Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Blog Entry..

This is my last entry in this Blogspot blog.

I am consolidating everything into one blog for easier maintenance. But I will leave this blog here so that anybody visiting it may view my previous entries.

From now on, please visit my NEW BLOG LOCATION for the latest entries.

Thank you very much!

Ruffy Biazon

WI-Fi in the Sky

Everyone who has ever ridden on a plane knows the drill. As soon as you board the plane, the flight attendants instruct the passengers to turn off cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices such as MP3 players and video games until the “fasten your seatbelt” sign is turned off. But cellphones may not be used at any time. Upon landing, passengers are once again instructed repeatedly to only use their cell phones once inside the terminal building.

Of course, there are always some hard-headed passengers who simply ignore these instructions, to the irritation of the flight crew and the horror of some passenger who’s afraid that the electronic device will cause the plane to crash (like my ten year old son). During the last campaign, when I was able to ring up my frequent flyer miles due to the daily provincial sorties, I got used to other passengers continuing with their cell phone conversations even while the plane was about to take off and the beeps of incoming messages as they turned on their mobile units as soon as the plane’s wheels touched the ground.

You can’t blame the flight attendants if sometimes their reminder about keeping electronic devices off while in the plane already sounds like a teacher berating a noisy student. After all, it is already an established safety procedure.

But during our last trip to the United States last month, I was pleasantly surprised that one airline, instead of instructing you to turn off your cell phone and make you feel like you will be in a coffin cut off from the world for the duration of the flight, encourages you to use your wi-fi enabled device and connect to the world (and part with your hard earned money).

Delta Airlines (are you paying attention, Delta?) has wi-fi enabled flights letting you connect to the internet while flying thousands of feet above the ground. Surfing in the clouds! I was so thrilled with the idea, I became the fool who parted with his $10 just to be able to go online and post a status in my Facebook and Twitter and share with anyone who cared that I was up in the high levels of the earth’s atmosphere while surfing the net.

Although the thought crossed my mind that it was a waste of money, I tried to convince myself that the three hour flight would have been boring if I didn’t purchase a connection.

They were also lenient in their rules, allowing the use of cellphones even while the plane was taxiing to its take off position, and allowing the use again as the aircraft taxied to the terminal after landing.

So, it’s not that dangerous to use cellphones after all. I guess the airlines here in the Philippines just want to be extra careful. One time, on a flight to Cebu, I gently reminded my wife (emphasis on gently) to turn off her cellphone because we were already taxiing to the runway for take off. I told her it was a safety rule.

She did turn off her cell immediately. After which she told me, “if these were really that dangerous, then why don’t the terrorists just ride the plane and turn their cellphones on?”

She was kidding, of course. But it did get me thinking.

During that mile-high wi-fi experience, I got to surfing about electronic devices on board airplanes. One site said that the Federal Communications Commission of the United States banned the use of cellphones on bard aircraft back in 1991 because there was a suspicion that the signals interfered with aircraft navigation and communications equipment. The Federal Aviation Administration agrees with the FCC and imposed the regulation on commercial aircraft.

Another site tells of an interview with a pilot over ABC News where in the pilot said that the rule for electronic devices to be turned off is meant to ensure that the passengers’ attention are exclusively fixed on the flight crew as they give the safety briefing before the plane takes off. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Some say that the suspicion that the electronic devices cause harm to the planes equipment has not yet been proven by tests, but it was decided that prudence dictates that it would be better to err on the side of safety. Hence, the ban stays, although various airlines have adopted various rules as to when the cell units should be turned off and when it may be turned on.

As for me, being an avid viewer of Air Crash Investigations in National Geographic Channel, I’d rather not risk my cell phone causing anything that would make the plane I’m riding in get in trouble so I’m obedient when it comes to instructions to turn off electronic devices. And if you’re sitting beside me, you will get a verbal reminder from me if you are not convinced by my accusing glare.

