Sunday, December 31, 2006

Grief comes in very huge packages

Tell me, what are the odds of a blogger posting entries about the passing away of a loved one twice in a row? It's practically nil, right. That was what I thought until I realized I have not blogged anything since my friend's, Arlene's, death. Now, I have to post this painful entry over the loss of my mother and realized I am wrong. But then, I have been wrong all the time about my mother's passing. You see, she has been suffering from alzheimer's and arthritis a long time that I thought the news of her death would not come as a surprise to me anymore. She's 87 years old, did nothing else but lie on her bed or sat on her wheelchair. She would not recognize anyone, much more, me, who could only come on Sundays for a visit.

My eldest sister would often call the house to tell me our mother has been looking for that bald, big man sitting by the tv. She can only surmise it was me she was talking about. Who really knew?

At any rate, that morning of the 23rd still came as a shock as I received a text message from my nephew that my mom has gone. I immediately went to her home in Marikina to find out what happened. She was no longer there. My only brother has taken her to the morgue. It was my sister and her grandchildren who greeted me. They were waking her up and she would not respond. They tried everything to revive her to no avail.

It was a long wait. My nieces and nephews and their families started to come and we all helped in cleaning the house for her arrival.

I couldn't find the tears when she arrived. I watched her peacefully lying in her coffin assuring myself that that was the way to go. Die in my sleep. No struggles, no painful goodbyes. We have been deprived of a memory of a doting mother, strong-willed, assuring for a very long time. She was deprived of her dignity, being bathed, clothed with diapers which probably irritated her as she continuously divested of them in spite of our incessant demands not to. She was tied in the hospital or she'd hurt herself getting rid of the dextrose, tubes stuck in her nose to feed her.

And yet, during the interment, it finally hit me. She will no longer be with us and she's buried six feet below the ground. Nobody could ever go away from there. The coffin entombed in sealed cement and buried with thick dirt. I cried. The person I loved most, the person that brought me into this world, the person that cared and nurtured me is no more. All I have left are memories of a distant past. Memories of me growing-up, being taken in front of the tv and fed with landing airplane spoons just so I would eat my food, being taken to and from school, watching plays I was a part of, a memory of a loving, responsible mother, who did her very best to rear her children the only way she knew how. Memories of my teen-aged years which were barely a parent's pride. How I wish alzheimer's did not touch my mother that robbed her of her dignity, her pride. She was robbed of her talent for cooking, baking and all that stuff that mothers loved to do. My only consolation was, she probably did not realize how much in pain she was in. It would have been more painful knowing her children suffered with her.

When she arrived in her coffin, I thought the box was too small. Her legs were bent like as if she was made to fit the coffin. And then I remembered, even her toes were bent. Her toes were all curled up, the big toes landed on top of the other toes and yes, her legs were bent that way causing her too much pain everytime we straightened them up. If you could bear with me for much longer, I would like to share two poems I wrote (not the only ones, you know) about my mother as a tribute to her.


She wouldn’t have minded
the stranger for he feeds her,
helps her bathe and dresses her up,
puts talcum powder on her back

But he ties her hands…

Moves her every two hours
just when she is about to fall
asleep. Says he has to
or she will wound herself scratching

her itchy body. Her healing wounds
feel like a thousand ants
crawling, biting, nibbling her flesh.
He may look nice.

But he ties her hands…

She wonders who he is.
He seems to know everyone.
Talks to them, laughs and tells jokes.
By her count, there are at least
five adults, two children
and a frequent visitor.

And he ties her hands…

“Who are these people?”
she wonders. They say this is her house
she sleeps on her own bed
eats off her own plate,
but strange as it may seem
she feels she is
the stranger...

a stranger in her own house

Is She Really?
(Working title)
This is where alzheimer finally takes me.
My mother - alone in her bed

with neither memory nor care.
She is nothing but a shell

fleshy mollusk meat gone
the soup down to the last gulp.

Like the debris found in the morning
of a full night's revelry

confetti strewn thick on the pavement
amid trash of firecracker paper.

A birdcage without the bird
or a flower without the scent.

This is what she finally seemed to be

With probing eyes and withered hands
she held my face!

Nay, goodbye for now and always remember, I love you very much!!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Parting is never sweet!

We have cheated death once. When my friend, Arlene Lawson, accepted my invitation to come over to the country in 2000, little did I know that she had a prostethic heart valve. I only knew when we went swimming and saw the scar on her chest Little did I know that she caught a virus enroute and would soon be attacked with a serious case of pneumonia. Hence, on our way to Villa Escudero, she experienced chest pains and hardness of breathing. Alarmed, my wife suggested that we turn back. Having felt sorry for the postponed trip as we were with the whole family, and Redjie, a close friend, she suggested that we ought to have lunch in her hotel instead. We obliged but insisted that we take her to the doctor thereafter. (she said what she was feeling would go away and all she needed was to rest). After lunch, she asked permission to go to the comfort room to freshen up while we waited. It took her awhile until I asked my wife to go check on her. Suddenly, I heard my wife frantically calling my name. And our nightmare began.

There she was, all black and blue, holding her chest, crying for help. Redjie immediately called for help at the hotel's clinic while I took her outside and laid her down on the carpeted floor. A doctor and a nurse came rushing with my friend. He held an oxygen tank, put the mask on her and opened it. Empty! We rushed her to the clinic where two tanks were. Both were not functioning. We were already cursing the hotel, the doctor, the nurses. He decided we had to bring her to the hospital.

At the emergency room, I could feel the fright on her voice as she called for help. Imagine being at the brink of death in a foreign land with a friend you just knew from the internet. I would have been scared, too. She was administered medications while she continuously called my name. I held her hand telling her I was with her, assuring her that the doctors were good, that everything would be alright. My head was spinning. A lot of things ran through my head. What would i do should the worst happen? Who do I contact? How? I asked her who in Canada can I call? She wouldn't understand. Then I remembered she showed me a list. There was a friend who had an email address.

When the sedative she was given took effect, I was called to sign something. But before I did that, I was asked if she had any relatives here. I said no. They informed me that she would be taken to the ICU and that their ICU would cost around Php30,000 a day. I said I understood. I blindly signed the contract. My mind was floating. Where would I get the money, if ever? Added to this would be the doctors, the hotel...

Thus went Arlene's supposedly ten-days of fun in the country turned into a month's stay at the hosptial. Knowing how lonely she would be, we made sure we visited her everyday. My wife, sometimes, sleeping over to keep her company. On Sundays and holidays, we took all the children to her room for some sort of a get-together. In spite of all these troubles, this story made us very close. Too close, as a matter of fact. We began emailing each other practically everyday. Feeling that she owed me her life, she showered me with kindness and love. I kept assuring her that any Filipino would have done what I did but she would have none of it. When she was going back to Canada, she whispered to my friend, "Rolly's going to Canada soon. I wish you can go with him!" I brushed it aside when my friend told me that.

A year later, she invited me to come over. Nitz and I went. She also invited our American friends and we all gave out a poetry reading at Steveston. Since it was May, she decided to give us an off season thanksgiving dinner. The Americans went along with it and everybody contributed to make it as close to the original. She took us to different places like Victoria, Banff and Calgary. It was an experience that never occured even in my and my wife's dreams. And this trip to Canada was repeated again. Twice, as a matter of fact. Everytime, I would hesitate knowing that it is very costly. She argued that it would be just like her going abroad to see her friends and since she couldn't do that anymore, she asked her friend to see her.

Yesterday morning, as was my practice, I turned on the computer to while away the time, waiting to wake up the kids. I know she would have an email for me as it is not very likely that she wouldn't. There was none. Instead, I got a strange email from our mutual friend Gwen. The title read "horrible news about Arlene". I opened it and was surprised to learn that my good friend, Arlene, has passed away. I couldn't believe it. I gasped and tried to read it again hoping I read the message wrongly. But much as I try, the words would not change or go away. She passed away! "But I was just on the phone with her the other day.
I reasoned. She called because she was worried about the typhoon. She wanted to make sure everybody was safe. Since I was not at home when she called, I returned her call the following day. We talked a long time and she was her usual bubbly self, laughing at my jokes, exchanging banters. As she always say that my call would have caused me a fortune, it was she who hinted at saying goodbye. She never did that, though. She would say it might be costing me a fortune but still would wait for me to say adieu. If I only knew, I would have protested and suggested we talked some more.

I knew she was going to try a new medication for Rheumatoid Arthritis as she had suffered from this ailment for a very long time. She had been under every new medication that is being tested and none of them seem to work. I knew that she told me there were risks involved, even deadly, but she decided she's going for it anyway. But I never expected news like this would come - and real quick. I immediately called her daughter, Trudy, to confim it. She was about to call me and was just waiting for the proper time as she knew I would have been still asleep.

