Thursday, January 24, 2008


LINUX (lae-noks, lee-nooks, lye-noks, lye-nooks), in whatever way you pronounced it, is the most beautiful word in the English language in use today, or of any other tongue that may have adapted it in their vocabulary. It is beyond ethnic, religious and ideological doctrines and borders. It is convergence in itself, fusing differences in patent, licensing and cost. For Linux is synonymous with freedom and liberation. Freedom of use. Freedom of making Linux work for you. Freedom of cost.

Freedom also from the bondage that Microsoft is exerting upon ordinary users. Linux is that sword that shall set us free against that kind of oppression on the desktop front. A double-edged sword at that.

Tech guys associated with using Microsoft Windows for years and who shuddered at the thought of working in a Windows-less environment just laughed at us people who wanted to use open source operating systems like Linux reasoning that Windows is a much better OS platform, technically and user-friendly wise. Yes, that could be true two or three years ago, but, not anymore.

Linux has evolved into so many different distros and in different versions in such a pace that one version is obsolete by a half year's time with another newer version released. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) environment with which Windows has dominated for years and which it had relied upon as benchmark for market dominance has been shrinking as newer Linux versions began to behave Windows-like but, unmistakably, retaining that effervescent Linux signature – the all pervading FREEDOM. Which is what Linux is all about.

When you talk about Linux, you will also talk about security. How secure is Linux from malicious software, from internet worms and from virus? To tell you the truth, no software is invulnerable to these kind of threats but the chances of it infiltrating on a desktop running on a Linux OS platform is lesser than what is one having a Windows would have experienced. It's almost nil. That's how hard it is for malware writers to crack open Linux codes than for them to crack one with Windows.

But, for sure, there will come a time when they find cracking Windows open a boring and witless preoccupation and turn their enthusiasm and creative damage at Linux instead. By that time, newer and better Linux versions would have been miles away from their harm as it is evolving and developing at warp-speed beyond that of any proprietary software company's idea and capability.

In all my 40 years or something living as a resident of Cebu City, a metropolis in southern Philippines; I have never found, except one, of a semi-permanent and conspicuous advertisement billboard wherein Linux is offered as one of a computer-related business' services. Though I find many such advertisements in newspapers, magazines and websites; but never in such a prominent place and on a real and analog structure.

What amused me though is that Linux is placed prominently above that of Windows and it is not alphabetically arranged either. And to think that Cebu is a market dominated 99.8% by Microsoft where they poured out millions of pesos here just for advertisements and perks on all PC and software distributors and stores just to keep their iron grip here. But not all.

The billboard is found on Governor Cuenco Avenue (the old Banilad Road) corner Paradise Village Road in Barangay Kasambagan. The owners, perhaps, have foreseen the prominence with which Linux would affect the desktop world and the Internet in the near future and have, in the process, preconditioned the arrival of Linux in this part of the world by putting up this sign. Or perhaps, they are just unaware of things to come and, by chance, some typo error have robbed the other of that order of importance. Whichever that may be.

We do like to own personal desktops with something like Windows or a Mac OS X running in it, don't we? But, it does take a small fortune to invest in having one. I, myself, could not afford it. So are my workmates and my neighbors. I have solved that predicament by switching my use to that of Ubuntu Linux and I am quite comfortable with it. Or let's just say, that I was quite desperate then. Or delirious. Whatever it is or was, Ubuntu OS rocks so well with my tune!

I need not have to elaborate. It is for you to find out. Though we are a third world country, it doesn't mean that we don't deserve something good and, at the same time, free like Linux, do we? Do you? Linux is open source technology's gift to mankind. And don't they say that “all good things in life are those that are given free”?

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


MOUNT PANGASUGAN (5,650 feet above sea level) is the first adventure trek which I had with the Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS. At that time, I was not yet a member but trying out to be one and on July 31, 1992 we left Pier 3, Cebu Harbor on board M/V “Pink Rose” for Baybay, Leyte at 8:00 in the evening to achieve one of the many requirements for membership with a major climb at Mt. Pangasugan, with or without a typhoon.

My rag-tag gear then were composed of a cheap day pack, which I hurriedly bought for this trip, a borrowed A-type tent, a borrowed “Mickey Mouse” sleeping bag for kids and a borrowed pair of work boots resoled with threaded tire. (You know what, that shoe really held its own against expensive and branded trek boots in the treacherous terrain of Pangasugan.)

