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It crept on me like a serpent. It stayed on my shoulders and reared its head up, looking intently in front me, surveying those who surround me.

Once I was nobody. I can slip in and slip out without anyone knowing. My voice never mattered (and never been heard before). This is a choice I made after leaving The Firm. Power burned me. Fame blinded me.

But I am on the same path again. A creature born as a shark will always be a shark. I now prominently show my coronet. My voice is slowly being heard. My ideas are slowly being considered.

In every kingdom, there would always be royalties. You must bide your time lest you be accused of usurping power. But in all kingdoms, there would always be jesters, soothsayers and loyal soldiers. A prince yearning for the crown must know who these are underneath the garb.

I felt the power some days past after making a critical decision that would have changed the lives of some for a few hours. It was a difficult one to make, emotionally. The stolid equation was clear : hand down the verdict, assert your political will and see the kingdom walls stand the test of times.

But it did not come without a cost. Few jewels of friendship I hold so dearly were lost among the rubble. I searched after the dust has settled but they were not to be found. Perhaps, they are in hiding? Or has abandoned me for good? I cried over the lost. The weak child peeped through the mask of iron I wear every day. But as said, it was a peep, no longer than that. For many others are counting on unbiased decisions I would have to make. The iron mask was put on again.

I am afraid for as I make these decisions, my best friend, my other self, my prince, is in a far-away kingdom no Gandalf horse can take me to him. There are times when I know I stand vulnerable. Vulnerable not only to vultures who lie in wait till I make the limb-crushing ill decision, but vulnerable also to my own self – I might be so true to my responsibility and end up as stolid as the algebraic equations I once hated in high school.

I fear a moment when you are so blinded by your own luminescence, you no longer see the truth around you. I fear a moment when you shine so brightly, so quickly, you burn out ahead of the others. I fear a moment when your pull is so strong it creates galaxies but sucks you in yourself.

This is not new to me. I must learn from past mistakes. File the budding of horns while I still can. There are too many mistakes and too little time and one must learn from the mistakes of others.

I will continue to struggle in the snow. To work in the darkness while the numbing coldness of the breeze kisses my cheeks all the time. I can try to please as much people as I can, but I know it would be in vain. Let me be true to the cause without losing sight of my loved ones and friends. I just wish we stand the test of time.

I just wish the snow would melt soon.

Squat!

The recent incident at the Laperal Compound in Makati City has again showed how quickly evolution happens.

Squatters, no matter how the law or charitable institutions would describe them, are people who occupy lands and/or existing structures without due benefit to the owner. In short, parasites.

For the longest time, these people have argued poverty over and over again. It is forgivable, say, for the first generation of squatters to reason poverty as the driver of their occupancy for that, in itself, is admission of the problem and the first step towards solving it. But for the second generation (and how thick-skinned of the first generation to even multiply without even having the resources to provide decent shelter for themselves!)to argue poverty again is blatant evidence of a hereditary disease – laziness!

I, myself, once argued poverty as the reason why I should be accepted at PUP Manila as a scholar. My family, though working, could not provide for all of us to go to private schools and thanks to FIFO (first-in first-out), as the youngest, I was the one who had the smallest budget allotted for education. But I knew I can only argue once and I have the make the most out of it.

I am still not rich. In fact, we are still renting a house for our family and I don’t even have a car. But I know I am no longer poor. And I do not abuse anyone’s kindness.

Well, the squatters aren’t really abusing the kindness of the private owners. But they are just bright enough (with the government stupid enough) to take advantage of the infamous Lina Law or RA 7279 protecting squatters from eviction or demolition without due compensation and relocation (sec 28). The nerve! Lupa ko nang ginamit ng walang bayad, ako na nga maglilinis nun, tapos babayaran ko pa ang mga squatters?!

