Thursday, April 30, 2009

Probinsiyanong Intsik Invictus

Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada is under siege – again. The hugely popular star witness in the $329M national broadband scandal involving the Arroyo government and the China-based ZTE Corp. – after going through the psychological tortures of death threats and smear campaigns against him and his family – is facing possible arrest. Former presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor sued for Lozada for perjury – and the case was dismissed for lack of probable cause by the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court on Nov. 14, 2008. But the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 11 overturned the ruling, heeding Defensor’s appeal, and is set to issue an arrest warrant. Lozada, a government consultant and insider to nefarious schemes, caught the public’s imagination by bravely testifying to the Senate that 1) the deal’s true cost is only $132M – and the rest went to kickbacks; 2) Among those privy to the secret negotiations were First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and the then Commission of Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos; 3) He (Lozada) was abducted by police elements upon arrival from Hong Kong and was warned not to say anything about the covert deal – among key testimonies. It is a matter of public record that when Lozada found refuge within the La Salle Greenhills-based Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Phils., Defensor sought him there personally. Lozada revealed in the Senate – under oath – that Defensor asked him to deny the kidnapping to the media. That’s why Defensor filed his suit. “I’m challenging those to prove the charges against me,” declared Lozada to the Inquirer. “I’ll stand by what I said.” Manila Mayor Fred Lim – a man of proven integrity – has offered to take Lozada under his custody – but the court refused. But Lozada should not be arrested, if only the government will only respect the law, because he’s still under Senate custody, says Sen. Alan Cayetano, who was chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee during Lozada’s series of consistent testimonies. Public support for Lozada is now coming from the formidable combination of former Presidents Cory Aquino and Joseph Estrada – and the burgeoning mass support from the now socially-aware masses. 2Rivers expresses full support for Lozada, and equally full agreement with Sr. Mary John Mananzan: “This arrest order is a warning to other people both inside and outside the government who have knowledge of important information related to the practice of corruption of people in power to shut up or else.” I never thought I’d write this down, but the truth is, on a personal level, the way the Arroyo administration wields power – under which my once-beloved country officially became the world’s most corrupt nation – I’m sorry to say that I now find it shameful to be a Filipino.

You Ain't Heavy -- You're My Brother

We are all connected. An individual, in the metaphysical levels, share an indestructible bond with every man, woman and child; not only with those of the present, but also of the past and of the future. This empathy with our fellow human beings is the foundation of the noble side of our humanity. The Mahabharata, one of the greatest spiritual documents known to man, teaches us to: “Do nothing to your neighbor which you would not hereafter have your neighbor do to you. A man obtains a rule of action by looking upon his neighbors like himself.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are You Ready For The Oath, Mr. President?

A lot of us want to live “The good life” although some of us were born middle-class and below. But we can – if we are willing to sacrifice and work hard for the financial stability we want to give to our family. It is good for a person to aim high, and we can even encourage ourselves that we can be whatever we imagine. Is it possible for you to become, say, President someday? Of course! Everything is possible. But is it probable? It is, on a different dimension, just like 1 + 1 gets a different sum in higher levels of mathematics.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do You Have Peace Of Mind?

A profound change came upon my attitude in life – and by extension, my destiny – when I first ran across the “Serenity Prayer” traditionally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can, the patience to accept the things I can not, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I can achieve my dreams if I invest discipline and perseverance, but I can’t graduate from Harvard today at 3:00 PM. The difference is clear. Most things, alas, are not. That is why need wisdom. “Wisdom is good,” some might say, “but we need cash.” So okay – wisdom and cash. That much is clear.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Can You Get The Job You Want?

Paul Potts was an unassuming mobile phone salesman who had a dream -- to be an opera singer. The judges of Britain’s Got Talent looked visibly skeptical and unimpressed when he went onstage. What nobody knew was: he has a one-in-a-million golden tenor voice, like Andrea Bocceli’s. He began to sing Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. The audience listened in amazed silence, then they all rose in a wild, deafening and ecstatic chorus of acclaim. It was a magical moment: everybody was in tears, even the judges. People don’t want jobs. They want a career – a life work that gives professional growth and personal fulfillment. Here are some tried-&-tested ways to get what you want, from the classic job-finder’s guidebook What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles (Ten Speed Press). Set lifetime goals. Rico Hizon had always known what he wanted to be – a broadcast journalist – even while he still a teen-age service crew at McDonald’s. He made his vision a reality by taking it one step at a time. Starting as an apprentice at the newly established GMA-7 network, he gradually spread his wings to become the first Filipino anchor at CNBC Asia, and today, for the BBC World News. Know the job market. Birutế Galdikas’ dream job had no opening in any company: to study orangutans. Unfazed, she approached famed British anthropologist Louis B. Leakey and soon, she was rehabilitating captured orangutans and protecting their habitats in the Sumatra and Borneo rainforests. She later became the world’s top expert on orangutans, part of the “Leakey’s Ladies” trio with Jane Goodall (top expert on chimpanzees) and Dian Fossey (top expert on gorillas), whose life was filmed starring Sigourney Weaver. Talk to the top. Sir Richard Attenborough knew he was destined to film the unparalleled life of Mahatma Gandhi but he didn’t know anyone in India. He nonetheless went straight to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India and Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia during WW2, introduced himself and asked to meet PM Jawaharlal Nehru. Attenborough got the support of the Indian government, but it took him 16 epic years to start filming – witnessing Nehru’s assassination and his daughter Indira’s rise, exile and return to power – but Gandhi conquered the 1983 Oscar Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (for Ben Kingsley), and was hailed as one the greatest movies of all time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mary of Bethany, Do You Take Jesus of Nazareth To Be Your Lawfully-Wedded Husband?

We now know that anyone can make a career just by slamming The DaVinci Code. Don’t be surprised if they’re so excited because the sequel Angels & Demons is on the way soon.

But because of that, Dan Brown has now more money than Opus Dei. It makes you wonder whose side the critics are on.

The truth is, Jesus died for us but He wasn't required to die a virgin. His purity, if you’ll pardon the pun, has been religiously defended throughout the centuries, and that’s okay because that’s freedom of religion.

It reminds me too of a scene in Genesis where the Almighty Creator was horrified to see naked people in Eden.

As a full-blooded young male, I find it unnerving that Jesus, you know, not once, even when He was a teenager, never?

But Jesus wasn’t gay either, no sir, and the reason why His young disciple John is His “Beloved” is purely platonic.

I don’t know why I say I know, but if people want to get kinky about His sexlife, that's fine, though I bet that Catholics would rather have Him sleep with His wife Mary Magdalene than His brother-in-law Lazarus.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What You Need To Know Before Choosing A Career

