The die is cast…

October 30, 2008

It has been a very interesting and many times, frustrating experience to watch the many months toward the selection of the next US president.

Now finally, we are just counting the days – and pretty soon, just the hours.

The die has been cast by the American people and we are who just watching from the outside, could only hold our breath not just on November 4th, but in the succeeding months, waiting with bated breath to see if America has truly chosen a leader to lead the country ( and the world) in these changing and challenging times.

While experience, loyalty, plans, policies and other major indicators were played upfront or downplayed by both campaigns, there was clearly one ISSUE that the media and millions of people have forgotten to consider.

And that is INTEGRITY.

No one talks about it.

No one seems to check on the integrity of neither candidates. While experience has been touted as what is needed – and the perception for CHANGE has been capitalized on by the other campaign, I wished the whole country demanded that their next president would be above all, a person of integrity.

One’s experience will not benefit the nation if there is no integrity.

One’s call for change is nothing when it is not based on integrity.

Sadly, with all the economic woes and continuing challenges, INTEGRITY has taken a quiet backseat into this presidential race.

Bayani Fernando was once quoted to be saying “we deserve the government that we get…”

It did not mean much at that time when he said this a couple of years back – but now several elections later, this has proven to be true.  We deserve the government we get when we fail to look at the critical integrity issues.

The die has been cast for the United States.

And also for the whole world in general.

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I paid our water bill today. It was due last October 15th.  Because of some new policies created by the Water Company, it gave them the right to charge penalties even when it is on the side of insanity.

Their new policy states that a day after the deadline, residents will be charged P25.00. After 5 days, it will be P50.00 and after many days, the water connection will be cut.

The reconnection fee is P400. Reconnection is just about putting the connecting pipes together.  Meralco charges a P20 reconnection fee, yet our village water supplier is charging P400.

So I paid this afternoon.  I knew I was late but I did not really know about the penalties.  I was told that it hd been in effect since May.

I said “really?”

“yes sir, we sent out an advisory” – the female clerk replied.

“Did the association approve this?” I asked.  Last May, I asked if this was already approved by the Homeowner’s association, and I was told… this is being proposed…”

“Sir, this is an internal arrangement.  We dont need to consult the Association anymore..( that is a very subtle English translation because what she actually said was “Sir, wala kaming pakialam sa Asosasyon… internal po ito…”

“Ok. I did not like the part about “wala po kaming pakiaalam sa Assosasyon…” it was very hearing this from an employee who is being paid by the company that is supposed to be of service to the community.

“May I see the agreement between this water supplier and some company she mentioned…”

She could not produce it to justify to me, at least for information sake, the coverage of that agreement.

Because of this new policy, I ended up paying more than 100% of my water bill. Yes, more than 100%.

With all the campaigns about saving water, helping conserve the water and help the environment, my wife and I were conscientious about our water usage.  And I guess, because we were late in our payment, we are now going to pay more than 100% on top of our actual bill.

“Sir, that is in effect so that the homeowners are “trained” to pay their bills on time…” she added to my growing sense of bewilderment.

“I have never seen this before”. I said, ever conscious of not raising my voice because after all, she was not the one who thought about these policies. She was just receiving the penalties, err payments…

“Do you think it to be right that I will pay more than 100% on top of my bill – just because I was a couple of days late?” “more than 100%?  Not even Meralco does that.  Not even credit card companies.  Do you think it is fair? Do you even think it is legal?”

She was quiet.

I got my receipt.  This policy was not about “training” homeowners to pay on time.  They did not even send a we-missed-your-payment-letter… I told her it was not about training. Their policy is very punitive.

My actual water bill is P45.00

I paid P120.

Now you may be thinking, it is JUST P120.  But focus on the percentage. I paid more than 100% on top of my actual bill. The same penalty applies for those who have P1,000 for their bill…. and that would mean they will pay P1,075.  Only P75 penalty added (if that was my bill) and that is only less than 10%.

