Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Decade: “Living Long Enough To Live Forever”

Bill Clinton        Rebecca "Becky" Singson-Zahar     Ray Kurzweill

I belong to the Gal-lang Maynigo Clan. There are many things to be proud of by being a member of this clan. Readers of my column, my blog and my Facebook notes found out some of them and will continue to do so during the course of our lives. But there is one thing that seems to bedevil each and every member of the clan. Based on our genes, we are all expected to have heart diseases.

Indeed, my parents died of heart disease. So did two of my siblings and several of my cousins. My two other sisters who now live in California have had several heart surgeries. In my case, I have had a triple by-pass, a stroke, and just a few months ago, a heart attack after which a stent was placed in my coronary artery..

I am sure that there are families out there who are similarly situated or might be soon without realizing it. This article might interest them as well.

I just graduated from my Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and coupled with my regular exercises at my sports gym, I am quite optimistic about the future relating to my health and to that of my entire clan.

In my heart procedure, only one stent was required. I was told by my cardiologists that because of my regular exercises small arteries were naturally created connecting to my heart allowing greater and better blood flow.

Over the years, the traditional reading for one’s blood pleasure for me was that, if the diastolic was low, it would be okay even if the systolic was high.  After some diligent research and self-involvement of my healthcare, I found out that the systolic also mattered.  Trying out certain drugs and coupling them with gym exercises lowered the systolic. But this was not regular. Sometimes the systolic was still high. It turned out that during those times I was taking my medicines together with the recommended fiber food (oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc.) that I was eating.

The effectiveness of the medication is greatly reduced when taken within two hours of eating fiber. Knowing that and changing the eating and medicine-taking time, my blood pressure, be it systolic or diastolic has been normal or low ever since.

Medication, exercise, diet, lifestyle, and new technologies are the major factors in the prevention and cure of heart and other diseases.

I understand that a maximum intake of 1600 calories daily would be good. This means that daily, a combination of 5 servings of starches and grains, a minimum of 3 cups of vegetables, 2 pieces or cups of fruits, 2 servings of milk, dairy and dairy alternatives and 8 oz servings of proteins (fish, lean meat, eggs, etc.) would be ideal.

High fat deserts, regular canned and cream-based soups, butter, coconut oil, partially hydrogenated oils, relish, sea-salt, and hard liquor should be avoided.

Former President Bill Clinton who has had a triple by-pass and a stent procedure  believes that based on certain studies the blockage of our arteries could be reversed through diet and exercise. He is now part of an experiment aimed precisely to accomplish this.

When I was still maintaining an office in Makati, Philippines a few years ago I joined the Rotary Club of Makati Dasmarinas. In one of our luncheon meetings, the first President of the club and also the Chairperson of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City Dr. Rebecca “Becky” Singson-Zahar made a presentation I will never forget. It was entitled, “The Possibility of Not Dying Is Just Around the Corner” explaining the advances in stem cell research, the effectiveness of transplants such as heart, kidney and other body parts and the invention/discoveries of new technologies in the field of medicine. Dr. Becky is a strong advocate of healthy living and is known to teach her patients how to eat right, exercise, relax, and rest.

Settling back in the United States for medical reasons, I came across the works of a multi-awarded and well respected author, scientist, inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil. He had written several interesting books but I will discuss only two in this article. Together with Dr. Terry Grossman, an expert on human longevity, Kurzweil authored and published “Fantastic Voyage: Living Long Enough To Live Forever”, and “Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever.”

In both books, they have essentially asserted that we can tap today’s revolution in biotechnology and nanotechnology to virtually live forever. They claim that startling discoveries in the areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology and genomics are occurring every day, As one reviewer said, “The array of scientific knowledge is mind-bending and that it is now possible to prevent nearly 90 % of the maladies that kill us including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease.  It will be feasible for 10% of our blood cells to be replaced by artificial cells, radically extending our life expectancy and enhancing our physical and even mental abilities beyond what is humanly possible.”

According to them, the brain is like a muscle: use it lose it. The brain can be exercised showing that relevant brain growth can be stimulated with letter differentiation training.

They did not only talk of possibilities and feasibilities, they actually made predictions. Some of their predictions worth mentioning are:

1.      In the 2020’s nanobiotic cameras will perform endoscopies and colonoscopies; physicians will almost never examine patients by hand (or stethoscope), using imaging technologies instead;
2.      In 2023, stem cells will be able to overcome nerve damage such as spinal injuries; sleep can be replaced with devices and medication; drug therapies will be able to turn off bad genes or add new ones; robotic sex will be popular; most types of meat can be grown artificially in factories; early detection will make heart disease and cancer rarer and greatly improve survival rates; many injuries and genetic damage can be fixed using stem cells;
3.      In 2034, blood-stream nanobots will enhance memory and learning ability; bloodstream nanobots will replace some red blood cells greatly increasing oxygenation efficiency and reducing the emergency nature of a heart attack; virtual reality sex will be a reality; gene therapies will erase virtually all genetic problems.

In a book written several years ago, Kurzweil had made 109 predictions. Of these, 89 proved to be correct, 13 essentially correct, 6 partially correct and 1 has still to occur. .

With such a batting average, I would not bet against Kurzweil and his co-author. The best strategy is to stay in good health while we wait for technology advances which will greatly extend life.

