Full potential

Belo thermage korina sanchez-roxas

In the development community, child development vision statements typically close with the phrase develop children to their full potential. I would like to emphasize here full potential; because that’s apparently what Ms. Korina Sanchez-Roxas has to an extent achieved with, well, the help of Belo Thermage.

But, beyond the treatment the message in there for me is that our goal in life is to work toward the realization of our full potential which won’t happen when we live our lives according to what others wish or think them to be.

Ms. Korina Sanchez, for example, as a long time broadcaster was shaped into the image the broadcast company thought best for her. As Mrs. Roxas however it seems she has relatively more say in further developing herself. It’s not that conforming to company rules was bad, it was doing that that she became a household face and name; it’s that attainment of full potential is a lifelong process. And I think for the radiant fifty-something Belo Thermage model her new physical self indicates an inner self that’s more confident and ready to fully embrace life. That inspires.


All in the cards

So is it really any wonder that you choose the paths seldom taken? It was all in the cards, the house of cards, the condemned tenements of cards in which you grew up. And now, now that all has fluttered down to the ground, upset by the swinging pendulum of a wrecking ball which may be only the brass counterweight of a grandfather clock, now that all the bricks and latthe and plaster and cards have fallen and burned along with the trash and pretzels, now that the ash has blown away, you can finally see. The smoke has cleared and there is room now for other dreams. Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk.

And so time passes, passes by, passes over, passes away and through and pass the butter, please. Sometimes time passes by so fast…you can’t even see those seconds make their little streaks of reentry into your heart.

– Excerpt from Trainsong by Jan Kerouac

Woman looking out the window

A theory about heat

Couple in bed sleeping

The Global South, because of poverty, gaping disparities, corruption, overpopulation, continues to be the object of international development. This post explores a bit about overpopulation. My recent observations and experience tell me it might have something to do with the heat. As in the tropical climate. How so?

I’m from a mountain city where annual temperature averages a relatively cool 26 Celsius although at this time of year it could dip to five Celsius or even lower. In other words, I’m quite sensitive to temperature changes. Where I relocated at least temporarily, the lowlands, is hot like the rest of the country. Early mornings since December are cooler but as the day progresses the temperature also rises reaching it’s peak at noon to three o’clock in the afternoon. In these hours one can go and stand on open ground and catch fire from just the sun. The indoors are not spared. Heat bouncing off warmed walls makes you sluggish which makes work and movement akin to swimming in a thick current of slush. It’s why lowland folks do siesta. I don’t nap hence I could be found maybe by the outhouse even doing the laundry, anything to resist inactivity caused by the heat.

The outhouse opens to a serene scenery of bright green field of corn now nearing harvest. The other day, I watched my uncle and his son irrigate the field. “Where do they get the water?” I asked my cousin’s partner. “They’ve got a well over there,” she said. “How do they water the field from just a well?” I asked. I was imagining them going through the rows of corn with, like, a pail of water. Ridiculous even to my mind, and of course it was. Padanum is pumping water from the well with the use of a machine and letting the water spread out, irrigate, the entire field. Apparently that took up an entire day. These “distractions” take my focus off my body’s reaction to the heat, which is, it constantly throbs everywhere. Imagine your body post-coitus. In the right mood and with the right stimulation, it’d take little to light you up again as you’ve already been primed in the right places. It’s like that.

Do other folks here feel this way as a result of what the heat – the climate – does to their moods and bodies? Is this, along with the tropical lifestyle that includes siestas, the trigger for a heightened mood toward coupling?

Whereas in the cool mountain city (and airconditioned offices and establishments in the country’s urban/metro regions), since my body isn’t battling with and weighed down by heat and it’s effects it’s freed up to do more economically-productive work ie. toward creative and innovative thoughts and products. Toward invention. Toward competition. Toward fueling the rat race.

Northern countries are, for a start, climatologically favored for development.

A theory.


​I am looking at my toes. In my sandals. Where I sit by an ancient redwood tree. To keep the chainsaw from cutting it down. And my toes tell me the story of the redwood. And about surviving.


Rituals are crucial to survival, I learned a long time ago which I’m again learning about presently. One of mine, these days, is my daily morning bath or shower. You might say it’s inconsequential but there was a time, when I was younger and truly depressed, that I didn’t have the volition or desire to get up from bed. I’m past that state thank God although, perhaps, besides God, there are, now, also my significant others – my kids – to live and be responsible for. So, when recently life suddenly went off course, I feel and see depression hovering on the edges, on some days even venturing across, threatening, in which time, if only to scare it away, I jump up, into the shower, to do chores, basically, repetitious work (routines) consistently.

