Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Traversing SLEX

Philippine Daily Inquirer's Editorial Cartoon (10/21/2008) - http://www.inquirer.net/SLEX. South Luzon EXpressway. This major Philippine thoroughfare, which connects CALABARZON to Imperial Manila, has been and always be part of my life. Why not? As a kid growing in a province, I look forward going to the 'big city' whenever my family goes for Christmas shopping or to experience the things only the city can offer. After high school, I can't wait to take that first bus heading to my dream of higher learning. You see, most Filipinos have this notion that studying in one of the colleges/universities in Manila gives one a certain prestige back home. Not to mention being enrolled in those well-known institutions with their pride colors, animal mascots and basketball teams. And going to the city means traversing SLEX. So the recent editorial cartoon in the Inquirer didn't have a hard time getting my attention. I'm aware of the ongoing SLEX upgrading and rehabilitation project since May 2006, and I well remember the stressful bus rides due to these stone control devices/barricades that re-route traffic in a haphazard fashion. The usual one-and-a-half-hour San Pablo-Manila trip becomes a two- to three-hour butt torture. I bet the 1956 Ten Commandments or The Sound of Music or Titanic can be played on-board JAC Liner from the start and be able to finish it. But the cartoon depicts it a bit creepy: Death welcoming motorists to an unwelcoming SLEX; at least the coniferous trees are still there amidst the morbidness. This might be due to the hazardous nature of the recent construction works and the increasing probability of a vehicular accident. The editorial cartoon might want to tell those people involved that they are not doing a satisfactory job specially in traffic flow management and safety. Well, I already told myself that sooner or later the ongoing project will be messy since SLEX is always expecting a huge volume of motorists (CALABARZON, afterall, is on the rise). An irritated and exhausted driver sometimes looses sound road decision-making. Anyway, they say the project is set to finish by March 2009 and, like in the NLEX (it's northern counterpart rehabilitated by 2005), the temporary nuisance is a trade off to a much modernized highway. Just expect higher toll fees though. Haha! From one nuisance to another. Welcome to the Philippines!

Mt. Makiling at Exit 50 - Calamba Interchange (from Wikipedia)The ominous caricature is far from the nostalgic picture in my mind. I still want to imagine SLEX with its tree-lined highway, the Mt. Makiling from the distant southern end and the rice field on either side that boasts of its lushness and of the fresh air waiting to be inhaled. This picture will stay even with the rice fields being bulldozed to make way for future subdivisions. It will stay. At least a fantasy of one who used to be a probinsyano (a Pinoy word concoction of "someone from the province") kid who takes joy traversing the SLEX en route the big city. At least a comforting bus ride of one who used to be a student then a professional working in the city en route a place for the weekend respite. And as I outgrow that childhood fantasy, traversing SLEX seems to reduce to traversing a one-way path – a direction that shall only lead me beyond the greens and blues of Mt. Makiling – back home. Yes, I had a change of heart. If after graduating high school I planned of getting the best education, build a successful career and then settling in Manila, today it remains the same but not the place to settle. If my adolescent impulse is to leave that place I consider lame and boring, now I like to go back and redefine those words: simple and quiet. I guess the smog and congestion succeeded in diminishing the value of being a Manileño on a personal level. Besides there are lots of Pinoys who are still city bound. I might as well be one less of that count. I don't hate Manila, don't get me wrong. I still love going to the malls and other places of interest (haven't been in Intramuros actually). But if I were to fulfill one of the things in my bucket list – that is, having a house overlooking Mother Nature at one of her glories (see the full list on the side frame) – I love it to be back in my hometown. I don't mind being far from the political, economic and cultural capital; I'll build my own version in San Pablo. The plans, however, may still change. Anything can happen in the next years specially now that working means traveling. I might end up somewhere else but I bet it would be due mainly to the future Mrs. Brosas. But for now, I would love to turn right to that exit at the far south end where the coconuts grow.

