Friday, July 25, 2008

THE MEANING OF DEATH

(The 21st death anniversary of one of the most wonderful persons that ever lived—Urbana Ayroso-Ramirez, my mother, is on August 1, 2008. In connection with that event, I am posting this short article—actually, my reflection paper in our Theology 211 class (1994) under Ms. Carlota Aquino, one of the best and most pleasant instructors of Columban College in Olongapo City.)

Death is the most unpleasant thing one can ever think of. To those whose lives are centered on material and worldly things, it means the end of enjoyment and happiness. To romantic couples who are very much in love, it is unbearable grief as it means parting with those who made their lives worth living. Still, to some, death means a horrible monster that transforms everything of value into nothingness.

Many fear death. I believe everyone does. But this should not be for, despite its morbid nature, death has a vital role in everyone’s life.

For me, death gives deeper meaning to life. It has to stand by somewhere if only to remind us that we are but travelers in this world. Since well-meaning people are aware of the certainty of death, they make the most of their time on earth. They make the most of what they can make in life. Because they are aware that they will someday die, they do things that will enrich their very short stay in this world. Indeed, sometimes, it is only through the thought of death that we are able to really value, appreciate and live life to the fullest!

Death also means relief—like a breaking away from a long and agonizing fight with an illness which brings one so much suffering—physically, emotionally, mentally, and otherwise. It means liberation from all sorts of slavery our earthly life subjected us to. It also means peace—at last!

Most of all, death has a purpose. For what is Death doing there if it won’t serve anything at all? It is a path to glory—for it is through death that we are born to eternal life. It is a fulfillment of God’s mysterious plan for us. For it is through death that we are finally united with The Creator.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SOME THOUGHTS ON LOVE

There was a time in my life when I perfectly knew how to love—when all I knew was to give, only give much of myself, never ask. You know what? Love then didn't hurt. In fact, I realized that love really was never meant to hurt. And I was happy.

Have you heard that singer yelling in his song, "Love hurts!"? Don't believe him! He must be referring to some emotions other than love.

When I speak of love, I don't simply mean romantic love. I speak of that one which is related in meaning with platonic love… altruism… agape—that of spiritual love.

Romantic love is different from platonic love. Romantic love expects much from the relationship. It is selfish compared with platonic love in that there is something in it that the other party needs and has to get or he or she ends up feeling bad.

Platonic love doesn't expect anything in return. It is that love which is unconditional.

If we love unconditionally, we don't expect much from the object of our affection. We do not ask anything in return for what we have given him or her. All we want is to give and provide.

But "all things must pass—even the beautiful ones… the most beautiful ones!" as what one disc jockey in my youthful past was exclaiming while on the air. Love could be the most beautiful thing in this world! But love, too, can be so fleeting, one final day, it surely will pass.

When the object of our affection is done with us—meaning, he or she no longer needs us—he or she might leave us. But would that make our heart cry? Of course, not! For us, it is mission accomplished! It is an achievement.

Don't be afraid to love. Loving is healthy. It does wonder and is good not only for the other party or the one loved but most importantly, for the one who loves!

AN UNTOLD STORY OF HEROISM

Nature has replaced the vast gravel and sand area with hectares of fertile land.

My mother was a laundrywoman. For that obvious reason, a big portion of my childhood was spent in the river—with my mother. Every time she washed clothes, I would bring her food for lunch and when she was done, I would fetch her to carry her stuff. That is also the reason why, although not expertly, I know how to swim. Almost everyday, my childhood friends and I would take a bath as our mothers washed clothes.

After I finished grade school, I stopped studying. Ours is a poor, big family and poverty had denied me access to any high school's gate. But I was a very studious child and really wanted to study such that when I stopped studying, there was not a single day that I did not cry.

After I had grown tired of crying, and since no miracle happened, my young mind resigned to the harsh reality that not all children are destined to go to high school. So, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to find some odd jobs to earn money so I could make things happen.

Hoping I could save enough money for my tuition fee come another school year, I engaged myself in various economic activities. While most of my childhood friends in the neighborhood attended high school, I carried sacks of rice husk for use as fuel from the rice mill to a nearby store that made puto (rice cake). I manually filled our neighbor's water tank using a device that I alternately pulled and pushed. I also sold ice drop, sweepstakes tickets, and boiled corn. But of all the money-making activities I engaged myself in, I devoted much time selling cigarettes in moving passenger buses. I was actually a working child until I reached 14 years old.

