Monday, April 30, 2012

The Avengers:3D Experience

How do you eat lunch when you’re squirming to see “The Avengers”? You stuff the whole thing down your throat hard, praying your eyes do not pop out of their sockets. We did, or at least I did. People I know swore about the movie. Its going to be the best movie of the year they say. Wait. What did I have for lunch? I couldn’t remember.

We rushed to the escalator of GMall to catch the 2:30 movie schedule. On the way I thought a cup of brewed coffee from CHiCCOS would be perfect – the contrast of numbing air-condition inside the cinema and the hot liquid creeping through my esophagus seemed so inviting. Two cups of brewed coffee at P90 per cup (which is P180 in total) were coming right up. I heard the cash register went “bling”, “bling”. Instinctively my hand felt my wallet. Nah, this is once in a lifetime.

Our hearts sank upon seeing the movie cashier populated by long lines of dark-skinned malays under various heights, apparels, and hair-dos. All the cinemas at GMALL showing “The Avengers” were full to the brim.  And while we were discussing our options we heard a movie staff announced “all seats for the 3:30 show are taken”. I turned to see my young daughter and my testosterone-driven son stood like zombies, eyes not flinching, with looks of despair falling down their faces.

“Let’s try NC Mall”,
“NC Mall, Yeheeey!” the young girl shouted.
“What if it’s also full?” testosteron asked.

We leaped towards the parking area, skidded down its long, steep curves and found ourselves at the NC Mall underground parking space, in maybe 5 minutes ( yeah its really more than that). On the third floor, I could smell body heat spewed freely all over the building. The music from the rows of video games were blaring. I had never seen NC Mall so populated. I felt like I was in a trance - I see lips, tongues, thin face, round face, oblong face, bloated belly, plain torso, children screaming, black heads, white heads, gray heads, etc. But the most despairing sight of all was the long lines of people towards the cinemas.
As we were easing our way in the long line, my wife says,

“Why don’t I check the cashier and inquire about the other cinemas if they’re not so full?”
“Good Idea.” I said.

After a minute the wife came back excited.

“The 3D cinema is soooo vacant. No one’s lining up there.”
“Good. How much is a ticket?”
“P220 per head”

After about, a twinkling of an eye, I said,

“Okey, let’s go. Let’s watch it 3D”
“Are you sure?”

My hand felt my wallet again.

We were first in the line of 10 people. No one was allowed to enter the theater until the show ended and the people got out. After 5 minutes of slumping all my body weight on my two worn out -43 year - old legs, I went toward the lady guard and asked,

“Excuse me, when do we get our 3D eye glasses?”
“When you’re seated in sir.”

To keep my mind away from my aching legs, I read the bulletin on the wall directly in front of me. It was a disclaimer – “in case of damaged or destroyed 3D eye glasses, a penalty of P4, 000.00 shall be imposed”. I felt a rush of concern coming through me. I turned to my companions - a wife, 10 year old daughter and a teenage son. Sternly I said,

“Whatever you’ll do inside, never, ever, do anything stupid on the 3D eye glasses. Okay?”
“Okay” the two kids replied.
“Or else, I’ll give you two as the payment”

We finally got in. The 3D eyeglasses were handed carefully to us one by one. They came with clear plastic wrappers. While the rest of the eye glasses have cords mine did not have one. I stormed to the cinema lady again.

“Why is my 3D eye glass does not have any cord? Is this normal?”
“It’s alright sir”
“Can I have another one?”
“That will be fine sir”

Finally, after the long and tiresome traversing, running, standing, waiting, we settled on our nice, soft and cold chairs.

“I need to pee” I heard myself saying.
“My goodness. Now? Alright, Tea and I will go first then you and Gio next”
“Watch my bag”
“No problem”

After about 15 minutes, the wife and the little girl came back and effortlessly settled on their chairs. I stood up, tapped my son gently on the shoulder and said,

“Gio, would you like to pee?”
“You don’t want your urinary bag bursting out when Thor hammers down Loki’s butt right?”
“Take a leak!”
“Last chance.”

In the course of the movie I went to the rest room twice – first when Black Widow showed off her fat behind and second when the green Hulk rag-dolled Loki on the cold pavement of Stark tower. And for the rest of the movie, I should say you’ll miss ¾ of your life if you don’t watch it, and half if you don’t watch it in 3D.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Last Sunday’s homily in our church (All Nations Christian Fellowship) was about the need for Christians to be different in the world. Camouflage animals, creatures that have the defensive ability to blend with the texture and color of a forest floor or a trunk of a big tree were shown, to prove a point that Christians have blended so well in the world that unbelievers hardly notice anything different in them. That should not be the case because Christians are called to be salt and light on earth.

Filipinos see spirituality as distinct and separate from practical life. The two are unknowingly regarded as mutually exclusive. An article by a Jesuit priest of the same topic proposed a solution – to find ways to intertwine this dichotomy. The sacred and the secular must be merged to truly reflect faith. I find this rather weak. It does not do away with dichotomy - the purported solution assumes its existence.

Just recently, a survey was conducted about faith in God and the Philippines came out on top gathering around 94% of us saying we believe in God. In this survey, Chile came second with 88% of its citizens saying yes they believe in God, followed by the United States of America with 81%. Writing on this, Conrado de Quiros ( laments that despite this notorious percentage, we are still the most corrupt and crime ridden country, not to mention that the Philippines has the most laws on almost everything under the sun.

