Last Entry

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

This is my last entry in this blog.

Please visit my new blog site at .

I consolidated all my blogs in one place for easier maintenance.

However, I will leave this blog intact with my previous entries.

Thank you very much!

Ruffy Biazon

Wi-Fi in the Sky

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Travel with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

Anyone 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.

Aerial shot I took of the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument as we were about to land in Washington D.C.

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 offers Wi-Fi on board selected flights in the United States

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.

Surfing in the sky with my iPad

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.

Noynoy Aquino Did Not Become A Hostaged President

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

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.

It’s Everybody’s Concern

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

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.

The Book of Eli – More Than Just an Excellent Movie

Posted in Inner Thoughts with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

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.

Get The Balance Right

Posted in Family Life with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

Last week, my wife and I agreed to take the kids out of town for a vacation before they go back to school because for them, summer was spent just in the house while their parents were out campaigning. It was pretty much a boring summer for them, and there wasn’t much quality time between us.

In fact, over the last nine years, I must admit that work pretty much came in the way of being a father and husband, although I did manage to squeeze in some quality time every now and then. But that’s just it…it shouldn’t be just a matter of “squeezing in” family time. There should be a time for work responsibilities and time for family responsibilities.

We decided to go to Albay, to a resort in Misibis Bay. The place is relatively new, they just opened last year. I never even knew there was such a resort. My wife and I are a curious pair, always wanting to try something new instead of repeating an experience over and over again and falling into a routine. I guess that’s one of the secrets of our staying together for twenty years now, even though we started out married life at quite a young age.

Along with us came my sister in law and her family, my brother in law and two of their cousins. We scheduled our departure for June 9, because I wanted to attend the proclamation of Sen. Noynoy Aquino. At that time, the end of the canvassing was estimated to be on June 8. But the canvassing was extended one more day so the proclamation was rescheduled to June 9. My dad wanted me to attend, suggesting that I reschedule our trip. Pia Hontiveros, a friend from the ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) said that I shouldn’t miss this historic event.

Indeed, I did want to attend Noynoy’s proclamation. It was really a historic event and so far, in my three terms of being a congressman, there have been many historic events that I was part of, events that someday I’m going to tell my grand children how their grandpa was right there as those events were happening. I wanted this one to be one of those stories. And I also wanted to be there to take photographs of the event.

But I already made a promise to my family that we will leave on that day. And God knows how many times in the past nine years that I set aside a commitment to my family just to be able to be at an event as history unfolds or to do an important job in line of duty. Perhaps to me those events are something to forever remember as a chapter in our country’s history, but my family’s disappointment will be something that will haunt me until the day I die. I don’t want that.

And so I would miss the proclamation at Batasang Pambansa. I would get on a plane with my family and spend precious moments with them that will last a lifetime of memories, much more valuable than any historical event in the country.

Anton and I on the plane.

The plane ride to Legaspi City took about just an hour, although for me, it was an hour spent well. There is nothing compared to having your children depend their life on you. One of my sons, afraid of flying because of watching too much National Geographic Channel’s Air Crash Investigation, clung to my arms the whole flight, asking me to pray before we took off. It’s such a good feeling to have your children rely on you, although you will also have to train them to be self-sufficient and survive on their own. You just have to get the balance right.

The approach to Legaspi City airport was spectacular, with the majestic Mayon dominating the horizon. As we descended to land, the children were treated to seeing the volcano with a perfect cone spewing smoke. It was a clear day, and the clouds had not yet formed on top of the Mayon and she showed us her full glory.

Trina and I enjoy traveling.

Since we were a big group, we were picked up by the hotel’s coaster and we traveled for another hour to get to Misibis Bay. Along the way, the kids were treated to the beautiful scenery of Albay’s countryside. It was an educational trip for them, their questions about what they see around them answered right then and there.

The bus on the boat.

One nice experience for them was crossing a wide channel to get to the island of Cagraray where Misibis Bay is. There was no bridge but there was a roll-on/roll-off barge. The coaster was driven onto the barge’s platform and when it got to the other side, it just drove off onto the road. The kids were excited about the experience. My son, used to seeing the LCT’s and LCM’s in his video game, asked me if this RO/RO barge was the same as those used in World War II.

