Between the Giant and Rationality

If one is observant enough to look at the outskirts of urban Philippines particularly Manila, one would never fail to notice the peculiarity of the scene: mothers spend countless hours sacrificing household chores just to play bingo, tong-its’ (local version of poker) or mahjong.

They are mindless of their children crying at the top of their lungs and unaware that they are burning the hard-earned money their husband had brought home from scavenging or construction work. Look around and there would always be dirty kids running and playing and not giving a damn if they have taken a bath or not. There would also be kids who, instead of being in school, have to work day in and day out to help their parents make both ends meet. Their jobs vary, from digging the muddy and heavily-polluted seabed of Manila Bay to get pieces of metals they call ‘kalakal’ (merchandise) to sell at opportunistic junk shops, to carrying heavy loads of fruits and vegetables in the early hours of the day.

In the streets, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see able-bodied but jobless men on drinking sprees in front of ‘sari-sari’ (a small family-operated shop typically attached to the house) stores, laughing heartily at their senseless conversations, amidst the fact that they don’t even know whether they’ll have something to feed their family the next day. They flaunt their big bellies, their tattooed arms and worst of all, they brazenly display unproductiveness.

On the next block, it is also hard not to notice a group of teenagers, most of them thin as bamboo and nutritionally deficient like dying carnations. A few of them could be seen playing ‘cara y cruz’ (heads or tails), some would be smoking weed, others snorting ‘shabu‘ (crystal meth) and some would be sniffing ‘rugby (contact cement) filled plastic bags to get their highs to temporarily mask out their miseries. These youngsters are not few. Like a vicious cycle, they spawn like rabbits, and would join similar ill-fated, innocent souls in sordid existence.  But, is it all about fate?

Take a casual walk on the streets and you would notice how informal settlers have mushroomed all over the country; be it in the urban or rural areas. This is where we would realize that we have not really seen and experienced the worst in life. This is where we would see how any materials beyond use are utilized in making their shanties. This is where we would see occupants as many as fifteen trying to fit themselves in a ramshackle abode as small as a bathroom of a middle-class family. This is where we would see that the strength of the roof is based on how many dilapidated tires are placed on top of it. This is where we would see what the houses are made of – recycled plywood, flattened biscuit containers, plastic rice sacks, damaged tires, tarpaulins of stupid politicians or B-movie ads and an assortment of junks. No architectural plans, no concrete, no hollow blocks, no metal trusses, no hope.

In search for a better life had led to this...
A common sight in the urban areas of the Philippines due to overpopulation

Emotions would be mixed on seeing the vile living conditions of the increasing number of Filipinos. Some would feel sorry because of the plight the children have to live in.  A child has to compete with seven other siblings for the little amenities their parents could shower them with – toys out of rubbish, one meal per day, an educational privilege good only until the 8th-grade, a house comparable to those of pigeons and a whopping PHP 150 peso a day take home pay by the breadwinner. What a fucking way to live a short life.

To observant eyes, how some parents managed to have too many children -without any means of providing them a good foundation in childhood like regular meals, decent shelter, education, clothing, toys, play time, etc. – clearly borders on ignorance.  But, regardless of how we come up with the reasons why these people are wallowing in poverty, there is only one thing clear to everyone: the Philippines has swiftly become an overpopulated hell.

The problems that stem from overpopulation is beyond count. One frustration is that locally-produced agricultural products would always be insufficient to feed the entire population because there is a mismatch between the producer and the consumer. The population -an, consumption- simply overpowers production.  Surely and steadily, more and more Filipinos are filling their pie holes with imported products, which is a bane to the economy.

Another hassle presented by population sprawl is on job opportunities. Millions would compete against each other over a few job openings; it would be a dog eats dog situation. Newly-minted college graduates would not be prioritized as smaller companies tend to hire only the seasoned workers. College degrees would be useless, diplomas would be senseless. Only a handful with the skills (and, the right connections & recommendations) would be lucky enough to secure employment and the rest would be jobless, unable to support their families.

Overpopulation would also take its toll on the services extended by the government to the people. As the populace grows larger, fewer benefits would be shared by the proletariat. Let us take medical services as a perfect example. Already-burdened public hospitals will suffer from patient overload. A filthy bed would be shared by three or more patients, one with tuberculosis and others with dengue fever. On the ER, serious conditions that need abrupt medical attention won’t be met all at the same time.  Victims of vehicular accidents would have a very slim chance of survival because only three exhausted doctors are attending to twenty emergency cases.

