Farewell to Cory Aquino

It’s raining hard outside on a late Saturday afternoon. It seems that the heavens are pouring out their sighs and sadness drenching the entire metropolis with its tears descending upon its parched crooked and cemented landscape. And as the rain continues to fall, I feel sad because Corazon Aquino passed away. I do not her personally. I have not seen her either in real life. But I do know that she became an icon for the Filipino people and the world for her bravery, her integrity and her vision to make this nation come out of an oppressive political system. I am also beginning to understand now what it means to remember people that have affected my life indirectly. Awhile ago, I was talking to my neighbors who happen to be in their early 20s. They never knew EDSA revolution. I remember it as a time of instability. I remember the Marcos stickers all around us. I remember the posters plastered on the streets. I remember that schools suddenly declared holidays. I remember all of this though I was only seven years old. And though it took me a few more years to understand the significance of the event, all of this would not have been possible without the strength of character that is in Cory Aquino. She will be remembered well.

It’s ironic though that this iconic woman is linked to Kris Aquino. Kris Aquino is also an icon in the media circuit. Alas, she does not have the kind of moral ascendancy that her mother has. But that’s not for me to discuss here either. For all her faults and weaknesses, I do admire the fact that she can make more money than she can spend. And she knows what she wants and gets it. So very few people are capable of facing up to their fears and embrace their strengths and weaknesses like her. For that, I believe she got that from her mother. I felt profoundly sad when I saw her cry on television sharing the news about the stage four cancer of Cory. I knew then that it will just be a matter of days or a few weeks before she passes away. Lo and behold, that time has come and now our nation faces another crisis.

I feel happy for Cory too for some reason. Why? At least she will never live to see the next presidential elections. At least she will not live to see if the next president brings the country to further ruin or to further heights and greater glory. I think that’s one reason why  there are times when I just want to die and fade away. With so much pain in this life and seeing the difficulty that is around me, sometimes I wish I was a Superman who could help save the day — but I’m not. Cory was not. Kris was not. We do what we can to help change the way things were.

Sigh. Why do the good die young? Why is Imelda Marcos still alive? Why do people forget their own history? I wish that we could get our act together, make things happen and make sure that we can make it through another day.But until that day comes, I guess I will just have to wait, wait and wait. And what Cory would say… “pray for our nation.” Rest in peace, Cory Aquino. You are loved, you are missed and we hope to live up to the life of integrity and concern for our nation like you do.


Keeping the Pace

More than keeping up the blog, the biggest challenge for me is to keep my running schedule. As much as I can, I do my best to do a minimum of three runs a week just to keep the fat off. But I need to up the ante of my training regimen in order to prepare for my next 42k marathon which is the Quezon City International Marathon in October. I’m really excited about it because I’ve never been to any international marathon. And best of all, here in my home city and own country! What more could I ask for? I do feel sad though that Metro Manila gets a lot of negative publicity in terms of road races — -safety for runners, air pollution and other factors. It has limited runners to elite villages and to the gyms.

Which is precisely why I love joining these runs during weekends. I spend roughly 1,000 to 2,500 pesos a month just to join these runs. For me, there are several reasons that I join these events. One, there’s something about seeing other people run along with you, pass by you or the other way around — that one passes by other runners. There’s an invisible force that some people reading this would agree to that pulls runners to complete the race. Two, it forces me to keep on running. Registering for the race means that I need to prepare ahead for the actual race. This forces me to discipline my time, make time for running during the week, and make sure that I have balanced out my time between work, family and social obligations and to running. Right now, I have two loves — my work and running. One cannot live without the other. My work enables me to put bread on the table for myself and help out with the family. Running has enabled me to get rid of the stress that I experience at work. I also agree with the Bull Runner, it also gives me a sense of peace when I am on the road. But I think the best reason for me to join these races more than the health benefits it gives is that I learn so much about life. I learn new life principles of pushing on. It’s not easy preparing for a marathon. I’ve had ample encouragement and support from friends. Yet there are also those who would put me down and say that it is not worth it. Another benefit to these organized races is that it is the only time that one gets to run on the road in Manila in an orderly manner — meaning no cars to get sideswiped and less pollution or no pollution to deal with for the duration of the runs. So there. That’s why I keep the pace and keep on running. To say that I have titanium implants that I have to keep “oiled” by running is an understatement to the true beauty of what running can do to one’s life.


