Sunday, January 25, 2004

Words for the Week Special Part II

Europeans traditionally view their American cousins as clumsy, late-blooming members of a society just beginning to play at being cultured: gentle readers will note the general snootiness of the French and English towards "The Yank." After all, they're older, done with colonies and can claim direct ancestry from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilizations. Then there's language too. There's hardly an Englishman who doesn't speak more than a smattering of at least one other European language.

Perhaps it is partly a form of reverse snobbery that Americans are often unwilling (if not unable) to learn another language. Perhaps it's a function of geography as well-- Unless you live on the coast, the nearest states in all the four directions around you are bound to be American. As you're not likely to be interacting with a lost Frenchman anytime soon except to maybe give him the finger (for France's stand on Iraq) there really is no impetus to learn French.

Too bad for us, the world is a rapidly shrinking place. America's importance as democratic experiment, economic/military power and cultural salad bowl isn't about to diminish any time soon. Like it or not-- when we hire ourselves out to the local call centers, write academic papers, read broadsheets with foreign commentary, apply for a job overseas as a nurse, when we attempt to impress a girl from Cebu or Paranaque, or even if we're trying to understand the dialogue in Smallville or The Lord of the Rings --we are, to use the locally flavored speech, "istak wid istadeeying Een-gliss."

The English We Barely Know
What the average practitioner of English in these parts does not know is that English and French are closer than they look or sound. Linguists, cunning or otherwise (sorry, couldn't resist) and philologists lump English and French under "Germanic Languages." The original speakers of proto-English had migrated from the lands that would one day be France and Germany, around AD 400, give or take a few years. (Prior to this, they'd come from Scandinavia) The place they'd migrated into (read: invaded) just happened to include whole chunks of Britain, which the Romans could not afford to defend as the Empire was sinking under the weight of its internal and external problems. These speakers of proto-English were riven along tribal lines--some of them may even be familiar to avid fans of medieval romance movies: the Angles, the Jutes, the Saxons.

Angles... Anglish, Angle-land... English, England

Much of the English language's history is tied to the development of England itself. While it is interesting-- royalty, inbreeding, scheming clergy-- it's simply too bloody long to relate without me suffering from an incredible case carpal tunnel syndrome. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to have to make a lot of deletions and present you with a slapdash summary.

English did not directly descend from Latin or Greek, even if it appropriated words from those languages with a shameless disregard for intellectual property akin to our local Komiks industry. (Indeed one of the strength of English is this shameless borrowing.) Our Jutes and Frisians, Angles and Saxons were almost at constant war with the Celts and with each other. Often, they jockeyed for military and cultural supremacy. These struggles allowed for borrowings from different dialects spoken within our set of warring groups and even from other languages. When the dust settled circa 800 AD, the Anglo-Saxons were dominant and their English was standard.

The Normans (another Germanic bunch) would later invade, bringing with them their own rulers and a new language (Norman-French). By 1300 AD or thereabouts, the upper classes had adopted English again (though not without the inevitable borrowings). By this time, London was the capital, and its form of English was standard. The 1500's (Renaissance) revived an interest in all things Classical, and was consequently a key period, introducing --what else?--more borrowed words from Greek and Latin. Modern English, thanks to the printing press, took root at about this time, with the first English dictionary being published in 1604.

New words were concocted and added to the English lexicon during to the Industrial Revolution: new things were being invented, new ideas were being propagated and somebody had to give them names-- like "protein, nuclear and vaccine" . The British Empire also had a foothold in Africa, India, Asia and the Americas, allowing for the dissemination of English to more people than... than I can count. English as we know it today took shape at about this time.

Next: Grammar
A Sri Lankan grad student at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos once complained that learning English was easy... if the rules didn't change so much over so short a period of time. We'll tackle his complaint with the next installment of this special section.

