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Meet Mr. Word Star!

What makes one a star? Florists hinted me I must be one. ASTER (a flower shaped like star) is my birthmonth flower. Yet lately, I learned that “ASTER” doesn’t always do one any good, like dis-ASTER.

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“Dis” means “against” and “ASTER” is a Greek word for “star”. People in the ancient times believed that their destiny is ruled by the stars. (Wait, so trusting Zodiac signs is so primeval a practice?)

Staying on topic, when what happens to us is against what we hoped for, then the stars are said to be against us. When the asters (stars) leave the sky (and most likely, the moon disappears along) we see nothing but darkness – we apprehend disaster.

Should we pray we bump with PROASTER instead? Well, there isn’t a word as such. Wait till I become an etymologist, semanticist or philologist and I’ll list this word among the most wanted and needed vocabulary item. Speaking of stars, let me introduce you to my noontime word guru – Norman Lewis.

Everyday I’m with him, I keep gushing and hugging myself mentally hoping we had met physically – in another time, perhaps another place. I want to ask him the secret for his zest for “word archaeology” – his tireless digging, endless gathering and flawless sharing of words -unleashing their great wonders and powers.

If you happen to visit the nearest bookstore, pick his creation: Word Power Made Easy. You’d be elated you did. My copy is an old, seemingly grimy one, but I’m a proud keeper (and of course, user!) of this book handed over from three generations, by a professor- workmate, Prof. Salting.

Did you catch my drift? Though I love my antique book, guys, I won’t refuse a new hard copy. :)

Aawitan Kita sa Disyerto

What’s the best way to beat the chilly, hilly and lonely desert Safari?

Getting Ready for the Camp

Some Pinoys, who had the mind and heart for real fun, thought a live band would be the best answer. Joined by Filipinos and some non-Filipinos of motley backgrounds, this sing-along by the bonfire never ceased till dawn in the midst of Hatta Desert Safari. Setting off from Dubai in the direction of Hatta and Oman,we quickly found ourselves in the desert scenery. We’re soon off-road and some 4×4s led us through a thrilling trek to the campsite.

Campsite at Safari

Upon unloading the four wheels, we were all greeted by a spine-chilling (literally feeling the cold from our back) wind that never subsided till 9AM. Setting up the tent shouldn’t have been so laborious if we had brought the necessary camping tools (but who would remember to bring enduring flashlights, comforters, sleeping bags, and knives at the height of excitement?).

Setting Up the Tent

Surprisingly, the coldness had not reached our souls that night, instead many of us were clad with spirits of familiarity and camaraderie. You seriously wouldn’t have enough time to get to know the names of everyone – had you the aim of doing so. Most Pinoys/Pinays I’ve met were nine-to-fivers seeking a change of environment, one even simply said she just wanted to try sleeping under the wide sky of glittering stars.

The Campers


The Art of Splitting

Don’t we all just split infinitives without giving it a thought?

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To unconscionably cut a relationship is NOT an artful way of ending it. To subtly break someone’s heart requires some skill, style — and a bit of courage- especially when the reason behind it is a new-found flame. The same is true for splitting infinitives.

I believe it’s perfectly all right to consciously split an infinitive (a verb preceded by “to”) if it adds strength and clarity to the sentence. Bold writers habitually insert adverbs between “to” and a “verb” no matter how many times dogmatic grammarians criticize such phrases as “to never kiss” and “to awfully forget” (the way moralists crucify philanders or polyanders [note: I just made up this word]).

Even the best partners have to get by living separate lives, so do the preposition “to” and the “verb”. Their bond is not restrictive but flexible to split ups. I bet you won’t find fault with  “to eventually succeed”, “to completely fail”, “to hesitantly smile”, and “to quickly remember”. So shall we stop worrying about infinitive breakups?

Our Brown Envelops

“Who would you be 10 years from now?” was the theme of our Values Education writing activity under Mrs. Bernardino (III-Rizal) sometime in 2001. Of course life-altering questions could only be brought up by Values Education teachers back then.

To be honest, I forgot what I wrote and hid in that brown envelop yet Madeline Piloton said she could still remember what I put on the paper (I was hardly aware she was peeking at my lengthy composition). Probably I thought everyone else was as preoccupied as I was narrowing down to a few words our own rosy, and lofty dreams. Mrs. Bernardino said we could come back after 10 years and open those dream cases (our brown envelops) to surprise ourselves.

