyway.

 

If you have a business streak, why be pushed to take up an IT course just because it is the in thing? Instead of wasting energy pursuing studies not in line with what you want ultimately in life, then focus on which product or service you want to develop and take a college degree or vocation that would help boost and develop your trade.

 

When we get over the hang-ups of other people’s wrong beliefs about us, it is easier to be true ourselves and to others. Accepting who we are leads us to a more satisfying life as we pursue careers or paths akin to our authentic selves because we would measure our own success according to our standards and not of the world.

 

And with our happy, contented selves, we could share our gifts for the good of all and the glory of God.

 

Photo: www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140627154558-71684422-jump-for-joy

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Jovito Salonga: the greatest president we never had

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 | Written by
jovito salonga

jovito salonga.

On March 10, 2016, a young news desk editor was instructed to do a story to honor JovitoSalonga on the day of his death and line it up as one of the headlines. With apparent reluctance to put the piece on Salonga among the top stories, she asked, “Who is he?”

It is bothersome how the young generation does not have any inkling about the greatness of our history and the prime movers of Philippine democracy.

Despite the dark side of the Martial Law years, this was the period when nationalism shone its brightest. This was the time when civil servants really served the public for a good purpose and not for the greasy pork. These were the likes of Lorenzo Taṅada, Jose Diokno and yes, Jovito “Jovy” Salonga.

Salonga was a great Senate President known for his humility, simplicity and righteousness. He walked his talk even if it meant putting his own life on the line. This he did, not just once but many times for the love of country and service to his fellowmen.

Long before his fame… his humble beginnings honed his character and deepened his patriotism.

Born to a Presbyterian pastor and a market vendor, he had to strive to finish school. He sold ice drop in the market as a young boy and later had to work as a proofreader in his eldest brother’s printing company to support himself through college and law school. He quit his job in his last year at the College of Law at the University of the Philippines to prepare for the bar exams but World War II broke out. His dream to be a lawyer had to wait.

At the age of 21, he joined the underground movement against the Japanese invaders. He was captured by the Japanese Military Police in Pasig in April 1942 and was tortured in the presence of his own father. He was then subjected to more torment as he was transferred from one prison to another.

On June 11, 1942 he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor but was pardoned a year after during the Foundation Day of Japan.

Salonga was a battle-scarred soldier who refused to give up the vision of an independent country. Scarred but not broken, he managed to top the bar examination n 1944, when he and Jose Diokno both got the highest grade point average of 95.3%.

He took his Master’s degree in Yale University and Doctorate at Harvard in 1949. He was offered a faculty position but he refused. He wanted to be part of rebuilding his nation from the vestiges of war.

Back home, there were more battles to fight against injustice and oppression.

In 1961, he was encouraged to run for Congress by Vice President Diosdado Macapagal who was then the president of the Liberal Party. He won, representing the second district of Pasig while beating the dominant rich politicians of his hometown.

At the Lower House, Salonga was appointed to the chairmanship of the Committee on Good Government. He relentlessly conducted inquiries in aid of legislation on graft and corruption and recommended filing of charges against erring government officials and employees.

During the Martial Law years, he took the road less traveled in the practice of law and became a human rights lawyer. Salonga and his law partners, Sedfrey Ordoñez and Pedro L. Yap defended pro bono political detainees both known and obscure. He, himself, was imprisoned for seven years.
For his well-documented exposés against the Marcos administration, Salonga was hailed as the “Nation’s Fiscalizer” by the Philippines Free Press in 1968.

On August 21, 1971, he was critically injured at the bombing in Plaza Miranda during the proclamation day rally of the Liberation Party. Nine persons perished. He survived but lost his hearing, an eye, fingers and a shrapnel was left stuck in his aorta.

After the EDSA Revolution, President Corazon Aquino appointed Salonga as Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was tasked to investigate and recover the alleged ill-gotten wealth of ousted President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.

He topped the senatorial race three times in 1965, 1975 and 1987 despite meager resources.

During his stint as senate president in the 9th Congress, former Senator WigbertoTanada attested to the Senate’s finest hour under the leadership of Salonga. This is the time “when we found the soul, the true spirit of this nation because we mustered the courage and the will to declare the end foreign military presence in the Philippines.”

He was warned by well-meaning friends that if he pursued his stand against the RP-US Military Bases Treaty, he may hurt his bid for the presidency.