Arlene is not just a wonderful person to me. She meant a lot to me and my family. The children love her very much. She was Lola Arlene to them. They would always be excited when we call her up to greet her a happy birthday every December 22nd. They would be excited writing down little notes on a huge Christmas card we are sending her way. My daughter Kim cried the hardest at the news of her death. She was very special to her lola Arlene. When she came over, I asked my children to perform for her. Kraiganne sang her a song, Mickey played the violin, and Kim recited a poem. Unbeknownst to Arlene, Kim would be reciting one of her poems. She was surprised when Kim uttered the title and the name of the poet. She listened intently on every word the very young Kim recited. By the end of the poem, Arlene was already in tears. "I've never heard my poetry being recited before," she quipped. She gave Kim a huge hug and Kim wiped out her tears.

My children adored her. I adored her. She meant a lot to me. She was my mentor, my muse in poetry, she was my confidante who always listened when I whined, laughed at my antics, my source of energy everytime I felt so-so, my fan who believed in everything I do, my patron who had taken me to places I would not have dared go. As she always say that because we think alike, we were probably bobsey twins. She was my angel. With her passing, I know I have lost all these but most of all, I have lost a cherished friend. She surely has left an empty void in our hearts, the same void she had left in every heart she had touched with her kind soul. Today, I opened my email and true enough, there was no message that came from her. I would miss that terribly. Her emails are my morning breakfast. Like we always say in its closing of each mail, I say to Arlene, "with a lot of love and kisses,", I end this post with "We all love you very much and you shall always be in our hearts."

;Posted by Picasa

Arlene Lawson
December 22, 1935 - December 6, 2006

Buella's Rite of Passage

Here's a rite of passage when
I'm allowed the privilege of toddling
to the privvy

I traipse on wobbled, weathered
boards laid down by the last hobo who
pleaded for sandwiches in trade for work

growing up means sitting on a hole
wide and deep
full of tentacled arms raised to grab me
bared and vulnerable

a pitiful candle protects me
from a fall into the well
I grasp edges of the hole
created for an adult

business done
in a hurry to scoot the thirty feet
from outhouse to back porch

I fall

tripped by loosed boards
the stick I carry in my hand
imbeds itself into my chin

a reminder in white of an
evening I'm big enough
to abandon
"the thunder mug"

Privy enough to traipse the boards

Arlene Lawson

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

States bound

Oil on canvass 30" X 60"

"The Day Before"

Since my last painting of a town fiesta called Too Many Cooks", I have been getting commissions that feature town fiestas. My idea of fun during fiestas is actually not the feast day itself but the preparations that go with it, especially the eve of the actual feast. Just finished this one which I entitled "The Day Before". This is another commissioned work and is bound for the States soon. Hopefully it dries up fast and heals well before it is transported. Hope you like it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A little thought

For those who do not know yet, I am an Art teacher in one of the schools in Metro Manila. I have been an Art teacher for 21 years, the same number of years I have been married. Not that that is relevant but just to give you an idea of how old I am. Teaching has never been my intended vocation, though. I am a Fine Arts graduate with an Advertising major but never got to practice this trade. I worked as soon as I graduated. Meaning I took whatever was available.

Anyway, not having been trained to be a teacher, I labored each day during my first years of teaching. I had to learn the tricks of the trade, sometimes, painfully. I had to learn to deal with each problem that came my way. Slowly, I learned what works and what does not work with my lessons. I kept those lessons that many were able to grasp, threw away those that were too hard to comprehend. Always a hit or miss with my lessons, I tried to come up with a cohesive syllabus, a word which meaning II did not have a full grasp of at the time I started.

Anyway, I have been thinking about showing examples to students. First and foremost, examples that we show the students should always be what we, in the academic world as "authentic material". By this we mean those that are seen in print and has been available to the public. Hence, if say for example that a teacher, who writes poems, should want to show a poem as an example, it should only be those that have been published and not a personal poem, he/she has written. Of course, with subjects like Science, authentic material would be an actual leaf, or whatever material is being discussed rather than showing a picture or a drawing.

At any rate, will showing examples in art, like painting styles, be beneficial to the learner. My theory is that sometimes, they are not. While it is true that examples facilitate in the understanding of a concept being taught and at best, trigger an idea for the day's project, I have the feeling that sometimes, they stand in the way for new creative ideas to prosper.

Showing examples may limit the avenue for the creation of a new style or concept since the learner has fixed his/her standard of beauty based on the example. Hence, the learner might not try to explore new avenues to attack the problem/project on hand. And yet, we must remember that the great artists, especially during the modern era, became what they are in the Art world simply because they did not go with the flow. They rebelled with what was considered as the norm. Remember, too, that art is the pursuit of beauty, which is relative in the first place. This line of thinking, again, posed a big problem for me during my first years of teaching. What if a student submits a mere line on the premise that this is his ideal of beauty? Would you have considered this as creative seeing that he/she diverted from the norm or is this a product of sheer laziness? It took me a while to learn how to parry a retort like this one. First, I should know how a student works in class. Secondly, know how his/her mind works. And lastly, come up with projects that has less subjectivity in it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

academic freedom anyone?

Not many educators know that in education, there is an animal called academic freedom. Academic freedom is the right of a teacher/professor and students to pursue research and publish their findings without restraint. Conversely, it also holds that teachers are entitled to full freedom in discussing their subject. This is a principle exercised first in Germany and later on, in France and the United States. The rationale behind this principle is to give the learner a free hand in any field of study that is not controlled by any individual thus hampering the initiative of the learner to pursue a field of study and as a consequence, deprive mankind of a valuable lesson. The effects of restraining/control an individual to learn a new field of study is dramatically shown in the case of one Russian biologist named Trofim Lysenko.

Trofim Lysenko is a Soviet biologist who rejected the advances of science and proposed his unscientivic approach to biology. Since his principles suited dialectical materialism, the propaganda value of his ideas appealed to the Soviet leadership and made him director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences. In power, he ordered the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists to implement his ideas on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. This resulted in famines which believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.

The fate of biology in the Soviet Union shows why society has an interest in protecting academic freedom. A Soviet biologist named Trofim Lysenko rejected Western scientific advances and proposed a new, unscientific approach to biology (called Lysenkoism) that was based on the principles of dialectical materialism. Because of their propaganda value, Lysenko's ideas proved appealing to the Soviet leadership, and he became the director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences; subsequently, Lysenko directed a purge of scientists who professed "harmful ideas," resulting in the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists. Lysenko's unscientific ideas were implemented on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. Famines that resulted partly from Lysenko's influence are believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.

Academic freedom, however, is not a license to teach anything at will. Like any rule or right, it carries with it certain limitations.

In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure"[3], teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for adequate cause, such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself.
We should remember that as teachers, we carry a big amount of responsibility on our shoulders.

The reason why not many teachers know about this principle is probably because there has been no need for it. We seem to inherently know about our freedom and are aware of the advances of technology and the fruits we reap from it. Thanks to modern means of information, we see the tremendous successes as well as failures of recent studies conducted by research institutes. However, I wonder when academic freedom can be invoked and if it has been invoked before in the country. Is it only applicable to college education or does its hands go down to elementary and high school?


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

TV commercials

I have to admit that I am a couch potato. When I am not on the computer, there's a big chance (say about 90%) that I am in front of the television set. Like most men, you will find me with the remote on my hand, frequently changing channels trying to find a show that would suit my fancy. Well, my favorites lately has been the cooking shows like the Naked Chef, The Surreal Gourmet, Keith Floyd and Surfing the Menu (not good for my appetite). For game shows, I watch the long time running Wheel of Fortune and Double Jeopardy. I also frequent The Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. The other 10% would be reading a book or playing the guitar.

Anyway, this post is not really about what shows I watch but the commercials we see on the boob tube. Before I proceed, allow me to reminisce first. During the mid 80's, there was this commercial with Mr. Jim Paredes saying, "These look like oranges... (bounces the orange) but they don't!" Anybody reading this remember that one? Well, if we really analyse the sentence, we will see how ridiculous the statement was. They look like oranges but they don't look like they are. Clearly, what he should have said was "but they're not!"

Anyway, the reason I suddenly remembered that ad is because there is one commercial that piqued my interest today. I have seen it several times in the local channels and I am bothered by it. I am talking about this commercial about a fifty something mother who says: "You are not my baby no more!" I checked my kids and asked, "analyse that statement and tell me, is he still a baby of hers or no more?" My children's initial reaction wass that he is no longer her baby.

Maybe we often hear this phrase quite too often in movies that we believe that this is proper english. But it's not! Well, at least the last time I looked, a double negative means it is positive! So, if we analyse the sentence carefully, it really means he is still her baby. But we know this is not the case if we look at the context by how and under what circumstances the utterance has been made.

The media's role in shaping the young is unprecedented. Schools are facing a losing battle with the media. Considering the cost of production and the coverage of these commercials, the advertisers ought to be very careful with what they show on tv and other medium.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I hope this never happens again!

