Wednesday, March 23, 2005



By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper

There has been intense pressure put on the Japanese government by the Philippines to ease up on entertainers going to Japan to work. Since there is an estimated 80,000 already there, they are a strong source of foreign exchange and that is obviously why our government, severely strapped for funds, is pushing hard to exempt them from a tough new Japanese law that is set to come into effect over the next few months severely cutting down on entertainer visas issued. The 80,000 such visas issued annually could be slashed to 8,000 according to a report from Tokyo.

Our government’s insistence on the matter is shameful. It knows only too well, what is common knowledge among the populace, that the vast majority of "entertainers" end up working in the sex industry. Perhaps the Japanese got it right when they estimated that perhaps only 8,000 of the 80,000 entertainers given visas are actually talented enough to qualify as true, gifted artists. And even that number seems to be on the high side.

The only more shameful thing about this matter is the families of these women who go off to Japan to sell themselves in order to earn and send back money to their needy families left behind. I know of parents who are very much aware of what their daughters are doing in Japan but choose to turn a blind eye because of the income they are benefiting from and the improvement in their lifestyle. Even if all this is gotten at the expense of their daughters’ moral, spiritual and even bodily well being.

In a report from Tokyo in the International Herald Tribune, Norimitsu Onishi writes: "In Japan, the foreign women who are victims of trafficking end up working everywhere from Tokyo’s sprawling red-light districts to rural areas unfamiliar to most foreigners. They stand on street corners and sit behind glass windows; they serve as sex performers or hostesses at clubs outside of which they are expected to date customers… Starting in March, the government is expected to severely restrict the number of entertainer visas granted, a category that has allowed the entry of, and sometimes the trafficking in, women with dubious skills as entertainers… Victims are said to number in the thousands, with the three largest sources being Thailand, Colombia, and the Philippines."

Our government should not be part of this scandal. There is no way that the authorities do not know what’s really happening. It is shameful that it insists on peddling our women for financial gain for foreign exchange. It is bad enough that our women feel the need to go abroad to earn because our country is so impoverished.

Perhaps the biggest insult comes from a very interested Japanese source. "But Joji Imai," writes Onishi, "president of the Association of Japanese Promoters Recruiting Foreign Entertainers, said the cases of prostitution were isolated. ‘Many of the customers who like to patronize clubs with foreign entertainers are interested in learning foreign languages or discovering foreign culture,’ Imai said. ‘They enjoy different cultures, such as Filipinos’ cheerfulness.’"

And Koki Kobayashi, a lawmaker, is even more insulting. He said "the visas allowed Filipinos to earn good wages and support their families back home. ‘It is Japanese economic aid,’ he said."

These comments would be funny and a joke if they were not so tragic. The Japanese must take us for fools or so depraved that our government would actually encourage such a situation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005



TODAY Newspaper

It is so tiring and gives one the feeling that we are hopelessly mired in the muck of corruption when we read the daily newspapers. Every day we are given a list of misbehaviors by people in and out of government. And, in truth, if corruption exists in government, it does so with the cooperation of us citizens who feed into the evils of dishonesty of every kind.

Elizabeth Manners in her book The Vulnerable Generation writes, "Past civilizations have been destroyed by barbarians from without, but we are doing the job ourselves. We breed our own barbarians at the public expense, and our writers and newsmen faithfully chronicle their moral rottenness and hold it up for admiration."

I once asked a newspaper publisher why he did not follow up stories about graft and corruption. Why did they fade so quickly from the pages of his paper? "Because," he said, "new stories of corruption crowd out the old ones. There are just too many to follow up."

Yet, why are we as members of this society so tolerant of the blatant dishonesty in our midst? Is it perhaps because we have become so used to it that our sense of moral outrage has been numbed over time by the deluge of corrupt practices that we witness? Like anything else, we can get used to dishonesty too.

"‘The rottenness of others is in us too,’ I continued to preach to him. ‘I see no other solution, I really see no other solution than to turn inwards and to root out all rottenness there. I no longer believe we can change anything in the world until we have first changed ourselves.’" (Etty Hillesum, A Diary)

We have met the enemy and he is us. The corruption in our midst is a reflection of us as a nation. We elect our leaders and we keep them there. They serve at our request. We the people delegate to them through our votes the power to rule us. This is how a democracy should work. If we are not happy or satisfied, then we have the votes to remove them. We obviously have not. Is it because we have neglected to do so, or is it that we cannot find enough honest men and women in our midst to choose from?

The words of Martin Luther King are appropriate in our times. "When evil men plot," he said, "good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice."

Unless we are willing to give the day over to those evil ones who pillage and loot our national patrimony, we need to stand up and do something. And, honestly, I’m not sure what to do. All I know is that something has to be done. Lewis Mumford tells us what will happen if we don’t.

