Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shadows of a long gone poet

the poem below first appeared in the Middle East Edition of Abante on 17/09/2006 and i remember the poet asked me once (long before it was published ) to read the poem... and yes i read it with matching gestures...

as i look back to that poem reading session that day, i apologize for not giving the right emotion it deserves (maybe i was so carried away by the gestures i had to make...) Truth is that I was so flattered to have been asked and given the chance to read the poem for the first time... reading from the very scratch paper where the poem was originally written by my fine poet-friend...

"Shadows of a long gone poet"
by Mario Acuesta Aguado

felt this anger inside of me
the devil i thought was long gone
showed again its image
of wrath and hostility
a quiescent rage
that brought back mythical fiery.

arm stretched
a mighty sword in one hand
the battlefield begins
on white shaded field
these hurting words
the wound it leaves
mightier than the sword
my pen executes.

heed this venom
flowing through my vein
traits of a long gone poet
kept forcing me to write
hence i write and write and write
like kleptos in a busy store.

let me seize this moment
and be vehement
release this fury
and be triumphant
heed these thoughts
this caged anger
shades of crimson
never been gray
never been amber.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Filipinos in the Gulf

If only the opportunities offered in the Gulf countries are available in the Philippines... that would be great! We, who work here in the Gulf would be back home with our families... but such is not the case so we can only dream and hope for a bright future for our beloved country.

Nevertheless, Filipinos here are able to take full advantage of the opportunity - we can adapt easily to any situation, we have the values of honesty and integrity, we have high quality of education and good English skills. These are probably some of the reasons why there is a diaspora of the Pinoys.

Here's one article that's worth your time...

Filipinos in the Gulf
By Jerick T. Aguilar Saturday, April 12, 2008

I am fortunate enough to have traveled to all the Gulf countries. I was able to visit Kuwait and Qatar a couple of times as overnight stopovers between my trips to the Philippines and Europe. While my mother was working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, I was able to spend time with her there courtesy of a family visit visa. And just recently, during my break from work here in Yemen, I went on a brief vacation to the neighboring countries of the U.A.E., Oman, and Bahrain.

The Gulf is where overseas Filipino workers or OFWs are concentrated. They number by the millions so it was not really surprising to see “kababayans” everywhere in these countries. And they number by the millions because the Gulf was the first region of Filipino labor migration that started in the 1970’s and has continued until now. There, I met Filipinos who have worked there not for years but for decades.

It was also there that I met Filipinos who at least have a relative or two also working and living in the same country. For most of these Filipinos, they came to the Gulf with a family visit visa not just to visit a family member or relative but to eventually find work and have their visa converted into a work permit. In Abu Dhabi for example, I came across a hotel receptionist (an electronics and communications engineer in the Philippines) who was initially sponsored by his (or her, as “she” insisted) aunt to visit her and, at the last minute, was able to get a job in the same hotel.

A host of Filipino family members not only visit their spouses or parents in the Gulf but get to live with them there with a dependent visa. I remember grocery shopping with my mother in Riyadh and I had to look twice at two Filipino kids inside the cart pushed by their parents. In Sharjah, a couple of Filipino families were having lunch at Chowking (yup, “our” Chowking) and I didn’t have to look twice to register what I had seen.

I guess these OFWs who took their husbands or wives and children with them have resigned to the fact that their family’s future is in the Gulf so they have to continue working there indefinitely. And instead of being painfully away from their loved ones, they decided to bring them to a foreign country (a non-English speaking one at that!) in order to be together. I gathered that some spouses eventually found a job so their double-income family is like a typical one in the Philippines except that they are not in the Philippines.

And they are a typical double-income family indeed! In Muscat, I have seen Filipino families inside their cars with the father driving on the highway or parking outside a shopping mall (and a Filipino family walking their dogs in Salalah!). In Manama, I have been with them inside the church on a Friday (as Sunday is a regular working day in most Muslim countries) with the children seated between their parents. (I have also heard that their children go to private schools to continue their English-language education. In some cities like Dubai, there are schools exclusive for Filipinos).

For a first-time OFW in the Gulf, the adjustment period while working in these countries is probably the shortest given the existent support system around him (or her) – such as relatives who have been there longer so they know and can help her (or him) with the ropes, fellow Filipino colleagues who pass the time at work with an intermittent joke or two, and even the presence of TFC (The Filipino Channel) on satellite or cable TV to get their daily fix of Wowowee and up-to-the-minute “chismis” in Philippine showbiz. It is also very easy to meet and make friends among “kababayans” and should there be a fall-out (as with any other friendship), it is as easy to find new ones.

For a Filipino tourist in the Gulf, it is as if one has not traveled to the Gulf at all. As I wrote, Filipinos are everywhere so it is like he (or she) has not left the Philippines. Filipino restaurants and stores selling Philippine products also abound. Even local newspapers have a specific section on the Philippines and the Filipino community (aside from our diaspora’s own publications) so anyone can be kept abreast with the latest events. And it is ironic that she (or he) is in a foreign country yet can speak Tagalog to get by.

