Steve Irwin is dead! I was shocked when I heard it. Here was a man who seemed to have lived ten lifetimes in one, was overwhelmingly full of life, enthusiasm and passion for wild life and in an instant, he is gone–done in by a stingray. The irony of it all was that the very creatures he loved and helped conserve killed him. But as a true conservationist, I venture he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I’ve always liked stingrays and mantas myself. I had a close encounter with a small one, maybe the size of a pizza bilao during one dive in Pulang Buli, Anilao. It was covered with sand at the ocean floor. I must have startled it as I descended to about 25 feet water since it slammed itself on my chest and made a quick dash. It happened so fast I almost did not figure out what hit me until I saw it fleeing away. Startled, I immediately checked for a hole on my wetsuit and when there was none, I began to relax.
A friend of mine was actually barbed by a stingray on his leg. He was bleeding a lot and had a fever for four hours but pulled through. Steve Irwin got it bad because he was pierced right through his heart. I’m not sure but I don’t think he was wearing a wetsuit. I was teary-eyed watching Larry King awhile ago as Steve’s best friend spoke about the accident. The poor guy could not help crying as he narrated the last moments that Steve went through. Steve even managed to pull out the barb underwater before dying on the rescue rubber boat.
Steve Irwin’s pictures welcome everyone who land in Aus. Even on the plane, the video they show of what one can bring and cannot bring into Aus is done by him as he explains the fragile ecosystem of the land Down Under. This blog bids farewell to a wonderful, extraordinary human being whose passionate persona has transcended all national borders. He belongs to all humanity and he will be missed by all.
The kids are REALLY talented. I am talking about the Pinoy Dream Academy scholars. They can sing, write their own songs, and they can do it so effortlessly. They are so young and fresh and ready to learn as much as they can from three old guys like Maribeth, Moy and I whose combined working years in the business is 81 years.
Needless to say, we have been approaching our work with dedication and a lot of TLC. We all realise the raw potential we are working with and so do our coaching and teaching work with a lot of patience and dedication.
When the idea was first broached to me to be the headmaster for the academy, I was almost gonna turn it down automatically. I was not a fan of Big Brother and another reality show wasn’t gonna pull me out of my family in Aus. But it was Lauren Diyogi, PDA’s business unit manager and my producer and director for Tatak Pilipino (the best TV work I did) who approached me and so I gave it a listen. He said the training and the values we would teach were all up to us. In other words, it will be my call. That got me excited enough to consider it and eventually say yes. I would have the opportunity to ‘workshop’ the kids and hopefully the audience watching as well. Kahit papano, we can hopefully pass on good habits and values we believe in. Besides, I was going to be in Manila anyway till October. It would mean extending just two months more.
We are dedicated to teaching these kids the important professional and life skills they will need to be in this business for a long time while keeping sanity and soul together. Aside from training them to be good technically and artistically with voice, dancing, acting and songwriting lessons, we are teaching punctuality, working as part of a team, creativity, humility, keeping passion alive, handling themselves with dignity and dealing with psychological blockages that stand in the way of expressing their wonderful talents. At least this is the direction we wish to go as teachers and I hope they follow. Every week, we are hoping that some if not all of them upgrade their skills and discover better versions of themselves as artists and people.
Meanwhile, I am aware it is also a reality show where people outside the academy watch the kids’ lives unfold. I am hoping the teaching and learning parts are also given prominence in the telecasts. Let’s hope there’s a good balance that we can achieve. I am hoping the learning part of it and the lessons the kids learn will translate to good television as well.
I am suspending my tendency to be cynical about this. I am hoping there are stories of redemption that happen along the way that can inspire not just the artists but the televiewers also. A reality show notwithstanding, it’s a pretty good opportunity to do something worthwhile with the power of media.
Manila is just not the same for me right now. I ask people how much has changed since the 5 months I was away and they are unable to say anything except for a few news stories that have happened. Perhaps I have changed. I am no longer as tired and sad I was when I left. But I am terribly missing my family who are in Aus. So while I am feeling better in some ways, I am finding it hard to accept fully as of now that this is my here and now.
There are some aspects of Manila that continue to ‘speak’ to me and engage me totally the way it always does, and these are the many wonderful people who are here and who I care for. There are my APO friends and everyone connected to us–the band, management, the people we’ve worked with through the years. There are my household help, my relatives who check on me knowing how lonely I can get. And there is the quiet of my room where my zen pillows are and where I do my zen sits to keep me centered while the crazy world works at making me conform to its craziness.
Right now, despite the loneliness, things feel right as I type all this down. There is the internet, this invisible space of cyber that is everywhere and nowhere, waiting for me to upload this. ‘It’s center is a circle but its circumference is nowhere’–that’s ken Wilber’s description not of the internet, but of the center of gravity of the ‘witness’ that one notices one becomes while in zen or in a state of pure being. I am that witness right now, everywhere and nowhere, just like cyberspace and I am uploading my blog about my loneliness on the internet. But as Ken points out, whatever is witnessed is NOT the witness. The subject cannot be an object. And so , I am really not my loneliness at all since I can talk about it in the third person. That’s a relief. Hah! But if I can talk about a ‘me’, then I am not that ‘me’. Who am I then and who is writing all this?
Gulo ba? ha ha!