Friday, December 30, 2011

Hillary Clinton's Historic Speech

On December 6th of 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke before the United Nations Human Rights Council, speaking of her advocacy for gay rights abroad.  Her words: "Gay rights are human rights" and that "It should never be a crime to be gay."

Here is the full speech:

I salute you, Hillary!  You have, by your words and actions, created a lasting mark on the right side of the canvas of world history.  I have proven time and time again that choosing you as someone to emulate is a good decision.

Here is a music video of the speech's most striking points:

Monday, December 26, 2011

LifestyleBohol * Your Bol-anon Christmas is Mine, Too

My cousin Jepoy and my aunt Joyce
with my mum, Liza, in the background

Most of us in Bohol celebrate Christmas... But HOW?

Enjoy reading!

Christmas is a time of genuine love—of perpetual hope—of giving—of honoring our family and friends.  That list could go on forever.  This season is a time to celebrate all good things in life and to make efforts to put a smile on the face of every human being on Earth.  But, while we all know that, different people have different names for Christmas and different ways of celebrating the calendar year’s coldest months.

Let’s keep our minds fixed on our beloved province’s traditions.  It isn’t a secret that Bohol is predominantly Roman Catholic, so most of us who were raised “the Catholic way” are familiar with the yearly routine of the nine dawns of Simbang Gabi, culminating with the Misa de Gallo that begins on the final hour of Christmas Eve and crosses over to 12 midnight of Christmas Day.  For the fortunate, a lavish Noche Buena feast follows, where Lolos and Lolas sneakily carve the fattiest parts of the inasal and run to their bedrooms to indulge in the high-cholesterol goodness even though they know it’s bad for them.  Our mamas, papas, aunties, and uncles, on the other hand, laugh ‘till 4:00AM with three or so bottles of French wine and whisky on the table.  We—20-somethings and teenagers—lock ourselves in the biggest room of the house to munch on desserts and drink beer, leaving the househelp wondering where that big platter of mango float went, while the kids watch cartoons and play until they pass out.

For people with vegan or vegetarian food choices, a rainbow of fruits is a more common sight.  Fruit-based desserts on children's hands could be seen in place of ice cream sundaes and dairy.

Good times, yes?  With that said, however, it must be noted that not every family in the province celebrates it like that, it’s either they’re incapable or they just do things differently.  I’ll lay out a sequence of “not everyone is…” statements.  Let’s begin with this:

Not every family is fortunate

Not everyone could afford such a feast.  The less-fortunate Catholics and Christians make do with whatever they could serve.  The “inasal na baboy,” in poorer homes, is more often than not omitted and replaced with simpler dishes.  For people in charity-built villages such as Habitat for Humanity and resettlement communities like the ones in Danao, Ubay, and Carmen, French wine is absent while tuba, bahalina, and local rum come pouring at seemingly limitless supplies.

The question here is:  are they less happy than their wealthy fellow Bol-anons?  I don’t think so.  Some in those communities even prove to be much, much happier than the rich ones.  Little money doesn’t equate to misery all the time.  Of course, at times it does, but for Christmas, some poor folks have a knack for making the most of it.  Bless them.

Not everyone is free

Thousands and thousands of star lanterns are hung around the province during Christmas time.  It helps brighten people’s spirits.  I don’t know if you feel the same way, but there’s just something about colorful lights that somehow repels misery and helps put smiles on our faces.  Some people make their own stars, some buy from department stores, while the more charitable few flock to the jails to buy from the prisoners.  You read me right.  If you don’t already know this, read and learn.

Each year, prisoners make Christmas lanterns as a self-sustaining project.  And while it’s true that the incarcerated ones are serving time for breaking the law, Christmas is a season when things like that aren’t supposed to be considered when doing good deeds.  Prison is a horrible place where toilet paper, shampoo, soap and toothbrushes are scarce.  When you buy lanterns from prisoners, you’re helping them buy these things so they could live humanely inside the place.  You’re helping them contemplate on their mistakes minus the foul smell of unwashed underarms and unbrushed teeth.

Not every family is Catholic or Christian

You might think I’m solely referring to Islam as a religion in the province that isn’t Christian, but you’re wrong there.  Let me give you a little history lesson.

Before the Spanish came to Christianize Bohol in 1565, Christmas time wasn’t called “Christmas time.”  The indigenous tradition called the celebration, “Pasko sa Tingtugnaw,” which, in essence, means “Feast of the Cold Days.”  In each community, during the day of the Winter Solstice (December 22 in 2011), a Tumanan (priest) would head the fire circles and prayers during the feasts.  In the capital, the Babaylan (high priestess of the land) headed the rites.  Mind you, such ceremonies stretched to variants of the celebration in indigenous spiritual traditions all over the archipelago.  It wasn’t just Bohol.  Cebu, before 1521, had a similar tradition as well.

In 2007, I met a Jewish woman who happened to be living in Bohol.  Not just that, she was herself a Boholana, so I believe it’s in order to give recognition to the Jewish community here.  Judaism’s counterpart for Christmas is called Hanukkah, or “Festival of Lights.”  It is an eight-day celebration commemorating the rededication to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  This year, it began on the sunset of the 20th of December and will end on the sunset of the 28th of the same month.

