Category Archives: Politics, History, and Current Events

Emergency preparedness at home (for flooding incidences)

As I have written in my last post here, my husband and I became victims of Ondoy’s wrath. We are thankful that we are alive and well but also realized that like all the other victims, we were so unprepared for what is to come.

With the lessons from Ondoy, we are (hopefully) better prepared. As I type this, our personal possessions are now packed in big plastic bags, ready for evacuation in case typhoon Pepeng brings in another flood. However, before we even began packing, we already developed a good ‘emergency plan’ in case of heavy floods. I would like to share them here in the hope that it can also help others in their disaster preparedness.

1. Place big empty plastic bags (with strings) in all shelves, cabinets and other strategic areas. Make sure that everyone in the household know where they are placed. Use an easy-to-remember “location code”. For example, my hubby and I placed the bags on the left side of the cabinets/shelves only. This way, you can easily put all the stuffs inside the bag, tie it up (practice a fast way to tie up the bags), and run away with it (I swear, this will save you a lot of money in terms of not having to deal with wet clothes, linens, books, etc.)

2. Agree on priorities. My hubby and I used this as guide: (1) Money and checkbooks; (2) electronic goods; (3) books and documents; (4) food and groceries; and finally, (5) clothes. Why did we put the clothes last in the list? Simple. We realized that after the floods, clothes (and even kitchen stuffs like pots and pans) can be washed afterwards. We just spend on the laundry and even ask friends to help out. While with books, when they are soaked with floodwaters, it’s the same as bidding them goodbye. Final. Precious money (and memories!) down the drain. In my case, books are constant companions in my travels. Others are gifts from people close to me. It was really really sad for me to lose them. The sentimental value is much more important actually.

With this list of priorities, we know what to try to save first. If you have 5 minutes only, then you just try to run away with your money and checkbooks. If you have 10 minutes, then you can run away with the electronic goods, too. If you have neighbors who can help (which we luckily had!!!), then ask them to carry all the electronic goods while you rush to where your cash and checkbooks are located.

3. Divide the house into “zones” and assign each household member to each zone. For example, hubby was assigned to the living room area (still following the list of priorities in No. 2 above), and I was assigned to one half of the bedroom area (where the books are). Plan the “pathway” or traffic direction of work so that the household members will not waste time bumping into one another. In the example here, after his task in the living room, hubby will then run next to the 2nd half of the bedroom area (following a direction that will not interfere with my direction). After my task in the bedroom, I then run to the kitchen/dining area.

This way, we don’t waste time trying to find out where to run first.

4. If there is enough time (in this current case, we have always been notified about the developments of typhoon Pepeng), prepare an separate overnight bag in case you needed to temporarily stay with a relative for a day or two.  This is one reason why even if a friend (big thank you to Jaja!) offered her house for us on the first evening of Ondoy’s attack, we decided to stay in our dirty and damp flat because all our things are in separate bags/boxes and it would be difficult to prepare an overnight kit just so we can stay over in a friend’s place. We were so tired, too. With an overnight bag handy, you can just temporarily forget about your dirty house and try to have a good night’s rest because surely, you need a strong body and mind to be able to start life again after a horrible flood.

5. It’s not realistic to say, “don’t panic” but hey, we can try that mode. It’s hard not to panic. But it will definitely not help if you are going to lose your focus because you are already very panicky. Adrenaline rush helps so a certain “panic” actually helps. However, try to go easy on your nerves and believe that God and angels will help! (They always do!)

The above is a very simple emergency plan for a flood and I really hope this can help others who would be in a similar situation. I don’t like it to happen to anyone but then again, as the cliche goes, prevention is always better than cure.

Have a nice weekend everyone. Let us continue to pray for the victims of Ondoy and work and heal together as a nation.

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Being more mindful of what we throw away

[Repost from my Facebook 'notes']

It’s been two days from the worst flood that I have ever seen in my life. And this time, I became a victim too. My husband and I are part of the government statistics: number of affected people of Typhoon Ondoy- 450,000.

It was all so sudden. The building manager and staff were banging on our glass doors, waking us up from our deep slumber. It was probably past 9:00 am, Saturday. We were trying to sleep some more because hubby celebrated his birthday the night before (I surprised him with a get-together with very few friends).

“Get all the things you can! The waters are rising…” They screamed at us.

