Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Ones For You

When people have shared experiences in the past, meet again and realized that they can't be together even if they still love each other and must part, there is a feeling of great sadness. Saying goodbye to people that we love and feel connected to is an occasion of somber reflection and not an easy situation to be in. It is hard to imagine not seeing them ever again, and yet we have to go on separate ways. It is comforting to know that even if you might not see each other again and you will be separated forever, you will always be in each other's hearts, and at least the friendship has to be nurtured. It is for those who are in this situation that I wrote this poem:

We are standing here and yet
Not knowing what to say
Has anything really changed at all?
We age slowy and live some years.

No longer are we star crossed
but we both know it feels the same
but really, what is the choice to make?
I chose the life I live, as you did your own.

My eyes are blinded by my unshed tears,
but at last this time I see
I guess it was not meant to be,
As it wasn't in the past.

Thought you'd ask for forgiveness
But then, what is there to forgive
Nothing I hear will take these words
And change them from Goodbye.

I'd ask you to always remember
the good times and the friendship
I said I'd always love you
Who knows what the future holds?

Sail on, and find your shore
I ask you not to cry, please just try
Tomorrow will be better
Cause true love is never ending!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Choice I Made

Recently I've found myself having to make a seemingly very difficult decision in life. As I have heard many times, life is sometimes too tough and often throws us challenges which are too difficult for us to handle. So we try to avoid it, try to push it aside, never confront it or put it at the back of our mind and deal with it later. This was what happened to me a few days ago. I was faced with a situation where I had to make a life changing decisions. The more I try to avoid facing the challenge, the more it creates a problem for me and making it hard for me to make a smart and quick decision which was very important at that point. I spent countless hours thinking about it, contemplating all of the options, and trying to sort out all of the complex emotions that go along with the decision I had to make. I made pro and con lists, took a long drive, wrote down my feelings until I could come to a place where I could be comfortable with the decision that I have to make. The question that was bugging me those times was, how can I be sure that it is the right decision, and how can I possibly understand the outcome of something that is as unpredictable as life itself? The result---I got sick! Too much pressure and stress made my stomach upset and I didn't sleep one whole night. I felt miserable. I got exhausted and drained. I thought I was worn out. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. There was nothing I felt like doing.

The truth is, I really believe that there should be no rushing or shortcuts in making life changing decisions. And there is no right or wrong way to make a decision, and despite my attempt to predict the outcome, there are so many variables in my life that it was nearly impossible to know where my path will take me. But I knew I had to make a decision. I knew at that moment that the only thing I can do is make the best decision I knew how to make at the time. Making a decision can be a difficult process, especially if you are dealing with a situation that is affecting you mentally and emotionally.

I decided to confront my dilemma. Whatever gives me more happiness and peace of mind, I have to take it. I told myself that if I end up hurting someone, I need to see if I can make up for that. Its never possible to make everyone happy, so I have to see what and how much other people make a difference in my life to figure out the decision I have to make.

Indeed its not until we deal with the challenge that is facing us and make decisions about it that true liberation and the possibility to change our reality arises. Support of families, friends and love ones also plays a very vital role in helping us go through the process. I am very blessed to have family and friends who let me know they are always there for me and a love and partner who always understands and supports me in anything that I am going through in my life.

I finally made one of the hardest decisions that I ever had. It is an awesome liberation when I think about it because it means that the outcome of my choices or decision is not really that important. What's important is unveiling another aspect of who I am, what I am and what is really more important to me at this point. I believe, life is all about making choices, we get to choose one among the many, and the one we choose defines our future and destiny..

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Touching The Moon

Yesterday as I was flying back from Houston, Texas for my college reunion last weekend, I couldn't stop thinking that this reunion felt way too short. Even though the attendance turnout was lower than expected, I have to say it was enjoyable and very fruitful. I would have enjoyed another evening or two of more conversations, laughs and reminiscing with all of my fellow alumni, but at the same time, I was so glad to be home now.

One thing that struck me during our gathering was how much down to earth almost everyone was. Instead of people flaunting their status in life, most everyone was more anxious to talk about life in the campus back then & reminisce the experiences we all had been together, discuss how our families have been flourishing, the travels and experiences we've lived, our dreams and aspirations for our alma mater and country in general. I really felt a sense that everyone had been able to let their hair down and just enjoy the reunion without any concern over status, job, wealth, looks, etc.

