Crystal balling ’08

Crystal balling ‘08
Sunday, December 30, 2007

One of the things I do every yearend, at least since I’ve had the worldwide web at my fingertips, is to look at what the seers and fortune- tellers are predicting for the coming year. I try to get bits and pieces of predictions for a wide variety of topics from world events to calamities, fashion, sports, technology, politics and even gossip, just to see how some people look at the future.

There is something very empowering about being able to predict the future. It gives man a semblance of control over something that is basically not within his power to completely influence or manage.

One of the things I’ve noticed is the number of “bad visions” people usually come up with every coming year. Always, there is the impending tragedy that will befall mankind, the cataclysmic predictions, the “Bible prophesied” events that will soon come to pass. It’s amazing how much gloom and doom we hear at this time of the year.

This year, the following are supposed to happen, and I put my bottom dollar on these solid predictions. To my knowledge, they are as solid as the Y2K frenzy that gripped the world at the onset of the year 2000! So here goes:

1. There will be a massive data meltdown all over the world. Your computer network, server, credit card numbers will all be wiped out just like that and the stock markets will go into a tailspin.

2. There will be many earthquakes and the much-awaited polar shift will happen.

3. The anti-Christ will appear, for the first time, in public.

4. A famous person will be assassinated…

Blah, blah, blah.

I want to end this year and start the new one with some crazy predictions that were made known to me by my inner spirit guide while I was staring at the bubbles in my champagne glass. I remember hearing the prophetic voice so clearly while I stumbled holding my eighth glass of wine two days (or was it nights?) ago. Mind you, these predictions are of better quality than the one made by a Filipino psychic who predicted at the height of the Bush-Gore battle for the presidency in 2004 that the next US president’s name would have four letters!

1. Mattel, Barbie’s toy company, will drop toy making altogether and, using all the recalled toys made in China as seed capital, will start a commodities company dealing in lead.

2. Because of the suspected methane-caused explosion in Glorietta, Filipino travelers all over the world will be required to go to the toilet and empty their bowels before boarding any aircraft. The DFA, of course, will make a “big stink” about discrimination.

3. It will be harder to find any of the 11 million Filipinos willing to admit that they voted for Trillanes, or say they are still rooting for GMA.

4. Another big government official will be convicted, but this time, he or she will not be pardoned like Erap. GMA will finally show that no one is above the law and the convicted official will actually spend time behind bars — for at least as long as Paris Hilton did in the LA county jail.

5. Romy Jalosjos, as part of a PR campaign to counter the recent brouhaha about his “escape,” will alter his appearance to show that he is a “changed” man. For a start, he will abandon his Elvis style pompadour and sunglasses and spike his hair à la Tim Yap and wear tinted contact lenses.

6. Ad agencies will abandon the trend of using scandal-ridden artists to endorse products and instead opt for celebrities with squeaky-clean images and reputations. They will soon realize, however, that such endorsers are very difficult to find and they may have to negotiate with Disney for the use of cartoon characters or do animation with clay figures.

7. A typhoon will hit Metro Manila and, once again, people will die and get injured due to billboards falling on them. GMA will ban billboards. (Oh, sorry. I predicted that last year.)

8. The Manila Peninsula Hotel will put up a sign outside explicitly banning the parking of any kind of motor vehicle in its lobby, no matter who orders it.

9. Jose Maria Sison will finally realize that the Berlin Wall has collapsed, China and Russia have become capitalists, and that only Cuba remains a socialist state. He will pack up the New People’s Army in exchange for the withdrawal of all charges against him. And, as a last condition before he returns to the fold of the law, he will demand to guest on Wowowee and Deal or No Deal.

10. The peso will continue to gain strength until it regains all lost ground through the years and becomes equivalent to two pesos to the US dollar once more, like in Magsaysay’s time. This, in turn, will force OFWs to come home since their earnings abroad will be worthless, and end all remittances to the Philippines, which will immediately bring back the exchange rate to its double-digit levels and immediately send OFWs back to their host countries once again.

11. GMA will once again revive attempts to “reform” the Constitution but will declare she will not seek the position of Prime Minister. She will be content with the title of… Goddess!

