Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why Manny Pacquiao Does Not Impress Me Much (Revisiting The Blog Rounds 16th Edition: In The Company Of Unsung Heroes)

Now all you Pacman lovers, before you hit me with your best punch, let me just clarify a few things.

I did not say I hate Manny. He is a sportsman of the highest order, and an inspiration for every Filipino to make the most of their abilities, regardless of social status. A Pacquiao fight can practically put traffic to a grinding halt.

Pacquiao represents the average Pinoy with almost supernatural skills. Unlike the mestizo celebrities, Manny is physically Filipino: brown skin, brawny, rough at the edges, raw. The appeal is very much like Nora Aunor's at her prime. It is but logical for the everyday Pinoy to look up at someone whom he can actually identify with. I definitely recognise and respect this fact.

However, Pacquiao seems to have become too larger-than-life, and it seems he has already fallen into the excesses brought about by the fruits of his success. While it is rather unfair to look at the person with extreme scrutiny that comes with being a celebrity, it is also but rightful that we do not regard these people as infallible which they are definitely not.

There are many other people just as worthy of accolades, like Efren G. Peñaflorida, Jr., a young man who offered pushcart classes as an alternative form of education who is presently getting his fair share of attention when he was recently declared the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year. Efren's achievement can be best viewed as a wake-up call to the Philippine government: the man's effort is so laudable that it makes one think about why one has to resort to pushcarts to reach the underprivileged.

Very sad. Something is definitely wrong. Certainly, we need heroes whose deeds make us think critically, and not just heroes whom we can put on billboards.

For this reason, I am re-publishing the round-up of The Blog Rounds 16th Edition which I hosted last year. This first appeared on my Multiply account last July 23, 2008. I love the subject of heroes, especially so when the heroes are "unsung", so to speak. And for me, as long as we strive to be better persons, the subject of heroes will never ever die.

As for Pacman, I rest my case. For now.

July 23, 2008

"Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they'll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams."
- May Parker to Peter, talking about young Henry's dream to be like Spider-Man, in Spider-Man 2 (Photo from this site.)

One thing I particularly like about the Spider-Man character is that he has always been depicted as being flawed, and yet capable of extraordinary deeds. This is something that I admitted rather unabashedly in Dr. Em Dy's little contest on superheroes. The protagonist, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, is far from being an unsung hero among people familiar with the comic subculture, but imagine if someon
e like Peter Parker does exist among us ... would anyone be able to recognize him?

For all we know, our world's Peter Parker may be walking among the unnamed, unrecognized, and often unappreciated lot in the sea of humanity. They are collectively called The Unsung Heroes. And some of them are just right beside us.

Parents: Shoo-in

"My mother is unsung in so many ways. But not to my brother, my sister, and not to me," Dr. Brian announces with pride as he takes a break from his board exam review. Find out here why, she is, to him, both "unsung" and not at the same time.

Dr. Remo speaks of his mother with similar fondness in his post where he makes an interesting analogy of his mother's
foray into politics with "cooking tinola".

Dr. Gaya pays homage to fathers as well.

Dr. Che salutes the parents who dream of better lives for their children.

Heroes In And Out Of The Classroom

What would each and everyone of us be without teachers? (Photo of classroom from this site.)

Dr. Martin feels that teachers, particularly those who teach grade school and high school, have yet to be truly recognized for perform
ing their duties and at the same time putting up with the numerous ills of Philippine education.

On the other hand, Dr. Clairebear speaks of our teachers in medical school who, in spite of the status that they enjoy in their respective fields, continue to unselfishly impart knowledge, even without compensation.

Some of us remember those teachers who made a difference in our lives.

In his post entitled "Of Physicians and Physicists", Dr. Ian thanks his erstwhile college physics teacher for helping him in becoming "... not just a good physician but a better Filipino as well" via an open lette

Dr. J.A. recalls in her post how a homeroom adviser has given a person she termed as a "short-tempered teenager" a second chance.

I am personally amazed that even after many years, my high school math teacher
would still be teaching me life's profound lessons, far more relevant than sines, cosines, and tangents.

Heroes In The Hospital

The hospital is never short of opportunities for people to prove their capacity to be heroes.

Dr. Gaya identifies, through her first submission to The Blog Rounds, their batch's answer to the Iron Lady of Israel
, her then co-intern Twinkle as her unsung hero "... for her quiet strength in facing failures, and courage in rising despite of and above them."

We all know what Dr. Ness exactly means when she calls Manong Cardo her hero. The way she speaks of his consistency and steadiness with holding patients for anesthesia in perfect alignment makes me wish we have more efficient people like him inside the OR.

