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Last Supper May 6, 2014

Posted by Janjan in I, Lawyer, Seriously now….
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It was the second night of my invitation. Together with my friend, Ali from Pakistan, we headed to the secluded mosque hidden behind a short path of alleyways located in a neighborhood downtown, at a very short walking distance from Elizabeth Mall. I normally see Ali dressed in a very cosmopolitan fashion but tonight he looked regal in the blue longshirt that is commonly worn in Pakistan.

Finally, the brightly-painted yellow walls of the mosque appeared, lit by the melon-orange sodium lamps nearby, stark against the dark starless sky. It was a three-story building, and looking from outside, you can see that the interiors of the wall was plainted entirely in white. There were no furnitures or any other ornaments inside, except for rugs which were used for prayer.

As we entered the gate, we saw that the Pakistani men had already set a carpet by the perimeter beside the mosque’s edifice. They were seated on the carpet and happily feasting. Ali and I went to a nearby faucet to wash our hands and then made way to the dining area. I took my shoes and socks off before sitting down cross-legged on the carpeted floor, taking my place beside the other Pakistani men. There was one Indian with us, who was also a Muslim. I was the only non-Muslim as well as the only Filipino dining among them. The other Muslim Filipinos were seated nearby but were not taking part of our supper.

There were no women. I believe that this mosque was, at present, reserved only for men.

In the middle of the carpet were metal bowls of food. On the largest bowl was a stew made of red beans and curry. On another bowl was a grilled flatbread, commonly used in Pakistani meals. On another bowl were quartered slices of red apples. And in the smallest bowl was nothing but water.

On one side of the carpet were seated the older men, a group of about 5 or 6 gentlemen with full, flowing beards, which was bare only above the lip area. They were dressed in traditional Pakistani garb, with the oversized shirts, the loose trousers and the white caps and turbans. Guessing from their appearance and the way they carried themselves, I understood them to be imams… leaders of the faith. On my side of the carpet were the younger Pakistanis, including my friends Ali and Azmat, who dressed in a more modern fashion.

There were no plates. While the flatbreads were as big as dishes, we did not put food on them. Rather, using the right hand, we tore the flatbread into pieces and used it to dip into and scoop the stewed beans. We took direct from the bowl in the middle, not using any serving spoons or forks, and ate with our hands. Sometimes, the men would talk to me, asking me, “How are you?” and smiling at my answers. All of them treated me with such warmth and welcoming, with no reservations whatsoever.  It was unusual for me, considering that I was someone that they’ve only recently met. All of the imams called me Brother.

On one hand, it felt a little surreal. Here I was, having an authentic Pakistani experience, supping from the floor and sharing a common bowl with my hands, with some men who seemed to walk off the pages of National Geographic. I didn’t mind keeping silent most of the time. I enjoyed listening to them talk in Urdu, their speech peppered with praises to Allah and admissions that Allah’s Will be done.

The food was certainly delicious, in a simple but soul-filling manner that only home-cooked meals can be. The beans were mildly seasoned and not overpowering in flavor. The flatbread was my favorite. It was soft, chewy but full, with none of the fluffy texture that I normally have with leavened bread. Someday, I hope to learn how to make that bread by myself.


After we ate the dinner, I took the apples and a banana for dessert. The men kept saying my name Jan with a warm smile. I found out that my name is common in Pakistan, and that variants of the word Jan in their language could either be a term for endearment, friendship or respect. I think they took it as a sign of good fortune to have met someone with my name.

One of the imams took the time to sit beside me and talk. He started by instructing me on how to dine, the Islam way. First, I was to sit, and not to stand because only animals stood while they ate. Second, I was to look at the glass of water before me and take it with my right hand, which was clean, and not with my left hand, which was dirty. (In their culture, they used the left hand to clean themselves after defecation). Then I was to say a word which gave praise to Allah. Then, finally, I was to drink the water.

From their the conversation instructed more about the cleanliness practices of Islam, and then proceeded to an invitation for me to become Muslim, which was the one true religion as Yssa (their name for Jesus) was not God but merely a prophet.

I listened intently and smiled when he preached about the rightness of Islam and my redemption. I was not offended, actually, but saw it as an old man’s good intentions and wish that I be saved, as he, a Muslim, understood deliverance. It meant that he respected me and wished nothing but the best for me. I bowed in graciousness to his good words and thanked him sincerely for sharing me wisdom and enlightenment.

He seemed to be a man in his mid-60’s, face kissed by the sun and full of character, his eyes twinkling with the look of a man who has found peace and enlightenment. His full and bushy beard was white, and he had a strong masculine nose. His white hair (graying at the temples) was cut short and was very neat. For a man of his age, he had the stature and carriage of one full of vitality and strength. I felt like a child being patronized by his grandfather, a grandfather who admonished me for being 35-years old and unmarried. When he found out that I had a girlfriend, he said that the relationship was haram in Islam and that I should marry her right away.

