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Pope Benedict resigns! Hell freezes over!

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is resigning as head of the Catholic Church. The 85-year-old pontiff cited age (too much) and physical strength (too little) as the reasons for giving up the papacy.

pope benedict resigns

The news was met with shock and disbelief from the faithful, since popes usually serve until they die (John Paul II), or are killed (John Paul I  – just kidding, lighten up non-conspiracy theorists). The last papal resignation occurred in the 15th century, as the joke goes, when Joseph Ratzinger was still in short pants.

Many leaders of the Vatican hierarchy were caught off guard, with Cardinal Angelo Sodano saying the announcement came “like a lightning bolt in a clear blue sky.” Coincidentally, a photo taken during a rainstorm the night of the announcement (February 11) showed just that (news item).


In related news, Satan released photos of Hell when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 89, resigned declared the post of senate president vacant during the height of the “Christmas bonus” scandal a few weeks ago.



enrile resigns

Senator Enrile, is of course, still Senate President at this time. When asked for comment about the Pope’s resignation, JPE reportedly said “Talaga? Bata pa yun ah!” (“Really? But he’s still young!”)


A Gathering of Old Men (and New Year’s Eve milestones)

He survived the Mayan calendar changeover, but died on the Gregorian calendar New Year’s Eve. Fr. James B. Reuter, “The Great Communicator” and honorary Filipino (he was an American Jesuit), passed away at the age of 96 from stroke complications. Fr. Reuter is best known for his multimedia (TV, radio, theater and print) work. He had a hand in running the underground radio station “Radyo Bandido” during the last dark days of the Marcos regime. For his lifetime of work he has been given many prestigious awards.

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Sr. Sarah Manapol said she sang “Mary’s Child Forever” to him as he lay in his deathbed. Even when the nuns taking care of him thought he was unconscious, Reuter was said to have joined them one last time in their singing. During interviews with the press Manapol said, “I was singing to him… Mary’s child forever … forever Mary’s child … He was listening so beautifully. We became teary-eyed.”

Speaking of old men and New Year’s Eve milestones, it took two tries but Hugh Hefner, 86, is starting 2013 a married man. He wed his 26-year-old “runaway bride” Crystal Harris at a private ceremony in the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. They were supposed to marry in 2011 but Crystal was not clear about the whole thing and broke off the engagement just days before the ceremony.

The 60-year age gap spawned the usual jokes: “He married her for her money,” “she married him for the sex,” etc. Comedian Ricky Gervais calls Hefner one of “The Walking Dead.” I call him a “walking Viagra commercial.”

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Hefner shed his iconic pajamas and wore a tuxedo for the short wedding rites, and forced the poor puppy to do the same.
There is no truth to the rumor that Harris sings “If You Leave Me Now” and “Time to Say Goodbye” to Hefner every night in their bed.


Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus (and fairies/elves/hobbits)

Virginia O’Hanlon was an eight-year-old girl in 1897 New York City. Her friends have developed the insight a couple of years earlier that there is no Santa Claus (Virginia would grow up to be an educator, and relate later that studies have shown that children generally stopped believing in Santa at around age 6). And giving her hell for still keeping the faith.


Confused, she asked her father, a doctor in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, if Santa really existed but his answer was frustratingly vague. He then advised her to direct the question to The Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper at the time, assuring her that “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Thus dooming his daughter to believe that everything in the newspapers (or if she lived long enough, the Internet) is true.

Apparently, The Sun was the 19th century equivalent of “” Despite the definite “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” the reply, an editorial written by Francis P. Church, was actually less straightforward and is a masterpiece on how to provide a philosophical non-answer to difficult questions. Thus, dooming little Virginia into believing not only in Jolly Old Nick, but in fairies as well. I’m not sure if Church wrote the editorial for the eight-year-old (who may not yet have developed the proper discernment needed for an op-ed) or for her father and presumably The Sun’s readership demographic.