The absence of a language barrier is a real advantage for a Filipino traveling to the Gulf. As for me, I never got lost in these countries. It was such a breeze to ask any “kababayan” for directions. Their local knowledge has also made me save money from not taking the taxi as I took buses and other forms of public transportation to get from place to place, as well as to and from the airport (as well as from not getting ripped-off by taxi drivers as they told me how much certain trips actually cost). I too got better service in restaurants, shops, and hotels from fellow Filipinos working there.

I guess the only disadvantage is not having as much time to go sightseeing. At least in my case as the talkative and inquisitive me tried and wanted to talk to as many Filipinos as possible. There were times when I had to stop smiling at “kababayans” I encountered on the streets, look straight, and miss out on a possible conversation so that I didn’t miss entering a museum before its closing time. And there were times when I had to ignore other “kababayans” around me as I was already talking to a Filipino at a particular place.

As a final note, Filipinos have been in the Gulf since the seventies and I can argue that the region’s rapid development has a lot to do with the presence of our “kababayans”. Their cheap labor (Westerners are paid much more than their Filipino counterparts) and their irreproachable work ethic have helped transform the economies of these countries to what they are today – with a host of business people investing and tourists flocking. If the locals, their employers, and the respective governments acknowledge and recognize this fact, then our “kababayans” should be paid higher and treated better as they rightly deserve.

I am fortunate enough to have traveled to all the Gulf countries – and even more fortunate to have met and talked to Filipinos there who have successfully created a better life for themselves and their families. There is no doubt that for most of these Filipinos, they are better off in the Gulf now than they were in the Philippines before. This only goes to show that given an opportunity (no matter how limited), Filipinos are able to take full advantage of and make the most out of it. And if only such an opportunity were present in our country…

Filipinos here, there, and everywhere

There is no place in this world that there is no Filipino. It's a joke here in Saudi Arabia that even if you turn a stone or open up the sand dunes, you will find a Filipino "kababayan" there - sometimes with an iqama and sometimes without. Here's an article written by Jerick Aquilar that I found in It's worth re-blogging...

Filipinos here, there, and everywhere
by Jerick T Aguilar, Tunis, Tunisia Friday, June 22, 2007

I love traveling. I am already 32 years old and most of my friends are about my age. After working for 12 years or so, and saving money in the process, I had saved enough to see the world. I was working half the time (the rest pursuing postgraduate studies) and spending the money that I saved on, yes, traveling.

One of the reasons why I love traveling is that I get to meet Filipinos even in countries where one would think that there couldn’t possibly be any. According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POE), there is at least one Filipino living and working in 181 countries, territories, and autonomous regions around the world. Well, I have luckily been to 76 and I have met at least one “kababayan” in all of them.

The first country I ever visited was Australia. I was lucky to be part of the De La Salle University Debate Team when I was an Economics Instructor and there happened to be an international tournament in the capital of Canberra. Of course, the first Filipino I met in the Land Down Under was my cousin (I mean, who doesn’t have a Filipino relative in the developed world?) who had just immigrated to Sydney. Her mother (one of my favorite aunts) went to Australia several years back as a tourist and overstayed as an undocumented worker, picking grapes and cooking Filipino food to send money back home. She was actually jailed when authorities found out about her irregular (I refuse to use the word “illegal”) status but she was rescued by an Australian who wanted to marry her. That was how my cousin, who was below 18 years old, was able to leave the Philippines when her mother and stepfather petitioned her.

What is also interesting to share with you is when I visited the next country: France. I was lucky, yet again, to be the grand-prize winner of an event sponsored by the French Embassy. The prize, unsurprisingly, was two round-trip tickets to Paris, including a visit to the south of France.

I invited my best friend along and we arrived in Paris at midnight. We were so excited to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world that we started touring the city by foot at four in the morning! In one of the streets that we passed by, there was a Filipina standing by a door who asked us if we are Filipino. Just by looking at each other, my best friend and I were wondering what this kababayan was doing, dressed for a cocktail party and all, in front of what we thought was a regular house in the wee hours of the morning.

She invited us in and we were greeted by several other women (mostly Eastern Europeans) who, you guessed it, were waiting for their clients. This Filipina turned out to be their “mamasan” and, mind you, she was not ashamed to tell my best friend and me about it. She has been living in Paris for several years, is married to a French guy, and has a daughter who speaks at least eight languages (It goes with the territory, I believe). Yes, there are a lot of Filipinos in France, but to meet one of them at dawn (and a proud pimp at that) is really one thing I cannot forget!

