What is simple is true

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Peaceful state of mind

With so much brouhaha regarding Obama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize, it got me to thinking what truly peace means.

In the dictionary, it defines it as “a state of mutual harmony between people or groups.”

Lots of people say that Obama didn’t deserve it.  First off, this isn’t an election.  It’s the Nobel’s prize they can hand it to whoever they want.  You shouldn’t feel so affronted.  None of “your tax money” went to this.

I think what Obama has done, who he is, what he represents is the reason why he won.

He represents a new way in which Americans view each other and the world.  He is pro diplomacy, anti Iraqi war, pro opening of relations with other countries that were ignored during the Bush years.

Nobel isn’t our prize, you guys.  It’s for world peace.  Whatever you may say about him or his acheivements, you ask all of the leaders of the nations on earth, polls their populace and they will say that they feel more optmistic for peace than they did last year.  The Russians feel that way, hell Cuba feels that way, Europe now has a much favourable view of Americans, as does the Middle East and Asia and so on.

Obama has made people not just in America but all over the world feel that there IS a chance for accord and true international cooperation.  Hey Kyoto has a chance, IAEA will have more American government support, our current administration actually respects the UN.  Those may not be monumental accomplishments nor something more “solid.” for some but you can’t argue with people who say they now respect, like, think more highly of the United States as a world leader.  It’s not so much an acknowledgement of Obama’s acomplishments but a validation that America is moving in the right directions.  That the world is now more at peace with us as leaders and that’s why the republicans are so scared and angry.  Not that an institution they thought was a joke from a country they consider to be communist nany state gave Obama an award but that by giving Obama this awards it shows that not only does America -accroding to recent polls- have most of America’s backing but a good portion of the world as well.  Hold your head high Mr. President.   YOU DESERVED THAT AWARD

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Lupang Hinirang

A couple of days ago I watched Cory Aquino’s funeral on YouTube.  I hadn’t seen it live since I was on vacation in the French Riviera(which was absolutely amazing and some of the best times of my life but I’ll save that for another post).

There is something very inspiring about Aquino family.  They have sacrificed so much for the Filipino people all without profiting from being so politically powerful and nationally beloved.  Their father might be on the 500 pesos bill but they don’t have nearly as many as other political clans-especially not the other Cojuangcos.

I apologize in advance if this blog post is very disorganized and disjointed I’m writing it without an outline in mind.  In many ways that describes my own relationship towards the Philippines and politics.  Free flowing, emotional and admittedly without much knowledge on the topic.

While my political ideology and opinions are pretty well formed and well developed in terms of American and international politics, my opinions on the Filipino political climate is murky, uninformed filled with bias from my family, from my friends and my own emotional leanings.

I honestly don’t know, even have a clue, about what would be the best for the philippines.  I have spent much of my adult life reading, debating and writing about what would be the best course of actions for America, yet I know next to nothing about my birthland. As I write that disclaimer, there are a few basic ideas that I believe would stear the philippines in the right direction:

1.  Stop importing our best resources: our people. The smartest, most industrious workers are seeking their fortunes elsewhere.  The government not only condones this massive brain drain but encourages it!   Having our teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses, programmers and scientists work as domestic helpers or care givers (which the majority of them are despite their advance degrees) in other countries might solve short term problems but creates several long terms ones.  Not only does it create a false economy in that we are wholy dependent on money from abroad for our most basic of needs but however are the Philippines going to develop our own native industries and businesses if the smartest and the innovative of our people are abroad?  This also tears at the VERY fabric of the Filipino family.  The strength of the Filipino family is something I personally value and rely on in my private life.  I would be nothing if it weren’t for the unwavering support of my mother, my father, my brother and my sister.  My family has been fortunate in that even though we have often lived in different coutnries, we visit one another nearly every year and have the resources to do so.  Not many migrant families can do that.  So you have children being raised by aunts or lolas not having seen their parents for several years.  The pyschological impact of not having a strong nuclear family has strong implications for the next generation of pinoys.

