People, Politics Economics Society

Thoughts while watching an early morning banana boat ride

It was not yet nine in the morning but I guess that’s already late in the day for these beachgoers. I was meeting select people in this coastal village for a discussion about what they’re doing to make their community resilient. For many Filipinos, resilience is equated to “smiling or laughing though the world has crashed around them”.  This attitude is good but…only to an extent. Beyond a certain point, it’s avoidance, of sad realities around them- no basic infrastructures such as water systems, roads, sea walls, and if there are as for instance village health stations, they’re not staffed or equipped. Spending one’s free time on a banana boat is a personal choice, yes. But then the choice each and every Filipino make makes the nation. If everyone of us are on banana boats where does that lead all of us to? Filipinos need to be more conscious when making a choice especially at this time in our development when the nation needs more of it’s people to engage with planners and decisionmakers. We need to spend less time on banana boats and more time in public session halls, lobbying for quality basic infrastructures and services, for talk to be consistent with walk, for change to happen on the ground in the villages among families. Otherwise it’s the same hullaballoo all over again- the next generation inheriting redundant pile of to-dos we procrastinated on that our generation inherited from the last and so forth. Filipinos need to be generous.

Humor, People, Politics Economics Society

The press conference of a lifetime

Donald Trump leaks are real news is fake

US President Trump’s solo press conference was probably the most refreshing I’ve watched. Michelle Obama had her “when they go low, we go high” moment. I believe President Trump, channeling his savvy businessman persona, had his. I’ve not laughed so much in a long time! I believe this has cured my February maladies!

Right there was ‘white American’ in the raw. That ‘American’ whom peoples across the globe have had complicated relationship with- the one they “hate” and then also love. He’s no Mao or Stalin however who had histories of killing people and such. Thing was, in the press conference, that famed American bad-assedness was turned upon itself, against the American press that is. Suddenly, nations of the world became, for a change, the outsiders of an all too familiar treatment. 

But, if we don’t think too much about the President’s communication style and try to step away from getting embroiled in criticisms against him and into his shoes ie. a first time politician but nonetheless part of corporate America that contributes much to “US supremacy”, there are nuggets of wisdom in his statements that the press ie. corporations having journalism as their business really need to reflect on:

The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it. We have to find out what’s going on because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. I ran for president to represent the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking, and really talking, on this very entrenched power structure and what we’re doing is we’re talking about the power structure. We’re talking about its entrenchment. As a result, the media’s going through what they have to go through to oftentimes distort.The distortion, and we’ll talk about it, you’ll be able to ask me questions about it. We’re not going to let it happen because I’m here, again, to take my message straight to the people.

The President isn’t the first to call out the media. There are the celebrities constantly followed around by papparazzi who counter with statements like “fame comes with price” and “just doing our job”, and articles about their lives you won’t know if it’s true or not prompting celebrities to open their own social media accounts. Could media be ever honest? Billy Joel’s Honesty comes to mind-

If you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind
Honesty is such a lonely word

On that the President and media, like Tom and Jerry, could go at it without end with nothing accomplished in the end. Perhaps it’s just a matter of managing expectations on both sides? It’s clear media has some preconceived ideas about the ‘President’ and his treatment of them and the new President has also his, of how media should cover him and his administration. I could understand how a first time politician, the US President at that, could feel so much pride for the smallest of accomplishments of his office and thin-skinned about any criticism versus the weary and cynical attitude of a press that has covered plenty of Presidents and failed policies. Would conceding those initial accomplishments to this particular President lead to a better relationship? In any case, both sides need to find their common groove.

Everything Baguio, People, Politics Economics Society, Technology

Happy in the City

I used to go for massages and such at a spa in Baguio.  On such a day, I overheard a man asking if the center offers sauna service.  The lady at the front desk replied that she’s sorry their one and only sauna was out of service that day. Such queries are what one would randomly and normally hear at any spa.  Minutes later, another man asked for the same service and received the same reply.  Then another, this time a small group. My curiosity was already piqued. Since when was sauna in demand in the City and especially on a weekday morning?  And by men in suits too?  Another man came in and asked for the same service.  At that point, I thought the center insane for not putting in double time to fix the sauna. Their loss. Meanwhile, I was more interested at the rate the service was asked for in just under a couple of hours.

