Thursday, October 25, 2007

Changes at the Office

(An ideal career cycle: 1. assessing self 2. exploring options 3. developing skills 4. marketimg self 5.performing. I feel the need to go back to stage one to really know which way to go next.)

Our new Indian boss has arrived. He looks decent and nice. So far. However, everything I hear about Indians expats are on the negative side. I really don't know what this new leadership will bring. Aside from this, we will have a new Pinay boss officially titled as Operations Manager. I used to whine a lot about the utter "mismanagement" by my previous boss but these new changes seem daunting. I just don't know what to expect.

I really ought to get myself a new job. I feel now that my end is near for this company. One year and counting, I haven't gotten myself to the point where I can honestly say that I even "like" my job. This is not me. Several critiques regarding my work ethics has been raised by suspicious co-workers. I am really not like this. I know myself to be honest, dedicated and even at times sincerely "hard-working". Maybe my heart is really not into this line of work and that is why no matter how hard I try, the passion is just not there. I feel that for me to truly love my work I should be able to identify myself with what I do. I cannot be estranged with my job. "Love your work and you will never have to work again for the rest of your life." Oh how I wish I could be in this state right now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Business as Usual

(PGMA visits and shops at Glorietta 2, the site of the deadly bombing, just 4 days after the incident.)

To project that malls are perfectly safe to visit these days, PGMA dropped by to inspect and shop at the Glorietta shopping mall complex yesterday 23 Oct 2007. The message the government strongly and loudly wants to bring forth is that it is "business as usual." Meanwhile, the underlying and real message of this brave act is this, "mindless middle-class herd, go back to your senseless shopping and window-shopping, please."
Funny, but this scene reminds me of the time when Thaksin Shinatwara, erstwhile Prime Minister of Thailand (he was unexpectedly booted out by the military) forced his ministers to eat fried chickens when the predominantly Buddhist country was ravaged by the bird flu virus. During that period, Thaksin didn't want to admit that Thailand was hit by the dreaded bird disease despite suspicious massive death of chickens in their countryside. He was adamant that the chickens died by some other disease aside and not the fatal bird flu strain. So to prove his point, he made a show of eating fried chickens publicly together with his government ministers. However, a few weeks or months later, he did admit the truth. Thailand was indeed hit by the bird flu virus, and subsequent human deaths were reported as a result of the deadly bird strain. What was going on the head of those ministers when they willingly smiled at cameras and muched those potentially life-threathening fried chickens? I can only wonder. I reckon they were forced by Thaksin to chomp those crispy fried chickens and didn't much have of a choice given that their jobs were on the line but still, what could have they been thinking?

I, myself, dropped by at the Glorietta the day PGMA arrived there. Forced by the relentless rain to the take the FX taxi bound to Landmark, I found the Glorietta mall virtually empty. The usually jampacked restaurants had only a few diners here and there. People are still obviously scared over what happened and cannot be fooled by assurances that everything is fine and dandy again. Around this time, teeming with eager early Christmas shoppers, the Glorietta shopping mall complex is almost always filled to the brim. But now, the place is unusually cold and desolate-looking. It still has a pungent smell which is perhaps caused by the unexpexted blast. Things will never be the same again. Business will never be the same as usual. No matter the amount of cajoling from government officials, including the president, I will never ever forget what took place on that unfortunate Friday afternoon. The lapse of security measures means that Glorietta can be targeted again and again. Although it is highly unlikely that it will be a target again anytime soon as the principle of "lightning not striking the same area twice" generally applies, still it is "better to be safe than sorry."

Deconstructing Harry Potter

(JK Rowling, which rhymes with bowling and not howling, the only billionaire author in the world who earned her riches through her widely successful Harry Potter series. It is so hard to believe that she used to live off government support before her tumultuous public acclaim.)

Let me start off by saying that I love the Harry Potter (HP) series. My friend Les was adamant I read the book way back in college. She generously lent me the first three HP books and midway through the third book of the series, I was definitely hooked. I was practically begging for her to give the fourth book as soon as I finished the third one. Curiously, the HP books had the same effect on my non-reading sister. I nonchalantly advised her to read the first book saying she might enjoy reading it despite her engineering background. Soon, she got addicted just like me and even bought her own copies of the book just so she could read and re-read it again.

