Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Family is everything

My stay here in California is winding down.  I shall leave during the wee hours of the morning of Friday, Oct 26 with my niece Khriss and her husband, Nino. They have been fantastic hosts and I have like been truly home away from home. There is no place I would have felt as comfortable as here in Olive St. in Orange County. 

If there would have been a theme for my stay here in the US , it would be "family".  I started out with Nino and Khriss, a very young couple who is workjing out to start a family of their own. Then there is this family who has transitioned from a complete loving family who has lost the father of the house to cancer - Danny Dionisio. We visited the wife, Rosita and I could feel the agony of the loss of a beloved husband.  I have sen the closeness this two have for each other and considering that practically all the children are married except for the youngest, I truly feel the pain of being alone.

Then there is the family of in-laws, husband and wife Ogie, Baby, Kuya Ben's sister, and Keno, the couple's son.. They seem to be a family who is now very much in tune to the American way of life with Keno promising to be a rich millennial. 

Of course, my friends Rikki and Annabel,. always the true friends that they are, took time out to take me to the remarkable Getty museum. They have always been like family to me.  Thereafter, Khriss, Nino and I went to meet with my relatives, Ate Bini who played a very important role in my life  as she helped me transform into a decent human being.  Thanks to his son, Nats who invited his siblings to meet with me, I got reunited with the family. I shall always treasure the sumptuous seafood dinner they hosted but even more so the happy reminiscing we had of the past.

OnTuesday, my niece took me to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. Another noteworthy museum with a fantastic collection.  We met with former DLSU professor, once neighbor and friend, Becky Cajucom and her boyfriend Martin. They treated us to lunch and we had a great time checking the collection. We were all fascinated with a sculpture of a modern monkey thjat was supposed to look like a balloon tied up together.  Thereafter, Khriss and I went to visit Bong, a family friend who now lives in Buena Partk.  UInfortunately her husband Danny and her son were not there yet when we visited.

For my spiritual upliftment, I was surprised to be invited by a friend who is now a priest and the chaplain of Cal State University in Fullerton. Our tete a tete was very fruitful as we discussed wonderful things over another seafood dinner at Claws where he treated me. 

Talk about reminiscing, nothing could compare with my reunion with elementary classmate and best friend, Cesar Chaingan.  He is the only classmate from my La Consolacion days that I have reconnected with. The perfect host that he is, we started out at the evening of Friday and ended up after midnight. Then we devoted our whole day the following day with his wife Carole joining us for lunch and dinner.  He has taken me to wonderful places and my fb account would testify to that.  The Norton Museum and the Griffith Observatory among others. I even made a painting of the famous Suicide bridge where we went for a stroll jujst to get perfect shots. 

On Sunday, I got reconnected with a very beautiful lady, Vanessa Lyon, once a model in the Philippines who worked with my two girls and now an upcoming Hollywood star. She was still very sweet and down to earth, hopefully she would stay that way even when she has reached the pinnacle of her dreams.  We had breakfast at the Urth Cafe and we had a very nice conversation talking about the past and the future. 

That afternoon, I met Gloria Pimentel Laven's family. Whereas before it was just her and her husband John who I got to meet, this time I was welcomed to some sort of a family reunion and was able to meet her son, Alexander and his son, three year old Luca, her grandsons Adrian and his Filam girlfriend and another brother whose names excape me now, her 91 year old mother and sister, Sylvia. 

So far, I had the opportunity to see how Filipino families thrive and survive the US and it pleases me that they are doing great! I can't wait to see how the others live at the other side of the country, the East Coast. In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting my experience of witnessing my first gay wedding which shall be happening in Oregon. Another happy pairing and a family of their own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Age of discernment?

