PASKONG PINOY: A LONG SEASON OF PREPARATION AND CELEBRATION

Lifestyle

PASKONG PINOY: A LONG SEASON OF PREPARATION AND CELEBRATION

No Comments 07 December 2014

By Ana Villanueva-Lykes — THE most celebrated holiday in the Philippines requires a lot of work and time put into it – three months to be exact – to commemorate the humble birth of a baby in a manger. When the “ber” months roll in, Filipinos everywhere in the world begin the planning and the hard work that will lead to that one festive day. But the whole three months is not just about the preparing and the waiting. The preparation in itself becomes a celebration, for others, a sacred ritual, a tradition.

Countdown begins

You know Christmas has commenced in the Philippines when you start hearing Frank Sinatra jingling his bells in jeepneys even though there is nary a snowflake falling from the smog-filled sky. But the air is thick with anticipation and the joyful preparation ensues. The tradition of decorating and lighting the plastic trees begin. Suddenly, the air seems cooler and the strong desire to spend cannot be ignored. And it’s only September. Before December nears, the entire Christmas bonus – yet to be handed out – has already been spent.

Malls are eager to indulge. Lavish displays of Christmas scenes are already in every corner. Gigantic empty boxes wrapped in glittering paper rests on artificial powdered snow while a red- suited dark-skinned fellow walks around dispensing ho-ho-ho’s.

Concerts are already being planned, constructions are under way, holiday collections have been launched, and the daily practice for the Christmas program starts. Christmas has begun.

Meanwhile in the workshop

This time of the year, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is busier than Santa’s elves as traffic enforcers always anticipate motorist madness with people rushing to get their shopping done and trying to get from one party to the other. Traffic congestion in Manila is expected to increase by at least 20%.

By November, MMDA is already preparing the Christmas lanes (alternate routes) to help ease the heavy traffic on main thoroughfares. In addition, the agency is working with malls to adjust their operating hours so as not to aggravate the rush hours.

Phone companies are also getting ready, expecting the usual data and voice traffic surge during the holidays. The Philippines has been ranked No. 1 for the past few years in highest SMS traffic during the festive season with over 2.3 billion text messages sent.

Christmas display at Greenhills Shopping Center

Christmas display at Greenhills Shopping Center

In our hearts

The pious ones also prepare to make room for the coming of the Savior. Catholic practitioners for instance observe the season of advent, the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the Nativity of Jesus. Devotees flock the church as early as 3 in the morning for Simbang Gabi from December 16 all the way to Christmas Eve. Early risers are rewarded with a steaming hot bibingka enjoyed under the saints and stars overhead, blinking in approval. But really, the reward is a wish granted, a promise of the parol, the Star of Bethlehem.

Simbang gabi

Simbang gabi

Across the seas

While people are stocking up on candy for Halloween and picking pumpkins at the patch in the Western world, Pinoys abroad are also busy getting ready, because the coming of the Savior also means going home. For months they squirrel away their wages for that expensive plane ticket that will reunite them with their family on Christmas Day.

It is not surprising that airfare skyrockets during the holidays. Rates peak after thanksgiving to Christmas, because people are waiting to do away with the festivities and the expenses before they can afford to book.

The smarter ones start saving at the beginning of the year and then shop for tickets by September or even as early as May when the rates are relatively cheaper. But booking is only part of the journey. There’s the coordinating with relatives for reservations, accommodations, transportation, the big homecoming extravaganza, and the of course, the pasalubong.

Inside the box

Perhaps even more anticipated than the long-missed relative is the balikbyan box, the treasure chest filled with bounty, a year’s worth of hard work: slightly used Coach purses, an X-box bought on layaway, bars of Tobleron cherished like gold bullion bars, and Johnny Walker carefully wrapped in thick fluffy towels that smell “stateside”. These are collected in a span of months or a year, products of President’s Day sales, Black Friday sales, garage sales, and big bonuses. By September, the packing begins, and the veteran stuffs everything in a 2 x 3 x3 ft. space, sparing not a single cavity, squeezing socks and candies in Nike Kobes to make the most out of the $99 shipping charge.

Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas

Before end of October, the bulging box is sent off, because it takes about two months for the package to arrive to eagerly waiting relatives. Sometimes the box doesn’t arrive in time for Christmas, so some start the process by August.

