Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Ignorance of the Educated a.k.a Postcolonial Projections of Hell Elsewhere

"...the way the West constructs itself underwrite and animate its constructions of the other…the stories the West most often tells itself about itself are indeed stories of self-production, a practice that does induce blindness. They are myths of self-sufficiency in which ‘the West’ reaches out only to bring to others the fruits of progress that would otherwise be beyond their grasp." Derek Gregory, The Colonial Present

"They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented." Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire

I can understand why R. was upset that every time Africa was mentioned, the words "poverty," "AIDS," and " "corruption" almost always followed. Africa is more than just the sum of poverty, AIDS and corruption, but this is the continent's only known face in rich nations. To them, Africa is what they see on TV and read on the news. Africa, like most of the Third World, is a zone perpetually in turmoil, ravaged by all sorts of natural calamities. It is a land where evil men perpetrate unspeakable atrocities on others - such as militias hacking off hands of the enemies, and even breasts of innocent women. The Third and Fourth worlds, most of which were once colonies of the First World, are the dirty, smelly, open sore of humanity.

It sounds like a harsh existence indeed. But people manage to survive and live despite their troubles. In the poor and very poor nations, people still go to each other's houses and have barbecues and dinners. They congregate in kitchens and tell each other stories. In the Third World people go and see movies. As a denizen of Manila, a well-connected city in the Asian movie piracy hub, one might say our choices in films are even more abundant.

People in the Third and Fourth Worlds still go to restaurants, sit down and eat. They look at each other over the table and talk about their work, their families, their concerns. They call each other on the phone and gossip about who slept with whom, who got promoted over whom, who got married to which cousin. They ride cars and other forms of transportation, so they are just as concerned as everyone on the planet over the price of petrol. They laugh, they smile, they bleed, they cry.

2/3 of the planet's population are more than just poverty, AIDS and corruption. More than floods, volcano eruptions and earthquakes. More than chaos, more than crime, more than terrorism, more than hell on Earth. Sure, the poor and the poorest struggle to live, but this is also why so many live to struggle. Africa is not just a hapless victim of misfortune, whose people are in constant need of interference and salvation by (largely clueless) external forces. They are human beings too. They have brains. They can think of solutions to their own problems.

Getting to know you

Many thanks to those who have responded to my tag. I was curious to know more about these people beyond the things they write about on their blogs. I mean, I know there are human beings behind the blogs, but its nice to know the little personal details.

Here are some (to me) surprising responses.

Coffee With Amee reveals she doesn't drink coffee anymore! What a shame. Haha. She writes:
I stopped completely from the occasional cappuccino drinking I did when I was in the Philippines. Now, when I go to coffee shops, I just order tea or a frothy drink.

Jego admits to his inability to fart silently.
I suppose my sphincter isnt built that way. If I try to stealth-fart, I do not end up with a silent whoosh like normal people. I end up with something like putt-putt-putt-putt as I try to let loose a soundless one, fail, stop in mid fart, then try again, until all the gases are expelled. It takes too much effort so I gave up trying and head for the bathroom instead or if outdoors, walk a reasonable distance away from populated areas, preferably downwind.

Placeholder says he has difficulties sleeping even as a kid, and so he lets the TV lull him to sleep.

Belishabeacon is just as orally fixated as I am:
I used to eat chalk, erasers and air fresheners. But I was really young then. I was around 6 or 7. It was the 80’s. But I don’t mean that everyone in the 80’s ate chalk. And in my defense, I only ate the red or pink ones.

I got a kick out my friend parody & pastiche revealing drinking establishments still ask for her ID.
In fact, last night I was denied entrance at a bar since I couldn’t produce any identification with my birthdate on it. My friend came to rescue me and tried to plead with the bouncer to let me in. She told him Come on, she doesn’t look 18. He turned to her and said Yes, she does. Boo.

