Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Crap hits the Fan

No, this wasn't the post I was making.

An hour's worth of writing, all gooooonnnneeeeee... all because I right-clicked and thought switching to Western European encoding would solve the problem of why my spaces don't show...

An hour's worth...


Haha, maybe that's got something to do with Destiny.

But, dammit, that was a nice post...

And I was already thinking of saving it. Like when you learned the hard way to copy-paste your long Friendster testimonials to Word before postig it... I felt I should save it... and wasn't precognition part of the post-that-will-never-see-the-light-of-day-now? Grr. Rob' there is a reason why you're a precog, after all...


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Thoery of Philippine Education #1: Paradigms on Homework and Readings

This is another of those thoughts I've been having for a long time now. Generally sourced from my observations of certain of my classmates during the time I was still studying, and from my observations of present students, I've been... bewildered, for lack of a better descriptive term, of how sometimes students seem at odds to make heads or tails of certain non-Math homework, particularly readings.

Case in point: Tuesday night, I overhear Matet (one of our proteges in the Union) having problems with a reading assignment. It seems to be Philo, or at least political philosophy, or at least a discussion of a particular philosophy as applied to a particular context. It is, of course, rather common, for today's students to find a certain level of difficulty in immediately grasping the abstractions of philo readings; that the authors would couch their terms in somewhat obscure or... exotic terminology adds to the hell the typical student will go through.

Still, I've observed students who, regardless of the course (and that course not being Math), end up sighing heavily when confronted with scholarly readings. It could be heavy literature in english class, or a research paper in any natural science, or even required theoretical readings on any Major subject. To my mind, this seemed odd. Although I have myself complained quite often about some reading workloads, I complain on the matter of amount of readings and time needed for completion. Speed reader that I am, even I cannot hope to accomplish a certain amount of heavy reading in an unreasonable amount of time and still understand the damned thing enough to get a high grade. Yet, after the customary bitching, it's down to work and I rarely complain on the basis of not understanding the text, nor of having difficulty with it.

Yet... Matet tells me that their whole class, in the time it took me to finish their reading in an hour or so, get to Cubao from Starbucks Katipunan, eat a late dinner, and get to St. Luke's general area, have not even finished half of the reading.


Understand: these are not stupid children. I personally will attest to the high intellectual capacity of the students of their school. And many of those students I have observed with the same difficulty are not exactly what you'd call problem students!

So... what's wrong?

I believe that its got something to do with the kids' paradigms, how they approach the issue of their courses, their studies. I've noticed that even the best of students sometimes approach studying as a "task", even "work", in the sense that any weary shaikujin would approach waking up every morning to punch the bundy and wishing it was their boss' face they were punching instead. Observe students at play. Observe students who were made by some teaching savvy or strategem of their professors to not view studying as work but as fun and notice the changes.

Here, some examples: Dr. Clemens Sedmak was truly an unknown when his name appeared on the course lists for that sem's Philo classes. In fact, his class was noted "TBA", and we found out who was our prof at the first day. Even worse, his class time was in the nearly-Lightforsaken hour of 600 p.m., and at Ateneo's Bellarmine Hall - 2nd Floor - to boot. Yet, after the first week, none of us skipped his classes. In fact, even if it was raining soooo hard that you could barely see five feet in front of you you'd see students of Dr. Sedmak's class trudging towards Bel just to attend his class.

Or where have you heard that a whole class - and this was also in Bel Hall - would plead to their professor to continue the class, even for that 10 minutes between the first and second bells? I've seen it, in Dax Manacsa's class.

Or what about students eager to do translations of Canon Law and Vatican II from its Church English to Filipino? Only in Doc Tejido's class...

Were these professors terrors? Hell, no! But what these professors do was to turn the seeming drudgery of studying into something not only worthwhile but fun. Somehow, these three and others besides, were able to return their late-teen or early-twenty students back to those days of wonder and curiosity, for the yearning to learn not for some grade or diploma but to know, to, well... learn.

