Hope for Our Country in 12 Little Things

imageI have always been skeptical about self-help books that tend to generalize and over-simplify problems or the solutions to problems. Life has taught me that things are not always as they seem…I have always been skeptical about self-help books that tend to generalize and over-simplify problems or the solutions to problems. Life has taught me that things are not always as they seem… and that a lot of well-meaning advice meted out by popular gurus in overrated self-help books often hit the nail way off of its head. Not a few books offer “simple” steps to success that turn out to be far from simple and a real pain on one’s intellect. On some rare occasions, though, I do stumble upon a gem and my inner skepticism is challenged. Such was the case with a very small book with an even “smaller” title written by Alexander L. Lacson: 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.

The title sounds simple enough; too simple, in fact, that it took me a few weeks to decide if it was worth reading at all. Common sense and a deeply instilled desire to do the right thing won over my well-guarded resistance. This tiny book was also given by an acquaintance to my husband with the sincere intention of “spreading the word”, and I was not about to be the hindrance to anyone’s noble intentions for the country.

It is often said that we get the country we deserve. Whether we believe that our country is ailing or in robust health does not belie the fact that we, the Filipinos, make our country what it is today. A nation in constant anarchy eventually dies; whereas a country united by its people’s determined purpose keeps the nation’s heart and pulse beating. I did not fully realize how much I cared about our country until I read the first few chapters of the book. The first two points echoed my deep-seated sentiments and reassured me that I was not a lone crusader.

Lacson began his 12 little things with this: Follow traffic rules. Follow the Law. This is one thing we all can do right away without having to spend any money. Understandably, this willbe more difficult for errant drivers and stubborn pedestrians than it will be for those of us who stop on a red light on an empty highway in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently, it is more difficult to unlearn a habit than it is to learn a new one – but not impossible. Imagine how EDSA would look with all the buses staying within their yellow lanes and not swerving their long steel frames diagonally across three lanes! That alone would ease the traffic situation dramatically and calm the frayed nerves of us hapless drivers.

The bottom line is that following traffic rules and the laws of our land reflect our respect, or lack of it, for our country and for each other. We can, as individuals, begin this discipline by stopping on a red light, using the pedestrian lanes and overpasses, using our car horns and high beams only when necessary, staying on the slow lane when we are not in a rush and curbing our seemingly innate desire to cut on someone else’s lane. According to Lacson, “This simple act of following rules can go a long, long way in our march towards the kind of society we dream for ourselves and our children.” I could not agree more.

His second little thing is this: Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt. This may sound a bit simplistic, but its impact on our nation is enormous. In this second chapter, Lacson went on to illustrate how taxes from unclaimed receipts, reflected on each official receipt as a ten percent value-added tax (VAT), accumulate and add up to billions of pesos worth of un-remitted taxes to the government. To simplify it further, imagine ten thousand motorists not claiming receipts for their mall parking fees worth forty pesos per vehicleper day. In one day, those unclaimed receipts will amount to four hundred thousand pesos of undeclared and un-remitted taxes! And that is just for one mall on any given day! We, as a people, need to be vigilant in demanding for a receipt every time we pay for anything. We do a disservice to our country whenever we don’t. Just do the math.

There is another little thing I feel strongly about and which Lacson mentioned in his sixth chapter: Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve. I wish I could say that this is simple but it’s not. I only recently discovered, to my detriment, that a significantly large part of our society does not support this movement. My husband and I live in a relatively progressive community that promotes, as one of its programs, the collection of recyclable junk. The reality, however, is that our village relies on outsourced trash collectorswho, like most small roadside business operators, think small. They seldom show up on schedule, are very choosy about the junk they collect, and pay very little for them. These hold true for all the junk shop operators within a two-mile stretch of our village. My house is now filled with mounds of uncollected and undesirable segregated trash.

It is this small-mindedness more than anything else that promotes this utter lack of concern for our environment. But then again, maybe it is the other way around. We need to start looking at the bigger picture and understanding the negative impact of our irresponsible waste disposal on our country. Lacson cited in this same chapter that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acknowledged that garbage is one of the major problems in Metro Manila today. We only need to look outside our windows to be reminded of this tragic reality.

Throwing our trash in their proper disposal units is another reflection of how much we value and respect our country and our people. Lacson reiterated that this does not cost us any money (again) but requires a conscious and deliberate effort to do the right thing. Have you ever followed an expensive car on the road and see trash flying out of its rolled-down power window? It takes discipline and a whole lot of courtesy to hold on to that piece of trash until you get to your destination – a trash bin. I have always believed that one person, regardless of status in life,can make a difference; just as one piece of carelessly discarded plastic can make a difference.We have a choice, and I pray we choose well

Lacson continued to enumerate the other little things we can do to help our country such as buying locally manufactured goods, speaking positively about our country and people to others, respecting our law officers, supporting our church, doing our duty as voters, paying our employees well, paying our taxes, adopting a scholar or poor child and being a good parent.Most of these are things we can already do right this minute which is why if every Filipinowould just start doing one or two of them, our country will already be a better place.

