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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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. 

Blaze a trail!

This is the obligatory post for whenever I “restart” blogging.

Sad to say that I haven’t been faithful to writing at all, which is weird as I am a journalism major.

But as the song goes, “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life,” so like a phoenix, I revive my blogging life. That and it’s a requirement for one my electives this semester.

Suffice to say, this semester is shaping up to be an interesting one.

As for why I titled this post, blaze a trail… It must have something to do with my banner (I guess), which is from the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破グレンラガン). As the story goes, it talks about the infinite potential each and every one of us “spiral beings” possess. As infinitely great our potential for good is, so is our potential for evil. Much like a spiral can spin clockwise or anticlockwise.

I’ve come to realize how much potential the Philippines has and how grossly untapped and unrealized it is. Many seem to think that there is no hope and that we’ll keep on going on the tailspin spiral our country has been on for a long time and eventually hit the ground and be destroyed. But we seem to forget that in order to change our spiraling direction, we first need to stop our downward spiral. Moreover, a spiral has to begin somewhere, so why not begin the change yourself in yourself.

Clockwise and Anticlockwise

I leave you with an optical illusion in which the light green is really the same color as the light blue. This image teaches us that seeing is not “absolute truth” and that perspective matter.

Let us blaze a trail together. Through the earth, the stars, and the heavens.

Test it out in paint (use eyedrops) if you don’t believe me!

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.

Dear President Noynoy

[This blogpost was inspired by this article by Yahoo News Philippines.]

Dear President,

Please do not take yourself too seriously. When you have to choose between your pride and your security as the “head of state” and the “hope of the people”, there is no contest. Your security comes first.

Please conduct yourself in a manner that befits your rank. You are much more valuable alive than dead. Do not tease fate.

Yes, your detractors will criticize you if you reverse your own position on wang-wang, but who cares! They’ll criticize whatever you do, so just do what I do with my own critics: ignore them—that’s what they’re good for.

Worry about the important things, not about some traffic “nuisance”.

In the first place, you should have just zero-ed in on the abusers of the wang-wang, our much beloved congressmen and people of self-import (yung mga FEELING lang). The law provides the Executive, the vice Executive, the two heads of of both Houses of Congress and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and those who work in law-enforcement and emergency services the right to use a siren while on route during official business.

Please don’t be stubborn, be smart. You are more important than you think (Aww, sweet ┐( ¯3¯)┌).

Yours truly,

Isang Pilipino

Disney/Pixar STILL GOT ITS MAGIC!

I watch a lot of movies. Mostly Hollywood blockbusters, but I watch a lot of them all the same.

For that reason, I can confidently say that movies like Toy Story 3 does not come very often.

The story, as the title implies, is the third installment (as I am assuming they’re going to make a sequel) in the Toy Story series of movies, but this time around, there are no insane would-be terrorist (implying the person likes to blow things up) neighbor or a Woody-be (a pun on “would be”) thief /obese-premature-male-pattern-baldness-guy-who-steals-toys-from-kids-and-sells-them-to-Japanese-collectors person, only the fact that Andy is all grown up is about to move on to College and for toys, College = Death, or at least they view it as such.

Andy: Before and After

The plot thickens when Andy decides to store up all his other toys (even BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!!) with the exception of Woody. The scene was really heavy for a “kids movie”, although I guess the fact that Andy’s all grown up has given the writers and directors the mandate to carry things to a whole new emotional level. I couldn’t help but reminisce about my old toys and what would they have felt when I had to leave them behind when we moved from Davao to Manila. Suffice to say, the scene was heartbreaking.

After a series of events, all the toys (including Woody) were mistakenly donated to a certain daycare facility named Sunnyside. Don’t be fooled by its name, it’s anything but SUNNY! (well, anything but happy…) Sunnyside, was in fact a totalitarian system, ruled by a pink, cuddly bear named Lots’o’Huggin’ Bear (Lot’so for short). And oh boy, are the young’uns who’ll be watching this will soon learn that pink and cuddly in the outside may not translate to pink and cuddly in the inside. Not everything is what it seems.

