Thursday, January 27, 2005

Moving God's heart

Humble Prayer Moves God's Heart, Says Pope
Reflects on Psalm 114 (116)


Prayer, especially in times of despair and anguish, moves the heart of God if offered with humility, says John Paul II.

The Pope gave that commentary on Psalm 114(116), a song of thanksgiving raised by the man at prayer, at today's general audience attended by some 6,000 people in Paul VI Hall.

"I was caught by the cords of death," the Psalm reads, "the snares of Sheol had seized me; I felt agony and dread. Then I called on the name of the Lord, 'O Lord, save my life!'"

"It is a brief but intense prayer of the man who, finding himself in a desperate situation, holds fast to the only plank of salvation," said the Holy Father in the catechesis he prepared and which, as on previous occasions, he did not read completely.

"Once saved, the person at prayer proclaims that the Lord is 'gracious and just,' more than that, 'merciful,'" he said. "This last adjective, in the Hebrew original, makes reference to the tenderness of a mother.

"Genuine trust always sees God as love, even if at times it is difficult to understand his actions. It is certain, nevertheless, that 'The Lord protects the simple.' Therefore, in misery and abandonment, one can always count on him, 'Father of the fatherless, defender of widows.'"

The Pope continued: "Invoked with faith, the Lord extended his hand, broke the coils that encircled the person at prayer, dried the tears from his eyes, and stopped his precipitous descent into the infernal abyss."

The song, he reminded the faithful, "ends with a scene of light: The person at prayer returns to 'the land of the living,' that is, to the paths of the world, to 'walk before the Lord.'"

An English-language summary of the catechesis, read by a papal aide, explained: "Prayer helps to discover the loving face of God. He never abandons his people but guarantees that, notwithstanding trials and suffering, in the end good triumphs."

The Pope concluded his meditation by quoting third-century Christian thinker Origen, who in one of his texts said: "If one is great, if one exalts oneself and is proud, the Lord does not protect one; if one thinks one is great, the Lord does not have mercy on one; but if one abases oneself, the Lord has mercy on one and protects one.

"The one who is little and poor can recover peace, rest," the Pope said. Origen, paraphrasing the Psalm, concluded: "Let us also say to our souls: 'Return to your rest.' Our rest is Christ, our God."

John Paul II was continuing his series of reflections on the Psalms and canticles of the liturgy of vespers, the Evening Prayer of the Church. Others are posted in the Wednesday's Audience section of ZENIT's Web page.

* * *

Someone from the alumni group has been bugging me with all sorts of questions ... her work status, and the fact that she wants to shift to another job.

But the way she says hello and bye on the phone... siguro likas lang na malambing.

She also sorta sings well or has the passion for music.

I can play the part, too, I mean with my guitar or on the piano.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Press release syndrome

Writing non-stop.
Writing non-sense.
Sometimes, that’s what I end up feeling when there’s no time left to recharge.

No decent time to read.

Not even a decent time for sleep, or to make music or pursue other hobbies, such as weekend bash in the dunes on four wheels.

By the time I’m done for the day, usually by midnight, I’d be so wasted.
The gym and the pool would be closed by then, anyway.

I think my other colleagues also feel the same way.

As for the monetary rewards … I heard there’s a pay raise in the cards by next month.
Until I see the figures in my bank statement, that remains a hope against hope.
Also starting February 1, the paper will start with the experiment of a five-day workweek, as in two consecutive days off.

That’s thanks in no small part to the brilliant, forward-looking managers of the publication group.

A two-day weekend in something quite unheard of in this parts, where labor laws have not completely shed off the feudal, or tribal, frame of mind.

Passports are still being kept by personnel departments(though they are made available upon written request, signed by bosses).

* * *

Got two books of Deepak Chopra today, and have them signed by the mind-medicine guru himself at the Jumeirah Hotel, where he gave the keynote of the Wellbeing Show.

The queue for the book-signing session included Dubai’s glitterati and even medical doctors who believe in the body’s ability to heal itself.

Leafing through the first pages, and after listening to Deepak’s 1-1/2 hour lecture on the healing powers of meditation, I think he’s not way off the mark.

Meditation, like fasting, is something present in all religions. It breaks the continuity in one’s life, a refuge from the ego, the world and the tensions it creates.

Ergo, one becomes at peace with his inner self, not needing anyone to be happy.

Which is what I so badly need right now.

