Thursday, December 30, 2004

In silence, listen to God speak

In silence, listen to God speak

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, December 30, 2004 12:24 AM

It is 4:15 a.m. at our resthouse at Taal Lake. Can’t sleep, so I decided to get up and write rather than toss and turn in my bed. Besides, I like getting up early when here.

There is deep silence that is only broken by happy roosters that keep crowing and the occasional motorized banca that passes by. The fishermen are returning home from a night on the lake. I keep wondering if they had a good catch. After all, the well being of their families depends on it.

It is so quiet. Even the lake is perfectly still. I can only hear the slightest ripple of water on the shore a few meters away, no doubt the last gasp of the wake of a passing banca.

The quiet reminds me of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was murdered by the Nazis because of his faith: “We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to God.”

The quiet of the very early morning causes me to turn my thoughts to God. It is as if all of nature stands still in awe and gives testimony to the presence of the Almighty and thereby urging me to do the same. The trees, the waters, the mountain behind the house, the vast star-studded skies above, the Tagaytay ridge across the lake: everything is perfectly still as if to render tribute to the Creator. It all reminds me of my obligation to do the same. Carlo Levi no doubt felt this when he wrote: “I listened to the silence of the night and I felt as if I had all of a sudden penetrated the very heart of the universe. An immense happiness, such as I had never known, swept over me with a flow of fulfillment.”

There is something about the dark, silent night that makes me yearn for the morning light. The night is so mysterious; the dawn such a welcome relief. Still, the night always lets me think of the Almighty, His mysteriousness and His incomprehensible greatness. The silent night is, for me, like the mind of God. Impossible to penetrate. I feel so small in His presence. The dawn is like a gentle reassurance from Him that all’s well; that He is watching over me, and has me securely in the palm of His hand.

The words of Thomas Merton echo in my mind: “Then we discover what the spiritual life really is… It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the center to which all things tend, and to whom all our actions must be directed. That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and in death we depend entirely on Him.”

A happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to all of you. God bless you and your families!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mixed blessings via the Net

Mixed blessings via the Net

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, December 29, 2004 2:33 AM

We live in a society that is increasingly loosening up its moral standards. Rapid communications through media and the Internet are opening up worlds and new ideas that in the past were completely unavailable to our parents and grandparents. With the click of a mouse, we can access all kinds of sites and information on the Internet that our forefathers could never imagine. The rapid development of instant communications has shrunk the world and made it increasingly a global village.

With nonexistent boundaries, ideas and new concepts come flashing into our homes in an instant. It is virtually impossible to shield our children nowadays from the flow of information, ideas and pictures from around the world. This has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for us parents to shield our children from harmful influences and crackpot ideas.

This and many other factors have contributed to the rapid changes in the way we live and raise our children. Parents have to wage a battle against the rapid influx of ideas and influences that our forefathers never had to deal with.

The many advances in science and technology are blessings to mankind, but in many cases surely mixed blessings. Anyone who doubts this should go to the Internet and start surfing. I am a complete computer idiot who doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer, much less surf the web. So I ask my secretary to do it for me when looking for some references.

The other day I asked her to look for a certain topic that interested me because of my counseling. She printed out a hundred sites and sent them to me here in Nazareth House in Batangas. I checked a bunch of titles while leaving out others because they were obviously pornographic. Later, my secretary sent me a few downloaded scholarly papers on the subject. When I asked her why she didn’t include the others, she said, “But sir, they are very pornographic.” I was surprised, not because there is porn on the web, but because the titles I checked did not seem at all pornographic, but they obviously were very much so.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many of our very young people have access to the same. Surely such materials (I won’t tell you what the topic was for obvious reasons) would be very harmful to them. I remember the owner of a company that provides Internet access telling me on one of our TV shows some time ago that 80 percent of the sites that his clients accessed were pornographic. That is truly alarming since I’m told that you can find anything and everything in terms of pornographic materials on the web.

This reality will undoubtedly have a strong negative impact on our young people. In fact, in my counseling I continuously am finding the very young regularly using the Internet to access pornographic materials. To the point where they have become habituated and even addicted to it.

If your kids have access to the Internet, I think it would be wise for you to check out what they are into.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Don’t underestimate our youngsters

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, December 26, 2004 10:11 PM

So often we underestimate our youngsters. We see them as immature, light-headed kids who are interested only in music, movies and hanging out with their friends.

We seem to have made up our minds about them. Perhaps it is because we don’t spend enough time with them. We don’t have the patience to sit with them and probe their hearts and minds. If we did so, we might get a lot of pleasant surprises. There might be a lot more depth than we ever imagined. We might even find some real gems that are capable of inspiring us to look even more deeply into their being.