Salonga was resolute, “No matter. That is an insignificant consequence. In times of great crisis, our martyrs and heroes offered their lives that our people may become truly free. After walking through the valley of the shadow of death twice in my life, titles and positions do not mean that much to me anymore. What is more important is to be of real service to our people with or without any position in government.”

His persistence bore fruit with 12 to 11 votes to oust the American military presence in the Philippines.

Victory was sweet but short.

His financial backers in the business sector withdrew their support for his presidential campaign
In December 1991 he was ousted from his position as President of the Senate based on the allegations that he used his position to boost his chances of becoming the President of the Philippines in the coming 1992 elections, obstructed the priority legislations of the Aquino administration and neglected administering the Senate. He was succeeded by Senator Neptali A. Gonzales.

He lost the 1992 presidential race finishing sixth among seven candidates, losing to Fidel Ramos, Miriam Santiago, Ramon Mitra, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco —- and even to Imelda Marcos, the widow of the so-called dictator, under whose rule he fought abuses.

Salonga’s accomplishments are far too many to mention. As a lawmaker, he successfully legislated pro-people and patriotic bills including the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (R.A. 6713)”, the “Anti-Coup d’état Act (R.A. 6968)”, the “Anti-Plunder Law (R.A. 7080), the State Scholarship Law, the Disclosure of Interest Act, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder.

After his retirement from government service, he continued work in public service through organizations raising political consciousness and citizens’ participation in governance as well as promoting justice and patriotism like Kilosbayan (People Action), the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation (Heroes’ Memorial), and BantayKatarungan (Sentinel of Justice).

Probably, the greatest legacy he ever gave the Filipinos is fighting for what is right no matter what the cost. As he aptly puts it, “If the supreme cost of courage is to suffer defeat without losing heart, the greatest test of faith is to suffer loss without giving up our vision for tomorrow of a free, independent just and progressive Philippines.”

Truly, JovIto Salonga is the epitome of a man of substance. He was more than a mere political figure, he was a statesman worthy of emulation. Definitely deserving of the headlines.

 

Photo credits:  www.juice.ph/

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Mary, Queen of May festivals

Sunday, 15 May 2016 | Written by
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virgin Mary
We know her by many names and titles…  Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, Madonna , Our Lady, Star of the Morning, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Cause of our Joy, Mother of Mercy.

But for us, Filipinos, we have an endearing term… Mama Mary, our quintessential mother. By the Joyful mysteries of the rosary we recite, her utmost qualities comets mind.

In the Annunciation we see her innocence,  deep faith in God and unquestioning obedience. At the age of 14 which modern days consider as the start of teen age rebellious years, she was engaged to Joseph who was way more senior than she was. Biblical scholars place his age between 80 to 90. Good enough to be her grandfather. She had every reason to rebel but marrying an aging carpenter is not even the major issue.

The unwavering belief in her Creator was put to the test when Angel Gabriel announced that she was about to conceive not because of her husband-to-be Joseph’s doing but with the power of the Holy Spirit. How on earth can a teener explain her immaculate conception in an era where women were stoned to death when they get pregnant outside marriage? She must have quivered at the thought but she still surrendered her free will and obeyed, “Be it done to me according to thy word.”

And she was rewarded by Joseph’s protection. After he was enlightened by the angel that his son was of God, he chose to spare Mary from exposing her secret and be shamed in public. He still went on to marry her.

She was the epitome of compassion. The second Joyful Mystery gives us a glimpse of how Mary put others first before her own comfort. She was around 6 months on the way when she learned that Elizabeth was also heavy with child. She made it a point to visit her cousin despite the distance no, not in the comfort of riding a bus, train or plane. She probably  had to weather heat, rain and sandstorms riding a donkey and negotiating rough terrain. Any conceiving woman in her right mind would prefer the comforts of home than risk losing her baby in such a strenuous travel. But she dismissed all that and went to the aide of her pregnant cousin who must have been having difficulty because of her old age.

She never complained. She had to go through a lot before the third Joyful mystery on the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ ever happened. Imagine traveling far and wide just to have their family registered by the census, getting into labor and knowing not where to go. Nobody could accommodate them when she was about to give birth. The inns and houses of Bethlehem were full of migrants who travelled like them just to be listed by the government. She ended up bringing forth Jesus in a stable with all the stinky animals. I, myself, shudder at the thought of delivering my own babies at home in the hands of a comadrona but Mary quietly dealt with the possible dangers of giving birth in open air.

