Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The purpose of life

"Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor." SHOLOM ALEICHEM

By Alex P. Vidal

What is the purpose of our life? A reader once asked Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, about the purpose of life.
"It seems to me that the most important question of all is the purpose of life," the reader enthused. "What are we doing here on earth? What is our destiny? How do various thinkers approach this most urgent and baffling of all questions?"
Adler's answer: "Let us begin by asking the purpose of the question about the purpose of life. What do men have in mind when they ask this question? Asking it is a peculiarly human phenomenon. Other creatures just exist and go on unquestioningly to pursue their natural ends--to be a tree or a bird or a stone. It is man's peculiar misery or glory that he perennially poses the question of the purpose of his own existence.
"What, then, are men who ask this question trying to discover? Are they asking about the destiny appointed by God for man to achieve through his earthly existence? Does man have an ultimate goal beyond the sphere of the temporal experience? And if so, what must he do to attain it? The Christian doctrine of the Kingdom of God as man's ultimate destiny is one of the answers to the question.


"Or are men asking whether human life can be made significant on earth by achieving all the perfections of which it is capable? In the philosophy of Aristotle, each kind of creature tends toward the perfection of its own nature. Thus, for man, the goal--the purpose--of life is to achieve the virtues that constitute happiness.
"As against these theological and philosophical ideas of human destiny, our question may arise from a conviction of the purposelessness of the physical universe as a whole. We look out on the world around us and see nothing but a whirl of atoms in a meaningless void. Whether we see the physical world as chaotic and "chancy" or as an orderly cosmos, human life may still seem meaningless and valueless.


"The pattern of material events is no answer to the questing human heart and mind. All of science remains silent when man asks, 'What am I doing here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the purpose of my life?'
"Many modern thinkers, faced with this urgent and disturbing questions, reject the traditional theological and philosophical views of the purpose and meaning of human life. They assert that men can and must set their own goals, and find meaning in the creation and transformation of their own nature.
"In their view, a man who is truly human must live for some transcendent goal that he sets himself. If he does not do this, he must be engulfed in overwhelming despair at the meaninglessness of life."

'Our next president is Leon Guerrero, not Kris Aquino or Manny Pacquiao'

'Our next president is Leon Guerrero, 
not Kris Aquino or Manny Pacquiao'

"One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are." CAL THOMAS

By Alex P. Vidal

There were predictions that our next president in the future would be Senator Lito Lapid, not Manny Pacquiao, Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada or Kris Aquino.
We don't know how and why. But these predictions came from no less than some groups of municipal mayors and even village officials. Among the so-called mediocre characters in public service today, only Lapid, Manuel Mercado Lapid in real life, has the charisma with the masa. 
"People don't care if he did not even finish high school. What matters most is he connects and this is something that other politicians with doctorate degrees and multiple titles don't possess," said a mayor from northern Iloilo who refused to be identified saying he is "still a loyalist of Pareng Erap (Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada)."
The municipal mayor said Pacquiao, a congressman from Saranggani, "is only a media creation like other celebrities and showbiz misfits who trespassed the politics" and the highest office they will reach is the senate "never as president of the republic."


The website of the 16th congress of the Senate of the Philippines described Lapid, 58, "Leon Guerrero" in one of his action films, as "the lowly person of a silver screen hero" who started his political career as vice governor of Pampanga in 1992.
"Never did it occur to the lowly person of a silver screen hero that a man of his mettle would make a mark in the annals of this chamber, a place then forbidding of the not so lettered," stated his biography. "Indeed, as a testament to a working democracy, a person with little formal education can be presented the opportunity of belonging to the group of select individuals mandated by the people to craft policies that would later on become laws and rules of conduct. For this reason, Senator Manuel “Lito” M. Lapid never passed off the chance to deliver well in this world of the erudite."
It added: "The six years of his first term as a senator were marked with achievements which left the cynics perplexed and his critics baffled, but nevertheless proved his worth as a working legislator. He was one of the top performing senators having placed 4th among his peers in the number of bills and resolutions filed in the 14th Congress alone. He fathered one of the meaningful social legislations of the 14th Congress, the Free Legal Assistance Act of 2010 which seeks to ensure that the poor may be afforded free quality legal service. This measure heralded other policy initiatives that look to bridge the great divide between the rich and the poor. Since then, he never wavered on making proposals that would uplift the living standards of the little people of the society whose caused he has been championing, being the "Bida ng Masa".


"Consistent with his excellent showing when he was then a neophyte Senator, he did what he could, not to disappoint the more than eleven million Filipino voters who granted him a fresh mandate in the 2010 National Elections. At the close of the 15th Congress, Senator Lapid filed 239 measures earning him the distinction as the fifth most prolific members of the Upper Chamber. He authored the Meat Labeling Act of 2011, Comprehensive Unilateral Hearing Loss Research and Development and Rehabilitation Act, Urban Agriculture and Vertical Farming Act, Corporate Social Responsibility Act, Kindergarten Education Act, and the Adopt-A-Wildlife Species Act, among others. As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Games, Amusement and Sports, he saw to it that measures are in motion to sufficiently ensure the development of sports in the grassroots, seeing to it that the youth develop a keen interest on participation to sports competition.


"He looks forward to further coordination between concerned government agencies so that appropriate support is afforded to the national sports development program. In his first year at the helm of the Senate Committee on Tourism, he has initiated initiatives to oversee the development of the tourism potential of the country and gather the tools to ensure the country’s success as it joins the tourism race with our Asian neighbors.
"With the aid of the people who believe in him and share the causes he seeks to uphold, Senator Lapid has proved that he is one who cannot easily be dismissed. Despite the unfair imputations against his competence, he has successfully struggled towards becoming one of the more productive legislators, slowly dispelling one criticism after another to distinguish himself as a dependable leader, a scholar of worthwhile ideals, a gentleman for the masses and a warrior for social responsibility."

