Category Archives: Culture and Society

Plastic Is a Worldwide Problem That All of Us Must Face

August 12, 2018

Culture and Society

I live in a rural county in the state of Tennessee here in the United States. Every week or so, I take our recyclable materials such as plastic, cardboard, and paper to our local recycling center.  It was recently announced that plastic will no longer be accepted by this same facility. Since then, I have had to truck my plastic recycling to other counties. I recently asked someone who works in local government why they stopped accepting plastic. He gave me his answer in one word:

China.

Yup, China, but his answer was an oversimplification of a convoluted, complicated, and distressing situation.

Plastic, as we all know, is now as ubiquitous as the air we breathe and the water we drink. It, or some form of it, is exists in virtually any object that humans use on a daily basis. The computer I am typing these words on has plastic in it. I am wearing plastic house slippers right now. Machines made with plastic parts were used to manufacture and deliver the clothes you are wearing. The cars we drive have numerous plastic parts. We all have used bottled water, headphones, cell phones, shopping bags, diapers, pens, and so on and so forth .  .  .

PLASTIC.IS.EVERYWHERE.

Now here is the terrible part. Plastic is generally made of chemicals that microbes do not like to consume. As such, there are different estimates ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 years regarding how long it takes for most plastic to decompose and biodegrade. When I stand in the middle of a grocery store, I look at all of the plastic containers and packaging, and it deeply pains me to know that ALL of it could still be around for thousands of years to pollute our land and oceans.

According to Slate.com, scientists have done studies that project the lifespan of a plastic grocery bag to be 500 to 1,000 years. Since these bags have only been around for about half a century, it is difficult to pin down a specific number. Nonetheless, those projections are sobering indeed.

Let’s take this full circle shall we? This brings us to China. 

Yup, China. Since 1988, China has processed plastic from 43 countries and roughly 90% of plastic exports from around the world. In November of 2017, China announced that it will no longer do this. This means that everyone else has to figure out how they are going to deal with the disposal and recycling of their own plastic.  It has been projected that between now and 2030, 111 million metric tons of trash and plastic will have no place to be processed. (See Sources below.)

Yup. 111,000,000 metric tons.

I just want to cry.

My little recycling facility in my county is feeling the repercussions of China’s decision. Chances are that you are also feeling them in your neck of the woods.

I do not mean to be all “doom and gloom” about this, but seriously, THIS IS AN ENORMOUS PROBLEM!!!

What the hell are we going to do to get ourselves out of this mess we made?

Into the future, I will continue to post about this topic. I want to discuss actionable, attainable, and sustainable solutions, and I am open to ideas.

I will not shut up about this. Please take a moment to ponder what I have written. Let it all sink in. 

The next time you stand in the middle of a grocery store, think about all of this and see for yourself how we are continually contributing to this problem.

Let’s start taking responsibility and do something about it.

-Roqué

SOURCES:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2007/06/will_my_plastic_bag_still_be_here_in_2507.html

https://www.wired.com/story/china-wont-solve-the-worlds-plastics-problem-any-more/

I Live My Life In a Generosity Loop

August 5, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

Over the last few years, I have been been personally cultivating what I call a generosity loop. Basically, this term refers to the constant flow of giving that occurs in my life. This is how it works:

__________________________________________________________________

Part 1:

I give my money to a cause I believe in or

I give my time and attention to someone or

I give my belongings as gifts (or I purchase new gifts to give) toward something or someone that does not benefit me personally in the least.

Part 2:

I do all of this just for the sake of giving and with no strings attached.

Part 3:

All of it, in one way or another, comes back to me somehow.

Part 4:

Refresh and repeat.

__________________________________________________________________

I am well aware that all of this sounds new-agey, mystical, preachy, and weird, but this is a phenomenon that has consistently played itself out in my life over and over again. In fact, the MORE THAT I GIVE, the better off I become.

In the world of science, in which all phenomena must be questioned, proven, and exacting, this aligns with Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion which states the following:

When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

In other words, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s simple physics, and I find that it literally applies to every action, intention, and movement in the universe.

Without a doubt in my mind, it applies to generosity. Over the last year, I’ve made the monthly intention to give my money, gifts of physical objects, or my time to something that does not directly benefit me in any way whatsoever.  I carried out any of the three options of Part 1 of the generosity loop. Within the same year, I was approved for EVERY scholarship that I applied for toward school, and I even received other school funding that I wasn’t even anticipating. You can call this coincidence, but I see it as the intention that you put out into the world being reciprocated.

