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A Life That is Well and Full
August 3rd, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

We do not beat the Reaper by living a long life. We beat the reaper by living a life that is full and well. Hope this video emphasizes this very important point; that life is precious and has meaning.




erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

Time Stood Still (posted at
June 30th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

Time flies so fast. Another summer is approaching and another vacation looming, at least for the kids. As a prelude to the usual out-of-town plans that we have, I took a three day off work on Father’s Day and have my wife plan a three-hour drive to Gualala, a serene coastal town in Mendocino, California. We woke up at 5am and packed our stuff, composed of two bags of clothes and three grocery bags of food. And of course a cooler filled with soda, water and green tea.


We had breakfast at McDonalds, having decided it is the most convenient alternative for a family of four. We made our way to Lombard street headed off to the Golden Gate bridge and then to Napa. The highway was clear and there was no better time for the drive to take place than on a Saturday morning. It was foggy outside and the sky was overcast. The two kids sat at the van’s back seat each with an mp3 plugged to their ears and hashbrowns stuffed in their mouth. It was a pleasant drive, so far. My youngest was singing to the music, his own version of Amy Grant’s “Power of Love”. It sounded like a Japanese ranting. All of us had a laugh.


The drive was such a wonderful task under the circumstances. We were on a North Pacific highway and it zigzags across meadows and fields, with the ocean view to the left and the countryside to the right. There were countless curves that I had to slow down to 15 mph just to get good traction. There were but a few cars on the road and everything looked safe and quiet. On one curbside a group of surfers was dressing up to catch the wave. My wife and I hollered teasing a bald guy about to undress. Afar, one surfer was wiped out by the ocean’s mild tide. It was a beautiful sight.


On previous trips, my eldest son had a bad habit of asking if we were there yet. And so before the journey began we told him that it would take us three hours to get to where we’re going. It also came with a stern warning that he should not be bugging us with that question until after three hours on the road. That worked and kept him relatively quiet. The only bugging noise was the repeated message on the GPS telling us we are exceeding the speed limit. I turned the volume down. Now it’s perfect.


We arrived at our destination before ten in the morning. It was a picturesque view of a small coastal town. Population 585. About two hotels stand from each side of the road in the center of the town that is also the main highway. A community center near a dilapidated pink barnhouse stands in a dirt road. Across it is the Gualala Country Inn where we have a reservation. Check in starts at 3pm and so we drove directly to the rental shop where we planned to get a kayak. Adventure Rents is enclosed by a picket fence right behind a Century 21 office. A couple and their son were waiting by the parking lot for the rental office to open. They too would go to the river. Soon the person in charge drove up on a Toyota van that has seen better days. Its’ plate number says “4fun”, which is the same as the office’s phone number located on the billboard facing the highway. A nice lady walked out with a walking stick in one hand. Barely unable to support her heavy weight she moved slowly up the driveway to the benches facing a storage container. She welcomed us and proceeded to explain where the river leads and how people of all ages have found kayaking to be fun and educational. She never skipped a second without a word said. Very warm and pleasant indeed, we just listened and focused on the activities that she has mentioned. The other family was from town, part of the 585 residents of this lovely place. My sons talked to their kid who was nine years old himself. They commented on how my eldest was big for his age. And these are plain white folks just happy enough to have an Asian tourist milling around their town. Good for business.


Instead of kayaking we decided to get a canoe instead so that we could all be together. We were not sure how the paddling will turn out so it was safer to be all in on one boat. A male in his forties drove up. He was the helper, the muscle man responsible for the lifting of the boats. Another friendly smile and warm welcome. What a town indeed! The warm reception was a contrast to the foggy weather. A little drizzle barely felt dotted the van’s windshield. Amidst all these, the most striking part was how the friendly folks accommodated our questions and inquiries. We learned that the river is usually warmer when the air is cool and that this is the best time for canoeing, when there is enough water in the river left to wade on. Apparently, during the summer days, the shallow river would not permit any kayaking to be done.

