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‘THERE MUST ALWAYS BE DECENCY, EVEN IN POVERTY’ by Malu E. Gacuma / July 20, 2017

Yesterday afternoon, my daughters made a gentleman cry.

He heads the Engineering Department at the Provincial Capitol. As my 2nd daughter, Christienne Marie  and I entered their office to sell snacks ( e.g.Oreo Float, Yema Cake and Choco Moist), I was surprised how all of the staff and this gentleman welcomed my daughter with so much warmth and fondness! They looked for my 2 other daughters, Chickie and Claudia,who were in school.

I am so moved that they still remember my children who sold lunch and snacks to them every day way back 2014, when they forcibly quit from school due to monetary constraint, a problem hounding us since their late father had absolutely abandoned us  in 1999.

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2014: At noontime ,Angel and Claudia, with Chickie taking photo, while they were resting at the Bacolod Lagoon after a tiring endeavor.

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December 2001,Manila : Me with my 3 girls then aged 6,4 and 3.

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2014.During their food-selling days as out-of-school youth. They would often rest at the Bacolod Lagoon,adjacent to Provincial Capitol, and take photos of themselves as their past time.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2014: Coming home  at high noon after selling,haggard,tired but still those smiles were there.

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Angel doing her sideline,face-painting,in a birthday party.

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Chickie doing face-painting during Christmas Party.It was a sideline Angel found out and both of them earned from it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left without a choice, as their widowed mother, I opened their young minds that investing their time into selling and being productive will compensate for their lost days in school. It will teach them skills to survive without compromising the virtues and values taught to them. They were so obedient, enthusiastic, open-minded and determined.

They only sold to the employees of the Provincial Capitol, 5 days a week under any weather, with their baskets full of various menus we also cooked. Menus varied from ‘brunch’ to lunch to merienda e.g. Valenciana ( our best seller) , spaghetti, pancit bihon, ginataang monggo with langka, fried fish, chicken adobo, chicken curry, chicken with pineapple,  paksiw na bangus, fried bangus, eggplant torta, picadillo ( another best seller) , pochero, baguio beans and diced potatoes with pork giniling, sandwiches, burgers, banana cake, buko pie, even chicken Arroz Caldo with boiled egg.

We started our day at 2 am, sheer hard work!  We cooked until about 6 am and prepared everything by 8 am. At 9 am they were out to sell and usually came home at noontime, with empty baskets, so tired yet with happy faces! Oftentimes, they would bring extra food for street children they met at the Lagoon.

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2014-One of their selling days.Chickie sharing extra food for the homeless children at the Bacolod Lagoon, something they love to do until now

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2014: Claudia & Chickie, with Angel taking photo,  heading home after making good sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gave them ‘commissions‘ for their daily income, which they saved and used as their fares and needs on Saturdays,when they studied for 10 months under Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) program for their acceleration to college.

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2014: The children’s very first ‘commission’ after bringing home empty food baskets on their 1st selling day!They took photo of it for remembrance!

 

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2014: Some of the ‘brunch’ and snacks they sold



 

 

 

 

 

 

It was timely that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( thru the Bacolod 1st Ward in Galo Street), where we are members, had a partnership that time with the Department of Education. My children were offered to be among the students and they went to  the Galo chapel classes under the tutelage of Mr. Leo Ceralbo, the assigned ALS teacher.

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2015: The children graduating from the Church’s ‘Perpetual Education Fund or PEF Program,which they took up on weekends, simultaneous with the DepEd-ALS program.

 

 

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July 4,2015:
After a few years and an add-on of more 10 months of sacrifice, they finally graduated from high school thru DepEd-ALS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2015: Claudia as youth volunteer of Mormon Helping Hands during the ‘National Day of Service’ of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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2014: The children as youth volunteers for  the Ecological Society of the Phils. (ESP) whose events I organized in Negros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 2017: Chickie’s recognition from her employer for reaching her 3rd year as regular employee inspite of being a full time student.

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2015: Chickie as youth volunteer for Red Cross

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2017,1st sem: Chickie,an Agri-Business major,here deworming a goat

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2017,1st sem: Angel, as lead actress, here in a scene from their school film titled ‘Hereafter’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning how my children are faring at the University of Saint La Salle these days, and reaching their 3rd majoring year,the Engineering Head suddenly paused in our conversation, then his staff fell in silence.

He was in tears, saying he was so deeply touched by my children’s struggle. He could not contain himself. It was a blessed moment! As we ended our conversation, he gave us a handshake each, which I could feel the respect he wanted to extend.

It pierced through my heart – his sincerity and empathy was insurmountable! Same with the employees around.

