Archive of ‘life in general’ category

pop goes the world: random act of coffee

NO COLUMN FOR March 28, Maundy Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  4 April 2013, Thursday

Random Act of Coffee

Buying coffee for the needy can be as easy as paying for an extra one the next time you buy a cuppa for yourself.

Last Holy Wednesday, a meme about the “pending coffee” charity concept went viral after it was widely shared on Facebook.

Caffe sospeso (literally “suspended coffee”) is said to be a long-standing custom in Naples and an “old tradition in Italy,” later adopted by “150 cafes in Bulgaria,” according to Examiner.com. Customers pay not only for their own coffee and food, but also in advance for one or more extra orders to be given, at the restaurateur’s discretion, to a needy person.

It’s a variation on the “pay it forward” concept, doing a “random act of kindness” for a stranger that that I’ve read about it being done in many places, where someone pays the toll fee of the car behind her, or for coffee for the next guy in line at Starbucks.

The “pending coffee” idea is different in that the act of charity is institutionalized through the cooperation of the restaurant. You don’t need to be there when it happens, but people get the same warm fuzzy feeling of having been generous without the awkwardness that besets some in that situation.

Within days after the concept was heavily promoted on March 27, I heard of at least one restaurant in the Philippines that will do this.

Blacksoup Café + Artspace in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, announced on their Facebook page last Saturday that they will implement this concept on a 30-day trial basis from March 31 to April 30 this year. They will accept advance payment for coffee, sandwiches, and meals, and issue stubs for the “suspended” food, which can be claimed by those who need them.

If there are unclaimed stubs after two days, “Blacksoup will go around on a bicycle to give out unclaimed [stubs] to street people/families” who will then sign “tracking papers” which will be posted on the restaurant’s FB page, along with photos if possible, to document that the exchange actually happened.

Blacksoup’s general manager Avic Ilagan says on their page that they anticipate certain cultural norms will not make it feasible for homeless people (the truly needy who deserve to benefit from this concept) to step inside their restaurant, so they “will bring the coffee, sandwiches, and meals to the street people na karaniwan walang kain o isang beses lang kumain.”

This system also will prevent fraud and abuse.

To children, she says, they “will give milk tetra packs instead of coffee.”

As of yesterday afternoon, the post has been liked by 373 people and shared 429 times. Customer support in the comments on Blacksoup’s page has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Blacksoup reports that as of April 3, they have on their “suspended” tally 19 sandwiches and 19 bottles of C-2, “plus a bank deposit from Australia.” They add, “two volunteers will distribute the unclaimed suspended items on Saturday at 5pm, and and Excel file of suspended items bought and their recipients will be posted and updated every week for all to see and check.”

For this to work, there has to be follow-through by customers and a certain dedication on the part of the restaurateur. Duplication by other establishments would be something to look forward to. Giving and sharing are traits highly valued in Philippine culture, and there is no reason why something like this can’t be adopted on a large scale, meaning nationwide.

This is a positive initiative that brings charity straight to the recipient and addresses an immediate need – hunger.

Sometimes a small act that one doesn’t even remember afterward can be the huge difference between hope and despair or life and death for another person, because some say everything and everyone are connected somehow, the way a butterfly flapping its gauzy wings in the Brazilian rainforest might set off a chain of events that culminates in a tsunami in Indonesia.

A smile, a “good morning,” a free coffee: who knows what kind gesture will touch another soul and kindle a flame of inspiration and transformation?

Check out Blacksoup’s page on FB, as well as a new page – Suspended Coffee PH – and “be a blessing to someone.” *** 

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pop goes the world: women’s reproductive rights

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  10 January 2013, Thursday

Women’s Reproductive Rights 

There’s a helpful flowchart on the Internet on “how to have an opinion on women’s reproductive rights”:

“Do you have a vagina?” “Yes.” “You may express your opinion.” If “no,” then “Shut up.”

women's reproductive rights meme

Image from Facebook here.

Too many men without vaginas have been controlling women’s reproductive rights throughout history, and one would think that in these technologically advanced times decisions that impact an individual woman would be left to her alone, and not meddled in by other people or groups.

For instance, with the recent signing by the President of the Reproductive Health Bill, which has already been published in the Official Gazette and will officially become a law a couple of weeks after, the Roman Catholic Church as represented by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has said that they will continue to fight against it by exploring options such as filing a case in the Supreme Court.

This was done recently by lawyers James and Lovely Ann Imbong, who are seeking to have the measure declared “null and void.”