Dero Pedero is musically intelligent: the winner the grand prize at the 1981 Metro Pop Song Fest for his Isang Mundo, Isang Awit performed by Leah Navarro; and the composer of the first Filipino rock-opera Tales of the Manuvu, the Miss Earth theme, the “We Got It All” SM jingle and many others. All men are not created equal. Talent is intelligence but it is distinct from IQ. The difference is like the distance from Siargao to Pagudpud. Academic intelligence, it should also be noted, has nothing to do with broad-mindedness but let’s not digress. Before choosing your career path, you should first know where your strength lies. Here are the seven areas of intelligence as conceived by Dr. Howard Gardner, so you can judge for yourself where you will excel in life. Verbal. You have verbal intelligence if you can communicate effectively through speaking or writing. You can be a teacher, lawyer, spokesman, editor; or writer like National Artist and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Literature F. Sionil Jose, the author of several novels depicting Filipino life including Viajero and the multi-volume Rosales epic, ill indexed in the U.S. Library of Congress. Visual. You have visual/spatial intelligence if you can mentally conceive anything in al its dimensions. You can be an artist, architect; or designer like National Artist Salvador “Badong” Bernal, whose achievements in theater were chronicled in the coffee-table book Salvador F. Bernal: Designing The Stage by Nicanor Tiongson. Physical. You have physical/kinetic intelligence if your bodily movements are perfectly coordinated. You can be a surgeon, mechanic, dancer; or athlete like Manny Pacquiao, the first Asian to win 4 world boxing titles in 4 divisions -- and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today. Musical. You have musical intelligence if you have a natural sense of rhythm and a heightened perception of musical pitch and cadence. You can be a songwriter, musician; or singer like Lea Salonga, the first to win both London’s Laurence Olivier- and Broadway’s Tony Awards for Miss Saigon. Logical. You have logical/mathematical intelligence if you have superior ability to analyze and calculate. You can be a detective, chess player, software programmer, accountant; or scientist like DNA specialist Dr. Saturnina M. Halos of U.P. Diliman, the developer of the Vital N biofertilizer with Azospirillum bacterium, and was recently hailed as among Go Negosyo’s Most Inspiring Biotechnology Entrepreneurs. Intrapersonal. You have intrapersonal/introspective intelligence if you can reflect and understand thoughts, feelings, motivations and actions. You can be a priest, philosopher; or researcher like Jaime Licauco, the world-renowned author of Magicians of God and numerous other books about his scientific investigations of psychic healing and other paranormal phenomena in the country. Interpersonal. You have interpersonal intelligence if you are innately extroverted and can easily establish rapport with people regardless of their background. You can be a community organizer, politician, salesman; or a businessman like Don Jaime Zobel De Ayala, who had launched the highly successful Bravo Filipino, the three-month long celebration of the Filipino genius in the arts at the Greenbelt 5. F. Sionil Jose photo courtesy of This story originally appeared in CareerGuide, The Philippine Star, November 23, 2008 Your comments and links are welcome

Friday, April 24, 2009

How The New Cervical Cancer Vaccine Works

Cervical cancer is the growth of malignant tumor cells in the cervix resulting in death. The 2003 World Cancer Report says that an estimated 500,000 women in developing countries are diagnosed with the disease every year – of which 250,000 die. Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common form of sexually transmitted infection. HPV looks like a golfball under a microscope. Its core infectious substance is protected by a hard shell made of L1 protein. There are about 100 different varieties of HPV. Most of them show no symptoms and are generally harmless. But HPV 16 and HPV 18 are particularly deadly. These two strains are the cause of 70% of all cervical cancer cases. Infection starts when HPV penetrates the cervical lining at the base of the uterus and attaches itself to the epithelial cells. Then the L1 shell releases the infectious genes from inside the HPV into the body. These include the viral genes E6 and E7 that neutralizes the body’s ability to suppress invading cells. The lesions become fatal after about 12 to 15 years. Left untreated, cervical cancer causes excruciating pain until “women bleed to death,” according to Dr. Diane Harper, an HPV-vaccine investigator from Dartmouth Medical School. Early detection can spell the difference between life and death. Abnormal cell growth can be tracked by regular Pap smear screenings. Here’s good news: a breakthrough HPV vaccine is now available. “This is the first vaccine designed to strike at the root of a cancer,” according to Dr. Martin Murphy, executive editor of The Oncologist. “Boy, is this a new era!” There are actually two vaccines: from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck, Sharp and Dohme (Merck). Clinical trials showed nearly 100% protection against HPV 16 and HPV 18. Participants are showing consistently high levels of antibodies even 4 ½ years after inoculation. “We’re very encouraged,” reported Dr. Gary Dubin, head of clinical development at GSK. The vaccine was first discovered when the L1 protein was isolated in a petri dish. By itself, the L1 transformed itself into a “virus-like particle” but with “none of the bad stuff inside,” explains Dr. Eliav Barr, head of the HPV-vaccine program at Merck. The new HPV vaccine is essentially an empty L1 shell. Once injected, it will trigger the immune system to produce antibodies to destroy the bogus virus. “If actual HPV appears in the body later, the antibodies cling to it, interfering with its ability both to bind to the cell and to release its genetic material,” according to Dr. Doug Lowy from the National Cancer Institute of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. More good news: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has just granted $3.5 million for the development of “an inexpensive vaccine that would protect against HPV and eradicate the virus in women who are already infected,” reported Claudia Kalb and Karen Springen in the May 8, 2006 issue of Newsweek. “And they hope to make the vaccine out of powder so that it doesn’t need refrigeration and can be easily transported to remote villages.” This pioneering study can save the lives of millions. “It’s never been done before,” says Dr. Robert Garcea of the University of Colorado, recipient of the Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health Award. “If it works, it’ll be great.” The Department of Health recommends vaccinating girls as early as 9 years old, or even before sexual maturity. Photo courtesy of Stuff. This story originally appeared in Philippine Graphic Your comments and links are welcome

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Is Wrong With Us Filipinos?

History teaches us that all successful parliaments are essentially bicameral, and unicameral regimes always self-destruct -- but apparently , we Filipinos have cultural ADHD. Our Constitution may not be perfect, but it is workable: The problem is not our system but us -- what we need is not Charter-change but psychotherapy. Case in point: We have delusions of grandeur: When given a measure of authority, we become megalomaniacs like the proverbial fly on the carabao's back who shouts: "I'm the king of the world!" -- then we follow-up with: "Please, don't let this feeling end!" Furthermore, we're too greedy: What we do is our own business, but we ride on the achievements of other people -- then we think they owe us their victories. Also, we have paranoia: everybody's a subversive and a terrorist, and we burn book we haven't even read because other people who also haven't read them heard etc. Plus, we have a fetish for mudslinging: our politics, showbiz, and mass-media revolve around malice, our national pastime is gossip, and we have obssessions about scandals. On top of which, we have bi-polar disorder: We are either indifferent or hysterical -- clearly, we're schizophrenic: We want to be rich, but we hate businessmen. We want to be famous, but we hate ambitious people. We admire potential leaders, but we complain when they run for higher office. We vote for movie stars, but we complain about celebrities in politics. We call for professionalism, but we force teen stars to have affairs with each other. We search for role models, but we force actors to dress like women and kiss each other. Our idea of patriotism is Heal Our Land, but our idea of unity is My Way. We expect our kids to speak English, but we Tagalize everything. We expect our students to be smart, but we conduct classes like refugee camps -- and our SOP is to lower educational standards so they can gradute ASAP. We demand our human rights, but we treat indigent patients like lepers and hospital watchers like beggars. We demand due process, but we arrest poor suspects and fallguys without warrants then present them to the media without trial. We want our prisoners to be rehabilitated, but we treat them like animals. We hail the rule of law, but we sabotaged Nicole, Cam and Gudani -- and encouraged Garcillano, Bolante, Strunk and Palparan. We lure foreign investors, but we can't even have honest public biddings. We want a Strong Republic, but we can't even have honest elections. We are "worth dying for," but we'd rather have "a government run like hell." And what it all comes down to: is that government's saying it's Cha-cha time -- 'coz they got one hand on our pockets, and the other one is signing a new E.O.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good Day Sunshine: How To Be A Positive Thinker