Balikbayans bringing the goodies back home with them are mindful of the 23-kg weight limit, again putting to good use the packing skills even with the carry-ons, because not a single relative is to be left out. Everyone gets to partake in the bounty and join the joyous occasion.

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15 ANNOYING THINGS ABOUT LIVING IN THE ISLANDS

Lifestyle

15 ANNOYING THINGS ABOUT LIVING IN THE ISLANDS

No Comments 02 September 2014

BY NIKI YARTE

No doubt there have been remarkable strides in our effort to catch up with the rest of the world, particularly in adopting modern technology and best practices of advanced countries to make life in the Philippines manageable, if not comfortable. CCTV cameras are sprouting in every street corner, motorists have become accepting of cyclists sharing the road, green technology is fast making inroads in homes and industries. But alas, we are lagging behind in many areas as some bad old habits have taken deep roots and simply refuse to fade away. There are just some characters and situations that drive many Filipinos up the wall and out of the country faster than the promise of earning greenback. We chose only 15 that easily came off our mind or we’ll take forever . . .

1. Ugly Oldies Need Not Apply

You are not likely to see this employer unless you meet his requirements: “Female with pleasing personality and good moral character, age 25 to 35”. Such discriminatory job vacancy announcement is so common that Filipinos have learned to accept it as the norm. In advanced countries, these requirements are a no-no; workers are not even required to divulge their age, religion, sexual orientation and marital status.

2. Divine Intercession

In blatant disregard for the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, religious groups such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo and El Shaddai compel their members to vote as one bloc and campaign for candidates that support their sectarian and political agenda. But don’t tell that to politicians who move heaven and earth to receive the “divine blessing” of the INC Supremo and Brother Mike every election time.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of El Shaddai, raises the hands of his anointed senatorial candidates in 2010.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of El Shaddai, raises the hands of his anointed senatorial candidates in 2010.

3. Knock on Wood

You’re lucky if you happen to get on the handful of jeepneys and buses that have buttons or levers installed on them that signal to the driver when to pull over, otherwise you’ll to project your voice and shout Para! or knock on the bus or jeepney ceiling to signal that you’re getting off. This would all be unnecessary if the country would just follow the rest of the world and implement proper loading and unloading zones.

4. In God We Trust

Whether one is a Muslim, Christian, or of another faith altogether or however one conceives God to be, it’s immaterial because the government is supposed to be neutral to any religious belief as mandated by the Constitution. But lo and behold, many government offices and public schools are adorned with Catholic symbols, primarily the cross and other religious icons. First Friday Masses are observed in some government offices, and Christian prayers are routinely conducted in public schools.

5. Slow Walk to Salvation

As if the horrendous traffic conditions in big cities aren’t bad enough, some groups and individuals make it a habit to turn our main streets into their private domain by holding religious rituals and funeral processions on main roads. Honoring the saints and the dead is fine but can’t people use the side streets so as to minimize chaos on major roads?

A religious procession on a busy thoroughfare, a common practice that is exempt from traffic ordinances.

A religious procession on a busy thoroughfare, a common practice that is exempt from traffic ordinances.

6. What Are We in Power For?

Whether you applied for a new passport or license for your business, any request from any government agency, chances are that the government employee who processed your documents would find some trivial and often subjective reason to needlessly prolong the process of your application, prompting you to come back or, worse, fork over grease money to facilitate the transaction.

7. Gusto ko happy ka!

That’s not the title of a sitcom, it’s actually a campaign slogan that helped propel an aspirant to the Senate! During elections, you will encounter candidates and parties with no clear-cut political distinctions. Candidates preach the same promises and pro-poor agenda while dishing out catchy slogans. Philippine politics and elections are not really be a contest of platforms and principles but a battle of personality, popularity, and political machinery (spelled money).

8. Kayo Ang Boss Namin!

Perhaps the sight of the Supreme Court rank and file holding vigils and prayer rallies for Chief Justice Renato Corona at the height of his impeachment trial left a sour taste in your mouth. After all, government employees were hired by the state, through a non-partisan process overseen by the Civil Service Commission, and not by the officials who would be appointed or elected to the office they work for.

