‘In a place where nothing happens..’

where’s the news?

My eldest brother Jesse who is the greatest punster I know loves to say that ‘In a country where nothing happens, nothing will happen!’ He would say this at the height of every coup rumor or any destabilization plot floating about while we were still living in Manila. What he meant when he says nothing happens in the Philippines is the seeming impossibility of any earthshaking, meaningful reform or re-structuring occurring that can alter the lives of the majority. So far, he has been proven to be correct. While I do not share his view completely, I do understand where he is coming from and I appreciate the statement for being smart, funny and cynical.

We have been living in Australia for a little over a month now and… surprise! It seems the same statement can be applied here but with a different meaning altogether. My son Mio was laughing at the headlines of our local newspaper yesterday which screamed about ‘stinking toilets in schools.’ He was shaking his head while commenting that ‘NOTHING happens in this place’ so much so that they pick on something like dirty toilets for headlines! For someone used to more ‘hardcore’ stuff, it is so tempting to ask what has happened to ‘real’ news like coups, big-time corruption, massacres, sex scandals, disasters, police brutality, kidnapping, carnapping, etc.. like we have back home? Of course, there are the shootings on the south side and a few other stuff going on but the truth is, they seem so remote. Somehow, I get the feeling that the collective adrenalin levels of our family has been greatly lowered since we got here. I don’t even feel the need to watch the news. Not yet anyway. What for? In a place where nothing happens, nothing will happen anyway. Ha ha!

Road warriors and the hero’s journey

The whole idea and intent behind the strict process of getting a driving license in this country is on the whole quite commendable. They have made things difficult to make sure that one does not take driving for granted and thus will learn the rules and practice them. But what strikes me more about it all is the whole psychological process of earning the right to drive. There is something quite ‘mythical’ about it, similar to going on a quest, or a’ hero’s journey’ (Joseph Campbell’s favorite theme) where one must enter one’s realm of fear, harness the right knowledge and resources and master the rules to be able to conquer it. And only then can he/she earn the right to be on the road.

I think that a shared experience such as the earning-the- right-to-drive ritual’ with its attendant fears, the learning of new skills and the financial costs it entails does something to everyone who goes through it. It helps in the development of a good sense of civics. One feels a sense of belonging, and finds his place in the scheme of things. (If you know for example that you are in your right lane at the right speed and doing correct driving, then you know WHERE you are. You are in your rightful place). The whole thing is compelling enough for a person to, at the very least, go along if not cooperate or even contribute in a positive way to the society that presents a clear ‘map’ for him to follow. A societal bond develops that promises he will arrive at where he wishes to go by following the rules.

Incidentally, I aced my knowledge test!! Next is the harder part–the actual driving test! Wish me luck! If I fail, don’t be surprised if I change my tune and not sound as glowing in my praise of the driving rules here. ha ha!!

If I were President..

The Israelis have their compulsory military service. Other countries have their imposed civic duties. I’ve always been of the belief that college graduates in the Philippines should be required to do service for a month in, say, the rural areas or even a government office. If I were President of the Philippines, that’s one of the first thinfgs I would do. Of course there’s a danger of being corrupted, being so young and all but there’s also the possibility that older people will be inspired to be shining examples to the young they are mentoring.

For the same reason as I stated above, communal rites of passages such as these are important so that young people have a measuring stick to know where and who they are in their society. There is the driving license , the allowable age to drink, which is suppose to do this but they lose a lot of their meaning and effect because they are unfortunately ‘negotiable’ for the most part in the Philippines.

An Incredible Toilet Story

I was quite annoyed yesterday when I asked someone who worked inside a music store where the toilet was, and he answered that he could not let me use the toilet because I was not ‘insured’! WHAAAT!?? He said that only the store staff could use it since they were all insured to enter all the rooms of the premises even as he apologized. I was quite stunned and surprised. I promised him I wouldn’t sue while I gazed around to see if this was some sort of joke set up by Australia’s Funniest Videos or something like that. He was serious. He suggested I walk two long blocks up the road where there was a toilet. Duh??

Well, what if I was some old man with a walking disability or a sick person and I needed to REALLY go? My companion speculated that they probably use drugs in the toilet or something. I just can’t believe such a ‘rule’ exists and how overly legalistic people can get. I was tempted to tell him that in that case, I am not going to buy anything in the store since my money has restrictions against stores governed by idiotic rules and manned by idiotic personnel.

That’s one store I will hesitate to spend my money on–not unless they put up a sign that says “Please do not enter this store if you have any intention to use the toilet unless you are properly insured to do so!’ Or ‘Beware! This store will not allow you use of the toilet facilities and management will not be responsible if you contract urinary tract infection!’


One thing I can’t have enough of here is the sunset. We were in the park yesterday and I could not stop shooting the spectacular colors that the dying sun was showing off! Simply awesome! And it seems as beautiful as this everyday.

