Sunday, December 30, 2012

Celebrating the RH bill’s enactment into law: Doing the right thing?

How can it be the right thing when you help promote irresponsible parenthood by transferring to the State the parental duty of forming one’s children? When you needlessly endanger -- seriously in many cases -- the health of women and then even require taxpayers to finance putting women's lives at risk? When you treat poor people like animals and assume they can't learn or discipline themselves or think for themselves if given the correct information and encouragement? When you force people of faith to violate their faith and then call the measure something that promotes freedom of choice? 

How can it be the right thing when your message to people is basically to enjoy sex and make pill-popping or condom use a regular part of their lifestyle, then force others to pay for all that? When you keep insisting that what other people do in their bedroom is none of our business while you expect us to finance their enjoyment of sex – whether extra-marital, pre-marital, sodomitical or criminal?

How can it be the right thing when the basic premise of its sex education program is that satisfying, pleasurable and safe sex is a right – and a human right at that – and a priority in life starting from adolescence? When this message is delivered through six years of the same basic idea? When educators and educational institutions are required to deliver this message to their students?

How can it be the right thing when a massive budget will be devoted to ingraining in the youth such a message, when it’s goal-setting, decision-making, traits such as integrity, honesty, perseverance, self-mastery, diligence, other-centeredness, delicadeza, sincerity, respect for elders, love of family and country, and other life lessons that they need to be equipped with to prepare them for the future?

How can signing an RH measure into law be the right thing when it will clearly destroy the future and the very soul of the nation?

The goal is to build a nation, preserve it, and protect its people’s fundamental rights – not destroy the nation and strip its people of their rights.

Mr. President, you have wronged the Filipino people --

big time.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Let the Women Speak

The times call for it, and the times have equipped us with much, much more than typewriters, the Pony Express, and even "snail" mail.

With all the means at our disposal, there aren't many reasons not to take part in Let the Women Speak. In a nutshell, the Philippine government is poised to force upon the people a proposed bill that will carry out population control by way of institutionalized birth control and a comprehensive six-year sex education program for all schools -- brushing off intense and massive opposition from various sectors. In the middle of all this are the women.

Now is not the time to be a mere spectator. Filipinas, wherever in the world you are right now, be counted! Gentlemen, please share the following with the women in your life (wife, mother, sisters, other female relatives, friends and colleagues...). Believe that your signature will make a difference -- then pass this on.

WE are women who believe that the Reproductive Health bill, in all its past and present forms, is detrimental to us, our sex, our marriages, and our families.

WE are Catholics and non-Catholics. We are women of faith, and we are also women of reason.

WE believe in true women’s health. We believe in respecting our bodies and the natural processes with which we have been gifted. 

Far from empowering us as women, the RH bill promotes our objectification. It does not address the causes of exploitation and violence against women at their roots. It does not solve the problem of men seeing us as mere sources of pleasure. It does not promote our inherent dignity as human beings worthy of respect. State-funded, state-guaranteed access to contraception only empowers those who wish to take advantage of us without having to worry about consequences.

WE do not believe in artificial birth control. Birth control does not come free. As taxpayers we will be paying for it, and as women we will be suffering its effects on our bodies. We will not tolerate the deliberate dismissal of scholarly research that shows contraception’s deleterious effects. We will not tolerate the trampling of our Constitution that says life must be protected at all stages from conception to natural death. 

We will not tolerate the imposition of governmental contraceptive programs meant to control the population and to brainwash our youth. We do not want the long-term effects of the sexual revolution brought about by a contraceptive mentality.

Granting that the secular government is not beholden to the Catholic or Christian faith, attempting to speak for us women via a socialist agenda destroys the very fiber of democratic breath we have as a people. Doing this undermines our freedom to adhere to something Good, Moral and Ethical. Recognizing our “reproductive” rights as women should not include FORCING us to discard our right to freely believe in morality and goodness and if we choose to, our religious tenets and doctrines.

No one speaks for all of us on these issues. We stand with the Catholic bishops and all leaders, religious and otherwise, who recognize the truth of life-affirming teachings with regard to sex, marriage and family. We call on President Aquino and our Representatives in Congress to heed the voice of all Filipino women, not just the loudest ones. We call on all our leaders to continue to allow us to freely witness to our faiths and beliefs in all their fullness.

Please send your name, address and occupation to the person who sent you this message, or to or to Thank you!