I thought about this when I read the short but touching journal of a young girl who just entered our Nazareth Formation House. After her first day here, she was asked to write down her thoughts and feelings. I must share with you what she wrote because it illustrates dramatically just how complex is the mind of teenagers. Complex but deeper than we adults think is possible.

“I am so happy here. It’s about time. I’m not suffocating anymore. I’m slowly breathing right. I need this time away from it all. I needed this so badly.

“I want to bring out my pure self. My reality. No masks, no trying to be something I’m not, just my whole self to give. It will be very hard to find people like me.

“Who will I be going with when I go back? Will things be different? How I long and wish that things change for the better. I want a real life. I want to be happy. I want that weight on my shoulders to disappear. I want that squeezed heart feeling go away.

“God gave me so many talents, I want to share them all! Don’t deprive me of that please!—but that’s what just happened. I was deprived from expressing myself. I am my own personality. Only I can be me. Today I felt so much more free and so much more happy than back home. Thank you for giving me what I need.”

A short journal, but so much substance.

I wonder how many adults could express their feelings the way this young lady did. She’s truly a complicated person who isn’t as easy to understand as one might think.

When the family brought her to Nazareth, they were sure she would be angry and upset with them. Well, they were wrong. There is longing inside her for being in harmony with her life. A desire to understand and come to terms with herself.

Our youngsters are a whole lot more intelligent and insightful than we give them credit for. This young girl is a striking example of this.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

God’s gift of life

God’s gift of life

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 11:30 PM

For almost 40 years now, I have been writing columns about Christmas. I must admit that it gets more and more difficult to find new dimensions to a holiday that is so important and that comes around every year.

Not this time. The theme popped into my mind very quickly. It all about life. The birth of the Christ Child reminds me of God’s great gift to us: Life. Every day I thank God for the gift of life. Every day at our Nazareth House, the residents pray: “Thank You, Lord, for another day.”

The gift of life is one that we often take for granted. We wake up in the morning and without giving a thought to God, much less thank Him for giving us another day, we rush off and do our thing.

This morning, I woke up early and went out onto the veranda of our home in Batangas to write. The air was cool. The people here say it’s cold. I say it’s cool because I come from the state of New Hampshire where winter is very cold. Winter here in the Philippines is cool, but not cold if you are a New Englander. Still, my favorite time of the year is now when we get wonderful relief from the maddening heat and humidity. If only it could be like this year round!

The flowers are in full bloom. Roses and different kinds of blossoms (I like to collect flowering pants) are all over my veranda where I keep my favorites. Off to the left of the swimming pool, tall stands of bamboo creak as they sway in the stiff breeze. If you’re superstitious you might think that there are ghosts roaming about the property. But I’m not, so, for me, the creaking bamboo is music to my ears.

It feels so good to be alive. I feel the love of family and friends. Life is good. God is here and can be seen in the beauty of nature and the love of those around me.

For me, Christmas is a celebration of life. The coming of the Lord, His birth, new life, are signs of our salvation. The birthday of Jesus should inspire us to appreciate the day the sun rose and we discovered the Christ among us.

We should also be reminded to thank the Almighty for showing us the light of day, for allowing us into this world and for the promise of a new life after this one.

We all have our problems that often cause us to look at life with dark glasses. The stresses and tensions that are inevitable as we walk the road of life can distract us from the beauty that life has to offer.

On this day, let us thank the Christ Child for being born among us. And let’s thank Him for the gift of our own life.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A dysfunctional family

A dysfunctional family

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, December 20, 2004 12:01 AM

Part 1 of 2 parts

The only one who is without blame is the child. He is the victim, at least initially. Later on he could become a victimizer. But he isn’t the only victim. His parents and possibly family members who are now the abusers might have been, at one time, victims too.

In so many cases, the abuse goes down from one generation to the next until the cycle of abuse is broken by some kind of intervention.

If you come from a dysfunctional family, it is almost certain that you have suffered some kind of woundedness (physical, emotional or sexual). You know that things were not right at home and perhaps you have spent lots of time trying to make sense of your woundedness.

You are in pain, but it might be that you cannot understand where the hurt is coming from. Still there is an impact on your life, your relationships and your quest for happiness.

One therapist said that “the only way out of this is truth.” No healing is possible until you have the courage to face the truth, no matter how ugly and painful it might be.

Do you come from a dysfunctional family? Below are some of the characteristics that dysfunctional families have in common.

