Counting Potatoes

Quirky Observations, Opinions and Theories on Life

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What's with balikbayan boxes and filipinos?? Forget about the war in mindanao, the abu sayaffs and the endless political bickerings going on in the highest levels of our government. Balikbayan boxes are the prime and most potent hazard against peace and harmony in our country. Countless filipino families have been tested, called up to arms and subsequently shattered by these simple boxes filled with things essentially similar to what we have here but with one major difference... The things inside are from the United States carrying with it the distinct familiar smell of America.

These two characteristics alone are enough to transform any ordinary and sometimes downright horrible piece of clothing into something worth boasting about and fighting each other tooth and nail for. It doesn't matter if the clothes look like something that was donated to the salvation army or something out of a cheap 70s movie. As long as the clothes reek of the land of the free and have the required mileage, there will be battle plans and shifting alliances between relatives worthy of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The same goes to px canned goods which are treated with the same level of respect we accord our saints - displayed right beside the bottles of wine and the statues of saints never to be opened except on the direst of emergencies. If all goes well, these px canned goods can last for more than 10 years until claimed by the natural processes of entropy serving out their useful life as talismans of success and social stature on Filipino houses at least until the cans bulge from decomposing organic material or the labels fade with age.

Even worse, in most cases, Balikbayan boxes have even become a lot important than the balikbayans themselves! The balikbayans being nothing more than sentient vending machines to be manipulated just right for them to unload their goodies.

How do i know all of this? I've seen it happen with my own eyes in our own clan and in other families as well. I've seen bloody and international feuds between family members (living on different major continents) irrevocably destroy what was otherwise beautiful relationships all because of the desire to be the one entrusted with the box.

Amidst the clamor for change, the outcry against corruption and the need for progress, we filipinos stand on the brink of losing all hope for meaningful change. We rail against the loss of moral values of those in the higher echelons of our government, all the while failing to see the little seeds of corruption, crab mentality and materialism in our own families that feeds the growth of this formidable forest of stagnation in our country. how can we blame our politicians for disregarding the future of our families with the sale of spratleys when we ourselves are very much willing to do the very same thing all because of one little box??

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We sold some old things this week to the junk man. Things that didn't work and we don't need anymore that my father always kept around just in case some massive shit hits the fan, like global famine, an asteroid strike, world war III or the second coming.Selling these decade old junks (old electric fans, toaster, computer monitor, computer printer, old clothes, old school books, etc) has actually been a cause for recurring arguments between me and my parents with me going "we dont need these! Its taking up too much space!" and my parents going "we can use them to trade with in times of war!"well that made some sense and should've shut me up.. Until i got to thinking... Wait a minute.. Who's gonna carry ALL that shit when its time to head for the mountains??

Certainly not my father, he has to keep his hands free when he negotiates with the people we come across. Besides, he doesn't even help with carrying the groceries inside the house. Not my mother., she has arthritis.. Not my sisters, they cant carry much after all.. Such dwindling prospects could only lead to an ooooohhh shiiiittt epiphany... So that's why my father bought the home gym! I was the designated human mule!

Well an alternative plan was needed quick. Thus the junk man and our relatively new piggy bank slowly filling up with coins - still quite heavy but negates the need to strap the whole fuckin house on my back just in case things went to the shitters. My father still don't realize that all that "in case of war"junk were already dispatched though. He's too busy watching the latest BBC news on the global financial crisis probably wondering if i will be strong enough when my destiny is finally revealed.

Anyway, junk man went home happy with the stash and i was quite happy counting the proceeds of the sale - which was why while finishing the independence day book later that day, all i could think about while all them cities burnt to the ground and all them massive flying saucers crashed down to the earth was... WoW! That's a load of junk man! I wonder how much all those scrap metal would go for?

Ever notice how junk men are almost always the first ones out after a massive storm? they go from house to house looking for pieces of torn roofing materials and items that the storm destroyed. You can see them negotiating with property owners scant hours after the storm. Solemnly shaking their heads at the torn roofing materials' pretending to sympathize with you, while fishing out their wallets and waving their money in front of your face with their other hand. One man's garbage is another man's gold they say. And in this case, one man's disaster is another man's blessing.

Sometimes its hard to imagine that there are jobs and businesses on this earth that depend upon the misfortune of others and the junk man is just the tip of the iceberg.funeral homes depend on people dying preferably in large batches. The police depend on people committing a crime. Doctors depend on people getting sick and credit card companies depend on people getting greedy.

Of course, one would also be right in saying that the examples given above are just half of the picture or one side of a coin. One could just as easily say that doctors depend on making people well, the police depend on keeping peace and order and credit cards are a form of financial help.

Stretching this out, one could also say that the current global financial crisis is just a wake up call for all of us who are getting into the habit of buying things which we haven't yet earned. Or perhaps global warming is just the earth's strategy of ridding itself of its vernim - we don't need to save the planet, its the planet who needs to save itself from us.

