Yesterday Once More

I’m a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to my favourite music.

My philosophy on music – as with life, in general – is that it’s worth trying anything at least once.

A quick look at my Spotify playlists shows it runs the gamut from The Beatles to the Backstreet Boys, Diana Ross to Death Cab for Cutie, Nancy Sinatra to The National, Wilson Phillips to Weezer, Pare Ko to Part of Your World. I love them all.

(Side rant: one of my pet peeves is people who dismiss whole genres or artists just because it’s “mainstream” or “pop” or from Nickelback or whatever. What does that even mean, anyway?

Music is a deeply personal experience. Just because a person’s musical taste doesn’t conform to our particular idea of what’s “cool” is no reason to dismiss her/him or the music altogether. We’ve all stopped being anxious high schoolers long ago – by now, if you’re still judging people by whether they’re a Belieber or not then you’re the a-hole. Everyone is unique. If we all listened to the same songs the world would be a much more boring place. Ok, rant over.)

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I recently came across an old NY Times article written by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz called “The Songs That Bind.” By crunching Spotify data on how frequently every song is listened to by men and women of each particular age, Seth came to a fascinating conclusion: the majority of us, when we are grown men and women, predictably stick with the music that captured us in the earliest phase of our adolescence.

That’s right – the songs we were listening to as our voices cracked and our hair grew in strange places are most likely still going to be our favourites when we’re in our 30s or 50s. More specifically, these are the songs we liked at the ages of 11 to 14 (for women) and the ages of 13 to 16 (for men).

In my case, this seems to be true. I have a soft spot for a lot of ‘90s era pop and alternative music. I can still belt out, word for word, the lines to nearly all the songs from the Disney Renaissance movies. The lyrics from the tracks on the early Now That’s What I Call Music! albums are forever etched on my subconscious, it seems.

Interestingly, I also realised I still listen to a lot of the songs I was exposed to at that age – not necessarily from the ‘90s. I’m talking about the music my parents listened to. They controlled the car radio and what played on our home stereo on lazy weekends – which meant a diet of Billy Joel, The Jackson 5, Jose Mari Chan, and ABBA. The Manhattan Transfer, Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Collins, and Air Supply were staples. The Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack was a family favourite (“Give me a kiss to build a dream on and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss…”).

The sound of nostalgia, for me

One of my continuing favourites from my parents’ playlist is the Carpenters.

They had a song for almost every occasion. Slow start to the week? Rainy Days and Mondays. Your boy ghosted you? Please Mr. Postman. Imminent alien invasion? Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.

I remember dedicating – privately, in my diary haha – the Carpenters’ ‘Goodbye to Love’ to an unrequited crush (opo, ma-drama na po ako since nineteen kopong-kopong). Karen Carpenter’s smooth vocals and the sweet innocence in some of their ballads contrasted with the tragedy of her early death, and lent some of the songs a haunting quality.

Suffice it to say, I was already a bit of a Carpenters fan. I was pleasantly surprised then, to come across the 1994 tribute album If I Were a Carpenter on Spotify.

The Carpenters with Chibi eyes (Source)

I was already familiar with Sonic Youth’s emotionally charged version of ‘Superstar’ from the movie Juno (another awesome film soundtrack btw). I dug around and found it actually came from If I Were a Carpenter, a whole album of ‘90s alternative rock bands covering the Carpenters’ hits.

Apart from Superstar, my favourites include Dishwalla’s cover of ‘It’s Going to Take Some Time’ (it put me in a very ’90s mood), Shonen Knife’s ‘Top Of The World’ (had a joyful Ramones sound to it which I liked), and The Cranberries’ rendition of ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’ (mainly because I like Dolores O’Riordan’s voice haha).

It’s especially tricky for tribute albums to get the formula right (*ehem* a certain Eraserheads tribute). They can’t just sing the song as is, otherwise it’s no different to a ho-hum karaoke version (at best) or a poor copy of the original (at worst). They can’t render it too unrecognisable either, because they’ll leave the original band’s fans disappointed.

I felt that If I Were a Carpenter hit all the right buttons – it was a fresh take on songs I loved, with the distinct vibe of the era I grew up in. What a trip down memory lane. The feeling is best captured in the Carpenters’ own words:

All my best memories come back clearly to me

Some can even make me cry, just like before

It’s yesterday once more

How about you, what’s your favourite music? Has it changed since you were younger? Let me know in the comments!