This is one for the books - well, at least in mine, if I were to write one. You see, a strange thing happened to me last night. I went to the gas station to have my car filled-up with nary a peso on my wallet (and that is not speaking figuratively). As was my practice, I alit the car, went to the ATM to get part of my monthly salary. Lo and behold, the ATM was off-line. Now, I had to use my card - yet again! I was thinking my wife would h8t the roof when she gets to see my bill. (The card has always been for emergency cases only and my epass). Then I remembered the gas station across has an ATM, too. So, I went. I approached the ATM, put in my card and punched the first number of my PIN. Then it suddenly hit me. I was having a mental block. I coud not remember my PIN!

I stared at the keys real hard trying to recall the next number. NADA! I had to press cancel as there was another person who would use th machine. I let her use it first and when she finished, I tried out what I thought was my PIN. Wrong! Tried another one. Wrong! Now I began to panic. My wife is about to go the province with her mom and she really needs money. I hurried back to the car with nothing on my mind except for my freakng PIN. I gavve out my card to the gasoline attendant, started the car and think where else there was a machine. As I was cruising Commonwealth Ave., I remembered there are several machines at Filinvest. I decided to go there, this time, armed with another set of numbers.

I parked my car, got off stood in line for the machine. When it was my turn, I punched in the numbers, the transaction, the amount and waited. Drats! still wrong and my card had been blocked as it was the third time I punched in a wrong combination. Guess what, iIt is now 5:10 am and I am still not sure about my freaking PIN. Ii will have to try again later.

In fairness to myself, I never forgot my former number as I was just using four digits. However, when our school decided to transfer banks, we had to use 6 digits. Has this happened to you before? Have you experienced mental block? I know I have especially during my high school days, taking written tests!

Friday, November 03, 2006

I bid you Adieu!

We were having dinner when my wife received a text message from our friend which made her practically shout.
"Oh no! Bro. Rafe passed away!" she said. That was a terrible news to hear. My wife and I knew him well. We both have worked for Bro. Rafe when he was still President of DLSU. My wife had known him personally even before that. I had worked closely with him while I was still the coordinator of the Art Department. We went to workshops and outings together and he is the epitome of cool. As an administrator, he was not just al brains but balanced everything with an accepting heart. I admired his resolve and his mature ways to decide things - firmly but with compassion.

A very affable man, one would not hesitate to approach him even if he held the highest post in the university then. He was a well-mannered man with a well-modulated baritone voice that gave out a very calming effect. His words were well calculated and spoken clearly that one never missed what he wanted to say. When he spoke, one listened. We only have high praises for this man who had dedicated his life to teaching. He will be a big loss to the De La Salle community.

Goodbye, Bro. Rafe! Thanks for everything you have shared with us.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Now I've heard everything

Of course you're wondering about the title, right? Well, allow me to set it up for you first.

You see, I've written about how my mother-in-law got sick, of all days, on my birthday, last September. She was taken to the hospital where she was confined for about three days. Expectedly, she was given medication, among which, were antibiotics, probably to ward off the flu she's gotten, presumably from me. I was the first one to get sick, you see, and I was bedridden for about two days already. Anyway, during that period of time, she began to show signs that are, should I say, not normal. She was not herself anymore. I called my good friend, Doc Emer who revealed to us that there had been recent studies which show that certain antibiotics may sometimes cause erratic behavior. He said that nothing was conclusive but it would be wise to take my mother-in-law again to her doctor.

When my wife and her older sister took my MIL to the doctor, she dismissed the theory and said that my MIL is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. My wife was naturally disheartened by the news. She has seen my mother bedridden and helpless, with all dignity gone. My MIL was incoherent, making gestures we couldn't understand, and so on and so forth. All this time, it was my eldest daughter who has just recently graduated from college and was on vacation who tended to her. It went on for almost a month, but guess what, a little after she has been off the medications, she began to be herself again. Yes, she's back to her old self. Cooking, making a fuzz about disorder in the house, sometimes, even doing some laundry work when my wife missed to hand some of the laundry to the laundry woman. I guess my friend was right after all.

And so we thought everything's back to normal. However, one night, over dinner, I overheard her talking to my two younger kids. I wasn't hungry yet and was awaiting my wife to come home. She asked them if they had classes the following day. They answered in the affirmative . Then she asked, "Why, waht date is it?" They said it was October something. She said, no it wasn't. It was already November. When the kids tried to correct her, she got mad at them. So, when my wife arrived from work, she told on them. My wife patiently explained that it was still October. She got mad at my wife, and went to her room. To make a long story short, we just let her believe what she wanted to believe for after all, we've tried everything. Relatives coming to visit her would correct her and still she wouldn't believe. I told my wife we better get ready for two Christmases and two New Years. :-).

Now comes Halloween. I saw her watching the news on tv yesterday and of course, she saw the cemeteries teeming with people. My wife told her they would have to go to my FIL's grave very early. She asked why and she said it's All Soul's Day. Well, I think she's beginning to have doubts about her date. This morning, enroute either to or from the cemetery, her eldest son who was driving the car told her, "You see, it's just November 1st!" her response floored everyone inside the car.

"Awww, what kind of President do we have? Now she's even changing all the dates!" I know the President has been accused of many things but changing the dates?

Now, I have heard the President being accused of every crime and what not, but chaning the dates??? That my friends is one good reason why I am never running for any government office!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A dream comes true

On Sept. 16, I blogged about a boy's little request to meet up with his idol, wrestler Batista. Pyro is a 3 year old boy who suffers from cancer. Like any other young boy, he watches wrestling and is wowed by big, bulky men. And he happens to like Batista very much. When news spread that Batista will be in town, Jojo, Mec's husband had the idea of a meeting with Batista. Thus, a series of emails passed here and there, blogger friends posting the idea on their sites hoping that somehow, the handlers of Batista would come to know of this little boy's wish.

It was a dream come true, a prayer answered for my friend Mec, Pyro's aunt, when finally, the handlers of Batista contacted her to tell her that Pyro can meet Batista in person. It was like David and Goliath sans the hostilities. Batista may seem like Goliath to us for we see him throw big men, punch heavy blows, kick like a mad man isnide the ring but in reality he, too, seems like a guy with a soft heart. You can watch the meeting here

I received an email which I'd like to share and it goes like this:


Mec and I extend our gratitude, prayers and thanks to all those that helped in one way or the other to making this wish come true. I do hope that all of us would get to relate to the love and kindness that transpired to making this dream a reality. How I wish I could put into words the hapiness that is reflected in the boy's eyes after the meet and greet and after watching the wresting match live in Araneta.

We have asked so much already but forgive us if we ask for your continuous prayers for Pyro's recovery. And if you can resend this email to those that you initially sent the original email, we would be very greatful. AGAIN THANK YOU!!!

Best Regards,

Jojo Arevalo

If you would like to know about Pyro's latest condition, please read Mec's blog

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Time flies so fast when you're having fun

I can’t believe it but my eldest daughter has officially graduated yesterday! As the cliché goes, it feels just like yesterday when I carried her in my arms, giving her smelling kisses from the neck all the way to her hair. What father did not enjoy the freshness of a baby, newly bathed and given a dose of oils, manzanilla and alcampurado and whatever stuff mothers and lolas give them? And yes, that fresh breath, devoid of impurities like meat, onions, garlic and what have you…

I remember that I would be late for work because I was playing with her on her crib. That first smile, the first step, the first words… each a milestone to her as a human being, a milestone for me and my wife as parents. We were in paradise.

So, this post is for my first born, who, in her own way, had given me much joy effortlessly and endlessly. Who, during the times of crisis in the family with the family matriarch being sick, diagnosed to be suffering from alzheimer’s (thank God I think the doctor made a miscalculation for she’s back!) rose to the occasion and took good care of her. And for that, we are forever grateful. So please, indulge with me a little more as I dedicate this poem for the very first angel in my life, my first born. I hope you like it, too.

Reversal of roles

I have seen her bathe you,
take you in her arms,
cuddle you more than her own

I witnessed how
she fed you with milk
as if it came from her bosom.

I saw the rituals she performed
to make you bright and bubbly.

she saw you grow
to who you are
and what you have become

this was yesterday
when the afternoon sun of her life
was at its highest!

and now, as you wear
your black toga and hat,
diploma in your hand,

she has reached the dusk,
awaiting dreams or even nightmares
in her sleep

old friends haunt her,
she calls them by name
although they have been long gone

from this world.
Tied to the wheelchair,
manacled to a sickness

that has no cure.
As I see you bathe, cuddle,
and feed that old soul, I know

that black robe and hat
and parchment paper are well earned
for you have not just learned

to count numbers or read a science book,
you have learned the most valuable lesson of all,
the lesson of life

and nana has taught you well. !

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Milenyo and Alzheimer's Disease

It's been two days after Milenyo, the worst storm that hit Manila since 1995. This is the first storm the directly hit Manila after eleven years. Honestly, it caught me by surprise. I have not been listening or reading the news lately and was surprised to be told that there would be no classes the following day while going home from work Wednesday. I never thought this would be different. I was used to signal no. 2 being declared a non-school day. Little did I know that we would be hard hit by the storm.