Hubby and I didn’t really panic. We took a look outside and the water is still low, it hasn’t reached our front door yet…

We even had time to change into more decent looking clothes. Without any panic, we started putting things on higher places – table tops, on the bed, the higher cabinets…

Then the manager and staff started asking us, “Do you want us to carry your refrigerator up already? What about your TV…? There were already commotion outside…Hubby and I were still a bit unperturbed. We agreed anyway but we really didn’t think the water will reach that high. In fact, we thought out bed will be high enough…

And then suddenly, very suddenly, we just saw that the water is now knee-high…then perhaps just barely five minutes…it was already touching the drawers of my study table…just inches away from my laptop!

That’s probably the time we started to panic and see that the waters are indeed fast rising…and then when we were able to grab my laptop, printer and modem, we just realized it is real. This is happening. We can’t save anything much. When I ran out of our unit, the waters were already at my chest

I cannot even go back anymore because when I tried to, the waters were too strong for my small frame. I can’t swim. I didn’t think I’d want to give additional worry to all the people trying to save their possessions…so I just stayed by the staircase of the main building so the people who are helping us retrieve some of our things can pass on some stuffs to me and they can go back to our house.

It finally dawned that we can’t save much anymore. So the books and the documents had to go. The clothes too. Some others.

And then we were there huddled in the main lobby of the building which is on a mezzanine level. We can only wait for the waters to subside. Count our blessings, console each other that at least we are still alive. We hoped the rains will stop soon. We heard news about Marikina and can only send SMS to try to help contact AFP. We were worried about the others.

I couldn’t say thank you enough for the people who helped us. Our friends Jay, Ned, and their son Naki, who went to us the next day to bring us food and fresh set of clothes. The neighbors and staff who bravely waded through the murky waters to help us save some of our possessions…they are the angels that we most needed.

Now, it’s been two days and I still think about how this flood could happen.

I posted this comment in FB – Yes, the government should have an effective and working disaster response. However, we also are partly to be blamed because of how we abuse our environment. We throw dumps and garbages as if we own the world and that the world is unlimited. I felt the brunt. My house got submerged up to my chest level. I lost many things. I only hope our people will be more careful, to be more caring, to be more sensitive to the environment.

It will always be us who will suffer in the end. Please, let us be more conscious of what we throw away, they can eventually kill us. The stuffs we throw away will be the same ones that will clog our rivers and drainage systems.

Please do not let this kind of flood happen again.

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Si Pacquiao, Hatton, Bebe G., atbp.

With Pacman’s recent victory, I am very sure that there will be many more articles, blogs and commentaries which will be written about him. I swore to myself before that I will never write about him. Truth is, I didn’t like him before. To me, he is “mayabang” and has a penchant for walking around surrounded with more-than-I can-swallow army of bodyguards. But that was when I knew so little of him and his fights.

Hard to admit, I am now a Manny Pacquiao fan. Not yet hard-core, but yes, enough to write something nice about him. (wink!)

I will not bore you (and myself) with how good his punches are and how precise his timing is. I am sure that we are getting heavy dosage of that already.

Let me tell you why I like him now:

1. He is so prayerful and God-fearing. Ok, we are not 100% sure if that is just for show but hey, it’s hard to perfect that “act” right? So I am pretty sure he believes in the Almighty and gives Him honor, respect and gratitude. I am always moved by the way he prays very fervently in one corner before his every fight and for me, that is very inspiring. Whenever he does that, I also want to kneel down and pray with him.

2. He loves his mother fiercely. Again, we cannot be too sure of that but for me, the act of bringing his Mom there to be with him in Las Vegas, and the way he allows her to be with the press and be seen by the world, is enough proof of how much he loves and honors his Mother, warts and all. I am sure now that this hard fighter has a soft heart inside, putting family first despite all the titles and the accolades.

3. He is a true sport and fights fairly. He is not “magulang” like Hatton. Sorry for the term but this is what I heard spoken by a sports analyst when I was watching the news last night. It was obvious from this latest match that Hatton has to learn many things from Pacquiao in terms of sportsmanship and playing by the rules. I have seen how the referee was already giving warnings to Hatton with the way he fights (i.e. yayakapin si Pacquiao pagkatapos, susuntukin sa tagiliran at ulo…man, that was really “madaya” in my amateurish eyes! Suntukin ba ang kalaban pagkatapos mo syang yapusin kasi matutumba ka na?!).

