The incredible rescue and amazing power of meditation

 

The world have seen the incredibly daring but successful mission of saving the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in the Tham Luang cave for 18 days, when they were exploring it after a soccer practice session and it became flooded by monsoon rains.

The plight of the boys and their coach, who called themselves the Wild Boars, has captivated not only Thailand, but much of the world – from the heart-wrenching news that they were missing, to the first flickering video taken by a pair of British divers of the cold, anxiously smiling yet calm, dirty and emaciated figures sheltering on a pitch-black ledge surrounded by water and even to the dismaying possibility that the rescue could take months if the monsoon persists exacerbating flooding inside the treacherous cavern.

This was nine days later after being unheard of and their location was about two miles of narrow, flooded passageways from the main entrance. Indeed this was a hell of a place to be in, especially for someone who does not know how to swim.

Efforts to pump water out began immediately as authorities tried to take advantage of a break in monsoon rains.

It was reported that in three stages divers ventured into the claustrophobic caverns to retrieve two boys at a time, giving them a full-face mask for oxygen and tying them with a rope. Each boy was accompanied by two divers, one holding the youngster and a second air tank, while another followed behind. The boys were also given anti-anxiety medication to prevent them from panicking as they were carried and pushed through narrow crevices.

At least 13 specialist divers and 5 Thai Navy Seals were sent in to escort the boys and their coach out.

What an incredible and skillful rescue effort in a perilous situation involving a group of helpless, adventurous individuals in the service for humanity!

But that is not all there is to it.

What makes the whole heroic event also amazingly miraculous is the fact that the boys and their coach were able to survive the 9 harrowing days without food and perhaps, unknowingly, a depleting air for breathing, not to mention the uncertainty of the purity of dripping water being drank.

There is no doubt that credit should go to the coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, who, earlier in his life trained as a Buddhist monk for 12 years before he decided to coach the Wild Boars soccer team.

Needless to say that it was meditation performed individually upon instruction of the coach that got the team through in what has started to be their calvary.

​For Buddhists, meditation is a go-to when distressed or in danger.

Meditation is a type of mental training that can increase your focus and compassion for others, among a wide range of other benefits. It calms you by slowing down your heart rate, your breathing and your metabolism, while decreasing cortisol levels, oxygen utilization and carbon dioxide emission. Cortisol is a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands.

No wonder, therefore, that despite the odds the members of the Wild Boars team were facing, they all showed amazing disposition.

 

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D-Day has come for the ‘Wild Boars’

 

I am talking of course about the designated-day, or what I call decision-day, that has finally arrived,  as I write, to rescue the ‘Wild Boars’, a Thai soccer team composed of 12 boys ranging from age 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for more than two weeks now.

The Wild Boar football team went exploring in the Tham Luang cave network after a football game on June 23 and was trapped kilometers deep inside the cave system as floodwaters caused by heavy rains blocked the entrance.

The group was found, dishevelled and emaciated but alive, on a muddy ledge by rescue divers. Since then rescue workers struggled to find a way to extract the team from the cave.

Their ordeal has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities struggled to devise a plan to get the team out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” rescue director Narongsak Osottanakorn said, in announcing that 18 divers have gone for the rescue. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity.”

Osottanakorn was of course referring to the fast coming monsoon rains that could derail the life-saving plans. Rescuers have conceded that evacuating the boys is a race against time or the preparations made ahead, like draining the tunnels, would just go in vain and jeopardize instead the safety of the group.

Thirteen foreign divers and five Thai Navy SEAL divers are taking part in the rescue mission, which could take two to four days.

Aside from the fast approaching bad weather what could be worrisome also is the health of the boys and the fact that none knows how to swim.

Hopefully their determination, their will to live, couple with the surge of adrenaline will get them through these difficult challenges confronting them. They have all shown their indomitable spirit despite all the odds. Now it is just a matter of sustaining their physical and mental toughness.

We can only pray for them and their rescuers and wish them all Godspeed!

 

 

Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

Dried fish packaging

 

While this article may legitimately apply to consumer advocates, I am addressing this, however, directly to the consuming public for their immediate awareness and vigilance when buying dried fish or any dried sea product for that matter in a transparent plastic packaging.

It used to be that the salted, sun-dried fish, especially the much sought after “danggit” variety (rabbitfish), which is a known delicacy for breakfast, can be bought loose at certain quantities and costs in transparent plastic packaging material.

The problem however is in the aesthetics as the goods inside simply piles up at the bottom of the container, especially when lifted, and does not appear as presentable and inviting as when the items inside are orderly arranged.

The marketing people perhaps thought that the best way of having the items in place, in lieu of a vacuum packaging machine, is to staple it to the plastic container so that even if it is displayed hanging from the hook or taken out for a closer look it remains immovable.

They may have considered it a brilliant solution to their marketing problem, but in the process their seemingly clever and artful act is posing a serious threat to the health and safety of the consuming public.

