Sunday, December 30, 2007

...the taxman...

“…let me tell you how it will be, there’s one for you nineteen for me…. ‘Coz I’m the taxman…yeah, I’m the taxman…” - The Beatles, Taxman


In one of my sober moments, I had the displeasure of having a calculator on one hand, and my pay slip on the other. Apparently, I figured that this isn’t such a good combination. As I perused the contents of the said pay slip, I came across the tax deducted from me as income tax, and my geeky self immediately decided to compute for the percentage. It turned out to be 28% of my salary for that pay period.

That’s almost a third of what I earned!

I sheepishly, yet with hatred building up ever so constantly, consulted a friend of mine who is knowledgeable in the law about it. I wasn’t really going to discuss what was written in the revenue code with her, but simply to understand why it was so. Out of the discussion we had, I understood one thing - the Lifeblood Principle. As I gathered, this principle summarily says that the State, being the society that I belong to as a human being, needs the monetary contribution of its constituents to subsist. It simply means that the State, or this country, or whatever country that has an organized form of governance and society, needs its people to pay taxes for its expenditures. Fine. I concede. Without money, no form of organization can exist. That goes for the government.

But why income tax?

Apparently, she argued, that it is every citizen’s duty, mine included, to pay a certain amount to the State for the privilege to earn. And this really burst my bubble. Further, it is postulated that it is because the State allowed one to earn that one must, as a matter of obligation, be taxed for the same. The word that struck my chord was “privilege”

It is NOT my privilege to earn; IT IS MY RIGHT!

I am an individual, with specific talents that I am willingly and unselfishly contributing for the welfare of this society, and subsequently, for the State. I could have very well joined the bandwagon and exercised my talents on some foreign soil benefiting some foreign people. But no, I chose to remain in this country, and I still choose to remain in this country. My talents and skills are being used and abused for the benefit of MY State. It is therefore NOT my privilege to earn. Rather, it is now the State’s responsibility to compensate me for the service I am doing. This is my RIGHT to earn, that remuneration that I must be getting in return for my skills and talents. The State must recognize that it is the one in debt to me, and that I have no debts to pay.

Yes, I concede, taxes are important in that it brings life to the State. Tax me for buying liquor, tax me for dining out in some fancy restaurant, tax me for using the roads that the State so boisterously claim to be well maintained, tax me for all the luxuries that I can spare in life. I have no qualms about those; I can survive without those things. Those things are my PRIVILEGES, brought about my capacity to earn, in exchange for the skills and talents that I have so unselfishly sacrificed for the good of the State. Those are PRIVILEGES, not needs nor rights. Tax me all you want!

But my income, that is my right! I have worked painfully for it. I had toiled countless hours for it. I would have bled for it if I were only given a chance to do so.

Collecting income tax from the people is like asking them to pay the State for allowing them to serve the State. It is like asking them to pay more than the blood, sweat and tears that the people are already paying. Must a slave pay his master for letting him serve?

I am not opposed to the collection of taxes; taxes are the lifeblood of the State. But tax only those activities that the people enjoy because of the State. I am only opposed to income taxes. It is not a privilege. It is an individual right.

I had been vehemently convincing myself that my talents and skills are better put to use serving my own countrymen. I don’t know how much more I can fool myself.

...the conscious choice...

“…tuesday came and went, as quickly as expected. I didn’t notice that I needed it to stay…” - Gabriel Mann, Lighted Up



A friend asked me in a serious tone, what love is, and I replied, wholeheartedly, what I think love is.

Love is a choice.

I remember, as it seems now a lifetime ago, I had been in a not-so-sober discussion with another close friend about how he and I differ in our views on love. Ah, love. That proverbial entity that seems to permeate every insane individual’s mind and heart. He argued that love is a choice, much to my na├»ve understanding of the word. He postulated that anyone could fall in love; bathe in its seemingly never-ending bliss of infatuation and that sordid state of bliss, where one can, inadvertently, overlook the other’s shortcomings and failings. He pictured love as that state after that passionate boy-meets-girl encounter, after all the glitter of he’s-so-cute or she’s-so-damn-sexy stage has waned. It’s that time after all the blindness has come to pass, when one sees the truth about the other – his oversized beer-belly, or her incessant nagging. It’s when the curtain of being in love has faded away that the clarity that is love becomes obvious.

I had argued otherwise.

But now, I seem to have shifted sides. Sober and abstemious, I now share his view on love. Love, like that blasphemous Savage Garden song, is just a collection of chemical reactions in one’s brain. Love is indeed a decision, that state where one decides if one is capable of handling the chaotic state of waking up with the same person everyday for the rest of his or her life. Love is that decision of accepting the other for everything and anything that he or she is, both the good and the worst part of his or her person. Love is that decision of being patient; love is that decision of being kind. Love is all the decision of being everything that that Bible phrase tells what love is all about.

Being in love is a wonderful feeling, and no one can be denied of that. It is most commonly the beginning of loving. As it would have been stated by now, being in love with someone and loving someone are two very different things. And how the latter differs from the former is by no means measurable by human standards.

Being in love is being blinded naturally, by that ever-guiding cosmic retribution thing that seems to favor the occult. It is like the uncontrollable urge to be with someone, like the animals in spring. Being in love is like the unwritten law that compels one to brush his or her teeth in the morning, or to use underarm deodorant. It is that forcefully being blind to the bad things that the other is doing, and the complications that it brings. It is that thing that stretches our patience to infinitesimal lengths, that we don’t even know we are capable of.

