Monday, December 26, 2005

2005 Wasn't Happily Ever After

2005 has been one of the most memorable years of my life. As many of you know Gryphon and I finally got married after seven years of being together. That was such a romantic day and will no doubt always be a highlight in our lives.

However, the rest of the year has been a long struggle. I was desperate to get out of my dead-end administration job but I could not get another permanent job. Things escalated at work so I got out. After sending a hundred applications, I applied to work as a temp. Was able to get steady work. But it was irregular and it meant that I did not have enough capital to get Gryphon here. I could get an aunt as co-sponsor for Gryphon's visa application but it would be very difficult going financially. Even without him, I was struggling. As I was telling my sister-in-law, I have really learned to be more cautious with money this year. Only spending when needed. Keeping a list of people to buy presents for and sticking to it. And keeping away from the hairdresser as long as I can.

We really started working for the visa application in earnest in October and found a lot of rivers to cross along the way. I cried over each one of them as each one meant another delay to our reunion. He was finally able to submit all the papers during the last week of November. Or so we thought. Days before his interview we got word that he needed a Certificate of No Marriage which we thought was only needed for prospective fiance visas. But turns out that they had amended the checklist this year. What with the delay in getting that piece of paper, Gryphon will be interviewed in January. Then we were told that it will take a few more months for processing.

God though has wrought a miracle. I thought I would be stuck working in administration a lot longer and continue dreaming of the day I get to work in Communications again, especially in my dream job of Publishing. When I got a temp assignment in an education company for the insurance industry, I thought only that it would tide me over until Christmas. Then I would start looking for permanent work again come January. But an opening for a Project Officer in Online Learning/Admin Support became available in late November. It involved administration but more importantly, it is also partly online publishing. Here was my chance to get back to Communications. Online publishing was something I wanted to do even with my former job in the Philippines. And the administration part includes securing copyright, etc. It literally set my pulse raising looking at the job ad. Then when I looked at the package it was higher than the minimum set by Centrelink for me to sponsor Gryphon!

I was so nervous and so eager to get the job that I did not have a great first interview. The very things I did not want to say came out of my mouth. But praise God because I did well in the practical part and my resume was good so I was invited for a second interview. I was encouraged to be more expansive. I really find it hard to do the "confident-I-have-what-it-takes-so-pick-me" sort of thing that is required but I managed. By the grace of our Lord, the job was offered to me last December 22. I will start my new role on the 3rd of January. After two years, I'm back to editing and working with html.

So for now, I dearly want to say goodbye to all the heartaches of 2005 and finally be with the love of my life in 2006. And to begin a job that is dear to my heart. It is solely by God's grace that I have gotten to this point. I am still learning how to budget and how to cook but I am thankful that I was forced to start learning. I so look forward to looking for a new place to call home and to prepare for Gryphon's arrival.

To all of you who have supported us through your kind words and prayers, thank you very much. Sorry if I have been quiet in this blog for many months. It's just that I have taken the opportunity to talk to my husband and family whenever I'm online. And I did not want to fill my posts with the discouragements I was feeling. And to those who have sent me online cards, thank you. I won't be able to reply for a while since I do not have access to a PC for several weeks. Anyway, see you in 2006! Good things do come to those who wait (or who are forced to wait).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible

I didn't make that title up. That was the title of a "news report" about the Roman Catholic stance on Intelligent Design. I don't know how biased the writer is, but it appears that the Roman Catholic church "supporting" Darwinism is big news simply because it is the Catholic Church (you know, the uber-conservative "Christian" church of the world) that is seemingly supporting it.

Of course, I don't know what Pope Benedict thinks about all this. And not all Catholics, I presume, believes that. But I would like, again, to call attention to the fact that the RCC is willing to compromise on the important issue of the creatorship of God but is adamant about their stance on priestly celibacy (which the apostles never followed) or transubstantiation (which is even more unscientific than anything I know). Perhaps that accusations of the RCC being Babylon the Harlot is true after all, although I never would have guessed such strange bedfellows.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Scuba diving are for those who can swim underwater

Among those books which my wife and I count as one of our favorites is the perennial favorite Pride and Prejudice. One of the surest ways to get my wife tingling with nostalgia is to quote to her that "[i]t is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." We loved the book; and we also loved the mini-series that BBC made... the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The book was high romance and poignant fiction. I have met very few here in the Philippines that think highly of the book. I have also yet to see any local "rendition" of this book in any Pinoy movie or tele-serye, which I thought was strange. While Helen Fielding, creator of Bridget Jone's Diary, had to create different situations to make the basic plot believable, I am quite sure that an "authentic" Pinoy rendition is possible if handled correctly.

There are some who think that this would not be very easy, and I would agree with them, but I suspect that they have other reasons for thinking that it is a difficult undertaking. For one thing, I suspect that even Pinoys have this feeling that whatever the situation in Georgian England is irrelevant to that of modern Philippines, probably even more irrelevant than it is for modern Great Britain. If that is how they feel, I would disagree. If there was any place in the world that still discriminates people based on the highness and lowness of birth, the quality of connections, the power granted by owning land and having money, and the over-bearing sense of propriety, that would be turn-of-the-millenium Philippines for you, right down to the dot.

