Friday, November 28, 2008

Pards, the cool unconventional priest

Spent two days in a parish near Bukidnon and had the most fulfilling filming adventure to date.

Filmed all the animals on the farm - pigs, chickens, geese, goats, and worms. (The worms are kept in a special cage and are fed with all sorts of debris. These are then digested and the excrement used as compost.) When I left kanina, another animal had been added - somebody had dropped off a pregnant cow as a present.

Also got footage of a dead rat that drowned in a tub of rainwater.                                                          

(Last night, the roof was crawling with them. But I slept like I never slept before. That's because for the first time in a long time, there was no electricity and no noisy neighbors for miles around. Just rats. Better that than five radios blaring at the same time.) 

This morning, Pards, the parish priest, Marites, the parish worker, I, and SM and Cutie, hiked for two hours to the parish's other farm-site. The trail we passed crossed seven springs/streams and was full of hoof prints of wildboar.                                                                        

In our trek back to the parish house, I almost stepped on what was a baby cobra hiding its head in the shrubbery.

I also saw two Philippine Eagles and several indigo-colored birds!

The animalscapade was a lot of fun; the plantscapade was as interesting. That's because Pards grows everything organic - passion fruit, carrots, strawberries, celery, rice, sorghum, etcetera. The plants feed on various kinds of foliar fertilizer-concoctions Pards makes from egg shells, banana bark, rice husks, molasses, ashes, and other gooey stuff stocked in barrels in the shed. These are rich in potassium, calcium, nitrogen, etcetera which make the plants grow big healthy and strong. 

To stick to the farm's organic concept, Pards collects the pigs' manure in a tank that's connected to another tank that turns the shit into biogas that's used to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The contraption cost some 100,000 pesos to build but that's small change for a lifetime of free gas. 

Another attraction of the farm is the reservoir where all the springs in the property are collected in a cement box that is connected to a pipe that leads to a pump that uses gravity to keep the water flowing. This contraption cost 11,000 pesos to build but again, that's small change for a lifetime of unlimited water. Pards is now experimenting with a contraption that will utilize the unlimited water to generate electricity. 

In between takes during chats about the Catholic church, I discovered that Pards is quite unconventional. Although he can easily ask his congregation to buy a car for the parish, he has not because he doesn't think a car is necessary. "If I have to transport fruits or vegetables or animals, I just rent a jeepney," Pards says. He points out that living like this suits him fine since he gets to help the owner of the jeepney and there's no need to spend on gasoline or pay for car repairs. Instead of a car, Pards is saving money to buy a weighing scale and more seedlings. 

Living frugally like this is also because Pards has to contend with having to get by with only 3,000 pesos worth of collections every month. That's a stark contrast to many other parishes whose parish priests have made marriages, baptisms, confirmations, and what not, their bread-and-butter so to speak. For these parish priests, collecting a whopping 40,000 pesos a month is normal. 

The catch is that for every mass, 1,000 pesos of the money collected during the "offering," goes to the priest as "honorarium." It's SOP Pards tells me. This is money for the officiating priest to keep and spend in any way he fancies. Perhaps you already know this but the Catholic church has a fixed price list for ALL the services it gives. Even a prayer request for a sick person, a dying person, as well as a prayer request to pass an exam - come with a price. 

Pards wants to change this and not let the survival of the parish depend on money collections. Instead he sells the animals and plants that are grown in the farm and uses that money to buy things for the parish like prayer books, candles, etcetera. Pards has told the community in the area that in his parish, money offerings are not an obligation. 

In other words, kung walay kwarta, puwede pud magoffer ug kamatis, papaya, bugas, and so forth. Kung dili kabayad ang mangunguma ug let's say, 100 pesos for getting her child baptized, walay kaso kung 20 pesos lang ang iyang ihatag. Pero kung wala jud siya'y ikabayad, okay lang gihapon. Kay unsa man intawon ang ikabayad sa pobre? That's typical Pards. His big dream is to help farmers go organic too - not just because it's less expensive but because it's a better, more healthy way of life for humans and the environment.

Mind you, Pards is also only the second priest I know who doesn't think there's anything wrong with women priests. (He even tells this during mass.) And get this: during pre-marriage counseling sessions, he gives the brides-to-be and the husbands-to-be advice on natural family planning and on artificial contraceptives. Pards reasons couples have the right to know both. 

As this blog entry has already become so long, I would just like to wrap up with: I am glad that there are still priests like Pards who walk the talk and are very vocal about things which other priests might just be thinking in private but never really saying out loud for everyone to hear. So refreshing. 

