Friday, October 29, 2010

Farewell Uncle Choi

This morning is the funeral of my uncle, Zoilo BaƱez, or Uncle Choi to those dear to him.  I would have wanted to be there during the funeral but i am unable to go home.  I was there during the wake though.  I’m also glad that we went home to our hometown in Abra to visit him, three weeks ago before his death.

Violence seems to haunt Abra.  My family is a direct witness, if not a victim, of this. When i was ten, my father was shot by a gunman from outside the window of a store.  He survived the shot but suffered a stroke, and died two years after he was shot.  Two years ago, just days after Christmas, one of my uncle was shot in the middle of the day.  Years before that, my cousin was shot by gunmen in a motorcycle while he was waiting for a ride outside their home.

I think Uncle Choi died the most "honorable" way, if i may say, among his kin just because he did not die under the bullet.  Late November or early December of last year, he found out that he had cancer.  But my memory of him is that of someone not in pain, but in genteel acceptance.  While he was undergoing series of chemotherapies and radiations, i never heard him complain nor curse, nor exhibit anger about what happened to him.  Neither did i see him wreathe in pain nor wallow in his agony.  He would only sit by the sofa, quietly massaging his arm.  Or he would be reading books or answering crossword puzzles.  But he was never in despair.

Whenever we would be visiting him at the hospital, he was the one entertaining us with his stories as if he was not the patient.  He would tell us such theories as when is the best time to gather honey because this kind of flowers from this or that part of Abra is in bloom at that time of the month.  He is also very passionate when he would be telling stories about raising fighting cocks.  I am amazed at the way he would be divulging his  techniques about crossing different breeds, of what dominant feature each breed has, or of how he is able to tell which one would turn out to be a great fighter just by observing them.  He was so passionate about it that he was making a joke that he would ask his doctor if he could raise a rooster outside the window of the room where he is confined.  Listening to him tell stories seems like listening to a teacher making science real to his students.

When we went home to visit him early this October, he was already speaking in whisper and barely audible.  But what I vividly remember is how he firmly grasped my hand and told me with all apologies how he would be unable to attend my wedding this December.  I told him that there would still be enough time for him to recover.  He would have been my Godfather or “Ninong” for my wedding in December.

But he will no longer be present for my wedding.  And i will never hear his stories anymore.  I still remember the stories, but i would no longer hear it the way Uncle Choi told them.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

a fish out of water

In a democracy, citizens have the right to choose their leaders by means of voting.  One downside in a democracy is that leaders are chosen by the majority, inevitably because of popularity.  That is why we had Estrada for a president.  A corporation is not run like a democracy.  Employees cannot choose their leaders.  And this should not be so.  Corporate leaders are not chosen because they are popular.  They are not chosen by the majority.  They are chosen because of their merits, skills and talents.  So i am often amazed when corporate leaders start playing politics.  I wonder why there is still the need to play politics when they have the skills and talents suited for their position?  This play is observable when you look at the symptoms.  You see it when people get into huddle and discuss items in a very hush manner like it is the crucial minutes of a basketball game, discloses it to almost everyone, getting buy-in from almost anyone but getting suggestions from just a few, saying one thing to one and another thing to the other, changing decisions as quick and as often as necessary, giving it the name "proactive" while advocating the mantra "open to change", encouraging people to participate, creating an image of "i am listening" and acting the attitude of "i don't care".

Office politics is a different kind of beast.  It is more difficult to understand office politics than to observe office policies.  It is tricky to entangle because once you involve yourself in it, you may end up trapped in its complexities.  And you may end up saying "my hands are tied", to borrow a common phrase by my boss.

Employers should not wonder when there is a high attrition rate. They should not expect loyalty from their employees if loyalty is not given much value by them. Where companies require only the best from its employees, those who get the best from outside means two things. Either they were not able to train within, or they fear to risk what they have at hand. But it is difficult to have the best of both worlds, that of having low attrition and getting the best from outside. If you drag a bait in the lake, by chance you may get the rarest of rare among the fish. But don't forget to nurture your pond.

Is our company playing this kind of game?  i hope not.  This is not something easy to prove.  For someone to say that he is definitely sure of it happening, he needs to to have enough, concrete and explicit examples to prove.  i don't have, so i won't.  At least not in this blog lest i be accused of nitpicking.  Or else, i may end up eating my words, or being dismissed by what i write.

