18 September 2021

Champagne Problems

I've never been into the science fiction genre. My knowledge on anything that remotely touches the subject is limited to what I deem interesting. Mostly, I don't understand it. But these days, I've been trying to follow the developments in the highly controversial technology known as CRISPR. 

Dress: Zara | Shoes: Manolo Blahnik Hangisi | Love bracelet: Cartier

In what I believe would be among my 5 favorite posts in this blog ever (read it again HERE), I agreed to Musk's question which roughly translates to "how come the brilliant minds who are supposed to ensure that advancements in science would progress seem to be missing?" Little did I know that in the works was an invention that would change the very foundation of life. CRISPR is a technology that is capable of editing our DNA. We all know that our DNA is responsible for everything that we are born with, meaning this is a result of supposedly uncontrolled combinations obtained from our biological parents. But with the existence of CRISPR, it is no longer comparable to winning a gene lottery because this technology works like a lotto ticket that ensures hitting the jackpot outright. Now imagine the implications. My brothers who have poor eyesight, which they inherited from my Mom, who inherited it from her Mom and so forth, wouldn't have to bother with this issue anymore thanks to CRISPR. Or consider those afflicted with genetic disorders, incompatible genes, and all other diseases that can be cured by altering the DNA including cancer and aids. I've watched plenty of documentaries about genetic diseases so somehow, I theoretically understand how difficult it is to be very limited by circumstances that we have no control over. I'm aware that I would not fully know the extent of the pain caused by diseases that I am fortunately not suffering from nor any of my close family and friends.

CRISPR can also make me taller. Instead of my diminutive height, I can be as tall as my 5"6' college best friend whom I've always encouraged to wear this and that only because I would've worn the same clothes had I been given her height (Hi Lina!). But what's stopping others from increasing their height alone when CRISPR can address specific issues at a molecular level? Instead of having good eye vision, why not get x-ray vision? Instead of curing bone diseases, why not make the person super-strong instead? I mean, with a few tweaks I'm sure that this isn't far from what this technology can do. So see, this is where the problem with CRISPR lies. It is now a question if the pros outweigh the cons. Once it's been out, a few creative minds would surely develop another use that may or may not be what the technology was initially intended for. History has proven this to be a regular occurrence. So who gets to make these decisions? Who should have the power to regulate it, to use it? The government, head doctors, or should it be democratized or be made available for everyone? Should it be handled by someone in a position that is so easily corruptible? 

with my parents

See how interesting and scary CRISPR is? It's scary because its implications are just supposed to be stuff of science fiction. I do believe that this technology is a big leap for mankind. Slowly, we are getting to the future that the only science fiction literature that I voluntarily read (school-required literature do not count) talk about: Isaac Asimov's The Last Question. It's just a short story, let's all give our brain a much-deserved break from the pop culture that it's subjected to daily. 

Anyway, let me round up this post by saying that the lockdown is frustrating. I've missed several trips abroad and local as well as life events meant to be celebrated with family and friends. It truly feels like my life has been put on hold for almost 2 years now. It frustrates me, especially since I'm only a couple of years away from leaving my twenties years. When someone said that the 20s are our selfish years, I fully embraced it. I did things according to what would benefit me the most (but nothing life-changing). I'm not sure if it's because I feel like I'm supposed to have more time to continue living with this mindset that for the first time that I can recall, I find myself bored. 

These photos were taken last January 2019 at Nobu Manila, during my birthday celebration with family. Let me share a funny anecdote and a somehow small achievement for me that night. This was the first birthday celebration that I had where I went and asked, "is it okay if I pay for our dinner tonight, Dad?" You can imagine how hearty his laugh was hahahahaha 

Lastly, the title is a Taylor Swift evermore song. I'll echo this author's wonderful question in this article (read it too and know why "Champagne Problems is one of the smartest songs I've heard in a long time").  

'I am cognizant of the fact that my problems not only look different than the problems of many other people in my county, state, country, but I also am aware that, truthfully, they do often pale in comparison to the problems that others have. How do I now reckon with my problems — that ones that do still exist — in the light of that knowledge?'

22 August 2021

Off We Go!

I was just on the phone earlier with my friend Kim when she casually mentioned this blog. She said that she misses my diary-type telling of events with the sole intention of simply documenting my "clumsy reactions to life". And guess what, she has a point! Today's post would just be a long narration of one of the trips I went to last 2018. Also, it's because I miss my cousin Alissa. We were supposed to be reunited in 2020 since my family's Christmas vacation was supposed to be in Canada but alas, it's also among the trips we had to cancel because of the ongoing pandemic. 

