Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Giving public service a good name

Securing purok, barangay, and police clearances earlier today was a pleasant surprise. I started out all psyched up for long lines and longer waits that I even brought a book just to be ready. I blocked the entire day to finish these errands and braced myself for the worst. Instead, I was happily proven wrong in my assumptions. Even better, I got reminded that there are still a lot of government employees who give justice to their roles as public servants.

My first stop for the day was in our purok leader's home to get a purok clearance. The leader was nice and very thorough that the entire transaction took less than ten minutes.

Next I went to the barangay hall, which looked well-maintained, and met employees who gave the impression that they were happy to serve. I got my community tax certificate (CTC) in less than five minutes then proceeded to the cubicle exclusively for barangay clearance requests. Again, I did not have to wait long for the clearance but what surprised me more was the lack of fees. With the exception of the money I spent for the CTC, I did not pay any single fee for both the purok and barangay clearances.

I then proceeded to the police barracks (as they call it) to get a police clearance. I had to backtrack though since I did not know beforehand that I had to pay Php25.00 first at the Sanggunian building, which is a block away from the barracks.

The Sanggunian building was crowded but the number system and the efficiency of the staff behind the windows relieved the tedium of waiting. All in all the time I spent there was not that bad. I then went back to the barracks with the required official receipt in hand. Getting the police clearance was as easy as the previous transactions despite the number of people present.

Call me jaded but I had several experiences over these years that made me wary, sometimes resigned, and often frustrated with how public servants deal with public like me. But today's experiences reminded me that there are still people out there who give public service a good name. I do not know their names but I salute them. Thank you for making me believe in public servants again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Things

Web surfing today reminded me of two things:

1. Invoking "creative sabbatical" becomes less scary when viewed from a different perspective.

There have been times in the past that I chose to step back and do nothing. What I choose to be right now is not exactly new. But sometimes I do tend to doubt the soundness of what I am [not] doing. This happens when I start thinking how this "idleness" is tantamount to wasting away. Pressures from expectations and well-meaning intentions are like fertilizers to slow-growing plants. They bring focus to things that I otherwise ignore.

Today is a good day to remind myself that other people's expectations and wishes are their own. My business is to milk this time of solitude and mindless pursuits for all its worth. The past taught me that it is not always going to be like this. I am not wired for slumberous existence no matter how I may sometimes wish it to be so. It is just that there are moments when my soul craves the solitude and clarity that "retreat and recharge" gives me. Thankfully that is what my batcave is for.

2. It is good to remember things we forget.

This is true especially since I seem to be forgetting a lot lately, like #1 and more of the simple things that always used to make me happy.

(Photo from things we forget)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

12th Southeast Asian Rowing Championships & Indoor Rowing Championships 2009

The Philippine Rowing Team bags a total of 3 silvers and 2 bronzes in the 12th SEARF Rowing Championships and 3 golds, 3 silvers, & 2 bronzes in the Indoor Rowing Championships.

14 - 18 October 2009 at the Mabprachan Reservoir, Pattaya, Chonburi Province, Thailand
12th SEARF Rowing Championships
Silver - 3
Bronze - 2

Indoor Rowing SEARF 2009
* Open Men Single 500 m.
Ponnel singgit PHI 1:31.3 (4th place)

* Open WOMEN Single 500 m.

Junior Men Single 1000m
Roque Abala Jr. PHI 3:14.9 (GOLD)

* Junior WOMEN Single 1000 m.

* Lightweight MEN Single 2000 m.

* Lightweight WOMEN Single 2000 m.

* Open MEN Relay 4x500 m.
PHI 6:15.1 (BRONZE)

* Open WOMEN Relay 4x500 m
PHI 7:11.1 (SILVER)
Clotheled nillas
Eda Jecsxie Maerins
Johnalyn Pedrits
Nida Cordovs

* Mixed Open Relay 4 x 500 m (2 MEN + 2 WOMEN)
PHI 6.37.8 (SILVER)
Johnalyn Pedrita
Clothelde Nillas
Edgar Ilas
Ronel Singgit

(Photo by Chalyn Bueta)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change | Giving the Planet A Sporting Chance

“Give the Planet a Sporting Chance” is a call to action campaign of the Japanese Olympic Committee Sport and Environment Commission. I am borrowing it today as I write something in support of this year's Blog Action Day.

