Saturday, January 31, 2009

Change.

Chinese New Year made me think of China and myself. China is changing and the West finds it too painful to accept the fact that this former Ice Princess is growing into a warm, temperate economic super power.

Yes, the West is pretending and is hiding that it is hurting from this change in economic climate.

It made me think of myself. The fact that I've overlooked and have resisted change since I´ve moved to this country. The fact that I haven't acclimatized, acculturized, and am suffering because I've failed to adapt to my new environment.

My English friend Alice told me that perhaps the reason for this is that, people tend to rule out things that they don´t like.

Perhaps, she's right. I mean, I see living in the West as a threat to my `old ways.´ I don´t like it. And no matter what I do and how hard I try to structure my life to serve specific motives and goals to survive, it is still too painful.

In truth and in fact, nothing and nobody is taking over me. When I look at my husband, I realize that he is being Filipinized more than I being westernized. My husband who now eats rice and gulay (meat & vegetables in coconut milk, shrimp paste and spice), and drinks water instead of wine. My husband who now dares to eat the head of a fish and dips it in a sawsawan (fish sauce with lemon juice)! My husband who is not threatened by change.

So I reckon that if I want to preserve myself and my culture, I have to preserve what West stands for (me) and I must change many things. After all, those who fail to see change and adapt, perish.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe.

Here´s a poem that our family love to recite, and perhaps you do too. :)


THE RAVEN.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore--
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door--
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door--
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"--
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my sour within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
'Tis the wind and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door--
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore--
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered: "Other friends have flown before--
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.
"Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never--nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore--
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!--
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore--
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Maya Angelou.

I am Maya Angelou.
I'm a poet.
What I am going to say to you now however, is not a poem.
Doesn't pretend to be.
These are ruminations, are reflections upon the event of President Barack Obama.

We needed him.
We, the race, needed him
We, the American population, we needed him
Banks, our mobile companies, and insurance companies, needed him
The stockmarket in Japan, in Germany, in France, in Britain, in China, in New York City, needed him

And out of that great need, I believe, he came
Barack Obama, facing forward
Including everyone, excluding noone
He came with some charm
Not enough to make him seem glib

But what he did is, he brought something we can not live without and that is HOPE.
He brought a possibility that we might see ourselves as we really are, A Great Country
I believe in the secret part of every heart of an American, there is a desire to belong to a great country

President-elect Obama offers us the chance
to have a great president with whom we can identify
Not as a black person
not even as a male
But realy as an American citizen
who will speak for the voiceless
who will not forget the poor black or the poor white
who will remember the out of work Asian
and the dislocated Spanish-speaking person

It is said that to whom much is given, much will be expected
I believe we have been given a great president
I belive he needs us probably more, even then we needed him

I believe that each of us, each American has got to pay back or pay it forward
I think each of us has got to do something to help us to become more than what James Bowman called, tis yet to be UNITED states

I think our new president deserves all our help
I believe we Americans most we can get
I believe we are a great people
And I believe we will have a chance to show it
I will be working alongside, being of use
I hope to see you, being of us

I am Maya Angelou, a poet, American
I'm happy to say, A Citizen.


I saw Maya Angelou recite this on TV this morning. I was so moved, I decided to transcribe it from bbc world news website.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fur coat, anyone?

We´ve all heard about fur farming, but do we really understand what it´s all about? Not me. I´ve always thought that those beautiful mink coats I see Hollywood actresses and socialites wear, are made from wild foxes, wild lambs, wild rabbits, and wild minks.

Emphasis on WILD. But raising these animals for fur production never occured to me. Maybe because we raised pigs and chickens for consumption when I was growing up. Or perhaps, I was just too ignorant.

But I was extremely upset after I saw a program on a Belgian television on fur coats. Accordingly, an American organisation that protects animals called The Humane Society, did some research on the fetal karakul lamb fur. They discovered that pregnant ewes are being killed 15 days before the natural delivery, just to get their unborn lamb.

The velvety skin of the fetus is valuable for the trade because it is mainly used for dresses and suits. Sometimes the ewes are slaughtered even earlier, 30 days before natural delivery. At this time the fetus will have a very soft skin which can be served as a swimsuit for rich people.

Imagine, an ewe and her young will only provide one piece of fur from about 30 centimetres. So one coat takes the live of about 60 animals! The lambs are so small that they hardly deliver any meat, they are just being thrown away as garbage after they are skinned. In China, they are skinned alive!

The minks on the other hand are gassed. This procedure is `humane´, they say. For me, it´s cruel. I don't mind if people wear these coats because they keep them warm. But to look good and to flaunt one's wealth? Farming animals primarily for fur and fashion? I think, it should be banned on ethical grounds.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gertrude´s Dream.

