Friday, May 27, 2011

Kenka...

The problem with our culture is that there is a perceived distance that must never be crossed when dealing with other people. If you’ve been friends for a long time, you can practically talk about anything and kid each other and tell unsolicited advice without any repercussions save for bruised egos when you get to excesses.

If you at least know each other and say na ‘may pinagsamahan na kahit konti’, you still can console each other up to a certain point.

The conundrum comes when you have an acquaintance, or someone whom you could be friends with or be closer with and you are limited with the scope of what you can say. I mean, what can you say that won’t make her drift away or destroy the seed of connection that is fragilely held between both of you? 

But things do call up to you, you know. You read a small snippet of a post on their walls and you get the feeling that they need a word of encouragement or something else. And you debate it on yourself whether they would consider it meddling if you posted something or whether they would take offense if you do. And if you don’t answer you get the feeling that you are failing them somehow.

You also wonder if they think that you are stalking them, which isn’t the case. Of the more than a thousand facebook posts and twitter feeds that friends and acquaintances make daily which are public, your eye just latches in to some of them. Is it instinct that allows you to sense it? Is it divinely inspired? Or are you simply imagining things?

Sometimes, I wish I am a priest or some holy man, you know. That way, I can say, ‘Girl, what ails you? Is everything alright? Are you okay?’ But I’m not and I am also at the crossroads when it comes to religion and I feel that I would be a hypocrite if I even attempt to dress concern with religious dogma. That would be punching low and a lie.

So I resort to what I do best and write this.

It ain’t for ulterior motives but just my way of speaking when the voice is silenced and the protocol of communication suspect. It might be judged as meddling or maybe not, only time can tell that down the road.

Life is chaotic. It is an unpredictable scary place. We search for anchors to steady us in the violent upheavals that happen in our lives and sometimes when we think that we have found one, it is taken away from us. The sturdy wall we thought we could rely against as we journey forward crumbles on our grasp and we are left clutching at the rubble.

We ask ourselves. How do we go on? How do we live? What happens to us now? So many questions, so few answers to give… I don’t have answers.

Somehow, we survive. With the many unpredictable things we thought we couldn’t handle, we somehow find a way. The providence of God? I would say yes, coupled with your resolve and your own strength…

 You’ve done well… and you will always do so…

Life, however, is unrelenting in its challenges and burdens pile up and the shoulders eventually get weary. We question ourselves if we can muster the strength to go on…

I wish I could say that yes, life will get better but that would be presumptuous of me. There is a limit to optimism and the reality of this world is far too fickle to predict. So what I can do is to give you an imaginary pat on your shoulders and say this.

You have done well, sister! I salute you for all the things you’ve done, for all the accomplishments you’ve made, for the journey you’ve made so far…

Haan ko nga maibaga nu mayat ti umay, nu ti rigat ket maikkat, wenno ti sakit ti panunot nga ilelemmeng iti nakarekep nga kuwarto ket masulbar. Haan ko nga malappedan ti luwa nga agtedted, baka han nga siyak ti akin lugar ijay nga mangaramid. Ngem dika agdanag. Ti biag ket atiddog, ken ti Dios ket makaawat. Ited na iti annak na nga agkasapulan ti kasapulan da..

It is frustrating to not know the appropriate response you can give and I am a fool for such and I am even a bigger fool for not actually having the courage to risk being a fool.

But you are doing good.

If this article is inspired by a Greater Power to reach you, or whether it’s just another human soul empathizing with another human soul, I don’t know…

But you are doing well, sister and I give you this pat on your back and say that you are doing well…


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Exodus of Talent 3: Going back Home...

v 1.3 


As a pinoy expat now based on another part of the world, there are many questions that are continually posed to oneself and others, questions that often have few clear cut answers.

Like: Why do we go home?

Or: When are you going back?

Honestly, I have no answer. I have left my old life and all it symbolized in the shores of the Philippines with the knowledge that I am restarting anew. I must admit that I have the option not to return anymore since my visa is different from everyone else's and there are moments when I am dissuaded from ever entertaining the thought of going back. 

