Learning from History – When the Fates Whisper to Humans There is a God

The dictionary defines fate as “forces outside of your control that make things happen.”

In this age and time where almost any event -past or present- can be explained by science, the concept of a God or a “Supreme Being” dominating over us, is simply a myth — just another concoction of the human mind. But, is it???

Science and religion (or, just the belief of a superior being) are strange bedfellows that govern our lives once we’re brought forth on this planet. We were not given a choice to be born or not but we also don’t want our existence to be predictable and measurable by one of the main branches of science – mathematics (together with logic).

Humanity Development Maturation
Do Humans Have Total Control of their Destinies?

Today, we had created all the tools to predict as well as to manipulate one’s thoughts and way of life. Money, media, advances in travel, and, of course, technology had made this planet seem smaller and more accessible. These, together with the explosive increase of the world’s population had made the quest to stand out and be the envy of others –an obsession for some people.

It is in this context that humans totally forget that life is not an exact science and each and everyone’s life is unpredictable. While genetics had shown that traits and abilities, as well as diseases and life spans, can be passed on or measured, life’s immeasurable variables are just too much for science.  Even the science of weather forecasting can be wrong.

Humans are not robots that can all be simply shepherded into a controlled environment in order for the masters to have total control over their slaves. The human brain is just too complex that even science, and its fantastic role in human advancement, had barely scratched the surface of how it works — every individual being is unique. Multiply those variables with the global population and you’ll get a result that is just too overwhelming for science or mathematics to accurately measure. And, humans, just keep evolving.

In spite on these, there are a few people who’ll try to manipulate others how they think or how they perceive the concept of good and bad. Some do it for pure monetary gain, some for raw power and some, just do it because it is in their genetic make-up or so, it seems.

Media, money, and technology are prime examples of how these supposedly-helpful human-made tools had manipulated people’s perception of reality as well as good and bad. More so, in advanced countries where crass materialism, had permeated daily lives like the spoon and fork.

It’s also too sad that some news medium had totally abandoned truth – even bits and morsels of it- for the sake of ratings and sensationalism — which equates to more money. They had gone so low in favor of makeup and flesh over grey matter.

The same tools had also been used by a few people for their own personal glory. Goodness or what is normally perceived to be good in society doesn’t matter as long as they live the good life, the envy of others– their goals are achieved. For these few, morality no longer matters. Everything could be bought and turned into their lapdogs. What God? I am God. Look, I am too popular. I could do anything I want and it’s all too easy.

But It’s also too easy for science to remind us that if someone achieves power and truly believes that he’s among the gods, he goes mad. And, Fate steps in.

Human Light Man Secret Adult
Man versus Fate

The ancient Greeks and Romans -with their belief in a plethora of gods and goddesses- had always reminded us over and over again that some form of tragedy awaits mere mortals once they cross that invisible line that separates humans from the gods.  The Greeks even have a word for it – hubris

Therefore, whether humans evolved by natural design or not, the ability to perceive what’s good or bad seems to be a built-in mechanism. Nobody has to tell the other what’s good or bad.

In the end, in spite of the fame, the fortune, and the adulation one gets, in a person’s communion with one’s self, the voice within our hearts of hearts will grow louder and louder once one nears the end of life. 

As if the Fates keep whispering in our ears that they are always around to keep an eye on us and what we do— that They are the Masters of our destinies.


As Dirty As A Charcoaled Rug

Everyone in the compound seemed to be awakened by the loud voice from the entrance. Even a nocturnal guy like me who spends the wee hours of the morning watching tacky movies like Bruno and Borat was moved out of bed by the obviously jovial yet familiar voice of a man.

I was not mistaken. It was Kuyang Rey, the buddy of my father-in-law, whose loquacious nature had made the people in the barangay think that he is good for nothing except for gossiping.

At first, what he was saying was confusing but when I heard the whole conversation between him and two of my uncles, everything became clear.

“We already have a ‘poso’ (manual water pump) and it was courtesy of Kumpareng Andong.”

“Also, just to inform you, since my kumpare is running for the seat of barangay captain, everything that we request from him would be granted.”

“Mind you people, this is our opportunity.”

Once called as ‘barrio’, a barangay is the smallest administrative unit in the Philippines headed by a ‘kapitan’ (captain or chairman) and several ‘kagawads’ (assistants).

All this news elicited excitement from the faces of my aunts and uncles. Some of them inquired if the candidate would be willing to donate a truckload of gravel and sand, hollow blocks, or even an entire roof for the house!

One even asked if, on the day before the election, Andong would seal his victory by giving every voter of Barangay Burgos five-hundred pesos (about US$ 10).

Amidst the bewilderment, my cousin boasted that the other candidate is capable of providing what this aspiring barangay captain could give.

Manong Tolome can double what you’ve been receiving from your Andong,Untoy (my cousin’s nickname) said with some pride and a look that seemed to challenge Kuyang Rey.

“I heard that Manong Tolome shouldered the electric bill of the Tolentinos, provided all the bottles of beer during the birthday of Sidro, and this is the real kicker–he’s been giving a thousand pesos (US$ 20) to every single voter of Purok 2 in our barangay.

