Dia Del Libro 2017

The furnace-like humid of a summer afternoon stood no match against the energy of book and art lovers at Ayala Triangle Park last April 22. It was the time of the year again when literary enthusiasts flock together for Dia Del Libro, an annual book festival organized by Instituto Cervantes, the cultural arm of the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines. The event is inspired by the Sant Jordi Festival in Barcelona where every year on April 23, people exchange books and roses as part of the celebration.

True enough, I felt like I was transported to Barcelona when I arrived at the venue. There was a great display of Spanish culture as musicians render live performances which added to the already exciting mood of the event. Ayala Triangle Park became a lively garden in the most literal sense. As part of the tradition, every purchase of a book from participating bookstores will entitle the buyer to a rose. The entire park was full of people holding a rose or two, and I just can’t explain how lovely the view was especially that I am obsessed with roses.

Dia Del Libro is an educational and cultural experience more than anything else. It is designed to celebrate the works of the finest authors in history including celebrated Spanish novelist Miguel De Cervantes, whose name was placed dead center at the venue. I enjoyed the event because of its commitment to bring classical literary works closer to the interest of modern generation and promote the love of reading.

I am also impressed with how Dia Del Libro gathered not only the country’s top bookstores and publishing houses to offer huge book discounts, but also private organizations which perform initiatives to celebrate the art of literature in the Philippines. One of which is The Book Stop Project Library designed by WTA Architecture and Design Studio. It is a pop-up library where people can either swap or donate their books and let other people who will visit the library enjoy the perennial pleasure of reading. I reckon this concept already exists in other countries, but it is the first of its kind in the Philippines which is why I am excited to take part of it. I brought with me five books to donate. I actually did not have the intention to swap it with the other books from the library’s collection (since I have more than enough books on my shelf), but the staff insisted so I grabbed a copy of Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By. She also gave me a free copy of Context and Intent, a magazine made for anyone who holds interests in architecture and design.

The Book Stop Project Library situated at the center of Ayala Triangle Park

Aside from great books, there are also other literary products available. I bought this shirt with a Cervantes quote in it. The quote is from the 15th Century novel, Don Quixote. “Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven has bestowed upon men; no treasures that the Earth holds buried or the sea conceals can compare with it.”

MUSEO DEL PRADO

Traveling to Europe, let alone Spain, is often part of the bucket list of any traveler. People who wish to walk the streets of famous cities like London, Madrid, and Paris have different reasons why they want to capture the so-called European experience. And although I do not consider myself as a fully committed traveler, I also have my share of fascination with Europe. I admire the unparalleled value that Westerners place on their culture and tradition, and how that value continues to shape their country as a result.

If one day I wake up and find myself somewhere in Barcelona, I would immediately head straight to the nearest museum for I am a massive fan of the style and themes of Western art. It is my wildest dream to encounter the works of famous artists like Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Vermeer etc. I know it will take quite a while before I realize this dream, but Dia Del Libro gave me a simulated experience of acquainting myself with European masterpieces through the exhibition, El Museo Del Prado Filipinas.

The exhibit featured 54 paintings created by some of the most influential names in art history. Each painting has a description about the styles and themes used for its creation, which is useful for anyone who would like to study the background and techniques of the featured artists. But aside from the educational functions that it may serve, the collection is simply a feast for the eyes. Without exaggeration, the exhibit offered me the best-simulated experience of what it is like to roam around a European museum.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico – Ca. 1425-28

My favorite pieces are The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, Bacchanal of the Adrians by Titian, and Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches by Federico De Madrazo among others.

Moses rescued from the Waters of the Nile by Orazio Gentileschi – 1633

Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches by Federico De Madrazo – 1853

ENCOUNTER WITH THE GREAT FILIPINO HISTORIAN

A festival of books will not be complete without book signing events. And although he has not released any new book, the presence of the renowned Filipino historian and author, Ambeth Ocampo, is one of the major highlights of Dia Del Libro 2017.

I became a fan of Ocampo after a college friend lent me his famous book, Rizal Without The Overcoat. I immediately admired his style of writing and I knew right after reading his essays that he is an exceptional writer. History is a cerebral topic for many people, but Ocampo’s gift lies in his capacity to shape historical accounts into interesting pieces of information which hold so much relevance even up to the modern generation.

I brought a copy of Ocampo’s Rizal’s Teeth, Bonifacio’s Bones. It is the fifth installment of his Looking Back series. The book was given to me by a friend after he asked me to write a review of it for his English course in college. I am a fan of Ocampo but not as obsessed as the other people I encountered while lining up for his autograph. They were holding a complete set of his books while I cling on the single volume I have. It was an awesome experience to have a brief chat with the celebrated Filipino historian. In an effort to create a jest out of the awkward fact that I was holding only a single book of his, I grinned and said, ‘Ayoko po kasi kayong mapagod kaya isa lang ‘dala ko’ ( I don’t want you to get tired that’s why I brought only one book). I tried to make him laugh because I understand how exhausting it must be to sign massive stacks of books.

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An encounter with Professor Ambeth Ocampo, award-winning author of Rizal Without the Overcoat and the Looking Back Series

To formally end the program, Ayala Triangle Park was transformed into an elite opera house as the Manila Symphony Orchestra serenades a congregation of literary buffs. They played several classic Spanish symphonies, as well as lesser known pieces. After the exceptional performance, my friends and I left the venue with full of excitement about what next year’s Dia Del Libro might bring.

Enhorabuena Instituto Cervantes!

Concierto Clasicos en el parque by Manila Symphony Orchestra

 

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La La Land Review: Dreaming, Loving, Being

You know there is something special about a film if it won 7 awards out of 7 nominations. La La Land is a big winner at the 74th Golden Globe Awards and made a history for winning the most number of major awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), and Best Actress (Emma Stone). Much have already been said about the film but the rain of acclaims is far from over. Critics and movie buffs alike continuously place their bet on La La Land, with a high level of confidence, for the coveted Academy Awards this year.

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La La Land is not one of those films that you will consider great by simply joining the chorus of praise around you without actually seeing it. If movie watching in cinema is an investment, consider La La Land as a perfect example. You get to be transported to the old school art of film making with techniques that are almost forgotten in this age of time. The award-winning direction of Damien Chazelle made use of traditional CinemaScope technology that was used in most musical films back in the 50’s and 60’s. Even the graphics present vintage taste to provide that nostalgic experience no one would refuse to have.

And just when you thought that the music and aesthetics of the film are the reasons behind its groundbreaking success, wait until you delve into the story.

La La Land is an informal term which refers to the bright lifestyle of Los Angeles and Hollywood, and the glamorous promises of a ‘dream world’.  At the beginning of the story, audience meet Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring theater and film actress who works as a barista during the day, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an idealistic pianist who is one of the few remaining people who still believe and practice the dying art of Jazz music. Both of them are struggling to navigate their way towards their dreams.

Also part of the phenomenal cast is John Legend, a real life singer/songwriter, who plays the role of Keith. Contrary to the conservative taste of Sebastian, Keith thinks that the only way to bring the culture of Jazz music to the new generation of listeners is through modification.

In the end, Mia achieved the celebrity lifestyle she had always fantasize about and Sebastian got to play his Jazz music in his own club. Whatever happened in between before they earned their success is a story full of failed auditions, spilled coffee, life lessons, and romantic tap dance numbers.

La La Land features songs which tell larger than life stories straight from the creative minds of composer Justin Hurwitz, who also worked with Chazelle for the equally award-winning film Whiplash; and from lyricists duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Pasek and Paul are celebrated names in Broadway for their musical Dear Evan Hansen.

DARE TO DREAM

I saw the movie in one of the climactic nights of my life as a young professional: the night before my job interview. And honestly, I can’t tell right away if I was encouraged by the film after watching it considering that there are more than enough rejection scenes in it. In La La Land, you will see a lady barista fail in most of her acting auditions and an underrated pianist lose his job during Christmas season. None of these scenarios would motivate anyone to take that single shot at his dream. And yet I consider the film as an educational material to prepare me for what is really ahead and teach me how to manage my ambitions to avoid heartbreaks.

