“Bigti na, friend!”

Each time I lectured in that classroom, I would stare at an empty chair, asking myself if there was something I could have done to save a life.

He was a freshman engineering student from a small town. His classmates said they never noticed anything wrong with him. His parents likewise observed no unusual behavior exhibited by their only child. Everything seemed normal and usual with this boy’s life until he was seen hanging on a nylon rope fastened on a wooden beam.

As a teacher, it was my first encounter with suicide by a student. And it was not to be the last.

By all indicators, suicide cases are on the rise in the Philippines. According to the National Statistics Office, the suicide rate from 1984 to 2005 went up by 1,522% among men (from 0.46 to seven out of every 200,000); and up by 833% among women (from 0.24 to two for every 200,000).

Noticeably, there is an increasing trend of suicide among the youth, particularly in the age group 5 to 14 and 15 to 24. Most of them kill themselves by strangulation. Other means are suffocation, poisoning, and exposure to chemicals and noxious substances. The common causes are depression, love problems, academics, low income, unemployment, and medical conditions.

It is easy to blame suicide victims for being weak. Others may even criticize them for being selfish—thinking only of themselves, and not of those they will leave behind. But what really runs in the mind of a person determined to take his life?

I have some idea, for I too seriously had thoughts of ending my life when I was a teenager. It was the end of my third year in college, and I was at the height of popularity in school. That semester, I was sent to international competitions, became the most awarded student leader, and was recognized as one of the top students. Everyone was so proud of me. People shook my hand to congratulate me for my achievements. I was, to many, a model student.

But something terrible happened, suddenly. I received a failing grade in one of my major subjects. It was unexpected and I was sure I did not deserve it. The professor claimed absolute right to manipulate how grades were to be computed. It was very clear to me that it was unfair.

My world crumbled. Because of the failing mark, I was sure that I would lose my scholarship, and would miss my chance to graduate with honors. Word about my failure spread quickly around the campus, and those who were just congratulating me a few days back began looking at me with pity, if not ridicule. I was up in the clouds one moment, and down to a very dark space the next.

Night and day, I locked up in my room, stared at the ceiling, deeply convinced that life was no longer worth living. I tried to justify suicide with philosophical musings. I also thought of the professor who gave me a failing grade, and imagined how guilty he would feel about my death.

Decided to commit suicide after five days of isolation, I went to Binondo to buy the most toxic substance I could ingest (a powerful pesticide whose mere vapor could make my lungs collapse). Before going home, I dropped by a Chinese restaurant for a last meal. When I arrived at the dorm, I lay down in bed again, stared blankly at the ceiling, and imagined my impending death one last time.

My suicide plan did not materialize, and, obviously, I have lived to tell this story. Three things kept the poison bottle unopened: thoughts of my family, the graphic images of hell on my mind, but what really saved me was a persistent knock on my door by a dormmate. He sensed that something was wrong, and urged me to talk about it. He convinced me not to push through with my plan.

In the next days, I decided to pick up the pieces and live with courage. I filed an appeal for my scholarship, and, after a long process, San Beda (which was apparently more compassionate than Kristel Tejada’s UP) decided not to revoke it. As it turned out, there was no explicit rule that barred those who had failing grades from receiving academic awards. And so I graduated with honors, although they had to change the rules after I graduated, making me the school’s one and only honor graduate with a 5.0 on his transcript.

A few years after graduation, I visited my alma mater and accidentally crossed paths with my professor—that professor who led me to the brink of suicide. He said he was impressed with one of my articles published in a national newspaper, and that he required his students to read my work. He said he heard that I was offered a job in Malacañang, and that he was proud of me. This picture of my professor smiling at me and tapping my shoulder in a show of approval was the exact opposite of what I imagined on my could-have-been death bed: a professor crying in guilt in front of my coffin.