For the 1st time, I celebrated the Christmas Season without my parents. They had to stay behind to sort out important business matters while everyone else flew to Canada to spend the 3 week 2018-2019 holiday there as planned. Ever the opportunist, my cousin and I took this circumstance to book our very own "holiday within the holiday". Thus our quick 5-day Las Vegas trip was born hahahahaha

Knowing that my Dad would've never agreed to this plan, Alissa and I planned the quick 27-31 Dec trip in secrecy. We only revealed our plans to the adults a week before the entire holiday began. At that point, they couldn't do anything anymore since everything had already been pre-paid. Disclaimer: I've done similar actions in the past with my friends and on those 3 occasions, my plane tickets, hotel bookings, visas, etc were all wasted because my Mom didn't let me go. I suppose it's because it's with my cousin this time and we used the "we haven't seen each other in a long time" card (despite going on another adventure just 6 months prior) so the parents eventually relented. See the lengths I have to go though just so I can get things done my way? I'm kidding!

Our entire trip could be best described as spontaneous and funny ; from the 1st day where we arrived at the airport 15mins pre-boarding time to the last day where we had to rush to the airport to avoid the barricades in time for the New Year's Eve celebration. On the 2nd day of the trip, I had to wake up at 5AM because I had decided to go on an adventure alone. I was already in Vegas so I might as well see the Grand Canyon. I booked a tour through Viator which included hotel pick-up and drop-off, meals for the entire day, and the highlight of that adventure, a helicopter ride. The only thing that I failed to check prior to leaving my room was the temperature. I assumed that even though it's winter, it wouldn't be too cold since I've always associated the place to a desert. I was surprised to see snow on the way to the destination. I was only wearing a wind-breaker on top of a thin sweater. Thank goodness I at least brought along a neck warmer scarf otherwise I would've probably stayed behind in the cozy van. 

I was seated next to the pilot so I had a front-view of the entire scenery. The Grand Canyon was magnificent!!! I enjoy going to new places because I'm in constant search for the feeling of being overwhelmed. I find comfort in knowing that I would never run out of things to marvel at, to be curious about. Traveling overwhelms me. It doesn't happen all the time but when it does, I get too stunned and glad that something as dazzling existed the same time that I did. Grand Canyon was simply beautiful. It should be included in everyone's itinerary. Although, the  couple whom I shared the same van with from and to Vegas, said that only those who rode the helicopter saw the places that I've seen. It took more than 4 hours to reach Arizona from my hotel plus another 4 hours going back, all within the same day. Pick a comfortable tour package from the plenty of available choices because it would matter. 

My uncultured self made the stupid mistake of not making a reservation at Hell's Kitchen before going there when it 's been my task to make the reservations whenever we eat at restaurants here in Manila. I have always wanted to try Gordon Ramsay's food so Alissa and I agreed that no matter what happens, we would eat at any of his restaurants scattered in different The Strip hotels. My 1st choice was Hell's Kitchen. We were already inside when the receptionist asked us if we have a reservation. She said that because it was the Christmas Season, bookings were usually made 1-2 weeks in advanced. Perhaps she saw my disappointment and my desperation so she mentioned that the nearby Gordon's Pub & Grill inside the Caesars Palace is on first-come-first-served basis. Off we went to the restaurant. We waited for an hour before finally getting a table but at that time, no one could stop me from eating there, not even my stomach which was begging for food already. Once seated and our orders arrived, an attendant came and routinely asked how our food was. I didn't know what came over me but for someone who's been a Gordon Ramsay fan after years of watching his Master Chef shows, I only came up with "it's well-seasoned". Mind you, I was pointing at the fries that we had for appetizers. When she asked for how the salmon or the chicken or the chicken tikka massala were, I still chose "well-seasoned" as my answer. My brain failed me at the worst time hahahahaha

Our choices of hotel accommodations were also out of a whim. Granted that we had limited budget since we couldn't have asked from our parents, we chose to split the 4 nights into 2 places. The 1st choice was Luxor Hotel & Casino along the Strip. She described the room that we got with "2 queen-sized beds for 2 queens". The 2nd room that we got was in Palms Casino Resort. It was bigger and had better amenities but it wasn't along The Strip anymore. This time, the room had 2 televisions and a very nice view of the entire city. 

Now, the best part about being in Vegas was that, no one would bat an eye if you go drinking at anytime of the day. I ordered a margarita to drink while watching Cirque du Soleil but I wasn't expecting to be given a 1L tumbler. All the drinks came in extra-large sizes so we didn't have a waking moment when we weren't tipsy. There's also this huge red tumbler which can be refilled at the stations located in all the hotels along The Strip, at a cost of course. These red tumblers were our everyday companion. In one afternoon, after proving our bad luck at the slot machines, we decided to ride the Linq High Roller. We convinced ourselves to make the best out of the 30min ride by ordering as many drinks as we can. Suffice to say, we got off the the ride giggling and slightly more tipsy than the previous days. So when we saw a make-shift tarot card reading place upon alighting from the High Roller, Alissa and I launched into long discussions about our future with them. Alissa even paid extra just to hear options B and C of her immediate future. 

We met a lot of people too, tourists like us who were out to have fun and to experience the crazy Las Vegas vibe that those who've been to usually rave about. We had so much fun and it was the best celebration to end 2018 with. Our return flight was on the 31st. We tried our luck when we booked our flights but pushing it even further by staying behind to join the NYE countdown would've been too much. Let me end this post with, I only posted about 3days' worth of stories. You can go as crazy as you want but what happens in Vegas HAS to stay in Vegas. 

