Most natural disasters are such that you can avoid or run away from. But due to the highly dynamic nature of the pale blue planet that we inhabit in the vastness of our universe, earthquakes are not one of them.

This was brought home in the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and New Zealand last year, followed by massive tremors in New Zealand in February, and China and Japan two weeks removed as of this writing. While the New Zealanders and Chinese have been quicker to rebound, the Japanese are reeling from a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which have left more than 9,000 dead and hundreds of thousands more homeless. In addition, the tremor badly damaged the reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing massive concerns of radiation affecting the nation and surrounding countries. At magnitude 9.0, it stands as the most powerful in Japan’s recorded history and tied for fourth overall among recorded tremors.

Despite the industrial might of Japan and its people living with the violent nature of the land underneath their feet, the country was brought to its knees and forced almost every other nation on Earth to reassess their preparedness for these outbursts of tectonic energy. And with the country lying on the same belt of high earthquake and volcanic activity, us being next is not a matter of if but when.

To all those devastated by the earthquake Japan (and all the previous tremors), our prayers and thoughts are with you as you take the difficult steps toward recovery. And for a disaster of that size, I applaud you all for your calm and unselfish approach even when facing long queues for fuel and basic necessities and the traumatic injuries and deaths of your loved ones. May you continue as a source of pride not just for all Asians, but the world as well.

While I don’t readily subscribe to the 2012 doomsday scenario, it still pays to be ready. Natural disasters will stay a fact of life on our own little island in the universe and the best we can do is keep our guard up so that we remain strong even at our most vulnerable.

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The recent series of protests in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa have been of an unprecedented nature, with the longtime dictators of Tunisia (Zine El Abadine Ben Ali) and Egypt (Hosni Mubarak) and leaders of the region’s nations facing mounting pressure from protests by their respective citizens. Various reasons have been given for these protests, from rising dissatisfaction with the current government and leaders to ongoing economic hardships.

Currently, the eyes of the world have been on Libya, a North African nation headed by dictator Muammar Al-Gadhafi in his 42nd year in power. The willingness of the incumbent leader to use violent force on the protesters has gotten to the point that the United Nations passed a resolution to enforce a no-fly zone to prevent Al-Gadhafi from launching air strikes against his ow people. To further this cause, jet fighters from a coalition of nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and France have attacked military installments in Libya, leading to mass retreats from government forces and the opposition groups gaining ground towards the capital city of Tripoli.

Gadhafi has been known as a state sponsor of terrorism, with Libyan nationals implicated in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland back in 1988. As such, his country suffered under international sanctions until finally opening up in the late 1990s and turning in the suspects in the terrorist attack.

However, the struggle towards greater freedom and national reform are not without sacrifices and side-effects. As a result of the ongoing tensions in these countries (many of which are major petroleum exporters), prices in petroleum and crude oil have spiked to record post-recession highs and in some cases, foreign nationals living or working in the affected nations have been evacuated or made the decision to head to their home (or other neutral) countries for safety.

Turn the clock back 25 years and this was the same state facing our nation of 7,107 islands in a corner of Southeast Asia. When we decided we had enough of a dictator running the country into the ground for two decades, we wanted change and we took to the streets to make ourselves heard. Yes, we did not totally know what would face us, if we would succeed or fail, live or die, or anything else that could have been thrown at us.

This peaceful protest would eventually set the standard for all future peaceful revolutions to come, and the Tunisians would take the lead just decades later in the citizens bringing their welfare (and that of their neighbors) to the forefront.

Now, as the Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and their neighbors stand on the precipice of change in their ongoing struggle, I wish them only the best. They have chosen to “die for something than live for nothing” and in facing the unknown have conquered a fear that many of us only wish we could face squarely.

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With the recent successes of the Philippine national football team in qualifying past the group phase of the AFC Challenge Cup, football fever has suddenly taken over a nation known more for its die-hard basketball fanatics and world-beating cue artists and pugilists. And with this, the previously unheralded players of the national team have become celebrities in their own right while the upstart United Football League has quickly gained a strong following among sports aficionados. Now, talk has shifted from the AFC Challenge Cup to the holy grail of the beautiful game, the FIFA World Cup, of which an Asian squad had never gotten past the semifinals stage.

I certainly laud the footies for doing the nation proud in their recent exploits while promoting interest in the globally popular sport. In proving that the Filipino can yet again be competitive and stand with the world’s best, they have revived national interest in football and make the sport a draw for people of all ages.

Other than my disagreement with the somewhat derogatory team name referring to stray dogs, I have nothing but pride and support for the Azkals.

*****

Okay, so the buzz about Pia being booted out of American Idol is certainly newsworthy. But my real beef is the current crop of American Idol judges. Sorry, but they’re all too nice. And while Randy Jackson is trying his best to fill in Simon Cowell’s shoes as the “brutally honest” one, the show simply isn’t the same at this rate.

*****

What do you do when you no longer know what you really want? Wish me luck in figuring this one out.

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