Showing posts from 2010


Our lifestyle nowadays is called the “always-connected” lifestyle.
According to the Hackenslash blog, “Work weeks have grown steadily longer with the proliferation of gadgets keeping people connected to bosses and offices nights and weekends.” (Source: Agence France-Presse) That’s why it appears that the tablet computing craze is the “defining trend” not only for last year but also for many years to come. According Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, “People are using tablets to read the Wall Street Journal or watch TV in bed. It is replacing, in some circumstances, laptop computers, television and print media.” (Ibid) It could even make computer prices nosedive because “consumers think it’s not worth paying a lot more to get a laptop instead of a tablet.” Experts predict that tablet-users in the US would reach a staggering 75 million consumers by 2015. Apple’s iPad has a very wide lead with more than 10 million sales last month while, Galaxy Tab, its not-too-close competito…

A New Year like the Hydrangea

Source: Wikipedia
The bigleaf hydrangea is a unique flowering shrub. “If you take the seed of that shrub and plant it in the soil of Indiana, it will yield pink flowers when it blooms. But if you take that same seed and plant it in the soil of Brazil or Poland, it will produce blue flowers. Even more interesting, if you take the same seed and plant it in another type of soil, it will yield purple flowers.” (Source: Frank Viola, “Reimagining Church”) Botanists attribute that strange behavior to the different PH levels of the soils where the hydrangea is planted.

When I read that, I thought, “What a great picture of the New Year!” Every year is one of a kind. Life when it becomes too predictable becomes boring. We heard it so often that the saying became a well-worn cliché but still it is true: “The only thing constant in life is change.” (Someone quipped, “Also taxes and death.”) This year’s blue flower may be next year’s pink flower. For example, what worked for us this 2010 may not wor…

Bacon, Not Just Eggs

“People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?”With this in mind, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledged to give more than half of his billions to charity along with his co-founder, Dustin Moskovitz (Source: Zuckerberg added, “With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts. (Ibid) They were the latest to commit to the“Giving Pledge” project spearheaded by billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. The roster of the almost 60 philanthropists who pledged to the project is a virtual Billionaire’s Who’s Who: CNN’s Ted Turner, Lucasfilm’s George Lucas and Oracle’s Larry Ellison among others. “Zuckerberg’s status as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire [he’s only 26 years old] comes from his ownership stake in Facebook, which has yet to go public w…

The Visconde-Webb Saga

“Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”I think this 10:1 ratio (known as the“Blackstone ratio,” thanks to English jurist William Blackstone) is one of the reasons why our justice system must find an accused “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” before it convicts that person.

We hear it once again as the debate rages on regarding the upcoming Supreme Court final decision on the infamous Visconde Massacre case. (Backgrounder: “On the morning of June 30, 1991, a mother and her two daughters were found slaughtered in their own home. Estrellita Vizconde, 47, sustained 13 stab wounds; Carmela, 18, had 17 wounds and had been raped before she was killed; and Jennifer, 7, had 19 wounds.” Source: Other than the sheer gruesomeness of the crime, the massacre gripped the nation because those accused and later on convicted are from influential families. The debate focuses on whether Hubert Webb, son of former senator Freddie Webb and one of those conv…

Once Dead but Now Alive

People already gave up on them. They even held a memorial service for them. Samuel Pelesa, 15, Filo Filo, 15, and Edward Nasau, 14, “disappeared while attempting to row between two islands in the New Zealand territory of Tokelau in early October and were given up for dead after an extensive search involving New Zealand’s air force. Their craft had drifted 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to a desolate part of the Pacific northeast of Fiji”. (Source: Associated Press) They survived the ordeal by catching and eating raw fish and drinking rain water that they collected whenever it would drizzle during the night. Later on, since it did not rain for a few days, they started drinking sea water. One time they even ate a seagull that landed on their small aluminum boat.

They must have thought it was just a mirage or a mere delusion brought about by extreme hunger and thirst when they saw a tuna boat in the horizon. Though very weak, mustering all the remaining strength they could muster, they fran…

Wow! "Kay Ganda!"

“Incredible India.” “Malaysia Truly Asia.” “Korea The Soul of Asia.” These are just a sampling of the onslaught of award-winning ad campaigns we see over international media crafted to lure tourists. Sadly, in the midst of the tourism fray, here in the Philippines we are still debating whether we should keep the “WOW Philippines” brand or drop it altogether and adopt the supposed new “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” (“Philippines so Beautiful”) brand. Columnist Alex Magno nailed it on the head when he wrote in his “First Person” column, “There is nothing wrong with the old tourism campaign logo. The [Dept. of Tourism], it appears, wants to change it simply because there has been a change of administration. But it adopted an inferior campaign motif whose design is uninspired and whose message is unclear.” (Philippine Star, Nov. 20, 2010) In her usual sharp wit, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago blasted the tourism officials, “Let’s think of something else. Let’s start some neurons in our brains wo…


