WAITING FOR CHANGE: Inspiration from Tsukiji

I entered Tsukiji as a tourist. I came out of the fish market, a believer in the Japanese race.

The Tsukiji Market is one of Japan’s tourist attractions. For Sushi lovers, they get to see where the raw material comes from, and the effort it takes even at the raw material stage.


I came at lunchtime. No way I could make it to the 4/5am Fish Auction. But the tour guide said, “Tsukiji is still great to visit.” So I did. I was looking for a place to eat sushi. I assumed that if all the fish and their corresponding stalls and vendors had gone home, then the fish would all be in the nearby restaurants. I guessed right. For someone raised to love this kind of food, it was glorious to smell the scent of a thousand gorgeous fish waiting to be eaten. The market itself was very interesting – octopus stalls, scallop vendors, uni and scallop vendors, and the hundred and one kinds of sushi restaurants.


One problem: The lines.


It was half past 12. I had just come from Odaiba Island to see the Giant Gundam and was properly amazed to forget my hunger at noon.

Probably because the place had terrific sushi restaurants, or because it was the heat of lunchtime, every restaurant had at least 5-10 groups of waiting customers. There were actually only a few tourists. The locals dominated the queues.


The Pinoy in me didn’t want to wait another minute to get food into my stomach. After all, I come  from a culture that considers shaving ten minutes off a traffic-infested road a victory.

But I looked at the Japanese. They just lined up.

Like it was the most normal thing for any human being to do.

So I did, too.

Of course I’m glad I did because I got to eat in this really interesting sushi place and got to eat sushi in Tsukiji. But I’m glad I lined up, too. Because I got to see – and experience – something that makes humanity the amazing  thing it was probably meant to be.

This habit of lining up echoed throughout Tokyo. Or at least wherever I went throughout my stay there. No matter how busy the city got, no matter what time of day, whether there was an old lady trying to count her coins, or a cash register took too much time computing, the discipline in lining up, as well as the disposition of the people in the lines – never changed.

Of course, as a tourist, I couldn’t help but contrast this with my own culture.

Right when our group landed at NAIA Terminal 1, I let out a sigh that said: “Toto, We’re not in Tokyo anymore…” The NAIA 1 immigration lines zigged and zagged without heads nor tails easily visible. People were criss-crossing, cutting, and shoving. Upon commuting the next day, there was the usual rumble to get up a bus. When I tried entering a mall, I was shoved from behind for no apparent reason.

And this would echo throughout Manila. Or at least wherever we ought to see lines. In government offices. In Bus Stops. In Malls. Sure. There are bright spots here and there, but who are we kidding? We’re a culture not known for lining up.

Is the difference patience? Or discipline? Or a need to get ahead someone? Maybe these, too, are merely symptoms. Perhaps we can get to see a clearer picture during the times these two contrasting cultures were pushed to the extremes. For isn’t it true that the worst of crises pushes human beings to show who they are?

The Japanese’s recent crisis was the Tsunami. Sheer terror gripped not just the Japanese, but the whole world, as we all watched the wall of water move from the Pacific and slam into the Japanese coast. Devastation. Decimation. Even a Nuclear Disaster.


But the whole world dropped their jaws, too, when we saw the pictures of the Japanese people lining up to receive their relief goods. When they lined up to help one another. Lining up here wasn’t a simple cultural quirk. It had become so ingrained that it became a way to help save themselves.

 The Filipino’s recent crisis was Yolanda. The whole world warned the Philippines that no storm in the recent history of humanity was this huge. And we watched in anguish, together with the world, at how the storm claimed entire cities, buildings, houses and lives.

Now I want to make a clear point here: We are a resilient people, yes. Yes that is one of our positive cultural traits. We know how to help one another, yes. I am not dissing us as a people. All I’m saying is we can learn something from the Japanese.

Our relief efforts were crippled by a lack of clarity in logistics. Even corruption. And when relief goods did come to the places that needed them, people would come in swarms. Rarer are the sights of lining up to get relief, and perhaps the lines came only after much shouting and fighting. Isn’t it true, too, that we are told to be very wary when we come to devastated areas with relief goods because “dudumugin kayo”?

You can tell me, of course, that disorganization is a natural reaction to devastation. And I would agree with you. And no, I don’t expect anyone to actually line up properly even in the face of death.