Some Related Words

language n. a systematic means of communicating by using agreed-upon sounds or symbols

dialect n. the language of a particular district, class, or group of persons. It includes the sounds, spelling, grammar, and diction employed by a specific people as distinguished from other persons either geographically or socially

jargon n. the technical language of an occupation or group

pidgin n. an artificial language used for trade between speakers of different languages

grammar n. the study of language in terms of regular patterns relating to the functions and relationships of words in a sentence, including the level of discourse and the pronunciation and meaning of individual words

syntax n. the way in which linguistic elements (words and phrases) are arranged to form grammatical structure

idiom n. an expression, in the native speaker's language, whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up. Examples follow: "get laid" = "get lucky," which both mean "get to have sex"; or "kick the bucket" = "buy the farm," which both mean "to die."

lexicon n. a language user's working knowledge of words

(to be conculded...)
Goodbye to Hair

Call me a worshipper of Mammon. Today's the day these locks come off. And if I find myself still jobless or horribly inconvenienced there will be hell to pay.
Update: the Eternal Jobhunt

It's like my "Hunt for Miss Universe/Darwinian Selection" tactic for getting yourself a girlfriend. The paradigm is beauty contest; the prize is me.

You start out with a multitude of prospects, narrow the list down to a manageable size and then begin the dating, er, application process. You begin making your presence felt depending on who's convenient, adding a little star next to the prospect's name if things go well; rejection being regarded as trivial at this stage (Yes, I kept a black book). The list gets shorter as the stars accumulate on some women; as others drop out of the contest due to the exigencies of living. You wound up with semi-finalists (usually five out of the original twenty four) and then three finalists, one of which you crowned My Miss Universe after a gruelling final selection process. (Happily the other classic rule applies here too-- "Should Miss Universe, for any reason, be unable to perform her duties, the first runner up will wear the crown!").

PHILPOST has dropped out of the contest.

Reason-- I cannot wait another 84 days so I can take another pre-qualifying exam and then make another application for a position I'm supposed to have gotten in the first place. Apparently the whole set of applicants was not properly told about the rules of PHILPOST's employment game.

1. You pass the exam (at 87% and above) and interview, you're eligible for training
2. You will be paid P240 for every day you spend at the PHILPOST Training Center in Quezon City
3. We will deduct your training fee from the P240 we will pay you per day
4. Your training will last for 90 days, or until you quit, whichever comes first
5. If you quit, we will draw from our long waitlist, a suitable candidate (also an 87%+ scorer) who will take your place in the next training cycle
6. You make it through training, you will take another exam
7. You pass that exam, you must make an application AGAIN for the position you want

I'd love to have my weekends free. I'd love to deliver the mail at 5:00 in the morning , finish at 2:00 p.m. then go home and enjoy my painting despite the sucky and heavily taxed salary. I'd love to be with the friends I've made at the Postal Training Center.

But this is like... like courting Lilith.

I've learned my lesson. I am not gonna cut my hair for these guys, much less do cartwheels for them and shout "Yesyesyes!!!" when they give me orders. Not that these guys aren't nice, and not that these guys don't want me or I don't want them. In fact I'm getting the heebie-jeebies about working for _______. But the die is already cast: I want my cash. And I want it now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Friendster Testimonials-- I am Dexter's Soul

"Miai is SUPPA GREAT... " (huhh?)
"...there's a story behind that and it's interesting... that's Kirk..."
"I was there when _____ first came out of the closet. He's a great friend..."

These things are ultimately worthless as accurate graphs of a person's spirit.
They do exist, however, to defuse the reader's native fear of The Other. In a service like Friendster, they are a must. The effect is that (ideally) you can't help but want to meet these people, especially when their presentable pictures are associated with the positive images conjured up by those descriptions. (Indeed, this is a crude illustration of how unethical practitioners of neurolinguistic programming get people to hop into bed with them.)

That said, let's put up some testimonials for my hypothetical Friendster account.

She is a wonderful girl. Charming and full of poise. A go-getter with a goal she sticks to. She wastes no time at work, in courtship, and even in the termination of relationships she no longer finds viable. She is the personification of sweetness, a vision of Eden before the Fall.

