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

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.

First Batch of Book Donors

Last Sunday, I delivered the first batch of children’s books to Handuraw Pizza at Sikatuna. This entry is just to say thank you to the first batch of book donors: Hazel Mae Pan, Nadia Dua, Jazz Braganza and Neoli Marcos.

Thank you, Nadj Dua! Image source: Nadj Dua

Thank you, Nadj Dua!
Image source: Nadj Dua

Thanks, Hazel! Image source: Hazel Pan

Thanks, Hazel!
Image source: Hazel Pan

Jazz and Neoli at Handuraw Pizza.

Jazz and Neoli at Handuraw Pizza.

I’d also like to thank those who already committed to donate more books. You may drop them directly at Handuraw Sikatuna. They open at 2 in the afternoon. You may also contact me so I can pick them up for you.

Uhmm, I don't recall writing this book. Photo by Jazz Braganza

Uhmm, I don’t recall writing this book.
Photo by Jazz Braganza

If you haven’t read my previous post, the book drive is for the benefit of the children survivors of Yolanda in Samar (Eastern and Western) and Iloilo.

First batch :)

First batch 🙂

Damo nga salamat!

Yolanda Book Drive

I didn’t have Barbies when I was a kid, nor did I have stuffed toys, except for that one owl holding a diploma, which was my parents’ gift back in fourth grade. I didn’t play with the owl because it didn’t look friendly and the diploma doesn’t exactly look like a playdate invite. So it stayed wrapped in a clear plastic sittting, collecting dust in one corner of our wooden divider. Instead of toys, my parents bought a lot of books for me and my brother along with sporadic toy purchases from Tupperware, of which my favorite was the red and blue shape sorter. That’s how my love affair with the printed word started (no, not with the shape sorter, the books).

Until this day, I can still see the white paper with colorful images of blond children kneeling beside their beds, reciting their nighttime prayers while an angel hover above them; or the brownish paper with Jonas inside the stomach of the big whale or of baby Moses in a basket floating in the river. Yes, my first books were Biblical stories and prayers. Then as I started school, I got introduced into the local classics like Ibong Adarna, the fables like Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing, then Pambata comics and other educational comics. Then when I was 7 or 8, my mother would take me with her to our local bank (a credit cooperative) on weekends and there I started to read The Philippine Free Press. I read about the Allan Gomez-Aileen Sarmenta case on The Philippine Free Press, as well as the Angel Alquiza rape case. My parents didn’t enforce censorship as long as my reading materials were seemingly legit. So yeah, you can see where and how my trust issues started. (Hah!)

I read practically everything then, Readers’ Digest, Health & Home (The Seventh Day Adventist’s magazine), Philippine Journal of Education, The Modern Teacher, Women’s, The Woman Today, Mod Magazine, Sweet Valley (SVH and SVU), Sweet Dreams, Mills & Boon’s, Harlequin, Sillhouette, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, Liwayway Magazine, Tagalog pocketbooks, the Nido classic fairy tales (loooove those), Arthur Maxwell Bible Stories Vol. 1 to 5, my father’s Teacher’s Board reviewer, film synopses on VHS tapes and so on. My parents blamed my poor eyesight on too much reading.

Back in 2009, the apartment I was staying in, in Marikina got flooded. The place was submerged in water and so were my clothes, photographs, my books (my printed and hard bound college thesis, my classics esp, Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby and my friend’s Murakami), a few furniture and DVDs. After the flood, there was an outpouring of support from my friends and family. A lot of people donated clothes, money, food, furniture and most of all, books. I remember how happy I was when my friends gave me the books. I mean, after a disaster, the usual donations are for basic needs to help you survive and get back on track and then they gave me books. After Ondoy, those books became a promise to me, a well of hope that things will be back to normal, if not better.

