Tuesday, July 31, 2012


What makes you buy the products you fill your shelves with? 

How much are you willing to fork out for brands you trust?

Economists have often attributed the growth of the Philippine economy to consumer-led spending, not necessarily to job generation. Thanks in part to our OFWs' hard-earned---or should I say, slaved for---dollars.

The US, for example, seems to be facing its worst economic implosion yet, but analysts say the nation continues to thrive because of consumer spending.

Naturally, since all of us have to go about our business of living---economy bright and sunny, or not---we must spend, spend, spend while we earn, earn,earn.

Life must go on!

Babies need their milk, which naturally requires tons of diapers---today fashioned as convenient throw-aways to make life easier for working moms.

Unless Juan desperately wants to be zapped from this world, Juan must still go about eating and drinking, thus shopping for daily provisions, no matter if prices have shot through the stratosphere.

But we get smart and never stop looking for shops offering the best value.

"Best value" however is relative.

To one, "best value" may mean bagging the meanest-working detergent or nutrient-packed noodle soup from the sari-sari (small neighborhood variety) store or the promo section of her favorite supermarket. Or a marked down Nike t-shirt from the outlet store. Or a pair of designer jeans costing peanuts from the ukay (used goods) retailer.

But to others, it may be that long awaited capacity to finally sling a designer bag like Coach or Louis Vuitton. Yet check out its price even at a discount. It's still something my teacher's salary can't hack; uh, maybe yes, if I purchased its handle alone.

Most of us have a relief valve---the credit card, today's spendaholic tool. Seemingly harmless little plastic which magically turns our lives a bit rosier, making us cold-blooded consumers. 

Hala, charge dito, charge doon!

Imagine the heaps of fineries and goodies and lifestyle makeovers to wallow in when you flash the plastic---with just your valued signature to seal ownership.  Only for you to realize much later that you've piled up debts so huge even your very bed could be pulled out from under you---as the last straw to pay your debts.

That's one of the reasons the US economy took a downward spiral.  People caught in mortgages and card debts they could not pay.

"I owe, I owe, so off to work I go," may as well be the end-all and be-all of most people's daily strivings today.

In supposedly more civilized parts of the world, people are so used to a life of excess, they don't even realize it.

Survey a typical American home: Four or more light bulbs illuminating the toilet---as if you'd look better under all that glare. Kitchen coffee nook plus casual dining place and formal dining area. Living room plus family room. Bedrooms more than the number of occupants. Appliances galore and gadgets all around. Vehicles exceeding the number of licensed drivers in the household.

Don't get me wrong. Because people work hard, they need all the help they can get their hands on to make life bearable and more comfortable. That's why products offering convenience and ease and comfort, even luxury, are a big hit. 

Why work hard if you can't reward yourself with all these, right?

Companies offering products on credit know which buttons to push. They offer the best deals, from zero interest to delayed payments to freebies. And we bite the bullet!

But at the end of the day or the end of our days, we ask ourselves: Did I really need all these stuff? Are they worth going into debt for, so much so that future earnings have already flown out the window even before I've touched them? Who benefits from all these when I'm gone, anyway?

I can't certainly bring these to the grave with me!

The consumer in us will always insist on acquiring, purchasing, shopping, needing, wanting, and borrowing to do all these again. It really never ends because once filled, the consumer needs to be satisfied again and again.

The need, then the want, then the demand, then the obsession, gets grander by the day.  

No wonder the apostle Paul reminds us to be content: "... for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Philippians 4:11).

Instead of the consumer in us leading, why not be led by the Spirit instead? Because God in us gives us wisdom in big or small decisions---to buy or not to buy, whatever product is placed under our nose.

A peace that passes all understanding. Joy which comes from within. Contentment in every situation. These should make our everyday, not the products that we surround ourselves with.

Only Jesus can give us that.

Friday, July 13, 2012


The greatest comedian drives the nation into mourning. Ironic, isn't it?

I'm amazed to read countless         Facebook messages extolling Dolphy and expressing sadness that he passed away. He's probably our longest surviving comedian.

But that's a natural reaction, especially for generations of Filipinos whose dinner plates clattered with Dolphy's unique humor for weeks on end---with TV sitcoms "John and Marsha" and "Home Along the Riles."

We should have a laugh-fest instead!

We're a people anyway known for surviving tragedies, then much later morphing these memories into something to grin and laugh about. Is there any nation like us?  

And while we're momentarily revving up our humor mill, let's run down comedy lane and dig deep into our funny bones' well of fame. Remember the really funny comedians before Dolphy?

Hey baby boomers, didn't we start our rollicking good times inside moviehouses whose rickety benches rocked whenever we laughed en mass?

Then television came and we soon found relief in comedians' antics on a daily basis---in glorious black and white. No special effects involved. Just natural in-born humor and perfectly-timed repartee and graphic body language for slap-stick effect . 

I loved Pugo. He of "Tang-Tarantang" fame who dished out laughable sound bites and got busted---buko lagi!---for his tomfoolery in every episode. 