(I saw the movie with my friend and fellow movie buff, Arvy! We took a photo with Emma and Ryan and went completely nerdy)

The movie is brave enough to show the rather sad part of human dream. It shows the unnoticed reality that the act of dreaming is actually the best part of the journey, better than the dream itself. As a proof, Mia and Sebastian found each other in the wretched stage of dreaming the dream. And this is a major morale of the story: that somehow, the satisfaction lies not in achieving our highest ideals but in the actions taken to get there.

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Mia and Sebastian also represent the two different paths leading to success. When Mia decided to pursue her independent one-woman act show, despite all the obvious constraints confronting her, she served as an example of an idealistic dreamer who is willing to challenge the flow of the world and make her own current. On the other hand, Sebastian is like that one friend we have who compromised with the dictated trend of the society for the promise of an easier road. Sebastian at the beginning is as idealist as anyone could be. In fact, he is way more idealistic than Mia. But they both transformed each other in a way that made them braver to pursue their goals, except that they have to drift apart in the process.

DARE TO LOVE

La La Land speaks about dreams as much as it does about love. Anyone who has a beating and loving heart will find himself romanticized after watching the film. There is so much magic in it that triggers the playfulness inside every person and allow people to imagine a fairytale-like scene with their significant half. There are also a lot of tricks found in the movie that can be used for ‘hitting on that girl next to your table’. Either bring her in an old-school cinema house or illegally enter an observatory museum after hours.

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There are also tear-jerking and heartbreaking moments. I am particularly drawn to that scene when Mia ended her debut performance as an indie theater actress and she found right before her a barely occupied theater. What made it even more heartbreaking was when she saw the ‘reserved seat’ meant for Sebastian empty.

At the backstage, Mia heard whispers of insults and she had to bear it all by herself.  One enduring truth about life that we can get out from this scene is that dreaming is supposed to be a shared experience. Failing becomes lighter if we carry it with someone instead of dealing with it alone. And so I cannot blame Mia if after that experience she was so broken, losing all her motivation to continue the fight.

Mia’s character has a universal appeal because we are all like her who needs affirmation especially from people who greatly matter to us. We all need a person who will remind us of our gift when the interest of the entire world seems to focus only on our weaknesses. And Sebastian was the only person who could have said something good about Mia’s performance that night, but he missed the show because he was busy pursuing his own dreams. Sad, yes, but that’s the price he had to pay.

DARE TO BE

I think the reason why La La Land is an instant hit is its unique take on the realistic qualities of human ambition. It is reminiscent of Gatsby’s American dream where everything that sparkles does not necessarily equate to happiness. The prime issue on the very surface of the film is whether love is more important than professional career, or vice versa. But looking deeper at the complex fabric of the story, it throws us the question of how prepared are we in becoming the person we dream to become. Success is not a rare thing actually. Every person, depending on his standard of success, can call himself successful at some point of his life. But the challenging part is accepting the rough side of triumph. And since dreams are mere visions unless we take steps towards it, we are completely clueless on how it is going to be like until we get there. This is the risk: the reason why dreamers need to be daring and foolish.

La La Land is one great piece of an art because it encourages us to take the risk even if it seems that the ‘entire city of stars shines just for us’; even if things are nothing more than corrupted illusions of fame and applause. And when at the middle of the race we find ourselves drenched in failures, no other human experience can be more fulfilling than trying once more.

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“Here’s to the ones who dream; Foolish as they may seem; Here’s to the hearts that ache; Here’s to the mess we make”

 

 

 

 

A ‘New’ Dream to Dream

One thing I don’t like about Les Miserables: it happened so fast. The two-and-a-half hour performance wasn’t enough for me to absorb all the emotions there is. It seems that the gap between the prologue and epilogue lasted only for a few minutes. While watching, I got lost the sense of time and just enjoyed the spectacle unfolding right in front of me. My body automatically reacts to the art and brilliance of Les Mis that my brain did not have to tell my hands to clap, my mouth to laugh, or even my eyes to shed tears. It all just happened without me being conscious of it. And perhaps this is the reason why writing a review of Les Mis is difficult. Because it is one of the few musical theater performances which communicates to the heart instead to plain mind.

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My humble experience in watching theater does not allow me to compare this new and re-imagined production of Cameron Mackintosh’s classic mega-musical from the original show playing in London. What I can only assert after watching it is that whatever modification they did to present Les Mis to 21st-century audiences, it is undoubtedly an improved version. I haven’t seen the original production but base on my subjective view, what I saw could be the best rendition. Mackintosh and his two French musician allies, Allain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, the geniuses who also gave birth to an equally acclaimed West End show ‘Miss Saigon’, talked so much about their efforts in putting a different twist to the orchestration of this new Les Mis. True enough, there is an obvious change to this new production in terms of key and tunes if compared to the many versions available in You Tube (including Lea Salonga’s I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own). However, both the original and the new are great that the question which one is better is impossible to answer. The creative team is successful in doing a crucial task to recreate a masterpiece without losing the essence of the show.

Hardcore Les Mis fans have all the reasons to celebrate that Jean Valjean’s tale continue to endure after its first performance 30 years ago. I cannot speak for Mackintosh, but I think the need for a new production of Les Mis is to make it last rather than forgetting the original as if the show does not already hold the title for being the longest-running musical in both West End and Broadway.

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Meanwhile, I have more than few things to say about the cast of this Asia production who all gave justice to the characters of the epic story. Manila is so fortunate to experience Les Mis through the combinations of talents from Broadway, London’s West End and Australian production. It’s like getting a piece from every great cast in order to put up a humongous and even more phenomenal performance. My top three actors would be Simon Gleeson (Jean Valjean), Earl Carpenter (Inspector Javert) and Cameron Blakely (Thenardier). Gleeson was so true to his character and brought me memories from the time I was reading Victor Hugo’s novel. He is like the Valjean who the author wrote about and it felt like I was transported at the very milieu of the story. On the other hand, Carpenter not only has a great voice but also the best acting ability. While the life of Valjean is redemptive, Javert is someone who chased a running fugitive in an effort to accomplish his duty and be a faithful protector of the law. This adds to the complexity of his character sketch because anyone who would play the part must have a balance air of power and integrity, all of which Carpenter has excellently portrayed. When it comes to showmanship, Blakely certainly has the charisma to win extra favor from his audience. The people want to render applause to him even if his acts were not yet done, a good hint on how impressive a performer he is.

Emily Langridge is also a favorite. With her operatic voice, she undoubtingly can play the part of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera or be the next Fantine in other productions of Les Mis. Paul Wilkins and Chris Durling are very fitting to their roles as the charming French school boys of the barricades. Their cherubic faces are excellent bonus of their amazing voices.

 

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Les Miserables Manila Curtain Call during the first preview, March 11 2016

 

I love the songs which involve huge number of ensemble singers like ‘Master of the House’, ‘Lovely Ladies’, and ‘At the end of the day’. These scores show what melody the whole cast can produce when they sing together. Every time the conductor give stroke of her baton, the orchestra creates music that makes my spirit shake. Many may find this an exaggeration but I had a hard time breathing during the first minutes of the show. The sound of the instruments have a certain effect of invitation to let people immerse into the performance. ‘One Day More’ remains to be the iconic hymn of the uprising, followed by the ‘People’s Song’. But I like the former better. The exchange of lines in the song is perfect for the cast to belt out notes. It is also a scene where every aspect of the show works, from the music to set design. Everything smoothly flows as a remarkable conclusion for the first act.

The re-imagined production of Les Mis made good use of technology in creating modern back drop. The LCD curtain (I don’t know what the actual name of the material used is) is a popular subject of conversation after the show. Everyone can’t help but be awed with that sort of a translucent curtain where the backdrop of each scene was projected. It has to be the greatest innovation applied to the show since such technology did not exist back in 1985 when Les Mis performed in front of its first audience in Barbican Theater, London. Instead of using common pictures or painted sets, the production converted some of Victor Hugo’s paintings into moving background in order to be faithful to the taste and imagination of the artist himself.

I would love to see once more the suicide of Javert not only because of its drama but with the texture of the scene. Up until now, I am in deep contemplation on how Carpenter managed to float in the air (if ever he did because that’s how it appeared) and created the illusion of him falling to an abyss. Likewise, the scene when Valjean carried Marius in underground sewers is like watching a 3D movie rich in visual depth.

