2007 Edition Vol. 1 Issue 3

CIM Class 1972 web site publication.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”– – Confucius, Chinese philosopher (551-479 BC

Choices - Part 2

Cle S. Estrera, Jr.

A sight to behold
    There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who jump out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, and those like me who don’t need an alarm clock, would linger a little bit before getting up, squeezing every second out of every minute to try to get some more sleep, and slow to warm to the concept of rising and shining. But this past weekend, I decided to be one of the early birds because one of Nature’s spectacular sights that I haven’t been able to watch for quite sometime is the sunrise on the water. Having been tied up with too many things to do, I just realized that I have missed such sight – an awesome sight that despite the lack of logical explanation and scientific evidence for its orderly existence, always has a way of convincing me that there must be a Creator for such intelligent design.

    So I went to jog to the lake before the sun rose. It’s a great time to jog, so quiet and peaceful that the dogs just look at you and not bark like you’re some kind of a friendly ghost. You get lost in the cadence of your feet and the feel of your sweat as it slowly comes out from the pores of your skin. With virtually no one and nothing to distract you, you could easily imagine those endorphins working its way to the center of euphoria in your brain. But there was also a moment when I was having a hard time getting rid of doubt about writing to share my stories and experiences.

    Every time I have this moment of doubt which I seem to be getting more of it these days, to quote few of the lyrics of the song, Gingi, I would feel like the “wind, speaking to the leaves, telling stories that no one believes.” I don’t pretend that I’m not aware of the power of words. As a matter of fact, words could pretend to be anything, paint any landscape, or promise any kingdom. But what about the one who wrote them? All I can say is to paraphrase Sheryl Crow’s song that “even in the worst of times I’d write my best for every one of you.” It’s your choice to read or ignore them, or to be critical about them. I’m willing to take the critical blows if you have any because I did it my way.

    But then again, doubt is a barrier that is hard to overcome, and when it comes more frequently, the end of what you’re doing is not far behind. This kind of doubt doesn’t really make you lose your creativity and confidence, but it makes you lose your enthusiasm that nourishes your imagination to go on. With malnourished imagination, your mind becomes like a “river that can’t find the sea,” to quote Gingi again. It’s like love that has become “a cold rainy day,” to quote another song.

     The sunrise is a sight to behold. It’s beautiful that even if you know that the sun will never stop its way up, you still have that wonderful sense of anticipation. As the horizon starts to open up, the water seems to quiver like a mirage of some sort, and then the sun rises, giving a spectacular sight like the breath-taking birth of the earth itself. You can’t help feeling awed with such awesome creation. I wish there is a small restaurant in there in the lake, selling puto maya, sikwati and mangga. I would jog there every morning and watch every sunrise.

A metaphor
    As I worked in our yard later on, I saw a couple of hot-air balloons over the lake and I thought of the story that most if not all of us must have received through e-mail about a man in a hot-air balloon who got lost although the story has been modified several times, changing the characters to a woman and a man, to a politician and a physician, and to a Democrat and a Republican. But the hot-air balloon is a good metaphor of our lives.

    A man in a hot-air balloon, realizing he was lost, lowered it to shout to a fellow on the ground, "The wind’s blown me off course! Can you tell me where I am?"

     The man replied, "Sure. You’re about 60 feet over this wheat field."

      "You must be an engineer," the balloonist yelled back.

    "I am. How did you know?"

      "Everything you told me is technically correct but of absolutely no use."

    The engineer retorted, "You’re an executive, right?"

    How did you know?"

      "You were drifting in no particular direction before you asked my help, and you’re still lost -- but now it’s my fault."

    When we were young, ready to take on the world, all we want to do is rise as high as we can, or at least higher than others especially our classmates, colleagues and friends in terms of money, position, prestige and power like we want to impress them or prove something to them. So we struggle for more and more, and as we continue to climb the ladder of progress toward the top of what we call success, unexpected things happen or bad luck hits us like a ton of bricks, or as we ascend, wind currents push us sideways. Then we realize we are way below or behind the people whom we would have liked to be far ahead of, and we could no longer keep up with them, let alone be above or better than them, or we discover we’re on a very different course than we intended, way off from the place we hoped to end up at. In other words, we fail to continue rising and are in fact forced to go down for one reason or another.