Man of the future

"Men can not afford to be a naturalist, to look at Nature directly, but only with the side of his eye. He must look through and beyond her." HENRY DAVID THOREAU

By Alex P. Vidal

What is the future of man?
Imaginative naturalist, Dr. Loren Eiseley, admits in The Immense Journey there were days when she finds herself "unduly pessimistic" about the future of man.
"Indeed, I will confess that there have been occasions when I swore I would never again make the study of time a profession," she explains. "My walls are lined with books expounding its mysteries, my hands have been split and raw with grubbing into the quicklime of its waste bins and hidden crevices. I have stared so much at death that I can recognize the lingering personalities in the faces of skulls and feel accompanying affinities and repulsions."
She says one such skull lies in the lockers of a great metropolitan museum. It is labeled simply: Strandlooper, South Africa. 


"I have never looked longer into any human face than I have upon the features of that skull. I come there often, drawn in spite of myself. It is a face that would lend reality to the fantastic tale of our childhood," Eiseley adds. "There is a hint of Well's Time Machine folk in it--those pathetic, childlike people whom Wells pictures as haunting earth's autumnal cities in the far future of the dying planet."
Yet the skull has not been spirited back to us through future eras by a time machine, according to her describing it as "a thing, instead of the millennial past. It is a caricature of modern man, not by reason of its primitiveness but, startlingly, because of a modernity outreaching his own. It constitutes, in fact, a mysterious prophecy and warning."
For the very moment in which students of humanity have been sketching their concept of the man of the future, that being has already come, and lived, and passed away, explains Eiseley.


"We men of today are insatiably curious about ourselves and desperately in need of reassurance. Beneath our boisterous self-confidence is fear--a growing fear of the future we are in the process of creating," she explains. "In such a mood we turn the pages of our favorite magazine and, like as not, come straight upon a description of the man of the future."
She suggests that the descriptions are not pessimistic; they always, with sublime confidence, involve just one variety of mankind--our own--and they are always subtly flattering.
"In fact, a distinguished colleague of mine who was adept at this kind of prophecy once allowed a somewhat etherealized version of his own lofty brow to be used as an illustration of what the man of the future was to look like. Even the bald spot didn't matter--all the men of the future were so bald, anyway," Eiseley writes.


In the minds of many scholars, she points out, a process of "foetalization" is one of the chief mechanisms by which man of today has sloughed off his ferocious appearance of a million years ago, prolonged his childhood, and increased the size of his brain. "Foetalization" or "pedomorphism," as it is termed, means simply the retention, into adult life, of bodily characters which at some earlier stage of evolutionary history were actually only infantile. Such traits were rapidly lost as the animal attained maturity, she observes.
"If we examine the life history of one of the existing great apes and compare its development with that of man," Eiseley explains, "we observe that the infantile stage of both man and ape are far more similar than the two will be in maturity."
At birth, according to her, we have seen, the brain of the gorilla is close to the size of that of the human infant. Both newborn gorilla and human child are much more alike, facially, than they will  ever be in adult life because the gorilla infant will, in the course of time, develop an enormously powerful and protrusive muzzle. She says the sutures of his skull will close early; his brain will grow very little more.


By contrast, she adds, human brain growth will first spurt and then grow steadily over an extended youth. Cranial sutures will remain open into adult life. Teeth will be later in their eruption. Furthermore, she elaborates, the great armored skull and the fighting characters of the anthropoid male will be held in abeyance.
Eiseley says modern man retains something of his youthful gaiety and nimble mental habits far into adult life. The great male anthropoids, by contrast, lose the playful friendliness of youth. In the end the massive skull houses a small, savage, and often morose brain.
"It is doubtful whether our thick-skulled forerunners viewed life very pleasantly in their advancing years," she observes.

India, Philippines take joint 2nd place in annual death toll

Syria most dangerous country for journalists for second year running, with 19 killed 
India continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in 2013
Global death toll down by 17 per cent on last year; but worrying increase in threats, abuse and kidnappings of news workers
Syria is the most dangerous country for journalists for the second year running.
The International News Safety Institute recorded 126 journalists and other media workers killed in 29 countries this year. The death toll is down by 17 per cent compared to last year, however the numbers of journalists assaulted, threatened and kidnapped appears to be increasing at a concerning rate.
Syria and Pakistan retained their position among the world’s five most dangerous countries for journalists. India, the Philippines and Iraq are also in the top five.
According to INSI figures, 19 journalists were killed in Syria. Most were local journalists targeted by either the authorities, pro-government or rebel groups, or killed by shelling or in crossfire. The Syrian death toll is down from 2012, when 28 media workers were killed. However, abductions among both local and foreign news media increased this year, a deterrent that meant many international news organisations are now not sending their teams to cover the conflict.
At least 18 foreign journalists and more than 20 Syrian journalists are believed to be missing in Syria after being detained or kidnapped there.
The Philippines and India were the second and third most dangerous countries, with 13 journalists killed in each country.
In the Philippines, nine journalists were murdered by unknown assailants, and so far their killers have enjoyed total impunity. The numbers of those who were died doing their jobs this year in the Southeast Asian archipelago was boosted by the deaths of four journalists killed while covering Typhoon Haiyan.
In India, seven journalists were murdered. Although many of these murders sparked speculation as to the motive of the killers, not one has been thoroughly investigated, and nobody has been brought to justice. A further two journalists were killed while covering communal violence in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and four died in accidents while on assignment.
Iraq was the fourth most dangerous country for journalists, with 11 members of the news media killed. Ten were murdered by unknown armed groups - seven in the northern city of Mosul. The local and national authorities have thus far failed to respond to the murders.
Pakistan remains in the top five most dangerous countries for journalists, where bombings and targeted killings are common. One of the biggest risks for journalists there is being caught up in secondary blasts.
The most dangerous countries for journalists in 2013 are:
Syria: 19 journalists killed
India: 12 journalists, 1 media worker killed //
Philippines: 12 journalists, 1 media worker killed
Iraq: 11 journalists killed
Pakistan: 9 journalists killed
Somalia: 8 journalists killed
Egypt: 6 journalists killed //
Brazil: 6 journalists killed
The preliminary findings, compiled in liaison with INSI's regional contacts, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI), are a prelude to INSI's biannual 'Killing the Messenger' report, an analysis of media casualties around the globe.
Other journalist support groups that are members of INSI maintain separate records based on their own criteria. They are:
The Committee to Protect Journalists http://www.cpj.org
The World Association of Newspapers http://wan-ifra.org
As a safety organisation, INSI records all deaths, whether deliberate, accidental or health-related, of all news media staff, support staff and freelancers while on assignment or as a result of their news organisation being attacked because of its work.