Were my classmates "Grade-A" students? Hell, no! Some of them were even what you'd call slackers, or those who'd rather go to a gimmick, or play Magic: The Gathering than attend class. Yet they were there. In fact, Dr. Sedmak's class would hit at least one day when Ally McBeal would be showing, during the height of McBeal-madness... yet all the girls were there, present, and interacting.

Here's something a little mor personal: I took Math 11 - College Algebra - four times in college. I graduated from Manila Science High School and I know quantum mechanics. Yet I had to take Ma 11 four times. Indeed, back in high school, my consistent lowest rater was Math. Always been since that disastrous test in fractions back in Grade Six, the one that started my road out of the Top Ten.

Since then, I adopted the thinking that I wasn't just good in Math. But that's odd: everyone else in the family is good in Math; heck, my Mom is one of the best accountants alive. In my NCEE, my math aptitude scored higher than - wonder of wonders - abstract reasoning. And, yes, I could understand high-energy physics. I could do the equations from basic newtonian to basic particle physics. But I just couldn't hack math...

After the second try in Ma 11, I thought I should pass because I had to. Math was killing my QPI, the lone F in a field of Bs and As and an occassional C (heh, heh). Still, I didn't. It was only on that last try that I not only passed, but learned something and indeed got to like the subject.

Why? Because I wanted to learn Math. This was when I was introduced to the basics of my analytical protocols. I realized I couldn't advance anymore mentally until I learned at least basic algebra because one part of my mind was not keeping in pace with the rest. The important part, if I wanted to be a Mentat who needed to do calculations at hyper levels. I needed to learn math. I found a reason to need Math. Then, I started liking it. Suddenly, I found myself practically excited to find out the value of X... And soon, I was beginning to visualize N-dimensional fields...

So, therefore, my hypothesis: its a paradigm thing. Students have been conditioned, whether through their or other's fault, to view learning as drudgery, something that's a bother, and obstacle keeping them from fun. Most students, even as early as, say, grade I, already forget the wonder they once had as toddlers for all things that are new. The wonder of learning something for learning's sake. Its in a multiplicity of factors: the teachers for making schoolwork look and feel more like punishment or trials than at least a necessity to be taken seriously, if not as fun; parents, for imposing undue pressure, thus cultivating in the mind of the child that learning = pain and/or anything but fun; the media, whose archetypes suggest that even without learning you can get away with Life simply by being cool, charming, cute or whatever, just not learned. And a host of others, even the students themselves, for a wrong set of priorities or the wrong reasons for taking up a particular course in college. For the life of me, I cannot understand why International Politics majors are complaining and having difficulties in a reading for a Major; so what body of knowledge will they depend on when they're out there, if they view their theories and concepts, the intellectual foundation of their supposedly chosen craft, with utter disdain?

So, there. Problems with our educaton? Duh. If students don't consider studying as important, then why are you surprised about the performance level of the Filipino student in the 21st Century?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Return to Writings