Stuffed inside my pack and within its four different pockets were the tent, twelve assorted canned goods, four t-shirts, a pair of shorts, a pair of jogging pants, 2-1/2 kilos of uncooked rice, a kilo of cooked rice, a sweatshirt, a Minolta 110 camera, a loaf of bread, 2 one-liter bottled water, a plate, a cup, fork and spoon, three noodle packs, packets of coffee, sugar and powdered juice, a small Eveready flashlight with two AA batteries and a pair of flip-flops.

The sleeping bag I fastened above and outside of the cover flap of my pack in a Boy Scout manner. Man, it was heavy and I thought that the shoulder straps would give way, but, thanks to God, it held fast for the duration of the climb. I carried a plastic insulated 500 ml. water drinking jug which I slung around my neck which was quite heavy and moved like a pendulum as I walked. I looked goofy with my gear and I stood out among my peers, who carried or wore branded backpacks, gears and equipment all suited for the sport of mountaineering.

We arrived at dawn of August 1 at the quay of Baybay and proceeded by bus for the Visayas State College of Agriculture (VISCA – now the Leyte State University) from whence Mt. Pangasugan is within its exclusive administrative domain. We started off by 8:00 in the morning and what was an otherwise a promising and golden sunrise turned later into a gloomy state as dark stormy clouds generated by an oncoming tropical depression began to appear on the horizon.

With mixed feelings, I trudged on along the upward jungle trail following the long line of seventeen members of CeMS and fourteen from the VISCA Outdoors & Recreation Group (VORG), led by Mr. Toto Antopina. Our guide then was Manoy Berting, a former CAFGU, a para-military civilian-volunteer component of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tasked to fight communist insurgents. (Mind you, the area that we will intrude into is not yet cleared of armed communist fighters and a week before that an encounter between CAFGUs and these red fighters resulted in casualties on both sides.)

After an hour and a half of walking, I and Manoy Berting reached a rare clearing in an area otherwise abundant of very thick foliage of diptherocarps and undergrowths. This clearing is criss-crossed by several giant fallen old logs and some old giants stood by to give shade with their high branches. We both rested here and then others arrived and did likewise.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a fully-grown Philippine great eagle appeared from below these branches gliding. So majestic it came to my direction and I noticed the ground where I sat dimmed as he neared, whose spread wings I estimated, could be seven feet, more or less. So near I could almost touch his talons and as he passed by me he left a lone feather that fell exactly where my hand was. It was so perfect and I was so awed and so shocked that I was not able to scramble and draw out my camera from my bag in time! Looking up to see where the eagle has gone to, I never knew where it went. It just went pffft!...gone!...disappeared!
The presence of my eagle only affirms the rich bio-diversity of the area in and around Pangasugan. Calls by a multitude number of hornbills echoed and reverberated on the mountainsides like a running machine and have added to the staccato of countless other bird and insect sounds and bleats of wild deer. Amid that cacophony of pleasant noise there were fresh droppings of deer and wild boar, as well as, molted skins of all sorts of scaly creatures like monitor lizards and snakes.

Carrying my prized feather in my bonnet we trekked on higher ground and, by noon, we reached a grassy clearing on the top of Mount Guintangisan and stopped by for a quick lunch. I passed by three resting CeMS guys: Bebut Estillore, Tony Cabigon the CeMS president and Patrick Ng; and one of them requested me to carry an extra luggage – two Tanduay Rhum 375 ml. bottles – to my already bursting day pack, to ease Patrick from some load, who appeared to be greatly fatigued.

We then traversed a saddle and up a ridge then down to a brook where we pitched our tents for the night. I, however, never used my borrowed tent because there was no ground for the tent's stakes to be pierced into and, mostly, I'm a bit embarrassed seeing others owning tents with names like The North Face, REI, Marmot, and so forth. Miraculously, it never rained on that day and on that night, as well!

It seems, on my first day I passed my self-evaluation by consuming only a liter of water, two canned goods and a kilo of the cooked rice; trekking, more or less, 10 kilometers of slippery and precipitous trail and despite the weight on my back which, I doubted, only a few grams had been shed. (Or added. Remember the 2 rum bottles?) How's that for a newbie?

The second day of our trek was hard. The guide lost the trail. He had to hack away at the thick foliage to create one. It was hard work trailblazing. What made it harder is that the vegetation is a lot wilder and thornier and there were no water source. Rattan vines and other thorny thickets abound on the route we created, our clothes and packs got snagged each time a thorn clung and it hurts when your own hide got stuck to it. By this time, people started to complain of thirst, of fatigue, of pain.