07 August 2020

Those Storytellers

Woohooo another update here, and all within the same month! I wasn't intending to write another post today but then 2 of my favorite persons in this world, my close friends Debs and Tin, were excited after seeing that I updated this blog. I'm touched (and bored, honestly) so I figured another post would be good. I still can't say for certain if my uncharacteristic consistency for the past week will last but until then, let's see just how many topics I can exhaust in my attempt to compensate for my almost 2yr long absence. Today, let's talk about how original the plots of Japanese Anime are. I am so impressed by the creativity in their concepts. I especially love how well they marry traditional beliefs and modern circumstances. They're a superb bunch of storytellers, something that I can only ever aspire to be. 

Blazer and shorts set: from a local store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Inner top: Topshop | Shoes: Adidas NMD | Bag: Goyard St Louis

Among my favorite animated movies is the Japanese film 'Your Name'. The protagonists, teenage boy Taki who's living in busy Tokyo and Mitsuha, the teenager who's tired of her slow rural life in fictional Itomori, were bound by an unexplainable yearning for someone whom they have no recollection of. They just feel an extreme loss for something that they feel they've lost although they have nothing to account for this feeling. At the beginning of the film, we see that they have been swapping bodies intermittently and without warning. Upon waking up, their memories of the day prior would seem distant, if not completely erased, just as how our dreams are usually forgotten once we've woken up. After regular occurrences of days when they couldn't recall what happened, they thought of a way to leave notes for each other to somehow have clues of what's happening to them. Soon, they have gotten to know snippets or two about each other which naturally raised their curiosity about the other. Mitsuha was the first to muster up courage to go see the other. She searched for Taki in Tokyo only to be disappointed because he didn't recognize her. They separated with Mitsuha's hair ribbon being left in the possession of Taki. The day came when Taki became aware that they've stopped swapping bodies and all the notes that Mitsuha has left in his phone have disappeared. This time, he mustered up the courage to travel to Itomori to look for her. 

But what Taki found in Itomori surprised both him and  me, of course. The town was completely wiped out, as a result of a comet that hit it 3yrs ago. The catastrophe killed all of the residents in the area, including Mitsuha. It turned out that time is non-linear, as many academics have hypothesized. The lives of Mitsuha and Taki were happening simultaneously, despite the 3yr difference in their timeline. Spoiler alert: they eventually had their happy ending. Taki drank the kuchikamizake, an alcoholic drink that includes human saliva among its ingredients, which was made by Mitsuha. This action connected the two once more and fortunately, through this, they have saved the town of Itomori from its supposed extinction. Yup, I know. I have downplayed much of the plots of the film but this is my abridged version based on how I understood it. To this day, I don't know how the swapping began. Was it because Mitsuha prayed to the gods? I just know that the red ribbon symbolized the invisible string that connected them to one another, irrespective of time and place. 
The film deals with various concepts that I am highly fascinated with including time, fate, and fleetingness of dreams and memories. The film was a brave attempt to explore all of these vague concepts that are individually, already difficult to comprehend, so as a whole, they're much more difficult to wrap one's mind around. I think that life has too many circumstances that cannot be explained by everyday pragmatism so when something offers us an alternative explanation, we are left wondering. Not that I don't believe that they are real. If anything, I think that when a concept offers a probable explanation, then it must be considered to be true until proven false. Anyway. I can't help but feel that somehow Taylor Swift has watched either this film or another Anime while writing her new song "Invisible String". The parallelism cannot be denied. And for that matter, my love for her new album cannot also be denied.
These photos were taken in the bustling and hustling Tokyo last May 2018. As can be seen in my several attempts to cross the busy Shibuya crossing, it is an almost impossible feat to leisurely have your photos taken of there. I am sorry to the people whom I inconvenienced with my sudden stops hahahaha This trip is among the best and most memorable travels I've been to. It's been filled with crazy antics, random dancing and singing in the public, and too much 'Oh no, why did we do that' troves of embarrassing materials that could last for years to come. It's also during this trip that I danced to the tune of Your Name's Nandemonaiya (the soundtrack of the film deserves accolades too) while in transit from Tokyo to Osaka. Crazy memories always make for the best stories. 

04 August 2020

“Give Me Needy Emotional Whining Bullshit. Flash. Give Me Self-Absorbed Egocentric Twaddle. Christ."

“But if you tell folks you're a college student, folks are so impressed. You can be a student in anything and not have to know anything. Just say toxicology or marine biokinesis, and the person you're talking to will change the subject to himself. If this doesn't work, mention the neural synapses of embryonic pigeons.”