If I had a peso for every time I heard a fellow Pinoy talk about another Pinoy using the the phrase "Sino ba ang nanay at tatay niyan? Sino ba ang pamilya niyan?" I guess I'd have enough to purchase myself a really good MP3 player (perhaps I should have wished for a twenty-peso bill for every time I heard it). Of course, Pinoys may argue that that isn't the case at all and that all Pinoys have equal opportunity to get ahead in the world. What a lovely sentiment... unfortunately, so very trite. One only has to see how people get positions not only in government but in companies to see that one's pedigree is so vastly important that one has to be so shockingly brilliant in order to penetrate the "inner circle." If this were not true, there would be no political and socio-economic "dynasties" in the Philippines. Unfortunately, like the Gardiner's in Pride and Prejudice, sometimes intellect and wit are not enough to get them accepted unless one of their own would marry into a good family.

Connections, too, are very important in determining your place in the socio-economic heirarchy, just as much as it was in Jane Austen's time. It is who you know that is important, and this is a simple test. A new graduate's chances of getting a really good job is determined, first of all, by that graduate's alma mater, connection number one. If one is unfortunate enough not to graduate from any of the "ivy league" universities, there is still a chance, but one should know somebody in that company/institution one wants to join... and the more powerful that somebody, the better the position that can be offered (connection number two). I suspect that most of the jobs that people hold are not found through the classifieds so much as they are "internally" advertised to those friends, family and acquaintances of the existing employees. Even getting Ninongs and Ninangs and a batch of friends and acquaintances are based on whom you already know. Again, just as discrimination by pedigree, one must be smarter than a whip in order to be able to circumvent this, but even then, not by much.

Of course, one can get away with being rude, ill-bred and generally obnoxious if one is filthy rich. The Bingley sisters and Lady Catherine de Bourgh can afford their high-handed, high-brow attitudes only because they have personal fortunes, in the same way that Kris Aquino and Ruffa Guttierez-Bektas can get away with behavior that would have gotten severe ostracization if they were less moneyed, lower pedigreed and not so well connected. And they are just the more obvious examples. In the meantime, the poorer, humbly pedigreed and poorly connected folks must make vigilantly sure that their manners are impeccable (no matter how brilliant or talented they are) when with their more fortunate brethren, if they want to keep whatever station they currently have.

But all this is not my point. My point is that, a Filipinized version of Pride and Prejudice can be so accurately and faithfully adapted even for modern Pinoy society. I mean, those jologs who lap up "Jewel in the Palace" and other imported mini-series enjoy them, no matter how sophisticated their plots are and no matter how subtle the dramatic acting; so, why shouldn't they go crazy over a Pinoy Pride and Prejudice? Well-written and well-adapted, it can provide a social mirror to our society, much better than the over-used comedy motifs and archetypes that Philippine TV is crawling with. And the ratings can go through the roof.

But maybe I am too optimistic. My wife used to hide her love for these sort of books and suppress the natural desire to discuss social issues when she was still here in the Philippines because Pinoys, in general, hate such tendencies. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "Masyado kang bookish" or "Masyado kang seryoso" (I wish I had a hundred pesos for every time I heard it—it would be enough to allow me to purchase my own condominium). So many Pinoys are so bent on finding something to laugh at that they would hear the same old stale variations of "wala kayo sa lolo ko" and think it is the funniest thing in the world (one reason why I like Michael V. over Dolphy and Vic Sotto any day—because he finds innovative jokes that are also subtle satires of Pinoy society. . . now, there's a wit!). Even in Australia, where she is now, where she can express her love of books without seeming to be "wierd" my wife would have to occassionally clam up when she is with expats from the Philippines.

In fact, the more I think of it, the less optimistic I become. When Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were made into what I consider well-made mini-series, it never broke any ratings records. Not for lack of trying, but rather because of a deficiency of "connections" and "pedigree"—it was made by PTV 4 with a low budget, almost no promotion, and with no big-name stars like Vilma or Nora. Whereas a zany series like Full House or and even the infamous Meteor Garden became a part of pinoy pop culture (down to their ridiculous haircuts and misogynism) only because they were shown on the mega-networks. If a Pinoy Pride and Prejudice were to be produced in any network but GMA 7 or ABS-CBN 2, and not starring any of the big-names, I guess one shouldn't expect it to be successful, no matter how well-crafted.

Who would want to watch Pride and Prejudice? Mas nakaka-aliw to watch Dolphy do the nth variation of his stale joke, or see Vic cavorting around as if he's as young as his grown-up son, or view over-melodramatic pilit na tear-jerkers with over-acting "big name" actors yelling and crying all over the place. Thank God that the Koreans and Kiwis are much more sensible, and create stuff that we can import and enjoy. . . and hopefully inspire some of our young ones to someday reform our entertainment industry.

So. . . what has this to do with scuba diving? Well, those who content themselves to wade at the beach will only hope to see so much gray sand and other people. Only those scuba divers who dare and are willing to go deeper are granted with the privelege to gaze at wonders and come back with stories to tell.