Lastly, i read from Philippians 2:14 to "do everything without complaining or arguing." I am just writing my observations, but if i appear to be griping or complaining, i hope to be told about it.  In fact i am much thankful to God about a lot of things.  When i see the crowd of applicants lining up in hours, waiting for their turn to be called for interview, i thank God for giving me work, for having a challenging job, and best of all, having the dearest of staff i have ever worked with, patiently riding along with my idiosyncracies.  However, this doesn't guarantee that i will stay long.  I currently love my job, not necessarily the company, but more so the people i'm supervising, and some of the employees i interact with.  But when God nudges me to go, consider me a fish out of water.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My brain was spliced this morning

Prior to my scheduled CT scan, a lot of ideas swelled my mind. I just hoped that it is merely ideas that are swelling my mind and not anything else swelling into my brain.

I was advised to undergo a CT scan because I complained of continuous headache, a headache that would not dissipate for days. Even if I slept for long hours, I would still wake up with the same intensity of pain in my eyes, brows and head. The doctor diagnosed it could have been just an ordinary migraine. I later found out that there is a kind of migraine which is accompanied or preceded by aura. They call it migraine with aura. When I asked the doctor what it means, she said that some people experience seeing flashing lights before a migraine occurs. I never saw any flashes though. I wish I had that aura so that I would know when the pain would attack before it does.

Alvi, the laboratory technician kept on flicking the back of my left hand, searching for veins to which she will inject the dye needed for the scan. The dye (or contrast) is needed to highlight certain parts of the image. I read that the contrast could be ingested by drinking, injected through a vein, inserted through the rectum or inhaled in a gas form. Mine would be injected through a vein.

And so, going back to my left hand, Alvi kept on rubbing the alcohol-soaked cottons but is still having difficulty making the veins appear. Not being able to make the vein obey her desire, she then turns to strap a rubber in my right arm and flicks the back of my right hand. She rubs an alcohol-soaked cotton on my hand. Not working. Throws the cotton and picks a new one. She rubs. This time she rubs harder. I wonder if I either have a thick layered epidermis or I just have thin veins. How I wish I could do anything to help Alvi in searching for those stubborn veins. If I only have the power to command them to come out, and if only they have the ability to listen to me. Finally, she found a good one, and when she did, I think the anticipation made me too excited that my blood pressure soared. They had to reschedule the scan until they had a good reading of my blood pressure.

I am amazed at the ever improving technology. I am fascinated by the syringe that Alvi used. After she injected the needle and placed bandage over the skin and the tip of syringe, she slowly pulled it away, pulling the needle and leaving a very thin rubbery or plastic-like tube inserted inside my skin. The needle is gone and I don’t have to worry of having any metal instrument break inside my body. But although very important in its function, its ingenuity is just small compared to the massive structure that was about to scan my brain. The CT scan, or CAT scan (Computed Axial Tomography) is a huge apparatus that takes cross-sectional pictures of the body. Imagine having thinly sliced portions of your body photographed or x-rayed. I also read that scanners have weight limit of about 300 pounds because too much weight can damage the scanner. I think I still have a long way too reach that limit. And so I have to remind myself to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise, exercise, exercise.

This process made me realize three things.

While I lay in the machine table, Alvi asked if I am relaxed. I said yes. First, I realized that by undergoing a procedure that I do not know anything of makes me research, read and ask a lot. So I asked her a question which I think is valid. “Do I need to smile?” She smiled back and said “just close your eyes.” And so I did close my eyes. I wanted to see what was happening though but I fear the rays may damage my eyes if I open them.  I wonder how my brain would look?

As I lay in the table and feel the machine moving inch by inch, I was reminded of one friend telling me that she hopes everything will turn out well and that nothing will be found. I wanted to let her know that I disagree but I did not. Second, I realized that there is sometimes that dread or fear to find out something is wrong in our body. Deep within, I am hoping that something will be found. That is why I agreed to be scanned in the first place. I want to find out what is the culprit that is causing the pain in my head, eyes and brows. I want to know its name and find out how it can be flushed out. I want to know what it looks like and what area of my body it has already occupied.