I merely smiled. Under the darkness of the dimly-lit mosque grounds, the imam easily looked like my paternal grandfather, the one who died before I was born. It was easy to pretend that I was being scolded (in a fond manner) by my own lolo. For one moment, I wished he really were my grandfather. He seemed to be a very caring man.

He finished by inviting me again to convert to Islam and said that he was giving me a Muslim name, Jan Mohammad.

But soon, it was time to go.

I put on my shoes, washed my hands and gathered my things. The imams made their farewells. Some of them merely gave me a firm handshake. Most of them took me in a warm and tight hug and bid me to go with the blessings of Allah.

As we walked outside, Ali asked me what the old man and I talked about. I told Ali that they wanted me to convert to Islam. He smiled and said, “You know.. the guy you were talking to… he has grown fond of Filipinos. He said that you are a warm, friendly and loving people. You are almost Pakistani but only, you are not Muslims.” We both laughed at that. I told Ali that I will blog about this and conclude that the Pakistani that I’ve met are warm, friendly and loving people but only, they were not Catholic.  Ali smiled as we got into the car.

As we drove of, he said something which sums up my whole experience, “You and I… let’s form a new religion. One where every man treats each other with respect, kindness and friendship, and we shall call it ‘Humanity'”

I could only nod and put my faith in a better future. Inshallah.


8 Years of Magnificence May 2, 2014

Posted by Janjan in I, Lawyer, Seriously now….

One of my contemporaries in the blogging community, Atty. Marvin Aceron, resumed writing on his blog a few days ago.  Naturally, it reminded me of this long dormant (but still living) WordPress blog.  It’s not my first blog, truth be told.  I’ve had older blogs that are gathering dust somewhere in the forgotten annals of the World Wide Web.  It is however, the first blog I maintained as a practicing lawyer.

I thought I’d go back writing on it, just for kicks.  I don’t know if this is going to be a regular thing, but I will try.

I first wrote this blog when I was only 1 or 2 years in the practice of law.  To be honest, I don’t know why I chose to call it “The Magnificent Atty. Perez” because it admittedly sounds grandiose and arrogant, which I don’t think I am.  (My friends, however, are encouraged to disagree).  The name just had a nice ring to it, and delusions of grandeur notwithstanding, I stuck to the moniker.  Perhaps the fact that I was a neophyte lawyer still earning my chops had a lot to do with the name.  Admittedly, I was still very insecure about where I stood in the legal community and I had yet to make a name for myself in the world.  After all, the practice of law (especially those engaged in litigation) requires a touch of gravitas and a flair for showmanship, of which I had none.  People who know me in my pre-law days remember me to be very soft-spoken, shy and reserved.  (But people who see me grab microphones on stage, know otherwise.)

“The Magnificent Atty. Perez” was a persona that I needed to become.  After all, when one has no confidence in himself, pop psychology encourages that one pretends to have confidence.  Often times, other people cannot tell the difference.  (“Fake it till you make it”, that’s what they say. )

I stopped writing in this blog at some point.  Part of it was because I felt that I had become too open to famous strangers (believe it or not, I was getting comments from people like Manolo Quezon III and Chiz Escudero.  And I double-checked… yes, they were the real McCoy). Part of it was because I simply got too busy to write.

But perhaps, thinking about it now, part of the reason that I stopped writing on this blog was because I felt that I had no more reason to pretend.

I look back at my entries here and I smile.  I see where my naivete and idealism shone like a beacon… or perhaps more accurately like a bunch of crazy neon disco lights.  I read in between the lines and remember my fears at jumping head first into something I was never prepared for.  I remember the paranoia, the insecurity and the floundering and pretending that I knew what I was doing.

I smile because it did get better.

I am 8 years in the practice this coming May 10.  I’m no longer the shy, insecure lawyer who’s pretending to be braver than he really is.  I’ve learned to stop expecting it to get easier.  It never does.  The challenges get bigger, year after year.  It’s just that you stop trying to fight your fears and you embrace the fact that you just don’t know where the road will take you.  You learn to live with the uncertainty.

I’ve seen, said and done a lot in these 8 years of practicing law.  I’ve gone from being an associate lawyer, to being a partner in a law office located beside the dusty roads where tricycles and pedicabs park while waiting for passengers, to running a 2-office show in both Cebu and Manila, and finally, back to a humble little practice in a humble little office in Ramos St.  I’ve made a living doing the strange corporate projects that nobody ever thinks of taking on.

In a sense, I’m no longer faking it.  I’m making it.  Making it up as I go along, that is.

I call myself the Magnificent Atty. Perez, more of a wish, and not a boast.  It’s the wish that at the end of the day, I become a better lawyer than when I first started.

It’s the wish that at the end of the day, I leave the world a much better place than when I first came in.

Wheel of Time May 25, 2013

Posted by Janjan in I, Lawyer, Seriously now….
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I first started reading the Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series back when I was 15 years old.  I was a high school senior, soon to leave for the United States.  It was a book recommended to me by my friend, Badong Reyes, who piqued my curiosity by talking about the One Power, Aes Sedai, Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon and Nynaeve Al’Meara.