I was also struck with these thoughts as well. I talked to so many people I never really had a chance to know at all in college days and was amazed at what great personalities so many of them have and how much they have gone in their lives. And oh my gosh! I finally realized I was sorrounded by very nice and smart people. It was really a very refreshing feeling to have the opportunity to reconnect and get to know them more this time. I am enjoying their friendships now. Many of us had some great friendships back then but somehow we just let it slip away. Back then there was no text messaging and no email. After more than two decades had passed, one thing happened to me as I bet it did to many. I heared many people at reunions said that they genuinely wanted to stay in touch. I just hope that now that the reunion was over, everybody will get caught right back up in their normal life, but those good intentions won't be forgotten.

I for one would really like to resurrect old friendships with many MSUans whom I've known for 20+ years, and for many of them I talked to for the first time last weekend, I hope to start brand new friendships. I hope that by the time our next reunion comes (2011 in Chicago, Illinois), I'll be able to proudly say that I have a great many new friends that I've stayed in touch with these past two years.

This reunion was just a beginning for all MSUans not only in the US but throughout the world. We all know we have a big task at hand--to help the young ones back home who are poor but deserving to achieve their highest potential and continue setting the standard of excellence both in our personal & professional life and service to our fellowmen and our country for which the universtiy stands for.

some of the reunion photos I took:

Miss Batch 80's dancing the Philippine national dance called Tinikling:

Native costume night:

Cowboy Night:
the batch 80's:
Batch 80's ladies with then AVP-Ruffy Ignacio:
Tess is my kababayan & batchmate from Gensan who came here just to attend the reunion:
Contestants for Mr. & Ms. MSU e!Village Int'l, hahaha!:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The MSU Houston, Texas Reunion 2009

I am here in Houston, Texas for my college reunion. I graduated from Mindanao State University (MSU)in the Philippines. I am posting this to highlight my attendance to this gathering.

To give you an idea of MSU,I copied this from the MSU official website:

"Created under RA 1387 as amended through authorship of Senator Domocao A. Alonto, the Mindanao State University was established in Marawi City on September 1, 1961. Dr. Antonio Isidro, former Vice President for Academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines, was its founder and first president.

Formal classes opened in June 1962 with 282 students, 19 faculty members and staff, and three core colleges: Community Development, Liberal Arts and Education.

After more than three decades of operation, the University has grown into a multi-campus University System with seventeen colleges and degree-granting units in the Marawi campus alone.

The Marawi campus enjoys a triple-center distinction as the Regional Science Training Center, the Regional Carabao Center and one of the country’s Centers of Excellence in Teacher Education. The University has also opened itself to the outside world through her cooperative linkages with major universities of Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. When it comes to the educational dimension of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), MSU is among the leaders of the Philippine universities.

There are six other autonomous campuses with different thrusts distributed in strategic locations throughout Mindanao: MSU IIT, MSU General Santos, MSU Sulu, MSU Maguindanao, MSU Naawan and MSU Tawi-Tawi. Under the propulsion of a unique and noble mission, each campus is making strides towards excellence."

MSU is the only university in the Philippines with a special mandate of integrating the cultural communities into the maintream of the nation's socio-cultural and political life by providing them with oppurtunities for quality and relevant public education for their self development and providing trained manpower skills and technical know-how for the economic development of the Mindanao, Sulu (Basilan and Tawi-Tawi) and Palawan region.

In the Philippines and anywhere in the world you will find MSUans on top of their chosen fields, either as an enterpreneur, educator, scientist, engineer, doctor, etc. Every year, there are MSUan board topnotchers especially in the engineering and education field. One of my batchmates was Top 1 in the Mechanical engineering board.

So, what is an MSUan? MSUan is the term for a student or alumnus of Mindanao State University.

I couldn't find the exact words that would aptly describe the coined term. One could go about this on a general scale or on a more personal approach. So I consider a way to tackle this and decided to make it something personal but with a global relevance.

On that note, I chose to pen something that echoes my distinct voice, experiences, and ideals as an MSUan. And to simplify it even further I'm going to approach it acrostically.

M - Mindanao. Although not all of us are Mindanao natives, once you have stayed in MSU, you get to imbibe the culture, the mindset, and the pride of the Mindanaons. MSU is a melting pot of Mindanao culture. It boasts of a studentry, faculty, and staff as diverse as the peoples of the world. Wherever an MSUan goes, he bears the emblem, sojourns and sufferings of Mindanao in his heart. He is an advocate for Mindanao at heart, no matter where he may be or what his circumstances are.