The statement caused quite a stir as well as excitement among my relatives. As for me, I was half happy to hear that Kuyang Rey’s family does not have to go to the neighbor to fetch pales of water to flush out their shit, since they already have their poso.

Although it was such a big deal for them, I was more sad than happy.  Ah, I almost forgot that in a couple of weeks, barangay elections would again take place.

Campaign materials for the Barangay and SK elections along Roces Avenue in Quezon City on May 10, 2018. Photo by Maria Tan

The pomp and all to sudden generosity that we only witness from the mayoral and congressional wannabes had already seeped into the barangay level.  It is just amazing, fucking amazing to witness how some kagawad and barangay chairman candidates could provide a poso or visit a birthday celebrant’s party and shower them with a variety of gifts.  They attend the funeral rites of a friend of a friend, meet and greet the elders, have pictures of them taken carrying a child or kissing a filthy old man and whatever.

They visit you, shake your hands, and beg for your vote. Together with their so-called supporters, they roam the streets riding an ‘owner jeepney’ equipped with loudspeakers playing a song by Inigo Pascual with modified lyrics to promote their advocacies.  Same old stupid scene.

What are their advocacies? It varies from very personal to general, but regardless of what their advocacies are, what they would do remain blurry and puzzling.

And let us not forget the one-liners of these “prominent” candidates. Their print ads read “Maaasahan mo” (Someone you can lean on), “Ipaglalaban ka” (I would fight for you.), “Ang Tatay ng Barangay” (The patriarch of the barangay), “Kay Dodong, Panalo Tayo” (With Dodong, We are the winners), “Una Ka Kay Manang Tasya” (You are the priority of Elder Tasya) and other fascinating promises.

No matter how sweet and promising their one-liners are, they do not seem to meet or even exceed the standards of good governance.

The country is very notorious for its corruption –down to the ‘barangay’ level

A perfect example would be the one who campaigned that he is “someone you can lean on”.  Leaning on, in the context of public service, is neither the kagawad who would provide the cases of beer during the birthday party of a barangay member nor the barangay chairman himself would shoulder the sacks of cement for house construction.

Being “someone to lean on” is a leader who organizes scholarship funds and livelihood programs. To see to it that the jobless are encouraged to join a business cooperative.  That every barangay member is taught garbage segregation and proper disposal.  That no one is seen consuming alcohol or smoking in public places.   Or, even simply to espouse cleanliness and discipline is to say that the barangay chairman is genuinely someone you can lean on.

Ipaglalaban ka” does not mean that when a person is the cause of a brawl, all he has to do is to ask for the help of kagawad and his wrongdoings would be tolerated and that he would be defended no matter how wrong he is.

When a candidate pledges that “he would fight for you”, it means that he will defend what is morally right even if the deed deems to be unpopular.  Fighting for someone is fighting for the rights of the oppressed whether he is your associate or not.

When someone claims that “he is the patriarch of the barangay”, he should see to it that his words and actions are within the level of acceptable behavior.  He should take concrete steps in maintaining the health and well-being of each and every barangay member by integrating medical missions –just like a father who wants all his children healthy.

He should not take sides during barangay hearings but rather, punish the wrongdoer.  And the punishment should be like that it’s coming from a concerned father who does not want his son to become the bane of the barangay.  The world simply has too many assholes already.

While the candidates enjoy the perception that they are appreciated by the people with their advocacies and promises, they appear to be ignorant with regards to the long-term needs of their constituents.  What they usually offer are short-term and patch-work solutions to the same old problems that had been haunting and destroying the Filipino values for centuries.

This is where I pity Kuyang Rey and the majority of the Filipino people. While the deed of the politician in providing the poso, the construction materials, or even cinema passes (yes, free movies) appears a class act, it totally defeats the concept of self-reliance and the value of hard work.

Having a lack of money is not an excuse for working-class Filipinos to be dependent on other people –especially the politicians. By giving Kuyang Rey’s family the poso, the candidate did not really help him. It only made Kuyang Rey even worse.

Money for your vote.

After all, it is not the barangay chairman’s task to provide a family a deep-well pumping machine; it is the job of the padre de familia to invest all the essential things needed by his family. It’s not the church, DSWD, PCSO, or other charitable organization who is responsible for one’s need but the person himself.

Instead of the poso, a well-meaning politician would rather coordinate with the water company so that everyone in the barangay would benefit, not only a few families.

Instead of construction materials, why not help the person find a decent job so he can gradually build his own house from his sweat?

Instead of movie passes to get the teen votes, a resource speaker can be invited over to the barangay hall to give English-proficiency classes.

Poso is good for only one family, but an efficient water distribution system is good for the entire community.

A hundred-fifty hollow block is good only for Aling Bebang’s comfort room but a job opportunity would enable every father in the barangay to build a house of his dream.

A movie pass or two would be a temporary escape to the harsh realities of life but an English proficiency class could equip them with confidence in finding a job..

