Sunday, January 29, 2006

The quality of life

Life is too short. The average life expectancy should be about 77.6 according to this source. While tecnology should have made life longer than it was centuries ago, technology also continues to bring about new ways to shorten it. Weapons are far more powerful and accurate today than fifty years ago during the last world war. Imagine another world war happening today and we would see weapons eliminating nations till kingdom comes. We need not go far, though. In our own backyard, we suffer from outrageous pollution, enough to ruin our lungs or contaminate our food to cause us to be seriously ill.

At any rate, assuming that we live to a ripe old age of 80, I'd say life only begins to spin during our teens when we begin to sense some freedom to make our own decisions. The toddler years, while very important, were just for learning the basics like walking, speaking, eating properly, etc. Considering that we don't have too much recollections of that age, we can assume that those were seven to eight years away from quality life. Assuming further that you begin to suffer sickness like alzheimer's disease, the quality of life is already gone. What is life without knowing what's around you, who your relatives and friends are? It's like living in oblivion. This is just like my mother who just turned 87 years old. Sometimes I'd like to equate it to someone living in limbo serving time until the spirit is ripe for acceptance to heaven.

But this is not alzheimer's disease. There is something more sinister. I am talking about cancer, the big-C. I am distraught by news that a very good friend's fight with it is almost over. She had undergone a series of chemotherapy and while she seemed to have survived the first episode of her disease, the cancer cells mestastasized to her lungs. Chemotherapy did not work this time and so she had to try gene therapy. She texted me yesterday to tell me that that didn't work either. That was enough to cause grief that I have to vent it somewhere. She had been a very very close friend. I've known her for twenty years as we have started working together in the same school for practically the same time. We've shared stories, jokes, points-of- view and work together. She was like a twin sister to me for I am only a day older. She had this habit of bringing in lots of food but eat less and I, together with some other friends, end up eating it so that they don't go to waste. We have always encouraged her to eat more as she would just have a taste and stop. It's like she just wanted the company. I still can't believe why she would have to suffer this disease. She's very beautiful, rich and very kind. She sees everyone as basically good. She's not a snob and very generous with her friends. These are the things that make me sorry I am helpless in her fight. All I can do is pray for her and, as my friend Zharro said, submit that God knows what He is doing.

Having lost two friends to cancer already makes me feel very vulnerable. I became aware of my own mortality.

Life is too short. Death begins when we were born. C'est la vie. This is the reason why we have to be wary about what we do today. We don't know what tomorrow brings. We may be healthy today but that cannot be forever. The key to a happy life is moderation and clean living. Think about what you do today as it will have consequences on your life tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pacquiao's win and the lessons it brings.

Pacquiao winning over Morales is no longer news. I should have written this right after Pacquiao's victory but what am I supposed to do? I had been very busy, as usual. Since it's three-days old, I know some of you might be saying, "Oh no! Not another Pacquiao entry to read!" However, this is not entirely so.

While congratulations is in order, and Pacquiao does need the attention he's been getting, I'm sure a lot of bloggers have already done an excellent job doing that. So, what else is there for me to write? What about, "what lesson can be learned from this victory?" Yes, that would put another slant to the latest caper of this great athlete.

As an educator, I have to view Pacquiao's victory in different perspectives. First, the prize money. Pacquiao's victory won him at least 2 million dollars - dollars, mind you. Translated to our currency, that is more than a whopping hundred million. That's a lot of moolah, enough to make his family live in luxury for the rest of their lives - or do they have to remember how to spend it wisely? At the cost of living these days, a million bucks is so easy to spend. At any rate, once again, Pacquiao proved that if you view success by the worth of one's purse, you don't actually need education as I have written, or at least implied, in one of my earlier entries here. All one needs is dedication to his/her craft, passion, a lot of practice, sacrifices and a little bit of luck. Pacquiao is one of those privileged to be given a shot at greatness and he is enjoying it now. We do not know who among us was given the same gift. Navarette had his chance and he blew it. How many Navarette's are out there? Would you know what to do had you been blessed as he is?

Second, I view Pacquiao's story and relate it to the plight of athletes in education. I do not deny the fact that most of these athletes have been having a tough time dealing with their teachers/professors, especially when they do not perform well with their academic requirements. This is actually the point of that entry Oftentimes, they would be popular while the league is ongoing and get the ridicule of their teachers and peers right after. Many of them cannot cope with their lessons. They are having a hard time with their studies for aside from the lessons they have to learn in class, they have to practice really hard to hone their craft. They are warriors who fight to their teeth to win. And in order to do that, they have to stay on campus and practice till they drop. We should understand that. However, we must also remember that this is their choice. In any endeavor, one must have passion and committment in order to succeed.

I have stayed in the academe for too long. I have heard a lot of arguments from both parents and students alike saying that an athlete must be given some leeway since they bring honor to the school. That has always been the bone of contention. That they bring honor to the school! I'd like to think differently. While they do take with them the name of the school in their victory, it is the school who let them shine. It is the school who provided them with an avenue to prove to themselves that they can be big. I may seem to contradict myself from my earlier stand but I can't help it. I have heard this argument for too long it makes me sick. Pacquiao won the title alone and he is the one reaping the fruits of his labor. Simple equation, right?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Democracy and nothing else.

