Take sides

Luke's account of the Christmas narrative begins with Caesar Augustus' census and ends with the shepherds praise of the messiah, giving us insight into how the child Jesus enters history and turns our preconceived notions of power.

On one hand there is Ceasar Augustus, the Roman Emperor who at that time is believed to be god-incarnate ruling over the known world under Pax Romana. Conquering lands and exerting military might that they may be subjugated to the uneasy peace under the Empire. On the other are the shepherds: nomadic wanderers tending to livestock that heed the angelic proclamation of the messiah's arrival, who after coming into an encounter with the Christ-child return to their lot rejoicing.

Here we see the startling contrast of how God's gracious condescension breaks into history with his arrival at the height of the Empire's power, choosing to arrive through a human family of middle eastern peasants and the company of livestock with no one but shepherds to call as guests of honors in a marginal town in Roman Judea.

In that little town of Bethlehem we come face-to-face with a God who takes sides and favors the company of the poor and the lowly. Veiled in the fragility of an infant Jesus, the Immanuel reveals himself in a back-alley manger to an unwed teenage peasant couple, livestock and herdsmen. Brought forth in frail humanity, the king of kings and the lord of lords enters history with the message that true power lies in our willful relinquishing of it for the sake of the Other.

The story of Christmas bids us to take the side of the lowly and to be open and vulnerable for it is the vessel upon which we can encounter the divine and live up to Jesus' edict to care care for “the least of these”(Mt. 25:40), and come out of the ordeal as the shepherds glorifying and praising God for all the things we had heard and seen.

When Harry Lee died

When Harry Lee died his neighbors from the north east cried and wished they had a leader much like him because he ushered progress by wielding an iron fist.

While we mourn his death and celebrate his achievements. Let us remember that Singapore's history cannot be simply reduced according to the account of its leader. Nor should we forget that this progress  also came at a significant cost for human rights...

It’s very dangerous to think that countries, especially those that that have little semblance with Singapore’s, size, geography, economy, ethnicities, and history, could benefit from a leader like Lee Kuan Yew.

Morality won't help her when she lies silent in a morgue

Jennifer is dead and the people won’t mourn her death. Because she was gay. Because she was a prostitute. Dead at the hands of a murderer.

At the end of the day what we can be said is that: Murder is wrong. Subjugating people for sexual gratification is wrong.

The tragedy in Jennifer’s death is that we live in a society where economic conditions force people to sell their bodies for money.

The injustice is that prostitution is reinforced and legitimized by Jennifer’s clientele.

Finding meaning in uncertainty

2000 years ago something life-changing happened to a young couple. It was news of a child. It was news unexpected. It wasn’t something they prepared for.

Yet it was welcomed with meaning in the midst of uncertainty. It was looked upon as a blessing from the Divine: a child born of a virgin. Little did they know that this child was the embodiment of God’s gracious condescension to actualize love in tangible terms as, Immanuel, among the presence peasants, foreigners, an unmarried couple and a flock of livestock all outcasts under the shadow of the Empire.

In the obscure little town of Bethlehem, everything came to a halt as heaven and nature sang a joyful chorus to celebrate the arrival of new life.

The Christmas story reminds us that our response to the anxiety of the present, finds cosmic meaning when we look at the unexpected, as a gift that invite us into a journey of encounter with the divine. It challenges us to not be distracted from the unnecessary pageantries that come with the season and calls us to relinquish control and to trust that all things work out for good.

Maybe the banner was meant for them?

I start this blog with a heavy heart knowing that friends in Greenpeace might be offended with opinions that will be stated here. Also I do not have any internal information as to how the recent Greenpeace action that happened in Peru, came about, so what I say here is based on what I see as an outsider to the organization who has been exposed to the public materials made available in the media and through official Greenpeace communication about the incident.

I have worked for the organization close to a decade and I left because I wanted to pursue a different direction as an activist, but also because it no longer felt like the family of equals that I came to know when I joined in 2005. It became more certification driven, in fact it makes me wonder that if ever I have been an applicant to the role I had when I entered Greenpeace now, I wouldn’t probably get accepted for the role if they were to look at my professional credentials.

Nevertheless, as someone who has also been a part of Greenpeace, the Nazca Lines fiasco comes as no surprise: My theory is that the organization’s thrust in recent years to professionalize1 itself requires it to open up the organization to many professionals who for better or worse are professional in their field of expertise but have lacked the vision and heart to see their work as a vocation. Professionals who will likely spend less only 6-10 months at a given office detached and uninterested with the work, the kind that's present on meetings but never on activities (action or otherwise); professionalism that doesn't go beyond office hours or on weekends;  has an expertise in skills but lacks heart or interest in the issues Greenpeace works in; present stirring up structural changes backed with data on how we can supposedly increase our effectivity in terms of media coverage and online-to-offline conversion rates.

