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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Moving on

This morning, I was so enticed by one blogger who has moved his blogs to WordPress that I tried it myself and had the process figured out. It was just awesome to see how the entire blog being transferred from one site to another. Really neat! We owe it to technology and to the internet savvy guys who work hard (and get highly paid!) for this marvel in communication.

I can blame it to my indolence in learning another blogging process, but perhaps, WordPress is just too “techie” for me, unlike, where blogging becomes uncomplicated and trouble-free. It is like voting for Nokia or Sony Ericsson. And I choose Nokia because Sony Ericsson, just like WordPress, is not user-friendly (and I mean it!). WordPress users reading this must be brewing with anger by now. Don’t push your button yet. This is not going to be a technical debate on which blogging technology is better.

Read on….

Our behaviors and actions all boil down to familiarity of doing things. We get accustomed to places, objects, people, events, time, hobbies and what-have-you’s. While I am more of a Rogerian fan because of his concept on Self-Actualization, Burrhus Frederick Skinner was right. Behavior becomes a function of conditioning. We can learn a certain behavior if we are presented the appropriate stimuli and rewarded accordingly. It is a good thing that his Operant Conditioning theory also tells us we can unlearn them, which gives us hope to change for the better or take on a different course that is not within the confines of our security blankets.

For the past months, I have been busy looking for a next job in anticipation my consulting work coming to an end. I am a family man and I have to plan things ahead. My consulting work in one project has just ended today.

Last week, I pulled out the last equipment that I needed to turn over for custodianship. A few weeks earlier, I pulled the pieces of furniture out, realizing that that seemingly perfunctory task of pulling out each piece of equipment and furniture from the office is more than meets the eye. It becomes conscious that it had a psychological effect on me—called separation anxiety.

I didn’t know what was eating me. I had an assortment of emotions, actually. Was it because of the loss of a job? Well, I was not apprehensive of that because there would be another job anywhere. In fact I was just hired yesterday. Was it because of the memories of my wards? They are stored anyway. I can always retrieve them in the CPU that is my brain. Even the laughter, poignant moments, our petty and serious quarrels, and special and ordinary mundane events are still vivid in my mind and in the CDs where I stored their photos.

Perhaps it was my first time to close down a project—and alone at that! Two years ago, I went ahead of those who closed another project where I was involved, that is why I never had that feeling of actually going through the matter-of-factly and symbolic closing of the doors behind me. At least, they had each other to lean on as they all witnessed the office doors being closed and locked for the last time. There was no turning back—only moving on.

The project has become special as I was able to give it a significant part of me. But I have to let it go and move on. This is mushy but I would admit that the people I met have taken so much space in my heart. But I have to “zip” them to free some space inside, and just move on.

Just like transferring my entire blog to another hosting site, I would also be relocating to another work, where I will learn new behavior and way of doing things and establish relationships. Some parts may be lost just like how I customized my header, sidebars, links, and widgets, but more important is the fact that the vital part of me stays, and willing to be moved. In a few days, I will be hosted by another company. I will be wearing a different header, I will also customize my sidebars and establish new links in order to effectively relate to the people I would work with, but I would still be bringing my own way of thinking, my feelings, learning from life the way I observed and experience it, and I still should be able to share whatever bric-a-brac about life may come my way.

This entry is also posted at: PinoyBlogoSphere

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Spotlight Mindanao Blogs: A unique blog contest

For those who are interested in Mindanao, and blogging about Mindanao, may join the contest.

Check the details HERE.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Caught in a red tape

I received a morning greeting which says: “Sana maganda ang araw mo.” Sadly though, I do not have a good day! It is because I simply am pissed off from head to toe.

Who would not? Here is the reason why:

I am moonlighting in one of the institutions where I do a study. Some of the information I need can be found in my previous work. Expecting that my name still rings a bell among my former colleagues in my previous work (a private institution) or name dropping our former boss (who requested this information) would do the trick. So I got in touch with the point person, and expected that being one of them in the past or pakikisama would make it easier for me, so that I would not have to go through the formalities of sending an official letter, and so on. The information I was asking them was not exactly a public document. However, I believe that, practically, it becomes a public document once you work with the public. I was just asking them some information on the progress of their anti-poverty program.

