Excuses for not bringing a pasalubong

Alunan Avenue

Pasalubong is a Filipino idea. When you go somewhere far, your friends expect you to bring something from the place you've been to--a beaded necklace, a carved granite stone, a big box full of chocolates, or anything else for that matter. This practice accomplishes two things: (1) it proves that you did go somewhere far, and (2) it shows your affection for those you had left behind because, well, when you bought that wood carving of a man in a barrel, you were thinking of the people you love.

I remember Dr. Laura David of the Marine Science Institute who said that this practice has its roots on our being an archipelago. When people hopped from one island to the next, they had to bring a proof that they've been to this or that place. Somewhere along the course of history, the concept of pasalubong has been thoroughly ingrained in our culture so much so that people, no matter how poor they are, would do their best to bring something back.

My problem is, whenever my friends hear I'm going home to the province, it is inevitable--as sure as the sun rises from the east and sets on the west--that at least one of them would ask for a pasalubong.

What do I say without sounding indifferent? My province isn't known for anything, except for two small-time bombs that exploded some five years ago, which people from Manila mistake for the Nagasaki bombing. I can't bring a pineapple because it tastes like all the pineapples of the world. I can't bring an I've-been-to-Koronadal t-shirt because, well, it's not so different from all other I've-been-to shirts: they're all made of cotton.

But I can bring myself, and if you're a true friend, that should be enough.

Much needed rest

Blue, blue sky

I'm leaving for Koronadal tomorrow. I could've opted to stay here, but I wanted to have some retreat, just before med school starts on June. I want to finish begin reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, an excellent book to guide any growing Christian. I also want to spend more time meditating on the Bible. Ah, what rest!

That means blog upates are going to be sparse, save for the weekly diptychs I've programmed to be posted on the following two weeks.

I'm bringing my heavy desktop computer back home, so I'll be carrying a lot of boxes. Imagine how I'll fare. May my bones be strong and my muscles be sufficient to carry all the load.

The photo shows a plant right outside of the Matiwasay apartment where my brother lives. He and his housemates are leaving tomorrow for another place. I'll miss this cozy, little house.

Singing the Lupang Hinirang

I feel sorry for Martin Nievera. Considered one of this country's finest, he represented the country by singing the national anthem during Manny Pacquiao's momentous bout against Ricky Hatton. The match was well-publicized, and everybody looked forward to seeing it with unmatched anticipation.

He rendered the Philippine national anthem with a melody and arrangement so characteristic of him: you wouldn't mistake anyone else singing it.

But what should have been a matter of national pride turned into blatant criticisms of sorts. The National Historical Institute (NHI) pointed out that he did not sing Lupang Hinirang properly: it's a march and should be sung that way. Martin also ended with a higher, prolonged note. If you've been watching the news, you'll see the performance repeated time and again.

If not for this and the accusations that other singers in the past had faced, the public would not have been made aware of the existing law called RA 8491 (The Flag and Heraldic Code) which states that the national anthem must be sung according to the original specifications put forth by Julian Felipe, the composer.

Now charges are being pushed against Martin. The NHI has asked him to issue a public apology, but the singer refused, saying he meant no disrespect. Some lawmakers also expressed concern in amending the existing law: artists must be given some artistic freedom.

Clearly a violation has been committed, and a public apology seems more reasonable than a court hearing. But it makes no sense that the reactions towards the situation have been rather over-the-top. Why this fuss?

I say this in light of all the other violations that have been committed that did and still do not merit the proper punishment. For instance, were charges ever pressed and pursued against politicians who exceeded the television-time allotment during the campaign period of last elections? Why don't we hear protests of sorts against leaders who use public funds to make posters with their faces blown-up, bigger than the congratulatory messages they're supposed to give?

Martin's case must be treated with grace. It's best to move on—there are bigger issues to pursue. At least our singers now know better. Otherwise, by exaggerating the issue, we look as if, after more than a hundred years of independence, we still have insecurities about our national identity.

Michael Fray's Spies: innocence, memories, and the will to remember

When Agz Chaves handed me the book, she confessed she had a hard time deciding whether to give it or keep it to herself. It's that good, she claimed. I could imagine how painful it is to part ways with a book one dearly loves. Touched by the gesture, I promised to read it as soon as possible.

The book is Spies by Michael Frayn. Stephen Wheatley, the main character, recalls the past as he visits his former home where he grew up during the World War II:

Everything is as it was, I discover when I reach my destination, and everything has changed.
As he walks along old familiar paths, he recalls that life-changing summer when his best-friend, Keith Hayward, "calmly and quietly [dropped] the bombshell": mere six words that would set the story in motion.

