What's this about?

Ladies and gents our story begins with our author who one day packed up his bags to spend the next 5 years of his life on some tropical island far far away. This land is not like any place he has ever been to before. There is no telling of what he may encounter during his stay there but one thing is sure he is going to be in for one crazy adventure. And this is where you get to read about it.

What you say?

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Readers beware!

The stories told here maybe appear larger than in real life and at times may even appear outlandish. However, all actual events are in fact real (well, most of them). What may appear as a distortion of reality to some may only be due to the author's perspective of the actual events. Some say he is just not right in the head.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Right of peaceful assembly

People were running in every direction, waving their banners and shouting as police officers were chasing after them with their batons high in the air. I saw one man with a camera trying to escape from the pursuit of several officers who unfortunately wasn't able to get very far. The officers caught up with him as he tried to turn the corner. At the corner there was a woman beside him who tried pleading with the officers. The officers just ignored her however and proceeded to beat down the man with their batons. It was like that video of the Rodney King beating in L.A. They surrounded him and started whacking away until he fell to the ground. After a good beating the officers started to move on but as they did I saw one officer quickly turn back around, reach out and give the man who was already crying in pain one more good whack.

What the heck was that for? He forgot to throw in a hit in there for his Tito too? There was no point in turning back all the way around just to hit the poor guy once again. First overall the man was already defenseless when they proceed to be him and secondly, after they had finished beating him it did look he was about to do anything but lie there for a really long time. I couldn't believe it. That's when I realized how glad I was that we have civil rights in America and how glad I was to be watching this in my clean pressed white uniform from miles away in front of a television set.

Though, one of these days I got to go there to get some of this on camera. I was watching the MSNBC news coverage online and they mentioned how the police met the ralliest with water cannons. The video clip didn't mention at all however how they also chased and beat down helpless protestors with their batons. Here's one quote from an article covering the story of the Filipino protest against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo which occured last Friday in Manila, from MSNBC.com.

"Hours later, another scuffle broke out, with police using truncheons on protesters who pushed and shoved them. No one was seriously hurt and the rally dispersed soon after."

That one man I saw on TV got his ass beat. Now would that qualify as news censorship? They obviously weren't telling the whole story. I hear that when the crowd control officers out here hit the streets it's anything goes. You better bring a helmet and lots of Band-Aids.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The four elements

"What are the four elements?"

That was the question presented to our quiz-b contestants. It was one of the few questions that I could actually answer. Hell, my nephew probably could have answered this question back when he was five but here it was presented to all of us college students. As each participating group held up their answers upon white eraser boards they all read the same, air, fire, water, and earth. It was the same exact answer I thought to myself as I was sitting there. I was feeling a little good about my self right about then until the judge announced that they were all incorrect.

"The correct answer is" she stated, "air, wind, water, and fire."

The contestants looked confused. The audience booed. It seemed like everyone there hand the same answer in mind. Well, except for the judge. Granted the question was a little vague but I think we were all safe in assuming that the question was pertaining to the "four classic elements" of Greek philosophy. Even if it wasn't, in such broad classifications couldn't wind or air be included as part of one or the other? Then logically there would have only been three elements according to her answer. Even more so, logic should have told her that earth (you know the stuff that comprises the ground we walk on ) probably should have been included in there some place.

Despite everyone's protest however the judge stood stubornly by her answer. Even after when one of the students explained to her how it was the Greek philosopher Empedocles who stated that all mater was made up from air, water, fire and earth. The judge's response to the student was that she got the answer from some encyclopedia. I don't know what encyclopedia she was referring to but in all likelihood if it was indeed a credible source what it probably stated was that the four elements consisted of water, fire, air or wind, and earth.

Now everyone makes mistakes. There is nothing wrong with that or even in admitting that you were wrong when proven so. However, the problem here was that she wasn't supposed to wrong. She was the infallible and supreme quiz-b judge after all. Give me a break, as if being a judge for a school quiz-b makes her almighty. If she could have just opened her mind to what everyone was saying for maybe a second and put some of that pride of hers away then maybe she might have came out not looking so... well, stupid.