12. Lawmakers will legislate that cigarette packs will now carry picture warnings of the ill effects of smoking. Aside from damaged lungs and other gross-looking ailments, lawmakers hope to shock smokers by also showing the ever-increasing bank balances of cigarette companies.

13. ABS-CBN and GMA-7 will continue their narcissistic practice of making their newscasters and themselves the very subject of headline news just as they did in 2007 with news about fake ratings and the spectacle of “arrested” TV journalists. This time, there will be much ado about male newscasters getting implants and TV executives undergoing sex change operations.

14. Pinoy Big Brother will achieve a first in Philippine TV history by getting a group of senators and congressmen and billeting them in Kuya’s house and allowing the TV audience to choose who stays and goes by text votes. It will be hailed as the first honest voting ever accomplished in the country.

15. Miriam Defensor Santiago will finally be appointed to the World Court at The Hague, but will immediately quit because, for the first time, someone will tell her to her face that she is irritating.

16. Lastly, there will be new people born, natural disasters will happen somewhere in the world, and every living person will blink at least once a day.

The prophecy is foretold!

The paradox of Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas means different things to different people. To the young and innocent, it means a time of wonder and of wonderful things. I remember what it was like in my very early years — the house transformed into a merry place with buntings and glittery décor; a real Christmas tree gave out a pine scent that wafted all through the house; and there were gifts to expect on the 25th of December. As a kid, I felt that Christmas was a magical time, and like Clement Mark Moore described it, I actually had “visions of sugarplums” dancing in my head.

There were also Simbang Gabi, parols and carolers. In our house, there was lots of singing amid a warm family feeling especially at Christmastime. Even if we did not have a hearth, we felt the warmth of family love pervading our home, scented by different foods, particularly my mom’s Hermits, fruit and nut-laden cookies that she lovingly baked to give away for friends and relatives during the season.

The start of Advent began the big build-up to the Big Day. In school and at our house, there was a strong, holy and spiritually mysterious dimension about Christmas. In school, we would listen in rapt attention to stories about Mary being visited by an angel and how they ended up in a stable where Christ was born in a manger one starry Christmas night.

At home, my mom encouraged us to make sacrifices like cleaning our rooms, not fighting, being kind to people, and for each sacrifice we made, we could put one piece of straw on the manger. The goal was to have enough straws to make the manger soft enough for Baby Jesus to lie on by the morning of December 25. I really thought then (as I do now) that this was such a great idea. Now, as an adult, I still do this but only mentally. I tried to get this tradition going in my own family but alas, for some reason, it did not catch on. The lure of the season’s material attractions was just too strong and distracting.

These days, Christmas has such a different feel to it. The bright lights of the malls have dimmed the Christmas star, and the screaming appeal of new toys and gadgets has taken over the more spartan, heartwarming spirit of the Christmases of my youth. The endless round of office parties, traffic, the frenzied shopping and the huge expenses make many wary and weary during yuletide season. Christmas, with all the aggravation associated with it, has become a season of stress.

More and more, I hear people say every year that they do not feel the Christmas spirit anymore. I myself have felt at times that Christmas should perhaps just be celebrated every two years so that it does not lose its novelty.

I actually do not stress over Christmas. I refuse to. I do not feel the need to go out of my way and be politically correct and have presents for everybody. What stresses me out is the fact that my wife frets about so many things such as the Christmas decorations for the house, the endless Christmas shopping she feels she needs to get done for friends and relatives, parties, Noche Buena, Simbang Gabi attendance, and a host of other things.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that someone is making sure all these things are done. But by the time it’s Christmas Eve, she sometimes feels too tired to enjoy it.

Maybe all this preparation is just a girl thing. Or maybe I am just a killjoy. But I can’t help but feel that for a great many people living in urban, commercialized places, Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. In fact, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In place of the peace promised by the birth of Christ, we have frenzy and stress. In place of the simplicity of the manger story, we have commercial greed and waste. In place of the mystery of God coming to mankind as a lowly, humble being born in a manger, we have excess and extravagance.