Reed-thin, but an effective artist in a peer group that groans under the weight of so many. A good ear; a student of human nature. Fun loving. Deep. Mystical. Meet him. Please.

Fiendster Testimonials-- I am Dexter's Spleen

When I met her in '96, I just wanted to protect her from her lascivious male acquaintances. Fayth and Wadi would later tell me otherwise, noting that I was "smitten" (Fayth's word). And that I wanted something "more than friendship" (Wadi's words). When I finally did give in to my growing one-sided cathexis to Lilith, in the face of society's collective better judgement, I got egg in my face.

Salient facts for prospective friends, dates and activity partners:
1. This woman turns heads.
2. She knows it.
3. This girl's been around.
4. She knows it.
5. You hurt her, I will kill you.
6. She knows it too.

When I first met Elf, I was nearly overcome with a fear so powerful, it killed all thought and turned my knees to water. Not that I was afraid of him. I was a practitioner of at least one martial art from China, India and Japan... Okay, I was a lousy practitioner, but I knew enough to put away at least one attacker of my height and build. No, I wasn't afraid of him. I only feared only what he represented-- a living threat to my plans of closure. Lilith, it seems, gets around. When I saw her last, her arms were around Elf.

Truth to tell, I don't know Elf that much. But we did get to rake Lilith over the coals while sipping beers at Big Sky Mind and Mister Kebab's. Nice guy. Yeah, it's pretty safe to meet him.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Coming Soon to a Bodega Domain Near You

Bodega: Cubicle!
Show the best of Big Bodega to an audience of conservative friends without losing your friends' respect! This is the Big Bodega without the useless ranting! Missed out on that insightful article? You can find it in Cubicle. Cubicle is the repository of censor-friendly commentary by Dexter Lira.

Bodega: Cubicle! It's commentary without tears.

Friday, January 16, 2004

My English feature has hit some snags. It'll be a while before I can release it to my reading public. Not to worry, though: "soon" is a soothing, if ambiguous, word.

Entry from a Dead Man's Journal

To you who will find this after I am gone, I wish you peace.

That you hold this volume in your living hands is proof of my final death.

I write this so that someone will know of me, of my life, of what I am. Perhaps I write to gain some of the immortality that is the right of all men wishing to pass on a legacy, a history: a bloodless immortality, so to speak. I am laughing ruefully as I write; can there really be immortality without even the slightest connection to the blood? The living drink of Jesus to give life to the spirit. The dead drink of the living to quicken the flesh. The living mingle blood, begetting children, bequeathing them knowledge, stories, legacies.

I was born at a turning point of our history. Yes, our history. I refuse to place myself completely outside the human ken, despite my obviously altered state.

The colonial government had sentenced three priests to the garrote for treason. I knew nothing of the political implications. I only knew that two of the priests were family friends. One of them had baptized me.

I grew up as normal male children did. I was at times precocious, curious, disobedient, naughty, rebellious, pious, na�ve and worldly-wise. I was a young man, a farmer's son, working in a rich man's hacienda, and learning from his wife. He had a daughter; looking on her was my greatest mistake.

Teresa was pale-skinned, dark-haired, graceful and regal. That she was born into a family of local merchants of indigenous blood was considered a miracle; the friar had triumphantly proclaimed it. (I will leave you to ponder on the miraculous nature of her birth.)

I had dreams of finding love and becoming an artisan. Teresa fuelled the fires of both dreams. Those fires consumed me. She was both muse and meal ticket. I was not uncomely, and though she had a line of suitors, she was always kind to me; was it a sin to marry across borders of class for both love and convenience? We were destined for each other. Her suitors' families were only concerned with her money; her suitors for her flesh and her pedigree. I had written her many poems proclaiming my undying love, passed hand from hand to be left at the doors of her rooms, in places in the gardens where she walked, white grace bathed in sunlight. She had received them politely, displaying the requisite shock that was so in vogue with women of that time. But among her friends, she had laughed aloud at them.

