Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sense of Entitlement

Is it possible for one's sense of entitlement to become a positive thing? Or are there some things that are okay to feel entitled to?

We often babble endlessly about certain people's sense of entitlement and how it bothers us. I'm reminded of an interview with one prominent Filipino artist who remarked that Filipinos were so much more pleasant to critique during auditions for the country's version of the "Got Talent" franchise in comparison to U.S. Americans who often oozed with a sense of entitlement. That, for me, triggered an eyeball roll since I thought Filipinos had just as much of this sense of entitlement that Americans. The main difference is that we are generally raised to defer to figures of authority and put on a facade of utter submission and respect as much as we can. However, in a situation where Filipinos address people whom they perceive as socio-economic or intellectual equals, this deference would usually be absent.

I digress. This is not about what nationalities have this sense of entitlement. This is whether this is necessarily a negative thing. It certainly is perceived as such. I, for one, have never encountered anyone use this term in a positive way. It usually points to someone's expectation that they are "supposed" to receive something no matter how undeserved. But what of things like justice and peace and freedom?

If people fleeing their lands in search of better places to build their lives and raise their children were to demand peace... If indigenous peoples assert their rights over their ancestral domains and demand justice for the damages that settlers and greedy institutions have brought upon their lands... Or if a Saudi woman were to reclaim her right to drive her own car or show her neck in public... Are these not examples of a sense of entitlement for something? Yes, these are very specific demands that the sensible ones among us would deem no-brainer things to affirm and support, but they are still entitlements and those who raise their voices to claim it have a sense for it. So does this then make a sense of entitlement less negative or neutral?

Maybe I'm just being nit-picky about an age-old expression.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cinema DON'Ts

One of the ways you measure how civilised people are is by observing their behaviour in places of solemnity. You might think churches and temples. Sure. But for a country like the Philippines where, for many, piety and reverence are fruits of fear of the unknown rather than love and genuine reverence, you look elsewhere for answers. The theatre (plays, musicals, ballets, etc.)? Maybe but hardly. They are places for people with a certain taste. Those who are generally not lovers of the dramatic performance arts will not make an effort to visit the limited number of theatres in the Philippines. Besides, prices for seats are loftier than most can afford, so it is likely that a person who goes to a theatre walks through its doors with love in the heart. It can, therefore, easily mean that only the truly indecorous have the audacity to violate the rules, and they are rare.

If you wish to observe how Pinoys behave in a solemn place, the cinema is where you go. There you will see people of every shape, size and place in the hierarchy of financial capability. Sad to say, we fail miserably. Even the privileged ones and those you would perceive as well-educated. I once (anonymously) hissed at the husband of a former teacher of mine who simply refused to shut up during a screening of a David Yates film. I don't know if I'm under some sort of horrible curse, but never have I ever entered a cinema in this country where everyone acted how they were supposed to. There's always someone loud and obnoxious.

Over the years that I've been watching films in cinemas, I've developed a number of peeves. So in the interest of speaking my mind, here are my top cinema "don'ts".


- talk. It's not a coffee shop. You can tell your friend about how lovely your orchids are after you exit the cinema's doors. And don't worry, you don't have to wait for the film to finish for you to leave.

- giggle at inappropriate instances. Some of us like to bathe in feels during touchy scenes. We don't want to hear your laughter while Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke are having a heartbreaking conversation. Cover your mouth with a thick piece of fabric or leave.

- bring a baby and not take it out no matter how loud its cries get. Babies should not even be in the cinema in the first place. What are they gonna get out of it? Poor eyesight and ruined eardrums? Oh, what's that? You can't get anyone to take care of your baby? Well, if you can't get someone to take care of your infant while you watch a movie, you shouldn't be in the cinema.

