Friday, February 24, 2006

20 Years After: A reflection

Two decades ago I was witness to one of the most memorable moment in modern Philippine history. At the end of the four days at EDSA people rejoiced in the triumph of their unity that culminated in the ouster of a dictatorship. We had thrown out a regime that had plundered a country, abused its power and had stripped a people if its hope and dignity. Finally, I heaved a sigh of relief that the Filipinos have learned to work together to reach a common goal. “Magkaisa” was sung exultantly in a moment of optimism.

Now I wonder where all that hopefulness had gone. Two decades later the country is in disarray: economically, it looms over uncertainty; unemployment and underemployment have caused many to leave the country to seek for greener pastures abroad; criminality, corruption, poverty is at an all time high; politically there is continued bickering and regrouping. Where else can you find a country where coup de etats and riots seem to be the only means to change leadership? Its the same country where democratic elections have lost its meaning. It has become a nation of much ambiguity, loathing, suspicion and gloom. And very broken.

Whilst the rest of the world are rallying to reach out to our countrymen who had become victims to nature’s fury in Leyte, in the city there is chaos and the president declares a ‘state of emergency’ where habeas corpus is suspended, media is controlled and protests are banned. Deja vue. But no, the government claims, it is not Martial Law. Semantics.

History has repeated itself in the Philippines many times, in many ways. Sadly, no one seems genuinely interested to learn its lessons. Not the politicians who have vested interests in their endeavors to yield power. Not the people who shrug their shoulders on the possibility of reforms. And so we end up living a cycle of frustration. Can we still bring back hope? How can we change a people and make them lose their ingrained ‘crab mentality’? How can we ensure that our country can have governance that would look after the good of the whole? How can we rein corruption and make the welfare of our people and the nation in general as the priority.

People power has now lost its meaning. To me, it has run its novelty. Bullying tactics cannot bring harmony to a country that is in tatters. It will not work. Neither will pushing your way to keep power. We need to start over, in a genuine democratic process like how an educated peoplethat we are would be expected to do it. We need to relearn politics. We need to allow ourselves a give a little more of honesty when we analyze our choices for who should lead us to progress and out of the hole we had dug for ourselves. And there would have to be sacrifices for big changes to happen.

Everyone giving a bit to gain something big. We had done that before – in unity. Have you forgotten?

“O bayan ko, binihag ka
Nasadlak sa dusa….”

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

Francis sent me this picture tonight and it had me rolling on floor laughing.

Sabi ko nga, even when I was young, pa-demure na ako mag pose!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Record Breaker

And so we had the biggest blizzard in the history of New York. Everyone was talking about it in amazement and fascination. My French friends were amazed that so much snow can blanket the city; my friends from California boasted of their 80 degree weather; and, everyone else asked how Manhattanites could cope with such a natural catastrophe. Well, we head off, of course – to play.

Those who know me well immediately knew I would join the masses that would beeline to Central Park to enjoy the snow. My all-time excuse: I’ve never had snow in my childhood and so now I am making up for it. And I am not the only one. When friends and I headed to the park at 2PM, many were already on their way home having spent most of the morning there – and to think the blizzard was still in full force. The wind gust of 50 mph and the snowstorm was relentless.

At the park, men, women, children and dogs were enjoying the powdery accumulations. There were children sledding down the slopes of Cedar Hill, some were snowboarding or skiing and dogs frolicked in the snow as well.

The previous record snowfall in New York City was 26.4” set in 1947. By 4PM Saturday we had already surpassed this with a measurement of 26.9”.

There's a dog at the end of the leash! :-)

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

by John Lennon 1940-1980


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Faraway Places

If there is one thing the Italian and I share, it is the love of travel.

We share an enthusiasm for discovering new places, observing the rituals of culture and embracing the adventure of new experiences and flavors. He had taught me and insists that the only way to travel is to immerse myself with the locals. He is totally belligerent to the concept of the touristic tours. He will insist that there is no way you can discover and appreciate a city or a country by hopping in and out of buses and staying just for a few hours to pose for pictures. And testa dura (i.e., stubborn is the Calabrese term) as my Italian is, there is no way to argue with him.

When I travelled to Europe, I listened to him and I did not regret it. Sit with the locals, walk with them in the squares, be broad minded about cultural differences and be forgiving with the unfamiliar. He has taught me never to use Manhattan as a gauge of comparison when learning about a new city. There is just no way you can compare the comfort of home to anywhere else.

Today in this email he told me about driving 230 kms into Greece in two hours on Saturday to enjoy a cone of ice cream by the beach (in 14 degree Celsius weather) and then rushing to do as much shopping as he can before the stores closed at 8PM. And then he reported that the only cinema in Skopje had just gone bankrupt and so he had not seen any new movies lately. His greatest find for the day in Greece had been a bottle of Australian Chiraz (which I incidentally had 4 bottles of in my wine rack at home), a box of extra long spaghetti and Tagliatelle al Nero di seppia - I had no idea what that is but it sure sounded delicious!.... small items which he couldn't find in Skopje and are now suddenly prized possessions.

With his ranting you'd think he feels cursed being in the middle of the Balkans in the frigid winter season. Instead he enjoys it. He enjoys the simplicity of life, the warmth and friendliness of the people, the craziness of a confused and diverse culture in a country that still needs to get to know its real identity. But of course he misses New York City and he took the time to heap praises on the city he will always love and miss.

And then we talked about the honeymoon destinations our friends had recently enjoyed - the Atacama desert, Valparaiso and Santiago in Chile and then the Easter Islands, all places we agreed we had to visit together.

My dream is to see as much of the world as I can before I am too old to travel and enjoy places. I asked him if this was at all possible.

Two places you have never been to a year, he recommended. You may not be able to see the whole world but you would have enjoyed the best of the ones you got to see. Collectively, that should make up for what you may have missed. My next destination: Skopje.

Far away places, in far-away lands.
Far away over the sea.
Those far-away places with strange sounding names
Are calling, calling me.
sung by Bing Crosby