But if I fly Delta, I will happily get my credit card and iPad out and surf in the sky.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Noynoy Aquino Did Not Become a Hostaged President

Politics is a realm that neither political analysts nor fortune tellers can accurately predict the outcome. The reality is that the outcomes are determined by the interests of the politicians which they hold dearly to themselves as a poker player would his cards. Anlaysts can only do an educated speculation, fortune tellers can only do blind guesses.

Politicians’ interests and game plans may change as the seasons do, depending on the situations during a particular time, or the convenience at that moment. That makes them unpredictable, which is sometimes a necessity in the cut-throat world that they move around in.

I am happy to admit that one analysis I made while in the thick of the campaign of the last national and local elections did not materialize into reality. Yes, I’m happy that it did not materialize. That analysis, which I posted in my blog ( Noynoy Aquino Could Be a Hostaged President), pictured a scenario where both chambers of the Philippine Congress are dominated by opponents of Aquino, with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo heading the House of Representatives and Manny Villar leading the Senate.

The basis of that analysis is the fact that both politicians had a good number of allies (at that time, at least) that should have been enough for them to take hold of the helm in their respective chambers. That, combined with the usual expectation for politicians of such stature to crave for the post of top banana and the craving to get back at political opponents, served as the foundation of the analysis.

But to my surprise, neither seemed to have exerted effort not exhibited the desire to make life difficult for the new president. Perhaps the overwhelming mandate and the people’s high trust and confidence in President Aquino was enough to dissuade them. Or they lost their allies to political expediency, each of them characteristically looking out for their own interests. Or, uncharacteristically for politicians, they both lost the desire for power and the need to get back at their rival.

I am thankful to Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Sen. Manny Villar for not acting like typical traditional politicians. Ordinarily, one would expect a typical trapo to use the situation to get back at the opponent who defeated him or do everything to use the position to protect herself.

Whatever it is, I am just glad that President Noynoy Aquino enjoys the goodwill and support of both chambers. Both Houses have super majorities that support the President, led by personalities who have expressed cooperation, if not complete support, to the new administration.

Indeed, President Aquino is a blessed man. Not just because he won the Presidency in a relatively easy manner (considering that he decided to run just 5 months before the campaign began), but because as he begins his term of office, he has a high trust rating from his constituency and the support of the two chambers of Congress.

I pray that those around him will not waste this golden opportunity for the Philippines to be great again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Everybody's Concern

It’s turning out to be one of the most awaited events of the year. Media networks are all geared up for their coverage, the internet is buzzing with chatter about what might and might not happen, and people are eagerly anticipating what’s in store for them in the coming years.

Some attendees probably prepared their wardrobe weeks in advance, more concerned with what they will wear to the occasion rather than the substance of the proceedings. Indeed, the event has been likened to a movie industry awards night, with reporters and photographers waiting along the sidelines of the red carpet jostling to throw the question “Who are you wearing?” (a question about who designed the outfit) and capture a photo worthy of a spread in the papers.

Even the ordinary Filipino seems to be more interested, compared to years past. I was surprised to read some Twitter messages from students and working people alike expressing their disappointment that a holiday was not declared making it impossible for them to watch the event. Quite unlike previously when either the people were indifferent or even questioned why a holiday had to be declared.

I remember a story told to me years back by one of my dad’s staff. She was rushing to work when a friend asked her why she had to go to the office even if a holiday was declared. My dad’s staff said, “I’m going to the SONA”. The friend said, “Ok, I’ll go with you”. She said, “I’m sorry you can’t. It’s by invitation only.” The friend, flabbergasted, said, “By invitation only? What kind of sauna is that?”

There was a time when people could care little what the SONA was all about, content with only reading about it in the papers the following day. Not only when reports began to give extra focus on who wore what made by whom did the masa take enough interest in news about the SONA, perhaps due to the Filipinos’ fondness of celebrities.

But now, with the overwhelming confidence in President Aquino’s leadership, it seems that the people’s interest in what he has to say about the country’s state and what he intends to do about stems from genuine concern.