The adventure sets off then as we went back to the van after getting on lifevests, to drive up the beach where the canoe is. My sons could not contain their excitement as they proceeded to position themselves on the canoe. I had to put some important stuff in a “dry bag” provided for us and in went my camera, my wallet, cellphone and keys. A bag of lunch boxes were also thrown in another “dry bag” which bulged as air is compressed inside. This makes sure that it floats, even if the canoe does not.


The first few minutes on the canoe were a struggle. We could not find a rhythm and went zigzagging across the river, barely moving far from where we launched. It was a new experience and we appeared clumsy for about ten minutes. The other family whom we met at the rental office was by now a couple of hundred yards away from us. They know how to paddle.


The air was crisp and the water was calm as can be. The thick foliage lining up the river appeared undisturbed and a few birds nestled in the branches. The water was about three to five feet deep and in some parts it was rather shallow. A number of dead trees with their trunks protrude from under water, the moss and weeds gathering up turning it to a dark color green. To our right side we could see the highway with a limited number of cars slowly driving by. A couple watched us from a balcony off an inn called Breaker’s Hotel. All of us were savoring the experience and was relishing the moment’s peace.


About half a mile from where we began, we docked into a sand bar separating the river from the Pacific Ocean. The kids wanted to swim and I was looking forward to taking some pictures. Looming in front of us was the view of the town, showing the Country Inn and a couple of residential structures that was unmistakably still not stirring on this fine early morning. The waves off the coast of the Pacific were melancholy as a group of pelicans flew into formation just above our heads. If there was anything I ever remembered feeling, it was calm.


The south side of Gualala River is another hour worth of paddling. With four inexperienced and by now wrangling pseudo rowers, it took us two hours to traverse. At some point we had to get off the canoe and pull it through the bedrock that is showing in the shallow canal. My eldest twice fell on his face going back the canoe just when the water was getting deeper. At one time he left his slippers and had to be scooped up. At another, it was the paddle that was thrown overboard and we had to go back to retrieve it. It was all plain simple fun. There was a deep sense of appreciation from simply hearing my kids laugh. And how they laughed.


They laughed when the canoe rocked and had to be steadied. They gasped when someone in the front seat farted and the air traveled throughout. And boy how they laughed when the canoe turned over and all our belongings floated in the water, the shock in my face was a mixture of surprise and fear. I was fearful of my camera getting wet as I floated in neck-deep water, trying to get hold of my stuff, while all three of them made it to the bank and hollered. They would forever have in their minds the image of my facial expression and that just kept them sniggering. We had the canoe turned over and as they scooped up the water, they still would burst out laughing.


We checked in at 3:30 pm and got a room on the second floor. Two queen-sized beds with red and gold sheets adorned the room. A fireplace was lit up by the window facing the river and the ocean. A television set was on top of cabinet and the kids immediately tuned in to Drake and Josh. My wife had to scurry them to the bathtub for a shower while I went straight to the comfort of the pillows. My spine was hurting and my arms were tired. I was wishing for a back rub when my wife did her usual back cracking ritual that usually corrects my misaligned nerves. I could settle with that for now. And I dozed off.


I was awakened at 6:30 pm by the two kids who wanted a hug. They were hungry too. After shower we dressed up to check the town. And it was easy to check. If we had to “paint the town red” we’d only need a bucket and a brush. There were just a couple of dining places but the most that stood out for us was “Bones Roadhouse.” “BBQ, beer and blues”, was their slogan and a poster said that a band was playing tonight. The inside of the restaurant was decorated with pirate flags, skeletons, road signs, and a host of other “historical” writings and sayings. The atmosphere was lively and the limited number of tables was sparsely occupied by families enjoying their dinner. The band was setting up their instruments off a corner where a billiard table was pushed aside and covered with a cloth. The waitress, a lovely looking blonde approached us and got our drinks. The way people looked at us made us feel at home and very welcome, like a relative has come home. One of those setting up the band instruments was the same guy who helped us out in Adventure Rents. We said hi and thanked him for the canoe we rented. He said he heard that our boat capsized and still managed to laugh. I said that it was the highlight of the trip but privately we were surprised at how fast the story was passed on. We realize that it’s how the community thrives. Everyone knows everything.