The people who operates the stage deserve compliment for making a seamless flow. The stage of THE THEATER AT SOLAIRE is decorated with large props which makes it a perfect mimicry of 19th-century Parisian street. There were windows, balconies and doors everywhere that you cannot possibly know where the next character will appear, or which exit he will take for the transition of scenes. The objects used on stage were remote-operated, I guess, since no crew can be seen pushing or pulling away sets when there is a need to change props.

 

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View from my seat (Premium Gold, DD 11)

 

There are portions of the show which displayed figurative and subliminal messages. In ‘Empty chairs and Empty tables’, Marius reminisce his moments with his friends and on the latter part of the song, the dead children of France appeared carrying candles. These candles represent human soul as its fire die out at the end of the number, leaving Marius’ candle the only light kindling in darkness. A melancholic image of someone who lost his loved ones yet continue to thrive and illuminate hope in the trying moments of life.

Perhaps, I cannot express enough how much I love to watch Les Mis again. Watching theater isn’t cheap and I have to wait another milestone in my life to make myself deserving for a wonderful reward (my ticket is a graduation gift from my parents). But I am eternally grateful that I was able to experience something that will stay in my core memory. The common words used to describe the show: ‘breathtaking, ‘spectacular’, ‘unforgettable’ etc. no longer justify the art of Les Mis. As its quality continue to improve, from scoring to aesthetics, critics should also think of new terms to describe a show that is still maturing up until now. I stick to my only complaint about the show that 2 and a half hours were not enough to fully grasp everything it can offer. Thus, I cannot do the job to provide new words in order to make sense of Les Mis. But I will certainly join the chorus in saying that it is a one-of-a-kind piece of theater which after three decades of its birth, continue to dream new dreams for its audience.

To all the people who are planning to watch Les Miserables for the first time, I encourage you to read the Victor Hugo novel before booking tickets. It is a substantial literary piece made up of more than 1400 pages. However tedious it may sound, it can help a lot in understanding why the characters behave the way they do. Why Fantine suffered a terrible fate, how Jean Valjean managed to escape from Inspector Javert during their confrontation in front of Fantine’s deathbed, and the story behind Marius’ ring that has an interesting origin involving the historical Battle of Waterloo. These details support the high reputation of Hugo in the world of literature and why Les Mis is arguably the best material converted from ‘page to stage’.

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The secret ingredient of Les Mis is conscience. A rare element that can trigger all known human emotions. We see through the life of Valjean that conscience is enough to win over life’s misery and stage a revolution to call freedom from the prison of our soul. And in the core of its story lies the one thing we all live by—LOVE.

A Day with Theorists

I HAVE THE BAD HABIT OF ASSUMING. Really. For all the social discomfort I had, I have always believed that I’m the one who is in the side of righteousness. We all want to throw an impressive picture to everyone we meet. And I’m not spared with this nature of man. Conversation is my best way to accomplish most of my goal in life; that is to become rich and become awesome. With that I consider myself a great assumer. Because no matter how hard I claim the mastery of doing these things, Czesar is still ignorant, well JUST YET.

Early this semester I found myself sitting inside a communication theory class. It means another 3 units to earn and a new set of lectures to study. All my assumptions about how boring it would be were disproved in the following days. The conventional class room turned to be a battlefield of ideas and personalities, which made my adrenal gland to secrete the highest amount of epinephrine possible. I never thought that my field has this portion of scientific pursuit of knowledge! Before, I thought that communication is just an art, far from the world of Einstein and Newton. Well, it is not even in the littlest intention to say that art is less of a worth than science, but since grade school I am trained to believe that they occupy two different sides of the universe. Until we are introduced to these theories all saying in chorus: “you are not a mass com student if you don’t know that…”—so I decided to fully immerse myself to what this class can offer.

Formula of man’s insanity

The first meeting is not so pleasant. If ever there could be other way of describing a day when your professor got mad at the whole class because of students who fail to observe the due value of time than saying it is awful. And the next day is something even worse.

Topics are all in and we are about to see the presentation of the first lesson, when after few sermons it appeared that the reporters didn’t please our professor. Instead of having them discuss the topic; Ma’am Malaya stood and did the effort.

Suddenly, a man by the name of George Mead entered the room and hysterically shouted us, saying that he knows the answer why most people fall to the pit of assuming. And who can be more interested about this thing besides of me! He said that we act towards things based on the meaning we have for them. And our meaning is expressed through language, both of which are a product of our interaction. But there could be times when our own meanings of things just don’t reconcile with the meanings of this world.

In my case, when an obvious achievement in school is delivered in front of our house, that should equate for an additional allowance. But the reaction of my mom can be otherwise. So different that she can instead say I am weak to bring home the second place while for the previous situations, I have been bringing home the best. That is a story of death by assumption. This is just an example but evidently, both my mom and I died in this scene. I because I assumed that I can win a reward from her because I have something not all kids in our neighborhood have; and my mom because she is so confident with her very nice child thinking that I can’t be any lesser than the first.

How about in relationships? Allow me to narrate a personal experience. Well, when I once went out with my high school friends, my long-time crush fixed his eyes on me. “So what could that mean?” I asked myself. Is he starting to realize that I am so adorable and maybe he should start giving a chance with our chemistry? I know it is so pathetic to think that way. But humans are like that. We are so smart that for a moment we want to be stupid to choose the impossible. That maybe, it could happen. Yancey’s meaning of staring at me could be different from my interpretation of it.

“SHUT UP!” I shouted back to George. It is not every day that a 3rd year college student gets the chance to yell a known theorist. So again I assume that my classmates find me great for doing so. But, my prime reason of shouting is because of some loop holes I found in his explanation of things.

First, if it is true that reality is just a collection of hunch, then why do we even have to coin the term meaning if there is always a tendency for it to be different in the eyes of other people? Let’s say that the best world for Rico is a world full of Rico. Because on that world, meanings are uniformed. There is no conflict, misunderstanding, or even broken expectations. Where Hi is always a Hi, not a good bye.

Another problem I see about the principle of Social Interactionism lies on the process of meaning, language, and thought. Most of the time, the ideas we conceive in our minds don’t make it to the next step of meaning assignment. We are so unconscious about how small details of our thoughts remain in the corner of our heads. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t exist! If a PUPian stands in the middle of the freedom park encouraging everybody to go out because a huge monster is right in front of the obelisk, I might be the first one to laugh at him.

But let’s examine the situation. What if the monster he is trying to refer to is not literally a monster but some sort of a problem? And the reason why he is asking everyone to come out is for a demonstration and protest? He is certainly a PUPian who is not at his best. Or more appropriately, he is a communicator who failed to assign proper meaning on things.

The best way for us to save our helpless dignity from the fatal damage of misunderstanding, I have learned, is to consider also how other people will receive our messages. In other words, we can be so creative in telling stories, but let us stick to the way of how the listener, I’m talking about all the possible listeners, will accept it. Meaning, language, and thought. What a lovely formula of man’s insanity.

So after telling my thoughts about the theory, George Mead said, “What a very intelligent student I have before me.” I’m so flattered but I simply answered that he is still smarter than me. My questions will not be formed without his first initiative to explain why we act the way we do. Honestly, I didn’t allow his compliment get into my head. Who knows, he might mean something else.

Naked Truth

We proceeded to the next lesson after Mead bid us goodbye. As I try to once again compose myself for another discussion, there’s a peculiar feeling inside me. And guess what, when I look to the person next to me I realized that he is naked! And not too long after this, the rest of our class is out of their clothes! What did just happen?

“Only by looking to the world this way can you avoid deception” a voice behind me whispered. I turned and found my old friend Judee Burgoon. She explained to me the thoughts behind interpersonal deception theory.

We try to look nice every time we go outside of our home. We are at ease that our motives are neatly concealed behind our grand clothes. But Burgoon shared to me the definition of leakage. So the thing is how we deceive other people and how we are also being deceived. Keen attention towards the people we converse with can help us to determine if deception is at work. To observe them—that is, in a very subtle yet careful manner, even if it means secretly taking off their clothes.

Wait! Why would a man do that? To investigate the person they interact with. After all, isn’t true that no one will talk to a person unless that person means something to him? Let alone the conversations which are intimate? I tried so hard to change my perception to things, but the desire to know the truth is far from diminishing. I scratch my eyes but the people around me are still naked. Why?