Because of its unique fantasy elements, good writing, and strong characters, I immediately took to the story and eagerly read each and every chapter of the books during my college days.  But looking back, I realized that maybe it was because I saw so much of myself in the personal circumstances of the main protagonists that I was drawn to the book.

Back when I started, Rand al’Thor was still a sheepherder, the son of a farmer.  His friends Perrin ay’Bara and Matrim Cauthon were a blacksmith’s apprentice and a horse trader, respectively.  Rand was unofficially betrothed to Egwene al’Vere, and they were fostered / bullied by their village Wisdom, Nynaeve al’Meara.  They were all simple folk leading simple village lives, not knowing of anything other than a quiet provincial existence.

All that changed when the bestial Trollocs attacked their village, the Two Rivers.

Rand and his companions found out, through the explanation of an Aes Sedai, Moiraine Damodred, that Rand was meant more to the world, that he was the “Dragon Reborn”, a messianic creature that was prophesied to break the world and save it.  Hence, the forces of the Dark One were doing everything they could to destroy the village and destroy Rand in the process.

Hence to protect the village, Rand had to leave, together with Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nyneave, accompanied by Moiraine and her Warder al’Lan Mandragoran, and a gleeman, Thom Merrilin.

It felt a lot like my life back then.

There were so many changes happening to me.  Cebu and the University of San Carlos-Boys High were the only homes I ever knew of, but  I left them to immigrate to the United States, only to come back and go to college.  After a few years, I graduated, worked at a bank, and quit that to study Law.  In a sense, I was growing up together with the main protagonist, Rand, who himself was going through so many things on his way to prepare for the Last Battle.

In a sense, I was the “wool-headed sheepherder” that Rand was, and I could relate to his ordeals:  realizing that he was a man who could channel saidin, facing eventual madness; suddenly becoming some sort of nobleman and important person; fighting the Forsaken and handling one of the most powerful sa’angreal in the world; until officially, he became recognized by the world as the Dragon Reborn.

While my own struggles were nothing as dramatic, nevertheless, I could relate to the sense of strife and despondence that Rand was facing and recognized the demons that he was struggling with, because I was fighting them too.  From being the shy, introverted and socially awkward loner that I was in my Boys High days, I started mingling with other people until during Law School, I became some sort of campus personality.  And just like that, I learned what it was to be popular / infamous, to play sports, to hang out with the cool crowd, to push myself academically and intellectually.  From being the spectacular underachiever of Batch 1995, I was the guy who managed to survive law school while studying full time, working 2 jobs AND being an active leader in both Lex Circle and Bar Ops.  I played the Game of Houses in the hotly controversial atmosphere of campus politics, and danced the spears in becoming active with basketball.

Like Rand, I was changing.  A part of me was elated to see the world at the other side of the fence, but a part of me hated the turmoil that change and infamy brought about, wishing that I could go back to being the wool-headed sheepherder that I was.

I quit reading the Wheel of Time (and all sorts of fiction) when I got to law school, which is as well because Robert Jordan also slowed down on his writing.  By that time, I had already gotten to Book 7 of the series and Rand al’Thor had become the King of Tear, Perrin married and became the Lord of Manetheren, Mat had sounded the Horn of Valere and became the General of the Band of the Red Hand, while Egwene became the Amyrlin Seat and Nynaeve married Lan and discovered that she could Heal stilling.

It was only when I became a lawyer, having practiced for 7 years, before I got back to where I left off.  A total of 12 years, in other words, since I witnessed the turning of the Wheel of Time.

When I went back, Rand had become a hardened despot and tyrant, unwilling to listen and feel emotions.  He’s also gotten raving mad, sometimes fighting with the voice in his head, Lews Therin Telamon, for control over his own body.  By Rand’s logic, he had to become hard.  He had to stop feeling, so the pain, fear and worry wouldn’t paralyze him when he needed to move and make important decisions.

It was only then that I began to see the parallels in Rand’s life and mine, and it struck me because at that point, Rand was my least favorite character in the story.  His arrogance annoyed me.  His constant drama was wearing down my patience.  I realized however that it annoyed me because at a sub-conscious level, I saw so much of that arrogance and drama in the person that I had become.

My life had become harder at this point, in the sense that the pressures of litigation and law practice were like a sword constantly hanging over my neck.  Like Rand, I had changed.  I was no longer the carefree youth that I was, I had to become someone that the world needed me to be, and in that, I longed for freedom from the constant war that I was locked in, with myself, with other lawyers, and sometimes, with the people that I lived or worked with.

I finally finished the book a few days ago, and I leave it up to you to find out what happens to Rand and the other characters in the Wheel of Time.  Let me just say though that it’s a relief, and if my life does parallel that of the Dragon Reborn, then I look forward to my own happy ending.

Suffice it to say that Rand changed, and so I am changing as well.  The story ends with the breaking of the Age and leaves with the dawn of a new one.  Perhaps this is to say that this is likewise a new day in my life.

