Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Damn it

Sometimes there are things you just can't help.

Like making a phone call to someone you've been trying not to call for the longest time.

Which is exactly what I did.

When you can't hold out any longer, either you do as your heart bids or a tsunami would wash you away.

Call it the stupid, death of pride, a turnaround. Anything you want. But I've realised there's nothing one can do when his heart, not brain, does the talking.

Besides, you can't really run away from where you've always started. You just come full circle.


Tuesdays

Tuesday Vargas struck me as a down-to-earth person. She was in Dubai for a one-night gig at one of the big hotels here, where there's a mainstay Filipino band.

I didn't go watch the show, just traded ideas with her at the presscon.

Tuesday, a film major from CMC, had some incisive, straight-from-the-shoulders comments about the Philippine movie industry's lethargic state.

She says producers' total devotion to movies that have "mass appeal" (to cater to parochial taste of Filipinos) but little universal theme is one of the reasons why only a few Filipino movies make a name in the international scene.

I'm sure tuesday she trying to fashion herself as a self-declared spokesperson of Manila's showbiz industry. Just speaking her mind.



Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Hamda, a staff of the bank to where my office forwards my pay, was quite helpful today.

I’ve been postponing plans to go to the bank until finally New Year caught up with me..

* * *

The Stellar puzzle a friend gave me last night has sent my officemates on a brainiac spree, hehe.

This, while trying to beat the deadline.

I’ve finally found out how to unravel it (but didn't show it to them).

The next step: put it back together. Tried once but ran out of time…

Meanwhile, it’s time to hunt for a new place closer to office, hopefully to save a couple of bucks on the rent.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The day freedom was born

Here I go again.

Blogging for myself, hoping someone somewhere would care to read it someday. It was like any other Christmas, today.

As I left my flat for work, youngsters were debating on TFC whether or not Filipinos should master Shakespeare’s language and throw away our national tongue forever.

A boring non-issue it was.

I felt sorry people waste time yakking away at the utility of being a master of another patois. Our own hero, Jose Rizal, spoke four or five other languages (including Arabic, German, Spanish and French, and some English).

Nobody noticed he also spoke perfect Tagalog. The two novels he wrote in Spanish language has overturned the theocratic rule in the Philippines.

Aren’t people supposed to ape their heroes? Besides, English is no ordinary language. It may been f**ked by the Indians forever, after the Brits f**ked India for more than a century of colonisation.

What’s wrong with learning the machine language of computers and global trade? The closer we get to mastering Shakespeare or C or Java, the better for our dollar reserves.

Yeah, one may always say the Japanese developed without knowing the language of others. That's why we don't expect the Japanese to come up with something akin to the internet.

One little-known bit, however, is that an army of Japanese youngster went to the West to study engineering and other tough disciplines at the turn of the 20th century.

Japan has the Samurai's dedication, a Kimikaze's work ethic, zero tolerance for defect and keeness to detail that has made it something like a floating factory.

But have you ever heard of a Japanese-made software? Cartoons, especially the sleazy types, yes.

Among the guests of the talkshow, I only recognised Tado, who was all for Tagalog. Anyway, the debate was an off-season issue.

Which made my Christmas even more just like any other day, except for the cold that’s been hounding me since the last Simbang Gabi (Dec. 23).
The anticipated masses were held in the biting cold since January 15. I played the keyboards for the Dec. 23 mass… add to that the practices and carolling. A holiday recipe for overstretch.

Except for some warm greetings from colleagues that remind me of what a day it actually is today, it went on almost like any other.

I haven’t visited the gym at Emirates Towers in a long time. Maybe it's time to go swimming again (in temperature-controlled water, I hope, coz it's freezing cold here now).


* * *

I wanted nothing more than a text or a short phone call from someone who seems so near yet so far on Christmas. A curse would still be better than nothing at all.

