Monday, November 14, 2011

Mini-bio in motion

The story behind the making of this video

The Queen of Pop

Uh...Pop Control that is. That's Hillary Clinton, whose relentless push for universal access to abortion is quite known.

She's coming to Manila once again, and though it's a mere one-day visit and it's supposed to celebrate some treaty's anniversary, how can she pass up the chance to give a boost to the RH cause here, especially when more and more Filipinos are opening their eyes to the truth and learning more of the truth about RH legislation, population control and why these are not the solution to poverty.

But don't take my word for it. Do more research on the history of "reproductive health" -- read up on the NSSM 200 (that stands for National Security Study Memorandum 200, a formerly classified then now declassified document that reveals quite a lot), and see what you'll dig up about Margaret Sanger and International Planned Parenthood Federation.

For starters, check out an article to get some insights on Clinton's Manila visit from Filipinos who are in the know when it comes to the whole reproductive health affair because for years they've been living in a country that's been immersed in the RH lifestyle -- the US.


"She has stated again and again that reproductive health must always include access to ‘safe, legal, and rare’ abortion. I hope the anti-RH people in the Philippines will show her that we Filipinos do not want this for our country, that we Filipinos are baby-loving and family-oriented people. I hope there will be a very big rally to show Hillary Clinton we don’t need her telling us Filipinos how to live our lives. The Philippines is a sovereign country and liberal laws in the U.S. have no place in our culture!"

"What is there to say? Hillary’s known for her liberal views, especially her famous words that reproductive health and reproductive rights include the right to abortion. I’m sure if she spends any time there at all, this will be one of the top items on her agenda. That’s a given."

Full story here

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ring action for today

The Pacquiao-Marquez boxing match in Vegas happens in a few hours, and since I don't relish real fighting (okay, it's considered a sport, but what transpires is no cartoon or video game either, so people really do inflict pain on each other and it always ends up with real injuries), below is the kind of boxing I'd much rather go for :-)

To Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao, do your best and let your sportsmanship, humility and unparalleled skill shine once again!

Okay, I just came across another boxing clip, this time featuring Buster Keaton, whom I first heard about from my old penpal nearly 20 years ago but just never had the chance to look up till today. Hilarious! I'm sharing it here as well --

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No hands, no problem

At just about this time a week ago, I was having dinner with someone who ate with her feet. That doesn't sound like a very pleasant meal to partake in, does it? I'd surely have the same impression had I not been the one chatting over lettuce soup and (my) baked fish in olive oil with a person whom I believe is worthy of much respect beyond the common respect that each human being deserves.

Jessica Cox was born without arms, and before she reached her 28th year she had already been swimming, scuba-diving, doing taekwondo, and driving with a no-restrictions driver's license. Then in 2009 she obtained her pilot's license. Now, this is just a fraction of the activity she's been engaged in, about which you can discover more here and here. But what I really think is important about this opportunity presented to me to spend a few hours with Jessica is the way I experienced starting off trying to overlook a physical condition and eventually forgetting that it's there without even trying.

A few of us met Jessica -- a Filipino-American who was in the country on vacation -- at her hotel to do an interview. I think it was when she casually flicked on an air-conditioning switch which was around eye-level using her foot that I began to feel a strange mix of "Oh, inconsiderate me, I should've done that" and "Wow, she can do that." After that was the interview during which she related stories of growing up in the US with her parents and two siblings, doubts she had experienced and assurances she had been given over the years, the traveling she's been doing to get her motivational message across to those who could benefit from it, and basically the wonderful upbringing that her parents carried out.

It was easy to lose sight of the fact that physically she was incomplete, but boy, what grit. And yet, I sensed no overly aggressive sentiments or any kind of defensive attitude that could have been a natural outcome of being regarded as "too different for comfort" -- which is very well a possibility given most societies' lack of understanding of special conditions or exposure to differently-abled people. But Jessica was composed, well-adjusted, pleasant. By the end of the interview, though her physical condition remained, what was more pronounced to me was her character.

I was momentarily reminded of her special condition, though, after she got some postcards to autograph for us. I was surprised for a few seconds, then thought, "Oh yes..." because prior to the interview I had seen pictures of her brushing her hair, putting on contact lenses and writing with a pen -- all using her feet.

We talked a lot over dinner, and though I was initially surprised the moment she took a sip of the soup from the spoon (of course, brought to her mouth using her right foot), it became unnoticeable to me right after that. Too bad we couldn't really take our time during the meal on account of another appointment that left less than an hour for dinner.

