The war veterans are dying…

February 27, 2009

I settled into my nice and comfortable chair at a local coffee joint, and started to peruse the newspaper recently, when an article jolted me to some harsh realities that our veterans are going through.

One section featured several haunting pictures of the Filipino World War II veterans.  The pictures were taken last February 23rd right inside the Veterans Memorial Hospital.  Their names and birthdays were displayed as their pictures were taken (similar to a mug shot) as many of them were hooked up on tubes and hospital machines.

Many of them are in their 80’s – and are still waiting for any of the promised WWII war veteran benefits.  They stand to receive $9,0000 in cash if they are already based here – and those veterans who are already based in the US, according to the news article, stand to receive $15,000 each.

That is a big amount when converted to Philippine pesos.  Money that these war veterans need right now to cover their medical and hospital expenses.

I pray that these benefits will be given to them soon.

Many of them could hardly attend to participate in ceremonies honoring their fallen comrades because of old age and health conditions.

I pray that our government would help expedite the whole process so that the benefits will still reach the withered hands of those who fought for our freedom more than 60 years ago.

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“I pray that I would still see my Dad…” she started sharing some of personal things that were going on in their family but tears overwhelmed her.  She grabbed a handkerchief but was too slow to cover her eyes as tears went streaming down her cheeks.  We were all quiet as a friend who sat next to her tried to comfort her.

This was just one of the things that was shared during a youth leadership session with 21 young people from our outreach in Norzagaray Hills Village.  Due to the Advisory Council meeting that day, we planned for these young people to come to the office for the meeting in the afternoon.

We went through some initial materials on group dynamics and after our break, proceeded to talk about some more serious stuff.  These young men and women have very difficult backgrounds and I thought it would be more appropriate to begin by addressing the intra-personal issues they may have in relation to how they think God perceives their situations to be.

We went through the material that I had used so many times with the young people in recent years.  It is entitled “Our Thinking Vs  God’s.”  This scripturally-based comparison would help a person understand what he is going through and have a glimpse of how God is looking at the same picture but with His divine perspective.  Many of us are going through our daily grind wondering if God really cares or understands what we go through.  And if He does, why is it that help is so slow in coming?

We went through those individual points and I shared some of my personal testimonies highlighting some of the scriptures.  Then I asked them “how about you?  Which of these thoughts are you entertaining right now?  Where do you need God’s word to be made manifest in your life?”

“I can’t manage..” said one young person.

“I have little faith…” another at the back said

” I am afraid…”

And the rest shared.  I asked some of them to share more according to the level of their comfort, and this young person said “I pray that I would still see my Dad…”

I challenged them to start telling themselves the words of God in their lives. I challenged them to look past the physical things and through the eyes of faith, look at how God is looking at them – not with the strict, let-me-measure-how-right-you-are-doing-your-life kind of a look, but rather, a very compassionate Father who desires to lift us from where we are and take us to where He wants us to be.

When the tears of that young person had subsided, I gathered them in a circle.  We prayed and I lifted their some of the concerns they mentioned:

– a job interview for one of the leaders

– forgiveness and reconciliation between family members for another young person

– provision for the mother of a young person whose health condition seems to be deteriorating

– provision for a medical check-up for one of the leaders

– money for tuition fee for those who will be graduating from highschool

– for all of them to do well in their studies

– for the NHV youth group to really come to an intimate relationship with the Lord.

We sang “Ang Tanging Alay” as our closing prayer.

Thank you Lord for the opportunity to minister to them.  The burdens they carry are too heavy for their young hearts to fully understand.  Give them hope. Give them your peace and your joy.  Let them see Your perspective in the light of Your goodness and grace. Let them all come to Jesus and believe.  Let them know how much You have loved them from the very foundations of this world.  Thank you for taking care of them.   I know that they are special in your sight.  They may be going through difficult times now – but they are like a bruised reed, that you would not break.

