Monthly Archives: May 2014
I guess that is how it is for newly minted senior citizens today, they reminisce a lot. They were like their parents before who would rather lament the passing of years and would remember those times when they were in their juvenile and early adulthood years. That is right, there are a lot to remember by the passing of years.
I am particularly drawn on a period which had a lasting imprint not only in me but for a generation who are now past the golden year. This was the ‘70s.
Now this is a classic response from a contemporary (David Israel, a fellow writer). Listen up. “If I were forced to pick one decade to live in forever, I’d pick the ‘70s. While the times were full of upheaval, long gas lines, nuclear meltdowns and ugly wars, it was really the last decade before consumerism/commercialism started accosting us at every available opportunity. It was the last decade before professional sports contracts went through the stratosphere. Music was still bought on vinyl for the most part. UHF was still a part of our day-to-day dialings, emergency breakthroughs were the hackers incipent call waitings, and flattering fashions like bell bottoms hadn’t yet given way to parachute pants. LIFE WAS SLOWER AND ECONOMIES WEREN’T YET FULLY GLOBALIZED, WHICH MEANT THINGS WERE SIMPLER. The ‘70s were pre-AIDS, pre-cellphone and restaurant hostesses still asked “smoking or non”?
For Filipinos during said decade, it was more personal and somehow political compared to his socially conscious counterpart in other cultures. Although the theme is quite, or a bit bizarre similar, there is a twist. It was a period for activism, for rebelliousness, for non-conformism especially among the youths. While in other liberal cultures, the hippie movements and the flower people rejoiced at the new found intellectual and moral freedom, in the Philippines it was devoted largely on heaping critical opposition to government and everything established including faith. The growth of insurgency during the period was fanned by the flames of a discontented society. Such discontent would also trigger the proclamation of the Martial Law. Hence, for the most part of the ‘70s, it was wrapped in militarism.
I was a fledging sophomore in college when Martial Law was declared. Time stood still that day in September, 1972. The hippie culture was at the height of its recruitment, every item was never controlled including permissiveness in everything natural like long hair. But military government had nothing to do with fad and so all of my classmates brandishing afro had to wrap their head and hide. Those with fair skin and smooth complexion, just to go home, had to pretend to be girls!
Commuting via bus— De Dios, JD, G Liner, and AC jeepney were fun ride in Greater Manila. For 25 cent at that times, I could go places already. An increase of a centavo on a litter of gas could reap a whirlwind of riots in streets already. Those were the days my friend, to paraphrase a song.
Martial law clipped and prohibited the influx of knowledge (even on the manner of questioning the wisdom of the powers that be) especially if it would border on political and human rights. Knowledge would rather flow through under ground and would flourish along with the studentry whose hunger for knowledge was exacerbated by challenges posed by established limitations. Those brilliant minds at that time would be silenced through incarceration or buried unceremoniously. Martial government could not countenance the presence of critics and its response was instant penalty designed mostly towards extreme termination. Majority of those who survived were not only politically castrated but socially deformed. Meanwhile, those who came through the period without bruise because of critical collaboration have transformed themselves as heir to the succeeding generation of political stewardship. Unfortunately, the ‘70s was a stiff learning period for genuine future leaders but they never made it.
Those who merely sat on the fence during the tumultuous period of the ‘70s could only count on the melodies played during the time. There was also a dichotomy or split among them: those who remained within the sanctuary of the academe and those who choose to hide under the influence of hallucinogens. Meanwhile, the so-called OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was the smokescreen in the on-going political vendetta of those in power. It served as a “nationalist” facade during the time various freedoms of the people were being toyed. The people were fed with slogans of greatness in a sea of deplorable administrative deception. For those who were held captive during the period, it was a badge of honor and a certification of heroism that they eventually felt after several decades having earned liberty. I was a fledging college student at that time, joining the street parliament every now and then, at times a firebrand during Kabataang Makabayan sit-ins, or at times idly watching moderates march with subdued banners encircling schools. When my fellow street parliamentarians got into booze and mind bending concoctions, I withdrew into my own world of arts instead.
