Monday, October 12, 2015

Cheetos, chili, and a man's courage

Richard Montanez, the man with the brilliant idea

I love Mexican food. I love Cheetos. And I certainly love stories of people who, by dint of hard work or indefatigable faith or both, beat the odds and come out successful while keeping their humility and sense of service to continue helping others.

So I love the story of how Flamin' Hot Cheetos came about!

Photo from A Grateful Man


Friday, October 09, 2015

On forgiveness, reconciling, and the view from the tabletop

Two of my sisters and I were sitting around one day, talking about movies we had seen, and Dead Poets Society came up.

"Do you remember that scene where the students in Robin Williams' class get up and stand on the table?" one of them asked.

"Yeah...." my other sister replied.

"I don't like that," said the first one, grimacing.

I couldn't believe my ears!

"Me neither!" my other sister chimed in agreement with such vehemence that I was even more flabbergasted. At the same time, it was kind of amusing that something I found almost movingly refreshing had the opposite effect on my two sisters. Of course they were a year apart in age, and I was a full decade younger, which probably accounted for the difference in perspective and preference. While they abhorred the scene in question from the critically acclaimed movie from the late 1980s (which I guessed did not impress them one bit), I found it delightfully striking.

"Huh? I love that scene!" I said, letting my disbelief and amusement show. "I think it's a great way to show that we have to constantly look at things from another perspective..." I said something like that -- I don't remember exactly what I said but I do remember how funny I found the whole thing. They hated the scene, and I thought it was brilliant. We spent the next couple of minutes laughing at our obvious difference in tastes.

Well, isn't the ability to look at things from a different perspective a great way to expand one's horizons? To learn something new? To see something in a whole new light? You may not need to stand on a tabletop to acquire a fresh context as regards things you previously took for granted, but another vantage point sure can help bring out the finer details that previously went unnoticed.

That's what this video did for me as far as an invaluable friendship  is concerned:

 Think about it. And here's something else worth considering:

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Busy signals and party lines

Making calls on a rotary-dial telephone is one thing I would love to do again regularly; alas, I'm told that installing such a device today would not facilitate phone conversations but merely add a vintage touch to a home's aesthetic style. I heard "analogue," "digital" and other such phrases in the exchange about why a rotary dial-phone would not work anymore in these times, but I didn't really understand it. So, thinking back to the days of party lines and seemingly endless dialing (specifically when lots of zeroes are on the phone number) seems more nostalgic than ever!

Seeing the images above reminded me of this experience which would probably make no sense to anyone who grew up in the age of smartphones (or even just mobile phones) without the benefit of perspective provided by experiencing the use of rotary-dial. Well, in the grand scheme of things, it is merely a person-to-person communication device from a different stage in the history of technological advancement. But as in any change in society's lifestyles, the virtues that were acquired and developed in the course of using such devices are invaluable. You'll probably see a little of what I mean if you read about my experience of making song requests on the radio (that's the link provided above) over the course of decades -- and that means doing so using different gadgets, depending on what era you're talking about!

If you fancy a closer look at the telephone experience, check this out as well:

10 aspects of old telephones that might confuse young readers



A page from history --

Dec. 1958: Queen Elizabeth becomes the first person in Britain to make a long-distance call sans the help of an operator.

The first long-distance call made in Great Britain without the help of an operator was made by Queen Elizabeth in 1958. It was a big event!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Beyond the broomsticks and horcruxes

I caught the second half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on TV recently. And just like what happened after I had watched Into the Storm not too long ago either on HBO ( I went link-hopping for materials on Richard Armitage and ended up watching The Hobbit clips and Thorin interviews), I spent a good deal of time watching old interviews with cast members and some other decade-old materials. I harkened back to the years when the Gryffindor kids were just that -- kids -- and the three lead actors were just giving their first interviews as mere 11- or 12-year-olds.

One of the videos I came across was a 2001 BBC Christmas special for which author J. K. Rowling was interviewed. This is particularly interesting to me because rather than being some kind of promotional material for the books and movies, it clarifies -- in Rowling's words, no less -- the truths and falsehoods reported in the media about her and about the process of coming up with the books. It sure is fascinating, too, to see the notebooks and tons of notes she has accumulated in the course of doing her work.

So, in the interest of accuracy, here it is:

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Leave the leaves alone... no more

Leaf art -- that's what I have come to call it.

In the last couple of months, the sight of heavily munched-on leaves became more common around our garden -- ubiquitous almost. Admiring the pretty lavender hibiscus blooms, I noticed quite a few leaves with jagged patterns; every morning while waiting patiently for signs of new yellow hibiscus buds to show up in the nearby pot, the number of chomped up greens seemed to increase. I was accustomed to seeing half-eaten leaves; for some time, Oleander Hawk-moth and Vine Hawk-moth caterpillars made the chichirica and a las cuatro plants their home and main source of sustenance. I even made a few of them my pets, keeping them in jars and regularly giving them a stash of greenery for their meals till it was time for them to cocoon. Eventually they transformed into marvelous winged beauties.