Not long after, we arrived at the resort, greeted by several dancers dancing to what sounded like tribal music. Welcome drinks soothed our parched throats and the well done landscaping and architecture already beckoned us to romp and play.

My kids love the water!

After checking in to our rooms and settling down, the kids were more than eager to go out and swim in the pool. The cold rooms and television were unsuccessful in enticing them to stay indoors. They completely ignored those and preferred the warm water of the swimming pool under the heat of the sun. I’m glad though, because back home, they’re indoors most of the time. There should be time for them to stay indoors and time to go outdoors. You must get the balance right.

Ice candy while in the way to be cool in the summer heat.

I joined my kids in the pool, playing with them as a father should. I particularly wanted to stay with my youngest son, who at three years old, spent his entire life with a father who had to give his time to his constituents. This was an opportunity for some bonding time.

As I played with the kids in the pool, all the worries and cares of this world were quickly set aside. For a while, I left all troubles behind and life became simple again. Whether it was in this resort or in another place, it doesn’t matter as long as you are with your family enjoying the company, life becomes wonderful. For a while I became not just a father but a kid as well.

Trying to get on was no easy task.

In the pool, there were inflatables for the children to play with. There was a scaled down version of a banana boat, that favorite ride of beach goers. But it was a bit too large for the kids, and they had difficulty getting on it. I decided to use it, to amuse the kids. But the funny thing is, once I get on top of it, I had difficulty staying on it.

Staying on was even more difficult.

Somehow, it was difficult for me to balance because of my weight which makes it top-heavy once I’m riding it. So I kept on falling over and over again, which made the kids laugh. Oh well, that makes their day, so I gladly got on and fell off over and over again.

Of course, I really tried to stay on it for my personal satisfaction but I really never was able to. I was always off-balance. For you to stay on top of it, you must get the balance right.

Trina and Ino enjoying the wind and water.

Later in the day, we went to the beach where there was an on-the-water playground for the kids and watersports for the adults. Now was the time for grown up activities. We rode Hobie Cats, small sailing catamarans that sliced through the waters with swiftness and speed that matched even motorized bancas. It had a capacity of four people, and rode really close to the water. We took off with such speed that in a few minutes we were already in the middle of Misibis Bay in deep blue water.

Enzo didn't quite know how to react.

It was my first time on a wind-powered vessel, and it was a great experience. I had always wondered how people could write a song about sailing, but riding the Hobie Cat, I could really related to Christopher Cross’ song “Sailing”. In fact, I almost immediately sang the song in my head as we were cruising through the waters of Misibis bay, with no sound except the splashing of the waves, flapping of the sails, and the whistle of the wind. Initially, there was some kind of weird feeling about the absence of noise from an engine while we were speeding through the choppy waters. But later on, it became a peaceful experience to be out there in the vast expanse of water which you can easily touch while the breath of God filled the sail to give you speed.

The other Hobie Cat trailing us.

Before one gets used to it, the Hobie Cat is a bit awkward to ride because it could tip over if the weight was not easily distributed and the wind blows the sail hard. But after a while, you get the hang of it and it becomes a such a wonderful experience. You just have to get the balance right.

When we got back to shore, other activities awaited us. I just had to try wind surfing. I’ve seen others do it before and I thought to myself, if they can do it, why can’t I? The instructor gave me the pointers on how to do it and I patiently waited for the lecture to finish. Deep inside I kept saying, “Alright, alright, enough with the talk, let’s go into action!”.

Yes! I windsurfed!

But it turns out that it’s not that easy to do. Just to get on the board and balance was tough enough, add to that the act of pulling the mast upright and catching the wind to make yourself move on the water. I fell down so many times it was starting to look like lessons on how to fall on water instead of how to wind surf.

As I fell into the water and got up to re-mount the board, I kept on scraping my knees on the sand and on the board itself. It wasn’t long before it was beginning to hurt due to the exposed raw skin. But I kept on doing it, because I was determined to see myself move across the water and claim to have been able to wind surf.

After almost an hour of trying, I was able to finally do it. Although the speed was not impressive, I was able to go a distance and turn to go the opposite direction. Yes! I can finally claim to have wind surfed. All I needed was to get the balance right.

Carpe Diem. Seize the day. That was our motto during our vacation. The following day was another opportunity to experience what life has to offer in terms of excitement. We started it with scuba diving, which was a much awaited activity.

Posing for a photo after the dive.

