Have We Lost Hope As A Nation?

With the Presidential elections just around the corner, everyone seems to have made up their mind who to vote. I have declared my choice of Mar Roxas as President and I am a known supporter of Leni Robredo since the beginning so my choice is clear.

But there are still undecideds among our midst that I try to campaign (convince) with my choice. Not that I want to impose my choice on them but that I want them to also go through the same process of rationalization I did for their choice.

The same rationalization process I push with those who’ve made up their mind also.

I simply begin by asking the innocent question of Why him (or her)? and follow up the answers with supplementary questions.

While some have been accommodating in answering my thought provoking questions even if it leads them to dead ends they can’t answer, others simply gave up at the first instance. But the saddest – and for me the worst answer I’ve received – is a declaration of hopelessness for the country.

I was dismayed when I heard that even with the elections coming up, nothing changes. It’s all just the same. The powerful stay in power, the rich becomes richer, the poor gets poorer, etc. Better go to another country. There’s no hope for change here.

I cringe at the lack of ownership. The lack of nationalistic spirit. We may all agree to disagree on our choice for president but to claim that whatever happens, whoever we vote for, nothing will change is tantamount to saying our democracy has failed us.

This lack of hope will be the downfall of our nation for we have resigned ourselves to the perceived lie that nothing can be done about the woes of our country.

But there is hope. Change is already happening. Let us not be blind to it. Let us not wash our hands of it. Change is happening – and we are part of that change.

Conserving Manila’s Heritage Sites

Today I read this article in ABS-CBN News Online about the social commentary of Dolce Amore, a prime time soap about the degenerating status of heritage sites in Manila. The show went to Paco Park which I’ve also visited and found to be barely maintained. They also went to Luneta Park and discussed how the local government can allow, in the name of increased revenues, an eyesore to be built.

dolce amore
Source: ABS CBN News Online

I find it really sad that the local government of Manila has failed to identify what the city is capable of. In a bid to be like Makati or Quezon City or the other cities in Metro Manila, they have allowed capitalists to enter and build business structures around the city – in the process destroying the heritage sites.

Manila could have been a great city had it stuck to a well-thought out development plan. She could have been an old university town filled with various universities and cultural sites. They could have concentrated on that – developing a vibrant, safe and pollution-free (or lessened) university belt. Sadly, even though there are many universities in the area, the students live in fear of petty criminals and risk their lives in vehicle-infested roads. Slums surround the campuses adding to the pollution and derelict view of the area.

Parks – pocket parks – are virtually non-existent since those that exist have become home to homeless people. The only lung in Manila left has been virtually forgotten. The once grand architectural wonder buildings have been discarded – left to rot until they are eventually destroyed to make way for “better and modern” ones.

Comprehensive_Land_Use_Plan_of_the_City_of_Manila
The Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Manila City Legend: Green – Parks; Dark Blue – University Zone; Red – High Intensity Industrial Zone; Yellow – High Density Residential Zone Click image to view clearly Source: Wikipedia

I am saddened that my children may never see Manila with her cultural heritage intact. I, myself, am sad that what I see are mere vestiges of a once glorious past.

Shall I stay on the sidelines? But what can I do?

A visit to these derelict sites, which I’ve always planned but never do, is, I believe, the start.

Why I love Batman vs Superman?

bvs5
Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

Before, the only comic superheroes I was a fan of were the X-Men. I watched the cartoon series, read some of the comics and was ecstatic when the movie franchise came out. After a series of failed super hero movie franchises which I won’t mention anymore, the genre has once again boomed with Marvel’s success with their Marvel Cinematic Universe. A success that the DC Cinematic Universe hopes to follow.

But the two are different as what the Batman vs Superman movie would show you.

After becoming a fan of the DC Universe through watching the current series of  Gotham, The Flash and Arrow, I know that I would expect a serious and dark movie. After all, Man of Steel was bordering on boring and the Batman series of the recent past were all dark.

So the lack of humor was not a surprise for me. Critics said it made the movie boring and some writers I read said they were able to sleep at the first part of the show. They criticized the film for having an action-packed sequence only towards the end.