A couple of posts ago (to be exact, years ago), I mentioned that I’ve found myself in a reading rut. It’s still true to this day but on the upside of this ordeal, this means that I’ve plenty of unread books sitting on various tables at home, waiting for me to give them their due attention. I’ve realized that more than anything in this world, the most difficult thing to attain is motivation. Where can one buy the will to follow through her plans? Oh well. Aside from indulging in the numerous series that I’m catching up on, this quarantine has somehow forced me to pick up a few books to read. I have finished 3 books in total since the nationwide lockdown in Metro Manila began last 16 Mar 2020. It's not my usual number pre-reading rut but still, this is better than my 2019 count of 0. Today, I'm going to talk about Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters. 
“Give me lust, baby.
Give me malice.
Give me detached existentialist ennui.
Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.

I bought the book in 2017, just a couple of weeks after I've finished my first Palahniuk novel (which I talked about HERE). I was thirsty for more of the distinct Palahniuk brand of black humor but alas. I couldn't finish the novel for some reason. I even brought it to some of the trips that I’ve been to hoping that with nothing else to do while waiting for my flight, I’ll just get to it but this mentality didn’t work. It was only this Apr 2020 that I finally sat down and read it. It took me less than a day to complete it. More than its interesting cover, the way it was written was even more interesting. Truly, Palahniuk is a master wordsmith. His writing style is a character on its own and sets him apart from all the other authors who have mesmerized me as well. More than the plot, I highly recommend this novel if only for the way it was written. 

“No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should have been paying attention. Well get used to that feeling. That’s how your whole life will feel like someday.”

As he has said, this story isn't an “and then, and then, and then” type. It’s more along “jump to page”. Be forewarned that the narrator is unreliable. It's only within the last 10 pages or so that her confusion which led to unreliability would be revealed to have had a reason. To summarize, the book is about a very beautiful young woman whose looks and built are enough to send insecure girls such as myself to surgeons in hopes that we can look like her. She works as a model and so even in mundane life scenarios, she hears prompts such as “Give me attention. Flash. Give me adoration. Flash. Give me a break. Flash.” Until one day, she meets an unfortunate accident which cost her her entire jaw. From a walking goddess whom everybody seems to pave the way for, she turns to a creature who inspires pity out of those who'll look at her. Her face became so pitiful that people pretended that she no longer exists just so they won't have to resort to pretending that they feel sorry for her when in truth, they recoil at the distorted figure in front of them. 

“It's all mirror, mirror on the wall because beauty is power the same way money is power the same way a gun is power.”

Because the heroine lost her jaw, even her speech became garbled which added to her distortion. Enter the misfits who took her under their wing. Together, they navigated through their issues and dreams and disappointments while going on adventures with the goal of chasing what they each believe would give them happiness. Our heroine received guidance from the Queen Supreme who imparts to her wisdom that helped her accept who she has become. Included in their many adventures are lessons on how to accept the past as a mere story which happened but does not necessarily mean must continue nor affect the future, on how a new life can begin from complete destruction, on how at any point in one's life it is possible to undergo transformation, on how we are all just an echo of something that has already been done before, and on how manipulative possessing beauty can be. 

“Game shows are designed to make us feel better about the random, useless facts that are all we have left of our education.”

“Just each of us being me, me, me first. The murderer, the victim, the witness each of us thinks our role is the lead. Probably that goes for anybody in the world.”

These 2 sets of photos were taken 1 year apart. I've just thought that April usually is a busy month for me in terms of going out and meeting up with friends; and believe me, I am such a homebody that it requires mental conditioning before I agree to leaving the confines of my home. I rarely agree to an on-the-spot meetup. Anyway. April of this year has been the quietest April in my last 5 years, although it's during this year's April that I finally read this novel so there's that for semblance of accomplishment. In Apr 2018, I joined some friends in their trip to Seoul, South Korea because I was in need of a break from work. The last 2 photos were from that trip. Fast forward to Apr 2019 when my parents decided that our summer 2019 family trip would be in Seoul. The first 2 photos were taken then. Not that I think this would be a regular happenstance in my annual plans but I just thought that it would be cohesive to have the same color palette in both trips thus the pink tops. Also, it was during the 2018 trip that I bought the coat which I wore when I returned in 2019. How's that for coming full circle?
“Parents are like God because you wanna know they're out there, and you want them to think well of you, but you really only call when you need something.”

As had been the case in the first Palahniuk novel that I've read, I've come to appreciate this novel's take on religion too. He compared God to our earthly parents, and his comparisons have merits. 

“Your being born makes your parents God. You owe them your life, and they can control you. Then puberty makes you Satan, just because you want something better.”

Science, history, and our personal experiences have proven that the world is kinder to those whom it deems beautiful. There is power that goes along with it. This is a given, I suppose. Meanwhile, the book also affirms that society is cruel to those whom it deems ugly. Whether it's been done unknowingly or otherwise, we create certain expectations that only those who meet them are allowed to be part of our circle. We judge others based on several measurements, be it according to their beauty, their intellectual capability, their social circles, their social status, their socio-economic prowess, their educational attainment, even their taste in pets, and so on. The media has fed us an image of what is good and what is bad, what would constitute success and what would constitute failure. We have all become sponges who are ready to accept without processing information just because it's been drilled into our minds. In general, I don't believe that there's anything bad in having certain biases. Perhaps we all have an innate radar that goes off when we meet someone whom we unconsciously believe threatens what we have come to regard as the standard. Sometimes our prejudices are stemmed from our self-preservation. Then again, more often than not, we hold what we believe are their weaknesses against others because we would rather go for convenience, or what is readily accepted by the majority, rather than go out our way in knowing more about them. See, it's easier to judge others than to understand them. 

