Arundhati Roy on Great Stories

“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.”

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Pope Francis in Manila: Algunas palabras de Santo Papa

From his meeting with families:

It is important to dream in the family. All mothers and fathers dream of their sons and daughters in the womb for 9 months. They dream of how they will be. It isn’t possible to have a family without such dreams. When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity to love, and the energy to love is lost. I recommend that at night when you examine your consciences, ask yourself if you dreamed of the future of your sons and daughters. Did you dream of your husband or wife? Did you dream today of your parents, your grandparents who carried forward the family to me? It is so important to dream and especially to dream in the family. Please don’t lose the ability to dream in this way. How many solutions are found to family problems if we take time to reflect, if we think of a husband or wife, and we dream about the good qualities they have. Don’t ever lose the memory of when you were boyfriend or girlfriend. That is very important.

From his homily in Tacloban:

I’d like to tell you something close to my heart. When I saw from Rome that catastrophe I had to be here. And on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you – a little bit late, but I’m here. I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father, you might say to me, I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.

So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart. Many of you have asked the Lord – why lord? And to each of you, to your heart, Christ responds with his heart from the cross. I have no more words for you. Let us look to Christ. He is the lord. He understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, that you, have experienced. And beside the cross was his Mother.We are like a little child in the moments when we have so much pain and no longer understand anything. All we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and say “Mommy”  – like a child does when it is afraid. It is perhaps the only words we can say in difficult times – “Mommy”.

From his message to the Filipino youth:

There’s only a very small representation of girls among you. Too little. Women have much to tell us in today’s society. Sometimes we are too “machistas” and we don’t allow enough space to women. But women can see things from a different angle to us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we men are unable to understand. Look out for this fact: she is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. She couldn’t put it into words but expressed it with tears. So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls.

I thank you Jun for talking about your experience so bravely. As I said, the heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion which is useless. You expressed something like this. It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives. Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. The emarginated people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else.

You may ask me: Father, how do we become saints? This is another challenge. It is the challenge of love. What is the most important subject you have to learn at university? What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn bow to love.

Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. It’s harder to let yourself be loved than to love. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect love of God. We can love Him but we must let ourselves be loved by Him. Real love is being open to the love that comes to you. The love that surprises us. If you only have information you are not surprised. Love surprises because it opens a dialogue of loving and being loved. God is a God of surprise because He loved us first. God awaits us to surprise us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let us not have a computer psychology that makes us think we know it all. All answers on computers – but no surprises. The challenge of love. God reveals himself through surprises.

Real love allows you to spend yourselves, to leave your pockets empty. Think of St Francis who died with empty hands and empty pockets but with a full heart. Remember: no young museums, and wise young people. To be wise use three languages: think well, feel well and do well. And to be wise allow yourselves to be surprised by the love of God. That will guarantee a good life.

How many young people among you are like this? You know how to give and yet you have ever learned how to receive. You still lack one thing. Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg. This isn’t easy to understand. To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor, by those we help, the sick, orphans, they have so much to give us. Have I learned how to beg? Or am I self-sufficient? Do I think I need nothing? Do you know you too are poor? Do you know your own poverty and your need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelised by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.

Resilience, Romansa, ang Gilas, at ang Azkals

Kakagaling ko lang sa isang business conference kung saan ang tema ay, “Building Resilient Communities”. Doon sa conference na iyon, tinalakay ng mga lider ng business, gobyerno, at ng mga NGOs kung ano nga ba ang mga kinakailangan para maging resilient ang isang pamayanan—yung tipong madaling mag-bounce back matapos ang isang pangyayari gaya ng cyclone sa Myanmar, earthquake sa Indonesia, at ni Yolanda sa Pilipinas.

Sa isang bahagi ng conference na iyon, pinagdebatihan ng mga participant kung ang pagbuo ba ng resilient communities ay para sa economic development higit sa lahat.

Sabi ng isang panig, oo naman. Economic development ang enabler ng mga tao. Mas madali silang makakaahon mula sa pinsala, dahil may pera at resources sila. Sabi rin nila, kung mas economically developed ang isang community to begin with, hindi sintindi ang epekto sa kanila ng isang disaster.