I guess love has its way of inuring one to its unpleasant attendants. Otherwise, how would married people deal with each other’s quirks until they are grey? The answer can only be love.

But sometimes, you just can’t help it.

Moping is no way to live a good life. You feel cheated, regretful, taken for a ride. Regretting that your heart chose the wrong person and wasted precious youth for nothing.

There’s just no refuge from a broken heart.

But at least one must take consolation from experience, especially if it's a sad one. Delight not in being hurt but in being human, of making one’s own choice, even if wrong, and ultimately taking responsibility for it.

When you deeply love the wrong person, at least you’ll know how to make it right the next time — if there would be one.

The best way to learn a lesson, they say, is to get it wrong — and be wounded deeply — the first time.

I guess life allows everyone a second shot at love.

* * *

Last night, absolution was granted by Bishop Bernard to parishioners who attended the midnight mass. It’s good to know God gives people the chance to have have access to a lifetime of renewal.

* * *

Christmas with the maids

Was just too happy to have found meaning in spending part of my Christmas Eve with the runaway maids at the consulate.

Joy writ large on their faces was palpable. They sang along with a Karaoke and screamed in excitement during the parlour games.

Some 40 runaway maids had the party of their lives.

That party was the perfect little place to find the meaning of Christmas — in others. It was the best I ever came close to forgetting about myself during a season of giving.

As visions of abuse they went through flashed in my mind, I can’t also avoid thinking about a lost love once again.

Enough already!

My mind’s become so mixed up.

These thoughts naturally creep into to my mind like an unwelcome guest.
Guess this is what one goes through when he’s riding the emotional wave, especially when its happening for the first time.

I’m almost always on the verge of crying these days. Maybe the idea of not going this Christmas to prove my heart in invincible was a bad one.

I fear the loss of the love of my youth, the loss of the taste of forever. I don’t like it at all. Enough already. It’s been many months.
But if love never lasts forever, then what’s forever for?

* * *

What a futile effort to resist the urge to read Yeetot’s blog.

I can’t help but feel woozy. Hardened by my own habits, I can only feel nothing but loss — loss of a love that was strong, faithful and true.

(Until I was called a gago over a misunderstanding. I don’t like such labels. For being forced to take an early Christmas only so she could be introduced to someone else. Endless bouts of jealousy, which was all nonsense when seen from the prism of freedom.


* * *

Esther, 25, from Visayas, worked as a housemaid for a family in Ras Al Khaimah for one year before she ran away.

The reason she left, she explained, was her workload. “I worked hard for the money. But I started feeling bad about my work when I was not getting any day-offs and I was not allowed to go out. I wouldn’t have ran away if I’m treated well,” she said.

On Christmas Eve, Esther and 40 other runaways tried to momentarily forget their grief with a Karaoke fest and in-door games at the welfare centre of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) here.

The centre, run by a social worker, is part of a network of more than 30 such centres in four continents around the world and a testimony to the Philippines’s status as a leader exporter of housemaids.

A Philippine law mandated the establishment of such half-way houses to ensure runaway Filipina housemaids don’t end up on the streets.

At the centre here, thew mood was festive. Some groups brought native Filipino delicacies, cakes and goodies for the runaways while one group gave phone cards to allow the housemaids to call their families during Christmas.

Three of the housemaids were lucky enough to have obtained from their previous employers their passport and one-way ticket home on Christmas Day.

Merliza Makinano, director of International Labor Affairs Service under Manila’s Department of Labor & Employment (Dole), said the welfare centers only give distressed Filipina maids an option.

With more than 30 overseas welfare centre in four continents, Dole assists some 1.2 million overseas Filipino workers in over 174 nations.

“Our laws require us to have these centers in place... The welfare centers do not encourage housemaids to run away,” said Makinano, who spent the Christmas Eve celebrations with about 40 Filipina runaway housemaids last night.
That number is less than one-half of one per cent of 5,000 estimated housemaids working in the UAE, she said.