In the end, it all boils down to a question of perspectives.Is the glass of water half empty or half full? Or in case my father finally realizes the missing house junk - is the house half empty or half full? Wa haha!

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Nov 24, 2008

Night Sky

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“When you look at the stars, what do you think about?”…

Asked by a friend more than 8 years ago as we lay down on the sands by the beach looking up a clear night sky.. It was only moments ago that i took the time to really think about it..

I wonder if we are alone, I wonder if there is someone else, billions of light years away, looking at our own star in his or her night sky, thinking the same thing. I wonder if there’s someone else bearing witness to our existence. Otherwise, the universe is just an awful lot of wasted space and we will truly be alone. And the only life that it will ever know, the only minds that would’ve asked that question about his existence, will have been right here, on this chunk of rock and water, floating around the outer edges of the universe.

I’ve read somewhere that when Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and witnessed the earth rise over its horizon, he was able to fit the whole of the earth behind his thumb. All the wars, all the squabbling, all the politics, all our problems fitted in a tiny speck in the sky. Everything is different when viewed from that perspective.

When I look up the stars, I see all the hopes and the dreams of humankind, I see the future. For to spread out from this cradle of life that is earth, we would need a change in our way of thinking. We will need to overcome all the petty things that divide us as a species. We will need to be united behind a single vision that would enable us to direct all our resources into providing a better future for our children – one that is free from the threat of annihilation from a single impact or a series of geological events. One that would vastly increase the amount of resources and energy at our disposal. One that will enable us to live on.

When I look up the night sky, I see the echoes of the past. After all, the lights that we see are just photons that have left those stars thousands, millions or even billions of years ago. A symphony of lights played way before we were here and echoes of a song once played by an orchestra of lights that may not even exist today. In the distant future, our own sun itself will sing its last note and a white dwarf and its echoes will be all that will remain of the star that has once given birth to mankind.

And perhaps it is only right that we feel this deep spiritual feeling evoked by the sight of the night sky. Because every single atom in our body were once part of the beating hearts of the stars. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen.. These building blocks of life all came from the cores of dead stars that have fused, created and dispersed these elements across space. Elements from the fusion of deuterium, deuterium from the conversion of energy into mass, and energy from the expansion of the unexplained singularity.

All leading to the creation of life, of consciousness and of us.

Loneliness and hope…

Echoes of the distant past and our future…

Entropy and the evolution of life…

That’s what I see when I look up the stars.

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65, 70, 75 years…

The game that is life is nearly over, and almost all of the
pieces of the puzzle are in place. Even
the government is betting on the sidelines, playing on the probability that
most will not live long enough to maximize the use of their pensions.

It’s the winter of life and one by one old time friends say
their final farewells like dry leaves finally falling off and drifting into the
ground. It’s the final paycheck, where the
worth of all that you have painstakingly worked for will be seen in a new
light. The final tab, where the cost of
all the mistakes you have made will be paid in full with the regrets you’ll
have to live with.

Do you now miss the son that you have hurt and drove away?

Do you now think about the family you could’ve built? Grandchildren you should be holding in your
lap and Christmas presents under the tree?

In your weakest of moments, do you childishly wish for one
more chance? Desperately pray for another
shot at life? Where pleasure and things
are a little bit less important and relationships a little more so?

It’s the end game.. the summer of life has come and gone.. and the things they do only reflects the things you have done.

Can you undo the hurt that you’ve caused? Unsay the things you spoke in anger or
pride? Unposses the things you’ve traded
relationships with? Unmake blunders?

Maybe.. but can you
find the courage to admit your mistakes?

25, 30, 35 years…

The years stretch ahead into the distant future. One by one, each conquer their fears and fly
off in search of the things that will define their lives. Success is but a trail to be followed and
mistakes, something that time could easily erase, like forgotten sandcastles on
a beach wiped clean by the daily tides.

Time weaves a web of complacency and the things important
easily buried under the clutter of a busy life, the heat of a momentary quarrel,
the weakness of a human spirit or the importance of a misplaced pride.

Tears and regrets are often poor substitutes for absence and
neglect and most of the time, too late to matter.

Like parting ways with someone you can really spend the rest
of your life with.

Showing love and celebrating with your parents on the last
Christmas, birthday, mother’s day or father’s day in their lives

Missing the companionship of a brother, or a sister, or a
friend and regretting the little things that made the gap.

Can we avoid the painful mistakes we are yet to commit?

Can we find the strength to hold on to the things that
really matter?

Can we keep the end game in sight?

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(posted June 29,2008)

Eerie silence walked the streets of the whole country as its people huddled in silent groups, praying to their personal gods. Not a single taxi prowled the empty streets, nor was a single establishment open for business. Even the Southern rebels are quiet, moved to an unofficial ceasefire by an event bigger than their cause. It was a scene straight out of "I am legend" or perhaps "Resident Evil" where all the people on the set are either dead or dying.

