March of the Penguins – An Introspection Into the Rules of Life

This post had been sitting in my draft folder since 2009. I’m finally posting this 6 years later 🙂

MV5BMTM1NDc5MDYxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjMzNDAzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_During my recent hibernation, as I was browsing through my cable movie channels ,I happened to catch the latter half of the movie The March of the Penguins. This award winning documentary film chronicles the poignant saga of the penguin’s quest of fulfilling nature’s sacred and unwritten rule – the preservation and propagation of the specie. Every specie on this earth is innately programmed to propagate its own. The rites and rituals can vary in many ways, sometimes strange and inexplicable, much like the landlocked North American salmon that die once it has spawned. But we humans are touched when we see animals such as the lowly and sluggish penguin exhibit strikingly similar social and emotional characteristics as us.

The penguin mating scenario is highly unusual. In the midst of the extremely cold and icy environment penguins trek to the high ground and choose their partner for the mating season. It may look shockingly promiscuous to us humans but the relationship albeit temporary is a monogamous one where both partners exhibit genuine dedication to the mission of propagation, the caring and nurturing of their offspring. Father and mother penguin take turns to feed itself and bring food for the young while one of them does the baby sitting. It may take days or even weeks for the partner to return from the hunt. In one scene in the film, a baby penguin dies of cold after a harsh winter storm when the mother wasn’t able to provide enough body heat from her bosom. Distraught at the loss of her young, the grieving mother tries to snatch a fellow mother’s baby whereupon the rest of the penguins intervene and quell her indiscretion in her moment of insanity. It is amazing how such display of love and affection can touch the human heart. The reproduction ritual happens annually in the grueling sub-zero temperatures between fall and spring. The weather, lack of food and ample shelter are the rude challenges to the penguin’s tenacity and unflagging energy.

One might be all praise and awe at the penguin’s character but there is an astonishing twist which happens the tail end of the breeding cycle (14-16 months). At this stage, their offspring are now bigger, still sporting some fur in their bodies but clearly hale and able to ambulate on their own. As soon as the ice breaks exposing the sea and the sun starts to light up the gloomy skies of the frozen land, the mother penguin who at this stage takes responsibility of feeding the offspring begins to manifest a bizarre character. As the chick grows bigger and incessantly harass mother penguin for food, the latter becomes severely overworked with the non stop demand and the stress triggers a defense mechanism , that of self-preservation. The adult penguins begin to rush to frolic into the open sea feasting on fish, swim across to the other side of the water, unmindful and oblivious of their offspring. It is at this point that the adult penguins sever their ties with their offspring permanently, behaving as if the latter never existed. The adult penguins appear intent in moving on to a new page in their lives. They would look forward to another mating season where they would select another partner and start the reproduction cycle again. The young penguins are left to huddle amongst themselves. They begin to jump into the water to learn to swim, hunt and fend for themselves. They are now responsible for their own survival. The mother penguin’s task is fulfilled. She had propagated the specie and brought her offspring into a stage where it can survive on its own. The penguin like most animals is not subjugated to a life-long task of caring and sustaining their offspring. The “unburdening” phenomenon does confirm to a some extent the functional, sensible and equitable design of nature’s intrinsic life cycles and processes. The unburdening also makes every member self-reliant thereby creating an animal kingdom that moves collectively and predictably towards its expected life cycle.

One may ask the question – why is it necessary for every animal to survive on its own ? Why has mother nature programmed animals this way? Is it because their brains don’t possess enough intelligence to organize a family unit and rely on each other for survival ? The penguin kingdom seems to function flawlessly with every adult penguin taking care of itself and every mother penguin supporting its young. Is it possible to envision a penguin kingdom with mother penguins supporting their adult offspring? What would such kingdom look like ? Such penguin kingdom is non-existent because it is not the blueprint of mother nature. If young penguins do nothing to support themselves after their parents leave they would die. That would be tragic and the recipe for self destruction. The survival of the specie is in peril. Are we humans any different than penguins in terms propagating and preserving our specie ? At what point in our lives do we tell our offspring – you are on your own ?