1. There was secrecy and denial. Secretiveness, denial and deflection of the truth are marks of a toxic family environment. This means that the problems, what was wrong, the incest, the violence, the alcohol, the emotional putdowns, the blatant favoritism were not talked about. The child got used to these painful circumstances and was forced to cooperate with it. He did not dare to speak the truth for fear of reprisal.

Therapists know that if you come from a dysfunctional family, you might not want to talk about what really happened. You might even gloss over the truth and try to paint a rosy picture of what was, in truth, ugly. People who tell you that they had a perfectly happy childhood almost always are covering up awful wounds. They need to do this, otherwise they could not live with themselves.

2. You have a distorted sense of yourself. “Children of dysfunctional families, deprived of their childhood, not seen for who they are, experience extremes of either abandonment or over- protection.

Never mirrored, their needs subordinated to that of the family, and thus denied the ability to develop a distinct identity, they instead forge characters or roles to help them cope.” (Harville Hendrix)

If you are from a dysfunctional family you tend to go to extremes. Either you have few boundaries and lack discipline, or you tend to be too rigid and inflexible. You either go along meekly with the crowd, or you rebel aggressively. You had to adapt to the home situation to survive, but now that you are no longer in those circumstances, you continue to behave in ways you have been conditioned to over the years.

More tomorrow.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Coming to grips with past traumas

Coming to grips with past traumas

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, December 17, 2004 12:41 AM

When I was five years old, my mother got very sick and died of breast cancer. As a result, I was sent to an orphanage for one year with my sister. My two other brothers were sent to different relatives.

I was miserable and scared in that orphanage. I cannot remember one single happy moment. When mom died, I learned years later that I never cried. I was so depressed, however, that dad brought me to the Boston Children’s Hospital where doctors found nothing physically wrong with me, but determined that I was grieving.

It was 40 years later when I finally wept. A psychologist friend of mine was able to pull the memories of those days out of me. I cried like a child for more than an hour without saying a word. I was curled up in the fetal position on the floor of our sala with him and my wife holding me. “Your tears are 40 years late,” said my friend.

I felt a lot better after that, and I finally understood why, ever since I can remember, I would think of death every day. The Angel of Death had taken the woman I loved. As a result, I was subjected to lots of pain. The orphanage, separation from my siblings, feelings of abandonment, rejection, my father’s severe alcoholism, to name just a few. I used to see Dad blacked out on the floor in a drunken stupor. I vowed never to drink alcohol and never did.

To this day I worry about dying before my daughters finish college. I don’t want them to become orphans until they are adults. The traumas that I experienced will never be theirs if I can help it.

These are just a few personal examples of childhood traumas that I have had to deal with. I share them with you in the hope that you, too, will have the courage to search into your past to uncover the traumas in your childhood, study them and make connections about how they have impacted on you.

The key to your liberation from the negative effects of past traumas is understanding them. But before you can understand them, you will need to motivate yourself to look back, search for them and bravely face the truth, regardless of how ugly it might be. It will take guts, but it’s the only way to freedom from the tyranny of past traumas that won’t go away unless they are properly dealt with.

We all are wounded. If you tell me that you’re not, then I can only suspect that you are in denial. I am reminded of a young woman who was so badly wounded that she refused to look at her woundedness. Instead, she would talk about how perfect was her childhood. She was a very troubled woman whose life was spinning out of control, yet she could not seem to understand why it was so. Devastated by the horrors of her childhood traumas, she could not face the truth and launched herself headlong into complete denial of the truth. The consequences were more devastation.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

We are shaped by our past

We are shaped by our past

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, December 14, 2004 11:55 PM

I have often said in this column that we do not just have a past, but we ARE our past. I am the sum total of all my experiences: the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The consolidated impact of all these happenings make me what I am today. They determine how I think and behave. They have marked and moulded my character and values and greatly influenced the directions in my life.

This is why it is so important to know and understand our past. But this is a lot easier said than done. All of us are wounded to a greater or lesser degree because of past experiences. Hurt, rejection, abandonment, failure and abuse of different kinds: all these and other traumatic experiences have contributed to our wounding.

Some of us have been so badly wounded that we have difficulty functioning in society. The traumas of the past have so damaged us that we don’t know how to love effectively and intimately. Or perhaps we are very talented but are so wounded that we cannot seem to actualize our potentials. Fearful and full of self-doubt, we stand back and allow many who are less skilled to move ahead of us.

