Monday, September 13, 2021

Poetry - Rocks & Mountains


When we're gone,
who will climb the mountains & say "Wow"?
Who will smile at the beautiful rocks, as we do now...

When we're gone,
Who will post their pictures on Instagram?
Who will feel joy to see their glam...

And after we're gone?
The mountains, the rocks - they simply live on.
No wows, no smiles, no likes & so on.

After we're gone -
the rocks, the mountains, they just don't care.
There - for eternity, with no one as heir.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Baybayin Script - A Poem


I just recently learned this old Filipino writing system called Baybayin.

During Spanish colonization of the Philippines,  and similar to other regions around the world - traditional language and writing systems were replaced by the colonizers' own language and ways.  And still common amongst 'conquistadores' or other European equivalent - documents were either burned or hidden to ensure that locals abide with the 'new ways of doing things'.

I saw a resurgence in Baybayin - perhaps deep-rooted sense of 'patriotism' or just plain interest in historical or cultural heritage. 

Baybayin has Brahmic origins and predominantly syllabic in style.  Being syllabic and phonetic - it suited very well with Filipino language.  More complex (non-Filipino) letter-sounds like 'J' or 'eN-ye', or even 'ch', 'f', 'z' have no exact equivalent and must be translated 'closest to how it sounds'.  Using it for language like English is a good test of creative skills, but feasible nonetheless. 

Here's my first contribution in promoting this writing system - written, to practice its flowing script art.  The good news is that - Google keyboard already included Baybayin for enthusiasts who wish to practice with their devices. 

If for anything else - it's FUN!  Like writing a secret code of sort. :)


(context translation of the Poem in English, which of course will not offer the rhymes.)

Don't feel bad about the complexity of Baybayin.  Let's try it, and promote its growth.  It is a historical treasure.  That we as citizens, should all start to learn. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest and the Modern World


In the era of Augustus, after his predecessor – Julius Caesar successfully invaded and subdued the Gauls (mostly in modern-day France), the only logical northward expansion for the empire is to conquer the Germanic tribes!

But as fate would have it, the cunning and smart young German warrior Arminius fooled the Roman governor Varus into taking an unpleasant and unfavorable route in the heart of Germany.  With a violent and decisive ambush, 3 legions of the Roman Empire – 20,000 men – slaughtered in what would be one of the more critical battle of Roman history. That happened in 9 CE (/AD) and it marked the beginning of the end of Roman’s northern conquest.

It took Arminius an extravagant amount of time and effort to prepare for the eventual battle, risking his life visiting other tribes (that could simply decide to kill him depending on their mood or take), and play-acting with Varus as he visits the camp as a ‘friend’ giving the governor good ‘sound bytes’ about a future Roman-controlled Germany, or offering information on places or promising route in an otherwise God-forsaken terrain of the German woodlands.  His foresight of an eventual clash with the Romans equipped him to prepare way before – joining the Roman auxiliary army fighting non-German tribes, which not only earned him Roman citizenship (and trust) but gave him intimate lessons of the Roman way of battle.


2000 years later, long after the Romans, and then the Turks, the Mongols and European colonial powers set the world on fire, ransacking tribes, degrading societies and wiping-out long-established communities – the greed and thirst for new territories by powerful governments didn’t cease to exist.

The call for new Arminiuses became a necessary balancing need, difficult in the modern world where rich and militarily-strong governments constantly attack opponents or anyone who gets in their way.

The recent Belarusian skyjacking ordered by its President, to simply arrest a journalist is one example.  Putin’s constant aggression against Ukraine and active anti-opponent campaign which led to suspicion of a poison attack against his number one contender - Navalny.  Neighbors’ interest in failed states of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan which for a time, parts of it at least – were conquered by ISIS.  Palestine’s issue on Israel’s settlement policy. Border clash between India, Pakistan and China. The never-ending threat of invasion on South Korea by their long-standing enemy to the north. Everyday clashes of fisherman and navies in the high seas in our oceans as far as the Southern Ocean. More importantly, China, who’s on track to become the world’s number one economic power in but a few years – seems to have multiple territorial expansion effort. In one book (‘The New Silk Roads’) – it proposed that Xi’s massive Belt and Road project could be a secret scheme to expand the country’s interest, trade and economic control, contradicting its advertised mutual benefit with partner nations.  It also includes a more overt physical aggression on territories like South China Sea which directly conflicts with Vietnam’s territorial interest and Philippines' UN-ruled right on EEZ.  Another is an on-going territorial dispute with Japan on northeastern sea. Then there’s always the ‘problem of Taiwan’ which for some decades now – behaved and existed as a country and now threatened with immediate war if they so decided to formalize it.  Like another Tibet waiting to happen.

