What do we wear when we party with the Pope?

10896174_10152953780103188_3769575004262868539_oThere were no fireworks where I was last night. There was, however, a lot of noise, and a lot of food, and a lot of talk of what has been and what will be.

There were talks about those who left this world the previous year. Warnings were raised about high blood pressure and cholesterol counts as those around the table feasted on ham and roasted pork.

There were hopes voiced about a “blessed” new year, of dreams that have to be realized in the coming months, of targets to be reached, and of plans to be implemented.

On Facebook, more wishes and dreams were posted with photos of families, of fireworks, and more food.

A friend who serves as parish priest in a poor parish in the south wondered out loud on social media whether those who had New Year feasts last night remebered the poor.

“In prayers, maybe,” I said.

I wonder though if the poor, when they welcomed the New Year in their own humble way, remembered and prayed for the rich.

We – the poor, the rich, the not-so-poor, the not-so-rich, those who think themselves poor and those who think themselves rich – all need prayers. We all need to be remembered. We all need the wishes of good cheers and blessings.

Even as we all welcome another year, let us not forget that we continue to confront the same challenges and issues that we have been confronting the previous year, and the year before the previous year.

There will still be typhoons and storms that will visit our land and our lives, there will still be floods and natural disasters that we have to prepare for. There will still be human rights violations, there will still be war, there will still be elections, and politics will continue to run our world.

There will, however, be holidays and temporary cessation of hostilities, and summer, and Christmas, and New Year. There will be Easter, fiestas, birthdays, and Papal visits.

In 15 days Pope Francis will set foot on the Philippines. There’s a lot of excitement already, and a lot of selfies, and preparations, and politicking.

Yes, everybody wants to see the Pope.

There are those who, led by their faith, believe that by seeing the leader of the Catholic Church they will be healed and their sins forgiven.

There are those who, led by their political beliefs, believe that by meeting the Pope they can push and advance their political agenda.

Of course, there are those who don’t have any agenda at all but who just want to see what everybody wants to see.

What will Pope Francis see when he comes to the Philippines later this month?

The Pontiff will see a people, immature in their beliefs, traditional in their religiosity, cunning in their politics, but very warm, personal, and honest in their hospitality, and “bonggacious” (ostentatious) in their celebrations and parties.

The coming of Pope Francis will be an extended New Year’s celebration.

There might not be fireworks (the security personnel will not allow it), but their will be a lot of food (there is always a lot of good food every time two or more Filipinos come together), talk (Oh, how we love to talk!), and noise (Expect the Left, the Right, and the Center, – sorry Lolo Kiko for the labelling – and anybody and everybody in the 100 million or so Philippine population to talk their mind out. We always do it when we have visitors who may or may not listen.).

So, let the celebrations begin! (Ah, wait! What do I wear for the party?)

This blog also appears on Rappler, which partners with the Union of Catholic Asia News in covering the Pope’s Philippine trip this month.

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Another new year, and we’re not getting young

It has become a ritual. When New Year comes, we remember to update dormant blogs, revisit email accounts, aside, of course, from thinking about what to do in the coming year.

First things first. Let me upload the first photo I took in 2014. It was on the beach in Subic. While everybody was busy watching the fireworks and taking photos, I noticed this young boy who looked fascinated by the gentle lapping of the waves. Thus, this photo taken by my iPhone 4S. When I later looked at the photo on my computer, I realized it was blurred.

new year

Lesson learned? Nothing like, taking a photo is like life, you can’t just gamble on chance lighting or something. It is not also something like the innocence of youth versus the indifference of adults. The lesson I learned of course, and the resolution is, the iPhone 4S is not that reliable when taking New Year photos on the beach, therefore, upgrade to a new iPhone.

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Time for Cervantes and Sherlock Holmes

I LOVE  reading and I love books. I’ve collected thousands of books since I discovered the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and even Bobbsey Twins in the library of my high school in our little town in Mindanao. Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne Identity” and George Eliot’s “Silas Marner” later followed.