And the worst part of all is that, in place of the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus, we have celebrations in many parts of the world where Jesus is nowhere to be found. In many places in the Western world, Christmas is now “Xmas” or the “Yuletide Season,” and in place of the spiritual commemoration is “the season to be jolly” that brings on rich foods and alcohol. The stories of Santa, Rudolf, Frosty, Disney characters and other party animals are what the original Christmas story has become. Christmas has been hijacked.

In the plane on my way to Sydney two nights ago, I reflected on what kind of Christmas I would like to have this year. Surely, I will enjoy the gaiety of the season, and the company of my family and friends. I will also enjoy the few gifts I may receive or even give to myself and others. But I thought I’d also allow myself to immerse in other meanings and activities as well.

If Christmas never happened, mankind would probably invent something similar. Why? Because the story of one being who can unite mankind with the spirit of peace and joy is a universal yearning. In this age of religious, cultural and actual wars, excessive greed and materialism and the onset of something so dire as global warming that can put all of mankind under a devastating scourge, it is good to be reminded that amid the divisions that plague us all, there is within us the desire for the exact opposite — harmony and love, peace and a wish to send special positive feelings to everyone.

I would like to think that, as much as Christmas is a Christian event or celebration, it is a gift for the entire world as well. If only for the possibility that, somehow, people of all faiths will notice a kindness, or a lightness of feeling coming from the so-called Christian world and become touched by the kindness that the season seems to evoke, then the season would not be in vain.

So to the many who have been numbed by the stressfulness of Christmases past, I say it’s time to awaken to the spirit that is within us and allow compassion to flow. When we see someone in pain, let us share ourselves to help ease it. When we see someone in need, let us open our wallets. When we see loneliness in others or within ourselves, let us open our hearts to the song of liberation promised to us by the little child in the manger.

I believe that the big truths in life are paradoxical. Or to put it more simply, they appear to be the opposite of what the world says things are supposed to be. Take the case of the one who came to save us who was born, not through the lineage of the powerful and rich, but, of all places, in a manger. The weak shall inherit the earth. Or how about that one which says one must lose one’s self to gain the world? Christmas is rich in paradoxes.

We need not feel guilty if we enjoy the material bounty that Christmas brings. But let us also open ourselves to the intangible, unquantifiable, yet more lasting promise that Christmas brings. Let’s go for the complete experience where we have room for both the material and the spiritual.

Imagine this TV ad.

Visuals: Imagine yourself enjoying the warmth of family love over Noche Buena. Smiling, contented faces around you full of love and appreciation. Behind is a belen.

The caption reads, “The genuine joy of peace, promise and giving we feel for Christmas as we share with others the birth of Christ: Truly priceless. But for all the rest, there’s Visa!”

It’s just another one of those paradoxes of Christmas.

Love above feelings

Sunday, December 16, 2007

To a lot of people, talk of love, friendship, marriage and all the different types of relationships can evoke a gamut of feelings. Somehow, those topics can bring us straight into the heart of the world of emotions, the realm of existence which pretty much makes us feel if we are happy or not. Can you imagine living life without your emotions to guide you?

A few nights ago, I was talking with some female friends I had just met at a dinner for a visiting classmate. These were women in their 50s and over our meal and coffee, we talked about a whole range of topics, from common friends and religion to travel and food, etc. When we got around to talking about relationships, one of the women in the group talked about her experience of getting married at 18 and separating from her husband 14 years later. She said that the essential reason why she separated, aside from her husband’s philandering ways, was because she felt imprisoned in a relationship that was not working and could not work out.

She added that there was a part of her that wanted to grow and discover herself outside the confines of the conservative, traditional and confining role her young husband had demanded of her.

While she was telling her story, I thought of friends who had separated, and I remembered the one thing that I thought was common in all of their cases. When a man decides to leave, it does not necessarily mean that it’s a permanent arrangement. Often, men return or attempt a comeback. But when a woman decides to separate, it is usually with finality.

That’s another one of those “women are from Venus, men are from Mars” things that are useful to know.

After her separation, this woman met a much older man who has been her life partner for some 20 years now. When I asked her what it was like to start over, she said that while it was initially intense, it was no longer as “hot” as when she was 18. She said that the highs and lows were more manageable and a bit more subdued.

I figure it must be due to the fact that there are less hormones to contend with at the age of 31 than at 18.

