Monthly Archives: September 2013

Stupid is as stupid does

I was editing my YA story when I couldn’t help but notice the Miss America stories that kept popping up in my news feed. Apparently, the 87 year-old beauty pageant (it’s older than Miss USA/ Universe) crowned its first Miss America of Indian descent. And then, hilarity ensues.

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri

Before even the applause died down, the twitter-verse exploded with hateful and racist tweets about the ethnicity of the winner. I didn’t realize how rabidly Americans cared about the ‘racial purity’ of their beauty queens. A Facebook friend inferred that the economic downturn indirectly caused this ‘vigilance’: more people are out of work, hence, more people watched the pageant. This happened in the 2010 Miss USA pageant as well, when the crown went to the candidate of Lebanese descent.

I’m not sure how long this lasted before the imminent backlash occurred. Then some of the twits people apologized for their hateful tweets. Some stood their ground, choosing to remain clueless. The story has been covered HERE and HERE, while the winner was profiled by Vanity Fair

Bigotry is indeed universal. It’s like a virus that is somehow embedded in our DNA. Dormant most of the time but can be awakened into malignancy by triggers that are unique in each individual. It is easy to attribute bigotry to the stupid segment of the population but the bitter truth is that some bigots are also the smartest people around.

Some people choose to see stupidity as ‘actions’ instead of being a state of mind. This would probably justify why some possibly smart people do stupid things, like mistaking an Indian for an Arab, or assuming that Indians have all the franchises to 7-11, or believing that America is NOT a nation of immigrants. And I thought my country’s public education system seriously needs an upgrade.

Making fun of racists and bigots is too easy so I won’t go on that road. I will instead use Forrest Gump’s simple and clever take on the subject: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Hello TV

The latest seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘True Blood’, and ‘The Newsroom’ have all wrapped up, thereby reducing my number of hours spent in front of the TV. But not to worry, I am so looking forward to the return of my other favorites– ‘The Walking Dead’ is back on October 13; ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Good Wife’ on September 29;  and the 3rd season of ‘American Horror Story’ sometime in October also.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the new shows. Among them, I’d like to see ‘The Crazy Ones’ featuring all-time faves Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy, duh!) and Robin Williams then there’s ‘Almost Human’ with another favorite Karl Urban.

However, this show is what I’m anticipating for the most (and what a mouthful of a title): ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’.


Clark Gregg, AKA Agent Coulson

Since his first appearance in ‘Iron Man’ (2008), Agent Coulson has been one of my favorite, albeit barely-seen character. Imagine my pleasant surprise when he showed up in ‘Iron Man 2’, ‘Thor’, and in ‘Avengers’. His death in the last movie was one of the key dramatic moments in that action-filled film.

Thanks to Joss Whedon for bringing him back to TV. I wonder which channel will carry this show in the Philippines. You can look at the cast photos HERE.

Post Mortem: MIBF 2013

The first time I went to the Manila Book Fair was more than 15 years ago. The venue was the PICC, I think. I remember I didn’t return the next year. And the one after. Since coming back to Manila 3 years ago, this is the first time that I went. I had forgotten why I didn’t do so for such a long time so last Friday, I hauled my friend to go there. This year’s venue was the SMX Convention Center close to SM Mall of Asia; a gargantuan exhibition hall roughly about the size of 20 basketball courts. Thankfully, its centralized air-conditioning worked perfectly. I hardly broke a sweat as we walked along the aisles, browsed through piles of books and what-nots, and jostled for space among the other attendees.

About 4 hours later, my friend and I finally sat for coffee and pastries. We were both ready to go home. Looking at our shopping bags, I suddenly remembered the reason for my rare attendance in book fairs. My wallet is reveling in its new-found lightness.

Don’t get me wrong. I am quite happy with my finds in the book fair. But you need to know that since 2010, 90% of my books came from Booksale. 6% came from contests I won or gifts I received. My purchases make up the teeny-tiny rest of this pie. I feel like I did my Christmas shopping already!

But what wonderful things I got:

Ang Bonggang-Bonggang Batang Beki by Rhandee Garlitos

Ang Bonggang-Bonggang Batang Beki by Rhandee Garlitos from Vibal Publishing

This new book, treading new paths in Filipino children’s literature.

2013 MIBF Loot 02

book packs from Adarna Books

Christmas gifts of books for the children in my family. Luv the bayong, too!

