Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ondoy Heroes

The past weekend, as Typhoon Ondoy ravaged Metro Manila and nearby provinces ,stories of heroism, courage, hope and faith circulated through the grapevine. These stories may seem too incredible to be true, but the fact remains that true heroism arise in times of crises.

In Provident Village alone, i personally witnessed the courage and bravery of many men, average by social standards, destitute by others, putting the safety of others before themselves.

When we opened the gates of the zendo to our neighbours, i saw from my vantage point in waist-high water our village sweepers helping families with their things, escorting them to areas of safety. I saw feuding neighbors assist each other. I saw mansions opening up their homes to poor families seeking higher ground.

Shortly before water engulfed the zen center's second floor, our next door neighbors who sought refuge in the zendo came to us like long lost relatives. The warmth that this group exuded made me believe that we will get through this disaster in one piece.

Young men i never knew before that day consulted with us regarding the best strategy to get to higher ground. Maybe it was divine providence or sheer luck, but our little clique, at least to my mind, was the best equipped to face the challenges of Ondoy. The De Guzman family brought thermal foam and a ladder, the Pinedas brought food. It was as if the universe was consipring to help us get through this experience.

When we were in need of drinking water, rain poured. When we were cold, the rains stopped. Even the little toddler who was with us showed no signs of being affected by nature's wrath. He was laughing and smiling through most of the ordeal. I think that the only time i heard him cry was in the morning when they were minutes away from being resuced by his grandfather.

This experience made me believe that the flood was an equalizer. Rich and poor huddled together on rooftops sharing whatever they had, or braving hunger together. If there was one thing Ondoy taught me, it is that the human spirit is hard to kill, and that filipinos, if they really really set their minds and hearts to it, can break ranks and work hand in hand with one another.

Everyone on the rooftops that day was not a victim: they were - still are - heroes. Their rescillience and resolve to survive made them their own saviors.

Yesterday when i met with the officers of the Zen Center in Katipunan, one of them remarked that i was a hero who saved 21 souls. I don't believe that. There were 21 heroes on our roof alone, and countless others on distant rooftops.

Heroism is just another word to describe a survivor. We managed to survive because we knew that death, a least for that particular moment, was not an option. That is not to say that those who perished are not heroes too. In their effort to fight for their survival, they tried their best, and though they perished as a result, they too are heroes.

Heores abound in times of adversity, trials and tribulations. We are all heroes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Death of a Friend

For the past couple of months, i have been searching Multiply and Facebook for my childhood friend and neighbor. She was one of my close friends when we were still in Project 4. We last saw each other when i was in first year high school when we were still residing in Cubao. We lost contact after that. Today i received a message on Facebook from our other Project 4 neighbor and family friend who told me that my firend Maricar Alcala passed away recently. I did some investigating and confirmed that that she indeed passed away.

Maricar was born in 1975, the year i was born. Her death made me think of my own mortality. It seems i've been losing friends and family members who are younger and healthier than me. But the more i think about it, a circle has no beginning or end. She, and the rest of my loved ones who have gone to their rest will always remain in my heart of hearts.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Homesonic M.O.

I have been receiving many messages on my Multiply account regarding the Modus Operandi of Homesonic. They have elevated their operations from rigged scratch cards to telephone campaigns. Months back, i got a call from INEX Corporation, supposedly a call center for Homesonic, informing me that i was selected by computer raffle to qualify for a free gift and that i have to visit Homesonic in Robinsons East Mall to claim my prize. Little did these idiots know that my father, the late Atty. Onesimo Banares told me of thier M.O. before he died. This company would lure you in with their rigged scratch cards and enticing you to purchase items you don't really need. My mother was almost duped into buying 40k pesos worth of items had my father not intervened and nerely caused a scene.

Now i've been receiving messages of people getting phone calls from made-up companies supposedly representing Homesonic. If you receive a call like this, ignore it. This is a scheme designed to lure you into spending money on items you don't need. Add to that the fact that the items they sell can be bought elsewhere for less price.

