Thursday, November 27, 2008

Can't we keep the dis out of disagreeing?

I'm no expert on the issues surrounding the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill 5043 introduced by Congressman Edcel Lagman, but I am aware of the varying and often strong opinions on the matter, particularly the opposition of the Catholic Church to the bill. My interest was piqued when I learned that 14 faculty members from the Loyola Schools of Ateneo de Manila had released a position paper on the RH Bill, in spite of the university's official stand against it. Soon after, more Ateneo teachers (over 60 of them, including the eminent Manny Dy, the famous Bobby Guev, the infamous Gus Rodriguez, and my hero Jo-ed Tirol) signed a declaration of support for the RH Bill, which they submitted to Congress last October. I found it a brave and admirable move, not only because they dared to disagree with the university's Jesuit administration, but because they took an unpopular stand on what remains a sensitive and even scandalous issue in this predominantly Catholic country of ours.

Then I came across this editorial from The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas. It is a somewhat violent reaction to the Ateneo position paper, blasting the "14 Horsemen of the Apocalypse" from "the other" Catholic university for "
break[ing] away from the Catholic position and... twist[ing] Catholic teachings to suit their self-serving position." I was surprised that The Varsitarian published such a vitriol-laced article, attacking not only the character of the 14 Ateneo teachers (calling them intellectually dishonest, anti-poor and guilty of academic mediocrity, among others), but Ateneo itself as an institution, deriding "Ateneo's jesuitic nature" (whatever that means) that shows in its "cozy and cash-rich sleeping-with-the-enemy arrangements" (whatever that has got to do with the RH Bill). Perhaps the writer/s had not read the memo from ADMU president Fr. Ben Nebres clarifying the university's official position, which is firmly aligned with the CBCP's. Does that mean the Jesuits are not staying true to their "jesuitic nature"?

I'm sorry but while reading the editorial, the image in my head was that of an apoplectic Dominican friar from the Middle Ages furiously scribbling on a piece of parchment with a quill, sputtering in self-righteous indignation.
Granted, the piece actually has some sound arguments (though I admit I did not agree with most of them) but because of its scathing and accusatory tone, it often lapses into faulty logic, not to mention the occasional grammatical error. The Ateneo teachers' position paper may have its flaws as well, but was it necessary to respond to it with such condescension and ugly mudslinging? And in an official university publication, no less.
If the Varsitarian editorial staff truly and vehemently disagrees with the "14 Grim Reapers", it's their right to express their dissenting opinion, but they could have done it with less venom. The editorial itself evokes "the darkness foisted... by shadowy figures that include those who call themselves Catholics, educated, and educators". How can enlightenment come about through this kind of hysterical knee-jerk reaction? Rather than absorbing their arguments, all I picked up from the article was the permeating sense of holier-than-thou disdain. Is that UST's idea of how Catholic educators and educated Catholics should engage in intellectual debate or discussion?

What riles me further is how critics of the RH Bill keep throwing religion into the mix to cast an "evil" shadow upon the bill and vilify its proponents, which just serves to distract from the real issues at hand. I like this quotation I read in the blog of a former Ateneo Theology teacher:
" is fair and just to remind the hierarchy and the rest of the Catholic citizenry that our Republic does not exist for Catholics alone, and this means that their faith and morals cannot be made the exclusive basis for state policy." -Manuel L. Quezon III

I refuse to believe that one editorial speaks for the entire UST community, just as one position paper does not speak for the entire Ateneo community. I'm sure there are a number of Thomasians out there who support the RH Bill as well, or are at least capable of conveying their contrary viewpoints in a more level-headed manner. What this issue needs is open dialogue, not sanctimonious diatribes. Although I am in favor of the RH Bill, I'm not saying it's perfect and that it will solve the myriad problems it covers, but instead of coming at it with pitchforks and torches, maybe the angry mob should consider talking to the mad (social) scientists who are protecting the monster they fear so much. Instead of being hell-bent on destroying the RH Bill, perhaps its critics can propose a viable alternative or revisions to the bill that would make it less objectionable and more beneficial for the Filipino people. And everyone, whether for or aginst the RH Bill, would do well to bear in mind that ultimately, it's the welfare of our fellow citizens-- Catholic or otherwise-- that's on the line.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I can't curve my exasperation