My bill was P45 only – and I paid more than 100% because of that new policy. They are punitive toward the frugal ones.  The Homeowners association has also implemented a “penalty” for the late payments, but it is based on the actual size of your lot. The bigger the lot, the higher the penalty for late payments. That made sense.

When she said “wala po kaming pakialam sa Association…” it was a very small picture of what is happening even on the national level.  Of retired police generals going abroad for a training with more than 100,000 Euros!  Or an undersecretary of the government who escapes to the US when the Phil Senate was investigating the disappearance of P7.28M fertilizer fund.  He is being deported and the Senate president was very slow in issuing his arrest ( only after other senators voiced their anger and frustration at this indecision to do so…)

Wala po kaming pakialam… even the inclusion of the word “po” denoting respect, is rendered null and void by the whole intent of the message.

In national politics, congress, government agencies, even water companies that supply water to their residents can easily fall prey to this attitude.

I pray that someday we will all wake up from this insensitive, non-chalant, let-me see-what I can-get from-them attitude and start thinking of how we can really serve the people around us.

By the way, our water company is:

Waterworks owned and managed by the Empire East Corporation Land Holdings Inc.. Developer of the Laguna Bel-Air Subdivisions in Sta Rosa, Laguna.

The Empire East developed the subdivisions and they also provide the water for the residents.

And it was just disheartening to be told “wala po kaming pakialam sa Association…”

I rest my case.

3lbs. 13oz

October 25, 2008

That was how much I weighed when I was born.  I am not making this up. I am looking at my official Certificate of Live Birth document from the NSO.  I needed to renew my passport and my license to solemnize marriages and both documents required a certified NSO Certificate of Live Birth.  This is going to be my 5th passport and please don’t ask me why I still need to produce a Live Birth Certificate.

So I applied for it last week.  The application was a breeze.  The following day, I went inside this huge “oven” for a covered area where the whole town showed up to get their NSO documents as well.  It was like a huge human processing plant. I submissively fell in line like a meek goat about to be slaughtered.  My receipt indicated Window 9.  I did not know what a blessing it was to be sent direct to Window 9 because it meant that my document was already for pick-up.

I found the last person at the end of the Window 9 line.  I did not let go of her because it was as if the whole place was a scenario of slowly gyrating mass of faceless people, all trying to fan themselves while their eyes were fixed on the window of their deliverance….  I wanted to take a picture of the place – because it was incredible.  It has always been like this and, and NSO lines have always been synonymous with chaos.

When I finally got it – it was like a very precious document.  I got 2 copies and headed out of the “oven” and I noticed the looks of envy thrown my way by those who were still lining up through different windows according to the difficulty and complexity of their records.

Once out of the building, I had to find my way through the maze of vendors littered all over the small sidewalk so I could cross the street where I parked the car.  Government ID cases, fake silver jewelries (P10! for a bracelet,  ballpens, fruits, banana-Q, chinese glass breakables…. it was amazing…. no wonder it was difficult to get in and out of the NSO complex.

So now, I am looking at the NSO Document.

3lbs. 13oz… I remember my mom telling me that I was born 2 months premature.  And when people hear that.. I was called “pitong gatang…”( reference to 7 cupfuls of rice.. and then others would nod their head as if finally realizing why I am like this!  Ha!

I remember my mom telling me that I was placed inside an incubator for the whole month. Hmmm… no wonder I still do not like bright lights and how my eyes even to this day, could not take the bright lights inside the malls, particularly SM malls.

I wondered how I must have looked then. 3.13lbs! whoaaa… no wonder the doctor cautioned my Mom that I may not survive because I was too tiny.  Remember this was 1967.

Looking at this document made me more realize how precious this life is. Life may have started precariously back in 1967 – but definitely, God looks after all the babies being born everywhere!

Now that 3.13lbs baby is now 41!

Thanks Dr. Josefina Macaraeg for doing the C-section on my Mom so I was born at 12:30 noontime on October 20th, 1967.

Thanks Nurse Rosita C. Opiana for attending to my mom and preparing my document on October 25th, 1967.

Thanks Dad.