It was just so upsetting when the point person told me to write a letter to their boss. So I made a draft letter to be sent by my client. But my client deems it would be unnecessary. Being a colleague in the same industry, he called the “smaller boss” who told the former that we can go directly to the “boss” of the point person.

Ecstatic with this development, I immediately called the “boss” today, but unfortunately, he is not around. As a usual recourse and not waste my celfone load, I told the lady who answered my call about my objective, who in later turned me over to another lady. Again, I narrated the “historical account” why I called their office, only to be told she could not decide on the matter because only the “boss” can decide. The best action would be to talk directly to the “boss” so I asked for his mobile number, but she refused to give me the number and reasoned out that her “boss” does not take calls from unknown callers. Duh! Again, I asked for the “boss’” direct email address so I can thoroughly explain my request. With some reservations in tone of her voice, she gave me the e-mail address. So back to square one—write an official letter, albeit not to the “big boss” anymore (which is, at least, one step further).

I do not know when the “boss” would reply to my e-mail. The first informal e-mail I sent to the point person was left unanswered. Would the "boss" do the same to me (being an "unknown person")? What are e-mail addresses for, anyway? Again….duh!

This experience is a far cry from NEDA’s efficiency and high concern for client relations. To think that it is a government agency, which is supposedly to be bureaucratic, I immediately got a response from them. A section chief whom I talked to even gave me a snack during our short meeting, personally accompanied me to different departments just to look for the information I needed, and gave me other names and numbers of contact persons in other agencies and partners where I could get some information I need. Sweet life!

And here is the lesson for the day:

Bureaucracy and red tape is not the monopoly of the government. Now that government agencies are always under the watchful eye of the discerning public, they are always trying to become more efficient and effective in their delivery of services. Primarily because they owe the public.

I feel sorry for private institutions, which are not bound by any civil obligations. The least they could do, I think, is uphold their moral obligations, especially when their intention is to work for and with the poor. What if the information I requested from them is a matter of national security or of life and death? We would all be ashes by now.

Sometimes, private institutions must also learn from government agencies when it comes to reducing red tape.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Would you like to be exiled to Dapitan?

Figure it out: What was it like to be deported and exiled 115 years ago, when there were no telephone, malls, family, friends and just going there would take you days? And your only link to the world was through a snail mail, which perhaps you could not even depend upon because you fear that, perhaps, the Spaniards were prying into your letters to Josephine Bracken or Ferdinand Blumentritt.

Being deported and exiled to Dapitan (which is even within the Philippines) at that time was, perhaps, an already mind-boggling experience. I would also surmise that it was already a brutal and severe punishment to anybody who would be filibustering against Spain. More than a punishment, the Spanish friars isolated Rizal in that remote town in Mindanao and tried to nip the bud, thinking that he would keep his mum and not be able to lift a finger on the burgeoning rebellion of Filipinos against Spain.

But Rizal must have been laughing at the Spanish friars then. I myself would do the same. The people are nice. The place is clean. The environment is just loveable--even up to this day, 115 years after. Rizal was just so clever that instead of sulking in his nipa hut and wallow in misery for his deportation, he kept himself occupied with so many things to use up his supposedly idle time.

For an urbanized person like him, he would surely find himself having a difficulty adjusting. But reading historical notes about his exile, and having experienced Dapitan myself for a number of times, Rizal never had a hard time communing with the Dapitanons.

Perhaps, one of the reasons why Rizal [supposedly] enjoyed his exile in Dapitan, (aside from the fact that he busied himself in community development--was he also a development worker like me?), is the fact that Dapitan is a beautiful place. Aside from the beautiful landscape, lush vegetation, fresh and mouth-watering seafoods, and warm and amiable people, one of the best things about Dapitan is its sunset.

In one of my trips to Dapitan, and after enduring an equally delightful boat ride to and from Selinog Island (or Dapitanons say Sulinog) we took some refreshment in one of the restaurants along the beach where we also held a short meeting about our recent trip on how we could further develop the community in the island. In the middle of the meeting, I was in awe with what I saw—the sunset was so colorful and beautiful that I ended up calling for a break just to record the scenery in my camera.