The movie was also criticized for not having overarching story lines and for the character expositions to be really poor. I overheard someone say she was disappointed because Wonder Woman appeared out of thin air without her usual transformations (I guess she was accustomed to the old depictions of Wonder Woman).

I also read a criticism that said the movie should be called something else because the title was a misnomer. It wasn’t Batman vs Superman. It was Batman and Superman vs Doomsday. Another critic said the mere mention of Batman’s mother’s name as being the catalyst to stop the fight and have the two superheroes acting as BFFs was absurd.

For me, it’s all these criticisms that are absurd!

bvs4
Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

I guess for someone not familiar with the DC Universe and expecting long explanations of why things are happening then they would really be disappointed. The movie forces you to think outside the screen, read between the sequences and understand why something is happening.

I perfectly understood why the African crisis had to happen. For me, that didn’t need any additional exposition. It was the catalyst for why the opinion of Superman was divided. It helped in the framework of the movie that here was a guy with super powers wanting to do good but his superpowers actually cause harm as he does good. Where can you see someone destroying buildings as he tries to destroy the enemy? Superman isn’t really that super. He’s just a really strong alien who needs Batman’s tactics in order to be more effective.

I love the discourse about whether someone like Superman should be regulated and the debate within Superman if he is doing the right thing. It shows that the guy is human and despite his super powers is someone who didn’t ask to become a hero. He was simply inherently good and wants to do good inside but like most people, sometimes doing good without proper wisdom will mean causing harm to others.

I perfectly understood why Batman had to be obsessed with killing Superman. And why he acted the way he did. His sole goal is to save his city – keep it safe. He’s a vigilante so he doesn’t want to be perceived as a hero, only as someone the criminals are scared of. Obviously, someone with super powers who seems to do more harm than good in his quest to be a hero must be tamed (or even put out).

I love how Batman’s ingenuity and resourcefulness was shown despite him fighting a super human – someone he clearly cannot battle defeat – not without his schemes. I applauded inside as Batman’s careful planning – his traps and what-nots – lured Superman and led him to have the upper hand. I can hear Oliver’s (Green Arrow) words about a fight being all about control and understanding your surroundings.

I know why the movie was titled Batman vs Superman – because that was what the movie was really about. It was about the world – and those who claim to protect it – understanding what a super human can do. Batman was the epitome of the world who wants to control what it cannot understand. When the legal way become impossible, then the vigilante brand of justice had to be exacted.

I love how Wonder Woman appeared, how her powers were shown in the battle and how it left me hanging and excited for when those powers – and her character – will be explained in due time. There is a reason why her movie will be an origin one unlike those of The Flash and Cyborg which will begin in the present day. As someone who watched the old Wonder Woman movie, seeing her powers in action during the battle made me ohh and ahh as I remember in my mind what each of those can do.

bvs3
Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

Every time Lex Luthor appeared, I wanted to cringe and punch him in the face. I didn’t like the guy and his insane antics not to mention his schemes. A friend hated him for being whiny. I don’t recall the Lex Luthor of the old Superman movies (just that he was a much older guy) so I don’t know how he should have been portrayed. But if the goal was to create an irritating villain, Jesse Eisenberg definitely delivered.

I am not so sure I can agree to see a Flash that is not Grant Gustin but I’ve come to accept that the Ezra Miller version of the Flash will be a different portrayal from the Flash in the TV Series. Whether I will like him as the Flash is yet to be seen.

Down to the last scene – which I won’t spoil – I was watching at the edge of my seat, excited for something to happen be it in the current movie or in the next one.

Despite having read countless reviews and to an effect spoiling the movie for myself, I still went in to watch it in the big screen and felt every peso I spent worth it. The thrill was real – in fact more real than what I feel watching Marvel’s movies. My heart beat raced in more than one occasion and my mind shot fireworks as I understand each sequence more and more.

It was an amazing movie and I’m proud to say I loved it. It’s one of the best movie I’ve watched in the big screen and I am excited for the next installment which will be Suicide Squad showing in August 2016. I just hope they don’t try to push Suicide Squad to be more like a Marvel movie (I’ve heard they were re-shooting to add more humor after the criticism of Batman vs Superman).

