Shai Hulud October 1, 2016Posted by Janjan in Armchair Politics, Geekery & Nerdoms.
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N.B. Herein lie spoilers.
I was reading Frank Herbert’s “God Emperor of Dune” around December of 2015. My father was in the hospital at this time, and in a few weeks, would leave this earthly realm. Perhaps because of the specter of Papa’s passing hanging heavily over our lives, I found myself engrossed with the book, as an escape from the sadness and worry.
The book is the third installment of Herbert’s Dune series. It chronicles the last years of the reign of God Emperor Leto II Atreides, who, in the previous book, merged with the animal deity of Arrakis, the terrible sandworm and had become some bizarre amalgam of man and sandworm. He had literally become man and god, entombed in one flesh, monstrous in size and horrific in countenance.
As God Emperor, Leto II established absolute dominion and tyranny over the galaxy. Tyranny in the sense that everything from the ecology of worlds, to the establishment of religions, to the control of the Bene Gesserit breeding program was completely within Leto II’s exacting control and scrutiny. Rebellions were quickly quashed by his fanatically loyal Fish Speaker army, and not even the wiles of the Bene Gesserit nor the intelligence of the Bene Tleilaxu could measure up to the wisdom Leto II possessed through the countless lifetimes of cellular memories stored in his powerful prescient mind.
I read this book months before the Philippines’ elections and now under the Duterte administration, I can’t help but compare some parallelisms between what Leto II established and what I think President Duterte is trying to achieve.
The word “totalitarian” has an ugly ring to it, and rightly so. Despite the many attempts to establish autocratic governments, history has proven time and time again that dictators, even with the best of intentions, eventually fall to power’s temptation. The corruption inherent in sinners and saints eats us within, and as the adage goes, “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.” This is not to say that there have been no exceptions, however. Lee Kuan Yew’s success with Singapore is oft cited as basis for the legitimacy of totalitarian leadership.
This was likewise the point cited in God Emperor of Dune. Tyrannical as it was, Leto II’s reign established three millenia of absolute peace, order, and abundance in the lives of the humans under his rule, to the point of obsessive-compulsive attention to detail. For 3,509 years, humans knew no famine, no war, no ignorance, no pain. Opposition and subversion were quickly suppressed and everyone was made to toe the line upon the pain of torture and death.
This was not to say that Leto II was a cruel creature driven by egotistical concerns, far from it. Upon reading the narrative, as well as the thoughts running in the God Emperor’s head, the reader understands the love and compassion Leto II held for humanity, and that this was all part of a very long and well thought-out plan for humanity’s ultimate survival as a race, as foreseen by Leto II with his prescience, in a vision called the “Golden Path”.
The absolute control served as a countermanding force that created stored up potential energy via repression and suppression of mankind’s innate need to take control of his own life and destiny. It created within us an unassailable drive to survive at all costs, the trouble which lay beyond the reign of the God Emperor (and told in subsequent books of the Dune series).
This seems to be the rationalization and battle cry of President Duterte’s supporters: There is a method in his madness. For all his blustering and bravado, behind the President’s potty mouth lies a mind as razor-sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, capable of lobotomizing the criminal tendencies lurking in the dregs of the Philippine subconscious and carrying us forward to Golden Years of freedom and safety. At the cost, it seems, of swallowing whatever bitter pill the President prescribed for our cure, without question, without struggle, and without protest.
Fundamentally, the dividing line between his supporters and detractors lay on the amount of trust one reposed on the President.
If indeed the story of the God Emperor is applicable to the Philippines’ plight is one that remains to be seen. While many elements are there, we ask if President Duterte shares the wisdom, foresight and detailed planning that Leto II poured into his vision of the Golden Path.
Nevertheless, everything goes according to Leto II’s plans in the book, and we finally see the wisdom behind the tyranny and fascism in later installments of the series. We see that despite the great chaos and violence that humankind inflicted upon itself in the great war between the Bene Gesserit and the Honorable Matres subsequent to Leto II’s rule, humankind went out and survived all the far reaches of space, even with the mysterious Old Man and Woman doing its best to obliterate humanity.
I can neither conclude nor hope that the Philippines will share the same plight as the novel’s.
But this much I can say though. Leto II planned his own demise because he knew that for humankind to grow, they had to destroy their God Emperor… destroy their own God. He planted the seeds for his own destruction under the hands of Siona and his own beloved Duncan Idaho, through revolution and assassination.
One hopes that a better story and a better ending lies in store for the Filipino people. I pray for President Duterte and the desert storm rising in our way. May we live to find ourselves treading our country’s Golden Path.
The Audacity of Hope April 21, 2016Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
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A good friend and fellow writer wrote a witty blog yesterday, explaining to her unnamed friend why people are clamoring for Rodrigo Duterte.
That unnamed friend is me.
I read her points and agree with most of them. She wrote it because I was confused on the appeal that Duterte had over so many and was wondering what was I missing that I couldn’t understand this phenomenon. I finally understand the point, and I guess the difference lay in the fact that the situation outlined in Rosey’s blog described the Philippines as something akin to Gotham. Dark, lawless, frustrating and rife with corruption. Apparently, so many people see this as well.
And the reason why I can’t understand it is that I’m seeing the glass as half full.
Perhaps most people are comparing our lives now to that they see elsewhere in the world. Singapore, Japan, Europe… even our neighbors Malaysia and Vietnam are faring better than we are. I however, am not comparing our journey as a nation to these countries. They have indeed been successful, and they have many things that we could emulate.
I am, however, comparing how we are now, to how we were before. And for me, how can one not see that our lives have become much better? Economic growth is a reality for me. It’s palpable and my life is different from how it was 10 or 20 years ago. Another friend argues that yes, while we keep larping about economic growth, has this growth trickled down and reached those who are poor? I’ll take these issues together.
