Studying in China


School of Chinese as a Second Language, Peking University

Today was the first day of my class for the Peking University Chinese Language Summer School. My program is six weeks long. Yesterday, I received my books for both comprehensive and spoken Chinese (with 12 lessons each). I was classified under the ‘elementary’ level, which comes second after the ‘basic’ level.


The lesson was relatively simple but challenging. It was simple since most of the words used in the class are familiar to me. There were new words, too, which makes the class a learning experience. The teachers have some expectations, which is natural. We are at the second level. The basics must be a breeze.

What was challenging is that the entire class was conducted in Chinese. I had to take in context cues in order to understand the instructions and sentences. But I guess it would take some time to get used to it and to adjust. I have not really used my basic knowledge of Chinese in everyday conversation.

Another interesting development is that my Chinese name is fully used here. Though I usually introduce myself as Robert, in class I am called as Wú Ānpíng or Ānpíng. The not-so-big problem is that I barely respond to it. So I guess, in the course of this study for six weeks, I will get used to it.

Anyway, that’s all for now. More tomorrow.


Peking University at 7:30 pm


Studying in China

It’s mother’s day!

It’s mother’s day! I know two mothers who have been part of my whole life.

My Mama

IMG_1488Our life is almost an open book for many people. It was not the ideal, but it is the best nonetheless. After all the trials that we faced, we stood still and kept moving forward. This is primarily because of mama. Mama was the cornerstone of myself—my strength and motivation. Mama was the symbol of hope when there was none. She was my light in the dark. We might not agree most of the time, but mama is the only person I would love the way I am loving her. Without her, I would not even see the beauty of life. Without her, I am nobody.

Every mother’s day (and her birthday, too) is a reminder for me to be thankful for having her. For all the successes and failures in my life, mama was always there trying to keep my foot on the ground or lifting me up as I fall. I may not be always able to tell her, but I am forever grateful that she is my mother.

My sister Achi

IMG_1489Achi is now a mother, too! She was my childhood buddy. She would keep the Lego or bike away from me and Chinee, but was always there to stand by us. Makulit — this is how she would describe me during our younger days. As the eldest among us, she tried to show courage and strength in the face of life’s greatest challenges. Even if we do not agree on certain occasions, I guess the distance that separates us now (because she is living in Japan) makes me feel partly incomplete.

Now, she has Xandro, a very cute little boy, my nephew, and godson. I hope that she be a very good mother to him, as mama was to us. And I know she will be.

To these two mothers, Mama and Achi, I greet you a happy mother’s day! I love you both!

To those who have been mothers in different and many ways, thank you! Happy mother’s day!

It’s mother’s day!

Today, I write again.

Today, I write again.

Yesterday, I was looking at the entire Cebu City at night. There, I saw it lit in the midst of darkness. There is beauty in darkness, as there is in brightness. It gives a chilling effect, both literally and figuratively. Looking down, I realise that the world is indeed so vast. Looking inside, I realise how small I was compared to the larger world. I was overwhelmed by the sight. The clouds, later on, covered the moon—a shining one. Little by little, the clouds fell in the form of small droplets of water. It rained somewhere far. I don’t know where it is.

Now, the seats in the waiting area are almost empty; it is not as crowded. The noise died down, as people, one by one, board their planes. We were left waiting. The flight was delayed for some minutes. The day will change and I am about to start my Sunday inside the airport. While waiting for my battery to charge, I decided to type some words and gather some thoughts. This is perhaps my way to kill time. Time moves slowly when you are waiting; fast when doing something.

I thought I can resume working on this blog. I hope I can sustain this. Classes have ended and maybe I will have more time.

So, today, I write again.

Today, I write again.


Today could have been any other day, but it is not.

It is that day that I hoped would never come—a day I thought would be a sad day. And it came. Today is a sad day.

It is sad because I did not expect it. Who would expect it, anyway? No one would dream that it would to them, much less wish, even for the sake of experience.

It is sad because it will leave a mark for the next nineteen months. I would be paying for something I will never be able to use again.

It is sad because a lot of memories is stored there—my fieldworks all over the Philippines, my trips in Europe and Asia, my bonding moments with my family.

It is sad because of the reality that we have attachments to material possessions; perhaps, as a result of a materialist world, of consumption, of the prevailing economics.