Nope, this blog aint about Armageddon and the people on their knees aint praying for deliverance, world peace or the likes. Instead, these people are praying to their gods for blood. After all, today is Pacquiao's fight with Diaz and he needs all the divine help he can get to land some really nasty punches on his opponent right? So you can pretty much imagine God's phone lines jammed with pinoys' prayers of a knockdown win for Manny.

Suddenly the silence shatters as Diaz finally falls down and as people jump out of their seats to scream their pleasure. Manny Pacquiao.. Four times world champion at last!! for a while the whole country forgets its worries as the adrenalin takes over and the euphoria of the moment kicks in.

Morales, Barerra, Marquez, Diaz... Is there no one else??? a poster shouts from out in the sidelines...

Weird but suddenly a thought invades my mind at that very moment..

A few hours from now, the adrenalin and the dopamine's gonna wear off and all these people watching will be going back to their dreary lives.

Is there no one else?

Well, what about the taxi, jeepney and bus drivers who will be going back out into the streets trying to scratch a living out of the rising fuel prices?

...the bigshots line up and smile for the camera all the while patting their prizefighter in the back. There's going to be a hell of a celebration tonight.

But what about the ordinary people who have to go back to work tomorrow and try to figure out how to contend with the rising energy prices, cost of education and food shortages? Will the P500 Meralco dole out really cut it?

Is there no one else?

What about the thousands of new graduates being forced to be away from their families just so they can have a better shot at life?

What about the thousands still out there in the streets looking for jobs and ending up underpaid, overworked and overtaxed?

Just minutes ago, the country was transformed from a bickering, fractured nation into a country unified behind one man.. now at the pinnacle of his career, everyone is asking..

Is there no one else?

Well, what about us?

What about the things that really matters?

Brings to mind the gladiatorial bouts the Roman mob were so fond of during ancient times - with Gloria throwing out scraps of bread and meat now and then to keep the people satisfied.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as proud of Manny as any person here in our country..

What I'm not proud of is our inability to express the same level of unity anywhere else.

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There is something seriously wrong with a government who, on one hand, advocates population control (which I suspect is just a politically correct term for “prevent the poor bastards from multiplying like hamsters”) and on the other hand, encourages “natural” birth control methods. I mean, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THE JOKE HERE??.. Implementing “natural” birth control methods in a third world country is like discouraging people from watching TV as an energy conservation policy!

It’s not that hard, some of you might be inclined to say. Well that’s because unlike the bottom 70% of our population, you probably have a TV, a radio, a cell phone, a landline phone, pocketbooks, DVDs, a sex doll, a Rubik’s cube, a game and watch or at the very least, an internet connection (after all, you’re reading this blog) to keep you occupied at night. Do you honestly think the bottom 70% of our population with none of the above – thus no source of entertainment after the sun goes down – will be contented to just lay down on their beds, rub their empty stomachs, scratch themselves to oblivion and just… SLEEP??

Hell, even the educated ones who know everything there is to know about “natural” birth control methods and who have all of the above to keep them occupied at night can’t stop themselves from fornicating – why expect more from our poor brothers who don’t have any other nocturnal entertainment except the orgasmic release of a climax??

Expecting poor people to give up their conjugal rights for more or less half of every month, moreover to take the time to count days, take temperature readings, or verify body fluid viscosity is very much like expecting the Iraqis, the Iranians, the Afghans and the Americans to suddenly come out of their trenches, hold hands and sing Kumbaya! – Which, on one hand, seems like a very admirable and ideal way of ending the war but on the other hand, has the same probability of happening as our corrupt politicians spontaneously combusting, surviving the 2010 elections without hearing a single political jingle, or our countrymen winning enough gold in the Olympics to pay off our country’s debts. We can’t even make our countrymen cross streets where they are supposed to, obey traffic rules or come to meetings/activities on time – why expect them to suddenly curb their libidos for half a month of every month?

This brings me to my next point (which incidentally I think is another example of how the government is confused as to what goals it really wants to achieve).

On one hand, our government wants to control the growth of our population and since its efforts seems to focus on the bottom 70% of our population, ergo our government wants to discourage our POOR from breeding. (come to think of it have you ever seen birth control ads targeting the RICH people in our country? Have you ever seen birth control ads with big big rich families shopping their way to kingdom come and eating themselves full? )

On the other hand… most of our government’s budget as well as the funds collected from EVAT seems to be aimed at making the POOR in our country lead more comfortable lives – free HOUSING, free FOOD, free LAND, free ELECTRICITY, free ALMOST EVERYTHING. Those unfortunate enough to be classified as NOT POOR and NOT UNEDUCATED in our country are either taxed to death or forced to fly to other countries in search of work.

