Of Condoms and AIDS

I assume almost every Filipino of voting age is now aware of the ongoing scuffle between the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and the Department of Health headed by the newly appointed Esperanza Cabral. Secretary Cabral began distributing condoms for the public to the ire of our moral guardians. The two opposite poles of the debate now are either you are a pro-condom who believes that condom can readily prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS or unabated pregnancies, or an anti-condom who believes that condom in the first place should never be part of the preventive menu. For the sake of logic and reason, let’s pause for a while and listen to AIDS expert Edward Green, a Senior Research Scientist at Harvard School of Public Health. I believe he got something reasonable aside from the fiery casts of moral ideologies around. Here’s a quote from his article from The Washington Post:

“In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations’ AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. (The authors eventually managed to publish their findings in the quarterly Studies in Family Planning.) Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa. In a 2008 article in Science called “Reassessing HIV Prevention” 10 AIDS experts concluded that “consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Earth Hour 2009: DesertFishing Joins

earth-hour DesertFishing joins Earth Hour 2009.

“Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.”

Neighborhood Irresponsible Borrowers Association

Have you found yourself in a taut situation when your body and brain simply craves for a good laugh? That all you want is a good stretch of laughter? I’m sure you do. Then the brain keeps on opening a folder of files of some healthy laughs, perhaps of 10 or 15 years ago?

“So? Where’s the marathon DVD of Gods Must Be Crazy and Mr. Bean?” I asked my wife.

Ay naku, nabubuwisit na ako (This is really pestering me.)” she pingbacked.

Mr. Bean and Nixau have been stacked in a neighbor’s badlands sandstorms probably are all over them now. Wifey has been retrieving those and this good family keeps on promising to return come armageddon time. Welcome to the Neighborhood Irresponsible Borrowers Association. Membership is free unlike the fallen Blockbuster. In lieu of a borrower’s card, airy assurances suffice.

I’m cool-minded and often reasonable; she’s both fiery and reasonable. The moment she steps out of our gate, expect a litany of blazing no-stumbling arguments enough to silence or shame the neighbor on why they should return Gods Must Be Crazy or Mr. Bean. And they are one of our closest, liked neighbors.

What do you think of us? Morons?

For a couple of days, she bashed them for being irresponsible borrowers. Beyond her need to laugh, she wanted respect. We want respect even in small transactions. They panicked only to find out those DVDs were lent out by their son to a friend. Welcome to the Neighborhood Irreponsible Association – Timbuktu Chapter.

The day after, we billeted the neighborhood for a simple street mini-party of mango float and bihon and Italian pasta on olive oil and mushroom that all of them had never tasted before. She’s a superb cook! We talked and laughed and ate and forgot for a while Mr. Bean and Nixau. The hearty get-together was equally real as her rage.

A Janitor as Phlebotomist?

It’s a regular workday and out of the stream of an ordinary under-the-blue-sky garden chores, some surprising revelations could pop up out of an ordinary conversation. Dried leaves here and there, not necessarily in the bulk of a seasonal fall. Candy wrappers to pick up, plants to trim and calamansi and guava trees to sprinkle with bat’s manure. We were doing those along with one kitchen staff and our maintenance guy, as we lung out our frustration over the current LPG hoarding perhaps in the entire land. Almost every nook in this dreaded city, there’s nowhere to refill the tank and if there is, it’s on a reservation basis like organ transplant. From Wall Street to Taft Avenue, it’s the same familiar disease that’s infecting society – greed. Now, the price of charcoal or uling rocketed to 10 pesos, double its price 1 week ago because households are now using it in lieu of LPG. Another social disease of opportunism. We feel a little nostalgic, the three of us, as we reminisce life in the province where charcoal is almost free and root crops, readily available come famine time. Except for the dearth of money, life in the province is actually less offensive to our moral and emotional sensitivity. The friendliness, the laid back pace, the less adulterated air we can breathe – the calm abiding with Mother Time. If you have been in the jungle of a crowded , polluted megapolis like Manila for long, it is easy to miss those, or even wish retirement is just around the corner. But not yet, because “we who are born in the water,” said theologian Tertullian, still have a lot of swimming to go for some technicolor reasons like reaching our dream, exploring our potential, etc. So the three of us touch the ground, caress some plants, and prune some trees. We have to continue tilling the garden of our dreams in an urban jungle.

But here’s the twist.

