Monday, December 31, 2007

Two days in Paradise

Petronas Tower

Wife and I had a taste of heaven for two days! We went to a much needed respite from
our jobs as parents and bread winners for a brood of four and party we did! This could not have been possible without the help of Bayi, a known and well-loved visitor of Filipino bloggers, and his charming wife, Sok Kin who gave us a two day packed tour of Malaysia through sites and delicious food.

We started the day with a delicious breakfast in China Town where we had porridge with a choice of different goodies like fish with herbs that you dip on a bowl of scalding rice soup to cook, Malaysian lechon with its delectable crispy skin, pig innards (chicharong bulaklak) which are as crunchy, and a soft noodle cooked in a sweet, hot sauce on the side.

Next was a short tour of Kuala Lumpur on our way to the Petronas Tower, compliments of SK who was then at Penang and will join us up for dinner the following day.

Next stop was a taste of Indian culture through cuisine for lunch where one eats with his hands on a banana leaf. We were joined later by Sok Kin and were off on the road again. Next stop was the Batu Caves, a well-known sacred place thirteen kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur. Thereafter, we headed off for an overnight stay at the Colmar Tropicale, a French theme resort up on the hills at Bentong, Pahang of Bukit Tinggi. Again, we were taken by Bayi and wife to the town for a sumptuous dinner of seafood and vegetables.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 2 - Malaysia in pictures

Malaysian culture is similar and yet very much different from our own. For one thing, I can sense my own heritage based on familiar words which we share as a people. Apart from their get ups, the Malay brown skin is the same skin we have. And yet there is something unique about Malayan culture that is distinctly its own. The cuisine which is borne out by the various ethnicities present in its land viz., Malayan, Chinese and Indian, maintain their own culture amid the presence of the others and yet they seem to blend into one from my point of view. The influences of one culture over the other may not be evident at first glance but looking at it from a distance, one can sense the amalgamation of the different cultures and how they have transformed into one.

If there is anything that impressed me more in this trip, it would have to be the warmth, generosity and the selfless giving of one friend to another. A friendship that blossomed between two strangers from different lands, brought together by their love of the written word, the sharing of thoughts as they come and the passion by which they view life as a whole. Through this trip, my wife and I have had the experience of knowing that in this world of distrust, apathy and chaos, we would come to know that there are people with golden hearts ready to accept us for who we are. Hopefully, we can return the favor one of these days. And so, with our deepest gratitude, we thank Bayi and Sok Kin for the love they have shared with us for two glorious days.

If you liked what you see and wish to see more, click this

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wearing different masks

There have been students of mine who would tell me that they have just read my blog. I view this as both an advantage and a disadvantage. Ut is an advantage because I believe I can explain myself better in written form, as a matter of fact, much better than when I am, say, spelling out the lesson for the day. While I do not discount the possibility that the deficiency may result from my own shortcoming to explain the lesson well, there are other factors which affect the effectivity of the presentation of the lesson. It is not just a question of efficiency for just like in a two-way communication, a lesson is presented to a recipient who may be receptive or not. The greatest factor of a lesson being not received well is partly due to the lack of interest in the receiver. This is where motivation sets in. When a teacher do not get the attention of his students and all their attention is elsewhere, the lesson is lost forever.

On the other hand, my students reading my blog is disadvantageous in the sense that it limits the parameters of what I can blog. It somehow makes me vulnerable for I usually post my thoughts, rants, and whatever strong emotions I have at the time. This is the reason why I have to restrain myself from posting anyuthing that would be detrimental to my own well-being or any matter that would refer to my place of work.

Having said that and out of the way, let me share with you an amusing story I had yesterday. There is this student who always tell me that she has just visited my blog everytime we get to talk. What was extraordinary about yesterday was her succeeding question. "Sir, how come you seem to be very nice in your blog?" I smiled and asked, "Why? Am I not nice in person?" She seem to have calculated me first, then said something like, "You're so strict and frightening everytime we are inside the classroom." Then she added, "Last year, I was very afraid of you but not anymore." Isn't that amusing?