Wise men and shepherds gave homage to the little Christ. She deserved all the praises after all she had been through but she did not mind being shoved away from the spotlight, giving way to accolades for her god-child, the King.

Right after Jesus came into the world, her family had to move around again and escape the wrath of King Herod who ordered the killing of all male infants for fear that he would be replaced. Again, Mary suffered in silence.

The worse pain parents could ever endure is the death of their child. Oral tradition has it that Joseph was given a glimpse of Jesus’ suffering. He could not take it so he asked God that he be taken away before this ever happened. He was said to die of injuries after getting into an accident while building the governor’s house. Mary was left alone to witness the gruesome killing of her son on the shameful cross. It was a good thing that God granted  her the grace to see him live again after his resurrection.

This is the character that our Mama Mary is made of so despite being called idol-worshippers by Christian Protestants, Catholics choose to hold her dearly on a pedestal, remember her goodness as they venerate her statues, pictures and novenas, and celebrate their endearment through different festivals.

December 8 is when we remember her conception, the Annunciation on March 25, her assumption into heaven on August 15 but the most celebrated  are the festivals of May.

Dedicating the month of May to Mama Mary could be attributed to her canonical coronation by the Church on May 1, 1920. Filipino Catholics celebrate it month-long, dubbed as Flores de Mayo or Flowers of May.

This is the time when townsfolk gather colorful flowers and decorate the Church as token of thanksgiving to the Holy Mother for her intercession to have rains starting to come after the dry season.

Each 31 days of May celebrate Mary’s “virginal virtues, with children sprinkling fragrant petals as they march down the Church aisle.” This they call Alay sa Birhen (An Offering to the Virgin).

Afternoons are spent with the congregation of the local community praying the rosary, after which they share homemade delicacies over friendly chats. (Flores de Mayo and Santa Cruzan Festival, www.philippinecountry.com).

The Santa Cruzan takes center stage during the May Festivals. Historically, this is the dramatization of Emperor Constantine the Great’s Search of the Holy Cross. Its modern secular version is quite a far cry from the original story where the daintiest damsels of the town parade in their gala gowns, celebrating beauty at its best.

After much of the fanfare over the procession of  local princesses, the statue of Mama Mary trails behind making a quiet statement of the courage, compassion and deep faith in God that she lived and breathed… the qualities that make a true Queen.

Photo credits: www.forums.catholic.com

foudling

Of foundlings and foster children

Monday, 2 May 2016 | Written by
foudling

foudling

Nature has a funny way of balancing things.

 

While a lady in her 40s was quietly saying her prayers in the front pew, she overheard a group of young mothers nearby waiting for their turn to be called at the free clinic service of the church.

 

One of them expressed her fears, “Natatakot nga ako eh. Baka buntis na namanako.Ayaw ko na madagdagan mga tsikiting namin. (I am scared that I might be pregnant again.  I do not like any more children).”

 

The lady turned her attention back to the cross, “Jesus, I am just here. You can give that unwanted child to me.”

 

The middle-aged woman is one of the many wives willing  to bear children. They are well off but for one reason or the other, are deprived of the ability to conceive while the apprehensive mother is also one of the many urban poor who seem to get pregnant at the slightest touch. As they say, “mahakbangan lang, buntis na” (step over her and she is with child).” But they hardly have anything to get by or worse, nothing much to support their children with.

 

And so we see a lot of street urchins running around, all dirty and skinny while their parents do not seem to mind that they do not eat on time, much less if there is anything to eat all. Meanwhile, in their cool, comfortable homes, some young well-to-do wives wallow over their failure to give heirs to their husbands’ wealth.

 

Some may be poor in material possessions but rich in children. Some are rich materially but poor in children.

 

I actually wondered if it is God’s way of saying, “whoever is rich must learn to share.”

 

Some parents indeed have to learn to share, painfully that is. By force of circumstance, they are left with not much choice but to give up their child. The reasons are too many to mention… a poor family could no longer afford another mouth to feed, a teenage girl with unwanted pregnancy and who is not yet ready to face the responsibilities of motherhood, a single mom who could no longer support her offspring.

