Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Call Me Rudolpha

The culprit which caused all my misery!
Good thing it was a big hit among my party guests!


A part of me has become rather interesting to a lot of people nowadays. Heads would turn everywhere I’d go and I’ve had children staring with unabashed fascination … I should be enjoying all these attention. Instead, I keep longing for that get up, you know … the all-time fashion craze among Taliban women?

You see I’m smart enough to figure out how to skin one whole chicken without causing any tear and come out with a mouth-watering Chicken Galantina, but apparently not smart enough to keep my nose a respectable distance away from the steamer when I opened the lid. Ouch!

Yeah! It hurt! As my friend Chedette said, “poor Tita Olga!”. Yes, poor Tita Olga indeed.

And as a consequence of that stupidity, I sported an angry red, swollen little nose for a day or two that had everyone believing I was Rudolph’s long lost cousin.

Right now, it has turned kind of purple with a hint of brown and red … call me Barney this time…

I should be worried sick at how this would affect my beauty … (ok, ok, you can lower that raised eyebrow now) … considering that I am a keloid-former. Good if the scar would grow upwards, giving my vertically challenged nose a much-needed boost or an interesting tilt at the very least.

But heaven forbid it would grow sideward … and sit astride the tip of my nose … wouldn’t that make me look like a hammerhead shark? Shivers…

But I’m actually more concerned of people thinking that I had a misadventure with shabu. You know, Olga too sabog to realize she had the flame under her nose instead of elsewhere, or as friend Cris Bonga joked, maybe some would think that I was an enthusiastic, first-time user who got the hot tinfoil sticking like glue to my nose. That would have been hilarious had I not been so miserable.

My husband Nonoy tried to help by suggesting that maybe people would think I was a sunburned balikbayan. Yeah, that was really comforting. Maybe I was touring the Sahara Desert and forgot to apply sunscreen on my nose!

Chedette also tried to be helpful by suggesting that I tell folks I dove right into a birthday cake and started licking off the icing while the candles were still lighted. Now, that’s me through and through!

I asked another friend Mayet to guess what new look my nose was sporting. She could not decide between a nose job and a broken nose that resulted from being punched by somebody whom I picked a fight with.

Oh … that’s a winner! You should have seen me doubling up with laughter at that one. Too bad I can’t tell here who it was that Mayet suggested I picked a fight with! She does know me inside out!

Why all these fuss about my nose? Well, this is supposed to be a housewife’s corner. So let me share one recently gained housewifely insight … keep your nose away from steaming pots! (As if somebody actually needed to be told that! It seems only I didn’t get that the first time.)

Oh yes! I’m also hoping somebody would take pity on my poor nose and email me some info about how to keep keloid from forming on my already-bulbous nose. That would be a great help!

By the way, I’d like to thank Ernie Bhagwani for his glowing comments about MetroPost and its writers. As my editor Irma Faith Pal said, feedbacks like that from our readers lighten things up during times when the burdens of running a paper like MetroPost gets kind of heavy.

Mr. Bhagwani was right. This paper does stand out. It’s in a class of its own and we have our hardworking duo Alex and Irma to thank for that. And oh! Let’s not forget their impeccable knack at choosing columnists for this paper! (ehem!)

It is very gratifying to know that all the hard work being put into MetroPost, including that by its columnists, is being appreciated. We all do this for the love of writing.

And yes, we do have some world-class writers among us, and it’s a privilege to be named next to them. Although I must say that I am not deserving of that title. What you read in this column is simply my chatter set on print. If I could include me laughing out loud in it, I would.

Thank you Mr. Bhagwani. I’m sure your comments made everyone’s day!

My Beloved Dumaguete


Don't you just envy me that I call Dumaguete my home?



Find out more:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Proud of our Alma Mater

TOP 20 SCHOOLS IN THE PHILIPPINES

This statistics is a result of the study conducted by the Professional Regulation Commission(PRC) and the Commission on Higher Education(CHED), based on the average passing in the BOARD EXAMINATIONS OF ALL COURSES of all universities and colleges in the Philippines.

This study is concluded every 10 years. The following is the result of the first study from1992 to 2001. Eleven schools come from Luzon, two from the Visayas and seven from Mindanao.

1. University of the Philippines (Diliman Campus/Luzon)
2. University of the Philippines (Los Banos Campus/Luzon)
3. University of the Philippines (Manila Campus/Luzon)
4. SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY (Dumaguete City/Visayas)
5. Ateneo de Davao University (Davao/Mindanao)
6. Ateneo de Manila University (Manila/Luzon)
7. University of Sto. Tomas (Manila/Luzon)
8. Mindanao State University (Iligan Institute ofTech/Mindanao)
9. Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (Manila/Luzon)
10. Saint Louis University (Baguio City/Luzon)
11. University of San Carlos (Cebu City/Visayas)
12. Xavier University (Cagayan de Oro/Mindanao)
13. Mindanao State University (Main/Mindanao)
14. Urios College (Butuan City/Mindanao)
15. Polytechnic University of the Philippines( Manila/Luzon)
16. De La Salle University (Manila/Luzon)
17. Mapua Institute of Technology (Manila/Luzon)
18. Adamson University (Manila/Luzon)
19. Central Mindanao University (Bukidnon/Mindanao)
20. University of Southern Philippines (Davao/Mindanao)


TOP Nursing Schools in the Philippines

Based on Board Exam passing rates for 2000-2004 only 12 of the 175 Nursing schools had passing rates of 90% or higher. RANK SCHOOL OVERALL % Passing Rate

1. UP-Manila 100%
2. St. Paul College-Iloilo 99.57%
3. SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY - DUMAGUETE CITY 98.39%
4. West Visayas State University 97.06%
5. University of Santo Tomas Manila 96.67%
6. Saint Louis University - Baguio City 95.05
7. Mindanao State University Marawi City 95.0%
8. St. Paul College-Dumaguete City 93.38
9. Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila 92.53%
10. Saint Mary's University - Bayombong 91.02%
11. St. Paul College-Manila 90.81%
12. University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Center 90.57%

This is old news but again just to relish the fact Silliman University has always been the best in campus life. Pards, we are all very lucky to be part of it. Cheers!!!

Note: I got this from the email of one of my high school classmates.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

On Dom Cimafranca's "LOLITA"

Thank you Dom for writing “Lolita”.

I am glad that Dom trained the spotlight on what has become of the Filipino family’s favorite noontime fares.

There was a time when I loved watching noontime shows, from Student Canteen and Eat Bulaga, to Magandang Tanghali Bayan, especially during the peak of the “Pera o Bayong” days.

Back then, these shows were relatively tame, although I distinctly remember the time when Gracia (of Eat Bulaga) became a household name. (I remember because I used to turn purple with jealousy whenever my then-boyfriend, now husband Nonoy, watched Gracia climb out of a pool during one of Eat Bulaga’s games, with her protruding nipples clearly showing under her soaking-wet shirt or jiggle her ample bosom to the beat of some 90’s dance hit. Now that’s what you’d call a confession! ha-ha-ha! I’m over that now. I hope.)

If I am not mistaken, this was roughly the time when dancers, with their sexually provocative moves, started enjoying a bigger share of the limelight.

But I believe that it’s the Sexbomb Girls that really hit the jackpot as far as putting sexy dance groups in the forefront of the noontime shows, along with the rise in popularity of such songs as Sexbomb, Spaghetti Pababa, Otso-Otso and the like.

With a rapidly growing, impressionable young daughter, I banned the watching of noontime shows in our home. I’m not turning my nose up on these shows, mind you. But I happen to believe that there are dances that are suited for general patronage and that there are dances that properly belong to the beer houses.

And the ones mostly shown in Wowowee or Eat Bulaga nowadays properly belong to that latter category. I am doing my best not to sound judgmental here, but I just couldn’t see how madly gyrating girls and cameras angled up so viewers could peep under these girls’ skimpy skirts and catch teasing glimpses of their panties, could pass for family entertainment!