Think critically dear readers,

Featured image by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

Sunday Sofa Sojourns #8: Singapore

Seeing as all our travel plans this year (and the next…?) have been put on hold, to ease the wanderlust I’ll post throwback photos every week from our past trips. Join me as I travel from my sofa!

Today’s a special post since it’s Singapore’s National Day, so it’s not quite about a trip. Happy 55th Birthday, SG!

Celebrating SG51 with pancit canton and Peranakan kueh back in 2016

八 (Bā) or 8 is an auspicious number in Chinese culture because it sounds similar to 发 (fā) which means to “become rich, make a fortune” (among other meanings). This year marks the 8th National Day my small family has celebrated in this Little Red Dot. (I also just realised this is my 8th #SundaySofaSojourns post!)

2020, of course, is turning out far differently than any of us expected.

National Day in Singapore is held annually on 9th August. I think it can be best described as a celebration of how this city-state proved itself to be “the little nation that could.”

There’s a live parade (a.k.a. the NDP) where members of the Singapore military, police, and civil defence force as well as its best homegrown companies march, where almost everyone from students to seniors showcase musical performances, and where one can see all the nation’s politicians don their best red & white clothing on TV.

My kid watching a past parade with his pork floss bun

There’s a much-anticipated fly-past of the country’s flag, the Red Lions freefall jump, and the fighter jet display (usually, they spend over a month practising this – from our office building in the business district, it was common to hear the deep rumble of the jets every day in the weeks leading to the NDP). The parade itself is broadcast real-time on free TV, but tickets to see it live are balloted to citizens months before.

This year’s NDP Funpack includes hand sanitiser, face masks, and a digital thermometer (Source: Mothership)

Apart from the NDP itself, there are signs of celebration elsewhere – sales, commemorative cakes & breads, ‘I ❤️ SG’ t-shirts.

Bread Talk, a popular bakery chain, offers a Taste of Home Set which includes breads with local flavours like kaya (coconut jam), seafood laksa, and otah (a delicious fish paste)
Toys“R”Us is still operational here

Everyone is encouraged to participate. This year’s theme song is “a tribute to Singaporeans’ spirit of community” and gratitude for each other. While NDP 2020 will be a more sombre, more reflective affair, the ceremony will go on.

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For any country, there is value in this kind of active retelling of its history — for the younger generation, that they are introduced to this sense of belonging (outside of their immediate families and communities), and for the older generation, that we may remember what we were taught in school. It is easy to forget. And when we forget, we risk repeating past mistakes.

As Joan Didion said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

I am trying to think of a unified ceremony celebrated in a similar way across the entire Philippines (one that covers all Filipinos, so religious or provincial holidays don’t count) and I am coming up short. (I may be missing something here, so if you have an example please share in the comments.)

For us personally, this question of national identity is becoming more relevant as our kid grows. We want him to feel connected to both countries and to be able to navigate both cultures, with understanding and mutual respect for each. How do we do this? What stories do we tell our children? These are not easy questions.

It is in the stories we choose to tell that we shape our nation’s collective memory, or leave it without one.

Think critically dear readers,

Goodbye Kiss

I lost them in quick succession.

The CASAA Food Centre was the first to go, in a fire in 2015. Apart from being a named location in a song from one of the Philippines’ most iconic bands (and a personal favourite), CASAA was one of my main haunts as a freshie in UP Diliman. Palma Hall — or AS, for short — was next door and it was where all our GE subjects were held. I lived steps away too, in a campus residence hall nearly as old as my mother. The CASAA steps was where I could get my favourite monay with cheese, sold in large, white Styrofoam coolers to keep the bread warm.

The following year, the UP Faculty Centre also burned down. My memories in FC were coloured differently, mainly because they had to do with me waiting for papers to be marked, or waiting for grades to be released, or waiting for “prerog” results during a particularly dismal semester when I got nearly zero subjects in CRS Online. (“Prerog” was a manual enlistment process where UP students had to plead with professors to enlist them in a particular class. It was the teacher’s prerogative to give you a class slot — get it?) But I had calmer moments in FC — I walked its halls from time to time, for no particular reason other than I loved how it felt and smelled (earthy like aged wood, with a hint of books). I also remember watching a film screening of the original Ring film there for some reason. It was before the whole craze with Sadako started and the film was still relatively obscure. I left FC in the dark, properly terrified.