* * *

It been a pretty tiring day.

Only a few hours of sleep and it's back to the ground again.

It's almost 10pm and I still had to meet this business guy who's behind one of the national pavilions at the Global Village.

I just pray I won't have to drive through snail-paced traffic for the last 8 to 10km before I reach the entrance, like the previous weekend.

Amid the jostling and blaring horns, a press pass does nothing to make one's car fly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How Media Can Promote Peace

Pope Highlights Way Media Can Promote Peace
In Message for 2005 World Communications Day

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2005 (

The promotion of understanding among peoples is the way the media serve the cause of peace, says John Paul II in his 2005 message for World Communications Day.

The theme of the day, to be observed May 8, is "The Communications Media at the Service of Understanding among Peoples."

"Modern technology places at our disposal unprecedented possibilities for good, for spreading the truth of our salvation in Jesus Christ, and for fostering harmony and reconciliation," the Pope writes in the message.

"Yet its misuse can do untold harm, giving rise to misunderstanding, prejudice and even conflict," he adds in the text issued in six languages by the Vatican press office on January 24, feast of St. Francis of Sales, the patron of journalists.

In his message, the Holy Father warns communicators about an "urgent need": "To promote the unity of the human family through the use made of these great resources."

"One important way of achieving this end is through education. The media can teach billions of people about other parts of the world and other cultures," he states.

For many, the media are "the chief means of information and education, of guidance and inspiration in their behavior as individuals, families, and within society at large," he continues. "Accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens a desire to learn more.

"When others are portrayed in hostile terms, seeds of conflict are sown which can all too easily escalate into violence, war, or even genocide."

John Paul II continues: "Instead of building unity and understanding, the media can be used to demonize other social, ethnic and religious groups, fomenting fear and hatred. Those responsible for the style and content of what is communicated have a grave duty to ensure that this does not happen.

"Indeed, the media have enormous potential for promoting peace and building bridges between peoples, breaking the fatal cycle of violence, reprisal and fresh violence that is so widespread today."

The Pope highlights the influence of the media "in favor of the swift mobilization of aid in response to natural disasters."

"It was heartening to see how quickly the international community responded to the recent tsunami that claimed countless victims," he states.

To achieve these objective, the Bishop of Rome concludes by offering an ethical principle for communication: "The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication."

"Communicators have the opportunity to promote a true culture of life by distancing themselves from today's conspiracy against life and conveying the truth about the value and dignity of very human person," he proposes.

The Holy Father adds that "my prayer on this year's World Communications Day is that the men and women of the media will play their part in breaking down the dividing walls of hostility in our world, walls that separate peoples and nations from one another, feeding misunderstanding and mistrust."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Birth Pangs of Arab Democracy

If the idea of a representative government that changes periodically through the ballot is ill-fitted to Islam's tenets, why do many Arab countries today are holding elections this year?

Before the EU came about, Europe's different principalities were embroiled in wars for centuries because of petty tiffs between their various sovereigns.

The rulers of ancient Europe had the same argument — that they have the Divine right to rule - until the French Revolution, when ordinary folks have realised they've had enough.

The intellectual depth of the article below very well sums this issue up quite like no one else could.

* * *

By Joshua Muravchik

For the Arab world, 2005 may be remembered as the year of the election.

Today, Palestinians will choose a new president. Three weeks later, Iraqis will elect a national assembly.

This will be only the beginning. Palestinians will go to the polls no fewer than three more times before the year is out, to elect municipal councils, a new legislative body and new leadership within Fatah, the dominant political party.

The Iraqi assembly, in addition to forming a government, will write a constitution that will be put to a national referendum in the fall, followed by new elections.

Since Palestine and Iraq are the twin causes on which the eyes of the Arab world have been riveted, their example will reverberate throughout the region.

And they will not be the only places where elections will be held.
From February through April, Saudi Arabia will hold municipal elections throughout the kingdom, a landmark step of popular participation for an absolutist regime that has imprisoned academics merely for advocating constitutional monarchy.

This spring, Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections. These are nothing new, but for the first time, a multiethnic opposition to the Syrian puppet regime might actually win a significant share.

Late in the year, Egypt will hold parliamentary elections, the first step toward choosing a president.