For religions that don’t celebrate the season, what’s not to be happy about?  There are always month-long sales in malls and department stores.  Add that to the fact that most people usually become a bit more kind, joyous, and generous during the cold days.  What sensible person would want to maintain a frown with the happy air engulfing Bohol?  A family of Jehovah ’s Witnesses may choose to stay home and watch television, but when you enter their house, even if they consider it an ordinary day, you’ll find them a bit more joyful than usual.

Hindus celebrate it as Pancha Ganapati while Taoists call the day of the Winter solstice the Precious Purity Festival.  I even have Buddhist and Muslim friends who celebrate Christmas for the happy season that it is and because they resonate with the joy that most of their fellow human beings feel.  See?

Remove tradition from the equation and you’ll see that Christmas is still Christmas.  Notice how a lot of artists make everything shine during the season despite not professing any religion?  Of course, a good Christian would say that Christ is at the heart of Christmas.  I have no arguments to say in contrast.  I do maintain that a Divine being is indeed causing all this love and happiness to flow and I’m thankful for it.  So even if your only source of smiles during the holidays is looking for Santa Claus/Father Christmas, you’re still blessed.  We all are.  Such a concept doesn’t only scope material gifts.  Santa Claus’ gift giving, according to the original stories, encompasses the gift of joy, hope, love, and charity.  And speaking of the latter, not everyone has their loved ones around.  Kudos to those who have helped relieve the typhoon victims' predicaments and props to those who are moved enough to do the same.  You are the true Santas.

The essence of the season will live on as long as every sensible person agrees that it's a time for all things good!  Your Christmas is my Pasko sa Tingtugnaw, their Hanukkah, and everyone’s time to smile.


Seen on Print:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The worst sin you could commit against yourself is to sell yourself short.

Telling people what you're really good for is not pride; it's honesty.
On the other hand, admitting to be lower than your true worth is false humility... and that's synonymous to lying.

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Epic Elaine Paige Being Epic (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Earlier today, I found myself singing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody after one of my best friends, Cristyl, posted a graphic sequence of line visualisations of the song using internet meme drawings.

Yeah.  That's the one on the right.  Just view it in a new tab for a full view, otherwise, don't even bother trying to read it because it's futile.  Some of the text is way too small.

Anyway, following about ten minutes of singing "Galileo, Galileo..." in a high-pitched countertenor, I decided to Wiki it up to read about the song.  It's fascinating to note that it actually doesn't have a chorus and that, as a whole, the lyrics tells a story.  It's one of the few non-theatrical story-telling songs that have survived time even in its original version.

So, back to Wiki, I clicked on the link that said Cover versions and found out that the epic Elaine Paige actually performed the song.  Where did I jump to next?  You guessed it!  The mother of all video sites: YouTube!  I was literally stomping my feet, clasping the edge of my chair, and doing fist pumps while watching this video.  Yes, all by myself!  Isn't that just crazy?

Elaine is one of a few artists who have such an effect on me.  I couldn't get over how utterly amazing this woman is.  From musical theatre to opera to pop to hard rock, she can do everything!  Despite her short stature, she oozes in epic awesomeness each time she's on stage opening her mouth to sing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A statement by a hero of mine which I live by...

Friday, December 2, 2011

LifestyleBohol * Reading Takes You Away to the Farthest Reaches of the Universe

Finally, after a million years!  It's been well over a month since I've last written for LifestyleBohol.  After Losing Jobs, I went on hiatus from the paper.  Don't ask me why because there's really no acceptable reason.

I'm posting this here for those who didn't get to buy a copy of last Sunday's issue.  Of course, that includes those who are out of our delivery range.

Anyhow, this one is dedicated to reading.  Yes, like what you're doing right now--except that it advocates printed books over any other type of reading material.  No, not eBooks; books on actual paper.  Let's face it:  Print media is dying and I don't want it to.  I have sentiments to match my advocacy, so just read on.



Do people still read books these days?

When was the last time you took a stroll along Plaza Rizal and caught someone reading a book?  Could you even recall an instance when your seat neighbor at your favorite coffee shop had a book in her hand rather than a lit cigarette?  I know I could—once.  Yes, just once for the 22 years I’ve been living in Bohol.  People don’t seem to want to be caught dead reading a book.  Why is that?  Is it something they’re ashamed of?  And, no, laptops don’t qualify as books in this case—not even tablets.  Call me an old man; I couldn’t care less.  I know you could read eBooks with those devices and that’s well and good.  It’s a giant tech company’s noble way to funnel book junkies into the digital world.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with joining that bandwagon.  All I’m saying is no matter how much you argue that you’re technically reading books minus the weight, if it isn’t on paper, it’s not a book.

Nothing compares to the feeling of turning real pages, one after another, as you read John Grisham or Jane Austen under a huge acacia tree on a quiet Sunday afternoon while the soft breezes tickle your neck and exposed ankle hairs.  And am I the only one who loves the smell paper gives off when you run your thumb through all the pages from cover-to-cover creating a short, refreshing rush of air on the face?  Better yet, the smell of old books when you enter a public library and the haunting feeling of privilege when your thumbs produce sweat that dries up on a page of a browning book, knowing that your print is now in the league of everyone else who may have held it—living or dead.  I certainly hope others share these feelings, too.