It was a decade when singer-songwriters Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Mari Chan would rise to fame for their love songs alongside pop groups led by the Apo Hiking Society, Juan de la Cruz band, Cinderella and Hotdog. Their songs would later serve as inspiration to a growing number of progressives in the midst of a subdued and cautious population. Ten years later, their songs would be replayed again during the time when the purveyors of dictatorship would be driven away.
Despite the challenges and large scale frustrations, the ‘70s was an unforgettable decade, animated by a generation that bannered peace, love and flower power. For those who went through the period have better qualities as peace-makers and lovers of nature. It is so because in our hearts and minds, we have lived in it.
I have tried ordering and eating noodles in various resto and chain of eateries all over the country and in some countries I have been to in Asia. None of them compare with what Mamonluk can offer. And I would even presume that those bistros offering this brand of soup possibly tried to copy the taste of the original Mamonluk flavour. Not even the well known ramen of Japan can beat it. I could just imagine how frustrated some chefs for failing to approximate the gourmet. The secret of Mamonluk could have been etched in some strange tablets somewhere not even the closest relative or one with Chinese roots could duplicate the culinary masterpiece.
The fame of Mamonluk achieved a memorial which can be equated as legend already. It has been said that the noodle pioneer was a citizen from Guangdong, China who immigrated to the Philippines in 1918 in search of a fortune. He was wooing a girl from a wealthy Cantonese family but would look down on his poverty. Arriving in Manila with only a shirt on his back, he went about to peddle chicken noodle soup. Plodding down with a long bamboo pole slung on his shoulders with two metal containers on each end, he would be a familiar sight on streets near school vending his gastronomic hot soup among students. One vat would contain noodles which he himself concocted along with meat and chicken and the other vat would contain chicken broth. For each serving of broth, he would cut with scissors the meat and chicken into strips as toppings for the noodles. Hence, the initial name he would ascribe the term “gupit” on that which he was vending, indicating that the ingredients were cut by scissors. His concoction would be a favourite snack and meal by students at that time until he would earn a humble capital for store size eatery. In the early 1950s, he would open a restaurant bearing his name and his famed chicken noodle broth. He would add a steamed pork dumpling with secret sauce to pair with his noodles until it would become a national delicacy. (At that time, anything that was featured and reckoned in Manila had a tinge of national recognition already.)
In the late 60s, when various Chinese food chains were dotting Manila’s landscape, there were only a handful of them that survived up to the present. There was of course, Mamonluk, Lingnam, Savory, Max’s , Aristocrat. Some were being revived notwithstanding the aggressive postures of latter day chain of eateries like Jolibee, Inasal, Chickboy, Chow King, Henlin, Razons, on the local front and multinationals, McDonald, King Burger, Wendy’s, Tropicana, North Park etc. That was also the time when dried Chinese herbs like tungkoy, star anise, tengang daga, etc would be introduced into the contemporary kitchen of an ordinary household on top of such westernized ingredients like dried pepper, curry and paste.
Of these restaurants however Mamonluk was stand out and the most memorable for a number of consumers. Not only was its price at that time affordable, its taste cannot be duplicated by other eateries. More so, a Mamonluk restaurant was also the favourite watering hole of families on week ends and preferred meeting place of students, professionals and the working class. Notwithstanding the fact that it became a subject of a wild and rude rumour that its siopao’s secret ingredient came from steamed meat of stray cats, people still flocked the area for meals.
I still could remember sometime ago that when my father wanted to discipline us, his children, and would require us not to toe the line, his threat not to bring us to Mamonluk was for us kids like denying a fanatic his place in heaven. That was how tasty Mamonluk’s noodles were to us!
To date, the price of a pair of mami and siopao have quadrupled already. But I don’t mind. I would rather pawn my antique wrist watch in exchange of the famed duo.
It’s a pity that I got the habit of reading books on a later period and that was in my early 20s. I should have learned it during my grade school when reading was a mandatory stuff to pass the grades and be effective during recitation. But for me, school work was never an inspiring incentive to read. It was more on socialization, more on interaction, more on gregariousness, more on extra curricular activities, on playing, on competing, on cooperating, everything from group living to communal sharing. That was what school for me, which was what the school taught me, that was what school work was all about. If at all there were some required readings, it was more obligatory and anything that spells compulsory was unpalatable for me. Hence, I even dodged anything that would make me read during that time. Luckily, I made it in the graduation without serious reading.