Ah, to hell with the shallow minds of these politicians. Politics is as dirty as a charcoaled rug.

As I write this, my drinking buddy texted to inform me that Andong would come over to our compound tomorrow to shower us with paper bills.  Lots of one that depicts the face of a brilliant senator who was assassinated at Manila’s main airport in the early ’80s — the five-hundred peso bill.

Maybe the money is enough to buy me a good pair of jeans, or a cellphone ‘load’ good for a month, or even wax and tire black for my dying jeep. After all, the entire barangay won’t even know if I sold my soul or not.

Nah, I’ll just sleep all day tomorrow and Kuyang Rey will never be able to wake me up even with a megaphone.

The Hostility of Colonialism

Who would not want a new car or a new SUV?  I mean, in a poverty-stricken country like the Philippines, it is very sardonic to see that while most people still complain about having inconsiderable money to make both ends meet, the majority still quench their insatiable thirst for imported cars, be it by means of installment or cash.

Go to the nearest highway and one would see a fleet of Fortuner, Montero, Impreza, Accent, and many more Japanese, American or European cars passing by the ramshackle jeepney — pure mockery at its very best.

For the coffee lovers and those who are pretending to be such, who can resist a posh place like Gloria Jean’s or Seattle’s Best to get a tall and expensive frap, frape, prafe??  Well, whatever the spelling is and a small and costly blueberry cheesecake.  After all, nobody wants to miss the complicated bar counter, behind where all the blenders and grinders are displayed as if to remind you they really do process your cappuccino. Have you noticed how foreign coffee shops had sprouted all over the archipelago and had slowly but surely taken the place of malls, parks, fast food chains, and even cockpit arenas?

Well, that is just coffee, let us switch to technology. When it comes to cellular phones or other gadgets, Filipinos would never ever be the last human race to use the latest Apple-manufactured piece of communication device, despite the fact that it really is expensive.

A phone is a necessity these days but it makes me wonder why an average Pinoy worker, despite the daily earning of the minimum wage which just suits his payment for house rental, electricity and water bill, and food, opts to purchase this product of the late Steve Jobs over the cheaper phone. A forty-five thousand phone over three thousand worth of locally made phone? Come on, it’s no longer a matter of freedom or choice —it’s already wanton frolic.

English: La Loma Cemetery in Manila (1900) use...
English: La Loma Cemetery in Manila (1900) used as a fort by the Filipinos, shelled by Dewey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apart from the purchase of imported cars, brewed coffee, sophisticated phones, there are other things that really violate our sense of nationalism.  A perfect example is those Filipinos who spend their life-savings just to set their feet in foreign countries for vacation. Filipino travelers would often blurt out, “There is a promo for a one-week stay at the Venetian in Macau, let’s grab it” or “I will never ever get to visit Singapore again so why don’t we grab the Cebu Pacific promo”.

Visiting foreign countries and cities more than touring local places like Dingalan, Pagudpud, Puerto Princesa or even the overly abused Boracay gives everyone an idea that there is no decent place to visit in the Philippines at all.  It’s no wonder why travel agencies promote scenic areas in other countries like The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Sao Paulo Beach, and others. They know how to flatter Filipinos because they can see through us.

There really is no accurate rationale as to why we are into anything external or foreign. The closest thing to support the notion of colonial mentality among Filipinos is that we have been conquered by a handful of colonizers. In Teodoro Agoncillo’s book History of the Filipino People (1960), the author stated that long before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1521, we had been in constant trade with the Chinese people. The trade, which was then called the “Porcelain Trade” probably started centuries before the advent of the Sung Dynasty. The Chinese exchanged silk, porcelain, colored glass, beads, and ironware for hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls, and yellow wax of the Filipinos. The exchange of goods started as early as 960 AD before the accidental arrival of the Spaniards in 1521. And so it happened.

Original caption (cropped out): Native boats a...
Original caption (cropped out): Native boats and outriggers Description: (cropped out): Boats of the upper type were used to land the U.S. troops at Manila. One of those in which the Astor Battery landed sank in the surf just before reaching shore. The natives carried the men ashore on their shoulders. The lower boat is a fisherman’s craft used by the Negritos, who shoot fish in the clear water with bows and arrows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The arrival of the European conquistadores brought a new phase and meaning to the lives and mindset of the Filipinos. We learned to integrate the Spanish language into our own even naming the Philippines in honor of the Spanish king. Provinces in the Philippines were renamed with Spanish names such as Nueva Ecija and Vizcaya, Laguna, Isabela, La Union, Antique, Marinduque, Negros Occidental, and Oriental and Valle de Compostela. More than this naming of places, the greatest influence the Spaniards have left us is faith in Roman Catholicism. Filipinos at home set up an altar in the Hispanic tradition, adorned with Catholic images, flowers, and candles as they have internalized observation of fiestas, devotion, rosary, baptism, and many more.