Anyway, I woke up early that Thursday knowing that my wife had to stay in the hospital with her sister who was going under the knife that day. I was left alone with the kids and my mother-in-law. For once, Pagasa did not miss this time. As it had predicted, the storm started raging at 12:00 noon. I would not have worried much but my mother-in-law who had suddenly been stricken with alzheimer's was very frightened. She's 82 years old. As some of you know, this is not my first time to have been acquainted with Alzheimers. My first experience with the disease was in Canada. My friend's husband, Terry, (God bless his soul) was my first encounter with someone afflicted with the disease. I never thought my mother was going that route already. She was showing signs of being very forgetful but we never suspected it to be the beginnings of Alzheimer's. She's been suffering from that disease for almost three years now. She's 87.

My mother-in-law's affliction is something else. She was okay, doing house chores when she got the flu, probably taking it from me. You see, I was bedridden during my birthday. She was doing the laundry then. Suddenly, she got sick and the following morning, my wife decided to take her to the hospital. Her mind plummetted since then. It was so abrupt.

Going back to the storm, when I saw how my mother-in-law was frightened by the gust of wind and the downpour, I couldn't help worry about my mother's condition, too. This made me think about her and her affliction. I made a tiny little poem for her and this is how it goes:

Is she really? (Working title)

This is where alzheimer finally takes me.
My mother - alone in her bed

with neither memory nor care.
She is nothing but a shell

fleshy mollusk meat gone
the soup down to the last gulp.

Like the debris found in the morning
of a full night's revelry

confetti strewn thick on the pavement
amid trash of firecracker paper.

A birdcage without the bird
or a flower without the scent.

This is what she finally seemed to be

With probing eyes and withered hands
she held my face!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I've been tagged!

This is long overdue.
Bugsy tagged me to name 7 songs I am into right now. Well, they're not all songs. Some of them are more appropriately referred to as tunes. I am fond of the guitar and so it's just natural that I would be listening to guitar works by who I consider to be masters of the instrument. I have too many favorite songs/tunes that it's so hard to compress them to just seven. So, instead, I am giving the albums where some of them are found. As I told Bugsy, I don't think the young ones might not know these artists as most of them had been popular during my teen aged years. Anyway, here's my list:

1. Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" especially "Knocks me off my feet"
2. Eric Johnson's "Cliffs of Dover"
3. Jimi Hendrix's "Red House" from the G3 Live album" - Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson
4. Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing and Castle's in the Sand" by Tuck Andres
5. Chicago's "Question 67-68"
6. Al di Meola, John Mclaughlin and Paco di Lucia in concert -
7. Tower of Power's "Sparkling in the Sand" and "Don't Change Horses"

I think it's customary to keep this tag going so I think I'd like to look at the lists of my friends; author and former dj Batjay, rocker and lead guitarist Kat, and pansitan's madame Ate Siena

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Filipinos as a people do not have a philosophy similar to Western tradition of thought. We do not have the likes of Plato, Socrates or France's Jean Paul Sarte, Rousseau and the like. We are a predominantly Chirstian country with the majority being Catholic, thanks to the Spaniards. Hence, the closest we can be to a Western philosophy is Christian which, ironically was handed to us by Westerners when it started in the East where we are located. And yet, apart from our religion, it is not that we do not have a philosophy to guide our lives for we do. We do have a common set of values with wihich we see the world. These are guiding principles that govern our lives from time immemorial. This is a kind of folk wisdom handed to us by our forefathers that has withstood the test of time. Emerita Quito liken these philosophy to the German volksgeist, or a collective sense or diwa of a given set of people. I am referring to our Bahala na which can be attributed to leaving everything to God (probably originating from the word Bathala or God); Hiya (shame), ningas cogon (procrastination) and pakikisama camaraderie or group loyalty. Before you raise your eyebrows saying that these are negative traits we have inherited from our forefathers, Quito maintains that there are positive effects to these traits.

At any rate, let me talk about pakikisama. This word is very important to a Filipino as one would not want to be seen as not having one. We should always be a team player. We should always go with the community and its wishes. We do not want to be branded an outcast. Especally that we have a devotion to the family which extends beyond imagination. Thus, we have friends call our parents "tatay" or "nanay", the househelp calling us "kuya" or "ate", etc. denoting closeness. It is a sense of shame to be referred to as "walang pakisama" or one who does not know how to go along. As has been stated earlier, this trait carries with it both positive and negative outcomes. Because ot this trait, we learn that our lives depend on one another for survival and that "peace or lack of dissension is a constant goal." Yet, it also brings about being blind to evil doings "like graft and corruption in order to conserve peace and harmony in a group at the expense of one's comfort."

I have been feeling the pangs of pakikisama's negativite effects lately. You see we have a neighbor who had just moved in. The thing is we live in a very small subdivision where two cars besides each other can hardly be accomodated. If you happen to live in the middle of two blocks like I do, you can park your car outside your garage but at the risk of having it bumped on the sides. Me and my old neighbors have an unwritten understanding that should it happen that our vehicle is blocking the way, all that has to be done is to honk the horn and the owner of the car will move it immediately. My new neighbor lives at the corner where we pass everyday. The guy has a garage but he has this nasty habit of parking his car right at the middle of the road making it entirely impassable. Not only that! The family is fond of parties and they would literally close the entire road blocking it with tables and chairs and you guessed it correctly - drinking till midnight. Nevermind that the teen-aged family member would blast their stereo every afternoon while people are napping. I don't anyway.

I never say a word about the disturbance they are causing out of "pakikisama". However, they are beginning to become a nuisance. When I got home today, their car was parked again outside of the house. I couldn't get through as there was not enough room. I asked my son to politely tell the owner to please move it and let me pass first before he put it back where he wanted it parked. To my dismay, it was the househelp who went out only to tell me that her boss was out for an errand and won't be back for a while. I had no other way but to find another route praying that there won't be any cars blocking the way or it will be a long, arduous way to back up. Bwisit di ba?

I guess it is high time to demand from them to exhibit pakikisama for a change!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A little boy's request

We get lonely when a loved one has fallen ill with a deadly disease. Our hearts bleed even more when the loved one is a child, just beginning to know the world in which he lives in. This is the sad predicament of Pyro's parents and relatives who have to suffer with this 3 year old, the ordeal of battling cancer and the emotional and financial strains associated with the disease. Pyro is the 3 year old nephew of blogger friend, mec who has created a separate blog for her cancer-stricken nephew here. Pyro could have been playing with his relatives and friends today but because of the disease, has to stay in the hospital for chemo treatment instead. This had been ongoing for months now. The little boy can only stand so much.

Logically, a very frail boy would find heroes in strong, well-built, healthy young men. And who else can fit the category better than wrestler Batista. Realizing that the legendary wrestler is in town, little Pyro always talked about wanting to meet him in person. And this brought a glimmer of hope to his family as this would be one good reason for him to find meaning in life and continue fighting the big C. However, Pyro is so frail and too small to even go out of the hospital to see his idol. Thus began the family's crusade to find the handlers of the famous wrestler through email and other means to request for Batista to visit the boy. To help, the famous cat blogger Cath, had the idea of asking our friends to blog about it to somehow extend the reach hoping that it would melt Batista's heart and grant a very sick child's wish.

So, if you, by any chance, has a way of contacting Batista, please let me know or better yet, I will give you my friend's contact number. Thank you in advance.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

pictures galore

On July 28th, my family joined my sister-in-law's family to celebrate her birthday! We went to Balay sa Indang in Cavite, some two hours ride away from where we live and boy did we enjoy the day. Balay is a resort managed by my wife's friend. As it was off-season, we literally had the huge place by ourselves.

the birthday celebrant and host Posted by Picasa

My children and their cousins never minded the rain and the cold as they all went for a dive at the pool like as if it were summer.

my sons and nephew Posted by Picasa

It was a network of big, spacious, three-room cottages that contain three big master beds and a nice toilet and bath. As the place is near Tagaytay and is as cold, the owners did not see it necessary to have the rooms air-conditioned. The Asian theme, probably Thai, cannot be missed. Although the food, which is served at the main house, is a mixture of different cuisines like occidental and oriental origin.

sawadee Posted by Picasa

this could have been our living room! Posted by Picasa

what beautiful creatures! My babies! Posted by Picasa

Getting there is half the fun, though!

Mush!!! Posted by Picasa

You get to relax and meditate on life.. and ask... "Where did I go wrong? :-)

om! om! om!  Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 08, 2006

One lousy day!