Elementary, Secondary and College years were all spent in socials and everything about conviviality. School exposure gave me high marks in my emotional quotient or EQ. I never knew however if my IQ progressed but definitely, academic life was central in my transformation as a street smart person. But for me, it was not worth crowing. There was something that I lacked even if by being smart was almost an outstanding accomplishment. When I graduated in college and sought employment and thereupon failing to get one, I realized that I had a deficiency. I lacked confidence.
I took another route, another take in learning by enrolling in the graduate school. It was in my estimation like re-frying a semi-cook fried chicken. And it paid off. Not that I got employed immediately (because I was not) but it afforded me an exposure that would make me a voracious reader later. The library of UP Diliman, reputed to be the biggest in the country, was so awesome that I almost spent my waking period inside its halls jumping from one row of books to another. Since, I was a Novato in reading, I was fixed on appreciating pictures, then checking on its texts and finally browsing. I would average a book for a week, until later it becomes two, three and eventually a book a day. That to me was the most exciting immersion in the field of learning.
Inside the library, I was in good company. And appreciating the entire building with thousands of reading materials, I thought that browsing only a fraction could endow a person the knowledge which could defeat all challenges in the world. For a year, there I was a denizen of the biggest library and partaking of everything interesting that which I have read can offer.
Years later, after I have gained employment and have founded my own dwelling a great portion would be committed to my own personal library. There I would stack several books after another. Half of my salary would likewise be devoted to procuring reading materials from magazines to hard bound books. There was even a time when I would apply for loans just to buy the books I wanted to own; until every inch of the space, on the ground up to the ceiling, in my own library would be utilized. I have stocked a lot of books and even bought copies that I intend to read soon. The air, the smell of my library was like that of a book store already and I loved it.
An enjoyable period of reading a good book is like accomplishing a feat already. It inspires, motivates and makes one enthusiastic. It calms a person and adds up to his maturity. I even have an eerie feeling that reading a book adds years to a person’s life. More so, it transforms the mind to be analytical and sharp, patient and understanding, liberal and tolerant.
As I procure more books, I realized as I tread near the twilight years, that there is just so many books and so little time.
First, we must check the authenticity of the affidavit she submitted containing the list of people she dealt with in her illegal financial machinations of the people’s money. According to Janet Lim-Napoles herself, it is everything she knew. It included how she formulated plans to facilitate and squeeze funds from government. This, according to her, did not pass through the rigors of ingenuity but was taught to her in a tutorial manner by government functionaries themselves. If government is a bank, it was breached as a consequence of “inside job.” This according to the fellow whose hand was caught in the cookie jar or more precisely, whose cohorts ratted on her running away with the cookie jar so to speak.
Let us review what went before. There was this lady who was charged for maltreating her errand who happens to be her relative too. The relative went further and disclosed the extent of her other criminal activities, the relative even admitting that he was a knowledgeable accomplice for the illegal activities. The illegal detention case hardly made a roar but the disclosure of the other cases was a bomb, a controversy which would besmirched if not tarnish not only names of legislators and prominent personalities but the entire system of governance of the country. The controversy would wreck havoc on the integrity of the country’s budgetary procedures especially on the matter of dispensing people’s money. The cost was a staggering multi- billion peso loss pocketed and distributed among those involved.
If the countryside is reeling in poverty and those in urban areas still submerged in penury, it was because its liquidity is trapped on the personal coffers of a few. The economic lifeblood of the people are filtered and secured by a few conspirators. Politics was used to defraud the people. And those handling sensitive posts in government were willing schemers in a game that would consign public service into a joke.
Second, we subject the Napoles affidavit to a test. The lawyer of Napoles was of course behind the drafting of the affidavit and those with background in legal education would counsel their client that preparing a studied affidavit is not a way to disabuse information through allegations. It is a legal truism that for every allegation made, it should be supported with references or evidences. One of Napoles’ lawyers was even suggesting that the so-called Red Book (a compilation of records and receipts) be submitted also for the entire world to appreciate in lieu of the forwarded affidavit. With this, Napoles can be assured of her significance in filing cases and charges against those involved. From there it can be surmised that she can wiggle herself. Such a persuasion made her disclosure questionable. In her own estimation, she claimed that she came “from humble beginnings to being an ‘ordinary’ businesswoman; from scam player to ‘scapegoat’ of lawmakers.” The fact remains that while can point at her mentors as mastermind, her dutiful participation made the financial charade whole through a conspiracy—that is, defrauding government is not a one-mind act but an orchestrated activity. The crime of one is the crime of all.
