A Beautiful Game Being Played Dirty

The world of football is buzzing with excitement and for many of the fans, the World Cup can’t get here soon enough. Sadly though, it is not just excitement that is wrapped around this tournament. Football, a sport loved by many, has been hounded with controversies, one of which concerns the official outfitter of this year’s World Cup, adidas. This leading sports brand prides itself for its legacy and passion for sports. Being the leader on anything and everything sports is at the core of the adidas Group. And today, in the midst of the environmental issues that adidas is facing, there are troubling questions they must answer truthfully.

How do you claim to love a sport when you have tainted it with poison?
Does brand leadership involve putting your followers (peers, customers, employees, partners, et cetera) at risk?
Is football still beautiful if it is stained with a supply chain that harms the environment and put the lives of its workers and customers at risk?

Back in 2011 when Greenpeace launched the Detox campaign by publishing the Dirty Laundry report (a list of global fashion brands that have harmful chemicals in their supply chain processes), adidas was one of the first companies to commit to clean up their processes, which looking back was admirable and very much aligned with their core values as a leader in the sports industry. Other fashion brands have also followed suit and made the commitment to detox. However, unlike H&M, Mango and Uniqlo, just to name a few, adidas has not kept its promise. Investigations conducted by Greenpeace Germany and some independent laboratories showed that adidas products still contain hazardous chemicals. These chemicals appear on boots, goalkeeper gloves and the official “Brazuca” ball. A Greenpeace press release on the Detox campaign points out that “These hazardous substances can leach from the products into the environment or get into the food chain. Some of them potentially cause cancer, disrupt the hormonal system or can be toxic to reproduction.” Hence, Greenpeace has now branded adidas as a greenwasher, or a company supposedly commited to the Detox campaign but fails to implement the necessary actions to clean up their manufacturing processes.

In response, adidas countered the accusations and reiterated their commitment to the Detox campaign, even citing their transparency in the supply chain and carefully monitoring or regulating toxics. The company also pointed out that as a founding member of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), they remain committed to the Joint Roadmap, “a plan that sets a new standard of environmental performance for the global apparel and footwear industry.” The ZDHC has been widely criticized as being overly ambitious and lacking the concrete steps to carry out their timeline for the roadmap. At the end of the day, adidas can make numerous promises and lay out various plans to eliminate the toxins in their manufacturing but as long as these chemicals are showing up in their products and in waterways where their toxins end up in, adidas has nothing to show of their true commitment to cleaning up their act.

Adidas cannot keep the game beautiful by playing dirty. It’s high time they walk the talk. No more hiding in bold pronouncements and empty promises. Adidas has long convinced the world that “Impossible is Nothing.” It’s now their turn to believe that it was not just another empty marketing ploy but instead a life rule and a challenge that also applies to them, especially when it comes to the safety and sustainability of their products. Only when adidas goes “all in” on detox can we keep the game beautiful.

Sources:
“Dirty Laundry. Unraveling the corporate connections to toxic water pollution in China.” greenpeace.org. Greenpeace International 12 July 2011. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/Dirty-Laundry/ 27 May 2014

“About ZDHC” ZDHC. http://www.roadmaptozero.com/about-zdhc.php/ 28 May 2014

Manfred Santen “Greenpeace investigation reveals toxic scandal with World Cup merchandise” greenpeace.org Greenpeace International 19 May 2014 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Greenpeace-investigation-reveals-toxic-scandal-with-World-Cup-merchandise/ 27 May 2014

Pia Ranada “Toxic trend? Harmful chemicals found in big fashion brands” rappler.com. Rappler 25 Jan 2014 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Greenpeace-investigation-reveals-toxic-scandal-with-World-Cup-merchandise/ 29 May 2014

“The Detox Catwalk” greenpeace.org. Greenpeace International 2013 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/water/detox/Detox
-Catwalk/ 27 May 2014

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An Appeal For The Students of SFCS

