The Strange Me

Oftentimes I feel I’m strange.

This might be because I’m a 23-year-old college student and can’t say I’m thrilled to still be in school with very young people from an almost totally different culture from where I grew up in. 

You see, I lived in Hong Kong for almost 10 years and I spent almost the entirety of my teen years there. Life in a foreign land may sound exotic to some, but let me tell you that it isn’t all that fun. I lived in a place where I don’t speak the language and most of the time, I felt that I was just an observer to things that were happening. I was a two-fold stranger, first was because I was a foreigner, and second, because I couldn’t communicate very well at all. I felt out of place, no matter how hard I tried to “fit-in”. 

And in the first place, I’m not all that “social”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m antisocial, but you could probably call me “a very strong-willed person”. I don’t mind being alone. I don’t like “conforming” or “changing” who I was just so that I’d have “friends”. I am of the opinion that a real friend accepts you for who you are and doesn’t force you to be a certain way. But, having said that, I also don’t mind being with other people. It’s way more fun if you can celebrate success with others you deem as friends. I’m all about quality. 

Now my early high school years were very fun indeed. I didn’t have a care in the world! I was smart enough to not need to study for tests and still be among the top 5 of the class and I was very active in extracurricular activities such as track-and-field (100m, 200m, long jump, triple jump) and I always placed. If you didn’t know already, I was very competitive–and still am. I was also very involved with volunteer work like volunteering for the Hong Kong Community Chest, Hong Kong Red Cross, and other non-profit organizations. Other less strenuous competitive activities I participated in were Chess competitions, where I had the opportunity to play a real live Grand Master (and loss in 28 moves) , or the participating in the Hong Kong Music and Speech Festival, where I would compete in the Solo-verse Speaking category (usually, we’re given a poem or a verse to memorize, and we were to DRAMATIZE it in front of judges) which I usually won. Maybe that’s why I seem to have a “bubbly” personality even though I more of an introvert. In any case, my high school life was a blast, all seven years of them.

I also started working at the bright ripe age of 14. Coming from a family whose income isn’t all that fixed (the reality of being a missionary pastor’s kid), I wanted to help out. So I started working jobs I could do like tutorials for English, Math, and Science. Also, I “volunteered” for university experiments which paid quite a bit. I also did some thesis proofreading jobs, tried my hand at handing out flyers, clerical office work like data-entry and data-verification which were the most boring and tedious thing anyone could ever do for a living. But it paid. My parents didn’t need to give me allowance and I also chipped in a bit for my studies, which are quite costly in Hong Kong. 

But, here I am in the Philippines for college, a decision I ultimately made as it was not financially feasible for me to go pursue tertiary education in Hong Kong without burdening myself with ENORMOUS debt, but more importantly I wanted a chance to live away from my parents. I wanted to be truly independent.

So here I am, in the Philippines, going through college alone. It was a big leap from first-world Hong Kong, to third-world Philippines. I wasn’t used to so much pollution, flooding, and danger. Having lived in such an affluent place as Hong Kong, the stark contrast of much of the Philippines opened my eyes to the plight of my fellow countrymen. Oddly enough, I grew to love it here.

I love it enough to want to make a difference. 

So, that’s why I feel strange. Strange that I, unlike many of my friends who also came here to study but scooted back to Hong Kong right after, would choose to stay. I feel in my heart that it was divine providence that lead me to come here and study at the University of the Philippines Diliman. I used to see the Philippines as a backwater country, full of corrupt officials and gullible people who keep on making the same mistake voting for these crooks and was doomed to be that way for all eternity. Honestly, I still do think it’s that way. The difference is, I’m no longer hopeless. 

Because I’ve realized that I wasn’t about to conform to the norm of apathy towards the Philippines, nor was I afraid to go on it alone if I had to. I am part of the hope of our nation, and I will not surrender it easily.

Thank God I am strange. 

[This is NOT an endorsement for any political party, nor a confession of an affiliation or affinity towards any one political belief. TL;DR: Not a communist. NOT an activist. I’LL DO IT MY WAY.]

 

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A Letter To…

My dear Former Philippine President, I’m writing this letter in the spirit of the season of Christmas–which is love.