I often say that my favorite book in the series is the second one. I find the second one the funniest and most charming of all. Harry, at this stage, is still a fresh and hopeful young 14-year old boy still in love and at awe with his new environment. As the series continues, Harry grows up, becomes accustomed to his wizarding world and shows his darker mature side. As most book critics would say the entire series is a "bildungsroman" of the main character, Harry Potter. As such, the first book, which serves an introduction to the entire seven-book series, is the shortest book of all. I daresay the best-written book in the series is the third one as it provides the best mystery of all. All of the seven books is basically a whodunnit mystery novel with a heightening climax from chapter to chapter. The HP books are simply "unput-downable" and you will end up staying awake all night as you rush to know how it will end. Highly controversial from the beginning because of its sorcery and witchcraft theme, the HP series breaks all of the record for the most number of book sold at the fastest possible time. We should all thank the book's author, JK Rowling, for making reading such a cool thing for children and even adults to do again. Children the world over would line-up the bookstores every time a new book in the series is up again. Personally, I find the series amazing because it is craftily written for the enjoyment of children and adults alike, and everything about the plot is highly original and creative. JK Rowling transports us to a new world, both childlike and magical, which is something beyond our imagination. She brings to life new characters and gives a new twist and look to ordinary things we take for granted. I for one believe that the HP series will the stand the test of time and will be adjudged as one of best books or series in the years to come. In fact, when my own daughter, nicknamed JK, (her name stands for those initials, plus I am such an incorrigible fan) starts reading, we will read together the entire HP series.

The last and highly anticipated book of the series came out in the mid quarter of this year. It was a bittersweet moment for most fans. They wanted and longed for the book's ending and yet they were reluctant to let it go. JK Rowling was clear from the beginning that she will end the series at Book 7 and yet I for one simply wanted her to go on. I wanted her to write about Harry Potter from his babyhood upto his dying day. Heck, if she could write about Harry for eternity, I would still be interested to read it one book at a time. I was lucky enough to get a bootlegged soft copy of the last book before it officially hit the bookstores. As such, I was able to read the book before fellow book addicts got their legitimate hard-bound pricey copies.

More recently, the last book, HP7, again gained headline news as JK Rowling surprisingly outed the reverent and almost godly figure of Albus Dumblebore in her book signing trip to New York. Answering an inquiry from a child fan on whether Dumbledore will ever find true love, JK Rowling simply said, "Dumbledore is gay." This answer elicited gasps and applause from a stupefied audience. I don't know what to make out of this recent relevation. It just reminds me of the time it was rumored that my fave Sesame muppets of all time, Ernie and Bert, are actually gay lovers. It was said that the producers of the show were prepared to sacrifice one character by letting it die on national tv as a result of the sexually transmitted HIV virus. (WTF!) Accordingly, they wanted to promote sexual education and gay rights to the conciousness of young children. While being politically correct, all I could think of at that point was, why can't they just keep my childhood favorite character innocent and childlike. So when I heard about this recent outing of Dumbledore, all I could think of is why can't she just let me keep this all-knowing and all-powerful godly image of this well-loved character.

Firstly, unlike others who doubted or sensed that Dumbledore's character might be gay because of his apparent lack of love interest in the series, I never once thought of Dumbledore as gay. My idea of him resembles that of St. Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II and most priests in general. Just because they lack an obvious lady love doesn't mean they are gay. That is not to say that all priests aren't gay because sadly, controversies have erupted over sexual indiscretions of Catholic gay priests. I thought of Dumbledore in this highest regard, his apparent lack of love interest was justfied in my mind by his Socratic love of wisdom and truth. Naturally, he wouldn't have time to think about human love as he was thoroughly engaged in his quiet and passionate love of wisdom and universal ideals. So all the while this noble version of Dumblebore was apparently incorrect. Maybe he is the same wise and venerable character I loved but his uncharacteristic lack of a romantic lady love was not all due to his scholarly quest for wisdom, but simply because of his sexual orientation.

