Saturday, February 27, 2010

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Farewell, concrete pine tree. And good riddance.

Since its construction in 1994, the infamous concrete pine tree of Session Road was the object of our ridicule, disdain, and even, anger. Possibly even more infuriating than the tree was its accompanying sign: "Plant Me and Protect Me." Then mayor Bernardo Vergara claimed that the tree was to encourage the protection of the City's remaining pine trees. Many were skeptical about the old mayor's intentions because, perhaps, of the prominent "V" embossed on the statue's base. Was it truly an act of environmental advocacy, or a bare attempt at political promotion?

Residents clamored for its removal, using every avenue of communication to get through to the City's administration. Letters were sent to City Hall, some even coming from Baguio people already living in other countries. Numerous petitions were filed, circulating through cyberspace via e-mail and signature sites. A friend once sent me a text message about a plot to cover the whole thing in sayote. Among many movements, this was one of the most brilliant.

After years, the people have finally been heard. The concrete pine tree, our bane, has finally been taken down.

When Pa, Jake, and I rode by on a jeep yesterday evening, the area was still covered with plastic sheets. Through a gap, I could see workers toiling away, pushing around large, flat rocks. They would occasionally consult with a group of people issuing directions from the side. I sat near the front of the jeep and could hear the driver and his friends talking about it as we passed. One friend enthusiastically pointed at the work in progress, declaring that a "scrapture" was going to be built there. Sculpture or structure, I am just as excited as this guy. I feel as if a weight has been lifted off the city's proverbial shoulders. We will finally be rid of that concrete abomination.

The current mayor has taken pains to keep the replacement a secret. Apparently, he wants it to be a surprise for the Panagbenga celebration. A real nightmare would be if they put up something even more stupid than a fake tree. Knowing this administration and its less than luminous track record, it is not such a distant possibility.

I don't know if the installment has been unveiled, because I haven't been to town yet today. The streets are packed with people to watch the Panagbenga street dancing parade (The Grand Parade will be tomorrow). Traffic is impossible and going out is a dim likelihood. Nevertheless, until I see the top of Session Road, I rest easy that the concrete pine tree is now a thing of the past.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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Kubi refuses to be conquered by dental device

My dentist gave my braces a good tightening yesterday. So now, my teeth hurt and the pain radiates to the other regions of my cranium. For some strange reason (we can secretly call it over-compensation), I have been compulsively eating all day. I will not be conquered by the persistent agony in my mouth! I! Will! Eat!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Watch out for...

The full-length trailer for Pixar's Toy Story 3 is out. If I were you, I'd watch out for a familiar forest giant...Pixar is bringing on the Ghibli love! Plus, Ken and Barbie are still at it.

On a lighter note

Current events are wearing me out.

This morning, I watched Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service for the first time. It made me so happy. A 13-year old witch-in-training leaves her home to offer magical services in a town by the sea. It has all the charms of a Miyazaki film and provides sensibilities that only a young witch can impart. While in the seaside town, she loses her mojo but regains it by convalescing in a cabin in the woods. The feeling is not unknown to Baguio babies who seek their fortune in far-away cities, but come home to the mountains to recharge.

I'm reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The book, first in the Percy Jackson series, is now a film. Lem and I saw it and thought it was okay. Although it's unfair to make comparisons, what I've read so far is much more satisfying. Events are more meaningful and characters are better turned out. I've read favorable reviews for The Lightning Thief and the rest of the series on numerous book blogs; they have yet to be proven otherwise. No disrespect to Edith Hamilton, but I wish this book existed when I was a kid.

Update, 25 February: The Lightning Thief movie had some pretty, major memory gaps. In the book, Percy and his friends have a fearsome opponent who is all but absent in the film. I suppose chunks of the novel were taken out so the storyline would be palatable to a mainstream audience. On the other hand, I'm baffled by the decisions the screenwriters made in editing. I would think the villain was integral to the story...For the Greek mythology nerd, the book is loads of fun. In the film, they fail to mention the name of Percy's sword (and every good sword must have a name). In Ancient Greek, it is called Anaklusmos, which translates in English to Riptide.