At the risk of exposing a "trade secret" I would respond by saying that what students do not understand is that teaching is like acting in a play. It is a role I have to play, and play it well. Imagine yourself before 40 or so students at a single time, with raging hormones, learning secondary to socializing and having fun, etc. Now,you do this at least four times a day. HOw do you think should one behave? Actually, we all play different roles everytime. I am a father, a teacher, artist, VP of a teacher's union, VP of the homeowners' association, driver,etc. In all these roles, there is a different me. But in all of them, there is one unting factor. I can be a friend. I am a friend to my children, for example. But at the same time, I cannot be a friend all the time. I have to draw the line when it comes to discipline. The same thing with my role as a teacher. I can be a friend outside of the classroom but when inside, I should call the shots. Not the other way around. Reason with me, try to persuade me, but never forget that I run the show. :-)

Monday, December 10, 2007


In his article that appeared today in the Daily Inquirer, one of my favorite writers, Conrado de Quiros, talks about his experience in an airport while on a nine-hour layover in Bangkok en route to the Philippines. He talks about his observation that Filipinos have not grown accustomed to reading to while away the time. Instead, they go shopping, "window or otherwise". Not a good sign for our sagging economy considering that these shoppers are purchasing products not produced in our country.

I have had the same impression everywhere I go. While I enjoy reading, amid puffs from my cigarette, while waiting, say for a friend, I also observed that most Filipinos would go to malls and shop rather than be caught with a good book in hand, mesmerized by the information, awed by the beauty of language and how this is used, that can be had while reading. I do not know how many students are reading a book not because it is required but because he/she enjoys reading per se.

I have often told my children how beneficial reading can be. To my disappointment, I don't think it is sinking in. Except for my eldest, the other three would not even touch a book that is not required reading in school. They'd rather go to the internet and do something else. My only wish is that they have not yet realized how fun reading a book can be.

Reading takes us to a wide gamut of adventures; prepares us to face the unknown; gives us first hand information that cannot be had from any other source; teaches us how to analyze, think and express ourselves in a clear, cohesive and organized manner;shows us how others think and respond to certain stimuli, among other things. If only I can motivate my children any further...

Interestingly, to the very few who do read, what kind of books are being read by Filipinos? Fellow blogger and online friend Gilbert reproduced an article written by Queena Lee Chua which discussed, among other things, some facts about reading and the Filipino. We find what kinds of books are being read, how much time is being spent on reading, etc...

With the internet coming of age, I wonder what effect this will do to reading. How will the future generation read? Will the computer strengthen reading or have we seen its further decline? What is the effect of having an information readily available at a simple click on the mouse, where such can be given in a short, comprehensible manner? Will this eliminate the thirst for more knowledge making the reader lose some information that can be vital?

But then, what am I worried about? As Conrado de Quiros has observed, we are not a country of readers anyway. What is there to lose?

I say, a lot!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A look at the blue sky

I also got hold of a statement issued by the Ateneo which was sent to me by Perry. Here it goes:

A Renewed Call to Political Reflection, Formation and Action for Genuine Democracy

A Statement on the Manila Peninsula incident

Many questions remain unanswered about the cause and significance of the events that transpired at the Manila Peninsula Hotel on November 29. But they are a stark reminder that we are very much in the middle of a serious political crisis that remains unresolved. What happened on that day show how fragile our hard-won democratic rights and institutions are: from the armed takeover of the hotel by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and their supporters, to the government's heavy-handed response and arrest of media personnel and unilateral imposition of a curfew. There are continuing and grave threats to our basic political freedoms and the constitutional order both from those who seek a forcible removal of the present government by provoking a military "withdrawal of support" and foisting a "transitional revolutionary government," and those who in the name of defending the "rule of law," violate it themselves in their equally militarist response and wanton disregard of civil liberties.

But if we believe in a non-violent and democratic resolution to the crisis, we cannot simply "move on" or stand idly by in a situation that can easily polarize. Instead, we are called to deeper political reflection, formation and action for genuine democracy. We do not support the actions of Trillanes , Lim,, despite their being couched in the language of idealism and reformism. We do not condone this latest display of arrogant and self-righteous military adventurism, even if it were a spontaneous act of self-sacrifice to call for the ouster of the present government. We reject it most especially if it were a calculated move to exploit legitimate grievances within the armed forces to provoke a rupture in the institution and a seizure of political power by a faction or factions within the military. We believe inviting a military solution to the present crisis will only increase the potential for violence, repression and authoritarianism. It will not
also necessarily resolve the question of legitimacy and corruption that besets the Arroyo government.

We understand and share the frustration and anger of those who have denounced the moral bankruptcy of the Arroyo government. We had hoped that the sound rejection of a self-serving charter change in 2006 and the surge of citizen vigilance and volunteerism leading to largely credible elections this year would provide the degree of stability and political space that could pave the way for political and institutional reforms toward the 2010 presidential elections. Instead there are more signs of large-scale corruption, abuse of power, unprincipled transactional politics, lack of accountability and a culture of impunity, as seen in the unsolved extra-judicial killings, ZTE-NBN deal and bribery issue, Malacanang cash giveaways, Estrada pardon, and hints at renewed self-serving cha-cha.