The presidential outcome is noncompetitive and foreordained if, as expected, Hosni Mubarak seeks another term. But restlessness with the rule of the 76-year-old chief who has held the presidency for more than 24 years may result in livelier-than-usual contests for parliamentary seats. Elections are also scheduled in Yemen and Oman.

It's an extraordinary moment in a region that until now has resisted the tide of democratization that has reached every other corner of the world. Even such distant climes as sub-Saharan Africa can boast that 19 of its 48 governments (40%) have been chosen by the people in competitive elections. But among Arab states the record is zero out of 22.

Still, this year's efflorescence of voting is being greeted with skepticism from some quarters.

A columnist in Egypt's Al Ahram, for instance, said "one would think the Arab countries are living the spring of democracy" but went on to question the meaningfulness of it all, implying, as another skeptical Egyptian intellectual put it, that all these exercises add up to nothing more than "painting the house … a soap opera, a response to American pressure."

This last point is particularly interesting. The fact is that even though the war on terror and the intervention in Iraq have driven American popularity in the Arab world to a nadir, President Bush's strategy of fomenting democracy in the Middle East is gaining traction.

Washington's new advocacy of democratization, reinforced by economic and diplomatic initiatives as well as its military presence, has made authoritarian governments squirm and has emboldened reformers.

Some Arabs may not be happy that these elections are coming at the instigation of the Americans, but the fact that American pressure is one impetus behind them does not make them any less important. (As the host of last year's reform conference in Alexandria put it: "If the Americans say they are against corruption, must I then be for it?")

It's true that virtually all of the upcoming elections will be flawed.

Violence will keep many Iraqis from the polls. Fatah's presidential candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, will not face any serious challengers. Syrian occupiers will keep a majority of Lebanon's legislators in their pocket.

Saudi municipal councils will remain half-appointed, and women may not be allowed to participate in voting to fill the other half.

But the skeptics are too cavalier. The sudden plethora of elections signifies a gathering momentum for the idea of popular sovereignty and a corresponding delegitimization of the various rationalizations for authoritarianism — heredity, national unity, divine will and the like.

The hoariest excuse for Arab dictatorship has been the need for an iron fist as long as the Arab nation is under challenge. We can't risk reform while Israel occupies Palestinian land, they have said, an excuse that has carried weight despite its illogic.

But even the most passionate Arab nationalist will see its hollowness if the Palestinians themselves, although not yet a state, are conducting politics by democratic methods.

And won't it be humiliating if the Iraqis under occupation select their own government while other Arabs, untouched by foreign domination, aren't permitted to do so?

Sure, the elections result from pressures, foreign and domestic. But the people bringing the pressure aren't going to be satisfied with empty rituals. 2005 will be the year of Arab voting and perhaps, as well, of the birth pangs of Arab democracy.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


The culture of the Maoris, New Zealand’s first inhabitants, comes alive at this year’s Global Village, at a pavilion shared by a host of Pacific nations.

The 600-square metre arena showcases the culture, crafts and tradition of the Maoris, as well as the native populations of the island nations of Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.

“One cannot fully appreciate the art, culture and life of Pacific islanders, unless he immerses himself in their oral traditions and learns the symbolism of their traditional carvings,” said Regina Sio, a native Maori and chief executive of SMK Management, main organisers.

“Being here today, in the midst of 45 other nations, is an awesome experience. We [are learning] about other cultures and sharing our culture [with] others, too,” she said.

The pavilion’s façade, featuring indigenous art, recreates a Maori meeting house, or “Wharenui”.

In Maori tradition, great importance is attached to the meeting house, explained filmmaker and production Lee Baker, a sixth-generation New Zealander.

Maoris have a long-standing habit of providing legendary hospitality, said Anne Minhinnick, a Maori shop owner in the pavilion, who sells traditional items.

“Maoris had no written tradition before the colonisers arrived. So our stories are etched in stone or shell carvings… and that’s what’s been faithfully handed down from generation to generation,” she said.

For example, fishhooks laminated on 5,000-year-old Rimu wood (Dh400) are symbols of protection for sea voyagers, as well as fertility.

The “Pounamu”, a huge wing-shaped jade carving dangling on Minhinnick’s neck, represents her stature in the Maori community.

“This stone, blessed by the community elders, carries a privilege and honour handed down over many generations,” she said.

Among these exhibitions are many rare artifacts. Particularly interesting are Kauri bowls and platters, made up of wood carbon-dated at 45,000 years old.

