Friday, December 3, 2010

My Amnesia Girl meets Malcolm Madness

According to Wikipedia, Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) is a state of confusion that occurs immediately following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in which the injured person is disoriented and unable to remember events that occur after the injury.

Inspired by the mushy quotable quotes from Amnesia Girl last night, I came up with my own list of pick-up lines to say to the apple of your eye.

Mahal Kita Kasi (The Lost School Version)

1. Supreme Court ka ba? Gusto ko kasing umapela sayo eh.
2. CA ka ba? May appeal ka kasi sa akin.
3. Rules of Court ka ba? Gusto ko kasing i-memorize ang features mo kaso di ko magawa.
4. Empleyado ka, empleyado din ako kaya we have the right to unionize!
5. Writ of habeas corpus ka ba? Kasi I want you to show me your body.
6. Alam mo, gusto kong magfile ng forcible entry laban sayo kasi gumamit ka ng FISTS para ma-possess ang puso ko.
7. Jus cogens ba tayo? Kasi tanggap na tayo ng lahat ng tao.
8. Alam mo, gusto kong magfile ng unlawful detainer laban sayo. Kasi dati may karapatan ka sa akin pero ngayon wala na. WALA!
9. May original jurisdiction ka ba? Kasi may notice ang appeal mo sa akin.
10. Civil procedure ka ba? Ginugulo mo kasi ang utak ko.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Moving out... Moving in

Yep, I'm finally moving out of my comfort zone. I'm taking a giant leap towards full independence by renting my own house and living all by my lonesome self. Sounds scary, yeah, but I'm pretty excited about this big move. Its about time to spread my wings and deal with all those things that grown-ups usually deal with like paying the monthly rent, managing the bills, cleaning the house, etc.

Throughout my adult life, I've been surrounded by people. Roommates, housemates, siblings. I actually enjoy it because I'm a sociable person. ;p But lately, I've been having some space issues. I feel like I needed something or someplace to call my own and not co-owned. Thus, the search for the new apartment began. It was a move which earned the support of my siblings since they were also going through those issues. Although they won't be staying with me for awhile since they still have to finish the academic year at the dorm, at least they'll have someplace to go to during weekends.

And tonight is my last night in this house in Maginhawa which has been my home for more than four years. I've had a lot of good times here with my housemates and I'm definitely gonna miss this place. But I know I have to do this. I have to be proactive about this quest for independence. ;)

Tomorrow is a new day, in a new house, with new neighbors and new experiences.

Let's get it ON!!! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Eager for December

Flash Report: 80 days before Christmas! (that was the stats when I started writing this entry)

I can't wait to celebrate Christmas with the whole extended Manlangit family. Its becoming quite a tradition which everyone looks forward to. And this December, we have scheduled several trips. We'll celebrate our Mama's birthday in Cebu then move on to Bohol the day after so that we can try the E.A.T. Danao Adventure. I can't wait to try The Plunge. This has gotten me uberly excited for the holidays.

However, there has been a recent fiasco in the family. My nanay (lola) suffered a mild stroke and she had to be rushed to the hospital. This was the second time that she had to be admitted. Before her, it was my tatay (lolo) who was hospitalized. I can't bear the thought of spending Christmas without my Nanay and Tatay or any family member for that matter. That's why I always include them in my prayers and I hope you do too.

For me, Christmas will always be about the love for family and spending quality time with each other. We always make it a point to gather during holidays because that's the only time that we'll see the rest of the clan. And I'm telling you, the party can get very rowdy and boisterous.  To give you a glimpse of how our gathering looks like, here are some photos from last year's party.

Overjoyed recipient of our pail-ful of Christmas goodies.
As the famous jingle goes, give love on Christmas day! But it would be quite disastrous on our pockets if we'll give a gift to every family member so me and my cousin started a tradition of giving gifts to each family instead of individually. We started with a basin, then a pail. This year, we might just be able to fill up a drum. Of course, generous sponsors are always welcome.(",)

Manlangit family
 We begin our Christmas celebration with the traditional mass since we must not lose sight of the real reason for this joyous occasion - the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. As one family, we gather and give thanks to God for granting us another year to celebrate life and love.