I make it personal when I try to make sense of what climate change is. I find connections in dissecting the big things into parts where I understand and feel the potential impacts to me and my environment. This makes it easier for me to reconnect when I begin to drift away from the magnitude of the problem. I do this because it is easy to sink into that hole of helplessness and settle into apathy when I begin to consider that there might be nothing I can do to solve this problem.

The years I dedicated to dragon boat racing and rowing brought me closer to nature. My experiences and the sights I saw are probably the biggest reasons why I continue to strongly advocate campaigns to protect our environment. These sports I love are also threatened by the effects of climate change. Lakes and rivers are in danger of disappearing. I cannot imagine a world where there is nothing to do but stay indoors because there is nothing more safe to do outside.

@ Pasig River (Photo by John Candido)

Out in the water I become one of those many others who appreciate just how precious our environment is. I see pristine waters and my heart sings with joy. I feel the clean breeze caress my body and my spirit soars. It is when I am out in a boat that I understand more how inaction and apathy could make me lose something that is priceless and irreplaceable.

@ La Mesa Dam (Photo by Chalyn Bueta)

So what can I do?

I choose to give the planet a sporting chance. I consciously make an effort to lessen my carbon footprint. It is not easy and I am not even halfway to being successful as I aimed to be but I believe I am on the right track. I have learned the habit of using less plastic especially when I am out shopping. I unplug appliances that I do not use. I try to use less electricity. Everyday I try to do more. I read materials that could help me reduce my carbon impact.

I am only one but I am one with the billions of people who are doing what they can to mitigate the risks of climate change. With that in mind, I am filled with hope. I could still imagine a world where people have the chance of playing my favorite sports.

Queen Rania's speech at Yale University

I was deeply moved by the video of Queen Rania's speech at Yale University that I wanted to post the full speech here.

I think the ability to care is what defines humanity. What she said made me think about how I sometimes shy away from sharing what I feel and think about things - big things, things that do not [directly] concern me. I may think that I am helpless, insignificant even, in what is happening around me. There is just too much suffering that we people bring to this world.

I am stumped by the degree of helplessness that I feel, of the separateness I experience. But even thinking about that does not stop me from caring. I care because I believe that somehow, in some ways, we are all connected. I feel that for as long as our humanity is preserved a hope for peace remains alive.

"True peace depends on reconnecting the bonds of our common humanity." ~ Queen Rania

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
"Queen Rania's speech at Yale University "

- New York, United States

President Levin, Dean Lorimer, faculty, students… thank you so much for making me feel so welcome here at Yale. I’ve wanted to come here for many years, and am so grateful to everyone for the hospitality and kindness you’ve shown to me and my staff.

I’ve really been looking forward to seeing the Yale landmarks that I’ve been hearing about for so long – the Beinecke Library… Harkness Tower… Old Campus… Peter Salovey’s moustache.

Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t make it quite in time for that last one! But everything else is even more impressive than I had imagined. This is a spectacular place.

Indeed, I have to admit, as I was preparing for this visit, I wondered what on earth I could tell you that you don’t already know. Yalies have won 17 Nobel prizes, 6 presidential elections, and even 2 Heisman trophies. You can choose from more than 2,000 courses… browse more than 12 million books in the libraries… make friends from more than 110 countries… and, as far as I can tell from the posters on campus, try out for 3,000 a capella singing groups!

So, rather than try to compete with all that, I thought I’d speak from my own experience.

I thought I’d offer an Arab perspective on my part of the world, and our hopes for peace and progress – especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And I’m guessing, since you made the time to be here today, when you could have been doing something really important – like researching a paper, or visiting a professor, or calling your Mom to tell her how much you love her -- that this is an audience that already cares about international relations.

