Posts Tagged ‘manila standard’

pop goes the world: rh positive

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 13 December 2012, Wednesday

RH Positive

A front-page photograph in yesterday’s MST showed a row of solemn Catholic clergy – a cardinal and a brace each of archbishops and bishops – “watching the continuation of the deliberations on the [RH bill], which the Catholic Church condemns, at the House of Representatives.”

manila standard today front page 12-12-12

The front page of MST’s 12-12-12 issue.

Understandably, given their stature and eminence, these are grave, elderly men who have dedicated their lives to pursuing the interests of the Church. In their belief, by opposing the RH bill, they are trying to do their best for their adherents.

Among those clamoring for lawmakers to pass the RH bill are 23 medical groups, among them the Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Department of Health, Philippine College of Physicians, and others.

The groups combined represent around 267,000 health care professionals (physicians, nurses, and midwives). The PMA said in a statement, “As health care providers we cannot be reduced to being for or against the bill because our obligation has and will always be about saving lives, and the longer we stay quiet, the more lives are lost.”

pma website

Screenshot of Philippine Medical Association website.

Like the Catholic clergy so adamantly on the opposite side of the fence, these health care providers are also believe they are doing their best for those they serve.

There can be no compromise in this regard, because such a bill is all or nothing. A watered-down version would not deliver all the benefits sought by the bill’s authors and supporters.

But what do old celibate men know firsthand about having wives and children or raising a family in dire circumstances? By the very nature of their vocation, they are not allowed to have personal experience of this. They make their stand based on their faith.

Medical practitioners, however, themselves have families of their own and are directly engaged in caring for pregnant women, mothers, and newborn infants. They make their stand based on their knowledge, experience, and personal observation over years of medical practice.

This is how our lawmakers need to make decisions – based on science and facts, not on the dictates of a religious text or dogma that not everyone in this society believes in.

anti rh congress

Why some representatives voted against the RH Bill on 12-12-12. Image found on Facebook here.

That would be the logical and sensible way of doing things because in a society with a degree of diversity such as ours, not everyone is Catholic. Not everyone disagrees with the provisions of the RH bill. Merely because a traditionally powerful clique in society wishes to continue holding sway over politics as it did in centuries past does not mean that we should allow this to continue today.

Allowing one Church to have their way in this would make us no different from a religious state such as those in the Middle East. Doing so would negate the provision for the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Doing so would render useless the efforts made by many throughout history who championed science and the right to personal choice and suffered for defying the intransigence of the dominant ideology.

The inflexibility of the Catholic Church’s stand on the RH bill and other current events shows how stuck it is in the past. For some of the clergy to have blamed events as disparate as the devastation caused by typhoon Pablo and the devastation caused upon Manny Pacquiao’s face by Juan Manuel Marquez’s powerful right hand to the wrath of God is to impute a gullible credulity to the populace.

The RH bill should not be made a religious issue because it is a health issue. Let us hope lawmakers will see through the smokescreen of swung censers and make their decisions based on facts for the good for the many, not the few.

* * * * *

sire of sires in philippines graphic 3 dec 2012Thanks to Philippines Graphic magazine for publishing a short story of mine, “Sire of Sires” in their December 3 issue. The story is set at the racetrack, and might be interesting for those who like their fiction brewed black, no sugar.   *** 

taste more:

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).

taste more:

pop goes the world: killing you softly

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 November 2012, Thursday

Killing You Softly

We have known for decades that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption kill.

But despite near-constant bombardment with anti-smoking and moderate-drinking advertisements that have used all the persuasive approaches from soft-sell to fear-arousing communication, people still persist in the habit, making lung cancer and cirrhosis among the top causes of death in the Philippines.

A strong anti-smoking ad using FAC. Image here.

Now lawmakers have passed the “Sin Tax” bill that will raise revenue for the government while attempting to curb the health risks that go with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 5727 last June, while the Senate, voting 15-2, passed their own version – Senate Bill 3299 – the other night. The versions will be reconciled in a bicameral session, after which the final version of the bill will be presented to the President.