Third, I realized that when I am put in a place or position where I neither have any control nor knowledge of the outcome, I become more prayerful. I know that this should not be a good motivator to pray but sometimes sickness, fear, worry and pain can become a means to seek God. In his book “The Problem of Pain”, C. S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Ephesians 5:17-18 says that we should pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

If you don't write it, it won't happen

There are times when we need to pause and to reflect on our lives, our accomplishments, failures, joys and pains.  I think celebrating birthdays do just that.  And so does new years.  While new years make us think of resolutions, birthdays do more than that.

Today makes me think of blessings.  These are things i acknowledge God has done in my life, in which i know fully well that some of them i don't deserve.  i am blessed with a family that loves and supports the good decisions i make.  i am blessed with a relationship with my girlfriend, and i am excited to move on to a level of relationship with her that involves commitment, for a lifetime.  i am blessed with good friends and acquaintances.  Friends i consider a treasure and so i am sometimes selective of association.

It also makes me think of failures.  These are results of things i have done and decisions i have made, some not necessarily wrong while some not necessarily right either (This does not mean that i don't believe in absolute right and wrong, i do).  Some of this decisions and actions, the result i know i deserve.  But some i firmly believe i don't.  But these are things i know i don't have full control of, and so i consider them lessons to learn and improve on.

What i realized is that i lack vision.  i lack the ability to visuarlize what i want to achieve in the future.  I generally know what i want in life, like a comfortable life, a good family, my own domain.  But i lack vision in the specifics.  What specifically are my goals?  Someone who has a lofty position (incidentally, lofty means that you are prone to fall, eventually) in our organization told me that i should write what i want.  That if i "don't write it, it won't happen."  That statement was a rude awakening for me.  Suddenly, with a single statement (of course coupled with subsequent events that may have magnified it), my whole view of an organization changed.  i usually hear people talk of paradigm shift.  That was a one hundred eighty degree (by the way, a three hundred sixty degree turn leads you to the same direction you were originally facing) shift in my paradigm.

All of a sudden, i realized i am living in a Jurassic period while the herd i am in is quickly moving towards the age of technology, devoid of the human psyche.  And i cannot follow in the same pace.  Whatever happened to values like hardwork, work ethics, perseverance?  "If you don't write it, it won't happen."  I can only exclaim "Wow!!!"  It is as if i am drowsed with a bucket of ice cold water.  I felt numb.  All the years come to nothing because i didn't put into words the things i wanted.  That was specifically my dilemna.  i believe i am quite verbose, but i didn't know what i wanted specifically, so i cannot even draw them out of ink to paper.

What i know is this, that i should no lonber be where i am right now.  I think it is time to move on.  i am again at a crossroads in my life (or that should be in my career, to be more specific). This time i should know what or where i want to be.  And i should put it in writing!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Control your anger, or it controls you

"You are moody."  I was told.

I'm not moody.  I think moody is someone that changes or have unpredictable moods.  And my mood is consistently low.

I think it may have been recklessly uttered because I am often mistaken to be angry.  I am not at all angry.  I just happened to have been born with a very somber facade.  In short, a serious expression.  And I have to admit that I rarely smile.  I read that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it is to frown.  I guess I burn more calories than most people who are lazy enough not to develop their frowning muscles.  However, the number of muscles it takes to frown or smile is still unverified even at this age.  Besides, someone else's smile may be another one's smirk or another one's grin.  The Joker from Batman, and the Grinch from Dr. Seuss' book both have grin from ear to ear.  Yet I am not so comfortable by their supposed smile.  Something suggests that I should neither trust any of them.  It is quite alarming.

The ancient philosopher Seneca said " Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it."  So it's better to control anger.  But how to?  That is the question.

