The beautiful and brainy Filipina

One runs the risk of being labeled gay if he talks eloquently about beauty pageants. A man, specifically a macho man, in the Filipino society is not supposed to be passionate about 80-plus women strutting in long gowns or skimpy bikinis, unless, of course, this passion is erotic in nature, otherwise he is either automatically categorized a homosexual, which is more likely, or a sociologist, which is not very bad, only a covertly homosexual sociologist, that is.

But labels will remain very practical and utilitarian, and they will remain so no matter how smart or dumb they sound so long as people think these labels function to simplify what could have been things too complicated and complex for them to comprehend, so long as people think that not thinking is the next best thing by letting labels think for them, instead. Stereotypical labels are for the intellectually inelegant.

Now allow me talk unabashedly about our obsession as a nation with beauty pageants. While in some countries these spectacles that ‘celebrate’ the sublime beauty of a woman are shunned for being exploitative, shallow, or vacuous, in the Philippines, these spectacles continue to feed the masses’ quixoticism and give the needed affirmation that they can also be beautiful, especially if a representative of the Philippines reaches the top 15, then the top ten, down to the final five contestants.

Seeing their supposedly beauty-and-brain Miss Universe contestant sauntering, traipsing, and walking like a de-legged praying mantis is like seeing themselves on-stage, surmounting whatever challenge thrown to them — tripping on-stage because a portion of the gown caught in the 9-inch hill of the shoe, donning a 200-kilogram national costume, or answering a question from an obviously racist and unqualified judge — all  in the name of bringing honor to the country. Nothing triggers the Filipinos sense of nationalism other than international beauty contests, boxing fights of Manny Pacquiao come to a close second.

Filipinos define being beautiful as having the features of a mestiza (although this is slowly changing), tall, slender, with a 36 (or even bigger)-24 (or even smaller)-36 (this is usually fixed) body statistics.

And because Filipinos have these delusional tendencies that they are smart, they also expect that their beauty queens to be not only freakishly beautiful but also abnormally smart and articulate.

Being brainy, on the other hand, means being able to speak in English complete with all the trappings of accent and twang of a native speaker. As for the substance of her answer, a beauty contestant can always rely on canned responses prepared for her by her trainers, proven through years of experience to always impress the judges whose tastes on beauty are very discriminating and irrevocable; these judges are the final arbiters of the very philosophical question: who is the most beautiful? and by induction, what is beautiful?. Or who gave the smartest answer? and by induction, what is an intelligent answer?.

Regardless of the flaws in the definition of these abstract concepts, a Filipina sent abroad to compete in a beauty contest must possess these two. It’s beauty-and-brain or nothing. Non-negotiable.

So when their beauty queens choke during question and answer, give downright pathetic responses, or let go of grammatically suspect sentences, the Filipinos back home cringe and cry foul.

My pity goes to these women whose major, major mistake is joining these tired competition.

Media coverage of a hostage in Manila

If one does not have access to television, radio or any form of media, he would not know that something horrific has occurred several minutes ago. Of the fifteen, based on the estimate made by the media, that were hostaged by a certain Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, six were killed. Aljazeera, CNN, BBC, and even a hardly known Russian English news channel called RT covered the breaking news live using videos either taken by their own cameramen or signals taken from ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest TV network.

The Philippines is back to world prominence again, this time because of the barbarism of its people, a slight deviation from the usual images of the Philippines in international media, where these barbaric people are being killed by typhoons, earthquakes, or any imaginable natural calamity except maybe an avalanche.

For a long time, I have not watched prime-time news programs on TV because news are predictably reeking with negativity, boring soap operatic narratives of the schmaltzy lives of local celebrities, or uncalled-for commentaries by newsreaders; and because I have other better things to do, of course. But this evening was different.

I came from an intensive one-hour work-out in the gym and several lapses in the pool, when a friend of a friend texted me that he’s staying in the house this evening. I accompanied him to our unit and not wanting to wade in ghostly silence, I switched the television on and we were greeted by this breaking news that seemed to have been inspired by Tagalog action movies in the 90s.