Dr. Manggy, on the other hand, talks about dedicated nurses whom he had the pleasure of working with; too bad that somehow, he did not get their names. This is definitely one familiar situation for me as well.

And there are the "bantays", people who give up a great deal of time and money to watch over their loved ones in the ho
spital. Dr. Joey recognizes the invaluable role that the "bantays" play in patient care and treatment.

Finally, Megamom reminds us to treat our obvious heroes with compassion.

Common People

r. Che mentions more people who are heroes in their own humble yet invaluable ways: farmers, barangay health workers, the youth, the OFW. (Photo of farmer from this site.)

Dr. Meloinks specifically identifies Mang Roberto, the taxi cab driver who returned his documents, as one deserving of Class I hero classification.

Dr. Emer names Mr. Sencio, his favorite newspaper vendor afflicted with hypertension and diabetes, his unsung hero. It may actually seem that Dr. Emer sees Mr. Sencio as a representative of a multitude of Filipinos who would rather give up basic healthcare just so to be able to provide financial help to immediate family members.


This round-up concludes with the following questions:

1. Are we actually short of heroes?

Dr. Meloinks writes an extensive discourse, classifying the heroes that we know into groups. Yes, he says, we are in search of heroes who are more "real-time, realistic, relatable, and bite-sized". Read about it here.

2. What of "fallen heroes"?

And what sort of help can we give our personal unsung heroes who fall way below our expectations? Our heroes are, after all, human.

3. When does the job end and heroism begin?

Dr. Em Dy provokes every one of us into thinking what exactly does heroism
constitute, specifically so in the medical profession.

With this I end this rather kilometric-long round-up. Thank you everyone for your contributions. And yes, as far as I know, at various times and circumstances, we are all capable of being heroes, unsung or not.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Day Ben Kingsley Made Me Cry

[I have always liked and respected Ben Kingsley, and I will always remember him for his phenomenal performance in "Gandhi". I suppose almost everyone else who has heard of Kingsley thinks like I do. It's been more than 25 years since "Gandhi" came out in the moviehouse; yes, it's been a long time. I wrote this when I was in Hong Kong, in August of 2007, while I was sitting by the sidewalk and watching people go by. I am not too sure what circumstances made me suddenly write about Ben Kingsley. More often than not, the truth is a lot lot stranger than fiction ... even stranger than this story....]

Moviehouse somewhere in Manila, 1983. My eyes transfixed on the big screen, marveling at the man playing a revered historical character. To my right, my mother, equally awed. To my left ... was it my sister? Or was it just my mother and I watching? At any rate, the person seated to my left seemed hardly interested.

Then came the scene that etched a lasting impression in my pre-pubescent mind. A frail, bespectacled, shaven man in loin clothes, fronting a large congregation of Indians, confronted by soldiers. His voice rang like a decisive bell in the theatre hall.

"My name is Gandhi. Mohandas K. Gandhi."

Mohandas Gandhi. The great Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, I had heard about this man and his incredible deeds, for I had read his biography long before I saw Richard Attenborough's masterpiece. In my mind, Gandhi's greatness was a given.

What intrigued me more, however, was the competent actor who gave life to Gandhi's character onscreen. I did not mind that the film lasted forever: the actor captivated me the whole time. By the time the credits started rolling, I eagerly waited. The name then appeared in the cast list.

Ben Kingsley.

Ben Kingsley! I have never heard of this actor before, I said to myself. What would he be like in his other films...but wait, he is supposed to be new to the movies. Oh, then maybe he is a theatre actor. I resolved to find out who Kingsley is ...

... but to no avail. Back in those days, it was hard to do research. There was no such thing as the World Wide Web. The school library subscribed only to local periodicals, and no foreign magazines, much more foreign celebrity magazines, were on the shelves. It was a frustrating game of hide and seek, with me playing "It" to minuscule (if at all existent) articles on Ben Kingsley in the showbusiness section of the newspapers.

That is, until the list of nominees for the American Academy Awards came out on a teaser for the awards night on television. Kingsley was a strong contender for the best actor award.

How my young heart lept! I will finally see how Kingsley looks like off-screen. Taking note of the date and time of the awards ceremony, I started to rush to my mother who was preparing dinner at that time.

Halfway down the stairways, I stopped, apprehensive.

I know my mother quite well....


