Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday at AdDU

Attended the noontime Ash Wednesday services at Ateneo de Davao today. As expected, the Mass was packed. Wisely they moved it from the usual chapel to the gym.

Apart from the students, there were also the professionals and regular folk from around the area. When you get right down to it, a lot about religion and worship involves community. I'm glad I'm part of this one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stella Maris Academy of Davao Seal

It's funny but I can't seem to find any decent online image of the seal of Stella Maris Academy of Davao. No graphics, no photos, none whatsoever except for small grainy pictures used as avatars for a Friendster account. In fact, do an Google image search and all you'll likely come across ARE Friendster pictures (which might say something about the graduates of Stella Maris -- but I refuse to think about that.)

So anyway, here it is -- quite possibly the first decent picture of the seal of Stella Maris Academy of Davao. This was from the big wooden seal hung outside the main entrance of the school. Not quite the design I remember, but I do like the execution. Now I wonder if the good sisters have actually put down the specifics for the design.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Please, please, please won't someone tell me what a mermaid is supposed to look like. I really want to know.

Not long after the heavy rain and the flood, I find Dumaguete again in the front page of the national daily. Mermaids in the Silliman University Marine Laboratory! Surely the find the century! Of the millennium!

What? No mermaids? Of course the scientists of Silliman would deny it! Haven't we seen enough of the X-Files to know that they want to keep the secrets to themselves? O these despicable scientists! How dare they imprison such magnificent creatures! They're only in it for themselves! They only want to slice the mermaids open! Evil, evil scientists!

In truth, I frown upon the lack of journalistic rigor on the part of my friend and editor Alex Pal. Concerned citizens from Bais descended upon the lab and searched its premises high and low. What an opportunity Alex missed to interview these experts on mermaids!

"Wala Diri!" was all these citizens could say (because, as we all know, scientists are a devious sort.) Quite obviously these citizens from Bais knew what to look for! Why, o why, o why, Alex, didn't you ask them what the mermaids looked like? I am sorely disappointed.

In the absence of such informed expertise, I am forced to rely on my imagination and my limited knowledge of mermaids. Does the Silliman mermaid have red hair and big expressive eyes? Green fins? Giant seashells for modesty? Does she go on about her stuff, thinking them neat, thinking her collection quite complete?

Perhaps the rescuers even had pictures! Proof positive of the mermaid identity! Maybe if Alex had the presence of mind to ask them! Who would the mermaid resemble? Marian Rivera? Ara Mina? Vilma Santos? Edna Luna? Charlene Gonzales? (But, oh, in my heart of hearts, I want her to look like -- please, please, please -- Alice Dixson! I can still feel it!)

I can feel it!

Or maybe, just maybe, the Bais rescuers couldn't find the mermaid because she was actually walking around the city! In which case, they should all be looking for a tall, thin, blonde fahrener woman and, well, splash her with water so her legs revert to a fish tail. Just tell them to be careful if the woman is wearing an eye patch -- because that's a sign she's an assassin and not a mermaid (it might be easy to mistake one for the other.)

This is a mermaid.

This is NOT a mermaid.

Of course, this is just me with my imperfect knowledge of mermaids. I really wish Alex had asked the real experts from Bais.

Lest you think I'm mocking the mermaid experts from Bais, I say "most assuredly not!" After all, they got their info via text message, the most reliable of sources (beating out the Internet, I might add.)

And we all know that whatever we get via text message has got to be true.

* Little Mermaid ©Walt Disney
* Splash ©Touchstone Films
* Kill Bill ©Miramax Films
* Dyesebel ©Mars Ravelo; Dyesebel pictures from

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nokia N79 + Ovi Suite = Epic Fail

Two previously unthinkable things happened within the past 24 hours: I bought a new cellphone, and I installed Microsoft Windows on my laptop. I know, I know: I'm also wondering if hell has frozen over. But I digress.

