Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

fatherhood thoughts

When I was a young kid, fatherhood is such a distant possibility.

When I was a young teenager, fatherhood is something that is feared and is avoided like a plague.

After college, fatherhood is something that will happen when I reach my 30s or even 40s. 

When I got married, fatherhood is put off until we buy a house, travel the world and save a ton of money.

One morning in 1993, I stepped out of the hospital holding my first born on one arm and a bank book on the other that contained a pathetic amount.

When we arrived at our apartment, I felt at a loss on how to care for this precious angel. 

How I wished then that babies could come out and be ready for college. 

Milk! That’s it! I need to buy milk for my baby. 

I drove to a 24-hour supermarket and stood in front of a very long rack full of different milk brands. Which one do I buy? After staring for a few minutes at the rack, an old lady came by and saw me. She looked at me and said, “I can tell that you are a new father”. Feeling embarrassed, I nodded. 

The lady asked me if my baby has any health issues like allergies, etc. I told the lady that I don’t know. I was not able to call my wife from the store because I did not own a cell phone back then because they were expensive and not a lot of people own them. I ended up bringing home about 2-3 grocery bags full of different milk products. 

During the first evening, I sat next to my son’s crib checking on him every 30 minutes to make sure he is breathing.

I have two teenage children now but I still wake up at night to make sure that they are alright. 

A few minutes ago, I asked myself this question: Is fatherhood a job? a task? a role? a journey? or a title? 

I don’t know if I can really define fatherhood. To me, fatherhood is the peace and happiness that I feel whenever I see my children safe in the morning and are ready for a new day to learn how to build their own careers and accept the possibility that they too will become parents. 

Happy father’s day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reading the last page on Jonathan "Doy" Amihan.

When we fall far away from the people that we grew up with, does the grief of our departure reaches out to every person that we know? I don’t know which travels faster and further: The good news, the bad news or the sad news.

The sad news about the death of Jonathan “Doy” Amihan never reached me until a few evenings ago. I pulled and studied the graduation picture of Doy because I wanted to match the name with a face to help me remember. I labored to piece together a good memory about Amihan but the bits and pieces of memories in my mind are like dying glows of light. Whatever memories that I still have about Amihan are so brief that it does not tell a story. With the help of a few of our batch mates, I was able to paint a simple memoir about Amihan.

The Amihan family used to reside in Filoville in Naga City. During high school, Doy is known by his class mates and friends as being a book worm. He loves reading pocket books that are 3 to 4 inches thick. Whenever Doy is bored during class, especially if the teacher is Mr. Ordas, Mr. Lopez or Mr. Rubio, Doy would angle his body in a certain way to hide what he was doing from the line of sight of the teacher. He would then pull his pocket book and be immersed in the story of his book.

One of Doy’s relative is our own batch mate, Cesar Concon. It is quite entertaining to watch Amihan and Concon share stories between themselves because their energy level hits the ceiling everytime they do it. Their story telling technique is quite phenomenal because of their use of unique facial expressions accompanied by sounds effects that resembles the real thing. Their arms would fly all over the place while they describe the events inside their story. Just imagine these two guys tell the story about an action-filled war or karate movie. These guys ought to be in Hollywood.

Amihan along with Concon joined the DeMolay international which is a civic group whose origins dates back to 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri. It is an organization that mostly recruited young men ages 12 to 21.

During our batch’s year book photo session, the group consisting of Avenido, Caning, Bachiller, Abrigo, Canlas, Amoranto, Alarkon and Amihan went inside the room before my group. I watched closely Amihan’s group go through their “Kodak moment”. I remember Amoranto being a bit puzzled as to where he would put his hands since Canlas and Alarkon rested their arms on Amoranto’s legs.

Doy Amihan eventually moved to Palawan. I don’t know exactly when he was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away on February 8, 2012. They believe Amihan has one child.

Doy, though you are gone, your stories will never be forgotten...

I would like to extend my gratitude to a few members of the LG-17 who set aside a brief moment of their time to send me their fond memories about Doy. Without these batch mates, I don’t think I will be able to write much about our departed batch mate.

