Christmas Love

noche buena

Noche buena in Christmasland (from thepinoywarrior). 

It’s Christmas in our family. Our two older daughters have arrived from one of the world’s most livable cities for the holidays. They live and work abroad.

Our family of six—not counting four dogs—is whole again. We celebrate Christmas like it’s the only game in town, more so now, when my wife and I preside over an empty nest in non-Christmas months. Our two younger children stay near their workplaces on weekdays, coming home on Sundays for our Holy Mass together.

It’s bittersweet, when you see that your children can live their lives without your financial support. In fact, it’s the other way around. They have made our retirement their project, and are actually helping out in some expenses. The parents have become the children of their children, the leaders are now led, the led, leaders.

What better time than Christmastide to talk about family love and how it helps sew together the Philippine socio-economic fabric.

Allow me to reminisce a bit—because without the past, the present is meaningless:

It was the time of living dangerously—the eighties to the nineties—when our children were growing up and studying. The deepest trough of the economy in the last 50 years happened exactly at the point when we got married in 1982, and the trench continued wending its way on the same level when our daughters were born in successive years, ’83, ’84, ’85 and ‘91, and all through their schooling years.

Fresh Flowers 

As Imelda Marcos ordered $1,000 worth of fresh flowers daily for her Waldorf suite in New York in ’82 on the paltry salary of her husband, interest rates rose like a teenager’s hormones in senior prom. The economy took a dive in ’83 when Ninoy Aquino was shot in the airport upon arrival to try to reason with fraternity brother Ferdinand Marcos who had major health issues, as evidenced by a hospital-like room in Malacañang when people took over in ’86. The room came with a dialysis machine.

People took to the streets to demand his resignation from ’83 to ‘86, snap elections were called in ’86, Marcos won in the counting but the people would have none of it.

The troika of General Fidel Ramos, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile and Colonel Gringo Honasan mutinied, Cardinal Sin called on the people to surround Camps Crame and Aguinaldo on EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue), that was Day One of the people power revolution on Feb. 22, 1986. General Tadiar rolled in with Philippine Marines fresh from fighting in Mindanao to quell the rebellion, he was ordered to fire on the crowd, but couldn’t because the crowd was thick—dispersal would necessitate thousands dead—that was Day Two. Helicopter gunships were ordered to rain hell fire on the mutineers and their swelling numbers, Colonel Hotchkiss couldn’t and instead joined the people to demand the resignation of the president, that was Day Three. On the same day, Ramos leaped for joy upon learning that the Marcos family had fled Malacañang, which was part of psy war—the Marcoses didn’t really leave—for the rebels to gain more numbers from the military. On Day Four, under cover of darkness, the retinue of the conjugal dictators holed up in the besieged political center of the country finally fled by a U.S. helicopter to Clark, then on a plane to Guam and finally another plane to Hawaii. I was an active participant of the unfolding drama, and when I left our home on sunrise of Day Two to join people power, I looked back at my sleeping family perhaps for a last look. Heaven and earth would conspire that the revolution would be bloodless, a miracle attributed to people power’s twin—prayer power.

The Cory administration braved political, media and military clutter, actually managed to rekindle the economy but was met with several coup attempts, the worst finding me sleeping as a staff member of the Office of the Press Secretary on the floor of the Guest House together with some members of the Cabinet some of whom were armed for a last fight—the Alamo. Good thing the U.S. ordered an F-4 Phantom jet fly-by, scaring Gringo Honasan’s Tora-Tora planes which almost bombed Malacañang to kingdom come.

It was an adrenaline-filled life for every Filipino, especially for this father with a darling wife and sweet-smelling babies in the house. After Cory, it was Ramos, the economy huffed and puffed but didn’t gain traction. Then it was Erap Estrada, who ruled from the comfort of his circle of friends with Johnny Walker Blue Label front and center, he was chased out of office by an irate people power marching like Sparta’s 300 from EDSA corner Ortigas to Malacañang on Jan. 20, 2001. Then Macapagal-Arroyo, the economist, same results and the Philippines was still the sick man of Asia.

Tuition Deadline 

In 1998, hobbled by an economy in the doldrums, add to that the Asian financial crisis, add to that my wife having had to quit her job in a multinational bank which had its mother computer ensconced in Hong Kong and could therefore operate the local office even in the face of a labor strike, we had to sell our home in ’98 to catch the deadline for tuition-fee payments for the four daughters.

My dutiful wife and I bit the bullet, said goodbye to home ownership so that our sweet daughters would not miss a year of schooling.

If you were to pan the camera to the rest of the country, other families would be encountering the same problem. At that time the middle-class disappeared from the face of the Philippines, families would migrate to North America and the OFW diaspora would commence.

I have two sisters. Both of them live abroad, as well as my widowed mother. They left the Philippines in the late eighties. My mother helped put our eldest daughter in college. When our eldest finished a computer-science degree, she and the second-born helped put our youngest in college. It was a game of human rope, leaving no one behind.

Those were the years when my wife and I knew that we were in a tunnel with no exit except backwards and forward. Backwards was out of the question, so we forged ahead, and the tunnel stretched on and on in total darkness. We just followed our conviction that our children should finish schooling in a world gone awry, with no one to help us except ourselves and our relatives.

So now we’re in Christmas 2015. Life is as good as it gets. It’s a far cry from the days of struggle. My insurance work has picked up, thanks to products that attract depositors who would otherwise keep their money in the bank for lower than one per cent interest, when our products can project upwards of five per cent for bond placements and triple that for equities of blue-chip companies listed in the local stock exchanges, also in balanced funds for lesser volatility. As to our daughters, each of them can stand on their own.  Their successful careers have seen to that.

So, what’s a father with daughters like these to do? We go out to the finest restaurants, and do I pull out my wallet? (Oh, yes, but only to present my senior card.) We check out a condo unit, and do I talk to the sales rep? I drive a late-model car, and do I pay for monthly amortizations? I look like a million dollars, and do I have millions in the bank?

I’m the richest financial debacle in the world, chiefly because my daughters will not stop honoring us with their love. Although not successful in the truest sense, my wife and I are victorious because of family embrace, a family dedicated to the proposition that we will prevail as one no matter what happens. Period.

Valley to Mountain Top 

I may have shared way too much, but if I don’t open our family closets, how can you, dear reader, measure the relative height and distance of our journey from valley to mountain top?

That’s why I’m thankful for JoeAm for opening his blog for me, where I can write of, by, and for love. Sometimes I wonder: am I the only happy and contented Filipino around? That’s a hyperbole of course. JoeAm, Irineo, Mary Grace, Juana, Lance, Chempo, Edgar, Gian, NHerrrera, Andrew, Bauwow, Karl, Caliphman, Josephivo, and other like-minded bloggers and commenters in the Society of Honor are fighting in the trenches for the same reason. But how come when I read comments and articles in news websites and social media, almost everything I read are about grumbling, name-calling, resentment, insults, fear, hatred, impatience, change the system, change the administration, put in all the expletives unfit for print, commit crime to solve crime, throw the baby out with the bathwater? Does anyone of those who hearken back to the “good days of martial law” know what they’re talking about? Those who complain about the “unaccomplished, underperforming, amateurish presidency” of the present dispensation, have they experienced the feeling of a lowly citizen who has had to scratch out an existence while the rulers party and spend government money for private gain and aggrandizement, like having 3,000 pairs of shoes?

It’s good that I can write like this while I still can. We’ll never know. Perhaps a charlatan will take over after President Aquino and throw the country in a tailspin again, make the country sick man of Asia once more. Are we a people for the sorrowful mysteries, are we capable of joy and glory, are gratitude and contentment Greek to us?

Were it not for God who understands, who loves unconditionally, who gives back a thousandfold of what he has taken away, I would have joined the millions of disillusioned inhabitants of the beloved country. I am eminently qualified. I have a store of pain. But no, I will persist. I will shout out. I will not give up. I will keep on loving, for love replenishes itself, it will not die, it will keep on giving, like a mother and father who will willingly enter the tunnel of no return to put their children in school, raise them well, feed them with good food and good values, put a roof over their heads, and when it’s their time to love unselfishly, their hearts would be full, so they can give back to the world in full measure. We will keep on loving.

Merry Christmas, every one!

Comments
234 Responses to “Christmas Love”
  1. edgar lores says:

    *******
    XMAS GIFTS

    1. It’s that time of the year when Father Christmas goes around spreading Christmas gifts and joy.

    2. Boys and girls, have you been good boys and girls? Well, Santa knows cuz he’s been keeping a list.

    3. Here are some gift suggestions and best wishes:

    3.1. Vice-presidential candidates

    o Escudero: A soul (he already has a Heart)
    o Leni: A crown (cuz she’s royalty)
    o Bongbong: A real diploma
    o Cayetano: A moral compass
    o Honasan: A bucket of gray cells
    o Trillanes: A smile and sense of humor

    3.2. Presidential Candidates

    o Grace: Another chance
    o Binay: A conscience
    o Mar: A regular pedicab (he may not need a magic one)
    o Duterte: A shoe horn (so he can remove his shoes from his mouth; alas, the foot is permanently stuck)
    o Miriam: Physical and mental health

    3.3. Incumbents

    o PNoy: A Miss Universe to rule his heart and home
    o Binay: A daily dose of sodium pentothal
    o Drilon: Slimming pills
    o Sereno: Eight new justices

    o Filipino People: A gift from the Ombudsman

    3.4. Blogs

    o Raissa Robles, Alan & CPMers: May the Force continue to be with you!
    o The Society: May you continue to wield sharp scalpels and illuminating lightsabers!
    o Chinese and other Trolls: May you develop more sophisticated arguments… and trick yourselves into awakening!

    And drum roll please:

    o JoeAm: A mention in Mar’s first SONA!
    *****

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahahaha, yeah, I fear that would be like another case of dengue, with real bad headaches attached.

      – Edgar: peace, good fences and a whole lot of popcorn

    • Kiko says:

      Straight from the heart Sir Wil. I too am baffled as to why our countrymen refuses to see the glass as half full rather than the opposite. Enjoy the holidays with loved ones.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Yes to the drum roll!

    • Merry Christmas, sir edgar…thanks for the enumerated wisdom and wit…enlightening, uplifting and enlivening…more years of interacting…be safe, healthy and well for you and your family!

      My nephew is going to Australia for his graduate studies and on to working there.

      Keep the gold nuggets of wit and wisdom coming!

