Tuesday, June 30, 2009

‘Concubine’ from YOUNGBLOOD of INQUIRER.net

By Carrie
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:52:00 06/25/2009

Filed Under: Family

ONE of the most terrible things about being in an unorthodox relationship is being alone. Literally. This is the time when all repressed thoughts and objections come to the surface and you are compelled to wrestle with yourself emotionally. A big dilemma that was neatly tucked away for convenience suddenly shows up. And now that I'm alone, it's here to torture me, and no amount of earth-shattering rationalizations can silence it.

There is a family gathering and I have been politely told to stay away from it. I feel awful, and so I'm writing.

Do not be misled by the title of this piece. I am not the other woman. He doesn't have a ring on his finger. I am not just another girlfriend either, because I am the only girlfriend. But right now I do feel like a concubine. Despite being his lover, I cannot exist for now. I cannot mingle with a certain member of his family. One member. I have met his parents, his friends and basically everyone that matters. Except for one: his little girl. So maybe I should change the title from concubine to stepmother. But concubine fits me in the sense that in everything about this relationship, I only come second.

In the eyes of this little girl, who am I exactly? I could be the bitch who stole her dad, the evil stepmother in her fairytale, or even Satan. She will grow up in a broken home and I will be responsible for a whole lot of her future relationship issues. But then again, she's only 4. And 4-year olds don't have issues.

I have issues. Me, I'm big now. The question is, in my grown-up pair of eyes, who is she? She is my guilt. It is ironic that such an innocent little person can set off an intense feeling of guilt in me. The kind of guilt that instantaneously puts an end to my maternal instinct before it kicks in. I cannot be anywhere near a child, any child, without feeling these familiar chills crawling up my spine. It's guilt. I am guilty of theft, the worst kind of theft: I have robbed her of a normal childhood where mom and dad are supposed to be together. Call the cops, I'm a criminal.

I don't hate her; I don't even know her. She's a kid. You can't possibly hate a kid. I'm sure she's adorable and all, but I cannot help feeling weird. Maybe it's because she is the living, breathing evidence of my boyfriend's past. He and his ex were so into each other they merged their DNAs and made another person.

Things like this cannot be undone. The little girl cannot be swallowed back into her mommy's tummy.

I need to accept that fact. I have indeed accepted it in my mind, but my heart is slow to learn.

When it comes to starting my own family, I have this ridiculous issue: I can never be another mother of another one of his kids. There will always be this secret contest about genes and parenting and talent. Our kid versus their kid. In the near future, I want my eldest to be my husband's eldest, too. No competition. Is that too much to ask?

So why not end all the drama and find someone less complicated? Because I am in love.

There. I just invoked the classic excuse. This rarely happens to me. I am in love with a wonderful man. He is a great guy who loves dogs and children. He cooks and cleans. He is everything I'm not. We are from totally opposite poles, and that's why we click. When I am with him, I am caught in the moment, feeling like I can take on the whole world. I may be having delusions of grandeur, but I sure am happy.

The issue maybe very real. He has a kid. But this is what I think: Bringing up a child in an environment where parents are no longer making each other happy or in an environment where parents almost always scream at each other, can do the child a lot of harm. Having a child with someone doesn't always mean instantly having a family. And starting a family doesn't always mean instantly having a child. I do not think I have wrecked a family. I think I have saved some people from a lifetime of misery. Another delusion.

People fall in love at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. I never expected to fall in love like this. But here I am, writing my thoughts and emotions, trying to justify my situation. I am on the other side, the side that is frequently misunderstood. I feel the need to explain myself and speak for all those women who have found love under the most unexpected circumstances.

This sounds defensive, but women in this kind of relationship are not gullible idiots who were lured by honeyed tongues and romantic pursuits. We have considered the situation. We have been through a lot of brain work and given the matter a lot of thought. We are not blind. We see the picture from every angle. We are both our own prosecutor and defendant. We have not lost our minds. And we are not crazy women who abandon all logic and allow our emotions to take over. We think a lot and we feel deeply. We listen to sound advice, but in the end, we always follow whatever we think is good for us. Hard-headed, yes, but we are not idiots. We have actually met the persons we can connect with on a cosmic level. So stop the judgment and give us a little credit for braving the odds.

Love is simple. Relationships are complicated. And you have a choice. I have made mine and it makes me happy. Most of the time.

