Saturday, March 28, 2009


...given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? 

Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? 
So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles,       - BARACK OBAMA

"We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a "higher" answer - but none exists. 

"Some people think of God as an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of very sparrow. Others - for example, Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein - considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws."        - CARL SAGAN

"The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alterations, are of themselves evidences that human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God." - THOMAS PAINE

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that has happened in politics or religion. - CARL SAGAN

I get letters constantly from people saying, "Oh, God will look after it." But He never has in the past, I don't know why they think He will in the future. - BERTRAND RUSSEL

I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously. - DOUGLAS ADAMS

An atheist... is a man who destroys chimeras harmful to the human race, in order to lead men back to nature, to experience, and to reason. - BARON D' HOLBACH

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Counting Kids

Ateneo de Manila 4 years ago. Would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to walk to school and be there at 6 a.m. and walk home again before midnight just to sleep and then be off again the next day same time. 

My boarding house was in Dela Costa Homes, Marikina City some 15 to 30 minutes of walking through the 'woods' in Ateneo and past all the buildings, where people say, the ghosts of the dead still lurk. My female classmates admired my guts alright. (Mga talawan. Haha.) 

The whole day I'd be glued to the laptop and taking cat naps on the floor on a mat I'd brought along for the purpose. Every week I'd change my location - Rizal library, dorm, English faculty lounge, pantry, ISO, canteen, etc. Good thing everyone was so accommodating - from the librarian to the janitors and security guards and the Humanities office staff and Graduate office staff. I became famous for being the first one in Dela Costa and the last one out. 

But silently I was suffering from painful strained and tired eyes and a throbbing head caused by my zombie-like state as every sleep and nap was filled with thoughts of how to start or end the next paragraph. Nothing else mattered. Except food. Pizza Hut, Shakeys, Jollibee, Mcdo, and my favorite Japanese and Mongolian restaurants along Katipunan Ave. whose names escape me now. Plus the occasional run around campus and badminton match with BJ and the gang. That was my life. 

Everything paid off nicely when I finished my thesis 3 months ahead of schedule. I was even allowed by my thesis adviser to go to Thailand for a week and to Belgium for 2 months before my thesis defense. (Salamat!) 

But back to those days of intensity I remember most the long talks with my friend, M, who was working hard too on finishing all her paper work. Since I was teaching research paper writing while doing my own, I had in a sense, unlimited access to faculty rooms, and so I graciously offered M to join me there for late night writing sessions. (We each had two long tables. Heaven.) It was during one of those nights when M started to tell me the story of her life. Something, she said, she doesn't tell everyone. 

Cautiously at first she told me she lives in a squatter's area with her family. Eight kids. Her husband is a drunkard and has no job. Yet she can't leave him because she needs him to take care of the babies while she works. Her eldest boy, just 17, doesn't go to school anymore and her eldest girl, 16 is also problematic. Even her younger children. M says it's probably because they lack nutritious food. If only she could afford better and more regular food, her children would be doing well in school. To make ends meet, M has resorted to borrowing money from whomever will lend her. That's how she scrapes together their food for the week, the tuition of the kids, and milk for the babies. 

What a life. 

Me: Why in the first place do you have so many kids if you can't take care of them all?

M: I tried!

What M told me next made me so angry.

When he's drunk, M's husband gets really horny and forces her to have sex with him despite her protestations that she's ovulating and it's not the right time. M said that she had made several attempts to get a ligation despite her husband's and parents-in-law's apprehension about the side effects. When M was about to have her fourth child, she was adamant about getting it done with or without everyone else's blessing. So there she was lying in a hospital ward full of other women about to get birth. Her legs wide open still after giving birth and her pubic hair shaved off. Then the doctor comes and tells her they can't push through with the ligation unless her husband signs the approval letter.

What the f---?!

The jerk doesn't sign the letter of course and eight kids later M's still working her ass off to keep the whole family afloat while her husband continues drinking himself into a horny stupor. 

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Please don't marry me YET!

How would you feel if you had to get married at 14 to somebody just because your parents made a deal and "promised" you to him for a dowry of lets say 100,000 pesos? 

Miss B, one of my colleagues who has to confront this problem in the communities she works with in Lanao del Norte has a ready answer. She says that if this is the tradition of your community then perhaps you wouldn't really mind. 

Yesterday I was so intrigued that after our Local Resource Person (LRP) meeting on the Integrated Area Community Public Safety Plans (IACPSPs) of Kapatagan, Calanogas and Marogong I sat down with Miss B and grilled her some more about early marriages. (Early - as in 14 years old - early ha. Like the girl in the pic.) 