Taking things to heart

An update: Esperanza Cabral says, I am DOH Secretary! Hear me roar! DOH will continue to implement its condom-distribution program despite harsh criticism from the Catholic church. Cabral has emphasized the need for decisive action in stemming an HIV epidemic in the country.

These days, when people want to say they really really like something, they "heart" it (i.e. "I ♥ my new shoes!" or "I ♥ your earrings!" or even, "I ♥ you" :D). There are several theories on how the heart shape became the two-dimensional representation for love. One, in particular, associates the symbol with the seed of the Silphium plant. The seeds of this ancient, now-extinct plant were used commonly as a spice, but were also popular as a contraceptive. These seeds were easily distinguished by their shape: two rounded peaks tapering into a point. This figure, which we now recognize as the heart, ironically became the symbol for love in its many forms and varied degrees.

Perhaps not meaning to be quite so literal, the Department of Health distributed condoms during this year's Valentine's Day. The distribution program was dubbed as an action to curb the spread of HIV and "not (for) family planning." Still, use of this contraceptive can result in the prevention of unplanned pregnancies. This, not its efficacy in thwarting sexually-transmitted diseases, is a more well-known feature. Nonetheless, the campaign is a step to make reproductive health accessible. The program has so enraged the Catholic church that bishops have called for the removal of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral:
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said a leader like Cabral should not be heading a vital government agency, since her condom-distribution program could endanger the people’s morals...

...“It is immoral for a government official to support the distribution of condoms which we know do not really reduce or stop the spread of HIV-AIDS,” Arguelles said in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas.
This is how forward-thinking leaders are treated.

Meanwhile, brazen disregard for human rights is lauded:
MANILA, Philippines – Two army officers that led the arrest of 43 alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Morong, Rizal were given awards on Tuesday by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Colonel Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade and Lt. Colonel Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion were awarded the Bronze Cross Medal during the 23rd anniversary of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

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Mahirap na

Photo from Bulatlat

Mahirap na talaga.

The AFP arrested 43 community health workers in Morong, Rizal on February 6, 2010. Earlier lies allegations didn't fly, so the AFP claims that these individuals work for the health bureau of the National People's Army. I suppose they realized how ridiculous "bomb-maker" sounded as a charge for arresting health volunteers. As Rilo Kiley eloquently puts it, "Any fool can play executioner for a day, and say with fingers pointed in both directions, 'He went that-a-way."

These men and women devoted their time and energy to extend health services to the community and the thanks they get is to be arrested and needlessly tortured on unsound charges. They were detained, blindfolded, and deprived even of the most basic human rights. When they needed to relieve themselves, someone accompanied them to the bathroom and pulled down their underwear for them.

Mahirap na talaga.

Sexual harassment and torture charges have been asserted against the AFP division that arrested the 43 health workers. The president, a supposed champion of women's rights, needs to be told to look into the issue. What sort of security can we expect from a system and its denizens who cannot keep their own dogs in check? Think: an armed unit that believes it is answerable to no one. What is more frightening than that?

Mahirap na talaga.

Community health workers do not expect, nor receive, substantial compensation when they go off into the remotest areas of the country to provide basic medical services. They volunteer with the express intention of helping people who are in need. They give assistance, regardless of political affiliation. They risk their own well-being to answer a call that comes from a deep sense of duty and contribution. There are all sorts of dangers on the field, but who could have ever imagined that those sworn to serve and protect would be the most treacherous?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

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Today on KubiTV 2

I ran a few errands in town today, a couple of which required me to make the climb to SM.

An update on the SM Bills Payment Center: They now accept payments for the Baguio Water District (BAWADI). A fine development for us bill-paying mortals. The SM Bills Payment Center bills a P5 surcharge each for BAWADI and BENECO payments.