2.  Stop gearing our education system for the lowest common demoninator.  The education system in the Philippines is deeply flawed.  The long hours, the regurgutaion of the materials, the lack of encourgaement of innovative thought is something that HAS to be fixed if we are ever to compete in a global market.  But the most insidious aspect of the Filipino education system is its emphasis churning out nurses at an unreasonably fast rate.  I went to a science high school that was VERY good and funded entirely by the Filipino govenrment.  It was suppose to have the best of the best, the brightest young minds of the Philippines.  Yet most of my classmates took up nursing or became workers at call centers.  Not that there is anything wrong with nursing or telemarketing but surely  our brightest lights should be shed on science, politics, techonology etc.  Not with the goal of importing them to work in American hospitals or answering American tech questions.

3. I read an article in Asiaweek that 100 filipino families control 80 percent of the country’s wealth.  The stranglehold that the oligarchy has on the Philippines has got to stop.  The lack of social mobility within the Filpino society is unethical immoral and wrong.  Democracy is suppose to bring with it egalitarianism and meritocracy.  Without those two, it is at heart an oligarchy, no different than the rule of the Spaniards and in fact inferior to that of the Americans.  The class system within the Philippines needs loosen to include a functional middle class.  The current system of the deep divide of wealth is not sustainable.  At some point in time, should this not be fixed, the masa will raise up and protest against the institutional injustices of the system.   I hope we can change things peacefully before it inevitably leads to bloodshed.

In about 9 months time, there will be an election in the Philippines.  A chance for a better future for a country that despite it’s deep flaws I still and will always love very much.   The Philippines is now at the prepice of destiny.  We can move forward and onward to better things or we can fall into the deep abyss of poverty, crime and social unrest. I hope and I pray that the sacrifices that Filipino heros from Jose Rizal to Benigno Aquino will not be in vain.  We owe it to those that gave their lives for the Philippines that we make the most of their sacrifice.  That we treat democracy and our chance for change as a precious gift, made possible by the blood sweat and tears of others.  Let’s not look back and think of the great things this or that candidates family has done but what the candiate can do for the future.  An illustrious family history does not guarantee anything but another generation of oligarchy rule.

I have a dual citizenship that will allow me to vote in the next elections. It’s my dearest wish that every Filipino, all around the world, see May 2010 as a chance for a new begining, a new chapter in our often tumultuous history.  Our nation is still mourning the loss of a true bayani, but from the tears of sorrow, let our eyes see the future for it could be glorious beyond even Ninoy’s wildest dreams.

I am a Filipino. In my blood runs the immortal seed of heroes – seed that flowered down the centuries in deeds of courage and defiance.”

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The exotification of cultures



“Four boys ages 9 to 14 have been charged with sexually assaulting an 8-year old girl, police in Phoenix, Arizona, said Wednesday.  The girl was lured into a vacant storage shed by the suspects, who offered her chewing gum, police said at a news conference.”

So basically a group of young boys all under the age of 14, rape a 8 year old.   While this is sick and deplorable, the worst part is that the girl’s family BLAMES HER and in fact wants the boys released.

Her sister said to a radio station:

“”I came to her and said it’s not good for you to be following guys because you are still little,” the sister told KTVK. She also said that she wanted the suspects to be released from jail because “we are the same people.”"

Stupid.  immoral. idiots.

Even as an avowed liberal, who encourages legal immigration.  This non sense has got to stop.

There is an over exotification of other cultures and it kills me.

People tell me how much they love the Filipino culture all the time, and compare it very favorably with American/Western culture.  Outwardly I pretend to be flattered-there are fanatstic, beautiful aspects of the filipino culture.  But inwardly I cringe.

It’s completely ignorant to rhapsodize about a culture that is inherently flawed in so many deeply profound ways that has hurt so many people.

Take the corruption, nepotism, patriarchy, the lack of a sense of community, the willingness to turn our most precious labor resources into imgrant workers for the Saudis.

Someone should have dropped the PC bullshit and tell those boys and yes that immigrant cmmunity that rape is wrong.  Raping an 8 year old is wrong.  It doesn’t matter what happened in Liberia, it was wrong there too but we can’t do anything about that.  In this instance however, there are on American soil and the full force of the justice system should be on them.