NUJP year end statement

We look back at 2013 with sorrow and look forward to the New Year with hope yet, at the same time, a justified worry that 2014 will portend more of the same bloodshed and impunity, apathy and hostility as the year we are leaving behind.
It is, indeed, difficult to hope impunity with which our colleagues continue to be killed, assaulted, threatened and harassed will end soon or that things may improve a bit under an administration that brushes off media killings in one of the deadliest years for the Philippine press -- at least 10 killed, the last three within two weeks -- as “not so serious.”
Or under a president who has fallen into the habit of whining about media’s “negativism” whenever his administration finds itself with mud on its face as he did in the wake of Yolanda, lumping coverage of that disaster with those on Zamboanga and Bohol when, in fact, reportage on the two previous disasters had generally been sympathetic.
All this as government continues to remain adamantly apathetic to calls for the passage of laws that would expand the boundaries of freedom of the press and of expression, such as the Freedom of Information bill and the decriminalization of libel.
And of course, we mourn our colleagues who lost their lives delivering information to their audiences even as super typhoon unleashed its deadly storm surge on Tacloban City.
Despite this, we do have reason to hope, not least of all because of the Philippine journalism community’s steadfast commitment to uphold the principles of the profession notwithstanding the continuing attempts to stifle us and portray us as a bane that ought to be stamped out.
We have seen how our community quickly banded together to aid those among us who felt the lash of Yolanda.
Yes, as we have said again and again, the Philippine press remains free because Filipino journalists keep it free.
But we still have our work cut out for us. We still urgently need to reconnect with our audiences, with our people, to help lift them from the state of apathy and ignorance in which deliberate mal-governance has kept them for generations.
We need to make them realize that our collective search for genuine justice and freedom as a people, as a nation, can never be brought to fulfillment without a truly free press that serves both as foil to official abuse and the source of the information with which they, we, can build the future we deserve.
We owe this to them as much as we owe this to ourselves.

For without them, we can never survive.
To a better, brighter future. Happy New Year!


Rowena C. Paraan
Chairperson, NUJP

White House condoles with family of dead journalist

White House condoles with 
family of dead journalist

"When Clark Gable died, I cried for 2 days straight. I couldn't eat or sleep." MARILYN MONROE

By Alex P. Vidal

In a statement dated December 31, 2013, U.S. Department of State Spokeperson Jen Psaki announced:
"We would like to extend our deepest condolences to foreign correspondent Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times, the surviving widow of Mike O’Connor, Mexico Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who passed away on December 29.
"Mike was a fearless truth seeker and an indefatigable advocate for the protection of journalists covering organized crime and corruption issues in Mexico and Central America. Whether transporting endangered reporters to safe havens or lobbying government officials for measures to end impunity, Mike was a passionate and articulate voice of conscience for many. 


"He authored reports on grave threats to Mexico’s journalists and motivated both the Mexican and U.S. Governments to take steps to ensure that reporters were free to tell their stories. 
"His work at CPJ followed a long and distinguished career covering Latin America for CBS News, NPR and the New York Times. We honor the memory of Mike O’Connor, and know that his legacy will inspire many to keep fighting for truth and for the defense of human rights and a vibrant, free press."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's not good to let anyone get too close

"If you have a secret, people will sit a little bit closer." ROB CORDDRY 

By Alex P. Vidal

TRUST remains to be the most important aspect of any meaningful relationship.
"More specifically, it is a mutual condition that must exist between a manager and his subordinates, a husband and wife, and between friends," wrote Dr. Jan Halper, author of Quite Desperation.
Halper warned that a husband who doesn't trust his wife to listen and be supportive will not disclose his personal thoughts and feelings. If he doesn't trust her judgment, he will not confide in her. 
"As a result, they will grow apart. A manager who doesn't trust his subordination will not delegate responsibility or authority. Instead he will resort to controlling them," Halper stressed. 
"When employees don't feel trusted they are likely to become territorial, derisive, and antagonistically competitive."


In his book Man's Search for Himself, Rollo May discussed the destructive aspects of this attitude:
--this type of individual competitiveness--in which for you to fail in a deal is as good as for me to succeed, since it pushes me ahead in the scramble up the ladder--raises many psychological problems. It makes every man interpersonal hostility and resentment, and increases greatly our anxiety and isolation from each other.
Raised with a competitive spirit, where winning is more important than caring, competition more important than friendship, men search for their opponents' vulnerable points to be used as ammunition in the future, explained Halper.
Halper cited the case of investment banker Anthony Rich, who told him, "I store confidences away to be used at a later date, if it's to my advantage. Any bit of knowledge is fair game to be used against your perceived enemy in order to declare a victory." Although Rich did not admit it, Halper said the implication was there: "It's okay to betray someone you treat as a friend if it means winning or losing."


