The Last Weekend of July (Part One)
The last weekend of July had been exhausting, but it was certainly ripe with fun, learning, and adventure.
July 29, Friday
Of Games and Gambling
FRIDAY night, we had dinner at Tito Rackling and Tita Naty's house. We played mahjong; I had to sit in for Grandfather, who wanted to play but could no longer concentrate on his own. So, while I was playing, Grandfather was beside me, suggesting what to do. Despite having grown up in the '70s through the '80s in a house where mahjong was being played virtually every day [My mom's an expert mahjong player], I never learned to play it; perhaps because I've never been fond of gambling or other games of chance, especially those in which money is at stake. And this, I believe, extends onto my general view about life and my approach in dealing with it. I don't usually let Life be affected much by the Seasons or be run by the Fates. I want always to be the steerer or, at least, a co-driver or -operator or an active player, rather than be only a passenger or spectator, who merely waits and observes passively as others play their roles actively. I don't like taking uncalculated risks. I abhor gambling. I dislike having to deal with Chance or Uncertainty. I try to understand first every Great Unknown before making any Ultimate Decision or passing Final Judgment.
"I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."—William Ernest Henley, "Invictus"
I had fun playing mahjong, but a Scrabble or Boggle session would have been, for me, more enjoyable. Word games are my favorite pastime, while TV quiz shows my favorite programs: Battle of the Brains, Jeopardy, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, The Weakest Link, Game Ka Na Ba?
Back in my academic days, I used to be my schools' representative to various interschool Science and English quiz bees; ' brought home a number of medals and trophies in highschool and in College to my parents' pride and delight.
LUCKILY I'm a fast learner, so I managed to keep up with my elder relatives who are veteran mahjong players.
I enjoy playing mahjong only because each player has to stack a row of tiles at the start of every gameplay, and this makes me feel like a child building little barricades and fortresses out of Lego blocks. Also, the different mahjong tiles fascinate me: circles, bamboo sticks, characters, flowers, dragons, and winds.
I was already losing around five Canadian dollars; fortunately, Lady Luck flew on my side as we approached the end of the session. I won the last three gameplays, enabling me to reclaim my early loss.
July 30, Saturday
Misconceptions and Misinformation. Cousin Heinjie and wife, Myra, invited us to lunch at their newly bought house. We planned to go strawberry picking afterwards; however, we found out that the picking season had ended a few days ago. That would have been another great adventure for me. Better luck next time, eLf.
Photos taken outside the house of cousin Heinjie and wife, Myra, on Shauna Way, Winnipeg, Manitoba
AFTER meal, the elder visitors, most of whom immigrated into Canada in the '70s, began engaging themselves in their usual chitchats about the Philippines. I never let misinformation and exaggerated reactions arising in conversations like this remain uncorrected. I always observe, assess their views, and then participate smartly and as fairly as I possibly could, trying to correct any obvious misconception about certain issues. For instance,
1. "Naku, nakakatakot ngayong umuwi ng Pilipinas. Magulo ngayon du'n. Maraming nagra-rally dahil sa pandaraya ni Arroyo sa eleksyon...," uttered one visitor. [Visiting the Philippines these days is scary. The situation there is chaotic. There are lots of people demonstrating in the streets because of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's alleged cheating in the last presidential election...]."
My reply: "Hindi naman ganu'n kagulo. Ilang EDSA Revolutions na ang na-experience ko, at never namang nagkaroon ng madugong patayan sa daan. Lagi namang localized ang mga rally na 'yan. P'wede ka pa rin namang makapamasyal sa malls at sa magagandang beaches na tulad ng Boracay at Puerto Galera."
2. "Naku, may outbreak pala ngayon ng dengue sa Pilipinas. Nakakatakot magbakasyon ngayon du'n; baka pagbalik mo rito e may dengue ka na," declared another visitor. [According to the news, there's a dengue outbreak in the Philippines right now. I wouldn't dare visit the country just to return afflicted with the disease]."
I explained: "Oo, maraming reported cases ng dengue, pero hindi naman 'yan nationwide, na tipong lahat ng lugar na puntahan mo e nagkalat 'yung sakit. Usually, ang affected areas lang naman e 'yung remote towns in the provinces and depressed sectors of Metro Manila."
[I would have added: "Bigyan n'yo ko ng pamasahe't baon, at ako na lang ang uuwi." But, they might reply with: "Swerte ka! Kami pa gagastos, tapos pagbalik mo e baka hawaan mo lang kami ng dengue." Hahaha!]
3. "Mga Filipino, adik sa cellphones; wala nang inatupag kundi ang mag-text nang mag-text. Ultimo jeepney at bus drivers, naka-cellphone na rin...," another narrow-minded observation which I hear often.
My justification: "Sa sitwasyon kasi ng Pilipinas—heavy traffic, at karamihan ng tao ay commuters—e mahirap tuloy tumantya ng oras; dahil dito, naging importante ang cellphones, lalo na kung may mga ka-meeting ka o kikitain sa malls o kahit saan. Di tulad rito sa parte na 'to ng Canada, palibhasa halos lahat ay may kanya-kanyang sasakyan, di tuloy problema ang pagbiyahe; at dahil sa walang heavy traffic, tantyado mo ang oras, madali kang makararating kung saan ka man pupunta; kaya di ginagamit ng mga tao rito sa Canada ang kanilang cellphones in the same extent ng paggamit ng mga tao sa Pilipinas.
"Yung pagte-text naman sa Pilipinas, e mahal kasi ang call per minute as compared with the charge per text. Kaya, s'yempre, imbes na tumawag sila, e di magte-text na lang talaga. E dito naman kasi sa Canada, halos pareho lang ang charge per minute-call at ng per text; the reason marami rito ang naka–monthly plan."
%%% Those were just a few of such unfair and obviously unthought-of remarks about my homeland, but more hurtful is to realize that they are usually uttered not by people of other races but by fellow Filipinos who've long been living in foreign countries. But,
Don't get me wrong; I don't adore everything about my country; in fact, I don't deny that I abhor many legitimately negative facts about the Philippines and many Filipinos. And all these I would never condone and cover up with sourgrapey justifications and sugar-sweet explanations.
I acknowledge the fact that most Filipino movies suck; that most Filipino politicians suck even more; that many Filipino-showbiz personalities are irresponsible and serve as poor role models; that many Filipino students disregard education and prioritize their social lives; that many Filipino teachers, instead of upgrading their skills, either stagnate or, worse, deteriorate; that many Filipino writers(?) blatantly plagiarize (!); that many Filipino musicians knowingly rip off obscure artists, thinking they can get away with it (sadly, most do get away with it!); that a big chunk of the Filipino population are either uneducated or plainly stupid; all these and those and this and that...kabayong buntis! Kabayong bundat!
But wait, how many cunt——; I mean, what country is free from such human follies and folly makers anyway?
In the end, cultures, races, languages, and religions become insignificant; for what really matters, ultimately, is the ability of individuals to rise above their human nature; and that, for me, is the real essence of humanity.