Mostly Warays, the natives of Eastern Visayas are accustomed to the harshness of the weather but early morning on the 8th of November (2013), they were not prepared for the devastation that was about to come. Internationally named Haiyan, Yolanda was the worst typhoon most people have seen in their lifetime: lives were lost, properties destroyed, hope nearly crushed and dreams almost shattered. The first few days after Yolanda’s landfall were the hardest. The typhoon survivors felt isolated with no electricity and phone signal, food and water almost gone. Surrounded with mountains of garbage and corpses on the streets, most Warays felt as powerless as the remnants of their homes crushed to the ground by the strong winds. But as they say, no adversity can ever defeat the Filipino spirit. Filipinos worked together to help the survivors, not just in Eastern Visayas but other places as well that Yolanda has wrecked. The Bayanihan spirit once again came alive. Donations came pouring in. The spirit of volunteerism was overwhelming. Also, international aid was significant and greatly helped the survivors. Everyone pitched in. Though a lot of political bickering ensued, in the end, the Warays came through.

Life still has not gone back to normal but slowly, the Warays are trying to recover and rebuild their lives. Students returned to school as early as December. Small businesses are trying to get back on their feet. Electricity has been restored. Cellphone signal is back although land lines are still dead. Those who became homeless are now staying in bunk houses, while others are still seeking shelters at some schools. One of these schools is San Fernando Central School (SFCS) in Tacloban City. This public school is situated at the corner of Real Street and Lukban Street, approximately 100 meters away from the shore. SFCS was one of the many schools in Tacloban that sustained heavy damage with 14 classrooms that collapsed and more than a thousand students displaced. After Yolanda, the classrooms that withtood the typhoon became evacuation centers. Until now, some rooms are still used by homeless survivors.

Mr. Ted Failon Image source: Ms. Imelda Gayas

Mr. Ted Failon

My cousin, Imelda Gayas, is SFCS’s school principal. After Yolanda, I was amazed at how she got right back to attending to her duties in school despite what her family went through. Her duties as a leader and an educator came on top of her priorities. Fortunately for SFCS, help came pouring in. Ted Failon, a popular news anchor and a proud Waray, visited the school and with the aid of ABS-CBN helped the rebuilding of some classrooms. They also provided chairs and school supplies for the students. Also worth mentioning is the Adopt A Child program of DepEd that ensures each child is provided with his or her daily needs and can attend school regularly.

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Almost a month ago, Ate Melda (as I fondly call her) and I were catching up on Facebook and I asked how her school is coping after the tragedy. They seem to be on track to recovery and she is grateful for everyone who has and is helping SFCS. She mentioned though that some of their newly built classrooms are still empty because most of their chairs were swept away by the storm surge. The school is asking donations so that the students would not be sitting on cold concrete when school starts again in June. Hence, I am posting this to appeal to generous individuals who may be willing to help SFCS students. These children, early on in life, went through a horrifying experience but slowly, they are trying to rebuild their lives. They realize the value of getting an education and they are desperately holding on to their dream even if Yolanda threatened to take it away from them. Let’s help them hold on to their dream.

Ms. Gayas overseeing the distribution of relief goods at SFCS

Ms. Gayas overseeing the distribution of relief goods at SFCS

Your donation will be used to buy plastic chairs. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. For those willing to donate, you may contact me at:
mobile: +63906-487-3234
email: 7pmtrain@gmail.com
facebook: facebook.com/jobetisonthetrain
Twitter: twitter.com/trainrides

You may also contact Imelda Gayas at:
mobile: +63915-417-8527 and +6349-172-5424
email: melda_gayas@yahoo.com
sanfernandocentralschool_tac@yahoo.com
facebook: facebook.com/imelda.gayas
facebook.com/sfcstacloban

In behalf of Ate Melda and the San Fernando Central School, damo nga salamat!

Note: Photos courtesy of Ms. Imelda Gayas.

That Awkward Moment When I Was A Drunken Tiger

On the 9th of March, along with five other Greenpeace volunteers, I donned a tiger costume, faked fierceness and roared to campaign against the deforestation in Indonesia. To clarify, I was not in Indonesia, I was at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife. It was my first foray in environmental campaigns.

Image

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the sun not too hot and a mild breeze was comforting for the crowd at Wilflife, mostly families, hobbyists and the GP (Greenpeace) activists. It was an almost perfect day for a save-the-trees campaign. Almost.