When the food was served we launched our attack. A barbeque ribs for my wife that is as long as her arm, the two kids each with macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders, and for me, barbeque strips with cornbread and mashed potatoes. The beer stuffed me quick and soon enough there was no more room for dessert. I glanced over to my right side and caught the flicker of an eyelash and a smile from a lady on another table. She asked if we were staying for the music and said darn since we are going to miss it. Her husband plays the drums. She works at a collectibles store near the rental office. She voted for Hillary and thinks that Obama may not solve the economy. She had her best day in sales today after months of slow business and she thinks she is not religious. All of that were said in about three minutes. And it was just a wonderful feeling that strangers talk openly about themselves, so honest and willing to connect. The crowd was building up as the band was about to play and so we hurried out and said goodbye to our newfound acquaintances.


We would have ended the day right there, resolving to go straight to bed after a mouthful. But my wife was adamant she need to check the rest of the town. The sun was still brightly up as expected of a summer’s day when they set at 9pm. So we drove a mile away to the State Park where they had this beautiful view of the whole town, the river and the ocean. We took turns taking pictures of each other and the spectacular view of the Pacific North coast. The sun was about to set yet we feel more awake than before. It might be the food, maybe the beer, but more so, it was the company that we keep, just the four of us enjoying our time that moment when our shadows were behind us, and the gentle touch of the setting glow was disappearing in the horizon. It was then that time stood still.                         

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

Political abductions on the rise under GMA
June 11th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 3 ]

I just read this article and want to share with you something that the Filipino people should not be ignoring.



On April 28, 2007, Jonas Burgos, a 37-year-old Philippine political activist, was eating lunch in Ever Gotesco shopping mall in Manila. At around 1:20 p.m., a group of four men approached his table. They spoke quietly to Burgos for about 20 minutes. Then the men began pushing him toward the mall’s exit. “I’m just an activist,” a waitress heard Burgos shout. A mall security guard approached the group. As the guard would later testify, the men warned him that they were police officers. They hustled Burgos outside and into a maroon Toyota. As the car vanished into traffic, the guard wrote down the license plate.

Burgos’ family began to worry immediately when he didn’t show up for a family event that evening. His mother, Edita, tried dialing his mobile phone, but when he answered, he seemed groggy, as though he’d been drugged. When she called again later, his phone had been turned off. Two days later, Edita Burgos called a hasty press conference to ask for help finding her son. Tips began to trickle in. One tipster, who claimed to be a former army intelligence officer, said that Jonas Burgos had been snatched by the Philippine military. “I had no sleep,” Edita Burgos recalls. “I was imagining all sorts of horrors.”

These are dangerous times for Philippine activists. A police task force assigned to investigate politically motivated killings says that 141 activists have been murdered since 2001, when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power. All but a handful of those cases remain unsolved. Karapatan, a Philippine human-rights group, estimates a much bloodier tally: 902 murdered labor leaders, journalists, local politicians, priests, and peasant organizers. Dozens more activists have vanished. In June 2006, less than a year before Jonas Burgos was snatched, two young female organizers from the University of the Philippines were abducted at gunpoint in Bulacan.

The Philippine government has pledged to improve its human-rights record. Yet most of these abduction cases linger in limbo, stymied by the military’s recalcitrance or police ineptitude. A March report by the U.S. State Department noted that “judicial inaction on the vast majority of disappearances contributed to a climate of impunity and undermined public confidence in the justice system.” During a highly publicized six-month inquiry by the Philippines Court of Appeals, witnesses and military personnel offered tantalizing glimpses into the shadowy circumstances surrounding the brazen daylight abduction of Jonas Burgos. Yet when the proceeding concluded last week, Edita Burgos was no closer to knowing who took her son, or why. But that should not be surprising. As the case of Jonas Burgos demonstrates, families of the disappeared often expect to find neither solace nor justice in Philippine courtrooms.

Cycle of Violence

Experience had taught Edita Burgos to fear the worst. During the military dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, her husband, Jose, had published a popular opposition newspaper. The paper’s offices were frequently raided, and Jose Burgos was held under house arrest for two years. Jonas and his siblings were nursed on their parent’s leftist politics, often taking photographs or covering rallies for their father. The family was also steeped in Catholicism. After her husband died in 2003, Edita Burgos became a lay Carmelite nun. Jonas himself briefly considered joining the priesthood, but instead took a degree in agriculture, specializing in organic farming. When the family relocated from Manila to a farm in Bulacan province, Jonas adopted rural life wholesale. “He dressed like a farmer,” says Edita. “He was just like them in his manner, so he could relate to them. He had a rapport with the people.”