No, the love I’m talking about is not love of money, power, or self. It is the love given to others without expecting reciprocation; the love shown to us by the real man of the hour, Jesus Christ.

I’m sorry to say that your wish this Christmas, “that you get away with everything,” has been deemed “ungrantable” by my Elf Audit Service.

What’s more is that your account seems to be gravely in the negative, which puts you squarely in the “naughty list”.

I regret to inform you that no more of your wishes will be entertained until you’ve set things right. Keeping true to what Jesus said, “you reap what you sow,” it is my firm belief that first step on the path to redemption is to make amends with those you’ve wronged.

Know that, not even I, with my seemingly godly omnipresence and metabolism during Christmas Eves (those milk and cookies really do pile on the pounds, I tell you!) is not exempt to the basic tenets of cause and effect. I’m also held accountable by my accountants!

With lots of love, but no presents,

Santa Claus

PS: Hohohohohoho, Merry Christmas~!

PSS: And quit it with the sob story–it’s not working.

Just the way I like it

Surprisingly, someone beat me in using The Professional Heckler as the blog comparison to an official news outlet. Thank you Japa. But anyways, I shall proceed as planned.

It is no secret that I am very partial towards the Inquirer newspaper. In fact, I buy a copy of the actual paper almost every day. My preference also extends to news online, with the Inquirer.net being my #1 news source, with Yahoo! PH at second place (seriously though, I’m not just saying this to be on a certain someone’s good side).

So, why the two?

Firstly, the Inquirer.net is even more up-to-date than it’s printed counterpart. That being said, it also features news that it deems “Hot Reads” which helps me keep up with what is being read and discussed by the public–not just me. Besides that, the website also features a “Recommendations” tab wherein it lists articles that were not only read, but also recommended by people who’ve read them to people that are in their social networks like Facebook or Twitter. This feature allows me to keep abreast on what my peers specifically find interesting so that I’m not left out.

What I don’t find in the Inquirer is a sense of humor. In comes The Professional Heckler, which I visit a few times a month just to be able to unwind, waste time and have a good laugh. I find that the observations and the “insights” of the blogger to be most entertaining and is usually in congruence with my personal opinion or imagined scenario of the news. It keeps me level-headed, having a vicarious way to air out what I’m thinking, without actually jeopardizing my “journalistic standards”. Besides that, I also like the way the author keeps on putting out new quotes, which are oftentimes very insightful and thought-provoking. It’s also a bonus that most of the news being featured on the blog are from legitimate news sources so viewing the blog is like a review on what’s happening, albeit in a funnier way.

I guess it has something to do with presentation. I respect Inquirer.net for its content, while I enjoy The Professional Heckler’s.

It’s like this cat stuck on a bath handle; I just like staring at it for some reason.

Now THIS is cute…!

Is America our friend…?

This post is in reply to the November 16 article published by GMA News which can be found here.

The title of this post sums up what I feel is the meat of the matter as opposed to the many comments already posted on the webpage about how “disrespectful” or how “uncouth” it was for a mere student to disrupt a foreign dignitary, and a very high ranking one at that, who’ve graced us with her presence.

Is America really our friend?

The answer is no.

Why? After all they’ve done for us? They saved us from the Japanese!

Well, I can’t say that America hasn’t been “friendly” to the Philippines, but if I used my definition of who are “really friends” and those who are “friendly acquaintances”, America would fall on the latter category.

For me at least, a friend is someone who likes you the way you are and does not have any ulterior motives in “being” your friend. Moreover, a real friends would treat each other as equals and would respect each other’s rules when they’re in each other’s homes.

Going back to reality, can anyone honestly say that the US treats the Philippines as its equal–or any other country for that matter? Moreover, can our treaty be “mutual” when only one party (the Philippines) is hosting the other party’s troops? Any way you look at it, the first tenet of the Visiting Forces Agreement, that “visiting forces” (AKA, the American soldiers) cannot be subject to the host country’s laws asides from those that are considered of “particular importance”, greatly favors the American troops here on Philippine soil, basically giving them diplomatic immunity.

I don’t know about you, but I consider rape with “particular importance”.