Here's Miss B's story (all in one breath): 

"It's not uncommon to have 5 girls in 3rd year high school and 3 girls in 4th year high school married to men twice, thrice their age. One 29 year old woman  has 8 kids and 1 grandchild (from her 14 year old daughter who married last year). For many teenage girls, getting married is a way out of having to cook and clean and take care of younger siblings. Besides, If somebody wants to marry you, it's a good thing: you're valued. Like a badge of honor. In contrast, for men, getting married is like a business transaction. A young "fresh" high school-aged bride will cost them a dowry of 100,000 pesos. Older, professional women cost much more. Easily a million pesos. So understandably, men prefer them young and obedient and gullible. You see, Maya, young girls don't say 'no' and men like that. Puro lang yes, yes, yes sa husband nila. That's what men like. But as soon as the girls have had 8 kids or so and lose their appeal, the husbands look for a second, younger wife. Until she too has become just a babymaking machine and loses appeal. And so the cycle goes on..."

People, I'm not exaggerating my language ha. Tried to capture Miss B's story the way she told me as best as I could. 


So am I. 

Shocked and bewildered that something like this still exists. In the Philippines! What's really mind boggling to me is how women - who've experienced the uncertainty of early marriages and  soon after the pain of abandonment -  still end up letting their young daughters be married off to complete strangers. It's tradition Miss B explains. While we from the cities feel this is unthinkable, for people who have seen their mothers and their mothers' mothers get married this way, it's no biggie. Still, the 8 cases of elopement this year in one municipality show that some young girls would rather marry their sweethearts and not someone of their parents' picking. 

Hay kalisod sa ilang kinabuhi!  (Gosh, their lives are so hard!)

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pearl Rosaries

I'm helping one of my pilates buddies sell her multicolored pearl rosaries which she makes herself. This, she tells me, has been her source of income ever since she graduated from college last year. Sheryl (not her real name) is a nursing graduate waiting for the right time to work as a nurse in New Zealand. 

Meanwhile, she's killing time attending nursing trainings and seminars since she doesn't want to volunteer in hospitals and compete with other nursing students and nursing graduates all jostling to acquire the necessary experience for abroad. Making pearl rosaries doesn't earn too much though so Sheryl's mom and dad still give her an allowance. Even then, Sheryl's doing her best to make as many pearl rosaries and keychains as she can because she doesn't want to burden mom and dad. Last Friday, i tried to peddle 5 of Sheryl's pearl rosaries to my colleagues.

Colleagues: Himala you're selling rosaries May. Nagtuo diay ka kay Jesus?

I couldn't help reply: Nagtuo ko nga si Jesus tinuod na tao pero di ko sure kung siya ba jud si Lord.

(Head shaking laughter.)

But seriously, do I believe in God? - people always want to know. 

I believe in the universe is my ready answer. 

If the person who asked the God-question remains calm, I go on with: "Seriously, I find it hard to think of God as a Father. Or a Mother for that matter."

(Raised eyebrows and eyeballs rolling.)

I've never really told anybody what I think but Gaia seems to me the most reasonable explanation of how everything in the universe fits together. Not some humanlike supernatural being people pray to for blessings. (Everyone's free to disagree.)

You see, everything that happens, happens. Whether God, (whoever he or she or it may be), had anything to do with it, is something that never crosses my mind. Karma, reincarnation, the power of brainwaves and living purposely - now these are things I think about a lot. Not God. Surprisingly.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

What's the best way to remove butt shit - water or toilet paper?

Belgians said: Toilet paper
Filipinos said: Water

Last night at De Bonte Koe, hygiene was the topic of discussion.

With toilet paper, one doesn't need to touch shit. The downside is that toilet paper can't guarantee all the shit's removed. On the other hand, with water, one has to touch shit. (Eww...) The upside is that the butt is really clean. Especially with soap.

The Belgians saw the logic in the water. They just didn't want to touch shit.

The Filipinos advised: Dip the toilet paper in water then wipe your butt. Don't forget to wash your hands after.

Belgians: Yes but first you gota wipe your butt dry. How to do this without toilet paper?

Me: I always carry toilet paper. Do the same. Otherwise, shake your butt dry. (I was half kidding about the butt shaking.)

Rachel had a better tip: Don't wet your whole butt. Wet only the part where the butt cheeks come together.

Belgians: How???

Me: Don't sit on the toilet bowl! Squat! Hold the "kabo" with one hand and wipe your butt with the other hand.

Rachel: Pour water on your hand then wipe the butt. In this way your whole butt doesn't get wet - just the part where the shit comes out.

This transcription looks like we had a serious conversation but that's because I removed all the LOLs.

Isn't it incredulous that there are people who don't take a bath every day, don't comb their hair, don't brush their teeth after every meal, wear the same clothes for one week, and blow their noses with handkerchiefs (which they then neatly fold and put into their pockets like some sort of souvenir) - yet can't bring themselves to touch shit? 

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mayapay and Marty

Mayapay is a senior citizen. Older than mama in dog years. 

So says Bayani. When Belen calls Mayapay for breakfast and dinner, he doesn't respond. That's when we learned he's deaf. So deaf that I can creep up behind him unnoticed. Marty, on the other hand, is crazy in love. He spends hours on the window sill staring outside at his lady love. He likes to sleep on top of the TV and the fridge on his back with his legs in the air. Or sit with his back against the wall like a fluffy buddha that has had too much to drink.

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