If the girls family is so ignorant as to blame her and feel ashamed of her, then they all should be deported to Liberia.

You can’t just economically take advantage of the United States, living on American soil, in an American building, have American jobs and not even adher to the basic level of American(world) human decency i.e. child rape is wrong.

If the larger Liberian community and especially the girls family continues to ostracize the girl, there are no excuses in my view, no bullshit “umm those boys were child soldiers etc” and “in their culture they feel ashamed” that would excuse their deplorable views and opinions.

They shouldn’t exist anywhere much less the United States.  If they can’t stop acting like evil child rapist/ evil child rapist enablers then send them back to their poverty stricken war ravaged country- putting such obviously mentally and emotionally disturbed people with civilized soceity with morality and laws is asking for trouble.   If they think it’s okay to rape children, who is to say that they wouldn’t go out of their communities and start raping/killing at will?

America has to draw a line on the sand.  If you cross if, you’re out.  Child rape is a good place to start.

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I read somewhere that women jurors sometimes don’t want to identify with a rape victim, that psychologically they always try to blame the victim so that they can feel safe and assured that rape could never happen to them since they don’t dress provocatively/go out at night/talk to strangers etc.  I think we do that a lot within our society.  Often times when we see a victim we blame them.

Rape victims are sluts.

The poor are lazy.

A battered woman was too loud and mouthy. (honestly so many people said this about Rihanna, it made me sick)

Why is that?

Are human beings as a rule, too cowardly to admit our own frailties?  That we too could be raped, poor or abused?

I was reminded about this fact recently.  I moved into the city.  Within the first month, asides from the expense of furniture, deposit, etc.  I got two tickets($50)  car got towed($400), locked my self out of my apartment($200 for the locksmith).  A random string of costly bad luck that luckily I can weather really well.  Well enough to start my little nest egg and shore up my portfolio.  But the easiness of which I lost (for me) a sizeable amount of money in such a short while really hit home how easy is it for someone to become homeless in SF.

If you didn’t have understanding bosses, a good paying job, a supportive family, generous friends you could easily wind up in the streets.

Unlike in the Philippines, where you’re safely ensconced in your gated village and only see beggars as your driving through city streets.  Here in San Francisco, poverty talks to you, asks you for help, tells you their stories if you would only care to listen.

I use to be scared of the homeless, shameful but I do know better now.

I know that, but for the grace of God goes I .

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A Very Lauren Conrad Day.

My family has always been aghast at what they thought were my “trashy” taste in pop culture and the frivolous.  Bane of my Mother’s existence is MTV reality tv.

I would still prefer Vogue over the Economist and shopping over reading books though I do I read and shop with a dedication bordering on an obsession(in fact I try to read both Vogue and the Economist cover to cover every month/week respectively.  I always succeed with vogue-Economist not so much.  I skim the book review.  Snoozefest!)

Perhaps it’s because politics is my career now.  I spend all day trying to fix the world’s problems in one miniscule way or another.  My co-workers(though I only have one and my boss) are both really erudite and learned, and really into politics so watercooler conversation is much more high brow than at most places.  I also spend an inordinate amount of time, listening and relistening to all our experts views on climate change and green energy.  Because my job is so intellectually challenging and engaging-most of the time-I like going home to a good The Hills episode or reading about the best mascara(still forever going to be Dior Beauty’s Diorshow in my shortlashed opinion).

But forgive me mother for the metaphor but today was definitely a The Hills day.

I woke up, had breakfast and inappropriate, gender traitor type convo with a good friend from college then I went to the salon near my building.  It’s dangerous living in downtown.  The mall is only two blocks in high heels away!  Got my eyebrows done tho.

New Brows!

New Brows!

I think they turned out well.  My sparely populated balding eyebrows actually look normal here!  Two cheers for the magic of Indian women and their superior threading skills!