Medication, exercise, diet, lifestyle and new technologies will make us live long enough to lend us the possibility, feasibility and even the predictability of living forever. Why not?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Remembering my First Christmas in America

 "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

I would have wanted to write about what I remember during my first Christmas in the Philippines but I was only a day and a half young then. Despite some scientific studies showing that babies of that age already have cognitive faculties, I must admit that I could not remember anything that would at least be of interest or significance to anybody. All I know is that I was born and baptized as Benjamin “JESUS” Maynigo, two days after my mother celebrated her birthday on the 21st of December and close to that of our Lord’s.
Baptismal Certificate bearing "JESUS" as middle name

But my first Christmas in America is something I remember and can scribble about as a writer. As a teenager living with an American foster family in Seal Beach, Orange County, California as a foreign exchange student under the American Field Service International Scholarship Program, I got to experience the Christmas of my life.

The Bauchwitz family were devout Catholics who followed most of the traditions that go with Christmas celebrations such as going to mass, Christmas parties, family reunions, caroling, Christmas cards and gift giving. Because I was far away from home, my foster family planned our Christmas so that it would be fun and memorable for me.

Let me focus on the gift-giving part. I loved it because understandably I was more a lucky recipient of those who in the spirit of Christmas were very happy to give me gifts. My foster Grandparents, for example, gave me seven gifts. I also received presents from my foster parents, three foster brothers (Harold, Barry and Freddie), foster sister Kay Ann, and foster Uncles and Aunties. Since I was adopted by the 200-member Seal Beach Women’s Club, I should receive a gift or gifts from them, right? Yes, I did. The AFS Club in school and the AFS Committee in the community somehow showed a similar spirit by also giving me gifts. What about the neighbors and my newly-found friends? Of course, they did! It was Christmas time and I was a very willing, thankful and appreciative gift receiver.  

While receiving gifts was fun and joyful, receiving and reading the Christmas cards from relatives and friends was as satisfying. Leading the way was my sister Manang Perla who was working as a nurse at the Mayo Clinic at that time and who also managed to insert a check. I also got cards from sisters Loreto and Nelly. Among my first cousins in the Maynigo side, I still have in my scrapbook the cards from Manang Ruth Maynigo Danao, Manong Manoling Maynigo and Father Vic Maynigo Arenas. From my first cousin on my mother’s side Manang Conching Gal-lang Raquel Duran was a memorable card. So were the Christmas cards that I received from friends such as Mrs. Felix Coloma and daughters Nenita, Olga and Bebe, Mrs. Flora Bass who featured me in the Philippines Free Press and town mate Manong Zosimo de Veas.
BGM with gifts and Christmas gift tags

Christmas Cards

Christmas is not just about having fun and gift-giving. It is also about giving up something you enjoy for others and meeting your responsibilities. While I could not afford to buy gifts, I remember giving up something which I enjoyed so much in order to meet my responsibilities as an AFS student and as a foster child.

Before coming to the United States, I enjoyed playing basketball in the Philippines. I was our high school’s Team Captain of the basketball team. In fact, I made it to the Pangasinan (provincial) Team which became the Central Luzon Athletic Association (ClAA) Champion. My being in the short list for the AFS Scholarship and the leading candidate to be Class Valedictorian prevented me from joining the team to the National Interscholastic Athletic Association Meet.

In Huntington Beach-Marina High School, I was recruited to try out for the Varsity Basketball Team by the one slotted to be Team Captain who played with me during gym class and against me during Intramurals. I enjoyed the drill and try-out sessions so much that I popularized the shout, “faster” which is the English translation of “bilis”.

I was told later that I made the team but I had to join all the practice sessions during the holidays and would have to miss some AFS speaking engagements and trips. It would have ruined the vacation plans of my foster parents and disappointed the local AFS Committee. At 5’8”, I would have been the shortest “small forward” but arguably the fastest, having been a one hundred meter dash runner in the Philippines.

I gave up basketball and the company of beautiful cheer leaders that came with it. But to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Sacramento we went and enjoy we did.  And more gifts in the process! So I had no regrets.

Pictures are worth a thousand of words. So I am reserving part of my space to show some scanned images that illustrate what I wrote above.

Let me end by quoting the words of some famous songs about Christmas:

“What a bright time, it’s the right time; To rock the night away.” (Jingle Bell Rock)

“Long lay the world; In sin and error pining; ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt his worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” (Oh Holy Night)

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth; The everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” (O Little Town of Bethlehem)

Merry Christmas and MAyNIGOng Bagong Taon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reperire veritatem – Finding The Truth

Argumentum contra factum non-valet ilatio. Arguing against facts is not a valid inference.

Reductio ad absurdum. Reduced to absurd or untenable conclusions.

As a Philosophy major and as a member of the Huntington Beach High (CA.), AB and Law debating teams of San Beda College (Philippines), I learned the above-mentioned Latin precepts as ways of winning arguments, thus in most cases leading to debate victories.

Indeed, if the facts support your argument, no amount of shouting or maneuvering would change the inevitable outcome of the case. In our judicial system, it should be expected that truth always prevails.

When Noynoy Aquino was asked to run for President after his mother’s death, the clamor was for somebody to step up to provide hope, humility, honor and honesty in governance. During the campaign, Noynoy was heard promising to the people that he would make use of all available resources of the Presidential Office to substantially minimize if not totally eradicate graft and corruption. Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap! When criticized for his performance as a legislator he said, “There are enough laws already made”.

He was elected overwhelmingly with that mandate, among others. The hope for a humble man running an honest government is finally here to bring honor to his people, his parents, and his country.

