Through e-mail exchanges with old friends and dinners with college batchmates, I'm getting a general picture of how my peer group--we who are in our mid- to late-20s--are doing in the world.
For many of my friends, I think the past couple of years have been a period of filling the foundations of stability on which the rest of our lives will be built.
Career-wise, many of us started six years ago in the working world, slaving away at near-minimum wage fresh-grad grunt jobs; now, those years of perseverance are paying off. Most of my friends are now middle-management, in supervisory positions, with the youth and the innovation to have fresh ways of looking at things, yet also with the confidence and clout to be respected voices in their fields. Some are already being groomed to become partners at their companies. The ones who spent those years in medicine or law school are finally done, with the letters "M.D." or "Ll.B." proudly attached to their names. Some have managed, by their own blood, sweat, and tears, to enter a completely different league altogether, entering the high-flying circles of super-success.
Some friends, after weaving in and out of different job experiments, are in the process of discovering their true passions. A number of peers are making radical career changes, giving up the corporate rat-race to start businesses of their own, or to go back to school for a second degree. Several are taking MBA's, hoping to make leaps in their careers and open wider opportunities for themselves.
I have friends in music and in the arts, who, after college, opted to take the road-less traveled by shunning traditional career ladders. They are the ones who are now finding ways of doing what they love and making a living doing that as well. It's heartwarming and inspiring to watch these friends who love what they do so much that they never really need to "work" a day in their lives.
And after all that hard work, many of us are finding the self-assurance and stability to find our true joy in our personal lives as well. Several friends are about to get married, or are already married, or have started families of their own. A number of single friends have, as we say in Tagalog, chosen to "magbukod," to move out of their parents' homes and live alone.
It's all very refreshing. Up until, maybe, 25, many of us still felt lost and foolish, wearing adult clothes in an adult world we didn't really know anything about. I think that has changed over the past few years, though. i think most of us really don't think of ourselves as kids anymore, as we've each learned to take responsibility for our own lives.
And I think that's the basic difference between 20 and 27: By the time you're in your late 20s, you learn that your life really is in your own hands. You no longer feel like a victim of circumstance; rather, you realize that your own life really is what you make it, and you've learned by then to take the resources available to you and shape them into anything you want your future to be.
When we were 17, I thought that that was the best age to be. Now we're 27, and I must say, it's a pretty darn good age too! I can't wait for what the next decade will bring, and I'm glad that the friends I've had for the last ten (and more) years will still be sharing my life with me when we all turn (gulp!) 37.... :)
Just some quick links I want to record. By way of comparison, I was reading up on how the country of my childhood, Singapore (population: 3,000,000; diaspora: maybe 100,000?), is dealing with its own problems of emigration, and I found these articles:
Two weekends ago was the Philosophy department's R&R. We went to a place I visit quite frequently--Caliraya--but this trip was different because instead of staying at Mike's family's camping spot, we stayed at a resort a short walk away. Albert, the department's resident fisherman, brought his fishing gear and gave the rest of us a Fishing for Dummies course. Mike, on the other hand, brought a few of us to Surfkamp and gave free windsurfing lessons. By the end of the weekend, I had fallen from the board once and had caught four tilapia. Not bad for a weekend trip.
Last weekend, Mike and I went to Cebu City to deliver a presentation at a philosophy conference there. In three days and two nights we managed to deliver the talk, make a lightning tour of the city's major historical spots, hold a business meeting with one of Mike's associates, overeat, marvel at the number of Internet cafes, wait for sunset at Tops, and take a long trip to Abuno, Mactan where Mike found and scored an ex-deal for a great guitar. An excellent trip, and pictures will follow.
Born on October 31, 1950, Taguba spent his childhood in Sampaloc. His father, also a soldier, had fought in Bataan in the Second World War. His family emigrated to Hawaii when Taguba was 11. He entered the U.S. forces after university, and went on to become the second Filipino-American general in the U.S. armed forces. (The other is Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, commander of I Corps and Fort Lewis, Washington.)
Among the many reasons we Pinoys have to be proud of him is this comment in the NY Times from an Army general who served under him: "If you want the truth, he's going to tell you the truth. He's not bullied; he's a stand-up guy."
Previously, Gen. Taguba also fought for the recognition of his father's service to the U.S. Armed Forces. This is a whole other story, and a very sad story. This is what I can gather, in a nutshell:
The Philippines was still an American colony in the 1940s, and during the second world war, two hundred thousand Filipinos fought under the U.S. flag. (That includes my paternal grandfather, who got a Purple Heart, and many of my friends' grandfathers as well; my maternal grandfather, on the other hand, fought with the guerrillas. I've always felt that the closeness of the reality of war and its atrocities has forever shaped the way we Filipinos view violence.)
