Earth Hour

Friday, December 31, 2021

Last Sunset of 2021

 It has become a personal tradition to go out and watch the sun go down the horizon for the last time in the current year. The practice evokes a bit of melancholy as memories come back while watching the light of the setting sun fade out. This year will not be different. I plan to go out later today as the tints of the skies turn to orange, then to purple, and then deep blue.

This year, there will be a lot of sadder memories; however, as I lost a few friends and have some that continue to suffer from COVID-19. As the COVID-19 continues, it continues to disrupt our daily lives.    Christmas celebrations were still limited to the closest family members, and I won’t be surprised if New Year’s revelries will also be less festive. Many of my friends and relatives don’t see the end of all of these in the near future. Just when people started to go out from the almost 2-year quarantine period, the number of new cases also climbed. While the government reported that many of the new cases had not received the vaccine, I also know some fully vaccinated friends who recently got infected.

I don’t know if it has something to do with the increase in the number of infections, but I noticed that some people who go out seemed to have forgotten to observe the recommended health protocols. People do not practice social distancing in malls, and they bring their small children and elderly relatives to dine in these establishments. I am apprehensive about eating outside because I would have to remove my face mask and possibly expose myself to the virus.

As I watch the sunset later today, I wish it will bring all our worries about this coronavirus with it. Tomorrow’s sunrise hopefully brings a better year ahead, free from the ongoing health emergency concerns.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

My 2021 Christmas Playlist to Make the Season Bright

Christmas is just days away, and what better way to get into the holiday spirit than playing and listening to yuletide music.  Music is very much part of our celebrations in my country.  Pre-pandemic, radio stations and stores would start playing carols as early as September. 

However, the pandemic seemed to have put a damper on Christmas since last year. We didn't get to hear much music on the radio or in other places last year.  Even this year, we only started hearing the tunes in late November.  Anyway, it's not too late to clean our vinyl collection and start spinning and listening to our favorite records.


While I already have several Christmas records in my collection, I also bought some new ones this year.  These records will comprise my playlist this holiday season.  By the way, this article isn't a review but a list of vinyl records on rotation on my turntable this year.  The list is also not in order of my preference.

Frank Sinatra

One of my newly bought albums, Ultimate Christmas, has become a favorite. This record is a compilation of 20-holiday classics from the Chairman of the Board.  This album is like listening through Sinatra's long career and life.  

From a debonaire crooner in the 50s to a father singing the 12 days of Christmas with his children, and on the last side of this double-LP set, Sinatra becomes the grandfather wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

Mariah Carey

Since its release in the early 90s, this album has become a Christmas staple that Mariah crowned herself the "Queen of Christmas."  Thanks, of course, to the worldwide mega-hit "All I Want for Christmas is You."  This record gets a spot on my playlist because Mariah included her interpretation of several traditional tunes focusing on the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ, including Silent Night, O Holy Night, and the gospel-tinged Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child.

If you're spending Christmas heartbroken, skip "Miss You Most (At Christmas time) unless you want to wallow in tears while we celebrate.

Andre Kostelanetz

This album puts "merry" in Merry Christmas to the next level.  It's fun to listen to this all-instrumental album while wrapping Christmas gifts or just waiting for Christmas to come.  It has a great selection of traditional carols and contemporary music for the season, some presented in medleys.  

Since it puts the listener in a really festive mood, I should issue this warning.  Don't put this record on or stream it on your phone while shopping for gifts.  You might get caught up in the fun and spend more than you planned to.

Ray Conniff Singers

What's Christmas without the Ray Conniff singers singing holiday songs with enthusiasm in the background?  At any time of the day during the season, one could hear songs from the album (and from the "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" record) in shopping malls, the bus, a taxi, the MRT, and even in the elevator.  But I am not complaining because these singers have been bringing yuletide cheers during this festive time for generations.  Never mind if many tunes are about things we could never experience in the tropical Philippines (sleigh ride? let it snow and winter wonderland? white Christmas?)