Then, as if the loss of two beloved campus buildings wasn’t enough to sate the fire’s hunger, in 2018 the UP Shopping Centre or SC also went up in flames. You must understand, I lived mostly on campus for a good five years so the loss of SC hit particularly hard. My memories here were more mundane — SC was where I shopped for small essentials, photocopied my 1×1 photo in one big sheet for all that semester’s index cards, ate my fill of tapsilog at Rodic’s, bought my first UP t-shirt and hoodie, and photocopied accounting standards in bulk (with apologies to the copyright gods, but we were just students back then). Small day to day stuff. Then again, memory is made up of these small moments.

All three — gone.

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Today, I found out that The Chocolate Kiss Café at the Bahay ng Alumni (a.k.a. Choco Kiss) was closing its doors for good due to losses driven by Covid-19. No school, no students. No students, no customers.

We went to Choco Kiss when we were feeling fancy and had extra pocket money — Choco Kiss, with their bottomless iced teas that came with a separate syrup glass, decadent cake slices (the marshmallow crests on their Devil’s Food Cake!), my usual Chicken Kiev and his usual BBQ baby back ribs. I remember they used to serve one of my favourite appetisers — rumaki, made from water chestnuts and chicken liver wrapped in bacon and fried. They sometimes had a piano going and had paintings from local artists on the walls. Like I said, it felt special, for near-broke university students like us.

Now the feeling — like the places — exists only in memory.

Think critically dear readers,

I Got Swabbed: Covid-19 Testing in Singapore

Big news first: my result turned out to be negative. Yay.

That said, I wanted to share with you my experience of getting tested for Covid-19 here in Singapore to help assure you that the process is quick, relatively painless, and fuss-free. If you have any of the most common symptoms of Covid-19, please visit your nearest clinic to ensure you get timely and appropriate care. You’re also doing your part to keep everyone else in your community safe. 😊

JUST A SORE THROAT…?

The other day, I felt a scratchiness at the back of my throat and some pain swallowing. Any other day — heck, any other year besides 2020 — I would’ve brushed it off and taken a lozenge. But I was feeling extremely paranoid and thought to go to a clinic to have it checked out.

Google “common covid symptoms” here in Singapore and the first result that comes up is the Ministry of Health (MOH) Covid-19 self-assessment website, where you can check out your symptoms and decide next steps after answering a few basic questions (data is anonymised). The most common Covid-19 symptoms are fever, dry cough, and tiredness.

I was not presenting any fever and felt no other symptoms apart from my scratchy throat. While sore throat is indeed a symptom of Covid-19, it’s a less common one, along with aches & pains, diarrhoea, headache, or loss of taste or smell.

After going through the MOH self-check, it recommended that I go to a Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) or polyclinic that offered SASH (Swab and Send Home) tests for Covid-19, along with a link to a website where I can check all the nearby clinics that offered SASH tests.

WHAT IS THE SWAB AND SEND HOME (SASH) INITIATIVE?

According to The Straits Times, previously, all swab tests for Covid-19 were done at hospitals. With the SASH initiative, swab tests were extended to polyclinics and some general practitioner clinics. This helps to strengthen active case-finding in the community, as well as reduce crowds at hospitals. Patients who meet certain criteria are swabbed and then sent home to wait for their test results. Results can take up to three working days, though I received mine much faster.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE CLINIC?

I found a nearby clinic offering SASH tests and called ahead to say I had a sore throat. No appointment was needed, but I was told to bring my employment pass.

Upon arrival at the clinic, I was asked to fill in a health declaration online by scanning a QR code posted at the entrance. It’s the standard SafeEntry declaration where you’re asked if you’ve had contact with confirmed cases recently, have travelled in the past 14 days, etc. The clinic had seating outside so I did not need to sit with other outpatients in the clinic lobby.

After they had prepped the room, a doctor wearing full PPE called me over and asked again about my symptoms. She checked my temperature using an in-ear thermometer and listened to my heartbeat with her stethoscope.

Afterwards, she recommended that I do a swab test. Because I was not a highly suspect case I could refuse, but for public health reasons and also for my own peace of mind I decided to go ahead with it.

If I did the swab test, I would be given a mandatory 3-day medical certificate and was not allowed by law to leave my home until I got a negative result or served out the three days, whichever came sooner. If I decided not to do the swab test, I would be given a mandatory 5-day medical certificate.

I’ll add here that the consequences of flouting your medical certificate — for example, by stepping out to get a quick takeaway lunch before the three days are over — are taken very seriously here in Singapore. You could be fined S$10,000 (around Php 360,000 or over US$7,000), imprisoned for up to 6 months, both, or even deported and barred from re-entering Singapore forever. Totally not worth that takeaway bubble tea.

HOW DID THE SWAB TEST FEEL?

