Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gift Giving for All Seasons

With the holidays right around the corner, gift giving can be a difficult decision especially for the person who has just about everything. There is also the matter of sending gifts to loved ones far away. Gift baskets are a good way to go. Often you can just go online, shop different stores, purchase with the click of a mouse and you are done. No fighting crowds in the store, no gift wrapping, no lining up at the post office. You could also call your local grocer who can make up a gift basket with your specifications or price range.

Flower delivery is easily purchased online. Flowers and plants are delivered fresh and in a timely manner. There is always a variety of flower arrangements to choose from. Plants that bloom beyond the season and perennials such as orchids are also popular.

There is of course, the gift card. Adults can enjoy gift cards to restaurants, book stores, spa treatments, golf courses, or a show while young people can enjoy shopping for their own clothes. Prepaid credit cards sold by credit card companies offer a wider shopping choice.

Let us not forget gifts of love, crafts painstakingly made, a framed photograph, a phone call, donations to the food bank, or volunteering in the local soup kitchen. Better still, commit random acts of kindness, cheer someone up, smile often, offer a prayer and make gift giving an all year affair.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Manny Pacquiao Proves He Is the Best Yet Again


Like Filipinos around the world, on Saturday, November 14, 2009, our family gathered at my brother-in-law, Charlie's, house to watch the Pacquiao vs Cotto WBO welterweight fight. Charlie has a movie theater in his basement big enough to accommodate our clan. Like any Filipino gathering, there was a lot of food, talking and merriment.

Everyone looked to the fight with apprehensive anticipation. Can Manny beat a bigger opponent known for landing hard punches? Even the women of the family who all oppose the violence, blood and gore of boxing could not help themselves. Those who watched HBO 24/7 worried that Manny did not spend as much time training as he did running his political campaign to be a congressman, rehearsing with his band, and helping typhoon victims. Someone commented that Manny did not seem focused as the camera panned on him in the dressing room. Cotto, on the other hand seemed determined, focused and ready.

So we watched. The guys made technical comments, the women watched with one eye closed or at an angle so they could not see the hard punches. Everyone was shouting and screaming as Manny landed punches and cringed as he took one.

For many women, boxing is such a painful gladiator sport to watch even though we know that these athletes train hard to withstand grueling punishment. As a physician, I cringed as I imagined the concussion and whiplash that these fighters sustain and the long term outcome such as we see in retired football players and sadly in the great Muhammad Ali. We know too well, the dangers of a well placed punch and hope both fighters come out unharmed at the end of the fight. By the 10th round, the women in our family were begging for someone to stop the fight already especially as we empathized with the anguish on Melissa Cotto's face. We wished we weren't watching but could not stay away. We watched riveted, nonetheless, because Manny Pacquiao has that effect on Filipino men and women alike, because he is our own, because he stands for the Filipino dream to be acknowledged in the world, because he stands for the poor fatherless street urchin who did not give up on the dream and because as great as he has proven himself to be, he remains humble and generous. Our shouts of glee resonated with those of Filipinos the world over as the fight was stopped on the 12th round with a TKO. At the same time, Miguel Cotto's grace in defeat was not lost on everyone as he proved himself to be a classy fighter.

Our family will definitely gather again for the next Pacquiao fight. We are checking the Internet for Team Pacquiao tee shirts (like we're not hyped up yet.) The guys might be interested in Manny Pacquiao underwear to be made by Big Headed Boxers. We will follow Pacquiao's political career and check out his music CD's. Four million Filipinos make up one per cent of the American population. There will be a big market for all things Pacquiao in the US alone.

As the Filipino people revel in the victory, I think. If one man can unite a people even for just a few hours, think of the power of many one man and many one woman, all working in their own way to unite all people. Manny Pacquiao has proven that any dream can happen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Tribute to the Nation's Soldiers

It is quite fitting that Veteran's Day comes just before Thanksgiving Day. It gives us all pause to give special thanks to the people that made America what it is.

As a naturalized citizen born in World War II, I have great appreciation for America, the opportunities she presents to those who come through her portals, and the people who serve and protect. I watch with great sorrow when at the end of each program, KCPT News Hour presents in silent tribute, pictures of soldiers who have fallen. They were young men and women. They were someone's child, spouse, or parent. For that moment I feel that they were my own. I ask myself, "Am I worthy of them? What have I done today to have deserved their sacrifice?"

Veteran's Day is not just a holiday, a day off from work, or a chance to go shopping for bargains. It is not just one day but all the days to remember that somewhere there is a soldier who stands guards for my freedom because freedom is not free. Soldiers understand this. A soldier stands guard somewhere so I can go shopping, write what I want, speak my mind, pursue the American dream, and sleep soundly at night. I am ashamed when I complain of a bad day at the office while somewhere a soldier is carrying heavy military gear in over 100 degree heat while dodging bullets and land mines. Whatever stress I might experience is a minor inconvenience in comparison.

Soldiers go where they are ordered by the country's leaders who may not always have clarity of purpose. They waive political affiliation to follow their commander-in-chief. They are called to respond to national emergencies, guard our coasts, fly our air space and plumb the depth of our oceans to keep the nation safe. The men and women of the military may be seen in disaster areas at home and abroad, in peace keeping contingents or in war. Wherever they are, they are always in harms way, intentional or accidental. Young, vital men and women go to war. They do not always come home whole. They come home to a people who do not always remember but for this one day and do not always express their gratitude. Too many do not come home at all. Beyond the life lost and the disabled, there are families who serve alongside their soldier for a service they did not sign up for. To them, I am also grateful.

We are in a rapidly changing world where our priorities can often get confused and national policies even more so. We are also now citizens of a global community and not just one country. For whatever reason nations choose to go to war, we must never forget that war kills; lives are lost be they friend, foe, innocent or combatant. One life lost is one too many. A mother's sorrow for a lost child is the same the world over. Sadly, war will continue until man gives up hate and learns to love.

Today I make a promise to honor these men and women by living an honorable life. I promise to be the best that I can be and make my piece of the world better. I promise not to take my freedom and liberty for granted. Most importantly, I promise to love.


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