From Filipinos for Life

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vintage alert: Bits of an era of genuine connection (not online connection)

Reminiscing and reading old blog posts brought me to this one about the differences in lifestyles between today and a few decades ago (entertainment, doing research, communicating with friends...) brought about by the presence of more sophisticated technology. So once again I remembered that graphic that was shared widely on Facebook sometime and which brought back a lot of pleasant memories for many of us who were already alive and past our preschool years by the time these things were part of mainstream culture:

Then of course how can I not remember doing library work in school without the practice of pulling dozens and dozens of drawers and sifting through hundreds of index cards?

Vintage seems to be my favorite word these days...

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Glass half-empty? Maybe a new glass is in order...

A sampling:

“It was the vision of hope and change that convinced us four years ago to support then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain.  Today, there is little hope in how another four years of an Obama administration would swiftly and effectively lift our country out of its economic doldrums, and there is little change in how Washington operates.”

Cape Cod Times

“The president has shown little understanding of how his failures are affecting the nation, and he hasn’t offered any tangible proposals to change course.”
Reno Gazette-Journal

“More pointedly, we are disappointed in the tone of Obama’s relentless insinuations that wealthy Americans refuse to pay their fair share. That tone is divisive and damaging for the nation and for our economy. It creates villains and victims, and unfairly so.

The Daily Herald, Chicago

“Some of the warnings about Obama’s lack of legislative and leadership skills have come true over the past four years. It is not worth risking the state of our economy for the next four years to see whether his learning curve really is behind him.”

Naples Daily News

 Read "Change! 28 large newspapers that endorsed Obama last election and are now endorsing Romney"

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Style with no need for sky-high budgets

If you really get down to the basics and think about what's essential, all you'll need to be dressed for everyday are your basics: tops and bottoms, or dresses, and a sturdy pair of shoes. That's about as basic as it can get.

Considering what to wear day after day shouldn't be a complicated affair that takes up too much of your time, since really the bottom line is all about a) looking decent, and b) being suitably dressed for the weather. That cable-knit cardigan in immaculate white may look impeccable but it won't do if you're taking an hour-long jeepney ride after a tricycle ride and then finishing off with a few blocks' walking -- and it happens to be summer.

Then of course other factors to consider in choosing your outfit for the day would be the kind of work you do, whom you'll be meeting (an appointment with a CEO isn't exactly denims-with-sneakers day), and other such things.

One thing's for sure, though: putting some punch into your daily outfits need not burn a hole in your pocket. Accessories do the trick, and if you know how to mix and match, and being adventurous once in a while is something that appeals to you, then expanding your wardrobe should be a cinch. And you don't have to keep buying new stuff.

Take the scarf, for example. In a tropical country, this isn't really popular unless it's something you'll be wearing as a sort of cover-up at the beach (obviously, I'm talking about those really big bandannas that you can casually wrap around your shoulders or tie around your hips). Scarves can be fun for adding variety to your looks, and you can even wear it as a headwrap, to tie your hair back, as a belt, or to give your tote some character. But for this post, let's focus on using it around your neck -- which may be done in a variety of ways! Think 25 styles with the scarf, and it's all on the video below. Check it out; it's a how-to demonstration of all 25 styles under 5 minutes:

Who says you're destined to look plain when the budget is super-tight?All it takes is creativity, resourcefulness, and a desire to present oneself well. And of course we get help from YouTube sometimes.

* Photo from The Sartorialist

Quietly gung-ho

Friday, November 02, 2012

It's not really a tough choice

 Okay, I was logging out of some sites to get ready to watch Get Smart, a movie I had seen before but which I find really funny. And then I again remembered that election day in the US is only days away. What does that have to do with me since I'm halfway around the world from that country? A lot, since political developments in the West have a way of almost dictating the course of events to take place in the Philippines. In other words, my country is not spared from the ripple effects of what goes on in America.

Let me share some links to relevant materials that deserve consideration, if you'd like to be better informed before casting your vote on November 6.

First, the televised debates -- you can watch the full vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan here while the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is here

This one is a pretty new editorial that dwells on the Libya issue which blew up on the anniversary of 9/11. An excerpt:

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in a well-planned military assault on their diplomatic mission in Benghazi seven weeks ago, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So why are details surfacing, piecemeal, only now?

The Obama administration sat by doing nothing for seven hours that night, ignoring calls to dispatch help from our bases in Italy, less than two hours away. It has spent the past seven weeks stretching the story out, engaging in misdirection and deception involving supposed indigenous outrage over an obscure anti-Muslim video, confident that with the aid of a docile press corps this infamous climax to four years of misguided foreign policy can be swept under the rug, at least until after Tuesday's election.