The kid had grown, the probinsyano is now homeward bound and an all-new SLEX will be there paving the way.

GMT -3 DST Sao Paulo, Brazil

Monday, October 20, 2008

Status Message

I always enjoy checking out the status messages of my online friends/contacts when I sign in Yahoo!® Messenger. Maybe because of their diversity: from the verbatim to the personally tailored, from the trivial to the profound, from the lame to the overly creative, from the somber to the optimistic, from the hilarious to plain stupid rudeness, from the appreciative to the repulsive view of the world.

Status messages were introduced by instant messenging/chat providers to let users inform the rest of the online community whether one is available, offline, idle or busy. It's a convenient civil way of saying "ok, let's have a chat" or "leave me alone". Then it started to evolve towards the personal.

I am one of those people who usually speak to the world through status messages, and I believe that there are those who share the same pleasure in reading these. It's like a speaker-listener relationship. This only shows that no matter what's the medium or the venue, we all communicate. Everyone expresses sentiments. Everyone takes notice. Then there are some who shall respond. And I guess having personalized status messages is my subliminal way to solicit response. I reckon it's human nature. It's my nature to brave the social weather by letting people know my current status and by discovering theirs. My interest to status messages may be due to my inner desire to know other people's thoughts (even superficial) and feelings. You see, I'm always on a look out to people that I may be in a clash with and how I could formulate intra- and inter-personal compromise with them; in short, I adapt myself. I guess it's a defensive mechanism to eventually fit in the group.

Well, this is beyond the chat rooms.

But admit it or not, status messages are written all over us.

GMT -3 DST Sao Paulo, Brazil

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An Hour I Lost

GMT -03:00 Brasilia

This is my current timezone; a reminder that I am left behind eleven hours back home. And coincidentally my current location is the Portuguese equivalent of my hometown (i.e. São Paulo - San Pablo - St. Paul).

07:00(GMT-3 São Paulo) I woke up, took a shower and prepared some breakfast (sunny-side up)
18:00(GMT+8 San Pablo) On my way home probably coming from a friend's house, my work in Manila or SFC gathering

08:00 At Bras (São Paulo's Divisoria) buying Havianas for pasalubong
19:00 Still on my way...

12:30 Just arrived at the hotel; prepared late lunch
23:30 Watching late cable movie or hooked up on the net

15:00 Laugh trip: Supahpapalicious (Vhong Navarro)
02:00(the next day) Just pulled the blankets on

18:00 Laundry then dinner
05:00 Zzzzz

21:30 Suspense-thriller trip: Mirrors (Keifer Sutherland)
08:30 Zzzzz

23:41 Started a new blog entry
10:41 Out for a Sunday activity

Then on a blink, an hour passed.

Not in a metaphorical sense. Physically, and instantaneously, one hour has been skipped. Today is when Brasil's southern states implement Daylight Saving Time (DST). Yes, we Filipinos had this kind of practice, albeit experimental, during the Aquino's and Ramos' Administrations. Though I didn't share the same enthusiasm as with those who proposed it back then. Either I was too young (yes, believe it) or I didn't feel any significance, effect or whatsoever. And now, it's like an old idea that's beginning to sink in as a new one.

Now I'm just ten hours behind but 1 hour wanting. There was this awkward feeling when I adjusted all my clocks (i.e. laptop, PDA and cellphone) forward one hour at exactly 00:00H today. It's like loosing one hour of my life. But the funny thing is that DST is just a convention that everyone agreed to do at a specific time; physically nothing has changed. The integrity of space-time continuum is still intact and the universe is far from extinction. And I don't think anything in this world can change that.

Like I said before, we are living this life in only one direction. We can look back but then we are still pulled to that one direction, forward. We can stop for a while but then we are bound to continue on. Conventions invented by humanity such as the DST can make time look forwarded or its reverse but time is more than humanity itself; it encompasses it. It's like an invisible plane where we all stand and move. But unlike us, humans, it does not change form. Yes, one can argue that it's relative (maybe ask Einstein) but still it's one hell of a hard-wired frame – at any given point on that frame, everyone is bound to move towards the direction it goes. I can race time. I can make it slow. I can stop. But then it's just me. Before I know it, time just passed. And I can't blame the universe for not having enough time. Like I said, it's already hard-wired.