Consequently, this intense competitiveness and desire to win breed fear and distrust between men, according to Halper.
Halper said in general, men are discouraged from "opening their kimono" with one another. They are told to never count on anyone but themselves. Halper found that when he encouraged men to talk with one another about their haunting conflicts and issues, that which was troubling them suddenly seemed less important or disappeared.
"They unburdened themselves of feeling vulnerable by exposing their private side and finding someone who understood them," he pointed out. "Most often the men I interviewed were shocked at how a simple step could alleviate their loneliness and pain and provide clarity and insight."
Although there is some truth to the assertion that men distrust others because they themselves can't be trusted, another important factor comes into play, Harped said. 


"Men don't believe they are in control of their feelings, that they choose to feel as they do. Instead they think feelings are something that come over them, that they are made to feel as they do by a mysterious external force," explained Halper. "They attribute the power and ability to others, believing someone else made them feel fear, hurt, happiness, or anger."
Men fear getting close to anyone, women or men, because it's another way they might put themselves on the line, becoming vulnerable, asserted Halper.
"Countless men told me they longed to be close to others, but if it meant feeling out of control, they didn't want anything to do with intimacy," he noted.

Yes, there is such animal as male menopause

"The masculine energy was about survival. The male was the hunter who risked his life and had to be in the fight-flight mode." DEEPAK CHOPRA

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- "Is there such thing as male menopause, sir?" asked Ronalyn, mass communication student at Iloilo St. Paul University, inside the editorial room of Sun.Star, a daily newspaper I once edited.
"Female menopause yes, but male menopause I haven't heard of that yet," I honestly replied to Ronalyn. "Since I am a newsman and not a doctor, we might as well consult the experts on the subject matter: the doctors themselves."
Days later, I found an article that could help provide the answer to Ronalyn's question: Dr. Tito Garrido's article about male menopause.
Garrido admitted that most Filipino males would not admit they also have menopause. 
The mere mention of the very idea that men experience a form of menopausal change will still draw amusement and laughter, according to the doctor.


"But this concept has been around as early as 1950s and it has recently enjoyed more attention and credibility," Garrido explained in his column "At Your Service" at the defunct The Philippine Post dated July 14, 1999.
Garrido defined male menopause as "a crisis of confidence identified in the middle aged men, comparable with menopause in women, but thought to be caused by psychological factors such as fear of aging."
The doctor explained further: "Undoubtedly, a part of the controversy as to whether there is indeed such a thing, stems from the misleading use of the term menopause. Derived from the Greek word 'menses,' it refers to the cessation of a woman's monthly menstrual cycle. 'Andropause,' which relies on the Greek work for a man, Andro, is the most commonly accepted term, defined as the natural cessation of the sexual function of older men."
Garrido explained that some authors see it more broadly as "a biological an biochemical condition that has psychological, physical and emotional components." Viropause/andropause is a naturally occurring psychological state that occurs in men's middle years, producing feeling of unhappiness and undermining men's sense of self worth, identity, and competence, stressed Garrido.


The doctor said endocrinologists have pointed out that in men, there is nothing as traumatic as in the case of women--there is no one period, no striking change to indicate a drop in hormonal levels. 
However, research indicates that men to experience this phenomenon, gradually producing less and less of the male sex hormone, testosterone, as they age. 
In most cases, this progressive decline occurs from age 20 to 80 years.


These various hormonally-induced physical and behavioral changes is now generally perceived to be the underpinning of this male menopause, or andropause, he explained.
"But this is only part of the equation," Garrido wrote, "for there are also profound emotional aspects as well. It is at this transitional stage of life that a psychological stock-taking, often triggered by biological changes, usually occurs. The reflection on one's life can also be triggered by other physical factors such as an illness like high blood pressure or heart attack, receding hairline, greying hair, or some forms of sexual dysfunction."


He further stressed: "Other less tangible precipitating factors can include retirement or financial stress, or becoming a grandfather for instance. This process can then lead to stress and unhappiness, or what is more commonly referred at as a mid-life crisis." If a man discovers that he can't attain his goals and then discovers that his body isn't as reliable and as strong as it used to be, the effects of male menopause are compounded."
He warned that most men do indeed manage this transition well, but for those that do not, they often start experimenting with life, making major life-altering changes. 
"This is where the classic stereotype of the middle-aged man dumping his wife in favor of his twentysomething secretary comes into play," Garrido emphasized. "It is a phenomenon that is described in psychological terms as 'fusion with younger body' in a futile effort to regain his lost youth."


In severe cases in which a man experiences abnormally low testosterone levels, hormone replacement therapy maybe the answer, but many medical practitioners see this only as a last resort, Garrido observed.
"In some cases, simply minimizing psychological and physical stress, reducing alcohol intake and stopping smoking for instance, may help," he suggested. "In short, attending to the needs of the physical body is healthy, the others aspects fall into line."
On the psychological side, acceptance of aging is crucial--adopt the attitude that you're not getting older, you're getting better, he volunteered. "Value your wisdom over physical prowess and re-evaluate your goals and what you already have and try and bring them closer together," Garrido asserted. "And most of all, accept that the dreams of your youth were probably unrealistic, rework these dreams so that they may continue to inspire you, but in a more realistic context."
Garrido warned: "Andropause does not take place in a vacuum. While the male is coping with these changes, the spouse is undergoing even more dramatic changes with her own menopause. The good doctor says that if both partners do not realize what is happening and make adjustments to life and thought, the crisis of middle age need not be that much of a crisis."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spirit vs Ego: The dialogue

"The greatest human quest is to know what one must do in order to become a human being." IMMANUEL KANT

By Alex P. Vidal

In one of the best metaphors, a dialogue between Ego and Spirit, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, has a very interesting story to share in his book, Your Sacred Self.
Dyer, author or Real Magic and Your Erroneous Zones, described Ego and Spirit in his story as two babies in utero confined to the wall of their mother's womb, and they are having a conversation.
Spirit says to Ego, "I know you are going to find this difficult to accept, but I truly believe there is life after birth."
Ego responds, "Don't be ridiculous. Look around you. This is all there is. Why must you always be thinking about something beyond this reality? Accept your lot in life. Make yourself comfortable and forget about all of this life-after-birth nonsense."
Spirt quiets down for a while, but her inner voice won't allow her to remain silent any longer. "Ego, now don't get mad, but I have something else to say. I also believe that there is a Mother."