Paying Forward

It’s been one party after another. We have been meeting a lot of people lately and I can say that EVERYONE has been wonderful and helpful. I have met quite a varied spectrum from old-timers who have been here 30 years or more, and some who have just arrived a year or so ago, and all those in between. Generally I notice that the veterans will give you a knowing grin and a reassuring ‘you’ll be fine in no time’, while the medium and short-timers will give you a list of what we should do. But whatever, the common denominator is they all offer their help, or to ‘just give them a call for anything’. This is Filipino hospitality that one can find anywhere in the world and it is heart-felt and sincerely given. When more of my relatives, friends and strangers I meet move to this country in the future, I promise to ‘pay forward’ all the good things that have been showered on us. This is the Filipino way that in my opinion, we should keep with us wherever we are and regardless of whatever citizenship we acquire!

hippie or skinhead?

Had a great time at Lane Cove National Park last Easter Sunday. We spent it with some relatives and friends. Ananda especially had a blast running around. There’s so much Australia has to offer when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. They have lakes, beaches, hills, mountains and anyone who enjoys the open air will really find many places to his liking. I have been to Teregal, Kiyama, and a few other places and I can’t wait to bring my family there. One of these days, perhaps.

What I find peculiar though is the weather. Under the autumn sun, one can feel hot but when you go to the shade, you feel the cold creeping in. I still have to get used to that.

Lydia, Mio and I have gotten our anti-flu shots. At least we are ready for the winter season.

Nino, Ala’s boyfriend arrived a few days ago from Manila, and that same evening, they drove with friends to Byron Bay, some 10 hours away by car, to watch a blues festival. Just last week, the Stones performed in Sydney for 48,000 thousand people. If I had known about it, I would have gone. Last night, ACDC performed as the finale number of a 3-day rock festival. By the 28th of the month, Larry Carlton, a jazz guitarist is performing in a small venue in Sydney. I feel like taking Mio to watch. That should be fun.

It’s too bad U2 canceled their gig here since Bono’s mom has fallen ill and so he took a break from touring to be with her. Looking forward to other gigs coming this way. It seems that Sydney has a lot to offer also for concert goers.

On the eve of Easter, we went to mass at the Church of the Holy Rosary and it was a looong one. Manila has long masses too during Easter but I can’t seem to recall them being this long. Apparently, a lot of things go on during Easter ceremonies here including the baptism and confirmation of new converts. They also had too many songs and readings that night. All in all, the mass was close to three hours. It was also a cold night. Mio and I were freezing as we walked back to the car while Lydia was kept warm with her ‘hot flashes’ (which I call ‘power surges’. Ha ha!). The chill, the stars, the company and the fact that it was our first Easter mass here made it all quite memorable. All those things aside, how can it not be? For years and years, Easter mass for us who lived in the Philippines had always been a sweltering and humid summer affair. The contrast did not escape us as we groaned at the prospect of a ‘tank top’ Christmas which is Oz’s hottest time of the year. This IS the land down under after all.

I just read an interview I did before I left Manila and I was actually jolted by what was written. I seem like a different person now compared to when I gave it. At this moment, I feel so distant about the feelings I had expressed in the interview—the tiredness with the political situation, the inertia that seemed to plague life back home and the pessimism. I just feel so different now. I feel awakened, revived, energetic and on learning mode. As I suspected would happen, I already am meeting new aspects of myself which were not challenged enough to express themselves back home. Everyday, I face uncertainties, even fears and meet them head on–new ways of doing things, new information, new places to drive to, new situations, etc.. And knowing them, befriending them until I can tame and make them part of my new but ever growing comfort zone is what I try to do. And I feel such a sense of bigness each time I do it. Truly, the unknown is just another ‘me’ I haven’t met! I am creatively expanding, growing while settling in this part of the world and imprinting myself on it!

In my case, whoever said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks was not talking about age for sure. I am over half a century old but still crazy enough to jump into this adventure. You are only old when you don’t want to learn anymore.

It’s time for a haircut and I am at this point where I can’t decide if I want to grow my hair as I used to sport it in the 70s, or shave my head completely. Hey, after all, I’m in a new place and I can be whoever I want to be—a hippie or skinhead. Mio wants me to grow my hair. (I tell you, he’s a real 70’s soul born in the wrong century!). But growing it means having to groom it and all and I don’t know if I like to go through the trouble! So maybe I should just go skinhead. Lydia’s been daring me to do this! Since my forehead keeps expanding anyway, unahan ko na kaya? But then, it may be too jarring for people who will be watching me in concert in two months. If I do, at least I may resemble Ken Wilber, my idol! Decision, decisions!

Should I go retro?

Is this my future?


Freedom, Teflon, etc..