Apparently, President Roosevelt pledged in 1941 that those Filipino soldiers would receive full veteran benefits, but Congress reneged on that promise in 1946. (Instead, it seems, they were given the consuelo de bobo option of American citizenship, which majority of the veterans refused.) The Filipino veterans fought for decades for the U.S. to fulfill its promise, and it was only in 2002 when the few surviving veterans in the U.S. were finally given minimal health benefits, but still no pensions.
Hope most of you guys went out and did your civic duty today. :) I spent several hours last night looking through i-site.ph, PCIJ's election website, trying to complete my list of candidates for today's national and local elections. (And I learned some very interesting things from the incumbent legislators' performance records!)
The good news: (1)These are the first elections since the Absentee Voting law was passed, and tens of thousands Pinoys abroad were able to cast their votes as well. (2) Unlike previous years, our legislature is a little bit more representative in that it is no longer dominated by the land-owning "old rich" class (note: PCIJ has a slightly different view of things). (3) Cases of ballot box snatching are largely a thing of the past. (4) Citizens' efforts at securing an honest elections abound: NAMFREL's efforts, the AMA quickcount, media watchdogs, volunteer poll watchers (both partisan and non-partisan).
The bad news: (1) While ballot box snatching is passe, this doesn't mean elections are any more honest. Vote-buying and "dagdag-bawas" counting are still rampant. (2) We seem to have less of a party system than we had before martial law. (3) Many Filipinos feel like they're forced to choose the least among evils, rather than candidates in whom they truly believe. (4) In PCIJ's words, "guns, goons, and gold" politics have simply been replaced by the most shallow use of "money, media, and machinery" rather than genuinely issue-based politics.
And so another election day is done. Whatever happens, whoever wins, let's pray that the next six years are better than the previous six.
PS. Kudos to our teachers for their sleepness nights and hard work!
The Philippine Daily Inquirer's response to the American abuse of Iraqi prisoners is strongly worded. It reminds us that similar abuses have happened at American hands before: to Filipinos, during the war that preceded the American occupation of the Philippines at the turn of the century. (This is not to say that they represent all or most American soldiers.) The editorial points out:
They cannot sweep this under the rug. Their own countrymen won't let them, and the world won't let them. To the rest of the world, which has a longer memory of American behavior than the Americans themselves, the recent revelations are nothing new. At the turn of the 20th century, American troops delighted in posing for grisly photos with the propped-up bodies of dead Filipino troops. American horror today is the heir of horror over the water cure used against Filipinos, and the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. The fact that revulsion has swept the United States speaks well of the innate decency of many Americans. The demands for an investigation and swift action cannot be ignored. However, what American politicians, soldiers and civilians must realize, is that their presence in Iraq and their involvement in the Middle East have been stripped of all pretensions to legitimacy and idealism. Not for the world, much of which never granted America legitimacy, but for Americans themselves.
The editorial enumerated the documented reports of abuse (warning: graphic language; I'll be hiding words to avoid getting any hits from, uh, porn seekers):
Punching, slapping and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet; videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees; forcibly arranging detainees in various s_xually explicit positions for photographing; forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time; forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear; forcing groups of male detainees to m_sturbate while being photographed and videotaped; arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them; positioning a naked detainee on a MRE [meal, ready to eat] Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes and penis to simulate electric torture; writing "I am a Rapest" (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly r_ped a 15-year-old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked; placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture; a male MP guard having s_x with a female detainee; using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees; biting and severely injuring a detainee; taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.
Meanwhile, an interesting irony. The Major General who compiled the army report from which the above enumeration comes is a Filipino-American, Antonio Taguba.
Nineteen ninety-four was the year that my batchmates and I graduated from high school. It was also the year that Kurt Cobain died, that O.J. Simpson was chased down by police, that Nancy Kerrigan was attacked . . .
I'm sorry, but the photos of the Iraqi prisoners being abused by U.S. (and UK?) soldiers are just sick. It appears from the photos that the torture and humiliation was not even with the intent of extracting information, but simply for some soldiers' really sick idea of fun.
Larry King said it in his interview with Colin Powell: Even the perpetrators at My Lai were soldiers under the stress and pressure of the combat field. But the perpetrators here were in the relatively safe confines of the prison.
This is just sickeningly atrocious. It reminds me somewhat of the stories of how Filipino political detainees were tortured and humiliated during Martial Law.