So if you haven’t watched the movie yet, do yourself a favor and go see it in the big screen. Not from some pirated DVD (which sadly I saw was being sold as I crossed an overpass after watching the movie). It’s totally worth it to experience in the big screen.

Go there devoid of expectations despite having read so many reviews like this one. Then form a verdict for yourself.

bvs2
Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

 

My Top 5 Lazada Picks for below P1000

This post is an entry for the ShopCoupons X Lazada PH Blogger contest. Being hosted by ShopCoupons. Lazada voucher sponsored by Lazada Philippines.

Online shopping has never been my cup of tea. I was always wary of the platforms and mostly afraid that I wouldn’t get the product I want. I had a bad impression that what was displayed was not what the actual product would look like or that after I paid, the product will not get delivered on time.

However, in recent days, I have become drawn to online shopping. The hectic schedule at work plus the horrendous Metro Manila traffic makes visiting the malls to shop a bit tedious. I would rather spend my free time relaxing at home with a book than walking aisle upon aisle in the department store in search for a dress or a pair of shoes.

My friends and officemates swear by Lazada. I’ve witnessed them receive in the convenience of their homes and our office the products they ordered online. Amazingly, it looks the same as what is advertised in the website and the products all arrived on time.

So with ShopCoupon‘s on-going promo contest where they are giving away P1,000 Lazada Gift Certificates, I have another reason to finally give shopping in Lazada a try.

Browsing the Lazada website, I was thrilled to see so many good items below P1000. And to think most of them originally cost more than P1000 but thanks to Lazada’s good discount deals, their prices has been reduced to almost 50%! Shopping suddenly got addicting!

So here are my top 5 picks for must-have items this summer at under P1000 (take note, they are all on sale).

1 – Toprank Women Sunglasses

sunglasses

Summer is just around the corner and what’s the best accessory this summer? Why, sunglasses of course! And right now, Lazada has a cool promo for a really cool sunglass for women. This Toprank product has a cat eye style that is perfect for my round-shaped face. The retro vibe is also a perfect fit to my quirky personality.

2 – Lacy Summer Cocktail Dress

dress.png

At P650, this dress is a steal! Who said you can’t wear black during summer? With its lacy trimmings, the dress promises to be airy and cool making the evening cocktail events surely enjoable.

3 – Stitch Classic Pointed Toe Stiletto Heels

pumps

Having nude pumps is one of the must-haves in any women’s wardrobe. A good pair of heels is a staple product in any women’s arsenal and I simply cannot live without one. Being an office girl, wearing heels gives me confidence and allows me to cinch that all-important deal.

4 – Sunweb Sexy Swimwear

swimwear.png

Since it’s summer, I decided to look for a new swimsuit. The choices were extensive and amazing! The one I loved was this blue polka dots one piece bikini that on sale at 40% off! Hello Summer! I’m headed for the beach with this cool swimwear.

5 – DNJ 6670 Clutch

clutch

I’ve always wanted a clutch bag that I can use for those formal occassions I frequently attend. This classic black with silver accents clutch bag is the perfect one! It’s made of crystal and satin so it’ll definitely be a stand out and will exude class when I use it.

Browsing through the Lazada website as I looked for items I wanted to buy made me excited to get to try online shopping finally.If I win this contest, it’ll definitely be a huge boost to finally conquering my fears of online shopping and getting that first product delivered!

swayed to change

Today I encountered another dead blog of mine. Since I began blogging, I must have created accounts in every conceivable blog out there. Back in the days when there were only a handful of blogging platforms, I created an account in each one in the search of where I can write with much freedom.

Only to go back here.

Thus began the cycle of self-censorship to allow me to contain in one platform my thoughts yet at the same time still maintaining a semblance of privacy.

Who am I kidding? My blog has been public for so long and yet I cringe at every follower who can read each post via email. I cringe when a friend approaches me and tells me she is following my blog. I cringe when I realize each new post is published in Facebook (which I deactivate most of the time).