Energetically, I strongly believe that you get back what you give. People who horde their money and belongings and share nothing will stay closed off from the world. If you do not let anything out, nothing is able to come back in.

To be clear, one must engage in a generosity loop wholeheartedly and gladly accept the likelihood that you will get nothing in return. The objective is to give for the sake of giving and to help others. Do so without any expectations whatsoever.

There is one major bonus that comes with living your life inside of a generosity loop. In my case, it simply feels good to give and help others. It is deeply gratifying to know that I made someone smile or made someone’s life a little less heavy. With all of the suffering and misery that exists in the world, generosity is a gift that gives to everyone involved. It is a classic win-win scenario.

Please seriously think about doing this yourself. See if you can live inside of a generosity loop. What may or may not happen might surprise you .  .  .

-Roqué

Learn From the Past But Live in the Present

July 29, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

The mind will wander where it will. It will take you back to times that may have been happier. Traumas of the past may haunt you. Sadness born many moons ago may still dwell among newer ones.

The most frustrating thing about the past is that it cannot be changed. There is no time-travel machine that exists. We cannot undo past transgressions and mistakes, but what often happens is that we beat ourselves up about them long after they have happened. They become awkward bedfellows–spooning you comfortably with their familiar presence, but holding you a little too tightly.

There is a basic truth that I have come to know. If you keep your mind stuck in the past, then you will always live there, and any way that you look at it, living in those places for very long can undermine your efforts to be well and better in the present moment.

In my case, I grew up on a lush and breathtaking tropical island in the South Pacific Ocean called American Samoa. Do I miss the sandy beaches that border the glistening and warm turquoise water? Do I miss the thunderous sound of the ocean as waves dive willingly into the land? Do I miss the smell of ocean salt that is exhaled by the ocean’s breathing? Do I miss the tropical shades of green that adorn every corner of the island–in every swaying coconut tree and along every different color of hibiscus flowers?

Yes. I MISS IT ALL.

There is a part of me that wishes I could go back. It was the magical home of my childhood, and it feels like it was all a dream–a gorgeous deception my mind devised just to fool me.

However, in the present moment, I live deep in the hills of middle Tennessee. It is an entirely different landscape for the most part, and at first, it paled in comparison to what enchanted me as a child.  Because I kept reverting to my past, I created an impossible standard that prevented me from appreciating what I have in the present moment.

Where I live now, my house resides deep in a hollow. Green hills rise steeply on all sides. Breezes ripple through the leaves of trees–moving in undulating waves across the treetops. There are trees everywhere. Birds of many varieties swoop and sing outside my window. In the absence of an ocean, a gentle fog blankets these hills in the early mornings, saturating the landscape with its richness.

This is my home in this moment, and it is so beautiful here.

Once in a while, my mind wanders back to my island of the past, but in this moment, I am embraced completely by the landscape of the present.

My past taught me to appreciate my surroundings. This is a lesson I put into practice to this day.

Is there a part of your past that keeps you from enjoying what you have in this moment?

This is a good question that is always worth asking.

-Roqué

 

 

 

A Morning Routine Will Ground Your Life.

July 22, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

Over the last few months, I’ve been honing in on getting down a regular daily routine. I am close to getting one down, but there is still much to tweak. Beyond that, I am working out a simple weekly routine as well.

What’s the point? Well, if we only have a finite number of days to live our lives, then we only have a finite amount of time to get all the dreams and tasks done that are meaningful to us. A routine helps us accomplish goals at a steady and consistent rate. It goes along with doing a little something every day toward a project or personal goal.

Let’s use my goals as an example. Here are three goals of mine:

1. Progressively improve my piano skills.

2. Write more and write better.

3. Keep my body weight at a healthy and stable number.

So, how do I incorporate these goals into a daily routine?

I do something about them every morning after I wake up.

1. In the morning, I play on my electric keyboard (at a quiet level so that I do not wake anyone up) for at least 15 minutes in the morning. I always start off with finger dexterity exercises and then I explore a little with chords or progressions I am not as familiar with.

2. I write a paragraph in a daily journal every morning, and I am now starting to write my blog posts in the morning as well. Practice makes perfect, and being able to compose my thoughts in smooth, engaging, and coherent ways is what this helps me do.

3. After I wake up and before I eat anything, I step on my scale to check my weight. This acts as a reminder to keep doing what I do to stay healthy.

