"My dear Dodoy"

While rummaging through the old stuff, my father called my attention to a letter my mother wrote him before Manong Ralph was even born. This was around the time Tatay was still working in Saudi Arabia, and Nanay was pregnant with her first son.


Using a blue pen and her prescription pad, my mother wrote a letter packed with anxiety, care, and longing. Months after they were married, my father went to a foreign desert land, hoping to earn money for a new family he was building.
Dear Dodoy

Here's a snippet of that letter.

Post-summer break evaluation

I'm back—back from vacation, back to the real world.

Before I hit the hay, I just want to wrap things up by doing a mini-evaluation as to how my summer break went. In April 10, I listed the things I had wanted to do. Here I'm going to indicate which ones I accomplished and which ones I didn't—and for what reason/s. How did I fare?

My blogging resolutions*

1. Resolved, to write only of things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) for the glory of God and my own good, profit, and pleasure.

2. Resolved, to compose blog entries only after I have come into a daily personal communion with God through the careful study of His Word.

To the young

I'm off to Davao City today. I'm one of the speakers at the Soli Deo Gloria Christian Church's Youth Camp. I'll be speaking tomorrow, May 23, during the evangelism night. Until now, I'm overwhelmed by this rare, undeserved opportunity of speaking to the young, and I pray that the Lord would use me to encourage and stir them up to doing hard things for Him. My talk is entitled, "The Ultimate Hard Thing: What Jesus Did So That The Hard Things We Do Are Not In Vain." Please pray that God's name be lifted up.

Lost in the rain

The sun was directly overhead, and the air was stifling. I was indoors, trying to beat the heat. The fan was in full blast.

I was writing something when the skies suddenly darkened. I felt a cool breeze enter the house. Minutes later, I saw raindrops outside, first in trickles, and then in a massive gush of water from the heavens.

I took my shirt off, flung it on the floor, and headed straight to the garden. Ah, the rain. I haven't soaked myself wet in the rain for a very long time.

Little joys

I'm now subscribing to Scotty Smith's blog, Heavenward. It has been a source of encouragement for me. Smith serves as Pastor for Preaching, Teaching, and Worship at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. I hope I could pray like him.

In one entry, he writes:

I praise you for the loud-stringy-splashing crunch of celery and the oohs-and-aah-generating texture of good ice cream. I praise you for my wife’s gentle kisses and my grandson’s limitless repertoire of facial expressions. I praise you for the polyphonic soothing sounds of ocean waves… the memory-connecting music of the 60’s… the well-timed greeting of a friend. I praise you for the permanent smile on the face of dolphin… the never-the-same array of sunrises and sunsets… the more-faithful-than-a-Swiss-clock ways you show up when I need you the most—ways which only confirm that the gospel is so much bigger and better than I ever imagined.
 God continually showers me with little things that make my life enjoyable. This afternoon, as I was replying to emails, Ate Inday served me a plate of hot cinnamon bread. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you, Lord!

Do not be anxious

Sinclair Ferguson in The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World:

It is only when we take our lives out of the Father's hands and have them under our own control that we find ourselves gripped with anxiety. The secret of freedom for anxiety is freedom from ourselves and abandonment of our own plans. But that spirit only emerges when our minds are filled with the knowledge that our Father can be trusted implicitly to supply everything we need.

Stunned

The country has seen history unfold in the past two days, and her people have demonstrated what democracy is: a nation run by the people.

Among the developing stories I've been following on tv, what stunned me most was the way candidates have taken their losing, something this land hasn't seen before—at least, in a way not as widely practiced as we see it today. They conceded. They congratulated the winner. They accepted defeat.

You see, in the Philippines, when a candidate loses, he'll claim that there was massive vote-rigging. It's a nation hurt and more divided after the election.

I cast my vote in the first automated Philippine elections

I cast my voteI was voter 117 in the queue which, by UP standards, was still relatively short. The system was slow, and the people were complaining. It was only 8 am.

My number was called at around 10 am. I finished marking my ballots in less than 2 minutes. I had a list which made things easier.

So how did it feel like?

When I read "Congratulations!" on the PICOS PCOS machine, I felt like I just made history.

How did you fare?

Leaders we do not deserve

In a few minutes, the family is going to the precincts for the historic automated Philippine elections. It's also my first time to vote, and I'm excited to finally take part in this democratic exercise.

Over breakfast, I finalized my list of candidates and put it in writing. I've had the greatest difficulty choosing from the local candidates. I hardly knew their platforms, and the internet wasn't helping either.

Just a few thoughts, derived mostly from a Sunday preaching:

Thoughts on the upcoming elections

A Small Place Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place is an angry literary work but a well-written one. Here she traces the roots of present-day problems plaguing the nation of Antigua. She goes back in history and shows the effects of English colonization, slavery and emancipation, and the horrible transition to independence which only ushered in a corrupt government.

Halfway through the book, I felt that I was reading about the Philippines, too.

Here are a few statements that may seem familiar to you:

Dot Com

I've long toyed with the idea of having my own domain. Yesterday my older brother volunteered to pay for it as a delayed birthday present. Thank you, Manong!

I'd also like to thank Ate Kate Pedroso for the helpful tips in setting this up.

Just to be sure, please update your bookmarks and feeds to www.bottledbrain.com. If you use the old URL, you'll automatically be redirected to this site. I'll be blogging here from now on.

See you around!