In an article published by the Asian Journal USA on June 18, 2010, page 18 entitled, “BENIGNO ‘NOYNOY’ AQUINO AND THE CORY CONSTITUTION” (, I wrote about the Presidential Oath and what it would take to be an effective President by consecrating himself in defense and support of the Cory Constitution and in the execution of the laws which are more than “enough”.

As mandated by the Filipino people P-Noy is now taking the necessary steps to gather information and facts about the anomalies that occurred during the “previous administration” or specifically, the GMA tenure. This is admittedly in consonance with his executive and administrative powers. This is why the Department of Justice and all law enforcement agencies including the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the police and armed forces are under the President.

Gathering and determining the facts is necessary for the courts to interpret and apply laws as well as make wise and sound judgments. It is necessary for legislators to conduct investigations and search for the truth “in aid of legislation”.  It is likewise necessary for the President to have sufficient facts “in aid of an effective and efficient execution and enforcement of laws.”

Through Executive Order No. 1, P-Noy created the Truth Commission with data gathering and fact-finding duties regarding large scale graft and corruption during the previous administration.

President Diosdado Macapagal had his Presidential Anti-Graft Committee (PAGCOM); President Carlos Garcia, his Presidential Committee on Administrative Performance Efficiency (PCAPE); President Ramon Magsaysay, his Presidential Complaints and Action Committee (PCAC); and President Elpidio Quirino had his Integrity Board.

President Cory Aquino, of course, created the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) while President Joseph Estrada established the Saguisag Commission. President Marcos exercised dictatorial powers most of his tenure and was known to have used even torture in gathering information. President Gloria M. Arroyo is also accused of using similar tactics to elicit information.

Except for PCGG which still exists today, all the aforementioned bodies were ad hoc committees with limited terms of existence. The Truth Commission is like the latter.

My opinion is that P-Noy did not have to issue Executive Order No.1 in order to accomplish the objectives defined thereof. The Cory Constitution, Section 17 (1) Article VII, the Administrative Code of 1987 and other existing laws have provided him sufficient powers to go on a fact-finding and data gathering mission. In fact, the PCGG and the Department of Justice can independently assume such functions under the law.

But he did and the Supreme Court, led by a Chief Justice who was once the Presidential Chief of Staff and Acting Executive Secretary of the “previous administration” which is the subject of the fact-finding body, declared it “unconstitutional” because it is allegedly violative of the “equal protection clause”. It declares that the EO, by limiting the class to the “previous administration”, discriminates in favor of other past administrations. In fact, it proposes that it corrects the under inclusion by adding the letter “s” to become “previous administration(s).”

This is when I thought of the second Latin precept, reductio ad absurdum. If the proposition is followed, the Supreme Court is virtually telling P-Noy that for the EO to be constitutional, it should also investigate all previous administrations up to the time of President Emilio Aguinaldo – going back about 112 years. Considering that the prescriptive periods for many have lapsed and the likelihood that the truth has been buried with the potential suspects, persons of interest, and witnesses, plus the fact that resources are limited, it is indeed virtually impossible, untenable and ABSURD to comply, thus negating the reason for its being.

That indeed is reducing to absurdity all efforts to find the truth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ps Be With You

“PEACE BE WITH YOU!” Every Sunday at church during mass and every mass that I attended ever since I can remember, I have never missed saying these words.  So do hundreds of millions of other Catholics worldwide as each repeat what Jesus said, “Sholam alay kum” (Luke 24:36) when he was talking to the Apostles.
Muslims also say it (Salaam Alekem) on a regular basis and so do the Jews (Shalom Aleichem).

Yet peace is precisely what eluded the Philippines, a country where over 90% of its population is Christian and a certain percentage is Muslim. The only times when there was virtually complete peace was when Pacquiao had championship boxing fights because the military, the Muslim rebels, the communist dissidents, the police and the criminals stopped to watch the bouts.       

Philippines is indeed beset with numerous problems. Enumerated in a brainstorming session that I chaired are: Patayan (crimes and rebellion); Poverty; Payables (debts); Paychecks (unemployment); Pagkain (food & hunger); Population explosion (unwanted pregnancies); Peddling of influence (graft and corruption); Pork; Pollution; Puppetry; Patronage; Patay-patay (slow and ignorant) and among others.

Provided as solutions to the problems are: Prayers; Panacea; P-Noy; People with Power;  Pacquiao; Prelates, Priests and/or Preachers; Passionate people; Point men; Plans; Programs; Projects; Proposals; Policies; Procedures; Preparation; Perspiration; Parental authority and responsibility; Patents (creativity & inventions); Peace; Poverty alleviation; Patriotism;  Pedagogy; Portable computers & phones; Pens; Pencils; Paper; Pilots; Patrons; Papal and/or Pastoral teachings and others.

I learned at an early age that there are really no problems. There are only challenges.  What the Philippines faces as challenges require passion, preparation and perspiration.  Pre-requisite is knowledge and familiarity of the Ps described as problems or challenges.
P-Noy and other people of power and influence must absorb and inculcate in their respective minds and hearts the immensity of these Ps that they, and the people  they serve, are facing.

It should be noted that while the problems enumerated in the brainstorming session are all Ps for a purpose, the provisions to solve them as mentioned in the same session are all Ps as well.

God helps those who help themselves. While prayers always accompany our endeavors, thus requiring mass participation led by priests, preachers and/or prelates, the Philippine political and socio-economic pilots must develop and implement efficient and effective plans, programs, projects, proposals, policies and procedures that would lead to a more peaceful and prosperous society.  A panacea is unattainable but as Catholics, many of our leaders and their followers are guided by Papal and Pastoral teachings which when adhered to create an environment where “miracles” could happen.