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Happy People Don’t Do - By RONI CARYN RABIN

Note: Chona, my former colleague at Ateneo de Manila Univ. posted this article below in her Facebook. I decided to click on the link and after reading, here I'm posting the article again. To remind myself not to watch TV when I should be doing other more urgent, important things like transcribing the videos i took several weeks ago. TV has made me such a procrastinator. I want to get out of this addiction and live life more purposefully. Devoid of showbiz chismis and all the unnecessary sitcoms which I watch for one hour then forget the next moment anyway. Pining for my pre-TV life. Read on and be inspired like me.

Happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading newspapers — but they don’t spend a lot of time watching television, a new study finds.

That’s what unhappy people do.

Although people who describe themselves as happy enjoy watching television, it turns out to be the single activity they engage in less often than unhappy people, said John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the study, which appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research.

While most large studies on happiness have focused on the demographic characteristics of happy people — factors like age and marital status — Dr. Robinson and his colleagues tried to identify what activities happy people engage in. The study relied primarily on the responses of 45,000 Americans collected over 35 years by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, and on published “time diary” studies recording the daily activities of participants.

“We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy,” Dr. Robinson said. “TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.”

But the researchers could not tell whether unhappy people watch more television or whether being glued to the set is what makes people unhappy. “I don’t know that turning off the TV will make you more happy,” Dr. Robinson said.

Still, he said, the data show that people who spend the most time watching television are least happy in the long run.

Since the major predictor of how much time is spent watching television is whether someone works or not, Dr. Robinson added, it’s possible that rising unemployment will lead to more TV time.

(Published: November 19, 2008)

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Nothing can be too serious

This week was pretty intense. Spent 2 whole days just working on the photo exhibit which led me to experiment with elmers glue, mighty bond, double-sided scotch tape (with and without padding), clear liquid glue, masking tape, and even rugby. I used them all. Paper was another preoccupation. Used cartolina paper, illustration board, chip board, art paper and bond paper. Went to the hardware/bookstore 3x for supplies and to the printing shop 3x as well. The drivers were a big help, thank God.

Patience and precision this art work required. I couldn't help wishing for some of Bayani's expertise in knutsellen to magically find their way into my glue-burnt hands. Would have preferred to do the planning and let someone more aesthetically-minded do the executing. But all's good.

The photo exhibit had me calling program officers and managers first to urge them to send me pictures and then call them again for advice on what captions to put. Had to ask stuff like when was the picture taken, where, who are the people in the picture, etcetera. But palpak gihapon. When i arrived in the office yesterday, Mags and Gemma informed me the Mayor of Paglas noticed a discrepancy between one caption and the name of the person in the picture (him). Big mistake.

Had to send out invitations to the media, write a quickie press release, finalize the program for the collaboration signing to be witnessed by our CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) vips. On top of this, the nameplates and the backdrop had to be fixed. Good thing I was able to mobilize the more handy Gajer who solicited Leno's help, who in turn, got the girls to take a break from their finance papers and offer a hand. That's how Leno, Gajer, Margot, Rena, and Grace spent a good hour debating about how to position the native cloths around the letters to be posted on the wall in the conference room. Twas my first time to have my cubicle crowded by so many people while I sat listening to them and typing away, amused at all the effort put into finding the right twist to the native cloths which had to be held up with pins, safety pins, and double-sided scotch tape. Lotsa laughter and teasing and congratulating each other for a job well done. I just love working with Filipinos. For us, nothing can be too serious even during tense moments when there's so much to do in so little time.

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Visiting the origin of Islam in the Philippines

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Sunday, November 16, 2008


Last night was unforgettable. 

Had dinner in Zakoya, watched James Bond in Gmall, and sipped Margarita in a bar. 

Agreeing, disagreeing, analyzing, synthesizing, teasing, laughing, crying. 

I wish I had more nights like that. 

My heart is full and my mind at peace. :)

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

McCain doesn't come close

Obamalabama. I hope he wins! Not because he's black; but because he has the best plans. Better plans for the soldiers, for the environment, for stopping terrorism. Heck, McCain doesn't come close. If you watched the two presidential debates,  Obama kept his cool, and gave short, concise answers that hit the bull's eye. 

If he wins, I wish him the best. I wish his family the best. Their lives are probably going to change big time - and i don't necessarily mean for the better. Less time for the family and more stress from work. It's not a very nice life. 

But then again, if I were in Obama's shoes, I wouldn't say no to the chance of being one of the most influential persons in the world who can actually make things happen at the snap of his fingers. Now that's power. I just hope that it doesn't get to his head. 

