Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Dios Le Pido by Juanes

The Colombian singer Juanes has this really special poetic song called A Dios Le Pido (I Ask God), the music video of which you can see at youtube here. It's a prayer anthem, protest statement and a love song rolled into one, best listened to full blast, with lyrics so poignant that one must deign admit all is not lost yet in rock. The music is a mixture of cumbia, reggae and Colombian folk. You can read the Spanish lyrics here, and below is the English translation:

That my eyes open by the light of your face
I ask (this of) God
That my mother will not die and that my father remembers me
I ask God
That you stay at my side and that you never leave me again, my life
I ask God
That my soul does not rest when it is loving you, my heaven
I ask God

For the days that I have left and the nights that have not yet come
I ask God
For the children of my children and the children of your children
I ask God
That my people do not shed so much blood and rise again
I ask God
That my soul does not rest when it comes to loving you, my heaven
I ask God

A second more of life to give you and my whole heart to surrender to you
A second more of life to give you and by your side for ever be
A second more of life
I ask God

That if I die it is of love and if I fall in love it is with you
And that this heart is made of your voice
Every day I ask God
That if I die it is of love and if I fall in love it is with you
And that of your voice this heart can be
I ask God

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Challenging Speaker De Venecia

The challenge Kampi President Luis Villafuerte put up against Speaker De Venecia for the speakership of the House seems to be fizzling out faster than you can say committee chairmanships. Speaker De Venecia, now a septuagenarian, seems to be heading for a fifth term as Speaker.

It is not hard to imagine how the Speaker will once again pull off another term. No other personality comes close to De Venecia as an ideal power fiscalizer: friendly to everybody, never badmouthed anyone, always ready to give due consideration to just about every opinion voiced in the House. His disposition is of the type usually seen only in the most serene yogi. The personality of a perfect consigliere, in short.

Congressman Pablo Garcia of Cebu, the challenger, is also not actively seeking the position despite Villafuerte's brandishing his name around like a Damocles' sword on Speaker De Venecia's neck. As the Inquirer reports today, Garcia was only informed by Villafuerte through phone that he has been duly appointed by Kampi to challenge De Venecia. Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros, however, smells something sinister in this half-serious political moro-moro (or lutong macao, choose your own political incorrectness) at the House. Acording to her, Kampi might just be challenging Speaker De Venecia in order to gain the House minority leadership, with the goal of the Arroyo administration controlling both the majority and the minority in the Lower House.

Web prowl

Applications for the 2008-2009 SEASREP grants are now open. Visit the grant page here. Shopping for a safe personal care product? The Skin Deep database of cosmetic products maintained by the Environmental Working Group has been updated. When short people fall in love with a game for tall people, you get imported players trying to look ridiculously shorter. Slate has an article on the Philippines' incredible shrinking basketball players. From Taipei Times, here's what Taiwan means to the United States. The US Defense Department has released its China Military Power Report (pdf) and concludes that China does not yet have "the military capability to accomplish with confidence its political objectives on the island, particularly when confronted with the prospect of U.S. intervention." Many people struggle with their subscription-only Norton Antivirus when they can have the free and equally protective AVG antivirus.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Currently listening to Allegri's Miserere by the Tallis Scholars

In the Does-God-exist-or-not debate, many arguments are presented in favor of God's existence: St. Anselm's ontology, Descartes, Pascal's wager, intelligent design, --and Handels' Messiah. Surely, some say, a work so great can only be divinely inspired. Well, if Handel's Messiah should count as a proof, Allegri's Miserere must be a confirmation.

Allegri's Miserere is an a cappella piece of choral music, a musical setting of Psalm 51, whose first line is Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam (Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness). Composed during the 1630's and sung at the Sistine Chapel every Holy Week, playing it outside the chapel was forbidden and writing it down or performing it was for a time punishable by excommunication. It is said that the young Mozart after attending a Wednesday service feverishly wrote it down from memory. Although the claim is supported by family letters, the actual transcription made by Mozart was never found.

The performance of the Miserere by the Tallis Scholars is I've read one of the best. The other tracks in this album (Mundy and Pallestrina) I don't care much for, but the Miserere is simply superb.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Minding our cholesterol levels

I got my blood tested yesterday for sugar and cholesterol, and although the results say I'm not going to die of a heart attack anytime soon, my blood levels are not that optimal either.

My total cholesterol is at 210.38 mg/dL; desirable level is below 200. My LDL "bad" cholesterol level is at 108.85 mg/dL. According to Mayo Clinic, that's only near optimal and should be below 70 instead.

Now, I'm trying to think hard how I can possibly bring those two figures down without giving up my carnivorous eating habits. If it's any consolation, my HDL "good" cholesterol level is quite impressive at 85.38 mg/dL; an HDL level above 60 mg/dL is already considered optimal and I exceeded that by fifteen solid points! My triglycerides level is also low at 84 mg/dL, which is quite good, and my fasting blood sugar is also at the low end of the acceptable range so my limbs are safe from the ravages of diabetes for now.

It is important to mind our cholesterol levels because they are risk factors to our developing heart disease, which is the number one killer in the Philippines today. You can have your cholesterols and sugar checked easily. You will be instructed to fast (meaning no eating or drinking) for nine to twelve hours before your blood will be extracted for examination. At the Best Diagnostic Clinic at 94 Masikap Extension, Diliman, where I got myself tested, total damage was P530.00. If you decide to have yourself tested, here's the Mayo Clinic guide to interpreting your cholesterol numbers.