It's 1:00 am. Since the day is over, I think I can write about it now. I don't usually write about how my day was but that is more of a general rule and as such, carries with it some exceptions. This is one of them. You see, unlike my favorite Alexander Solzhenitzyn story One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich" which actually was an ironical happy day for the persona of the story when in fact, under normal circumstances would have been a day in hell, my day did not really fare well at all and no irony can mask it off. You see, I'm down with the flu since Tuesday. I got to work on Tuesday alright but only stayed inside the clinic the whole day which forced me to stay at home since yesterday. I think I got the flu. The bad thing is my wife had to take the kids to school on a cab as it is their final exams for this term. So, I am home, inutile, waiting for my family to come home while watching tv, which I swear had not been turned off 24 hours for two days in a row I am just awaiting for it to blow. (Wow talk about appositives and run on sentences... what can I do? I told you I was sick, didn't I?) My eldest could have taken her younger siblings to school, waited for them and took them home but she can't as she was in Hong Kong enjoying herself for working too hard on her thesis (I think she deserves that so never mind worrying about paying for it later...)

To make matters worse, today, my mother-in-law had gotten it and had to be taken to the hospital by my wife (such a wonderful daughter, I tell you. If any of my kids can inherit even half of the care and attention she has for her mom, I can rest assured about my olden days), as she had surprisingly weakened abruptly, not even being able to stand by herself, making the doctors confine her. Well, I couldn't drive my wife and mother-in-law to the hospital we had to ask a neighbor do it for us. And I couldn't pick up my daughter from the airport so we had to ask my sister-in-law and her son do it. I know, inutile!

Nope, the day past had not been a walk in the park. Who wouldn't feel that way? I have never felt so crappy, lousy, weak and so out of it. Too bad because it was my birthday. Can you at least forgive me if I say it was my 35th? I wish!

Thanks to my friends who remembered and greeted me in whatever form was available to them. You don't know how you made my spirits higher than it was.

Monday, September 04, 2006

It is now a book!

Book cover Posted by Picasa

My favorite blog, Kwentong Tambay, is now in solid form. Yes, it is now a book! Its owner, or should I say, its author, ( a guy known to the blogosphere as Batjay) is a good friend of mine who is actually behind the creation of this blog. He was the one who told me to create a blog about teaching (although this one metamorphosed into something else, I think). Just goes to show that this guy's full of ideas. He also helped me find my way through bloglandia as I was always lost. He patiently answered my queries about codes and everything until I could be left on my own.

The book has an introduction by no less than bigtime writers like MLQIII and Sassy Lawyer. I assure you that this will be a very pleasurable read as the man is wit, humor, and passion combined. Filipinos can easily identify themselves with the experiences found in the book. After all, Kwentong Tambay as a blog would not have been one of the best blogs there is for nothing.

Sorry I couldn't write about it earlier as my friend is making the book a surprise to his lovely wife Jet with this. Hopefully the book will be on sale at the local bookstores soon. When that happens, go get your copies immediately!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

happy days are here again!

Sheesh, I have been meaning to update my blog at least twice a week but have not done so because of other pressing matters. Anyway, I think I should post something light this time around. Several happy occasions have happened to the family since July 28th, my sister-in-law's birthday. Allow me to save these wonderful memories here. These, more in chronological order than by importance, were:

On July 28, my son Mickey, played a violin solo in his new found chamber group, the DLSU Chamber Orchestra. One thing about my son is that he seems to know what he likes and I have always been proud of that. First, he is not from DLSU but from another University affiliated to it. Nevertheless, he auditioned for the chamber and got accepted. Most of his friends from high school joined the Pop Orchestra but he didn't. He wanted chamber music more, I guess, so he opted to be alone. Much to our surprise, not only was he accepted, he was already given a stint in its concert featuring members doing solo performances. I can see my wife beaming with pride as he stepped onstage, clad with suit and tie and violin in hand. He didn't seem to be nervous and I wonder how come I would have been jittery had it been I up that stage at that age?


The following Sunday, we celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday at Indang, Cavite. We went to Balay Indang, a resort house with either Thai or Indonesian theme. The inclement weather never dampened my children's spirits as they went swimming just the same. We had a wonderful time indulging on the sumptuous food the place has to offer. Me and my wife also indulged ourselves with a simple massage.


On August 19, my eldest daughter and her group successfully defended their thesis. They were actually pining for a nomination for best thesis but were three points shy. At any rate, me and my wife are about to graduate our first child in October. Now, ain't that neat? One thing about my daughter is that she is soooo organized! I accidentally found her schedule posted on her table where her activities by the hour are all lined up with each task highlighted if it has been done. Her whole college life had been well-planned and you could see clearly where she was at the moment in her schooling as she maps out her courses. i wonder where she got that. Certainly not from me!

Friday, August 18, 2006

What a shame!

The past weeks had been trying times again due to the scandal that befell the licensure exams in the nursing profession. It is indeed unfortunate not only for the nurses who took the exams but to the whole Fillipino nation as a whole. Considering that the nursing profession brings in a steady inflow of revenue from dollar earners abroad who are slaving themselves for a brighter future, this recent news of alleged cheating in the examinations is a very unwelcome turn of events. Not only has it placed these professionals in jeopardy of having their credibilities questioned, it has brought doubts on the capabilities of the Filipino nurses in this global village. My heart bleeds for those who passed the test fair and square, who took the pains to review their lessons hard, spend hard earned money to prepare for the test, only to be deprived of their legitimate share in the profession. And all this because of scalawags hell bent to earn easy money preying on those who will risk life and limb, hold on to a double bladed sword like life depended on it just to be ensured, no matter what evil means it takes, to achieve their goals.

What worries me especially is that we are only confirming that we are a people of cheaters. We have seen this before. Allegations of cheating with the medical board, the bar, elections, hell, we've even been known to have cheated on International Little League Baseball. Sad to say that it is during these times when I am not proud to be a Filipino. May the people who caused these shame be cursed and may they lose all their teeth except one and may that hurt till kingdom come.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I did it again!

One of my works acquired a home again in Our Own Voice, an online mag maintained by Filipino expats in the States whose mission is to provide a home space for the creative expressions of Filipinos in the diaspora. A month ago, the new associate editor, Aileen Ibardaloza, got to read two poems I posted in my poetry blog and contacted me to tell me that they are interested in publishing these poems. My poem is a response I made to another poem written by my friend Toni, a co-berks member writing for blogkadahan where both poems were born. You'll find these poems here. Please do visit the site for it is a wonderful ezine with great poems, stories and essays.

This is my second poem to be published by this ezine and I am still as excited as before. The first one can be viewed here. Thank you Aileen for continued visit in my poetry blog. You don't know how much I appreciate it. Thank you Toni for sparking the idea in me to write that poem.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

College entrance exam

My daughter took the UPCAT exams this morning. It started at 6:30. While this is the third time seeing my child take the exams in UP, this is the first time I've experienced taking someone that early. My eldest and second child took the second batch which was in the afternoon. The 6:30 exam is much easier, traffic-wise so that made the trip a less taxing although the 6 hour wait is still too long. Well, at least I had company this time. A parent in our school who I happen to have known a long time was there also waiting for his child.

Anyway, this post is not actually about my daughter taking the exam. This is about the proliferation of review centers for collegiate entrance exams mostly for UP, Ateneo and La Salle. My question is why? The way I think about it is that these entrance exams are to test whether or not these students are ready for college work in their campuses. Ready to tackle their programs and that means if they have had the proper training and preparation in high school. The way I look at it, the phenomenon of having these students take special review for their entrance tests suggest either of two things: the high school preparation they have been getting is not enough or that these universities are asking questions that are way above that which these students have been prepared for. Sure, it can be argued that the questions asked in these exams encompass four years of high school and that the students should review what they have learned from the start. But if that were the case, the high school they went to could have made a simple review of what have been taken before and that should have been sufficient. Stock knowledge, so to speak. As it were, more and more students are taking these review classes aside from the regular classes they are studying in school to ensure acceptance in the best colleges. One thing for certain is that the competition is too high and that one must take everything available to him/her in order to get in to a university of his/her choice.

What really saddens me is that this makes education much less accessible to the poor. Never mind that their children have had less in terms of resources like good books, good teachers, libraries, computers and all that. Now, they need to take review classes as their high school preparation was not enough. And where would they get the money for this expensive affair? The majority of Filipinos hardly make both ends meet. The best university to go to would have been UP as it is not only the top university in the country today, it is, by far, the cheapest. And yet, this is not a stone's throw away to them. It is as far as the moon, maybe farther. This is the reason why most of the students UP has these days come also from the moneyed parents and only a fraction of the poor really enjoy the benefits of a full-time scholarship. If only our political leaders see this problem, then probably there can be a glimmer of hope that they would make education top priority and make public schools a lot better than it is today. Sadly, we have been nailed to the same problems that remain unsolvable till now - classrooms and good teachers. These are problems that could have been solved easily - budget allocation. Unfortunately, money is scarce these days as this commodity is filling up some unscrupulous, conscienced-deprived hooligan's pockets.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Isa pang hirit. Who is number 1 - part 3

Nakakatuwa ngunit patuloy na nagbibigay kulay ang isinulat kong ito. Marahil ay nagtataka kayo kung bakit tagalog ang gamit ko ngayon. Minsan, mayroong nagmungkahi sa akin na nagngangalnag Olga (hindi ko alam kung tunay nya itong pangalan) na sana raw ay magsulat ako sa Filipino para mas maraming makaintindi (hindi ko alam na marami-rami na rin naman palang nagbabasa ng blog kong ito noong kasipagan kong mag tala dito.) Mayroon ding pumuna sa akin sa paggamit ko ng salitang Tagalog sa isa kong tula . Matatagpuan ito dito. Pakihanap na lang ang klomento ni Juan_Bahag. Pero, hindi po ang mga iyan ang dahilan kung bakit sa tagalog itong talang ito. Paki-tuloy na lang po ang pagbabasa nang malaman ninyo kung bakit. Salamat.

Ang kahulihulihang komento na natanggap ko sa unang parte ng seryeng ito ay tila bumabatikos sa isa pang nagkumento (pareho silang hindi nagpakilala) na mali-mali ang grammar ng isinulat nito. Sa suma total, sinabi nyang nakakaawa naman daw tayo dahil daw ang isang nakatapos ng MA, sa UP pa mandin, ay mali ang istrukturang ginagamit sa pagsulat ng ingles Bukod dito, sinabi niya pang Tama nga ang kasabihan na ang matsing, damitan mo man ng magarang damit ay matsing pa rin. Wag na lang mag-ingles kung mali naman ang grammar. Marahil ay isa siya doon sa mga taong maalab ang damdamin pagdating sa wika.

Sa aking sagot, sinabi ko sa kanyang huwag masyadong magmadali sa paghuhusga. Mayroong mga taong nagmamadaling maisulat ang kanilang gustong sabihin na hindi na nag-eedit pa dahil maaaring nagmamadali o natatakot na baka mawala ang kanilang iniisip na mensahe. May mga kaibigan akong manunulat na mali-mali ang spelling at grammar dahil dito. Mga amerikano pa ang karamihan. Ngunit hindi kailanman nabawasan ang respeto ko sa kanila pagkat alam kong magagaling silang mag-isip at tunay na dapat kong pag-ukulan ng panahon ang kanilang mga sinasabi. Isa pa, ako rin kadalasan ay mali din ang grammar na gamit dahil ako naman ay hindi nakatapos ng English o Language man lang kundi Fine Arts. Ang aking English ay talagang oido (sa tenga) lamang - kung tama ang tunog, tama siya sa akin. Dahil dito, minsan ay talamak ang aking SV agreement at lalo na ang tenses.

Isa pa, hindi lahat ng tao ay binigyan ng angking talino sa pagsusulat o pagsasalita ng kahit na ano pa mang wika, lalo pa ng kakanyahang matuto ng ibang lenggwahe. Samakatuwid, mayroong mga taong sadyang magaling magsalita o magsulat ng inggles, marami rin namang hindi. Baka naman hindi siya talagang sanay magsulat dahil iba ang kanyang propesyon. Hindi naman kasi lahat ng propesyon ay kailangan ng kagalingan sa pagsasalita tulad ng mga abogado, (kahima't nitong mga nakaraang taon ay may mga pag-aaral na nagsasabing bumaba na ang kalidad maging ng mga abogado sa paggamit ng ingles), manunulat o maging ng isang politiko. Sinabi ko pa sa aking sagot na ako'y mayroong mga kaibigan na mga inhenyero, pintor atbp na magagaling sa kanilang mga trabaho ngunit hindi magaling sa ingles. At hindi ito naging balakid man lang upang maparating nila ang kanilang ibig sabihin sa akin. Nagkakaintindihan kami. Sabi nga sa Desiderata, at pakinggan mo kahit sino sapagkat kahit ang isang mangmang ay may sariling karanasan at kwento.

Karamihan sa atin, maaaring kasama na ako, sampu ng aking mga kasamahan sa paaralan, ang nag-aakalang ang kahinaan sa pagsalita at pagsulat ng inggles ng isang tao ay patotoong may kahinaan ang utak nito. Ano nga ba ang nangyari at marami sa atin ay nag-aakala nito? Sa aking palagay, ito ay dahilan sa pagkakasakop ng mga banyaga sa atin. Marami nang naisulat tungkol dito at ako ay lubusang naniniwala na ito ay totoo. Unang-una na ay ang ating pananaw sa kung ano ang maganda o ang ating aesthetic sense. Tingnan ninyo at maraming pilipino na nagpapakulay ng buhok, nagpapaputing pilit ng kanilang balat at pinatatangos ang kanilang ilong. Ito ay sa kadahilanang tayo ay pinalaki na ang kagandahan ay mula sa pamantayan ng mga puti. Ito ay bunga ng ating isipan (lalo na ng mga matatanda sa atin na umabot sa panahong tayo'y sakop pa ng mga amerikano - "uy tingnan mo ang sanggol, napakaganda, kulay mais ang kanyang buhok, ang tangos ng ilong at pagkaputi-puti." Ito ay sa kadahilanang ang mga puti, ayaw man nating aminin, ay naging mga "amo" natin kung baga. Nakita ng mga matatanda na sila ay lubhang makapangyarihan sa loob ng ating bansa. Ang kanilang mga trabaho ay sa opisinang malamig (marahil, kung may air con na noon) at paupo-upo lamang sa isang tabi at mando ng mando na siyang nagdulot ng ating pagpupumilit na magkaroon ng "white collar job" at pagmamalit doon sa mga nagtatrabahong ang gamit ay ang kanilang mga kamay (blue collar jobs). Sa kabutihang palad, sa aking palagay ay unti-unti nang nababawasan ang ganitong mentalidad pamula nang sumapit ang pagtatapos ng siglo.

Ngunit sa lahat ng ito, ang pinakamatibay na dahilan ng ating maling batayan ng talino ay sapagkat ang ating pag-aaral ay nakasaad sa wikang ingles. Natural, dahil ang ating pinag-aaralan ay sa wikang ingles, naging dalawa ang aiting pinagsusumikapang gawin. Matutong intindihin ang wika kung saan ito ay nakasaad at pagkatapos ay ang malaman kung ano ang konseptong nakalakip sa mensahe nito. Kaya lumalabas na iyung magagaling uminggles ay tumalas ang utak at karamihan doon sa mga hindi ay nawalan naman ng ganang magsumikap o hindi na nagpatuloy sigurong mag-aral ng mabuti - (basta pumasa lang, ayos na). (Iyan ay hindi pa kasama ang kakanyahang makapagtustos ng pag-aaral ng magulang o ng mag-aaral na sustentuhan ang kanyang pag-aaral).

Tunay nga bang kung magaling umingles ay uunlad ang ating bayan? Hindi po. Sinabi ko na noon na maraming mauunlad na bansa na nag-aral gamit ang kanilang sariling wika tulad ng Japan, Germany at marami pang iba. Kung sila man ay nag-aaral ngayon ng wikang inggles, ito ay dahil sa gusto nilang mapalawak pa ang kanilang emperyo at hindi upang mapaunlad ang kanilang sarili.

Kung inyong mamarapatin, pabayaan nyo po akong makapagbahagi ng aking saloobin dito. Ako po ay naniniwala na ang lenggwahe ay isang magandang paraan upang masupil ng isang mananakop ang isa pang kultura at kamalayan ng isang nasyon. Kaakibat kasi nito ay, ganoon na nga, ang pagbabago ng aesthetic ideal o kung ano sa tingin niya ang maganda ng nasasakop. Paulit-ulit ko nang sinabi dito na noong ako ay lumalaking teen-ager (medyo may katagalan na ano?) ang mga awiting naglipana sa ating himpapawid ay pulos ng mga banyaga. Lumaki akong nakikinig sa rock, jazz at folk songs ng mga amerikano. Ang mga mayayaman ay kinakausap ng inggles o kastila na, sinadya man o hindi ng kanilang mga magulang, ay lalo lamang nagpalawig sa kaibahan ng mahihirap sa mayayaman. (Ang Filipino ay ginagamit lamang sa mga katulong o kung hindi man, ay nagpupumilit ang mga katulong mag-inggles na nagdulot ng mga salitang "Mamaya na me" at "You make tusok-tusok the fish ball" na totoo namang napakasakit pakinggan. Salamat ng lang at nabuksan ang daan para sa mga kumpositor tulad ng Juan dela Cruz band (Himig Natin) at ni ginoong Jim Paredes na isa ring blogger, at karamihan sa mga kabataan ngayon ay nakikinig na ng musikang sariling atin.