I agree that economic growth has not reached those marginalized sectors of society, in the sense that we still see so many who are homeless and hungry. But I will disagree with the statement that the wealth has not trickled down. It has, but the sector that has felt it primarily is the rapidly expanding middle class. Let me explain.
1. There are now more jobs to be had. With the growth of the BPO and IT sector, people with acceptable English-speaking skills can easily find a job that pays more than adequately for their living needs. There are now more youths with more disposable income. This was unheard of back in the 80’s and 90’s. Job generation was a difficulty and people with college diplomas had to settle for menial work.
2. There are a wider array of consumer goods available on the market, including imported products. Note that importers and retailers would not invest in creating infrastructures and systems if there is no market to support it, and market refers to people with disposable income. Count the many malls opening over the country, including those in the various outlying provinces. A rise of a consumer society denotes a more empowered middle class. Even those among the poor are benefitting from this wider array of products as better and more hygienic consumer choices are being sold in your local wetmarket and suking tindahan.
3. Count how many car retailers have opened up around the country. Count how many international brands have started selling in the Philippines in the last 10 years. Ask these retailers how many new cars are being sold every month. A car is not a simple purchase. To buy one, you have to consider whether you have the means to afford the monthly payments. Again, this denotes a strengthening and growing middle class.
4. Inquire with the telecommunication, cable and internet companies how many people have signed up for post-paid plans. Inquire whether the upper tier plans (P1,000 monthly, and up) are growing in number. I’m sure you’ll be given a positive report. Once more, it shows a growing middle class, one that has the means to make fixed monthly payments.
5. Inquire with the credit card companies whether card applications are on the rise. Note that credit cards are debt instruments primarily targeted to people with the means to repay them.
6. Ask any stockbroker how the market has been under the Aquino administration. He will tell you that the market has been more stable and that foreign stakeholders are rushing to invest more and more into the robust and positive-outlook Philippine market.
7. Count how many foreign and luxury brands have opened up in the malls. Count how many of these brands have opened up in non-Manila markets. Again, this is a sign of a more robust middle class.
8. Have you noted the rise of people taking trips abroad? Back in the 80’s and 90’s, vacations in other countries were luxuries that only the truly rich can avail of. But now, even a call center agent can afford to take trips to Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea.
9. I don’t know if this is true for everyone but it seems like among my circle of friends, it’s getting harder and harder to find people who want to work as house helpers, and if you can find one, they often require higher salaries or perks like internet. I would like to think it’s because better options are available for people from the provinces now. They have the options of getting regular jobs or there are better business opportunities.
10. Convenience stores… EVERYWHERE. Convenience stores are not cheap! They sell goods which you can buy cheaper in groceries or even at your suking tindahan. But still, people would often buy from convenience stores than save money, and that’s because they can afford to give more importance to their own comfort and convenience. And if you note, even people from the poor sectors of society are buying from these convenience stores.
The point I would like to make is that, together with the contributions of everyone, opposition and administration, Daang Matuwid has contributed to the betterment of our lives. One could argue that these are gains built on top of the foundations set by previous administrations, and that would be true. However, the fact that the Aquino administration can sustain and build upon this foundation should be a credit to the system. It didn’t derail the momentum set but instead added to it and used it to the country’s advantage.
Which brings us back to why do people still think that things are so much worse? Yes, there are massive problems to be solved, such as the burgeoning traffic and congestion problems in Manila. But these are not attributable exclusively as failures of the government. These are simply our growing pains. We are becoming more and more overpopulated and our current infrastructure and resources couldn’t keep up with our growth.
Rise in crime? Haven’t we always been plagued with crime? If countries as advanced as the United States, South Korea, and France struggle with the management of criminal activities, then why not us? Have they been able to solve their problems without resorting to human rights abuses? Isn’t the fact that we are no longer going through coup after coup after coup already a much needed improvement?
There are real problems we need to fix with respect to the management of resources. The main failure I will attribute to the Aquino government is the worsening situation at Customs. The inability to deliver license plates and stickers are also inexcusable failures. I also feel that our roads (especially in Cebu City and the NCR) are getting worse and worse.
And let me just say that for the first time in a very long time, a Philippine President will finally step down without a single impeachment proceeding directed against him during his administration.
I do not see the need to take drastic measures and elect a President that has to sit down and figure out how to redo things. The wheel has been invented, and we simply must have someone continue the momentum.
SADLY HOWEVER, this needs to become even more inclusive to even the marginalized sectors of society. But we are getting there. We just need more time to grow and become better at the dispersal and management of resources.
And yes… to answer my friend Rosey, the future is as rosy as… *wink*
My 2016 Presidential Candidate March 31, 2016Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
I did not plan to tell people about who I would vote for the 2016 Presidential elections, primarily because I did not know who my candidate was either. None of the current options are palatable to me. All of them have gaping character shortcomings that I consider deal-breakers. I also did not want to tell people because I do not personally believe in campaigning. I want people to form their own minds, not because someone else influenced them into it, but because they felt that that person was the right choice.
But for the past few days, a lot of friends asked me who my candidate was. It seemed that my opinion really mattered in helping them decide. A part of me is flattered by it, while another wants to shake them up and remind them that I blog about showbiz and other inanities and am no role model in making intelligent decisions. But nonetheless, enabler that I am, I’ve decided to blog about my choice for Presidential candidate. (And really… flattery will get you very far with me. Very very far, shameless narcissist that I am.)
To summarize, I only have 3 candidates in mind, the white knights of the campaign: Grace Poe, Rodrigo Duterte, and Mar Roxas. The rest, forget about it.
So Are You Voting for Grace Poe?
I really like Grace Poe. I really really like her. She’s so intelligent, articulate and personable. Among all the candidates, she’s the one I want to root for the most, simply because she’s someone I would want to be friends with. I believe her when she says that she is honest and that she has good plans for the Philippines. To be honest, I really don’t care if she’s an American citizen or not… I believe her when she says that her heart is into public service and that she will serve us well. She could be one of our great Filipino presidents.