    So we blame the wind or anything else – we blame the circumstances we have no control or fail to control, or we blame the people in our lives we chose to listen to that only led us to our setback or to where we are now. Or, we blame the stock market crash or someone for embezzling or stealing our retirement money. Like a bird having been clipped of its wings, being embarrassed or ashamed of our situation and not able to find blame and believable justification, we choose to withdraw and distance ourselves from others and the people we know of. We sever our connections and tighten the passageways into our world. Aware or not, it’s our way of denying that we are just full of air.

    In real life, the steering wheel is our power of choice that lets us respond to each unexpected event, problem or trouble – to each breeze and gust. We can float with or resist and go against the wind – we can get upset, frustrated or fascinated with each event - it depends solely on our choice. Unexpected events can ruin our plans and objectives, or alter the direction and decision of our lives like the haphazard gust of wind. We can stop and give up pursuing our dream, or we can change our plans and pursue another dream, or we can just give up, saying that we’re not just good enough to be what we really want to be. But, in the end, what we do or do not do and become is determined by our choices.

    Others may have inspired or discouraged us, pushed or pulled us from the pursuit of our dreams and ambitions, but if we look back, what we are now or what we have become is all because of the choices we’ve made, and what we will be will all because of the choices we are going to make. Even if you blame someone or something later on, it’s still your choice that will get you to wherever you will be. You might as well get hold of the steering wheel and be “the master of your fate, the captain of your soul,” to quote a poem.

The past
    Most obstacles that many of us have to struggle especially in making decisions are due to the negative lessons we learned long ago. These lessons reinforce perfectionism, fear, passivity, insecurity, feeling of unworthiness, etc. These are lessons of the past and are no longer real and yet aware or not, many of us chose to allow the ugly power of the past to grow rather than let go. Of course, being emotionally hurt is a natural response to the events of life; but remaining emotionally hurt is a choice.

    The past is a good source for reflection, to learn something. Unfortunately, so many people choose to use the past as a source of excuses and justifications for what they are or who they are even if they know that they can be better than what and who they are. Many dwell on the past, and the excess baggage of the past has become too heavy a burden that they are unable to move on toward the real business of living. Many more are unable to root out and release deep-seated resentments arising from hurtful words or deeds, and they continue to justify and feel self-righteous about their grudges. They relive the hurt every chance they get, for they feel it somehow punishes the person who caused it without considering that they actually hurt themselves far more. They never realize that they are victims of their own despair. Confucius said: “To be wronged is nothing unless we continue to remember it.”

     What’s past is past. You can never change the past even if you want to. And your peace of mind depends mainly on your ability to choose to forget the past particularly the unpleasant past. When you spend your days looking back at what you didn’t get, couldn’t do, should have done, or what you lost, or what you should have been or should be, or when you focus your energy on trying to recapture what’s over and done with, the present and the future will become nothing more than the extension of anxiety, insecurity and frustration of the past.

    Life is said to be like a river that constantly flows, its currents forming new patterns based on change. You should not be afraid to travel and go wherever its flow takes you. But when you live your life holding on to the past, to your deep-seated angers, resentments or grudges and regrets, then you are unable to flow with the river. Instead, you’d watch the river go by or fight wherever the river wants to take you. Your resentments and regrets would keep you from enjoying your travels down the river.

       It’s only by flowing with the present and absorbing how the events punctuate our lives, are we grasping the full experience our lives offer. Thus if we are to live our life fully or make our lives better or happier, we’ll learn what the past can teach us and make choices based on the needs of the present, not the past. There are too many people who live half-lives, and thus find half-joys because they fail to give up the past for the fuller measure that is offered in the present. They are aware of better choices, but they insist on making the same choices that keep them what they are and who they are. They’ll never be able to seize the moment if they are governed by old rules and negative beliefs that may have been pounded into them as they were growing up. Yet, they can re-examine their old beliefs to determine whether they are still valid or not, or whether these beliefs are the sources of their anxiety, insecurity and unhappiness, then let go of them.