Shower time which I allot a full half is my only me time for the entire day. I focus on the smell of my hair, my body, my physical self, my personal hygiene. To reconnect with my self after a night fraught with worries and before another long day ahead. These things I have control of. 

Control. That’s it. These little seemingly staid stuff – shower, chores – are aspects of our existence that remain constant that we have some degree of control over even when life has spun out of our control. It’s why they’re restorative ie. they give us, still, somehow, a sense of balance, significance, reason, even if just a teeny weeny bit, why we go on day after day…until before we know it we’ve had regained back full control of our lives.

Beyond myself, I observe such rituals in my immediate environment. My uncle is kind of semi invalid due to brain surgery as a result of a massive stroke ten years ago. My aunt and him have this early morning ritual before she goes off to look after their shop in town. She bathes him, puts on him their wedding ring sometimes also the gold bracelet she got for him in Japan (said my uncle when I asked him), feeds him a warm snack, then his medications and vitamins. The same thing every day (since I’ve been with them) despite my uncle not fully understanding because of his mental state. What is it they say about enduring love being manifest in routine? (On the side, growing up, I didn’t have such a model as template for relating with others, and now as I’m seeing it up close, though late in the day, I finally realized the difference, nuances, and significance of routine in relationships.)

One evening while I was cooking dinner, my cousin’s partner walked into my aunt’s kitchen in order to get frozen food from the fridge (they share it with my aunt) as she was also going to cook dinner with my cousin. My aunt who had just finished washing clothes came into the room as well. She looked at her daughter-in-law and said (in the vernacular), “you look like a Donya, Donya Buding. What’s with all those jewelry?” To which the daughter-in-law said, “Daggy (my cousin) likes that I wear them. I don’t know what’s with him but he won’t let me take them off.” To which my aunt said, “Unay en! You know, at the end of the day, you’re the one who will decide because you’re the one wearing them!” To which the daughter-in-law said, “Besides, I cannot put them on by myself after I’ve showered.” At this point I let out a peal of laughter which effectively momentarily stopped their strange repartee. In my head was the image of my cousin morphing into Fifty Shades darker— my cousin!?! Him as Grey tickled. So, he’s why my cousin’s partner is always in jewelry? I’m often left with her at my aunt’s and I too have wondered but daren’t asked about her use of jewelry even at breakfast. It’s all about the couple’s ritual, then. Haha!

I guess it’s when life throws you lemons, adapt to a life-changing ritual in return. Things will somehow if not sooner then later find their way back to the loop. We hope.

In 2018

via The National Post

THREE-year window?! That’s according to predictions for my sun sign in the new year. Still, oh god. Or, should I instead say thank god?

This year is indeed ending with closures. Significant ones. Ones I’m forced to own and do. My only regret is I should’ve done them much earlier…when I was younger. 

In the new year, I want to and will start giving chance for the right people and things to catch me.

What tennis can teach us

On one of my early morning walks, I discovered a public park where I could in relative peace and comfort write or read up on things I’ve missed. Then I would head home afterward to resume household chores. That day, in fact, a week’s worth of laundry was impatiently waiting for me.

One morning I left my discovered corner by another route and came to a tennis court. Words on the wall read it’s home to the town’s tennis club. The following day, I took the same route and saw members playing. I dallied awhile to watch. Watching, I thought that I could, if I was in the mood, otherwise, politeness urges me to go and say hi. But, I wasn’t in the mood for sociable.

I played tennis on my senior year in high school with my then best friend, a table tennis player, during breaks from our volleyball practice. Also because our coach who encouraged us to take an alternative sport was also coaching the tennis team. But tennis wasn’t for me. I eventually took up short distance running as my second sport.

So anyway I enjoyed watching the morning game put on by the club members.  A pleasant and helpful distraction. I even though that maybe it wasn’t too late to do tennis. In any case, player or not, did we know tennis has got quite a few parallel life lessons to teach?