It is normal to doubt, I started to understand. We are more than animals looking for food to eat. But more so, we are in an endless venture to attain certainty. Never feel bad when suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, you find yourself doubting. Because great portion of our life is devoted to reducing uncertainty. Fortunately, as Charles Berger would suggest, not every encounter follows great uncertainty. There are axioms which apart from being so technical in nature are also applicable in many aspects of life.  As what happened to me once when I met an irregular student in our class in statistics. She is a complete stranger to me. Our class ended and she said that her way home is similar to mine. Which means as a gentleman, a very rare attitude of me, the next scene would be sharing the same train with her. We just met that day. It is but a quick way of being acquainted. The talk started with exchange of civil words. Everything lasted for 20 minutes and after 8 stations, we realize that we are heading for the same terminal. And guess what the next thing I found out? She lives in the same subdivision!

Even if I am not fond of talking to ladies, especially for someone whom I just met, my tongue got the drive to work more and reveal things about myself. I don’t know but every time two individuals found common interests, likes, hobbies, even an address or whatsoever, there is a line that immediately connects your bond. To use the term of Charles Berger, shared network makes the understanding between two heads possible.

Shared network has proven its existence more than by justifying that ‘birds with the same feather flock together’. Many criminals wear the same intelligence and face. Watching how Napoles used the influence of Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile to embezzle money shows that these people used their shared network: the interest to take more than what they deserve. We are all at one point become thirsty and hungry. Thanks for them I learned an important lesson: never will I trade my dignity for money.  I will try my best to do what is morally good. With that I can become awesome without showing how prick I am.

Antidote of Clashing Interests

A communication theory I am particularly interested with is the expectancy violation theory by Judee Burgoon. She returned with more interesting facts as we continue our conversation.

The idea of personal space made me realize many things. The intimate distance of 0 to 18 inches is something all of us have. Every day by numerous ways, this space is invaded by people whom we know and often those we don’t. A rush hour scene in LRT stations would show how getting to office or school is a deadly challenge where the personal space of an individual is the first to be violated.

I will not make this observation wordy, so this is what my eyes made me see. Every day we are violated by many people, but there are just some, or perhaps that only one person that we definitely don’t mind even if he/she violate us. Sometimes we are the one who put ourselves to situations that makes our intimate distance vulnerable. Emotion will always be part of the equation.

I am such a short-tempered freak. Any unfavorable actions before me will cause my mouth to shouting or my chest to pain. If there is a type of person who puts great value to his personal space, that would be me. But the natural state of affairs changes when I am confronted with my feelings. Simply put, the person I love is an exception for the term ‘violation’. And honestly, if only I have the chance to tell this to him, I would take even the strangest way to do it. ‘Man, you don’t know how I love surrendering my intimate distance to you.’ It would be a privilege to share my personal space with him. Especially when I know that the best point to enjoy the view of his smile is the seat next to him. And I can allow this person violate me for the rest of my life.

I question: would you still consider it a violation if we allow it to happen? I guess it’s not. Otherwise it will break the universal meaning of violation. So we have the communicator reward valence, which explains how we speak to people for the tendency to be rewarded or punished if we don’t entertain the conversation. But reward is never important for a special person. Neither do we dwell about punishment if we have genuine care.  If my words start to sound flirtatious, I quickly save my image by saying that I am not using this paper to become my public version of love letter. Many conflicts and fears are brought by the violation of one’s territory. The Philippines uses all its possible resources just to contest its right for claiming the lands in Spratlys. China, on the other hand, is willing to level their forces against any nation who would invade their turf. If it is possible for a two individual to find care from one another, why not between two nations with intellectual leaders?

The antidote for clashing interests is right at the center of our being—LOVE. Although it is not directly stated in the original manifesto of this theory, no one has ever failed after using the power of affection. The antagonistic principle behind expectancy and violation is that when the former is satisfied, the latter will be lessened. Therefore, one must meet the expectancy of another in order to avoid violation. Many poets and luminaries of different fields have assumed that true love never demands anything in return. To prove my point, love sees no expectation or requirement.

Ethos, Pathos, Logos

My life in school is not confined inside the four corners of our room. When I was a mass com student neophyte, I challenged myself to be at my best in gaining more friends than I had when I was in high school. And thanks to college organizations, this endeavor is realized.

I joined Viva Voce, the premiere public-speaking and debate organization in PUP College of Communication. VVC is the elite group of student rhetoricians who aim for perfection in speaking and thinking. It sounds great, I know.  After qualifying as a member, I knew my choices are right. Being part of VVC opened many opportunities for me. Joining competitions outside the campus and rubbing elbows with the most brilliant minds in the college.

Every ‘first’ brings new experience. I never thought my interest in public speaking could have been any deeper. I have to be honest, however, that my beginning as a VVC member is not easy as it seems to other organizations. I have to deal with people who have a different sense of intellect with mine. Good thing, I enjoy the company of nice people who selflessly share what they know.

Now, as the Vice President of VVC, the burden of passing all the wit and wisdom I learned in public speaking is in my shoulders.

I consider myself lucky to see the connection of knowledge we get inside the classroom and outside of it. Since my affiliation in school is VVC, it also became my first avenue in applying the things I learn in communication theories. And all my stories can be recalled in a minute of retrospect.

After Ms. Burgoon discussed expectancy, reward and violation; our professor joined by two strangers came over. These strangers wear robes similar to the costumes of Greek I see in magazines and history books. To prevent our mind from prolonged confusion, Ma’am Malaya announced that our next lecture requires a time and space adventure. She introduced his two assistants and only that moment we realized they are holding a time machine. A few click in the device and the whole class was covered with overwhelming light. Suddenly, a shadow of a man was revealed in front of us. Aristotle is our instructor for that day and when I looked around, the magisterial scenery of Athens enthralled my eyes. His lesson can be condensed with three words: ethos, pathos, and logos. All of which helped me to be a more sophisticated public-speaker. And on how it all happened brings me to my next paragraph.

Ethos. From the very beginning of my journey in VVC, we are trained to be not just men of wise words but also councilors of goodwill. Aristotle, in his ideology of rhetoric put emphasis to the importance of the speaker’s good character. I believe that the noblest outcome of persuasion through speech is inspiring your audience. And I just don’t believe with it, I live by it. Every time we join a competition, our coach would always orient us the value of influence is far more significant than a piece of medal. We can use sweet words, impressive diction and accent to win, but one must desire for influence to call himself a true public speaker.

Pathos. Every verse must be filled with emotions. Even in private communication, our feeling makes up the meaning of what we are trying to say. An altered voice, however subtle, may produce various meaning. Be sensitive with the listeners’ emotions. For this is not only an issue of the passion inside our mouth, but also the sound of vigor received by our ears. This explains why the soul of the speaker must be one with the people. When my mentees in VVC hear this, they usually smile or even laugh at me. Maybe being poetic does not fit with my personality, but if there’s a moment I am truest to my goal, it is when I say that a best speech is weaved by sublime sentiments.

Logos. All of us had once in our life been involved to an argumentation. People who have the greatest love for each other paradoxically have the strongest debate. Why? Because they know exactly what is the weakest point of their arguments. This is all because we are rational beings. The line of reasoning is at the top of our consideration. But I noticed that whether we allow it to happen or not, our reasoning is affected by personal biases.

For example, a Christian would never be receptive to the ideas of mercy killing because he place premium to life. Even if the situation requires him to promote the benefits of mercy killing, perhaps for an academic debate, his arguments will never be compelling enough to win. A pre-existing belief will constantly come along the way to curve even the straightest line of reasoning.

Hence, I conclude, that it is an imperative for a communicator to watch his personal constructs from affecting his points. I can’t neglect the weight of logical proof in a good speech, but it is not tantamount to surrendering our faith, aspirations, and principles. To reconcile the situations that compel us to defend something different from what we believe and to those things which we actually believe; a quote from Socrates 2000 years ago will help: “know thy self.”

Prejudice as a Crime

I find it very relevant when Victor Hugo said in his book Les Miserables that “Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers.”. When we thought that we had our best in trying to know ourselves, the question bounce back asking how much time we have spent knowing other people. Hugo is critical about the huge effect of small relationships in a community. And he made a good observation when he pointed out discrimination as an unhealthy ingredient for a sound society.