Of course, not only young people commit suicide. Military generals. Politicians. Politician’s wives. Actors. Models. Teachers. Lawyers. Farmers. We hear of them claiming their lives, and the worse part is that we are getting used to it, or, at least, have become insensitive to the suffering of others. Suicide may be a very personal thing and one could even strongly argue that society must respect an individual’s choice to end his life. But what about those who only need a listening ear and some words of hope to make them realize, the way I realized then, that life can still be beautiful?

In social networking sites, the expressions “bigti na” (#bigtina) has become popular. It is offered as an advice, though made in jest, to people who have problems. There are several Facebook “Bigti na” pages, followed by tens of thousands, created for those who are romantically problematic. Thousands of “Magpakamatay ka na lang” memes have also been going around the web.

It is appalling that, to date, there seems to be an absence of a government-sponsored program to avert suicide cases in our country which surprisingly has, according to the World Health Organization, the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia. But it is more appalling that a growing number of our people are making fun of a phenomenon that has caused unspeakable pain to many. Amidst mindless laughter, we might be missing out on the soft voices of suffering around us. Or we might be pushing to total silence those who desperately need to be heard.

Bigti na, friend? That joke is neither friendly nor funny.

pakamatay na cuntapay pakamatay bigti na friend pakamatay bigti na skeleton pakamatay ipis

*****

The Office of Student Affairs ofDe La Salle University has published a suicide first aide guide which helps one notice possible brewing suicide attempts by people around us. It is a helpful guide that could help you save a life. (http://www.dlsu.edu.ph/offices/osa/occs/suicide-1st-aide-guide.pdf)

‘Naimas nga agserbi’

riknakem.jpgNear midnight of Oct. 28, my Uncle Gerry in Hawaii posted a lengthy note at the Labayog Clan Facebook page. There was good news for the clan. (For the curious, yes, Labayog is the La in La Yumul.) My brother was elected as chairman of Brgy. 7-A, Laoag City where his family has lived for around 25 years. I reside in nearby Brgy. 5. The following is Uncle Gerry’s post quoted verbatim.

“Wow! Again, the Labayog Clan made history. Herry Labayog Yumul is elected as kapitan.

“If you are a Laoagueño, West Riverside is like a municipality within a city. It covers Barangays 1 to 10. Barangay 7-A is like its capital, being the center of the densely populated West Riverside.”

“Herry, who has the heart of a leader, deserves the position. When I attended his graduation in Baguio City, I already saw in him the makings of a leader. When his name was called, there was a thunderous applause and standing ovation. He even captured the heart of the most beautiful co-civil engineering graduate and now his wife Gina. Sabi nga nila, may inalat si Herry.

“He practiced briefly in construction supervision. But his salary was not enough to raise a family. With 3 children to feed and send to school, his salary was not enough so he ventured in business. As a market vendor, the hundreds of vendors in Ilocos Norte were amazed of his character and personality and elected him as president of the Ilocos Norte Ambulant Vendors Association. He had represented them in dialogue with government officials for a system beneficial to both sides. He is currently president of the Laoag City Night Market Vendors Association.

“In 2010, he ran as a barangay official, and was overwhelmingly elected. In this election, the outgoing Brgy. Captain made Herry his personal choice to lead 7-A. Even high-ranking provincial and city officials gave him their blessings. Thankfully, he was also endorsed by the Iglesia ni Cristo.

“In his campaign sorties, members of the Labayog clan extended their all-out support. They were with him everywhere, rain or shine. The Pink Ladies—composed of Mafae, Mafel, and Girlie (Herry’s nephews)—were even Branded as EBB or Eat Bulaga Babes. I call them Herry’s Angels.

“I laughed at one of their campaign slogans. ‘Ibotos tayo a Kapitan ni Tito Herry, naimas nga agserbi’ (Iboto natin si Tito Herry, masarap siyang magsilbi.) And they follow it up with, ‘Uray damagenyo ken Tita Gina.’ (Kahit tanungin niyo pa kay Tita Gina.) Dinamagko ken Gina, kasta unay ti katkatawana. (Nung tinanong kay Gina, sobrang tawa niya.) Continue reading “‘Naimas nga agserbi’”

Bar none

What, dear karikna, was your childhood dream?