 

Instead of opting for abortion or just deserting the baby in some wasteland and dealing with the guilt for the rest of their lives, they opt for the lesser evil… have their infants given away and bring joy to barren couples.

 

It is not that easy.

 

For the parents who lose their baby… it must be a heart wrenching decision to let go of their little one because of their lack of capacity to fend for themselves.

 

For the parents who gain… there is the difficulty of going through the bureaucratic red tape of adopting a child, the years of waiting and uncertainty of qualifying or not for the role and the haunting fear that the natural mom would just appear one day at their doorstep and take away their precious one.

 

Out of sheer frustration, many papa-and-mama-wannabes take the easy way backdoor. They search for doctors whose patients are contemplating on giving up their babies at birth.

 

Loraine and Oscar were willing to take the risk. They sat it out through the birth mother’s agony from labor to delivery and went home with their new bundle of joy in their arms after the birth mom agreed never to get in touch again in exchange for the paid hospital bill and some “goodwill” cash to start over. Loraine and Oscar went straight to the registrar and indicated their names as parents of the newborn.

 

Then what of the child? The surrogate guardians may take extra care to shelter their son or daughter from the harsh reality of his/her descent but until when, no one can tell. The truth always has a way of coming out in the oddest and sometimes most cruel way.

 

Lorraine and Oscar was caught in an uncompromising situation at the U.S. Embassy. They were applying for visas to visit relatives in California. The immigration officer took a second look at Loraine upon checking their birth certificates, “You had your daughter when you were 55? That is way past the normal woman’s reproductive age.”

 

Lorraine got uncomfortable. Her embarrassment was the least of her worries. It was the impact on their daughter that she was worried about.

 

Their daughter was within earshot and they had no choice but to confess. Fortunately for them, the little girl was so secure in their love that she did not mind learning about her past. She even turned down the idea of meeting her own parents.

 

For Biboy, it was a very different story. He may have been raised in a highly supportive family but deep down was a feeling of emptiness that no love can ever seem to fill up. He could not put his finger on the real reason until later in grade school when bullies started taunting him for being an “ampon”. He confronted his parents about it but they denied.

It was the start of the series of academy-hopping for him. A schoolmate or two would tease him about the “ampon” issue and his mother would transfer him to another place. During his high school days, a close cousin finally spilled the beans. He felt lied to and betrayed. He resorted to drugs, alcohol and bad company to numb the pain.

 

Level up to national politics.

 

It is one thing to accept the painful truth of one’s existence and another to be subject of public scrutiny. That is like multiplying the agony a hundred times.

 

It must have been very hard for the likes of Grace Poe to be rejected by the agents of the State after going through the pain of rejection by her own blood parents.

 

The poll body disqualified Poe in December 2015 on the grounds that her being a foundling meant it was impossible to tell if her parents were Filipino, which they would need to be for Poe to fulfill the constitution’s “natural-born Filipino” requirement.

 

Months later, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor and she is now one of the top contenders for the presidency as of this writing. Whether or not the Filipino nation will embrace and accept her as their own by voting for her as the new leader of the land is yet to be known but at least she was given equal footing that any Filipino deserves to have.

 

As for Biboy… he has finally come to his senses and sought forgiveness from the people he learned to love as his family. He realized that he may have been forsaken as a helpless tot but he was loved by his adoptive parents and siblings as if he were their own blood-kin. He was given the same protection and support to realize his full potential just as any child deserves.

 

In the end… it is love that saves the day.

 

 

Photo credits: www.indulgy.com

officemates

Forging Friendships in the Workplace – Boon or Bane?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 | Written by
officemates

https://pixabay.com/en/coffee-break-conference-women-1177540/While the movie BFF: Best Friends Forever raked in 102 million pesos in the box office, forging friendships in the workplace could prove to be a flop. Consider these drama excerpts.

SCENE 1:

BOSS: Alam ko naman, noon mo pa pinapangarap ang inuupan kong ito. (I know that you have been coveting my seat ever since).

STAFF: Kung pinag-interesan ko ang upuang mo, ni hindi dadampi ang pwet mo riyan. Umpisa pa lang, sa akin na ipinangako ni boss iyan bago pa man siya umalis pero dahil sa respeto ko sa iyo bilang kaibigan, pinagbigyan kita. (If I was really interested in your seat, your butt won’t even touch it. In the first place, that position was offered to me first even before boss left but I asked him to give it to you out of my respect for you.)