In addition to these three practices, I also spend some time with my cat as well as give him his morning feeding.  Whether it is water or coffee, I also make sure that I start to take in fluids to nourish my body at the start of every day. The next addition to the morning routine will be adding some sort of simple physical exercises that involve some weight training and stretching.

Here are some other suggestions for morning rituals that relate to personal wellness:

  • Sitting outside on a balcony, deck, or backyard to have a quiet moment surrounded by nature.
  • A morning shower to feel cleansed and refreshed.
  • Two or more minutes of mindful breathing and meditation.
  • Saying or writing down something for which you are thankful.
  • Making your bed to create a sense of calm and order in your bedroom.

There isn’t much to it all as long as you keep your rituals simple and easy to accomplish. It may also help to wake up earlier to give yourself more time to do them.

When I start my day with my morning rituals, I move forward with a sense of accomplishment. I create a foundation for my day that involves practices that make me feel good and stronger.  It gives me a sense of groundedness knowing that I have addressed my own wellness and inner desires first and foremost. If the rest of my day becomes miserable, I will at least have accomplished my daily rituals, and as such, I do not feel so bad.

Think about creating morning routines/rituals for yourself. How would you like to start your day?  Start every day well and make it your own.

-Roqué

 

 

Surround Yourself with Good People

July 15, 2018

Culture and Society

The other night I finally watched the film I, Tonya, and as a lifelong figure skating fan, I remember the whole debacle that lead to the clubbing of Nancy Kerrigan’s knee and Tonya Harding’s lifetime banishment from the sport. I will not give anything away about the film, and I must first admit that it is a Hollywood movie that has probably added more drama to the events in question for cinematic effect.

What struck me most about the story is that Tonya Harding was surrounded by terrible and abusive people all her life. Her monster of a mother and violent boyfriend/husband constantly diminished her in every way and at every chance, and at the end of it all, she paid the biggest price. She took the fall for everyone’s mistakes.

What was sorely lacking in her life was the wherewithal to completely stay away from toxic people and relationships. To some degree, she had to know that her mother and husband were bad people. Perhaps the powers they held over her and what she perceived as their love were too strong. They doomed her from the start, and she was not strong enough to fight against them.

To be fair, she made plenty of her own mistakes, and again, she should have cut these people out of her life. There is much for her to own up to.

The film made me think about the times that I have come across people who I decided I needed to stay away from because they only caused me grief and anxiety. When I learned that I have the power to decide who I allow in my life, this was a liberating and healing lesson.

I have identified some characteristics of types of people I generally avoid.  Maybe you have come across some of these too?

1. The Takers

The Taker is the person who always asks something of you and only contacts you when it suits their needs.  They generally do not reciprocate in any meaningful way, and they leave you feeling empty.

2. The Self-Involved

Conversations with the Self-Involved are generally one-sided. They blather on and on about their problems, their accomplishments, or their desires. They do not often say “How are you doing?”  A good friend should be genuinely interested in and care about your well being.  These people mainly care about themselves.

3. The Mean-Spirited

It is rare that I come across mean-spirited people, but when I do, I give them their space while I stay away. They are often consumed with negativity, bitterness, and jealousy.  These qualities are also not often overt, but they are pervasive and destructive over time.  I make a point to stay positive and be kindly honest when I come across someone like this, but I protect myself and my sanity all the while. It often does not take much make for them to point their vitriol at you.

These are just three examples, but there are all kinds of people out there that we should at least be wary of. They usually do not show their colors right away, but I have learned to pay attention to anyone I come across and to observe them carefully. I pay attention to what they say, how they treat me and other people, and how they make me feel.

While we’re at it, it is also advisable to question any of our own behaviors toward other people that may be disingenuous, unkind, or just plain mean-spirited. None of us are perfect, and we should not try to be. Nevertheless, everyone wins when we can all choose to be more self-aware and conscious about treating each other with kindness and respect.

It is worthwhile to surround yourself with good people–those who make you feel better about yourself, who make you laugh and enjoy life, and who make you feel safe and loved. Find those kinds of people and be that kind of person back.

-Roqué

Our 2nd Annual Filipino Dinner

July 10, 2018

Culture and Society

This past Sunday, July 8, 2018, some fellow Filipinos in my neighborhood and I mounted our second dinner serving authentic food from the Philippines.

This dinner was hosted by my friend Bashi and took place in his adorable home. We all started to arrive after 1:00 PM and began cooking our dishes soon thereafter. Dinner was served on time by 6:00 PM.

