“Visiting the California School of the Deaf in Fremont” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Oct. 1-7, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of October 1-7, 2014

VISITING THE CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF THE DEAF IN FREMONT

Almost a year ago, I went to the open house of the California School of the Deaf (CSD) in Fremont, CA. It was one of the requirements for one of my classes at Chabot College at that time, American Sign Language (ASL) 64, the most basic level. The following was the reaction paper I wrote after my visit.

“I am writing this on Nov. 11, 2013 (Monday, Veterans Day), the same day that I attended the CSD Open House in the Fremont campus. I wanted to put it down on paper at once, while the experience is still fresh in my mind, and before I get deluged by other requirements from my other subjects towards the end of the semester.

The first thing I did was just to circle the grounds, looking at the numbered buildings, trying to get a sense of the size of the campus. Except for speaking people here and there, it was mostly quiet, which at first disoriented me. From similar previous events that I’ve attended, my experience had been that loud music would be blaring, and that speaking people would almost be shouting at each other to be heard above the other noises in the gathering. I could see a lot of people confidently signing away. Man, they sign sooo fast! I’m just watching from the sidelines but it’s hard for me to keep up with what’s being said. I was especially touched when I observed some children who already have the ability to express themselves in sign language. I tried to put myself in their shoes, but I failed miserably because I couldn’t imagine myself without the power of hearing and speech from a young age. As I observed these children, my admiration for them grew in proportion to what I perceive to be the “difficulties” of being deaf in a mostly hearing and speaking world. It’s a good thing, therefore, that there are schools like CSD that serve these students, instilling confidence and life skills so that they can navigate the world around them.

After circling the perimeters of the campus, I decided to buy some hot chocolate from the Early Childhood Education stand. Since I forgot how to sign “hot chocolate,” I just pointed at their written signboard. When the lady signed “hot chocolate,” I quickly imitated her and nodded my head. When she handed me my cup, I was able to sign: “Toilet, where?” (That much I remembered.) She answered me with hand gestures which I understood.

Next, I went to the library where there was a book fair and art exhibit going on. I took a couple of photos of artworks that I liked. One photo shows “It’s Raining Audists Outside” by student Yordi Morales which strongly resembles a specific series of paintings by my favorite Surrealist, the Belgian-born René Magritte. Another photo shows “Deaf Identity Shattered” by Jasmine Sanchez on the left and “a World of Language is in Our Hands” by LiAn Jackson on the right. Apparently there is an art movement called DeVIA art (Deaf View/Image Art) which expresses Deaf perspectives, experience, and insights. Art teacher David Call is a well-known DeVIA artist. From an early age, I have always appreciated various forms of art, so I am glad that the students of CSD have a venue for self-expression. I did notice that hands and eyes seem to figure a lot in many of the works of art that I saw in the exhibit. I assume that this is logical, since the Deaf and hard of hearing do use their hands and eyes/facial expressions in their regular communications. I also assume that these young artists felt compelled to depict hands and eyes since these are within the realm of their everyday experiences. In the same way that aspiring writers are advised to “write from what they know,” I would think that these gifted artists were given a similar advice in what to portray in their artworks. Based on what I saw in the exhibit, the student-artists of CSD are a very talented group indeed!

Then from 11:45 am to 12:10 pm, I decided to join the Campus Life Tour which started at the High School Activity Center #15. There was a man who gave an orientation in ASL and a woman who interpreted via speech for him. At the same time, there was another man who interpreted in Spanish for a Latina student in the group. I must confess that had it not been due to the lady interpreter, I would not have caught up with what the man was signing. Then our big group was split into two and we toured a couple of cottages, one for boys and another for girls, which are part of their Independent Living Skills (ILS) program, a stay-in high school program with provision for after-school activities, counseling, and training in ILS.

Finally, I went over to the gym where CSD is having its Deaf Services Faire. There were a lot of vendors, from those selling their handmade arts and crafts to a couple of booths offering mobile communication options for the Deaf, like the “ntouch Mobile” with the SVRS* smart phone app (*Sorenson Video Relay Service). But the one that drew my attention most was the Bay Area Asian Deaf Association (BAADA) booth. I greeted the lady and wrote on a piece of paper: “Do you have Filipino members?” She wrote back: “Yes, our BAADA President is from the Philippines.” Then she showed me one of their organization’s newsletters and pointed out the photo of the current Filipina president, Ms. Maria Tanya Guzman-Viera. Then I asked her in ASL what her name was, and she signed: “Michelle Y.” When I got home, I took a look at their website (www.baada.us) and learned that I was actually talking to Ms. Michelle Yook who is a Board Member of BAADA.

In summary, my experience of attending the CSD Open House has been very enriching. It gave me a glimpse of a different world. I did not feel nervous about communicating and I was glad to use the basic ASL that I knew to ask questions and sustain mini-conversations. Personally, I have always been a seeker of solitude and silence, but the Deaf community takes silence to a whole new level. I could never totally say that I know what a Deaf person goes through, although now I have a better idea. From what I have seen today, there is a strong Deaf community around us which is very supportive in encouraging the education, self-expression, and independence of its members.”

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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com

“Off-the-top-of-my-head Book List: The Top 10 (or more)” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Sept. 17-23, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Sept. 17-23, 2014

OFF-THE TOP-OF-MY-HEAD BOOK LIST: THE TOP 10 (OR MORE)

In a typical knee-jerk reflex, I will now react to the tagging going around Facebook nowadays. As I understand it, the person posts his/her Top 10 books that made a lasting impression on him/her but not to overthink it. Then she will tag other friends of hers so that they in turn can name their Top 10 books, and so on.

Well, I am anticipating that somebody would be tagging me soon, or if not, then I might as well tell you what my Top 10 books are, so that you in turn can email me about your list and we can learn from what each of us recommends. There are some caveats here: first of all, I’m not really a fan of e-books. Most books on my list are still with me and I continue to re-read some of them as the mood hits or time permits. I can hold these books in my hands, turn the pages, and smell the pages as I flip through them if I want to. Another warning is that my list will probably be more than 10 separate books – but not if I group them by author or genre. Having said all that, here are the top books on my list with some explanations as needed.