I saw on TV policemen, very hesitant and fearful for their own lives, approaching a chartered bus that contained fifteen Chinese tourists, the driver of the bus, and a policeman who sought to be reinstated through means of a violent nature after being fired a year ago.  After more than 10 hours of waiting, the policemen finally decided to take the matter in their hands and do what they should have done several hours ago. The hostage taker was brutally killed. In one of the least graphic descriptions made by a news reporter, he said without any remorse– “tumilapon ang ilang bahagi ng utak niya sa direksyon namin” (some portions of his brain flew toward our direction).

It’s a story that is not uncommon in a third world country like the Philippines. But it was a news story that  the news-starved media in the Philippines has been waiting for. Not that they are always deprived of it, in fact they have enough and consistent sources of materials for a high-rating story such as this story, only that they can’t get enough.  So they positioned their men/women around the scene, some of them even had the privilege of being with the policemen who attempted to forcibly (how else?) open the bus and pluck the victims one by one, most of them got in the way in the already sloppy operation done by the Philippine National Police.

The 12-hour hostage drama, a ‘drama’ as all the newsreaders of both stations lovingly call it, ended violently as it can end in no other way than violently because the media have determined it to be so. All the coverages, whichever channel one chooses, were closest to a farce because the media thought this is only some sort of a reality TV, by nature, farcical and spectacular.

But if there is one thing the media did impeccably well, it was showing without missing a single detail the ineptitude of our police and their obvious inutility. Bravo, Philippines!

Optimizing site clicks

What SEO or Search Engine Optimization exactly means still eludes me. Although I think it’s a statement not worth writing since I have after all access to the web and without any problem, I can type the phrase in the Google search box found in the upper right hand corner of my monitor and in a matter of milliseconds I’ll get the answers to my question. But doing it the easy way is a no-brainer.

It is a learned behavior of those who work in outsourced industries to congregate in coffee shops and talk/orate about subjects of non-import using their uniformly mixed nasal-guttural voice audible within a 200-meter radius. As is often the case, this is a bane, especially if one stays in a coffee shop to read a paperback schedule to be read by as many times as the even-numbered pages but has been postponed by as many times as its odd-numbered pages. In some rare instances, however, one can pluck useful information from eavesdropping in these conversations that are more like a public address system announcements than private exchanges. I learned from one of these that SEO has to do with maximizing the number of clicks a website receives (which reflects on the number of people who visits it and therefore more opportunities to advertise), roughly.

It concerns me, though it does not bother me to I point that I deprive myself of sleep thinking of ways to get as many clicks as I can in a day. But is it a natural course for my blog readership to plummet? I ask. From a peak of almost 700 to a thousand in a day, I now only have, on average, 400 on weekdays and 300 on weekends, and based on how things look, the drop will not stop any time soon.

Partly, this drop can be attributed to my lack of new posts for weeks now. But this isn’t the whole picture since majority of my most popular posts were old ones. This has caused me to wonder, until…

I began reconsidering the objective I had when I started this site. I was only after expression of my thoughts (though eventually, I realized that they cannot be only mine), and this is regardless whether they’re read or not. And the clicks, yes, they give me some bragging rights, but that’s all. Also, I am a bit driven by a little vanity.

Tonight, I am writing again

I was beginning to feel uncomfortable during the past week I was not writing. In the last seven days I was absent here, I felt I was falling uncontrollably down the dark pit, scared of being unable to gather my thoughts, myself forever. And tonight, in the quiet of a small room I am sharing with a friend, amid the quiet humming of the air-conditioner and the unknown songs I am ripping from borrowed CDs, I am relishing the nice emotions brought about by having to write again my thoughts, convoluted and discombobulated as they usually are.

