Monday, August 26, 2013

Korean Student Essay - Second Reaction

I remember having read this Korean's essay some time ago and I even blogged about it here.
Now with the power of social media and how different the "internet-scene" is compared to seven years ago, I am amused to see this essay being circulated again.
Controlling myself and trying so hard not to be that asshole on the web who constantly says "Ugh this is old!" I realize how my views have greatly changed now that I am in my late 20's.

Reading this essay again and having realized I have greatly changed. I decided to write a reply to the person who posted it on Facebook. After typing a long comment I was about to hit enter and post it under this person's timeline when I thought it is best to just make a new blog post out of it. (Yeay two blog posts in one day!)

Okayyyy tugging at heart strings aside. Let's look at the problems of the Philippines in a more realistic sense.

I now  find this post rather condescending.
First, I want to tackle the question of what is love really?

*That fuzzy feeling you get from seeing your crush?
*That time you hugged a toddler and felt better?
*Your dad rubbing your back as he comforts you after you lost your basketball game?
*A good romp in the sack?
*Your mom cooking your favorite food when you get sick?

Let us define the word love first and then proceed to ask our self this other question.

What is love of country?

*You working your ass off for minimum wage and then contributing your hard-earned money to our government's coffers? (Rather admirable, right?)
*Is it acting like Santa Clause by being generous to each and everyone and giving all your money away? (Really?)
*Is it singing the national anthem pitch-perfectly and going bat-shit crazy if an artist will render their own interpretation?
*Is it about being so proud of your country's flag that you will make sure you go after it despite danger and calamity?


CORRUPTION is the biggest problem of our country plus a backwards system. No matter how much you "LOVE" your country if the system is corrupt then all your hard work will not pay off.

Filipinos leave in droves and go to other countries to find better opportunities to work and have a decent life. The backwards Constitution that we currently have effectively blocks most foreign investment thus making it harder for people to look for work here. Those that do come and start a business with a Filipino partner can hardly grow because of the red tape so rampant here. Graft and corruption reigns supreme.

Look at all the businesses in this country. It is dominated by oligarchs and they hardly have any competition!
Because of this monopoly they can effectively curb salaries and block any reforms that will make workers here more empowered.

Where does the tax money of a Filipino go? Instead of it going to help improve health care, education, and infrastructure of the entire country it is eaten up by corrupt politicians. They use our tax money to fund their lavish lifestyles. They set up bogus NGOs which only "help" those people close to their group.

If we want to improve our country and really address the problem let us start analyzing critically the real issues that affect us and the things we can do to address them.
Rhetoric about love of country is emotionally stirring and all but let us now start focusing on what actions we can effectively take to really improve the country we claim to love and be the driving force to see it change for the better and make it happen.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

B.I.R. and Online Shopping

Hello fellow online shoppers and online shopping enthusiasts. Allow me to inform you that B.I.R. will start collecting taxes on individuals and businesses selling products online as part of their AGGRESSIVE efforts to meet collection goal and boost government revenues. It doesn't matter if there is already a tax on shipping, handling, and if your product is from abroad there is also a tax imposed by Customs.

Personally, I have no problem with paying the right amount of taxes but knowing that BIG BUSINESSES, ESPECIALLY RUN BY OLIGARCHS, most often employ unscrupulous tax evasion practices and MANY BIG BUSINESSMEN do not pay proper taxes, this move by B.I.R. really irks me. You see, many online sellers that I know got into the business in the first place so they can look for ways and means to help augment their small incomes. Many people who work in companies almost pay up to four digits worth of taxes every pay check. Often what is left at the end of each pay period is barely enough to cover basic needs.

Now, paying taxes in itself is good as the money can be used to fund government projects that should benefit us all, most especially the hard-working tax-payer. But that is NOT the case in the Philippines, is it? The current Napoles pork barrel exposés flooding our airwaves right now is just a tip of the iceberg amidst all the graft and corruption happening in this country of ours.

Most government-run establishments that give services are disorderly, under-funded, mediocre, and inefficient. A good example would be schools. Most parents scrape every peso they earn so they can send their kids to private schools here. Many of us would not even dream of sending our kids to public schools because we know and see that it is over-crowded, lack proper facilities, and the overall atmosphere is not conducive to learning. These establishments are in this dismal state because our taxes are used instead to fund the lavish lifestyles of our politicians and their spawns. They have exuberant parties with their ostensible displays of wealth. They travel abroad and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, rubbing shoulders with international celebrities. They blog and post pictures of their latest designer acquisitions. Things that only we can dream of.