The Lower House version would generate an additional P30 billion in revenue for the government from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

The Senate version would harvest around P40 billion by imposing a unitary tax of P26 per cigarette pack by 2017 on a tiered rate increase scheme, while rate increases on alcohol taxes are to start next year, also on a tiered basis.

What would be the effect of higher taxes on these “sin” products”?

There is an infographic on the Internet that portrays likely scenarios based on a nationwide survey conducted by Laylo Research Strategies last August.

The poll findings show that 23 percent of Filipino adults smoke “regularly” (at least weekly). Of the Filipino adult population, only 4 percent of females smoke regularly while 42 percent of males do. Among the poorest – the Class E demographic – 27 percent smoke.

Should the Sin Tax bill be finally imposed, it was projected that 17 percent will stop smoking immediately, 31 percent will slowly stop smoking, 19 percent will buy a cheaper brand, 25 percent will lessen their consumption, while only 8 percent would continue the habit and to buy the same brand.

The infographic wound up with this takeaway: “…half of regular smokers will possibly quit their vice.”

Tobacco farmers and alcohol product factory workers descended en masse upon the Senate last Monday to protest the passage of the Bill, which they said would take away their livelihoods.

But SB 3299 has planned for that – it sets aside P750 million for programs to benefit displaced tobacco farmers.

Aside from P2 billion for tax administration, it also allocates P23 billion in health insurance for families, P750 million for an anti-smoking campaign, P100 million yearly for regional hospitals and medical centers, and P10 million for each of 618 district hospitals.

The Department of Health, under Secretary Enrique T. Ona, has programs for preventive health care that emphasize “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Among these are the Violence and Injury Prevention Program (accidents being one of the top causes of morbidity in the country), National Dengue Prevention and Control Program, National STI/HIV Prevention Program, National Rabies Control and Prevention Program, and the Smoking Cessation Program.

For its part, government charity arm Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office gives financial assistance for the medical bills of people suffering from lung cancer and liver-related ailments.

So while the government earns from added taxes on smokes and drinks, it also spends on health programs that will alleviate and cure the illnesses caused by these products.

Would it not be better if people just quit smoking and avoided drinking to excess – or didn’t’ start at all?

Preventive health care helps preserve a person’s health and ensure a better quality of life by minimizing or reducing the risk of disease by avoiding possible risk factors that are under an individual’s control. Doctors have for many years been advocating lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding carcinogenic substances like tobacco and alcohol.

But it seems it needs this Sin Tax to break people of their smoking addiction. If the forecasts come true and half of all current smokers will quit because of the higher taxes on tobacco, then we should see a lower incidence of lung cancer in the coming years.

Smoking kills. This is not just a tagline, it’s the truth. We all know people – family, friends – who have died from lung cancer or emphysema. It’s not a good way to go – the oxygen tanks and plastic tubes up the nostrils, the strained and desperate heaving to catch another breath, the slow decay and rotting from inside over many agony-filled years.

Perhaps the Sin Tax will finally shake smokers from their fog-bound addiction to ditch the habit and adopt a healthier lifestyle to have more quality time to spend with their loved ones.

It’s about time, Philippines. Stop killing yourself slowly.  ***

“Smoke-free in Manila” image here.

taste more:

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.

taste more:

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.”  *** 

taste more:

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.

taste more:

pop goes the world: it takes a village

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 25 October 2012, Thursday

It Takes A Village

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

Said to be an African proverb, and famously used as the title of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book on her vision for the children of America, the phrase refers to how collective action in  behalf of the children of a community is required in order to raise them, indeed in some cases ensure their survival.

Anthropologists have described how some African cultures, such as the !Kung, bring up their children in a communal setting, sharing effort and resources to nurture them physically (by providing food, shelter, and protection) and mentally (through socialization, children learn their culture’s norms, values, and methods of survival).

The !Kung people, or Bushmen, of the Kalahari desert of Namibia, Angola, and Botswana. Image here.

