Unang una requirement siya kahit di mo gustong gawin. Dahil may christmas party, kasama na sa program ang walang kamatayang exchange gifts na ‘yan. Pinapatay niya diwa ng pasko na ang true meaning naman dapat ay “giving” kasi nag-e-expect ka ng kapalit sa taong nakabunot sayo. Pwede ka naman ‘di sumali, pero kill-joy ka naman, so sumali ka nalang.
Walang ka-sense-sense ang “wishlist”. So ano? Kasi baka di ka kakilala ng taong nakabunot sayo, takot ka baka regaluhan ka ng tae. Unang rason nila is “sayang kasi ang pera, baka di ko gusto makuha ko” masyado naman sigurista, pinapatay din niya yung excitement and surprise factor kasi alam mo na makukuha mo. Parang nag-utos ka lang, ito, ito dapat ko makuha, pag hindi malulungkot ako. Rename nalang natin ng “exchange tasks” kasi nagpalitan lang naman tayo ng favor, nagpagudan lang din tayo. Huwag ko na din ibalot, alam mo naman na ‘to eh. Kani-kaniyang bili nalang tayo ng gifts sa mga sarili natin sa susunod.
In addition to wishlist, Yung sa humihingi ng cash or GC huwag ka nalang sumali. pambawi lang naman to sa nagasta mo eh, balik pera lang, edi parang ganun lang din, walang nagbago sa value ng pagkatao mo, di nabawasan o nadagdagan, ni isang ngiwi or ngiti wala kang kinontribute sa activity.
Sobrang taas na presyo ng wishlist. Masyado na ba mahal ang gasolina para magtaas na tayo ng presyo? ‘Di naman ako napromote ah, bakit ang mahal na exchange gifts ngayon? Ang akala ng karamihan, mas exciting pag mas mahal pero ang totoo ito ang pumatay ng saya kasi andito na yung value ng pera. Compare mo yung group na may exchange gifts na worth 100 pesos at yung group na worth 1000 pesos. Yung 100 pesos dito ka makakatanggap na weird and odd gifts na mga kalokohan, naalala mo yung tae sa Blue Magic? Worth 100 lang yun! At kung batang 90’s ka nakatanggap ka sigurado nun! Yung mga bimpo ng bench hanggang sa mga tasa at kaldero, panyo at kung anu-ano pa dito mo lang makukuha. Ansaya di ba? Puro tawa maririnig mo mula simula hanggang huli. Pero dito sa worth 1k, nag abutan lang and pa smile smile, picture, post sa instagram tapos “thank you” sa dulo kasi sure-ball sila yung mga may wishlist! Kasi nga naman, 1000 pesos yan eh! Sayang! Kung mataas ang presyo, mataas din expectation. Ewan ko ah, pero parang di naman masaya.
Since pasko naman, wag na kayo mag exchange gifts, gift giving nalang, nakapag pasaya ka pa kesa ikaw lang ang masaya! Merry Christmas!
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page – Saint Augustine
My recent trip in Singapore has opened up new perspectives on how man should be able to live in harmony with its environment. Sadly, I could not help but compare the Lion City to my beloved hometown Manila. Though Singapore is a model city that is extremely impressive, the Philippines would be far more superior only if things could change drastically.
Since it was my first time in Singapore I had a few impressions. First, the world class city was very interactive. It felt as if the city was speaking to you. Wherever you go, there are signages on what you are supposed to do and not supposed to do. It seemed that the city itself had its eyes on you, seeing your every move and hearing your every word. It’s perfect keeping citizens and tourists behave properly but at times all the information seem to have a brainwashing effect. Commercialism is so blatant that everywhere you go it gives a feeling that I have to work my ass off to purchase a thousand worth of Bvlgari jewelry and flaunt it to my colleagues. It was as if these ads were meant to make a slave out of them and give a desire to cope with the materialistic social standards. Same goes here in the Philippines, our city talks trash. Literally. Signages are more of a nuisance. They are more like: masabi lang. Some are mere guidelines especially in traffic signs, they are more of you either follow it or not, its up to you. Filipinos are so complacent that people seem to be above the law and that the rules they abide is based on their own preferences. Walang paggalang sa rules and regulations. Worse, walang pagalang sa kapwa at sa sarili.