On the Windows incident: it turns out that, as a part-time teacher at the Computer Studies Division of Ateneo de Davao, I can enjoy the benefits of the Microsoft Academic Alliance. That means free use of Microsoft software for educational purposes. And there's a wide range, too, from operating systems to applications to development tools. Regardless, I still wouldn't have considered it if my Information Security students had not asked me to discuss Windows security.

So off I go to download an ISO file from their library -- using Wine to run their special downloader, naturally. I now have Windows running in a guest partition of VirtualBox. I feel so dirty. (I have more to say about my Windows experience, but I'll leave that for my Ubuntu blog.)

And I also got a new phone. I've had my Nokia 6233i for the longest time, and it's now literally falling apart. It's still functional, though, and I would have held on for a while longer. This afternoon, I blurted out to my Mom and my sister that it might be time for me to get a new phone. I thought I'd have another day or so to change my mind, but before I knew it, they had already arranged to get a Nokia N79 from my sister's best friend. Oh, boy.

Form- and function-wise, I like the Nokia N79. It has WiFi and a 5-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens, features I've been hankering after ever since all my friends went Nokia N82. But it has a more sensible keyboard than the N82, something akin to my Nokia 6233i.

As happens whenever you get a new phone, I have to transfer all my contacts from the old phone. Quite serendipitous that I have Windows XP running, because Nokia software Only Runs With Windows. Easy-peasy, right? Wrong.

It used to be that Nokia shipped out PC Suite with all their phones, but now that's apparently been replaced by the Ovi Suite. What do I have to say about it? Epic FAIL!

The Ovi Suite looks all sleek and shiny outside, but is actually a miserable clunker on the inside. All I really want is to manage my contacts and messages, but it's giving me choices on movie conversion, photo folders, One-Touch Internet (whatever that is) -- anything except the simple contact management I was looking for.

Not only that, it took forever and ever to download all the necessary components from the Internet. It went a-looking for the Microsoft .NET Framework, Windows Media Player 11, Visual C# Components, XML converters, and what have you. Don't you get it, Nokia? I don't want your Web 2.0 / cloud computing / social networking mumbo-jumbo! I just want to manage my contacts, darnit! Leave the Internet stuff to the phone where it's supposed to be.

Good thing I just managed to copy the contents of the old phone over, but I can't clean up my address book like I want to. It seems to want to sync it with Outlook Express or some other. Up to now, I'm still wrestling with it.

What horrible, complicated way of doing things!

Update: So I finally figured it out. Ovi synchronizes with Outlook Express, which is as crappy as crappy PIMs go. I do have other options, like Outlook and Lotus Notes, etc., none of which I have installed. Won't sync with Thunderbird, though.

Hooboy, this is the problem with proprietary software -- it has to be installed and configured the way they want it.

Anyway, I'm just thankful I'm done.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mermaids in Dumaguete

This morning, while scanning the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, this is what I found:

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines—Scientists at the Silliman University Marine Laboratory here have reported a deluge of visitors since Wednesday as a result of rumors that they are holding mermaids (locally called serena), in the premises.

The rumors, sent out through text messages and by word of mouth, spread like wildfire when the purported detention of the mermaids was blamed for the Feb. 7 floods in Negros Oriental, which caused at least four deaths and millions of pesos in damage.

“Over 100 people have been coming here since Wednesday night looking for the serena, and our security guard reported that his jaws were aching from having to deny the story again and again,” Dr. Janet Estacion, the assistant director of the Marine Lab, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday.

I thought I'd repost it here in full because, well, it's just so strange and yet so...Dumaguete. Full story here, written by my editor and biking buddy Alex Pal.

The story comes in varied versions, depending on who one asks. The version told by the folks making a beeline for the Marine Lab went like this:

A Caucasian bought three mermaids in Amlan town some 20 kilometers north of Dumaguete. He donated two of the creatures to the Marine Lab, angering the mother mermaid who unleashed nature’s fury on the people of Negros Oriental.


A low-pressure area off northeastern Mindanao brought occasional rains to the province on Thursday and Friday, triggering fresh fear among believers of the mermaid tale.