My blog has been public for so long and yet I cringe at every follower who can read each post via email. I cringe when a friend approaches me and tells me she is following my blog. I cringe when I realize each new post is published in Facebook (which I deactivate most of the time).

So yes. For all this dilly dallying, this post will find itself occupying a bit in the vast world wide web. Perhaps it will begin as private. Then when I surmount the courage, it’ll end up public. Perhaps I will decide that my rambling thoughts are worth someone else’s time and that they are actually poetic and worthy of being published.

Well. For whatever it’s worth. Here goes.

born again

Born Again.

Such a controversial label. Such a controversial term. Yet one that is powerful. One that holds a lot of promise.

Too many people have been persecuted for this label. Too many have been misunderstood. Yet for those who understood it; those who embraced it – there is much freedom.

When I began to understand what being born again means, it dawned on me what predestination is.

While we claim that Christianity and getting saved is a choice we make, I really can’t help but be convinced that it is also a revelation that God makes or gives to each one. I have seen many people – mostly friends and even family – make that decision to accept Jesus. At the height of an emotional setting, perhaps overcame by the music or the feel of the event, or perhaps pressured by the others who respond to the altar call, they also make the decision to accept Christ.

And yet, weeks after, when the spiritual high fades off, they are back to their old habits – forgetting that they committed their lives already to Jesus.

What happened?

Sometimes I wonder if the conversion was real? If the decision to follow Jesus, to commit their lives to him was indeed, in fact, sincere. It’s different from Christians who simply lost fire and zeal. These Christians at least know that they are still saved and are aware that they are missing out on God by being distant.

But the ones I am talking about, they are not even aware that they are missing out on anything. They didn’t even experience the hunger.

I imagine being born again as being revealed something so wonderful you suddenly grew very hungry for it. You want to know more. You yearn for more.

You cannot be satisfied. Your spirit was suddenly awakened and you became so hungry. Hungry for God’s Word. And so you do everything necessary to learn more about the truth.

Sadly, I’ve seen people be born again yet continue to live spiritually dead lives. And I wonder, where they ever born again in the first place?

Death: A New Beginning

The year has barely began and here I am talking about endings. In particular, a very permanent ending – at least here, on this planet.

I do not mean to sound morbid but I am talking about death – the cessation of life. When one’s heart stops beating and the brain stops functioning. When all body systems simply stop functioning. Death.

2015 ended with the father of a close friend dying unexpectedly. 2016 opened with a close friend dying peacefully. And the month will close with another friend dying bravely.

It seems death has been all around me recently but it’s not the kind of deaths that will leave you depressed. Yes, death, being so final, is sad. Yes, there’s grief and I join the families and friends of these people whom I know in their grief. Yet, behind the grief, there’s hope that these people are in a better place.

I have never shied away from the topic of death. I believe this blog has so many posts concerning the topic. For me, death is not the end but just the beginning. The beginning of something greater. Something bigger. Something better.

The life we live on earth is only temporary. But no matter how temporary, it is meant to be lived to the fullest. These people who died all lived their lives to the full and I am blessed to have witnessed their lives and somehow been a part of it.

It’s inspiring to see how these people – Sir D, Tita Eva and Scud – have lived their lives to such a full that when they died, people flocked to them remembering everything they have accomplished. People shared stories of how they have been touched one way or another by the acts of these wonderful persons. And everyone, despite the sadness and pain of loss, had peace in their hearts because they knew and are confident that these three are now reaping their rewards in Heaven.

Someone recently shared to me her fears of death – about what lies ahead and what she’ll face when she dies. If there’s something we shouldn’t have to fear – that’s death. Death is not something we should be afraid of. We can be afraid of what will happen to our dependents when we die (hence we should be serious about our financial plans) but we should not be afraid of our deaths. Not if we know where we are going when we die and what lies ahead for us.

Not sure what happens after you die? The Bible is very clear that because we are sinners, when we die, we are destined for only one place – Hell. That’s the bad news. But it doesn’t end there. The good news is, because God loves us so much, He can’t take it that we would spend eternity in Hell. So He sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem us from our sins. Jesus paid the price for our sins. Hell, which is supposed to be our eternal punishment for every wrong thing we did here on earth, is no longer our destination. When we die, we can now go to Heaven and receive eternal life.