Second impression was that Singapore has an excellent urban planning. The train system was very convenient unlike the traffic situation in Manila where you always have to be aware of painstaking traffic situations. It was a breeze travelling in Singapore going from point A to point B. I felt envious that their transport system was so efficient that it gives more time for productivity. On the other hand, our transport system in the Philippines is like a survival of the fittest of sorts. Pinagtitiisan natin ang pawis, pagod at hirap makasakay and this should not be the case. Paano na lang ang mga pagal na magulang na nais pang bigyan ng oras ang kanilang mga anak?Paano na lang yung estudyanteng gustong makauwi at makapagaral pa ng husto sa bahay? Paano na lang ang mga trabahador na pagod na sa pagbubuhat pero pasasabitin mo pa sa halos di umuusad na dyip?Ok lang sa inyo na ganito?
Third impression of Singapore: it is a disciplined city. People prioritize senior citizens. They don’t litter. And best of all they are very considerate. One thing I noticed though, most people are so much into their daily routine that some seem to behave like robots. They just swipe their cards on the train look straight, see their phones and they don’t mind anything else. On the contrary, here in the Philippines, people here have so much time to check out women on trains and buses. They would even go as far as cat calling. They also spend time going with friends to buy fishball and kwek-kwek in a street corner for meryenda. Which for me is very cool but at times the merrymaking gets to much that we Filipinos tend to forget about our priorities. Back in Singapore they seem to be zoned out of what they are doing that it looks like people aren’t living in the present whilst pinoys are too much in the present not caring for the future.
My observations in Singapore lead me to the conclusion that Filipinos should develop respect in their own country. All of us has noticed that we generally obey rules outside our country (even in Subic) so why can’t we do it in our own? Ibig sabihin ba nito ay nirerespeto natin ang awtoridad sa ibang bansa at dito kebs ka lang? Bigyan naman natin ng dangal ang ating bansa dahil kung ganito man ang sitwasyon wala rin dangal ang taong naninirahan dito. I think that the issue of colonial mentality among us has also lead to the idea that if we are on a different land we have to obey them because they are superior and when I am in my home its ok to be self-assured. Bakit hindi na lang tayo sumunod sa batas? Kasi pakiramdam mo naiisahan ka. Pakiramdam mo inaapi ka. Sa ibang bansa susunod tayo kasi banyaga sila eh, ok lang na sumunod. Bakit kapag kapwa Pilipino tayo-tayo ayaw natin pakingan ang isa’t-isa. Lahat pagdududahan natin. Let’s stop this egotistic attitude and give our respect to our country and countrymen!Much of all the things that we are encountering now are more on our psychological upbringing as Filipinos. The age old issue of crab mentality. Lahat aawayin mo just to feel you are above others.Ngayon, hangat hindi tayo magising na ang pagbabago ang magmumula sa ating sarili ang Perlas ng Silangan ay magiging basura ng silangan na lamang.
The Philippines can be so much more. Kung bibigyan lamang natin ng respeto ang ating sarili, ang ating kapwa at ang ating bansa mahihigitan pa natin sila. I have discerned that everything should comes from within ourselves. If there is no conscious effort to change then this society will stay as it is. Sabi ko nga lahat tayo kapag nakakapunta sa ibang bansa nasasambit natin na: sana ganito din sa Pilipinas. Ang sabi ko, sana ang mga pangarap na ito ay hindi hangang pangarap na lang, sana kilusan din natin. Huwag natin tiisin kilusan natin. Tama na ang Juan Dela Cruz na underdog at sabihin natin na kaya din natin! Bigyan natin ng dangal ang ating sarili para ang dangal ng bayan ay muli rin manumbalik!
“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length–and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.” – Carlos Castaneda
A month after my magical experience with sacred ayahuasca ceremony my energy started to power up once more. I fell in love with a real life Peruvian shaman and I have termed my life now as “truer to the path”. Meaning, I am obliged do the things that are only necessary for a purposeful life. Aside from being blessed with a significant other, I was also fortunate to be involved in a project that would uplift the spirit of the Aeta community in Sapang Uwak Pampanga. And as “truer to the path” means being purposeful, this project would suit me best.
I knew right away that this would be a long term project. Capturing their ancient tradition and culture on film would take years and extensive research, but in my mind, I had to scale down the vast content of this project and opted to do it step by step according to my perspective. My plan of action was: Immersion.