In Bulacan, Burgos began working with a peasant activist group, training farmers in organic techniques and giving political seminars. The government has accused the group of supporting the New People’s Army (NPA), a Communist insurgency that has festered for more than three decades in the country’s impoverished hinterland. But the peasant group’s leader, Joseph Canlas, says that neither Burgos nor his group was connected with the insurgents. Burgos certainly had deeply felt leftist sympathies. Yet even his own family cannot say for certain whether he was a mere fellow traveler or an active NPA supporter. On occasion, his mother says, he would disappear for weeks into the mountains. He would tell her he was meeting farmers in remote villages; she suspected he was meeting insurgents in their jungle redoubts.

Philippine police and military have long blamed the killings and kidnappings on internal purges within the Communist insurgency. The NPA does have a history of murderous infighting: in 2003, a former insurgent leader was gunned down in a Manila restaurant while eating lunch. But international and Philippine human-rights watchdogs allege that the military itself is responsible for many of the deaths and disappearances. According to Ruth Cervantes, a spokeswoman for Karapatan, the violence peaked in 2006, at the height of a new government offensive against the NPA. In a scathing 2007 report, Philip Alston, a special rapporteur for the U.N., wrote that the country’s military “is in a state of denial concerning the numerous extrajudicial executions in which its soldiers are implicated.” For the first time last year, the U.S. made some of its military aid to the Philippines contingent on the country improving its human-rights record. The international disapprobation was a source of embarrassment to an Arroyo administration already staggered by allegations of vote-rigging and corruption. And the government has taken steps to prosecute the killings more aggressively, including participating in a national summit last July on extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances. At that summit, the country’s Supreme Court declared a new remedy for victims of government violence. Adapted from Latin American legal systems, the writ of amparo - “protection,” in Spanish - would, in theory, disallow blanket government denials in cases were soldiers are suspected of kidnapping activists. Thus far, the new law has proven a qualified success, according to Neri Colmenares, a human-rights lawyer who has represented more than a dozen families of abducted activists. In one case involving two farmers who alleged they were detained at various army bases for 18 months and subjected to torture - including whippings with barbed wire and being bathed in their own urine - the Philippines Court of Appeals agreed that the military was culpable, and that military investigators had failed to sufficiently probe their complaint. But many other cases where the military is suspected of involvement in disappearances have resulted in few answers.

Dead-End Investigation

Burgos’ abduction grabbed headlines in the Philippines in part because of his family’s prominence during the Marcos era. Arroyo herself called Edita Burgos to assure her that police would pursue the case aggressively. But from the start the investigation seemed to sputter. A week after the abduction, police told Burgos’ mother that they’d found a corpse resembling Jonas. The man had been bound with a cord, strangled, shot twice in the skull, and dumped by a lonely country roadside. Edita Burgos insisted it was not her son. As part of their investigation, police also traced the license plate of the Toyota used by the kidnappers. They discovered that the plate had originally belonged to a vehicle in Bulacan. In July 2006, the owner of that vehicle was cited for illegal logging illegally, and the vehicle itself was impounded by the army’s 56th Infantry Battalion, also stationed in Bulacan. A second car allegedly used by the kidnappers was traced to a top military officer. Since then, the impounded car - and its license plate - have been sitting on an army base. The plate seemed to point to the military’s involvement in Burgos’s abduction. “This is vital information that connects the military to the case,” says Purificacion C. Valera Quisumbing, chair of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights at the time of the abduction. “We’re not saying they were the ones who did the abduction. We’re just saying that this is a vital connection.”