    If you believe, for example, that because you have gotten older, you must be a lot wiser than others especially those younger than you and thus you ignore the young ones rather than listen to them, for one of your beliefs is that wisdom comes with age. Then ask yourself: Am I really wiser? But if you keep your beliefs that you’re better off thinking the same thoughts, doing the same things and having the same predictable ways and reactions, then it’s not likely that you’re learning anything new to become wiser no matter how old you are. If you believe that people should respect you because of what you are or who you are, and you’re unhappy or frustrated because they don’t or most of them don’t give you the respect you want, wouldn’t it be better to let go of that belief and start listening, learning, observing and understanding the behaviors of others so you’ll know what to expect of them and thus know how to deal with them in more constructive ways?

    Also, you don’t have to accept the old rules, for you can make your own new rules if you choose to. When I started making flower gardens in our yard, my wife didn’t like them because she wanted me to follow the rules and the sketches the professional landscapers set and drew. She wanted our yard to look like those of our neighbors whose yards and landscaping are done, maintained and manicured by professionals. But I’m the one digging and planting and taking care of those plants, watching them grow every day and admiring them bloom, not the landscapers or our neighbors. So I made my own rules to be the one to chose the plants and shape the gardens. I want to enjoy my gardens and thus I am not doing them for others to admire or criticize, or to give grades to. I am doing them for my own enjoyment and gratification, and I don’t give a hoot what our neighbors or others think. I don’t enjoy a garden especially in our yard that I did not do nor do I enjoy looking at a tree or shrub growing, or flower blooming that I did not plant.

    Each of us is unique. We have different ways of looking at things, different tastes and thus we should not allow anyone to tell us what’s good for us or what makes us happy. We should be responsible to determine that and make the choice. Dr. Seuss’s has a timeless and wise advice regarding our own uniqueness: “A person’s a person, no matter how small. Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

    Dr. Seuss also tells us to take control of our lives:

    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
    You’re on your own,
    And you know what you know.
    And YOU are the one
    Who’ll decide where to go.

    Amen, Dr. Seuss.


Personal Opinion

"Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn't blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won't cheat, then you know he never will." ---- John D. MacDonald

ASOCIMAI Election of Officers

       In this upcoming Las Vegas alumni reunion next month, our association will once again elect officers and board members. Although only very little time is required out of one’s busy schedule to serve, for whatever other reasons except having no time, only very few, if any, of the alumni are interested in becoming an officer. But in some other alumni association that I’ve heard of, election especially for President is a fierce competition that candidates are offering favors to members just to get elected. It makes you wonder what these candidates are after of – pride, power or prestige, or the whole enchilada. Perhaps they just don’t want to lose, for they can’t take the shame or embarrassment of losing.

    What seems to be the universal justification for one’s unwillingness to do voluntary sort of work like serving in an association, is “busyness.” Based on statistical data, “busyness” is the number one excuse for almost every one’s refusal to accept doing what one is asked or requested for, and the number one alibi for one’s inability or failure to do what one had agreed upon and promised to do. “Busyness” is considered an alibi or an excuse, not a reason, for many of the subjects with the alibi admitted that they just don’t want to do what they are asked to especially if there is nothing in it for them, or it’s “doing something for nothing.” What this tells us is that if we really want to do something, anything at all, no matter how busy we are, we can always find the time to do it. The question is, how do we learn to want to do things for others or for our association without expecting anything in return?

    Anyway, I’m writing my opinion on our association’s election in this issue of Wavelength because I will not be able to attend our alumni reunion this year in Vegas due to the conflict of schedules with my children’s activities. This is not an alibi or excuse, it’s a reason. I understand if some of you don’t like what I'm going to say, or even hate me for it, but please be assured that it’s not my intention to give off heat, only to shed some light.

    There is no question that our present president, Dr. Doming Ong of the Class 1972, has done a great job in keeping our association intact through thick and thin all these years of twenty some years that in each and every year, the association had its reunion. It’s a record that can never be surpassed or broken. It will go down in the history of our association. But there are two issues that each of us in the alumni should consider during this election – fairness and change.

    First of all, during our business meeting in the previous reunion last year, we were shown the Mission and Vision statements of our association, and what was striking to me was the mention of Fairness, Integrity and Transparency. I salute the ones who formulated these Mission and Vision statements, and hopefully, they’ll reflect what our association really is as well as who we, CIM alumni, are and what we are.