Third, the Napoles list is an instructive introduction on how to dupe government. Her affidavit could be used as case template. While it focused mainly on how little her guilt is in pushing the issue more against her fellow conspirator in government, it does not reduce the impact and gravity of the offense made against the people of the Philippines.
Fourth, the list should go down in history as testimony of how lowly elected leaders have consciously cheated and desecrated their constituency to the point of sending the people’s future into the pits of hopeless paucity.
Every NBA game, especially during play offs and finals, is almost conducted as if there is no more game to follow. That is how professional basketball is played in the most competitive ball game in the planet—the NBA or National Basketball Association. It is a composition of the best a country can produce, grouped into a team and anything displayed during a competition is superlative in the field of athletics as each skilful player is pitted against another equally skilled. Every game is a result of hundred of hours of serious preparation. Every shot made is a studied attempt and a consequence of thousands of practiced attempts. Every formation is scientifically reviewed, tried, practiced and executed.
Watching just one game is already a treat. Basketball is literally a game for giants though. For how can a midget force the leather on a 10 foot height hoop against a tall opponent with outstretched hand almost reaching the net. The giant need not jump anymore and it would be his game as a natural course. Only those near the giant status and with a movement of a midget get the games an interesting mix of entertainment and drama. And NBA games are just that.
Every game is thrilling; only when there is time out when the flow of adrenaline is interrupted.
In the Philippines, basketball is almost a religion with fanatical following. In every street corner there is a makeshift basketball half court where it is almost occupied with frenzy players from all walks of life, and strategically situated. It is even more than all churches and chapels combined in a given zone.
In this country, while ideally basketball is savvier for those with considerable height, size does not even matter. Anyone with guts and can shoot are in already. Hence, one can see toddlers haggling with balls almost half their size and already dribbling to an impressive stretch. It is not a prelude to becoming a star in basketball though. It is more of an orientation to an occasion to watch and appreciate what good basketball game is later.
The game of basketball was formulated by Dr. James Naismith in 1891 to condition football players during winter in USA. It also became a physical conditioning exercise by the US Army. When troops were airlifted to conduct military exercises in other countries, they literally planted the seed of interest among the population where they had their camps. Thus, basketball was promoted and the game achieved an interesting audience and participation.
During the American occupation, which lasted for almost 50 years, the country was treated by GIs with their athletics through basketball. The locals tried and followed suit until each town would have their respective teams competing with one another.
Of course, watching basketball in the local scene or in town plaza is feat; the greater feat however is reserved whenever the professional hoopsters in NBA would play the game. And every game is a cruel series of endless taunting “Win or Go Home!”, “Bring on the world!” “Winners train, losers complain,” “I can do it!”, (Nike) “Just do it!”,”Our blood, our sweat, YOUR tears!” “Defend til the end!”…
Truly, an NBA game is a delightful experience.
(Sometime ago, during the reign of Michael Jordan, on the last game of an NBA finals, I was very excited to watch what to me was the penultimate game of basketball featuring the greatest hoopster in the universe. At that precise time, the Director of Corrections called for a command conference. Learning of the schedule, I was torn in a quandary. Career or personal interest. I chose to watch basketball even if there were replays to follow. Watching on real time was better. Thereafter, I rushed to attend the conference or whatever was left. I was met with information that I was relieved and placed on floating status for my absence. There I was in a small corner, without power, without command, but whadaheck, I was still relishing the classic game in my mind for years!)
It’s a pity that I will retire in a few months in the prison service. The succeeding months would have been the most exciting, the most scholastically rewarding period, the most satisfying judicial exposure I would really partake. And why not?
In retrospect, during my earlier days in prison administration, I trained one prisoner to maintain my office. His case was falsification of public documents. He declared falsely on several days his attendance on the Daily Time Record despite the fact that he was absent. He duped government the amount of P150.00 for claiming in his salary when it should have been deducted. His sentence is 5 years.
