R.I.P. To 44 Fallen Commandos

  • image I wrote this blog on the 30th of January after the massacre of the 44 members of SAF that horribly took place in Mindanao. I did not post this because during those days, the issue was very controversial and my dad advised me to not meddle with my already troubled country. It would be like adding insult to injury. Now that Noynoy Aquino will soon be our ex president, I thought this is the right time to say my piece. This is how some political analysts would look at Pnoy (President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines) as the Commander in Chief. While his right hand is busy with the finality of the Bansamoro Basic Law, to which the population of Maguindanao consists of mainly MILF members (who are allegedly the people behind the massacre), him trying to be the gentleman and the diplomat, rubbing elbows with the leader , which I find ‘incredibly ridiculous’, (knowing that these are the same people who were involved in the number of massacres that occurred several years back) fervently hoping that they will finally surrender their arms and embrace peace with the government, Pnoy’s left hand is persistently persuading the Senate to have this BBL implemented until at least before his term ends. So what happens now? Not everybody agrees with the BBL, trust is of the essence and as far as the MILF is concerned, my instinct tells me that they are not worthy of that. The BBL has a long way to go. It still needs a lot of reading,interpolations, discussions, amendments and a hundred percent consensus by the Senate and even more, a referendum for the entire nation. It can not just be implemented, not now or more so not ever. The MILF has been consistently defending themselves that they are  not the culprit of these tragic massacres but in reality, they seemingly are. If only we have an extraordinarily observant leader, with strong political will, conviction and discernment, he should be smart enough to be able to read between the lines. History shows that MILF do not follow the rules of ceasefire and the leaders should not be too assuming that after BBL, the whole country will at last live in peace and harmony. Harboring international terrorists is unforgivable and unacceptable. The person rooting for the BBL was the same person who gave the go signal to attack without vigorous planning. Pnoy wanted to take the credit and show the world that he has a legacy to leave before his term ends, but at the expense of SAF and innocent civilians and individuals? Unfortunately, the mission failed and the massacre goes on and on till the present. BBL will never be the solution or if at all there will be a solution. Long and tedious planning , then maybe, just maybe peace will be achieved only if people, Christians and Muslims alike will realize the meaning of human respect and compassion. I condemn this tragic event and I have no words to the wives , children and family of the SAF fallen commandos. War is stupid and the people perpetuating it is even more stupid. And I quote Miriam Santiago’s line, ‘Life is Hard but it’s Harder when you are stupid.’ Filipinos killing Filipinos. Is not that a humongous act of stupidity?