Loving, on the other hand, entails a conscious decision; a mind that is cognizant of all the consequences of that decision, emphasis on the all. Loving is a deliberate act, one that involves acceptance of the flaws of the other, as opposed to just being blind to them. Loving involves doing things because you actively want to do things, and not just simply being told to do such things. Loving involves limiting one’s imperfections, not desperately trying to change them, as a result of self-stimulation and perseverance. Loving is a selfish act.

I had been in love. It’s a wonderful thing to be in love. But I am past that stage, and I have decided to love someone. I have unconditionally devoted myself into loving this special someone, beyond the realms of infatuation or enthrallment. Yet, unexplainably, I believe I am still in love with her. And the irony that is of a conscious being in love with her, I firmly believe, can exist. I know. I feel it for her.

I am in love with you. And I promise that I will always love you, no matter what.

To my friend who asked me what love is, it seems that I do not know after all. Yet I do.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

...tuesday...

It’s Christmas day, and apart from the several relatives that came to visit, I feel the same. I am dressed as I would on a normal workless day, when the toils of everyday life stop for an infinitesimal second that masquerades as a day. I am in my comfy sleeveless shirt and cotton shorts. If not for the abundant food on our table, albeit the leftovers of yesterday’s Noche Buena feast, and the children that run around the house happy to have new toys from their ninongs and ninangs, I would have declared this day a Tuesday – a happy vacation Tuesday.

From the neighbors come the discordant tunes of weary videokes that had labored through the previous night. It seems that for one day in a year, unpleasant singers are given a license to belt out their hearts content with impunity, as I fall a helpless victim to their incessant crooning. The revelry does not come from a single source. As there are four corners in our house, it seems that there are also as many videoke units from our neighbors. I have yet to decide if these are from different houses, or if one household has difficulty deciding who should sing first that they have each their own videoke units. Should I even care?

As I was brutally awakened this morning by the raucous singing of our selfish neighbors, I was also held in pity for our canine housemates. Yuki and Haru, our two less than magnificent dogs, are continuously barking in pain. It must be very hard for them to take the booms and bangs of firecrackers joyfully lighted and thrown by street kids, what with their highly sensitive sense of hearing. This makes me very thankful that I wasn’t born a dog. I coo them softly, helplessly trying to explain to them that they can’t do anything about it, and neither can I. In my head I am wishing for a very bad thing about the firecrackers and their throwers. You know what I mean, you sheepish little devil you.

From across the street and even further down it, I catch a glimpse of male individuals congregating around a wooden table, haphazardly laid down where the first felt like laying it down. In the middle of that table sits Johnny Walker, black label, and still unopened. It’s now 3pm, and the continued celebration from the previous night is about to start for yet another night. To their right on the ground lay the patron saint of alcoholics, San Miguel. I tried to no avail to avoid them, but there is only one street in our village, and to get to the store I must pass them. So shot after another shot, I went to the store to buy myself Coke, to be used as an after-shot chaser for the trip home.

Like I said, today is a Tuesday, like any other workless Tuesdays in my life. The godforsaken singing, the rowdy and noisy street kids who never fail to find ways to annoy, and of course, the ever flowing alcohol that is measured by the gallons. Today is a Tuesday, and it’s Christmas. What they do today, they do in moderation for the rest of the year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

...travelogue...

The old adage goes, “life is a journey, not a destination.” I could have sworn it was Steven Tyler that said that. Looking back, I must have been born with this thought in mind.

I love to travel. My birth certificate might as well had come with a passport to save them the trouble of identifying me. My favorite documents include boarding passes, plane or boat tickets, and tollway receipts. Travel, by any means – land, sea, and air – seems to be my curse, or blessing.

My first conscious travel happened when I had the chance to repair a machine in Roxas City, Capiz. That was my first travel alone, in a (domestically) foreign land. That was the first time, I remember, that I had to bring out my diplomatic skills in interacting with a different culture, one that is apart from the chaotic one I am used to in Manila. It turned out well, and I came back alive, thank God.

Since then, I have had the chance to see the beauty that is the Philippines. I had been to, or did almost all the items mentioned in the proverbial Department of Tourism WOW Philippines campaign song. “Tara na, biyahe tayo…”

Yes, I had been to the Penafrancia in Naga, been up to Antipolo, but sadly I have yet to dance in Obando. I bet Sharon Cuneta hasn’t either. I’m not unusual.

There are only a few other places in the Philippines that I have yet to conquer, but someday I will. I love being a tourist, a local one at best. And I take the best chance that I get to be an international one.

My first step outside of the country happened a few years ago, when business matters warranted me to go to Singapore for a week. The word “alien” had a whole new meaning for me, and the adrenalin surged in my travel-hungry self. There I had the chance to experience “chicken lice!” a meal of warm white rice with soy chicken toppings. At first I thought of the little ticks that I squish to death from our chicken farm of old. Fortunately, something was only lost in pronunciation.

Singapore was followed by Melbourne, Australia, and then by Taipei, Taiwan. Four times had I been to Shanghai, China since then, and the place is getting warm for me with each visit.

And, now this. I am writing this blog from the pre-departure area of the airport in Guam. I had just spent three days here, after four days in Majuro, Marshall Islands. And my plane is about to board.

I guess the continuation will be in Manila, when I remember to write more. I thank the man upstairs for all the blessing of travel, and I pray that I can return the favor in some way within my capacity. Until then, I wonder what the in-flight movie will be…