I am very happy that the principal of the school my daughter is attending shares my views. She too doesn’t approve of the students dancing to the beat of the novelty songs that are very popular nowadays, nor of the dance moves that obviously were copied from TV.

That’s why nobody will be seeing students from my daughter’s school performing anywhere in that manner. Thank God for that!

Do I sound too straight-laced and narrow-minded and so boringly conservative, and as some would put it, too tight-assed? That’s what I think of myself too, at least, as far as this subject is concerned. But for goodness’ sake, mothers! Think again! Our little girls may look absolutely cute and infinitely adorable doing those moves they see on TV … but do they really have business dancing and moving like miniature a-go-go dancers or strippers?

Children should always be children and should be given every opportunity to enjoy their childhood for as long as possible. They have no business dancing like miniature adults, and lasciviously suggestive ones at that!

If they have to dance, let them dance like Hi-5 … or what the heck! Let them dance like Po of the Teletubbies! What’s wrong with that?

How I wish that school authorities would start taking notice. I hope that readers will agree with me that there are dance numbers that are highly inappropriate for young children and should be done away with in school programs.

I wish that parents who share my views would talk to the teachers and principals about their views on this matter. Hopefully, one by one, we can effect some little change and help bring us back to simpler, more innocent times, when children were really children.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reunion, Reunion, Reunion!!!

Silliman University College of Law Batch '97
10th Alumni Homecoming

Time flew by so fast most of us did not even notice it. If not for Ma'am Futs' initiative, this reunion would not have happened. We would not even have remembered it's been 10 years already!

So much has changed in all of us. And yet, somehow, we haven't changed at all. We're a bit older now, and some have become more rounded than since we last met, but the ring of our laughter remained the same.

There's one definite change though: photographs of cherubic toddlers and grade schoolers went around the table as we proudly showed each other what we've been up to these last 10 years.

Many among us have now become lawyers. They make our group proud. We hope to see more of these success stories in the years to come.

Standing: Mabinay ViceMayor Djanggo Uy and son, Atty. Cris "As In" Bonganciso, Marilyn "LB" Elemia, Atty. Gloria "Ma'am Futs" Futalan, Bing Villaflores-Sumanoy, Atty. Chubs CaiƱa, Seated: Jo Senador, Atty. Lemuel Nacita, Fermin Cimafranca

Lemuel, Atty. Jun Umbac, Teddy Reyes, Djanggo


Batch 97 ladies in their most provocative poses: LB, As In, Bing, and the awesome Ma'am Futs



Bing and As In letting loose ...

Preparing for the annual parade: LB, As In, Abby and Ma'am Futs


SU Law Faculty: old professors Atty. Myles Bejar, Atty. Levi Estolloso and Atty. Denura


Atty. Jun Umbac and Jo Senador during the parade

Friday, August 24, 2007

What being a Sillimanian means to me



Yeah, I know! That title sounds like that dreaded essay from high school. I’m pretty certain every Sillimanian from Grade Four to college had encountered this question at least a dozen times!

How about you? What does being a Sillimanian mean to you? I haven’t really thought of that myself until I got hit by SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY's Founder’s Day fever and found myself in the midst of frantic preparations for the 10th Year Homecoming of SU College of Law, Batch ’97.

Getting together with old classmates to plan our reunion brought back memories of carefree fun, which to my mind actually outnumbered those days when we got serious enough to dig into our books.

As I went though old photographs with old classmates Bing Sumanoy and Marilyn “LB” Elemia, together with our success stories Atty. Gloria “Ma’am Futs” Futalan and Atty. Cris “As In” Bonganciso, it suddenly struck me how I have made that transition from being THE STUDENT bent only on exploring the booth area or shouting my throat hoarse during cheering contests or excitedly rushing to our favorite hang-out, the now defunct “Forum” … to now being one of those kind of senior-looking and mostly round figured RETURNING ALUMNI who have come back home to revisit the Alma Mater.

Get my drift? Student: young. Alumni planning reunion parties: kind of not so young. That’s all I care to say on this unsavory but undeniable subject!

So what does being a Sillimanian mean to me? Let me attempt to translate into words here the significance of the word “Sillimanian” from my own perspective.

I used to step back from the throng and observe from the outside. I have always been amazed at Silliman’s magnetic pull over its alumni and how the bonds that were formed during school days continue to hold strong, particularly among Sillimanians abroad. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this holds true for everyone. Even complete strangers who bear the stamp of Silliman automatically become members of the bigger family.

I have seen first hand how kind, generous and unselfish arms have reached out across the miles to extend assistance to old classmates to see them through rough times.

As for me, I feel pride for Silliman and everything that it stands for. My Alma Mater may not be perfect (as nothing is and will ever be), and has seen its share of bad days in its 106 years, but the fact that it is there as a beacon of truth and everything that is good and right in this life, is reason enough for me to be proud.

We may choose to follow its ideals or not, and it is without doubt that many of us have fallen off the track along the way, but there is always our Alma Mater to look up to and to lead the way.



I also feel the warmth that comes only from knowing that one belongs to something that is bigger and greater than all of us put together, and I belong to Silliman, and that is something that nothing and no one can ever take away from me.

Silliman is a gateway that enables us to travel back in time … that time in our lives when we were younger and more carefree, when there was endless laughter and fun, when the whole wide world was still out there, waiting to be conquered … a time in our lives when we were still untouched by the life felt only by our parents then … no hardships and disillusionments yet, only promise of greater things to come.

So that’s what being a Sillimanian is to me … pride of this great institution itself, and along with it, pride at having my own niche, no matter how small, insignificant and unremarkable, it is mine.



Now I know why our alumni always come back home and why I am coming home as well. We want to see old friends and hopefully feel that old magic that only youth could bring spark back to life once again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Top 10 Reasons Why There Couldn't be a Filipino-American US President

WE Filipinos love to laugh at ourselves, especially when it's true and speaks of the worse in us!!! No, I did not write this one. Got this in my email just now.

All these below show the "typical" Filipino ... some kind of show us in the bad light ... but I still find them endearing.


(Said to have come from ) David Letterman

10. The White House is not big enough for in-laws and extended relatives.

9. There are not enough parking spaces at the White House for 2 Honda Civics, 2 Toyota Land Cruisers, 3 Toyota Corollas, a Mercedes Benz, a BMW , and an MPV (My Pinoy Van).

8. Dignitaries generally are intimidated by eating with their fingers at State dinners.

7. There are too many dining rooms in the White House - where will they put the picture of the Last Supper?

6. The White House walls are not big enough to hold a pair of giant wooden spoon and fork

5. Secret Service staff won't respond to "psst... psst" or 'hoy....hoy. ..hoy...'

4. Secret Service staff will not be comfortable driving the presidential car with a Holy Rosary hanging on the rear view mirror, or the statue of the Santo Nino on the dashboard.

3. No budget allocation to purchase a Karaoke music-machine for every room in the White House.

2. State dinners do not allow "Take Home".

AND THE NUMBER 1 REASON WHY THERE COULDN'T BE A FILIPINO-AMERICAN U.S. PRESIDENT IS...

1. Air Force One does not allow overweight Balikbayan boxes!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tarung nga Buang

Could there ever be one? Tarung nga buang? The only English translation I could think of that would approximate what this term is trying to get across, is “sane lunatic”, and that’s insane. For can somebody who’s insane be sane at the same time?

Not possible? Think again!

Take this woman named Elsie, for instance. Some twelve years back, Atty. Frank Yap took her under his wings. During her lucid moments, he allowed her to work in Gemini in exchange of free meals and a meager income. According to him, she was in and out of “Talay”, referring to a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill located in Talay, Valencia.

Elsie did have her lucid moments. She used to buy food or bread then walk all the way to Talay to bring these presents to her friends.

But she often disappeared for days on end. When she would finally return, she’d be grimy and reeking with the sweat and dirt that had accumulated on her unwashed body for days, weeks even. She’d be totally incomprehensible and often appeared dazed and every bit the “buang” as how we’d all imagine a buang would look, sound, and smell like.