Allow me some shamelessl plugging. Here’s the 2nd installment of the video that my daughter Ala made on us entitled P.O.F.W. Catch it
Been driving around, and yes, quite well and relaxed if I may say so myself. Friends have been so kind in giving me driving lessons. It helps to be present in the moment and to forget my ultra-defensive driving instincts honed over the years in Manila. No doubt, this skill which makes me keep an eye for tricycles that can come from behind or the side at any given notice is a useful one in the Philippines but not here. All one has to do is to follow the rules and use a little commonsense and one will get by. Been taking the test over the internet too and have been passing consistently. I will still go through a real instructor though before I take the test.

Two nights ago, we wanted some ice cream after dinner and I caught myself initially resisting going out. I knew that I was being dragged down by the inertia of just staying safely and comfortably at home and not driving. I was experiencing a low-level inytensity kind of fear because

a) it was night,
b) I don’t know the roads so well,
c) and all other reasons hiding behind the general fearful unknown.

But I forced my way out of the feeling. It was a declaration of independence of sorts and tiny as it was, it was still exhilarating!

I boldly reminded myself that we are far from being prisoners of the lonely and sprawling suburbs. WE HAVE A CAR. WE CAN DRIVE! Now all we had to do was look at the map. My wife promptly wrote the directions on a napkin and Mio became my navigator while Ala sat at the back and cheered on. We were laughing all the way to Hungry Jacks as we relished this spontaneous act of freedom. Ah, little joys and little victories. If we were babies, it seems our baby steps are getting bolder and we are even walking faster!

To speed up our knowledge of the geography, I got us a GPS car navigator yesterday and it’s wonderful. I have not used it for a really long drive yet but it seems to work pretty well. Lydia, who is very adept with maps still looks at the device with suspicion. I, on the other hand who is a complete klutz with anything in diagram form feel so secure using it.

Friends who recommended it say that it is a good investment in preserving relationships. Heh heh!

Close to ‘the Boss’

Love this music!

It seems most of the Filipinos I meet here are quite religious. I am not really surprised as I have seen this in many other countries where our kababayans are. I guess the fear factor of staking one’s claim in a new country makes one closer to one’s God. Doing something monumental such as moving to a new country and life must do that. One wants to be closer to The One Who Calls The Shots for assurance.

Been going to mass the past three Sundays. The church is nice and cozy but the music is too ‘English’ if you know what I mean. The songs sound so stale compared to the ‘Lauds’ music repertoire that is sung at the Gesu church at the Ateneo and in more and more churches back home.

This whole moving has made us extremely close as a family. People tend to naturally depend on each other in times of need. But even without this situation, we are already close to start with. I find it wonderful that we are all even more attentive and supportive of each other’s plans and needs now. It’s true what they say about how great family life here in OZ can be.

Quality Time

We have a small TV–one lent to us which we hardly turn on. Once in awhile, Ananda watches cartoons. In a few days though, we will shop for a bigger one since the kids like to watch DVDs. One of the things we will not be in a hurry to do is to subscribe to TFC. While I miss my friends, I do not miss being reminded of the overheated political situation back home and the entertainment scene. Not yet! I am enjoying the quiet and peace in the house. The absence of media paves the way for conversations and that makes everyone living under our roof more intimate with each other. In place of the drone of TV, we have quality time. For entertainment, we are quite happy with an i-pod and my little i-fusion speakers which I play we do chores.

They’re Here!

This should have been the first thing I should have written about: our furniture finally arrived last Wednesday! For the past two days, we have been moving things about, cleaning and re-storing many of the stuff we brought but now realize we do not need. Blame it on all that sentimentality about migrating! But it is so good to see parts of our former lives following us here–our dining table, our big kareton sofa, etc., to make our abode more homey. If the furniture could talk, I’m sure they would have thanked us for such a warm and appreciative welcome. Our accommodations here are much smaller than what we had in Manila but considering that we are the ones keeping it clean here, it is I guess, just right!

‘the new US’

We are expecting a lot of visitors this coming May. For one, Lydia’s brother Marty and his family are coming over for 6 days and staying with us! Then a sister of mine will be arriving. Also, relatives from Davao (numbering 20) will be coming by May 8. No, they are not staying with us!! It would be nice since we really enjoy their company but it would be disastrous!

A niece of mine here informed me that as of last count, there are 38 of our relatives settled here already. And I did not even know I had any when I moved! It seems like OZ is the new US as far as our family is concerned. Many of my siblings and cousins started to settle in the US as early the 60s. It seems that the new migration destination of choice is here down under!

Now I know the excitement my sisters and brother in the US feel when any family members visit.


I will be with Danny and Boboy by June. Yehey! We have 4 concerts scheduled in Guam, Saipan and two in OZ. More details later.