HHHMmmmmmm….. So….. People who are NOT POOR in our country are either abandoning ship or being taxed to poverty therefore increasing the poor population while the poor population is being given free food, free housing, free everything.. Does this smell suspiciously like a breeding program for the poor?? A “We want poor people to practice birth control but we will not make the birth control process easy and what’s more we will give them everything they need to breed more” government program??

No wonder we’re not getting anywhere!! We’re like hamsters going round and round a hamster wheel all the while wondering why we’re not moving, he he he. An ex-engineer I know gave a very interesting and straight forward 3 STEP possible solution to this population control – poverty rate – economic situation dilemma that our country is currently in: it goes as follows: 1. Determine the poorest 40% of our population. 2. Collect them all in one place or island. 3. Drop Napalm on them. PROBLEM SOLVED. QED. Population decreases by 40%. Poverty rate decreases by more than 50% and the government will have free funds (those that they used to spend in feeding, housing and other programs) that they can use to build more infrastructure, remove the EVAT and invest in economic development.

Well… that sounded too cold blooded for me. The other participants in the discussion also complained that it was a waste of perfectly good bombs, aviation fuel and government resources… and of course, of people and so proceeded to give me their own opinions on the matter (which I will list here).

** Note: The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the participants in the discussion. They do not represent the views and opinions of the author (yours truly).

1. The Beer Bottle Block Suggestion

Have you ever noticed that although most poor people have nothing to eat, they somehow always have enough money to buy Ginebra San Miguel or Tanduay Rhum? Take the time to study sari sari stores in poor communities and you’ll find that most of what they sell are alcoholic beverages with the occasional peanuts and Ligo Sardines thrown in. Sometimes looking at the “tambays” drinking every night to forget their problems, you can’t help but compute, extrapolate and approximate the progress they could’ve made if they saved the money and used it instead to build a house or send their children to school.

Of course, separating such men from their bottles could also be classified as next to impossible. The next best thing to do then is to encourage Tanduay or San Miguel or Beer na Beer to shape their bottles like bricks. This way, a poor family could save enough brick bottles in one year’s time to build themselves a house. The men can then smugly and righteously say “I’m drinking so that my family will have a roof over their heads by the end of the year”. He he. Now if only Philip Morris could design their cigarette packs so that they could be used as roofing materials…

2. The Philippine Brat Academy Suggestion

“One burger Mac, extra large fries, a large coke and 3 Mc Children who will be drooling outside the window making me feel guilty while I eat please.” Street children have long perfected the art of making us feel guilty whenever we eat at fastfood restaurants – that’s why I don’t sit too close to the glass window coz they’ll be watching every bite you take and every slurp you make as if your food is the most fascinating thing in the planet. Most of the time, we try our best to ignore these kids. Sometimes, we give in to the guilty feeling and give them our leftovers when we go out. When you think about it, these people eat resto food (although leftovers but resto food nonetheless) almost every day. We eat resto food only once in a while. Why the guilt trip tactic then? O_o

And its not just at restos, we see these street children everywhere - On intersections knocking on our car windows, on gasoline stations, on most overpass, on the sidewalks and anywhere in between where they can get to follow people and beg for money. The big question here is.. WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS? Why are they letting their children roam the streets? These children should be collected by the government on a daily basis and should be sent to a faraway school so that they can finish their education and grow up as productive citizens instead of snatchers. On weekends, these children should be sent to clean up the streets, paint vandalized walls, wash the government’s cars, plant trees, build roads, or any other project that would keep them busy and save or make the government money at the same time. When they grow up, we can then ship them to Singapore, UK, Mainland Europe and anywhere else experiencing negative population growth where they will be encouraged to breed themselves to oblivion. Give or take 50 years and these places will be ours.

3. The Roman Head Count Solution

More than 2000 years ago, Rome had the same population and urban poor problem. The poor then were called the Roman head count and were given free grain doles by the Government every month to keep them in order. A visionary, Gauis Marius, proposed to the senate that instead of just feeding the head count, they should be rounded up, trained for war, equipped with weapons and then sent to faraway places that Rome wanted to secure for herself. Upon completion of their service, the war veterans are given their pension as well as a strip of land (in conquered territory) that they can cultivate. This simple policy enabled Rome to become one of the greatest empires in ancient times.

Why don’t we adopt this same policy to settle the peace and order issues plaguing our country? Round up all the urban poor in manila and other cities, train them to be soldiers, equip them with guns and tanks and then send them to Mindanao and other rebel infested areas and after securing peace and order, give them strips of land and build them houses in the conquered territories so that they can respond to future unrests. We get to solve the peace problem, the food scarcity problem and the urban population problem all in one bold stroke! 3 birds for one stone!

