Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas and Facebook depression

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

First, some stray thoughts from me this Christmas season: Do not be despondent, annoyed or envious when people repeatedly and continuously make Facebook posts about their awesome blessings and great fortune that most people in this world can only pine for. Christmas should not be such a cruel season. Search for gems hidden in your own life and be grateful. Look to The Manger.

I say that because there have been a good number of studies linking Facebook to depression. In fact, psychologists have coined a name for a condition or experience that afflicts not a few Facebook users: Facebook depression. Which makes me think that if, once upon a time, Freud had named a kind of envy that women supposedly felt for not having the appendage that men have (something post-Freud women have debunked), now there is a more real kind of envy that many Facebook users from all walks of life may be experiencing: Facebook envy, a condition psychologists have named.

I cannot see or observe what people in the entire Facebook universe post. I only see, read and observe what my Facebook friends and friends of friends (and the public sometimes) — as they are technically called — posts. And that is about themselves, their families, friends and enemies, triumphs and tragedies, blessings, sightings, acquisitions, milestones and events, food and travel, loud thoughts and feelings, unsolicited opinions, wounds and ailments, losses and gains. A whole range of tangibles and intangibles.
Reading and viewing all that, one can sense or guess the reasons behind postings. They also run a whole range. From simple, joyful sharing (“We want you to know how happy we are”), to something like showing off (absentmindedly?) what they have (materially, that is) that many do not have a fraction of. Intentionally or unintentionally, the latter kind could sometimes border on the distasteful and annoying, as in, enough already.

Am not talking here of bashers, trashers, hecklers, cyberbullies and other Facebook pests from hell. I am referring to those in one’s Facebook circles whose repeated posts from Cloud 9 could trigger negative reactions in those not as well situated, in those who are groveling in the dark because of adverse weather conditions in their personal lives.

Why Facebook envy? Because those who have the tendency to compare their situation with others who are richer, happier, healthier, more accomplished, more successful in the many departments of life may develop in themselves a diminished self-worth. Highly-evolved individuals — in the spiritual realm that is — would not get affected by the show-offs except perhaps to be amused, but those of us on hard ground could harbor self-deprecating thoughts. And those who are on rocky ground (may pinagdadaanan) could really feel left out, despondent, depressed. Especially this Christmas season of revelry and sharing in the name of The One who was born in a stable 2,017 years ago.

I do not say that those reveling in triumph and swimming in a surfeit of blessings should calibrate their rejoicing or tame their happy posts on Facebook. But those already in the doldrums should perhaps stay away from aggravating stimuli on Facebook that could trigger comparisons and feelings of being outsiders in life’s celebrations. Not to skulk further away but to find for themselves hidden springs no matter how distant. Pity-me memes on Facebook could be cries for help though. Hearken.

Today, Holy Innocents Day, we remember those who perished in various tragedies within days before and during Christmas Day — the hundreds in two successive typhoons, many of them buried in landslides; the 38 in a Davao City mall blaze; the dozens in road and sea mishaps. Let us embrace the grieving with our prayers and presence. A deathly Christmas season it has been for so many.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children; refusing to be comforted because they were no more” (Jer. 31:15; Mat. 2:18).

For the New Year, one more stray thought from me: May you find what you seek, if not now, sometime soon, if not right here, somewhere beyond. Ora et labora, don’t give up. Let’s go! #

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why midnight replacements at HRVCB?

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
At the 11th hour when 93 percent of some 75,000 cases filed by human rights violations victims have been adjudicated at the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), and five months to go before the board’s mandate ends in May 2018, why did President Duterte have to make midnight replacements? The board was naturally shocked to learn that the President had replaced two of its board members “without cause and due process.”

The midnight replacements worried claimants that there might be more replacements and that the claims would be compromised.
There was no explanation at all except for presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying that it was presidential prerogative, and that as far as he knew there would be no more replacements.

The nine members of the HRVCB when it began were chair Lina Sarmiento, members Wilfred D. Asis, Galuasch G. Ballaho, Byron D. Bocar, Glenda Litong, Aurora Corazon A. Parong, Erlinda N. Senturias, Dexter B. Calizar and Jacqueline V. Mejia. They were appointed by then President Benigno Aquino III.