We challenge the government and political leaders to respond to the crying need for justice, accountability, competence and integrity, including thorough-going reform in the armed forces, the Comelec and other government agencies which many sectors have sounded for sometime but have remained unheeded.

When Pugadlawin (Puwersa para sa Ganap na Demokrasya, Labang Wagas para sa Inang Bayan) was organized amidst the threat of both a military coup and martial law in February 2006, we said that in the face of looming political polarization, what was needed is a new force to reclaim and rebuild the political center. The challenge is to work for genuine democracy: to defend the hard-won victories over authoritarianism, and to deepen democracy beyond its often formal and elitist character towards greater popular participation and social justice.

We reiterate this call today:

1) to oppose initiatives that cater to narrow interests, curtail participation and endanger democracy ( e.g., coup attempts, government repression, self-serving cha-cha);

2) to build consensus around democratic processes and institutions as the way to resolve the political crisis and promote reform ( e.g., elections);

3) to forge a sociopolitical agenda that would galvanize citizen involvement, linking social and political transformation, local and national development. Our aim is to build democratic institutions and foster hope in political action.

We believe that the response to the crisis of hopelessness and disempowerment, especially among the youth, is to provide a framework for long-term change, a program of political formation and concrete options for political engagement. In 2005, amidst crisis and division, the CBCP called on the people, "to come and pray together, reason, decide and act together always to the end that the will of God prevail in the political."

We renew this call for communal reflection, formation and action in the context of the continuing political impasse and threats to democracy. We encourage our various communities to organize venues for reflection, analysis and discussion, whether in classrooms, school activities, and places of residence, work and worship, toward forming a well-discerned and informed response to the situation.

As citizens based in a Catholic educational institution, we have a particular responsibility to work for reflection, formation and action for ethical leadership, justice and democratization. As Pope Benedict XVI has said in Deus Caritas Est, while "the Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible…at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument … to reawaken the spiritual energy, without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper" (n. 28). Moreover, he points to the mission of the lay faithful to "take part in public life…to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility" (n. 29).

We all need to be personally accountable for the immense and seemingly insurmountable problems plaguing our country, especially the huge problems of poverty, corruption and violence. Solving our national crisis demands that we transcend our frustrations, disillusionment and cynicism, and summon our inner strengths as a people to become politically engaged. We are putting our hope and trust in the deep reserve of human dignity, goodness, energy and wisdom in our society that will allow us, with God's grace, to re-imagine and rebuild our national community.

Puwersa para sa Ganap na Demokrasya, Labang Wagas para sa Inang Bayan


Feast of St. Francis Xavier, 3 December 2007

Pugadlawin is a political advocacy group of youth and professionals based in but not limited to the Ateneo de Manila University. It is one of the prime movers of One Voice, Lente and VforCE. It is engaged in a program of political education and involvement anchored on a vision of political democracy and social justice.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Start the change we want to see

I got hold of a manifesto issued by the De La Salle brothers proclaming once again the values they espoused in 2005in an earlier document, those of truth, justice,honesty and integrity. In this present manifesto, we find them appealing once again to practically all sectors of society to do their own share to help the country stand up on its toes and for a much better tomorrow. Part of the statement issued is addressed to educators like myself, urging us to "teach the young that what is happening today is wrong. (Let us) teach them that a life without moral virtue or principle is no life at all, but a subhuman existence unworthy of their dignity as children of God."

I took the liberty of reproduce the same here hoping the appeal would reach more people as I adhere to the principles it upholds.


La Salle Green Hills Retreat House

National Heroes Day

30 November 2007

To all Filipinos of goodwill,
Profoundly disturbed by recent events, we the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines, have decided as a body to exercise our vocation as teachers and
guides by raising our voices in protest at the moral degeneration that has
infiltrated almost every aspect of public life since we called for a restoration of
faith in democracy in 2005.

In July of that year, we and our colleagues issued a public statement in response to the crisis brought on by the Garcillano tapes and the ensuing controversies surrounding President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At that time, we spoke out as educators, charged with the moral guidance of the young and concerned with upholding the values of honesty, integrity and truthfulness in public life and civil society. In that statement, we affirmed the principle that moral ascendancy is a critical ingredient to effective governance, and warned that a leadership without moral authority cannot realistically command the respect of a nation. Today, two years later, we are alarmed and ashamed that the situation has increasingly worsened. The signs of moral disintegration abound:

• the escalating number of acts of violence against journalists, leftists and members of the legal opposition, which according to a report of the UN Human Rights Council representative have been perpetrated by someelements in the military;

• unresolved anomalies in government, including the aborted ZTE-NBN deal and the fertilizer scam, which involve billions of pesos in public funds;

• the large amounts of cash distributed in brown bags to some lawmakers at MalacaƱang just as impeachment moves were being initiated and firmed up in Congress and the facile efforts to hide the truth about their origins and purpose;

• concerted efforts among some lawmakers and government officials to block attempts at establishing truth and securing accountability;

• the corruption of the electoral system as manifested in various anomalies related to the last national elections.

