Marooned.

08/08/2012 § Leave a comment

I was out for coffee with a friend that morning when torrential rains swarmed Metro Manila. We shared hypotheses of a potential twister, or snow in Makati, only to find out that on our way home streets turned into pools of water.

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All day, I had nothing to do, but listen carefully to stories of how deep the water is in my usual route to work from those who feel marooned like me.

 

Oh well…

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Prayer

04/05/2012 § Leave a comment

Dear God,

Thank you for what makes days here on earth meaningful and blessed. I am left in awe at the beautiful world you provided for your children. I cannot thank you enough for breathing life into me, and I am so grateful that you are my Savior.

I may have committed mistakes and have gone astray, but I am thankful that you have found me again. You are my shepherd and I shall not want… You restore my soul and lead me in the paths of righteousness… I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me… I will dwell in your house forever.

I adore your unfailing love. Always, I have felt safe in your presence and sane in your guidance. You have given me the family and friends whom I treasure next to you. Thank you for surrounding with these people I can build trust, and love.

You said that “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”. I pray for rain, and a deluge of blessings to be upon your children; that they receive their heart’s desire with your grace. I pray for distance to be cut amongst loved ones; and that they’d feel safer in the comfort of your hands. I pray for burning passion to be upon all working men and women; that they do not let go of a blessing so easily because of hardship. I pray for everyone, that they find even the simplest thing interesting everyday. Above all, I pray for love; that everyone loves each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Amen.

 

Is Kony 2012 Good or Bad

03/15/2012 § Leave a comment

I’m not really fond of re-posts, but here’s one that’s so good I had to share it.

Written by Rachel Held Evans for Relevant Magazine (March 13, 2012)

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Examining the controversy behind the massively viral Invisible Children campaign.

It seemed so simple.

A ruthless child abductor on the run. A grassroots campaign to ensure his capture.

But within 48 hours of Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” video going viral, the conversation surrounding Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and the best way to help the people he has terrorized for more than eight years, had become anything but simple.

The same social networking momentum that propelled the Kony 2012 campaign to trending status on Twitter generated a wave of criticisms regarding Invisible Children’s messaging and tactics. Critics expressed concern that the video’s message was too emotional and simplistic, and that it failed to account for complex realities on the ground. IC’s financial practices were scrutinized, its ratings on Charity Watch and Charity Navigator brought to light. Soon, people around the world were locked in passionate debates about activism, aid, colonialism, violence, foreign policy and justice.

Perhaps accidentally, the leaders of Invisible Children had started an important conversation—one regarding how we think about and engage social justice, about how best to use our resources and time, about the finances and logistics behind humanitarian efforts, and, perhaps most importantly, about how we tell one another’s stories.

When I shared the “Kony 2012” video on my blog, I had no idea it would be so controversial. At first I was surprised, then frustrated, then—after hearing from readers— encouraged because we’re getting passionate about something that matters.

So we should be encouraged this conversation is happening. And, as it proceeds, we should be wary of veering to two extremes in our thinking: idealism and cynicism.

Idealism: It’s Not That Simple

In the “Kony 2012” video, the co-founder of IC, Jason Russell, explains to his young son that Kony is “the bad guy,” and to save the children.

But critics say it’s not that simple.

They note that Joseph Kony no longer lives in Uganda, that his power has dwindled significantly over the past few years and that the Ugandan army—which IC says should be supported by the United States to hunt down Kony—is itself guilty of violence, looting and rapes. Some say launching a major strike against Kony may cause more violence. In addition, Christians committed to non-violence have questioned Invisible Children’s militaristic approach on the grounds that Christians in particular should seek a peaceful resolution.

Also, because Invisible Children is primarily an advocacy and awareness organization, only 37 percent of the funds they raise directly impact the people of Uganda. Critics say donors should send their money to organizations that devote a larger percentage of their resources to empowering the people in this region to bring peace and prosperity to their communities, and to help former child soldiers assimilate back into society.

Furthermore, many are uncomfortable with what they see as a “savior complex,” reducing a complex socioeconomic and political conflict into a “good guys vs. bad guys” scenario. Some African writers have expressed concern that the video presents white, American college students as heroes to poor, helpless Africans—a storyline that has plagued African aid for decades.

These are valid concerns, but many IC supporters reacted defensively when they were raised, because it disrupted the narrative they had already embraced. As difficult as these questions may be though, they are important ones to ask. For if we hope to move from mere awareness to long-term activism, we have to confront some realities we don’t like or understand, and accept that not every question has an easy answer.

Cynicism: It’s Not That Simple Either

However, as the furor grew, I began to encounter attitudes from Christians and non-Christians alike that disturbed me. Some people seemed more upset by IC’s policies and practices than by the cruel actions of Joseph Kony and the LRA.

These folks dismissed out-of-hand all of Invisible Children’s efforts to help bring safety to children in the region. They cast the leaders of Invisible Children as good-for-nothing hipsters more concerned with imposing their naïve, colonial idealism than their fellow human beings. They took to Facebook and Twitter to show off their humanitarian expertise and shoot down any idealistic IC supporter who stood in their way.

