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The Unspoken Word: Aging

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People often say to me, “You don’t look your age.” I don’t quite know how to react—smile or smirk. I am sure they mean well and want to make me feel good, but somehow, there’s a disconnect somewhere.

feel my age. Every single year of it. I feel it in my bones, in my muscles, in my eyes, in my ears, in my gums, on my scalp and on my skin—in every place of me.

Does that mean my body parts have aged before my looks?

Sheila Nevins (aged 78), an American television producer and the President of HBO Documentary Films, calls this “compliment” to women of a certain age as fairy tale. In fact, she wrote a satirical and hilarious book about women in this late life stage. She titled it: “You Don’t Look Your Age and Other Fairy Tales.”

When (or if) I get to be her age and still writing or training young writers in workshops and seminars, I will probably be hearing more “You don’t look your age.”

Our late househelp Manang Vi, whose oral bluntness was unrivaled, had doused my delight, “When people say that to you, they’re wrong.”

I replied, “You mean, they’re lying?”

She said, “No. They just don’t know what they’re saying.”

God bless her soul.

There’s a statement that I wish people would say instead, “You’re aging with grace.” But there’s a stigma attached to the word “aging.” You don’t dare speak it to other people’s lined face, unless you are a physician specializing in geriatrics.

The word grace does not come naturally in conversations, either—unless you are in Sunday school or a prayer meeting.

But since “You don’t look your age” seems to be the “in” thing to say to people whose looks have obviously transformed from a fresh plum to a dried prune through the years, I should be grateful.

Whatever changes my body (or mind) has gone and will go through, the only One that matters remains unchanged.

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” I Isaiah 46:4 (NLT)

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Looking at Luscious “Lechon”

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May is usually the most festive month in the Philippines, and in Cebu, the fiesta tables are not complete without the much awaited fiesta star- “Lechon” (roasted pig).

With its devilishly-attractive reddish “tagumkum” (crunchy) skin, even those folks with diagnosed high-blood pressure can’t help but steal a small bite or two.

This eye-catching fiesta favorite originated from our Spanish colonial masters. It is also popular in countries like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America. In those countries, it is said that the pig is seasoned with spices and other herbs, and after the innards are removed, the pig is skewered on a large stick and placed in a pit filled with charcoals until it is cooked. The whole action is actually a rotisserie but in Cebu we popularly call it “Inasal”. The whole process includes roasting the pig on all sides for several hours until it is done. The aim is to make the pork skin crispy and reddish- a distinctive feature of lechon.

Actually, lechon is not only famous during fiesta times. In Cebu, it is somewhat an all-occasion dish. One can have it during birthdays,baptism, graduation, and holidays or election, beach outing, or simply as part of a regular meal. However, as compared to the traditional ways of cooking this national dish, Cebu offers a wide variety to pamper the
appetite of its eager guests.

Among the varieties, Bisdak lechoneros can offer you Boneless (popularly known as lechon belly), Spicy, or fried or “Prichon” for Pritong lechon (deep fried lechon). Some old-timers recommend the classic “lechon de leche” (roasted suckling pig).

In whatever way you want it, Cebu always have lechon stores near you, or if you’re unfamiliar yet with the new ones, here’s a little tip for you to find one good tasting Cebu lechon: CNT at SM Cebu, Rico’s lechon, Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly at Parkmall, Zubuchon in 1Mango, and Ayers lechon at SM Cebu.

If you have the luxury of time, you can speed up towards Cebu’s south in just 45 minutes travel. You can stop over at Carcar public market and there you can find one of Cebu’s finest juicy lechon although it’s not popularly known yet to some people. This writer guarantees that aside from its affordable price (P 280/kilo), the taste exceeds that of those commercially prepared in the metropolis.

P.S. After feasting the whole dish, always remember that lechon left overs are still good for “Paksiw” (lechon stewed in vinegar).