The doctor told me the swab test would be quick but to expect some discomfort. She said there were rare cases where patients got a nosebleed (!), but this was usually for people with more sensitive noses.

I was understandably a little apprehensive after reading horror stories, but the swab took less than 30 seconds to complete. I was told to blow my nose, tilt my head back, and stay still while the doctor inserted a thin flexible stick into each nostril.

It felt slightly uncomfortable, like the feeling right before a big sneeze. Nothing alarming though.

HOW MUCH DID THE TEST COST?

The invoice did not break down the cost of the swab and the medicine I was given for my sore throat, but it did indicate the cost was subsidised under Singapore’s Flu Subsidy Scheme. For the swab test, medicine and throat lozenges, I paid a total of S$32 (around Php 1,140 or US$23). MOH, on its website, states Covid-19 testing is free (excluding the clinic consultation fee and/or medicine).

Free testing or a subsidy makes sense — you want to encourage people with symptoms to step forward and get tested on their own accord so you can prevent undetected infection in the community.

If the swab is too expensive, what incentive is there for people who have less financial resources to get tested?

Which is why it was crazy to me to read that in the Philippines, a swab test could cost up to Php 4,000 – Php 12,000+. At least there are a few LGUs, including Manila under its Mayor Isko Moreno, who are offering testing for free.

WHAT HAPPENS WHILE I WAIT FOR RESULTS?

I walked home — you’re not allowed to take public transport — and self-quarantined in a room separate from my family. You’re also encouraged to use a toilet separate from the rest of your family.

It’s safest for you and for everyone in your household to assume you’re positive unless told otherwise.

I was told it would take three working days for the results to come out. I would get a call from the clinic or an SMS from the MOH.

It was a nerve-wracking wait — my mind kept turning to worst-case scenarios. Later that evening, the Hub called me over Facebook Messenger so I could still be “in” the room while he read bedtime stories to our kid, a family nighttime ritual. “Come over here!” my kid said. He knew I was in the other bedroom. I don’t think he understood why Mommy wasn’t there to kiss him goodnight.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait for too long. The very next day after my test, I got a call from the clinic to say the results came back negative. I could hug my kid again!

WHAT NOW?

Dear readers, to be frank, my anxiety hit the roof while I waited for my results.

I knew that my family and I had taken all the precautions — washed and sanitised our hands on the regular, worn face masks 100% of the time while outside, taken showers after stepping outside, taken our Vitamin C, practised safe distancing — but this virus is a crafty one.

I think that the virus often gets framed in a way that suggests that if you do catch it, you failed at following precautions or something. Make no mistake — Covid-19 is highly contagious. If you think you’ve caught it, focus on next steps like how to get tested ASAP and how to get immediate care for yourself & the rest of your family.

As we reopen gradually all over the world, let’s not let our guard down. Let’s not get complacent.

We’ll get through this together.

Think critically dear readers — and STAY SAFE!

All images (except for my personal screenshots) on this post are from the UN Covid-19 Response page on Unsplash

Good Bones

Today was one of those days.

I often look to this poem from Maggie Smith (no relation to Dame Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey / Harry Potter fame) when the news and everything else gets too overwhelming.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

“Good Bones”, Maggie Smith

I’d like to believe the poem is a hopeful one. There are ‘good bones’ here, we can work with this.

But man oh man, some days are tougher than others.

Think critically dear readers,

Featured image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Toolkit Laban sa Katangahan (A Bullsh*t Detection Kit)

This is an English translation of an earlier post.

Imagine, for a moment, turning on the TV. You see a news segment announcing that “Isaw (a popular Filipino street food) boosts IQ by 100%, ‘scientists’ say”.

Isaw, the new brain food? Image credit: Flickr

“How can it be?” you think to yourself. You’ve eaten a bajillion isaw sticks in your university days and it didn’t help you pass Math 17! Plus, why is the word ‘scientists’ in quotation marks? Is this news really true?

Chances are, maybe you’ll look up “isaw high IQ” on Google. Maybe you’ll ask a friend on Viber if he’s heard of it. Maybe you’ll check if other news stations or newspapers have carried the article, to see if they’ve said the same thing.

Now, imagine – what happens if there are no other sources of news out there?

What I’ve just described is a rather poor metaphor for what I felt upon hearing the Philippine congress’ decision to reject the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast network on Friday.

The biggest loss, in my view, is the information void left by shutting down the network. More than 90% of Filipinos get their news from TV and ABS-CBN had the widest reach throughout the country. Who do those Filipinos, especially in rural areas, turn to for updates (especially critical now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic) now that one of the biggest sources is gone? Facebook groups? Kapitbahay? (Neighbours?)