There is an emotional component as well. In a culture where children are free to wander in and out of the homes in the community, where they are certain that they will be fed and given a bed in whatever home they end up at night, they will feel loved and safe.

In modern society and its emphasis on the nuclear family, this method is no longer practiced as such except in certain activities such as education (in general, children are schooled in groups) and charity work.

For charity work to be successful, volunteers are needed to get things done – kindhearted people who take an interest in the concerns of needy children and are moved to make a positive contribution to their lives.

We find many examples of volunteerism in the activities of charitable organizations and companies practicing CSR (corporate social responsibility).

One such initiative is the Tahan-Tahanan halfway home for pediatric cancer, chronic illness, and organ transplant patients who live outside of Metro Manila.

Located at the East Avenue Medical Center and funded in part by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the facility opened its doors on Valentine’s Day 2011.

The young patients are cared for by EAMC’s multi-disciplinary Pediatric Oncology team, headed by physician Ma. Victoria M. Abesamis and comprising pediatric oncologists, nurses, psychologists, teachers, parents, and volunteers.

Tahan-Tahanan patients with their caregivers and nurses. Also with them are PCSO general manager Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II and Dr. Marvie Abesamis (in floral print top).

Tahan-Tahanan patients and their caregivers receive free board and lodging in safe, clean, and home-like surroundings. The facility also has playground equipment and age-appropriate educational toys.

To encourage patients’ development and to make their stay pleasant, the children are engaged in a comprehensive enrichment program that provides play and study activities such as arts and crafts, sports, music, theater, dance, and home-study.

Skills training is also given to the family members and caregivers.

Since it was established, the PCSO-EAMC Tahan-Tahanan program has helped 638 patients. Much of its sustainability as a program is due to the selflessness of volunteers.

As part of the PCSO’s 78th anniversary celebration this month, the children of Tahan-Tahanan were treated yesterday to a party at the facility, where they were entertained by volunteer performers.

Garie Concepcion (who came with her mother, Grace Ibuna) sang “It’s a Wonderful World;” Brazilian model Lua (who is fluent in Tagalog), sang “Nandito Ako” and led the parlor games; Dayloe Ranario of the cast of “Teen St. Pedro Calungsod: The Musical” told the story of the Philippines’ newest saint; and Stauro Punongbayan of Rotary Midwest-Diliman gave a short talk on earthquake preparedness. 

Garie Concepcion (daughter of actor Gabby Concepcion) sings.

PCSO general manager lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II and jazz musician Boy Katindig spoke to the children about the value of courage in the face of adversity.

The situation was especially poignant for Katindig, who revealed their family’s fight with cancer – his father died of the disease, his sister is in remission, and his daughter is undergoing chemotherapy – hence his support for the mission of Tahan-Tahanan. 

Boy Katindig with the Jollibee mascot. In the background are Lua and “Teen St. Pedro” cast member Emer Greengon, the event’s program emcee.  

The children were bright and cheerful. They participated in the games, sang and danced with Lua and Garie, and correctly answered Stauro’s questions about the story he told them. They are children just like our own, except that they are suffering life-threatening illnesses.

They belong to our village, our community. They, and others like them, deserve our help.

* * * * *

Volunteers are always needed at Tahan-Tahanan. For more information on how to help, or on admission requirements, call PCSO’s Minette Fernandez of the Special Projects Department at (63-2) 846-8879, or EAMC’s Maggie at (63-2) 928-0611 loc. 711 or visit eamc.doh.gov.ph. *** 

Tahan-Tahanan photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

taste more:

pop goes the world: and a little child shall lead them

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today18 October 2012, Thursday

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

A 14-year-old girl was shot in the head for wanting to go to school.

Something that our children take for granted and even complain about – an education – is to another child who does not have it a precious thing to fight for and die for.

Malala Yousafzai was shot last week by Taliban assassins because she defied a Taliban ban against female education in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.

Also injured were her schoolmates Kainat Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan.

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one,” Malala has said before.

The young activist first came to public attention in 2009, in a documentary about the shutdown by the Taliban of the girls’ school she attended.

