To My Future Self: Seeking Career Advice

(or if you are still clueless 10 years from now, can you just tell me if I made it past forty without dying?)


Image from

Image from


The past 4 years, I have been working in a public health institution in a Local Government Unit for the following reasons:

1. To augment income from private practice which, until now, is still going nowhere,

2. Sense of obligation to the country whose taxpayers subsidized my education (ha ha),

3.To honor the memory of my mother who gave birth to me in same city where I am currently working (classic example of crass sentimentality and hubris in action),

4. Steady source of income, albeit small (this is almost the same as reason number 1) and

5. I like the people I work with in the facility where I was assigned.

Now I am being offered a job in a foreign country where the salary is 5 times the one I am receiving now.
Should I or should I not go? That is the question.
I do not feel particularly loyal to the institution that currently employs me. There is a culture of mediocrity here that is, I am beginning to realize, the rule in most government facilities.  The problem is I am being sucked into that culture and, let’s face it, it is so much more easier to give in than to fight. My nightmare is that I will be waking up 10 years from now; less a professional and more a cog in the Philippine government bureaucracy — where a lot of things are more wrong than right; but we have to put up with it because it is better than nothing and we do not have the energy, the power or the right connections to make the changes that we want.
I am only Me. And I am lured by monetary compensation much like the next person. My private practice is floundering because I don’t have business sense and I am not motivated to do “customer service”. I know that. Why should I do more when I believe the rewards (the “real ones” anyway) are so much less than what I think I deserve?
And also, my present situation leaves me uninspired. Some notion comes into me to upgrade my skills, get another degree, add more words and letters to my resume; and I find myself asking: what for?
I see this offer to work in another country as an adventure,  a change of scenery, or even (with all the terrorist threats looming in that region) maybe a death wish?
Am I too old for all that? Should I settle down now and direct considerable energies, financial resources and emotion to having an offspring perhaps? (another death-wish in another form)
But … but … but …. Offsprings are so overrated! — the bitchy, scrooge-y part of me would say.
So, to my forty-ish-year-old-self-ten-years-from-now: what do you think?

A Continuing Past

“The past is not dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner, a dead white American novelist. From the novel, Requiem for a Nun.

“The past is past.” Bongbong Marcos, real-life son of a dead Filipino dictator. In an interview.



There should be a right way of remembering. Some protocol to acknowledge and/or forgive the past without bogging us down in grudges and arguments.

I say this because I live in a country that has never known how to use the past. We are like that rodent in the cage that keeps on going around in circles.

The son of a dictator insists that the past is the past and we must move on and leave it behind. How so Mr. Marcos? How does a nation that was robbed and mutilated  by your father’s regime do that exactly?

Maybe, for Filipinos, Martial Law is the equivalent of the Civil War for Americans. In many ways, it is a topic that divides us. There are two narratives of Martial Law in my country, and it depends on who is doing the remembering.

According to you and your supporters, it was a golden age when people were disciplined, the economy was great and the leadership was able and competent.

According to me and others who hold the same views: Martial Law was one of the worst things that happened to our country — when corruption was institutionalized; when Ferdinand, Imelda and the cronies robbed us blind; when people were killed by the thousands for expressing their views and when the country’s economy went down to the pits.

I wish for a time traveling machine, something like in that Michael J. Fox  movie that I was so fond of way back in 1989.

I wish to observe the past first-hand and have my friends who are pro-Marcos do so as well. We will go back to 1980, perhaps, the year  I was born and check the veracity of certain claims.

Like: presidential decree arrests, Imelda’s infrastructure projects, arrested and tortured activists, the so-called enforced discipline in the streets, the peace in the countryside, the corruption in the military, the desaparecidos, the food stability and the green revolution, the squatter  colonies and the rise of Smokey Mountain …

Can one narrative be completely right and the other completely wrong? Or are they both correct, different facets of the same prism?

How do we learn from the past if we cannot even agree on  what it consisted of?

If martial law was so wonderful ....

If martial law was so wonderful ….


... then why did the 1986 People Power happen?

… then why did the 1986 People Power happen?




Reading Lists:


Non-Overlapping Magisteria

Jonas does not believe that he should have to choose between his work and Alice. They are two completely different aspects of his life.

Image from

Image from


You are being pussy-whipped bro, James, his friend from work remarked.