Sagot naman ng isang panig, oo, importante ang economic development, pero hindi yun ang dahilan kung bakit bumubuo tayo ng resilient communities. Sabi nila, ang resilience ng isang pamayanan ay dahil kailangan upang pagtibayin ang social fabric—o what keeps the people together, ika nga. Sabi rin nila, ang resilience ay hindi dahil maraming resources ang isang pamayanan—sila ay resilient dahil may pinanghuhugutang lakas mula sa loob.

Esoteric mang pakinggan, pero pag inisip mo siya sa experience ng mga Pinoy, totoo nga naman. Kahit i-apply mo pa yan sa Gilas at sa Azkals, totoo pa rin.

***

Maraming nagsasabi na dapat tigilan na natin ang lofty ambitions natin sa basketball. Nga naman, higit isang ulo ang lamang ng mga kalaban sa height pa lang. Sa liit nating ito, disadvantaged agad tayo.

Pero ang simplistic lang kasi ng reasoning eh. Nasa kultura at diwa natin ang basketball. Di lang yan dahil kasama siya sa PE classes simula grade school pa lang o dahil ipinapalabas ang NBA, PBA, UAAP, at kahit Eurobasket na rin ngayon sa TV. Yung love affair natin sa basketball, andiyan na, nineteen-forgotten pa. At kung bawat kanto nga ay may makeshift board at halos lahat ng mga Pinoy ay nakapagpamalas ng basketball moves with Air Tsinelas—alam mong hindi sapat yung height argument kung bakit huwag na lang pagpilitan ang basketball.

Masakit panoorin yung apat na laro ng Gilas na yun sa Sevilla. Sabihin n’yo nang kulang sa endgame composure at kung anu-ano pang pwedeng imura, iba pa rin yung ipinamalas na puso eh. Yun yung nagpapaasa sa atin na mananalo tayo—at huli man na upang makapunta sa knockout rounds sa Madrid, hindi mo mamalitiin yung tagumpay laban sa Senegal.

Sa wakas, lahat nung paghihirap at pag-aasa nauwi din sa isang panalo.

Resilient, diba? Dig deep kung sa dig deep. Literal na blood, sweat, and tears ang ibinuhos. Takeaway natin diyan: kaya nating makipagsabayan on the world stage.

***

Eh sa football naman?

Tinopak ako at bumili ng tickets para manood ng Juventus vs. Singapore Selection ilang linggo lang nakakaraan. Sabi ko, ito na ang pagkakataon ko para makita ang genius ni Andrea Pirlo at ang kagwapuhan ni Claudio Marchisio.

Pero hindi ito tungkol dun sa mga Italyano—kahit na, oo, ang galing nila at pinaglaruan lang nila ang Singapore sa score na 5-0.

Tungkol ito dun sa Singapore Sports Hub, yung bagong stadium ng Singapore. Sobrang bongga lang eh. Ang linis. Ang laki. 55,000 o higit pa ang seats. May retractable roof, para kung may delubyo man, tuloy pa rin ang laro. Andaming kiosks ng pagkain—from hotdogs to curry puffs to noodles. Ang linis ng banyo. Yung locker rooms, maikukumpara sa locker rooms ng mga European clubs.

Naisip ko, ang swerte ng iba nating regional counterparts sa football. State-of-the-art ang facilities. Eh sa Rizal Memorial Stadium? Kahit artificial na yung turf, waterlogged pa rin. Dati, itinigil din sila ng game sa lakas ng ulan. Siyempre yung mga maintenance boys, naglabas ng drum, timba, walis, at dustpan para i-scoop out yung tubig. Bongga, diba?

Kung inisip mo yung facilities na available para sa Azkals, walang incentive eh. Talagang para sa bayan yung laro. Sakripisyo pa yan ng jet lag para sa iba. Pero pag tiningnan mo naman sila tuwing ipapatugtog yung Lupang Hinirang, either kinakanta nila yung mga salita o di kaya’y nakapikit ang mata upang maramdaman ang ibig-sabihin ng national anthem.

Kung ikukumpara sa basketball, hindi naman talaga ganun katagal ang love affair natin with football. Wala pa ngang apat na tayon—kung sa isang relationship yan, medyo tanggap mo na kung ano yung mga pagkukulang at mga quirks, pero may gana pa rin yang mangromansa, kasi di pa nagsasawa.