On my way to work this morning, I noticed new traffic signs posted along Madison St. inside our village. They say "No parking on yellow curve along Madison". For a second I was genuinely puzzled and wondering which "curve" the sign was pertaining to. Then my eyes were drawn to the freshly painted yellow CURBS along the street, and I felt like hammering my head against the car window. How mortifying to see such a glaring error on street signs in the subdivision where I live! And to think Madison's the main street of North Greenhills-- everyone who enters the village will see those "yellow curve" signs! Granted, not everyone will spot the error, but I'LL be seeing it every single day, and for a grammar Nazi like me that's pure torture.

My mom hates how I'm such a nitpicker when it comes to grammar, and I admit I can be excessively anal about it sometimes, but I don't think I'm going overboard here. Street signs are public domain, and it isn't unreasonable to expect to see flawless grammar and spelling on them. Don't we all get a laugh out of the photos we see on But let's bear in mind Japan doesn't lay claim to English being one of their official languages. Guess which archipelago nation in Southeast Asia does? Yet we have signs like "No parking on yellow curve", "Watch your steps", "Until supplies lasts", and my personal favorite, "Mens Wear". If we're going to post something for hundreds and thousands of people to read, we should make 100% certain we're getting it exactly right.

The same thing goes for publications (that's precisely why they're called publications). Last week, while waiting for my number to be called at a Nokia Care Center, I was flipping through a popular magazine (which I'll refrain from naming), and I was extremely dismayed by the sloppy writing and editing in the articles. I had to stifle the urge to whip out my red pen and start slashing through the dangling modifiers and run-on sentences right then and there. I see a lot of the same kinds of errors in local newspapers, and it rankles me to no end that journalists who make a living out of using the English language can neglect and abuse it so much.

And then there are commercial bloggers out there (as opposed to those who maintain personal blogs) with sizable followings, but have the most inexcusably atrocious grammar. I don't know if it's because most readers have high tolerance for sucky writing, or they simply wouldn't recognize a split infinitive if it came up and bit them on the nose, but it's beyond me how they can consider these bloggers good writers and actually enjoy reading the shamefully shoddy stuff they churn out. I'm not necessarily saying I'm a better writer or blogger (writing is more than just command of language, after all), but while my style and content may not appeal to a mass audience, I make a conscious effort to at least express myself in grammatically sound English.

If writing were a sport, grammar would be the rules. If you want to play the game, you have to abide by those rules. Never mind if the spectators don't keep track of your unforced errors or notice the number of unnecessary fouls you commit. If you want to perform up to par, keep it clean and play by the book. And you never know when eagle-eyed referees like me might be around to catch the offense.

Now I'm off to pen a letter to the North Greenhills Association officers demanding for those "yellow curve" signs to be corrected immediately.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An unabashedly unobjective review of Hairspray Manila

This is going to be a very biased review of Atlantis' production of the Broadway musical Hairspray, for the simple reason that the girl playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad is a former student of mine, the curvaceous, vivacious and always adorable Madel Ching.

Maddy's the main reason I went to see Hairspray, but it's also because I love the songs from the musical. In fact,
I loved last year's movie remake of Hairspray so much that I saw it twice, and my sibs gave me the soundtrack CD for Christmas. As it turns out, the film was not an exact duplicate of the original Broadway adaptation (the musical has additional/omitted songs and a slightly different sequence of events/scenes), but the common denominator is the entertainment value. On film or on stage, Hairspray is just loads of fun, and Atlantis did a good job of delivering that fun. Key to this is the outstanding cast they assembled: singer Nyoy Volante as Seaweed J. Stubbs, stage vet Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Velma Von Tussle, pop diva Dulce as Motormouth Maybelle, and acting great Michael de Mesa in a magnificent, cross-dressing turn as Edna Turnblad. All of them got to strut their stuff: Volante's dancing was a delightful discovery, Lauchengco-Yulo's "Miss Baltimore Crabs" was solid gold, and de Mesa pretty much stole every scene in which he sang.

