Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Respect Nature Before It's Too Late!

Since the beginning, Man has always been respectful of nature. Everyone worshipped, or at least, respected Nature. No one cuts a tree without affording it the necessary respect. No one kills an animal simply for sport, and only for food.

Such a practice still exists to some form in the bushmen of the Kalahari in Africa, at the least. They don't kill an animal or hunt it the way most of us "modern" people do. They don't kill it outright; instead, they give it the dignity of dying by shooting a poison into its system that will let it breathe its last breaths. They even stalk it for days after shooting the deadly toxin into the animal. Finally, as the animal dies, the bushman apologizes to the animal and explains that it had to be killed to provide food for its family.

However, the rest of the world has forgotten the respect that Nature deserves. Science and even the rise of organized religions have started to label the practices of those that still give Mother Nature an inkling of honor and respect as "heretic," "primitive," "animalistic," "pagan" and even "activist". Christianity, in my point of view, plays a very big part in the degradation and abuse of Mother Nature and Science simply added salt to the injury. For centuries of "enlightened knowledge," Man has endlessly ravaged the Earth that gave him the food that he eats everyday.

Highly ironic, since the Bible specifically tells Man to be the "steward" of His Creation.

"Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the lifestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."" (Genesis 1:26, New International Version)

Instead, we are the destroyers of it.

I somehow think that this disregard for Mother Nature stems from a simple misunderstanding that I think were caused by the teachings of the Christian religion... or perhaps the way its people interpreted and spread the Word.

"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous god."

-Exodus 20:4-5

With the propagation of the Christian religion, Nature-oriented or, say, shamanic forms of worship have been literally stamped out of the Earth. The whole of Europe was converted and, with their migration to the New World and Asia, all non-Christian religions that were based on Nature were stamped out of existence. Here in the Philippines, they virtually destroyed the "pagan" practice of worshipping Bathala (the pre-Hispanic Filipino God that is literally Nature itself) because the Bible told them to. The religion is preserved in history and information only, showing that the Philippine Natives worshipped Nature the way the American Indians and the Bushmen did.

It's kind of ironic if you note that the early people noted in the Bible were Nature worshippers. The offering of meat and vegetables by Cain and Abel, respectively, are marks of Nature worship. They simply had a name for their God, but other forms of Nature worship have names too. These pantheons have since disappeared or disregarded with the rise of organized religion that worshipped a single God with a name, most especially Christianity who aggressively worked to spread itself throughout the centuries.

All because of, as I said, a misunderstanding of that line in Exodus Chapter 20. I’m not a very religious person though I was baptized a Catholic. However, I have recently become a sort of Deist/Agnostic because I disagree with most of the tenets of the Catholic Church. I’ve come to realize that Nature worship is not pagan or devil worship as the stigma made most people who never bothered to research think. Let’s put it this way, God is Nature itself, and Nature is God. Christianity would argue that Nature is not God for a variety of reasons, but that is all because of the misunderstanding of the verse in Exodus. This is also similar to how a religious order here in Cebu argued against me about the difference between meditation and their contemplative prayer, which are essentially just the same thing.

These days, there is really the need for all of us to open our eyes and learn to look beyond the grasp of organized religion and science. Today’s world is tumultous: calamities are abound, the globe is facing a debilitating financial crisis and Nature itself is on the brink of breaking. Remember that Nature itself feeds us from her bosom: we should learn to respect Nature and mend the damage that we have given this world before the natural order of things decide to take over and remove us from this world.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Separation of Church and State

uctIt has been a defining feature in almost every constitution in the world (I don't claim to know all of them) that the Church and the State is always separate. However, this current ruckus between the Philippine Catholic Church and President Aquino's fledgling administration puts this into question.

Aquino has always been a supporter of the Reproductive Health bill, which brought him under criticism from the Catholic Church even before he became president. This criticism continues until his current administration, since none will back down from their own perspectives... which is a good thing. What is not good is when the Church starts to reiterate his position and harass our president with a threat for excommunication.

So this puts into the question the actual separation between Church and State in this country. Just how far can the Catholic Church step into political matters?

This is not the first time that the Church meddled into affairs of state, particularly with the Reproductive Health bill. I remember Church personnel trying to coerce me into signing a petition or something that puts forward its own bill that it wants to lobby into Congress, which was purported to act as an anti-RH bill as far as I remember. I don't know about you guys, but that move is indicative of the Church's willingness to overstep its bounds just to get its way.