Well, let us thank Mr Joey Lina, a former senator under the Cory Aquino administration who then went to head the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Sakit na kaya ng ulo ng DILG dati ang mga squatters na na-realize ni Mr Lina salamat sa batas nya? Or just like his president, all problems, especially those they promised to solve, but could not solve, should be blamed against Marcos, and all will be well as soon as they start to pray in front of cameras! I could not blame Mr Lina for coming up with the bill. Helping the ‘poor’ and condemning the ‘rich’ was the fad at that time. But what this law, together with other government agencies’ ineffectiveness, has done is to further train the current poor to get even poorer because the government is taking care of them. Parasites!

Or perhaps those against the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill should step in and help these ‘poor’ families (who threw bottles, stones and human feces at the police and officials) since they multiplied according to the dictates of their faith.

I believe the sudden increase in squatters is further proof of what a former professor of mine once said (which I do not believe yet, please) that we are the viral race. Put one Filipino in one place, wait for some time, and there would surely be a thriving Filipino community there. The multiplication can be due to natural reasons or immigration. In the case of squatters, it’s both. Due to lack of anything better to do, they resort to sex without proper family planning. Due to the wonderful way of life (look ma, I don’t have to pay for rent or mortgage!), they invited their friends and families who are probably much better living in the provinces than they do here, to live with them and taste the sweet life in the metropolis.

Let me close my case by saying that I do not have anything against those who were born poor for it is not their fault but I have everything against those who remain poor for they are not doing anything about it other than cry in front of cameras, beg the government for alms, and suck the blood out of our economy which in turn is fed by the sweat and blood of those, rich and poor, who pay taxes. Man should evolve with better selves generation after generation. The squatters are evolving. They are getting brighter and brighter, taking advantage of laws to protect them and their lazy habits. The sadder thing is that our laws are not evolving fast enough.

After you go…

‘Malulungkot rin naman ako dun…’ James said over our dinner last night.
‘Eh bakit ka pa aalis?’ I asked the question which baffled me since learning of his decision.
‘For our future.’

It was in 2008 when James and I decided to explore opportunities abroad. Most of our seniors were working either in one of the tax haven islands or in the Middle East. James and I agreed that what we were looking for was for us to work in one city, even if for different companies, as long as we would still be together. I received offers in a city he did not receive any from. It happened the other way when he received an offer to work without me. We both declined.

Years have passed and we have both grown older. Our needs and those of our families have significantly increased. Back when we were still in college, we dreamed of retiring in a farm where it would be easy for old people to relax and enjoy the fruits of our hardwork.

At our age today, we still do not own a house, a car, a significant investment that would ensure our dream. During the last quarter of 2010, there were opportunities to join our friend in a tax haven island for a challenging position with remuneration impossible to command in Manila. He was the first one to receive an offer and we decided, as mature individuals, that it is high time for us to be serious in our dreams. But I was not lucky enough to receive an offer yet.

James and I have shared more than ten years of friendship and almost a decade of partnership. There was no major event in each other’s lives without the other. The longest time we have not been with each other was during school vacation which lasted two months tops without cellphone or Skype.

He signed a two-year contract and plans to save enough money for an investment in the Philippines which means no vacation within the first year, or even within the entire contract period. We had several months to discuss the details, the arrangements of bills, phone subscription and Skype access.

But I know, despite all the planning, this is our biggest challenge ever. We have been living our lives, scheduling our time, allotting our resources, with the other person in high consideration. How can we then adjust to this change? Who will come with me to see the latest movies or admonish me for my extravagant spending? Or to clap his hands whenever I tell my latest success story or to raise his eyebrows for my blatant lack of religiousness?

I am afraid to live each day until I get to fly and work with him or until he goes home. I am afraid I will not be strong enough. I am afraid he would soon forget me (a lot had).

But I know, believe, our love will see us through. We have been to the darkest days and emerged together, stronger. This is just another chapter in our lives that we intend not to be the last.

‘For our future’ he said. The operative word is ‘our’.