Her father operated one of the last girls’ schools in the area, and since then she and her family have been the target of Taliban ire.

The world erupted in indignation and anger after her shooting. Among the comments on Facebook were those of Curt Olsen – “Only a coward would shoot an unarmed child” – and Edward Clements – “She should be awarded the Nobel Prize for such bravery.”

Others pointed to the need to bring the Taliban to account for the human rights abuses they continue to perpetrate in the name of religion.

“A very brave girl,” Facebook commenter Andy Poljevka called her. “The world needs to rise up against this craziness.”

Sudhansu Jena lauded Malala’s courage: “No words to appreciate the ‘fight for right.’ The cowards who shot at her are highly condemnable.”

Roger Greatorex opined, “She could be the turning point in the struggle against the so-called ‘Taliban.’ How ironic that ‘Taliban’ means ‘students’ in Arabic.”

 Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoon here.

The Pakistani government will pay for Malala’s treatment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in the United Kingdom, where she arrived last Monday for the removal of a bullet lodged in her brain.

Meanwhile, as Malala was being airlifted to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space to freefall down to earth, breaking his 24-mile fall with a parachute and, in a show of incredible skill, landing on his feet.

This, said some netizens, comparing the record-breaking skydive to the shooting of Malala, shows the difference between science and religion.

That is too simplistic a comparison. Islam condemns the murder of innocents. The Taliban are extremists and in no way represent the whole of the Islamic world. But what the two events do show are the triumph of science over religious fundamentalism, of curiosity and the quest for knowledge over intolerance and fanaticism, and of the human desire to explore new frontiers against the human need to cling to old traditions even when they are cruel and destructive.

Malala is the same age as my younger daughter, who is a high school sophomore, now taking her quarterly exams and preparing for the annual school play and cheerdance competition.

Halfway around the world, a girl who could have been her classmate and friend is on the Taliban hitlist for wanting and striving for what my daughter has, an education and a normal life, the chance to be what she can be, perhaps even a spacejumper like Baumgartner.

What is clear is that the abuse of women and children around the world must stop. Malala na ito. (This is at its worst.) This is a battle that must be waged, with constancy and vigilance, on the platform of public opinion so that people may be made aware and changes come about.

Activists denounce the attack on Malala. Image here. 

This is a fight, and those who care about the rights of women and children are all its defenders.

There are many cultural and political attitudes that were once thought to be ineradicable, such as apartheid and its policy of white supremacy in South Africa and totalitarian communism in Soviet Russia and East Germany. But both were slowly eliminated over time and through fervent struggle.

Religious intolerance will be harder to conquer. Hatred, one of its manifestations, will always lurk in a corner of the human heart.

The way to evolving into a better society that treats all its members with equality and respect is to prevent hatred and injustice from winning.

We need to be brave enough to keep on fighting for the rights of women and children, because if a child like Malala has the courage, then so must we.  *** 

Image of Malala here. Image of Felix’s record-breaking jump here.

taste more:

pop goes the world: house rules

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  11 October 2012, Thursday

House Rules

The September 30 editorial “Of lemons and cowards” published on the University of Santo Tomas’s “The Varsitarian” student publication website, assaulted the pro-reproductive health bill stance of some professors from two other Roman Catholic universities and in so doing did more harm to its cause than good.

The cliché-studded, grammatically-challenged, and logically flawed Varsitarian piece called the pro-RH Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University faculty members “intellectual mercenaries” and “intellectual pretenders and interlopers,” while contradicting itself by claiming that by joining “the bandwagon,” they are “dishonest and don’t have the courage of their intellectual conviction.” Does not the fact that these professors came out in support of the controversial RH Bill show courage and conviction?

I got a laugh out of this declaration: “It’s quite shocking that Ateneo and La Salle professors should harbor naïve and misguided thinking about health and social problems.” I can imagine an elderly maiden aunt with hand on breast saying this, but a student? Que horror!

Please go online and read the entire piece (if you haven’t yet) to savor the full flavor of its arrogance, fanaticism, and claim of moral ascendancy and superiority.