The world is yet again on fire or about to! Combined greed and the game of ‘economic survival’ in a world of fast-dwindling natural resources and now exacerbated by a smart virus that threatens a long-period of instability or even economic collapse of some states – it seems that the dynamite’s wick has been ignited.

Where is Arminius?

Before he was of any significance, Arminius was but an ordinary tribe-man learning the world and minding his own life.  The opportunity to serve in the Roman army is but natural for any German adult in those days where laws do not exist, and fighting is a way of life (while today – joining a military is a big decision jump). It was a good way to earn ‘money’ – mostly by pillaging and looting beaten enemies.  But he was no mere barbarian.  He had a goal.  A dream.  A dream of a free Germany.  With a dream – it gave his life a direction.  He was purposeful. His dream and will preceded a plan.  A well-conceived plan preceded a successful execution.  What followed was but triumph and success.  If one was lucky at least – as he was.  The enemy was tricked, his forces miraculously listened to him – and followed his lead.  Enough to make the campaign a success – and remembered for thousands of years.

But how can we generate modern-day Arminius when we don’t brandish swords or resolve problems with a duel?!  Ah, perhaps we need to examine what the current warfare looks like.

The enemy - the world’s enemy surrounds us.  They are smart! Setting up little things or doing little invisible ‘attacks’ which are being used or could later be used as instruments of war – physical or not.  From the same book (New Silk Roads) and various internet write-ups, China as an example had started offering ridiculous loan arrangements to weak nations, some reaching 40 to 60% of the country’s GDP - and rumored to have bribed officials into accepting them. Never mind if the country defaults.  Like what happened to Sri Lanka.  Or other failing Central American states. Or small African territories like Djibouti.  “Unpayable loans as a weapon”.   Technology warfare is ever present as well.  Recent shutdown of pipeline in the US rumored to be from Russian hackers?  The world’s list of first-class hackers was reported to be coming from North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. It seems they are fighting an effective digital war and earned them millions in ransom or from proprietary materials – or millions in lost for the targeted enemy.

Economic model is also fast-changing.  No longer that countries try to even protect their assets and companies – as most silent business owners across the world are billionaires based in the Middle East, Russia or China.  Back to the Silk road-centric economy – as the book writer claimed.  Weak governments who were easily bribed changed policies to even allow 100% foreign ownership. Imagine basic utilities such as power, water or transportation.  These three alone are enough to control one country’s progress!  Enough to deliberately bring chaos!  Enough to fail a state!  And yet, weak and corrupt governments simply turn a blind eye. They can see – but the promised treasures shine more than so-called patriotism, loyalty or just being right.

Sometimes – the enemy is within. And it’s sometimes more difficult to fight when the enemy is inside. Beside you.  Or behind you. Already, we can see headlines of assassinated journalist, or anyone opposing government policy. Whether that’s in Belarus, Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, the Philippines, Russia, India or just about anywhere.


We – are Arminius.  Each one of us!  But without the spear and sword. 

Whatever poor and helpless country we belong to.

We could do small acts in helping the community.  Or doing small changes that favors the long-term.  Or learning the enemies’ tactics and not falling for it.  Or being active in government’s policy-making or an extra voice that influences it. 

But like the Germanic tribes then – unity is challenged the most.  There will be family members, friends and colleagues that would strongly disagree with your views.  Even start a conflict with you.  And sometimes – providing simple details of truth seems to evade their rationality.  Arminius experienced the same. Even had open conflict with one tribe who wanted to murder him.  But like our hero, we have to be patient, smart, focused and someone who never gives up.

It’s probably a long process.  It will take time.  And like Arminius, we have to learn the tricks.  Learn the enemy's ways.  It’s but a first step but without it, we’ll be blind - following pieces of bread, picking it up by piece - thinking it’s a good-enough reward for our reckless and mindless effort.   But what’s waiting could be a witch in an ugly house ready to put us in a giant cauldron.  To feast on us. To devour our country. Our culture.  Our people.