Calizar was replaced by Nasser Pangandaman Jr., a former mayor of Masui, Lanao del Sur, whose appointment was signed on Nov. 27. Mejia was replaced by Ricardo Moldez whose appointment was dated Dec. 8. Mejia was Commission on Human Rights executive director for 27 years. “She had excellent work ethic,” a colleague of hers in the HRVCB said.
Former Presidential Commission on Good Government commissioner Ruben Carranza reacted to the news thus: “I wrote the very first draft of this law. So when … spokesperson Harry Roque says ‘We can’t rebuke (President Duterte’s) wisdom’ in appointing these two new persons to the board …, he’s wrong. Not only are these appointments unwise, they’re unlawful.”
In his Facebook post, Carranza said what he thought of the two new appointees and cited Section 8 of Republic Act No. 10368 that created the HRVCB and set the qualifications of its members: “(a) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; (b) must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; (c) at least three of them must be members of the Philippine bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years; and (d) must have a clear understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”
Question: Do Pangandaman and Moldez have these qualifications?
I was told that Pangandaman was interested in another post and not, for heaven’s sake, in a seat in the HRVCB.
Victims of the Marcos dictatorship belonging to the group Claimants 1081 promptly drafted a resolution “expressing grave concern over the midnight replacement of two members of the human rights victims claims board; urging the claims board to faithfully implement its mandate by expediting the adjudication and resolution of all claims; and calling on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect, safeguard and maintain the integrity and independence of the claims board and to immediately direct the organization of the memorial commission and the establishment of the human rights museum pursuant to the provisions of (RA) 10368.”
The HRVCB is “an independent quasi-judicial body charged to, among others, receive, evaluate, investigate and adjudicate claims for reparation and/or recognition for human rights violations victims during the martial law period from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986.”

It is divided into three commissions but acts as a single collegiate body and meets en banc on certain matters specified under the law. It maintains a staff of about 150, many of them lawyers and paralegals described as “hardworking and very dedicated.”
The P10 billion allotted for rights victims came from Marcos hidden wealth returned by the government of Switzerland on condition that it would go to victims.
The claims filed with the HRVCB are different and separate from the $2-billion class suit that victims filed against the Marcos estate and won in a Hawaii court in 1994.
The last batch of the HRVCB’s approved claimants is expected to be out before the yearend. The first months of 2018 will be for appeals and oppositions to claims.
With firm resolve, let us find the true essence of Christmas.#

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas trash and Christmasaya

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

No apologies for associating trash with Christmas, a most loved season for us except for the scrooges. But haven’t we made scrooges of ourselves by making Christmas garbage-laden, polluted, toxic, and anything but the season it is meant to be, a Christmas groaning from all the trash, jetsam, flotsam, discards and other disposables of our consumerist, throwaway society? This fact, besides our four-month Christmas season, could be another item for the “Only in the Philippines” list.

It does not get better every year. But it does not mean we have to stop reminding ourselves.
The Ecowaste Coalition calls the enormous, foul holiday output “holitrash,” avoiding the word “Christmas.” But I would rather call it by what it is—Christmas trash—which may sound offensive to lovers of Christmas like myself, but then the more grating to the ears and sensibilities, the better. Jesus, the oft-forgotten center of the season’s celebration, would surely not mind because people have really fouled up his season. Have we, even in a little way, contributed to the mess by our mindlessness and hurry to get ahead, to get somewhere, to get it all?

Last week, Ecowaste warned about the Christmas trash that again would end up on streets, in dumpsites, incinerators, waterways and oceans that are already heaving with discards. “Christmasaya kapag walang aksaya,” its catchy, no-waste Christmas call, was sounded in the midst of school children in Quezon City.

A new, lovely term: “Christmasaya”—Christ, Christmas and masaya (happy) all in one unhyphenated word.

“The volume of waste produced is expected to soar as people shop, party, dine and have fun during the joyful season,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Sad to say, the throwaway culture is at its worst as the birth of the Redeemer is recalled and celebrated. In Metro Manila, for instance, per capita waste generation during Christmastime is estimated to rise from 0.7 kilo to 1.2 kilo.”

According to Ecowaste, the most discarded items during the extended celebration of Christmas and New Year include paper and plastic shopping bags; all sorts of packaging materials; party ware, including single-use paper and plastic beverage and food containers; bags, boxes and wrappers for gifts; and tons of food waste. This is made worse by poor segregation at source and, during the New Year celebration, by toxic emissions from firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

Is the situation hopeless? If we are mindful of what we can reduce or do without in our lives, no. And before throwing away anything, think of what we can reuse and recycle. The “3Rs” (reduce, reuse and recycle) are as old as the hills, or, if I may coin a figure of speech, as old as the first nonbiodegradables thrown into the sea.

