24 January 2011

Princes and paupers


By: Alec Francis A Santos

Joe is a trusted pedicab driver in our subdivision. Some years back, he used to pick up my sister from our house and bring her to the nearest jeepney stop. Now he often helps out with some chores at home.

A father of five, Joe struggles to make ends meet like millions of other Filipinos. His meager daily income is never enough to feed his children. Like millions of other Filipinos, Joe and his family don’t have their own house. Their makeshift shelter, made from scrap metal, rickety plywood boards and some rusty nails offer little protection from the cold, wind and rain. They live on private property, and are in danger of losing the only home they have.

One time, a panic-stricken Joe came to our house. He seemed to be on the verge of a breakdown. His voice cracked up as he told me his 4-month-old baby had high fever and he was at his wits’ end on what to do. He said he needed P500 for his baby’s medicine and offered to pawn his pedicab, his only source of income.

I was shocked by his proposal. Here was a man who was ready to give up his family’s source of income because he could not afford to buy medicine for his baby.

Joe told me and my aunt that the cold wind and heavy rains made their youngest child sick. Without proper nutrition, the baby easily developed high fever with the cold and damp.

Being a nurse’s son, I knew enough to realize that without proper medical attention, his baby might suffer an unspeakable tragedy. As Joe talked, I could not help but notice his eyes welling up with tears. He was trying to be composed, but his parental instincts were overwhelming him.

Instead of taking Joe up on his offer, my aunt Joan gave him the sum he said he needed without condition. We told him to bring his baby to the city hospital immediately and to let doctors take a look at it.

I can remember how his lips quivered and how his hands trembled as he took the money and struggled to speak. The look in his eyes expressed his gratitude more eloquently than any words could ever have. The way he looked at us moved us deeply and in ways we cannot explain.

As Joe rushed back home, my aunt and I couldn’t help but discuss how things in our country and society are turning from bad to worse. She observed that even though we are not rich, we are still lucky. But more important than just making us feel fortunate, Joe’s situation stirred in us a willingness to do whatever we can to help our struggling countrymen.

We discussed at length the greed and selfishness pervading society and our people’s widespread apathy and ignorance. Indeed, some Filipinos would prefer to immerse themselves in trivial televised fantasies than face reality head on. Some relegate charity work to overworked foundations and NGOs and don’t care if street children sleep on flattened cardboard boxes. They might spare a few pesos at the fast-food counter for charity coin banks yet they cannot share excess food with starving children on the other side of the glass.

I think the huge glass walls in fast-food restaurants accurately reflect the elite’s response to poverty and social strife. The privileged “princes” stay inside, safe, comfortable and with plenty to eat. A few centimeters of glass is all that separates them from their hungry countrymen out in the heat. The princes can see the poor clearly. They see rows of starving children peering through the glass, their eyes following the food even as the princes pretend not to see them.

In the mother of all ironies, palatial houses sit next to makeshift scrap metal houses. Abject poverty and lavish lifestyles lie side by side, with the princes oblivious to the plight of the paupers.

I am appalled by the lack of concern many people show. Often, I and my girlfriend Abigaille (Youngblood, 2/14/10) wonder if our people still have a conscience. I appreciate the fact that she is well aware of our society’s ills. As writers, we have regular discussions and try to make good use of our skills to initiate change whenever and wherever we can. She has her own stories to tell about poverty, inequality and injustice in our society. We are sometimes sickened by the extreme apathy people to show. How can people consciously ignore the face of poverty staring at them through the glass and still enjoy their meals?

Each and every day, our hearts are torn when we see people passing entire families lying on the pavement, pausing only to glance at them and feel fortunate and good about themselves. Many Filipinos take for granted the widespread poverty and misery around us. But for the countless homeless, this is their life. This is not just a 30-second intermission in the lives of the princes, rather this is their world.

The sad thing is, we can do so much to help alleviate poverty and yet we are doing so little right now. The solution does not lie with the government, or with charitable organizations alone. The first step to having a meaningful change in our society starts with ourselves. The answer lies within us. We have to awaken to the reality surrounding us. We cannot always run away from our country’s problems.

A few pesos may not seem much to us, but to those in need they go a long way. A few extra pan de sal during breakfast may mean nothing to us, but they are feast for the hungry. For some of us old clothes can be easily discarded, but for the naked they are blessings. We keep so many things in excess and spend too much on non-essentials, even as our countrymen scrounge for whatever useful items they can make use of. Making a few insignificant sacrifices and giving whatever we can to those in need can initiate the change society so desperately needs.