1. A. Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs – taught me the basics of astrology and character delineation when I was 11 years old
B. Linda Goodman’s Relationship Signs – bought in the year 2000, this book gave me the confidence to draw my own natal charts for family and friends because of the ephemerides (planetary tables) included in it
C. Linda Goodman’s Venus Trines at Midnight – Linda wanted to be known not just as an astrologer but as a poet, too. This slim volume gives her wish justice.
2. Watership Down by Richard Adams – This tale of a hardy band of talking wild rabbits and their adventures first captivated me when I was 12 years old. I believe I revisit this tale every 12 years hence. Bigwig was my favorite, and of course the Chief Rabbit, Hazel. It goes without saying that rabbits have their own language which Adams fleshes out very creatively.
3. Marie Laveau by Francine Prose – This novel about a powerful medicine woman in New Orleans at the time of the Civil War captured my imagination when I was about 12 or 13. The mystical passages, the mention of astrological signs, the gossiping among the “colored,” and the characters from their world of voodoo and superstition all inspired me to examine the supernatural and the metaphysical. It broke my heart that Marie (a Scorpio) can’t hold on to her man, Jacques (a Taurus) (thereby astrological opposites) because they forgot to invite the voodoo goddess of love to their wedding. The goddess therefore lured Jacques to be with herself and not with Marie. With her new man, Christophe (an Aries), Marie learned her lesson and lit an altar to the goddess so that she may not take this one, too. Scorpio and Aries are both ruled by Mars. Christophe and Marie went on to have a child, Ti-Marie (an Aquarius), who eventually took over her mother’s practice. Oh, and have I mentioned that when Marie holds her healing dances in the plaza in the evenings, she has a long and big neon-green snake hiding in her lustrous long black hair? She uses the snake to heal.
4. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD – This autographed book secured by my Mom after she attended Jamison’s lecture at Cal State East Bay inspired me to form the first ever support group in the Philippines for outpatients with mental illnesses. It’s called the Biopsychosocial Support & Interaction Group (BISIG), established on Aug. 13, 2000 in Metro Manila. BISIG still exists and is still based in The Medical City (TMC) in Pasig City.
5. A B N K K B S N P L Ako? By Bob Ong – Funny, whimsical, and nostalgia-inducing adventures and musings of a student from grade school to college and back again.
6. The Portable Magritte with an introduction by Robert Hughes – a collection of the works of my favorite Surrealist painter, René Magritte
7. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – What’s all the fuss about being purebloods and mudbloods? Down with racism and discrimination, even in Potterworld!
8. The Purpose-Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren – Even though I’ll be the first one to admit that I swear no allegiance to any religion, not for a number of years now, I’ll also admit that once upon a time, this book made a lot of sense to me. I have kept the notebook where I jotted down my answers, Biblical passages, and reflections for each of the 40-day commitment requested by the book. Once in a blue moon (rare!) I look at what I’ve written (circa 2003) and the gist of it still resonates somehow, if not the details.
9. The Crossfire Series: Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You by Sylvia Day – If you want pulsating passion with heart and imagination, look no further than this romance-novel phenomenon who looks beautiful in her inside-cover-of-the-book photo, too. Sylvia Day’s novels are definitely better than E.L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey,” which after Volume 1 I already found boringly repetitive.
10. On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, MD – With my Aries Sun and Pisces Moon both in the 8th house of death and transformation, I wonder no more why I am fascinated by death in all its beauty and ferocity. For Dr. Kübler-Ross to verbalize the “stages of grief” is to me a truly groundbreaking phenomenon, although she said later on in her life that those stages do not follow a neat linear pattern, i.e., they can happen up and down the scale, all at the same time, some of them some of the time, etc. In other words, the experience of grief is unique to each of us. What we share is the universality of being affected by it at all.

Now that I have shared my Top 10 book list with all of you, would you please honor me by sharing yours? Don’t worry about me, I can take it, whatever profound book you dish out that I haven’t read yet. I consider myself a perpetual learner and a literacy advocate. Believe me, somehow I will always find time to read a book or two – but only upon your recommendation. Hit me with your hit list: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com
Maraming salamat and Abyssinia next week!

(Image courtesy of Pinterest)

“A Sampling Of Overseas Filipino Workers 2.0” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Sept. 10-16, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Sept. 10-16, 2014

A SAMPLING OF OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS 2.0

First, we answer the question about last week’s creative writing game. We asked which between Stories A (the high school reunion) or B (the poetry contest) is truth and which is fiction. The answer: Story B is the truth. How did you do in figuring it out? Here’s an interesting feedback from one reader: “Blesilda: These are tricky – both are well-written, personalized, and have “larger-than-life” claims, which they support well with many details. If not for the romantic end here, this one feels most authentic and particular. The poetry contest one does have the resonant father angle but is not technically as detailed, or for me, convincing – still I’ll vote for it (because of the ending here, which I hope is true ).” Thanks to Mr. SW for the feedback! You sure got it right. Maybe you’re a father yourself so the father angle in Story B did resonate with you.

To continue with the disclosure, I did win first place in an international poetry contest in 2006 sponsored by the International Society of Poets (ISP). I honestly don’t know if ISP is still in existence because less than a year after I won, the mighty moving spirit behind it, Dr. Len Roberts, he of the multi-awarded poetry volumes and academic inclinations, passed away. Anyway, part of my prize is a book-publishing contract. It’s a good thing that I already have a manuscript to submit, since I’ve been dreaming about publishing my poetry since around 1996, when I was still in the Philippines. It took 10 years for my dream to come true. You can find my poetry book, “A Novice in Altruism and other Poems” at the Arkipelago Bookstore in San Francisco and the Revolution Bookstore in Berkeley. This includes my winning poem, “Villanelle of a Retired Overseas Filipino Worker” on page 64.

Now in honor of Labor Day last Sept. 1, let me tell you some stories of overseas Filipino workers. These are people who are known to me but I will change their names for the sake of their privacy. Anyway, I will just be presenting broad strokes about their lives so that we can get a sense of how diverse their working situations are. I know a couple of San Pedro Elementary School classmates who are in Italy now. Mina is a nurse in Bologna, single and sending several Manila-based nieces and nephews to school. Gabby got married just recently and migrated with his wife to Rome where they both work as engineers. In Zurich, Switzerland, my friend Susan is a number-cruncher/database manager for a certain teaching hospital. In addition to her job, she is managing a household of “boys”: her German husband (also working) and two active kids. Closer to home, there’s Viva who works as an office manager for a Silicon Valley company in San Mateo. After office hours, expect Viva to be in some party scene! There’s Pearl, a single woman in her 50s, a graduate of Economics from the University of the Philippines (UP), now working as a caregiver. Being Kapampangan, she sure whips up one helluva ginataang bola-bola with langka or a viand such as beef stew or pork sinigang. There’s Doc Tommy, my classmate at the UP College of Medicine Class 1994, who is now an infectious diseases specialist-consultant in a NorCal health facility. He says that most of the patients he sees are AIDS patients as part of his advocacy. Another classmate, Doc Sammy, is in Portland, Oregon as a pediatrician. He says that he recently limited his practice to only 0.8 time (i.e., Fridays off) “to prevent early burnout since retirement is still a long way off.” Way to go, Doc Sammy!