The last time Abel Madariaga saw his pregnant wife, Silvia, was when Argentine security forces dressed as civilians grabbed her, pushed her inside a Ford Falcon and sped off with her in a cloud of dust. They were members of the leftist Montoneros which was “targeted for elimination by government death squads” during the late 70s to early 80s. (Source: The abductors brought her to Campo de Mayo in Buenos Aires, “one of Argentina’s largest and most notorious clandestine torture centers” where she gave birth. A military officer took home the baby with the umbilical cord still attached. Madariaga narrowly escaped. He went on a self-imposed exile. Knowing in his heart that his wife is already dead, he spent the next 33 years searching for his child. His human rights group even lobbied for the creation of a national DNA database, which so far helped in identifying 100 children of the disappeared political dissidents.
The Madariagas finally reunited!
Finally, after more than 3

Heart in the Right Place

When the jackpot prize of the 6/55 Lotto of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office breached PHP300 million (more than US$7 million based on the current peso-dollar exchange rate), bettors not only trooped to the lotto outlets but also stormed the gates of heaven. 
A Catholic bishop criticized those misguided faithful who have even wiped their lotto tickets on religious images for divine favor (Read: luck). No doubt most of them vowed they would donate to the church or other charitable institutions if and when they win the astronomical jackpot.
Honestly I doubt if they would do what a retired Canadian couple did with their CAD$11.3 million lottery prize. (Disclaimer: I am not in any way encouraging people to bet on lotteries.) Seventy-eight-year-old Violeta Large was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer when she and husband, Allen, won the jackpot last July 2010. But, for them, the money was a headache and “eventually decided it was better to give than receive and were totally at ease w…

Happiness Is Impossible?

We think that we deserve to be happy. There’s actually nothing wrong in wanting to be happy. However, happiness eludes us when we seek it for the wrong reason. 

In his “Ethics for Everyone: Moral Wisdom for the Modern World” blog, moral philosopher Michael W. Austin, an associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, wrote,“Happiness is impossible, if we’re engrossed by self-love… Happiness is impossible if all I want is my own happiness.”

Austin explained that “happiness is a product of the satisfaction of particular desires for other things. For example, my desire that my child learn, grow, and develop morally is satisfied when I see these things occur. But I must care about the child’s welfare to truly want these things for her. Then I obtain happiness because I have a desire for something apart from my own happiness. If all I cared about was my own happiness, it would be impossible to be happy, because I’d literally have nothing to be happy about.” (Ibid)
In other w…

The Jesus T-Shirts

During the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, CNN editor/producer Wes Little noted that most of them were wearing tan t-shirts over their green coveralls. According to CNN, “the green coveralls were designed to help absorb the sweat as they ascended to the top.” (Source: But, curiously the t-shirts have the Jesus Film project logo on the left sleeves. In front of the t-shirt are the words, “‘Gracias Senor’ – ‘Thank you Lord.’”

What’s the inside scoop about those t-shirts? After rescuers discovered that the miners were still alive 17 days after the mine collapse, Christian Maureira, Campus Crusade for Christ Int’l (CCCI) country director for Chile, immediately got in touch with family members of one of the miners. CCCI got to send MP3s (audio versions) of the Jesus Film and the Spanish New Testament through the shaft . CNN noted,“The Jesus film explains that the New Testament t…

The Rescue

When the gold and copper mine far north of Chile caved in, all 33 miners thought they were doomed already. About 700,000 tons of rock blocked their way out. “Descending for 4 miles (7 kilometers) below the Atacama desert, the mine has been giving up copper and gold since 1885, leaving it honeycombed and unstable. The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft finally collapsed above them, filling the lower reaches of the mine with suffocating dust. It took hours before they could even begin to see.” (Source: Yahoo! News) Knowing that they were in for a long haul, shift foreman Luis Urzua strictly rationed their 48-hour food supply, stretching it to last as long as possible. “They only had 10 cans of tuna to share… the tuna amounted to about half a capful from the top of a soda bottle — and that the only water they could drink tasted of oil.” (Ibid) For 16 days the miners thought people on the surface have finally given up on them. “But rescuers found them 17 days later with…

Twitter Defines Success

If numbers are the success yardstick, Twitter definitely measures up. (For those who still think that I was talking about stereo speakers, Twitter is actually a social networking website where users can send 140-character ‘tweets’ or messages to his network of friends.) Since its 2006 launch, it skyrocketed to 160 million plus users. What caught my attention while reading a news item about Twitter is this statement by its co-founder, Evan Williams: “Growing big is not success, in itself. Success to us means meeting our potential as a profitable company that can retain its culture and user focus while having a positive impact on the world.” (Source: Inquirer.Net) That’s a great definition of success.
I think pastors and churches ought to learn from it. Of course, numbers matter to God, too. (There’s a book in the Bible with that title. Also, just read the book of Acts.) Yet, to borrow from the title of a book by Ruth Tucker, when we feel “left behind in a mega-church world,” we tend to…