The overpopulation of the Philippines is in fact beneficial to the country, at least according to Bishop Gilbert Garcera of the Diocese of Daet, Camarines Norte.

He said that the great number of Filipinos contribute to the influx of remittances from abroad, while caring for the elderly of other countries and spreading the Catholic faith, adding that Filipino women “would make good wives” for foreigners in low-population growth nations.

This is the thinking of the Church, at least of some prelates: that women are brood animals, and that Filipinos are fodder for the world’s economic mill. The OFW phenomenon is an artificial boost to the economy that sags when recession hits, and has brought many social ills besides, such as children growing up without one or both parents.

Here’s another example: Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was revealed to have granted P1.6 million in year-end bonuses to most of his fellow senators but only P250,000 to Senators Miriam Santiago, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Enrile had a spat with Trillanes over a bill to divide Camarines Sur province, while the other three are strongly identified for their support of the RH Bill, which Enrile fought against.

The passage of the Reproductive Health bill allows the state to grant women, who cannot afford contraceptives on their own, access to such means and methods that will permit them to limit the number of children they bear, if they so wish.

It is the individual woman who will become pregnant and carry the baby for nine months, with the responsibility of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements to ensure the health of the baby. Once it is born, she has to take care of her child’s basic needs and education until it is an adult, and, in our culture, even beyond. If the woman’s husband or domestic partner should leave her without support or be unable to support her, she shall have to find the ways and means to care for her child in all aspects.

mothers in the philippines

Mothers in the Philippines. Image here.

If a woman, after careful consideration of her resources and situation, deems that she can comfortably take care of only a certain number of offspring, or even none at all, is that not her choice? Not even her husband has a say, because she is not his property, and she is not livestock like a bitch dog or thoroughbred mare. Naturally, a couple must discuss this issue, with honesty and candor, before they enter into a permanent domestic relationship such as marriage.

So why do men of the church and men of politics still insist on controlling women’s reproduction, even their right to “safe and satisfying sex”? Why should only men be able to enjoy this?

Anyway, despite Church strictures against premarital sex and adultery, Filipinos still have a swinging good time, and have learned to cloak their sexual behavior with hypocrisy and various forms of compensatory social norms, cognitive dissonance be hanged.

Not only is the Church against contraception, it is also against divorce, and has vowed to combat any divorce bill that comes up for consideration. Being guided by blind faith, it is blind to the plight of desperately unhappy couples who have resorted tocohabiting with new partners because they do not have the chance of being able to legally cut ties and move on, hopefully to better and happier lives.

Life is too short to spend with the wrong person, and it will not do anyone any good who is forced to live in untenable situations that are for some marred by infidelity, violence, and abuse.

(To be fair, not all who belong to the Church think like this. A priest-psychologist who gave me counseling in a therapy session was actually the influence for my filing a marriage annulment.)

In 1993, during her confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg justice ruth bader ginsburgabout her “thinking on equal protection versus individual autonomy, in relation to the issue of abortion:

“My answer is that both are implicated,” she said. “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.”

Let the ones with vaginas decide on matters that concern them.  ***

Justice Ginsburg portrait here.

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pop goes the world: moving on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  20 December 2012, Thursday

Moving On

“Divorce Next – Belmonte” blared the front page of another broadsheet in 70-point black type, signaling renewed interest in the topic after the recent landmark passage of the reproductive health bill.

PDI divorce next

Image here. Photo of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on the left.

The news article accompanying that headline cited House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as saying that he supports the divorce bill and thinks it possible that such a law could be passed by the next Congress.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that does not have a divorce law, an effect of prevailing cultural norms instilled during the Spanish colonial period and perpetuated by the Roman Catholic majority. Roman Catholicism forbids divorce but allows marriage annulment in a process governed by strict criteria.

However, divorce is available to Muslim Filipinos under Presidential Decree No. 1083, the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.” Under its Chapter III, divorce is recognized between Muslims and a Muslim man and his non-Muslim wife if married under Muslim law or this particular code, which “recognizes the legal system of the Muslims in the Philippines as part of the law of the land…”

Historically, divorce was widely practiced during pre-colonial times, according to an interesting blog post dated 5 August 2008 at the website Philippine e-Legal Forum of Jaromay Laurente Pamaos (JLP) Law Offices.