But the Japanese do. And they did. And when their humanity was stretched, they did one of the things they do best – they lined up.

Is it because they have a bigger capacity for discipline? But even discipline can be a symptom, rooted in a more fundamental cultural element. Why are you disciplined?

I look at our utter disrespect for lines in the Philippines – for LTO, for NBI clearances, for elections, name it – and perhaps it is rooted in a lack of faith in one another. We cut lines because we don’t think our government is competent enough and compassionate enough to provide help for all. That because resources are not enough, my kapitbahay will get some while I won’t.  Even if we ourselves are patient and disciplined enough to stand in line, we don’t believe that the person behind us or in front of us is the same. Here in these islands, patience is not a virtue anymore, but merely for the weak and those who won’t take life into his own hands.

So we make do. Every Juan, Pedro and Diego for himself. Suit yourself if you choose to stay in your line. Those who have faith in the system usually find themselves disappointed. So we take matters into our own hands  – or into fixers’, or other corrupt means. We do not line up because of our poverty. Not just materially, but because of our poverty of faith – in one another.

Could it be that the Japanese can line up in the best and worst of times and all times in between, simply because they believe that their system works? Because they believe that there is enough for all? Because they believe that their government does take care of them? Could it be that they could wait properly in line, because they have faith that the guy behind them and the girl in front of them will do the same?

Maybe we can learn this from the Japanese. Just as we have recently imbibed a taste for ramen, a love of robots, and a predisposition for their cars, maybe we can also import this character trait from them.

I guess that’s easier said than done. The web is thicker and and spun a thousand times in ways more twisted than we can believe. I guess that’s what happens when the your own government steals from you and this thievery has become commonplace. I guess we’ve just waited too long for change, and have refused to believe that waiting yields results: whether it be change in government, change in culture, relief goods, your license, or even good sushi.


I don’t know if you’ll agree, pero look at these pics…



1. Aga and JL = magkapatid kaya sila? O magkaparehong tao??? Mag-ama? 



2. PIOLO and GOMA = mag-ama? 


Fine. If hindi kayo ma-conspiracy theory, baka ganito paliwanag:

Archetypes. (See: Jung) 


There are certain motifs, certain characters na inuulit-ulit natin throughout literature and life – and the Boy Next Door and Macho Lover are some of them. Richard did Macho Lover for his generation. Piolo’s doing it for his. It’s possible lang naman na pareho ang molde na hinahanap natin sa Macho Lover natin. The bigger question is what does that say about us? Ang susunod din bang macho lover, ganun din ang molde? Same for Aga and JLC. Eto mas malapit ang pagkakahawig. And mas magkahawig din ang roles. Romantic boy next door na maraming pelikulang pamagat ng kanta ang pamagat. 


O mas masaya bang isiping magkapatid o mag-ama sila? O na parehong tao lang sila? 



Technical fouls for profanity. For the middle finger. For directly fighting a player of the opposing team. For lashing out against the officiating. Getting banned from semifinal games. Calling out coaches of opposing teams. For another profanity. Another suspension. The commissioner has even called him “unbecoming” of a coach. 


You can say he’s SPG. Or even Rated R. You can say he’s a bad example to our young. You can say he’s one of the most polarising figures in Philippine Basketball. But you can’t argue with the results. And even the love of his players. 


If you look at Wikipedia, he has 6 championships with three teams: Swift, Red Bull and Rain or Shine. 

If you look at the sidelines, yes, he’s the bald coach with arms folded, eyes focused, with fire running in his veins. He has also coached the National Team, and he has made champions out of teams that aren’t necessarily stars or the most athletically gifted of the lot. 


So whether you like him or hate him, his style works. And somehow, some players respond tho this style. And even fans. Maybe on a cultural level, he represents us. 



Here’s why he works. 


1. Machismo.


Basketball, despite being more accessible now to ladies, is still dominantly and even decidedly masculine. It’s played by boys. A lot of rules are built for boys. Coaches, locker rooms, venues, and language is still boy-skewed (which reveals a lot, I guess, why it’s still immature in some respects). 


The Guiao approach appeals to this. His language, metaphors, and demeanor are very machismo-inspired, which his players – usually macho-mentality-inspired, too – appreciate.