"A Mother!" Ego guffaws. "How can you be so absurd?" You've never seen a Mother. Why can't you accept that this is all there is?" The idea of a Mother is crazy. You are here alone with me. This is your reality. Now grab hold of that cord. Go into your corner and stop being so silly. Trust me, there is no Mother."
Spirit reluctantly stops her conversation with Ego, but her carelessness soon gets the better of her. "Ego," she implores, "please listen without rejecting my idea. Somehow I think that those constant pressures we both feel, those movements that make us so uncomfortable sometimes, that continual repositioning and all of that closing in that seems to be taking place as we keep growing, is getting us ready for a place of glowing light, and we will experience it very soon."
"Now I know you are absolutely insane," replies Ego. "All you've ever known is darkness. You've never seen light. How can you even contemplate such an idea?" Those movements and pressures you feel are your reality. You are a distinct separate being.This is your journey. Darkness and pressures and a closed-in feeling are what life is all about. You'll have to fight it as long as you live. Now grab your cord and please stay still."


Spirit relaxes for a while, but finally she can contain herself no longer. "Ego, I have only one more thing to say and then I'll never bother you again."
"Go ahead," Ego responds, impatiently.
"I believe all of these pressures and all of this discomfort is not only going to bring us to a new celestial light, but when we experience it, we are going to meet Mother face-to-face and know an ecstasy that is beyond anything we have ever experienced up until now."
"You really are crazy, Spirit. Now I'm truly convinced of it."
Your Sacred Self is a literal interpretation of the metaphor, which Dyer have adapted from a story told by Henri J.M. Nouwen. "It is my attempt to introduce you to that glowing celestial light and to let you know the wonder of having your sacred self triumph over the demands of the ego-self, which wants more than anything to hold you back," Dyer explained.


He organized the book around the following four understandings:
1. You are sacred, and in order to know it you must transcend the old belief system you've adopted.
2. You are a divine being called to know your sacred self by mastering the keys to higher awareness. 
3. Your sacred self can triumph over your ego identifies and be the dominant force in your life.
4. You can radiate this awareness beyond your own boundaries and affect everyone on our planet.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why I strongly recommend Sophie's World

Why I strongly recommend Sophie's World 

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."  PAUL SWEENEY

By Alex P. Vidal

It won't hurt our pockets this Christmas if we go to the bookstore and pick Jostein Gaarder's No. 1 bestseller, Sophie's World, as gift for our loved ones--especially to children and even adults who still have passion for reading.
If my memory serves me right, I made a similar endorsement in at least two articles in 2011 of this 1991 novel written by the Norwegian writer about 14-year-old Sophie Amundsen, a teenage girl living in Norway, and Alberto Knox, a middle aged philosopher who introduces her to philosophical thinking and the history of philosophy.
Back in the early 90's during my frequent trips in the National Book Store, I ignored this book in the philosophy section thinking it was a mere fairy tale item for children. What finally caught my attention was the small photo of what looked like Socrates on the upper left portion of the cover.


When I checked the back, a statement from the Sunday Times screamed: "Remarkable...What Jostein Gaarder has managed to do is to condense 3,000 years of thought into 400 pages; to simplify some extremely complicated arguments without trivializing them...Sophie's World is an extraordinary achievement."
A brief narrative further induced my interest: "Looking in her mailbox one day, a fourteen-year-old Norwegian schoolgirl called Sophie Amundsen finds two surprising pieces of paper. On them are written the questions: 'Who are you?' and 'Where does the world come from?'"
From these two thought-provoking questions, the readers will be brought to a great ride back to events that shaped the world--life in Athens, the Indo-European cultures of Greece and Rome, Hellenism, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Bible, Adam and Eve, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the great, Jesus Christ, Judaism, Christianity, Roman Emperors, Inquisition, Reformation, Age of Reason, Leonardo da Vinci, French Revolution, Big Bang, among other important events in world history.  


For P245.50, I bought the the book, the "thirteenth impression" in 1998 at the National Book Store SM City branch in Cebu City. I read the book repeatedly like a man possessed. My love affair with Sophie's World actually hasn't ended. 
As I write this article, I was back on page 205 on Spinoza..."God is not a puppeteer..." Alberto was telling Sophie that Baruch Spinoza, who lived from 1632 to 1677, "belonged to the Jewish community of Amsterdam, but he was excommunicated for heresy."
"Are you going to tell me about him?" Sophie asked Alberto. "That was my intention. And we're not going to be stopped by military provocations," Alberto retorted.
"Few philosophers in more recent times have been so blasphemed and so persecuted for their ideas as this man," Alberto hissed. "It happened because he criticized the established religion. He believed that Christianity and Judaism were only kept alive by rigid dogma and outer ritual. He was the first to apply what we call a historico-critical interpretation of the Bible."


