One of the most difficult obstacle course in track and field is the hurdles.

These obstacles are set at a fixed distance and runners must be able to overcome them as part of the race.

I thought of writing this blog post with the aforementioned title as my central theme. As the year comes to a close, and we’re almost near the finish line, my family and I are holed up together, recalling how 2019 had been one challenging year.

Life has a way of being either beautiful or ugly. Sometimes painfully both. If there was a streak of bad luck for health issues, this was how our story began.

But our story is but one of billions of lives that intertwined in the lives of other people in 2019. And while most of us have seemed to breeze the year unscathed, the rest of us barely made it out with our sanity intact.

2019 was a difficult one. Many of my friends had seen their loved ones on the departure platform. At our age, we need to face the reality that life comes to an end. And that closure will be a disappointing truth.

But like every hurdle we go through, there will be people rooting for you to make it to the finish line. Before this year formally closes, I’d like to thank family, friends, strangers – even those I have only met recently – for their words of encouragement and never say die attitude.

2019 saw the year of the pig come to a close. The animal pig is the last of the animals in the Chinese calendar. It marks the end of the 12 year cycle. January 25, 2020 will usher in the beginning of a new animal cycle with the year of the metal rat. A new cycle of hope.

Ironically, like many other things in life, we greet another year with renewed hope and prayers for better beginnings. Fresh starts provide us with new aspirations, plans, goals…yes…resolutions.

Thank you 2019. You’ve made me stronger. More positive. And realize that somehow, not only does hope spring eternal. But daily miracles are worth praying for.

And I am grateful of the four letter word called LIFE.


Feckless belligerence

They’re everywhere.

And they show up more frequently now more than ever.

When information technology reshaped the way social media and online news has collaborated with us, some took the shorter road to being a dolt in record time. Oh, I’m not talking about a fundamental political divide here. I’m talking about plain and simple vapid minds who share an obsession with non-intelligent discussion on the “comment” section of a published article – whether it is news or an opinion.

They say that everyone is entitled to make a comment or two. Or an opinion or two. And there is no question about that. Even I, provide a personal opinion or two to socially relevant issues. Nevertheless, when you read the news online, you’ll notice those who practically claim these places as their place of residence. They have a comment for every write-up whether it is OR is not favorable to the administration. Self-opinionated, arrogant, pointless cretins who evoke monosynaptic neuronal discharges have abundantly replicated. They are either die-hard fanatics whose idolatry is beyond comprehension OR they are contemptible keyboard warriors whose fixation on reverence for income is why they do what they do and write what they write.

I don’t agree to everything that is written in the newspapers. Absolute fairness in journalism is a myth. I have encountered paid columnists (and don’t make me go that path because I can single you out) who actually dive into writing for their daily bread. I refuse to call them professionals because they have thrown out the window the very profession of unbiased journalism. They write for the sake of destroying the truth, promote dissent and divisiveness, encourage harassment and violence, and should be ashamed of what they do. There are media outlets whose objectivity in a story is slanted to what they believe is correct, in spite of lapses in accuracy. Their practice is called “envelopment journalism”, due to the fact that they receive money envelopes in exchange for the “Public Relations” promotion they do. I don’t know how and why newspapers even retain them (it’s definitely not due to political advantage. Some news outlets simply need clueless baits.) Yes. Every single newspaper has one or a multitude of them. Bias, after all, is relative.

If there is one thing I have learned in writing, it is how to tell a story. It’s the same when delivering a talk, a lecture, a speech, a campaign…and so on. The master story teller is the one that convinces the audience, which is the more captivating storyline.

When a young boy is diagnosed with leukemia, and his family had to borrow millions to sustain his treatment, the story can be told in a way that tugs at your hearts. A family in need. A suffering that is unnecessary. A miracle in the home.

Yet the same story of the boy with leukemia can be written differently. One from a place of abhorrence and grudges. A broken family due to drugs and poverty. Karma or comeuppance whose time had come.

You can choose the details to fill-in the plot. Because that’s the way the story will sell.

And so, no matter how stories are written, there will always be the feckless belligerent whose values have been eroded by blind veneration. Whose only comment when posted online are self-serving and thoughtless. Whose existence is meaningless because no ounce of kindness is good enough for them. Whatever story is written – good or bad – they only have one agenda. To disrupt social norms.

Feckless belligerence should be attacked head on instead of ignored. There is no place in civil society for them. In the age of information technology, we should learn to educate the impressionable lot who access the internet without the ability to discern what is precise from fraudulent. With so many unskilled at comprehension, the battle is real.

And the prey are plenty.

“Let sleeping dogs lie”

Social media has amped the vitriolic die hards – whether you’re talking about those for or against any administration. Some call them trolls. Others tag them as keyboard warriors.

The art of trolling was unheard of until the Cambridge Analytica scandal created a geopolitical storm. It was fabricated into social media – to generate likes, hates, discordance, disruptive behavior. Originally defined as an ugly mythical figure, the troll now means an “intentionally disruptive person on the internet”. Baiting people on the internet became known as trolling. They live in a world of lecherous anonymity. More than half are paid hard-liners who provide comments and arguments that are disturbingly biased. Any form of comprehension, reading or reasoning is thrown under the bus. The other half, well, they’re staunch supporters who simply refuse to recognize the truth. Almost 75% are aliases or fake accounts.