Poverty alleviation is a priority program. P-Noy ran for and won as President with this as a platform. In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York he said, “We will not be passive players in our quest for development…… This is what our people put us in power for. This is what the world expects of us as leaders—to be exemplars of what it is to be compassionate human beings, and vanguards of hope for our common humanity.”  

In an article former NEDA Secretary Cielito Habito wrote, “As of last count in 2006, there were close to 4 million poor Filipinos. The poor make up one of every seven (14 percent) Americans; for Filipinos, it’s one of every three (33 percent). But even that may be underestimated: Social Weather Stations (SWS) tells us it’s close to one out of two (43 percent); Ibon Foundation says it’s two out of three (66 percent)…….We know of course that poverty is much more than simple lack of income. To be poor is to be deprived not just economically, but deprived in the social, environmental, cultural, political and spiritual dimensions as well. Recognizing this, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, in a summit of world leaders held in September 2000, adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015.”

P-Noy pledges to the United Nation “to channel the gains we might reap from Public Private Partnerships into social services, like those in health, education, and poverty alleviation.”
Pictures of Poverty in the Philippines - 1

Pictures of Poverty in the Philippines - 2

Pictures of Poverty in the Philippines - 3

Secretary Habito proposes that we look “to private finances as a potential source of funds for poverty reduction…. What’s needed are more creative ways of harnessing private sector finances to support the fight against poverty. One such creative mechanism has been the controversial PEACE Bonds whereby civil society organizations under the CODE-NGO network managed to raise a substantial endowment fund of P1.3 billion to provide sustainable financing for poverty-reduction initiatives by the non-government sector.”

Peace is a precondition to achieving prosperity. Programs and projects are hard to implement in an atmosphere where there is a lot of “patayan”.  Let us hope that the newly designated peace negotiators are patriotic enough to find the pathway to peace.

Portable computers and phones, pencils, pens and paper should be made available, accessible and affordable to the e-generation from which come the “digital natives”. They are the best hope for the creation of new, innovative and patentable products and technologies.

Payables or debts, be they foreign or domestic, sovereign or non-sovereign, remain a challenge for the country’s leadership. A plan to reduce the principal and correspondingly reduce the servicing of the same must be added in the list of priorities.

As shown, Ps come aplenty. Many of the problem Ps are self-explanatory but the solution Ps would require a lot of thinking, preparation and planning to explore and implement.

To P-Noy and all people concerned, as you appreciate how serious the challenges are and as you strive to tackle them with all the resources at your command, Ps Be With You!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the Philippines the way it is done here in the United States. There was an attempt by President Marcos in the 1970s to make September 21st, the day Martial Law was declared, Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines but it never gained wide acceptance. Why, indeed, should the Filipinos celebrate and give thanks on the day they lost their freedom?

As a boy growing up I was celebrating it or giving thanks on several occasions: first, on Christmas because on this day Jesus, our Savior was born; second, on Easter Sunday because of Resurrection guaranteeing our Salvation; third, on the birthdays of my parents for without them I would not be around; and on my birthday for having been given the gift of life.

Of course, as I got committed to a lifetime consortium such as marriage and started a family, the birthdays of my wife, Tina with whom I share my life and love; my in-laws for giving birth to her; and my children, Tanya, Traci, and Raul who bring me great joy and blessings, were added as Thanksgiving Days for me.

But I now live in the United States sharing its customs, traditions, culture and history.  So now, Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday of every November as declared by law officially and as a permanent national holiday since 1941.  Before that, it was commemorated by Presidential Proclamations issued annually upon the persistent urging of Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

The first Thanksgiving Day proclamation of President George Washington gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including “for the civil and religious liberty,” for “useful knowledge,” and for God’s “kind care” and "His Providence."

Many history books say that Thanksgiving started when the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts where they befriended American Indians from the Wampanoag Tribe. Headed by War Chief Massasoit, the American Indians taught the settlers from the Plymouth Colony how to hunt and plant corn. The latter, after suffering from starvation and dreadful diseases earlier, enjoyed bountiful harvest one summer. They were so grateful and thankful that they decided to celebrate with their American Indian friends. The meal included turkey.

                                                       LUMMI CRABS

The Plymouth colonists are credited with instilling in the Wampanoag Tribe the concepts of self-government, the "hard-work" ethic, self-reliant communities, and devout religious faith.  The two parties did sign a treaty of friendship.

In the late 1980s, I was privileged to work with an American Indian friend, Fred Lane who was the Executive Director of the American Indian Trade and Development Council and concurrently the Vice-Chairman of the Lummi Tribe which is located near Bellingham, Washington. We earlier brought together all the leaders of the American Indian Tribes and National Organizations in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Asian Ambassadors and Commercial/Trade Attaches. Guests from Congress and the White House also joined us. The objective was to promote trade between the American Indians and the Asian countries. As a way of giving thanks we also arranged a reception held at the Philippine Ambassador’s official residence during the tenure of then Ambassador and Former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez. Together, the group of Indian tribes virtually controls 37% of the natural resources of the United States. We had never seen so much seafood brought by the American Indians especially salmon coming from the Quinault Tribe of Washington State. Another friend Joe de la Cruz, Chief of the Quinault Nation and Chairman of the powerful National Congress of American Indians was responsible for bringing the salmon. He is part Filipino.   
                                      FISH FROM THE QUINAULT NATION

When Fred Lane travelled to Asia, he passed by the Philippines. I happily hosted him and made sure that he met President Cory Aquino, DFA Secretary Raul Manglapus, Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, among others.

