Friday, December 31, 2010

fried bean curd and mongo sprouts

this morning i went to visit my wife's family's house. ever since no one had occupied it, we were the ones who were maintaining it. today i have to pay for the utilities and do some cleaning. sweep the yard. pull out weeds. wipe off accumulated dust, just general housekeeping.

when i arrived there i noticed a goat which rope leash is tied to one of the iron bars of the fence. one of the neighbors immediately volunteered an explanation. they will be having a drinking joust in the evening to welcome the new year. they will be serving goat meat.

"if you can stay till we begin the party, i'm inviting you." he said.

"thanks, but i can't stay long," i answered, "and besides i don't eat meat." i looked at the animal and it has a sad look in its eyes. it knows its fate. my neighbors will be welcoming the new year but it won't.

tonight, at home i'll be feasting on fried bean curd, sauteed mongo sprouts, and rice. i have been vegetarian since 1989 when i met my spiritual Master and he advised us to adopt this non-meat regimen. before meeting him, i had tried so hard to refrain as much as i can from eating meat. it is not so much because i'm doing spiritual practices and this is a requirement but more so of having realized that a vegetarian diet is more in accord with my disposition.

to be honest, ever since i slit the throat of the very first chicken i killed, i could not forget the uneasiness. the remorse of having inflicted pain. of terminating life. i saw the hot blood spouting as i held the lacerated neck with my left, i felt its legs kick hard against my right hand, struggling to be free, to flee. it actually kicked so hard it almost escaped my grasp. i saw blood flow out until it trickled to a stop and then slowly i felt the heat from the flesh i'm holding diminish, then sudden coldness, then it struggled no more. how can i eat something that tried to flee from me, that contorted its body, its limbs, as it felt the knife blade cut, as its vital fluid started to seep out?

vegetables, nuts, legumes, and fruits. these are where i get my nourishment now and i am satisfied. and i am not remorseful.

i was mopping the floor of the house when i heard a commotion outside the gate. it's just for a couple of minutes. when i peered through the window, i saw the goat's body lying there. they overhang it's limp neck by the canal so blood will trickle out. i knew it did not suffer much. my neighbors are experts now. soon they will blowtorch the fur on its skin. not even the skin will be spared. they also have a delicacy for this.

 welcoming the new year will be fun. there'd be lots of goat meat served via different dishes.

there will be fried bean curd and beansprouts too.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

true love

i have just had finished feeding both whoopie and chelsea. the new mom had adjusted herself to her new role as nurturer. she is, i believe more relaxed now. she had actually began playing with whoopie again. i decided to sweep the yard again of the fallen leaves. the new year is fast approaching. here in the philippines, the tradition is to welcome the new year with fireworks and fire crackers. literally, with a bang. i don't want a wayward spark to accidentally ignite these dried leaves in my yard.

i was sweeping when i got seized by this sudden realization that another year is passing. time is again fleeting by. and mine, my existence, is also running past. there was this feeling. it was not dread, but more so, of longing, that somehow there'd be an end, and i won't be seeing these anymore -- the cavorting shadows of these two dogs, cast by the brilliant sun above, against the powdery earth; and this majestic avocado tree that showers my yard with leaves of green and brown and gold; the wisps of gray smoke from the leaves i'm burning, rising upwards, upwards to that blue sky overhead, aspiring to join those cottony clouds; the faint scent of leftover dog food; the whining of newborn puppies, eyes still tightly shut; the taste of coffee, very black against the whiteness of this old ceramic cup -- all of these, and more. i felt lonely that things do end. and yet, i know, this is the Grand Design. that all of us will undergo this. we are on a journey through Life and eventually will all be Home.

i looked at the sleeping puppies. one is white. the other brown. their bellies rhythmically rising and falling as they breathe. at peace in their inner world. the sleep of babes. i sat down in front of the storeroom door staring at these new addition to Life. Existence. the two grown up dogs had stopped playing. chelsea entered the storeroom and curled beside the two pups. soon i saw them move towards their mother's breasts. whoopie was beside me now and i felt his wet tongue licking my ear from behind. i ignored him. let him be. i remembered my dead parents, then my wife, my daughter, and all of the people i have loved, in this life...

i hummed an old tune i was blessed enough to compose:

in this world of ups and downs
there is nothing we can hold on for long
for everything changes
everything passes away;
like this lovely flower that grew
it would soon wither and lose its scent
for everything changes
everything passes away;
for only Love
only True Love remains
only Love
only True Love remains
never bending
True Love.

tomorrow, at 12 midnight, i will welcome the new year amidst the fancy fireworks and the popping, and cracking, and the booming of fire crackers, with a silent prayer --

o Infinite! grant us all True Love ...

Monday, December 27, 2010

day 4 home alone

it's been 4 days now since i was left alone at home with chelsea, the first time mom. i'm having an amusing time with her.  i'm really not feeling in any way left out. she and her pups are family too. of course, the father, whoopie, is also family. but chelsea and whoopie are not seeing eye to eye. i tried hard to be a bridge between them but i'm not making any progress.  could it be love lost? could it be because whoopie never tried to be with her when she was delivering the puppies? i was informed she delivered 6 puppies actually but 2 were stillborn, and 1 died a few hours later and which head she chewed. the way i observe whoopie now, how he approaches chelsea, i think he really wants to make amends. it's just that chelsea continually snarls at him.

hmmmm, if only i can understand dogspeak --

grrrr! bow wow bow wow wow wow?  grrrrlllll ..... nope, that's not dogspeak. i saw both whoopie and chelsea looking at me with incredulous eyes -- what on earth is this madman saying?

i was very worried about chelsea the first 2 days. i religiously brought food and water to her but she hardly touched them. well, she is nursing some little ones and she needs to be nourished as well. she just takes a few licks of water and that's it. i tried to experiment with her food. gave her the dog food my brother bought for them. just the plain serving. she didn't eat it. i spotted some milk in the fridge which my daughter bought and served it to chelsea. she  never bothered to look at it. i thought hard. well, she is a lady, a mother now. maybe she wants her food served in a food tray that's spic and span. i grabbed her food dish and water bowl and scrubbed them both till they are without any blemish. i served food again. chelsea just yawned, took a few licks of water and lied down  beside her puppies to nurse them. i gave the food to whoopie who danced around my  legs in utter delight.

the neighbor suggested that since chelsea is nursing, she needs good food to be able to continually produce good milk. she said i should try giving some soup or broth. after work, i dropped by the mall's fastfood center and bought a big serving of milkfish belly with lots of broth. at home, i cooked some rice. i mixed the rice with the broth and mashed the milkfish belly. then i placed a trial serving on chelsea's dish and offered it to her. she loved it. she ate heartily. i gave her another serving. i saved the rest for 2 more servings: before i leave for work at night and when i arrive home the next morning. i've solved the problem about getting her to eat. the next time, i'll cook some corned beef for her and whoopie and i'll make sure to do it with lots of broth.

day 3. morning. i knew i counted correctly when i transferred the puppies to the storeroom area i set aside for them. i cradled 3 fragile puppies in my arms. like the 3 blind mice. but now, as i was serving  chelsea' s food i noticed there were only 2 little ones sucking milk from her. when she rose up to eat, i immediately snuck behind her and approached the little ones. by now, chelsea had grown accustomed to me getting near them. it's just whoopie she snarls at. i frantically looked for the other puppy. i lifted the old towel i used to make a bedding for them. it's not under it. i ran to the house and grabbed my flashlight. i searched hard. could not find it. i sniffed  the air around for some foul smell of decomposing body. nothing. i looked at chelsea and asked aloud, "where is your other pup? " she just whined and nudged the 2 little ones aside and curled beside them. the little ones immediately snuggled to their mom to suck. i asked chelsea again, "where did you take your other pup?" she just whined again and licked the dirt from behind one of her puppies. i noticed both have a thin coat of fur now. the small one is white like chelsea, the big one is slightly brown like whoopie. if only i could understand dogspeak. could a rat have spirited away the third one? did i really transfer 3, i might have counted wrong? could chelsea have eaten this one? later, when i chatted with my wife, she suggested i go look for it again especially in the places chelsea used to frequent. i did not find it.

day 3. night. before i left for work, i delivered chelsea's food and water. i pointed my flashlight at her belly and counted. one, two. white, brown. one, two. brown white. i reminded chelsea, "never leave your pups." whoopie accompanied me up to the gate. i implored him, "be on guard, help chelsea protect the little ones."