The wind blows northward over the dusty roads of the south, passing by the sleepy butandings of Oslob, the crackling ovens of Carcar where pork rinds undergo the process of changing into delicious chicharon.  It blows over the busy South Reclamation superhighway, over cars driving back, eager to go home, and it blows past the small town that has the audacity to call itself Cebu City.

Inside Sacred Heart Hospital, the lawyer looks up from his laptop, as if sensing the passing of the wind.  This wind, it was not an ending.  There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.

But perhaps, it was a beginning.

Love Will Conquer All April 7, 2008

Posted by Janjan in Armchair Politics, maniniyot, Seriously now….

Despite the looming food shortage and political crisis of our turbulent country, I still have faith that we Filipinos will prevail.

Let our loving and compassionate nature seek to help one another in these times of hardship, and together, we can surmount these tough times.

Six Months After in Cebu March 25, 2008

Posted by Janjan in cebuano, Seriously now….

This is reposted from my friend Jeneen’s Multiply blog: http://neenerish.multiply.com/reviews/item/12. Jeneen used to live in Cebu and wrote for one of our local dailies. This is one of her best pieces, which I’ve always loved the first time I’ve read it.


I should have known moving to Cebu would be anything but normal.

Twenty minutes into my six-month stay here, I found myself standing by a grassy embankment a few hundred meters from the Mactan airport, dumped by an irate taxi driver when I refused to pay the P150-fixed charge to my boarding house in Gorordo. I tried to keep my righteously disdainful look on, but it was hard with rain dripping from my hair. It seemed the city hated me at first sight.

Cebu, I soon found out, had a secret language all its own—I was doomed to getting dumped on some nameless road unless I learned it. No way was I standing on that embankment ever again.

I resolved that my first lesson in the language was to find my way around. I’ve never seen a map of the city, but I paid attention when my Cebuano friends toured me those first few weeks. Despite my poor sense of direction, I began to notice that Cebu’s streets make no sense at all.

Driving down the twisting streets that defied planning logic, we would end up back where we started by going in the direction away from it. On the other hand, supposedly parallel streets would lead to opposite sides of town.

Traffic flows in at least 10 different directions at the Gorordo and Mango intersection. Only one traffic light acts as referee. In any other city in the world, it would be a pedestrian’s nightmare. But not in Cebu where jaywalking is a foreign word.

At least four streets are named Osmeña in this city alone—Osmeña Boulevard at the Capitol, S. Osmeña along the pier, E. Osmeña in Banawa, J. Osmeña near Mango—even a Fuente Osmeña rotunda where the traffic routes are crazier than at the aforementioned intersection. Curiously enough, I’ve never met a Cebuano who confuses any of the streets.

Having a car is one matter, commuting another.

My first weekend, I decided I wanted house supplies from SM. I asked my neighbor for directions since all my Cebuano friends were out. “Take the 13C to Ayala,” she said, “You’ll find the right jeep from there.”

Not knowing what a 13C was, I took the first jeep I saw and said I wanted to go to Ayala. All the passengers vainly tried to hide their laughter. A kind soul said Ayala was “duol na”, and pointed to some vague, opposite direction. This jeep would take me to Colon, he said, where I could get a ride to SM. Who would have thought even Cebu’s jeeps had an alienating code?

It wasn’t long, though, before these oddities began to fascinate instead of baffle me. The crazy streets to me now are like secret passageways that somehow all lead to my street. It delights me that every road is connected to every other road, no matter how inconceivable it seems. I relish giving out jeepney codes like a natural when a stranger asks for directions.

And it didn’t surprise me to see bars and restaurants popping up everywhere when the national economy was supposedly at its worst—Cebu is a city you accept, not attempt to understand. Until you know this, you can never fully appreciate its charm.

I should have known it from the way I got out of that first sticky situation.

There I was, alone on the highway, with nothing but my staunch principles, a suitcase, and a box of worldly possessions at my feet. I was getting wetter by the minute and no passing car seemed to care.

Suddenly, rounding the bend was an empty taxi that stopped in front of me. The driver agreed that I pay by the meter. Exhausted, I exchanged only a few words with him, who thankfully did not force a conversation.

When we got to the boarding house, the driver even helped me carry my things! I couldn’t believe my change of fortune. I made a mental note to thank him profusely after paying my fare. As I opened my mouth to say “Salamat”, he stopped me with a barely audible yet definite “I love you”.

I couldn’t say anything, and he didn’t wait for my reaction. He simply rode off in his white taxi, never to be seen again.

No matter that my knight in armor looked like a cross between the April Boys and the Reycards, complete with longish hair, an earring, and oversized shades. He is ultimate proof that Cebu does love me—in its own unpredictable, often irrational, but always, always endearing way.

The Last Supper March 19, 2008

Posted by Janjan in Seriously now….
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Our Father, who art in Heaven — Holy be Your Name.