It’s indubitable that some may regard me as weird for having said those things.  However, book reading is a dying fancy and that’s another indubitable matter.  Even high school students at Holy Name University said that last Friday when I came over to judge a reader’s theater competition.  A lot of people, especially young ones, now regard books as a waste of time and money.  They’re much better off spending entire weeks playing video games with their cousins or drinking beer somewhere.  It’s a sad reality and I wish the sensible few who still do it “old school” could help others see how wonderful it is to be able to finish a thick book knowing you’ve created your own movie inside your head.

Yesterday was celebrated by sensible schools all over the country as the “National Day for Reading.”  The whole of last week was called “National Book Week.”  November is “National Reading Month.”  Back in elementary and high school, I used to love Novembers particularly because of the things done in my school to celebrate the existence of books.  There would be public readings at the library, essay contests that gave us opportunities to talk about our favorite books, drawing contests to visually portray what we imagined story settings to look like, and many more.  I won a couple of competitions here and there, but that wasn’t the source of my joy.  I was happy because of the fact that books, as long-lasting sources of knowledge, insights, and ideas were being honored.  Nowadays, we have internet videos for virtually all our information needs and books are largely ignored.  From cooking lessons to instruction manuals to steps on how to kiss your girlfriend, YouTube has it all!  I’m not against it, though.  I even have a channel of my own.  However, in this digital age we’re in, let’s bring the reading culture back.  Help me bring it back before it dies completely.  Help yourselves by helping me.

FINE!  I’ll give leeway to tablet people even if they don’t share the kind of passion I have.  I’m willing to allow any sensible reader to hop in on this cause since I’ll need all the help I can get to convey my message.  You see: reading doesn’t just have an informative effect; it takes you to places and allows you to meet different people.  It can take you to India, America, China, the moon, Mars, some obscure star, or even inside the human body—as in the case of Gray’s Anatomy.  And I’m talking about the medical book, not the television series.

Reading affords you an opportunity to converse with Marilyn Monroe and remain, for days, haunted by the quandaries that beleaguered her celebrity life—her love affairs, her passionate encounters, and her thoughts while in the ladies’ room.  Can video games do that?  Maybe movies can do similar things, but the difference with books is that you’re able to visualize a place, a person, or a situation your way.  You wouldn’t have to complain of any actor’s poor portrayal because it’s basically all up to you.  You could even turn the story into a cartoon mind movie.  Nobody’s going to keep you from seeing things the way you want.  Whether it’s putting your own face in a character or imagining the setting of “Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp” to be in India even if the book explicitly expresses that it happens in China, no one can hold you back.  Only bad text and bad stories could ever be disappointing, but then again if you’re a seasoned reader, you can even work around those things.  The possibilities are limitless.  You just need to kick the ground hard and you’ll find yourself flying in no time.  I’m not really sure about that metaphor, but I think you know what I mean.

Last Thursday, a Bangladeshi friend of mine gave me a book called “Hope for the Flowers,” a picture book by Trina Paulus described as “a tale—partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots about hope.”  It’s a beautiful childish-looking novel full of drawings but intended “for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read),” which means children can read it, too.  Upon picking it up, I knew I already had a copy of it somewhere on my shelf and that I’ve read it once before, but I also knew I loved it so much, so I gladly took the new copy.  Who could refuse such a masterpiece?

Upon returning home I browsed my shelf and found the old copy there which was given to my mother by an old flame of hers in 1988—a year before I was born.  I showed her my copy and we read it together.  It’s relatively brief and very easy to understand.  It delivers a powerful message about refusing to conform to conventions that don’t amount to anything.  It encourages its readers to break away from useless old habits and dedicate life to productive goals.  It’s second only to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” on my list of all-time favorites.

Reading broadens horizons and exposes you to a lot of new ideas.  Some ideas are easy to agree with, some may require further journeys to grasp, while some are just plain wrong.  It doesn’t matter if you pass through some sort of struggle stage.  They’re not uncommon in the world of readership.  If you continue to read after breaking away from an intellectual skirmish with yourself, you’ll find that there will be more of the sort and you will literally find people all over the world to share such predicaments with.  You’ll even make new friends because of the same book.  And, who knows?  You may even end up tying the knot with someone from across the world who shares a favorite book with you.  The possibilities shoot as far from the pages as they could and most of them occur in real life.

Whether you read to learn, to think, to search for truth, to dream, or to live in other people’s lives and get away from your own, it doesn’t matter.  You can do what you want and you’ll find that your desires are no more than a page turn away from coming true.  Of course, you can always choose to remain sane.  I know I am.  So go ahead and pick that book up!  Read and feel the words.  Allow yourself to be lifted from the ground and taken through the pages.  Allow yourself to be free!


Seen on Print:


Thursday, December 1, 2011

World Aids Day 2011

AIDS is all around us.
Don't contract it, but respect those who have it.