The quicksand timer halted. Who would have thought time could be this quick and strict? Perhaps, my third year classmates, and batch mates, who have done the same activity, are also wondering what they have written and hidden in those brown, maybe dusty, envelops.

Can You Find Me? (Clue: My hair isn't too straight.haha)

We are certain not to see a perfect match between our composition and the real fate that overtook us. If you do find the life path you crafted (back in third year high school) unfolding into your real life now, you truly make a great fortune-teller!

Do you crave to know how you used to think? Whether you have taken this task seriously, or not, you would still be curious to know who you “were” back then. So here’s a challenge to Mrs. Bernardino: can you still hand in those envelops we’ve lent to you for ten long years?

(A Trial Post for my High School Alma Mater: Lagro High School – Payatas Annex)

Not by Ear, but by Sight

If pronunciation teaching is aimed at achieving native-like proficiency, it’s a futile business. However if reasonable intelligibility is the target in pronunciation instruction, it’s a fruitful, promising quest.

The problem now is: how do we gauge reasonable intelligibility? There’s an interesting factor known as the interlocutor’s familiarity and attitudes towards the speaker that has to be considered. Do the listener’s attitudes affect how intelligible the speaker is?

Studies on how the hearer’s attitude affect the speaker’s intelligibility

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Rubin let his two groups of subjects listen to a tape-recorded mini-lecture by a native speaker of U.S. English with little regional accent. In one group, they listened to the lecture with a picture of an Asian supposedly delivering the lecture. In the other group, the listeners were shown a photo of a Caucasian as the supposed lecturer.Can you guess the result?

The group shown the Asian photo rated the lecture lower on comprehensibility, and having heavier accent than the other group shown the caucasian photo, despite the fact that both groups heard the same lecture.

Another less crude test on the relationship between intelligibility and the listener’s attitude was done by Lindemann through a map-completion task between Korean non-native speakers and native speakers. He evaluated who among the native speakers have positive and negative attitudes towards Non-native speakers. Then he divided them into two groups performing the same task of completing the map through the directions given by non-native speakers to measure their intelligibility.

The native speakers with positive attitudes towards Koreans found themselves successful in completing the task while those with negative attitudes felt they have failed the task.

Could it be true that no matter how accurate the pronunciation is, the nonnativeness of the speaker is somehow caught by sight and not by ear?

What’s Your Visual DNA?

Through Neil, I came to know about the Visual DNA test. I got curious and tried it. Here’s where you can take your Visual DNA.

My Result: Sofisticat

Thoughtful and intelligent, you like to think deeply about the issues of the day and are not afraid to give your opinion. Ideas are what drive and inspire you, and your infectious enthusiasm for culture helps keep the rest of your group informed, too. For kicks, you love to immerse yourself in a different world. The bigger and brighter the picture the better. In a nutshell, you now that the important things in life are family, friends, food and a roof over your head. You are not going to sit around worrying about some far-off war zone when you are blessed with the good fortune of having others around you. Not that you haven’t earnt your place in society. You understand the importance of responsibility and are not afraid of showing you care. But, charity begins at home.

P.S. Tell me if you got other results than “sofisticat”. :)

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) is an imaginative, thrilling, and poignant tale of a gloomy and dreamy girl, Ofelia, who was forced to stay with her mom’s new husband – a military officer tasked to exterminate guerillas hiding in the deep forests of Spain in 1940. Out of Ofelia’s loneliness coupled with her queer inventiveness, she created a world where she is Princess Moanna of the Underworld.  With the guidance of a Faun, a quirky fairy, and a book (only she could decipher), she sets out to do three great tasks to get back to her kingdom.

I first thought it was a book made into a movie, but it was all from Guillermo del Toro’s notes, fermenting after 20 years. I applaud the perfect casting for the movie. I couldn’t imagine any other celebrities to play the roles of Captain Vadil, Mercedes, and Ofelia. (Well, truth is, I hardly knew any other Spanish actors).

I find Ofelia’s “escape world” odd and irrational – the places she has to go and the tasks she needs to carry out are unexpected, ergo eerily exciting. I’m really impressed by the lack of girlish screams all throughout the film. Ofelia seems stoic all in all but she has a heart, which can be observed closely whenever she talks to her mom and her brother inside her womb.

I should probably warn you that it eats about two hours – it’s a war movie and a fairy tale in a single film. Now when do you get such a treat? If you dislike seeing blood, this is not the movie for you. Yet if you can’t resist the charm of innocence on Ofelia’s face, then bear the gore and violence, as they were grandly mixed in this movie.