The whole spin about love relationships, as promoted by advertisers, media, and the world in general, is almost always about hormone-driven love where people are swept off their feet by uncontrollable emotions. The idea of a force that is so overpowering it can take over one’s life is actually a very attractive one. And it’s not only because all these oceanic feelings of love feel so good; it also makes us feel so alive with every tingle felt in every cell of our bodies.

I think another reason that love is attractive is because on a certain level, it frees us from being responsible. We surrender to what feels good. We can’t help it. And what feels good can often also feel right, at least while you are into it.

One piece of advice I gave my daughter years ago is, in matters of love, never trust promises uttered at the beach or some other beautiful tropical setting, or for that matter, any romantic place. All the romance induced by such settings can be deceptive. When things turn out badly later on, alas, we discover that we were merely blinded by the strong emotions that ruled us. And we usually blame the other person, the ambience, the heat of the moment, the full moon, etc. before we admit full responsibility for our impetuous decisions.

Many people never outgrow the idea that love has to always feel good for it to be real. They are caught up in the whole “mystery” of it, how among all the people in the world, fate has assured that they meet and take over their destiny. I have met many people who always need to be in love and I dare say that those who profess that they cannot live without romantic involvement often do not have big hearts or a mature capacity to love. Often, they are just addicted to the romance.

And while the mystery may be irresistible, the mastery of it is much more important. Living in this world for a few decades has taught me that it works the other way around: that the way love feels so good can be all the more intense because it is real. And it helps to know this because for love to be real, it must sometimes be experienced, or tested independently of feelings. Older couples may not be all over each other physically but they are there for each other in many other aspects. This is an arrangement they have established through the years that has made them stick together.

I know it is hard for young people to imagine love without the “feel-good” aspects of it. The woman mentioned above told me that she was secure and comfortable in being with this man whom she knows loves her, although he does not express it physically as often as he used to.

I play a mental game every now and then when Lydia and I are going through our rough moments. Sometimes at the height of an argument, I step back and ask myself to state mentally if I truly love her, in spite of what seems to be a challenging lack of good feelings at the moment. I notice that to truthfully answer the question, one needs to have a sense of self and an equanimity that is less transient than the ebb and flow of feelings.

One of my favorite Jesuit authors, Anthony De Mello, writes that when we say “I am depressed,” this is not quite true, because you are not your feelings. Feelings come and go and identifying oneself with something fleeting is not only inaccurate but creates confusion over the depression. Another guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, explained it further when he said, “When sadness comes, just sit by the side and look at it and say, ‘I am the watcher, I am not sadness,’ and see the difference. Immediately you have cut the very root of sadness. It is no more nourished. It will die of starvation. We feed these emotions by being identified with them.”

It helps to look at feelings the same way we look at, say, the weather. Try to imagine saying, “There is a feeling of depression I am feeling right now” in place of “I am depressed.” Doesn’t that feel better? Doing this makes the depression a “third person” (he, she, it) experience instead of a “first person” (I) one. You can step out of yourself and become more objective and therefore make your life more manageable.

When we gain a certain amount of mastery over our feelings, we can be more sure of our life decisions. Love is more solid if it is a commitment made over and above good feelings alone. And for that matter, if one has to make a decision to separate, it can hopefully be more amicable and mutually beneficial.

Let’s stop blaming the weather or our moods when things don’t turn out as we want them to. We can summon new realities by deciding to. As Anthony Robbins put it, “More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”

Why Not?

If you want to experience something different and stimulating, read below:

The WhyNot? Forum is inspired by TEDTalks ( wherein leading thinlers and doers around the globe share their thoughts, ideas, dreams, and experiences, which are then posted on the web as online videos for all the world to see. We envision The WhyNot? Forum to be the Filipino version.

The Why Not? Forum is a smorgasboard of great, brave ideas — an open-source innovation soup that will hopefully inspire other Filipinos to connect adjunct thoughts, take impactful action, and weave together new breakthrough ideas — redefining and challenging the inertia of the status quo. All in the spirit of positive change for the Philippines. •As such, topics are not limited to a narrowly-defined set of fields. At its heart, the Why Not? Forum is about Filipinos sharing with the rest of the world their unique point-of-view in their uniquely chosen field.