One country that I visited where I thought there was no Filipino at all was Honduras in Central America. I was already done with my trip to the capital, Tegucigalpas, and the famous ruins of Cop├án, and I had not met any Filipino yet – until I checked-in at the airport. I gave my passport to this young woman at the counter who asked me, in Tagalog, if I am Filipino. (Filipinos and Hondurans look quite similar – must be the Spanish blood in both of us – so I thought she is one of the latter.) I was surprised to know that she is a kababayan and the first question I asked her is what she is doing in Honduras. She told me that she was actually born there and that her Filipino parents have been working in the country for a long time. As much as I wanted to find out more about her and her parents, I had to go straight to the departure hall so as not to miss my flight.

Another country that I visited where I never expected to meet a Filipino was Iceland. Iceland is not called Iceland for nothing, so I went on this organized tour to see one of their biggest greenhouses in the midst of all the ice that surrounds it. Inside, I could not believe looking at a banana tree in front of me and then I heard the words “Kumusta kabayan?”.

It came from a lady in another tour group who was so happy to see me because she thought that she was the only Filipino living in Iceland. Her smile descended into a frown when I told her that I am just a tourist. As usual, my question was how she came to live in an “un”-tropical country in the northern hemisphere. She said she was originally a domestic helper in Hong Kong, met her future husband there who is from Iceland, and now they have settled down (or make that “up”) here.

I still have a lot more experiences to share meeting Filipinos everywhere but these ones truly stand out. One is because Filipinos, like my aunt in Australia and my first “mamasan” friend in France, are willing to do any kind of job outside the Philippines as long as it pays them well. Second, they, like the Filipino couple in Honduras, are willing to stay outside the Philippines as long as they can and as long as their job pays them well. Finally, they, like the one (probably the only one) in Iceland, are willing to go outside the Philippines regardless of where they are going as long as their job (or their husbands’ job) pays them well.

I must say that the economic situation in our country has not gotten any better but has gotten much worse given that more and more Filipinos have left, are trying to, or want to leave our country for greener pastures abroad. For those who are already outside (such as myself), chances are they (including myself at least for now) are not willing to go back because the grass on Philippine soil has wilted and our government has not taken any concrete measures to water, fertilize, and revive it.

Part of the reason why I love traveling is that I get to meet our kababayans around the world and still feel at home just by talking to them in Tagalog and knowing a little something about their past and present lives. Another reason is that I feel even much more lucky not to be in the same position as them having to make difficult choices, or make that, decisions because they apparently did not have any choice to begin with.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The 4-Generation Giordano Models

I always look forward to Thursdays afternoon because it is usually a time for me to go to Jeddah to unwind and relax... I would drop by at Al Balad, sip some cups of coffee, do grocery at either Hyper Panda or Carrefour, take dinner at Caspers&Gambini if my pocket money allows me to, else dinner will either be at Barrio Fiesta or Shawly's. That was my regular itinerary during weekends.

For the past 3 years, it was my close Saudi friend Basha who was my Thursday Club partner until he left NPC to look for some greener pastures out there. With him at the wheels and equipped with familiarity of every nook and corner of the port city, the Starbucks at Obhur, the restos and malls at Thalia Street and Corniche and his friends hives would take up our time till the wee hours of Friday morning.

For almost a year now, my Malaysian friend Sani who is our Company's IT senior programmer is my new partner on these Thursdays escapades. We convince ourselves that our Thursday trips were an inexpensive way of spending the weekend. We would often tell that we only need some few riyals for a can of Pepsi or for some cups of coffee... (Tell it to the marines...Lol).

However, Thursdays are never spent as planned. We always end up driving home with the baggage compartment filled with shopping bags, groceries, computer gadgets, etc. We've been trapped with the vicious cycle of travelling-buying- and swearing not to divert from plan... which costs us a hundred-fold inflation of the budgetted riyals for Pepsi and coffee... nevertheless Thursdays are always a welcome respite to the busy schedule during the week.

It was another fine Thursday afternoon and the weekend rendezvous was finalized early that day. Aside from Sani, 3 of my staff kept us company in the immaculately white (euphemism for newly washed) RAV 4. There was sandstorm that afternoon that could have dampened our spirits but it was not as strong compared to the ones we always experience in the past. It wasn't strong enough to blast the windshield and the headlights of the car and to limit our speed to a turtle-pace drive. So off we drove in 90 minutes the 180-km distance from our place to Al Balad.

As soon as we reached Al Balad, each one was off to his own direction while Sani and I were seated at the Bedouin inspired tent Country Cafe sipping cups upon cups of different coffee concoctions from around the world.

Thursdays come and go yet we never run out of topics and discussion about work, family, travels, people, ideas, etc. But that Thursday, it was something different. We had a special topic of interest - Sani's Nikon SLR cam! He explained to me all the photography lingo and taught me how to use it to get good shots. We were so carried away by the tutorials that we did not even notice the arrival of our 3 companions.

Each one completed his own personal errand that afternoon which means that anything would go the rest of time...