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No Gadgets (Part 2)

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These scenes—in malls, coffee shops, and homes—are oh-too-familiar today:

They are, it seems, a reflection of the behavior of their parents, who are just as hooked on gadgets.

Many government agencies are now issuing precautions about the side effects of handheld devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics both state that infants (0-2 years) should not be exposed to handheld technology gadgets. Children aged 3-5 years should be limited to just one hour per day of gadget use, while 6-18 years should be restricted to 2 hours per day.

However, parents insist of giving their tots gadgets because they are a sure-fire way of pacifying demanding kids.

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are more dangers, as culled from research, spawned by early use of gadgets:

Mental Diseases – Technology overuse (gaming consoles, mobile phones, tablets, etc.) will always be a risk factor for child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar issues, psychosis and other problematic behaviors. Gadgets restrict the child’s mind and physical movement which delays his mental and physical development.

Violence – Kids learn to be aggressive—as exhibited in tantrums. As they grow older, they are more likely to confront and disobey their elders and authorities.

Radiation Exposure – The World Health Organization (2011) reported that “cellphones and other wireless devices are considered category 2B risk because of their radiation emission,” harmful to health and are classified as “possible carcinogens.”

Lack of communication Skills – Reduced socializing breeds kids who cannot express themselves clearly and politely—and don’t know how to listen or empathize.

Sleep Deficiency – Because of the thrill kids experience from electronic games and tablets, they prefer to stay up and miss out on their needed rest.

No Exposure to Nature – Instead of going out and learning the ways of the world, appreciating God’s creation—animals, plants, lakes, sky, mountains, and beaches—kids stay cocooned in their own digital world.

Damaged Eyesight – Ophthalmologists say that good eyesight depends upon staring at things of varying distances, spaces, movements, and shapes.

Addiction – New research now reveal that gadget addiction is even more dangerous than drug addiction. Although gadget addiction is not recognized as an official disorder by medical classification, many therapists today treat gadget-addicted patients with the same methods they would use to treat other addictions.

“It’s worse than alcohol or drug abuse because it’s much more engaging and there’s no stigma behind it,” said Nathan Driskell, a therapist in the US.

I am no longer parenting young children, but as an author of children’s books, and one who grew up reading the printed page (e-books were not invented yet), I agree with this research result (abridged):

“Screens and e-readers interfere with two important aspects of navigating texts: 1) serendipity; 2) a sense of control.”

I enjoy flipping to a previous page when a sentence brings back a memory. Often I skim ahead or read the ending and imagine how the author filled up the in-betweens.

My Bibles have marginal notes and I underline the word grace, grateful for where it is taking me. And, don’t laugh, I have the opportunity to lovingly cover my books with plastic as though they were pricey gems.

Well, they are.

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No Gadgets (Part 1)

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I will celebrate if all you remember from this seminar is this: No gadgets for kids who could not yet read.

This was to encourage the parents of millennials and Gen Z (in Cagayan de Oro, an hour flight away from home) in the audience to read books to their young children, so they will learn to love reading and prefer books over gadgets when they are ready to read the printed page.

According to child development experts, kids who are reared on handheld gadgets are passive participants—being fed with other people’s ideas. But children who read books enter a world of creativity, unbounded by time and space. The phrase “critical thinking skills” required of adults is really about imagination, developed at an early age through reading.

Like a mean joke, this scenario met me on my flight home. My seatmates were a young tot and his smartly dressed mom. As soon as she strapped her kid to his seat, she gave him a smart phone.

Then she got busy with her own. Despite the repeated announcement for passengers to turn off all electronics, mother and son kept at theirs, raptly immersed in their own cyber world.

The boy squeaked, “Awk!” (He still could not talk and had his feeding bottle beside him).

His mother immediately replied, knowing exactly what he wanted, “No internet, son, so no You Tube.”

I was devastated, remembering the just-concluded successful seminar.

When the mother looked up from her gadget, I chirped with the friendliest voice I could muster, “He’s so young and already he could manipulate a phone so deftly.”