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Jobs, jobs, jobs

jobsJobs – isn’t this what everyone yaps about these days, politicians, businessmen and proletarians alike ? Jobs, jobs, jobs seems to be the theme of every candidate of any political stripe these days. Elect me and I WILL CREATE JOBS. Jobs is the magic word. It is supposed to be the catalyst that sparks economic growth. Create more jobs so that more people can have money to buy goods and services and enhance their quality of life and yes, pay taxes lest we forget. Taxes fatten the government coffers. Robust consumer spending makes corporations profitable. The pattern becomes a virtuous circle. More taxes allows the government to modernize public infrastructure creating much needed jobs. Corporations tend to expand and increase production output as the result of increased revenues, hiring more workers in the process. This is not what I am blogging about though. We all know that jobs can be created with the proverbial albeit controversial government stimulus spending. We also know that corporations never stop finding ways to invest in new products and services to spark consumer spending. What disappoints me is when jobs are to be had, people start bitching about the environment – pollution, carbon emission and what not and the holier than thou amongst us start bitching about the social consequences of jobs, its long term psychological effects on people, on families…yadada. Try constructing an oil pipeline these days and you would be bombarded with endless criticism from die hard evironmentalists, accussing you of endangering the planet by inviting a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions in event of an accidental spill. Try building a casino complex with the intent of employing thousands of people and you will be met with stiff opposition from the holier than thou crowd, accusing you of potentially destroying people’s lives and breaking families apart with the culture of gambling. Try buying modern, quiet, energy efficient small jet planes to replace noisy and sluggish propeller planes to improve service of a small airport by a downtown lake and you will be accused of polluting the environment. So where the hell are we going to get these much needed jobs to stimulate the economy, if we can’t compromise but bitch and moan and oppose every proposal because of our lofty ideals ?

FINDING A JOB

job_hiringIt is not impossible to find a job these days. What is difficult is finding the right job with the right pay. It is even more difficult when we lose our good paying jobs. Finding a job with the same salary becomes a real challenge. Most people hate the idea of starting again. Talking about Pinas now – how many well schooled people do you know who simply gave up of finding a job just because they don’t have the fortitude of starting from an entry level salary ? How many people do you know who can’t find a job on their own and rely on other people to find a job for them ? How many people do we know who simply gave up on the idea of supporting his own self become totally reliant to family for the rest of their lives ? How many people waste money by going to special courses upon finishing decide to stay at home, waiting for jobs to come to them ? How many people dream of working abroad yet never had the guts to try working to gain some experience ? If you can’t mingle and work with your compatriots in your own country, what makes you think you can easily work in another country with a different culture, a different language ?

 

 

Democracy at the Crossroads

images_church_stateIt is utterly shocking to learn that women could be banned from wearing trousers in Sudan. In Egypt, women resort to the use of fake hymen to “restore” their virginity before marriage so their future husbands don’t divorce them. The re-virgination is also a way to prevent their very own family from embarrassment and avoid the dreaded and feared “honor killing” on them. The Egyptian government wants to ban the product and punish those who import and sell them to the public. We Pinoys cringe at the thought of such restrictive and oppressive practices of other cultures and pride ourselves with the freedoms we enjoy in our country. Yet for a long time we harmed ourselves the opposite way, by our government’s inaction and lack of political will to confront the most serious threat to our country today, the problem of overpopulation and its tragic consequence of poverty. At last, after more than a decade of debate, the RH bill is finally put to law. There is reason to rejoice. The approval of the RH bill in both legislative houses is an epiphany, a profound pronouncement to the world that Pinoys live in the present and not the medieval times. The approval is well timed to complement the country’s plan towards economic prosperity. Today, Pinas’ economic numbers are solid and the country is now an acknowledged emerging “Tiger Cub” economy of Asia poised to break out in the next 3 decades as the 16th largest economy in the world. The government needs to create a long term plan to ensure that the momentum gained is maintained and sustained in the long haul.