Lastly, I am not at all surprised expectorants, who did this tagging thing a few months back, likes to collect things. And he says he also loves pollutants:
I love certain pollutants. Other forms of pollution I like, other than those blue bathroom cleaners: matchstick burning and gasoline stations.

I'm still waiting for responses from amateurmisanthrope and big mango!

----

Edited to add:

Better late than never! I agree with amateurmisanthrope. There is much to recommend about gay porn. Haha.
I like gay porn. Am actually viewing one as I write/edit this, haha. Not to be defensive, but gay male porn is very different from its straight counterpart. Well, sure there are no women in gay porn! What I mean is, gay porn has none of the issues that haunt heterosexual pornography—misogyny, exploitation, rape, abuse, to name a few.

Oh, and I would love to one day hear big mango's Yoda impression. :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Freudian Sleep

You know when you're a teen-ager and you're looking for a sense of who you are, you begin to distance yourself from your parents and your immediate family. More and more you spend your time with your peers. Your parents no longer have the monopoly of influencing you and shaping your views, your attitudes, your values. You think, well now that you're on your way to becoming an adult, you're free to become who you want to be. You can pick and choose among the array of lifestyles and ideas you encounter.

But then you grow older and you get over that selfish "me, me, me" phase. Now you are a bit more assured of your identity and so there is less need for self-assertion. You no longer feel as strongly about setting boundaries between yourself and your parents.

All grown up, I am still amazed at how I see so much of my mother and father in me, and how much I credit who I am to how my parents were. Unconsciously, I learned which values to appropriate, which mistakes not to make, which attitudes serve which occasion best. They never gave us lectures, we weren't that kind of family. I must have learned it all just by being around them.

Even when I was very young I knew my mother was no ordinary woman. Growing up, she was the model to which I unconsciously aspired. I always knew, she was a woman before her time, unafraid to be ambitious, she had grand dreams. For a woman who had to make do with three pairs of knickers in college, and who occasionally had to hide from the kunduktor because she didn't always have bus fare, her dreams seemed far-fetched indeed. But she dared. I honestly don't know how she could have come to be herself, to have formed her ideas considering my grandparents' humble rural background. She could have just easily been one of the girls I see every time I work on our dating website - a nubile probinsiyana looking to get the good life by hooking big fish. But my mother had very radical ideas about what it meant to be a woman, even when she didn't consciously articulate this to herself.

From my mother I learned it doesn't matter how you look, but it matters the way you dress. Although once crowned Ms. Waling-Waling when she was younger, I never thought my mother "beautiful." I think its because all her other traits outshone her looks. From my mother I learned that a woman can not show emotion, that women don't necessarily cry, that women can be clear-headed in times of crisis. From her I learned to think "clingy" women were weak and that a woman shouldn't just be an appendage of her man. From her I learned not to be intimidated by social status and other people's riches. I wonder how she came to be like this, when she didn't have enough money to buy hifalutin' books and read of social equality. Maybe because she lived, rather than read, of something for we she didn't even have a name. My mother must have thought very highly of herself indeed. Now I wonder at her self-confidence when she had no "pedigree," not even elite schooling as I do, to prop her ego growing up.

I was still in my rebellious "me, me, me" phase when my father died unexpectedly. We never had the chance to heal the rift of not speaking for almost two years. Because my mother was the star, my father always seemed to pale in comparison. I thought I had an arduous childhood and adolescence, just because my parents fought often. Forced to choose sides, my mother won over my father every time, and so he never had a chance to gain much credit or sympathy. In their battles I learned to be kind, to be tolerant, to be patient. I learned not saying anything, the dance of bodies, of gazes avoiding, of declining touch, hurt just as much as words.

