Monday, October 8, 2018

An ordinary man’s humble road to living and leading

By Julius R. Paner

Some leaders are plain stuffs. Some are emergence from politics and popularity and everything somewhere in between. Some lived up to their billing as champions of political dynamism while others illustrate to total fakery. So, most leaders are molded by the staggering impetus fuelled by dynasties, financial wealth and mass fanaticism.

But every once in a while a special leader comes along who appears to carry out an impending change most people thought of as impossible to happen. His existence does not come across to reward those who already occupied the throne of prosperity in a world or country. His existence comes across to launch a paradigm in favour of the deprived and underprivileged. He seems like a man on a mission armed with determination, bravery and love. I see no other leaders in this country have ever been more inclined to be like that than Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

This former Director General of the Philippine National Police, who once invigorated the war on drugs campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, is carved out from the scarcity of life. Now serving as the Director-General of the Bureau of Corrections, dela Rosa is an epitome of poverty and survival. In a small village in Davao del Sur province is where this humble national icon of courage started chasing a dream.  

Early struggles

The path to education was not easy for dela Rosa. As a son to a tricycle driver, he had to endeavour several alternatives like selling fishes and kakanin items like puto and suman in their barangay and nearby places in order to earn extra income to support his studies. According to younger sister Ruvy Ann, at a very young age Bato already exhibited initiative and resourcefulness. “One time Manoy Ronald and our eldest brother went to an adjacent barangay of Matutungan to peddle fishes to upland residents, only to find out that that very day the barrio folks celebrated their fiesta and nobody bought their stuff. Instead of just returning the fishes back home they converted them into tinabal, a fish delicacy seasoned only with salt to extend the shelf life and had it sold to a much higher price. For him there is always a solution to every problem”.

Even then Bato was already a good leader to his siblings. “If there is one thing I admire most of Manoy Ronald, it is his being strict and disciplinarian to us. He used to train us not to waste a single crumb of rice in our table. He always showed us how to value every little blessing that God provided”.

Ruvy Ann said the good performance of his brother while handling the PNP torch in the country was attributed to Bato’s sense of responsibility and leadership when they were still young. “He is very responsible. At times when our youngest sibling was confined in the hospital Manoy Ronald took care of us, performed household chores like cooking, washing clothes and feeding the animals”

In his secondary schooling at Sta. Cruz National High School, Bato had to walk more or less 8 kilometers every day. With the dearth of financial resources, riding a jeepney then from home to school and back was already a consolation. There were even times he went home late and had to run fast in the public cemetery portion of the highway he was scared of darkness and “ghosts”. Walking, running and other forms of physical activities outlined dela Rosa’s present built that he often referred to as “Bato”.

Chasing Success

A degree holder of Public Administration course in Mindanao State University (MSU) Marawi, Bato tried his luck in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1982 and eventually became an elite member of the 1986 Sinagtala Class.  Whatever financial stipend he obtained from his PMA studies he made sure to get a fraction of it and share it to his parents.

A master’s degree in Public Administration and Ph.D in Development Administration were also tucked into dela Rosa’s educational belt that was rounded off with short courses on Scout Ranger, Advance Police Intelligence, Police Officer’s Controllership and Police Safety Officer. He also had schooling stint abroad such as training courses of the FBI Academy and U.S Army Ranger School and the Australian Federal Air Marshal Instructors Course.

For someone whose educational ride was more of a roller-coaster, the magnitude of success that dela Rosa presently holds is a testament that only the strong and determined survives.

Pedigree of discipline, toughness and uprightness

The blood that flows through the veins of dela Rosa is inoculated with the spirit of toughness, uprightness  and discipline which has become his weapon in propelling triumph in all the assignments he held as police officer. With his unorthodox way of fighting criminality and by displaying extraordinary level of sincerity, his rise to the police rank was firm and steadfast. He made signature achievements in the service by upholding program on anti-drug abuse campaign, anti-gangsterism campaign and eradicating criminality. As some of his closest neighbours would put it, Bato’s ill-fated past impelled him to be a strong man of today, enough to make him one of the finest men in uniform this generation has ever produced.

Souvenir photo with General Bato at Camp Crame sometime February 2018
You can tell a lot about a leader by what he does differently. Bato might have yet to show his full might in some other turfs but certainly his performance as an armed human resource in this country could not be described by mere words. His sincere drive towards change could never be labelled enough by the word “excellence”. If he is a rock star a lot of people are falling in line already even before he announces a major concert. If he is a showbiz personality, he is definitely a prime time material.