Talking about personal constructs would mean tapping all the things inside one’s mind. Although there is an operative definition of personal constructs, as what is provided by Jesse Delia, the extent on how we perceive people, places, and things is immeasurable. So when I look at my friend’s waist, I can always be pretentious to say that she is still in good shape. But whether it is contrary to what I really believe is certain only for me.

Just like how the world of research is divided into different worldviews, such as positivism and social constructivism, so do the people in holding their personal constructs toward others. Delia focused on the interpersonal aspect of this phenomenon, but I think it will also help to take a wider image of this matter.

First, let us discuss the role of constructs to the production of discrimination. A beggar in a street can receive three possible treatments from passersby. Either someone will take the heart of a Samaritan and spare him alms, or make fun of him for his situation, or simply ignore him. The last tendency may be more humane than the second one. But our concept of good deed will change if we try to analyze it using the principle of constructs.

The reason why a person would give alms is because that person is nice, someone who is compassionate. A group of men who will tease an unfortunate being amid its helpless situation would suggest that these men are mean. But when a person simply ignored the view and continued walking as if the beggar doesn’t exist can give different possible ideas. He ignored because he has no alms to give since he himself is leading a rough life. He ignored because he doesn’t actually mind the value of helping. Or as how Hugo believed that such people are present in a society, he ignored because he has prejudice toward beggars.

This is just a simple example how constructs can be deadly in social relationships. It can breed prejudice which creates gap among people.

The degree of its effects is not very different to interpersonal level. I can still remember my emotion when I found out that I’m going to work with a group of people in our class, whom I am not used to get along with, for our film production. If only there is a possible way for me to change my group, but it will simply not work that way. So my constructs with these people is that they are incapable to be competent. I guess three years of sharing the same class room is not enough for me to really know them well. I thought they know nothing aside from pulling pranks or making noise. That if there is anything they can do best, that is to remain silent in the middle of class discussion, which is very unconventional for me. That is not my definition of competence.

All the post-production works for our film demanded an overnight stay in one of our members’ dormitory. Like most of us are aware of, students don’t spend the whole night doing the serious thing. It is a ratio of 70%-30% in which the majority is dedicated to friendly conversations. After 12 hours of being with them, we accomplished two tasks: the editing of our film, and bridging the gap between me and these wonderful people. I found new friends and my constructs towards them have changed ever since. They are wonderful.

Everything can change. The moment we say it is impossible is the perfect time for us to think of a way how to make it otherwise. I have known the names of my class mates for three years. But just a week ago did I discover who they are. I was proven wrong with my constructs since they are as creative and dedicated as anyone else could be. In fact, I can attribute the success of our film to their impressive efforts. What I did is to give our friendship a chance. Take time to sit down and chat, give up all my prejudices and look at them plainly as how I would look an empty paper. The next thing I knew, that paper is full of colors and wonders we now call as beautiful experience.

Prejudice is a crime. It limits everyone from communicating to other networks, from creating a wider reach of connection, and from satisfying the human need to interact.

Personal constructs are embedded at our very core. It cannot be removed, but it can be cleansed. There is a way to remove the discrimination we have been accustomed. All it takes is  willingness to exchange words.

Controlling Anchors

We are down with the question, how can we change the outlook of people in order to eradicate discrimination? Simple talk doesn’t work to some. Especially those who are smart and professional, conceited by the fact that their judgment can never go wrong. I think this is where the responsibility of a communicator in crafting an effective message comes in. Aristotle have thought us the elements of rhetoric, while Burgoon gave a model of reward valence in order to predict the outcome of a communication phenomenon.  These are all techniques applicable for the sender alone. But the other side of the spectrum, which refers to the receiver,  is equally important. As I try to figure out these things, a man sat beside me. He said that he can read minds and he is fully aware of my agony in the idea of discrimination and prejudice.

If the burden, he said,  is on how to alter people’s perception, it pays to place ourselves in their shoes. Suppose that a person rejects an idea, there are contributing factors why people react this way.

I used to hate reading young adult books. I find them very pre-school and made only for immature readers. My taste for books is different so that my friends would usually find me separated from them whenever we visit a book store. But, peer pressure is indeed an enemy for the principles of a young mind. My friends started encouraging me to read John Green. They used inviting words by telling me that Green’s books are talk of the town, best-seller of various book reviews, and have moving stories and deep meaning. Just to save our friendship from being ruined, I followed their advice to read Y.A books. Eventually, I find it interesting and I’m no longer alone in checking for the latest book because me and my friends now share the same shelves and genre.

My experience is not far dissimilar from the other’s. Before, reading Y.A books fall to my latitude of rejection. Without hearing further words, I easily dismiss the idea because I have a pre-existing conception. There is what we call anchor which refers to the point we find most convincing. Suppose a person would ask me why I don’t read Y.A books, my immediate answer is because I believe that those books are made for teens only and I cannot get anything sensible from it. Needless to elaborate, I just exposed my rejection by this answer. But when a follow-up question was thrown to me, my answer would be more specific saying that the authors of these books are contemporary writers, therefore they are more casual in their verbiage compared to my taste which is formal.

Whenever we are confronted by a more specific question, we give an even more categorical answer. This is the anchor of our judgment. Going back to the issue of prejudice, the tendency to reject ideas can be changed by constant exposure to foreign influence. It took a couple of months for my friends to convince me read John Green. No matter how long it is, it is still a persistent effort. The good thing about our anchors is its motility. Meaning it can be moved from one latitude to another through persuasion.

From latitude of rejection the anchor of judgment can be adjusted to his/her latitude of acceptance. This is the formula that most persuasive speakers use. In an effort to create an attitude change to the audience, one must tackle their anchors and by all means adjust it to fulfill the goal.

Having said all of these, destroying people’s prejudices can be done through persuasion. Having enough skills and knowledge in manipulating anchors, we can tell these people that there is no sector that is superior over the other. Or a beggar should enjoy the same rights with those people wearing barong inside palace and mansions. With this, change is not impossible.

I was so enlightened that I didn’t quickly notice the man who introduced me all these stuff about rejection and acceptance is leaving. I stood from my seat and went to him. I thanked him for helping me answer my questions. It is but a big lost not to know the name of this gentleman. When he turned around, I am so astounded with his pretty face that I can’t make out what he is saying. All of a sudden, he left our room and our conversation appeared to be just an illusion. I tried so hard to remember his name but all I can recall was something sounds like Sherif…Muzafer Sherif. I still am uncertain if that has anything to do with his name. I never find him around in COC again.

Technological Penetration

Statistics show the ever increasing number of people who spend more time in facing their gadgets than talking to their friends or family. Technology is a huge breakthrough in humanity that seems to draw a line between the generation of real-life and virtual connection. Sharing secrets with your friends beneath a tree is not less exciting than posting it on line and waiting for your friends to like or comment about it.

In the recent campaign ad of McDonald’s , the company tries to give the modern generation a picture of how social life suppose to look like. And their tagline: ‘celebrate real-world connection with McDonald’s’ hooked me up and compelled me to ponder some things.

When Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor proposed the theory of social penetration, they are assessing the interpersonal relationship among individuals. It suggests that our personality can be figuratively presented through an onion-like layers. Every encounter to someone leads us to self-disclosure that gradually expose our core. I learned a lot about this theory. It explained why a couple of minutes with a stranger may result to a lifetime acquaintance. But in this age of time, I believe that the principle of social penetration calls for an updated version.

Interpersonal communication is no longer at the top of the list when it comes to social interaction. The world now is being explored inside the comfort of our homes. And the exchange of ideas takes the shape of a virtual platform we all know as internet. When physical distance is no longer an issue and nations around the globe have converge cultures in cyberspace, global village is produced. The one way communication before have evolved to not just a two-way form but in a multimedia process.

Isolated cases still contest the existence of communities that prevent the assimilation of technological advancement. According to Everett Rogers in his study of Diffusion of Innovation, laggards are people who don’t easily adapt with technology and science. The reason of why it happens is another story. Certainly, Filipinos are not laggards. When we had a community immersion to a barangay in Pangasinan for our church, I was surprised to see the locals use the latest gadgets that even we, from Manila, don’t have. It only supports my assumption that Filipinos will experience to have steamed bananas and sweet potatoes for lunch, but never will they left behind in downloading the latest apps in Google play.