And so I find myself making a post; long-overdue, as Tin would like to remind me. Well, she does have a point, since she's made more posts than I have considering she's busier.
As an excuse, I will say, not for lack of trying. In fact, there should be several here already after the "Ruminations" entry, only problem was they came to me during office hours and I just... don't want to write it down when at work.
And now I'm stuck in the "what should I write?" dilemma. A lot and none at the same time. Since the last entry there has been both much and little that has happened in my life. I've noticed of course that I'm rather just... cruising along. I don't know. I guess its just one of those phases.
Well, what does one do after serving in the Philippine youth movement for some six years or so? When everything just seems so... irrelevant... where does one turn to? Do I forsake my decision late in college and return to my initial career path? Most certainly I think my resume is enough to get me back to the ad agencies, or maybe with one of the mags or dailies. Do I really mean what I said about becoming a barista? My best friend said I won't last long in any corporate setting because I crave being part of the action, of being on the front lines of trying to save this sorry Republic from itself.
Hmm. I hope that Boracay stratplan pushes through. Ok, I can settle for Puerto Galera. God knows I need that. I need to think, I need to reasses. I've realized I'm Oh-My-God 27 and I;ve begin questioning what I'm doing with my life. I guess part of the blame here should fall on my good, ol' friend from the Ateneo, Benjo. Its easy to dismiss certain concepts when it comes from "normal" channels, but when the input comes from someone you know comes from the same background - youth movement, Sanggu - and is as passionate for his advocacy as you are to yours... you really get to thinking. And maybe becuase when Benj decided to share how he's begun thinking about what he's doing with his life, I was thinking the same thing and there he was, giving voice to what I was trying soooo hard to not think about.
Because, my Mentat protocols may come to a conclusion I won't like. Heh, funny, that: the very skills and talents I've used in my six years of service to the Republic may end up giving me the push that sends me falling into retirement...
I've located my most recent diary, and some of the last entries were sometime after Reggie's marriage. True, I've stopped making my best friend the center of my existence long before she got married to someone who wasn't me (duh) but... maybe that's where it all started. I've been in a daze, trying to find meaning in it all. What am I fighting for? Why am I fighting for what the hell that is I'm fighting for? Does anyone even care I'm doing this?
Its... it's just that it is getting so hard to wake up every morning to find a reason to do so. Or at least to get up and go to the Party Headquarters. So hard to move when one is demoralized. So hard to care.
And have you seen what the government is doing for poor little Pilipinas? Ay, caramba.
My thoughts seem so disjointed. Indeed, there is a deeper history behind those words. Some are connected with national events, some are personal. In the following days, maybe I'll show you more, so it all becomes clear in the end.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ruminations During a (Very) Rainy Day

Waking at 10:00 in the morning. On a Wednesday. Eversince I got these tetanus shots it seems I both (a) have no energy to last a usual 8-hour office day, and (b) I wake much, much later. Like this Wednesday - oops, Thursday already - this very rainy Wednesday. Waking to find the other house and the whole Metro for that matter in a flooded state is quite the way to start a morning.

Spent practically the whole day blowing up mecha in Square Enix' Front Mission 4. At least my tactical acumen's still there. Heh, didn't I just finish OSC's Ender's Shadow in two nights? All this warfare. Does it reflect the state of my Mind, my Soul?

Ewan ko ba.

So la Gloria admitted to there being a financial crisis. Then the peso plummets. Bullshit. Everyone's been talking about financial problems since before the elections. Hard to believe these corporations weren't expecting that. Like what Tin and I say, what GMA said was a "Duh" statement. Unless the intelligence-gathering arms of these corporations and investors are even worse than present-day CIA.

Ha,ha. Vultures. And the Third Estate has the gall to call for reforms in the First? Bullshit.

Hmm... I've never told the Piraeus or even the UCSC about this blog; among my colleagues, friends and shitteno, its only Tin, Charm and Blooey who are aware of this. And the Asgardians. Sige nga, let's see if anyone from the Piraeus or the Union knows about this:

Okay, I have to admit to being such a slacker. I'll even admit to abandoning my duties to this generation, as one of its analysts, its Mentat (see previos entry). But as I pull myself out of this muck of despair I'm in (thank God for Tin and Charm), I begin to remember some plans supposedly put in place at least after People Power II.

Simply put, the generation of young leaders and advocates that fought on the streets of the second People Power were supposed to play roles in what was supposedly a new dawn for the Philippines. Of course, the (damned) elders would do most of the work, at least for 10 or so years, but we would be playing a part.

Of course, even as we in K2 were licking our wounds at Henry Lee Irwin one week before People Power II - and you thought we planned the damned thing? You don't know what you're thinking - a certain thesis was already forming in my Mind. I guess it was a little... rebellious. But then, I am one of the analysts of this generation, my real forte being that ability to gather and synthesize information for use of the First Tier in their decision making and the Second Tier in its operations. If the data presented to me falls into a certain pattern, what else am I supposed to conclude?

So there I was, thinking that the damned elders had failed us and, because of their greed, selfishness and lack of understanding and morals and ethics, our future was most certainly doomed. Of course there's a financial crisis. Stupid. Of course nothing's being done. Stupid. Like a Mentat needs to come up with a Prime Computation to point out why?