THE CHURCH AND STATE

church_stateThere is no doubt that a large population creates a strong consumption economy but it is only strong when such population collectively contribute to “creating” the economy and not becoming a wholesale encumbrance, a liability to the government. Creating human beings isn’t the goal. Rather, creating human beings that won’t wallow in abject poverty and sub-human conditions should be the goal. A country’s exploding population that outruns economic growth exacerbates poverty. At some point it has to slow down, not totally stop and prudent population control strategy is the right approach. The RH bill will provide the much needed sex education to prevent teen pregnancy and help parents right size their families, to that which they can financially support. This kind of strategy is a necessary ingredient to any country’s social program, that is if such country believes that it no longer exists in the medieval times. It took 14 years for the bill to get passed. In the the end the state was able to sail through turbulent waters – the church’s incessant meddling and fear mongering. The reason for the separation of church and state in the constitution is express and unambiguous – to guarantee and maintain the secularity of government in the context of democracy.  In short, the law of the land not the law of religion is in force to rule the country. Unless we are prepared to run democracy with its core principles intact, we better return it to the Americans.

RH BILL MOMENTS

RHThe RH bill created a passionate debate amongst Pinoys where the pro and con supporters take a stab at the issue whenever they can, sometimes in a humourous, satirical fashion. I watched Ann Curtis diss Andy Eigenmann who in the movie A Secret Affair played the role of the slutty woman who was desperately trying to snatch lover Derek Ramsey from her – “ I wish the RH bill was approved long time ago so a slut like you could have been prevented to come into this world “. It sounded a tad gaudy and clumsy but hey, we hear the point 😉 Of course who could have missed that Iskul Bukol moment in the Senate when Sen. Sotto, a staunch opponent of the bill, asked what he thought about contraceptives for men said “ Is there such a thing ? If so then it’s the women’s turn to protest about it “ 😉 I have never been a fan of Sen. Miriam Defensor. This pugnacious and scrappy lawmaker, an outspoken supporter of the RH bill, is an acquired taste for most people but I thought she put the kibosh on the accusation of heresy when she compared herself to Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th century astronomer whose theory that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around as believed by the Catholic church was condemned as heretical. Science proclaimed Copernicus’ discovery to be true, years after he posited his theory. Copernicus body was reburied in 2010 and proclaimed a hero 500 years after lying in an unmarked grave. He was never given a Christian burial because the church denounced his work until the day he died. You can trust I am with you on this one Miriam 😉 And who could forget Cong. Manny Pacquiao, who said that the 2 minute slumber he experienced from that Hulk Hogan punch courtesy of Marquez made him appreciate the sanctity of life even more, hence his NO vote for the bill. He obviously forgot the Incredible Hulk punch he delivered on Ricky Hatton’s head in 2009. It laid the poor guy motionless on the mat for 4 minutes. 😐

LOSING WITH DIGNITY

loserIn the aftermath of the bill’s approval, it is not uncommon for people to be disappointed when the result isn’t what they expected. But that’s the essence of democracy lest we forget – the rule of the majority takes precedence. The CBCP is extremely upset with the result. How dare the flock lend a deaf ear to its leaders ?

“I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life”. Muhammad Ali

Perhaps the bishops and cardinals must ask themselves the question – why have we failed ? What did we do wrong ? The result is crystal clear. It is not Pnoy nor the legislators. The church has clearly failed to connect with its people. In retrospect, the church, along with its anti RH bill supporters trumped their chance to win with their lame, fear mongering tactic of labeling contraceptives as abortifacients. In a way, they shot themselves in the foot with such idiocy. This scare tactic was meant to garner support from the bottom of the social ladder, the impoverished and the most ignorant among us. Contraceptives are already legal and available at the pharmacies to those who can afford a doctor’s prescription. When the government proposes to make contraceptives available to the poor – free to those who cannot afford, all of a sudden they’re abortifacients ! Since when ? If they are dead serious about their abortifacient pitch, why not lobby to take these pills out of the drug store shelves NOW ?