The horror stories of friends about taxi drivers running away with their baggages when they disembark at NAIA; or worse, the tales of highwaymen and cutthroats that stalk balikbayans can put a damper on one's thoughts about going back home. Policemen extort you on the road, hairdressers pad your payments with excesses and friends and family can treat you like a bank account. And the traffic is messy, the public toilets are worse than pigstys, and the prevalent attitude towards returning expats leans towards suffocating to say the least.

And yet, one cannot deny the yearning to go back… there is a calling there that cannot be denied, an unspoken invitation that cannot be ignored.

The scent of Benguet pine beckons to the senses as does the rich aroma of roasted bangus over hot coals in a small La Union beachfront (can’t afford Pagudpod or Boracay – those are luxuries). Thoughts of BenCabs museum pieces elicits pangs of nostalgia and even the memory of the oppressive heat of Sison, Pangasinan in the worst stage of summer is a succulent temptation that grows stronger with every passing day spent away from the country. There are too many things that one yearns for... too many things that cannot be replicated elsewhere...

Of course, there's also another side to this. Beyond the great scenes and memories, other less savory facts linger. One cannot ignore the social problems left behind...that leaves a bad taste on one's mouth. One often wonders if leaving the country for a couple of years could somehow miraculously cure it of its ills. There is that hope that when you leave and then return, that somehow during the course of your sojourn, the NAIA people would become this courteous group of attendants that are prim and proper who'll meet you with bright sunny smiles; that taxi drivers would assist you when you get your baggage and take you through the best routes and then ask you whether all of your baggages are accounted for when you reach your destination (and that he would actually shake his head when you offer him a tip for his service and say that it is too much); that the local tambays are playing basketball while sober and are productive members of society (and would help old people and kids steer clear of vices); that there are no colorum jeeps and buses plying the streets; and that finally every driver on the road knows and respects the rules; and that your family and relatives don’t see you as one big dollar sign. That there are no more palaboys and squatters and street kids... the list is endless.

For this is the unspoken desire that resides in the heart and mind of every pinoy expat/OFW: that they return to a country that has everything they've loved then and one that has transformed its shortcomings into assets when they return.

If only it were true….

Why Do we Go Home
But I must go back to addressing the question posed in the beginning: Why do we go home?

The most common reason, of course for us is the fact that our family is back there. Filipinos are a family oriented race. We suffer and bleed for our families foremost of all. Families are our raison d'etre (reason for existence) and since majority of Pinoy OFWs are married when they leave, their families(plural and italized) are left behind. We return for our families, period. The same reason we use when we leave is the same reason that we go back, at least for most (again, italized) of the time.

Of course, the real reason we go home is because the work contracts that enabled us to leave in the first place have finally run its course and we, rather than suffering the risks of being a TNT, have chosen instead to go back home. Given the option to work longer, many would opt for staying put rather than going back. That is the truth, whether we accept it or not.

And the other more common reason we go home is because the companies that we work for have paid vacation as part of the contract we've signed and rather than staying cooped up in an apartment for a month staring at walls, we opt to go home instead and visit sunny beaches. These are the practical reasons, and obviously unromantic ones that we use when we go home. These two reasons alone comprise the main answer to the question. No frills, nothing philosophical, just plain facts, ninety percent of the time.

The other ten percent is brought upon us because of unforeseen circumstances: a child falls ill, a parent dies, a spouse commits adultery (don’t deny it) or your teenager impregnates someone (or is impregnated) and you have no choice but to go home. We are forced then to come back to the heartache and regrets that follow such tragedies.

Let’s face it: only a few go home because they want to. If you give them the chance to work for more or give them another alternative, many will opt for that rather than go back. This is the tragedy that befalls our psyche when we search for greener pastures. I wish for one, that we go home for romantic reasons, idealized reasons… but that would be a lie.


Why Go Home?

Why go home?

That is the more proper question, I think.

Bakit nga ba tayo kelangan uuwi? (Come to think of it, translating the previous question would result in the same translation as this one – go figure.) But unlike the more technical reasons enumerated above, this question is answered in a more philosophical bent that caters to that side of us that wishes not to dwell on harsh statistics.