4. He is so makabayan. I felt like soaring myself when, during his entrance to the ring, the organizers played his patriotic song with lyrics that go, “Para sa ‘yo…ang laban na ‘to…” Was it his idea? I am not too sure. But that is his song! He sings through our hearts and the record company is happy. But the message is clear: Manny is for the Filipinos. He embraces his countrymen and never forgets to tell the world, “I am a Filipino”.

5. Finally, he is not all “hot air”. As what Mr. Tim Dahlberg wrote, sports columnist for the Associated Press, “The road to greatness now runs through a fighter who truly does let his fists do the talking.” I think pwede namang maging mayabang si Pacquiao. Kumbaga, meron syang “K”. Pero sa mga nakita ko, he is just being honest when he says he is a good fighter. But in so doing, he never trash-talks and never puts down his opponents in ways that others have succumbed to do. Need I say more? Pacquiao is truly the people’s hero and not just because he truly makes us all feel like winners but more importantly, for me, he is all human, not too perfect, just real, believes in God and prayers, values his country, and loves her Ma devotedly.

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Ang Aruba Bar at si Bebe Gandanghari

These days, I keep track of what’s going on around me, even if they are about showbiz. This seeming fascination with showbiz news started when I was in Cambodia and realized that the only Filipino channel available to me was TFC. Back then, I would wait for Sundays so I can watch “The Buzz”.

When I came back to Manila, I thought that I had enough of showbiz. I was wrong.

I still survived weeks of not watching TV (we didn’t have TV for the first weeks in Baguio) but admittedly, it’s still tempting to have those bits of tsismis every now and then. Wag na tayong mag-deny. Masarap malaman ang mga bagay-bagay sa mga taong napapanood natin sa TV or sa movies, right? :) Aminin!

Anyway, one of these latest showbiz happenings that really caught my interest was the sad incident at Aruba Bar when Bebe Gandanghari was denied entry. I pretty much felt agitated too.

For one, I feel that that kind of arrogance is soooooo “Stone Age” na. Hello. In this age of silicone boobs, hormonal injections, and glutathione, we cannot even be too sure na if the girl beside us is really a girl. But that’s on the lighter side.

The saddest thing there is that ‘who are we to discriminate between a man and a woman or a gay and a lesbian for that matter?’ For me, as long as a person is decent-looking enough to enter a bar or restaurant (read: wag naman masyado nang vulgar ang suot na damit or wala na halos damit!), he should be allowed entry. It shouldn’t matter anymore whether one is a man, woman, lesbian, bading, “cross-dresser” or whatever terms that people use nowadays to “brand” someone. I honestly don’t even like putting people in “categories” as if merchandise tayong lahat na pwedeng ikahon na lang at sabihing, “ok, si ganito, bading, kaya dito lang sya.” I have friends who chose to live the alternative lifestyle (teka muna, politically-correct ba ito?!) and I think they are some of the best reasons that I have such a fun, full and inspired life.

So, Aruba Bar, I really really think you should review your dress code again because frankly, it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. Sayang, ang ganda ng bar-restaurant nyo. I have always planned to go there. But with this incident, I swear I will never patronize you (and I hope my friends, too!) UNTIL you begin to realize that in this world, we are all equals, kahit ano mang damit ang isuot natin.

To you, Bebe G., go go girl! You don’t know me and we may not even meet in the flesh but I hope this piece will reach you and make you smile a bit.

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(Warning: this is a sort of blind item)

An appeal to award-giving bodies in Philippine Cinema

Bakit, oh bakit…nanalo si Ms. K ng Award recently for her acting (daw) in the movie “For the….”? I mean no disrespect sa award-giving body na ito or kay Ms. K. The body seems fair enough in their other choices. And K seems a truly a beautiful, smart, generous, and loving person. But an acting award at this stage? Hmm, medyo sablay yata.

It’s obvious that she seems working hard at her acting and we should give her the pat on the back and encourage her more. But her performance in this film (and in her first TV projects?) are, at its best, still mediocre. (Again, please do not crucify me for this opinion.)

I was able to watch this film on DVD and honestly, I really looked forward to watching it kasi curious ako sa kanya and always thought of G as a travel destination in the future. I was not disappointed sa cinematography (the views and shots were magnificent!) But for me, K’s acting is quite a downer: it is (still?) OA, o kaya, “acting” na “acting” (read: pwede siguro sa stage plays kasi dapat exaggerated ang mga movements or gestures), o kaya naman, kulang, or minsan, di appropriate. Take the time when she said, “Ok, I am not perfect!” in the scene with R. It is so pathetic. Parang pilit, medyo OA na ewan, may awkwardness.