Technology has also made it easier to monitor the SONA, with social networks in the internet serving as public information tools. Increased accessibility through wireless broadband and live streaming has given those with access to those facilities the ability to view the proceedings live over the internet. Of course, those who are still dreaming of such connectivity have the old reliable transistor radio to rely on.

The SONAs of the past president has always been a show and tell spectacle, not unlike those presented by celebrity storytellers to kindergarten students. Whether they just wanted to show their powerpoint skills or they thought that the people could be mesmerized by the show, it basically led people to take the SONA as just an entertaining event rather than a government’s presentation of what is in store for them.

But it seems with the new President’s first SONA, the people genuinely want to hear what he plans to do for the country. With the overwhelming and unquestionable mandate that he has, much is now demanded from him.

After listening to the SONA, the people should not be left with a feeling of having just been treated to an interesting report from the President. More than just having their eyes opened to anomalies of the previous administration and presented with a smart program of government, the SONA should give the people a feeling of ownership of the challenges faced by President Aquino. The fight for the country’s future is not the President’s alone. It is a shared responsibility between all who would like to see this country move forward.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Book of Eli - More Than Just an Excellent Movie

WARNING! Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you don't want to find out the ending of the movie!

My Saturday afternoon was free, there was no place to go. The kids had their cousins sleeping over so I had no place to squeeze in and play with them. I couldn’t do Facebook and Twitter lest I be called an addict (but you can call me in denial). So what else was there to do?

I declared Saturday afternoon as movie time. After all, there are quite a number of good movies these days and with the various sources available (legit DVD, pirated DVD, online sources, relatives and friends) it’s easy to choose which one to watch.

Of course, being the “macho man” that I am, I have preference for action films. And being a self-styled movie critic, I also choose movies based on who directed the film. And the Hollywood fan in me does not pass the chance to watch movies starring actors and actresses that I adore.

So among the available choices that afternoon, I chose a movie which had a trailer that teased my desire for an adrenaline rush, directors who had already proven to me that they are worth the money that producers pay them to make a film and a lead actor who ranks on top of my all-time Hollywood favorites.

My chosen movie for that Saturday afternoon was The Book of Eli, directed by the Hughes Brothers with Denzel Washington as the lead character.

The trailer that I had seen months before gave me an idea that the movie’s setting was post-apocaloyptic, very much like Mel Gibson’s Mad Max series and last year’s The Road, which I have yet to watch. To me, post-apocalypse movies tend to have similar looks and storylines. The protagonist is usually plunged into a conflict with the desolate and cruel environment as well the deranged and despicable character that live in it. There is usually a journey involved which is made exciting by fights, gunfire and explosions.

But in this case, aside from the actor starring in it, the scenes in the preview and the title of the movie gave me an inkling that somehow there will be a lesson learned here, not just the adrenaline of blood-squirting action and foul language in the script.

The title, Book of Eli, immediately gave me the impression that the Bible has something to do with it. Eli is the shortened version of the name Elijah. In American culture, those who named their sons Elijah are usually those who come from the Bible Belt (the Southern part of the US) and those familiar with the prophet. Being a Bible-reader/believer myself, not to mention a Denzel Washington fan, I had an immediate interest in the movie.

The story revolves around Eli (played by Denzel Washington) who was a survivor of an event which led to the destruction of civilized life as we know it. The land was destroyed, anarchy reigned and cannibals roamed the countryside. It was the period after an event which may have been Armageddon itself. Not only did it destroy man’s home, it destroyed humanity itself. Violence ruled, and every person lived only for survival.

Eli, who was living in the East Coast of the US, one day receives a message presumably from God. The voice told him to bring the book west, and that a path would be laid out before him, that he would be led to a place where the book would be safe, and that he would be protected anyone or anything that would be in his way. During a conversation with one of the characters, he described the encounter with the voice : “I was just moving from place to place,trying to stay alive.And then one day I heard this voice.I don't know how to explain it, it's like it was coming from inside me. But I could hear it clear as day. Clear as I can hear you talking to me now.”