These LG-17 members proudly claims that their class is the official honors section of our batch. One of the respected LG-17 member is known to possess the same magical talent as the world renowned magician and escape artist, “Harry Houdini”. The reason why he is called “Houdini” is because he has the amazing ability to disappear in thin air whenever his birthday comes around. I prefer not to reveal his name in fear that this Houdini might cast a spell on me. The only thing I can tell you about him is he dwells in a huge castle ruling over many of his subjects. Behind his throne of power is a picture of a large iconic boxer. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Krazy Kangkong

After church this morning, my family and I drove to the Filipino supermarket to buy our food supply for the week. I was looking forward to buying one of my favorite vegetable, "Kangkong" (Ipomoea acuatica), a.k.a. river/water spinach. When I got to the vegetable section of the supermarket, I was surprised to discover the price of kangkong--$3.99 per pound! WHAT?! That's almost the same price as a pound of beef at a regular supermarket. How could a well known plant that some considers as a "poor man's food" be so expensive? This is ridiculous! 

I decided to buy a pound of Kangkong and when we got home, I placed it in a bowl of water. I plan to place each Kangkong cutting in a glass of water and hopefully roots will sprout on each cutting. This will be a good addition to my vegetable garden. Hopefully it works.

Ginisang kangkong, anyone? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

My simple shopping strategy.

While the whole world fought through thick crowds and long lines in the malls and stores, I relaxed and waited until yesterday to do my Christmas shopping. Some of you are probably saying that it is suicide to shop so close to Christmas day because people are like frantic lunatics desperate to grab the last good gifts on store shelves.

For me, I have already come up with a stress free plan in getting my family their Christmas gifts. What is that plan, you ask?

For years, I have always bought gifts for my family only to be disappointed when the gifts are opened on Christmas day. The items I bought are either the wrong brand, wrong color, does not have all the features they want, right brand but wrong model, just endless list of errors and blunders.

Well, after so much trial and error, I finally came up with a strategy one Christmas season about a decade ago. I loaded my family in our family car and asked them which mall or store(s) they would like to go. They give me their vote and we drive to their chosen place. When we arrive at the place, I would select a comfortable bench and ask my family to search for their preferred gift. I would enjoy a cup of Starbucks latte and patiently wait for my cell  phone to ring.

After about 30 or so minutes, a call would come in my cell phone requesting me to head to a particular store because one or both of my kids are already in line to the cashier holding their gifts. I would then casually walk to the store(s) and just pay the cashier.

When we returned to home, my kids would wrap their gifts and set it up under a tree. The whole shopping process is done in 2.5 hours.

This season, we went to a shopping district full of Korean gift stores and restaurants. My kids already knew what they wanted weeks in advance. It only took 15 minutes for my daughter to locate her gift and my son only took 10 minutes to find his gift. What a record breaker and I did not even finish my latte.

My wife and I are not into buying each other gifts anymore because we figured that we would rather focus our funds on getting our children good gifts because it delights us greatly to see them open their gifts and discover that it is what they really want. Well, the discovery experience is a bit absent because they picked the gifts themselves but the joy and happiness that they experience receiving the gift is priceless.

Merry Christmas everyone. 

The thankful Tree on the trail

Early this morning, I went to the bike trail to do my usual Saturday exercise. On one of the rest stops along the trail, I noticed a nearby tree whose branches were full of hanging paper tags. When I checkout the tags, I discovered that each of them had a short note indicating what the writer was thankful for during the year. It was then that I discovered that someone made the tree a "Thankful Tree".

Near the base of the tree, I saw a large plastic jar full of blank tags and a pen with a note around the jar inviting people to write their 'thank you' notes. Reading a few notes hanging above me, I discovered that most of them had notes saying that they were thankful for their health and family. One note stated that she finally found someone to love. 

It is traditional for every family to put up a Christmas tree during the yuletide season but this is the first time I saw someone put up a 'thankful tree' in public. Maybe we should put up a thankful tree deep in our hearts next to our Christmas tree. The gifts under a thankful tree is greater and more precious than those you will find under the Christmas tree in our homes. 

One thing I noticed about the tree though is that it is a type of a tree variety commonly called a "Weeping Tree" because its branches and leaves droop down towards the ground. I guess when you are genuinely happy and overwhelmed with happiness, you tend to shed a tear or two. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

The speech that echoed through infamy

On December 6, 1941, an Australian Royal Air force plane was on patrol at the gulf of Siam when he spotted Japanese escorts, cruisers and destroyers near the Malayan coast, south of cape Cambodia. The pilot of the plane reported by radio telling his base that the ships seemed to be heading for Thailand. Japanese planes serving as air cover for the naval force immediately attacked and shot down the Australian plane.