Carrie is a 25-year-old single female from Cebu.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Street Lights... from YOUNGBLOOD of INQUIRER.net

Street lights
By Justin David N. Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:20:00 06/18/2009

Filed Under: Local authorities, Infrastructure, Employment, Graft & Corruption

WHO IN the metropolis is not familiar with the colorful lampposts that allegedly cost us, the taxpayers, at least twice or thrice the average cost of a streetlight? In every street (or alley) of the metropolis, one will find a streetlamp either with colorful lights or the initials of a top city official engraved on it. It would be fine if these actually serve their purpose, but most of these expensive street lamps either don't work or emit so little light that it would have made no difference if they were not there. What makes things worse is that they have now become an advertising platform for politicians.

I have nothing against lighting up the city streets. I commend the city officials for their commitment to making the city safer. But there are factors to consider before anyone decides what type of lampposts to put up in certain locations. I don't know if it's my fondness for history and heritage preservation or it's just plain common sense, but wouldn't it be much better if the nation's capital were lit up by colonial-style lamp posts? These would be black steel posts with a single or a pair of yellow-orange lights enclosed in a glass cap.

Here's the picture: Say, you are strolling down Rizal Park at night and you get to the monument of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. You are standing just a few meters away from the monument, enough to see it with the Philippine flags waving grandly beside it. What would you rather see lighting up the area surrounding this national memorial, colonial-style lampposts or multi-colored ones?

If we are trying to make Manila the world's "City of Lights," we can do it without the funky lights and the mayor's initials or a wide variety of street light designs and colors. If we want to make our leisure districts look like fabulous Las Vegas, giant diamond-shaped street lights are not the answer.

To set the record straight, I am not completely against having colorful lights in our streets. There are places where they fit perfectly, like the Manila Baywalk. Those large balls of light make the place look festive, and encourage tourism and commercial activity. However, since the addition of new lights in the area, it now looks awful.

The problem goes beyond the bright lights and alleged corruption. The utter disregard for the city's rich heritage brought about by four foreign colonizers – the Spaniard, the British, the Japanese and the Americans – has a greater effect on our city than anything else.

Take the Paco Station, for example. It was partially demolished years ago to make way for the construction of yet another shopping center. I know very little about the details behind the project, but I'm pretty sure there were under-the-table arrangements. Our railway system may have been practically defunct then, and a large station deemed unnecessary. But that doesn't diminish the importance of the grand edifice and justify sending in the bulldozers. Looking back to the days when the Americans were planning the city, one would understand the great significance the planners placed on this station. Just as the Union Station in Washington, D.C. was designed as the gateway to the capital of the United States, so was the Paco Station planned to serve a similar function. Surely it was not just coincidence that the site plan for the two stations looked similar. Both had a grand railway station located on a major road fronted by a semi-circular park, just blocks away from major government buildings.

This problem is not confined to the capital alone. It is a national problem that has always been relegated to the sidelines. One by one, the structures that complete the puzzle of our nation's history are reduced to rubble. What horror it would be to wake up one day and find that none of them had survived simply because we never cared.

The first step towards solving this problem is to summon the resolve to safeguard our cultural heritage. We ought to realize that the loss of these historical sites means not simply the loss of landmarks and tourist attractions or of economic activities and revenues, but a far greater loss that cannot be compensated: the loss of our identity.

Justin David N. Tan, 17, is a sophomore at the University Of Santo Tomas College Of Architecture.

Call center people
By Luhje Altavano

I NEVER thought I would ever work as a call center agent. But here I am trying to sneak in this blog.

It is 3 a.m. Sunday. If people are probably not checking on us so there is no one closing the unauthorized sites we have opened (mostly Multiply and Friendster). Kiko, our trainer, is bombarding us with advice on what to do if a client calls and complains about something, which is all crap. I think my head is going to pop.

You may have heard that this job sucks. You sit in a cubicle for hours, entertaining calls from people from Mars who complain about a bad service. They call you a loser, they tell you that you suck and say a lot of other things that really try your patience. So if you don't want somebody to yell at you and blame you for things you are not really responsible for, then never ever work as a call center agent.

But you know what, the best thing about call centers are the people you meet. You get to now them during coffee breaks or during lunch. Different people. Different attitudes. Different backgrounds. Different stories. One is engaged but doesn't really want to get married. Another earns added income from playing chess. There are many single parents here. Somebody has turned looking at the butt of other people into a sport. And there are other types.

Other people might say we suck. I may be called stupid for leaving a good college record to work in a call center. But this is the path I chose and I am enjoying what I have at the moment. I have good people here, and good memories, too. I have happy coffee breaks. And does anyone have more fun-filled lunch breaks than us? Just the thought of such happy company and fun moments is enough compensation for the yelling, the lack of sleep, the abnormal eating and sleeping hours and the boring sessions with trainers.

Oops. It's now 4 a.m. Time for lunch break! Another happy moment coming up.