After learning the history of the Philippines, he said, “Unlike the Philippine natives in Cebu Island, we American Indians goofed. When Magellan was looking for the Spice Islands, got lost and was discovered by the natives, the latter made sure that the former was killed (by Lapu-lapu) and never returned. In our case, when Columbus was also looking for the Spice Islands, got lost and was discovered by us, we spared his life and allowed him to go back. He got to tell them about our land which encouraged many undesirably inept (definition for “turkey”) Europeans and Pilgrims to come. This mistake has caused the killing of millions of turkeys annually to celebrate “Thanksgiving Day”.

 A few years ago I came across a passage from an unknown author. Since then, I always quote it when appropriate and when opportunity calls for it.  Thanksgiving Day definitely fits such an occasion.  I re-write and re-post it to reiterate how grateful I am for what God the Almighty has bestowed upon me and how the passage actually reflected the kind of blessings I have humbly received.

“I asked God for strength,
that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked for health,
that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches,
that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power,
that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things,
that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
But everything I had hoped for,
And almost despite myself,
My unspoken prayers were answered.
He’s always with me
I am, among all men, most richly, blessed.“

Indeed, we should count our blessings on this day and thank those who have richly affected our lives positively and those who have challenged it in a more meaningful way.

Our immediate families, relatives, friends, neighbors, office or work mates, co-members of our church and local community, town mates and many more should make up that long list that embody the mass of people empowered to be the voice and agents of God.  Indeed, blessed are we for being surrounded with so much love and support.

Thanks I give for my life, for my liberty, and for all the God-given tools to pursue material and spiritual happiness.

Thank you for my being.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Former World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman once said, “Boxing is the sport to which all other sports aspire.”

“All sports have the potential of becoming about much more than athletics, transforming into symbols of a culture’s and country’s mood, insecurities, conflicts, and hopes. But perhaps no sport lends itself to this kind of transposition more than boxing. For the purity of boxing gives it the nature of a blank canvas; there is no playing field or special equipment; the rules are few and easy to understand. There is but two men, facing off with nowhere to go, with only their fists and their determination to decide their fate. Thus boxing easily becomes a metaphor for debates over our values: good vs. evil, immigrant vs. nativist, bravado vs. humility, intellect vs. brute strength,” wrote Brett & Kate McKay on May 30, 2009.
Pacquiao declared as winner

Indeed, Congressman Manny Pacquiao settled a lot of debates in his last fight. He reaffirmed what Ring Magazine had already pronounced: “Pound for pound, he is currently the greatest boxer in the world.” While his trainer Freddie Roach and his promoter, Bob Arum had already asserted it earlier, even Robert Garcia, trainer of Margarito now publicly admits, “He’s the best fighter in the world. He’s just too fast.”

How fast? He actually threw a total of 1069 punches and landed 474. How hard? He unleashed 713 power punches and landed 411. How accurate? It was 44% totally and 58% for the powerful ones. How consistent? In his fight with Clottey, he threw a total of 1231 punches also in 12 rounds.

My barber described Pacquiao’s speed and accuracy as well as Margarito’s fate this way in Tagalog; “Si Manny, pakyaw lahat ng 12 rounds. Walang tinge. Suntok – pasok rito, pasok doon. Mukha ni Tony, MAGA-RITO, maga doon. Battered bog-bog and bewildered. Triple B.”

A Filipino commentator during the fight said, “Ang suntok galing sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao. Wasak ang mukha at namamaga ang eye of the storm – the Tijuana Tornado (alias for Margarito).”

An American broadcaster said, “Pacquiao was turning Margarito’s face into a hamburger.”

It was a dollar to peso exchange. For every punch that Margarito gave, Pacquiao gave back 42.

According to HBO statisticians, Margarito was hit on the right and left of his face 117 and 136 times respectively. His chin received 148 blows and his right and left sides, 50 and 23.

It was a super, fantastic, pugilistic and “brutalistic” display of human skill, strength and intelligence. It was also a demonstration of endurance, courage and Mexican pride in the case of Margarito.

While critics of boxing would easily describe it as “animalistic behavior” Pacquiao certainly softens such attacks to the profession that got him out of poverty through his signs of the cross, kneeling and praying, as well as declaring to the world that he owed everything to God.  When asked by Mario Lopez of Dancing with the Stars why in the 10th and 11th rounds he kept looking at the referee virtually asking him to stop the fight hence, stopping the beating. He said, “Boxing is not about people killing each other.”
Pacquiao interviewed by Mario Lopez

Ringside observers were quite critical of Margarito’s corner and referee, Laurence Cole for not stopping the fight. In fact, a Filipino broadcaster called him at that moment a Cole-hearted person. “I was very close to stopping the fight but every time I attempted, Margarito would fire back punches.”

In her book, Joyce Carol Oates traced the roots of boxing. During the early Olympics and the Panhellenic festivals, boxing was still in its most primitive form: “no rounds, ring, weight classes, rest periods or point systems. A boxer was declared the winner when his opponent could no longer continue and cried uncle.”

According to her, in Ancient Rome, boxing was part of the Gladiator contests where the Gladiators would wrap their hands and forearms with leather straps, studded with metal shards (the cestus) and would battle it out, often until death.

