The Heavens

The night sky over the hills of Himanag, Lagonoy, Camarines Sur. There’s Saturn as a bonus! For this shot: @18mm, ISO 1600, 30″, f/3.5. Taken May 13, 2016.

It was more than fifteen years ago since the very first time I saw the Milky Way. I was staying in my aunt’s place in an island fishing village in the Bicol region during the summer vacation. I woke up at around three in the morning to join the older men tend their fish cages. And as I looked up in the sky there it is. I just could not believe it. It was almost a magical feeling. I grew up in the city and there aren’t many stars visible through the city’s haze and pollution. So, the first time I saw it, I knew it got to be the Milky Way. And when the summer was over and another school year started, I used to tell my friends and classmates all about it. We were young kids. But sadly they don’t seem to share my excitement – which was fine with me. They always think of me then as rather eccentric kid, who always come up with strange stories of island adventures every time summer vacation is over.

So I then promised myself that in the future I’ll buy me a nice camera to take a snapshot of what I saw.

Once Again

Every morning when the dawn breaks, I have renewed hope. In this photo, the sun had just risen and was strolling under our pomelo tree in Candelaria, Quezon Province. For me, every morning was a sight to behold.

I’m back!

So, it’s been ages since my last post. And I never have imagined that I’d be writing once again. I’ll just take this opportunity to tell a very short story about what happened to me since my last post.

I’ve been struggling on how to fix my life. Turns out that the company I have worked with as a writer cannot financially sustain its operations and had to lay off several employees. And since I was the newest member, I was the weakest link. Up until know, I still wonder on how a media company would possibly be able to keep on running, broadcast worldwide, and pay about fifty employees with just selling geomancy and feng shui stuffs as source of income. I mean, seriously, I was very ambitious on the owner’s part. But then, that was a different story.

Just last year, I met a former co-worker from that company and told that sometime after we were laid-off, our former boss and owner of the media company faced a lawsuit, charged with estafa. Well, I thought, that figures.

Life was hard. Life of joblessness was churning my soul. I simply couldn’t figure out what was happening to my life. I have a family. I couldn’t simply give up, even if I desperately wanted to. They need me.

In the first months of 2014 things just got worse for me. Due to some dire circumstances me and my family were forced to move from our urban home in Bacoor City and to live in the rural backwaters of  Candelaria, Quezon Province. My father-in-law lived their in his childhood. And since his mother died recently and the house was left abandoned he offered me the house for us to live in. That time, I already have two sons – my eldest was four years and my youngest was turning one – and my wife was pregnant to our daughter.

I was used to living the life in the rural setting. During my own childhood and my teenage years, i used to spend my two-month summer vacation every year in my mother’s home village in Camarines Sur, Bicol Region. I had experienced living without electricity and running water, with the only means of connectivity to the modern civilization was a battery-powered transistor radio. So living in Candelaria wasn’t all that difficult for me – even if I have to gather firewood for cooking. As for my kids, they seem to be doing fine. They don’t mind at all living in the countryside. For my thinking, what’s wrong for them living there? They got to breath unpolluted air, the vegetables they eat are fresher, and the they got a quiet neighborhood.

My wife, however, wasn’t all that amused. She gave me all kinds of hell because she didn’t like living in the province. She was born and raised in the city and probably have no experiences whatsoever on living a rural life for more than a week. I totally understand her complaints and displeasure, I mean, I couldn’t agree more that we were facing a very serious problem of unemployment and having to borrow money from my mother to feed my family. But by that time, what choice do we have? We had nowhere to go. Candelaria was all where we can run to and  we had to make the most of it. We just had to be patient and wait and see and try to figure out how we can earn money to make ends meet.

To be honest, despite all the hardships, I found happiness in Candelaria. There was peace. There was quiet. The people are nice. During the first weeks of living there, I felt that I belong there. It was home. And although we were still struggling on figuring out on how to make money, I rediscovered my skills and talent. Or maybe I should say I was forced to. And I was happy about it. Because for once I get to realize that my future is in my hands. I’ve been overlooking my artistic skills for years. Maybe I could resume drawing and painting and other artworks then sell them. I could totally use the quietness and the tranquility of my new surroundings to regenerate my soul! I could totally use my passion for cooking for opening up a business!

Pancit Habhab, one of the reasons I fell in love with Candelaria. Most eat it without the use of utensils, hence the word “habhab”, but I devour it using chopsticks.

Suddenly, the possibilities were enormous. There were still hard works that had to be done and odds are tremendous. But the possibilities were there. And that gave me hope.

But none ever happened. Nature has a way of rearranging itself, our lives, and our dreams. In July 2014 we were struck very hard by a devastating typhoon. Never in my entire life have I experienced such violence from nature. It was just the first one for the year’s typhoon season. In the middle of the night the house was flooded due to relentless rain brought by the typhoon. The house was not destroyed, though. But most of our things got soaked in the muddy flood water. We were so overwhelmed and the conditions unbearable for my family that we decided to go back to Bacoor City. That time, it was already alright for us to return there.

Wild flowers bloom on our forested backyard.