      • edgar lores says:

        *******
        Mary,

        Merry Christmas, and thank you for the wishes. May you, too, be healthy and well.

        Oz is a lovely place, full of dangerous creatures that start with S — sharks, spiders, snakes… and shielas. It is also inhabited by people with dangerous ideas — someone unmentionable from GRP for one and, at the opposite extreme, yours truly of the Society.

        I am not sure if I was radicalized before or after I came here, but I know that the cleanliness of the air somehow contributes to the radicalization. I hope your nephew will be radicalized in a nice way.
        *****

        • karl garcia says:

          Merry Christmas Sir Lancelot, I mean Edgar.

          • edgar lores says:

            *******
            Karl,

            One of best book series I have come to love is Jack Whyte’s “Camulod Chronicles,” which is a retelling of the King Arthur legend.

            Sir Lancelot appears in Book 9, “The Eagle,” the last of series. You know how Lancelot and Queen Guinevere fall in love? In some versions of the myth, Lancelot’s knightly image is tarnished and he is cast as the cause of Camelot’ downfall. In Whyte’s recount, Lancelot remains a true knight.

            I think Whyte’s version is credible because, despite all, Lancelot remains a hero for all ages.

            I am not a swordsman and more of a jester than a jouster… but thank you. The day is young so have a Merry Christmas, and may the New Year bless you with all the joys that the universe can bestow.
            *****

            • karl garcia says:

              Bless you Edgar.In the New Year have a blast,but be far away from that blast.
              I like that version of Lancelot and Guinevere you just told me better.

  2. andrewlim8 says:

    Merry Christmas to everyone. Our cup runneth over. Unless you are surnamed Tordesillas, Stuart-Santiago, Casino, Tiglao. Under no circumstance is happy allowed in their households. 🙂

    Seriously, the sense of proportion of the personal to the national depends on a few things, in my view.

    1. Many ascribe their unhappiness to a higher position i.e. a sitting President because it salves the suffering a bit, taking away the responsibility and the need to act on it personally. But it does not change a thing in their lives one bit.

    2. The rapid rise of the digital way of doing things has shortened the patience of everyone, including the elders. Instant gratification, instant relationships, instant mami. Everyone wants it now.

    3. Personal choices – on health, one’s life partner, do I study or play hooky, career, how to spend free time, impact more on your life, rather than on who’s President. So many of the complainers made bad choices and are now reaping the fruits. And it’s easier to blame the President for it.

    A toast to the readers of Society of Honor.

    • Joe America says:

      And a tip o’ the wine glass to you, too, Andrew. Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

      I think your analysis of our condition is spot on. May we strive not to be so needy, to be more patient and to make choices that benefit the community as crucial to our own happiness and well-being. Write on . . .

    • Joe America says:

      And a tip o’ the wine glass to you, too, Andrew. Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

      I think your analysis of our condition is spot on. May we strive not to be so needy, to be more patient and to make choices that benefit the community as crucial to our own happiness and well-being. Write on . . .

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Agree with JoeAm. A toast to you, too, andrew!

    • sonny says:

      I just read a poison of an editorial from Manila Bulletin, so I had to run to this blog for oxygen as one just asphyxiated. Thanks, Joe and Andrew (and Merry Christmas 🙂 )

      “ALL of us here in the Philippines, including the Yellow Army behind President BS Aquino and his fans, know what liars he and his people are. Every important occasion is an opportunity for this man to tell outrageous lies and make fraudulent claims to show he and his Administration have done and are doing great things for the Philippine Republic, the Philippine economy and the Filipino people. …” (gagging!)

      • sonny says:

        PS: editorial, Manila Bulletin Dec 22, on Paris, COP21

      • Ah, now I know now why you said you are feeling low, sonny. It happens to me so often when I browse the tabloid media or inadvertently hear Ted Failon and Noli de Castro spew their usual negativity. Manila Bulletin is just one of those that I ignore for my health’s sake. PDI, for all its slant in reporting news is the one I go to for editorials and columnists’ opinions, though I ignore some of its columnists, too.

        It’s my turn to feel low this morning when I learned that PDI’s editor in chief has passed away on Christmas eve. We lost another voice of readon.

      • Sonny, let’s just keep in mind that this MB editorial writer is the one lying to his target readers. Foreign institutions. are one in saying that this government has done wonders economy wise, the best performing econmy in the East Asia and the third? around the world. That writer should tell to their face that they are liars, those who gave us investment grade and upgrades are lying, too. The can’t find anything at all to accuse this government, just nitpicking on human imperfections and media induced controversies, so they resort to this style of editorial.

  3. To JoeAm and company…thank you all for making 2015 truly enriching for an old fart like me. I think you made me smarter 🙂 Looking forward to 2016. Cheers!

  4. Loveleen says:

    Merry Xmas to all! May the joy of Christmas give you key to every closed door; light to dispel any darkness in your life. Merry Christmas po!

  5. karl garcia says:

    🍷🎉
    Wonderful read for Christmas eve.Enjoy the holidays everyone!
    🍸🍹🎆

  6. Will, thank you for sharing a part of your life to us – the struggles, the seemingly hopeless journey forward to the end of the dark tunnel, to the joy of victory and fruit of all those sacrifices. The beauty of it all is the fact that it is a family pilgrim with love sweetening each stage.

    And now, you earned the right to relax, sit back and share with us the gift of words and eloquence that come so naturally to you.

    Yours is an example of a Filipino who is a direct participant of his country’s similar journey in the hands of a manipulative dictator bent on being her ruler for life to the point of preparing a secret decree making Imelda as his successor, and who knows, with help of a subservient Supreme Court and military, a rubber stamp parliament, would decree that Imee then Bongbong will succeed the acquistive mother. Their supporters would not rest and made Cory’s rule a next to an impossible task, Ramos managed to turn soft and obliging, Estrada made possible their shameless return to power. Three presidential terms which did not lift the country from the bottom due to the corruption and plunder institutionalized by the dictator, we have to admit it, they are still here, surrounding Poe, Duterte and the rank and file government in the national and more so in the LGUs.

    We had the great fortune of having a leader and his endorsed candidate with no taint of corruption in their blood and had succeeded in lifting us and making the rest of the world take notice of his success, but the remnants of the previous regime would not rest, they are still bent on pulling us back to those dark days.

    Reading the PDI’s commenters revealed that Poe is succeeding in her blaming all her DQ woes at the present admin, and her supporters following her lead venting their rage against Mar. Duterte, likewise is hell bent on ruining everything for Mar and is threatening to support an alleged plunderer Binay in case he is disqualified. Miriam, although acknowledging Mar as the best of the lot, decided to divide the votes furthermore by joining the fray despite her catasthropic health issues. Why are we so unfortunate as to have these kinds of government leaders and masochist voters?

    With God on our side, as He always is from our fight against the dictator, to driving away another plunderer president and praying for the success of his court trial that led to his conviction, the successful election of the son of latest martyr father and democracy icon mother. Here we are still fighting for the country so we could have another 6 years of forward march to economic freedom and continue the fight against the institutionalized corruption, and securing, defending our own territory on the Weat Philippine Seas.

    That faith will see us through, faith in God whose Son’s birth we are celebrating tonight.

    Merry Christmas!

  7. NHerrera says:

    A Christmas Story resonating with those with real heart and soul. Meaning, among others, us in The Society. A little patting of ourselves there. We’ve had a good year. We deserve it, especially Joe who owns this Oasis where we partake of refreshing and interesting thoughts, ideas and stories.

    Thanks for the story, Will. And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

  8. chempo says:

    What a wonderful tale, one best read on a cold December night for it warms the heart. Planting your family’s odyssey of love triumphing over immense difficulties against a backdrop of disastrous misgovernance is a masterful stroke. Well done Will.

  9. DJ R. says:

    Thanks for the read! I feel that it’s one of those brief but moving tales that can only come from a fully-lived life.

    It’s also the perfect note for this holiday season. With the palpable discontents being raised by the incoming election year, what we need for now is a dose of gratitude and appreciation for what we already have and what we have accomplished.

    Though I just have to ask, what is meant by this statement?: “Although not successful in the truest sense, my wife and I are victorious because of family embrace…” What is success in the truest sense?

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Hi chempo! Success in the truest sense to me almost always referred exclusively to career advancement, houses, cars, vacations, good looks. Victory would be some of that, yes, money and physicality are needed, but skewed towards conquest of self (good health habits for one); good family life; well defined priorities, like God, country, family; standing up against evil; courage and conviction at all costs.

      • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

        Sorry. The reply above is meant for DJ R. Thank you!

        • DJ R. says:

          I guess that’s fair, to keep to the economic and material aspects of ‘success’; though I imagine that many would prefer the meaning that you assign to ‘victory’. It’s clearly what matters more.

          Thanks!
          DJ

  10. Rank says:

    Great article. Season’s greetings to you Wil, JoeAm and everyone. May the force be with you all! 🙂

  11. Marilet Meris says:

    What an inspiring message! Thank you Mr. Villanueva. I related in a big way to this blog. God bless you. And keep on writing please. It is good to know there are people like you who are rallying us Filipinos to what is RIGHT.

  12. Al says:

    Your narrative could be assembled into a novel-movie sans the type cooked up in this godforsaken country. Adventurous life worthy of reminiscing to provide strength to the present.