That directed my thoughts to first the number of spas and sauna centers in the City and second tying demand for the service to the rate I was witness to at my center of choice the probable reasons for the increase in demand.

I did notice the proliferation based on ads in the City’s weekly paper. Compared to say five or ten years ago, there’s now this and that center, including French-sounding ones which sad to note don’t hold anything close to the French’ dedication to effortless refinement, offering this and that service.  The increase says something significant of the changing and prevailing local lifestyle– how did going to the sauna become a practice among City folks? who in the City goes to the sauna?

via milamai

traditional Finnish sauna

The suited men started to arrive around mid-morning.  My guess was they had just gotten out of an early morning meeting the kind wherein hard decisions had to be made, or wherein they put in everything in order to sell an idea to the higher-ups, probably the Board.  Perhaps they’ve already made such decisions, or needed some time to mull over a decision or to wash off the pressure from a life-or-death presentation.  Perhaps the corner cafe outside the office building can’t provide the kind of environment they particularly needed.  I was pretty sure they’ve already been to the sauna and so knew the physical and mental cleansing it brings them and in some instances social bonding and release as well hence their search for such a facility.  Since the center of my choice is conveniently located at the downtown area, far enough from the bustle of Session and Harrison Roads but within walking distance of everywhere, this was also where their internal compass led them.

The men were I was sure of it not native residents of the City but rather it’s work that brought them to the City.  Native residents haven’t yet caught up with the trend, one reason being that ‘sauna’ has had a reductive meaning equated to activities relegated to the local red light district.  If they were from Metro Manila, which I was sure they were, frequenting spas and saunas are as normal a routine as having lunch or dining out with clients or potential clients, or among business associates of a certain income level “sneaking out” for a round of golf.  Naturally then they’d bring the practice with them, which now brings me to rounding up the reasons for the apparent increase in demand and therefore supply of it.

It’s a return to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and wants basically, in that moving up the hierarchy needs and wants become more and more sophisticated (i.e. up to a point).  On the other hand, there’s the market economy ever ready to cater to material needs and wants. Well, ideally, because as what was the case in my center of choice it failed to meet the day’s demand–  an example of choke points in the market.  But the thing about the market is there are so-called substitutes.  Where did the men go after learning the sauna wasn’t working?  Depending on their preferences and circumstances at the time, it could’ve been to the barbershop for a similar physical rub down, or back to the office where hell’s fury awaited the person(s) fortunate enough to have crossed their paths upon their return.

And last but not the least of my observation was those would-have-been customers were men.  Meaning?   It just cued me to which among the sexes – Filipinos – are availing the service more and whether or not there’s a significant difference and if so why?   But would the information matter?  In any case, I count myself among those who love saunas and it’s substitute, really hot showers and baths.

Fashion, Humor, People, Politics Economics Society, Technology

This end justified the means

Whenever I see bright red nails it reminds me of the young woman who was part of the team that provided training on Knowledge Management for my colleagues at the field office.  The unit was to pilot test a KM community of practice planned to be further developed into a strategy for the entire organization.  The young woman was there to assist the training team which was part of her role as a coordinator at her organization, and she was my initial contact for the training.

As I had already been collaborating with her and training team as to the details, I knew beforehand that she’s pretty and fair in skin.  Cutely daring was an apt description of her style.  But my colleagues didn’t know that yet.  Part of me was anticipating their reaction knowing that development workers especially those who’ve been long in the field don’t often get to be up close and personal with shall we say the more pleasant sights of civilization.  Women in the field have in general somehow set aside their feminine side, a necessary trade off given the task of dealing with all sorts of personalities not to mention project setbacks and what have you out there.

I wasn’t mistaken.  When the training finally materialized, she came in looking no less like Aphrodite herself, which I expected, her nails in a bright shade of red and a similar hue on her lips the color irresistibly stark on her fair skin. Knowledge Management is rather a technically challenging topic but she at least got everybody’s full and undivided attention on the matter.