So now it wants to scare President Aquino to back down with a threat of excommunication. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't be scared of such a threat. However, I believe President Aquino is a devout Catholic. I'm a professed agnostic/deist, or whatever term defines my beliefs, so that makes both of us very different.

In a wider view, this is yet again another attempt by the Church at exerting its authority over the State. They should grow up, though. Excommunication is a threat that holds gravity back during the Renaissance and the years before it. No longer can the Vatican use excommunication or even the Inquisition to assert its authority, but it is entirely possible that the Philippine Catholic Church along with the ultra-conservative administration of Pope Benedict XVI will try a lot more things.

To be fair, the Catholic Church's position is based on its dogma, on which the RH bill breaches by encouraging promiscuity. However, the RH bill goes beyond just that: it is the government's responsibility to make sure that everyone gets the right services like health care, housing and other help it can extend to the members of our society particularly the marginalized sector.

Without proper family planning, it will be tough to do that because our population will balloon without control. The government then will have too much on its hands and, by theory, the RH bill can help alleviate that by providing for artificial means of birth control. Let's face it, the natural rhythm or calendar method is not known for its effectiveness in family planning. But hey, it does encourage abstinence probably why the Church so favors this one.

Well, in my point of view, I believe that the public has the right to choose what it believes to be the right form of birth control. By suggesting that people should be limited only to the natural rhythm method, I think the Church is simply increasing the risks and dangers of uncontrolled population control can bring.

That's the Church's prerogative. However, I believe it doesn't involve it starting to get involved in affairs of the State which unfortunately have to consider more than the religious aspect when it comes to decision-making. Go to Mass one of these Sundays; I believe chances are some priests will be blatantly preaching against the RH bill and by extension our president when they should concentrate on explaining the Word to the devout.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Funny How Life Works in Patterns

Like I mentioned before, my life has always been ruled by patterns. I look at patterns to try and find out what I could do, or how to fix a problem that has been existing, or even simply just to identify something without even doing anything about it.

I just remembered this today while I was washing clothes outside. When I was a kid, I used to play with the flow of water by using two buckets to alter their flow from the faucet to the pail. I would use one bucket to slow down its fall, tilt it towards the second bucket which was I placed below, and watch them fall in the flow that I induced down to the pail.

I guess, since childhood, I already had the inherent desire and perhaps even the raw skill to manipulate things in my favor. I love to induce an influence in the pattern and see how it affects the entire picture. I love to make scenarios inside my head, and plan what to do with it just in case it happens to me, and also how to avoid such a disaster unless I feel like it has to happen.

However, I rarely make any actual manipulations. One such time I used it was in 2004 when I manipulated my mother along with my neighbors so that I can find out a secret about a girl in this neighborhood. I manipulated the girl herself into believing I want to have a relationship with her, just to know what it is in her mind and whether the rumors about her were true, while working other people into opposing it so she'll split up with me soon after I find out her secret. The other time I used it also was in 2007, in my former workplace although I will not go into details about what I did. However, you can be sure that it's the lesser of two evils compared to the one I did in 2004.

I'm not proud of it what I did, and in my self-assessment in later years, it has led me to become disgusted with myself. Sometimes I couldn't help but think that I am a danger to the society and perhaps to myself, as I am there are a lot of things that even my "three steps ahead" foresight cannot predict. However, it's here and I cannot change it; the only way I can do it is to find out how I can use on a positive note. At least, I could say I did something good with what I have.

Now, people always say there's something random a person is bound to do every once in a while. However, I think so otherwise. For me, there's nothing random about this world. Each one of us follows a pattern that dictates our actions. As you could see in history, world wars happened because of a certain pattern that eventually led to the full event. That's still the same with our lives: there is what they call destiny, but for me destiny is simply something that our pattern of actions have taken us to. For one thing, each individual action we make is also a result of patterns: our thought patterns. Our thoughts drive us to do one thing and then we do it. I don't even think it's an issue of attitude: it's simply thoughts

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Intuitive Aptitude

When I was a kid, I used to be so inquisitive. I would ask questions incessantly (to the chagrin of my paternal grandmother), and keep on asking until I'd arrive at a conclusion. That, of course, is normal and perhaps even important for a growing child.