We were brought out into the bay about a kilometer off-shore to dive. A couple of us were certified divers, some had already done introductory dives (such as myself) while others were first timers. This was going to be an introductory dive, meaning we will just dive not more than twenty feet. Or at least that was the idea.

The most basic thing to remember in this kind of dive is never to hold your breath. Just breathe regularly, as you would do on land. Next is to equalize, which means to relieve the pressure on your ears as you go deeper. It is done by pressing your nostrils closed while slightly blowing air into them. It’s pretty much like blowing your nose if you have colds but in this case, you don’t let the air out. You will then feel the pressure in your ears being relieved.

You must be conscious about equalizing because if you don’t it could cause injury to your ear drums or cause discomfort. You just need to get the balance of pressure right so that you will enjoy the experience.

And enjoy the experience we did. I spent a lot of time scanning the ocean floor and admiring the underwater sea life, although it didn’t have as much color, vibrance, variety and quantity as other areas I’ve been too. I was told that dynamite and cyanide fishing in these areas were stopped only recently, so marine life had yet to fully recover. So sad, really.

Picnic on the sands of the beach

Of course, the food was great!

Lunch was served on the beach, set up by the resort management for the guests. After a hearty meal, it was back to the watersports. That day, however, aside from the Hobie Cats, kayaks and windsurfing, a jet ski and banana boat were available.

Of course, the jet ski was irresistible. The speed, the wind and sea spray in your face and the rush of momentary flight as you cut across the waves is an intense experience that gives you and adrenaline high. It didn’t take long before my seven year old son saw the thrill and wanted a part in the action.

Riding the jet ski with Ino

So it was that he rode tandem with me, and we cruised a distance from the shore. It was his first time to ride a jet ski and he asked if it was difficult to handle. I told him it was quite easy, not so much different from riding a bike. I told him that you just need to get the balance right.

And soon enough, he was enjoying it and asked for more speed. The longer we rode the jet ski, the more he wanted to go faster. He particularly liked the part where the jet ski jumps as it hit the waves. But for me, what I enjoyed more than the ride itself was my son holding on to me tightly in an embrace that I hoped would last forever.

We would not let the day pass without riding the banana boat. Together with my in-laws and their cousins, we got on the five-seater banana boat, hungry for the excitement. We were towed by a twin-engined speed boat which promised a wild ride.

The banana boat gave us an adrenaline rush

As we were towed out to sea, the waves made the banana boat jump up and down along the waves, making it difficult to stay on top. I pulled myself to a low profile, trying to keep my center of gravity low. As the speed increased, the excitement we felt increased as well, highlighted by my sister-in-law’s screams which was a mixture of delight and fear.

We slowed down as the speedboat slowed to do a turn. Then a funny thing happened. As we rounded what was actually a slow and safe turn, we got off balanced and we all fell into the water in what felt like slow motion. It was a ridiculous way to fall off the banana boat, during a slow turn. Simply because we didn’t get the balance right.

After getting back on the banana boat, we got ready for our second run. This time, we tried to go for the thrill of speed. The speed boat gradually picked speed, creating a larger wake behind it. This made our banana boat buck wildly, very much like a wild stallion being broken in a rodeo. The five of us were bouncing up and down on the inflatable banana boat which threatened to kick us off into the water.

It didn’t take long until we all completely lost hold of the banana boat and fell into the water. But this time, it wasn’t a harmless and ridiculous fall. As I hit the water, I hit an oncoming wave, and with the speed we were going and the angle that I fell, it felt like slamming onto a concrete floor.

I got the wind knocked out of me and my left chest felt like it was caved in. There was pain in and around my ribs and for a while, I couldn’t talk. After several seconds, I realized we were all quiet unlike the first fall when we were all laughing and talking. This time, it seemed we were all stunned by the impact of the fall. My sister in law had the same experience as me and we both had chest pain.

The ATV was challenging too

We did another round but in a more cautious pace. Were then brought back to shore where we still continued with other activities. In fact, later in the day, we rode All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) on rugged trails up and down mountainous terrain. It seemed that no injury could stop us from having fun.

Kayaking is also fun

We had many other activities during this trip, which was only a three day break, including the time to travel to and from home. We would have wanted to stay longer what with all the fun we were experiencing, not to mention the quality time of playing together as a family.