HARD AS ROCK – he might have been referred to most of the time being a police figure, but if you detach the camouflage clothing in him this firm personality is fortified with diffidence inside. After all, the word “Bato” not only connotes rigidity and durability, it also represents – in a broader context – compassion.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Making use of spare time in Tokyo

After a tough Mt. Fuji climb, our team had enough time in Tokyo that we were able to beat the chance roaming around several popular destinations. Tokyo is a highly urbanize city and although time is of a requirement there is no problem in the transportation because the train transport in the area is very comprehensive, distributing number of stations in almost all key city sites. Here are six sites we visited and enjoyed before flying back to the Philippines last September 10. 

This is a popular Buddhist temple located in Asakusha. The trading streets and beautiful temples laid out in the entire location have become points of interest, making it one of Tokyo’s most vibrant sites. Souvenir items and street foods of assorted varieties can be bought here. Some local beliefs are being practiced here also. Sensoji Temple is considered as the oldest temple in Tokyo and it presents a historical significance of Japan.

Shibuya is a major commercial and business center as it houses the busiest railways in the world. This area is a fashion center in Japan, from it rises beautiful thumbnails which represents Japan in almost all virtual platforms.

Aside from the busy thoroughfare, another attraction on the other side of Shibuya is the replica of Hachiko, an Akita dog born on a farm near the city of Odate. He is remembered for a heroic act as good friend and servant to his owner that he never leaves until his owner dies.

This is a district situated in central Tokyo known for its many electronic shops. It is Tokyo’s major shopping center for household electronic goods. We went there and had some good buys. Prevalent images and items of manga and anime are being displayed in Akihabara.

Two days before flying back to the Philippines we visited Imperial Palace, an abode in Edo Castle site where the Imperial Family resides. I was amazed by the remarkable channels and stone wall structures built within the circumference of the place which are being melded by the green landscape made up of familiar Japanese ornamentals. It is a living vestige that depicts historical and cultural significance of Japan, allowing them to open it to the public for educational, as well as for aesthetic reasons.

This open park in Tokyo is a public refuge for people who want to take respite amidst  busy city life. After roaming around Ueno District we took a breather here and mingled with the tamed black birds. Around the park there are plenty of food and shopping stalls to satisfy ones spending habit.  The one thing we missed in Ueno Park is the trees that turned into cherry color during spring, a very festive scenery.

This tower is the tallest in the entire Tokyo and reached its height to 634 meters in 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world, lodging out the famous Canton Tower in China. It is located in Sumida. An outdoor viewing tour in Skytree can also be paired with shopping as there are malls within the district that serves as a component to the tower premises.

Personally, I think of Skytree tower as another expression of how great the Japanese are in terms of architecture and engineering. Somehow it declares persistence of the people and a statement that Tokyo, or Japan in general, is one of the most developed countries in the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Climbing Japan’s Mt. Fuji

My climb in Mt. Fuji last September 6-7, 2018 was perhaps one of my most unforgettable climbs. We were hooking on a last-minute schedule because Mt. Fuji’s climbing season ended just last September 10 and considerably our choice of dates were almost positioned in the so-called “danger zone”. Plus, our trekking was scheduled in the evening considering the travel time from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji station and then all the way to the 5th station.

Mt. Fuji is an active volcano about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. Commonly called "Fuji-san", it is Japan's tallest peak at 3,776 meters. A pilgrimage site for centuries, it is considered one of Japan's 3 sacred mountains, and summit hikes remain a popular activity. Its iconic profile os the subject of numerous works of art.

At first glance the weather was just normal in 5th station prior to the trek. My three colleagues (Pare Dokie, Pin and JP) had some casual trekking in an open trail from the 5th station up to several mountain huts going to the 6th station. Mt. Fuji has open loose sand and rocky tracks in most of the trails which made us all really comfortable and relaxed. We met several local and foreign trekkers along the way, some of them were instant friends.

Trekking in Mt. Fuji in the evening enabled us to see the glorious cityscape view of Tokyo lights, an added attraction along the path and maybe one of the very few good things that I experienced when climbing this mountain.

As we approached 7th station the rain started gushing, turning the temperature a lot colder than the time we started jumping off. All the while I thought the rain was just auxiliary to the foggy atmosphere in the area, but the small drops turned into a strong torrent of rains associated with cold winds. We tried to stay dry by seeking refuge to the huts but we were prohibited to do it, or were being asked for certain amount of money in exchange for using the hut as shelter stopovers. We had no choice but to continue trekking, our stuff starting to get wet as we approached the 8th station.

