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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Inherent Rain Survival Trait of Filipinos

Photo Credit |

Friday, October 19, 2007
The Inherent Rain Survival Trait of Filipinos
Filed under: Filipino, life in Tunisia — bernadetteanne

When it is raining cats and dogs and you’re stuck with a Filipino, you couldn’t ask for a better companion to be stuck with, be it a house, an open space, a car or any infrastructure. Why do I say this? Because rain, be it a drizzle to a downpour worthy to cause a mudslide, is second nature to us to know what to do.

It does not matter if you were born in the Philippines or simply lived there for a couple of years. Rain is a fact of life in the Philippines.

Whatever possessed me to write about such a topic? A couple of days ago, Saturday around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Tunisia time or Paris time (which is the same), we were bombarded with rain like there was no tomorrow, not to mention the thunderstorm which came with it. It was almost worthy of a full-fledge storm back in the Philippines!

I was reveling at the sound and sight of the rainstorm. I told Eric that I wanted to go to the rooftop and record the storm and take pictures. Eric, of course, did not discourage me because he has this reputation in his neighbourhood in Dasmarinas Village to go out during a storm and take pictures. In short, he did not discourage me for fear of getting struck by lightning because he and I are rain lovers.

Although I think I had gone a little too far when I told him I would like to go out in our garden and walk about in the rain. He looked at me like I had lost my mind and said, “Can you imagine how dirty that rain is?”

I just smiled and say, “Could this rain be any dirtier than the rains we have in the Philippines? Philippines is at least twice as polluted as Tunisia but you never heard anyone getting sick because of basking in the rain.”

Then I gave him a little lesson which I learned when I was a little girl who was eager to walk about in the rain. Why? Simply because I grew up in the UAE and the rain we had was nowhere are beholding as those in the Philippines. One of the treats I look forward to whenever we went on vacation to the Philippines was playing in the rain.

The lesson I learned: do not play in the rain the first time it pours. That is the dirtiest segment of the rain. Wait a little until midstream before you go under the rain. It is so much better when the rain are hitting your skin like pellets.

So, I went up to the second floor of our house, where the bedrooms are, to get my camera when I noticed our marble staircase was wet. I looked up and saw water dribbling down from the third floor of house, which was the huge rooftop. Being the experienced rain person that I am, I started gathering towels and moping the puddles while Eric plugged the leak up on the rooftop with our son Nikolai’s newly bought Play Dough.

I felt tired and thought a shower would relieve the muscles I over-exerted when I bended and wiped the floor. So, I entered our bedroom and lo and behold! There was a huge puddle of water seeping in our bedroom via the spacious balcony adjacent to it! Our bedroom was beginning to get flooded! So once more, I threw towels to suck the water and then dumped them in the bathtub where Eric would wring the water out.

Our sons, of course, wanted to take part. Our youngest, Friederik, slipped and fell to the floor. So, I decided to put him in his carseat. Our firstborn was beginning to panic. I told him, “Don’t panic, sweetie! Mama is a Filipina. This is peanuts!” We finally managed to dry the floors.

But the worst was yet to come! We had a nasty surprise when we saw the exercise room and the main and secondary guest bedrooms. It was literally flooded! You see, the windows here are not insulated enough nor are the doors to the balconies. And therefore, just a bit of a strong rain, water seeps in!

We were running out of towels and so we had to use the floor swiper with the towels. I thought our task would never end. It finally did and we were both exhausted from the exercise. Still think the rain is romantic? I do. In fact when it stopped raining at 3am, I felt a bit sad.

The sound of rain soothes me. It lulls me back to memories of walking under the rain or simply staying in our hose and watching the storm unfurl.

No matter how hard the rain is, there is the pitter patter of rhythm which had inspired so many songs and poetry. It makes me think that despite the storm, there would always be light. (When lightning is so strong, it looks like a panoramic flash, don’t be scared and smile. Then wait until you are in heaven to claim your pictures!)

That after the rain and the storm is the calm we needed.