If we’re friends on Facebook and/or Twitter or in real life, you may have remembered me posting about GP’s campaign to stop the massive deforestation in Indonesia. You see, big corporations have this not-so-great, in fact, a fraction below evil and totally irresponsible idea of clearing the forests and replacing them with palm tree plantations. Why? Because palm oil is like gold in manufacturing. A lot of the products we use in our daily life uses palm oil: soap, toothpaste, shampoo, chocolates, cooking oil, you get the picture. To be fair, and this may restore your faith in humanity, some manufacturers have already committed to join the campaign and not to get their palm oil from the Indonesian forest turned palm tree plantations. But as it is, there are still major corporations who have not joined the call. I’m looking at you Procter & Gamble. Hello, there, Head & Shoulders.

So Greenpeace is urging the public not to boycott P&G products but rather, ask P&G to use palm oil from sustainable sources. See, profit or progress is never an excuse for destroying the forests.

By the way, the forest in Indonesia is considered the lungs of Southeast Asia. You don’t want your lungs destroyed, right?

jump shot

Anyway, on a lighter note, I just want to share what I learned from the activity:

* Don’t attend a GP event (or any outdoor activity for that matter) with alcohol still in your bloodstream or hungover as alcohol has been infamously linked to impairment of judgement. So expect a lot of second guessing your actions and trouble remembering instructions. Also, decision making skills may be a bit slow, at times, almost nonexistent and definitely not so impressive.

* Being lethargic does not really go well with a tiger costume at the park. Faking alertness and an upbeat mood is inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol you have just consumed a couple of hours prior.

* Keep in mind the importance of staying vertical when you’re nauseous. At one point, they asked us to be on all fours because, you know, tigers, and I almost hurled. I tried my best to stay standing from that point onwards. There is no way you can be fierce while vomiting.

* If you hold a sign saying Free #TigerHug, random strangers will approach you for a hug. Maximize the awkwardness by educating them on the campaign. Hey, they owe you for the hug.

* You get instant good vibes when you hug a tree. Enough said.

* Trees do have a way of reminding you of beauty and selflessness and first love and poetry and rusty childhood memories. No, seriously, they give us oxygen and then we cut them. Harsh much?

* Doing something for the environment gives you a high. Alcohol can do that, too, but the former does not make you puke.

 

 

Note: Photos by Isko Noveda

PS. To get a better picture about this campaign, please watch this t.co/7s588QSMap

Humpty Dumpty and the King

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses, And all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

Image source: npengage.com

Image source: npengage.com

The King himself went to see Humpty to try to fix him. The King saw Humpty broken with his parts scattered all over the ground. It looked tragic but not totally hopeless for Humpty was still alive. So then the King started talking to Humpty and slowly coaxed him to pick up the pieces and fix himself back. He even offered to help and then started picking up some broken parts. Humpty politely declined and begged the King to stop what he was doing. He tried to explain to the King:

“I know I can pick up the pieces and fix myself. I won’t be good as new. There will be missing pieces. There will be some parts that will be beyond repair, but I would still be able to function, then, maybe do new things. Maybe make a new life. A different life perhaps. Make new accomplishments or make new mistakes. Doesn’t really matter. I can walk a different path. The possibilities are endless.

I know it’s not the end for me. Not yet anyway. No, this isn’t the end. But for now, let me stay here. Let me lie here with the ruins. Let me not worry about the days being empty, because the day I pick up the pieces and put myself together is the day I start to stand up again. And when I do that, I would have to walk and leave this place. I would need to move on and keep walking, never look back and live life again. And today, I’m just not ready to do that.”

Image source: exchange.smarttech.com

Image source: exchange.smarttech.com

Note:
I’ve read this “Humpty and the King” story a long time ago. The original story was much, much shorter, about two to four sentences. I tried researching online but couldn’t find it, then somehow got inspired to rewrite it from what I could remember from it.

I Could Be The One by Avicii feat. Nicky Romero

Here’s a list of what I learned from the music video I Could Be The One, also known as the story of a boring fat girl who dreamed a better life:

Don’t watch the video if you don’t appreciate satire, in which case, you should also stop reading this now.