The true birthplace of modern prize fighting is really England where wealthy patrons put huge wagers down on the fights of their chosen pugilists. Rules governing the sport were developed. John Broughton pushed boxing as a cure for “foreign effeminacy” and dubbed it as a “truly British art.” It became a substitute for  the deadly tradition of “dueling” as a way to defend one’s honor. It was also a great leveler for all economic classes.

When it arrived in the United States, its most important advocate was Theodore Roosevelt who himself boxed as a young man throughout college and into his presidency. According to him, “the most powerful, vigorous men of strong animal development must have some way in which their animal spirits can find vent.” The role of boxing in training at the Armed Forces and that of the YMCA was due to Roosevelt’s advocacy.

Boxing then is not necessarily the evil and animalistic sport that its critics would like to portray. It has its own rich history. Included in the Olympics and licensing it as a profession, it has gained worldwide acceptance. In America, a boxer became a politician and in fact, became President of the United States.

Pacquiao has excelled in his first chosen profession. His first title was in the 112-pound flyweight division. Then he won titles at 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147, and of course, the latest one which is the 154-pound junior middleweight division. That’s a total of 8 titles. No other boxer in history ever accomplished such a feat. He is definitely the best offensive fighter of all time and arguably the greatest fighter ever.

Congressman Pacquiao

Pacquiao is also concurrently a politician. Elected as a Congressman in the Sarangani province of the Philippines by a landslide, he now has to perform as fast, as hard, as effective and as efficient as he was as a boxer.

Politics, especially in a developing country like the Philippines, means poverty alleviation, prosperity and progress, peace, people empowerment, and the pursuit of happiness. To some, it also means pork barrel. He joined the government with great political capital: popular public support.

During the fight, the Philippines as a nation stood still. Crime rate was virtually zero. The criminals and the law enforcement officers watched the fight. The military declared a ceasefire and the rebels chose to watch. All the institutions suspended operations just to watch. Congressmen who did not go to Texas also opted to watch. Even P-Noy who was attending an APEC conference found time to watch.

How will Pacquiao channel this popularity and goodwill as a public servant? Will he use it to help alleviate poverty? To the poor he represents hope. He has become an inspiration and rags to riches model. Will he help negotiate peace? Will he reject the pork or will he use it for projects helping the poor? Will he fight corruption as aggressively? Will he lead an empowered people in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity?

As we listened to the post-fight interview of Pacquiao, my barber said, “I am very proud of my former governor. Behind every successful fight of Pacquiao, is my governor.”

“Why is that? Can you prove it?” I asked him.

“Look.” As he pointed to Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and other Filipino politicians as they stood “behind” Pacquiao for the entire world to see.

Pacquiao and supporters behind him

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I was with my barber the other day and got to exchange some interesting funny stories and jokes we heard during the last few weeks..

He told me that a priest once went into his barber shop, sat down, got a good haircut, thanked him, and asked how much he owed him. 

My barber said, 'Father, you're a holy man, a man of the cloth, there is no charge for you.' 

The priest blessed my barber and said, 'Thank you very much' and went about his business.

The next day, 10 gold coins magically appeared on my barber's doorstep. 

A few days later, a Buddhist monk went in for a shave and a shine, and when the time came to pay, my barber said, 'No money, please, you're a spiritual leader, a man of the people, It's on the house.' 

The next day, magically appearing on the doorstep were 10 magnificent rubies. 

The following week a rabbi came in, got a haircut, went to pay and my barber said, 'No, Rabbi, you are a learned man, a wise man, I can't take any money from you, go in peace.' 

Then the next day, the barber opened his shop to find 10 Rabbis waiting for a haircut.
My barber’s Pastor in charge of choir songs was going out of town so he couldn’t supervise the preparation for the next Sunday’s services. 

The choir conductor asked the Pastor what the first hymn would be. The latter said, “It depends. The general election will be this Tuesday, so the first hymn will depend on the result.  If the Republicans and the Tea Partiers win, it will be #823, “Now thank we all our God.” However, if the Democrats and the Labor Unions win put up # 758, “Go labor on, spend and be spent.”

“Okay. Oh, there’s just one thing,” said the conductor. “Suppose the Libertarians win, what number would you want me to put up?”

“In that circumstance,” said the Pastor, “Put up # 246, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform."
By flying to Asia President Obama is very glad to be away from the Tea Partiers in the U.S.  What he did not realize is that in India a Darjeeling Tea party is hosted; in Indonesia, a Black Tea party; in Korea, a Ginseng Tea party; and in Japan, a Green Tea party.
My barber also told me about some of his favorite late night comments namely:

David Letterman: 1) “"The president is going to India. He’ll be traveling on Air Force One-Term."  2) "Republicans are in charge now. We all remember how well that worked last time."

Jimmy Fallon:  1) "Everyone is talking about the unemployment rate. This week it went up by about 65 Democrats."  2) "In his new book George Bush reveals that he considered dropping Dick Cheney in 2002 to show he was in charge, not Cheney. But then Cheney nixed the idea." 

Jimmy Kimmel: 1) "Our forefathers fought and died for our right to choose, and to honor them, today almost 12% of us went out and voted.” 2) "The Democrats lost the House. Big deal, a lot of Americans lost their houses. Why shouldn’t they?”