In doing so, these cynics became guilty of the same oversimplification of which they accused IC. Just as the lives of Ugandans affected by the LRA cannot be reduced to a single storyline, so the hearts and minds of IC leaders and supporters cannot be reduced to a single characterization. When we categorically vilify Invisible Children, we run the risk of forever alienating thousands of young people whose hearts for humanitarianism were first touched by an IC film or campaign.

No one becomes an informed activist overnight. We have to leave room for people to grow. It is in piquing the interest and imagination of young people that Invisible Children truly thrives, and in that sense, they play an important role in the world. Sure, IC is in need of some reform. But it is precisely because they are so effective at raising awareness that so many have joined the conversation about better practices in activism and aid.

So what do we do next?

When I shared a long list of resources about this controversy on my blog, I was surprised to hear from a reader who wanted to know what he was supposed to conclude from them. I’d presented books and articles from various sides of the debate, and, confronted with so many choices, he wanted me to tell him what to think.

I saw the same thing happen across the blogosphere, as pastors in particular seemed compelled to issue either blanket endorsements or condemnations of Invisible Children and Kony 2012.

This, in my opinion, is just about the worst way to respond to the controversy. The upside to all this fallout from Kony 2012 is that it has challenged a lot of us to do our homework and begin thinking more critically about how we talk about and pursue justice. The first step in turning this controversy into something that benefits the Kingdom is to embark on the uncomfortable but rewarding journey of becoming more curious, more informed and more passionate about justice.

This is not something we can do exclusively on Facebook and Twitter. It’s going to require hard work and time. We’ve got to learn how to read financial reports and track progress indicators. We’ve got to study history and engage public policy. We’ve got to move beyond the dichotomies of victim and savior, good and evil. We’ve got to listen more and speak less. We’ve got to avoid the danger of hearing and telling single stories.

The wisest people I know are neither naïve nor cynical. They are, as Jesus put it, wise as serpents but harmless as doves.

What Christians can bring to this conversation is an extra-large heaping of grace.

Grace for the idealists.

Grace for the cynics.

Grace for the amateurs.

Grace for the experts.

Grace for our brothers and sisters from Eugene to Uganda, South Carolina to Sudan.

Grace for hipsters and aid workers and peacemakers and child soldiers.

And, if we are truly radical, grace even for Joseph Kony himself.

Sugbu Adventure

02/24/2012 § Leave a comment

Apologies for my week-long hiatus from blogging. But keep mum, there’s reason to that. I was in Sugbu; prominently known today as Cebu, the Queen City of the South.

Fresh from Sinulog, the city welcomed me with festive colors from the airport. It was a little port, the size of the one we have in General Santos, but unlike the latter, this beacon breathes a better lounge and pathways for the traveler.

It’s easy to get a white taxi from there. Note that yellow taxis are always the expensive ones in the Philippines, except if you’re in Davao. Waterfront Cebu was its neighbour, but I never dared to step foot in it. I was to embrace Plantation Bay in a few anyway.

Taking a taxi to Plantation Bay that rainy day would cost you about 200 pesos. The place is a man-made haven for relaxation. Ocular viewing is free, but it’s best to spend the moolah for the experience. Go biking, have real buko juice, swim, get a massage, enjoy a couple of drinks in the (literal) poolside bar, sun bathe, and just… breathe. It’s awesome. It’s one of the reasons why I want to go back there soon.

My vacation was short, so immediately after I explored Plantation Bay, I traipsed down Lapu-Lapu Shrine to meet the hero the people paid homage to. Nothing very spectacular, but the souvenir area was a treat. I suggest getting them all there, unless you want to bring home Otap or Danggit; there’s a place for that. 😉

I was expecting an Intramuros-like experience in Fuerza de San Pedro, but it…. fell short of a good one. I fell in love with the doors, yes, but after one round inside, I wanted to leave. Buying the 30/60-pesos entrance ticket isn’t a good idea, but if you want to get all-historical, I suggest the Magellan’s Cross.

I say, visiting Magellan’s Cross is mandatory when you go to Cebu. It’s where history took place (where Magellan planted the cross back in 1521). Around this historic site are women who sell candles. You can light a candle and say your prayer after the woman has enchanted these candles with a prayer/ chant.

Close to the cross is the Basilica de Sto. Nino and the City Hall. I thought about filming the walk I had, but I just couldn’t risk getting robbed. Maybe next time. By the way, if you’re the type who adores the Sto. Nino, this place is a must for you as it sells the thing in different sizes. It’s insane! And it’s on display everywhere!

If you’re the type who likes to visit temples, Cebu has the Taoist Temple. I went there… for the heck of it! There’s not much to do, except play around with dragons, and tourists. If I were you, I’d rather be in Magellan’s Cross for some… heritage.

The traveler in me was more pleased when I tried the tasty lechon and puso at the humble CnT Lechon. Moreover, the Terraces/ Ayala was a good place to while the time away. It was the sunny Greenbelt, I thought, but with the affordable stores. This is home to Casa Verde as well where I had the biggest burger in my life! The 9-inch Big Bang Burger is a must-try. And so is Tin-Tin’s Tavern Shrimps.