My former co-worker in a retirement center, Eduardo, hails from Quezon City and has been in the States since a few months after my own migration in late 2004. Ever since I’ve known him, he has held two jobs at the same time so that he could send a regular remittance to his wife and kids in the Philippines. As soon as he was able to do so, Eduardo petitioned them to join him in Hayward, and now they’re here with him, making him so thankful and happy. On the weekends as he has always done, Eduardo still collects bottles, cans, and plastic containers for selling to recycling centers. He continues to work as a driver for an adult daycare center and as a custodian for another care home. He has diabetes but that doesn’t deter him from working hard.

Another overseas Filipino worker whose story truly touched my heart was Tita Connie’s. She hails from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, a province south of the Philippines. She migrated to NorCal in 1996 and worked as a caregiver. With her savings from her job, she was able to send all of her four children to school. One is a supervisor for Continental Airlines in Tennessee while also on the Army Reserve, another is working in electronics in Fremont, another one is a CPA, and still another is a farmer and councilman in their barangay in Pagadian. Apart from that, Tita Connie had six other scholars from her hometown who are unrelated to her. These scholars are now all college graduates, a pastor and a motorcycle dealer among them. Furthermore, from her savings she was able to have a couple of sizeable houses constructed on the farmland that she owns. Right now her politician-son and his family live in the older house while one of her scholars and a helper live in the newer house. During Tita Connie’s 60th birthday celebration seven years ago (Dec. 8, 2007), a lot of people took their turn on the stage to pay tribute to the birthday girl for all the good she has contributed to the community. Some of her scholars were also there, saying that if it weren’t for Tita Connie, their dreams for a better life through education would not have come true. Nowadays, Tita Connie at 66 is still working as a caregiver and has no plans of “retiring,” since working keeps her mind and body active. As long as she has the strength and compassion to do her job well, Tita Connie will still be reporting for caregiver duty for quite a long time.

There you have it, snippets about a variety of overseas Filipino workers as they live and work today. Some stories are typical in that you know someone in a similar situation. Some are white-collar or blue-collar, high-end or low-end. Personally, I think this two-point-oh reimagining of the OFW in the 21st century is timeless and relatable, no matter what station in life we may be in.

If you come across my poetry book and turn to “Villanelle of a Retired Overseas Filipino Worker”… well first of all, you must know that villanelles in general tend to be sad one way or another, the way it repeats certain lines like a chant. Villanelle of a retired OFW? Guaranteed to be sad in another context. “Nobody is left for me to astound. / The ship of my heart has run aground” go the last two lines. You don’t know how many have emailed me after I won that ISP contest and told me how they said they could identify with the persona in the poem. All of us, the hardworking and caring OFWs that we are: we are united in heart and mind no matter where we may be in the diaspora. Hopefully we have established loving relationships with family and friends. When we retire someday and find our contemporaries dying one by one, let’s pray that we have stored enough good memories to look back on and sustain us because at some point, memories will be all that we would have. Ain’t that the sobering truth. And if we’re lucky, maybe some love left over.
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Please tell me what you think: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com
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“Using The Tarot For Problem-Solving” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014

USING THE TAROT FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING

In our English 1A class this summer, our professor asked the whole class what our respective passions are. I told my group mates Luis and Markus that mine are astrology, tarot, and metaphysics in general. I told them how I love the feeling of being able to inhabit that sacred circle with my client to counsel or simply to listen. I told them that it is my honor and privilege to be of help that way. All of that is true. Add to that my desire that my client leave the consulting session with renewed hope and a sense of wonder about the events in their life after seeing them in a different, more positive light, and I have the perfect formula for my personal passion, indeed.

However, as we know, there are segments of our society that are against the use of divination methods such as astrology and tarot for the following reasons: 1. Only God knows the future. 2. The Bible warns against soothsayers, especially in the last days (see the Book of Revelation). 3. Fortune-telling is like listening to angels and then predicting the future from angelic messages and this is haram (forbidden), as can be read from The Quran chapter 53-The Star (especially 53/38). (Technical note: That’s how we write chapter and verse from The Quran, so the previous numbers mean “chapter 53, verse 38.”) 4. Other people turn it into a fate-versus-free will issue and believe that they alone are the masters of their own fate. 5. Astrology can go hang, and the tarot, too, in their estimation. They simply do not believe in these things.

Well, you could say that I’m a tarot apologist, having used these cards to my clients’ satisfaction since 2004. My personal tarot story actually began during Christmas 2003, when I was still in the Philippines. With the usual Balikbayan Box from my parents and youngest sister living in Hayward, California came gifts and goodies of all sorts, of course, but included with all those great stuff is this large-ish red box addressed to no one. I was immediately drawn to it because the transparent hard plastic cover reveals what’s inside: “The Tarot – The Traditional Tarot Reinterpreted for the Modern World” by Adam Fronteras. I immediately thought that this, among others, is surely a gift to me of my youngest sister Edna, my benefactress and moral supporter from afar.

I appropriated the book-and-deck set for myself and started teaching myself the meanings of all the 78 cards. I found that writing down the meanings straight from the book and into my journal aided me a lot in retaining what I was trying to memorize. I read the cards for myself. I read for my relatives and friends. When enough people had been telling me months after their reading that “what I said” actually came true for them (more on this later), that’s when I decided that I could do this: read tarot for others, and that’s exactly what I did.

These days I prefer giving tarot readings rather than astrological readings, which requires more “prep time.” A tarot reading to me is more in-the-moment, more spontaneous, but no less helpful than an astrological reading, in which I have to ask the client for date/time/place of birth. Usually people don’t know what time they were born, so only an “approximate chart” could be done in the meantime. With a tarot reading, on the other hand, birth data is optional so my client and I can concentrate on: problem-solving.

Here are some facts that I know to be true about the tarot:
1. If you’ve been browsing through tarot books like “Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack, “Pictorial Key to the Tarot” by Arthur Edward Waite, or “Tarot for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation” by Mary K. Greer (all in my personal library), you will find out that these books designate the element of Air to the Suit of Swords and Fire to the Suit of Wands. Contrary to that, Adam Fronteras assigns Fire to the Suit of Swords because one needs fire to fashion this weapon, and he assigns Air to the Suit of Wands because its original material, wood, needs air to grow and thrive. Although Fronteras’ view is not the conventional one, I have followed his system from the very start and as I did more and more readings, his system made more and more sense. So the suits’ designations in my reading style are: Swords-Fire, Pentacles-Earth, Wands-Air, and Cups-Water.

