Deadline Tomorrow

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Deadline tomorrow!!! Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed…I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents…

If you were one of people who became genuinely concerned about your online privacy and reposted this message (even if it was “just to be safe”), then pat yourself on the back and greet yourself a Happy April Fools Day in October. There were apparently a good number of you as this recent viral trend made it to the news again.

“Again?” You might ask.

Well, yes, because this little prank or hoax has been around since 2012 (according to

So let’s be clear about a couple of things:

  1. Facebook is not making all your posts public, and certainly not those messages or photos that have been deleted.
  2. Nothing you post on your wall, even if it sounds legalese, overrides the Policies and Terms Of Use that you agreed to when you signed up for a Facebook account. In other words, there were certain things you agreed to when you decided to get an account. Yes, it’s that long, boring blob of text that you probably skipped or hurriedly scrolled down to just to tick the “I agree” checkbox at the bottom.

Let me tell you about a tool that you can use before falling for these hoaxes again. But it really needs no introduction as  I’m sure you know the tool I’m talking about. It has been around far longer than Facebook. It’s called Google.

Whenever you see any of these things again, go to and paste a significant portion of the text. For example, you could copy the phrase “I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission” and put that into the Google search bar, and you will immediately see a number of links leading to articles that you can read and discern for yourselves whether it is true or not. Instead of copying text, you can also use key words. For example, “Facebook privacy hoax or not” also works.

Now, like I said, this is a tool and like any tool it needs to be handled properly. Not all articles you find on Google are guaranteed to be true. The next thing you should do is check the source of the article. Is it a personal blog, a relatively unknown newsletter, or a known news source? And then read the article itself. Is it an opinion piece or a fact-piece? Does it cite credible sources? And so on.

“That sounds like a lot of hard work,” you might say.

Well, of course it is. But why do you think a lot of people fall for pyramid scams and get-rich-quick schemes even if they have been around for decades? Why do people fall for rumors and false stories? Why do people believe in self-medicating with herbal remedies instead of getting proper medical diagnoses?

Getting to the truth is hard and involves some work and some thinking, but what is the alternative? Would you rather be fooled? Would you rather spread false stories? Would you rather suffer from complications because you took that concoction your neighbor boiled rather than seeking sound scientific advice?

You decide.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at View previous articles at


Mostly Unplugged

Photo Credit: davidmulder61 Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: davidmulder61 Flickr via Compfight cc

Slow internet, a hacked site and offline concerns – those have been my issues this past week. They have kept me mostly unplugged from Facebook. Where before I would have the urge to check my phone regularly when it beeps to the latest Facebook notification, I have been blissfully uninterrupted in the office as my phone can barely connect to the internet there. This has been a blessing as I could focus on more pressing concerns at work.

When I arrive home, the notifications come in a swift barrage and I mostly just scroll through them and clear them all without clicking on them because I’m too tired to have any sort of serious discussion. I just look at some funny links to de-stress and that’s about it.

I also found out that my website had been hacked and Google had flagged it for containing malware. So the past few days were spent on the Linux command line trying to remember all the stuff I learned in college when Linux was still at its infancy. I had to weed out the malware, identify it, remove it, then figure out how it got in, and plug that leak.

Google seems to have been satisfied with my efforts and has now cleared my site from their malware list.

There was a time when I was crazily in Facebook for hours on end. I would be endlessly debating with one person or another, scrolling here and there, clicking on links, reading them and posting my comments, arguments, agreements or disagreements.

Now, I laugh when I remember those times, and I remember that life is certainly not just on Facebook, especially this past week when I found that I am comfortable being hardly active on it.

It’s funny when some people I hardly know judge me by what goes on in my account or my wall. My thoughts on religion, spirituality, politics and so on can hardly be encapsulated in a few status updates or even a few blog posts. They are also ever-changing and evolving as I consider other points of view.

Last night, I read Clinton Palanca’s piece 100 Days of Dutertopia. A paragraph that struck me there was when he talked about having laughed and dined with people he thought were his friends, and then later finding out that they supported the current administration. He felt betrayed, he said.