Facebook and twitter don’t simply let its users be updated on things, it also shapes culture. The western way of living has an easier way of entering nations including Philippines. This, perhaps, is the same observation that Antonio Gramsci had. Cultural Hegemony starts to complete its process in our society, community, social lives, government, and worst of all, in mass media. Right now, I’m looking for a cure that can save my friends from the horror of cultural imperialism. They all gone crazy with foreign culture that most of the time, they wear what Taylor Swift would wear. And if it is possible, drink what she drinks.

“When the USA has a cold, the whole world sneezes” is an adage which could not be more applicable than today. Nothing but the Internet can be guilty to all of these. Marshal McLuhan’s Technological Determinism will always help us to understand the cultural change of a society because of technology. But then again, we are not just talking about the gadgets itself but also the users. To have a more complex picture of gadget-user relationship, it requires communication scholars like me to bind the ideas of previous theories and weave them together to form a new one.

With that, I coined the term technological penetration.  Altman and Taylor used the metaphor of onion layers. But that is when the interaction is between two live beings. To follow the needs of  my changing time, I will try to analyze the relationship of a technology and a man.

How much information do we disclose in our social media accounts? There are a lot that sometimes our avatar is more real than us. When our exposure to media is greater than exposure to humans, we unconsciously surrender our core towards a computer monitor. Technically speaking, social media is composed of live beings as well. The difference, and I can say big difference, is the actual affiliation with these people. Since most of them place their identity behind their photos, no one can ever be certain with their intention and personality. Unless you set a meeting with them which will just increase the risk of being in a rough situation because obviously, a criminal can achieve his dirty goals easier with physical contact than having an online chat.

Another disadvantage of technological penetration is the degradation of width where only the breadth of self-disclosure is present. A man can say all the sweet words he could ever think to convince a woman to go with him out for a date. They can talk about all stuff about themselves and not less than an hour, they will start to believe they are spending forever simply because they already know each other’s favorite movie and actor. Again, it can all happen in LESS THAN AN HOUR.

This is the situation that all internet users must be aware of. Institutions should take good effort in educating the public with the violent effects of media in their life. Meanwhile, it should be done without closing the possibilities of its benefits. Every innovation in the world is a product of man’s creative mind. And if we are the one who made all of these, we are suppose to be the manipulators not the manipulated. Dealing, not escaping, is the key.

***

All the communication theories are helpful in their own way. But their sum is greater than what it can offer separately.  I am so fortunate to have a nice head start by analyzing them. It greatly influenced  my way of dealing to people. It’s like the other side of social life has been unraveled to me, and I guess I will never look at communication the same way again.

Our class ended and all are so excited with their grades. Well, of course, I am also. But for the first time in my academic life, grades will be my last priority in this subject. Whether I get 1.0 or 2.0, it will never change the fact that I learned a lot. At the very least, I found out that the world of research and theory is as much exciting as media. So if ever all TV networks will drop me out, I know that I can turn to being a communication theorist and devote my knowledge in understanding why a selfie can be a viral topic.

Czesar is no longer ignorant. He is now a better communicator and better in managing assumptions.

When I returned to my senses, I found Ma’am Malaya talking about bananas and condoms. This lady really knows how to make stories sound interesting.

Leave no Traces

Since I wasn’t raised in Manila, I can’t give a particular place within its busy streets that I really know by heart. I’m very much aware that the instruction is to rediscover a place in Metropolis. But the responsibility of a student doesn’t solely lie on following instructions, but more so, in submitting a material that has achieved the objective of the activity. Hopefully, this reflection may give you a vivid picture of my life. Using few words, may you experience the same excitement I had when I first set my feet on this ground. And may you share with me the nostalgic feeling we usually sense whenever time brings us back to where we started to dream, of which I believe the prime purpose why I am writing this in the first place.

For a fifth grader like me, the best period of my class would be lunch break. It’s not because I love eating, well partly I guess, but particularly because my classmates and I spend the two-hour break walking around the village where our school is situated. A perfect way of escaping the noise of our campus. Yes, I have to say that St. Francis Village is really a quiet place. It only becomes earsplitting when we walk around it and fill it with laughter. Today, as I revisit my childhood hang-out, a lot of things have changed. But the thought it used to share remains—the thought of youthful freedom.

St. Francis Village in Cainta, Rizal is occupied by houses and healthy trees that which provide shade for students who want to finish their homework beneath its huge branches. The distinct characteristic of the village, as what I’ve already mentioned, is the stillness that no other place can give. The tennis court where we used to pretend as champion athletes is still the same, only that it is now full of players. Unlike before when we almost own the entire place. Going further on that street, a small retail store between two enormous trees is to be found. I tried to visit the store and buy some Hany bars that serve as my dessert during those days.  But my excitement fade when I discovered that the owner went abroad two years ago, leaving its gates closed and my favorite store abandoned.

One must enter a small street in the east side of the village to have a glimpse of an old creepy house which we used to call ‘haunted’. I can still remember how Randel would mimic the sound of a mad wolf and everyone will scream and ran back to Aling Delia’s store (the one I first mentioned). I am always left behind in which my weight is the reason. Our haunted house evidently became more dilapidated and plants surrounding it have grown so much that is almost looking like a jungle. Since the last time I’ve been there, I knew the house is not inhabited and now it’s older than before. We make stories that an old lady living inside its walls is wicked and love eating naughty children.

As I remember those days,I once again experience wearing the shoes of young Czesar. Full of adventures and minds nothing but fun. Amid my busy days, at least I was given the chance to revisit a place that painted a lot of good memories in my childhood. But one thing we should always remember in returning to our mischievous days: LEAVE NO TRACES.

Ingredients of Miracle

The following words will not penetrate you if before reading this; you are already situated to oppose the existence of miracles. I’m not sure if there are such people though, given that most of us seek miracle and try to discover the wonder of life. Whether you believe it or not, MIRACLES DO HAPPEN.
 
It is not by chance that a stage four breast cancer victim survived his ill, nor it is conincident that a poor man won lottery and suddenly acquire wealth. Near-death experiences are not make up stories and blind people who once again enjoy the pleasure of sight is for real. All of these seeming impossible events are driven by a force collectively known as Miracle. If still you’re not convince, there is no reason left for you to continue reading.
 
The promises of miracles are so alluring that I will not be surprised if all of us want to experience it.
 
However, the number of people who don’t believe in miracles may be greater than those who do. What people don’t understand is that miracles happen not because we want to, nor we initiate it. There are some certain conditions that must be met or shall I call ‘ingredients’ to let it occur.
 
I can still remember how Pastor Dave shared these ingredients a year ago that made me inspired to write this article. I would be selfish if I will dismiss the chance of also sharing it to others.
 
As bread requires good quality of flour in order to taste good, so do miracles, need the right ingredients to experience its full wonder. So grab your pen and start listing. Prepare to experience miracle in your life!
 
1. One bag of PROPER TIMING:

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”-John 2:4

 Everything happens in due time. We schedule our activities according to the most favorable to us. This is one of the misconceptions in life. While we may think that we can set time for things to happen, there is a greater Being who is responsible for our time, and that is God. From the moment we wake every morning, take our meal, go to school or work, until we close our eyes at night, God designed all of these from the very instance of our creation.
Unfortunately, people don’t understand this fact. We tend to make our own arrangement of events. This is the root of all struggle. Man take actions which is different from how God set things to happen. And when encountered by trials, we seek miracle and most of the time say, “God, I need it now! I have deadline!”
 
Such attitude only equates problem as if we limit God and command Him with what He suppose to do. But God know our problems and sufferings long before we encounter it. Therefore, He alone holds the wisdom exactly when our problems need to be solved. And if we want miracle to happen, we should take in mind that everything happens in His time. In order to live with this principle, one must learn to trust God which brings us to our next ingredient.
 
2. Spoonful of TRUST and OBEDIENCE:

 His mother said to the servants,”Do whatever He tells you.” John 2:5

Like egg and flour that make a good partner in making dough, trust and obedience is also a perfect tandem in molding optimism and attracting miracle. But who to trust and obey? None but God.
 

When we trust God with all our concerns, it prevents us from worrying. It is also an essential ingredient in surrendering. People say that they are willing to surrender all their doubts to God. But when this attitude is put into test, facing trials for instance, we make our own way to deal with the situation. We still consider our personal ability to take actions,thus, we ruin the essence of surrendering. Trusting means submitting to God’s way. You will not fully understand the blessing of God unless you know that He is able in everything. Doubt hinder us to experience God’s miracle and the best way to fade this out is trusting Him.

