Thursday, April 23, 2009


I recently got a comment from Maricor Castrence-Urbiztondo to a recent blog post and when I saw her name on my computer monitor, I was immediately hurled back in time more than 20 years to the Cebu City of the early 1980's.

It was a dark, turbulent time for the country. The dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos was in its waning years but the pivotal events that led to the eventual ouster of the regime of the strongman from Ilocos were still to happen. Marcos' grip on the country's political and social institutions remained strong despite his fading health and a worsening political and economic outlook for the nation.

Legal and non-violent opposition to the Marcos regime was finding its voice in the college and university campuses all over the country and as a young political science student I too was caught up in the fervor of the times. Match the idealism of the youth with their innate optimism and unshakable belief in their own invincibility and you have an engine for change that is tireless as it is resilient and implacable.

To many of us, it was, in many ways and despite the risks to our liberty and physical well-being, an intellectual game played in real time. As students, we felt privileged to have drank deeply from the fountain of knowledge and we felt we had the obligation, by virtue of our superior knowledge, to help lead the country from the darkness of authoritarian rule to the light of democratic change. Quixotic and extreme intellectual arrogance it may have been from hindsight now but at that time it was something that seemed not only logical to us but also imminently achievable and doable as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Yesterday, I read in one of the nation's leading newspapers an editorial written by one noted opinion columnist lamenting the fact that Filipinos no longer commemorate the Holy Week with the fervor and devotion they had in the past. He called most of Filipino Catholics nowadays "paper" Catholics who, instead of observing the culmination of the Lenten season with the proper attitudes of penitence and repentance as befitting a Christian nation giving due reverence and proper remembrance to the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, now merely look upon the Holy Week as holidays to be spent in relaxation and enjoyment in the company of family and friends and largely devoid of any religious or spiritual significance.

I can personally sympathize with many of his views on the matter.

When I was a young child growing up in the Lianga of the 1960's, the Holy Week rituals dominated the early summer months of every year. It was true then as it is still largely true now that in this town, being predominantly Catholic, the rhythm and cadence of community life remains, in many ways, heavily influenced by the feast, solemnities and celebrations enshrined in the Christian liturgical calendar. That is simply the way things are, even today, in this part of the world.

Palm Sunday which starts off the whole thing was always a festive affair with the town church suddenly going yellow-green with the coconut leaflets and fronds churchgoers bring in abundance.. This is in commemoration of the palm leaves with which the residents of Jerusalem supposedly greeted Jesus of Nazareth over 2000 years ago upon his triumphant entry into that city.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cyber Hooked

While in Manila last month, I had the opportunity to help friends set up an internet cafe business of their own. It was a new business venture and a specially stressful process for them since none in the family, except for a son who is an IT graduate, was in any way familiar with the cafe business or particularly computer savvy.

I, myself, am no computer geek but I have a basic working knowledge of computer hardware and software which came in handy when I found myself immersed, for the first time, in the onerous task of getting a bunch of newly assembled PC's loaded with the proper software and making sure that they were ready to hum and communicate faultlessly together as a network. The work became a unique learning process for me.

The whole experience also taught me a lot of the minutiae and details that go into putting up a new computer rental and internet cafe business and has made me appreciate the difficulties and obstacles inherent in starting a enterprise of that nature. I emphasize this point because the internet cafe is a hideously complex undertaking for someone who may not be knowledgeable or familiar with the workings of modern information technology.

Woe, therefore, to the unfortunate individual who jumps into that kind of business undertaking without doing the proper research or getting the necessary necessary advice from experts. Such an ill-advised move can quickly end up a very costly mistake.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Holding On To Hope

It's the graduation season in Lianga nowadays and, in the case of this town which is host to a public elementary school, two public high schools and the Lianga campus of the Surigao del Sur Polytechnic State College, the excitement can be exceedingly contagious especially if someone in the immediate family or neighborhood is actually graduating from any of the above mentioned educational institutions.

Local folks like most Filipinos, place a high value on education for their children and diplomas, particularly those conferring college degrees, are often viewed as tickets to social advancement and financial success in life for their offspring. Thus graduation ceremonies are important milestones in the yearly calendar of activities for the whole community and occasions for conspicuous celebration for those families with graduates of their own from whatever level in the academic ladder.

In the family house in Lianga in particular, two of my mother's house helpers are getting ready to receive college degrees of their own and all of us there have been feeling more than some of the heat from the graduation fever that has most of the town within its insidious grip.