Then Chief Justice Renato Corona addresses supporters, mostly Supreme Court employees, during a prayer rally in front of the SC building at the height of his impeachment trial.

Then Chief Justice Renato Corona addresses supporters, mostly Supreme Court employees, during a prayer rally in front of the SC building at the height of his impeachment trial.

9. Hello, How May We Help You?

You will encounter this character at the lobby of an office or at the sales counter of a store. The receptionist or clerk will answer a call even as he or she is in the middle of transacting business with a customer. The proper course of action would have been for the employee to mute or put the call on hold until he or she is done attending to the customer who took time to personally do business at the office or store.

10. Welcome to the Neighborhood

You might have noticed the unassuming office or the unmistakable warehouse on your way home. While this lax implementation of zoning laws allowed sari-sari stores and bakeries to be conveniently located in your neighborhood, it also sets dangerous precedents for small factories, repair shops and KTV night clubs to be set up in your area, or convert the narrow street into a parking lot for trucks.

11. Slow Men at Work

‘Slow’ is used here as an adjective, as in slow-moving men doing road repair on busy streets during the day when traffic congestion is at its peak. In other instances, the repair crew tears the road up and in the middle of their job they mysteriously disappear, making the potholes even bigger and deeper and snarling traffic.

Like regular office work, road repairs are done during the day and stops just before sunset.

Like regular office work, road repairs are done during the day and stops just before sunset.

12. By Appointment Only

At one point you probably found that your phone or electric bill was mysteriously jacked up. Or that you’re suffering from a dismal Internet connection. While these are frustrating enough by themselves, what’s even more infuriating is that instead of resolving anything via phone or email, you are directed to take time out of your busy schedule to visit your service provider’s offices.

13. Point of No Return

If you find yourself unhappy with a purchase beyond matters of factory defects, you will be hard-pressed to find a store that will refund your payment. They will only offer store credit, forcing you to choose between an item of equal or lower value, lest you pay the difference for a higher priced but significantly better product.

14. For Your Eyes Only

Turn to your right, there’s Angel Locsin teasing you in her skimpy bikini; look up and there’s John Lloyd Cruz staring at you, as if making a pass. Here, there and everywhere on Edsa and other main roads are gigantic billboards featuring celebrities hawking all sorts of merchandise and services – from cellphones and men’s briefs to sardines and liposuction. For heaven’s sake, isn’t the metropolis ugly and dangerous than it already is?

Giant billboards dot Edsa, defying regulation, posing risk to commuters and making the urban landscape even uglier than it already is.

Giant billboards dot Edsa, defying regulation, posing risk to commuters and making the urban landscape even uglier than it already is.

15. Ganito Kami Dito, Paano Kayo Dyan?

Tricycles are meant for short trips in the neighborhood; pets are supposed to be kept at home; vendors are allotted stalls in the market to hawk their wares. But alas, they are everywhere except in their proper places – tricycles racing on highways, stray dogs on every street corner, vendors taking over the sidewalks. Add clogged drainage, uncollected garbage, kotong cops, unresponsive officials . . . and you’ll have an idea of life back home.

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RAFT: REVIVING THE PASIG RIVER

Lifestyle

RAFT: REVIVING THE PASIG RIVER

No Comments 31 March 2014

By Nikki Boncan-Buensalido

AS I was driving through Edsa the other day, I was reminded of an idea that my design team came up with a couple of years ago.  It was an idea spurred by the kind of optimism that can help our development as a nation one step at a time. The idea had something to do with the Pasig River and its gentrification, and I share this in the hopes that this can become a spark, a catalyst for change, if you may.

Our source of inspiration is the Pasig River and how we can bring it back to life and how we can utilize it to help improve our nation through the process of urban regeneration. This call hopes to instill a community revival that can engage Filipinos to go a step further toward nation-building.

Concerned citizens have been calling on government for generations to rehabilitate this tragic body of water that was once became the inspiration for art and music, and served as the backdrop for romantic interludes. Corporate sponsors and non-governmental organizations have created and continue to create programs to help revive the river, but only a few concrete and tangible actions have been actually done. Will the time ever arrive when people can return to the banks of the Pasig River? I’m still hopeful that I get to see this come into fruition in my generation.