Some examples:

“I will go to war with these men.” 


During the Red Bull days. That’s some Braveheart Stuff. 


““Even in their body language, even in the way they carry themselves. Never show me that you are going to give up anything in this series, even if we’re down 1-3. Pag pinakita nila sa akin yun, sabi ko, ‘tatapusin ko yung career nila dito (in the PBA). 


“There are no ready-made superstars in this team.”


 Clear on no special treatments. 


He seems to talk to them in a way which we colloquialize as “Usapang Lalaki.” You know it’s straightforward. You know he means no nonsense. And you know he means business. We will win. Or we all die. It’s as simple as that.


And he keeps it simple, too. 


It’s almost kanto-ball every night. Sure he knows his X’s and Os and his back-cuts and screens. But at the end of the play, he’s going to make sure that you fought hard over the screen, or make sure that your head wasn’t somewhere else, or that you played defense like a man. Wesley Gonzales and Paolo Bugia, his former players, tweeted some motivational quotes from Coach Yeng. Here’s an example: 





Doesn’t it remind you of other coaching greats which aren’t necessarily society-conformists, or sometimes even called assholes? Like Bobby Knight, and even Gregg Popovich. 



2. Ginebra-ism lives. 


Speaking of reminding you of other coaches, doesn’t his “never say die” attitude remind you of the Big J? I know some Ginebra fans might be cringing a bit here, but look at this piece in the Bulletin that came out this week: 



“I told them not to show any signs that they’re no longer going to put up a fight, that they’re giving up,” – BULLETIN 


He has this knack for transforming a group of almost ragtag players who aren’t the most athletically gifted, into a swashbuckling and even powerhouse contender. Everywhere he goes, he makes winners. Underdogs into fighting dogs. 


And because he has this spirit, and because the Pinoys always love the underdog, the inapi, the kinawawa, the achiever despite the odds, he has a place in our hearts. Albeit secretly for some. 


I wouldn’t be surprised if Jawo shows up at the Rain or Shine locker room at halftime, too.


3. He is passion unsheathed. 


 Okay. Some say his style is too physical. Some say his players get away with too much. This accusation, though, is old hat. It’s been called of Jawo. And hey, that’s what rules are for. If he really goes too much, then shouldn’t we change the rules? So I guess so far, he goes within the boundary of the rules – as far as he could take them. 


But I guess this physicality, this almost lion-like approach to the game comes from a heart that just wants to play this game with fire. 


Yeng Guiao, like most of us, also wears his heart on his sleeve. His passion for the game and for winning is never guarded under pretences of coolness or control. He’s not only what you see is what you get. He makes you see he’s fired up, too. 




And being Pinoy, is there any other way to play? 


These are just some reasons why his players love him. Even Big Beau Belga, who professed such when Rain or Shine defeated Petron Blaze in the semis. This was after the game Yeng Guiao wasn’t allowed to go to because of a suspension. Even if Belga gets his share of fire and brimstone from his coach. I don’t know about you, but when you get a guy like Belga to even like you, I think you’re probably doing something right. 



“Naglaro kami ng ganyan para sayo, coach, kasi mahal ka namin”  - Beau Belga to Yeng Guiao 



On a scale of 1 to Yeng Guiao, how angry are you?

My hunch is that the cameras aren’t ready just for the game and the acrobatic plays, but for the antics and drama on the sidelines. These are usually supplied by the coaches. The people who are quick to give credit to their boys when they win, but they man up to own the losses. It’s a thankless job. In a country where every citizen thinks he’s a coach, the pressure is immense. But every now and then, we get to see their human side. 


They add colour to the game. And because we play this game with a lot more passion than we probably ought, it’s no wonder that these guys wear their team’s hearts on their sleeves. 


So here’s an anger scale. Next time something pisses you off, think. Just how how angry are you? What should you do about it? It’s not a personality test, mind you. The answer can definitely change depending on the situation. 


If it’s not yet clear, I don’t mean any harm or disrespect. :-) 


Well, in any case, if you’re angry, and you feel that one of the descriptions match your current state — check out what to do, or what kind of friends you should have around you. 


Juno Sauler 


Angry? What’s that? 



