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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

THAT FACE.

That Face.  
by Alan Mark De Luzuriaga

(Photo from Hubble Space Telescope) 


Inspector Supervisor Barret didn't know what to make of it. Of all his years as lead officer,Homicide Division of the Mars Planetary Police Force, he had seen his fair share of unusual crimes. But this one baffled him. 

Exo-Archeologist Supervisor Rupert Jones, arrived from Earth a week ago. It's kind of funny, he thought, that they share something in common ... the same rank. What's not funny is Jones is dead.... while he doesn't have a clue why. 

Jones, who he found out was called "Indiana" by his team (supposedly based on a reference from an old documentary film on archaeology), was on an exploratory mission.

He was sent by the United Earth Federation to look into the suspected disappearances of some settlers in a camp ninety kilometres from the Mars Alpha Settlement.  

The Alpha settlement, set up around three decades ago, was the first, and currently, the only populated settlement on Mars. Two more settlements – Beta and Charlie- are being prepared for coming migrants in the near future.  

The camp that Jones was assigned to investigate was inhabited by early Mars settlers who refused to join the official UEF sanctioned Alpha settlement group that started developing the planet's terrain decades ago. He himself was assigned here just twenty years after the settlement started, as a rookie Planetary Cop (although he had a few years with the UEF force in NYC). In the years that passed, he rose up to the rank of Inspector Supervisor, answerable only to the Mars Planetary Police Chief (and technically, the Mars Governor). 

“Indiana” Jones was the leader of the exo-arch team who went into the camp,on sector 17,Mars Terrain. Twenty four hours later, he's dead. 
Barret's investigation turned from an ordinary homicide, into a most interesting one, the moment he arrived at the "crime scene". Jones lived in a 3rd story flat, a few blocks from where he himself lived. He got the call from the station just as he was finishing his breakfast, and he went straight from his home to Unit 3-D, Trump Apartments, Tijuana St., Alpha Settlement. 

On the way, Barret felt like it was going to be one of those ordinary days. He was even humming his favourite song – “That Face”, from a very old musical titled “The Producers”. Barret had a thing for old musicals. 

Hmmmmm..hmmm.. Barret felt so good this morning that he actually sang a part of it while climbing up the steps...

"That face, that face, that dangerous face...I mustn’t be unwise. Those lips, that nose, those eyes.... could lead to my demise..." … hmmmm...hmmmmm

It was a good thing he had a small morning meal, cause he would have risked embarrassing himself once he saw the body. 

Jones was slumped, seated at his desk chair, obviously dead. What made the sight horrific, was Jones's eyes were burned and empty, as if someone held a blowtorch directly into the sockets. 

What made it even more strange than the many gruesome murders he has seen in his life, is that Jones was smiling. Not just any smile, but his face showed a sense of happiness that was so pure, that you cannot help think that he actually died “happy” ... happier even, than anyone, like himself,  would ever live for the rest of one's life. 

He shook that feeling off, removing that strange thought from his mind, and started to go to work. 

He did all the usual stuff, checked for signs of an attack or a struggle, checked for prints, interviewed the neighbours, and turned everything in the flat upside down. 

They came up with zilch. 

He ordered the forensic staff to take the body to the labs and examine it thoroughly, and carefully bag all the evidence . There were a bunch of photographs next to a printer on the table, and some were scattered on the floor. He also found a voice recorder on the desk, and had the team collect it and sent to the station.

He was about to leave when he was called by Ruiz,one of the new young guys on the force, and asked him to take a look at something. The kid told him he finished bagging the evidence, but that he found something else.  

What he found was interesting , but not unusual for the exo-archeology types like Jones. It seemed that Jones set up a small darkroom inside his apartment. 

Darkrooms were a very old set up of processing non digital photographs. Many decades since digital photography was invented, there were still a small group of people who insisted to take pictures the old way, through photographic film. 

It was a cumbersome and expensive way to take a photograph. Aside from the equipment, which costs dozens of times more than the usual cameras, one had to know someone who knew how to process it. 

They were taught about this stuff,in the academy. You had to load the thing called a film roll, which contained what they called “exposures” or the number of photos you can take, into a film camera, and after the picture was taken, you had to remove the film from the canister, in a room without any light (since the film was sensitive to it, and could be ruined if exposed before being developed)... hence the term Darkroom. 

In almost total darkness, one had to dip the film into some chemicals until the images appear on the film. After that, you insert the film into some sort of projector where it will cast the image to a piece of photographic paper. You then had to dip the paper into chemicals, again. Only then would you have a print. 

There was a table filled with trays that had some pungent smelling chemicals on it. Above it appeared what looked like a clothesline, with some clips.  On the table, a spool of film, and near it, was an empty, popped open canister. At the far end of the table was a projector like device...sort of like a hanging flashlight. He ordered Ruiz to bag all the stuff and have it analysed. 

And then he went home. 

That was a week ago. So far, they had nothing to explain how Jones was killed, and who may have done it. There were no signs of entry inside his flat, which was locked from the inside. It was only when his teammate picked him up that morning, and was not answering the door, that the police were called, and his body discovered. 

There were no reports from the neighbours of any sound or unusual thing that would have indicated an intruder or attacker. 

All his team could tell him was that they had just returned from the camp site, and found nothing but what seemed to be remains - bones and ashes, of the early settlers who lived there.

Stories were told about how this group, who, after setting up their own camp, established a religion based community. This was not a strange thing to happen, as history has shown that many groups of people tend to gather based on common beliefs. Some were branded as cults, but some just wanted to live by their own set of rules. 


These settlers, who volunteered for the first few trips to Mars, was said to have done so, in search of their "God". It seems that they felt that Earth was so drowned in so called "sin" , that "God" would have deemed its inhabitants hopeless and leave Earth. 

This group of settlers, who called themselves "The Seekers", felt that Mars, or any other “unspoiled” planet away from Earth, would be their best hope in their search to see their "God". 

The authorities branded them as harmless fanatics, and thought that they even made perfect volunteers for the Mars expedition. 

During those days, there were not a lot of people who would want to make the trip and relocate to Mars. And, establishing a large enough population was a key objective for the UEF. 