But the best vocal of the night definitely belonged to the iron-lunged Dulce, who gave me goosebumps with her powerful and moving rendition of "I Know Where I've Been". In light of Barack Obama's recent victory in the US elections, the lyrics about the fight for racial equality took on even more poignant significance ("
There's a dream in the future/There's a struggle we have yet to win/And there's pride in my heart/'Cause I know where I'm going/And I know where I've been").

The only slightly disappointing cast member was Tim Espinosa, who played
Tracy's love interest, crooner Link Larkin. Espinosa's acting was ok and his dancing was terrific, but his voice left more to be desired. He faltered a bit in "It Takes Two" and some other numbers, but he did redeem himself in "Without Love". Meanwhile, I found Monica Reynoso, as Tracy's best friend Penny Pingleton, a bit over the top and a tad annoying, until her character's transformation at the end of the play. I was far more taken with Christine Allado's polished performance as antagonist teen queen Amber Von Tussle.

But back to my girl Madel (and here comes the really biased part of my review!). From start to finish, my eyes were glued on Maddy as she sang and danced her heart out in her breakthrough performance, and my own heart was swelling with teacherly pride as I watched one of my kids transform into a star right before my eyes. I've always known Maddy's got theatrical talent (she was president of ICA's Dramatics Guild in her senior year), but I've never seen that talent showcased on such a grand and wide scale. From the very first scene ("Good Morning Baltimore") to the very last ("You Can't Stop the Beat"), Maddy just shone, even if her voice wasn't as powerful as her senior castmates' (but better than Espinosa's). What she lacked in vocal prowess she more than made up for with her exuberant dancing and wonderful stage presence, radiating with charm and energy and totally owning her character Tracy. Her strongest number was her plaintive-turned-positive solo in "Good Morning Baltimore Reprise", which had me dangerously close to tears, I was so proud!

My favorite Maddy moment though wasn't even in the script: in one scene where Link is supposed to hand Tracy his council ring, the ring is accidentally dropped, and as Espinosa quickly scrambled for it on the floor, Maddy just as quickly adlibbed in an excited squeal, "Give it to me!" eliciting an appreciative laugh from the audience.
The rousing ovation she received at curtain call proved that I wasn't the only one in the audience who had been impressed with her performance (so maybe my review isn't that skewed after all).

I would recommend fans of the Hairspray movie to go see this production of the musical, if not for the chance to enjoy the song and dance numbers and relive the joy of Tracy's big-girl-with-big-dreams story, then to at least compare the film and stage adaptations. But those who have never seen the movie might actually end up enjoying the play more because of the novelty factor. So basically, I'm telling everyone to go see Hairspray.

But like I said, I'm biased, so you don't have to take my word for it.

Other possibly less biased early reviews of Atlantis' production of Hairspray: (warning: some bad grammar ahead!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

The dark side of Ailee

My sister sent me this link to a blog with posts excerpting Darkside Zodiac, a book by British writer Stella Hyde. When I clicked on the link to Capricorn, I burst out laughing. The first 3 paragraphs were uncannily spot-on:

You are a cold, cruel, petty minded slave driver with unsuspected yet unquenchable ambition and an addiction to tightfisted penny-pinching [I'm not THAT much of a tightwad]. You are mean, miserly, cold-hearted, self-opinionated, petty, negative, unforgiving and pessimistic. You seem ultra-respectable and old-at-heart [born 30, Maddy?] on the outside while claiming to be insecure. You have the stamina and relentlessness to push people until they give in and follow your way. You hate to be teased, embarrassed or made to look undignified. You'd do absolutely anything to preserve your social status. You'd also prefer to keep your ruthless, pathological ambition under wraps.