Proudly she replied, “Oh, yes, we started him on it before he turned two. Children are different these days!”

These days, gadgets are the new yaya (baby sitter). They could do what a human being could never manage: make even the brattiest of kids sit still. It’s a pacifier, stopping kids from whining or acting up.

Research results on how gadgets have affected kids are alarming: they have changed the stages of natural growing-up; they have replaced toys, playgrounds, storybooks, exercises, and communication.

Here are some specific dangers (abridged from various findings) among children:

Drastic Brain Development – The brain’s size triples at toddler stage and develops until a child’s adult years. Gadgets may negatively interfere with this natural growth.

Obesity – Kids inertly playing with gadgets don’t burn calories, which may lead to obesity that could cause complications such as diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

Grace deprivation – God’s grace is in the little and big things that are strewn in a myriad of places and people which must touch a kid’s life. Gadgets limit his time and space, depriving him of this wondrous gift from above.

To be continued . . .

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Can Cheating in a Relationship be Justified?

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What do Anne Curtis, Bea Alonzo and Maja Salvador have in common is not only their superstar status and thespian talent in both the big screen and the small screen but also their affinity towards the role of the mistress, the other woman, the querida or the ‘illegal’ wife. What makes Iya Mendoza — Who is she? You might ask. — different from them is the former’s reversal of the role of the woman as the one who takes another man, a querido, or another boyfriend.

The buzz and fuss about a certain seaman being cheated on by his girlfriend raise a lot of questions on morality, particularly on whether or not there can ever be an excuse or an explanation for such a transgression. If a twinkle of an eye, a text message beyond 10 p.m., a smooch that lasts for 10 minutes, or even a fantasy of a ménage a trois with a neighbor (Remember the 10th Commandment!) would qualify as a form of cheating, then these are not within our agenda.

Absolutely, cheating is wrong. However, there may be times when the need to cheat prevails over guilt and sin. Some may find cheating as the only means for them to survive. We should rethink the strongest instinct that is survival and not sex.

Unhappy and maltreated spouses may find solace and healing if they seek for another partner. A hungry child may steal food in the neighborhood due to a parent who has forgotten the responsibility of providing food for her children. And a partner may be forced to have sex with another just because the other partner does not have the time.

Here, we see that infidelity is one of the underrated coping mechanisms that even psychologists may consider taboo.

In the many areas of the government, in sports, in the church and in school, cheating is never allowed and is never condoned. Or so I thought! Especially in a committed relationship, no amount of justification can ever expunge the offense called cheating. Again, or so I thought! Cheating is never justifiable. Wait, let’s think again!

Did not a former president and convicted plunderer rank second in the 2010 presidential elections? Is the number of votes not enough as an absolution of his graft and corruption? In the world of sports, we heard of athletes and Olympians who were culpable of taking performance-enhancing drugs before or during competitions.

By not stripping off them the honor and banning them in sports for life, are we not standing by them in deception?

There are innumerable priests in the Catholic hierarchy as well as those religious leaders and pastors whose lavish lifestyles do not reflect their vows of poverty and promise of imitating the life of Christ: simple, austere and sacrificing/sacrificial.

We know of priests who have been found guilty of sexual relations and predations. Yet, we still listen to their sermons and take the ‘body of Christ’ through their supposedly un-corrupted hand. Do we not condone, more so, promote their betrayal of the people’s trust?

In school, most teachers know that a great deal of academic papers submitted to them is plagiarized. Yet, they still accept and mark them in the pretext of humanitarian considerations: effort, time and money have been exhausted and it is okay to commit mistakes for students to learn. Is it not, in one way or another, an utter tolerance on scholastic dishonesty and intellectual theft?

These overwhelming questions brought me to the salvage of highly opinionated friends, who could replace me in this job by presenting better arguments than I have. Thank goodness, they dared to agree or disagree with me generously and courageously. Let us examine their viewpoints so we can perfectly frame our respective answers to the question above.