It was only when there was no contact for the last few years with "The Seekers", that the Mars Authority decided to request, for a team from Earth, to investigate what could have happened to them. The authority of the Mars police was limited inside the settlement, and the Governor felt it prudent to send an Earth based exo-archeology team, who was properly trained for this purpose. With the Earth authorities breathing on his neck on the preparation of the Beta and Charlie settlements, he did not want any untoward incident to spook future migrants in making the trip to Mars. 

Together with the voice recorder found in Jones's flat, where he spoke of what he found in the  "The Seekers" camp, the statements of Jones's team members gave a puzzling picture of what happened to that group. 

When they found the camp, they saw signs of dwellings.... makeshift tents, beds and tables, storage boxes, and other living necessities. But,the camp was empty. 

What they also found were pieces of what seemed like human bones, as well as ashes, probably from dead bodies. 
They found no records or any information that may explain what could have led to the disappearance or death of the settlers. 

For sure, it was not because the area was uninhabitable. During the early days of exploration, the UEF was able to implement Genesis Bombs all over the main areas of the planet, that stimulated and developed the conditions that made the area liveable for humans. 

Even the team of Doctor Rupert Jones, Senior Supervisor of the UEF   Exo-Archaeology Division, entered the encampment without any life support systems. The air was a bit heavy, but not toxic. There was ample water supply in the streams, and the area had lush vegetation and trees. 

In fact, the team reported, that the area was actually very well developed in terms of flora, with vegetables and fruits all around. One of them even jokingly said, that it looked like the  f*$%#@* biblical garden of Eden. 

One of the more interesting finds that Jones and his team recovered was a non-electronic Nikon Film Camera. It was one of those very old camera models.  

According to Jones's voice notes (reviewed by the lab and transcript sent to him), inside the camera was an undeveloped film roll. It had the markings of the film manufacturer - Kodak, with a label saying ASA 400 – 25 Exposures and ID# 387-760. The number and other markings matched the cannister found in the darkroom at Jones's apartment. 

Jones was very eager to get the film roll back to his flat, and spent the next few days setting up the Darkroom from equipment they brought with them from Earth. 



Jones was supposed to process the film that night before his body was discovered. He messaged his team just around 10 pm (Mars time), that he had already finished developing the film, and was soon going to make prints. That was the last they heard of him. 

He had just gotten the report from forensics,saying that they could not scientifically be certain how the burn marks in Jones's eyes were inflicted. There were no other signs or indicators that may explain the cause of death. Its just seemed that his heart stopped beating, around the same time his eyes got incinerated. 

He tried to get some information from the lab about the roll of film. It seemed that they didn't have the equipment to examine it or make prints. All they could gather was, with the exception of one, all exposures of the film was just blank (meaning, it wasn't used to take an image). One exposure or "shot" contained an image that looked like a burst of light. They cannot be sure what it could be until they find the equipment, materials and chemicals that could come up with a print. 

Unfortunately , such resources was not available in Mars, and the archeological team had already left for Earth yesterday, together with the body of Jones (to be returned to his grieving wife and daughter) and all their equipment. 

Inspector Barret wasn't sure if he wanted to proceed with what his gut was telling him. All he had was a mysterious killing, in strange circumstances, with a roll of film taken from a group of God seekers. 

He decided to have the roll of film sent to Earth and have the NYC police have prints made of that one exposure of bright light image, and send one to him. He bagged it, labelled it accordingly, and dropped it off at the front desk where it will be picked up later and sent on the next ship back to Earth. 


The next few hours, he decided to sit back and accept that there was nothing else he could do unless new evidence pops up. He was about to call it a day, when he noticed an evidence bag on his desk. This was the first one bagged by Ruiz, the rookie, and he realised that it has been sitting there all week, instead of being in the lab where it should have gone through analysis. 

These newbies, Barret thought, you have to spell out everything for them. 

He grabbed the bag and in it was a bunch of papers, and a stack of printed images. 

He was about to read the notes, when one of the printed photos caught his attention. It was not flat like the other photographs. He could see that the other prints were images of the camp site, probably printed from Jones's printer. This other one however, was curled up, like it was not printed out of a machine....but.... possibly developed and printed the old way...from the roll of film found with "The Seekers". 

He brushed away the photos taken by Jones, and saw the curled one facing upside down. The back side was blank, meaning that any image that may have been printed from that one and only exposure on the film, is on the other side. 

Slowly, Barret took the photograph, and flipped it over. 

Mars Police Inspector Supervisor Mark Barret smiled. 

So this is what happened. The Seekers did find what they wanted. To see their "God".

And who would have thought, one of them even had the audacity to take a photo using an antiquated film camera. 

They were able to see the face of "God". 

And Jones had seen it too. 

There and then, Barret's mind, and heart, filled with so much happiness at the face he was seeing on the photograph. 
And as his eyes burned and melted, and his heart started beating so fast it felt like bursting, he could not help but recall his favourite song, with a smile filled with so much joy.....

"That face, that face, that dangerous face...I mustn’t be unwise. Those lips, that nose, those eyes.... could lead to my demise..."


Monday, March 06, 2017

Futures by Mary Squillace

Sharing a wonderful short story link from nycmidnight.com :





Futures  by Mary Squillace
Competition: Flash Fiction Challenge 2016, 3rd Round
Genre: Open  Location: A trading floor  Object: A scrapbook
Original Illustration by Yevgenia Nayberg

Click HERE

Or copy paste link below:

Link: http://www.nycmidnight.com/Competitions/FFC/Stories/Futures.htm

Image taken from webpage.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

“…Will Set You Free.” by Noah S. R. De Luzuriaga



 Hello, gentlemen and-…no ladies? Figured not. Not just a secret new world order, noooo, you’re a sexist secret new world order. Ahem, my apologies, esteemed autocrats, let me introduce myself. My name is Mickey Doherty the third, proud descendant of ideological crusaders dating back since the dawn of humanity. 