That basically describes how those who have had the faith to hear the word of God get the message from God. Nowadays, whenever someone says, “God told me to do this”, that person is greeted with either patronizing looks or ridiculing snickers. Often, that person is tagged as having loose screws.

But a person who is in the appropriate level of faith and has a clear idea of God’s will and purpose will be able to hear the Word of God, as clear as one can hear another person talk. How do you know what God’s will and purpose is? Simple. Just read the Bible.

And that’s what Eli has been doing. He told Solara that he’s been reading the Bible everyday. In the past thirty years that he’s been wandering, he’s been reading the book in his possession everyday. Reading it revealed to him God’s will and purpose and it filled his faith, faith which gave him direction to where he was suppose to go. In a conversation with Solara, this was what he had to say about faith:

Solara: You know, you say you've been walking for thirty years, right?
Eli: Right.
Solara: Have you ever thought that maybe you were lost?
Eli: Nope.
Solara: Well, how do you know that you're walking in the right direction?
Eli: I walk by faith, not by sight.
Solara: [sighs] What does that mean?
Eli: It means that you know something thing even if you don't know something.
Solara: That doesn't make any sense.
Eli: It doesn't have to make sense. It's faith, it's faith.
And he’s right. Faith doesn’t need to be rationalized, otherwise, it is not faith at all.

So as he journeyed for thirty years on the way to where he was told the book should be brought, it is assumed that he learned his survival skills as he went along. In one of the early scenes of the movie, he encounters people called Hi-Jackers, who apparently prey on travelers, not only to ransack their belongings but also to eat them.

Eli was lured by their bait, a woman pretending to need his help on the side of the road. Being the good natured man that he was, Eli was drawn by the bait and it was then that he was encountered by the gang. He tried to evade but was forced into a fight with them, one man against many. In the end, they all end up dead, with him fulfilling his warning to the leader , “Touch me with that hand again and you’re not getting it back”. Eli cut off his hand with one swoop of his bolo.

Thirty years is a long time to endure to reach your goal. Yet Eli continued in his journey fraught with danger and death in order to fulfill his mission. It takes great faith to embark on a journey with no end in sight. That was what the Israelites did when they fled Egypt. Through the leadership of Moses, they walked for forty years through the desert until reaching the Promised Land. They almost lost faith but because of their leaders’ belief in what lay ahead, they avoided falling into self-destruction. Of course, had they been more faithful to God, their journey should have just been forty days.

In many instances, we are impatient with what we seek. Many times people have prayed to God and wanted results overnight. But God does not work within the time limit we prescribe. Our impatience usually gets the best of us, as exemplified by the cliché, “haste makes waste”. We must understand that sometimes what we desire comes to us delayed because the timing is not right.

One of the reasons that our desires are delayed is that we have yet to be prepared for what we ask. For instance, we don’t get a high paying job immediately after we graduate because we still have to build up experience in the practical world.

In Eli’s case, he did not reach his destination immediately but his long journey prepared him for the challenge that he was to face in the fulfillment of his duty. His fighting skills were honed roaming the ravaged land and encountering various obstacles and dangers. While stayed true to his objective of reaching the west coast, he didn’t know that someday he would encounter someone who was determined to take the book for himself and do everything and anything to get it.

But his long journey prepared him for destiny crossing paths with Carnegie, a character who knew the relevance of the book that Eli was carrying. Carnegie was the leader of a band of violent bikers ruling over a small town. He had control of everything, including one of the most precious resources, water.

But he wanted more, and he believed that the book is the key to gaining power. He even had gangs of bikers going around the countryside looking for the book. One time he was asked by one of his lackeys why they were being sent out just for a “f*#king book”.

Carnegie answered, “IT'S NOT A F*#KIN' BOOK! IT'S A WEAPON. A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, fuckin' town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they'll do exactly what I tell 'em if the words are from the book. It's happened before and it'll happen again. All we need is that book.”