I'm on the Mainichi Shimbun!

Our protest at the Japanese embassy last May 3, Japan's Constitution Day, against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement was featured by several local papers and made it to Japan's Mainichi Shimbun. We were parodying the famous Iwo Jima picture and pointing out that Japan is trying to conquer Southeast Asia and make the region its waste dump. That's me standing on the leftmost. For the bigger picture and story, here's the Eco Waste Coalition blog entry on the protest.

Have you no decency, Monsieur Brawner?

The COMELEC decision disqualifying Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo is nothing more but a desperate and cheap tactic on the part of the Villafuertes, through buddies Brawner and Ferrer at the COMELEC, to snatch city hall from Robredo, who defeated two Villafuertes before and is set to massacre another Vilafuerte, this time a nephew, on May 11.

The strategy up Villafuerte's sleeve is to confuse the Naga voters with an obfuscating disqualification decision and discourage them from voting for a mayor that could ultimately be declared unfit to govern by reason of Chinese ancestry. Once the heat of the election is over, there is almost no doubt that Robredo would once again be declared a Filipino.

For the jaded, this might seem just another case of a local government executive suspended or dismissed, but Robredo is not just your average city mayor. A Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, he is one of the most highly esteemed mayors, and enjoys a reputation like no other local government executive in the country.

Mayor Robredo lamented in one interview that he is often declared to be Chinese whenevever there's an election, but he reverts back to being a Filipino after. He also wondered why Villafuerte did not bother asking for his citizenship when they were running together in the same ticket in the past.

Teresita Ang See is, of course, incensed by such racial McCarthyism. She asks (see the PCIJ blog entry here):

It defies anyone’s imagination. How can a Jesse Robredo, a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee from the Philippines, who was born, bred and educated as a Filipino, elected for five terms and performed spectacularly as a Mayor, finally be disqualified from his Mayorship this last minute because of his Chinese ancestry? Next, are we Filipinos going to be asked to disclaim our national heroes for being of Chinese descent too?

I suspect there's another reason why Villafuerte is questioning Robredo's citizenship--and that is to tap the latent anti-Chinese sentiment in the hearts of some people. Let us admit it: there are still some people who think Filipinos of Chinese descent should just stay in Chinatown. The good thing about Mayor Robredo is that he does not carry a monosyllabic surname (good decision on the part of his father for choosing Robredo as a name) and his facial features aren't really that Chinese.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Where does Pichay get all his money?

Given the extraordinary insouciance Congressman Pichay regards his humungous campaign expenditures, one would think he has a magical tree back in Surigao which sprouts foliar cash.

The group Pera’t Pulitika claims that Pichay had already spent P151.7 million, while Villar had spent P138.2 million, both exceeding the P135 million ceiling. When confronted with the inconvenient fact that despite his being the biggest spender so far he's still out of the magic 12 circle in polls, Pichay pertly answers that all he needs is more time and more cash for ads and he'll surely get there by the time the voting precincts call it a a day.

Now, nothing surprising about Villar being a big spender; he is, after all, one of the country's business tycoons. But Pichay? What with the lowly price pechay is fetching these days in the market, the money surely couldn't have come out of the mere tilling of the land. According to this Newsbreak report, Pichay, whose total assets only amount to some P33 million, has the enviable good fortune of having rich and generous friends like Lucio Co, whose touch, it is said, turns everyhting into pure gold.

We'll see in a month's time if Pichay and his friends' investment pay off. If he wins, the Filipino people would have confirmed their fondness for the vegetable; if he loses, well, you know what they say, a fool is soon parted with his money.

Web prowl

Read the papers presented and other sundry notes from the EIGHTH ANNUAL GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE on The Rise of Asia and its Implications held in Beijing last January. In this age of discrimination and general snide behaviour, what do you do if you're in an interfacial marriage? From Time, here's some advise when your spouse is hotter than you. Before they became both famous, Zhang Ziyi and Liu Ye (he's the guy from Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, and The Promise)were classmates at the Beijing Theater University and there's a youtube video of them performing in a skit back then. To protect the forests, formal or customary tenure must be enforced to avoid the Tragedy of the commons.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Much ado about nothing

There is much debate once again about the desirability of English versus Filipino as a medium of instruction as a group of scholars questioned before the Supreme Court the implementation of Executive Order 210, which seeks to promote the use of the English language in Philippine schools. The Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said EO will promote the language by:

1. Teaching English as a second language starting with Grade 1;

2. Using English as the medium of instruction of English, Mathematics, and Science and Health subjects starting Grade 3; and

3. Using English as the primary medium of instruction in all public and private schools in the secondary level.

What is so objectionable about the above?

Ever since I can remember, English is being taught as a second language with Grade 1. English is also the medium of instruction for English, Science and Math. We all learned multiplication and not multipilikasyon.

In this respect, President Arroyo's EO is simply codifying what is actually happening in our schools for quite some time now. The EO would therefore be ineffective in promoting the English language for the simple reason that it effectuates no new radical policy change at all in the primary school level. English is also the de facto primary medium of instruction for secondary schools now. The EO would just be validating and giving a more official imprimatur the reality tha has been well established by past practice.

The EO may have made the call center lobby happy, but I honestly don't see how it will improve the English language in this country.