The first time I have been to a zoo was when I was seven years old. It was Manila Zoo and there were still lots of animals there at that time – rhinos, giraffes, hippos, antelopes of all shapes and sizes, and tons more. I went back two years ago with James and it was a pitiful site. Half of the cages were covered in feces, the animals, or whatever’s left of the number of species exhibited, were thin and sickly. The smell was intolerable. We went home sad after the experience.

Now that I am on vacation leave, James and I took the opportunity to go to the Avilon Zoo in Montalban, Rizal, with my oldest nephew, Vien. From our place in Cainta, we went to Sta Lucia East Mall for there is an FX terminal bound for Montalban. For P40, we snaked through the streets of Marikina, San Mateo and then Rodrigiuez to what seemed like a day’s travel to such unknown lands. At last we reached the landmark gas station, rode a tricycle to the zoo along a very rocky path.

The fee was P300 for adults and P200 for kids and a tour guide for P400. We no longer took a guide so we had a lunch first (yes, we went there during high noon, under the glaring sun of Rizal!) and saw three arapaimas in the large pond. Armed with Off lotion slathered on our skin, bottles of cold water and lots of face towels, we went inside the zoo to look at the animals.

We first saw the numerous geese, swans and ducks and then the pet animals and then the farm animals. The Martha-wannabe in me dreams of having my own farm taking care of silver pheasants, golden pheasants, peafowls and swans! Then we went to the arid habitat section where we saw the small fennec foxes and snobbish caracal. It was a bad timing for us for certainly these animals are taking cover from the midday sun. Then we went to see the flightless birds section where I saw ostriches and learned that there are several types of cassowary!

Off we went to the bigger mammals section where a hippo was resting under a bridge, wallabies (cousins of the kangaroos) were resting in the shade, a tree kangaroo was on a branch, small deer were grouped together, probably gossiping among themselves the arrival of a cute guy like me!

Me, my nephew and the warty pigs!

Then we went to see the big cats but before that we saw an opportunity to feed the arapaimas with chicken heads for only P20! We took the challenge and I panicked when I saw how it was like to have more than ten arapaimas jumping out of the water to get to the food! I forgot that these fish jump out of the Amazon River to catch birds and small monkeys in the canopies when the river overflows. Then we saw, or rather awakened, a lion, saw Bengal Red and White Tigers, Puma or Cougar, Clouded Leopard and a Malaysian Sun Bear. I know he is a bit out of place but do you know that Sun Bears are victimized by the traditional Chinese medicine trade which considers their bile medicinal? The poachers attach plastic tubes to the bear’s insides to draw out the bile while the bear is still living! Efforts are being made to stop this heinous crime to animals!

Elegance!

Then we went to see the small and big primates : lorises, marmosets, macaques (there is a white one who was alone in the cage who masturbated in front of us – oh, what sadness can do to one’s sanity!) and orang-utans! The big primate spat at the noisy onlookers and they all laughed. I wanted to tell them that the reason he spat was because he was irritated of them! So move on!

The naughty white guy!

Then off we go to the reptiles: numerous crocodiles, alligators and gharials. Gharials are smaller crocodilians with elongated snout perfect for hunting fish and small invertebrates. They are not known to attack humans but they fall prey to habitat destruction.

Next stop were the birds! Well, you know how I love big birds with beautiful behinds (and you know what I mean *wink*) and the exhibit did not disappoint me, from the ultra colorful peacocks to the lesser colored finches, to the noisy sun conures to the laughing thrushes, from the big-beaked hornbills to the scary falcons.

Can't wait to get my hands on that ass!

There was a never a pungent smell of feces in the air and we saw a lot of zoo staff cleaning cages, changing the food bowls, hosing down plants and showering the birds with water. There are also satellite snack bars inside the zoo perfect for sudden thirst. I particularly like the benches in front of the birds’ cages inviting the patrons to sit down and listen to songs of nature. The restrooms, available around the property, were also clean.

Soon the tour was over; we got home, took a quick shower (for Tessa and Sam would soon become too curious with all the animal smell we took home) and simply were very happy with our latest zoo trip!