Maybe we have been so badly abused physically, emotionally and perhaps even sexually that our wounds get in the way of our finding true happiness. We might be so hurt that anger and rage even keep rising to the surface and causing us all sorts of self-inflicted harm.

In fact, the impact of these negative happenings is such that they continue to hold us in their grip. We cannot seem to break loose from them.

Worse, often we do not even understand them. As a result, we cannot know ourselves and the nature of the wounds that keep us trapped in our past. We are so badly damaged that we cannot even see the true extent of the destruction. We are bleeding, but don’t know where the blood is coming from. And so, the bleeding continues unabated till the day we die unless there is some kind of intervention.

The most difficult wounds to treat are those that occurred in childhood. They happened when we were defenseless and vulnerable. We did not have the ability to understand what was happening to us. Perhaps we did not even see our hurt as woundedness. We were young, immature and unable to sort things out. In many ways, we were totally helpless in the face of situations and circumstances we could not control.

Because of the pain that we were never able to deal with properly, we continue to hurt in adulthood, and the emotional and psychological bleeding takes a heavy toll on our lives. If only we could find the causes, the sources of our hurt, we might better deal with it.

This is the first in a series of columns that will explore some of the dimensions of the past traumas. There is no way that we can cover all the ground needed to heal, but it is hoped that my readers will learn enough to be motivated to look more deeply into the past and find the clues that will lead them to discover more about themselves and their woundedness. Then, the healing can begin.

More tomorrow.

Monday, December 13, 2004



By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, December 12, 2004 11:17 PM

It was a lazy afternoon hour at our rest house on the shores of Taal Lake. You know that time right after you awaken from a deep siesta. Still groggy but rested, I went out onto the veranda and sat in my easy chair and opened a good book titled Visions of Love. It is an anthology of reflections compiled by William Sykes.

My eyes fell on a passage by Max Erhmann, author of the inspirational piece called “Desiderata” that might be known to some of you. I have read it so many times already, but it seems like I never tire of it. Besides, every reading gives me some new insights. Something inside me tells me to share it with you because I feel that some of you will benefit from it.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.With all its shams, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Men that women like

Men that women like

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, December 10, 2004 11:57 PM

Part 2 of 3 parts

Every woman looks for a man of strong character. Women don’t like wimps, even if they often end up with one. Sadly, they sometimes mistake the macho guy for a man of character. He is often a mama’s boy in macho clothing. Women seek protection, security and strength in a man. That they find in character, strong character.

They want a man of empathy. Their man should be able to feel for them and have a capacity for deep sharing with them about what they (the women) feel. Too many men tend to live in their own little world and seem not to care or to be able to show empathy for the beloved. Knowing that the man has the capacity and the willingness to understand what they are feeling and then to be able to engage them in a meaningful conversation about these feelings is, for women, a great blessing.

He should, of course, be intelligent. Intelligent men make good companions, and women like to be the partners of men who have a good mind. Intelligence is also a prerequisite of success and what woman does not hope to have a successful husband?

In surveys, women say that they like a man with a sense of humor. Someone who can make them laugh. Someone who is funny to be with. A man who can bring joy to them and their children. They like a man who does not take himself too seriously and who can laugh at himself.

Women value a man who is responsive to their needs and feelings. They want a man who attends to their needs without always having to be told. A man who responds without the wife having to spell it out to him, but does so of his own mind even before the woman asks.

If a man is responsive to her, he has perhaps the one quality every woman on the planet looks for more than anything else: understanding. The understanding man is a joy to his woman. To be able to be herself and be understood by the man she loves covers a multitude of weaknesses. If she has an understanding man, she can handle his other faults more easily.

Understanding her makes her feel loved and accepted by her man. When understanding is lacking, the woman feels alienated. She cannot seem to connect with the man she chose to be her partner. She becomes frustrated and angry. If, however, she has an understanding husband, she is content and can handle most everything that comes her way.

The qualities mentioned are the most important on the wish list of the majority of women surveyed. If they are lucky enough to find a man who has these qualities, then they are content and ready for a long and happy life.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Qualities that women look for in men

Qualities that women look for in men

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, December 10, 2004 12:02 AM

Part 1 of 3 parts

What are the basic qualities that women desire most in men whom they would like to marry? I do not refer to things like financial security, good looks, a career, etc. I mean those intangibles that make life together a beautiful experience day in and day out. Those qualities that bond and cement relationships for a lifetime.

I was made to think about this when I visited an old friend of mine who is gravely ill with cancer. His wife called me one evening and told me that he had requested her to do so. He couldn’t speak, but could hear me well. I spoke to him for a while and tried to inspire him to go on. His responses were sighs and heavy breathing.