Life lessons in tennis

Driveway of my dreams

Treelined driveway

The other day, when I ventured out and really saw my surroundings, I glimpsed a “lot for sale” signage on a gate along the highway not far from the place I’ve been staying. The gate opens eastward to a bounded driveway lined on either side with mature mahogany trees. The lot, about 2,000 sq.m., opens up to farmland as far as the eyes can see. Beyond and toward the left are the provincial hills. To the right is the Cordillera mountain range and conspicuous atop one of it’s peak are the radars (and facing these on the other side would be, I know, Loakan airport…ha!). The incredibly beautiful sight stuck to my mind making me forget for a while troubles I’ve been preoccupied with lately. I suddenly remembered my dream of retiring to a place, far from the madding crowd, in the countryside. That lot is an incredible piece of property. And I desire it.

Have I just found my “retirement home’? If it is, then it would truly be a return “home” the place of my origin and happy childhood memories; funny that’d be then because I had set my sight on far-away and out-of-reach places. If so, I’d like to believe my grandparents have finally gotten wind of their first grandchild’s repetitious outbursts.

On the search for home

Leaving home

My friend, Hani Al- Moliya, a young refugee from Syria who fled clutching his high school diploma and who is now studying in Canada said: Home is a place where I can find myself.

There are hundreds of ways of approaching the idea of home. But a lot of our thinking about home comes back to the idea of belonging. That place might be a country, or it might be a specific town, or a particular street, or a building on that street — even a room in that building. It might be a person or people — family or parents. Or it might be the magic mixture of people and place.

So if, at last, I was to come to some sort of definition of “home”, I would offer you this: Home is a place of compassionate community. It is a place where the act of compassion benefits the receiver but also enriches the giver.

The Search for Home in Times of War and Peace, Melissa Fleming, UNHCR

Today, a Sunday, I think I now understand why God had to become human. I think it’s also to impart credibility to the words “I, God, understand”. For, in the limited confines of the human mind, only those who’ve experienced, say, human pain and suffering, truly understand those undergoing the same and so are able to respond appropriately to others. God-made-man understands the human situation. Seeking Him, the image that comes to my mind is Him in the dark Garden of Gethsemane sweating blood in anticipation of what was to come. Still, He prayed for strength, endurance, and faithfulness to tbat mysterious “home” as symbolized in the manger and it’s environs where this world first saw Him and the cross on which His earthly life ended. I earnestly pray today for the same strength, endurance, and faithfulness.

Dahil sa ‘yo

When I saw my children dancing to this song with their cousins, I knew everything will be alright. It was after dinner, after I’d done the dishes, and gone to our room to decompress for the day. My aunt came into the room and called me “come, look! Your kids are dancing.” I immediately went out. Their aunt, my cousin, was playing Inigo Pascual’s music video on her iPhone, the music magnified on speakers via bluetooth. She was leading the children in the dance. I joined them a bit before recording a segment of their performance. The dance was a first– my children dancing with others for fun. It renewed my resolve.

​Dahil sa ‘yo ako’y matapang

Dahil sa ‘yo ako’y lalaban


World Tsunami Awareness Day
via unisdr

That morning I got to see a big boat built, I also got floored by villagers’, now in their sixties, incredible accounts of survival during the tsunami in 1976. 

A few minutes after midnight on 17 August 1976, a violent earthquake (magnitude 8.2) originating beneath Moro Gulf spawned a tsunami that affected 700 km of coastline bordering Moro Gulf. Residents in those areas experienced what seemed to be the longest thirty minutes of their lives.

Source: The 1976 August 16, Mindanao, Philippine Earthquake–evidence for a subduction zone south of Mindanao, Stewart and Cohn, California Institute of Technology

…common observation was a loud roaring that preceded the arrival of the waves, a loud sound that kept getting closer… While it is clear that the sound was coming from the incoming waves, it was not clear what was specifically causing the sound.

“It seemed like the sea was moaning. It was frightening, but we didn’t know why until it was too late,” recalled one woman.

Estimates of wave heights had to be based on qualitative descriptions of the waves being as tall as a coconut tree, a two storey house, twice a man’s height, etc. or had to be deduced from photographs of damaged structures.

“Then we saw this wave…it came up way above our house,” one villager said.

The sequence of events then was as follows. A shock violent enough to awaken coastal residents and make standing or walking difficult. A strong, approaching sound different from familiar sea sounds, a frightening sound variedly described as cascading rain, rumbling of many trucks, etc. Arrival of waves within minutes, preceded by an unusually deep recession of the sea. Two or three waves following the first.