Your Kingdom Come

Your Will Be Done

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Give Us this day our Daily Bread

And forgive us our Sins

As we forgive those who Sinned against Us

And lead us not into Temptation

But deliver us from Evil

For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory.

Now and Forever.


Money for Food March 15, 2008

Posted by Janjan in All, Armchair Economist, Armchair Politics, Seriously now….
Tags: , , ,

We live in dire times. It is the Ides of March, and the heat of summer brings with it whispers of shortage, famine and economic downturns.

I was reading the column of Alex Magno in the Philippine Star (click on <this link> to read it), and it tells a cautionary tale of how the United States’ impending recession brings with it an adverse effect on the world and our very own Philippines. To quote Mr. Magno:

Analysts are now talking about things that seemed unthinkable only a few weeks ago. Oil, for instance, could reach $120 a barrel very soon.

The reason for that is no longer the dynamics of supply and demand. Oil futures are now under great speculative pressure. As a hedge against the falling dollar, the large institutional funds are putting their money in commodities futures — oil being one major commodity.

Hedging in commodities are pushing prices across the board. It is not only oil that is rising. Grains prices are rising too.

That hits us as well.

Unusual weather the past few months have cut into global grains productions. China, hard hit by extreme cold weather and excessive rains, is prowling all the markets, buying up rice. Vietnam, unsure about its own supply, is not exporting.

We are facing a grains shortage here. Heavy rains in the Visayas and Mindanao drenched the harvest. Imported rice is going to cost significantly more, if we could find enough being exported by other countries.

Rice supply is going to be a problem for us the next few weeks. We are not sure we will be able to procure enough. Even if we do, the commodity is going to cost us more.

The news that the Philippines is hit with a rice shortage is especially frustrating for me. I was just recently in Iloilo, which is one of the country’s major rice producers. During my stay there for the past few days, I’ve been riding the bus going to both Roxas City in Capiz, and Kalibo City in Aklan, and witnessed for myself the endless expanse of ricefields and flatlands, seeing with my own yes how rich our Western Visayas land is. For sure, this is not the only province in the Philippines that has a strong agricultural sector. In Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, we have been blessed with abundant natural resources that will allow our country to be self-sustaining, if only in terms of food production.

And yet, look at us!

We import rice from Thailand and Vietnam, countries that were back before the 1970’s, lagging so far behind us in terms of economy and food production. In fact, the Philippines had the best scientific research institute for the production of rice, which is the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Manila. The Thai and Vietnamese government sent their own scientists to learn how to grow the best rice yield from our country.

But look at us now! We have to beg for rice from our own neighbors who learned how to optimize rice production from us!

It gets even more infuriating when you think about all the opportunities we have had and lost to improve our agricultural sector. The most major opportunity being the “Comprehensive Land Reform Program”, which supposedly empowers our farmers by breaking them from the bondage of agricultural tendency through granting them land which the government mandatorily purchases from private landowners.

Has the CARP really improved our farmers’ lives in any way?

Look at the sugarfields of Negros Occidental, where you still see to this very day, poor and uneducated laborers being paid so much less than minimum wage for backbreaking work. Look at the farms and haciendas that conveniently side-stepped coverage from CARP by allegedly growing “cattle” and having “agricultural corporations” on their land. Go to the farmlands of Capiz where in this age of tractors and the scientific method of farming you still see farmers tilling the land with the lowly carabao and drying their grain by the roadsides where it may be swept away by strong winds and rain.

You see, the problem is not that our population is too big for our food production to supply to. Our problem is that our current agricultural system for the whole country is still stuck on methodologies and farming techniques used at the turn of the 19th Century, which does not yield enough to feed our starving nation. Hence, we have to import food at a higher premium when we have the capacity to solve our own problems with the right farming science and technology.

One of our problems is our very own Filipino farmers. The CARP Law is one major blunder. While the dream of having our own farmers tend to their own land is a laudable objective, the Philippines never developed a comprehensive program that followed up after the CARP. While it is true that SOME of our farmers now own the land that they till, the reality is that these farmers do not know what to do with that land after acquiring ownership. For sure, to increase the land’s yield, they should buy more fertilizer and learn scientific means for better agriculture. If they lacked capital, they could turn to agricultural loans provided by the government, the Asian Development Bank, and a host of private lending institutes offering various credit arrangements for agriculture. They could have sent their children to UP – Los Baños, or to the Visayan State University in order to specialize in courses like BS Agriculture with a Major in Soil Science, and a multitude of other like courses. They could even have banded together through agricultural cooperatives upon which our government grants numerous tax and fiscal incentives, as well as grants and loans.

But most of our farmers did not do any of this! Sometimes, the reason for sticking to the old ways of agriculture is: “I’m old and too set in my ways. I don’t have the time to learn how to use a tractor or these scientific techniques. I just want to farm the way my father did and his father before him.” These farmers do not even want to send their children to agricultural schools because (1) they need the extra manpower in the fields, (2) they would rather send these children to professional schools where they can become office workers, nurses, lawyers and accountants and earn more.