My first day was met with excitement and uncertainty. I was fine having no phone signal and no wifi connection during my first day. Besides, I have lead a life not depending on these things. What I simply wanted was a convenient lavatory. True enough my wish came true and the room we had was suitable for me. I even converted it into a “fort” and set up improvised tables for laptops where we can store video materials easily and arrange our personal belongings neatly. I felt cozy and relaxed. Though I also had a strong craving for cigarettes and this was the only time that I smoked once more (hopefully). I knew that I needed to be constantly visible to people as to make them feel at ease with me. My years of experience in media has lead me to develop a knack of reading people’s demeanour and used it not to be intrusive especially to the aetas. I saw. I observed. I listened. Nakiramdam ako. In my first night I was able to talk to Apo Raymond, an aeta who was sent to Australia for education. He was well versed and composed and his story was that of an intricately woven telenovelas. He was the first one I talked to formulate my leads. It was in our conversation that I realized that the aetas has split their timeline into two: before Pinatubo eruption and after Pinatubo eruption. The catastrophic event has significant impact in the lives of the aetas. Before the eruption, clans were tightly held at their territorial domain. A tale goes that if an outsider where to pass by clan territory, they had to blow a horn. If the horn sounded in return then they have permission to pass. But if not, and they persisted then they will be punished.
In my second day, I followed young students from Manila, who went for an immersion with the aeta community. I wanted to be obscure. I moved as harmless as possible without engaging people but filming nonetheless. In my obscurity, the only tool I carried was my smile. It was at that moment that I remembered Terrence Malick’s “The New World”. The movie best represented how Pocahotas and her tribe communicated frequently in gestures and seldom in words. She expressed her love to John Smith by speaking through her eyes and words were merely an accessory on how she really felt for him. Her tribe communicated by subtle movements and mannerisms and I tried doing the same thing. Ironically, I spoke without speaking. Fortunately, the community felt the message that I wanted to convey. I curiously observed how the kids where having so much fun simply by bathing in the river. I felt that I had to reach the same level of frequency for me to enable to film them. By doing so, they initiated the signal for me to film them. They were happy, I was happy – inexplicably happy.
The third day, an aeta named Lansang, taught me how to use the aeta bow. While we were practicing the bow, I felt relieved when he told me that deers still exist in the upper parts of the mountain. They may be few in numbers but at least there are some. Wild boars oftenly roam the mountains at night.
My attention was caught by a woman who was feeding solely on rice. I felt pity at first, but then I thought to myself, should I even be feeling sad for her situation. If there’s less desire and longing for material needs then her situation isn’t really bad at all. I mean, would you crave for a steak if you haven’t known it exists? Would you want a comfortable bed if you haven’t slept in one? As one great philosopher has said: Man can’t think out of nothing. Later that day, I also saw a group of aetas having dinner with what they call white ube or yam. They were having so much fun sharing it with a bunch of people. Their life was so simple and they had all the things they needed. Nature provides but for most of the time, modernity has made it hard for them. Subsequently, our high standards of living has made it hard for us too.
These are few of the things that I’ve observed and many more are still left to ponder. I am aware that the story will evolve as time progresses. There are things on the top of my mind and the question is, who gauges the standard for modernity? We think that the aetas has been primitive and ruralised for so long but could there be a possibility that they have already adjusted with their own meaning of modernity? Do they even need to be? What is life without unnecessary desires? What is the meaning of rich? Ano ba ang “yaman”? What do we gain by imposing our “civilised” system to them? Are we simply meddling on the natural way of things? Are we even helping them the right way? Or have we come to realize, that there’s a need to improve the basic necessities of our indigenous brothers so that we can grow as one nation?
Maybe it’s time that their ancient traditions and values emerge so that we, civilised people, learn from them instead. You see, I was learning from them rather than them learning from me.
Regardless of the answers to all these questions, this is where the journey begins.
“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it might never live to regret it” – Carlos Castaneda
I know all your graces
Someday will flower
In the sweet sunshower” – Chris Cornell
Today, when my car was slowly overheating along a heavily congested highway, I received a text from a friend which says: Patay na Chris Cornell (Chris Cornell is dead). It was that simple. Then I appallingly replied: haaaaaaa??? It was like getting a news from someone who died very close to me but I never even met this person. He’s music simply moved me and I was blessed to hear most of it. Though I’d be apathetic hearing such news, this one made me write this article.
In 1998, I bought a compilation album of Soundgarden (Chris Cornell was lead vocalist) entitled A-sides. Though it carried most of their hits like Outshined, The Day I Tried To Live and Burden In My Hand I didn’t appreciate most of it because at that time I was listening to heavier music like Pantera and Sepultura. But it was also at that time that Great Expectations was released in theaters and boy I freaking loved the movie and the soundtrack.