Bored office workers surf non-work related sites such as online shops and self-help sites, especially fat office girls.

If you’re a fat girl, everyone will ask you to lose weight, which translates oftentimes to eating less or eating healthy. The right response is to tell them to eat a dick. Seriously.

Fat girls can shag hot bald guys, also long-haired model-type blonds, especially when there’s lots of alcohol involved pre-coitus. Anything and everything is possible with the help of alcohol. That was emphasized by the scene showing empty bottles on the night stand and the dresser after the fat girl woke up confused about the night before and with a naked beautiful male on her bed. Now if that shot of the bottles on the dresser was taken out, given that the girl was shown partying the night before, the correlation between fat girl-hot guy hook-ups and alcohol wouldn’t be too painful. Still painful but not too much. Oy vey!

Image Source: tumblr.com

Image Source: tumblr.com

The only thing your to-do list should have is to not give a fuck. That is all. The video will make sure you won’t miss this by dedicating a couple of seconds to a tight shot of the post-it of this list.

Just because you’re a fat girl who has finally transformed into a better looking fat girl, it doesn’t give you the right to ruin other people’s fun. Oh wait, it does? Why the hell didn’t I get the memo? Seriously, I would have appreciated it if the fat girl was giving the finger to skinny bitches drinking skinny margaritas on the beach. But a little girl making sand castles? Really?

Fat girls, even when they’re having fun, still look fat, sad and a joke. Feel free to spot the scenes illustrating this. Hints: sloppy kiss with the hot bald guy, ass grabbing at a party, humping on a yacht, the windmill scene, pot session, riding a horse by the beach.

If you’re an ordinary-looking fat girl, everyone else in the office seems thin and not-so-ordinary. Of course, in real life, most office workers are at risk of obesity. Yay?

If your life is one big routine, all you’re really doing is dying. No joke here.

Fat girls shouldn’t ride horses. There’s just no graceful way of mounting the beast, especially stallions. Gravity is almost always not on your side when you’re overweight.

One of the saddest things in the world is staring at the crotch — which happens to be inches away from your face — of a barely clad male stripper with a stupid look in your face. The right way to do it is to look unaffected while smiling naughtily (achievable by lifting the left corner of your mouth with your lips closed) every few minutes, even though on the inside you are jumping giddily while throwing your arms in the air.

Image Source: genxflow.com

Image Source: genxflow.com

If you’re a fat girl, you will be treated like a doormat, unless you do something about it. Okay, that was an exaggeration. Not all doormats are fat girls. I mean, you don’t have to be fat to have people walking all over you. Kidding aside, if you’re fat and a doormat, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what kind of masochism you’re gunning for.

If you have a bitchy hot girl, possibly with eating disorder colleague who probably is your superior and she rudely dumps paperwork on your desk on a regular basis, you will one day let go of your rage and just lose it. And I mean rampage in its rawest form. Needless to say, it won’t be pretty.

The moment you decide to change your life, you get killed.

The moral of the video? Don’t try to change your life or go into a vacation. Let people walk over you. That’s okay. Not all of us are created equal. If your looks are ordinary and you are fat, you are a tragedy. Accept that. Believe in your shrink and take that pill. Continue your routine because such is life. If you do otherwise, you can get killed. You don’t wanna get killed.

Notes:
I did not use asterisks to soften R-rated vocabulary because that would be doing the video a vast disservice.

This post is dedicated to JJ and Ann who are big fans of this song.

Sorry, JJ, it took me a long time to write this.

Mind Games

You are a monster. I am human.
We are friends yet we shouldn’t be.
You lurk in the shadows. I try to stay in the light.
You sleep under my bed and visit me in my dreams.

We stay in the dark where I cannot see your hideous face.
I told you many times I don’t care for your appearance
But I’m not sure I really mean that.
And you pretend you don’t notice my uncertainty.

Everyone tells me to stay away from a freak like you.
They say you are evil and would wreck my life
But I love the games we play and how happy you make me.
I do not think you are evil at all, though I’m probably wrong.