The military conducted its own internal investigation into the license plate. While that report recommended censuring three of the battalion’s officers for failing to keep track of the plate, it did not offer an explanation of how the plate became attached to the car used to snatch Burgos - other than to suggest that someone seeking to discredit the military may have snuck into the base and stolen it. In July, a senior government prosecutor announced that he wanted to interview six military officers in connection with Burgos’ abduction. He was immediately removed from the case. Senior military officers have offered their own explanation for the abduction. In a letter to the human-rights commission, General Hermogenes Esperon, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the time of the abduction, suggested that Jonas Burgos was, in fact, a high-ranking insurgent who went by the nom de guerre Ka Ramon. In August 2007, four months after Burgos disappeared, police produced three new witnesses: former NPA insurgents who claimed they had seen Burgos’ kidnapping. The ex-insurgents claimed that Burgos was an NPA member, and was targeted by his own comrades in a dispute over money.

General Esperon, who retired last month, declined repeated requests for an interview. A military spokesman, Lt.Col. Bartolome Bacarro, says that the military was not involved. “We as an organization categorically deny we were involved in the abduction of Mr. Jonas Burgos,” Bacarro says. “There is just a possibility that some AFP members might be implicated. If that happens, we would make available members implicated in the abduction in court. It is not a policy of the AFP to be involved in these kinds of activities.” Bacarro also says that he does not believe the military was investigating Burgos at the time of his abduction. But a confidential military memo dating from May 2007 places Burgos in the army’s “order of battle” - a roster of NPA insurgents targeted for arrest or elimination. Next to Burgos’ name is the word “neutralized.” The memo bears the name of the 56th Infantry Battalion’s chief intelligence officer, but is not signed. Bacarro will not confirm the document’s authenticity. “It is the subject of an investigation so we’re leaving it to the court to assert the authenticity,” he says.

Thus far, however, Philippine courts have shed little light on the murky circumstances surrounding Burgos’ abduction. As part of an amparo complaint filed by Edita Burgos, a number of military officers have testified; all have denied military involvement in the kidnapping. Burgos continues to insist that the army orchestrated her son’s disappearance. If he is still alive, she says she would like him released; if dead, she would like only to know where his body is buried.

In late March, Burgos’ family held a celebration for what would have been his 38th birthday at the Carmelite convent where Edita Burgos works. As she sat in the convent’s sunlit courtyard, in front on an untouched chocolate cake, a procession of care-worn middle-aged women came up to her. They were, she explained, mothers of other activists who have vanished. When the women had gone, Burgos continued: “This is not about Jonas alone. They are killing the future leaders of our country. If you kill these people, who will be left?”

The original story is on

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

Ready for change
May 22nd, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 1 ]

While the world sinks down in economic despair and religious terrorism, often thought of as sparked by America during the last eight years, there comes a glimmer of hope that change is soon to come. You will feel that every American wants change and yes it will come. I hope that this happens in every country in this generation. Enjoy watching.

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

In Memory of Those Who Fought
May 20th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

Just want to share with you a blog from one of our soldier members at

I would not want to sleep. Because when I do I am haunted. The many faces of anguish, that indescribable look of the mortally wounded. Some dead, others wishing they were. Some with their arms outstretched, extended, while others just plain dismembered.

I see Nature., the fields over the horizon. The mountains lining up the sky, meeting it in peace and serenity. I see skies after the storm, the sound of lush green leaves as dew falls over the sand. At night the moon shines unearthly bright, harrowing shadows transform into ghoulish figures, shattering the peace. And then it explodes. Like thunder. Only that after or prior, instead of lightning what gives are screams…streaking.

I dream, I dream.

They have been long gone memories. Should have been gone long time ago since I first step foot. Through the carnage I moved past away, walking away from the dead. The fallen left behind. Though not the memories. For in my sleep I dream. I dream. And I wish I would not sleep.  

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

A Tribute To Mom
May 9th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

Here’s a link to my weblog, a very personal tribute to my Mother. Watch the video at the end and enjoy. I have seen that one live in San Francisco and I am sure you guys will enjoy it just like I did. Happy Mother’s Day!

Erwin Ilao


erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

April 30th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

She woke me up with a question, “Do you want to see the Grand Canyon?” Startled I said yes just to keep her from asking any more questions. I wanted to go back to sleep and enjoy the start of my weeklong vacation. I was planning to do nothing since we came back just a week ago from a three-day camping trip. Suffice to say, I am just feeling lazy and want to bum around the house for a week. Or so I thought.