Did you want to become a doctor, lawyer, priest, artista, or president of the Philippines? What are you today? Have you become what you aspired for when you were innocent and courageous enough to wish for your star? Or did you have to settle for second choices?

Why you settled for second choices, if you did, could be because of various reasons: lack of money, parents who don’t understand, practicality, love, unexpected pregnancy, poor grades, health, or maybe even laziness. But is it ever too late to pursuit a dream?

As a child, I always wanted to be a journalist. For play time, I would sit in front of a cassette recorder and hold my own talk show or stage a radio drama. Inquisitive and analytical, I always searched for answers. At other times, I would gather my friends in our garage and teach them about just anything. In high school, as editor of the student paper, I was fearless. After writing against fraternities, I got my first stars, the type of stars that circle your head after a heavy beating. While my parents feared for me, I had no fear.

But I did not take up journalism, mass communication, or education in college. Instead, I enrolled in philosophy and human resource development. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and I found it exciting. My parents, who did not go to college, never interfered in my choices and supported me all the way. I did well inside the classroom and did even better outside its walls.

I should be today in the human resources department of a top corporation, and indeed my first job was at Citibank in Libis, but I really just had to teach and write, for these are my two loves, two things thankfully I now get paid enough for, two aspirations that, in my kiddy years, I was willing to do for free.

*****

Yes, childhood dreams do come true.

And this is true for Brian Jay Corpuz, an instructor at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) College of Industrial Technology, who hurdled the 2011 Bar Examinations conducted in November last year.

Though Corpuz always wanted to be a lawyer, a dream he, as a young leader, started nurturing at Davila Elementary School and the Ilocos Norte Agricultural College where he finished high school, he took a different route before realizing his legal aspirations. Owing to financial difficulty, he grabbed a scholarship from the Department of Science and Technology for a three-year Diploma of Technology at MMSU. After graduating in 2001, he went on to take up Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology. Graduating magna cum laude, he was valedictorian of MMSU Class 2004.

Focused and well-driven, the 29-year old bar passer obtained his law degree from Northwestern University in 2010 and took review classes at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila, where the bar examination was held. Continue reading “Bar none”

Why did God create mosquitoes?

I have asked this question since I began to ask intelligible questions. Pesky and dangerous, nobody is happy with mosquitoes, except businessmen behind insecticides and insect-repellants, crocodiles in pharmaceutical firms, and doctors who, while charging sickening fees, pay, if at all, below minimum-wage taxes.

I am sure you know somebody who has suffered from dengue. And the victim could be anybody: man or woman, old or young, rich or poor, sinner or saint, Noranian or Vilmanian.

I attended the funeral of a fifteen year old boy recently, and it was one of the few occasions tears rolled down my cheeks (I shed tears twice a year on average). A graduating student at a science high school, the boy had a whole life ahead of him. He was an achiever, a good son and brother, an astute citizen and believer in God. But there he was lying in a white coffin, fate sealed by a mosquito’s kiss. Continue reading “Why did God create mosquitoes?”

Photo me

ROMEO S. RUMBAOA, former police chief of Bangui and currently the chief security officer at the Capitol, tells me every time he gets the chance that I look much younger in person than in my photo in this space. The first time he told me that, I ignored it, thinking that he might be mistaking me for dear friend and fellow columnist Steve Barreiro whose hair, or the lack of it, is similar to mine.  Steve is decades wiser than I am. But Rumbaoa says he is really fond of our Riknakem, and I figured he truly is when he started giving me insights on specific articles he liked. I therefore decided to take his observation seriously.