When I learned about Air Juan’s book drive for Yolanda kids survivors in Eastern and Western Samar, as well as Iloilo, I just knew I had to get involved. I could only imagine what the world of literature can offer a young mind who just went through a tragedy. Maybe it can offer relief, healing, hope, a chance to dream, knowledge or if they’re not into reading, maybe a page they can tore and make paper planes with. Well, hopefully, not.

If you would like to donate books, (textbooks, children’s stories, dictionaries, young adult fiction, etc.), you may drop them off at these locations:

NFR, Rm. 205, PHILDHRRA
59 Salvador St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City

ESI Bldg., Miriam College (Mar 24-28)
Quezon City

Handuraw Pizza, 1A Masunurin St. cor. Anonas Extn
Sikatuna Vill., Quezon City

You may also email me at 7pmtrain@gmail.com or text at 0906-487-3234. I can pick them up wherever it’s convenient for you, granted, of course, you’re based in Metro Manila 🙂

 

 

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

Outsourcing, Offshoring and Sex

“Offshoring and outsourcing today are like sex in the Victorian era: repressed or criticized in public discussion, much practiced in private behavior.” 

That is a very interesting analogy by Ben W. Heineman, Jr. in his article In Defense of Responsible Offshoring and Outsourcing in the Harvard Business Review.

Is sex a valid analogy? DEFINITELY.

Think about how widely criticized outsourcing and offshoring is, then think about the massive trend of the transfer of portions of work and sometimes almost major parts of businesses from highly industrialized countries in the West to developed and developing countries in the East.

Now let’s take a look at the parallelisms. Take love out of the equation, sex, through time, has been linked to power and money. When I say money, I’m not just referring to street-level prostitution but all situations wherein sex has been used to leverage power and money, to further one’s goal/s in life; in the same manner that outsourcing and offshoring is a great leverage to drive business goals. The capitalist market is a cutthroat industry where you either sink or swim. In a world where no one is created equal — yes, not all companies are equal, the challenges for businesses is to ride the change through recession and expansion, not barely surviving but competitively playing with peers.

According to Wikipedia in the Victorian era, “sex was something that was not discussed openly and honestly, [and] public discussion of sexual encounters and matters were met with ignorance, embarrassment and fear. It seemed that aside from being a moral issue at that time, sex was also a social, political and economic issue.

Now let’s take a look at the economics of outsourcing. The main reason for outsourcing and offshoring is cost efficiency and for this, they are widely criticized. People usually think that the cost of capital is directly correlated to the quality of product and/or services, i.e. the lower the capital, the lower the quality of product and/or services. In a capitalist world, everyone wants to flaunt the money they earn but almost no one wants to admit the money they lose. Some conservative businesses still view outsourcing and offshoring as accepting defeat or settling. But the success stories of outsourcing and offshoring for big and small companies alike, obviously defeat that view.

Thankfully, sex in the Victorian era has evolved and the sexual revolution paved the way to a more honest, respectful and less pretentious view of sexuality. In the same way that, through time, capitalists can also hope for the same revolution. Sex can make or break a king and a regular citizen alike. It seems that sex may be one of the great equalizers for humanity; in the same manner that outsourcing and offshoring can be the great equalizer for small and big companies alike.

Hymen and Babies

People say that in the old days if you so much as get caught holding hands with a guy, then you sure would be married. Maintaining a spotless reputation was on top of the list back in the day. Apparently, for single women, reputation has a lot got to do with virginity.

Nowadays, obviously, the culture has somewhat shifted. The state of a woman’s hymen is now mostly a non-issue. In fact, intentional tearing of the hymen due to certain “recreational” activities does not qualify anymore as a reason to force couples to marry. These days, it is the status of the womb that has become the deciding factor for many marriages. Tying the knot due to pregnancy, mostly unplanned, it seems, has become the rule rather than the exception. I don’t mean that as a criticism; rather, a mere observation.

Image Source: goosegreaseshop.com

Image Source: goosegreaseshop.com

As a woman, whether you are from the olden days when indulging in premarital sex would earn you a stoning or at least the reputation of the village slut or you are a “modern” woman living in today’s supposed more liberal view of your gender, the fact remains that you are still forced to conform to society’s presribed behavior, which is still for the most part, biased, pretentious and self-righteous.