What we all do now, collectively - will dictate whether Varus will resurrect and wipe us all out.  It’s a choice.  It’s a choice that we make now.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Painting and Poetry - The Emerald Peak


Acrylic Painting: "Abstract Topography" 

(reference note: artwork is like a topography map, top-side is north)


I sailed through a rough sea; enduring the biggest waves that one could ever see;

Saw an island and landed on its shore, looked around wondering what was in store;

Then I started to walk towards south,  enduring thirst and a drying mouth;


Then to the west I saw a peak, hiked towards it wanting a peek;

Then suddenly I heard a thunderous ‘boom!’; I ran towards north, dodging rocks - escaping doom;

Exhausted but soon reached the far edge, then I rested safely on a ledge;

Then resumed and walked heading northwest, and suddenly found myself in a pretty forest;

Surprised – I found a big river, the cold refreshing bath gave me a shiver;


Beyond it and past the tree line, a majestic emerald peak stands sublime;

Tackled its steep slope, the view filled me with hope;

And alas on the top I proudly stood,  to find beauty I say – explore we should;

For life’s blessings are not given free, face the danger and favor will come to thee.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Pandemic - Art and Poetry

"Noah at the Sea of Corona"
Related Poetry (re-posting from my Instagram)

I. "Follow the Light"
In a difficult journey, during a raging storm;
Beware of the danger, in all its form;
It's a battle for survival, on the way to the top;
A wrong step or turn, could mean a big drop!
'Twas said - false leaders, they stumble & fall;
Their deputies - struggle & crawl;
The blind? They ignorantly follow,
Plunging into the dark abyss, everyone & all!
But the enlightened ones, they follow the Light;
Through a treacherous, merciless fight;
Painfully, they trudge on relentlessly;
Past the Kingdom's gate, they soon reached gleefully!

II. (untitled)

Take it easy my friend,
Pandemic hasn't reach its end.
The party that you wish to "attend,
Opens the heaven where you'll soon ascend. 
(or, the hell where you'll descend).
The end.

III. (untitled)

Look away & be still - the big storm will soon pass,
Look down & reflect - see the beauty of life,
Look outside & hope - that brighter days will soon come,
Look up & pray - God is with us all the way...

IV. "The Curve"

The way to the Peak is tough & slow, just endure - one step at a time;
Beyond - is a downhill path, easier, fast but slippery;
As the steepness ends & the 'Curve Flattens' - Life brightens up with hopes & dreams...

V. (untitled)
Wait out the big storm,
Wait out the outbreak,
It will pass & end,
Just stay in your tent.


Pandemic Lockdown - Surviving Isolation

Enduring a long stay in Everest Base camp (2006)

Some of our compatriots struggle daily in this difficult time, while some of us have the luxury of finding ways how to live a good life at home.  So let’s be thankful!

I’ve spent 2.5 months in the mountains for my Everest expedition, including +1month (on & off) at the remote and miserable base camp.  While not limited in the confines of a house or a building – it’s a life of isolation devoid of the usual urban luxury.  So how can one survive such a challenge? Let me share what I learned from the experience.

1.      Routine. To put order and system – build a routine & schedule for regular tasks. This will reduce stress of ‘randomness’ and helps one refocus from worrying to executing. That could include your daily tasks (cooking, eating, exercising, playing with kids, reading or watching), or those done weekly (grocery, drive-thru, bike to market, etc.)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What happens after the Covid-19 crisis?

"Noah at the Sea of Corona" - Painting exercise during locked down period. 

Post-pandemic Predictions
Life – as we know it, will never be the same again.  And more so for our medical front-liners, for those who got infected, and especially those who lost their loved ones.
The SARS COV2 virus is a transformational element that will drive all of us to re-think, reflect and hopefully, do things better for the future.

So, how will the future look like?  Here’s some of my thoughts and predictions of what the world would be like post-COVID19.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Karinderia sa Bahay – My Home-cooking Culinary Journey

Cooking is fun, and with the right ingredients - could be healthier for you. Fun experiment with paella and bell pepper rice. Buying this paella pan made me cook so many paella and jambalaya dishes! 