Clearly, these farmers are too poor and ignorant to know that there is a better way for them to improve their lot in life without abandoning their family’s calling to become farmers. It’s just so sad because all the avenues and opportunities have been made within their reach, if only they were not scared to try a different way of farming.

And while our government has been trying hard to encourage our agricultural sector, still, its efforts are not enough. There is still so much room for improvement that it is not taking advantage of.

The government could ultimately solve the peace-and-order situation in Mindanao so that its farmers can finally till the land in peace, and economic development could finally find its way to the fat and abundant agricultural potential of the southern region of the country. It could provide better teachers and facilities to our far-flung barrios, educating our children and making them see that agriculture can and will lead to financial prosperity with the right application of knowledge and skilled endeavor. It could build better roads, provide superior infrastructure, and set up administrative systems to ensure fast and efficient distribution of food and resources.

But what do we have instead? Anybody remember the fertilizer scandal of last year involving a certain unpopular president and her even more unpopular husband?

Our own private institutions are wanting. Instead of encouraging our children to become farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs and skilled workers, we are instead pushing them to become seamen, nurses and medical professionals so that they can go abroad and bring money back to the family. Instead of upholding the dignity of labor and the beauty of the countryside, we have a culture that sneers at probinsyanos and looks down on municipalities that do not have their own shopping malls and fast food outlets. Where we encourage our young to go out and build businesses of their own, instead, we give them the easy way out by becoming call center agents with ludicrous salaries for unskilled work.

We Filipinos are killing our own Philippines! We used to be the richest country in Asia! Japanese housewives came to our country in the 1950’s looking for work as househelpers. When Vietnam used to be just a poor hovel that travelled on rikshaws and on foot, our country already had its own airline service that flew to international destinations.

Look at those countries now! Japan was thrown nuclear bombs but it built itself from the ashes to emerge as one of the leading technological wonders of the world. Vietnam just recently launched its first satellite to outer space!

We used to be so much better than our neighbors, but we’ve become the country that everybody looks down on. Our women have become commodities sold on the internet for lonely and desperate old white men who just want to marry a glorified housemaid. We’ve become entertainers, and minstrels, exporting our skilled and learned by the droves to other countries. We are so poor that we cannot even afford to grow our own rice and buy it instead from neighbors who learned how to culture rice from our own laboratories.

And yet….

There is still hope. There is always hope. I refuse to believe that things are so bleak that we have no other recourse but to desert our country like rats fleeing from a sinking ship instead of working hand in hand to solve our problems. We are so much better than this. We are so much better than we allow ourselves to give credit for.

We need a PARADIGM SHIFT and we need it NOW!

I am calling upon the Philippine government to stop playing politics and start running the country back to track.

I am calling upon the farmers and private institutions to realize the value of a strong agricultural backbone as a means of making our country self-sufficient and economically feasible.

I am calling upon our youth to realize that there’s no such thing as easy money, and challenging them to work towards going back to the farmlands and reaping the true riches from our Philippine soil.

I am calling upon each and every Filipino, from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, to each and every foreign land and clime, this is a wake-up call because it’s no longer a question of will the Philippines become the economic superpower that it once was in Asia.

It has become a question of SURVIVAL and we are soon going to become a dead country unless we get our act together and start making sure that our institutions, systems, values and philosophies are geared towards becoming greater than the morass of pettiness that we have become.

We live in dire times.

It is the Ides of March, and the heat of summer brings with it whispers of shortage, famine and economic downturns.

We need to act NOW!

Walking on Water March 9, 2008

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, I, Lawyer, maniniyot, Seriously now….

In one of my previous picture posts, I talked about the symbolic significance of water in my life and how during times that I am stressed, troubled or in despair, I dream of being near bodies of water.

I am going through one of those times now.  A lot of times I think about how much simpler life was when I wasn’t an adult, where I didn’t have to deal with choices, responsibilities, relationships, or be worried about the state of the nation and the rising costs of basic commodities and goods.

Sometimes I find myself wanting a quiet and uncomplicated life, much like the subject of this series of pictures lead, the Badjao children.

How much simpler it is to be Badjao.  A lot of people look down on the Badjao, because it seems that they live a life spent begging.  It didn’t used to be like this.  My bestfriend Danny C. told me that the Badjao are really a peaceful tribe of indigenous people from the Southern parts of Mindanao who had spent a simple life of subsistence fishing.  They are a peaceful tribe, unused to conflict and warfare, getting along well with each other and always smiling.

It’s a pity that these Badjao have been displaced back in the 1970’s during the time of the political upheaval in Muslim Mindanao.  These poor non-violent people were forced out from their ancestral homelands by their more warlike neighbors, and in order to escape the massacres of that era, the Badjao were made to flee to various parts of the Philippines.

Unused to a life of toil and hardwork, it is now common for us to see the Badjao here in Cebu, in Cagayan de Oro, in Davao, and yes, even in the wharves of Tagbilaran, Bohol, where I took these shots.