 day 4. morning. my work shift had ended. when i reached home, i proceeded to the storeroom. chelsea wasn't there. only the brown pup is lying asleep on the towel bedding. chelsea's food dish is empty.the water bowl is empty. i whistled for chelsea. she came around, whoopie had also awakened , and both are dancing by my feet. both are hungry. "where's  the white one?" i asked them. they're begging me for food. i went inside with their food dish and prepared food for them. soon, both were busily eating. i just changed clothes and went back to the storeroom. one. only the brown pup remains. o Infinite! did i lose another one? chelsea had finished eating and went back inside the storeroom. she circled several times over the bedding i made for them. she sniffed at her brown pup. then, sniffed at the bedding. she's looking for her other pup too. i noticed several bits of plastic bags strewn over the place. it's evident some rat had nibbled at it. that's it! i won't permit the rat to get this last puppy. i decided  to transfer it to the garage. i prepared a place for chelsea and the pup to lie down to. i picked up the brown pup and gently transferred it. now this is a more open space and whoopie will be around to run after unwanted intruders.

i felt terrible while eating. i decided i'll go to the storeroom and search again. when i arrived there i found chelsea frantically pawing the cement floor as if trying to dig something out of the floor. my heart skipped a beat. could it be?  i took off my shirt and proceeded to bring out the stored items one by one from the storeroom. i pointed my flashlight to each nook and cranny. there were only a few items left in the storeroom and still nothing. all of a sudden, chelsea bacame agitated and started pawing against the sheet glass that rested against the wall. i pointed my flashlight at the very small space between the glass sheet and the wall and my heart leapt in joy! there it is, the white pup, alive, wedged between the foot of the glass sheet and the wall. it had somehow managed to crawl inside but got stuck. gently, i pulled it out. it was crying very, very softly. almost inaudibly. perhaps, chelsea was able to hear her. it is safe now. i placed it beside the brown one at the garage. chelsea  lied down beside it  and started cleaning it with her tongue. it snuggled close to her and begun to suck.

i cleaned up the storeroom and returned the items back. i was able to accomplish 2 things: clean the storeroom and rescued the pup. if there are rats there, they might have escaped to some place else. i went back to the house and brewed some coffee to relax.

i was enjoying my coffee seated by the window overlooking the garage when i saw her. chelsea. white pup in her mouth.  i followed her. she is transferring her pups back to the storeroom!

"no, chelsea, don't take them back there!" i shouted. she proceeded anyway. i went out of the house. went to the storeroom. braving chelsea's angry snarl, i picked up the pups and brought them back to the garage. chelsea followed us. as soon as i put them down, she immediately carried them back to the storeroom. i followed them. when she laid them down on the storeroom floor, again i braved chelsea's angry stare and brought them back to the garage. i think we did this ten times. chelsea won. my patience wore off and honestly i got tired racing from the garage to the storeroom and back.

"this is your decision," i told her, "don't say i didn't warn you. we might not be able to rescue the pups again. especially if there are really rats here." i pointed around the storeroom. but, it is generally cleaner now and more organized.

she just looked at me. i don't know dogspeak but i think her eyes are saying, "mother knows best!"

we'll see.

this is day 4, morning. tonight before i leave for work, i'll count them again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

chelsea the first-time mom

mother nature is teasing me. just as when i have had recently posted one about fatherhood here i am being given a chance to play father again. and this time i'm  feeling i'd need to be smarter.

she is a first time mom. here name is chelsea, our dog. she just recently delivered 4 beautiful fragile puppies. well, whoopie, our other dog, is the father, but he's more concerned about food than about the puppies. actually, i saw him visiting the place where chelsea gave birth presumably to look at their offspring but chelsea threw him an angry look and a menacing bark and off he goes scampering for safety.

big problem is chelsea. she has the mother instincts but she's mostly doing things more wrongly than rightly.  first she delivered her puppies just between the 2 washing machines we're using to do our laundry. the place is cramped and wet and cold and not very convenient for the newborns. chelsea snarls at every one who tries to get near the puppies. i don't know if she's just being protective of them or she's jealous of anyone getting a peek on the little ones. and when she nurses them she just doesn't care how her body is positioned. her body actually covers her puppies like a blanket. there is a very fat chance of her suffocating them.

my problem is it's nearing christmas and my brother and his family including my daughter will be spending the holidays with his in-laws in the province. i'll be home alone. but, unlike that famous kevin of the "home alone" movies, i will not be battling with bumbling robbers. i'll be testing my wits against first-time mom chelsea. i have to protect the little fragile ones against their mom's unwise moves.

and so it happened. what we feared to happen. before they were about to leave, my brother found one of the day-old puppies dead. probably suffocated or probably died due to the coldness or the dampness. he tried to get the dead pup but chelsea did not permit it. as my brother narrated, chelsea bit off the head of the dead pup and ate it! he was aghast. much as he tried to get the rest of the body he was not able to. chelsea is attempting to bite him.

"you'll have to find a way to get that dead body," he told me when i got home, "we're leaving now. be careful, chelsea is not letting anyone near her pups."

i looked at the headless body. there are 3 more live puppies. i snuck a peek. the little ones are busily sucking milk. chelsea and the pups are in a very cramped place. i fear for the rest of the puppies. not even two days old.

i am alone now. my brother and his family and my daughter had left for the province. i could not get some sleep. i can hear the puppies' whimpering and crying. they are not comfortable. i have to find a way to move them to a better place. i have to outsmart chelsea like what kevin did to the robbers. and that dead headless body is starting to emit that foul stench. i spent my waking hours trying to figure out a way.  i went out and filled chelsea's food bowl with dog food and placed it very far from where the puppies were. chelsea ignored my food offering. i spent the night hearing the puppies' crying and smelling that foul odor of decomposing body in my shallow sleep. chelsea is winning.

morning. it's good that it is my day off. i am feeling confident. i snuck another quick peek at the newborns. counted 3 small bodies tucked under chelsea whose eyes are so wide awake looking attentively at me. i lingered for a while braving her disapproving stare. the bellies of the 3 pups were moving. thank you, o Infinite! not another one died. but the headless body is smelling terribly. that foul odor is ruining the aroma of my freshly brewed coffee. an idea struck my mind.

bravely, i approached the washing machine farthest from the dogs and slowly lifted it. good it was not too heavy. i moved it farther. i know when the sun comes up sunlight will flood the area where they are and will heat up that place.  then,  i cleaned our small storehouse nearby making sure there's sufficient space for this dog family. i was hoping that chelsea will have the mind to transfer the pups to this cozier place. as bait, i placed her food bowl and her water in a location where she can spot the open storehouse. at the corner of my eyes, i can see her following my every move suspiciously. i tried to ignore her acting like i was just doing my usual cleaning chores.

i went back inside the house and ate my breakfast. after this, i cleaned up the house. i did not try to bother chelsea. i have to be patient. my ally, the sun is slowly rising up. once she heats up chelsea's territory i'm sure she'll be moving her puppies. true enough, as soon as my friend the sun started beaming her rays to where the dogs were, i immediaely heard chelsea becoming very busy. i dared not bother to look. i knew she's moving.

soon, i could no longer hear the whining and the whimpering of the puppies. i went out of the house and checked. the dogs aren't there anymore. i congratulated myself. you're bright, sito kevin, you did it! i picked up the headless puppy and buried it. then i went to the storehouse to spy on chelsea and the others. to my surprise, they were not there! i paused for a while and listened attentively. i traced where the puppies' voices are coming from. i slowly stepped back and there they were by the side of the house. chelsea had dug a hole in the ground and deposited them there. they were better off where they were before. at least they were lying on cemented flooring. this time, they were on soft earth, still damp, still cold. and if it rains they surely will be drenched. i thought i saw chelsea smiling as if to say, gotcha! well, i will not be outsmarted by a dog. my ego is hurtin'. sito kevin must win. home alone strategy is needed.

i moved chelsea's food bowl and water far from the entrance of the fence separating the main house from the storehouse. this is my only chance. but i have to be patient. i picked a stickbroom and started sweeping the fallen leaves that littered the ground. there were lots of them. they were very dry now so i decided to burn them. this will help me while the time away. i will be able to clean up the yard and i will be near where the puppies are located. chelsea will not be suspicious since she will just see me gathering up the dried leaves and burning them. i managed to get to about a foot of the puppies as i swept the ground. chelsea is there nursing her two-day olds. i secretly counted. 3 bodies there underneath her. bellies moving. still alive.