Thanks Mom for giving me life. Sorry you had to go through a C-section when months previous to that you went through an appendectomy.

Thank you God for seeing me before I was born, for sustaining me through the days inside the incubator, and for the many years after that.

I know I will see you when I cross over.

I am ready to spend eternity with you.

Turning 41

October 22, 2008

This is it.  I am deeply entrenched now into this mid-life.

I have fully entered the zone where the mid-life crisis would come.  I think it has started already years ago – until a former psychiatrist colleague told me that there is already what is called a quarter-life crisis.

I am 41 and I look at my life and I could name many deceased people I knew.  I could tell stories upon stories  and tell them with such freshness as if they just happened yesterday!

So many memories to look back on now, and yet, still so much of eternity to look forward to.

What a journey. As I started a personal new year with the Lord, I could not help but think that God has really given us such an awesome gift called life.  And this life is not supposed to be lived on empty.  Rather our lives are to be enriched by the relationships we have with people around us.

What a journey! I finally got my FIRST BIRTHDAY CAKE AT 41!  What a blessing!  Wifey baked me a caramel fondant cake without taking any baking /cake- making classes!

My life has been unalterably enriched by the precious life-gifts of so many people.

Thank you Lovey for being the best wifey in the whole world. You are God’s most wonderful blessing that is way beyond what I expected or imagined.

Thank you for the young people who allowed me to pour out my life on them.  LM and Jocer, what a thrill when I hear you guys call me Dad.

Thank you for the wonderful friends who never fail to show me God’s grace and love.

Thank you for Kuya Eugene for reflecting God’s faithfulness and brotherly love.

Thank you Church for challenging me to grow. For the opportunity to serve. For the memories in those years of service and many more years to come.

What a wonderful journey this has been.  With all the ups and downs, the tears(!) and the belly-laughters.

Thank you Jesus for allowing me to discover what a beautiful life my life has become – ONLY because of YOUR sustaining grace.

Thank you for not letting me go.

Thank you Jesus for knowing the plans for my life.

Thank you for not giving up on me.

Thank you for taking care of me.

Thank you for being there for me even when I questioned your presence and care in my life at times.

Thank you for your daily provision.

Thank you for your encouragement.

Thank you for your great love.

I am a year older. A year closer to being with you, my Lord.

I was serenaded last night!

October 20, 2008

Well, I was twisting and turning…. because I was playing Jawbreakers on my Ipaq last night trying to make myself sleepy as I connect all those colorful balls when i started hearing a guitar being faintly strummed.

My wife woke up and said someone is playing a guitar at our gate.

Oh my…I initially thought, what in the world? Then I realized… it was a little past midnight and I was being serenaded with a happy birthday song.

Took awhile because we had to refrain Peanut – and yes, had to make sure that I was dressed up!

There on the gate was Bret (who turned 18 last Monday) and Al and Gian and Bret’s mom Jina.  And they started singing “happy birthday”…. I was pleasantly surprised.

They just wanted to greet me in their simple way. Al was beginning to explain why Don, his brother was not there because he fell asleep.

It was a nice touch.  The first time it was done for me was in Baguio 2004 and my wife was part of the plan.  She may have known about what was going to happen last night – because now, as I remember it, she was very calm despite being woken up.

It was a simple gesture – and I really appreciated being “serenaded” by the teens who are also very involved in our youth camps.  And hey, for 3 male teens to plan this up, actually wait, and really sing in the middle of the night? Whooaaa, I would give it an A+ for the effort.

It was a sweet gesture.  And if I may borrow the line from the Mastercard commercial..”priceless…”

Now let me cash it to the bank so I can get an Omnia! hehehehehe

Thanks Bret, Al and Gian.

Now time for me to go down and eat the fondant cake my wifey made for me.

Will post pics later.

He was executed last Tuesday in Saudi Arabia by beheading.

The news of his beheading did not reach the Filipino news channels until today.

He had an odd sounding name for a Filipino male – but the story behind his stay in Saudi Arabia and his execution was very gut wrenching.

