Friday, July 17, 2015

Where I Stand Now Religion Wise

I have written several blogs about my beliefs, and you could see some of them if you actually search through this blog site. I am writing this blog now as a milestone to where I stand now religion wise, so that years from now, I can look back and see how I have evolved from this point on.

To start, let me first give a quick background so that readers would know where I'm coming from.

Yeah, where are you coming from?

I was born in the Philippines into a Catholic family, and was raised in Catholic schools until highschool. I went to a government-run secular university in Metro Manila, and after graduation, I flew to Japan for work, where I still work for about fifteen years now.

As such, I was a devout Catholic for most of my early years until I went to university, where I was transformed into an atheist and stayed that way for more than a decade. I have experienced being a Catholic, defending my religion against non-Catholics. I have also experienced being an Atheist, defending my belief against non-Atheists. As many of you know, religious debates usually lead nowhere as seldom would participants back down in these kind of debates, and in the best case scenario, would just end up agreeing to disagree.

In the past few years though, I was seeing a refreshing evolution in my personal philosophy. Some people would describe it as "Buddhism", others would call it "New Age", and still others might call it "Spiritualism". I would rather not give it a label, as doing so would only evoke pre-conceived biases among different groups of people.

What I do find interesting is that now, I see no need to defend this newfound philosophy.

No need to defend this philosophy?

Based on what I believe now, there is no right or wrong. Everything is as it should be. Of course, this is not an original idea as many other philosophers, including Buddhists, have been talking about this for the longest time.

For emphasis, there is no need to defend this philosophy against Catholics as Catholics are neither right nor wrong. They are as they should be. There is also no need to defend this philosophy against Atheists as Atheists, like Catholics, are neither right nor wrong. As you can guess by now, they are as they should be.

They are but different ways of experiencing life, and neither is better or worse than the other.

I am having a hard time digesting this!

I would have thought the same had I looked at this philosophy from the perspective of my former Catholic or Atheist self. However, looking at it from my current perspective, it all makes sense.

By default, reality is neutral and all positivity/negativity in this reality are just subjectively assigned by man, based on their particular history or culture. What is positive relative to a particular group, can be negative relative to another, and vice versa.

While you might think eating dogs is the most horrible thing in the world, it is a perfectly acceptable practice in some parts of the world. While you might think eating beef is perfectly normal, it is the most horrible thing in some parts of the world, where cows are considered sacred.

The more we understand and accept these differences, the more everything becomes neutral, without any associated positivity or negativity assigned by man.

Are you becoming the enlightened one?

I am not saying that I have reached full enlightenment and I have gotten rid of all my earthly biases and desires -- far from it. Neither am I saying I am better or worse than everybody else -- I am not. Like everybody else in their unique situations, I am currently experiencing this philosophy, hoping I can learn something from the experience.

This is no different from how I experienced Catholicism, and Atheism before it. I have learned many things from those experiences.

So, do you believe in God?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question largely depends on the definition of "God", and whether my definition is exactly the same as yours.

"God" is a term used by many religions, and many cultures to refer to a certain Being, as in the case of monotheistic religions, or beings, as in the case of polytheistic religions. Some religions believe God is a perfect being residing in heaven watching over us. Others believe gods are imperfect beings like us living their own lives working on their own problems, but have supernatural powers that make them superior to us. Still others believe god is everything around us including us, so we are God and God is us.

In the end, the existence of God, however "God" may be defined, does not depend on whether I believe Him/Her/them or not.

How do you define God then?

In religious discussions, I prefer not to use the term "God" because different people have different definitions, and using such terms would inevitably only cause confusion and disagreement.

I will leave that to another future blog entry.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Amazing Race - Davao

During our last trip to the Philippines, we planned for an overnight trip to Davao. We knew it was rushed, but we were determined to accomplish and make the most out of it. Our plan was to take the earliest flight from Manila to Davao on the day one, and then take the last flight from Davao back to Manila on day two.

Day One - Dencia's and Eden

We ended up not taking the first flight because it was too early so we settled for the second flight departing Manila at 6:40 AM (PR2811). We figured we would arrive in Davao at 8:30 AM just in time for breakfast.

Our Tita picked us up at the airport and as requested by my wife, we went straight to Dencia's for breakfast. Almost everybody who knew we were flying to Davao recommended that we go there and order arroz caldo with tokwa't baboy. They were right. It was really good, and a perfect way to start our Davao experience.

We then drove south on our way to Eden Nature Park, dropping by several places to meet up with some relatives along the way. The city center was not as congested as Manila and it was still relatively easy to drive around, at least during the time we were there. I heard that during peak hours, the traffic situation can also get bad.