Ryan Gregorio / Gee Abanilla  


You think you’re angry, but you still look like a nice guy.

“Hey come on. Call a technical on me, ref.”

 REF: “Galit na kayo coach? Ang cute niyo palang magalit.”


Norman Black

You’re growling, you’re seething, you’re scowling

sometimes you’re shouting 

but once you talk it through with the people you’re working with, your voice is cold as steel. 

You’ll be fine. 



Chot Reyes 


You’re probably doing something crazy on the bench.

You’ll have a verbose endgame chat with the reporters. 


At least you’re the best dressed man who’s doing all of that.  


Pido Jarencio 


You’re probably doing something crazy on the bench, and you want the camera to see it. 

From the Jaworski school of “kawawa naman kami!” 

Like motioning the “kill” gesture with your hand going across your neck.


Just go back to your “puso” figures of speech, and make sure you calm down that “puso” kasi baka high blood na yan. 


Tim Cone 

 You’ll still be waving your hands in the air three to four plays after. Or even after a timeout. Even when the referee himself has forgotten what you’re complaining about. 

And you’ll be bright pink in the face, too. Mestiso, eh. 

Get a good assistant like Dickie Bachman or Joel Banal who are bigger than you to calm you down. Or a cool customer like The Jet. 


 Yeng Guiao 


Let’s just say you might have been the cause of the PBA’s MTRCB rating of PG.


From daring the referee to throw you out to getting suspended from crucial games for using the wrong finger to point – name it, you can do it once you’re angry. 


Just make sure your team has good players willing to fight for you. (Beau Belga: “We did this for you coach!”) A management that understands. And a hundred thousand pesos every time this happens. 


I keep thinking, though, that somewhere, Gregg Poppovich might just be laughing at all this. 



Leaping from the Gutter

I got to watch a dad and his two sons splashing around in the swimming pool. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. It turned out, the father wanted the kids to learn more than just splash around. He was trying to tell son number one (for purposes of discussion, let’s just call him son number one, okay?) to finally get off the steps at the shallow end and jump into his waiting arms (or one arm. The other son was in his other arm).


“Jump! Jump!” he told his son.

It’s an all too familiar metaphor for faith. The father urging the son to jump. To let go. As Wicked popularized, to close one’s eyes and leap. We’ve probably heard it said and preached. You’ve probably heard your retreat master use it as the ending to his rousing sermon. We’ve probably used it ourselves when trying to convey a point.

While the metaphor is clear and relatable (warm and homey, even), how it applies to real life is always tougher. Maybe it’s because we see the Father (God in the Metaphor) as someone who has not jumped from the shallow end to the scary, deeper end that might be filled with monsters (when you’re a kid, every dark and un unexplored place has monsters. Well, when you grow up, I guess that doesn’t stop). That the Father figure never had to doubt his ability to hold his breath. To ask survival questions like “will I rise again?” Or “What if I jump too far from the gutter? Can I still make it back?” He, after all, is omnipotent.

The kid in the pool probably saw his dad as pretty omnipotent, too (We usually see dads and moms as God until we mature enough to be more merciful). He was, after all, chest and head above the water. His footing was most probably secure on the pool’s bottom. Heck, maybe dad even owned the pool! (The pool was public space.)

Did he lack faith? I asked myself that question as I tried to cheer the kid on through telepathy. Come on kid. Dad won’t drop you. He’ll die first before he’ll let anything happen to you. I’m sure the kid knew the dad loved him. He was smiling. He wanted to please his dad. But he was struggling between his fear and his love. Much like most of us.

Then the other brother leapt from his dad’s arm, back to the gutter. This other brother said, “Come on.” Then this other brother leapt again, this time, back to his dad’s arms. The dad said, “O, your brother did it!” Then after a while, he jumped. I knew he did, because I found him on the other side of the pool to continue his training later on.

That was probably a more accurate metaphor.

The other brother was more relatable to the first brother. Surely, this guy was afraid before. Surely, this guy would drown if daddy dropped him. We’re almost the same height. We have almost the same fears. Of course! We play together! I know he’s not that different from me! Maybe I can jump, too! And look how he trusted daddy.