And I thought, for what? Because you made some wrong assumptions about them? Because you think that a prerequisite of friendship is that they should think the same way as you in all matters and have the same values you hold? Those people did not betray you (unless they were willfully deceiving you for some ulterior motive). It was only your assumptions that did.

It is the easiest thing in the world to stereotype people and put them in these little boxes so you can decide whether to love them or hate them – yellowtard, dutertard, those pretentious, exploitative Americans, those arrogant, self-serving Chinese communists, drug addict, criminal, and so on. Stereotypes and generalizations have their uses, but to use these to label a person and not to see them beyond the label is simply shortsighted.

No one person can be reduced to a label. Talk to a fanatic and you’ll find he’s not so bad after all. Talk to an intellectual and you’ll discover that she is not above being ruled by her feelings. The more you try to know someone, the more you discover that there is always more to know.

I just had a nice chat with a friend who has a different political stand than me, but we respect each other and can have decent conversations that do not degenerate into insults and name-calling (except in jest). I think that beyond sharing the same thoughts and values, the true test of friendship is acceptance of who the other person is and treating that person as respectable despite glaring differences in your beliefs and opinion.

And for those who can’t take that, there is always the option of the unfriend button.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at View previous articles at


Dear Mr. President

Photo Credit: jjpacres Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jjpacres Flickr via Compfight cc

Many years ago, when my father was still alive (and perhaps the same age as you are now), we had a long talk — just me and him. I had decided to be open and honest to him about certain behaviors he was exhibiting that I found disturbing. So for perhaps the first time in my life, I decided to be quite candid about it. The conversation went better than I expected. He did not react in anger and in fact opened up to me about his struggles with the same problem I noticed. So I understood him better after that, and my respect for him was not diminished in any way.

So I write to you today, not as a critic nor a detractor, but as one of your supporters and as one of the people who voted for you. I write openly with no intention of pulling you down or of lambasting you in public, but with the intention of giving voice to my fellow supporters who feel the same way as me but cannot express what they feel in their hearts nor have a venue for doing so. I write to you as a son of Davao of which you have been a father for many years. I was born here in the 70’s and grew up here in the 80’s. I know what Davao was back then and I know what it is now.

I write to implore you of one thing and one thing only, and it is not even unique: Please choose your words carefully. Please learn to control yourself.

I understand that in the election season, your street language was what endeared you to your voters and also attracted media to you to provide the necessary exposure and mileage to win. However, it is no longer election time. You have already won and have just marked your first 100 days as president. You no longer need the media splash and attention yet you are still getting it, for all the wrong reasons.

I understand that you do not really care what other people say about you. I used to be that way until I learned that some things I said hurt people I deeply cared about, even if I had no intentions of doing so. Like you, I had to apologize and explain myself several times, and I knew I had to work on improving my behavior, because apologies and explanations can get old pretty fast and people will tire of it if they see no true intent to change.

Speaking of which, your whole campaign was built on this one word: change. You promised to bring change and indeed we have seen many changes for the better in this short time, yet they have been overshadowed by the same careless language that you used prior to assuming office. It is ironic that in this regard, you have been showing a seeming unwillingness to change — you give reasons like you are really just fit to be a mayor and that people should not mind your mouth or your words too much.

May I respectfully remind you, sir, that words have power — as I’m sure you understand when you use those words to instill fear in criminals. Words can heal and words can kill — they can inspire a person to dizzying heights, yet also bring him down to the depths of despair. However, the sword cuts both ways and the careless use of words can come back to bite you as well when they cause people to be unsure of what you are saying and to lose their respect for you.

Also, change starts with yourself. In fact, may I remind you of your promise to be more “presidentiable” once you are elected? We cheered your efforts to change that one time you caught yourself before uttering a curse in a televised interview, but you soon slipped back into your old ways. Change is most effective when it comes from within, when people start doing things because they are right, not just because they fear the consequences of doing wrong. As our leader, showing to us your sincerity and willingness to change for the better will go a long way in inspiring others to do so.

When asked to describe your first 100 days in one word, one of my acquaintances answered, “polarizing” and as much as it pains me to hear it, I have to admit it is also true. Your detractors from before the elections have not been won over and have in fact, entrenched themselves further from you. The moderates have swung to either unapologetically defending you or outright hating you.