Bentot, Pugo's overgrown baby in the same show. The bondying son who almost always unknowingly exposed his Tatang's selfish schemes; then the episode ending with Tatang running after him with a yantok or a rod because his evil plan got busted, again. 

How could any one forget Tatang's endearing daughter-in-law in the person of Sylvia la Torre---her soprano sobbing always a cause for laughter.

Do you remember Chichay? She of the toothless and sarcastic witch-like laughter and intertwined sungit (grumpy) brows.

What about Patsy? Pugo's perennial other half. The opinionated and loud-mouth nanay (mother) who always knew it all.

And not to forget Panchito, with his signature humongous nose, droopy eyes and dead-pan counterpoint to Dolphy's smart alecky stance.

I always looked forward to the antics of rotund Oscar Obligacion in "Oras ng Ligaya."

Leroy Salvador. Elizabeth Ramsey. Tugak. Palito. Apeng Daldal. Babalu. Nida Blanca. Balut. Cachupoy. The list goes on and on. Of course, Michael V, Ogie Alcasid and Eugene Domingo dominate the scene today. I'm sure you could add more names to this list.

Admit it, we enjoyed them all even if at times they dished out just corny pedestrian bits. But they definitely mirrored our inner selves---crying on the inside but laughing on the outside?

Because which would we rather indulge in? Laugher or sulking? Joking or complaining?

Comedians continue to provoke our interest because we see in them the common tao, the man on the street who needs to eke out a living---no matter how, as long as it is decent. And being the guy who receives the punches---binabatuk-batukan---or falls into ditches, or gets hit by the plank, maybe a great way to earn dough. That was how most of them started in the business.

Somehow, the humor they create momentarily cushions us---even for one hour or 30 minutes---from the reality which television news (most of them gory nowadays) on the other hand also dumps upon our laps every single day. Are sitcoms escapist? You judge.

By the way, I would rather have the once-upon-a-time Pugo and Bentot brand of humor than today's Hollywood-churned comedy with their love scenes and sexual innuendos. Why couldn't they stick to wholesome family entertainment?

Anyway, what about that laugh fest? It would definitely be good for the soul.

"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Psalm 126:2).

Thursday, July 5, 2012


(Images from history.com)
Which would you rather have? A binful of forgetfulness or a trainful of remembrances?

Give me the bin, any time!

I love throwing useless things away, so that holds true for tons of memories which I'd rather bury in  a faraway dumpsite:

Memory of my high school crush who never even took a glance at me. Tapon!

A job interview experience aptly titled "embarrassing"---shoot!

The fact that mathematics is my archenemy. Away with that too.

Insecurity about my nose---like a plane taking off the runway, said my brother Dan. To the bin!

Failed efforts---throw them all in.

Forget it all---the pain, the failure, the regret, someone's offense. It's just baggage which can slow you down. You don't want to walk like a directionless dumb ass (I meant mule.).

No wonder Philippians 3:13 encourages us to "Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead."

But there are just too many good things to remember. How could one forget his or her:

First date, first kiss, first love.

First job, first paycheck, first purchase and the euphoria of your new-found freedom in that first paycheck.

The day you said "I do," the time you felt your yet unseen baby kicking within, and your experiencing happy tremors at the prospect of a grandkid coming.

The way you panted, groaned, croaked, groped, slaved and almost burned yourself out to get to where you are now.

It's the day after July 4 and I happened to have watched a comprehensive documentary on the history of the United States, "America: The Story of Us"---probably the best, most graphic and down-to-believable-details-portrayal of  any nation's history that I've ever seen.

A most riveting remembrance of the country's Christian foundation, its fight for freedom, its people's can-do and pioneering spirit which led to shaping the United States into the world's most powerful nation.

It also highlights what many may consider forgettable blights in its proud existence like the slave trade and impact of slavery on the black population, the civil war and the 9/11 tragedy. 

The fourth of July independence day celebration has come and gone but I sense that for a lot of Americans, it was just another page flipping off the calendar.

Many may have visited the Arlington cemetery, hopefully to reflect on their heroes' sacrifices and not just to watch the solemn changing of the guards ceremony. Fireworks worked the night. Houses proudly festooned the American flag.

Talk of being patriotic---a lot of Americans are!

But how one wished the ceremonies and traditions didn't gloss over the lessons of history. Because that documentary I watched surely jogged my mind about why America became a great nation; and why it's imploding today---as writer Joel Rosenberg, one of their own, puts it, because America has placed God out of the equation and followed its god-is-money and i'm-master-of-my-destiny bandwagon.

We have a lot to learn from history. Be they a nation's history or our own.

We definitely can't---shouldn't---be burdened or stopped on our tracks by our failures. But victories should neither keep us in nirvana land, so much so that we become fat, comfortable and smug---thinking we don't need anyone else because we made it through our own blood, sweat and tears.

Maybe the issue is not in forgeting or remembering, but in learning even as we remember both the good and the bad episodes.

And in realizing that apart from the One who created, and therefore knows and enables us, any attempt at success or making it big in life or even nationhood, is folly---"meaningless, a going against the wind," says Solomon, the richest man who ever lived.