There were a few points Lacson raised that do require more introspection than the others. For example, while I strongly oppose buying smuggled goods and do believe in supporting our local industry, our “pwede na” (make do) mentality, not to mention greed and the desire to earn more for less, prompt many of us buyers and consumers to look for quality, though not necessarily expensive, merchandise elsewhere. The proliferation of “ukay-ukay” (dig andrummage) outlets, pirated items and imitation brands does not bode well for our local industry. It will take a concerted effort from the manufacturers, vendors and consumers to catapult our local industry to new and greater heights.

Another point Lacson raised that demanded more serious thought was his statement,“They (referring to traffic and law enforcers in the fifth chapter) are what they are because of what we are. They are who they are because of who we are.” While I agree with him that our actions toward others usually beget similar reactions, I still firmly believe that our attitude, words and actions are our responsibility. We cannot, and should not, expect others to be nice to us first so that we will be nice to them in return. Our words or actions should never be hinged or dependent on what other people say or do to us first. In the end, we are all accountable to God and to each other for our thoughts, words and actions. I do understand where Lacson is coming from in this chapter, though, and I am all for respecting other people regardless of occupation, status or appearance. It remains a fact, however, that respect is earned, not demanded.

I admire Lacson’s courage and determination  to speak his mind about the things that really matter and the steps we can and should take, no matter how “little”, to help make the Philippines a better country than what it is today. No amount of wishing or promising will get us anywhere. We all need to take baby steps at first and gradually mature to be a united people with a sense of pride and purpose for our nation. We all need to start in our own homes, teaching and instilling these values and more to our children and grandchildren. It is crucial that we first livethe lessons we preach and set the best examples for our children. Lacson said it best when he stated, “Today’s children will someday rule and lead this world. But whether they will be bad rulers or good leaders, will depend largely on how we raise them today.” May the next generation inherit a nation that is truly proud and free, and deserving of us mere yet sincere mortals.

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There’s hope if you can…

Back in the day, we, Filipinos were very good in English, both written and verbal. English tutorial centers were unheard of and even the smallest business sign in the most rural part of town was correctly spelled and grammatically correct. I would be pleasantly surprised to meet garage workers and street vendors who spoke good English and could give present-day call center applicants a run for their money.

It’s obviously a different story nowadays. English is not even a second language anymore — it is a completely foreign language. There is a sad proliferation of grammatically erroneous signs, menus,Image

printed announcements and promotional materials. It’s tragic, really, considering these go through the editing board.

As an online buyer and seller, I encounter too many “English” terms and phrases that cause my eyes to bleed out of their sockets. If you can spot what’s wrong, then there’s hope for us.

1. For rent, newly build house…

2. Large salas, spacious dinning room…

3. For sale, used guitar in prestine condition…

4. Garage sale: appliances, furnitures, restaurant equipments…

5. Rare model. Value for the money. I almost did not used this for I have many guitars.

6.  Still in good condition with complete in box.
7. The built in sequencer can have you up and recording songs in a short time
8. First come, first serve basis only.
9. (from a song…) “Today I swear I’m not doin’ anything; I just wanna lay in my bed…”
There are more of these — too many! Maybe I can post them next time.

Simply Stress-Free

I believe life here on earth was meant to be simple. By simple I mean free from the stresses caused by the minute-by-minute bombardment of information to our brains by the marvels of technology. My husband and I just came from serving at a six-day youth summer camp in the suburbs. It was a most welcome break from all things that have been causing us much stress the past twelve months.

It was such a blessing – such freedom! – to be off the grid known as the social network. We may not realize this but there is so much pressure and expectation to project a certain persona, to greet and respond to all our Facebook or Twitter “friends”, to accept all “friend” requests and invitations to join other social networks, to never “un-friend” anyone, to always be online, to comment on people’s photos and status, and the list goes on.

Just a few days ago, we “lost” our internet connection again. This time, it was caused by some freakish factor. If not for the fact that we are paying for our internet subscription, I felt relieved to have an excuse not to check mail, FB, etc. Believe it or not, it’s not all good news and pleasantries in social networks. There are a lot of conflicts, bad news, personal attacks masked as famous people’s quotes, and wars being waged online for the entire world to see. No one cares anymore if personal conflicts are not for general consumption. The more people know about it, the more powerful the weapon. It’s not only very sad – it’s downright tragic!