Compared to other children of my age, I was taller and bigger in build. During that time, I was standing 5'6" or 5'7" already. So, I could easily jump from passenger buses as they slowed down. As I sold cigarettes, I would reach as far as Cabanatuan City in the north and Baliuag in Bulacan in the south.

But since my mother was washing clothes in the river, I still frequented that place bringing her food for lunch and fetching her in the afternoon.

One summer's day, after I had brought mother her food for lunch, I took a bath somewhere at the northern part of the river not too far from where my mother was washing clothes. I liked it there because the water was deep. I knew how to swim, anyway.

As I was taking a bath, I noticed two hands waving at me. I found out that they belonged to a young lady in her teens and who was gasping for breath as her head gradually submerged in the water. Seeing she was drowning, I immediately swam towards her and rescued her. I did not know how long she had been drowning but she looked tired and somewhat shocked.

After taking a brief rest, the young lady told me she was brought there by the strong current that headed towards a far deeper portion of the river. She thanked me before she went back to her companions who were not too far from my location and who had no knowledge of what had happened. She was very grateful to me and although I failed to ask what her name was, I was able to remember her face vividly.

Since that incident seemed but a trivial matter to me, I easily forgot it. And although I had mentioned it to my mother and some few friends, it passed naturally like an ordinary incident.

Meanwhile, even if I had enjoyed selling cigarettes and temporarily forgotten my big frustration, as the new school year was about to come, and after being away from school for almost two years, my ardent desire to pursue my studies started to show again. Since I was able to save enough money for my tuition fee, I took the entrance examination at the Nueva Ecija South High School. Fortunately, being one of the Top 10, I was chosen one of the ten recipients of the Senator Antonino scholarship that gave me the opportunity to study for free.

Having been away from school for two years, I needed quite a great adjustment. I developed inferiority complex and was ashamed with my former classmates in grade school whenever I met them on the way. They were already junior students then while I was just a freshman.

But it was good, Nerie Pangilinan whom I fondly called Ine, my childhood friend who, like me, also stopped studying, was always with me. At least, I was not alone.

One vacant period, as Ine and I were walking inside the school campus heading towards the Old Building, we came across her elder sister, Linda, who was with her classmate. Linda's classmate's eyes and mine met. And she smiled at me. She asked Linda if she knew me. Linda looked at me and answered, "Ah, yes, he's our neighbor." Linda's classmate continued, "He was the guy who rescued me when I got drowned in the river."

"Oh, yes! She was that young lady!" I whispered to myself. I could still remember her face. And I smiled at her, too.

Linda introduced her to me. Her name was "Nilda", from San Lorenzo, a barrio adjacent to ours.

"You're studying here, too?" I asked Nilda. She nodded.

Four decades had passed since that incident and one free day while on vacation leave from work, I made a nostalgic visit to the place. Although the river is still there, that once vast gravel and sand area was a sight no more. Nature has replaced it with hectares of fertile land planted with onions and other vegetables. The water is now just some few meters wide and only almost knee-deep. There is no trace it was once big and deep and capable to claim lives.

I do not know where Nilda is today. But I love to remember her not only because she valued the good thing I had done for her; not only because for quite some time, she had not forgotten me; but most importantly because she helped increase my self-esteem and gave myself by way of that incident an intangible medal for an act of heroism.

The river in its present geographical form may not support this personal account and those who hear or read my story may even dismiss it as false and a hoax. But that once young lady will always be an unfading indelible mark and proof that I have contributed something good in this world and that no one can ever distort or erase it because it has become an integral part of her own life story. For if ever someone succeeds in distorting the truth and erasing this act of heroism, the story of one's life will never be complete.

ON BLOGGING

So, this is how it is to have a blog. Unlike a personal offline diary that is kept secret, it is publicly announced online. Readers from around the world are even invited to view it to see what the blogger has in store for them.

I'd like to thank those who read what I have written especially those who gave very encouraging comments.