I am talking of course about the staple wires that one might miss removing once one decides preparing the dried fish for breakfast. You can bet that you will have a handful of these tiny wires once you start unpacking the whole thing.

I am also writing this just in case you get this kind of “danggit” packaging coming from Manila.

 

Arming teachers won’t prevent school shooting

President Trump with high school students and teachers at the White House.

In the wake of a gruesome massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School committed by a 19-year-old teenager identified as Nikolas Cruz using a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle where 17 lives were lost, a proposal coming from no less than US President Donald Trump sounded so absurd that one can’t believe it came from a leader of the greatest nation on earth.

Or perhaps it sounded so absurd precisely because it came from the stable genius himself, Donald Trump.

As controversial as Trump is already in the manner he is showing his leadership style to the whole world, his proposal to prevent another school shooting will not change the minds of many Americans as to who he really is, but in fact will highlight instead his inadequacies as a leader.

It will even accentuate further Trump’s servility to America’s National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful gun-rights organizations in the country, which has been reported to have donated more than $30 million to his presidential campaign in 2016.

What this means is that stiffer gun control, which is what most Americans want now, is not in Trump’s DNA.

While Trump expressed empathy, he clarified that he would not break from his base or the Republican Party’s position on the issue of the Second Amendment which protects the right of the American people to bear arms and such right not to be infringed.

Trump, like many of his Republican allies, believe that making it hard for people to acquire guns by putting up stringent regulations will not prevent similar tragedies from occurring.

And to think that school shootings predominantly occur in the US only. This speaks volume of what kind of gun control America has that even someone sick in the head would be able to buy one easily.

So what is Trump’s gun proposal then to prevent mass shooting in school?

Knowing Trump and his affinity to the NRA, his proposal is to arm school teachers instead! What?

My question is: How safe a gun is in the hands of the teachers now that they are allowed to possess one in school as oppose to not having any as before?

Since gun acquisition continues to be injudiciously unregulated, what then if another mentally unstable person gets inside the school and goes after the teacher first, knowing that the latter has a gun, before going on a shooting orgy again?

Does that solve the problem of school shooting?

Think about it?

A drone comes to the rescue

 

Before going to the full text of how and where this drone made a dramatic rescue, let me just conceptualize first what a drone is.

A drone, in a technological context, is an unmanned aircraft. It is more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

We are now entering the age of artificial intelligence (AI), also called machine intelligence (MI), as it is mostly found in machines or robots, if you may. MI is in contrast with the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals.

So, basically, a drone is a flying robot. The aircraft may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded system working in conjunction with on-board sensors and global positioning system (GPS.)

In the recent past, UAVs were most often associated with the military, where they were used initially for anti-aircraft target practice, intelligence gathering and then, more controversially, as weapons platforms. Drones are now also used in a wide range of civilian roles ranging from search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and firefighting to personal drones and business drone-based photography, as well as videography, agriculture and even delivery services.

Having said the foregoing, it was reported recently that a pair of Australian swimmers became the first people to be rescued in the ocean by a drone when the aerial lifesaver dropped a safety device to the distressed teens caught in rough seas.

The two boys is said to have been caught in three-meter (10-foot) swells while swimming off Lennox Head in New South Wales, near the border with Queensland.

Beach goers onshore raised the alarm to the lifeguards who then alerted the drone pilot, and the aerial lifesaver was deployed in moments.

Note that Australia is leading the use of the technology in surf lifesaving, with dozens of drones being tried on beaches around the country.

Along with their ability to spot swimmers in trouble and deliver life saving devices faster than traditional lifesaving techniques, like launching surfboards or rubber dinghies, drones are being used in Australia to spot underwater predators like sharks and jellyfish.

 

Gordon’s senate swagger

 

Senator Richard Gordon

I am talking of course about Sen. Richard Gordon, the chair of the blue ribbon committee investigating the controversial Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine, and the gripe aired by his peers relative to his performance when he tried to monopolize the hearing proceedings.

But what else is new about Gordon’s swagger especially as head of a committee?

Gordon loves to talk and in so doing he dominates the proceedings, insensibly oblivious that other senators in attendance would like to participate in asking questions or having their opinion heard.

I use the word swagger because whether strutting or sitting what Gordon does is he wants the attention centered at him and almost always he does it typically in a manner considered excessive or inappropriate.

Gordon has even the tendency to bully resource speakers, cutting them off unceremoniously while explaining, as if he alone knows what is going on and assumes to know better than most, and letting them proceed afterwards.

A limelight hog like Gordon does not bode well for the senate, especially if little respect is shown to some resource speakers who are good, honest and decent people in their own right. Being a senator does not make one any better or superior except that one is in an exalted position. A little discretion is always commendable.

If Gordon’s peers felt the thoughtlessness and indifference of not being given the floor, the more that the viewing public noticed and felt Gordon’s insensitivity and disregard of the senate as a collaborating body.