Know. Commemorate. Celebrate. Eid Mubārak!

In the Philippines, August 20 is a declared holiday in deference to our Muslim brothers and sisters who are celebrating the Eid’l Fitr. It marks the end of Ramadan. It has been so long since I am able to enjoy a weekend extended by 2 official holidays. Unfortunately, because of the excitement caused by having an additional day-off, we often times forget to appreciate what the holiday was initially intended for. In fact I know several people who are not even aware why this particular day was declared a holiday!

Credits to alumroot/flickr

An example of this is the Independence day. Although a major national holiday, it has never really been a celebration that can match its American counterpart in terms of pomp and popularity among our own citizen. The only exception would be the bicentennial celebration in 1998 which I still somehow remember. It is not shocking to find that children do not really understand the essence of the event and its historical significance when the actual day is only commemorated by the same gun salutes in Quirino grandstand or the same old reenactments in Kawit, Cavite. It is a national phenomenon that is both sad and embarrassing.

Although most of us non-muslims have some license to be somewhat ignorant of the importance of this day, I think it is a great opportunity for us to learn more about the faith and culture of our fellowmen. Here are things I learned from the web:

  • It goes by many names depending on what country you are on. Since it is an Arabic phrase, the anglicized version of the word widely varies, Eid al-Fitr,  Id-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Fitr; Eid, meaning festivities. while Fitr means “to break a fast”. In the Philippines it is also referred to as the Hari Raya Puasa. It marks the end of Ramadan.
  • Republic Act No. 9177, signed on 2002, declares,

    “the first day of  SHAWWAL, the tenth month of the Islamic Calendar, A national Holiday for the observance of EIDUL FITR.

    The Philippines is the only christian dominated country to have declared this day a national holiday (nice!).

  • As mentioned, it is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal. Shawwal is the tenth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar. Since the first day of Shawwal is marked by the appearance of the crescent of the new moon, the actual date varies.
  • Giving charity to the needy, openness and generosity to both Muslims and non-Muslims are just some of the Muslim values highlighted by this feast. Forgiveness and reconciliation are also expressed on this day as some would consider it as a day of rebirth after 30 days of fasting.
    (Note: Not an expert on this so do let me know if I was not able to state something correctly or if you wanted something to add, cheers!)

This feast also reminds me of our Lenten Season! This just goes to show that if we look closely at each others culture and belief, similarities which binds us together stands to exist. Aside from learning a little bit about Islamic culture, I have also come to realize that to move towards tolerance and acceptance, we must first overcome ignorance to break the wall of prejudice.

Peace 😀
_

Death Notes: Lessons from a Wake

http://www.americanhomeimprovementsofoh.com/candle-blog-is-that-they-are-usually-thoroughly-clean.html

Just a week ago, a family friend and neighbor whom I had known since I was a kid lost her battle to cancer. Although it was not unexpected, the feeling of sadness and loss was in no way diminished. In a community like ours, our neighbors are already like distant relatives. We may not always see eye to eye, but a sense of kinship has developed with each passing years.

It was just unfortunate that I was not able to visit her in the hospital when she was confined. I really felt bad but at least my mother was able to visit her a day before she died. Although we were not extremely close, her passing has brought an unexpected melancholy. It was probably because she was almost the same age as my parents and her death  somehow shook me.  The gloomy weather did nothing but dampen my mood even more. Death really has a way of getting to me.

My mother asked me to attend at her wake, but I even before that, I had already planned on going after a shift from work to pay my respects. I don’t normally go to a wake voluntarily because I never seem to know what to do or say in that particular occasion. Honestly, I just don’t understand the whole wake thing because for me death is so final, nothing else matter. I don’t even get what the word “condolences” mean. I’m not sure what its intended effect for the people who has lost a loved one.The word feels so unnatural for me. I mean…what’s the point? The dead is still dead, and the living is left to grieve. But I guess I just tend to over analyze things  that I find hard to process.

While I was sitting there among her family and friends, I struggled to think of a word to say but found that my thoughts are filled with nothing but depressing thoughts. “Just great!”, I thought to myself.  Exactly what these people need.  So I simply sat and listened.

As I listened to their conversation, I noticed that although death is a topic they discussed, it was not the main point of their conversation. Instead, the focus is in the future. At first I found it ironic that an occasion marked with death and loss would center on something so alive, so hopeful. But slowly, the answer to my question starts to unravel.

So, what’s the point?

Yes, the dead will remain dead. An eternal sleep. Yet for the family and friend who are left behind,there is still a tomorrow to speak of. The dead will not note our absence in their wake, nor would they care if we brought flowers nor if speak well of them . But now, I think these simple things are not lost on our friends whom we wish to comfort. In times of loss, people tend to seek out to what is present, to what they have left. Although we are in no way to substitute the person that they have lost, our presence seeks to validate the fact that they are not alone. I just hope that in my own quiet way, I was able to show my care and offer of support to my friends in their time of sadness.