S - State as in government. An MSUan has firm ideals regarding the government, and these ideals are not founded on what the government can do for him but rather on what God can do for him and his government, as well as what he can do for God and his government. 'S' is also for the spirit that drives an MSUan to endeavor for progress and development, to pursue his dreams and goals, and to scale to greater heights in every life's facet.

U - University that is like no other to every MSUan. With its distinct academic culture and excellence. Huge portions of MSU students are scholars and provided the whole world with highly valuable manpower that has made significant contributions to the global workforce. Therefore, 'U' also refers to the entire universe out there that MSUans have conquered. Almost every country in the world harbors Filipino professionals and among these Filipinos, you're most likely to find an MSUan.

Our first University President, Dr. Isidro once said: "Ideas are movers of the world ... The capacity to develop good ideas as well as the power to transalate them to reality ... these are the hallmarks of a true MSUan. " The main puropose of these Houston Reunion 2009 is to gather MSUan from all over the US to foster closer relationship among alumni and gather ideas and formulate plans on how we can give back to our Alma Mater. The question posed for everyone is "HOW YOU WOULD LIKE TO REACH OUT AND LEAVE A MARK FOR MINDANAO STATE UNIVERSITY?" and ponder on this "Every little act of unselfish volunteerism by every MSUan for Mindanao State University will surely lead to better and safe learning, living and working environment at our dear Alma mater and the surrounding communities, and better, united and stronger MSUans worldwide." I am sure this is going to be a sharing and gathering of ideas and movers of different expertise. The seed will be planted on the grounds of our Dear MSU, but when they bear fruits, they will be harvested all over Mindanao, the Philippines and hopefully the world. After 22 years I will be able to see friends, dormmates, classmates & schoolmates again. I am going to dinner with fellow alumni tonight and I am looking forward to capturing challenging but happy memories of campus life...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Last Minute Rambling

It was a lovely day for a drive through the field of thoughts, my car was speeding through the Interstate highway & through the countryside. Beautiful scenery was a blur through the windows and thoughts swirled around the cars, bouncing off each other, new ones appearing at every bend. Such a fast lane in the road of life!

But then, one glance away and the car is lost. The thoughts are gone and one cannot remember the beauty of any they had just seen. A glimpse of one but then its gone. The frustration is overwhelming, with a longing to just remember those thoughts & memories one could see seconds before. A hope to recover when the road slows us down.

This is a once in a while display when fighting seems futile. An often lost train and often scattered thoughts. Some roads lead to nowhere, do they not?

Unpredictable, exasperating, some things are really frustrating!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Thoughts on Philippine Independence Day

It is 111th Independence Day today in my beloved Philippines.

Some are asking why are we celebrating Independence Day on June 12 when it was in July 4, 1946 that the US recognized our independence by virtue of the Treaty of Manila. As far as I can remember from my History class, it was observed every 4th of July in the Philippines until President Diosdado Macapagal signed Republic Act no. 4166 into law on August 4, 1964, designating June 12 (which had been previously observed as Flag Day) as the country’s Independence Day.

What is the significance of celebrating our independence day every year. Have we ever ask ourselves if we really are independent in the truest sence of the word? Why is it that most of us think that beauty means fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes; being classy means Gucci, D&G, YSL and hot wheels means BMW, Benz, Ford, GMC.. Basically we desire to be Americans. Some Filipino parents prepares a grand party when a daughter is engaged to a foreigner. We patronize imported products instead of buying Filipino-made. Even old Filipino values had been thrown into the dustbin because we follow other culture. My point is, where is our identity as Filipinos? We may have been once a colony of Spanish & Americans but we are still Filipinos, we are not them and we will never be them. What works for them does not mean it will be good for us too. We have so many values that are endearing and are worth keeping like respect for our elders, close family ties, care for our olds and many more. National identity cannot be changed. If we insist on changing it, we will just end up being frustrated. For me, we should try to keep & perpetuate our positive values and get rid only of the negatives.

We should instead appreciate being Filipino. We should be proud of our own identity. There burns a fire in us that no other nation has, I think we are just not aware of it. If we Filipinos don't love our country, who will?

Thoughts to ponder especially today...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Photography

Photography is one of my hobbies. It has become a passion for me and I really love taking photos. It is easy to say that my life is full of photography talk.