Sometimes you hurt me and I would cry for days.
I don’t know if that is ever your intention when you do so.
I do not ask questions and you do not offer answers.
Funny we’re friends but we never talk at all.

When my thoughts are straight
I try to resolve to myself
I should leave you and never look back.
But then I feel your presence in the shadows
And wonder what life is without you.

My friends tell me it would be a happy life
I could play outdoors and enjoy the sun.
They paint me a happy picture full of colors
But the solace I know is the darkness you take me to.

Someday you’re gonna leave.
Then I’ll sit alone in the shadows
Lean on the wall and not feel your clumsy movements.
That day I may choose to play out in the sun.
And when I do, I may never look back.

I’ll have the memories and be grateful for them
But hopefully, will not long for the refuge in the dark.
Instead, I will learn to live in the light
And to find comfort being bathed in sunlight.

But for now we sit in the dark
And your arms are around me while I cry bitter tears.
I don’t know how long we’ll have to sit here
But I know you’ll hold me until I feel better again.

Image Source: special-k611.blogspot.com

Image Source: special-k611.blogspot.com

Childhood Memories of Flores De Mayo

When I was a kid, I looked forward to summer. Who didn’t? School is closed. Every day is spent playing outdoors and swimming. Also, my parents would take us to visit our grandparents in Eastern Samar during summer. And it goes without saying that we would have to drop by Tacloban and visit Gaizano and the Children’s Park. Gaizano was the only mall I knew of when I was a kid. I have fond memories of their kiddie rides.

There were lots of summer activities back home but the highlight of them all is the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). Catholics and Aglipayans celebrate the Flores de Mayo every month of May to honor the Blessed Virgin. From what I recall this is a two-part tradition. One is the Flores and the other is the Santa Cruzan.

Back in my hometown, kids get excited for the Flores on hot summer afternoons. We wear white and pick flowers to offer to Virgin Mary. I remember my friends and I raiding our yards for flowers and sometimes our neighbors’ too. Santans in red, pink yellow and mostly, orange; hibiscus/gumamela, daisies and rosal are the usual choices. Bougainvilla not too often gets picked because it wilts easily. Roses are housewives’ treasures and therefore not up for sacrifice, not even for the Virgin.

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Before the Flores starts, there usually is cathechism, which we can barely get through due to excitement. As the novices and seminarians rave about the harps and angels in heaven and the fire and unending wailing in hell, we squirm in our seats, tightly holding the bunch of flowers that are slowly wilting as lethargy creeps in with the afternoon sun. Sweaty hands try to straighten the creases that start to appear on starched dresses while carefully avoiding the menacing glare of the saints at the altar.

Our hearts start to swell as soon as cathechism concludes and the Flores commences. We hang in anticipation as the elders choose the kids who will be carrying the letters of the Ave Maria from the church entrance to the altar. The giant letters made of light blue and white crepe paper are the holy grail for the kids at the Flores.

Image Source: braincontour.com

Image Source: braincontour.com

Basically, mass is celebrated during Flores with more emphasis on the virtues of Virgin Mary. We also sing the Salve Regina, which is in Latin, and surprisingly get the words right. Looking back, we didn’t really understand what the prayer meant since it was in Latin or if we were pronouncing it right but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

After the mass, we would fall in line and are given treats. They used to give us galletas and candies. Depending on the mass sponsor, sometimes we get fancier pastries. And when I say fancy, as a five-year old, I meant bread with bright red or yellow filling.

At night, the celebration continues in the form of the Santa Cruzan. This is a processional novena still in honor of the Virgin. I remember the elders constructing a bahay kubo as a makeshift altar with the image of the Virgin surrounded with flowers, both fresh and crepe paper. During procession, the rosary is recited interspersed with Visayan songs for Mary. The part I like best is we get to carry bamboo torches. You know how in the movies, the townsfolk carry torches to burn the village witch? We kinda look like that except ours is a solemn procession with some overeager toddlers running around.

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa '89

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa ’89

After the novena, snacks are served. And on some nights, if you’re lucky, there is social dancing. Back then, no one was embarassed to dance. Regardless of age, size and dancing skills or lack thereof, the dance floor never lacked of participants, all in the name of fun and camaraderie.