Joanne Kathleen Rowling is the wizard behind the spellbinding Harry Potter saga – but the media bewitched her image. “I did and still do write in cafes, and I was broke,” says the creator of Hogwarts, Quidditch and the Daily Prophet. “But the early stories neglected to mention that I come from a middle-class background, I have a degree in French and classics, and that working as a teacher was my intended bridge out of poverty.” The power of positive thinking has changed the course of history countless times. If there’s a Will there’s a Way – and there’s also a Won’t, it depends on you. Here are the five steps in developing optimism as revealed by psychotherapists Joseph T. Martorano, M.D., and John H. Kildahl, Ph.D., in their book Beyond Negative Thinking (Insight). 1) Tune in to your thoughts. The mind and the body are one, so if you think you will succeed, you will. But “If you’ve been feeling down, it could be you’re sending yourself negative messages,” says Martorano and Kildahl. Good or bad, “Soon your thoughts will do your bidding” and “your feelings and actions will change too.” Noelle Wenceslao, followed closely by Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino, is the first Southeast Asian woman to scale the peak of Mt. Everest – despite suffering from pulmonary edema. “You have to be strong mentally,” says the 27-year old Petty Officer Third Class from the Philippine Coast Guard. “What makes the difference is how mentally tough your are.” 2) Isolate destructive words and phrases. Even exorcists and sorcerers agree that words have power. You can wallow in self-pity like in the Filipino song which goes, “Sa tulad kong putik” – or you can psych yourself up like Mariah Carey who sings, “I can make it through the rain, I can stand up once again.” “By isolating words and phrases, you can pinpoint the damage you’re doing to yourself,” say Martorano and Kildahl. “Make it a habit to remember your best self, the You that you want to be.” Oliver Stone has been dismissed as “tainted goods,” the Hollywood term for a pariah because his masterpiece Alexander was a box-office flop – but the indomitable Oscar-winning filmmaker returned with the highly-visceral, gut-wrenching and deeply inspiring World Trade Center. Recalls Will Jimeno, the Port Authority police officer who was trapped under the rubble of Ground Zero and was portrayed by Michael Peña: “I gave Oliver a big hug and kiss and I said, ‘You kept to your word, You told the story as accurate and as true as you could.’ The main thing is when you leave the theater, you leave with a sense off hope and love.” 3) Stop the thought. Sages throughout the millennia have counseled that the conquest of self is a wise man’s crowning glory. “Short-circuit negative messages as soon as they start by using the word command Stop! ‘What will I do if…? Stop!” say Mastorano and Kildahl. “To be effective at stopping, you have to be forceful and tenacious” and “Picture yourself drowning out the inner voice of fear.” Philippe Cousteau was devastated by Steve Irwin’s fatal encounter with a stingray on the Great Barrier Reef – but he suspended his grief and instead focused his attention on their finishing their documentary as a way of honoring the famed adventurer. “I was the only person who could finish it in a cohesive fashion,” says the co-narrator of Animal Planet’s Oceans’ Deadliest and grandson of the legendary oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau. “I had a responsibility.” 4) Accentuate the positive. It is more rewarding to face the sunshine than to brood about the shadows. Nature doesn’t allow a vacuum. “Once you’ve exorcised the demons by calling a Stop, replace them with good thoughts,” say Mastorano and Kildahl. “Over the years we’ve discovered that when people think differently, they feel – and act – differently. It’s all on controlling your thoughts.” Jennifer Hudson’s show-stopping performance as Effie White in the critically acclaimed film version of Dreamgirls electrified Tinseltown and vindicated her loss in American Idol – and the jokes about the fat lady who sings. “Why should I feel like the minority when the majority of America is a size 12?” says the Oscar winner. “I have a little singer’s pouch, that’s where the voice comes from, so you’re all going to have to get used to my jelly (laughs).” 5) Reorient yourself. Everything is subjective and your attitude depends on your perspective. Hamlet was living in a castle but he thinks of it as a prison – while Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for years but his heart and soul remained free. “Re-orient yourself right now. You are tense because you must finish a huge project by Friday. On Saturday you plan to go shopping with friends. Re-orient from ‘Friday workload’ to Saturday fun.’ ” say Mastorano and Kildahl. “By re-orienting, you can learn to see yourself and the world d around you differently. If you think you can do something, you increase your chances of doing it. Optimism gets you moving.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was asked by Newsweek how he would handle the situation if South Korea, an ally of Washington, gets stuck in between the United States and other developing countries. “Instead of being stuck in between, South Korea can positively play the role of a bridge,” suavely replied the 62-year old career diplomat and former South Korean Foreign Minister. “At the same time, South Korea can understand the pains and difficulties of developing nations because she has risen by overcoming those.” Harry Potter photo courtesy of ScreenRush. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, December 16, 2007 Your comments and blog links are welcome

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Art Of Traveling Alone

Charlene Duncan has been to Georgia, California and anywhere she can run. “I’ve been to Paradise,” she whispers. Travel broadens the mind. Even a purpose-driven life needs to unwind every now and then. A change of atmosphere is like chicken sandwich for the soul. But before making lamyerda, remember: Rule No. 1: Be organized. Rule No. 2: Follow Rule No.1. Ask the most basic question: “What kind of vacation is best suited for me?” The mountains or the beach? Some people prefer being alone. Others want to stay with strangers and pretend they’re part of the family. Do your homework. Research. Use the Internet to learn about local laws and customs. Examples: In Brunei, it’s not polite to point with your index finger. In Singapore, it’s illegal to chew gum. In India, it’s forbidden to kiss a woman in public – ask Richard Gere. Plan for your trip. Make all arrangements well in advance. If traveling abroad, prepare your documents. Here’s a checklist: passport; visa; round-trip tickets; hotel accommodations; travelers’ cheques; credit cards; itinerary; maps and money. If traveling to an ASEAN country, you won’t need a visa. If traveling within the Philippines, you won’t need a passport but you’d still need money. Plan for your return. Tie up all loose ends regarding work before you leave. Come home with enough time to unpack and unwind from the journey. You should already know what you’ll have for dinner when you get back. The point of all these is to re-integrate yourself to the workaday world seamlessly. Plan for emergencies. Adopt the Boy Scout motto “Always Be Prepared.” Make a list of emergency phone numbers and contact persons in the area. If staying in a hotel, know the locations of fire exits. Always bring IDs. If you have asthma, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, COPD or other chronic ailments, consult your doctor before your trip – and always bring whatever he prescribes. Plan for thieves. Stay alert. Hide your money. Hide an emergency ID and phonecard. Visit your bank’s website to know their ATM locations. Dress simply. Avoid ostentatious jewelry. Stop acting like a tourist. Wrap a rubber band around your wallet to deter pickpockets. Don’t be deceived by appearances. Don’t display your gadgets like a jologs. Never leave home without common sense. Plan against inconvenience. In airports, do not bring the following: disposable cigarette lighters; sharp metallic objects; perishable items; liquids; pirated CDs; exotic animals; guns and illegal drugs. Prepare money for airport tax, taxis and tips. Whatever happens, do not – whether you’re a congressman or an actor – make jokes about grenades or bombs. Plan your own schedule. In The United States, February (after winter vacations) and October (after summer vacations) are peak seasons for psychiatrists. “Holidays,” says Dr. George Bach, director of the Institute of Group Psychotherapy in Beverly Hills, Calif., “are traumatic experiences.” Double- check if your house will be burglar-proof during your absence. Just imagine: “If I were an akyat-bahay robber, how would I get in?” Once you have identified all weak points, you can now reinforce your home security. Pack light. Take the minimum. Edit your belongings – then revise again. “Before you leave,” advises Dr. Eric L. Weiss, director of a travel medicine service, “carry all your luggage for a few minutes and see how it feels.” Pack smart. Bring a flashlight with extra batteries. If hiking, bring chocolate bars for energy. Prepare a first aid kit. Here’s a checklist: alcohol; Betadine topical solution (for open wounds, burns and skin rashes); gauze pads, sterile bandages; absorbent cottons; paper tape; ice bag (for swellings); activated-charcoal (for swallowed poisons); and protection against fever, flu, headache, toothache diarrhea, vertigo, hangover and STDs. For hypochondria, bring the entire Mercury Drugstore. If driving, check the B.L.O.W.B.A.G.S. – Battery; Lights; Oil; Water; Brakes; Air; Gas; Spare tire. Don’t forget the jack and the wheel wrench. Bring food and drinks. Bring vomit bags. Don’t put valuables on the seat or on the dashboard. Prepare money for toll fees, parking fees and tips for parking attendants. Always bring your driver’s license and car registration. Bring paper bags for your trash. Wherever your are, whether in an El Shaddai prayer rally or in a Bayan Muna protest rally, adopt the mountaineer’s creed: “I will leave nothing but footprints.” Appreciate the mere fact that you are going on a trip. Absolute freedom is a way of life but it’s not for everybody. “Travel gratefully,” wrote Wilferd A. Petersen in his essay The Art of Travel. “Show appreciation for the many things that are being done by others for your enjoyment and comfort.” Don’t be afraid to be alone. Even if Randi Crawford sings that “People alone may go very fast, but maybe not so far,” remember that the operative word is maybe. It really depends on you. Come to think of it, your entire destiny depends on you. Relax. Life is too short for aggravations. “Many vacations fail because people try too hard,” according to Dr. Clinton E. Philips, director of counseling at the American Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles. Just enjoy your trip. In the end, we are all just pilgrims and only passing through. Live the moment. Fill up your senses. Develop a sense of history. Discover new things. Be curious. Be adventurous. Be glad you’re alive. Forget your 5-6 loan. Remember: You may never pass this way again. Expect the unexpected. Make it a habit of looking for blessings in disguise. If your bus leaves, take the next one. If it rains, let it rain. Be like a lotus: bringing serenity into the world while rising above frogs. Blaze your own trail. Follow your own road. In his poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote: “I shall be telling this with a sigh/ Somewhere ages and ages hence;/ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference.” A vacation is meant to clear the mind, renew the spirit, reinvigorate the body and find our bearings. But the greatest journey is within. The ultimate magical mystery tour is about finding yourself. It’s not how far you traveled on your way, but what you’ve found to say – and discover yourself to be. This is why even Superman built his Fortress of Solitude: because once in a while, even superheroes need to be alone. Photo courtesy of AyushVeda. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama. Your comments and links are welcome