When I put down the phone, I decided to rush to the hospital to see him. My wife, Emmy, joined me since she knew him too. During our visit, we were both touched by the obviously deep love that these two people (he is 72, she is in her sixties) had for each other. They have been married almost 30 years and we could sense that this couple had married for life and were very happy. When we were about to leave, I embraced the wife and she tearfully whispered to me, “I don’t know what I will do without him.” It was clear that only the Angel of Death could come between these two.

That experience got me thinking about what qualities women look for in the men they marry. And for those who are fortunate enough to find lifelong happiness despite the many trials and reversals of life, what is it that binds them so firmly to their men.

Here are a few qualities in their men that women have told me make them very happy.

• Sensitivity. Sensitive men are such a joy to be with because they are just a step ahead of a woman’s needs. They have a sense about what the beloved is thinking, what she is feeling, and they move to answer to these needs before being asked. It is as if they have third eye that sees into the heart of the wife and responds almost instinctively. The sensitive man remains alert but relaxed as he foresees the needs and wants of the woman he loves. She feels so good about him because she knows she is in his mind and his love for her seems to spring into action in ways that surprise her.

• He’s romantic. He finds ways to touch her heart with words, gestures and surprises that clearly show that his love for her still burns brightly. He does things that you would expect only from young lovers who have only just begun to discover each other. In fact, his romantic gestures and words are expressions of an ongoing enthusiasm and appreciation of her.

• He’s a good listener. Women like to talk. They always seem to have something to say. This is why they feel so good about a man who listens and listens some more. It isn’t easy at times for a man to sit and pay attention to countless details about things that don’t really interest him. A man has to love a woman to be a good listener with a patience that is inexhaustible.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Why young people learn to cheat

Why young people learn to cheat

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, December 9, 2004 2:00 AM

There is no doubt in my mind that the number of students who cheat is rising. I dare say that cheating is rampant in our schools.

Why is this so? Because our kids are a reflections of us, of our society. Kids know that cheating is wrong, but they still do it for a number of reasons.

First, because they see dishonesty everywhere. Our children watch us carefully. They know that our leaders and people of every kind in our society cheat. Cops on the take, crooked politicians, government people ripping off the public, etc., etc. The list is as long as your arm. They read the papers, too, watch TV and hear us complain about the cheaters in our midst. They feel the pressure of our society to “do as they do.” After all, it does seem as if everyone is doing it.

Next, there is the pressure of grades and performance. Parents put strong pressure on kids to do well in school and some parents are very strong in their insistence that their kids deliver the marks. Grades are surely important, but not so important that they should lead kids to cheat.

There are kids who are lazy or have study habits who cheat. They steal from those who have worked hard to do well. It’s a mini I version of robbing the banks, but the intent is the same: to get what isn’t yours.

Another reason is to overcome failure. Kids who are failing feel the need to take drastic action to stem the tide of failure, so they cheat in order to look good. They might not be learning, but at least they appear to be better than they are.

Then there is peer pressure. There are even students who laugh at those who don’t cheat. Since so many cheat, they take consolation in the number of cheaters and, therefore, soothe their conscience.

We need to take cheating seriously and treat it as stolen property. How would you feel if your child came home with stolen items? If you value honesty and integrity, you would force him to return the goods and then sanction him severely. You know that if you don’t act, stealing will become a habit that will inevitably lead to a big trouble.

Cheating causes a desensitizing of the conscience. Repeated acts of cheating make it easier and easier to do so with an increasing level of comfort, until the kid can cheat and think nothing of it. Then, stealing from your wallet is also easier.

We need to teach our children to go against the crowd and to walk the lonely road of nonconformity if need be. We must put a high value on honesty at all costs.

First, by being shining examples of honesty ourselves. Then we must not tolerate dishonest acts in the family and move with conviction to sanction cheating and dishonesty in the home.

Now that exposure to the media, peer pressure and the corrupt society that we live in all contribute to contaminating our children, we have to take strong action to counter such influences and protect our own. There needs to be zero tolerance for cheating.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Feeling betrayed, she wants to get even

Feeling betrayed, she wants to get even

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, December 8, 2004 12:07 AM

Dear Bob: I’m writing to you again because I’d like to share my story hoping to get some helpful advice from you.

I’m in Europe right now, an overstaying (visitor), and deciding to go back to our country next year because it’s not easy to live with uncertainties and worries. The people (two naturalized Filipino women living with their respective foreign partners) who pretended to help me were actually only helping themselves by letting me work late (babysitting and cleaning) with meager pay.