Looking back, I had learned pretty hard lessons. It seems that I was purged. I was made to look deeply into myself and made me reassess my life. Of course I felt sorry for my family especially for my wife. But then again we had no choice.

By June 2014, our pomelo started blooming, promising sweet pomelos. Something to look forward to.

Storms may come and go. They test our strength. The house was still there until now. Worn and neglected maybe, but it’s still there standing, waiting for its new occupant.

Looking back I am very grateful because in times of my troubles I found shelter. And in the middle of hardships I found true peace of mind and happiness. And most of all I found renewed hope. Everything happens for a reason.

Mind Your Own Business

Many of us dreams of one day becoming our own boss. Unfortunately most of us Filipinos are not trained to be one. From our childhood, we are told to study very hard in order that when we grow up and eventually finish college, we would land in a good paying job. We were casted with that kind of mindset. And with the current situation of our country’s economy, many are not up for it. Many fear of the idea of losing.

We cannot go on being employees forever. In setting up your own business, you get to provide employment for yourself, and in broad spectrum, you provide employment to others. You can set your own working hours, provided of course you can answer the needs of your clients. You can set up your own house rules in your workplace. You get to exercise absolute control of everything at your disposal.

There is a great sense of fulfillment when you run your own business. You see your ideas and well-thought plans put at work. And providing an employment to others, and honing their skills in hopes that someday they too can use their own trade to provide employment themselves, is a very rewarding accomplishment.

You put your reputation on the line, so it is very important to be true to your words all the time. Life is a gamble. It is either you choose not to take any chances and stay well within the comforts of your employer’s office or you can place a bet on your own abilities for your own advancement. Life, as we know it, is all about taking chances. We create our own reality. The fact that we are short of cash is not a proper excuse; there are always ways to start. It is limited only to your imagination.

The power of your thoughts, your ideas, and your dreams can only manifest itself when you act on it. If you simply chose to sit and wait for whatever life may bring you, definitely nothing will happen. You have to pull your thoughts together and make your ideas into reality. Go out of your comfort zone and explore your own skills and abilities, and soon you’ll find out what rewards await for those who have the determination for it.


Ain’t No Golds In The Pyramids

During one of my college days, I was contacted by someone who identified herself as a businesswoman and offers me to join a seminar regarding a new business opportunity that I might interest me.i didn’t know how that woman got my number, and suspicion was pushed aside by excitement. Eager to earn money and naivety attributes, I agreed to attend – at least just to see what was going on. I was psyched and excited because for the first time I get to become part (I thought) of something big, and eager more to be called a businessman myself.

The “business meeting” was held in a building in Makati’s financial district, and at an unusual schedule – it started 8 in the evening and it went painfully long that night. A man in a sleek suit came in front of his audience and began boasting his accumulation of wealth so short a time during his service with the business organization. He definitely talks a lot, but little did he explain much about the nature of the products they offer and their organizational structure is not clear. All he talked about, all his keywords, is just “make big money fast”.

Here are some of his keywords and catchphrases:

  • “Make money fast”
  • “I was able to buy my own car in a period of six months…”
  • “Your money’s growth is proportional to the numbers of people you can persuade to join us…”
  • “Admit to yourself that you are greedy…”
  • “Live in luxury while your money works for you…”
  • “Invest… just invest…”

All I have to do, they said, is to invest and create a vast portfolio of contacts and sure as hell my money that time will multiply ten folds in just six months. Amazed, I asked further about the product I am to offer if ever, indeed, I invest. It was a “machine” with that laser or something that was “the answer to all sickness”. All there was to do, they say, was simply to place the patient’s palm in front of the laser beam and the illness will be identified and given medication recommendations in an instant.

Well, I’m not a science geek, and my understanding in science and technology, particularly in particle physics, is not very deep. But I’m not stupid enough to believe that there are such machines like they are offering. Dismayed and a little bit dumbfounded, I politely turned down all their offer and refused to give them any contact information of my friends.

Welcome, my friend, to world of pyramiding scams! A place filled with empty promises and guaranteed risks.

If I was not wise enough and gave in to what they’re saying, I would have shelled out my life’s saving in hopes to gain big time only to learn later that it was a sham, and probably dragged someone else to my own fate.

They will promise you great returns but at the same time not telling you much about their line of trade and focused only on accumulating wealth. Plus, many other people would attend the so-called meeting. But the truth is, many of them are accomplices acting to be participants. And they are rehearsed to applause everything the speaker would say. And they will depict themselves to be in total agreement to the speaker. In short their job is to create an atmosphere of exaggerated optimism. And it is funny because they are strategically placed between the innocent prospective investors. They are playing with your psychology as well.

The best thing when you encounter something like this is to be wise. Never let your guards down. Watch out for red flags that would indicate their falseness. It just takes a common sense to do so. Make quick mental calculations: to multiply your current investment in such an overstated rate is out of this world. It’s far from reality as real investments take time and industrious undertakings. Even if you could have a good portfolio in the stock market, it still takes time before you could enjoy big earnings. And do not let yourself be taken by those “wonder machines” produces miracles as their main products. Teach yourself to be intelligent. If you really want to go into a business, make one that is in line with interests and skills.

A great day to all the Filipinos around the globe! Stay sharp always!