In other words, they live this way because YOU and I are funding all these. Our tax money is collected, distributed by government to our politicians, and are no longer properly accounted for.

You, online seller, staying up late to update your Facebook page with pictures of your modest merchandise and hoping you can dispose of a few items that will help augment your income will now need to contribute to all this.

It wouldn't be so bad if you know your tax money is spent on the real problems of this country of ours. But that is not the case.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Napoles Issue? Here We Go Again...

I really could not think of what to call this blog post. Napoles Issue? Here We Go Again... This is "old" news. I have not posted anything on my social networking sites about the current Napoles scandal because I see no point in all of it now. Having seen how things have turned out with the different scandals and corruption accusations that have been exposed over the years and knowing that after the fire dies down and the anger of the mob dissipate, things will continue as they once were and there will be no real reforms in place, I ask myself what's the point in all of it? The mob never learns.

I first started being aware of the news and current events of our country at a young age. Fidel V. Ramos was then president and it was during this time that I started to tune in to what my dad was listening to on the radio. Every night he would always tune into the different AM stations as soon as he gets home from work. Instead of listening to music we listened to commentaries. It was during this time, I was probably six or seven years old, that I could remember really listening to what the adults were talking about.

Over the years we have had countless exposés about corruption scandals in our government but then after a long series of senate inquiries and media hoopla once a news article reaches a certain amount of time of being talked about, people drop it off as "old issue" and the fire dies down then we collectively move on to the next controversy that catches our fancy. Be they a sex tape of some starlet or the lovelife of certain showbiz personalities made controversial yet again.

Here's just a small list of exposés and scandals I can remember that were talked about over the years.

  1. Controversy of the Clark Expo project
  2. Amari Land Scam
  3. BW Resources Scandal
  4. PCSO Funding Scandals
  5. The Luxury cars scandal during Erap's time
  6. Jueteng Scandal
  7. Fertilizer Fund Scandal
  8. Hello Garci Controversy
  9. ZTE Scandal

This is but a small list of the things that I remember. They used to be a major issue in this country. But after the fire burned out, nothing was done about the people involved. Many of them moved on to other careers or ran/held public offices. Just imagine what other forms of corruption happens behind closed doors and how much money have been squandered by these ingrates.

Am I angry? YES, very much so! But what can we do about it?

Napoles is a small pawn. Sometimes I can't help but think maybe its time we as a people start shooting or executing these officials. Maybe, just maybe once we start doing that, they'd be better at their jobs and will start serving the public for once.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

An Act of Kindness Goes A Long Way

Having read this article on the New York Times website brought back a lot of memories for me.
Growing up with many ailments due to Marfan Syndrome I had to wear braces for my scoliosis and very thick glasses for my superior lens subloxation. Life was not easy at all as I became known in school as the weirdo kid with the funny eyes and fat body trapped in "armor" (Milwauke braces).

Yet when I reflect on things now and try to recall those memories that really stood out in my deep, dark, and challenging childhood I realize that it's not the kids who made fun at me that really mattered. I survived their jeers, taunts, and bullying because no matter how hard and bad it got sometimes I came across people who did an act of kindness towards me and these little gestures were enough to sustain me through it all.

I remember this boy who was the same age as me but in a different class who often come up to me during morning recess to just talk. Hardly anybody talked to me back then. I could not even remember what it was that we talked about really but the memory of him just talking to me in our little breaks was good. At the back of my head I was always thinking why is this person talking to me? Isn't he afraid his friends will think he's weird? What does he want? And yet, this person often came to just chat up for a few minutes and after the bell rings to signify the end of recess I always walk back to my classroom feeling so much better. Back then I couldn't understand it. It just felt good and that was enough to change my day for the better. He was my friend yet we didn't exchange names.

Then there was also this classmate who used to tease me a lot. He was very unkind. I must have told my mom about it one time because all I could clearly remember now was that my mom went to school and waited for the boy's father. She talked to the father and after that incident, the boy who used to tease me started being nice. He stopped teasing me and there were even times when he would go to our school library to fetch me and help carry my school bag whenever I was late in meeting my mom during dismissal. (I used to attend a private school run by Catholic nuns and kids were not allowed to leave the campus without their guardians fetching them.)

I just never had the time to thank these people though. I even forgot their names now but the act of kindness they have shown me especially during trying times has remained in me all these years.

Thank you!

Monday, April 08, 2013

To This Day - Inspiration (Also a Purgation of My Mind)

For those who are/were victims of bullying here's a video for all of us. Please watch this first.