4. The Government Organized Organ Farm Suggestion

A TV documentary sometime ago mentioned that the black market for selling kidneys and other internal organs in the Philippines is fast growing. Since it’s their internal organs to dispose of anyways and since it does alleviate poverty somewhat or at the very least reduces the number of poor people in our country, why doesn’t our government legalize, organize and consequently tax this kind of activity? We can set out and build government organ farms near metropolitan areas, broadcast tear-jerker ads in TVs that basically say “they were once poor, but because they drew sticks and one of them got to sold all of his/her internal organs, the rest of the family are now living quite comfortably in a high rise condo, have investments in the stock market and sends their kids to international schools, one life for many – join the Jihad against poverty now (get your internal organs assessed by your local government organ farm now)!” - Government warning: selling your internal organs is dangerous to your health.

Our government can then proceed to make an EBay for internal organs where transplant candidates from other countries can bid against each other for particular internal organs posted in the site. Item: Liver, good working condition, $50,000 negotiable. can contact seller to see if item is a genetic match for the patient, buy now and get a 20% discount for matching kidneys. We accept all major credit cards, PayPal, and GCash.

5. The Matrix Plot Solution

Then again, we can always take a leaf out of the Matrix plot, round up all the poor people in our country, immerse them in life sustaining fluids, hook their brains up to wonderland (where men are given a lifetime supply of free beer and gin served by sexy waitresses who look too much like the models of Tanduay calendars, where children are given an unlimited supply of rugby and fastfood meals and women get to watch teleseryes and Pinoy Big Brother, as well as gossip with each other all day long), and finally we hook all the bodies up to the main power generator. The energy, population and poverty problem all solved in one shot!

6. The Contraceptive Laced Public Water Supply

Interestingly enough, variants of this solution has already been tried on several countries desperate to solve their population problems – eg – one country gave out free radios to men who were willing to undergo vasectomy. Many went home with shiny new radios and a vague understanding of what vasectomy means. Another country inoculated their women with an infertility virus and yet another country just simply killed any newborn that exceeded a family’s quota.

For our country, why don’t we just simply lace our water supply with contraceptives? Those who want children will simply have to go to a government office, bring credentials such as their income tax return or financial documents that will prove their capacity to support a new baby, and if everything goes well have their water supply source diverted from one that doesn’t have contraceptives. This way, our countrymen can fornicate all they want without the associated risk of producing a squealing infant. No abortions, no unwanted children, no children who cannot go to school because their parents don’t have the money, no shotgun marriages, no street children, no children that will join the ranks of the poor and drain our government’s resources, etc etc.

7. The Church Adoption Center Solution

Since the Church is adamantly set against artificial contraceptives, why don’t we set up a program wherein all the unwanted children born out of “natural” birth control methods will be turned over to the Church’s care? The church will then be responsible for these children's upbringing, education, food, clothing and shelter - A small price to pay for people following the right and proper way of family control. Freed from the natural effects of natural birth control, our people and our government can then concentrate on making our economy prosper. The church gets to help a lot of people – children and parents alike and furthermore helps lower the abortion rate at the same time!

So much for that.:) For any violent reactions, please refer to the note preceding all of these controversial suggestions. It is also important to remember at this point that these are only opinions and suggestions of highly analytical, unemotional and slightly drunk individuals using a logical approach to come up with optimum solutions for otherwise unsolvable problems – much like the robots in the movie I-Robot used their positronic brains to come up with the only viable solution for the problems of the human race. If the suggestions are that hard to accept, please take the time to thank God that these people are not your politicians.:)

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Yesterday, I found myself counting ants by the window sill, which was not very surprising since it’s been days since I’ve last had an internet connection.. ergo work to do. To pass the time, I would selectively crush some of the ants just so that their orderly lines are disrupted. I know this is sadistic and my little sister would wholeheartedly agree with you on this. The day before yesterday, I was carrying out euthanasia on some mice trapped in the glue trap (thanks to Jumbi’s airgun).

I stopped crushing the poor little things after a while.. After all, how would I feel if a giant finger came out of nowhere and squashed me like a bug? Contented myself with watching the crushed ants drunkenly marching this way and that. Thinking crazy thoughts such as “Where do broken ants go?” or “Do they find their way home?”

It’s amazing how weird your mind gets in the face of total absolute boredom. As I watched heat waves pulsating from the ground outside, I was confronted by some of life’s deepest and perhaps most useless questions - like –

How many chickens get their heads chopped off in a daily basis? For that matter, how many chickens ARE there in the world? 6 billion? 10 billion? Must be quite hard finding the meaning of life when all you’re going to get in life is 45 days..

When we feed our pigs pork, isn’t it cannibalism?

What would happen if I put a rat in our microwave oven?(Been looking for a video of this in Youtube, no success)

How would department store salesladies feel if I followed them around instead of them following me?

What if all the pooh, or jebs, in Metro Manila were routed through an underground pipe system into a big big composting plant? Wouldn’t it solve a significant percentage of our energy problem?