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Grandeur Of Our Own Literary Voice

One of the positive developments in the aftermath of the Philippine-American War is the official adoption of English as medium of instruction in the public schools. After the hostilities, Filipino and American educators got together and agreed that a common language is essential in unifying a nation divided by a plethora of dialects. Jose P. Laurel, in his classic essay The Glorification Of A Common Inheritance, pointed out that although a national tongue alone does not constitute racial identity, “Unity of language is unquestionably a binding force of utmost importance.” Salvador P. Lopez, in The Future Of Filipino Literature In English, wrote: “We shall have more contact with the rest of the world. During this period we shall negotiate for trade, for security, for a neighborly living with the rest of mankind. At the same time, we shall be expressed more fully to the currents of universal culture. And as we continue to absorb the elements of this culture, we shall be better be able to contribute to the stream.” A New Generation Philippine essays developed side by side with Philippine journalism. The introduction of the language ushered in a new generation of English speaking readers and thus, a growing demand for materials in that language. American publications eventually gave way to Filipino-owned magazines and newspapers. Campus organs served as the spring-boards for the growth of Philippine literature in English. It was instrumental as well in exposing the younger generations to the rudiments of the new lingo. Some of the noteworthy school publications were the Literary Apprentice and the College Folio of U.P. and the Quill and Argonaut of U.S.T. After college, the works of these students graduated to the Sunday magazines of the metro dailies and other magazines. Publishers and editors saw how literary sections generate interest and consequently increase circulation. Prominence and Professionalism In the same way that British and American essays matured through such magazines as Spectator and the Courant, so has Philippine essay gained prominence and professionalism in several pre-War publications. Among them are Herald Midweek, Expression, Dear Devices and Philippine Magazine, an influential monthly edited by A.V.H. Hartendorp, which featured essays, fiction and poetry of the highest order. In 1939, the Commonwealth Literary Contests, the first state-sponsored literary award, was established. And during the Occupation, the Japanese sponsored Review and Pillars solicited censored literary works. Some writers were forced to conform to the accepted political thought and thus, freedom of expression, which is a fundamental concept of good writing, was tortured to submission. Mastery of the Language It was after the Liberation when Philippine literature in English in general and Philippine essay in English in particular achieved a rennaissance, showing a mastery of the language that was uncanny. In the words of Leon Ma.Guerrero, in his essay What Are Filipino Like?: “Our adaptability, or imitativeness, like our family system, is largely self protective.” It was during this time when the Philippine American came out with some of the finest literary talents in the country. Another welcome development in it’s wake is the payment of the then staggering amount of one hundred pesos for each article. The incentive fueled the growth of professional writing. Unfortunately, the magazine folded up after a year. The year 1951 saw the birth of the Philippine Quarterly, a government sponsored publication issued by the Philippine Information Council. It was accepted without question as the best quality magazine in the country in points of writing, editing and printing. It was circulated mostly abroad. However appropriations were stopped and it ceased publication after the sixth issue. Poignant and Timeless The classics have an unsurpassed lyrically melodious quality, like Godofredo Rivera’s Thanks My Lord: “And so I built myself a shed of green leaves at the edge of a brook. Days I filled my little heart with joy. Nights I filled my little heart in the gossamer of peace…Each night an augury. Each day a reality. How wonderful is life.” Convict’s Twilight by Arturo B. Rotor is a tapestry of the finest silk in the hands of a master weaver: “The forest…now assumes that calm that is more breathless and awesome than silence…One must pray here, if only to relieve the terrifying solitude, to stay the gathering darkness.” Fernando Maramag paints an unforgettable ode to Fernando Ma. Guerrero: “Poet and patriot of the first order, he has touched the life of his people.” And Jose A. Lansang’s Stirrings is both poignant and timeless: “Life is a placid lake of unsounded depths in a quiet valley…A fallen leaf…creases the smooth surface…Then it reverts back to it’s clear smoothness, to mirror again the pageantry of the clouds by dawn and the glorious stars by night.” The First Test of Literature In summing up, let us borrow once more the words of Lopez: “If the first test of literature is the test of continued growth and development, then it may safely be said that no literature written in any other language can pass this test successfully as English. Filipino writers in English have exhibited an enormous capacity for rapid growth and development and have produced a body of writing that is both competent and distinguished.” Jose P. Laurel photo courtesy of This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, April 1, 2007 Your comments and links are welcome

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Do Atheists Know That We Don't?