A description of the waves would be incomplete without the listing of their effects… A bore rushing up a river in Pagadian damaged a bridge… Inland fishponds were either flooded or emptied of water. Partially concrete houses, schools, public building, factories, etc. were reduced to a few concrete slabs, wooden stumps, and twisted steel… Against such fury what chance did frail makeshift homes have?

Deaths were caused by drowning. With the collapse of their homes around midnight, the victims found themselves in dark, turbulent waters. Those who survived managed to do so because their grip on something firm prevented their being swept out to the open seas… One father had clung to a tree and his children in turn clung to him. When the waved receded, he was all alone. This was a tale that was repeated many times over. While swimming may be as natural as breathing to sea dwellers, in Pagadian the tsunami had churned the waters and slum sediments into a batter of mud that choked victims.

“Just seconds before the wave slammed toward land, my mother realized it was a tidal wave and shouted at us to hold onto anything firm,” said another woman who was a teenager back then. She recalled holding to a tree. She and her family were among the lucky ones who went under the waters of the tsunami and survived with only cuts and bruises. Their house, like the others on the coast, which was a typical hut put up by artisanal fisherfolks was destroyed though and their belongings taken by the sea.

They remembered the first wave of the tsunami going inland as far as the present-day main road which if I were to walk to it from the beach on my normal pace would take me around forty-five minutes. “That far. Wow,” said the head of my host organization. They too didn’t know about this story. After the meeting, we stopped by the intersection to the main road to see the marker. The 1976 event, according to reports, left 80,000 dead or missing, 10,000 injured, and 90,000 homeless. The first ever recorded earthquake in the area was in 1897, and thereafter with roughly 16 year interval up to 1976. 

The hairs on my arms stood on ends. If I were to put on a special pair of looking glasses, like night vision goggles, how many dead people roaming would I see in our midst? Or, are they like Mad Hatter and his friends, after playing a joke on Time, locked in a forever tea time? forever tsunami?

The next day in the adjoining village, a similar story was recounted, although said event happened much recently. Apparently typhoon Sendong/Washi in 2011 had also spawned a tsunami that threw native boats inland as far as onto the hills on the village border, destroyed the village water system, rice fields, and fishponds. It took a couple of days for sea water to recede. At the time, however, much thanks to broadcast media, the nation was riveted to Cagayan de Oro where it seemed the only place in Mindanao adversely affected by the storm. It was only after three days that aid, the first and last, came to the village. 

“So what did you do in those three days?” I asked.

“Nagtulungan kami,” they said. “Kung anong meron ang bawat isa. Bigas, rootcrops, biscuits. Pinagamit sa tao ang may-ari ng tubig ang kanilang bombahan.”

UN Volunteers just recently launched it’s #VolunteersActFirstHereEverywhere campaign in time for the International Day of Volunteers on December 5. According to the campaign, in the time government and other agencies are getting their acts together, volunteers, within or outside the village or community, are often, if not always, the first ones to respond in times of crisis and emergencies. A neighbor sharing food as what happened in that isolated village falls within the UNV definition of volunteer. While there’s no exact Filipino native word for volunteer which is a relatively modern introduction in the country bayanihan would be it’s nearest equivalent.

Volunteers and volunteerism is the reason communities make it through the crucial period in times of crises until outside help gets through. Neighbors helping neighbors, with food, first aid in the form of indigenous knowledge, water ration from a privately-owned source, tools to clear away debris, etc. What’s amazing is that the instinct to preserve life doesn’t stop with oneself and kin but extends to members of the community.

Duty-bearers nonetheless are accountable and responsible in the continuing education of tsunami-prone communities. I couldn’t help comment during my visit on the placement of the tsunami warning board. It says a lot about the residents’ knowledge hence attitude toward the hazard relative to their villages: the concern is put on the back burner.

Tsunami warning sign board ©thecolorofred

Late last month, DSWD reported on Big Waves due to ITCZ and LPA in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi that affected seven villages and displacement of hundreds. How big were the big waves wasn’t in the report, a crucial information needed by responders in order to act appropriately. Let’s tell things as they are especially with natural disasters.