In the 16th century, absolute divorce was practiced by tribes as widely scattered as  the Igorots and Sagadans of the Cordilleras to the Tagbanwas of Palawan to the Manobos, B’laans, and Muslims of Visayas and Mindanao.

Also according to the JLP post, divorce was available during the American colonial period from 1917 to 1950. Divorce was not allowed in the New Civil Code that took effect in August 1950; only legal separation was, and this was adopted by the 1988 Family Code, which also “introduced the concept of ‘psychological incapacity’ as a basis for declaring [a] marriage void.”

There have been various incarnations of divorce bills filed in Congress as far back as 1999 at least. That one was filed by Representative Manuel C. Ortega (House Bill No. 6993). Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon filed one in 2001 (Senate Bill No. 782) as did Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo (HB No. 878). This was followed in 2005 by one filed by Reps. Liza Masa and Luzviminda Ilagan (HB 3461).

The most recent version is by Reps. Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus (HB 1799). Belmonte said that this bill is still at the committee level and will not be taken up soon, with congressmen busy preparing for next year’s elections.

Why do we need a divorce bill?

Because under existing laws, marriages may only be “annulled” or rendered void at the start. The process is long, tedious, and expensive (costing P200,000 or more), making it available only to the moneyed who can afford to hire lawyers and obtain the psychological report that affirms the psychological incapacity of one or both of the parties involved.

This is unfair to most Filipinos who do not have the means for this legal maneuver, and instead resort to separating from their spouses and living with other partners, often resulting in legal entanglements involving conjugal property, benefits, and inheritance – the fodder of telenovelas.

A divorce would recognize that the marriage did exist but should no longer continue for a number of reasons, including domestic violence, infidelity, abandonment, non-support, and so on.

The chief opponent to such a bill would be the Roman Catholic clergy. Having received a jarring setback in their campaign against the RH bill, proposing a divorce bill would quite likely further enrage them. [Postcript 20 Dec 2012: And it has - read here.]

But if Muslim Filipinos can have divorce, why can’t other Filipinos? Just because the Catholics don’t want to have divorces doesn’t mean they should stop others, especially non-Catholics, from having them.

Why should a religious group be allowed to dictate what other people should or shouldn’t do according to the tenets of their religion? Is that fair or just to others who don’t subscribe to their faith?

A person’s religion is often arbitrary, dictated by birth; the law then should be a support system that can care for all members of society regardless of the constructed and sometimes illogical regulations of whatever their religion may be. Laws are for the good of many, not the one (or the one group).

Let’s face it, our (predominantly Catholic) society is a hypocritical one. It bars divorce but to get around this, cultural norms developed where it is considered acceptable for men to have mistresses and illegitimate children while their wives have to suffer it for the sake of the family (unless they have their own intimate affairs), and legal go-arounds such as annulment have been devised that benefit the wealthy few, not everyone.

As adults with functioning brains we are all aware that some things don’t last forever, that people must move on from situations that don’t work anymore, that it is often better to cut and cut cleanly that to slog on in an unhappy marriage marred by misery and desperation.

We need a law that gives us a chance to move on and start over, and it is only abysmal stupidity and selfishness that will deny this.

And this is the best time to work for the divorce bill, right after the RH bill’s passage. The discourse on human rights in general and women’s rights in particular must continue and the momentum for struggle be sustained, because things need to change for the better and as soon as possible, because too many people have been suffering for far too long and delay is a disservice to the people.

Let’s end the hypocrisy. The divorce bill should be next. *** 

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pop goes the world: muscles and peace through yoga

NO COLUMN 5 Dec, Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD, by Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  9 December 2012, Sunday

Muscles and Peace Through Yoga

There are many studies proving that work-related stress is linked to many physical and mental health problems. The word “stress” comes from “distress”, which means “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.” The term comes from a Latin term that means “to draw or pull apart.”

Certainly this is what many feel when laboring under the tension that modern life brings. We are pulled in many directions by work and home obligations, often feeling unable to cope and looking for a way to ease the strain.

Coping mechanisms can be destructive – alcohol, late nights, smoking, unhealthy lifestyles and habits – and positive – exercise, healthy eating, creative hobbies and sports, an interest in spiritual pursuits.

Increasingly popular nowadays is yoga. The word comes from the Sanskrit that means “to yoke, to connect” and its emphasis is on the mind-body connection, the interrelation between physical and mental fitness.

Yoga studios have burgeoned in the metropolis since the early part of the last decade, although yoga has been around since at least the ‘70s. I recall my father and his contemporaries in media attending yoga and meditation classes at Ananda Marga (still around in Quezon City) at that time.