Now, that monkey got me thinking of my family tree!

Wanna fox?

I am not referring to the candy but to the small canid with thick fur and bushy tail that is a character in Dora the Explorer.

Foxes belong to the Canidae family, with wolves, coyotes and our domestic dogs belonging to the same family. These are omnivorous animals – preying on both meat and plant matter. Fox habitat ranges as extreme as deserts (Arctic Fox in the northern ice lands and South American Gray Fox in the dry Atacama desert and some, like the Red Fox have been seen looking for food within the outskirts of human settlements). Foxes are cunning creatures, relying on their acute sense of smell and sight to hunt down prey and escape bigger predators.

However, some foxes have not been cunning enough to maintain number population with the greatest threat to any species’ survival – humans. The fur trade of the early last century saw the decline in the number of foxes such as Arctic and Red Foxes valued for their thick fur. The pest control of the prairies in the 1800s which targeted coyotes and squirrels actually decimated large population of foxes. Hunting with dogs was also rampant in the old days. Hunting foxes with dogs in England is now prohibited but one can still hunt with other means.

Arctic Fox

But one of the greatest breakthroughs of modern times may actually save the fox from obliteration. Sometime in the 1950s, Dr. Dmitri Belyaev was approached by one fur farm in Estonia to help breed a tamer fox. Dr. Belyaev started choosing only the tamest of the then-wild foxes for breeding. After 35 generations, Dr Belyaev and his team were able to domesticate one wild animal in modern times – the domesticated Russian Silver Fox.

They, however, were surprised to see changes other than the behavior of tamed foxes – fur color, tail length and barking. Foxes are prized for their stunning solid coloration but tamed foxes resulted to other color patterns – dotted like that of a Dalmatian, mixed like that of a Shih-tzu and white striped just like that of a Papillon. The ears also started drooping like a common domesticated dog. The tail was also irregular – some were curled like that of a Siberian Husky, others were still straight like the wild fox. They also started barking like our dogs!

 

tamed fox behaving like a cat

The culprit in these changes was identified as the adrenalin – the hormone that gives the animal its fight or flight response. This is the same hormone that allows us supernatural strength during emergencies. Since the tamed foxes no longer see any threat in humans and other animals, its adrenalin level dropped giving way to other hormonal levels. The different hormonal chemistry led to the physical changes and scientists are now confident that this may be the reason on why we have different breeds of dogs so much different from its ancestor, the wolf.

Now, one can order domesticated silver foxes from Sibfox, a private company in Las Vegas, Nevada, a distributor of silver foxes from its farm in Novosibirsk, Russia under the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. Sibfox only serves one location – the United States and one can own a tamed fox for almost US$7,000.

So since these tamed foxes are used to the cold regions and would not fare well in tropical Manila, plus the very expensive cost of owning one, I think I should wish for something to take care of that I can easily afford, a Papillon. I can be contented being called foxy!

 

*special thanks to National Geographic and Pics-site.com for the pictures

Suck me, punch me!

 I thought the movie was gay. Don’t blame me, blame the title! The first word sends a clear picture to any gay man, at least, it was a very vivid picture for me!

But I was happily disappointed. Sucker Punch is one hell of a movie! James and I saw it at Galleria before attending mass in the evening.

Sucker Punch is set in the ‘50s with young Baby Doll as the lead character. The eldest daughter of a rich woman who passed away, she inherited, together with her only sister, the fortune of their mother which is being covetously targeted by their father. One night, her father was supposed to rape her but she fought hard and so her father turned to her younger sister. Escaping through the window, she managed to get a gun and to get to her sister’s room. She fired but it was her sister who took the bullet after hitting the light bulb. Her father sent her to a sanitarium, bribing the orderly to ‘take care’ of her so she would not be a bother to him anymore.

In the sanitarium, she met four other girls who went to plan their escape with her. While doing so, she went into a trance – sanitarium was transformed into a prostitution den with the orderly as the big boss, all girls are prostitutes, the head psychiatrist as the dance instructor. She were asked to dance, as a  weapon for her survival, then she went into another trance, one that involves a man who told her to gather a map, fire, knife and key and one more secret thing, five things which would help her and her friends escape.