That was actually my very first attempt to write a blog. The word "blog" was new to me. In fact, it was only last month when I came across that word and knew of its meaning—thanks to the kind help of Ms. Didi Manapat-Ignacio, a former classmate with a very brilliant mind, now a top official in the National Statistical Coordination Board and a former consultant of the Asian Development Bank; Joel Lumen, a U.S.-based friend and a blogger himself who unselfishly shared what he knew about blogging and who even took the time and trouble to make some researches just to satisfy some of my queries; and, of course, the author of Gabby's Dictionary, Lou Gaboy who, I believe, has the IQ of a genius. Gaboy's online dictionary, a very useful and essential tool in writing, has become something I can't do without.

I really thought one article would be enough for my blog. It did not occur to me that some readers might be asking for my next article. I soon realized that blogging is not just whimsical writing but a sort of a commitment to some readers and to those who expect to read more from me.

The truth is, so many things are stuck in my head and are potential topics for a blog. But I am aware of blogging consequences. I have to be very careful lest I end up raising the hackles of some people who may not like what I will post.

I have a very traumatic past and can write so many articles out of that. And I'm pretty sure some readers would be interested to read them—if only because there are some good things to learn from them. But my experiences involved many people including those in authority who might not like what I might write. It is really very important to be careful about writing so as to avoid ending up having enemies.

But how often do I really have to post an article? Is it monthly, semimonthly, weekly, or daily? As I please?

At any rate, blogging will help me utilize my precious time a lot more wisely. And, honestly, I find blogging a healthy activity especially for those who need a vent for their pent-up emotions.

Thanks again, friends, for reading my blog. I hope to write more articles regularly. Take care and God bless!

VINCENT BUENO - MORE THAN A MUSICAL SUPERSTAR

Photo from Vincent Bueno Support page on MySpace.com

I first came to know about Vincent Bueno on January 12, 2008 when I watched ABS-CBN's TV Patrol and he was in the news. He just won then the grand prize in Musical! Die Show, a prestigious reality talent competition, probably the counterpart in Austria of American Idol, although with a twist.

I was so interested in the news that the following day, when our office's copy of a daily broadsheet was delivered by the newsboy and I saw Vincent on the front page, I immediately read the news item about him.

It is natural for a Filipino to rejoice when news about a fellow Filipino, even if he is not a full-blooded one, who gained international recognition, reaches the Philippine shore. How much more when he is a full-blooded Filipino as in the case of Vincent Bueno!

The next thing I found myself doing was surfing the Internet for more news about Vincent. My effort did not fail me. So many bloggers have already written much about Vincent. Some of them even witnessed the actual competition and have accurately transformed their jubilant feelings into words and put them in print.

My interest to know more about Vincent Bueno's extraordinary talents and sudden rise to fame was further aroused by some bloggers' accounts of Vincent's stage performances as seen in video clips especially those uploaded on
www.youtube.com. Even if I had not visited that web site before and had no intention to visit it, my overwhelming desire to see Vincent doing his thing in videos brought me there. I was so impressed and delighted to see his superb performances that I even clapped my hands after each performance. They were so great they gave me goose bumps!

One blogger was justified in saying and sharing her experiences with her readers that, after watching Vincent in videos, she suddenly had a wild craving to see more of him, especially his stage performances. I share the same experience and feeling.

As more and more people had seen Vincent in videos, more and more people started to show fondness for him sending congratulatory messages directly to his web page or anywhere on the Net where their fondness for him could be expressed and, hopefully, read by him. Finding him on MySpace.com, I signed up just for the purpose of sending him a message of praise. To my surprise, he replied to my message—and quite intimately at that—addressing me "Tito Goddy", after which, I found myself exultant.

Since then, I've been frequenting internet cafes watching him on YouTube.

All of the above speak well of Vincent's inherent singing, dancing, and acting talents and skills as well as his superb performances that led him to becoming a musical contest champion. To me, however, Vincent is more than just that for he even possesses qualities that can be attributed to a modern-day hero.

Having won his prize at a time when news on political turmoil and other negative issues dominated the Philippine print media and the airwaves, Vincent's win provided a respite from such alarming and discouraging news.

Vincent was able to lift the Filipino spirit and has become a sort of a unifying figure to what seems like a divided people.

Yes, Vincent is more than a musical superstar and has, in fact, achieved what a mere musical superstar may not, for in a land where the citizens are notoriously known for their colonial mentality and preference for things not their own, VINCENT BUENO has proven his power and capacity to make that nation's people proud—so very proud—of their race!