However, as I grew up, I learned to be diligent at researching on topics that I loved the most. Of course, it's not saying that I didn't have the chance to play with other kids. Of course I did. However, by age 8 -- perhaps after an incident where a big kid bumped against poor small me and threw me literally several feet away which resulted in a big gash in my head -- I started to develop an interest on reading and research. I played less and less. Instead, I spent a lot more time in the library.

From the moment we are dismissed, I would run away with my handy notebook and enter the library. There I would research all the information and books that the library had about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were the first ever topic that I had interest for. Well, it's been years though, and all I can remember about the 'saurs are their names. I used to remember which ones lived in the three periods of their existence -- Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous -- but now I couldn't. I'm certain though that Tyrannosaurus Rex lived during the Cretaceous period because it is where the bigger carnivores started to evolve.

Anyway, that's beside the point. The point is, from age 8 I would still play with other kids, but this time while playing I started to just observe them and wonder how their minds worked. I realize there has always been this raw curiosity that I had about people, and I believe that's what drove to become more reclusive and unresponsive to people. That's because I was just observing, a trait that I carried on until now, and a trait that has saved my skin a lot of times.

As time passed, there developed inside me a hunger. It's this hunger to understand everything, and as a result I would try to research about everything I wanted to learn so that I can understand that something. I spent most of my adolescence being buried in books. This time, the military was my pet. I read all about the militaries in the world: their armament, their histories, their tactics, almost everything. I was so interested in it that I managed to memorize the vitals of the M16A1 assault rifle -- information which I have forgot for now but I can certainly refresh it.

Everything came to a hiatus when I was in college. At this time, I enjoyed myself while of course still excelling at school. I am a graduate of Information Technology, a feat that now I can attribute to my tendency to recognize patterns within complicated structures and to understand how each pattern works within the entire system. That way, I can manipulate the flow and find out where something is wrong so I can fix it. This is something that has been so useful to me when programming, because you need to understand the flow and its components, in this case the commands that the language uses to speak to the processor.

Perhaps programming nurtured that skill, or it has been there before. All I know is, it's here now. After college, when I had nothing else to become busy with but work, the hunger returned.

Now, why choose the title? It's just because this is the base ability that Sylar has in the series Heroes. I don't claim to have that particular ability, but it comes rather close in describing how my mind works most of the times. Sylar recognizes patterns within a system, and that's how he understands things. It's called intuitive aptitude because he learns by himself, using his intuition. That's how he was able to fix watches by just listening to them; the sound of the clocks and watches are symphonies that indicate the movement of each part in the whole music. That's also how he copies other people's powers; he studies their brain and finds the connection, then he activates it within his own brain.

Well, that's far fetched and I certainly wouldn't say I am that advanced. However, it's quite tempting to try. This is the hunger that Sylar warned Peter about, and the hunger that somehow manifests itself within me. Each time I see something that I don't understand, I always have this drive to know more, to understand it fully. When that hunger is satisfied and I finally understand, it suddenly becomes boring and I look for something else.

Take my interest in martial arts for example. I was so interested in them before, but when I started taking up swordsmanship, I understood the patterns common to every martial art and I suddenly became bored with it. Of course, I still practice and analyze martial arts in my free time, but I no longer have that feeling of awe I used to have when watching Jet Li and Jacky Chan bash the hell out of their enemies. I can visually follow through their movements now, since I already understand what lies behind each move.

Just lately, I've started to practice controlling that hunger for understanding. One example of this are the whirlpools of Liloan. When I saw how many whirlpools there are in Suba Channel and the fact that it only occurs on the seaward side of the Channel, I started to become curious and wonder how that comes to be. The curiosity is worsened when I saw a similar phenomenon in the river near my home; it was caused by water passing through a gap between two rocks. I almost started asking Liloanons around what lies exactly beneath that part of the channel, but I stopped myself because it would lower my appreciation for the Channel.

Some people both in my family and others comment on how quickly I pick up on things and how they wish their children would have that aptitude. As for me, I surely hope my children don't inherit this. I don't want them to go through the headaches I have to go through knowing that I cannot act this way or that since I already see what would happen; as a result, I became guarded and always wary of people. It also frustrates me especially when people don't understand what I am trying to say, and that I can't do anything because they don't learn as quickly as I do. I don't want my children to go through that same ordeal, because I want them to grow normally.

Well, some people still don't understand what I go through. That's fine with me. You can't please everyone. But in case, anyone's curious... life for rent, anyone? Lol.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Looking Inside a Person's Heart

Have you ever had the experience of talking about your problems, and then someone butts in and says, "You know that problem of yours is so small compared to mine...." or something like that.