But then, there is always a bright spot in the midst of darkness. Though for now I cannot find it, and I cannot clearly see any signs of it.

For now, I have to find a replacement.


Election #1: For the Candidates

Almost three weeks since the official start of the campaign, what have we seen so far? We have seen candidates arguing against each other. We have heard them during the PiliPinas Debates. But have we seen them talking about their programs? Have we heard them presenting their vision for the country?

Ninety days of the campaign is both long and short—long, that it may cause physical and mental stress; short, that candidates have to go around the country to convince the voters. Given various constraints, candidates must be strategic. Below is a non-exhaustive listing of points I thought candidates might consider. Of course, they already have their respective strategies. What I have here is more of a prescriptive (or normative?) list.

1. Candidates should use their strengths, take advantage of their strong points. This will make them look even stronger. Are they good at speaking, personal (one-on-one) campaigning? Are they good at issues? They must show this strength and capitalise on them.

2. Also, candidates have three tasks: maintain the base, convert the following of others, and sway the undecided. Candidates already have a following. The first order of business is to maintain that following. Next, they must be able to convince those who are already supporting another candidate to be converted. This is essential. The target of campaigns is not those who you know are voting for you. Thus, it is also important to talk to those who are undecided. Once swayed to your favour, keep them within your influence.

3. Candidates should not make very broad promises. They should avoid too specific ones as well. They might be caught by vagueness or details. Vague promises may sound like motherhood statements. Voters today can very well notice if they are fooled by the candidates. Empty promises will not hold water. But giving too much detail can also work against the candidate.

4. Candidates may challenge fellow candidates, but it must be at the issue-level. Personal attacks might be useful, but not as desirable. The usual way of doing campaign is by criticising your opponents. This might work, but it does not paint the candidate in good light. The positive campaign should still be the most preferred way.

5. Badmouthing other candidates is a big no-no. Candidates must focus on their agenda. Avoid giving incriminating statements. For an issue-based election campaign to be sustained, candidates must focus on their agenda. What do they want to do? What is their vision? Name-calling and trash talking will not bring them far. It can also create possible deflection from the current followers.

6. Goals of candidates are two-staged: first, win the elections; second, fulfill election promises. If only one of two then problems may arise. Elections do not end after the proclamation of candidates. Candidates must be conscious of the fact that they have to deliver their promises. People are likely to demand more accountability from the candidates than before.

7. Candidates should avoid dancing, singing, or performing during campaign sorties. They are supposed to showcase what they can do in office. Elections is not an entertainment show. It is the means by which the people select their leaders. Thus, we must demand from the candidates: What can you do if elected? Dancing, singing, or performing on stage is not part of their job once elected.

8. Candidates are expected to be clean. They should not engage in illegal activities like drug pushing. Narco-politics has no place here. It is common knowledge that candidates spend a lot of money during campaign season. But that should not force them into dealing with drug lords and gamblers in order to have funding for elections. If they come clean, they become a much better option that those who entertain business and sometimes illegal interests.

9. The local network works. Candidates should focus on creating and maintaining networks to ensure victory, hopefully without resorting to violence. Local is the way to go. If a candidate has connections down at the sitio and barangay levels, victory is not impossible to achieve. In fact, many politicians are taking advantage of their local networks to win national positions.

10. Candidates should know the job they want to be elected to. The job of a president is different from a senator, a mayor, or a councilor. This is one of the most important items in this list. Candidates must be aware that they are running for a position in the executive or legislative branches. Otherwise, the candidate may be confused on what has to be done, what can be done, and what was promised. This can also help them configure their plans according to what they are expected to do.

Again, this list is not exhaustive. Others may even say that the contents of the list are very obvious. Obvious they may be, it is still important to note and write them down. Also, the contents are also subject to disputes. The statements are quite generic, as it tries to prescribe a certain behaviour among candidates.

For whatever its worth, I hope this listing helps us understand how candidates should act, and how we as voters should expect them to campaign in an acceptable fashion.


Election #1: For the Candidates


I am not a fan of teleseryes.