The ladies at CD-R King request makers of character guises to wait their turn. They are best dealt with one at a time. I understand it can be overwhelming. People with other occupations should also fall in line, just in case.
Photo taken discreetly with my cellphone camera.

At Booksale, The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien is for sale for P180. It is a sad, haunting book. You can find it on the trade paperback shelf on the right when you enter.

On the hardbound shelf next to it sits The Adventures of Robin Hood by Paul Creswick for P170. The book is in good condition and has wonderful illustrations by a student of Howard Pyle. There are also about five copies of the movie tie-in edition to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, also going for about P170 apiece. All these, yours for the taking!

Later. Off to cook pork chop and watch flashy musical starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, and Fergie.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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Mourning the RH Bill

For years, the Philippines relied on foreign aid for free contraception in barangay health centers. About two years ago, that outside assistance was phased out in an attempt to force the government to grow some balls. While the Reproductive Health Bill had its flaws, it certainly would have been a suitable starting point for changes in current population policies.

Now, the Reproductive Health Bill is dead. I suppose it would be moot for me to be writing about it now, but the issue hasn’t disappeared just because the legislation has perished.

On Filipino Voices, Nick laments the death of the bill and is dismayed that cowardice has taken precedence over political will. He writes:
The solution for many of these politicians is to do nothing, because of the “morality” issue. Because it is not government’s role to dictate. And yet, they acknowledge all too well that population is indeed a problem, and will still pursue a policy of doing nothing. It’s hypocrisy, and each and every candidate that opposes or has contributed to the death of this bill is indeed rife for attack when it comes to this all too important issue.

In an article on "Why Gibo Teodoro changed his mind on (the) RH bill," Rochelle Sy Chua writes:
Gibo believes that our moral guardians must be responsible for reproductive health because it is a question of morality and a personal choice. However he thinks that moral guardians must be responsible and accountable for our population management.

Gibo Teodoro has this belief that a government's role in reproductive health is to support a couple's moral choice (not influence it). Gibo Teodoro chose to withdraw his support for the bill because he thinks that we are not dealing with the problem but we get involved only in a debate that nobody wins.

However, I think Gibo Teodoro forgets that the Church-- our moral guardians have already been in charge of our reproductive health for centuries since we have been a Catholic and very religious Country for that long. That's why we have a population problem because our moral guardians have failed. Isn't that why we are debating reproductive health today because our population problem is already an issue? So, why should we give them a chance when they have already failed?

I agree with both writers.

Because they lacked courage, Gibo and the others chose to free themselves from dealing with a sensitive, but essential, issue. These so-called leaders call reproductive health a "moral" concern and delegate its resolution to "moral guardians." Who are these moral guardians they speak of? In turning their backs on a moral issue, these politicians forfeit their own capacity to rouse and instill moral values in the people they wish to lead. Who then do we look to as our moral compass if not our leaders?

Many surmise that politicians tread carefully around the issue because they fear the influence of the Church. Backing reproductive health leads to serious ramifications like, perhaps, the loss of support. This would spell political suicide, especially so close to the May elections. It is an age-old anomaly, this involvement of the Church in state affairs. Mentioning it feels redundant because it has always been characteristic of this intensely religious country.

Lodged firmly in the national psyche is the Church’s deliberate stand against the RH bill. However, despite the religious origins, it is still just a way of thinking. Thought can be influenced by education. For a reproductive health bill to stand a chance in this country, something no less than a paradigm shift in national consciousness may be necessary. Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but we must believe that it can happen.

Reproductive health is so much more than population control. It promotes safe motherhood, providing women with necessary medical options to safeguard their health. It allows individuals to choose if and when to have a child, lessening the number of unwanted pregnancies. Reproductive health seeks to prevent abortion and the fatalities resulting from it. It encourages an environment where children can be raised to healthy adulthood with choices and adequate resources. It educates and prepares young people, offering security against sexually-transmitted diseases. Reproductive health aims, overall, to enhance human well-being.