The culmination of the Flores de Mayo is on the 31st where there’s a procession and mass. The sagala is no ordinary procession. This is some sort of religious pageant where good-looking ladies and gents of the community play biblical characters. This looks similar to a procession during town fiesta. Needless to say, this ends in a street party under a starry summer sky, all in the name of the Blessed Virgin.

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

I Know I Live In Hell But Thank You, Mr. Brown, For Confirming It

I do not claim to be socially responsible. Truth be told, I am far from being socially aware. That admission shames me. Trust me, it does. I am the stereotype of my generation, the seemingly apathetic. I can come up with a thousand and one excuses but it does not deny the fact that, while I am not a government official abusing power, I am just as morally and socially inept; and just the opposite, I think it emphasizes my lack of cultural consciousness.

I dutifully pay taxes, it appears, but that is because it automatically gets deducted from my paycheck. If not, I don’t know how I’d be able to do so on time and file my 2316 on or before the 15th of April every year. I was never good in math but I’ve always been good at procrastinating.

I hardly watch the news and when reading online, I skip most of the local news. I do this for a number of reasons. First, the evening news is on while I’m having dinner before I head for work. I don’t know about you but images of bloodied victims of shootouts and old politicians shaming women who use the pill just don’t go well with my food. I read the news online but I skim the headlines and skip the recycled ones. This borders on being judgmental but I can only be a masochist to a certain degree.

Sometimes there are news stories that would just call out to you no matter how apathetic you are.

1. Take the case of Kristel Tejada. You would have had a heart of stone to not have been touched by that tragedy. I’ve written about it here

2. Take the RH bill and how backwards some of our lawmakers are. As a woman, the arguments presented by some politicians were offensive and shameful. They were sickening and disheartening at the least. But when the bill got passed, I celebrated along with the Filipinos who have held on to the promise of slow steps towards progress.

3. Take the recent national elections and how disappointing for many Filipinos the results are. I only voted four senatoriables, the ones I considered worthy, and all of them lost. I was floored. This was a heartache worse than when that good-on-paper guy did not ask me to be his girlfriend.

The aftermath of the elections is just as fiery as the events prior to the elections, if not hotter. This is the time when even the apolitical cannot help but react to the poll results. Practically everyone has something to say about the candidates, both the winners and the losers. I still think it is a shame that most of the winning senators, in my belief, are unqualified. Most of them are from famous/infamous families, which apparently, these days is the only qualification you need to be elected. I’m looking at you Grace Poe, Bam Aquino and the crowd favorite, Nancy Binay.

Yes, I did not vote for them and I think it’s a travesty that they won, yet I also have to accept the fact that we are a democratic country, and these three, among others, have been voted by the majority. Obviously, I do not agree with the majority but I respect their opinion. I truly mean that. What I don’t respect are the so-called “educated” voters, mostly the middle class, who have been shaming the masa voters for their choices. There had been a lot of name calling especially on social networking sites. The “masa” had been called a lot of names: tanga, bobo, gago, mal-edukado. There is no excuse for rudeness and name calling is not only immature and crude but only weakens, if not destroy, your argument.

We have our own reasons for our own choices. We live in a free country. And while freedom may not be absolute, we should not be judged as inferior or stupid because we chose someone different.

4. Then just last week, many Filipinos cried foul when international bestselling author Dan Brown (from The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons fame), described Manila in his book as the gates of hell. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino was quick to defend Manila’s honor by writing to Mr. Brown and refuting the author’s description of the city. The outcry on social networking sites have been loud.

Again, to each his own. We are entitled to our opinion. And I don’t know about you, but on many occasions, I have described living in the metro hellish, too. Hell, just the heat, overpopulation and traffic are reasons enough for me to believe I live in hell. But Mr. Brown, I don’t think traffic, even at its worst, is a six-hour jam. That is absurd! It’s only five hours! Four at best! I kid, I kid.