Rizal’s favorite spot in Dapitan was the Mi Retiro rock. And just like Rizal, I could imagine myself every afternoon, sitting on the Retiro Rock and waiting for the sunset.

I consider Dapitan to be one of the most livable cities in the country and if I have my way, I would definitely live there longer than Rizal did for four years.

Photo I took in the middle of a meeting at a seaside resto in Dapitan

Playing dogs at dusk

Rizal's House in Dapitan

Backtrack: In July 1892, Rizal was deported to Dapitan due to his implication in the nascent rebellion againt Mother Spain. His exile, however, was not put to naught by keeping himself busy building a school, a hospital, water supply system, engaged in farming and horticulture. He also taught science to his pupils.

On July 31, 1896, Rizal left Dapitan with a heavy heart. As aptly puts it:

As the steamer pushed out into the sea, Rizal gazed for the last time on Dapitan waving in farewell salute to its kind and hospitable folks and with a crying heart filled with tears of nostalgic memories. When he could no longer see the dim shoreline, he sadly went to his cabin and wrote in his diary: "I have been in that district four years, thirteen days, and a few hours".

This month of July marks the 115th anniversary of Rizal's exile in Dapitan.

This blog entry is also posted at: PinoyBlogoSphere and Mindanao Bloggers

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Securing the future

My father left us a small parcel of land which we alternately till. When our father passed away two years ago, I was the first to volunteer to manage it, putting my hard-earned money to venture into farming.

To my dismay, however, the farm yielded so low. I feared that I would not recoup my expenses. Luckily, however, I had more than a thousand as profit which I willingly gave to my cousin who directly managed the farm. Since I am not a risk-taker, I did not invest any money in the next cropping cycle. It was a tragic experience.

A year after, my sister, who I think is a better farmer than me, took over. Since she had more time to spend in the farm, she was able to observe how the production went and what the technical problems were. She found out the the soil was highly acidic that caused the low yields in the past years. I was just unlucky that I had to bear the consequences when it was my time to till it. For decades, the farmlot has been a willing recipient of inorganic fertilizers, that slowly caused it to succomb to its natural death--giving little yield to any crop that would be planted.

After the soil analysis, my sister applied lime to balance the pH level of the soil. It was also a time when my wife met Prof. Ernie Gonzales who was working for a foundation that helps farmers in Mindoro to shift to organic farming. He developed a concoction or an organic fertilizer, which we availed and applied to our farm. It was some sort of expriment by dividing the farm into three experimental conditions: (1) with lime treatment, and inorganic fertilizer, (2) only with lime treatment, with organic fertilizer from Prof. Gonzales, and (3) with no lime, but with organic fertilizer.

The result was remarkable. The treatment of the soil acidity resulted to better yield. Conditions 1 and 2 almost have the same yield, while Condition 3 showed progress in terms of treating the acidity of the soil and was also promising in terms of yield.

So what does this tell us?

I do not like to dwell on the implications of imperialism on agriculture since we already know the fact that commercial inorganic fertilizers do nothing but harm to the ecosystem. What is more important should be our action to promote organic farming and help bring our farms come to life and eventually save the ecosystem. With this, we would be able to secure our environemnt for the next generation. It does not take an advocacy program of Prof. Gonzales to convince us to adopt organic farming. As a development worker, and an advocate of sustainable development myself, I should practice what I teach.

Post Script: During his visit last April, I told him, how good it felt be visited by a development worker like him. We are a family of development workers and it is always a noble and humbling experience to be visited and assisted by another development worker and being given assistance. Photo shows my son (in red sando) and my nephew during their photo-op with Prof. Ernie.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pristine Selinog Island

Pristine Selinog Island
My friends who saw this photo were always asking me where on earth is this beach.

I would say that this is the best beach I have seen so far. Even the famous Boracay Island could not compare to its pristine and crystal-clear water. The downside, however, is that the island does not have fresh water and the community thrives on rainwater. During the summer months, they have to fetch water either from Dapitan City or the nearby Apo Island in Negros Oriental.
The small community lives on fishing, some crops, sari-sari store, and salt-making, which happens to be one of the alternative livelihood projects under the "Zamboanga Peninsula Upland, Lowland and Coastal Resources Management Program" that I handled a few years back through the Philippines-Canada Development Fund. The salt-making projects was managed by a local fisherfolk association and supervised by the City Agriculture Office of Dapitan City.

