Monthly Archives: January 2016

LEARNING FROM YOUR PEERS

qes send off

After the formal reunion of our Elementary Batch of 1966 in Quirino Elementary School, a number of my classmates decided to up the ante by proceeding to Davao where I am based. Actually, I suggested to the reunion organizers that after the preliminaries, we could stretch somewhere out-of-town, preferably Davao. There were a handful of takers.

 And they are mostly residents from abroad and have taken a break to travel back to this country principally to attend our 50th year anniversary, a great divide from the time of our graduation. Truly, it was a gathering of survivors.

There was Belen Maglalang, our class valedictorian, a permanent resident of USA. Bless Reynon is based in Canada. Susan Villafrance and her buddy, Pricilla aside from being NSW residents have successful businesses in Sydney, Australia. Husband and wife, Rudy and Agnes Rupac are also long time residents of Australia. Sonny Salvador and family have become US citizens already like Edwina Villanueva and family.

 Those who joined them in the field and never left the country are: Lorna Diaz, a retired executive from a pharmaceutical giant; Maria Lourdes Santos, a doting mother to a Human Rights Lawyer-daughter; Bella Sabares, a retired Luxury Cruise Captain; Beth JC, a retired computer wizard, and me, a retired government employee.

For a brief 3-day sojourn (January 24-27, 2016), we explored the de facto capital of Mindanao (Davao province) and retreated in an island (Island Garden City of Samal). Their observation of the countryside and comparison with their adopted country was very instructive.

And we had this conversation as sampling:

Classmate, noticing a pick up truck with several passengers: “Pare, sa USA hindi puede yang ganyan. Huhulihin ang driver and his license will be revoked immediately. That is dangerous because the passengers might be thrown out.”

 Me: “Over here, it is even encouraged to lighten the burden of pedestrians trying to move from one place to another no matter how hazardous it may be. If noticed, the driver might even be feted as hero if he did that during flood.

Classmate: “Pare, madami din pala mga motorsiklo dito na for public utility ang dating, hehehe.” Grabe din mga driver niyan kung humarurot.”

Me, explaining: “Ganun? Eh, nakita mo ba yun motorsiklo na 7 ang angkas? Ang tawag dito nyan ay habal-habal?”

Classmate:Ay, oo naman. Bago ako sumama dito papunta Davao, nasa Bataan ako at meron din ganyan. Meron pa nga angkas nasa manibela pa mismo ng nagmomotor!”

Me: “Hehehe. Walang kwenta yan dito pare.   Ang mga motorcycle drivers dito bukod sa 7 o 10 ang angkas na pasahero, habang bumabyahe, nag te-text pa yun!”

 While stretching on the fine white sands of the beach, a batchmate offered her thoughts.

 Another classmate interjected: “Oy, alam ninyo, marami na akong napuntahang lugar, mainly beaches, pero ang pinaka-ok ay dito kasi organized at maya’t maya nililinis ang paligid. Tayong may mga edad na ay stickler when it comes to order. Stressful sa atin ang gulo at dumi. Over here, it is relaxing.”

 We do not know if we still could replicate the same adventure, time will tell. We still hope that a better attendance may be possible in the future. But on the whole, our reunion rejuvenated our lives, gave us another breathing spell and has shown our respective family that there is still life beyond the retirement horizon.

 

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AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE SENIOR KIND

qes class picture

It was an afternoon full of reminisces and recollection, of memories and remembrances. It was a period of flashbacks and throwbacks, and in NBA lingo, of paybacks and givebacks.  It was a jovial period for recalling past juvenile antics and forbidden adventures. It was a grand time to see once again, up close if you may, the very kids who once trod the corridors to influence each other and made pretenses as if the glow of tomorrow is within reach.

 

It was January 22, 2016. It was the 50th year from the time these former children graduated from Elementary. That was during the excitingly drab and sleepy 60s.

 

And why not. In the mid 60s, life was very simple; complications on political and social front had not created a dent yet on the fledging neighborhood. Leaders and followers were still naïve. Children during that time were always on fun-time mode enjoying the basic tools provided by their school and mentors and it was a blending of inspiration and creativity. From the ranks of this generation however would rise such names as Billy Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, all giants in social media and digital revolution. And on arts, John Lennon, Paulo Coehlo, Mitch Albom and in science, the laboratories that would solve the mystery of HIV and cancer and propel the move to prolong life several folds up to its physical limits.