I usually go home around 5 pm. If I have classes until 5:30 pm, I go home around 6 pm. The difficulty of riding a jeep in UP, a train in MRT, and another jeep in Mandaluyong during rush hours would result to longer travel time. I usually arrive home around 8 to 8:30 pm. Upon arrival, I go up in my room, finish some school work, and then go down to eat. This is around 9 to 9:30 pm.

The TV is always on. People at home watch Kapamilya shows starting from TV Patrol until the last teleserye before Boy Abunda’s show. Whenever I eat dinner, I always chance upon On The Wings Of Love (OTWOL). It was as if the serye was made to accompany me during dinner. However, this was not my initial thought on OTWOL.

When they were advertising this new show featuring James Reid and Nadine Lustre, my first reaction was: ‘They’re going to have another teenage-loveteam-romance teleserye’. I dismissed OTWOL as one of those usuals, which take popular love teams to lead only for it to rate while the story is less than desirable. That is so pessimistic of me.

But as I eat dinner while watching OTWOL, as the story was revealed, I was wrong. From that first scene in the street corner in San Francisco to the last scene in today’s episode, I have seen them. Why? Because it went beyond my expectation. The story was not the usual after all. In fact, on certain occasions, I see how OTWOL tries to be relevant to the plight of certain sectors of our society, primarily of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

In my limited exposure to migration research, I learned the experiences of the OFWs especially during times of crisis. Being an OFW is not an easy life. The hardship one has to endure, particularly being away from one’s family, seems unimaginable, but is real and happening. Leah’s American dream is something most Filipinos can relate with. Clark’s industry in order for him to send money for his siblings is not foreign to us. These simple manifestations of OFWs life abroad reflect how OTWOL is sensitive to the nature of most Filipino families today—one that has, at least, a member of the family away to work and stabilize the family’s economic well-being.

Still on OFWs, one memorable scene I remember from OTWOL is when Leah was arranging her balikbayan box to be sent to her family. Clark remarked that balikbayan boxes are now checked and may take time before they reach their destinations. This was during the time when the Bureau of Customs has been on the hot seat for its (in)actions regarding balikbayan boxes. OTWOL was successful in its attempt to bring the issues of the day to its audience without trying too hard.

OTWOL is also sensitive to its audience. During the bridal shower for Leah, Clark wore a police uniform. This resulted in various reactions in the social media, particularly within the uniformed sector. Some episodes later, OTWOL made an apology, still within the context of the show’s story, and again, without trying too hard.

I enjoyed watching OTWOL to the extent that I am able to bring the experiences of characters to my classes, as examples say, whenever I explain concepts and relationships in political sociology and political thought (Of course, only those that apply). I also share stories and reactions with my students who also watch the serye.

There are values that OTWOL imparts to us, like the value of family, of marriage, of friendship, and of love. The line ‘Kung mahal ka, babalikan ka’ and other similar formulations will now be remembered by every OTWOLista as the message of true love, one that does not abandon, but returns and remains. In its simple yet impactful ways, OTWOL has carried us to a roller-coaster of emotions every night, within a single episode.

Finally, OTWOL is not just one of those seryes. It is a brand of its own. It is sui generis. It is the only serye or story that I know that tried to develop all the key and even supporting characters. Each member of the Medina and Olivar families, of Tenement Uno, of Artmart, of Woodlands, has a story to tell and lessons to share. I acknowledge the dedication of the writers, directors, staff, and, of course, the actors in bringing us the best that they can in order to produce the best that we deserve.

I am not a fan of teleseryes, well, except if we are talking about OTWOL. It is sad that OTWOL will end tomorrow. What will I watch now when I eat dinner? There will be no Clark and Leah. But I am also happy that we can and it is possible to have a feel-good, plus drama, plus comedy, plus a life-changing story in one teleserye. I hope to see more in the future. Congratulations, OTWOL team!

Now I must return to work, and check the papers of my students.

Image source:


Some thoughts, again

I had to write this down.

In my life, it is very rare that I feel deep affection towards others. Friends, yes. Family, definitely. Some other lower forms of feelings, yes. But this one, this very moment, I feel something rare, something different—something I might have felt, not the same way as before.

It also happened in a rather strange setup which I have not had a chance to explore before. Never did I imagine this kind of feeling will surface again. Not that I do not like it. I am waiting for it. But the effect is different than expected, and that is usually the case, the ‘as always’.

Some thoughts, again