Unthinkable Shiver

Freezing cold on the 29th of wintry December morning 2014, I took my flight back to Manila to behold the beautiful face of my beloved mother on her wake. The last time I would talk to her, face to face although I knew it would be a one way conversation. She can no longer agree or disagree with me, nod her head in awe when she hears good news about my career and family, utter words to remind me how proud she is that I’m her daughter, constantly motivate me to be better in whatever I do, boost my moral before a big performance, pacify me when I’m hysterical, listens to me when I tell her how lonely it is to lose a husband, and a lot more. She even becomes the mother to my daughter when I’m not around. I could go on and on and on. I was not on her bedside when she was fading away but technology helped me to tell her everything while she can still hear me.
Excruciatingly painful. That’s how my mother would phrase it when she wants to describe a feeling where pain is gravely intolerable, or when a situation is unbearably distressing or when someone is in intense suffering.
I was speaking to her over the phone while my heart is in excruciating pain. All I can do is make myself strong by controlling my tears while I bid her goodbye. As I speak to her, I realized that I will not be able to give her the tightest hug I can give. There’s no reason for me to drop by the duty free to buy a new lipstick, perfume or a new bag for my beloved mother. I will not have someone to call on to when I need a recipe for a certain menu I want to cook. ( She knows I don’t really cook though) still she would teach me how to. She said I need to learn how to cook, at least for my husband.
My mother is my best mentor in life. She was strict (specially in academics ) but kind. Having a boyfriend at a young age is totally unacceptable. Her ultimate goal for me is to get a good college education. She would endlessly tell me that getting a good education means finding eventually a decent husband. There are so many adjectives by which I can describe my first teacher. She was the love and the light of our family and I am just about to enter the door to her wake.
I was ok as the car was taking me from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to St. John The Baptist Loyola in Taytay. A little jet lagged but generally ok. When the car stopped and the driver informed me that it was time for me to get off, I started to shiver. I never felt that in my entire life. Not even on my husband’s passing away. I was shaking uncontrollably. My brother hugged me very tight and instructed me not to see my mother until I’m feeling better. It took me an hour at least before I can go to her casket and behold her timeless beauty. It was excruciatingly painful but for some reason, all my body could do was to shiver. I never shivered in my life even in a minus 10 degree temperature of a cold winter season. Strength and tolerance are just some of the famous nicknames I have I guess. My mother’s wake gave me an unthinkable shiver.
She is now eternally resting in peace with the Lord. When I pray to her, I ask her, ‘Mom, where you hugging me when I was at the footsteps of your wake?’ I felt a sudden gush of a cold wind chill devoured me upon entering the room. I would answer the question myself and say yes. She was present and telling me through my unthinkable shiver that everything will be alright. That’s my mom. And just like the song of Kenny Loggins…
‘In the mornin’ when I rise
Bringing tears of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything’s gonna be all right’ ”People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one’…

Passport and Family

It’s a beautiful Christmasy morning this 22nd of December 2014. For the first time in so many years, I won’t be home for Christmas because of so many things that transpired which I thought won’t allow me to book a flight before Christmas. My passport is expiring within 6 months and international aviation law says that a person whose passport is expiring in 6 months will not be allowed to travel. I was advised by Immigration to renew my passport as soon as I can. I wish it was that easy. I hold a Philippine passport even if I don’t basically live in my own country. I did not know that renewing means getting your new passport after 45 working days. I renewed it first week of October and considering the bureaucratic system and red tape in our government, 45 days is not a guarantee. That would mean I might not be home for Christmas if I don’t get my passport at least by first week of December. I was right. My passport arrived on the first week of December , the same week when my mother was rushed to the hospital due to pneumonia. She was critical. Since my passport was not on my hands yet, I had to make a decision to book my flight to Manila after Christmas just to be sure. As of this moment while I’m writing this, my mom is at the ICU and we are hoping that she recovers. The delay of the arrival of my passport is the biggest reason why I decided not to spend Christmas with my family. Plans have been made and much as I badly want to be home to see my mother, I won’t be able to.
I’m not blaming my country or anybody for my life’s turn out of events. I realize now that we can’t control things all the time. The world owns us. The entire universe owns us. We don’t even own our passports. I wish there were other ways to make life more manageable but then again, I guess it will always be a struggle. Even to renew your own passport..

80 years and it’s a Bonus?