 

Their initiation contributed to technology and broad knowledge; and made the world a simple oyster devoid of cryptic ideas for their successors. These senior citizens, once blameless children of yore, have catapulted influence over prayers, kindness over excesses. Their years were spent for the next generation to fulfill a simple destiny, reachable and unpretentious.

 

Members of the QES Batch 66 never shook the earth although they virtually belong to a generation of game changers. None of them made headlines. Individually, they have undertaken different paths. Some of them challenged the gods of luck in another country to share their skills and talents. A few remained to bear witness to development. Others simply lived the good life in the backyards of their chosen neighborhood.

 

On the whole, they comprised an assemblage of persons with sense of fulfillment and focused on accomplishment. Grand or trifling it may be, it affected the universe just the same.

 

Prominent members of the class have spent decades abroad while others merely subdued the challenges head on in their own backyard locally. After a span of an interlude, they finally found time to come together, this after 5 decades of separation. In determining those present are snippets of facts.

 

Some went ahead to meet their Creator, a number are undecided where to spend their remaining years on twilight zone, a handful are still in sync with success, the rest are just around relishing some moments of fondness with their children and grandchildren.

 

Time stood still for this batch, affectionately dubbed as QES 66. They still believe there is still another year to reckon with and more to come. For them, this could be a period to renew friendship long gone and almost forgotten.

 

Well, they expected most of their peers to be around. They knew there is still time for a future reconnect. They have stories, even wild speculation. They adhere that those who were absent were not “missing-in-action” type. They probably missed the boat so to speak.

 

But for those who came, they had relished that opportunity to embrace the past at present and their future is subsequently secured in the memory of each other.

POLITICAL SOUND BYTES

soundbytes

Years ago, then President Ferdinand Marcos promised, “This country will be great again!” Thereafter, he declared Martial Law and hell broke loose. Succeeding leaders followed suit with their respective vows. Former President Cory Aquino swore to restore democracy while wielding dictatorial powers through a revolutionary government. It was President Fidel Ramos who was the only chief executive who made it big without issuing guarantees, and yet his government shielded the country from the backlash of economic disaster in the region.

Former President Erap Estrada crowed during his inauguration that his administration will not kowtow or compromise with anyone, be they friends, relatives or family. Well, he was removed from office and even incarcerated because of them. His successor President Gloria Arroyo pledged to make the country a strong republic only to see her minions allegedly take advantage of government coffers thereby weakening the nation’s moral fiber.

Sometime ago, Senator Miriam promised to kill anyone first who threatens her. Of course, her camp would reason out that it was just one of several jokes and punch-liners of the feisty legislator.   This was followed by the exhortation of President Aquino that he would volunteer to be run over by train should the proposed railway system fail to become a reality. The railway never materialized but his spokesman insinuated to those who heard the presidential promise that it should not be taken literally.

During the campaign period, the people are treated to a coterie of these expressive promises, ranging from one mother statement to another. Even political ads contain brazen claims that are more fiction than real. Sound bytes from candidates resort to morbidity to catch attention, at times bordering on the macabre to up the ante.

At the end of the day, when it is time for reckoning, their respective camps would just issue a rejoinder or possibly ignore their constituencies. But if they cannot respond to an in-your-face expression, they would just quip and advise the people not to take the promises literally.

If nuisance candidates or those with questionable credentials spoke these matters, it would be understandable since nobody believes in them anyway. But if these are promises made by those considered as serious personalities, they who are elected or appointed in government service, in other words, they who are sustained by peoples tax money, then it would only mean that they are merely trying to fool their listeners. And this does not auger well to people whose future, peace and destiny they have cusped on their hands.

It would only be an invitation for people to get back at them, well, not in a violent manner like what the rebels and insurgents are doing, but more subtle like mocking them, poking fun or if one is considered an active netizen, to just invent some memes and there goes bashing. They will be pictured as unscrupulous, dishonest and deceitful. As a matter of fact, they are all of the same feathers anyway as the communal belief goes.