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June 2015: My children wearing their University of Saint La Salle uniform for the first time.Here they posed for remembrance.

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2017: Claudia, as current News Editor of The Spectrum ,La Salle’s official media publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017: My Facebook wall post congratulating Angel being granted a full scholarship as member of La Salle’s Maskara Theater Ensemble

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2016: Claudia as  Bacolod team leader/ reporter for Rappler.Here she was reporting about the elections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Facebook wall post congratulating Chickie for her high grades, despite being a full time employee of Focus Direct call center  and having a 29-unit load in school

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2016 : My Facebook wall post congratulating Claudia for making it to the University of St. La Salle’s Dean’s List

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Manila,2016: Claudia as youth Climate Reality Leader,during Al Gore’s int’l leadership training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The children with their respective sash for being chosen as “DeMolay Chapter Sweetheart” by Int’l Order of deMolay-SVAC.Chickie is the current ‘Sweetheart,2017’.

Of course, needless to say, he also bought the snacks we brought. This time, not out of sympathy but to celebrate the meeting we had with him.

Such will always be a very memorable day for me as a mother.After all the deprivation,humiliation sacrifices and discrimination I had to endure for them, these were all worth it.  It was a moment that made me understand what ‘Lord’s blessings’ truly mean.

This was the unspoken message I have proven from the tears of joy from a good-natured gentleman, who –as a parent himself– shared my views that there must always be decency, even in poverty.*

 

(NOTE:  Originally posted over my Facebook wall  at 7:51 pm, 20,2017 then published thru Negros Daily Bulletin, July 24-25,2017 issue ,page 5, ‘The Diarist: On Love and Life’ column)

(ADDENDUM: The good-natured  Engineering Head’s name is Engr. Erwin Mapa.)

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L-R Christienne Marie, Claudia and Chickie Gancayco

L-R: Christienne Marie (Angel), Christiana Claudia (Clay) and Christa Lou (Chickie) Gacuma Gancayco

 

 

 

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I’LL NEVER TRUST A TINTED GLASS WINDOW AGAIN! by Malu E. Gacuma ( Facebook wallpost: May 20, 2017)

Never trust a tinted glass window! That’s the lesson I learned yesterday, when I went to the University of St.La Salle to fetch my daughters. I passed by Gate 2 which is accessible to The Spectrum office where they were.

Upon entering the gate, after the guard’s corner, to your right you would see a tinted glass window, colored dark brown actually. Too dark you ‘d hardly see anyone inside at first glance.

I stopped and made the window my mirror . I took my sweet time combing my hair just like any lady would do at home. After a few minutes, I felt confident again and smiled amiably at my reflection. No one could see me anyway.I thought so.

Then I looked closer to the tinted glass window.Did I just see someone moving inside? I stared harder beyond my reflection.

It was too late I noticed that all the while, there were two middle-aged gentlemen inside that office,actually facing me,just 2 meters away from the window!

When they saw me notice them, they both smiled and waved at me! I felt my face so flushed!

I disappeared from their view right that very minute!

(I’ll never,ever trust a tinted glass window again! )

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(photo credits to owner)

 

‘JUST ONE MORE’ by Malu E. Gacuma , June 20, 2017

For what could be the hardest battle to win but that which we fight against our own selves? Yesterday, JUNE 20, I had celebrated my 3rd year (!)  of being nicotine-free and caffeine-free!


During those 26 years of enslavement, I was fully aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes. In those days, the late 1980s, cigarette boxes did not display gruesome photos of  the harmful effects nicotine causes to the human body. Vapor cigarettes they call ‘e-cig’ were not in style then. I never patronized tar guards, too.  A lighter in my pocket was just as vital then as money in my purse.They had to be together all the time. I couldn’t last long in a house that had no ash tray and whose owner scowls at smokers.

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1993- At age 27,while vacationing in Fabrica,Sagay City at my late grandfather’s house where I grew up. Holding my pet puppy,Coo-coo, a silent witness to the two vices I had in my left hand.


How did I learn such vice? Environmental influence,definitely. It seemed everyone around me smoked.Then came the brokenhearted days, when tears were not enough. So,what could be the best of friend to have, in my solitude, but a pack of those sticks to burn so I could  puff my heartaches away? I always believed then that  next to a dog, it should be a cigarette, not a diamond, that should be man’s other  best friend. So, I never allowed being left without it.

When I started working as a broadcast journalist in 1989, it was when I started chain-smoking back-to-back with coffee-drinking. While immersed with work, I must be fully-equipped with the tools of both vices: a mug filled to the brim with creamed coffee, a lighter, an ash tray and my brand of cigarettes. Without them, I got restless. Very restless. Unknowingly, it was addiction setting in.