SCENE 2:

MALE EMPLOYEE 1: Pare, makisama ka naman. Ang daming ginagawa rito. Di ka man lang tumulong. (Bro, why don’t you help out. There’s so much to do. You are not even lifting a finger.)

MALE EMPLOYEE 2: Kung gusto mo palitan na lang tayo ng kandila at magkallimutan na minsan naging magkaibigan tayo. (If you want, we could just give back the candles and forget we were once friends.)

Note: In the Filipino context, giving back candles refers to the candles lighted as godparents to a friend’s child. This is a figure of speech meant to disregard any relations forged in the past.

SCENE 3:

BARKADA 1: Pag-usapan ninyo yan. Di naman yatang magandang masira ang matagal niyong pagkakaibigan dahil lang sa trabaho. (Why don’t you talk about it? It is not right that your long friendship will go sour just because of work.)

BARKADA 2: Wala kasi siyang respeto sa oras. Lagi na lang siyang late. Alam naman niyang maraming gagawin para sa project. (She just doesn’t have any respect for time. She is always late. She knows there is so much to do for this project.)

BARKADA 1: Tanggapin mo na lang,  ganoon na talaga siya eh. (Just accept the way she is.)

BARKADA 2: Ganoon na lang iyon? (Just like that?)

The problem with close friendship in the office is the very sticky situations one can find himself in. With personal relations in the way, the gray area sets in where the personal zone gets indistinguishable with the professional area.

In the first scenario, Nimfa gave way for the promotion of Aubrey despite their boss’ offer considering that she is the most qualified candidate to replace him. Although Aubrey was the more senior in terms of years of service, Nimfa met the educational standards with her masteral degree and the experience to wit. But Pinoys can really forget about competitiveness in the name of friendship.

Deep down this may breed resentment with the likes of Nimfa for losing the opportunity to get a rung higher up the promotional ladder. The likes of Aubrey, on the other hands, will always be hounded by the fact that she got the post out of sympathy and not really because of her capabilities.

Friendship has gone sour between the two when subordinates realized Aubrey cannot meet their expectations and their respect and loyalty shifted to Nimfa who does all the troubleshooting for Aubrey.

Scenarios 2 and 3, on the other hand, are the classic examples of familiarity breeding contempt.
There is always the danger of amigos getting too comfortable with each other to the point that it is carried unhealthily into the workplace. One gets lax with his tasks and the other takes responsibility for the former’s lapses. The other cannot snap out of her habitual tardiness and she expects her chum to accept her as she is. In the meantime, the other takes the brunt of covering for her friend.

It is not all that bad investing in friendships in the office. There are always the perks. You always have someone to watch your back, to remind you to shape up or ship out, to support you in times of stressful situations, to defend you when misunderstood by the boss and peers.

As social beings, forging friendships is a natural occurrence in any given condition but it helps to be extra discerning. Just like in the animal realm, the work ecosystem relationships can vary from oppositional to symbiotic.

Beware of the parasites, those who play weaklings and helplessly cling to the stronger kind to survive the struggles in office. These are the types who make use of emotional blackmails in their desperate attempts to suck the blood out of their hosts.

Does this sound familiar? “Ikaw na lang kumausap kay boss, mas matapang ka naman. Baka kasi sigawan ako pag ako nagtanong bakit kulang overtime pay ko. (Talk to the boss for me. You are the braver type anyway. He might raise his voice with me when I ask why my overtime pay is not enough.”

The emotional vamps do not have second thoughts in pushing their so-called friends in the line of fire just to save their skin.

There are also the predators who lurk around groups sniffing for potential prey. The unknowing victim does not realize she is being assessed up close by the wolf in sheepskin and would not waste time in discrediting her especially if they are up for competition.

They cunningly set up traps to expose the weakness of the perceived competitor to grab any opportunity for growth or promotion. “Ako na po gagawa niyan… Alam niyo naman mahina dumiskarte ang kaibigan kong iyan. Kilala ko na iyan eh. (Let me do that. You know how she can be weak in that area. I know her that well.”

Woe to the sacrificial lambs who innocently bite the bait because they are too trusting.

Glory to those who find the real treasure in mutualism. They are the good souls who meet, go through good times and bad. They know the symbiosis of give and take.