There was a breakdown of poise and self-control as the single line became spread out thinly and scattered in groups instead of one continuous line. (It was old-growth jungle and visibility is good only for five meters or less.) Some forgot to take their daytime meals afraid that they might be passed over by others and be left behind. I lunched on my loaf of bread and a canned food and canned juice, happy to relieve of the unwanted weight, but, overdone it by offering one full bottled water to a beautiful lady. Gentleman's habits die hard, don't they?

I was following the guide and thought I had a good head start and took my siesta near a rock overhang, but, I overslept and when I awoken I could hear no more movement or some rustle of vegetation. I called out and I heard a distant reply way, way down below. Getting rattled now as the sun was nearing four in the afternoon, I decided to risk danger by sliding down the mountainside that is overly grown with thick vegetation, including that pesky thorny rattan vines! (I lost my treasured feather here.)

Whew, that was a race that ended in luck for me as I landed in front of Dennis Legaspi, just missing a cliff by a few meters but got tagged with several superficial wounds and scratches on my skin instead. Tough luck! Winded of my travail I almost gulped empty my only remaining bottled water.

After an hour of crawling pace, we ran out of water and some could not move forward anymore due to extreme fatigue caused by dehydration. Luckily, Manoy Berting came back just before sundown for us and carried bottles of “fresh” water to relieve and quench our thirsty throats! I drank a half bottle and shared what's left to others. By that time, it was already dark and I decided to make camp just by my lone self above the trail cradled by a curled root of a giant tree twenty meters behind the forward camp. I ate supper on two canned goods without rice and without water. Lucky me, it had not rained that night.

Feeling refreshed the following day I moved up to the forward camp and, to my dismay, that “fresh” water we drank last night was just a puddle of stagnant, wriggler-infested and debris-filled water in a rock hewn out by spring run-off that went dry. Anyway, it saved my butt and those of others, as well. Hehehe!!!

We were now just a few hundred meters below Mt. Pangasugan's crest and separated by an impenetrable wall of thick vegetation. But, then again, seeing the condition of our companions, we decided to divert our goal – which is Pangasugan's peak – and try to reach for Guinatanguisan river, about two-and-a-half kilometers distant below us, and abundant water!

In almost two hours we reached the headwaters of the Guintanguisan and followed it downriver for VISCA and civilization. But, it wasn't easy sailing for us.

Guintanguisan (in Waray dialect it meant “teardrops of pain”) refused to let us go without first negotiating two very high falls having an elevation of around 50 feet, more or less; and five (5) lesser falls having drops of between 20 to 30 feet! In this trek where we never ran out of good fortune: the two highest waterfalls we discovered have the same passages underneath their headrock and both have similar caverns under, or behind, the waterfall itself like that scene of that movie, The Last of the Mohicans!

The five minor falls we either jumped far below (the girls started it) or by rappelling down. Here, Sir Menmen Paredes almost got drowned when the rope he was rappelling with got swirled by the current so hard that the rope coiled and got entangled around his legs and his body leading me and Etche Bongbong to rescue him in time.

We arrived at VISCA at around 3:00 in the afternoon and we rested at its sandy beachfront whiling away time finishing the two bottles of rum (which I carried up in the mountains and back from whence it came!) with Bebut, Patrick, Dennis and Tony; joined now and then by Ben Lao, Matt Lao, Etche, Sir Joe Avellanosa (+), Daddy Frank Cabigon, Dr. Abe Manlawe, Sir Rex Vecina and Sir Menmen and by the ladies: Arlene Lee, Joy Yap, Lilibeth Initan, Ann-ann Ragaza, Anne Vidal and Cla-cla Abrahan.

That misadventure we experienced at the fastness of Mount Pangasugan closely bonded us so well that in the following months that I get to know more of my climbing companions they became almost like family to me, be it huddling inside tents of some bleak and cold campsite or at 16 Kabahar Street, Guadalupe, Cebu City – the CeMS unofficial headquarters then and meeting place and, sometimes, our watering hole.

We slept soundly that night at VISCA and the following day we spent another whole day at the campus nursing our bruises, scratches and minor wounds, leech marks, muscle pains and all other body aches. By 4:00 P.M. we left VISCA for the pier of Baybay to board our boat for Cebu (and home at last!) that will leave Leyte at 6:00 in the evening. In the meantime, I got marked absent for two days in my work. Well, that's okay. It was worth it.

Self Assessment:

THE TREK AT Mount Pangasugan has given me good insights of how to improve on the following areas where I find it most wanting:

Better Gears. It doesn't have to be branded or imported and, therefore, expensive; but, rather, it should be sturdy, durable and dependable. But, mostly, cost does have its advantages over cheap gears and that brings me back to square one – the branded and imported ones.

