Once Again

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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!

VERNAL EQUINOX

If only the tree could talk, it will tell everything to you...
If only the tree could talk, it will tell everything to you…

 

Out of nowhere it came

Melancholic life, just a game

Turbulent mind drifts to tame

Only time was there to blame

 

Gazing at the tree from the distance

Careful not show own existence

Like a ghost without a trace

Condemned to oblivious place

 

The rose was there for earth to feast upon

Encased within the trees, the wretched soul

Corpses litter the fields, decaying, rotten

Larvae consume the flowers, men by the ghouls

 

Beauty I found within darkness itself

Hymn of my heart that beats no longer

Veins of thorns plucked their rhythm

And blood spills out for song to linger

 

With life gone out of sight

Weeping pheasants cursed their flight

Trembling to face the sacred light

And vainly struggle with all their might

 

At last, the time has come

I wake up back to my reality

This vernal equinox so short my night!

My dream rests into tranquility.

 

 

If Pencils Could Talk And Share Stories!!

 

A pencil drawing of Trish – a relative of mine. Some details on this drawing were deliberately omitted, while some details were added on assumption. Here and there, you can spot some errors. It’s a work-in-progress, prematurely halted. Took me four days to “finish” it, approximately two hours a day. Finally, something to match that of Isabelle’s bragging on how fast she can finish a drawing.

For this I used pencils numbered 2B, 5B and 7B semi-rough canson paper. It was very uncharacteristic of me to use  a 7B, since I do not like the texture made by pencil with that number. But since I lost my 5B in the middle of my work on this sketch, and I don’t have the intention of prolonging the time of working on this one, I simply didn’t have a choice but to use 7B. No smudging stump was used.

Ironically, I have two 7B pencils in my disposal. I should learn how to use them properly.

Digital manipulations have been minimal. Instead of scanning it, I used a point-and-shoot camera to “digitalize” this sketch. Brightness and contrast level were slightly adjusted. Color balance were also adjusted to make this seems to be drawn on a parchment paper.

During my third year in college, I once used an eyeliner to create a portrait. I didn’t ask for permission from my female friend – thanks Anna!, by the way – for using her eyeliner. At first she was furious at first, of course. But the sketch turned out to be good somehow. But what I didn’t know then was that cockroaches find eyeliners delectable. They ate almost a quarter of the sketch.

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Nuclearizing Philippines – The State’s Pursuit of Atomic Prowess

Mothballed. The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was left to rot.
Mothballed. The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was left to rot.

(Revised and updated, first published in November 2007)

In response with the looming nationwide energy crisis, the Philippine Government, under the Benigno Aquino III’s administration, is once again considering the idea of constructing another nuclear power plant somewhere in the country. Aside from the reason of securing adequate supply of energy, it is also due to provide cheaper alternative source of power compared to the conventional, fossil-fuel-burning source.

Why should we be concerned?

During the 2004 national election, re-election candidate Senator Juan Ponce Enrile stressed out that electric consumers are paying extra charges for the produced surplus power and even for non-operating independent power producers (indicated in the Meralco bill then as “Power Purchase Adjustments”). It was discovered that many privately owned power plants were generating but continuously earning from “energy sales”. The excess of power producers over the needed output was a result of former President Fidel V. Ramos’s measures to secure adequate energy supply.

The research and construction for another nuclear power plant would cost billions worth of taxes collected from every Filipino citizen. It is therefore imperative that people know how public funds would be used for such project; or better still if it is worth the investment. This nuclear ambition might lessen our oil dependency and might cheapen the energy. Or might do the otherwise.

Looking back in 1974, late president Ferdinand Marcos decided to push the go signal to construct a nuclear power plant in Bataan. The move was an attempt to reduce heavy oil dependency on power generation as by then the oil price started soaring high, and to resort to much cheaper alternative. Contracting the company Westinghouse for the construction of the plant, the Government of the Philippines incurred debt of a staggering contract price of US$2.3 billion.

Upon the completion of its construction, after being discovered it has numerous defects and was welcomed by massive pro-environmental protests, the Bataan Nuclear Power plant was mothballed. Aside from this, Westinghouse was investigated for alleged overpricing and bribing government officials to win the bid for the project. However, the company never got it into court. Westinghouse got the guarantees of being paid and worse, the Bataan NPP never produced a single watt for public consumption. For thirty years, the Filipino people paid paid for something of no benefit for them. The debt plus interest was paid off completely in April of 2007.

Also, factors regarding environment and health hazards have prevented the plant’s operation. The fact that the Philippines lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire makes the country prone to earthquakes. A nuclear power plant needs to situated on a very stable area. Tremors on the ground might otherwise compromise the concrete pressure vessel that houses the reactor, thus releasing radioactive contaminants into the air.

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power

As mentioned, nuclear energy is relatively cheap compared to that derived from conventional oil or coal-fired plants. Uranium, a nuclear fuel, can yield power several million times higher as of those of conventional sources. It was also once dubbed as an “infinite artificial energy source”. A single reactor could produce several hundreds of megawatts of power. Nuclear fuels, unlike fossil fuels, don’t get easily depleted, though rare by contrast. And unlike other energy sources, e.g. geothermal, hydroelectric dams, and wind, nuclear fuels are more mobile and controllable. At 100% efficiency, though it is unlikely to achieve this rate, a single kilogram of uranium fuel can produce as much electricity as almost 20 tons of coal fuel could.

However, environmentalists are raising questions over the use of nuclear power. Although a nuclear power plant releases far less greenhouse gases, radioactive by-products are created and emitted by fission reaction. Another issue is on how to dispose radioactive wastes derived from materials used in the reactor. In fact, some countries in Europe such as Germany are already seriously considering phasing out nuclear energy as power source in the not-so-distant future, and to resort to other safer alternatives. And it was even rumored that aside from Zambales, the Americans were secretly dumping their nuclear wastes in the Philippine Deep during the time they still has their naval base in Subic.

Safety is another issue to be considered. With the memories of Chernobyl accident in April 26, 1986, in Ukraine, where its reactor exploded, causing radioactive fallout in wide area, and then yet again the incident of almost meltdown of Fukushima nuclear power plant, one can easily sympathize most people’s condemnation against the use of nuclear energy for commercial purposes.

Renewable alternatives

Solar Power. There is a real infinite source of power where a nuclear reaction naturally and constantly takes place – our own Sun, that is. Solar radiation can be captured and magnified by concave mirrors to produce steam to turn turbines for electricity production. Or solar radiation can be chemically turned into electric current by means of photovoltaic or solar cells. However, a plant of this type could be very costly.

Wind Farm In Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Photo courtesy of certifiedgala.tumblr.com.
Wind Farm In Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Photo courtesy of certifiedgala.tumblr.com.

Wind Power. Instead of using thermal energy for power production, the force of the wind can turn the sails of the wind turbines for generation. An array of giant windmills along the shorelines of Bangui, Ilocos Norte, is already in operation. No greenhouse gas emissions and, at least for some, they are cute and quite a landmark to behold.

As catalyst

Having back commercial-scale nuclear technology can aide in providing higher degree of education for Filipinos.
Having back commercial-scale nuclear technology can aide in providing higher degree of education for Filipinos.

On the bright side, having back nuclear technology of this scale in the country could boost the morale of young Filipino minds to gain more interest in physical science.