100% Ubuntu

It’s official. I am now using the Ubuntu platform of Linux 100%. I started out last month with a dual boot system on my Lenovo laptop. Two days ago, I gave away my one year old Lenovo laptop to my neice who is now a Fine Arts freshman student in college. For a freshman, she won’t be doing a lot of graphics work yet, so the Lenovo dual boot system running Ubuntu and Windows will do. Sooner or later though, she will have to learn how to get her hands on a faster computer. Well, you never know. I might end up passing my new laptop on to her after a year.

Oh yes, I am now running Ubuntu 100% on my new Toshiba M300 Satellite Pro. That’s what they call this machine. For the life of me, people at the Toshiba retail shop yesterday didn’t know how to sell this particular model. They kept on wanting me to buy the latest model which they kept insisting was better than this model. Better in the sense that the one they wanted me to buy was the Core 32 Duo processor. Better in the sense that this model is just running on Core Duo processor. Ah, but they are missing a point here. This model that I purchased is running on ATI Radeon video card of up to 1GB and that makes the entire thing different in terms of performance. Not only that, but the fact that I installed Ubuntu made the system even more efficient and friendlier.

When I was thinking of getting a new laptop, I was thinking of what particular brand. I was thinking of getting an Apple MacBook. For me, it is one of the best laptops ever invented. Alas, when I started learning how to use Linux, I began to see that there are other alternatives to the Mac. And when I began to become more aware of how to maximize the Linux platform of Ubuntu, it made me realize that there are so many areas about the operating system that I would want to know and become an expert. For some strange reason — Ubuntu makes me want to learn more and  not just use the computer for merely typing documents, surfing the internet or watching videos with it.

I hope that Solhenitzin will stay long with me, for at least a year I hope. I also hope that by next year, Toshiba will still come out with a laptop that would have an ATI Radeon or NVidia graphics card. The performance and the visual effects is really different compared to that of the Intel Graphics Accellerator. I’m glad that I am back to Toshiba, which happens to be my first love affair with laptops nearly five years ago. My first laptop was a Toshiba. Then I moved on towards a Dell laptop which is still around the house. Next I went to purchase a Lenovo laptop and along the way I also used an IBM Thinkpad. That was the worst purchase for a laptop in my entire life. The processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo and yet my Dell computer which was an aging Pentium processor was meeting it eye to eye in terms of performance. And when I thought hard about it, I realized that not all computers no matter how good the specs are made the same. There are good quality middle range laptops out there like this one that I purchased that fits for me and my lifestyle. Speaking of lifestyle, I haven’t slept all night just trying to learn, navigate and upload new software into my new laptop. It just feels great!


Lifestyle Travel and Tours

For those interested to visit the caves, getting a tour guide and a good tour operaor is a must in exploring beauty of Zamboange Del Norte [more popularly ddubbed as ZANORTE]. For the Libuton Caves, I contacted Lifestyle Travel and Tours. Here’s my review:

1. The rates that they offer is good. In fact, had I been traveling with a group I know that it would have been cheaper for me to go on a group tour because for the group tour of 13 people, they offered 7,500 pesos for everything for four nights and three days of adventure. That amount already covers the Dipolog and Dapitan City tour, the river cruise, the Libuton Caves and nearby waterfalls [depending on how fast the group can finish the caves and dependent on weather conditions] and even an overnight stay at Dakak! All that with meals included, with most meals buffet style. Not bad if you ask me!

2. They have very good tour guides who are truly accommodating, honest and easy to deal with. They know the local cultural life, the history and they even go the extra mile to make sure that guests indeed feel that they are taken cared of. For example, of all the countries in the region I’ve been to [and I’ve only been to three], some tour guides are defensive and pretentious. These men [Renan and Bobet of Lifestyle Tours], when confronted with questions and irate tourists would just smile, listen and work on whatever is asked of them. Best of all, Renan explained the life of a cave and the different features of a cave. I’ve been to the caves of Sagada, but the tour guide neither explained how the stalactites and stalagmites form. It neither explained how keeping the ecological balance is important. It was also fun to have trivias of how caves are visited. For instance, the Chinese have this belief that if one experiences a drop from a stalactite, that would constitute as empowerment and as good luck.

3. I was able to meet the owner of the tour operations and she is very amiable and understanding too. I like the fact that her assistant at the office Gangging [I can’t seem to pronounce her name correctly here] offers the best assistance that a tourist can ask for. She has prompt replies to questions like the best place to buy this and that item, and where to eat and dine as well. She will also offer alternatives of where are the affordable places to go around and get souvernir items.