But it was time to go back to the business of living life, which is actually a balance between work and play, spending and saving, resting and moving, and time to be alone and time with others. There is a purpose for us not to be excessive in one or lacking in the other. It makes us well-rounded and, of course, well-balanced.

As Depeche Mode said their song, we just need to get the balance right.

June 4, 2010- A Significant Day in the House of Representatives

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , on June 5, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

To the average Filipino on the street, June 4, 2010 was supposed to be just another day that will uneventfully pass just as the previous one and those before it have done in that person’s lifetime. In fact, for most of our countrymen, that day was nothing different from any other day, even including June 12, Independence Day, or July 4, Fil-AM Friendship Day or June 20, Father’s Day. To a big majority of Filipinos, everyday is the same, a day to survive the challenge of day-to-day existence.

But to those who have cared enough to take action for quite a number of years now, June 4 was a special day. It was the day that they had been waiting for since the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was given life by the people’s voice in the plebiscite that institutionalized our country’s charter. It was supposed to be the day that the Freedom of Information Bill, mandated by the Constitution, was to finally become a law that would guarantee the people’s right to know how its government serves its constituents. After more than a decade of lobbying, June 4 was supposed to be Victory Day.

To me, June 4 was of special significance because it is the last session day that I will attend, my last day at work as a legislator. Although my term officially ends on June 30, I still intend to earn my pay by working for the welfare of my constituents until that day. But for me the work done in the committee hearings and plenary sessions is the essence of being a lawmaker.

After nine years as a member of the House of Representatives, I wanted the last day of session to be not just a day that would cap my three terms in routine fashion, but a day that would close with the passage of an important piece of legislation. I was eager to end the day with a vote ratifying the FOI Bill.

For the Secretariat of the House of Representatives, they prepared for this last day. For the first time in the history of the House, they prepared a special program for the closing session to honor the members of the House for the work that they have done in the Chamber. They intended to present to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd term members mementos of their membership in the House and compiled bounds of their legislative performance in a ceremony that certainly necessitated much preparation on their part.

It was just one day, but it had different meanings for different people. Actually, everyday is like that. What may be an insignificant, ordinary day for one is in fact, a special, life-changing or even historical day for some. It really just depends on what point for view we are coming from.

And so it was that June 4, 2010 was a significant day in the House of Representatives. While elsewhere in the country, anniversaries were celebrated, eulogies were being delivered, babies were being born, employees were punching out after their shifts, someone just lost his job…the session hall of Batasang Pambansa, the People’s House, was gradually getting filled with people attending the last session day of the 14th Congress.

The proponents, advocates and supporters of the Freedom of Information Bill filled sections of the gallery wanting to be personally present the minute that the vote of ratification institutionalizes this landmark piece of legislation. Many of them labored long and hard just for the bill to reach this day and they waited with anticipation for the proceedings to begin.

Actually, what was left was just a routine step of the process of passing a bill into law—ratification. The bill had already passed through the three readings of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It had also passed through bicameral conference. The Senate had ratified it, so the only thing left was the ratification by the House. Ratification was a simple ayes and nays vote of the House, the members not even required or expected to explain their votes. After that, it could be considered institutionalized as law. But in all its routine nature, it was a special piece of legislation.

The rest of the gallery was filled by employees of the House Secretariat, after having been directed to attend the ceremony to honor the Members of the House. Of course, also in the hall were the usual observers of the proceedings of the House, congressional staff and probably some curious citizens who happened to have time to spare to watch the proceedings.

But what promised to be a “special routine session” turned out to be quite an emotional one, with contrasting sentiments that pulled me in opposite directions.

The Members of the House were more psychologically prepared for the Honor Ceremony in the closing session. I would compare it to the emotions one had during high school graduation, the bittersweet feeling of wanting to move on in life while at the same time hanging on to the memories of good times spent with friends.

The honor that was to be given by the Secretariat also had its significance, since they were the people who served as our backbone during our work in Congress, and they were the ones who can truly make an objective judgment on how each and every congressman performed as a legislator.

Late by almost and hour, the session as finally resumed (it was just suspended in the previous session day) and the motion to ratify the Freedom of Information was immediately made by the Majority Floor Leader. As immediate as the motion was filed, the quorum was also immediately questioned.