Pin and JP decided not to proceed anymore and stayed in 7th station until in the early morning. Pare Dokie was stucked at the 9th station. I was in a hurry to reach the summit with the rain pouring very hard. I was afraid I could not withstand the cold but I managed to make it just in time in the summit but had to descend back along with some other climbers because the weather was not really bearable. When I get back to 9th station I learned that rescue teams were not allowing climbers to trek any further than the 9th station, or 900 meters from the summit.

After minutes of staying wet in 9th station I and Pare Dokie decided to trek down to the 5th station where we reached at around 9:00 AM. We were able to reunite with Pin and JP in 5th station by 11:30 in the morning.

If there is one lesson I learned in Mt. Fuji it is about underestimating the mountain. I have always been saying this one to newby friends in mountaineering, but this time I was hit right into the face. I was thinking it was just an effortless climb but it turned out the other way. Details and information from google, as well as from blog posts should not be considered conclusive and basis for preparing a major climb. Every mountain has a unique character that separates it from other mountains in the world. Whether just a minor climb destination or a huge heaps representing as highest in a certain locality, a climb should be prepared seriously in order to avoid unforeseen dilemma. Afterall, when you are trapped by struggles above and you lose a life, there is definitely no turning back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The resurgence of Orange and Lemons

Pop-alternative band Orange and Lemons, who was phenomenal in the early 2000, is back with a bang. The resurgent band retained its core members minus Mccoy Fundales. It is presently composed of a trio lead by chief songwriter and lead singer Clem Castro along with bassist Ace Del Mudo and drummer JM Del Mundo. Within the 10-year hiatus period, ONL members took their paths separately. Former vocalist Macoy collaborated with Ace and JM to form a new group Kenyo, while Clem created the band The Camerawalls, after which he went solo in his exploratory project Dragonfly Collector.

Personally, Orange and Lemons is one of the bands I admired so much because the way they created their masterpieces is exceptional. The outstanding manner of traversing several genres is something other aspiring musicians should look into. What I like more about this band is that aside from generating impressive lyrics of each of the songs they produce, the performance always connotes fulfilment, making emotion a vital component to their music.

I first knew Clem in 2015 during his Philippine Tour for Dragonfly Collector where he had a cultural tour in the highlands of barangay Tibolo, Sta. Cruz. From then on I learned that most of the songs in all the groups he had been into are product of his varied imagination.  Clem parades commendable level of fineness in creating music, and he is also a tremendous performer.

On August 18, 2018 I met Clem once again, this time along with his bandmates Ace and JM as they performed a concert for a cause in Digos City. As usual there was the wit and charisma of their performance, but this time Clem implanted a new element in their identity. The very first song was “Hanggang Kailan”, which made us all in awe because of the nostalgia the song had brought. And then Clem sang “A Beginning of Something Wonderful”, to me just a common love song but the tune reminded me of Eraserheads’ “Poor Man’s Grave”.   The 18 songs in their line up were a mix of compositions from their previous albums “Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream” and “Strikst while the Iron is Hot”.

Just before the concert started I was able to talk to Clem in the backstage and asked him several questions about this effort to revive the group. He said it just came the normal way, nothing more intricate. “We (Gian and JM) just decided to play music together and luckily it worked.” The way Clem describe this renaissance I recognized they are all upbeat with what is at stake in the coming days. Perhaps the move is not just about picking up the pieces again but to re-introduce an unprecedented perspective of Pinoy music, something that is not being distinguished by today’s generation.

“Penetrating the millennial market,” Clem said when I asked him of their biggest challenge in forming the band. Which to me a real scenario. The band’s first project now is to record the old album “Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream”. My personal thought of this move is to somehow steal a quick attention from the millennials, something that is really sort of a trial-and-error thing because today’s music audience does not seem to care about the scale or value of their choice of music and everything that they listened to. Which is why the present status of music industry is sagging.

If there is one person extremely happy of this resurgence of Orange and Lemons it is definitely me. As I have been saying in my previous articles about music my personal choice of songs now is in backward direction because I refuse to snoop into the new bunch of tunes that are at times even more irritating rather than pleasant to my hearing buds. Thank you very much ONL, especially Clem Castro for always creating good music.

P.S. Shout out to my good friend Harry Chester Camoro for informing me of the concert and for always considering me whenever concerts like this are in the offing. It surely deserves a portion of our busy time just so we can watch our favourite performer and listen to them once in a while.

By the way, the concert in Digos was staged as a fund-raising project by Digos Renal Patients Representatives SLP Association.