Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Personal Homage To An Icon

Gising na! RJ na! – Howlin’ Dave
I really don’t know the man, but I knew the voice. Dante David or better know in the airwaves as Howlin’ Dave was a symbol in the local rock scene. During the late ‘70s until mid ‘80s, DZRJ was my only radio station and Howlin’ Dave was The Rock Guru. A pinoy rock pioneer and a repository of information on anything pertaining to his brand of music. In a way, he made an impression in my young life.

I’ve lost touch of pinoy music when I came here. I never heard of him again until I meet his brother, Batjay, a fellow blogger (Kwentong tambay). From Batjay’s stories, I got a glimpse of the man’s persona. From Batjay, I came to know of his demise.

I still don’t know the man, but I knew, a lot will miss the voice. Keep on rockin’ Dave while climbing the “stairways to heaven”. Keep on rollin’ while “knockin’ on heaven’s door”.

When you see me fly away without you,
Shadows on the things you know,
Feathers fall around you,
And show you the way to go,
It's over....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In Memoriam: Ka Bel, 1933 - 2008

Kung terorista ang turing nila pag pinaglaban mo ang karapatan nang maralita, gugustohin ko pang matawag na terorista habang buhay. – Crispen Beltran

I first heard of Crispin Beltran when I was a college freshman. Popularly called Ka Bel, he was a principled man, a man who practices what he preaches, a labor leader and fighter for the rights of the common man. He weathered Martial Law, the oppression of the present administration and a failing health. He died when he fell down trying to fix his leaking roof.

In a country where you can acquire wealth and power by being elected as a congressman, with a total asset of P50,000, he is the poorest among the members of the House of Representative.

So long Ka Bel. You’re gone but you won’t be forgotten.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

To Speak or Just Mumble

More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to. - Bill Bryson

My kid and I are flipping a picture book in the living room, I ask Bea, “Where’s the bug?” My 3 year old immediately points to a picture of an insect. “That’s a beetle, this is a bug”, I said, pointing at another picture. “Bag Daddy” my daughter exclaimed. I grinned and said “Sorry, BEAAAG”.

My kid learned her diction from Pixar and Disney. I got mine from an old maid English teacher whose favorite expressions are “giti” and “tiwis” (visayan terms for the female genital). It’s a tongue twister for Filipinos. We have difficulties pronouncing “A” as in “apple” instead of “epol” or “carrot” instead of “kerot”. To compound this, we can’t distinguish “P” from “F” and “B” from “V”. We say “pipty”, “flease”, “DBD” and “vallpen”.

While it’s amusing, I’d prefer to hear pinoys speak this way rather than sound like a call center agent. They’re trained to talk in proper diction with an American twang. Yet speak in “pre-programmed” sentences, polite but artificial. At least with the former, I can proudly say “That’s Juan dela Cruz” speaking.

This vicious mangling of English is not the sole expertise of Filipinos. South Asians are notorious for contorting the language as well. They speak as if they’re trying to withhold words, curving their tongues to block syllable from coming out of their lips. Of course we all know about the Chinese “flied lice” and Arabic speaking people have the same problem as we do. Since there is no phonetic equivalent of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet, they pronounce it as “B”. You often hear them say “baber”, “bebsi” and the famous “no barking” joke. It means you can neither park nor leave your dog in the car.

But at the end of the day, as long as we could understand each other, regardless how we say it, ebrybody’s haffy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

At the Airport

What a gas! You gotta come and see, at the Zoo. – Paul Simon

Going home for vacation is a stressful experience, especially if you have a very active kid. I have to think of every thing from our baggage, passports and airfare tickets. Not to mention the exasperating long queues in front of the check-in counter and security check before the boarding area.

Para hindi mabagot, I entertain myself by watching our fellow kabayans who are also on their way home. It’s amazing that by just observing, you can somehow evaluate a person’s character. I categorize them as follows:

Japorms – Everything he wears is brand new, from signature sport shoes, to t-shirt, to ball cap and sunglasses (worn even inside the terminal). Japorms usually hangs around where ladies congregate (see Chatters).

Hepa - You can see him coming miles away. His covered from head to toe with jewelry, from necklace the size of a door chain to rings with stones as big as your thumb. Hepa has the same characteristic and hunting ground as Japorms.