Zakkir completed his shopping spree for some "materials" (that's the FilBang's translation of our "pasalubong") he plans to bring along with him when he goes for his vacation.

Jun was able to meet up with his brother-in-law who would facilitate the purchase of a new laptop for him. When he came, he already had his supot of pandesal. I got two and squeezed it in my palm (as I always do... those who know me will not be surprised...hahaha) before savoring the sweetness of the Pinoy bread.

Emer already finished his bargain hunt and "window shopping" splurge.

I always like surprises and I really dunno if it was the coffee (maybe I got drunk) or the squeezed pandesal (probably food poisoning) that gave me the "push button" to try publicly my luck at the shutter and lens of Sani's Nikon SLR cam. The facade of the many boutiques lining up in front of the coffee shop looked like the ideal modelling ramp we see on TV... The top choice was the display window of one of the many Giordano shops in the Al Balad area. I jokingly requested the guys to hurriedly pose ala Ford-models in front of that Giordano Shop before we would get caught. And as if they were hypnotized that they willingly paraded to the ramp without any talent fee.

Here are some of the shots during that instant photo session. It was really fun because despite the "sora-sora" pose that each did (for fear of being reprimanded by you know who...) they really acted as if they were GQ models (LoL).

Hats off to the guys! I don't have the guts to do what they did... It's just probably that if I did, it will take more breathless moments for me to hold on to my tummy for it to be "medium" cute and come up with a photogenic shot...LoL.

Pasakalye as in advertisement muna: Reason why I had to ask them to "sora-sora" is because of a past experience I had in the past on taking pictures in public. The picture below (not SLR cam shot) was taken under protest.
I had this bad experience many years ago at an Al Baik Resto that made me to think twice before going for public photo sessions. I was with Al Cuadro, Rey Garinganao and Mario Aguado enjoying the remembrance pose with our "close up" smiles when a local guy stopped us by saying...La La La La. All I can say now is hahahahaha! If you look at the picture closely you will se that I was really trying hard to hold on my breath!

After the flashing of the camera lights, the wondering faces and stares of the passers by, the breathless poses they did that night (to make the tummy appear cute), I discovered something - that some of them "has" the "X" factor and some has the "Y" (bwahaha). Next time, some should have second thoughts before saying yes to modelling (Guys don't kill me for posting this!). Anyway, the kodaker cum director needs to think thrice too...

The model for the mid-20's

The model for the late 30's

The model for the early 40's

Drums rolling......jan ja ran....
In a cameo role... the model for circa 50... ganito kami noon ganito pa rin ngayon... walang kupas

Models in order of appearance - from the less mature to the more mature (euphemish used again): Zakir Hossain (Bangnoy - Bangaling Pinoy), Jun (Ilonggo na tunay - look at his pa haciendero effect...ginapiko ginapala ang kwarta... pero gina bulldoze ang...), Sani (the die hard Giordano user from Malaysia), Emer(the ever durable dude from the Ilocandia)

Photography cum Direction (Bwahaha): Desert Aquaforce

Clothes by: Giordano, Levi's, ShoeMart and Harraj UK-UK.

Dubai - Architecture @ Its Best

Every house has a beach.

Now see this stuff! This is taken from world's tallest building 'Burj Dubai' @ 2,620 ft / 801m!!!
What do you think guys?

Really amazing! Look at the edge (uppermost right corner) of the picture, you can almost see the turn of the earth.

Forwarded email by Bobot Buendia

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An ala Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code...Impersonating or an Impostor?

There are days when we just forget ourselves... who we are and do things which we don't normally do. We don't even think about what our actions will bring - whether or not it will affect the people around us - especially the people most dear to us.

Today is one of those days. It started with the plan to surprise. We often hear "bosses" say that they hate surprises. But I know surprises would be most welcome if it's a good surprise and I know the surprise I had was most welcome - 100% guaranteed!

The suspense-surprise was sent through an email with the following details:
From: Nereus Jethro Abad
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 9:59 PM
To: ''
Subject: 820-349-5342

Waz Up Mama Tita Chris Natural #
Dolly Ar Mil Sez

Other mails followed that day with no mention of this particular message. For fear of a possible terroristic plot by the dreaded 'iloveu' and 'whatabeautifullife' computer viruses, the recipient thot it was one of those spams (similar to those viagra, cialis, penis enlargement, medicines, jewelries, etc spam mails we often get in our mailboxes). She thought of deleting it and let the message be forever lost in oblivion.

Well before moving on... and speaking of spam mails, here's one anecdote of one of our modern day unsung heroes working under the scorching heat of the sun in the desert. He's not so familiar with the computer and about spam mails. He got a lot of those spam mails talking about - 'making an important change in your life', 'enlargement was never so easy before', 'you'll never be unhappy anymore', 'how to grow 6 inches in 3 days', 'be a real boner', etc...and all those sort of hullaballoos...Well, he got really much disturbed with all those spam mails he got. He can no longer help but sought the help of another 'modern day' hero connected to the IT Department. He inquired on who sends those mails... and mentions that nobody knows except himself... how were they able to know? Whoooaaahhh. LoL...No arraignment yet but he already pleaded guilty!