I said “we CAN” because there’s still something required of us. We are required to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. It’s a personal thing only we can do. It’s not something we inherit from our parents, it’s not something our religion can do for us, it’s not a decision someone else can impose on us. It’s a choice we have to make and a personal relationship we have to cultivate with our Maker.

So you see, Death is not the end. It’s the beginning. It’s the time when we will reunite with our Father in Heaven.

As Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

It was my first time in Mindanao. It was supposed to be a business trip mixed with some personal R&R but it turned out to be a personal journey witnessing a life-changing event for a friend.

We knew his father was in the hospital but we pushed on with our agenda. When we emerged successful, we were ecstatic and grateful although a bit sad that he couldn’t be with us. He was our key. As it turned out, he has secured our future.

In the middle of dinner, we were told there was an emergency. And in the dead of the night we rushed to his side. We were literally flying at speeds of almost 160kph, traversing dark roads to get to the hospital in time.

Along the way, I learned that he was gone but I dare not tell it to my friend who was driving for fear of upsetting him. When we arrived, I prepared myself to be strong for what I knew lies ahead.

It was an unexpected death- one no one saw coming. We knew he was sick but there were so many plans that we made involving him, it was hard to imagine.

While it was hard for me to swallow, I can’t begin to imagine how it must be for my friend who never really saw it coming. I can’t begin to imagine how it must be for my friend’s mother who loved Tito so much, her life was literally intertwined with his.

I have only witnessed two deaths – my lola and my friend’s father. All the other deaths I’ve seen are when the body is already in the casket.

The sadness was in the air. It was past midnight yet there were a lot of people by the hospital’s crying room. Everyone was recounting the last moments with Tito. I looked at my friend. Despite the tears in his eyes, I saw the determination – the determination to continue his father’s legacy.

LEGACY

Sir Daniel Ines is known for being a hard working man. At age 60, he still took the bar exam and most probably would pass when the results are released later this year. This was his second time to take the exam. Having failed his first attempt at the Bar did not deter him from taking it again in order to become a lawyer. This is despite having an already successful CPA practice both as a private auditor and a COA auditor.

I learned that he has served in 10 municipalities and cities around Sultan Kudarat as a COA (Commission on Audit) Auditor. He also teaches at a local college and is active in the church leadership. He has raised a family of 7 with 5 kids, three of whom are boys. One has become a CPA just like him.

We spent days planning our itinerary but at the last minute it turned out to be something we didn’t expect nor hoped for. We spent the time helping our friend prepare for the wake that would definitely be jampacked with people – people he has touched and helped throughout the years.

As I assisted in the preparations and watched the people around me, the stories I heard about him made me admire Tito for the man he really is. The short time I have spent with him, I was already amazed by his wisdom and the dedication he displayed. I had looked forward to learning more from him but God had other plans. Now, all I can do was listen to others stories about him.

Yet, even in his death, he has taught me a very valuable lesson. A life that is lived excellently, working tirelessly and dedicatedly, without looking at what others would say or seeking the applause of men, will earn you the greatest reward of all.

Every person I spoke with will tell me that Tito is now in a better place. And they say it with conviction. Behind the pain and sadness in their eyes, there is peace in their spirit that their loved one, is enjoying his just reward in Heaven.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

And that is the kind of life I want to live.

A Good Life, A Good Death

I’ve always believed that there’s a good way to die. You can die by an accident or by a disease or illness but there’s always a better way. And that is to die in your sleep.

And then there’s a great way to be buried. I’ve encountered many deaths in the family – of aunts and uncles- and the state of the wake and burial has always been the same. There’s the casket, the wake and the traditions around it and then the mass before the burial.

Witnessing all this time and time again made me think — I want something different. Even in death I wanted something else.

I don’t want people to see me in a casket. I don’t want their last memory of me to be a dead body in a box. I want them to remember how I looked when I was fully alive. I also want a memorial service where people would speak about me – tell their personal stories of our encounters and remember me with songs and eulogies.