Mr. President, Mr. Mayor, Tatay, whether you like it or not, you are now president of the country, not just your 16 million voters, but of 100 million Filipinos. We are watching your every move and taking cues from every little thing you say and do. It is your unenviable task to bring us all together – red, white, blue and even yellow – not to let us drift further apart.

And it all begins with your words, for words shape our beliefs and beliefs inspire our actions. Imagine 100 million Filipinos with one mind, one vision and one goal. That would be a force that can change the world.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at View previous articles at


Just Science Fiction

Twinkle the Star in Children's Digest Magazine
Twinkle the Star in Children’s Digest Magazine

For my birthday, I got myself a toy and a book. The toy is a cylindrical-shaped speaker with an unbelievable sound for its size. It connects to my phone via Bluetooth and can be used as a speakerphone as well as to belt out my favorite tunes. Added to that, it can survive a drop into the fishpond or a pool as it is also waterproof. It is with me now as I write this on an early Thursday morning wet with rain, bridging decades as it plays the jazz masterpieces of Thelonius Monk and the guitar solos of Andy McKee.

The book I got is a collection of speeches, articles and other essays by one of my favorite fiction writers, Neil Gaiman, entitled The View From The Cheap Seats. I have only begun to read it. Gaiman’s nonfiction is as magical as his fiction. I am still at page 48 (out of 500 pages) and already I have been brought back to my childhood when I found hours and hours of pleasure reading. Fortunately, there was no shortage of reading materials at our house. We had bookshelves filled with all sorts of books.

Gaiman writes in a genre called SF & F or Science Fiction and Fantasy and also children’s books (although many adults also find much pleasure in these). I have long been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Even today, when I wander into any bookstore, I make sure to go and check the SF & F shelves to see if anything new and interesting has come out. I also get to see many books that I have already read. Sometimes I pick those out and hold them in my hand, or I just run my fingers over the spine as they sit there, sort of like greeting old friends.

Being the youngest in the family, I was fortunate to have older sisters to read stories aloud to me when I was too young to read. We had this huge collection of booklets called Children’s Digest which was like Reader’s Digest (for those who remember this), only it was, obviously, for children. Each issue of Children’s Digest had a regular comic strip which told the adventures of Twinkle the Star. Twink had a huge star-shaped head and he had on a shirt that was black on one side and white on the other.

I don’t know how many times I bugged my sisters (each had their own turn) to read stories of Twink day after day and night after night. I think they were relieved when I finally learned how to read. I was also relieved because I could now pick out whatever issue of Children’s Digest I liked and read to my heart’s content without waiting for someone to read to me.

Our old house had a room we called the “Study Room” that was adjacent to the bedroom I shared with my dad. The two rooms were separated by a screen mesh so that anyone in the study room could take a peek in our room and vice versa. It was my dad’s habit to wake up very early in the morning (he was already up at two-thirty or three o’clock) and start working in his table at the study room, usually checking invoices from the store or writing stuff I did not understand on sheets of paper.

So I would very often wake up early as well because the lights were on. Sometimes, I found it hard to go back to sleep so I would go to the study room and sit on my dad’s rocking chair reading anything I could get my hands on in the bookshelf. There was this series of books called Bible Friends which told stories from the Bible — Noah’s Ark, Samson and Delilah, Moses and the Red Sea, the miracles of Jesus, and so on. There was also this thick volume of fairy tales where I got introduced to Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks, and so many others.

As I got older, I learned to read longer stories that spanned an entire book. I remember seeing a cartoon version of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe on TV and it fascinated me to no end. Imagine my delight when my sister told me she had the book (and the rest of the series by C.S. Lewis). I devoured those books and read them over and over until I knew Narnia like the back of my hand.

I got introduced to more of the same genre when I read the Guardians of the Stone series by Moyra Caldecott, a magical tale which I believe was inspired by the mysterious rock formations at Stonehenge. And then there was Thongor of Lemuria by Lin Carter which featured a god-like warrior-king. The most fascinating idea I found in that world was a magical metal that fell upwards instead of down, which the people learned to shape into flying machines by using counterweights.

When I was in college, I remember my dad asking me for an accounting of my allowance. I told him I had spent some money on books. He asked what books and I rattled off the titles. He then dismissed them with a wave of his hand and said, “Bah, that’s just science fiction.”