I'm still playing this record just to get me into the festive mood.

Gunter Kallmann Choir

Sometime in the 1980s, we couldn't get hold of a copy of any Ray Conniff Christmas album.  Many record stores offered this album as an alternative, and it took over the job of bringing holiday cheers through music.  I love the selections on this album which include traditional, religious, and contemporary songs. Each track is a medley of two to three songs.  Some tracks begin with a slow song with the choir singing softly, followed by festive music with the chorus singing lively.

The enthusiastic singing of the choir is a plus. Even Scrooge would find it hard to not feel merry and bright.    

Tracey Thorn

I consider this the Christmas album for adults.  Tracey Thorn, the other half of one of my favorite 1980s acts, Everything But The Girl, covered tracks from artists and came up with a very sober holiday album.  There's also a self-penned track (Tinsel and Lights) and "25th  December," originally sung by her husband and partner, Ben Watt, on Amplified Heart.  

I think it's best to listen to this album while resting from all the season's frenzy or after the guests have left and you're sitting at the table having a cuppa.  

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald gives holiday songs a swinging treatment, and the result is simply fabulous.  Although the album does not contain a single traditional or religious carol, Ella's unique rendition of familiar ditties gave them a new level. It made them a joy to listen to. 

I first heard this record at a party hosted by a fellow record collector. It played in the background while the guests were busy chatting and eating.  I thought then that was not the way to treat Ella Fitzgerald.  I now usually put this on my turntable, sit down and listen to it from start to finish.  Given that Ella has one of the sweetest voices ever recorded, I could even listen to it even when it's not Christmas time.

The Jacksons

Here's another Christmas album playing during this season like forever. Not a single track on this record refers to the Nativity, but a not-yet-teenager Michael tells us to "Give Love On Christmas Day."  Like Ella before them, the Jackson 5 gave some old familiar tunes their unique style and the Motown sound.  The result remains funky almost 50 years later.

This album will always be on my playlist because it brings back memories of elementary school Christmas parties and presentations. Each of which usually started with the singing of a medley of traditional carols and capped by, you guessed it, "Give Love On Christmas Day."

Jose Mari Chan

This album must be the ultimate Christmas collection and a must-have on every Filipino's playlist.  Chan, a talented songwriter, and singer came up with what could be THE national Christmas anthem and a required sing-a-long during celebrations.  This song, "Christmas in Our Hearts," is so famous that it has become a meme.  I'm beginning to suspect that parents are passing the tradition of singing it to their children before they could even speak.  Some songs are not as festive as those on the other albums, but they still bring the Christmas Spirit to the listener.  

I usually put this at the end after listening to the more lively and festive albums on this playlist.

This is my Christmas playlist for this year.  If you couldn't find your favorite album here, it means I don't have it yet and couldn't find a copy.  I still have to find some albums we listen to during the Yuletide season in my childhood so expect an update as this list gets longer in the future.

For now, these albums will surely help to make this season bright.  Now time to start spinning them on my turntable.

Note: Album cover photos are from various sites on the Internet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

World AIDS Day 2021

The theme of World AIDS Day 2021 is “End inequalities. End AIDS”.  With a special focus on reaching people left behind, WHO and its partners highlight the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV services. 

Despite significant progress, the world has made in recent decades, HIV remains a major public health issue that affects millions of people worldwide.  While important global targets for 2020 were not met, COVID-19 exacerbates inequities and disruptions to services,  making the lives of many people living with HIV more challenging.

An estimated 37.7 million people live with HIV at the end of 2020, over two-thirds of whom or 25.4 million are in the WHO African Region.  The same year, 680 000 people died from HIV-related causes, while 1.5 million people acquired HIV.

This year, the World Health Organization calls on global leaders and citizens to rally to confront the inequalities that drive AIDS and reach people who are currently not receiving essential HIV services.  These problems need a renewed effort to end HIV as a public health threat by 2030.  

Source: WHO World AIDS Day 2021