That for me is a case of insensitivity. You know why? No one can really understand the emotional depth of what a person goes through. You can only give advices as to the context of your experiences. Do not ever try to compare someone's problem to yours because you can never tell how it affects a person emotionally. Yes, you might mean well when say that. You are surely encouraging that person when you say that, but you are giving a message that you are comparing yourself to him or her. But, no, nobody understands anything until they feel it for themselves.

You can only give a comparison, in an attempt for him to understand that he can make it through such a problem. You are trying to tell him that his is not the only problem in this world. However, the way you can say it can affect the person.

All of us has this instinct of thinking that we are all above everyone else. Our problems are bigger than anyone else. In case of conflict, our perceptions are above the other party. It rarely happens that someone tries to weigh what he says against the possible reception of the other party. What if the other party feels that you are belittling his problem? In keeping up with the context above, you are giving the person the perception that his problem is so small that it is not even worth thinking about. You are lucky if that person has such an open mind, but it rarely happens for someone who is in emotional turmoil.

What these people need is someone to listen to them, and not someone to lecture them about how small their problems are or how easy they are to solve.

As for my own experience, people wonder why I'm so cynical or so pessimistic about the whole world. Truth is, I'm not pessimistic. It's the way I act, or the way I say it. But I am not pessimistic. The world is such a big place to give judgment to. It's not in my rights nor is it in my capacity to be able to give judgment as to who is right or who is wrong. I tell them something about my experiences, and they are so quick to make comments. What they don't understand is that there may be something else beyond the revelation that a person makes. He may be hiding something, something he is not comfortable about revealing.

As for myself, they really don't know what I've been through. Everyone knows about my family, but they don't really what are the other experiences that led me through what my personality is. I've since come to terms that everything happens because they need to, but what I really hate are those persons that judge right away without knowing what a person has been carrying after all those years. Everything in this life follows a sequence. Everything leads to something.

For one, have they ever thought what it feels to be leading someone into danger when all I've ever did was to take them with me because I thought would be safer? I was in fourth grade then. Some first graders followed me, and I thought they would be safer because I was around as someone older. I admit I was wrong for taking them with me, but at that time, I was only thinking about what would happen to them if I was not around. But what happened is that their parents complained that I dragged their children with me when all that happened was that they followed me. I did not drag them! What's worse is, the guidance counselor did not believe me. She sided with the parents because I was just a kid. How can I fight with that? My mother beat my ass black and blue because of that. But how can I fight with that?

That's why I truly hate it when someone follows me around. Deep inside, I still fear the same episode even now... 15 years later, I still feel the same fear inside of me.

Then in the same year, someone from my level ran into trouble with his own gang. He told me to tell the other side that they should meet and fight. So gullible back then, I did what I was told. Lunchtime, I was eating my fill when someone told me I need to go to the guidance counselor because I incited them to fight. I defended myself, saying that I did not incite them and that it was their own doing, but nobody believed me. What's worse, the guy who incited everything exposed the other members of his own "gang" and they all believed I was the one who exposed them even though I didn't even know the fuck they were. Have they even felt what it was like to be framed for something you did not even do?

It caused me to hate the world for more than a decade; it took me quite some time before I even trusted someone. The only persons I ever trust number only to a few, even until now.

Mine is not a very big problem. However, in my side, at that time it had been very big. It isn't so big now because I've learned from it. I've been able to use my experiences to mold myself into a person that has been better than what they were back then. If they had changed for the better, then kudos, good for them. I'm glad for them. At least they wouldn't be hurting other people anymore.

The point here is, before you make a comment, think about what the other person feels. Think about the pain he's going through. Don't be judgmental; I've been that way before, and it didn't bring me any good. You don't know what a person is going through. Sometimes it's even better to just keep quiet and let a person express what he feels. Advices don't mean anything most of the times, but companionship does.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Popularity vs. Obscurity

Since I was young, I've always been curious as to how it is to be popular among the masses. This could be thanks to the media; it seems very comfortable and glamorous to be rich and popular. However, as I grew up I realized I don't like being popular at all: I'd prefer to be obscure.

For example, there have been a lot of things that I could take credit for. The event I organized during the previous fiesta here is one thing; the many students I've helped finish their thesis are another. There have been a lot of other things that nobody except myself and those involved know about; I rarely talk about what I achieve. Sometimes I make up tall tales just for the hell of it, but that does not happen often except when I'm truly drunk and I seem to want to do that to entertain my friends and drinking buddies.