Along came the Americans. After the defeat of the Spaniards at the hands of the Americans led by General George Dewey in the war dubbed as the “Battle of Manila” in 1899, the Americans took the liberty of controlling and influencing the Filipinos. During the first years, there were some conflicts between the US and the Philippines but during World War I, they came together and the Filipinos fought alongside the Americans and their relationship became much friendlier. As we solidify our pact with the land of the free and the home of the brave, we became more attached to their customs and traditions. Nobody can deny that the greatest contributions of Americans are democracy and education. To cite all the things that we inherited from Uncle Joe is impossible for they are innumerable. American influence in Filipino clothing is apparent up to these days. We often see wearing belts, suspenders, tennis shoes, bonnets, high heels, and cosmetics. For food, Filipinos are accustomed to U.S.-based staples like hamburgers, sandwiches, oatmeal, ketchup, apple pie, mayonnaise, hotdogs, steak, ice cream, cornflakes, and many more.

Seventy-one years have passed since the Philippines have tasted true freedom and democracy, yet its beloved citizens are still, or should I say, intentionally glued to anything that is international in concept. Our colonial mentality should no longer be attributed to the colonizers because, for a long period of time, they are gone. After the Second World War ended in 1945, the US declared that we were an independent nation and that we would from that moment stand on our own, build our own nation, govern our people and make ourselves proud of what we could make of our country. Yes, we have been standing on our own. For quite some time, we have been electing our leaders, we have drafted our constitution dedicated to democracy, we have been blessed with job opportunities, we have seen the ingenuity of many of our fellow countrymen in the field of business, arts, academe, and even sports. These things, when accumulated, would entail national pride and patriotism. But the “accumulation” never happened in the Philippines.

English: Depiction of the flag of the Philippi...
English: Depiction of the flag of the Philippines, as conceived by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. Created with Inkscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nationalism and patriotism are things not difficult to conceive. It is just a matter of self-worth, confidence in the citizens’ competence, and pride. Just take a look at Japan, its people may be ridiculed for being awful English speakers but nobody can take away the fact that it is a land with citizens deeply attached to their flag, to their country, and to their identity. For despising imported goods, Japan was able to produce products of their own in the field of automotive, heavy industries, and gadgets. Everyone is definitely familiar with brands such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Sony, Sanyo, and the list goes on and on. The same principle of nationalism applies to countries like Germany, Italy, France, and even China.

While more and more countries are gradually realizing the essence and beauty of selfhood, the story is different here in the Philippines. Here, the culture of the bandwagon is a cliche: We have been deeply in love with anything that is Western in concept. We always want to exclude ourselves in the bondage of traditionalism and although it does not manifest verbally, we always deny our being Filipinos for we love imported goods.

Just how worst have we opposed our being Filipinos? Instead of settling for a more affordable and locally-made brand of leather shoes, a typical Filipino would hand his ever hidden credit card to the ethical staff at the counter in exchange for the expensive and imported Kickers, Hush Puppies, Timberland or Oleg Cassini. I’m sure the reason is not about issues regarding durability and longevity.

What about the means of transportation, particularly cars? Try going to EDSA and anyone would notice that many billboards post inviting marketing strategies like Vios, 20K Downpayment, No Hidden Charges. Car manufacturers know that the Philippines is and will forever be a third world country, yet they still thrive in selling cars to us. And the business is so good that everywhere you turn, there would always be car casas regularly visited by an average businessman, a call center agent, a teacher, and even a college student whose dad is a seafarer. The funny thing is that people purchase cars for the reason beyond practicality – that they work near their residence and they don’t need cars at all, that they know that the streets of Manila are just like a huge parking space during rush hours, that they know that sooner or later they would have their car pulled out by the bank because they could no longer afford to pay for it. Pathetic as it may seem, Filipinos buy imported cars, not for a reasonable cause but to delight their ego.

Gadgets are undeniably a necessity nowadays. For living in a fast-paced world, people need to have smartphones for easy access to emails, messages, and important and unimportant calls. We are not Amish people whose contentment is based on how they shrug what is contemporary. But while it is clear to us Filipinos the vitality of possessing gadgets particularly cellphones, it is still an enigma as to why we settle for expensive and imported brands. Is it the speed? I bet locally made phones are equally fast in processing. Is it the being user-friendly of the phone? I’m certain it is also easy to write text messages on My Phone, Torque, and Cherry Mobile. Is it the design? The size? The weight? The color? Or is it the brand?

To realize just how strong our attachment is to Apple, Samsung, Asus, and other foreign brands, just look at the students, people in the BPO industry, people in the corporate world, service crew in a fast-food chain, construction workers, and even the jobless and the bystanders. They all have this phone with an apple with a bite at the back. Parents would give their kikay daughters an imported phone on the latter’s birthday saying, “You deserve nothing less, anak”.  A service crew would avail of an iPhone 7 even if it means paying it for the whole twelve months with a staggering thirty percent interest. Truly amazing. What is funnier is that the same things that are provided by these imported phones can also be given by locally made ones…for a cheaper and reasonable price.