 
Another is obedience, which takes pride as the greatest barrier. We fail to obey God because we have the impression that when we obey Him, we compromise our ability. On the contrary, obeying is simply doing what God wants you to do even if it doesn’t make sense.
 
The reason why trust and obedience should always work together is because no one can obey an order if you don’t trust the master. Even if the command appears to be insensible or difficult to accomplish, always remember that God has wisdom far better than ours. Trust and obey and experience blessing that comes with it.
 
3. A glass of BEST SHOT:
“Whoever serves me must follow me;and where I am, my servants also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26
In everything you do, even in the hardest time of your life, always give your best shot in serving God. It is in our nature to fail but offering all of your actions to Him will bring Him glory. God always look at our heart. He is not concern with how you do things but to whom you do it for. If you do things as if you’re doing t for Jesus, it pleases Him.
 
Giving your best shot may also mean submission. We are asked to offer not just a part of our heart but the rest of it. When God bless us, He give what is best. And we, as His followers should also give the best, only what He deserves. Blessed are those who give without reservation.
 
4. Presence of the MASTER:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,  and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. John 2:1-2

This should be the first to consider but I believe in the principle of serving the best for last. A potter is needed to make a pot as much as a bread requires a baker to be made. The last ingredient that will complete our recipe is the presence of Jesus Christ. What is the use of having ingredient 1,2, & 3 if you have no one that will perform miracle? The mentioned ingredients are just for you to consider. But it is a fool to think that you can actually make miracles happen. That power will remain in Christ alone.
 
In every miraculous deeds written in the bible, one that these events share in common is the presence of Jesus Christ. He is always there, from the blind person given sight to the water turned into wine. If you are really longing to experience miracle, the question that you must answer: “Is Christ present in my life?”
 
There is no way for anyone to experience blessing without having Christ in His life. Because life itself comes from Him! Knowing Jesus is not enough, but we should place Him at the center of our lives. Let Him manage everything. Let Him drive your career, settle your finances, handle your family, even make your decision! Accepting Him as your personal Savior and creating deep relationship with Him is the  best way to win Christ’s presence. If you will able to do this, you will not just experience miracle but you yourself will serve as miracle to others!
 
     
         Now that you already know the ingredients of living a miraculous life, your task doesn’t end here. You are reading this because He wants you to share His greatness to others. Spread this recipe of achieving wonder in life. There is no accident, as what I already mentioned. You didn’t spent your time reading this just because you want to, but God let you to.
 
If you really understand the message, you are expected to realize after reading this, that the most wonderful miracle lies in having Jesus in your life. GOD BLESS!

More than Plume and Bolo

Review of the book: Rizal’s teeth, Bonifacio’s Bones

By Ambeth Ocampo

 

When I was in high school, I was chosen to compete for a Rizal Quiz Bee. Thinking that it is one of the sensible ways of honouring the great hero, our school conduct the competition every year. The purpose of the quiz cast only few doubts since educational institutions are committed for teaching about Rizal. But me, being chosen to participate is another story. I am not much into Rizal. My teacher in history, however, suggested that since I earned the highest grade in her subject (together with my other friend); it permits and qualifies us to join the contest. I didn’t win the competition and gained experience as a consolation. Aside from failing to answer what is the name of Rizal’s nanny, there are other good reasons why I wasn’t able to bring home the gold that time. Many of the questions take small details from the life of Rizal as a subject which didn’t appear in my reviewer (or did I even have a reviewer then?). One thing worth realizing with this experience is the fact that in so many information scribbled in our textbooks today, twice the number of things are yet to be discovered. Most especially if it is concerned with the main characters of our history—like Rizal.

 

Author’s expertise

History is the world of the past which serves as the pattern of present. It involves both time and people that gives reason why things behave in such a way they do. Dealing with history is never easy particularly when someone tries to study events which he did not personally witness. Challenging as it seems, the field of history is still a source of entertainment because at least for a while, we can have a glimpse of old people’s lives. Few names have we known who became successful in this colourful profession. Giving new pictures of our heroes, one historian have created a wave across the world of scholars and presented a new approach to our past by the name of Ambeth Ocampo.

More than just a lecturer and columnist, Ambeth became a pioneer for modern approach of Rizal’s life. His personal methods of introducing details overwhelmed students and readers alike. When his book ‘Rizal without the Overcoat’ was brought to the public, many eyes were given a chance to have a wider picture of our National Hero. The image that once filled only with heroism and sublime principles is turned into a more interesting topic when greater things about Rizal were exposed. It has always been Ambeth’s commitment to treat heroes as friends, that there are always more of them than just being frozen in a bronze monument, or stuck in the old pages of a history book. In ‘Rizal without the Overcoat’ Ambeth discussed the hues and colours of Rizal’s life including those none of us expected to be worthy of attention. From the hero’s obsession for tuyo, to his unofficial practice of quackery, these things are the tools of Ambeth to creat a more ‘human’ Rizal.

Ambeth Ocampo is a master of giving something new. Countless accounts about Rizal have already been published. In order to become appealing, one must know how to create a new Rizal through constant research.

In his book, Ambeth shared his experience when he once visited the National Archives, which was referred by him as a ‘friendly institution’, when a researcher from the National Historical Institute learned his request for materials concerning Rizal. The researcher bluntly approached Ambeth and questioned his intention. For the researcher, there is no longer information left unknown about Rizal. He even said that the materials are “gas gas na”. The researcher happened to be the same guy caught by NBI years after the encounter peddling original documents he pilfered from the Philippine Insurgent Records in the National Library. Instead of being discouraged, Ambeth never deserted his pursuit for Rizal’s story and became a great scholar he is today.

From the papers he requested, what awaits him are letters of Rizal sisters. Not directly written by Rizal, but Ambeth believed that it is still worth studying. And so the said papers opened for new angles of looking how our celebrated hero lived using one of the most important context for a biography—family.

It is indeed an advantage to have an attitude of keenness in looking for details. Ambeth knows how to use his talent in sorting what is important from what is not. In the case when he found the letters, Ambeth proved once more that he is a master of information gathering and employs critical thinking to consider stories that have the most value. He can determine from a glance whether a document will create an interesting output and sustain not only the empty gap between the strands of our history, but as well provide excitement to a life observed by many eyes. If history is retelling stories from the past, anyone who dares to be in this profession must have the prowess in narration—something that Ambeth is very much gifted in.

Befriending heroes

In the fifth installation of his Looking Back series “Rizal’s Teeth, Bonifacio’s Bones”, Ambeth reflects his journey and experience he had during his research studies. Stories from his lectures and travel continue inspire academicians on how Rizal can bring to life through impressive stories. But going beyond his usual confines, Ambeth discussed more than a plume and novels of a heroic writer but this time share the spotlight with our most respected Supremo who also earned the title of being “The Great Plebian”.

The first featured story in the book opens with the question ‘did Rizal have bad breath?’. Surely the writer has a good humour, but looking closer to this line reveals the unique way of giving colour to the already flamboyant life of Rizal. As what the dentist suggests after examining the skull of Rizal, our hero is believed to have a Class 3 Malocclusion. This is a condition which would have been treated with the use of braces to correct the alignment of teeth. However, the mentioned dental state of Rizal was severed with the finding that he also suffers from gingivitis and periodontitis resulting to an unwanted halitosis or much commonly referred as bad breath. Now, I can’t help but to ask if there’s a huge difference of hygienic issue before and today. Ambeth also mentioned the nature of toothbrush back then which are mostly made from bamboo. The statement may look mere assumption, but materials possibly affect the quality of outcome. For this particular case, toothbrush is better if made with bristles to prevent problems of its users. Such situations didn’t spare anyone even heroes.

In any book I read, if the first chapter didn’t attract my attention and interest, I drop it right away. I even promise myself that no bad books will win a space in my shelf. If we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I think it is fair to qualify is using the first words it offer. Good thing to say, Ambeth Ocampo’s RTBT has impressed me right at the beginning. The unconventional style of introducing the subject is what I love most about the author. This book is one of the rare, if not the first historical material that instead of telling dates, time and places, readers are first served with very basic things we ought to know about a person which is the physical features. Usually it takes only minutes for a person to fall into reverie or sleep whenever engage to a history discussion. But reading Ambeth is never the same experience. One of his secrets in the success for his career is to know how to befriend his characters.