 For generations, my forefathers have fought for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing BUT the truth. The truth that YOU, with your money, lies and vaccinations, have kept hidden from the people. The truth, that you have managed to lock up inside your underground vaults, sky cities and lunar colonies. 

 The TRUTH.

 Ahem. But you know all of that. You probably know everything, every scrap of human history, every thought that has gone through the head of every member of Homo Sapiens Sapiens on this planet.

EXCEPT FOR MINE! 

 Even now, hehe, your top scientists have yet to pierce my consciousness, you wanna know why? It’s the tinfoil implants under my scalp. You took away all my tools, all my defenses, but you didn’t see that coming, did ya?! 

 Oh I’m sure you can remove it now, but that doesn’t matter. The damage is done, and this time, you are not recovering. No coverup, no purge, no filtering of any sort will stop the truth from getting out. You have no one but yourselves to blame. You’ve gotten complacent, careless, and my network has managed to grow, right under your noses!

 But I digress. I suppose, before the world breaks out in total revolt against your despotic grip, and finally shakes you off, you’ll want to know how I managed to defeat you. 

 I’ll tell you. Oh mama, will I tell you. It all boils down to one word, you see.

Leak.

 Yes, a leak! Ha! You smug tyrants, thinking your control over us was so absolute, you never expected an inside job! It appears that one of you has some sense of decency, unhindered by human cruelty, reptilian cunning, and alien genetics. 

It was on March 22nd, 2019, yes, I remember the date exactly, that I was approached. Me, Mickey Doherty the third, approached to free humanity from its prison!

It was a sunny day, that March 22nd, I must commend your weather machines for doing such a fine job, and on this sunny day, I was in my tent, foil – lined of course, working on my pigeon laser, which I had happened to extract from some files from one of your labs in Poland. Going outside to refill my oxygen canister, I saw a cat. 

 I’m afraid I can’t recall exactly how I realized it was an agent of yours, perhaps it was the triangle on its collar, or maybe the fact that the cadence of its purrs, when put to morse code, spelled out the opening passage of “1984” in Latin. 
 Yes, we have broken that particular code. Anyway, what matters is that I did know, and I knew, despite all my best efforts, I had been found.

Your blasted cat knocked me to the ground before I could raise my weapon, and throttled me into unconsciousness. 

 When I came to, butt naked and hanging upside down in one of your lightless cells, I knew that I was going to die. I was scared then. 

 Not now, I’m not afraid of you bastards now, but back then, I was terrified. To die like some NOBODY, at the hands of the puppeteers, with nothing to my name! You can bet your collective shadowy asses I was terrified. 

 Then, suddenly, out of a door of light, a figure entered. A man! Probably. Not really sure, in hindsight. Regardless, this…figure, told me that he or she was one of you. I tried to activate the cyanide capsule in my tooth, but it had already been removed. I thrashed, and struggled. My source, your traitor, calmed me by promising me what I wanted most. The truth.

Your leak let me down, and gave me back my hat, my suit, my thermometer, even my instant death capsule. With not a single world more, he directed me towards a computer. This computer, you see, was the sum of everything you were, yes I’m using the past tense, seeing how your organization is about to keel over. 

 This computer had EVERYTHING on you. Every assassination, every celebrity scandal, every famine, every insidious toothpaste ad! The Christmas season mass hypnosis, the stock market crash, global warming, all YOU! And now I had the proof. I had not known true happiness until that moment, esteemed committee of slavemongers, I was so giddy, I barely felt the hypodermic needle in my neck. 

 Sigh….you bastards really can’t do things the easy way, can you? Not even your turncoats. When I woke up from the effects of the drug, I was next to my tent, with a USB in my hand. That’s when I knew things were going to get very fun. For myself, I mean, obviously not for you.

The rest of the story, you may know, surely you must have picked up on it. You’ve got eyes, ears and noses in every nook and cranny of this planet. It took months of proper encryption, preparation and planning before I could even THINK of distributing this information. I had to call on every ally, all of my contacts. The ones in the underground, those behind enemy lines in corporate media, every guerrilla journalist, activist and agitator that has ever fought for your exposure, I called, they came. I promised them the motherlode and they answered.

Soon, the networks us warriors of freedom had built up over the centuries was spreading the news, the truth, to all corners of the globe. You cracked down quickly, but every show of force only revealed yourselves further. You managed to catch me with your clever disappearing toilet trap in New York, you’ve questioned me, and now you will kill me.


I’ve told you everything that matters. I will die a happy man. You will die as monsters deserve, in the fires of justice. 

 I found the truth, and the truth has broken you.

 Good day, gentlemen.  

( Image borrowed from :  www.iwantcovers.com )

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Bitbag - Sept. 2013
Articles written by Alan Mark De Luzuriaga for The Bitbag - www.thebitbag.com - 
for Sept. 2013

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Abbot Hit for being like Bush and  for Lack of Women and Science
by Alan Mark De Luzuriaga

Tony Abbot named his front bench on Monday the 16th of September 2013. And immediately, the much heralded new Abbot immediately morphed into the old one. That is, if one is to believe the criticisms that are are being hurled right after the announcement.  A major cause of the criticism is the lack of women in the 19-member cabinet. The only woman in the cabinet is deputy prime minister elect Julie Bishop. Abbot himself expressed “disappointment” that there were not “at least two” women in his cabinet saying that he expects more women to be promoted and join the front bench over time. 



The prime minister-elect, however showed a cabinet that is very much experienced. His senior ministers, numbering 15, have all served under former Prime Minister John Howard. As Australia's last conservative minister, Howard is considered by many as Abbot's mentor, having brought him into the Howard cabinet in 2001. These selections of ministers, however, are igniting other criticisms on how Abbot will most likely  mirror not only Howard's policies, but that of former President of the United States, George W. Bush. It can be remembered that Howard once referred to himself as Bush's “Deputy Sheriff” in the region and pundits are pointing out that Abbot might take on that role as well. 