“In the way our world is, everybody shoulder to shoulder, people knowing everything about you at first glance, a good veil is your tinted limousine window. The unlisted number for your face. Behind a good veil, you could be anyone.”

The book is also  about us creating multiple veils of our real selves in order to satisfy the expectations of society. We are all so scared to be ostracized that we would rather have these layers of persona who may or may not reflect who we truly are. If there's anything that the book has made me do, it's to re-evaluate myself. I've come to realize that I should listen to the novel when it said, "sometimes the best way to deal with shit is not to hold yourself as such a precious little prize.It'll take a long time before I can shed all my veils but until then, let's see where life would take me. Maybe this is why I have been subconsciously evading the novels that I've bought over the past 2yrs. They're causing too much introspection! Hahahaha I think that I have been successful in not giving away too much spoilers about the novel. I urge you, read it. It is a good jumpstart to Palahniuk's works (aside from his well-known Fight Club). 
 "Give me pity. 
Give me another chance.

April 2019 outfit
Pink Coat: from a shop in Dongdaemun, South Korea | Pants: Levi's | Shoes: New Balance | Red top: Terranova | Bag: Gucci Guccissima

April 2018 outfit
Sweater: Banana Republic | Pants: Levi's | Shoes: Calvin Klein | Bag: Givenchy Pandora 
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”

02 August 2020

“What would you grab, if you had to pack up your life in only minutes?”

Let me precede this entry with saying that during these past months where we have been in quarantine due to the growing cases of covid-afflicted patients, I have done nothing but watch all the shows that I've always wanted to but couldn't because life has always gotten in the way. And then the nationwide quarantine came. I now have all the time in the world to just laze in front of the TV and absorb as much random information as I can from the shows that have fascinated me for years now. I'd like to believe that I'm a mentally stable person who just happens to be overly fascinated with crime scene investigations. I've been teased so many times by my brothers and a few close friends because sometimes, I can't stop my verbal vomit of how forensic science has conclusively solved a murder investigation. And it's true, my Netflix account is used primarily to watch the 20-minute episodes of Forensic Files. It makes me feel safe knowing that the technology of today is no longer as unreliable as it used to be. I'm relieved to know that a criminal, no matter how organized and attentive to detail he is, can no longer commit the so-called perfect crime. It is while watching this show that I encountered the story of an archbishop who turned out to be a Nazi sympathizer in his past. 

“Good people are good people; religion has nothing to do with it.”

Last Feb 2019, one of my closest friends and I embarked on a 3wk Eurotrip. Despite consistently having a European country in my bucketlist of countries to visit before I turn so and so, it's only been last year that I finally had the chance to go. Since most of the intellectual figures whom I heavily obsessed on at one point in my life came from Europe, I've always thought that there's something in the European waters that have either produced or inspired brilliance to spring forth. Not to mention that Europe as a whole seems to have an abundance of natural beauty. 

Dress: Calvin Klein | Boots: from a department store in US | Bag: Prada | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Heattech used as Inner top: Uniqlo | Earrings: borrowed from my friend Tatiana

In the first paragraph, I was referring to Valerian Trifa, who served as Archbishop of Detroit. He entered USA under the false pretenses that he was a Romanian victim of the Holocaust. He was granted the US citizenship and worked his way up the ranks in the Church. Other Romanian refugees who sought asylum in the US identified him as a member of the Iron Guard and was responsible for the death of hundreds of Jews in Romania, all in the service of the Fuhrer. Despite his initial denial of his past, he was eventually stripped off of his US citizenship and he was asked to leave the US after living there for more than 40yrs. Forensic scientists proved that the Archbishop's penmanship matched positively to the penmanship of the person whom he was accused of being. His official church documents were compared to the penmanship found on a postcard which was signed by a vacationing Iron Guard member in Germany, that was dated in the 1940s. Moreover, the same postcard bore his thumbprint (which was only identified in the 1980s because that's when technology finally caught up). He died at the age of 72yrs old, in a city in Portugal, the only country that accepted him after learning of his past. 

“It’s a little convenient, isn’t it, to say that the reason you did something horrible was because someone else told you to. That doesn’t make it any less wrong. No matter how many people are telling you to jump off a bridge, you always have the option to turn around and walk away.”