  13. mel says:

    1. First and foremost, I wish you all to be merry and enjoying during this Christmas holidays.
    1.1 Second and most important, let us all pray for peace, peace for ourselves, peace be on earth, peace and violence-free during the coming May 2016 elections.
    2. My kudos to the writer for giving a good historical presentation that we may all learn from the accomplishments and mistakes of our leaders and our decision makers. I hope our voters will choose the candidates that will place the country first and the good of the majority as one of the criteria to elect the public servant leaders in the local and national arena.
    3. It is good to know that this forum is being read by our decision makers and political leaders. It is now campaign galore even if the campaign period has not been officially begun… paepal to the left, paepal to the right and paepal everywhere.
    3.1. Candidates has begun spending to introduce themselves over the airwaves. In essence this is campaigning to present to the voters how good they are. Legal technicalities, it may not be election campaigning because there is no wordage telling listeners to elect them for office, but the intent of their info ads is really to ask the voters to elect them in office. I was just wondering if the comulec bean counters will include these expenses as part of the candidates election expenditures? I hope there will be more examples of elected officials removed from office because of over-spending in the campaign. What is really the motivation of the over-spending candidate? It is not the desire to help the people but the strong desire to help oneself and their friends to the money of the people, and we have many examples of them. But I do not like to mention names.
    4. The best gift that the Philippines can get (IMHO) during this season of gift giving is the election of ROXAS-ROBREDO as our leaders. I would like to hear from the RORO how they will create jobs for the ordinary people in the rural areas. I would like to hear from them how they will mitigate flooding. I would like to hear from them how a not-for-profit organization (NFPO) help the nation in its development.
    4.1. Here’s how it can be done. Perhaps the government need to create a new department, the Department of Water, Rivers and Drainage Systems (DWRDS). Anything that involves water will be part of the department (dams, irrigation channels, streams, fishponds, drainage cannals, rivers, etc.). The main task of DWRDS is to ensure better water management so that water
    a. will not destroy our development
    b. will provide livelihood to the people
    c. will flow to the water collection areas
    d. will be used for its intended purposes (water for human consumption, recycling water for agriculture, water for aquaculture, etc.)
    4.2. There will be plenty of jobs created by dredging our rivers, streams, creeks and canals. There will be plenty of need of manual labor in the rural areas. The cadre of local laborers will need supervision and funds which in turn needs expertise and overseeing.
    4.2.1. The NFPO will supervise and handle the funds for proper accounting. New college graduates and advisers will form an NFPO and request for grants after a detailed plan of action is presented to DWRDS for award and implementation. The NFPO and cadre of laborers will come from the local area. What is the role of the elected official here? To lobby for the funds for the dredging or digging project in the area. Many local people will be involved and many will be happy as government funds is distributed all they way to the locals, much better than 4Ps.
    5. I hope readers can improve the idea and politicos adopt the idea of money in exchange of work.

    Again MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.

    • mel says:

      1. Speaking of rivers and lakes, they are good water hi-ways for goods and people. In order to be so, they should be maintained at a minimum depth so that water creatures and water vehicles can co-exist. Subsistence fishing and not commercial fishing should be the one allowed so as not to pollute them and there will more ordinary people who are able to partake from its blessings.
      2. In many countries of southeast asia, along riversides are hubs of small trades, hospitality and recreational activities. It would be nice to see our nation to embark on such endeavor where ordinary people will be more involved rather big business. It is a very healthy to experience walking along the river bank, to sit down and do some fishing or just relaxing with a san mig.
      3. One can imagine so many ways how a river can provide benefits to people, but for the river to do so we must take care of it…we must not pollute. we must make it a place of life and not a place for our rubbish. And most important, riverbanks should not be private property but public easement and access.
      4. Here is another idea of job creation…a river clean up brigade. Their job is to collect all the garbage that does not belong to the river. If there are street sweepers in metro manila and big cities, why can’t we have clean up workers for our rivers in the rural areas. I feel people will be more proud and happy to get money for work than get money for gratis.

      • wangad says:

        the para 3 will not be palatable to the barangay captains and the illegal settlers. the riverbanks are the haven of illegal settlers, they live and thrive in the riverbanks. some are relocated to better places but somehow many come back. ah the pinoy riverbank gypsies, they come and go. the government plays cat and mouse with them. the barangay kapitan is inutiles in driving them away because they are a few number of votes more. how about a squatter or illegal settler police-tanod. it is perhaps easier and less painfull when one or two illegal settler is evicted from their place rather than when there are already plenty of undocumented settlers to evict. i really do not know what is the politically correct term, squatters or undocumented settlers .

        meri xmas bro and to yall the society

    • I would like to suggest the creation of another site specifically designated as a catch basin for all the waters that they will release when dams reach their spilling levels. This is to prevent damage due to flooding in agricutural crops and the citizens residences, to prevent loss of lives, of course, that’s the priority, crops, livestock and their dwellings follow.

      • mel says:

        the more suggestions the better, synergy. catch basins could be developed as fishponds and not as residential areas. the low lying areas are made deeper to become catch basins, the fill dirt excavated will be used as the elevated sides and boundaries of the fishponds where people can also cultivate vegetables. of course it is best to leave the thinking and the design to the hydrologist engineer. follow the law of cause and effect. enlarge the water collection by digging deeper the catch basin.
        i sometimes do not understand the logic of developers where they say they make more money by converting fishponds or catch basins into subdivision residential areas. they get backfills from mountains to level up law lying areas. it is not in the interest of nation building but for greed.

      • sonny says:

        Mary Grace, when the moon and sun light hits Lake Michigan just the right way, I hark back to the Central Luzon plains, the ridges of the Cordilleras and the basins and tributaries of Norzagaray and transport back to the times of pagan Rome and the barbaric legionnaires who built aqueducts and viaducts controlling and manipulating the waters of the Alps and Appenines to create water supplies, baths and dancing fountains of Trevi and even back farther to the Ancient Desert peoples of Mesopotamia who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and then back to the huddled masses of would-be Filipino architects, engineers and hydrologists and botanists and agronomists and ask again and again, why not??

        • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

          Sonny, I’ll just repeat what I said earlier: why does JoeAm attract poetry?

          • sonny says:

            Wil, if I happen to come across poetic it’s only because of visions others have put forth. My common fare is prosaic and trying hard. 🙂 But I will accept con mucho gusto.

            • sonny says:

              PS. A personal commercial aside: a nephew is the chief hydrologist for the Ayala Group responsible for the other half of MetroManila waterworks. We are quite proud of him.

        • You ought to have been a speech writer for some presidents, sonny. Your eloquence and your why not question reminds me of a speech by one American president, (was it Kennedy?).

          Filipino architects, engineers, hydrologists, botanists and agronomists should think about this seriously. When I look at the poor folks from the Northern Philippines suffering from floods even when it’s no longer raining, induced by releases of water from the dams, I think of all those waters so scarce during the dry season now creating havoc to the lives of those mentioned folks.

          That designated catch basin should have strong concrete barriers just like those built by the Dutch, then an agricultural garden right beside it as expanded by Mel.

          • karl garcia says:

            I read somewhere a mismanaged dam could lead to earthquakes. maybe that is what the critical levels are for aside from overflowing or whatever.

    • Joe America says:

      Merry Christmas, Mel. You have some great ideas. Good way to head into the new year, building . . .

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Thanks, Mel for your appreciation! Happy new year!

  14. One of my idols in the mosquito press has joined our creator on Christmas eve. PDI editor in chief, Letty J. Magsanoc, you will be sorely missed. You are part of the reasons why the alleged PDAF plunderers are now detained, part of your drive for good governance in recent years. We wil never forget Ms Eugene Apostol and your part in awakening us from our deep slumber during the Marcos regime.

    In her last Interview, PDI says:

    Magsanoc’s vision could be seen in the Inquirer’s pages today, where positive stories, not just gore and controversy, are given prime front page treatment. Tales from the daily grind are delivered with that unique Inquirer style: strong when it needs to pounce, soft when necessary. At least, that’s the LJM ideal.

    Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/750027/letty-jimenez-magsanoc-the-last-interview#ixzz3vHS2yS4F

    • sonny says:

      Thanks for letting me us know. A prayer for Ms. Letty J-M … Condolences to Ms Rina and Fr. B, SVD. (I think they are related)

      • One by one, they are joining our creator – those that were instrumental in the success of democratic struggle.

        The millenials are being left to charter the nation’s next pilgrim. I hope they will learn to look back and learn the lessons of the past, not to be apathetic and be involved more and realize instant gratification is not ideal, to learn that patience and support for a non corrupt, non violent government will bring forth a steady and sustained economic growth, that experience and expertise in economy in finance being offered by Mar and Leni is preferable to a newbie but surrounded with the previous regimes remnants, more experienced in plunder and manipulation of the masa votes.

        • sonny says:

          Inspired by Karl’s rant and Mary Grace’s equanimity to our youth above, I picked this excerpt from our republic’s history.
          – – – – –
          Even reaching back to the beginning of our republic we are reminded that the negatives are ever present to negate our gains, if we are not vigilant. Just coming out of the devastation of our country, this was part of the entry in the rehabilitative analyses of the Philippine socio-political-economic status from 1946-1950:

          “The demanding economic symptoms were manifestations of a deeper moral crisis. The real crisis was the rapid decline in faith in the honesty and integrity of the government. This loss of faith was measured, not by the refusal of the well to do to pay taxes, but by the growing frustration by the middle and lower classes in the face of mounting evidence that the body politic was incapable of action in the interests of all Filipinos … The evidence is not conclusive that the Filipinos had the collective will to put their house in order. The disillusionment with existing political institutions was deep and the will to try again to make them function was eroding rapidly.”

          These words were written 65 years ago but still ring true today. They are not prejudgments on our youth’s endeavors but rather for them to take heart and always search for the sources of hope that will enable their capabilities to overcome the obstructions/challenges ahead, to always heed the caveats from our country’s previous experiences.

        • sonny says:

          Ms Letty’s ascendancy started in 1970, after my departure from the PH. Her individual crusade against the tyranny of the Marcos regime was truly praiseworthy of a true nationalist and patriot. I salute her late but honor her nonetheless. In this I join you, MG.

        • bauwow says:

          Totally unrelated but makes us sad just the same. Ron Jacobs died last night, 3 days before his 73rd birthday!
          To those of us basketball junkies, he will be forever be remembered.

      • karl garcia says:

        Unc,
        when you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand…winter,spring,summer,and,fall all you have to do is post and we’ll be there.
        find us on facebook

  15. Maligayang Pasko at Masaganang Bagong Taon po sa lahat ng Society of Honor contributors, commenters, lurkers and readers!

    Great heartwarming article, Will. Thank you for always shining the light on the optimistic, cheerful and resilient Filipino soul.

    May 2016 propel PH to greater economic prosperity and its people to greater heights!