Then related to this development is the following video, uploaded Oct. 24:

Oh, and did I mention that I think the current US president is not presidential at all? I won't even go into his administration's foreign policy, economic programs, or the developments in education because I know very little about that -- more importantly, because even before dwelling on those matters, a nation needs a leader who is first and foremost a decent person. What kind of person believes that only some human beings are entitled to human rights while others do not deserve these at all? Talk about discrimination! I'm referring to a piece of legislation he struck down four times, when the measure was formulated to provide protection to babies who were victims of abortion but managed to survive the procedure. Here's part of a previous piece I posted on that, titled When the future looks bright...:

I think this year's March for Life takes on an even deeper significance because the United States's new leader is one who seems to discriminate against some persons as far as recognizing and respecting their dignity is concerned. It is very saddening.

I find it quite disturbing that the person occupying the highest office in that country advocates allowing a newborn to die instead of being given life-saving medical attention, if the baby happened to survive an abortion. In essence, that's what Pres. Obama said when he -- as a legislator -- repeatedly struck down the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which extends legal protection to an infant born alive after a failed attempt at induced abortion. For him, the law should let a baby who survives an abortion be left alone to die.

You can read the whole thing here.

Now, though the electoral process is not a religious thing, faith does and should figure in the decision-making process of any responsible citizen in electing his government leaders, particularly when religious liberty is clearly being threatened by the current administration's policies. Here's what I mean:

Not only is the incumbent the most pro-abortion president ever to occupy the office, but he has also deliberately picked a fight with the Catholic Church by requiring Catholic employers to participate in the provision of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization to their employees — all things the Church teaches are intrinsically evil. This divisive and unnecessary infringement on religious liberty by President Obama drew criticism from conservatives and liberals alike, and it prompted bishops, priests, and deacons in nearly every Catholic church in America to take to the pulpit in protest — an unprecedented event in American history.

And all this while the ranks of America’s poor have increased to record levels on Mr. Obama’s watch.
Mitt Romney is the only presidential candidate in this election whom Catholic voters can support while remaining true to their faith. All allegedly Catholic arguments in favor of Mr. Obama rely on gross misconceptions of Catholic doctrine.

You can read the full article here.

Now, if all you have is one minute, I suggest you watch the video below. Really, decency in our times has become underrated. National leaders are meant to lead by example as they go about their duties in office; I don't know anyone in his right mind who would say the current president exemplifies the sound values that the next generation should strive to acquire, making him worthy of emulation.

Then here's something to give you an idea of the situation at a glance. The choice on Nov. 6 is yours.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Petal attraction

Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.  
~ Claude Monet


The flower that follows the sun does so even in cloudy days.  
~Robert Leighton

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
~ Henri Matisse

A beautiful flower begins its life in the dirt.
~ Author Unknown

     In the hope of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.
                                                           ~Albert Schweitzer   

He who wants a rose must respect the thorn.
~ Persian proverb 

Beauty, unaccompanied by virtue, is as a flower without perfume.
~ French proverb

A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers. 
~ Chinese proverb 

Where flowers bloom, so does hope. 
~ Ladybird Johnson


Saints and souls

If you'd like to know who these holy men and women are, go here. Cute representations, huh, but more than that it's a good way to spot what actually characterize each of the saints here.

And if you'll check this out, you'll see a really cool poster that can be used to promote the Year of Faith!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't you sometimes feel...

... like men and women are always being turned against each other? In my native Tagalog, parang palagi na lang pinag-aaway. Men are better than women; women can do everything that men can, only better. Blah blah blah. The concept of men and women being created equal but different is brushed off or scoffed at many times, so sometimes you may think, "What's the point in insisting on this basic principle for those who believe in the all-loving and all-powerful God who knows what's best and who wills only the good?"

Here's something to ponder:

Make a point this week to affirm the men in your life–father, brother, friend, boyfriend, husband–in their uniqueness, in the things that make them uniquely different from you. Not better, nor worse, but a complement to who we are as women. I have found that when they are able to be all that they were made to be as good men, it is then that we are free to be everything it means to be a good woman.

Came across this at Verily. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To all freedom-loving people

The US presidential elections are coming up. This one's for you, Americans! For the rest of us, this is certainly something to ponder on, again and again. Are we headed in the same direction, Filipinos? Many seem to still be infatuated by a piece of legislation that is essentially unnecessary and indicative of a very low regard for poor people.

Who wears the pants around here?! (No one.)