But no, I’m not voting for her.
So Are You Voting for Rodrigo Duterte?
Some years back, during the height of the Yolanda calamity, I ran a trope on Facebook, offering to run for Vice-president if ever Rodrigo Duterte ran for President. Back then it was just a running gag, albeit a very popular one among the circle of lovable scamps and bums that make up my Facebook Friend List. I would like to think I somehow got the ball rolling for Digong in my own little way. (A remote possibility, considering one of my cousins is in Duterte’s staff)
Davao is your only proof of Duterte’s competency and vision. From what used to be a chaotic and lawless crime zone, Davao rose from the ashes and became a utopia ruled under Duterte’s iron fist. Where the drug trade is curbed (allegedly), no smoking is allowed on the streets, and crime is kept to a minimum. (That is, unless you’re a criminal because due process of law is not followed, allegedly, in Davao for those who indulge in acts of crime. Except for adulterers and bigamists. Gee, I wonder why… *wink wink*)
Duterte is tough, decisive, incorruptible and draconian in a time when people are clamoring for a Filipino Lee Kuan Yew.
But no, I’m not voting for him.
So Wait… Who ARE You Voting For Then?
Well, obviously, by process of deduction, I’m voting for Mar Roxas.
WAIT, WHAT??? DON’T YOU MAKE FUN OF MAR ROXAS???
Well, honestly, I do. Mar Roxas reminds me so much of that nerd from high school who just does not seem to get it right, social skills wise (and I would know, because *I* am that nerd). He tends to put his foot in the mouth with his numerous off-kilter public stunts and statements. I’ve also heard the accounts of my friends who were in ground zero during Yolanda. I’m not very fond of the guy, but yes, I’m going to vote for him.
Dude, are you on drugs? Why not Poe or Duterte?
Let me explain where I’m coming from.
I am a CPA-Lawyer. My primary legal practice involves the formation and planning of organizations. I have businesses of my own, and I help in the creation and planning of businesses and non-profit organizations. My work requires me to look at the people who make up an organization and align the business to fit their personalities, goals and what they hope to accomplish. (I’m also a bit of a mythologist, so bear with my incoming pedagogical explanation).
I’m taking that experience and seeing the Philippines as an ongoing concern and corporation… a fictional entity comprised of very flawed but idealistic people who despite of the wretched mistakes of their past, still have the audacity to dream a better life for themselves and their children. How do you translate that culture and hope into something sustainable using the resources (i.e. candidates) that are being offered for us now?
The misfortune I see in our electorate is that we are very beholden to voting for personalities. It’s like the hero worship of sports figures, to the extent that nothing the hero does can ever be wrong in our eyes. As such, we identify ourselves with our heroes and expect their shining qualities to save us from the wretchedness that we, as a nation, created for ourselves. We look for father- and mother-figures because we do not want to be responsible for our own upliftment. We expect our heroes to magically wave their hands and our problems will go away.
I made that mistake with Noynoy Aquino when I voted for him as President last time around. I bought into the EDSA magic. While I don’t regret my choice (more into this later), I do see however that he does have character flaws which prevented him from becoming the most ideal President that I had formed in my mind.
Whoever wins in this elections, if you voted for him or her because of the personal hero myth you projected into your candidate, prepare to be severely disappointed when you find out that your hero is as flawed as the rest of us mere worms.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, get to the point.
The point is, despite Noynoy’s shortcomings, we still ended up doing a lot better than expected. We did a very good management and pay-off of our national debt and turned things around so that we are the ones lending money to other nations. We made substantial (albeit flawed and partial) gains against corruption. Our credit ratings as a nation has soared and we are currently the darling of the economic world.
And how was this possible?
PNoy had a whole team called the Liberal Party (LP) which came into pervasive power, filling up not only the Executive Branch, but also the Legislative, through the numerous congressmen and Senators who make up LP, and in the Local Government Unit. This means that for the longest time in Philippine history, the government started acting like a coherent unit of people with shared visions, ideals, and measurable, tangible goals.
One solid proof is in the fact that for the first time since God-knows-when, our Legislative Branch was finally able to submit an approved national budget before the deadline set by the Constitution.
Dude, Who Cares About the National Budget?? We’re talking about the Presidency here! We Want Crime Reduced, Federalism Enacted, and SSS Benefits Given to the People!
No, you SHOULD care about the National Budget. In any organization, whether public or private, the budget is what determines whether or not the organization can meet the goals it sets for itself. The budget determines how much resources to allocate for the priorities of the organization for any given year. You want crime reduced? Throw money into giving better benefits and armaments to our Philippine National Police. You want fiscal benefits from the government? How much money of the budget will we allocate to schools, healthcare, infrastructure development, etc? We can’t prioritize all of them. We need to determine how much of our money goes to what priority.
So yes, the passage of the National Budget IS a big deal. The fact that during the entire time of the PNoy administration, Congress was able to pass an approved budget consistently says a lot about how effective LP has been in lobbying for its proposed priorities.
To cite a radical example of what happens when you don’t pass the budget, I point to Cebu City, where the Sanggunian council is split between those who are loyal to incumbent Mayor Michael Rama and those who are loyal to former Mayor Tomas Osmeña. There is no commonality of interests between the two, hence every Resolution and Ordinance to be enacted has to be fought tooth and nail, resulting in no cogent local law passed for the betterment of Cebu. Both teams try to block one another from their goals out of sheer spite at being each other’s opposition. The city budget of Cebu is held hostage, so year after year, we never are able to pass one. We have to keep on relying on past allocations to determine how much money goes to where.
