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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pinoy Psyche and Folklore Creatures

For Pinoys, the junction marking the end of October and the beginning of November is the religious holiday of All Saints then All Souls Day. For Americans and parts of Europe though, it’s the season that mingles spookiness and a bit of amusement known popularly as Halloween which technically, is of Celtic (the early North-Western peoples of Europe) tradition and was only passed on primarily by its Irish immigrants.

We pinoys have no problem adopting such celebrations and the world being what it is today, you’ll find a Filipino child participating in this Irish festivity that was an influence of American colonialism by dressing-up like a Hungarian vampire with a costume that was made in China. Strange but true.

Our modern society now has taken a lighter, jovial look at these mythical horrors of yesteryear. Ghosts and specters have been ignored and replaced by characters from super heroes, Japanese cartoons or even a perky singing girl from a Disney musicale. The faces of ghouls have become comical in strange, goofy colors of purple and green, as well as from computer special effects in movies. Blood and guts have been desensitized from our kids by the lengthy exposure to violent video games. The time spent for telling weird and chilling tales has been replaced with texting and Facebook updates.

Notwithstanding the influence of modern science in today’s society, it does make one wonder if we have really outgrown that which is truly horrible and viscerally frightening? Or is it just a collective coping mechanism that makes us hide and bury all these otherworldly things?

I feel though that our psyche would never be totally free from “such things”. We consciously try to be distant from these dark creatures because it is rational, thus predictable and manageable for our daily sun-ripened existence. Anything that falls beyond that causes our psyche a certain amount of discomfort. When all is said and done we are still afraid of the night aren’t we?

Should we give-up a degree of control and peer into our innermost fears of the dark, unfortunately we end up with creatures that are familiar yet remarkably foreign. Let’s not delve into shapeless ghosts and intangible spirits, rather, an interesting issue arises when we tackle monsters or beastly forms namely Dracula (Romanian), the werewolf (various European countries), the “Frankenstein” ogre (various English body parts) and the mummy (if you don't believe that aliens built the pyramids, he's Egyptian). These monsters aren't even from our own race!

So where are the genuine spooks of the pinoy? The real Malay-Polynesian, tropical sun-bred and monsoon rains-fed creatures that crawled their way into our myths since long ago? Probably the most well-known for the task of formally identifying and preserving these scary beings for our heritage was undertaken by the late Dr. Maximo Ramos. As a younger man with a bit of inkling on all things mysterious and spooky, I had the good fortune of getting the late Dr. Ramos’s book “Philppine Demonological Legends and Their Cultural Bearings”. Sadly, I can’t seem to find that treasured book now and is one of the many reasons why I sometimes have this overwhelming need to bash my head against a wall.
As an academic, he straddles the worlds of literature, mysticism, folklore and anthropology into a very pleasant journey for the reader. Though he has authored many other works as well, for his efforts in this specific field he became known as the “Dean of Philippine Lower Mythology”.

It is a sad state of affairs when we need to be reminded that our own culture have evolved supernatural beings that are just as fanciful, if not more so, than what overseas popular culture presents us. So without further ado, my own Top Five Spooky Pinoy Creatures of Legend are:

  1. Aswang – This would probably be our “reference monster” or the most recognizable and feared in Philippine folklore. It was even noted by the Spanish during their colonial reign. Its popularity is that it is sometimes a catch-all term for all supernatural monsters. Unlike the European blood-sucking vampire, they love to eat human organs but share something similar along with most mythological beings worldwide; they are shape-shifters and are said to take on the form of the first animal that they see in their hunt. Should they happen to see a cat, it becomes a ferocious tom or if it sees a pig, it becomes a wild boar. Though usually female, they can come from both sexes. They can also turn someone into them by feeding them the food they consume and are also able to pass on to their children this condition thru a mystical object which they expel. If they are unable to pass this on, they go on being undead aimlessly. They have a revulsion for spices in food and some say that their limbs are stiff and zombie-like, thus one can try to escape by running in a zig-zag pattern or climbing up a tree.
A special type of aswang is the female manananggal. It’s basically the airborne kind as it can grow bat-like wings and separate its entire upper body from its waist and legs. Before doing so, it rubs a special oil to prepare its body for this transformation. This one has a long, thread-like tongue similar to an insect’s proboscis and deploys it to suck out organs when it lands on rooftops. It especially targets pregnant women as it has a preference for fetuses. To kill one, salt must be put in its lower half, in the remaining organs. As they seem to be normal in daily life, oddly they are still able to attend Catholic mass in church but do not or can not remain for the communion ceremony. If an aswang is killed, one will only find a banana trunk in place of the corpse.

