Don’t worry about offending me

Do not worry about offending me. From my family, to my school, to the organizations I belong to, to work that I have had to do, I’ve long been in environments where I naturally tend to hold a contrary opinion, or hold on to beliefs my family, friends and colleagues are against. Thus, don’t worry when you argue with me, I’m used to it.

Always, I hold on to my principle of assuming good faith in every man, relying on the basic humanity that binds us all, and the many experiences we all share, despite differences and conflicts. People will always be, to me, more than the sum of their opinions. They are my fellow human beings. As long as we do not breach out basic sense of humanity and good faith in arguing, I am okay.

Take note however, that respecting another person’s opinion doesn’t mean I would just stay silent too. It irks me a lot when people just invoke “respeto lang!” in order to prematurely end debates and conversations. It stifles our pursuit of the truth. If I think some people are wrong, I first try to understand the context of how such wrong opinions have been formed in their minds, but I would also make an effort to challenge these opinions, not because I don’t respect the people who hold them, but because I just really think they’re wrong.

Thus, I find it unnecessary to say, “no offense” the way many people do, because I think that should be a given. I find it odd, especially in our culture, where challenging beliefs and opinions is seen to be offensive. People should not take offense when their beliefs or opinions are challenged.

Admittedly, there are also times when I do stay silent. Sometimes, it’s because I just don’t care, a person’s opinion doesn’t matter to me, or the person doesn’t matter at all in the first place. Most of the time, I concede when I realize I’m wrong. I’m not a very proud person, in the sense that I genuinely don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. But more often, I think challenging opinions and long-held beliefs, or trying to approximate the truth in any situation is a process that doesn’t begin nor end in one engagement. Parties have to go through different phases and stages necessary before arriving at their respective enlightenment. So I do let things be, at times.

I find myself writing this because over the course of the past weeks, I’ve seen how heated arguments over political candidates and the upcoming national elections have become in social media. Also, I’ve realized how colleagues are failing at their effort to convince others to side with them. Soon enough I may find myself joining these conversations. And this serves as a reminder to myself, and to others on how to engage in conversations with me over opinions and controversies.

Assertive but not aggressive. Diplomatic but not timid.

Kowloon and Hong Kong Island

December 3-6, 2015. After spending an overwhelming part of the year preparing for the bar exams and actually taking them through November, a trip to Hong Kong (probably the nearest foreign destination for residents of Manila) seemed to be a great idea, at least for someone like me who enjoys traveling.

It had been four years since my last trip to Hong Kong with my family and much of it was spent in HK Disneyland. For the first two days of this particular sojourn, I had the privilege of going about my way alone, unhampered by any packaged itinerary or the whims of travel companions.

HK 13

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Lamma Island, Hong Kong

December 4, 2015. Lamma Island is a short ferry ride from Hong Kong Island. One of Hong Kong’s less inhabited and less visited islands, it usually attracts local Hong Kong residents and tourists who wish to escape the intensely cosmopolitan vibe of the city.

There are two charming villages on the island bound together by a trail that crosses through a small range of hills running north to south of the island. Aside from an imposing and ubiquitous power plant that seemed out of place, the island was indeed a serene escape from the bustling commercial activities of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

I arrived just in time for lunch at the village of Yung Shue Wan at the northern part of the island. After a hearty meal of succulent shrimps cooked in scrambled eggs, I wandered about the quaint community, walked to a beach called Hung Shing Yeh, and then trekked through the “family trail” that traversed the rolling hills of the island southwards to the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan.

Tokyo with Family (Day 5) – Hakone

April 6, 2015. Our last full day in Tokyo was spent outside the city in the resort area of Hakone (箱根) almost a hundred kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

On a good day Hakone offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji. On this particular day however overcast skies and slight drizzles hid much of mountain and the hues that would’ve otherwise made such a picturesque setting for a day trip.

After a brief stop in one of the stations on the slopes of Mount Fuji, we proceeded to a quaint hotel where we had lunch. Next, we rode a ropeway to the sulfur springs of Owakudani (大涌谷), where Hakone’s sulfur cooked black eggs are made. Our last stop was on a ferry through Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖).