I don’t know if someone else already came up with these, but here are my thoughts about social networking:

It is to be used to seek peace and pursue it; not to wage war. It is to be used to build bridges; not burn them. It is to be used to affirm and encourage others; not to berate or malign anyone. It is to be used for decency; not for obscenity. It is to be used for thoughtful truth; not for hurtful lies and deceit. It is to be used for good; not for evil.

It is also healthy to rest from social networking every once in a while. I still believe that more meaningful relationships are built, developed and sustained in personal, face-to-face encounters. Any misunderstandings can be cleared faster in a face-to-face conversation. Loving and forgiving touches can be given and received, and these promote healing in the most profound ways.

We are relational beings. We need to experience touch; we need to be able to smell aromas and associate memories with them. The same goes with sights and sounds. We need to be able to “speak” and “listen”. More importantly, we need to connect with other human beings; people we can grow with, laugh with, cry with, hurt with, or just BE with.

Life was meant to be simpler than it has become. It behooves us to “un-complicate” things and get back to the basics. Spend real personal time with family and friends. Lay down our mobile phones, PDAs and laptops and actually learn to communicate verbally and listen attentively. Turn off the TV. Slow down. Leave the car home and take a walk to the bakery. Stop and smell the roses, because they may soon be gone. Pray. Meditate. Heal.

May we all learn to give up what we don’t need and keep what matters most. Have a stress-free day.

My Experience at an Adoption Home

My husband and I just came from volunteering at a local shelter for abandoned and abused children. Appropriately called CRIBS (Creating Responsive Infants By Sharing), it opens its gates to people who wish to give an hour or two of their time, in the morning and in the afternoon, caring for and interacting with babies and toddlers.

Since it was our first time to volunteer, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After changing into our clean and white “work clothes”, we entered the babies’ and toddlers’ sections and were immediately and eagerly greeted by the tots. I hardly had time to see where my husband went because the child that greeted me at the door of the nursery held up his hands to be carried.

I was overwhelmed. So there I was, wondering how I could help when I didn’t have children of my own and nervous as to what was expected of me. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out. I just needed to give them love.

There were many volunteers but there were also more babies than everyone can handle. I was in the room that housed eight babies ranging in age from four months to perhaps one year. Each one wanted to be carried, comforted and put to sleep. After playing with two of them, I carried a crying little boy with almond eyes and a cute round head. He was crying  and rolling from side to side in one corner of the play mat that I had to attend to him immediately. All volunteer hands and arms were full so I rushed to him after putting down the little boy that first greeted me.

It took me just two seconds to lift him up and he immediately stopped crying. The distress was lifted from his tiny face and he seemed content to just be held. My heart just melted. I needed no special mothering skills or years of child-rearing experience to calm a crying baby. I was humbled and I offered prayers to God for those babies whose parents didn’t want them anymore.

I put no blame on their parents. I don’t know their stories and I’m not their judge. I can only pray for more people whose hearts will be touched to volunteer their time and love to these children. This is not the only shelter in our country. There are many more that need not only volunteers but donors so that these homes and shelters will continue to be in existence and will be able to take care of more children. You can look them up on the internet, check out their wish lists, and give them a call.

There is also a need for more caring people to adopt these children and give them a more permanent home. Each child needs special and constant attention, which adoption shelters cannot provide 24/7. There are costs to be counted, the most crucial of which, I believe, is commitment.

My husband and I are seriously considering adoption and we are doing our research, on our knees. If we could give a home to just one child, then that’s one child less at a shelter. That’s one more child assured of love and a better future. We don’t have all the resources just yet, but by God’s grace, we can work those out.

We pray for that baby He has already matched and prepared for us. And as we wait, I am always reminded of our own precious adoption by God the Father, through Jesus Christ.   “5He (A)predestined us to (B)adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, (C)according to the kind intention of His will” – Ephesians 1:5 (NASB).

This is why I blog…

I have always been a thinker, and a very independent one at that. Random thoughts, movie dialogues, quirky quotes, personal opinions, new words, useless trivia (this is probably a redundancy) and meaningless observations fill my mind to overflowing on a daily basis. I have often felt like pulling my hair out ‘til my roots scream to silence my mind for even just a split second. Of course, the thought of having several red, icky, bald spots as my hubby and I walk hand-in-hand in the mall freezes my fingers mid-air every time.

It is, therefore, not a chore for me to wait in line at a slow cashier or sit on a rock facing the ocean ‘til the moss start growing on my legs because thoughts can fill my mind and entertain me for hours.

However, I also silently voice out pretty strong views, observations and unsolicited advice and opinions so often and all but rage inside because of the strong urge to just blurt them all out and set things straight. Of course, this is not always expedient and more often than not, the less said, the better. And since I was never into writing (by hand!) in journals and diaries, my mind just simmered with all these thoughts.

So you see, blogging could not have come at a better time for me.