  1. Kapre – A giant that is dark-skinned (sometimes hairy) and filthy. It is said to live in trees or in the wilds and can change its shape. It’s a smoker, puffing away at a giant tobacco that never seems to get shorter. Other than frightening one to death, it just sits contentedly perched up in a balete tree all by its lonesome but its not advised to annoy it or venture into its territory. It’s not like the North American “Bigfoot” since it is more man-like rather than ape-like in appearance and widely regarded to have mystical attributes. Some scholars say that the name could have derived from kaffir, a racial term for the the Moorish peoples who descended from North Africa and occupied Spain and Portugal. Its invention could have been a similar evolution with that of the American “Boogeyman” which parents used to scare their children. One could imagine the Spaniards telling their children that the dark, foreign, non-Christian kaffir from the far-off places would get them if they did not behave.
  1. Tikbalang – If a centaur is more horse than man, the tikbalang is the opposite; it’s got the body of a man with a head of a horse. This is also the trickster archetype of creature which are also present in other cultures. They engage in either to scare or fool or mystify people. They are described as tall, hideous and frightening with their large horse faces and manes. Tradition tells of stories that they can be magically made to render service, if one is brave enough that is. All it takes is to grab three strands of hair from its mane, then wrap it in your index finger and ride its back. It will try to shake you off of course like a bucking bronco, but if you prevail, it will take you on a flying trip no airliner could match. You also won’t have to worry about doing much manual labor after this, as it will do it for you. One theory proposes that since horses were only introduced during the Spanish era, this creature was propagated to exercise control over the native populace, like preventing the locals from venturing out into the night.
  1. Duwende and Nuno sa Punso – Humanity the world over is filled with stories of the “little people” who are mostly unseen. The “wee folk” from the sidhe of the Irish again for example. For pinoys, almost anyone who grew up in the provinces near rural areas remember how they were taught by their parents to always “excuse oneself” so as not to step on or offend them. The duwende are elves or dwarves that are either beneficial and friendly or completely mischievous and hostile. Depending on what type it is (sometimes determined by the color of their apparel like white, red or black) they could bring good luck and fortune or sickness and misery.
The nuno sa punso is the grumpy old man version since it literally means “old man on top of the mound”. Better keep your distance from any mound-like object on the ground, including anthills. This grumpy grandpa could be ill-tempered and mean.

  1. Bangungot – I believe this creature more than the rest deserves special mention since it just might be the most potent killer. It is the word we use to describe a “nightmare”, the sinister, lethal kind. The bangungot is said to be fat and large, its girth the size of a sack of rice. Out in nature, it lives in a hollow portion inside a tree trunk. In houses or structures, it can live inside posts. Unlike the disturbing image of the “old hag” or the incubus (male) succubus (female) sleep-invading demons, it is not a real spirit in form but it does share a quasi-sexual way of attacking victims akin to its western counterparts. It is said that at night during deep sleep, it leaves its place of hiding and settles on the victim’s chest and stuffs its genitals in the victim's nose and mouth effectively suffocating and paralyzing him or her. To counteract it, the victim needs to wiggle his or her big toe.
As many deaths while sleeping have been attributed to the bangungot, it has only recently received scientific attention. On one vein, it falls under the study of the physiological condition known as sleep paralysis. However, a deeper and more ominous look into this phenomenon leads it to be known as Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome (SUDS). This condition seems to be endemic especially to South East Asian males who are in the prime of their lives and are apparently in good health. The link below for more info -

How many times were we warned by our elders not to eat or drink too much before going to bed? “Baka mabangungot ka!” was the stern lecture.

I might not like the idea of coexisting with ghouls and monsters, especially if they find me appetizing! But I believe they have a paradoxical twofold purpose. They were meant to both restrict as well as to free us. This sense of restriction comes from a subtle reminder by the great spirit of nature herself that we human beings are still part of her, not above her. She makes the rules and we follow. While we would want this thing called “progress” to encroach on virtually every nook and corner of this world, she sends these terrifying denizens to halt our quickening paces into more measured ones. To know our place and accept it is her subtle message.

As for the freedom it allows? What kind of unappealing and hollow existence would we have if we did not have these myths to invade our imaginations especially in the dark? These myths helped shape our imagination, and our imagination in turn fuelled the innovating spirit for the myriad of things we see today. From Archimedes to the Wright Brothers, new and wonderful things have come about from stepping outside the prescribed, linear way we think. All it took was that spark of imagination that also dreamt-up these monsters which are still lurking in the dark caverns of our minds.

I keep my flashlight at the ready when I go to bed, for those things seen and unseen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jamie Chung is HOT!

Don't know her? Me too! All I know is that she's a Korean-American actress of sorts from some movies I've never seen.