Early indications from international observers, as well as comments from foreign leaders have indicated that they perceive  Abbot as a leader in the same “mold” as former President and Conservative Republican George W. Bush. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom tweeted that he was delighted to work with “another center right leader”.  Tim Stanley, a columnist for the UK's Daily Telegraph declared Abbot's win as a victory for “Christian Conservatives”.  Abbot has campaigned on a mixture of conservatism mixed with populism and this combination seems to have been a winning formula as evidenced by his victory. But, critics are predicting that his conservative and right wing agenda will be more evident in the days to come. 





An indication of his policies, like his stand on climate change, can be gleaned from his non-appointment of a science minister.  It is noted that since the establishment of the office in 1931, this will be the first time that Australia will not be having a Minister of Parliament that will be directly answerable for the development of science in the country.  Critics are “confused” and “disappointed” that something as important as science and technology will not have a minister to oversee its mandate in dealing with health, industry and other affected sectors.  Abbot decided that the science portfolio will be divided and shared between the ministries of Education and Industry. 



Abbot's “slow and steady” manner in assuming his post in government is definitely not stopping the judgments and opinions on his recent actions.  So it is probably prudent on his part  not to recall parliament at this point saying he would only do so until some form of legislation is needed. He has also managed to sidestep questions about the budget by  deferring the budget review till January 2014, amidst criticism by the opposition that he is trying to evade scrutiny on the so called “budget emergency”.  The one area, he is not evading, though is his policy on asylum seekers and vows to “stop the boats” once he is sworn into office. His admission that it is a “stand or fall issue” on this matter, just might, like other matters that are being raised against him at this early juncture, decide how his government will rise up to the challenges in the coming days. 



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Aquino Spokesman Lacierda To Resign if Tatad Proves Tales On Napoles

President Noynoy Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he will resign his position if former Senator Francisco Tatad can prove his allegations that the President had indeed met with Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged leader of the syndicate behind the pork barrel scam that is creating massive political earthquakes in the Philippine political arena. The meeting was supposed to have taken place hours before Napoles surrendered to the government. Tatad has implied in his newspaper column of impropriety on the part of the Philippine President for giving Napoles special privileges.

For the past several weeks, the Napoles “Pork Barrel Scandal” has created shockwaves that have the potential to bring down the political careers of countless senators, congressmen and government officials that are allegedly involved and have pocketed billions of Pesos in government funds. The “Pork Barrel” fund refers to the PDAF – or the Priority Development Assistance Fund that is allocated by the government for projects based on the recommendation and approval of legislators. The Pork Barrel Fund has long been accused of being used by politicians to influence their constituents and calls to the legislators for its abolishment for many years has fallen on deaf ears.

A criminal complaint filed against Napoles had inadvertently spilled a can of worms when it was discovered that Napoles headed a syndicate for many years (dating back to the administration of disgraced former President Gloria Arroyo – herself facing charges of plunder) that created fake organizations that received the pork barrel funding approved by legislators . Napoles would pocket a huge percentage of the fund while she provided the legislators with a share of the released budget. Current reports indicate that more than 10 Billion Pesos of government funds have been pocketed by Napoles and the legislators who conspired with her.

Francisco Tatad, a former information minister of ousted President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos, wrote in his column that Napoles met with President Aquino and other government officials for a period of six hours on the 28th of August, the same day that she surrendered to the authorities.

Lacierda challenged Tatad by saying that “ If he can prove to me that Napoles had lunch with the President, I will resign, simple as that. Let me also say that if he doesn’t prove his claim, then he should stop. He should apologize to us. I mean, we’re giving him too much news already. It’s all used. It’s all not true, obviously.”

He added that Tatad continues to invent “tall tales” against the President without any evidence or proof. Tatad has yet to identify his supposed source inside the Aquino government. Lacierda said that he is still waiting for Tatad to reveal who his source is and prove his allegations.

Tatad meanwhile has made additional charges that President Aquino allegedly conspired with Napoles herself to use 49 to 69 Billion Pesos worth of pork barrel funds to bribe members of the lower house to support the passage of the RH or reproductive health bill and also to guarantee the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

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ASEAN : Relevance in the Asian Era of Prosperity and Conflict
By Alan Mark De Luzuriaga


It has been several years ago when the current times had first been declared as the Asian Century. And it may be rightly so. Not only with the rise of China as a superpower at par with the United States, but, also with the positive development of a number of Asian economies, from the perennial Asian Tigers like Japan, Singapore and Korea and the rapidly growing Asian Cubs such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

This dynamic region is also home to a Forty six year old economic and geopolitical organization known as ASEAN, short for Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Currently composed of Ten countries (from the original five founders – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Philippines), ASEAN has strived these past decades to foster economic cooperation as well as promote peace and order in the region.


In the past years, ASEAN has struggled to establish itself as a power bloc, primarily because of the internal problems and instability that each member country had to prioritize. Likewise, direct interests in dealing with the United States, Europe and China has made its commitments to its Southeast Asian neighbours secondary in importance. With the rise of China as a major superpower in the recent years, members of ASEAN continue to find itself with conflicts of interest in establishing itself as a relevant grouping. On the other hand, relaxed trade barriers and access to markets between member countries and with China has resulted in the rapid growth of these Asian economies.


Recent territorial disputes within the South China Sea / West Philippine Sea is a possible litmus test for the identity of ASEAN as a relevant organization. The Spratly islands, a grouping of 750 islands have a total land area not exceeding two square miles. However, they are believed to have massive oil and gas reserves, enough reason for its six claimants, namely China and Taiwan, as well as four of the ASEAN members – Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, to risk possible conflict and confrontation. How ASEAN will manage to mediate between its member countries, as well as deal with China and Taiwan on this matter may be the biggest challenge yet to this alliance.



In 2012, serious confrontations erupted between China and two ASEAN members – Philippines and Vietnam – over the islands. Both ASEAN nations have accused China of sabotaging its oil exploration activities. China has sent an array of warships into the disputed territories to display its superior military might. The Philippines has called on their treaty with the United States to counter the Chinese show of force and renamed the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea. But, in all these disputes, ASEAN has never taken a solid stand. It was only recently, in August 2013 that ASEAN announced a unified statement. And this is only to say that they are one in convincing China to sit down and talk on the long delayed completion of the code of conduct on the South China / West Philippine Sea.