She called up her aunt in San Francisco to ask if they would like to join us for the trip. That way, we could stay at Aunt’s house in Vegas and go from there to Arizona. My wife’s grandmother who is bedridden because of a stroke could also go with us to Las Vegas and probably sit on a wheelchair and play in a casino. Gambling always made her strong and during the past few days she was grumpy being in bed all the time. It was supposed to be therapeutic for her, gambling. The downside is that when she loses, which is almost always, she would go back to her grumpy self. She would not take her medicines and not eat. Well, the plan is to take her with us and so my wife was planning it all in her head. 

We will not get a rental car and instead use our van. I just took it out for a thorough inspection last week before the camping at Lake McLure and so I guess it could survive the 1500-mile trip. A week of a rental van would eat away at our budget. We have to crimp. 

We got to the house in San Francisco to pick up Aunt and grandmother. Aunt was packed already. Not that heavy since she just got back from her house there. Grandmother’s stuff was prepared. I loaded the accessories for the wheelchair. She was on her bed, not aware of what was happening. She was not in a good mood and was smirking at her eldest daughter. Apparently she hated being brought from one house to another whenever nobody would be available to take care of her. I was asked to talk to her and convince her that it would be good for her to take the eight hour trip to Las Vegas and spend four hours in a casino playing slots. I was supposed to say that it would strengthen her arms and probably her spirirts if she wins. I was usually the guy they ask to say things like this to her. She loves me more than most of her siblings and granddaughters, she said that so to myself before when she was healthy. Anyway, I did what I was told, not wanting to thwart the carefully laid spontaneous plans.

“I do not feel well. I just want to stay here and wait to die.” With a forceful sincerity she looked at me while mouthing these words. My wife replied that she should not be thinking like so and that she would feel stronger in a different environment. The littany went on another ten minutes. Her grandmother insisting that she be left alone to die comfortably, my wife and her Aunt convincing her that it would do her good. Me, I was just reflecting on the absurdity of the moment. I went out to check on the kids who were making a raucous with their Healy’s. 

Shall we cancel the trip since she can’t make it anyway? Or do we just go there ourselves and let her rest as she insisted? Aunt could not leave her so she can’t go either. That would mean that expenses would have to be borne by us alone. It mattered but not much. The four of us are used to going out on vacations with much less on our pockets. Our principle is that money will ultimately be spent on something so might as well spend it on something we will all enjoy having. So the little we have, we mostly throw on the wants of the moment. “You will earn it tomorrow”, is what I say. “Just enjoy the now.”

So grandma is not coming, so is Aunt. Just the four of us off to Vegas and then Arizona. 

Six hours on the road. Two more to go. Had to stop twice for a restroom break. Kids are asleep after a two hour video game. My wife had to steal some sleep for five minutes every two hours to keep me company. We talked mostly about how we ended up being here. Nine years of marriage and counting..? Whenever we recall our past, the stories change. She would not admit she hounded me, I was too proud to admit I fell for her. If you are just on your way to getting in a relationship, you should write a blog. That way the facts are laid out and you could have it as evidence nine years in the future. 

We also talked about sex. Mostly that topic would keep me awake. Well after five hours of driving in the middle of the night I needed all the subjects that would keep my head awake. And that one almost always never fails. Nothing kinky though. Just stuff that we have been through when we were young. Like, did we sleep around, or what we thought after the first time we did it?… Serious, thoughtful conversation. I am just glad I could do it with her. I think that was what attracted me the most. The fact that I could talk to her and she to me, I guess there lies our secret to keeping the relationship. Maybe.

Finally I could see the lights of the Strip. It is five o’clock in the morning and I could use some sleep.

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

A MASPozie (posted as an autobiography at
March 20th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 8 ]

She walked along the corridors of the University with a sort of planner in tow, dressed in maroon-colored executive looking suit, sometimes wearing a skirt while at times in shapely pants. The heads turned when she passed by as admiring students mostly freshmen oogle and wisper a remark amongst themselves, the source of the attention unaware as she idly mind her unending errands.