Perhaps the first time that I ever became aware of the existence of the US' Office of Special Investigations was when I read Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller in 2013 (all the quotes in this post, including the title that I've used are lifted from this but I will write my thoughts on the book extensively in a separate post). Imagine my interest in learning that so many of the SS officers fled to the US under false pretenses to escape the consequences of the horrible crime that they've committed during WWII. A lot of them have successfully escaped for various reasons but perhaps among the biggest was, their conviction heavily relied on the accounts of the survivors. I won't pretend that I know about physiological changes so I'm assuming that it would be difficult to assume how one person would look like when you add 30 - 40 yrs to his age. How difficult it must be to identify a 70yr old everyday guy to be the same person who tortured you decades ago. 

“Power isn't about doing something terrible to someone who's weaker than you, Reiner. It's having the strength to do something terrible, and choosing not to.”

I think that people like Trifa, or John Demjanjuk (the SS guard who also made a life in the US after his stint in the concentration camps but was later on tried in Israel for his war crimes), thought that they deserve a second chance. Maybe they thought that they were just pawns in the chess game. In the case of Trifa particularly, perhaps he thought that he can atone for his participation in the murder of hundreds of Jews by serving the Church in the latter part of his life. He was a Nazi sympathizer in his youth only to become a man of the Church in his adulthood. But the question is, are their crimes pardonable to begin with? What about the lives of the millions of those who suffered just because they happened to believe in a different Being?  Who can judge if the repentance of people like Trifa is enough to compensate for the millions of lives that they've disregarded? Can their form of repentance ever be enough?

“It's easy to say you will do what's right and shun what's wrong, but when you get close enough to any given situation, you realize that there is no black or white. There are gradations of gray.”

In light with everything that's happening worldwide, I just wish that humankind would learn from the past. Discrimination is rampant; it always has been. We've known that it's what caused the greatest atrocities committed against humanity yet we cannot fully reject it. How come people only know better after committing the crime? As an answer to whether the crimes committed during the Holocaust is pardonable or not, I personally agree that regardless of the age, those who have participated must not have the right to enjoy the remaining years of their life in freedom. There are some sins that cannot be forgiven. They might be 'mere pawns' as they have limited their role to be, but it was a role nonetheless. If there won't be any roles, then there wouldn't have been murders. It's a system that requires the thinkers or the heads and the hands or the pawns who would act on what the former has decided on. I think that punishing them is not a retribution because after all, the dead will not return to life, but rather, it's a message to all those who would dare commit such a crime again. It's a message that says, we will all be accountable for our own actions, no matter how big or how small we think them to be. At the end of the day, we get to choose the person who we are going to be. 

“There was no black or white. Someone who had been good her entire life could, in fact, do something evil. People were just as capable of committing murder, under the right circumstances, as any monster.”

These photos were taken in Ljubljana, Slovenia last 15 Feb 2019. (I couldn't imagine going on this trip with anyone else but you, Tats! Thank you for joining me despite the less than 2wks notice)

20 October 2018

"How Foolish I was Ever To Have Thought of Them as Intellectual Giants"

"I'll admit I'm like him in a number of ways, but humility and self-effacement are not among them. I've learned how little they get a person in this world."

Truthfully, I haven't had the energy nor the drive to finish books after books these past months. Maybe I'm uninspired or I just happen to be in a reading rut. I still continuously buy plenty of books in the hopes that seeing what my money was exchanged for would motivate me to make every cent spent on them worth it but unfortunately, I've subconsciously piled them up in our mini-library of sorts and decided that their worth would be as decorations. Ughh I know, lame. So today, I would just talk about the last 5-star book I've read, which was all the way back to December 2017. Today's topic would be about Keyes' Flowers for Algernon.

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Top and shoes: Zara | Skirt: Topshop | Belt: Rajo Laurel | Bag: Saint Laurent Downtown Cabas | Earrings: Mango

These photos were taken last 25 Feb 2018. My officemate's daughter celebrated her 7th birthday and you know about kids these days, they have better and more well-thought parties compared to when it was during my time in the mid-1990s. Now, all ideas are possible if only one can think about it. My officemate asked my help in planning the party since she knows that I LOVEEE planning events. I readily agreed to going here and there and being on call, with services for free so long as my ideas would be translated to reality. In short, I agreed provided that no budget would be spared. The party was arranged down to the last detail. We even had taste-test of the food that will be served (officemate and I did this during one lunch break). Even the birthday celebrant's outfit to be worn was given enough thought. It was designed by my officemate and I's favorite Filipino designer, Rajo Laurel. To add the "unicorn" vibe since it's the requested theme of the party, we bought Cassie (the birthday celebrant) faux fur from Zara. What? I love faux fur, remember? I would love it if everyone  would get to wear one even if it isn't for winter hahahahaha As for the actual venue, it was so nicely-done. There was an area for nail art, and there were kiosks of Potato Corner, Tater's, and Pinkberry yogurt. But oh well, I've not much photos to share because I was just too impressed by how a month of planning it all turned out to be SO SO SO FUN AND NICE that most of my documentation of it were in video format and not photos.

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"There are a lot of people who will give money or materials, but very few who will give time and affection."

