Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Manny Pacquiao and Paris Hilton Met

Aim for the gutter, you can’t miss. Someone named David Wands tells us this. By gutter, he is referring to the channels on either side of a bowling lane. If your ball falls into the gutter, you get zero for the shot. I don’t know if we have all tried bowling but based on experience, it’s difficult to miss the gutter even when we are not aiming for it. David Wands is just telling us that it’s easy to succeed at failing. We don’t even have to try. And settling for that zero is even easier.

Our being human prompts us to fail, but that same humanity also drives us to crave for something better. Now, in this respect, we differ only in our spirit to actually act on this desire to become better versions of ourselves. To succeed at this requires strength of character. And hard work. Even Manny Pacquiao says so.

Before he became the only one in the world to collect ten world titles in eight boxing weight divisions and before he became bestfriends with Paris Hilton, Pacman was a highschool dropout who left his hometown General Santos City at age 14 and went to Manila where, for a time, he lived on the streets before he started amateur boxing. At 16 years old, he became a professional boxer standing at 4’11” and weighing only 98 pounds.

Today, he is an athlete celebrated all over the world; a Philippine congressman; endorser of international brands like Nike and HP; owner of an LA mansion featured on MTV as well as a P388 M mansion in Forbes Park. He can afford giving a 1 million peso bag to Mommy Dionisia. He has a gorgeous wife and four children who are all fluent in English-spokening. Rumors even had it that he might guest in Glee after singing “Imagine” with Will Ferrel in a US TV show. When they came to the Philippines just recently, the best of NBA practically tripped over their shoelaces trying to get his autograph, taking his picture on their camera phones. Even Kobe Bryant felt compelled to come up to him mid-game to pay respects. And topping all of Pacman’s achievements: he is Paris Hilton’s newest BFF.

To quote Anthony Robbins, an American success coach: Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. He tells us that if a person really wants to change his life, the most important thing to do is to change what one demands of himself.

As much as we envy him for his wealth and fame and friendship with Paris, we cannot be a Manny Pacquiao. But we can take from him lessons on self-improvement. Through the years, the Philippines, and now the world, watched as a skinny, underweight boxer from GenSan climbed up from one weight division to the next, ultimately becoming the “number one” pound-for-pound best boxer in the world. From a high school drop-out to a Philippine lawmaker.

We too face our own challengers. Over and over again, we are forced to choose: between hiding behind excuses worthy of a Mayweather, Jr. or stepping up, knees shaking and heart pounding, but gloves ready. In the likes of, you know, Manny Pacquiao, “Let’s give them a good fight!”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bring Down the Rain

I like the rain. I love rainy nights especially.

Not the rampaging kind of downpour but the steady, melancholic falling.

Something about the rain comforts me and scares me at the same time.

How the drops of water insinuate themselves onto every surface, into every crack and nook is both an embrace and an intrusion.

As we cower under our umbrellas, hide under the relative safety of our roofs, the rain compels us to admit how powerless and vulnerable we really are.

And when I look across to the next person and see the thick strands of liquid invading the space between me and everyone else, I am reminded of the distance pulling us all from each other.

I am reminded that I am held together by my skin, the point where I end and the rest of the world begins.

But in its dark, nostalgic rhythm, the rain struggles to speak to us.

Of a forgotten secret whispered right before that moment we tore out of the womb:

That the distance doesn't matter; that we have the capacity to conquer the space between you and I; the strength to leap over the differences, the pain caused, the damage inflicted. We cannot rip out of our skins and escape from the bounds of the self, but we can always try.

And failing, we can achieve something: Compassion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gaia: Where the Heart Is

Law of nature is defined as the regulation of conduct based on God. If you don't have a God, then morality. If you don't have even that, then conscience. Beyond that, you're just hopeless.

Laws created by men, on the other hand, are intended to impose order in society. In the Philippine society, laws on environmental protection find primary legal basis in the 1987 Constitution, which says that: "The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature." (Article II, Section 16)

According to Atty. Antonio Oposa, Jr., the pioneering environmental lawyer in the country, our government has enacted about 118 environmental related laws. It is believed that we have one of the most voluminous set of environmental laws in Asia. But how it all turned out, personally I think it's too little, too late.

As a Cree Indian prophecy goes: "Only after the last tree has been cut down; Only after the last fish has been caught; Only after the last river has been poisoned; Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten."

Perhaps we should all stop in our tracks and remind ourselves why these laws were made in the first place. Are the issues which these laws address critical to our lives? Continued survival of the earth and our species? Duh. Who benefits from them? Everyone. Even if you do live under a rock. And even if you haven't been born yet.