I love JK Rowling and the HP series just the same. All literary works stands to be constructed, deconsructed and reconstructed to the author's and reader's content. In fact, in literary criticism, it is a rule of the thumb that the author must never interpret his own work, otherwise, he/she will unwittingly limit the reading of the work in one voice or light only. I am sure JK Rowling chose to stay quiet about Dumbledore's real idendity for a good reason. Revealing him as an openly gay character might attract unneccesary attention to the book and offend the sensibilities of her young audience. Although I know Dumbledore's sexual preference should not affect his noble status in the book, I still can't bring myself to reconcile this perfect scholar idea I had of Dumbledore to the outed "real" Dumbledore. It's almost the same as discovering for the first time that Sir Ian McKellen, who resembles Dumbledore's character in appearance and personality and plays Gandalf, the noble wizard role in another literary gem, Lord Of the Rings series, is actually gay in real life. I just dont get it.

I am not homophobic. I am consciously respectful of other people's ethnic, racial, and sexual differences. (I even have a lesbian friend.) I almost always practice political, religious and gender neutrality. It's just that when you suddenly find out somebody you thought of as the epitome of manhood and saintliness is gay, of course, my normal reaction is that of shock and fear even. Perhaps its the same as the people in the olden times suddenly finding out that the world is round and not flat as previously believed. They set their ship to sail forever fearful of falling off the edges only to find out that they won't fall at all. So your whole world and outlook suddenly turns upside down, inside out. You experience a sense vertigo as you no longer know which is which. I guess the world is really like that, its not a simple matter of seeing white as white and black as black. We live in a gray gay world indeed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dark Friday: Glorietta 2 Bombing

(A human face of the tragedy: Jeanne de Gracia, among the 11 dead of the G2 bombing last Friday. Lest we forget. )

“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Tony Blair, speaking at the memorial service for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, quoted a passage from “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.”

Last Friday, 19 October 2007, a portion of Glorietta 2 was unceremoniously bombed leaving at present 11 dead and 110 others wounded or injured. I was at the office when I first heard about the news, just minutes after the bombing occured. At first, sketchy reports of a possible LPG explosion from a groundfloor G2 Luk Yuen Restaurant was said to have caused the blast. I felt no sense of alarm at this point. Some 20-30 minutes later, intial photos from the blast were already blogged online. At this point, it became clearer that this was not an ordinary accident. 8 people were immediately reported as dead and 40 others as injured. The photos of the bombing showed extensive damage of properties. Cars were upturned, windows and glasses shattered and rubbles were everywhere. Clearly, Glorietta 2 was intentionally bombed.

I pass by this shopping complex on a daily basis. I take the passenger FX taxi on the lower ground level of the MRT Ayala line. For Php 30 per ride, this FX taxi will take me directly a block away from parent's house in Villamor. Incidentally, this same MRT line was bombed two years ago in what is now tagged as Valentine's Day Bombing as it happened exactly on the day of hearts. This terrorist act was actually a three simultaneous bombing attacks that occured on three separate citiies of Manila, Davao and Gen. Santos. The Al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf ragtag group claimed responsibility for the attack that was said to be their "Valentine's gift to President Gloria Arroyo." Ironically, about the same number of people were among the casualties in this tripartite bombing attacks. 11 people were killed and about 90 others wounded when separate buses in Manila and Davao exploded coupled by the shopping mall blast in Gen. Santos. Prior to this, one more notable bombing incident that will be forever etched in memory is the Rizal Day Bombing which occured on a national holiday, the 30th of December 2000 or more populary known as Jose Rizal's death anniversary. On that fateful day, 22 lives were lost, around 100 wounded in a five-fold attack in various locations in Metro Manila, the most deadly of which is the LRT bombing that took place at the Blumentritt station.