Then we have our fellow kababayans who love to travel, as discussed earlier. They go to France to see that tall, metal structure in Paris. They travel to Hongkong to have a seat at the roller coaster in Disneyland and to have a picture taken with Mickey and Donald. They travel to Cambodia to see the largest religious monument in the world, to see the lovely bones of the victims of Pol Pot, and to see where the film “The Killing Fields” was taken. They travel to London to ride The Eye, to have a selfie with Big Ben at the background, to walk at Trafalgar Square, to watch the concert of Ed Sheeran at Hyde Park, and to feel the bloody English weather. They travel to Kenya to pose with the African children, to ride a Land Rover and see the animals at the Serengeti plain and to hunt and shoot poor antelopes to get their antlers. The farther they travel, the happier they become. As the number of countries, they have visited increases, the more satisfied and proud they become.

Ancient Filipinos utilized terrace farming to ...
Ancient Filipinos utilized terrace farming to grow crops in the steep mountainous regions of the northern Philippines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The author does not see any problem with these explorations and escapades for travel equates to education. When one travels, he’d have a first-hand experience and account of what really is going on around the world. After all, it is their money they are spending. What is bothering is that while these Filipinos crave the elegance of international tourist spots, they fail to notice the grandeur of the Philippines. What about visiting Camarines Norte for surfing, Baguio for the cold weather and for upland fruits and vegetables, Puerto Princesa for an underground river tour, Ilocos Norte for sand surfing, Quezon province for a series of pilgrimage, and even Intramuros for a look back at how our beloved Rizal spent his last few hours. It is painful to see how Filipinos would flock to distant lands for a leisurely visit and neglect the scenic places of our realm. It is as atrocious as not wanting mom’s home-made adobo and preferring to eat at a swanky restaurant.

Why Filipinos are suckers of anything that is western in the concept remains a riddle. Youngsters who play basketball in the streets of Manila are often seen wearing Nike. Yes, Nike, the company that employs minors in China. Ask them why such brand is chosen and not MSE or Natasha and you will be bombarded with answers like “It’s light, it’s durable, it’s classy, it unleashes the athleticism in me, blah, blah, blah”. True enough, the aspect of toughness is unquestionable. The catch is that, why do some kiddos and teenagers wear the imitation of Jordans and Kobes? I’m sure it is not a matter of the reliability of the shoes because class A’s are made with substandard materials. The painful truth is that we are only after the brand – to be noticed, to be sighted as prosperous, to be on the bandwagon, to wear what the wealthy people wear, and the worst, to be accepted.

For automotive enthusiasts, it is almost taboo to purchase a Cavite-manufactured owner-type jeep. A typical dad could never force his teenage daughter to be taken to the school riding in a filthy owner jeep because for the poor girl, it is baduy. A typical white-collar guy would not want to go to Starbucks, parking his stainless owner jeep next to Foresters and Ecosports. For sure, it will be photographed by the Conyos and it will be ridiculed for being a “fly in a glass of milk”.

Nowadays, what is cool should be the possession of pick up trucks ridden by the tough guys in Texas (even though pick up trucks are built for farm or ranch and not for urban areas like Manila), possession of a muscle car that is a prototype of what Vin Diesel used in his famous movies about racing, possession of Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini even if these cars were designed only for wide freeways, something which we do not have. Can you imagine what it is like driving a Lambo in the chaotic and narrow streets of Manila? The Philippine-made owner-type jeep is really the perfect toy to roam our dilapidated streets. Again, when it comes to cars, the concept of colonial mentality overpowers our sanity.

Readers might question the author’s dislike for buying imported stuff. Critics would say, “It is our hard-earned money after all, and we have all the liberty this world has to offer when it comes to purchasing whatever we want to buy”. True enough, we are entitled to our decisions and nobody has a right to tell us to buy this and not that, to do this and not that.

But, the underlying dangers and drawbacks of colonial mentality are as bad as self-destruction. Naïve are people who love to sport their Jordans, Ford Everest, Fire Floss from Le Couer de France, and Sperry Top-Sider without directly realizing its effect on our economy and our morality as Filipinos. By buying Jordans, we strip our local shoemakers of their chance to show their creativity, their brilliance, and their chance to earn. By buying iPhones, and not Cherries and Torques, we are backhandedly telling our homegrown electronics engineers, technicians, and IT experts that their toil does not merit our applause and support.

We always degrade locally made gadgets and we often complain about them being difficult to use. But we should also have a realization that the very reason why local companies could not manufacture better versions is that they lack the support of the Filipinos. Should we buy their Cherries, the company would generate enough funds to upgrade their phones and tablets. Moreover, by buying Fortuners and Monteros, we are closing the doors to the possibility of producing our very own brand of automotive.

If you visit the Sarao Jeep Company factory in Las Pinas, you would see how grubby and sordid the place is. Workers are without sophisticated machinery, without definite buyers, and worst, without hope. But just as dirty and blackened the hands of these patriotic workers are, Filipinos’ hands are also dirty. We can never wash our hands off the dirt of our distrust in the capability and competence of our local car makers. How I wish that in my lifetime, I will be able to drive a vehicle made in the Philippines and manufactured by the Filipinos.