And so on and so forth…

Going back to my blog, have you ever noticed that 90% of our eureka moments or bouts of sudden inspiration happens in only 10% of the places we frequent? The helical structure of the DNA for example was conceived while waiting for a certain plane to take off, the principle of buoyancy in a bath tub, or the law of gravity while slacking off under an apple tree and although I wouldn’t go as far as dreaming of coming up with the equations of the Grand Unifying Theory while watching the water drip into the pail while taking a crap, I can say that most of my, more or less, “brilliant” ideas or craziest questions came to me in one of the following places:

1. Church:

Going to church is like going to a movie with a really bad sound system. Try as I might to understand the word of God or to reflect on the teachings of Christ, the task becomes next to impossible because of the sounds echoing off the walls resulting in nothing more than a incoherent collection of sounds when it reaches my ears.

God forgive me, but I just can’t prevent my mind from wandering off in search of interesting tidbits to chew on… like that girl who has a wedgy in the front row.. or my list of things to do… or where the candle melt goes..

Wouldn’t it be nice if our churches have singing and dancing just like in Sister Act or Fighting Temptations?

2. Bank:

Falling in line at the banks kinda reminds me of the car manufacturing plant I once saw in discovery. Every now and then, the teller would finish with a customer and all the people in the line would move almost always at the same time. There’s one word to describe the people in line: BORED. That’s why every now and then, an old lady would try to strike up a conversation to pass the time, which is quite embarrassing sometimes because once you run out of topics to talk about, the silence can be a bit awkward.

Why don’t we pair up a Starbucks shop with every bank? Or even better, a Jollibee outlet? This way, at least people can munch on something while waiting for their turn. This is also much better than standing around in the eerie silence and whitewashed walls, waiting for your turn, glaring at slow tellers, and generally looking like a lost soul in purgatory.

3. Barber Shop:

Snip Snip… You’re looking straight ahead.. the barber is looking at you.. and you’re racking your brains to find something to say. Why is talking to barbers infinitely harder than talking to taxi drivers? Hmmm… must be the wicked looking scissors in his hand and the fact that a political topic might get well out of hand. Afterall, he might be pro Erap..

This must be the reason why 9 out of 10 people in barber shops have that time-space warp look in their eyes. I often wonder where these people’s minds go.. Do they ponder on their mortality? Do they fantasize? (especially those fidgeting in their chairs). Do they count sheep? (Snip Snip… Baaaahhh!!).. or are they also covertly watching the others in the shop like me? He he..

Imagine if there’s a pole in the barber shop and you have a beer in your hand.. and there’s this young nubile girl dancing her ass off in front.. Wouldn’t that make your trip to the barber more than worthwhile? He he.. then again, the barber might end up cutting my ears off because he was more engrossed in an entirely different set of hair.

4. Mass Transportation:

The best scenario here is when you’re in a jam-packed bus or perhaps the MRT. It’s the end of another working day and you can literally taste the sweat off the person in front of you. The bus jerks when it accelerates and jerks when it stops and men and women alike cannot help but rub against each other all the way to their destinations. Packed like sardines the people might be, but look into their eyes and you’ll see that each and everyone of them is in their own Valhalla. Of course, except the pervs and the likes who are trying their best not to moan. He he

Sometimes, I can’t help but think that the MRT as well as Philippine buses must be modern day Amistads conveying hordes of worker slaves to and from work everyday. Eating to work and working to eat. Too bonetired at the end of the day to even care about the perv humping away at his back.

5. Toilet:

A favourite spot of most for in depth reflection about the deepest questions of life – case in point – did you know that the oceans were formed after 60,000 years of rain? A question posed by our bunso to our sister on one such bout of reflection in the toilet. Then again, maybe it’s just as well. Thinking, after all, is much preferable over concentrating on inhaling the fumes emanating out of your own pooh.

Truth is, it is almost always at the toilet, particularly on the toilet bowl that we are forced to confront our deepest fears, apprehensions, doubts and questions (echoes, white tiles and the inability to do anything else being the catalyst of thought). I’ll bet this is where Hitler came up with his idea to slaughter those of the impure race and later on to take his own life. I’ll bet this is where Rizal polished his story plots on El Fili and Noli mi Tangere and where Andres Bonifacio came up with the idea of revolution and the KKK. Some public toilets even have a running forum on its walls.

So there you go, my top 5 places for unlocking the mysteries of life. What’s yours?:)

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Ever got that feeling that you were spewed out of school a little bit too soon? An unwilling soldier thrust in the frontlines of life totally unprepared? Ever wished your grade school and high school teachers could’ve taught you more – not about math or science or grammar – but about life, and how to handle the everyday things an adult has to manage and we were totally unaware of? Like, how the hell do we raise our kids when we can’t even keep our pets alive?? How do we choose our politicians when we can’t even tell the trapos from the good ones? How do we compute our taxes? etc, etc ,etc.