Disasters Climate Environment, People, Politics Economics Society, Religion and Spirituality, Travel

We’ll always have soccer

We’ll always have Paris is a well known and oft cited quote but I’ve only just now realized that it was uttered very far from Paris, at the tarmac of Casablanca airport in Morocco.  This, meaning?  Well, that Rick and Ilsa were…well-travelled. Whatever. What I really want to say is for the rest of us who don’t have Paris or even know where Paris is there’s always…soccer.  One’s amazed to see in the most unlikely places, in the midst of difficulties and uncertainty, the unassailability of the human spirit and the human being’s capacity to conjure up tremendous fun and joy out of seemingly nothing.  With such framed in nature’s beauty, one regains if only at these moments of play faith in humankind and hope for the world.

Art, People, Politics Economics Society

Before The Dawn: An Artist’ Journey into Afghanistan

Art serves as a medium to express aspects of life that we can’t fully put forth in words.  Because art essentially seeks the beauty in things, it renders palatable what otherwise are difficult realities.  And because it serves as a screen through which we could observe from afar in the physical or psychological sense difficult subjects, it offers a safe space in which to jump start discussions of these, which is exactly the objective of art:  To bring things into light, toward a fresh perspective of things.

Humor, People, Politics Economics Society

…and scenting

In a previous article, I mentioned about women and leg shaving a ritual that appears to be sustained by the female’s preconceived idea of the male’s expectation that certain surfaces of the female body should be without hair in contrast to the I-don’t-care-if-you-have-hair attitude among men who are in relationships with other men.

In this post, we’ll do smell.  Does smell matter in a relationship?  The actress Jacqueline Bisset has just the response to that:

I could never sleep with someone who didn’t smell right. For me, smell is intoxicating. It’s an animal thing and very, very dangerous.
What’s the ideal odour? I can’t possibly sum it up. Not like perfume, but clean, for sure – I’m not into smelly armpits.
She smiles and sips her peach juice.
When she shares such theories with male friends, she says, they tend to tell her smell doesn’t share the same potency for them.
What? You’re nuts! I find that really hard to believe.
Jacqueline, you’re wrong – men don’t care about that.
Her eyes pop in shock at the memory.

Jacqueline Bisset:  Older women continue to want sex but men don’t want to sleep with them’, The Guardian

Apparently, it does.

I remember having a conversation about smell with a former colleague who was based at our regional office in Bangkok.  When she wasn’t at the office designing and testing IT programs for the organization, she was out visiting program offices in the region training local staff and providing support.  She was sometimes at our international headquarters as well.  Such travels afforded her frequent interaction with people of diverse race and cultures.

During a snack break, she and I initially talked about what people at the office usually talk about when they’re away from their desks — the day’s scoop.  Perhaps we soon realized such was irrelevant to us because then we segued to what men and women smell to each other.

She was quite knowledgeable about the matter and I remember her saying that according to foreigners particularly Westerners Filipinos give off a distinct smell…like, a fish’.  I laughed.  Seriously? I asked her. She said that yes it is. Then two colleagues who were sharing the table with us and have apparently heard our talk pounced in. They had some things to say on the matter of smell too.

What did Ms. Jacqueline Bisset say?  Smell is an “animal thing” and “very, very dangerous” as I found out especially when dissected on the dining table.

Humor, Movies, People, Politics Economics Society

Making coffee, shaving legs

I heard it first from Barbara Stanwyck‘s character, a formidable widow in the movie The Thorn Birds.  Somebody brave enough from among her visiting long lost relatives asked her why she hasn’t remarried.  I can’t recall her exact lines but it went something like,

And what? Spend my time making and serving a man coffee again? No thank you. I rather love this freedom too much.

I had a good laugh at that.

The second time, the words were spoken by although she wasn’t ascribing to father. She was telling me about her friend who she hadn’t seen for a long time and unexpectedly ran into recently downtown. Mother learned that her friend is now retired and recently widowed.