Wakes or funerals, as it turns out are not an affair for the dead nor for death. Rather, it is a celebration of life. A celebration of the life of those who has passed o; yet more importantly, an acknowledgement of the promise of a future after a loss for those that continues to live. Death, as with birth, is the most natural thing on earth. No one lives forever, that’s for sure. But in our everyday struggle, we learn to draw strength from each other. In the face of death, we clearly see how alike we are in many ways.

Harry Potter: A Love Story

I know it might sound weird for people to hear someone speak so passionately for what is generally considered a children’s book. But for the millions of readers, both young and old who have felt the same enthusiasm and loyalty to the series, I know they would understand. Give me a nudge though, if you’re one of them too 😀

Before, I would probably go up in arms whenever someone refers to Harry Potter as mere children’s book. However, after getting past that phase of obsessive adoration, I have come to realize that the books that made a lot of impact in my life and perhaps other readers as well, are those that we have read when we were young(er), children’s books most likely. I felt that I was able to relate more to the book with a greater understanding of its true message than I did during those times. To sum up the series would be daunting task, but one that I would hazard to try.

For me, JK Rowling has written the most magical love stories of all time.

“A what? Magical? Yes. But a love story?”

Yes, LOVE. But in this case, maybe it would be more apt to call it stories of love.

The typical love story is probably best related to the likes of romantic novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet etc). But as in real life, love comes in many shapes and sizes. One of the things that I find enchanting about this series is how Ms. Rowling has cleverly crafted a story that showed how different types of love can drive people towards certain acts or disposition (may it be good or bad) which ultimately affects their over-all person.

Perhaps it is a love of a friend who stays loyal and true. A friend who stands behind you even with the possibility of defeat. Or even worse…death.

Or the love for family. The sacrifice that comes from the love of a parent to her child that will protect him till the very end.

It can even be the love for power, status and money.

Love is truly such a powerful thing. The lack of it almost surely spells a person’s doom. In fact, the main antagonist, Voldemort is not really a hateful soul, driven by vengeance, hatred or lust. He neither cares nor craves for love. A person who has never been loved cannot miss what they never had. He is just probably sad or crazy.

Although Harry Potter also had its romantic moments, I was really happy that the novel didn’t really revolve around this aspect of the story. Nothing against your garden variety love story but I just feel that the sacrifice of a parent or a friend is no less than the typical portrayal of love in books, thus deserving of more pages from a novel/ book.

I know, it’s far from being a perfect book but I will always feel fortunate to have read the series when I did. It taught me how to appreciate a well written work and raised the bar for all books that I will read in the future. It trained my mind to dream, explore and imagine. Above all, it taught me lessons in life and love subtly embedded among the great halls of magic that I will never ever forget unless hit by a memory charm ;]

J.K. Rowling said in an interview that she was approached by a fan who told her that Harry Potter is her childhood. It has since been referenced and echoed by scores of Harry potter fans, me included. I guess for our generation there won’t be a novel that would have as great of an impact. For that alone, I will be forever grateful. ❤

Arithmancy + Divination = Biostatistics

As a fan of the series for more than a decade, becoming a Hogwarts student has always been my ultimate fictional fantasy. It doesn’t really matter if Harry, Ron or Hermione are no longer students there, as long as I can walk the same halls that they had or take classes that they had attended. After 12 years, imagining myself in a sorting hat stills make me giddy.

Alas, I know these are nothing but a figment of my overactive imagination fueled by the vivid writings of the queen, JK ROWLING.

Taking up a master’s degree on Public Health, my education has come a long way, but in no way nearer to stepping into the great hall, the dungeon, or even the forbidden forest. However, my dream persists…

Earlier today for our Biostatistics class, the topic discussed was demographics. On it, we were taught how to compute for the estimated population for an x amount of time using some formulas and a bunch of other calculation related to population estimation.

Years after my last math class, it was quite challenging to activate that part of my brain in charge of analyzing numbers. It has never really been a favorite of mine, Math. All it reminds me of are lemniscates, planes and a whole lot of x’s and y’s. But it was quite fascinating to see how numbers can be used to foresee things, used in actual everyday living.  I know, I know…”foresee” might not be the perfect word for this science.

As I sit there, silently allowing my neurons to do their job, a part of my brain was left to drift into Platform 9 and 3/4. Before I knew it, I was already transported into that foggy, nauseating room on the North Tower.

Although Divination was not a subject highly regarded by Harry or even by most wizards, I bet Divination  have a lot of enrollees, if we are to be suddenly welcomed by the magical community to take their classes.

The exercises given by our professors woke me back to reality.