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if this is all a conspiracy among adults – some sort of initiation to their world or some form of revenge people pass on from one generation to another. Whatever the reason is, having subjects on these practical adult matters way back in grade or high school could’ve saved us a lot of trouble, tears and heartaches in dealing with them now.

The world is full of people walking around, screaming at each other, flunking some of life’s most basic requirements. We spend more than 15 years of our life in school, at the end of it all, 80% of what we learn are completely useless in our everyday lives– like why Jose Rizal threw his slippers in the river.. why the Ibong Adarna loves to crap on people, or the difference between a covalent and an ionic bond. 80% of what we really need in life however, are not even mentioned in the hundreds of books we’ve been through when we were kids.

It’s like being outfitted with the latest scuba gear and being tasked to climb the Everest instead or finding pumice rocks instead of toilet paper just after we have finished defecating. He he

If I had my way, here are the subjects I would include in our high school and grade school curriculum:

1. Voting Wisely and Knowing What to Expect from our Government:

How many of us have an idea on what our congressmen and senators are supposed to do except posture in our TV sets and investigate this and that? How many of us take the time to really get to know the stories, the qualifications and the scandals behind our politicians? Bottom line is, most of us don’t know what to expect, how to vote wisely and much more, how to vote.

2. Getting Rich without Being Scammed:

Nobody ever taught us how to recognize a scam or a bad investment when we see one. Moreover, nobody taught us anything about making money (not minting money – that’s illegal) instead of earning it. Consequently, most of us get lured into one scam/bad investment or another until we’ve had enough experience to make some relatively sound decisions about making money. They should’ve taught us this way back in high school, the lessons would’ve been a lot cheaper. Moreover, we would’ve known more bout creating jobs than just looking for them.

3. Financial Literacy:

The purpose of going through school is not only about getting an education but learning about the things that would’ve made it easier for us to earn money and live independently after. Why then didn’t they teach us about the big, important and practical matters we would be deciding on after college? Like taking out a mortgage, understanding insurance, using credit cards wisely, etc. Hell, an ounce of financial literacy could’ve made our lives infinitely better than a ton of mathematical equations and knowledge of where all the countries in the world are supposed to be in a map!

4. Surviving Office Politics and Getting along with Other People:

They have all gone through this at one time or another and all of them would agree that its one of the most important things to learn in life. Why wasn’t it included in our curriculum then? As a result, our schools continue to churn out multitudes of ass-kissers, gossip mongers, social climbers, gold diggers, potential burn-outs and everything else that makes the world go round.

5. Relationship Ethics:

Teaching how to act in a relationship, how to get along with your boyfriend and girlfriend, how to court and be courted are probably on the bottom of the list when it comes to their list of what to teach in school. The result? All of us, in one way or another, got our insane ideas about love from the cinemas, from Romnick and Sherryl, Bea and John Lloyd, from star cinema, from Hollywood, from Bollywood, etc, etc ,etc.. and we wonder why the world is full of unhappy people, broken marriages and confused kids.

6. Price Haggling:

Have you ever wished you knew more about price haggling? How about negotiating for lower interest rates, longer loan terms, or loan extensions? Nobody ever told us that this would become a crucial part of life after school.

7. Basic Trouble Shooting and Household Repairs:

Cursing, slapping and kicking, that just about sums up what most of us know about the basic repair of our household appliances and fixtures. As a result, tons f money, time and resources are wasted every year on fixing what could’ve been simple problems.

8. Listening:

We we’re taught writing, reading and public speaking but did anybody ever think about teaching us the art of really listening to what other people say? Most people would say that this is not important; I say that it is for this lack of listening skills that we have created such messes such as the Iraq war, the war in Mindanao, runaways, and broken families.

9. Raising Kids:

This one’s scary as I didn’t even have what it takes to raise our pet dog right. And if you can’t raise a pet dog right, how much more your own kid?? They should include a subject in school wherein they teach us how to take care of our pets, how to train them and how to raise them as responsible animals. If you think this is funny, try reading some articles about raising a child and compare this to articles about raising a pet (I did), you would be surprised at how similar they are.

10. Saying I’m Sorry:

Why is it that saying I love you is so much easier than saying I’m sorry? Why is it that our pride is sometimes a lot more important than resolving our differences, synergizing, or simply being happy? We have made it through more than 15 years of schooling without being taught how to sincerely admit our mistakes – something that could’ve made our lives a lot easier and happier.

The bitter truth is that we spend most of our lives trying to put out fires instead of preventing them, trying to treat the symptoms instead of the diseases.

We don’t need more tanks, or bombs or guns.. we just need to listen more and understand more.

We don’t need more money or more jobs, we need lessons on how to better manage our money and create more jobs ourselves..

