Showing posts from September, 2018

Where On Earth Are We?

Saturday Stories September 29, 2018

An exact spot on earth is marked by its coordinates. For example: I'm in Cebu City, the capital of Cebu province in the Philippines, around 860 kilometers south of Manila. The coordinates are 10°19'00" N latitude, and 123°53'26" E longitude, according to They are read as "10 degrees, 19 minutes, 0 second North," and "123 degrees, 53 minutes and 26 seconds East." Let's have fun with this.

Think of a tic-tac-toe grid – the earth has criss-crossing imaginary lines called latitude (horizontal) and longitude (vertical). Both lines have their own 0 degrees – their own reference points. For latitude (east to west), it is the equator, the line circling the middle of the earth's circumference. For longitude (north to south), it is the Prime Meridian, which passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London among many places, including Spain and Burkina Faso. Most nations have been…

What Else Did Schliemann Found In Troy?

Saturday Stories September 22, 2018

A symbol has power. A sign, or even a person, can unite people to the same cause. There is a relic in A.J. Hartley's "The Mask of Atreus" that could transform the world by unleashing the forces of chaos. But can a mere object actually do that? It sounds incredible, but it is possible given our human tendency to strive for what we believe in – even if it means mass genocide to reach our goal.

The archeologist Deborah Miller found a priceless collection of ancient Greek treasures that no one else knew about, so it could only have been kept hidden from the public all these years – but one piece is missing. How could it so valuable that the precious antiquities were left untouched? When the police saw what was left behind, they also found a dead body.

It began with Homer centuries ago. His epic poem "The Iliad" chronicles the siege of Ilium, or Troy. The walled city fell because the enemies went hiding in a large statue of a hor…

When Power Corrupts Absolutely

Saturday Stories September 15, 2018

While Jesus was on the cross, a Roman centurion named Longinus pierced him with a lance. Many people, including non-Christians, have heard that story. What happened next was a lot more fun – the lance was imbued with magical powers because of Jesus' blood, and came to be known as "The Spear of Destiny" – and whoever wields it will have the power to conquer the world.

I love historical thrillers, like Daniel Easterman's The Spear of Destiny, because it's fun to hear stories behind the legends. There are things where we can never tell fact from fiction, the true from the false, like if the "Holy Lance" that Baldwin II of Constantinople had sold to Louis IX of France was the real thing.

A young British soldier, Gerald Underwood, found the Spear in a desert crypt during the Second World War. Since then, he has been on the run from mysterious people who will stop at nothing to get it, and they got him. His nephew Ethan, a…

Why I Do Not Want To Be Immortal

Jonathan Aquino's Saturday Stories September 8, 2018

A friend once asked me if I want to be immortal. But what if all men are? I'm sure CNN will have live coverage of the endless battles between Gengis versus Alexander versus Sargon versus Caesar versus Napoleon versus Hitler, but what kind of world is that? If Mozart is still composing, then Jack The Ripper would still be ripping. Mother Teresa would still be with us, but so would Pol Pot. Would John Paul II become Pope if Simon Peter never died? Then again, if Jesus is still alive, there would be no Vatican in the first place.

Yet such a man did exist. He once belonged to the Inquisition, the group the Church has spawned during the 12th century to destroy anyone who wasn't them, much like the Nazis, but in the name of God. This man found what the Knights Templar called the "Elixir of Life." That is one of the story threads in "The Sanctuary" by Raymond Khoury. But the secret was discovered by another…

Heaven and Hell

Saturday Stories September 1, 2018

Once upon a time in Japan, a samurai named Nobushige wanted to learn about Heaven and Hell, so he went to Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku. He found himself being baited into anger, and he drew his katana. "That," said the monk, "is Hell." Suddenly, the samurai understood, and he lowered his sword. "And that," said Hakuin, "is Heaven."

This Zen story, said to have happened in the mid-1700s during the Edo period, inspired me to write "The Measure of A Man," my first solo poem in 2018 and the last I wrote using pen and paper. The title is inspired by the song by Clay Aiken.

My poem first appeared in The Philippines Graphic magazine on April 20, 2018, with South Korean Ambassador Han Dong-Man on the cover.

Then it was published by Spillwords Press on June 28, 2018 on their site.

I just got an e-mail from the editor of Setu Bilingual, an English-Hindi magazine based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, confirming that my…