Our country’s history has been an unending cycle of subjugation, abuse and oppression of the poor masses by the privileged, the powerful, the princes. Not much has changed since the time of the Spaniards. The wealthy and the landed still control our economy, our government and our society.

Poverty in our country is a systemic. It is the result of society’s failure to resolve inequality and injustice. I wish people will wake up from their apathy. I wish they will soon realize that it’s never enough to feel pity and that we can truly transform our nation into one without princes or paupers.

-Youngblood (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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23 January 2011

Precious People


By Cherrie Mae E. Aguila

Living in a place where almost everyone has gray hair makes me miss my own lolo and lola. I can’t imagine life without my grandparents. I grew up with them and they taught me many things, helping me develop as a person. For me and my siblings, their presence at home is like a given number in math—remove it and everything will not be the same.

When I was small, my lolo and lola were like my second set of parents. When we grew up to our teens, they started going through the motions of calling our intention to our mistakes and scolding us. Very often we misunderstood their intentions and got mad at them. Nevertheless, they were precious to us and still are. They are among the people to whom we give our utmost respect and love. They are very dear to our hearts.

Now that we are grown-ups, my brother, my sister and I have finally come to accept the reality that our grandparents cannot be as sharp as they were only a few years back. Unlike the good old days when we would enjoy our exchange of banters with them, attempts at having serious conversations with them are hindered by memory gaps or their inability to hear clearly, with the lapses of memory often providing a source of laughter and the loss of hearing becoming a challenge for the rest of us.

Whenever I am home, I get to enjoy their company although quite often I would flare up over some insensitive remarks grandma would make. She has a tendency to comment on something or about someone without considering the effects of her choice of words. She loves to argue about a lot of things and for the wrong reasons. She does household chores that she can no longer do well now that she is a senior citizen.

Such things really irritate me and I would snap at her without regard for the fact that old age has caught up with her.

My lolo can barely hear now and so he is silent most of the time. He still does his usual routines like reading, watching TV and doing a little carpentry, but he does all of these in silence.

The first time I noticed how quiet he had become, I felt very uneasy. I also felt very sorry for him. He can no longer join us in our meal-time conversations although I know he wants very much to take part.

One time when my grandfather and I were having lunch together, I asked him about his hometown in Cebu. He started talking about his childhood and his siblings. I could sense nostalgia in his voice as he reminisced on his parents and the things they used to do as children. He talked about his teenage years and how he roamed the city in his youth. He talked on and on about familiar places, and then he talked about World War II. He had fond memories of American soldiers for whom he worked as a part-time translator. As he reminisced on his past, I could see a deep yearning in his eyes, a longing to be able to go back once more to his old hometown. I made him a promise that one day we would do just that.

He is too weak to travel now but, who knows, we might still be able to do it.

My grandma naps almost all the time. I wonder why she seems to be always tired.

One morning when she had just awakened from her 9 a.m. nap, I asked about her childhood. I learned that she had a rough time. Their family was very poor and she lost her father when she was still very young. She had to stop studying after she had finished third grade because she had to work in order to help feed her siblings. Poverty was also the reason she married early.

Having full knowledge of people’s past helps us understand and love them. In my case, I loved my grandparents even more and it always makes me cry when I remember the times when I didn’t cut them some slack, when I didn’t care about their feelings. It breaks my heart to see them the way they are now.

The time I spent listening to their stories made me realize how important a pair of ears are to old people. These are very crucial years for them. They feel insecure and lonely. They feel the need to be heard. Listening to them is the least we can do for them and the greatest favor they will receive.

My grandparents are in their sunset years now and I intend to spend all the time I can spare laughing and just sharing moments with them. I pray that God will give me that opportunity next year.

-Youngblood (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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Rainy Days


By Nora Marie Aldave

The last time I enjoyed a rainy day, I was in the province. The morning had been hot and sticky and we just had our lunch. The rain came as a surprise, like an unexpected sweet dessert after a meager meal. The raindrops came slowly, dropping lightly at first, and then without warning, they came crashing on the roof. I heard the sound of a thousand coins dropping carelessly above. It was not a sweet sound, yet I felt happy. I had forgotten that rain could make me happy.

With the soaking it got during a sweltering summer, the earth gave up a pungent smell. I used to put Vicks or any balm on my nostrils to wipe out that smell. And it was a smell that had been lost from living in the city where rains fall on cemented roads and people are always in too much of a hurry to stop and smell the earth. But that afternoon, I relished the smell like I was smelling it for the first time.