The CBCP’s call for civil disobedience and the exhortation to Catholic voters to defeat the pro RH politicians in this coming election is a clear violation of its statement of faith, a throwback to its mission as mediator and pacifier of men and a clear insult to the democratic processes and principles it must uphold, respect and promote. It is tragic that the church has engaged in the game of dirty politics to compensate for its shortcomings. It has failed to understand that genuine faith has to come from the heart – not coercion. Sadly is has behaved like the church of the days of the Inquisition, intent to destroy and burn those who contradict its views. It has refused to accept defeat in a democratic exercise blaming the heretics for the failure and not itself. Poor loser is such a heavy word. There is dignity in defeat. My wife’s response to the RH bill was bluntly simple – ” they could enact any law they want but the decision still rests with the woman, right ?

Archbishop Tagle said it best :

“It is tragic and unfortunate but we do not take it as a defeat of truth for the truth shall prevail. We call on all Filipinos to work towards healing, and journey together humbly and justly as children of God.

Now that’s the mark of a truly enlightened leader. I wish there are more church leaders of his mold.

Austerity

Austerity was the most searched word in 2010 according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Not a real surprise because the global community was at the crest of an economic crisis short of the Great Depression that year and ordinary folk may have encountered the word “austerity measures” a little too often both in both print and TV media. Austerity comes from the root word austere which means “rigourously self disciplined and severely moral”. When applied to economics, it translates to ” financial belt tightening”. In short, if the house is in severe financial stress it needs to cut expenses to pay off a mounting debt. Everyone must make a sacrifice by spending less, curtailing whims and spendthrift habits, holding off on unecessary purchases to keep the books in order. The government being the catalyst of the economy must keep its financial house in even keel amidst the tempest and austerity measures is a proven recipe to keep it afloat . Politicians are known to act slow on austerity measures for fear that reducing expenses and social services would ruin their approval rating and therefore risk not getting re-elected. When people are pissed with the economy, they show their vengeance at the polls. Take the case of Greece. It is so unbelievable that the country was going bankrupt if not for the Europen Union bailout that saved it from doom. The bailout wasn’t without strings attached though. The EU demanded that Greece shrink the size of its government, reduce expenses by a certain percentage to keep its book in order else the bailout won’t be granted. Citizens who feared losing their government jobs or pensions took to the streets and rioted, burned buildings, cursed their politicians and demanded a status quo – no changes. It boggles my mind how people react to dire situations. How in the hell can you get out of bankruptcy if you don’t give up something ?? This reminds me of a quote of Albert Einstein ” We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them

PINAS

Enter Pinas. Do we ever complain – burn buildings, stage riots because we are fed up with the government ? Do we ever punish politicians at the polls ? No. Why ? Well, first of all there are millions of us who are either freeloading with relatives or engaged in the underground economy and don’t pay taxes and never get any service from the government – so why give a rat’s ass anyways ? And, we don’t vote for performance. We vote for emotional reasons – we like the person or the family name – period. At the end of the day, our elected politicians possess that sense of entitlement to do anything they want while poverty increases and guess what – we just keep quiet and suffer in silence. Austerity ? We know what that word means. We’ve been stretching it out for many decades now. Who needs social services when we have family to bail us out ?
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EDUCATION POLICE