- give commentary. Yes, I'm looking at you. I came to watch a film, not to listen to your wise words about how an object in it is a conduit for God's protective powers. Also, we can all see that mister-sexy-dude-raised-by-an-awesome-gorilla-troop's enemy has super strong rosary beads and we don't need to hear it from you. If you can't contain your body's reactions to Alexander Skarsgård's sheer hotness, leave. Don't let steam out of your pie hole by blabbering endlessly.

- answer phone calls. So your sister forgot to turn the gas tank off and your house is probably on fire now. OK. Sure. Guess what? We don't need to know about it. You want us all to panic with you? We don't. Take that conversation where we couldn't hear it and do something about it. Call your neighbour or the fire department or something. Don't get us involved because we obviously can't do anything. Also, the only disasters we're willing to know about are those that happen in the movie.

- make unremorsefully loud sounds with the stuff you brought in. You and your food need to pipe the fudge down! We want to listen to Tilda Swinton lecturing Benedict Cumberbatch about his arrogance and refusal to believe in anything other than what the scope of his ego can come to terms with. We do not want to hear the sound of your Piatos packet; we do not want to hear the ruffle of the plastic bag containing the plethora of snacks you brought into the cinema; and we certainly do not want to hear your horrendous eating sounds.

- kick my chair. Unless you can prove that you are genuinely at risk of hampered blood circulation or deep vein thrombosis and you really could not avoid hitting the back of my chair when you stretch your legs every 5 minutes, you will not be forgiven. And, please, if you have ADD or Tourette Syndrome, ask the mysterious people with the torches to transfer you to a vacant seat in the front row or tell me in advance so I don't think you're just doing it for the kicks.

- enter and/or leave in the middle of a film. So the people at the entrance doors let people in even if screening has already started. Do you really have to? Are you just alright with starting from middle through end and then piecing the story together after you get to see the first half? OK. That's a neat skill. Good for you! But what's not OK is large groups entering and leaving in the middle of the damn film. It means my view of the screen will be blocked for a time and that is NOT OK. I exercise patience and tolerance enough in the real world. Don't make me have to do it in the cinema, too. This is a thing that Filipino cinemas are notorious for. I don't know if this happens in other backward countries, but this is definitely very Filipino.

- use your phone (unless you absolutely have to). If you want to check your Instagram or Facebook feed, go ahead. Outside. Not in the cinema! You're not in your private space. The cinema is dark (and full of terrors) and we can see the glare of light emanating from your phone's display screen. If you absolutely have to read or respond to something, limit it to short messages. Don't read or type an effing email! Also, make sure your phone's brightness is set to the absolute minimum. We want to see the cinema screen. We want to see shirtless Ben Winchell try to hit a levitating robot with a baseball bat, not that Cracked-dot-com link on your Cherry Mobile. The 7 Famous Horror Movies You Didn’t Know Got Hilarious Sequels can wait. It's not going anywhere, but my patience sure is.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Collateral Damage

A cousin posted this on Facebook...

Just a passing thought:  I wonder if I die as collateral casualty, will my family and friends say that it was inevitable because some people are really bound to have it for the greater good of the country? "Anyway, the number of criminals killed are way more compared to the innocent that got caught up in the fire. Their statistics is insignificant compared to the progress this war is leading." Or is it really? Will my death be worth the sacrifice?

My response, roughly:

This is really not something I want to think about at an ungodly hour in the morning, but I know people contend with this as part of their reality. Heck, I've asked this question myself, just like others do. And I know, for some, it can only remain a hypothetical question for too long. It actually happens.

Here's the thing, though: Criminals shouldn't even be murdered in the first place. What don't people understand about the fact that each person has the right to live? There is no clarification clause in that statement that says "except criminals" or "except drug-abusers" or "except people I don't agree with" or "except poor people." People who believe solely in retributive "justice" (as opposed to real rehabilitative justice) and in the idea of a culling as a means to an end shouldn't be allowed to hold power or have a say in anything at all. And the obscene thing is that they consider themselves men of God. They invoke God so much, it's sickening. What God??? Christians, my ass! People of God, my ass! Hypocrites, this country is full of!