In many countries, the river plays a major role in capturing the identity and culture of a city and its immediate surroundings. Main arterial rivers, like the Pasig River, serve as the backbone of development. New cities emerge beside rivers as it is here where sustenance is acquired.

Putting that concept into the Philippine context tells a lot. The Pasig River was once the source of trade and commerce. It was once the spine of a young thriving city. It served as an escape route during times of war and calamity. However, in recent years the river has not been able to sustain life.

RAFT as mixed setting

RAFT as mixed setting

Studying the transportation and mobility structure of Metro Manila, we feel that there is a more significant way to reduce traffic than what the number coding scheme has been able to accomplish, and this leverages the Pasig River as an efficient alternative to getting around the metropolis. The Pasig River cuts across main parts of Metro Manila, and thus can act as an artery in itself. Our proposal for the river is to connect a series of multifunctional rafts and terminals. The Regenerative Amphibious Floating Terminals (RAFTs), as we call them, are floating devices spanning the entire stretch of the river. These can possibly be on land or on water with different functions.

RAFT terminals

RAFT terminals

RAFTs may differ in size, scale and color. They may be in an open plan from the inside, or they can have partitions as the need arises. Above each sky-lit RAFT is a roof garden or observation deck one can access. Individually, RAFTs may have various functions and programs. Some may be used as floating markets that are linked to the docks; others may be used as floating restaurants, cafés, retail stores or tiangges, bars or cruise pods; still others as function halls, gardens, refilling and maintenance stations, etc. They can even be used as transportation units for tourist or locals who would like to cruise along the Pasig River. RAFTs are flexible but have an inherent modularity so that they can all be linked together in the event that a larger space is required, or to form an instant connection between the two banks of the river.

RAFT park

RAFT park

Aside from their basic functions, in the event of a calamity these can be used as floaters designed to survive floods. The National Disaster Coordinating Council can use RAFTs for search-and-rescue operations.

Furthermore, during, say, a calamitous flooding (think Typhoon Ondoy), government agencies can use individual or combined pods as temporary shelters while waiting for the flood waters to subside.

At night the floaters project a different aura, transforming into giant lanterns glowing with different colors, transparencies and sizes spread through the expanse of the river, creating an ephemeral effect. The glow of these lanterns allows the Pasig River to thrive even at night. Inside, various activities can still take place. One can rent a RAFT for the duration of the activity. Receptions, parties, meetings and other events can be held in one or a cluster of these floaters. The regenerated river is envisioned to bring out a new sense of belonging and ownership to the locals.

Aerial RAFTs

Aerial RAFTs

Through this strategy, a new urban design language could emerge. The newly defined spaces could be conceived as a “structure” in itself, this network creating new interrelationships and mixes that could be interwoven and integrated in the resulting urban fabric.

This language could be the basis of the reactivation of the urban fabric in various levels. By weaving in new topologies into the existing fabric, existing topography will be reshaped and redefined. The specific points of interest mentioned earlier shall be reprogrammed to be reintroduced into an adaptable and appealing environment both for this generation and for the next to come.

These  will be layered and intertwined with one another to form new urban spaces and revive the mundane into a unique, exciting and interactive experience. Moreover, we envision all the spaces to appeal not just to the physical aspect, but to all the senses. These would be designed to allow the users to experience the space entirely. This will facilitate a more intense learning experience, as well. Also, allowing all the senses to be heightened will allow the person to identify and relate more to his or her surroundings.

Despite the failings of previous institutional efforts, we, Filipinos, can bring the Pasig River back to life by working with the river and not against it. We can empower one another and work together to create a new typology for the next generation to benefit from.

Illustrations courtesy of Buensalido Architects

 (Nikki Boncan- Buensalido is an Associate Architect of Buensalido Architects, a Manila-based architectural design laboratory solely committed to creating original, avant-garde, ‘Filipinnovative’, and progressive solutions, employing an experimental and process-oriented approach in their designs. A champion and advocate of Philippine Architecture, Nikki and her team take Filipino sensibilities and combines them with global mechanisms, ‘contemporizing’ it in the process. She graduated Magna Cum Laude at the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture as well as the Architectural Association Global School. You may visit her at www.buensalidoarchitects.com or email her at design@buensalidoarchitects.com.)