I commit all of them in the precious hands of Jesus, who loves them more than anyone else would, and could.

AMEN

It was a very early drive back to Legaspi from Sorsogon. I was riding in Dr. Manzano’s van along with other volunteers.  He was driving quite slowly for comfort and I was getting impatient. I did not know that his van underwent an overhaul days before the medical mission – and he was doing a “break-in.”

The trip from Sorsogon to Legaspi usually takes 2 hours or so – but since I was riding in a van with a newly overhauled engine driven by Dr. Manzano, I figured it was going to be a longer ride.

I was dozing on and off – and since everyone in the van was quiet, I did not offer to start any conversations.

Then at 6:01 am, I saw her.

Rising majestically on the horizon with no clouds to hinder the view, Mt. Mayon left me breathless.  She was really beautiful.  Most perfect cone-shaped volcano that seemed to grow bigger as we approach Legaspi.  It was so beautiful that I asked Mrs. Maninang to wake up her daughter Jasmin so she could see the awesome sight.

We drove in silence.  The other men riding with us were from the area and have seen this sight thousands of times. But I have not seen it like this.  I was mesmerized.  I did not have any camera with me so I had to take a good grateful lookand try to memorize the view.

Later on we drove to the Cagsawa ruins.  I have seen it many times but only through postcards.  Seeing it for real was like a very precious gift.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

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The Churches were constructed using volcanic rocks and if you would noticed the massive walls.  These structures not only serve as the belfry but also as watchout towers to warn the communities of any impending attacks against the Spanish rule.

A closer look of the ruins of the Cagsawa Cathedral

A closer look at the ruins of the Cagsawa Cathedral

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Zooming in on the volcano from the Cagsawa Ruins

And this is the best shot I have taken from the trip. Seeing this cross right at the spot where so many lives perished during that volcanic eruption that also destroyed the cathedral.  In 2006, a massive landslide from the volcano destroyed everything on its path.  The communities around were buried and the water just pushed everything back to the sea. It was a devastating event that claimed so many lives.

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Mustering all my photography skills to capture this poignant scene.

Almost everyday a news item would carry stories of companies laying off their workers.  It has become a daily announcement that it could probably trigger any of these two reactions:

1. Feel overwhelmed at the scope and enormity of these job losses.

2. An apathetic attitude because the person hearing the news does not want to feel emotionally uncomfortable.

But these news items on job losses are still coming in.  And these jobs cuts are not in the dozens, but in thousands.  THOUSANDS.

Each job representing a family that has daily needs, bills to be paid and hungry mouths to be fed.

And these job cuts are not just limited in one geographic location. The whole world is reeling over this dilemma on how these multinationals could recover from all these upheavals.

Please say a quiet and heartfelt prayer for these millions of people affected by these job cuts.  Even our OFWs are coming home in hordes – after losing their much awaited jobs overseas.  For millions of our countrymen, their overseas jobs are not merely means by which their needs could be met, but these are vehicles by which their dreams and their aspirations for their children could be achieved.

Millions of our countrymen leave the country to be able to afford the college tuition and pay off their debts.  And with these job losses threatening more than a million of our countrymen, it behooves us to all come together and ask ourselves what can be done to alleviate this situation.

We need to brace ourselves by having the “war-time mentality”.  In times of war, the things that are important and essential to us are magnified clearly.  We eat, sleep and breathe and do things to meet  our basic needs, and not our wants and greed.

Look into our lives and see what are the things we need to let go of. What are the dreams that may need to be delayed a bit?  What are the things that we can still use instead of pining away for things that may not really be necessary right now, but in our mind, may seem to be the most urgent need. 

We pray for the millions of people right now who have lost their jobs.  We pray for those whose jobs are being threatened right now by the ailing economy.  These are stressful times.  The lost of a job is even just a few points below the stress scale of someone who lost a loved one.  Losing a job is also a form of death.  With the lost of a job, there are things that are real and imagined, that go with such loss.