But then again, as the editorial pointed out, Catholic and all sectarian universities have their own house rules that, if broken, would merit sanction by the school administration, and UST professors do not have the liberty allowed the faculty of AdMU and DLSU to publicly declare their personal beliefs if these are against UST’s.

According to the Varsitarian editorial, “It is quite gratifying that UST has cracked the whip and reminded its faculty members that they’re members of a Catholic institution and should toe the line.

“UST Secretary General Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. [said in a letter that] “In the light of recent events where some faculty members of Catholic universities have publicly expressed dissenting positions from the Catholic bishops on matters of faith and morals, we in the University would like to reaffirm our fidelity to the magisterium of the Church as the Catholic University of the Philippines.”

Cabading’s letter was also quoted as stating “all faculty members of the University are to refrain from teaching or expressing their personal opinions within the bounds of the University anything contrary to Catholic faith and morals.”

There you go. House rules. But those are UST’s, and thankfully, not AdMU’s nor DLSU’s, otherwise there’d be two fewer universities that allow scope for intellectual freedom and critical thinking. It is good to know that the Jesuits of AdMU and Christian Brothers of DLSU treat their faculty members as the professionals that they are, and not slaves that have to be made to toe the line with cracks of the whip.

Soon after the Varsitarian’s editorial was posted online, it drew many negative reactions ranging from furious comments to satirical blog posts.

With public outrage on the boil, UST administration then felt a need for some damage control by coming out with a statement on October 9 that while it supports the Varsitarian “in its stand against the RH bill…the University does not impose its will nor exercise prior restraint on the opinions of the school paper’s writers nor the manner by which they are expressed.

“Thus, the opinion expressed…insofar as it supposedly called the pro-RH Bill professors of the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University as “intellectual pretenders and interlopers” does not bear the University’s imprimatur.”

Save for that crack againt the pro-RH professors, then, the rest of the piece has UST’s support. This is not surprising, given that the letter of Father Cabading’s was no less than a directive.

The student publications of AdMU and DLSU reacted with their own editorials on October 9.

AdMU’s “The Guidon”, in its “Our duties as student journalists,” said, “Throughout its 84-year history, The Varsitarian has certainly had many moments of brilliance, but this most recent piece is an unfortunate stain on that record…

“With our conviction that a student newspaper must promote rational dialogue and the fruitful exchange of ideas for the benefit of the larger community, we find The Varsitarian’s willingness to employ a kind of dismissive language that verges on the fanatical as completely unacceptable.”

DLSU’s “La Sallian” came out with “With all due respect”: “In our opinion, however, the method of expression used [in the Varsitarian] to express the matter veered away from the real issue, while creating new and unnecessary ones…

“The RH Bill is an important issue that deserves constructive discourse. None of this constructive discourse, however, can come from ad hominem lambasting from any of the parties involved, whether Pro-RH or Anti-RH. We believe in sticking to the issues, and backing conclusions with substantial, objective arguments.”

DLSU’s “Ang Pahayagang Plaridel”, in its “Responsableng pagpiglas sa malayang pamamahayag”, chided The Varsitarian for forgetting the true spirit (diwa) of an editorial, and for putting down the AdMU and DLSU professors while crowing about UST’s superiority (pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko).

You do not need to emphasize the faults of others, Plaridel said, to raise and prove the truth of what you are fighting for, adding “Mas magiging lubos ang kahulugan ng mga pahayag kung may sarili itong pundasyong magpapatibay sa kredibilidad ng mensaheng nais nitong iparating.” (Any declaration would be more meaningful if it were built on a foundation strengthened by the credibility of the message it wishes to convey.)

Their editorial cartoon is the best I have ever seen in my entire life.

But UST has its own house rules. It can do whatever it wants, like waiving its own academic requirements by bestowing a PhD degree upon former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona by accepting a public lecture in lieu of a dissertation. (Shocking!)

The Varsitarian said the pro-RH AdMU and DLSU professors should resign from those universities for their anti-Catholic stance.