after about two hours of leisurely sweeping leaves and burning them, my patience paid off. she stood up. brushed off the dirt from her white coat and confidently went out of the fenced yard. walked towards her food bowl. finally, she felt hunger and thirst. i pretended not to notice her. she buried her head in the food bowl and started munching at her food. i grabbed my chance. immediately but carefully so i won't catch her attention, i barred the entrance with the corrugated roofing sheet i set aside for this moment. then secured it so she won't be able to push against it if she attempts to do so. i ran to the puppies and picked up all three of them. their eyes are still unopened. i was holding more like the 3 blind mice.  i ran back to the storehouse, arranged the bedding which i prepared for them and laid them down. now they are safe and cozy. i went back to the fence and removed the cover to the entrance. chelsea had finished her food and is now drinking. she never saw what i did. when she entered the yard i acted like i was poking the unburned leaves. i saw her moving frantically when she found out the puppies are not where she left them. i saw her touching her nose on the hole she dug. my heart raced for a bit when she looked at my direction and moved towards me.

she went past me. entered the storehouse. soon i heard the whimpering of the puppies again. i did it! gotcha! i took a quick peek.  they were not on the bedding i made for them. chelsea was able to find another spot  for them. well, i told myself, for as long as they are now inside the storehouse, they will be better off. they are cozier now. no dampness, not too cold. even if it rains they won't be drenched. my friend the sun also illuminates the storehouse just enough. and chelsea, their mother is learning.


i delivered food and water to chelsea at the storehouse. i mustered enough courage to inch closer and to point my flashlight at the spot where they were lying. chelsea was there. 3 bellies were undeneath her. still moving.

tomorrow they will be 3 days older.

Monday, December 20, 2010

the first photograph of snow

"sito, it's here!" my wife excitedly typed at the other end of our internet chat. "snow! it's starting to fall now. oh, it's getting very cold here."

"how is it? is it soft, powdery?" i asked her. this is my chance to get a blow-by-blow account. straight from my wife's lips. the  way she experiences it.

"oh, i dare not go outside, it's so cold," she repeated. and she monitored the temperature for me. -5 degrees, -6, -7. she stopped at -12 degrees. wow! that cold? "i'm wearing layers of clothes. i'm glad somebody lent me some thermal underwear and boots." 

"well, please be careful. take care of yourself," i reminded her, "i heard this thing about frostbite when the body's cartilaginous bones become brittle due to extreme cold and simply break off." i smiled to myself imagining how my wife will look without her ears and her nose. ears and noses have cartilaginous bones.

"could you take a picture?" i asked her.

"i told you, i don't want to go outside! it's so cold out there." she shot back. "if you want i'll open my laptop's camera and i'll point it at the driveway. it's starting to be covered by snow." she volunteered.

"okay, go," i agreed.  she went to where i can have a good view of Mother Nature's cold blanket. and voila! i did it! my very own photograph of snow. the tree in the foreground is bare. i don't want to be in her position right now. in my mind, i thought, this should be the time when this tree should cover herself with leaves, layers of them, like my wife's clothing, so she can fight off the cold. but, Mother Nature has her own rules. and the  ground, it is all white now. where are the grasses? the shrubbery? it looks lonely out there, what with the slowly creeping blanket of white.

"it seems the sun has hidden herself since the snow had started falling," my wife commented, "there's barely a hint of sunshine. i'm sad for the children. they cannot go outdoors to play. yet, they say christmas time is not exciting without the snow. this is really the time of the year when she comes."

well, there is no perfect place. here in our country we complain of dust and heat and rain. in other countries, people might complain of not getting enough sunshine and of being cold. this is the nature of this world. we are challenged to be able to exist under different circumstances: heat, cold, rain, snow, sunshine, moonshine, wind, bare trees, tall grasses, dust, dirt, grime, opulence, need,  rich, poor, greed, benevolence, even blind justice. our mission is to master the circumstances that we find ourselves in. to rise above them. these circumstances are opportunities given us to express our full potentials as man, and as divine beings.

and so, we must always bear this in mind. the outer man might be suffering because of the cold blanket of snow, but, if one thinks deep and goes inside one's self, one might find that the inner man, the divine spark in him, is benefiting from this cold, from this loneliness, from this lack of sunshine, and is being helped to grow, to learn, to express its divinity.

" to effect the quality of day is the highest of all arts". this was by henry david thoreau. i could not agree more. for me, this means elevating every day of one's life towards an expression of the divine spark within him. to find a hint of perfection in an imperfect place.

"sito," she typed, "i think snow is somewhat powdery, or fluffy, or feathery."

there. i'm glad my wife summoned an ounce of bravery to touch snow for me. and i smiled contentedly.

i always thought it to be so.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

azkals revisited

the philippine azkals, they took to the field again. this surprising band of men. they are now in the semifinals of the suzuki cup. a feat never before achieved by any philippine national team for football. they are nursing a 1-0 loss to the indonesian team which is as talented as they are. the azkals are playing the indonesian team for the second game of their semifinal match. they are in the indonesian turf and the indonesian people are very supportive of their national team. i could not believe the number of people who watched the first game and the deafening roar when that lone goal was scored. given the unpopularity of this sport here in the philippines, i doubt if we can muster the same number of people if the games were held here.  incidentally, i read a news report that our country does not even have a single football field that meets the requirements of a standard  playing field. so there, that's another reason why the azkals feat is considered a magical run.

they played their hearts out again during the second game. but, it was repeated. the indonesians scored the lone goal again. much as they tried, the azkals were never able to score. so it had ended. the magical run. they will never reach the finals. the indonesians will. and their  people's collective roar inside the stadium was even more deafening than during the first game.

life is actually like this, what had happened to the azkals. i have personally experienced this as i am sure a lot of people did. one finds one's self in generally a good run, bucking life's tests and trials,  evading pitfalls and traps, having a "magical run", and anticipating a good finish, confidence level at the utmost peak. and then, from out of the blue, comes this great kick, and one finds one's self crashing in defeat. ego bruised. confidence deflated. the question is if one has the ability to bounce back. if he has, then good for him. he will have another shot at life's success cup. if he cannot bounce back from defeat and lets the bruised ego trap him in self pity then bad for him. this is the reason why old Sages say one's greatest foe is one's self.

the azkals will go home now. will the news organizations still cover them? will their impressive feat in this tournament  awaken the sleeping gods of philippine sports and turn their benevolent eyes to help the sad plight of philippine football?

i just hope that even if they were not able to advance to the finals, the azkals will still be given the honor and accolade they so richly deserved.

as i write this, there is this nagging fear in my heart, because in the philippines, asong kalye or street dogs are caught, and sold, and more sadly, butchered and cooked into adobo, the popular national dish, to be consumed during drinking jousts where intoxicated, opinionated men take turns recalling their delight in watching the azkals win their games and confidently predict who manny "pacman" pacquiao's fists will hammer into submission next.

old Sages say one's greatest foe is one's self ...

Saturday, December 18, 2010


this is just a short something for this band of gallant, talented Filipinos.  they are our national football team. honestly, this is the first time i became aware of them. for the past weeks, they were able to get themselves covered by a lot of news organizations. they performed well in their scheduled games for the suzuki cup and actually had managed to earn a spot in the semifinals.  i think this is the highest place ever achieved by a Philippine football team up to this time. well, this is a basketball-crazy country and football is at the bottom of an average Filipino's list of his favorite sports. i'll bet if you ask someone you meet on the street what his favorite sport is, you will hear basketball, then boxing, billiards, chess, bowling. but, never football.

the team name is so appropriate -- azkals. short for asong kalye in the vernacular or street dogs in english.  like these runaway dogs of the streets, i know they feel abandoned, unrecognized, uncared for. unlike most of the rest of the world, filipinos are generally never too excited over football. even the most recent world cup never raised much of a frenzy among filipinos. so a lot of us really were surprised to hear news of this unknown band of men scoring wins against teams that have more solid national support. now, they have been noticed. they are now being recognized. soon, they will be cared for and supported. soon they will no longer be asong kalye or street dogs.

well, it is always like this. great odds always elicit great efforts at heroism and gallantry and achievement. the drive for excellence compels one to extend one's self over and beyond one's capabilities. as that popular song goes -- " to reach the unreachable star." the problem is not that the star is unreachable, the question is how one will be endeavoring to stretch one's self to try to reach it.

the problem is not that the True Self is not unknowable, the question is how man will be willing to know It. how one will devote effort and time to do it. the odds are tremendous. the outer world has lots to offer to sidetrack man in this heroic,  gallant, and brave quest. the old Sages say the world is a grand carnival and we are captives of its impermanent delights. it is difficult to escape.

knowing our true selves will not give us glittering suzuki cups or world cups or adulation of millions of  fans. knowing our true selves will give us freedom.

to date, the indonesian team has stopped the azkals unbeaten run in the tournament, 1-0. but i am confident the azkals are tough.  street dogs are like that. they never give up easily. they will use their street wisdom to survive. and it is not the need  for recognition or adoration that drives them.  it is the desire to prove they are far more than what they are thought to be -- just a so-so Philippine team for an unpopular sport.

this in itself is also freedom.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

expecting fatherhood

it was a faint voice at the other end of the line. it was my daughter.