Hence, look at Cebu City. It is the biggest city in the Visayas but it has the crappiest roads among all the provinces, without the building of any decent sidewalks for pedestrians. We barely have a functioning public hospital for our indigents. Forget about wide open spaces and playgrounds for our children to play in, the closest thing we have to a public park is that small thatch of greenery in the middle of Fuente Osmena, and Plaza Independencia. Public library? I doubt that they’ve even made any substantial updates on their books since the 1960’s.
I don’t want a country run by split interests and opposing ideologies. It’s in our best interest to be governed by one political party.
Get To The Point Already, You Long-winded Bean Counter!!
Hey, that’s Mister Long-winded HANDSOME Bean Counter to you, sir.
The point is, we only have 2 political parties with a full complement of candidates, not only in the President and Vice-President, but also in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and in the local slates. Those parties are UNA and LP, and between the two, I’d rather throw my cards in with LP because while it’s not perfect (and sometimes downright infuriating), LP has made substantial gains and progress during its run under the PNoy Administration.
And while some Senators, Congressmen and other LGU officials have thrown in their allegiance to Grace Poe and Rodrigo Duterte, the fact is that these people are few and far in between. They could not compare to the solid foundation that LP has built in its incumbency.
What I’m trying to say is that while I am not sold out on Mar, I am however, willing to see what LP can do if given another chance (especially considering none of the other parties are palatable). And Mar is LP’s front runner, and as front runners go, among all the candidates, it is Mar who has had the most extensive experience, exposure and linkages in the national government. It is Mar alone who is a legitimate Wharton graduate (some would insist undergraduate, but whatever. To-MAY-toe, To-MAH-toe.) It is Mar alone who has studied economics.
The point is that while Mar is someone I wouldn’t share a beer with, I don’t think I would mind too badly if he’s the guy running the beerhouse operations, knowing that he’s not going to pick fights with his own staff.
So yes, here I am again, pitching my hat in and joining the Yellow Army. I know this will make me very unpopular among my legion of friends who have pledged allegiance to the Mayor of Davao, but it is what it is.
Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo are my candidates. Dovie’andi se tovya sagain.
The Flipsides of the Rule of Law August 31, 2015Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
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As my friends on Facebook can attest, the latest debacle between the Iglesia Ni Cristo and the Secretary of Justice has captivated my attention. To be honest, I sided with the Secretary of Justice (which is ironic because I find a lot of her practices as SOJ questionable.) In particular, I thought it was unfair of the INC to send a lynch mob to the SOJ’s office and for them to escalate this protest into a ravening throng at EDSA.
The crux of the issue is the SOJ taking personal jurisdiction over the alleged kidnapping of the INC ministers. There are two ways to look at this, both from the rule of law argument.
The first angle I adopted was to see this as undue interference by the INC, in an attempt to hide the eyes of the law on its own internal conflicts. It would seem that the INC wants this case dismissed at all costs, to the point that it would bring the full brunt of its combined membership to the streets to have this dismissed, all the while crying for the “Separation of Church and State.” Of course, that would be unfair. The rule of law applies to everyone, regardless of their faith. Once a religious act crosses the threshold of a criminal act, the State is within its rights to have it investigated.
But then again, why did the Secretary of Justice personally handle the investigation to begin with? One could also argue that the INC is entitled to due process, and our Rules of Court provide that preliminary investigations are handled by the public prosecutor, and the SOJ only comes in the picture on an appellate review capacity. The Rule of Law applies to everyone, and the State must be beholden to follow its own rules. The INC are entitled to have this case reviewed by the public prosecutor and not the Secretary of Justice.
That being established, I think about motives behind the acts.
On one side, one could argue that the INC is fighting for political relevance, that they are imposing their political weight to influence the investigation to their favor. I must confess that this is the prevalent mindset I had.
And then I read this article and it filled in a lot of the empty places of the jigsaw puzzle. It would certainly answer why Roxas took an oppository stand (though somewhat muted) against the INC, and why the INC reacted the way it did. For one, if we take the issue at face value, it would seem overkill for the INC to bring all its guns simply because they are under investigation by the SOJ. So we have to question why it would react in this manner. But then again, this article is full of suppositions and intrigue. While worth considering, it’s not actually factual. So we cannot consider this to be the final say in the story.
There are some things I do appreciate from the raising of this issue, and the questions this brings to our nation:
- Now we see who among our political candidates are beholden to bloc voting pressure. And it seems like all of them are, one way or the other.
- It brings to light all our hidden biases against the INC. I cringe every time one of my friends calls them a cult. While unorthodox, the INC are entitled to their beliefs and to be fair, they exist like a small socialist state whose taxes/tithes take better care of their parishioners than our government takes care of its citizens. They’re not all that bad. The Catholic Church (or any other religion, for that matter) is not exactly heaven on earth.
- To be fair, this also exposes my own biases and my quickness in judging something I do not truly understand. With this comes the prayer that I be more circumspect in the future.
- This educates us further on what we understand about concepts such as “separation of church and state”, “rule of law” and “patronage politics.” It is an ongoing lesson on the state of Machiavellian manipulation in our country, and a caution that we be vigilant and observant of the subtle undercurrents of opinion influencing by the powers behind the powers that be.
- It tells us that as a country, we’re still quite far from a state of sociological maturity. We are still very emotional people given to outbursts, present company included. Let us then be more forgiving and compassionate with one another. In all things, God is glorified.
- Where do we stand on the bloc voting issue? On one hand, any Church is an interest group at heart. For it to endorse the voting of a politician in furtherance of its interests is well within its rights. That’s what’s called as “lobbying.” But on the aspect of individual spirituality, should any Church impose such a strict mandate on its people, to the point where voting to one’s conscience becomes a capital sin?
All these, and more, are questions worth reflecting as our country takes the slow painful road to political and social maturity.
Glee on Demand July 2, 2015Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
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Last June 24, 2015, one of my friends posted a picture of her standing with Heather Morris, who played Britney Pierce in Glee. Not many people know this but Glee was one of my secret pleasures in the past couple of years. The story got wonky at some points but I related well to seeing underdog teenagers transition into successful adults, all with the aid of music and each other.