 

 

 

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RETIREMENT IS MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES

Lifestyle

RETIREMENT IS MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES

No Comments 20 January 2014

By Niki Yarte

BABALIK ka rin, Gary Valenciano’s anthem for Filipinos abroad, speaks volumes to a special segment of the diaspora: Retirees who have spent significant number of years away from the motherland. With more time and resources on their hands, they may now choose to heed the call of family and the familiar and retrace their steps back to the Philippines.

Re-establishing their life in the country also comes with the practical benefit of stretching the buying power of their monthly pension. Aside from cheaper cost of living, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act also gives eligible retirees discounts to a variety of services – from healthcare, transportation, and lodging to tourism and entertainment.

With these in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ten things retirees can do to maximize their time in the Philippines and even make up for lost time.

 Go Rural

A quiet retreat in the countryside

A quiet retreat in the countryside

Retirees longing for the quiet retreat may not find it in cities as busy as Metro Manila. Hence, many choose to retire in places like Tagaytay, which was developed enough to provide access to quality healthcare and leisurely activities while maintaining its serene atmosphere. Retirement communities are also being developed in Laguna and Cavite that would give retirees access to healthcare and leisure within the villages themselves. Beachfront properties in Batangas, Zambales, Ilocos, and Cebu are also popular with retirees.

Open a Small Business 

Bibingkinitan’s main product is the Filipino snack “Bibingka”.

Bibingkinitan’s main product is the Filipino snack “Bibingka”.

Retirees can open small business like bake shops, laundry shops, and even Internet cafes right in their own homes to serve their communities. Franchising opportunities like food carts are also abundant. The popular Smokey’s Hotdog start at about P275,000 initial capital with the bulk of the expense going to the cart itself, which is payable in 24-month installments. With franchises starting at about P600,000, generic drugstores like the Generics Pharmacy and Generika Drugstore have also become popular. Groups like the Philippine Franchise Association can help retirees sift through viable options.

Take Up Farming

Ponderosa Leisure Farms in Tagaytay

Ponderosa Leisure Farms in Silang, Cavite

While any yard with enough soil and access to sunlight will do, retirees with a little more financial resources to spare may want to consider investing in properties like those offered by the Ponderosa Leisure Farms in Silang, Cavite – a gated community and resort catering to green thumbs. Avid enthusiasts may also wish to contact interest groups like The Philippine Orchid Society, the Philippine Bonsai Society Inc., and the Philippine Horticulture Society, many members of which are retirees themselves, and join their activities like trade fairs and workshops.

Be a Hobbyist Or Collector 

The Sinulog Festival in Cebu is a photographer's dream.

The Sinulog Festival in Cebu is a photographer’s dream.

Whether starting anew or revisiting an old hobby or collection, the Philippines has tons to offer enthusiasts of varying interests. From spectacular landscapes to colorful festivals, photographers and painters will always have fantastic subjects to capture. Depending on where they choose to stay, retirees may also engage in local crafts like pottery-making in Ilocos and embroidery in Taal. Retirees can pursue their life-long obsessions like what retired businesswoman Gina Lacuna did with her Puzzle Mansion. The popular Tagaytay tourist spot features a collection of more than 1000 puzzles assembled in a span of 30 years.

Immerse in the Arts

Christian Bautista as Prince Charming and Karylle as Cinderella at Resorts World Manila

Christian Bautista as Prince Charming and Karylle as Cinderella at Resorts World Manila

Retirees who have a penchant for ballet, theater, opera, and the like are in for a treat because local promoters are aggressive in bringing globally renowned productions like the The Phantom of the Opera to the country. These shows normally run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which also hosts a bevy of local productions. In the art and history front, the Ayala Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila continue to preserve and exhibit the country’s rich heritage. Taguig’s Mind Museum also hosts internationally touring exhibits, most recently the Da Vinci exhibit.

Get Involved With Causes 

Gawad Kalinga vounteers

Gawad Kalinga volunteers and beneficiaries

Using their skills to serve their communities, health professionals remain productive even after retirement. Dr. Remedios Cipriano-Gammad and medical technologist Mrs. Clarita Cipriano-Fernandez best exemplify this. Formerly based in the US, the retired sisters have been giving free medical consultations to residents of Barangay Pook in Aklan every weekend for four years running. And there is no shortage of causes in the Philippines that retirees can volunteer for or contribute to – from environment to education and livelihood.