About 3 years ago, when I bought my first expensive digital camera the sales assistant told me that it had different functions and capabilities like ‘metering modes’, 15 megapixels, shutter speed of up to 3200, white balance, etc... At the time I was too embarrassed to ask what that means and bought the camera without knowing. I had this $3300 (body alone) camera and all I could do was use the automatic function. It was my gift to myself & I just want to have an expensive camera even if I was not using its full potential,hahaha!. It took me a while studying the manual and reading online tutorial to work it out but once I did I realized that it was really an amazing camera. Then just recently, I bought a new Model with a much higher megapixel and with HD video. I had been doing some US travels and planning to do some intensive world travels in the future that I have thought of really getting serious in photography. So I enrolled in a digital photography class for SLR camera. I just finished my basic class last saturday.

I’m still learning about the different functions of my camera and how to effectively use them, however I do know that since venturing a little more out of ‘Auto’ and experimenting with the different techniques that my photography will improve a lot.

Here I post some of the photos I took capturing the serenity of nature, beauty & life around me--child's smile,rivers, animals, trees, flowers, old towns, old churches. Not exactly high quality photography, but I already used techniques in getting a decent photos. Hopefully my readers will enjoy looking at it.
Click on the photo for a much larger view.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Just My Random Thoughts

It makes me more pensive whenever I read stories or articles about Filipinos leaving the country and families behind in search for a greener pasture, then stay in that foreign country (esp. US & Europe) and after getting adapted, never look back--fell more like Americans or Europeans than a Filipino.

We cannot really blame our kababayans for trying to find a better life by working in other countries. If only our government do their jobs... But then government emanates FROM the people, we voted for our leaders, so we have no one to blame but ourselves for believing these politicians who most of the times cannot deliver their promises.

Sometimes, I wonder why are we as a group of people are gifted with shobby leaders that forced a lot of Filipinos to seek elsewhere to find their niche, earn a living, make their lives better and further themselves working, slaving themselves to earn something and sending them back to the Philippines. Of course there are obvious reasons.... but I do believe that Filipinos have greater MISSION than what they may have realized.

As far as I can see, we are a very resourceful race. When it seems we've reached the end of the road, we still find a way. It is only in the Philippines that midwives can turn the transverse lie of a baby into cephalic position so the mother can deliver normally. Here in the United States, such a case would automatically call for caesarean section.

Unlike in many countries, respect for our elders stands as the norm of our society. Answering parents when being corrected spells downright catastrophe. Even our superstitions warn against disrespect for elders (Gabaan ta sa tigulang). High school life in our country is not as traumatic as it is in some developed countries because we respect the authorities. As a result, we become more psychologically stable individuals.

Filipino families are usually solid support systems. We stand together from one economic crisis to the next. Because we are able to unload our stress to our family, we have better levels of sanity thus, suicide cases are very rare. Family members are so intimate with each other that siblings know each other's secrets and borrow one another's things. In our society, the problem of one becomes the problem of the whole family and even of the relatives. For us, our families are the fuel for our dreams. We want to catch the stars for those we love. Well, that is one noble thing in us worth admiring.

A people born into the nothingness of poverty, yet continuing to strive to be something for our families; a nation that respects the wisdom of the old in order to inspire the new generation, a race that amid deprivation produces a solution. That is the cream in Filipinos when unwrapped. So, before we ever think of us less for being a Filipino thus desiring to be citizens of other countries, think: Are resourcefulness, respect and family unity not worth the pride of being Filipinos?

On the other side , if the many Filipinos who are working outside the country did not leave the country, the economic downturn at present could have impacted a lot of people and could probably bring down our country to chaos and longer, worsening poverty.... What a scary possibility... but I am really inclined to think that we, as a race have a GREATER MISSION... other than what we think we are doing.

I don't know...just my thoughts...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

This is Hilarious!!!

I have not posted anything yet for the the month of June. It is my superstitious belief to always start anything on the first day of the month, but I had been very busy the last week of May and had been out of town this whole first week of June that I didn't finish any of my drafts yet.

But I have this saved on my favorites; a very hilarious observations of a British journalist stationed in the Philippines. I want to share this with anybody who comes across this blog.

This was written in 1999 but are facts about Filipinos and our unique traits, values, foods and culture:

Matter of Taste
By Matthew Sutherland

I have now been in this country for over six years, and consider myself in most respects well assimilated. However, there is one key step on the road to full assimilation, which I have yet to take, and that's to eat BALUT.