It was people at the centre in Dubai who assisted Mary Jane Ramos, who was jailed after being accused of killing her employer who attempted to rape her, but was later acquitted. The post raised the blood money to enable Ramos to return to Manila.

Apart from assisting OFWs, the Polos have also been working aggressively to explore and improve Filipinos' access to employment opportunities especially in Asia and the Middle East.

Some 2,800 Filipino workers who fly out of the country everyday to work overseas, many of them are housemaids.

“In a liberal democracy like ours,” Makinano explained, “the Constitution guarantees the freedom of movement. So you can’t really prevent people from going overseas to work as housemaids. Besides, any ban on the deployment of housemaids simply make it worse. People would always find a way around it.”

Friday, December 24, 2004

Weighed down

Getting over the things that weigh you down isn't easy.

You entertain all sort of histrionics.

Here's one of the things that crossed my mind: why not spark an office affair with someone who might be a good girlfriend material?

The more I think about it, though, the more I get numb.

First, that would have violated my rule about office affairs — that they’re professionally unhealthy.

When two consenting adults capitalise on the incidental proximity (daily) they have toward each other because of work, it’s a relationship based on convenience, not love.

When there’s almost no effort involved for them to see each other, it’s also cheap. Not that office affairs do not happen.

It does happen -- between a boss and an underling or between colleagues.

This made me think: Since I won't be the first nor the last, why not join the bandwagon?

And it's also not the first time two people who profess different creeds fell in love.

It’s just a bonus she happens to be just around the bend.

Meanwhile, the mental debate lingers... and it goes on like a broken record.

Still nothing.

Maybe I'll get over it. Maybe I won't. We'll see.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pipe dream

What happens when oil runs out?

The answer: It may not run out as soon as everyone expects; and, by then, the world may need more oil anyhow.

The reason is jet engines cannot fly on coal, and hydrogen-powered aircraft are still years away.

“People are talking about oil prices pushing $100 a barrel, double the current prices,” Stephen J. Reilly, an official with an oil-spill control company based in Connecticut, said.

“It takes only $3 or $4 per barrel to pump the oil from the ground or under the sea in this part of the world.”

Reilly was one of the visitors at the recent Offshore Arabia conference in Dubai.

Prices, he said, depend on supply and demand as well as geopolitics.

While alternative energy sources, such as solar power or hydrogen, have proved their worth, their use is not as pervasive as greens would have it.

He said the shift to alternative energy sources requires a different mindset.

“More Americans are still buying gas guzzling 4x4s. The soccer moms go around in their big suburbans. Detroit is still churning out millions of SUVs.
“According to some industry projections, by the year 2020, the global demand for oil could triple.

“I was in Shanghai a few weeks ago, and cars have replaced bicycles, which were still popular during my last visit two years ago. There’s a similar trend in India,” he said.

Former US President Bill Clinton, in a recent visit to Dubai, said diversifying sources of income in the region “is a special task at a time when the world is switching to alternative sources of energy”.

Marc Faber, an economist who predicted the US stock market crash in 2000, thinks oil prices could hit $100.

Oil prices reached more than $130 in 1936, $80 in the early 1980s, but stayed mostly in the $30 a barrel range at the end of the 1990s.

While science has sought other ways of running engines, hydrogen-powered cars or aircraft are much too expensive compared to their petrol-powered siblings.

More than 200,000 hybrid electric-petrol cars, which run for 60 kilometres a gallon, are sold each year, and 100,000 of these are sold in the United States.

That, however, is a small number considering that Toyota and GM, the world’s top carmakers, roll out more than 2.5 million cars a year.

The Scramjet, which uses hydrogen to propel an object to four or five times the speed of sound, has been proven theoretically possible in recent experiments. To propel a Scramjet to that speed, however, it has to piggy-back on a reconfigured B52 that runs on petroleum.

“There’s no viable substitute for oil right now. The hydrogen fuel economy remains an expensive pipe dream,” Reilly said.