Till Prenup Do Us Part

A US$1 million signing bonus? No, that’s not the windfall of a hotshot football player for jumping to another team. It’s a stipulation in a prenuptial agreement (popularly known as prenup) between an engaged man and woman. Linda Lea Viken, president-elect of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), negotiated the said prenup. “My client was giving up her career as an accountant to marry an up-and-coming basketball star. Of course with a basketball star you are going to be moving around a lot—we call that lost economic opportunity. So I said I wanted a signing bonus”.(Source:
So now marriages are defined not just by passion but also by the purse. The AAML noticed the increase in such prenups in the last five years among middle-class couples which before were confined only among the wealthy and the well-known. According to Marlene Eskind Moses of AAML, “Sometimes people put in conditions like the amount of sex the…

Fighting Fire with Fire?

All heat but no light. Or, as the apostle Paul put it, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2, ESV) That, I think, is a fitting description of Pastor Terry Jones’ infamous threat to publicly burn about 200 copies of Qur’an to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and to protest the plan to build a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero. It was a relief that Pastor Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida backed down from doing so. He could have foolishly risked not only his own life and that of his church members but also the lives of Christians all over the world. In Afghanistan for example, other than burning a U.S. flag, protesters chanted,“Death to the Christians!”

Thus, in an interview with Christianity Today magazine, Warren Larson, director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University, expressed …

Dr. Luis Pantoja, Jr., 63

Last Monday (September 6), I was leading a Bible study for the employees of The Generics Pharmacy. At the start of the study, I got text messages from two of our deacons, forwarding an urgent prayer request about Dr. Luis Pantoja, senior pastor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF). He fell unconscious in a pastoral conference abroad and efforts were being made to revive him. I led our Bible study group to pray for him. I was about to finish my talk when my mobile vibrated. I don’t usually answer it whenever I was teaching. But I just felt I had to take the call. It was my wife tearfully telling me the sad news that Pastor Luis went home to be with the Lord already. A hush fell upon the group.

The call came at a time when I was emphasizing to them about the importance of finishing well. It was not a coincidence. It was a “God-incidence.”After praying for the Pantoja family, I read to the group 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the fa…

Virtual Relationships?

Konami Digital Entertainment did not even imagine that it has struck gold with “Love Plus,” a dating simulation game that allows young men to“chase virtual girls in the alternative universe of their digital dreams.” (Source: Inquirer Global Nation)But, it is actually a gold rush.
With the latest augmented reality technology plus voice recognition software, “Love Plus” gamers would actually forget they are “dating” a make-believe or virtual person. According to Konami, it appeared so real to the gamers that, in fact, “the [virtual] girl can get moody when neglected by a player who is not sufficiently committed, and that she demands attention when she feels unwell.” (Ibid) 

Video of Japanese man marrying his virtual girlfriend.
Since its release, it has become Japan’s hottest dating game. “The hit videogame made headlines when a 27-year-old Japanese man known only as ‘Sal 9000’ staged a tuxedo wedding late last year, which was watched by thousands online, with his favorite cartoon girl, Ne…

Pray For Our Police

Much ink and paper and much airtime both radio and TV has already been devoted to the hostage crisis last Monday, August 23, 2010. So, instead of giving unsolicited advice or even attacking the Philippine National Police or the PNP (though I have of course expressed my angst over my Facebook posts), I want now to look at this issue from another angle and from a vantage point.

Our PNP is getting a lot of flak lately. They are already under fire for the torture video that was shown over national TV. That video of a police officer torturing a suspect inside a precinct was so sickening that I could not even bear to post its link on Facebook. Knowing that I have a lot of international friends in my social network, I really restrained myself so as not to put our country (not only the police) in bad light. However, the hostage tragedy was broadcast all over the world literally through international news organizations such as CNN and BBC. The images of the failed assault were played over and o…

Alive or Living?

Last week, I was having lunch with my son Jessey. Out of the blue, he asked, “Dad, what’s worse than getting killed?”I immediately replied, “Staying alive.” When he gave me that puzzled look, I clarified my answer,“Staying alive… and not really living.” Staying alive without really living is no better than being dead. In fact, I believe it is worse.
It is because our Lord Jesus, the Life Himself, “came that [we] may have life and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10, ESV. See 14:6 also.) Lest we jump into concluding that the abundant life has something to do with amassing earthly wealth, one translation clarified it: “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.”(CEV) Living is more than breathing in and breathing out. That’s just staying alive. Even a person on life support machine can do that. Living is when you enjoy being alive. It is when we live life to the fullest. Someone summarized it well,“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
But, when we live a life …