Well, first off, no matter how much we want to escape from our previous state of life in the country, we owe her. We owe the Philippines, our motherland. Compared to other nations where freedom is trampled underfoot and the lives of people rendered superficial at birth, we are lucky to be born as Filipinos. We had access, albeit limited at times, to education. We had relative (note) freedom of expression which is a luxury when compared to the freedoms that are repressed in other countries. We have a rich tapestry of culture that is uniquely ours which is uplifting and is generally non-oppressive. We have an extended family that continues to anchor us firmly in place no matter where we go or what we do. We have a home to go back to which will always accept us with open arms…

A home, brothers and sisters, is why we go back…

More than anything superficial, it is the sense of belongingness that beckons to us.

It is home – 


Secondly, we want to believe that what we did for many years working on foreign soil has a substantive result that we can go back to, that we can be proud of. That’s the expat dream. We want to know and see with our own eyes that the labor we tendered breaking our backs for foreign masters for so many years had achieved a desirable result. Whether that realization is in the form of a good house with four concrete walls and tiled floors as opposed to a bamboo walled, dirt floored abode; or whether it’s a brand new tricycle or passenger jeepney when we had none before; or a framed diploma proudly displayed on the living room wall from the fruits of one's kids; or the rice field title finally recovered from a bank escrow or a loansharks hands: these are what we hope to go home to, tangible, measurable reasons that make us believe that leaving in the first place was all worth it.

Never mind lofty ideals such as changing the status quo or returning to miraculously change the Philippines. It is a waste of breathe and effort that borders on haughtiness. Idealism only goes so far and some aspirations no matter how noble need to be dressed down. What we should do instead are the things that we reasonably can in our power: and that... is to better our lot in life and learn to revel in and nurture what we reaped.

Everything starts in the small things like this. A sturdy house inspires people to do more and gives them confidence to live on; tricycles and jeepneys if properly managed can become a source of regular subsistence that will do much for the self and eliminate one more family from the brink of poverty; a diploma arms the next generation who will carry the mantle in beginning of a new era of hope; and properties returned to one's name is one less family out of debt and one more family economically and mentally secured to face the future.

Everything that matters starts small: if we can start with ourselves, bigger dreams come in time….


There is of course, the undercurrent of idealism that runs beneath these statements and it would be injustice if it is not addressed. After all, each one of us dreams of being that person who will change the world, or at least be that harbinger of change to our own corner of the world. It is human nature. We all dream of returning as heroes or becoming heroes. 

So the teachers dream of going back to teaching their own countrymen, or engineers dream of establishing their own companies back in the country that build low cost homes for the masses; nurses, well dream of just getting back home and finding their families intact AND doing pro bono outreaches with the disenfranchised members of society (had to say that or my nursing friends will have my hide, haha). Single, middle aged compatriots who finally accept that their lot in life is to become spinsters and bachelors look to join worthy causes that will harness the passion they could not channel into families. And old, grizzled veterans who have spent most of their lives away from the motherland return to share their wisdom (if anyone listens, that is). 

Lofty ideals and worthy of pursuit. I salute those whose dreams are these. And more kudos for those who actually live up to them and curse you! the hypocrites who fail to live up to their words.

But for me, the best thing that comes out of the sweat and labor and the numerous sacrifices we made... is going home to the warm embrace of a wife who remained loyal through all the years. To find healthy children who’ve made good on their studies and and who are free from the pitfalls of vices and rebellion that is prevalent now among OFW children. To find that simple dream house built when once there was a decrepit shack. To find that shiny new jeepney parked that says ‘Katas ng Saudi’ in its mudguard in front of the simple sari-sari store. That’s the greatest difference one can make.

Now imagine if all of the more than two million OFWs return to that kind of accomplishment... 

Wouldn't that be great?

And I’d be proud to say

Nakauwi na po ako!!!!!!!!!!


                Mabuhay ang Pinoy!

The Exodus of Talent 2: Culture

The second reason is really a Filipino trait which is the root of everything I think. It is the unacknowledged white elephant in the room that casts its large shadow across everything. It’s the reason we can never move forward, the reason why even if we have the talent, we can’t move on. Why there are only a few grassroots Filipino companies that succeed and why we can never have the next Bill Gates or the next Carlos Slim from our ranks. And what is it, you ask? Why, nothing more than politics friends.