When we coin an odd sounding term like “Education Police” we immediately conjure thoughts about the state and it’s cane wielding cops chasing after truants and drop-outs, making sure they get back to the classroom. In a communist regime perhaps but as we all know, communism is no longer cool these days, if not totally dead. In this era of global democracy where people have the liberty to educate themselves to their own liking, the idea of Education Police unexpectedly sprung up in democratic South Korea on a completely different mission – to prevent students from killing themselves from studying too much. In the land of Hyundai, Samsung and LG, competition for good jobs is tightening up that families are willing to bet their houses so their kids can get to the elite universities. Shades of Pilipinas eh ? You can’t get a good job in Pinas nowadays if you’re not from the elite schools . I heard stories of security guards rejecting applicants right at the door if they’re not elite school graduates. Tough competition like Korea except that we don’t have global giant corporations like Hyundai, Samsung, LG to show for. We are twice as many in numbers as the South Koreans making jobs even harder to find. In short, we’re behaving like the South Koreans but we don’t have the industrial infrastructure to show for and we are increasing our population with total abandon as if hoping that one day, mannah will fall from heaven to quench our hunger and thirst permanently. I am completely befuddled by people who totally miss a crucial point in the population control debate, that in order for a country to be progressive, it has to produce a population of potential taxpayers and not freeloaders, wanderers and hobos.
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Cyberwoes

About 3 years ago I attended a security luncheon seminar at a press club hosted by a national telecom carrier and moderated by popular CBC broadcast journalist Wendy Mesley. I bet people went, yours truly included, to see Wendy in person ; after all, she is a topnotch TV anchor with a vibrant, engaging and pleasing personality (my all time favorite anchorbabe is Erica Hill, formerly of CNN and now with CBS, who is still stunning after making it to the People Magazine’s 100 most beautiful people list in 2006 [#35]). Wendy was definitely a show on her own but the seminar wasn’t bad at all. Former hackers turned G-men and RCMP crime busters were on the podium sharing their experiences , both from the conman and G-man side of the fence , likewise taking questions from the audience . At one point everyone froze momentarily, instinctively groped for their back pockets and wallets when the security experts hurled an unexpected question to the crowd “ have you ever tried googling your VISA or Mastercard account number ? If it shows up it is likely compromised as hackers may have sold your card number to scammers over the internet . Credit card numbers are sold from anywhere 10 cents to a dollar per number by cyberthieves. “ Everyone was silent, perturbed by the thought that their credit cards may have been compromised. In that brief moment of anxiety, Wendy Mesley turned from Snow White to evil Cruella de Vil for being a bearer of potential bad news 😦 We left sensitized with the importance of awareness and vigilance but at the same time apprehensive with the thought that danger lurks in cyberspace and that as implementors and users of technology we must be one step ahead of the underworld elements when it comes to protecting valuable information.
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What’s In A Name ?

Do you like your name ? I don’t like mine but I won’t kill my parents for giving me a unique name. In fact my name could be easily mistaken for a girl’s name but I could take it as a positive, when people who haven’t heard or met me would send me an email thinking I was a woman. A dose of extra respect wouldn’t hurt 🙂 Hey, unisex names are a fad nowadays – Kelly, Taylor, Alexis to name a few.

The excitement one could undergo in life is the ritual of finding a name for his/her child. Expectant parents would spend hours mulling over a long list of names with their meanings while others could make up their minds in a jiffy, naming their child after a loved one – a grandparent, an uncle – or a celebrity, a favorite saint, a historical figure perhaps ( God forbid not Hitler).  I never look down on a guy’s name as ugly, wimpy unless he is named Sue 😆  That would be recipe for disaster, a life long curse given by his parents. The poor boy would would be subject to unceasing, perennial jeering until adulthood. I know of a boy nicknamed Pinky who I played a lot when I was in primary school. I never saw him for years but I’m quite sure he had changed his nickname by now 🙂  What’s in a name ? Does it have an effect on how people respect and treat you ?

OFW’s

Why is it that in countries that permit OFW’s ( Overseas Foreign Workers), Indians and Filipinos dominate ? Here’s an answer. In the case of Indians, where a typical province would average some 48 million residents, more than the population of Australia or Canada, sending people to work out of country might be a good idea to fee up some real estate 🙂 As for Filipinos, the country seems to have given up on upgrading its economic infrastructure to provide employment and content on sending people abroad to work. Whatever the reasons are, Indians and Filipinos seem to be more adventurous people. No wonder they find each other’s company anywhere where jobs are for the taking.