Jay Leno:  1) "Ohio Republican John Boehner will take over for Nancy Pelosi. Those are some big eyes to fill." 2) "The government will pump an additional $600 billion into the economy. I guess they have to make up for what Meg Whitman isn’t spending anymore."  3) "Not only did Meg Whitman lose, now she can’t find anybody to clean her house."
My barber is predicting that the U.S. would have a woman President sooner than we expect.  More women are successfully getting involved in national politics.  Besides, there’s one advantage of electing a woman president of the U.S. 

I asked him what the advantage was and he answered, “We wouldn’t have to pay her as much.”
Many Filipinos in San Francisco are very happy about the victory of the Giants winning the World Series after several decades of drought. As many if not more are those Filipinos who were happy about the results of the elections being part of the Browns for Brown campaign.

Baseball vs. Politics:  Similarity – Both are America’s pastime.  Difference – In baseball, you’re out when you’re caught stealing.
“It was a terrific election,” my barber says.  “About one hundred million took time off to vote. Seventy-five million of them actually did.”
My barber’s dream ran this way: “Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were caught spying in Iran. The penalty was 100 lashes.  The punisher wanted to show some kindness to the three women so he allowed them to put something at their back.

When Nancy Pelosi was asked what to put in her back she said, “Nothing.” She received her lashes without a sound.

“What about you, Clinton?”

“Lotion and oil, please,” Clinton answered. She received the whip with much pain.

“What do you want on your back, Palin?” asked the punisher for the third time.

“Nancy Pelosi,” answered Palin.
What is the difference between an American Democrat and an American Republican?
Alicia Moss described it this way:

An American Democrat: 
You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful.
You vote people into office that put a tax on your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax.
The people you voted for then take tax money, buy a cow and give it to your neighbor.
You feel righteous and Barbara Streisand sings for you. 

An American Republican: 
You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The voice of the people is the voice of God. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.

The people’s voice is heard through elections. Their sovereign powers are exercised directly through people’s initiative or propositions and indirectly through their elected representatives.

The recently held elections gave some very interesting results.  In general, the people handed power to the Republicans and Tea Partiers in the House and to the Democrats in the Senate. 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House is granted the exclusive powers to initiate revenue bills, impeach officials, and elect the President in Electoral College deadlocks.

The Senate in turn is granted the exclusive powers to give consent to treaties as a precondition to their ratification, to give consent or confirmation of appointments of Cabinet secretaries, federal judges, other federal executive officials, military officers, regulatory officials, ambassadors, and other federal uniformed officers. It is also empowered to conduct the trial of federal officials impeached by the House.

Of course, aside from their exclusive powers, the two Congressional bodies are together empowered to legislate on other matters benefiting the people provided that the President signs the passed bills into law.  If the President vetoes them, it takes 2/3 votes of the House and the Senate voting separately to override the veto. This means that the President’s legislative power is really equivalent to 2/3 votes minus 1.

Recognizing the above-mentioned Constitutional mandate, and considering that the Republicans were given control of the House and the Democrats the Senate, what then were the voices shouted by the people?

It might be advisable to look at the surveys prior to the elections as well as the exit polls on issues that are of concern to the people. These issues should be read and analyzed together with the election results.

The issues brought out during the campaign were taxes, deficit, social security, healthcare, financial regulations, Afghanistan, energy and global warming, Start Treaty, and education. According to exit polls conducted by the Edison Institute and published by CNN and the Associated Press, 62% of the voters name the economy as their most important issue this year. Ranked as a distant second is health care being named by 19%, illegal immigration follows at 8% and Afghanistan at 7%.

Worth mentioning and resulting from the exit polls is that the respondents were unhappy with everyone in government, from President Obama to Congress and that they have a similar view of the Democrats and the Republicans – NEGATIVE.

The Democrats got a positive opinion of 43% from the voters but a negative one of 53%. The Republicans were given thumbs up by 41% but thumbs down also by 53% from the voters.

How do we read the election results and the exit polls as expression of the will of the American people?

The Republican-controlled House is expected to initiate revenue bills that would reduce taxes, spending and correspondingly, deficits. It is also expected to initiate bills that would try to help the economy and encourage job creation. The Bush tax cuts are expiring. Both parties are in favor of extending the tax cuts for couples earning not more  than $250K or for singles earning not more than $200K. The Republicans would fight for extending tax cuts for everybody including earners of more than $250K.  There would be disagreements between the parties.

The American people’s mandate is for the parties to compromise.  The people expect both to find ways to work together.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to give full attention and review of the revenue and economic bills initiated by the House. It is likewise expected that it would have its own proposals. The voters want the Senate to accelerate confirmation of President Obama’s federal appointments be they judges, ambassadors, military officers or other federal officials.  Treaties like the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) which was entered into between U.S. and Russia should be given greater attention. Again, there would be disagreements between parties.

The American people’s mandate is also for the parties to learn how to work together and seek to compromise.

The art of RECONCILIATION of bills by the House and Senate shall be tested and displayed for the benefit of the sovereign American people.

In more specific terms, the mid-term elections also brought some special results that affected Filipino-Americans. My barber particularly mentioned two elected Filipino-Americans who won overwhelmingly. Republican Ohio Congressman Steve Austria got reelected as a member of the new House catapulted by the historic Republican tsunami. Democrat Maryland State Delegate Kris Valderrama also got reelected with tremendous support from Filipinos in coalition with other minorities. She won despite opposition from her own State Senator and the party machine in both the primaries and the general election. She was however endorsed and supported by the AFSME (American Federal, State, and Municipal Employees) Union, the winning Maryland Governor, Senate President and Speaker.