"pop, i'm sick," she declared feebly, "i have a fever. i already skipped class, sorry."

"have you taken any medicines?" i asked worriedly, "it's better if you can come home. nobody will look after you there at the dorm."

"yes, i took a medicine for fever. i'll rest for a bit then go home."

 at home, she immediately collapsed on her bed and tried to sleep. later, when i took her temperature it read 39.6 degrees celsius. rather high. my brother advised us to visit the doctor. we drove to the nearby hospital. she was asked to undergo the usual lab tests -- urinalysis, blood tests. because of a breakout of dengue, these procedures are standard tests especially for those who ran high fever. her tests were fine. she was diagnosed for tonsilitis. her tonsils were very swollen hence the fever. probably too much cold soda. the doctor prescribed some pills for her and advised her to gargle regularly. i took the prescription and told my daughter to wait for me at my brother's car. he and his wife actually drove us to the hospital. bless them!

i was made to wait at the pharmacy while the aide went to the stockroom to fetch fresh stocks of the medicines i was buying. i  sat at one of the nearby empty benches. this was when i noticed this young man of about 20. he has this uneasy, worried look in his face. he keeps on pacing back and forth, back and forth in front of one of the closed doors. he seems to be marching, measuring his steps. talking to himself. seemingly psyching himself up. he just can't seem to stay  in one place. he periodically stops only to cautiously open the door he's guarding to peer inside. then he slowly closes it again and goes back to his march. i looked at him more attentively and behold, i caught it, that nervous, eager glint in his eyes. i had that once. and i knew it. his wife is soon to deliver his baby.

i smiled silently to myself and allowed my thoughts to drift back in time when i was like him. when i had the nervous, excited, expectant look. except that unlike him i did not march back and forth. i just waited and prayed fervently that both my wife and our baby will be well. when the doctor told me she had delivered our baby and both were doing fine my heart leapt in thankful joy! when they announced it was viewing time, i hurriedly ran to the nursery and there behind its glass wall, in one of the cribs, i saw her for the first time. my baby girl! all wrinkled and fragile. sleeping comfortably, confidently. a very slight hint of innocent smile on her face.  i talked to myself: sito, you are a father now. you don't know the unwritten laws that governed this birth. why you were chosen to be this newborn's guardian. but, remember you are not just the father of this physical bundle of joy. more so, you are also the father of the divine spark within her. you will be the guardian not just of her material well-being but also of her divine essence. you must be a father to both.

the aide came with the medicines. i stood up and claimed my purchase. as i turned around to walk back to where my daughter was  waiting my eyes locked on the young man again. he noticed me staring but he did not stop his marching. he nervously smiled at me. i smiled back. a father to father smile. i know he understood the message in my eyes -- 

don't worry kid.
every thing will be alright with us. you are expecting your first brush with fatherhood when your baby is delivered into this world, i am expecting my next brush with fatherhood when my daughter discovers her real Self, the Divine Spark in her, and is born into the world of poets, seers, artists, saints.

the Sages and Masters remind us this, that part of the duty of parenthood is not just to usher a soul into the material world but more so to guide it and nurture it until it sees its True Nature and discovers the Divine Life.

when i stepped out of the hospital my daughter scolded me, "Pa, what took you so long?"  i gently placed the back of my right hand by the side of her neck to feel if she still has some fever ... it is starting to subside ...

i silently thanked the Infinite.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

the ants of the 22nd floor

one time, last year, after my shift ended, i decided to pay my wife a visit and fetch her from work. their company holds office in a very tall building and they are at the 22nd floor. if i remember right the building has more than 30 floors. i was delighted to find the elevator ride so smooth. i hardly noticed it until a red light flashed 22 and the elevator stopped and automatically opened the door for me.

my wife will not be off till 6 pm so i have to wait for her. i decided to while the time away reading the day's paper and drinking some coffee at their small pantry. after finishing my coffee i stood up to wash the cup but i remembered they don't have any faucet there. used cups and dishes are deposited in a plastic bucket and the office utility person washes them later. i was about to put my used cup into the plastic bucket when my eye caught this frenzy of activity in the bucket. the other used dishes inside are already teeming with ants! my initial reaction was to fill my cup with water and spray it over the ants to disperse them or kill them. but, a nagging question popped in my mind which deterred my evil plan.--- HOW WERE THESE PUNY CREATURES ABLE TO FIND THEIR WAY TO THE 22ND FLOOR?

did they march their way from the ground to way up here? if they did, i surely would love to discover the source of their strength and their energy. it will make me rich!

did they ride the elevator like i did?

did they "beam up" like our captain kirk and his enterprise crew of the famous star trek series? can they teleport? or apparate like harry potter and his magical friends?

did they ride the gentle wind, gliding freely aloft over invisible wings and land unscathed on the 22nd floor window and sneak inside the pantry and guided by their instincts find the unwashed dishes in the bucket?

suddenly, this realization came to me and i am humbled: if these little creatures, these little lives, can find means to scale these heights, these lofty places, how can not i, a man of higher intellect and superior abilities, be able to reach the loftier abodes and planes of existence that my Creator designed me to behold and experience?

it is because i am not trying hard enough. i am not willing it. unlike these ants of the 22nd floor. come to think of it, surely there will be ants even up to the 30th floor!

i am not willing it.

i have let myself be trapped and be deluded by the illusions of this material world. i forgot that i am not just mere physical body. that i am something else. that i have this real Self that transcends death and is designed by its Creator to scale higher planes of existence and eventually to unite with the Creator to enjoy Eternal Truth, Knowledge, and Bliss.

the first step is to awaken. to know that we are not just physical bodies that die and rot and become dust.

it will not take just an ant bite to awaken most every one of us. but, an ant bite especially from an ant of the 22nd floor, might start the mind's wheel to turn inwardly ...

Friday, December 03, 2010

jeepney music and old Sages

we were riding a jeepney on our way to her dormitory. my daughter and me. we were both lost in our own thoughts. suddenly i saw this faint smile on her lips.

"what's funny?" i asked,"you seem so amused."

"aw, it's nothing," she answered, "it's just this music being played on this jeepney. haven't you noticed?"

i paused for awhile to listen. she's right it's not the usual loud music that most of the jeepneys are playing. it's not the usual rap or heavy metal sound where your heartbeat is inconvenienced by the heavy bass line. most of these jeepneys' sound systems are set up to over emphasize the bass component of the sound so that its thump thumping actually thuds against one's chest. personally, i find it unsettling. my chest feels very heavy hearing this over emphatic boom of the bass. it's not music to me. it's unnerving noise. it's like you're inside a war zone in these loud jeepneys. oh, how these drivers love to pump up the volume. perhaps they do this because a lot of the commuters are turned on or attracted by this. maybe this is part of business.

but to this driver it is different. his is easy listening. soft melodious music. a little bit of jazz and blues. the volume is just right. just teasing the ear to strain a bit, not to hear, but to Listen. to Listen. the eardrum does not burst with the bass line. it's just there. you just feel the thump, the thud of its rhythm. the heart sits unruffled and the melody lulls you to think or to ponder or to doze off or to meditate even. to be quiet by yourself.

the old Sages and Masters hint of this. the Infinite, they say, expresses Itself through Light and Sound. each of us has this. Divine Light and Divine Sound, they are just one, they say. when we are able to recognize the divinity within us, our True Self, this will manifest. the Sages refer to this as the Music of the Spheres. the Eternal Sound that permeates all creation. this is not heard by the external ear but is listened to by the inner man. by the inner ear. this is silent sound.

this is the hidden music that the sufi dancers listen to inwardly as they swirl and twirl round and round and round in ecstatic celebration of Life's divinity. this is the music that poets listen to when they choose a word that becomes a component of their poem. this is the music that artists, painters, photographers listen to every time they choose the conglomeration and juxtaposition of colors in a particular moment in their mind' eye.

the old Sages affirm when you hear this you are truly Home. and when you are truly Home then you will be truly Happy.

i smiled back at my daughter but she did not see it. her eyes were closed. i believe that in this instance her mind's eye is choosing a conglomeration and juxtaposition of colors in preparation when she wields her camera to capture one of life's moments. she might be truly Home this instant.

i closed my eyes too. i have to let the inner ears choose the words to fill my next blog or my next poem. i'd like to listen to that silent music, that soothes and caresses, that affirms Life, Light, Love.

i'd like to be truly Home even for a bit of a second ...

i know, all of us would like to be truly Home, to be truly Happy.