What could be tricky in this kind of relationship is defining where the personal sphere ends and the professional scope starts. Pinoys are naturally forgiving of their friends’ weaknesses to the point of making up for them when things go awry.

It helps to learn how to be frank enough to correct mistakes and push each other up to realize their full potential. If this happens, real friends will celebrate the victory of the other’s promotion and good tidings and commiserate in downtimes.

After all… that’s what friends are for.

______________

Photos from Pixabay. Public domain.

 

 

gossip

Dealing with Office Gossip

Sunday, 24 April 2016 | Written by
gossip

https://pixabay.com/en/gossip-girls-group-portrait-school-532012/Dealing with office gossip can really be nasty especially if you are the subject matter. But when we are not the object of ridicule, there is something about loose chatter that is so attractive. We just easily accept it as fact when we hear a juicy item and completely forget that it can hurt others… or that we can be the next victim. Continue reading

thrift sop

The thrilla in thrift-store shopping

Monday, 18 April 2016 | Written by
thrift sop

thrift sop

Long before the ukay-ukay fever hit the metro, I was already in the thick of it. Thanks to my auntie’s influence.

She ran a sari-sari store in front of my grandmother’s house where I used to live during my college days. The small business did not give her much of an income but her closet told a different story. It was filled to the brim with signature clothes, accessories and fancy looking bags. Much more priceless was the look on her face everytime she came from the marketplace. It was as if she discovered a treasure trove and could not help but glow in excitement as she showed  off her precious finds in one hand and a basketful of vegetables and poultry in another.

“Look at this Guess green tops, this cost 10 pesos only!  This United Colors of Benetton, I got for 15 pesos!”

Yes, I know. It is a weird combination. Back then, those expensive brands were usually found in exclusive shops selling PX goods. So how come these really, really nice shirts came hand in hand with really, really “not so nice” products from the market. Wet market at that.

I found the “treasure chest” in the most unlikely place. Tita’s “bayong” of veggies was a dead give-away.

As a university student living far from home on a meager allowance, I had to maximize my money. I did not buy my weekly rations from the tourist front of Baguio. I trod the dark alleys of the market until I reached what we called Hilltop where freshly picked greens were delivered by the bulk and we could get them at a lower price. There was also fish, shrimps, meat, chicken and what-have-you. With a few hundred pesos stashed in my pocket, I go home carrying a heavy bag of stocks good enough to last me a week.

One fateful weekend, I decided to take another alley to Hilltop and emerged to a crowded stall. The journalist instinct within prodded me to check it out.

Lo and behold! It was the treasure chest! It was in the guise of a large carton filled with lots of used clothing. After a quick mental calculation of the amount I could spare from my tight budget, I joined the giddy hands and dug in.

By the time I got home, I was wearing the same silly grin on my face like a cat’s smirk with a big catch in between his teeth. One look at me and Tita knew I found her secret source.

My great finds were affirmed by the praises I got from my classmates. “Nice get-up!”

“Where did you buy that? I can’t find that in the department store.”

“Tough luck.” I thought and gave a knowing grin as I answered, “Diyan lang sa tabi-tabi (just nearby).”

The compliments were heart-warming but nothing compared to the thrill of the hunt. Like needle in a haystack, the treasure was hidden somewhere under the mound of assorted clothes. My senses were heightened like a hound’s nose up in the air and a wolf’s sharp eyes on the look out for the hunt. Once found, I went for the kill, making sure it was tightly clawed lest someone else’s fingers would get it.

Fast forward to my days as a young professional in Manila, I noticed how my officemates were so brand-conscious. A light bulb moment clicked.

I travelled back to the boondocks to rediscover the trove. By this time, the ukay-ukay business was beginning to boom and there were many stalls around Burnham Park. It was double delight. Aside from the big boxes, the clothes were already line-up in rows and rows of racks. The hunt began… Again, the thrift shop junkie’s senses were up.

With each colleague’s fashion style in mind, I rummaged for dresses, jackets and blouses  that could suit them. Back to my place in the city, I soaked the clothes in warm water mixed with sanitizer, hand-washed them and finish off with a fragrant fabric conditioner. After a good ironing, the crisp-looking and imported-smelling merchandise were ready for the big sale. They were good as new.