But Gabrielle, another colleague, had a different opinion. What do you expect her to do Jonas? Wait for you to come home everyday and massage your feet after your day at work?

Honestly, Gabrielle’s suggestion is preferable to having Alice 8000 miles away; and him flying back and forth from one side of the globe to another just for them to be together for a few days out of every year.

Women are put into this world to wait on men, James further opined. You have to up your game, and show her that she is not the only pus – sorry – girl in the world.

Let it be put into record that James’s statements were made in the context of him inviting Jonas to join a “boy’s night out” which consists of a visit to a KTV along Quezon Avenue and a really cool spa in Makati where the therapists provide “extra service.”

Jonas was seriously mulling James’s invitation.

Gabrielle intruded on his thoughts because she was concerned that Jonas did not have the correct priorities. Gabrielle is a happily-married mother of two, and she is as worried about Jonas’s erratic lovelife the way she is worried about her own son’s scrapes in the playground.

She is now saying: When you are in your deathbed, you will not wish that you had put in more time in saving our rainforests. What you will regret is that you have not spent more time with the woman you love most in the world.

Gaby, with all due respect, you are not in your deathbed, so I don’t think you are in a position to say what people in their deathbeds are thinking.

Jonas, I may not be in my deathbed, but my father currently is in his. And that was exactly what he told me.

Sex Ed

She had known him for two years before asking him the questions she was really curious about.

These questions are not the ones discussed in school; certainly not in the one-semester health-education-knowing-your-body course she and other public school teenagers in her country generally have. What her high school teacher said about s-e-x boiled down to: 1. Don’t do it while you’re young; 2. It’s okay to do it if you’re married; 3. Children are its worthy by-product; all the rest (and maybe that includes orgasms) are after-thoughts.

That was circa 1990s, of course; and her teacher was a 50-year old straight-laced,  PhD-holding, tenured university professor, who always wore skirts.

Now she wonders, why do grown-ups never tell you the interesting parts about sex like:

* What is it like to lose one’s virginity?

* Why do people  who should know better (being educated and well-informed) claim that they do not want to have children and yet do not use contraception? Is it laziness? Being sucked in the “heat of passion” (a line she learned in a romance novel)?

* What’s the big deal about having children anyway? Does one really need to have one before one dies? For what? To fulfill a biological imperative?

* What do orgasms feel like?

What her skirt-wearing, well-meaning high-school teacher failed to mention; what all those who have had sex fail to mention when they talk about what you are and are not missing when you have sex, is the immense power-play involved among penises and vaginas.

Was it Andrea Dworkin who supposedly said that all heterosexual intercourse is rape? Oh but that was a myth, wasn’t it?

After Alice and Jonas first had sex (oh the word!), the emotions that overwhelmed her were:

1. feeling owned by and bound to this person who may or may not stay in her life for very long (“owned” and “bound” are such loaded words, very un-feminist, but that’s what she felt, no matter what Andrea Dworkin might say),

2. worry that a single sperm managed to pass through an improbable pore in the condom that they used and she will get pregnant,

3. a sense of wonder that sex was not as bad as they said it can be and that it actually exceeded her expectations,

4. curiosity about “where this all might lead to.”


Flash forward to now…

She is holding his hand, or maybe he is holding hers — they are lying down facing each other after you-know-what. And his eyes are closed. And Alice is thinking, his eyelashes look so much more nicer than mine, how can that be.

Alice: So I want to ask you a question.

Jonas: Uhhmm …

Alice: What did it feel like for you the first time you had sex? Were you worried, apprehensive, excited? Did you think it would change your life or change you inside? Did you have performance anxiety or were you just happy you were finally doing it? Were you concerned about getting an STD or getting the girl pregnant? Did you even think about STD or pregnancy at all?

It is a long time before Jonas answers that Alice thinks he has fallen asleep.

“I felt that I was doing something right,” he finally says. “But afterwards, you were crying, so for a moment there I was worried that you will go to the police and report that it was rape.”

Jonas kisses her nose, opens his eyes and smiles.

Alice has her answer.


Terminator: Genisys

Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. The Terminator (1984). Image from wikipedia.

Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. The Terminator (1984). Image from wikipedia.


So let it be known that my first-big-crush-of-all-time was Kyle Reese, as played by Michael Biehn in Terminator 1984 edition.