As I said, I was na�ve.

Teresa left for Europe. When she returned, she was a vampire. No, not the psychic kind that populates your workplaces-- pitiful souls scrabbling for money or a higher social position. Teresa had returned as a vampire: yes, the bloodsucking kind.

You scoff; I don't quite blame you.

But think: I have lived here longer than you, and I have seen the things that retreat from the steady advance of the city.

The first thing Teresa did, upon her return, was to eat all her waiting suitors. She did something to her parents� made them fear her, made them pliant. That is the only reason I could think of that made them look the other way while she fed on her suitors, the farmers and the artisans living on hacienda grounds. And then she fed on me, and made me like her. I will swallow my manly pride and tell you that she did it only for sport: she was bored. I allowed her blood to touch my lips as I died, for even in death I was still in love with her.

The Lord knows I tried to contain her hunger, but she was willful, and would not be swayed. She had laughed and called me weak for feeding on rats, stray dogs and farm animals, rationing human blood like water during a famine. I told her that people she ate had relatives who would inquire after them; we could not feed on all of them. We would be found out, hunted like dogs, subjected to painful shaman-rituals and suffer a second, more permanent death. And what of the supernatural denizens from our own lower pantheons? These would not take kindly to competition.

We were drawing too much attention to ourselves. Already, the hacienda languished under an unnatural pall; the workers-- those she didn't eat-- were furtive, wan, pale. And they were deathly afraid of Teresa and her plaything. (They were afraid of me! I was one of them!)

When she ate the priest in a black parody of the Holy Communion, I knew the end was coming. It would come with torches, with bolos, bamboo stakes, incense, palm leaves and the longed-for, painful kiss of holy water. It would come with a frightened angry mob, a priest at its head.

I did not know that the end would come through me. Even as the hacienda was being razed by self-righteous clerics and ignorant peasants, Teresa was bent on sating her bottomless thirst. We had stolen away from the mansion-- the peasants were fool enough to launch their assault at night-- and secreted ourselves in a hovel in the middle of nowhere, about six villages away. I left her alone to reconnoiter. When I returned she was holding a sleeping child. A girl.

Our flight had� aroused her. She wanted food and she wanted me. She had acquired "merienda" from a neighboring village. There was no doubt that she had fed on the girl's parents. Even as I felt my own blood pooling in my loins, I realized that Teresa was totally bereft of humanity. I took her that night, with a passion born of sorrow, born of anger at the waste, at her utter disregard for life, for even the semblance of human propriety.

And there, on our bed of bamboo slats, I also took her life. It was our custom that we exchanged blood during coitus, each taking a turn at draining the other to near-torpor. I drank when she climaxed, and I did not stop. An hour before dawn, the beast Teresa was dead, for good.

The beast was dead and I had a child in my care.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

And So It Begins

I logged onto an egroup I belonged to. I was going to upload a few photos and look up my colleagues and friends. What greeted me was a potential public relations nightmare.

I had no idea that so many people could find me on the Web even if they weren't looking. The on-site software actually regurgitates, from some hidden database, links to other people (and yes, links to me), everytime a member loads up his "home" page. I'm big enough to see the advantages of this setup-- I'd lost contact with so many colleagues and friends over the years, and this feature allows me to hunt for them, or have them stumble into me.

I still think it's a bad idea though. The last thing I need is one group of colleagues confering with another group of colleagues. And raking me over the coals while they're at it. These kinds of interaction often lead to inappropriate and persistent questions about my lovelife and my character (or lack thereof). Everyone deserves a chance to build his or her life from the ashes of the old-- the bad calls, the burned bridges, the discarded sexual identity (as an extreme example)--especially after he or she has "paid the piper." This... this just ain't appropriate.