The damage of colonial mentality does not only sprawl on the economic aspect. More than currency, colonialism deeply cuts through our sense of national pride which will leave us bleeding until the death of our morality. By buying goods from the other countries, the notion that the Philippines cannot produce anything good will boomerang to us and it will haunt even our posterity.

Colonial mentality is a vulgar display of our dislike for anything Filipino, which reflects our self-hatred. But worse than patronizing anything international, we are already longing to be what we are not. We Filipinos, for a long period of time, have done idiotic things to escape our beautiful identity. We blonde our hair, we apply skin whitening lotion, we imitate the accent of the stupid newscaster from the BBC news and we indirectly deny our being Filipinos. This reality crushes me in pieces.

We may not possess the wealth of superior countries, we may not have those Ferrari, Aprilia, and Ducati factories that are regularly featured on National Geographic Channel. We may not have the tallest building on earth, the fastest train, the cable ride overlooking the snow-capped mountains like the ones in the Rockies of Denver, Colorado. We may not have the pointed nose, the so-called superior white skin, or the “bloody” British accent.

But Filipinos are superior in a different sense. We are a beautiful people whose resiliency had defied and thrown oppressors in the past. We are a beautiful people whose soil is blessed with fertility to grow delicious fruits and vegetables. We are beautiful people who, despite the hardships of life, flaunt contagious and genuine smile to encourage others. And since we are beautiful, it is not impossible for us to produce beautiful things in the field of science, arts, economics, technology, and the like.

There is no need for colonial mentality, for self-hatred, or for distrusting our potential.

We are beautiful.

(Ronald B. Polong is a frustrated writer who removes his dentures before he sleeps and places them in an empty Cheez-Whiz bottle, with water, of course. He currently lives in Nueva Ecija with his wife, twin boys, a brood of roosters and hens, ducks, and an old dog.)

How Casinos Make A Fool Out of You

I have to admit that it took a very long time before I realized that those seemingly entertaining casino sorties that we have had in the past years almost made me among the stupidest people in the world.

It took me a lot of time to finally realize that casinos are simply mass financial slaughterhouses designed to make fools out of people and to take away their hard-earned money by utilizing all schemes – devious or not – possible.

In these days and age of social media, some people even take their foolishness to new heights by posting their casino addictions primarily via “vlogs” (video blogs) on YouTube, Vimeo, and other websites.  Most of these poor, misguided souls not only get their highs from playing the slots machines but also by the number of visitors or ‘hits’ on their vlogs — and they think that they are popular when their vlogs get viral.

Casino owners and operators are simply laughing: not only these gambling addicts provide free advertising for the casinos but vlogs also promote gambling to a much wider audience. This is just another foolish denial of the gambling addict as well as a means to legitimize one’s vice.

It’s only a matter of time before casinos get all that they have.   All of the others who claimed fun, food, strategy, discipline, and additional self-deceptions have been sucked in, chewed up, and spat out.  

Roulette Roulette Table Chips Money
Roulette Roulette Table Chips Money

In addition to their massive mailing & advertising campaigns, casinos employ people called “VIP Host” to cater to gamblers with lots of money to lose.  These scumbags will seemingly give big-time gamblers their personal attention and care while milking away all their money.

The whole premise of a host is to extract as much money from players as possible. Casinos award hosts bonuses based on how much the gambler loses.  This is pure and simple evil.

Entertaining or not, there is always a sinister feeling that I get each time I enter a casino – – or, any gambling establishment for that matter.  Entering one, you get sucked into a place that distorts your concept of time and money.

Time and money: that’s what the casinos take away from common folks out to have a good time or hard-core gamblers.

More than money, it’s that valuable time that you lose for the rest of your lives while you’re inside casinos that make you so much more foolish than you think otherwise.  The time that I had wasted is no different than what a prisoner loses while locked up in jail.

All for what?   Wasting countless hours staring and pressing that ‘BET’ button in slot machines (yes, casinos try their very best to make them more animated via bigger screens and louder speakers) simply to watch a virtual reel spin on a colored screen?

These man-made contraptions have what the casino industry euphemistically termed as ‘random number generator’. 

The truth is these machines are designed and programmed to bring guaranteed financial ruin to any casino habitué who had that fantastical notion that they can make these gambling establishments their personal ATMs.

The key word is here is: “programmed”.  So, how can you beat a machine – in the long run – that was designed and made to pay out lower than the amount of money you put in?

Now that I had just mentioned ATMs, some casinos now offer “NO ATM FEES” inside their places.  Mind you, this is not a service to help people out but just another one of their many devious schemes to facilitate the transfer of people’s hard-earned savings and checking accounts to the casinos’ already-fat accounts.

On table games, watching the green baize while your bankroll dissipates because of the huge casino advantage is no fun at all.  And all along,  their second-hand-smoke-smelling employees quietly (or, sometimes, brazenly) celebrate that they had legitimately defrauded people of their nest eggs yet expect tips from these very same people that they had just robbed.