His name was Jenifer Bedoya.

He was so happy, thinking that he was going to be released.

He was so happy, thinking that he was going to be released.

In 2005 after working in Manila, (he was from Mindanao) he was able to find work in Saudi Arabia.  And like thousands of Filipino men working there, his safety and well-being had always been threatened by the prurient interests of the Arab men.  I must have heard countless number of stories from men and women who were sexually threatened with rape – and those who succeed were never brought to justice.

In Dumaguete recently, a sister narrated how common it was in Kuwait, for Kuwaiti young men to prowl around the posh villages, waiting for the Filipina maids to throw the garbage.  These domestic helpers would be grabbed by the men and taken to the desert where they will be gang raped.

In the Middle East, our Filipino men and women are facing different forms of harrassment.  They are literally in “harm’s way.”

Jenifer Bedoya, approx 22 years of age, resisted the rape attempt of a Saudi man.  He fought.  And in the fight, killed the Saudi man who raped him.

He was immediately jailed for that.

The pictures of Jeniper flashed across the TV screens tonight, showed a good looking young man who just wanted to help his family.  He was able to talk to his mom and Dad last Monday and it seemed that no one knew that he was going to be executed the following day. Not even Jeniper knew it was his last time to talk to his parents.

While in jail, he still wanted to be able to send money home. He would wash clothes or even offer to do reflexology so that he would still earn some money that he could send home to his parents.  His jail mates indicated that last Tuesday, Jeniper was even jumping for joy. He was ecstatic because the prison cell was being opened for him.

He thought he was being set free.

Instead he was walking toward his execution.

The grieving family now told the media that they signed a document sent by the DFA – for them to keep the case confidential.  Jeniper was a casualty of the callousness shown everyday by the powers that be.

No one knew that a young man was languishing in jail. No one knew of his execution date. The family of the Saudi national who tried to rape Jeniper did not want to make any settlements. No blood money.

And now we will see the finger pointing that will take place. The vague and confusing explanations that the government will try to give.  In the end, another Filipino who defended himself from being raped, ended up losing his head.

I feel my anger rising.  My anger is directed toward a culture that sees sodomizing the helpless guest workers as “just one of those things…”  Toward societies or cultures that do not defend the defenseless and the innocents. Or the governments that may declare them “heroic” but would not lift a finger to care for their “heroes.”

We have seen way too many grieving families. Families who send their loved ones overseas, only to welcome them in their caskets.

Lord God, when will all these stop?

My heart broke  as i try to imagine his last few moments.  Who was with him when it finally dawned on him that he was not being set free.  Who did he talk to last?  Did he cry?  Did he beg? My heart breaks for him and countrymen like him, who all died so far from their land and their loved ones, often because they just wanted to be safe from evil men.

Lord God, you saw him there in jail.  Lord you saw Jeniper walked to his death.

I trust Lord that you comforted him.  He was so young.

Lord, there is no flag big enough to cover the body of those whose innocent lives were taken from them.

Only YOUR blood could cover the life of the innocents and the guilty ones.

Only YOUR blood could cover the loss of a young man’s life at the hands of evil men.

And only YOUR blood can cover the life of that Saudi national who tried to rape him.

Lord cover us all with your precious blood.

AMEN

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/pinoy-migration/10/17/08/ofw-executed-saudi-thought-he-was-be-freed

In recent days, two deaths went mostly un-reported in the broadcast media.  A 19-year old hockey player from Russia suddenly collapsed on the bench and died of a cardiac arrest.  Reports would reach the known world stating that it took more than 20 minutes for the young athlete to be brought to the hospital.  He was an NHL draft pick.

Yesterday, the second death by heart attack involved a 13-year old  boy playing basketball.

What is going on?

Why are these young athletes succumbing to cardiac arrests?  Were they being pushed physically too hard, that their hearts were too overworked for the demands placed on them?

Were there banned substances involved that triggered these cardiac arrests?

They were so young.  Full of promises. Their time was still way ahead of them.