In the same manner, students and faculty can take what UST’s dishing out, or leave it. They can choose to stay where whips are cracked or they can choose to belong to a school that values and encourages intellectual liberty, critical thinking, and freedom of speech – the hallmarks of a rational institution that promotes genuine education and edification.  *** 

taste more:

pop goes the world: the secrets that we keep

UPDATE: Mr. Christy blogged about this column here. Thank you, Mr. Christy.

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  27 September 2012, Thursday

The Secrets That We Keep

It took a foreigner to open the Filipino public’s eyes to the tragedy of illegal ivory trading in the Philippines.

Bryan Christy’s article on the topic for National Geographic’s October 2012 issue was posted online as early as last week, and broke on Twitter when the link to the story was posted by activist Carlos Celdran, who urged authorities to investigate the matter. The story was picked up this week by local newspapers.

According to Christy, he came to the country five times to “get a lead on who was behind 5.4 tons of illegal ivory seized by customs agents in Manila in 2009, 7.7 tons seized there in 2005, and 6.1 tons bound for the Philippines seized by Taiwan in 2006. Assuming an average of 22 pounds of ivory per elephant, these seizures represent about 1,745 elephants.”

His search led him to interview Monsignor Cristobal Garcia of Cebu Archdiocese, member of a wealthy family and a collector of religious art, whose extensive collection includes ivory pieces.

Christy says Garcia gave him tips on how to purchase ivory and smuggle it into the United States, among them this: “Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it,” [Garcia] said. “So it looks shitty with blood. This is how it is done.”

Filipino Roman Catholics worship religious statues in themselves as objects of spiritual power and magic, ascribing to them miraculous events and cures. There’s the Santo Niño de Cebu, said to be the oldest image in the country, given by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon in 1521; and the Jesus Nazareno or Black Nazarene, carried around in a clamorous and sweaty procession on its feast day. While both of these are made of wood, the material of choice for religious images is elephant ivory, prized for its translucent glow and high market value.

The worldwide treaty that sets and enforces wildlife trade policy is the Convention on International/ Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), opened for signature in 1973, in force in 1975. CITES lists both African and Asian elephants as threatened species; a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989 to ensure that elephant populations worldwide recover from the slaughter by poachers for their tusks.

The Philippines is party to the treaty, which ensures that trade in plants and wild animals does not threaten their survival and offers protection to over 33,000 species.

The resources of CITES are limited; it deems the Philippines as merely a transit point to China for ivory, whereas the reality, as Christy discovered, is that it is also a destination because of the local demand for the material, which is sold mainly in religious image stores in Tayuman, Manila.

An antique ivory carving on display at the Yuchengco Museum.  I took this photo on a visit there in 2010, and blogged about it here. Only new ivory is banned and has been since 1989. 

The government recently reacted to Christy’s story and the subsequent public interest in the topic, saying that traders of illegally acquired ivory would be investigated and prosecuted if found liable; among the agencies working on this are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Customs, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Justice.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the NBI was investigating the ivory trade even before Christy’s story broke, adding that Customs intercepted a P48 million shipment of rhino tusks just last week.

All this is good to hear – now. But why did we not hear about this sooner? Why did it have to take a foreigner to bring this to local public awareness?

Our country hides many secrets, and this was one of them. Now that the cover has been thrown back on this illicit activity, we realize that here is yet another issue that will bring us national shame.

“Embarrassing,” NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas called it, “[and] it puts us in a bad light.” He vowed that those “who will be found involved in the illegal trade will be immediately charged.”

We have taken for granted too long many cultural conventions that turn out to be against the law. And when a priest himself, a monsignor no less, gives someone else tips on how to buy and smuggle new ivory that was quite likely taken from illegally killed elephants, we should wonder about our much-vaunted morals and those who are supposed to teach them to us.

Christy revealed another secret about Garcia. Go online and check out his article. Find out for yourself what it is. Maybe it does need an outsider to tell us these things, because these are embarrassing things, things that will put us in a bad light, things that we would rather not hear for shame.  *** 

Photo of Mr. Christy here

taste more:

1 2 3 4 11