Britney was one of my favorites. She started out as a ditzy blonde cheerleader who was known for being loose and easy, but grew up to be a math genius who was faithful to the love of her life, Santana. While not among the best singers of the New Directions, Britney was, nevertheless, the show’s best female dancer. Her fancy footwork made their song and dance numbers pretty phenomenal.
I looked at my friend’s picture again and realized that Heather Morris was in the Philippines. It turned out that she was for a PLDT event called “Entertainment Everywhere”, which launched a new service developed by PLDT HOME together with Smart and iFLIX, which provides content streaming of the Philippines’ largest library of movies and TV shows. I thought this was cool because the Philippines doesn’t have its own streaming service, unlike the US and other countries. Subscribers to this service can watch TV shows like Glee, Big Bang Theory and Doctor Who wherever they want, whenever they want, without waiting for specific times or be bothered by TV ads. The service also includes an impressive lineup of movies like Batman Begins or Green Lantern.
This would be pretty handy for me, if I was stuck on a boat headed to another province for my hearings (which I most often am). All I need is a PLDT or Smart internet connection (which I both have).
If you’re interested, you can head over to www.iflix.com and enjoy a complimentary 14-day trial of the service. Once that expires, you can subscribe it through a P99 monthly fee through PLDT and Smart. Or, you can download it through Google Play or the Apple App Store.
All I know is that I want to see more of Britney and her dancing. Hmmmm. Now where’s my credit card…
What Makes a Nerd? July 27, 2014Posted by Janjan in Geekery & Nerdoms.
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I was just hanging out with some friends I rarely ever get to spend the time with, even though I truly enjoy their company. We made up for the lost time by spending around 4 hours in lively conversation. All four of us were nerds.
Afterwards, I posted on Facebook about how I enjoyed the company of fellow nerds for the diversity of topics, when a lot of people liked my status, people whom I knew were not nerds. I guess I was pleasantly surprised that nerds now are socially accepted by society.
There was a time when it was a crime to be a nerd and unfortunately, I was born in that time. Back in the day, it was a social stigma to be called a nerd. It implies someone who was a social outcast; someone who did not belong to the cool crowd. I guess times have changed and people seem to look up to nerds now.
There are many nerd role-models who have paved the way. People like Steve Jobs, Neil Grasse de Tyson, Stephen Colbert, and George R.R. Martin. There are also nerds who break the stereotype and are actually quite attractive, such as Danica McKellar (“Winnie” from the Wonder Years, now a mathematician), Asia Carerra (a pornstar who has played piano at Carnegie Hall and studied at Rutgers University), Jude Law (a theater and film actor who plays Dungeons & Dragons), and Natalie Portman (a famous actress who studied pyschology and can speak 6 languages fluently).
So what exactly is a nerd?
By strict definition, a nerd is someone who enjoys learning for the sake of learning. A book-worm or a grade grind. (Caveat though… there are some nerds, such as myself, who were not always strong in academics). Most nerds are geeks (people who are fanatics of some pop culture phenomenon) but not all geeks are nerds.
Just for kicks, I thought about writing the characteristics that I personally think would qualify one to be a nerd. If you have most, if not all, of the characteristics below, then congratulations! You are a nerd.
1. A nerd is someone who loves learning for the sake of learning.
Nerds prize knowledge, first and foremost. We were those kids who grew up reading encyclopedias, newspapers and prestigious magazines like Time, Newsweek, Readers Digest or Scientific American not because it was part of our academics but because we were very curious about how the world works. While we have our respective areas of interest (mine were pop culture, dinosaurs, birds, mythic deities, medieval Japan and medieval Europe, to name a few), generally speaking, nerds love to consume a wide variety of topics. Notice that I used the word “consume”. Because that is what is information for us… it’s food. Nerds are lifelong scholars. We love to read and learn from the world around us.
2. A nerd has an impeccable command of the English language.
Of course, I generalize since an overwhelming majority of all the people I know are native English speakers (I’m sure there are nerds who speak other languages more impeccably). Because, by and large, we consume a huge number of books on a regular basis, the English language becomes second nature to us. This is true for us Filipino nerds. You will find that we prefer speaking English over our own respective Filipino languages. We don’t even need to study the rules of grammar to be able to write and speak English properly. We also try to refrain from using slang or street English because we find it unwieldy and vulgar, although ask us to switch to Ebonics, cockney or even l33+, and we could do so with flair.
3. A nerd has a wide grasp of current political, cultural and scientific trends.
Nerds love to keep up with news and current trends. We like knowing what’s going on in the world so we could have an opinion on matters. If the trend interests us enough, we do further research on historical facts which led to this phenomenon. Pop culture is something that fascinates us universally, not only because it is something that interests us but also because we like observing why this became popular and understanding why people have made this into widely-accepted cultural trend.
4. A nerd is reclusive.
Most nerds avoid crowds. Even the most extroverted among us are very picky with the company that we keep. Even with our own crowd, most nerds rarely make the time to hang out with their own fellow nerds. With the group of people I mentioned, it has been many months since I last hung out with them, even though we all live in the same city.
5. A nerd has low tolerance for stupid and/or shallow people.
We cannot stand people who perpetuate stupidity, inanity, or who are, by nature, shallow and flighty. We cannot stand small talk. We avoid people whose world view is limited to what they see on soap operas, reality TV shows, neighborhood gossip or Facebook. It’s like listening to a child babble on about things that they understand with their limited experience in life. We just want to get back to our books and learning. Life is too short to spend time on people who don’t know better.
5. A nerd has a sophisticated sense of humor.
Because we follow so many cultural tropes and have a greater facility for wordplay, a typical nerd has a more sophisticated and witty sense of humor that involves a lot of puns and cultural cross-references. Oftentimes, people don’t get what the joke is, but our fellow nerds do.