After, I had to walk past Barney’s.  Well not had to.  I went over to Macy’s to grab some skin stuff since in the big move, my skin care line dissappeared into the Tiffany blue of my carpet.  But Barneys beckoned and I ended up grabbing a Jurlique mini set, a spot treatment, Nars Blush Lovejoy, Nars eye shadow brush, Nars Eyeshadow, Cle De Peu cream eyeliner and Nars lipstick.

Shopping Hall at Barney!

Shopping Haul at Barney!

Which brings me to the last point of the evening.  My god, I think I’m a woman now.  And no not menarche but something more monumental.   I’m wearing lipstick.  Not chapstick nor the Bonne Bell of my rapidly fading youth or even the MAC lipglass of my debauched collegiate years.  But real grown up lipstick.  Like  Hillary Clinton or my mother.



Le sigh.  My  NAR mitzi-ed lips are pouting.   I’m growing up.  and it sucks.  On the other hand, I love my mom and Hillary Clinton so maybe this womanhood thing won’t be so bad.  After all, even Lauren Conrad left the The Hills.  =)

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Labangon musings

I was on facebook the other day, and as I usually do, I skimmed my friends updates and it really struck me how very different and how very diverse my life and on a larger scale the world is.

I have friends who are starting families in Orange County, working in the State senate of California, working in a fashion house in New York, working as actress in Germany, and (many) working at call centers.

It’s really depressed me to see how much where you started can dictate where you end up.  I know enough about the 1000 or so people in my friends list to somewhat gauge their intelligence.  It’s really saddened me how many of the smartest people I knew growing up didn’t end up as traditionally successful as I – and I’m sure-they’d thought they’d be.

The idea that the world is a meritocracy is a joke.  Growing up I often cited myself as an example that the system worked.  But it’s not true.  I was very lucky and was given opprutunities and resources that many do not.  The saddest and most poignant example of this is the valedictorian (or saluditorian?  I’m not sure) of the high school I attended in the Philippines.   Let’s call her V.  I use to be so jealous of V.  How the teachers would fawn over how smart she was, how everyone would whisper her name with such reverence and respect, how the tales of the brightness of her future filled my own with clouds of uncertainty.   But life, and really world international politics have a funny way of turning things out.  I remember asking V, my eyes big with awe and my head throbbing from the lack of sleep I encountered slaving away at projects and tests, what the secret to her success was.

V told me she studied till 3 am in the morning get only 4 hours a sleep a night.

Now V lives a similar life working at a call center in our hometown.  Making 20? at most 30 thousand pesos (350 dollars) a month.   It’s no coincidence that the most successful in our batch were the ones who were able to migrate to America.  My best firend and I, both known as slackers and trouble makers, were the children of American citizens.  In the much bemoaned American public school system, we excelled, got scholarships to world class institutions (mine being much better =P )and got upwardly mobile lives. What would V have given to have gotten our chances? our opprutunities? The opprutunities that most American children often take for granted.

What kind of world do we live in that where you are born matters more than your character, industry and natural talent?

In that same facebook, I posted my favorite quote:

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Often times, the unfairness of life, eats away at me.  My family often ask me what’s wrong? Why aren’t I happy?  I have the apartment, job, personal life, and even the closet filled  with the clothes/shoes/purses that I’ve always dreamed of, why am I maudlin?  Call it economic survivor’s guilt.

But as my fave quote above states, as long as the world’s-and my family and friends’s-lives are being made better by my presence in it, day in and day out.  Then that’s all “they” and most importantly I can ask of myself.

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“Buy me Legos Auntie!”

Someone once told me that “you’ll never be as happy as you were when you were a child at Christmas.”

The joy of opening a new present and the promise of happiness that each toy brings invokes a type  of joy in children rarely seen in adults.

We spend the rest of our lives trying to find that happiness that was so readily available to us when we were children. So when my sweet little nephew asks me to  buy him the little colorful blocks that makes him so happy I don’t even think of saying no.   But I don’t spoil him.  Not in the ways that counts.  He might be given most if not all the material things he wants but we demand the best out of him in terms of behaviour and respect.

He says his P and Qs, eat his dinner by himself, plays very well with others, is doing really well in his kindergarten and is a very respectful  to his elders.  And he’s a very generous kids, always sharing his toys and snacks with the neighbors.