I say this because I've seen charismatic friends consumed by politics turn into persons who talk too loudly, don't know how to listen anymore, and show interest only in their own work. Everything else is irrelevant - themselves, their friends, their families. Obama, hope that doesn't happen to you! 

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fooling around

Yesterday I was in the car when I discovered that some men whom I see almost every week, have not been very honest husbands to their wives. Yesterday my suspicions were confirmed and I feel devastated. (Especially because I have always wanted to prove the pessimists wrong and say with conviction that yes, there are still honest and loyal men. Like my friends.)

Why??? Why fool around? In the course of my friendship with these men I learned that one major reason they fool around is because they've fallen out of love with their partners. (They don't say this though.) The men I'm referring to are the typical men who get their girlfriends pregnant and end up marrying them. But now that they're married, the foundations of their relationships have crumbled under the pressure of work. Sweet girlfriends have become nagging wives complaining about the long distances their husbands always have to travel, never thinking that the work isn't easy. The arguments boil down to the husbands not spending enough time with the family.

I naturally side with my friends' wives. "Of course," I say, "your wives have a point; you've got to balance work and family!"

Correct me if you think I'm wrong but my advice to my MARRIED friends has always been, "Work it out! Give her flowers, kiss her unexpectedly. Do nice things to keep the romance alive. If she doesn't reciprocate and continues to be bitchy about everything and you both still feel shitty - leave. Because if you don't leave now, you will still break up later on anyway when you're 50 or 60. That's a bit too many memories to start over again, don't you think?"

(But what do I know of marriage and relationships? Come to think of it, a lot actually. Indirectly I learn from the mistakes of people I know so that I hope I won't have to make their mistakes in my life.)

Though my friends don't feel much love for their wives, they never think of separation as the solution. That's because of several reasons: "Kawawa ang kids." "Breaking up is expensive." "We might never see our kids again." "We need our wives to take care of the kids." (Tell me, what can I say to that?)

Yesterday in the car, my friend confided that he fooled around to "experience what's it like." You know, "try-try lang." (Susmaria! What an unintelligent, stupid thing to say. But then again if this is what he really feels... I can only shake my head in disbelief.)

Interestingly, my friend revealed that fooling around is quite stressful. "What do you mean?" I asked. "Is the girl always asking you for money?" (No pun intended when i said that.) "No, it's the guilt," he explained. "It's the nagging feeling that what I'm doing is wrong. " Ah ha, he's not that bad after all. "Of course it's wrong!" I agreed. "You either break up with your wife and start anew but don't fool around behind her back."

I warned him that perhaps one day he's going to meet someone who he will really consider leaving his wife for. Good for him. But poor unsuspecting wife. "Do what's fair." Fooling around is not fair.

I really hope he changes. The rest of them too.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008


On Nov. 1, the dead come alive in the Philippines, so to speak. It's that only time of year when graveyards overflow with candles and flowers and thousands of people set up mats and tens right next to where their beloved departed are lying six feet under. Yesterday, Pa, I and Frits went, despite the drizzle, to see the spectacle of whole families visiting their dead. After an eat-all dinner at Buffet Palace, we left mama in the car and walked to where everyone was heading. 

It was like fiesta indeed. Vendors of all ages selling halloween trinkets that blinked red, green, white, orange in the dark. We chuckled at how one family had set up a tent where everyone huddled under blankets, watching TV. Gezellig. Perceptive Frits noticed, of course, how the rich had their graves inside airconditioned marble houses. "That's something for emperors!" Frits said. Funny observation. He wanted to take a picture pa in front of one structure but we had forgotten the camera. 

Last time I went to Pista Minatay was with Timoer and I remember Eminem was blaring in the chapel shouting f*** obscenities. Nobody seemed to mind. Disco music. Lotsa beer. People playing cards, laughing out loud, praying, eating lechon right in the cemetery! Surreal.

This year's Pista Minatay was less noisy. (A pity.) The guards at the entrance frisked everyone and told Frits to get rid of his cigaret. (Maayo nalang.) What was really funny was that Frits still wanted to go dancing afterwards. It had been two months since he last went kuno. Katawanan. I told him that in da Pilipins, no one goes to the bars on Nov. 1. Everyone spends the night at the graves. It's a weird custom but I like it. Spending one night in the year sleeping beside the dead is, well, typically Filipino. Just like it's typically Filipino to say say yes without nodding your head but raising your eyebrows instead, pointing with your mouth, smiling back at strangers, or striking up a conversation with the person sitting beside you in the jeepney. 

That's why I love living in the Philippines. Despite everything.

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