And anytime we lose something, the degree of its perceived and inherent value, determines to a certain extent the depth, length and width of the griefwork that we need to do.

We pray for all of them Lord. We pray for the provision that so many families would need.  Take care of their children.  Please show mercy upon all of them by opening wide the gates of opportunities for them.  Let them feel the encouragement that could only come from you.  Let us all realize how much all of our needs are taken care of because You are our Father in heaven.  Thank you for crying with them and for them.  Give them the strength to daily live a life of faith and surrender their fears and whatever host of emotions they will go through.

There are millions of people affected when thousands lose their jobs.

Lord you are more than enough for all of us.

Do not let anyone go hungry or become unconsolable.

We place everyone in your loving hands.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen

Since I changed my ISP from SmartBro to Globe Broadband here in Sta Rosa Laguna, I was very much motivated to try setting up a wireless router.

The afternoon after they installed my wired Globe Broadband connection, wifey and I headed to SM Sta Rosa. I was determined to get a router, and I had specific brand in mind.

NETGEAR.

Several years back, when we were still using the primitive dial-up using a prepaid card, I was already dreaming of two things:

1. Solid and reliable internet connection

2. That would enable me to set up a wireless network at home.
Well, guess what. I am writing this in the living room while watching CNN. My NETGEAR WRG614 v9 is already working at its best upstairs.

But it was still a lesson on character development.

I could not install my NETGEAR router.

Someone came to help me and he worked at it for more than 4 hours but when he left, it made the installation more difficult because I would always get a “No internet connection detected…”

Two days of trying… and I was simply ready to just thow the unit outside the window.  I was beginning to feel bad because I felt like I simply wasted some hard earned money.

Even my friend from NEW YORK would chat with me to help install it… (we would chat in the evening as he would be on his way to the office, riding a train. Our chats would be more than 30 mins and he would still be connected… he would just get dc once he the train go through a long tunnel going to New York…)

Friends would from time to time give me some technical details… which would end up frustrating me more because some of the specifications they would tell me, were somewhat contradictory.

Until my brother in law came into the rescue.

It was 10PM and I was already in bed nursing a wounded pride when he sent me sms “are you still up to it?”

Well… through a long and extensive YM chat (ethernet connected)… he walked me through it.  He even got the control of my laptop while he was an hour away from my house!  It was a trial-and error process until at 3am I saw the wireless icon lighted up!

I have never been so excited seeing a wireless icon light up!

There it was…. I was surfing wirelessly. I was even chatting with him wirelessly!

Those beautiful lights from the modem and the routers were dancing so gracefully before my eyes!

Finally, my dream of having wireless internet connection at home came true!

Yesterday, I helped configure my sis-in law’s laptop to our wireless network using her Belkin 802.11 Wireless card.  She now surfs the internet downstairs and her daughter can use the laptop anywhere in the house.

This morning when i woke up at 4am, I turned on my pocket pc and checked my email.  My connection was so good that I was even downloading pocket pc softwares in minutes!  I was browsing through sites with the speed on my pocket pc that I had never experienced before. ( I’ve used my pocket pc in coffee shops but it was agonizingly slow…)

Life is good when those small lights from the modem and my Netgear router are gracefully blinking upstairs.

What in the world?!

November 21, 2008

What in the world?!
It was an early flight for Dumaguete. My wife and I missed the turn to the parking lot of the new NAIA 3 terminal building for all Cebu Pacific flights.  I dropped her off at the entrance of the building along with our luggages and made another round for the parking area so i can leave the car. Someone from the office will come later that morning to pick it up.
The NAIA 3 looked nice.  We finally caught up in some ways when compared with other airport within the region.  The staff were friendly even though they were charging me for an excess weight I had incurred.
At the final gate, as usual, we removed our shoes and headed for the xray.  Once through, we struggled to find a seat so we can put on our shoes.