As I start writing this, I look back at the first time I understood what my mother meant when she told me that giving birth to me is like finally having someone to call your own. I became my mother’s best friend cum daughter since then. The moment her gynecologist announced that ‘it’s a baby girl’ ,
she heard the song ‘Silent Night’ being played all over the hospital rooms. I was born in the month of October, the month where Christians and non-Christians as well, feel that Christmas is just around the corner, what with the Christmas songs already being played by all radio stations. I was my mother’s best Christmas gift ever.
It’s the 21st of December today and anytime from now, she is about to leave us, our family, to rest into eternal life. This is my worst Christmas gift ever. I love Christmas season. As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well I guess not for everybody. Not only because my mother is fading away but because of so many reasons. War, hunger, poverty, selfishness, hatred, greed, corruption, heinous crimes, injustice, etc. etc.
In other words, life is not fair. Life is a struggle between choosing to be happy or choosing to be sad amidst all the chaotic realities that we are facing. My parents brought me up generally to be God-fearing and to be a happy person no matter what. As I go through life’s journey, I realized that there are issues on the other side of the coin. To be happy and to accept whatever life serves me on the table is one and the other is to face and accept a passing away of a loved one head-strong. The second one is tedious. I am very lonely that my mother is traveling on a journey where she’s not returning to us and that is unacceptable.
My friends consoled me, spoken words of wisdom so that I would feel better and just move on and face a new chapter in my life. That my mother lived long enough , 80 years to set it right, and lived a full life therefore I should be happy. That 80 years is a bonus considering that the average life span of a person goes around 70 to 75. I’m grateful for having friends who care but I am not convinced. NO.
A bonus is being with my mother 20 more years. That I go first before her, that I don’t see her anguish in pain while all the other parts of her body are failing. Is it hard for the universe to just make my mother comfortable sans pain and be with us longer? Acceptance?
To not question that her physicians did their best to extend my mother’s life? Am I looking for chivalry from my God or from the experts to make her strong and be with us again?
Chivalry is gone these days. Life is a struggle.
There is no bonus. When someone grows up to be with a loving family, it’s hard to let go. Yes, I still choose to be happy but for now, I ask the universe to let me be. 80 years is not enough. There is a Forever which is intangible.
Love. And only now that I start realizing that. I continue to pray for a miracle as I write this….

Aquino on Standing Against Time

Becoming a President of a country that had nothing but a zero balance in its’ monetary reserves, a country ruled and governed by (if not all) a lot of corrupt and dishonest officials, bureaucracy, old school political traditions, a very ill-disciplined citizenry, a country where most of the people do nothing but whine, bicker and complain except do what is good and moral; is not a joke. I agree with the writer’s take that with a lot of struggle in the president’s leadership: the international community, world bank, foreign investors are obviously still attracted with the rebirth of our nation. Foreign retailers are starting to open and if I may mention some, Japan’s Uniqlo, Yoshinoya, and now Family Mart are now being seen in major cities of the Philippines, USA’s Forever 21, H&M retail store, not to mention the addition of more Starbucks franchise, Macdonald’s , TGIF and so on and so forth.
Government transparency is the bottomline. Reality check, any investor will be attracted to a government where everything can be openly investigated. President Aquino’s government advocacy is Transparency. And this is shown in their SALEN or Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth which means disclosure of the officials’ assets, thus gradually solving the problem of corruption. It is too open that people who see any thoughts, ideas, opinions in social media, minus the newspaper, television and radio take those insights subjectively and can easily impeach the incumbent President if the citizens want to. Honestly, I don’t see another EDSA revolution coming. Filipinos believe that our present leader is equated to honesty.
Granting that President Aquino makes wrong decisions in choosing his constituents and dumping officials that to some people are the Presidents’ victims of bullying, I can still forecast progress. I live abroad and I look at the country from the outside. I see international news never been heard in Philippine television, read articles never been read by a local, heard opinions by my co-workers who are all foreigners saying only one thing, the value of the peso is going up against the dollar, the yen and all other monetary units.
This only explains that we have earned the trust of the international community , less intimidation to OFWs, less racism, less stereotyping that our country is hopeless. I overhear people of other races saying that the Philippines is a country to reckon with. A country that needs constant monitoring because one day these foreigners on the other hand would want to seek greener pastures in the Philippines. Who knows? The world is round.
Indeed, Aquino government’s worst enemy is time considering that his term is about to end in no less than 3 years. I will start to question our country’s plight when we elect our next president. For now, I am not complaining. To the future president, I wonder, would he be able to continue the legacy of progress or would he pull down our country back to the deep well? I hope not.
On this note, I’d like to finish this with the the words of the late US President JFK, ‘Ask not, what your country can do to you, but ask, what you can do to your country.’ Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror and perhaps make some more reflections.