There are various shades of atheism, and to define it as a denial of the existence of God would be too simplistic. Free-thinkers, for instance, center their belief that the forces at work in the universe move in accordance within established systematic principles, all of which must still bear close scrutiny under laboratory conditions in order to determine theoretical authenticity. Cause and Effect The cause-and-effect paradigm is a fundamental scientific and mathematical precept. Evidences can be cited to support the case that asteroids, meteors, comets, quasars, pulsars, planets and their satellites came into existence as a result of an explosion of intergalactic proportions. And that a Black Hole is not a hole in the usual sense but a field of tremendously dense gravitational mass produced by a supernova, a star whose self-generating heat has reached critical point and literally incinerated itself. The question is, why? A delightful story about one of the world’s foremost scientific thinkers comes to mind. As told by Christian writer Richard De Haan, “Sir Isaac Newton made a working model of our solar system. At its center was a large olden ball representing the sun, and revolving around it were the planets, smaller spheres attached at the ends of rods at varying length.” Then an atheist dropped by for a visit and marveled, “My, what an exquisite thing! Who made it?” Newton, without looking up, answered, “Nobody!” The friend was startled. And Newton continued, “That’s right! These balls and cogs and belts and gears just happened to come together! And by chance they began revolving in their orbits with perfect timing!” Science is a field where man’s ingenuity has changed the world. This gives an interesting paradox: On one hand, the timeless conflict of science and religion over Adam and Apes, and on the other, almost all the men and women who made this world a better place, from Pasteur to Leeuwenhook, Edison to Graham Bell – believe in God. To enter God into the equation would be to accept the sovereign power of the One who created the universe and everything that’s in it and all the laws governing them, and to acknowledge realms of reality beyond the limits of empirical knowledge. Scientific achievements “bring fulfillment and a great deal of reverence,” according to Edward Kolb Of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “This brings too, a humbling,” added Newsweek. “For science may never understand why the generative laws are what they are – nor how they were created.” Modern technology enables us to perform tasks that would have been miraculous a century ago. It is doubtful that even the Wright Brothers have imagined airplanes with enough weaponry to demolish entire cities. And while it is ridiculous that today’s children are growing up with the attention span of sound-bytes brought about by information overload, it is even more unbelievable how some atheists have worshipped Science as a god and regard theories as absolute. Ideal Springboard The pyramids of Egypt would be an ideal springboard to expound on that particular line of thought. Let’s start with the Great Pyramid at Cheops. As of today, it is supposed to be 4,499 years old. That’s according to scientists. Now, the Mediterranean Sea rose up because of glaciers melting in the north more than 12,000 years ago. History records it as Egypt’s last great flood. Halfway up the sides of the Great Pyramid, traces of sea salt were found. It shows that it was built even before the flood. That’s also according to scientists. It is widely believed that wooden rollers were used to move the blocks from the quarry 800 kilometers away. According to archeologists, each block was approximately 2 tons. The Great Pyramid alone has 2,595,632 blocks. And also according to archeologists, the only wood in Egypt during that time were date palms, soft tropical trees that sway majestically from the Nile Breeze. How on earth does one explain this? The four sides have identical measurements from top to bottom: 9,131 inches. So times four is 36,524. It just so happens that our planet circles the sun in exactly 365.24 days. Coincidence? Here’s another one. The exact height of the pyramid is the average height of land above sea level all over the earth. That’s 5,449 inches. Multiplying that to a thousand million would equal the distance of the sun to the earth. It is 136 meters high and covers 13.6 acres of ground. It commonly accepted that the Great Pyramid of Cheops is supposed to have been built in 20 years. It is equally accepted that the only way to do that is to lay a 2-ton block every two minutes working 24/7 – absolutely non-stop – for 20 years. Here are more scientifically established (albeit unexplained) facts. It is built at the exact center of the earth’s water and land mass. If you draw quadrants with the pyramid as the point of origin, the amount of land and water in the planet will be divided equally in four. Each of the four sides are curved slightly inward. The concave curvature is exactly the same as the earth’s. The builder is said to be Pharaoh Khufu (c.2634-2494). However, unearthed hieroglyphics assert authoritatively that it was already in existence in his reign. Incidentally, the white cement holding the giant blocks is still intact up to this day. The placement is such that even the point of a knife cannot be inserted. A Superior Civilization The idea of symmetry is not only appealing on the intellectual level but also gives a certain sense of security in a world of constant flux. “The geometry of the ancient temples and pyramids is purely harmonic,” according to Kent Weeks, leading Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo. “The monuments’ proportion epitomized a world of order. They used the same mathematical relationships as music, and like music, evoked emotions that are easily felt but hard to describe.” Naturally, scientific theories abound. And of course, one has to do with aliens. A superior civilization, whether terrestrial or not, building the pyramids? This idea has intrigued and fascinated the scientific community more than they would care to admit. Let us pursue this interesting line of inquiry. According to Joseph Jochman in Time Capsule: The Search for the Lost Legend of Records, “Each of the three pyramids at Giza was the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, the largest pyramid for the pharaoh who lived first, and the smallest pyramid for the pharaoh who lived last. If the pharaohs built the pyramids, why would each of them build a pyramid smaller than the one before? Wouldn’t each pharaoh build a pyramid larger than the previous pyramid?” The Question Remains Let us suspend disbelief for a moment. Let us suppose the pyramids were already there even before Ramses. It is only natural for a ruler to want to be interred in a shrine or a monument – it’s called delusions of grandeur. So the first pharaoh arranged to be buried at the most imposing edifice. The second had no choice but to settle for the next largest and so on. Sound logic. So the question remains: If these ancient sun worshippers were actually the ones who built those spooky cones, why would the second pharaoh construct a smaller one? And the next one, even smaller? Cost cutting? Maybe there was a recession because of an ancient budget deficit. And since free-thinkers seem to know everything, they probably have all the answers. Photo courtesy of ScrapeTV. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, January 7, 2007 Your comments and links arer welcome

The 10 Secrets Of Outstanding Careers

Fashion designer Patis Tesoro revived the natural fiber industry in the country in 1986 by her advocacy for piña cloth, a gossamer-like fabric made from a variety of pineapple grown in Aklan. Her campaign brought the piña cloth to Christofle, Printemps, Calvin Klein and other major international fashion houses. What drives highly motivated people? When I was a student-volunteer during the first presidential race of the late Sen. Raul Roco in 1998, he taught us that the biggest room in the world is the room for self-improvement. This kaizen attitude, I realize, belongs in this collection of the ten keys to an excellent career. 1) Write a masterplan. Listing your goals defines your priorities. Stephen King became the greatest literary phenomenon of the 20th century because he wanted to be a brand name even before his first novel Carrie got published in 1974. 2) Arrange tasks. One way to build confidence is to meet short-term goals while still working out the bigger challenges. Before Kanye West hit the big time with his 2004 Grammy-nominated multi-platinum debut album The College Dropout, he had been producing hits for various hip-hop superstars including Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. 3) Be purpose-driven. The key to a sense of fulfillment is to live a meaningful life. Chess living legend Garry Kasparov knew he could make a difference in the defense of democracy and human-rights in Russia by becoming chairman of the United Civic Front in 2005, and he did. 4) Find role models. Our lives are enriched if we emulate good people. Bob Dylan’s musical career, from his 1964 “Blowin’ In The Wind” to his 2001 “Things Have Changed” – the Oscar-winning theme of Wonder Boys – was influenced by his great admiration for American folk giant Woody Guthrie. 5) Invest hard work. If you have worked hard for your cake then you deserve to eat it too. Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood has only superlative praises for Hillary Swank, who worked out 6 hours a day for 3 months, to play the lead in his 2005 Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby – where she also won her second Best Actress Award. 6) Change your self-image. How you function in life depends on how you view yourself. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England has been consistently modernizing the monarchy to make it relevant to modern times. “This is a forward-looking organization,” Prince Andrew told Time in 2006. The now 82-year old Queen “isn’t legacy-focused – she’s future-focused.” 7) Don’t procrastinate. The world as we know it can be obsolete at any given moment so why up-date our upgrades? The Beatles achieved international superstardom in their teens, Sir Paul McCartney wrote the angst classic “Yesterday” when he was 24, and he’s still rockin’ – 2007 marked the launched of his CD Memory Almost Full, the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper, and his 65th birthday. 8) Master your craft. You can be better no matter how good you are in whatever you do because you’re not obligated to be mediocre. Tiger Woods is well on his way to becoming the best golfer of all time; and although his short iron and wedge play were criticized during his first year as a pro, “Now they’re the strengths of his game,” says his coach Butch Harmon. “He’s a work in progress; anything that’s a weakness, he turns into a strength.” 9) Never surrender. The greatest success secret in the world is perseverance. Al Gore lost the 2000 presidential race because of a technicality but he’s till fighting global warming. The former United States Vice President has built Current TV, produced the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and was honored the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. 10) Assume responsibility. Everything we do or fail to do comes back to us. Rudy Giuliani earned his place in history by his heroic leadership during 9/11. “I was the mayor of New York,” he told Reader’s Digest in 2002. “My whole approach as mayor was to be there and to be in charge.” Raul Roco photo courtesy of WikiPilipinas. This story originally appeared in CareerGuide, The Philippine Star, November 9, 2008 You comments and links are welcome

Saturday, April 18, 2009

League Of Extraordinary Filipino Gentlemen

I wrote this piece in late 2007. I already incorporated some of the profiles in “The Top 10 Signs Of Leadership.” The remaining sketches remain in their original form. This is its first publication

The late U.S. President Ronald Reagan once said, “Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.”