**** image by neysa saguid copyright 2010.

Monday, November 29, 2010

my greed, my envy

there is no problem now. every one can heave a sigh of huge relief. every one can sleep well now and not force oneself dreaming of numbers. the soothsayers and and the crystal gazers will once again be wanting of customers. i heard during the past weeks they have had a lot of business from people asking for their opinion or vision of the future, the grand lotto draw future. well, a good number of them have been proven now to be as blind to the future as everybody else.

except one.

it's been won. the huge lotto prize. the Gods had smiled on only one and he is 741 million pesos richer now. he's got a huge reason now to be very happy and also a huge reason to be inconvenient. they say if you're not familiar with handling BIG money that could be a problem ... as our favorite comics hero the Spiderman's Uncle Ben often says, "with great power comes great responsibility".

i have to be honest. i am green with envy. and initially my greed dictated me to be angry at the Gods for not having smiled at me. at the gentle winds of fortune for not being behind my back.

i am composed now. how can i feel unhappy over something which i don't possess. i know it is my ego that is hurting since the Infinite, the Great Creator, found someone else more worthy than me over this fortune.

as i have said, the Infinite is the Giver and Taker of freedoms. and It knows how to dispense this as Its Infinite Mercy permits.

may the chosen one be responsible enough and caring enough to share his bountiful harvest. it was given to him or her for a reason, and may that reason be found.

as for me, it is my duty now to do some extra work to replenish the 3 days of lunch allowance i lost.

the Infinite had spoken, the lotto is not my way to meeting my first snowflake.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

the gods did not look my way, even if a friend crossed his fingers

nobody won. not the guy with only 1 lotto ticket. not me with 8 tickets. not that old, rich gentleman with 125 tickets. not even that group of friends who pooled their money to buy thousands of tickets hoping to win this big one and divide the money among themselves. it is now 705 million pesos. what a huge fortune this will be!!

admittedly, a lot of people will be losing sleep over this. that guy with the 1 ticket will surely be wringing his hair trying to find a way to spare another 20 pesos for another ticket. another chance. as for me, i'm still thinking about it. i've already lost 2 days of lunch money. well, that old, rich gentleman and that group of friends might already be lined up at the lotto ticket booth.

what a huge fortune this is !!

oh, if there's only a sure way by which I can convince the Gods to look my way. to petition the gentle wind to be at my back. to keep all of my fingers crossed until they hurt.

i passed by the lotto outlet near my place and this early the line is already long. today is Sunday here. generally this day is reserved for a family get-together after a tough week of work or study. this is usually bonding time. families look up to this day to visit the local church to say thanks to the Almighty and to petition for more blessings. i'm pretty sure a lot of prayers today will mention lotto number combinations. the Infinite will be very busy today looking at numbers. i'm guessing a lot of family get-togethers will be postponed today. budget for these will surely go to lotto tickets. well, no one can be blamed. just one lucky number combination will insure family get-togethers even every day!

what a huge fortune this will be!

i heard even students now sacrifice their daily allowances just to be able to buy lotto tickets. now, this one's bad. this one hurts. and if they lose, where will they get the money to replenish their allowance? will they skip class? will they borrow money from their classmates or friends? will they pawn whatever thing of value they own? will they lie to their parents when asked why they ran short of money?

705 million pesos. what a huge sum of money.

tomorrow, monday, is another lotto draw. i still have time to think. to decide. maybe another 1 day of lunch money can be sacrificed ...

problem is, if nobody wins again ......

Thursday, November 25, 2010

700 million pesos

as i write this the lotto prize here in the philippines was announced to be about 700 million pesos. and for most of us who are earning an average of about 350 pesos a day or perhaps much lower, this is tremendous news. this is the one ray of hope most every one is waiting for. a chance for really huge money. we don't have to fight like hell, like manny "pacman" pacquiao, hurt ourselves and hurt others, to get big money. we only have to endure the long queue to the ticket booth.

so people will once again be trooping to the lotto ticket lines. even i. honestly i am planning to sacrifice a few day's school budget of my daughter. what the heck! if i get the numbers right she'd have all of the school budget she'd need. if she wants, she could could go to school forever. if i don't get the numbers right i'd have to scrimp on my own daily budget to replenish hers. and this will mean not getting lunch for the next few days. this is with me. with the others, this might mean more. this might mean sacrificing the 3 square meals a day for the entire family and for several days at that. a chance for really huge money.

yet, the odds are great. you have to pick 6 numbers out of 55. well, if i remember my math well, a win is really, really, a very long shot. 55 x 54 x 53 x 52 x 51 x 50 combinations. there are millions of number combinations. i tried to compute it on my calculator and the answer was more than the digits it allows to display. that's why if you want to increase your chances of winning you have to bet on many combinations. so i really need to sacrifice a few day's lunch to improve my chances. then i have to pray a lot. of course if millions of other filipinos like me placed their bets too, and they are also praying, then, i also need to come up with some very innovative prayers to insure that the Great Infinite will hear my plea. so i realize, even with prayers, it's also like this lotto draw. you have to pick the right words to say. anyway, as they say, only one unique combination will win.

so i trooped the line. gave the lotto lady 160 pesos for 8 number combinations. i have 8 chances of winning. the one before me just bet on 1 combination. so, against me, he is already an underdog. the old man after me, well, he's well dressed with sparkling shoes and gelled or pomaded hair and some heavy gold bracelet in his right arm, he paid 2500 pesos. i was aghast! he has 125 chances of winning. but i understand him. what's 2500 pesos against 700 million?

on the way home i was thinking. this is the sad lot for most of us. and i am searching for an answer that will make me smile. it appears, in this material world, the opulent or the rich have more or better chances of getting richer. as one of my friends had said,"in this world, the rule is -- like attracts like. money attracts money." what's with those rich people? why can't they ever stop accumulating wealth? when is enough, enough? if you're rich now and living comfortably, why don't you give the chance of opulence to others? is it greed that dictates this?

i hold my 8 tickets in my hand and i imagine what i'll do with the 700 million pesos. perhaps, as i do this the other person is also holding his only ticket and contemplating this as well. and perhaps, the old, rich gentleman is also doing this. i closed my eyes. that amount is staggering. so i decided i'll come up with something like a bucket list of things i'd do. much like that movie of jack nicholson and morgan freeman where they came up with a list of things to do before dying.

i'll visit canada or the united states to have a look and feel of my first snowflake.

i'll go to india to see the abode of the Great Spiritual Masters. meditate at the foot of the Himalayas.

i've checked the stats of this blog and found out some people in slovenia are actually reading this blog. i've checked wikipedia and found out slovenia has lots of the old world castles. i'll go there and visit.

if i can i'll visit russia as well and measure my steps against the great st. petersburg square if i can.

set aside money for me and my wife, and for my daughter and her future family to live comfortably on.

become a philanthropist and donate the remaining money to organizations that help the needy. or organize these myself if i am unsure of these welfare organizations. this last i am not so sure yet. greed is a strong desire that one might not have now or might have little now but one might acquire later once one is in a position of opulence. greed is associated with wealth.

last, i'll hire somebody to fix my leaking ceiling.

the way i see it, even if i get all that money i'd still not be happy. completely. it'll help solve a lot of difficulties i'm having now. but i'll not get fully satisfied.

there's only one way to perfect happiness. the Great Ones who achieved this had taught -- be as perfect as the One who created you. this can be done only by knowing one's true self.

so, i'll pray hard for this lotto prize to be won, but this is how my prayer will be:

O Great Infinite

You know our hearts and minds more than we do,

You are the Giver and Taker of freedoms,

let this material blessing be won

by that person who truly needs it

and who will be better served by it ...

i hope this sort of even things a bit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

my caterpillar tale

he entered the gate of the house that he was assigned to maintain. immediately, his eyes caught the uncemented portion of the driveway by the back of the house. as he had suspected, wild grass had grown again over that patch of earth. he remembered having uprooted these grass the last time he came over to inspect. now here they are again. as tall, as green, and more abundant than before. perennial grass, he thought to himself. you're really testing my patience. resilient grass. if ever i could be as adamant as you. he secretly admired the grass. its will to exist. to be.