Truthfully speaking, if anything at all happens to anyone I love, I will probably lose it completely. I may even become the very kind of murderous monster I so strongly speak out against. Or perhaps not. Let's just hope for the best. Let's hope nothing happens to anyone we love and let's hope this all stops. If we have anything at all right now, it is hope. Mine is incredibly slim and fading fast, but it is still there. I cannot lose it. While it may be easy for me to remove myself from this country to try to find a more ideal situation, I am in no position to whisk away everyone I love and care about, so I must have hope. We all must. Let's be steadfast in being advocates for good. Let's be faithful that the people of this (almost) goodnessforsaken country will take another glimpse at their moral compass.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice

Time for some BIBLE STUFF!

It amazes me how when the Lord's Prayer is translated into Visayan/Cebuano and Filipino/Tagalog, bread becomes rice.

"Give us this day our daily bread" translates as "Ang kalan-on namô sa matag-adlaw, ihatag kanamô karo'ng adlawa" and "Bigyan mo kami ngayon ng aming kakanin sa araw-araw," respectively.

While some would argue that the words "kalan-on" and "kakanin" may directly translate as "food," in the context of the original prayer where a specific staple is mentioned (i.e. bread), it should then follow that an equivalent local staple be used in the context of what is common for the people who use the languages that the prayer is translated into. In this case, rice. And as "kalan-on" (or "kan-on" in modern standard Cebuano) and "kakanin" (or "kanin" in modern standard Filipino) are actually the words for cooked rice, I believe it actually means rice in the prayer.

Nevertheless, I am well aware of how deep dissection by a lot of biblical scholars has led to the inference that the Epiousios Bread referred to in the prayer is actually the Bread of Life, the Christ Jesus. Interestingly, however, if Jesus were not Middle-Eastern (West Asian) and if the events of the New Testament had not taken place in Israel and Palestine, but in East or Southeast Asia, he would be called the "Rice of Life," which I personally have no qualms with.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Education, Education, Education

Sharks in a basin at a food market in Xiamen, Fujian, China

A lot of Filipino householders burn plastic along with the dried leaves and twigs on their 4 o' clock habit pile.

A lot of fisherfolk unapologetically yank sharks, rays and whales out of the water. Many even use dynamites and cyanide.

They persist even though they are perfectly aware that it's illegal. They end up being fined or thrown in jail if they are caught. If you ask them why they did it, the answer always has something to do with either lack of awareness or necessity.

"Why did you incinerate those plastic bags?"
"Well, why not?"
"It causes harm to the environment."
"Why should I care? (Sus, tuo man ka!)"

"Why did you yank up that shark/stingray/dolphin?"
"There's not much tamarong this season. Also, these things cost more than the average fish and I have eight children to feed."

It's not that people are innately evil, it's that a lot of people lack education. And I'm not talking about elementary and high school rudiments on environmental concerns; I'm talking about real education--making people aware of how each small action is consequential to every other thing that happens on Earth. Bringing to their attention that the reasons behind the hardships they are going through is because people started doing what they are doing in the first place. We need to make people come to terms with the fact that everything has consequences that extend beyond the walls of their homes. And we need to find a way to really make them feel it.


Educate the rich as much as the poor. They need it, too. If they are smug enough to say they don't need to be told again, then that just means they don't know shit. We are only able to take photos of violators who emerge from fishing trips directly onto beach shores. These are small-time fishermen. The bigger moguls commit much larger atrocities but we can't take photos of the wrong things they do because they have developed ways to shield themselves from us. They have dedicated ports, freezers in their boats and such.

We need to stop laying all the blame on the poor and start scrutinising higher up the echelons if we are to change things. And we need to stop relying on punitive measures to get things done. "Make a law. Pass an ordinance. Ban this. Make that illegal." It seems preventive on the surface but it always ends up being punitive. For most people, the implementation of a law entails policing and arresting violators rather than to allow people to understand why laws are in place in the first goddamn place.