On the other hand, population control seems to have been perceived as the end-all for the RH Bill. Ultimately, it is the outcome that the bill's supporters hope for. The Philippine population, large as it already is, steadily expands at an annual rate of 2.16%. Overpopulation leads to over exploitation, and inevitable loss, of natural resources. Many Filipinos live in rural areas and rely specifically on these finite resources. They are also unequipped and uninformed: their families continue to grow, producing more mouths to feed. The level of awareness is equally low in a substantial portion of the urban population. These people also live in challenging circumstances and struggle through the same, impoverished conditions.

The need for a reproductive health bill is a moral issue, but it is also an economic issue and a governance issue and, therefore, a political issue. Those-who-would-be-President promise to lift the Filipinos out of poverty and improve their quality of life. Passing an RH Bill, or at least putting it to vote, should have been the first step to do it.

So, what shall we do, now that the RH Bill is dead? For now, the fight falls to the individual. For now, personal choices and our own understanding will be our contribution and testament to this policy. We are to be the advocates of a bill that is not truly dead, one that will hopefully find its way back to a more enlightened Congress. For now, the people must speak in place of a leadership that has chosen to be mute in the face of adversity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

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Quality distraction: anime

The weekly prime time line-up on Animax is delightfully distracting. The fun starts at 6:30PM with re-runs of Rurouni Kenshin, which never gets old. The classic is followed by a soon-to-be-classic, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, at 7PM. To round off the weekly routine at 7:30PM is the English-dubbed Bleach. This schedule airs Mondays thru Fridays.

When I was at my densest anime phase, people simply called the "seasons," story arcs. The episodes of Rurouni Kenshin now airing are still in the earliest arc where the characters are only just coming together. I missed it today but I figure it's just around the time Kenshin and Sanosuke meet for the first time (My chest tightens at the thought). The series truly hits its stride when it reaches the Shishio arc. The storytelling is superb, the quality of the animation excellent. The fight scenes were kicking ass way before Naruto was wiping the floor with Orochimaru.

The Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood episodes airing at 7PM are dubbed in English. As I understand it, the new, original Japanese episodes air Fridays at 8PM. Apart obviously from its intriguing premise, I have always been drawn to the show for the characters' names. Edward and Alphonse Elric (I've always had a soft spot for "Elric" to start with). Fullmetal. Strong Arm! Mustang! Hawkeye! Ross! Maes Hughes! Very cool.

Lem and I were watching Bleach long before everyone else caught on. We knew it was special right off the bat. We watched it on DVD and in the original Japanese. It is, however, interesting to watch the English dub. One never tires of brilliant writing and can enjoy it in any medium. And that is precisely what I've been appreciating the past few days as the show is beginning to get juicy. The arc currently airing is when Ichigo first enters Soul Society to rescue Rukia from imminent execution. (This is a poor summary, because the plot at this point is intense and elaborate.) Aizen has just died and the rest of the captains are starting to show off their *ominous music plays* power. The episodes are familiar and vastly comforting.

Every generation of school-going youths who feel burdened by the monotony of going to the same classes week after week has a prime-time schedule like this. When I was in high school, I escaped to Ghost Fighter, Flame of Recca (Tagalized on GMA 7, but Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Rekka no Honou to the purists), and Samurai X (Yes, Kenshin was with me even then). Here's to quality distraction.

Monday, February 8, 2010

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Try to ignore the barcode; it's a great photo :D)

This is from an essay Neil Gaiman wrote about Terry Pratchett:

"Working with Terry I felt like a journeyman working alongside a master-craftsman in some medieval guild. He constructs novels like guildmaster might build a cathedral arch. There is art, of course, but that's the result of building it well. What there is more of is the pleasure taken in constructing something that does what it's meant to do – to make people read the story, and laugh, and possibly even think...

...Satire is a word that is often used to mean that there aren't any people in the fiction, and for that reason I'm uncomfortable calling Terry a satirist. What he is, is A Writer, and there are few enough of those around."