  16. Jeanne says:

    To JoeAm and the members/writers of this society, a Very Merry Christmas to you all! I don’t know where to begin and how to say what I feel but please bear with me while I try to…. It is both scary and quite an honor (at the same time) to be talking to great minds in this forum. I actually feel so small (haha!) and yet, surprisingly brave to want to post while being so overly awed by all of you. You are all brave voices that is badly needed in our society. THANK YOU! I have been following your writings for more than a couple of years now, even long before the President mentioned JoeAm in his SONA. For an almost non-existent tiny speck of a person in one of the thousands of islands here, it gives me hope. It gives me comfort and the belief that all is not lost to greed and ugliness. For the longest time and in spite of proddings from friends, I have not left the country in search for greener pastures. But that one attempt I did back in 2007, cancer stopped me. Ought to tell me something! For the next 5 years after my diagnosis, I survived and began to put my life under great scrutiny. I wasn’t happy in my corporate job and wanted to do something more than spend my life behind a desk, endless meetings, targets and deadlines. It was a weird zombie or robot-like existence where I was alive but not exactly living a life that I am supposed to. So, I quit my good-paying job and happily stumbled into the tourism industry where I get to promote the Philippines and learn more about it. While on training, I wept unabashedly because there’s so much to be proud of about our country, our rich history and the fact that many people don’t even give a hoot about it. So, my journey began as a starving tour guide and student of life. Almost 4 years and I still don’t get tired of showing guests the beauty of our islands, our rich culture and telling stories over and over again that a lady once commented, “You do love your job! Your face is lit up like a Christmas tree!” So hear I am, still alive and with renewed hope, pitching in whatever little help I can for our country and our people. Also happy that I get to read here all the discussions, lessons and even the little arguments, knowing that there’s a lot who still care about our freedom and whose votes can never be bought. Many still ask if I regret the decisions I made. I always answer with a big and cheerful “No!” Not when I have found true happiness and a sense of purpose. Again, Merry Christmas to all!

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, my, Jeanne . . . you leave me speechless, totally choked up. You had the courage, you found the Philippines so many of us are discovering, dug out from under the cover of misleading newspaper reports and poor caretaking by some. What a beautiful Christmas card of words and word pictures you send us. Congratulations on your many discoveries, of treasures there for those who will only see them. A very Merry Christmas to you. Thank you for uplifting ours.

      • Jeanne says:

        Oh JoeAm! My heart is filled with much gladness at this feeling of belongingness in this forum where I can express my thoughts and passions without being subjected to ridicule by small minds. Not everybody can understand what I do, they only see me as being stupid for giving up a great job to be a tour guide. I don’t think it will happen here at all. Thank you so much! And yes, I think I will go back to writing once again.

        • karl garcia says:

          Hi Jeane! You can practice writing again by sending a blog, Wil started by doing poetry.I have this habit of telling peopke here to send a blog,but I do not have the courage to do one my self.I tried,but never mnd.Merry Christmas.

          • Jeanne says:

            Hahaha! Karl garcia, thanks for the encouragement but it would be best if the two of us get on working up that courage and send some articles. The last time I wrote was in 2008 and I miss it! I am not a great writer who can just write like a pro. Musings and mullings of an ordinary citizen are all I can do.

            • karl garcia says:

              I hope to see your article and Mary Grace’s then I will try too. So
              I hope MG finally channels her passion to compose an article. Then of course ,uncle Sonny’s contribution is also a wish of mine.

              • karl…I still can’t get enough courage to try and write one, even my commenting is being done in between tasks at the office, hence the lack of proper proof reading…I type directly in the comment box, after a rushed re reading off it goes …we had a lot of visitors in my off days so concentration is nil.

            • sonny says:

              Aaargh. This was supposed to attach to Karl’s!

              @ Jeanne
              Welcome to the club. I’m a wannabe but you’re not.

          • Joe America says:

            Ahaha, you did challenge the editor, but I’d do it again any time. 🙂

          • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

            Hi Karl! Yes, the poems! That was several months and articles ago. The Society of Honor recognizes those who have heart and who make the effort. Quality, yes, but conviction first of all.

        • Joe America says:

          Fantastic. I hope you become a regular here.

        • sonny says:

          Nephew, that article is now becoming a holy grail for me. You and me both, we’ll celebrate when it comes. 🙂 Getting embarassed here, considering uncle Joe churning out article after article and the others not very far behind. (you’re no slouch yourself, nephew).

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Jeanne! That’s what I want to say—Jeanne! Floored, wordless.

      • Jeanne, Merry Christmas from another cancer survivor…God bless you my dear and I hope He will grant you with sustained and complete healing…you are an inspiration to others without health issues but are with a sense of needy entitlement. You are one positive, one fresh ray of hope among those uncaring and apathetic citizenry.

      • Jeanne says:

        I am grinning from ear to ear, Sir Wil! Very memorable Christmas and so happy to be here! Thank you so much and I think I’ll come out of my shell some more.

        • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

          A simple article will do, Jeanne. That’s coming from the gallery, a clamor. Time to emerge from your chrysalis.

    • “Many still ask if I regret the decisions I made. I always answer with a big and cheerful “No!” Not when I have found true happiness and a sense of purpose.”

      This farmer salutes you, Jeanne.

      My present lifestyle invites smirks and derisions from those who do not understand my choice and those who look down at farmers in general. Like you, I find happiness and peace of mind in what I do everyday and I have no regrets. I feel good about being a good steward of the land by restoring it to its maximum productivity for future generations and providing healthy food for my family, friends, and neighbors for now and for the larger community when my food forest matures.

      We are both blessed to be able to work on creating our own reality through self-actualization. May the blessings and the spreading of joy and happiness continue…

      • It is my lifelong dream to do that too, JP. That would come later when I retire, I can’t indulge with my dream as experience of my cousins prove that farming is not financially rewarding nowadays, not enough to sustain the living expenses of a family.

        Before, my uncle and aunt were managing because their vast tracts of agricultural land are planted with coconut trees (alas cocolisap destroyed every single tree, attempt to plant shorter varieties invited more of the pests), chico, lanzones ang mango trees – all sources of bountiful fruits that they sold wholesale annually. It is a mystery to me why in my uncle’s time, those trees were producing more than enough aside from other crops (like rice and a variety of veggies) to send my cousins to college in multiple courses (but were unable to find profitable employment) but nowadays, these same cousins can’t duplicate their father’s feat. Same with their other neighbors who let their land become unproductive semi-forest.

        Your mention of restoring land to its maximum productivity gives me an idea of a crop rotation, planting peanuts for nitrogen fixing bacteria (from biology class). Then collecting that enriched soil for a raised enclosed platform for minimum insect infestation, a variance of your greenhouses over there, as snow and frost is not a problem here. Ideas, ideas. Just mulling them while I continue the work in the city (which I love, too) to establish a sustainable nest egg and capital for agribusiness of my dream.

        In the meantime, there is an election that I need to help RORO win.

        • Let me know when you are ready to farm, Mary. Maybe I could help you by then. Right now, I am still experimenting and learning the ropes.

          Lots of hard work is involved in tending the land but every small progress is like a validation that you are heading in the right direction.

          RoRo for the win!

          Thank you for caring enough to tirelessly work on influencing others to vote for the leaders that they truly deserve.

          • JP…you can say that again, it’s truly lots of hard work, I saw that with my late grandfather and mother, the former starting out at dawn and when age caught up with him, coming back home to sleep and rest when the sun gets too hot and returning when the heat is more tolerable. Both of them were able to make the land productive, more than enough source of living expenses, even helping out the family with his young grandchildren unfortunate to have an indolent, easy go lucky son-in-law who sleep until noon. Farming is just that, hard work, patience and common sense, coupled with luck so typhoons and pests would not detroy all the hard work done. In those days, they can predict bad weather just by observing the direction of the wind as it blows the leaves of trees and plants, they know when the rains and wind will come when they see the swallows and other birds fly low over the horizon, they will rush to harvest crops that are ready, neighbors helping each other safekeep the harvested crops one after the other, bayanihan style. In their days, there are no weathermen or typhoon signals, they learn to read nature and its habits and adjust accordingly even learned to find natural enemies of desructive insects and guide them to their crops using strings. They practice crop rotation, market their crops in Tagaytay City using horses. Oh, the stories they told keep me awake enthralled, my young mother riding a horse of her own from Laguna to Batangas together with my granpa to deliver newly milled and fragrant rice and veggies to her younger sisters studying there. I so miss both of them to this day.

            Back to the present, we have exactly four months of sheer hard work to help RORO win. May God be with us all and grant us victory.

  17. Bing Garcia says:

    Within this administration, there have been too many very worrying violations of contracts. Coupled with much delayed payments of value-added tax (VAT) refunds and other financial obligations, these send a disturbing message of a government whose word can’t be trusted, whose obligations can’t be expected to be met.

    There seems to be an inability of the Philippine government to understand that contracts are inviolate. Only courts can cancel contracts, or unilaterally amend them—but only for valid legal reasons upheld by a court of law.

    Peter Wallace

  18. Jeanne says:

    Sir Wil, thank you for this great article. I was only 10 when you got married. I was born in 1972 and was too young to know what was happening during the Martial Law years and also too young to understand the early to mid-80’s. All I knew then was that Ninoy Aquino was assassinated and thus, began this question in deep thought, “Why is somebody so afraid of this guy that he must be shot just to be silent?” And so, I began to understand what was happening as I left my teenage years and entered adulthood. I began to form my own views and opinions, albeit quietly because my grandmas who were sending me to school where staunch Marcos supporters. One grandma kept telling me in such awe that she was going to shop at Rustan’s but it was closed for Imelda. I thought: “So much entitlement eh?” and was not impressed. Thank you to all the writers here who are telling us stories about what really happened in those years, by sharing their own personal experiences and accounts. I’d rather believe you than any politician’s spun tales that are most likely weaved to suit their political and greedy agendas.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Knocked out already. Count of ten. Thanks, Jeanne!

    • NHerrera says:

      Jeanne, I appreciate very much true stories such as the one you told. Too young to know THEN what Marcos did; grandmas staunch supporters of Marcos, but you veered away from the Marcos propaganda by doing research and readings. Hooray to you. (I am 77 by the way.)

      And Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  19. bauwow says:

    Again, an inspiring article.Thank you Wil, for sharing and leaving a lump in my throat. Can’t believe you had to sell your house, so your kids will not lose a school year!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family Wil! May you continue to inspire us with your words that will help us get through the year!

  20. sonny says:

    Merry Christmas, Wil. Thank you for spreading the Christmas cheer! Ad majorem Dei gloriam!!

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      A merry Christmas season to you and your household, too, Sonny! Primum regnum Dei! (That’s Ateneo de Naga, Ad majorem Dei gloriam is probably Ateneo de Manila, right?) Salute!

  21. Annalissa M. valdez says:

    On my way to Cadiz Spain as the halfway point of our tour is happening, I read your piece. The morning sun shines brightly, and I am misty eyed. I shared your sentiments, hopes and aspirations. For we are indeed ine people connected by love. I maybe in one part of the world and some miles away but this brotherhood hosted by Joe keep us connected. Merry Christmas to everyone…..one day, I will be so proud to stand on the hilltop with all of you!