                                                       And now, let the games begin!
Onion dance by my beloved parents

'Parent and son/daughter' newspaper dance
Catch the dragon's tail

Candle blowing - Tita v. Mama edition

Showing Off No. 1

family peekchur
The day after Christmas outing in our very own secluded waterfalls
Showing Off No. 2 (you know I could never resist heights

family peekchur again ;)

Excited na ba kayo?  :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Balut Effect

One night, I had this crazy impulse to have balut for dinner. I don't know what prompted me to do so because I'm not very fond of eggs. But these past few days, I've been having simple cravings like sardines with calamansi, red egg with onion and tomatoes and the flavor of the night is the classic balut. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I ate balut. Maybe that's why I was longing for it because I wanted a taste of its salty soup sans the sisiw. I've never ever tried, even attempted, to eat the sisiw part because it completely grosses me out. To satisfy my craving, I bought one balut in Philcoa. Even my housemates thought I was acting weird since I was not really the type who eats balut for dinner. But I was dead set on satisfying my craving and I'm glad I did. :) Well, I still cannot swallow the sisiw part but at least I can eat the yellow part and sip the soup. Late in the evening, I realized that the balut served as an upper for me since I was able to stay awake until the wee hours of the morning. So, my little experiment worked. I think balut would be a better substitute for coffee whenever I need to stay energetic in order to cram for an exam. Now, that would be a nice tagline for lost students: 

                  Wanna have enough balls to ace an exam? Eat BALUT! 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Deafening Silence

Last week, I attended a forum lobbying for the signing of the Convention on the Enforced Disappearances. I saw a poster in Malcolm advertising the event and the it was supposed to be the launching of a documentary entitled Unsilenced by Mr. King Marc Baco. I was amazed because King was may dormmate in Molave and back then, he was already into filming short films which was the beginning of a tradition in the dorm. Anyway, to show my unwavering support, I promised him that I would attend the event. Little did I know that the issue about enforced disappearances was closer to home than I originally thought. The documentary featured six workers of PICOP who were randomly picked up by agents of the state and summarily executed without any semblance of due process. However, no trace of their whereabouts can be found. The documentary also depicted the grief and anguish felt by the family members who just wanted to see the corpses their loved ones so that they can bury them properly.

The case of enforced disappearances is a different animal altogether from the usual crimes punished by the Revised Penal Code since there's an element of the unknown. The family members will have to deal with the uncertainty of the plight of the desaparecidos. There will never be any closure on their part and thus prolonging their agony. According to a human rights lawyer who delivered a speech during the forum, humans are usually born, they live, and then they die but they don't just disappear from the face of the earth. To add insult to the injury, the agents of the state even deny the existence of the person. There is therefore a need to define this crime in order to address the lacuna in the law.

Now, how did this experience impact my present disposition? It strengthened my resolve to continue running this race and finish it so that I'll be able to help these people in a more concrete way. For now, all I can do is to heed their advocacy and participate in their awareness campaign by drafting a Senate resolution urging the President to sign and ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. One baby step at a time and we'll eventually put an end to this deafening silence.

Here's the documentary.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forgetful soul

Yesterday, our Dean posed this question in his facebook wall which merited a lot of comments:

Is the ability to believe in a transcendent being [Being/God] inherent in human beings; or is it a skill that can be nurtured?

I can't help but be struck by one of the comments from a certain Ferdie:

I gather from a certain belief system that it is inherent. But the soul forgot it is a soul because of human being's preoccupation with the body and the material things the body desires. Nurturing means recovering the awareness that a human being is a soul--soul awareness. And all souls connect to a Supreme Soul, who is their father. Prayer or meditation focuses on remembering oneself as a soul. Am still grappling with this beautiful thought. There is logic in it, though it is said this question is not in the realm of Logic.