Rappler’s article, Philippine President Aquino’s reality check

Becoming a President of a country that had nothing but a zero balance in its’ monetary reserves, a country ruled and governed by (if not all), a lot of corrupt and dishonest officials, bureaucracy, old school political traditions, a very ill-disciplined citizenry, a country where most of the people do nothing but whine, bicker and complain except do the moral thing, IS NOT a joke. I agree with the writer’s take that with a lot of struggle in the president’s leadership, the international community, world bank, foreign investors are indeed still attracted to the rebirth of our nation. Government transparency is the bottomline. It is too open that people who see any thoughts, ideas, opinions on social media minus the newspapers, television and radio, take those insights subjectively. Granting that Pinoy makes wrong choices in choosing his constituents, dumping officials that some people think are just being bullied by the president, I can still see that there is progress. I live abroad and I look at our country from the outside. I hear international news never been heard on Philippine television, read articles never been read by a regular pinoy, opinions uttered by my co-workers who are all foreigners saying only one thing; the value of the dollar against the peso is going down, the yen, and all other monetary units. This only explains that we have earned the trust of the international community, less intimidation to OFW, less racism, less stereotyping that our country is hopeless. I overhear foreigners speaking that the Philippines is a country to watch out for. Indeed, President Aquino’s worst enemy is time considering that his term is about to end in no less than 3 years. I will start to question when we elect our next president. Would he continue the legacy of progress or pull down our country back to the deep well? I always quote the late US President JFK, “Ask not what your country can do to you but ask what you can do to your country”. Much as President Aquino needs reality check, the citizens need it more. Let’s take a look at our reflections in the mirror one more time and do some reality check ourselves.

10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer

This is a an inspiration for writers and would be writers.. After reading this, you wouldn’t want to see an empty monitor anymore. Your fingers will itch to start typing off your thoughts!

Live to Write - Write to Live

Journaling is a self-indulgent, narcissistic waste of time. It’s nothing more than self-administered therapy – the writer simultaneously on the couch and in the psychiatrist’s chair, endlessly picking apart the minutiae of her life to no good end. Time would be better spent alphabetizing the spice cupboard.

I disagree.

I have kept journals on and off since I was seven years old. My entries have ranged from copies of Shakespeare’s poems to what I did today to philosophical musings to documentation of the soap opera antics of the teenage years. I have professed love, eschewed love, and pined after lost love. I have envisioned my future, questioned my past, and reveled in my present. I have railed against the world and explored the dark and sparkling caves of my inner self. I have written letters that were never sent and scrawled meaningless sentences of disconnected prose just to keep my…

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Racism in Jazz

Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.
Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.

