Friday, September 19, 2008


I've been to Japan several times now and Saitama has been something like a retreat for me. For one, the University and my hosts have always been warm and I've found that cooperative research with the Urban Transportation Group was enjoyable as our interests converge. 

My host, in fact, is a very busy man and yet he finds time to personally take care of his students with very able support from his similarly kind research associate. The result is a laboratory that functions very efficiently and that works toward meaningful, relevant research. Such research includes community-based or participatory processes and it is clear how theory is translated into practice when the group applies what's learned in school to real-world situations. 

I had the chance to join them in one such activity in the World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go in the central part of Japan about 7 years ago. My experiences there was later manifested in a similar research that focused in a World Heritage Site in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in the northern part of the Philippines.

I've found a second "refuge" in Saitama after finding a very different system in my Yokohama laboratory. It is one where I am very comfortable and where I have found encouragement in the research that I do - and I like to believe that I do very well in. I will always look forward to the next visit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Real Deal: US Politics

The clairvoyant and I enjoy talking about anything under the sun. It's probably among the things that attracted me when I first met her - online. These days, politics seem to be the flavor of the past few months, what with the recent Democratic and Republican conventions confirming the presidential and vice presidential bets of the two parties.

After what the world has gone through the last 7 years under the Republican Bush administration, I would like to believe that Americans would like to see a change in leadership, a change in how things are done at the very highest level of their government. The world seems looking forward to that. After all, how can a country project itself as a leader when its own leadership is being questioned by both its allies and enemies. The time is ripe for a significant change in the political atmosphere in Washington that would return the US to the moral high ground it used to have. 

But how do we view US politics here? How do Filipinos see Obama and McCain? Biden and Palin? If you ask me, two items that appeared today in the same Philippine newspaper clearly shows how people in these islands view the events in the US. 

My take and my opinion is closer to the first article. The second one probably deserves closer scrutiny as the author projected the Republican VP candidate as a commoner while at the same time stating that the Democratic presidential candidate is an elitist. But then again, those interpretations, those perceptions may be correct if we are to view such as the former being unfit to become VP as she is unqualified, having only the looks and the guns (i.e., pro-gun) to speak of and a lot of biases and flaws that the media and the public are just beginning to see.

You see, the US dug itself a huge hole and has had much difficulty getting out. What it probably needs, and much of the outside world sees this, is an elite person to lead them out and reconcile them with the world and - reality. This reality is manifested in the oil crisis, the relationship with what are branded as "rogue states" and the growing influence of China. This reality, more importantly, is manifested in a global environment where the US would need to physically, morally, and wisely assert itself in the form of a man who would become the first non-white leader of that country. One who will show the world that America means business and that business is genuine reform that would serve as a model to other nations.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reminiscing Japan 1

It's almost 12 years now since I left the Pearl of the Orient Seas to study in the Land of the Rising Sun. I can still remember the warm welcome I got from the laboratory, my laboratory. There was always a sense of belonging to the lab. It's probably due to the system they have over there as well as the culture.

Below is one the first photos I had with the laboratory. I remember this to be taken during one of the parties, "meetings" or kais, as we called it. This was a graduation party we had for the laboratory and toasting our grads taken in March 26, 1997 infront of the Hokkaido Restaurant in the Kannai district of Yokohama. The photo was taken before we broke up to return to our respective homes. I always thought this was the core of the lab at the time since most students were loyal to the Professor. Our Professor, our sensei was Izumi Okura. I'll write about him in another post. He deserves a separate post. He was a kind man and he will be missed.

Seated (L-R): Sagawa (M1), Tozawa (M2), Okura-sensei
Second Row: Kato (B4), Suzuki (B4), Yokoyama (B4)
Standing (L-R): Hijikata (M2), Uchida (B4), Matsumaru (M1), Kawano (M1), Iwakami (B4), Hibino (B4), Me (D1), Oshiro (M1), Horie (M2)