A supposed evidence of inherentness of belief in a transcendent being is the constant yearning for peace; one way or the other, one time or another, the human being seeks peace, a moment of calm, a moment of serenity--is it not...? But while seemingly so human, yearning for peace is inherent in us because the soul--which has been forgotten to be the eternal essence of a human being--has its main attribute to be peaceful. It is said that when one seeks peace, peace of the inner self actually, it is the human being on its way to self-awareness that it is a soul, and that the soul is connected to a transcendent supreme soul. It has been there all along, only forgotten. In moments of crises, the soul remembers itself, and its connection to the Transcendent. But the problem is, why am i agnostic? That is the question that i continue to grapple with.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why am in lost school?

After reading this article, I wanted to get out of  lost school asap. ;) But sanity prevailed and I remembered my reason for being here in the first place - and that is to be a productive member of society. To be able to affect other people's lives in a concrete way. To use the skills I learned in the classroom to effect some much-needed changes in society. 

I say, kudos to this student who realized early on to be critical of her surroundings and managed to deliver it eloquently! ;)

Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling in Graduation Speech

Here I stand 

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path." 

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective. 

Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible. 

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared. 

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt. 

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not "to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States." 

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking." Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth? 

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is. 

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us. 

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still. 

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation. 

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, "You have to learn this for the test" is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades. 

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake. 

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth. 

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians. 

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a "see you later" when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Of birthdays and surprises

Last Thursday morning, we prepared a mini-surprise for my younger brother Thor who turned 21. The birthday breakfast consists of tuna spaghetti, bread and his billiard-inspired birthday cake which I didn't allow them to eat so that it would last for the whole day. hehe :)

A brief nostalgic feeling overcame me. I can't help but remember the year I turned 18 in the same dorm. Nah, I didn't have a grand celebration but my parents managed to surprise me. I suspected that they had something up their sleeves when they kept asking me what time would I be going back to the dorm. I initially thought they were coming to Manila to celebrate my birthday with me. Now, that would've been a wonderful surprise. Alas, they had other things in mind. I'm not sure if you're familiar with LBC's Sing-a-gram (or I think that's the name of the promo). Anyway, if you avail of this promo, LBC would send an agent to render a personalized "harana" for the recipient plus a birthday card. But wait, there's more. This agent brought his very own jurassic karaoke with him to the dorm lobby and started belting out this song:

Dis song is espeysyaly dedikeyted to the birtdey celebrant - Duna. 
Shey maybe da peys I can't forgeyt
A trace of pleysyur or regreyt
Maybe my treysyur or da price I hab to pay
Shey maybe da song that summer sings
Maybe da chill dat autumn brings
Maybe a hundred different things
Within da meysyur of da day
Shey, oh shey!

Imagine my mortification when I heard his pronunciation. After the performance,  I just wanted the earth to swallow me. Many dormers witnessed that event including the dorm manager. But I had to be a good sport and thank the singing agent for his heartfelt harana. Sana di naman siya mawalan ng trabaho sa ginawa niya.

T'was a memorable surprise indeed. As the saying goes, its the thought that counts! :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I have a dream within a dream within a dream

Nope, I'm not gonna talk about Inception although for the record, I'm still NOT over it. ;) I'm gonna talk about this dream, this vision of mentoring a community of students who will also mentor and tutor younger pupils. This business will allow me to network with other like-minded individuals who have the same dream. This idea has got me pumped up and I want to start it as soon as I link up with two of my future partners in this venture. I have a dream and its enough to put new vigor into my steps and direction in my career life.  

Truly, opportunity comes when you least expect it. You'll just have to keep your mind and heart open to respond to it.

“We all have possibilities we don't know about. We can do things we don't even dream we can do.” But if you never dare, you will never know your potential.  - Dale Carnegie

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gotta remember those childhood dreams

I was looking for some inspiration to get me out of this ratty mood I'm in and the best website is for their ideas which are worth spreading. I chanced upon this video of Randy Pausch about his Last Lecture on really achieving your dreams. It touched me to the core and it was the kind of inspiration which I really needed. He made me laugh and cry throughout the lecture. I even jotted down a few notes while watching the video.

* Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.
* Brick walls are there for a reason.
* Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.
* The best way to teach somebody something is to make them think they're learning something else. (I know of some teachers who teach this way.)
* Never ever lose the childlike wonder.
* When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, ignore everything they say and pay attention to what they do. (I agree a hundred percent!)

And now, I'll just let Randy Pausch do the talking! (May God bless his soul.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Killing our Dreams

This is a post from Paulo Coelho's blog and I'm posting it here to remind me of the symptoms when I'm about to kill my dreams. At the end of this brief life, may I be able to declare St. Pauls' words in 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith".

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.

The second symptom
of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.

When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.
And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sharing is Loving

Pardon the cheesy title but this has been my motto for the past two weeks. Despite the fact that I am going through a career and financial crisis right now, I chose not to dwell on these setbacks but rather focus on my blessings. I realized that I still have a lot to share with other people - my time, my resources, and even my cooking expertise. hehe :) Since I was asked to go on an indefinite leave (refer to previous post), I had more time in my hands which I chose to spend in the kitchen instead of the library. I was able to cook several dishes like spaghetti which I shared with my CG, chicken sotanghon which I shared with my poi friends and housemates, chicken giniling which I shared with Twinx and Mel, fish tinola which I shared with my siblings and of course, my chicken sandwich spread which I shared with Ate Sansu and my officemates. Its always a delight to see the look on their faces. These may not be the tastiest dishes ever but I cooked it with passion. chos! ;)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crossroads... again

Here I am again, in a place where I have to decide on which path to choose. I was given the so-called "axe" today. The Boss told me that I wouldn't have to go to work everyday since they're still finalizing the plantilla positions. She gave me the option - whether to stay and wait or go and look for another job. I wasn't shocked by the news but I didn't expect my reaction because I retorted, "Go where?" It showed an utter lack of options. It was like being cornered in a wall with nowhere else to go. I hated that feeling - that sinking feeling of hopelessness as if my life depended on this job. Two years into the job and I've been wanting to leave because I didn't derive any sense of self-fulfillment anymore. Don't get me wrong, I am blessed and privileged to be part of this efficient staff but I always felt that I was not cut out for this kind of job. However, I needed some sense of stability so that I can support my siblings through college so I stayed on. To keep me busy and 'productive', I took up graduate studies and currently, legal studies.

Now, I have to weigh my options. I kept thinking, maybe this is a blessing in disguise. This is fate's way of telling me its time to move on. Pursue my dream job - whatever that is, I already have a vague idea. I wanna do it now while I'm still young and I got so many fresh ideas in my head.

But I know that I also have to be pragmatic with my decision. Two of my siblings are still in college and will be graduating this April. I still have 2.5 years to endure in lost school. If I have to work my ass off to support my studies, I need a job with a somewhat flexible schedule and a decent compensation. These are the things which are keeping me from moving on.

I honestly do not know what to do. But I'm hopeful and positive about this whole set-up. Its the perfect occasion to nudge me out of my complacency. I just keep on the brighter side - now, I'll have more time to catch up on my readings. :) And I would even have an extra time to pursue my advocacies.;)

So, I'm jotting this on my journal with a silent prayer for God to guide me and send me people and opportunities to help me get through this phase.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kerygma Appearance

I was stalking myself on the cyberspace when I chanced upon this short article I wrote for the Kerygma magazine way back in October of 2007. I'm posting it here for posterity's sake ;)

Monday, July 5, 2010

This is my Conviction

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

— Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Speech

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Way Ticket to the Blues

Recently, I realized that this law school phase is a solo journey. Your only friend and enemy is yourself. Its a long and arduous road and you need to be focused on your goal. Let nothing distract you from continuing the race. Don't worry, it'll be worth it in the long run. ;)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stoked in Calaguas

I've been putting off this entry for too long but now I need to write to release some steam. The best way to do that is to go down memory lane and reconstruct my fantastic Independence Day weekend (June 12-14) plus the the proper documentation, of course.