Elsie had three pregnancies that I know of. I don’t know what happened to her first child, but I heard that her second was given up for adoption. I witnessed her third. It just happened. One day, we began noticing that her belly was bigger and rounder. We could only surmise that she conceived during one of her dark periods, when she was lost in that hazy world known only to her.

Elsie did not forget me over the years that followed. Whenever she’d see me, she would immediately rush over with her big broken smile and that look of pure gladness in her eyes, calling me “Uu-gah” again and again. She must have been living in the streets by then. Shame on me … except for the food and cash that I used to hand over to her, I did very little to help her.

The last time I saw her, she was slumped on the sidewalk, thin as a reed. I went over, expecting that I’d be met by that same big smile. But Elsie wasn’t there anymore. There was only blank look in eyes that used to light up whenever they’d see me.

I don’t see Elsie around Dumaguete anymore. I heard that she passed away.

Memories of Elsie kind of fades away but they come back whenever I’d hear stories of aborted babies like the 7-month old fetus found buried in Silliman Beach recently.

Elsie, and everything that she stood for, came sharply into focus when a friend narrated to me the fate of another aborted fetus found in Bantayan. As if killing it was not enough, whoever had this baby doused it with gasoline to burn it, then ran a vehicle over its burnt little body, crushing its tiny skull. I can’t think of anything more to say on this subject. I can only cry.

And then, I’d think of Elsie. Her story is not over yet.

Social Welfare Office personnel took custody of her third child after she gave birth. My friend LB was present when her baby boy was taken away from her.

Years later, Elsie continued to seek out LB to ask for her baby. She used to say that she would save the money that LB and her officemates gave to her so she could go to America to see her child.

Yes, Elsie, an eyesore whom city officials would rather be anywhere but in Dumaguete, remained a mother in her heart. In that hazy world that she lived in, she remembered and she cared.

And now, I’d think of those who deliberately kill their own innocent defenseless children to hide their shame, or those who commit acts so despicable, I cannot find the words to express my disgust.

I can’t help but ask … who is tarung and who is buang?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Innocents in Paradise

I said again and again that I wanted Abby's childhood to last for
as long as it could. Here are some really great reasons:




It's that joyous abandon that can be found only in childhood ...



It's that innocence that says to h-ll with society's conventions ... there's time enough for that ... and it's the rest of our lives ...




For now, we'll just be children as only children could ever be!


It started as a family lunch out one lazy Sunday (after attending Mass) at El Dorado Beach Resort in Dauin, Negros Oriental to celebrate Tito Carl's birthday, dad of cousins Gabby, Raffy and Cody.

Just lunch. No swimming.


So off we went with Abby only in her shirt and skirt.

They asked for permission to frolick in the sand ... no problem! "Go ahead" ... said parents too busy chatting with each other to pay close attention to what the children were up to next.

Before we knew it, one child was ankle deep in water ... "Mom! Can we wet our legs?" .....



Well, to cut this story short, mothers Tita Nini and myself finally decided to take their shirts off (Gabby, Raffy and Cody had only one spare each while Abby had absolutely none).... as one child after another went in deeper and deeper into the water....

We knew our brood well enough to realize that saying NO to swimming was futile. Children being children, you know .....

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On Bloods and Crips (in Dumaguete)


I channel surfed one late Saturday night and came upon Fil Product’s airing of one of the City Council’s sessions. Out of curiosity and for lack of more interesting shows in the other channels, I decided to stay on and quickly got hooked when the Bloods and the Crips were discussed.

I first came by the names Bloods and Crips when my friend SPO1 Jobie Lacandula mentioned that these local gangs are fast gaining ground among Dumaguete’s youth. Little did I realize how grave their threat was, until I listened to one enraged father speaking out against the Bloods and Crips before the City Council. His 15-year old son’s skull was fractured after gang members attacked him at Mart One in broad daylight.

To better understand these gangs, I looked into their origins and learned that the Crips are a primarily, but not exclusively, African-American gang founded in Los Angeles, California in 1969. It thrived in the culture of ghetto violence and through the years, it has grown into one of the largest and most powerful gangs in the United States with membership that exceeds well over 30,000.

The Crips are known to be involved in murders, robberies, and drug dealing, among many other criminal pursuits. The gang is notorious for its members’ flamboyant use of the color blue in their clothing. They are known to have an intense and bitter rivalry with the Bloods.

The Bloods, on the other hand, started as an alliance formed by several smaller gangs being targeted by the Crips. These embattled groups got together to form a united, thus stronger, organization to combat Crip intimidation and encroachment in their turfs. In contrast to the Crips’ use of the color blue, the then newly formed Bloods took on the wearing of an opposite color, red.

The local Bloods and Crips are copycats with no affiliation or recognition from the US originals. According to Police Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, they are merely emulating the activities of their so-called idols, from identifying their gang affiliations through their use of either red or blue bandannas, to engaging in open warfare against each other, often attacking members of rival gangs who’d cross their path.

According to P/Supt. Carlos, Bloods gang members come from families in the upper echelon of society. They recruit male and female students from private high schools like Silliman University HS, Foundation University HS and St. Paul University HS. Members are easily identifiable through their use of black shirts with red bandannas often worn as headscarf, or slung across the shoulders, or tucked in the back pocket of oversized hip-hop pants.

The Crips recruit from public high schools like NOHS and Dumaguete City High School. They also wear black shirts and hip-hop pants and favor the use of blue bandannas.

P/Supt. Carlos mentioned sons of political leaders as members of the Bloods gang. I have also heard from other sources of children (not gang members) of prominent public personalities, businessmen and professionals having been recruited, or ganged upon and subjected to threats and intimidation by members of either Bloods or Crips.

As parents, this growing notoriety of the gangs and their penchant for violence against rival gang members and non-members alike should become our primary concern. This should be more so if we have teenaged boys and girls who might become drawn into the promised brotherhood and offer of protection and support from other members, not to mention the element of being “cool” or “in” – at a time in our children’s lives when, more often that not, outward appearances and affiliations are of paramount importance.

P/Supt. Carlos informed the Council that these groups are primarily hip-hop groups who merely wanted to come together to dance and play rap music together (that is, if they are not fighting rival gangs).

I say that we should not allow this statement to lull us into any sense of false security. History shows us that the Crips in the US was started by 15-year old Raymond Washington with the initial intent of continuing the revolutionary ideology of the 1960s and to act as community leaders and protectors of their local neighborhoods. But the revolutionary rhetoric did not endure. Because of immaturity and lack of political leadership, the budding Crips gang was never able to develop an efficient political agenda for social change within the community.

Instead, it took very little time before their group started engaging in criminal activities, from mugging elderly Japanese women to hardcore drug dealing, murder, robbery and the like.

It goes without saying that we do not want Bloods and Crips activities here in our city to escalate to that point, or for the groups to become more violent in their skirmishes as it had in Cebu and Baguio, for instance.

I learned from my research in this subject that in Cebu, a law graduate who planned to enter the seminary after taking the bar, was caught in the crossfire between these rival gangs, and was shot dead in Mango Avenue Square. What was so poignant in this story was the mention of his rosary that was found among his law books, as they lay scattered next to his body.

Such waste of a life that held so much promise. And for what? For a battle rooted on blind and senseless hatred? Where the combatants themselves are clueless as to what that hatred was for?

I also read of news reports of bloody gang clashes in Baguio, resulting in the death of several young men in their late teens. The same scenario played over and over again: 20 to 30 to 40 attackers armed with knives, lead pipes, bats, beer bottles and bare fists.

The victims of these vicious attacks often had multiple skull fractures. One had 30 stab wounds in his body. They were gang members felled by rival gangs.

Do we want this same lawlessness happening in our City? We have already been held hostage by hardened, gun-wielding holdupers and snatchers plaguing our every move. Are we going to be held hostage once again, this time by mere children who barely got their mamas’ milk out of their lips?

We can’t just say that they just fight each other anyway! Because they don’t! Even innocent non-gang members have fallen victims to their aggression. A single look or a meeting of eyes considered to be offensive by one party could bring down a whole pack of gang brothers hungry to prove their superiority on one hapless teener.