There is a proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility from fifteen to twelve years old.  This proposal, known as Senate Bill 2026, is filed by no less than the present Senate President, Vicente Sotto III. This idea arose from the increasing cases of misdemeanors committed by minors. The move is set on the idea that lowering the age of criminal responsibility will deter minors from committing a crime.  The question is will it really solve the problem?
I will leave it to the experts who have the means to use and/or do extensive research on the various aspects – professionals who are more qualified  argue for or against. Neither do I have the expertise nor the time to do an extensive one.  Yet, I do have, at this time, an opinion regarding the matter based on gut feeling and my, hitherto, sense of logic.
My position is that the issue at hand is the same as the age-old debate on capital punishment.  Will the re-imposition of capital punishment for heinous crimes, at least, be a deterrent to committing a crime? My answer is in the negative. I believe that a person who commits a crime, especially heinous ones, never considers the result of his/her wrongful act.  A crime is committed willfully and without regard to whatever consequence shall befall the offender for such is committed only with the selfish purpose, whatever that may be, the offender has. I have yet to see a rapist, for example, stop his craving for sex simply because he knows that the punishment, if caught and proven guilty, is death.  No, his or her evil intentions should be fulfilled regardless of what the outcome of such a dastardly act shall be. The same thing is true with a criminal who will kill someone just so his purpose is served. More importantly, capital punishment is anti-poor.  Rich offenders can pay their way to freedom no matter what crime has been committed.  Only poor people who cannot defend themselves are incarcerated. Secondly, capital punishment is final. There is no more hope of reformation – the true idea behind putting an offender in jail. It is merely a vengeance to make the victim or the relatives feel good.
By the same token, lowering the age of criminal liability will not solve the current situation of minors committing a crime.  The issue is even more complex than we think it is.  Criminal responsibility is set because we believe that it is the age when a person has reached fully the age of discernment -meaning that said person has truly grasped the difference between right and wrong. What this age is is still unknown. There has been no standard and each country has set its own. This fact is simply because no study has been made that has proven what such an age actually is. Psychologists will argue endlessly the point and will never come up with a solid, acceptable answer.  Think about it! We incarcerate people who have done something wrong in the hope that they can be reformed.  That does not usually happen. On the contrary, people who are taken to jail even become callous and numb and more likely to be hardened by the experience. If such is the case with mature adults, this will be doubled in the case of minors who are more susceptible to his/her surroundings. Put a minor in jail and chances are he/she is more likely to become a grievous offender in the future. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) policy and research officer Jackielou Bagadiong says, To put children in jail would be like putting them in “school(s) of crime. She elaborates by saying,  If a child enters jail, one can be assured that when he or she comes out, she will have had a network of criminals that can assist him or her later on. 
One of the arguments given by those in favor of the bill is that lowering criminal responsibility will put an end to syndicates using children do their work for them. The problem with this argument is that the real offenders are the syndicates, not the children. Why should the children be punished when they are just being used unwittingly to commit a felony? Why not go after the real culprits and punish these usurpers of innocent children? Lowering the age will not deter the syndicates from using children for they do not care what happens to their pawns. What is worse is what will stop them from using even younger kids? When they do, we are not just back to square one but we will find ourselves in a deeper hell hole than we already are.
It is true that the government should look at ways for its people to have peaceful, contented lives. According to Thomas Hobbes, a government’s main function is to protect and provide. A government should ensure the safety and protection of its people from each other and from foreign foes. To do this, government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break. It is very clear that government should protect its citizens.  This being the case, the government has the responsibility to take care of its minors.  It has to ensure that the minors receive total protection and assurance that they shall all be taken care of.  To do this, it is the duty of the government to strengthen the family as a very important unit. In the absence of such for an unfortunate child, the government should assign one for the child to ensure that he/she grows up a responsible, conscientious adult. Thus, the government should make laws to make sure that parents take full responsibility of their children as they should.  Keep them off the streets, nurture, educate and love them for they were the ones who brought their children to the world.  Education is the key.  If these children are given adequate, quality education, they would have sufficient knowledge to get by rather than fighting for their very existence in the streets.  Lowering crime responsibility is not the right response to the problem. It is merely a short cut for law makers.  What we should do is strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, the very law that addresses the problem of erring juveniles. Bagadiong states that with the JJWC, the child still has this liability … it would harm our future generation if we do that. I totally agree.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sao Paulo, Brazil Impressions: Land of the Beautiful