How familiar are these situations?

A: X is getting married.
B: Is she pregnant?
A: Yes.
A: Oh, that’s why.

A: X is getting married.
B: Is she pregnant?
A: No.
B: Then why?

Image Source: kustomkoozies.com

Image Source: kustomkoozies.com

A: I don’t understand why X won’t marry her boyfriend. They’ve been together for years and their son is about to start school.
B: Because they don’t want to get married.
A: But why? I don’t understand.

A: X is pregnant.
B: Wow. So when is the wedding?
A: I don’t think she and her boyfriend are planning to get married.
B: But they should, shouldn’t they?

I cannot extol on the valid reasons to marry. There are thousands of references written by experts that you can use for that topic. Besides, at the end of the day, to marry or not to marry is definitely your choice. And your partner’s, of course. Whatever reason you may have for marrying your partner, may it be something that would solidify your marriage and keep you together, rather than drive you apart. And more importantly, I dare say, may it also be something that makes you happy.

Image Source: wowglowingbride.com

Image Source: wowglowingbride.com

 

 

The author (an almost spinster) is being pressured by her family to find a suitable husband soon or at least have a baby. But she would rather marry for convenience if given a chance.

 

 

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

Easter Sunday And All Things Celebratory

Photo source: coolwindsresidences.com

Photo source: coolwindsresidences.com

My Mom was a devout catholic and raised us to observe the lenten tradition. Easter Sunday is widely celebrated in the whole christendom and I remember my Mom waking us up at dawn and dragging us to church for the “sugat” (in Waray) or “salubong” in Tagalog. The event includes Virgin Mary meeting/reuniting with the resurrected Christ with young girls in white singing hymns and throwing flowers to the parishioners. When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I became one of those girls. I remember being so excited to wear a white dress and carry my little basket of flowers like a three-year old flower girl in a wedding.

Just like many catholics (or Christians, for that matter). the whole meaning of Easter was lost on me. To me, Easter marks the end of lent, meaning we can eat meat again and that it was the culmination of the weeklong prayer vigils, stations of the cross, novenas and processions.Surely, those are more than enough reasons for a celebration. The resurrection of Christ is still a mystery to me as is his death and its significance. They keep saying we are celebrating the living God, the ever loving God, the one who loves us unconditionally and has given up His life so that we may be saved.

I want to celebrate Easter the way I did when I was 10 and was wearing a white dress and carrying a basket of flowers. But I can’t. I’m way past innocence and has mourned the church I grew up in. Why is the church who preaches about love condemns the gays? Why wouldn’t it allow women to have choices regarding their own health and well being? Why is it covering up its own transgressions? How can they continue protecting the priests and other church officials who have molested children? How can the church be so wealthy when they preach about being humble and meek and renouncing worldly possessions?

Photo source: gstatic.com

Photo source: gstatic.com

Easter is a new beginning. New beginnings give us hope. Hope is the light that guides us in the darkness that we live in. When everything else is gray and cold, we can hold on to that hope. We can hope that one day things will change for the better. We can hope that one day we would be closer to equality. But until then, we have to do our share and stop bigotry, condemn abuses and respect women and their choices. And when that day comes, I’d probably wear a white dress and carry a basket of flowers.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Let The Slow Clapping Commence

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

Greenbelt apparently is a haven for expats. And where there are expats, you will also find the — how should I say it delicately, uhmm, you know the girls in skimpy dresses or short shorts with matching f**k-me heels? But just to clarify, not all of them are prostitutes, the other half actually are girlfriends/wives of the expats.

