Monday, January 20, 2014

The humility list

"HUMBLE? Humble has two meanings. It means NOT PROUD and it means LOW TO THE GROUND. That's Wilbur all over. He's not proud and he is near the ground."-Charlotte, Charlotte's Web by EB White

Sometimes, a gentle reminder such as this hits the spot. :-) This list comes from St. Josemaria Escriva, a saint for ordinary people doing ordinary work.


Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:
  1. Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say
  2. Always wanting to get your own way
  3. Arguing when you are not right or—when you are—insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
  4. Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so
  5. Despising the point of view of others
  6. Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan
  7. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own
  8. Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation
  9. Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you
  10. Making excuses when rebuked
  11. Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you
  12. Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you
  13. Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you
  14. Refusing to carry out menial tasks
  15. Seeking or wanting to be singled out
  16. Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige…
  17. Being ashamed of not having certain possessions…

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

5 concrete things to make you less self-centered

Photo by Juliana Coutinho

A friend once ranted to me that there’s nothing else to see in EDSA but billboards that feed people with vanity. You can turn heads with your white skin, slim figure, or cool clothes. Every man will fall for your straight and silky hair. Smell like this actress or that model, and hopefully you’ll channel them too.

All this vanity in the media makes people self-centered, which is not healthy. (Some people will argue that Filipinos are all vain to begin with, but whether or not that is so, I say people can always teach themselves to be less self-centered.)

Now, why do we need to be less self-centered? Because it leads to genuine happiness. When you forget your own needs in the process of serving your family or friends; when you let nothing faze you because you know it’s not all up to you; when you understand that you are never “the best” all by your own merits—then you leave no room for puffing yourself up like a peacock only to discover later on that marvelous feathers don’t stay marvelous for long.

So—how to achieve this? I’ve drawn up a list of five concrete things that can help in the Self-Centeredness Detox Department. I’m sure there are more such ways, but if you don’t know where to begin, this list should be a good starting point. Hope it helps!

1.       Take responsibility for someone or something at home. Whether it’s your little sister or the electricity bill, when you assume the responsibility for someone or something at home, you learn not to take things for granted. You realize that your home is a nice place to return to everyday because somebody—whether it’s your mom, the boarding house lady, or the house helper—makes sure it’s clean and orderly, its utilities are functioning, there is food in the ref, and everyone is safe. When you contribute little but important things in the home, you grow more appreciative of them. You also never forget that you couldn’t possibly have accomplished anything in your professional life if you didn’t have the help of those who keep your home in running order.

2.       Take public transport. Commuting by private car does pose its own challenges, but they’re nothing like the things you encounter when commuting by public transport. Lining up, squeezing in, taking on the heat, the dust, the smoke, throwing oneself at a passing jeep/bus (a desperate measure, but never suicidal), bearing with drivers that don’t respect pedestrian rights, and navigating non-existent sidewalks help one to understand the sufferings of everyday commuters.

And when you see those things through your own experience, you realize that the difficulties you encounter are not something unique to you: thousands of people immerse in them everyday—and get this: without losing their temper! When you learn to embrace the difficulties of commuting with a sporting attitude and a smile, then you’d have learned to forget yourself a little more.

3.       Visit the poor or the sick. And you thought you had problems! Visiting the poor or the sick gives one a practical lesson on the human spirit. Now is the time to stop viewing the poor as a “burden” to society. When you visit them and ask them about their daily life, you see that they aren’t very different from you at all: they’re also busy eking out a living, cleaning their homes, raising their kids, bringing them to school, figuring out ways to stretch the week’s budget and to feed the family. They work so hard (and their life is so hard), but they still seem happy; they take care of the little kids (even the ones who aren’t theirs) and the elderly with much love.

The sick, on the other hand, have a different kind of struggle. They help one realize that health is truly a gift, but more importantly that having lost one’s good health does not lessen one’s humanity. The sick still need to be loved, still want to be able to do things, and still yearn for the company of their family and friends like the rest of us.

When you meet these kinds of people and see how wonderfully they carry on despite the difficulties, you realize that there are so many things to be thankful for, that inner strength and hope are truly amazing, and that it is not by any merit of your own that you are so blessed.

4.       Raise funds for a cause you believe in. This is pretty obvious. When you raise funds, you go out of your comfort zone to ask people for help. And when it’s for a cause you believe in (as opposed to personal fundraising) somehow, you feel bolder, because you know that it’s not for you at all. At the start it looks daunting, but as you go along, you remember more people to ask, old friends, colleagues… and it turns out that they are generous.