Kung ang kamalayan ng isang bayan ay nakatuon sa isang wikang hindi kanya, natututunan niyang yakapin ang lahat ng gawi ng mga taong gumagamit ng wikang ito. Ito ay sa kadahilanang ang wika ay kultura. Lahat ng "nuances" at "idiosyncrasies" ng mga puti ay ating namana na rin. Hindi ba't parang nakakainsulto na ang maganda sa atin ay yaong mga kabaligtaran natin? Marami ang nagsasabing huli na raw para baguhin ang ating "medium of instruction" dahil mahihirapan nang i salin ang mga terminong teknikal? Gaano ba kahirap o kaselan ito? Hindi ba't nang bago naman tayo matuto ay pinagaralan din natin ang mga kahulugan ng mga terminong ito, maging ito ay sa inggles, pranses o aleman? Samakatwid, parating may umpisa, hindi ba? Dapat bang lahat ng termino ay isalin pa natin o pabayaan na lang nating gamitin ang mga orihinal na katawagan sa mga ito?

Para lalong gumulo ang usapan, dapat nga bang baguin ang "medium of instruction" dahil sa mga nabanggit ko? Ah, para diyan sa bagay na yan, basahin na lang ninyo ito at ito ay natalakay ko na rin naman. At kung sinisipag pa rin kayong magbasa, pakituunan ng pansin ang palitan namin ng kuru-kuro ng isang nagngangalang Arturo Arbera sa bandang huli. PAra kayo'y ganahan ng kaunti, ang huli niyang banat ay ganito: "magaling daw mag-Ingles ang mag PIlipino. mayaman ba tayo. ikaw na mahilig mag-Ingles mayaman ka ba? mag-isip ka nga."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who is number 1 - part 2

Surprisingly, I am still receiving comments for a post I made in May, 2005 about a poll made during that time on who is number 1? referring to the top schools in the country today. I will save you the time and say that UP landed on the top spot.

One of the reasons for that post is to say that it would be too easy for a university to land at the top. Should there be a competition on who is the best, which would mean that it is the universtty to go to, all a university or a college has to do is to select its students well. Open it only to the best students through a very rigid entrance examination and should there be students who manage to get in prove not up to par, to weed them out immediately. That ought to do it. That is what UP does. And rightfully so as most of its students are scholars whose education is being paid for by the State. I guess it is imperative that the State takes care of its investment. However, should this be the case with students who are willing to pay an exhorbitant fee for education? Should schools drop them out should their capacity to learn fall short? Maybe, maybe not. Good students do not need very good teachers. They can learn on their own. It is the weak ones that need the best teachers. Those who can motivate them well to perform to their utmost capacity. The good students need good teachers who will challenge them. These teachers may not necessarily be the same kind.

It is unfortunate that education in the country is not accessible to all. It has become expensive that many intelligent individuals could not go to the university of their choice, if ever they can afford to go to college. ONe of my recent commenters lamented that even if he/she passed the UPCAT, he/she decided not to go as daily expenses would be a problem. Since the commenter comes from Isabela, I would assume that included board and lodging. In my response, I said that "if there is a will, there is a way" If he/she is bent on getting a good eduication, he/she can get it anywhere provided he/she is willing to go the extra mile. Reading on your own, keeping abreast on the current trends, etc. and most especially, studying the lessons well. Later on, you can look for scholarships here and abroad. It's just knowing where to look and in this age of computers, it is not really that hard.

Actually,in the end, it does not matter what university or what course one took. It will all boil down to what lessons were learned and how these are being used. Case in point, many politicians or even businessmen, (as politicians have been used as an example quite too often that they are now trite) graduated from the best universities but they got eaten up by their greed and causing us a lot of miseries today. To paraphrase the Bible, "What does it benefit a man to own all the riches in the world and yet, lose his soul?" The ultimate question for me is, "Are you happy or not?"

What it boils down to is that polls on who is number 1 is totally a waste of time. Why? I would suppose that the most valuable thing this information can give is for students to know what school to go to. However, the best schools are not open to everyone. It is only open to those who are already bright and who has the capability to engage in an expensive enterprise. And to think that education is one of the tickets for progress...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nasty C5

If you pass by C5 enroute to the SLEX like I do everyday, beware of the road as it sometimes has umbrella wires to ruin your tires. I have been a victim before. It was on the first day of school last year when my front tire suddenly blew-out! It was a good thing I don't drive that fast considering we were running late. Had I been going at top speed, the blown out tire would have caused the car to go haywire as it was the front wheel. And I had my kids with me.

Why wasn't I surprised when out of nowhere, a man offered help? I asked him if he had a good jack and true enough, he said he can get from a house (presumably a vulcanizing shop) at the opposite side of the road). My first impulse was to get angry at him suspecting that it was he who planted that thing on the road. But then, that was sheer speculation and I had no proof. Besides, I really had to be in school on time. So, I told him it was too far and that he can use my jack instead. And he did. After several minutes, he finished, I gave him a hundred and was on my way. I definitely won't have that tire fixed on that vulcanizing shop across the street.

And I thought I learned my lesson! Hell no! it happened to me again today. We were on our way home and not realizing it, I was already running with a flat tire. I only got to learn about it when my friends, who ride with me, got off at Buting and someone told me I had a flat tire. With no vulcanizing shops around, I took a good look at the tire and decided it can go a few more kilometers before the air really ran out.

I found a shop near Bagong Ilog and lo and behold! We found three pins made out of umbrella wire, all lined up (this made me sure they were planted on the road). The only reason the tire did not give in at once was because unlike before where two big pins were embedded on wood (that made the pins lose their grip on the tire causing the air to go out) these new pins were embedded on the tire. Tubeless tires don't give in easily if you leave the nail hanging onto the tire, you see.

I'm sure I got these pins at the same place where I was victimized before. So, if you are going to pass by C5, keep your eyes open as the road is not completely safe!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

a newbie bus rider

I don't usually put my poems in this blog as I maintain another blog for my poetry. Hwoever, there are several reasons why I am putting this poem here. First, I have just posted a new one in my poetry blog which you might want to know also contains a reprint of a surprise poet, (surprise because I didn't know he wrote poetry)a very good friend of mine. Secondly, because this is a true story (one of my experiences in Canada) and lastly, I want other people to know that I have another blog (plugging, hehe)

Anyway, this is about my first bus ride in Canada. Yes, I have been there three times and yet never experienced riding a bus. This was a first time for me. Hope you like it. Here goes:

Newbie rides the bus

Take the car," she says.
But I'd rather take the bus
that knows where it's going
than drive around the city,

I walk to Moncton
unmindful of the seagulls flying past
owning the vast space above my head
freely going to and from their nest
transporting food for their young.

Clad in sweatshirt and a jacket on my arm
toying with a twoney and a quarter in my hand
I plan the journey
up ahead

sitting on the bench at the stop
I wonder if the bus will take me
directly to Gastown
where the Seabus docks

or should I transfer to another...
but which one and where I do not know.
Thoughts of Rosa Parks
run through my head
or falling flat on my face
or being shouted at
for a clumsy move

together with a thousand
horror stories happening
on my first bus ride


a twenty year old woman arrives,
smiles and tells me,
"You'll have to transfer at Richmond Center
take the B39, get off at Waterfront,
walk a block to The Station to find
the Seabus that'll take you to North Van."

No glitches till now
until I take the trip back.
Should I take the bus to Railway
or should it be Steveston
and walk less than a mile?

Bus going to Railway arrives
decide to take it now
than wait for the other.

People standing in front of me
waiting for seats to be vacated.
I look out the window,
and realize, "ah Railway!"

Suddenly, the bus made a turn at Wilson,
I panic! The bus could be headed back
to the Center.

With bags in tow
I get off and decide to walk
only to find out that it's all of four miles!
to make matters worse
my bladder is full
and I really have to go

Halfway there... drats! It begins to rain.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

PTN anniversary

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HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY, PTN!!! (click here)

The Pinoy Teachers Network started out by Marisol, we call PTN for short is celebrating its first year anniversary. It is a network of teachers from here and abroad where we get to share our experiences with teaching, thereby hoping to bridge the gap in education. It is our deep intention to help ourselves and others become better teachers and aid in any way we can to make education in the Philippines become more progressive.

If you are a Filipino teacher or planning to be one, or anyone who is interested with Philippine education, why don't you drop by our site and check it out? Drop a comment or two in any entries there or if you wish, even send an article or two. You can email them to me at

For our first year anniversary, I wrote a piece which sums up a brief history of the group. You can read it here. You can also read the other core group's articles in the main webpage.

Happy anniversary to us and may we increase some more and have all our dreams come true!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Burn Out

I know what you're thinking. Based on the fact that I seldom blog these days, you are guessing that I am running out of things to blog, right? Nope, it's not. I may not be as prolific as other bloggers out there who can blog two or three entries a day but rest assured that I have sufficient material (yet) to blog about at least twice a week. It's just that work gets in the way and I could not find time to sit down and consolidate my thoughts.

So, what is this entry about? This is really about burn out in the work place.