What I do know is that I can't feel my legs. . . I can't feel my legs!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Heart of Sugihara

I saw a very moving documentary some months back about a Japanese man during WWII who did a remarkable thing. It was a very noble act that literally saved the lives of thousands. As it has been proven by Hitler and other tyrants time and again in our history, it is appalling how horrible and sickening human nature can be. Still, there is a tiny spark of compassion inside all of us that can overcome any wickedness if we heed it. Can one man’s compassion make a difference? Yes, Chiune "Sempo" Sugihara proved that such a thing is possible.

He has been known as the “Japanese Oskar Schindler” but while that maybe a convenient moniker, the story of Sugihara deserves recognition on its own and be told once again. His legacy needs to be known because it is part of our innate obligation; that of letting the rest of humanity know that we were blessed to have had men such as him.

I had planned on writing a piece about this great man, but what can I say that hasn’t been said about him with far worthier words than I could muster.

The link below on an excellent write-up about him -

Information on his life and related topics on this Wikipedia entry -

Here’s a brief clip that was part of the docu on him entitled Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindess. Although it’s not the entire film, this segment details the actions he took to save thousands of Jewish people as a diplomat in his posting in Europe (Lithuania).

The full video can be found on the web on some film sharing sites. I watched it again on which I encourage you to (you need to sign up though and install a free video viewing software on your PC but it certainly is worth it for this film alone).

One maddening thing that struck me was that in his fading years, he had to endure anonymity, poverty and loneliness from having to earn a meager living far away from his family. The cynic in me has accepted the fact that life is indeed unfair and that justice is sadly wanting in the world. Yet, I suppose we could all learn from him, as he himself had courageously lived on enduring whatever consequence fate gave him in spite of his benevolent act.

As it was said, towards the end of his life when he did eventually receive some acknowledgement for his heroic act, he was asked what moved him to do so? He conducted himself in such a way that it was a natural thing, as if it was nothing extraordinary but something we were all meant to do.

Life on this earth could be worth living fully if we had a lot more people like him.

"Do what is right because it is right; and leave it alone."

Chiune Sugihara
January 1, 1900 – July 31, 1986

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Truly Living in the Moment

There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.

- Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Movie Review: Robin Hood

(Note: This was published in a local daily awhile back)

SOME pairings just plain work. They produce a spectrum of outcomes ranging anywhere from sufficient to astounding to legendary. Consider Rey and Carding, Pippen and Jordan, Procter and Gamble, Pacquiao and Roach, even Jack and Jill. I could go on though, but I think the point is made. After watching Robin Hood, I might be tempted to include Scott and Crowe into that category. Unfortunately, I feel the overall attempt falls short of its true potential.

To be sure though, this isn't the first work of Russell Crowe to be helmed by Ridley Scott. The very inspiring and acclaimed "Gladiator" is the most well-known. Then came the modestly-received "A Good Year" in 2006 from the best-selling novel. The pair then seemed to bounce back with some help from Denzel Washington in 2007's "American Gangster." There was also the barely noticed "Body of Lies" in 2008 with Leo "that guy from Titanic" DiCaprio. Like I said, it was barely noticed, this author included.

The life of the medieval English folk hero called Robin Hood and his "Merry Men" (they must've been quite a happy bunch) has also had its fair share of films to come out from Hollywood-land. There have been many in past decades, even a TV series. Remember the 1994 version with ummm, Kevin Costner? Ok, just make the sign of the cross and that dark, gloomy memory will pass. I kind of liked the fresh comedic twist of "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" with Carey Elwes in the lead in 1993. Being around for a very long time is a testament to the character's timeless romantic appeal: a heroic image of an outlaw who robs from the rich to give to the poor. That's got universal appeal whenever and wherever it is told.
One thing you have to get used to, though, is that when director Scott engages himself into these pseudo-historical forays, is that it's going to be a loooong engagement in trying to establish background and story arc. He did this in "Gladiator" which was well-crafted, in "Kingdom of Heaven" it was bearable. THIS time though, I felt I was being given a slow, hard massage in a spa by a masseur with a homely face while wearing construction gloves! If you just want to sit down and see bloody fights and wild skirmishes between men with "bloody thick" English accents, there will definitely be some of that, but only after a dragging narrative and the background story of the Franco-English conflict somewhat muddling the overall story. Having read some of his tales in my childhood, in my opinion, the folklore and traditional ballads attributed to Robin Hood have enough adventure and richness in them to fuel an engaging film. Trying to add other elements like a major conflict in the background in the hopes of trying to enrich the story was unnecessary in my opinion, as it complicates rather than complements. Or as a wise man once said: while "bistek" is certainly not imported angus beef, to a hungry man it can be just as good, right?