Maori handicrafts, including carvings made from the shell of the Blackfoot-Abalone, or “Paua” endemic to New Zealand's coastal waters and renowned for its deep blue-green and turquoise colours, and is often worked into jewellery.

Prior to the European colonisation of New Zealand, native Maori made extensive use of the shell for jewellery and for carvings.

Another craft of the Maori people on display at Global Village are stone carvings made from nephrite, a stone related to jade. Nephrite is a hard stone to work with, especially so with the primitive grinding tools available to the Neolithic Maori.

The traditional Maori craft of weaving gives a glimpse of the time when Maoris arrived in New Zealand around 1,000 years ago, when they discovered Harekeke — an native lily — which provides a strong fibre.

As a culture without metal-working, and in a country without mammals for hides or clothing, the Maori soon found flax vital to their lives.

Over time, the Polynesian skills of weaving mats and baskets became transformed and adapted to tasks such as making ropes, fishing lines and nets, sails for canoes, shelter and clothing.

A troupe of Maori performers is being flown in from New Zealand, so visitors can enjoy traditional songs and dances.


New Zealand and Pacific nations (including Fiji, Tonga and Solomon Islands) are joining Global Village for the first time.
- Pavilion area covers 600 square metres; the façade is inspired by a Wharenui, a Maori meeting place, which reflects the tradition and history of Maori tribes and sub-tribes.
- Two per cent of sales generated at the pavilion will be turned over to Global Village organisers to be given for the UAE Red Crescents’ tsunami victims, relief drive said organisers.
– Pavilion showcases culture, crafts and tradition of the indigenous Maori and Pacific Islander peoples.
– Products: Cloaks, garments, bags made of flax, contemporary Maori art, CDs of Maori music, carvings, shirts, Kauri bowls and platters (made up of wood carbon dated at 45,000 years old), carvings made from the shell of the Blackfoot-Abalone (a seashell called “Paua”) and stone carvings made from nephrite (a stone related to jade)
– A troupe of Maori performers is being flown in from New Zealand, so visitors can enjoy traditional songs and dances

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Pearly tales

How can you tell if a pearl is fake?

Mohammad Raja, a Yemeni trader with a khanjar (dagger) tucked into his belt, has a ready answer: “Burn it.”

Then, popping a cigarette lighter, Raja starts to heat up a string of pearls before curious onlookers in his stall.

“Nothing… nothing happens because these are ‘asli’ (real). Fake pearls made of plastic turn dark or melt when burned. If you bite a fake pearl, your teethmarks will be left in it,” said Raja, 25. He belongs to a family from Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, with four generations of involvement in the pearl trade.

His pearls, mostly uneven in shape, are just some of the interesting items one can see — and buy — at the Yemeni national pavilion at the Global Village.

The more adventurous can check out old but razor-sharp swords, worth between Dh2,000 and Dh20,000.

The age, history and value of these weapons depend on a number of factors, such as inscriptions near the hilt. To illustrate, Ali Hussain, a stall owner in the pavilion, unleashed his prized sample: a 500-year-old metre-long sword.

“The inscriptions on the sabre tell a story. This one is a product of backyard foundries of Yemeni Jews, who have been living in Yemen for thousands of years,” explained Hussain.

A 200-year-old sword goes for about Dh5,000.

The khanjar-toting Yemeni salesmen may seem intimidating to first-time visitors. As soon as the men repeat the greeting ‘Marhaba’ (welcome), however, apprehension turns into smiles.

“We Yemenis wear khanjars as part of our traditions,” explained Ahmad Yahya, another antique trader at the pavilion.

Turning to his collection of old guns, Yahya said: “These Arabian guns have seen many wars in the past. They’re the favourite of private collectors.”
Some of his old “bundoghia” (rifles) were witnesses to Turk-Yemen conflicts in 1500s and were used until the early 1900s.

“But,” Raja was quick to add, “they don’t work anymore. They’re just for decorative purposes.”

Don’t the traders have problems taking these pieces out of Yemen to be sold?

“Not really. Many Yemeni families have been collecting and selling rare items for hundreds of years,” said Hussain.

The really valuable ones are kept in museums in Yemen, he said.

“Our main customers are a special breed of people. They have a good sense of history. They are sophisticated people and value old pieces,” he said. “It is not easy to find antiques. We have scores of members of our family scouring different parts of Yemen, especially in the highlands, looking for these rare pieces.”

Besides weapons, there’s also a glittering array of traditional silver jewellery and perfumes.

Mark of manhood

“We no longer wear the khanjars to defend ourselves, but as an expression of an ancient culture and tradition,” said Awsan Othman Al Qabati, organiser of the pavilion, which has 51 stalls in a 1,000-square metre area.

The shape and type of Yemeni khanjars represent the place where they were made and the way in they are worn.

Khanjars (also called djambia) can vary according to a man’s profession. (Even the Yemeni president wears a khanjar in official functions.)

Not only the shapes vary, but also the value, based on the material. The blade is usually made of steel, while the sheath can be made of wood inlaid with semi-precious stones. Sometimes, it is made from silver or gold.

A regular dagger may takes three to four days to create, but those with intricate designs take up to two months (and also cost more).

Souvenir khanjars cost about Dh30 at the pavilion, but a khanjar with a handle made of rhino horn may command as much as Dh4,000.

Those with handles made of cow horn are much less expensive. Compared to the Omani version, Yemeni khanjars take much more curved “J” tip, Yahya explained.

Other shops sell spices, honey (from Dh200 to Dh500 per kg), incense and myrrh.

This year, a replica of traditional high-rises in Shebam, in the Hadramaut province, offer a facade to Yemen’s pavilion.

“Some of these buildings rise up to 12 floors, and have been there for 500 years. They form the so-called ‘Manhattan of the Desert,’ and people still live in them in Yemen,” said Al Qabati.

Performers flown in from Sana’a welcome visitors to the pavilion with traditional songs and dances.

Each region or village in Yemen — from the fisher folk, the Bedouin tribes, and the mountain dwellers — have their own folk dances. "We’ve brought some of them to Global Village to give visitors a taste of our homeland, right here in Dubai,” said Al Qabati.


Khanjar (daggers), swords, old guns, silverware, honey, Yemeni crockery, incense burners, spices.
Cups, plates, and saucers made of Al Harth stone from Yemen’s Sada city.
Yemeni traditional bands also perform at the Yemen pavilion, inside the Arabian Bedouin Life Festival area in Shindagha Heritage Village.

Pavilion Fact File
Country name: Republic of Yemen (Al Jumhuriyah Al Yamaniyah)
Capital: Sana’a
Pavilion products: Silver handicrafts, traditional knives (djambia), special waist belts for men and women to carry kohl, silver crowns for brides, a cluster of traditional necklaces studded with semi-precious stone as amber and murjan, spices, honey.
Area: 527,910 sq km
Climate: Mostly desert; hot and humid along its west coast; temperate in western mountains affected by seasonal monsoon; extraordinarily hot, dry, harsh desert in east
Population: 18.7 million
Ethnic groups: predominantly Arab; but also Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans.
Religions: mainly Muslim, including Shaf’I (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shi’a), small numbers of Jews, Christians and Hindus
Language(s): Arabic
Currency: Yemeni riyal

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Celebrate diversity

Lively African street dancers dressed in colourful outfits perform alongside a group of young German musicians.

Elsewhere, entertainers from Jordan to Japan, Morocco to New Zealand, showcase traditional arts, dances and music.

An interesting mix of “Tuktuks”, rickshaws, tricycles, joy bus trains and modified golf carts ferry people from the parking lots to the main gate and back.

Imagine mixing all of this diversity together, inside a 17.4-million-square-foot arena.

Welcome to Global Village 2005, a microcosm of how the world’s civilisations can co-exist, rather than clash.

To the thousands of tourists and residents who visit daily, this cultural “masala” is both fascinating and familiar, and a big part of Dubai Shopping Festival’s celebratory 10th year.

Fascinating place

This is where participating countries can showcase their heritage, products, tourist attractions, culture, people, cuisine, dances and lifestyle.

“I’ve seen five previous festivals, but each year offers a totally new experience for me. People accept each other for what they are,” said Parvana Mahtavi, a mother visiting from Iran.

“It’s a fascinating place. So much thought and work have gone into realising this project … it’s not easy to put all of it together, but Dubai has done it,” said Marie Anne Minhinnick, a native Maori from New Zealand.

“It’s really more of a festival now than just shopping,” said Ravi Prasad, a gold retailer from India, who has been working in Dubai for over a dozen years.

“The Global Village experience makes you realise that it’s because people are different that we have so much to share,” said Monica Bruns, a German tourist from Dresden, amid the cacophony of the carnival atmosphere.

Not everything has fallen exactly into place, however.

Some stalls in a few national pavilions are still empty (or under construction). Some of the restrooms serving visitors need quick fixes.

These teething problems are bound to happen, especially because the Dh60 million Village has been moved to an all-new venue, organisers said.

“I like the friendly atmosphere here, even if people sometimes barely understand each other when they talk,” said Feng Jie, an Abu Dhabi-based Chinese diplomat, as she carefully checked goods at Daiso, a store which has an outlet in the Japan pavilion.

All in one place

“There’s so much to see, but so little time. My children are enjoying every bit of it … they get to see so much of the world in one place,” said Abdullah S., a government employee from Riyadh on a week-long holiday in Dubai.

“This fabulous event unites all colours of the world. If you go back 10 years, no one knew about Dubai or the UAE in New Zealand. But now, with direct flights between our two countries, the tourist traffic is just starting to boom,” said Lee Baker, a film-maker from Christchurch.

The Village’s new location has helped reduce the huge traffic jams many attendees remember from past festivals.

Even if it has been moved some 40 km away from the city, however, the Village remains hugely popular.

Weekend visitors waited up to 30 minutes in the queue before they could reach the parking lots, with space for 15,000 vehicles.

“It took me an hour and 16 minutes to get out of the parking lot on to the main Emirates Road,” said Michel, a European. “It was total pandemonium, as eight or nine cars were trying to squeeze into a two or three-lane exit. This could be dangerous if someone needs quick medical treatment and an ambulance can’t pass through. I hope the organisers will do something about it.”

“When thousands of people come together in one place at the same time, there are bound to be problems. With a little patience, everyone can enjoy it,” said Sultan Abdullah, a UAE national from Abu Dhabi, who visited the Village with his three sons and two daughters.

Nothing encapsulates Global Village’s diversity more succinctly than a comment from Sister Sodonie Canda, a Jordanian nun who belongs to Rosary Sisters, a religious order that runs a school in Sharjah.

She said: “I came here with other sisters to satisfy my curiosity. The rich intermingling of cultures offers a very unique experience. It makes people realise mutual respect is what the world sorely needs today.”

Monday, January 03, 2005

Letting go

The passage below, ‘Let Go’, written by T.D. Jakes, is both heart-warming and nerve-wracking.

Just wanna share it with anyone who cares to read.

* * *

When people can walk away from you: let them walk.

I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you.

I mean hang up the phone.

When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

The Bible said they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. [1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn't mean that they are a  bad person it just means that their part in the story is over.

And you've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead. You've got to know when it's dead.
You've got to know when it's over.

Let me tell you something.

I've got the gift of good-bye. It's the tenth spiritual gift, I believe
in good-bye. It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I'm faithful, and I
know whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me.

And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it.

(This is the point I totally disagree with the writer... If Jesus said: ‘Why does have it take my life to save humanity from the grip fo sin? I don't need it!’ The history of our salvation would have been different. There are some things one must sweat out or die for. Like freedom.)

Stop begging people to stay. Let them go!

If you are holding on to something that doesn't belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to ... Let it go!

If you are holding on to past hurts and pains ... Let it go!

If someone can't treat you right, love you back, and see your worth ... Let it go!

If someone has angered you ... Let it go!

If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge ... Let it go!

If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction ... Let it go!

If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents ... Let it go!

If you have a bad attitude ... Let it go!

If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better ... Let it go!

If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in Him ... Let it go!

If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship ... Let it go!

If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help themselves ... Let it go!

If you're feeling depressed and stressed ... Let it go!

If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying "take your hands off of it," then you need to ... Let it go!

Let the past be the past. Forget the former things.

GOD is doing a new thing for 2005!

Get Right or Get Left ... think about it, and then let it go!

"The Battle is the Lord's!"


Sunday, January 02, 2005

New near, new place


Shafiq, a forty-something Pakistani driver, helped solve one of my biggest problems as the year of the rooster pulled in: moving to a new place.

After the bags were packed (started packing since after Christmas), I thought I was ready to go today (my off). But not quite.

I did what post people would — starting packing up the big stuff. Just when you think you’ve bunched everything clean, little stuff left here and there came into view — and there's no place or box to fit them in.

Moving around — part of the so-called permanent temporariness — defines expatriate workers' lives in a country not ready to naturalise immigrants.

To get rid of some stuff, I called the Filipino cargo forwarder, for whom Shafiq works.

By the time Shafiq (and Joey, a Filipino crew) showed up to pick up the ‘Kabayan’ box (bound for Cavite), around 5pm, it was all wrapped up and tagged properly.

Since I had no breakfast or lunch (save for a left-over shawarma), I took a quick snack (luncheon meat, leftover New Year cake) to cap the day.

Packing was the easy part. Moving was not, especially if you have heavy cabinet and huge table to handle. Finally started to take them on the road on Shafiq’s hardy pick-up around 7.30pm.

Had to leave them at an inconspicuous corner at Kuya Fred’s. I though I'll move the rest — electronics, wardrobe, books and all — in my small car early next month when I finally move in.

Since I’m welcome at my current place till January 6, I must find some place else to stay till February 6, the day Kuya Fred's family flies to London. A typical bed space scene in Dubai would have three or four people in one room… Works just fine for me for a month. Officially, though, I’m homeless now.

(I was thinking maybe it's time to consider moving to nearby Sharjah, where rents are cheaper, and finally live alone. But the traffic between that emirate and Dubai would probably drive me nuts. I don't want to be reminded of my Manila days. The thought of living in my car or driving on the freeway to Mama Ling’s in Al Ain, about about 130km from Dubai, daily also crossed my mind. That way I'll skip renting for a month, haha.)

During the short trip from Karama to Deira, I learned Shafiq, a father of seven from Peshawar used to work in Qatar as a mechanic for the oil-rich state’s police department.

With the little Arabic I knew, we got along pretty well. Talked about what men meeting for the first time break the ice with. He claims having screwed 50, maybe more, Russian women in Dubai during his prime. I couldn’t share a thing in this department, but feel fine having no similar tales to offer.

Thankfully, the cabinet and table fitted well in the elevators, both at the flat I’m leaving (on the second floor) and the new one I’m moving to (on the 7th).

Shafiq has become my friend by the time the big move was over and we exchanged mobile phone numbers. I offered to refer him to other people who might need his help in the future. He walked away happy with Dh50 I forked out of my wallet, 10 dirhams more than what he asked for.

Though today did not go exactly like the other off days (breaking my traditional ritual of snuggling with a book and having hot soup in between or watching a DVD), it's a prelude of things to come.

Hope the rest of the year brings excitement, less stress and more reasons to cheer.

* * *

I just learned my colleague Abdullah Arbab was asked to leave the company. Non-performance. I think I also saw it coming. Incorigible work attitude. Or could it also be because he is black?

* * *

Reminders for the New Year

According to the Stylebook, we do the following:

- Adviser
- Italicise newspaper names
- Second World War (not World War II)
- use the em dash (the long one, which looks like this —) for parenthetical information
- Single quote marks are only allowed to be used for a quote within a quote in copy
- South East Asia (not Southeast Asia)
- Robert C. Byrd (all initials take a full stop, except Harry S Truman, whose middle name was S, although there is some doubt this is true)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year bash

New Year means moving to a new place.

Worked yesterday till early evening. Thankfully, everything fell right into place.

The huge ads on our New Year's Day pages also helped me wrap up our section early.

After the procession at St Mary's, I visited my godson (choirmate's new baby) and dropped a late gift.

Count down at Kuya Fred's house tuned in to Channel 4 FM was fun. The wide-screen projector at their place (which will soon also be mine) offered a new meaning to the idea of home entertainment.

Kuya Fred's family are leaving for the UK soon. (I stayed with them for more than a year before I moved out when their family got bigger).

Their kids were quite happy with the little stuff I brought for them.

The only misgivings I had about the New Year bash was the unusually unbearable traffic and road rage (the roads were littered with people in a hurry to get somewhere).

Maybe its because everyone — Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Jew (if there are any around here at all) - were out on the streets trying to catch a party somewhere, or just driving around clueless where they want to go.

Ate left-over cakes and sinigang with Jun... in the morning and showed up for work in the afternoon. The Turkish dessert (made of baked oats, rice and milk) I had with two colleagues who asked me out for a quick New Year Sheesh Kebab for themselves was not so bad.

I hope the move to a new place would bring a new dimension to my life this year. It's such a stressful experience to have to move out again. Make one feel the permanence of temporariness that goes with living outside one's real home.