When we want to know a person, we don’t ask what the novels he has written are or inquire for his noble accomplishments. We simply ask the basic and look the person’s physical being. We examine how he smiles, how he laughs, how neat his hair is, even the way he pick his nose. Because little did we realize that recognition actually starts from simple things. And after being conscious with these aspects, more than just knowing the person we can already introduce them to others. The same method is what Ambeth employs. He gets to know Rizal first hand with the aid of all the data he acquires from research and interviews. The idea can be strange for some, but Ambeth found a stage for his artistry in discussing the hygiene of Rizal. In order to be personally attached, one should encounter people in a personal level as well regardless of the age and time they have lived. After all, it is always amazing to have friends from the past.

In Search for Bones

Your death mirrors the quality of life you lived. When Ninoy Aquino was shot dead in the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, the grief of loss was echoed all over the country. The public is allowed to visit his remains during his burial and multitude of people joined his casket as it marches towards the hero’s grave. The event won a special place in our history. 26 years after, the same public attention was given to the death of Cory Aquino, former president and wife of Ninoy Aquino. These two moments proved the world how we Filipinos give value to people who protected our identity as a nation. Unfortunately, not every hero is given the same honour. Not because he is less of a noble compared to others. But because his remnants are yet to be found that even putting him in cemetery is impossible. Andres Bonifacio is in this particular case.

The mystery of Bonifacio’s death is an enigma that continues to haunt our past and yet affect the present. Accounts show that the Supremo was killed in the mountains of Cavite together with his brother. Many believe that Aguinaldo is guilty, being in the position and has the reasons to do so. Yet the claim still doesn’t bear enough certainty to become absolute truth. Since then, no one has ever found Bonifacio’s body and accomplishing this endeavour is a process in progress.

The book discusses its second prime thesis using research studies. The closest encounter with Bonifacio’s body, according to Ambeth, is during the excavation din Cavite in 1918 where a set of human bones was found. Although no conclusive statement was provided, the official report of the autopsy done by Dr. Sixto de los Angeles, Fidel Cuanjunco, and Augusto Atenas, all of which are from the University of the Philippines, merely described the remains. One remarkable line of Ambeth regarding this subject: “Andres and Procopio Bonifacio still lie in the Maragondon range waiting to be found and given a proper funeral by a grateful nation.” It seems the author is one with the voices who call for a greater investigation about the death of Andres. It’s about time for the government to double its effort in answering questions which are long overdue.

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Debunking Old Myths

Readers also witness the talent of Ambeth in presenting arguments to clarify myths that have boggled the minds of people. The details are still fresh to me when I had a talk with my friend as he share to me a secret he conceive about Rizal. Allegedly, Rizal is the father of Hitler. My friend cannot determine the source of this account. But after reading RTBB, it greatly helped me to understand the story and gave convincing evidences to assert that the claim is untrue. The scheme of events is impressively situated as how it is told. But expertise of Ambeth repainted the picture.

Hitler was Austrian, contrary to the common belief that he was a German. This fact lone demolished the argument that since Rizal studied in Heidelberg University, and being the Pinoy Don Juan he probably sired a son who later turned out to be Adolf Hitler. This is said to be supported by the features that Hitler and Rizal share in common: small stature, dark hiar and dark eyes.

But another account says that Rizal visited Austria in May 1887 and spent a night with a prostitute. In order for Ambeth to shed light on the grey areas in the story, he used practical reasons. First, he capitalized with the point that Rizal, granting he sired a child during his stay in Germany; the possibility of siring a son is as great as having a daughter. The explanation broke half of the belief. Therefore, to father Hitler, aside from being a boy also happen to be distinguished man in history, is of minimal tendency. Also, Ambeth questioned the cogency of the one night stand of Rizal with a woman. The two could have done something else prior to what malicious impression raises.

Historians like Ambeth not just review the past but give fresh answers for today’s curiosity.

He could have been a Lifestyle show host

A homophobic is more likely to stir by merely hearing the word ‘gay’. Certainly, because of the gradual increase of the members of LGBT community, gay has been a term used to refer a person that suffers in reconciling his sexual orientation from reality. This explains why only few of the people who utter the word understand its meaning. Only through reading classic novels can I encounter the word gay used as synonymous for happy.  Maybe contemporary writers today prefer to use other term. Due to a different societal context, homophobias are best advised to have a critical understanding to read Rizal’s 1884 diary where he literally wrote: ‘I am a gay.’

The hero simply wanted to share how joyful he is for being surrounded with good atmosphere. His letter for his sister Maria was composed by descriptive words to tell how French and German decorate their homes. He explained how plates in Europe help to provide pleasing mood and even included sketches to show how those plates are actually hung. Rizal’s keen observation was clearly reflected in his words, good enough to say that only if he still lives today, he might have hosted his own lifestyle show. Crafts really have a special place in Rizal’s heart and made him the imaginative and artistic hero we have known. The secret perhaps is the gay spirit he never failed to wear.

Excellent student makes a good Teacher

The life of a student is often controlled with numbers called grades. And as the student become aware of the rewards it could give, they become more dedicated to acquire good records. Multi-talented Rizal is a model student during his time. Records from the schools he attended show how diligent he is when it comes to his studies. If all children today will take Rizal as an inspiration, every parent will have reasons to be proud. When Rizal attended the Jesuit-run Ateneo Municipal, he earned sobresaliente or ‘excellent’ in all his subjects. It is equivalent of today’s 100%. His excellent grades were caused by Rizal’s great interest in humanities.

Rizal’s remarkable standing did not change much when he moved to UST (University of Santo Tomas), but he was forced into great adjustments. As a college student, he had to take subjects he did not like, subjects he was not good at. His Ateneo record is full of Sobresaliente while his UST grades were composed with Aprovechado, Bueno, and one Aprobado. Contrary to the status quo, the situation is otherwise wherein college programs offer more interesting topics since it is base in the desired profession of the students, unlike lessons in secondary which are mostly influenced by general knowledge.

I personally consider tertiary level as more exciting, because I get to study a particular lesson which I know caters my inclination. Challenging, however, college is still an essential stage for defining one’s future. What we can learn from this is that even hero like Rizal can face personal challenges in school without letting his studies be compromised and finally becoming one of the great scholars of this land.

Another side of Rizal that was discussed in the book is his prowess as an educator. Apparently, Rizal is not selfish with whatever knowledge he had and took extra effort to teach it to others.

When he was exiled in Dapitan, a good part of his time was devoted in teaching his three nephews. Estanislao “Tan”, Teodosio “Osio”, and Mauricio “Moris” Cruz were all under the supervision of their uncle. They owe a lot of their knowledge in writing from their uncle who patiently corrects their grammar, spelling, and even penmanship. And just to prove how his teaching capacity can reach even the longest of miles, Rizal’s nieces in Manila receive lectures and lesson from him through exchange of letters. On the same way, his sister Lucia receives updates about the progress of her sons. To serve as an exercise, Rizal let Tan, Osio, and Moris to write their own letters for their mother.  One thing noticeable from these efforts of Rizal in teaching is his compassion for children, most especially in the aspect of literacy.

Indeed, Rizal had always believed to the importance of education. For him, unless someone falls to the admiration of studying, he will not live his life worthily. I believe that it is more than just being intelligent. But more so, it is one’s burden to justify his existence and contribute to the wisdom of the world that made him human. And it helps to go back how Rizal earned this sublime principle: he started as a good student. The duty, therefore, lies to the young minds who sit in comfortable rooms, listening to lectures that appear boring to them and think everything will never make sense. Rizal had proved that in order to teach, submission of oneself in the complex process of learning is of the essence.

It would be a cliché to say that there is a hero or ‘Rizal’ in each of us. To suggest that there is a teacher inside all of us is more appropriate. And I am no longer referring to the profession we have commonly known. But in a more definite sense, being a ‘teacher’ is reminding people what they should do to turn their aspirations into reality. This means, an engineer, doctor, or even a future broadcast journalist like me can be and expected to be a teacher of my people. And thanks for the example set by Rizal, at least I know where to begin with. The work will start inside my classroom, where I will become an excellent student. At the end of the day, this is what takes to become a hero, more than just having a brave plume or bolo.