She was beautiful and respectable-looking, quite a sight to behold and even now I still remember her making my heart skip a beat. She was the reason why I auditioned. I wanted to know her more. During that stage my feelings for her was quite mild, kept intact and controlled. Nobody should know. Not even the girl.

And as I was fortunate to be part of the group called the MASP, I gradually came to experience one of the most exciting part of my college life, teaching my fellow students and getting paid for it, as well as looking closely to a love that faded in sight.  

The Model Approach in Speech Program (MASP) was designed to assist students who have speech difficulties. Realizing the fact that most Adamsonians come from the provinces, and the fact that learning English is different from using it as a daily dialect, the English Department created a group composed of University students who have the skills in public speaking. Aside from the ability to teach, the fundamental use of these so-called speech instructors were to model the correct usage of the English language, so much so that the outcome would be to imbibe the American accent in speech.

It was a tough call in a school setting where “fashionable” is mostly pronounced in the second syllable, and where “Peter Piper” mostly end up having “paper”. “Betty Botty bitting a bit of better butter” would be a tough tongue twister and “selling sea shores” is better than “shilling sea shells”. It was a fun job to be honest, and modesty aside it was a ticket to popularity. Throw in the monthly stipend you get from the University, the free tuition that comes with it and the camaraderie that you get once you get in, then everything else seems heavenly. Icing on the cake is the privacy of my abode, the Speech Lab, where memorable things happened. And then there was the girl.

We had a chat one time. She came one afternoon, sad and needing comforting. I did not know why she would come to “my” place for that. She was in some sort of a cooling off period with her boyfriend and so she was looking for me. Talk about a rebound or becoming a spare tire but I did not feel that way. As a matter of fact I did not feel anything when she related how she felt about me and how we could be a potential couple. I did not feel anything at all. Like a far away star you look up and wish on, this one came hurtling down Earth and was nothing more than an insignificant rock. Love faded away when the de-mystification began. She was just an ordinary girl after all.

I stayed two years with the program, content and satisfied with the daily chores. They ran from the menial like washing dishes, buying teachers’ lunches, and cleaning the restrooms, to the unprofessional like substituting for a perrenially tardy professor and checking student quizzes. There were the research papers that never gets read with the folders and slides collected and “recycled” at the corner store. And also, there were the memorable drinking sprees that followed every allowance.

The most I treasured was the friendship. It was here that I bonded with three of the most fabulous guys I have ever met in my life. Three of whom I cherished every moment and spent evenings of intellectual discussions, from the mundane and trivial, to the philosophical. Such was the impact that being a MASPozie has brought upon me and to some other student/speech instructors like me. We are extinct, yet we cannot dump aside the memories of our clan. For in the stories that we share, there were those hundreds of students who listened to us and learned from us. And they too will remember those days.

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

A Wonderful Cross
March 17th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 2 ]

This is the week in a year when we recall the passion of Jesus Christ and try to follow in His footsteps by offering our very own sacrifice. For most Catholics, this is the week that is at the very core of their faith, one that they hold on dear and revere as the ultimate form of God’s love.

I take this time to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and dwell on His human agony. For He suffered the greatest of human suffering and endured the pain that is both real and excruciating. Why He has done so is known by us who believes and is celebrated by all who benefitted from this act. Once alienated by sin, we are brought back into the grace of God through Jesus’ redeeming love. The blood that flowed and the tears that fell are the price for our redemption and was the glorious evidence of God’s love throughout eternity. For it was when we were sinners that He loved us and demonstrated that our lives matter. It was when we turned away that He embraced us back. 

Here’s to a Holy Week that may be blessed and meaningful. I hope you spend some time in reflection of Jesus’ redeeming love. 

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erwinilao has blogged 16 posts

Fighting tuition fee increase
March 7th, 2008 posted by erwinilao under Alumni Stories, Campus Issues, Opinion. [ Comments: 2 ]

I sat up for hours last night thinking about my dear Adamson University, and the looming dialogue on tuition fee increases that is about to transpire in the coming months. I recalled how we handled it during my term and was able to bring down the TFI from the proposed 12% to 6% in the school year 1995-1996. And then a thought occurred to me, that if the current AUSG is not preparing for the dialogue that is about to come, they will not have a chance of winning the argument. So for those in the student body, allow me to give in my dibs and unsolicited advice on how to present a valid and compelling argument against TFI.

