Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrating Tax Day: "Duh ... celebrate on your own."

Al Sabado

Well, guess what, I did just that yesterday.

After a two-hour wait at the bank to pay my March 2014 percentage tax due on the 20th, I headed to the Bureau of Internal Revenue-Regional District Office 045 of Marikina City. That was nearly 1:00 p.m.

Taxpayer #635 on queue. I just spent a long time waiting at the bank and so I was thinking of a less stressful way to endure another long wait, being the 635th taxpayer on queue at BIR-RDO 045. But definitely, with 265 taxpayers after me, I was left with no reason to complain. Besides, it's my fault to be there, when I could have filed that piece of paper (I mean, three copies of that) earlier.

With a "negative" taxable income, I already filed my 2013 income tax return much earlier, in the lovely Wednesday morning of 12 March 2014 at BIR-RDO 045. The tax filing that day was swift! No waiting. No queue. No hassle. "Done. Yay!" ... So I thought.

Few weeks later, I realized I forgot to file my quarterly tax for the months of January to March, also due today, 15 April, same day as the due date for filing the ITR. So there I was yesterday, concretizing my oath echoed by the BIR slogan: "I love the Philippines. I pay my taxes right."

BIR-RDO 045 was crowded, as expected. The background pop music and the free drinking water made the time worthwhile for taxpayers who awaited their numbers to be called. 

Since the number called was just around 200 something, I thought it best to go window shopping and so found an establishment nearby called Wilcon Depot. Now, bear with me; I probably am the typical modern-day cavewoman freelancer who hasn't been to malls as frequent as the normal kid in town does. But when I do, I make sure I find one that's never close to wasting time. Well, you can call this a free ad--yep, not earning commission here.

Googleable. Wilcon Depot is, I would say, one of Marikina City's best haven of finely accentuated fixtures and amenities for the home and business facilities. From toilet bowls, bath tubs, showers to the sophisticated details of wall decors--you can find them there. I had fun looking around the vast warehouse store and to think I'd been passing by the store even without taking a look at what's inside! Now that I've seen what's inside Wilcon Depot, I'm one of those who now say, "Don't miss it" when you pass by the area (along Marcos Highway in Marikina City). Yes, you may google that.

After an hour or so marvelling at the intricacies of the store, I thought about food--of course. So I left the store and started to look for--uh, Kenny Rogers Roasters was in mind. But the chicken resto isn't in the area, probably not just yet. So I found--jadaaan--Shakey's Pizza. I was hesitant to enter this resto because I once found Shakey's food too salty. Good thing, that wasn't the case yesterday.

With my first Bible, a 25-year-old KJV, I took my time to finish this hearty meal: a single Super Platter Pasta. It's not my usual to eat in a resto, but thought it appropriate to celebrate this way my fifth year as a freelancer-taxpayer. Note that the glass of milk isn't part of Shakey's menu; I ordered it for a similar price of their Super Shakes Choco regular. Why? Well, you're hearing from someone who might be a candidate for osteoporosis. So let's just say prevention is better than cure. 

Degrade, upgrade. When I returned to BIR-RDO 045, the number called was just 320+. So I strolled again and found, to my surprise, a similar object of my film essay (my subject was the keyword "degrade") at the university a few years ago--SM City-Masinag. My objective for shooting an SM mall back then was to convey how an arable land, like what we have in the Philippines, is degraded every time it's transformed into a commercial area within the metropolis. That concern may not matter to big affluent men, I know. But to small men, whose meager income emanate from agricultural land, it certainly does.

On another note, I've bought products sold only at SM, with freebies received for points earned after using an SM Advantage card for every purchase. But yesterday, I purchased an item not covered by this card. At the price of 50% off, I didn't have second thoughts purchasing the last copy (in that National Bookstore branch) of UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino, Binagong Edisyon by Virgilio S. Almario. The first edition of the dictionary was released in 2001.

My treasured Tagalog dictionary wasn't spared from the floods of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). So when I came across this Second Editon of Diksiyonaryong Filipino in 2010, priced at around Php2,000 (roughly US$45), I dreamed about it. With a tight budget to consider, I just let it pass. Not so yesterday, when it only cost Php650 (roughly US$15).