Sadly, during this whole controversy I have observed from interactions with friends and some relatives on social media and elsewhere that, too often, opinions are taken wholesale from one source (or worse, an unsubstantiated Facebook post by some random stranger masquerading opinions as truth), without regard for fact-checking the arguments presented.

It’s the Wild West of disinformation out there, especially on the internet. And now the country’s media landscape has lost a key player that – while imperfect – at least had a track record spanning decades and recognition from local and international organisations for its reporting.

“Civilized society is a working system of ideas. It lives and changes by the consumption of ideas. Therefore, it must make sure that as many as possible of the ideas which its members have are available for its examination.”

Commission on Freedom of the Press, “A Free and Responsible Press”

(Emphasis mine)

Now, I don’t intend to go through the arguments of why our lawmakers closed that network. That’s not the purpose of this post.

But in the face of what’s happening in the country today, I would like to present a Toolkit for Healthy Skepticism to Guard Against Bullsh*t in the News (a.k.a. Toolkit Laban sa Katangahan), based broadly on Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit, resources from Singapore’s National Library Board & the News Literacy Project, and the scientific method.

Remember the scientific method? We all slogged through it in high school. The key point is this: when presented with new ideas, we should not accept it immediately. We should treat it with skepticism. We ask questions, gather information, and make our own assessment based on the information we’ve gathered.

Going back to the isaw headline – if you decided to search for the story on Google, ask a friend, or check out other sources – congratulations! That was the first step!

But what questions should we ask? I would recommend starting with the NLB’s S.U.R.E. framework:

1) Source – Where did the content originate from? How credible is the publisher?

A quick scan of Facebook pages, news websites and groups, where a lot of Filipinos get our daily source of news, easily yields biased sources of reporting. Some are fairly easy to spot, but others aren’t.

Red flags include no “About” section, no byline (an author’s name) attached to the piece, news articles that have no date, and a “Contact us” section that does not match the domain (e.g. a Gmail or Yahoo e-mail address).

A fake page intended to fool readers into thinking it’s The Guardian, a legitimate news site. Source: spot.ph

2) Understand – Search for clarity in what you’re reading. Does the article make sense? Does it trigger strong emotions? Do offers sound too good to be true?

“Agot niresbakan ang kampo ni Jinkee!” Does the headline make you upset? Angry at Agot? Fight through that knee-jerk reaction and pause for a minute. A lot of headlines use sensational language to bait you into clicking the link or sharing it to your friends. Take the time to read through the article and understand if it makes sense. Sometimes, the stories don’t even have anything to do with the headline!

Source: Abante

3) Research – Go beyond the initial source. Has it been published elsewhere before? Check the publish date. When was the photo taken? Real information can often be taken out of context.

Early on in March, a family friend shared a series of photos to me purportedly coming from Unicef with tips on how to fight the coronavirus. It had a Unicef logo, but immediate red flags included the clumsiness of the advice (it suggested staying away from ice cream and cold food, which did not sound science-based) and format of transmission (private chat). It took me less than 2 seconds to Google and find out directly from the Unicef official website that it was fake.

There are websites like Snopes who’ve been out there doing the hard fact-checking work for us since the 1990s. All it takes is a few more clicks to double-check before we share.

As for information being taken out of context, a recent example is this one of Prince William flipping someone off. Or is he?

It’s all about point of view. Source: Reddit

Photos can be cropped or altered to serve certain agendas. Before we rage at Prince William, let’s first dig around and see if the images we see are credible.

4) Evaluate – Look at the story from various angles. Was it meant to be a joke (for example, satirical news websites such as The Onion or Adobo Chronicles)? Check your own biases and emotions. Are they affecting your judgement? Think before you share!

Source: Scoopwhoop

Maybe at this point, you’ve gone through the S.U.R.E. toolkit. But what if you realise the conclusion points against something you believe in?

As Carl Sagan once said, “The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premise or starting point and whether that premise is true.” Let’s not get overly attached to an idea just because it’s ours.

Being S.U.R.E. is not easy. Believe me, I know! Skeptical thinking doesn’t sell. It takes some extra work.

But I believe in all of us. As one of my favourite childhood shows suggests, Buksan ang pag-iisip, Tayo’y likas na scientist! (Open your mind, we are natural scientists!)

Source: NLB Singapore

Now more than ever — think critically dear readers,

Toolkit Laban sa Katangahan (A Bullsh*t Detection Kit)

There is an English translation of this post here.