Crowe plays "Robin Longstride," a skilled archer and veteran of the Crusades in Palestine under Richard the Lion Heart. Upon the death of the king, disillusioned and war-weary, he and three other fellows escape to seek their own fortune. They then run into the central villain cum traitor of the story a bit briefly, ensuring that they are to meet again in final battle scene.

Being the lucky guys that they are, they run into circumstances which allow them to return to England disguised as nobility. We then see the beautiful English countryside in the region of Nottingham where the famous Sherwood forest is located. Necessity dictates that he lead the life of another man whose father in played by cinematic great Max Von Sydow and whose wife is "Lady Marion" (played with dignity by Cate Blanchett). The idyllic setting of this noble way of life is threatened by the most unstoppably certain thing in this world other than death: taxes. Specifically, unbearably high, rebellion-worthy taxes! Yep, it seems that this new king, while not much of a warrior unlike his fallen brother, has a bit of an oppressive streak and is vigorously wanting to fill the bankrupt government with whatever he can take from the people. The God-forsaken politicians really are the same wherever you are in the world! By the way, the medieval Catholic church (which was a kingdom/government all its own) didn't seem to be too kind to the people either. It did have a saving grace in the form of a monk who dabbled in apiculture (that's beekeeping to the less technical-minded). This was to be the famed "Friar Tuck" (refreshingly played by Mark Addy) who made a kind of liquor from honey and was not averse to fighting for the weak and meek. That's my kind of relevant ministry!

All of this complicated mix is happening while the French are secretly trying to sneak inside Britain for an invasion, taking advantage of the war between the lesser nobility fighting for their way of life and the king wanting internal revenue. My gosh! I do wonder though if all this sounds very familiar with the happenings in Juan dela Cruz's backyard?

In short, Crowe's version of Robin Hood isn't just a bandit with a golden heart following socialist ideals, he's also a rebel with an anarchic streak in defiance of oppressive authority and fighting for liberty, or so Ridley Scott would want us to believe. Really? That's again too much bistek trying to taste like angus beef. I'm really hoping though that the next time Sott and Crowe collaborate again for a film, it'll transcend the lackluster impact this film had on me. On the whole, it was too long, too much, too unappealing for me.

I'm suddenly taken a liking for archery though, which might turn out to be a bad thing I'm afraid.

Tourniquets: A Discussion

If you've ever taken a Standard First Aid course (like the one offered at your nearest Red Cross), chances are that making use of a tourniquet to stop bleeding is not covered. At best, it is advised to use it only in the most serious situations, and at worst the method is frowned upon entirely. The concern is that while it may stop the bleeding from the wound area, it prevents blood circulation from reaching the entire extremity or limb damaging cells, tissues and nerves which leads them to eventually die (necrosis). If this happens, amputation or cutting off the limb is the only solution.

This is why the preferred method for stopping bleeding has been to apply direct pressure on the wound and elevate the limb above the heart.

Case in point, the link below on the "dangers" of utilizing it -

This one though is a lot more neutral in tone, but note the cautionary texts -

I then came across this interesting article in my readings of TCCC. Though the theme is more for HIT and not on civilian protocols, the article does point out the "3 acceptable uses" of tourniquets by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

IMHO, there is a place for it, as it did and continually has been saving lives in the battlefield or in remote areas. This is especially true in cases of severe trauma. The vid below for a simple instructional -

Important things to note:

  1. It should only be employed as a last resort like in cases of severe bleeding. Seek medical attention ASAP.
  2. It should only be applied on extremities or limbs.
  3. The material to apply it with should be flat with a wide surface area like a folded bandanna, belt or bandage, NOT with something thin or round like chord or wire.
  4. Keep it two or three (2” – 3”) above the wound (an inch is roughly the size of a finger width), between the body and the extremity/limb.
  5. Tighten until bleeding stops.
  6. Don’t apply on joints such as wrists, elbows or knees.
  7. It can be safely left tightened for one (1) hour, then check the wound by loosening it and applying direct pressure on the wound. If the same bleeding persists, re-apply the tourniquet. If the bleeding has slowed, loosen it while applying direct pressure.
  8. Make note of the time it was applied or indicate by writing it (the letters "TK" has also been suggested) and the time it was applied on any two (2) areas of the victim’s body such as one on the forehead and the other on the injured limb. This is for medical assessment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lights in the Sky Again. . . But this is Weird!

This happened a couple of weeks ago in the US. The odd thing is how similar the events are in two different cities. Parating na ba si ET?

Baguazhang/Pa Kua Chang

Similar in principle to Aikido, this Chinese martial art is known for its circular energy and the redirection of force. It's technique flows continually transitioning, twisting, spiraling to bewilder and overwhelm the opponent. In the Jet Li film The One, the final battle between the "good" vs. "bad" versions of the lead character, the bida uses the snaking, circular attack of Bagua to throw and disrupt the attacks of the contra-bida.