Today, yoga studios offer a wide range of classes, from vinyasa to hot flow to anti-gravity yoga. Some emphasize physical fitness, others infuse a spiritual component into the practice with chanting of sutras and mantras.

In search of a sustainable activity suitable for an unfit, sedentary, middle-age person, I happened upon Bliss Yoga Manila in Jupiter Street, Makati, and have attended several classes there.

The front of the Bliss Yoga Manila studio in Makati. One wall is hung with three banners depicting the seven chakras.

Gentle Flow with instructor Jill Kobza is, as described by the Bliss Yoga Manila website, “a slightly-slower paced practice, with focus on the foundation and alignment of poses…emphasis is on awareness, control, and effective use of the breath, as well as on building strength and flexibility.” The class is good for those new to yoga.

The poses mentioned are called “asanas”, and look effortless in photos of advanced yogis and yoginis (male and female practitioners, respectively), but they are in truth difficult to do for the newbie. Merely stretching like a triangle in the “downward dog” position or in “plank” (full pushup) or chaturanga (half-pushup) makes you use muscles you probably haven’t felt since high school calisthenics.

Yoga, however, also ensures that each person practice at their own pace and perform comfortable variants of the poses until they get stronger.

Jill Kobza’s Gentle Flow class is perfect for beginners. She is gentle and patient and guides everyone through the surya namaskar – Sun Salutation sequence -  and other poses in a soothing voice.

Buddha has abs! This statue sits in a back corner.

Nancy Siy’s Jivamukti class may also be attended by people at all levels of physical fitness. It is a form of yoga developed by a Western teacher, and incorporates chanting from the Patanjali sutras; Nancy chooses one sentence that conveys a lesson on a trait, such as aparigraha or non-possessiveness. There is nothing religious here, only philosophical and moral.

Jivamukti is more challenging in terms of asanas, and Nancy goes around the studio to correct each student’s pose and help those who need to reach a bit farther or hike their hips up higher. In the latter part of each class, she puts students in the savasana (corpse) pose – lying flat on their backs in repose, with eye pillows for relaxation and to enhance meditation. A lecture tape may be played or silent meditation encouraged. Students are asked to listen to their bodies, to deliberately release any tension, to “let go” with each exhale.

Basic yoga gear: cotton strap (to help stretch the legs and arms), cork block (for elevation during certain poses, until the body gets stronger and more flexible), towel (to absorb sweat and prevent slipperiness), and mat.

Jivamukti, Nancy says, helped her “…calm (her) mind and deal with the external clutter of daily life…” At the time she started, in 2009, she was “irritable, angry, empty,” and “felt that there must be something more than the repetitive cycle of everyday life. Yoga paved the way for my healing and emotional growth.”

Nancy was “awakened to the reality of animal suffering” and has also adopted veganism as a way of life. She was drawn to Jivamukti and its emphasis on ahimsa (non-violence) and “compassion for all beings.”

Jill and Nancy end their classes with a chant of om, giving thanks to their students, and the valediction “Namaste” –  “the spirit in me greets the spirit in you.”

This door handle at the Makati studio is in the shape of a hand lifted in the abhaya mudra (seal/gesture of no fear, protection, benevolence, assurance).  

Yoga is beyond the current popularity it is experiencing as some sort of trendy fitness program. It is an ancient discipline, one of the “six “orthodox” schools of Hindu philosophy,” dating back to before the Common Era and given formal shape in the early centuries CE.

For us today in modern times, it can become a way of life, one that incorporates physical wellness and philosophy into an integrated whole. ***

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

Follow: Facebook (Bliss Yoga Manila), Twitter (@BlissYogaManila), and Instagram (@blissyogamnl).

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pop goes the world: what’s in a name?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today15 November 2012, Thursday

What’s In a Name?

Hi, I’m Jenny. My full name is Jennifer Maria Rebecca. What’s your name?

Chances are, perhaps eight times out of ten, you will answer me with a name that’s either Spanish or Anglo-Saxon in origin. Our names are, more often than not, Jose (nickname Joey), Reena, John Derek, Kevin, Luisa (nickname Louie), and so on, while down south, many names are Arabic in origin.

I know very few people who have names coming from the Philippine languages.

Many people will argue that the names we bear are family names (which is why there are so many “Juns”), traditional ones handed down from one generation to the next and thus have sentimental value regardless of ethnic origin; or saint’s names, therefore a religious reason.