Success in fundraising is not all up to you; it may be requiring you to reach out, but it’s the others who have to respond. In other words, in the grand scheme of raising funds, you’re just an instrument that helps move people into action. When you achieve a fundraising goal, you realize it’s because many have responded with a generous yes, and not because you sweated blood for it.

5.       Teach. They don’t say teaching is a vocation for nothing. Sure, teaching may involve having a roomful of kids hanging on to your every word. But a true teacher does not bask in authority. Instead she serves each student and makes an effort to deliver the lesson such that every one of her students learns it. A teacher’s achievements lie in her students’ success.

Come to think of it, you don’t even need to be a licensed teacher. Teach your friends, your friends’ children, your cousins, officemates… anybody! You can teach anything, from origami to crochet, literary criticism, poetry, performance, languages, sciences, math—anything you’re good at, anything with value, anything that helps a person grow. Bottom line: the rule you must live by is service. When you can put your efforts, talents, and expertise in helping others, then you not only grow in selflessness, but also you help make the world better than you found it—which is what life is about, after all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You're invited!

I attended the Better Together talk given by Jason and Crystalina Evert last night. What a great pair they make--and more importantly, what a great message they share! I will be writing about what I learned in the talk soon, but as it is a mere 7 minutes before work starts here, this is going to be a quick post.

I invite you to attend this talk, Worth Waiting For, on Saturday, September 7, 2013, 6-9 pm at the University of Makati (see poster above). This talk is for parents, and a good way to learn about their very crucial role in sex education. Here are short descriptions of what to expect. I hope you come! It's going to be really worth it!

Romance without Regret
Today’s teens experience greater temptations than ever before. In the midst of this cultural assault against innocence and virtue, young people need convincing reasons to practice the virtue of chastity. Some think that "chastity" simply means "not having sex." But that's mere abstinence: what you can't do and can't have. Chastity is more than that, it is about what you can do and have—right now: a lifestyle that brings freedom, respect, peace, and romance without regret.

By addressing the issues that teens struggle with most, such as sexual pressure, pornography, modesty, and starting over, Jason and Crystalina offer encouragement for teens to maintain their purity or begin again if they’ve made mistakes in the past.

What can save the marriages of tomorrow? In an age in which the media tell young people that they cannot—and need not—control themselves sexually, Romance without Regret offers a refreshing, challenging, and entertaining message to students from junior high school on up. Get the male and female perspectives on living chastely, as you listen to their life changing message.

Raising Pure Teens
How is a parent to compete with MTV, sexting, Abercrombie and Fitch, Internet porn, and all the other influences that allure teenagers away from a pure life? In this seminar Jason offers communication techniques, resources, statistics, and a wealth of information to assist parents in their task as the primary sex educators of their children.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Like checking your hat at the door?

If you're a doctor, you don't stop being one after removing your white coat. That's why in emergency situations in airplanes, or at church, people can ask, "Is there a doctor here?" and there's always someone to volunteer.

If you're a celebrity, you don't stop being one after the cameras or the stage lights go off. People will still recognize you in public, and, if they're bold enough, they approach and ask for a photo. You can be angry about it, but most of the time you'll just smile and let them get what they want.

In the same way, if you really want to live your faith in all integrity, if you are Catholic, for instance, you don't stop being one wherever you are. Whether you're a doctor, a politician, a journalist, a celebrity chef, a vegetarian humanitarian, a mad scientist, or a rock star mathematician, if integrity means anything to you, then you know that having a certain job is no license for not living in the way you should as a man/woman of faith.

That's why I get really puzzled when I encounter screams of "Separation of Church and State!" to mean that in matters of the State or secular affairs, your faith has no right to interfere. Okay, so by that logic, you must not live in full integrity. A doctor on vacation who, in midflight, comes upon a fellow passenger suffering from a heart attack must then be able to say, "I'm no doctor today." A celebrity should be able to shop at the supermarket in peace because he can shed his fame at the baggage counter.

What it REALLY means
That key phrase "Separation of Church and State" actually refers to amity: both institutions have a purpose and they must be allowed to carry out this purpose in peace. So while the State takes care of the welfare of individuals, the Church takes care of their souls, according to her teachings. In which case, the State allows the Church to carry out her apostolate, and the Church lets the State take the helm at pursuing the common good. 

Common good
The pursuit of this common good takes into consideration the entire person: not merely that the individual is a man or a woman, old or young, whatever. It's about creating an environment that allows persons to grow fully and holistically, and not misleading them into a false sense of power, and not favoring the rights of one sector over the other. The State can make anything legal, but it has to be something that will benefit all the people, and not just a chosen few. And for that to be possible, it has to be something inherently good.