We need to stop the notion that we have to cause people more suffering to effect change. It doesn't work. It never works. We need, instead, to start finding ways to effect change by making people realise that they are already suffering by their own deeds. We need to instill values in people rather than create more prison cells or instigate a culling.

When has a society run by fear and anger ever been considered effective?

Sharks fished off the coast of Panglao, Bohol, Philippines
Photo:  Holger W. Horn (Facebook)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Marine BDSM

Here you see me awkwardly resisting the strong current
 and doing my best not to die right before going 27 metres down the reef drop-off

You visit one whom you love so much and spend nearly a full day in that familiar embrace. Sometimes you are hugged too tight that you struggle to breathe. Sometimes you accidentally ingest something that human beings are not supposed to have too much of. Sometimes you end up violently flailing your arms and legs to resist the things done to you. Being there entails the use of various instruments--apparatus that help you spend time together, but at the same time, risk weighing you down and causing you to become completely consumed if you're not careful. Either way, you feel ecstatic even though there are moments when you feel like you're barely an inch away from death.

You are not alone. There are others there, too. Some just visit to enjoy the company; some people visit to experience the same embrace you get; while some are there as devoted worshippers of this awesome deity.

When you part ways, you head home happy. In the evening, nearly every single muscle in your body hurts like hell. One consolation is that at least your sleep is absolutely wonderful. Then you wake up in the morning to find everything three times more painful.

But, dear ocean, you are still my #1 and I love you infinitely.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fei Lu Bin

Linked image:

Less than a year ago, at a market in Ramallah, the West Bank, Palestine, a man came up to me and greeted me in Mandarin. "Nǐ hǎo," he said. That was the fourth time it happened since I arrived in the Abrahamic Holy Land. The first two instances were in Jerusalem where I actually took time to explain that I was from the Philippines. While having tea at a cafe in the Old City near the Damascus Gate, having just dealt with an old man trying very hard to convert me to Islam, a little Arab boy approached me saying "China? China?" followed by a few short sentences in Arabic. He didn't seem to speak English at all. I tried saying "Laa, laa (no, no)," but he just went on and on in Arabic. I grew impatient so I just responded with a nod, saying "Na'am. China. (Yes. China.)" That got rid of him.

Now, back to the Palestine incident. Having had a long day, recently coming back from Jericho and having no patience to explain that I was not Chinese, I just responded with the same greeting."Nǐ hǎo," adding "Wǎnshàng hǎo. (Good evening.)" I thought it would make him go away. Big mistake! He then grabbed my wrist, called people over and started taking selfies with me. I was an instant celebrity! The commotion caught the attention of my Spanish and German companions, who then explained to the locals that I was actually not Chinese. Disappointed, they let me go. Kind of like if people looking to catch a cheetah caught a leopard instead. Close enough, but not quite what they were searching for.

Little did I know that an anchorwoman from China Central Television (CCTV) claimed, four years ago, that that Palestinian man was actually right. If Ms. He Jia were to be believed when she stated the "indisputable fact" that "the Philippines is China's inherent territory," I actually am Chinese. Not even Filipino-Chinese, but actual Chinese from China, being that the Philippines is supposedly part of China.

So how is this supposed to work? Kind of like how Puerto Rico's relationship is with the United States of America? Does this mean I get statutory Chinese citizenship? Does this mean I don't need to apply for a visa the next time I wish to visit the "motherland," unlike the last two times I did. I guess that's one perk, because sitting in a queue at a Chinese embassy isn't exactly pleasant. And speaking of queues, does this mean it's now socially acceptable for me to jump queues* wherever I go? Tell me, He Jia, what does this mean for me? What does this mean for my country? Do we still get to call our land "the Philippines" or is there a mandate from Beijing that we now have to start calling it "Fēi Lǜ Bīn"? What if we don't comply? Do we get thrown in a labour camp?