Sophie requested explanation from Alberto and readers will be able to digest what follows next once they read the book.
Another thought-provoking chapter in the book was when Sophie and Alberto discussed the Theory of the Big Bang. 
"Most astronomers agree that the expanding universe can only have one explanation: Once upon a time, about 15 billion years ago, all substance in the universe was assembled in a relatively small area. The substance was so dense that gravity made it terrifically hot. Finally it got so hot and so tightly packed that it exploded. We call this explosion as Big Bang."
I strongly recommend the book and I reecho what the Sunday Times had written on the back cover: the author has managed to condense 3,000 years of thought into 400 pages; to simplify some extremely complicated arguments without trivializing them. Enjoy reading.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Abolish the Senate

"Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what's going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?" WILL ROGERS

By Alex P. Vidal

The mudslinging bout between Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile has cost taxpayers millions of pesos.
It's a waste of time and money. 
This is happening because we have a useless branch of government that is actually not necessary and should have been abolished a long time ago.
If we have a parliamentary form of government, we can never have the likes of Jinggoy, Bong, Lito Lapid, among other inutile senators. No pork barrel, no popularity contest, and no unnecessary committee investigations that are only actually in aid of grandstanding rather than legislation. 
The early senators in history never resorted to personal insults and slander unlike what we have in the Philippines today.
Senators had been part of Roman government since Romulus, the first king of Rome, who created 100 senators to advise him, especially in the case of alliances and treaties.


When Romulus died, there was no obvious candidate to replace him and the Roman senators feared that one of the neighboring states would take over Rome, so they set up a temporary government.
They gave power to a chosen individual for only five days at time, after which the next in line took over.
The time under this rotating government was called an interregnum meaning it was the government between (inter) the kings.
The Roman People were happy to see the end of the interregnum because they felt that during it they were ruled by 100 masters, instead of just a single monarch.
Former Press Secretary Hector R. Villanueva was right when he referred to the upper chamber as "disgraceful senate."
I agree with Villanueva when he called the Philippine Senate today as "a redundant, effete, wasteful, and costly institution that, in reality, does not represent anybody, or any sector, or any region of the country other than the self-serving interests of its members."


It is a myth and parody to believe that senators represent the entire Filipino people. Once elected, the senators go their own merry ways, and the nation can go fly a kite till the next election, Villanueva stressed.
"If truth be told, a unicameral National Assembly in a parliamentary form of government can perform just as effectively and rationally without a Senate.
"The Upper Chamber has become unnecessary and irrelevant.
"In many countries, the Senate or upper Assembly is a ceremonial and appointive honorific Chamber composed of retired justices, professors emeritus, retired statesmen, outstanding business leaders, exceptional professionals in the sciences, extraordinary women, and experienced diplomats.


"Its main functions are, among others, as a treaty ratifying body, an impeachment court, a welcoming party to arriving foreign dignitaries, and other ceremonial duties.
"Expectedly, the members are entitled to respectable stipends and perks sans the PDAF to insulate them from corruption and the vagaries of politics.
"Alas, the current 16th Congress, as a whole, is a disgrace to the nation, and a despicably bad example to the youth of the country.
"Hence, it is an opportune time to renew and revive discussions on Constitutional revisions, term limits, and unicameralism.


"Though we have good friends among the senators, and there are outstanding, fresh, youthful, and exciting newly-elected senators, the Philippine Senate itself in recent years has fallen into disrepute, corruption, incessant squabbling, lackluster productivity, and obsessive partisanship that is making the Senate increasingly unnecessary and not cost-effective.
"The Filipino would not miss its absence and demise if the Senate were to be abolished.
"When all is said and done, it is never too late for the senators to redeem themselves and regain the respect and support of the general public.
"However, there is a new generation out there of politically conscious and activist youths who are highly skilled in the use of social media that is double-bladed and can cut both ways."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Death of mangroves, death of our future

Death of mangroves, 
death of our future

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ALBERT EINSTEIN 

By Alex P. Vidal

We need a collective effort to save our mangroves--by hook or by crook. 
When nature is hurting, humans will end up the biggest losers. There's no escape for us, living creatures, if nature suffers from neglect, abuse, and man-made sabotage.
When mangroves are dead and we did nothing to help revive them, the future won't be happier for our children who will inherit the earth. 
Mangroves are important in our ecology. Biologically, they adapt to low oxygen, limit salt intake, limit water loss, and nutrient uptake.
Mangroves are always considered as nature's special gift to mankind. For mitigation of climate change which generally involves reduction in human emissions of greenhouse gases, scientists suggest a need to increase mangroves.


The gradual demise of mangroves in the river at the back of the Iloilo Sports Complex in Brgy. Magsaysay, La Paz stretching the adjacent barangays Bakhaw and Bolilao in Mandurriao, has been blamed for upsurge of pollution and other environmental and social issues like erosion, squatter and lack of government programs.
This has prompted City Hall, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) to  embark on a joint mangrove reforestation project to regreen the riverbanks of the 15-kilometer Iloilo River. The public-private partnership (PPP) in protecting the river is committed to enhance the biodiversity of the Iloilo River and improve the eco-tourism potentials of the area.   
While this was developing in the metropolis, it was reported that at least four hectares of old-growth and reforested mangrove areas in Batad, Iloilo are now "heavily oiled" bunker fuel.


The oil spill containing 200,000 liters of bunker fuel leaked into the shores of Estancia after the 35-megawatt National Power Barge 103 slammed into the rocky coast of the northern town at the height of super typhoon Yolanda last November 8. Monstrous winds and waves dislodged the barge from its mooring about 200 meters from the coastline of Brgy. Botongon, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
Dr. Rex Sadava, University of the Philippines Visayas' oil spill program coordinator, has expressed alarm that bunker fuel can severely affect mangroves because it coats the trees and blocks their breathing pores.
The Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed the presence of high levels of the toxic substance benzene in the air, thus a mandatory evacuation had been called by provincial and municipal authorities.
Scientists say mangrove swamps are crucial as they protect coastal areas from erosion, storm surge like the one wrought by Yolanda, and tsunamis. They explain that mangroves' massive root systems are efficient at dissipating wave energy and slow down tidal water enough so its sediment is deposited as the tide comes in, leaving all except fine particles when the tide ebbs. In this way, add the scientist, mangroves build their own environments. 