Despair. How easy it is to fall into its bottomless pit. Wasn't it there that I was languishing since July? Finance, during their presentation to the LP early July, said that the first lashings of the financial crisis would be felt next year. It's not here... yet. So we have time to act on it? Oh, sure; just come up with two-figure billions every month, and, oh, by the way, we forsee balancing the budget in 2009.

The hell?

I wonder... the UCSC is already well into its 6th year. KALIPI just celebrated its 15th. AYLC is almost as old as the Union and has almost the same composition, since several of our most prominent leaders are AYLs. That's a lot of young leaders and advocates, all Trained and gifted and brilliant.

And that's just three organizations. Let's set aside the NDs for now. Set aside the paranoia regarding the Akbayan people and add them to the mix, especially Ma'am Risa's kids in Panadayan Youth, their contacts to the grassroots. UCSC to handle the academe and the Church, to provide the moral anchor and leadership it did during K2Y. KALIPI to provide the local, national and international political punch. AYLC to open up the doors of the corporations, particularly that big entity known as the Ayala Group of Companies...

And here I'm just drawing up part of the scenario, where all four orgs/networks begin tapping their natural "constituencies." Just these four, working together - add Bam's support as NYC Chair - can bring to bear a significant amount of skills, talents and - most importantly - dedication to doing something about the many problems facing the Philippines today.

If... if I give the Call, will they come?

What right do I have to summon the forces that once changed the course of history for this nation? Isn't that more Denni's or Bam's right as our generation's natural leaders?

My God, even the Piraeus is scattered, caught up in the lives we have led since graduating from Guardianship of the UCSC in 2001. Of the group, only Ben, Denni, Geng and I are still in non-corporate, NGO or NGO-type of work. And the first three are just soooo hard to find...

If I Call, will they come?

If anyone among the First Tier makes the Call, will they come? Will they descend from their glass-and-steel towers, rise from their mud-and-blood holes, and see that we have to do what we can, now, to save our future?

And there are the NDs... God damn them to the lowest pits of perdition. So much brilliance and fervor... but so misguided. All for the Revolution. All for their idea of democracy. For all their brilliance, their savvy, their exposure, can they not realize the sham they promote and perpetuate? When they take "revolutionary taxes," what excuse do they tell their Reason so as not to see that act as nothing more than pure extortion? At least this democracy we have can allow us to take our leaders to an accounting, one way or another. What of theirs? No, no, Mong, don't bother answering if you will just spout to me the same drivel. I have heard them before. For every one of your arguments I will simply mention words and simple phrases: the Soviet Union. Stalin. Mao's Great Leap Forward. Operation Missing Link and its cruel copies nationwide. You and your comrades will bring nothing but death and oppression to this country.

All my life, there came moments when I Asked God certain Questions. And always, in one way or another, He has Answered. Mostly to my liking, sometimes not, or at least it took me some time to realize why the Answer was what He gave.

So, my Lord God, what now? St. Ignatius taught us to give without counting the cost, to fight without heading the wounds, to toil and not seek for rest. So here I am, your Knight, ready despite all my Wounds, despite my Tired and batterd Soul, despite everything I think I have given in all the years of my service to You and Your people... but where do we go? What do we do? To whom do we turn to? Who will stand on the front lines?

And suddenly the rain pours hard after an hour of silence. And stops oh-so-suddenly.

*sigh* I'm getting too old for this.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Musings on An Attempted Retirement


Sometime last month, I was in the midst of seriously considering "retiring" from the "Movement." That's what I use as a catch-all term for civil society and the life of a "moderate" advocate trying to fix the problems of this country. Everything just... came to a head, I guess. Besides, it seemed the general trend. I'd already retired from active service with the Union of Catholic Student Councils (UCSC) the summer before, after our 11th Congress, after more than five years of serving that organization. Then, suddenly...


I guess everything was simpler back in college, even after our 11 schools founded the UCSC in 1998. We banded together, made the vehicle for expressing our desires and acting our counsels, and drew a line on the concrete with our blood. Looking back at those heady days, and even during the midst of juetengate and People Power II and the complexities of KOMPIL II Youth, at least you knew who your enemies are and what it is your fighting for. You believed in what you were fighting for and confident that that belief will never be rendered false.