4. Best of all, as a pesco-vegetarian — it is the first time that I experienced that the tour operator went the distance to make a separate meal for me. I happened to join another group for the Libuton Caves since I was alone; and during lunchtime they were surprised when they saw me eating fish while the rest of them had something else. When asked, I told them that I specifically asked the tour operator about it and they immediately made arrangements.

This positive experience has prompted me to indeed return here to do more cave exploration and other nature trippings next year. It’s rare that I would want to go back to the same place twice. The only place that I keep coming back to again and again each year is Bagiuo City. I just love mountains. But for a cities and urban jungles, Dipolog City is indeed a charming place to visit and perhaps stay and live in if one would want to consider migrating to this place. As for Lifestyle Tours, thank you so much for all the help in making this trip enjoyable for me. All the best!


Dipolog City Day 4

Yesterday I was tired beyond measure from the activities of the day. I went to Libuton Caves in Manukan. There are two caves  out of more than 30 caves that is part of the standard group tour here. These two caves are considered the easiest ones to explore for beginners. Incidentally, I was the only one brave enough and had the energy to go on to continue exploring the second cave. We did it in record time of about 19 minutes total. All in all, we explored and got back to the rally point in 30 minutes. Not bad at all, considering that it has been more than two years that I did any form of cave exploration.

According to the tour guide Renan, “the most beautiful caves are those that have the narrowest entrances and exits.” He says this with conviction and after exploring so many caves in his lifetime. In fact, during the tour I learned that caves have a natural ecosystem of their own. Caves also die if the ecosystem above it dies as well. This is interesting because I’ve never thought about caves being alive or having a life of its own. And yet the more the tour guide narrated how stalactites and stalagmites form, it made me realize that caves offer an analogy of the beauty and madness of the human soul and spirituality.

One, I relearned my lesson on how stalactites are the once that form above the caves. They form in different shapes and sizes and are influenced  by the kind of minerals that seep through the caves coming from above. The stalgamites are the ones that form opposite that of each stalactite. Though I learned this before in a previous cave tour, it was only with this one that I learned that over time, the two would meet and will continue to form what geologists call a pillar. These pillars are the ones that make the foundation of the caves stand over time. Each stactite and stalagmite takes centuries to form and touching the tip of the stalactite [not the stalagmite] will disrupt the growth and natural order of things.

I found this illustration to be an amazing analogy of reaching out to an invisible God! Sometimes the grace of God falls like rain — it does so to all people and not just to those who follow God. And yet for those who follow God, one embraces and awaits for that drop of rain, that drop of grace and blessing that can help one reach a close relationship with the Creator of this universe. Over time, this relationship becomes closer and I liken it to the meeting of the stalactite and stalagmite. It is only when the two have truly met can a pillar form. And that pillar for me is the pillar of faith that can stand the test of time. For in life, caves also continue to battle other geological hazards. For natural ones, there are flashfloods that enter the caves [assuming the ecological balance is still there]. For manmand hazards, well, we all know what man can do to destroy anything!

For the past ten years of my life, I’ve noticed that my life has been bombarded by challenges in my faith that feel like flashflood that want to destroy the beautiful madness that can be seen within the crevices of my heart. But though the pressure has continued to build and ebb away; I still wait for the drops of rain like fall like grace undeserved in my life. Like a cave, I have to wait for the rain to slowly find its way deep within the roots of trees and slowly form drops within the stalactites in order to reach me. This process takes long, and it reminds me that patience is indeed an important virtue in becoming a more beautiful cave.

And in life, the patience is also something that makes anything or any person more beautiful.Any hurried project always has a downside. And I need to remind myself of this as I continue to work in the corporate world. For everybody in the corporate world aspire for more — more power, more money, more of anything and everything! This insatiable desire for more can be the cause of impatience and the cause of much grief. And though I profess to continue to have faith in God  — I admit that there are times when I too fall into that maze that they call the rat race.