They all wanted to transform the Philippines into a developed country where people will be prosperous, peaceful and with a flourishing economy. But none in their pledges talk about these concerns except prayers that once they are elected, things would bind in their proper places.

One candidate promises to use his former turf as template as if it is possible; another wants to continue parental entertainment legacy; another invokes an uninspired straight path policy; another is plain and simple genocide. Of course, these are merely battle cries or propaganda materials. It meant nothing at all to address how the country should be governed properly.

There are no references on how they will govern the country to achieve a developed status. It would just be a rehash of an old script in bodavilandia. There is even no attempt to explain why countries like Israel, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, all of them on league with us sometime past, suddenly surged to become advanced and now, these countries would even challenge to share limelight among the world’s superpowers.

The most that we could hear from candidates when their backs are forced against the wall for an explanation and could no longer discuss how they will make the country prosperous, is to blame his countrymen, “ugaling talangka kasi tayo”, “puro kurap kaya mahirap”, “walang disiplina kasi tayo,” so on and so forth.

That blame game is of course diversionary. Jews as they say are also “ugaling talangka” but look at Israel today. It is one of the most advanced, prosperous and powerful nations in the world. Its economy is moving, surging ahead even if it is involved in war! China and Korea are saddled with issues on corruption but they are leading in the field of technology and on the verge of affluence for its people.

Filipinos are stickler when it comes to discipline. They are the most forthright citizens in another country. They subscribe to norms, rules and laws like instinct. They can even act and mimic anything from bird sound to Elvis Presley. Walang disiplina ang Pinoy? That is wrong.

He can only be blamed for electing people who do not know anything about governance. And BTW, that is his curse.

 

SSS CONTRIBUTION

sss pension hike

Workers contribute a fraction of their salaries to SSS so that once they retire; they can receive in  a calibrated manner that which they have underwritten.  Walang iniwan sa “paluwagan.”  One gives a portion of his wage on the monthly basis so that on a given date, it will be given back in lump sum.  The difference however is that under SSS, the contribution is invested so that the earnings will grow and provide as buffer to the accumulated fund intended for release according to specific considerations.  One of which is for the increment of pension among others.

In Western countries, contribution to their SSS is stiff.  That is the reason why most workers would rather have secondary jobs on top of their principal profession.  But once the worker retires, he receives a hefty sum which could cover a lifestyle tantamount to luxurious living.  Retirees from these countries virtually splurge their pension through travels in tourist destinations, trips to casino and related caprice.

Over here in this country, workers would even evade payment, complain a lot when forced to contribute and raise hell whenever there are moves to increase contribution.  But when they retire, they receive only a measly amount; something that corresponds to what has been contributed.  Worst, even if there is a possibility for a simple increment, it cannot be processed because SSS funds are not properly invested to earn so much.  There is no creativity on finance management.  Worst, there are common impressions that funds are even used unsuitably since appointment in the top echelon of the agency is a political consideration.  There is too much compromise and less inspiration.

The announcement however that an increase of 2K for SSS pensioners might bring insolvency and create bankruptcy is a myth if what has been contributed will just be issued.  The problem however is that the agency is not wont to work on this believing that the contribution of workers are for the agency’s survival and that only the profits derived from investment are the source of the pension.

Since there is no resourcefulness in the investment, the increase is impossible to meet.  Accordingly, the agency even gave the President a fearful scenario that SSS fund life today is projected to last for 27 years or until 2047 if an increase in pension will be allowed.  This, of course, is predicated on the notion that SSS will just sit it out and do nothing except tinker in a bureaucratic manner the contribution of the workers.

The President is ill advised on his position on the matter.  He could have announced that he will conduct further study on the proposed law instead of out rightly telling the world his borrowed belief.  He can even quote a former SSS official who said that the proposed law is silent on where to source the amount intended for the pension increase and thus necessitating further review.

SSS on the other hand could tie up with the banking community to understand the mechanics of investing so that SSS like banks can sustain its viability and capability in the face of economic challenges.