I used to love rainy days. Rain was like snow to me—cool, soft and wet. When I was a young girl, I loved getting wet under the rain. My siblings and I looked forward to the darkening of the sky. We would chant “Rain! Rain! Rain!” and when it did rain, we felt like we could be children forever. We would make paper boats and watch them float on murky puddles or we would race our paper boats in the gutter. Sometimes we would join the children in the neighborhood who never let us win in paper boat races (or any other game we played for that matter), but we played with them anyway.

One of our delights then was a torrent of rain falling from a roof. We did not worry whether the water coming from the roof was dirty. It was our waterfalls and we giggled as the water fell on our heads.

We would sometimes come home with cuts and bruises but with happy smiles on our faces. Our parents would scold us but they never stopped us from getting wet. The only time they got mad at us was when we went up the roof while it was raining and there was lightning and thunder.

Sometimes we would catch colds, but when we were well and the rains fell, we would go out again and had fun. Maybe my parents loved rainy days, too.

Rainy days also meant delicious meals. Breakfast would be champorado with tuyo or hot chocolate or coffee and hot pan de sal. For lunch, there would be something with soup to warm us. My father loved to cook and rainy days were a signal for him to make something delicious for the family.

When I was in high school, my friends and I would go to the beach on rainy days. The beach would be cold and empty, except for stray dogs or cats. The sky would be gray and so was the sea. My friends and I would not swim. We would huddle in a cottage, watch the waves and talk while eating peanuts and junk foods, drinking and smoking.

I had my first smoke and my first taste of alcohol on a rainy day. My first puff was unremarkable. I did not cough and I puffed like a pro. After many rainy days at the beach I had tasted all the cigarette brands available in the sari-sari stores.

It took some time before I started drinking. I was afraid that I would get drunk with my first shot, and so for many rainy days, I smoked while my friends smoked and got drunk.

My first drink was rum, and I washed it down with a glass of soft drink. I felt fire flowing down my body. I did not get drunk but I did not enjoy it either, so on our later trips to the beach I would just have a shot.

Sometimes when we ran out of soft drinks, my friends would have menthol candy or kalamansi for “chaser.” We also tried gin and lime. I had fun mixing them by turning the bottle of lime upside down and putting it on top of an open bottle of gin. I would watch the white and the green colors dance inside the two bottles until there was only green.

On some days we would have beer and when we had little money, we would just buy gin and pomelo juice.

It was a long walk but we loved walking along the shore to the town and back home. On the way, we would take an occasional dip in the cold water to wash away the smell of alcohol and smoke. We loved it more when it rained because the smell of alcohol and smoke dripped away with every step we took.

My happy memories of rainy days in the province were forgotten when I came to the city. Raindrops are depressing to watch on glass windows. Everything looks colorless—the buildings, the people, and the city. The rain can also be harsh. On rainy days, going to school, work or home becomes a torment. A drop of rain on my clothes makes me feel cold and angry. Heavy rain brings fear.

When I went back to the province, the happy rainy days of my life flooded my memories. I did not think I was too old to run under the rain again. My cousins and our dog played and got wet in the yard. In that rainy day, I had no umbrella, no raincoat, no waterproof jacket—no feelings of exasperation and fear. I felt the touch of rain and remembered my youth, and it was a great feeling.

Rainy days in the city never tempted me to go out and play. Rainy days did not make me want to smoke or drink. When it rains in this place they call Metro Manila, I would rather stay in bed and curl under a blanket.

-Youngblood (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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By: Marie Habito

I Spent the November 27 to 29 long weekend with my mom in her hometown in Bataan. We left early in the morning to avoid the traffic in Manila, and drove for four hours straight, stopping only to grab a quick breakfast somewhere along the way.

We arrived at my grandmother’s old apartment duplex at a little past 8 in the morning. Immediately, I saw a head peep from the screen door, wondering who the dogs were barking at. As we unloaded our things from the car, some of my kid cousins came out to help.

Lola has been working as a caregiver in the United States for almost 15 years now. Lola’s house is now home to her youngest son’s family. My uncle, a contractor, and his wife, a municipal agriculturist, live there with their three children. The five (soon to be, six) of them live in a space that is only about as big as our lounge, dining room and kitchen combined. On weekends and holidays, another aunt (mom’s younger sister) and her two sons also spend their days at Lola’s house, arriving at breakfast time and leaving just after dinner. The addition of my mom and myself made it one cramped house that weekend.

As I observed my transient weekend environment, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable and whiny. I am used to having so much more personal space and so many more comforts at my disposal, some of which I take for granted. At home, we eat meals at a table long enough to fit our entire family. At Lola’s, there are two shifts at meal times: kids, then adults—or a mixture of both per set.