Indeed, the power of the Words in the Bible has been proven. It motivates people, it drives revolutions and it has conquered countries, shaped civilization. A weapon, indeed. But just like any weapon, if not used properly in the way it is meant to be, it can also bring misery to people. Carnegie’s desire to use for his personal agenda is not fiction. We have seen many times when those claiming to be working in God’s name using his Words have in fact been working for their own vested interests. The Bible itself warns us about those kinds of people.

But one of the important messages in the movie regarding the Bible and the Word of God is that the power one gets from it is not in the mere possession of the Book. As Carnegie found out in the end after he was able to get the Book from Eli through force, violence and intimidation, the book is no different from any other pocketbook or magazine if the heart of the one reading it is not in the right disposition. To the evil, the truth in it may be distorted for evil purposes, and to those who lack faith, it is but a mere collection of words and stories that mean nothing.

When Eli and Solara were besieged by Carnegie and his gang, Solara ended up being hostaged by Carnegie and by threatening to kill her, he was able to get Eli to surrender the book. Carnegie then shoots Eli and goes back to his den.

Back home, he is unable to open the locked book, and has to enlist the help of one they call “the Engineer” who then picks the lock and open it. To his surprise and anguish, it turns out that the Bible is a Braille version of the book. It is then that the moviegoer is led to the conclusion that Eli was blind, in spite of having been able to go through his 30 year journey and overcome all the obstacles and challenges.

The worst thing for Carnegie is that the only one who could possibly read it is his blind lover Claudia but whom he has been maltreating over the years. HE asks her to read it for him, but she realizes that she doesn’t have to. With his wounded leg becoming gangrenous, it won’t be long before he kicks the bucket. She mocks him, saying, “You sacrificed so much for that book. So many men. More than you can spare. And now, all the people who were afraid to speak your name, they're downstairs, tearing up the bar right now, did you know that? And there's nobody to stop them. And you're feverish. I can't imagine what it must feels like, to have something so close, that you worked so hard for, and it might as well be a million miles away.”

Indeed, many have Bibles in their possession yet they either do not read it or they do not comprehend what it is all about. They are blind and ignorant to the message of Truth in the Bible because they lack the necessary attitude and faith needed to understand what is being conveyed.

But the most relevant and striking message is in the end. With the Book in Carnegie’s hands, the moviegoer would think that Eli had already failed his mission. He goes on the West Coast in spite of a bullet wound in his belly and reaches the destination---the island prison of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, which apparently has been turned into a secure repository of culture and literature. He is able to gain entry into the heavily guarded fortress-library by saying that he has the King James Bible with him.

The curator welcomes him and says that the Bible is the only book they do not have since the apocalypse happened. Eli then asks the curator to get some paper (“lots of ‘em”) and instructs him to write down everything he will say, word for word. He then starts to recite the New King James Version of the Bible beginning with Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 1. “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth…”

The message is that the Word of God should not just remain on paper and be one of our possessions as we go through this life. It must be taken in and given a place in our hearts, because only then will it bear fruit in our lives. Paper and ink may be erased or destroyed, but words committed to our memory and its meanings and purposes embedded in our hearts will never be lost nor destroyed.

The Word becomes living when we pass it on to another, not just by the physical transfer of possession by inheritance or gifts, but by teaching others about its wisdom and truth. And by teaching, it is not just by dictation or repetition but more effectively by living it through our daily lives.

Eli says this so profoundly when he told Solara, “In all these years I've been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it. To do more for others than you do for yourself.”

In the final analysis, Eli is us and we are all Elis. We are called to bring the word to where it is safe--- in the hearts of our fellow man. We are called not to keep the Word in a bookshelf to gather dust but to pass it on. But before we embark on that mission, we must put the Word in our hearts and live by it. Otherwise, we might end up like Carnegie, living our lives chasing after the wisdom of the Word until we exhaust our last breath.