In California and in Nevada where Filipinos are dominant among Asians, the former is partially credited for the victories of Governor-elect Jerry Brown and Re-elected U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Nevada’s Senate Majority Floor Leader Harry Reid.

By giving the Republicans some major powers including some exclusive ones, the people correspondingly also gave them major responsibilities. They have two years to show how they would exercise the given powers to meet their responsibilities.

The Democrats in the Senate are given another chance within a longer period to show how they would work with President Obama and the Republicans both in the Senate and in the House.

Will all the parties concerned listen to Vox Populi Vox Dei?  We will know in the next two years.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Youth’s Decision: Chance or Change

Within a few of days each other, occurring in the Philippines and in the United States are several events which the youth’s judgment is challenged. The first is Halloween (both countries); second is the Barangay and Sangguniang Barangay elections in the Philippines; third is the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies in Washington, D.C.; and fourth is the mid-term elections in the United States.

Halloween involves some minor decision-making processes. Should a girl dress as a Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi, Christine O’Donnell or as a witch? Should a boy go as Obama, Osama, or Pope Benedict?  Should they go to the Kennedy mansion, the Cheney house, the houses where they are far apart, or at the King’s Manor where the townhouses are all connected to each other? Should it be trick or treat?
Barangay is the most basic governmental unit in the Philippines.  The Chairman which used to be called Captain (Kapitan) is elected not only to act as Chief Executive of the Barangay or in some cases the entire village, but also the representative of the Barangay citizens in the Municipal Council. He also presides over the Barangay Council and in some instances exercises some judicial functions. Electing the Chairman therefore, is a major decision because it has repercussions not only to the present but most especially to the future of the residents.

Sangguniang Barangay is a good training ground for the Filipino youth. It is also a form of self-governance for the latter. It provides them a chance to exercise executive as well as legislative powers.  The Aquino government had announced their intention to abolish the Sangguniang Barangay earlier. The fact that there is an election means that the youth is given another chance to change the course of Philippine governance starting at the most basic unit.

Under Section 13, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being . . .”

As mentioned in a previous column, “the Sangguniang Barangay is an organization with a mechanism that is the only one of its kind in the world. Established by law, the SK puts the Philippines in the forefront of an emerging movement worldwide to give the youth a direct role in shaping policies and programs. It provides the youth the opportunity to learn leadership skills and self-governance.”

President Aquino also announced a plan to set-up an e-Center in every Barangay. Internet would then be accessible to residents in every Barangay.  Again, the youth would be in the forefront of the internet revolution in every Barangay. The Sangguniang Barangay members and elected officers are all without exception, what Dan Tapscott calls the “Digital Natives” or those who were “born digital”, “growing up digital”, and “grown-up digital”. Give or expose them to an iPhone, iPad, smart phone, netbook or any electronic product and they will learn on their own the features and the effective utilization of the devices.  Giving the “Net Generation” or the “Text Generation” the chance to access a broadband network would help them change the e-Centers into an effective e-Gov, e-Communications (e-mail, VOIP, Video-over IP), e-Library (e-books, audio books, etc.) e-Learning, e-Entertainment (multimedia, movies, games, etc.), e-Commerce, e-Shopping, e-Banking, and other changes that may surprise us all.
The rallies led by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to be held in Washington, D.C. would most likely attract America’s youth and the progressive or liberal segments of America’s political society. They will be compared to the rallies of the conservatives led by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s Tea Party.

The decision for the youth is to go or not to go.  Going would negate the perception that they are now less enthusiastic in supporting the change which they aggressively pushed two years ago. It would also mean that they are giving “change” a “chance”. Not going would confirm what the conservatives had been asserting all along – the youth prefer another change.
The mid-term elections is another critical event for the youth. The latter’s role is more significant than ever in deciding what course or direction should America go vis-à-vis the change which the youth espoused a couple of years ago. They voted for Obama’s promise of change over John McCain by an overwhelming 2:1 margin (66% vs. 32%). In addition, in both 2006 and 2008, the youth voted for Democratic congressional candidates about the same 2:1 margin that they gave the president in his general election victory.

Obama promised healthcare reform. Another 40 million Americans are now covered by health insurance with the passage of the healthcare reform law. That’s a change that the youth believed in and in fact, Obama delivered.  A recent survey shows that 45% of the young favors it, and another 14% want to see how it works in practice. Only 18% favor repealing it outright.

“Youth is the first victim of war; the first fruit of peace. It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.” (Baudouin).

The youth believed that Obama would get us out of wars. He had already started the withdrawal of forces from Iraq and is now preparing the groundwork for eventual withdrawal in Afghanistan.

On the Bush tax cuts, 34% of the young prefer to let all of the Bush 2001 tax cuts to expire, and an additional 26% favor letting the tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000 per year. Only 23% believe that all of the tax cuts should be extended.

The decision for the American youth in these mid-term elections then is: should they go to the polls and give “change” a “chance” or vote for another change instead?

My barber says, “the problem with another change is that given the pronouncements of the alternative, it could go back to the old policies which the youth already rejected only two years ago.”
Amidst all the events discussed above, there are actually two other events which are just as significant if not more so and which could lead to better decisions for the young. To Catholics and other Christians, one event is “All Saints’ Day”, and to many others, another event is “All Souls’ Day”.

As models in exemplary service and self-less devotion to noble causes, the Saints, Heroes, and our dearly beloved, could guide the youth and all of us to greater glory and better judgment.

As Willa Cather said, “The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.”

In God and in them we trust!  In the youth we bank our hopes!