We don’t need a change OF people in our government.. but a change IN people.. a change in ourselves.. how we choose our leaders, how we teach others to choose and how we act as citizens of our country..

We don’t need more education.. we just need a better one..

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[posted Feb, 13, 2008]

Valentine’s Day will come and go – and we’ll probably do no more than talk to each other on the phone. Long distance relationships are inevitably hard - made harder by the fact that we’ll probably stick out like sore thumbs on Valentine ’s Day.

We’ll probably wish we could go out together, gobble down a king sized 4-cheese pizza from Yellow Cab perhaps? Or maybe watch a movie along with 2 large sized Cokes and a platter of nachos sprinkled liberally with cheese and extra toppings from Nacho King.

ChairOf course, We’ll probably wish we could drink coffee afterwards – cafĂ© latte grande for me ( no vanilla, no caramel, no frills) and whatever coffee flavor that catches her fancy for her (she likes the element of surprise when it comes to having her coffee, I don’t). We’ll talk about nonsense things like wisdoom and the likes and probably about some serious ones too. She’ll also probably not notice it, but the structural integrity of the flimsy chair I’ll be sitting on will be constantly on my mind.

Now, it may be that Valentine’s day is not celebrated at the same time all around the world but one thing’s certain though – gifts. Chocolates for some, flowers for most, and usually a teddy bear in between. Not me! if I had the chance, I want my Bhenki’s eyes to pop out and glaze over as she opens my Valentines gift.

I will want my gift to be so great that she will sleep hugging them tight, just like when she was a kid and still believed in Santa Claus or Mr. Peso man or whatever. I will want my gift to be so surprising that she’ll emit a squeak, jump up and down and hug me for the rest of the afternoon. Mostly, I would want her to feel what I feel whenever I think about her, listen to her voice, or just simply hold her tight – MAGIC. 8 years of it stuffed in a big colored box…

Of course, I could always stuff HER in the box, he he, but I don’t think that’ll get the point across. So instead, here are my “magic in a box” ideas:

  1. Quantum Core Laptop With Complete Peripherals

She’s probably the only girl I know who has no interest in jeweleries, fashion accessories, etc. A quantum core laptop though? That’s a different thing altogether especially since she won’t have to buy the peripherals. With this, she can stay connected to the web (which she thinks is her second home) 24/7.

  1. Completed Masteral Thesis

Thesis_1It may be just a thick pile of papers, but to her, it will mean liberation from years and years of pressure, procrastination and general mental anguish. Like shackles falling off someone’s bound hands, the masteral thesis will literally give her wings to fly and the vision to look forward. Of course, perfectionist that she is, she will still have to scour it for grammatical mistakes and such. He he

  1. Time Turner

Always wishing that there were more hours in a day since there is just too much she wants to do. I’ll give her a time turner. This way, she can split herself into two, three or more Bhenki’s at a time doing all the different things that she wants to do while the original comes with me on an trip around the world.:)

  1. Cravings Vending Machine

For all those food cravings that seem to come out from nowhere, I will give her the ultimate cravings machine - where she could teleport any food that she’d like to eat, at any time, right to her tabletop. Baba Shawarma, Manhan Fried Rice, Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza, Law Building Roast Beef with mashed potatoes, all will be available with the push of a button. Of course, I hope I’ll be able to use it from time to time too.:)

  1. Automatic Weight Control Technology

Weight_controlOf course, the gift mentioned above wouldn’t be complete without an automatic weight control technology in place. Otherwise, all I’ll ever see are binge sessions that seesaw between food and guilt with me caught in the middle as the devil incarnate.

  1. Pumba

Pumba_1Perhaps the only dog she has ever loved. Pumba died because she couldn’t get over the fact that she wasn’t a dog. In a sense, she was right because between Bhenki and me, she was family. I wish there’s a way I could bring our dog back. That would really make Bhenki's day.

  1. Temper Control Gun

He he, not for her but for me. She probably sometimes wishes that there was a way for me to just shut up and stop nagging her during a fight. Well, with a temper control gun and a license to shoot, she’ll probably need bullet refills every once in a while. I’ll most likely go.. “WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR!!!!…”.. BANG!!... “Oh, I love you so much bebeh!” he he. Hell, she might even shoot me from time to time just for the fun of it.

  1. Self Updating Pocketbook Library and a Lazy Boy Couch

Paperback_book_libraryReading pocketbooks is probably one of her greatest passions in life and consequently, one of the regular things in her to do list everyday. A pocketbook library coupled with a lazy boy chair would definitely appeal much to her bookworm/couch potato relaxation preference.

These things don’t exist in the real world (ask Ebay) and maybe it is just as well. Maybe magic isn’t really meant to fit inside a box anyways. But it does fit perfectly well inside a human heart. Hope my vivid imagination makes up for my absence.:)

Happy Valentines Bhenki!!

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