I will never forget this incident simply because I used the LRT back then on an almost daily basis as well. It was the easiest, fastest and cheapest route for me as college (UST) student. I only had to suffer the indignity of being squished and cramped in the train cab for about half an hour but at least it will save me from two hours of traffic in terms of travel time as opposed to the traditional jeepney ride. I had a good deal. Unfortunately, 3 million others thought of the same idea so I had to ride with almost the same number of people daily. The mental picture that would come to mind is that of a fish trapped in a can of sardines. Stuck as if almost glued to somebody else's body, I no longer cared which body part touches another sensitive body part of mine. All I wanted was a (fucking) ride home. This was the same thought that crossed the mind of the teeming masses who rode the LRT train that unfortunate day. All they wanted was a bleeping ride home. A ride home that never got them home (unless home in this case is meant as heavenly home.) I could easily have been on that tragic train ride with them.

I remember crying on that day as I cannot forget the innocent boy whose body was badly burned as a direct result of the bombing. He became the face of the nameless and faceless other victims of that gruesome act. He was visited by then President Joseph Estrada and was given and promised all sorts of help to mitigate the effect of his young life's tragedy. I also remember being angry at Estrada simply because he was the president. I held him accountable for what happened and ironically enough, like the current state of PGMA, was in deep political crisis at that time. I deeply wonder if there is any link between these two seemingly random events. It must be recalled that previous administration, namely that of deposed dictator Marcos' regime, was credited for being personally responsible for dubious communist attacks in the metropolis before carrying out the dreaded Martial Law decree. It was done in the past and so it is not completely beyond logic to think and hypothesize that it could be done again. If truth be told, PGMA stands much to gain with this recent bombing as the country's attention is diverted from the on-going political crisis. Just before this atrocious incident, the bribe-giving aka gift-sharing debacle that happened right inside the supposedly majestic halls of Malacanan Palace was hugging the newspapers spotlight.

Justly or unjustly so, many Filipinos believe that PGMA has something to do with this G2 bombing incident. Oppositionist Senator and one time coup d e tat plotter, former Naval Lt. Sg. Antonio Trillanes IV was quick to point an accusing finger at National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon as the perpetrators of the crime. The accused two were equally quick to react by calling for an investigation of Trillanes over his allegations. Incidentally, despite being duly elected as Senator of this land by a mandate of more than 11 million untampered votes, Trillanes at this point is still languishing in jail for his political crime of dethroning an (illegal) president. They call to investigate Trillanes when he is clearly beyond the bounds of possible suspects, what with him being already in jail, and as such waste their efforts on finding out who the real perpetrators are. A certain Sheik Omar of the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement had promptly claimed responsibility over the attack but security analysts were fast to dismiss such claims as they questioned the authenticity of the voice of Omar during the on-air radio interview as well as the capacity of the said group to launch an attack.

Personally, the timing of the attack is highly suspect. The aim is clearly is not to create a catastrophic number of casualty but to plainly and coldly send a message. The attack occured at around 2 pm, way beyond the usual lunchtime of workers in the Makati area. If the perpertrators simple plan is to wreak havoc as big as possible, they could have planted the bomb at around 5 or 6pm, which is the peak time for passersby and mallgoers in Glorietta. Instead of just having 11 people dead, they could easily have more than 100 dead if acted upon a this precise time. Take the Bali Bombing that occured in Indonesia on 12 Oct 2002 for example. This bombing incident instantly killed more than 200 people, most of whom are foreigners and injured the same number of people. In this case, the motive was plain and simple, and that is to kill as many as possible. And so the suicide bombers acted out their plan at the most opportune time and at the best possible location for maximum impact and damage. It doesn't take intensive logistical intelligence to know that G2 or the entire of Glorietta mall is jampacked around after office hours. However, either by a stroke of pure luck or cunning evil genius, they opted to plant the bomb at the time when it had the least possible impact, at an hour way past lunchtime. One really good question now is this, "Why choose this dead hour to plan a bombing attack if your motive is only to kill as many as possible?"