My habitual nicotine-and-caffeine routine  became the usual butt of jokes among my work colleagues. A naughty anchorman even called me ‘Robo-Cup’, an off-shoot term from the famous Robo-Cop film in those days.Eventually, I was often remembered as ‘someone who drank her coffee like water and whose fingers always held a lighted cigarette’.

The man I married also smoked, so it was more convenient for us  both ways. We seemed to be comfortable smelling like ash trays to each other.  I only stopped –not quit– smoking voluntarily during each of the three pregnancies I had. Thank Heavens the craving dropped to a nil whenever I was infanticipating and  it lasted until I gave birth. Then the cravings returned with vengeance.

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My late husband, when I met  him in 1993.

The more I was dragged to a quicksand when times became tough and I was struggling as a solo parent. The vices seemed like a moment of respite from each long and tiring day.


How did I quit? I must admit that I owe it to a spiritual conversion. Born a Catholic, I had later on converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I never took the bread and water on Sundays considering my unworthiness.Then I started  having a deep,unwavering desire to enter the LDS Temple in Cebu City. Among its spiritual preparations is a vice-free lifestyle to give due respect to the body. It took me  years struggling to be just that, vice-free.

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March 2015: The Cebu Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Christienne Marie G. Gancayco for this photo.)

I became an expert in trying to quit a hundred times before, and repeatedly failed. There was always a good reason to backslide: stress, bills,a good meal, skipped meals, a bad memory, a nostalgic moment,people I was with. Name it. It was called ‘alibi’, per se.

For the first step away from both vices, I ended up extremely dehydrated, with unexplainable permanent headaches and my vision started to get slightly impaired. I  had to be hospitalized  for a week, first in June then on December, in 2014 . It was on June 20 that year that I  resolved never to allow both vices to overcome me.

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June 25, 2014 -During my 5th day of hospitalization at Bacolod Doctors’ Hospital.


Nicotine and caffeine never did me anything good except giving me false adrenalin shots, a fake sense of relief and an insatiable craving for ‘just one more’. Just one more light.Just one more sip. In actuality, one more just kept going on. It was very deceiving! I had been fooled for so long! When talking about vices, ‘just one more’ actually meant ‘just one…then more.’


So, I vowed to start giving due respect to my body. To respect its  purpose. To take care of it. I persevered and went organic. I also avoided sweets. Noticeably, the very first thing that tasted so refreshing was WATER! (You see, I hardly drank water before because it usually killed my craving for cigarettes.) I started drinking water regularly especially after waking up and before sleeping (the Japanese way, as they said) . My perspiration reeked with the smell of cigarette. This lasted for about 2  months from quit time. My hair became brittle,too. Later on, my skin started becoming lighter and my hair regained its luster.

It was alarming that I had temporarily lost my voice. Whenever I spoke, it became a squeak! No modulation at all, just a thin voice escaping my throat!  I had to write most of the things I wanted to tell my children. It seemed whenever I wanted to speak, there was not enough air to breathe and my lungs felt like bursting. I knew I was ‘oxygen-deficient’ in some way, so I must let my burnt lungs heal fast! I must get out of the house and gasp more of the morning’s cool breeze! Water therapy  also helped a lot!

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PRUSSIAN SALAD : The very 1st heavy meal I took  (4 days since I checked out of the hospital  on June  26, 2014) Taken at Shakey’s  Pizza at Robinson’s Main,Bacolod City.



Each morning was  a test of discipline, to pursue  a routine of exercises as early as 5 am. The first 3 days were trying moments. I could hardly walk beyond 15 minutes and both knees wobbled. My lungs were grasping for air—not cigarette smoke anymore– and  I really wanted them to heal fast. In the succeeding days,the walking turned to half-jogging then to full-jogging. The next month, I was running for more than 30 minutes. Appetite increased. And wonders, I could carry a 5-gallon water-filled container with ease! Stamina was finally back!

 

 

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July 12,2014 – During one of my 5am jogging routine.


From a usual 90 lbs. frame, I bloated to 170 lbs after 6 months! To regulate this back to 130 lbs., I had to get attuned to the word ‘diet‘.

 

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2016 – Visiting our mangrove-planting area in Tuburan, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occ. Me at 170 lbs.

In-between, I kept myself busy day in and day out  by home-making, pursuing hobbies, writing on my journal,serving others (specifically the less-privileged children thru humanitarian projects I had organized), doing environmental  and Church activities, finding time to join my daughters’ invitations,then end the day by reading the Scriptures.

 

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Volunteering during a Church activity.

 

Being preoccupied with worthwhile tasks takes away the mind’s attention from  the immediate desire to give way  to the vices and redirect  the mind  to the task at hand instead .
Most importantly, the cravings just disappeared, for good. They died a natural death.That was how I believed it  and it worked! Until now.
From ‘Just one more’, the mindset finally boiled down to ‘No more’!
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(NOTE: The writer also runs a column titled ” The Diarist: On Love and Life” published over Negros Daily Bulletin.)

‘A ROLE NOT MINE ALONE’ (A Father’s Day Reflection) by Malu E. Gacuma , June 18, 2017

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As Father’s Day arrived a minute past midnight earlier today, my 3 girls greeted me “Ma, Happy Father’s Day!“, considering I have raised them single-handedly for 18 years now. They see me taking the role of both mother and father not only by provision but even with some physical tasks a father is expected to do, e.g. carpentry, carrying heavy things, staying up and sleepless to guard the house in times of danger , braving the worst of weathers and the threats of some chauvinistic men.

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Some of our countless roles  in life! (Thanks to my eldest daughter, Chickie, for this 2012 collage)

 

 

 

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December 2016- Doing the usual house painting task every Christmas (Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Angel, for this candid shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the hardest father’s task to do is coping with the financial demands of raising the children for them to be educated, decent and God-fearing individuals. It is not done with ease but more with pains, sacrifices,self-deprivation and countless tests of faith and endurance.

How many times have I been humiliated for asking assistance from people when there was no last recourse at that moment? How many times have I been subjected to verbal bullying for not being able to cope with deadlines of paying our rent? How many times have I been insulted and debased for trying so hard to cope with the deadlines and demands of the schools? How many kilometers have I walked back and forth, literally, to save every cent that I may be able to go home—as a provider– with food for the table? Countless times. Despite all efforts, it seems like there is always not enough. It takes blind faith to keep going on.

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December 26,2001 in Quezon City : Our 2nd Christmas without their father. With my daughters, Chickie, Angel and Clay ( then aged  6, 4 and 3 yrs old, respectively).

As a once abandoned-then-widowed wife, I may have all the reasons to take pride that today, Father’s Day, I deserve my children’s greetings to validate that I have lived up to the manly role far more better than my husband.

However, that mindset is not what I am instilling to my daughters’ individual character. I always remind them that Father’s Day belongs solely to their late father, Christopher. Regardless of his shortcomings or absolute negligence as he battled his own self when he was alive, he now remains –even in memory– as their father, in essence. Nobody can or must take away that role from him. Not even I. My children got the point.

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For this, I will still, with the least respect due him and his memory, greet him today, “Happy Father’s Day, CTG, wherever you may be.”

And as Father’s Day will end tonight, I can sleep soundly. For a day well-defined and well-remembered. ❤

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‘Toughened Guts and Headless Images’ by Malu E. Gacuma , May 26, 2017 (Friday, 9:06 p.m.)

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One of my daughters complained to me today that she felt ‘traumatized’ after viewing a video posted by a page called “GGWP” showing 2 masked men, behead with a knife,a young man whom they tied and made to kneel at first. It was evil, gruesome, beastly. No ideology on that!

Alarmed by the video’s impact on her, I shared with her a similar experience:

It was 1990, when I was working with DYWB (AM) Bombo Radyo Bacolod as an Anchorwoman/Newscaster. It was sign-off time, and our Police reporter had gone home, when a local police report came in past 11 p.m. that needed our media coverage.

With our patrol-on-duty, I temporarily took over and we rushed to a secluded ‘sitio‘ in Silay City. There, local residents milled around a headless torso lying upward. It was shirtless and draped in blood.

Few meters away, I saw a chubby, dark-skinned man, in his early 20s, sitting on a tree stump. It was the suspect. He looked dazed and stared at nothing.

In his right hand, he held a blood-stained bludgeon. In his left hand, he held the head that belonged to the torso that was his own uncle.

At first, it appeared that the suspect was the aggressor. But further investigation proved that the suspect was the once-a-good- natured- and-quiet-and-hardworking victim who eventually snapped!

Reportedly , his uncle had been taunting their family for years, and allegedly killed his father. As the young man grew up alone, he worked as a meat butcher in a nearby market. His alcoholic uncle was released from prison and began taunting and threatening him every day. That night, the quiet, young man decided to seal his fate and his uncle’s, for good. With a bludgeon he once used at work.

I told my late father then: I can stand looking at a headless torso, but I had to struggle shaking off the image from my young mind then , of a torso-less head, with the victim’s dead eyes open!