Calculation time! The exam results were neither good or bad. I think my mind had brought too much fog from the Divination room. Maybe the fog is what drew Hermione away from Divination and into the claws of Professor Vector and Arithmancy

Why in Dobby’s name would Hermione take Arithmancy. Muggle Studies, I could quite understand. But to voluntarily enroll in a class for Math…that I am not too sure. To be fair though, not much details were given as to what goes on inside an Arithmancy class. Maybe I’ll ask Ms. Rowling if I run into here.

Going back to my Statistics class, although it is the most challenging, the things I learn and the possible application in my career is what I find most attractive in this subject. Back in my undergrad years, I was able to take up several Math classes, mostly for Calculus. I never really took the lectures to heart because I was not able to fully appreciate its application in real life. A mathematician would probably tell me otherwise but still, it has never really been fun for me to start with.

It is odd though that after years of shying away from numbers, it is slowly but surely growing on me. I figured that when you make an effort to make the class fun and exciting, it is well translated into reality.

A little bit more imagination wouldn’t also hurt.

For now, Biostatistics would be my poor substitute for Arithmancy and Divinations 😀

Songs with a Bang!

My brother had me listen to this song which was covered by Natalie Lungley. I know it’s not exactly new but since I don’t listen to the radio as often as I would want, it’s really cool to discover a new song to obsess on.

I totally dig the beat of the song. Part of the chorus reminds me of a tune from an old song that I really like. I enjoyed Natalie’s version but the song really intrigued me so I looked for the original. Foster the People seemed so laid back,  as if their just telling a story about someone they knew. And boy, what an intriguing story it turned out.

It talks about a scenario that has sadly become too common in the US, mass murder, school shooting, and senseless killings. In the light of the recent Colorado shooting, I wonder if it’s time Americans reconsider their definition of terrorism or the status of gun control in their country. But that’s probably for another post :]

It is not the first song in music history with a dark message. It also somewhat reminded me of Aerosmith’s Janey’s Got a Gun. The song (I think) was about a girl who “got a gun” after enduring years of abuse from her loving dad. Mentions of gun and violence aside, I do have a soft spot for songs, stories and movies that masks its real intent with cheeky sarcasm.

Initially, I thought the cheerful tune of Pumped-up Kicks is a bit of a mismatch for such dark contents. But as I listen to the song,  it well complemented the lyrics of the song, making it  creepier and more ominous.

In any case, I’d love to hear more songs from Mark Foster and his people :]

Beyond lines and rhymes

Poetry…the word itself sound poetic. Of all types of literature, poetry would be one of the most wondrous  yet somewhat difficult to comprehend. While I was studying Literature, I often thought that poetry is simply a combination of rhymes, stanzas and measures. Although this is true in the traditional sense, I think it’s impossible to put any exact words to express its real essence – which is somehow ironic for something that is made up (usually) of words.

After reading several written works, I began to understand why some people would even allude a person’s way of speaking as poetry, or how a delivered line in a movie is poetry. Movements such as dance and other forms of art can even be described as a poetry.

Despite its beauty, I would admit that it is not the most enticing form of written art for a beginner. Even as a student, I often wonder how my teachers would draft objective types of exams for sonnets and haikus aside from asking who the poet was. It does prove to be one of  the more stimulating and thought-provoking subjects for class discussions because every movement of a leaf, a cry or a pause is subject to interpretation.

To appreciate a poem, a verse or even a simple line, one must try to be patient and allow the mind to wander, to imagine. Like an exotic dish, it may need several “sampling” before one can fully digest its meaning. For example, in a poem, the word black may pertain to death, a grim mood, corruption, destruction or grief. On rare occasions, it simply pertain to the color. A poem may not even use actual words. It can only be swish, a howl or a bunch of punctuation. Rules seems to not apply. I think for most parts, poetry is created when a written work is able to inspire, evoke emotion, or even to stir thoughts.

When words cease to be a mere combination of letters and the message of the words are understood not only through cognition but also through intuition…for me that is poetry.

Ready for take off…

Writing is always something I wanted to do on a regular basis. It has long been an appealing thought therefore, to have a blog or journal of some kind where I can write my thoughts and random ramblings. The first step is always the most grueling Lack of material to write about wouldn’t really be my biggest concern. I think it’s the idea of having my thoughts written in something a little bit more permanent than my memory that scares me…just a tiny bit 😀

Two years ago, I started a blog/portfolio to practice my progress in french class. It was fun to actually look back on the posts I wrote for that tiny project. Unfortunately, as anyone who took to blogging would soon realize, it takes a lot of time and dedication to keep an active blog (I ran out of both after 7 posts). Seeing someone’s 8-year old active blog inspired me to give it another go.

If you must start, why not today, right?

For this blog, I promise not to let myself get too distracted by the magic buttons found in the WordPress dashboard and actually focus on writing. I hope to be able to post at least once a week without fail. I hope my hands can type a little faster to catch up with my fast mental chatters and dodge the dreaded typos and grammar faults.

May the odds be ever in my favor.

Bon courage!