"The good…is that which furthers growth, integration, transcendence, and renewal. Evil, by contrast, is that which brings about disintegration and de-building, arrests growth, creates a permanent unbalance, dissipates energy, degrades life, baffles and frustrates the spirit, and prevents the emergence of the divine."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Prayers for Monique

Prayers for Monique

TODAY Newspaper

My daughter Vanessa and I visited a young classmate of hers who is confined at the Asian Hospital. Monique is in a coma and is fighting for her life. She is only 25 years old and has shown great courage in responding to her illness since she was seven. After we prayed over her, Monique’s parents gave me the following paper, which I need to share with you. It is her story and a plea for prayers:

This is my 4th prayer request for my 25-year-old daughter, Ma. Lourdes Dominique, or Monique, for a miracle.

Monique has had seven (7) brain surgeries due to craniopharyngioma, a type of brain tumor that, although benign, keeps on recurring in the different parts of her brain. The first operation was done in 1987 at age 7, the 2nd in 1995, and the 3rd in 2001. After all these operations she was able to go back to a normal life including school and even served as a member of the Servants of the Sacraments, or usherette, at Sunday Mass. In 2002, she almost graduated from college at San Beda Alabang, taking up only her thesis and some minor subjects, when she showed signs of a tumor growth again.

The last four operations came one after another, on October 4, 2002, January 15, 2003, December 3, 2004, and January 19, 2004. She never went back to normal after these last four operations. The last operation was done just to be able to extend her life for a year more.

Her doctor who took care of her since her first operation said that by August 2004, she would show signs of deterioration and would probably be gone by December. Well, she is still around. It has been exactly one year, one month and six days since her last operation. Thanks to your prayers, but she needs more this time for a miracle.

She has been confined since January 10, 2005, at Asian Hospital, and is now in a coma. You can just imagine the stress we are going through, including the financial burden. But my husband and I, together with our two sons, are hoping that a miracle will happen because she has shown great strength in the midst of all her sufferings.

She lost her left eye vision after the first operation. The last operation resulted in paralysis on her right side and she lost her ability to speak. She has undergone occupational and physical therapy at the hospital from February 24, 2004, to around the 3rd week of December 2004, twice a week. By this time she could move her right leg and could even walk but with guidance until severe osteoporosis set in.

In May 2004, she developed skin allergies due to phenobarbital, which turned into psoriasis by August and she had to be confined for dehydration. The drug was changed. (She has been on steroids since her first operation.) In November 2004, she was again hospitalized due to low blood pressure 60/0 but she recovered. After confinement, her psoriasis miraculously disappeared.

She was supposed to be confined during the Christmas season because she was eating less and less and refused to take her medicines. The food and medicines had to be forced on her. But we asked her doctor at Asian if we could just confine her after the holidays so she could spend Christmas and New Year’s Day with us.

And now she is here at Asian. Her BP was 50/0 when we confined her, but she recovered. We had signed a waiver that when the time comes she will no longer be subjected to CPR. On January 18, she had three seizures. We thought we would lose her but she recovered. She developed kidney problems and pneumonia but these were treated. On January 22, a feeding tube was inserted in her stomach so she could be fed and be given her medicines there and we could go home. The wound in her stomach would take time to heal before the tube could be used.

On January 25, she had seizures again and had difficulty breathing. Her BP went down to 36/29. The doctor told us that her time was up, but miraculously she again recovered. By first week of February all her vital signs were normal and all her tubes were removed—oxygen, monitors, IV’s, decatheter—and was due to be discharged on February 10. However, on February 9, her BP went down again.

Her CT scan in June 2004 done at Cardinal Santos Hospital, where all her operations were done, and the CT scan in November at Asian showed that there are three tumors in her brain which are inoperable. There is no difference between the sizes of the tumors seen in June and November—which means the tumors have not increased in size and so we begin to hope that the tumors will disappear. There is only HOPE left for us now that one day our prayers will be answered. There must be a reason why she is still here with us.

Please continue to pray for a complete healing of Monique. God will not be able to refuse if there are many people praying for her.

Thank you,

- Beth B. Tuason

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

When negative feelings get in the way

When negative feelings get in the way

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, March 16, 2005 12:57 AM

Part 2 of 4 parts

If you look carefully at how marriages and relationships come apart, you will notice how feelings lie beneath it all. It is often difficult and sometimes impossible to fix marital problems because feelings keep getting in the way.

Here is an angry woman who cannot seem to control her temper. She is impatient, aggressive with a sharp tongue. She is quick to lash out at her spouse, her kids and anyone who gets in her way. In quieter moments, she hates herself for getting out of control and wishes that she would change, but she claims she cannot. She doesn’t know why she is like this, only that this is the way she has always been.