Any Filipino's introduction to Brazil would have to be via its famous slippers called Havaianas, the Portuguese word for Hawaiians. How it is so called is unknown to me but I suspect the originator was thinking of the beach and that said product is a beach wear and what better way is it to represent the beach other than Hawaii? Brazil is more than that.  My personal knowledge of the country  far exceeds this footwear as I am familiar with the country's music - the samba and  the bossa nova.  When I  asked one of my acquaintances, Rafaella, for the difference of the two art forms, I was told that samba is popular and more dance-able while bossa nova is classic Brazilian music.  My introduction to this genre of music started during the 70's when I got interested with  that American form of music called jazz.  Jazz in its many forms. would include Latin jazz as its form and structure is the same as that American music. From Latin  jazz,  I got to know the famous group led by Sergio Mendez which further stretched to the more hardcore Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stanley Getz, Astrud Gilberto and my favorite guitarist, Joao Gilberto.  What attracted me most with bossa nova is that most of the songs utilize  the guitar as the main instrument.  The rhythm, the chord progressions and shapes are distinctly Brazilian. I envied those who  can  play it so well like Bong Penera of the Batucadas when  he was still based in the Philippines. Also, my first classical guitar piece was composed by a Brazilian, Heitor Villa-Lobos dubbed as the best known South American composer of the 20th century. Other than my fascination with Brazilian music and that footwear, my knowledge of its culture is practically nil.  My first impression of Brazil is that it is wild and dangerous that one should always watch one's back or get mugged at the very least.  Well, my hunches were correct but mostly in the wrong part, the popular Rio de Janeiro.  I went to a more peaceful place, Sao Paulo.

Sao Paulo. located at the southeast region of Brazil is the most populated in the country and  having the largest GDP in Latin America,  is at the same time, the wealthiest state in Brazil,. Ranked as an alpha global city,  a city which is a primary node in the global economic network. Sao Paulo is very progressive that is easily felt with its infra structures, roads and bridges, trains and everything that modern man has access to.  With a topography the same as Baguio, hilly that one has to traverse the road with its ups and downs, the climate in Sao Paulo city while I was there was very cold.  It is replete with parks where people can relax and exercise, as part of these parks are exercise contraptions which anybody can use anytime of day.  The biggest park, the Ibirapuera Park has a land area of 158 hectares that include several museums and pavilions and has a recorded 14.4 million visits in 2017. There is a huge bicycle rental as one enters the park to help you see the various amenities as it  is so large one will have a hard time seeing the whole place by just walking.  The main features also include three giant fountains in a lake that is surrounded by vast picnic grounds. It is also quite common to have at least two football fields in some of the parks - football courts is to  basketball courts in the Philippines.

I would have to be honest.  The reason for my visit was twofold.  First, I would like to see a new country, experience a culture that is unknown to me but mostly because I wanted to see how my daughter is doing all by herself in a land so far away.  I know that while she is living now with her husband safely, I still wanted to see for myself how she is doing. I would like to make sure that she knows how to get along with her husband and most of all, her in-laws.  She had always been under the protection of the family and I wanted to see how she is getting along.  How does she keep the household, manage the bills, etc. In other words, does she know how to live outside the protection of mom and dad?  Luckily, she did. Her in-laws loved her and take her as their own. She, although has still a lot to learn, is beginning to run the house like her mom and that is a good thing.  So, after seeing that she is perfectly doing fine on her own, I started to look at another perspective - the Brazilian way of life.