You've probably guessed that the issue that got me to write about this involves the RH Law. Because, boo hoo, you Church people are such bullies that you meddle in State affairs, that's why we never get this super essential law up and running to help save the poor from their overproducing selves. 

First of all, the Church speaks her mind because it is her duty to do so--she takes care of souls, okay? You can ignore them bishops if you want, but that doesn't change the truth of which they speak. Besides, they can't run for office anyway, so why are you all so scared? Are you afraid more people will finally understand that what they are teaching is actually the better solution? (Living the virtue of chastity before and after the wedding, protecting the family, upholding marriage, and learning to love selflessly!)

Secondly, where's the common good in a law that stomps on the basic rights to life, religious freedom, and free speech of an affected few? I thought common good meant the good of all. People are so touchy about their freedom of expression, and here's a law that suppresses that. How come no one is crying foul?

Thirdly, the people who make the law, if they actually try to live unity in their life--that is, not checking the teachings of their faith at the door--may actually help everyone by really looking into what will make this a better country, and not proposing lazy solutions. 
  • You want maternal health? Train more midwives, provide better facilities, and make maternal care accessible. 
  • You want fewer teen pregnancies? Get teens to dream big, trust that they have what it takes to get there, and don't assume they will be useless kids who'll just get knocked up and therefore need condoms. 
  • You want to protect women from abusive husbands? Address problems on alcohol and drug abuse, encourage spouses to communicate, and don't give men an excuse to say "you won't get pregnant anyway because you're on the pill." 
  • You want to remove "hopeless" people who wander aimlessly on the streets? Train them for a livelihood, teach them to fish!
In fact, there are so many better solutions to all the problems the RH thing is trying to solve. And, if you want to live integrity in your life and help others to do the same, you'll think of these ways and you'll see how good they turn out to be. In the end, it's not about outspoken bishops meddling in secular affairs, but rather about making it possible for each and everyone of us to live in a way that affirms our dignity, in a way that will lead us to true happiness, because we get to be whole, and we get to be truly free. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Health Rights

Okay, in the last post I talked about the rights of the unborn. The people who are for RH accuse those who are against it of caring too much about people you can't see that the health and the rights of the people you can see are forgotten.

I am all for maternal health, but I do not agree that maternal health means access to contraception. Read the small print in any oral contraceptive advertisement and you'll see how unhealthy it is. I also do not agree that contraception is the solution to bring down the maternal mortality rate. I mean, since when has pregnancy prevention become the solution to maternal mortality? As if pregnancy is a disease.

And anyway, women's health is already covered in the Magna Carta of Women, which is already a law.

SEC. 17. Women’s Right to Health. – (a) Comprehensive Health Services. – The State shall, at all times, provide for a comprehensive, culturesensitive, and gender-responsive health services and programs covering all stages of a woman’s life cycle and which addresses the major causes of women’s mortality and morbidity: Provided, That in the provision for comprehensive health services, due respect shall be accorded to women’s religious convictions, the rights of the spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions, and the demands of responsible parenthood, and the right of women to protection from hazardous drugs, devices, interventions, and substances.

Access to the following services shall be ensured:

(1) Maternal care to include pre-and post-natal services to address pregnancy and infant health and nutrition;

(2) Promotion of breastfeeding;

(3) Responsible, ethical, legal, safe, and effective methods of family planning;

(4) Family and State collaboration in youth sexuality education and health services without prejudice to the primary right and duty of parents to educate their children;

(5) Prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, including sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and AIDS;

(6) Prevention and management of reproductive tract cancers like breast and cervical cancers, and other gynecological conditions and disorders;

(7) Prevention of abortion and management of pregnancy-related complications;

(8) In cases of violence against women and children, women and children victims and survivors shall be provided with comprehensive health services that include psychosocial, therapeutic, medical, and legal interventions and assistance towards healing, recovery, and empowerment;

(9) Prevention and management of infertility and sexual dysfunction pursuant to ethical norms and medicals standards;

(10) Care of the elderly women beyond their child-bearing years; and

(11) Management, treatment, and intervention of mental health problems of woman and girls.

In fact, why is everybody so rabid about the RH thing getting the thumbs up when a lot of what most people say they like about it (maternal health, sex education) are already State implemented and recognized through this Magna Carta? Actually, the only thing in there that's not already a law is the PhP13.7B government funding that the DOH is requesting for it. Don't believe that they have no money; they already have USAID funding even more contraceptive programs nationwide as we speak. (PhP7.96B, to be exact.)

Another difference between this Magna Carta and the RH is the word "ethical" (Sec. 17.3). RH doesn't include that word, and that paves the way towards another method of family planning that everyone is ignoring as of this moment.