The speed limit in the city center is 30 kph. It increases to 40 kph, and then to 60 kph as you go farther from the center. Looks like these speed limits are strictly enforced,  and the traffic officers are adequately equipped with radar guns to detect offenders. Manila drivers, you have been warned.

The Park was about 30 minutes from the city center, and was a welcome respite from the hot summer at the lowlands. This place reminded me a lot of Baguio with its lush greenery and pine trees. It felt cooler here compared to Tagaytay and there was no need for air conditioning even if it was the peak of summer.

Looks like our tour guide knows how to take pictures

The park offers buffet lunches, flower parks, cultural sites (recreations of houses of indigenous tribes), farms, hiking, mountain bike trails, etc. I would recommend taking the tour as it was the best way to explore the place. The guides were informative, attentive, and were more than willing to help you get that perfect profile pic.

Across the road from the gates of Eden Nature Park is the Skycycle. For just 200 pesos, you can get to experience probably the most memorable bicycle ride you'll ever have.

Skycycle - probably the most memorable bicycle ride you'll ever have

Just leave your camera with the guy manning the bikes and it looks like he already has lots of experience on how to best take pictures. If you can, have someone take your picture from below as well - that angle would also look good with the sky as your only background. I know it looks scary but it seems like they have a clean record (we asked), and if you do lose your balance, you do have your helmet and your harness.

After this amazing bicycle ride, we drove to our Tita's place where we were to stay for the night. Relatives came over to join us for dinner. Nothing beats home-cooked food and great company at a very refreshing location.

Day Two - Pearl Farm

We woke up at 5:00 AM to make sure that we had enough time to reach the port where we will take the boat to Pearl Farm Beach Resort. After a 45-minute boat ride from the port to the resort, this is what greeted us.

Blue skies. Blue waters.

The beaches of Pearl Farm are not to be compared with Boracay... not even near, but you have to give them points for at least importing the white sand so they could compete. What they lack in beach sand quality, they did make up for the infinity pool, the facilities, the service, and the amazing buffet lunch. We also enjoyed renting the kayak and paddling to and from the nearby Malipano Island, around half a kilometer from the resort.

A day trip including buffet lunch, and the boat ride to and from Davao city would cost 2,200 pesos. I heard it's cheaper from Mondays to Thursdays. The kayak rent cost 400 pesos.

This was where we spent the rest of our Friday. Well, at least until our 4:00 PM boat ride back to the port. 

Back to the airport.

Back to reality.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The iJeepney

Spotted roaming the streets of the Philippines ... the iJeepney!

The iJeepney (Photo shot by my wife while I was driving)

There are three possibilities.
[1] Apple actually payed this jeepney to show the Apple logo.
[2] The driver of this jeepney really likes Apple.
[3] This jeepney is really designed in California, assembled in the Philippines.

As always, you decide.

If it were [2], kudos to the driver for having such exquisite tastes. :D

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

OEC, Privacy and MTEC

Today, I went to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo to get the OEC for my wife and myself. This process is straightforward, and is much much preferred than getting my OEC while in the Philippines, as any OFW can confirm.

Getting the OEC
I arrived there at 9:50 AM, signed my name and phone number at the entrance, and walked straight to the POLO office. There was no line, so they were able to attend to me as soon as I arrive. I gave them the passports, and the fully filled application form, which we already filled up at home. They also checked if my OWWA was still valid, which it was so no need to renew.

I was then requested to sign another sheet asking for the following information. I don't remember having to write on this sheet before, and looks like it's a new requirement from May, 2014.
  1. Full name
  2. Address while in the Philippines
  3. Phone number while in the Philippines
  4. Departure date and flight number
  5. Arrival date and flight number
  6. Passport number
Unfortunately, I didn't have a copy of our tickets so I had to search the internet for the flight number (salamat iPhone). I can see the other people in the list also do not have their flight numbers so obviously, I'm not the only one. When I asked why the others didn't write their flight numbers, the lady mentioned it was because they didn't know so they would just have to call back to give the flight number.

So reminder to everybody applying for OEC, make sure to have a copy of your flight number when you visit the POLO office.

I didn't mind writing this sheet although I couldn't help but ask why I need to write down all those information. I also remembered all the personal information privacy trainings I attended as requirement for work. Is it really all right that I can see all the names, addresses, phone numbers, flight numbers, and passport numbers of all the people who applied before me?

Anyways, my OEC was ready and I just had to pay 250 yen (approximately 110 pesos) each for both my wife and myself.

Before I left, I also asked the lady how I could apply for Multiple Travel Exit Clearance (MTEC). Looks like we can only apply in the Philippines, and we need to present our employment contract when we apply. Once approved, we can fly multiple times to the Philippines, without needing to apply for OEC each time, for as long as the MTEC is valid (one year).

I only fly once or twice a year to the Philippines, so I thought I didn't need it.

For now.