They used to be my friends. I never expected they could do this to me. I want to get even with them before I go back. I want them to realize what they’ve done.

I’ve learned that one of them falsified the death certificate of her husband in the Philippines (the man is not dead) in order to get a fiancée visa quickly and be able to take her two children with her.

The other, along with her foreign husband, brought people from the Philippines and employed them here without proper documents so they would work for less pay. I know what they are doing is against the law. It’s pure slavery.

Knowing all these anomalies, what should I do? Where do I need to go to report their doings? Could the Philippine government do something about this? Or do I have to report them here? I’d be glad to hear from you.



Friendship is never guaranteed. People can be very strange and unpredictable. They can turn and betray you when you least expect it. This is why the Bible says that you are fortunate if you can find one good friend during your lifetime.

You are deeply hurt. You feel betrayed by those you believed care for you but obviously don’t. Now, you want to get even with them and expose them.

If they are unfair and are breaking the law, that is your right and, in a way, your duty. This even if your intentions are less than pure.

I don’t know where you are living, but no doubt you can ask any government agency in the country where you can go with your information. Perhaps the local police station can direct you. You might also want to talk to the Philippine embassy about matters pertaining to the Philippines.

Before you do this, however, I suggest that you think hard and long. You could start a chain reaction that might have some strong reactions and unforeseen consequences.

Monday, December 06, 2004

She’s so unhappy, but she doesn’t know why

She’s so unhappy, but she doesn’t know why

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, December 6, 2004 12:24 AM

Dear Bob: I like to read your articles in Today. I believe many readers like me learn a lot from them. I wrote because I myself have a problem.

I really don’t know what it is, but I believe I’m not all right. I’m 19 years old, a college student. I have friends, a few. I rarely go out. What I can’t understand is why I always feel sad and uncomfortable regardless of whom I’m with or where I am or what I’m doing.

I don’t know how my friends see me, they never told me. But my boyfriend used to tell me that I have a reserved attitude. Whatever that means. I don’t understand fully. He even told me I should learn how to be happy. My guardian said I’m a retiring person.

I hate go to school at 6 a.m. and go home at 5 p.m. I’m not inspired to study, not even challenged. I think my course (Education) is BORING. I hate being with people I do not know. I hate meeting them because I’m not comfortable. I’m too lazy to do my projects and school reports.

Sometimes I stay in my room without eating breakfast and lunch. Often I’m late for school. I do not like the things I used to do. WHY?

I don’t understand why all this is happening to me. I don’t like being this way. I’m not like this before. Can you please help me answer my

questions? I’m confused.


* * *

It is all about your past, C. A. The answers to your questions lie somewhere in your past.

When we are born, we begin to become what we are today. It is the sum total of all our past experiences that makes us what we are.

If our childhood was unhappy, perhaps even traumatic, then you can expect that the damage that was caused then will have an impact on us now.

You seem to be living with a guardian. If so, where are your parents? Is there a sad story here that could give you hints and clues about the roots of your present behavior and disposition? You are the product of your past, a past that seems to have been less than happy.

Even your boyfriend tells you to learn to be happy. That means that he can sense that your sadness has been there a long time.

To find why you are the way you are, C.A., you must review your past life, experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly ones) and upbringing. All these experiences have made you what you are today.

Your childhood is especially important. Was it happy? I don’t know, but I suspect it wasn’t. I suspect there’s lots of pain in your heart. Lots of hurt that dates from back when you were a little girl.

Review the past, C.A. The challenge of knowing yourself starts with becoming familiar with what happened to you in the past. Your history is most important.

It will help if you can spend time writing the story of your life. I have asked some of my friends to do this. They write about all the memories of their past that they can remember. These memories trigger even more memories. Then, you make connections between what happened then and how it connects with your present behavior and disposition. This might take some time, but, then again you have to make an effort to understand yourself. Only when you can do this will you know where to begin making changes and adjustments in your life.

If you’re bored with your course, it’s only a reflection of your outlook on life. You need to search in the past for answers. Your future happiness depends on it.

If you like, write me again. Tell me more about your past. Let’s see if I can help. May God bless you and let you smile.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

An inspiring act of love

An inspiring act of love

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, December 3, 2004 11:52 PM

Today was indeed a good day. I got a lot of inspiration from my daughter Alexandra, a 20-year-old psychology student at St. Scholastica’s College.

She called me to tell me she had a problem. “I have a classmate and a friend, Pa, and she is short of P8,000 to enroll for the next semester. If she can’t make it, that will set her back a couple of years. We can’t let it happen, Pa.”