Big Backpack. The day pack I used, it seemed, is not suited for a multi-day climbing activity. It's just too small and too frail for my frame and pace. I would replace it right away with something big that would accommodate all my gears inside and strong enough to withstand the weight and sudden jerky movements.

Waterproofing. So far I have been lucky on that climb at Mt. Pangasugan: that it didn't rain for the whole duration of the trek or that the water level in rivers where we trekked have not swelled higher and are not deep enough (crotch level). I have not had the slightest idea about keeping all my cargoes dry by insulating it against water by stowing them inside a large plastic bag that's thick enough to withstand force and pressure.

Portable Stove. What if I got separated from the group? How would I prepare and cook my own food? This one's a priority.

Earth Pad. A camping accessory that should not be ignored also.

Racing Mentality. I kept looking over my back who is following me and too eager also to overtake somebody who's in front of me. I have to teach myself all over again that this is not a race and everybody crosses the finish line as equals, irregardless of who's first or who's last.

Accountability. Sleeping beside the trail speaks of an irresponsible demeanor. I have never had the idea that the group would be held accountable if ever I would be found missing. I am accountable, not only to myself, but, to the whole group as well.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Monday, January 7, 2008


THERE WAS A TIME WHEN being associated with a fraternity or sorority was considered vogue and brings with it prestige, popularity, pride and a sense of belongingness. During those times, the fraternity and sorority organization only recruited those whom they feel would become a good asset to their organization.

So it is common for them to get only the best student and the brightest scholar, the most popular coed or the strongest athlete and the richest guy or the most influential brat. Fraternities and sororities are known to support each other in their scholastic pursuits and even beyond it like landing a job position or being promoted to choice seats of authority.

I think, I belong to that era. And we took care not to tarnish the image of our organization so that its standing within the campuses, which it thrived upon, would not be hampered, especially in recruiting neophytes. Also, it was wise not to attract the ire of the school administration, much less the government authorities.

Only on one occasion though -- my fraternity became a part of a civil disobedience campaign during the Marcos regime! And we won that one and could look back with pride.

Fast forward to today. Cebu City’s news headlines are always assaulted by the repeated nuisance with which the Alpha Kappa Rho and the Tau Gamma Phi are preoccupying against each other. Both of these fraternities (I would rather call them organized criminal gangs having Greek letters for a name) are engaged in a war of attrition against each other and so many promising young lives are wasted every week for just being associated with either one.

The police, on the other hand, has been making threats to classify AKHRO and TGP as organized criminal gangs and have them placed in their order of battle. But, so far, it has done nothing except to announce that threat to the media and, later, doing another nothing by being seen photographed with these so-called fraternity leadership after a peace council was held.

Days after that it’s back to square one. There’s nothing wrong to fight for your turf but when it gets out of hand there must be something wrong out there. Gee, there must be had with regard to their respective leadership and their organization’s thrusts and objectives?

Their leaders always pay lip service to media assuring the city authorities (and the victims’ families) that they are doing their best to correct the situation. So far, I have not seen nor heard of any back-channel talks. They only show up to each other when compelled upon by the authorities for mediation after a series of shootings caused their members’ brains splattered upon the asphalt pavements and alarmed the local residents.

I heard that both groups have employed a rather unorthodox tactic of attracting neophytes. They call it the “community outreach recruitment program”. I have a first cousin, who is a college drop-out and have not been studying for more than nine years, appointed, after being initiated, as a community chapter leader of one group. And under him were high school and elementary students and drop-outs as his chapter members or “brods”.

I think it is time a law be passed to compel every school organization, scholastic or not, for it to secure Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration papers. It is also important to secure another permit from the provincial or city civil authorities and from the police, with recommendation from the schools where their chapters are entrenched, so as to regulate and control their excesses.

Recruitment of out-of-school youths as fraternity neophytes should be dropped from their programs and discouraged. What is important here is not quantity but quality.

Like it or not, those who fail to comply will be regarded as nothing more than just another criminal group and any criminal acts like murder, homicide or physical injuries attributed to a group, of whose officers and members are publicly known, will be criminally liable being that of either as principal, accomplice or accesory to the said crime being committed.

We, the community, are fed up of their skewed dispositions with regard to running their own organization and I am ashamed even to call myself a fratman, much more so, of being known as a member of a respectable fraternity that has nothing to do with those frat wars and killings that these groups are well aversed at.

Document done in RoughDraft 3.0, Trebuchet MS, font size 12.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I AM NOT a writer. I was not trained to be one. I am not schooled in the ways and techniques in writing a story, an essay or a poem. I was schooled in the art of close-quarter combat and strategy and the enforcement of laws. I have never had need of a teacher to guide me on why, how, where, when and what should I write?