Innocent bystanders have fallen victims already, caught in the crossfire as these gangs battled each other. We, too, can become victims. And yes, our children as well.

In other cities, Crips and Bloods members included out-of-school youths and hoodlums. I would like to ask P/Supt. Carlos if such is also the case here in Dumaguete. If so, it is frightening to think how short their leap will have to be, from mere rapping and doing the hip-hop, and obviously smoking and drinking, to drugs and drug-dealing, armed robbery and murder, and only God knows what else!

My heart goes out to the father whose son was attacked at Mart One. I could empathize with his seething anger. Any parent would be furious at seeing his child suffer from near-fatal injuries in the hands of gang members for apparently no reason at all.

I could understand his utter frustration at the seeming inaction of the Police. To a parent whose heart longs for concrete action and solutions to a problem that has come to his doorstep, the soft approach being undertaken by our Police in addressing this problem, consisting of dialogues, mediation, intervention and clash prevention, may seem lame, inadequate and halfhearted.

But I also fully understand that the Police’s hands are tied behind their backs. P/Supt. Carlos was correct in pointing out that unless these gangs are actually committing a crime, there is little that the Police could do. The most would be to disperse these groups once they are spotted converging in one area.

Besides, with the promulgation of RA 9344, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which spares individuals 15 years and younger from criminal liability, young offenders falling within that age bracket could not be held accountable for their criminal actions even when caught red-handed. And according to P/Supt. Carlos, most members fall within this age group.

So what now? With the Police practically helpless to curb these gangs’ increasing numbers and with the gang members themselves becoming increasingly bolder by the minute, where does this leave us? Turn to vigilante justice as what the father of that victim said he would do?

Those of us whose lives have not been touched by the ferocity these young men are capable of can very easily take the high moral ground and express shock and indignation over his audacity to even contemplate such an unthinkable option.

It’s basic human nature to take the emotional backseat as we watch human dramas unfold. Very seldom could we fully empathize with the range of emotions displayed before us. More often than not, it is only when those closest to our hearts are affected by the same forces that we’d bother to get out of our comfortable seats to join in the fray.

But if we look deep into the psyche of this father, we’d understand the rage and extent of the frustration that drove him into saying what he said. I believe that he said he would turn to vigilantes only to make us all understand how angry and how frustrated he was over what he perceived to be Police inaction.

His talk of resorting to vigilante justice merely existed in the realm of contemplation. There is no crime in that. What is criminal is when what has been contemplated is translated into concrete action. Now, that’s another story.

According to him, vigilante justice had been effective before and they could still work now. He mentioned notorious Dumaguete gangs in the past that spontaneously disbanded after members got terminated one after another.

What, if indeed, there are similarly victimized people out there who would go beyond that contemplation stage? I heard one person declare that he’d be willing to contribute to a vigilante fund.

Would parents, who’ve previously been in denial regarding their children’s involvement with the gangs, be compelled to act decisively and keep them home under lock and key, if gang members would start suffering the same fate as their predecessors?

Heaven forbid if ordinary citizens would decide to take matters into their own hands! But we do not have to come to that. I believe that the parents are the key to this dilemma.

P/Supt. Carlos hit the nail squarely in the head when he said that this matter would not have gotten to this point had the parents had been more involved and vigilant of their children’s activities.

I completely agree. But vigilant of what? Bad barkadas? Fine. But if we conduct a survey right now, I wonder how many among us are adequately aware of this threat? Maybe, SUHS parents are, because I understand that the PTA is actively addressing this problem. But how about the rest of us?

A private group whose name I cannot recall right now has taken the commendable step of conducting information drives among high school students, warning them against joining these gangs.

But our local leadership should also undertake steps to extensively inform the very same people who are the first lines of defense in this war: the parents. To our leaders: what have YOU done so far to inform us about this danger to our children?

Let me do your job for you here: Parents, take note. If your sons and daughters would begin sporting black shirts and those oversized hip-hop pants, accompanied by red or blue bandannas … warning bells should start ringing in your heads already. That could spell only one thing … B-A-D.

They are in grave danger. Hardly from the irate parents I’ve been writing about, but from members of rival gangs who’d gladly attack for no reason other than that they belong to a different group.

Let me quote an American mother who lost her son to gang violence in 2003. He was 18 years old and he was a gang member. She said, "Every parent should pay attention to signs that I ignored as a parent and paid the ultimate price of losing a child."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Earthquake Drills in Schools Please!

The July 13 earthquake literally shook me out of my blissful state that early Friday morning when Mother Nature decided to remind us how puny we all are against her awesome power.

It was pretty scary how our home seemed to creak and groan as it swayed from side to side. My first thought was Abby. If the earthquake had been scary for me, how much more terrifying it must have been for her, and for all other young impressionable children who never knew the ground they stand on could shake the way it did.

She told me later on how scared they all were. But much to the credit of her teacher, only one or two from her class cried unlike children from other classes, who according to her, cried in unison during the tremors.

I give credit to her teacher who remained calm and composed when the two earthquakes struck. In events such as these, children take their cues from adults. Presenting a brave front to the children will help them cope with their own fears. Showing fright or even the slightest hint of panic, on the other hand, will crumple whatever resolve they may have at being courageous in such situations.

So what causes earthquakes? Quick research taught me that the earth is divided into three layers - a hard outer crust, a soft middle layer and a center core. The outer crust is broken into massive, irregular pieces called “plates”. These plates have been moving very slowly for billions of years, driven by energy forces deep within the earth. Its movements continue to shape the physical features of the earth’s mountains, valleys, plains and plateaus. Earthquakes occur when these moving plates grind and scrape against each other. The Pacific Plate grinds northwestward past the North American plate at a rate of about 2 inches per year.

According to a news report, the earthquake could have resulted from a break or stress in the local fault line in Negros or some movement in the Philippine trench. Now, this part about our very own fault line in Negros should give us cause of concern. It can only mean that we should be expecting more of these earthquakes in the years to come.

As a parent then, I am calling on all schools to start instructing and drilling students on emergency procedures right away. It is important that the children are oriented on earthquake preparedness so they would know what to do before, during and after such event.

I know that Silliman Elem, for instance, conducted earthquake drills last school year and that Cittadini will be having one soon. But I don’t know if other schools have similar plans.

Emphasis should be given on the proper training of the teachers. According to PHILVOLCS, “during an earthquake, school children are one of the most vulnerable. As such, it is important for school administrators and teachers to be informed on how to properly conduct an earthquake drill. Teachers are the ones who will guide the students. They are the ones who will teach students how to protect themselves. The conduct of an earthquake drill requires planning and designing of evacuation procedure, as well as orienting teachers and ultimately students on how to do the earthquake drill.”

I found two very helpful websites on earthquake drills. Anyone who’s interested should check-out the following: http://www.cnmiemo.gov.mp/Earthquake%20Brochure.htm and
http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/news/eqdrill.pdf


I was introduced to the “duck, cover and hold” method. It teaches children to (1) turn away from windows; (2) crouch under a desk or table; (3) put both hands on the back of their neck; and (4) to tuck their head down. If the desk or table moves, it advises: hold the legs and move with it.

At least 30 minutes in each school month should be used to instruct students on fire, earthquake, and where appropriate, tsunami dangers and drills. At least two drills on earthquakes and fires must be conducted each year, and in schools in a coastal zone, at least three drills on earthquakes and tsunamis.

Earthquake drills are simple and easy to do. It only requires planning ahead (with a little guidance from PHILVOLCS) and constant practice. Just visit this web page for those guidelines: http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/news/eqdrill.pdf.

So come on beloved schools. Show us that you are taking care of our children every way you could! Let us know that you will be having those drills SOON! The parents are waiting.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Finding Kindred Spirits

Today, I posted the following in the message board of The Baby Center dealing with the topic: First Pregnancy, Ending in Miscarriage.

Hello everyone, first of all, may I say how sorry I am for your loss and for the pain that all of you had to go through. I know exactly how you felt when you lost your baby because I had been through that myself.