It even has a reputation as a bodyguard art as well, since it was used by skilled practitioners who were hired to protect the nobility and the wealthy of China long ago. That certainly got my attention since when lives were on the line, this was the art that was relied upon (there were apparently other arts that were used as well though depending on who was employed).

The trade-off is that like Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan, the learning curve of these "internal arts" are steeper than the the more familiar and physically-oriented "external" arts (i.e. - Karate and Tae Kwon Do). Patience and dedication are indeed key virtues!

Given time and the opportunity to train under a competent instructor though, I would love to take it up.

The video below is an example of its practical applications -

UPDATE: New vid added, a short clip from an elderly master and his top students.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New CPR Guidelines

For anyone with an emergency medical background or even basic BLS training, the life-saving acronym has always been the mantra of A-B-C - that is, Airway, Breathing and Circulation - in THAT order. This has been the protocol for a very long time.

This new guideline though by the American Heart Association (AHA) seems to have reversed the order.

Honestly, as with any recent development or new insight, I've never been an "early adopter" so to speak, but a conservative, more so when lives are at stake. I feel the need to ask those more knowledgeable on this one.

UPDATE: Link to the New 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC

This other link though is a simpler condensation of the released guidelines:

Just a reminder again though, as I mentioned previously in the Dislcaimer reference post above: you can't learn CPR and the basics of First Aid simply from the web alone. Go and get trained properly by a competent instructor at your nearest Red Cross!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top 50 Best Jokes (According to Some Brits)

Apparently, some British researchers gathered more than a 1000 jokes and had 36,000 people sift thru them for a Top 50 Funniest Jokes list of sorts. The collection below (of course some of them are a lot funnier if you're British) -

50. I went to the Doctors the other day, and he said, 'Go to Bournemouth, it's great for flu'. So I went - and I got it.

49. A seal walks into a club...

48. Went to the corner shop - bought 4 corners.

47. So I met this gangster who pulls up the back of people's pants, it was Wedgie Kray.

46. I'll tell you what I love doing more than anything: trying to pack myself in a small suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.

45. I tried water polo but my horse drowned.

44. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: 'I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.'

43. You see my next-door neighbour worships exhaust pipes, he's a catholic converter.

42. I've got a friend who's fallen in love with two school bags, he's bisatchel.

41. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly. But when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it.

40. 'I said to this train driver "I want to go to Paris". He said "Eurostar?" I said, "I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin". '

39. 'My phone will ring at 2 in the morning, and my wife'll look at me and go, "Who's that calling at this time?' "I don't know! If I knew that we wouldn't need the bloody phone!" '

38. A lorry-load of tortoises crashed into a trainload of terrapins, What a turtle disaster

37.' I swear, the other day I bought a packet of peanuts, and on the packet it said "may contain nuts." Well, YES! That's what I bought the buggers for! You'd be annoyed if you opened it and a socket set fell out!"'

36. I backed a horse last week at ten to one. It came in at quarter past four.

35. 'I went down the local supermarket, I said, "I want to make a complaint, this vinegar's got lumps in it", he said, "Those are pickled onions". '

34. There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest.. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

33. I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov and there was a check tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt.

32. 'Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says "Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here" '

31. 'So I went to the Chinese restaurant and this duck came up to me with a red rose and says "Your eyes sparkle like diamonds". I said, "Waiter, I asked for a-ROMATIC duck". '

30. I'm in great mood tonight because the other day I entered a competition and I won a years supply of Marmite......... one jar.

29. 'I was in Tesco's and I saw this man and woman wrapped in a barcode. I said, "Are you two an item?" '

28. 'A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "because," he said "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." '

27. Went to the paper shop - it had blown away.

26. I cleaned the attic with the wife the other day. Now I can't get the cobwebs out of her hair.

25. 'The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her up, I said "Did you get my drift?".'

24. 'A sandwich walks into a bar. The barman says "Sorry we don't serve food in here" '

23. 'A priest, a rabbi and a vicar walk into a bar. The barman says, "Is this some kind of joke?" '

22. Slept like a log last night........ Woke up in the fireplace.

21. 'A jump-lead walks into a bar. The barman says "I'll serve you, but don't start anything" '

20. I met a Dutch girl with inflatable shoes last week, phoned her up to arrange a date but unfortunately she'd popped her clogs.

19. 'I rang up British Telecom, I said, "I want to report a nuisance caller", he said "Not you again".'

18. My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that."

17. 'When Susan's boyfriend proposed marriage to her she said: "I love the simple things in life, but I don't want one of them for my husband". '

16. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.