The problem is that her husband is getting fed up with her violent outbursts and is thinking of leaving her. He can no longer take the punishment and wants out of the marriage. She doesn’t want to talk about it and expects him to “accept me as I am because I accept him as he is.” She does not accept him, of course. This is why they are continuously at war. You can explain all the theories and the concepts that you like, but until and unless she gets a grip on her feelings, nothing will happen to stop the relationship from deteriorating further. The husband has his feelings, too, and they could just as easily get in the way of the healing process.

Our days are full of all kinds of feelings. Our ups and downs are caused not so much by what happens to us, but rather how we feel about what happens. Two people undergo the same experiences and both of them feel very different about them.

In any relationship, it is of paramount importance that we not only identify and know our feelings well, but we also need to understand where they are coming from. This is so that we can respond in an appropriate manner.

I don’t drink because my dad was an alcoholic and died because of it. I feared becoming like him so I never drank and don’t intend to. But I don’t resent those who do drink. I even work with alcoholics and live with them at our Nazareth House. My wife Emmy’s dad was also an alcoholic and she vowed she would never marry a man who drank. She had very strong feelings about the matter.

Sometimes, if we are unaware of our feelings, we can get drawn into undesirable relationships or, on the other hand, walk away from desirable ones. All because of unrecognized feelings.

After knowing and understanding our feelings, it is most important that we be willing to talk about them openly with those who matter to us. So many marital problems arise because of raw feelings that are kept inside and go unrecognized and misunderstood. Couples that are poor in communicating their feelings in a proper way find themselves throwing their feelings around like fighters throwing punches in a slugfest.

Feelings of love are great, but along with them will come a host of other feelings that will creep into a relationship. Unless we know how to deal with them, they can become a destructive force that can neutralize all those loving feelings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Know how you really feel

Know how you really feel

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, March 15, 2005 1:42 AM

Part 1 of 4 parts

I have written countless articles over the years about love, but it never seems like it is possible to exhaust this topic. Perhaps it is because love is so complex and it is so very subjective. It is experienced differently by different people.

I would like to focus through on a few fundamental requirements that are needed if one is to love successfully and over the long term.

The first is about feelings. You need to be aware of your feelings and be able to identify them. This might sound like a nonstarter. Don’t I know what I’m feeling? You may be surprised to know that people often have great difficulty with getting in touch with their feelings. They often don’t know what it is that they are feeling. Is it anger, frustration, or anxiety? Is it love or need? Why is it that I don’t like someone? He has not done anything bad to me, yet I don’t like him.

In my work counseling people and helping them to rebuild their lives, I spend quite a bit of time dealing with feelings. Aside from identifying them, you need to know where they are coming from.

I remember a woman who hated her father with a fierceness that was extraordinary. When I asked her why, she couldn’t tell me why. “I don’t know” was all she would answer me. Still, she couldn’t stand him, but could not truly tell me why. It was clear that she was sincere in wanting to know why, but, according to her, just didn’t know.

Strangely, she was in love with a man who was very much like her dad and intended to marry him. When she told me this, I told her that I expected that she would often flare up at him for some little thing or for no reason at all. I was right. She told me that she dominated the guy and was the one who wore the pants in the relationship.

“Then why do you want to marry him?” I asked. “Because I love him” was her answer. She was obviously not aware of the nature of her feelings for the man. Nor did she know where they were coming from. Here was a relationship headed for unhappiness and disaster unless she could decipher her complex and confusing feelings about her dad and the link between her relationship with him and the man she hoped to marry.

Another attractive woman I counseled had a string of six boyfriends. She never slept with any of them and when each one asked for her hand in marriage, she dumped them. When I asked her why, she didn’t know. Further probing revealed that she had been sexually abused and, in fact, deeply mistrusted men. Through it all, however, she did not think she had a problem. Her feelings were all mixed up and she could not understand why she had turned down so many proposals. The truth is that she had a lot of unresolved issues coming from the past. They created a lot of feelings that were getting in the way of her finding the love that she sought.

A strong awareness of your feelings and knowing where they are coming from is the first requirement for loving effectively. Failure in this matter will almost surely mean big trouble ahead.

More on this tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2005



By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, March 12, 2005 1:04 AM


What does it take to become a self-actualizing person? One who can function at a higher level than the average person?

Abraham Maslow, one of my favorite thinkers, was a psychologist who specialized in studying successful, healthy people. He wanted to know what made them tick and spent much of his life looking into what it was in them that made them rise above the crowd.

Maslow came up with two main criteria to describe these extraordinary people: (1) they had to be free from neurosis or major problems, and (2) they must have made the best possible use of their talents and strengths. He studied personalities like Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein, and called them self-actualizing persons. Eastwood Atwater summarized Maslow’s findings this way:

“When compared to the average person, self-actualizing people tend to exhibit the following traits or characteristics: more adequate perception of reality; greater acceptance of themselves and others; greater spontaneity and naturalness; more focused on problems outside themselves; need for privacy and solitude; high degree of autonomy or independence; greater freshness of appreciation of the basic things in everyday life; more frequent peak or mystic experiences (though not necessarily in a religious way); increased kinships with a few friends or loved ones; democratic personality; highly developed sense of right and wrong; healthy, unhostile sense of the human; highly creative (though not necessarily in the arts); and a resistance to conformity.”