Inside the maternity ward of an overcrowded hospital in the Philippines

The educational system is another government service that would suffer greatly as a result of overpopulation. How can we have quality education if one classroom holds one hundred-plus pupils? How can these students focus on learning if they are packed like a can of sardines?

Can senior high school students comprehend solid mensuration or even the basics of Algebra if their classroom is as hot as an oven toaster? Can grade ten students appreciate the epics of Homer and Ovid, the novels of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, if they do not even have a decent chair to sit in, a hygienic restroom to relieve themselves, a comfortable library where they could read books or even write poems? What about the teachers? Can we expect them to be effective?  By holding a class in a jam-packed room, precious time allotted to teaching would be wasted calling the attention and reprimanding the foolish ones. With a ballooning population, schools would just turn into a chaotic mecca.

An elementary classroom crowded with students is typical in the Philippines

As stated earlier, overpopulation will just bring infinite aggravation and as this currently troubles us, majority of Filipinos are unaware of the inconvenience it brings to our economy and to our future.

It is also worth noting that overextended families come from the poorest sector of the population. A friend of mine told me about a friend of a friend who has nine children, with the eldest being twenty-two and unable to finish high school.  The youngest is in the first grade, barely bringing a meal to school because of abject poverty. The bold, or should I say, stupid father has no other source of income but through driving a tricycle which he does not even own. Working such a financially-rewarding job, this family head brings home PHP 150 pesos day and it is up to the readers to imagine how the family gets through with the daily expenses.

How can a financially-strapped couple summon the courage (or, have the common sense) to have such a big family? Could this be simply attributed to the Filipinos penchant for the  ‘bahala-na-ang-Diyos’ (God will provide) mentality?

What could possibly be the culprit in this vicious cycle of boundless reproduction? Is it the administration? I’m sure the government is doing all it could in educating the people about family planning. Is it the easy access of today’s youth to pornographic and lustful websites? Perhaps, it could be a factor but it is controllable. Working or not, there are countries that censor the Internet to filter the materials its people can see. Is it the people themselves? There are many factors that are hitched with the ballooning of the population. But, in the Philippines, there is one uncontrollable, very strong force that cannot be stopped when it comes to the pyramiding population: the Catholic Church.

The church is opposed to artificial contraception and this belief dates back to the first centuries of Christianity. Such acts are intrinsically disordered because of the belief that all sexual acts must be open to procreation. There was even a point in time when the church allowed birth control – but only through abstinence. The Vatican even released a document entitled “Vademecum for Confessors” which stated “the Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception”.

Furthermore, the church had always pointed to the Holy Bible as it   lies in Genesis 1:28 which states “God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and the animals that scurry along the ground”. The fanatics and the Bible warriors do have a point though. Who else is to govern all the blessings this world has to give, but the people. Who else is to harvest the products of the fruit-bearing trees, and to cut the wood afterwards not minding landslides and pollution, but the people. Who else is to fish the sea in an insatiable manner using dynamite and toxic chemicals, but the people. Who else would carve the beautiful and natural shapes of mountains and hills just to get precious stones, but the people. Who else is to hunt the rare and exotic animals for money’s sake, but the people.

We, the people, are commissioned by the Creator to be the stewards of nature. And, as the logic goes, we should multiply. Even if multiplying is limitless. Even if multiplying equates to self-destruction. Isn’t it more sacrilegious to multiply when the posterity, like a virtual time bomb waiting to explode, will just damage His wonderful creation?

Who can contest the church’s uptake and exposition of inscriptions when, for a thousand years, they have been used to punish those who dare to question, to subject them to inquisitions, to tell everyone that the Creator’s grace and mercy is exclusive to those who kneel before man-made images purchased in the streets of Tayuman, and to baptize an innocent infant before he even gets a chance to choose the faith he prefers.

The Manila Cathedral in Intramuros serves as the Episcopal See of the Archbishop of Manila.

It has become our habit to follow and believe whatever the man in the white suit, whose car displays the Veritas sticker, tells us. We follow without question. We follow with the highest reverence. We follow with the fear of hell if we do not follow. It is funny that after the priest chants a Latin phrase, of which the significance or meaning is unknown to many of us, we instinctively chant ‘amen‘. It is funnier that the Filipinos, majority of whom are Catholics, abstain from eating pork during Lent to shun extravagance, only to fill their dining tables with more expensive seafood fares like lobsters, grilled blue marlin and huge prawns. These make me want to fry hotdogs using floor wax.