Now, we have people on the so called Napoles list, they who allegedly duped government a staggering amount, not in lowly small denomination but in BILLIONS! Naturally, when the course of justice would be banged on them, serving time in prison is almost an automatic consequence. Like prominent offenders who were labelled as drug lord, gambling lord, kidnap kingpin before them, media would have already coined a name for the group. This could be conveniently referred to as a the Napoles gang to start with like those who figured in the massacre of a frat brother who were later dubbed as UP Boys since all of them were Frat members from the State University.
Since, these class of offenders are celebrities in their own right, they will be institutionally reckoned not only as high-risk (meaning, they are prey in the community of felons) but also as high-risk (since they are also leaders with influence and resources the prison community could consider). Like famous thespians before them (the likes of Robin Padilla, Eddie Fernandez, Berting Labra, Rommel Padilla —father of heartthrob Daniel Padilla), or politicians (Congressmen Junior de Guzman, Romeo Jalosjos, Governor Orlando Dulay, Antonio Leviste, Mayor William Wagas, etc), or Military officers (General Jose Garcia, General Reynaldo Berroya, Colonel Robert Maclang, Colonel Rafael Cardeno..) they will be joining the ranks in the maximum wing of the National Penitentiary. And it would a feast for researchers in the field of anthropology and penal psychology like me.
I wanted to take note of how their minds would work in such a blight situation. Reputation in tatters, would they be able to contain a highly charged and emotionally laden facility where the dominant theme is routine, restrictions and repentance. There is also humiliation and repugnance as characteristic environmental attribute. There is gross familiarity. Friendship is offered with conditions and treachery with intrigue the order of the day. This is on top of highly congested environment, highly volatile interpersonal relationships and a highly sensitive population.
Since it has been said that these people are moneyed, whether it has been laundered or worked, whether it has been pocketed as alleged or merely was passed on as inheritance, whatever, money will flow inside the prison community. It is the only antidote to violence. They know it first hand. And so prison administration has all the time at the moment in the world to adjust.
First, it must construct additional facilities to remedy overcrowding. And second, money should be regulated if not declared as contraband.
Who would have thought that the Philippines would require more energy as it proceeds with its effort to industrialize? We have never even done any genuine industrialization but as we move onwards to build more plants and commercial establishments on top of constructing more structures and houses, we really need additional sources of power to feed the requirements of development. The former Marcos regime attempted to resolve the future problem by building a nuclear plant; this, at a time, when most Asian countries were on the verge of industrialization. Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Indonesia built their respective power lines and sustained their energy, cheap energy through nuclear powered plants.
In the Philippines, it was mothballed. The facility was left to rot. Despite the fact that it cost a fortune to build the plant, a financial curse for which the citizens must have to pay even if they never enjoyed its fruits, there was struggle to produce additional powers. Various models without resorting to nuclear energy were explored—coal, water,thermal even solar but since it is intermittent and the supplies were dwindling, electricity through the traditional grid was instead sourced. The foremost private agency, a monopoly if you may, that supplied electricity would have the upper hand in the production and distribution of power, nay, costly, as it were, even if our neighbouring countries have cut down on electricity cost because of nuclear power.
And because it was a monopoly, the people serviced are dependent on its internal requirements and could not make any complaint. It has to live with it. Even if it meant that people must bear the regular increases in their payment as a consequence of several items intended to be repaid and passed on to the consumers. Japan may have been the site of the most expensive city in the world, but we have outdone them by paying the most expensive electricity charges on a monthly basis.
The consumers had only the courts as its last resort but the energy producers had the last laugh. When the courts favoured the consumers’ position that there should be no more increases in the computation for electricity charges, a deluge of erratic electrical flow to the point that unannounced hours of sudden black out would be experienced on rotational basis. It did not only disturbed household and business establishments; it also interrupted traffic and sensitive medical procedures for days, for weeks and even months on end. Reminds me of the golden rule—he who has gold, rules!