An hour or two can't be lost. Life is.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Does she exist?

But why would I consider the idea if I don't believe with it in the first place? Trust me, I don't. That is, if one will define a soulmate as the one and only other half of one's soul, for which all souls are driven to find and join. Or anything to that effect that draws definition from the mystical; a definition that has been here since Plato's time. The question, however, does not incite my personal belief rather it begs to redefine the very meaning of it. And if I were to rephrase the definition it would be like this: the one and only other half complement of one's soul, for which all souls are driven choose to find and join be in mutual union. To explain in parts:

1. complement of one's soul - does not necessarily mean compatibility; personally I believe she is someone that shall make a good monster slayer. I have a Mr. Hyde inside, a vicious monster, and I desperately need a slayer. Hmmm.. I'm looking forward to that battle soon. But the one thing I'm sure of is that she is not, and shall never be, half of my soul. The only half for that matter. Who said our souls are made in half? We were made in God's likeness and I don't think He is in half. Maybe that's the problem with some people I call 'love martyrs'; thinking that life's over if the perceived other half went gone. There is one good thing that we can learn from Narcissus: love your self first.

2. all souls choose to find - no magic; no supernatural force; no destiny. It's a choice. And if someone does not wish to embark on an odyssey, then I guess one has already chosen to cease the existence of a soulmate. So you see, there can never be another half. Just another one.

3. be in mutual union - one-way discernment shall never work. It should be mutual. I can call my all-time crush my soulmate but it just diminishes my own definition if she does not feel the same way back. She will only be a "soul" but not a "mate". See how can people misuse the term? Well, it's their choice of word as I have mine.

One will argue that the idea of a soulmate does not fall on that life's category I call love. It is just an idea that someone exists as the other half of you that sooner or later you will bump into in a place foretold by the stars. A soulmate, some say, can either be of the two natural genders. Well if that would be the other definition then I totally dismiss the idea. Yes, God created the world in pairs but that was in the beginning. Towards the end, all He wants is for us to be one community; one body (1 Corinthians 12). No need for that one and only someone (be it a girl or a boy) connected to me by a somewhat supernatural umbilical cord.

But then, I chose to personally define my soulmate as a she. And please note that it is a choice; we have been given free will. Destiny is just one of those Hollywood flicks. But then again, bells and butterflies are not all bad. Just don't get too mesmerized by them.

Come to think of it, I almost found her by way of definitions 1 and 2.

The third sucks!
GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Shit happens...


We can't do anything about it. It is part of the system. It is one of those things uncertain that we expect. If we try to prevent it we are doomed to constipation. And I don't want to feel constipated; it hinders other activities that are worthwhile. So it would make me feel better if I accept the fact that shit happens. It would make me better. Of course, the mess it will make is like falling in a pit of crap. And what do you do if you actually fall in it? You frantically try to get out. It depends on the depth how much time we can get out though. Yet somehow after falling on different holes and pits, we manage to be good at getting out faster no matter how deep. Then it becomes part of the system, and life goes on.

But some people will still be miserable with their shits.

I don't know with them but the last time I checked I did flushed mine.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Literary # 2

Who I am is You

In a sea of faceless crowd
Lost in thoughts, drowned by fear
For who I am is uncertain
Drifted by waves of pretense
Never real
Never me

Who I am is constant struggle
Seeking to cut out like the rest
A wearing parade of masks
That creates jaded illusions
Neither real
Neither me

I want to live out the truth
And show the world unmasked
Teach me cease pretending
And start living out Your will
Let me be myself, Lord!
Let me be free!
For who I am is You

In this life’s game of charades
I fail to see the self You painted in me
Which is real
Which is me

I want to live out the truth
And show the world unmasked
Teach me cease pretending
And start living out Your will
Let me be myself, Lord!
Let me be free!
You’re my Creator,
And I will never fear.
For who I am is You,
And in Your likeness
I'm worthy.
I’m faithful.
I give praise!