I’ve been approached one too many times and offered hookers. And I’m a girl! My good friends Jayby and Kent can attest to this. Try crossing Aurora-EDSA bridge late night or early morning. The sidewalks of Aurora also has a booming flesh trade. I work nights and I used to pass by that area. From Mr. Brown’s description, he can’t be far from the truth. I imagine Manila has the same business prospects, if not, better.

Pickpockets, panhandlers, who would claim to not have seen those? If you seriously haven’t, then you’re not a resident of the metro or you’re a sheltered trust fund baby who’s being chauferred from your dreamy castle inside Forbes to your little international school inside a gated subdivision south of the metro, in which case, I regret to inform you that you don’t count as a Metro Manila resident.

So far, those have been the news that caught my attention. Well, there’s the opening of SM Aura but meh, anything about Mr. Sy and his empire is disgusting to me anyway. I know I still buy groceries from SM from time to time but darn, his empire is everywhere it’s hard to escape him. There’s also Vin Diesel and Sarah Jessica Parker visiting our country. Hmm. Not interested. I’m mostly like this when reading the news. So I guess I’ll see you next time some headline catches my fancy. In the meantime, I’ll wait for my chauffeur to bring me to Shangri-La for lunch.

Excerpt from "Inferno" by Dan Brown

Excerpt from “Inferno” by Dan Brown

The Lamentations Of A Traveler

Image source: www.123rf.com

Image source: http://www.123rf.com

The stars that dotted the sky are flirting with the buttery moon. The night seems so alive as the sea breeze play with your hair. The anticipation in your eyes are veiled by the shadows of the night. You have been dreading this trip and kept pushing it back, pretending that there are far more important things that needed to be dealt with. But just like the other things in your life, this journey had a way of coming up to the surface, confronting you with the reality that you need to face. There’s no delaying it. Despite the fear and the hesitation, you had to do it now.

Despite the lack of sleep and the fatigue from a day’s worth of traveling, you can feel joy well up from deep inside, a shadowy memory of a not-so-distant past, a watercolor of vague images on a summer afternoon. The faint whir of the boat jolts you back to the present. The slight swell of the waves holds a rhythm that is ever so comforting. From time to time, a whimsical spray of seawater teases your face. The almost black shadow of an island looming in front of you is getting bigger by the minute. The lights from a distance are either from other boats or from the houses near the sea. They bring warmth that soothes your weary bones. The sea at night is dark but littered with twinkling diamonds, glittery just like the tears that slowly fall down your face.

The things that you fear are those that can make you happy or sad or both. This is a bittersweet reunion for you, a homecoming you would rather just pencil indefinitely on your to-do list. As the outline of the huge shadow is becoming sharper and the sleepy homes near the shore becomes clearer, the memories wash over you: the good, the bad and the ones you have buried and pretended never existed. The past is a box of pictures you’d rather keep at the bottom of your closet, never to be opened again; yet the denial will keep haunting you until you have to stare at the photos again, be reminded of the people and stories behind their smile.

The crickets and the waves have replaced the sound of the motor. You have finally reached your destination. You got off the boat and when your toes dipped in the water, you were greeted by the mossy pebbles, probably not the same ones you played with when you were five. Nevertheless, they felt the same.

You are the daughter who had left but has now come back. The cold night air gave you goosebumps but you don’t feel cold at all. Instead, a slow-burning fire has ignited in your soul. The island has engulfed you in its arms, a mother overjoyed by the return of one of the children she lost to the sea.

The moon is still buttery yellow but is now slowly hiding beneath the clouds. The stars are still glittery, just like the tears you’re trying to hold back as it dawned on you, you are home.

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

*The author would like to write an ode to her hometown but she is lyrically challenged. Nonetheless, this is a tribute to her home, Maripipi.

Maripipi: A Very Brief Reunion

After almost a decade of being away, I went home on the 27th, not exactly for a vacation but to attend a friend’s wedding, which was on the 28th. It was a really short stay at the island I miss the most but nonetheless, fun and refreshing.

On the 27th, at 9 a.m., I was aboard Seair on the way to Tacloban. Estimated length of travel is an hour and fifteen but we landed at Daniel Romualdez Airport approximately 45 hours after take-off. My friend Jomari met me at the airport and took me to Kuya Kent’s house for lunch.