Yup, you heard me right. Its P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S with everything capitalized, Filipino style. It is not just in the actual political arena where it exists, even in the most basic of institutions like impromptu gatherings in front of sari-sari stores, it exists.

 In the Filipino workplace, the rule of thumb is this: it’s not what you know but who you know that spells the difference between success and failure. Never mind your industriousness, your integrity or your passion; if you don’t know the man or woman on top, you’re screwed. Idealists may rage against it or deny it, but in the majority of offices and workplaces, this is the unspoken truth. I wish it weren’t so but it is.

Palakasan system. Suck up to those in power. Shower them with accolades and gifts. Flirt with them, seduce them, cross the line with them… if only to have a chance at that next promotion; or to simply be able to hold on to that job.

Ninong system. Kamag-anak system. Kapatid ka ng pinsan ng pinsan ng stepfather ko. Ain’t that sick, brothers and sisters? Never mind that they are the least qualified and the most haughty of employees, as long as they share one shred of questionable familial connection, they’re in. The quality of work erodes and it creates a toxic environment that is merely waiting for that inevitable implosion to occur.

Bosses and hiring people prefer candidates who suck up to them. If you resist or are perceived as a threat to their positions, expect hell. If you can’t help me, why would I help you? Tanga lang ang tutulong sa taong magiging kakompetensiya niya. That’s the Filipino mentality and his Achilles heel. And the greater tragedy of it is that it is cultural. It is ingrained and I brand anyone who doesn’t accept this as a hypocrite or a saint.

Who would you prefer as boss? Another Filipino? Or a foreigner? Who would you rather get promoted: your compatriot? Or the Indian? Would you give way to make one of your countrymen the boss? Or would you fight every inch of the way and resort to smear campaigns just to make sure that he never gets it, thinking that if it was not you, then another Filipino doesn’t deserve it? And if you are the boss, would you promote a countryman to the position next to you? Or would you think of him as a threat and treat him as such?

Yeah, we spout things such as Filipino pride but when it comes to the little things like these, we resort to the ugly side.

Filipinos make the best employees, this is why foreign companies love us. We work hard, we are loyal, we work overtime without pay, and we will never leave a job half finished. But every employer also knows that there is a limit as to how many Filipinos they can employ without them imploding on themselves. Fill up a company full of Filipinos and sooner or later animosity, petty jealousies, crab mentality and other stuff destroy all the good things they give. Make sure that it is an interracial workplace or better yet, make sure they are culturally diverse: like put a Bisaya boss over Tagalog workers or vice versa. That stuff works.

And this culture is prevalent in Philippine companies. It is a stifling, suffocating place and there is a time in your professional life when you just get fed up with it and throw in the towel. If your workplace is stressful and full of venom, why stay. If your best can not be acknowledged and your industriousness is treated as a threat by others, why stay?

I admire the martyrs, that’s another Filipino trait we have; but give them a chance to leave and they would. That’s the cold and painful truth.

We blame the government and the minority aristocracy but they comprise just the tip of the iceberg. If we examine ourselves, we find the ugliness there. We coddle our kin, we sympathize with our kids even when they are wrong. Even the most idealistic of activists would turn tail when those closest to them perpetuate the ills they fight against or worse, be in denial. That’s the tragedy of the Filipino psyche: we are soft when the issues hit close to home. We don’t suffer shame as the Japanese do (and acknowledge it) and we don’t have a sense of accountability as the whites do. We even lack the fierce cultural allegiance of the Chinese (they refuse to let go of their Chinese identity – hence the prevalence of Chinatowns and they help each other); or the racial loyalty of blacks and Indians/Sikhs (they actually help each other pass exams – Filipinos won’t do that…); or the religious fervor of Moslems. We take pleasure in pulling each other down and gossiping about celebrities and other such shallow endeavors.

And the so called enlightened ones: our best and our brightest leave. And until such a time the Filipinos wake up from their stupor and take stock of themselves, the deluge of talent leaving the country can never be stemmed until nothing more remains to be given.