Pride and arrogance 1. Common sense 0.

Time for another segment of blogger education.

Many ancient civilizations have theorized their own "classical" set of elements in which they have used to explain all mater in the universe. And, earth is usually commonly found among these classic elemental sets.

The most widely known set of classic elements among those with western education is the one theorized by the Greek philosopher Empedocles. Some time during the 5th century BC, Empedocles stated that all matter of the universe can be made up of a combination of air, water, fire or earth. This same classic set of elements is still used today by astrologers to interpret the stars. Later the more popular Greek philosopher of this day, Aristotle, added aether to this set of elements to represent the stars/heavens above.

The Aristotelian set of elements can be likened to the five classic elements in Hinduism. In Hinduism belief the Panchamahabhuta, or "five great elements," are vayu or pavan (air or wind), ap or jala (water), agni or tejas (fire), are prithvi or bhumi (earth), and akasha (aether).

In Buddhism the word akasha is interpreted as "space" or "void". Thus, the Buddhism set of five classic elements consist of air, water, fire, earth, and void.

The five great elements (godai) of the early Japanese philosophy is similar to the Buddhism set of elements. In an ascending order of power they are chi (earth), sui (water), ka (fire), fuu (air or wind), and kuu (void).

In the Chinese philosophy of Taoism air or wind is not included in the set of five classic elements. The Chinese set of five classic elements include huo (fire), shui (water), mu (wood), jin (metal), tu (earth).These five classic elements also represent Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday respectively in the Chinese weekly calendar. (It's also the same in the Japanese calendar.)

There is another set of classic elements in the Chinese belief that incorporates the two missing elements from the Buddhism set of classic elements, feng (air) and kong (void). Thus in this second set the total number of elements is seven; void, fire, water, air, and earth.

So air, wind, water, and fire. Hmm...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tissue please

There I was about to get more of my favorite Filipino dish, lechon kawali. It's mainly pork meat and fat. Well, mostly fat, fried in more fat. Umm-mmm-mmm, yummy. Yeah so it's probably not the healthiest thing to eat in this country. In fact eating this everyday is probably the easiest way to raise your cholesterol levels which would eventually lead to other health problems for you such as atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension.

Anyway, as I stood there about to ask for another order of the coronary destroying juice fat laced pork my nose starts dripping. I first thought it was just snot so I didn't think much of it until I whipped it away with my hand and saw that my hand was bright red. My nose was bleeding (a possible early sign of hypertension ) and soon began to flow like a fountain. I didn't have any tissue so I turned around to look for someone and there was this pharmacy student staring right at me. I asked him if he had a tissue and then watched him slowly turned his back to me. I waited for a little while to see if he was going to turn back around with a napkin or something but I soon realized he was about to do no such thing. Maybe he didn't hear me over the noise of the rushing blood flowing from my nose. I don't know.

After that incident I figured I wasn't going to be getting much help from people around me so I stood there contemplating on what to next. Do I jus try to suck it up? Pray that it will stop soon? Or do I walk all the way back to the canteen where my friend, Kissey, was to get some help. I didn't want to draw too much attention to my self by walking down the street with all this blood gushing everywhere but I figured it didn't really matter. People were already staring, the majority of them all in the health profession but not one of them seemed like they were about to offer me any help. Maybe they could already tell I didn't have any health insurance so they just said #@$^ it, "how is he going to pay for my fee?" Perfectly understandable.

So I figured it would be best to run back to where Kissey was as quickly as possible since I was obviously not going to get any help here. When I got there the ladies working at the canteen took a much more caring attitude towards me. They took me to the back right away and got me some cold rags and ice to place on top of my head. They were really kind. I couldn't understand a word they said but they seemed really nice. After I left and paid for my food I wanted to leave a tip but they wouldn't accept it at all.