6. A nerd is open minded and usually tolerant.
You seldom see a nerd who is set in his ways, unless that nerd feels passionately about a given issue and forms his or her life’s philosophy around it. But even then, most opinionated nerds have already heard and studied the arguments from all sides of an issue to make an informed choice on their stand in the matter. By and large, however, because our curiosity makes us see things from different points of view, most nerds are very open-minded, accepting and tolerant of other people’s opinions, quirks and foibles. It’s also probably because the rest of the world sees us as eccentric that we are more understanding of other people’s oddities.
7. A nerd will argue to the death.
While we are very open-minded, most nerds are, however, passionate about the knowledge they have acquired and will debate vigorously when their theories and hypothesis are challenged. Most of the time, nerds argue without taking the debate personal since we firmly believe in the concept of truth and that what is held true has to be tested against prevailing evidence to the contrary to arrive to an even deeper understanding of truth. In fact, any typical internet gathering of nerds will end up inevitably in heated arguments, even among nerds who consider themselves as close friends.
8. A nerd respects a dedicated person more than an intelligent one.
While we nerds sound snobbish based on the traits we describe above, most of us are, however, not snobs. Or at least, not in the way you think we are. People seem to think we only prefer to be around our own kind… to be among nerds and geeks. While we do enjoy our own company, we do not however want to be with other nerds and geeks exclusively. Doing so is incestuous and makes us into boorish intellectuals, which we cannot stand. Perhaps more than stupidity or shallowness, we nerds find obnoxiousness more annoying. Arrogant people create walls which prevent a nerd from learning from the world in general, and to us, we love learning no matter if it comes from a fellow nerd or a simple man or woman who has seen and done much in life. Also, because intelligence is a trait we take for granted, we are not easily awed by someone who displays intelligence with nothing else to back it up. Regardless of your IQ, you will impress us, however, if you show dedication in what you do. We nerds have a huge respect for people who show both passion and discipline in the performance of their work because we learn a lot from observing and following you.
I think these key traits are what defines me and my fellow nerds. If you relate to these, then I welcome you, fellow member of my tribe. When and where can we meet up and have coffee?
Taken for Granted July 23, 2014Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
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Taken for Granted. It’s defined as “To give little attention to or to underestimate the value of, to fail to appreciate. Usually the epiphany of having taking something for granted comes after its already gone.” (Urban Dictionary)
The act of taking something for granted could also be applied to people. Being taken for granted is a painful experience. It happens when we fail to give recognition, support, or reciprocation to people who have been nice to us… who have given us full recognition, support, time and service.
I noticed that the term “taken for granted” is a phrase that became vogue in the new millenium. I don’t recall encountering this phrase when I was growing up, back in the 80’s and 90’s. My theory is that the commonality of this phrase was influenced by the growing acceptance of technology and the internet during the early 2000’s until the present. You see, nowadays, everything has become so instant and available with the mere click of our fingertips. Do you need information? Google it. Do you need to call someone halfway around the world? Skype or Viber that person. Want to find out Imagine Dragon’s latest video? Check it out on YouTube. Want to add that track to your iPod? Download it from iTunes.
Everything has become so instant. Even friends have become instant. With the advent of Facebook, anytime you needed to know anything your friend was doing, all you need to do is check out the Newsstream. You know where they are via FourSquare and check-ins. You know what their up to via Instagram. You know what they’re thinking via Twitter.
With the opening of malls in the nearby vicinity, it has also become so much easier to acquire the things we need. Food, clothes, tools… all the necessities for life.
So can you see why someone or something is so easy to take for granted? Wish fulfillment has become instantaneous. I wonder if technology has led us to a false sense of intimacy and connection. Knowing that information, art, music, knowledge and people… that most EVERYTHING have become so easy to access, has this led us to think these would be around forever?
It didn’t used to be like this.
Back when I was younger, there was always a sense of anticipation when you wanted something. You hungrily scoured bargain bins for magazines that informed you of what was popular and trending in the Western world. If you wanted to acquire something, it took a long wait spanning months and years before the item arrived in the stores of Cebu. Clothes, music albums, books, TV shows, toys… you bid your time waiting for these precious treasures to arrive on our shores.
There was a time when eating a McDonald’s or Jollibee burger was something that could occur once in a few months, if you were lucky, brought in by a relative who went to Manila and bought the pasalubong. There was a time when friends shared more of their things with each other because this was the only way we can acquire books, music, toys and other items which were not readily available in stores.
And do you remember mix-tapes? Remember when you heard a song on the radio playing the Top 40 mix, and you just had to copy it with a blank cassette tape because the album wasn’t sold in the local White Gold yet? Remember going back every day to the record store just to see if the latest album from Guns n’ Roses has finally arrived? And because you didn’t have money to buy it yet, you just contented yourself with looking at the back of the album to see the song titles and their tracks?
And what about friends?
If you wanted to see someone, you had to ask your parent’s permission if you could visit their house. You had to wait for when your parents were available to drive you over to your friend’s house if they lived far away. When you and your friend finally saw each other, you’d spend half the day just talking and catching up because God knows when the next time you see them will be.
There were no cellphones back then, so when you and your buddies wanted to watch a movie together or hang out at Orange Brutus, you all had to agree to a specific time and show up on the dot. If your friends were 15 to 30 minutes late, you left them because waiting for these friends was not an option if you wanted to catch your show. There was no cellphone for you to find out if they were still coming over or if they were late. So people were more considerate of each other’s time because they knew what it was like to be kept waiting.
Limited and primitive as we were, we took care of our things better back in the day. We showed more affection, care and consideration for our possessions and our friends. We gave our time and attention. We did it because we knew that they couldn’t be easily replaced. That to find a replacement, we had to wait for so long and search so far and wide.