In one word: Simplify.

I am not too keen on recycling nonbiodegradables (plastic bottles, snack packs, soda cans) into d├ęcor if they will only be thrown away soon after. The creative exercise is sure consciousness-raising for kids especially, but their creations should better keep for a long time and not end up in the garbage pile when the merrymaking is over.

Sorry for the manufacturers of Christmas wrappers, but Ecowaste also suggests that their use be minimized. Instead, reuse bags and containers for your gifts and use old magazines as wrappers. I have been doing this for a long time.

Party hosts should opt for washable, reusable tableware instead of disposable ones that are wasteful. And if you cannot avoid generating a huge amount of trash, at least segregate, segregate, segregate. That way, reusing, recycling, repurposing of nonbiodegradables and composting of biodegradables to enrich the soil would be made easier for those who will do these tasks for the love of planet Earth and creation.

And why not a simplified, if not more solemn, Christmas celebration, not without the fun, but without much strain on the funds? Not to rival the austerity of the first Christmas, but to celebrate its essence. #

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Vaccines 000

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I wanted to use the title “Vaccines for dummies” because “for dummies” is often used in titles of informative, how-to books, but I don’t want worried nondummies to think they are being insulted.
There have been a lot of discussions and news reports on Dengvaxia, the antidengue vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which had been reportedly administered to some 700,000 Filipino children in recent years, through the Department of Health.
Now parents are nervous upon learning from Sanofi itself that those who had been given the vaccine but never had dengue would have to watch out for more unlikely (I’m using a mild word here) dengue effects when they get sick from a dengue mosquito bite. On the other hand, those who had had dengue already and were given the vaccine would be more protected.

That’s indeed a huh? moment there (as in, ano raw?) for those of us who are not immunologists. I take it to mean that you are better off not getting the Dengvaxia vaccine if you have never had dengue. A case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It is befuddling especially for the majority of us in this world who do not understand vaccines, how they are developed in the lab, what they are made of, how they work against deadly viruses, for whom and for how long.
In the case of Dengvaxia, for example, why would it not protect those who never had dengue, and why would their getting vaccinated not be an advantage because of some potential unlikely/adverse effects when dengue strikes? This potential “worse than the disease” scenario is driving many to anger and worry. For blame throwers, this is a great opportunity to rock, rattle and roll.
I did listen in to the live-on-TV press conference of Sanofi officials. The sense I got from it is: Not to worry just yet. After all, there is yet no record of a vaccinated person getting badly hit by the virus for the first time. And what about those who’ve had dengue and then got vaccinated, will they not get sick of dengue at all, or just a mild case of it? Can vaccination be reversed?
The other thing I picked up is that it is not really the vaccine, folks, it is the dengue mosquito that is to blame. Sure. Still I’d like to compare 1) a nonvaccinated first-time dengue patient, 2) a vaccinated first-time dengue patient, and 3) a second-time dengue patient who got vaccinated after his first bout with dengue and before his second bout.
Listening to the explanations, one gets the idea that No. 2 is the most compromised. So it is not just the mosquito, folks, it seems it is also the vaccine. So what about it?
I did my own reading on vaccines. Here are basics from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website.
“The story of vaccines did not begin with the first vaccine – Edward Jenner’s use of material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Rather, it begins with the long history of infectious disease in humans, and in particular, with early uses of smallpox material to provide immunity to that disease.

“Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation as early as 1000 CE. It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas.
“Edward Jenner’s innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, quickly made the practice widespread….
“Louis Pasteur’s 1885 rabies vaccine was the next to make an impact on human disease. And then, at the dawn of bacteriology, developments rapidly followed. Antitoxins and vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis, and more were developed through the 1930s.
“The middle of the 20th century was an active time for vaccine research and development. Methods for growing viruses in the laboratory led to rapid discoveries and innovations, including the creation of vaccines for polio. Researchers targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella, and vaccines for these diseases reduced the disease burden greatly.”
Without the jargon, it simply means using the virus to fight the virus. Pray tell, what in the world is contained in that Dengvaxia ampule? #