Many have longed for ASEAN to make the quantum leap as an organization and make it as relevant as other international alliances such as the European Union. In the recent 22nd ASEAN Summit early this year in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, the leaders of these ten member countries met under the theme of “ Our People, Our Future Together”. These coming months, amid the climate of global economic growth and uncertain conflicts, ASEAN will have more than its plate full to once and for all, after almost fifty years of existence, prove its purpose and importance as an influential and relevant confederation in the international community.

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A Surprising New Abbot Enters a New World
By: Alan Mark De Luzuriaga



Australia has just elected a new government over a week ago and all eyes are on Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbot. Since the opinion polls practically showed him winning even before election day, political pundits have made countless predictions on how Abbot was going to run the government to the ground from day one. His reputation as presented by his opponents with the help of unfriendly media did not help counter the projection of a “crazy and misogynist” leader once he is sworn in. His verbal blunders made him an attractive target for many a doomsday scenarios for his administration. So what has happened since?


The recent campaign, surprisingly proved his detractors wrong. Once described as not having the temperament to be a world class leader, most especially in handling foreign affairs, Abbot was able to transform his persona into somebody else, surprising even some of his most vile critics. Many observers noted that Abbot conducted himself as a serious candidate and erased doubts about his electability. Even as his opponents tried to resurrect several of his political gaffes during the campaign, Abbot was able to cultivate and maintain a positive image long enough to last until judgement day. His reportedly usual style of frenetic and confrontational interaction was replaced with a slow and calm demeanor, especially during the last days of the campaign.


Since his election last September 7, 2013, The newly elected Prime Minister has not held a press conference in the week that passed, but instead has met with his potential front bench members and his defense chiefs. His office has also indicated that he has communicated with a few international leaders in the past days. His caution at making announcements on possible changes he is implementing once he is sworn in has caught a number of political figures and commentators by surprise. People have even downplayed a few verbal boo boos such as comments about the sex appeal of a female candidate and a simplistic remark about the crisis in Syria.



In a meeting with his Defense Chiefs early on before assuming his position, Abbot is projecting an image of preparedness, in particular, in the defense policies of his administration. Although defense, like foreign policy were peripheral issues during the campaign ( with the economy taking the lead issue), he is showing the public a new person that is more in tune with the new post he is about to occupy. Defense issues are going to be a prominent part of his agenda in the coming days as Australia enters into its presidency of the U.N. Security Council and amid the backdrop of a growing and volatile situation in Syria.



As Australia assumes the chair of the G20 in 2014, Abbot also needs to prove his critics wrong in showing a new kind of foreign leader that is ready to continue steering Australia's role as a leading trading nation and a significant and reliable contributor of foreign humanitarian aid. His position on Syria vis-a-vis maintaining relations with the United States, Europe and China will also test his mettle on the myriad of issues that need to be handled on the foreign affairs front.

No one is betting that these new changes that were evident during the campaign and his first few days after the election will stick, or eventually disappear into the Abbot of old. His supporters on the other hand, are saying that this new person is the real Abbot all along. For all Australians and the rest of the world, all eyes are indeed on the old and the new Tony Abbot and the new world he is embarking on.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

HEAVEN HAS NO PLACE FOR MONSTERS. By Noah S. R. de Luzuriaga


HEAVEN HAS NO PLACE FOR MONSTERS.
By Noah S. R. de Luzuriaga

The little girl waited in the shadows. Daddy wasn't home yet. Daddy had forgotten to pay the power bill again, so she couldn't even turn on the lights. Needless to say, she was very afraid.

There wasn't any food left in the fridge, she thought, but there might still be some water. Looking about her, the little girl tiptoed out, believing that monsters were watching, from the darkness, all around her. But that was silly. Monsters weren't real, she thought.

Reaching into the fridge, the little girl, out of that strange animal instinct that we all possess, spun around. It was then she saw the figure in the dark, the monster in the shadows.

She didn't scream, she knew from experience that screaming never helped, but she did run. Hands, gloved hands, so strong and unyielding, grabbed her. She didn't fight back. She just waited, waited for the monster to eat her.

“Where is your father?” said a voice that was harder than rock.

The girl wouldn't answer, she was too afraid.

Then, the monster took off its face and the girl realized, it wasn't a monster, it was a man.

“My name is Bruce. What's yours?”

“Joy”, said the girl, who liked the new man's voice better than the monsters.

“Joy. That's a pretty name. Are you here on your own?”

“Yes. But Daddy will be back soon.”

“Where is he?”

“He's off being a superhero. He goes up, up and away, saves people, beats bad guys. He's very strong, handsome, a little bit like you, but with yellow hair.”

“Your father's a superhero?”

“Yup.”

Then the nice man, Bruce, she remembered, looked sad. She wondered why. Maybe he was just jealous of her Daddy.

“Joy.....I ….”

The door opened. Joy turned to look at it, and when she looked back, Bruce was gone.

“Daddy! Daddy! You just missed him, there was a monster, then a man named Bruce, and ...”

She didn't finish the sentence....being backhanded by your father would shut anyone up.

“Shut your trap. Get me a beer.”

“But, there isn't any...”

The father, the “superhero” raised his hand, and Joy ran before she could get another smack.
A thousand thoughts swirled throughout Joy's mind. She'd been a bad girl, disturbing her father. There was nothing in the fridge but water, so what was she going to do? And where was Bruce?

She heard a scream, from the other room, from her daddy, but it wasn't an angry scream. It was a scared one. She rushed into the other room, and saw the monster holding her daddy in the air with one arm.

“Put him down. YOU PUT HIM DOWN.”

“Joy”....it was Bruce's voice, coming from the monster's mouth.

“Please put him down. He's my Dad”.

The monster whose name was Bruce dropped the father. Without another word, he walked out. Joy ran to her father, who looked like he was asleep, and the poor girl tucked herself in next to the father who was her world, her guide, her hero.

In another, similar dark place, the monster took off his face once more, and talked to his butler.

“Alfred, contact Gotham social services. Have them get Joy. Get her out of there, away from HIM, away from that....that....”, Bruce stopped, sat back in his chair.