According to this site, quoting Ayala Pines and Elliott Aronson, burn out is (A) state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations. Burn out is something a professional dread. I do. It would be like living in limbo when this state sets in. Sure you work but you are definitely not happy. Chances are you would be staring in space most of the time wondering what the other side of the fence is like. This is probably where the phrase "the grass is greener on the other side" is true.
In a situation like this, not only have you become a liability to the organization you are in, probably scattering negative vibes on your comrades but most importantly, depriving yourself of happiness. Truly, burn out is depressing. Even your family will suffer for they would feel every heartaches and headaches you bring from work.
The key to a successful career has always been to love every minute of it. Lucky are those who are in a field where they really belong. Imagine doing what you want to do most and getting paid for it? Undeniably a dream job. I am quite fortunate. I have never dreamt of becoming a teacher (having been a nightmare to most of my teachers in high school) and yet, here I am, helping myu colleagues shape young minds to be rewsponsible adults with the best of my ability. Being a teacher is no routinary job. Hence, I do not find it boring. Every year is a new one. New students entering your classroom, new teachers being hired hence dealing with different personalities which means different challenges. Heck, there is something new everyday.
I know I still have a long way to go. My mind is still whirling with ideas. Right now, I am about three to four works ahead in ideas aobut what I would like to paint. I know what to teach for the whole year and I have new lessons to impart to my students in spite of having taught for almost half of my life. Notwithstanding, i am aware that burn out can happen to the best of us. Nobody is immune to it. It's a matter I have to be careful with. Once I see the signs, I know I should immediately do something about it. I know I am not immune to this phenomenon so I might as well think about it now. What should I do should this thing occur in the future. i have a few ideas how to combat this dreaded state.

1. Go out with friends and forget about work. Make new ones specially in the work place.
2. Find new reasons why I should go to work. Earning for my family just won't cut it anymore, I'm sure.
3. Pace myself. Do not be overwhelmed by stress. Just make sure I work while the boss is around.
4. Try to look for amusing things while working. Laughter would be a welcome respite from a tiring day.
5. Do not talk about work when I get home. Completely forget about it.
6. When all of these fail, then I know it is time to move on. Maybe this job is not really fulfilling anymore.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Trompe l'oeil

Trompe l'oeil is a style of painting which is meant to deceive the eye. Translated literally, it means fool the eye - (tromper - to deceive, le - the, and oeil - eye)

It has always been interesting to try out other styles. When my friend and her husband took me on a tour to Whistler, we chanced upon several galleries to view what was showing in them. Two paintings really caught my attention. If I remember correctly, the dimensions were approximately 4' X 5'. One was that of a crumpled paper, the other, of satin. Too bad I couldn't remember the name of the artist anymore. I couldn't get my eyes off those paintings and I promised myself I was going to do something similar until I get the same effect. Well, I did get to paint a crumpled paper but I am not yet satisfied. It may take some time before I can get the effect I really want to achieve. Practice makes perfect. In the meantime, this one will do. I call it Tabula Rasa no more! Hope you like it just the same.

Oil on Canvas 20" X 30" Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 11, 2006

With education, quality is important

Once again, students and teachers (that includes me) are gearing up for the opening of classes this Tuesday. As always, talks related to education is at the forefront, and as always, the issue of shortage of classrooms has been tackled, yet again. Funny that we have known about the problem since time immemorial and yet have not found any real solution to it. Are we really addressing the problem head on? The president thinks she has found a solution to the problem. As a matter of fact, it resulted in the tongue-lashing (of) Acting Secretary Fe Hidalgo of DepEd received at the May 30 Cabinet meeting with reference to supposedly (giving a) wrong information on classroom shortages. Her solution is very simple as this article reports.

PRESIDENT Arroyo declared Tuesday that her government has licked the perennial problem of classroom shortage. This she did by applying a new formula to estimate the demand for classrooms.

Instead of the ideal ratio of 45 students to a class used for years by the Department of Education, Arroyo says the ratio of 100 students to a class should be adopted.

Excuse me but is the President that naive? Is this a simple mathematical problem? Why do I sense a famous "eat-cake-because-there=is-no-bread" stance made by a beheaded French queen? No, it may not be as callous but it is just as absurd. Has the President forgotten that when it comes to education, quality is important? For quality to be had, there should be a lesser student to teacher ratio so that the teacher can attend to more students that he/she possibly can. I have taught a class size of 42 and believe me, it was very hard. As it is, the present 45 students/classroom of the DepEd is a lot. Increase that to a 100 students crumped in a small classroom would mean chaos. How will there be education when there is chaos? I can just imagine testosterone-filled teen-agers in one classroom and I know it would be a teacher's nightmare.

In fairness to the DepEd, it has tried to solve the problem but to no avail. In his article TO ALL WHO CARE TO HEAR: THERE IS A REAL CLASSROOM SHORTAGE IN THIS COUNTRY, former education undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz stated:

To deal with this problem of overcrowding, DepEd embarked on an interim strategy in SY 2003-2004 (under Secretary Edilberto de Jesus) to do double-shifts in the most overcrowded schools so that classrooms could be used TWICE in one day. Hence, the “classroom-to-student” ratio is actually twice the number of students per class because the room is used twice a day by two classes (morning and afternoon) rather than by just one class (for the entire day).

To me, this is more logical than what the president suggests. Still, Luz finds this to be far from ideal for (T)he truth is, however, that a classroom should only be used by one class per day (especially in the higher grades) because double or even triple-shifting takes away class time from students.

Another solution being undertaken by the DepEd is the GASTPE or Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education whereby the government pays private schools subsidies so that students of low income families can enrol in these schools. When the government subsidy is not enough, the schools help in subsidizing these indigent students. But how many students can benefit from this program? Luz offers us the numbers, thus:(GASTPE)paid for over 382,000 students from low-income families to study in over 1700 private high schools nationwide at a rate of P4000 per student. That may be a lot, but how many enrollees do we expect this year? In schoolyear 2006-07, DepEd expects to enroll 12.4 million elementary pupils and 5.5 million secondary students. You do the math. Besides, how many private schools are willing to help? Will there be more than 1700?For how long? Whether we like it or not, private schools have to look at the business side of the equation. The GASTPE would mean not only displacing a student who is willing to pay full for his/her tuition fee, but will also add cost on the part of the school.

Unfortunately, the only solution remaining is to build more classrooms. But then, granting again that the government, wistful thinking as it is, is able to build more classrooms, will there be enough teachers? Alas, that is altogether another dilemma we have to face. In my school alone, more and more teachers are going abroad to teach. And the list goes on and on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

what, it's time already?

This picture was taken several hours after I arrived in Canada on May 2. This is me at the balcony. Well, time flies so fast, doesn't it?

seems like only yesterday - picture taken by Bob  Posted by Picasa

Much to my regret but a few more hours and I am about to end this wonderful adventure in Canada. It caught me unaware because I thought I was leaving tomorrow. Well, yes, but it will be at 2:25 am. So, I have to be at the airport at around 12 midnight tonight. It pains me to leave behind things I will always have a fondness for.

I am truly blessed to have had this experience. Not many have been as lucky to have the same experiences I have. It is not only the wonderful places I have been to, like the ones I have shared so far and these pictures I have yet to show:

Finn Slough  - taken by Gwen Austin Turbyfield;Posted by Picasa

Fishing anyone?  Posted by Picasa

sunset at Steveston. Taken at the Charthouse by Gwen  Posted by Picasa

me at Riverrock Casino and Hotel Posted by Picasa

My house for three weeks is in this condominium Posted by Picasa

but it is the warm welcome I receive from people everytime I come. There's Stephe, Arlene's son, who always make sure he comes to see me in spite of his busy schedule in Edmonton. Dinner at Trudy's house, which always turn out to be a real treat as she cooks really well... reuniting with them, I have come to realize they are no longer friends but my family in this side of the world. There's Don, Daniel, Jenny, Scott, and their malamuths, Taku and Kodiak.

Arlene's family and mine, too. Trudy, Daniel and Stephe who flew all the way from Edmonton Posted by Picasa

Final dinner at Don's and Trudy's home - May 22, 6:00 Posted by Picasa

Trudy and Daniel Posted by Picasa

With Don Wallis and Jenny Posted by Picasa

Visiting the Wits, Chris and Ole and Tina and Andy have always been a pleasure knowing that they are friends forever.

Respectable Ole and bubbly Chris  Posted by Picasa

me and Andy Posted by Picasa

meeting new friends, poet-laureate Bob here with poets Scott and Arlene

Poets allPosted by Picasa

With Joe and Arlene at Finn Slough Posted by Picasa

not so anonymous;

A real winner and they haven't started the olympics yet Posted by Picasa

Joe Oppenheimer, husband of Gwen Austin and a member of Mensa as well as Bob;
Learning from the master historian Joe Posted by Picasa

but most of all, living with a gracious woman with a kind heart who had given me so much for so little, my generous host, Arlene Lawson, who has unselfishly bestowed me with wonderful treasures of memories and more.

My beautiful host, Arlene Posted by Picasa

This feeling of euphoria I have is one of those which I hope will never come to pass but always does.