Although my miscarriage was not my first pregnancy, I too lost my baby in my 8th week. I mourned my loss deeply because I wanted that baby very badly. You see, I have polycystic ovaries syndrome. I was able to have my first child only through the grace of God and the aid of this wonderful drug called gonal-f.

My husband and I tried to have another child last December 2005. This time, I had puregon. I went through two rounds of artificial insemination but both attempts failed. We soon gave up because of financial constraints. Here in the Philippines, fertility treatments are very expensive.

I gave up hope of ever conceiving by natural means. but unexpectedly, I found out that I was pregnant by April 2006. My joy cannot be described especially because it was a spontaneous pregnancy, a miracle that came into our lives when we least expected it!

I started spotting soon after my discovery. I was devastated. I did what I could to save my baby. I went into full bed rest and begged my doctor for whatever medicine there was that would somehow keep my baby alive in case I was losing it.

Several ultrasound examinations revealed no heartbeat. They could not even find the gestational sac. But I insisted that I was pregnant because my pregnancy tests said so!!! I think people thought I was crazy then ... but when you are somebody who wanted another child I much as I did, I think you would understand how I felt then. I even had a name in case my baby would be a girl, Maia.

I finally had my miscarriage May 9, 2006. As doctors would put it, the "product of conception" was "expelled". My pain was overwhelming. My husband was not with me then. He was abroad at that time. I had nobody to comfort me. And I was filled with guilt. Somehow, I could not help asking if somehow, it had been my fault that my baby died.

I took my little one to a clinical laboratory for examination, to try to determine what the cause of my loss was. My baby, whom they coldly referred to as "specimen", was placed in a plastic cup before it was taken from me.

The technician who was holding the cup then jokingly handed it to another lab worker and jokingly told him ... " here, you urinate in this". He said that right in my presence.

I cannot even begin to describe to you the pain and the hurt that i went through that day. Here I was mourning the loss of a child that I wanted to have with all my heart ... and hearing somebody callously make my dead baby the butt of his joke by having it urinated upon was excruciating. It was utterly cruel at its best.

The lab report stated I had an early pregnancy failure ... that only the placenta developed, but no baby. The general attitude I encountered here in my home city was like ... what was the big deal? There was never any baby after all, so why all this fuss?

I don't care whether a baby developed or not at all. In my mind and in my heart, I had a child that was not meant for me. Last December 2006, I had a chance to visit one of our hospital's nursery. I dropped by intending to enjoy the sight of beautiful babies only to end up crying my heart out because I could not help thinking that my own baby should have been there as well. If I had not lost my little one, I would have given birth on December 24. Today, I would have had bouncing and crawling 7-month old. I still ache. There are times when the pain is not as raw, but times like this, my pain is as great as on that unforgettable day.

I am glad that i stumbled into this site and read of your posts. I am glad that I have found kindred spirits in you. I dont feel so alone anymore. I've corresponded with other parents who have lost their children, but I could feel that they could not empathize with me totally because my loss is not an tangible as theirs. They had real babies they have held in their arms. I only have my failed expectations.

For a while, i thought that I should stop feeling this way because I did not lose a real baby anyway, as some have pointed out to me. But I continue to feel the pain. I am glad that there are others out there who feel the same way I do. thank you for sharing a bit of yourselves with the rest of us.

Hello everyone, first of all, may I say how sorry I am for your loss and for the pain that all of you had to go through. I know exactly how you felt when you lost your baby because I had been through that myself.

Although my miscarriage was not my first pregnancy, I too lost my baby in my 8th week. I mourned my loss deeply because I wanted that baby very badly. You see, I have polycystic ovaries syndrome. I was able to have my first child only through the grace of God and the aid of this wonderful drug called gonal-f.

My husband and I tried to have another child last December 2005. This time, I had puregon. I went through two rounds of artificial insemination but both attempts failed. We soon gave up because of financial constraints. Here in the Philippines, fertility treatments are very expensive.

I gave up hope of ever conceiving by natural means. but unexpectedly, I found out that I was pregnant by April 2006. My joy cannot be described especially because it was a spontaneous pregnancy, a miracle that came into our lives when we least expected it!

I started spotting soon after my discovery. I was devastated. I did what I could to save my baby. I went into full bed rest and begged my doctor for whatever medicine there was that would somehow keep my baby alive in case I was losing it.

Several ultrasound examinations revealed no heartbeat. They could not even find the gestational sac. But I insisted that I was pregnant because my pregnancy tests said so!!! I think people thought I was crazy then ... but when you are somebody who wanted another child I much as I did, I think you would understand how I felt then. I even had a name in case my baby would be a girl, Maia.

My finally had my miscarriage May 9, 2006. As doctors would put it, the "product of conception" was "expelled". My pain was overwhelming. My husband was not with me then. He was abroad at that time. I had nobody to comfort me. And I was filled with guilt. Somehow, I could not help asking if somehow, it had been my fault that my baby died.
I took my little one to a clinical laboratory for examination, to try to determine what the cause of my loss was. My baby, whom they coldly referred to as "specimen", was placed in a plastic cup before it was taken from me.

The technician who was holding the cup then jokingly handed it to another lab worker and jokingly told him ... " here, you urinate in this". He said that right in my presence.

I cannot even begin to describe to you the pain and the hurt that i went through that day. Here I was mourning the loss of a child that I wanted to have with all my heart ... and hearing somebody callously make my dead baby the butt of his joke by having it urinated upon was excruciating. It was utterly cruel at its best.

The lab report stated I had an early pregnancy failure ... that only the placenta developed, but no baby. The general attitude I encountered here in my home city was like ... what was the big deal? There was never any baby after all, so why all this fuss?

I don't care whether a baby developed or not at all. In my mind and in my heart, I had a child that was not meant for me. Last December 2006, I had a chance to visit one of our hospital's nursery. I dropped by intending to enjoy the sight of beautiful babies only to end up crying my heart out because I could not help thinking that my own baby should have been there as well. If I had not lost my little one, I would have given birth on December 24. Today, I would have had bouncing and crawling 7-month old. I still ache. There are times when the pain is not as raw, but times like this, my pain is as great as on that unforgettable day.

I am glad that i stumbled into this site and read of your posts. I am glad that I have found kindred spirits in you. I dont feel so alone anymore. I've corresponded with other parents who have lost their children, but I could feel that they could not empathize with me totally because my loss is not an tangible as theirs. They had real babies they have held in their arms. I only have my failed expectations.

For a while, i thought that I should stop feeling this way because I did not lose a real baby anyway, as some have pointed out to me. But I continue to feel the pain. I am glad that there are others out there who feel the same way I do. thank you for sharing a bit of yourselves with the rest of us.

What is Blighted Ovum?

I started asking this question seriously when fellow blogger ROBERT sent me a link to the Priests for Life website that showed IMAGES OF FETAL DEVELOPMENT.

The picture to the right shows a 7-week old embryo, a week short of the stage my own baby was supposed to be in when I lost her. Another picture below shows an 8-week old embryo. My own Maia would have looked like this one when I lost her.

But this is really nothing but pure fantasy on my part. I was informed that I had an Anembryonic Pregnancy or what most probaby know as blighted ovum.

I had a rough idea then what a blighted ovum was. It meant that my baby stopped developing shortly after fertilization, or that she never started developing at all. I never had a baby that looked like these embryos in the pictures.

But it does not really matter to me. I believe in my heart, whether rightly or wrongly, that God breathed life into each one of us at the moment of conception. From that moment on, each child, no matter how briefly it had lived, had a soul, and this soul went up to heaven to be reunited with its Maker.

Oh yes! I had a second baby, and this baby is now an angel in heaven. Even if she lived for only a fraction of a second, what matters to me is that she had started living. Everything else is immaterial.

Seeing these pictures of these beautiful creatures of God made me want to learn more about blighted ova. This was what I learned:


"What is a blighted ovum?

A blighted ovum (also known as “anembryonic pregnancy”) happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop or stopped developing shortly after fertilization.

Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself. A blighted ovum usually occurs within the first trimester before a woman knows she is pregnant. A high level of chromosome abnormalities usually causes a woman’s body to naturally miscarry.

How do I know if I am having or have had a blighted ovum?


A blighted ovum can occur very early in pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant. You may experience signs of pregnancy such as a missed or late menstrual period and even a positive pregnancy test. It is possible that you may have minor abdominal cramps, minor vaginal spotting or bleeding. As with a normal period, your body may flush the uterine lining, but your period may be a little heavier than usual.

Many women assume their pregnancies are on track because their hCG levels are increasing. The placenta can continue to grow and support itself without a baby for a short time, and pregnancy hormones can continue to rise, which would lead a woman to believe she is still pregnant. A diagnosis is usually not made until an ultrasound test shows either an empty womb or an empty birth sac.

What causes a blighted ovum?

A blighted ovum is the cause of about 50% of first trimester miscarriages and is usually the result of chromosomal problems. A woman’s body recognizes abnormal chromosomes in a fetus and naturally does not try to continue the pregnancy because the fetus will not develop into a normal, healthy baby. This can be caused by abnormal cell division, or poor quality sperm or egg.

Should I have a D&C or wait for a natural miscarriage?

This is a decision only you can make for yourself. Most doctors do not recommend a D&C for an early pregnancy loss. It is believed that a woman’s body is capable of passing tissue on its own and there is no need for an invasive surgical procedure with a risk of complications. A D&C would, however, be beneficial if you were planning on having a pathologist examine the tissues to determine a reason for the miscarriage. Some women feel a D&C procedure helps with closure, mentally and physically.

How can a blighted ovum be prevented?

Unfortunately, in most cases a blighted ovum cannot be prevented. Some couples will seek out genetic testing if multiple early pregnancy loss occurs. A blighted ovum is often a one time occurrence, and rarely will a woman experience more than one. Most doctors recommend couples wait at least 1-3 regular menstrual cycles before trying to conceive again after any type of miscarriage. "

My interest on this subject lead me to the website of the Baby Center where bulletin boards were started dealing with the topic: MISCARRIAGE, STILLBIRTH, AND INFANT LOSS.

Finding this board was heaven sent. I do not feel so alone anymore. I finally found other moms who felt and thought and grieved for lost babies the same way I did.

For a while, I actually considered myself as some sort of freak because nobody at home could fully empathize with my loss. It was not a tangible loss, as they said. It was not as if I've actually held the baby in my arms.

Some people here actually think that they become parents only at the moment of birth. They do not realize that parenthood starts at the exact moment of conception.

They could not understand that I loved my baby from the first moment I knew that I had her. I started thinking of names for her, I wanted her to be another girl, I planned where and when she would start attending school ... I already had dreams for my baby!

Naming her and thinking of her as a girl and talking of my angel in heaven were even considered by some as some sort of sentimental b/s. Even my husband could not fully understand me.

But the mothers in the bulletin boards understand me perfectly. They have been through the same experience. Some are still going through it. I read of mothers' stories about losing their babies at 5th, 6th, or 7th week ... and they grieve just like any mother would for a baby that she has actually held in her arms.

Nobody there reading my sentiments will think of me as some sentimental, over-acting, attention-grabbing loser who is making a big deal out of something that some people would probably consider as an inconsequential, everyday, no-event occurrence. They understand grief and loss as only people who have been through the same pain could.

My daughter Abby also knew exactly what was going on. When I had my miscarriage and subsequent to that, my UNFORTUNATE ENCOUNTER with the lab technician who joked at having my dead baby urinated upon, her little heart got broken along with mine.

When the lab tech sent me a card saying how sorry he was for causing me more pain, she sent him back a LETTER him that he should say sorry to her little sister as well, because he also hurt her feelings. She even drew a curled up little figure (much like how 8-week old embryos look like in her book) with a halo and tiny angel wings.

Until now, she still wonders aloud what her little sister could be doing in heaven. She likes to think that she is happily doing anything and everything that she'd like to do, like eat ice cream all day long.

For a while, I struggled with the question WHY? Why did God give me great unexpected joy only to take it back so soon? Although I still ache every now and then (like when I'd see pregnant mothers or babies), I finally found peace in my heart by accepting that there is a reason for everything, that God has a grand plan for all of us, and that everything that happens to each one of us is part of that big puzzle, and that maybe, in the end, we will be privileged enough to know what that purpose or reason is.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Natalie's Laughter and Junrey's Journey of Faith

Mending Kids International (http://www.mendingkids.org/) is a non-profit charity in Sta. Clarita, CA. It gives indigent Filipino children free medical care through their US Care Program at top Southern CA hospitals such as UCLA MedicalCenter, L.A. Children's Hospital, Cedars Sinai and the Shriners Burn Center.

In the Philippines, even the poorest Filipino patient must pay for all medicines, tests and supplies. Since over 40 million Filipinos get by onless than $2 a day, indigent Filipinos need help from charities like Mending Kids International [MKI].

The PAL [Philippine Airlines] Foundation helps these Filipino children to get there. However, our poor Filipino children need foster families so that they can have the free care in Southern California.

Below are two of these very special children we need you to help us find loving families and good homes for. PLEASE FORWARD TO THOSE WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP. Thank you.




NATHALIE's LAUGHTER

Little Nathalie Drew Tam Suan of Cebu, just turned one. Congenital heartdisease has made her as tiny as can be (she weighs only 16 lbs.) but she's as bright and bubbly as they come. She loves watching Dora the Explorer with her older brother David. How she giggles and wiggles whenever she hears the theme song! Because of her heart disease, Nathalie cannot walk yet but she would love to be up and about and exploring too, just like her favorite Dora. Her young parents are poor. Her father got laid off and her mother is a school teacher earning US$150 a month. They live in a flimsy one room house. Nathalie needs a foster family for about two months so that she can have free heart surgery from MENDING KIDS INTERNATIONAL.

Please email the undersigned or http://us.f316.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=mendingkids@sbcglobal.net if you would like to help them take care of little Nathalie.





JUNREY's JOURNEY of FAITH

The Tapao Family with Junrey at the center, outside their humble home in Zamboanga City. 16 year old Junrey Tapao is an only child and the center of his parents' lives. He was born with congenital heart disease but his family cannot afford the cost of surgery to correct his ventricular septal defect (VSD). They can barely manage to keep him on his maintenance medications. His father Diomedes is a driver earning PhP6,000 (US$120) a month. Like a good Filipino son, he also supports his parents. The Tapao Family lives in one tiny room of a ramshackle house shared with other members of a poor but loving extended family. Junrey's mother Matilde never finished high school and since Junrey is so sickly, she has to stay home and take care of him. Now in his teens, Junrey is frail and slightly built, weighing just 95 lbs. Although he has never been able to play sports like other boys, his parents are proud that Junrey is an altar boy at their parish church. As his parents are getting on in years, Junrey desperately prays that he may also be able to take care of them some day.

MENDING KIDS INTERNATIONAL has promised to help Junrey to have open heart surgery to correct his ventricular septal defect (VSD) but he needs afoster family who will take care of him for at least six weeks. Please contact the undersigned or http://us.f316.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=mendingkids@sbcglobal.net if you can help Junrey grow into manhood. You may also contact the undersigned if you have any questions:

Ma. Carmen "Menchu" Aquino Sarmiento
mailto:menchu_sarmiento@pal.com.ph;
+63917.823.1427
Executive Director
Philippine Airlines (PAL) Foundation
Gate 1, PAL Maintenance Base Complex
Andrews Avenue, Nichols, Pasay City 1309
Phone: (632) 851-2980; (632)
855-8000 extension 2563 Fax: (632) 852-6096

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inspiring Thoughts from Rick Warren

Once again, I received an email that has touched and inspired me so much, I could not help but want to share it with anybody who might stumble on this blog. Here's the full text:

You will enjoy the new insights that Rick Warren has, with his wife now having cancer and him having "wealth" from the book sales. This is an absolutely incredible short interview with Rick Warren,"Purpose Driven Life " author and pastor ofSaddleback Church in California. In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:

People ask me, What is the purpose of life?