This is Selinog Island Beach--2 hours by boat off the coast of Dapitan City.

Selinog Island, view from the plane. I took this after we took off from Dipolog City.
The island from afar. Are we there yet?

Almost there!
Off the boat, at last!

The lighthouse at the other side of the island facing equally captivating Apo Island in Megros Oriental

This blog entry is also posted at PinoyBlogoSphere and Mindanao Bloggers

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At 7400 feet

At 7400 feet
Originally uploaded by Ding's Inkblots
It was my second time to pass through the Halsema Highway in Benguet where we can find the highest point of the Philippine Highway System.

The first one was 16 years ago, when Halsema Highway was still a dirt and rocky road and only the marker and cogon grass were visible in the area. I had no camera with me then that is why I promised myself that I should have a picture when I have the chance to travel through Halsema Highway again.

Now, there is a view deck, which is at the left of the photo, and a few stores left and right.

Sad to say, I liked it better then when the place was more rustic and reaching the point would seem a conquest for every Fillipino traveller. The road then was really bad. Nonethless, progress has taken its steps in this part of the Philippines and is a breeze passing through it. Although development has a drawback. See what have they done to the great view with the sari-sari stores and souvenir shops along the road.

With me were Joyce and Sharon from the Peace and Equity Foundation (Joyce and Sharon) and Vince from the Advocates for Philippine Fair Trade, Inc.

After two hours we were in Mt. Data to attend the launch of the First National Weaving Congress.

(Photo courtesy of Vince's camera because I was running out of batteries then.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I see a lurking devil!

"Tell me what you see in this figure," I once asked when I administred this projective technique test to one of my subjects when I was in college. Yes, we call our participants, subjects, in Experimental Psychology and Psychological testing [and we feel like we are the "Royalty". Smile!].

After the test, I had to put some meanings to what he said, by tagging his responses with some codes that have corresponding meanings. If they see a furry animal, "fur" corresponds to a "tag" and a meaning. If my memory serves me right, a "fur" is either a fear or an affection, depending on the nature of the response--it has something to do with relationships. It is either you have strong affection for your loved ones, or you fear about your parents or someone in authority.

If the Rorschach inkblot test was meant to dig deeper into your personality, they now experiment to make use of this to help us "adjust" in the more mundane tasks, like remembering passwords.

Here is an interesting article about the use of inkblots in remembering passwords.

And you might, as well try the test below the article and come up with your new password.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Human Tetris--anyone?

I still remember when Tetris was the "IN" thing and you just feel completely "obsolete" and left out if you don't have this handheld game.

I was browsing in Yahoo and found this video. Looks like silly game but fun!

Watch this video.

This blog entry is also posted at: PinoyBlogoSphere

On dead wife and "Antipolo States"

I came across one blog that really tickled my funny bone. It is the blog of Francesca who lives in France. One of her blog entries talks about two letters, which I find really outrageously hilarious!

The letters say:

Dear Francesca,
My American boyfriend's wife died two days ago. My bf said, he would file a divorce so that we can marry. Can I marry him even he is not yet divorced? How long can we get married if his wife died two days ago ?

Pamplona, Iloilo

Dear Francesca,
I am filing my papers to pass to US Embassy this week. My American bf kept on reminding me that I must put the "State" where I am presently living. I live in Antipolo, Philippines like you, and would like to ask if I can put Antipolo States as my address? My bf insist that I should do. He live in California.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trying out on scrapbooking

Scapbooking has become so popular these days, that almost all bookstores seem to be filled with cutesy thing-a-ma-jigs about scrapbooking. There are even TV shows featuring this form of arts and crafts.

I wanted to make one, basically to store the prints of my photos. Disappointingly, however, I have no plenty of time to spare specially that I am busy working on some reports.

Finally, I tried to have a hands-on on scrap booking when I was forced to help my son make his "prayer book" which was given as an assignment in their religion class. His teacher told them they should make their prayer book really neat and beautiful. So, I thought, making a scrapbook-like prayer book would be a nice idea.