Because its hard when you end up suddenly questioning your beliefs. When everything seems so much the sham. Don't get me wrong: the Jesuits, during our long Training in the Ateneo, removed our fear of Questioning; in fact, I believe that it was through the encouragement of the Jesuits to their students to ask - those "does God exist?" kind of questions in all their naked, philosophical glory - that my Faith, battered and bruised and abused at it is still manages to hold on. Sometimes I rant to God and even forget my prayers but I will strive to follow His Will anyway. But I guess there are times when something happens that, when you Ask that Question... the Answers you get are just not... digestable...

So there I was, having just fully reconciled the idealism of an Atenean bitten by the school's "bug" with the realities of political life in this country... and suddenly everything gets messed up so badly I can't recognize it anymore. It was like the wolfhound you've trusted as a friend and guardian got the rabies and transformed into a slavering, insane beast.

At the height of it all, I was saying that I could be a barista at Starbucks and love every minute of it until I f***ing die.


I guess Sen. Pangilian had it right: What would I answer the children of today when, in ten years' time when they've grown enough to... appreciate their world, it is as bad, or - horror of horrors - worse, than today? And MLQ3 had to write something on Nationalism, one that reminds you of things, reasons, why you choose to fight this fight in the first place, why you said no to 5-digit starting salaries and "predictable", comfortable evenings and fridays and weekends.


And the sands, the skies, the wind and the sound of the surf of Puerto Galera were already seeming so real in my mind, the first step to my oh-so-sure retirement. For then it would've been the first time I would go Somewhere and not think of what the hell is happening with my country. One thing I can say for this life, it can spoil a perfectly good Batanes sunset (imagine being at Batanes, for free, for five days... and having nothing on your mind but the fact that you have no signal, no internet, no reliable TV coverage, and what the hell is happening back in Manila on an election season?). So, yes, I was actually looking forward to retirement, to begin by a sojourn to beautiful Puerto Galera.

*sigh* I guess Puerto has to wait.

Make no mistake: I could still very well be overly disgusted by everything and just tell the Philippines to go f*** itself, tell God I'm very sorry for failing Him, and just hope the next generation of leaders, or whoever's left from mine, can make that difference because I sure as hell haven't and, with... this... I don't think I can.

But, until then... dammit, but I love this country. I love this people, uncouth, undisciplined, selfish and materialistic they can be at times. You fight not because of some Oath sworn to a Higher Being, not because some philosophical-ethical-ideological Bug bit you... but because you remember the look of despair in the eyes of the anawim, felt it at the core of your Being, and swore that you'd do everything in your power to see that that despair, that pain, that suffering is wiped out from their eyes forever. That your country, if only it can realize it, can not only make itself a better place, but perhaps show the whole world how it can be, too.

I'm Tired, to the Core of my Being... but, dammit, this Training made it so that, no matter the wounds or the fatigue, you'll still pick up your fallen sword and find a way to swing it.

So let me just get my breath back, and I'll help you guys take down that dragon.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

What Love Can Do

Last friday, I was feeling really bad. I guess you could say it was one of those cases of taking one's body too far. That I could nearly kill myself for work that not only pays low, is largely unappreciated and you end up maligned for the slightest mistake is beyond me. But that's a story for another time. I will not darken my joy any further by dwelling on such nonesense.

But, well... I should still be bedridden yesterday (because it's Sunday now, Manila time, although I just came from Charm's birthday party). Muscle pain, especially of that variety, cannot be easily healed as muscles and joints that were badly abused need time to recover. And both my constitution and my healing ability have not been up to par for a very long time now.

So maybe that's why I was just so... toxic (to borrow a UP term) last Friday. Because there was something very important happening on Saturday: the surprise party for Charm's 18th birthday. What if my condition prevented me from getting to Charm's party? What if I can't even stand? With the slightest movement, my arms felt pain, and my legs were rather wobbly already when I went to sleep. Heck, I could barely keep awake, my sense of balance becoming unreliable by the minute. My whole system was collapsing before me. Yet all I could think of was... what would my Baby B say if I wasn't there?