Back to the book. The book is an amalgamation of different novels, each chapter with a different lesson to impart. Much as I'd like to pinpoint a single scene that could best illustrate this book's wonder, I can't. Because it's more like a loaded machine gun that keeps firing one poignant theme after another. It opens a lot of discussions on the ethics behind experimenting on live subjects, how society views and treats those whom it deems not normal, and how mankind mistreats those who are mentally handicapped.

 It's about 32-yr old Charlie Gordon who was born with an IQ of only 68. He grew up estranged from his family and was simultaneously working in a bakery by day and a student in a special school by night. His desperate wish was to be smart because he strongly believed that he will be happy if he's smart and not dumb, as he accepted himself to be. "If your smart you can have lots of frends to talk to and you never get lonley by yourself all the time." Among the strongest points of the novel was having a 1st-person perspective of the thought-process of Charlie, as his thoughts were documented in his diary. It's refreshing and such an emotionally-invoking way to narrate a story.

“There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin."

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Charlie Gordon had been selected by the professor-scientists from Beekman University to be the first human to be tested on a procedure that has only been tried on lab rats. A white mouse called Algernon underwent a surgery that would increase his IQ. Of all the rats who were similarly experimented on, Algernon showed the highest resiliency on the procedure. He had stayed smart the longest out of all the test subjects. Still boosted by the success of the experiment, the doctors, headed by Prof Nemur, performed the same surgery on Charlie. His desire to be smart had been so endearing and so well-founded and so strong that although he was not the first human-subject choice in the program, he had ultimately been selected. The experiment proved to be a success. Charlie's IQ of 68 rose to 185; from a retardate to a genius.

 “I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”

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But what he so longed to have proved to not bring the happiness he thought he would have once he's smart. Slowly, he started comprehending things that he had greatly mistaken for something else before. Now that he's a genius, he realized that his "frends" at the bakery were not laughing with him but that they make fun of him and laugh at him all the time. Eventually, Charlie understood that his own mother sent him away because she was resentful and ashamed of his retardation. He thought that he could finally be with the woman whom he has always had a crush on now that he's smart. But then again, he soon realized that he was just as out-of-reach from the girl of his dreams when he was dumb just as he was smart. And finally, he has come to realize that the scientists who performed the surgery on him were not the "gods and heroes" he once thought of them to be. 

"They would always find excuses to slip away, afraid to reveal the narrowness of their knowledge. How different they seem to be now. And how foolish I was ever to have thought that professors were intellectual giants. They're people - and afraid the rest of the world will find out."

He soon realized that the Intellectual Giants he greatly revered before were also not sure of the long-term outcome of the surgery. Soon, Charlie's genius-level IQ separated him from others in the same way that his low IQ used to. Worse, now he knows what it's like to have knowledge of everything and see those whom he thought were better than him, suddenly appear clearly as normal persons who are just trying their best without knowing as much as he does. In the end he found out that Algernon, the only thing existing who knew exactly what he was undergoing through, was slowly mentally regressing. It has become a race against time as Charlie tried to solve the problem that caused the mental regression. He eventually wrote the study on both his and Algernon's mental states, with the study being his swan song before he finally returned to his original state.

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"You know things. You see things. But you haven't developed understanding, or -I have to use the word- tolerance."

To summarize what Flowers for Algernon was about, it's a book  about humanity - its complexities, biases, surprises, and its innate cruelty masked sometimes by unfairness. The novel reveals the glaring truth that truly, there is both goodness and depravity in mankind.

I love one of the questions it posited - would it better to not know but be happy or to know but eventually lose it again? I have always preferred preservation rather than finding the solution to the already-present problem. I'd rather have calculated risks with small gains rather than great leaps of faith with uncertain outcome. Yes, it's true, I'm a very boring twenty-something girl. But in my defense, it's not an easy feat to go back to the way it was when you already know for a fact that it could be better.

 Read the novel. It comes highly recommended. 

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"But I've learned that intelligence alone doesn't mean a damned thing. Here in your university, intelligence, education, knowledge have all become great idols. But I know now there's one thing you've all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn." 

13 October 2018

"Respond to Every Call That Excites Your Spirit"

Oh how I miss the cold season. Perhaps it’s because I’m from a tropical country where it’s perpetually summer time that my favorite travel period is during the winter season. I am a happy wanderer so long as it’s cold because I get cranky when it’s hot. I feel uncomfortable when the sun is glaring down at me causing me to feel the incessant sweat trickling down my face. I can’t think well when it’s too hot, period. Thus I rarely willingly agree to go on trips abroad if the climate is just the same as in Manila. Of course, trips to the beach are different. But that’s for another post.

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OH HELLOOOOOOOO! Look who’s back!! Hahahahahaha I was deleting useless mails in my account over the weekend when I saw some email threads pertaining to this blog. I was about to embark on a boring photo-less trip down the memory lane when surprise, surprise, I saw that my photos are up again! Thank you, Photo Bucket. You’re such a reliable partner!! (I’m still not paying though hahahaha).