Mangrove ecosystems are often the object of conservation programs, including national biodiversity action plans, because of their uniqueness and the protection they provide against erosion.
Scientists claim that the unique ecosystem found in the intricate mesh of mangrove roots offers a quiet marine region for young organisms. In areas where roots are permanently submerged, the organisms they host include algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges, and bryozoans, which all require a hard surface for anchoring while they filter feed. Shrimps and mud lobsters reportedly use the muddy bottoms as their home.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Don't cancel Christmas parties

Don't cancel Christmas parties

"Make an effort to attend every Christmas party you're invited to, even if you can only stay a few minutes." UNKNOWN  

By Alex P. Vidal

While we commiserate with our brothers and sisters in Central Visayas who lost their family members, homes and livelihood in the Yolanda mayhem, we should not use the tragedy as main reason why we will not hold Christmas parties this month of December. 
Christmas parties are not just about food and expensive decorations and gifts. They are part of Filipino culture and tradition, as well as tradition practiced in the Christian world. Some of us use the occasion to hold family or class reunions, at the same time; a chance get-together event to reminisce the past and remember loved ones who have departed and those who are now living abroad. 
A Christmas party is one huge occasion where office mates, relatives, business partners, neighbors, friends and lovers gather to renew their ties, rebuild relationships, settle disputes "in the spirit of Christmas" and share gifts among themselves.


Sometimes long lost friends and relatives are able to meet only during Christmas parties when they have the opportunity to use the Yuletide season to temporarily leave their workplace and be with their families and friends.
We don't find it scandalous if we proceed with our Christmas parties this Yuletide season as long as they are not so lavish and we don't waste food and money. As long as the parties are simple and far from the extravagance we normally see in hotels and mansions of the rich and famous, our conscience will not bother us. God won't get mad at us.
Holding a Christmas party does not mean that we will stop caring for our hungry and homeless countrymen in Central Visayas. Relief operations will not be set aside if we hold Christmas parties. Foreign donors won't stop coming in if we hold Christmas parties. Our concerns and sympathies are intact--with or without Christmas parties.
It's another story if we remain callous and insensitive with the victims' plight and miseries and have not done anything to extend help in whatever means, yet we proceed with grandiose parties even if we are aware many of them still can't eat three decent square meals a day in evacuation centers.


What is so scandalous is when we use the cash donations intended for the victims to buy foods, drinks and gifts for our own selves during the Christmas party; if we solicit money for the party at the expense of the victims.
The recent super typhoon happened a month before the world would celebrate "the most wonderful time of the year," as the song goes. It was a test of our character, values and spirit; of how strong and determined we are to withstand and recover from such horrific tragedy that almost wiped out parts of our islands from the face of earth, a nightmarish calamity that sent to tears different nationalities from all over the globe who saw the terror and shock on their TV sets and internet.
It should not reduce us to cultural pygmies daunted by trauma and hysteria. We should not deny ourselves the joy and happiness--and opportunity to savor and celebrate the true spirit of Christmas which happens only once a year.

I doubt if Divorce Law will be passed in the Philippines

I doubt if Divorce Law will 
be passed in the Philippines

By Alex P. Vidal

I have a strong feeling that divorce will never prosper in the Philippines; I mean the proposed divorce law being pushed by some lawmakers in the Lower House. 
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country and dissolution of marriage or anything that binds the family together has always been opposed passionately by the Church. Because it wields tremendous power in our society, the Church always comes out in the upper hand in almost all debates and efforts to win public sympathy and compliance.


Marriage is a permanent bond or commitment, sealed by a religious or legal act. It is a civil contract or a personal arrangement between the two persons involved. As what noted literary critics Samuel Johnson once said: "To the contract of marriage there is a third party--Society; and if it be considered as a vow--God; and therefore, it cannot be dissolved by their consent alone."


On the other hand, there are liberal ideas that not only push for divorce as the "the most effective" alternative to put an end to a poisonous relationship, but also consider divorce as a social and personal advocacy.
Adultery is a good ground for divorce. Other grounds of divorce is vaguely defined as "incompatibility." Marriage may be dissolved when there is no longer affection between husband and wife. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Latest air tension endangers pingpong, boxing diplomacy

Latest air tension endangers 
pingpong, boxing diplomacy

"Take the diplomacy out of war and the thing would fall flat in a week."  WILL ROGERS 

By Alex P. Vidal

The act of an American private sports outfit to invest in China through the promotion of Manny Pacquiao versus Brandon Lee Rios bout in Macao last November 24, can be considered as "boxing diplomacy" following the famous "pingpong diplomacy" in 1971 and the "badminton diplomacy" (I coined this term in an article I wrote in 2009 in Chicago) in 2009 in Tehran, Iran.
In the Cold War era and during ferocious anti-communist campaign in the 60s, it's inconceivable to see an American sports company like Top Rank doing business in a Chinese property. The Pacquiao-Rios tussle generated millions of dollars in revenues for hotels and shops and capitalism had a field day in Macao for a couple of weeks.  But the boxing diplomacy may turn out to be short-lived if we review the front page story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated November 28 or four days after the Pacquiao-Rios duel.


In that front page story, a US B-52 Stratofortress bomber was reported to have flown over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that the Chinese call Diaoyu Islands. Beijing said on November 7 it monitored two B-52s flying over the islands in defiance of its declaration of an "air defense identification zone" in the area.
“The Chinese government has the will and ability to defend our national sovereignty and security,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang was quoted to have said at a regular press briefing in the report by Agence France-Presse.
Now that tension has again escalated between China and the USA, all the efforts put forward in the past to improve diplomatic relations between two countries through sports, are in danger of being put to waste.
When the war was raging in Vietnam and the Cold War was entering its 26th year in April 1971 or 42 years ago, a Pan Am 707 landed in Detroit, Michigan, carrying the People’s Republic of China’s world champion table tennis team for a series of matches and tours in 10 cities around the United States.