People (not only Filipinos but EVERYONE) need to realize that we’re in a dog eat dog world and that everyone is just out for their own sake.

Frogs and… cannibalism!

I’m NOT anti-American, mind you. Nor am I a leftist, a communist, or an extremist.

I’m a practical person, and I say it’s all business. Emotions or ideals aren’t and shouldn’t be involved. No one in their right mind would refuse an advantage, especially if it’s LEGAL. America is just being practical. You can’t blame them for not being dumb.

As the saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” the Philippines should become practical as well. Scrap that shit. 

Oh the Joy of Money

For people who are so engrossed with money or the lack thereof, we aren’t so business savvy, which to me is quite perplexing.

With our president saying the government is basically bankrupt (both in competency, morals, and monetary-wise) for the rest the year, and with taxes higher than any point in time in our history, with inflation higher than the interest rates of banks and also the increase of the salaries of normal workers, it makes me scratch my head as to why people are not paying more attention to business.

As much as money is a part of our lives, business is money, and so naturally one should mind his own business (i.e. money). Confusing? Yes, I too am rather confused.

But in any case, I wrote that statement out that way in order to illustrate the problem of communicating business to the public: it’s jargon.

For most Filipinos, especially those in the College of Mass Communications (CMC) here in the University of the Philippines Diliman, mathematics is a dreaded subject. A long running joke says that people go to CMC in order to get away from math.

I don’t really blame people for loathing mathematics. As a person who has had the pleasure (or not) of taking statistical mathematics, which incorporates algebraic, trigonometric, analytical, and calculus–yes, it the c-word… calculus!–all wrapped up into one bundle of pure ecstasy, if you’re a masochist, that is…

But the problem is that people associate that kind of hellish mathematics to ALL mathematics, which is totally unfair to mathematics as a whole. For one, percentage and ratios are basically common-sense, but we’ve somehow wired ourselves to think of them as “math”.

If there are 5 pieces of pie, and you’re 5 people, all of whom wants pie, you can easily divide the pie 5 ways and just give each person 1 pie. Simple fractions can allow one to understand, to an extent, how companies give dividends.

Simple addition and substraction can suffice when looking over balance sheets to determine whether this year was a profitable one or not simply by substracting the total expenses to the total profit.

It’s all simple.

But, as was already said, it’s the language that makes it Greek. Most financial reports come out as account statements, wherein you have a piece of paper with numbers on it and one needs to gleen from it what you need and without specialty, one cannot do so competently.

Therefore, business journalists are required in order to bridge the gap. To decipher the language of business and put it in plain English (or Filipino).

Business journalism is important, first because it safeguards society by keeping tabs on government and how they spend our taxes through investigative reports on government dealings and taking a closer look at the taxes of our politicians.

Second, it informs the public of market trends that affected, may affect, or is affecting them and their lives and businesses.

Third, it bolsters confidence in the public to go the distance–to brave the waters of business. And with more business, comes prosperity to all as it’s effects does not only improve employment, but the country’s GDP, global business-rating and competitiveness, and thus may increase foreign investments.

The aftermath of August 23

On August 23, a tragedy struck.

A bus full of Hong Kong tourists, on their last day in the Philippines and on their way to Ocean Park, was taken hostage by an armed former police officer who was recently dismissed due to the actions of his subordinates and thus ending his 30+ years in the force and more importantly also his pension–his deserved, hard-earned retirement fund.

Faced with such circumstances, I honestly would not know if I too would snap. As I run these scenarios in my head, most of them involves me getting violent. I mean, seriously, the guy REALLY had it BAD.

But all that seems to be of no importance due to the fact that that same depressed and distressed old man, who just lost his job and does not have anything to lie back on, and had a wife and family to take care of supposedly killed  9 Hong Kong tourists and, oh, that he was a Filipino.

I am downright outraged at how some of my fellow Hong Kong people have reacted to this event. It is one thing to be indignant and angry at the INCOMPETENCE and STUPIDITY of the operations of the police, but it is another to label an ENTIRE GROUP NATION as such. It is plain BIGOTRY and HYPOCRISY and people who’ve done so ought to be ashamed.