I somehow believe that my column photo should really approximate how I look in person.  As this is not the case, some changes must be made. The first option would be for me to undergo cosmetic facial surgery, but I decided against it for two reasons. First, I do not have money for the procedure.  God knows how expensive it could get, and even if I had the means, I still would not splurge on it. I am sure there could be better uses for my money, ranging from sending an impoverished child to school to finally taking the Thailand trip I have long dreamed. Secondly, I would not go under the knife on fear of having a botched operation and ending up looking like Michael Jackson, Madam Auring, or Loi Estrada, who really look the same I have a difficult time distinguishing one from the other. Continue reading “Photo me”

Book

I FINALLY agreed, dear karikna, to pursue what well-meaning friends and readers have been prodding me to do:  write a book.

I made the decision the other week when I opened our refrigerator and saw my newspaper column wrapped around a bundle of Saluyot.  I asked mom why, she said it was, anyway, from an old issue.

Even with the amounts of time, and energy, and sanity that go with writing a regular weekly column, I have always known that yesterday’s paper is today’s junk, and there was no way I would have been so sensitive and felt offended.  Still, not unlike in a melodramatic soap opera, memories came flashing back because of that incident.  I remembered how many hours of sleep I missed to meet deadlines.  The cups of coffee downed, and the many bottles of SanMig Light I gulped to reward myself for articles that I was particularly happy with.

I recalled one time when I hit the keyboard while a nasty typhoon pounded the city.  Because my laptop ran only on battery, I had to adjust the screen to its dimmest, and to my eyes’ protestations, so that the power would last.  And then there were times when internet access would be faulty, and, aboard my good old bicycle, I would brave the rains or the scorching heat, to find a computer shop with a working connection so I can transmit my work.

But the most difficult part lies in determining what to write.  There were countless moments when I would stare blankly on the screen, trying to balance, not with ease, the varying interests of a wide range of readers.  There are those who would complain when I write about local issues, which they cannot relate to because they are not from Ilocos.  But then, how could I be significant as a writer if my essays are so not-here?  I see things in the locality, and I get affected by issues in the community.  How can I not write about them?

The big challenge, I realized, is in striking a balance, a synthesis.  The order of the day is to show how the issues we face as Ilocanos are  not remote and isolated, but are rather inevitably linked with the struggles of the Filipino people, and with the sojourn of humankind. Continue reading “Book”

Hello Yellow

YOUR karikna is updating his wardrobe these days to include a lot of yellow shirts.

I have, in fact, scrounged on each and every rack of all department stores and boutiques in the province to search for really good yellow tops.

Note that shopping, as my friends would attest, is not really my cup of tea.  Too lazy to shop, I am neither vain nor frivolous when it comes to clothes.

You see, it’s tiring and complicated enough to find the design you like, and when you eventually find what you look for, your preferred color may not be available, or your size is out of stock.  It could get really frustrating.

But I went on shopping anyway as I decided to wear yellow every single day until May 9.  I’ll wear white on May 10 because I, my Comelec media accreditation card in tow, will cover the elections and prudence dictates that I sport a neutral color.

Starting with buying just anything yellow, I eventually developed a four-fold criteria in my summer shopping spree. Continue reading “Hello Yellow”

When I die

I was motorbiking at Rizal St. in Laoag when I passed by this funeral carriage infront of the Aglipayan church.  Although the sun was sizzling hot, I just had to go back and take a pic of it.  I want to be in that vehicle when they bring me to to my grave.

I hope you do not find it morbid, karikna.  Death, they say, is the only sure thing in life.  While no politician is assured to win the election (unless unopposed), everybody is bound to die sooner or later.

When I die, I do not want any of those bands which will destroy the solemnity of my wake and burial.  Some bands even perform green, sex-laden songs during ‘last nights’ would you believe?  One song they performed at a wake I attended goes, “Sisid marino, naglaing toy nobyok, iyunana toy baba santo ngumato. (Marine dive. My boyfriend is so good, he starts down below then works his way up).

I also do not want those annoying speakers playing religious songs at my funeral march, I would have had enough of noise during election periods when I was alive.