Describing the Filipino religiosity, De Quiros said “Less facetiously, what we have is a religion that encourages ritual, obligatory gestures, extrinsic displays of fervor. At the very least, it makes belief superficial”. He says that this is also the way we treat the laws in this country “For the same reason, law functions the same way. It is ritualistic, extrinsic, and in Miriam’s case, ballistic”.

De Quiros maintains that spirituality and the laws in the Philippines are simply not internalized, “Neither religion nor law is internalized. We are deeply religious without being deeply spiritual. We are deeply pious without being deeply moral”. I think that is an accurate analysis of the problem. What is needed is simply an internalization of our faith into everyday life to do away with the problem of dichotomy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Small Town Below the Hills

My job sometimes brings me to places I would not personally dream of going. Such place is Maragusan in Comval Province, Davao Oriental. The first time I heard the word “Maragusan” was from a friend who got stationed in this place for a short term pastoral work. He narrated his life there in a way that shows a sense of disbelief - why he signed up for such thing. And the way he reminisces those memories betrays his inner resolution – never go back to the place again. With that, Maragusan would be the last place for me to go.

Yesterday, April 17, 2012, I woke up at 4:00 a.m., took a shower, grabbed a quick breakfast, flagged down a taxi to take me to a waiting van somewhere in Claveria Street that would bring me to Maragusan. The day before, I got a memo saying I would be one of those who would attend a two-day conference in Maragusan. I had no choice but to go the place where my friend could only muster a sense of regret. For me though, the trip turned out to be a totally different experience – one that ends in gratitude and a prayer.

Maragusan is a small town, so small you can actually view the whole of it at one glance. It is enclosed by a swirling array of gigantic hills and mountains.  The town is actually settled in the plain, just below the hills and mountains. If you stand at a considerably high elevation, you could see the entire stretch of the town – the miniature houses, road arteries, cars, trucks, and, motorcycles. It’s like looking at a model village complete with fascinating details. 

The hills and mountains surrounding the town proper are enormous, almost majestic in their monstrosity. They stand proudly and solemnly as if guarding the town below from spiritual invading dark forces from the underworld. Looking at these hills and mountains you could almost feel their awesome aura. On the eastern side, there, lies the highest of the hills, its uppermost part is swallowed by a thick white cloud. The scenery could pass for a Harry Potter scene.

Maragusan lies at the head water of the great Agusan river. The word Maragusan literally means people living by the river side. “Agusan” itself means “river flowing”. Agusan river is what gives life to this small town. It is the major source water for the people’s everyday use. Fresh water can be found just about anywhere in this place. I saw one plastic pipe stucked in a mound and water was flowing from it continuously. While we, in the city, pays a dear price for such a resource, here, it’s almost taken for granted.

Despite its size, the town is thriving - merchants are plying their wares on the sidewalks, a busy bus terminal, hardware stores, dry goods stores, even cell phone repair shops populate the town. It looks self-contained and self-sufficient. It is complete by itself without any need of inter-action with neighboring towns. On our way home, I got a chance to take a picture of the town proper.

This town is proud of its two resorts – the Haven’s Peak and Kanlawig Hot Spring. We stayed at the Haven’s Peak and only passed through the Kanlawig Hot Spring. Haven’s Peak however, is a surprisingly nice and clean resort, the kind that exceeds your expectations for a small town as Maragusan. They have two swimming pools, a restaurant, a conference hall, and of course, several houses filled with guests rooms. Each room contains three double decked beds. 

What I find so satisfying were the clean white bed sheets and pillows and the clean towels. Our bathroom had a water heater system that gave us warm water for the morning shower as an antidote for the thick fog that covered the entire town from early dawn until about 10:00 in the morning. The fog is quite thick that the mountains surrounding the town disappeared. Around 10:00 a.m. the thick white fog finally cleared away, as if ferociously whipped by the searing beams of the late morning sun.

Watching the full blast of the sunlight revealing the town once more, I could not help but say a silent gratitude that once in my lifetime I had this experience given to me for free. It’s a gift, an experience attributable to the goodness of life. I remembered a prayer in the Psalms “let me see goodness in the land of the living…”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writing Again

Writing is a recurring itch. You have it one moment and then it is gone, discreetly numbed by other itch in life. What’s the point of writing anyway? I should ask, what’s the point of writing when no one is reading?

Some say, it’s who they are. They are writers and writers write. No big deal. It is as natural as urinating. When you feel the urinary bladder is already bursting with urine, you know it’s time to release the substance down to the nearest urinal. You don’t analyze how the urine fills up the bag and you don’t ask why you need to let them free to the outside world. You just do. It’s a no brainer fact of life.

Hollywood celebrities however, have different perspective on writing. To them it’s plan B. When asked what her backup career is, Kate Beckinsale said “A writer. I’m still hoping I will do that. I got sidetracked into this.” When the world would trade their lives just to be where Beckinsale is right now, she looks at it with a tinge of regret – “I got sidetracked into this”. The original plan was to be a writer but Beckinsale got sidetracked into fame and fortune. How unfortunate.

            William Strunk Jr., has a more sober and practical view on writing. For him, it’s a way of thinking - “… the act of composition, or creation, disciplines the mind; writing is one way to go about thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind, but supply it, too” Writing is an exercise which involves careful thinking and deciding what words to say and how best to say them. It’s a creative way of arranging your thoughts in a way that reveals your intellect. In this case I should say writing is the most beautiful way of thinking.


                So, why am I writing in this blog again? I told you already. It’s an itch to satisfy. This itch has returned, almost suddenly in the same rude way it left.  To the few who find what I fiddle here interesting, I beg your minds again.

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