When I heard Chris Cornell’s Sunshower playing at the background where Finn Bell (Ethan Hawke) arrived at Paradiso Perduto Mansion to meet her childhood crush Estella (Gwyneth Paltrow), I told myself this song could be my all time favorite. Even to this date, the first strum of the guitar intro would take me to the past and make me feel introspective. From that day on, I became Chris Cornell’s fan and bought his solo album Euphoria Morning.
From that day on, I always thought I wish I had his talent in writing and singing. His vocal range is impeccable and it seems impossible to hear something like it ever again. His lyrics were highly poetic and often times cryptic. One song I liked in Euphoria Morning was Wave Goodbye and is probably the most straightforward song he ever made. It was for his friend who died at that time, whose name is Jeff Buckley who drowned swimming in Mississippi River.
I could relate to most of his songs primarily because it sounded melancholic and depressive. I remember listening to Preaching The End of the World and just sulk in my room. It is gloomy and you imagination just starts to run wild with the lyrics. His multi-octave range is freakish in nature. I tried to imitate it once and I will never do it again.
As the news of Chris’ death would spread like wild fire, I simply wanted to thank his soul for having influence in my life. As thoughts of him lingers, I realized that this is somehow an “end of an era” scenario. Guys like Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Scott Weiland started all this phenomenal “grunge scene” and has now seeing its final chapters. Many would probably think that Chris Cornell could’ve done more but I think that this guy totally maxed out. This guy made a mark in peoples lives. So comes the questions that if my time would come, would I have maxed out to? And though it may sound cliche, we will never have another Chris Cornell in this lifetime.
When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator – Mahatma Gandhi
I came prepared for what I presumed as a 5 hour walk from our house to Antipolo Cathedral – or so I thought. It was a breeze walking for 30 minutes but after which the intense afternoon (2 pm) heat started to creep in. I walked alone as I undauntedly savored each painful sting of the sun. I traversed in a non-ordinary setting in C. Raymundo Pasig as Maundy Thursday was now in full effect. There were less vehicles on the road. Less people. Less garbage. Everything was peaceful except for my own mind.
Before I ventured out, I checked how far Antipolo Cathedral is from our house and it turned out, surprisingly, that it was only 12 kilometers. I somehow underestimated this distance and just 2 kilometers from our home I started to feel exhausted. I started to lose focus and my intention of walking meditatively became more of walk of punishment. I hurriedly walked. I was straining myself getting away from the light of the sun. I tried pulling myself back together but it was not until the staff from a gas station called my attention to have free water and free use of the comfort room that I regained my composure back. It was such a sweet gesture to which I replied in a sweet smile.
Along Ortigas Extension I bumped into pilgrims who also started early. At this point my thirst was insatiable and my feet were starting to numb. But these feelings were overshadowed when I started noticing people setting up booths on the side. I termed it the “booths of duality”. People knew that this event could make a little business. Some are for profit making, some are for volunteering and some have hidden agendas. I began pitying the situation of the Filipino people. Sabi ko: Pati ba naman pagdarasal ay hahaluan ng komersyalismo” (I said: How can commercialism invade prayer time?) Big companies had booths saying ” ________ is in support of Alay Lakad 2017″. And so I thought, how are they supporting exactly? By self-promoting your brand and for people to see? Are these companies even there to experience the whole thing for them to say they are in support? Regardless of all the meanings that could be drawn, one thing stuck in my mind – God sells and the elite controls him.
As my mind lingers in sullen speculations, I was taken aback by the unbearable exhaustion my body was undertaking. I suddenly became drawn to the idea that people needed God. People are helpless without God. I am helpless without God. No matter how many distractions there may be, it all boils down to Him.
As I focused more on God I suddenly felt emotional. I imagined myself crying once I’ve reached the Cathedral as my prayers went: Father give me strength to go on. My prayers were answered but it literally felt like Exodus. My walk seemed unending. But as I pressed on the sun became more friendly and there were more shades for cover. Pilgrims started to pile up from Tikling and by this time my heart was already filled with hope. The steep roadways were killing my legs but I had to push on through. And When finally I reached Antipolo City Hall I knew I was just meters away from my destination. But the more I became closer and closer to my goal the more my legs were starting to give up on me.
I reached Antipolo Cathedral and headed straight inside to offer my prayers. Though it wasn’t that intimate as I have initially planned, instead, I felt so relieved that my strength came back from 15% to about 30%.
