Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year Celebration in the Philippines

Although New Year is a distinct occasion, most Filipinos consider its celebration as a part of observing the long Christmas season. The New Year’s Eve is a moment when people welcome the arrival of another year as the clock strikes at midnight. New Year is supposed to be merrier than Christmas because it is more of a secular occasion. Christmas has a religious significance because the day is identified with the birth of Christ while New Year is a day to start another Gregorian calendar year. Despite the fact that Filipinos put more meaning on Christmas than the New Year, both occasions are given grandiose celebrations.

New Year's Eve is also an occasion for gift giving

Above pictures are favorite foods on New Year's Eve
beer, a favorite New Year's Eve drink
Like Christmas, fiesta, wedding, birthday and other occasions, New Year Eve is the time when members of the family, relatives and friends gather to be with the company of each other. Parties and parlor games are held, music is played for a dance or a listening, videoke or guitar or in some cases a band accompanies a song, gifts are exchanged and foods are served to people. The extent and quality of foods available and activities done are determined by the financial status or capability of a family. People who are more religious attend a mass before waiting for the arrival of the New Year.                                                                                                                    
The many activities that people are doing keep them up all through the night. As a result, they sleep late in the following morning, the New Year’s Day which is an official public holiday. In contrast to the lively atmosphere that characterized the celebration of the previous evening, the following day is usually almost devoid of people’s activities. People are in their home resting or sleeping. Government offices and private shops and businesses are closed. And many vehicles are off the street resulting in a significantly lighter traffic.

round shaped fruits on the table
Some superstitious practices that are probably of Chinese origins and not rooted on Christian belief influence the observance and welcoming of the New Year. Said practices are believed to bring forth good luck and ward off bad luck and evil spirits. Although many people do not subscribe to the ideas, other people observe the practice anyway for the sake of social tradition. Making loud sounds, putting 12 kinds of round fruits on the table, wearing polka dot dress, and spreading coins around the house are said to bring in good luck. Jumping 12 times on New Year’s Eve is said to make children become taller. When the New Year’s noise has died down, the sound of an animal that is heard first is a sign of a good or a bad fortune. A crow of a roster or a bark of a dog is a bad sign while the moo of a cow or a water buffalo or a bleat of a goat is a good sign for the coming year. Those are some of the many Filipino superstitious beliefs that are related to the celebration of New Year.

fireworks display
It is the practice of the Filipinos to make loud sound when the clock strikes midnight to bring in good luck and drive away evil spirits. People make noise by blowing horns, blowing the horns of cars, playing music loud, and banging cans and kitchen utensils among other actions. But the most popular and effective way of making noise is the use of firecrackers and fireworks. In relation to it, some people, before the New Year’s Eve, set aside money to buy those stuffs. The varied explosions, shapes, light colors, sparks and smokes caused by the exploding fireworks in the ground or in the sky are for some people a brilliant spectacle in the night sky. But for other people including the animals the burst of explosives can scare them out of their wits. There is inherent risk in exploding fireworks because people might get injured or properties might be burned. For this reason, the sale and use of fireworks and firecracker are strictly regulated or in some instances discouraged by the government.

The western influenced making of resolutions for the New Year is a practice that is adapted by the Filipinos. People hope to change their character or behavior for a better life in the coming year. Some put their resolutions into writings while others just commit them to their memory. And still other people do not make New Year’s resolutions at all, because for them, if there is something to be changed or corrected, they should do it right there and then without waiting for the year end to come to do it.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Renovated Fountain of Cagayan de Oro

Gaston Park is a historic and major Landmark of Cagayan de Oro, and one of its main fixtures is the fountain. Locals who visited the park and those who went to the mass at Saint Augustine Cathedral relished the view of the park with its decorative fountain and people had their picture taken with the fountain, the church and the old water reservoir now converted into museum as the background. However, the operation of the fountain was temporarily stopped so that it can be improved and renovated.

In December 2015, with the renovation done, the fountain was reactivated. Now, when the fountain’s electric pump is turned on people can see the water jets into the air which is accompanied with lights and music. The fountain retains its old original basin that is surrounded by railings. In the middle is a new smaller and higher elevated basin where the nozzles of the main spring are located. Outside and below this smaller basin in the pond are nozzles that create smaller springs around the main spring in the middle.  