  22. Merry Christmas everyone. More in a few days.

  23. caliphman says:

    Happy Christmas to all and Joe! I read online that the interisland ferry between Biliran and Tacloban foundered last night. Hopefully this tragedy did not touch neither family nor friends, Joe. Last minute Xmas and bargain shopping ,holiday crowds, and drunken driving can be a real concern at times.Keep safe out there, everyone!

    • Joe America says:

      Seasons greetings, caliphman. Enjoy the holidays.

      The ferry is one of dozens that cart people around this island and to nearby Samar and Leyte. I guess the passengers had to hang onto the overturned boat all night. It is amazing that there were no fatalities. I generally don’t take long boat rides as I am a certified landlubber and get queasy.

      • Bert says:

        That’s too bad, Joe, because I just bought a second hand 5 meters cute of a beauty Japanese speedy boat with 112 hp. Yamaha engine and have in my present mind thinking you might want a ride with me this coming summer cruising around my paradise of islets surrounding Cagraray Island in the province of Albay facing the Pacific Ocean. The invitation is open to you in spite your queasiness which could be alleviated merely by just snorkeling with me and my family over heavenly coral reefs. Oh my, I can’t wait for the day.

        • Joe America says:

          I don’t get THAT queasy, and I am very good with the snorkel. I appreciate the idea and I’ll take it up with the recreation committee, chaired by my wife. Sometimes she is even receptive to ideas from me even though they don’t have “mall” attached to them.

          • Bert says:

            Okay, Joe, we’ll keep in touch up to the final decision of the recreation committee. The best months are June, July, up to August, on the onset of Habagat, one reason of which is that my paradise of a place being at the eastern seaboard of the map facing the Pacific Ocean while the Habagat blowing from the South, my place is most peaceful during this period. August is still peaceful but it’s the start of migration of deadly jellyfish passing by my place and the uninitiated will find it challenging dodging one or a couple of them while swimming so must be always, as in always, extra alert with the surroundings using their snorkeling goggles.

    • karl garcia says:

      Mery Christmas Caliphman!

  24. I wonder why select opinion page of Inquirer is being bannered at headlines. My understanding of headlines is that it is for top news of the day, opinions are in the inside pages along with other viewpoints. It’s quite disconcerting to wake up to such negative opinions when you haven’t had your breakfast or just having your hot milo or coffee.

    • Joe America says:

      That is not uncommon, I think, as newspapers seek variety and “pizzazz” for their dying publications. I’m growing wary of Peter Wallace though. I’m starting to think he is playing political games. The Inquirer has also featured anti-Binay and Duterte in that opinion column, so they seem balanced.

      • Wariness has crept my sub-concious too when I read anumber of his columns lately. I hope he is not among those businessmen who fund Binay’s campaign. A regular column in a popular newspaper is a very efective endorsement of a preferred candidate and a mighty weapon against that candidate’s opponent. Unlike you, Joe, he was given a citizenship courtesy of the Congress so he can? publish anything even after the official campaign period begins,, pity.

        • edgar lores says:

          *******
          In today’s column, “Political Madness,” Wallace says, “Let’s stop uncovering dirt… Unless it’s a fully proven fact, just ignore it, particularly if it comes from a political source.”

          Sounds like a very familiar excuse.
          *****

  25. NHerrera says:

    A day after Christmas in the Philippines, while drinking a lukewarm coffee from breakfast —

    Mangar Mangahas take on the December 12-14 SWS Presidential and Vice Presidential survey:

    http://opinion.inquirer.net/91491/holiday-survey-news

    Extracts from Mangahas opinion piece
    ————————————————
    Duterte has dropped from the lead. The most striking finding of the Dec. 12-14 survey was not the tie of Poe and Binay for first place, but the drop of Rodrigo Duterte to fourth place at 20 percent, or below Mar Roxas’ third place at 22 percent.

    Robredo has advanced to joint second place for VP. The second most striking finding of the Dec. 12-14 survey is the advance of Leni Robredo to a tie for second place in the vice-presidential race, together with Bongbong Marcos at 19 percentage points. Compared to November, Robredo gained 7 points and Marcos lost 5 points, thus wiping out Marcos’ former 12-point lead over Robredo.

    Meanwhile, Chiz Escudero maintained his voter strength at 30 percent in both November and December. He stays in first, with a bigger lead over Marcos and Cayetano now (since Marcos and Cayetano both lost points), but must watch out for the surging Robredo who has cut her deficit from 18 points to only 11.
    ———————————————–

    If I may add, the steeper percentage surge of both Roxas and Robredo compared to the other candidates come at the same time, with Robredo even much steeper — not lost in Mangahas’ comment in the last paragraph above.

  26. Donna says:

    I cried while reading Mr. Villanueva’s article. His family’s story is not far from ours. The socio-economic and historical backdrop were exactly how he described it during the 80’s and 90’s. Thou with God’s grace and our determination to give the best education to our children, they are now able to work on fulfilling careers in another country and far away from us. Last year we celebrated christmas together and hopefully will do it again next year. Thank you for the article, it is one historical fact that is very close to our hearts. Merry Christmas!

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Thank you, Donna! Loving isn’t easy, but it comes with many surprises, like who would have imagined that we have the capacity to do things previously deemed impossible. Love gives us wings.

      • Donna says:

        Will be looking to many more articles from you. You are a voice of our generation and your struggles and triumphs reflect the true EDSA heroes of our time. God bless your work and vocation.

  27. kapitanpinoy says:

    great article.. i’m an avid fan of this blog. thank you Joeam and all contributors here.

  28. “So, what’s a father with daughters like these to do? We go out to the finest restaurants, and do I pull out my wallet? (Oh, yes, but only to present my senior card.) “

    LOL!

    Merry Christmas, Wil. Thanks for all these granular, visceral, tangible articles of yours, they’ve allowed me a better, closer sense of the Philippines and of Filipinos.

    I did catch Pope Francis’ Christmas mass, aired on NBC here at mid-night (this is the first I’ve watched a Catholic mass on TV and mid-night early Christmas day to boot— is this every Christmas, sonny? The narrator was a Father so and so from the Chicago region).

    Wil, your article when read along side the Pope’s Christmas message, especially about consumerism and materialism, and family (& love not just for sinners but also non-believers— that’s me 😉 ) brings it all home quite well.

    Sorry all for the late greeting, but a belated Merry Christmas to everyone !!! Thanks for all the information, knowledge, wisdom, arguments, discussions and this sense of community, that beckons and encourages all this sharing (and love? “sharing is caring”), I’ve seen nothing like it—- I hope the coming new year will push all this further and forward.

    “JoeAm, Irineo, Mary Grace, Juana, Lance, Chempo, Edgar, Gian, NHerrrera, Andrew, Bauwow, Karl, Caliphman, Josephivo, and other like-minded bloggers and commenters in the Society of Honor are fighting in the trenches for the same reason.”

    • It’s the Third Day of Christmas and not too late… I’m just back from Berlin, celebrated Christmas more in the German way – closest family on Christmas Eve, family including some AlDub style Skyping on Christmas, greetings to friends etc. on the Second Day…

      Will’s article got me thinking – about how we left the country, how we made sure we got things going abroad, how my father stayed behind, telling me once when I thought of going back “this is not your fight, I made sure you were abroad things will not be safe over here”…

      Finally it inspired me to write this New Year’s Message… my last blog article this year… http://filipinogerman.blogsport.eu/riding-the-tiger/ – cautious but hopeful… let’s see.

      • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

        Welcome back, Irineo! Read your blog. These are great times for the beloved country.

      • NHerrera says:

        Irineo,

        I read your article. It complements well the one wrote by Will here. Let our collective thoughts be a great force to reckon with on our way to May 2016. Your thought is a big component of that force.

        HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your family!

      • True. And other Christians celebrate this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany_(holiday) more so than Christmas— so a bit late for Christmas but early enough for the other celebration.

      • Posting herewith my comment in your article published in Riding the Tiger

        Happy New Year, Irineo!

        A very objective article, and an enlightening one. You are a great historian and political analyst for sure. Congratulations and thank you for the insights you share here, at Joe’s and at raissa’s.

        Since this is the campaign season, an informed electorate is a must if we are to put a truly worthy one in the highest position of the land. That’s the only area of your article that I have a concern about. The rest is an excellent view of where we have been, where we are now and where we ought to be if we really desire to be at par with the rest of the nations of the world.

        “Real education. Problem-solving skills and not discussing ius sanguinis and residency requirements like medieval monks who discussed how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

        The SC will hear the SET case elevated by Rizalito David and the DQ cases already decided by the Comelec, subjected yesterday to an expected SC TRO to stop the clock, so to speak, as the decision will take effect after five days. The voters need to understand the issues behind these issues that will have the SC as the final arbiter. We all know that the SC rulings depend on whether the Arroyo 8 SC associate justices will see the light or will be influenced by political leanings. Cases in point are their rulings on Enrile bail, midnight appointments, the Estrada pardon, etc, etc. Whatever the SC decides, the people should discern the issues and to do that, they need to understand the principles and the provisions already established by the constitution and the law. If they allow Poe and Duterte to run as presidential candidates, then the future of this country will be in the electorates’ hands.

        Poe is more acceptable than Binay, Duterte (who will be another problem for democracy loving Filipinos) and Santiago who has a catastrophic health issue.

        My concern for Poe is her decision to gravitate towards the remnants of the Marcos regime, Escudero is the son of Marcos Agriculture Minister, same with the Zamoras, Roberto Ongpin and Danding Cojuanco’s group (Ramon Ang of SMC and PAL) who can possibly influence her decisions most particularly the appointment of the 11 SC associate justices who will form the majority of the SC capable of mangling the constitution beyond recognition. Looking back, I should not be surprised as she was raised by FPJ and Susan who are avid supporters of the Marcos family. If we consider an old police report of FPJ threatening to shoot a restaurant owner if she confessed to him that she voted for Cory in the snap election and had proceeded to shoot the walls and furniture of the restaurant before leaving the terrorized owners and patrons without paying for his groups’ food and drinks, then they are not just simple, avid supporters.

        Poe’s choice of people to associate with, her recent display of lack of deeper analysis of current issues, plus her lack of honesty and integrity in the filing of her CoC in 2013 and 2015, including her filing application to avail of RA 9225 wherein she stated that she is the biological daughter of her adoptive parents when almost everyone including herself know that she is a foundling just to go around the rule that only natural born citizens can avail of that particular Republic Act. If she can be dishonest in those things, circumvent laws, rules and procedures, in what more decisions affecting the country can she be trusted in?