But of course, these are wishful thinking.  I have retired since 2015 and as yet to receive my SSS pension.  I could not move around and work to process it because I might spend 10K just to receive 2K.  Now that is bad investment if you ask me.

 

 

SECRET OF LONGEVITY

old lady

I had a visitor from Manila, a colleague, same age as mine but still in government service.  I retired earlier and played host to friends like him whenever they landed on my territory down South.  The fellow has grown older, probably because he was hospitalized previously and went under knife for hemorrhoids.  Even our topics of conversation have shifted.  While before we oftentimes would tell stories of adventures and misadventures, now I could only hear from my friend tales of ailment and body pains.

What was funny was that he got treated by a faith healer.  And this guy is no mean fellow when it comes to science.  Yet he subscribed to a shaman for cure.  I did not contest his belief for it might ruin our gathering.

To make our meeting lighter I introduced in our conversation the fruits of Davao and promised him that I will produce a couple of boxes for his pasalubong.

Thereupon, I immediately headed for the marketplace for the fruits.  It was my first time to check on the area, fabled for its cheap and fresh farm products.  And what impressed me are not the fruits dangling on several rows of stalls but those manning the store.  Most of them are more than their senior age based on their looks but they move with juvenile agility.

After haggling for my friend’s pasalubong, I went to check if I could note down and provide an explanation on something bizarre from my standpoint.  I want to know the secret of longevity by interviewing, yes investigating at the same time, those elderly store keepers.

I asked from one youthful errand who among the store dwellers was the oldest.  The young fellow pointed at a graying old woman.  She must have transcended the 80s based on her skin tone but when I tried to ask for assistance on how to determine a good fruit, she immediately gave me a practical outline on agronomy!

I whispered “Mother, how old are you?”  She responded and hushed, “I am 98 years old young man.”

“Mommy, what is your secret for staying that long?”

“I play dumb most of the time.”  Then she laughed.That way nobody will mind you and give you stress.”

“How about food Mommy?”

“Nope.  No diet.  I eat anything I want, meat, vegetables, I even smoke and sometime drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.”

“You must be a stickler of time like getting enough sleep and rest.”

“If you are in charge of a store, you must be alert at all times.  Fruits easily ripened and you must dispose it quickly.  That means planning, that means having to wake up whenever an idea crops up.  I do not remember an instance of having an undisturbed sleep in decades.”

I bided the grand matriarch goodbye and gave her my calling card as if it mattered to introduce myself and slowly zig-zagged away from the stocks of fruits.

I went to check other elderlies in the area and asked them to describe the oldest among them.  They were one in describing the old lady as the most boisterous, rowdy and always animated.  For them, the old lady always acted like a fool.

It was a day of revelation for me.  I have read treatises on how to live long, the discipline, the enumeration of dos and don’ts but here is one idea which I added on my notes coming from a practitioner.

That is right.  The secret of longevity is to play around grandly and pretend always to be dumb.

UNSETTLING CIRCUMSTANCES ON POLITICAL CHOICES

phil politics

If the so-called Napoles affidavit would be indication on the type of personalities and their respective records would be made as reference in choosing who among them will be chosen to be elected then the electorate must brace themselves for a bad trip.

In the document which Napoles submitted to DOJ for review and which was furnished Senate, there were allegedly  20 Senators and 100 Congressmen named who benefited and received millions from the bogus  NGO transactions of Napoles which turn out were irregular acts to defraud government of its funds.  And there are damning documents or paper trail, a warehouse full of them literally, to confirm the accusations.

It is sickening.  Hundreds of millions of people’s money were virtually wasted, splurged and wallowed viciously by those elected to public officers who were sworn to protect the coffers of the State.  Yet none of them have been brought to the bar of justice unlike one prisoner I once administered who was convicted for doctoring his daily time record which gave him P150.00 worth of advantage.  The fellow was hastily imprisoned for 10 years on the charge of malversation!

If the wheels of justice grind according to its ideal configuration,  those named in the so called Napoles’ list would sooner or later be indicted for graft and corruption.  This is on the assumption that justice will be handed down on the suspects like anyone.  But it might be a “suntok sa buwan” since majority of them are vying for significant positions in the coming 2016 election.