A remark a co-worker uttered  yesterday struck me. He said he sees more women in dresses and skirts on Facebook than he does in real life. It seems majority of women nowadays go about their business in pants. Interesting. Is that cause for concern? Frankly, it initially prompted me to think if this observation indicated a departure of sorts from femininity, but then what a blanket statement, huh? It's not as if putting on your Levi's  = abandoning all sense of the feminine. Now that I think about my colleague's remark, it could mean that women in this generation enjoy the benefits of more choices in life. Whether or not one makes good choices is beside the point; what's usually taken for granted is that there are immensely more options for women to choose from -- be it on field of study, social norms, or even wardrobe concerns, as the scenario described here shows.

Notwithstanding the fact that having more options as regards clothing can lead to a more time-consuming decision-making process, some of the available options out there are definitely worth considering! Bottom line really is that clothing is for the purpose of affirming the innate dignity of a person (of course, besides the obvious purpose of providing protection for the body -- even our ancestors from the cave-dwelling days knew this). And accessories... thank God for accessories, which are a practical solution for "expanding" one's wardrobe without purchasing more and more clothes.

Okay, so we acquire some practical know-how from this post, here's a step-by-step guide on adding yet another option to your list of how-to-wear-a-scarf list, pictured above:

Fold scarf in half. Loop around neck. Pull only one strand of the scarf through the loop. Twist loop, then pull other strand through.

* First photo: Black dress by Christian Dior
* Second photo: Outfit by Oscar de la Renta
* Third photo: I have no idea but the photo and how-to instructions, as well as the other two photos, are from Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's going on here?

 It's been months since the last time I shared a compilation of links to crucial and interesting news and commentaries. So, here's the latest, all dated October. Fresh goings-on!

After winning the right to die, NY woman wants to live
After winning the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment, a woman in New York has decided that she wants to live. Grace Sung Eun Lee, 28, a financial manager working in Manhattan was so healthy that she was training for a marathon when she became paralysed.

Pelosi, Sebelius are not representative of Catholic women, nine Catholic women write
According to some in today’s popular culture, being a “Catholic woman” is practically an oxymoron. In a newly-released book, nine women of faith seek to dispel that myth. 

The book, Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, is edited by Helen Alvaré, a Witherspoon Institute Senior Fellow in Princeton.

Obama, media, feminists push taxpayer-funded mustard gas for women
I don’t know what it’s going to take to get people to comprehend that hormonal contraceptives – i.e., the birth control pill, implants, and rings – are rated by the United Nations World Health Organization as “Group 1 Carcinogens,” as toxic and in the same class as asbestos, mustard gas, and tobacco.

Pro-lifers in over 100 cities and towns across Spain join 3rd annual March for Life
Hundreds of pro-life groups and thousands of individuals in over 100 towns across Spain mobilized Sunday for the country’s third annual March for Life. Participants called on Spain’s new, more conservative government to close the “psychological risk” loophole in Spain’s abortion legislation that has led to over a million deaths, to stop the eugenic killing of disabled unborn children, and to end abortion altogether in Spain.

Obama okay with child soldiers in Africa
So in a public speech last Wednesday The Big 0 acts like the human rights big shot, then late Friday sneaks an Executive Memo waiving al sanctions against the three worst offenders - Libya, Yemen, and South Sudan. How can people who think themselves progressives swallow these lies? We're talking about the gravest human rights, where little boys are captured, drugged, brutalized and made into killers (see my 2008 post on African autobiographies

Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity 2012
Tuesday, October 16 is the ninth annual Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity.

For one day, people all over the world will give up their voices in solidarity with babies who have had their voices silenced by abortion.

* Illustration from

Plain and simple

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Of walking mannequins and what's 'uso'

When you see those supermodels walk down the runway in blouses unbuttoned to the waist, or in shoes looking like anything but shoes, you know that somewhere in fashion history something must have gone wrong. And as you flip through today’s women’s glossy magazines to reveal pages and pages of girls (and guys) looking stoned or sexually charged, you know that something’s definitely wrong. What’s ironic is that all the hype makes the whole thing look perfectly all right.

A bit of history
Fashion shows have been around for ages. But it was originally the designers’ salons that served as “catwalks” twice a year for the big seasons, as well as a few times in between for other collections. Designers invited buyers to these presentations where models simply wore the clothes for the guests to see before these were released in the stores (much like today’s exclusive movie premieres). Fashion then was already big business, but kept to a simple affair.