But I realize that foreign policy isn’t typically a top concern for the American public – and especially not in a time of economic hardship at home. A poll earlier this year found that 75 percent of Americans agreed “terrorism” should be one of President Obama’s top priorities… but almost no other foreign policy issues made it to the top 20 list.

So I don’t expect that the Arab-Israeli conflict is foremost on most people’s minds.

Yet, in many ways, that conflict is at the core of U.S.-Arab relations – or, at least, at the core of Arab public opinion of America. When Arabs were asked, in a poll this spring, what two steps by the United States would improve their views of the United States the most, more than 40 percent said a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. The same poll found that 99 percent of people put the conflict in their top 5 priorities… and one in three say the Palestinian issue is their number one concern.

That’s because for us, the occupation is a hurt we feel each day. In Jordan, nearly a third of our population are Palestinian refugees. Look at the people sitting on either side of you. Imagine one was a refugee – forced to seek haven in your country because her family had been driven from their own. In Jordan we have to be concerned with the conflict because we’re living with its consequences. We don’t have the luxury of shifting our focus away.

We know as well that the crisis in Palestine does not exist in a vacuum. What happens in Palestine is related to what happens in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria. The longer the conflict in Palestine persists, the weaker the moderate majority becomes… the more extremists gain leverage they can exploit… and the greater the risk of instability throughout our region.

So we appreciated President Obama’s outreach in his Cairo speech. We appreciated his acknowledgement that the conflict remains a major source of tension between us… and his pledge to pursue a two-state solution with patience and dedication.

We appreciated the appointment of Senator George Mitchell as special envoy.

But we are impatient. When it comes to Palestine, time has not been a friend. To the contrary, sometimes Palestine seems like the land that time forgot.

You know, when I started college, back in 1988, Europe was divided. The United States had an existential foe called the USSR. Much of Latin America was ruled by juntas; South Africa by apartheid. Civil conflicts had been raging for decades from Guatemala to Northern Ireland. Nelson Mandela lived in a cell. And Palestine was under occupation.

These were the problems we used to describe as intractable, even insoluble. Yet hatreds have given way to handshakes. Prisoners have become presidents.

But not in Palestine. In Palestine, walls are going up, not coming down…four hundred kilometers to be precise. The decades have brought what feels like an endless parade of starts and stalemates … missed opportunities… shattered hopes… and diminishing returns.

And I’m not here to talk about blame. That doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s like tracing your finger on a Mobius Strip, going round in an infinite loop.

But coming from Jordan, I feel I must speak for those voices that Americans rarely hear… to describe the sense of “identity theft” that Palestinians have endured for over 60 years.

Because their pain is about more than the loss of their land… their olive trees… their livelihoods. Their grief is about more than being kicked out of the homes in which their families have lived for generations. As one scholar put it, land is the “geography of the Palestinian soul.” Their very understanding of who they are is deeply rooted in the context of their environment. So each new claim on their ever-shrinking space feels like a blow to their very existence. Having no place to call their own is like having no identity at all.

Think about it: When you enroll here at Yale, one of the first things you receive is your ID. It allows you access – to residential colleges… dining halls… the library stacks. It opens doors. It gets you in. It shows that you belong. And when you leave Yale, you get a piece of paper to carry with you: a diploma that gives you status before you ever have to say a word.

In the West Bank and Gaza, young people like you are given an ID as well. But this ID is not about access. It is only about limitation. It limits the boundaries of where they can go, what they can do, who they can be. It’s a constant reminder that in others’ eyes, they are less valuable… less important… simply less.

UN sources report that almost 40 percent of the West Bank is now covered by settlement-related Israeli infrastructure – barriers… buffer zones… military bases… barbed wire and barricades.

Parents can’t get to work. Students can’t get to class. Sick people can’t get to hospitals. All traffic is stopped, from people on foot to cars and trucks to ambulances. The wait can be hours, often only to find that passage is refused – relatives detained on their way to a family wedding… schoolchildren searched, their notes ripped from their schoolbooks… grandparents, forced to stand for hours holding packages and heavy bags.

The unpredictability, anxiety, and humiliation are as wearing as the delay.