I call on all victims of Homesonic to email me at rodel.banares@gmail.com. This kind of modus operandi should be put to a halt. I encourage all to step up shame campaigns versus this company. LET THE BUYER BEWARE OF HOMESONIC!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

lacson drops presidential bid

It's about time! I'm sure by mow Ping knows he has no chance of winning the presidential race. His announcement came a day after former police officer Mancao said he will re-affirm the contents of his affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice earlier this year. Ping has been linked by Mancao to the twin murders of PR Man Bubby Dacer and his driver Manuel Corbito,

Lacson is not the type to give up his ambitions just like that. Ny take is that Lacson is spooked out of his wits with the reopening of the Dacer-Corbito double murders. After all, Glen Dumlao will soon be returning home, presumably to do another Mancao. And he has reason to be nervous. Mancao and Dumlao where once members of Lacson's inner circle.

So that's one down, many more to go in the bid for the presidency in 2010. God help us all.

Tamano's move to Villar camp a welcome development

The move of Atty. Adel Tamano from Erap to Villar's camp is indeed a welcome development. Tamano's wit and intelligence is wasted with the opposition. Erap himself said that Tamano was not with the executive committee of the opposition and is "no loss" to their camp. This shows wishful thinking on Erap's part. Tamano is a big loss to the opposition. They have lost not just a spokesperson but great legal mind. I doubt if Erap can find a suitable replacement.

It seems that many people are jumping from Erap's jeep and jumping onto Villar's horse, which has a better-than-average chance of snagging the top post. Erap is hell bent on returning to Malacanang, although many are saying that he no longer has the power or even the clout to do so.

Tamano will be an asset to Villar's camp, if only the good senator has the foresight to put Tamano to good use. Kudos Villar, Sorry na lang Erap.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Filipino 'foreigner' in Manila

My Dear Friend Jake Aguilar's Article on Philstar.com

Outside Looking In By Jerick Aguilar Updated March 25, 2009 12:12 AM

When I called one of my closest friends upon arrival in the Philippines last month, he suggested -- soon after we scheduled a rendezvous to catch up on each other's lives-- that I sign up for one of Carlos Celdran’s “Walk This Way” tours. He said he has joined the “If These Walls Could Talk” tour (a walking tour of historic Intramuros) and he just loved it. Carlos, he said, is an animated tour guide with an unconventional and, oftentimes, comical way of narrating historical and other anecdotal information.

My friend’s father is a Professor of History at the University of the Philippines and he is into history himself, yet he also mentioned to me how he learned new things from Carlos during the tour (and enjoyed other things as well).

At first, I wasn’t interested at all. Whenever I travel outside the Philippines, I am usually on a budget and would rather spend the money on souvenirs and postcards. I oftentimes bring good guidebooks as well as bits and pieces of tourist information printed from websites.

Sometimes, I pretend to be part of a tour group and listen in to what the tour guide is saying. So I don’t normally want to spend money on something that I can avoid paying or things I can have for free. Also, I have been to Intramuros a couple of times already (to watch a play and attend a friends’ wedding).

But a week before leaving the Philippines for Egypt, the same friend called again to ask me if I'd like to join him in Carlos’ “Downtown Express” tour (a stroll through Binondo and Quiapo). Choosing between saving money and spending more time with him, I chose the latter. Before this tour, I believe I had only been to Binondo twice or thrice as a child, so I surmised it would be good to see our Chinatown again at the age of 33.

As for Quiapo, it induces childhood memories of going to Quiapo Church with my parents (with me standing on top of the pew during the Mass). So I told myself why not visit this place once more. Given my initial refusal (or make that, stinginess), these three reasons justified my signing up for the tour.

The walking tour started at exactly 3 p.m. and, as usual, I was late. For some reason, I thought it was “Filipino time” that is always at work anywhere (i.e. an extra 30 minutes or more) but I realized this is not true. While in a taxi going to the meeting place, I saw a group of tourists pass by with my friend among them. I immediately asked the driver to drop me right there and then, paid my exact fare (I said I am stingy), and tried to catch up with them. They just came from Plaza Ruiz, and sure enough, they were following Carlos inside an old building. Here, Carlos recounted how some of the Chinese people at that time “hispanized” themselves to become integrated in the Spanish-colonized Manila.