The formal, conventional pinstripes and stiff manner are all a front to cover your mischievous lechery [LOL] and anarchic goings-on. It's possible you make deals with the devil. [underline mine] You are extremely strong-willed, stern and stifling. You're like a machine. Your goal in life is to maintain order, propriety and respectability.

You avoid direct physical violence, preferring purges and show trials instead. You crack down hard on deviant thought, and action taken in defense of the status quo is always justified.

The latter half isn't as accurate ("You've given up on friends because they don't appreciate your help." -definitely not me!), but then I took into consideration that I'm only half-Capricorn-- in other horoscopes, my birthday falls under Aquarius. So I looked up Aquarius, and again, half was right on the money:

You are a chilly, detached, eccentric loner, with perverse voyeuristic habits and a shard of ice in your heart. You're aloof, arrogant, [Atenista e] distant and offbeat... You observe everyone else and never react spontaneously to any experience. Whatever you're doing, the inner you is busy making observations and taking notes...You want to be needed but won't ever admit you need someone...

...You pretend you have important work to do and can't be bothered. You are the king of one-liners and vicious sarcasm [I wouldn't say vicious...]. You do not do violence or physical contact [allergic to hugs], preferring to set phasers on stun from an accurately computed distance. You always go for mind games instead of war games.

You come across as an icon of cool, too glamorously ironic to be contaminated by the despicable neediness of the rest of the zodiac. Every time you get near a spontaneous outburst, you activate the defensive shields, so you can look on untouched while others tear themselves apart. It's logical, but also sterile and emotionless. You have never had emotionally unprotected sex or been swept away by lust [best to keep my mouth shut on this]. This means you are always in control, which is good, but it also means you can get bored and fidgety. You are unlikely to have a long-term partner [I knew it!]. You despise clingy dependents [YES] just as much as you loathe jealous control freaks [DOUBLE YES].

In social settings, you seem to always be in the center commanding attention by talking about cool stuff you want everyone to think you know all about [in other words, KIA]. People think you are friendly because you hang around with so many groups [true that], but in reality, that is because you need a large enough statistical sample to make your data collection viable [uy, hindi namannn...]. You are bored by any individual's feelings and sometimes duck out of the party, not because you like your privacy but because you are taking a moment to write up your field notes on your observations [to blog about! hahaha]. Weak people drain you [they sure do], so you occasionally need to get away to recharge.

At work, you can figure out the operating system of any job in about 10 seconds. You're never on time [my dad can attest to this], customize your uniform and hate being overseen. Bosses hate you because they know you could do their job in your sleep [Shirl, care to comment? :p]. Colleagues are awed by your insolent independence, but get upset when they come across the notebook listing all their quirks, catchphrases and secrets they told you in confidence because you seemed so nice and friendly [LMAO].

Freakyyy. Haha.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This is precisely why the cool kids won't let us join their posse

An article on the front page of today's Philippine Daily Inquirer left me sputtering in a mixture of disbelief, disgust and disgrace. Amando Doronila's piece titled "Snubs show Obama is no RP friend" is the journalistic equivalent of a prima donna's hissy fit: Doronila fumes that because US President-Elect Barack Obama hasn't returned Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's congratulatory phone call last week, instead choosing to return the calls of other world leaders, the Philippines is being treated like "a leper outside looking in". How can Obama find the time to talk to Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, Stephen Harper, and 6 other Presidents/Prime Ministers of the world's most powerful nations and not spare a few minutes to place a call to Malacanang? Doronila takes offense that Obama even acknowledged a letter from Iran's oft-vilified President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, yet totally ignored GMA's 2AM phone call to the White House.

Pare, ang feeling mo naman.

I love my country as much as the next Filipino, but let's face reality: we ARE "a speck on the map". We're no France or Britain or Canada or Australia or Germany or China or Japan or South Korea. We're not even on the same level as Israel or Mexico, and we're certainly no Russia or Poland or Spain. So what the hell gives us the conceit to be miffed when the newly elected President of the United States-- who's just a wee bit preoccupied appointing Cabinet members and mapping out a plan to save their country's sinking economy-- can't be bothered to pick up the phone and chat with our kiss-ass President? A President whom, I might remind Mr. Doronila, the Inquirer loves to bash on a daily basis-- I should think they'd be having a field day making fun of GMA's usual shameless display of self-importance (which is vastly different from yet frequently misrepresented as self-respect).