To highlight the importance of oil — or shielding their countries from its shocks — India, China and even Russia — are trying to follow America’s lead.
The United States keeps 700 million barrels of strategic petroleum reserves at any given time — 17 million were used in the 1991 Gulf War and 30 million in 2000.

It is refilled from oil produced in the United States or sourced directly from producers and stored in three heavily guarded underground reservoirs buried in salt shafts. Even that reserve would only last 35 days because the United States consumes 20 million barrels of oil a day, a quarter of the world’s daily consumption.

Reilly said higher oil prices could stunt world economic growth and accelerate the viability of alternative sources of renewable energy, such as solar, wind and hydrogen.

BOX
Factors affecting oil prices:
– China and India need more oil in the short and long term. Demand for petroleum is expected to triple by 2020.
- Liquid Natural Gas, an alternative fuel, is cleaner than petroleum and cheaper to recover, but costlier to process.
– If Venezuela sorts itself out, the oil price will go down. Political instability in Iraq is also a factor.
- Russia holds significant oil and gas reserves and big oil companies are investing heavily in its oil sector, but it will take a while for this to have a major impact.
– Prices for the Prius with a 1.5-litre hybrid engine running for more than 25 kilometres per litre (60 miles per gallon) on both electricity and petrol still hovers at about the $22,000 mark, while a hybrid Honda Accord retails for about $30,000.
- Statistics by the Kuwait-based Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (Oapec) showed the Arab region’s recoverable crude oil deposits have increased by 23.5 billion barrels to 654.87 billion barrels at the end of 2003, from 631.3 billion barrels at the end of 1999.
– The revised estimates of oil reserves came even though Arab states have pumped in excess of 36.5 billion barrels during that period, according to the 11-nation Oapec.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Office affair

Temptations come, temptations go.

They manifest in the most natural settings. Like the office.
Sometimes I thought maybe I should give it a try — before my youth (or what's left of it) runs out.

Sometimes, you are tempted to start one, especially if there's a willing "victim". There's this one girl, a georgeous and healthy maiden, who won't exactly fit that bill. I don't know what's she's up to.

But she's okay, Ms. Universe material, except that her creed probably won't allow her to stand wearing skimpy suits for all the world to see.

Just looking at her sometimes make me feel better. We'd even trade glances and hi's. At times I catch her looking my way and we end up winking each other's eyes in acknowledgement.

I don't know what that means to her. But I'm quite happy and contented it's all there is to it. I didn't even know her family name until I read her byline in another section. I don't know where she came from. She's just a wonderful sight to behold and nothing else.

She sits a few cubicles away... But once she sat right next to me while talking to another colleague nearby. Felt shy to butt in, no matter how I wanted to. So I just hammered away at my keys.

Maybe I was not particularly excited about striking up a conversation or was never bothered really by her strong presence either.

Or maybe I'm in denial of how powerful that moment was. Perhaps, in my refusal to acknowledge that she's quite attractive, I'm passing off a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

That's the only time we ever came close to each other. And how will I know if there could have been "us" which would have made my life different if I'm too diffident to make a move?

She's alright... tackling women's issues, a pretty sensitive one in this part of the world in one of her stories.

But it's one thing I never really believed in, office affairs.

It's convenient, but it's also cheap.

Being emotionally attached to someone in the same line of work could create many complications professionaly, I think, especially if you work for the same paymaster.

First off, your judgement is clouded. No preaching here. It creates an unhealthy environment. Another thing is the difference of creed.

Yet again, it's convenient — and cheap because dating is not a problem. You see each other everyday. Which could also make it boring.