“She protected him Alfred. She had no idea who he really was. To her, she was perfect. Why couldn't she see?'

“Master Bruce, sometimes, the most downtrodden simply close their eyes, thank God for the experiences of life, no matter how horrible it is. “

Bruce simply nodded. He knew evil, faced evil. But this?


This poor girl was in hell, made all the worse, simply because she thought it was heaven. And heaven has no place for monsters.  


(photo courtesy of :http://darknesswithinshadow.wikia.com/wiki/The_Odium)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Haiku #2


Haiku # 1


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Start your own New Christmas Traditions!


Published in Northern Living / Southern Living Magazines (Print) 2012
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Start your own New Christmas Traditions!
by Alan & Ching - R. de Luzuriaga

Television shows and shopping malls have started to remind you that the yuletide season is coming. As we ponder on Christmases past and the great times we had with our families, we cannot help but yearn for equally meaningful and memorable ways to celebrate the coming holidays with our loved ones.

There are many wonderful Christmas Traditions. The Christmas tree, donating to charities, a visit from Santa, and Christmas programs are but some of the usual practices that have been enjoyed by countless families.

For those who would want something different, here are some new ways to make your own Christmas Traditions.

1. Welcome a less fortunate family into your home. - Many families give to charity, volunteer in feeding programs and throw parties for the less fortunate. This Christmas, why not make it closer to home. Invite the family of your household employee or community worker over for a Christmas lunch, complete with gift-giving and other activities. Make it a different family every year. You and your children would give a whole family immense joy on this occasion as well as give you heart warming memories as the years go by.

2. Eco-friendly and money-saving Christmas decorations - Instead of spending on decorations, re-use materials to make your home festive. Assign each family member an area to decorate (ex. Mom - living room, Dad - dining area, Children - garage, patio, kitchen, etc...). Make sure that everyone uses only existing household materials like newspapers, magazines, bottles, jars, candles, cartons, cans, cardboard, etc.. ( you're allowed to buy glue and adhesive tape) to create decorations such as Christmas trees, wall decor, wreaths, a Christmas Belen, lanterns and the like. Guests during the Christmas season will marvel at how you and your kids decorated your home for the holidays - the creative and environment friendly way.

3. "Translate your favorite English Christmas Carol to Filipino" - Singing is part and parcel of Filipino celebrations and Christmas is no exception. The use of sing-along machines as well as the ever dependable guitar, make Christmas day a musical experience for many families. To create something different than the usual karaoke night, why not create some semi-original numbers from the staple Christmas classics. Translate your favorite English Christmas Carol into Filipino or the native family dialect. Performing such novelties will surely make the Christmas program something you will not easily forget. And who knows, you even might perform these "originals" in the family reunion.


4. Capture it on Video ! - The digital video camera has been an indispensable tool to capture memories for many families. But, it can be more than just a way to preserve those delightful moments when the kids open their gifts and shout with glee.

Using the video camera and editing software in creative ways can make Christmas celebrations truly remarkable and memorable . Try some of these out.

A) Instead of forcing your chubby Uncle to get all made up to play Santa Claus, (Kids aren't fooled as easily nowadays, anyway), make a video of Santa climbing down from the roof and placing gifts under the tree ( make sure the children are all asleep when doing the video shoot). Show these to the kids when they wake up, right before gifts are handed out and it will add magic to their Christmas morning.

B) Gather the old Videotapes, video disks, and scanned photos, of the yearly Christmas celebrations and edit the highlights in one video show. Seeing how your family celebrated the occasion through the years will give everyone a smile. Don't forget to take a video of the coming celebration and edit it in for next years gathering. Do this year after year after year, and see how the family and the kids have grown as time goes by.

C) Make a Christmas Video greeting and post it in Facebook or email it to your family and friends. Not only will it be cheaper than sending greeting cards, it will also add a special touch for those who receive your on-cam holiday greeting.


5. Hold a Christmas Master Chef competition - To prepare for your Christmas feast, let everyone pitch in by making a Christmas dish - from a simple ice cream sundae that the kids can make to Mom's special salad. You can pick a a Food Theme if you like - Filipino Food, Dessert, Anything goes, etc... and let Grandpa and Grandma be the judge. The winning dish earns bragging rights and gets to be a regular dish every Christmas to be prepared by your very own family's Christmas Master Chef 2011!


6. Family Christmas Run or Bike trip- Get physical and prepare for those extra pounds to be gained later in the day. Wake up to an early Christmas morning and see the sun rise while going on a family fun run around the community. For those who prefer biking, hop on those wheels and start on an early family bike trip to your favorite trail. Don't forget to wear Santa hats / helmets to mark the occasion.

Christmas is all about love and family. And the best way to celebrate it is by making your own Christmas Traditions to be shared and handed down through generations.  

Holiday Stress Busters!


Published in Northern Living / Southern Living Magazines (Print) 2011
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Holiday Stress Busters!
by Alan & Ching - R. de Luzuriaga

It is every bit ironic that the Christmas Season - the time that is meant to remind us of love, family, peace and harmony, is the same period where people get all worked up and stressed out. Most Filipinos take the Christmas activities very seriously. Traditions and practices unique to the "Diwa ng Pasko" ( Spirit of Christmas) make the season ( and usually, even the month after, when the credit card bills arrive) even more hectic, busy and stress-filled. In order to make this Holiday period more relaxing and enjoyable, try out these suggestions to make your celebration worry free.

1. Plan your budget. - Spend what you can afford. Keep those credit cards locked up. Whether it is for the Christmas party, or for gifts, keeping it simple and affordable will bring the same fun and enjoyment to everyone. For a more organized and detailed plan, use free spreadsheets like CALC in OpenOffice ( www.openoffice.org ) or free cash management software like GNUCASH ( www.gnucash.org ) to track those expenses. Remember, the first Christmas was held in a lowly stable, and you are only obliged to give expensive gifts if you happen to be one of the three Kings.

2. Schedule it & make a list. - It doesn't matter if you use a pad, an organizer, or a smart phone... fix that schedule and you will avoid mix ups on those important activities. Write down not only the things you need to do, but also your gift list. Jot down ideas on what to get them and cross them out once you have wrapped up the goodies. This will also help you spend less time thinking and looking, when you get to the store.