        That leaves me with Roxas and my passionate attempts to understand each and every issues regarding this election. I’d want a candidate for presidency to display a genuine respect for laws, procedures and most of all the constitution. If she can ignore these, then she does not deserve to be a candidate for president nor continue legislating laws in the Senate which does not respect at all.

        We need a President to steer the country to the realization of what you have enumerated in this great article of yours.

        • http://filipinogerman.blogsport.eu/riding-the-tiger/comment-page-1/#comment-1888 – thanks, this is my somewhat longish answer in two parts… the summary being this:

          1. The legal system the way it is practiced today in the Philippines is basically a joke. Some people languish in jail for years without trial, especially those without money, while Enrile merrily is set free. It needs fixing or better guardians who set the right precedents.

          2. It is a major barrier to investments. Businesses especially MSMEs want clear rules not legal quicksand. The present system encourages patronage and extrajudicial “solutions”. Modern businesses want rules not padrinos. Clarity, not legal hulidap and tanim-bala.

          • What I highly recommend are the articles the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation writes about the Philippines: http://www.kas.de/philippinen/en/publications/ – the evaluation of the 2015 SONA is interesting. This kind of NGO evaluations are my personal benchmark for quality.

            As for the political background of that foundation, it is close to Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Party, so one can read between the lines to see what Merkel and her group think about the Philippines at the moment. There is no complete objectivity anywhere – my father likes to call the filter by which we all see things “pook at paninindigan” – the place where you are, your perspective, plus your principles. At the moment, various forces are clashing for their principles to become the determining principles of the Filipino nation.

            Duterte: fascist principles. Binay: Mafia principles. Poe: opportunistic “principles”. Miriam: old-school statist principles. Roxas: modern statist principles, more ordoliberal in practice than President Aquino. Mary is right in moving the discussion to principles for the country.

              • Welcome. I like this article as well: http://www.kas.de/philippinen/en/publications/35174/

                Democracy without Parties – The Philippines in the Patronage Trap

                During the mid-term elections in the Philippines on 13 May 2013, as expected the old patronage parties came out on top. Once again, the electoral system offered the opportunity for candidature nearly exclusively to well-known personalities and wealthy families during the country-wide senatorial election. Similarly, the elections for the Lower House and local elections were dominated by political clans and dynasties. Vote-buying and controlled voting in polling stations turned the election into a farce.

                The background of the CDU and the KAS should also be seen in the German postwar period of American-sponsored democratization. They both come from the same tradition as Radio Free Europe which broadcasted democracy to the Soviet bloc from Munich.

                Putin hates the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Russian internet trolls like to mention the KAS and the CIA in the same sentence. KAS reps in Russia and Ukraine have recently been subjected to heavy repression including detention, the St. Petersburg office was run from abroad for a while because its head was accused by Putin’s circles of being a “Western spy”. Well, being called that by Putin’s group is more like a badge of honor. Adenauer himself helped rebuild German democracy after the war, with US support. Pre-WW2 he was Mayor of Cologne before the Nazis deposed him. His “Centrist Party”, mainly Catholic, was not what they liked. But he actually built the first German Autobahn, before Hitler built any – the 555 Autobahn from Cologne to Bonn, straight as an arrow. Also he liked suspension bridges – two Cologne bridges over the Rhine were built while he was its Mayor, and two bridges in Bonn were built while he was Federal Chancellor. Which goes to show that democratic politicians can also build infrastructure, not only dictators.

              • http://www.kas.de/philippinen/en/events/66678/ – for Karl especially but also for others:

                On November 20, 2015, KAS and AIM Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness organized a forum entitled “Maritime and Regional Security in the Asia Pacific: Challenges and Prospects for Cooperation”…

                Further this session was followed by policy discussions with Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta of De La Salle University, Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo of the Magdalo Party List, Dr. K.S. Balakrishnan of the University of Malaya, and Mr. Chito Sta. Romana of the Philippine Association of Chinese Studies. Among the issues discussed include the need for cooperation among the countries in dealing with the current maritime security issues and the need for the Philippines to provide an institutional anchor to its national security strategy.

              • http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_41564-1522-2-30.pdf?150605073654 – migrants, OFWs and most interesting the passage on remittances and how they are put to use:

                There have been countless studies on how these remittances are used in the Philippines and their effects. But the results have been largely contradictory. They suggest that the majority of the money flows directly into local consumption, with much less going into investments. The majority of remittances are used to buy food and pay debts, with education taking third place. According to the Philippine Central Bank (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), the money is saved in less than half of all cases, and it is invested even more rarely. But when this does happen, it is usually put into sari sari stores – small stores or kiosks that sell everyday goods in small quantities. Their owners only make very small profit margins. These stores can be found on every street corner, so competition is fierce and they can only serve a small circle of customers. Their turn over is sufficient to cover the cost of building, renovation, maintenance and purchasing goods, but it does not stretch to making larger or longer term investments.

                The Philippine Central Bank has recognised this problem and now offers financial literacy programs in Manila and particularly in rural provinces. But so far it has been difficult to reverse the practice of spending the remittances on consumption rather than investing or spending it on education. However, a shift in thinking seems to be taking place. A study carried out by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2004 showed that more families were spending the money on their children’s education.

                Now if one looks at the typical GRP stance of those back home being “palamunin”, this report shows there is some truth to it, but that times are changing towards responsibility.

                What it also reinforces is Joe’s positive take on the BSP – they are also helping the poor.

              • karl garcia says:

                TY Irineo.

              • I hear you, Irineo and I share your frustrations and misgivings on the state of the country’s justice system.

                Pres. Aquino initiated the start of his promise to fight corruption by having SC CJ Corona removed from office by impeachment and eventual conviction, but Ex-Pres. Arroyo, in her almost 11 years regime got to appoint a lot of SC Associate Justices in the SC and we all know that much as we want it to be otherwise, the SC rulings depend on the numbers’ game just like in the Congress. You can imagine the obstacles a Philippine President is facing in reforming just one area of governance – the Justice system. He started the reform after the Ex CJ was removed by appointing a very young CJ who will be in the SC for almost 18 years, effectively serving in the regime of almost 4 presidents before retirement (barring impeachment of course).

                This is why I mentioned the importance of having a President free from any outside influence from the corrupt remnants of the previous regime, one who will get to appoint 11 SC associate justices who will assist CJ Sereno on her judicial reform mission. I learned that the CJ has already initiated this said reforms by introducing new procedures that will make possible the quick resolutions of cases that are gathering dusts in the lower and higher courts.

                Time is what we need and of course the retirement of the rest of the Arroyo 8 appointees to be replaced by the likes of SC Junior Associate Justice Leonen.

              • Thanks Mary… Karl, you’re welcome and I am putting the link I mentioned in my blog in discussing with you about garbage here as well: http://www.earth911.com/earth-watch/trash-planet-germany/ – Germany recovers over 70% of garbage, USA only 30%…

                The Green Party in Germany were the pioneers when it came to this kind of stuff – the founders were the same generation as American hippies and Rachel Carson, now their thinking is mainstream. People used to think they were just freaks high on marijuana. Germany is only slightly bigger than the Philippines in land area and has 80 million people, so no space for huge landfills and sending garbage to Ukraine isn’t that good.

              • Legally, Germans are not obliged to sort their household waste, but clearly the vast majority of them don’t mind doing it. In fact, many citizens feel so strongly about sorting their trash that they will often help or politely correct foreigners or any others they see who are “doing it wrong.”

                “[Recycling] becomes a way of life here, and if people in the [United States] just started doing it, after a while it becomes routine and you don’t even realize you’re doing it,” says Kormany Hochnedel, a 23-year-old American living in Germany. “It’s the same as simply throwing something away. It’s such a simple thing that makes such a huge difference.”

                Now contrast that with Southern Italy, where the influence of the Mafia in municipalities is so strong that Naples was full of garbage in the streets for some time… well one could say that many local politicians in the Philippines are Mafiosi… my father lived in Naples for two years, I guess living under the shadow of the Vesuvius volcano may have reminded him of Albay, but he said: “they are like us, they have the same virtues and the same faults”… now Albay at that time was under the known crook governor Salalima, not yet Salceda.

            • http://www.amazon.de/Tramp-Berlin-Mark-Twain-Stories/dp/1935902903 – for Joe:

              In the fall of 1891, Mark Twain headed for Berlin, accompanied by his wife Olivia, and their daughters Susy, Clara, and Jean. In the “newest city I have ever seen,” America’s foremost humorist met fellow correspondents, philosophers, generals, and his new best—and secret—friend, a high-ranking diplomat. Twain, who was featured in the press as a “nut that is hard to crack”, became a celebrity: he visited Berlin salons, had breakfast with princesses, and dined with the emperor. And lived through quite some adventures: He got lost on streetcars, suffered an “organized dog-choir-club” at his first address he called a “rag-picker’s paradise”, picked a fight with the police who made him look under his maid’s pettycoats, was abused by a disgruntled porter, and nearly died of pneumonia. He even witnessed a proletarian uprising right in front of his hotel. In his six Berlin months, Twain penned stories on his everyday life in Berlin, and he even started a novel on Wilhelmina von Preußen, unpublished up to today. In this book, theses stories are assembled for the first time, together with a riveting account of his Berlin foray.

              This fascinating book is a must-read for any Twain enthusiast“ — Andy Borowitz

              Sounds like Joe America meeting Mar Roxas and twittering with the DFA and stuff. But why I thought of this book is because one can find German expertise on nearly anything, which is what my links on the Konrad Adenauer Foundation show. Mark Twain’s take on that:

              Berlin is a luminous centre of intelligence—a place where the last possibilities of attaintment in all the sciences are to be had for the seeking. Berlin is a wonderful city for that sort of opportunities. They teach everything here. I don’t believe there is anything in the whole earth that you can’t learn in Berlin except the German language.

              • Joe America says:

                Mark Twain is my idol. Charles Dickens is number two. Jonathan Swift is number three. Dr. Seuss is number four, he he. Ambrose Bierce should be in there somewhere, and Somerset Maugham when he is sitting at the Raffles Hotel getting drunk in the corner, whilst writing. I don’t do non-fiction; it’s too scary.

                John Cleese is my acting idol.

              • Joe America says:

                And Jimmy Stewart.