The rest of the piece, which is entitled Terry Pratchett: An Appreciation, is here.

The two wrote Good Omens, one of my favorite books in the world.

(This photo from Neil's website.)

Terry also wrote the fantastic foreword to a tribute book to Neil called Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman. The book has been liberated from its plastic protection at National Bookstore in SM so I managed to read the foreword one afternoon while perusing the shelves. I didn't read the book itself so I can't urge you to buy it. I can, however, confidently recommend that foreword. I've been wanting to share it for a while now, but can't seem to find a link to it online. So, if you're in a bookstore that carries Prince of Stories, take a few minutes to read the foreword.

He kindly stopped for me

Yesterday, Nicco told me about a news story on Terry Pratchett volunteering to be a test case for assisted suicide tribunals. The beloved author was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer's in 2007. Our friend Abbey posted a link to the article on Facebook.
Sir Terry Pratchett says he is ready to be a test case for assisted suicide "tribunals" which could give people legal permission to end their lives.

The author, who has Alzheimer's, says he wants a tribunal set up to help those with incurable diseases end their lives with help from doctors.

A poll for BBC One's Panorama suggests most people support assisted suicide for someone who is terminally ill.

Sir Terry set out his ideas in Monday's annual Richard Dimbleby lecture.
Read the rest of the article here.

The creator of Discworld and author of numerous, wonderful books is waving hello to his oldest friend, Death.

My heart hurts.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

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Blogging as cold medicine

Sick today and trying very hard not to feel sorry for myself. Tried reading but the words just sort of swarm around in front of my eyes. I don't want to sleep anymore because the fever dreams have been extremely vivid and disturbing.

Been catching up on movies lately. I saw An Education and loved it. Carey Mulligan was charming as Jenny, an impressionable 16-year old who has a relationship with an older man played by Peter Sarsgaard. There is something slightly twisted about that guy. As the movie progresses, you notice subtle changes in Jenny as she learns more about people and the world. Near the end, she says: "I feel very old, but not very wise," which is how most of us feel sometimes.

This morning when my brain was less fuzzy, I saw Jason Reitman's Up in the Air and now support George Clooney's Oscar bid for Best Actor. When the movie starts, we see a man who lives a fast-paced life, flying from one state to the next. He is a loyal patron of the airline terminal, feeling more at home here than he is in his one-bedroom apartment. To him, the thought of settling down is unappealing, even laughable. His philosophy is to carry the metaphorical empty backpack, to go through life untethered by the weight of relationships. And the thing is, he doesn't come off as a soulless prick. We like this guy regardless, even, of his job. George Clooney makes us feel for him. That is good acting.

Anna Kendrick has come a long way from her small supporting role in the Twilight movies. In Up in the Air, she plays a fresh Cornell graduate, an overachiever who is excited about her new job. George must show her the ropes, and the two have wonderful chemistry. Jason Bateman was an especially nice piece of casting.

Feel slightly better, but I think I'll go lie down now. Will try my luck with a book again, or brave my dreams. Later.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

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This is what's been going on with me:

On Sunday, Roger Federer defeated Great Britain's Andy Murray in straight sets 6-3 6-4 7-6(13-11) to win his 16th grand slam. Murray stepped it up in the third set and started pounding winners on the lines. Federer responded with solid service games and his own sharp angled balls. I may have choked a poor pillow to death while watching that third-set tiebreaker.

On Monday, Jake and I traveled home to Baguio from Manila while Pa went back to Ifugao for work. A seven-hour time difference separates us from our mother. Everyone likes to talk about how awesome it is to travel. And it is. I've never felt more in tune with myself than when I am on a bus or some other form of long distance transportation. There is boundless joy in the smell of a new place, the freedom of anonymity, and the kindness of strangers.

On the other hand, there is rarely ever any mention of the missing and the being without.

I feel as if I'm in one of those pivotal life moments where I'm supposed to make a decision.
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