Well, t'was the last long weekend  before classes start and my Planet Zips friends were inviting me to join them in the Calaguas trip. Initially, I was very excited to join since I thought classes would start on the 15th of June and it would be my last chance to go on a much-deserved beach vacation considering that I wasn't able to do that due to the election circus. However I was bound for a huge disappointment because the College declared that the madness would begin on the 8th. But thanks to the Independence Day holiday, which fell on a Saturday, and to the doggedness of the Dean who felt that it should be celebrated on the day itself, he declared that we won't have classes on Saturday. Yipeee. Its time to party, baby! ;)

Now, I had preconceptions of this trip and I kept my expectations at a minimum. I didn't know much about it and I didn't attempt to inquire about it. I just gave in to the wanderlust in me, always on the search for a new adventure. So, I thought there would only be around 10 companions. Lo and behold, there were 80+ pax who joined the tour. And I thought it wouldn't be very sunny because its already raining (men) in the Metro, but when we arrived there - the sun was shining ever brightly. T'was the perfect weather for the perfect getaway.

Armed with my backpack, water bottle, book (plus cases, sorry I couldn't resist), fully-charged Ipod, and buckets of adventurous spirit - we embarked on that memorable journey.

How can one forget a roadtrip where we flirted with death? I think the driver was too excited to meet the Creator that he didn't respect the idea that its a two-way street and there is such a thing as a counterflow. Fortunately for me, I was too excited to sleep to be overly concerned with this dangerous feat. I hope I could say the same for my vanmates who were hanging on for dear life. ;)

Eight hours later, we had our first glimpse of Mahabang Buhangin. And I tell, it was love at first sight. The powdery-white sand, the seashore which stretched endlessly, the crystal clear water. I knew then that it was the perfect place to calm my tired and restless soul. ;) All in all, it was a fun-filled trip. I even got my first lesson at skimboarding, which looked very easy but it was very difficult to execute. And since my fellow poistas brought gallons of kerosene, t'was enough for us to burn the night away.

Amidst all these beautiful sights, the  starry, starry night would remain etched in my mind. It was the perfect opportunity for me to think and sort my thoughts. To a certain extent, I even made amends with myself. I know I chose this road and I have to finish this race. Where it would lead me, I don't know. All I know is that the Creator planted a dream in my heart and I have to overcome all the odds, including these moments of indecision, so that I can persevere in this task. I know that I would be in this world for only a brief moment, so I should make the most out of this life. There should be no room for mediocrity. I must not forget my life mission -  

                         making a positive impact in other people's lives.

In that brief moment and in that faraway island, I had my fleeting taste of paradise here on earth. It was all I needed to recharge and to continue living this life to the full.

Carpe diem!

In case you also want to take that elusive trip to Calaguas, there's an upcoming tour on July 3-4, 2010. Just get in touch with Nano at or 0927-2508522. It'll be the best decision you'll ever make. Watcha waitin' for? Book now. ;)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hello Bangkok!

We finally made it. We pushed through with our travel plans despit the the recent uprising in Bangkok. We arrived last night and a friend from high school picked us up from the airport. Originally, we did not plan on exploring the city since we're going straight to Siem Reap for the Angkor Wat. But my friend, Diana, also wanted to come so we'll have to wait for her to finish her class which means we have one whole day to explore Bangkok. :) I'm so excited to see the temples and learn more about this people's culture. I'll be posting some photos soon and my overall impression of the place. I'm planning to post an update everyday just to remind me of every leg of this eventful journey.