My remains I pray brought directly to the cemetery, no stopovers at the church.  I would not want to make the church richer by my death.

I want all the Ilocano rituals and practices for the dead observed.  And please don’t call Atong King, no gambling please.

Continue reading “When I die”

Musings of a motorcycle crash survivor

I AM, in true fashion, a bicyclist, but I bought a motorcycle last May to keep up with my burgeoning responsibilities at work.

I always knew then how treacherous a vehicle it is, but I got enamored by the sense of freedom the ‘motor’ makes me feel that I even bought another one in July.  So I have a Yamaha Mio Soul Automatic scooter and an EM-100 motorcycle.  I bought two so I can use one in Laoag, where I reside, and another in Batac, where I earn bread and some butter.

I always thought I was a very careful driver.  My Laoag to Batac drive takes me almost thirty minutes while other riders swear it only takes them fifteen.  But accidents choose nobody, and no matter how good a driver you may be, you cannot always expect others to be as careful.  Worse, much as you wish, you cannot always trust yourself to be as cautious as humanly possible.  There are times when deep thought distracts you, and, occasionally, your senses simply betray you.  Or it could be the weather. Or the infrastructure.  Or the vehicle itself.

I have always prepared myself, psychologically, for the eventuality of an accident.  At one point or another, a driver meets one, minor or otherwise.  Accidents happen, and the catch is you’ll never know when until it strikes you like lightning or like a Manny Pacquiao left hook, whichever is faster. Continue reading “Musings of a motorcycle crash survivor”

Happy 1st anniv, karikna!

AROUND this time last year, you and I gave birth to this humble column.

While I was not exactly new to writing—having previously published my works in newspapers, books, and websites—the thrill of composing an article on a weekly basis was unparalleled.

Among all the columns written by local journalists, Riknakem has appeared most frequently and most consistently in The Ilocos Times. In the past one year, I failed to pass my weekly article but once.

I still wonder how I do it. Teaching, we all know, is a very demanding job. In addition, I also work at the media office of MMSU, carry out research projects, and serve other publications either as writer or consultant.

Of course, it is not without sacrifices. There have been many times of whole nights spent out of bed, and vacations spent in front of the computer. Having this column also meant less time for my bicycling, which I used to do during my free time.

There are times when I am tempted to miss a column, but my friend Ianree Raquel always reminds me of my responsibility to readers, and I oblige.

But, no, I am not complaining. I have never looked at writing as a burden. Continue reading “Happy 1st anniv, karikna!”

Song insults humanity

ON TOP of the radio charts today is “Who am I?“, a gospel song performed by a Christian rock band named Casting Crowns.

The other weekend when I had to stay in the office to help my students polish their degree papers, I listened to the song 43 times (yes, I tallied!) in two days, not exactly by choice, I assure you, as all radio stations were playing it incessantly.    To the vulnerable, it would seem a perfectly inspirational song.  For me, however, it brings much discomfort. The song insults humanity. It insults me… and you.

The musical piece sets off on a nice note though.  It poses the most important and meaningful of man’s questions.

Who am I?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”, posits Socrates. All inquiries must be rooted in the self, and so I honestly like the first line.

But then the insult begins… Continue reading “Song insults humanity”

Kapag masungkit ko ang jackpot

Ang ‘IN’ na pag-usapan ngayon ay kung ano ang gagawin mo kapag nanalo ka ng jackpot sa lotto.

Tinatayang mahigit 340 million ang maaaring tamaan sa 6/49 Super Lotto jackpot mamayang gabi.

Hayyy, ang sarap nga namang mangarap.

Ang mahalaga sa mga usapang ganito e nababatid mo ang mga bagay na mahalaga sa isang indibidwal.  Malalaman mo kung sinu-sino at anu-ano ba ang kabahagi ng kani-kanilang mga pangarap.

