Saturday, April 02, 2005

Judge and Budge

Judge and Budge

I must reserve a blog entry for Wong Kar Wai's 2046 which I only managed to catch on my Singapore Airlines flight back from the Philippines. As usual any Wong Kar Wai movie would require at least three viewings to fully appreciate its visual lushness and emotional nuances.

I managed to watch it twice during my flight, but that is still insufficient for me to do justice to the movie. So I'll reserve my comments for the meantime and write about something else today. I also need time to fully digest its multifaceted theme of love, memory and time.

I think we tend to rush to judgement about things too easily. We don't even ask ourselves whether it is even necessary to judge. Why do we always need to label something or someone good or bad?

The mind has this habit of judging simply because it dislikes uncertainty. We want to put things into boxes so that we know how to sort them out easily. When things can be classified and categorized neatly, we can make decisions quicker.

The world is made simpler if we can label everything and everyone either black or white, enemies or friends, instantly. It is a habit programmed in our genes and honed by evolution. In the jungle where only the fittest survive, our mamallian ancestors had to made split-second fight or flight decisions. Uncertainty equals death and extinction.

But in our daily lives, not many situations that we encounter are life and death ones. What's wrong with leaving things inconclusive?

We will always find some people difficult because they live by a different paradigm. They are just different, not necessarily bad. They might do things which we disapprove of or even hurt us, but still we can respond appropriately without judgement. Too many negative judgements breeds hatred. Hatred is one emotion we don't need to carry around unnecessarily because it saps too much of our mental energy.

I think it is important for us to feel comfortable with uncertainty. Uncertainty does not mean ignorance. It is in fact an expression of confidence in our ability to revise and self-correct.

Things are just the way they are. If we need to make a judgement call at some point, we are fully aware of our fallibility. A judgement call is merely a small test--a sampling procedure to gather more information so that we can reduce our level of uncertainty.

No judgement is ever final. It is part of a constant process of refinement. Judge and budge--that's how we should move forward.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

An Acute Hunger

An Acute Hunger

Last night Sophia and I had dinner at a pub at the Greenbelt 3 Mall in Makati and later we watched the popular Filipino band Side A perform. I normally avoid live bands because most of them assault my ear-drums but these five guys were great. Their repertoire consisted mainly of light and easy ballads--probably the only kind of pop music which I have the inclination to listen to these days. Sophia was crazy about them; she brought along her favourite Side A CD and was able to get the autographs of all five members of the band.

We had a great time together but because of my early Thursday morning breakfast meeting, we had to leave before midnight. It's Thursday today and it has been a long day for me but I'm finally back in KL--back to my unfinished work, my huge pile of unopenned letters and a list of errands to run. But it looks like I'll have to start checking the calendar again to plan for my travels for the next two months. Unfortunately I don't see an opportunity to squeeze in a trip to Jakarta.

I've been stuffing myself with adobo and garlic rice for the past couple of days in Manila. My Singaporean friends like to tell me how bad the food in the Philippines is but I have no complaints. I actually kind of like some of their dishes like adobo, tocino and salpicao. Filipinos seem to eat a lot of meat and they usually have rice for breakfast. Probably not the type of diet that would appeal to health-conscious people.

Now I'm back to my even more unhealthy Malaysian diet of nasi lemak, nasi kandar and roti canai. Well, maybe someday I'll decide to be a vegetarian and give up alcohol altogether. When that day comes, maybe I'll be too old and too sick for it to make any difference.

But perhaps I have a saving grace--I'm a light eater and I dislike over-eating. I find the torpor that comes with a bloated stomach rather disgusting. And even though I enjoy good food like everyone else, I'm not addicted to it.

I look forward to meal times more for the company of friends than for the food itself. Even eating alone can be fun because you get to do some reading while waiting for your food to be served. So much of my reading is done in restaurants, food courts and cafes. You see, when it's mealtime for the stomach, it's also a convenient feeding time for the mind. And to me, the hunger of the mind is much more acute than that of the body.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Pinay Network

The Pinay Network

I haven't exactly been working that hard here in Manila so far; meetings have been sparse but they've been very fruitful. Blogging has been intermittent for the past couple of days because of a few reasons--mainly it's because I hate to pay 10 USD per-day for the broadband Internet service at my hotel since I only get to use it for a couple of hours everyday.

My nights here have not been adventurous either. I reacquainted myself with places that used to be familiar to me--the area around Shangrila Makati, mainly the malls at Ayala Center. Six or seven years ago, I was more into clubbing and the nightlife. I remember lots of fun nights at places like Hard Rock Cafe, Zu and some of the bars at P. Burgos.

But I'm such an intolerably dull creature these days; I've been spending my evenings quietly at the hotel lounge, drinking the excellent local beer Red Horse (the "strong beer" from San Miguel), deeply engrossed in my Marquez book.

To prevent myself from succumbing to my hermetic habits, I've decided to go for dinner with a good Filipina friend of mine tonight, Sophia, who happenned to be back here from the States. (It's interesting to note that in Malay, we refer to the country Philippines as "Filipina" but here the word is used as the feminine form of "Filipino"). Sophia has been living in the US for a couple of years now but she's back for the Holy Week/Easter celebrations, which is the most important celebration for the Philippines people.

Those who have Filipina maids will know that they are a very closely-knit community--clannish and chatty. News and rumours travel faster than the speed of light on the "Pinay Network". (Filipinos and Filipinas refer to themselves as "Pinoy" and "Pinay" respectively). If you have a Filipina wife or girlfriend, don't even think of flirting around with another Pinay! It is no surprise that Philippines has the highest volume of SMS traffic in the world.

So, enough of Marquez for this trip, I'll look forward to a good dinner with Sophia and friends tonight and enjoy all the latest gossips from the Pinay Network!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Green & Easy Sunday in Makati

Green & Easy Sunday in Makati

Manila city is very quiet because of the Easter holidays. A lot of the shops are closed and I believe many of the people have gone back to their hometowns in the provinces. The emptiness of the Makati business district--where my hotel is located--made me feel lazy to make any explorations around the city. So I mainly vegetated back in hotel, doing some light reading and drinking beer at the lounge.

When I arrived yesterday evening at the airport, I was keen to see if a lot has changed in Manila since my last trip here five years ago; I was happy to observe that they are still very fond of the colour green. Filipinos seem to like that colour very much--the floor of the airport is green, all the signages are green, roofs are green and when you go on the streets, you notice that even the letters on the car number plates are green.

The other thing which caught my attention previously was that there seem to be more coconut palm trees in the Philippines than anywhere else I've been to before. Even right here, from my hotel window in the middle of the business district, I can see them sprouting up in unexpected places, their drooping branches adding an air of langour to the place, making me feel even lazier.

I've lost contact with most of my Filipino friends; many have emigrated to the US. I've got to start making new ones here again, which shouldn't be a problem because Filipinos are among the most friendly and easy-going people I've ever met. They are always ready to laugh and have a good time. I get along very well with them.

I mentioned about the terrorist treat in the Philippines yesterday. The Philippines Daily Inquirer I read this morning however was very reassuring: it quoted the police as saying that the capability of the Abu Sayyaf to carry out bomb attacks in Metro manila has become "almost nil" following their seizure of almost 600 kilos of explosives recently. But an AFP report today says that police have defused an explosive device found near the Spanish embassy building right here in Makati yesterday evening.

But life goes on as in any other city in the world which faces terrorist treats. When you are here, it doesn't feel so bad. The "greenness" of the environment and the easy-going nature of the Filipino people puts one at ease immediately. I could easily get used to living here too...