Just by looking around the hall, it was difficult to make a judgment if indeed there were enough warm bodies present to constitute a quorum. When I entered the hall, there seemed to be not enough legislators on board. But with Malacanang joining the call for the passage of the bill, I did not expect that there would be a problem in the bill’s ratification. Nevertheless, congressmen began trickling in not long after the session was underway.

The session was suspended in order to resolve the issue that was raised. In this line of work, the adage “the squeaky wheel gets oiled” sometimes best describes this kind of situation. Many times in the past, when the quorum question is raised during a debate on a very important bill, the issue is settled after a little discussion with the one who raised the question during suspension.

After about thirty minutes of suspension, the session was resumed and the roll was called. Obviously, the quorum question was not resolved so the names of the members of congress were called one by one, with the secretariat staff ticking off the names in their list. At the end of the roll call, the Secretary General reported to the Speaker that 128 members of the House responded to the call. With that, the Speaker declared that with 128 members, there is no quorum and therefore, according to the rules, the House cannot conduct legislative business and would have to adjourn.

As expected, this ruling was met with vehement objections and impassioned pleadings from the proponents and supporters of the bill. Legislators pushing for the bill alternately took the floor questioning the results of the roll call and calling on the speaker to use a particular provision in the rules allowing the House to arrest the members who are absent. Understandably, emotions ran high and a bitter exchange threatened to mar the proceedings.

In the end, the Speaker stood pat in his ruling and adjourned the last session of the 14th Congress. What was intended to be a “special routine closing” and parting of friends now turned into a highly polarized legislative battle among peers. Definitely not what was envisioned as a last day of work for this Congress.

Naturally and rightfully so, those supporting the bill felt betrayed and cheated, and cast judgment on the House for failing to pass such an important measure. As I was doing live tweets of the proceedings over Twitter, I could see the numerous reactions of people online castigating the House most especially the Speaker. All the frustrations were posted and perhaps if not for the facility of the internet, people might have gone out to the streets to vent their anger.

The session had been adjourned but the honor ceremony still had to be undertaken. Actually, many had begun to think that it might not be appropriate anymore to have the ceremony. I felt it would not be taken well by the public who had just been treated to disappointment by the very House that would now give distinction to its members.

After quite a while of lingering, the Deputy Secretary General for Committee Affairs went on the public address system to inform everyone that the leadership of the House had decided to forego the honor ceremony, in deference to what the public might construe as the congressmen giving themselves a pat on the back after the emotional, divisive and controversial adjournment.

Her voice was cracking and straining under what seems to be a failed effort to hide her emotions. Clearly, she was distressed with what was happening. She went on to say that although the House leadership already made that decision, they in the Secretariat tried to convince the leadership to proceed with the ceremony. After all, she said, this ceremony, the first time held in the House’s colorful history, was initiated and prepared by the Secretariat to give due honor and recognition to the members of the House whom they had worked with on many important accomplishments of the institution. She pointed out that being first hand spectators to the performance of the legislators, they would like to proceed with the presentation of mementos and plaques of appreciation.

Indeed, while there are many highlighted occasions that the House had not displayed the righteousness that the people expect and deserve, there are many more unnoticed moments of low profile accomplishments that only the secretariat were witnesses to. They wanted to give due recognition to these accomplishments by way of the honor ceremony.

And so it was that under the contemptuous glare of the public, the House proceeded to honor its members. It basically consisted calling out the 1st-term, 2nd-term and 3rd-term members of the House in front of the hall and presenting them with plaques of appreciation and book-bound volumes of each legislator’s performance record (bills filed, laws passed, speeches delivered and transcripts of interpellations) and a CD version of the same. For the graduating congressmen, a Congressional medal was also presented in honor of completing the whole three terms in the House.

For me, it was a well appreciated gesture on the part of the Secretariat. What they presented was a symbol of the acknowledgment of the work I had done these past nine years. The mementos and volumes they gave me were things that I can present to other people to show that the mandate given to me by my constituents were not wasted and this was incontrovertible proof that I had earned the pay that people granted me the privilege to receive.

Indeed June 4 seemed to be an ordinary day. For some, it was. For others, it was a day that the House of Representatives failed the people. For me, it was the final day of a special period in my life when I had the privilege of being able to directly contribute to the welfare of this nation. Sad to say though, that by this final act of the House, the last thing in the people’s mind would be that the 14th Congress betrayed them.