But different folks, different strokes, as they say. Others may see it differently.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Problemang pinoy

Got a call from Noel Sebetero, 39, from Central Victorias, in Negros Occidental. Someone from the consulate referred me to him. Baka daw may maitulong ako sa kanya. Noel does not have a mobile phone but used his colleague's phone 050-3532569.
Such calls happen at least once a week.
He walked into the consulate earlier with a complainant then called me to seek advise. Noel arrived from Manila in Dubai on Nov. 27.
He worked as a tailor in Saudi Arabia for six years.
His new employer in Dubai, a Lebanese man, apparently had made promises he didn't keep, or which he is now denying.
"Ayaw niyang ibigay (reimburse) ang airline ticket ko," according to Noel.
He arrived on employment visa. Borrowed 300 from friends (apparently, he had lost all his savings) to buy $290 one-way ticket to Dubai.
But his story is quite murky. I asked to write down the circumstances instead before I could dispense any advice.
He just wants to go back home. The ticket reimbursement was promised by the recruiter in Manila.
"Ngayon itinatanggi ng amo dito. Wala raw siyang sinasabing ganun."
Noel also complained of poor working and living conditions.
"Out of my salary of Dh1,050, I have to pay for the electricity and water consumption. Pero since wala kaming pera, nag-iigib na lang kami ng inumin sa labas, sa isang mosque na malapit dito sa accomodation namin (Al Qusais district).
"Gusto ko sanang ipa-cancel na lang ang visa ko. Ang passport ko, hawak ngayon ng amo.
"Mas mahirap pala ang sitwasyon dito kesa sa Saudi. Dun, kahit papano, fair ang labanan dun.
Ang tanong nya sakin: "Kung gusto ko nang umuwi, ano ang gagawin ko? Hinihingan nila ako ng pambayad ng bond."
"Pumunta ako sa Labour Ministry para magtanong kung papano pwede ipa-cancel ang aking visa.
"Pito kaming dumating, isang accountant, secretary, auto-CAD operator, welder. Sila, hindi nagreklamo.
"Dalawa college ko sa Pilipinas. Di ko alam ganito pala ang sitwasyon dito. Mababa ang sweldo, tapos pangit ang trato sa amin.
Kaya nag-decide na lang akong uuwi.
Ako lang nag-decide magreklamo.
Pinagbabayad ako ng security bond.
Salary Dh800, plus Dh250 living allowance.
Pagdating namin, binigyan kami ng Dh200 pambili ng pagkain at personal effects. Pero paubos na rin un.
***
Istoryang malabo, di kumpleto at di alam kung saan patungo. So I asked him to put it down in writing para buo ang kwento para kung maayos ang takbo.
Karamihan ng mga ganitong reklamo, di malinaw ang kwento.
Dapat din itanong sa employer nya kung ano ba talaga ang tunay na score.

Minsan, ang mga Pinoy, pumupunta lang dito nang di alam kung ano talaga ang kanilang papasukan.

Marami dyan, baka sakali lang. Baka swertehin. Baka mabait ang amo...

Bakit naman ako pa ang sasanggunian ng mga ganitong tao? Akala nila ako magbibigay ng kalutasan sa kanilang problema.

Pero okay lang. Kung nakakarinig ka ng problema ng ibang tao, dapat magpasalamat ka dahil mas magaan ang problema mo kesa sa kanila.

Minsan kasi, tama nang pakingkan mo lang ang kanilang hinaing kahit wal kang maibibigay na agarang solusyon. Kailangan lang ng tao na may nahihingahan na kanilang masamang kalooban.

Pero ako, walang mahingahan... naglalakbay ang isip sa kung saan-saan.

Naghahanap na mapunuan ang aking buhay ng kulay na nanggagaling sa pagpili na may kalayaan.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Future speak

What would the Arab world look like in the year 2020?

That's the main riddle of the Arab Strategy Forum, which kicked off today.

The answer, according to Shaikh Mo, Dubai's Sandhurst College-educated Crown Prince, lies within.

In Shaikh Mo's book, a prosperity, freedom and development is within the grasp of Arabs. But they first have to deal with their own problems in a new way. Old notions must be discarded. The victim culture must be thrown away.