I was maybe 11 years old, and I had to sneak out to watch the movie on TV (on a local channel as we didn’t have cable yet) because I was only allowed to stay up til 8 pm on school days.

I remember thinking that when I have a kid, I would  definitely name him “Kyle” or “Reese”.

I remember wishing back in the 1990’s that something like a portable video player be invented one day so I can watch The Terminator over and over even if I am traveling. (That wish came true.)

I remember my delusion that maybe Kyle Reese was my soulmate. (Not true.)

I remember arguing with my elementary school friend Bernadeth (whose great big crush was John Connor as played by Edward Furlong) about who was the better guy, Kyle or John. Between Bernadeth and me, we must have created a hundred fan-fictions featuring these two movie characters.

I hated “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (mainly because I found Claire Danes strident, shrill and annoying) and detested “Terminator: Salvation” (stilted acting from Christian Bale and Sam Worthington). But I would have to disagree with 90% of the critics who had nothing good to say about the new installation to the Terminator franchise because I loved it.

It’s like having a fan-fiction  come to life.

I would have to agree that Jai Courtney doesn’t have the intensity and world-weariness that Michael Biehn injected into the role; but he does have the necessary cuteness for it and I felt that he and  Emilia Clarke had some chemistry.

The scenes with Arnold were fun and it was amusing to watch him reprise the role.

The new plot twist is headache, that I would have to agree. And the story is obviously unfinished and it’s also obvious that they are just itching to do a sequel to answer the questions at the movie’s end. The problem is, it also clear that the T5 flopped at the box office so where does that leave us  now?




Random Thoughts (on history and families)

“History is the resolve that makes us act so things don’t have to be the way they are. History is about hope, not despair.” — Ambeth Ocampo, Filipino historian

Like a lot of my countrymen, I belong to a family of OFWs. Half of my mother’s siblings went to another country to work and, eventually, live their lives; and they now consider the Philippines as just another vacation spot. Now that their nieces and nephews are grown up (whose educations were helped by their remittances), I imagine my aunts (whom I call “mama”) feeling relief, pride and a sense of accomplishment.
So I think back on my mother’s family: my aunts and their dreams of getting out of poverty; my grandmother who never learned to read or write; my grandfather, a farmer who probably got so bored and lifeless living in an industrialized country that he developed the dementia that forced my aunts to send him back to the Philippines; my uncles who worked as soldiers to a dictator; and my mother  with her frustrations and neurosis which she passed on to me.
We trace history through our family. The skeletons in our cabinets, our mad relatives in the attic, the seeming successes that hide secret shames.
Families are a big deal to Filipinos. We are, as a foreign writer has offensively put it, “an anarchy of families”. Our loyalties, first and foremost, are bound to people that share our DNA or are connected to us by rituals such as marriage.
Families are a big deal to Filipinos. Statement of fact. We are a young nation and the institutions that compel us to be loyal to the idea of “country” are tenuous and superficial.
Take the public health facility where I work, for example. the idea of “public health” is a modern one, there is a rigorous body of science behind it, values and norms in which it should operate. That is, in theory. In practice, public health is a pawn of partisan and feudal politics. (I should clobber myself in the head for letting that idea sink in just now. What can I say: idealism and hope made me close my eyes to reality.)
So, yes, I am leaving. Sorry mommy, the system is just too much for me. Much as I would like to follow your entrepreneural example, I am unable to do that and still maintain professional integrity. So I am leaving. Whether I am coming back (and how or when), well, that’s for history to know.

Reading Lists:


Dear Senator Grace Llamanzares

Originally posted on THE TARAY CHRONICLES:



Having now officially declared your ambition to “serve” as President of the Republic, I ask these questions again, with the voice of your adoptive mother ringing in the distance: “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw!” Let that statement –spoken emphatically, fiercely and derisively – be the point of reference as to how you will answer these very basic questions:

1) When did you renounce your Filipino citizenship and become an American citizen? Why did you give up your Filipino citizenship at the time?

There’s nothing wrong with changing citizenships, essentially. Many Filipinos acquire the nationality of their adopted country for reasons ranging from necessity to convenience. I am not questioning your sense of patriotism, either, at that particular time. One can be a ‘global citizen’ yet remain true to their roots, especially to the relatives they left behind. But if one is running for President, as you are doing TODAY…

View original 1,571 more words