Then in the 1970s all that changed. Some guy decided to be different and presented his collection onstage. What was simply a change of venue turned into a radical alteration of the whole concept of the fashion show. For along with the stage came the pageantry, the flamboyance and the circus-like atmosphere characteristic of today’s runway presentations. These elements were inevitable for designers who wanted to show their work to full advantage, since mounted in a big stage, the clothes were too small, plain and unnoticeable. Thus emerged the outlandish hairdos, the gigantic hats and other attention-grabbing props; then later it was “deemed necessary” to unbutton buttons and unzip zippers to bare bosoms, expose derrieres—in other words, to use more flesh than fabric—in successfully presenting the clothes to the public. This is what has come to dominate the shows in every fashion capital from Milan to New York, indicating the “progress” that has taken place in the world of fashion.

Behind the scenes
This obsession with getting everybody’s attention is all about attracting the market and the media, so what better way to do it than exaggerate or go to extremes, right? If attention is what the industry is after, it’s got it, but unwittingly, it traded off much more for that. The face of fashion has evolved into something other than more spectacular. For Grace Mirabella, a Vogue editor-in-chief for 17 years and founder and director of Mirabella magazine (another monthly glossy), the shift from the salon to the runway marked the beginning of the downfall of the fashion industry. And in 1995, the downfall became apparent: sales around the world just dropped. The reason? Designers were coming out with increasingly ridiculous things (read: unwearable) and stamping these with sky-high prices. Like how ridiculous? Try aluminum pants, plastic gowns, sequined underwear or miniskirts that look more like wide belts. And how expensive? Well, you wouldn’t believe it anyway. What’s more, by 1995, trends changed too fast for people to keep up with (who would want to buy a tight-fitting killer-collared satin blouse when the ‘in’ thing after six months would be preppy loose cottons that would make you look like you’re stuck in the ‘70s in your killer collars?).

Here’s a secret that you probably knew all along but didn’t bother thinking about anyway: all this obsession with fashion is fueled basically by two things—industries that are focused on money-making, and consumers (that’s you) who are too gullible. A Claudia Schiffer, therefore, donning an elaborate 5-pound headdress on the Milan runway, or a half-naked Kate Moss in spaced-out makeup in the fall/winter collections, is part of the continuous attempt to attract the media and ensure maximum exposure.

For the jaded and sometimes unthinking press, such shocking events are the new and spectacular materials it looks for. The result: a much-publicized fashion event (where ironically, the weird outfits get the most attention) and, hopefully, whopping sales. Well, admit it. Aren’t photos of men and women in sassy clothing—especially those striking provocative poses—just a little too hard to resist and extremely easy to remember? Any normal human being’s attention is initially drawn to the out-of-the-ordinary, so that’s good news for you (you’re normal after all). The problem is that some people are using this natural tendency for their own money-making purposes at the expense of society’s sensibilities. And most of society don’t even have a clue that their whole value system is gradually being altered.

From the pages to the person’s psyche
So maybe most of us don’t care about the Paris runways or what Jil Sander or Miuccia Prada are up to halfway across the globe. Or maybe you haven’t even heard of these people which doesn’t really matter because their merchandise is way too expensive for most people anyway. However, be convinced that what many acquire are the attitudes that fashion promotion dictates on an impressionable society like ours—a society that usually accepts and imitates whatever comes from Western shores.

Sad to say, the average women’s magazine has stopped thinking about the woman and her real needs. It has instead focused on what will make her buy, at all costs. On the same line, many designers and other fashion practitioners have stopped making the woman beautiful, judging from the flamboyance and frivolity pervading the shows. Especially in the past several years when shades of androgyny and suggestions of homo-eroticism have been penetrating mainstream fashion, looks and entire concepts that affirm femininity have become sparse.

With the fashion industry and the concept of beauty in such a state, it has become harder to remember that a piece of clothing exists for the wearer—not the other way around. Fashion is created for the person and so must revolve around the person. Think about it: when a female model shows up in a flimsy dress, what do you see? A dress put on display by a walking mannequin? A dress that just happens to have a body underneath it? Or a gorgeous body wearing a dress? Whether it’s the first, second or third you choose, you’ve unfortunately fallen into the trap of putting the model on the same level as an object (a mannequin, a hanger with breasts and legs, whatever), the job of which is to make clothing look good. Well, it is easy to forget that those ‘walking mannequins’ are actually not mannequins; neither are they merely flesh and bones (gorgeous flesh and bones for some) but flesh and bones—body—and soul. Hence, those bodies with souls (gorgeous or not) are infinitely more important than the silkiest silk and the most brilliant designs draped over them.