Maybe it's a fad; maybe it'll pass, like other fads before it. Maybe someone will remove the "link regurgitation" function and give me some peace of mind in the near future. Maybe I'll leave my egroup.

And maybe pigs will fly.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Honor: You are an honorable person who is firm with
his/her beliefs and treats others as you are
treated. People would consider you humble at
times and very respectful, and someone to
definitely respect.

Which Characteristic From the Samurai Code Matches You Best? (You may find out your best trait)
brought to you by Quizilla

Interesting. Some people would consider another set of characters to be my best trait...

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Wild Thang, Old Thaaang

Give society the finger and catch Philippine rock, er, icon Romeo Lee in one of his shows. He's old and decrepit and horizontally endowed but he's still as charismatic and as spunky as ever. He sings off-key sometimes, but his sessionists more than make up for it with polished instrumental virtuosity-- their setup times are still waaay below that of the newer, younger acts.

It's absurd, seeing a geriatric contemporary of the famous (and necrotising) Joey Pepe Smith, grabbing his crotch and flinging beer at the front row. But when he's up there, singing classic rock 'n' roll, you forget his age. Even how ridiculous he looks ceases to matter. He radiates a presence that is felt on multiple levels, feeding off and giving back the energy of his audience. He bothers to interact with his audience-- something the newer acts are often too timid to try.

Love him, hate him-- you decide. But see the old geezer first before he dies of a stroke.
Shut Out

It is said, Grasshopper, that success is the best revenge. Whoever said it forgot to mention that it's an uphill battle once you step outside the temple of the Established. You leave behind groups and social structures (rank, pecking order, rules, cliques) that protect themselves from unwanted change. They perpetuate themselves by allying with similar groups, sharing resources and manpower, in a kind of hybridization. He who leaves must fend for himself, in a world where the larger groups have a near-monopoly of the resources, goodwill and manpower one so sorely needs.

To counter this, one can change locations, markets and specializations-- possibly succeeding where the larger groups do not have a physical and metaphorical foothold. But by doing so, one admits that he cannot battle the bigger groups on their own turf. This does nothing for the cause of, ah, "retributive justice." Neither does it add to one's prestige nor the respect accorded to him. And that galls, especially if respect is the point of one's little quest.

But that is how this game is ultimately played, regardless of the setting. That the mountain is high does not mean Mohammed shouldn't climb it.
Bodega Bits

Goodbye to Family
The wedding anniversary party was a success. My aunt's evangelization efforts paid off, thanks be to God (mandatory to say that). My uncle, aunt and cousins have left for the 'States, carrying extra baggage-- pictures, videos, an Otso-Otso CD and great memories.

They'll be back in a few years.

Missed It
Last night I swung by the Music Museum in Greenhills to see Daydream Cycle perform. Those who know me will remember that DDC is one of two bands that I'm "chummy" with; the other's Ian's Where's Joe? I'd promised Bonsai (DDC's official fan support, and a poet friend of mine) that I'd finally make it to one of their playing venues.

Well, Ian need not feel bad about my going to a DDC gig before seeing his band play. The score is still tied at one gig attended per band. Y'see, Bonsai said 9pm, so I arrived at 8. Turns out DDC wound up playing sometime after 6. I'm not ticked off at Bonsai though. She's very busy and gigs do get crazy, schedule-wise.

There is always the next gig.

Medical Minutes
Done with most of my PHILPOST-mandated medical tests. Here's to hoping that they'll still wanna let me in.

Quality Time
The other night I was with Honey. We met at a Jollibee branch after working hours. From there we were to hop to the nearest moviehouse to watch--what else?-- The Return of the King. We did not expect a deluge of fans so numerous that tickets to the last full show were sold out. We vowed to try again after a couple of days; wait for the crowds to thin.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Dex Word for the Week

  • 1. v. to become absorbed in thought, to ruminate;
  • 2. n. any of the nine sister godesses associated with the Graces, in Greek mythology, and regarded as presiding over learning and creative arts;
  • 3. n. the personification of a guiding genius or principal source of inspiration;
  • 4. n. the creative spirit of a person;
  • 5. n. benign aspect of at least one personage in Dexterian literature responsible for poetry and the visual arts. Said to inspire love and awe in those who see her, she appears in many depictions as a young woman with "auburn hair" and "silver-framed eyes." She turns 26 today.