She went on to tell me that she was talking to friends about raising the money and lending it to her needy friend who wasn’t asking for help but who did not show up for the first day of class.

“I can put in P1,000 and some of our friends are willing to do what they can,” she said, “but, we don’t think we will have enough. Can you help, Pa?”

“See what you can do first, then get back to me,” I replied, while remembering the management motto I have always applied to raising my kids: “Never do anything for a subordinate that he can do himself if you want him to grow.”

An hour or so later, Alexandra called back. “Pa, we were able to raise P5,000, but are still short.”

“Okay,” I answered, “I’ll lend you the rest and you can lend it to her.”

Alexandra heaved a sigh of relief and expressed her heartfelt gratitude. Later, she texted me another thank you. I responded: “Dats wat friends are for!” She sent me another beautiful text, and I again responded: “It’s my great pleasure to be part of such an inspiring act of love.”

And indeed I felt a deep sense of happiness in my heart. When you raise children, you hope and pray that they will become the best that they can be. Well educated, outgoing, successful and loved are some of the qualities we all hope for. But, more than that, we want them to be kind, sensitive and generous. We pray that the nobility that is within the human heart will rise to the surface.

I told Alexandra that I was truly proud of her for caring enough for her friend to put her money on the line and join with her friends to do the same. It showed a goodness of heart that so many young persons share.

We parents need to stay alert and plug into even the smallest acts of kindness that our kids show. We need to encourage them by word and our behavior to reach out to their fellow humans who do not have as much. We need to urge them to give their time and effort when they don’t have the material wealth to share. Whatever they can do, they should do. It becomes part of the nurturing process that is needed to mold the noble heart. And we parents should be eager to be involved in this dimension of child rearing. It’s called values formation.

From the earliest years, we need to show our children that kindness and generosity is a family value that is cherished. Once that is done, the young ones will take it from there.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Not quite protected yet

Not quite protected yet

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, December 3, 2004 12:34 AM

It is strange that in a country that is so Christian, there is such discrimination against women. You might not agree, but if you look at the double standard, you can find all sorts of things that go against the interests of women.

We might have a set of laws that are on the books and should better protect women against exploitation, but they do not in fact work because their implementation is not effective.

Single mothers, for instance, have little or no chance to get support from the courts where the wheels of justice turn at an agonizingly slow pace. And, unless you have a good amount of money to pay for the process, you have to hope for the good will of the biological father. But experience tells us that you should not count on it.

The same is true of women whose husbands cheat or walk out on them. Since we don’t have divorce laws that compel “dead beat” husbands who flee from their financial obligations, women are left holding the proverbial bag. This is why so many would rather remain in lousy marriages that kill them emotionally, psychologically and even take a toll on them physically, rather than take their chances in the face of poverty.

Our society is a man’s world where women are taught to be submissive to their husbands and to tolerate and forgive even the most outrageous acts of infidelity and male domination. Where women who stand up for their rights are scoffed and laughed at and portrayed as lesbians and stubborn and disturbed feminists.

Sure we have made progress, but it isn’t nearly enough. Much more has to be done and the Church should be in the forefront in the fight (it’s really a fight) to elevate women and put them on an equal par with men.

Trevor Beeson, in his book An Eye for an Ear, says it well: “Yet another barrier awaiting destruction is that which divides the sexes and consigns women to a subordinate role in society. The women’s liberation movement, sometimes driven by frustration to extreme tactics, is always good for a joke or a wisecrack, yet it represents a necessary rebellion against a social structure which has for centuries dehumanized one half of society.

“This is not the place to discuss the implications of discrimination against women, or the future role of women, but if the Church exists to be a reconciling agency in which neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond or free, we cannot avoid asking why the Church has not been in the forefront of the movement for the emancipation of woman? And having asked that question, one is obliged to face the unpleasant truth, far from leading the way, the Church has in fact been a powerful force in restricting the sphere of female activity and may well be the last social institution in which they are permitted to exercise responsibility.”

The Church can and must do better. The love of Christ demands it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Know who your kids hang out with

Know who your kids hang out with

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, December 1, 2004 11:37 PM

The old saying that “Birds of a feather flock together” is true of many types of people. Gamblers flock to casinos. Womanizers frequent clubs, massage parlors and houses of prostitution. Drinkers enjoy like-minded friends and like to hang around beer houses. Businessmen join the Rotary, Jaycees and all kinds of management and professional associations that serve their interests.