I advocate active lifestyle and fitness.  But we know that true fitness requires superb health.  And no matter how fit one seems to be, health could be invisibly suffering.  I’ve seen colleagues and heard athletes who all seemed to be in their top shape, suddenly died due to undetected or hidden sickness.

At high altitudes, I’ve seen healthy people suddenly becoming unhealthy and unfit – the lack of oxygen exposing their true health.  And I’ve concluded a long way back that without solid good body, one wouldn't have true, long-lasting endurance and fitness...  
And the capacity to climb big mountains!  Literally and figuratively.

And as cancer seems to run in my family blood – I also became more 'conscious' of my personal health and specifically on what I eat.
Now food is the primary ‘input’ we give to our body.  (For this post, let’s not talk about emotional/social, mental or spiritual health as it will lengthen and complicate my food topic).  And we all know that bad food or wrong nutrition causes bad performance in the short-term, and bad health in the long run.  And debate of what is good and what is bad will be long and endless – so I’ll stick with the basic ‘known’.

My culinary journey is a continual experimentation of cooking to discover new things that better comply with my own requirement on nutrition or health, sustainability, or quality of life (i.e. in terms of what is ‘good-tasting’ and reducing preparation time and cooking effort).

Monday, March 2, 2020

Covid-19 and Earth's Real Virus

Perspective – People are Earth’s virus and Covid-19 is nature’s equalizer
(not pro-disaster, just a self-reflection post)
Eagle ray captured by local fisherman (Bohol, Philippines).  It's cousin - Manta, and other types of rays are hunted for their gills used in traditional chinese medicine resulting in thousands of ray kills every year.  Shark trade is even worse amounting to about 70 to 100 million kills a year!

Imagine – today there’s about 900 million metric tons of CO2 yearly contributed by the aviation industry adding to that +6-degree threat in global ave. temperature. And that’s only 2-3% of total CO2 global emission!
As reference, it will take a big hard wood tree 40 years to absorb 1 ton of CO2.  But 7 billion trees are cut down every year, which will leave the planet forest-free in around 5 generations!

Wildlife trade is a 20+ billion $-trade, 4th to drugs, humans and arms trade – and covers 300 million specimens yearly!  I can’t even imagine how this is possible!

Consumer goods shipments (with the rise of consumerism) is about 300 billion worth of parcels (packaged shipped goods) or about +2,300 parcels shipped every second! Imagine the amount of fuel and resources consumed to produce and ship these products!

These are but some glaring numbers on how humanity abuse and overuse the world’s resources with its infinite demand – to satisfy its insatiable needs.

Imagine Earth’s “delight” seeing an extreme reduction of commercial flights and tourism - offering fresher air and a nice blue sky; a sudden slump on wildlife capture, shipments and trade – promoting animal population recovery if not simply giving back their freedom and peace; or hopefully – a huge reduction of parcel shipments especially those coming from ‘hot zones’ like China. Forget about Lord Vader, nature has its way in ‘bringing balance to the force’.  And this ‘NCOV’ is just a glimpse or taste of what she can do.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Taal Volcano National Park - The Brighter Days

I was lucky enough to have visited Taal lake, the pulo (island) and its neighboring towns so many times that it has now become a ‘usual place’ for me.  From a casual weekend getaway in Talisay town coupled with an easy hike to view the ‘island within a lake within an island within a lake’, to an easy hiking trip on Mt Maculot (which is part of the Taal Volcano National Park), or the countless overnights in some hotels along Tagaytay (caldera) ridge;

And once in a while – a more serious lake activity ranging from boat rescue training or race event, a +2-hour kayak visiting the innumerable fish pens, a topper or hobie cat sailing course, and even a grueling 35km Taal island kayak circumnavigation. 
Rescue Regatta event - using plywood 'bahangka' for the race (myself standing, doing final checks before the whistle-start).  At Talisay town (north of the lake)

Although I’ve “seen” Taal in its nastiest mood – particularly old black-and-white photos displayed in Taal Hotel (Tagaytay), I couldn’t say that I’ve really seen her violent side.  Until now, or perhaps more on the days to come.

While it’s temporarily difficult to see the true beauty of Taal, and just to peel away from the sobering sights of ‘death and destruction’, it may be a good time to reminisce the good old days.