Back to the surprise email code, I was successful in convincing the judge at the webcourt that the message could probably have some great meanings. After a tough grilling session in the webcourt and afraid of being held for contempt in her webcourt, I was arraigned and pleaded guilty as the master mind of the code. I had no other choice but to spill the leads and mysteries one by one to reveal the code.

To make this blog short, the code was deciphered and the judge at the webcourt declared the case closed. It was a beautiful morning to start afresh the day with fun and excitement. Knowing that some unimportant, 'meaningless' and insignificant things in our lives may bring about good surprises to us.

One might try to decipher the code... I challenge you. Once you get it right, we'll have dinner together at Caspers&Gambinis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

4th Saudi National Day

Tuesday, 23-Sept-08, Saudi Arabia -

Today is Saudi National Day! Everywhere, everything, and everyone all over the place goes GREEN! (Saudi Arabian flag is green)
Saudi Arabia celebrates its 4th National Day today. I remember that when it was first celebrated in 2005, my Saudi friends didn't even know what the holiday was for. All they knew was that there was no work and that they were free that day. Unlike in the Philippines when any day can just be declared a holiday by anyone who sits in power, Saudi Arabia has only 3 non working holidays that I know. One is the Saudi National Day, the Ramadan Eid Holidays (Eid Al Fitr) and Hajj Eid Holiday (Eid Al Adha). Their very limited holidays could have been the reason why they were not aware of the holiday's significance to their lives at that time.
Now, 4 years later, my Saudi friends tell me a day in advance that September 23 is a holiday because it marks the unification of the country by King Abdul Aziz in 1932. They would tell me the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia dating back in 1740s when the ruler of the central Arabian Peninsula, Muhammad Bin Saud, formed an alliance with the reformer Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab and this partnership led to the founding of what we have today as Saudi Arabia.
The Al-Saud family ruled much of the Arabian Peninsula throughout the 19th century. In 1902, Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud triumphed in recapturing Riyadh from the Al-Rashid clan and thenext thirty years united the numerous and disparate tribes into one nation. it was on September 23, 1932 that the foundation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took place.

I would like to share a personal reflection of Khaled Almaenna, Arab News Editor-in-Chief on the meaning of the day. He wrote this piece way back in 2005 when the holiday was first celebrated.

Let Every Voice Within Our Midst Be Heard
Khaled Almaeena, Editor in Chief,

Today is Saudi Arabia’s National Day. It is the first time that this event is being publicly celebrated across the land in the form of a nationwide holiday. But what does National Day actually mean to the citizens of Saudi Arabia? Is it merely a day of fun and merriment or a day for something deeper and more symbolic?
In my estimation it should be viewed as an opportunity for introspection as we not only look back at the different stages of nation-building, consolidation and achievement but also look forward to the future and all the concomitant challenges that lie ahead of us. The ability to face these in the coming years will be far tougher and more diverse than we can imagine. However, we have to rise to the occasion and meet them headlong.
Over 50 percent of our population is under the age of 25. We have to seize the moment, think creatively and come up with solutions to pre-empt future problems before they even arise. But first it is imperative to identify these problems. We have no time to lose.
The whole world is forging ahead. Our neighbors to the East: India, China and the whole of the Far East are buzzing with economic activity. They have become nations of producers while we are still consumers. Their research centers have become the envy of the world. Their young men and women are being enticed by Western universities to join them.
Taking all this into consideration, I expect that we too should create an educational system that will help our young men and women reach a global competitive level. We have immense talent. We need to discover, encourage and nurture it.
Another important issue is that of governance.
Both King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan are determined that Saudi Arabia be a modern state with clear laws that give citizens their rights. Accountability and transparency are high on their list of priorities. They are keen to push for reforms that will have a far-reaching effect and help propel the country well into the 21st century. To do this effectively another aspect of society should not be ignored. That of the role of women.
The Saudi woman is smart, educated, cultured and capable. She is prepared to play a pivotal role in nation-building. She is not willing to sit idle and be spoken to only and if necessary. She is ready to face the challenges that present themselves — and she does not want or deserve to be patronized. Any society that ignores women and their contribution to economic and social development does so at the very risk of its existence.
We can’t afford to do that. So let us resolve on this day to promote further the cause of women and to elevate them to greater heights. I am sure many of them will attain these levels much before their male counterparts.
As we reflect once again on the National Day we should also be thankful: First to Allah for having blessed us with the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah. Then for the decades of security and stability that we have enjoyed. While other nations around the world floundered we kept going on. But as we appreciate the past we also should be concerned about the growing menace of terrorism — an alien philosophy that has crept into the minds of many of our youngsters. We have to work together to address this issue and eradicate its dangers.
And to do all this we have to have a dialogue. Every voice within our midst should be heard; no matter how small. And we should show compassion to those who are lesser privileged. It is no use displaying a false sense of patriotism. Scoundrels throughout history have been doing that. What we truly have to ask ourselves on this day is what can we do for our country.
An honest answer will determine our future.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why is the Filipino Special? -by Ed Lapiz

Here's an inspiring article by a Filipino pastor which just means that I am special and so are you!