There are still a lot of areas that are being worked on.  We settled at the decent looking coffee shop in front of DeliFrance. My wife drinks decaf so we made sure they serve that before settling down. As we were sipping our very bland brewed coffee….(nice place, nice look but coffee was terrible) we could not help but notice a group of 4 young ladies ( college age) as they were laughing loud. It was too much for a public setting and at a very early time at that.

My eyes grew wide when I realized what they were drinking.  They were all  holding San Miguel Beer cans in their hands!  No wonder, and instinctively I looked at my watch 5:50 AM!!!

What in the world????!!!!

Is this how it is done these days as you wait for your very early flight?  You drink beer???
They were all sounding off with their american accents – so it was difficult to assess if they were visiting here ( Filipinos who grew up in the US) or they were a bunch of locals working for a call center.
I could hardly believe it. What is going on?

Well… after the trip in Dumaguete, there was another incident at the same airport.  There were about 3 flights that arrived that evening.  It was very smooth even when 3 plane-load of passengers were waiting for their luggage.

But once you are about to exit the building, you will need to make a decision whether to go left or right. It was another long queue as we waited for 2 female security guards to look at our bags and the airline tags and the corresponding numbers….

Arrrrgggghhh… the place looks awesome.  It could showcase the organization of the place and how we are moving on… but no, it was just a facade, it was as if we were still operating a small regional airport somewhere in the Visayas. . . we waited for more than 15 minutes just to be able to get out of the building.
Michael Defensor ( my classmate in an undergrad class in UP Diliman) had the chance to really make the NAIA 3 Terminal work. But he dropped the assignment for a more lucrative post and bigger investment deals.
The terminal building looks great – but the efficiency level needs to match the physical improvement of the whole place.

Last night, the second news report that really got my attention was the P15B that 6 RP banks have lost due to the financial collapse of the Lehman Brothers.

I read from the Philippine Star yesterday the headline indicating the amount.  6 RP banks ( three were named and the other 3 were not mentioned) who lost a total of P15B.

What really got me mad when a Malacanang Palace (our version of the WHITE HOUSE) was quoted as saying “yes, we lost… but it was just an insignificant amount…)

I could not believe what I heard!

An insignificant amount?

Universal Currency Converter© Results
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Live rates at 2008.09.19 02:04:08 UTC

15,000,000,000.00 PHP

=

320,649,971.01 USD

Philippines Pesos United States Dollars
1 PHP = 0.0213767 USD 1 USD = 46.7800 PHP

Almost $321M!!! you call that insignificant amount???

The last time I checked here are the facts in this country:

1. Majority of the people in the Philippines are not eating 3 full meals a day.

2. Majority of the people are under-employed.

3. Working overseas seems to be the only hope for the majority of the families here because the opportunities are no longer here.

4. The wars in Mindanao have demolished whatever anti-poverty gains the government has achieved the past several years.

P15B …. that is beyond what anyone could save up for in honest and truthful employment in the country.

For a government that still had to really explain all the scandals and anomalous transactions regarding the proposed broadband internet, access roads that were excessively charged by the hundreds of millions, by the amount of money that we are losing that should be benefitting the whole country, yes, by their reckoning P15B would be insignificant.

Tell that to the families who eke out a living. Students who worry if they can still pay their fees so they can take the exams. Mothers with nursing children who are wondering where and how to buy milk. Parents who are wondering how to feed their children. Employees in both private and public sectors who are wondering how they will pay their bills. Of thousands of people who are lining up at DSWD centers for any form of assistance.  Tell that to the thousands of families displaced by the wars in Mindanao and the families affected by the ship that sunk off the island of Romblon. ( the ship is still there with its toxic cargo).

P15B is more almost 4x the DSWD budget for 2008!

Oh no, please call it anything – but please do not call it insignificant.

To call it an insignificant amount is an insult to the millions of Filipinos who could have benefited if the money was theirs.

To call it insignificant was not only insulting.

It was revolting.