My father wasn't quite the visionary, but from him I learned single-mindedness and hard work. From him I learned to be comfortable not being the centre of attention, and that there is contentment to be had from sitting on the sidelines - watching, observing. As one not given to tooting his own horn, or talking much for that matter, my father taught me how to listen, and to give others my undivided attention. While my mother's confidence verged on arrogance at times, my father taught me humility and the strength of self-deprecation. From my father I learned to express kindness the way my mother never could just because she always needed to be hard. My father taught me how to be pragmatic and realistic, how to be grounded when my mother knew only flight.

From my father I learned men can not be arrogant, that men don't always need to make the final decision, that family things are always up for negotiation. He showed me how men can be more fragile because they can't cry. He taught me how not having words to express emotions can be devastating to the self and to others. One must always find the words and one must always find the courage to say them.

My father taught me there is no shame in saying your mother sold fish at the palengke, and that her earnings weren't enough to see you finish your schooling. From him I learned to see the hypocrisy of pretension.

I never once heard my parents complain. I never once heard my parents ask for help from other people. Fiercely independent they were and they expected the same from other people. Now I know this is the reason why my friend M. once said I was freakishly prideful, and that I would rather get helplessly lost or waste time poring over a map before it occurs to me to ask for directions.

I never thought my parents wasteful or frivolous. Every expense always had a function, nothing was taken lightly, nothing was just for kicks. This was because they both had to arrive at a compromise as my mother liked to spend and my father liked to save.

I learned, from both of them, to be introspective and to focus. I learned, from both, to laugh heartily, even at corny jokes. I learned from both that your spine is what you make of it, and that one must not wallow in the frivolity of self-pity. One must soldier on despite life's tragedies. Because really, the drama is in the doing, not the telling.

It IS a small world

We talked about People Power and low-violence strategies of social movements last week, and the Philippines was the model. I was there, so you could say the class had me as an actual source. Today we talked about the masalimuot role of international financial institutions in Africa, focusing on one of the HIPCs (heavily-indebted poor countries), Malawi. My friend S. was there. A few weeks back we talked about some success stories such as Botswana, R. was there. We talk about Iraq, M. is there. We talked about the gulf nations in the Middle East, E. is there. We talk about Islam, two Muslims in class. We talk about terrorism, a terrorist police expert is there. We talk about migration, some migrants are there. We talk about American foreign policy, plenty of Americans are there. Sometimes people can get really involved and sometimes people take their government's policies very personally. A smaller world we have don't we?

Friday, July 27, 2007

8 Facts About Me?

Wely has tagged me to reveal 8 facts about myself. I think I answered one of these a couple of years back. But hemingway, let's do it again shall we?

Here are the rules for “8 facts”:

1.)In the 8 facts about [name], you share 8 things that your readers don’t know about you. At the end, you tag 8 other bloggers to keep the fun going. Each blogger must post these rules first.
2.) Each blogger starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3.) At the end of the post, a blogger needs to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4.) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.


Fact no. 1. I've probably read over 3 thousand romance novels. That's just my guesstimate. I don't usually read fiction, but I read historical romances. That's right. My favourite are the ones with half-naked people on the cover. Unfortunately, I haven't read a single one since I got here because the choices are limited (no Booksale) and the prices are waaay too steep.

Fact no. 2. I trained six weeks and was on air for 4 days at NU 107 as a news caster. They wanted me to basically work for free, so I quit.

Fact no. 3. I'm afraid of frogs. Seriously. It's a psychological thing. Happily, I've yet to see a frog here in G.Coast, even when cane toads are supposed to be a major pest. I've yet to see them!

Fact no. 4. Books make me feel good. They're my happy pill. If I feel down or stressed I buy one. I don't necessarily need to read them, just touching them....smelling them is enough. Unfortunately, I haven't bought any here since my last visit at Carrara Markets. Its only open weekends and I now work all day on weekends. But inihaw, I've no time to read for leisure anyway! But the sem break is coming...3 more weeks.

Fact no. 5. I was a bad student. I guess I'm what you call a late-blooming nerd. I never studied in grade school or high school, although I was in the pilot section all the way. I only studied enough in my undergrad to pass. I was one of those who sometimes came to class drunk. Haha. I only really started to "study" in postgrad.