But this time it was different. It was like whatever was responsible for the uniquely fashioned foliage plodded on with gusto. The result was almost like art -- munching here and there, never staying on the same spot for long, hence the punctuated surfaces and interestingly irregular edges. It was partly amazing, partly exasperating. Though leaves naturally grew a certain way, who said they had to stay that way, especially when some tiny creatures were designed to feed on foliage?

Even the Dona Aurora wasn't spared from the "bullet-riddled look". At the same time I noticed that too many hairy caterpillars were showing up in our garden. There they were, crawling on the leaves of nearly each of the half dozen potted plants. A swipe of the coconut tree frond mid-rib broom (okay, let's just call it by its usual name -- walis tingting) yielded three or four higad at a time from the santan hedge. And, they weren't simply resting, snoozing, or anything unproductive like that -- most of the time they were eating away, jagged leaves and flower petals presenting the evidence! I therefore concluded that controlling the population of the "backpacker caterpillars" -- the name with which I've come to refer to them as they looked like they carried backpacks -- for the time being was called for.

"Higad lang po 'yan. Hindi nagiging paru-paro," chirped one of the street kids who stopped by our gate, hanging around me as I took snapshots of some plants and being jolted when a backpacker caterpillar reared its hairy body from the santan hedge, almost touching his fingers. "Namaga nga po itong kamay ko nung umakyat ako ng puno ng bayabas tapos nahawakan ko bigla," the little boy added, stretching out his hand to reveal the subsiding inflammation on his right palm.

So, potential skin allergy trigger, plant destroyer, imminent invasion, and non-winged future as a moth or butterfly -- could all these and a potential infestation not point to a need to eliminate the hairy crawlies? I don't know what technically constitutes an infestation but getting to observe several of these little backpackers everyday seems to come close! So, I set to work: I took pictures (I was still fascinated by their atypical physical features) then proceeded to (gulp!) kill each one that I spotted among our plants. This went on for about a week...

A little backpacker and an even tinier one (frankly, I'm not sure if it's an offspring, sibling, or a mere appendage/shed "fur") under a bougainvillea leaf)...

... another one that was making its way around the pots...

A bunch of them that I gingerly picked off with a stick from the foliage (lest one of them give me a taste of the venom from its backpack should my hand accidentally touch the prickly tufts on its back)... and that was it. Till now I haven't seen a single one of these backpackers in our midst.... which I have come to regret after making a discovery three days ago:

The "backpacker caterpillar," I learned, is called the Tussock caterpillar, which -- after cocooning -- becomes a Tussock moth.

Yellow tussock moth

After coming across the discovery online, I felt crestfallen. I've killed about a dozen of them already... I told myself. All those potential moths, gone. Well, I learned two things that day: first, those backpacker caterpillars don't remain caterpillars all their life but become moths; second, always verify your information. Maybe I should let that little boy who hurt his hand from a higad also learn two things like I did if I should ever run into him again.

Oh, there's a third thing I learned (or more accurately, was reminded of) that day: God made everything with a purpose in mind. I've yet to find out if Tussock moths are pollinators, but even if it turns out they're not, is that the gauge we ought to use in determining the importance of their existence?

At around this time, I was also reading a booklet that centered on Laudato Si, Pope Francis' latest encyclical.  And after the vital discovery concerning the backpacker caterpillars, the Pope's words as contained in the booklet "Laudato Si: An integral ecology for contemporary man" -- a Documentation Service publication -- resounded with me:

84. Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God's love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God (...) 

85. God has written a precious book, "whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe". The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out that no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God: "From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine" (...)

So, little backpacker caterpillars, you are again most welcome in our little garden. Now I am not about to allow our home to be infested with hairy, creeping creatures; for now, though, let's just say I appreciate leaf art enough to let those caterpillars live out their gustatory tendencies to leave artistic marks on our plants for more unconventional foliage.

The tiniest Tussock moth caterpillar I've seen so far

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Be a man -- break the rules

Be a real man, that is.

For Boys Only: The Man Talk

The November 6, 1-4 pm gig really is for boys only, and it's best to secure your tickets early due to limited seating.

Here's a bit about the Matt Fradd-headlined event, so gentlemen, this one's for you:

We are inviting you to join us in an all-boys chastity talk with highly sought-after international speaker and Catholic apologist, Matt Fradd. Find out how true manhood is expressed in becoming who God meant you to be, and discover the FIVE RULES you must BREAK if you want to fulfill your deepest desires and follow God's commands! 