In the book I’m currently reading, Gaiman recounts a trip to China in 2007 to attend the first-ever state-sponsored science fiction convention. He got to speak to a Chinese official and asked him why China was now holding such a convention when it has been known in the past that its leaders disapprove of science fiction. What had changed? He would like to know.

The official responded, “Oh, you know for years we’ve been making wonderful things. We make your iPods. We make phones. We make them better than anybody else, but we don’t come up with any of these ideas. You bring us things and then we make them. So we went on a tour of America talking to people at Microsoft, at Google, at Apple, and we asked them a lot of questions about themselves, just the people working there. And we discovered that they all read science fiction when they were teenagers. So we think maybe it’s a good thing.”

As I finish writing this, I am moving my feet to music coming out of a device that is invisibly connected to my phone. I can control how loud or soft I want the music to be at the touch of a button. At another touch, I can make it switch to the next song, or the one before it, or a totally random one. And if I spill my morning tea on it, it will still keep on playing as if nothing happened.

A few decades ago, this device would have been the stuff of science fiction. Today, it’s reality and it’s absolutely magical.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at View previous articles at


To The Teacher of Aspiring Assassins

Photo Credit: Stewart Black via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Stewart Black via Compfight cc

I saw your facebook post lamenting the fact that your students have turned in essays saying “I want to be an assassin” or “I want to be a killer.” You complained that the president’s seeming endorsement of these acts makes your job harder, and that it was easier last year.

I know you feel hopeless about the fact that this president’s and this administration’s values differ wildly from your own, and I am not here to argue against those feelings. You have every right to feel that way. I would just like to offer you a fresh perspective about the job you said is now more difficult.

Were I still in the classroom today, I would be having a field day. Never have I seen people so polarized, or so engrossed in following current events. One of my major struggles in being an English teacher was finding relevant and engaging topics for students to discuss or write about. It seems so easy these days, and there is so much material you can actually use, whatever your political leanings.

You could, for example, use your students’ submissions to jump start an open discussion in class. Try to get your students to open up about why they feel that way and what motivates them to such aspirations. Allow yourself and the rest of the class to listen without judgment, and then let the others voice their opinions or ask questions.

This can easily spawn into a debate session. Take your pick of topics — Is vigilante-justice wrong? Is media biased? Was Marcos a good or bad president? Should he be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani? Is Delima innocent or guilty? Is Duterte’s war on drugs succeeding or failing?

If you’re teaching writing and composition, there are also so many lessons to be gleaned from news articles — good headline writing (Leila’s Dillema) vs bad (Witnesses Finger Delima), how to use data to support your statements, how to write news objectively, and how to evaluate articles. There is such a wealth of examples (and non-examples) to pick from and you can use these examples to show the importance of clearly articulating one’s ideas.

With the renewed interest in Marcos, you can invite speakers into your class, both pro and anti and even those who are in between. Invite martial law victims to come and share their stories, or even those who lived through those times.

And while teachers usually lament that kids these days are glued on facebook or youtube, you can now give them a legitimate reason to spend time on these sites (since they’re going to be immersed in them anyway). Let them watch senate hearings, congress hearings, the president’s speeches, senator’s speeches, etc. You can then have them turn in reaction papers, or ask them to write news articles about what they watched — then compare what they wrote with what major news outlets came up with, and even compare those with each other. Let your students decide which article was the most objectively written, which has an obvious slant, and so on.

By now, I think you get my point. What you see as a difficulty, I see as a marvelous opportunity to reach out to students in issues they find relevant. I see a way to get them thinking about matters of governance and politics, something that students are usually apathetic about at their age.

Your role as a teacher is now more important than ever. I have read and listened to a great many inspirational speakers and a good number of them cite as their inspiration, either a parent or a teacher. Rarely do I hear them mention the president of their country as providing the spark that led them to achieve great things.

If you think the president is not setting a good example, then show to your students by your own example, how it should be done. After all, they only see the president on TV while you have close personal contact with them on a daily basis. Who do you think should have a greater influence on their lives?


Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at View previous articles at


Related Posts with Thumbnails