In college, I almost failed my philosophy subjects because of Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Yukio Mishima. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Milan Kundera later captured my imagination.

Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter Thompson became my bedside companions. Tom Clancy, Graham Greene, Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, lie beside Sionil Jose, Greg Brillantes and Danton Remoto.

There were others that are hidden under my bed with secondhand copies of Penthouse and Playboy.

There were just too many to read. Gone were the days when I can finish a Charles Dickens or a Thomas Mann novel in a week. Of course I have to struggle with textbooks, manuals and other non-fiction works that I collect from Booksale and during the annual book sale of National Bookstore.

This year, with the realization that I need to use glasses to read, I discovered audio books. I went crazy downloading the classics on my iPhone. I have the time and the chance now to enjoy “Don Quixote” and the “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” while commuting to and from the office.

Reading is now only for newly-released books like Paulo Coelho’s “Aleph” and Roy Peter Clark’s “The Glamour of Grammar” and “Help! for Writers.”

Some time ago I worried that I would not be able to read the classics in my lifetime. With technology, however, I am optimistic that there is enough time. Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” will have to come after Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” next week.

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Camp Blog

It has been two years since the first Camp Blog at Pampanga Agricultural College. Some of the students who attended the first Camp are now in college. I hope they were able to make use of the skills they learned during the Camp.

I learned a lot from the activity. I learned to deal with young people, understand their interests, and their peculiarities. I learned to work with teachers from different regions of the country. I learned to talk before a mix crowd of young people barely in their teens and teachers, some of whom are in their retirement age already.

I also learned from the resource persons – the likes of Yvonne Chua, Luz Rimban, Glen Reales, Jaymark Tordecilla, Jimmy Domingo, and the others my sleepy mind has a hard time to remember right now.

I was in Panabo, Davao del Norte, last week to talk about transforming school papers into online publications for the Mindanao leg of this year’s Camp Blog. I was fascinated by the excitement and talent of the participants from Mindanao. Their creativity and dedication – especially of the teachers – are laudable.

And I learned later that everybody, including the facilitators and organizers, benefited a lot from the expertise of Keith Bacongco who taught photography and design.

I spent the past three days now with the Luzon leg of the Camp inside the SBMA Freeport. Another set of young minds are now in the middle of their six-day learning process on using ICT to reach to a wider audience for their school papers.

Next is Leyte for the Visayas leg.

There’s no end to learning and the adventure of sharing knowledge to the younger generation. I just hope that it would be not as rainy as this week in Baybay.

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New writing

It has been a long time since I posted an entry on this blog site. It doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t been writing. I write. I actually do, every day. I write and edit for, I have a column on the tabloid Remate and I have an FB account.

I have another blog – – where I plan to post notes, personal observations, and musings. This blog will continue to exist with some of my opinion articles and, hopefully, tips about new media writing.

Many of us, journalists especially, have been writing for some time already. We made mistakes. There were a lot. But it doesn’t mean that we stop, especially in this age of instant access to publishing platforms like blogs and social networking accounts.

Writing has become more necessary, especially good writing, to communicate thoughts in this time of misunderstandings.

There are more writing opportunities than ever, says an article in the magazine Wired. But writing in this age of FB and Twitter requires more skills than what we learn from our high school teachers or from the rules we read from that small book by Strunk and White.

Aside from learning technicalities like SEO to make our stories viral, we need to attract readers with depth and detail, but in so many words that they don’t hit that “next” button on their computer or iPad.

According to Wired, writing today also means “mastering metatext, the cues and context that determine how, where, and if your word gets read.”

Linking to your article online depends on” appealing to the unique tastes of different social networks.”

While trying to appeal to search engines, new writing should also “be conspicuous, be entertaining, and leave space for others to talk.”

The number of words in this entry is the ideal number for an effective online article. For a longer discussion, a reader needs to leave a comment for the author to answer, or the author needs to post another entry.

That’s it for now.

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