Happy birthday, Dear.

"You look like an addict."

Those were the first words out of the mouths of my aunt Glo and uncle Rene when they saw me (for the first time in years). I had had to bring Granny to see the doctor, at the insistence of my aunt, to Cardinal Santos Medical Center in Greenhills.

"You look like an addict" is a holdover from the Martial Law years, where Marcos's goons stopped busses, boarded them, rounded up the men with long hair and gave them impromptu haircuts. At least, those guys were lucky. The rest were branded as subversives, druggies, heathen counter-culture freaks, communists and lest we forget: drug addicts... As these years were formative in their early adulthood, I will forgo blaming my loved relatives for the misconception.

I did tell them point-blank that I've always looked like an "addict" to someone in authority, if by "addict" they meant someone who did not stay in the mean. When I was young, I slept late (I loved the moon and the stars like Tolkien's elves), drank a lot of coffee and talked about unconventional topics. Consequently, I had hollow cheekbones, a constantly tired demeanor and a body supported by bird bones. I had no social life, no physical sports inclinations, few friends, good grades in the sciences and literature. Girls were always incomprehensible creatures, but they did not burn the blood back then.

thin + tired + sportless + preoccupied +disinterest in girls = addict, or worse, gay.

Now that I'm practically thirty (and let's face it-- counting my age backwards is not gonna make this go away), I've filled out and fattened up. However, I'm still jobless, long-locked and a little androgynous, so therefore I must be an addict, or worse, gay.

I could have joked that they may actually drive me to drugs and gayness thanks to the incessant, if silent, labelling. But I figured that was a bad idea, as they would have died from a coronary or a stroke. I just smiled and assured them that the hair would go if PAGCOR finally makes up its collective corporate mind to hire me and pay me well. And I know exactly where to send my ebon locks...
Welcome Back to Batangas (Part II)

Flash back to 28 December 2003... The place, a small non-descript barangay nestled in the backwoods of Batangas City, close enough to Pallocan West to matter.

Today I observed the slaughter of goats and pigs. Their throats were slit amidst laughter and anticipation of the morrow's anniversary meal. The screams of the animals were pitiful.

One pig strenuously objected to being dinner, breaking free of human and rope restraints and charging the newly-made gazebo in which I slumbered, half-unaware, in peaceful fits. They caught (him?) her and dragged her (him?) back to the slaughter ring, gurgling, a steel knife embedded in its throat.

I do not take death well.

It's a truism that some death is necessary if some life is to continue. We must kill to eat, to live. Often the harm we inflict is unintentional yet as necessary as it is inexorable. Even the life-affirming Jainists submit to this: breathing itself constitutes irreperable harm to the organisms snagged by nasal cillia.

Perhaps children in the cities should be made to observe exactly what happens in a slaughterhouse, just so they know what it means to throw away unwanted meat.

"A cow died so that you can have a hamburger. It could have lived happily chewing grass, screwing, giving birth and lactating for humans and bovine young. It served a grisly but necessary purpose by its immolation, its translation into meat. Throw away that half-eaten burger and that cow would have wasted its life prolonging yours. Please show a little respect by finishing your meal."

Monday, January 05, 2004

Fiendster (that's no typo)

Stopped by "daddy" Nhel's place last night to personally wish him a happy new year. Lo and behold, instead of net surfing for porn (no, he's not that kind of guy) he's... checking out his messages in... in friendster.

Friendster is an online community of people linked via the world wide web. Its purpose is to link networks of friends (set A) to other networks of friends (set B through N) through the common friends that exist within the aforementioned sets of friends (the intersections of sets A, B through N). The purpose of all that linkage? I see the possibilities, but my reading of the local Filipino makes me wonder if these friendster members themselves can perceive them, if not make proper use of the service.