“You’re not thinking of remarrying?” Mother asked her.

The friend replied, “and spend the time making coffee again?  No!  I’m rather enjoying my time alone besides I’d like to travel.”

I laughed so hard I nearly dropped the plate I was washing.

I recalled Sarah Silverman‘s character in the movie Take This Waltz who brings home the message about why women who’ve left or freed of their long term relationships react the way they do.

She and her friends were taking a shower after their pool aerobics abruptly ended.  They were having into a rather deep conversation about the men in their lives. At one point Silverman’s character moved to shave her legs.  While doing so, she wonders loudly why she’s even doing it. She replies to her own question, saying she does it for James her husband of 10 years.

“Although,” she adds, “I don’t think James would’ve noticed if I didn’t.”

One of them sighed, “married life…”.

Silverman’s musing about her leg shaving routine sent my thoughts to relationships between men.  The partners don’t shave their legs, or at least that’s what I know.  There’s no pressure to do so. Still they continue to desire each other.  Hair is irrelevant to their desire and love.

So how is it that in “straight” relationships, desire and love are somehow dependent on hair free or smooth legs?

And is it true what Silverman’s character said– that her husband of 10 years wouldn’t notice if she has hair on her legs?  Who’s the woman willing to find out?

Regardless, women’s legs are incredibly resilient– what with 10 years and more of shaving?

People, Politics Economics Society, Travel

Power walking, NGO style


The image reminds me of days, the years I spent in the field, facilitating development for communities.  My look though was tomboy fare: cropped hair, jeans, cargo pants, tee shirts or long-sleeved plaid shirts (defense against sunburn, mosquitoes, and the like), sweaters, and sneakers.  A snack-laden backpack to go with.  Maybe a cap on hot days, but no umbrella, ever.  To protect my face, I brought along newspaper instead which was less conspicuous.  I still got sunburned though, through the years, and have never gotten my pre-development work color back.

The rule in the field is, blend in with the people and your surroundings.  But once, I wore heels the day I was introduced to local partners in my new area.  On entering the room, I saw folks gathered inside trying hard not to show that they were giving me a once-over.  I caught one of them – who turned out to be my local counterpart – raising her brows ever so slightly.  I was prepared to deliver a speech in defense of heels and individuality, but I realized nobody actually openly commented on my heels.

I usually go around the village along with a resident-volunteer or a village official. The local government insisted because, well, for one, the place isn’t exactly snake-free, literally and figuratively speaking.

If I were to add up the miles I walked, I would’ve probably already traversed half the map. In CAR, with villages spread out across mountainous terrain, walking was the only way to reach them. In the Metro, if only EDSA was walkable, I could walk from Cubao to Makati City.

Walking was one of the things I missed when I went to work at headquarters.  But it was good that company policy required HQ staff especially in Program to go on field a certain percentage of the time yearly.  But then when HQ staff visited the field offices we’re brought around in the company car and field personnel in charge of our itinerary preferred to bring us to areas accessible by car which to a former field worker is no fun.  HQ staff were practically delivered door to door.  It made sense though because as outsiders we weren’t very familiar with the areas and no sensible field staff would expose higher-ups to risks. Nonetheless, being in research meant I had more leeway to go around the areas on foot and local transportation and when necessary spend nights there.

These days, as an independent contractor, I could’ve supervise the work from the comfort of my private space from afar but I prefer not to. I still like walking around, like I did when I was much younger. I don’t think I’ll let go of that. To be able to experience the local landscape and listen to locals talk about their lives are for me a gift which I’m open and grateful to receive.

Poems and Quotes, Politics Economics Society
via parkavenueprincess

I find that as one grows in emotional maturity, one is better able to clearly distinguish a feeling from another.  And then again what is often spoken to people about one’s feelings is that which is acceptable – to society, one’s community, family, circle of friends, workplace, etc.  So I understand why increasingly people have only their therapists and medical doctors – whom they pay for that service – to tell the truth to without the fear of judgment and discrimination; which is, yes, sad and defeats every human being’s desire and struggle to become authentic.