If we can't control our anger, can I suggest the following techniques?  Yes, I think there's an effective way to control anger.  I just have not proven its effectiveness yet.  I think that the best thing to do is to schedule your anger.  Read that as the Brits would pronounce it, "shed-yool."  It's much more classy the way the Brits say it than the Americans do.  You may make it a habit to get angry every nine-o-clock in the morning.  Scheduling (again, "shed-yooling") your anger makes you more consistent and predictable.  People will know when or when not to approach you.  This may also be an effective technique if you have a lot of things to finish and don't want to be disturbed, then feign anger.  Even if you woke happy and had a good dream the night before, make it appear that you are angry.  People will hesitate to approach you.  I think nine-o-clock in the morning may be the best time to schedule it.  Right after you finished drinking coffee and others who are late would still be tinkering with their computer, or reading the emails that were sent the previous day.  Being angry late in the day is quite exhausting.  Besides, you don't want to be exhausted and angry going home, seated on a bus besides angry and exhausted people who may just be looking for a reason to unleash their energy.  Being angry and exhausted at noon is a bad combination.

To make this effective, I suggest you keep a daily log, or a journal if you must.  Learning is the key and consistency it's brother.

There is also another variation for this technique.  You may opt to direct your anger towards only one person.  This is useful if you want to get along with everyone else.  Blaming someone else is the method commonly followed by psychologist.  This method known as Pyschological projection was first developed by Sigmund Freud.  It is the act of denial of one's own attribute, thoughts and emotions, and ascribe it to something external such as weather, government or even other people.  It is also popularly known as Freudian projection because psychologists who followed Freud's theory eventually realized there are some shortcomings for this theory, and so blamed Freud for it.  It is also a practice to direct one's anger towards inanimate objects.  But in our case, let's try to do it towards the animate, meaning live person.  It is much more fun this way because you can observe how that object of your experiment would react.

Be careful however that if you direct your anger towards one person who does not know how to implements the techniques I have mentioned, he may not be able to control his anger like you do, and so react in a manner you may not expect.  This is of course expected.  But you may share this technique to him and hope that he will be enlightened to control his anger.  Just like you do.

Now, I have to caution you though that it takes much effort to do it.  I admit there are instances that I forget to be angry and not be consistent about it.  Yes, it takes effort.  But with the right attitude and perspective, it can be done.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An anecdote on prayer

I find this anecdote amusing, and interesting.  I read it from the book The Grand Weaver, by Ravi Zacharias, on a topic on prayer.
In our understanding of prayer, I fear we take one finger of it and think we have the whole fist.  Years ago, I heard a story about the well-known Indian Christian mystic Bakht Singh.  As he and his associate walked many miles to a conference where he was to speak, a Hindu stopped Bakht Singh and challenged him.  "We are in a drought, and you say that God answers prayer.  If your God really exists, why don't you ask him right now to send us rain?"  Bakht Singh is said to have responded, "If I pray for rain and God answers, will you become a follower or Jesus?"  The man took on the dare and said that he would.  As Bakht Singh was about to kneel down in the dust, his assistant placed his hand on his shoulder and said, "Do you really think you should be praying now, when we still have miles to walk and didn't bring our umbrellas with us?  Why don't you wait until we reach our destination?

Read the book by Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us through the Events in Our Lives

Learn more about Ravi Zacharias and his ministries at

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If one wishes to be a steward in God's house, he must first be prepared to serve as a scullion in the kitchen

Do not think of waiting until you can do some great thing for God; do little things, and then the Master will bid you go higher. Eleven years ago, I was a addressing Sunday-school children, and these alone. Ten,-nine years ago, I was preaching in little insignificant rooms here and there, generally going out and coming back on foot, and occasionally getting a lift in a cart. It has often happened that, when I have been going out to certain villages, the brooks would be so swollen that they could not be crossed in the usual way, so I would pull off my shoes and stockings, wade through up to my knees, then try to make myself tidy again as I best could, and go on to the little chapel to preach, and return home in the same way. Now, I am perfectly sure that, if I had not been willing to preach to those small gatherings of people in obscure country places, I should never have had the privilege of preaching to thousands of men and women in large buildings all over the land. If one wishes to be a steward in God's house, he must first be prepared to serve as a scullion in the kitchen, and be content to wash out the pots and clean the boots. Remember our Lord's rule, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."'

This is a thought provoking quote from Charles H. Spurgeon, a 19th century evangelist prominent for his lectures and sermons.  These are some things i gather from reading the quote:
1. Do not wait for opportunities to do great things for God.
2. Big opportunities begin from even the most menial tasks.
3. Be humble.
4.  God exalts those who humble themselves.
5.  It is God who exalts, not us.