Done

My book review backlog has grown over the past few weeks. I'm happy to say that I've finished everything in my summer reading lists (1 and 2), except for The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainier Maria Rilke and MacBeth by Shakespeare because I forgot to bring them home—crappy reason, I know. In addition, I've also read Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis. That's 10 books in four weeks, already a record high for me. I still have a few more weeks before classes resume, so I may just grab another book title and write these reviews before I forget entirely.

Ah, summer.

Minimalism

People who've worked with me know that I don't have the patience to wait on a slow computer, especially when it's booting up or shutting down. As with everyone else, I want things to run fast and smooth, but this demand increases greatly with electronic devices. The sight of popping windows, miscellaneous notifications, or unnecessary programs running in the background irritate me. I know it's my sinful nature at work, but it's also because a computer slowed down by clutter and disorganization impedes my productivity and quality of work.

I guess this is part of the reason why I made the switch from Windows to Linux. Among other things, I wanted a computer that was streamlined for my needs. I wanted to have programs I would actually use. And I wanted my computer to run on its optimal speed.

I recently chanced upon a web philosophy called minimalism. I owe utmost thanks to Nathan Hale's Minimal Linux blog for introducing this:

We advocate a minimalist (only what you need) approach to computing, both at the hardware and software levels. Only you know what you need in a computer, so “minimal” will mean different things for different people. We want to help and encourage you along your journey toward simple freedom.
I learned that one crucial task is to identify what you truly need. So I further streamlined my desktop, took away other applications, and installed Docky. I'm loving it. Here's a screenshot.



If you're a Mac user, you may want to read Minimal Mac. If you're using Windows, try to browse through anyway, and you'll learn things you can apply in your own machine as well—especially a lesson on streamlining. The point is, "get more of what you need, less of what you don't."

Don't waste the blackouts

Before I went home I was forewarned of the daily blackouts, recurring intermittently and amounting to almost 12 hours.

That's easier said than experienced, mind you, especially when the power losses happen after lunch time, and the heat is so terrible you get dehydrated by simply sitting on your couch.

Last night, the power was cut off around 9 pm. I was restless. I couldn't sleep. We have huge windows at home, so we opened them because it was so hot, but there was hardly any breeze coming from the outside.

And then I knew it: I ought to make the most out of these blackouts! I grabbed my Bible, then read and meditated through the first chapter of Jeremiah. What a blessed experience it was to talk to the Lord. The silence and the dark were ideal for prayer. There were fewer distractions, too.

There are many worthwhile things I can do during brownouts: reading Scripture for longer periods of time, reading other books, playing with shadows, playing games with Sean and my cousin Hannah, and keeping still and quiet. I would have a hard time choosing to do these things with the electricity on.

These blackouts will continue to happen until the end of the year, just about the time when the power plants recover. You see, it hasn't been raining much, and the the El Niño weather disturbance has drastically cut these plants' generating capacities.

While the power remains unstable, let's use these blackouts for the glory of God.

Holiness in a godless world

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and RootsJ. C. Ryle's Holiness, a Christian lit classic, has been a blessing to me. The book is a compilation of his meditations and preachings on Scripture. He argues that the reason why the Christian church is weak is that people have weakened in their pursuit for holiness. Today it's the same story.

He anchors holiness in Jesus Christ and what He has done on the cross for sinners. No one can truly be holy unless he has Christ. Ryle then goes on to explain what holiness is. He points out that saving faith in Jesus must translate into practical holiness. In three chapters, he explores the examples of Moses, Lot, and Lot's wife to demonstrate how it is to be holy in a godless world.

Ryle writes in simple language, and very systematically at that, since the book's format is like an expanded outline. He also writes passionately, exhorting, in the boldest of words, the believer to self-examination, obedience, and love for the Savior.

I highly recommend Holiness, such a refreshment for the soul!

The Jejemon Phenomenon

Labels are powerful, especially the stickier ones. The term, jejemon, is an outstanding example.

Before this phenomenon even became a word-of-mouth, I've already been bothered by the occurrence of a weird language pervading the web, one that made use of capitalized letters in all the wrong places. Jejenese, as it is now called, highlights the importance of inserting the letters h, x, and z, and celebrates the replacement of ordinary English letters with Hindu-Arabic numerals in a non-algebraic context.

Here's an example:


GMA-7 Michael Fajatin also made funny, interesting reports on the jejemon invasion. Click here and here.

I've never encouraged  jejenese, but when kids begin writing this way, to the detriment of their academic mastery of English, there is clearly a reason to be concerned.

Writing, after all, is a discipline. It is putting thoughts—abstract, invisible ideas in one's brain—into tangible letters which form words, then phrases, and then sentences. It is a skill to choose the right words or to know which letters must be capitalized; it is even a bigger task to word them in a way that is consistent with time, with mood, and with one's intentions. If we coddle jejenese, a form of writing not bound by rules, we may be in danger of losing this discipline.

But genuine concern must not translate to intellectual snobbery. I don't see how branding them with pejorative terms would help them. Which is why I haven't opted to be part of Facebook groups like Jejebusters whose sole goal is to wipe the jejemons out of the face of this world. There is a chasm of difference between mocking and helping them.

What I'm saying is that the popularity of the jejemons is a call to educators—both teachers and parents alike—to heighten efforts to train our children in language. At this point I agree with Sec. Guilbert GilbertTeodoro, and I truly hope he means this:


(Photos: Erwin San Luis, via Facebook, and Katrina Magallanes)

UPDATE May 4, 2010: Follow this interesting discussion in my Multiply.