Hayaan po ninyong ibahagi ko sa inyo ang aking mga balakin. Continue reading “Kapag masungkit ko ang jackpot”

Legalize Marijuana

michaelphelps

So, Michael Phelps, that guy who won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, the most in human history, was caught on photo in an apparent act of smoking pot.

The photo (which I am not posting here out respect for him) was met by mixed reactions of disappointment, dismay, and puzzlement.  For why would a legendary athlete, who has the world on his hands and history on his side, resort to Marijuana?

Michael did not disown the picture and in an admirable fashion atypical of real drug users (like the Philippines’ Alabang Boys), he says: Continue reading “Legalize Marijuana”

Who is Bob Ong?

bakit-baliktad To say I have been asked this question over a thousand times is not an excess.

Eight years ago, the writer sent me an e-mail asking for my permission for the inclusion of one of my essays in a book project he was working on.

I said, “yes, go ahead”.  I was not aware then how big he was in the Internet and how phenomenal his first book, ABNKKBSNPLAko?!, has turned out.

Bob Ong was so thankful.  He said he had long been looking for me.

A couple of months after, BO e-mailed again to inform me that his book has been published.  He invited me to get my complimentary copy, and the rest is history.

“Sino ba talaga si Bob Ong?”, I always see a sparkle in the eyes of those who ask.   Continue reading “Who is Bob Ong?”

My Favorite 2009 Calendar

trix-calendar3

Former UP Student Council Chair and now Ilocos Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Kris Ablan sent me 3 copies of this novel calendar.

More than the visual feast the calendar offers, it is my favorite because of what it represents.

Kris writes in his blog:

The project was actually conceptualized many, many years ago when my dad came out with calendars with his face as the main picture (like all politicians with calendar giveaways).  I thought to myself, “What if people didn’t want to look at your face every day.”  “What if they just wanted to see scenery.”

If a politician wants to be “remembered,” why doesn’t he just put his name at a corner of the calendar and put some worthy pictures instead.
You see, karikna, I have never been a fan of Kris’ father who has been my congressman for most of my life, and who seems every inch traditional and jaded.  But this bespectacled young man represents what a new breed of Ilocano leaders should be: thinking, sensible, sensitive, and virtuous.
I look at that calendar each day and tell myself: Yes, there is hope.

Kampay!

I may have been too busy drinking gulping SanMig Light the past years that I failed to notice one good alak manufactured right here in Sunshine City Laoag.

Discovered it lately through a blog entry detailing  a tambay at tagay night held by YTRIP (a youth-led NGO that promotes sustainable local tourism and responsible travel) in the last quarter of 2008.  The group got several bottles of wine from parts of Luzon and tried, tasted, and drank the night away.

Their exhibits included:

Bugnay (Ilocos)
Basi (Ilocos)
Duhat (Ilocos)
Pineapple (??)
Camote with Pineapple (Banaue)
Tapuey (light) (Banaue)
Tapuey (toasted) (Banaue)
Lambanog (Quezon)
Strawberry (Benguet)
Grape (Benguet)

While they concluded that…

The night’s biggest favorites (the winners!!) were the Tapuey (light), Tapuey (toasted), and the Lambanog. And that the losers being the Strawberry and Grape wines.

duhat-wine4.., the Duhat Wine, according to three tasters, is “the closest to how wine would/should taste like”.

I agree.  Suabe ang guhit sa lalamunan. Sarap ng tama. It’s a bonus that it also offers all the health benefits that red wine promises, i.e. good for the heart, antioxidant, anti-cancer properties.  Yes, it is as good for the body as it is for the spirit.

The delight that is the Duhat Wine is actually a product of careful research and product development conducted by Cormel Foods with the support of the Department of Science and Technology and the Mariano Marcos State University (where I teach).

At  just 150Php a bottle, oh my, das leben ist gut!