Still, I persevered, and I discovered that writing gives me a kind of therapy and energy. It gives me utter joy as it released all my pent-up emotions and urges that have been bottled inside of me for years. Or, were they not called memories?

The quest to write something is my preoccupation for the last nine months or so. The personal computer is a good tool and a perfect aid in achieving that. Where, before, there was the typewriter. The hassles of editing and re-editing an article by that mechanical contraption totally discouraged me into writing during my early years, though I did gave it a try and persevered for a while.

Ditto with pen and paper. God knows of how many pieces of paper I have thrown into the wastebasket! Or have recycled when recycling was not yet in vogue.

A desktop with Windows to commence my writing is alright with me. I have started with that operating system since it was called MS-DOS back then. But I love Linux better. I don’t encounter the hang-ups and the system crashes that the former has. But it would be nicer if I could own a Power PC ran by a Mac OS X? It would be a dream come true for me.

Putting your ideas into writing and into an opaque screen is quite a breeze, especially if you have a good word processor to accomplish that task. I don’t stick to just one word processing tool. I try them all. I love to experiment.

I have MS Word, OpenOffice Writer, AbiWord and RoughDraft and they are placed as shortcuts on my desktop screen for good measure. I installed other word utilities like yWriter2, Notepad, Scribus, MS Publisher, FreeMind and LaTeX; hidden and accessible on the “Unused Desktop Icons” folder.

Internet connection is a most welcome addition, without which I would have no possible outlet to publish my works. Blogging, that’s what they call it.

Blogging. Yeah. I reckoned there are quite a lot of free web-hosting outfits out there and you only have to choose which one’s better and have features that is or are acceptable to your tastes and standards. I have tried many of those and dropped an almost same number from my retinue. Then I got stuck with Blogger, Multiply, MyOpera and, to a lesser degree, Tabulas.

With MS Word, a bad writer becomes a good one and an average writer becomes better. It has an automatic spellcheck function and has a built-in grammar-correction feature. With a click of the mouse you could access the dictionary and thesaurus and all your needs are attended to.

But I discourage myself from using Word, no offense meant for Mr. Bill Gates there. It does not teach me to improve on my writing by relying on the comfort and ease that these add-ons provided therein. I am a non-conformist. I belong to an old-school line of thought and I give justice to my being one by using “less-comfortable” software. “To thread on trails were few have gone to”. Now, that settles all my preferred writing media.

What writing experience I had are confined to personal letters, a handful of poems, office correspondence and creating lots and lots of criminal affidavits. Modesty aside, the affidavits I have written were masterpieces of a craft in a department wanting of dynamic and creative investigators.

It is neither bland nor full of legalistic innuendos and is done in a language much easily understood by the common masses yet in a much refined manner. Simple yet superior. It elicited awe then from my peers and my superiors, a blessing for the plaintiffs and a curse for the accused and their counsels.

I am now in my 40s and it is obvious that I am late in arriving to make a shift in my thoughts and habitual disposition. It’s alright. Writing happens to run in my veins and capillaries.

My late grandfather, Atty. Gervasio Lavilles, is an accomplished historian, poet and essayist. He authored a book entitled Cebu: A History of its Four Cities and Forty-Nine Municipalities, published by Mely Press in 1965 and I saw his works printed on English-, Cebuano- and Spanish-speaking periodicals and newspapers a long time ago.

His daughters, Evangeline and Marietta, my aunt and my mother, respectively; are creative technical writers, essayist and poets themselves. Both are Theresians and they are able to juggle between their craft, their careers and mothering with such ease.

They might have influenced me to write but never the writing style. What style I might have developed, probably are mere reflections and mirrors from hundreds of thousands, nay, millions; of words, sentences, paragraphs and quotes that I have digested through the years reading and re-reading novels, books, magazines, newspapers, documents, even chocolate and candy wrappers.

I must admit that reading a blog is quite different from reading on a piece of paper. The glare from a screen are just too much for my ageing eyes, then, you tend to read in haste instead of enjoying what you read.

But that disadvantage, as illustrated above, does not hinder me to keep on writing (or blogging). I write for the pleasure of writing. For the sake of writing. For the love of it. It is there for the taking. It is free!

It is one of the crafts I learned on my own power. Like Miyamoto Musashi, the great “Sword Saint” and samurai strategist, I, too, embarked on my own “warrior pilgrimage” and have come to a point to learn the Ways of different crafts apart from the ones where we were born and made into.

Document done in RoughDraft 3.0, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.