Breakdowns by Art Speigelman

Breakdowns by Art Speigelman from Fully Booked

Dirty comics, anyone?

Song of Ice & Fire Books 1 & 2 by George RR Martin

Song of Ice & Fire Books 1 & 2 by George RR Martin from National BookStore

Two of the hardest “Song of Fire & Ice” titles to find.

Chorva Pads from Tahanan Books

Chorva Pads from Tahanan Books

Some wacky stationery, perfect for gift-giving also.

Leonor Rivera bag from Tahanan Books

Leonor Rivera bag from Tahanan Books

The tote bag of my dreams. Not really. But it’s a great alternative to my dream bag.

The 34th Manila International Book Fair is still on today, at the SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia Complex. It’s open from 10AM to 8PM.


Life Lessons from Roald Dahl

Teaching young people about life skills is a staple intervention when working with young people in the context of sexual and reproductive health. It posits that if a young person’s life skills is developed, s/ he can make informed decisions regarding various aspects or milestones of her/ his life such as coming to terms with their sexual identity, getting into a relationship, and initiating sexual activity, among others. All of which have long-term effect and impact on their lives.

Life skills is nothing new. However, not many young people are able to examine and improve their life skills because there is a prevalent misconception that this type of knowledge is dangerous to young people. Those of my generation know this too well.

However, I managed to get past that. My savior? Reading.

When I was young, I didn’t have a lot of books because they were fairly expensive for my family even back then. But in my maternal grandmother’s house there were a lot of books. They were old because my aunts and uncles have gone through them when they were also kids. I read those storybooks greedily and enjoyed being entertained. In high school I learned to navigate our school library with relative ease. It would take years before those books’ other effects would manifest. Somehow, having read those books helped me cope with difficult situations and mitigated their harmful consequences.

I believe that these ideas in my head, like respecting other people’s differences, accepting my own limitations, and knowing that appearances can be deceiving came from the things I read as a child as much as they were taught to me verbally by my elders.

Deep inside, this drives my desire to write fiction for children. Because I feel that I have something valuable to impart. And I believe I can impart these while entertaining them as well.

Roald Dahl taught us that it's okay to be different

Roald Dahl taught us that it’s okay to be different. Ask Willy Wonka.

Roald Dahl, who wrote great stories for children, would’ve been 97 years old yesterday. His stories are filled with great stuff and life lessons, articulated HERE.


How happy are we?

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s 2013 World Happiness Report, Northern Europe is the happiest place on earth. Sorry, Disneyland. Sorry as well, Bhutan. And to that pizza shop on the riverside in Phnom Penh, where one can get pizza in varying degrees of “happiness”. *wink-wink*

“The findings above were calculated by looking at the state of well-being in 156 nations across the globe, using analysis from experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis, and national statistics to make a case for why well-being should be considered a measure of national development. Happiness isn’t only beneficial for individual mental and physical health and corporate bottom lines — it may also contribute to the progress and development of entire nations, according to the authors of the report.”

Among our ASEAN neighbors, Singapore is top at #30, followed by Thailand (#36), Malaysia (#56), and Vietnam (#63). We are at #92, behind Indonesia (#76) and ahead of Laos (#109), Burma (#121), and Cambodia (#140). I couldn’t find Brunei when I read the list. Not sure why.

Happiness to me is a fascinating thing to measure because it is largely subjective. I marvel at the steps taken by the researchers who did this study in terms of quantifying and measuring happiness not just an emotion but also as an evaluation of one’s life. The report said that the study “assembled the available international happiness data on how people rate both their emotions and their lives as a whole”. Furthermore, the measures were divided into 3 types: (1) measures of positive emotions (positive affect) including happiness, usually asked about the day preceding the survey; (2) measures of negative emotions (negative affect) again asked about the preceding day; and (3) evaluations of life as a whole.

Comparing the level of happiness of our country from 2005-2007 to 2010-2012, there was a little increase of 0.131%. Our ASEAN neighbors whose happiness levels increased were Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Singapore,, Malaysia, Laos, and Burma experienced a decrease.

While the measurements of happiness in the study were fairly systematic and scientific, the report didn’t delve into the possible reasons for the trends and changes in the levels of happiness per country. It opted to do so regionally, which was the more manageable thing to do. Reading the report, you can draw your own conclusions.

So how happy are we, really?


There’s an interesting infographic on the report HERE.