Not everything provincial has the touch of innocence. And from charcoal, we move to our experience with hospitals in the province. Lack of money aside, the city provides easy access to good hospitals and services that life in the province doesn’t. I was already old enough as an adolescent to recall that anti-rabies injection in our hometown was not always available that a victim had to be transported via public jeepney or ambulance (depending on its running condition or availability) 45 minutes away to a provincial hospital. By then, we had a provincial hospital and under the Republic Act 8255 of 1997, had evolved into a Regional Hospital. One memory of our kitchen staff I had conversation with, one that must be etched irrevocably (all of us I guess have a repository of unforgettable hospital memories) in her brain was how a janitor became her phlebotomist while she was a patient in this hospital some years back. The night before, she was on NPO and waited till the following day, until 1 PM, for someone to draw some blood. No one came not until she complained all the way to the nurses’ station. While doing the stint, the blood drawer admitted in her face that her main job is janitorial and was only trained and certificated by the hospital for some “minor phlebotomy works”. I was shocked to hear her story, trying to be civilized by not drawing out conclusion on the state of hospitals in the province. But how could a department of health explain such a practice granting this happened? Absolutely, it was a spontaneous confession from her, never tied up whatsoever with any law firm. And for all we know, the poor, they are the least who can afford to complain. Just pure conversation – the 3 of us while tidying up our small yard of responsibility.

“Belo Touches My Skin. Who Touches Yours?”

The Philippine population is a young population. It’s getting more young derma courtesy of a handful of stylish cosmetic surgeons around. The gospel according to Belo and Calayan makes us wonder if indeed, ageing is simply a matter of “feeling sluggish old” or “feeling vibrant young”. In a way, there’s a subtle rebellion against the physical process; from another angle, if you feel extinguishable, it’s tantamount (another extinguishable college term) to a routine bodily check on the expiration date. Dra. Belo herself is setting an example for the crowd, walking the talk of sort, living what she preaches. At the prime of her midlife and having grownup kids swirling around her, who would disagree of the kind of vibrancy that even the world of entertainment picks up – her nimble manner of speech, and her honest, hurting failed love with the young doctor Hayden Kho, a no-nonsense. Somewhere, between the main goal of cosmetic surgery and attitude is what we can call consistency that is income-generating, too. I need the last one.

Malamang, ang kaibigan kong mamalakaya na si Mang Eddie ng Brgy. Cogon, Cordova, Cebu (parang plug lang ni Kuya Lars) ay alam na until now, Dra. Belo is still hurting from that broken 3-year relationship. Malamang ay alam nya rin na business goes on as Dra. Belo gets wiser and more careful in choosing her endorsers. Ang tanong lang kasi -sa kabila ng kaalaman ni Mang Eddie, may paki ba siya habang tumatanda at kumakapal ang nasusunog nyang balat sa hampas ng maalat na tubig at hagupit ng sikat ni Haring Araw? Sa totoo lang, tuloy lang naman tayo kung saan ang hanap-buhay. Is there anything that feels more physically and privately beautiful than a filled stomach?

Tied up to the idea of consistency. I remember when we were in the Novitiate, some of us used to hum or sing Jose Mari Chan’s songs while washing the dishes or sweeping the chapel:

We’re on the road
We move from place to place
And oftentimes when I’m about to call it home
We’d have to move along
Life is a constant change…”

It’s our high school grad song. Pang-procession minsan pakinggan depende sa mood. At siguro, hindi lang namin namamalayan, those silent testosterone are already boxing our prostate glands:

It’s 2am we’re lying in bed
Stillness all around there’s not a sound except in my head
Of happy songs children laughing
Kids celebrating youth like it never would end”

The moment our Novice Master would catch our un-guarded romantic moments, he would give us a teasing smirk despite his talent in music.

“Stop it!”
“Father naman. Ba’t ayaw mo sa mga kanta ni Jose Mari Chan?”
“I like him as a person. I don’t like his songs. Pang-teenager ba. Parang hindi bagay sa edad nya.”

Toinks! Paano, Beethoven ang mga tinutugtog ni Father. In Dra. Belo’s case, she is becoming a cultural symbol of an innovative defiance against ageing, the inner drive within us to count in that youthful energy regardless of our level on the chronological ruler, an energy we can always harness in order  to live a more dynamic life. Sabi ko sa inyo, attitude counts also. Much more if you have the money these days. Question: ang mga mangingisda natin, kaya pa kayang i-skin bleach? Kunwari lang kaya nila, kayo naman. Masarap minsan mag-pantasya. Therapeutic na, libre pa!