Over-Weights – They know exactly the weight limit for check-in baggage and the number of hand-carried luggage allowed by airlines. Yet they squeeze in some more hoping baka makalusot. There are two known species, the Weight Watcher and the Pasa Load.

Weight Watcher – Typically hangs in front of the check-in counter, always watchful of a fellow passenger’s baggage while being weight. If it’s below the allowable limit, her standard line is “Kabayan, kulang naman sa bigat ang bagahi mo. Paki dagdag naman itong sa akin. Magaan lang ito, sampung kilo”.

Pasa Load – Her hunting ground is the queue in Customs before entering the pre-departure area. Her mark is usually male, single with no hand-carried luggage. Her standard line is “Kabayan, wala ka namang dala. Paki bitbit naman itong isa sa mga bagahi ko. Magaan lang ito, sampung kilo”.

The Movers – Usually a family with teenage children. You’ll recognize them because their trolleys are in convoy. Lots of heavy boxes and luggage when checking in. Parang ipinabagahi ang buong bahay.

The Tribe – A bus load when they arrive at the airport. Only one or two is going on vacation, the rest are well wishers and strollers. Ginagawang pasyalan ang airport.

Chatters – Noisy and always in group. They make it a point to occupy the same row seat number to continue their ruckus inside the airplane. Pity are those who are behind or in front of them if they want a peaceful journey.

Aristocrat – Always aloof, separates from the crowd. Will mingle with the Movers if it pleases her but avoids Chatters at all cost. Makes it a point to let everyone knows she’s flying Business Class.

And of course there’s the rest of our kabayans who minds their own business and anticipating their much deserved vacation. Just like you and me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cultural Exchange

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. – old adage.

My friends back home jokingly say “Arabo ka na nga”. Contemplating on what they said, I’ve to admit there’s a grain of truth in it. In almost two decades of working here, I can’t help but absorb some of the customs of my host country. I hardly noticed it since it seems ordinary and natural when I’m here, but it’s evident when I’m in the Philippines.

For instance, I pat my back pocket to check for my Iqama (residence permit) every time we go out. I’m in a hurry to finish any transaction before sunset. I lower my eyes when a lady gazed in my direction. I say “shukaran” (thank you) instead of salamat. And I use a hand gesture, which could be interpreted differently or perhaps rudely, back home. Weird? Maybe, especially the first three peculiarities, but not to someone who had a stint in the Middle East.

When two cultures meet, it’s a give and take situation. Filipino cooks, domestic helpers and nannies can influence an employer’s household. I once saw a local boy buying “patis” and I know of an Arab doctor who likes adobong manok and kare-kare. There’s a commercial district here that is “tambayan” of Filipinos. Most of the store owners knew a thing or two of tagalog if not speak the language fluently. They are even familiar of our regional stereotyping, like if you haggle too much, they’ll say “Siguro, Ilokano ka”.

We might not be aware of it, but we gave a part of ourselves. They might not notice it, but that’s our legacy to them. In a small but meaningful way we have “Filipinized” the Middle East.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

PASYALAN (My Blog Roll)

Abou’s  BASTA...
Atticus’  DYIMENO
Beatburn’s  BEATBURN
Dong Ho’s  ESCAPO
Life Moto’s  LIFE MOTO

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Faith and Fanatics

In morals what begins in fear usually ends in wickedness; in religion what begins in fear usually ends in fanaticism. Fear, either as a principle or a motive, is the beginning of all evil. - Anna Jameson

I happened to visit Batjay’s Kuwentong Tambay a few days ago. His post, written in his usual irreverent funny way, was about life after death,. While reading, I run into another visitor who kept harassing anybody whose view runs counter to his. All in the pretext of caring and saving us from sin. Hypocricy aside, I don't know how somebody can "care and save" some faceless total strangers. He annoyed me enough that I tossed some nasty words of my own. I don’t regret what I did. The way he conducts himself, he had it coming. Things cooled down when Jet (Batjay’s wife) stepped in. Her diplomatic skill and choice of metaphor deserves commendation.

You see, I don’t mind what you believed in or what your beliefs are. I’d be more interested to know why you believed in it. It upset me if one criticizes another ones opinion without proof and shove his idea down everybody’s throat without provocation. It’s quite alarming to imagine when one judges his belief as the only truth, his faith the only salvation and the rest are hogwash. A lot of men suffered and countless lives lost because of this myopic way of thinking.