I envision my wake and burial to be a series of nights, with the people I know and loved present, gazing at my many photos and speaking (hopefully good) things about me. Of course no casket should be present for my remains are now in an urn.

Most of all, though there is grief and sadness because I won’t be with them anymore, I hope there will be joy that I am now where I’ve always longed to be – heaven.

Last week, I had the chance to witness the kind of death and burial I wanted. The person also lived a life worth emulating. She died in her sleep, fully prepared to meet her Maker and Savior. When she left earth she was able to lead a well-lived life having inspired hundreds, probably thousands, of people.

Dr. Eva Villanueva, known to me as Tita Eva, was a kind, old lady I met when I was in 4th year college. She was the CRL Council Chair and I was a student elder. For one year, we worked together in the council bringing about change in the church.

She was the one who taught me how to take down minutes of a meeting properly along the way inculcating in my mind the value of excellence at work. She taught me how to aim for perfection but be gracious when mistakes are made. She taught me that in my quest for excellence, I am allowed to make mistakes but I must learn from them.

She was the proponent of UPCYM’s Buffet Ministry. A food feeding program which gives free lunch and dinner to qualified students. I remember clearly during one council meeting, she announced that she was shocked that there are students who ate only one meal a day – those meals being only bread and instant noodles. I told her how true it was – me being one of those students. She was aghast and unable to believe the fact. Promptly she committed to sending me nutritious and well-prepared food every day until I graduated. Ate Mara, her maid, would bring me food every other day that are balanced and would last me for two days. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner – occasionally snacks and even dessert.

Her meals helped me get by through the most tedious moments of my college life. It was my final year and times were tought. When I asked her how I can ever repay her, she said — don’t pay me. Pay it forward. 

Tita Eva has taught me the value of generosity. She taught me how pay it forward works and how to give without expecting anything in return. In a world where people are more concerned about their own welfare, she showed me how to be genuinely concerned for others.

As Carissa, her granddaughter said, Tita Eva showed us how simplicity and humility goes a long way. Tta Eva could buy anything she wants. She’s a rich lady. But she was always frugal and bought only simple things. She did not spend frivolously.

And because of these, she has learned to be generous. To put others before her needs.

Until the end, Tita Eva served the Lord. Her pastor shared how committed she was to teach the Senior Citizen Bible Study even after having been advised by her doctor to take it easy.

Tita Eva led a life well-lived. And until the end, people remembered her for the kind of lady she was – generous, loving, simple, elegant and God-fearing.

I can imagine God telling her, “well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

In Scud’s Memory

You have ran the race. You have fought the good fight. And you have been faithful.
-quoting 2 Timothy 4:7

To my friends who don’t know this guy, his name is Scud Dy. He’s around my age, an Atenean, a Nagueño, a Bicolano.

Ever since I learned about their IGP (income generating project) – Mr. Kengkoy, I have been inspired by him. It was the first time I learned what having a business with a heart means. That it is possible for a business to earn profits and at the same time uplift the lives of a community – the concept of social entrepreneurship.

Mr. Kengkoy, now rebranded as Gugu is an inspiring success story – for the founders behind it and the community at the foot of Mt. Mayon that they’ve helped. If you have a chance, google them up. Better yet- support them by buying their backpacks made from jute cloth.

Scud had so much potential in him. He had such a bright future ahead. But leukemia took a toll on his life and he’s battled it courageously in the past years. But what’s amazing is that he didn’t let the illness defeat him.

In the short and occasional conversations we would have in Facebook, he’d say he’s ok, getting better, getting stronger. He has been very brave and strong. I am overjoyed when I see his photos in Facebook – strong, alive, healthy.

Losing an aunt to leukemia, I can imagine the battle he and his family must be going through. But Scud always remained a picture of positivity and a beacon of hope. When I briefly saw him last December he was so full of life.

And so it came as a shock that this week, his time was up. He was called to heaven by our Maker. He has finished his race.

But it was a race well fought. It was a life well lived. He has touched and inspired thousands.