Quite a list, yet this is what makes self-actualizing persons so extraordinary.

I am sure that you saw reflections of yourself when you went through Maslow’s description of self-actualizing persons. This is because all of us have potential for becoming better than what we are at the moment.

We can never exhaust our potential to become all that we can be. This is why some of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers reached their peak later in life.

Self-actualized persons are not immune to pain, frustration, disappointment and failure. They are very ordinary in this respect. Their uniqueness lies in their ability to go beyond these things and grow in spite of it all.

Maslow had some suggestions on how to become a self-actualized person. In his last book before he died, he wrote:

“Experience life fully, be alive and absorbed with what you are doing at the moment. Learn to trust your own judgment and feelings in making life choices. Be honest with yourself and take responsibility for what you do. Whenever possible choose growth rather than safety or security. Recognize your defenses and illusions and then work to give them up. Even though peak experiences are transient, keep the inspiration of these moments of self-actualization alive in your everyday thoughts and actions.

“Remember that self-actualization is a continual process: it is never fully achieved. Commit yourself to concerns and causes outside yourself, since self-actualization comes more as a by-product of developing your full capacities than the egocentric pursuit of growth itself.”

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The one flaw in women

The one flaw in women

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, March 10, 2005 2:31 AM

By the time the Lord made woman, He had been working six days straight. He was very tired. An angel appeared before Him and said, “Lord, why are you spending so much time on this one?”

The Lord answered, “Have you seen the spec sheet on her? She has to be water-proof, but not plastic or hard. She must have over 200 movable parts, all replaceable and be able to run on diet Coke and leftovers. She must have a lap that can hold at least four children at a time, a kiss that can cure anything from a scraped knee to a broken heart, and she must be able to talk on the telephone, cook, scold a child and pet the dog all at the same time with only two hands.”

The angel was astounded. “No way! Only two hands!”

“Yes,” the Lord said. “And that’s just the standard model.”

“Lord, that is too much work for you. Wait until tomorrow. You can finish up then.”

“No!” The Lord protested. “I am too close to finishing this creation that is so close to my heart. She can already heal herself and work 18 hours a day. I’m just about done.”

The angel moved in for a closer look and touched the woman. “Lord, you’ve made her so soft.”

“Yes, she is soft,” the Lord agreed. “But she is also tough! You have no idea what she can do, endure, or accomplish.”

“Will she be able to think, too?” the angel asked.

The Lord replied, “Not only will she be able to think; she will be able to pray, reason, meditate and negotiate.”

The angel noticed something and reached out to touch the woman’s cheek. “Oops! You’ve put so much in her, she is starting to leak, Lord. I told you, you were putting too much in this one.”

“That’s not a leak, that’s a tear.”

“What’s that for?” the angel inquired.

The Lord whispered, “Her tears are the way she will express her joy, her sorrow, her pain, her disappointment, her love, her loneliness, her grief and her pride. It is a symbol of her heart.”

The angel was impressed. “You are a genius, Lord. You’ve thought of everything. This woman you are making is truly amazing, is she not?”

With all the pride of a brand-new father, the Lord said, “Oh yes she is! Women have strengths that will amaze men.

“They bear hardships and carry burdens, but they will, at the same time, hold happiness, love and joy. They will smile when they want to scream. Sing when they want to cry. They cry when they are happy and laugh when they are nervous. They fight for those they love and all that they believe in. They stand up for injustice and remain seated in humility. They will not take no for an answer when they know there is a better way. They will go without so that their family, particularly the children can have what they need. They will go to the doctor with a frightened friend. They will go to court with a wayward husband. They love unconditionally often, asking for and taking little in return.

They cry when their children excel and cheer when their friends are rewarded. They are happy to hear about a birth, knowing the difficulties that may lie ahead. They cheer because they will help a friend through it all.

“They love weddings and might even help make the dress. They can cook and some can even bake. Their hearts break when someone dies yet, they are strong when others may think there is no strength left. They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart and, they will offer them to anyone who needs one. They come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They can walk, run, fly, drive or e-mail to remind you that they love you. It is the heart of a woman that will keep the world turning and things in order. They have the babies because men could never figure out how to put so much in such a small space. Women bring hope and joy. They bring compassion and ideals. They are the moral support that keeps the family of humanity together. Women have important things to say and even more important things to do. They ask very little and offer all they have—that’s their one flaw.”

“What flaw?” asked the angel.

Sadly, the Lord responded, “They seem to always forget their worth.”