Isang araw, binuksan mo ang TV at nagulat sa nakitang balita. “Isaw, nakaka-doble ng IQ, ayon sa mga dalubhasa!”

Isaw, the new brain food? Image credit: Flickr

Inisip mo siguro, “Weh, ‘di nga?” Sa dinami-dami ba naman ng isaw na kinain mo noong college, wala ka namang napala at kwatro ka pa rin sa Math 17. Tsaka, sino ‘tong mga “dalubhasa” na ‘to? Isaw experts ba kamo?

Siguro, Ginoogle mo yung “isaw high IQ”. Baka naman minessage mo yung kaibigan mo sa Viber para magtanong kung nabalitaan din ba n’ya ‘to. Pwede rin na nilipat mo yung channel para i-check kung nabalita rin s’ya sa ibang istasyon sa TV o kaya sa dyaryo.

Ngayon, isipin natin — paano kung wala nang ibang mapagkukunan ng balita?

Medyo pangit yung comparison. Pero ito ang naramdaman ko noong narinig ko ang balitang tinanggihan ng kongreso ang pagbigay ng panibagong prangkisa sa ABS-CBN, ang pinakamalaking broadcast network sa Pilipinas, noong nakaraang Biyernes.

ABS-CBN ang may pinakamalawak na network sa buong bansa, lalo na sa mga malalayong probinsya. Sa aking pananaw, ang kawalan ng pagkukunan ng balita para sa mahigit 90% na mga Pilipino na umaasa sa TV para rito ang pinakamasaklap na bunga ng pangyayari. Nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya. Saan kukuha ng impormasyon ang ating mga kababayan? Sa Facebook (eh paano kung wala naman silang pambayad ng internet)? Sa kapitbahay?

Ang nakakalungkot pa, base sa mga pino-post ng ilang mga kaibigan at kamag-anak sa Facebook at sa pakikipag-chat sa kanila, marami pa rin ang kumukuha ng opinyon mula sa social media, na walang ginagawang “fact-checking” o pagsusuri kung totoo ba o hindi ang mga nababasa nila.

Medyo magulo ang internet, nakaka-trigger talaga. At ngayon, nawalan pa ng isang mapagkukunan ng balita na — gayong hindi perpekto — ay meron namang ilang dekadang karanasan at kinikilala sa loob at labas ng bansa.

“Civilized society is a working system of ideas. It lives and changes by the consumption of ideas. Therefore, it must make sure that as many as possible of the ideas which its members have are available for its examination.”

Commission on Freedom of the Press, “A Free and Responsible Press”

(Emphasis mine)

Hindi ko naman balak talakayin kung bakit hindi sila dapat ipasara ng kongresista.

Pero sa gitna ng nangyayari ngayon sa ating bansa, nais kong i-presenta ang isang Toolkit Laban sa Katangahan (a.k.a. Toolkit for Healthy Skepticism to Guard Against Bullsh*t in the News), batay sa sinulat ni Carl Sagan, ang National Library Board ng Singapore at ang News Literacy Project, pati na rin ang scientific method.

Naalala n’yo pa ba ang scientific method? High school pa tayo nung inaral natin ito, baka nakalimutan na natin. Ang mahalaga: kapag binigyan tayo ng mga bagong ideya, hindi natin dapat tanggapin ito agad. Dapat may pag-aalinlangan. Tayo’y magtanong, mag-imbestiga, at mag-isip ng sarili nating konklusyon mula sa nakalap nating impormasyon.

Bumalik tayo sa kwento tungkol sa isaw — kung naisipan natin mag-search sa Google, magtanong sa kaibigan, o tumingin ng ibang pahayag — mahusay!

Ano ba ang dapat nating itanong sa ganitong mga pagkakataon? Kung napapa-“shit” ka sa mga nangyayari sa ating bansa — you’re on the right track besh!

S.H.I.T. talaga ang ating tandaan pagdating sa balita o impormasyon mula sa social media: Suriin, Hanapin, Intindihin, Tanungin

1) Suriin – Saan galing yung balita? Sino ang nagsulat at nag-publish?

Maraming Pilipino ang gumagamit ng Facebook or social media para makakuha ng balita, ngunit laganap ang biased pages, groups, at pekeng news websites. Yung iba, madaling mahalata pero yung iba, hindi.

May mga ilang palatandaan na pwedeng alalahanin tulad ng kawalan ng “About” section, walang pangalan ng may akda, walang petsa, o kaya naman ay Gmail or Yahoo e-mail lamang ang ginamit para sa “Contact Us” section imbes na ibang opisyal na domain.