I can't even say that it was a memorable dinner, though I will never forget it. By the time of the meal, I had already grown accustomed to her -- the whole person -- so that whatever "spectacular" thing about such an experience may have normally stayed with me, simply went to my heart. That does sound somewhat cheesy, but I think spectacular things simply go up and fade away easily, while experiences that make their way into the heart stay and are felt in some ways long after they happen.

And the autographed postcard she gave me -- I guess it's simply a reminder of the strength of the human spirit and what heights we can reach when perceived obstacles are regarded as gifts and are used as stepping stones. Since one of the photos on the postcard shows the Pope, I'll let that be a reminder that it's with faith that everything begins -- even the belief that one can write with a pen despite the absence of hands.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

If 'there be dragons'...

... brandish your sword and slay them! That would be the classic response -- if one were dealing with the kind that breathed fire and challenged lion-hearted gentlemen in pursuit of a mission.

But 'dragons' in the movie I was fortunate to watch in its advance screening pertained to nothing of the sort. Pursuit of missions, however, and the call to be lion-hearted in some way were indeed somewhere in there.

There Be Dragons, written and directed by the same man behind the acclaimed The Mission and The Killing Fields, revolves around the life of a saint who lived and died not too long ago -- the 1900s -- thereby making the situations he experienced and the circumstances he found himself in not too different from today's. I take some kind of reassurance from the fact that this "saint of the ordinary" (as St. Josemaria Escriva has come to be known) lived through contemporary music and cinematic trends, had a glimpse of the uniting effect of things such as the Olympic games, saw how nations became divided during the 20th century's two world wars, and basically saw the changing lifestyles of families and entire societies before he died in 1975. But through it all, he lived his faith and showed us the way to do it -- and he was right in the middle of the modern world, not behind some monastery's walls centuries ago.

In fact, in the movie Escriva is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil war of the 1930s and though not really a war movie, There Be Dragons brings out a number of elements that result from man turning against fellow countryman. One scene that I find immensely striking depicts the Spanish priest and his companions after they witness the execution of another priest -- Fr. Lazaro -- by the anti-clerical Republicans. The contrast in how they respond to the scene they had just witnessed is fascinating, with everyone understandably enraged by the injustice happening around them, and everyone except Escriva calling the murderers "swines." The priest acknowledges their fury but points out things they need to hear.

"Not swines -- men, like us."

"Men?! What did Fr. Lazaro ever offer them but love?!"

"We have to pray, first pray for Fr. Lazaro and then for his murderers."

"But they're murderers, and they took pleasure in it!"

And Escriva confronts the young man, quite forcefully: "What do you want to do to them if you could, truthfully, and wouldn't you take pleasure in it?"

Faith is a gift, he tells his disheartened companions, "and God has called us to manifest it in love here on earth. Unwavering love for every child of God no matter who it is, no matter what side, no matter what circumstances."

"Even when they are wrong?" one of them asks, incredulous.

"Yes! Even if they are wrong."

Tall order? Certainly, and it is this theme of love and forgiveness -- even when circumstances make them nearly impossible -- that resonated with me. These days, when the news day after day is about shootings, bombings, insurgents killing hostages, fathers taking their children's lives, and siblings fighting over seemingly petty things, forgiveness sounds like such an alien idea. So, hearing words such as those uttered by the Spanish priest in the film was a welcome and refreshing change. And, it doesn't stop there, for the movie also shows how the power of forgiveness breaks the chains of the past.

Much as St. Josemaria is the central character, it is his friend Manolo Torres who comes out being the focus as the story unfolds, for it is around Manolo and his son, Roberto, that much of the story's crucial elements revolve (let me point out that writer and director Roland Joffe wrote the fictional father and son characters into the story). It is, after all, the journalist Roberto who sets off doing research on Escriva for a book and inadvertently makes discoveries linking the priest to his father. The synopsis actually shows partly why the tagline being used for the movie is those words attributed to Oscar Wilde -- "Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future." Okay, it's a bit unusual that I'm providing the synopsis midway through this piece, but here it is just the same:

The film tells the story of London-based investigative journalist Roberto Torres (Dougray Scott), who visits Spain to research a book about Josemaría Escrivá (Charlie Cox), the controversial founder of Opus Dei. But, Roberto hits a wall, both professionally and personally, when his most promising source—his own father, Manolo Torres (Wes Bentley) turns out to be his least cooperative one. Roberto begins to unearth his father’s toxic secrets when he learns that Manolo was not only born in the same Spanish town as Josemaría, but, that they were childhood friends and attended the same seminary. The two men take radically different paths in life, with Josemaría dedicating his life to his faith while Manolo is swept into the brutal and tumultuous Spanish Civil War. Manolo descends into a dangerous and jealous obsession when the beautiful Hungarian revolutionary Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko) doesn’t return his affections and instead gives herself to the courageous military leader, Oriol (Rodrigo Santoro).