After a home-cooked meal and a brief siesta, we went to the terminal of Van-Van’s to board a shuttle to Naval, which is the capital of Biliran, my province. It was a 2-hour ride.

Image source: biliran.boards.net

Image source: biliran.boards.net

The sun has set when we reached Naval, hence, there were no more motorboats bound for Maripipi, my hometown. We then took a tricycle to Kawayan, a town directly facing Maripipi. It was a short ride, about half an hour. It was already dark when we reached the port of Kawayan, but the sky was full of stars and the moon was bright, buttery yellow. It was a lovely sight.

Image source: biliranisland.com

Image source: biliranisland.com

Then it sunk on me, I was almost home. The sea wasn’t so rough when we crossed to Maripipi, just a mild swelling of the waves. It was a beautiful summer night. Van Gogh would have fallen in love with it.

If you want to know more about Maripipi, the size, population, livelihood, history and what have you, you can easily use Google and/or Wikipedia. I’m not going to detail those information for you. What you need to know is I grew up in this island and will always consider it home. The town has a close-knit community, and many of the people I love are from and/or here.

Image source: www.flickr.com

Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Recently, the island has become popular to  tourists. They fell in love with the blue waters, especially that of Sambawan.

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Since I started my trip back home at early morning, I was pretty beat when I got to the Zafico’s house. That’s where I stayed for the weekend. Polay and Jayby Zafico are my childhood friends, and their parents Nay Delia and Tay Pedring are one of the nicest people in the island, also close friends of my parents. After a dinner filled with catching-up, we headed straight to bed. The sea breeze, crickets and the sound of the waves lulled me to a deep sleep.

I woke up refreshed at around 6, without an alarm, which is kind of a rare thing for me back in the city. The house was already abuzz with the two kids, Dwayne and Jedric, playing at the yard; Nay Delia fixing breakfast; and Polay packing clothes for the beach wedding.

This was the scene directly from where I was sleeping.

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I eagerly took my tablet and went outside, circling the house and took shots. I was like a giddy tourist. This is the mainland of Biliran, a view from the back of the Zafico’s house.

Mainland Biliran

Mainland Biliran

The house stands on a cliff and surrounded with trees. Down below is the sea.

view from the bedroom

Bananas don’t come from the fruit aisle of the grocery. They come from a faraway place.

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Tay Pedring had just finished painting this table. Ain’t she pretty?

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Nay Delia still prefers using a traditional stove for cooking meals in their dirty kitchen rather than the gas-operated one they have inside.

Old school

Old school

After breakfast, we were off to town to board Ma. Lourdes (motorboat), which would take us to Sambawan where the wedding will be held.
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Sambawan is a group of islets, which has white sand and pristine blue waters, home to a diverse marine life. This was recently developed and has been made more accessible to tourists.

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Although, personally, I was disappointed with how they’ve run the development and of their new policies, I’m still grateful to have visited Sambawan again. The last time I was there, I was still in my early teens.

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After the reception and fully enjoying the waters despite the unforgiving heat of the sun, we headed and boarded a motor banca. I was shocked when they initially asked for a 700-peso fee. That was just outrageous. 300 is the usual amount. This is what tourism brings to some people, capitalism and greed. Polay haggled with the banca operator and they agreed on Php 400.

After a quick shower to wash off the salt, Polay and I went back to town. I wanted to visit the church and light candles. It is tradition to do so plus I wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving that I was able to visit the island again.

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This is the St. Michael Archangel parish church. It stands on a hill directly facing the sea.

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The islanders believe that St. Michael watches over and protects the whole town from natural disasters, pirates and all sorts of bad things.

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I grew up in this church and I love the stained glass windows. I wish I could get married in this church, if only because when you go out of the front door, you’d be facing the sea.

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Early Monday morning, I was aboard Ma. Lourdes again to take me to the mainland. After a short reunion with my island town, I was again on the road back to the city.  While I was on the boat, the sun had exploded into a beautiful array of colors, and so then I started slowly counting the days when I’ll be back.

early morning