Found this while cleaning up some clutter in my laptop.
This was my entry to the Laguna SFC Pop 2006 - Praise and Worship Band Category.
Thanks to the Zion Band from my Singles For Christ San Pablo Cathedral-Calihan Chapter for the arrangement and interpretation. One of the reasons to miss home.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Day the World Becomes Bankrupt

Ergo the end of modern civilization, if not end of the world.

Though debatable, I think global bankruptcy is a far-fetched scenario – if it really does happen civilization will just go on a re-boot; the world starting on a clean slate. Money, afterall, is just human invention. It's just like Filipino children of the 90's (yes, emphasis is needed here) playing habulan from dusk until full moon's high unanimously declaring a game over if they feel that no one's enjoying anymore. It would just take a unanimous vote of the UN General Assembly or, maybe, just the mere handshakes of the Group of Eight to declare a Jubilee Year like in Moses' Laws; all debts wiped out on the face of the earth! The only difference is Moses' Jubilee Year was mandated due to heavenly command whereas the latter is an escape from man's fall due to greed.

Yes, greed. It is the inevitable consequence of this human creation, money. Gone were the days where people works together, tills together and reaps together then festivities together afterwards; where all the harvests are communal and no one owes anyone. A scenario which, I think, existed when early homo sapiens walk the earth as nomads. As soon as people started to get settled, businesses commenced operations and the evolution of human avarice is history. It's paradoxically funny to think that the rise and advancement of human species aimed at life's simplicity come with such complexity.

And the recent global economic crisis serves as a reminder of how fragile and volatile this societal pillar we call financial institutions. For a common Juan de la Cruz such as myself, all the details of the recent events seem like Greek. All I know is just 'big-time' companies are either closing down or being bought or bailed-out with such names as Bear Stearns, IndyMac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG flashing over the headlines. A person immersed in technical engineering terms suddenly becomes interested in terminologies such as mortgage, credit crunch, subprime, recession, inflation and economic bubble – at least I find a somewhat kiddy comfort on the bubble thing. What interests me most is the idea of derivatives (ok, lower the geek-meter for this is not calculus). Apparently, financial world is as much complicated as our politics back home. Imagine investing on something that is said to have a value highly dependent on another which has obtained its value from a third entity which may have been invested on a fourth. Think of the multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme still prevalent in the Philippines. The top layer rakes in most of the profit, the ones in the middle get parts of the chunk and the lower layer, well, stays there. I'm not into these things so any 'financial gurus' feel free to correct me. But the basic idea is the volatility of it all. Imagine one card falls off the rest of the deck. And I think that what has happened on Wall Street a month ago. I read somewhere that it has its roots many years back though. Nevertheless, it may well boils down to the basic truth, that these companies, wanting to earn more, took risk investing on greed.

Picture this:

  • banks started to provide credit to borrowers deemed subprime (layman's definition: imagine your usual drunkard neighbor borrowing Php500 promising he'll pay back once his sick mother's pension comes or a friend's friend convicted of estafa years ago) but on a higher interest rate
  • people started to borrow and to buy expensive houses (here, I think, they felt rich)
  • then there was a boom in real estate; the demand for houses started to expand (hence the term housing bubble)
  • here comes the colossal financial institutions and invested on these loans and mortgages (here is a parody of derivatives):

Pedro: Hey Juan, Mario borrowed some marbles from me.

Juan: But he owes most of the kids here, do you think he'll pay it back?

Pedro: Don't worry he will. He just needed extra marbles for the game on the next block. Besides, I told him that I'll lend him if he agrees to pay me five-folds.

Juan : Whoa! That's a lot of marbles added to your collection.