I thank God for being able to take this break away from work. I do feel tired — but the feeling I have about it is quite different. I am tired because of the physical activities, not because of office stress. Everybody needs a break once in a while. I think that for the longest time, I have never taken Sundays as a true day off from work. Hopefully when I get back to work, I will make Sundays sacred again. Till then, I will end this entry with the most beautiful scene I saw inside the second cave. In one of the chambers of the second cave, there are shards of light that shines from above illuminating the cave within. In a place of total darkness, the smallest light truly shines bright. It reminded me that even the darkest of places and perhaps even the most darkest of hearts have cracks were light can shine within. History has shown itself that it can turn the tables upside down like what happened to South Africa. For me, this imagery will stick for weeks to come and bring encouragement to a soul that is thirsty for hope, thirsty for change in a world that continues to grow darker.


Exhaustion setting in…

I am just into my second day of “Sanity Vacation” and man, I can tell you that I am just beginning to feel tired. It is as if all the stress that I experienced for the last three months have been bottled up and is just slowly being released. Strange, because it seems that I do exercise and I also do my best to spend enough time with family and friends. And yet I still feel this. Well, I am just grateful for this break then. Still looking forward to my 31st birthday in Bohol and Palawan next month though.

Perhaps writing is something that I should be doing more regularly. If not writing friends, then at the very least writing for myself and maintaining this new blog. I remember that I’ve attempted to maintain a blog for the longest time. I think that this is my third attempt to making it more regular again. And only now during my vacation time am I capable of writing again. I think that one reason why I also want to write is because I don’t have a digital camera with me to capture the moment. Thus, I must write the things that I have seen and observe about this place.

It’s a good exercise too if you ask me, since it has been a long time since I’ve done descriptive writing of any sort. Technical Writing, though descriptive is different from that of what writers would call “Creative Writing.” Enough of that, as I am not here to discuss that or debate about it either. What I know is that I am grateful for this time that I can unwind. I had a great day today going to the dentist and having my teeth cleaned. Isn’t that interesting that I haven’t availed of my dental benefit with the health insurance in two years and of all places to avail of it — it is here in Dipolog. Good thing my card has a wide  coverage of medical institutions and private practitioners.

Well, though I was tired I walked the entire stretch of the Dipolog Boulevard during the early evening. The sound of the crashing waves and the cool sea breeze was a refreshing thing for my body and soul. It just felt good. I wish there were more areas in Metro Manila that I could just walk around and admire and appreciate nature aside from UP Campus and select parks. I wish more parks can be made more accessible to more people. Visiting a place like this reminds me that there is indeed a lot of hope for our country. Perhaps the local government is doing a great job here. I know it is not perfect — as every urban city has its own problems that it deals with. Yet at the end of the day, I am glad to see that there are public spaces that the people here can enjoy.

Well, I better get some sleep soon as tomorrow  I need to wake up early at six in the morning. The famous Libuton Caves and Situfo Falls awaits….


Ode to Michael Jackson

In this day and age of fast downloads and seeders and leechers, I admit that I am also among those who have been part of the every growing community of file sharers. Yet there are rare moments that I do buy original DVDs and CDS. And for me, it was a crime for me not to buy an original CD of Michael Jackson. I remember that the first time I was able to scrimp enough money to buy his cassette tape, I immediately snapped one. At that time I was a freshman in high school. The album was DANGEROUS and the first single from the album was Black or White. I recall purchasing the albums THRICE. My first album was borrowed by Arnold and it never saw the light of day in my hands. Then the second album went to Jose Aguda who took care most of my comics at that time. Finally, I bought another album when I entered college.

In the course of my college days and also that of my professional career, I bought a few MJ albums. Mostly compilations. It was a surprise when around 12 albums of his became number ones again and selling like hotcakes. I was in college when he had his Manila concert. There was a lot of controversy about it since they said that he lip singed and did not really sing at all. I was reading all the newspapers about it at the time.

There are three concerts that I still want to watch in my lifetime — a live U2 concert [the closest thing I had to it was the U2 3D experience in iMAX], a Madonna concert and the last one was of Micahel Jackson’s. Alas, I shall never see him onstage.

What I like most about MJ’s music is that he was one of the handful of artists that tackled social issues. There’s the WE ARE THE WORLD, then there’s MAN IN THE MIRROR, HEAL THE WORLD and even the ever popular Smooth Criminal is actually a very serious song about domestic violence and literally having a criminal inside one’s home.

Good-bye Michael! I know that you’ve touched the lives of so many people. So many people have started to revive your songs. But if there’s one song that I hope nobody has ever come up with an adequate rendition, it’s THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL. The beat still feels brand new, and with the advancement in technology, even desktop speakers now sound as good as home entertainment systems. May your music continue to touch lives.

July 2018
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