These are the two main reasons people leave. Whether you accept it or not, these are the reasons….

I wish I could say that there is a cure to stop the people from ever leaving. Maybe a change in government (no, it won’t – unless a heavy handed government who has a clear goal in mind has the courage to go against the status quo and the Filipino race would give them the benefit of the doubt to implement the changes that are badly desired and not immediately take to the streets to oppose it).

 I put my marbles instead in the individual Filipino: if all of us can learn to know the meaning of support and trust. When the man in the street learns to trust his brother and not think only about himself and think of the achievement of a compatriot as his own and not an affront to his self-worth, then we have a chance. If merit rather than connections anchors careers and jobs, then there is a chance. If people are willing to work together rather than gossiping about each other or talking flak about each other; when men stop chasing skirts and women stop comparing husbands to other males, then there is a chance. 

If that happens, probably someday instead of leaving, people will start returning. Instead of other countries benefitting from Filipino talent, it would be the motherland who does that. 

‘Suntok sa buwan’ as the saying goes. 

Prove me wrong.

The Exodus of Talent 1: Economics

Brain Drain. That’s the word. Somebody had coined this when they noticed that the best and brightest of the Philippines are moving out of its shores for the perceived greener pastures on foreign soil. Teachers, nurses, engineers, doctors, lawyers, artisans, tradespeople… you name the profession, chances are, they are leaving (or have plans of leaving) the country in droves. And the sad thing is that they are the cream of the crop, often the best we have to offer.

Why?

Why indeed?

The reasons are obvious, I think, but we need to be reminded sometimes.

First and the most important reason is the fact that economically speaking, the current paygrade system in the Philippines is way off the mark in compensating the work that is tendered. Can you imagine eight to twelve thousand pesos monthly pay for a nurse working back breaking shifts in the hospital. When she comes home, she goes straight to bed. Her family, coz chances are she has one, would wonder if she loves her job more than them. And that measly wage would still be reduced by a third when the tax, the PAGIBIG, the SSS/GSIS, the death aid, union fees and other what not are removed before the check is issued. And chances are she is the primary wage earner; her husband is looking for other women because when she’s home, she’s dead tired ; and her children are starved of a mother’s love.

And an engineer: he can start at around eight thousand until such a high of thirty thousand (and that’s a rare thing – most engineers get stuck on a fixed paygrade). He works away from his family most of the time. The distance takes its toll and when the breaking point is reached, there is a high chance that his salary will be spent on booze and cheap women. The life gets to you when you are cooped up in a plant or working on a contract far from your family. You crumble. Rare is the man who wouldn’t. Again, count off the deductions and the cost of vices, and you realize that your life is f****d up. The wife back home is either a martyr, suffering alone; or God forbid, looking for other stuff to do.

And don’t get me talking about teachers. At least, they have the luxury of going home every day after their classes are over. They have their summer breaks and weekends to spend with their families. But, with their salary, that time is spent chastising themselves. You can’t take the kids to the good restaurants or to summer vacations except to cheap resorts reeking of human sweat. McDonalds becomes a luxury, and when was McDonalds ever a luxury, d****t! So you turn your frustrations to your students and become the most hated (or loved) teacher in school.

If that paygrade is tripled or even quadrupled, can you imagine the effect? At least, there will be second thoughts when the lure of greener pastures come.

No matter what we believe, the primary reason is economics. 

On a sobering note, however, any increase of the wage brackets in the country would result to the disruption of the ‘current’ economic model. Companies who flock to the country because of cheap labor would bail out for Vietnam or China. The fallout would be massive in the production sector BUT, but this can be solved if the government would encourage FILIPINO innovation in manufacturing so that instead of working for foreign companies, the Philippines would create its own industrial and manufacturing sector. 

Also, the higher pay would translate to greater spending power; and purchasing power, friends who might not have listened during lectures of Economics 101, is the lifeblood of any economy. If people have something to spend and are willing to spend it (which Filipinos do – they spend like crazy, even if it's not their money); it fuels entrepreneurship, creates a job boom and creates a robust and vibrant economy. Can you imagine, if every working person in the Philippines can afford a Boracay vacation every year or an Ipod (for lack of a better example) on a monthly (or at most a two month) salary? Who would need remittances? I mean, who would?