I am staying here in Manila for good, finally putting an end to my nomadic existence. Often times, it’s not enough for somebody to only have a strong resolve to make big decisions, in most cases, decisions are made with somebody. And I am happy to have made this decision thinking of somebody else other than myself. It’s easier to carry burdens when they’re shared; life is more exciting if all the bliss it has to offer are not kept to one’s self.

I am one immature twenty-something who professes to know what he wants and how to get them, but the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t. Not even an inkling of what they are, much less how to get them.

The art of walking-out gracefully

Based on my extensive experience as a student way back in college, not so many professors can pull off a dramatic walk-out quite impeccably. Most of them either overdo the actual walk-out making it more comic than serious thereby missing the intent and losing the message, or nuance it too much (probably in the hopes of doing it ‘intellectually’) that students fail to perceive that their professor just did a walk-out.

A professor should neither exaggerate as most students nowadays are constantly exposed to things being blown out of their usual proportion, nor should he be too subtle as I have a lingering suspicion that most of students of our time have been wired by the contemporary world not to sense or feel sarcasm, irony, paradox, oxymoron, and other literary devices of similar category, a result of repeated non-use of their right parahippocampal gyrus, a part of the brain that is also absent among people suffering from Down’s Syndrome.

So walking-out must still be governed, as in life’s other aspects, by moderation because, trite as it may sound, treading in moderation still remains the order of the day.

But the question How is it properly done then? remains.

Last Friday, I orchestrated my first ever walkout from a class I teach in Ateneo.

A walk-out should first and foremost be triggered by a reasonable stimulus/i–it can be noise, high ambient temperature and high humidity, the students’ unruly behavior (to understate matters), an LCD projector that fails to show any image other than a mocking blue screen or a major technical malfunction, or a combination of several of these.

I must emphasize that redundant warnings should have also been issued, or that all possible means to manage the situation must have already been exhausted, only then can a walk-out be done or justified. If not, students will view this as the professor’s hubris, his arbitrariness, and a mere manifestation of his immaturity (something that he should have already outgrown upon being recruited to teach in a university, and a reputable one at that).

After repeated warnings, a few second of silence is needed to gain enough buffer time, but this is merely used to buy enough time or to establish a quiet but heavy atmosphere. Here, the professor makes a crucial decision whether to calmly gather his things and leave unceremoniously or to throw his ammunition of bloody expletives at the void before him that separates him from the rest of the class before he leaves unceremoniously. Although, expletives, are inelegant even if used sparingly in most of the instances, some teachers I know way back my student days in UP can exclaim vulgarities with precision, accuracy and undeniable class notwithstanding the drama.

Most, however, fell flat and flop. But whatever path the professor takes is bound to define him forever in his students’ minds.

Finally, the climax, the walking-out itself, should be done with surgical speed. Any delay is unforgivable; sauntering is a sign of indecisiveness. The professor should do it with a lightning speed without having to look like he’s in a hurry or running. It should have an effect like he’s never been there at all, that he was an apparition.

I’d suggest this be done not at all or only if very necessary. The effects of walking out are found in the extreme ends of the spectrum. Either he’ll get what he wants, if done with dignity, or he’ll lose everything, if done sloppily, to say the least.

Conflicted plethora

It would be a good way to start a busy day with a new post, before I get harassed by a plethora of things I need to accomplish today.

If I’d be a judge of the sentence above (which I wrote myself  to introduce a post I intended to write but did not have the time to write) I would say it is pervasively lame for several reasons:

1. People are not really interested to know about your life, so why force it on them.

2. Their lives are as busy as yours, so why pull everyone’s attention toward your preoccupation? Doing so is, in the simplest term, a waste of other people’s time.

3. The use of ‘plethora’ is uncalled for. It is exaggerated. And in a world where people exaggerate a lot, the figure of speech our English teachers endearingly call hyperbole is overwrought (because it is).

4. The assumption of the writer of the sentence above is that he is being read. In fact he is not.

And so, I suppose that silence is a far better companion than aimless and rambling thoughts.