2. Please do not be afraid of the Death card (XIII; the Scorpio card) or the Devil card (XV; the Capricorn card). The Death card is “NOT about physical death but more about transformation, the death of the old self and the birth of a new person (Fronteras).” When this card appears in the reading, one needs to regenerate and set new goals for herself. It is advisable to “welcome the changes – refuse them and they will be forced upon you.” On the other hand, the Devil card warns about getting too materialistic and being excessively under the influence of others. Like the Death card, this one is also about change, “the person can and should make changes in his/her life.” The Devil card may also indicate “excessive concern with sexual conquest” and as a card of temptation, it serves as a warning to the “seeker” or “querent” (what we formally call our clients).

3. The lowdown on “what I said came true”: If any of the seekers whom I have served are reading this, I hope you remember what I told you about this in my introductory spiel before or during the reading. The reading is totally about you! You’re the one who shuffled the tarot cards while thinking of a wish (remember?) so right from the outset, from that point on until the end of the reading at least, the tarot cards are yours. You’ve imbued them with your energy and if you were truly totally open, you were accessing your subconscious/spirit/whatever you want to call it so that you can contribute your share to the consultation. The ten cards you chose for the first part of the reading (there are 5 to 6 parts of the readings I give) are the choices of your Higher Self, which according to some is just another name for an Angel. In effect, your Higher Self=Angel was sending you messages through the cards that you pick from a face-down deck that you had just shuffled. That should be enough to baffle and mystify you. So therefore it’s NOT I who “said something that came true”: it was YOU, yes it’s you who made it happen! You manifested in physical reality what was already said and done first in the higher realms, the realm of God. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” right? One prays, one consults oracles trying to confirm a fervent hope, one prays some more, and if it’s God’s will, then it shall come to pass. As above, so below.

I have been told that because I have a mole on the right side of my upper lip directly under my right nostril, I am a “powerful psychic woman.” I tried to make sense of this remark because I don’t feel psychic at all vis-à-vis my clients saying, “Hey Bles, what you told me actually happened. How did you know what’s down the road?” How? Like I told you, I merely translate/interpret the cards that the seeker has chosen. He/she is also entitled to three questions answerable by Yes or No. We also read from the Spiritual Rx, Fairy Oracle, Angel Oracle, and Saint Raphael Healing Cards. For “audience participation,” I usually have the client write down his/her own affirmations and card meanings based on what was picked from each deck. After doing all of that, it is my hope that the client will come away feeling that some of her prayers have already been answered through the reading, or that she has been asking for a sign and a particular card turns up for her, or it may be one of those yes-no questions that finally settles some matter in her mind – it could be anything. The entire process gives me personal joy and fulfillment, knowing that I am helping my client, just being present with her, lending a listening ear or a giving a word of advice, when asked. Like I mentioned earlier, the sacred space enveloping the both of us, counselor and counselee, is what energizes the two of us into an insightful exploration of her dilemma. Tarot at its finest is not just about fortune-telling, and I do not have anything against fortune-telling. But I do feel that for those of us charged with using the tarot to actually help clients solve their problems through symbols and metaphors, then we have a serious responsibility indeed.

As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben had said, God bless his soul: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Please smile. Let me try an Oscar Wilde-ish quote of my own: “Think only with half of your mind and leave the other half for thinking about nothing at all.” —original quote by yours truly. Now please smile again. Abyssinia next week!

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For comments, feedback and other stuff, email me at pilipinasblitz@gmail.com

“Serafin Lanot and ‘A New Look at Astrology Through Filipino Eyes” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (August 20-26, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of August 20-26, 2014

SERAFIN LANOT AND “A NEW LOOK AT ASTROLOGY THROUGH FILIPINO EYES”

The grand-daddy of all Filipino astrologers is definitely Mr. Serafin Lanot, born on August 21, 1913 in Boac, Marinduque province, Philippines, and died on September 22, 1993. A highly intelligent and multi-talented Leo with an Aries Moon and Sagittarius rising (Wow, all that fire!), Mr. Lanot was also a poet, essayist, editor, and organizer of groups devoted to the study of astrology in the Philippines especially in the 1980s. I have never met him personally but Mr. Lanot and I shared a connection nevertheless. How? You ask.

You see, when I was on summer vacation between my third and fourth year in high school (1986), I and a couple of my classmates at the Manila Science High School were chosen to participate in what was called the Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar (AJSS), the aim of which is to give high school juniors a head start on college readiness. Now the Ateneo de Manila is considered the best Catholic-Jesuit private school system in the country, and there’s always this rivalry between those who studied in the “pang-masa” University of the Philippines like me and my younger sister Cherry (number one daw ang U.P.) and those who studied at the more “elitist” Arr-ne-oww like my only brother Darwin (a graduate of the Physics-Computer Engineering double-major). My only point for elaborating thus is to describe to you the milieu as I was experiencing it then.

So, on with the explanation of my “connection” with Mr. Lanot: There I was, in one of the best libraries I have ever been to (believe me, at 15 years old and given my bookwormy nature, I know my libraries), and it was still the “card catalogue” system that’s in force then, and the first thing I gravitate to is the lone card under “astrology.” Making short work of jotting down the call number, I go to the shelves and locate – ta-dah! “A New Look at Astrology Through Filipino Eyes” by Serafin Lanot, copyright 1982. My hands shook the first time I held the book and flipped through the parchment-like pages. My mind was blown away by what he was proposing. Such a radical idea, I thought at that time (more on this later). At the time, since I didn’t have an Ateneo de Manila library card, my two options were either to photocopy parts of the book or write it out longhand in a notebook for the purpose. Guess what a middle-class high school junior chose? What I did was this: every single day, during lunch break from our AJSS academic subjects, I walked to the library, took the book from the shelf, and then copied the portions I found shockingly innovative into my dog-eared journal. One chapter at a time. I don’t think I finished copying down the entire book, but I was confident that I got the parts that were new to me and therefore worthy of further study.

So there. That was my magical connection with Mr. Lanot circa 1986. I felt less alone in my love for astrology, excited that someone of Mr. Lanot’s stature is writing about the subject. Looking back now, I’m impressed re: his stature because there was a time that under one presidency, Mr. Lanot was appointed to be the Director of Printing, a high government position.

So I’m asking rhetorically: He never hid his astrological interests despite holding a responsible public position, right? Well, bravo and good for him! Le Coeur d’Leon: the heart of a lion indeed! I could sure hear him roar back then through the vibrant ideas in the pages of his book!