That said, I swear, it's probably the new index of, er, "cool": since everybody and his brother is in it. It's also, according to a friend, a barometer for pathos. On the one hand, we humans have a need to know just how many people we know, who they are and who they know: Useful data for politicians and optimists who insist on a new acquaintance as a new opportunity (for what, I wonder?). One may also look at the other side of the coin-- if you're in friendster, then you've gotta be desperate for attention. You are dyolog.

Ironically, I can't be riding the moral high horse on this issue. After all, I may be an attention-starved loser with much to say about so little of importance. Y'see, I've got a blog. That must mean I'm a dyolog myself. You are what you hate, it seems.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Answer to a Forwarded Message.

I keep getting versions of this missive. It's a message of hope and Christian charity meant to be sent to as many people as possible. You are posed thought-provoking questions about how one goes about the business of his faith and life.

While I admire the sentiment, the caring and thought that came with the letter, I cannot countennance the moral arrogance behind the assumptions that the letter's original writer makes. So in the spirit of the same Christian charity, I have bothered to try to answer those questions as briefly as I can.

Isn't it funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell?

Yes, it's funny. But it's addlebrained to simply assume that the world is going to hell. Most news (and that is how you find out about events in the world) is, of necessity, bad. Bad because it's not normal. That's why it's news. People tend to forget, for example, that beleaguered Christianity has taken root in every corner of the globe. People tend to forget that it's easier now more than ever to identify and speak out against dictators and fascists, thanks to the science that some people cannot seem to reconcile with a belief in God.

If God is at work (through religion, through science, through human progress) then how can the world be firmly and irrevocably set on the road to hell?

It's simple to trash God because he's the easiest target for blame. It's just as easy to blame the devil. But the devil never made us do anything. He tempts. We're the idiots who fall for it. Blame rests on the people who screwed up their own lives and the lives of others. That is the terrifying and glorious fact of free will.

Isn't it funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says?

It is. But it's a lot easier to verify and interpret what was in yesterday's paper. The Bible is a trickier thing. It requires committment and faith and fellowship and prayer that some people might not be ready to cultivate.

People also question scripture because they were not allowed to do so by repressive elements within the early Christian church.

Besides, when you set any code of behavior as "The Yardstick of Good and Decent Human Behavior" it and you are bound to be challenged by people who--

a) do not wish to agree with you because they're (insert faith here);
b) feel they cannot measure up to your mandated standards of behavior;
c) are just plain lazy, rebellious or both.

Isn't it funny how everyone wants to go to heaven provided they do not have to believe, think, say, or do anything the Bible says. Or is it scary?

It's not funny. It's normal. Everybody wants a free deal. No exceptions. Ask your ad man.

And salvation is not truly free. To get it, you must pay for it --not in the form of money-- but in the form of service. You are required to forgo your old and pleasurable habits and nasty behaviors. You are required to tithe. To submit to the authority of the Church. To attend Bible study groups, perhaps. You are required to surrender your very self to Jesus. To some people, that's a scary proposition.

If there was a way to get into heaven free without all that rot, then people would certainly want it. Would they be right? That's another question.

Isn't it funny how someone can say "I believe in God" but still follow Satan (who, by the way, also "believes" in God)?

It isn't. The God I believe in may not fit the description of the God you believe in. For example, if I'm a Jew from America and you're a Moslem from Pakistan. You could as easily be following Satan in my sight, just as I am in yours.

Besides, a belief in God does not imply a tacit agreement to obey him, or even respect him. Rightly or wrongly, some people are afraid of- or angry at- their God.

Isn't it funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing?

No. Jokes mostly do not force you to think. It's easy to send these things. A declaration of a belief in God invites criticism and questioning by the very nature of the declaration. Besides, my relationship with God is a personal thing, and it is only my consideration for the beliefs and sensibilities of the people who will receive my pro-God message that keeps me from being too free with sending it.