Growing up in a family where I was raised to value the dignity of work, I had come to look down on the Badjao.  All you ever see them doing is beg, beg, beg.  They’re dirty, unmannered, and rude.  However, after I heard the story from Danny, I grew to see the Badjao in a different light.  These people have never known better because all their life, they had always known simplicity and living off the sea.  To force them to adapt to the complicated rules and values of the big city is asking too much of these simple people, who now adapt to it the best way they know how… through begging.

I am older now.  I have adapted to the city.  I have work that keeps me facing my laptop the whole day long.  My life has definitely become complicated, and sometimes, it is too complicated.  I’m always exposed to pressure and expectations and a lot of times, it takes everything I have in me just to keep up with my job.  Unused to running, I trip on my feet and land hard on my face.  To quote a toy figure that my other bestfriend Johndi gave me back in high school, “Getting older sucks.

And now, these times, I envy these Badjao children.  Instead of looking down on them, I envy their simple uncomplicated lives.  I envy their freedom, their ability to laugh at their hardships, the close bond that they have with the sea and with each other.  Yes, their lives are tough and it borders on day-to-day survival.  But then again, can we really say our lives are much better?  True, we have more resources and wealth than these little beggars, but in exchange for these, we are saddled with burdens such as taxes, responsibilities, and for us lawyers, an exacting code of professional ethics.

Tell me now, are our lives really any better than theirs?

We are still beggars, living off grace and looking to God to provide us with our daily bread, regardless of whether we are Badjao children, Philippine presidents, or struggling CPA-lawyer-photographers.  Each of our lives are hard on one way or the other, frought with hardships, sacrifice and tears.  As that song by REM goes, “Everybody hurts.

It is times like these that the Badjao children remind me that each and everytime a question of love, faith and hope arises with Jesus, it somehow always involved the water.

We see it when the apostles were trapped out at sea during the height of a mighty storm, and Peter called out to a soundly sleeping Jesus to save them.  “Oh ye of little faith,” Jesus said, as he brought the squall to subside and the boat back to safety.

We see it again when the apostles were out at sea and encountered Jesus walking on water.  Calling out to him, Peter got out and started walking on the waves towards Jesus.  But he looked at the tides, got scared and started to sink to the depths.  Again, calling out to Jesus, he came by and saved him.

Finally, I’m reminded of the time after the resurrection that Jesus told the apostles to cast their nets to the other side of the boat, and came back with a catch of fish overflowing to the brim.

We all experience the storms.  We all have questions of faith, and look within only to find ourselves sorely lacking.  And we cry out calling to the Lord for succour and He tells us, “Oh ye of little faith.”

Like the Badjao, we need to believe that despite all our troubles, tomorrow will be another day.  The sun will be shining and the tides will subside.  Like them, we are all beggars of faith, wholly dependent on our Father to get us through another long night.  And with this trust in Him, we lean back and smile.

The storms will not last forever.

It takes one step then another, holding Jesus’ hand, for us to find out to our disbelief, that yes, through the certainty of faith, we CAN walk on water.

Unused Blogging Muscles December 15, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer, Seriously now….
1 comment so far

I knew it was going to happen someday.

I would finally want to sit down and update my blog, but there is nothing that is worthy of writing about. So I just sit here, enumerating mundane points-of-time vignettes about my relatively dull life which are only of importance to myself.

So SHOO!…. you can stop reading now. I might bore you to tears.

What, you’re still here?

You’re a lot more bored than I thought you would be. Well okay then, here are snapshots of my so-called life, as it is at the moment:

1) Christmas Party season

December is here and Christmas Parties about all over Cebu. I’ve so far been invited to two Christmas parties. The first Christmas party was supposed to be last November 30. It was to be an island hopping event with an overnight stay at a small beach resort. Well… it pushed through except for one thing: the office manager of the company (who was the one who invited me) conveniently forgot to pick me up on the day that we were to leave for the beach, which she said she would do. She called me up on the following working day, explaining that she had so many things to take care of that she only remembered forgetting to pick me up when she got to the beach herself.

Yeah right.

Oh well… I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so I just let it slide. I don’t know what the deal was with her, so I just let her be. *shrug* I was kinda disappointed though because I was looking forward to taking pictures of our island-hopping trip, as well as night shots of the moon-lit beach.

Last night, I attended another client’s Christmas Party, which was a masquerade ball held in Fort San Pedro. That one was very interesting. I bought myself one of those cheap 9-peso plastic masks sold in the local department store, expecting my client and his employees to do the same, but to my surprise, they came with elaborate masks that they fashioned themselves, very much like those found in Venetian gala parties in the Victorian era. Well, what would you expect from a company that exports furniture accessories? They’re bound to have very creative craftsmen. I was made to be one of the judges in all their contests for the night, witnessing their hidden talents, such as singing, dancing, and creativity in certain games. And, as concluded by their very own bosses, it was remarked, “Some talents should remain hidden.”