Then I saw the passages from the book of Hebrews in a new light. This had been preached to us before many times, too (In fact, just last Sunday for me. Maybe that’s why it was at the top of my head. You can check it out when you have the time – Hebrews 3,4,5-ish.). It talks about how Jesus paid for our sins in full. How we can rest in that act that he did once and for all. But more than that – it talks about how Jesus became fully like us – in our weaknesses, in being tempted, in the fact that he took a crap like us, the fact that he pissed like us, the fact that he also got irritated by traffic (maybe it was of a different kind during his day. Maybe animals and foot traffic near the gates. Hey.).

He was and is the other brother. Who proves to us that God is not distant. That he himself felt our eternal yet everyday struggle of being pulled by two gravitational forces: fear and love. But he chose love. And leapt.

I saw the dad and two sons have a lot more training sessions throughout the afternoon. One exercise was for both kids to hold on to his hands and kick (that means make your feet like an engine for those of us who don’t swim). Son number one tried his best that day. Sure, he still felt nervous every time before he leapt from gutters into his dad’s waiting arm. But the other son always made sure to teach son number one how. Sure, Son number one drank a bit of water. He laughed through his nervousness. Sometimes he just shouted. But he held on to his dad’s arm when he called.

As we remember our Brother’s birth, and as we head into this new year, it might be helpful to be reminded, to rest – (not in the commercialised Boracay-Maui-Hotel Bathtub sense, but to give up control in trust. That is what you do when you sleep right? You just suddenly lose control and trust the mattress and pillow.) – in the fact that He has shown us how to jump into the Father’s arms.

Watching the Watched during Yolanda

I have refrained from posting anything about Yolanda, determined to to just shut up and help out. I told myself to wait until some of the dust cleared, and then maybe we can help one another out in the learning process. 


I work in a field that has a lot to do with media, and I also teach students a bit about said field. So I might be a bit concerned on how we can improve the media – especially during a time of crisis. Besides, I’m Filipino, and I want my news – how I get it, how it’s consumed and spread – to be able to help me help those who are in need. 


I also have some friends in the Broadcast Media. And some of my friends are reporters themselves. I salute you guys, especially those who were there in the midst of the onslaught, never leaving their post, and making sure you reported what needed to be reported – even to the point of sacrificing your safety and lives. So I do not mean to bash, I mean to help out a bit. If this reaches you, and if you agree with some of the points – I hope we can get the opinions to the people who matter. If you disagree, maybe you might actually know better, but I hope I made you think.


1. Accuracy over Attention

Leading up to Typhoon Yolanda’s arrival, a particular newspaper kept using US-based descriptions and classifications. This made the storm sound more terrible. Sure, it made the news more exciting. Sure, it made me want to read said daily. Sure, it might have grabbed a lot of people’s attention. Okay, it might have helped some people prepare better. 

But what if we focused instead on being accurate instead of grabbing attention? There was much talk on the magnitude of the storm, how large and scary it was, but there could have been a lot more talk on which parts of the Philippines it was going to target, really. How long was it going to stay? What does it mean if the storm is that big? What storm in recent memory could equal this storm? If I have relatives in the affected regions, what should I do?

And this brouhaha over the “storm surge.” The media did a good job telling PAGASA they should have clarified what this actually meant. They did a good job telling PAGASA that the confusion led to many lives lost. True. But didn’t the news outlets get the PAGASA report and were actually able to read “storm surge” there? In the spirit of being accurate in order to inform, could they have tried to clarified with PAGASA before Yolanda hit? “Excuse me, Mr. Meteorologist sir, it says in your report ‘storm surge.’ I’ve never seen this before. Can you enlighten us? What’s it like?”  


2. Cooperate Instead of Catfighting


People were dying. I don’t care who was right and who started it. People were dying while you were pulling each other’s hair and hitting each other with handbags over national and international TV. People were dying. 


3. Now that everyone’s a reporter, maybe everyone should be more responsible. 

I get it. Citizen journalism is the thing now. And with instagram and instant status updates from anywhere and everywhere through God knows what ungodly speeds and connections, everyone can be a journalist. 

If that’s true, then maybe everyone should also go through the basic journalist rules. If you’re going to post something, make sure it’s true. Especially during a time that people’s emotions are as tempestuous as the typhoon. 