Sunday night, my friend, Ryan and I decided to brave the rain for some much needed alcohol fix. We were supposed to meet at 10 at Distillery but apparently, they’re closed on Sundays. So then we headed to Greenbelt, which not surprisingly, was still abuzz. The rain has stopped then but the air was thick with humidity. My shirt was drenched in sweat and my hair stuck to my nape. I was in my usual shirt and sneakers combo. For someone on a nightout, I looked like I just finished an intense workout.

After a quick dinner at Cucina Andare (pretty much their version of banchetto) we went to look for a bar and settled for Spicy Fingers at Greenbelt 1. The place is nice if you’re into red decor and somewhat pricey drinks. Uhmm, yes, don’t go there wearing red. You’ll blend with the couches and you could easily be mistaken for a server and/or crew.

Quite naturally, Ryan and I surveyed the surroundings and realized that we were in a place crowded with expats and their significant others, Filipina dates/girlfriends/wives. Now this is the part where I have to duck because you’ll be throwing rocks and tomatoes at me but I would just have to put it out there. I’m one of those people who make fun of Filipinas with foreign partners, especially those with cringe-inducing older partners. My friends and I refer to said expats as “pangkabuhayan showcase.” I guess the nearest translation of that is a source of livelihood.

Of course, not all of these interracial relationships are fiscally motivated. I do have friends who have expat partners without the economic factor being the forefront of their love stories. For this post, I won’t be using the current nationwide statistics of these unions because I’m too lazy to research the numbers. Instead, I’ll use the crowd at Spicy Fingers.

So most of the couples there were American and European men, mostly middle aged with Pinay partners aged early 20s to mid-30s. Roughly. There were also a group of Indian couples with Filipino friends. Or maybe they were Turkish. We could hardly tell. There were only 3 tables expat-free, Mine and Ryan’s, a yuppy couple’s and a group of 4 girls. To be honest, we don’t really know the reputation of Spicy Fingers. For all we know, they’re really a famous hotspot for interracial nightouts. But anyway, Ryan and I couldn’t help talking about these couples. We both admitted we were being judgemental in thinking these women are all after money and/or getting out of the country. And at the height of meanness, every time we see a Pinay-expat couple with age/looks disparity, we would do the slow clap. Too much age disparity deserves a slow clap with standing ovation. That mean.

You see, Ryan and I truly are not just ignorant, prejudice pricks because soon after, we launched into a socio-economic discourse of these relationships. Yes, we poke fun at these Pinays but how many among us see them as women who gave up the traditional romantic notions and instead decided to be pragmatic and made sacrifices just to provide for their family, help send their siblings to school, help a sickly relative get proper medical treatment, help parents build a house with a roof that could withstand typhoons and so on and so forth. Isn’t that noble than, say, marrying your childhood sweetheart and still asking money from your parents because you’re short on rent? Of course, I’m not saying that my example is a representative of most Filipino couples. What I’m trying to point out is that my Filipino couple example isn’t a butt of jokes, but those interracial relationships are.

I can’t help feeling sad looking at these girls who were mostly my age. Can you imagine being young and sleeping next to someone older than your father? How about relocating to your husband’s place where the sun does not show up for months? Most of all, how would you feel knowing that your family and friends talk behind your back about how you married your husband so you could get a green card and/or send your brother to college. Also, as is always being pointed out, these women actually help the economy, mainly due to remittance.

But I really shouldn’t feel bad for these women. What do I really know about what they think when they lie at night? Why do I even think that they are sad and wish for a different life? For all I know, as they lie next to their husbands at night, the last thoughts they have before drifting to sleep is how grateful they are for the life they live.

I don’t want to preach about how we should probably lay off on the jokes and the slow clapping. It’s not my place to do so. Besides, I know I’m still gonna make the jokes and do the slow clap. But I hope we try to see them in a different light, too. How about respect for their choice? How about appreciation for their wisdom and courage? But geez, I wish they would lay off on the skimpy dresses and the stripper heels.

 

*For Tasos. When I fell for you, the thought of you building my parents a big house in the province didn’t even cross my mind. I did daydream though of us and blue-eyed kids in a classic Greek house. Lol.