Sadly, this is impossible. I just got off the communications line with a friend back home and their salary increase is a mere 5% (which is in reality just 2%). How much is a jeepney fare now? Nine pesos na ba? Magkano ang isang kilong asukal? Don’t ask. Ang mantika? Isang kilong bigas? Asin? Don’t get me started. It’s messed up back home. And what about the daily wage earners. It’s no wonder that they waylay you in the streets for your wallet and that NAIA people actually beg for money from balikbayans (or threaten/extort as the case maybe). 

The tragedy is that we can go on for another twenty or thirty or even a hundred years and the status quo remains the same. That’s how messed up our system is. The activists can rage all they want and shed their blood or other innocent’s blood, but there is nothing that they can do, not until some firebrand of a leader who wouldn’t take no for an answer takes the cudgel for everyone (but sadly, this is impossible coz no Filipino would in his right mind do it, and the Filipino people would rebel against even the barest hint of any changes in the status quo – a sad and painful truth).

So don’t blame nurses, us engineers and teachers for leaving. When you mature enough to see how society works, do not begrudge us of our choice. It is as painful, you know, that step into that plane as it is exciting. We know that we are leaving something behind and we are maybe cowards for doing so but don’t blame us, or yourselves. It takes courage to step beyond the norms and that is what we are doing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Net Security 1: Antivirus Softwares


We are part of the digital age. There is no escaping this truth. A farmer working in the middle of his fields is only a text or a call away. A person anywhere in the world is also a  mere FB chat or message away, or a Skype call away. The divide between individuals grows smaller with time and there is no end in sight to the various technological breakthroughs that fuel human advancement in this particular area. 

Cellphones are necessities now, an integral part of life and personal computers while on the decline have precipitated the deluge of digital devices that connect us through virtual networks. We now live most of our lives inside the digital realm and I don't think it will change anytime soon.

Yet with this undertaking, like with every endeavor, there is danger present and sadly it is the area where most of us are painfully ignorant. We have taken the web and the virtual domain without any thought about security at all. Most of us have no concept of digital identity or privacy and although majority will go on with their lives without ever suffering the consequences, we need to know certain things in order to prevent any of the direst consequences.

For this reason, I am writing these series of digital advice for you, my readers. (and feel free to repost this blog post anywhere)

The first thing we tackle is about general antivirus protection.

I come from a country where digital rights are skirted with reckless abandon. I must admit that most of the software I once used were pirated. While the hardware elements were all authentic, the software components were not. I do apologize for it but considering the high cost of original software and the economic reality of my place of origin, I had no choice. I am not proud of it but it is a way of life on that side of the world. It had taught me lots of things, which I’ll take with me for life.

First off, if you can afford it, buy original software. Most pirated stuff carry Trojans and worms which hijack your personal information and settings from inside and the fact that you use altered software leaves you open to cyberattacks. But as I’ve said, the costs are prohibitive. If you absolutely must, find your reviews on the net and refrain from ever choosing those who offer beyond the initial package (for example, Windows 7 black edition: there is no black edition, it should be a red flag already if you get my gist). 

But if there is one thing I absolutely recommend buying original, its Antivirus software. Never buy pirated antivirus software!!!!!!!!! Buy original. It is expensive, I know but if you want to protect your files, you must do it. Either look for a friend to share the cost (and buy a copy which is usable by three devices – it exists) or splurge on one (it’s worth it). I recommend Kaspersky Pure, McAfee or the latest Nortons (not the old ones, they drain your PCs power). There are free antivirus softwares like Avast, AVG but you must understand that you must often have to download the latest versions and there are limitations there which are not offered by the free versions.



Note that this is true for today's date (May 24, 2011) so it changes as they update, ok? Don’t ever think that once you download, na ok na. Hindi po, kailangan maging listo ka sa mga panibagong versions. It is not a one and done deal, you have to keep yourself abreast with the newest developments. 