he knows he has a job to do. he is the caretaker of this house and grass is not allowed to grow. much more wild grass. so he sat down and started pulling at the grass leaves. he realizes he needs to pull hard so even the roots can be extracted from the soil. this will make sure they will not grow again.

the grass is strong. it does not give up without a fight. its roots are well entrenched in the earth. sometimes he needs to pull with both arms. he smelled the scent of fresh grass, cut grass, and he smiled. it smelled good. he felt both his arms getting itchy. the grass leaves have these very minute stingers that pierce his skin and compels him to scratch. it annoys him. he thought of stopping for a while to scratch his arms. he realized this grass has lots of built in defenses to make him think twice about going ahead with his mission to remove it from the soil. the soothing smell, the itchy sting.

soon he is halfway done. he had pulled out a lot of grass. the blackish, wet earth is now exposed. it was then that he noticed these small movements near where he last uprooted grass. caterpillars! lots of them. brownish, hairy little creatures. some are clinging on the leaves of grass he still had not touched. the others that fell to the ground were busily scampering away to safety. crawling, wriggling as fast as they can towards where the clumps of grasses are still abundant. the sun's rays are already quickly drying the exposed damp earth.

he went on with his uprooting. every time he sees that there are caterpillars clinging on the grass leaves, he shakes the leaves and let the creatures fall to the ground. the surprised creatures crawl to where their instincts dictate there is dampness of earth and shade from the sun. but this haven of safety keeps getting smaller as grass keeps on getting removed. some of the caterpillars sought protection from crevices in the adjoining cement wall. some hid behind the rocks but the sun is slowly but surely climbing higher and pretty soon not a thing will not be touched by her scorching rays.

suddenly he heard a voice.

"enough of this, brother!" he looked around. nobody but himself. "down here," he heard the voice again. he shifted his eyes to where his right hand is grasping a clump of grass leaves. he noticed what he thought was the biggest caterpillar he ever saw. it is the caterpillar that's speaking to him.

"i am the elder of this caterpillar clan, my brother," it began again. "may i implore you to spare us these remaining grasses. we need their shade for protection against the sun and for food also. just leave us be for a few more weeks so we can complete our life cycle."

"just a few more weeks!" he answered," by then, these grasses would have grown tenfold again. i cannot permit that. i am the guardian of this abode. i am sorry i have a job to accomplish. it is a duty."

"just spare us some time, my brother, is all we ask. even some of us only need days to complete our life cycle. we will die without food and protection from the sun." the caterpillar elder explained. it felt his hand tighten around the clump of grass leaves he is holding. it felt his strong pull and it saw the grass roots sticking out when he successfully pulled out the grass from the earth. it willingly disengaged itself from the leaves and dropped to the ground. it did not crawl to safety like the rest. it knows no place will be safe now from the heat. it wont be long now. he ignored the elder's plea.

"i'm so sorry," he said and continued with his work, " i must hurry up. i have other things to do."

the caterpillar elder did not reply. it curled itself against a small stone beside it.

pretty soon, he was done. the sun is so high up now overhead. he is also feeling the heat. he looked at his work and admired how well he was able to pluck up all of these annoying grass. they are now all bundled up inside the black plastic trash bags. he carefully stashed these away. this coming saturday he will return. that's when the garbage will be collected by the truck.

saturday. he returned. he was just in time to hear the familiar tooting of the garbage truck. it's approaching the house now. he carried the plastic bags one at a time and placed them outside the gate for collection. when he unmindfully dropped the last bag, it accidentally burst open. out came a small brown butterfly from the trash bag. he was surprised. but it was beautiful.

he heard it speak to him. "i'm the only one who completed the cycle," it told him, "the elder instructed me to tell you, if ever i will survive, you are forgiven. it is our duty to forgive."

after this, it strongly flapped its fragile wings and zigzagged its way past him . . .

he had this sudden longing in his heart to find out where that brave butterfly will go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the up-down syndrome

i saw him looking distraught, sitting alone at our office pantry. sipping coffee from the vendo machine. he's usually not like this. he's one of my perkier acquaintances.

"hey!" i greeted him. i took a sip from my coffee cup and laid it down on the table. oh, how i missed my brewed coffee. coffee from dispensing machines are generally good but brewed coffee is heaven. i pulled a chair beside him and sat.

"hey!" he greeted back. there was this forced smile on his face. he managed to take four successive gulps of coffee during that sliver of silence between us.

"why the long face, my friend?" i queried him,"this is so not you." i tried to make as sympathetic a face as i can hoping to coax him to open up.

"i have a problem," he answered, "it's very personal i can't share it with you."

i looked straight into his eyes. they were sad. "if it's about money .." i allowed my words to trail.

"nope," he immediately cut me off, "nothing to do with money. i have enough. it's just this unhappy feeling. don't know where it's coming from." he explained.

i looked at his eyes again. they were honest. "well, tell me later my friend," i said, "just remember, if you're down, there's nowhere to go but up!" i continued and flashed the thumbs up sign. he smiled. his eyes were still sad.

at home i still remembered that bit of conversation. "if you're down, nowhere to go but up." i think there's something lacking in that advice i gave my friend. when i looked at this picture of a stair i saved in my folder, that's when i had this added thought -- if you're in a stair such as this, where it is definite where the "up" is and where the "down" is, then the advice i gave my friend is adequate.

with Life, it is inadequate.

Life is nothing like a simple stair. in Life, if one says he's down, it does not follow that he is in the "final down". so it could happen that a person will continue to slide, to be further down, and this may go on and on and on, because Life is not a stair where there is a bottom landing and a top landing.

no way!

Life is a staircase that has infinite number of steps. if you say you're up, it does not follow you have reached the top landing. you can still go further up, and up, and up into the abode of happiness and contentment. you are to decide when you don't need to go any further. now, vice versa, when you say you're down it does not mean you have reached the bottom landing. IF YOU ALLOW IT, you will find yourself going further down into the abyss of unhappiness and discontent.

so, this is what i'm going to tell my friend when i meet him again. if i still find him in that sad state, it'll be like this: "my friend, it's okay to say that you are down, but, please will yourself to recognize that you have reached the bottom landing of Life's stairs, believe that there's no more step lower than where you are now. once you have affirmed this, there's no way to go but up!" then the double thumbs up sign.

Life is a staircase. each of us individually determines how long this staircase will be. each of us is given the chance to decide how many steps there will be between the bottom step and the top step.

and don't ever forget this:

going up entails more effort than going down. it sounds paradoxical, but don't be surprised when you find yourself feeling "down" when you're trying to go upstairs in Life.

it's not just gravity, it's how Life requires it to be.

Friday, November 12, 2010

mary travers

i'd like to digress for a while ....

i was leafing through my very, very old notes when i chanced to find a reference to one of my favorite songs, "early morning rain". it was a song written by gordon lightfoot but my favorite rendition was by the folk trio peter, paul and mary. i grew up listening to this wonderful group's songs and i must admit that they've left their mark in my musical inclinations. for me, folk music is almost akin to blues in terms of the rawness, in terms of intensity of feeling, in terms of simplicity -- just some no nonsense guitar work and honest vocals, no special effects, to hide the artist's inadequacies.

peter, paul and mary. one of the most popular groups in the 60's. a lot of young people now definitely might not have heard of them but i think that some of their songs are still relevant today. it is said that they are protest singers. they sang of equality, freedom, simple living.

one of these three was mary travers. great lady. she was one of a handful of artists then who made use of their great talent not to enrich themselves but more so to help educate people about the futility of war and the upholding of civil rights.

i write this in memory of her. her birthday was last november 9.

today, most of our artists are driven by fame and wealth. few realize that because of their immense talents and great mass appeal they can capitalize on these to influence others especially the young. yet sadly, a lot of these gifted individuals waste the opportunity to lead others towards leading positive, unselfish lives. Fame and great wealth overwhelm them and obscure their inner light. their divine spark.

so they sit comfortably in their mansions, bathing in the adulation of millions of people, unabashedly displaying their negative tendencies like drug taking, illicit affairs, and total disregard for law and order, acting like little gods and goddesses.

to be able to build a better future, we must invest in the new generation, and these new generation need pole stars, positive beings to pattern their lives with ... so that they will not be like the mass of us seeking desperately to cope with the negativities of this world ..

" in the early morning rain
with a dollar in my hand
with an achin' in my heart
and my pockets full of sand .."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the greatest one-on-one

my daughter was looking at the latest news. she called my attention.

"hey pop! manny "pacman" pacquiao has a boxing match forthcoming. he's gonna be making oodles of money again. are you going to watch it?"