3. Shop early, Start now ! - We start our Christmas shopping in January. Seriously. This might be too extreme for some, but if you happen to see something appropriate and specially "On sale" for a friend or family member, why not buy it and place it in a special "Christmas Box or Cabinet". Make sure to label the gift so as not to forget who it is for, as well as cross it off your list. With 11 months to do your shopping, not only will it be un-hurried, but you will also get the best prices for the items on sale. Check your "Christmas Box" when the season is about to start and be amazed how much shopping you have already accomplished. Start now!

4. Learn to say NO! - Not only does everyone throw a party, but you get an invite to each one. To keep your sanity, think hard on which affair matters most to you, personally and professionally. Make time for these important functions and decline - with a heartfelt thanks - those other gatherings.

5. Pick a Gift theme. - In order to avoid heading to countless malls and stores (think of the horrendous Metro traffic) to pick that right gift for the right person, why not decide on a theme for all the gifts you plan to give. Personalized items - towels, mugs, pens, T-shirts, jackets - enable you to order all the items in your list, in a single store. Food items can be ordered in one pastry shop or fruit baskets from a single stall owner.

6. Work - the stress - Out! - Nothing gets rid of unwanted stress and worry like a good workout. Whether it be in a gym, a treadmill at home ( we recommend the TRX Suspension Training Kit - www.trxtraining.com ), or a run and bike ride in your community, sweating and stretching is a sure way to beat those stressful moments when they cannot be avoided. Make time for it during this holiday break.



7. Outsource your Kitchen. - Gone are the days when Moms would slave away all day in the kitchen to have something scrumptious for the Christmas table. Many restaurants and caterers are open on Christmas morning ( and even in the afternoon, for some). All it takes is a phone call to have that hearty feast ready for your family and friends. It is best to order days in advance.

8. Rest & Relax. - Sneak in a full body massage at home or a trip to the beauty salon / barbershop for some rest and relaxation between all those hectic activities. The time off will result in a more pleasant time not only for yourself, but for your kids and relatives as well, when they see you all calm and serene amidst all the hustle and bustle.

9. Be a Manager and delegate. - We always think that we need to do things ourselves to get the best results. That may be true in many cases, but why strive for perfection all the time. Sometimes, it is those little flaws that make the celebration more exciting and memorable. Learn to pass on some of the responsibilities to your spouse and kids, as well as to co-workers and friends. You'll be surprised how willing they are to help, and may even be flattered that you asked for their assistance.

10. Count to ten & breathe. - When the cork is about to pop or when the kettle is simmering, don't lose it. Remember that all problems have a solution and all annoyances will pass. Count to ten...slowly...and take deep breaths with it. And when the stress reaches its boiling point, ask yourself...What could be the worst thing that could happen? You'll be surprised that it is not as bad as you think.

Last piece of advice....think happy thoughts. Christmas, like every moment of our life, is what we make of it.

FIRST TIME SCHOOLERS


Published in Northern Living / Southern Living Magazines 2012


FIRST TIME SCHOOLERS 
by: Alan & Sylvia de Luzuriaga

It's a tough world for kids.

In their first few years, they get doted upon as if the whole world revolves around them, making them feel safe and secure, until, the dawning of the age of preschool.
All of a sudden, they get thrusted into a scary world full of strangers with tons of things to do.

And that's when the tears flow, the shouting erupts and the tantrums start.

But, there are some ways to turn the frustration and confusion of first time schoolers into moments of love, affection and support.

According to Jennifer Wana - author of How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School, preschool time can be an exciting time for the whole family. We just have to make sure we know the correct WHY, WHEN, HOW, WHAT & WHERE of our first time schoolers' experience.

WHY - Why do we need to send our kids to preschool?

For one, it helps them form relationships that help their emotional and social development. It trains them to be independent and gives them a feeling of self worth. It also gives them the confidence to make their own decisions. Schoolwork develops their language, cognitive, math, literacy and motor skills. And lastly, it prepares them for higher academic levels.

Of course, activities at home can also provide them with many lessons and skills . Which is why it is important that we also know the WHEN.

WHEN - When do we need to send our kids to school?

There are parents who start early and send their kids to school at the age of two. However, other parents prefer to follow the norm of four or five.

So what is the ideal age for your child? It's time to get to the HOW and find out.

HOW - Preparing your kids for preschool is also the best way to find out if they are ready or not. Before the school year starts, you will need to have your kids evaluated by a school (not necessarily the one you will eventually choose) .
The results of the evaluation will help you know what to do. You have to talk to your kids about the new experiences they will be having. In the summer months, introduce them to group settings like summer classes. Visit the school they will be attending so the place won't be that "new" and "strange" once school starts.

A wonderful suggestion by Ms. Wana is to use school terms inside the home. Playing with their clay set becomes "Art Time" and having their merienda will be "Snack time" or "Recess". Another good tip is to read books and watch movies about first time schoolers that will put your children at ease.
Recommended Books:
  • The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn
  • My First Day at Nursery School, by Becky Edwards
  • What to Expect at Preschool, by Heidi Murkoff
  • I Love You All Day Long, by Francesca Rusackas

One last but vital advice is this. NEVER talk about concerns and worries in front of your children. You would not want to give them ideas that school is a place that they should be afraid of.

Now that you know what to do, you can start choosing WHAT kind of school you will be sending your children to.

WHAT - What kind of preschool education is right for my kids?

All schools fall into two categories – "Child Centered" or "Teacher Directed".
According to Babble Parenting Guides ( http://www.babble.com ), "In a child-centered classroom, children choose what activities they want to do and when to do them. "
"Teacher-directed classrooms have a more structured feel, as teachers tell the children what activities to do and when they will do them."

All other teaching styles or methods such as Play-based, the Montessori method, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Waldorf philosophy, and the traditional school method all fall under these two above-mentioned categories.

It would be worth any parent's time to look into these various systems and approaches as they all have their own advantages.