This is NOT your usual forum. It is not boring, stiff, nor bland. The spirit of the Why Not? Forum is impassioned, quirky, creative, revolutionary, irreverent, innovative.

I will be one of 4 speakers who will be giving a talk tomorrow at the WhyNot? Forum. The others will be Leonard Co, Erik Mana, Juddha Paolo, Fr. Jomar Legaspi, and the Everest Team:

Read details below:


WHERE: Magnet, Bonifacio High Street at the Fort.
WHEN: December 15, 2007, Saturday
COVER: 300Pesos

Do come on time!

What will I be talking about? How OPM can be popular all over the world! Why Not?

See you there.

My heart in two places

I believe places can speak to us and we have the equal ability to listen if we allow ourselves to. I have two homes where I live two lives. One, in the Philippines, and the other in Australia.

I was wondering when it would happen until it finally did. I’m talking about Australia speaking to me, not unlike the way my own country does. And the few times it did, I smiled to myself knowing that the process of my integration into Aussie life had begun.

Wherever we are, we engage life. New migrants, especially, have this ongoing conversation with the host country. It’s a constant dialogue, an assessing and reassessing of how one is faring in the new setting.

I do the same when I am in Aus. It’s my way of processing new experiences, and it is all part of my assimilation to life there. My life as a migrant in Australia is growing roots in all aspects.

We moved to Sydney almost a year and a half ago. Since then, we have settled quite well in our own home. We have performed all the requisites that go with being a permanent resident. We got our drivers’ licenses, opened bank accounts, met and nurtured new circles of friends. I have one daughter and a grand daughter who are still in Manila by choice, but who will move back to Sydney permanently in a few years. Another daughter is happily working in Sydney. My son has not only finished high school but has excelled enough to have his artworks handpicked for exhibition in an art museum.

Lydia has adapted to Sydney living quite well. She knows the roads and thoroughfares, where to go for this and that, like the palm of her hand. She is also an expert in running the house, keeping the place tidy, paying the bills, and doing what makes our life in Aus easier and more elegant.

Since I have been traveling in and out of Sydney and have not spent long stretches of time at home, my process has been slower. I still need to be reminded where certain places in the city and suburbs are, how things are done and even how things run around the house. But I eagerly and quite fearlessly do what needs to be done.

I must admit that though it is happening less often, once in a while, I still get that alien feeling when I go about doing ordinary things like shopping or even engaging in chitchat with strangers. For one, I still have trouble with the Australian accent. While I can understand newscasters and politicians who make it a point to speak extra clearly, I am befuddled by the average bloke (guy) or sheila (girl) who seem, to me at least, to be eating their words.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there is also the unique Aussie vocabulary that one must contend with. Their penchant for contracting words in their own way like “brekkie” for breakfast, “relo” for relatives is entertaining but it can be quite alienating. They also have their own words that sound alien to other English-speakers, like “arvo” (afternoon), and “spruiking” (to promote something). The list is endless.

The first time I felt a strong connection to Aus since we moved was during the Australia Day celebrations last January 26. Lydia and I attended this huge event at Darling Harbor, and I was quite surprised to catch myself entirely moved by the ceremonies, and impressed by the way the Aussies felt unabashed pride at being who they are.

There was a moment in the program when the big TV monitors showed migrants talking about how they have adopted Australia as their home and it was quite powerful. I felt a lump in my throat as I resonated with the testimonies of the fulfilled promises as expressed by fellow migrants from all over the world about their new home. At the same time, I was lost in ambivalence since the Pinoy in me was weeping for the failed promises of the two EDSAs we fought so hard for.

But the feelings of pride and belonging, as powerful as they are, were understandable. All the emotions created by the elaborate preparations for Australia day, not unlike the way, say, Disneyland can induce a thrill, was the effect the organizers were going for. While I was in awe of it, I still did not feel quite integrated into Aussie life.