What he says is all too true. To this day I am still frustrated that schools do not take the issue of bullying seriously. Often it's dismissed with one sentence; " They're just being kids." Childhood is not always an idyllic time where it's all about innocence, play, and fun.

When I was a kid I found it hard to be around other people as I was feeling so insecure about myself because of my ailment. I always thought I was a burden to my family as I was sickly and always coming down with something that forces my parents to rush me to the hospital. And when I stayed there all I could think about was how inconvenient my existence is for the other people around me.

I would sometimes sneak around so I could see the latest printout of the hospital bills that my parents had to shoulder because no insurance company would pay for my condition. It made me feel like I was a little thief for taking away all that money from my family. I knew full well my father would be applying for another loan to pay for the treatments/tests they had to administer/do for/to me. I felt like a leech sucking them dry. There were nights when I couldn't sleep and then I would hear my parents in their room talking about me and my mother was often crying because she had a hard time accepting that her daughter have defects. She blamed herself at one point because she felt guilty. She thought she was the reason why I was this way. It was hard for her as it was for me.
I'd go back to my room and cry myself to sleep too because I didn't know what else I could do.

When I was five I had to wear very thick glasses that magnified the size of my eyes and make them pop out like big, floating eyeballs. My severe eye condition was another manifestation of Marfan Syndrome. People were always shocked to see a little girl wearing such thick glasses and when I took them off it always surprised them when they see me for the first time. Often they would say that I was actually "pretty" without the glasses, implying therefore that I was ugly looking when I put them on. I knew the big eyeballs on my face made other people uncomfortable maybe because it made them feel like I was staring at them and burning a hole through their soul. At first I was sent to a school for the blind because I couldn't see very well and ordinary schools didn't have the facilities to cater to my special needs. But I didn't feel I belonged there. I was the only one who could partially see. I insisted on being sent to a "normal" school despite my eye condition and little did I know it would be the start of the real tragedy.

When I was finally transferred to a "normal" school I was assigned to sit down in the front row despite my big size because I can barely see the writings on the chalkboard. This must have frustrated my classmates so. New and thick glasses barely helped me to see but at least I wasn't considered blind anymore.

To this day I still wear thick, dorky glasses.

There were so many things I was not allowed to do as a kid and growing up without experiencing those little pleasures make up for a somewhat boring childhood. Sometimes I felt like I never had a "normal" childhood. I was told not to climb trees unless I wanted to fall and hurt my back. I'd end up paralyzed they say since I already had a bad back to begin with. I have scoliosis which is again due to Marfan Syndrome.

I could not run and play because too much strenuous activity might affect my heart and I'll be back in the hospital again. All these restrictions made me think in my young mind that I was not allowed to have fun. Navigating through life's ups and downs while being literally kicked, punched, and taunted as you go along the way by your peers and be called a lot of things simply because you are different makes growing up such an ordeal.

Being different was what prevented them from trying to understand me. What they could not understand they probably feared. And what they feared  they had to break, abuse, and destroy.

Quasimoda, the hunchback of Cebu

These are just examples of the names I got called. There were also a bunch of creative taunts and other words I could no longer remember.

These were the words they used to call me, to describe me, to break and hurt me. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." goes the famous nursery rhyme but I would just like to say that this is bullshit.Words cut so much deeper and the worst part is that they linger in your head.

On Dreams and Ambitions

There were so many things I wanted to be but I always stopped myself from aiming for something higher because I thought I could never attain it. I did not have the means to get it. I was already crushed. They got to me and destroyed me completely.

At one point I wanted to be a nun and desperately tried to search for meaning and redemption in my world full of hurt and endless taunts. But even at such a young age I felt like there was nothing really out there. A belief in an all-caring sky daddy figure never made sense to me. Logically, it didn't add up yet probably perhaps out of desperation it still didn't fully stop me from searching for something. One might call it a "saving grace". I never found it. I didn't end up being a nun.

Then I wanted to be a rock star because I saw a video of Bon Jovi's concert and it looked so fun especially when he was dangling through a wire flying over the audience and belting out "Living On A Prayer". I quickly realized though that this dream will never be as I could not play the guitar and was told that if I learned it I would go through excruciating pain and my fingers will be bruised and nicked and this will cause infection not to mention pain. This stopped me. I know I'm allergic to Penicillin and all it's derivatives so my parents might have to take me back to the hospital again and they'll be slapped with another thick pile of bills to pay.