As Roberto continues to unearth the secrets of Josemaría’s life and Manolo’s mysterious anger, their overlapping journeys are revealed with the truths and sorrows of their past choices, which compels Manolo to confront his own secret with one last opportunity of forgiveness.

Intriguing, huh? It suffices to say that the film is mighty unpredictable. Let me say, too, that parents will find in the story moving scenes that zero in on the need to forgive and ask for forgiveness not only in matters concerning social and political struggles, but in terms of their relationships within the family. As someone in the movie said, "When you forgive, you set someone free -- yourself."

A week or so after watching the premiere, I chanced upon a YouTube video that had someone involved in the movie's production saying that There Be Dragons isn't for any sole group of people, like only for believers or only for Asians. The movie is "100% about humanity" and it touched the hearts of everyone on whom the producers "tested" the film. Even director Joffe said that it's a story for "every human being" -- who feels, who thinks, who has a family, who feels angry, feels the need for revenge, who feels love, wants love or needs love. Well, is there anyone who has not felt infuriated or who does not yearn to be loved, even just a little bit? Now, after thinking more about the film, I agree that it is for everyone -- because the sentiments presented in it and the struggles that all of us wrestle with at some point in our lifetime -- are universal.

Movies have come and gone, and many have touched on similar themes. Jealousy, hate, revenge, violence. But most of them end there, with little or no elements presented as to how true redemption can be found. They're all about dragon-slaying -- the roaring, action-packed kind. But facing one's personal dragons -- challenges, whether it's envy, cowardice, isolation, a weak faith... -- and slaying them are probably what this movie will make you ponder. That, and how saints and sinners fully live their humanity as they come to terms with their past and carve out their future.

There Be Dragons will be shown from November 9-15 at SM North, Trinoma, SM Megamall, Glorietta 4, South Festival Mall, SM Southmall.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Brother, brother

"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero."

- Marc Brown

I came across this quote from this blog post at Main Squeeze

Where is the love?

Depending on what decade you were born, hearing "Where is the love?" is going to remind you of either a rap song with quite a timely reminder of the state of the world today, a tune from the 1970s, or this song from the late '90s. But neither prompted this piece that asks such a question.

About a week ago, I lost something.

I was going to wash my hands in the ladies' room so I took it off, placed it beside my bag, made a mental note to remember that it was there, hand-washed, hand-wiped, then did a few more things before heading out the door. Obviously, wearing the "finger piece" wasn't among them.

I remembered about it only when I was out of the mall already, on my way home, as I noted that something about my hand looked different.

"Where is it??" I thought, my heart sinking. Where is the love? I half-joked around, telling myself that it wasn't just any piece of jewelry but one that I tried to use as a reminder of sorts -- the reason for everything that's good in the world. The reason why we get back up again after falling into self-indulgence.

The thing that makes people put the interest of others above theirs.

The motivation for going against the grain when going with the flow would be so much easier.

The reason why we have saintly souls -- canonized or otherwise-- we celebrate and thank every year on November 1.

The reason why even though the self-sacrifice that happened on Calvary 2,000 years ago seems utterly insane, it makes sense.

And because of carelessness, the little reminder I would sometimes wear on my fingers was gone.

It wasn't that expensive, and I knew where to buy another piece. But I didn't buy another piece and I won't.

The experience later reminded me of a story one of my sisters mentioned about growing up. She said that the only time our mother would give her and our other siblings new pencils was upon being shown the little, almost completely used-up Mongol that needed replacement.

"Kaya kailangan mo talagang ingatan ang lapis mo at itatago mo hanggang ang liit-liit na. Hindi mo wawalain," she remarked.

I also thought of the instance related by an old friend who apparently knew how to take care of his things. He learned as a child not to take his toys for granted because of something his mom said while he was growing up -- something like "Ay, hindi kita ibibili ng bago kung di mo iingatan ang mga laruan mo!" (I won't buy you new ones if you don't take care of your toys!)"

If one knows that it will be easy to get a replacement -- whether it's a toy, pencil, piece of jewelry or anything else, even something of a much higher cost -- I think the tendency would be to take things for granted. Makes me wonder if it's the same when it comes to relationships... say, if people make it possible to escape the commitment involved in something that's meant to be life-long (say, marriage), would man hold on to that commitment with conviction?

One thing's for sure: even though the metal reminder on my finger is gone, it's no excuse not to engrave the word and everything it stands for in the heart.

As for getting a replacement, the lesson might be lost as soon as it's on my finger again. So, let the lesson remain. This may be an even stronger reminder of Love than a piece of metal can ever be.

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