My piano student for almost 20 months, waltzing his way to Gertrude´s dream. Check out this video I took of him. :)




video

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Nieuwjaarsduik.



No matter what the temperature is, thousands of Dutch flock the North Sea and plunge into the icy waters on New year´s Day. They call it nieuwjaarsduik. The word duik means to dive or to plunge into the sea. So Nieuwjaarsduik means to throw oneself into the water on New Year's Day. It's an old Dutch tradition.

If you´ve seen the film Titanic, you know more or less, how cold the North Sea can get during winter. But whether the temperature is minus 5 or minus 10 celsius, tough Dutch men and women, young and old, storm the waters. It´s all about the tradition and Dutch love traditions! I do too.

But most of all, I love the Dutch sense of humor. Wearing a Santa Claus red cap (it looks more like a bonnet to me though, don't you think so?) and running half-naked in their swimming outfits, and off they rush into the water! hahahaha

I asked my husband what's the logic behind all this exposure and hypothermia experience at the height of winter. He said that it´s about purifying oneself. Getting rid of laziness or old habits and feeling your blood rushing through your veins. Bracing and getting yourself ready for the coming challenges in the New Year.

In the Philippines, we have a tradition too. We open all doors, windows (and wallets too) on New year´s eve. We believe that by doing so, we get rid of all the old problems, worries, heartaches; and we welcome all that there is to come in the New Year. And yes, with open doors, windows, and wallets too! lol

Friday, January 2, 2009

Superman.

My good friend Chyt wrote a very interesting story about Jesus and Christmas Commercialism in her blog SMORGASBORD OF RANDOM THOUGHTS. There was a particular paragraph that caught my attention. It says:

"Christmas is no longer an occasion to celebrate the life of a man who turned the tables of profiteers upside down. It is the Feast of Capitalism as we are pressured to do a lot of spending, even beyond our means. The real winners of the season are the booty capitalists who, through multimillion advertisements make us feel guilty when we do not hit their malls to shop until we drop. Christmas insults Jesus’ teachings."

I stopped at that point and redirected my thoughts to the lovely dinners I attended here. Those lovely dinners where I seat and listen to them attack the Pope and the Catholic Church. Dinners where I feel I have to defend my faith rather than air my opinion. Those dinners where I have to smile while I grit my teeth and curse under my breath. The dinners that make me clench my fist and wish I were home instead of being surrounded by übermensch.

Yes, übermensch. As in, Nietzsche´s übermensch that is tied with his concept of a dead God --- meaning, that the idea of God can no longer provide moral values. Because let me tell you, these people are every inch super-men and I don´t mean that as an insult. Not at all.

BUT how can one make sense to people who had a horrible historic past with the Roman Church. A people whose pain is still very raw inspite of the fact that it happened more than 800 years ago. Scarred people with a past. A past that, as we all know, was based on the principle that the cause of God is advanced by the sword. A past that entailed so much pain and suffering.

That ghastly past when so-called Protestant heretics where burnt in stake and Prince William of Orange revolted against Philip II of Spain. Yes. The Dutch and Filipinos share one thing in common: Charles V and Queen Isabella of Portugal.

I mentioned this because it was Charles V and Queen Isabella who financed Magellan's circumnavigation of the world expedition. Charles V who thought that his divine mission is to become the leader of a Christian world, and converted the Filipinos to Roman Catholicism. The Charles who dismissed Martin Luther´s idea of Reformation and later outlawed Luther and his followers. It was also this same Charles who gave his Spanish empire (Spain, the Netherlands, Naples and Spain's colonies in the Americas & the Philippines) to his son, Philip II of Spain.

Later to become King Philip II of Spain who persecuted Protestants and whose endeavours to centralise government, justice and taxes made him unpopular and led to a revolt led by William of Orange. It is therefore of no wonder that some of these übermensch are still livid about their past, in the same manner that some Filipinos are still resentful of Spain.

But what has this all got to do with Jesus and Christmas commercialism?

Very well.... because Catholicism and Reformation segued to so many things. Among them, the conceptualization of an übermensch and the idea that with the absence of the Christian values, there will no longer be a yardstick upon which one can criticize or justify any action. (Nietzsche was brought up a Lutheran by the way.)

With God being dead in the hearts of so many people, how can Christmas be an insult to Jesus´ teachings? Some of them don´t even know why we are celebrating Christmas. So I echo Nietzsche´s ideas. He said:

`God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? .......... who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?´

As bleak and hopeless as it may sound, it is of course not the absolute truth. Besides, The Netherlands is just a tiny country in Europe. And even in this tiny country, there are still many believers in Jesus' teaching.