Filipinos are brown. Their color is at the center of human racial strains. This point is not an attempt at racism, but just for many Filipinos to realize that our color should not be a source of or reason for an inferiority complex. While we pine for a fair complexion, white people are religiously tanning themselves, under the sun or artificial light, to approximate the Filipino complexion.

Filipinos are a touching people. We have lots of love and are not afraid to show it. We almost inevitably create human chains with our perennial akbay (putting an arm around another's shoulder), hawak (hold), yakap (embrace), himas (caressing stroke), kalabit (touching with the tip of the finger), kalong (sitting on someone else's lap), etc. We are always reaching out, always seeking interconnection.

Filipinos are linguists. Put a Filipino in any city, any town around the world. Give him a few months or even weeks and he will speak the local language there. Filipinos are adept at learning and speaking languages. In fact, it is not uncommon for Filipinos to speak at least three: his own local dialect, Filipino, and English. Of course, a lot speak an added language, be it Chinese, Spanish or, if he works abroad, the language of his host country. In addition, Tagalog is not 'sexist.' While many "conscious" and "enlightened" people of today are just by now striving to be "politically correct" with their language and, in the process, bend to absurd depths in coining "gender sensitive" words, Tagalog has, since time immemorial, evolved gender-neutral words like asawa (husband or wife), anak (son or daughter), magulang (father or mother), kapatid (brother or sister), biyenan (father-in-law or mother-in-law), manugang (son or daughter-in-law), bayani (hero or heroine), etc. Our languages and dialects are advanced and, indeed, sophisticated! It is no small wonder that Jose Rizal, the quintessential Filipino, spoke some twenty-two languages!

Filipinos are groupists. We love human interaction and company. We always surround ourselves with people and we hover over them, too. According to Dr. Patricia Licuanan, a psychologist from Ateneo and Miriam College, an average Filipino would have and know at least 300 relatives. At work, we live bayanihan (mutual help); at play, we want a kalaro (playmate) more than laruan (toy). At socials, our invitations are open and it is more common even for guests to invite and bring in other guests. In transit, we do not want to be separated from our group. So what do we do when there is no more space in a vehicle? Kalung-kalong! (Sitting on one another). No one would ever suggest splitting a group and wait for another vehicle with more space!

Filipinos are weavers. One look at our baskets, mats, clothes, and other crafts will reveal the skill of the Filipino weaver and his inclination to weaving. This art is a metaphor of the Filipino trait. We are social weavers. We weave theirs into ours that we all become parts of one another. We place a lot of premium on pakikisama (getting along) and pakikipagkapwa (relating). Two of the worst labels, walang pakikipagkapwa (inability to relate), will be avoided by the Filipino at almost any cost. We love to blend and harmonize with people, we like to include them in our "tribe," our "family"- and we like to be included in other people's families, too. Therefore we call our friend's mother nanay or mommy; we call a friend's sister ate (eldest sister), and so on. We even call strangers tia/tita (aunt) or tio/tito (uncle), tatang (grandfather), etc. So extensive is our social openness and interrelations that we have specific title for extended relations like hipag (sister-in-law's spouse), balae (child-in-law's parents), inaanak (godchild), ninong/ninang (godparents) kinakapatid (godparent's child), etc. In addition, we have the profound 'ka' institution, loosely translated as "equal to the same kind" as in kasama (of the same company), kaisa (of the same cause), kapanalig (of the same belief), etc. In our social fiber, we treat other people as co-equals. Filipinos, because of their social "weaving" traditions, make for excellent team workers.

Filipinos are adventurers. We have a tradition of separation. Our myths and legends speak of heroes and heroines who almost always get separated from their families and loved ones and are taken by circumstances to far-away lands where they find wealth or power. Our Spanish colonial history is filled with separations caused by the reduccion (hamleting), and the forced migration to build towns, churches, fortresses or galleons. American occupation enlarged the space of Filipino wandering, including America, and there is documented evidence of Filipino presence in America as far back as 1587. Now, Filipinos compose the world's largest population of overseas workers, populating and sometimes "threshing" major capitals, minor towns and even remote villages around the world. Filipino adventurism has made us today's citizens of the world, bringing the bagoong (salty shrimp paste), pansit (sauted noodles), siopao (meat-filled dough), kare-kare (peanut-flavored dish), dinuguan (innards cooked in pork blood), balut (unhatched duck egg), and adobo (meat vi naigrette), including the tabo (ladle) and tsinelas (slippers) all over the world.