And now? We live in a consumer society. We dispense with possessions, friendships and time so casually, because it’s so easy to take them for granted. Replacements are so easy to come by. When we spend time with our friends, every fifteen minutes, we compulsorily go to our phones and check for updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When we go somewhere, we take our sweet time doing it because we know it’s just an easy matter of catching up with our friends by asking them “Wer u na?”
And that is why the term “being taken for granted” has taken on a whole new level of meaning that it didn’t have back when I was younger. There’s now a sentiment of pain and regret attached to the phrase.
Because we do take things for granted. We fail to appreciate, the luxuries we have, the attention and time that our friends and family give..
…until they are gone.
Don’t let the Age of Instant Gratification fool you. Take care of your possessions. Be good to your friends. Show up. Be involved. Be present.
If there’s one thing impressed on me by being a child of the 80’s and 90’s, it’s that song from Joni Mitchell. The one that says:
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”
In Re: Betraying the Filipino language June 18, 2014Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
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I write in response to the eloquent and well argued opinion proferred by Antonio P. Contreras in the Opinion section of the GMA Website. While it does state the case for the protection of the Filipino language, it likewise acknowledges, and I quote:
“Cebuanos are in fact very vocal about their assertions of their own language and culture, with them even attempting to draw their own adaptations of national symbols and discourses such as the National Anthem. The hurt felt by Cebuanos, and of other regions, of being forced to speak a language not their own, and to further inflict on them a national language that for all intents and purposes is an imposition from imperial Manila, is a highly charged discourse. It is a highly emotional issue that even enlightened academics I know who are non-Tagalog speakers and are based in their regions would gravitate towards a hostile attitude at the Filipino language.”
I will refrain from substituting Tagalog with the word “Filipino”, for indeed, I am one of the very vocal and assertive Cebuanos who refuse to acknowledge Tagalog as our national language. To call it “Filipino” would be to vest importance and officiousness on the language and declare that it has primacy over the other regional languages in the Philippines. Our languages are also Filipino. By declaring Tagalog as Filipino, you are in fact stating that our languages are mere second-class “regional” dialects.
The blog goes on to argue how we are losing our national heritage by removing Tagalog as a medium of instruction in education. Perhaps now, the Tagalog policy makers will have a better understanding of how we “regional Filipinos” feel about the primacy granted to Tagalog over that of our native tongues. We are likewise in the fight to preserve Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray and other regional languages, and because Tagalog was given more importance in our national education, the sad fact is that our languages are likewise slowly dying. I myself could no longer speak nor write fluent Cebuano. Reading a complete text of Cebuano is a painful exercise to me because I lack the reading fluidity and practice which I have for English.
In the metropolis of Cebu, rare is the person who can speak fluent and formal Cebuano, the “ludabi“. By enforcing Tagalog on us, the ordinary Cebuano lost knowledge on the proper syntax and grammar of the Cebuano language. An American friend was asking me to teach him our language but I cannot do so. I cannot explain why and when to use the words “gayud“, “og“, “man” and other Cebuano words because I never understood how to use it. But ask me to teach you Tagalog and I can tell you the difference between a “salitang-ugat” and a “pantukoy“, and why a “tayutay” is comparable to the English omnomatopeia.
The Philippine government’s enforcement of the Tagalog language on my childhood years has robbed me of the opportunity to learn my heritage, the Cebuano language, in favor of the Tagalog tongue. So please do not fault us for seeing you as Imperial Manila. A study of our government and its workings will show how much is skewed in favor of the Luzon region, to the detriment of Filipinos living in other parts of the country.
The opinion espoused by Mr. Contreras goes on to insist that Tagalog should continue to be taught nationwide. I do not contest that. I find it useful to know Tagalog. The only thing I oppose about it is again, what is it about Tagalog that gives it primacy over Cebuano, Hiligaynon and the other Filipino languages? Why is it that the survival of the Tagalog language is given primary importance over the survival of the other tongues? It is good that we acknowledge our mutual divisiveness on this matter, but until Tagalog speakers see the other languages as co-equal and as important as their native tongue, then we could never talk eye to eye. You will always speak on a pedestal placed higher than the rest of us on the ground.
Let’s not remove English as a medium of instruction. While it is not our country’s tongue, it is, however, a language better suited for instruction in subjects such as Science, Math, Social Studies, and the like. Teach Literature, Arts and Music in a Filipino language, if you wish, but technical subjects should and must be taught in English.
Finally, the opinion implies that we “regionals” betray the language by giving a foreign tongue, English, primacy over a Filipino tongue, Tagalog. The betrayal over the Filipino language is real, in that, I agree with you. But your opinion is that such betrayal started when the Department of Education started implementing the new K to 12 system. We “regionals” think otherwise. The betrayal started when President Manuel L. Quezon issued Executive order No. 134, on December 13, 1937, approving the adoption of Tagalog as the national language of the Philippines.
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Friendzones and Nice Guys. It seems like everywhere I look in social media, there’s either a meme or a blog being posted about nice guys whom girls place in friendzones because well… they’re too nice.
I laugh at that. No seriously, I do.
I’m the so-called nice guy that this trend revolves around. I built my life around accepting the fact that I will be perenially friendzoned. I could write a book on the topic. When I court a girl, I’m open and honest about my feelings. I’m emotionally supportive of her. I don’t play games. Heck, I could be the poster boy for nice guys everywhere. Look it up in the dictionary, that’s my picture placed right beside the word “doormat.”
I laugh at that phenomenon because so many people seem to be making a big deal about it, pointing fingers at women who break a nice guy’s heart because he’s too… well… “nice.”
See the thing is, getting busted is a rite of passage. I don’t consider anyone a real man until they know what it’s like to have their heart broken by someone they love. From this experience, you learn how to court a lady better. You learn exactly what you want out of a relationship and a significant other. You learn how to become a better man.
Hell yes, having your heart broken is painful. It’s probably the deepest emotional pain anyone can ever go through in their life. But face it, it’s part of growing up. It’s as necessary as shedding off excess skin to allow new epithilial cells to grow.