Pedro : Yeah. So, do you want to have a share on that? All you need to do is pool some of your marbles to me so we can lend Tomas with the same terms. We'll split the additional marbles 50/50.

Juan : I'm in!

Then Juan did the same with Berto but the split is 60/40 from the 50% of the first agreement. Berto, who's also fond of trading cards, offered a similar scheme with Orli, a marble enthusiast: trade some of Orli's card collection for 40% of the marbles Berto can get from the previous agreement. Well, Orli wants to have more marbles so I guess he will look for a kid in the neighborhood to get a similar agreement as with the others. And you'll picture the rest of the story; no offense intended to children.

  • then like any bubble, it soon burst; people are now stuck, unable to pay for what they owe
  • the companies who invested on these soon accumulated liabilities (i.e. unpaid loans) surpassing what they have in assets; negative in the accounting books means corporate disaster

There you go. The gist of what had led to the current crisis in my personal understanding. They call it the US subprime mortgage crisis. Well, there are other factors that involves the government and other sectors of the society albeit too Greek, nay, alien to people like me. What stands out is that these Wallstreet biggies enjoyed quasi-autonomous run of the financial world; a seemingly exclusive club for those in black suits and top hats. Capitalists, afterall, are born to profit at any cost and this costs us big time! The world economy is now on a slowdown (Iceland is on the brink of bankruptcy!). I don't want this blog to be a sort of attack to this financial institutions. Afterall, they are just doing their job no matter how greedy they appear to me and now they are suffering the consequences of their short-sightedness. And so are we, thank you very much!

I bet the financial world will never be the same again with all the impending reforms and legislation to avoid the same fate as today. Wallstreet, in particular, will loose all its perks as a deregulated entity. Economies will not be seen as a Monopoly gameboard for a while. This period will be remembered and shall be written down on textbooks as lessons to be learned in Economic schools added to that of the Great Depression of the 30's and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.

I will never be the same again.

So this leads me to the microcosm of this global incident: my own avarice.

I admit I'm a materialistic person. I get this impulsive drive to buy things that I fancy. If I have the money, I'll buy it. If not, then what do my 3 credit cards doing in my wallet. Don't ask the credit limits! They say don't trust a woman with your credit card. I say, don't trust myself with my credit card. It's not all about women and their inherent love for shopping (ok, feminists feel free to attack me). It's not all about having multiple credit cards in the pocket regardless of gender. Borrowing money is not an evil thing (unless one intends to run away with it). More so, money is not evil. What's wrong is my immoderate desire, nay, lust for material things. And worst, I tend to borrow money through credit cards just to satisfy this. I remember having to owe the card company which I begun to find hard to pay. Sometimes I thought that I was just paying for the finance charge. You see, that was my problem before. I thought having credit card gives one much needed purchasing power. No worries, I can pay it anyway on the end of the month. But I fail to realize that it was a psychological warfare; having to give a self-perception that I am rich, it is also self-destructive.

So you see, I don't need to criticize and attack those companies for their greedy actions. Let authortities and experts deal with that. It's their world. I have my own world (no, I'm not autistic). Let them have their reforms, and I will have my own. Ironically, now that I'm earning more than before I become frugal with my finances; planning towards investments rather than liable expenses. No more to purchases where payment is drawn on credit. No more to purchases that exceed my income. I'll keep the credit cards though. It's still good to maintain a credit line. But I'll just use it for cashless purchases (no, this is different from credit purchases; instead of withdrawing cash, I'll pay through card and just pay in full online the same day). At least I'll earn more redeemable points (maybe donate these points to Children's Hour). At least it will be robber-proof!

I'll be buying a Nikon D90 and iPhone 3G when I come home this year. It will be my last liable swanky purchases (maybe for the next 2 years) then the rest of my savings will go to investments. But I'll be paying these with my credit cards. Only this time I'm sure I can afford them.

This time I know, personally and financially, I am far from being bankrupt.

GMT -3 Sao Paulo, Brazil