The resulting “Yes, Virginia” meme went viral, almost a century before the Internet became generally available. Thus we have the various “Yes, Virginia there is a . . .” (insert noun here) permutations still in wide use today. The Sun reprinted the famous editorial every Christmas, and for most of her life, Virginia was repeatedly asked if she still believed in Santa. Pictures of her in her senior years speak volumes of the stress she might have gone through.


A few questions come to mind. Would The Sun have bothered to answer the letter if little Virginia was from the working class Lower East Side, instead of the upscale Upper West Side (Virginia’s father actually warned her about her letter being ignored)? How would Church have answered if instead of Santa Claus, she asked the most classic child’s question of all, did the stork really bring me home? Let’s try to paraphrase Francis P. Church (substituting stork for Santa Claus):

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“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.

Yes, Virginia, babies really do come from storks. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no storks. It would be as dreary as if there were no Cabbage Patches.

Not believe in storks! You might as well not believe in fairies! Nobody sees storks delivering babies, but that is no sign that there is no such thing. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world, nor all the uncomfortable questions children may ask their parents!

No storks! Thank God! They live and live forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, storks will continue to deliver babies.”


Merry Christmas everyone!

Miss Philippines is back-up Miss Universe 2012. Twitter goes wild!


Fresh from her first runner-up finish in the annual meat show called the Miss Universe beauty pageant, Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon returns to a hero’s welcome in Manila just before Christmas eve.


Just imagine the adulation if she actually won the contest. Evidently, her famous “cobra walk” and answer during the interview portion was just short of worthy for the judges.

philippines-janine-tugonon interview

The near win, the first in 13 years after Miriam Quiambao in 1999, led to some nasty bashing of the winner Miss USA Olivia Culpo. Fashionistas had a field day criticizing the poor girl’s gown. Others had something snarky to say about her height (or lack thereof), finesse (or lack thereof) and mediocre response to the judge’s question.


And as a sad note on the state of journalism in the Philippines, these Twitter posts on Janine’s loss were unbelievably recycled into news. An entire news article  consisted entirely of jock tweets, by athletes I’ve never even heard of, and should probably have been kept anonymous. Examples follow:

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janine jock tweet2

“Through her off?” “Put Philippines on your back & represented?” Unless it’s a joke, who freaking cares what these retards (even including a suspended basketball player) think? Are they beauty experts and their opinions now qualify as news?

Well, considering that I saw at least three grammatical errors in one article alone written by a journalist (Manila Bulletin, what else), maybe they really ought to just limit their reporting to Twitter posts:

janine typo1

janine typo2

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During her arrival press conference in Manila, Janine said that she “left everything to God.” Maybe if she made a pact instead with the devil, or with Miss Universe owner Donald Trump, or as some Trump haters would say “same difference,” she might actually have won.


The governor of Bataan province, where she hails from, will host a ticker tape parade for her. As the racist gov says, “Bataan can very well compete with other races when it comes to beauty, brains, and strength of character.”

bataan race

We hear you gov. The Bataan race can definitely kick the Manila or Cebu races’ ass anytime.

Apocalypse Preppers

Decades ago, a leading U.S. scholar said the end of the Maya’s 13th bak’tun, coinciding with the winter solstice on December 21, could signify a cataclysmic event, which some take to mean the end of the world as scaremongers interpret the hieroglyphs. In the Mayan “Long Count” calendar, a bak’tun lasts approximately 400 years, or some 5,000 years in total.


But what do they know? The Mayas, of course, famously failed to predict their empire’s own demise, by natural calamities or at the hands of Spanish conquistadors.

Although the NASA and other experts have repeatedly discredited these wild predictions, the conspiracy theorists news organizations keep repeating the hoaxes, obviously to sell more newspapers get more website hits and clicks. At least for one venerable news institution it really is Apocalypse Now. After almost a century of publication, the print edition of Newsweek will end this month.

And what have the Mayas, or their modern-day descendants, have to say about this? December 21, for them will be like December 31, only less decadent and probably more of a religious thing than in most parts of the world. Mayas, like Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, and Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlajuj Ajpop, decry the commercial hype surrounding the apocalypse, and the Hollywood-inspired twisting of their culture and folklore for profit (led by the government and travel agencies).

rigoberta menchu

Even though they might not believe it’s going to really happen, people are going to key places to party as if it’s the end of the world.