This will be held on Nov. 6 (Friday) at 1-4 pm, at St. Mary's College Auditorium, 37 Mother Ignacia Ave., Bgy. Paligsahan, Quezon City.  Tickets are now available at P300 each. Limited seats only, so secure your tickets early by calling/texting 0922-8276662 or emailing

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Maybe bathroom door signs should be "Male DNA" and "Female DNA"

There have been some topics in the past that I'd wanted to blog about but just couldn't, simply because I had nothing else to say beyond one sentence -- maybe two. For example, lately I've noticed a disturbing number of adults who cross the street with a child in tow, and with the little one on the dangerous side. Sometimes it's an adult and a child strolling on a sidewalk, with the child on the dangerous side and whose hand his/her older companion isn't even holding. I had wanted to write about it because to me that's a pretty important matter to point out. But I couldn't think of anything else to say besides "Don't people know the concept of 'the dangerous side'? Why do grown-ups cross the street with kids and let the little ones stay on the dangerous side?" Nothing else comes to mind, because in my opinion, this is something basic.

Another example is littering. You probably see a lot of them, too, specially if Manila is your home -- dudes flicking a cigarette butt just anywhere while walking, tossing a candy wrapper out of a car or jeepney window, and other such sights. Even now that care for the environment has become a concern that's broadcasted and marketed in the mainstream, these things still happen a lot. But I can think of only one thing to say regarding this:

"Don't litter."

That's it. Ah but there's one other thing:

"I am  tempted to make a citizen's arrest each time I see some fellow toss litter just anywhere."

As you can see, elaborating on the point is difficult for me. It's just so basic that more words seem superfluous.

Now lately, there have been instances which demonstrate that something I consider one of the most basic of all basic principles in life is not so basic to some people after all. And that is: boys belong in the men's room, and girls belong in the ladies' room. By that of course I mean males -- biological, natural-born -- and females -- biological, natural-born. The only exceptions I would consider are instances involving toddler and pre-schooler boys (and maybe a year or two more) in which the absence of their dad, uncle or any male relation necessitates their mom, aunt or any female relation bringing them to the ladies' room to do their bathroom business. So, basically, in my mind it's as simple as what I stated above: boys belong in the men's room, and girls belong in the ladies' room. Nothing else to say.

However, even in these times that the basic principle seems to be questionable in some quarters, I couldn't think of anything else to say to drive home the point. And then I saw this on Facebook:

Cute baby huh? The little one made me realize that it's largely about privacy.

And then, recent developments in other parts of the world regarding what have come to be referred to as "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" have helped me see that just because a person says and believes he is something doesn't mean it is so. More specifically, just because a guy says he feels that he's a girl does not mean that he is a girl and that he should expect the environment and everyone else to make adjustments to suit his belief about himself. As a matter of fact, those of us who know better are aware that condoning such a person by affirming his ideas about himself is akin to telling a dude who believes he is a superhero who can fly that he should be proud of himself for being a superhero and to go ahead and launch into flight. It simply is not helping the person any. What he needs is compassion, treatment, and to cultivate a life of faith. What he does not need is other people telling him that his delusions are real and congratulating him for being delusional. That does not sound compassionate to me; if anything, it sounds convenient -- for the people around him, because of course helping the person become grounded in reality can be immensely difficult and will require much effort.

That being said, here is one of the incidents involving the matter of bathroom privacy and the rest of society being forced by institutions to compromise their privacy (not to mention, safety and hygiene) for the sake of individuals who insist on their delusions are therefore demand that rules be adjusted to cater to these delusions. If I may say so, individuals with such a psychological condition need and deserve treatment (psycho-spiritual), not special treatment.

In this situation, a 17 year old boy decided he was actually a girl, and thus should be entitled to use the girls’ locker room and bathroom. The school bent over backwards trying to find a compromise, even offering the guy a private, unisex facility, but that wasn’t good enough. He wanted the girls’ bathroom, and of course, what the girls wanted was entirely irrelevant.

Encouragingly, some of the students in the school didn’t stand for it. They protested this week, insisting it’s not fair to expect girls to use the bathroom or undress around a boy. They’re right, obviously, but it’s worse than that. Let’s be clear: it is ABUSIVE to coerce, intimidate, or otherwise force young girls to share their facilities with a boy. I don’t care if he’s gender confused or not. I don’t care if he wears a wig or not. All I care about, all that matters, all that make a difference, is that he is a boy with boy parts, a boy’s body, a boy’s genetic makeup, a boy’s brain, a boy’s everything. He’s a boy. That’s all. That’s it. That’s the whole story.

Girls (and boys) deserve and are entitled to a safe and private place to change and do their business. It is simply unconscionable and despicable to take that away from them.

Read Forcing girls to share a bathroom with a gender-confused boy is abuse

Here's more food for thought -- involving privacy in locker rooms this time.

"Women and men being naked together in the same locker room, taking showers and doing all this and they're saying that doesn't have any component of a sexual nature to it," [Atty. David] Kallman said.

"You don't have those facts in this case," [Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael] Beale replied.

Kallman said "we don't have to wait for that to occur" and that the transgender-friendly locker room policy itself is "sexual in nature by allowing men in the women's locker room."

Beale came back to the threshold required for sexual harassment claims several times and Kallman continued to respond by saying the policy itself is sexual in nature and that no actual sexual incidents needed to occur for that to meet the threshold.

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