On Thursday, a group of about 30 Amlan residents trooped to the Marine Lab and pleaded with the security guard to release the mermaids so that the sun would come out again, according to Andrea Alviola, a member of the Silliman University staff.

The rumor has caught the interest of Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, the director of the Marine Lab, who is into the study of dugongs (sea cows).

“Dugongs are also called serena, so I was hoping that someone had actually found a dugong. But nothing came out of it,” Calumpong said.

‘Wala diri’

Per Estacion’s account, the visitors are usually ashamed to ask about the mermaids. They pretend to take a tour and then peek curiously inside tanks and other displays, telling each other, “Wala diri (It’s not here).”

The visitors come from as far as Bais City, some 45 km north of Dumaguete.

A physician was also said to have come looking for the mermaids at the Marine Lab.

Said Estacion: “There’s nothing you can do if people still believe in mermaids, even though many fishermen say they don’t exist.”

The rumors spiced up what would otherwise have been ordinary days at the Lab. But Estacion frowned on the idea of playing these up.

“We’re scientists. We don’t want to perpetuate that myth,” she said.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I am a blogger, apparently. Apparently. It's an accident borne of having a blog. On some days, being a blogger is a good thing to be: as when bloggers latch on to a story that fell below the radar of the media. On some days, it's not: as when the expression of inflamed passions go beyond the boundaries of decency.

On most days, I don't even bother at all with the distinction. I have a blog, yes; I feed it with stories, yes; sometimes, the stories are substantial, but more likely they're mundane. What can I say? Keeping a blog is a hobby and an outlet.

But a blogger? Hmmmm.... If I'm ambivalent, it's because there are bloggers and there are Bloggers. There are the folks like me who plug away a few minutes each day at the keyboard because it keeps our writing fingers limber and because it's our way of keeping touch with a small circle of friends. And then there are Bloggers, the superstars whom everyone sees as representatives of blogging at large.

What makes a blogger a Blogger? I'd say it's the following, running into the hundreds and thousands of readers each day. Some have the following because they have something to say and they say it well. Some, because they're entertaining. Some, because they network well. Some, because of their personality and notoriety. It even gets to the point that some Bloggers cultivate their notoriety in order to maintain their following.

With a daily audience in the hundreds and in the thousands, Bloggers can parlay their popularity into cash. What follows is the fever for blog monetization and the incestuous affair with search engine optimization. Make big money from home! Make big money while you sleep! Who can resist such a pitch?

Fame, money, power: can a little bit of madness be far behind? With all the influence they wield within their circle, Bloggers aspire to be media moguls. They formulate new theories, they prognosticate on the future of the medium, they seek to depose traditional media. The battlecry: Out with the Old! In with the New!

Alas, their circle isn't nearly as big as Bloggers think it is. We can't fault Bloggers for their ambition, but surely there's a Flaw in the Plan. And the Flaw? Bloggers are Bloggers because their barriers to entry are low. On closer examination, their infrastructure is nil, their only currency are posts, links, and eyeballs. Posts can be commissioned, links can be bought, and after that, the eyeballs will follow. Fame can be fickle, and when that goes, so too will money and power.

While they can be entertaining to watch, Bloggers ultimately leave bloggers like me in the lurch. There's a point early on at which our motivations and results diverge. My audience is not likely to grow beyond the 20 or so friends who read my blog regularly, nor would I want it to: there's something about that kind of fame that I find creepy. Yes, I monetize my blog but it's not likely to go beyond the pocket change I take in every day; if the price for higher income is the creepy kind of fame, no thanks. While I may occasionally agree with a point that some Bloggers have to make, I don't need -- much less want -- them speaking for me; I can speak my own mind, thank you very much.

Simply put: I don't want to be subsumed into a movement, or lumped into a mass. My blog exists because it's an expression of my voice, no one else's.

I have a blog, but that's all it is. If that makes me a blogger, fine. Just make sure it's spelled with a small letter 'b' because that all I am.