"i don't know i might be working during the event" i shot back.

"you should have tried boxing," she said,"you would have been rich by now."

"well, that's easy for you to say. you know, boxing's a difficult sport. a lot of people had tried it and they never succeeded. many were even unfortunate now in the twilight of their lives suffering from some brain disease that they somehow acquired over years of fighting. besides, i believe that it is written in pacquiao's stars that he'll be great in this. maybe in this lifetime he is allowed to be rich and famous so he can learn something from this."i explained. "it is said, when we are born we are given innate propensities and inclinations that we need to extract the lessons we are to learn for this lifetime, that's why some are born rich and famous, some are born poor, maimed, diseased. that's why some become soldiers, doctors, engineers, inventors, beggars, poets, musicians, artists, etc. they follow a blueprint designed for this lifetime. as for me, i don't have the inclination to be hurt or to hurt somebody in return, so boxing is out of my blueprint."

"well, that's just an excuse, papa. we become what we desire to be. manny worked hard to be where he's at now."

"maybe so," i answered. she's got a point. as we think, so we become. but still, if you don't have this propensity to hurt somebody how will you desire to be a boxer? boxing is a sport where you excel by hurting your opponent, and hurting well at that! i never bothered to tell this to her. i don't want to argue.

i also didn't bother to tell her that i am now a sportsman myself. and i am in my greatest one-on-one ever, as all of us do. we are, each of us, in our greatest one-on-one ever. i realized this last year. i was at a christmas party, surrounded by friends, family, people i love. lots of great food, drinks, music, fun. i was having a great time. suddenly, i found myself sitting in a corner, just watching the event unfold. i don't know where this came from but i got this funny feeling. although i am with friends and family, somehow the happiness i feel is not right. i had this realization that after this party, the happy feeling will be over as well. and again, this thought came over me, as it has come over me hundreds of times in the past -- that the greatest achievement, the greatest win, the crowning glory of my life will be to be happy .. at all times! not just for christmas, nor for new year's eve, nor for my birthday, nor for a friend's marriage, nor for my wife's trip abroad, but for every second of my life. i must confess this is not the case at the moment.

true happiness is a tranquil mind. to have a tranquil mind is to attain contentment. to be content is to want nothing more. to want nothing more is to be always happy. a mind unruffled of fears and uncertainties and wants is therefore the greatest prize. those Great Ones who achieved this left the same advise -- Know Yourself.

i am now in my greatest one-on-one. with myself. i don't know how many rounds it will take but the battle is on. so i'll weave, i'll duck, i'll dish out uppercuts, hooks, jabs, at myself, not to hurt it or maim it, but to know it fully. i know there'd be no shouting, hooting, jeering, cheering at the ringside, for every round, but there'd be something else. it will not be oodles of money nor adulation. none of that.

there'd be just a feeling that all is Well, all is Good, all is Certain, in my corner. nothing more.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

all saints' day

here in the philippines, november 1 is always the day for remembering loved ones. those who had died. thus, during this holiday, we living members of the family troop to the cemeteries where our kin are buried and visit their graves. bringing flowers and lighting candles, even bringing food for them. there are families who believe in the ritual where they offer food for the dead, that they might partake of their favorite food just as if they were physically alive.

this is also a great time for family reunions. those dear loved ones whom you have not seen for quite a long time, sometimes, they remember and they come over for the visit. and as often the case, you spend the great part of the day reminiscing with them and also catching up on the threads of their lives and your own life as well. as often the case, there will be good news and bad news. good news means someone in the family was able to go abroad, was able to marry, was able to get a good job, or maybe perhaps won a lottery ticket. bad news, is well, loss of job, another death in the family which was never announced and therefore you missed going to, a marriage gone sour, or a family member who had just learned she or he has caught a disease or sickness that is slowly going from bad to worse.

the way i see it, life, even without this day of remembering, november 1, will always be this way for each of us. good news, bad news. you have the option to share with the living members of the family or not.

the dead? well, you might want to share these life's developments with them too. but, of course, you won't know whether they will hear or understand or share. of course, your first wish is for them to know these, to understand, and in difficult situations, maybe even to intercede for you, to help. your belief is that they are there now in the Great Beyond, in the bosom of the Infinite, and they are in a nearer position to be heard, especially for petitions on seeking guidance to overcome the trials of this life.

for some, these might be why we offer flowers or candles or food. to entice our dead to help us become better in life's difficult situations. but, if while they were living, we never bothered to offer them flowers, candles, food, why think now that they will be enticed to help?

november 1 should just be a day for expressing love for the dead. not bother them with our ongoing struggles. if one has not expressed this love while they were living, at least on this special day this expression of love should not be tainted by any selfish motives.

flowers must be true expressions of love and remembrance, or for those who have not loved, an expression of repentance and a solicitation for forgiveness. candles must be what they are supposed to be, bearers of light and understanding.

a lone grasshopper alighted by the side of a shiny black van. she is quiet and still. much of this day should be as she is. holy and honest and just living life and celebrating death as naturally as possible ...

Friday, November 05, 2010

the dicky betts' coffee club

way back in college i developed this passion for coffee. brewed coffee. i remember that i only started with instant coffee before. i drank coffee especially during those times when i had to "burn the midnight oil" to finish my piled up school work believing in that oft-repeated reminder that coffee will keep you awake long hours. well, to tell the truth, instant coffee did not keep me awake long hours. it's my determination to finish the assignments that kept me up.

i think my love for brewed coffee started during that one afternoon after school when my friend freddie, knowing i don't have classes anymore, invited me to go with him to the Rizal Park which was just a few blocks from our school. we were to practice some taichi. this is an old chinese slow exercise that we were trying to learn. shadow-boxing, you might call it that way. the books say this exercise is both beneficial to the body and to the mind. this helps to attune both to the finer, subtle vibrations of being. after our awkward attempts at it, we decided to call it quits and proceeded to the nearby breakwater where the sea fronts the park.

before we sat by the breakwater wall my friend whisked me to a nearby food kiosk.

" i know you love to drink coffee, have you ever tasted brewed coffee? " freddie asked me. he did not wait for my answer. i know the look on my face said it all. he ordered 2 cups. i looked up at the menu list. brewed coffee -- 15 pesos. i mentally counted the money i have. this is out of my daily budget. i will have to skip one of my rides home to fund this. but i have to humor my friend, and besides, the aroma of the coffee is already beguiling my senses. this was long before any starbucks or any other cafe shop can be imagined to sprout in this country. now, a comparable order for the one we just had costs about 110 pesos on the average.

with steaming cups of coffee in our fists we scurried back to sit on top of the breakwater wall. the famous luneta sunset was beginning to showcase her splendor. it was exhilarating to look at the sea. without any obstructions. just its vast expanse and over at the horizon it seemingly melds itself into the yell0w-orange-red of the sky. it seemed the setting sun was slowly dancing her way to plunge into the depths of the sea. to cool herself. the sun, she was performing her own taichi before us.

my first sip of brewed coffee? Heaven! the smell was unforgettable, the richness, the flavor, was exquisite. it was black. you can't see the bottom of the cup. if you tilt the cup towards the sun, you can see its yellow-orange-red disc reflected on the surface of this wonderful black brew. i decided this will not be my last visit here. i will gladly sacrifice a few miles of walking towards home just so i can relive this. there's no way i can ask my parents to increase my daily school budget.

and so, the dicky betts' coffee club was born. with only one member. me. well, i named my club dicky betts because it was during those times when my friends and i were all agog over the guitar work of dicky betts of the allman brothers band. the song was -- in memory of elizabeth reed.

sitting there, freddie and i discussed things about life. about this wonderful way of life called mysticism, which our small band of friends managed to discover starting in high school and on into college, and will definitely be on into up to the twilight of our lives. mysticism. it is said there are built in natural laws which govern existence. if one lives by these natural laws, one will be in total harmony with everything. it is said the paramount duty of man is to realize that he is not just this body alone. the real man is deep inside each of us. this is the lesson being taught by the Great Masters. we are individualized sparks of Light. to be full man is to know the real Man. we all must go inside our selves. to know the real Self is to know the meaning of Life.

to savor great coffee, one must not drink instant coffee. one must experience it being brewed, inhale its aroma, see the black liquid slowly being extracted from the ground beans, dropping taichi-like into the coffee bowl. every precious drop embodying all that true coffee stands for.

one must brew one's Self to find one's True Life . .