I even remember when I was 26 years old, someone was trying to hook me up to her friend. But when she described me saying, “He’s a nice guy, intelligent, and has a stable job. And he’s never had a girlfriend.” Her friend remarked, “Really? He’s never had a girlfriend? What’s wrong with him?” Ouch. I tried to smile that answer away, but the truth is, that remark really really hurt. A perfect stranger who’s never met me was judging me solely based on my dating history. If that’s not a sucker punch to the nads, I don’t know what is. But hey, that’s the breaks you get.
So, don’t blame the girls in their teens and 20’s who choose the bad boys and assholes over the nice guy like you. Face it, those guys are more exciting than us nice guys. It’s a mistake that girls at these age need to make in order to become wiser and more mature, just as it’s necessary for us nice guys to have our hearts broken so that we will learn how to take better care of it and choose the right partners for ourselves. And as for the girl who asked me “What’s wrong with him?”. I now realize that the more appropriate answer was, “I’m a great guy with no hang-ups and a clean slate. And you won’t go out with me. What’s wrong with you?”
Be patient nice guys. I had my heart broken early in life but when I turned 30, things changed. From someone whom girls treat with patronizing tolerance, I suddenly became a prized commodity in the dating market. I was a nice guy with a stable job, no baggage, and the emotional stability needed for mature relationships. It was easier to get dates, but this time with women who were ready for a relationship with no drama. Women who were previously burned by their flings with assholes and bad boys. Trust me on this, you will have the pick of the dating pool. The best of the best.
And now, I’m in a happy relationship with a wonderful lady who accepts me for who I am… boring nice guy tendencies nonwithstanding.
Nice guys guys finish last. Don’t be bitter about that fact. It’s who we are, but it doesn’t make us losers. Women will eventually realize that they indeed have saved the best for last.
And that’s when they’ll find you, nice guy. Swaggering out of the friendzone like a champ.
A Love Letter to Beer May 20, 2014Posted by Janjan in I, Lawyer, Idiocy, Representation Expense.
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I am writing to ask you for a time to cool off. Our relationship is too intense. It seems like these past few weeks, we’ve seen each other quite often. Nearly every day. Perhaps it’s getting too intense? I know I love you and you love me, but it’s starting to become unhealthy. Because of the time I spend with you, I’m neglecting time spent with my dear friends, Exercise, Writing and Art. Also, I’m having a hard time catching up with the latest episode of Game of Thrones. While I enjoy being an alcoholic, I think deep inside, the real me is a geek.
But don’t get me wrong. I still love you. I love that you have many moods and personalities: ale, pilsen, lager, and even the fruity dessert beers, like kriek. I love that you pair well with a lot of the food I like to eat… sisig, fish, steak, potatoes, lechon, pizza, to name a few. I like that you encourage me to do things I normally would not do.. like dance half-naked on a tabletop, or sing “My Way” with feelings. I like that you help me forget about my heartaches and pain… about my frustrations of being the only point guard with zero ball-handling skills, or the fact that Maria Ozawa does not know that I exist and that she continues to ignore all the letters I’ve sent her, pleading my undying love and admiration.
I still remember the first day we became intimate. How I hated your taste… to me you were like the flavor of dog urine, the lamentations of angry old men, and the fart of flatulent politicians, all combined into one tepid excuse for battery water. It was not love at first sight. But thankfully, due to peer pressure and the need to fit in with my smarty-pants law school classmates, we slowly developed into true love. Now to me you taste like golden rainbows refracted from the droplets of water tossed in the air by squealing Greek virgin nymphs splashing each other with champagne from Bacchus’ grove. The very thought of you leaving my life causes anxiety and depression. Without you, there is no point in living.
Over the years, I have gotten to know you better, as a lover should. I learned about your history… about how you were developed by Egyptians for their Israeli slaves, as a form of liquid bread to make their peons more compliant to dangerous manual labor. I learned how to drink you, about how mixing you with ice cubes is a capital sin. Real beer should always be drunk in a chilled glass. I’ve had you when you were at your cheapest (Manila beer and Gold Eagle), and I’ve had you at your most expensive (Roquefort 10). I’ve drunk all versions of San Miguel: Pilsen, San Mig Light, Cerveza Negra, Premium, Super-dry and all other variations.
It’s been a series of ups and downs. You’ve had me retching at the side of the road for hours on end. That’s the last time you and I have a threesome with Johnny Walker Black Label Whisky. You’ve brought me so much laughter, like when you made my handsome classmate so drunk that he didn’t know he was kissing a lady-boy. You’ve brought out the interesting quirks in everyone who loves you: like the drunk friend who got karate-kicked by a “di-ningon-ato” when he mistakenly whizzed on an ancient acacia tree, or the friend who cleans up the table everytime he’s drunk, or the friend who was discovered by his mother, retching at the public bathroom in Baseline, hugging the not-so-clean toilet.
It’s a fact that beer and lawyers go together, like guilty politicians and wheelchairs. It’s been an adventure, Beer. But all good things have an end. Or at the very least, a slow-down.
The fact is that my tummy is getting bigger, and I do not like shopping for new pants while I still have perfectly good ones hanging on my closet. And as much as I love you, Beer, my vanity and stinginess are stronger than my alcoholism.
There has to come a point where I have to learn to love myself. It cannot be about you all the time Beer. It cannot be all about you!!
I think this will be good for us both. Time apart can make us grow better as individuals and appreciate each other even more.
Know that my love for you is true and I thirst for you like a camel lost wandering on the endless Bedouin deserts under the relentless heat of a parched sun.
I’m not saying goodbye my darling. I’m just saying if you love me, you will let me grow (and by that, I mean metaphorically, and not physiologically).
I’m just saying that we should take it slow.
So farewell for now, my Beer. You will always be in my thoughts.