The day any of you sees me eating balut, please call immigration and ask them to issue me a Filipino passport. Because at that point there will be no turning back. BALUT,for those still blissfully ignorant non-Pinoys out there, is a fertilized duck egg. It is commonly sold with salt in a piece of newspaper, much like English fish and chips, by street vendors usually after dark, presumably so you can't see how gross it is.

It's meant to be an aphrodisiac, although I can't imagine anything more likely to dispel sexual desire than crunching on a partially formed baby duck swimming in noxious fluid. The embryo in the egg comes in varying stages of development, but basically it is not considered macho to eat one without fully discernable feathers,
beak, and claws. Some say these crunchy bits are the best. Others prefer just to drink the so-called 'soup', the vile, pungent liquid that surrounds the aforementioned feathery fetus...excuse me; I have to go and throw up now. I'll be back in a minute.

Food dominates the life of the Filipino. People here just love to eat.

They eat at least eight times a day. These eight official meals are called, in order: breakfast, snacks, lunch, merienda, merienda cena, dinner, bedtime snacks and no-one-saw-me-take-that-cookie-from-the-fridge-so-it-doesn't-count.

The short gaps in between these mealtimes are spent eating Sky Flakes Crackers from the open packet that sits on every desktop. You're never far from food in the Philippines. If you doubt this, next time you're driving home from work, try this game. See how long you can drive without seeing food and I don't mean a distant restaurant, or a picture of food. I mean a man on the sidewalk frying fish balls, or a man walking through the traffic selling nuts or candy. I bet it's less than one minute.

Here are some other things I've noticed about food in the Philippines:

Firstly, a meal is not a meal without rice - even breakfast. In the UK, I could go a whole year without eating rice. Second, it's impossible to drink without eating. A bottle of San Miguel just isn't the same without gambas or beef tapa. Third, no one ventures more than two paces from their house without bacon (food in small container) and a container of something cold to drink. You might as well ask a Filipino to leave home without his pants on. And lastly, where I come from, you eat with a knife and fork. Here, you eat with a spoon and fork. You try eating rice swimming in fish sauce with a knife.

One really nice thing about Filipino food culture is that people always ask you to SHARE their food. In my office, if you catch anyone attacking their "baon", they will always go, "Sir! KAIN TAYO!" ("Let's eat!"). This confused me, until I realized that they didn't actually expect me to sit down and start munching on their boneless bangus. In fact, the polite response is something like, "No thanks, I just ate." But the principle is sound - if you have food on your plate, you are expected to share it, however hungry you are, with those who may be even hungrier.I think that's great!

In fact, this is frequently even taken one step further. Many Filipinos use "Have you eaten yet?" ("KUMAIN KA NA?") irrespective of time of day or location. And or "Where are you going?" ("SAAN KA PUPUNTA?) as a general greeting, they will just respond as "Just right there." ("DIYAN LANG.") And they don't tell you where they are going.

Some foreigners think Filipino food is fairly dull compared to other Asian cuisines. Actually lots of it is very good: Spicy dishes like Bicol Express (strange, a dish named after a train); anything cooked with coconut milk; anything KINILAW; and anything ADOBO. And it's hard to beat the sheer wanton, cholesterolic frenzy of a good old-fashioned LECHON de leche (roast pig) feast. Dig a pit, light a fire, add 50pounds of animal fat on a stick, and cook until crisp. Mmm, mmm... you can actually feel your arteries constricting with each successive mouthful.

I also share one key Pinoy trait ---a sweet tooth. I am thus the only foreigner I know who does not complain about sweet bread, sweet burgers, sweet spaghetti, sweet banana ketchup, and so on. I am a man who likes to put jam on his pizza. Try it!

It's the weird food you want to avoid. In addition to duck fetus in the half-shell, items to avoid in the Philippines include pig's blood soup (DINUGUAN); bull's testicle soup, the strangely-named "SOUP NUMBER FIVE" (I dread to think what numbers one through four are); and the ubiquitous, stinky shrimp paste, BAGOONG, and it's equally stinky sister, PATIS. Filipinos are so addicted to these latter items that they will even risk arrest or deportation trying to smuggle them into countries like Australia and the USA, which wisely ban the importation of items you can smell from more than 100 paces.