So sorry, Ms. K, I wish I can say this in person, na tayong dalawa lang ang nag-uusap pero siempre, di naman tayo friends. Sana huwag kang magalit ha. Consider this na lang as an unsolicited advice perhaps? You have tremendous potential. I think you really can be a good actress someday. But I hope you can watch more films and learn from the great actors and actresses, attend workshops, experience life more, and perhaps read more blogs like this?

To the award-giving body: Please be more circumspect in your future choices for this category. It’s not just about being fair. However, you are giving young awardees the wrong messages. K is now thinking that she can act pala. Can you imagine having false notions about yourself? She fell asleep that night thinking she is a now a good actress. How can she evolve? How can she learn? In this life, dapat maging totoo sa ating mga kaibigan or to anyone. If we simply give awards to people who don’t even deserve them, or say “you are a good actress” to someone who is not, we are giving out false hopes. And that is sad for the people who receive them. Kasi hindi nila makikita ang totoo. Pardon the cliché, but “the truth will set us free.”

(Still, and in all fairness, I like K for her charitable and volunteer works lately. Kudos to her for being such a good role model for the youth! And I sincerely wish her all the best, maybe even win an award that she will truly deserve in the future.)

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Germany on my mind

The year 2004 was a special time in my life because I was able to visit a beautiful and intriguing country, Germany.

If there is one thing that stayed with me long after my trip to Germany was the way the people made me feel that embracing their past means owning up every part of their history. There was no evasion; at least from the people that I have been privileged to have long conversations with. There was no effort to evade the topic or consider it taboo: the killing of the Jews under Nazi rule.

I think this is a beautiful reminder of how the human soul is capable of owning the sins of the past and from there, self-acceptance and forgiveness. As I disembarked from the Lufthansa Airlines plane (I must say that it was a pleasurable ride despite the long hours), I did not know what to expect but I carried with me a resoluteness to capture what my lens could get in that brief visit, wary only of the very tight schedule and the possibility that I would be taking most pictures from the buses and trains that our group was taking while we travel from one place to another. I was there as part of an Asian media delegation that was invited by the German government for an informational tour and attendance to the International Conference for Renewable Energies held in Bonn.

Luckily, I was able to take pictures but at first, I was not too sure how they would come up. It was not very sunny on most days (it was still the last days of Spring when we arrived but the weather was still very unpredictable) and the beauty of black & white photography depended so much on the stark contrasts that only a good sun can provide.

It was also difficult to know how those photos from the buses and trains would look like. So I was nervous when I went to the photo shop where I had my films processed. When I got the contact prints, I was relieved. I had good shots that show the soul of Germany, and perhaps, even a bit of mine as I tried to focus my eyes and mind on the learnings that I encountered each day.

Beautiful Germany

Germany is a beautiful country. It is alive. It is an abstract painting waiting to be understood. It is a poem. There is vibrancy. Serenity. Confusions. Order. And I enjoyed each step I made, confident that I am embarking on a journey towards understanding the past, the world and my present more. The Berlin Wall echoed hopes and aspirations. The house of the great literary genius Goethe embraced me like a long-lost daughter or it must be that I find so much solace in old houses and books that smell of the past.

The cobbled-stones streets of Weimer reminded me of our Old Intramuros, and they warmed my heart as I saw young and old couples walking hand-in-hand, sometimes with their beautiful dogs. In Cologne (Koln), I saw the majestic Dome Cathedral and it simply took my breath away! The grandeur was mesmerizing.

And oh, the City of Bonn. The House of Beethoven there was a source of fascination. Imagine seeing the pianos that this great musician used! Bonn intrigued me as a city caught between the past and the present. In its quiet and unassuming confidence, I found reassurance.

And how else would I forget the friendships forged among my fellow writers and journalists who all come from Asia? Mostly from tropical countries, it took a while for us to adjust to the very cold temperature! But there were fun and laughters, political and not so-political discussions, dissecting of cultural intricacies, dancing, learning together….it was one of the best trips of my life. These photos that I took carried with them the history, messages, longings, mystery and hope of the German people.

In my heart, there is only that desire to connect to these people who have somehow made me feel very welcome. Among those that I truly found very special is Ingrid Fischer. She glides through the streets of Weimer in a wheelchair but you will never really feel it because her strength strikes you as very reassuring. That everything in this world is ok.

May these photos speak to you. They may have different messages for you but at some point, we will all understand what they mean.. We will forget these images, but the meanings, they would never go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin