Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An apple is not an orange


I had a blooper last weekend albeit non-life threatening when I was with my in laws celebrating my little niece’s 11th birthday. I was having a pleasant conversation with my mother in law and across us were 2 little girls eating their tarts with gusto [they are not directly related to us though].

Out of the blue I blurted out, “The older sister is better looking than the younger.
Well… but they are both nice girls…” said my mother in law hesitantly.

Notice my mother in law didn’t really respond to my statement? It took me sometime to realize that I, with my haste, actually made a slight faux pas. I should NOT have COMPARED the children with each other.

I am not really certain if it’s a Dutch ingrained trait to not compare and judge against people with regard to their physical appearances, although I know for a fact that they don’t assess your intellectual capabilities against others, or perhaps my mother in law is just too decent?

Alas, I can’t turn back the tide. The dark side took the reigns of power, although for a minute only, and sealed the malevolent act. But I will have to admit that unconsciously, I noticed the physical distinction between the sisters. And my shallow excuse for this behavior? Back in the Philippines, it’s normal to compare apples to oranges.

Growing up in a society where people are so gung-ho on evaluating the physical attributes of individuals has sometimes made me clumsy during certain uncalled for situations. Without understanding the finer nuances in each of our cultures, we will not be able to see each state of affair objectively. A part of the culture we grew up with will always remain engraved in us and sometimes these nuances manifest automatically in unexpected circumstances. No matter how rigid we are, there will always be times when we are caught off guard.

Additionally, watching too much TV substance in the past has made my senses blurred. In that case, the Philippines is not alone in this nonsensical crime of measuring up people or yourself to someone else. But I have another excuse, this time upgraded to disclaimer: We are human therefore we are weak, we commit mistakes.

These are some of the phrases I often hear from people back home or on TV:

A mother to her child: “Why can’t you be like your sister [who looks nice in any dress she wears]?


A father to his child: “You will never become a scholar like your cousin!

A sibling to another sibling during a fight: “You have big scary eyes, I don’t! Bleh!

A child to a parent: “Why am I not pretty like her?” or “Why am I not bright like him?

An acquaintance to a mother: “Why is your eldest too dark compared to the other siblings?” [the naked truth, the Philippines is struggling with color identity. dark is supposed to be ugly. ah, this would be a separate discussion altogether]

In the Netherlands it’s forbidden to compare the intelligence of the kids at school. Unlike other educational approaches, the Dutch do not believe in the class honor roll system. The teacher will not announce to the group who is the number 1 or 2. There is no public distinction of the cerebrally elite. Everyone will receive an equal individual appraisal talk and rating from the teacher. During graduation there is no recognition event to reward yourself and revel at the expense of the less gifted.

And within the social loops I mix here in Holland [which is not much]; I do not really hear the comparison of beauty. I do hear people saying, “Your child is pretty” or “You are pretty” but comparison? NO, I haven’t heard yet. Or perhaps I am moving within the highly etiquette circle?

What I do know is the typical Dutch characteristic of, they don’t like praising and elevating someone up in the pedestal against another person in public lest that child or person will start behaving like he or she can float on air and walk on water. The message clearly means that, if you think you’re special, gloat by yourself!


An ORANGE is not the same as an APPLE = Therefore, we cannot compare them. In the same message, people are unique. Very true I should say...

Well back home, it doesn’t help when relatives join the fray in this sizing up brouhaha during clan reunions, which has become a typical amusement or habit. I have seen and heard it many times from families of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and so forth. Say... who’s pretty and not, who is fat, who’s intelligent and dumb, who’s the tallest, who has the biggest eyes, who’s darkest or fairest skinned and whatever they can think of. Why are we so mired with having these local titles? Is it just for fun?

Theoretically, the above are honest examinations, but helaas, they are all plated with a fine touch of unnecessary discrimination. Interestingly, the people who cast such judgments don’t see the blunt biases in there.

My ex-superior once told me that he noticed Filipinos love to play little games. And he pointed outside of the car towards the side pavement where two construction workers were waiting for their bus to arrive. They were busy playing; doing a mock-up boxing fight with each other in the street. That got me thinking.

And what’s even hilarious, many are found accountable in bringing up this comparison to their adolescent lives. Two women fighting in the street or in an internet forum:

Woman 1: “Hoy, mas maganda naman ako sa iyo ano!” [Well, I am much prettier than you!]

Woman 2: “Mas maputi naman yung singit ko kay sa masama mong mukha!” [My groins are much whiter than your ugly face!]

Woman 1: “Eh, walang lalaking pupulot sa iyo kasi mukha kang kabayo!” [No guy would ever pick you because you look like a horse!]

Woman 2: “Yung boyfriend mo mukhang unggoy! Mas mukhang tao pa tingnan tong aso ko!” [Your boyfriend looks like a monkey! My dog looks more human than him!]

*Rolling on the floor laughing*

I personally don’t like to be a part of this mudslinging contest. If someone attacks me maliciously in this manner, cold as an ice, I just put on my earmuffs or type delete and push on the ignore button. BUT being the onlooker, it sure is fun to watch! I’ll have to add that I am not into the Jerry Springer extreme but I am also not the prude type.

Anyway… I guess in the above scenario with my mother in law, I was found guilty. My weakness is a product of culture reflex although right now I am starting to slowly accept responsibility [insert sarcasm]. Crucify me!

These are indeed some of the bad habits to break. But what can we do when Hollywood has even lifted up the gauge meter by encouraging everyone to keep up with or be beter than the Joneses?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

DELFT, the Royal Family’s Once Upon a Time Home City


Delft is a small city in the region of South Holland nestled between Rotterdam and The Hague. It was founded on the 11th century and was granted the city charter in 1246. The city enjoyed royal prestige being the home residence of Prince William of Orange. Up to the 17th century, Delft was a flourishing and influential commercial center in the Netherlands.

Delft, located in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. See the blue square on the map. Just a few minutes away from Rotterdam and The Hague, about an hour to Utrecht and Amsterdam.

ROYAL HISTORY

The Prinsenhof is the former residence of Prince William of Orange [William the Silent] from the House of Nassau who led the revolt of the Netherlands against Spain, in what was called, “The Eighty Years of War”. He was known as William the Silent because of his absolute discretion. He preferred to listen and rarely spoke, even on controversial matters.



Het Prinsenhof [The Prince’s Court]

On July 10, 1584, he was assassinated in his home at Prinsenhof. The bullet holes are up to this day visible on the walls, they prove to be the silent testimonies of that horrible day.

The Prinsenhof is now a museum.

NOTABLE ARCHITECTURE



Gemeenlandshuis [Dike Office]. Stadhuis [City Hall].

The Gemeenlandshuis was built in Brabantine Gothic style decorated with colorful coat of arms in the doorway arch. Built in 1400 along the Oude Delft 167, this building served as the residence of the mayor and dike master of Delft, Jan de Sluyter. The mansion now houses the office of the Delfland Water Council. Dikes and water are a main aspect in Dutch society.


Located at the market square, the Stadhuis was built in the 16th century in northern Renaissance style. The building was caught on fire in 1618 and was reconstructed and completed in 1620. To this day, the imposing structure serves as a government office, the municipal hall of Delft.

SCULPTURES and ART



Blue heart art. Hugo Grotius in the market square.

Contrasting epochs, the modern blue heart artwork flanked by the gothic medieval New Church. On the other side which is not shown on the picture are 17th to 18th century buildings.


Hugo Grotius or Hugo de Groot is a scholar, an appointed historian, a moralist and an esteemed lawyer who believes in the freedom of war and peace. At 11, he was enrolled in Leiden University not as a child prodigy but as an adult. At 16, he was sworn in as a lawyer in The Court of the Province of Holland and The High Courts.

CHURCHES



Nieuw Kerk [New Church, on the left]. Oude Kerk [Old Church, on the right].

The Nieuw Kerk was completed in 1381 and its tower is the 2nd highest in the Netherlands after the Dom tower in Utrecht. New Church is the dwelling of the magnificent mausoleum of Prince William of Orange, the burial vaults of the Dutch Royal Family and the grave of Hugo de Groot.

The Oude Kerk was built in 1240 and is the oldest parish in Delft. This church is now a museum and also serves as the burial chambers of noteworthy Delft citizens such as the world renowned painter, Johannes Vermeer and the father of microbiology, Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, who is popularly known as the founder of the microscope [fact is he wasn’t].

There are two things quite ironic here. One, a church called New Church built in the late 14th century? Two, churches as tombs? Hmm…

… Pause …

The skies in Delft were thankfully clear but it was still *bbrrrr* chilly. Since our fingers were frozen, MadamE [whom I knew for 15 years already] and I were guessing that the temperature would have to be fluctuating between 0C or -1C. It was not a comforting sight to see people wearing gloves when we don’t have any, so instead we tugged our inside sleeves out and protected our freezing knuckles behind them snugly.



Together with MadamE inside the Pannenkoek [Pancake] restaurant, and enjoying my Glow wine [a typical German wine mix]. MadamE lives in Amsterdam together with her Filipino husband, a researcher working on his Physics PhD and their two beautiful daughters. Pictures were taken from MadamE's camera.

About halfway through our touristy trail agenda we took refuge from the cold in a pancake restaurant by the market square. By the time we got in, our toes have already started to ice up! Don’t you just hate it when you have to physically check if your toes are still coupled to your feet? We heaved a sigh of relief when the familiar gush of heat received us. That felt like almost home.

The first on the menu has to be none other than coffee. We need something hot to warm ourselves up... after which MadamE, following my advice, took the Belgian Duvel beer, while me, upon recommendation by the waitress on what’s best on their red wine list, decided on the pungent hot Gluewijn [which is a typical German winter wine mix, Glühwein in Deutsch and Glow wine in English]. With the chilly weather outside, it was just perfect.

… Back …

A TOUCH OF DELFT



The Oostpoort [East Gate]. Delftwares in Delft.

The Oostpoort was built in 1400 and is the only city gate that survived. A small drawbridge is positioned right in front of the gate. It now serves as a house and an art gallery. There is a famous painting of Delft by Johannes Vermeer with the Oostpoort projected in view. I’ll have to would say that the Oostpoort is the most scenic of all pockets in Delft.


We have wanted to visit the Royal Dutch Delftware factory, “De Porceleyne Fles” which was established in 1653 and is the last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century… but helaas we got lazy and retracted our footsteps. Delftware is the most popular souvenir of Delft.

QUAINT DELFT



Quaint Delft houses by the canals and little bridges. Molen de Roos [The Rose Mill].


Lovely and pleasing to the eyes, these quaint picturesque houses with enchanting little bridges are typically Delft.


Molen de Roos is located at Phoenixstraat by the railway tracks and was built in the beginning of the 18th century. This is one of the last remaining windmills preserved in Delft.

GREAT FINDS



Souvenir, old Dutch ice skates. An Antiek [Antique] shop with a ramshackle look.

Ice skating is the national sport of Holland. These old Dutch ice skates are made of wood and steel with leather straps on it. Surprisingly, there are still a few loyal subjects who use them to this day.


Antique and second hand shops are always fascinating to me. You never know what kind of treasure you will find. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to check it out.

More pictures of delightful Delft can be found in my Dutch Photo Album.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

An apology. Wait, after 62 years?


I have wanted to write about this story approximately a month ago when the Dutchman and I took the picture [see below] of a slogan campaign run by the Dutch Railways, the NS [Nationale Spoorwegen], in 29 September 2005. Since I didn’t have enough time to research on the background of the said campaign and I prefer writing something that I am well informed about, I had the story plan sit at the back burner of my thoughts. But, here it is now…

The Dutch had been known to the outside world as distinguished heroes during the WWII due to the acclaimed moving and thorough diary of Anne Frank and her family’s tiny secret safe house in Amsterdam, which is now a museum since 1960. The Anne Frank museum has drawn hundreds of thousands of curious visitors in Amsterdam each year.


There is also another famous Jewish secret hiding place in Haarlem, 15 minutes from Amsterdam, the Corrie ten Boom house, now too a museum.