Isn't it funny how the lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but the public discussion of Jesus is suppressed in the school and workplace?

No. It's only to be expected, as it's very easy to give in to our base natures. All human beings, regardless of religious affiliations should be obligated to correct this starting within themselves, if only to save us all from lousy thinking.

Nobody in my country is suppressing public discussions of Jesus in appropriate venues.

But a government cannot practice a separation of church and state if on a public level, its representatives show too much favor to one religion, in this case, Christianity. If you are a public official (or a boss of a workplace) that espouses freedom of religion, no one is stopping you from praying at your desk or in your home. No one is stopping you from preaching to your co-workers as long as you do not do it at the office or at the school. If your school is private, and religious, then by all means, PREACH!

Isn't it funny how someone can be so fired up for Christ on Sunday, but be an invisible Christian the rest of the week?

No. It's sad. But people can be gutless and fickle. That is, after all, why Jesus had to die for us.

Are you laughing?


Isn't it funny how when you go to forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it to them?

No. It's a dilemma I face everytime I email someone. That's why I have a blog.

Isn't it funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me?.

Yes. But that's your problem. You fix it.

Will YOU pass this on? .... I did.

No. But maybe I might. Happy new year.


It's been hectic and my posts will suffer from a necessary time lag. Just bear with me, my five faithful readers (and one critic). I promise I will soon put in my installments of Words for the Week and other items I'd had to show in parts.
Happy New Year

It's been a weird one, what with coup attempts at all sorts of levels, a war we didn't want, natural and man-made disasters, politician-clowns... and a 4% economic growth despite all of that.

Happy new year readers. Happy new year, world.

I mean it.
Welcome to Batangas (Sort of) Part One

We took the South Luzon Expressway, stopping at a gas station to refuel and resupply long before we reached the Canlubang exit. I bought a toothbrush and mint gum pellets reminiscent of Chiclets at a convenience store. These days one sees this gas station-convenience store combo a lot.

At the store I was suddenly, acutely aware of the class divide. Amidst the well-heeled, good-smelling, trendy families disgorged by the many SUV's parked outside, there I was, wearing my banged-up slippers and last night's clothes. All I needed to complete the picture perhaps, were dirt smudges on my arms, legs and already oily face. Perhaps a really bad hair day, actual tearing in my clothes. And lest we forget, the facial tics, jerky arm movements and shuffling gait. Perfect Taong Grasa. Then some guard would most likely have asked me brusquely to leave. (By the by I have no beef with rich people as rich people though. At least I don't think I do. All my friends who fall under that category, I have lumped under the sub-class "NICE and UPSTANDING.")

Back at the UP Los Ba�os circa 1991, one didn't have to worry about the class divide, as everybody was at one point or another, seen wearing slippers last seen during the first EDSA and last night's clothes. Everyone there was, most likely, a student being funded by his mon and pop. Ergo, an occasional lapse in the practice of dressing up, and yes, bathing, was expected. As one usually lived on campus, one could rush to the classroom and then return to the dorm for a well-earned shower and a fresh change of clothes. It was a rare thing to wind up "smelly" from the exigencies of UPLB living.

I wasn't like this at first when I changed schools sometime '93-'95. Trouble was it was so easy to get "smelly" in the city. Smoke gets in your eyes and face. You're commuting long distances, squeezed like sardines with people who bathe in sewer water (if they bathe at all) on a daily basis. You pick your nose at the end of the day in the city and you are sure to pluck out what my cousins gleefully refer to as "black boogers." Then you notice your, ah, friend Lilith from Para�aque and you wonder how the hell she stays pristine and oil-free "all day, everyday." Alluva sudden you are afraid to even shake her hand, lest you dirty it with your sweat and God knows what else disgorged from the pores.

Goes to show how much one changes when he's in a different environment.