GOO: In Goo We Trust

Around the start of 2014 I started skateboarding again.

What made it worthwhile for me aside from the immediate benefit of getting physical release from work related stress and the work out that comes along with that activity, is that skating provided me again to listen to music from the context of albums which has been mostly downplayed by our fascination with mp3s and playlists.

One constant staple in my skating soundtrack is Goo’s long-awaited album, in Goo We Trust, which I got from their album launch last December 22, 2013 at Chrome Box, in Marikina City.

The record comes as a classic example of what a proper punk rock record sounds like, thanks to the recording and production prowess of Ian Cuevas, who has finely and respectfully captured the singular intensity of passion and sound that flows from the instrumentation of the individual band members in the recording.

The Skeleton Years: Between Lunacy & You

It was a little more than a year ago when I had the privilege of watching them on their first gig and I was immediately hooked with the fascinating blend that somehow combines the post-punk sensibilities of Joy Division and the melodic melancholia punk rock of Alkaline Trio.

Thankfully a few months later they decided to release their debut EP Between Lunacy and You in an event, which also launched the music video of their song in an event which I sadly missed because I spent most of my time last year living on a suitcase traveling because of my work.

It wasn’t until November that I was finally able to secure a copy of the CD when my band Death To Puberty again had the chance to be in the same line up with The Skeleton Years, at IDB.

Upon opening I was floored by the quality of the packaging , design and liner notes that also included the lyrics, and acknowledgement to which Death To Puberty was included by the band in the list of artists that they are thanking ( a gesture for which I am thankful to the band as well).

Musically I enjoyed all the tracks, and the record itself is presently my skateboarding soundtrack. Songs that personally standout are Through, Dead Night and Fade particularly because of their catchy hooks and the brilliantly written lyrics of Darwin, not to mention the genre bending guitar exchange courtesy of Ebong and Sharen.

This record stands as one of the shining moments that restored my faith in the creativity and musical potential of the underground punk scene in the Philippines.

May the light shine

This was not at all a perfect year for many of us. The world and its troubles had gotten the best of us and brought us pain, anxiety, disappointment and the seeming helplessness that comes once we are apprehended in the apparent darkness of our circumstances.

This feeling is not unique to our time.

This was also the prevalent disposition of many throughout history, including that of first century Judea, which lost its independence to the Romans in the 1st century BCE, by becoming first a tributary kingdom, then a province, of the Roman Empire.

It was during this time under the shadow of Empire that a young couple found themselves at a cosmic crossroads in history unsure about the entire essence of their predicament, ushered in a child unto a world that is wrought in uncertainty.

In the obscure town of Bethlehem a child gasps for air breathing for the first time and opening its eyes to the world that would eventually lead him to fulfill his destiny to be its long awaited Savior.

In the darkness of the manger rays of light pierced the gloom with the promise of new life that is everlasting and is still making all things new even today.

May the light of Christmas shine ever more brightly as we remember Christ’s birth.


The cold air that whiffs of isopropyl alcohol, in hospitals function as salient reminders that we are heirs to humanity’s perpetual struggle to ponder the metaphysical. It is the place where time stands still in deafening silence reminding us of our frail mortality that is rendered to meet its terminus in a veiled yet appointed deadline that we will only know once we are there.

This was the thought that he had in mind as he reclined from the bench and felt the cold steel of the bench’s armrest rub against his dry skin in this ungodly hour at the hospital where nothing but the symphony of pulsating instruments fail to lull him into slumber.

It was dark and the atmosphere was despondent due to the fact that earlier he had heard a song from the Norwegian band, Fra Lippo Lippi, to which the line: "Life it seems, sleeps away just like any dream," resonates, unceasingly like a siren who's screeching sound seems untouched by the doppler effect.

It was hours of dragging and eager anticipation in the dark, cold and desolate aisles of the hospital when suddenly beams of light pierce and make its presence felt in the darkness of the room where he lay confined with uncertainty.

It was there after long hours of restless waiting that he heard what could have been music in the words of the doctor who uttered: "you are fine, all will be well its time to ask your companion to process the discharge papers, you’re going home."

digital metamorphosis (a short story)

Makati City. 8:15 AM

The train stops and the door slides open.

Suddenly the empty MRT station bursts into a sea of people rushing amidst the morning rush hour in Ayala Avenue.

The sight has been the norm for Simon, whose brisk walk suddenly turns into strides as he hurries off to his 8:30 meeting.

Ironically, the chorus: "I’ve been working for the rat race…♫" echoes in the background as Simon, listens to The Specials’ discography in his IPhone, which was fresh-off his Torrent library.

After half a kilometer and 5 flights of stairs, barely catching his breath, he arrives to find his office complex, completely shut down.