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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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.

10 things I hate…

1.) The number of Ateneo De Manila’s students coming by car, causing a DAILY traffic jam in Katipunan Avenue

2.) …resulting in TOXIC fumes building up in the area and poor jeepney commuters having no choice but to suffocate or feel their lungs burn (there’s no choice between SMOKING or NON-SMOKING).

3.) Fat people occupying space for 2 people in jeepneys, but only paying for one

4.) …and the jeepney driver insisting there’s still space when there’s NONE!

5.) How UP students blame everything on the government

6.) …when in fact, the economy’s BAD everywhere, the cost for education has been increasing globally and it’s not tyranny on the part of the university administration if they increased the tuition fees/miscellaneous fees because they also got short-changed budget-wise by the government.

7.) That a lot of guys don’t wash hands after handling their package                       (euw… ( ゚д゚)!!!).

8.) That people don’t seem to know how to read and let alone understand “Please let passengers exit first”.

9.) People non-challantly throwing cigarette butts on the floor, spitting everywhere, urinating anywhere, etc.

10.) When it rains, it FLO.O.D.S!

FLO = FLOating

O = Objects

D = disturbingly-looks-like

S = SHIT!

Life in UP Diliman

My first blog post (I blame insomnia for this post)… Zzz… Meh…

Moving onwards, as the title suggests this post will be about life as a university student in the premier school in the Philippines, UP Diliman. 

Well, to be frank, it’s not that impressive. Comparitively, my Hong Kong highschool has more technology than 90% of the college campuses in UP Diliman. Man, it’s a real bummer that the “premier” school is SO… SO POOR ;_;

Well, other than that, there are upsides in being in THE Philippine state university: It’s C-H-E-A-P! In fact, I don’t understand why during the previous Student Council elections, all three of the major parties were making a big fuss about the increases in lab/miscellaneous fees… I mean, COME ON! The tuition fee per semester is already cheap taking into account that UP Diliman is THE BEST university in the Philippines. And, the increase is PER SEMESTER, which means even if they increased it by ONE THOUSAND PESOS, that divided by 5 months, which is 150 days, it would mean a P6.67 daily increase–roughly the amount of one IKOT jeepney ride. Although, the lab fees increases aren’t as steep as the example above, averaging only a few hundred pesos… Arg… 

Well, I can’t blame the University Board for squeezing as much money as they can from their already UNDERPAYING students because they really got screwed over by the Philippine government (screwed over is an understatement). If I remember correctly, the univeristy only got 1/3 of the budget it asked for… and so… they’re really strapped for cash. It’s only logical that the largest stakeholder, the students, should help carry the financial burden of the university. If one thinks of it as an investment, it’s not really that bad at all. What’s losing a couple of hundred pesos and thus having to skip a few lunches, compared to the possible lowering of the quality of your education? There’s really no comparison. 

Hmm…

I’m getting sleepy… 

So, that’s my 2 cents for now…