Next, have a plan of risk reduction measures. Then, fund the plan. Localities usually have plans that mostly remain plans accumulating dust and molds on shelves simply because they’re not funded. In this age of crowd-funding and bitcoins, localities need to go beyond the IRA mindset into that of the successful salesman or woman and “sell” the plans to donors and investors out there. Tailor fit the sell. If the plan is for an early warning system ie. communication equipment, monitoring tools like drones, and such then sell the plan to people or companies who are into funding that sort of schemes. If the plan is to relocate families on protected coastlines then do some research about it and recommend policy changes to convince land managers and owners with. The bottomline is, that tsunami-warning sign board will not in itself reduce the risks. Community education will. A well-backed plan will. Community action will. 

Quoted texts, source: Moro Gulf Tsunami of 17 August 1976, Badillo, Victor L., S.J. & Astilla, Zinnia C., 1978, Manila Observatory

These shores

Girl and fishing boatI was on my last leg of community research, down to just two villages. We had begun the countdown earlier as a fun way to keep track of our increasingly blurred days as well as to keep our energy levels up. On this day after having set up a makeshift meeting place – at the beach – and while waiting for every one of the discussion participants to arrive I went off to the shore for a walk. It was one of those picturesque summer mornings by the sea with a bit of kindly wind. 

I haven’t gone far when I heard construction sounds from a coven of trees and turning I made out a boat being built. A huge boat. The kind that’s taken far out to sea. I’ve seen small boats built, bancas, but not the big ones. I got very excited. I felt like a child who’d glimpsed a giant gingerbread house and coveted it and caused a fit if withheld. But, much as I wanted I couldn’t just go to it on my own. There was in these villages, still, the unwritten rule of Christians not “crossing the border” to the Muslims side and vice versa. There’s a protocol to follow if either side wants to talk or visit the other. I wasn’t sure whose side that coven of trees was on. But, fine. I’m too smart to risk a bullet flying in from nowhere to my precious leg. I immediately walked back and sought out the head of my host organization. I asked if he could accompany me to the construction site. He laughed and then obliged.

I think I flew rather than walked to the site and so reached it way ahead of my companion. “Hello,” I said by way of general greeting to the men. They were migrante (Visayas), meaning, they were, according to their weird system of identification, on this side. I projected my warmest of smiles. Peace! The man nearest me, who’d looked surprised at my sudden and albeit unexpected appearance – a midget next to the hull – paused from sanding the boat. “Hello,” he said back. Then his friendly eyes averted to my companion who was now at my side. The head of my host organization in his usual affable manner greeted the men in the Bisaya dialect. The usual pleasantries ensued. Then I whispered to him to ask things about the boat– the wood, size, how do they ever make it float, is boat building their trade, how long have they been building boats, etcetera.

By the time my companion and I walked back, my curiosity satiated, I looked like a Christmas tree brightly lit from within. It felt like I’d just gotten back from a time travel only that this was real or remnants of when these parts were known in the region for their maritime prowess. Like, did we know that there was the Kingdom of Uranen peopled by the Iranun, one of the Moro tribes, who were primarily seafarers?

The ‘Filipino nation’ is comprised of distinct ethnic and cultural groups each one having contributed toward the formation of the whole. But the Moro people hindi sila nabanggit o napagusapan nang husto in Philippine history books and as a result wala sila ngayon sa ating collective consciousness. These “lost” people are the missing link in the story of Filipino nationhood. Their story is what’s missing in the pages of Philippine history. Same for the many other “cultural minorities” in the country. Their stories, if there are, like those of the Igorots of the Cordilleras, are told only in passing (like Lapu Lapu’s) and belatedly outside of Philippine history books  

Hence the misconceptions about these people. The Maranaos, for example, whose pride or maratabat is generally perceived by others as a negative trait. Where or how did that perception come about? Because is there ever a self-respecting person without pride? Also, think, what if it’s the British royal family that were made irrelevant by the British public how would the family members feel? What they’d feel is the same for the Moro royal houses or families who once upon a time in this Islands were independent rulers of kingdoms.

Maratabat then wells up from something much deeper and far back, to centuries of debasement, having been betrayed, ignored, effaced, forgotten. What sort of people are formed from such experiences? one wonders. Imagine the married couple who woke up one morning and fought over a tube of toothpaste that one of them has forgotten to cap the night before, with the fight ending in divorce. Was it about the toothpaste? Obviously not. The toothpaste was just the opening, the final crack from which years of unresolved issues and repression exploded in one violent burst.

We need to re-engineer the way we narrate about the Filipino nation; who make up the Filipino nation; whose voice gets heard; whose story is told.