So there you go. More on maternal health when I find time. Ciao for now!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Picky picky

If you say a new person with unique DNA is not alive at fertilization,
then explain why this whole development process starts off at that point.
I'm glad this article came out in PDI last Sunday. After the July 9 oral arguments at the SC, you'd think it would be clearer to the public why the RH Law is unconstitutional. But no, the media is picky, and it decides not to report a lot of things.

So we gotta give The Philippine Daily Inquirer some credit here: Good job for publishing Mr. Chet Espino's op ed piece. :-) Here's something from that article:

Justice Roberto Abad: The Constitution, Section 12 Article 2, states that the state shall equally protect the life of the mother and the unborn from conception. This right to life belongs to the unborn, not the mother or the father. Did I exist when I was still in the egg as an egg alone?

Noche: Not yet, your honor.

Abad: But when the egg, when the ovum, is fertilized, is that the beginning of me?

Noche: Yes, your honor. That’s the beginning of you. The unique “you” that exists already at that point. The unique Justice Abad … not a justice yet then.

Abad: In 1987 before this (RH Law) somewhat changed the concept of conception, how did those who drafted the Constitution understand the meaning of conception?

Noche: Life begins at fertilization. It was only recently that that was redefined.

Abad: So in other words, all of us started as zygotes … and then developed into a human being. Conception means beginning, isn’t it? But it needs to be sustained to life by attaching itself to the uterus. And it’s not the business of my parents… It’s my right. If they violated my right, I would not have been born. As Justice Carpio says on this issue, if they believe that this law violates the right to life from the time of conception, that’s how we will decide it … on our understanding of when life begins.


Okay, so why does the beginning of life matter in this whole RH shebang anyway? Because the State has the duty to protect the rights of ALL its citizens, and that includes the tiny citizen that was just fertilized. Don't play blind--new life is new life whether or not you see it, or acknowledge its existence. The pill and the IUD are abortifacients because part of the mechanism of the former (and all of the latter's) is to make the uterus too hostile for a fertilized ovum to implant, forcing the body to abort it.

In other words, the State fails to protect its citizens' rights if it chooses to subsidize abortifacients. In the name of the "rights" of the few, with this RH Law, the State will choose to violate a universal right. Picky?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

No to lazy solutions

Last week, a news story on MMDA’s plans of making number coding affect private vehicles twice a week got a lot of people all riled up. As soon as I read it, I passed it on to some of my friends, who all had the same reaction: 1) cursed MMDA, 2) wished the MMDA targeted the jeeps and buses instead, and 3) cursed the said jeeps and buses. Basically, the common sentiment was, “We have more public transpo vehicles wreaking havoc in our roads and highways; perhaps if we pare them down, the heavy traffic dilemma will be resolved.”

The problem with this solution (and the solution proposed by the MMDA) is that heavy traffic cannot be properly solved by just cutting down on the number of vehicles that go out everyday. The reason those vehicles go out at all is that the people need to get to work and back. Everyday. If you cut down on the private vehicles, those who can afford maintaining them will just buy another car to solve the problem. If you cut down on the public transportation, those who use public transport will find they can’t go to work at all (unless they walk, ride bike, or become bullies).

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a rant or two about jeeps and buses—I won’t deny that their drivers seem not to have learned the basics of traffic rules. But don’t forget that no matter how many complaints arise about the ruthless skilled driving of these jeep and bus drivers, you can’t overlook the fact that these guys actually help the majority of the urban population get to where they have to be everyday. As a commuter, I already find it difficult to hop on a ride every morning—and I can’t help thinking how much worse this could be if indeed they cut down on the number of rides available. The reason there are so many public vehicles around is that there is a great demand for them. And I know this by experience.

The solutions presented just barely scratch the surface of the problem. I’m no expert on this and I cannot draw up a solution for the MMDA. But I think that making number coding affect vehicles twice a week will only see desired results in two weeks, then it’s back to heavy traffic again. People are persistent like that.

Here's an old story:
THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

If the ultimate aim of the number coding scheme is to get people who drive/ride private cars to take public transportation on some days, and hence lessen the daily congestion on the roads, the solution does not lie in forcing them to do it. Do you know why people would rather take a car than take public transpo? Because it's not pleasant to take public transpo! One has to shrink in the jeep, surf in the bus, play American football in the MRT. Then there's the danger of being pick-pocketed/held up/knifed/killed/road-killed.

The way, then, to get people to leave their cars at home is to makeover the whole public transport system. Make it easy and safe to get from one point of the city to the other. When that happens, word will get around, and once more people see how easy and safe--and cheap!--it could be to take the jeep-bus-train routes, more cars will be left at home--even when it's "not coding."