But about four weeks ago, I was caught by surprise when something trivial triggered a strong emotional response in me. I was riveted by a commercial on TV that had a Christmas theme. It gave me an unexpected warm feeling. No, it did not bring up images of Christmas at home. Far from it. What it elicited was THE universal Christmas feeling, but rooted somewhat in the context of Aussie life and culture. It seemed to just creep up on me and I caught myself getting teary-eyed. I remember telling Lydia at that moment that I felt a connection to the ad somehow, in spite of the fact that the people in it were white and spoke in their strange accents.

Somehow, the ad had a universal appeal that made the “them versus us” feeling a migrant often gets, fade away — for that instant, at least. It spoke to me in an intimate way that transcended my being Filipino. I felt this wonderful comfort, a feeling of fraternity, brotherhood and belonging that was, strangely enough, brought about by an ad for a department store.

Before we migrated, I asked my family over dinner to name at least 10 famous Aussies. Sadly, aside from ex-PM John Howard, we could only name Nicole Kidman and a few other actors and musicians. I imagined then it would be a long way before Aus would feel like home.

But I am becoming more and more comfortable with my life is Aus. I am beginning to trust my instincts as I feel more “in” on the different aspects of Aussie life. I successfully predicted the outcome of the last elections. I somehow caught the political zeitgeist that many of my friends missed even if they had been living there longer. I have more confidence now in the decisions I make since I am beginning to get the pattern of how things work in this orderly society.

When a migrant listens and understands and gets to know the host country more, his previously held, mostly inherited notions of the country and its people melt away, and newer, more personal, real impressions take their place. One moves out of stereotypical thinking and experiences things in a fresh way. Other people are no longer caricatures. They become flesh and blood.

We know we’ve transcended our biases when we get over our fixed and rigid notions and give something that used to threaten our equanimity a chance. This new take on things could only happen when I accepted where I live. When I am in Sydney, I tell myself that this is my here and now. While earlier, it used to take an effort to do that since I was always comparing my life there to my previous life in the Philippines; lately, I have begun to do so without resistance.

Now I am back in Manila for a few weeks. I have been applying this fresh stance at everything I have seen since I arrived a few days ago, especially since that recent silly coup attempt that has once again made us look bad to the world, and even to ourselves.

My being a resident of both Manila and Sydney is like having two girlfriends. Both of them can be fun, yet moody and even downright depressing at times. But they have their individual charms as well. While Manila may be melodramatic and tragic more often because of its hosts of problems, it IS still home with its warmth and exploding gaiety, especially at Christmas time. Sydney may be dazzlingly beautiful and orderly, but it can leave me cold at times because all that order can feel so alien to my Pinoy soul.

But I am glad that neither of them is asking just yet for exclusivity. And that’s just the way I like it.

surprises, clarifications, reconnecting, and unlocking!

My children continue to surprise me!

My son Mio pulled a really good one lately. In Aus, it is a requirement that every graduating high school student must have a body of art work for presentation by the end of the year. Last August, he submitted a unique stencil collection of work on old vinyl records for the exhibition. It turned out quite impressive. During the exhibit, his collection was given a prominent spot in his school.

Three weeks ago, when he went to school to collect his stuff after graduation, he was told that his art works were missing. He was quite pissed when he came home and was wondering how the school could have misplaced them.

But lo and behold, a week later, he got a letter from some NSW university body informing him that his work was among 800+ finalists which MAY be exhibited through Art Express, a month long exhibition in art museums featuring outstanding works by high school kids throughout all of New South Wales. He was ecstatic, although I was even more so. He felt privileged enough even just to be considered a finalist.

Well, three days ago, when he opened the mailbox, he received a letter officially informing him that his body of work entitled, ‘Screw art school, I just wanna make art!’ has been officially chosen for a month long exhibition at the Gymea Art Museum.


Dear readers, I am extremely proud to say that my only begotten son Mio with whom I am (generally ) well-pleased will be exhibiting his work starting February 9, 2008 to March 9, 2008 at the said venue.

OK, I know some of you will want to accuse me of being a doting father. I plead guilty. ha ha.

Mark the dates.


And if that isn’t enough, my recently employed, hardworking daughter Ala meanwhile is also preparing for her own month long exhibit to run in the city by March next year. More details to follow. What else can I say? My children make me proud!