The era of Ping-Pong diplomacy had begun 12 months earlier when the American team-- in Nagoya, Japan, for the World Table Tennis Championship--got a surprise invitation from their Chinese colleagues to visit the People’s Republic. Time magazine called it "The ping heard round the world." And with good reason: no group of Americans had been invited to China since the Communist takeover in 1949.
Why had they been invited? Smithsonian’s David A. DeVoss said the Chinese felt that by opening a door to the United States, they could put their mostly hostile neighbors on notice about a possible shift in alliances. The United States welcomed the opportunity; President Richard M. Nixon had written: "We simply cannot afford to leave China outside the family of nations."


Soon after the U.S. team’s trip, Nixon, not wanting to lose momentum, secretly sent Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Peking to arrange a Presidential visit to China. Nixon’s journey seven months later, in February 1972, became one of the most important events in U.S. postwar history. "Never before in history has a sport been used so effectively as a tool of international diplomacy," said Chinese Premier Chou En-lai. For Nixon, it was "the week that changed the world."
In February 2002, President George W. Bush, in his second trip to China, recalled the meeting that came out of Ping-Pong diplomacy, telling President Jiang Zemin: "Thirty years ago this week, President Richard Nixon showed the world that two vastly different governments could meet on the grounds of common interest and in a spirit of mutual respect."


Despite its critical diplomatic relationship with Iran, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sent a delegation of 12 Americans, including eight female athletes, coaches, and managers representing USA Badminton, to Tehran, Iran, from February 3-9, 2009.
The team competed in the Fajr International Badminton Tournament at the invitation of the Iranian Badminton Federation.
From pingpong, US had embarked on another peaceful mission through badminton in the hostile territory in a bid to improve its relationship with the Islamic country which has blamed the West for its various problems.


The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and USA Badminton also hosted the Iranian Badminton Federation for the U.S. Open in July 2009. The visit was reportedly part of the US’s "people-to-people" exchanges with Iran.
Since 2006, the US has included Iranians in a range of educational, professional, and cultural exchange programs. In the past two years, over 250 Iranians, including artists, athletes, and medical professionals, have participated in exchange programs in the United States.
Through its Sports United program, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has brought the Iranian National Teams for Basketball, Water Polo, Weightlifting, and members of the men’s and women’s National Table Tennis teams to the United States. The US also sent 20 members of USA Wrestling to Iran to compete in the prestigious Takhti Cup in January 2007.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pacquiao's tax woes a result of bloated purse reportage

Pacquiao's tax woes a result 
of bloated purse reportage

"The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward."  JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES

By Alex P. Vidal

We must go to the bottom first. Who are the publicists of Manny Pacquiao who have been drum-beating about his exorbitant multi-million dollar ring earnings over these past five years?
In those years that I covered Pacquiao's fights in the United States, I observed that these publicists did not report accurately Pacquiao's real purse per fight. 
For instance, if his purse when he fought Oscar De La Hoya on December 6, 2008 was $18 million plus shares in the pay-per-view, publicists reported that he bankrolled $35 million excluding shares in pay-per-view. When he got $12 million against Ricky Hatton on May 2, 2009, they reported in press releases that the Filipino fighter ran away with a whooping $25 million minus PPV shares. When Pacquiao pocketed $14 million versus Miguel Angel Cotto on November 14, 2009, they parroted that he collected $25 million minus PPV share. And so on and so forth.


I couldn't understand why they had to bloat Pacquiao's ring earnings in media. They probably thought "anyway, it's just a news item and people won't really mind how much he earns as long as he always wins." In most articles, they reported the total sum of Pacquiao's cash prize without stating the cuts taken for the trainer's fees, among other slices and deductions.    
If their intention is to confuse the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States, definitely their gimmick defies logic. The more that Pacquiao earns, the more taxes he must pay. The Forbes Magazine has listed him as one of the top 20 richest paid athletes in the world with estimated worth of $100 million.
If their purpose is to portray Pacquiao as one of the highest paid professional athletes in the planet in the league of Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Romario, Roger Federer, and Kobe Bryant, the braggadocio has backfired.
Their false reportage has hurt Pacquiao and he is now experiencing the damage done by that inaccuracy.


Aside from IRS which does not distinguish whether you are a world champion or a patsy as long as you earn and owes taxes to government, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in the Philippines has also been doing its homework.
Since the tax agency is claiming that it has not received Pacquiao's tax records with the IRS despite repeated requests, it is possible that it based their estimates of his total earnings or earnings obtained in 2008 to 2009 from these reports--or from taxes he paid in the past, among other sources.
The BIR is hot after the heels of the most celebrated world boxing champion in connection with the P2.2 billion case filed against him for back taxes -- including interests and surcharges. BIR chief Kim Henares confirmed they have started garnishing some of the boxer's bank accounts.


It's the job of Pacquiao's accountants and probably lawyers to handle the problem, and they must deal with the BIR in the most professional manner sans media hoopla and blunderbuss if they hope to ferret out a win-win solution.
They must produce necessary documents showing that the rich athlete has been paying taxes religiously and there was no intention whatsoever to hoodwink the government or dodge his basic responsibility as a Filipino citizen. Bob Arum has volunteered to save Pacquiao from the abyss by producing the IRS papers.
Like any ordinary citizen or businessman, Pacquiao should immediately settle whatever taxes he owes the Philippine government--if the evidence warrants-- without the need to swap brickbats laced with political undertones against politicians allied with the government.
We are always reminded of Al Capone when we remember the popular adage that says, "You can't fight city hall."