You don't hear Presidents or Prime Ministers of other countries bitching about Obama not returning their calls (and I'm sure GMA wasn't the only one who called, although she makes it sound like it was a revolutionary idea she came up with all by herself). You don't hear others griping about not being part of the "charmed circle". And you don't read about other government officials falling all over themselves to set up a meeting with Obama first chance they get (and then later bitching about it when the meeting can't be arranged). What GMA is doing is embarrassing, and what Mr. Doronila wrote even more so. To interpret Obama's so-called "snub" as a sign that he is "not our friend" is pathetically petty and as mature as a kindergartner sulking because his daddy who's busy working can't play with him.

I don't know if Obama really doesn't give a damn about the Philippines, or if it "stands on the outer perimeter of US concerns in world affairs." But even if that were true, so what? Are we an oil-rich nation? Is our government developing nuclear weapons? Do we have billions of citizens working in factories producing Nike sneakers, or billions of citizens buying Nike sneakers? Have we declared war on a neighboring state recently? Is Osama Bin Laden hiding out in a cave in Mindanao? In short, why do we deserve Obama's attention when a thousand other matters from hundreds of other countries are clamoring for it? Why are we so effing full of ourselves anyway?

The belle of the ball can dance with anyone she wants. The fawning loser who doesn't get on her dance card, makes a scene then stomps out in a huff and goes home to cry to his mommy loses whatever precious few pogi points he may have. And you can bet your britches he won't get invited to the next ball.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A little thanks can go a long way

Last month, Elianto sponsored the makeup for the ICA Fair's Variety Show fashion show. My cousin Abi, who manages the brand, helped supervise the student makeup artists backstage. The following week, she told me her long-standing negative impression of ICAns had changed because she had been pleasantly surprised by the models' manners. All of them (save one) had properly and sincerely thanked her after patiently and uncomplainingly sitting through makeup.

Then last night, through the generosity of Mr. Robin Tong (my student Jo's die-hard Atenean dad), Yang and I had the privilege of attending the Team Ateneo Awards Night, where the Blue Eagles and Blue Eaglets received their championship rings. Yang finally snagged her long-coveted photo op with Chris Tiu, and she also got photo ops with some other Eagles. What we both observed afterward was that although all the players had gamely posed with Yang, only 2 had been gracious and polite enough to actually thank US instead of just letting us thank them.

I think very few young people nowadays appreciate how a simple "thank you" can speak volumes about a person's character and breeding. In a time where courtesy is constantly cast aside for convenience, it's refreshing to see good manners in the unlikeliest of individuals, including supposedly spoiled teenage girls from an exclusive high school and basketball stars with supposedly bloated egos. It would be nice to encounter more of their kind.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Change has come to America"

Ordinarily, I don't copy-post whole articles to my blog, but today is anything but ordinary. Indeed, it is an extraordinary day, not only for America, but for the rest of the world who witnessed history in the making, as Barack Obama was named President-Elect of the United States of America. The hopes of a nation, as well as the expectations of the international community, now rest on the shoulders of a man who has forever changed the landscape of politics and governance by defying the odds, inspiring a people, and embodying the American Dream.

Below is a transcript of the speech delivered by Obama at Grant Park in Chicago, following the announcement of his victory over Republican presidential nominee John McCain (who, to his credit, gave a very gracious concession speech from his home state of Arizona). I am a self-confessed fangirl of the Barack star, but I think even the most cynical pundit or bitter Republican has to admit the next US President is a far better public speaker than the outgoing (block)head of state.

* * *

Remarks of President-Elect
Barack Obama
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Monday, November 03, 2008

All I want for Christmas

November is upon us already, which means that crafty culprit Christmas is lurking just around the corner, waiting to spring on us with its extensive arsenal of tinsel and carols and fruitcake, effectively and efficiently unleashing holiday cheer-- that most potent virus-- throughout the world. No one is safe.