15. 'There's two fish in a tank, and one says to the other "How do you drive this thing?" '

14. 'A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named 'Amal.' The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him Juan'. Years later; Juan sends a picture of himself to his mum. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wished she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, "But they are twins. If you've seen Juan, you've seen Amal." '

13. 'I saw this bloke chatting up a cheetah; I thought, "He's trying to pull a fast one". '

12. My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well, I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

11. 'I went to the doctors the other day and I said, 'Have you got anything for wind?' So he gave me a kite. '

10. 'A man walks into a bar with a roll of tarmac under his arm and says: "Pint please, and one for the road." '

9. I'm on a whiskey diet. I've lost three days already.

8. Another one was: Doc, I can't stop singing the 'Green Green Grass of Home'. He said: 'That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome'. 'Is it common?'I asked. 'It's not unusual' he replied.

7. Two aerials meet on a roof - fall in love - get married. The ceremony was rubbish - but the reception was brilliant.

6. Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one - and let the other one off.

5. 'I said to the Gym instructor "Can you teach me to do the splits?" He said, "How flexible are you?" I said, "I can't make Tuesdays"

4. 'A young blonde woman is distraught because she fears her husband is having an affair, so she goes to a gun shop and buys a handgun. The next day she comes home to find her husband in bed with a beautiful redhead. She grabs the gun and holds it to her own head. The husband jumps out of bed, begging and pleading with her not to shoot herself. Hysterically the blonde responds to the husband, "Shut're next!"

3. 'Dyslexic man walks into a bra...'

2. 'I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu.'

1. A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: 'Ugh, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!' The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: 'The driver just insulted me!' The man says: 'You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you.'

Had a good laugh? I did :D

Spyderco Swick: Wickedly Nice

If you’re a guy, chances are the very first time you see the Spyderco Swick, there’s that visceral “Wow! Pare ganda nyan!” (“Wow man, that’s cool!”) factor that’s going to be turned on. You find yourself being drawn uncontrollably to touch it and slip it into your grasp. You then realize that that was somewhat of a bad idea since you feel you don’t want to let go of it ever. It feels THAT natural in your hand!


The Swick is a diminutive fixed blade manufactured by Spyderco Knives of Golden, Colorado in the US. As any knife and gear aficionado knows, this company has a lofty standing built on the excellent designs and performance of its knives. The word “cutting edge” definitely applies to them as well because of their innovative use of modern, hi-tech materials and superior grade metals for their blades. Most importantly, a lot of the standard features that we see in the more contemporary folding knives today were first introduced by Spyderco.


Mine is the first production run of this knife and I’ve had it since 2004. Primarily designed for neck-carry mode, it’s a small, bare metal fixed blade devoid of scales or any other attachments. The benefit is that it lessens the weight and the bulky imprint effect when clothing is worn above it. It does have a small hole drilled on the handle’s butt which I think would be for a lanyard. The blade’s shape based on how the spine narrows to a point is called a wharncliffe design. Personally, it’s a very functional design. It has a cutting edge of 2 1/8" encased by friction in a kydex plastic sheath. A ball chain is also provided to wear around your neck. I replaced this with military cord to vary modes of carry, such as strapping it around your backpack’s strap.

The first time I held it, I was a bit surprised that it did have just a hint of heft without really being noticeable. I suppose I was thinking it weighed like air since it was very small. This was not really an issue since in the long run, being too small while being extremely light might work against it, which is reminding you that despite its size, you are still wearing a blade.

As I’ve alluded to earlier, Spyderco is known for the famed ergonomics of their knives. Hobbyists describe that they design their knives “in the dark” to limit the complication of visual bias. I don’t know how true this reverence for design is but they certainly are right about how good it feels in the hand. Its pistol-shaped handle strongly mimics a forward grip and it has a hole for where the trigger housing that nicely fits your index finger in. The added benefit is the retention it affords. It’s like having your own animal claw!


S30V, the stainless steel it’s made from has had a lot of expectations going for it. This was steel specifically designed for cutlery by Crucible Particle Metallurgy also in the US. Not even a decade old, this recently developed wonder steel was said to combine the functional attributes of structural strength and edge-holding. Yes, I remember how sharp it was when I drew it out of its sheath the first couple of times because it sliced some pieces of the sheath itself! It shaved my hairy legs too. I was able to carve on wood with this thing and even execute some irregular shapes and details. It’s certainly a delight to have a sharp knife when doing these tasks. The blade sharpness also held for a very long time even after many cutting chores on various items.

That being said, there’s going to be a sticky point that I have to mention. After sometime, the cutting edge suffered noticeably large chips. This was a big letdown for the much lauded S30V steel. To be fair though, many things in the manufacturing process could’ve contributed to this. Moreover, some more knowledgeable on cutlery also advised that this damaged layer would gradually harden as you cut and resharpen more. And it did get better as time passed, though the steel did become a bit of a chore to sharpen-up using just a regular flat kitchen stone.