Here are the details of our menu:

Kare Kare: Oxtail in a peanut stew and served with optional Bagoong sauce.

Sinigang: Pork loin and neckbones in a sour/savory, tamarind-based soup with long beans and various greens

Pork Adobo: Pork in a sweet and savory sauce

Siopao: Pork wrapped inside fluffy steamed dumplings

Laing: a creamy and spicy stew  with pork, taro leaves, coconut milk, ginger, chili, and shrimp

Dinuguan: Pork loin sauteed in pigs blood

Chicken Inasal: BBQ chicken marinated overnight in a combination of lemongrass, soy sauce, ginger, Sprite soda, and various other seasonings.

Pancit: Noodles with chunks of chicken thighs, onions, garlic, carrots, soy sauce, and saturated in chicken broth.

(Vegetarian versions of Pancit, Sinigang, and Siopao were also made.)

Later on in the night, we also fixed a tradition Filipino dessert called Hallo Hallo. It was glorious.

We had between 30 and 40 people come out to eat.

Someone also grabbed some bamboo sticks, and I taught folks how to do Tinikling and Singkil.

Special thanks to my friends Bashi, Kubbi, Julian, Kat, and Brin for cooking up these amazing dishes!!

I cannot wait until we do this again!

-Roqué

 

There Is An Immigrant In All of Us.

July 1, 2018

Culture and Society

Have you ever found yourself in a completely new and slightly scary situation?

Maybe you started a new job and had to learn your work from scratch (in addition to getting to know your new co-workers and how to find everything in a new building).

Maybe you were forced to give a speech or presentation in front of a lot of people on the fly.

Perhaps you moved to a new city without a friend in sight and no idea of where to find a good grocery store or better gas prices.

Maybe you’ve been in a hospital about to undergo an operation. The prospect of strangers cutting you up and doing whatever they want to your body while you are unconscious is unsettling.

Maybe you walked onto a car dealership feeling like you knew what you wanted and left feeling like someone just took advantage of you.

What do all of these scenarios have in common?

For starters, they all involve being in a foreign environment. Secondly, they also involve some degree of fear, feeling out -of-sorts, and being vulnerable.

Now, imagine moving to a foreign country. People speak a completely different language. There are ways of showing respect and gratitude that are confusing. Their food tastes weird to your tongue. You have no idea how to get anywhere, and the public transit is mind-boggling. You miss your family and friends terribly. You miss the comforts of the food and places you were used to. You feel alone and afraid.

Being an immigrant involves being in a foreign environment. It is an experience that can be rife with fear, feeling out-of-sorts, and a sense of uncontrollable vulnerability.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Right now in America, the immigration debate has finally reached the forefront of our national attention. Immigrant families and children are being used as bargaining chips by our own president. Initiatives geared toward cracking down on illegal immigration are racist and inhumane.

Where is the compassion?
How do we find actionable solutions that treat all people with respect and dignity?
Surely we can do better than separating children from their parents and incarcerating all of them?

I will not pretend that I have all of the answers, but perhaps one place to start is to know that immigrants are essentially no different from anyone else. They have dreams. They want to build a good life for themselves and their children. They are intelligent. They know how to love. They feel sadness and fear. They have the capacity to work hard and help others.

If they are no different, then they are the same.

The next time you feel vulnerable, lonely, or afraid, remember that there is an immigrant in the world who is also feeling those things.

The only difference is that their situation might be far more terrifying, sad, and hopeless.

Helping immigrants helps all of us.

Compassion for immigrants is compassion for ourselves.

There is an immigrant in all of us.

-Roqué

I Am Not White, and I Have Less Power

January 8, 2018

Culture and Society

The heading for this post is a grim reality that I face.  Here in America, white people are the dominant political and cultural forces in society.

You can look at any magazine rack at any supermarket and drug store.  The vast majority of magazine covers has beautiful white people on them.  Every major film release and television show predominantly features white people in leading roles and  explores the stories and experiences of white people.

Of the forty-five Presidents of the United States of America, 44 of them have been white.  The members of congress, the senate, and the supreme court have been primarily white people across this country’s history.  This counts for all three of branches of our federal government.

It’s clear to see who has the power and who has control of our media, popular culture, and government.

If none of this is directly intentional, then isn’t it at least eerily pervasive?  In the most ethnically diverse country in the world, why is it that one specific skin color is so dominant in virtually every facet of life?

White people are the standard of beauty in this country.  I have often been passed over in favor of the pretty white boy and have been told that I suit more “exotic” tastes.