    The main components of integrity, however, are honesty and fairness. Thus in this coming election, we should ask ourselves honestly – Is it fair to elect the same president over and over again to monopolize the leadership and not give a chance to other fellow alumni especially the older alumni whose time in this world is getting shorter and who may be interested in getting his or her hands on the leadership’s steering wheel? Can we honestly say that our association and us, ourselves have the integrity if we continue to keep interested alumni from having the chance to become the president? I know that some of you may say that it’s the majority’s decision to elect our president over and over again. But the reality is that the majority of the alumni that often come to the reunion and attend the election are from the same class organization as that of the incumbent president. As a member of that class organization of 1972, I myself don’t think it’s fair. Further, there is an unfair advantage of incumbency in terms of contact, preparation and organization.

    Suffice it to say, we’ve got to recognize that fairness almost always brings peace and harmony that often lead to good participation and cooperation, while unfairness brings disappointments and disharmony that only drive members away to another organization. Fairness attracts new members and encourages old members to return, while unfairness keeps new members from joining and discourages those members who quit from coming back. Fairness nourishes enthusiasm, while unfairness promotes disenchantment.

    I believe our association right now is in good shape and thus if I were the president, this is the ideal time to make an exit while the association is at its peak, and allow other alumni to have the chance for the leadership position. An old adage says: “Quit while you are still ahead.” It was a good advice then. It is still a good advice now especially that the positives of our association are glowing and the negatives are blurred.

    In case some of you think that I am insinuating, please make no mistake that I am not interested in the leadership position, period – not now or in the future. I know my limitations and also as an officer once, I’ve found out that I could help the association better with me on the outside looking in than in the inside looking out. I don’t hesitate to say that even if I haven’t been an officer anymore, I’ve never refused anything our association or its officers requested me to do, at least none that I can recall. I will continue to do that – to help for the sake of our association – unless I am asked to do something that is beyond my ability or against my principle. Thus the reason why I haven’t been writing about our upcoming alumni reunion this year as requested by a couple of the board members or officers, is because I won’t be able to attend. It’s hard to write an ending like – “See you in Vegas” – when I know I won’t be there. It would only make me feel like a phony.

    I understand if some of you are uneasy to elect a new president, worried or concerned of what might happen to our association. We’ll never know what will happen until we elect for a change. Anxiety or worry, if allowed to dominate, can make us unwilling to think new thoughts, to dare new actions, or ever take a risk. Certainly, we would lose nothing that we already have, but we would also gain nothing new. King Whitney, Jr. said: “Change has considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, change is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, change is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, change is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”

     I believe that any of the alumni especially the older ones who definitely have the time, if they are interested, would strive to make a change for the better, perhaps better than the best we are having now. It’s because those who are interested, young or old, would want to do the best they can to be considered and remembered as one of the best presidents of our association, if not the best. They consider the leadership a challenge to make a difference, a responsibility worth taking, a risk worth the roll. For, why would they be interested in being the president if they don’t think they can do a better job? Would you be interested when there is nothing in it for you except perhaps prestige? Would you want prestige if you don’t want to do the best you can to deserve it?

    So if our present Vice- President, Ben Fajardo, is interested in becoming the next President, I would endorse him. He is the best bet we have that I know of for a change. In my dealing with him, he does what he says, and he says what he means. And I wish the rest of the officers and board members would stay for at least another term although I would endorse any of them who would be interested in becoming the next Vice-President.

    Well, I just wanted to exercise my choice to say what I want to say regarding our association’s election. Believe me. I would understand if anyone of the alumni especially those of the Class 1972 would choose to disagree with me and express such disagreement in any way he or she wants. But we all have got to remember that choosing is our privilege as well as our responsibility. What’s that supposed to mean is – Think and try to make a good choice. So if you choose to disagree, as much as you can, express your disagreement in a way to maximize the light and minimize the heat.

    Barbara Grizzuti Harrison once said: “Our awesome responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to the future is to create ourselves in the image of goodness, because the future depends on the nobility of our imaginings.”

    The future of our association depends on the cooperation and the contribution each of us makes which is mainly our participation. If our hope, want or wish is to have an alumni association that continues to give us a sense of belonging where friendship and camaraderie are established, re-established, enhanced, enjoyed and enriched, where we can laugh and make jokes and tell our personal stories, none of us is without obligation to offer or give our cooperation to it. Our association can only be as good as each of us members makes it.


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