They had very interesting games which I’ve never seen before, such as “Dress Up Your Santa Contest” where each team was given red crepe paper, a roll of scotch tape, and a whole bag-full of foam-cotton, the objective being to convert one of their members into the closest parody of Santa Claus, front and back. We had to disqualify one team because they dressed up their member as Mrs. Claus.

Another interesting game was the “Gift Wrapping Contest.” This was interesting because it comprised of two members from each team, each pairs’ right and left hand tied together while their untied hands had to work in tandem to wrap a Christmas present.

I have a feeling that I will be invited to three other clients’ Christmas parties within the month. Our firm’s own party is coming up on Friday, and already there is this really gigantic box under the office Christmas tree with my name on it. I hope it’s not a stripper in hiding. I only plan on opening that box on Friday. She might starve.

2) Christmas Gifts

I’ve done my Christmas shopping early and bought gifts for all my inaanaks and some pamangkins, as well as some gifts for the people in the firm. I’ve gotten some gifts in advance as well. A client sent me a cake from La Marea, and another sent me that gigantic box which I previously mentioned. My parents gave me my Christmas gift in advance, a handsome and lightweight black jacket with reflector stripes. Also, last November, I got a stack of books from my sister.

The only people I haven’t bought a gift for yet are for those close to my heart: some friends (the special children), my sister (Nips, timbon na lang when you get home), and my parents. It is impossible to buy gifts in advance for my folks, especially for my dad, who is picky about the things you give him. So for Christmas, I will have to take them both to the mall to do our shopping.

3) Simbang Gabi –

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is coming up tomorrow, the Simbang Gabi. I’ve been going to the Simbang Gabi all my life, accompanying my mom, lola, tita, sister and cousins for this annual tradition, but it has only been for the last 5 or 6 years that I’ve made a habit of completing the attendance of all 9 days of the Simbang Gabi.

My family attends the Simbang Gabi of Redemptorist Church, which is held on 5am, starting tomorrow. The nice thing about going to Redemptorist Church is that they have immediately after the mass, as certain charitable churchgoers sell foodstuff the capital AND proceeds of which go directly to the Church fund, which has benefitted many scholars and calamity victims over the past few years. Plus, some of the pama-init stall vendors include Cafe Laguna which sells their well-reknown bibingka.

Since tomorrow is the first day of the Simbang Gabi, and a Sunday to boot, expect very large crowds.

4) Balikbayan in town –

One of my oldest and closest friends arrived in town yesterday night, flying over from New Jersey in the United States. This friend is Dr. John David Seno, a Board topnotcher twice over (once in the Philippines and the other time in the US, where he scored 99 in the recent exam… the highest score ever achieved in the State of New York).

This guy has been my bestfriend since the 5th Grade. If you think that I’m one of the screwiest and most green-minded persons, you’ve ever met, well let me reveal to you that my corrupting influence is this guy, Johndi. This is the same guy who introduced me to the wonderful world of pornography and hard partying, for which I am eternally grateful for.

Johndi was into photography even way back in our teens, so I hope to take Johndi out down South later this month for a photoshoot with me in one of the Churches. Plus, I wanna see how it feels like to use a Nikon D80, which is the SLR being used by Johndi.


And that is my life, so far.

And whoah! I’m blogging again.

Science, Progress and Restlessness December 1, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer, Seriously now….

In basic general science, we’ve learned that a body at rest does not launch into motion unless propelled by a force of energy sufficient to overcome the pull of gravity upon its stationary mass.In my case, I am a body at rest and in lieu of gravity, the forces which have frozen me into inaction (and sometimes stupification), are the mind-numbing paralyses of stagnation and ennui.

The fact is that I just don’t want to move.

I just want to crawl under a rock like a dung beetle and bide my time away while I make sense of my bearings and understand where True North lies for this mangy, flea-bitten wolf.

Unfortunately, Time won’t stand still with me. It moves in tides and ebbs with the threat of prescriptive periods, deadlines, and deliverables. While I remain as a practitioner of law, I cannot afford the steep price of killing time to get to know myself better.

My responsibilities to the law firm and its clients is paramount over my own selfish self-interest. These are without mention of my heavier duties to my family, as one of its breadwinners.

I am an object in motion whose critical mass of stagnation and discontent demands that I shut down and store potential energy. Unfortunately, the strong winds of duty, necessity and survival prod me along unwillingly towards a stumbling vector of resistant movement.

In truth, I do not wish to be made to move against my will. I want to act of my own volition, towards the first quadrant of the vector, where the passion of my spirit increases in proportion to the distance covered by my movement. Rather than be made to move against its intent, this object that desires to be at rest wishes to find the energy within itself to move and run by bounds and leaps.

And what is this inner energy that I seek? Some men have named it as Inspiration, Passion and Purpose.

But of those, I have none.


And with this, I apologize to my regular readers (if I have any left) from my long absence and erratic pause-gaps in blogging. I just don’t have it in me to summon the arrogance and project the sublime bastardry of the Magnificent Atty. Perez. Right now, I’m just Janjan, a tired and overworked new lawyer.