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Photo credit: manhattandermadoc

Church Power, Chief Justice Puno, and Dead Pinays

Political mode muna mga kapatid!

I have mentioned in one of my posts that the most-read entry in this blog is the “Grain of Desert Sand” and I’m happy that it is for a cluster of reasons. First, it is a Spirit-guided creative, personal reflection. Second, it is Scriptural. Third, it is both religious and political. Lastly, it caps what this blog is all about, again, to convey the irrelevance at times, the humble admission of the shortness of human efforts or institutions before God who always summons us to “go deep and lower our nets.” Last night, while watching the evening news, I was all the more elated how this post resounded with the Chief Justice Puno’s call for a moral force in this country. Then this morning, The Daily Tribune had this headline of a prelate’s admission on how the Church has failed in her moral mission. The admission came from the most politically involved prelate of the Hierarchy – Bishop Deogracias Iniguez. To quote him:

It seems our evangelization of the faithful is not that deep enough, especially in terms of their role to the country and the society,’’

Meanwhile, UNICEF continues to report that 11 Filipino women die of childbirth each day. I believe a “deeper look” at the current policies and their “shortness” will help us appreciate and mainstream interventions known to be effective and applied successfully in other countries.

Fare forward, yutang batoon (rocky land) matud pa sa mga Boholano!

“Ti, ano na, salumon ko?” (Tagalog Post)

Ewan ko lang sa inyo pero kung ang Yuropa ay multilingual kagaya ng isang shipDutch misyonero na nagiging guro ko, driver, taga-bayad ng tuition, wedding coordinator, maintenance manager, cashier at taga-order ng ostiya at Mompo, eh tayo din naman mga Noypi. Ang kwento daw nya kasi, noong nasa seminaryo pa sila, sa oras ng pagkain, iba-iba ang mesa – may mesa para mag-English, may mesa para mag-Pranses, may mesa para mag-Aleman, may mesa para mag-Latin. Kung saan ka nakaupo, yun ang lengguwaheng bibigkasin mo. Para yung ningas-kogon na karanasan natin sa high school na pag nagbibisaya o nagtatagalog ka sa oras ng Englisan, ipapalinis sa yo ang isa o dalawang kubeta ng iskul. O di kaya’y magmumulta ka na lang para iwas-kadiri. Pero ang totoo, karamihan din ng Pinoy ay multilingual, kahit na hindi dumaan ng seminaryo o di kaya’y nakapagtapos ng high school. Madalas, pag ikaw ay magala sa bansa natin, nakakapulot ka maya’t maya ng lengguwahe ng taga-South o taga-North. Halimbawa na lang, itong isang jack-of-all-trade namin na minsan pay nakulong na rin sa pagpapakita ng ari dahil sa kalasingan – marunong sya mag-Bikol, Ilonggo, salitang Dabaw, Tagalog, at konting Waray. Kahit sa kanyang pagka-malibog, nakakaaliw na rin pakinggan ang kanyang pagiging multilingual. Sa kanya galing tong kwentong ito habang kinekwento nya rin na pag may bagyo sa Bikol, uunahin pa ng mga taga-Bikol ang pagsalba sa mga puno ng sili kay sa sarili nilang mga bahay.

Minsa’y sumakay sya ng barko at habang nasa laot tumatawid ang dambuhala, napansin nya ang isang mama hawak ang cellphone habang may kinakausap. Sa hindi inaasahang tagpo at dahil na rin malamang sa katangahan, nahulog ang mala-telepono na cellphone ng mama. Hindi alam kung ano ang gagawin, biglang lumapit siya sa isang crew ng barko at nagsumbong:

Mama: Sir, nahulog ang cellphone ko.

Crew: Ti, ano na, salumon ko?

(Tagalog: Ano ngayon, sisisirin ko?)
(Waray: Ano na ma, malurop ak? – thank you Nortehanon for the correction.)
(Bikol: Anungon yan, sisisidon ko?)
(Itawis of Cagayan Valley: Niko gafen, masisid nak gafen?)
(Ilocano: An ya, papanac?)
(Panggalatok of Pangasinan: An totan, laen ko?)
(Surigaonon: Nan kuman, ako sayumon?)
(Boholano: Unja, imo ko pasawmon?)
(Cebuano: Unya karon, mosawom ko?)

Ang galing ng crew na yon, ano?

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Photo credit: britz444