Currently, the possible theory being raised by police officials is that the blast was purely an accident, saying there is a "high level of certainty" that the explosion was caused "by the presence of certain structures underground." Accordingly, toxic combination of methane gases located in the underground level of G2 accidentally leaked and caused the massive explosion. I am not buying this. UP Chemical Engineering experts are not buying it either and thus cautioned the police for laying out such unfounded theories that might beffudle the public. If I were to believe this version of events, then I might as well say that George W. Bush waged a war against Iraq because of their hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The amount of rubbish that our officials would want us take as gospel truth is unbelievable. Having worked for the military institution before, I very well know that it is within their means to twist the truth for the sake of "national security." Not everybody deserves to know the truth, especially if it will only cause national pandemonium. So they most probably conclude that it is for country's best interest for the masses to continually litter our superfluous malls for its apparent economic benefit. Better to tell the public a softer version of the events than to admit and subseqently explain a bombing attack that was successfully launched right under their noses.
The bombing of Super Ferry 14 last February 27, 2004 is a clear example of such a deception. It is now officially dubbed as the "the Philippines' worst terrorist attack and the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea", killing 63 people instantly with 53 others missing and presumed dead. Initially, the deadly explosion was passed off as an accident caused by a faulty gas leak. However, 8 months later, PGMA admitted on October 11, 2004 that the bombing was indeed a terrorist attack. But by then, the Super Ferry bombing attack hardly made any impact on public consciousness. The time they acknowledged it wasn't the case, the public already forgot what the news was even all about. So it wasn't difficult for them to make excuses as to how such an attack was not prevented by "intelligence information." When they revealed the attack as a glaring breach of national security, the public simply no longer cared. Is this a brilliant coincidence, a mere happenstance that conveniently saved our security officials from public condemnation over their faulty intelligence gathering and information? I don't think so.

Everytime confronted by a unexpected tragedy flat on the face, I am always reminded of how fleeting life truly is. You can never really know when your "end" will be. You can just be strolling by the mall idly passing away your time and for all you know it would be the last minutes of your life. Such is what happened to the victims of the G2 bombing incident. Sadly, the metropolis is no longer a safe place to live in. The bombing incidents that happened in the last five years or so could have easily taken away my life just like that. I would have been robbed of my life, of my youth and of every potentiality I could ever become with hardly a blink of an eye. I must always remember this---to savor every breath I take, to enjoy every moment I make and to live my life the fullest possible way I can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

World Hunger

"The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist."
These were the last words of Kevin Carter, the famed ill-fated photojournalist who took this Pulitzer award winning picture of a malnourished Sudanese girl being stalked a hungry vulture. At that time, majority of the population in Sudan were experiencing extreme hunger because of a bitter civil war. In an interview, Carter said the girl was walking her way towards a food camp and later resumed her travel after taking this brief respite. He shooed away the vulture afterwards. Reportedly, after taking this photo, "he sat under a tree for a long time, smoking cigarettes and crying." Carter committed suicide two months after receiving his award.

The picture of this dying girl is simply heart and gut-wrenching. It was taken 14 years ago by Kevin Carter, a South African photojournalist who was most probably haunted by the girl's image so much so that it contributed to his suicide. More than a decade had passed and yet this picture still evokes the same amount of emotion as if it were taken yesterday. Now that I am a mother I cannot help but visualize the face of my own baby in that child's face. Carter was condemned for being a mere spectator in this instance. He was ridiculed for not actively helping the child and for choosing to just take this stark image. But how many of us can honestly say that we would have done otherwise? That we would not have turned a blind eye and instead be moved to action given the same circumstance?

Not everybody knows this, myself included, but there is an event called as World Food Day celebrated last Oct 16. Accordingly, at present times, "some 854 million people, or about one in seven, lack sufficient food." If you put it this way, in cold mathematical and logical terms, it fails to have the same agonizing effect as evinced by one girl's dying image. This little girl represents the "50,000 people dying every day because of extreme poverty." It is appalling to think that in this modern day and age of technology and advancement, literally millions are still dying out there for the want of proper food. In the Philippines alone, it is reported that 17% of Filipinos live in extreme poverty. That figure sounds and looks innocuous and doesn't seem reflective of the child beggars I see dangerously plying the streets of the metro on a daily basis.