Now just what are these revisionist ideas that Serafin Lanot espouses? First of all, back in one of the 1980s conventions of the American Federation of Astrologers (AFA), Mr. Lanot was the only Filipino invited to speak and he was even made a member of the AFA convention faculty that year. This is on the strength of the abovementioned astrology book, which was widely read not only in his home country and the United States, but in Europe as well. He presented his paper called “One World, One Astrology.” Here is what Ime Morales, in the blog “Astrology Friends Philippines,” documented:

“He wrote in that paper: ‘Now is the time for astrologers to assume the leadership in this fight for change, no longer as mere consultants and counselors to money changers and reactionary leaders, but as leaders themselves during this Age of Aquarius, assuming the mantle of seer and sage that both history and legend have thrust upon us. He went on to propose a “one world, one astrology” based on “reason, intuition and inspiration, to harmonize the opposing astrologist views held by East and West. East and West are merely dimensions of a circle, astrology must not forget that they constitute the whole sphere. They motivate each other and their values must be considered as complementary, not as oppositions. My view is that moon and sun should be given the same importance together and that interpretations of the horoscope should be holistic.”

As if proposing that the Sun and the Moon be given equal importance in the horoscope wasn’t wild enough, Mr. Lanot wanted to change the planet rulerships of the 12 signs of the zodiac by including the four asteroids, injecting much-needed female archetypes into the zodiac and ending male chauvinism in the same. The way Mr. Lanot explained it, we will now have 5 female planets (Venus, joined by the asteroids Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta), 5 male planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto), and a couple of hermaphroditic planets (Mercury and Uranus to represent what he called then as “homosexuals” or “the third sex” but what whose designation we will now update as the LGBT community. He said that there are now enough astronomical discoveries such that we can proceed to assign a single planet exclusively for one sign without any duplication.

The Rulers of Lanot’s Proposed Zodiac
Aries – Mars
Taurus – Ceres instead of Venus
Gemini – Mercury
Cancer – Juno
Leo – Jupiter
Virgo – Vesta
Libra – Venus
Scorpio – Pluto
Sagittarius – Pallas
Capricorn – Saturn
Aquarius – Uranus
Pisces – Neptune

A New Look at Astrology nookIf you come think of it and if we really know our mythology and symbolism, we may find ourselves actually agreeing to some extent about Mr. Lanot’s ideas. Last year, Astrology Friends Philippines headed by renowned financial astrologer Resti H. Santiago celebrated the Centennial of Mr. Lanot’s life and works. I pay tribute to Mr. Lanot now on his birth month and thank him for invisibly guiding my hand when I was 15 years old through his awe-inspiring book, “A New Look at Astrology Through Filipino Eyes.” Maraming salamat po, Ka Serafin!

“On IQ, EI/EQ, and Multiple Intelligences” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (August 13-19, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever

A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of August 13-19, 2014

ON IQ, EI/EQ, AND MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

A week ago, I saw something on my Facebook wall: an invite to take a free IQ test from memorado.com. The lure to take the exam was impossible to ignore, and so take the exam I did. Apparently this brief IQ quiz has been going the rounds among my Manila Science High School batch mates. After you take the quiz, you’re given the option to post your score and invite your other friends to take the quiz.

According to that quiz, my IQ was 132 and that I belong to the top 2% of people in terms of IQ. A long time ago, when I was first diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, I took a formal and lengthy pen-and-paper IQ test and my result was 127. This morning, I took a timed 20-item IQ test online at freeiqtest.info and my result was 114. The average IQ is 100. Depending on which test I took, it was either I am 2 standard deviations above the mean or well within average. But what does IQ really measure?

The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is the standard measure of human intelligence in terms of these abilities: visual, verbal, abstract reasoning, arithmetic, spatial imagery, reading, vocabulary, memory, and general knowledge. IQ has been used as a predictor of educational achievement, job performance, special needs, and income. As such, many institutions, especially educational, have used IQ scores to predict the academic potential of students beginning at the pre-K level. A person’s IQ is useful because it may indicate how well he solves problems in real life and uses his practical judgment to sensibly approach everyday challenges. Sure, IQ is important. I’m all for measuring it. If your IQ is between 70-130, you are part of 95% of the population (a majority of us) whose IQ is within 2 standard deviations of the mean. However, I think that undue emphasis on IQ to the exclusion of other considerations like Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ) and multiple intelligences will be completely missing the point of a more holistic appraisal of one’s mental and emotional capabilities.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has also entered the lexicon as EQ after K. Beasley wrote an article, “The Emotional Quotient” for Mensa Magazine in May 1987. Daniel Goleman wrote the book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” in 1996 and in his article for the Harvard Business Review in 1998, he enumerates some EI qualities: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skill, empathy, and motivation. In the Dictionary of Psychology, emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”

Like I posted on my Facebook page when I posted my IQ 132 (memorado.com score), I say now that IQ does not matter as much as EQ, which make people act like grown-ups, taking responsibility for their own actions and acting out of love and respect for one another. IQ may describe someone being book-smart, but like I told my friend Ms. La Bella Dulce, what we need is to be street-smart: a tough hide for these tough times but still with a good heart.

To complement our discussion on IQ and EQ, let us now tackle Howard Gardner’s seminal contribution to the discussion on intelligence. In his groundbreaking 1983 book, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences,” Gardner proposed a seven-item criteria for behavior to be considered an intelligence. (There have been a couple of additions since then.) These intelligence modalities are

  1. Musical-rhythmic
  2. Visual-spatial
  3. Verbal-linguistic
  4. Logical-mathematical
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic
  6. Interpersonal – the ability to relate to others
  7. Intrapersonal – awareness of oneself
  8. Naturalistic – ecological awareness
  9. Existential – spiritual consciousness

Children are being evaluated for the multiple intelligences as early as pre-K to Kinder. The California Department of Education has an official form called the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) which the teachers use to report on the progress of each young student using 31 key points under 6 domains:

  1. Self and social development – self-esteem, impulse control, etc.
  2. Health – safety, personal care routines, etc.
  3. Language and literacy development
  4. Cognitive development – comprehension and expression of oral language, writing, etc.
  5. Mathematical development – number sense, time, etc.
  6. Physical development – gross motor movement, fine motor skills

We see in the foregoing that we are all potentially multi-faceted individuals who can name one, a couple, or more intelligences under our belt. Based on our combination of abilities and behaviors, we can go through life and use our ever-evolving intelligence to make sense of the world around us, interact with others, and possibly make contributions to our society. I hope that we won’t be snobs about other people’s IQ scores because that’s just not cool. It’s just the starting point of an interesting discussion, but we also need our EQ and multiple intelligences to move purposefully into action.

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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com

 

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE OF YOU WHO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Dear BISIG* members and supporters:
*Biopsychosocial Support & Interaction Group

By now you have heard of the unfortunate news that the great actor Robin Williams has taken his own life by asphyxiation through hanging. This saddens me to no end because he was one of us, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder aside from battling drug addiction and alcoholism. Robin’s death means that another one of us has succumbed to the most fatal consequence of an untreated mental illness or severe depression in particular: death by suicide.