Ciao for now. :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010


You know what a tambis is? Its a reddish fruit which is called makopa in tagalog but for us in bisaya, its simply tambis. I was reminded of this fruit when i saw a tree laden with fruits in calumpit, bulacan during today's sortie. I did a doubletake when i saw the tree coz i wanted one. The owner must have noticed because she offered it to mr. Apparently, three kids were already up in the tree and one kid handed me a bunch of tambis. Yey! It was a wonderful surprise and one which i'm truly grateful for.
Haay, the taste of tambis brought back lots of childhood memories. Those carefree days when i also used to climb trees and eat its fruits to my heart's content. All those days spent playing and laughing and frolicking.
Aahh, the simple joys in life. The tambis surprise really made my day.

Whatta loooonnnggg day!

I'm writing this entry at the back of a truck under the pouring rain and waiting for Miranda's turn to speak at a Nacionalista rally so that we can go home. This has beena very long day. I was already in the office at 5am so that we can start our postering in Bulacan and finish early. Well, we left early but it took us a long time to mount those posters at the rally site. Which means that we are already way behind our schedule. We had to alight and board the truck every kilometer so that we can put up the posters. Haaaay. Super draining. And just when we thought that its time to go home, the boss called for us to stay for the rally and wait for them so that we can load the ladder at the back of a truck. And that's how i ended up in my current situation. As much as i would like to rant and curse, i can't because i perfectly understand the situation. Everybody's under extreme pressure right now and i wouldn't want to add to that. So, all i can do now is wait for this torture to end. I know that some of my officemates have been through worse situations so i must bear this suffering with tolerance. After all, one more week to go and we'll know the verdict.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pure Imagination

Last night, I watched Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007). I don't know if it was the movie or my current emotional state but I was like a psychotic while watching the movie - crying and laughing at the same time. It touched my inner childhood - with all those magical toys and what-nots. I was transported back to the time when I used to believe that fairies would come out from magic roses when they bloom at midnight and that dwarves lived beneath our house. I also loved the movie lines that's why I'm posting it on this blog.

Will I watch it again? Definitely yes.


Mr. Edward Magorium: [to Molly, about dying] When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He's written "He dies." That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is "He dies." It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with "He dies." And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it's only natural to be sad, but not because of the words "He dies." but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
[pause, walks over to Molly]
Mr. Edward Magorium: I've lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I'm only asking that you turn the page, continue reading... and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest "He died."
Molly Mahoney: [starting to sob] I love you.
Mr. Edward Magorium: I love you, too.
[picks Molly up, sighs heavily]
Mr. Edward Magorium: Your life is an occasion. Rise to it. 

Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector: All stories, even the ones we love, must eventually come to an end and when they do, it's only an opportunity for another story to begin.

Mr. Edward Magorium: 37 seconds.
Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.
Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime. 

Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector: [while narrating] What Mahoney needed was the opportunity to prove to herself that she was something more than she believed.

Mr. Edward Magorium: We must face tomorrow, whatever it may hold, with determination, joy and bravery 

Friday, April 23, 2010

As Einstein Saw It

I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
                                                                                                  —Albert Einstein

I chanced upon this essay by no less than the great Albert Einstein and I was truly inspired by what he wrote that's why I'm posting it here verbatim.

"How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people -- first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...

"I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves -- this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts -- possessions, outward success, luxury -- have always seemed to me contemptible.
"My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude..."

"My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality... The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.  
"This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor... This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man... I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beds are Burning

In celebration of Earth Day, I'm listing down taften things that I am doing (which you can do too) in order to minimize my carbon footprint and help save Mother Earth.

1. Wherever I go, I always bring my water bottle with me so that I wouldn't have to buy bottled water or ask for a styro cup to drink from. Tipid na sa bulsa, environment friendly pa.
2. Aside from taking navy showers, I also use the trusty pail and dipper to ensure that the water does not flow freely. Oh, and I make sure that the faucet is completely sealed off before I step out of the bathroom.
3. Whenever I go shopping, I decline the use of plastic bags if I can shove all the things that I bought into my bag.
4. I throw my garbage in its proper place - the trash can. If no trash can is in sight, then I can just put it in my bag pocket. Now, you can just imagine how the inside of my bag looks like. ;)
5. I rarely photocopy my readings, instead I borrow the readings of my officemate who took up the class before me.Through this technique, I've been able to save thousands of pesos.
6. If I need to print something which I don't have to submit to the boss or the professor, I print it on recycled paper.
7.When I leave the office, I ensure that all the electric cords are unplugged. Iwas sunog na, tipid kuryente pa.
8. I replaced  the bulb of my desktop lamp with a CFL (compact fluorescent) bulb. It lasts longer and consumes lesser electricity.
9. Turn off the lights when its not in use.
10. Since I don't have a choice, I always use the public transport like jeepneys, tricycles, and light rail trains.