There are still plenty of photos to be organized into a family album. Just had no time to put them all together. Plus, I still have to edit photos stored in some CDs before I could print them. My wife and I planned to put these photos into something like a scrapbook. Again, if time permits.

But then, I was forced to make one for my son. The 6-page prayer book, a la scrapbook, took me 3 hours to do. Not bad considering it was my my first time to make one. And my two sons were just too eager to help, especially when I started burning the sides of paper where I printed one of the prayers or when I made a frame out of a special hand-made paper I bought from NBS.

Perhaps, I could make this into a profitable venture like what my friend, Jewels does. After all, I still have my artistic juices, I think.

Not a bad idea at all!

Monday, July 16, 2007

That "faith-full" July 16 Earthquake

I WAS ABOUT to close my browser but I shocked to learn that Japan has been hit by an earthquake. Read more about this news.

On July 16, 1990, I was in La Trinidad, Benguet serving as one of the Guidance Counselors in San Jose High School. The second year high school history teacher was not able to have his class that day and it was a common practice in the school to make the students busy. With no other teacher to pitch in his class, I did a homeroom activity instead.

One of the topics of the homeroom activity was "faith". In giving my synthesis during the processing, I shared what my theology professor taught us back in college:

"That faith like riding a jeepney going to school, without the fear or paranoia that you will be mugged or meet an accident."

Then I gave my example:

"It is also like sitting here in this classroom that you will not even think that that concrete beam right above you would not fall right this moment."

The sophomore class understood what I said and they shared the same, and so we ended up our emergency homeroom class at 3:00 PM. Immediately after, I went to the Guidance Office in the third floor. There, I met several seniors who seem to have a penchant for the Guidance Office and made it their tambayan.

Before I could even sit , I heard a loud and disturbing rumbling noise from a distance. We were 100 meters from the highway, and the thought of a roaring Peterbilt truck would not be a possibility. (Benguet Corporation have huge Peterbilt trucks for their mining operations). The roaring and rumbling sound became louder like a huge Peterbilt coming closer. We all asked: “Ano yun?!” Before we could figure it out, however, a strong jolt already shook us, making us unbalanced and some to fall on the floor. Then another jolt! Then, we realized it was an earthquake. It was 3:26PM (DST), July 16, 1990.

I immediately ordered everyone to go down and out of the building! But in the second floor, the strongest jolt happened. Everything was swaying, cracking, falling, that even some debris fell on us, and the students and teachers were already screaming. We thought we would be buried alive in that building. We had no choice but to take refuge in one corner infront of the library, not realizing that it had glass panels. We were stuck! And we even saw the librarian trying to keep the book shelves from falling. It was the time when one of the male teachers summoned the librarian to get out of the room. What was more horrible was the fact that there were four pre-school pupils playing infront of the library and were already screaming and crying in fear. But the quake never stopped. So we decided for a moment to cover the kids with out bodies hoping it would protect them and the jolts would stop. It never stopped. Out of instinct, the male teacher and I decided to carry the kids out of the building. With two kids tucked in my arms, constant shaking, and falling debris, made it more difficult to negotiate the stairs. Outside the building, we met the crying, praying and screaming students and teachers on the open ground.

For a while, we thought everyone was fine. Then one girl came to us crying, and told us one of the her friends was left in their room. The strong quakes have subsided a bit. But the aftershocks were still strong to make you fall. We did not waste any time. Together with the male teacher and two senior male students, we went back to the building for a rescue. Apparently, the door was jammed and stuck that made it difficult for the girl to come out. We kicked the door until it opened. Rescuing the girl was more difficult because she was already in a state of shock and kept on screaming. She would not want to come out, so we practically dragged her out of the building. On the open grounds, she lost her consciousness.

The powerful temblor measured 7.7 in the Richter scale and lasted for 45 seconds.

When the aftershocks subsided, the school principal let us go home.

A week later, I returned to the school, and I had goose bumps all over my body with what I saw. The concrete beam which I pointed during my homeroom class, was the only one which fell. Was it foreboding? I fear not. I just thought that I had a more concrete lesson about faith.

I could only look back now, and say this famous line in Baguio once again: "I survived July 16!"

This blog entry is also posted at: PinoyBlogoSphere

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