The reactivation of the fountain with its colored lights and music is indeed a beautiful sight not only to the local residents but also to other people who will visit the city.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Doing Business with a Debit Card

Debit card is a plastic card that allows user to withdraw cash from financial institutions or purchase items from merchants with the cost charged directly to his bank account. It is a convenient instrument for a person to do business or personal activities. It is a paperless bank account on which a bank issues a card instead of a passbook to its client. Aside from making deposit to his debit card account, the user can make payment to another person or institution or receive payment or deposit on his saving account through his card.                                               

Like ATM card, a debit card can also be used by its holder to withdraw money from bank’s ATM. A debit card issued by one bank can withdraw money from another bank’s ATM if both of them are connected with interbank ATM networks such as Express, MegaLink and BancNet.  In the Philippines, the major electronic fund transfer facilitators are Visa and MasterCard. Banks that issue debit card carry the brand of those two international companies on their cards. The Visa or the MasterCard brands and the connectivity of debit card to bank networks allow the holder to use his debit card locally or even abroad.                                                                                                                                                                   
Cashless shopping or payment is the main convenient feature of debit card in financial transactions. A debit card can be used to pay utilities, groceries, restaurant or other bills to merchants that accept such form of payment. A cashier swipes the card in an electronic authorization device at the point of sale.  Sometimes a separate PINpad to enter the PIN is used. But in some establishments there is no need to do it.

Both debit and credit cards can be used to shop online. There are some advantages in buying items online because in some cases they are cheaper than what can be bought physically at local stores. Manufacturers and merchants who have large inventories of unsold, overstocked and discontinued items find online stores as convenient place to sell them off. To attract buyers, these items are offered for sale at a very huge discount. Since the items are still very usable, online shoppers are attracted to them because of their low price. Furthermore, some old and hard to find items at the local stores might only be available online. And the debit card and credit card may come in handy to acquire those much desired items. However, the purchase of the debit card holder is limited to the amount of his bank savings account balance while a credit card holder purchases are limited to the range of his line of credit. The credit card holder therefore has more leverage in purchasing online items. He can even buy them in installment basis with interest.

Using a debit card is in essence a cash transaction while using a credit card is virtually an acquisition of goods or services on short term loan. And since credit card purchases may not be backed up with the user’s bank account, the items are usually charged with interest. Since the debit card holder spends only what he has in his bank account, there is only little risk that he may go into an unmanageable debt. On the other hand a credit card holder may be tempted to go on an uncontrollable shopping spree that may put him in future dire financial straits. 

Almost always, one needs to have money in his possession since debit or credit card alone won’t be able to pay for anything. But with a debit card, he may not have to bring along with him huge amount of it. Money that is lost will be gone forever, while a lost debit card can be replaced with a new one. The user will just have to report the incident to his bank which will then deactivate the card to prevent transaction that will be made by unauthorized persons.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump- Love Him or Hate Him

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
With his bold and heavily controversial statements on public issues, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump draws attention not only from the American public but also from his rivals from the Republican and Democratic Parties. The outspoken billionaire always minces no words in his statements in answers to questions asked of him.

On December 8, 2015, in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting involving Islamic terrorists, Donald Trump made statements suggesting to “ban Muslims from entering the United States unless its representatives can figure out what is going on.” He then immediately got a lot of criticism over his words. Hilary Clinton, a Democratic Party presidential candidate commented that Trump’s remarks are “shameful” and “dangerous” and that he is playing into the hands of the ISIS by supplying it with new propaganda. Her view was echoed by the Pentagon which voiced concern on the security implication on Trump’s remarks. Fearing a backlash to the party over Trump’s comment, Republican Party presidential candidates also rebuked him. Jeb Bush, another republican presidential candidate said that Trump’s action is helping Clinton to win the presidency, and that Trump is not going to be the Republican Party nominee for president. In the academe, on December 9, 2015, the Robert Gordon University revoked Trump’s Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration for making statements that are incompatible with the ethos and values of the school.                                                
Donald Trump also received a lot of flak abroad over his anti-Muslim rhetoric. British Prime Minister David Cameroon, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Canadian Foreign Minister Stephanie Dion also expressed their criticism. In addition there is a petition in the UK which already gained half a million signatures to ban Trump in the country.

Despite the attacks leveled against him over his anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stance, Trump remains defiant and says that he will stand by with what he said. Latest opinion survey by Huffpost pollster conducted after his controversial remarks shows that his popularity in the Republican Party has not  diminished. He still leads the republican presidential hopefuls with 35.6%. His closest rivals Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio got only 14.1% and 12.3% respectively.

Donald Trump joined the presidential race with official slogan: “We are going to make our country great again.”, and commitment “to become the greatest president that God created.” His proposed policies as president include the deportation of 11 million immigrants from the United States, the construction of a substantial wall on the US-Mexican borders, and the aggressive bombings of the ISIS. He would also support the surveillance of mosques in the US.

Most often, Trump’s statements don’t sit well with the illegal immigrants to include the Syrian refugees and even the liberals. Though there are some people who disagree with his view, there are others who appreciate Trump’s candidness to speak his mind on controversial issues. He says what he feels without being constrained with political correctness. His supporters believe that his views reflect the sentiments of the majority of the Americans.  