Around this time, the number called was 450+. Reading through Virgilio Almario's "Paliwanag para sa Ikalawang Edisyon" (Clarification for the Second Edition) in the prelim pages of Diksiyonaryong Filipino kept me company.

More tolerable than facing tax evasion raps. People endured the long wait when they could just pack up and go home. It must be always easier to just pack up and go in any life situation. But sometimes choosing the easy way out isn't the best if not the right choice. If taxpayers yesterday didn't wait and then failed to return the next day, they'd be fined for not filing taxes (even without income) and that would be another gruesome process to endure.

This is not to say though that paying taxes is such a wasteful time. Not so. What's making the process gruesome, at least in my case, is my late filing of requirements. Had I not forgotten, I wouldn't have to go through a nearly distressing process. But wow, what a distressing process I have just had! That may not happen again, but I won't exchange all that for the usual swiftness you and I probably know. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the unplanned time I spent at the warehouse store, at the pizza resto, at the bookstore, even my time with taxpayers who squarely determined to accomplish what's right in the eyes of man and God: paying/filing income tax.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (Luke 2:1)
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (1 Peter 2:13-14)

Un-celebrating birthdays, a liberating experience

by Al Sabado

Just because I don't greet people "Happy birthday" (along with "Merry Christmas," "Happy New Year," "Happy Valentine's," "Happy Mother's Day," "Happy Father's Day," "Happy Anniversary," etc.) doesn't mean I don't care. I don't even celebrate mine. :) Why? It began the time I realized the practice (along with the others I mentioned) came from pagan roots, not from the example of the Lord Jesus. Only two instances in the Bible refer to birthday celebration and both pertain to death, not birth. God's Word says,

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11)

So today I asked, "Who in the Bible celebrated birthdays?" The apostles? There seems to be no account of that. Moses? Nah. Abraham? Neither. The Lord Jesus? Negative.

We can find Bible references to birthday celebration in two instances: one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. The first instance occurred during the time of Joseph, when Pharaoh made a feast on his birthday, an occasion where he ordered the hanging of his chief baker (Genesis 40:20-22, Old Testament). The second instance occurred during the time of King Herod, the man who, on his birthday celebration, ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, the prophet who was to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus (Luke 3:4, New Testament).

Notice such celebrations were occasions for death, not life--quite the contrary to the time when the Lord Jesus was born.

Different sources online tell us that celebrating birthdays isn't wrong. Fine. But--let's answer a not-so-uncommon question, "Why celebrate birthdays?"

"To celebrate our birth?"

OK. But not sold on that idea.

"Uh ... to give thanks to God for giving us life?"

Mmm ... doesn't that sound like the first answer?

Next question, how would you feel if your loved ones forget or fail to greet you on your birthday?

"Damn, I'd feel really bad."

Really? And why is that so?

"Gee, that's MY special day!"

There you go. It's YOUR special day.

So let's go back to the first question, paraphrased this time: "Why do you celebrate your birthday?"

Answer, "It's MY special day."

You see, the me-my-mine mode of this world inflicts certain misery on an individual who, when forgotten, neglected, or not given due entitlement, feels terribly hurt. And that's the kind of hurt that is by nature self-inflicted. As a believer, that isn't something Christlike, don't you think?

Celebrating birthdays is the orientation of the feel-good world that tells you and me to "Love thy self."

For the believers, who may be among those still struggling to survive a discouraging world (whether or not we admit it), it's high time to get past that mode, to diminish instances that focus on self, to eradicate factors that unnecessarily hurt or offend self, to be strong for the times God calls us to do something--whatever that is.

Are you with me?

Strengthening one's character is also about thinking less of self. If you're thinking how that could be possible, un-celebrating birthdays is a way to do that. You become less offended, less sensitive (not easily hurt--uh, yeah, synonymous to the previous one), more inclined to be thoughtful of others (probably not yet but getting there)--throughout the year!

Not to be degenerate or sort of masochist here (just unorthodox), but un-celebrating birthdays is a tried and tested method that makes one stronger--not the type (quietly or loudly) seeking the favor of men, but God. And indeed as believers, may we be unlike them who "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43).
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

The author (right) with her sister Grace, kayaking 
in the hidden lagoon of Coron, Palawan.

See related readings on birthday celebration via Google search.

Updated: 25 September 2015

Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,' 'No'...