Nagkukunwari na sila raw ang The Guardian, isang lehitimong news website. S.H.I.T.! Source: spot.ph

2) Hanapin – Bukod sa tao o Facebook page na nagbatid sa atin ng balita, hanapin kung mayroon pa bang ibang nagpahayag ng balitang ito. Kailan ito ipinahayag? Kailan kinuha ang litrato sa artikulo? Maaaring totoo ang impormasyon, pero wala sa orihinal na konteksto.

Noong bago pa lang ang balita ng Covid-19, shinare sa akin ng tita ko ang isang message na may malaking “Unicef” logo, tips daw laban sa virus. Nagduda ako agad dahil parang hindi propesyonal yung dating ng payo (huwag daw kumain ng ice cream at malalamig na pagkain — huh?! parang chika lang ang peg). Tsaka bakit tine-text ng Unicef yung mga tao, hindi ba mas official kung ianunsyo nila ito sa pahayagan? 2 segundo lang ng pag-Google, nalaman ko agad mula sa Unicef official website na peke ang tips na ito.

Madaling mag-fact check gamit ang websites tulad ng Snopes, atbp. Kailangan lang natin ng konting effort para mag-double check kung totoo ba ang finoforward natin, bago natin i-click ang “Share.”

Isang halimbawa naman ng litratong wala sa konteksto ay yung meme ni Prince William na sumikat kamakailan lang. Ha?! May minumura ba s’ya?

Nag-iiba ang istorya, depende sa anggulo. Source: Reddit

Ngayon madali lang putulin o i-Photoshop ang mga litrato depende sa motibo ng nagsusulat ng balita. Bago tayo magalit kay Prince William, hanapin muna natin sa internet kung kapani-paniwala ang litratong nakikita natin.

3) Intindihin – Dapat malinaw at may kahulugan ang binabasa natin. Sadya ba nitong tini-trigger ang emosyon natin sa pamamagitan ng salita o litratong ginamit sa artikulo? Masyado bang maganda ang balita para maging totoo?

“Agot niresbakan ang kampo ni Jinkee!” Nainis ka ba noong nabasa mo ang headline na ito? Nagalit ka ba kay Agot? Labanan natin ang unang reaksyon natin sa mga ganitong artikulo at tumigil ng sandali. Maraming pahayagan na sadyang gumagamit ng nakagigilalas o nakakagulat na mga salita upang hikayatin tayo na i-click ang link nila o i-share ito sa Facebook page natin.

Huwag tumigil sa headline — basahin ng buo ang balita at intindihin kung may kahulugan ang nasusulat dito. Minsan, walang kinalaman ang kwento sa headline na nagpagalit sa ‘yo!

Source: Abante

4) Tanungin – Tingnan ang balita mula sa iba’t ibang panig. Tanungin ang iyong sarili: joke-time lang ba ito? (Halimbawa, may mga news websites tulad ng The Onion sa Amerika o Adobo Chronicles sa Pilipinas na gumagamit ng “satire” na pang-uuyam ang pangunahing layunin.) Tanungin ang sarili kung merong biases o emosyon na nakakaapekto sa pagtingin mo sa balitang binabasa. Magtanong-tanong at magisip-isip bago mag-share!

Source: Scoopwhoop

Eh paano kung ginamitan mo na ng S.H.I.T. toolkit ang balita ngunit pagpasiya mo sa dulo ay taliwas sa iyong orihinal na paniniwala?

Sabi nga ni Carl Sagan, “The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premise or starting point and whether that premise is true.” Ibig sabihin, kailangan nating maging maunawain sa iba’t ibang pananaw. Hindi porque atin ang isang paniniwala, tayo ang parating tama.

Source: I Was There

Hindi madali i-S.H.I.T. lahat ng balita. Hindi madali maging skeptic. May extra effort na kailangan. Pero may tiwala ako sa ating lahat. Sabi nga ng isa sa aking paboritong palabas noon, Buksan ang pag-iisip, Tayo’y likas na scientist!

Source: NLB Singapore

Lalo na sa panahon ngayon, maging mapanuri po tayo!

Does anyone blog for fun anymore?

I recently realised that nearly 90% of “blog ideas” or “how to blog” advice out there inevitably ends with tips on how to “boost rankings”, “promote content” or “monetise” your blog. I arrived at this guesstimate while doing a quick Google search for fresh writing prompts and it got me curious…

Does anyone blog for fun anymore?