Herge A. Regner (Seaman): “Cheating in a relationship can never be justifiable. Nowadays, the trend about the seaman being the chick-magnet is nearly gone. It is different now because the girls left behind are the ones who enjoy lots of money and lots of guys.

Although not all girls are like that but some are doing that. The absence of their seaman partner makes them seek intimacy from other men. They are only lucky if their partner won’t find out.

So to my fellow seafarers: get to know your partner carefully before moving on to the next level and when you are already on that level, maintain that spark even if you are million miles apart. As long as both of you understand and really love each other, there’s no reason for a partner to cheat.”

Victoria Aznar (Marketing Specialist): “Cheating in a relationship can never be justified regardless of the various influencing factors that people often blame. Boredom, loneliness, unfulfillment etc. are a few of the excuses cheaters try and use as leverage for cheating but they never blame themselves or take control of the situation. I don’t think things should ever be complicated. If you’re unhappy in your relationship, get out of it. If you want to meet someone new, don’t have a girlfriend waiting for you to get home. Keep things simple and find your happiness without compromising others.”

Jose Marie Dela Torre (Professor): “I had the same sex with my ex-girlfriend for 3 years and I found nothing exciting about it anymore. Polygamy is human nature: We want something we do not have. Being in a relationship is more like fine dining, you open the menu and order what you think you want, only to realize that when it’s already served, you like what the other table ordered. The urge to cheat is within us, controlling it is just a dictate of society.”

Jabir Idris Umar (Foreign Student): “Cheating is a subconscious will. It comes from the distance between couples, misunderstanding, lack of true love, or feeling your partner is not giving you enough, or she took you for granted. It comes from getting less than what is expected in a relationship, including sexual, physical appearance and materials. There is also insecurity. All these are not justification but merely the reasons that drive an individual to think about cheating. Cheating comes either from being unhappy with your current situation or a wild sexual urge that cannot be satisfied by one person, making that individual to want more.”

Melissa Cipres (Veterinarian): “Cheating in any context, shape or form is never ok; more so, if a committed relationship is involved. It’s not ok because when someone lets you in, it’s not just their heart. They’re giving you permission to be in their mind, their soul, their entire being, the chamber of secrets they only show to a distinct few, their trust. When you cheat, you betray them; not only destroying your relationship but also destroying a person’s ability to ever really trust someone again. There’s a reason why the deepest pits of hell in Dante’s Inferno is reserved for traitors.”

Charica Roche (Cebuana writer based in New Zealand): “People cheat on their significant others for various reasons. Whatever that reason is, it can and will never be justified. Cheating is cheating, no matter what the circumstances or how it led to that. Cheating is a grave breach of trust between two people, even when there’s no written contract that’s signed between them. In this case, it’s up to the individual if they want to forgive the person who cheated on them or not.” Check her opinions on other things at manxmarche.blogspot.com.

Manny C. Gumban (Municipal Tourism Officer of Carmen, Cebu): “We have a law against bigamy and concubinage that makes it illegal to indulge in these kinds of act. But is it unlawful to cheat in a relationship? Maybe not, as long as you are not caught. In a recent U.S. survey, 90% of men cheat on their partners at one time in their lives. Perhaps it is the challenge, or just for the heck of it. As long as the lust doesn’t lead to an emotional relationship, I think it’s all part of life!”

People in certain religious ethical systems adhere to a strict code of ‘No Cheating’, however, the hedonists, the moral egoists, and the amoral individuals may simply say ‘Do whatever you think is right and feels good’, and many who are torn between these two moral margins will find comfort in falling somewhere in the middle – I for one.

We learned ethics in school for us to understand and hopefully resolve moral issues, but in the end, it is wise judgment that will ensure a correct answer. We always know that there are rules. Did we forget that in every rule there can be an exception? Here is something without exception: Let us give one more way of looking at things and see the difference!

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