Parang Azkals din yan. Madaming instances na mahuhulog talaga loob mo sa kanila, tapos babalik sa long balls ang laro o tipong may ayaw na naming magpasa ng bola. Frustrating din dahil kulang sa silverware. Sige, may dalawang Peace Cups tayo, pero ano ba naman ang bigat nun. Eh ito ngang sa huli, dapat ikatlong Peace Cup na natin ito, nasungkit pa ng Myanmar.

Reslient din naman sila. Sa apat na taon, naipakilala nila tayo sa football—kahit hindi man ito jogo bonito o tiki-taka, iba pa rin yung nakikita mong hindi sila bumibitaw sa laro, kahit pagod na pagod na sa kakatakbo at kakasemplang sa loob ng 90 minuto.

Kahit yung tatay ko na dati rati’y hindi makaupo sa isang buong football match sa TV dahil wala naman daw nakaka-score, ngayon, mas malakas pa ang sigaw sa akin kada daplis o saved shot ng Azkals.

Naisip ko nga, matapos tayong talunin ng Myanmar, hindi pa rin natin natatalo si Raddy Avramovic (masakit pa rin yung pagkatalo natin sa Singapore nung 2012 Suzuki Cup) at, oo, runners-up na naman tayo sa ikalawang tournament sa taong ito sa ilalim ni Thomas Dooley.

Pero pag inisip mo naman na dati ay whipping boys tayo sa Asya, ngayon umaasa na tayong manalo ng regional tournaments. Resilience din naman yun. Sana lang nga, manalo na sa Suzuki Cup sa pagtatapos ng taong ito.

***

Balik tayo dun sa business conference. Sabi ni Jose Ramos Horta, ang Nobel Peace Prize laureate at dating pangulo ng Timor-Leste, “Resilience stems from adversity.” Sanay na tayo to be at a disadvantage, pero mayroon ding mga pagkakatoon na we surprise ourselves and exceed our expectations.

Ang maganda dun, nowhere to go but up ang direksyon natin, basketball o football pa man yan.

Walking with the 96.

Every Liverpool supporter has April 15 etched in memory. On that fateful day in 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters went to catch the FA Cup semifinal tie between their beloved club and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium. None of those 96 returned to their loved ones.

Over two decades since the incident, justice remains to be served, and the memory of the 96 is kept alive in various ways–including a solidarity walk/run by the KOPinoys. This tragedy has become part and parcel of the culture and tradition of Liverpool Football Club, and in many ways, gives us reason to fully understand what it means to never walk alone.

Justice for the 96. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

P.S. We got a shoutout from the guys at the Hillsborough-Anfield Run!

Quote

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”

Sylvia Plath

Football, through the eyes of various cultures.

When you have a book entitled, “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization,” the expectations arising from the title are quite high. A nerd like me will most probably expect a theoretical framework of the game and how it is applied as a lens in which certain cultures and phenomena are analyzed, ultimately unearthing several factors that point to a world that is more integrated as a result of a common love for the game.

Instead, all I found were 10 highly interesting vignettes, which included: supporters of a Serbian football club doubling as paramilitary in support of hyper-nationalism; a look into pre-war Jewish football players; English hooliganism; Scottish football and its roots in the divide among Catholics and Protestants; ownership structures and politics in Brazilian football; the dynamics between Italy’s ruling powers and their football clubs; racism against black players in Ukraine; U.S. soccer and it’s role in perpetuating an American counter-culture; and (ugh) FC Barcelona and the romanticism of football, among others.

Perhaps a more appropriate title would be: “How the World Explains Soccer”.

Don’t get me wrong, Franklin Foer is an incredibly talented writer with a strong voice and a gift for brevity. Each vignette masterfully mixed information with human interest, if not sheer entertainment.

Perhaps that’s where my slight dissatisfaction with the book lies. Each vignette does not transcend to anything more than its story—which is essentially a look at the nuances of certain cultures and the politics behind (and on top of) their football. There is no unifying thread or insight to make the world’s most popular sport a “theory of globalization”.

Perhaps this is merely my nerdy self talking, but I honestly think that the title held a grandiose premise that was most likely not even going to be adequately addressed. If you’re looking to be entertained, have a go at this one. If you’re looking for academic discourse on football, this might be a bit of a downer.