And to come to think that they're the ones in the food service profession making a living off waiting on people; not someone studying to be in a health profession which was meant to actually help people.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Filipino funeral

It was already 11:00 a.m. when I got back to my dorm. Since my uncle had told me that they would be leaving at 9 a.m. that morning I had declined to go with them. However, 2 hours after their expected departure time I decided to give him a call just in case there was a remote possibility that he would still be here.

Remote? Ha, I keep on forgetting people here run on Filipino Time. When I called them they weren't even remotely close to leaving though he told me they were just about to go. We left at 12:00 p.m. for the funeral of my Uncle Bert.

Now before I start to talk of the first funeral I have ever attended here in the Philippines I should backtrack about 6 days ago when I went to the house of my late Uncle Bert.

It had already been 3 days after his death and we were going to his family's home to pay respects to his remaining family. When we got to their street there were two tents blocking off and quite a few people standing outside. At such a late time I really didn't expect so many people to be there. It kind of looked like a party scene than the house of a grieving family. When I finally walked in to the house I was in for another surprise. There he was, my late Uncle Bert.

Now, it wasn't like that movie Weekend at Bernie's or anything. He was just there in the living room lying in his coffin. As you may have guessed they don't usually do this in the States. Well, not were I'm from. Come to think of it I don't think they would allow that at all in the States. It could get mighty hot in some places and having a dead body sitting in your living room is not going to smell so good after awhile, unless you have a lot of saran wrap. I guess that's why the casket had a sealed glass top.

I know he's family but waking up in the middle of night to get a glass of water and then having to pass by a casket has to be a little creepy. I would imagine it makes the grieving processes even all that much harder but that's how they do it here. The body of my Uncle Bert would stay with them for 9 days before the date of the burial, which takes to me back to present time of my story.

When we arrived there were even more relatives this time around and a marching band complete with majorettes. At first I thought they were apart of a separate activity but when they pulled my uncle's casket from the house and loaded it up in to the hearse. They began playing and leading the way for the funeral procession. As for my relatives instead of getting in their cars to follow after the hearse (that's what we do in the States) they followed right along walking behind them. They all have cars here too but that's just how they do it here.

Now, I knew that the cemetery wasn't exactly very far from their place but I was wondering what if they had a longer way to go? It was a hot day and not everyone walking was exactly young and vigor. Another thing I was wondering was if they could be allowed to do this in the more crowed city streets? I would imagine as we took up the entire street we could cause a major traffic problem. In the States usually the funeral procession is required to follow the laws of the road though in most of the ones I have been in I can't say that has always happened. However, walking behind the hearse is definitely out of the question.

As we got to our first stop, the church. I had noticed that we didn't exactly take the quickest route here. We kind of took the long way around. I guess it was in order to give my uncle his last stroll around the block which seems like a nice symbolic gesture to me. When I die I want my family to take me around San Francisco, Vallejo and Lake Tahoe since that's were I mostly grew up. Better hope I don't die out here because I don't know how the hell you are gonna walk my body back to the States. Anyway, after saying a few good things about the life of Uncle Bert we left for the last leg of the trip.

When got to the cemetery we viewed him once again for the last time, the preacher said his last words and we closed the casket. However, before we buried him they passed the small children one at a time over the top of the casket. I'm not sure what this was for but in Creole tradition they do this in order to prevent the souls of the dead to come back for the children. I don't know if this is done here for the same reasons or not.

Now I don't know if I should exactly say that we "buried" him because the cemeteries here are not exactly like the ones in the States. No one here is really laying six feet under. Instead the caskets are placed in to sarcophaguses that lay above ground. Normally in the States we would watch people cover the casket with dirt but instead here we watched them seal my uncle's casket away in cement.

After the funeral ceremony we proceeded to my uncle's house for the party.

Farewell Uncle Bert, rest in peace.