Because underlying all these laws is the "trust doctrine", which proceeds from the premise that humankind, supposedly the most intelligent in the animal kingdom, are only the trustees of the earth. Future generations of humankind and other life forms are the beneficiaries of our trust. So if we misappropriate for our generation's exclusive use and benefit the earth's natural resources, robbing future generations of their birthright, we breach that trust.

It's important to realize that our responsibility in making our plant green extends from the 'here and now' onto ensuring a better place for future generations to live in. These are our kids, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, and all their children. When it's our turn to go, we will not only leave them with our jewelry, furniture, the Mercedes Benz, the resthouse, even our freakin' Facebook accounts if anyone cares. We will also leave behind with them the oceans, rivers, mountains, skies, the soil, the air. The family code is explicit on the parent's obligation to provide food, clothing, shelter and education. Unspoken is the incidental responsibility to make sure that children and their children will have pure water to drink, clean air to breathe, fertile lands to grow their food on, pristine seas to enjoy with their own families when they go on vacations: a world where they will not live in fear of extreme, frequent and unpredictable storms, floods, heat waves, drought. We must allow them to live in ways that we have been allowed to live. But better. Much, much better.

The way I see it, we are murdering our own children. Right now, right here, by our very own hands. We are killing them by turning off their very life support system - the earth. By this, we are not only violating the laws of man. We are violating the highest law of nature.

We are better than this. We must try harder. More than what the law calls for, let's do what justice demands. We owe it to all those we are responsible for bringing into the world. And, most especially, we owe it to the Divine Architect, who entrusted His Creation to us. We forget that God created man on the sixth day. After he had made sure that all we could possibly need to live abundantly were there. He prepared everything so we could live comfortably.

We can say thanks a million times for all the blessings that we've gotten but if we are truly, truly grateful, let's express that gratitude tangibly. Show it. Be it.

Let's start with our piece of the world. Here. Now. Today.

Let's start with our piece of the earth.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reading Enhancement and Acadamic Program

"You can learn many things from children. How much patience, you have for instance." - Franklin P. Jones

Wanting to share my passion for books, I joined a group of young urban professional women who volunteer two saturdays a month to help grades 3 and 4 public school students improve their reading skills.

I knew it wouldn't be easy but I never expected it to be especially difficult. Because I tell you... IT IS. It's really, really, really hard. Much like licking your own elbow.

And as I tried, many times, to lick my elbow although knowing very well I couldn't (just like you're probably about to do now if you haven't already.. come on, admit it), I am now attempting to pass on my love for reading to kids who listen to me as much as they pay attention to a potato.

Already, I have thought many times if I am really willing to go through the frustrations and heartaches I am experiencing now. I have to deal with kids who do exactly what you tell them not to do. Say exactly what you tell them not to say. And be where you don't want them to be.

To be honest, I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into. But it's painfully apparent that they need all the help they can get.

So yeah... they're stuck with this potato.

Philippine Churches, The Collection: 77 and counting

we may not look like it, but my bf and i collect churches.

yeah... CHURCHES.

here in predominantly catholic Philippines, finding a church isn't a problem. but really, our quest for these fascinating, historical works of religious architecture hasn't always been easy.

but for that, it's an even greater adventure.

after putting so much effort and love, in less than two years, we have 77 churches from 35 cities and towns all over the country so far.

even with the endless walking, the sunburn, the buckets of sweat, the getting lost in strange places... when we get finally get there, the feeling just never gets old.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cupid & Psyche ...and Julia Roberts

The other night, I was browsing through Edith Hamilton's Mythology (yes, I read this, not exactly for fun, just for the heck of it) and stumbled again on the love story of the god Cupid (Love) and the mortal Psyche (Soul). Like the first time, I read it thinking how absurdly romantic it is.

I'm a girl. I'm genetically predisposed to desire that fairytale love story with its fairytale ending. I went through the phase where I imagined that my 'soulmate' would resemble a pocketbook leading man - the strong, silent type who would sweep me off my feet with frequent, grand and uncharacteristically romantic gestures. Fortunately, I got through that phase safely with my ideals intact but trimmed by a dash of realism.

Every girl, at some point in her life, has fantasized about her 'destiny', her true love, the man who'd move the earth, defy distance and conquer time for her; who'll want more than anything to spend every second with her. E-ve-ry se-cond. Someone who'll tell her how beautiful and perfect she is (ehem). It's almost like a classic Julia Roberts film.

To profoundly sum up my thoughts on this in one powerful word: Crap.