But, I am equally if not more infuriated at how everything transpired that day. The policemen obviously didn’t know what they were doing. Aren’t SWAT supposed to be SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS UNIT? Lulz!!!

Special Weapon: Sledgehammer

Special Tactic: Throw tear-gas without gas masks themselves.

Very impressive… [Reverse this statement]

The media didn’t help at all and even, very thoughtlessly added oil to the fire by broadcasting LIVE everything that transpired OUTSIDE THE BUS FOR EVERYONE TO SEE, EVEN THE HOSTAGE TAKER! WOW! Great job~!

The politicians really showed how “able” they are at their jobs: they’re NOT. They also showed who they really care about: themselves. I mean, please STOP making me RETHINK my notion of “stupid”. The previous sentence also applies to people who get swayed by the lies and stupidity of these snakes. Just stop.

Our PRESIDENT was… well… a big failure. I recommend him being the picture of “FAILblog.org” for being the most unleaderly leader I’ve ever seen! The whole debacle started around 10 a.m. but P-noy only issued directives at about 1:30 p.m. which begs the question, what the HELL was he doing for 3 HOURS AND 30 MINUTES. Well, it’s not surprising that a person who had been in congress for more than 20 years, did not pass any BILLS that he’s proposed himself, to amount to ANYTHING. Well, that’s the leader the Philippines (well, 13 million of us at least, excluding me) wanted. We reap what we sow? How true…

There were so many FAILS that day that I really was ashamed that THESE are the PEOPLE that will LEAD us, will PROTECT us, will INFORM us, and will GUIDE us? HUWWWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTT??!!

As a journalism student, I really was disappointed about the media. Is ethics dead in the Philippines? Did NO ONE ask the question: ARE WE DOING THE RIGHT THING? Are RATINGS… is THE MONEY the reason why we do journalism? Is Public Concern & Public Interest applicable? Well, during that time, of course people were INTERESTED AND CONCERNED about WHAT WOULD TRANSPIRE, but heck, did  NO ONE THINK that the FLEETING CONCERN and INTEREST of the PUBLIC on THOSE FEW HOURS would be OUT-WEIGHED BY THE REPERCUSSIONS OF SUCH AN INCIDENT IF IT GOES BADLY FOR THE SAID PUBLIC??? Huh… So disappointed…

And what’s with the media, who’s supposedly be a WATCHDOG for the people on the actions of the government to COPY the ones THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO GUARD AGAINST? Maybe birds of the same feather fly together does ring true… They should not have broadcast LIVE. Being a watchdog does not equal a MANDATE to SENSATIONALIZE things. Besides, there are WELL ESTABLISHED PROTOCOLS that ALL MEDIA NETWORKS ARE PRIVY TO taken from the HISTORY and EXPERIENCE of HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF JOURNALISM… THERE WAS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO.

And everyone knows that the police is being made the scapegoat… well, at least I hope everyone knows. I hope against hope. I dream the IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. Anyways, you get picture.

On the social network side of things, it’s to be expected that the users (especially those in the BBS [forums], who are more anonymous than their Facebook-counterparts) are more likely to say something they wouldn’t normally say in public as the Internet provides us with a venue to say whatever we want with wanton disregard for our safety or repercussions of the said statements, defamatory or otherwise.

Well, anyways, I do not take what transpires in the social medias as seriously as those I see first hand. It’s one thing to type a message (with cussing or none), it’s another thing to really act on what you think. The DAB party of Hong Kong is just playing their usual game of being loud and rowdy to seem that they’re really for the people. HK politicians and Philippine ones are the same in that respect. China on the other hand is really the biggest hypocrite here because they’re pointing the finger of blame on us for, what…? Being incompetent… being ill-equipped… being-unprepared… The first two are true, but that’s just because we’re poor. We’re a freaking 3rd world country! Being unprepared, yes we also were. But, that’s because these kind of things don’t often happen… only once in a blue moon do we see someone take a bus full of tourists hostage on live television and I think that’s a good thing because, SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN SAID OVER AND OVER AGAIN IS THAT THIS INCIDENT IS ISO-LATE-D. Again? Again! ISOLATED!