Why Sachi should go to UP

(What follows is a letter-cum-essay that was published in the Youngblood column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer some years ago. I am not exactly proud of this. Looking back, I was rather insensitive and immature. But I am posting it here nonetheless as a tribute to UP who has served her country well in the past 100 years. This piece was reprinted in the UP Forum, official publication of the university community.)

DEAR Kuya Henry,

Allow me write this letter to you–a first in many years–as you exert influence on one of the most important decisions in the life of our beloved Sachi.

I have known that after a careful assessment, you have decided to send Sachi to xxU for college. While I receive this news with utmost respect, let me air my dissent and give you my thoughts on it.

I believe that xxU is a good school but I wish Sachi could go to the University of the Philippines because there, Sachi will grow among the best and the brightest, the future movers and shakers of our country. In UP, sure to open before Sachi’s eyes are doors of opportunities that graduates of lesser schools can only dream of. But above all, in UP, Sachi would continue to be the most promising person that she is by nature.
Continue reading “Why Sachi should go to UP”

Two Thousand and MINE

IT’S FIVE DAYS before the New Year, but, given the consuming revelry that goes with the holidays, chances are the reign of the Earth Ox would have dawned by the time you read this. I honestly hope, dear karikna, that you are holding this newspaper with all of your ten fingers intact and unbandaged.

When we were in high school, our teachers in English would greet us “Happy New Year” by requiring us to write formal compositions on topics like “How I spent My Christmas vacation” and “My New Year’s Resolutions”. (At siyempre, hindi pahuhuli ang mga guro sa Filipino. Sila man ay nagtatakda din ng mga komposisyon sa mga nabanggit na paksa.) With all due respect to Mrs. Editha Agdeppa and Gng. Rosita Felipe—my language teachers in high school, I never enjoyed writing those pieces. For one, I found them corny. Also, I thought the teacher had no business peering into my personal life and all the way into my inner psyche.

As fate would have it, however, I myself would become a teacher who loves to read his students’ self-reflexive essays. Also, as a mushy columnist, I have no qualms about sharing my stream of consciousness to the public. And yes, as you may have observed, I am occasionally corny, too. Oh, how things change.

Change, as the cliché goes, is constant. Sometimes predictable, many times not. If economic technocrats are to be believed, we will feel the full brunt of the global financial crisis this 2009. As today is difficult enough, it is both frightening and depressing to imagine what other plagues await us in the dim, dim tomorrow. More pain and suffering for Pinoys… Now, that’s predictable.

It should console us though that times of great struggle intensify man’s search for meaning, which should explain the marked increase in church attendance these days. I am sure Bishop Sergio Utleg is happy with this development, although I am not sure if the cash registers, er, collection bags, are smiling as well, given the impoverished parishioners’ perishing purses. (Huh, the underlined words make a good tongue-twister!)

In my case, karikna, I don’t resort to the religious opium. I spend part of my holidays thinking of what I still want to do. Note that this is not goal-setting, as I am never inclined to be hard on myself. A free spirit, my future is not carefully laid out, planned, and organized. This is not sweet lemoning either. Simply, what I do is just a dreamy inventory of reasons. For, as my favorite philosopher and soulmate Friedrich Nietzsche puts it, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.

So go my “why” lists, in random order:

Continue reading “Two Thousand and MINE”

Most Meaningful Christmas Greeting

My Uncle Erning, an Iglesia ni Cristo diakono, visited our home today. Conscious about being sensitive to the religious beliefs of others, I would usually say ‘Happy Holidays’–a greeting more safe. (For those who don’t know yet, INCs don’t celebrate Christmas.)

But when I kissed Uncle Erning’s hand, he smiled at me and greeted me with a voice most joyful and sincere: Merry Christmas, Anak.

So there. The warmest Christmas greeting I received came from a man who does not even believe in Christmas. Most INC members I know are very fiery in the expression of their beliefs. But there he was, my Uncle Erning, realizing that it was not about himself, but about our family’s happiness.

He greeted me… and it was not cliché.

Christmas accomplished.