And so much more than freedom of movement is lost when each day is defined by these checkpoints… with armed soldiers demanding, “Hawiya… ID… Hawiya… ID” Show me proof that you exist.

The degradation is compounded by the sense that no one cares… that the outside world is oblivious to the hardships Palestinians endure.

Especially in Gaza, where for two years, families have faced the collective punishment of blockade… and for three weeks at the start of this year, they were subjected to devastating attack – with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide… not even UN hospitals or schools.

Today, a million people -- almost 70 percent of Gaza’s population -- are refugees. Homes lie in rubble. Hospitals lack power. Sewage pipes threaten to burst. The economy has totally, utterly collapsed. Unemployment is approaching 50 percent.

One resident calls it “a jail where no prisoner knows the length of his sentence.”

And not one penny of the billions of dollars pledged for reconstruction has gotten through.

More than half the population of Gaza is under the age of 18.

Children did not create this conflict… but they are its greatest victims.

Just listen to the words of the four small children who were found by the Red Cross in January… in the shell-battered neighborhood of Zeitoun… clinging to their mothers’ corpses:

They couldn’t speak. They were too weak to stand. They hadn’t eaten for days… while the firefight raged outside the door… and their families died inside.

They were alive… but being alive is not the same as surviving. These children had nothing but their mothers’ love… and now they have lost that too.

And the worst threat of all is the cynicism so many people feel… the sense that Middle East peace is hopeless… that we’ll never find a solution.

Because if we throw up our hands and say, “This problem is too hard,” we’re not just writing off a “process”… or writing off a “road map.” We’re writing off people’s lives.

But let me be clear: it isn’t just the lives of Palestinians at stake. Israelis too need a future of peace and security.

They too need to be free of wailing sirens announcing an attack.

And they too need to grow up without the shadow of walls and watchtowers… for as a columnist for a leading Israeli daily wrote this spring, one of the casualties of occupation may be a healthy state of Israel itself.

So what must be done?

On the political front, we need courage, accountability, and action.

And we see signs of hope, as President Obama and his team invest their time and capital in breathing life into negotiations for two viable, secure, sovereign states.

We see signs of hope, as all 22 members of the Arab League have offered Israel full recognition in exchange for withdrawal to its pre-1967 border.

We see signs of hope, as brave people on both sides say they are ready to give peace a chance – 64 percent of Palestinians, and 40 percent of Israelis, who support the Arab League plan.

Now, all sides must take responsibility for building on this momentum. And let me say clearly: That responsibility includes the Arab world. We decry the actions of Israeli extremists, but must work harder to rein in our own. We look to the West to do more in support of Palestinian needs, but must do our part – and must press the Palestinians toward unity among themselves.

At the same time, as my husband His Majesty King Abdullah has said, it is time for Israel to choose: “To integrate into the region, accepted and accepting, with normal relations with its neighbors. Or to remain fortress Israel, isolated, and holding itself and the entire region a hostage to continuing confrontation.”

And from America, too, we need sustained commitment… creative engagement… and leadership… to keep the parties on the path to peaceful co-existence.

But we need even more.

Because true peace depends not just on new lines on a map. It is not just the walls on the land that must go. We must take down the walls in our hearts. There has been so much pain, so much loss, so much fear, so much hatred and mistrust. True peace depends on reconnecting the bonds of our common humanity.

I was moved by something JK Rowling said in her commencement at Harvard last year. She said that humans have the unique ability to “think themselves into other people’s places”… to learn and understand new things they’ve never actually experienced.

And yet, many “choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.”

Rowling went on to say, “I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do… I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters,” she said. “They are often more afraid.”

She is right. So often, we dread what we do not know. We live in fear of the things we cannot see. But we’ll never move forward by closing ourselves off. The only way to grow is to reach out.

To truly make peace in the Middle East -- or anywhere in the world – we all have to learn to think ourselves into other people’s places. To put ourselves in other people’s shoes. To make room for other people’s hopes and fears. For the more we can appreciate one another’s perspective, the more dimension and depth we add to our own.