Let’s sketch some of the most outstanding Filipinos of our time, because as the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

1) Emilio Advincula. The nation shall never this poor but honest taxi driver castigated by his friends for returning a fortune to its rightful owner--not once, but twice! Inspiring Reio Lance to follow his example, he’s a rare breed: one who values honor above luxury and the company of 100% pure-plastic sycophants.

2) Django Bustamante. The true mettle of our 2006 World Cup Pool Champion asserted itself when he transcended a personal tragedy in the thick of competitions – and inspired the nation by swiftly devastating his opponents.

3) Hilario Davide. The God-fearing character, mastery of the law and flawless professionalism shown by the former Chief Justice earned him the envy of small minds – and the deep respect, admiration and loyalty of the millions of honorable people, who know a good man when they see one.

4) Monsour Del Rosario. Excellence is impossible without discipline, and this Olympic medalist, action star and chief pioneer of Philippine Taekwondo is deeply rooted in the ultimate way of self-mastery – the Martial Arts.

5) Richard Gordon. This future President is synonymous with true leadership -- the gift of bringing out the best in people by example. Imagine a Red Cross chairman slogging through mud to deliver aid, and a Senator who picks up litter and throws them in garbage bins -- those actions speak louder than 24/7 filibusters.

6) Frank Gudani. The warrior is a Christian. He has one of the most sterling track records in the annals of the Philippine military: Commanding General of the 1st Marine Brigade, Commander of Task Force Ranao, graduate of Phil. Military Academy, Natl. Defense College, PAL Aviation School, Asian Inst. of Mngt. and the U.S. Marine Crops; PMA- and PAL McMicking Awardee, 1980 AFP Shooter of the Year, combat veteran -- and soldier for Christ. He became a Born Again through the AFP Christian group JOSHUA in 1989, and this gave him and his aide Col. Alexander Balutan the sense of peace and strength to appear in the Senate and exposed the massive fraud in the 2004 elections despite orders to remain silent. Because of that, he was court-martialed. But EO 464 was later ruled by the Supreme Court as illegal and unconstitutional.

7) Christian Monsod. The One Voice founder and civil society leader is the epitome of integrity in public service, disappearing after earning the Comelec an unprecedented level of public trust during his watch -- and he’s back to help stop the complete meltdown of our institutions wrought by the relentlessly destructive Cha-cha campaign.

8) Manny Pacquiao. The reigning WBC Super Featherweight Champion is officially the best boxer in his division today. The People’s Champ has brought honor to the country and inspired the next generation of ring warriors: Jimrex Jaca, Boomboom Bautista, Harry Tañamor, Brian Viloria, Z Gorres and other future sports legends – and he has done all these and more without going into politics.

The pillar of Pacman’s career is coach FreddieRoach – one of the many non-Filipinos who made the Philippines a better place. The nation will honor them forever, specifically: educator Fr. James Reuter, social activist Fr. Shay Cullen, and investigative journalist Earl K. Wilkinson.

9) Philip Piccio. The founder of the Parents Enabling Parents Coalition brought hope to the thousand of students jeopardized by the pre-need industry crash, gave billionaire Mark Jimenez a worthy cause to channel his wealth for the greater good—and reminded the nation that nothing is impossible if people will join forces to stand up for what is right.

10) Fernando Poe Jr. Da King is dead--long live Da King! For the generations of actors, industry workers and ordinary people whose lives he had touched, for his family, friends and millions of loyal followers, and as long as there are young men looking for heroes, the King of Philippine Movies will live forever -- and not even dirty politics can take that away.

11) Raul Roco. The best President we never had. His incandescent genius went beyond his magnificent track record: outstanding student leader, lawyer, Con-Con delegate, Congressman, Senator, Education Secretary, family man – and he has set the standards to which all future leaders will be measured. His secret: “Aral, Sipag, Dasal (Study, Hard work, Prayer)” – and that too should speak for itself.

12) Jesse Robredo. Mayor Jesse’s flagship i-Governance program has completely computerized City Hall and destroyed red tape. All transactions, contracts, revenues, employees are all online. He’s the first ever mayor to invite sectoral representatives and NGOs to participate in the City Council. He is one of the few local chief executives with the mental stamina to earn an MBA in Public Administration from the JFK School of Government in Harvard. His innovations have garnered more than 140 awards here and abroad, including the United Nations Public Service Awards, the AIM Galing Pook Awards Hall of Fame and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service.

13) Harry Roque. This U.P law professor practices what he preach -- that no one is above the law -- and has independently mounted a global pursuit against Agriculture Undersecretary-turned-fugitive Joc-Joc Bolante.

14) Jaime Cardinal Sin. The separation of Church and State ends when loyalty to the country begins, and the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Manila Archbishop mobilized the country to overthrow two Presidents through peaceful revolution – and inspired the whole world with the glory of true People Power.

15) Mon, Raffy, Erwin and Ben Tulfo. The noble aims of journalism are to uncover the truth and bring justice for the oppressed, and if the hard-hitting Tulfo brothers have to confront abusive and incompetent officials to set things right—in person, print, radio and TV-- then so be it. Even if they’re under siege by libel suits, white papers and black propaganda, they will survive--and will be vindicated--because no one can put good men down.

16) Rico Yan. The true measure of a life is the beauty of the memories left behind; but this young matinee idol, with his public charisma and private public service, made you believe you can be immortal – forever young – because you got to believe in magic.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Can You Bounce Back After A Setback?

This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama

United States President Barack Obama’s biggest inspiration is Abraham Lincoln who, as we all know, lost his election races as congressman, senator and vice-president – but still became one of history’s most significant leaders and America’s greatest Presidents. 

Career setbacks will come because “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we may,” as Hamlet tells Horatio. 

Here are ways to cope from Andrew J. DuBrin’s Bouncing Back (McGraw-Hill), with stories from various issues of Entrepreneur Philippines.

1) Take advantage of the change. Zenaida Gutierrez had to stop her backyard piggery when they moved into the family compound in Nueva Ecija, so she instead set up Manzen Supply and sold feeds in San Leonardo town in 2002. Then pork prices fell in 2004, so she diversified, selling also groceries, and her businesses today are all thriving.

2) Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Johnny Sy believes that gospel music can reach the mainstream, but he was too ahead of his time. With help from the Christian org Maranatha, he started selling CDs on tables outside churches and concerts, but it took him 8 years to start House of Praise Inc. in 1980. He gladly endured sufferings in the name of Christ: bankruptcy, zero airplay and skepticism from parishioners with denomination-mentality. But today, Praise is both on solid ground and flying high, and all because of Sy’s secret of success: Faith.

3) Never surrender. Joy Abaquin was doing her postgraduate studies in Boston when she realized the potential of Dr. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory. But back in Manila, she was almost overwhelmed by the red-tape that comes with registering, of all things, a pre-school. Her biggest obstacle was yet to come: Parents who are suspicious of new ideas. Joyfully, however, her persistence has built Child’s Place in 1996 at Loyola Heights, soon followed by the Multiple Intelligence International School – and both are going strong while quietly revolutionizing Philippine education.