My first impression of Sao Paulo is that it is a land of beautiful men and women.  It is very common to see beautiful people in the streets, trains and places where people congregate.  The people I met, for example, are very young and very beautiful.  The mixture of different races,  the greatest of which are Italians followed by Portuguese, Germans and Spaniards not to mention those of Afro lineage, probably brought a new breed of Brazilians accounting to their physical attributes. They have a beautiful physique which most of them develop through exercise. This probably explains the influx of Brazilian models particularly in Asian countries like China and the Philippines.  Most men and women are sporting at least three tattoos, an art form that has been a fad for quite a while.  What I liked about the people I met, those I have been acquainted to or even just met in the streets, are kind and very accommodating.  They are well-mannered and respectful of one another.

Brazilian cuisine is, while not strange, a little different.  A mixture of different influences, Brazilian food is a good variation from what I usually have. First and foremost, while I have the habit of eating three square meals a day, I noticed that Brazilians do not eat that much.  Their biggest meal would have to be lunch and would mostly only have some bread for dinner and would sometimes skip breakfast altogether.  Their favorite dish seem to be the feijioada, a mixture of beans and different stewed meat.  They love to eat beans and a good plate would be composed of either white or black beans at the bottom then topped with rice which they steam with garlic, onion and sometimes with some herbs - truly delightful.  Then they would layer this with meat and green salad laced with oil dressing. I always, shamefully.  had seconds every meal.  Angela, Kim's sogra (mother-in-law) is a very good cook that I enjoyed her dishes very much.  The main staple would have to be churrasco or grilled meat which the cook sends out to the guests right after it is done or it would be a little tough if overcooked or has gone cold.  One of my favorites was the coxinha or Brazilian chicken croquettes. It is very much like our empanadas.

I have mentioned that Brazilians love to stay physically sound.  They exercise a lot to maintain that whistle bait figure.  The main sport would have to be football. I was lucky that I arrived during the World cup held in Russia and I got to have a glimpse of that Brazilian spirit.  Every time the Brazil team had a game, the people were anxiously waiting for it to happen and even have fireworks early in the morning.  During game time and the team scored, fireworks would be heard. I would have had the best time of my life experiencing the glory of the Brazilian people had Brazil won the cup.  Fate was not in their favor when they lost to Belgium during the semi-finals. 

Sao Paulo is rich  in the arts that it can easily be a haven for artists.  There are a lot of museums, theater  halls and sculptures one can enjoy.  It is replete with nature that can inspire an artist to work. I, alone, in my more than a month stay, was able to produce about 21 watercolors. The country is replete with the arts in various forms.  From folk art to the classics, the country is beaming with art works as a result of migration making the country as a melting pot of different cultures combining it into a synthesis  of a rich culture.

If only I would be able to stay for a longer period of time, independent, knowledgeable of the language and have its entire culture known to me, I would welcome it. If only I were single and young!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Beco do Barman

As an artist, the best place I have been taken to in Brazil will have to be the Beco do Batman or the Batman's Alley found around the Rua Gon├žalo Alfonso and Rua Madeiros de Albuquerque in the Via Madelena neighborhood.  The place started when a group of art students playfully painted Batman (hence the name) in one of the walls in the area during the 80's and it caught like wild fire transforming the place into one huge gallery of massive paintings done on walls making the place into what it is now - a tourist attraction.  I shall say no more and just let the pictures speak for themselves.  

The following pictures were taken in two museum located at the area

Sunday, August 19, 2018

People I met I

The beautiful Rafaella                                          Rafael and Sylvana                              

         Kim with Rafaella, Yuri and adorable Laura                       the very animated, Bernardo

                                                   Renan and Kim with Angela and Vova

People I met II

In my 42 day stay in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I have accumulated quite a number of pictures, thanks to my daughter Kim. Hence, I am posting these pictures in groups lest I clog them up in just one post.  Here goes:

                At the airport on my arrival

At the airport prior to departure for Manil  

Yuri and the beautiful  Vivian             With Yuri
The Maiate's                                                                       Tio Luis                                 

Renan's aunt, Tia Nancy                                          Duda                                   
       Paulo with whom I have the most                               Vova
          contact due to our common
          love for music