Tokyo with Family (Day 4)

April 5, 2015. A visit to a Disney theme park in one city didn’t seem to be enough for my folks, we just had to go to another Disney theme park in Tokyo, Disney Sea. It would have been the more interesting theme park visit because it deviates from the classic Disneyland blueprint. However, the rains and the cold really dampened the mood, after seeing most of the park’s sections, all we wanted to do was go home and stay dry.

Tokyo Disney Sea, unique to Tokyo, is made up of seven themed “ports of call”–Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 3)

April 4, 2015. Our third day in Japan was spent with a tour group with a half-day itinerary to two of the city’s iconic landmarks — Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) and Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). In between, our shuttle made brief drive throughs of other landmarks in the city.

In Meiji Shrine we were fortunate to have witnessed a wedding ceremony and a miyamairi (宮参り, literally “shrine visit”) a traditional Shinto rite of passage for Japanese babies.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 2) – Tokyo Disneyland

April 3, 2015. Tokyo Disneyland is Disneyland anywhere else in the world. All generally follow the same blueprint and themed sections, with some particular variations in attractions. If you have been to other Disneylands, this will be a familiar trip.

It was a weekday and despite the overcast and occasional drizzle, hundreds of school kids in their uniforms were in the park, which seemed as busy as it would have been on a weekend. Lines were long, so if you’re not prepared to stand in line and wait for at least half an hour for each ride, forget it! Ha ha. If you’ve been in a similar ride or attraction in another Disneyland, it’s probably quite the same.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 1)

April 2, 2015. My family visited Tokyo, Japan right at the peak of the year’s bloom of cherry blossoms (sakura 桜). Part of the awe of the spectacle is the transient nature of the full bloom of flowers, which only happens roughly within the span of a week or so at a particular place, which makes one cherish the experience even more. This likewise explains why upon arrival, hanami (花見) or viewing the cherry blossoms was the first thing our family did.

In fact, the short-lived character of the beautiful bloom symbolizes many aspects of the sakuras’ cultural significance to the Japanese, centered on the beauty of life and its many aspects and their fleeting existence to be relished at their peak.

By the end of our short 5-day trip, the bloom had waned and the flowers have started falling down.

We were fortunate enough to be billeted in a hotel within walking distance from one of the best places in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵), or the moat the surrounds the northeastern part of the Imperial Palace.

As with any scenery that have been become familiar not by actual sight but by dominant cultural portrayal and association in visual media, seeing the cherry blossoms of Tokyo for the first time in person was a surreal experience. The trees in full bloom was indeed a sight to behold, especially as set against the cosmopolitan vibe of Tokyo.

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Backpacking Taipei (Day 1)

December 8, 2014. I booked a plane ticket to Taipei much earlier this year, almost spontaneously, right after I decided to go on a trip to Cambodia. I had since then planned this trip to cap my year, just right after classes in law school ended for 2014.

I arrived in Taipei (Taoyuan Airport) from a red-eye flight just past midnight. With my check-in time at the hotel more than half a day away, I decided to wait until morning at the airport. It was a silly decision (not to book the night at the hotel to cut cost), as I realized no amount of being spendthrift could replace a good night’s rest in bed, no matter how short, if I intended to walk all day the next day. By sunrise, I felt so tired from the lack of sleep.

At the break of dawn, I took the bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei central station. I got myself a three-day pass in the Taipei Metro, then rode the train to Ximending district and asked my hotel if I could check in much much earlier. Fortunately, a room was ready and they accommodated me at no extra charge. I ended up sleeping the whole morning.

By noon, I rose up to begin ‘exploring’ Taipei’s landmarks. Availing of the Taipei Metro pass was a great decision, as the trains were a very convenient way to get to all the interesting parts of the city.

It was an overcast day, but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my first full day in Taipei.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Chiang Kai Shek is the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the President of the Republic of China (ROC) who established the ROC government in Taiwan after KMT’s defeat by the Communists in the mainland. The memorial hall itself is only part of the larger public square called Freedom/Liberty Park which has two Chinese theaters, beautifully manicured gardens and a uniquely-designed gate.

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