              • sonny says:

                It’s non-fiction for me and movies: am a gourmand not gourmet in these categories. I lean to the Hollywood star-stables for actors & actresses. I just recently rediscovered Olivia de Havilland. (sigh, so magnetic). If I must pick authors, it’s Isaac Asimov and Fr Stanley Jaki, OSB.

              • Joe America says:

                Okay, Isaac Asimov, great mind and author. His version of the Bible indeed shaped my own version of faith. Brilliant, brilliant guy. I don’t know Jaki.

                Glenn Ford reminds me too much of Ronald Reagan . . . ahahaha . . . and I’m a democrat. (But I still respect your views on that socialist Obama 🙂 🙂 )

              • sonny says:

                It’s Glenn Ford for me, Joe. 🙂

              • edgar lores says:

                *******
                Ah, the fastest gun alive. For me, it was Burt Lancaster at the O.K. Coral. 🙂
                *****

              • sonny says:

                Burt Lancaster is The Crimson Pirate and The Flame and the Arrow for me 🙂 And yes, ’twas Glenn Ford vs Broderick Crawford, also.

              • sonny says:

                🙂 Ronald, the original cool guy (Desperate Journey, Santa Fe Trail)

                America will prevail inspite of Obama, Joe.

                Joe, on Jaki: kinda long but shows his important connection to science and religion.

                http://www.sljaki.com/downside_review_hodgson_on_jaki.html

              • Joe America says:

                Hahaha, those were before my time. 🙂

                “Father Jaki is essentially a teacher, a preacher with an urgent message for the world, a world pervasively influenced by his beloved science.”

                I look forward to digesting the rest of the article, a significant challenge as there are no pictures. ahahaha

                Happy New Year, sonny. Thanks for the peace and perspective and faith that you bring to readers here.

            • sonny says:

              Mary, gian, karl, Joe, edgar puede ba siluin n’yo muna si PiE. 🙂 🙂

              • Afraid I might do something really crazy? 🙂 LPCL_X, this is a “black” Filipino video…

              • LOL! Everybody loves FREE stuffs.

              • Grace Poe’s ad is a “whiter” version of Binay’s…

                This Duterte supporters video is real and serious…

                This election reminds me of the comic “Wacky Races”.

              • karl garcia says:

                Unc what is siluin?

              • sonny says:

                ha ha, PiE. ‘siluin ka’ so I can catch up.

              • sonny says:

                nephew, ‘silo’ is to catch with lasso or lariat. Our friend PiE gallops fast whichever subject he tackles, like the free mustang that he is.

                @ Joe
                It is a privilege that we have your blog to romp around in free of bias or prejudice. Thank you.

              • karl garcia says:

                We should use wonder woman’s magic lasso.

              • sonny says:

                A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and the family, uncle Joe!!! 🙂 🙂

              • I would go with Darna any time – or with any of the actresses who played her – even if she does not use a lasso.

                When the Metrocom tried to arrest us near Paranaque in 1981, I was resisting the men, all of them one head shorter than me, at that time the average height was much less than now – but suddenly two women in uniform appeared, and I “gladly” let myself be escorted to the bus that eventually took all of us to Pasay City Jail. Well even now, the PNP has pretty no-nonsense women in it. We did not hit the sheriff who read something which I did not understand, because everybody else was shouting very loud in the typical leftist way…

                Didn’t even have to lie in the sworn statement I made with the help of Raissa’s father, unfortunately Pasay City Fiscal Bernabe’s reaction was “this statement is not to be believed” – he even threw me out because I dared answer to one of his comments…

                But I did pity Fiscal Bernabe when his son was killed some years later by rogue cops…

                And I also felt very sad for the SAF when I saw so many of them died, even if they were in a way the successors of the Metrocom that we were taught to see as the enemy. But who knows, if I had stayed I might have become one of those NPAs that cold-bloodedly kill… Finally the Philippines in the coming years will have to find a way to end the blood cycle, punish those that deserve it, but also find a way to move forward and solve big problems.

    • NHerrera says:

      LCpl_X,

      It has been quite a 2015 year with three more days left. While fighting in the trenches, our discussion though at great variance sometimes — as it should, to bring out the gold in the discussion — we have sharpened our thoughts and brought out the deeper meaning of what we are fighting for here at The Society. The first few weeks and months of the 2016 promises to be more interesting at the very least and we hope it will bring out what we want beyond May 9, 2016.

      HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your family!

    • sonny says:

      @ LanceCplX a.k.a. LC

      Yes, the Christmas papal Mass is always celebrated this way on every Christmas day; later in the day the pope gives his apostolic blessing from the loggia of the St Peter’s Basilica, “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and to the world), as Christ’s Vicar on earth.

      To my memory, this is the first time a major secular, national network covered the Christmas Mass. Catholics at other Christmases have to rely on the Catholic network (EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network) to do this for everyone.

      The commentary was most ably provided by Fr Manuel Dorantes, a priest of the Chicago archdiocese. (I had so many takeaways from this particular celebration by Pope Francis). I hope the Christ Child did the same thing for every one.

      A very Merry Christmas to you, LC!! 🙂

      • sonny,

        I watched the whole Christmas mass on NBC, the only times I’ve sat thru a Catholic mass are in weddings and funerals. But what got me interested were the escorts to priests serving the wafers ( transubstantiated earlier into the body of Christ, thanks to Father Manuel Dorantes’ narration ) to attendees, who were wearing these symbols around their necks,

        symbols which I remembered from “Kingdom of Heaven” by Ridley Scott,

        So I assume they were knights. I’ve seen Knights of Columbus in parades, who were basically a bunch of old guys, but these guys at St. Peter’s looked like real knights.

        My question to you is, how to do you become a knight these days? Which ones are the hardest, most selective? And can non-believers become knights?

        • sonny says:

          Very observant to say the least, LC. Just began to follow your lead. (loved Eva Green)

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_orders_of_knighthood

          (to be cont’d)

        • sonny says:

          Will read to look for answers to your questions, LC. Also new ground for me. The Knights of Columbus and the Knights of Malta are what I’m aware of.

          http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10304d.htm

        • sonny says:

          LC, as far as I know the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of Malta are the Army and Marines in the Catholic knighthood. And you are aware the Catholic Church is closest to the military mind. yes? 🙂

          Am not sure if conversion is a must.

          • “And you are aware the Catholic Church is closest to the military mind. yes? :-)”

            For sure, w/out the Catholic Church there’d be no Crusades and no Conquistadors from Spain.

            The Knights of Columbus & Malta (though more on the former) I’ve familiar with, but they strike me as clubs for old people, like the local VFW and American Legion.

            Now the folks (most I think were Holy Sepulcher knights) I saw at St. Peter’s looked hardcore, aside from old folks, do they have an “active” arm? Or maybe I’m just over romanticizing this knights deal.

            “Am not sure if conversion is a must.” I was thinking more along this line, 😉

            • sonny says:

              ha ha. sounds like you, alright.

            • sonny says:

              the Catholic Church as military … i was thinking more along the lines of the religious orders, Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines, et al. Big difference, their ‘military’ zeal is mostly turned to their selfs and imitation of Christ’s holiness, i.e. they try.

              • I know recently, in trying to research this knights stuff, I got that feeling too, sonny— maybe not so much the Marines, but Army with it’s variety of different unit cultures, ie. cavalry, Green Berets, paratroopers, etc. with insignias and symbols to boot.

                Years back when I took the Greyhound bus from Socal to the Bay area, I sat next to a Jesuit in training, who said he was required to go on the road, to find epiphany or serendipity or both. I thought that was really cool. Around that time I was reading Jack Kerouac’s books.

                I’ve already explained on here that I don’t really buy Luke and Matthew’s Jesus as child stories and I don’t buy the resurrection and I reject Paul’s take on things (though his Greek philosophies & values, I agree with, Stoicism, etc.). So my Jesus story begins like John’s and Mark’s with John the Baptist and ends where Mark’s short ending ends— no body, women ran.

                So the commissioning story, where Jesus tells his peeps to go out and share the wisdom, and tells them not to bring anything except just a staff and a good pair of sandals 😉 I’m a big fan of that story, and every “Christian” I meet I compare to that—- so, the Jesuit in training I met on the bus, only had change nothing more, and I think a small bag (his uniforms?).

                To this day, he comes closest to what I envision a Christian to be (these days, I’m a big fan of the Pope).

                The bus picked him up in L.A. and I think his plan was to go all the way to Seattle and just see where the Lord (or the road) takes him. I’ve been a fan of Jesuits since.

              • St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was a former Spanish soldier.

                The Jesuits were the major force of the Counter-Reformation. Nearly every Catholic order was a reaction to a threat – the Franciscans a reaction to beggar monk heretic groups…

                The Catholic Church itself is worth studying as an organization that has adapted to all sorts of threats and survived for two millenia, even managing to make its way up from a persecuted group within the Roman Empire to the official state religion – no mean feat. They wear togas similar to the Roman ones, even the colors of the different upper ranks are derived from the purple Roman Senators wore, the office of Pontifex Maximus was a rank in the Roman priesthood, its most famous bearer was Julius Caesar himself once.

              • sonny says:

                @ LC
                In its simplest essential, being a Catholic/Christian is the imitation of the Person of Christ and He taught what this imitation consists of as individual and as a neighbor to other individuals.

                @ PiE
                You are generally correct about the origins and symbols attached to priestly vestments. This is a beginning information:

                http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-and-meaning-of-the-vestments-the-priest-wears-at-mass/

                You are also correct in assigning the connection between the origins of religious orders and institiutions in the Catholic Church as responses to errors to doctrine and behavior that have sprung up in the the Church’s progression through history, from early Apostolic times through the succeeding epochs of Church’s life up to current times and places to spread the Good News as Jesus Christ commanded.

    • Belated reply to a belated greeting, hahaha…Merry Christmas, Lance Cpl.

      It’s still Christmas season here extending to New Year and Three Kings. Christmas decors are still up, to be taken down after the latter. Christmas trees, etc. will be kept in storage for the next year’s season unlike there in US where you can cut a pine tree each year. We have to make do with synthetic ones.

      I remember the one I bought with my bed ridden mother in mind, a revolving one with a fiber optic lighting in different designs and color already attached. My mother was so entertained with that one as it changes color with its rotation.

      • Yeah, I think most people over here have also opted for plastic trees, Mary.