However, all the things I've done that could have made me popular, I've intentionally buried them.

The truth is, I hate the spotlight. I hate being scrutinized for what you do; I hate being pressured by other people. They don't have the right after all and, even though most people would consider it a challenge, I consider it a waste of time to persevere just to please other people. If I do make great efforts it's not for the approval of others; it's for my own approval and I don't care really what other people may say.

When I was younger, however, I balanced on a thin line: pleasing myself and other people because I didn't want anyone disapproving of my actions. However, it was something I wasn't happy with. After a while, it turned out that I was already teetering towards living my life for other people and it wasn't good. I wanted to live for myself, and I've barely begun.

Finally, I've always wondered why people are so attracted to you when you try to shut yourself off from them. Just this year, I've realized why: they're curious about you, and will always try to get into your personal bubble. You're fresh meat, figuratively speaking. Once they've found out what they want to find out about you, the interest wavers and then they start to leave.

That's why I've always preferred to have a small yet intimate group of people I call friends. It's quite melodramatic to have one big group of friends but yet so few of you understand each other. For me, it's just coming together because they need someone to be there for them. Along the way they forget their own strengths as they become overly reliant on their friends emotionally. They end up sucking each other's life forces by continually running and whining over to each other even with very small and trivial matters they consider big. That almost happened to me, but thank god I've learned in time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Antonio Pigafetta - A Forgotten Memorial

I was in the Cebu Post Office today to check on a package that has been sent to me from the US. It was the sustain pedal I bought in eBay, and they shipped it using USPS. Good thing I researched on it, or else I would've thought my package got lost with my money gone in the air. That's how inefficient the Philippine Post Office is; they should've called me and notified me of my package but they didn't.

Anyway, it was only yesterday that I noticed the neglected statue in front of the Post Office. I thought it was Ferdinand Magellan, but I noticed the quill he was holding and concluded before I even got close that it was Antonio Pigafetta. I was right, it was him. Up close, i noticed how derelict the statue is, and I think it's sad. Here it was, supposedly part of a historical park but it's standing right beside a basketball court.

Perhaps you might wonder why I'm so affected by this, considering Pigafetta was an Italian and a foreigner. The people living or working in that part probably don't even know who the statue was nor care to know about it. Foreigners visiting Fort San Pedro might also overlook this statue, because it is not located where they can see it.

It's quite sad because, like it or not, Pigafetta is an important figure in both world and Philippine history. He may be part of the first Spanish colonizers, that's why most people probably don't care about him. However, it was because of Pigafetta that people of the world and the Filipinos themselves get the first look of how pre-Hispanic Philippines or Cebu was.

It was also because of Pigafetta that we get an account of how technologically advanced Philippines was for its time, although I'll bet most Filipinos have an image of pre-Hispanic Philippines as backward and primitive. Nobody probably knows about the lantaka, and that it was probably used in the Battle of Mactan. I personally can vouch for that; for most Filipinos, the image of a lantaka is a bamboo or tin cannon used during New Year. The lantaka was a firearm; that means our ancestors must have been technologically advanced or had access to such technology by the time the Spaniards arrived. Chances are high that they did; the lantaka was a Malay weapon and Filipinos have had relations with the Malaysians at that time.

Some people actually overlook that, as they thought we got defeated because we did not have weapons as advanced as the Spaniards had. Perhaps some of my countrymen think that Filipinos at that time were similar to the American Indians or the Maori who first fought using bows and arrows. However, the fact that Filipinos had access to weapons made of steel -- the kampilan -- suggest an advanced society. How do we know that? Pigafetta described that in his journals.

Most of all, it is because of Pigafetta that we Cebuanos get a close look at the pre-Hispanic version of our language (I consider Visayan as a language on its own rather than a dialect). Pigafetta had described some words spoken by the natives as they referred to certain items.

For me, it is a sad reality that someone who is so important in history is delegated to some obscure part outside Fort San Pedro where visitors overlook him. Whether we Filipinos like it or not, Magellan and Pigafetta -- next to Miguel Lopez de Legaspi -- are two of the biggest figures in our history. Just because the Spanish colonized us for 333 years, it doesn't mean we should treat the Spanish figures with less importance as we give Rizal, Bonifacio and many others.

Photo copyright belongs to a good friend of mine, Mike Rafael.