Recalling my experience doing Alay Lakad reinforced my belief that it takes great effort and patience to be able to discover God. I became aware that the only thing that hinders me from knowing Him is me. Every step and every effort that I make must be in the light of learning His secrets and ways. In the hopes of hastening the unfathomable sands of time that someday I would become one.
Walk of faith – A Buddhist Monk and a River in Agony
My feet is my only carriage
And so I’ve got to push on through. – Bob Marley
In 2004 I had my first Alay-Lakad in Antipolo. I can still remember how abruptly it happened. I just received a call from a friend and the next thing I know I was walking on the streets going to Antipolo Cathedral. More than a decade has passed and here I go abruptly pondering about it again – I will walk once more the path to Antipolo.
Years have passed and I’ve become a different man since then. My intention of going to Antipolo Cathedral the first time was all just for the heck of it. This time it’s more personal, more heartfelt and I expect it to be more divine.
So before the actual day of Alay-Lakad occur, I practiced one day walking from Buendia to JP Rizal then back home in Pasig. All in all it was just about an 8 kilometer walk. I have grown fond of walking from time to time since traffic in the metro has worsened. I usually walk from Ortigas to our home which is only a 3 kilometer walk. Eventually, I have turned my feet as a means of transportation.
My agenda going to JP Rizal (Makati City Hall) was due to my apprehension a couple of weeks back in which my driver’s license was confiscated because of illegal parking in Ayala Makati. But the real story lies from the reflections I received during this walk. The first came when a man looking like a monk approached me in. At first I thought he was curious that I was also wearing mala beads. He suddenly tapped his singing bowl (a type of bell used by monks for meditation and relaxation) and he made me wear a cheap Catholic rosary. He tapped my forehead a couple of times uttering words I couldn’t understand to which I assumed were Buddhist prayers. This is where things got a little awkward. He made me look inside his bowl and there I saw, among all the bracelets on top, a hundred peso bill. I tried to comprehend what he was trying to say and his gestures made me realize that the rosary he gave me cost a hundred peso. I thought to myself are you kidding me?? So he caught me off guard and I gave him a hundred peso bill with my head shaking and a smile regardless.
That night I talked to my guide regarding the matter and he told me that the man is probably not a fraud and that he could be a Thai monk basing from the uniform he wore. This gave me a sigh of relief knowing that well at least I wasn’t scammed. Coincidentally or should I say miraculously, my guide also met the Thai monk the day after. He knew what will transpire so he gave the monk a hundred bill even before the monk could execute his ritual to him. But the monk insisted on giving him a mala bracelet and a red silk bracelet which costed 400 pesos combined. Whew. So regardless my guide gave the monk all the money being asked. But for him, he told me that everything was just a reflection on how you see things unfolding right in your eyes. I thought “oh my I just got robbed” but my guide believed what he wanted to believe. That experience beheld a learning that is for ours to seek. And the next day after that, a trending news on social media circulated that a group of monk are allegedly harassing students in Vito Cruz. I was left to judge the experience based on how I see it. And as my guide told me that it was a reflection of how an individual perceives it, my perception about my experience with the monk MOVED me.
How did it move me? I started noticing the surroundings. I had an increase in my sensitivity after that monk incident. And as I passed by Rizal Riverwalk in Guadalupe I couldn’t help but feel appalled. It was dirty. So what’s new? That’s the problem. We are so used to it that we simply don’t care at all. I took time savoring the moment of walking along the sides of the river the words that could describe the river condition just came in negatively. Despair. Despair. Rot. Rot. Decay. Decay. I pity not the human race but to the species who depend their lives on that river. I saw birds hanging around a long line of electrical post and I wondered if they think like humans they would be laughing at us. They would probably think how stupid these creatures are. Which we are. And we should not be proud of it. We should have at least evolved into something better but we aren’t. Not yet. We are already the reflection of what this society looks like – junk.
From this, I came up with a concept of a show that focuses more on the idea of death. I suddenly became fascinated to visit abandoned places. I want to document and unravel the stories of places that were vacated. It came from my observation that most TV shows are always after something new or something that will eventually become a fad so I wanted a show that would talk about the end of something.
As I got home my energy got renewed with all the musings I got from simply walking around the city. I needed it so badly and though it may look simple it is truly effective. And as I anticipate the coming of Good Friday I am awaiting for another message and another calling.