4) Learn to adapt. Antonio Gomez was all ready to launch a wood-based export venture when his expected business partner backed out, so he put up the Cedarwood Corp. in Antipolo in the ’80s alone. He hit the jackpot with a U.S. buyer of chopping boards. Then the buyer stopped. Then came the logging ban in 1992. Then came the destruction of his wood source in Ipil, Zamboanga with the Abu Sayyaf attacks in 1995. Then his Chinese competitors underpriced and his sales slumped. Adapting to these reversals, Gomez’s luck turned and SM Megamall gave space to his Home & Lifestyle Casual Furniture in 2005. Since then, his export orders – and international network – have been steadily expanding.

5) See things in the right perspective. Enrico Roque lost his job as operations manager but he saw it as a chance to be a full-time businessman. He set up a store in his hometown Sta. Maria, Bulacan selling household items, and while some people thought it was a tiangge, a flea market stall, he boldly named it Bodega Ng Bayan (Warehouse of the Town). Some proprietors don’t hire undergrads but Roque did, knowing that character and work ethic are more important than qualifications. It is because of his maturity – and canny business acumen – that Bodega Ng Bayan has grown to become the most popular appliance chain in the country today.

 Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet photo courtesy of Concentric.  Your comments and links are welcome

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Can We End Global Poverty In Our Generation?

Once upon a time, everybody was poor. Then came agriculture, industry and technology. Some became rich, some remained poor because of corruption and misrule – and there are those whose poverty killed them. Imagine yourself living in an isolated village surrounded by barren fields and wilted crops, with the seasons bringing nothing but drought and mosquitoes carrying malaria. “This is a story about ending poverty in our time,” says Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the U. N. Millennium Project, in his landmark The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities For Our Time. “More then 8 million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive.” It’s time to end this madness. Here’s how. 1) Commit to the task. We need to rise above ourselves. The dawn of the 21st century saw most of the nations of the world – including the Philippines – join hands and craft the Millennium Development Goals, the masterplan for cutting global poverty and environmental degradation by half by 2015, and ending the remaining half in 2025. Great challenges lie ahead. “We must carry out these tasks in a context of global inertia, proclivities to war and prejudice, and understandable skepticism around the world that this time can be different from the past.” 2) Adopt a plan of action. We need to act. “Our generation, in the U.S. and abroad, can choose to end extreme poverty by the year 2025.” The pilot area is the eight villages called Sauri in Kenya. “Survival depends on addressing a series of specific challenges, all of which can be met with known, proven, reliable and appropriate technologies and interventions, such as the Big Five: Boosting agriculture. The first priority is food. “With fertilizers, cover crops, irrigation and improved seeds, Sauri’s farmers could triple their food yields and quickly end chronic hunger.” Improving basic health. Protection against diseases is a matter of life and death. “A village clinic with one doctor and nurse for the 5,000 residents would provide free anti-malarial bed nets, effective anti-malarial medicines and treatments for HIV/AIDS opportunistic infections.” Investing in education. Children should eat first. “Meals for all the children at the primary school could improve the health of the kids, the quality of education and the attendance at school.” Bringing power. Electricity is crucial to progress. “The electricity would power lights and perhaps a computer for the school; pumps for safe well water; power for milling grain, refrigeration and other needs.” Providing clean water and sanitation. Access to potable water is an inalienable right of every human being. “With enough water point and latrines for the safety of the entire village, women and children would save countless hours of toil each day fetching water.” 3) Raise the voice of the poor. We need to take the initiative. “Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. did not wait for the rich and powerful to come to their rescue.” Lethargy should be anathema because there is an undefinable beauty in a pro-active life. “It is time for the democracies in the poor world – Brazil, India, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and dozens of others – to join together to issue the call to action.” 4) Redeem the U.S. role in the world. We need to develop a sense of history. The United States of America, throughout the tumultuous course of human events, has been and is still is a consistent force for good. As the most powerful nation in recorded history, the United States has the moral obligation to lead the fight against poverty. As a signatory to the Monterrey Consensus of 2002, “It’s time to honor the commitment to give 0.7% of our national income to these crucial goals.” 5) Rescue the IMF and WB. We need to develop a global mindset. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank “have the experience and technical sophistication to play an important role.” Their austerity programs may have been counter-productive, “Finally, however, that approach is beginning to change.” It’s about reinvention. “It’s time to restore their role in helping all 182 of their member-countries, not just the rich ones, in the pursuit of enlightened globalization.” 6) Strengthen the U.N. We need to remind ourselves that the brotherhood of man has no borders. The United Nations “specialized agencies have a core role to play in the ending of poverty.” They will be more efficient and organized if bureaucracy is streamlined and parochial mentalities are set aside. Authority to initiate strategies and make on-site judgment calls should be given to those who have proven their worth. “It’s time to empower the likes of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and many others to do the job – on the ground, country by country.” 7) Harness global science. We need to recognize that modern technology is a tool for the betterment of mankind. “New technology has lead directly to improved standards of living.” But if we earthlings are so smart, why aren’t we rich? This is why “A special effort should be made by the powerhouses of world science to address the unmet challenges of the poor.” 8) Promote sustainable development. We need to enlarge our vision. “Ending extreme poverty can relieve many of the pressures of the environment. When impoverished households are more productive on their farms, for example, they feel less pressure to cut down neighboring forests in search of new farmland.” Our mission continues even after its accomplishment. “Even as extreme poverty ends, we must not fuel prosperity with a lack of concern for industrial pollution and the unchecked burning of fossil fuels.” 9) Make a personal commitment. “It all comes back to us.” We need to contribute in our own ways. “Great social forces are the mere accumulation of individual actions.” A single person, noble in his aim and persevering in is tasks, can make a difference. It’s time to be part of history. “Let the future say of our generation that we sent forth mighty currents of hope, and that we worked together to heal the world.” Jeffrey Sachs photo courtesy of the Asian Development Bank. This story originally appeared in the 2008 My Favorite Book contest, The Philippine Star Do you believe we can end extreme global poverty within our generation? Do you have ideas you want to share with policy makers? Your comments and links are welcome.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Celebrities