Adopt a Pet

Retirees with extra time and space on their hands may want to foster four-legged companions, especially rescued ones from groups like the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) or Compassion And Responsibility for Animals (CARA) Welfare Philippines. Both groups are continuously looking for homes for the neglected cats and dogs that they have been sheltering. They also provide veterinary services like vaccination and spaying/neutering prior to adoption.

Explore the Country

The well-preserved city of Vigan is a cultural treasure.

The well-preserved city of Vigan is a cultural treasure.

Nature adventures like diving and hiking are big in the Philippines but retirees can still experience terrific but less physically demanding tourist spots. For one thing, the entire coast line from Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte to Camiguin and beyond is full of beaches. Relaxing guided tours are also offered in historical landmarks like Vigan, Intramuros, and Corregidor. Animal lovers would also be pleased to discover some exotic wildlife in their vicinity like the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu (a popular haven among retired expats). Elsewhere, there’s the Philippine Eagle in Davao and the tarsiers in Bohol.

Catch Up On TV and Movies

While TFC and PinoyTV made sure that overseas Filipinos never missed on local TV, retirees in the Philippines who dreamed of spending their days being couch potatoes now have another channel to check out: TV5, which is currently airing shows starring Sharon Cuneta and Nora Aunor. Basketball buffs can also catch the PBA games on IBC-13. Local cinema is also teeming with offerings from major studios like Star Cinema and Viva Films.

Get Healthy

Retirees who choose to stay in the province also have the added bonus of exposure to generally fresher air. Combined with having less stress and more time to rest, eating fresh organically farmed fruits and vegetables, and doing simple exercises like biking, running, or jogging, retirees can finally achieve that healthier lifestyle they have been striving for. Those with access to the beach or pools can even make swimming a part of their daily routine.

 

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CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS ON A BUDGET

Lifestyle

CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS ON A BUDGET

No Comments 13 December 2013

The perfect Christmas gift is always a nice vacation with family and friends. Since we also have to give dozens of godchildren gifts, we sometimes lack the funds to travel to expensive places. So here’s a list of the more affordable places to visit for the long Christmas to New Year break. READ FULL STORY

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IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME IN THE CITY

Lifestyle

IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME IN THE CITY

No Comments 04 December 2013

Metro Manila is all dressed up for the season. Here are snap shots of the 10 most popular holiday attractions that have become part of the Christmas scene in the metropolis. CLICK HERE

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10 MANILA PARKS TO VISIT

Lifestyle

10 MANILA PARKS TO VISIT

No Comments 08 July 2013

Let nature take its course and find its way to you with these 10 green patches around Manila–all natural, healthy, and pocket-friendly, but most of all, they’re refreshing alternatives for your next weekend outing. READ FULL STORY

(PHOTO: Paco Park)

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PINOY COURTSHIP: FROM HARANA TO SMS

Lifestyle

PINOY COURTSHIP: FROM HARANA TO SMS

No Comments 01 June 2013

By Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes

Back in the day, women hid their smiles behind lace fans. Today, girls hide behind profile pictures doctored by Photoshop. There was a time when men would agonize to hear the “matamis na oo.” Today, guys will celebrate a mere “K”. After all, a “K” can mean “Ok, I will go out with you.” And this single character can eventually lead to “I do”. How the Filipino love language has been reduced to a letter is a love story in itself.

Although Filipino courtship has greatly evolved since the days of Maria Clara, how women are regarded has always been a constant. Filipinas are mostly considered as the homemaker, but they are highly revered and treated like queens. And they see this treatment with indifference knowing that they are entitled to this kind of worship.

Filipinas cannot let on about their feelings. They are expected to be coy and pakipot. It would be scandalous of her to show any interest, much more to make the first move. But even before any move is made, permission first needs to be obtained.

Courting the parents

It is customary for the gentleman to request approval from the lady’s parents. In fact, back then, when one tries to win the affection of his love, he is really trying to win the heart of the family. Often, this takes years – months of cutting wood for the family, days of following her around like a dog even though she pretends that she doesn’t see him, and hours of professions of passion through the harana.