The fanatic will always be irrationally argumentative. Their mindsets are fixated only on the person or cause they support instead of the issue(s) being tackled. Like rabid attack dogs, logic is lost in any argument from zealots who oppose any change (either pro- or anti-administration) even when an issue is blatantly being mishandled. Culpability is not in their vocabulary. But neither is a sense of reasoning. BASTA! That’s their motto.

If you follow the arguments of these indomitable people, it is perplexing how they are able to jump from one argument to another sans a thought process nor logic, each argument nullifying the previous. Most, if not all of their reasoning is based on an interconnection of concocted fake news, unverifiable reports, and opinions from other reactionary influencers who know nothing but have personal agenda.

For the record, I have never been a fan of ANY president in my lifetime. They are titular heads, and are voted into power by people like me who hope for authentic palpable change that trickles down to the grassroots. We need to support whoever is voted into office, as long as the agenda is inclusive and serves the greater good of its citizen. There will always be issues that hound every elected government official – good or bad. But because taxpayers pay for their salaries they should provide authentic public service. Each Juan has the right to cheer every success, or to jeer every failure. There is nothing personal with calling out government officials for their lapses in judgements. Yet politics is the biggest game changer of human personality. Power and money have the ability to maneuver us into rationalizing wrong into right.

Past presidents had defining moments as well as gaps in governance. PNoy is credited for the Mamasapano tragedy. Gloria will always be remembered for Hello Garci. Erap is enshrined in plunder and perjury with the Jose Velarde accounts. Ramos was hounded by the Clark Expo Centennial scandal. Cory had coups too many to count, and the transition from the Marcos years had the Philippines literally rising from the ashes.

Yet from all these major political faux pas, many of them (and their relatives and friends) are still entrenched in the political arena and/or have taken various roles in government – because POLITICS HAS BECOME A WAY OF LIFE! It has been sadly transformed into a family business enterprise. They eventually believe that doling out favors translates to a legitimate form of helping those in need. By being deeply rooted in a dynasty, they stay buoyant, at times to the point of being shameless.

Critical thinking is at its lowest today. And I’m not talking just about the Philippines. It’s a global social disease, fueled by the internet and social media, engaging with the gullible hapless halfwits of society. The internet has found the weakest link in the world of trolls.

Overnight, the capacity to verify facts became direly lacking. People are unable to discern reliable and correct information from disinformation because they’re too lazy to cross-reference what is being dished out.

My friends and relatives tell me that in order to achieve “peace and less stress”, we need to limit our interaction with trolls because no one wins an argument with them. As my sister would say, we just need to “let things be”.

The idiom “let sleeping dogs lie” means to leave things as they are, not rekindle or even start arguments, and not discuss the matter any further. Personally, it’s a defeatist attitude. And wrong. When a spade should be called a spade, we need to stand up to what is morally, ethically and justifiably correct. We cannot slant the truth to accommodate a warped sense of entitlement by certain sectors of society for their personal gain. We cannot look the other way because we are cowered by fear of expressing personal opinions on what is wrong. Wrong is wrong and no matter how you spin wrong, it’s like a dead carcass – it will eventually stink.

A healthy intelligent debate is sorely lacking these days as a barrage of cuss words have become defining engrams as the norm. The saddest part? Even those supposedly well or better educated have come crumbling down in exchange for pieces of silver.

Good or bad, all things come to an end. History will be the ultimate judge of how a government brought the brightest light to its people or how grim those years of governance was. We need to rise beyond personal proclivity as a people whose love for a nation should be far greater than the adulation to one man or his/her band of thieves. I know we don’t live in a perfect world. It wouldn’t hurt to keep wishing on that we did.

Final food for thought.

If you think lying for people will help you, think again. The world is round.

The truth

One lazy evening, my mom and I talked about how quickly time flew. “It’s December already,” I said. She faked a smile and said, “yes, another year is about to end.”

She looked at me with a sad glaze in her eyes, and forced a smile across her face and shed her usual tears. Tears of loneliness and fears or happiness and joy? I couldn’t tell.

The conversation was a difficult one for me. I watched her beautiful face now blanketed with the wrinkles that bespoke of wisdom and hardship, of love and courage, of hope and joy, as she reminisced her younger days and our growing up years.

I held her wrinkled hands and remember how these once lovely soft hands had become callused by trials and pain.

She was feeling both sad and happy. It’s not everyday that we get to have a decent conversation, but today was one of those difficult days when you had to hear and accept some truths.

To say that 2019 was one helluva challenging year is an understatement. No one ever thought that we’d be ready for radical changes in both her life, and ours. Oftentimes we forget that we are not invincible. Reality is often a painful teacher. The unshakeable truth is, when we are aroused by the inevitable fact that we live on borrowed time, fear grips us to our very core when we come face to face with mortality.

The truth is – we cannot turn back time. No room for regrets and what ifs. Just painful, difficult, purposeful, prayerful and hopeful days ahead.

There is no equalizer to circumstances that were. They will always be disquieting reminders on how well we cared, lived and loved.

We can only make better days ahead…not in words, but in deeds.