All of us have cycled through our erratic moods throughout our lives. We’ve been there. We know. But you know what? We can’t presume to know anything about what Robin himself was going through. Each of our agonies is our own. We know well enough not to judge one another as we go through our “dark night(s) of the soul,” for there are many of those nights, indeed.

We’ve been there. We know.

Being depressed, in my personal experience, is being devoid of all feeling. My movements become listless and mechanical. I just want to stay in my room with the curtains drawn. My mind is so slow and uninspired, and there is such a psychic pain that is too deep for words that it cries out for release. When the depression is already this severe, I begin to seriously entertain the thought of ending my life, or as the euphemism goes, “I just want to disappear.”

When I am already at this point, nothing matters anymore. I become blasphemous: I simply don’t care anymore that taking my life would offend a Supreme Being or that taking my life would surely devastate my family and friends. I simply do not care anymore. But deciding to commit suicide is rarely the selfish decision that people with so little understanding consider it to be.

To the person about to commit suicide, what they’re probably thinking is that they don’t want to be a burden to their caregivers anymore so the family will be better off with him/her dead. Other reasons may justify the act in the mind of the afflicted that is already twisted with unbearable pain and despair. In the final analysis, who can ever understand why those “completed suicides” committed the ghastly deed?

Please bear with us.

I wish that people who do not have this terrible affliction (bipolar disorder, major depression, dysthymia, etc.) would begin to understand those of us who have one mental illness or another. Let’s keep the conversation open and loving. Let us be there for one another and PLEASE, remember that there is no shame or blame warranted when it comes to mental illnesses.

And for those of us who are battling depression now, please get help as soon as possible before your depression worsens. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER THROUGH YOUR DEPRESSION ALONE. Reach out to me, reach out to the group, reach out to your mental health professional, family, and the few friends who really understand you and are able to support you.

We thank God and Goddess for celebrities like Robin Williams for raising our consciousness about such a serious issue. I’m sorry that Robin has to die so that the spotlight can be focused on mental health. But just remember that suicide can also happen to ordinary people “leading lives of quiet desperation.” Let it not be you, let it not be me.

After I got through a very tough depressive period in my life years ago, I realized that hey, life is still worth living. YOUR LIFE IS WORTH LIVING.

Life may be painful sometimes, but it is always, always painfully beautiful.

“The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Virtually Unchanged In 222 Years” in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (July 30-August 5, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of July 30-Aug. 2, 2014

THE OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC: VIRTUALLY UNCHANGED IN 222 YEARS

Nowadays when people need information on a certain subject, the tendency is to Google the inquiry or use an electronic application (app). The information obtained is as close as one’s computer or cell phone screen at the snap of the fingers. But what if certain types of information were grouped together into one hard-copy publication so that you can find a multitude of useful data all in one place?

Such is the unique and continuing appeal of the Old Farmer’s Almanac (OFA) which first went into publication in the year 1792, sixteen years after the signing of the USA Declaration of Independence. An “almanac,” according to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “a publication containing astronomical and meteorological data for a given year, and often including a miscellany of other information.” The OFA, being such a reference book, contains highly practical information on many topics which are directed toward its primary intended audience: farmers, especially those in Dublin, New Hampshire, the city where OFA was founded. Hence, it was a compendium of organized facts like weather forecasts, planting charts, tide tables, astronomical data, recipes, and other useful articles in astronomy, gardening, sports, and farming. The Almanac has been in print without any yearly gap since 1792, thereby making it the oldest continuously published periodical in North America.The Old Farmer’s Almanac was founded, edited, and published by Robert B. Thomas of Massachusetts. From an initial distribution of 3,000 in the first year, circulation tripled to 9,000 in the following year, 1793. At that time, a copy of the book was sixpence or about four cents.

There were other competing almanacs during that time but the OFA enjoyed enduring success, surviving longer than similarly named contenders, thanks in the most part to Thomas’ being at the editorial helm for more than 50 years (1792-1846). In 1832, with his almanac having outlasted others of its kind, Thomas added the word “Old” in the title but he dropped the word four years later in 1836. When John Henry Jenks was appointed editor with Thomas’ passing, the book’s name was permanently and officially revised to “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.”

The editors-in-chief of the Almanac, are counted from the founder, Robert B. Thomas in 1792 up to the current, 13th, first and only female so far, Janice Stillman, who took the reins in 2000 and is still serving at present. With regard to the succession of editors throughout the centuries, it can be said that some regimes introduced significant changes to the look and content of the Almanac, while some were content to merely keep the operations afloat with no intention to change anything. If we go back to the “ruling period” of John Henry Jenks (he was the editor from 1847-1860), it was then that the word “Old” was inserted into the publication’s title. Another change that Jenks initiated was the inclusion of the photo-engraving titled “Four Seasons” as the main cover illustration. This artwork was by Boston artist Hammatt Billings, engraved by Henry Nichols. Jenks dropped this cover for three years and then reinstated it permanently in 1855. This trademarked design is still in use today.

In the year 1858, President Abraham Lincoln may have used the Moon tables of the OFA to help his client, William “Duff” Armstrong, get acquitted. Armstrong was on trial for murder in Beardstown, Illinois (Illinois Historic Preservation Society). Apparently, the testimony of one eyewitness, Charles Allen, stated that he saw the crime happen by the light of the moon on August 29, 1857 (University of Illinois Library). However, the OFA stated that not only was the Moon in the first quarter (just waxing, definitely not full), but that it was also riding “low” on the horizon and about to set. However, since the actual hard copy of the almanac used by Lincoln in that trial was not retained for posterity, there still exists a bit of a controversy as to which almanac was actually used. In 2007, a competing almanac, the “Farmer’s Almanac,” based in Lewiston, Maine, ran an article claiming that the almanac in contention may have been one of theirs. Roger Scaife, if one was to go along with the historians at Almanac.com themselves, is definitely the “worst” editor that the OFA ever had. He took the reins in 1936 and for the first time in the Almanac’s history, circulation was down from previous years and the book’s financial status was questioned. His term coincided with the only time in the history of the Almanac that it declined precipitously in circulation and financial stability. (The 1938 edition had a circulation of only 88,000, compared with 225,000 in 1863!) Scaife also committed the greatest of all Almanac blunders: He dropped the weather forecasts! In their place, he substituted temperature and precipitation averages. The public outcry was so great that he reinstated the forecasts in the next year’s edition, but it was too late to save his reputation.

Relevance in the 21st century
Knowledge, entertainment, and instruction can be found in the pages of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. In fact, when one examines the Almanac, one finds that the pages are “busy” or crowded with all sorts of information. This was how the founder, publisher, and first editor Robert B. Thomas implemented the look he wanted for the publication; hence it has become a tradition. In my opinion, it is this hewing to tradition that contributes to the relevance of the Almanac to our current time. The retention of the Almanac’s essential look and purpose actually contributes to its relevance in the 21st century because its subscribers long for “the good old days.” There is comfort in knowing that some things will never change if those in charge can help it, and as proof, four million subscribers and counting as of the early 1990s when the publication hit its 200th year cannot all be wrong.