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Ever the lazy narrator, I have missed plenty of opportunities to collate my thoughts into written words just because I succumbed to the tempting nudges  of laziness. For this post, there won’t be any “ideas” or whatever term you can coin my “thoughts”. I’m just going to tell stories and snippets from a travel that has set the tone of 2018 for me. Call it my sentimental musings, if you will. To begin with, others say I’m not sentimental although I’d like to believe that I am considering that I have this online blog and my mostly forgotten diary just to talk about a particularly memorable memory. Oh well. Anyway, today’s lengthy post would be about the joint-birthday trip last January 2018 with my college best friend. What better way to revive this blog than to share photos from one of probably the most magical, if not the most, place I’ve been to by far. Lina and I spent a 5-day (6 if the transit would be counted) trip in Harbin, China.

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Rumi’s words, which I entitled this post with, surprisingly became true while we were in Harbin. It seemed that the universe conspired towards bringing Lina and I to that resplendent cold place. We’ve initially booked tickets going to Shanghai 10 months prior to the trip. However, unfortunate circumstances demanded that we change the itinerary abruptly. We were geared towards booking tickets from Shanghai to Guilin (we’ve even semi-drawn the itinerary too) but alas alas, I came across photos (not even an article!) of beautifully lighted ice sculptures taken from Harbin. 7-8 days before the flight to Shanghai, Lina and I booked domestic tickets to Harbin. 6 days prior to the trip, we had to scour for hotel accommodation as it’s among the requirements in obtaining the Chinese visa. 2-3days before the trip, our visas were released. 1 day prior to the trip, we were still doing last-minute booking of accommodations as we finalized our itinerary. It was only then as well that we’ve realized that Harbin is not like the other places we’ve visited during winter time. Winter in Harbin is another story altogether. With only hours before the departure time, we were still trying to pack as much thermal clothes as we possibly could find. (On a side note, this is where Zalora saved the day. Lina and I were able to buy our matching faux fur jacket, and have it delivered to us on time). So you see, it was as if the universe wanted to take us to Harbin.   

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Of course it’s not a typical Gellie-travel if there won’t be a problem at all Hahahaha perhaps too much excitement caused the oversight but Lina and I forgot to exchange our cash to CNY prior to the trip. Worse, we’ve booked our hotel accommodation 30 or so mins away from the city proper that the banks near our hotel strictly followed the no-work on Sundays rule. We were completely without money for an entire day. An entire day was wasted but oh well. On our 2nd day, we’ve been wiser and richer than the day before that’s why we were able to embark on an adventure. Harbin is geographically nearer to some cities in Russia than Shanghai or Beijing and so the Russian influences were all over the city. Our first activity was to roam around the central district where the Saint Sophia Cathedral is located. It was there that lines of shops selling winter gear including our Russian-inspired hats were sold.

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Don’t be fooled by the big smiley faces. When the temperature began going down to -15°C, so was our patience thinning. Put 2 hot-tempered, mostly-self-centered, and headstrong girls in a battle of wills and you’ll have the depth of friendship between them really tested Hahahahaha Suffice to say, I have declared Lina as my college best friend after this trip. Our friendship surprisingly, albeit much-appreciated, surpassed the test of patience. See these following photos? They were taken by random strangers because we were in different coffee shops by then (is this too personal to publish here, Lins? HAHAHAHA)

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Tantrums aside, Zhongyang street is beautiful at night!! And there's this lighted "tunnel" that played various musical compositions of Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky (at least during our walk through it, they were the only composers whom my little knowledge recognized)

My favorite day of the trip was when we went to both Sun Island and Ice and Snow World. I love how beautiful and cold and mysterious and deep snow seems to be. There weren’t too many tourists in Sun Island when we went there. In fact, there were areas where there weren’t anyone at all save for Lina and I. Towards night time, we transferred to Ice and Snow World in time to see the ice sculptures lighted up. Believe me when I say that I have been overwhelmed by the entire place. Everywhere just looked like a feast to the eyes. It was also then than the temperature went down from -30° to -35/40°. I found out that despite the layers of thermal clothes, my bubble jacket, gloves, and ear muffs, I couldn’t last more than 2hrs outside without making my fingers freeze. All thanks to iPhone’s BURST for capturing hundreds of photos in one go because otherwise, we wouldn’t have much photos given that we couldn’t feel our fingers anymore.  

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To summarize how Lina and I fell in love with Harbin, let me copy one of my posts from my Instagram account:

“Just to reach Harbin, it took us both international and domestic flights, an excess baggage fee of 350CNY, barely used VPN subscription, and 2 traumatizing cab incidents (1 charged us exorbitantly and smoked inside the cab the entire time without letting us open the windows while the other left us stranded in the middle of who knows where). But surprisingly, the city also has among the most accommodating locals to tourists, from the staff at the hotel down to the police officers who approached us whenever we’re trying to haggle with the cab drivers and the locals who randomly joined our conversations just to translate for us. I will return (with thermal shoes, now that I know better), if only for the warmth welcome from such a literally cold place!”

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