Before going home, the Filipino would bring Pasalubong to family and friends, so I got the famous Otap/ Dried Mangoes/ Spicy Squid from Shamrock Pasalubong Center and Danggit from Taboan. I was shocked to see baskets full of it! 500 PhP worth a kilo of yum! Not satisfied, I bought myself 3 marble eggs as souvenirs of my trip from a nearby shop. I can’t wait to go back!

Two days later, I found myself on an hour and fifteen minute trip to Manila from Mactan International Airport. My stay might have been short, but Cebu is a good place to visit. Next time I’m there, I’ll skywalk and pathetically scare myself with the Edge Coaster. Maybe not. 😛

Lessons From Work

02/12/2012 § 1 Comment

There are many reasons that lead a person to quit a job. But for someone who is determined to be stable at work and be there for the long run,   the weapon, I think, that would take me there is character that’s in tact.

Passion. I’ve always been the type who’s passionate about work. It feels good to get a job done and well sans the frustration when things go in shambles. Moreover, nothing can be more satisfying when you begin to influence others’ work perspectives… the right way, and see something you love so much prosper. It’s a plus if you get to motivate them.

Initiative. In connection to being passionate, one needs to have initiative. I reckon it’s just logical to think that with passion comes initiative. When you are given a task, try to make sure that all rears are covered. If you think you can do more, seek opportunities subtly. With the current job that I have, when I see an opportunity to be responsible for  a task, I take it and try to drive action from others as well (if need be).

Team player. With work, hardly anything could be done single-handed.  As far as I understand it, both independence and co-dependency are at play. When I was with a magazine, I was the perfectionist. As the chief, I left no room for late submissions, bad reasoning, and unacceptable English because on a bigger scale, I thought, any late and badly written article would mean extending press work and delaying the release. Every individual in the team should be a contribution. And to do that, it would take personal will to make sure that a task is done well and on time! Everyone should be accountable to each other for a team can only achieve success through teamwork.

Integrity. There really are instances when you’re character is challenged to do something against your will, especially when you are desperate. Rationalizing the act won’t do you well. Keep your integrity in tact! Bad can never be the definition of good no matter how well you twist it. Think about the repercussions of your acts before even doing it because it could cause you the job that feeds you. Consistency is associated with this characteristic. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Interest. No job is easy. For you to keep learning, interest must be developed on a daily basis. There’s always something new to learn everyday, and so is there something new to appreciate daily. We should not grow dull toward a job we love. This is part of our life, and it is fantastic.

Engage

02/05/2012 § 2 Comments

Today, honesty is a single line of dialogue. Concise. Sincere. And unrevised.

Do we need to disguise ourselves to get closer?

GET CLOSER.


Hey, hey! What’s the best place to go to in Cebu?

If you any idea in mind, shoot me an e-mail. I’d love to read suggestions. 🙂

The Hiatus

01/28/2012 § Leave a comment

After my 3-week hiatus, I am back. Yes, I was very very busy. I have just come from a series of “going back to the hometown” to “start of the year team building” to “company kick off party” to “welcome a visiting friend” to “spending time with mom before she leaves for a foreign country”. It was a good mix of work and play.

During those weeks, I found out that General Santos has not changed at all. The same warm climate and wide road networks. I was amused though to see a traffic light on my way home from the airport, and then I realized that… yeah… GenSan is still a budding city after all… a far cry from what is Manila today.

In this city, tuna is still golden. I got my fix of kinilaw, which I didn’t stop eating until I left the place. I don’t eat Kinilaw just anywhere. Our kasambahay makes a really good one that you won’t stop eating. It has just the right sourness and spicyness to keep you coming back and eat more. I also tasted the yummy garlic chicken of Chicken Hauz. Unfortunately, Antipolo was closed when I got home and I was not able to salivate on their tasty barbecue. Nevertheless, GenSan is still a haven for food trippers and those who want to catch up with friends. Here’s a few of my photos from home.

When I returned to Manila, I was able to attend my first ever company party in SMX. This was the time to be sociable. An introvert like me would loathe this occasion, but I honestly enjoyed it. In events like this, it’s best to be able to know people more especially those you don’t see on a daily basis. This would mean colleagues from other departments. This may also be the perfect time to rub elbows with managers, supervisors, and what-have-you. Here’s the loner in his first company party. Tip is, if you really get bored, “people watch” and keep it to yourself. 😉

A week later, I went to Pansol, Laguna with my colleagues for our team building. It’s always good to develop camaraderie especially with those you work with. The best piece of advice is: mingle. Know them at a personal level. That day, I was able to know them better and there are some whose stories are so interesting I could write a book about them.

A week later, a friend and my mother arrived and we went all around the metro and ate wherever. The best places we dined at are in UCC Park Cafe (Burgos Circle, Taguig); Mesa (Greenbelt 5/ SM Megamall); and Orchard Road (SM Megamall). Try them out!

Let’s see what’s in store for the coming weeks. How’s your new year so far? I hope it’s well.

Serge

Here’s a peek of a possible adventure within the year: