Freaky Tuesday

Yesterday had a bizarre turn of events. As the day before was All Souls and that was a holiday, yesterday was the first working day of the week and I brought my car to work when I otherwise wouldn’t. After office hours I decided to walk to SM City North, which is practically the entire length of North Avenue, instead of driving it and paying for parking. Aside from avoiding the parking fee, it’s short enough that a walk isn’t strenuous and would serve as a good warm-up for my legs in preparation for this morning’s regularly scheduled weekly walk. So off I was to SM, and was walking alongside the gold course of the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center towards the Mindanao Avenue intersection, when all of sudden something hit my right hip rather hard, and from the corner of my eye I saw a blur of movement. There was a flash of pain and at first I thought a branch of one of the trees lining the avenue fell and hit me. But a close look at the ground revealed the culprit to be a gold ball. Apparently someone hit an errant stroke and the ball sailed over the perimeter fence; and it so happened that there was no tall net to intercept high balls. Seeing the ball roll off into the street I halted the taxi bearing down on it; fortunately the traffic light was red and I had no difficulty retrieving the ball. I looked through the fence to see if I could discern the player who hit the stroke. I saw an elderly man coming towards me from some distance off, at which point I raised the ball in my hand to show to him and at the same time raised my right leg and pointed to my hip to indicate where I was struck. He was very apologetic in his expression, and appreciative of the fact that I retrieved the ball and was handing it over to him. I simply smiled and shrugged to put him at ease and reassure him that everything was ok with me. Then off i went to resume my walk to SM, and that was the end of that incident.

But it didn’t end there. After paying my bills, buying a couple of comic books, and doing grocery shopping, I went to my favorite ice cream parlor, which is where I usually go to read my comic books at leisure before driving off or taking the jeepney or FX back to work or home. I ordered my usual dessert, chocolate shake, and it came in the customary tall glass and topped with whipped cream. I had barely taken a sip when a fly buzzed around and settled on the cream! I tried to shoo it off, then blow it off, but by then it had become mired in the cream. I called the attention of a waiter and pointed out what happened, and they graciously offered to replace the shake at no charge. The manager herself served me the replacement shake, and I told her about the day turned out for me, and how this was the second bizarre event to happen to me. She said that she hoped that nothing more unusual would happen to me, and she gave the proverbial knock on wood for luck.

To my great relief nothing else weird happened after that, so I was able to take the jeepney back to the office with an armload of grocery bags, and from there I drove home. And that’s how my day ended.

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Corazon Aquino, 1933-2009

Note: this originally was a message I posted on a mailing list for my (now former) students, which I am reprinting here.

At today’s 6:00 AM Mass the priest told us that former president Corazon Aquino died earlier, 3:18 AM as it turns out. I am guessing that none of you, my former students, was even born when she was swept to power in February 1986, and even for those of you who were born during her presidency, were too young to take note of it. As someone who lived through the tumultuous years of her husband Benigno Aquino II’s assassination in 1983, the People Power Revolution, and her six-year presidency, allow me to share my experiences.

I was in Grade 6 when Ninoy Aquino was killed. That was the first time I had heard of Aquino or his family. Fast forward to late 1985, when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared snap elections for February 1986, and a groundswell of support for Ninoy’s widow Cory to challenge him started.

When the snap election took place on February 7, 1986, emotions were high, rumors were flying fast (even without the pervasive cellphone and Internet coverage that we have today, we still managed to receive and pass news around). The election received worldwide, near saturation-level coverage. My eldest sister had just been sent to the US the month before. In high school where I was a sophomore, the juniors and seniors were joking if the JS prom, always scheduled around Valentine’s, would still push through. I wondered how I would celebrate my birthday, which was also close. (Sorry, I won’t disclose the day.) My maternal grandmother’ s birthday was also close to mine, so we were thinking about that.

Then on February 22, news broke of a revolt in the military started by then Minister for Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and Head of the Philippine Constabulary Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. Classes and work were suspended, everyone stayed at home, except for my second eldest sister, then a college student at UP Diliman, who insisted on joining the civilian supporters. Our then yaya also joined the ranks of the those who cooked for the soldiers. My youngest sister and I were kept at home all this time by our parents, so we followed the news on TV.

The euphoria that greeted Cory’s rise to power is something I’ll never forget. Every felt that a new age had dawn, that we’ve been given a fresh start. Of course, the realities of make-classes and cram sessions fell on us students. And throughout Cory’s presidency and beyond, I never wavered in my support for her. Though I’ve never met her personally, both my parents served in sub-Cabinet positions under her tenure, my mother as an Assistant Secretary of DOST and my father a director at the CHR. One picture we always cherish is a group portrait in Malacañang, with both of them along with other government officials gathered around Cory. The one time I saw her up-close was watching on at a book-signing by her at National Bookstore in the Shangri-La EDSA mall.

Today, after breakfast, I went to SM North EDSA to buy groceries, then headed to Cory’s family residence at Times Street to pay honor to her, for myself and for my parents. I set down a lit candle and offered a prayer for her.

Tita Cory, rest in peace. You deserve it. We will always be grateful for your role in restoring democracy to the Philippines.

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Elevator Chivalry

They say that chivalry is dead, true gentlemen are a rare breed. How often is is that you see men offering their places on a bus or the MRT/LRT to women taking a ride? To say nothing of elderly women, expecting women, and women with disabilties.

But there is another area where chivalry is dying, where sheer laziness rears its ugly head, where boorishness rules. It’s the elevator. I say this because, accompanying my wheelchair-bound father to the malls, we sometimes find it difficult to use an elevator, because it is already occupied by able-bodied people who, in all honesty, could have trudged to the escalators and ridden those. This happened last Wednesday (July 15), at the Shangri-La EDSA, where after spending dinner at a second-floor restaurant with my sister and her family, my parents, our caregiver and I trooped to the elevator lobby to bring us to the fifth floor where we’d walk over to the carpark. Each of the two elevators heading up opened at our floor, only to be full of people. None of them volunteered to be a Good Samaritan and give up their place so that we could enter. The second time it happened I said out loud that we really should be given priority as the doors were closing, enough for the occupants to hear and perhaps feel just a twinge of guilt. In the end, we took the elevator as it was going down so that we didn’t have to wait for it to go up again, and possibly be full again. And true enough, when we reached the basement, a gaggle of people was waiting at the lobby. Now many malls have signs advising patrons to give priority to the mobility-impaired; but while the able-bodied are willing to yield if both want to enter the elevator, it’s a totally different story when the able-bodied is already inside the elevator and the mobility-impaired needs to enter. While occupants might not be expected to give up their places in the elevator, it would be a sign of respect, sensitivity, and consideration if they voluntarily do so. In fact, I’d thank them on the spot.

Now the question I raise is: if you are able-bodied, not tired, and not accompanying a very young child, an elder, or a mobility-impaired person, what would you lose by riding the escalators, even if they are located some distance from the elevators? In a mall that’s only up to five stories, that’s not much of a drudge if you’re going from the bottom to the top (or vice-versa), you don’t have a lot of shopping bags with you, and you’re not in a hurry. Bust those butts and legs of yours and do a little more exercise. It’s not like you’re walking a marathon. Don’t let the convenience of the elevator spoil you. Same goes for the elevators at the MRT and LRT stations. I once admonished a group of teenagers who were crowding (and being a bit rowdy) in the elevator at SM Fairview where my Dad and I went several years ago. As we got off, I told them, “Ang lakas-lakas ng katawan ninyo, nag-e-elevator pa kayo.” Spoiled. That’s what we’ve become. Contrast that to our caregiver, who related that in his hometown somewhere in Bicol, schoolkids walk kilometers to go to school (and back), rain or shine. And we complain about walking several meters to the escalator instead of using the elevator.

Posted in Graces and Manners | Leave a comment

Interpreting the National Anthem

As a lot of you have probably watched last Saturday on May 3 (May 4 in the Philippines), Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao floored Briton Ricky Hatton after only two rounds to claim the Light Welterweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Chosen to sing the Philippine National Anthem “Lupang Hinirang” was concert king Martin Nievera. True to the trend of singers in previous Pacquiao matches, he sang a personalized rendition, this one started slow then picked up in tempo after the fourth stanza and ended with the last, sustained high note. This drew criticism from the National Historical Institute which said that the national anthem must always be sung according to the original arrangement and is not subject to the singer’s interpretation. It has even reached the attention of lawmakers who said aloud that Nievera might be investigated for violating some law or another. (Whether or not it is comparable enough to other more blatant violations to merit this level of attention is another matter.) In his defense, Nievera said that he did his rendition because he was “doing it for the Filipino people”and that he’s not apologizing because there is nothing to apologize for.

I have to disagree with Nievera. I believe what he did borders on disrespect and insensitivity. I’ve heard the national anthem re-interpreted by various singers, but this is the first time I’ve heard someone actually change the tempo between stanzas and speed it up. I could not believe my ears. Nievera actually dared to do what no one else, to my knowledge, has done before. I didn’t like it. Keeping the tempo of the national anthem consistent is sacrosanct and not subject to “tweaking” and innovation. but it’s not just this that riles me. For the last few Pacquiao matches, the national anthem has always been sung at a tempo different from the original, and often with the last few notes sing ritard, specifically beginning from “ma-ma-tay ng da-hil sa ‘yo.” (The italicized syllables.) I’m getting the impression that singers feel that the original arrangement is too plain, bland, boring, not uplifting or inspiring enough, and therefore needs to be adapted to modern tastes.

Excuse me, but apparently the composer felt that it was uplifting and inspiring enough to motivate Filipinos. Certainly during that period of upheaval during the Philippine Revolution it served as a rallying cry and was embraced by Filipinos fighting for independence. Although we are not in a state of turmoil (or at least, not on the same scale or nature as our ancestors), but the national anthem still serves us well, and we should cherish it. It stands on the merit of the words and the music, so it is not necessary to modify the latter just to make it sound “better.” From listening to the judges’ comments on “American Idol”, there are some songs that are timeless and don’t need changes in the arrangement to make them sound fresh and relevant. The “Lupang Hinirang” is one of them. Simple can be elegant. Americans may take liberties with “The Star-Spangled Banner” but that’s their anthem and their rules. We have our own. Moreover, the anthem belongs to the entire Filipino people. Singers who render it according to how they feel disregard the feelings of Filipinos as individuals, and as a people. He or she does not own the song and therefore cannot just do what he or she pleases with it.

One more point. Since Pacquiao’s matches command a global audience, those tasked to perform the national anthem should realize that they will singing in front of a live and televised audience of different nationalities. Since the “Lupang Hinirang” is one of the less well known anthems internationally (as with the overwhelming majority of anthems), how can foreigners know what is the proper way to sing it if the singers assigned keep on changing the arrangement and personalize it according to their individual and highly subjective tastes.

Posted in Philippine Music and Culture | Leave a comment

Toyota joins the subcompact car market

For over a decade the Smart ForTwo has been plying the roads of Europe, and gradually made it to other markets such as Canada and the US. Here in the Philippines, it has to be imported directly by buyers, accounting for its rarity. But if Toyota Philippines has its way, the ForTwo may have competition in the form of the Japanese carmaker’s own subcompact model, the iQ. Formally announced at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show and released in Japan in October 2008 and in the UK in January 2009, there is no official word from Toyota Philippines when (hopefully not if) the iQ will be released here. That hasn’t stopped the curious from inquiring about its future availability. Over at the US, it is reported that it will be released under the “Scion” brand. As for “iQ”, well, it is an obvious answer to the ForTwo’s “Smart” brand name.

Although in size the iQ is close to the ForTwo, one difference with the latter is that the former has two rear passenger seats that can be folded forward and down to provide ample storage space at the back. In the upright position, they can accommodate two children, or small-bodied adults.

I think the iQ could become a success in Metro Manila, at least. It appears that many car drivers drive only themselves or with one passenger, and driving a standard-sized sedan with those empty passenger seats at the rear seems a waste of space. But with the iQ, one makes more use of the available space. As a bonus, it occupies less space in stalled traffic and in parallel parking. I’d want to drive the iQ, since I mostly drive just myself on those days I bring the car to work, which is less then six kilometers away from home. And when I go for groceries, the mall is just within reach of the office and only a bit farther away from home.

One concern on potential buyers’ minds is safety. There is the perception that a subcompact car is inherently less safe than a sedan because the smaller frame dissipates the energy of an impact less safely, and there is no way to cram in sufficient safety safety features in such a small space. Toyota is well aware of this concern, and perhaps learning from the experience of Smart, incorporated features that should protect passengers from all but the most violent of impacts.

The second concern is the reaction of fellow drivers. Like it or not, there are a few bus drivers out there who seem to get their kicks out of harassing or bullying really small vehicles, whether these are cars, motorcycles, or motorcycles converted into mini-delivery vans. Ever seen two bus drivers glance knowingly at each other and sandwich a car in the lane between them? Or a bus trying to nudge a car next to it? Believe me, should the iQ become popular here it won’t be long before we hear horror stories from drivers who’ve been bullied by buses. If you’re going to drive an iQ here (and my hat’s off to those lucky few ForTwo drivers who have the bravery to take on Metro Manila’s sometimes hazardous roads), better learn to drive with confidence, and don’t take any bull from other drivers.

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A Commodore 64 laptop

If you’re old enough to remember the salad days of the 1980’s when the home computer market was at it’s most diverse and innovative, it was the heyday of 6502-based 8-bit computers, like the Apple II, Atari 400/800 series, and the Commodore VIC-20, 64, and 128. The Commodore 64, in particular, is considered the highest-selling 6502 computer ever, with sales in the 30 million units. A portable model, the SX-64, was made, but it never reached critical mass.

Now, more than a decade after Commodore filed bankruptcy and the 64 was discontinued, famed modder Ben Heck came up with a 64 laptop. Yes, a laptop. With a full-color LCD screen, running at the 64’s native 320 by 200 resolution. You’ll notice that the actual workable display doesn’t fill out the entire screen, because the 64’s video chip can display more, but fills out the space outside the background with a single border color.

What more can I say? I love it. Especially since my own 64 is now busted (it probably needs just a part to be replaced). What do you 64 fans think?

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Using a Lenovo IdeaPad S10

It’s been nearly three months since I bought my IdeaPad S10, a black model with 1GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, and Bluetooth installed. I use it for my classes at the University where I am a part-time lecturer. Needless to say I’ve fallen in love with it and do a lot of my computing on it, splitting with my desktop. Despite criticisms that netbooks can’t run heavyweight Windows software, I’ve heard people running AutoCAD, Adobe CS, and Microsoft Office. For my part I use Photoshop Elements and Google Earth, which work fine.
Oh yeah, I’m typing this on my S10.
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