Once you have chosen which kind of schooling you prefer, the last step is the WHERE.

WHERE - Which school do I send my kids to?

First thing parents have to do is to check out the school. Bring your kids along. Watch their facial reactions as you go around the school and make sure to ask them what they think. They are never too young to know what they like or don't like.
For those of us in Metro Manila, it is also important to consider the traffic situation. The time spent traveling and being stuck in traffic, specially if your kids are running late, might just make everyday stressful for your kids. This would dampen any learning experiences your children could potentially receive on that day.

It all boils down to knowing what we want for our children, and preparing ourselves and our kids for their voyage through the world of learning and life.



KEEPING THE LOVE WITH "COMING OF AGE" KIDS


Published in Northern Living / Southern Living Magazines (Print) 2011 
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KEEPING THE LOVE WITH "COMING OF AGE" KIDS

My son, Luke, turned eight years old this year. Being the youngest of my two sons, he was always used to being the "bunso" or youngest, and relished the part, most specially when he wants to get his way with me, his mom and his "kuya" (older brother).
It was then a pleasant surprise when he started reminding everybody that he wasn't five years old anymore, that he was a grown up eight year old and that he should be allowed to do some things by himself, particularly ....walk along a street or in a parking lot area, without anyone beside him (he hates it when we hold his hand); go inside a public restroom cubicle alone; talk to older girls without his mother looking over his shoulder and eavesdropping on the conversation.
We got the picture.

Our eldest, Noah, just turned into a teenager himself. He adapted very well into the role of an older brother since he was five, and his independence and maturity was no surprise. But turning thirteen, was also quite significant for us as it was for him. Sleep-overs and going to his favorite mall shops without us is happening more often.

So does this mean our babies are all growing up fast and there is nothing we can do to keep them close? Or will the coming years be filled with an endless tug of war between youthful independence and parental control?

Not at all, not yet anyway. Here are some thoughts, for both Mom & Dad, as well as growing boys and girls, and teenagers, on how to make the most of "coming of age".

For grown up kids and teenagers:

1. All you need to do is ask. - It's in the nature of parents to protect their young. But it is also our dream to see you independent and capable of fending for yourself. We just don't know exactly when you need us to back off and let you fly. So you'll have to tell us, and despite our protestations, we will give you the space to spread your wings. But we need to know when, and where, and how. Help us out.

2. Don't be afraid to fall, or make a fool of yourself. - As you turn seven, or eight, or thirteen...you will be finding the need to try out new things, without the help of Mom or Dad. Buying stuff, crossing the street, and most definitely, when talking to the opposite sex .... do not be scared as we will be always there to catch you or pick you up. And no matter what other people might think, you will always be the best and most wonderful child to your parents.

3. What is the worst that can happen? - When you are trying out things for the first time - joining a new group or club, first time at camp , or again, when dealing with the opposite sex, - your imagination might always get the better of you, telling you that things may turn out to be a disaster. But, instead of fighting it, do think about it. Always ask, "what is the worst that can happen?", and you will be surprised that it is not as bad as you imagine it to be. And even if it does happen, you will realize that life will go on anyway, so you might as well go and do it.

4. You will always be Mommy and Daddy's Baby.- Even when you feel all grown up and ready to take on the world, I bet there are times that you wish you could snuggle up to Mom and Dad when you're sleepy, or just give them a hug 'cause you feel like it. I will let you in on a secret - Mom and Dad love it. So go ahead and do it. Hugs, snuggles, and even kisses, will always be a welcome.

5. Let us in, sometimes. - With "coming of age", comes the need for privacy. We know we have to keep out of your stuff, or not read the text messages on your phone, and stay away from your computer. But it would help if you keep Mom & Dad in the loop. It will help us understand who you are as a person and how to treat you best ( specially if you need something ).

For Mom & Dad:

My wife, Ching, and I, have found a few tricks to keep our relationship with our boys as tight ( or even tighter) than ever. It's all a matter of making the time and putting in the effort in giving our kids the independence they want but still be the best friends they can ever have.

1. Look for common interests. - Noah and I share a passion for comic books and science fiction stories. I always make it a point to ask him to tag along when I go to comic book stores or when I get some new sci-fi books or DVDs. Common interests are not limited to fathers and sons only. Fathers can find common things to do with daughters the same way mothers do with sons. If you haven't discovered it yet, just make a list of things you like to do and run it through them. You'll be surprised.

2. Set up a regular date in your favorite diner.- Although food, any kind in any place, is definitely something you and your kids enjoy together, there will always be that one special restaurant where your kids feel special. Be it the food, the ambience, or even the free toys that come with the meals. Make it a once a month habit that your kids will always look forward to.

3. One-on-One time. - For those with more than one child, spending time with one particular son or daughter, away from the siblings and your husband or wife, is a way to make the child feel special. It could just be a stroll in the park, or a bite to eat at the mall. The time and attention you spend with one particular child will enable both of you to focus on each other and strengthen the bond between you two. As with the dining, make it a regular thing that your son or daughter will surely look forward to.

4. Make ordinary trips a special time together - I bring my two boys regularly to the barber shop, sometimes together, sometimes one at a time (depending on their hair growth and their hairstyle preference). For my teenager, Noah, we sometimes use this occasion to go for a walk, going to and back from the barber shop, instead of using the car. The 30 minute leisure walk enables us to talk about anything under the sun, grab some ice cream, and get some exercise as well. My eight year old, Luke, always looks forward to the trip to the barber shop ( he used to hate haircuts) since he knows we always pass by his favorite novelty item store going home.

5. Always have space in your bed. - Stormy nights or a really scary horror movie might just convince your grown up kid or teenager into sneaking up onto Mom & Dad's bed. It is nice to let them know that they are always welcome to snuggle up and have sweet dreams anytime they feel like it. Their is nothing like a warm embrace while sleeping to let them know how much you love them....forever.

No matter what age they are, and how independent they grow up to be, the love between parent and child will always remain as long as we say it and show it the best way we can. As our family's favorite children's book says... " I'll Love You Forever, I'll Like You For Always, As Long as I'm Living, My Baby You'll Be".