Filipinos are excellent at adjustments and improvisation, managing to recreate their home, or to feel at home anywhere. Filipinos have Pakiramdam (deep feeling/discernment) . We know how to feel what others feel, sometimes even anticipate what they will feel. Being manhid (dense) is one of the worst labels anyone could get and will therefore, avoid at all cost. We know when a guest is hungry though the insistence on being full is assured. We can tell if people are lovers even if they are miles apart. We know if a person is offended though he may purposely smile. We know becau se we feel. In our pakikipagkapwa (relating), we get not only to wear another man's shoe but also his heart. We have a superbly developed and honored gift of discernment, making us excellent leaders, counselors, and go-betweens.

Filipinos are very spiritual. We are transcendent. We transcend the physical world, see the unseen and hear the unheard. We have a deep sense of kaba (premonition) and kutob (hunch). A Filipino wife will instinctively feel her husband or child is going astray, whether or not telltale signs present themselves. Filipino spirituality makes him invoke divine presence or intervention at nearly every bend of his journey. Rightly or wrongly, Filipinos are almost always acknowledging, invoking or driving away spirits into and from their lives. Seemingly trivial or even incoherent events can take on spiritual significance and will be given such space or consideration. The Filipino has a sophisticated, developed pakiramdam. The Filipino, though becoming more and more modern (hence, materialistic) is still very spiritual in essence. This inherent and deep spirituality makes the Filipino, once correctly Christianized, a major exponent of the faith.

Filipinos are timeless. Despite the nearly half-a-millennium encroachment of the western clock into our lives, Filipinos-unless on very formal or official functions-still measure time not with hours and minutes but with feeling. This style is ingrained deep in our psyche. Our time is diffused, not framed. Our appointments are defined by umaga (morning), tanghali (noon ), hapon (afternoon), or gabi (evening). Our most exact time reference is probably katanghaliang-tapat (high noon), which still allows many minutes of leeway. That is how Filipino trysts and occasions are timed: there is really no definite time. A Filipino event has no clear-cut beginning nor ending. We have a fiesta , but there is visperas (eve), a day after the fiesta is still considered a good time to visit. The Filipino Christmas is not confined to December 25th; it somehow begins months before December and extends up to the first days of January. Filipinos say good-bye to guests first at the head of the stairs, then down to the descanso (landing), to the entresuelo (mezzanine), to the pintuan (doorway), to the trangkahan (gate), and if the departing persons are to take public transportation, up to the bus stop or bus station. In a way, other people's tardiness and extended stays can really be annoying, but this peculiarity is the same charm of Filipinos who, being governed by timelessness, can show how to find more time to be nice, kind, and accommodating than his prompt and exact brothers elsewhere.

Filipinos are Spaceless. As in the concept of time, the Filipino concept of space is not numerical. We will not usually express expanse of space with miles or kilometers but with feelings in how we say malayo (far)or malapit (near). Alongside with numberlessness, Filipino space is also boundless. Indigenous culture did not divide land into private lots but kept it open for all to partake of its abundance. The Filipino has avidly remained "spaceless" in many ways. The interior of the bahay-kubo (hut) can easily become receiving room, sleeping room, kitchen, dining room, chapel, wake parlor, etc. Depending on the time of the day or the needs of the moment. The same is true with the bahay na bato (stone house). Space just flows into the next space that the divisions between the sala, caida, comedor, or vilada may only be faintly suggested by overhead arches of filigree. In much the same way, Filipino concept of space can be so diffused that one 's party may creep into and actually expropriate the street! A family business like a sari-sari store or talyer may extend to the sidewalk and street. Provincial folks dry palayan (rice grain) on the highways! Religious groups of various persuasions habitually and matter-of-factly commandeer streets for processions and parades. It is not uncommon to close a street to accommodate private functions, Filipinos eat. sleep, chat, socialize, quarrel, even urinate, or nearly everywhere or just anywhere! "Spacelessness," in the face of modern, especially urban life, can be unlawful and may really be counter-productive. On the other hand, Filipino spacelessness, when viewed from his context, is just another manifestation of his spiritually and communal values. Adapted well to today's context, which may mean unstoppable urbanization, Filipino spacelessness may even be the answer and counter balance to humanity's greed, selfishness and isolation. So what makes the Filipino special? Brown, spiritual, timeless, spaceless, linguists, groupists, weavers, adventurers; seldom do all these profound qualities find personification in a people. Filipinos should allow - and should be allowed to contribute their special traits to the world-wide community of men- but first, they should know and like themselves.

and i'm definitely proud to be a FILIPINO.