Well, I should go to bed.

This was a rant. I wrote this as a Filipino and also as a person that also calls Hong Kong home.

It broke my heart that these things would happen, but no one can do anything about it anymore. What can be done is to NEVER LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN.

I think that would serve as the BEST APOLOGY possible. An apology to those who lost their loved ones, those who felt attacked, those who felt betrayed, those who felt embarrassed, and anyone else who got involved.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

Science for the Future

A room full of papers, plastics, computers, scribbled notes and a large whiteboard full of equations was everything I expected to see in an office of a scientist and I was not disappointed.

In Room 304 of the National Physics Institute (NPI) I met with this year’s National Academy of Science and Technology Most Astounding Young Scientist awardee, Dr. Eric A. Galapon and the Coordinator of the Theoretical Physics Group in the institute to talk about himself, his research, and the science and research scene in the country.

At only 38 years of age and taking from how busy his workspace looked like, I started the interview by asking Dr. Galapon why he chose to be a scientist. At first there was an awkward silence, but judging by his face, I knew this scientist was really thinking hard on how to answer. “Why science,” he said contemplatively, “I guess it’s because I enjoy it.” “I think scientists and treasure hunters are similar. We’re both looking for treasure, but the only difference is our treasure is knowledge. It’s really the excitement of being the first one to discover something that the other seven billion people in the world were oblivious to that rewards us scientists.”

Surprisingly, Dr. Galapon wasn’t always the passionate scientist he is today. The only reason he took Physics when he was an undergraduate was because there was a scholarship being offered and that his family couldn’t afford sending him to college otherwise. During that time, he discovered he had a knack for science and that eventually lead him to discover his first, real love: Quantum Mechanics.

Quantum Mechanics is a theory in Physics to explain why it seemed that Classical Mechanics, or more commonly known as Newton’s Second Law of Motion, does not apply in the atomic level—the building blocks of all matter. “As is, the tenets Classical Mechanics break down in the atomic and sub-atomic level, so a new theory had to be proposed to explain such phenomenon, and that’s how Quantum Mechanics came about,” Dr. Galapon said.

According to Dr. Galapon, life as scientist isn’t easy. “Being a scientist requires a lot of devotion. You must be willing to put effort and yes, a lot of time in order to yield even the smallest results. At least for me, even though I have a full-time job here in the University of the Philippines as a lecturer and a researcher,” after heaving a sigh he said, “I still find myself constantly thinking of my research.” “When I’m lecturing or eating or whether I’m in my office or at home, even when I’m talking to my wife, I’m always thinking,” he said chuckling.

Not only is being a scientist mentally taxing, it is also very frustrating at times. Dr. Galapon recounted his first experience trying to get his work published outside of the country as being awful. He explained that he felt he was rejected not only because he was an unknown scientist, but also because he was a scientist in a third-world country. “You really have to persevere and not be modest when it comes to trying to publish your work abroad,” he said very fittingly as his first internationally published work was featured in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, the Royal Society of London, after many rejections from other publications.

Another problem with scientific research here in the Philippines is described by Dr. Galapon as the “non-existence of a scientific-culture”. He blames the government and also society for the lack of interest in the sciences. “Here in the Philippines, people seem to think that science is all about inventing new stove or type of car, those sorts of inventions, which are really already the end results or the products of “real scientific research”.

“Even politicians think this way,” he said becoming more serious. “In general, the scientific community fears that the great progress made by the former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Dr. Estrala Alabastro, who herself is a scientist from the University of Santo Tomas, would be reversed by the appointment of a person who doesn’t even have any background in the sciences and is a career executive,” he added. “If we look at all the rich countries in the world, their wealth is at least directly proportional to the amount of money they devote to research,” Dr. Galapon said explaining how with more research comes more breakthroughs and these breakthrough are not only useful but also very profitable.

Dr. Galapon ended by saying that only time would tell how the Philippines will in the future, but he quickly added that when society and the powers that be change their attitudes towards science, the hope of our nation would shine all the brighter. “I have great faith that if and when that happens, we’ve got more than enough talent here to storm the globe,” he said with a smile.