Next, get yourself an anti-malware or anti-spyware software. This is usually integrated with your security software if you buy the extended packages but I still prefer the software called Malwarebytes Anti malware which you can download here for free: http://download.cnet.com/Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware/3000-8022_4-10804572.html?tag=pop
 
Also download a productivity software called CCleaner which you can download from this link: http://download.cnet.com/ccleaner/?tag=rb_content;main

The key thing about antivirus softwares is that you must use them in order for them to work. They work in the background, yes but to really get the most out of them, you must use them. GAMITIN NIYO PO! It should be the first program you run when you open your PC and the last one when you log off.

When you open your laptop or pc or your tablet device, or before you log off after using it, run the QUICK SCAN function of not just one but all of them (yup, ALL of them, not just one or two but all of them) that way, if one missed something, the others can catch them before damage is done. And schedule a full scan once every month or every  two weeks if you are a heavy user. And UPDATE!!! That’s the mantra you have to keep. Update! Update! Update!

 I use Kaspersky Pure because it is streamlined (and cheaper, haha for the cost conscious) and it is the only one that was able to get a very pesky virus I had a bad memory of when I was still in the Philippines. It has the best bang for the buck at least for me. It lack some of the added utilities found in the other antivirus platforms but it is good against many of the viruses out there.

I also like McAffee because of the utilities not found in Kaspersky. It doesn’t drain your computers power and memory and doesn’t cause a logjam when it runs on the background (and it also has Site Advisor which is a great utility. It is also a good antivirus software but I had issues once with it because it was unable to remove that pesky virus that wreaked havoc on my old pc before. 

As for the heavyweight Norton’s, I was turned off by its massive requirements and drain on computing power. Nothing can defeat its utilities, I must admit; but it slows down your computer or laptop which really nullifies every good thing it has to offer. And lately, McAffee and Kaspersky have caught up to it which relegates it now to the bottom of the three.

Again, however, and I must emphasize this, if you don’t upgrade every now and then your virus definitions or the version you use, no matter how great the antivirus software you have, it will collapse under you.

Next time, I’ll talk about web browser security…

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conversations with Bill 1

Part One: the Meeting

Bill is a middle aged white man I met during one of my usual visits to the Central Library. He is a bit on the heavy side and sports a healthy crop of blonde moustache and beard. He has the blue eyes common to his race and has an intense gaze that can wilt anyone, except that when you get to know him, you realize that it is a fa├žade that hides a mild exterior that borders on the insecure. He is a construction worker – foreman, one of the white blue collar workers who ply their trade beneath the usual plateau of careers we immigrants usually associate them with. And like some of the members of the blue collar social class, he is well educated and is a lover of books which runs in contradiction with what he does (at least as far as immigrants perceptions go, which I will address one of these days).

Our meeting was rather unexpected. There is an undercurrent of racism in day to day interactions here. A Rogers clerk’s haughty disposition when you pay your bills, the condescending tone of young execs and of course, the total upfront side comments from blue collar guys and drunks when you ride the train (particularly when there are Sikhs around). The trend is usually apparent in the lower strata of society, adolescents and young adults. Most adults and professionals are accommodating which reflects the basic truth that education and age are the best teachers for opening up the mind. It is much like in Philippine society: for example, you find the vilest humans in the lower classes who spew profanities and biases like it is a creed (and they believe it). Similarly, in western society, you find most of the bigots and racists in the fringes of society.

So I was rather apprehensive when this large white male sat across my table with the telltale signs of him being (at least on the physical aspect) part of that minority. I debated whether to leave or not but my thoughts were a bit calmed down when I stole a glance at the titles of his choice of books which he placed on the table.  More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics’ by Steven Landsburg was the most prominent. Now I don’t know about you but someone who reads economics books cannot be racist. I found myself intrigued by the contradiction he posed: on one hand he is a peon, a job class usually found down the social rung and on the other hand, he reads economics which implied a broad educated mind. I decided to stay put and likewise buried myself in my book: the Idiots Guide to Photoshop (which pales in comparison to his).

“Where are you from?” The question came out of the blue. I blinked twice and for a moment I wondered if it was directed at me. He had a brusque voice, a little bit guttural but otherwise non – menacing. I looked at him and dropped my gaze at his own.

I smiled noncommittally. I was a bit uncomfortable at the suddenness of his question and the motive behind it.