But have so few realized that perpetuating such a practice shows that our collective mindset is still colonial, and that for reasons of emotion and inertia we cannot move away from the names given by the foreigners who imposed their religion and their culture on our forebears?

Some Filipinos have made a deliberate choice to reshape their personal identity along nationalistic lines by using Filipino names. The most famous example would be the De Guia family – economic researcher-turned-multi-awarded-filmmaker Eric took the name Kidlat Tahimik (quiet lightning), and his sons are named Kawayan (bamboo), Kabunyan (name of a deity), and Kidlat (lightning); Kabunyan’s son is named Kalipay (happiness), his wife is Malaya (freedom).

A friend, PhD candidate and University of the Philippines professor Julienne Baldo-Cubelo, named her son Alon (wave) and her daughter Diwa (consciousness), a decision she made to honor our culture and make a statement about her personal nationalistic advocacy and beliefs.

The word “diwa,” though, is one of the 300 or more Sanskrit loanwords in our language. So what would be considered genuine Philippine names – those coming from the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language that is the root of the majority of Philippine languages? From the Old Malay influenced by Indian culture or the later Classic Malay with Arabic and Persian words? How far back in time do we go to find the language that should mark our true national identity?

Even without knowing that yet, though, I would rather take the loanwords given by the mostly peaceful Majapahit, Chinese, and Muslim traders over the Anglo and Spanish names foisted on our culture by colonizers.

How about the name of our beloved islands?

Dr. Nathan Quimpo, a political science professor at the University of Tsukuba, gives in his excellent essay “Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality, and Ethnocentrism” (2003) the history of our country’s name:

“Filipino comes from the word Filipinas, of which Philippines is the English translation. Felipinas was the name given by the Spanish explorer Ruy de Villalobos to Tendaya (Leyte or Samar) in 1543 in honor of the Spanish crown prince, Philip (Felipe in Spanish),who later became King Philip II (r. 1556-98)…

“From their very origins then, Philippines and Filipino are colonial names, and as such, are contradictory to the term nationalism. Simply on the basis of the colonial roots of Philippines, it can already be argued that the country´s name should be changed.

“Indeed, many former colonies have discarded their colonial appellations and adopted titles that are of more indigenous or un-colonial derivation: Burkina Faso, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.”

In addition to those examples, India has changed the names of many of its major cities from their British colonial spellings back to the local versions – to Mumbai from Bombay in 1995, Kolkata from Calcutta in 2001, and so forth.

I recall that when I was a young child in the 1970s, there was an attempt by then-president Ferdinand Marcos to change the country’s name to “Maharlika.”

There was opposition to the name change by those citing tradition and history, and Dr. Quimpo adds that according to one argument, Maharlika was inappropriate because in Sanskrit it means “big phallus!”

But “the main reason why Maharlika did not pass,” says Dr. Quimpo, “was that people saw it as Marcos’s ego trip.” This was the nom-de-guerre used by Marcos as a soldier during World War II.

There were other suggestions made by others through the years, among them “Rizal” (the country’s national hero), “Bayani” (the Tagalog word for “hero”), and “Luzviminda” (acronym of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, the three major island groups).

None of these were seriously considered; in fact it the whole thing is considered a non-issue by the majority of the nation’s people, who have more pressing matters to think about, such as how to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

But if we are truly “proud to be Pinoy” as a myriad advertising taglines say, then why don’t we call each other by Filipino names?

Changing the country’s name could be something for future consideration, when our lawmakers aren’t too busy thinking about how to get re-elected or which American president’s speech or blogger’s article to plagiarize next.

What we can do, on our own as individuals, is initiate a slow and gradual culture change by taking nicknames and naming our children something that truly reflects the roots of our national identity.

Spain and America are part of our past, as other countries have been too, and we do owe a lot of what we are now, both good and bad, to their influences. The names of the children of OFWs and emigrants, born all over the world, echo the reality of the diaspora.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t move on from the colonial mindset and reshape the ways we identify ourselves, and decide to let our names reflect what we truly stand for and believe in. *** 

Photo of Kidlat de Guia and Kidlat Tahimik here. Portrait of King Philip II of Spain here. Maharlika comics cover from the ’60s here.

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green lamy safari 2012 limited edition

The Lamy Safari is a favorite collectible of fountain pen users, especially because the company comes out with limited edition colors from time to time.