Church crusaders should be more realistic in taking a stand when it comes to the increasing population and traditional faith. While priests are busy preaching ‘multiplication’ and procreation, overpopulation is markedly taking its toll on the Filipinos – hospitals becoming smaller, schools becoming canned sardines, job opportunities becoming elusive, farmlands turning into subdivisions virtually overnight.  While the gross domestic product (GDP) becomes bigger our per capita income becomes smaller.  And, as always, the rich becomes richer and the poor…whatever!

Is this what the Creator planned our country to be? I doubt that He really wants us the majority of us to live in dire poverty and disorder. I also doubt that the church is accurately amplifying the Creator’s orders based on how He wants things to be. A little coherence and correction would not destroy the credibility of the church. And the correction should be made in its teachings regarding procreation.

For the country and the people that have long been under the grip of a compelling and untouchable force, the price of enlightenment is beyond purchase.

ALLFLAC and High-Definition Audio Players

If you’re a hard-core music enthusiast but still listens to your collections on your phone, then, you’re missing out a lot.

And, if you’re an Apple fan boy still buying songs through the iTunes Store and listening them through your iPhone or iPad, then, you’re simply paying a hefty premium for the brand.

Songs bought off the Apple store are encoded in Apple’s version of the venerated (specially during the Napster years) MP3 format, AAC (Apple Audio Codec). It is streamed at 128 kbps bit rate with a sample rate of 44.100 kHz.  AAC (and, MP3) is a ‘lossy’ format but is very popular due to its small file size as a result of compression.

Although you could rip all your CDs to a lossless format within iTunes using ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), the resulting files are huge and are playable only in, of course, Apple’s devices.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is an open-source musical format that will give you bit-perfect copies of CDs.  Not only that, it also supports ‘tags’ that enable you to retain artists, album covers, lyrics, etc., on the format.

With FLAC, you’re not only getting half the space occupied by a CD with no loss in quality but you’re also going to be able to get up to 24-bit at 192 kHz of music.  That’s studio-master quality.  Clearly, MP3 and AAC are no match for FLAC.

Rare is the true high-definition audio enthusiast that listens to his FLAC collection on a smartphone.  For Android phone users, even with the rock-bottom prices of microSD cards these days, its just so obvious that smartphone makers are just too focused to make the camera features  better.

And for iPhone users, it’s going to look ugly if you want to stick-in a Lightning-capable microSD card adapter to expand the memory capacity of the unit as there’s no memory expansion slot on those phones.  And, the saddest part of all, you can only transfer pictures and videos using the adapter –no music files.   Apple simply wants you to pay $970 for their top-of-the-line unit with 256 GB built-in.

Picture of a MicroSD Card with its Adapter. Fr...
Picture of a MicroSD Card with its Adapter. Frontal and Back. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But even most high-end smartphones from Samsung and Apple don’t have the top-tier, audiophile-grade chips to support FLAC at 192 kHz/24-bit nor they offer native DSD (direct stream digital) decoding which is the best way to listen to streaming music.

While high-quality audio always comes with a price, this doesn’t mean that you’ll have to break your piggy-bank.  So, what are the cheaper options?

For content, there’s nothing that will beat allflac.com.  The U.K-based music website has one of the cheapest rates around and you’ll be surprised to find some of the songs that you can’t find elsewhere including the iTunes Music Store.

ALLFLAC contends to have the world’s largest lossless music collection

What’s more, not only they have albums for as low as $1.99 but you can also download them in either FLAC, M4A and MP3 (or, all) format.  There is no membership fee and you can fund your account for as low as $10 with no balance expiration.

There are a handful of high-definition audio players available specially in Asia, Europe and the North American markets including the Kickstarter-funded, Neil Young-backed PonoPlayer as well as from well-known companies like Sony, Onkyo and Pioneer and others.

But one company stands out because of their low price without sacrificing quality: FiiO. 

Highly recommended to budding audio enthusiasts with limited budgets would be the FiiO X1 (2nd generation) model It retails for US$120 but could be had for as low as US$80 discounted if you shop around.

It’s a mid-entry model but surely not lacking in features found in their more expensive ones.  Most importantly, it supports microSD cards up to 256 GB or approximately 8,700 plus FLAC songs (at 30 MB per song).  That’s a lot of studio-master quality tunes to keep you in the groove.

The FiiO X1 (2nd generation) high-def audio player in action

The company’s catchphrase is “Born for Music and Happy” and, indeed, you’ll be more than happy once you had listened to some of your music collections – in the FLAC format.  Of course, using one of their portable high-definition players.

The difference in sound quality will astound you.