Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Good ol' Gas Days

A visit to the gas station nowadays feels like going to a dentist for tooth extraction—both are painful. Every time I drive by the gas station near our house, the posted gas prices seemed to be a million dollars more than the previous day. Every person that visits the pump grumbles and feels that they are being robbed clean. Though there are a lot of wise ways to save fuel, many still miss the most effective way to save fuel and that is to ease on the gas pedal while driving. A few minutes of delay getting to one’s destination could save a substantial amount of fuel.

Back in 1963, the price of gasoline for Philippine government vehicles is 18 centavos per liter while a private vehicle pays an additional 3 centavos per liter gasoline tax making the total price of fuel to 21 centavos per liter.

During the Pacific war in the 1940s, lots of cars and buses in Manila used charcoal as fuel because of the shortage of gasoline supply. The Japanese military mostly controlled the fuel supply of the Philippines.

In Manila during the Japanese occupation, the best known transportation was the streetcar or tranvia which was operated by Meralco. Horse drawn caretela and calesa were also the popular mode of transportation. The well-to-do residents of Manila use the docar which was built like a car but pulled by a horse. There were also the caretela bus that had open sides for passengers to board and were pulled by two horses

A Manila resident named Larry Henares claims that during World War II, his father invented a contraption called IPOPI Charcomobile. This clever invention contained a large barrel size gas generator that is usually installed on the back of a car or bus and it uses coconut charcoal as fuel. The furnace inside the barrel would generate carbon monoxide which is flammable. Carbon monoxide would then be filtered and directed by a large tube to the carburetor which would fuel the engine. IPOPI stands for Industrial Products of the Philippines Incorporated. But many Filipinos jokingly gave it another name which was: “Itulak Para Omandar Pag ‘Into” (Push to start when it stops). IPOPI vehicles were also known to be underpowered. Every time it reaches an uphill road or an arced shaped bridge, all its passengers had to get off the vehicle and push it up the hill or over the bridge.

The idea of retrofitting vehicles to run on charcoal was resurrected in the later part of the1970s and early 1980s in the Philippines. I remember seeing a number of Philippine government pickup trucks that were fitted with two small charcoal burning barrels behind the cab of government owned pickups. Before the driver is able to drive these fuel saving vehicles, he/she has to first light the charcoal inside the barrel and wait for the charcoal to burn and produce carbon monoxide (not dioxide) before the driver is able to drive the vehicle. Since the vehicle was a bit cumbersome to operate, when the gas crisis eased out a bit, all of the charcoal vehicles were converted back to using regular gasoline.

The world wide gas crises back in 1973 created quite a scare among motorist because nobody ever expected to see a gas shortage on a world wide scale. I was an elementary school student when the gas shortage happened and I remember seeing signs being put up by gas station owners saying that they can only sell a few liters per car. Gas stations would sometimes sell gasoline to the first 50 cars then announce that they are out of gas. Enterprising people would line up at gasoline stations with containers to fill up which they would in turn resell to other motorists desperate enough to pay their exuberant prices.

During the gas crisis, my father never lined up at the gas station to buy gasoline for his Mazda car. One of his close friends owned a Shell gas station near the San Francisco Church in downtown Naga city. An hour after the gas station put up their “WE ARE OUT OF GAS” sign and the crowd of motorists had left to search for gas scalpers, my dad would quietly drive to the gas station and the owner would fill my dad’s car with gas. I guess it always pays to know people in gas places.

Twenty years ago here in California, the average gas price at the pump was $1.16 per gallon. I owned a small Toyota Corolla and $12 would normally fill my gas tank. There was even an outrage among gas consumers during the early 1990s when the prices went up to $1.27 per gallon causing people to cut back on gas consumption. If my memory serves me right, I think it was in 2000 when the prices of gas dove down to an all time low of $0.89 per gallon. It became so low that everybody was filling up their gas tanks and gas guzzling SUVs were flying off the car lots of car dealerships. One day while I was filling our van with gas, I decided to take a picture of myself with a gas price sign behind me showing the gasoline price of $0.97 per gallon. I took the picture because I knew that the low priced gasoline is just temporary and will shoot up again after a while. As expected, it went up days after that picture was taken and it rarely went down again.

Though pain is felt on every visit to the pump, we can ease the sting of the experience by using alternative or traditional ways of getting to other places. Walking or riding a bicycle are the best known ways to travel to other places and the effort will only costs you a small bundle of calories. This spring and summer seasons, try saving a few gallons of gasoline by leaving your car in your garage. Go around your city the way our parents and grand parents used to do it during their time—by walking. You will be surprised to discover that the old ways are sometimes the better way.

Riding through the good ol’ times.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Prayers Down the Road.

Recently, I decided to walk around the neighborhood everyday from 6:30pm-7:30pm just to settle down my tired nerves after spending a long day at the office. During weekends, I use the same routine just to ease myself before eating dinner.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by friendly next door neighbors whom my family has developed a close relationship with. Though we love our immediate neighbors, the residents on other blocks remain strangers to all of us. It is during my two mile walks around our neighborhood that I get a brief glimpse of the lives of the other people who are still strangers to me. I would see some of them happy and looking forward to enjoying dinner. There would also be ones that exhibit gloom and sadness as they prepare for dinner. I have seen fathers sitting on stools or chairs inside their garages with their heads bowed down staring on the ground contemplating a solution to their painful predicament. I would always keep it a point to look straight ahead to respect the privacy of the people who are hurting and does not want to be bothered or noticed.