While all presidential candidates project straight and serious policy in dealing with wrong doing, ironically their respective VPs are right at the forefront of Napoles’ illicit transactions.  VP Binay has Gringo Honasan.  Senator Grace Poe has Chiz Escudero; Mayor Digong Duterte has Allan Cayetano; Senator Miriam Santiago has Bongbong Marcos.   Mar Roxas is lucky since Leni Robredo is not in the condemned list.

The unsettling part is this.  Chiz, Allan ,Gringo and Bongbong were all included in the infamous affidavit.  It has as yet to receive confirmation but once the information is verified and compared with the record of whistle blower Benhur Luy then hell would break loose on the candidates.  If the enumeration would tally and I understand it will be because Benhur Luy was the one preparing the record of Napoles, then the political world of all four presidentiables would turn upside down.

Senator Grace Poe would find it unnerving to explain the innocence of Chiz on the latter’s involvement in the illegal racket of Napoles.  The same can be said on Mayor Duterte who is known as a stickler when it comes to the observance of law; how he would coddle Allan when his name is prominently a part of the “dirty twenty” senators.  VP Binay likewise would find it awkward to defend Gringo since he could not even mount his own defense against issues on corruption hurled at him.  Senator Miriam Santiago would have to fold up her witticism for a long period since the charges she is wont to hate are the same charges which Bongbong is being held to account.

Where will that bring the political future of the country if most of those who are preparing and enforcing the laws are themselves incapable from determining which is right and wrong.  And they who have chosen their better political partners are nowhere between Caesar’s wife and the new wave white side wall haircut.  Worse, these political partners were alleged to have been a part if not willing participants in the criminal machinations to defraud people’s money.  And worst is the possibility that they may even be elected.

Now, I have this confusing inclination whether to splurge my one precious vote on people who would rob me of my children’s future or just tutor my kids to contribute in the struggle to cleanse government through their initiative and discipline on independence.

IT SUCKS GETTING OLD

vjt old

For the elderly, life has gone full circle once he attains his senior years.  His eye sight is no longer as keen but he can thoroughly analyze without looking;  he could only walk for a few paces but he can transcend and determine what is there at the end;  he would be hard of hearing but he has heard so much wisdom throughout which could last a lifetime;  his complexion no longer supple but his beauty becomes deeper,;  his knees not that stable and his metabolism has slowed down even his appetite and sense of urgency but he remains relevant because he knew what timing and patience are all about.

While he may have secured so much knowledge, saved resources, accomplished a lot and got the necessary adulation and respect, something which the youth might have dreamt to have on his prime, the elderly just would whip it up in the corner of his room, sulking and to a  certain extent satisfied.  He has done so much and has been there then back.  Growing old is a privilege only for the fit but just the same, at the end of the day, it does not matter anyhow.

There was this viral post on internet which says:  For the youth, they have the time and energy but no money; for adults, they have energy and money but no time; for the elderly, they have the money and time but no energy.  That virtually summed up the three stages of life although not as definite as it may sound comprising 30 years for each.

The first 30 years, from 0 formative to ripe 30 years, time was full of adventure, scholastic and extracurricular.  It is devoted to thrill, daring and braggadocio.  It is about trial and error; hitting or missing; winning and losing.  It is also a period to learn discipline and the formulation of manners that would dictate the succeeding period.  What becomes of the person at this stage sets the definition of whatever career he intends to fulfill.

The second 30 years, from 31 to 60 is a telling score and a revelation of how he spent his first 30 years.  If he gains employment or self-employment, through services or business, the person has full wit and smart enough to deal with the excitement and frustrations life could offer.  The person must be busy with all concerns at his disposal.  It could spell the difference also on how he would govern the last stage of his life.  His struggles at this point, and how he managed it, would introduce what will be the tempo of his succeeding time

Then, finally, the next stage, from 61 to 90, he reaches out assuming that all things are normal from the physical standpoint and genetic consideration.  Had the person never dared during the first stage, never struggled in the second, the third and final stage would be tragic.  He would have no more strength to rewind and recompense.  He would just be a sample of how nature would treat him.