From the point of view of the administration, the TFI is an accepted fact of running a business for reasons of competitiveness and economics. Students need high quality teachers and there is no way to retain them if they do not get paid well. The facilities needed maintenance and the only way to do that is to spend. New equipment needs to be purchased and upgrading old computers also will cost money.

From the point of view of the Faculty, raising tuition fees is justified simply because they need it to cover their adjusting cost of living. Without increasing fees, there is no way they could get a pro-rated amount of increase to cover the labor contracts they already entered into thereby guaranteeing a stable raise in income. For them, the students’ families can bear the brunt of tuition hikes since they have already done so for a number of years. It is expected in an inflating economy that education expenses share the bulk since education is an investment that will hopefully pay off in the long run. The teachers would normally be sharing the same view as that of the Administrator, that every year expenses go up and so does salaries and operating costs.

So that leaves the AUSG, the sole legal representative of the studentry in these proceeedings, virtually alone in the stand against TFI. They will have to come up with a strong presentation of ideas that will negate if not neutralize these points. The only thing that could save them is good research and a strong negotiating skill. These are the things they would have to do:

1. Present to the group a reasonable scenario proving that TFI is not necessary, and

2. Convince the conniving factions that TFI is not beneficial.

The AUSG has about fifteen minutes to deliver the presentation, after the University Controller submits the projected Financial Budget for the coming year. In order to come up with a strong position, they would have to weaken the position of the Administration by questioning all the entries in the proposed budget. They should look at redundant entries, unreasonable budget allocation, unexplained accounting items, promises made over the years that were not delivered, wasteful spending and other financial allocation that does not make sense. The outlook of the team when they pore over these documents should be to make every bit of entry justified. If not, the AUSG should come up with a reversal of the specific item thus bringing down projected costs. A review of the actual Financial Statement of the Admin will also be made available for them to scrutinize. If they compare what is current versus what is projected for next year, they will be able to find a lot of things that are not justified and should therefore not be included in the budget.

And this is just the preliminaries. It usually takes four meetings in a span of three months to settle this issue. And this is when the AUSG will prove to be strong. For in these coming months, the graduating officers of the AUSG will have left the campus life behind, with nary a care as to what the students will pay for in the coming year. They would be busy looking for jobs in a crazy society where all their ideals will be crushed. This happens every year and this is a reality that the AUSG will have to face. It would take commitment from the leadership of the AUSG to attend every dialogue and attempt to strengthen their position. They usually forfiet this chance of a mediation by the Alumni, when the radical of the factions will resort to street demonstrations and leave the negotiating table behind. This happens because it is easy to shout than to listen. If this year will be an exception, then I have high hopes that any TFI would be justified.

A rationalization of fee increases usually come with a solid set of numbers. Data that shows inflation rates, purchasing power of the peso, median income of average Adamsonian families, economic indicators such as GDP and minimum wages, labor conditions, and comparative rates of increases of all Universities in the area, will be useful in presenting a valid case. The bulk of any argument in this scenario should be quantitative and so a consultant like an economics professor may come in handy.

More than the numbers, an argument based on the qualitative merits of any increase should also be given. How are the facilities nowadays? What more do we need to be competitive? Where does Adamson want to go? Is this in the same spirit of the Founding Fathers? Is the poor well reached out? These and more questions dealing with the essence of Adamson University as a non-profit, Catholic institution, will help bolster that AUSG stance that it is not necessary and beneficial to increase fees from a specific percentage to the proposed. And this is where lies all true wisdom…the AUSG needs to come up with a number other than ZERO!

Based on experience, leading students in the fight against TFI can be troublesome. Most radical leaders think that it is brave to say they do not want an increase. They feel that it would be a sell off to agree to a certain number. So most of them carry the fight to the streets and forego the process. They do not realize that had they done their research and met with the opposition in a spirit of dialogue, they would have a winning situation.

Tags: Adamsonian, Adamson+University, tuition+fee+increase

erwinilao has blogged 16 posts


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