Those who criticized the Bataan nuclear plant must indeed be laughing all the way to the bank. They were able to convinced the people that it was a dangerous proposition. That the nuclear plant was built on unstable ground and that a single swivel of an earthquake could blow up half of the island. With that argument, the nuclear plant was ruled as a hazard and therefore, the consumers must have to content themselves being exploited instead. It was only lately when news came about that the biggest naval armada of US is powered by nuclear energy—a ship motorized by nuclear energy. To think that the ship is moving from one area to another in open sea, constantly moving, constantly shoved and constantly toasted on the waves of an unforgiving water environment.
A significant portion of people’s money goes into the repayment for the loan used in the construction of Bataan nuclear plant. The loan was above board. Government for years has been dutifully disbursing the cost without even producing a kilowatt. People pays for it and at the same time pays for the regular consumption of energy they procure from the monopoly.
What else can be done? This is modern day exploitation courtesy of politics.
“Under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice. [Daez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67]”
Those in the media profession are the most vulnerable since their universe and persuasion borders on anything controversial. Those at the vortex of controversy have the laws on libel as their sanctuary and means to get back at their tormentors.
In a celebrated case where a media broadcaster was penalized to serve time for almost 5 years of imprisonment, a complaint was filed addressed to the High Commission of United Nations Human Rights Committee questioning the wisdom of libel laws in the country.
The Committee on Justice and Human Rights of Senate immediately convened jointly with the Committees on Public Information and Mass Media, Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Finance for a Joint Hearing last May 14, 2014 at the Senate.
The Secretary of Justice was invited to appreciate a Senate Resolution (PSR 571) “directing the Committee on Justice and Human Rights and other proper senate committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged due process violations against Davao Journalist Alexander “Alexis” Adonis, with the end in view of reviewing our current laws on libel and of enacting measures that will strengthen our system of Free Legal Services for indigent litigants and the probation and parole system.” It was filed by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, III.
The resolution was a result of various inputs mainly from the camp of aggrieved party represented by imprisoned journalist Alexander Adonis. Several gray areas in the application of justice on the case of Adonis sprung out as a consequence requiring the attention of the Secretary of Justice on whose offices proper services could have been offered. Hence, if Adonis is indigent to secure the services of a lawyer, the Public Attorney’s Office could have assisted him in court. Instead, without such representation, he was tried in absentia and sentenced accordingly.
Furthermore, when pro bono lawyers from private firms came to advocate and worked on his pending case, a release order was secured but accordingly, was never reckoned by Davao Prison Superintendent and thereupon refused to release Adonis. (A review of documents would yield that lawyers of Adonis after securing the provisional release order for a pending case (CC# 48, 719-2001) could use the same in securing the same effect on a case (CC# 48, 679-2001) which has been decided already. The court order never even considered such consideration.)
The Secretary of Justice promptly acted on the resolution by requiring officers from the Regional Director of the Regional Prosecution Office (Reg. 11), Board of Pardons and Parole Chairperson, Director of Corrections and Chief Public Attorney’s Office.
The Senate Resolution was hurriedly prepared and dubiously considered allegations made by representatives of journalist Alexander Adonis. It was definitely in response to a clamour by media for legislators to address that which at times, if not most of the time, used to harassed media in their profession for public information. The real issue actually is to “review the current laws on libel and of enacting measures that will strengthen the system of free legal services for indigent litigants and the probation and parole system.”
The main issue has been spliced into several issues which do not correspond to libel. And while there was instant attention given on laws on libels, the discussion literally was hamstrung with a number of side issues pushing the main point into an ambiguous angle.
This early and at the rate the libel issue is studied, the point of decriminalizing libel is more of a pie in the sky than a pie on the table.
Observing birth dates is cultural. In Japan, the reckoning period in determining the age of a person begins at the moment of conception and not at the day of birth. Hence, they celebrate the occasion on a specific date in a year for the boys and another for the girls; and the age is one year older that their western counterparts. In pre Hispanic Philippines, there is no such thing as birthdays.
In Africa, there are no birthdays whatsoever. Instead, they just celebrate the date when a child reaches a specific age for religious and related superstitious events.
In Egypt and China, birthdays are celebrated after a child has reached his first year. In Sudan, only children born in cities celebrate birthdays; those in remote areas do not. In India, birthdays are never a date for celebration but an occasion to shave the head of the child.
In Korea, the family celebrates as soon as the child reaches the 100th day from his birthday. In Vietnam, people are not particular about the birthday. Birthdays are celebrated by everyone during New Year’s day.