They were able to gather all four and the fifth secret thing was indeed a surprise.

Sucker Punch shows girls set in the 50s with costumes as if taken out of anime parties. It was a bit discomforting to see her in her school uniform as if I am one very old, rich but sexually aroused man who enjoys doing it with girls in uniforms. I was excited to see how she really danced that made all those who’s watching her forget everything else. But until the end, you can only see her moving her torso from left to right, as if mimicking Sheryl Cruz singing Mr Dreamboy in That’s Entertainment!

Although the movie would not get an Academy nod, it sets itself different from the movies in a sense that it was a combination of several – Street Fighter for the moves, Inception for the several layers of trance, Black Swan for the dance studio, Burlesque for the cabaret performances, definitely so Watchmen for the settings and costumes (for the two movies have the same director). It is a movie worth remembering and talking about albeit for a week only.

Of the seven intelligences, no doubt I excel in linguistics. Speaking in public, articulating my points of view, inspiring the team to do better, these are just walks in the park. I appreciate this gift (although sometimes I swear I want to exchange my English fluency for a good singing voice) more so when I remember that there are those who are not good at it.

King George VI had trouble speaking in public and was known to stammer especially in front of a crowd. The King’s Speech, the Academy-award winning movie about the royal who swallowed his own pride to take on a job meant for his older brother, that is, to be the King of all the British Empire. Starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter (I promise you, Helena would surprise you because she looked decent in the movie – I was silently waiting for her to brandish her wand!), the movie showed how difficult it was for monarchs to have the disability when the very empire is built on articulate leaders who can rouse a whole nation to war.

The King’s Speech is an inspiring movie telling us that no one is too great to learn, that no one is too rich to admit one’s insecurity for by doing so one can only true overcome it.

The English countryside gave way to dark forests, deep ravines and snow-capped mountains. Red Hiding Hood is a fantastic twist to the toddler tale of a vicious wolf pretending to be a grandmother. I almost thought the movie was an adaptation of Jerry Maguire’s books, who has written magnificent re-telling of classics such as Cinderella (The Tale of the Ugly Stepsister – one which I’ve read and loved) and Snow White (Mirror, Mirror – one that I’ve bought while waiting for James at Greenbelt’s Powerbooks before we went to watch Red Riding Hood). Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (director of Twilight – no wonder you’ll see lots of pine trees again) and starring Amanda Seyfried and Lukas Haas, the movie blends children fiction with adult fiction. A werewolf stalks the forest and is one of the villagers during day. The quest to find out who that is leads to suspicions amongst families and friends. I like the movie for I was not able to guess who the werewolf was and I kept guessing until the end.

Just remember not to wear red if you plan to see the movie!

Then forests and hills once again in Season of the Witch starring Nicolas Cage. I did not think much of this movie and I thought it can serve as a lullaby as I convince my mind to sleep. The movie was set in medieval Europe during the Holy Wars when witchcraft and witch-hunting were the pastimes of the people. Like in modern times, they usually persecute the innocent and allow the guilty the free roam. However, they struck gold with the hanging of a real witch (or so we thought) that brought pestilence to the land. Now, Cage’s group has to travel through dark forests (good thing illegal loggers had not been there yet) and rickety bridge to the monastery to have another accused witch presented to the monks for further action.

The monastery was not what they expected, and so was the girl they thought was a witch.

The movie is indeed a lullaby, not much of brainpower to use, thought it can amuse you with shots of wounds, dirty streets, smelly-looking men and thick coniferous forests, just remember to close the curtains and pray before you sleep!

There are lots of movies I want to watch – but the Lucas and Titan Men titles I’ve recently bought has been kept in the corner for too long. Let me watch them, though I may not be able to tell you anything about them on this blog for Stepfordboy is one nice boy – by day! 