When you see those supermodels walk down the runway in blouses unbuttoned to the waist, or those girls and guys on magazine pages looking stoned or sexually charged, you know it’s only hype. Fashion sense and attitude dictated by them can be merely products of big-time money-making. Fashion sense and attitude without the hype, on the other hand, is the real thing.

So, what’s your idea of fashion?

* * * * * * * * * *

Woman Today magazine
October 1998

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Music to my ears -- literally & metaphorically

Seated at a McDonald's one night, the familiar intro of Here Comes the Sun came wafting from the store's speakers. Ooooh, nice. Well, I suppose I'm not alone in finding this song a happy one. It's so pleasant to listen to, and this time was no different. But the guitar intro was definitely not the Beatles' and when a feminine voice sung the first lines, I became curious as to whose cover of the classic song this was. It was actually quite nice and I even enjoyed it more than I do listening to the original version.

YouTube makes it easier to research information like this; so it's Colbie Caillat who did that version -- she of the name whose pronunciation I can never remember for long. To be sure, her rendition didn't redo the Beatles classic at all; there was hardly any noticeable improvisation on the guitar except for the intro, and it's just as well. Her voice and vocal style spelled the difference.

Listening to the song reminded me of another remake of another classic -- Pure Imagination, from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The remake is more to my liking, I'll admit, as it's got hints of new wave in there.

A couple of what I call "easygoing songs" -- taking a break for five minutes? Have a listen. No eardrum-blasting riffs or pulse rate-elevating percussion here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

You say you want a (real love) revolution

September started with a blast! For me, at least, and for tens of thousands of others who got to listen to two international speakers who traveled to Philippine shores for a series of talks and conferences as part of Real Love Revolution 2012.

Is there anyone who would not want the prospect of experiencing and living authentic love? I'm almost sure even the most jaded, disenchanted folks hanker for the kind of love that lasts, the kind that doesn't fizzle out when the hardships come one after the other, the kind that's dependable no matter what the circumstances. Well, speakers Leah Darrow and Chris Stefanick tackled the different facets of love and relationships as they spoke before crowds in Iloilo, Cebu and Manila (Manila was the last leg of their trip).

Listening to them was wonderful. They made the harsh realities of life clear, while at the same time sharing the conviction that there is always reason to hope for -- and work for! -- something better. Though her life doesn't revolve around the fashion world, Leah is best known for being a finalist on America's Next Top Model (a "reality show" that doesn't at all reflect reality -- even she pointed that out) who has since set her sights on speaking to girls and young women about the importance of modesty, chastity, forgiveness and hope. Of course she shared much of her journey with the nearly 15,000-strong crowd during the Manila stint -- admitting that the things she shared were all that were suitable for talking about in public. She's charming, and even really funny when she related a few incidents, but without the important details getting lost in the humor. One particularly moving moment was when she probably hit rock bottom and ended up calling her dad to come pick her up in New York as she was at her wits' end. All she wanted to do was to come home. 

Her dad was obviously happy to see her as he stood at her doorstep, and within a couple of hours urged her to come clean through the sacrament of reconciliation (I seem to have forgotten to mention that Leah and her family are Catholic). 

"Confession?" Leah complained, not at all overjoyed over the idea. 

"You asked me to take you home, didn't you? Well, Church is home."

Well, Leah did as she was advised (yet another story altogether) and what joy filled her afterwards!

Chris, the other speaker, was a less subdued speaker, and his guitar-playing upped the intensity quite a bit. He's a singer and songwriter, but that's not all he is. I am elated and eternally grateful that he said the things he said! Check out this short video he made while he was in Manila.

Here's the rest of what he said about love and dating, among other interesting topics. An article about Leah's testimony is here.

Can't wait for next year's Real Love Revolution -- this is the kind of rebellion I go for!

Treasure, not trash

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Of chastity, tattoos, and the Powerpuff Girls

Ten years ago I wrote something for Woman Today magazine which I later placed in one of my blogs. That blog contains some of my published work and I'd love to add more, which I can't do, unfortunately. I forgot my password for that blog.

So in 2002 I was asked to write a piece on chastity, which I nearly turned down. Who wouldn't find such a topic daunting -- particularly if the aim is to come up with something formative, uplifting, and sound and not merely entertaining, a chance for self-expression, or a go at (mis)leading readers into dismissing the notion of chastity and related values as outdated or unrealistic? Well, with much encouragement from my editor, I did accept the assignment. Here's the result:

When chastity is a funky tattoo

That title up there is probably the only instance where you'll see the words "chastity," "funky" and tattoo" in the same sentence. Unless you're thinking along the lines of "Be funky, so get a tattoo and while you're at it, forget chastity as well."