Edward Parks, in his article for the Smithsonian Magazine, writes that “One subtle reason for the Almanac’s present success may be the site of its editorial offices.” It appears that Dublin, New Hampshire, lies close enough to Monadnock, a great big mountain, “a favorite of Emerson’s, Thoreau’s and thousands of other New Englanders.” Monadnock, with its majestic size, eternal presence, and seasonal changes in foliage, reminds the editorial staff of “the nearness of nature and all its rhythms.” This mountain serves as a daily inspiration to these New Englanders, whose work ethic and conscientiousness are legendary among the various regions of our country. In effect, Parks is saying that the editorial staff of the Almanac is being imbued with energy to churn out an edition year after year with the mighty Monadnock as backdrop and the circulation among loyal subscribers who think the same way about the cycles of nature.
There is an undeniable sense of timelessness when considering the appeal of the Almanac. With each edition, one holds a piece of living history in one’s hands. Surely, to a sizeable portion of the North American population, history and tradition count for values that should be cherished, maintained, and supported in whatever form it appears, even in print. And why not in print? With the OFA’s unbroken history of publication for 222 years now, with only minimal changes in formatting and content, and with the ongoing mystique of arcana like astronomical tables and weather predictions which approach “80% accuracy,” these are the powerful elements that attracted the circulation of 3,000 way back in 1792 and the continuing patronage of more than 4 million subscribers now. As a reference, the USA population as of the beginning of July 2014 is 318 million (www.census.gov), meaning that 1.26% of the population read the OFA. Is this the other 1% – the future farmers going back to the cycles of nature?

The OFA’s content usually spans astronomy, gardening, how-to, calendar, folklore, home remedies, recipes, fun facts, history, and weather forecast updates. We posed the question at the beginning about the continuing visceral appeal of having all sorts of information available as something tangible right in our hands, and we are approaching the answer to the continuing relevance of the Old Farmer’s Almanac in this day and age. This writer thinks that there is a part of us that is longing for a simple life with minimal intrusions from electronic devices. This writer would go as far as to say that when our generation hits the extreme of too much dependence on technology, then cultural trends will gradually swing back the other way: toward simplicity, face-to-face communication, eye-to-eye contact, and other rare flora and fauna of “archaic” communication. Books and magazines will be in vogue again and people will actually read from a hard-copy source again instead of from their cell phones or tablets. That is this writer’s attempt at a fearless forecast, much like the Almanac’s forecasting staff makes weather predictions every year.

References:

Almanac.com/Magazine14. 2014. webpage. 27 July 2014.
David Guralnik, editor-in-chief. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980.
Lamb, David. “”Almanac begins third century of know-and-tell”.” LA Times 1 February 1993: 5. print.
Library, University of Illinois. “Lincoln Room – Lincoln Collections .” n.d. 24 July 2014.
Parks, Edward. “”Weathering every season with one canny compendium”.” Smithsonian Magazine November 1992: 91-101. Print.
Rao, Joe. “A 100% guarantee and how we ‘may’ have helped a former US President.” Farmer’s Almanac 2007: 142-144. print.
Society, Illinois Historic Preservation. http://www.thelincolnlog.org. n.d. internet. 24 July 2014.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac. http://www.Almanac.com. 1996. internet. 24 July 2014.
Thomas, Robert B. “To our patrons”. Dublin, New Hampshire: Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1829. print.
White, Martha. “Farming by the moon”. 2014. internet.
http://www.Almanac.com. 2014. internet. 24 July 2014.
http://www.census.gov. 2014. internet. 27 July 2014.
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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com

“24 YEARS: THE IMPACT OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (July 23-29, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of July 23-29, 2014
24 YEARS: THE IMPACT OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990

For someone with a disability like me (I have bipolar disorder) and for the rest of us who have physical or mental disabilities, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is our champion for being the prime author of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). He even spoke part of his introductory speech in the Senate in sign language so that his deaf brother could understand the proceedings. Twenty-four years ago this month, on July 26, 1990, the ADA was signed into law, resulting mainly in the lifting of discriminatory practices in employment situations for the disabled, and other major benefits for the disabled community as well.

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, much like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made illegal any discrimination based on sex, national origin, race, religion, and other characteristics. The determination of whether or not a condition is a disability is made on a case to case basis, but this excludes visual impairment that can be corrected by prescription lenses and current substance abuse. The original law has five titles under which major provisions in employment and access are enacted: Title I-Employment, Title II-Public Entities and Public Transportation, Title III-Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities, Title IV-Telecommunications, and Title V-Miscellaneous Provisions.

The ADA defines disability as “…a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” In 2008, with the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA of 2008), significant additions to “major life activities” now include, but are not limited to, “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working” as well as the operation of several specified major bodily functions (“ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA)—What Employers Need to Know”. HR.BLR.com. 2008).

Let’s deconstruct these definitions of disability for a little bit. Does it work better for you to understand disability in terms of people you may know or even people within your family? In the past 24 years, have you seen the ADA result in improvements in their lives in terms of educational and employment opportunities and the basic everyday reality of accessibility? Those ramps, those rails, those assistive devices – have you seen them benefit the disabled among us?

Disability defined is Benjamin, an African-American adult learner in his 50s with polio that I am tutoring under the Literacy Plus program of the Hayward Public Library. He moves around everywhere in his motorized wheelchair. He can commute from his apartment in Oakland to the Hayward main library precisely because of wheelchair-accessible buses and roads. Benjamin is an excellent visual artist and would like to be an architect someday. More than a year ago, I asked him to keep a gratitude journal as a part of our weekly lessons so that he can work on his spelling and grammar. Every week, his first entry is always about how grateful he is to God. The next entries are about mentioning by name the people who help him with his everyday tasks which he enumerates. However, the most beautiful entry he wrote was something that he was able to read aloud to a captive audience in last year’s Literacy Plus Reception at the Hayward City Hall Council Chambers. He wrote: “I thank God that the world is round and has four corners. Even if people are different, they are still the same.”

Disability defined is Eugene, the 33-year old Korean-American adult learner with cerebral palsy that I am also tutoring under the Literacy Plus program of the Hayward Public Library. Like Benjamin, he, too, is also in a wheelchair but not a motorized one since his spastic hands have a little difficulty mastering the controls. Eugene is very thoughtful and considerate, and when you hear him speak, you would know that you are talking to a deep and sensitive young man. He likes sports (Go Giants and 49ers!), he and I both like “Melissa and Joey,” and he likes some reality shows on TV. He also has a devoted mother, Sue, to whom Eugene is not defined solely by his disability, but also by his sweet and caring character.