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth.

I don't believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness,"which is my problem, my issues, my pain." But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her. It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people. You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72:

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor , care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do.That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Hands that Prepare our Food

How clean are they? Seriously! Have you considered how clean our helpers’ hands really are as they handle our food?

I’m not some cleanliness freak – that, I have to stress! But this question bothered me when, years ago, I observed a mother in a rural area clean up her toddler with only water after he made poo-poo. But what really sent my paranoiac tendencies soaring was seeing her wash her hand with only water. That was it? No soap or anything? Yeah! That was all!

It got me thinking of our own angels in our kitchens. It’s so easy to imagine, you know. Call of nature … quick wash … then off to the kitchen to continue slicing some green leafy vegetable that we all know should only be blanched. Now, if that won’t make your skin crawl, I don’t know what will!

What if unhygienic practices such as that one I witnessed are more common than we think? What if we have some members in our household who are as unenlightened as that woman who got me hyperventilating?

They prepare and serve our food, you know. They make sandwiches for us, lay out utensils on our tables, or bring milk or snacks to our children, even feed them or touch their faces… We take great pains at ensuring that our children, home, and food are clean, but beyond that, this matter concerning the hands that prepare our food must be given equal importance.

For the sake of food safety (and my peace of mind), I do not only instruct every new household member about thorough hand washing, but I have also provided my angels with liquid antibacterial soap in their own comfort room, with strict instructions to use it at least twice after each you-know-what. I know, it's kind of expensive. But the P150 or so per month is additional expense that I can take, if it would mean continued safety and good health for my family.

I opted for liquid antibac soap because I do not have much confidence over soap bars and their ability to kill germs. Besides, there’s this matter that really bothers me: the thought of hands fresh out of their behinds reaching for that bar of soap, rolling it around to make suds, before going back … then reaching again for that same bar to either do a second washing, or to finish off with a hand washing.

Maybe I’m obsessing too much over germs … but is it too crazy for me to believe that soaps couldn’t do much cleaning anymore if it had been held by a hand that has had prior contact with that gooey matter we refer to as poo? Whether or not toilet paper was used, wouldn’t bacteria somehow get transferred to the soap? Wouldn’t going back for that same soap for the final hand washing merely result in further transfer of the bacteria from the soap back to the hand?

Here’s the worst: have you thought of the possibility of our precious yayas also using our kids’ bath soap to clean them up with after our little ones have had their du-du? (shivers!) That’s why we’re all using liquid antibac for after-toilet cleaning-up purposes.

I hope I haven’t ruined somebody’s early Sunday coffee with this gooey topic. But I decided to share this concern because of my daughter’s bout with gastroenteritis, which I have reason to believe, may have been brought about by her exposure to a contaminant of fecal origin after swimming in water that practically had no chlorine.

My baby suffered from high-grade fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and headache. It was an ordeal that I wish, nobody, especially young children, would have to go through again.

What happens outside our homes is beyond our control. But we have a complete say over what happens inside. A little education is all that is needed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Earthquake in Dumaguete

My pleasant morning telephone chat with Tita Nini was rudely interrupted when I felt my bed shaking around 8am, last Friday, July 13. For a split second, I thought of my tiny pomeranian and how I didn't know that she was under the bed, probably scratching herself or something. When it didn't stop, I even looked behind me, thinking she might have climbed up the bed without me knowing .... only then did it finally dawn on me ... EARTHQUAKE!!! The french doors were swaying and making those horrible noises ... then it stopped.

Tita Nini and I laughed nervously! I quietly marveled at my stupidity, you know, seemingly accepting even for just a split second that a 2-kilo Pomeranian could move a bed made of solid oak (that even 4 men would have a hard time lifting!) with her cute little legs! Oh well, I must have been THAT engrossed over my chat with Tita Nini.

When our home started shaking again, I told her ... "it's happening again! Ba-bye! I'm going downstairs!!" My first thought was to turn off the main switch to prevent accidental fires from starting. I then called my daughter's school asking if the children were ok. Thank God they were. Abby told me later that she just prayed, asking God to make it stop, while other classmates started crying.

I learned later that the two quakes measured intensity 5 and 6 in the Richter scale, respectively, with epicenter around 18-20 kilometers from Dumaguete City (somewhere between Dauin and Zamboanguita).

For more of this news, click this link: http://news.balita.ph/html/article.php/20070713095458278

This got me thinking about the schools' disaster-preparedness programs. Have the authorities conducted earthquake and/or fire drills with the schoolchildren already? If so, how effective were these? Did they see this actually working during the recent earthquake or was there pandemonium with everything they learned from the drill all forgotten in their panic?

News reports from MetroPost concerning children from Silliman University Elementary Department revealed that the drills they had last year proved futile. The children panicked. I intend to look into this, particularly in my daughter's school.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why God Created Children (and Grandchildren in the process!)

I just received this forwarded message from one of my cousins. I had a good laugh with it. Hope you will, too!

If you are not a parent yet, and can't relate to this, believe me, someday, you will!

To those of us who have children in our lives, whether they are our own, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or students... here is something to make you chuckle.

Whenever your children are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God's omnipotence did not extend to His own children. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve.

And the first thing he said was "DON'T ! "

"Don't what ? " Adam replied.

"Don't eat the forbidden fruit." God said.

"Forbidden fruit ? We have forbidden fruit ? Hey Eve..we have forbidden fruit ! "

" No Way ! "

"Yes way ! "

"Do NOT eat the fruit ! " said God.

"Why ? "

"Because I am your Father and I said so ! " God replied, wondering why He hadn't stopped creation after making the elephants.

A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and He was ticked ! "Didn't I tell you not to eat the fruit ? " God asked.

"Uh huh," Adam replied.

"Then why did you ? " said the Father.

"I don't know," said Eve.

"She started it ! " Adam said.

"Did not ! "

"Did too ! "

"DID NOT ! "

Having had it with the two of them, God's punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.

BUT THERE IS REASSURANCE IN THE STORY ! If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and they haven't taken it, don't be hard on yourself. If God had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you ?

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT !

1. You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up.

2. Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your own children.

3. Mothers of teens now know why some animals eat their young.

4. Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.

5. The main purpose of holding children's parties is to remind yourself that there are children more awful than your own.

6. We childproofed our homes, but they are still getting in.

ADVICE FOR THE DAY: Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home one day.

AND FINALLY:

IF YOU HAVE A LOT OF TENSION AND YOU GET A HEADACHE, DO WHAT IT SAYS ON THE ASPIRIN BOTTLE:

"TAKE TWO ASPIRIN" AND "KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN"!!!!!

Quick, send this on to ten people within the next five minutes.

Nothing will happen if you don't, but if you do but, ten people will be laughing

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good Deeds Do Come Back

I remember watching a show in TV that featured a family living in a rectangular box that was no bigger than a coffin. A large plastic that hang over it served as its roof, the family’s sole protection from the harsh winds and biting cold brought on by the rains. Very sad. But what was even sadder was the sight of two very small children and a third on the way. The mother revealed that she gave birth to her second child in that box, and was most likely giving birth to her third in that very same place.

Flashback: Malate, Manila, 1997. Everyday, I’d see this family of four living along the bangketa, sharing one folding bed that has seen better days. Two grimy and unwashed young children ran around in the sidewalk stark naked. I remember watching the younger one amble towards the middle of the road to squat. Before I could start wondering what he was squatting for, he proceeded to defecate. There was no reaction from the parents. For them, it was part of the natural course of things.

It is a big enough tragedy that people have to live in these conditions, and knowing that there isn’t much that one can do except give the occasional dole-outs that really does nothing to improve their lot except fill their stomachs very briefly.

But the bigger tragedy is seeing children having to live and grow up in this way. It tears my guts out to see them living like animals and with all the ways of one. How would they ever develop self-value and -respect when they know only of a life that is no better than that of dogs that live by scavenging?