The Beautiful Taif_One Weekend in June 2005

GO Office, NPC Al Laith, 02 June 2005

It was just another ordinary Thursday noon when the idea of spending the weekend at the malls in Jeddah was not the best thing to do. I was more than year in KSA at that time and my weekends were spent in Al Balad, the Corniche, fishing at a lagoon near the Red Sea, watch my pelican-friends fish near my room, or hop at some friends' quarters to feast on their Pinoy lunch and the "lauriat" would sometimes end until dinner. I enjoyed very much those weekends but there was just something unusual that day. I saw my friend Mario, kind of busy doing some sort of things at his office table. Al whispered to me that Mario was trying to figure out a concoction of activities for the weekend. Toink...toink... though his feet were concealed by his table and covered by his sandal shoe with socks, I could see through very clearly, with my magnifying eyes that his feet were beginning to "itch". (Yes at that time my vision was still 20/20 until age took its toll). He started talking about how beautiful the countryside is... I agreed. There was no doubt about it.

We were unanimous in agreeing that going to Jeddah or staying at the company site will be one of those monotonous and boring weekends (at that time!). Well, he didn't have to convince me more. Little did he know that he only need nil persuasion power in order for me to change the course of my weekend schedule. (Btw, when i was about a month here in KSA, I told my friends that I'll never go out of the project site so I can save, except only when I need to remit my earnings to my family. I dunno where I got those thoughts then...maybe it's in my northern Philippines blood connection).

Power of 2
They say that "two" will send thousands to flight... The two of us tossed into the sand-dusty laden air the idea of travelling to another place...something new and at least somewhere near. Right after those words landed into the ears of those near enough to hear us, all reservation seats for the tour were all taken. Cell phones were ringing - calling their best buddies of the chance to be in a new place.

Seat Reservations 
In just probably a split of second all seats in my car were fully reserved and taken. If only I am an entrepreneur, I could probably have made a fortune that noon. If I opened my car, it could have been full of bags and other personal effects to signify that the seats are taken (just like what we see in PUBs and PUJs awaiting for schedule to depart...whew). Naturally, Mario was in as he was the "master mind". So that leaves 3 vacant seats in my Mazda 5.

I would opt for someone who knows the place or least someone who can communicate with the locals. Voila... Basha is it and his cousin Ali Yaseen. They are Saudis. Basha is one of my Saudi staff who became very close to me... he was like a son, a chauffeur, a butler, an all-around assistant and was great help to me while he was at NPC (To this day, he is not at NPC anymore but still stayed as a very close friend). Completing the confirmed passengers list was Alfred, an IT Hardware engineer who is also a very good friend of mine.

The confirmed passengers to the Tour de Taif:
Mazda 5: Basha steered us safely all the way up, Desert Aquaforce, Mario, Ali Yaseen & Alfred.
V-165: Al, Larry, Melvin, Ian, Ranilo

That weekend is now history... the first out of town trip I had... and soon many unstoppable out of town trips followed.

Need I say more? Scroll down through the pics and see the wide-grin mouths we had proving that indeed it was a weekend worth remembering.

This was a stop-over dinner at an Arabic Resto outside Makkah. The guys had their first taste of "mandhi" (roasted goat/sheep - tastes really good). I kidded them that it was a Thursday and not a Monday (LoL).
When we reached Taif, we didn't know where to go. Basha And Ali Yaseen convinced us to go first to a park and have some "ceremonial tea"...Welcome to Taif...
Not contented with the tea, the coffee drinkers had to drop by a coffee shop to keep those eyes open for some more minutes.
This was the breakfast setting the next day...kuboos, cheese, milk, tea, coffee and some Arabic dips (forgot what it's called) Every one is enjoying...but there was this phone call to Al from Sunny...3B01
A pose at the facade of our accommodation for the night...
Another pose at a facade of an antique house.
Good morning Basha!
Fruits, fruits, and more fruits... Contemplating whether or not it's fattening.
More fruits...wild apples, mishmish, bukarah, habhab...
This was the guy who did not pay 5 riyal to the owner of the camel.
We didn't know that anyone who poses in his camel has to pay...
Bridge over a dam (not really a big body of water...just some faucet-like trickle)...
may be better to say A Bridge Over No Water
I really forgot how this shot was taken. Obviously it was Mario who took this i already forgot.
A bridge too far? 
A shot from a different angle
With my Saudi friends...
Mario and his lens...It was supposed to be a mirror image effect
This is what we get for being bachelors. We cannot ride in the cable cars because admission is open only for those with families... We had to stand outside to have an orphan effect...maybe they'll take pity and let us ride.
A pose in front of the cable car station...just a memento even if we were not able to ride.
Heavy lunch provided by Yayah... bought food from the resto..looked for a place...
spread a carpet/mat and had a delicious Arabic lunch.
(Apologies for the blurry's the only one I got)
Darwin's theory of evolution is proven stopped here!
The trip to Taif was so short yet everyone enjoyed (except for that DO problem in 3B01). That was my first trip outside my "comfortable zone". That opened up to my travel world in KSA. It was never the same again...

Photography: Mario Acuesta Aguado & Desert Aquaforce