We should not then be surprised if drug addicts congregate and do their thing with people who share their addiction and lifestyle. If this is so, why do so many parents not seem to be bothered much when they get to know their children are associating with known drug users? Why are they so calm and seemingly so uncaring about a situation that should cause them to sit up and take notice? Why do they neglect the red flags that are going up around them?

Let’s begin with a very important assumption: Parents love their children and do not want them harmed. Yet, because of a number of factors, parents often ignore situations that put their kids at risk.

There are factors that contribute to looking the other way when the circumstances calls for intense focus.

The first is personal history. We are our past and are influenced by our own experiences. Parents who used drugs but never got addicted to them will be a lot more tolerant and less concerned when they learn that their child is hanging out with drug users. The parents did the same and were able to avoid getting hooked. Consequently, they will not react quickly to such a situation because they feel that “I got over it, so will he.”

Perhaps, but then maybe he won’t. It won’t be an automatic response. I have seen many situations where the parents used drugs (and some who were still using and somehow manage to continue functioning) and whose children were totally out of control.

The success of a parent does not guarantee the success of the child. It is also true that the parent who was able to dabble in the drug culture and make it out without serious damage will assume that his child will do likewise. But perhaps the son or daughter will get trapped and not make it out at all without serious intervention and treatment.

Parents who have experienced the hell of addiction and were successfully treated will, on the other hand, respond quickly and decisively when the threat of addiction or drug usage is discovered. They know the score and are unwilling to risk the sobriety of their kids in the hope that “it is a passing thing that they will soon outgrow.”

Quite the contrary, the slightest danger sign is taken most seriously. Just as we parents react swiftly to the first sign of threat to the physical well being and safety of our children, so too do these parents move into action at the first sign of drug use or even the opportunity for using drugs.

Parents should get very concerned if and when their children start going with drug users. They should know that many studies have proven that youngsters who hang out with drug users are at much greater risk to get into drugs themselves.

Kids are sharp even if they might not yet be mature. If they perceive that their parents are not very concerned about who they will go with, they will take a lot more risks than those youngsters who know that their parents are monitoring them closely and remain ready to react swiftly the moment they see a red flag.

Parents who remain vigilant and who are unwilling to risk the well being of their children will most likely catch the potential trouble early and move quickly to rectify the situation.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Roots of psychiatric disorders

Roots of psychiatric disorders

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, December 1, 2004 12:06 AM

There are parents who do not take the use of marijuana very seriously. They know it isn’t addicting, even if it is habit forming and is surely a gateway to other drugs. When they learn that their teenager has tried it, they will tell me that it isn’t as serious as shabu. They say he only tried it a few times, although they usually have failed to conduct an in depth investigation to verify if, indeed, he has not gotten into it more deeply. They simply take this word for it.

Parents don’t like to accept drug taking in the family. Not only is it socially seen as shameful and against the law, they inevitably see it as a failure in parenting. In short, they are not good parents.

Perhaps, but the truth is that many drug users come from wonderful and caring parents who take their responsibilities very seriously indeed. Despite their best efforts, their child got into the wrong bunch and succumbed to peer pressure.

Other parents have themselves used or experimented with drugs in the past and tell me “I used and got over it.” They assume their teenager will, too. That is, I think, taking chances on the life of a child because the fact is the vast majority of shabu addicts I have treated started out with marijuana.

Now, the prestigious US government agency, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has come out with new research findings that conclude that “early use of drugs (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other illicit drugs) increases the likelihood of developing psychiatric disorders in the late twenties.”

Studies by Dr. Judith Brook and Dr. David Brook of New York’s Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and Dr. Patricia Cohen of Columbia University “provide evidence that substance abuse significantly predicts the later occurrence of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder (MDD), alcohol dependence and substance use disorders (SUDS).”

Says Dr. Brook, “Overall, alcohol and substance abuse during the early years was significantly related to later psychiatric disorders. The cumulative frequency of substance abuse from childhood through early adulthood is strongly associated with episodes of MDD, alcohol dependence and SUDS in the late twenties.”

In addition, the researchers found that “earlier marijuana and tobacco use were each more strongly related to participants’ development of MDD in their late twenties than more recent use of these substances.”

Dr. Brook cites results related to marijuana use as a particularly key finding. “Earlier marijuana use showed substantial effect on later incidence of MDD, alcohol dependence and SUDS…”

And a final strong warning to those who don’t take marijuana use seriously. Dr. Brook says that “use of marijuana during childhood and adolescence should not be treated as benign, but rather may signal the later development of MDD, alcohol dependence and SUDS.”