When a man endeavors to serenade his object of desire, he is aware of the risks, mostly involving a pot full of piss thrown at him. A persistent admirer will take it as a sign to come back another day, to finetune his guitar or perhaps his voice. A shine of hope comes from a light lit in the window. Darkness means despair.

The Filipino mating ritual, like a ridiculous dance of hide-and-seek, showcases the Filipino’s dogged, and at times almost shameless, determination and the Filipina’s cruelty. Even though her coyness can be endearing, it is a manipulation of her admirer’s feelings. But in spite of the indifference, he must carry on. Tampo is an invitation for the man to appease and please even when met with a cold shoulder. If he misses the sign of a “tse”, then he may have completely lost his chance.

The torpe is empowered

Fast forward to a few decades, the permission now comes from the woman itself. Even today, some men will ask the girl, “Pwede ba kita ligawan?” Absurd as it seem, it is a practical approach, because a “no” will save the man from the effort of having to start the long and tedious dance.

Often times, the barkada is also part of the mating ritual amongst young adults. A guy who chooses to sit beside a girl for no reason at all can fall prey to the tuksuhan. An “uuuy” can either elicit vehement reactions or cause one or both to look at the other differently. The girl blushes and the boy laughs to appear cool. Other times they engage in harutan and before long they are HHWW (holding hands while walking). If the teasing doesn’t do it, the tulay bridges the gap.

Today, technology acts as man’s best friend. With the internet, even the torpe is empowered. Suddenly, the mahinhin makes the first move with a “poke”. Online, searchers, admirers, and stalkers alike are afforded some anonymity. While in the past they wait for a glimpse of her on her way to church, veiled under lace and false mystery, today devotees can ogle care of Google. The computer screen becomes the altar.

No more cold stares

Suitors no longer have to suffer a cold stare or a cringe. An unanswered email or a silent phone is easier to swallow. If they are basted or rejected, tears remain unseen. Nothing lost but the hours spent at the internet café or the countless text messages sent. After all, a “miss kita” still costs a peso. Unless of course one is registered in “unli-text” and when one is courting, he better be. Because nowadays, K begins with SMS. When a girl gives her number, it’s almost synonymous to “K, pwede ka manligaw.” But if a masculine voice picks up on the other end instead, then one should take a hint: she didn’t give the wrong number by mistake.

Those who had NBS (no boyfriend since birth) can now change their status to “in a relationship”. Never mind that they’ve never met when every night they exchange <3s and virtual hugs that feel so much better in the imagination than in real life.

Back then, if one is less than attractive, he wouldn’t stand a chance to show his beautiful personality. Today, a little a little vintage effect on the picture can render one “like”-able on Facebook. And hours of chatting later, the beauty within outshines the pango nose.

Online dating

Dating sites have never really taken off in the Philippines. The average Filipino cannot afford the $30 monthly fees. Love comes without a cost in free social media sites.

Like many inter- racial marriages, Aileen met her husband online. She saw his name on an ICQ chat room. ICQ is the first Internet-wide instant messaging service that brought people together before the pokes and the tweets began. She had thought his name was interesting with “Hayo” meaning “nickname” in her Visayan dialect. This urged her to say hi. Outside cyberspace, she wouldn’t have dared to even look her crush in the eyes. Soon constant chats turned emoticons into real emotions, bridging distance and cultures. Today, they are happily married with two kids.

Others go online not only to find love but also in search of a better life. The internet becomes a vast ocean where a rich foreigner can fish for a Filipina in distress. Maya is a single mother and has found herself an American to finance her’s and her son’s education. Unfortunately for her, the courting didn’t last till graduation. No problem. All she had to do was go online again and before long, she found herself a papa-san. Mr. Korimoto does not chop wood for Maya and her son, but he would make sure his Yen would see her march come graduation and maybe eventually down the aisle.

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CREMATION STILL A BURNING ISSUE

Lifestyle

CREMATION STILL A BURNING ISSUE

No Comments 02 November 2012

By Cherie del Rio

It seems that the human decision-making dilemmas do not end with death. Even after one passes, choices still need to be made in determining their final resting place. There are people, however, who have thought far ahead into the conditions after their demise and have made arrangements pertaining to their funeral services. But for the departed who, either by choice or chance, have not taken the liberty of making funeral arrangements, the question of whether they will be buried traditionally or be cremated is one that their family must answer.

The traditional burial practices have been honored and observed by generations after generations. There was simply no choice but to pick out a casket, buy a lawn lot wherein to bury the dead, and pay the necessary maintenance fees or whatever related expenses there may be in memorial parks. But when modern cremation services were introduced into the country, there came another practical option.

Cremation services are allowed in the Philippines by both the Catholic Church and the state. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), however, had expressed its preference for the conventional method of burial. The CBCP, through Monsignor Pepe Quitoriano, said that “Filipinos especially in rural communities still find this [cremation] unacceptable.” Monsignor Quitoriano revealed that the cremation process still has “significant repercussion” in our culture. Many opt to stick to what tradition dictates, to continue doing what has been practiced for centuries in their families. There are also people who are not comfortable with the idea of burning their beloved dead’s body.

Process of cremation

The process of cremation is fairly simple. Most funeral homes that provide cremation services likewise offer packages inclusive of the actual cremation fee, the urn within which the ashes will be placed, the transportation of the corpse from the venue of passing to the funeral home, the viewing services at the memorial chapel, and the acquisition of permits.

Securing permits is an important aspect of the service. A death certificate as well as a request for cremation obtained from the City Health Office must be submitted to the funeral home before cremation may occur. Since the coffin is combustible, the body is then burned along with it. An industrial incinerator is normally used in burning the body and the cremation container or casket.

The average time for cremation typically runs for two to three hours, depending on the weight of the corpse. The ashes are then placed in either a wooden ash box or an urn, which can be made of materials such as marble, steel, or brass. These urns containing the ashes are stored in columbaries in private cemeteries. Some urns are stored in bone chambers in memorial parks and properties. The process is simple and generally cheaper compared to the traditional burial rites.

Cost of dying

A report from the US Embassy has listed the following estimated cost of mortuary services in Metro Manila:

–         Cost for preparation and burial – $2,400

–         Cost for cremation and disposition of ashes – approximately $1,200

In the provinces, the cost for cremation is cheaper. There are crematoriums that offer services for as low as P30,000. Traditional burial packages, on the other hand, have a price range of P80,000 to P130,000 or even higher.

Lavish funerals can even cost as much as a million pesos. These six-figure costs can cover the funeral car services, wake services, mass and ceremonies, food and refreshments served during the wake, viewing in the family rooms of memorial chapels, and beautification of the lawn lot where the coffin will be buried in.

The cost of the lot is not yet included in the package. This will be an extra expense for the family, although more and more people have taken to acquiring insurance packages that include memorial plans.

Advantages of cremation

If we are to compare then the cost of cremation and traditional burials, then cremation would be the better option for our countrymen who barely have enough money to get them through life — and much lesser in death.

Considering the growing cost of traditional funerals, an increasing number of Filipinos have resorted to the cremation of their dearly departed. The lack of burial lawn lots also add to the factors that push cremation as the more practical option.

In 2006, a GMANews Research report revealed that Metro Manila is running out of lands that will accommodate the dead. This prompts more sales for ash vaults, not just burial lots, in cemeteries. Over the last decade, memorial parks and services have devoted areas in their property for bone chambers and columbaries. Even parish churches have bone chambers within which the urns may be deposited. There are some requests made that ashes be scattered in the sea — this is allowed in the Philippines for as long as the necessary permits are secured.

Despite the practicality of cremation, a significant percentage of Filipinos still choose to lay down their beloved dead in their final resting place by means of conventional funeral rites — with tombstones and epitaphs. They honor the practice of visiting memorial parks during All Souls’ Day. They value tradition and family customs.

Practicality vs tradition

Cremation, despite the notion of a seemingly discomfiting process of burning one’s body, has a number of advantages. It still allows the performance of traditional funeral rites such as the display of the coffin during a wake where people can pay their respects. The process will, in fact, only do away with the expense and hassle of purchasing a lawn lot and maintaining it. In this day and age where family members are scattered around the world, cremation presents an attractive option. Loved ones will no longer feel the pressure of flying to a specific funeral park just to visit a departed one who is six feet under the ground.

At the end of the day, the choice of whether to bury or to burn will have to depend on what the family values more (or the departed one’s prior preferences): their regard for customs or their financial capacity. After all, to bury or to burn is more of a debate between practicality and tradition.

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