And in many respects, that’s what a liberal education is all about. It’s about asking questions without prejudging the answers. Drawing lessons from other peoples’ experiences. Testing and refining our own values and beliefs. Developing the habits of an open mind.

When we shine the light of inquiry… broad-mindedness… and compassion… that is how we find our way to our own best selves. The more open we become, the more we find we can contain. It’s the “lux” that leads the way to “veritas.”

And when it comes to the Middle East, no matter how great the fears, no matter how deep the mistrust, if we shine that light, we are sure to reveal what has always, and will always, be true: There is no difference between the love Palestinians and Israelis feel for their children. No difference between their laughter… or their tears.

We share one humanity. As one of my heroes, Desmond Tutu, likes to say, “We, all of us, have been made for goodness. We have been made for laughter…we have been made for caring, for sharing, for compassion; for we do indeed inhabit a moral universe and; yes, goodness is powerful.”

Yale, as global citizens, we have a responsibility to one another. In our interconnected world, there are no zero sum games. We win or lose together. We all have a stake in peace and justice – for all of us are diminished by their absence. Let us work together, in the Middle East and around the world, to make peace come true, for good.

Thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nike moment

I tagged along in my aunt's jaunt to Pearl Farm and Malipano Island yesterday for the opportunity to soak up the sun. It has been a long time since I spent time close to pristine waters and feel the serenity that being close to nature brings.

The trip was a last minute decision on my part, which later reminded me once again that doing something unplanned definitely has its rewards. I came home tired but happy after spending the day on boat trips [lost count after three], running and swimming from one end of the island to the other playing a version of Amazing Race, eating seafoods and fresh fruits, and soaking up the sun like there was no tomorrow.

It was truly an amazing day. Thank you universe!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When I Begin To Mean Someday

It is true that everyday we see and hear stories that inspire us. No matter where we are or what we are doing, there will always be that someone, that event that would remind us of the grandness of the human spirit.

I have found many of my inspirations in sports. Maybe that is why even after all these years and after my retirement as an athlete, the passion continues to burn like an eternal flame. There is so much greatness in the people I had the chance to meet there. I am sure that this is how it works as well for those who choose to devote their life in art, science, or whatever it is that breathes life to a singular passion.

Today, I cried after watching this video. I cried not because I feel sorry for them but because once again I am reminded that there is so much greatness in this world.

I am passionate about sports because it is a platform to learn the values of Olympism. Sports bring out the magnificence of the human spirit. It unites us in ways we cannot imagine possible.

I used to say that someday I would join a triathlon race. But I have never truly believed that I would. I am not a good swimmer and I do not like the idea of swimming in open waters. I know how to ride a bicycle but I never had any experience riding it in busy roads. I run but I have never yet tried finishing a 21K or 42K marathons. When I said someday, I guess I really did not mean someday.

After watching this video, two things came to mind: 1.) I have removed myself so far from the path of what I am passionate about that it diminished my capacity to believe, 2.) Someday means someday to me now.

Today is going to be another beginning of more of the best days of my life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Singles and Matchmakers

One of the perks of moving back to the province is the chance to hang out with old friends I have lost touched with for years. With the exception of Leonor who managed to track me a few years back, I lost all contact with the rest of our high school barkada. Meeting old friends always comes down to catching-ups especially if there is time to spare.

The thing with catching-ups though is I tend to stand out as the only single in a group of married girls. Somehow conversations lead to remaining single guys (if any) in our high school batch and their glowing credentials as potential boyfriends. If there is one thing that makes me smile each time it happens is the ingenuity and creativity of my girl friends in imagining possibilities to find me a boyfriend.

Being single this long certainly makes me a magnet for matchmakers. I wonder how long they can hold out? For now, I do not have plans of budging. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Proudly Pinoy

It is the resilience, solidarity, hope and smiles even in the most adverse conditions that make me truly proud of my fellow countrymen. There are many heartwarming stories out there that fills me with hope that moving forward, all will be well. Hats off to all the kindhearted souls and unsung heroes who give what they can to help in this time of need.

(Photo from here)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Every Vote Matters

Earth Hour's Vote Earth. It's Time To Show Where You Stand.