Music is and always be my life. After finishing my Communication Arts degree in a prestigious university, I had my practicum or as others would say apprenticeship on television stations and radio stations doing jobs as director’s assistant or scriptwriter’s assistant, everybody’s assistant, doing voice over jobs, forever the assistant, forever the voice over and never the real deal. I could have been a director, a scriptwriter, a television or a radio announcer. I could have had a career in Journalism. Much as I love to sing, writing is also my passion. In other words, I have a degree in Communication Arts and I can’t use it. I guess I really never wanted to be behind the camera. I remember telling my mom after six months of training on television, and I quote myself “mom, I don’t think I want to be behind the camera forever, I want to be in front. During the training, I had an encounter with a very good singer who later became the Kim of the Musical Ms. Saigon , she was amazing but I thought to myself, I can do that too, and perhaps become even better. I was in a hurry to be in her position, in front of the camera. So there I go. After several day jobs, I got bored and impatient, I quit! There were a lot of auditions being held then as hotel vocalists, band vocalist or wedding singer. With a lot of practice and guts, I auditioned. The rest is history.
From my country, I went hopping from one country to another as a singer, armed with a degree in Communication Arts In English, a lot of piano and guitar lessons, vocal lessons, and jazz workshop sessions. To date, I still attend jazz cliniques much as I give my own jazz clinics too. But that’s already water under the bridge.
This is the first time that I am going to express myself in writing as far as being ‘Asian’ is concerned, specially in the world of jazz. I have long been wanted to be heard and after I read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine regarding Asians being stereotyped as the following : chinky eyes, almond shaped eyes, noodles, chopsticks, yellow or brown skin, straight black hair and most of all non English speakers, I said to myself, enough of those craps! I’ve had it and let it be known that some people are either uneducated or plainly idiots or racists. Why?
In my travels as a jazzer, being in the business for almost 2 decades, having recorded 5 CDs , having to perform in front of an audience almost everyday of my life, dealing with bosses from different parts of the globe, I can absolutely conclude that I am pretty much doing a good job if not great.
I am not writing this to bad-mouth people who do not have any knowledge in world history or world geography or human behavior. I’ve just had enough.
These are the phrases I would hear or expected to hear? And I quote ‘oh, you’re Asian, and you speak good English.’ Or as how the immigration officers of the US Consular Office interrogated me when I was applying for my 01 visa or legally defined as an alien of extraordinary ability, and I quote again, ‘what’s with the English?’ Either he wants to intimidate me or he’s being sarcastic because he’s a racist. I may sound too sensitive on this subject but no. I’ve just been trying so hard to bear these unbearable assumptions.
I remember my friend telling me, and he’s a very good speaker of English as well, somebody irrationally told him, ‘so you’re Filipino, why do you speak very good english?’ He wanted to give that guy a right hook as strong as Manny Pacquiao’s  to shut him up, I’m glad he didn’t. And yes, my friend is an American law-abiding citizen, with a decent job , pays taxes and has a car registration most Americans wouldn’t have.
This kind of story doesn’t happen only in the US. It happens everywhere, Japan for one. It’s a beautiful country with very polite citizenry and has a wide audience in jazz. Even a non English speaker country like Japan stereotypes other Asians as people who have a native tongue and that’s not english. To the japanese; americans, canadians, australians, and all the other countries colonized by the Queen , are the only ones acceptable to be a jazz vocalist. Why can’t people just accept that a talent is a talent regardless of race, beliefs and gender? Is it hard to appreciate real talent? Does one have to be white or black to be validated? Who are they to judge? I’m blessed to have intelligent and level- headed parents, who are tirelessly telling me that I shouldn’t let anybody bully me or deprive me of my freedom to showcase what I can do, and still maintain humility. I can only take so much. I have no excuse for being Asian, educated, talented, speaks 3 languages fluently including English for that matter. People can either accept it or not, it doesn’t matter anymore.
My advice to aspiring jazz vocalists, pursue your goal! Go for your dream. It doesn’t matter if you’re not black or white. What matters is that you can deliver and you deliver well! Sorry racists, it’s time for a shoutout!
I’m not sour-graping, i’m just saying. No more racism in jazz , after all, music is a universal language.

Amor Se Paga Que Amor (Love begets Love)

imageAmor Se Paga Que Amor (Love begets Love)
Minutes after I finished my vocal teaching sessions, I spoke to my dad over the phone and told him how much proud I am to be able to contribute to the vocal skills of my students, and how my students inspire me in return. I told him how much effort, energy and love I put every time I teach and what’s amazing is the more I teach, the more I learn. When I told my father about giving love to people he uttered ‘love begets love in the Spanish language. ‘Amor Se Paga Que Amor’ ! He even added that because I love my students, my students give me  love in return by becoming better performers and decent human beings as well. He’s indeed the genius in the family. Of course, next to my mom, I have to write this down too, otherwise, she would edit this blog. In any case, my parents and the whole family have always been my inspiration in everything I do.

Their unconditional love and undying support are the reasons why it is easy for me to be generous in giving love to the people surrounding me.
Being a good performer and being a good mentor are two different things.