Ever since I started figuring in the honors list in my second year of primary school, my mother slowly but surely imposed a great deal on my study habits.It started with long examinations, then progressed to include even those short subject quizzes. She pored onto my written examinations, and if I did not get a perfect score, I would be lucky if I get just a harsh scolding. Obtaining the results that she wanted, my mother imposed more. Television time was reduced, and admonitions became more and more severe. If I wanted to watch television badly, I had to ask permission from my mother, and be ready for corresponding justifications.


What the heck, I though to myself. Just how often did I ask her permission to see some fancy show show on television? Five? Six? As seldom as thunderstorm on a Good Friday?


"O?" came the response. She was still busy in the kitchen.

"Ma, puwede ba ako manood ng TV sa Linggo? (Ma, can I watch TV this coming Sunday?)" As I was saying this, I walked towards my mother until she was in full view.

My mother was only in her mid-thirties, but already her beautiful face was scarred by years of hard work, bitterness, and an aggressive aspiration to rise above the humdrum middle class lifestyle our family was trapped in.

Without looking at me, my mother asked. "Ano'ng panonoorin mo? (What are you going to watch?)"

I sat by the dinner table. "Ma, naaalala mo yung Gandhi, yung pinanood natin dati? (Ma, do you remember Gandhi, the film we saw recently?)"


"Na-nominate yung actor na Gandhi, si Ben Kingsley. Gusto ko sana siyang mapanood sa Oscars. (Ben Kingsley, the actor who played Gandhi, was nominated. I wish to see him in the Oscars.)"

My mother raised her head and looked at me. "Ows? (Really?)" To which I nodded.

"Sige (Alright)", she said. "Panoorin natin. (Let's watch the program together.)" It seems that my mother was interested in watching Kingsley, too.

And this made me happy. Very happy.


It was Sunday afternoon, at least that is what I remember. I could hardly contain my excitement. This is a delayed telecast of the awards night, and I did know that Kingsley bagged the Best Actor award, but I just had to see him on television. I thought, I will finally get to watch Ben Kingsley who was said to have shaved his head and shed substantial weight to fit in the role of Gandhi. Admirable, my young impressionable self gasped, at the same time frowning on matinee idols who play too safe with their choice of roles.

All these concerns had suddenly turned me into some star-struck fan, and I was half-amused at the thought.

Suddenly, a loud angry voice ripped my reveries apart.

"Halika nga rito! (Will you come here!)"

It was my mother. Oh God. I went to her room extremely worried.

There she was, squatting in front of my schoolbag which she sneaked out of my room, all of my text books and notebooks lying open on the floor. My heart pounded hard.

"Ma?" My voice quivered.

"Ano ito? (What is this?)" Her eyes were ablaze. She was holding a piece of paper right in front of my nose, waving it frantically. I peered tentatively.

My quiz.

My quiz! Was it in Current Events or in Science? My imperfect quiz. My cursed imperfect score written on the right-hand corner of the paper in decisive red ink. I choked.

"Bakit hindi mo ipinapakita ito? (Why aren't you showing this to me?)", my mother demanded.

At that moment, all facilities for verbal self-defense escaped me. For all I knew, I might have actually kept the quiz from her on purpose. A stupid quiz should not come in the way of watching Ben Kingsley. I tried to speak but not even a whimper came out of my throat.

A barrage of words came flying like angry daggers. Accusing, demeaning words stung my ears and eyes. Then came everything else. Books, clotheshangers, paperweights, footwear all hurtled at my direction.

Helplessly I shielded myself from my mother's wrath, tears falling profusely from my eyes. I dashed for the door as my mother was shouting "Lumayas ka! Lumayas ka! (Get out! Get out!)" She ran after me but I had already gotten out of her room. I was too horrified to even think about television at that point.

As my mother was about to slam the door, she bellowed, all of her life's hurt and disappointment lacing every word she uttered.

"Hindi ka manonood ng TV ngayong gabi! (You are not going to watch TV tonight!)"

I sat in the corner of my room, sobbing my heart out.


Many years have passed.

Steven Spielberg shot an ambitious project in black and white. The movie: Schindler's List. The actors: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley.

I went to the moviehouse, wanting to know what made this film controversial, and if it was worth all the hype that was built around it.

Ben Kingsley's role demanded little, but there he was, his performance muted yet effective still. My mind moved back and forth in time. My chest hurt in the process.

No tears were shed this time. Just an indescribable, hollow feeling that will hound me for as long as Kingsley continues to perform onscreen.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Small Video Footage, For A Change

A friend directed me to a page that contains this very quaint video.

The title: La poésie comme l'amour n'est que foi

La poésie comme l'amour n'est que foi
[Merci beaucoup, mon ami. Très intéressant. ]

Read more here. The person in question is Silence Sonore.