Inside Sunnyside (mind the pun :D) Andy’s toys learn the reason why I do NOT EVER want to have TODDLERS! >_< The scene was… was… terrifying. There was a phrase Buzz said here that struck me as something we’ve basically lost in western society, which is “age appropriate”. Buzz said it while complaining to Lot’so after their first playtime in the Caterpillar Room (AKA, Toy Holocaust) and it made me think that kids today are really out of control. I had the privilege of having great parents and great childhood memories which I would cherish the rest of my life, but I find kids these days are exposed to issues that are not “age appropriate”.

I see 10 year old kids buying GTAIV or Assassin Creed 2 (which are quite gory) in gamestores in various places, even though their clearly labeled as NC-17! Another incident was when I watched this sexually charged play in UP (for a requirement, of course) and although it was CLEARLY (there were depiction of dry-humping and masturbation, etc) not-for kids, there were people who brought in KIDS that, judging from their appearance and height, were not even 10 years old! Filipino entertainment shows are filled with lewd jokes that are made in such bad tastes that I wonder why they’re even allowed to air. So much for laws in society or “age appropriateness”. The Philippines claim to be a “Christian Nation”, but I say we’re not even close. Muslim nations are more “righteous” by far when it comes to these kind of things. At least there (well… in some of them at least), they really enforce what they say their “ideals” are.

The horror... the horror...

In any case, enough about my political views. This post was supposed to be about the movie!

Well, one of the highlights of the film is, as I have lovingly dubbed, “the meeting”. When the scene when Ken first meets Barbie showed, the whole theatre was full of giggles… from the girls and, believe it or not, the guys as well. I even saw some “old people” (I define “old” as aged 55+ or if you look just plain old [and yes, I’m a judgmental person]) having a nice chuckle. I may be a fool about this but, I want to have the same kind of scenario happen to me ONCE in my life. I want to be able to tell people that I had “THE MEETING”. Fated. Destined. The One. My Other half. My True Loves Kiss. Made for each other. What can I say, I am a hopeless romantic–the real kind.

Made for each other...

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go see it. Also, don’t support crime, go see it in a cinema. It’s worth it. It’s a Disney/Pixar: It’s MAGIC!

Life and Ants

I haven’t any inspiration to write lately as life and its many distractions kept it away–far away.

And yet here I am again, writing as if “something” has happened but really, it’s the same same-ol’-same-ol’.

Funnily enough, I found the inspiration to write because of something I hate… and hate dearly: ANTS!

These small, seemingly harmless creatures, that aren’t as gross as cockroaches, or as despicable as rats or as destructive as termites, but as I live on the 9th floor, I don’t suffer from those three… only ants.

Now MY ants are not your normal, run-of-the-mill ants where they just come when you leave something out for a few hours. MY ants come in swarms in as soon as 5 minutes from the time you leave something edible on ANY surface of ANY part of my apartment. Amazing right? What’s more amazing is they’d even swarm for just WATER! Imagine laying a cup of cold juice with a nice film of condensation on its surface, and after a few minutes, come back and find the place swarming with ants. DISGUSTING!

More to the point, I can’t help being disgusted admiring their tenacity. It takes a lot of effort and constant alertness to be able to respond to a potential food source for the colony in this fashion. Albeit many of them gets squished or drowned or poisoned in the end, they still persevere.

This self-sacrificing attitude for the greater good of the collective is something that has been all but lost in our society today.

We no longer care about how everyone else will fare, but only care about how we ourselves will. “To hell with other people”, “How can I care about others when I’m in this state”, “Everyone else is doing it, so why should I be any different” are just some of the many things we tell ourselves to justify our selfish actions. When I think about them, I really can’t help but agree. However, it being the logical thing to do doesn’t make it the RIGHT thing to do.

Ants are the prime example of a society that, albeit structured and hierarchical–without rights or freedoms–works. We should take some life lessons from my sworn enemies, on of which is:

The collective (our country) matters.

The Philippines is worth dying for.