In our modern world, where information and knowledge are retrieved with a click of a finger, men of such disposition still hold influence on other men and even countries. Some possesses charismatic personality. They have uncanny ability to sway people to his will even to their death without question. With such men abound, like in the middle ages, we’ll wakeup one day to witness history repeating itself. If it's not already happening.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land

National sovereignty is an obligation as well as an entitlement. A government that will not perform the role of a government forfeits the rights of a government. - Richard Perle

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On Parenting

Parenting is the most important job on the planet next to keeping Gary Busey off the nation's highways. - Dennis Miller

Haligi nang tahanan. That’s what fathers are. Obligations include a roof over ones family’s head, food on the table and education for the children. Taking care of the children’s immediate needs and molding of their character are supposed to be the mother’s responsibility.

I grew up in that kind of environment. My father is the bread winner, always busy, even bringing his work home. A person present but presence never felt. But his dependable, a good provider. It was my mother who’s beside us most of the time. The reason why our affection is tilted more on her favor.

Living in a foreign land, with no one to depend on, this arrangement no longer applies. Everything must be shared, even parenting. We’re both father and mother to our child. I’ve my share of wiping off my daughter’s “poo-pooh”, mopping her “wee-wee” and cleaning her “aah-aah”. I’m her yaya, playmate and servant. Even her first word was “dadi”, much to my wife’s annoyance and perhaps envy.

I want to experience the joy and difficulties of a parent. I want to be there when she makes her first step, when she rides her first bicycle, when she receives her diploma. Someday she’ll leave us and have a family of her own. A time my wife dreads so much. At least I’ll have my memories. A wealth no one can steal nor will ever get lost (unless I get Alzheimer’s disease).

But for most OFWs, this responsibility is reversed. It’s the mother who travels to distant shores to work while the father stays home to take care of the children. They have to withstand those sleepless 12 hour shift and, for some, suffer silently the abuse of their employers. They have to quilt their motherly instinct to guarantee a bright future for their offspring. They have to forego the experience of seeing their children grow, to feel those little hands around their neck, to hear that delightful word “Nanay”. A memory desired so much that they’ll give anything to turn back the hands of time. To these kababayans I dedicate this short but sincere tribute.

Happy Mother’s day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tea For Two

I'll be the judge of my own manliness. - Dennis Rodman

When I was a young boy, I refuse to play “bahay-bahayan” with my younger sister and our neighbor’s child. I thought of that as mushy and considered it girlie stuff. If they found another boy to play with them, I teased and called him sissy. I shouldn’t have done that.

Since my wife bought my daughter’s toy tea set, Bea would ask, no demand that I sit in her little chair to have tea with her and her “friends”. I have to sip her make believe tea and pretend to eat her "cakes" as if they are the most delicious wooden blocks I ever tasted. I have to be polite and do animated conversation with Pooh and the other bears, much to my wife’s amusement.

All my bachelor life I have never imagined that one day I would do such a thing. But a father would do anything, even shed his “manly” image and make a fool of himself, to please his only child.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Home Away From Home

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be and there the world below don’t bother me – Carol King

We live in a “penthouse” (my euphemism for rooftop) of a two story flat-style apartment building. It’s a two-room flat, with two bathrooms, a small kitchen and a short but spacious hallway leading to the rooftop. We converted one room as our living and dining area. Use one bathroom for laundry and the hallway as a storage area. It’s good enough for a family of three. What’s nicer even is that I “own” the rooftop. Other tenants never go up on the rooftop unless they need to fix their TV antennas. It’s my daughter’s playground. She rides her tricycle around, using satellite dishes as obstacle courses.

From the roof, one can see two of the city's landmarks even when there's a mild sandstorm.
But last year all apartment owners jack up rent by 20%. Masakit sa bulsa but we’re still lucky. This year some pinoys complained their rent increased again by another 10%. To save in housing allowance, a family will share a large flat with another family. Sometimes ito yung ugat nang hindi pagkakasundo, especially if both have children.

If you think that we have a housing issue here, look again. In other big cities, like Dubai, rents in apartments are astronomical compared to ours. Some apartments contains 6 to 8 kabayans sharing a single room. Yes, a room not a flat. Parang boarding house sa Sampaloc noong college days. They have to do without their individual privacy to save money. But this is nothing compared to other sacrifices our kabayans have to do so their families back home will received those much awaited green paper… but that’s another story.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Diogenes and His Lamp

I am afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy. - George Bernard Shaw