At least people in the traditional news outlets have balls enough to be accountable when they’re wrong. Sure, there’s freedom of speech on social media yada yada yada. But with it comes great responsibility to the truth and to everyone who can share your update. 

So there is no excuse for posting inaccurate and plain wrong information about people who did this or that or supposedly shameful acts. Such an act is libellous, and in this case, I see the point of the much-ballyhooed online libel law. 


4. Move us to action. Don’t just plunge us into despair. 


During the typhoon’s attack, and even afterward, several people uploaded and shared videos and pictures of the typhoon’s wrath.

I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they just wanted to inform people of what was happening. Because if it was mindless updating and sharing just for the sake of being first to share or upload, or plain mindless sharing, this is my question to you: what did you really want to achieve when you shared or uploaded images or videos of despair? What reaction did you want to get out of people? 

Part of social media responsibility is that we try our best to post/upload/share with an objective, or at least some semblance of measure, of how people might react to what we share. 

Images of despair left unaided will plunge us all into exactly that: despair. Unaided videos of violence can just leave people feeling helpless. 


5. There is a right time and place for selfless and hashtags. 

While most probably innocent and well-meaning, selfies with #rescuePH or #Yolanda popped up more than once in a while. I get it – volunteerism is the new activism, they say, and you’re proud of the moment. But maybe you could have waited until after a week or so? Or at the very least, maybe you shouldn’t use the hashtags reserved for far more important matters like locating missing people or directing people to where help is needed. 

6. “resilient” 

I don’t know about you, but I was taught that telling people they “could do it” without listening to what “it” really is, or appreciating “it” is not only insensitive, but can also be insulting. How do you tell people who are suffering that they could go through what they’re going through? I’m sure you want to give them hope. But I’m not sure you stuff it down their throats before listening to them and helping them.

All the “resilient” posts and messages, all the “we will rise again” and variations thereof are all well-intended. But seeing them right at the moment the tragedy was occurring seemed insensitive and quick to dismiss the suffering people were going through. 

What I did find inspiring were images and posts that showed Hope-at-Work. This versus Hope-Dispensed-like-coins-to-beggars definitely gave me much more… well… hope. 

7. Just cover it. Don’t call it special. 

I cringed every time I heard and saw media giants call their Yolanda news updates their “Yolanda SPECIAL Coverage.” 

Am I supposed to applaud? Am I supposed to feel like I owe you something? Am I supposed to feel like you’re giving me more than my money’s worth? That I’m getting something extra? Like a Special Siopao or Buko Pie? 

Just cover it, guys. Again, people are dying. Do you really want to call your coverage that shows these people dying and helpless “Special?” 



I’m sure these are just some of the things we can improve on as a media force that serves our nation. And I’m sure we can definitely improve. 

Also, these are just some of the observations for the media-at-large. How we can improve in other areas like government response, is a whole other typhoon of a conversation in itself. 


UNDAS 2013

When you can no longer hear yourself pray in a cemetery, there is an evil scarier than we can imagine, that is at work.


My family and I were praying at the grave of my lolo. But above the amens, were the melodies of the Nestle ice cream carts that become more annoying when two or more of them are within earshot, and their syncing is just way off. The multitudes of people bringing pots, pans, banigs, candles, flowers, and coming in by droves. The bells of those selling buck sherbets. The booths that seem to occupy bigger and bigger spaces every year, frying hotdogs and siomai, calling out to people to buy. I shudder to think how the cemeteries in other parts of the country fared. 


It all just smelled more like a school fair than of anything that reeked of solemnity. 


You can blame commerce. Or the Pinoy penchant for turning anything into a party. Or both.


But what is it doing to us? That might be more important. 


It robs us of a chance to sit (or stand) still. And think. Hard. About death. Which of course makes us think about life.


Now the jolly people of our world may caution me and make jokes about my seeming desire to be morbid. No, in fact, I want to do the opposite. I want us to remember how to really reflect about life. 


This is one day in the year dedicated to remembering our dead loved ones, their legacy, and how they impact/ed our lives, and what we’re going to do with that. This is one moment to be still and stare death in the face, to remind us of our own physical bodies’ finity. That we are all time bound. That we ought to think about where we’re going to go after the final buzzer sounds. Or what we’re doing with the remaining time on the game clock.