On December 7, 1941, after being updated by the intelligence report, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt felt convinced that the Japanese naval fleet was heading to Thailand and not the United States. While Pres. Roosevelt was enjoying his stamp collection and chatting with his advisor, Harry Hopkins, news reached the president that Japan rejected the 10-point peace proposal. The proposal was submitted by the U.S. negotiators to the Japanese to end the economic sanctions and oil embargo imposed by the U.S. to Japan. Pres. Roosevelt said, “This means war!” Hopkins recommended that the U.S. strike first. The president then responded, “No, we can’t do that. We are a democracy and a peaceful people”.

At 1:45 pm on December 7, 1941, while Pres. Roosevelt was reviewing his stamp book, the phone rings. Secretary of the navy, Frank Knox, was on the line and informed the president that the navy department received a radio report from Honolulu stating that Pearl Harbor was under attack and it was not a drill.

That same afternoon, the navy presented a memorandum letter to the president which is the first known written report about the damage assessment at Pearl Harbor. In his own writing, Pres. Roosevelt noted on the letter the date and time he received the letter which was Dec. 7, 1941, 3:50 p.m.

Shortly after 5pm, Pres. Roosevelt summoned his secretary, Grace Tully, into his study. The president lit a cigarette and told Ms. Tully, “Sit down, Grace. I am going before the congress tomorrow. I would like to dictate my message. It will be short”.

After taking a long drag on his cigarette, Pres. Roosevelt began dictating to Ms. Tully: “Yesterday—comma—December 7—comma—1941—comma—a date that will live in world history—comma—the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan—period.”….

After dictating the short speech, Pres. Roosevelt showed a copy of his speech to secretary of state, Cordell Hull. Sec. Hull thought that the speech was one of the worse speech he has seen because it was too short and does not give a lot of details. Sec. Hull wanted the contents of the speech to have the detailed facts outlining Japanese treachery which would indict Japan in the eyes of the American public.

Though Pres. Roosevelt listened to the suggestions of Sec. Hull, he did not lengthen his speech. What Pres. Roosevelt wanted was to deliver a speech that has a clear message without any complicated and legalistic information in its contents. Its message should bring the nation of United States together to fight the aggression committed against it.

While reviewing the written speech, Pres. Roosevelt decided to cross off the words, “World History” and replaced it with “Infamy”. This revision is probably the most significant change in the speech that strengthened its tone.

Pres. Roosevelt knew that it is extremely important to deliver a speech that would arouse the whole nation into fighting off this external aggression. The military needs to be hurriedly rebuilt to enable it to go to war against Japan. On the spring of 1941, the U.S. only had 1 combat division compared to Japan that has 100+ divisions and the Germans that has 200+ divisions.

To deliver probably the most important speech in his presidential career, Pres. Roosevelt had to have a voice that is clear and strong. According to some records, the president was suffering from one of his chronic sinus infections on Dec. 7, 1941. The sinus will surely hamper Roosevelt’s ability to talk in a normal tone when he delivers his speech to congress the following day. During the 1930s and 40s, the drug of choice for the treatment of sinus was cocaine. The treatment procedure requires that the physician apply a diluted amount of cocaine solution directly on the sinus using a cotton swab. The cocaine would shrink the sinus offering immediate relief.

On December 7th from 5:30pm to 6:40pm, Pres. Roosevelt went to isolation with his personal physician, Dr. Ross McIntire, a prominent ear, nose & throat specialist who joined the president’s staff in 1937. It was believed that Dr. McIntire applied a diluted amount of cocaine on the president’s sinus to relive him of his sinus congestion.

On the evening of December 7th, Pres. Roosevelt and first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt had a scheduled dinner at the White House. The White House staff was given a Sunday off and so first lady Eleanor Roosevelt personally prepared, cooked and served dinner for two dozen guests. Two of the guests at dinner were Edward R. Murrow, a famous radio broadcaster & journalist and Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who was the president’s coordinator of information. The first lady explained to the dinner guests that the president is unable to joint them because he was at a meeting with the congressional and military leaders.