Psyche had fallen that first night without having even seen Cupid. She wasn't allowed to look at him, only to feel him beside her in the dark and hear his voice, but already she knew she has met her one great love. Psyche and Cupid's tale is just that - a tale. But even this myth tells us that it's not easy. Like a misinformed love story that got it the other way around (but given that her mortality makes her the inferior one), Psyche journeyed to the ends of the earth to prove herself worthy of the god of Love.

I'm not jaded or disenchanted. On the contrary, I am a big believer in Love, more so because in the real world, it takes hard, hard work. Because the truth is, something that important, that life-altering, that earth-shattering doesn't just get handed to you on a platter. Like the knight who slays dragons first before he can rescue the lazy, sleeping princess, you have to prove your merit.

I know a number of girls who got stuck in this pitfall, always looking for that fairytale romance in their relationships, that fairytale prince in their partner. Of course, they always get disappointed and end up ruining a promising real life love story.

We must realize that:

1) Relationship, even Love, is not the same as Commitment.

2) It will never be just about the two of you.
Genuine love should not be limiting and suffocating, rather it should be a circle that expands to include those who truly, sincerely care. Wanting to have time for family and friends, even time alone, doesn't mean you no longer enjoy each other's company. It makes you human, a social creature. Not wanting to, makes you obssessive. Or insane.

3) You will never know everything. You CANNOT know everything all the time.
Accept that this is a privilege that must be willfully granted, not forcibly taken. Trust that the other person is making the right judgment on what to tell you when he tells you, if it even needs to be told. You might just be making a big issue out of nothing. As what Cupid said when Psyche stole that first look after being explicitly told not to, "Love cannot live where there is no trust."

4) You are not two pieces of one puzzle that need only to be taken side by side to match perfectly.
You are two people, two personalities, two lives who were walking on separate paths until you met at a crossroad and decided to go down one path together. You start out with your rough edges bumping and clashing until, without realizing it, Love and Commitment have made you perfect together.

5) You are not Julia Roberts. And this ain't a movie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Notes of an Escape Artist

I'm a nomad. I move around a lot.

In the past decade alone, I've had six "homes" in four cities. If I count the one where I spent most of my time for about three years, that would make seven in five. Before that, in high school, I moved three times. A couple of years ago, I worked, slept, and bathed in separate cities.

The first half of the last ten years were stable enough. I managed to get through college living at the house I was sharing with my cousin. That was my longest stay. The shortest was a month at a place where I moved into on impulse until, also on impulse, I packed all the clothes and shoes that I could fit into one suitcase and left behind everything else that I owned.

Because I'm practically a gypsy, I don't possess anything bigger than this laptop I'm typing on. I am an expert at packing. But whenever I move, I inevitably always leave something behind: a favorite pillow, priceless letters, a well-loved teddy bear, and always a piece of myself (*tear*).

As much as I want to say that I am a mere victim of circumstances, I have to admit that all I am is a victim of restlessness. Yes, all this running about is my choice. Well, as much of a choice as it can be for a person who craves a change of scenery as much as she is compelled to take her next breath.

If you're like me, the following personal learnings may come in handy:

1) A roomy, durable suitcase with wheels is a pretty good thing to have in case you wake up one morning with an impulse to, you know, run away.

2) Avoid getting too attached to bulky jackets, thick sweaters, big stuffed toys, cozy blankets, and all such things that give the most comfort on rainy nights. :(

3) Always have enough savings to cover at least three months' worth of downpayment in the event that you suddenly decide you want to move. Conversely, get used to unrecovered security deposits from your old place.

4) Do not work on a treasured 1000-piece puzzle for a month, have it framed, and put up on your wall. Whatever you do, just keep it safely in the box.

5) Keep soft copies of your DVD collection.

6) Get a good flat iron. Learn to love it. 'Cause it may just be the only piece of useful appliance you can afford to own right now, unless you're willing to haul around that big-screen TV you've been ogling.

7) If you're a girl: Yes, there is such a thing as having too much shoes.

8) Forget about starting a book collection at this point in your life.

9) Do not even think about getting a pet.


10) Move out, move on. :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

breaking the silence

for as long as i can remember, i have had a love affair with the written word.

i love books. i love to read what other people have to say. i look forward to being awed by an author's use of words, wondering how someone i have never met and will never meet can tell me exactly what i'm feeling. as though that someone did me the favor of ripping out those hesitant, garbled words stuck in my throat, allowing me to freely breathe again. i guess it's true that everyone feels the same way somehow, only not at the same time. we share the same humanity and the same human experience that although there is no way that one can know precisely what another is going through, i think that to someone somewhere, my encounters and my gibberish storytelling make a bit of sense.

and so after much forethought, with fingers crossed and deep breaths taken, i make this courageous attempt.

here goes nothing.