I have performed at countless open mics as a musician in Nashville and been treated like some sort of novelty because of how foreign I look.  I am more than just a novelty.  I am more than just a token.

White people have won the vast majority of Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, and Tonys.  They are well represented among talk-show hosts, newscasters, successful pop stars, and CEO’s of multi-national corporations.

I am a person of color from a family of immigrants from the Philippines.  I am currently a straight-A honors student in college.  When I graduate with my well-earned diploma someday, I go out into the world knowing that I am not part of the privileged elite.  I look different no matter how qualified I am.

I am not white, and I have less power.

I say all of this not because I want sympathy or a handout.  Everything I have in my life I have earned through my own blood, sweat, and tears.  My modus operandi is to work hard, and I would not have it any other way.

I say all of this because it bothers me.

In my lifetime, I want society to evolve out of this paradigm.  I want equal opportunity for EVERYONE and not just the white people.  I want representation for all people and not just the white people.  America is vast and rich with cultural diversity.  You would not know it if you watched the Oscars or sat in on a congressional meeting.

Surely this is not the best we can do?  Is this as good as it gets?

I sincerely hope not.

So, where do we begin?  We can start by acknowledging how our privileges affect others.  The place you hold at the table is a place that has been denied to someone else, and there is only so much room at the table.  There are only so many voices that can be heard.  There are people, perspectives, stories, and experiences that are all but invisible in places where important decisions are made.

We need to constantly ask ourselves whose voices are we not hearing?  Whose faces are we not seeing?  Whose lives and experiences are we dismissing in favor of an all-encompassing status quo?

I am not white, and I have less power.

This is the truth that I face, but I will take what little power I have and use it.  If I have to work ten or twenty times harder than a white person just to be noticed or valued in some substantive and meaningful way, then so be it.  It’s what I have always done.

I am a person of color, and I will use my power.

-Roqué

#metoo

December 17, 2017

Culture and Society

Yup, #metoo.

I was 19-years-old then, too young to have the wherewithal to stand up for myself against someone who took liberties over my body.  It was a part-time job at a small sandwich shop.  Our lunch rush required us to have the ability to make up to twelve sandwiches wrapped and ready to go in under five minutes within a team of three people.  It was during this lunch rush that she groped my crotch as I was carrying a basket of bread over to a counter.  The look of shock and disgust on my face did not faze her.  I was speechless and completely caught off guard.  She laughed it off and went back to work. This would be one of three instances in which she did this, and one of several in which she would humiliate me in front of others.

She was not a manager, but she had the benefit of having worked there longer than any other employee.  She was bossy and demanding, and quite honestly, she was a monster.

The owners of the business liked her a lot since she seemed to get a lot done, and in hindsight, I should have spoken up.  I also should have left.

Now, years later, I wonder why I’ve never spoken openly about this experience.  It truly was humiliating and dehumanizing.  At the time, I was embarrassed and ashamed and couldn’t get myself to talk about it to anyone.

I filed it away under memories that were isolated incidents that I would rather forget.

I never forgot.  I never forgot how she made me feel.

Fast forward to the last couple of months when many courageous women are standing up for themselves and holding people accountable for their bad behavior.  This took me back to my own experiences.  All things being relative, what happened to me feels small compared to what others have gone through, and I am thankful that I have not been in a similar situation ever since.

I truly hope that this time of reckoning in our culture creates deep and substantive change in our society.  I hope we can take this further and figure out ways to talk to our children about how to stand up to people who abuse their power by abusing others.  Maybe it can be discussed in schools.  I wish someone had taught me about how these dynamics play out.  I did not have that awareness back then, but I do now.

I wish someone had told me that no one has a right to treat me and my body that way without my consent.

To some extent, even though it accounts for a short period of my life, I wonder how it affected me in the long-term.  Anybody who knows me knows how extremely modest I am.  Someone would have to pay me very well to take my shirt off in public.  I often default to being passive when dealing with difficult people (I’m working on this one), and I avoid terrible people at all costs.

So, maybe there’s good and bad in the end.

If I ever see her again, I would tell her how she made me feel and that she had no right to treat me or anyone else that way.  I would tell her to rot in hell, because I still feel a little angry about it all, as long as I’m being honest.

Whether it’s a film production company, NBC, CBS, a factory in the midwest, or a sandwich shop in the south, I hope women and all people can feel safer where they work.

We all deserve safety, respect, and to be treated with dignity.

-Roqué