It’s OK to lose your time and money for a worthwhile cause but lose both inside a casino?  Casinos had provided all the tools to make a person stupid.  Just think about it.

There are better and much more exciting things to do in one’s lifetime than spend the bulk of your time inside a casino.

It took me a lot of time before I finally realized that I was punishing rather than entertaining myself when I go to a casino.

Casinos also fool you about the “real-world” concept of money.  You give them real money but they give chips or a piece of paper in return.  These simple diversions are mere ploys to make it easier for them to take all of your real money.

Casinos also fool you by giving that illusion that whatever you lose, you can have it all back by a single ‘lucky break’ — a break that will never come.  How can a good thing come out of a place that is borne out of a devious scheme?

For people who still have difficulties to see through the lies and deceptions of casinos, it’s really just a matter of admitting the fact that you have an addiction.  And, the realization that casinos do their very best to get you deeper into that addiction.

No matter how hard casinos try to trick people -through their massive advertising campaign- into believing that their places are just fun places where you can have a good time.  This may be okay if you possess that super will power (in reality, this feat is almost impossible as we’re all just human) and simply go to a casino to eat, drink and be merry and not have anything to do with their slot machines and table games…then go straight home.

But, that’s the initial bait casinos have laid out for people in their path to financial ruin.   While inside a casino, the lure of these money-draining slot machines and the hard-sell of their dealers to play those table games whose odds of winning are stacked heavily against players, are just simply too hard to resist.

Some may have wised up and gotten scared after realizing they were in a life-stealing vortex. Others simply just fell into the same trap and just lost all their money.  But, newbie gamblers with fresh faces filled with excitement, hope, and gambling naïveté fill the spaces left by those fun-seekers who were deceived by themselves at the hands of the super-slick gaming establishment.

So, why fall into these traps laid out by casinos, when you can have a better time with your family and friends in honest-to-goodness places that serve better food and entertainment?

Casinos, therefore, are just a trap, borne out of a devious scheme — for your financial ruin and for you to become a prisoner by way of the precious time you lose when you’re inside one.

Most people, if they are honest, will recognize their lack of power to solve certain problems. When it comes to gambling, I had noted – including myself – that many problem gamblers who could abstain for long stretches but caught off guard and under the right set of circumstances, they started gambling without thought of the consequences.

The defenses they relied upon, through will power alone, gave way before some trivial reason for placing a bet.  Will power and self-knowledge will not help in those mental blank spots, but adherence to spiritual principles seem to solve our problems.

I had this belief that to believe in a power greater than ourselves and to acknowledge that gambling is evil are necessary in order for one to sustain a desire to refrain from gambling.

So, don’t let casinos make a fool out of you.  Avoid them by all means, at all costs, and recognize them as places of evil.

Just remember these when you see that big “CASINO” sign, whenever and wherever you are:  You lose your CAsh, you commit a SIn… so, just say NO.

You’re not a fool, are you?

Living Life Through King Solomon’s Eyes

God of Heavenly Punishment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“There was once a very, very rich man who found that riches did not satisfy.  His name was Solomon.  He wrote a book about it called Ecclesiastes.  This rich king had tasted just about everything life could offer.  Wealth?  No one could exceed him in luxury.  Wisdom?  The whole world knew how wise he was.  Fame?  He was king, the most famous man of his time.  Systematically he sampled all of life’s pleasures and powers, yet all ultimately disappointed him.  All prove meaningless.

“What is the point of life?” he asked.  You worked hard, and someone else gets all the credit.  You struggle to be good, and evil people take advantage of you.  You accumulate money, and it just goes to spoiled children.  You seek pleasure, and it turns sour on you.  And everyone–rich or poor, good or evil, meets the same end.  We all die.  There is only one word to describe this life: meaningless.”

But, is it?  Is life really meaningless?  Is that all there is in life –the summary of the number of years we had live in this planet?  Does man’s existence on Earth simply goes and on until this planet or the entire universe gets obliterated by a decaying sun?

Surely, when humans try to ponder the unknown, tons of questions need to be answered. Is there such thing as an afterlife?  Is there a God?

In our vain attempts to give even the most preposterous explanations to the great unknown, they had also given rise to a multitude of religions, sects, cults, tribes, fan clubs or what have you.

On the other hand, mankind has been trying to use every scientific means to disprove any religious theories about the creation of just about everything the mind can think about.  That the universe – which our planet is but a tiny speck within – is but the result of a mega blast and that humans simply came about through a series of evolutions.

And that everything that the human mind could comprehend simply happens randomly.  Really?  Everything is just random?

Each individuals’ appearance on this planet may have occurred randomly at birth but have you ever wondered why life spans differ?  There are souls that don’t even see the light of day, others die young while some of our elders even express their desires to die so much earlier in their struggle to cope with the hardships and difficulties that accompany old age.

In the worldly context of King Solomon‘s search for life’s meaning, he also voiced the unfairness of life:

“People don’t get what they deserve.  Good men suffer while wicked men prospers.  Everything seems determined only by time and chance.”