One could easily classify this as a self-defense weapon than a utility knife, but I think this would be looking at it narrowly and missing its fullest potential. I could imagine emergency professionals or those involved in hazardous occupations would appreciate such a design.

Lastly, as I sometimes wear it next to my skin in neck carry, it did have some slight rusting spots. Maybe it’s my acidic sweat coupled with the humid tropical environment that caused it? It just takes a bit of care with an oily rag to deal with this.


This is certainly a very specific knife design that may not suit everybody. Its design might also be restrictively alarming to bring it out in public. The price point is also a bit high for non-knife enthusiasts.

The sad part though is that it is no longer in production although Spyderco has at times launched variations of this knife briefly (termed “sprit runs” for these short and limited production items). There was even a fantastic second generation version, the Swick II, which is the embodiment of what I secretly wanted in mine. See for yourself, it’s bigger (which I wanted) but now with a leaf-shaped blade. It also has holes drilled should you opt to attach scales on the handle.

(Swick II photo from

If you search diligently in the web though, you might just chance one on some online retailers.

· Very well-designed
· Excellent edge holding
· Multiple carry modes (if you’re creative enough)

· Discontinued (!)
· Initial chipping of the cutting edge
· Price point: on the higher end
· Slight rusting/tarnishing issues

Personal Preferences:
· Already realized in the second generation model

The Kazusabori Method for Obtaining Water

Digging a deep well for an African community

Sustainability of resources is a key issue to becoming more environmentally responsible. I was watching a docu on all things Japanese on a local channel sometime back and caught this feature about a method of digging up water with the simplest of materials. This is especially invaluable to third-world countries like ours with meager resources and material infrastructure.

The link below is the site of the Japanese NGO, the International Water Project group, that makes use of this simple technology to help developing countries obtain water -

Below is a video. If I can gather-up some guys, I'm really wanting to try it out sometime.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Three R’s of Training

Let’s begin with this revealing video from Matt Thornton of Straight Blast Gym in the US –

First off, I agree with the thrust of what he’s trying to demonstrate. For any serious student of martial arts, the concept of “aliveness” should be an integral part of one’s training program. You could probably train all your life and not really be getting to the meat-and-potatoes of the art/style/system that you're doing. It would be just be a series of empty physical movements devoid of its intended function; that of preparing you to defend yourself if and when that time comes. Otherwise, you might as well do something else like badminton or swimming.

That being said however, it’s HOW you introduce it in your training program that makes the difference. As I've mentioned before, HOW something is taught and learned can be far more relevant than WHAT is being taught. I've heard of horror stories of a martial arts instructor who had newbie students with very little training time spar outright. The results aren't surprising: serious injuries of unprepared and undeveloped students.

Any decent and knowledgeable instructor will know how to gradually introduce “aliveness” to those ready for it since it is as much the end result of one’s dedication and exposure as an attribute of the training program. Simply, it’s a matter of progression to those who can already give and take it.

Whether solo training or with a group, allow me to introduce these three elements of FSD training:

Regimented – That is, it should be structured or have some degree of formal set-up so as to produce tangible results in one’s performance. Your program should allow you to schedule it regularly, have a place or resources set-up for it, and have levels of progression. Be consistent, both in practice and effort. Your security and life deserve more effort than just a passing, half-hearted, hanky panky activity.

Resistance – Semantics aside, this is the core of what the video above tries to present. Adding resistance, which is the element of force and aggression keeps you on your toes and forces you to actually feel and adapt to what might potentially happen out there should you meet trouble. Is it a 100% assurance? No, but it would be better than nothing. The bad guys out there won’t be as polite or as friendly as your sparring or training partner.

Realism – Goes hand in hand with the above. Get acquainted with the environment and settings. The “comfort” and "ease" afforded by a nice, clean mat floor with you dressed in your gi uniform or exercise clothes won’t be the same as out there in the mean streets. The street itself is out to get you, will all its dirt, debris, structures and potential hazards. The more you mimic the conditions you may encounter outside with all its various daily scenarios, the better.

Be safe/Ingat!

The Glorietta Blast Incident: New Probe Sought

I bought my copy of the Inquirer today and happen to see this article. This happened three years ago. I remember the collective shock it all gave us and the maddening investigations that followed. Was it a deliberate act of terrorism/mass murder or just a God-forsaken accident? The PNP said it was just the result of an unfortunate build-up of methane gas. Huh!? Frankly, I remember muttering to myself: "Katarantaduhan 'to!" (This is utter bullshit!) after seeing a diagram on PDI as well detailing what might've caused the explosion. (I really wish I could find that specific diagram now but a search didn't turn up anything on the newspaper's archives).

Now, I admit I have no background EOD or forensic chemistry, but sometimes those in power can dissuade "authorities" or "experts" to bend facts to suit them. It was after all just a humble, little, insignificant boy that squealed to the world that the emperor wasn't wearing anything and he was just plain naked. I suspect I may not be the only one.

I felt so strongly about it that I told my father and texted some acquaintances about it (one of them being a security consultant for an international firm). Of course it fueled talks that this event was orchestrated to divert attention from the on-going probe of ZTE Scandal, one of the many sordid legacies of former President Gloria Arroyo.

Some links of this article and its supplement on PDI's online site -

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Being Courageously YOU

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy... or they become legend.

- Jim Harrison
Legends of the Fall

I, Metatheist

Frankly speaking, I have no religion per se but like the majority brought up in this country, I was brought-up Roman Catholic and all the traditions and morés that that entails. Regardless of what it is, if your religion is a central or a valuable aspect in your life, live it well then. I feel though that it should not define the individual. Rather, it is we who should define it.

Over the years I have been influenced by the nuances of Zen, Taoism, Hinduism, aspects of Islam and snippets from other beliefs, even the mind-boggling frontiers of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics (of what little I could understand of it of course). I then decided to involve myself in spirituality which has always been a journey of sorts. A spiritual journey that has taken many since long ago to venture far-off for a while, yet the return to oneself has always been the destination.

Spirituality and its pursuit has always been a matter of one’s faith and not religion. Religion is nothing more than a human societal construct called an institution. As with many other institutions, it develops and matures only as man does. It is restricted to man’s continual evolution or devolution, as history has time and again proven. Religious institutions since time immemorial have tried to preach that their way was the only way, of reducing everyone distinctly as believers and infidels, of “us” who know the way to salvation and “them” who don’t. Even now, wars and conflicts are still being fought over it.

Unlike religion though, faith is a matter of personal expression to the divine and it should be far bigger than what your religion expects you to do. Religion prescribes, your faith is your own. Religion excludes, faith considers. Religion bounds, faith liberates. Religion divides, faith integrates and unifies. As religion only asks the question, your faith is your response. Don’t let religion get in the way of you knowing God. Furthermore, do not let the idea of "God" get in the way of you BEING.

It seems that a poignant reality of humanity is that it looks at the world narrowly thru an unfortunate orientation; himself. Think about it, why do we anthromorphize things, living or otherwise, around us? Why do we name our modes of transport, usually with a woman’s name? Why do we try to talk to them even though we know they do not have the facility of language or comprehension? Why do we “see” our apparent likeness in the randomness of everything? At one extreme, why do we imbue human attributes to our pets, treating them like human children?

After all, can you blame Leonardo da Vinci, one of humanity’s greatest thinkers, to come up with this idea, as if haughtily raising himself (man) “as the measure of all things”?

If we are to consider the universal concept of God as the “supreme being”, I believe this would be an awkward endeavor. Though supreme, he would still be but a mere “being” leading once again to our natural disposition of trying to define the personhood of God. This is “embodied” in the familiar and often baffling Catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity who are/is comprised of “three persons in one God”. After all, isn’t a person something we could all relate to? This person would, as expected, be framed within our familiar reference of the images of a father, shepherd, judge, law-giver, provider, etc. Again, mere aspects of man “himself”.

God is not actually a “He” or even a “She” as espoused by some, like the early Christian Gnostics. We can not reduce God into a being. If we are to believe that God is everything we hope “It” to be, it can not be appeased by prayer. It can not be bribed or bought by good works. It can not be jealous or insecure with our lesser attempts of worship. It can not be prodded to choose just one side and disregard the other. It does not reward eternity only to its faithful ones and render harsh judgment on those who have no belief in it. It does not make distinctions between great or small, major or minor. God is far above all these lesser attributes and emotions we have rendered upon it. As Lao Tzu who was dazzled by the dao said: "Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs".

Attempting to define God is a lost cause, virtually impossible by the mere reckoning of our limited intellect. Regrettably, it is our frail knowledge that attempts to bring its understanding towards us when it is we who should come to it. God is the source (Alpha) and conclusion (Omega) of everything. Thus, to know God is to be one with God.

If we are to believe in the idea that there is some great, noble purpose for our lives, it would be seeking to return and be united with the absolute of God. As the Hindu sages have taught us, we being the small spark of “atman”, the individual self, must return to the great immutable fire of the “Brahman” or the great self. It is then a matter of aligning or attuning ourselves to that greater frequency, of allowing ourselves to go with the flow of the great river and just as Islam’s true meaning would move us to do: to submit or surrender ourselves to God.

Ultimately, I would want for “God” to be irrelevant and unnecessary. As an act of great evolution by our species, we need to transcend this current idea of who God is into something much, much more.