Hard-core Star Wars nerds would recognize this place as the rebel base where Luke Skywalker blasted off to destroy the Galactic Empire’s Death Star. The ancient city of Tikal is now a pilgrimage site for both the movies’ fans and aficionados of Maya culture. Temple 4 ruins will be ground zero for December 21 when over 200,000 are expected to converge on the site to commemorate the end of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar, because as they say it is here where “The Force” is the strongest. Tikal will be the center of celebrations to be held in more than a dozen archeological sites, promoted by no less than the Guatemalan president.


Banking on the expectation that people can’t tell the difference, Incans are riding on the Mayan tourism boom. According to legend, the Incan empire was established in the Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca. The highest lake in the world will host an anti-Armageddon ceremony on the Island of the Sun, in the middle of the body of water.

Or you might prefer Bugarach, in southwestern France. It has been hyped to be the only spot in the world immune to any apocalyptic calamities due to the adjacent Pic de Bugarach mountain near the Pyrenees. New Age cultists believe aliens have created a huge spaceship garage inside the mountain and will spare any humans that decide to leave the planet with them in the coming apocalypse. The mayor has pleaded for news reporters and tourists not to come to the tiny village, which has a population of less than 200.


Unlike the killjoy mayor of Bugarach, the 600 or so inhabitants of a small village in western Turkey are actually welcoming the horde. Sirince, near the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, is said to have a positive energy, used by the Virgin Mary during her ascent to heaven, as many Christians believe. All 400 hotels in the vicinity of the town are fully booked. The population of the town is expected to bloom 100 times to 60,000 today as cultists/believers think that Sirince is apocalypse-resistant.

Most people around the world are not travelling to these doomsday-proof places and would rather hunker down to wait out Armageddon. Some are buying bunkers like this luxurious beauty, at $20,000 minimum.


But the ultimate in DIY is this survival pod by a Chinese farmer and furniture maker engineered to withstand 1000 meter waves, tsunamis and devastating earthquakes. Liu Qiyuan created these steel and fiberglass spheres designed to carry as many as 30 people, using the movie “2012” as inspiration.

great ball of china

True believers see the worsening natural calamities as a sign that the end is really near. The best evidence yet? One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has arrived.


Pacquiao votes “No” on RH Bill

Philippine boxing idol and occasional congressman Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao rushed to the Philippine Congress to vote no to the controversial Reproductive Health bill, which promotes contraceptive use for family planning.

pacquiao RH bill

Front page headline:

“Pacman votes no even if he’s no longer Catholic”

Like the Catholic Mexicans he has been beating to a pulp the past several years, Pacquiao used to wear a rosary and make the sign of the cross during fights. He stopped doing these when he joined a Christian Evangelical group, which are generally supportive of the RH bill. Fans (specially his furious mother Dionisia) blame his religious conversion for his back-to-back losses to Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Meanwhile in the Sports page headline on the same day (no kidding, Philippine Daily Inquirer 12/14/2012):

“Pacquiao to undergo brain analysis”

Pacquiao knocked out!

Eight-division world boxing champion, and current PHL congressman Manny Pacquiao finally lost fair and square to Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao walked into a vicious right by Marquez and fell flat on his face, suffering his first knockout since his fight with Congresswoman Darlene Custodio. He was unconscious for a few minutes while wife Jinkee frantically tried to get near him.


Many blame his busy schedule due to showbiz and political commitments.

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Others blame his new-found religiosity and conversion to born-again Christianity.


Or maybe it’s because this loser greeted him in his room just before the fight (talk about “the handshake of death”).


All PHL newspapers and news sources headlined the loss. My favorite headline is by a Yahoo! news writer who might still be in shock by the loss:

“Pacquiao falls. Pinoys in shocked.”

Too bad I wasn’t able to make a screen grab before more level-headed editors found the error.

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