(The thoughts of a broken child's mind lead to so many tragedies)

So I abandoned the dream of becoming a rock star as I knew it would never work out. To this day I still couldn't play the guitar.

Some time passed and I wanted to be a doctor because I dreamt of helping other sick children like me. I wanted to be a different type of doctor. Someone who is kind, helpful, cheerful. I knew I would be good at it as I have gone through things other doctors have not gone through despite their training in any top-notch medical school. I went through pain. I am sickly. I knew what it was like to be the patient. Often when doctors come in to examine me they always felt cold and so distant and I thought I could do a better job and have an entirely different approach. Then I found out that being a doctor cost so much. We don't have that much money especially when my parents were paying back loans left, right, front, and center. And having stayed in the hospital I thought, this isn't the kind of place I'd want to be stuck in. Hospitals are dreary. They're even sadder than cemeteries. You are surrounded by people constantly in pain, unsure, broken, desperate. I don't want to be in here. I don't want to be working here.

I tried to think of another alternative so I turned my head to my books and then I said to myself that I should be a genetic engineer. I thought then that since it had the word "engineer" attached to it then maybe I need not go to a medical school. I was wrong. So... I scrapped both dreams and abandoned it all.

There was also a time when I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought maybe if I become a lawyer then I can have the legal means to stop these people bullying me and show them the hand of justice. I can send them all to jail! But much like being a doctor or a genetic engineer, I found out that being a lawyer costs so much. We don't have that kind of money to spend especially when my parents were paying back loans. I, having the knowledge that I was different with so many limitations felt defeated.

I was the one who killed my own dreams.

I was a child. What can a young child do to get through all those negative thoughts and the taunts? At 13 I didn't think about taking someone else's life like what Shane Koyczan said he did. I thought of taking my own life. The scars of that stupid action, my first botched suicide attempt are still visible  today. Then after that first failed attempt at suicide I tried again and again. Three times I failed.

"Get over it!"

This was indeed the usual response whenever I tried telling someone I felt that way. Hearing those words hurt. Had I known how to "get over it" I would have done so a long time ago. It is easier said than done. Sometimes I question if it can be done. How do you just "get over" something that has been crippling you for so long?

I never belonged to any group growing up. The "nerdy" people would not even take me in. Yet despite that I am still here. Trying, improving, and trying harder to just live and make something out of my life.

To this day the pain is still there, the insecurities too. The scars of the past still etched in the psyche as well as my wrist. I admit that there are days when the old thoughts try to grab hold of me again. Suicide just seems so easy. The years I worked hard at trying to make myself stronger is slowly being unraveled and I am desperately and consciously trying to work at it not letting it get to me today. It keeps pulling me back to the dark abyss I was stuck in, telling me I will never amount to anything and nobody will really love me in the end. But I try my best not to listen anymore. I try not to let it get me now. I've come so far. I'm going to hold on for dear life. If I am going to die, at least with my last breath I could say proudly that I tried and I died trying.

To know more about the author read: An Insight Part I (The Early Years)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Sin Tax? How About Church Tax?

Okay... After we have made a lot of noise regarding the draconian cyber crime law which until now is not yet repelled and after marching the streets for our reproductive health rights, we now face the sin tax fight.

So the Philippines has now implemented the "sin tax" into law. Basically what it does is pave the way for higher cigarette and liquor prices in the coming weeks. In his speech Pnoy said and I quote, "Today, we sign, finally, a law that serves as an early Christmas gift to millions of Filipinos who will be covered by the universal health care program, who will benefit from new public clinics and hospitals that will be built, and who will be discouraged from smoking and drinking,” and In its first year of implementation, the measure is expected to generate for the government additional revenues worth P33.96 billion, of which P23.4 billion will come from cigarettes, P6.06 billion from distilled spirits and P4.5 billion from fermented liquors.

I really have no problem with taxing these stuff as I see them as mere luxuries that people ought to pay for if they really wish to partake in them. That said, I am just wondering why the government until now is still hesitant to tax the religious organizations and churches if indeed their goal is to somehow fill our coffers with more money for projects that will help our constituents.

How many billions do we lose because we let these institutions get away without paying taxes just because they worship an invisible sky daddy?

Sin is the act of violating god's will. Although, whose god it is we offended is yet to be determined.
I, being an atheist and not believing in the concept of god or sin for that matter, ought to be exempted from shouldering these taxes if ever I want to buy any of these "sinful" substances.

If we can get billions by taxing these vices just imagine how much more we'll get if we tax the church.