Had the person fought and kicked himself up into the ladder of challenges, braved all the demons that came his way, defied convention and confronted odds, he may be thrashed, assaulted and would perish, but if he survives, then the universe owes him a lot.

Whichever, if the person led an inconsequential life or an exciting one worthy of more, just the same, it sucks getting old.

 

 

THE ROADS OF DAVAO ORIENTAL

davao oriental roads

It was a long drive from Panabo City (Davao del Norte) to Cateel municipality in Davao Oriental, that town which was ravaged by storm Pablo, a successor to killer howler Yolanda.  Like what happened in Leyte, Cateel and its environs were virtually flattened to the ground.  Nothing was spared.  But unlike Leyte, Cateel and the rest of Davao Oriental had one quality which all provinces in the country cannot defeat.  It has an excellent road ways.

By excellent I mean, there are no pock marks, cracks, crevices, deadly gaps, lethal fissures on its roads except two bridges which are under slow reconstruction by national government.   Local government has showed the world that without corruption, a place could retain its integrity amidst the worst of natural disasters.   It is still a motorists’ haven and no one can take that away from the province.  They had the best local chief executive in the person of Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon.  It is not surprising that Gov. Malanyaon would receive the commendation as the best governor award in the country.

The travel by land was swift and smooth.  It was a pleasurable 6-hour drive.   From the capital city of Tagum up to Cateel, site of the famous Aliwagwag falls , dinosaur island and Mount Hamiguitan, the zig-zag and rolling through mountainous terrain, all motorists may have been impressed with its best kept and maintained thoroughfares.  A small crack is instantly leveled with asphalt.  There are no surprise flaws.

I attended a confab of young journalists (Regional Schools Press Conference) in Cateel municipality and I was expecting a devastated place.  I took the South road a few months ago passing through Leyte and I already had an idea what a howler could do to a community.  It was a comparative revelation.   I found Cateel almost rehabilitated and although there were marks of calamity in the mountain side and farms, the people has literally stood up to the challenge of restoring their place.  Local government has a lot to do and of course, the competence of its political leadership.

It was refreshing and an awesome experience on the road and my belief in government restored with how it managed and governed that humble province of Mindanao facing the deadly roar of Pacific Ocean and its treacherous waves on a daily basis.

On the whole, it is noteworthy to accomplish visiting that eastern locality where the morning sun makes its first and initial burst of sunlight of the day in the country.

 

 

EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE THE SAME

mankind

As I was driving through the streets leading to my place, I had this creepy feeling that nothing has changed since the 70s.  Probably, it’s because my place has been sluggish in development but it seems that I was just too engrossed in driving that actually I never noticed all street corners I was passing through never evolved at all.  The placid atmosphere, the sleepy environs, the slow moving pedestrians in their shabby clothing, dusty roads, unkempt surroundings,  disheveled stores, disorganized parking of tricycles, the looks.  It was the same scenario I have seen way back and probably would date back years more.

My mother, who departed in late 80s would not have missed anything.  Same can be said on my father and sister.  They never would have missed anything at all.  And I would even venture to say that years more after I am gone, the same condition would still be obtained and will be seen and felt by the succeeding generations after mine.

And why not.  Even the kind of emotions, the manners, the thoughts, expectations, fears, trials, challenges and dreams of our ancestors as reflected in Biblical lore has never changed.  Man indeed has been the same since his creation or evolution, whichever one prefers to adhere.

Life indeed is everything as highlighted in literature—comedy, tragedy, drama, romance and suspense.  There is also an element of horror, thrill, adventure and incongruity.  It is not a matter of design or something that elicit fate but some kind of response to a situation.  There is luck, good or bad, some kind of chance, fortuitous or serendipitous but life continues or at times it ends excruciatingly slow or in a flick.

There are token improvements like advances in sciences, philosoophy or a leap frog by technology but man remains the same all throughout; and with such static condition, man’s environment remains basically inert or at a standstill.  He may have opted to stay abroad, in some places far from his community of orientation or stay put where he was born, but everything remains the same.

While it can be said that life is spiral or circular if not linear, that is life follows death and vice versa, there are no radical deviations for the last hundreds of thousand years since man manifested his intelligent presence on earth.

Man is still the animal that he was since the beginning of his time.

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