Someday, all too soon, he won’t be that excited over Thomas the train, Legos and Star Wars.  He’ll have all the stress and problems of an adolescent and eventually an adult all soon enough but for now happiness is one colorful block away.

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I want to go to there

It’s summer in California!

Or as much as summer as the freezing SF weather can permit.

But yes it’s summer.  And that means sun, swimming and vacations!

The first one up is going to wine county.  Calistoga.  I’ve never been to this particular part of California before and I’m quite excited.    A few days of relaxation, wine and fun in the gorgeous mountains seems just what I need after the stressful move.

I’m actually going with my co workers and we’ll have a few meetings during the day but my boss assured us that we would have plenty of time for swimming and canoeing on the lake!

Gorgeous isn’t it?

Then after I’m having a couple of friends over for dinner (my very first house guest!!! yay!) and the very next day I’m  going to be leaving for Orange County for the weekend.  Then next week, a weekend at Belvedere then a finally a nice relaxing weekend home then the French Riviera!  I floving summer time….

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Traveling nightmares

In less than three weeks, I’m going on vacation.  But perhaps more importantly I’ll have to go on a plane.

A small metal can being hurled through the sky 35,000 feet in the air.  Twice!  Damn refueling stops.

Now I’m scared shitless of flying.  Funny considering I have been around the world several times now but rest assured each time was a white knuckled boozed and xanaxed enfused ordeal.

As I was I researching and figuring out different lounges/ahem bars where I can alcoholically numb myself with some dignity, I came across this article:


So basically some woman makes fun of filipino migrant workers for smelling of cheap cologne and being loud and it caused this huge hoopla in the Philippines/ pinoy blogosphere.

My thoughts:

1. You get what you paid for.  She bought coach seats, coach seats are pretty damn cramped and yes it sucks to be in a long flight with no leg room and a sucky smelly bathroom.  But that’s flying.  You can’t buy fast food and complain that your lettuce isn’t organic.

2. The only people being truly upset by this are the middle class.  To be able to afford a plane ticket anywhere makes you solidly middle class in the Philippines.   60 percent of the population live on less than a dollar a day.  You do the math.  Which makes me much less sympathetic to their indignity over Malu’s comments.  I know many people who self righteously posted this on their facebooks and forwarded it to me to be the very same people who use terms like “murag maid” and “amoy lupa” or “naowng squatter” or make fun of fellow Filipinos for not speaking English with a “Cano” accent.

3.  Continued from number 2.  The Philippines is an incredibly class conscious society.  More than England and that’s saying alot.  I mean they still curtesy to people for gawd sakes! LOL!  But yes it is.  Whether people admit it or not, or despite having “friends richer than Malu” being more humble, such talk is very common.  Just as many middle class Filipinos would complain about walking through wet cramped trash infested Payatas or even riding on a jeepney everyday, upper class Filipinos complain about being in coach. It’s not the rare or that controversial.  It happens. She’s the rule not the exception just like most of those overseas workers would probably cringe at the thought of picking through garbage or begging in the streets or being a boat person.  Is she mean spirited? Yes.  Is she untactful? Yes.  Is she an excpetion? No.

4.  Filipinos love scandals it seems.  Malu, that one girl from on facebook who ragged on the Aetas, the Brian Gorell thing, the girl who complained about Ateneo IntroSem….All these scandals and indignity are met with such surprise by people.   The Philippines has a deplorable and reprehensible divide of wealth.  That is the true scandal.  Are we so surpirsed that people like Mal Fernandez exist in a society that has so many billionaires yet so much suffering? Or that has one of the most corrupt governments in the world, beating out many African countries considered failed states.  That is the true scandal.

But I suppose the vitriol of the prols or bourgeousie in this case has ceased, but perhaps next time we should redirect that  energy and time to trying to change the system into something more egalitarian.  Which not only uplifts so many of our nation’s poor but has the added benefit of redistributing wealth which means less Malus.

Enough about that tho.

Before France, I’m heading over to wine country….. Calistoga for a gorgeous retreat in the woods.  Which should take my mind of turbulence.


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