I remember thinking before falling to sleep: isn't this what my Training was for? Aren't the healing abilities of a Knight capable of handling much worse damage than this? I could do this. I could manage to stand tomorrow. And even if I can't walk I will find a way to get to Charm's birthday.

Well, thank God I was able to stand and walk and function rather nominally. Nauseaous and I have a rather bothersome headache, plus a very strained patience, but I manage to get through the day in one piece. I was late getting to Charm's party - UCSC session lasted far longer than expected - but... well.

I remember this day... I forgot to text Charm after - silly and stupid me - but... I was having a really bad day then. I think I called my BB when it just got too much. All I remember was walking with a smile on my face after that phonecall. I've never done that in a long while.

But, see: that's what Charm does, why she means so much to me. So much, that I was able to force my body to heal itself enough to make it through to her. I think I'm going to get bio-psionic karma from forcing it, but... what the hell, right? It was for Charm, for my BB, the one person right now who is a Keeper of one of the Keys to my Soul. The person who, without the slightest bit of hesitation, offered me her wings so I can fly again. I told her I am not worthy of such beauty, her Soul's wings of silver light, but she just smiled, then gave me a faux-pout for being so pigheaded, and gave them to me anyway.

I also remember this "discussion" she and I had over cookies. She said something about giving up her last cookie for me (it was a Cookie Monster text, I think), and I said something about my not daring to eat it and having it kept in storage, or maybe even framed. Charm answered that maybe I should just give the cookie away than seeing it crumble through time. "You have me by your side, anyway," Charm added, "your own personal angel to take care of you."

There was a time, after the UCSC's 10th Congress, that I felt really down. Starting from the trip back to Manila, until some months later. My depression only started subsiding after Charm and I started becoming close. I had given up on my Soul by then, but Charm insisted on finding it.

Not only did she find it... she made it fly again.

Nothing would have prevented me from being with my BB on that very special day. Not the Party (and, God's Sacred Light, most definitely not the Party), not the Republic... and certainly not some stupid condition.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Inevitability: Crossing the Event Horizon

One of the concepts central to my Training regards the ability Man possesses to effect change in the very fabric of Reality. No, no, this is not those X-men-like things with all the fancy colors and unearthly sounds. It is simply making the Mind - truly one of the most powerful artifacts in the Universe - realize that there is so much it can effect, that one of God's most important gifts is the ability to not be confined to specifics and details of His Will. When the Mind knows so few fetters, it is then free to do what it wills.

Perhaps this is where my disdain for Fate lies, that and the acceptance of String Theory and the Quantum Many-Worlds Theory into one's belief systems as well as the Primary Concept of Precognition. There is no single future, but only a near-endless variance of conclusions, like continous ripples emanating from a locus. What Becomes is simply that which Is through a confluence of events and circumstances. It is this knowledge, and the extent of one's resources to effect change within this particular locus that is the way to spit in Fate's eye. Fulcrums, after all, can move more than a single world if one has the right kind of tool, and the ability to manipulate that tool.

Yet... why am I in this situation? I see where particular points are that require a certain type of pressure to make the outcome into something I wish. Yet, yet...

It is like knowing where the event horizon of a black hole is, and stepping past its invisible yet palpable boundaries anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Trial Run: Testing the Waters

Fascinating. Ever since I heard of blogs during the Dubya-inspired Iraq War, I've always wondered just how it would... feel to have one. Sort of like a... sounding board. Well, not really. As a communications major, I understand the begnnings of blogs. But, like with most human inventions - like SMS, or the Net, for that matter, - mankind has found other ways of using the tools in his kit for other things.
I've been trying to setup one, partly to have someplace to store my thoughts - friends say I talk too much - and partly because I wanted to try out that wiki technology one of our speakers in the Theodor Heuss Akademie mentioned. But, actually, this came about because I didn't want to be a post named "anonymous" in Tin's Blogger.
Oh, well. I guess now's good a time as any.