* * *

If you received an email about some near rape incident or a warning about rapists, or something like that which purportedly originated from me, well, it did not! But I may have caused the impression that it did since when I forward email, I spare the recipients the long lists of ccs that accompany forwarded mail by deleting them. I find forwarded mail which are unedited quite irritating, actually and very seldom read them.

I felt compelled to write this since I have been getting a lot of emails about it, and it’s been put up in so many blogs with the source attributed to me.

* * *

More than a week ago, Lydia and I, upon the invitation of Leo Valdez finally got to watch the long-running Ms. Saigon. Althroughout the show, I just kept wondering why it took me so long to watch it considering that I had so many friends who had been members of the various casts which have performed all over the world.

I only have great things to say about the Sydney show, but my superlatives go to the Filipinos in the cast who did not fail to hold high the world class standard that the Filipino performer is known for. RJ Rosales whom I had not seen in ages was a powerful, scary Thuy. His clear voice rang through the hall. Leo, as engineer was an overwhelming, menacing , magical presence. His was a seasoned performance, yet still overwhelming with sincerity and power, considering that this was this 2300th plus performance.

As a fellow performer, I could sense his ‘killer instinct’ throughout as he dished both tragedy and comedy. It was, to put it simply, his show. I also give 5 stars to the Pinay who played Ms. Saigon whose name I do not recall right now. She played it with sensitivty and a pain that had me teary-eyed in many scenes. Her love scenes were so filled with heart and passion that that can take your breath away. And considering that the cast has been doing this almost twice daily for more than a year now, it still had a freshness to it that wonderfully worked its magic on the audience.


(Thanks Todd of Melbourne for the pics)

After the show, Leo treated us to merienda at a nice resto with a great view along Darling Harbour. Our relationship with Leo goes a long way back even before Lydia and I got married. We reminisced about the old times and had a few laughs. It was great to see an old friend happy and very accomplished as an artist. We may catch the Adelaide or Perth run in a few months!

* * *

I have had my iphone for almost two months now and continue to be fascinated and delighted by it. I admit I can succumb to techno-lust every now and then, but this one can turn to ‘true love’, at least for some months or even years. I have been using it in Sydney and Manila annd it is simply great!
Yesterday, I went to Greenhills to look up my friend Jann Leigh who unlocked my phone fresh out of the box for use anywhere in the world. This time, I asked him to upgrade the OS from the original 1.0.2 to the latest 1.1.2. which I thought would be quite a mean feat if he could do it. Well, he did with flying colors. As he was doing it, I could only marvel at how adept he was at altering, jailbreaking, and unlocking the iphone, and all other types of phones as well.


If you are thinking of ordering an iphone from the US and having it unlocked, call Jann at 09213798888. Or you can buy one from him already unlocked and waiting to be used with any sim card anywhere.

Wild musings on global warming

During the elections here in Australia held last week, global warming was a big issue among voters. It’s quite inspiring to know that there are parts of the world where people are awake to this all-important issue, and that there are leaders who are willing to put their careers on the line for it.

For the past years, I have been (with wild abandon and recklessness) imagining how life will change all over the world when the reality of extreme heat, rising oceans, diminishing resources such as fresh water and land, and species extinction descends upon us in a palpable and undeniable way.

Scientists are saying that when global warming hits, it will do so almost suddenly. There will be no subtle changes we can slowly adapt to through prolonged periods like centuries, or even decades. It will intrude rudely into our lives before we know it. Specifically, I’ve been thinking and focusing on how life will be affected in our beloved Philippines.

I’m no psychic much less a futurist, but I am pretty good at predicting things such as election outcomes, the career longevity of artists, and the weather. I can also second-guess the twists and turns of soap opera plots and punch lines of jokes before they are delivered. (But that’s probably more a testimony to my weirdness than any extra sensory perception!)

With that caveat, here are some of my predictions of what life in the Philippines could be like. Some are serious and some are crazy, but I think they are worth mulling over. I figure these scenarios will kick in around eight to 12 years from now.