To be able to write down, rather, type, all my thoughts freely – no rules, no standards and no censures – is a haven of rest for my sometimes weary mind. To be able to experiment with new words and new ways of expressing my thoughts and ideas is an exciting exercise; much like stretching out muscles I never even knew existed! To have my articles in a blog read, appreciated, and even quoted, is a balm to my aching soul. And to be able to do all these in a cyber-venue that is very simple to use, update and design is a bonus I simply cannot resist!

I could be anywhere at any time and still have access to my blog site. This is true writing without borders! And for someone like me who sometimes experiences the oft denied “memory gap”, blogging is the best way to keep those elusive details fresh. All I need is my handy laptop, an electrical outlet and a relatively peaceful place to sit and write.

A new and ever-growing community of bloggers also exists worldwide to inspire and even challenge writers like me to persevere and pursue our passions without a moment’s hesitation. I have nothing to lose but everything to gain whenever I make the most of every opportunity to be heard; to be read through my blog.

It behooves me, therefore, to write responsibly. And that’s okay. I can be both passionate and responsible with the freedom I am given in cyberspace.

Blogging can be an ally or a foe. It’s really up to me, and I’m happier knowing that blogging is a worthy friend to me.

Too late for Twilight?

In just a few short months, the Twilight Saga’s Eclipse will be in movie theaters and fans will be risking life and limb to secure premiere tickets. I can’t say I blame them. I’m forty years old and I’m a fan! Do I hear some not-so-subtle comments and poisoned darts flying at me? C’mon, cut me some slack and hear me out.

I’m not here to review the books or the movies. It did puzzle me, though, that I would actually be into this whole saga. Like I said earlier, I’m 40 years old and way past (or so I thought) the teeny-bopper stage that goes gaga over handsome and hunky teen idols. I was also never into vampire stories because I found them to be too gory and depressing. The romance in them didn’t work for me either because fangs, blood-red eyes, claws and coffins were hardly turn-ons. Ugh!

Stephanie Meyer, the brilliant author (if I may say so) of the Twilight Saga, found the perfect formula to lure me into her make-believe world of mythical creatures. She wrote a classic romance, added a love triangle, spiced it up with both internal and external conflict, jazzed it up with highly interesting, not to mention, incredibly good-looking characters, and iced it with the forever-after (literally) we all wish for in our own romances.

I’m married to my best friend 11 years now, and I never get tired of re-living our romance in our life now, in my mind and in my sleep! I’m a sucker for a good romance and the Twilight Saga did not fail me. So, you see, it’s not too late for me yet. I think I will always appreciate a great romance way into my sixties! My hubby so generously gave me the first two books on our anniversary, and I now have all four books. I cannot wait for Eclipse to be out and I made my hubby promise me movie tickets that will allow me to see the movie twice in a row.

An added plus? I get to relate with our many younger friends who are so into this craze, while also exchanging notes and observations  and how they relate to us in our present lives. And, no, I am not justifying my fondness for all that’s Twilight — I don’t need to. I’m in my mid-life stage and I’m enjoying the “twilight” while I’m at it.

Ignorance is not bliss!

Have you ever noticed how many people so readily offer unsolicited advice? This always gets to me. I hope I am not guilty of the same thing — at least, I try to be very aware that I just listen and not give some random and unresearched advice.

As I have posted earlier, I am going through major depression — or a relapse of it. I have already shared this with a group we used to belong to only recently. It  was necessary for me to share this because I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities to the group.

I was half expecting it, yet I dreaded it — that someone in the group would eventually say her piece to try and make me feel better. And then it came. The so-called “advice” was so ridiculous that it reeked of total ignorance of my condition and even the lack of compassion. Why, oh why, did she have to say it?

Why do people love to give their five cents’ worth of advice without first getting their facts straight? Why do people love to talk and sound knowledgeable when they know nothing at all? In our field of ministry, we also encounter a lot of people who love to “counsel” other people but don’t bother to equip themselves with even basic counseling skills. So instead of being a comfort to the troubled person, they unknowingly become a source of discouragement and guilt! But they don’t know this and think that they are simply gifted with the ability to counsel people.

I’m sorry to burst their bubble but ignorance isn’t bliss! With the availability of information over the internet, there is simply no excuse to be ignorant. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge, especially if we have the desire to help others. I especially urge those who have the annoying tendency to play doctor to at least get some much needed facts before even blurting anything out.

The truth is, the more one talks, the more one’s intelligence or ignorance is made evident. I have noticed many times,though, that the more knowledgeable and secure a person is, the less he talks. But the more foolish and insecure a person is, the more he tries to compensate for his lack by blabbering. This is sad.

I pray I will not encounter another faux doctor any time soon. No, I don’t need any advice about my condition. I’ve done my research and I continue to do so. I also have a real doctor to tell me what I need to hear.

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