There is no stopgap solution to world hunger or local hunger for that matter. It is not simply a matter of giving away excess food and money to the needy. The Philippine government's solution to the country's own hunger problem is to allocate a Php 1 billion peso fund to finance temporary feeding centers and projects for the extremely impoverished sector of the society. But this barely scratches the surface of the problem. Like terrorism, communism and other ideological conflicts this world is currently experiencing, the problem of hunger is deeply rooted and cannot be resolved overnight. But unlike ideological, political and philosophical issues, the problem of poverty speaks to us in a universal language, one that cuts through cultural differences and demands our immediate attention and action regardless of our race, religion and skin color. Hunger knows no boundaries. Hunger is the same for all, it is one of humanity's great equalizer, just like death.
We are touched by this dying girl's image because it speaks to us in this universal language. It is the same language that reminds us all of our humanity. It speaks to our hearts and awakens our soul. We remember that we are human because we all grieve and cry over this. We grieve and cry for the little girl, but we grieve and cry also for ourselves.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Scattered Thoughts on Money and Happiness

"Happiness is a warm puppy."

Today's headline screams about the unabashed bribery by the Arroyo government of local officials to keep the so-called President in power. Apparently, after a meeting/party hosted by Malacanang officials, Congressmen who attended the event were each given fat envelopes with amounts varying from Php 200,000 to 150,000. Called as a early Christmas bonus, these extravagant gifts were handed away to keep their loyalty in favor of the present President. After the brouhaha brought about by the NBN deal fiasco, the Arroyo government feels the pressure and wants to be on the offensive by fielding a sham and weak impeachment complaint in order to effectively shield Arroyo from a potentially damaging real impeachment move. It must be recalled that the law protects incumbent presidents from power-play political manueverings by only allowing one impeachment case to be filed per year. So technically in legal parlance, if you file a impeachment complaint this year and it turns out to be a dud, you have to wait for one whole before you could take the only legal action of throwing out a President.

I am in the state of doldrums these days. I am still reeling from the pang of betrayal and lie by a loved one. Can a trust lost be ever fully regained? Where do you find the courage to stand up and pick up the pieces after you knowingly brought destruction to yourself? How do you find strength on your own? As I wallow in despair and soak myself in the pain of denial, my mind struggle to find the answers to these eternal questions. I breathe in sadnesss and breathe out anger by turns. I ask myself the question "why" a countless times. Immobilized by despair, I move automatically like a robot. Trapped by the daily routines of my insipid life, I spend the day doing what is expected of me like a chore and devoid of any sense of purpose and passion. Where do I go from here? How do I get myself back, if ever I had "it" in the first place?

Just last week, a meeting with an old friend provided me with much needed comical relief. Fresh from her recent trip to Korea, she regaled me with her stories of adventures and misadventures. She told me that the elitist or "sosyal" afternoon snack in Korea is would you believe sweet potatoes or "kamote" coupled with hot white milk. Koreans, being consciously healthy, even add kamote as toppings to their pizza. Philippine bananas are also a big hit in Korea and only the rich can afford them there. The temperate loving banana stalks refuses to grow in their country's cold and wintry weather. So they have no choice but to import their bananas here and purchase them in Korea at ludicrous prices. What I find so amusing about these stories is the apparent irony of it all. What the rich classes eat in Korea, the poor folks here in Pinas have in abundance. I cannot help but notice that there seems to be a leveling of some sort between their rich and our poor. No wonder Koreans come to the Philippines in great droves. They can eat whatever their elite class can in stupendous abundance. If Koreans knew that only the truly poor ones in the country are forced to eat kamote and bananas, particularly in the rural areas, when the staple food rice is not around, I wonder, if they would still consider these fruits as a symbol status of "kasosyalan."

So I am left with the safe conclusion that indeed the value of money and happiness are relative. Money may seem to make the world go round and may bring happiness to most people but there is more underneath. So much more. Bribing money to gain friends and support, a political move perfected by the current administration, may give them their desired goal for the time being but not forever. Sooner or later they may run out of friends once they ran out of money. The goods that people buy for a hefty amount of money for the ultimate purpose of finding happiness and getting satisfied may be of no value at all to others. While some may even get it for free and yet still find no satisfaction despite of its superfluous presence. Happiness has different a face for everyone. It is not easily recognizable as its form varies from one person to the next. But happiness in order to be true and lasting must come from within. Only "you" can tell what can make you truly happy. So I ask myself again, "What makes me happy?"

Sunday, October 7, 2007


(Sr. Ana Cielo Matuloy, the one with a white halo over her head.)

I just miss this woman. Her name is Ana Cielo, the latter name means heaven in Spanish. She used to be a close college friend and we even maintained our bond beyond the shallow confines of school to include working life, until one day she decided to become a nun. It wasn't a sudden, smack-me-in-face revelation for I always knew all along that she would take the plunge, it was just a question of "when." So when she did tell me about it I wasn't exactly shell-shocked by her decision but I wasn't particularly happy about it as well. It's not the same as your friend telling you that she's about to get married, you know for a fact that the change of status would entail lessened quality time together as friends, but for Cielo, her change of status would mean no time at all to share with her friends, family and other loved ones. She has to devote her entire time to her vocation. That is why even her immediate family, who very well knew that she would become one day a nun for she unflinchingly revealed her calling even in her younger years, was not totally accepting of her decision. But in the end, they, just like her friends had to relent as we all knew that this would be the only thing that would ever make her truly happy.

I write this note to let her know that I miss her so much. To say that she got me through the end of my college years is an underestimation. She did that and more. She was the one who inspired me study harder, as I was always determined to get a better grade than she did. She was always my gauge, if my test scores belonged in the median of hers (for she always topped the class), I would be perfectly happy and contented with myself. I was striving to get the better of her and was constanly upset if she received a point higher than mine, a fact I never verbalized though until now. She graduated cum Laude, the only person to do so in our class. However, not everybody knows the fact that she had no idea of her grade point average during her first and second years in college, as it never reached their house in a rural sea village in Batangas. She is a born genius, I would love to say. She is the youngest of four siblings, a product of a late and unexpected pregnancy by her aging mother. So they say, a menopausal baby would either turn out as a genius or "downie." Luckily, Cielo turned out to be the former, as she topped every class, every exam that came along her school days. She even managed to get a flat one in our Physical Examination (PE) classes for Pete's sake. She just topped them all, I guess.

But this not the most amazing thing about her. The world is quite teeming with all sorts of geniuses in variegated fields, both specific and general, both profound and banal, but she is quite extraordinary. She is a personification, a material presence and being of goodness. She has the brains but more importantly, she posseses the heart that makes her stand out as a human being. She also happens to my friend and I am so lucky. Whenever I think about the values of Christian ethics and standards, firsly I am reminded of JPII, the Pope of our century and my lifetime, secondly of Mother Teresa, the great nun of Calcutta, and thirdly of Cielo, my old friend and college buddy. I may not know those two reverred icons personally, but knowing her is enough to attest that truly, good people still exists in this planet. The quality that makes her goodness quite unique is that she extends this not only to a chosen few, which most of us are guilty of, but she gives it generously away to almost everybody and anybody who seeks her help. She offers goodness before you ask for it. I remember this one time that she offered free tutorial services to some of our classmates who experienced difficulty in one subject even if it meant inconvenience on her part. She actually had to stay in the class and spend time with people who are not particularly friendly to her just to simply "help" them. She did not crave for fame and had no political aspirations in our class but she helped them just the same out of the plain goodness of her heart.

Cielo, wherever your chosen path may lead you, I just want you to know that I will never forget you. In times of my darkest despair, it is you that I remember. I remind myself of the images of your goodness, your bits and pieces of wacky advice, and above all your unfailing belief in the goodness of my own heart. If somebody like you can stand to be with me and call me a friend, then I still have hope. I will continually pray for the day that you and I will meet again. When that time comes, I hope you will still call me as your friend. You may be a full-fledged nun at that time and I, a full-fledged mother and wife, but hopefully we can still meet eye to eye and laugh and understand each other's word perfectly like we used to. You may have married God (JC) but I do hope that you still have time to share and spare for ordinary people like me who just professed love to a regular man. You may soon be the paradigm of the extraordinariness and I, of drab ordinariness but I hope that you will still love me like you used to.
I miss you so much friend. That is the long and short of all of this.