The net effect of these, together with past anomalies, has been to further undermine confidence in practically every institution of government. Widespread despair with these existing institutions can only spawn violence and increasing military adventurism. We need only think of the fiasco at the Manila Peninsula on 29 November 2007 to see that this is so.

What is even more lamentable is the degree to which many Filipinos have become desensitized to the stench of corruption because of the unending stream of government-related scams, cover-ups and scandals. The unwillingness of the public to engage in peaceful public exercises of moral outrage and to support calls for government accountability bespeak a weary cynicism and loss of hope in all possibility of meaningful change that is especially alarming for us as educators.
This retreat from civic responsibility bodes ill for the future. This is perhaps our
generation’s greatest crime: to rob our people, especially our youth, of the conviction that noble ideals are worth every sacrifice and that moral principles must prevail in public life.

For these reasons, even if it amounts to no more than a voice crying out in the wilderness, we, the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines, feel the need to proclaim once again the same values we espoused in 2005: truth, justice, honesty and integrity. Without these, no government can be trusted, and where there is no trust, governance degenerates into bribery and intimidation. We join in the call of courageous religious leaders and of proven men and women of conscience who seek a moral revolution. But if such a call is to become more than mere lip-service, we must translate it into effective action on behalf of the values we espouse, keeping in mind the legal framework of the Constitution. We call on men and women of goodwill to act now to make real the change they want to see.

To all parents, teachers, pastors, religious and all those charged with the moral formation of youth: God has given us the extraordinary privilege of mentoring the young and laying the foundations of our country’s future. Let us not betray God’s trust. Let us teach the young that what is happening today is wrong. Let us teach them that a life without moral virtue or principle is no life at all, but a subhuman existence unworthy of their dignity as children of God. Let us teach them that we are all answerable to God for what we have made, not just of our lives, but also of our nation. Let us teach them, as one man showed us years ago, that the Filipino is worth dying for. To all Filipino workers here and abroad, farmers and fisherfolk, men and women in business, entrepreneurs and professionals: your efforts and earnings sustain the economic and political life of our country. In solidarity with one another, demand more from this government. Come together to hold this country’s leadership accountable for their stewardship of the taxes you pay. Demand that every centavo be properly allocated and accounted for. Demand transparency and fairness in all business transactions. Consider the long-term goals and voice your displeasure at lost opportunities and the abuses that squander our nation’s wealth to the detriment of all, especially the poor.

To all artists, poets, writers and media practitioners: you are the vanguards of culture. You bear the great responsibility of ennobling the soul and creating a culture supportiveculture supportive of truth, justice and respect for human dignity. Focus on this task. Create visions and words that inspire and move our people to live up to what is best in them.

To all our men and women in uniform: our hearts go out to you for the ready sacrifices you have made again and again in the service of our nation. We acknowledge with gratitude the selflessness many of you have shown again and again. Remember that you are called to be defenders of the Constitution and protectors of human rights. Please do not fail in this charge. Let it be clear, however, that we do not condone military adventurism for it is inconsistent with the basic democratic values we hold dear.

To all civil servants, legislators and government workers: we believe that you also dream of a better nation for our children. We beg you to resist the culture of corruption. Help us build a future full of hope for our children.

To all our alumni and alumnae: we encourage you to take cognizance of the education you have received from La Salle all these years. As dark clouds hover in the horizon, we challenge you to and make a difference. Take heart from your fellow alumnus, Jose W. Diokno, and his vision of “a free nation, where men and women and children from all regions and with all kinds of talents may find truth and play and sing and laugh and dance and love without fear…”

We end this statement by sharing with you, our fellow Filipinos, this prayer of hope as we, the De La Salle Brothers look to 2011, the 100th year of the Lasallian ministry of education in the Philippines:

Lord, let me be the change I want to see
To do with strength and wisdom
All that needs to be done
And become the hope that I can be.
Set me free from my fears and hesitations.
Grant me courage and humility.
Fill me with spirit to face the challenge
And start the change I want to see.
Today, I start the change I want to see.
Even if I’m not the light, I can be the spark.
In faith, service and communion
Let us start the change we want to see,
The change that begins in me.