Awareness is the first step in our quest to preserve Mother Earth. We need to be conscious of what we are doing to our surroundings. We are merely stewards of this creation and we need to take good care of it so that the future generation can still enjoy it. With that, I'll be leaving you with this song performed by various artists to promote climate change awareness.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gradwait (*_*)

Nope, its not my graduation...yet! But these past few days, I've attended several graduation ceremonies where Miranda is the guest speaker. Its all part of the job but for me its not a chore because it has been my current source of inspiration. ;) These students are lucky because they have an eloquent and inspiring speaker. As for me, I can barely recall the speech delivered by Vice Presidential candidate Bayani Fernandoduring my own graduation.

Basically, she discusses three points in all her speeches.
1. How to prepare for the board exams
2. How to find a good spouse and build a happy marriage (paki-connect!)
3. How to live a good life

Preparing for the board exams
Here are some reminders which she always emphasize in her speeches. Some of them may sound cliche-ish but they are still very effective when applied.
1. Honesty is the best policy.
2.Cleanliness is next to godliness.
3. If at first you don't succeed, try again

"Concentration is the key to success and the key to concentration is silence."
I tried implementing this technique during my final exams. And I think that losing my cellphone helped me in attaining that level of silence which was needed to concentrate. Well, I don't know the results of my exam yet and I'm still keeping my fingers crossed. ;) I hope I'll remember this lesson when I prepare for THE BAR!

Finding a good spouse
According to Miranda, the secret to finding a good spouse is to find someone who has the same moral values as you do. Dapat pareho kayo ng pangarap sa buhay. Kumbaga, magka-wavelength kayo. ;)

Now, I wonder where I can find that elusive person. ;)

Living the good life
After buying your first house and your first car and earning your first million, it will all feel the same. These material riches won't give you genuine happiness. Miranda challenges the students to ponder on the three basic philosophical questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? Where I am going?

Well, they might be too young to be understand the full impact of these questions but I've been asking myself these questions for the past few years.Honestly, I haven't come up with a definite answer although I already have a vague conception of who I am and what I am doing here. But as to where I am going, I'm still undecided. ;) Suffice it to say that I'm still trying very hard to carve my own niche in this imperfect world.

The great adventure of life is to Learn. 
The nature of life is to Change. 
The purpose of life is to Grow. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Of rallies and circuses

Last night, I attended my first ever political rally sponsored by the local officials of Valenzuela for the Nacionalista Party. The organizers estimated that they would be able to gather almost 20,000 people into that abandoned field. True enough, the whole area was filled to its full capacity proves that the event was well-organized. But the compliment ends there.

This whole political rally style of campaigning where you gather these people through incentives like cash, free meal, free entertainment and whatever else would motivate them to go - promotes a culture of mendicancy. Para silang naglilimos ng mga campaign materials - shirts, sun visors, ballpens, ballers at kung anu-ano pa. These people are willing to forgo the comforts of their homes and bring their whole family - ate, kuya and baby to the dusty field in exchange for those things.

Then they bring in the clowns/entertainers to provide these people with cheap thrills. The opening act was a mini-skit about a man and his "automated" sculpture who's willing to do anything that the host tells hims to do even if he is asked to go naked in front of all the people, old and children alike.

Those are just some observations from my experience last night. I don't want to get started on the politicians who don't even have a specific platform or even an aspiration to deliver quality public service to the people.