In Dutch, birthdays are celebrated on the 5th year of the child. In Israel, boys celebrate their birthdays on the 13th year and girls on their 12th year. In Muslim communities, the birth of a child is an occasion to give gifts to the poor. In Mexico, birthdays are also occasion to celebrate the day of Saints. For Native Americans, birthdays are sidelined and only those milestones in child development, like having the first step, are celebrated.
In the Philippines today, birthdays are celebrated in a combination of cultural and most especially along economic ways. For those who do not have the means to celebrate birthdays, attending the Mass is resorted to. For those with means, it is an occasion to invite the most influential, the most prominent member of the town. Birthdays are celebrated yearly and rice noodles are a principal part of presented food for guests as mandatory viand to signify long life. It is also a period for gift giving and partying. Regardless of age, except when economically struggling, birthdays are there to splurge whatever it is saved. Furthermore, there are laws in the country that virtually criminalize birthday celebration as when gift giving is seen as an act of bribery.
Oh well, I merely spent my birthday in the comfort of my room.
I thought that going through the so-called South Road (Manila to Mindanao), a trek of 1, 500 kilometers, via land trip would be a wonderful treat. I have done it previously but I was just a passive participant, a flaccid passenger at that. There was nothing to crow then. But this time around, I am on top. The trip was an exciting game. Well, it was to start with. But while on the road and at the wheel, one realizes, as I have realized, that I was actually treading on a hostile territory after all!
First, the roads. The national highway, fanfared as Philippine Pan Highway, is badly bruised. While repair was almost a national activity, there was no apparent effort for re-routing. The motorist is left at the mercy of his blood pressure to fume while waiting in a long cue. I nearly came out to challenge to a duel one fellow motorist who breached the line and tried to counter flow. Prudence dictated that I should merely bite my lips for such transgression. Look at Rolito Go, he succumbed to a three-second road rage and it gave him a full three-decade term in prison!
Second, insufficient markings. Roads are not properly marked, well most were not in the first place. The motorist is left at his devise to second guess on which way he would undertake. In addition to resourcefulness, he must learn languages, dialects if you may, so that he would be able to communicate with the natives on which way he was suppose to tread. Chances are he might get the wrong information because of misunderstanding. Had I not used GPS in navigating my travels, I would have ended up in some secluded place where kidnap victims may have been incarcerated before they were ransomed!
Third, portions of the highway are constricted. There are areas of the Philippine Pan Highway which were literally alleys or side streets. Worst, there are portions of the national road that virtually cut through market areas, where bicycles, pedicabs, public motorcycles and tricycles cram the pathways, in addition to enterprising vendors who constructed their outlets right on the shoulders of the highway!
Fourth, barges ferrying cars from island tip to another are floating rusts! For a car to reach the other side of the highway, the motorist has to professionally park his car on the barge along with giant cargo trucks. If he would be able to manoeuvre correctly, and chances are he would not, his car would not suffer damage at all. Never drive a new one goes the lesson. More so, believe that there is a miracle because if a new Korean ferry can sink, how much more a vintage, rust laden, fledgling ferry to float all the time. Prayers are indeed very relevant when crossing the open sea.
Fifth, there is no visible and effective coastal management. Forget the ballyhooed RO-RO program of government. There is nothing worth its fanfare. RO-RO means Roll On, Roll Off for the inter island traveler. Government is nowhere whenever one is travelling in this manner. Just check on the piers. It is filthy, unmaintained, unsupervised properly. The only efficient ground staff manning the areas are the fixers. I am even tempted to nominate a youthful fixer for the annual TOYM because of his audacity in facilitating the ferry ticket for my car and that of others similarly situated.
While I enjoyed the pristine beauty of the country side, the thick vegetation, the varied flora and fauna greeting the motorists, the clear blue beaches and unspoiled sea, the flexing climate of humidity and intermittent drizzles, the travel is disturbed by monumental incompetence of road and highway mismanagement. I would even add the terrible sight one gets if stranded in a traffic jam in areas where informal settlers have gathered and whose projections of abject poverty were models for zombie film characterizations.
Truly, driving around the countryside through national highway is almost akin to travelling in a hostile environment.