During dinner, Mr. Murrow was asked to remain after dinner to have a meeting with the president. After the meal, Mr. Murrow was ushered outside the oval study (not to be confused with the oval office) and waited for the president. He was later joined by Col. Donovan. At about midnight, pres. Roosevelt invited Murrow and Donovan into the oval study for some midnight snack of sandwiches and beer. The meeting lasted for 25 minutes and it was believed that Pres. Roosevelt did not hold back any information to both men. Roosevelt laid out the damage reports, battle statistic, casualties, everything! After the meeting, the president retired to his adjoining bedroom.

After Mr. Murrow returned to his hotel, he was not able to sleep. He chained smoked while pacing inside his hotel room. He was troubled because he just returned from a meeting with the president and was told detailed information that any news reporter would kill for. Mr. Murrow was thorn between broadcasting what he was told by the president, which would probably make him very famous, or just keep silent. That night, he told his wife, “It is the biggest story of my life, but I don’t know if it is my duty to tell it or forget it”.

Eventually, Mr. Murrow decided to wait for Pres. Roosevelt to announce to the nation what happened at Pearl Harbor. It is believed that Mr. Murrow did this noble deed not as a journalist but as a responsible American citizen.

Many years after the war had ended, Mr. Murrow was asked by the famous author-journalist John Gunther to give details about his meeting with Pres. Roosevelt on the evening of Dec. 7, 1941. Mr. Murrow replied, “That story would send Casey Murrow(Mr. Murrow’s son) to college, and if you think I am going to give it to you, you’re out of your mind”.

Mr. Murrow took the knowledge he knew about the meeting with president Roosevelt on evening of Dec. 7, 1941 to his grave when he died on April 27, 1965.

On the morning of December 8, 1941, Pres. Roosevelt was reading the reports that just came in and when he read the part that stated that the Philippines was attacked, he became quite irritated.

General Douglas McArthur, who was based in the Philippines, had received warnings from the U.S. military leaders that there is a possible impending attack against the Philippines by the Japanese. When Brigadier Gen. Gerow telephone Gen. McArthur to ask him if he had received the cable sent to him, he said yes but did not give any explanation why he did not respond. When Gen. Gerow said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you got an attack there in the near future”, Gen. McArthur arrogantly replied, “Tell general Marshall that our tails are up in the air”.

On Dec. 8th at 12:35pm Philippine date and time, Japanese planes appeared above Clark Airbase in the Philippines. As the Japanese planes started their attack, someone at the base shouted, “Here they come!”. 

After the smoke cleared, half of the B-17 bombers and two-thirds of the P-40 planes were destroyed. Two days later on Dec. 10th, the Japanese planes straffed Nichols and Del Carmen airfields half of the remaining P-40s and all but five P-35s. It was only the third day of the war and the Japanese had already eliminated the U.S. air power in the Philippines.

It took only less than 24 hours for the Japanese to catch the American forces unprepared again and the attack at Clark air field and other U.S. bases around the Philippines became the second Pearl Harbor disaster.

On December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt prepared to go to the Capitol to deliver his speech before the joint session of congress. The secret service were a bit concerned that there might be a Japanese agent that might attempt to assassinate President Roosevelt as he traveled the short distance by car from the White House to the Capitol. They had a presidential limousine that the president uses regularly but the problem is it was not bullet proof. FDR’s speech was scheduled to be delivered at noon on December 8th and the secret service had to procure an armored car fast. During those days there was a U.S. government rule restricting the amount of a purchase of any government vehicle to no more than $750, which is about $10,000 in today’s money. This restriction also applies to the presidential vehicle. This purchase restriction made it very difficult for the secret service agents to buy a cheap armored car. Fortunately, one of the secret service agents knew about an armored car in possession of the U.S. government. Al Capone’s car, which had been sized by the U.S. treasury years back in 1931 during an I.R.S. tax evasion case against the famous gangster, had been sitting on a parking lot in the treasury department.

Al Capone’s car is a 1928 Cadillac 341A town sedan that was painted green and black to resemble a police car in Chicago. It had sirens and flashing lights behind the front grills and a scanner radio. It had 3,000 pounds of armor and a 1-inch thick bullet-proof glass windows. Mechanics worked through the night of December 7th thru 8th to make sure that the car run perfectly.