I wonder if this whole debacle will ever end. Its the classic chicken and egg situation. An uninformed electorate will vote for incompetent and even corrupt leaders who wants to bag a government position in order to save enough money for the next election. Maybe this is the reason why there's no effort from these politicians to inform and educate the voters about the real issues and their platforms.

We, the people, deserve the leaders that we vote for. Vote wisely!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bye E!

Last Tuesday morning, some random pickpocket managed to get his hands into my bag and took my wallet and beloved E71. It was a fleeting incident, I never even noticed it until such time that I had to get my wallet from my bag and pay my fare. That's when I realized that I've been hoodwinked. It wouldn't have bothered me if he just stole my wallet but along with it, he took my phone :( A phone which I bought last November to replace my lost phone. A phone which I've grown to love because it has all the features I wanted - Office functions, PDF reader, camera, radio, wifi... you name it, E has it. ;) I felt dejected when I realized that it was also stolen. I didn't think I could survive without it. But I didn't allow that to get me down. I had too many things on my mind like the upcoming exams for me to worry about that. I figured God must be teaching me a lesson through this experience. Maybe I just had to isolate myself from this material gadgets. The UPSCAn motto comes to mind: Live simply, so that others may simply live. With that, I vowed that it would be my ultimate sacrifice for the Holy week. :)

Now, its been a week since I lost E and I'm surviving. I've grown to savor the "alone" moments when I'm physically and virtually alone because I never feel that when I have a phone since everybody's electronically connected. In retrospect, I had more time to focus on my studies. I only have my wandering thoughts to distract me - nothing else. I remember Miranda's wise words: Concentration is the key to success and the key to concentration is silence.

Maybe this is the lesson that I had to learn and relearn. Thanks to E!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Failure and Imagination

This speech has been circulating in the net since 2008 and I've read it several times. But today, I saw the video of that speech and I was really inspired by JK Rowling's message on the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Its just a matter of changing one's perspective and attitude about failure. Some might see it as a major setback but it could probably be a blessing in disguise. And Ms. Rowling is certainly not a stranger to failures. She had to go through several failures to get to her superstar status.

On to the speech...

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Text as delivered follows.
Copyright of JK Rowling, June 2008

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.

The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and convince myself that I am at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step to self improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that have expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These may seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. I know that the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon anvil, now.

So they hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.

So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working at the African research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to speak against their governments. Visitors to our offices included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had left behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.
Thank you very much.

Monday, February 15, 2010

RENT: The Musical

V-day is the day!

I was finally able to watch the musical which has been haunting me for years. Ever since I heard the song Seasons of Love, I was hooked to Rent. I LOVE everything about it - the music, the lyrics, the characters and the message of the whole production. Carpe Diem! Although its very tragic that Jonathan Larson was never able to witness the masterpiece that he created, I'm sure it has inspired a million lives, including mine. This year, I was invited to watch RENT, live in Manila, on Veeday. I enjoyed and savored every moment of it. And to refresh my memory, I'll be posting all the acts that I love including the lyrics so that I'll just check this post whenever i need my Rent fix.

Seasons of Love
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
moments so dear
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year

In daylight, in sunsets, in midnights,
in cups of coffee, In inches, in miles
in laughter in strife,

In Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life

How about Love
how about love
how about love
measure in love
seasons of love
seasons of love

Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
journeys to plan
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
how do you measure the life of a woman
or a man

In truth that she learned
or in times that he cried
In the bridges he burned
or the way that she died

Its time now to sing out
though the story never ends
lets celebrate remember a year
in the life of friends

Finale B (No Day but Today)
There is no future
There is no past

Thank God this
Moment's no the last

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret or
Life is yours to miss

No other road no other way
No day but today

I can't control
My destiny
I trust my soul
My only goal

Will I lose my dignity
Will someone care
Will I wake tomorrow
From this nightmare

Is just to be
The hand gropes
The ear hers
The pulse beats
Life goes on
But I'm gone

There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way

'Cause I die
Without you
I die without you

No day but today


One Song Glory / Light my Candle