*** rizal park photo by neysa saguid copyright@2010

Thursday, November 04, 2010

the hazy moon

it was just a couple of days after the latest typhoon had passed, i was walking toward where i usually get my ride for work. it was about 9:30 pm. i happened to look upwards to the sky. i was surprised to see this full yellow disc up there. the moon. it had been a long time since i gazed at her. and a full moon at that. well, she's not that bright this time. she was hazy. still, she stirred emotions within me. you might call it dramatic, poetic, aesthetic, or even romantic, but the full moon never fails to rouse the inner self. hers is a far different light from the sun where of course she gets her light from. she is, we might say, a borrower of light. but, the thing is, this borrowed light becomes transformed, becomes her own.

i realized it was not her actually that lost her brilliance. it was the clouds that gave her that hazy aura. the storm clouds were still up there. lingering. the moon without these clouds will still be the same brilliant moon. suddenly, one of the teachings my Master said came to mind -- that we as individuals have been blessed with our own inner lights. each of us has our own individual spark of the Great Infinite, and it is our duty to nurture this wonderful glow and let it shine forth in our every act, every minute, every second, of our life so that other individuals will be benefited also and will be inspired to do the same.

this is brotherhood. the sharing of Light, of Life, of Love.

now, unlike the moon, we are not borrowers of light. we are all part of the Great Light. and, unlike the moon, which does not create the clouds that diminish her glow, we are the ones that create our own storm clouds through the hurtful acts, the negative acts that we do, towards fellow beings, towards Mother Nature. these hurtful, irresponsible acts pile up, one of top of another like those thick, storm clouds, and obscure our inner lights.

and so, how to resolve this? well, the Master taught, be responsible for every deed, every act. be conscious if actions will be hurtful or not. go inside yourself. know your inner being. connect with that Great Spark within you. realize that this is just One Life, One Love, One Light.

of course this will take great effort. but, if i remember right, it was the character, don Juan, in one of the books Carlos Castaneda wrote, who said, "Freedom is expensive but it's price is not impossible."

i gazed at the moon again. she is still hazy, but, judging from the way the storm clouds are dispersing away from her, i am positive the wind above is slowly picking up momentum to sweep them away so the moon can be viewed in all her soothing glory.

i can't wait. i don't want to be late for work.

the moon is a borrower of light. we are not.

Friday, October 29, 2010

the drummer girl

i rode a bus yesterday towards the university where my daughter is studying. i have to pay the security deposit required by her dormitory. this is to reserve the room from being rented to another. it was about 11 am, the day was hot, the sun was blazing overhead, you'll never think that just a couple of days ago we have had a lot of rain. a typhoon had just visited the country. i could have taken an airconditioned bus but the fare was a lot cheaper on an ordinary one. anyway, there are not so many passengers on my bus. lots of empty seats.

as usual on this route, the España, the main highway leading to the university belt, traffic was bad. terrible even. you really have to be a terrific driver to survive the jostling and the jockeying for position. and you have to be very patient as well. especially now when motorcycles have become a popular mode of transport. you'll have to be always on the alert when a biker will suddenly decide to test the vacant space between your vehicle and another. if he fits, good, if he brushes against you, then trouble.

the two children boarded my bus just as we lazily reached the corner of Miguelin street. both were unkempt. their faces and arms were darker than the usual brown. probably due to long hours of exposure to the sun. the taller one, a girl, had her long hair pulled back and secured tight behind her head. barely in her teens. she was wearing this sarong-like dress which was as dirty as the shirt her companion had on. the bus conductor just threw a quick look at them. i believe he's familiar with them. the girl had three drum-like contraptions slung over her shoulder. they were tin cylinders of different sizes, the ones used for infant formula milk, or powdered instant drinks, the top covers were removed and over the tops was stretched several sheets of plastic secured tightly by rubber bands much like how drum skins are stretched over real drums.

she played the drums while the little boy passed a small, dirty letter envelope to each passenger. there was a handwritten note on the envelope but i was not able to read it. i refused it when the boy got to me. she actually played well. i was amazed at how she learned this. using her fingers and her palms to nimbly tap on her drums. the beat was rhythmic and it was in time with the tune she was humming which melody i could not place. i thought i heard it before.

it was just a short performance. when she finished, the boy went back to collect the envelopes. most of them were empty. i saw the man seated beside me fish out a 10-peso coin from his coin purse and inserted it inside the envelope. i searched inside my back pocket. i was able to fish out a 1-peso coin and a 5-peso coin. instinctively i looked at the coins. the profile of two of our greatest heroes are embossed on the coins. the 1-peso coin has the profile of Jose Rizal, our national hero. the 5-peso coin has Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the republic. a sudden question popped in my mind -- why do we put our heroes faces on our money? is it so that we can be always reminded to show heroism, to remember how some great ones had set aside self for the greater good of many? as my seatmate handed the envelope to the boy, without hesitancy i also handed the 6 pesos to him. he gave us a thank you smile.

they say the beat of drums is a reflection of the beating of the heart. sometimes the beat is celebratory after a hard-earned victory, sometimes the beat is sad, slow, to mark a loss, or even death. for me, that hot day, the drummer girl's beat is one of dignity. they are beggars of course. a lot of our city streets are still teeming with beggars. yet, the drummer girl and the boy, they tried to give some dignity to begging by trying to give something in return, like music, in their own limited way.

still, most of the envelopes were empty.

i will never know how many coins or paper bills they got, or who are the other heroes they received yesterday, but those heroes are dead. they deserve heroes that are alive, today, persons who can set aside ambition, greed, lust for wealth, power, and fame, that can uplift them from poverty, from the streets,

that can change that drummer girl's heartbeat to one of a celebration, a victory ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

where good citizenship begins

i was riding in a jeepney again on my way home at about 10 am. i happened to get the seat behind the driver. he was a young man of about 23 but his face looks older and it tells me he'd gone through a lot. well, this country of ours, after a lot centuries, is i think still underdeveloped. or, perhaps it can be stated this way: the elite class, the oligarchs, is first-world, the rest of us still third-world class. but, we were born in this brave, resilient country, so we have to face the trials of being a filipino. i say we are still in the process of evolving one true, great, selfless leader who will herd us all to a better life. if you are a believer of karma and reincarnation, it is said that it is you who determine the country where you will be reborn so that you can have better opportunities to undo the wrongs you have done in the past.

beside the driver, by his left side, sat a kid, a boy of about 4 or 5 years old. he was busily munching on some biscuits and sipping orange juice from a tetra pak. he couldn't care less about his dad. he knew he should not bother him while he was at his "office". i glanced at the rear view mirror in front of the driver. his son's image is reflected there, so innocent looking, bright eyes showing the look of hope, of a great future, one normally sees in children's eyes. i know the driver and i have had that look before when we were young. now time might have obliterated that hopeful look in our eyes, but "hope springs eternal in men's hearts".

after a while i heard the driver speak, he noticed the child is just sipping air out of the juice pack, "son, that's empty, throw it away!" he commanded. the child looked at him pleadingly, seemingly unwilling to part with his orange juice. then he slowly stood up and tried to reach over the back of the front seat. overhanging the back of the front seat was an empty engine oil plastic container with the the top lid cut off. this serves as garbage bin where backseat passengers can dispose of small trash. the driver slowed the vehicle down and with his left arm pulled his son down on the seat.

"just throw it outside!" he told the boy.

"outside? there?" the child pointed to the road.

"yes, there!" his father answered as he maneuvered the jeepney to a stop to pick up a passenger.

as the vehicle picked up speed again the boy let go of the juice pack. he laughed aloud when he saw it hit the road and cartwheeled carelessly. i looked back, the empty juice pack lies there in the middle of the road, along with some other trash thrown mindlessly by others. i remembered what i always say to friends, that, to make this country better we have to invest in the new generation, we need to give them better values than we have now. and this is not a good way of doing it. where the father, the mother, and the child or the children are, HOME IS THERE, and HOME IS WHERE GOOD CITIZENSHIP BEGINS.

the way to a better future for this country is to invest even in the small acts of good citizenship like disposing of trash. even more, the way to save this Great Mother Earth is to be mindful of this irresponsible little acts that accumulate over time and hurt her in the end, and, eventually hurt us. karma, the law of cause and effect. what you give, so shall you receive.

i, myself, was not a good citizen in that instance on that jeepney. what i should have done was to offer my help to the kid, to take the trash and drop it in that garbage container. i could have been a good example to him. yet, i just let the situation complete itself, so that i could write down something on this blog. what a shame! how selfish of me ...

what's the end of this story?

well, after a couple of minutes more the kid finished the biscuits and smilingly threw the plastic wrapper out into the street.

*** jeepney night trip is by my daughter, neysa saguid, copyright 2010.