My boss forwarded to me an essay written by Gary J. Bass entitled Are Democracies Really Peaceful? This article was in response to Dubya's proclamation that the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

This is taken from Kant's idea in his "To Perpetual Peace" where he posits that a world made up of republics, whose citizens must bear the miseries of fighting and financing wars, should be more peaceful than a world made up of monarchies, whose kings can go to war with little personal risk.. Maybe Kant was thinking of monarchies where people are but subjects who will go to war as a pledge of allegiance to their king. In a democracy, people are supposedly equal and shall bear the consequences of war for after all, they not only have to sustain it with manpower but their resources as well. Why not? Democracy is, after all a government by the people, for the people and of the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives; the majority rule; the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community. Hence, the people in a democratic state would have second thoughts of going to war. This has always been the idea espoused by the US of A. This sure justifies Bush's war on Iraq which was allegedly run by the dictator Saddam.

Is there truth to this claim? Will the world be a more peaceful place if more countries are run like a democracy?

Yet for all its influence, the theory of the democratic peace carries a crucial caveat. In a series of studies culminating in their new book, "Electing to Fight," the political scientists Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder argue that new democracies are often unstable and thus particularly warlike... democratizing countries show signs of the lack of the rule of law, organized political parties,and professional news media. Without those restraining institutions firmly in place, empowering the public can mean empowering bellicose nationalists.

Never mind democratization, though. I do not think we will ever play the game. On the contrary, it is our country that has been democratized. So, the question I ask is, "Is democracy the only way?" In an ideal set-up, there is no freer man than that who lives in a democratic society, I think. Equal opportunity... each according to his ability, right? However, the loophole in the system is that man has not been given equal abilities. Just like in boxing, or any other sport for that matter, a winner emerges because he is probably more equipped than the other. Or that he landed the lucky punch first. And that is only talking about a fair fight. This is so in the real world. Some know how to play the game well. Acquire ability and a little luck or vice versa and you're on your way to success. This is the reason why we have the likes of Bill Gates, Cornelius Vanderbuilt, or our very own Lucio Tan and Henry Sy. They know how to play their marbles well while we lesser mortals, about 85% or even more, live on a mere pittance. But why do we not see people complaining against the system? That is because we believe that someday, we shall have a piece of that pie. That we will someday have a crack at it. Equal opportunity, remember?

Yet, success seems to be elusive to most than it should be. As a result, people try to take a faster route. Drug trafficking, sex trade, and other illegal activities. These are easier and faster routes. Dangerous but hey, we only live once, right? But that is not what we are all made up of. Fortunately, that is not how people with morals work and so far, we outnumber those who take a risk with these faster ways of getting rich. Me? Ah, I just work hard that there shall be a roof over our heads, eat three square meals a day, dress decently and try to be happy. And yes, I'm off to buy a lotto ticket. There may be millions of possible combinations but hey, I just might get lucky!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What was 2005 like?

I have stopped making new year resolutions a long time ago. I don't want to fool myself in believing I am that strong-willed or that I need to wait for a new year just to change my ways. So, instead, I reminisce on the past year and be happy with what I have accomplished and set out new goals for myself the following year.

Let's see, what have I accomplished?

In terms of work, this is my second year in my new post in school and I am still learning the ropes. i have made a few blunders but these are all over. Yes, I have committed mistakes although I don't think they were major ones. Well, maybe one or two but that's more personal than work related, really. I believe I could have done better. At any rate, be they minor ones or not, these errors will be major ones, a disgrace, if I commit them again. That will be unacceptable.

Blogging - this blog is more than a year old and I have made friends, good ones as a matter of fact, along the way. Never have I imagined that I would gain good friends via this medium.

Likewise, I have earned new friends in school. Parents, co-teachers and students as well. Hopefully, I have not earned any enemies. Of course, a guy like me who does not know when to stop talking or cease from expressing an opinion openly -- what do you expect?

Artistically, I have sold a few paintings and that's always a good thing. I have learned to play a few kundiman songs in the guitar, another challenging feat as I don't know how to sight read notes, so I had to memorize them. I have gotten a few poems on print, too. One is in a chapbook which is a poem about my mother who is suffering from alzheimer's entitled A stranger in her own house for pinoy poets which I joined this year. Another one which is in tagalog, Malapot na tubig has seen print in Our Own Voice an online literary mag by notable Filipino writers like Aileen Ibardaloza and fellow pinoy poet member
Edgar Bacong. Of course, three of my poems were exhibited in this year's exhibition for poetry month in our online university sometime in April and can be viewed here. This is my second time to be included there.

Family - has never been stronger. Me and the wife still treat each other as friends - friends in love with each other for the past twenty years and the romance continues. The kids are all grown up now and my eldest son, Mickey, is graduating high school this year. Kraiganne's efforts have paid off as she has gotten good grades. keshia and Coby, while managing to pass will have to be more serious with their studies, though.

No major tasks but what the heck? What more can I ask for? 2005 has really been a good year.