True enough again, my friend was right about Carlos. He is not your typical tour guide. Maybe it's because of his theater background, but I think it was his enthusiasm, sense of humor, and pizzazz when talking about our history that really attracted me to his tour and gave my full attention to it. He even had props to add more authenticity to his words -- a plate of china hidden in his sling bag that he showed us during his pitch on Chinese merchandise and trade, as well as old photos and various illustrations in a binder that he flipped back and forth during the course of the tour.

Not to give the whole tour away, I found myself taking a lot of pictures in every corner that we visited (which I didn’t realize until I started uploading the photos the day after). This is actually what I always do whenever I'm on vacation – in a new country, that is. I remember how travel mates would just leave me behind because I stay in a place longer than usual – a third of the time enjoying the sights and two-thirds of it using up my digital camera’s memory and battery. And so my friend and I were left behind by the group but Carlos patiently waited for us to catch up with them before he started his next spiel.

If I'm traveling, I usually spend a significant amount of time in local shops, splurging money I saved up by not paying for an organized tour. Since I already paid for the "Downtown Express" tour, I told myself that I should not go shopping instead. That's what I thought because I wasn't able to resist buying several flavors of “hopia” (Chinese pastry) in Ongpin Street; sampaguita essence at the Evangelista Herbalist Market to use as massage oil in lieu of the usual lotion or powder (and I was even thinking of buying “gayuma” or love potion); and candles of different colors representing different wishes beside Quiapo Church. I even spent some money to have my tarot read! (And one of the cards said I'm going to find true love soon – so there's really no need to buy that potion!) In short, I never expected do the "touristy" stuff in my own country.

Overall, I really enjoyed the tour. I had three reasons signing up, and another three for appreciating it – my friend, Carlos, and a new appreciation for Manila. At the end of the tour, Carlos said, “If you cannot change the way Manila looks, you can always change the way you look at Manila.” And of course I did.

I used to hate Manila, especially after coming home to the Philippines after my first overseas trip to Australia when I was 19. I didn’t like the chaos, the noise, and the pollution. But after this tour, I see “life” instead of chaos and hear “survival” instead of noise. (Sorry but I still see the city as very polluted.) By life, I refer to the busy activity in Manila’s streets where it is never boring as there is always something happening; and by survival, I mean jeepney drivers beeping their horns and vendors shouting their wares to passersby struggling to make a living.

My only concern is that my friend and I were the only Filipinos in the group. The rest of them were of other nationalities. Our Social Science teachers have always told us in grade school: “Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan (Don’t be a foreigner in your own country).” I guess, on one hand, most of us are since we don’t know a lot about our history, culture, and heritage. On the other hand, most of us should be "foreigners" in our own country, joining tours, being curious about people and places, and changing our view of a city and gaining a better perspective of the place and of life than the last time we visited it.

Monday, March 09, 2009


This word would make a great title for a movie (meron na ba?). Just a few days ago i was reading in gmanews.tv the news report that Mancao is willing to be extradited back to the Philippines to shed light on the death of PR Man Bubby Dacer. Mancao, mind you, has not mentioned any name yet when lo and behold, Panfilo Lacson called a press conference saying he is afraid that the present government will use Mancao to pin him as the mastermind in the
Dacer-Corbito double slay. Wow! Talk about paranoia! Ping, who was mum about the entire slay case for so many years suddenly speaks his mind. Could it be that there is another reason why he is suddenly reacting to Mancao's exteadition? Could there be a deeper reason behind this paranoia OTHER THAN an allevged plot by the GMA government to pin him to the crime? Hmmm.... fishy-fishy.... I am suddenly reminded of Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it... nobody saw me do it.. you can't prove anything". The last sentence and the rest of the bolg are not necesarily related ha. :D

Friday, March 06, 2009

Farewell, Francis M.

An inspiration to many, Francis M. bade his fans goodbye around twelve noon today. Francis led a very colorful life and he will sorely be missed by the many people who have been inspired by him. I usually watch Eat Bulaga every day with my sister but i failed to watch it today for some reason. When i got the text message that he passed away, i thought it was just a hoax but it was confirmed by a radio report over DZBB this afternoon. Goodbye, Francis. Though your passing will surely leave many with cold summer nights, we will never forget you as a true blue Pinoy who has served the Filipino people well through your music.