Or maybe "Choose getting a funky tattoo over living chastity."

Or simply "Get a funky tattoo -- and what's chastity anyway?"

You, girl, may be nodding and suppressing a smile over that last line, either because you totally identify with the sentiments in it, or because you can just imagine today's MTV generation asking such a question, and you understand why they are absolutely clueless about something like chastity. Whichever it is, you have to admit that hearing the word "chastity" can be like taking a trip back to the time of Leopold, the Duke of Albany, if it doesn't conjure images of cloistered nuns first.

Billboards and pop icons
"Just look at all those billboards. Is it surprising that people are so used to the idea of getting sexual or, at the least, to the idea of nudity?" a friend casually remarked as the prevalence of the topic of sex among ordinary chitchats and countless magazine articles figured into our conversation.

"If you see pictures of women almost down to their underwear everyday -- or barely clothed men and women in seductive stances, you eventually acquire the attitude. Sex know, it's cheapened. Like it's always there, in-your-face -- know what I mean? Tapos pati ikaw, without your knowing it, malamang magiging gano'n na rin ang attitude mo."

She does have a point. Constant exposure to the sight of half-naked people does have a way of numbing the senses and erasing such concepts as modesty and purity from our sensibilities. I mean, if I spent hours watching Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears music videos everyday, it's very possible that chastity would be wiped out from my vocabulary (and my memory) by the end of the first week.

But then this is not about J. Lo or Britney and their treatment of human sexuality or their lifestyle choices; this is about us ordinary people and how we look at ourselves, and about the choices we make based on the kind of self-image we have.

Saying 'yes' and not 'no'
It took a good friend to help me understand the meaning of what it is to be truly chaste in modern times. "Chastity is something positive. Think of it as saying 'yes' to something instead of 'no' to certain things," she explained. When I found myself attracted to a pleasant and professionally prestigious man who seemed (to my ears, at least) to say my name with a special warmth, and whom I also discovered was married, I wondered where the 'saying yes' part had gone. It sure felt like I was saying 'no' to moments of wonderful conversation, 'no' to potentially blissful memories in the making.

Okay, that's just the sarcastic side of me talking, grumbling over the loss of possible emotionally satisfying moments. I knew, after the initial disappointment, that my decision to keep anything from developing and to forget about him was a choice to say 'yes' -- uh, but to what?

Well, I don't know exactly, but saying 'yes' then never felt so exhilarating and so congratulatory! It was the kind of feeling you get when you know that you did the right thing, even if it's difficult. Maybe it was 'yes' to happiness -- authentic happiness.

Whatever it was, that 'yes' made me feel brave: as if I were a Powerpuff Girl in disguise, and nobody but me knew about it. Yep, that was it, except that there was nothing cutesy, cartoonish or crime-busting about the power I began to feel then. It was just a quiet strength on which to anchor my heart and the core of my womanhood. Think of it as having, say, a funky tattoo etched on some obscure part of your body, and only you know about it. It is amazing how a woman can draw enormous spunk from a silly adornment acquired simply for vanity's sake (which is generally what a tattoo is perceived to be).

Chastity indeed began to seem to me like an everyday concept, not like some "up in the clouds" outdated notion for those who are out of touch with reality, or some word you'd utter with pursed lips or a pretentiously sweet smile.

But hey, how many of us are going to find ourselves being drawn to men who are unavailable? Okay, maybe a lot (especially if you belong to the 30+ category and no Mr. Wonderful is in sight. Or maybe your Mr. Wonderful is starting to seem like Mr. Wonderless?), but wearing chastity or purity like a badge of courage comes in handy in the most ordinary situations, far from the complications of getting involved with married men.

The tsismis factor
For instance, I must admit there were times that keeping a pure outlook became a struggle. In some circles, cracking kinky jokes and gossiping about the who's who in pre- and extra-marital affairs are standard fare for small talk. When I kept silent rather than participate in fanning the flames of intrigue, and when I whipped out "hey, I like your shoes, where did you buy them--?" while teasing in various shades of green went on, the responses were varied. Some appreciated it; others didn't.

But always it gave me (and continues to give me) a sense of joy, knowing that I acted on the strength drawn from the idea of my cool tattoo, that I said "yes" each time. Put simply, I held on to my principles and I felt good about it.