By now, everyone already knows Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – and for those who still don’t, a maverick indie version is now showing: 1) Be a self-starter. Being pro-active means taking the initiative and venturing out of your comfort zone. Bono, lead singer of U2 and the world’s biggest rock star, used his fame to win friend and influence world leaders to help end global poverty. “It is no longer crazy to suggest that we can eliminate tuberculosis and malaria from the planet,” Bono wrote in a stirring essay for Time. “It is no longer unthinkable to imagine a world without AIDS or extreme poverty. And this isn’t hope talking, or faith. This is hard science pointing us toward a better, healthier world.” Bono founded DATA and produced Live 8 with Bob Geldof – and was hailed as one of the 2005 Persons of the Year by Time alongside Bill and Melinda Gates. 2) Be goal-oriented. Beginning with the end in mind means knowing what you want to achieve in life. Leonardo DiCaprio, star of Blood Diamond and The Aviator, started as a matinee idol. “I tried to get an agent when I was 7,” he told Newsweek. “I knew I wanted to be an actor, but it wasn’t until This Boy’s Life, when I was 16, that I started to research in quality films.” When DiCaprio first saw James Dean in East of Eden, he thought: “Wow, I didn’t know it was possible to give a performance this good.” DiCaprio wanted to shed his boy-next-door image: “I wanted to establish myself as an actor who put a lot of thought into his characters and did good work. And then I did a movie called Titanic, and there I was, right back into the position of being looked at as another piece of cute meat.” 3) Be organized. Putting first things first means focusing on the essentials. Steven Spielberg, director of War of the Worlds and Minority Report, believes that a filmmaker’s job is to tell the story. “I’ve never, ever made a movie where I said I’m making this picture because the message can do some good for the world—even when I made Schindler’s List,” he told Time. “I made the picture out of pure wanting to get that story told. I thought it was important that at least my kids someday could see what happened, just to heat story being told. I feel the same way about Munich. For Spielberg, the key word is Passion. “When I don’t have a movie, I don’t take a job for the sake or working, I just sit it out until I find something I’m passionate about. If I find something light, I’ll make it, like Terminal,” he said. “And if I find something dark and historical, like this Doris Kearns Goodwin book I’m working on now, I’ll do that. It’s just how things work out. It’s all about timing.” (Note: Spielberg was referring to Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln. The film will star Liam Neeson.) 4) Be creative. Thinking “Win-win” means thinking out of the box to find the best course of action. George Clooney, star of The Good German and Good Night, and Good Luck, is a human-rights activist. To expose the genocide in Western Sudan, he addressed the United Nations Security Council and produced the documentary A Journey To Darfur. Clooney knows his strengths and limits. He ended speculations that he will be running for Illinois Senator in 2008 because the incumbent Barack Obama is running for President. “I am not going into politics,” he clarified in Newsweek. “I like Obama, I consider him a friend and I love how good he is at what he does. I am excited by his getting into the race. It energizes everything. And I would do whatever I can to help him, even if that means staying away.” 5) Be prepared. Seeking first to understand before being understood means doing your homework. Angelina Jolie, star of The Good Shepherd and Mr.& Mrs. Smith, is a Good-Will Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her advocacy started in 2001 when she witnessed the brutal conditions in Cambodia. “I remember sitting up for 2 straight days and reading everything obsessively,” she told Newsweek. “I read about the UNHCR, and I realized it was an agency that I didn’t know anything about: that they were taking care of 20 million people – and I remember realizing that I couldn’t understand how I had not known that my whole life.” Jolie “was very nervous to call the U.N. agency at the time. I was considered a rebel in Hollywood. At that time I was also a bit of a wild child. So first I went to Washington and sat with everybody there.” The Oscar-winning actress “spent the next year and a half going to, first, two camps in Africa, and then Pakistan and Cambodia. And with no cameras and with no press, and had the opportunity to have this great education before I spoke at all – I was transformed in such an amazing way.” 6) Be efficient. To synergize is to get more work done with less effort. George Lucas almost single-handedly transformed the movies. While making his first Star Wars, he gave up a large salary in exchange for ownership of all rights of sequels, merchandising, music and publishing – and the film made box-office history. He funneled his earnings from his Star Wars and Indiana Jones series to achieve his vision of a digital future. His Industrial Light & Magic pioneered the motion-control camera and the groundbreaking Morf computer program. His Skywalker Sound pioneered the THX digital sound. “I am very aware as a creative person that those who control the means of production control the creative vision,” he told Forbes. “But if you own the cameras and the film. they can’t stop you.” 7) Be well-rounded. Sharpening the saw means achieving balance in life. Meryl Streep, star of Music of the Heart and The Devil Wears Prada, describes herself in a Reader’s Digest interview as “An actress who goes home to her family when I’m finished working.” The most transcendent actress alive was hailed as one of the 2006 Time 100. The late filmmaker Robert Altman has captured her beautifully: “She needed not one thing from me, and in any case, no guidance, direction or suggestion I could have given would have matched her flawless instincts,” wrote the director of A Prairie Home Companion. “Meryl may be the most celebrated actor in the world, but she has never succumbed to the notion of celebrity. Her dedication to her privacy and family is fierce and rare.” Bono photo courtesy of ImagingInfo. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama. It subsequently appeared in AllVoices. Your comments and links are welcome

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Does God Talk Back To You?

As the philosopher John Locke said, "The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure, all sincere, nothing too much and nothing wanting." Pastor Rick Warren heads the Saddleback megachurch in Lake Forest California. “What I’m saying isn’t new,” he says about his phenomenal bestselling spiritual guidebook A Purpose Driven Life. “I just synthesize ideas and translate them into simple language.” The same is true with this feature. I was surfing the Bible searching for comfort from the recent death of my best friend. I found healing – and a purpose-driven magazine article. 1) Assurance. The Lord is with us even in the presence of our enemies. “Lo, I am with you always, even at the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:28) 2) Bereavement. God has promised that we will be reunited with our loved ones – in a place where there are no more goodbyes. “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians) 3) Christian living. A true Christian can spread the Good News even without speaking. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father.” (Matthew 5:16) 4) Death. To die is to be with Jesus in His kingdom that is not of this world. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25) 5) Enemies. If God is with you, then no one can be against you – because even the Devil fears His wrath. “Repay no one evil for evil.” (Roman 12:17) 6) Freedom. Cast your burdens upon Christ and He will give you rest. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Ephesians 1:7) 7) God’s love. If the Father is not immortal, He Himself would have made the ultimate sacrifice. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) 8) Hope. Ask yourself: ‘Why do I let myself get discouraged when the Almighty loves me more than the sparrows in the fields?’ “With God all things all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) 9) Integrity. With God’s grace, a true follower possesses a track record that can speak for itself. “The governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel…but they could find no charge or fault.” (Daniel 6:4) 10) Jesus. The Son of God who became flesh and died then rose again on the third day is the one true Messiah. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; but the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain.” (John 4:14) 11) Keeping the faith. Jesus Christ will lead you by the hand and make you face the rising sun – and comfort you through all the pain that life may bring. “He who belies in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47) 12) Life’s purpose. We came into this world to discover our true nature – and to achieve union with the Divine. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) 13) Mercy. When we come face to face with God, He shall search and know our hearts. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) 14) Obedience. Child-like faith means unconditional love and total submission to the Lord. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) 15) Persecution. God is love but love is impossible without justice – so He settles the score. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) 16) Revenge. Every single deed shall face judgment – but God and God alone shall decide. “Do not avenge yourselves…for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) 17) Salvation. Mankind is doomed because it is hopelessly evil – then Jesus came. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes through the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) 18) Trials. God never left your side – He gave His hand to you. Don’t forget: He won’t give you what you can’t bear. “Trust in the Lord will all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) 19) Unity. United in God we stand, divided we will fall. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” (1 John 1:7) 20) Victory. Jesus Christ has conquered the world – and the wages of sin. “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life.” (John 5:24) 21) Worry. Courage comes from within – but only if you let the Holy Spirit dwell there. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) 22) Youth. Good parents teach their kids that actions speak louder than words. “Little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) 23) Zeal. Make your spiritual life less intense – but more stable. Some religious conversions are flash-in-the-pan self-righteous delusions – while others take deep root and become a way of life. Here is the inside story of the seeds in the Parable of the Sower: “The one that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the Word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit.” (Luke 8:15) John Locke photo courtesy of Saint Leo faculty. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama Your comments and links are welcome

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Time Management In A Minute

Busy? This is the fastest way to fix your sked. Time management is life leadership, says Stephen Covey, author of 8th Habit, and here are his first three steps. 1) Write your own mission statement. This is to sum up who you really are and want you want in life. Generic sample: “To master my profession so my work will be synonymous with excellence, and to conduct my life in such a way that people will see Jesus Christ reflected in me.” 2) Know your 5 main roles in life. This is to pinpoint your responsibilities in your different roles in society. Example: You are a lawyer, father, husband, restaurant co-owner and lay pastor. 3) Set goals for each role. This is to achieve balance – meeting all your responsibilities by scheduling them in advance. Example: Overtime on Friday, supervising your business on Saturday, and going to Mass and watching DVD with the family – and getting a copy of The Star – on Sunday.