Dad listened intently. Then gave me a hug, patted my back and in an assuring tone, told me the same words I passed on to my daughter today:

“At least, now your guts are toughened up! Brace yourself, kid.

This world is not a sweet-coated candy to relish dreamily. It is a tough nut to chew, with its shell still intact. Choose to remember only what makes you stronger.”

Dad was right. It does not take an ideology to keep that in one’s head.

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1991- (As an Anchorwoman / Newscaster of DYWB  Bombo Radyo-Bacolod )  During an investigative journalism mission assigned to me by the President / CEO of Bombo Radyo,Phils.

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1990 , in Apiay, border of Silay and Talisay cities,Negros Occidental – (As an Anchorwoman/ Newscaster of DYWB Bombo Radyo Bacolod) during an investigative mission. Here posing with co-anchor/Newscaster John Elmer Ubaldo (standing) , Police beat reporter Nonie Flores (in white shirt) and our patrol driver. I was pointing actually at sugarcane stalks riddled with Armalite bullets from an ambush incident the night before we arrived.

‘No News Is Good News, Good News Is No News’ by Malu E.Gacuma, May 23, 2017 (Tuesday, 10:56 p.m.)

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I had delivered the news on-air over the radio, yesterday and today, and the news centered on nothing but corruption and on lives lost due to bomb explosions or due to illegal drugs’ involvement.

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May 22,2017,Monday – Delivering the 6:00-6:30 pm newscast over DYEZ Aksyon Radyo 684 kHz (AM)-Bacolod under Manila Broadcasting Company .

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“No news is good news”. That’s the unspoken universal rule when we don’t hear a word about something we expect. However,in the ‘dog-eats-dog‘ , competitive world of media, the lines seemed to have evolved to “Good news is no news”.

Perhaps this is the reason behind all the sensational,gory-detailed, controversial, heartbreaking, mind-boggling, nerve-racking news we eat for breakfast, chew for lunch and munch for supper. You think so? I do.

“Good news is no news” actually reads: “If it’s good,it’s over.So let the bad news roll in,so people would feast on the news.Once they do, pour in commercials. see your profit spike ,then laugh your way to the bank.”  (You just read the behind-the-scene thoughts of a successful network or publication owner out there,whoever that may be.)

Dominantly,as it was before and still it is now, headline news always grab your attention, keep you glued, break your heart, and let you resume your life with a changed perspective about this world.

Nonetheless, let me keep my hopes high about this world and about humanity, to persistently keep looking at the good side of everything.Call it optimism Call it obstinacy.

No act of terrorism, greed or manipulated perception can ever beat that!

l choose to live in peace, not to  rest in pieces.

That’s a genuinely off-air,off-cam piece of good news!

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(Credits to photo owner)

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HOW TO ‘KILL’ A GOSSIPER by Malu E. Gacuma, May 15, 2017 (9:36 p.m.)

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Philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius forewarned us all about the different kinds of negative people we would meet in our daily lives.Of all such pitiful souls that he cited e.g. meddlers ,hypocrites, ingrates and the arrogant, I have known some and can deal with them by simply forgiving them and not minding their wayward streaks.

But the only kind I can never cope with nor understand is the GOSSIP-MONGERER who is ,most often than not, also a pathological liar!🤥
Gossiping , I believe, is a sign of insecurity,of low self-esteem, of cowardice, of malicious intent and lack of self-respect.

A gossiper’s only intention is to murder someone else’s character and reputation, then make this a footstool to raise his or her own ego. It is banging cymbals signifying nothing but an illusion.Or worse,perhaps delusion.😈

A gossip always travels faster than the speed of sound.Why? Because once a gossip is cast, it always seems so juicy to the next recipient that it mutates to a more monstrous appearance immediately,even long before the next gossiper opens his or her mouth!😶

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(Credits to owner/Norman Rockwell,artist)

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Reality dictates, that after the gossip dies down a natural death, the unrepentant gossiper remains cocooned in his or her make-believe world. 🙃

It takes strength of character , a firm resolve and a straightforward attitude to repel gossips. The buck must stop right with YOU! Once there’s an attempt to pass on a gossip to you, it helps not to tell someone else about it, right? Right.😷

However, it would be best once you stop the gossiper right on the tracks BY REFUSING TO LISTEN. You must, to prove that, unlike the gossiper, you have respect, both for your self and for others. Then come out of the situation guilt-free and able to withstand the temptation to lower your moral standard.😇

You have a right to say ‘No!’

That’s the simplest and most effective way to ‘kill’ a gossiper ! 😀

Now, pass it on! 🙂

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(‘Gossip in the Monastery,by Eduard von Grutzner, 1887)

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