Luhje Altavano, 18, works in a call center in Taguig City.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Road Most Traveled... from YOUNGBLOOD of INQUIRER.net

The road most traveled
By Paolo Bonifacio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:51:00 06/02/2009

Filed Under: Youth, Employment

I am what many people today call a “corporate slave.” It’s a term that refers to a guy who practically lives in front of his computer and drowns himself in work, sometimes even on weekends. I’m a guy who’s been voted “Office King” and “Mr. Homeless” for three straight reunions since graduating from college.

It was amusing the first time I won such a mock award. It became somewhat embarrassing the second time around, and on the third, it’s just downright sad. It has made me think about my whole life again.

It’s not that I hate how my life has turned out thus far—in fact I feel exactly the opposite. But I imagine that if the world were different, I might have ended up as a wandering musician, instead of a management consultant. I once imagined a life of traveling around the world with my suitcase and my guitar, living for the moment, loudly and freely, and playing my music wherever there would be people to listen to it. Today, I work in a business wherein getting on a plane one moment and making a presentation before an important audience the next is a normal part of the job. The difference is that I carry around a laptop instead of a guitar, and the audiences I have are serious-minded business people, who don’t really care about melodies or notes, but bottom-line figures and savings.

Indeed, we live in a world where we don’t always end up doing the things we think we were meant to do in life. Like I said, I always thought I would be a musician. Heck, I might even have been a filmmaker or an actor. People who knew me 10 years ago would never have pictured me doing analyses and problem solving, but ironically that’s pretty much all that I do these days.

I have a good friend who I sincerely believe was born for the outdoors. He is an adventurer, and a warrior at heart. In another time and place, I imagine, he could have been something like a lion hunter or perhaps the leader of an army. In this universe, however, he is a graphic artist in a multimedia agency, a career which I believe he has grown somewhat tired of though it does pay the bills and helps support his siblings.

In a generation wherein mottos such as “Live out your dreams” or “Follow your passion” are celebrated nearly to the point of becoming clich├ęs, the road most traveled, for me and countless other youths today, often runs in the opposite direction of our dreams. We go to school, discover our innermost talents and passions, and yet many of us graduate to find ourselves leading very predictable, ordinary lives. For some it’s an 8-to-5 office job in a BPO or a bank; for others it’s the life of a nurse or a contract worker abroad. We seldom end up as the artists or adventurers we dreamed ourselves to be as children.

Those of us who go against the flow are the courageous few. With luck, some actually turn out to be rock stars, but unfortunately making a living remains a struggle for many others. I believe, however, that it is a price they pay willingly to remain true to themselves.

I sometimes wonder what my friends say about me, now that we’ve all grown up and taken separate paths in life. “Whatever happened to Pao?” they might ask. Some are probably saying that I dumped my guitar to become a boring corporate slave for an American company. Some might even say that I’ve sold out.

Yeah, that’s probably what they call guys like me these days, but I don’t mind. The truth is, this life and the choices I’ve made thus far have served me well. I admit it isn’t exactly the most exciting, out-of-the-box lifestyle. I doubt if you could score much with girls at a bar by introducing yourself as a management consultant (a colleague of mine tried this in Hawaii and was dumped promptly). But through my hard work and sacrifices, I manage to earn enough to take care of myself and, to a certain extent, help support my family and loved ones. I was able to use my savings to help pay for my aunt’s hospitalization when she had cancer. I was able to buy my mom the home entertainment set she had always wanted. I am able to lend my dad money every now and then to balance our farm’s irregular cash flow requirements. And one day, I will have saved enough to marry the girl of my dreams and build a comfortable home for my own family. It’s true that I never got to perform with a rock band in front of a large audience, but I am happy striving for simple, yet meaningful dreams in this life. And all things considered, I have no regrets.

Martin Heidegger once said that our lives are characterized by a certain “throwness,” that we are beings thrown into this world, into a here and now, into a time and place that define the kind of lives we lead. I believe we are thrown into a time in history and into a part of the world wherein social and economic conditions simply call us to become BPO agents instead of poets, or nurses instead of ballerinas. It’s just the way things are, and I believe we must neither curse nor reject these circumstances, but rather embrace them as a part of our lives. In the end, it is not the path that you walk that matters, but how you walk on it.

If there is something I could say to Filipino youths like myself today, who tread the road most traveled, who fight for their existence day after day and who fight to build a better future for themselves and for their loved ones, it would be this: Walk on. Work hard, but never let go of your dreams. Strive to earn the freedom to pursue them one day. And never be ashamed of yourself, even if you are branded as ordinary, or dry or unexciting. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you do. Fight on. Walk on.

(Paolo Bonifacio, 26, works for a consulting firm based in New York.)

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