Indeed, it is very sad that poverty will always hound our country and people and that the end is nowhere in sight. Except perhaps for a lucky few who will manage to escape into a better life, these children are doomed to perpetuate this vicious cycle that started long before they were born.

I’m writing about this now hoping that maybe, each one of us in our own little way, could help even just one child struggle out of this quagmire of hopelessness. We need not expect any reward or recognition at the end. The satisfaction will come at knowing that we helped. At the end of the day, their triumph, whether spectacular or not, will also be our own. And who knows, that helping hand we’ve extended might just come back to us in most unexpected ways.

Take the story of one young doctor who worked in the slums of London a long time ago. I don’t really know if this story is true or not, and my recollection is kind of vague. But it generally went this way: the young doctor was summoned to assist in a very difficult delivery. He noticed how poor the family was, living in one dingy room with a dozen or so children. When the child was finally born, it was barely alive. To add to that, the baby had some sort of leg deformity that would make walking extremely difficult for him later in life. The doctor thought that he would be doing this baby a great favor if he’d simply leave it to die rather than let it enter a world that promised nothing but misery and hardship. But revive the baby he did.

That would have been the end of the story if not years later when his granddaughter had an accident requiring a delicate brain surgery. Only one surgeon could perform that specialized surgery, a deformed little man who bore the same name as that of the old doctor’s. This brilliant surgeon’s mother named him after the young doctor who gave him the life that he almost lost soon after his birth.

Tears filled the old doctor’s eyes. He remembered the scrawny little baby he almost gave up for dead years ago.

Yes, whether we expect it or not, good deeds do come back.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Blame Parents, Not Teachers!

This was the title of an article written by Ed Christian, an English and Biblical literature professor for twenty years at the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, USA.

This was written in response to an issue in the US so to whether schools should be blamed for their students’ failure to learn. Mr. Christian believes that the problems in education are the parents’ fault, that “more money, smaller classes, and national testing may help a little, but they won’t solve the problems. Only parents can solve them.”

He gave ten suggestions as to what parents could do. I do not necessarily agree with all of his ideas, but they are worth sharing with you because some of his observations are very relevant to us.

First, he believes that we should get rid of the TV, or at least, limit its use. An hour or two a week is already considered plenty. Children should be encouraged to watch nature or history programs and carefully chosen videos.

I agree. My own daughter watches National Geographic and Animal Planet programs but I also allow her to watch Disney Channel and selected programs in Cartoon Network on weekends.

She also gets to watch on weekdays as a sort of reward. If she finishes her assignments and studies early, the time prior to her 9pm bedtime becomes her “free time”, during which she could do whatever she pleases.

She’s still a child. She should still be allowed to enjoy the things that most children would enjoy doing. To deprive her of these joys would be like chopping off a big chunk of her childhood.

Second, Mr. Christian urged parents to get rid of video games as the excitement exhausts children and make them think that everything else is boring.

But then, wouldn’t all work and no play make Juan a dull boy as well? Wouldn’t it make better sense if, again, we just limit this type of activity during weekends?

Third, “limit computer use to educational games, writing and learning to type, and even then, not more than an hour a day. Chat rooms and Web surfing, as generally used, have little to do with learning.”

Fourth, “forget about competitive sports. Playing sports consumes study time and can leave students too exhausted or excited to study. Running or walking a few miles or shooting hops for half an hour are fine, but the competition of team sports is wasted time and effort.”

This one’s absolutely bulls--t! If this guy could have his way, all children would turn into sedentary overweight bookworms who’d be scared shitless at the slightest suggestion of sun or sweat!

Child development should be wholistic and should include a variety of activities such as sports. Focus should not be confined to academics alone.

Fifth, “buy books; visit libraries; have books in the house.”

Sixth, “read to your children for at least half an hour every day. If you choose books that are interesting but a little above your children’s level, their interest will lift them higher.

I agree. Reading time can also double as bonding time between parent and child.

Seventh, “keep your students home after supper. Little useful learning takes place in malls, restaurants, or cars.”

Eighth, “early to bed. Students who have read for three hours after supper often grow sleepy. If they’re asleep by 9:00 or 10:00, they’ll be alert in school and learn more.”

Ninth, “limit phone calls to five minutes each. Hours of telephone gossip are not educational.”

Tenth, “if you have a sense of wonder that makes you continually fascinated by the world, share it with your children.”

We parents play a very crucial role in the education of our children. As Mr. Christian observed, we can help them develop a love for learning if we make learning interesting for them. How? For one, provide them with a rich learning environment in the home. When it’s “no TV” for the child, it should be “No TV” for everyone else. We cannot expect the child to be able to focus if the TV is blaring nearby.

As a final note, Mr. Christian stated: “True, implementing these suggestions will change the lifestyle of parents as well, but isn’t the success of our children worth the effort?”

Amen to that!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Counting my Centavos

I recently opened Abby’s coin banks and took away her collection of P.05’s, P.10’s and P.25’s after hearing the news that so much of these coins have been “saved”, there isn’t much left circulating around.

Now, before anyone starts thinking how patriotic I am by wanting to spare the government from spending P.80 centavos for each P.05 centavo coin made, and nominates me for membership in the gallery of nationalistic martyrs … well, that’s only my second consideration. My foremost concern actually is the preservation of my own equanimity. You see, one of the things that are guaranteed to raise my hackles is getting shortchanged, and I’ve been getting a lot of that long before that news came out.

Cang’s is particularly notorious for this practice some time ago. I’ve had enough of my change lacking as much as P.15 centavos each time I’d buy from them, I finally demanded an explanation. You see, my thinking goes along these lines: Since I’m paying the exact price being demanded for the merchandise I’m purchasing, I expect to receive the exact change due to me! Is that too much to expect?

About two or three years ago, when I demanded for that explanation, the cashier at Cang’s answered dismissively that they didn’t have the coins. The lady did not even bother to glance up as she spoke to me. With my blood pressure shooting up to record heights, I said, “So … you don’t have P.05 centavo coins? I can help you with that!”

I marched to Veteran’s Bank and had a P20.00 bill converted to P.05 centavo coins. (Looking back, I should have made it P100 or better still P500, but on second thoughts, that would be too heavy, or most likely, I didn’t have that much money at that time. Knowing me, I would have gone for the P500 if I had that amount right there and then!)

Needless to say, I went back, got something and paid with my plastic-full of P.05 coins with a parting shot: “There! Now you can give the right change to all the customers!”

That incident also got me started at counting my change to make sure that I’m given the right amount. I always call cashiers’ attention to any mistake, whether it is to my advantage or the stores’. I once gave back P50.00 excess change. The cashier practically grabbed it from me without a word. I sighed wondering where good manners have gone.

Two months ago, I almost lost P1.00 in a single day: shortchanged by P.25 at Lee and by P.75 at Fortune Mart. No big deal to most, but it mattered to me.

I’ve heard comments like “singko ra bitaw”, the point being, “why bother?” What is it with these kinds of people anyway? Is it a matter of pride? That being seen making tilok (scrapping the bottom of the barrel) of the lowly singko s'tabos might risk being thought of as destitute?

Or do we simply have too much we can’t be bothered with singko anymore, or diez or biente singko for that matter? Don’t we all know that there can’t be a million without even one centavo?

If you’re a student living in anticipation of your next allowance, try this: see if inadvertently finding a single piso won’t send you singing praises when you’re down to your last singko pisos, with next allowance not due for two more days.

With conditions as they are now, I am sure that the public would understand if stores are unable to give exact change. However, I demand that storeowners should train their cashiers to take the time to explain their lack of coins and to ask if it was all right with the customer concerned.

Indeed, there are those who’d ask if you had P.35 or P2.85 and so on (so it is easier for them to give a round change), but we still see plenty who’d just casually hand over change that’s a few centavos short, fully expecting the customer to accept meekly like the proverbial lamb.

This should change. Consumers, we should be more vigilant and assertive of our rights.

Storeowners, teach your employees Good Manners and Right Conduct. That’s basic.