When Pres. Roosevelt noticed that the car that he was about to ride to the capitol was not his usual limousine, he asked secret service agent-in-charge Mike Riley where he got the new car. When agent Riley told Roosevelt that it was Al Capone’s car, Roosevelt replied, “I hope Capone won’t mind”.

On December 8, 1941 at 12:30 pm, Pres. Roosevelt delivered this speech:

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbending determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

It took only 6 minutes and 30 seconds for Pres. Roosevelt to deliver the 25-sentence speech that contained fewer than 500 words. The short speech was so persuasive that it only took 33 minutes for the declaration of war to pass through the senate. In the house of representatives, only one voted to dissent was counted and that vote was cast by Montana pacifist Jeanette Rankin who, incidentally, also voted against the entry of the United States into world war I back in 1917.

After 4 p.m. on December 8, 1941, Pres. Roosevelt signed the declaration of war.

After delivering his speech, pres. Roosevelt misplaced the reading copy of the speech. Instead of bring the reading copy back to the White House for Grace Tully to file it away, it was left at the House Chamber where the speech was delivered. A senate clerk took the copy and wrote on it, “Dec. 8, 1941, read in joint session” and filed it away.

The reading copy remained missing for 43 years until March 1984 when an archivist located the copy at the Records of the U.S. senate under record group 46, in the national archive building. This is where the document remains to this day. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The last run of Blake

When my daughter was still in junior high school, she had a classmate name Blake. The young lad was a talented sprinter who could outrun anybody in his school. He ran like the wind and is able to finish a mile run in record time.  In spite of the pressures in high school to be cool and popular, Blake just kept himself real and treated everybody the way they should be treated, with respect.

Yesterday, Blake woke up about mid-morning and decided to just relax because there was no school the whole week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. He had a light breakfast and decided to play some computer game. While playing, he felt that something was not right with him. He took a quick shower thinking that it should energize him. While in the shower, Blake had a heart attack. His father had to break down the bathroom door to get him. His family called 911 and took Blake to the nearest Kaizer hospital. After cardiologists did all their tests, they sadly concluded that Blake was not going to make it.

All of Blake’s family were gathered around his hospital bed when they turn off the life support. Blake left peacefully without any pain.

My daughter and I attended a simple candle light memorial held at the school’s track and field.  Blake’s father spoke about his son.  He said that his family does not know how they will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving day. The only thing that they were thankful for is the short time that they were given by the Lord to be with their son Blake.

Blake was only 15 years old. 

All the students and their parents did a last walk around the track and some ran making it their final sprint in memory of Blake.

All of us will have our last run around the track. Do you know which turn will be your last? Make every stride count and do it for the service of our Lord and our fellow souls. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Taxes and Conscience

Back in 1811 (prior to the establishment of the Internal Revenue Service in 1863), the U.S. government agency that collected taxes decided to create a fund account that it can use to deposit monies voluntarily sent in by people who believe they stole or defrauded the U.S. government.

During the first year, first amount that was sent in for the fund was for $5. Later on, a $1500 check was sent in with a letter saying, “Suppose we call this a contribution to the conscience fund and get it announced in the newspapers, and perhaps we will get some more”. After reading the letter, the agency handling the fund decided to name the account, “Conscience Fund”.

People have varied reasons for sending in money for the fund. A person from Massachusetts sent in 9 cents because he reused a 3-cent stamp fraudulently. A lady sent in 44 cents because she reused two postage stamps. A person from New Jersey sent in $40,000 because he/she defrauded the government for $8,000. Some donations were sent by clergies who received death bed confessions. One man sent $2,000 to clear his conscience with the “IRS and with God”. The largest contribution was for $50,000 from an anonymous donor and gave no reason for the contribution. One amusing note came along with a $1,000 donation. The note read, “Dear Internal Revenue, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year's income tax. Enclosed find a cashier's check for $1,000. If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the balance”.

175 years after the Conscience Fund was established, its balance rose to over $5.7 million dollars. Most of the donors are from citizens who are deeply bothered by their conscience.

Do you seek the counsel of your conscience when filing and paying your taxes?