For months I resisted buying this year’s special color because I am not particularly fond of it. But after thinking about it, I decided the chance to build a Lamy Safari rainbow doesn’t come often. So I succumbed to the lure of color.

I bought this pen at Scribe Writing Essentials, Eastwood Mall, Quezon City. The pen came inside this massive hinged charcoal gray plastic box placed inside a silver-gray cardboard sleeve.

Inside was the 2012 limited edition Lamy Safari in apple green, a converter, and a cartridge.

This is the old or alternate style of box made of gray cardboard that I used to get Lamys in when I ordered online (from pengallery.com).

Here’s a Lamy Al-Star in Coffee that I got online. The cardboard packaging is simple and eco-friendly. Lamy should phase out that plastic box and the extra cardboard sleeve. This one is much better for the environment.

A comparison shot of the Al-Star (top) and the Safari (green). The specs are the same, the only difference is the material – the Al-Stars are aluminum and the Safaris are of sturdy ABS plastic.

I did not provide a writing sample as I have already done so in previous Lamy Safari and Al-Star reviews, and because Lamys are reliable right off the bat and lay down a consistent neat line.

The ink window gives you an idea how much ink you have left, so you won’t run out in the middle of a sentence. The stainless steel nibs come in fine, medium, broad, and italic (extra charge).

You can’t go wrong with a Lamy – you should have one as part of your daily arsenal. The question is, how many will you get? If you can afford it, think of them as Pokemon –  ”collect them all!”

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pop goes the world: communicating democracy

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 November 2012, Thursday

Communicating Democracy

As I write this, the exterior lighting of the Empire State Building in New York City turned a brilliant blue to signal the election victory of President Barack Hussein Obama.

The display on the Empire State Building was courtesy of CNN. Image here.

It was a unique form of communication – call it “architectural”. The usual definition of the term is to find meaning in physical buildings, in their bulk and their spaces, landscaping and lack thereof, and so on, applying hermeneutic approaches to a building as to a text.

But turning part of an entire building blue to announce an Obama win – red would have been used for Romney- and an iconic structure in one of America’s greatest cities at that, shows how technology + innovation = a good idea to further share information.

Using signals, in any case, is nothing new, from the smoke signals used by native Americans to the lighted Batsignal in popular culture; all are ways to communicate simple concepts over long distances.

This is an example of how certain channels enable the fast and efficient dissemination of Information, key to the zeitgeist aptly called the information age.

This US election provided many other instances that illustrated how pivotal the role of communication is to all human activity nowadays, especially with today’s technology that provides instantaneous feedback and real-time discussion online.

It was a concretization of the power of mass communication when placed in the hands of many, rather than few as formerly, when the only media outlets were the tri-media – television, radio, and print – which were in the hands of a few networks that performed agenda-setting to varying degrees.

With power now in the hands of the people to inform and persuade, came also the power to move to action, the classic “AKAP” theory come to life – awareness leads to knowledge to attitude change to practice.

More often than not, it is the jump to that last element where a snag usually occurs. People have been bombarded with anti-smoking information for decades, yet this has not made a dent in the number of smokers worldwide, which in Asia is in fact rising.

In the case of politics, though, with a concrete action easy to perform – go out and vote – the call to action is often heeded.

Within minutes of media reporting that he had won more than the required number of electoral votes, this email from President re-elect Obama was sent to his supporters:

“I’m about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn’t fate, and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.

“You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn’t easy, you pressed forward.

“I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

“But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

“Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

“There’s a lot more work to do.

“But for right now: Thank you.

Barack”

Michelle and Barack Obama in a victory hug. The image, captioned “Four more years,” is now the most posted photo on Facebook and most Tweeted ever.

The message here is: you found out what needed to be done, and you made it happen.

It can be the same in the Philippines. For instance, given information that there are such things as epal politicians and who they are (awareness and knowledge), the logical thing would be to have an attitude change or reinforcement (either you agree or not that such behavior is appropriate) leading to practice (in other words, action – vote for them or not).

Photo of this epal tarp from the Anti-Epal Page on Facebook.

The thing is, we Filipinos tend not to be discerning about what kind of information we use to make decisions on such important things as elections. Many of us are content with knowing whether or not the candidate can belt out a passable rendition of “My Way” or dance “Gangnam Style” on the campaign platform.

“Being showbiz” or rather being a good sport should not be our main criterion for electing public officials. Let us take a leaf from American democracy, the model of our own, and hinge the results of elections on things that matter – stands on issues and proposed solutions to challenges – with candidates communicating this to the people via debates and forums.