Then there's the small matter of the purple ice cream. I have never been able to get my brain around eating purple food; the ubiquitous UBE leaves me cold.

The Filipino, of course, has a well-developed sense of food. Here's a typical Pinoy food joke: "I'm on a seafood diet. "What's a seafood diet?" "When I see food, I eat it!"

Filipinos also eat strange bits of animals --- the feet,the head,the guts,etc., usually barbecued on a stick. These have been given witty names, like "ADIDAS" (chicken's feet); "KURBATA" (either just chicken's neck, or "neck and thigh" as in "neck-tie"); "WALKMAN" (pigs ears); "PAL" (chicken wings); "HELMET" (chicken head); "IUD" (chicken intestines), and BETAMAX" (video-cassette-like blocks of animal blood). Yum, yum. Bon appetit.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches"-- (Proverbs 22:1)

WHEN I arrived in the Philippines from the UK six years ago, one of the first cultural differences to strike me was names. The subject has provided a continuing source of amazement and amusement ever since. The first unusual thing, from an English perspective, is that everyone here has a nickname. In the staid and boring United Kingdom, we have nicknames in kindergarten, but when we move into adulthood we tend, I am glad to say, to lose them.

The second thing that struck me is that Philippine names for both girls and boys tend to be what we in the UK would regard as overbearingly cutesy for anyone over about five. Fifty-five-year-olds colleague put it. Where I come from, a boy with a nickname like Boy Blue or Honey Boy would be beaten to death at school by pre-adolescent bullies, and never make it to adulthood. So, probably, would girls with names like Babes, Lovely, Precious, Peachy or Apples. Yuk, ech ech.
Here, however, no one bats an eyelid.

Then I noticed how many people have what I have come to call "door-bell names".

These are nicknames that sound like -well, doorbells. There are millions of them.Bing, Bong, Ding, and Dong are some of the more common. They can be, and frequently are, used in even more door-bell-like combinations such as Bing-Bong, Ding-Dong, Ting-Ting, and so on. Even our newly appointed chief of police has a doorbell name Ping. None of these doorbell names exist where I come from, and hence sound unusually amusing to my untutored foreign ear.

Someone once told me that one of the Bigs, when asked why he was called Bing, replied, "because my brother is called Bong". Faultless logic. Dong, of course, is a particularly funny one for me, as where I come from "dong" is a slang word for well; perhaps "talong" is the best Tagalog equivalent.

Repeating names was another novelty to me, having never before encountered people with names like Len-Len, Let-Let, Mai-Mai, or Ning-Ning. The secretary I inherited on my arrival had an unusual one: Leck-Leck. Such names are then frequently further refined by using the "squared" symbol, as in Len2 or Mai2. This had me very confused for a while.

Then there is the trend for parents to stick to a theme when naming their children. This can be as simple as making them all begin with the same letter, as in Jun, Jimmy, Janice, and Joy.

More imaginative parents shoot for more sophisticated forms of assonance or rhyme, as in Biboy, Boy, Buboy, Baboy (notice the names get worse the more kids there are-best to be born early or you could end up being a Baby).

Even better, parents can create whole families of, say, desserts (Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Honey Pie) or flowers (Rose, Daffodil, Tulip). The main advantage of such combinations is that they look great painted across your trunk if you're a cab driver.

That's another thing I'd never seen before coming to Manila -- taxis with the driver's kids' names on the trunk.

Another whole eye-opening field for the foreign visitor is the phenomenon of the"composite" name. This includes names like Jejomar (for Jesus, Joseph and Mary), and the remarkable Luzviminda (for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,believe it or not). That's a bit like me being called something like "Engscowani" (for England,Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Between you and me, I'm glad I'm not.

And how could I forget to mention the fabulous concept of the randomly inserted letter 'h'. Quite what this device is supposed to achieve, I have not yet figured out, but I think it is designed to give a touch of class to an otherwise only averagely weird name. It results in creations like John, Lunn, Gamma, and Jimmy. Or how about Jhun-Jhun (Jhun2)?

How boring to come from a country like the UK full of people with names like John Smith. How wonderful to come to a country where imagination and exoticism rule the world of names.

Even the towns here have weird names; my favorite is the unbelievably named town of Sexmoan (ironically close to Olongapo and Angeles). Where else in the world could that really be true?

Where else in the world could the head of the Church really be called Cardinal Sin?

Where else but
the Philippines!

I hope you had a good laugh...