My clueless clients bit the bait at the price three times higher than I got them and they were happy about their great buys. Besides, where can they find signatures selling at 200 pesos without dreading to meet someone else sporting the same get-up? Malls were selling RTWs by the bulk and the last thing my fashionista friends liked was having a mirror-image of their wearables in the middle of a public place.

Business was thriving as my wares sold like hotcakes. But I had to stop before any of them discovered my source. Well, it was good while it lasted.

These days, I still browse through ukay-ukay shops once in a while but the excitement has faded. The local thrift shops now sell their products at prices higher than brand new items in Divisoria, Baclaran and Quiapo. My “wais” side tells me it is more practical to go to those place before the holidays to make the best out of the budget while making my kids and husband happy.

As a wife and mommy, I now get my pesonal, er… personal highs from garage sales for great finds. Sell it a thrice the price again? Hmmm… let me think about it.

 

Photo credits: www.yelp.com/biz/housing-works-thrift-shop-new-york-4

Treehouse-Point-3

Going primitive: Life without a mobile phone

Wednesday, 6 April 2016 | Written by
Treehouse-Point-3

Treehouse-Point-3

“Oh no! My phone was stolen!”

It was like a part of me was taken away. It is not that  I was materialistically attached to the gadget. It was more of the sentimental value that made it hard for me to let go. The old android was not really a hot item worth coveting. That is why I could not really understand why anyone had the interest to get it.

It was pretty hard to part with the  warm memories that came with it – it was a gift from my husband, the pictures of our children since they were babies were stored in there and I had yet to upload them to my Facebook account for keeps, not to mention the contact numbers of all my friends, family and networks.

The effect of losing my mobile phone was like a psychological mild stroke that forced me to reboot my lifestyle back to the analog days. I had to announce the bad news to everyone I met so they did not have to waste their load texting me.

But come to think of it… There were perks switching to the manual mode.

For starters, I had more physical exercise. I had to go out of my way to look for the person I needed to talk to before I could relay a message. That was a good way to burn unwanted calories.

For another, it was a chance to stretch the limits of my brain. I could no longer rely on the recorded contacts or message folders in my cell phone to automatically send messages so I was forced to memorize important numbers. I did not even know my husband’s mobile number and our own home landline by heart!   I suddenly realized how my memory went into sleep mode with too much dependence on technology. I had to actually restart and get it more activated.

I also had to be more conscious of time management. Making the extra effort of finding people and talking to them face to face may eat up some hours so I make an advanced mental note which activity to prioritize, what route to take and when I could see them to maximize breaks from office work.

Things began to get more personal, too. I did not just tell colleagues, friends and family  what I wanted or needed. Meeting up with them was a great opportunity to ask how they are and be abreast about the latest developments in their lives, promise prayers for their concerns and send regards to their spouses or parents.

I left notes for our stay-out nanny to remind her of the tasks to accomplish. I felt uncomfortable just barking orders. After the long list, I realized how busy she would be for the day so I made it a point to thank her in advance to show some appreciation. This somehow deepened her sense of loyalty and cared for our kids better.

I am the type who gets irked with people checking on me constantly (read: husband’s quirk) but strangely I began appreciating his way of showing concern. To ease off his worries, I tried my best to tell him about my schedule before I kissed him good bye. Of course, I do not leave without saying the sweet nothings, knowing that I do not have the luxury of popping up messages during the day. Now that set his good mood before getting into the daily grind.

Of course, our little daughters were not spared of some motherly smothering. I started using the hard phone instead of just texting yaya to ask how they are.  Since I can no longer make calls anytime anywhere, I did my best to finish my workload as quickly as possible to leave the office earlier than usual so I could catch our girls still awake. I used to contact them on my way home to say good night before bedtime. Without my mobile phone, I got to spend more time talking to them, reading stories and thanking Papa God for the day’s blessings. I got more details about how their day went, we had more laughter and fun leaving smiles on our faces before dozing off.

This was how my routine went for a week before I realized that I just left my cell phone at my parents-in-laws’ place.

After beating up myself for a while for the senior moment lapse, I quickly realized that it was not really that bad going “primitive” for a while. Yes, it made me realize my priorities despite the busy schedule. And yes, it entailed more time consuming errands and mind-straining memorization but I got to appreciate relationships better again. Not bad at all.

Photo credits: inhabitat.com

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