Disability defined is Blesilda: yes, me. Mine is not the type of disability that is immediately obvious because right now I am being maintained on a cocktail of psychotropic medications. I have bipolar disorder; I’ve had it since I was in my early 20s, which is the typical time when such a mental illness manifests, most of the time due to a combination of genetic predisposition and stress. Bipolar disorder is called a mood disorder, as opposed to a thought disorder, since it primarily affects feelings. Hence, a person with bipolar disorder is prone to manic highs or depressed lows, swinging from one extreme to the other unless medicated via conventional psychiatric prescriptions or controlled through more natural means like diet, supplements, and/or other alternative treatments.

Mental disability is a little bit “harder” to prove than physical disability because for example, when I tell people that I have a mental illness or am bipolar, they go, “ WTF?! You don’t look crazy at all. You look normal to me.” However, if we go by the ADAAA expanded version of major life activities, I have significant difficulties in the following areas: concentrating, learning, working, communicating and thinking. I am being helped in my community college education by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation through the recommendation of the school’s disabled student resource center. Never too late to study at 44.

If I am in one of my manic phases, I may be quiet for a while but my mind is going 90 thousand miles a minute with crazyweird sorts of intersecting ideas that are too profound for words and yet are always somehow irrevocably connected. The mantra, “Everything is connected” may have been the product of a eureka moment of one manic dude or dudette.

However……….when……….I……….am……….depressed…..I……….cannot………. think……….clearly……….and……….my………. mind……….is……….so……….slow.*** I am not motivated, not inspired, not titillated. When I am depressed sometimes the psychic pain cuts so agonizingly deep that I just want to die. Yes, it could get that serious. Suicide is a serious and dangerous possibility when one is depressed. It’s a good thing that so far I have not experienced a depression as deep as this in a long time.

Benjamin, Eugene, and I are just some real-life examples of people with disabilities so I could make you feel that we are still humans with hopes and aspirations despite our limitations. We are so very grateful that the ADA was passed 24 years ago. We are being helped by this law.

With inclusive legislation like this, it is clear that any kind of discrimination has got to go.
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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com

“The Cesar Chavez-Larry Itliong Connection” in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (July 9-15, 2014)

“The Cesar Chavez-Larry Itliong Connection” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (July 9-15, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever – A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of July 9-15, 2014
THE CESAR CHAVEZ-LARRY ITLIONG CONNECTION

For my generation whose knowledge of Cesar Chavez is limited to streets and buildings and a holiday named after him, the film, “Cesar Chavez” directed by Diego Luna could not have come at a more opportune time when it was released in theaters last March.

Speaking merely for myself, I do admit that I only have a vague idea about Cesar Chavez, although I do know that he worked in conjunction with Filipino farm workers Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz. There was a recent hue and cry among the more activist Filipino-Americans in the community, saying that the film “Cesar Chavez” conveniently downplays the role of Itliong, who had more than 30 years organizing experience and taught himself nine Philippine dialects and three foreign languages (including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish) to become an effective organizer and communicator to non-Spanish speaking members of the union. Another member asserts that what Cesar Chavez actually achieved was because of the triumvirate Kennedy-Chavez-Itliong, and was bemoaning the fact that while Kennedy’s contributions were portrayed “accurately” in the film, Filipino-American Larry Itliong’s equally big part in the struggle was not.

I am willing to overlook all that because there is such a thing as “artistic license” in the making of any artwork. Director Diego Luna was telling his biopic of Chavez from his artistic vision, and if there are “deviations” from what really happened, then I’m sure there is an artistic explanation, which may not always be logical. If the Filipino-Americans want to make their own film about the farm workers’ struggles, of course they are welcome to make one. In fact, Filipina-American filmmaker Marissa Aroy made the 30-minute documentary called “Delano Manongs” which premiered to a sold-out crowd in an Oakland theater in March, which I have yet to see.

However, in terms of the rights of farm workers, their demands for higher wages and more humane working conditions, this film truly made inroads into a middle class mentality like mine who never had to struggle so much for so long just for me to be given things I consider basic to human existence. Cesar and his fellow workers are just asking for dignity and an appreciation of how much their unstinting work brings prosperity and literally food on the tables of the plantation owners. (I just noticed that there were a lot of sequences in the film that were shot in dining rooms – the palatial one of Bogdanovitch and the more humble ones of Chavez and other workers.) The metaphor I’m getting is that what Chavez and his fellow protesters are fighting for is as basic as food on the table for them in their impoverished condition.

Other critics (Gleiberman, 2014; Silva, 2014) are quick to point out that the director should have emphasized that it was not the efforts of Chavez alone, his “heroism” as a lone-wolf savior, that made sweeping changes possible – but instead his hold on the masses, inviting the masses to share the struggle with him, and his charisma as a leader are what mobilized thousands upon thousands to follow his example. They say that it was Chavez’s ability to organize, mobilize, and embody his principles that drew many to his cause.

To this day, in Central Philippines, many farm workers are still haggling with the management of Hacienda Luisita, the sugar plantation owned by current President Noynoy Aquino’s family (on the maternal, or the Cojuangco side/former Pres. Cory’s side). They were promised via the Philippine Agrarian Reform Law that they can own the parcel of land they have been farming after X number of years. The Cojuangcos still have to make good on their compliance with the law, which is actually the result of a Supreme Court ruling in reaction to a suit filed by the farmers’ union. It is easy to see how the existence and presence of unions could make many a crooked business owner shake and quake. However, if this same owner just followed the rules, extended his humanity to encompass the many workers dependent upon his largesse without letting this fact go into his head, and shared his wealth more equitably — well, there you go, my personal pipe dream which has as much as a snowball’s chance in hell of coming true. If all that were true, then we will have a more just society.

John Lennon once urged us to “imagine.” Now I am afraid that there is a dearth in imagination, and since we don’t imagine anymore how things could get better for all of us across the board, then we just perpetrate petty violences upon each other’s rights, including the right to a decent life. The film “Cesar Chavez” will definitely not please everyone, purists and eclecticists alike, but for people like me who consider a look-back on history as something to strengthen my spine for future fights and advocacy for the voiceless in society, then “Cesar Chavez” hits its mark.
It’s all of us, together, who can make a difference. ¡Sí se puede! Yes we can!

References
Gleiberman, O. (2014). Also playing: Cesar Chavez. Entertainment Weekly, 52.
Ochoa, C. (2014, March). Two films differ over Cesar Chavez and role of Filipinos in farm workers strike. Retrieved from http://inquirer.net
Pascual, F. (2014, April 9-15). The law, not GMA or SC, farmed out Luisita. Manila Mail, p. A7.

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