You like him or not, Donald Trump if ever he would be elected as the next president of the United States would likely bring significant changes in the country’s policies and direction especially on matters such as immigration and the war on terrorism which are some of the key issues that could sway voters’ preference in the coming US presidential election of 2016. And the world would see a shift from a liberal oriented administration into one with conservative leanings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Earthworm, a Beneficial Organism to Your Garden

Earthworm is a name given to a worm in the class Oligochaeta in phylum annelida.  The earthworm has a cylindrical shaped segmented body that tapers off at both ends. Some species are pale red while others are dark brown. Earthworm has bristles called setae that project from their body which it uses to hold to a surface. Some of them grow only about a few centimeters in length, but there are other tropical species that can grow up to 3.3 meters. Some earthworm species can live up to ten years.

With no other type of sense except its sense of touch, earthworm relies on its skin to observe and perceive its surroundings. Earthworms are hermaphrodites with each worm having both male and female reproductive organs.  However, they still need a partner to reproduce. Their eggs are buried in earth in cocoons. The cocoons protect the eggs until they hatch as small fully developed worms.

Earthworms live in a moist condition and usually live in the upper layer of the soil. They shun sunlight but usually get to the surface in special situation such as when their burrows are flooded during rains. They usually get out at night to feed and to throw off their castings. They usually feed on organic matter such as dried and decayed leaves in the soil. During hot weather they penetrate downward to avoid dehydration. In burrowing they swallowed soil containing decayed leaves, vegetable and other organic matter.

Species of earthworms can be categorized in three types according to their dwelling places in the soil. The litter dwellers or epegeic species live in fallen dried leaves and other organic matter on top of the soil. They usually consume decayed organic matter. The topsoil dwellers or endogeic species live 2 to 3 inches in the topsoil. They create horizontal burrows and consumes large amount of topsoil and organic matter. The subsoil dwellers or anecic species live 5 to 6 feet in the soil in vertical burrows and need surface crop residue to live. They also consume large amount of soil and organic matter in it.

Earthworms play an important part on the ecology of the soil. They benefit the plants by decreasing or controlling the amount of harmful organism in the soil and by improving its fertility. Plants need air in the soil so that their roots can thrive. The earthworms’ burrowing breaks the compaction of the soil that allows plant’s roots to remove carbon dioxide from the soil. At the same time they also help let in the needed oxygen of the plant in the soil. With the improve soil porosity, plants can now easily absorb water to facilitate its growth. As they burrow, earthworms consume soil and organic matter for food. The combination of soil and organic matter in the earthworm’s gut makes a good fertilizer in the form of castings in or on the surface of the soil when they are excreted. Earthworm castings have higher value of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and boron contents than the surrounding soil. Earthworms’ castings also improve the soil’s pH level.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

American Civil War: General William Tecumseh Sherman's Christmas Presents to Pres. Abraham Lincoln

Pres. Abraham Lincoln
After capturing Atlanta, Georgia, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman with about 60,000 men composed of cavalry and infantry continued his campaign called as “March to the Sea” to capture Savannah, Georgia which was of strategic importance because it was one of the south’s  main ports.

Expecting the siege of Savannah by the Union Army, Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, the Confederate Army commander defending the city against the union forces positioned about 10’000 troops composed of regulars and militias in the strategic positions of the city.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
 On the 9th and 10th of December, 1864, Sherman positioned his troops west, north and south to the city. At the same time he communicated with the Union Naval fleet for the needed supplies. On the 13th of December Sherman’s division led by William Hazen assaulted and captured Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah thus opening the back door to the port city of Savannah and made Sherman’s forces closer to their main objective.

With him in the control of the conflict situation, Sherman called on Hardee to surrender, but the latter refused. Sherman then ordered his troops for an assault and at the same time he went to the headquarters of Maj. Gen John J. Foster, commander of Union forces in South Carolina to coordinate with him on blocking Hardees possible exit toward the north.

Before Gen. Sherman’s deal with Gen. Foster could be executed, Mayor Richard Arnold surrendered the city to the Union Army under Gen. Sherman. The mayor’s move had been prompted by the sufferings and hardships suffered by the civilians brought about by the foraging and other acts committed by the Union Army. Meanwhile, Hardee thought that it was unwise to pit his much smaller force against a larger and stronger enemy. Moreover, a battle between his and Sherman’s forces would level the city with artillery bombardments which would only add to the sufferings to the already besieged residents. With those considerations, Gen. Hardee sneaked his troops from the city through a makeshift pontoon bridge for a withdrawal to South Carolina on December 20, 1864.

On the 22  December 1864, at the headquarters of Gen. Forster in South Carolina, after being informed of the surrender of the city and withdrawal of Gen. Hardee’s troops, Sherman then declared the successful conclusion of the “March to the Sea”. He then telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln to inform him of the development, and to give the president the Christmas presents that were the city of Savannah and 25,000 bales of cotton.