I am quite sure there are many other secret rooms; private places where the ill-fated Jews hid, away from the cruel grasp of the Nazi’s, protected by the unsung noble hearted and courageous Dutch. EXCEPT THAT, these are the selected events in Dutch history that people want to hear and remember again and again.


And what about the rest, well...?

A poster in Maastricht train station, NS anti-racist slogan campaign in bold letters, “Vroeger vertrok hier de trein naar Auschwitz.” [The train to Auschwitz once left here]. And in small letters beneath, “Wanneer wordt de wereld wijzer?” [When will the world become wiser?]

In 29 September 1943, the Dutch Railways, NS, transported 107,000 Jews to a Dutch incarceration camp in Westerbroek before they were sent on to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor and the many other concentration and death camps the Nazi’s have organized. The unsuspecting perhaps baffled Jews didn’t know that it was their last one-way ticket slow train ride to death. Only about 5,000 survived the holocaust and made their way back to Holland. These people lived to tell the whole world about their horrifying experiences.

The role of the NS: They collaborated with the German Nazi’s. This claim had been argued furtively that the NS management had no choice since the Netherlands was occupied and under control by the resolute and powerful Nazi’s. Well here’s the stamp of history, the German Nazi’s received their equitable share of world condemnation and for years, Germany has suffered much ado and criticism of this shameful past. On the other hand, the NS Company of the Netherlands, kept mum, away from the glaring limelight. Surprisingly, no one seems to want to talk about it. Everyone kept their mouths sealed. But must the accountability be exclusively held by the Nazi’s?

Fast forward 2005.

62 years later, the NS made a public apology in a ceremony in Amsterdam, on the same day, 29 September and in the same station, Muiderpoort, where the last train full of unfortunate Jews left for their final train ride. The event was followed after with a launching of an anti-racist slogan campaign. These posters are hanged in 66 stations in the Netherlands. I think these slogan posters are still hanged up to now.

Right, 62 years later. 62 YEARS LATER.

It’s an acknowledgement we had a role,” a NS spokesman told the Times. “We’ve never acknowledged it before… it’s always been a difficult subject, inside the company and outside the company.

Check this out, straight from the NS press, from their website in Dutch, a public apology and admittance of the NS in taking part of the WWII unspeakable atrocities.

I have never seen war in my life, so perhaps I am the least of all individuals to make a critic on this poignant event in man’s history. But don’t you think 62 years was damn too long? Wouldn’t it be best if the public apology was made earlier, like 20 years later, or 30 years, well even 45 years? Didn’t West and East Germany kissed and made up after 44 years of division?

While I am not a psychiatrist to start with albeit I had an almost perfect score in my Psychology 101 subject in college *brags*; I am fully aware that deep seated wounds and trauma do not heal in haste, and considering the magnitude of this horrendous incident, the gash, the pain and the shock may stay alive, generation after generation.

So with this NS case, shall we assume that the management before chose to ignore or forget? Or could it be that they were riddled with guilt and shame since the company was an alleged accomplice to the heinous crime? And based in an old article I read on the NS website, some people from the company said, “If only I could have done something.


But what do we hear instead? Answer: S-I-L-E-N-C-E. 62 years of disregard in the assistance of killing 107,000 people.

I believe this is also an on-going issue with Japan on their role in the WWII.

Some things in life take time acknowledging. I don’t know if that’s upsetting or depressing.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Tribes have spoken


Three years is all you need to become a Dutch national if you are, a. married to a Dutch citizen and b. partner of a Dutch citizen [living together]. If I am not mistaken, most countries, if not all, require a five year stretch uninterrupted stay and hey catchy-catchy, you must be married. Well not in good ole liberal Netherlands.

Anyway, my time has come. I now have to face the music and hand in the Dutch certificates that I have labored and realized in the past years to get this alleged Dutch citizenship. But complacency has struck me and it’s been long overdue for months already. On the other hand, there were experiences told and responses received about this plan of action. They were quite varied, some fascinating and others, well hilarious.

On one camp, they shout gleefully, “Freedom!” without guilt. Oh is that so?

On the next, all you hear are grumbles with downcast foreheads and eyebrows meeting together. I suppose someone just died.

On the other camp was a mix of both but chanting a persuasive rationale of “I have no choice?” A few had remorse, others not and some pretended.

Then you have another camp, which felt they are larger than life and simply didn’t care. Giving up your citizenship or not, it doesn’t matter.




OPPORTUNISTIC Camp

The justification to let go was freedom to travel, freedom to equal opportunities and freedom to suffrage within their host country. Fine, those are valid arguments indeed.

For one, banging on the doors of embassies to beg for that shouldn’t-have-been-coveted tourist visa whilst showing off your financial meaning as an individual, e.g. bank statements, credit card certification, latest income tax return, etcetera can be tasking, annoying and humiliating. It is distressful; I would feel naked up to my last peso. It’s like being a hesitant stripper, but stripped anyway. The protocol was to sell who you are in order to get that approval which in the first place is absolute bigotry.

Two, equal opportunities; true some job breaks do require local citizenship, or say it gives you the advantage and equips you to soar high to greater heights. It looks like concealed discrimination, and upon careful analysis, *frowns* it really is. It’s just coated and institutionalized with legal sanction. You just have to either, take it or leave it.

Suffrage is a different story however, to which for most, will only affect them when they are too engrossed in their host country, that they want to join the fray and meddle with the local affairs. Fair enough.

There is also the unpopular other side of the coin… where opportunism was never laid easy in front of these group of people; they have to, with blood and sweat search for it and once found, grab and hold the chance like their life depends on it, even if what they are holding on to resembles a dagger... which incidentally brings me to this occasion, the leeway to rant ---

Why are people acting like little heathen elitists? Mandela has been freed but alas apartheid is still alive, not in the black and white guise but through colored genres of economic estrangement. Why the bloodthirsty mentality in casting segregation treatments and biases on Filipinos wanting out... especially to those who went through desperate and creative measures such as working abroad marginally or say marrying that hideous foreigner?