        I’ve always been a fan of this poem since reading it years back, so keeping faith (and salvation by austerity and Pope Francis’ homily) I’ve not done Christmas decors ever since—- it’s all Made in China anyways 😉 , so might as well focus on “what is truly essential”, right?

        I’m sure you’ll like this poem too, http://www.grunt.com/corps/scuttlebutt/marine-corps-stories/merry-christmas-my-friend-semper-fi-and-goodnight/

        “Undaunted, I often repeat that post with a caveat that I am an incurable spy thriller enthusiast. “

        I also caught this comment from you, might I also suggest James Rollins’ Sigma Force series, if you’ve not already read (the list below is 9 books but they are up to 12 now), very good read,

        • Wow, thanks a lot for the book reading suggestions. I will visit the bookstore for sure and keep an eye on James Rollins, if they are not available on e-book store.

          I still have unread thrillers at home, unread because it is campaign season and you must know by now, an opinionated, passionate and politicized citizen, hahaha!

        • edgar lores says:

          *******
          I read Rollins’ “Amazonia” some years ago. It was so-so for me. This series seems to have very high scores (3.93 to 4.16) from Goodreads. I might give the series a chance.

          Two espionage novels I read lately that had me turning the pages past the witching hour were “Red Sparrow” (3.98) and “Palace of Treason” (4.21) by Jason Matthews. The first book should be read first naturally. The second features a sex scene involving Vladimir Putin — yes, him — that will give you a positive or negative kilig — depending on your, ah, deviance, of course.

          I am sure you have seen around this humongous novel “Shantaram” (4.25) by Gregory David Roberts. If you were intimidated by its size of 946 pages — “Atlas Shrugged” is 1,044 pages in comparison — and hesitated to plunge into it, by all means: plunge. The teeming life of Mumbai will enfold your senses: you will be able to hear it, taste it, smell it… and upchuck it.

          The sequel, “The Mountain Shadow” (3.75), is slightly shorter at 912 pages. Both books intrigued me in their main characters’ discussions of morality and cosmology. The main characters belong to the underworld.
          *****

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Rollins#SIGMA_Force_Series

            ” The SIGMA Force is a fictional division of the U.S. DARPA program. The chief operatives in SIGMA combine highly trained military skills with specialized scientific knowledge. The Force’s purpose is to investigate and to secure sensitive information that could be a threat to the United States; its functions are a combination of counter-terrorism, research, and covert operations. Following the first book, Sandstorm (2004), the SIGMA Force headquarters moves into the sub-basement of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “

            edgar,

            I’ve not read “Amazonia”, just his Sigma Force series, but if you’re talking about personal nuance injected in fiction by folks like le Carré, Graham Greene, Victor Ostrovsky, etc. I agree. Though the subjects tackled in the series more than make up for that lack.

            The latter books in the series though, you can tell he’s reached out to people familiar with the military and beyond. In his early books, I’ve cringed when he talks about the military, that’s tapered now (or maybe I’m just vested with the characters more).

            Either way, Rollins should definitely reach out to these guys (I think they’re unto something), https://imagecomics.com/comics/series/the-activity

          • “Both books intrigued me in their main characters’ discussions of morality and cosmology. The main characters belong to the underworld.”

            The other books you mentioned, I’d not read (but will check out, if only for the Putin sex scene, Pussy Riot involved?). Roberts’ books, I’ve read reviews only, but will definitely check ’em out now after this recommendation. Thanks, edgar!

            The last book I read on India was this,

            • edgar lores says:

              *******
              I enjoyed “Nine Lives” very much; I still have the book. The spiritual traditions in India transcend any other country. The varieties of religious experiences — from sadhus to yogis to devadasis — is simply mind-blowing.

              A paragraph from the book (page 113):

              “All religions were one, maintained the Sufi saints, merely different manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque or the temple, but to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart — that we all have Paradise within us, if we know where to look.”
              *****

      • Lance Cpl, sir, this poem made me cry this morning. It reminded me of our own soldier, killed by the NPA when he was en route to deliver relief goods to typhoon stricken areas. He was not able to spend Christmas and New Year.

        Merry Christmas My Friend, Semper Fi And Goodnight
        Posted by Sgt Grit Staff

        ‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
        In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
        I had come down the chimney, with presents to give,
        and to see just who in this home did live.

        As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
        no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
        No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
        On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

        With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
        a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
        For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
        This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

        I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
        so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
        And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
        Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

        He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
        Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
        Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
        Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

        His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
        I soon understood, this was more than a man.
        For I realized the families that I saw that night,
        owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

        Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
        And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
        They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
        because of Marines like this one lying here.

        I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
        on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
        Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
        I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

        He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
        “Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
        I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
        My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

        With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
        I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

        I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
        I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
        So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
        and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
        Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
        with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
        And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
        and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

        I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
        this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
        But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
        said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
        One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
        Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

        By LCpl James M. Schmidt, circa 1986

        • LCpl Schmidt wrote that poem while assigned to 8th and I (that’s where our Commandant lives, and our oldest garrison) as security, but it’s relevant to anyone, anywhere who’s assumed a life of service. Glad you enjoyed it, errr, appreciated it, or better yet, I’m glad it gave you pause.

          “The buildings at the Marine Barracks are some of the oldest in Washington. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson and Commandant Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows rode horses about the new capital to find a place suitable for the Marines near the Washington Navy Yard. They chose a location within marching distance of both the Navy Yard and the Capitol and hired architect George Hadfield to design the barracks and the Commandant’s House.”

      • “I’ve not done Christmas decors ever since—- it’s all Made in China anyways 😉 , so might as well focus on “what is truly essential”, right?” – Lance Cpl

        Right, since my mother’s death in December of 2006, I no longer have the urge to put up Christmas decors at home. But since Christmas is mostly for children, we (the millennial family members, actually) have to make the effort for their sake.

        For adults, you expressed it beautifully – “we must focus on what is truly essential” and I focus on giving joy to the less fortunate, I give monetary gifts to those who cannot reciprocate the gift giving because they don’t have 13th month pay or bonus. I distribute the joy giving mostly in the province. and to our kasambahays (maids).

        • “But since Christmas is mostly for children, we (the millennial family members, actually) have to make the effort for their sake.”

          Mary, I’m totally fine with Christmas carols, or hand-made, local, decorations. But once it all gets ramped up to just pure consumerism, buying Made in China decors, plastic trees, cheap $1 presents at Wal-Mart or Target, all sense of the sacred gets lost.

          So maybe re-tweak this whole gift-giving tradition to self-made gifts or gifting gifts of value that you own to loved ones (heirloom gifts).

          Supposedly before consumerism was injected into Christmas (before Santa Claus was coopted by Macy’s and Coke), the season was still very much Roman Saturnalia (drinking, orgies and parties).

          Then early department stores and products got hold of Santa and made him the spokesperson for buying un-essential crap. Around the same time Teetotalers banned drinking (and drove it underground), so from one form of fun (drinking) to another (shopping), Americans didn’t skip a beat, swallowed consumerism hook-line-and-sinker.

          Nowadays we’re getting fed cheap crap from China and we’re happy about it.

          I didn’t see the same level of consumerism (ie., since Black Friday here, countless victims of aggression due to shopping have resulted in death and injury) over there, so I think there’s still hope for the Philippines—- whereas over here, it’s more difficult to convince people that 1). you don’t need it and 2). that crap’s Made in China.

          I hope you guys keep Christmas sacred,

          • Lance Cpl, It’s kinda hard to fight tradition here or should I say everyhere. You’re absolutely right, we should keep our Christmas sacred and strive to veer away from consumerism that has unfortunately been practised, influenced by the ads in the media. I suppose the idea came from the tale of the three kings who came to find ithe infant Jesus bearing gifts. It’s quite unfortunate that now the people has embraced this consumerism thing to the point that they tend to spend their year-end benefits buying gadgets, spendng for parties left and right. When one try to be different, he will be branded a killjoy…I can take what they think of me as long as I do what I think is right. I just say that that one time I gave out T-shirts to everyone was in my effort to contribute to super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims…I bought dozens of them directly from ABS CBN studio, (one ot their fund raising concepts) proceeds of which were delivered to the victims, to construct new schools there and fishing boats for those who lost theirs. Since I can’t go directly to the victims, I follow the utilization of what I contributed on TV, confident that in my own small way, I have reached out to the victims. Elsewhere, what I distribute are sacks of rice, money for medicine and lab fees if they are sick, or shoes for school, things that they will use after the festivities are over.

  29. Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

    Pope Francis’s Christmas message: full text
    by Staff Reporter
    posted Friday, 25 Dec 2015
    Pope Francis waves to the crowds in St Peter’s Square (AP)
    Pope Francis waves to the crowds in St Peter’s Square (AP)
    Pope Francis delivered his Urbi et Orbi message from St Peter’s Basilica

    Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!

    Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!

    Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation. A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).

    On this day, Jesus, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). He is truly the Saviour, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29). With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. This is something we all need!

    He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.

    Where God is born, hope is born. He brings hope. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.

    App-promo

    We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples. My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.

    To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength. They are our martyrs of today.

    We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.

    May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingness to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.

    May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.

    Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.

    Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.

    On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many!; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.

    Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.

    Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Thanks, Lance! Your reply reminded to pore over Pope Francis’s Christmas message. Your reply made me think. Believers and nonbelievers alike have the same goals! Peace is what we need. Let peace take over our hearts in this coming year of living dangerously (again) in the Philippines. Thank you for your appreciation.

      • Sorry, Wil, I meant his midnight Christmas homily,

        http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/12/25/christmas-eve-mass-full-text/

        “So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, “to reject godless ways” and the richness of the world, in order to live “temperately, justly and devoutly” (Tit 2:12).

        In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.”

        • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

          Oh yes, Lance, this is connected to Christmas Love. Thanks for bringing it up. The first will be last, and the last will be first. Words of power, words of hope, faith and love. Thank you.

  30. sonny says:

    Wil, might you also speak these words for our Filipino women in harm’s way …

    “… I have a store of pain. But no, I will persist. I will shout out. I will not give up. I will keep on loving, for love replenishes itself, it will not die, it will keep on giving, like a mother and father who will willingly enter the tunnel of no return to put their children in school, raise them well, feed them with good food and good values, put a roof over their heads, and when it’s their time to love unselfishly, their hearts would be full, so they can give back to the world in full measure. We will keep on loving.”

    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/catholic-church-mothering-weary-filipino-mothers-in-beirut/

  31. zelda says:

    it’s such a beautifully written piece, i shed tears.

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