Then somewhere along the way, I also discovered that matters pertaining to sex are just a wee bit of what purity is really all about. There's such a thing as being pure in one's intentions -- the motivations, in other words, behind the things we do. I began to be concerned as I learned about this virtue more deeply. Wait a minute, am I being sincere when I talk to people? When I do the things I do?

Strength, self-worth and the tattoo
So it's really not hard to see that matters about sex and things pertaining to, say, malicious criticism and 'dubiously motivated' action are interrelated, since purity in all its forms -- purity of heart and intention, modesty, decency, chastity -- are all tied together. The great thing about it is that taking care of one aspect also helps you grow in the others.

The thing is, nobody imposed this way of thinking on me, just like the way nobody forced me to once regard immodest dressing as an assertion of one's strength (that's what fashion pages project, right?). Just like the way I toyed with the notion that giving yourself completely to a man who is not your husband is okay as long as there's love (I probably watched too many Hollywood movies of the wrong kind). Just like the way I assumed that laughing at jokes about private parts and bedroom activity was the most logical thing in the world (pure ignorance here). I do understand how maxims like "If you've got it, flaunt it" and "If it feels good, do it" can work their messages subtly on impressionable minds. No need, then, to cram down one's throats such principles.

So, don't believe me right away when I say that chastity is for each of us who knows the worth of the innermost recesses of our being. Don't be convinced at once that modesty doesn't automatically mean donning turtlenecks and ankle-length skirts, and that it translates to the thoughts you entertain, the things you say, and the way you act. After all, it took me a while to grasp these things.

What matters is that you figure out the worth you place on yourself, how much respect you have for your whole being. This, Powerpuff Girl, will determine what you hold dear and let you see the funky little tattoo that's already there. You probably just had to believe that you had one all along.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


"God’s law does not reduce, much less does away with human freedom; rather, it protects and promotes that freedom."
- John Paul II, in Veritatis Splendor

When black is presented as a gorgeous splash of colors

One of the ideas I found most striking in weekly doctrine classes I attended in the 1990s was that though evil is real, it is often presented as something attractive and alluring. "If it were revealed to human beings as what it really was, then it would be easy to say no to it," a friend further explained later. "Imagine the devil appearing to people as the embodiment of evil -- grotesque, hideous, with the most offensive stench you can think of... really the opposite of beauty, goodness, truth -- of course everyone would be horrified! Even the most hardened criminal would probably be so terrified by the sight that he would run to God for mercy!"

I thought about that a lot and I still do; it does make perfect sense.

That being said, I am always fascinated by the battle between good and evil in movies, especially when it involves superheroes, sword-wielding freedom fighters, light saber-brandishing protagonists, spaceship-bound teams whose mission is to protect planet Earth, and even children who carry out their quest to uphold the good with the aid of polyjuice potion and some wand-flicking. Growing up, though, I remember thinking from time to time where God was in the stories -- how Superman didn't ask God for help when Lois Lane died (Superman I), or how come Luke Skywalker or any of the other characters never went to church, or if Harry Potter ever mentioned the word "God" in the books (I've read only books one and two, and half of three). Purely human heroes from more realistic settings (ones that didn't involve aliens) such as Zorro and Balian of Ibelin (Kingdom of Heaven) at least acknowledged the authority of God.

What I notice in such movies is that the good and evil characters are often presented with stereotypical qualities. It's therefore easier to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. When I first saw the video below of an "infantile"-looking Darth Vader and equally cute Storm Troopers, it occurred to me that this would be a clever way to urge people to find vices or even really evil things more acceptable -- and later on, even desirable and preferable to virtue. Vader is so cute here that one may forget the dark side he represents.

Below that you'll also find a video of really brilliant piano-playing -- it's a rendition of the Harry Potter theme. I'll put some notes on that below the video. Fascinating music, skill at work here, and the mood -- of course befitting of the movie's plot. The costume, the flickering candles, the dark surroundings coupled with the incredible piano-playing can all make one forget that despite the sub-themes of friendship and courage that are very much part of the movies, there's the magic, witchcraft and the occult that are portrayed in a positive light quite expertly. Parents, you know what that means.

Ok, so enjoy!

God protect you, and don't let the precious become an obsession. And may the Force be with you :-)

From the YouTube page:

This is a video we produced of Jarrod Radnich performing his original
copyrighted arrangement of Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter. This is played
in REAL TIME and is not sped up. It is part of his Virtuosic Piano Solo
Series sheet music, which includes suggested fingerings to obtain this

Sheet music and the MP3s for this and other arrangements are available
through Radnich's website:

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