This year, what I want for Christmas are peace, joy and goodwill to all mankind... and these 3 babies.

The last time I fell in love at first sight with a Coach bag, it turned out to be a dud that left me heartbroken (the photo of a patchwork bag I had seen on the Coach website did not match the actual product being sold in stores). I'm hoping this one, the Graphic Op Art Julianne, won't disappoint, because it is so gorgeous I want to cross-breed it with my other bags so I can have a litter of pretty little Op Art pouchettes. I've decided this will be my Christmas gift to myself, and I've asked my friend Ria to buy it for me on her next business trip to the US at the end of this month. If the stores don't have it in stock anymore, I just might cry.

* * *

I know I said the only thing I'd ever replace my beat-up Nokia 6108 with is another 6108, but unfortunately I have failed to find anyone in the whole of Metro Manila who's still selling it. In the first place it's a Hong Kong-exclusive model, not to mention it's already several years old, so it's really mission impossible. Even in Hong Kong, in all the cell phone shops I've inquired with, I received nothing but blank looks and the occasional derisive laugh ("Oh, old model!"). My dad did manage to source a 3108 from a friend of his who bought one but never used it, and since it's pretty much the same thing as a 6108 (except it doesn't have an English-Chinese, Chinese-English dictionary), I decided it would have to do for now, seeing as how my 6108's keypad is completely unresponsive already.

But then last week, I was having coffee with my former co-teachers Kat and Margaux, and like all my friends they were ribbing me about my low-tech phones and how they don't reflect my lifestyle (that of a jet-setting C.O.O.). I don't know if it was because I hadn't seen Margaux in a long while, but her exasperated amusement over how I still haven't upgraded to a better cell phone was the final nudge I needed to realize what all my friends have been telling me all along: I really do need a phone that's more versatile and projects a more presentable image (when I was still using my 6108, cracked casing and all, my mom always implored me not to bring it out in front of suppliers or clients, lest they think business was so bad that I couldn't afford a decent phone).

In that same conversation with Kat and Margaux, we got to talking about so-called smartphones (cell phones that double as PDAs), and Margaux gave me a rundown of the most popular brands and models. When Blackberries were mentioned and compared with other QWERTY keypad phones, it suddenly occurred to me that I never seriously entertained the idea of owning a QWERTY phone, which actually might be a good fit for someone like me who texts in full (and who's never been comfortable using a touchscreen-- I've all but abandoned my Palm Tungsten T5 and I returned the LG Viewty my parents got me for my last birthday). So over the weekend I did some research and came across the Nokia E71, which is amazingly compact for a QWERTY phone, and has all the features a busy working woman could need on the go, including WiFi and advanced email capabilities. The more online reviews I read on the E71, the more psyched I got at the prospect of owning a respectable and kickass phone for once in my life. Yes, I'm going to miss my 6108 but I think it's time to let go and move on, especially as I mature *ahem* and move up in the world.

* * *

Before my brother left for Beijing, we bought an MSI Wind, one of those "netbooks" or mini-laptops that are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Bens brought it with him, the plan being to let him use it while he's abroad, then pass it on for communal use in our office. However, I have a feeling Bens is now so attached to the Wind that he probably won't give it up when he returns. I am now very tempted to buy a netbook of my own, not only to serve the original purpose of having a laptop handy at the office for presentations, but also to have a portable laptop for my frequent trips abroad. True, my dad's Vaio would do, but I'm loath to subject such an expensive piece of hardware to all that grunt work. Besides, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 is so cute! I'm hankering for a blue one, but the Philippine Lenovo site doesn't feature that color yet. I'm also hoping they release a 6-cell battery for this model, so I might hold out until 2009 to get it (in blue!).

* * *

Yeah, yeah, I know Christmas isn't supposed to be a commercial holiday and we shouldn't lose sight of the true reason for the season, but come on, can't a girl push her luck with Santa (or spend her Christmas bonus on a luxury item or two)?