Now, before you answer that I have a confession to make: this isn’t my first blog. I wrote my very first post on Blogger back in the mid-2000s and named my blog ‘Girl Goddess #9’ (a small nod to one of my favourite books as a ‘90s tween). I wrote a total of 17 posts in that blog before life got in the way and I stopped. Since then, I’ve started — and abandoned, for various reasons — a few other blogs over the years.

Throughout the years however, the reasons why I start a blog have always remained consistent. I blog because of Three Cs: connect, create, and capture.

1) Connect.

The blogging community felt quite different back then. Everyone was still kind of new at it. Most of us treated our blogs like online journals, so the vibe was more intimate in a way. It felt great to find like-minded people from all over the world who cared about the same things as I did, but who were different enough from me such that I could learn something new.

That’s what I loved (and still do) about blogging – the connections I make.

2) Create.

It takes courage to put oneself out there and create, whatever it may be: long-form posts, poems, family recipes, photographs, reviews, how-to guides, even travel itineraries. There are so many cool and creative blogs to be found, each with a unique story to tell. I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface at all.

As for me, I didn’t start out blogging to make money. I first discovered the monetising route wasn’t for me when I accepted a commission to do sponsored posts years ago. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. It felt like a job – which is exactly what I wanted to avoid by writing freely in the first place.

So, I decided from then on to just write about my interests and maybe share interesting things to others in the process.

With that, I say: sorry random stranger, I’m not interested in learning about SEOs. No thanks WordPress, I’ll pass on “integrating social media” to my site (I’m not sure I’ll have the time to maintain a Facebook / Instagram profile for the blog anyway). I think I’ll stick with my day job to fund my expenses.

… or not

I’m speaking for myself, of course. Your mileage may vary!

3) Capture.

When I write my #SundaySofaSojourns, I share a memory so that I can remember. (Also, I want to put you through that tongue twister of a title. 😉)

When I write about my experiences, I’m often trying to freeze a moment in time, again for posterity… if my kid ever thinks to look at his old ma’s blog (in the future, when he’s able to read beyond CVC words!). I hope if he ever reads it, he’ll find a glimpse of his mom doing, well, other things besides being his mom.

In other words, I’m usually writing for myself and those dear to me.

It’s what I find fun — and if it isn’t fun, why bother?

Think critically dear readers,

P.S. If you’re new to my little corner of the internet, please feel free to poke around. I hope you enjoy reading my ramblings — or maybe disagree so strongly you’re motivated to comment. Let me know, I’d love to learn from you. And to those who take their time to write me an encouraging comment or two, maraming salamat!

Featured image by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

A Sign of the Times

Sentosa, Singapore’s self-declared “State of Fun,” re-opened on July 1st. We wasted no time in visiting the island over the weekend.

There are a lot of fun, free, kid-friendly activities you can do in Sentosa – ride the electric trams, walk the nature trails, and – most importantly for us – swim in the beaches. Sentosa has three to choose from: Siloso, Palawan, and Tanjong.

Relax on a hammock at Palawan Beach
A ride on the tram. “Mask up, see your smile soon”
The Sentosa Boardwalk

Our favourite mode of getting to Sentosa is by strolling along the Boardwalk from VivoCity. It’s shaded from the heat and there are moving walkways, if you get too tired. There’s also a lovely view to your right looking out towards the cable cars and Keppel Island. The other plus is if you go by foot, entry to Sentosa is free (it usually costs a S$1).

But the Sentosa entry fee is waived until end of this year anyway, so it’s free however you choose to get there.

There are a lot of renovations going on in Sentosa at the moment. The fountain and paths near the replica Merlion with the Cyclops laser eyes, as well as the seemingly Gaudí-inspired Merlion Walk with the colourful mosaic tiles, have been torn down to make way for the “Greater Southern Waterfront” redevelopment plan.

The replica Merlion, during National Day celebrations back in 2018.
The Merlion Walk mosaic fountain, back then. This section has now been razed to the ground.

One of the nice parts I like about the walk is passing by the rotating Universal Studios globe. It’s usually packed with tourists taking selfies, but these days it’s quiet and empty.

Social distancing for no one

I noticed with surprise that someone had replaced the signage displays at the Universal Studios ticket booths with these Photoshopped gems:

When you see it…

It’s amazing attention to detail on the part of Resorts World… but I can’t get the image out of my head of some poor intern tweaking the face masks so they looked “natural.”

What a funny sign of today’s odd times.

Mask up and stay safe everyone!

Think critically dear readers,