During my walks, questions would post in my mind asking me things like, “Are their problems worse than mine? Am I capable of assisting them solve or relieve some, if not all, their problems? “Did they just lose their jobs? Are their problems about their health, family or finances?” “Have they asked the Lord for help?”

Last night during my daily walk, I saw the wife of my Filipino neighbor who lives three blocks away from my house. She was watering her plants and I stopped to talk to her. She is now about 65 years old. During our brief conversation, she told me that her prodigal son has returned to live with them again. Her son has given her family so much grief starting from his teenage years. The son had been sent to jail a few times because he mingled with the wrong crowd. He got into drugs and had strings of failed relationships and a broken marriage. When he came home recently, he sadly told his mother that he has a heart ailment. Since the son did not have any health insurance, the mother patiently endure the lengthy processing of obtaining health coverage for her son through a government sponsored health program.

The son was eventually diagnosed by a heart specialist and the result of his exam was not good. Due to the severity of his heart condition, the son was given only a year to live by his doctors. Though the news was devastating to the family, the mother said that she is relieved that her prodigal son finally came home and is spending his remaining months with the only people in the world that loves him. She told me, “I am fortunate that God gave me back my son and I am going to celebrate his life until God takes him to His fold”.

My daily walks had turned from a simple way of unwinding my tired nerves into an opportunity to pray for strangers that reside down the road. Most of the time I do not have the means nor the wisdom to relieve my neighbors with their misfortunes. The only thing I have is abundance of prayer where I ask God to bless the strangers with rest from the burden of their trial. Though relief might not come immediately, I trust God that he is in control of the whole situation and is drawing the stranger to the realization that he/she needs a Savior.

Walking through life with Prayer.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Iron Age

During our family trip to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona during the mid-1990s, I remember sitting on a rock near the edge of a cliff watching the sunset on the horizon. Near where I was sitting was a dusty hiking trail that snaked down all the way to the bottom of the canyon. I could see hikers laboring up the trail with some carrying heavy packs on their backs. The hikers that reached the end of the trail were all extremely worn out. Many of them told me that they never expected the hike to be that hard. They all started their hike from Colorado River which is on the bottom of the canyon at five in the morning. When I saw them at the end of the trail, the time was already four in the afternoon. Though majority of them were hikers, a few “cheated” by riding on rented mules. These were the only ones that reached the top of the cliff with smiles on their faces.

While I was watching a steady stream of tired trail warriors, I noticed this thin frail looking old guy walk up to the end of the trail without exhibiting any fatigue. He had a camel back water canteen, wore simple light clothes and a cheap looking generic backpack. I spark a conversation with this man asking him how come he does not seem to be too exhausted. He told me that once a year on his birthday, he would hike up the same trail at Grand Canyon to celebrate of his birth. He said that he had been doing this for many years. I asked him if he hiked alone and he said that there was a young man who decided to join him but the young lad was too slow that he ended up leaving him behind the trail.

What puzzled me about this old man was that even though he is a veteran hiker, his equipment did not reflect his level of skill. Almost all of his camping and hiking gear seemed to have been bought from a cheap swap meet (flea market). What surprised me the most is his choice of shoes. He had on a pair of these white unmarked rubber shoes that resembled the cheap Bata rubber shoes that used to be produced back in the 1970s. I jokingly told him that he was wearing high tech hiking shoes. He had a good sense of humor and replied, “It is not what you wear….it is more on WHO wears them” Pointing down the trail, the man said, “That young guy had fancy equipment”.

With a few exceptions, I think it is safe to say that most of us in our batch are now on our late 40s. The above experience I had at Grand Canyon proves that aging is not a reason for us to slow down. Though many of us are now grandfathers, (congratulations to those who are) we need to break the belief that aging people need to preserve whatever functionality our bodies still have by swaying away from strenuous activities.

Have you experience looking at a mirror and the person looking back at you is a middle aged unhappy person? Has years of stress, improper diet, lack of sleep and no exercise taken a toll on your body? Does it feel like each year that goes by, your energy level seemed to slide down the hill? When you come home from work and sit on your favorite couch, turn the TV on (thank goodness for remote control!!), you watch the news while waiting for that steak and eggs dinner with butter cake for dessert. Before bedtime, you down a bottle of Budweizer beer to ease yourself to sleep. Does this routine sound familiar to you? Some experts claim that this a common routine of middle aged people who resides in large cities.

Since all of the members in our batch are now middle aged people (boy, that sounds so ancient), I believe this is a great opportunity in our lives to be more involved with activities that would enhance our physical being. With our children already young adults, we need to grease up our joints to keep up with them.

It is now summer season in the Philippines and here in California, spring began a few weeks ago. The weather is clearing up with the snow clouds slowly dissipating. Have you decided what hobby to take this season? Want to explore a hiking trail? Swim laps off a beach or pier? Climb a mountain peak and take pictures during the sunrise? Race through the winding path of a forest on your bike? Conquer the distance between cities with your running shoes? Whatever you decided to do, do it for your heart and family.

A happy person brings blessings to his/her family.

Let’s hit the trail!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Pride, Pain & Forgiveness.

When faced with injustice, face God and ask for wisdom. Pray that the transgressor be enlightened.

Smile, forgive and move on...This is not a demonstration of weakness but rather it is an evidence of strength. Your strength comes from God.

If you trust God then you will Forgive even though you face ridicule and other humans discounts your character. Be more concerned on how God sees you and not how other people grade you. Forgive even though it hurts.

Souls with pride are fried in hell.

Always, Primum Regnum Dei.