Aren’t they just like each one of us, opportunists [the term is really not that awful for we all have to be opportunists to feed ourselves], but they just happen to fall under the poverty level group?

Some would argue; it is not our place and right to cast such judgments. But ah, man is weak. Gossip is certainly stimulating if it’s NOT US unless of course we have some masochist tendencies or we are aspiring to be the next celebrity icon thus the desperate need for that gossip endorsement.

I do acknowledge that these are crucial societal issues that must be addressed [in the Philippines]. As the saying goes, “If there is smoke, there must be a fire”, and usually there are reasons why the fire was started. I guess life is that hard for them that they must resort to such drastic procedures and close their eyes to an unhappy or painful future.

There is one thing though that I know, our unanimous human instinct is SURVIVAL and this transcends passports, nationalities and borders of this world. That is the naked truth.

PATRIOTIC Camp

The patriotic camp steps forward with their right hand covering their heart, “I am a Filipino and will stay as a Filipino… forever”. How idealistic and admirable… zeg.

I think nationalists are great commendable people for they provide the spirit and mores of a country. But please MY EXCUSES... what really unnerves me with this patriotism talk is when it is applied and taken to great extremes. That for me is not only embarrassing but it also displays utter arrogance. Why the unwanted zeal of, “Hey look at me, I am a [insert any citizenship here] citizen!” Really, calm down, there is no need to vindicate yourself that you are a citizen of this so-called country or you’re a damn Filipino. If you check thesaurus, nationalistic has synonyms such as patriotic, jingoistic, chauvinistic and xenophobic. So be normal please.

But away from this patriotism fracas, isn’t life supposed to be just simple? We didn’t choose to be born with XYZ citizenship in ABC country. We didn’t choose to have white, brown, black and yellow parents.

So as simple as it is, being a Filipino is my [or your] BIRTH RIGHT. That also means; no one can take that away from me and you, not our parents, not our partners nor a government, powerful or not. Doing the act of allegiance is a OK but it will just be quite superficial since in reality you and I will never be Dutch or [insert another nationality here]. In man’s view, this is the ideal and legal way but the laws of nature are always above the ideals and legalities of man. If the powerful laws of man can crumble and fall down just like what happened during the World War I and II, then everyone can say, be a citizen of QRST country or die! Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I am encouraging everyone to go out there and commit insurrection.

I have told the Dutchman, “I will never become a Dutch woman even if I have a Dutch passport, dye my hair blonde, wear blue contact lenses, bleach my skin pale, speak flawless Dutch, carry the secular mentality and bike everyday, I will always remain a Filipino because that is my BIRTH RIGHT”. And I don’t even think that’s nearly being patriotic nor should I make a rah-rah out of it, that is just the unblemished simple truth.

Although, I do believe that if you were born in an intercultural relationship or say you are a Filipino born outside the Philippines; then is the BIRTH RIGHT line of reasoning could be flawed and will not apply. There would have to be an additional theory.

I HAVE NO CHOICE Camp

I have no choice, it was just really the best thing to do” -I know, so stop yelping.

This logic is shall I say, weak, because realistically we all have a choice, perhaps not in certain things, such as we didn’t choose our parents and where we were born, but we do have a choice whether to retain our citizenship and not.

So why is it so hard to just say the simple truth of “Having ABC citizenship will give me better vantage”, “I don’t like it, but I am doing it anyway”, or “I feel like a traitor but it’s the best thing to do” or better yet “I’ve always hated feeling like a second rated citizen that’s why…”.

Those were more honest answers than saying -I have no choice?-

Nevertheless, I would like to also highlight that some people really do feel that they have no choice because they have weak personalities. Others I supposed were suffering from identity crisis, many in fact do, until now. And as previously said, some were pretending; pretending to have remorse, pretending to have no choice and pretending to feel bad when it’s the other way around. Hey it’s like TV! Quit it, nothing is real with TV.

When you woke up, took a shower and brushed your teeth – it was your choice. When you picked that blue outfit with the orange shoe and stepped out of that door – it was your choice. When you went in that municipal office and asked for that form to fill up your change of citizenship – it was your choice. When you pledged your oath in front of your new flag – it was your choice.

So don’t bullshit around. Be honest. It was your choice.

LET IT BE Camp

This is the unorthodox of all camps.

I have met several people who actually belong to this type of reasoning. Most of them have the uninhibited attitude of “Bahala na” [Let it be]. The Beatles were almost right when they created that song. But must it always be that we let things and events let gone, just let it be? Not quite I suspect since everyone doesn’t always feel and think as abandoned and free spirited like a bird.

It also seem that this group doesn’t have the “I will die for my country”, “I am ashamed of my country” and the “I am torn apart which country” hung-ups.

I am not really sure if this standpoint deserves respect? It’s like, I am gone with the wind, wherever it takes me, there I will go, Amen. Up to some point, it speaks of escaping from responsibility. Why will you let it be when you actually have a choice?

Although on second thought, it also suggests valor and adventure; to explore, to uncover, to try, to risk, to let go.

Hmm, I actually like spontaneous people but not all the time.

But all ends well, I’ll have to say that after growling too much in this entry, I am still the lucky bastard because the Netherlands and Philippines are willing to give me DUAL CITIZENSHIP with my original untarnished Filipino name on it.

Life is good, I am going to have the best of both worlds.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Seasons Greetings


Autumn

Autumn is unquestionably my favorite season, although I don’t like the cold weather that goes with it.

Foto’s taken by Dutched Pinay at Oude Gracht and Twijnstraat aan de Werf in Utrecht.

The trees, its leaves… they are simply beautiful, for the colors of green have exquisitely turned into numinous shades of yellow, orange and brown. It spawns so much unspoken character and impact, without much effort. And it brings forth a strong urge to convey something dramatic, something peculiar, something grand, and something that ends but later begins.

Ah mystery, that’s probably why I am captivated with autumn…

Winter

I grew up equating snow to Christmas. All those engrossing Hollywood propaganda’s about winter has brought me to realize how fake TV really is.