Lakas ng kabataan
inspirasyon sa karamihan
pumanaw man ang katawan
di ka mawawala sa aming isipan.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An unexpected visit

I was sifting through my email inbox yesterd morning when i found an email from my best friend Jerick (Jake) dated February 13. He said he wanted to surprise me and so did not inform me in advance that he is arriving in the country. He went to our house to spring his surprise but ended up the one being surprised since we weren't home when he came. So i gave Jake a call yesterday morning and we ended up having dinner wth my sister Rose at Big Buddha in Greenbelt 3. After talking for about two hours we decided to head to Harbor Square for some spirits and coffee. We went to Dencio's which offers a good view of Manila Bay and the city lights that line the bay. Jake is planning to return to the Philippines more often. For those who don;t remember, Jerick (or Jake) Aguilar is the author of the wonderful articles i have been posting on Filipino Migrants oversees. He has another surprise not just for me but for all of us who enjoy his writing, but that's another blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Glimpse of Zen 2009


Hi guys. We will be having the first Glimpse of Zen for 2009 at the Marikina
Zendo of the Zen Center Philippines. The Glimpse is Free and will be
held on February 1, 2009 at 2:00 pm at 31 Saint Claire Street (corner
St. Catherine) Provident Village, Marikina City.

For those who want to know more about zen, you may call me at 4968913
or text me at 09154317097 or you may visit www.zencenterphil.org for
more details.

Have you ever wondered if there is more to life than what we see
happening around you? Do you wish there was a less stressful way of
doing things? Are you looking for a way to achieve more harmony in
your home and workplace?

The practice of zen may provide the answers to these questions. Zen is
a way of life that provides a completely fresh approach to our
day-to-day experiences.

Zen is a journey within that leads to total harmony with one’s self,
society and the universe. Its foundation is zazen, a breath-centered
discipline that helps one silence the mind and the body Zen is a way
of life that helps one to realize the true self.

More info? visit www.zencenterphil.org

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A different Lupang Hinirang Video

I came across this touching video of our beloved National Anthe while surfing through YouTube. According to the source (http://www.youtube.com/user/TotoongTV):
* This rendition of Lupang Hinirang is intended for reflection. It is not meant to replace the official anthem normally played as a march.Recently a talented and nationally known film director, Mae Paner, crafted a new and moving version of our national anthem. This unusual audio visual presentation of "Lupang Hinirang"* has been shown many times in various events and has consistently touched the hearts and minds of viewers to the point of tears of awakening and gratefulness. Because of its consistent positive impact, PAGASA and Ehem! have decided to make this version of "Lupang Hinirang" available nationwide as a reflection piece to trigger a deeper awareness of oneself in relation to the country and encourage the emergence of positive images of the Philippine future. This new partnership of Ehem! with PAGASA is an addition to the existing anti-corruption initiatives of the Society of Jesus. For PAGASA it is a profound convergence with a "like-hearted"initiative grounded in authentic integrity, towards a massive ripple effect of truth-living towards nation building.We are writing to invite you and all the teachers and students of your school to participate in a timely and unprecedented nationwide effort to constructively reflect, through the medium of "Lupang Hinirang," on the present conditions of the Philippines and envision the Philippines of our hopes and dreams. The process we envision is simple and straightforward: *Download the video or email us if you need a copy in DVD format. *Teachers play this version of Lupang Hinirang in their high school and college classes. *They then ask their students two questions: 1) What feelings and thoughts did you experience from viewing the newversion of "Lupang Hinirang?" 2) What positive vision of the Philippines do you now have from this experience? *Teachers then instruct students to form small groups of 5 to share their experiences. *Then the teachers reassemble the whole class and have a conversation with their students regarding their answers. Deep mutual learning and engagement is sure to emerge from this process. *In addition, you and your teachers will choose the best expressions that will arise out of this exercise and these results, combined with results from other schools, will be showcased as the bestreflections and positive visions of the country, as articulated by our youth in the Karangalan Festival in September, which celebrates Filipino excellence.
Details and mechanics of this endeavor will be posted at the PAGASA website by June 15, 2008: www.pagasa.net.ph.