At home, the TV is rarely turned on, except to watch the evening news. At Lola’s, it seemed that the TV was a welcome reprieve for the adults, one that kept the children glued to the couch, distracted, occupied and out of trouble.

At home, everyone is already over 21. We go to work, hang out with each other, and talk over meals and the occasional coffee dates. At Lola’s, there were children running around, screaming, crying, picking things up and pulling them apart, fighting over toys and what not.

When my mom and I returned home, my mind continued to process the things I had observed over the weekend. I found it hard to imagine the sacrifices that my uncle and aunt have to make: putting off their own needs to attend to their children, giving up the concept of personal space, spending days away from home to make enough money to send them to school, feeding, dressing, bathing, cleaning up after them and putting them to bed. It scared me to imagine myself caught in a similar situation once I settle down when I reach my late 20s or early 30s.

The morning after we arrived, I was recounting my thoughts to my sister. And she pointed out, “Ganyan din naman sila Mama at Papa sa atin noon (It was like that for our parents then).”

There was a point in my life when I thought that the sense of responsibility and sacrifice required for getting married and having children was like a switch that automatically turned on when you reach a certain age. But lately I have come to realize more and more that it is largely a function of a personal choice—a commitment—and a certain degree of maturity. My sister was right: I need not look very far for an example. My own parents survived bringing up my three siblings and me, doing all they could to provide for each of our needs and sometimes even some of our wants. It probably wasn’t easy, but they made it work. And today, I realize that we owe the liberties and comforts of our lives to the hard work that they have been putting in all these years.

I remember asking my Mom how she managed to take care of the four of us at a time in her life when she could have been single and free to do as she pleased. I also asked our maid Manang how she managed to bring up her own four kids. Their answers were the same: “When you make that choice, you kind of just live for every day. You take care of and love your children, and in return, they love you back and make your tiredness go away.”

Parenthood is a vocation that I am ready for just yet. But I am constantly surrounded by people who have made that choice and made the most of their situation. And they deserve no less than my utmost respect and admiration. By God’s grace, I only hope I can do the same when the time comes.

-Youngblood (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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21 January 2011

Ophiuchus .. New breakthrough in Astrology !


I would just like to say that what I have written below is based on research for those interested in the 13th sign NOT on my own beliefs. I remain a firm believer in the 12 sign zodiac but will carry on my research. To those of you who are heavily religious - please do not use my site to put down those of us who don’t share in your beliefs, this is after all an astrological website so please respect that. Also any comments abusing any person and/or their beliefs will not be approved. The 13th sign of the zodiac, unlike the other 12 signs is actually associated with a real person. In the 27th Century BCE in Ancient Egypt lived a man known as Imhotep. Imhotep was known as ‘Aesclepius’ by the Ancient Greeks, however the attributes are the same under either name.

Sepent holder

One of Imhoteps abilities was healing and it is said that it was he who introduced it to mankind. His accomplishments also included a wide knowledge of medicine. The serpent or snake symbol which is still used today to symbolize the medical profession was also used to represent Imhotep. Below is a list of attributes associated with the Serpent Holder, Imhotep i.e Aesclepius. The descriptions below are associated with the 13th sign - Ophiuchus.


  • Many people are envious of this subject as he progresses well throughout life.
  • A seeker of wisdom and knowledge
  • Many people are jealous of this person
  • Tends to go for the more flamboyant in dress sense, favouring bright colours.
  • Authority looks upon him well.
  • Would make a great architect or builder.
  • Number 12 is this persons lucky number.
  • This person will have a big family but leave home at an early age.

This is the Zodiac as some astrologers believe it should be: ARIES = APRIL 19 - MAY 13 TAURUS = MAY 14 - JUNE 19 GEMINI = JUNE 20 - JULY 20 CANCER = JULY 21 - AUG 9 LEO = AUGUST 10 - SEPTEMBER 15 VIRGO = SEPTEMBER 16 - OCTOBER 30 LIBRA = OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 22 SCORPIO = NOVEMBER 23 - NOVEMBER 29 OPHIUCHUS = NOVEMBER 30 - DECEMBER 17 SAGITTARIUS = DECEMBER 18 - JANUARY 18 CAPRICORN = JANUARY 19 - FEBRUARY 15 AQUARIUS = FEBRUARY 16 - MARCH 11 PISCES = MARCH 12 - APRIL 18 I’m not sure myself about the qualities of that of Ophiuchus, but perhaps if you mix Scorpio with Sagittarius you may come up with something along the right lines.

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