In short: work hard, kick bad habits — especially dependence on oil which makes them fat, lazy and happy (oil accounts for only 7% of Dubai's GDP nowadays).

Time and CNN recently voted Shaikh Mo, who is also the UAE's defense minister, No. 8 among 25 top business figures in the world.

That distinction came not as a result of remote-control operation, but hands-on management. He also prescribes throwing away cynicism that there's a Western conspiracy at every turn designed to keep Arabs ignorant, divided and easy to control.

Tackling the challenges posed by a fast-shrinking world also calls for a merit-based system. He fell short of saying that tribalism must also be done away with.

Incidentally, Bill Clinton was also in the same forum.

As expected, he dished out the same platitudes during his 30-minute speech (for which he reportedly earned $200,000 or a cool $6,666 per minute). His ethos, I was told, are based on what in his own parlance is called ‘triangulation’.

It's an art he pioneered -- and used to the hilt -- during his eight years at the White House. Triangulation means taking two opposing sides at the negotiating table (say, by making the Palestinians and Israelis feel as if he stood by their side) while also presenting a "third dimension."

I don't know how Bishop Aringarosa would make sense of all that... Clinton seems to have mastered the art of being both here and there while also being elsewhere.

But the prospect of meeting Tom Friedman, the celebrated NYT columnist, might offer interesting insights into how to make money from dishing out dung (most of the time anyway).

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Jingling

It's time for Christmas carols once more. How many times in your life must you sing ‘Jingle Bells’ or ‘Silver Bells’ before you've had enough of Christmas?

Having seen 33 Christmases before, I guess I'll never tire of it. That's just a drop in the bucket compared to more than 2,000 holidays the Christian world has celebrated in the past.

How long will parents lie to their children about Santa Claus? Guess they never will. Because lying somehow buys parents some peace from an other rowdy bunch of offspring.

Singing Christmas songs is fine. But the new keyboard gives me the creeps. Or maybe it's the way the pre-recorded songs were stored.

Some are on the internal memory, some on diskettes (unlabelled). But it's a welcome change from the previous keyboard, which had been put in semi-retirement. The number of octaves in the new one is the same, but the controls are a lot funkier. I guess it takes some getting used to, this new toy.

My choirmates haven't really lost their spurs. Singing at the Burj Al Arab, the world's most luxurious hotel, for two days (Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day) won't be such a bad idea to make mid-life memories.

My role? Nothing to do with singing, though. It's just to find the accompaniments stored on diskettes and relax when the choir starts jingling along.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Amazing grace

What happens when you found out you had extra money in your wallet and you don't know how it happened?

I'm not exactly sure where the extra sparkling 500 dirhams came from. Last time I checked, I was down to one Dh500, a couple of Dh100s and a few smaller bills.

I'm a penny pincher. So I ‘feel’ exactly what's inside my wallet. But this extra Dh500 is one of those miracles. But the two Dh500s? How did the extra Dh500 got in there?

It just makes me happy to realised that when one opens up his heart to others in need, God will reward him ten-fold. Just like that.

And that's exactly what happened. Yesterday, Friday, there was a second collection during the Tagalog mass (for which the choir sang). I happily gave what my heart felt was I must give.

On the night between Friday and today, I dropped the clothes gathered from my closet which I left in my car as well as from friends in a faraway accomodation at the door of Fr Zaki's office. This was meant for the flood victims. By then the church was already empty of any earthly creatures.

After a slow drive-by, I thought of delivering the goods the next day. But I noticed the front gate was left half-open (undergoing repairs?). So I drove into the courtyard through the small opening, and went up to the same spot where I'd ask my mother for many things in the past.

The answer, which was quite unexpected, came the very next day.

It's weird. It's a miracle. It's true.

Life and work

Wrote something that was erased as I was uploading. Tough luck with my first attempt to join the ranks of canned bloggers.