If this were what the public expected from its election procedure, there would be a change in the system.

Because if intellect, integrity, and a genuine desire to serve were to be what we require from our candidates, a lot of candidates would drop out of the running, and perhaps then we would finally have the leaders we need and deserve.

Epal tarps at a cemetery for Undas 2012. Image here.

But given the cultural dimension we operate in, is this likely to happen?

Pessimists will say, there is no hope for the Philippine political situation to improve. Is this true forever? Or can we at least try to make the AKAP journey to heed what we already know and practice what we believe is right?

As John F. Kennedy said in his 1960 inaugural address, “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.

“But let us begin.”  *** 

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sailor lecoule

This is a step-by-step unboxing and inking of a Sailor Lecoule.

Since an image is worth a thousand words, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

The packaging: first comes a cardboard outer sleeve…

…and an acrylic inner box. Inside it are the pen and two short cartridges. The converter is an option. 

The parts of a Lecoule: cap with chrome trim, barrel with pearlescent white body, converter, and stainless steel MF nib in a transparent section.

I decided to use Pilot Iroshizuku ink in Tsutsuji (azalea), a vibrant hot pink.

Slowly lowering the section and converter into the ink…

…drawing the ink halfway up the converter…

…until the converter is full.

The nib, stained with Tsutsuji, rests on the ink bottle cap.

After inking, the pieces are fitted back together.

A writing sample. The Sailor Lecoule nib only comes in MF -medium-fine – and is a nail with a very slight hint of spring. For those used to nibs that yield a bit, this one will take some getting used to. It would be a good entry pen for those coming from ballpoints. 

The design is all about simplicity and tradition, with an added touch of fun. I love how the transparent material makes it almost a demonstrator!

Pilot Iroshizuku Tsutsuji ink and Sailor Lecoule – an interesting combination. 

I bought this red Sailor Lecoule at Scribe Writing Essentials store in Eastwood City Mall, C-5 Road, Quezon City. (No affiliation, only that it’s the only in-mall fountain pen specialty store in the country.)

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited for sharpness and color with iPhoto.

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pop goes the world: todos los multos

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today1 November 2012, Thursday

Todos Los Multos

It was “All Hallows’ Eve” last night, which the ancient Celts called Samhain (sow-een).

The festival marked the beginning of their winter season, which they observed with sundown-to-sundown rituals from October 31 to November 1 as their equivalent of New Year’s Day.

The Christians adopted the pagan festival into their religious calendar, and made November first a feast day to honor all the saints, todos los santos, known and unknown; November second, a day to remember the departed.

For Filipinos, these three days are a time to reflect on family ties that bind in life and death, a time to visit the sleeping dead who lie forever, a time to keep vigil and pray for their souls.

And where some are gathered on such a night as this, perched by beloveds’ gravestones in the dark fitfully illuminated by guttering candles, one might step forth, he or she a teller of tales, to spin stories such as these…

* * * * *

This happened three years ago.

There were only four of us students in a PhD class at the College of [redacted] in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

We were seated with our professor at a conference table in the graduate studies department having an animated discussion at eight o’clock one night when the door creaked open, very slowly.

That in itself was unusual because the door was outfitted with a heavy brass automatic door closer that made it difficult to move.

We froze. It was late and there were no other people around. We watched as the door opened about eight inches, then, just as carefully and slowly, closed.

We stared at our professor in fright.

He nodded matter-of-factly. “Yes, there are ghosts here at the College.”

He told us about something that regularly occurred to him in a certain classroom off the main building lobby. This room was constructed like a mini-ampitheater, with students’ seats rising in tiers toward the back.

“Sometimes when I’d call the roll during evening classes,” he said, “there would be a shadowy figure at the back whose face I could never make out. When I’d count those present, there would be one more than the number of enrolled students.”

Which is why our tiny class had ended up holding our sessions in the graduate studies department instead of that classroom in the first place. I am not superstitious. The moment the door shut upon our unknown visitor, I jumped up and peered through the large glass inset in the door.

There was no one outside.

I pulled open the heavy door and went out into the corridor and lobby.

The place was deserted and quiet.

Another student, who said she attended MA classes at the department also at night, said they would sometimes see shadows peering through that glass inset.

They’d get up to inspect, like I did.

But there was never anyone there.

* * * * *

We live in an abandoned racehorse stable beside the former Santa Ana Park racetrack in Makati. It is falling into ruins; the horses were moved to the racetracks in Cavite three years ago. My househelper claims to see ghosts and shadowy figures lurking in the darkness of the stalls.

One side of the stables by day. 

I’d tell my ex-husband, and he’d snort in derision. “Tell Gay she’s being superstitious,” he’d say. We’d have ourselves a good laugh over her “sightings.”

Then, a year ago -

“Guess what Gay’s come up with this time,” I said. “She said – get this – that she saw a man wearing white hanging by the neck from one of the horse stalls!” I chuckled.

This time my ex didn’t smile. “Which stall did she say?”

“The last one beside the paliguan. Why?”

“When we bought this property in the ‘80s, we were told that during World War II  Japanese soldiers hanged a man on that same spot. He was said to be wearing a white shirt when he died.”

* * * * *

There’s a diwata that lives in the tree right outside our front door, or so I was told by an acquaintance who said she has the “third eye.”

She described this nymph for me as wearing white (also), nestled in the tree, glaring balefully at humans, but, being an elemental, not likely to cause harm.

The tree outside my front door, where a diwata may or may not be in residence. On the horizon, Mandaluyong City office buildings rear up against the clouds.

She also told me that the spirit of another elemental, who takes the form of a child, lives inside my house.

“She loves it here,” my psychic friend said. “Your children have plenty of toys for her to play with.”

This must be “Beech”, a spirit my former mother-in-law claims they brought along with them when they moved here from Calamba thirty years ago.

“Once there was a racehorse owner,” she said, “who came to our stables to visit his boarded horses. He pissed in the garage below where your home is now. Some weeks later he came back to us in great distress.

“His private parts, he said, had swollen to abnormal size. He visited doctors who told them they could not find anything wrong, aside, of course, from the fact that his Jockey shorts could barely contain his inflamed genitalia.

“He traced the beginning of his condition to that afternoon he visited our stable. Daddy [my former father-in-law] told him, “You offended Beech. Probably pissed all over her, I wouldn’t be surprised. Make an offering of a gallon of ice cream at the scene of the crime and apologize.””

“The horseowner did, and the problem, err, shrunk within a couple of days.”

When there is something missing at home that won’t turn up after an assiduous search – keys, a box of colored pencils, a book – my children and I have a habit of going, “Give it back right now, Beech!” Oh, wait, that’s me. My kids say, “Please.”

Almost immediately, that item will be right where you’ve already looked.

* * * * *

I am not sensitive to the supernatural; indeed I do not believe there exists a realm beyond that of science, except that fashioned in our lively and infinitely creative imaginations.

Yet I have experienced things which science and logic cannot account for.

Perhaps you have too, during these same days when the Celts said the “veils between the worlds” grow thinner.

A blessed Samhain, and keep safe on your Undas journeys. *** 

Photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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ritual ink

For fountain pen users, refilling a pen is not only a requirement for it to remain functional. It is a ritual.

If your pen has a converter, piston-fill, or other fill system that requires dipping the nib into the ink, there are certain steps to follow.

First, if you want the ink color to remain true, clean the converter or flush out the ink chamber. If you don’t mind your inks mixing, or if you are in a hurry, you may skip this step.

Next, make sure the plunger of the converter is all the way down to the bottom of the chamber.

Then dip the nib all the way into the ink. I make sure the entire nib – all the metal parts – are submerged. I try not to let ink get into the section, especially for demonstrator (transparent) pens, because those are nearly impossible to clean.

Twist the plunger upwards, or perform the appropriate filling act for your pen.

Watch the ink enter the chamber and fill it up with with fluid that in your capable and imaginative hands will be transformed, with the partnership of paper, into drawings or musical notes or words of poetry and prose that will touch, move, inform, persuade.

Filling the converter of a Sailor Lecoule with Lamy Blue-Black ink.

Though there are less steps to take, snapping in a new ink cartridge is also satisfying. Although to save the environment and reduce waste, try refilling your empty cartridges with ink using a syringe.

The act of refilling a pen with ink forces you to slow down, to be calm, to clear your mind of other helter-skelter thoughts and for some moments focus on this thing alone.

Distraction might cause you, in haste or clumsiness, to spill the ink or drop the pen parts and damage them. Re-inking makes you re-connect your mind with your body as you perform each step with deliberation, in the now.

 It is meditation, if you will allow it to be.

Photoritual taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed and Instagram.

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