Much as I love to sing and write, teaching gives me a sense of purpose too. Bragging aside, I have had 6 recitals for my students, 3 of them has released their own CDs, became winners for jazz vocal competition, some of them turned from amateur to semi amateur, and the semi amateur to professional. It did not happen overnight. Long years of hard work in teaching , practice, rehearsals with bands, session attendance, studio orientations, working with different musicians, a lot of breathing and vocal exercises, and workshop attendance, moreover, lessons in public speaking or emceeing. I make sure that my students get to experience being on stage and perform with live accompaniment, with seasoned musicians as a much and often as they could. After so many years, I can see that all the hard works are paying off! They surprise me with better vocal control, better repertoire, new ideas, hitting difficult notes, surprising syllables in their scat improvisation, better phrasing and expression, impressive articulation, much better pronunciation and style, my students make me cry!
I expected all of these to happen because I know that when you give genuine love to people, you are compensated in return, thus ‘Amor Se Paga Que Amor’!! Thank you Dad and Mom for your overflowing love to your children and grandchildren. We will never fail your legacy of love.

No One Has the Right to Bully/ MMK

MMK or otherwise known as Maalaala Mo Kaya, dated February 8, a weekly television drama anthology of the network ABS-CBN in the Philippines did it again!
The story centers in the character of Tirso (played by Sam Concepcion) who was consistently bullied because of his looks. His left eye couldn’t see because of a freak accident , followed by a not so conventional cosmetic surgery and looked by many people in conformity as ugly, ridiculously distasteful and do not want to be seen walking along with him or being a friend to him. Instead of being bullied, he stopped going to school during elementary level. The parents seconded his motion and agreed that he should not be forced to have a proper education in an attempt to save their son from bullying. At 15, he started working.
Not having a good education, being bullied every minute, not having the proper guidance specially by the parents can leave someone like Tirso hopeless and see himself as a person of very low self-esteem, or perhaps he lost it all. To this day, there are still a lot of Tirsos out there. Of course at the end of the story, he finds someone who loved him for what he is and not for his looks. Unconditional love and undying support changed his life and eventually got his self esteem back.
Sincerity and real life stories of ordinary people are just some of the reasons why MMK of TFC Channel remain to be the longest running TV drama anthology program in the Philippines, reaping a lot of accolades and bagging all the trophies from the most prestigious award-giving organizations in the Philippines and other countries. So, why am I writing this?
Pipo Cifra, the music director or MMK for the past 15 years or so contributed to the phenomenal success of the program. His original music score for MMK changes every week. I am a regular viewer of MMK and more on the story, I listen to the scoring. The funny scenes, wouldn’t be funnier , the dramatic scenes wouldn’t be heart-wrenching, the fighting scenes, exchange of heavy dialogue in a disagreement wouldn’t be really convincing if not for Pipo’s original music creations. Today’s score is exceptionally well done. I would give it a 5 star (perfect)! I am like watching a movie or a drama series in the US. Let’s face it, Hollywood is still the deal when it comes to music scoring. Pipo seems to be a part of Tirso’s life as he injects his musical score from light to moderate , from moderate to heavy scenes. He knows how to tickle the hearts of the viewers and yet not compromising his work of art. After all, scoring for a TV program requires real talent, hardwork, a course in the conservatory, and most of all love for the job. I feel how passionate Pipo Cifra is in all original scores he makes, whether it’s TV, movie, commercial, theatre, chorus or an orchestra, his heart is always present. I believe that MMK and Pipo Cifra is a very good combination. MMK should stay on air forever and so is the music scorer Pipo.
A person with real talent and passion for his chosen path is hard to find these days, what will all the technological advancement in scoring and how applications of Android or Smart Phones can turn an amateur into a professional overnight. Pipo spent years and years of education, training, hardwork, doubled with a gift to write original, very melodic compositions, tripled with a very big heart and a pure soul he puts in every composition he makes. More than the heaps of awards that he already has and still getting more, what is truly important for him is to touch the lives of every person in every music that he creates.
To know more about the artist , google PIPO CIFRA Imdb…..You will understand what I am saying.