The only thing magical of winter is when it snows hard and when it stays thick, enough for you to make a snowman. Other than that, it’s all bloody ice cold hell! There is nothing delightful and beguiling with having to walk with two frozen feet and losing your balance on the road because it’s damn slippery, or being the unlucky recipient of sharp angry pangs of chilly wind slapped against your face, while being covered in silly layers of clothing, that upon a quick check in the mirror, you’d think... where do this dwarf-like mascot come from?

Although in all honesty, I’d love to see a heavy blizzard happening right now with snow capped buildings in sight tomorrow morning, but alas winter in the flatlands is as humdrum as its landscape can bid.

I think I like winter but certainly not a Dutch one.

Spring

Spring is lovely no doubt. Like the budding of nature aroused from its deep slumber, is spring the season to symbolize and celebrate man’s joyous life. And as zestful as it is, let me also explicitly declare that spring is the better twin of summer... yet it has this seemingly fragile sheath hovering above it, kind of like an unfamiliar intuition beyond my grasp.

Could it be because spring is too transparent? Too brazen that it doesn’t have an enduring character?

Just like those flowers that blossoms in April, they all wither in May…

Summer

I was born in a country with 365 summer days all year round. When its 22C outside, people start wearing jackets; they say they don’t want to catch a cold [tries not to laugh].

The sun is the enemy. It makes me tired; my skin breathes but if exposed too much, is set off to wrinkle damnation. I suffer migraine attacks from it too, but luckily so far, I have escaped from the on the brink of fainting helplessly performance in the streets because there is a heat wave pandemic.

So I don’t know if I really like summer. Maybe if there is A/C?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fashion Police in "I Amsterdam"


My meeting in Amsterdam yesterday was somewhere near Museumplein, where the renowned Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Coster Diamonds are all located. Unfortunately though, the company I met with had so much going on, all at the same time --- office renovation, moving in and out of furnitures, and the meeting rooms were full. So the guy I spoke to made a last minute decision to head off to their fallback hideout, which was not too far away anyway, in a café called, Caffe PC in PC Hooftstraat.

PC Hooftstraat is hypothetically, the “in” flamboyant place of Amsterdam, the street to be seen and the street to people watch. The rich and famous, the celebrities, the socialites, and the nobles of the flatlands can be spotted sauntering the elegant shops in this narrow lane, all glamorously pimped up with their intimidating fastidious strides in tow, and of course with their hands full of their shopping prizes.


A sample taste of the PC Hooftstraat collection are the following: Cartier, Roberto Boticelli, Louis Vuitton, DKNY, Bulgari, Ralph Lauren and Salvatore Ferragamo.

There are also a number of chic cafes scattered about in the area, which is by all means, the perfect joint for that tired sophisticated and moneyed lady to retreat to, after the much needed retail therapy. Maybe a glass of wine or a cup of coffee will do wonders in aiding her conscience to validate the inevitable, say, why she had to buy that € 500 tunic.

Amsterdam’s new marketing epithet: “I Amsterdam” in the Museumplein at the back of the Rijksmuseum.


This straightforward yet catchy artwork, I believe, was just recently placed in the Museumplein park.


But don’t be mislead, this is not your normal next door neighbor cheese girl. The average Dutch gal is, by far, still frugal.

If there is one thing though that stood out in PC Hooftstraat, it would have to be the unmistakable gorgeously dressed women. One can without a doubt spot the fine haute couture behind the get-up; Gucci, Prada, Burberry... Succinctly, the smell of status and money is wafting in the air.

Interestingly though, the women were more vigilant than the usual, although I personally believe, this has nothing to do with muggers and those unwelcome paparazzi. No it’s not.

When you go to Kalverstraat, which is a more regular Dutch shopping street, you will notice that the women frequenting this area tend to just go about their own shopping business. No one really cares what she and that other woman wears --- unless she would arrive in an exceptionally striking orange outfit, which would be jammer, too early for Queen’s Day.


Nonetheless, in this street, I have seen modern day Goths in chains, retro comebacks, a mix of Cindy Lauper-Madonna 80’s fishnet craze and those new hip gypsy outfits partnered with psychedelic cowboy boots. No one bat’s an eyelid anyway, no one gives a hoot, nada, niks, none. You are free to express your alternative vogue sense and it doesn’t really matter if you have the “it” factor or not. Ah, what fashion revelry?

On the contrary, in PC Hooftstraat, the women were quite different. And I believe, it is not because they have more money, higher status and are sporting off the latest signature vanity mode or accessory in town, but owing to something else, which is really utterly trivial.


Most of these so-called élan women have actually eyes only for the other woman, means any other woman. Could be you, me, her or that girl. Should we be surprised? Nah... Shall we call it envy? Um perhaps, woman’s best enemy, and an obsession by many by the way.

“...thickly made up eyes and curious necks having the propensity to go astray checking the other women sitting in the other tables... or better yet, if they are outside in the terras, they are more likely to perform covert operations 101 --- scanning every inch of any woman’s body that passes by...” - Yeah, ha-ha, the CSI fashion police are definitely at work in Amsterdam, at least in PC Hooftstraat.


I’ll have to admit that I do get stares from all types of women from time to time in exclusive and not places here in the Netherlands, but nothing like a PC Hooftstraat experience, where stares are essentially misconstrued as --- Hmm, what label are you wearing, bitch? [reminds me of how people back home in the Philippines are enslaved with the branded culture].

Well, it was indeed fun to watch. Envy and the fixation of women to check out each other is shall I say universal [read: Sex and the City], BUT... living in the Netherlands with Dutch chicks borrowing their male partner’s clothing [read: women dressed like men] or being enveloped in a surreal fashion world [read again above paragraph re: Kalverstraat], has thoroughly rubbed me and my fashion sanity to an off-tangent direction!


And now, with this PC Hooftstraat scenario added altogether into the picture, just made everything about fashion in Holland more complicated, yet very entertaining! ;-)

What irony, zeg.

Monday, November 07, 2005

In 1980,


Saturday is our boodschappen dag [grocery day], so while I was careening through Edah’s isle [a Dutch supermarket] with my shopping cart, I suddenly heard a familiar tune from the speakers. I stopped, unsure if it was what I thought on first instinct. I listened carefully and waited, until the familiar sound became unambiguous in my ears. And there, *brings a smile to my face* I knew it, I was right!

Anak” by Freddie Aguilar was playing on the Dutch radio station. Yeah, the Tagalog version.

Did you know that this 1980 world wide hit song “Anak” was number 2 in the Netherlands Top 40 Charts for 12 weeks?

I felt tingles of goose bumps and mix emotions hit through my system. Maybe because this is the first time I have ever heard a Filipino song aired on the Dutch radio; and what more, I didn’t expect it in public whilst shopping in Edah. You can say I was taken by surprise.


The RCA Anak LP [long playing] Album, in English it means Child. Those days when DVD’s iPOD’s and MP3’s do not exist yet.

This is the unsullied trademark of Freddie Aguilar in 1980 [and until now I think?] with his prized possessions, his guitar, his hat, his long hair and moustache.

I think I was the only person in the supermarket who knew the song, but that didn’t really matter to me at all. Hearing the old melody reminds me of my childhood days. +-1980, and I was 10 years old then…

... the strict German nuns in the school, one looked like a stick, the other a ball, what an odd pair; I hated my school uniform, I can’t keep it clean like the rest of the girls do and I despised the big ribbon on my chest too; playing Chinese garter in the school’s quadrangle, I can jump up real high by the way; throwing my school lunch into the garbage without my mom knowing it; wishing its always recess, lunch and time to go home;

... sardined in the Volkswagen beetle together with my cousins; going to the beach with family on weekends; Orange Brutus [the McDonalds and Jollibee of our time] on Sundays after church; birthday parties and dressing up in those silly fandangle frill pink dresses that I loathe because its itchy on my neck; fighting with my brother about who gets the most Coke;

... my dingbat neighbor, a teenage boy, threw a long, big but dead snake at me that sent my mother into a fit; listening to my grandmother’s tales about how men courted her during her young and beautiful days; having my first fist and claw fight with my girl friend neighbor in the bushes, was grounded for days; stealing mangoes from our neighbors at the back; sneaking out the house when there is a blackout to play buwan-buwan [moon game] with the other kids; someone stole my doll!;

... getting spanked and spanked and spanked, sometimes I have to kneel on salt because I have been very very naughty; playing Millionaires board game with the family until 12 midnight; E.T. the movie; attacking Lego straight after getting up from bed on a weekend without brushing my teeth; Sanrio Hello Kitty stuff; started my Nancy Drew collection;

... speech and Chinese lessons during summer, ugh, I didn’t understand why my mother enrolled me in this %$#@&!???; piano lessons, hated that wacky goose of our piano teacher who chases me and my cousins in the garden every time we enter her home, why the hell are they not locking up that predator? but before we take our turns on the piano, the maid serves us yummy cookies and Archie comics, so that was a nice consolation; art lessons, my favorite of all summer classes that I ever had;

... and opening my first kiddie savings account with the 'Happy Savers Club' which I was so proud of, until Banco Filipino went bankrupt.

Uh, the music stopped... Okay, that was it and now back to shopping.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Philippine Tourism, what a joke


I don’t want to be a hypocrite or someone donning on rose colored glasses, so I will have to be honest, and I really hate to say this but... the Philippine Tourism is a BIG JOKE.

I don’t see anything that I can be proud of to tilt that dusty, cobwebbed and fossilized patriotic hat. All I hear in the international travel forums are grievances and dissatisfaction about how inept tourism is handled in the country, which upon careful introspection are actually very valid.

Serene Malapascua Island in Cebu, a perfect Lovers Place. Foto taken by Dutched Pinay.


I would like to believe that our government officials are capable. I am sure many of them have graduated with citations and honors. Some have probably adorned their offices with their doctorate diplomas, earned from prestigious universities abroad. But like I always say, burn that diploma and enlist on the ride to educational forgetfulness if the skills are not used and put in action.

Okay, for a moment, I may be quite harsh there…

So, let’s say we have incredible minds behind our program, is it then, maybe a budget problem? How much actually did the government spent on tourism? For an economy that has dwindled, no dear it has not stagnated; isn’t it just right and wise to use tourism as a regaining strategy?

Why are the tourists not coming in the numbers that we wanted? And please, hell no. Returning Filipinos [balikbayans], OCW’s [Overseas Contract Workers], and Foreigners married to Filipinos DOES NOT COUNT ON THE TOURIST TALLY BOARD!

What is amiss?

I don’t have all the answers, I am not an encyclopedia, I am not Einstein and Google, nor I have a PhD in Tourism, but these are some of the things that I can surmise as an outside thinking party, as a traveler and tourist, as a Filipino and as a critic.

SAFETY MEASURES

Tourists and travelers always look for safety when traveling. This is universal. Why do we think these embassy staffs quickly sends out a travel warning to its citizens when a bomb explodes, say in Zamboanga [south of the Philippines]? A little ache in your pinky can be felt in your whole body.

The rugged beauty of the breathtaking Taal Volcano. Foto taken by the Dutchman.


Where are the ought to be foreign or tourist police? In Thailand and even in Greece, which are countries with economies that heavily depends on tourism; they have created this special task force in the likes of foreign/tourist polices to protect its customers [the travelers] that contribute to their hopefully growing GDP. It is just necessary!

Problems such as, “That drunken tricycle driver tried to rip me off!” or “Someone stole my camera!” or this “An underage prostitute is harassing me in my hotel.” are to be dealt with by none other than the foreign/tourist police.

Their presence does not only bring safety but also the needed consumer confidence and correct international image to our ailing tourism industry, at least if they don’t start bribing, which incidentally is another big problem.

INFORMATION: Philippine Tourism Website

I have stopped pointing people to use that WOW Philippines and Philippine Tourism websites for it lacks the quintessence of what Philippine travel is. Why do I see these rubbish texts and promos of 5 star hotels and resorts? Yes, H-O-T-E-L-S and R-E-S-O-R-T-S!!! My god, I just have to close my eyes there for a minute because my brains are about to explode.

Why is our government promoting a hotel or resort instead of the REAL product – the amazing Banaue Rice Terraces, the zestful Hot Springs, and the pulchritudinous Islands and Beaches? Is this some sort of economic conspiracy piloted by key players on top? Pray, tell me, why promote a place to stay when there is supposedly a great reason why people are going to stay in that place you are promoting?


The prices are also laughably expensive. These people I am sure will drop their mouths wide open when they see how much a 5 day holiday package to the beaches of Spain costs. Give us a break!

Please, do your jobs and hit up the main thing. Develop the product, and not the by and sub products. Once the product is truly developed and I may have to add, preserved, then eventually hotels and other businesses will follow. And let me say this again, the prices are very embarrassing to tourists who have traveled cheaply to places that were equally beautiful but better organized [even western countries such as the South of Europe].


INFORMATION: Philippine Tourism Offices

Doesn’t everyone know that there is a Philippine Tourism Office in every international airport in the Philippines? But sadly, they are not there to disseminate travel information to tourists nor are they capable of answering any tourism related information. Their main task is to leech on Filipinos traveling abroad.

The beautiful tropical paradise of Boracay. Foto taken by the Dutchman.


The travel tax policy is pure hogwash and is just a one big superfluous money making machine. Question: How many Filipino citizens are traveling abroad every year? Answer: Millions and millions and growing since everybody seem to want out! I don’t think the salaries of these people manning the Philippine Tourism booth in the airports would even take .0001% of the net income from these travel taxes, so where did the money go?

Really, wouldn’t it be best if there are ready pamphlets in the airport about “What to do in the Philippines...”, “Where to go in the Philippines...” and “How to get there...” sort of information waiting on our fingertips? And please, leave out the hotel and resort garbage. The travel enterprises can pretty much do the jobs themselves.

INFRASTRUCTURE BABY

A fact, we have gorgeous beaches, incredible scenery, hospitable people, WARM very ideal climate, enough what a tourist wants but getting there is a pain in the ass.

The geographic location of the Philippines is already a disadvantage because of its apart and nicely tucked away seclusion position from the rest of mainland South East Asia, more so it is ridiculously tasking when you finally get into the country looking for that ride to your final destination.

Filipinos should understand that foreigners who are experienced travelers do not think that it’s charming to be harassed. They also want to get the value of their money, not according to their western standard of living, but according to the host country’s standard of living. They want to move about independently without someone trailing their behinds offering them a taxi ride that costs triple the local flag down price. What is that, legal highway robbery?

The Jeepney, the king of the road and the Filipino daredevils on top of it. Foto taken by the Dutchman inside the van.


Where are the public buses; that could have conveniently picked up passengers in assigned pick up locations en route to Manila international airport? Why didn’t they prioritize the MRT and LRT projects going to the airport? In Thailand, you can easily board on a cheap bus [with A/C and without] from the airport to the main city. In KL, there is this metro that gets in straight to the airport. Why can the Philippines not have these too? And when?

And do I have to waste another line about why the international airport is still living in the 1960’s and why the new one is not yet opened because some hot air balloon sized ego’s are guarding the gates [same case as that SRP highway conflict in Cebu]? Why does it take them so much time, like years, to settle this childish quarrel?

I went on a business trip last 2004 in Manila with my Dutch colleague. I felt humiliated when we stepped out into NAIA [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] because my Dutch colleague was bowled over. His first Philippine shock was when the trolley wheels didn’t move. They got stuck because they were dilapidated. I didn’t know how to answer him when he asked me why the airport was not impressive and that it reeks with age.

Okay let’s move on to the roads. I hope all the potholes have been covered by now because I seem to play the hit and miss game when driving in EDSA before. The roads outside Metro Manila, in other cities and provinces are yes now cemented but they are only good for two lanes, and you can already see houses being built a meter away, which could pose as a problem later when these roads need expansion. How should I say this, short term urban planning? Ah, tell me about that, Manila and Cebu are still a mess!

PRICE and MARKETING BLAH

A reminder… branding, packaging, promotions, public relations, should be pointed to the product and not some 5 star hotel or resort. That to me is the most bollocks of all tourism marketing I have ever seen. Where have they learned this? Is there some, what we call cut or commission, in there?

There were some adverts awhile back in CNN, but the material to support it was lacking because of the obvious reasons stated here. But then… why and just CNN? And why did it stop? Where is the aggressive I will win mentality? Do these people understand W-H-O their target markets are? Do these people really know W-H-O the travelers are? OK, there are now more Koreans, Japanese, and Taiwanese tourists coming in, but is this just it and should we shout hurrah? Another question: Will this sustain tourism? How about reaching the other side of the world?


I have heard that the Philippines have the lowest performing Tourism budget in Asia. No wonder majority of the tourists have flocked to other Asian countries.

They need to profile who are these tourists traveling in South East Asia. Check their demographics. I am pretty sure they will find out that there are different kinds of travelers other than the ones who are stupid [okay they might be rich like Bill Gates] to book a holiday in a 5 star hotel and resort but missing the real shiznit.

Ripe Philippine bananas for you and me. Foto taken by the Dutchman.


Business Travelers, are travelers who are not spending from their pockets but on company expense, hence the 5 star hotel; Family Travelers, do not literally take 5 star accommodations, I mean they aren’t stupid?; Couples and Independent Travelers, if they are in honeymoon, maybe, if not then I don’t think these people would also like paying an expensive room when they can get a price somewhere for ¼ of the price?; The Budget Travelers, are keen on price and getting their money’s worth; and Backpackers, who, even though are the least spenders, could probably pull in money for our economy. In fact the locals can benefit from them immensely, just like in Thailand and Indonesia.

They have one thing in common though [except the Business Traveler], that is to see the sights of the Philippines and not because they want to bask and experience in a 5 star hotel and resort accommodation. Price is the key. These visitors are surely not throwing their money recklessly just because they are tourists. But what do I hear from seasoned travelers? “Philippines is expensive.


In Holland, I don’t even get much feedback about the Philippines. Its like, “Where in Asia is that?” The Dutchman previously had to sometimes bite his tongue when he is traveling to the Philippines to visit me before because other cheese heads here will think that he is a sex tourist! *major shock* And his first impression, “Wow, it is damn expensive here.” [comparing to South East Asian countries]. There you go...

S-I-G-H... Anyway,

I’d like to hear the Philippine Tourism beefing up their marketing budget, airing adverts in countries that meet the profile travelers. There has got to be some awareness. This is important because this means the target market have the means, time and culture for traveling. Like here in Europe, people travel on average 2x a year outside. Dutchman and I travel more than that.

I’d like to hear about how they preserved Boracay and jailed those dynamite user fishermen [and well offer them alternative livelihood please], and not just fine Greenpeace because it was reckless enough to hit its boat in the coral reefs. Well that was foolish of Greenpeace. I now doubt if I can trust their mission on this planet earth. *Snicker*

I’d like to hear about the beautiful mountains up in the Cordilleras and the improved zigzagged roads with sturdy bridges, and that tourists can always safely run into a foreign/tourist police and not some kidnappers or terrorists.

I’d like to hear about the exquisite islands, its amazing dive points, etcetera, and how easy it is to get there without locals profiling tourists as millionaire carrot Joe’s, thus potential victims. If these foreigners are so rich, they would have traveled in style, say come swooshing in a private jet plane or splashing in that 25 meter private yacht complete with an experienced crew.

I’d like to hear tourists saying that the Philippines are not anymore a hidden gem in Asia and that it is not anymore expensive. And I don’t buy that bullshit of “We don’t want the Philippines to be like Thailand raped by tourists.”. Trust me, WE BADLY NEED THAT MONEY.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Of Celts, martyrs, saints, Reformation, Halloween and cemeteries...


Did you know that in the old history, the 31st of October was once a pagan festival? And later, it marked the ultimate day of religious faction and dissension?

SAMHAIN FESTIVAL, circa 5th Century

The Gaelic people [those immortal Highlanders on TV] in the northwest European Celtic territory [now Ireland and Northern France] practice this supranaturalistic belief of the AFTERLIFE. The 31st of October signifies the end of the Celtic calendar otherwise known as the conclusion of the merry “light” season [summer] and the beginning of the staid “dark” season [winter].

The Samhain likeness...


The Gaelic Celts firmly believed that the incorporeal spirits of the people who died throughout that year would revisit and wander about seeking open individuals to dominate for the subsequent year. In order to chase and frighten away these unwanted ghosts, the villagers took to task of dressing up in spooky creature outfits. After which they come out to join the march in the streets whilst creating noise. They truly believe this will drive the spirits away.

In the later centuries, the Romans conquered most of the Celtic territory and eventually Catholicism spread throughout the area.

Meanwhile in Rome, the “Feast of the Martyrs” is celebrated every 13th of May. Conversely in the 8th century, the Pope modified the “Feast of Martyrs” into the “Feast of the Saints”. Later, the dates were amended from 13th of May to the 1st of November.

Was that a fall from heaven coincidence?

It was hushed-hushed that the Pope did it to replace and compromise with the “Samhain Festival” of the Celts. Aha --- the radical Christianization of the occult.


I am not really surprised, after all the Spanish Catholic conquistadores did the same tactic with the Philippine inhabitants in 1521. From nature and supernatural worshippers, they swiftly convinced and transmuted the natives by urbanizing the method of worship into visible effigies combined with a ceremonial twist. Ah, it suited well the pagan culture. Very clever indeed…

The ONSET of the REFORMATION, circa middle ages

The Augustinian monk, Martin Luther.


Born in the eastern part of Germany, Martin Luther always had an immense passion for the scriptures. This fervor eventually led him to service the Catholic Church and later on, question her. On the 31st of October 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses against the Roman Catholic Church on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. He disputed many of the Catholic doctrines such as the unequivocal rights of the Pope to pardon sins.

This succinctly marked the ultimate day of faction and dissension within the Catholic Church. The act of rebuttal sent the whole of Europe into the dark tunnels and dungeons of the Reformation Age, where the word “heretic” and “heresy” can cost you your life.

Quite a coincidence there… same day 31st of October, both beckoning the deaths and births of something significant.

I am not a Catholic, a Protestant nor a protégée of some religion, but it sure is incredibly remarkable to see how the ecclesiastical world unfolds its history… even up to now.

OUR TIMES, the 21st century

One might wonder, is “Halloween” [bastardized by the Americans originally “All Hallows Eve”], “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day” celebrated in the Netherlands? The answer is YES and NO.


The Dutch do NOT celebrate “Halloween”. Although I heard that on that night all discotheques are mostly overflowing with drunken wanton teenage kids.

The “All Saints Day” [Allerheiligen] and the “All Souls Day” [Allerzielen] however are up to now still commemorated by a few steadfast and diminishing Dutch Roman Catholics. In other European countries, I believe this is memorialized to the dot? There is no argument that the Netherlands is the most secular country in Europe and in the world. Religious beliefs and practices have been sanctioned to extinction, I’d say scraped off to oblivion.

November 1 and 2 are still shown as important days in the Dutch calendar but it is NOT a holiday where people take off work nor do I see people observing what it really is or was.

It is a grand contrast to devout Philippines… or Mexico where they adorn their homes or graves with the skulls of the dead.

I still remember back then, some 25 to 30 years ago [oh my, I am that old!] my family would travel to the province to visit the graves of the dead relatives. I was very young and extremely fascinated by the event, plus it’s a national holiday-no school, so I kind of look forward to it every year. The long drive to the province invigorated me and the thrill of seeing lighted candles and the lively reunion mood of everyone else enthuse me. Of course the cemetery always received us jovially, it was undeniably a feast.

As a child I thought in innocent confusion, “It’s supposed to be a sad day but people are happy”.

The yearly trip was short lived, helaas. My parents made a scandalous decision that sent my grandmother into hysterics… that is to leave the Roman Catholic Church. I was fairly young and didn’t understand everything so it didn’t matter to me.

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