I’ve also been booked for my first photo assignment here! I am REALLY looking forward to that! Hopefully, I will be able to set up my small home photo studio soon and continue to do one of the things I loved doing back home.

Teflon Spirituality

I have on occasion received comments from people that have rubbed me the wrong way. Sometimes, I even answer back with hostility. At the moment when I am writing the response, I may seem angry, and sometimes I really am. If you have somehow been on the receiving end of my sarcasm or other people’s comments because of what you’ve written, I hope you don’t make too big a deal about it. It’s nothing. I just want you to know that I am not one to carry a grudge. I try to immediately drop it right after. Like teflon, I make it a point not to make anything stick. If we happen to find ourselves in the same room, don’t ever hold back talking to me.

So little time on earth, and I do not wish to spend needless energy protecting an ego because of what anyone has written. At least this is what I try to remind myself of, and I am getting better at it. This is another one of my crazy spiritual practices.

So peace, love and all that!

Lastly, if you want to visit a cool site, go to http://www.zaadz.com. You’ll meet a lot of people with even crazier spiritual practices.

amulets, dishes, nappies!

Filipinos you meet everywhere including those in Sydney will share their immigrant stories at the drop of a hat, including their hard-earned dos and don’t’s in the new country. I can understand why. It’s because moving to another country and leaving your roots behind is such a life-changing event that requires a big paradigm leap. It’s a real watershed. You go through battles and hardships to embrace a new life and many insights are picked up along the way. It’s a perfect dramatization of the hero’s journey which writer Joseph Campbell likes to talk about. Every life is indeed a hero’s journey. The immigrant story is, I suppose more literal than most. And every hero likes to pass on wisdom to the uninitiated.

The newbie’s job is to sift through the nuggets and see which one can be fashioned into the right amulet that will protect him and further his own journey to the promised land.

–Leaving Manila and our comfortable life is in the eyes of many quite baffling, and yes, even crazy! I agree. But at the same time, life is about growth and discovery probably even more than just being comfortable if one wishes to suck the marrow of it. There is little growth that happens in a comfort zone. In the unknown, one’s senses are awake and astute as they make sense of life’s new configuration. In many ways it’s as if I have asked life for a renegotiation. I have asked for a different contract. I just hope I am ready to take whatever it brings to the table.

–In a new setting, it is not unusual to meet aspects of oneself that you never suspected were there. In my case, the obligations of house cleaning and all that have allowed me to discover some joys I would not have dared try voluntarily before. So far, I am enjoying my slot at dish washing. I find it is quite calming, and the act of submerging a dirty dish on hot water, and washing it, as a metaphor for baptism does not escape me. Our Catholic tradition says that one is cleansed of sin through this sacrament. In zen, the act of cleaning dishes is a good metaphor for discovering ‘original face’. (‘What was the plate like before it was contaminated?’). There isn’t anytime or any place, including the most mundane situations where one is not given the opportunity to have a spiritual experience.

Ken Wilber, my favorite writer talks about the only ‘real job’ he ever had which was washing dishes for Red Lobster restaurant in the US for two years. He says that as much as it was work, it was also part of spiritual practice. When one thinks about it, what isn’t part of spiritual practice?

–The act of settling anywhere, or to be more accurate, getting settled somewhere is as much a psychological act as a physical one. One meets the resistance that resides inside oneself. In my case, I know I have this fear of the driving test. The cars are built differently and the roads are facing the wrong way, as far as I am concerned. But I also know that our lives here would greatly improve with more mobility and so I must conquer this fear and go for a license asap. I also know that just recognizing a fear is already a gigantic step in overcoming it. The rest is not resisting the learning that I need to do to pass the test.

–For the moment, I find I have so little time to blog. Lydia and Erica are sharing this computer and so I have limited access. And very often, even when I do have access, my grandchild Ananda is forever pulling ‘wowo’s hand to go here and there, or do this and that. I thought I was through with childrearing already but apparently, I am not.

Just last night, I was getting philosophical and was telling my kids how strange it is that we had been thrown together into the same family. As souls, did we have a say on which circumstances, country, genes, social situation we were going to inhabit when we entered the world of time? Who knows! And how is it that we now find ourselves together in this strange place living this life that we’re living? Was there a purpose to all this? What is it then” What is the great mission for us, if any? Last night, we all felt a quiet, comfortable kinship that went beyond the familial relationships we had. In the closeness, we all felt lucky and even assured to have a shared destiny. But why God threw in Ananda at the last minute is still a big mystery to us. Ha ha. Who knows, maybe my great mission in Aus is not to do any great thing that is measurable in terms of the material. Maybe it is the simple task of helping raise this child!

Enough of the mystery for now. Ananda needs a nappy change!

****For a light video report on how we are doing here, watch what my daughter Ala creatively put together!****