“From Asia” I said, keeping my answer vague to decipher his intent.

He smiled, a sheepish grin. And this time, I gave a chuckle. There is a moment you know when you realize that the person in front of you is sincere and fully deserving of your trust. You just know. It’s human nature, a basic instinct that everyone possesses.

“Bill.” He extended his hand. 

“John” I grabbed his in a firm handshake. (Of course, Bill is not his real name. There are certain things that are inviolable if you are a writer, privacy being the foremost).

“You been here long?” 

“Two months, actually”

He looked at me incredulously. 

“Just arrived last February…” I struggled for the exact date. “…middle of February, you?”

“B.C. But I’ve been up here for a couple of years now…”

One thing you must understand is that in terms of employment opportunities, Alberta is the hottest province right now so many people from other provinces have flocked to Calgary following the oil and gas boom. 

“Computers?” He gestured at my book.

“No.” I wished I had changed majors to computers instead of engineering back on the day but it is past me now. “A hobby.” 

Which is true. I’ve recently decided to be serious with photography and one of the skills you have to learn when you fancy yourself a photographer is the ability to use photo editing software and the most important is Adobe Photoshop.

He nodded. 

“I’m from the Philippines.” I volunteered remembering his initial question. It would be rude not to have answered it.

He beamed. As to why, I have no idea. The discomfort returned.

“Great country, my girlfriend is from there.” His words were tinged with a sense of jubilation. Which is rather expected, I guess. He’s got a Filipina girlfriend and the implications of that admission means a lot of things.

“Good for you…” I smiled back.

A brief spell of silence settled between us. I sensed that there was something he wanted to talk about and if my instincts were right, which they often are, it probably has something to do with his last statement and the fact that his first question to me was about my origins. 

I waited for it. Although, I understood his apprehension. He had just met me and the question is probably personal. I wouldn’t fault him if he did not push through with whatever he wanted to ask about.

After a long drawn out moment, he leaned over.

“Can I ask you something?” he looked uncomfortable.

I kept myself from laughing and nodded.

“I just met her, you know” he looked embarrassed and I know the reason. I read between the unspoken words. 

The government of Canada had recently changed the guidelines for contract workers working in the country. They have four years max to work then after their contract ends, they are required to go back to the Philippines for six years before they can reapply again (or is it six-four combination). This has resulted in some problems with those who are trying to get permanent immigrant status. Rather than waiting for sponsorship from their employers (which is getting harder and harder every day), they improvise. I am not blaming them. Life is harsh and you have to make your own way on this world, on your own most of the time.

And the best way to attain citizenship is to marry another citizen. And the most prized mate for a Filipina is a white male. Aside from the sure citizenship due to marriage, the chance of mothering a meztisa provides a more secure future for the offspring from their union. And most Filipino or former Filipino who are now Canadians are married males in their forties or fifties with the singles mostly in their teens or early twenties who have assimilated Canadian culture and now look down on home grown pinays. Chinese and Koreans prefer their own kind and marrying a Sikh or an Indian is not that palatable so there is no other choice than to find a lonely white male who is open to an interracial relationship. And most pinays look down on Filipino males, for good reason.

“You just met her?” I didn’t mean to pry but you had to ask it.

He nodded, a bit embarrassed. He has a head on his shoulders alright, and not just another white guy reveling in a new found lover/girlfriend.

“A week ago…” his voice was almost a whisper.

Another awkward silence fell between us. I don’t know what to say and he also seemed unable to voice out his concern. But as I’ve said, you can read between the lines.

“You have a family?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“Girlfriend?” 

I smiled. Never had one. I shook my head.

“She’s twenty five.” 

“Ah” Now I see a bit of the dilemma. Judging from his outward appearance, Bill should be in his early forties at the most or his late thirties at the least. I suspect the former. And his new girlfriend is young by western standards, at least with respect to his own. 

Despite the preconception that western society doesn’t really look at age as a factor in relationships, it is a universal truth when you look at relationships objectively. As the older man, you always question when a young thing expresses interest in you. If you are sensible, you question it. Some are legit, you know but the greater majority are rooted on other reasons. 


To be continued….

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