‘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!