On fashion: With temperatures hitting all-time highs, close to, or over, 50 degrees Celsius, we will be wearing less and less clothing in the shade but more under the sun. Humidity will probably increase so we will be sweating more profusely and will not want to wear too much clothing. Air conditioning, unless we figure out a cheaper way to cool our homes, will be expensive. But going outdoors will demand that we are covered from head to toe if we are to avoid the onslaught of UV rays, flies and mosquitoes. The chador may become fashionable for both men and women.

Of course, you can avoid all that heavy wear once in a while by using sunscreen SPF 150 with insect repellant. Sunglasses (wayfarers), head coverings and other protective gear will be de rigueur.

On lifestyle and culture: Forget about the Pinoy habit of taking one or two showers a day. That practice will be soon be gone. With the water crisis, it will be more like one bath every three days or longer, which means we will have to make major adjustments in our personal hygiene and laundry. Baths will be short and more like sprinkle baths, or pisik-pisik.

As a result, people may want to have less hair on their heads and bodies since extra shampooing and soaping will strain water resources. This new look will be known as the “Bembol effect.” There is now, here in Sydney, underwear for sale made with fabric that does not need to be washed daily, but only every two weeks! I imagine that will be the standard in the future.

All these ideas are not so farfetched, unless, of course, we construct desalination plants to make seawater potable. But we probably won’t get to do that since the government will predictably back off from any contract with foreign companies because it will be exposed as tainted with corruption.

Every house, car or vehicle will have life vests and/or inflatable boats, just as we now are encouraged to have fire extinguishers. And the ubiquitous balde will be standard equipment, except that this time, they will not only be used for flushing toilets.

For those who like to travel around the country, the trip to Baguio will probably involve a boat ride. Visiting the remaining 4,000 islands in the Philippines will be even trickier. One will be able to travel by land only during low tide.

If you just want the simple pleasure of “soaking up” (pun intended) what the shrinking city of Manila can offer, you can go shopping at the Floating Mall of Asia where the ice skating rink has been converted into a jet ski pond. Or you could watch the increasingly beautiful Manila sunset from Vito Cruz where the newly-built dikes are situated. It you want to be on dry land, you will have to go to Antipolo.

For those into scuba diving, in place of the usual wreck dives where one explores sunken ships, you can dive in the “lost city” and explore the cavernous Cultural Center, the World Trade Center, Folk Arts Theater, Manila Hotel and the US Embassy.

Alas, golf courses will become rarities and many a golfer will weep and gnash his teeth. They are too hard to maintain (what with all that water consumption) and population pressure will demand more and more land for housing. But, just like water polo, golf will eventually evolve into a beach or pool activity.

If you are into dining, kamayan will be the practice since it is more economical to wash hands than silverware. This may even become one of the Pinoy’s contributions to world dining. And to save on dishes, we can adopt the Arabic nomad style of eating where everyone shares a big platter of food.

Hamburgers, or beef-based foods, will become rare since there will be fewer and fewer forests to cut for conversion to pasture land to raise and graze cattle.

Job-wise, more and more people will be working at home. With oil at US$250 a barrel, people will be forced to be less mobile.

People with uncontrolled bodily “methane emissions” (a.k.a those who fart a lot) will be forced to go on prescribed diets to prevent further global warming.

Toilets will be redesigned to flush just once a day, but will be “air-blasted” after every use.

On faith: The Great Flood, the image of Jesus as Fisher of Men, and all references to water in the Bible will be dominant themes in homilies. More interestingly, it will not be surprising to see folk religions conjure new iconic images such as swimming or surfing Sto. Nino, or some anting-anting to protect one from drowning.

On entertainment and politics: Game shows will give away bizarre prizes such as “unlimited access to water,” free inoculations against new diseases and, for the major prizes, bancas or yachts instead of the usual cars or house and lot.

Authors, writers and publishers who come out with paperbacks, tabloids and magazines with apparently no redeeming value will be liable for environmental crimes for wasting precious trees.

Akyat Bahay gangs will evolve into pirates riding bancas while raiding people’s homes in perennially flooded areas.

The New People’s Navy will carry out attacks against the Philippine Coast Guard.

To fight global warming, a legislator will seriously file a bill urging the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius to lower temperature readings.

Finally, with the oceans rise another two to four feet, our diminutive President (if she finds some way to continue being President) will have one more thing to worry about to keep her head above water!