From then on, both of them—Stephen and Keith—would engage in boyish activities, pretending to be spies, watching other people's heads. This is where the book gets its title.



The story's pretty simple, actually, but how Michael Frayn wrote it makes it a cut above the rest. A key to the success is that the author was able to intersperse the thoughts of the young Stephen Wheatley with that of the old one. The story would've been less potent had Frayn chosen to simply narrate what happened. The old Stephen's words capture what I mean:
"It's so difficult to remember what order things occurred in—but if you can't remember that, then it's impossible to work out which led to which, and what the connection was. What I remember when I examine my memory carefully isn't narrative at all. It's a collection of vivid particulars. Certain words spoken, certain objects glimpsed."
The novel also deals with youth and adulthood, the implications of war, and the worth—or futility, however you may see it—of remembering the past, knowing that one cannot alter it anyway.

I enjoyed reading the book, and I can't thank Agz enough for this gift.

Jack Kerouac's On the Road: a drunken man's journey across America

While I've always loved traveling, I haven't come to a point in my life when I just needed to go somewhere else. I didn't realize people with those tendencies do exist until I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

On the Road is largely based on the experiences of the author himself, together with his friends, who journeyed across mid-century America (late 1940s). It's written in a style Kerouac calls spontaneous prose, an interesting way of telling a story, especially when used to recall the ordeals and experiences of a traveler.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Sal Paradise, a writer recently divorced, who wants to travel back and forth mainland America. But the story doesn't revolve around his story but from Dean Moriarty's. One could call Dean crazy and downright irresponsible, but he is someone who doesn't care about anything else but to relish life and find meaning in it.

The book is probably the best way to illustration the new beat generation. The characters in the novel are into drugs, alcohol, sex, and jazz. In their travels they look for means to satisfy themselves.



I must say I had a hard time relating to them. For one, the longest land trip I've ever taken was from Manila to Cagayan Valley, and that only took 12 hours. Here, they journey for days, driving a broken car, and taking hitchhikers who have money to contribute to their gas fund. Not only that, but in the book, they sound overly hedonistic, rushing after the fleeting treasures of this life.

I like Kerouac's writing style. It's simple, straight-to-the-point, and hits one's emotions like a sharp-shooter. The reader may get confused with the geography which is an essential part of the novel, so one may need a copy of the US map to fully appreciate the story.

I confess I got bored during the middle of it, but the ending was just marvelous. The last few chapters, their travels to Mexico City, sealed the book for me.

One good thing this book taught me is that these people, lost in their lusts, need to be reached. It's not in drugs, money, or alcohol where real satisfaction lies—it is in Christ. Unless they are pointed to Him, they will necessarily travel the road to find anything that they think will satisfy them.

And sadly, that road may be the wide one.

. . . .

These past weeks have been light compared to the hurly-burly of academic life escalating to graduation. But now that the rush is over, I'm in the calm of the storm, with the temptation for idleness at the eye of it.

So, instead of lying around, doing nothing, I'm catching up on my reading. There's a sense to it. My back-log has been unprecedented. People have gifted me with books, I've bought some books myself, and they're piled up all over the place. I never seemed to muster the effort to read all of them—until now. I realize that I'd probably never get to read them once school starts again. But we'll see.

I try to discipline myself to write a short review after finishing a book. As with studying, writing about a book is one way I can commit the things I've gleaned and learned into my functional memory. I've done some here, but often, I'd procrastinate, until such time when I'd forget what the book was about because I had just finished a new one.

Overnight getaway

I trooped to Pansol, Calamba City, Laguna with friends from church for the youth outing. A most refreshing getaway it was!

Kuya Lito exhorted on 2 Timothy 2:22, emphasizing the importance of accountability and one-anotherings. He zeroed in on the fact that Christians must pursue righteousness, faith, peace, and love together. That's God's amazing design.

We spent our Fridays and Saturdays wading in the pool, eating with bare hands, playing Risk (that amazing game Kito and Koji introduced that brought out the pride in us), and getting to know each other more.

During our group discussions, we were each asked to share our testimony. If we were to be accountable to one another, we should at least know how we came to a saving knowledge of the Lord. I was praising God for His miraculous work in my friends' lives.

On the way home that afternoon, Koji's vehicle took a sharp turn. It probably bumped upon something sharp. A tire was severely deflated. It was a good thing Koji had a spare. The people who saw us on the street were so generous they offered us a lending hand replacing the wheel, never hesitating to get their hands all dirty.

Finally, we took off, and heavy traffic—at least, in some areas—greeted us. But we had a great time talking and sharing in the car. We arrived in Quezon City unscathed at about past eight.

Next stop: Pagudpud. But I'm kidding, in a how-I-wish-that-would-happen kind of way.