And just how many times we had asked ourselves that we deserved more in this life?  Why does success, in whatever means we try to measure it, seem very elusive?  Why do we see other people seem to have all the comforts of life while others still wallow in poverty?

On the other hand, why do some people so suddenly give up a life of unbridled extravagance to be of service to the poorest of the poor — and find their true happiness in the process?

Our futile attempts to quantify life and find meaning in it is hampered, of course, by our very own making: the concept of time.

Time is the great equalizer and it measures, regulates and rule each and everyone’s lives.  There are no exceptions and short cuts.  We will all die.

Science and technology may have found some solutions in making our daily chores so much easier and, on a few cases, extend our lives a few years longer. But, there will never be an eternity for us in this planet as long as there is the concept of time.

We could all be likened to a mouse trying to catch its tail.

So, what then is the meaning of life?

It is the acknowledgment of a God who willed each and everyone of us to exist in this planet.

Oh, yeah? For what?

Faith and what happens to a person’s soul is something the human brain will never ever understand.

But, what is the ‘soul‘?  Simply, if you have a conscience, you have a soul.

Truly, life is, indeed, full of meaning…only if we live it through the eyes of King Solomon.




November 11
English: President Woodrow Wilson addresses the United States Congress early in his first term. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, 11/11/2011 had been deemed by the Chinese as the luckiest day to get married.  For them, it’s the best day to leave the single life behind.

In the U.S., 11/11 is Veteran’s Day – a national holiday.  It was President Woodrow   Wilson who proclaimed this holiday on November 12, 1919 to celebrate the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

It’s merely coincidental that holiday is on its 92nd year of celebration in 2011.  The sum of 9 and 2 also yields 11.

For this author, 11/11/11 is the luckiest day in his lifetime.  He gets all the 11s and a 6.

This author salutes all the war veterans – as well as all the newly weds – on this special, once-in-a-lifetime date!!!

October 5, 2011 – Steve Jobs Goes Beyond

My early adulthood years hero is dead.

English: Apple IIe computer (enhanced version)
English: Apple IIe computer (enhanced version) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I had my first Apple II back in 1980, I had looked-up to Steve as my idol.  He was brash, handsome and had that unmistakable air of invincibility in him.

I was working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1982 when I first saw the fantastic Apple IIe – as well as the Apple III.

I don’t believe in miracles and magic but I had an epiphany when I laid my eyes on the Apple IIe inside that store in Saudi Arabia.  It seemed to have a halo above it — the company has something special going for it.

What followed for Apple from 1982 through nearly the end of 2011 could probably never be repeated again in world business history.

The world’s best salesman and magician had died.

Thanks, Steve, for all those goodies

There Are Saints…But There is No God???

Every weekday, after arriving from work, I always see my father, in his advanced age of 90, sitting on the La-Z Boy.

That may not seem unusual but for the past 3 years, he had been talking more and more – and, in a very loud voice to almost everyone to who sets foot in the house. Again, talking to someone may not seem unusual but, again, his repetitive harks to attract somebody’s attention – – he will call out one’s name almost ten, if not, twenty times, just to engage that person in his typical convoluted kind of conversation.

The medical student in me, tells me that something wrong is now going on in my father’s brain. Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, “over-emotional-outburst-of-a-person-in-advanced-age-syndrome”…whatever the medical community may call it, but, the fact that for some people who have the luck to live their lives for that long, will eventually, fade out in time.

Our bodies are not as durable as steel or plastic.

I am sad all about these because I had believed in an omnipotent God for the most part of my life.

…to be continued.

So Many Things to Do…So Little Time!

The heart of San Francisco
The State of California building as seen from the park across SFO City Hall

Since I moved working environs from Fairfield to SFO late August this year, I hardly had the time to update this site. SFO is such a bustling city that getting used to in this new lifestyle will take me some time.

Fairfield was really so boring, after all!

What’s coming up? I have in line more new computers & gadgets, new software (including Apple’s latest OS X Leopard), more world music, news & more importantly, will upgrade the web server to a massive two (2) terrabytes of storage space!

Happy Thanksgiving and happy holidays to all!

The Tropical Life

Nothing beats a view from a tropical beach with a cold drink in your hand during summer. I mentioned ‘tropical’ to refer to any part of the world where the weather seems to be mostly humid and partly rainy, most of the year.

There’s always a certain charm to these places that defy explanation — no matter how hard luck the countries these places are mostly situated in. What can be simpler than a view of the ocean, some tropical flora and the occasional breeze, where you ponder upon your state of existence?

Ah, there are more pressing matters than these reflections. There are bills to pay, phone calls to make and e-mails to answer. But, then again, where are all of these ‘important things’ going to lead me to when my life is over?

Had we all fallen to the trap of the centrifugal effect in the circle of life? Sucking us in to conform to the norms of man-made society?

Our existence, maybe, is like the ocean that ebbs and flow but, sooner or later, momentarily assumes the form of where the shift of the Earth leads it to.  Maybe.

note:  Ported  from my original, June 15, 2004 entry at Google’s Blogger