Fact no. 6. Speaking of alcohol, I once outdrank a group of young men in a Tequila drinking contest. 10 shots straight. I was the last one standing. I don't think I can do it anymore though. Woefully out of practice.

Fact no. 7. I will drink a bottle of Tabasco if you pay me..a thousand pesos. I've been daring people these past years and no one! No one will take me up on the dare. That's 'cause they know they'd lose their money.

Fact no. 8. I'm still thinking of getting that tattoo. Something in alibata maybe. I probably will before I head home.


I'm tagging the following eight people:

amateurmisanthrope
coffee with amee
expectorants
big mango
jego
placeholder
belishabeacon
parody & pastiche

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chronicles of Sparks

'Di ko namalayan nagdaan na pala ang 4th anniversary ng {caffeine_sparks}. Higit apat na taon na pala ako'ng nagba-blog. Huwaw. 4 years. Buong high school ko na yun. O di kaya buong undergrad. Kung may ipinanganak nu'ng February 2003, lumalakad at tumatakbo na ngayon. Hanggang kailan ko kaya ito magagawa? Biro mo, in theory, pwede ako'ng mag-blog hanggang sa mamaalam sa mundong ibabaw. So kahit matagal na'kong wala, ang talambuhay ko ay patuloy na maglalangoy-langoy sa kalawakan ng cyberspace. In theory, pwede'ng basahin ng mga anak ng anak ng anak ng anak ko. Yikes.

Ayaw ko na'ng basahin yung mga naisulat ko na, kasi mate-tempt lang ako'ng i-delete. Hindi ba palaging para'ng ang tanga mo nu'ng bata ka? Haha. Siguro 2-3 years from now, babasahin ko yung mga naisulat ko ngayon, ta's iisipin ko rin; "how naive" o "how stupid" o "how absurd." Siguro yun nga ang kagandahan ng blog, pwede mo'ng burahin at i-edit. Pwede mo'ng i-sanitise ang sarili mo. Pero ayoko'ng gawin, kasi hindi naman ganu'n ang buhay. Kaya nga, payo ko sa mga matagal na rito, 'wag n'yong na'ng i-review ang naisulat n'yo nu'ng bata-bata pa kayo. It simply isn't being fair to yourself. Obviously hindi na ikaw ngayon yung ikaw noon.

Bloggers Unite!

I'd like to thank Jego for recommending me on his blog. To pay it forward, I'd like to recommend Philippines Without Borders (Dave Llorito) if you haven't discovered him already. I think I found him at Mlq3. Many thanks to Manolo, for always being on the look out for great reads.

Also, I'm a recent convert to Google Reader!!! It makes it so much easier to keep track of new posts from blogs. We must link. We must network. Pinoy bloggers unite!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

10 Things I Didn't Know About America and Americans a.k.a Postcolonial Projections of Paradise Elsewhere

1. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, America is the land of unlimited opportunities and wealth. I grew up believing it is a country where everyone is 'middle class,' i.e. everyone can own a house with white picket fences, a washing machine, a microwave oven, two cars and raise 2.3 children. I now know that poverty exists in America, painfully illustrated by Hurricane Katrina. Some Americans literally live in hovels. Some have no homes at all.

2. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, American values are always superior to our own. Values such as individualism, the lack of 'shame' (hiya), assertiveness, initiative, competitiveness, privacy and absolute 'freedom.' I now know that there is nothing wrong with collectivism, a sense of shame, deferring to others, wanting consensus, cooperation, openness and some restrictions to freedom.

3. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought all Americans made a decent living - even labourers, that's why not everyone goes to college. I now know that a copywriter for a newspaper in Texas earns less than than an employee at Mc Donald's here in Australia. The college-educated copywriter earns $12USD/hour, a pimply teenager who takes your order earns $17.50 AUD/hour (roughly, $15.50 USD). Now I know the reason why not everyone
goes to college is that tertiary education in the US can be very expensive.

4. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought all Americans were smart. Now I know only certain portions of the elite are smart. However, if you're not so smart but rich, you can still become President. The rest who are not so smart are a result of declining standards of public education. If you watch this video, you will see this for yourself.

5. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought all Americans were good-looking. I thought all white people were good-looking. The whiter your skin, the more good-looking you are. But I have since realised, that some white people can be plain-looking, even ugly.

6. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought all Americans were tall. But not all of them are, some are quite short.

7. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought all Americans were extraordinarily hard-working. Not only do they maintain a job, some even have two or three! Now I know this is because some simply don't make enough doing one job. And some are only allowed a certain number of hours because it is government policy to keep the American labour market "flexible." I now know that not all folks in rich countries need to work themselves to death. For example, here in Australia, most businesses close by four or five. Malls are dead by 6pm on weekdays, even earlier on weekends! Australians put a premium on leisure time, time to "not work," time to pursue other interests. This is why I tend to believe Canadian author John Ralston Saul, that America is a Third World country, masquerading as an developed economy.

8. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought all Americans were not religious. Now I know some of them, especially those living in the middle part, can be quite rabidly fanatic. These fundamentalist Christians are so influential, certain policies are contested in deference to their beliefs. For example, some contested stem-cell research and some opposed teaching evolution in schools!

9. Growing up in postcolonial Philippines, I thought other peoples had their version of English. For example, I thought the Japanese had to learn both Nippongo as well as their version of "English" in schools. I didn't know that English was a foreign language altogether. In grade school, I wondered why we needed to learn English at all if the Japanese didn't.

10. Growing up in postcolonial Philipines, I thought America was the best place in the world. This explained why so many people wanted to move there. This explained why, in the local movies, everyone went on vacations in "the States." When a character wanted to take a break from it all, or wanted to improve themselves, they always went to "the States." Their imported things were always "nice" because they were from "the States." So, in my young mind, I thought - "the States" must be great.

But now I now, America is not the best place in the world. Now I know Americans are the most indebted, with their government having a public debt of over $6 trillion. Americans have to pay taxes to launch wars that kill people abroad. Americans have to work more hours to pay for their things. This is because Americans suffer from hyperconsumption. Americans are the fattest people in the world, while paradoxically, those they admire on TV are getting thinner and thinner. Non-white Americans still suffer discrimination. Non-white Americans do not have the same upward economic mobility as white ones. Women are induced to get bigger boobs, even when they are so young. Girls are sexualised so young.

Now I know that America is not the paradise of our postcolonial mind. Americans have their own problems as we do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Girls in My Mind

There I was last night, bright young faces reflected on my lenses. I was cruising for young girls. Girls who looked barely in their teens - round cheeks, flat chests. I was angered as I read their masterfully written self-descriptions, calculated to attract attention. Long, silky hair, meek and submissive, loves to cook, virgin. How could the others have approved them?

Bits and scraps of news read in the past and friends’ and strangers’ anecdotes filled the blanks in my head. I imagined their life stories. Were they real? Were they mere pictures posted by scam artists to lure the depraved and the perverted? Here I am, sitting in the library of a rich university, surrounded by shiny books, shiny tables and shiny people. Here I am, paranoiacally running pictures of the seedy underbelly of transnational prostitution and human trafficking.

At work I delete and delete but they keep coming. They were supposed to be 18, but until I saw their uploaded photo, I had no way of knowing. And so at night, in the safety of my room, I cruise for young girls and note their member numbers to delete. If they were real would I be saving them? If they were real, would I be depriving them and their parents of riches? If they weren’t real, would I be saving some decrepit old man of his dollars or euros? If they weren’t real, would I be depriving a scam artist of his/her daily bread?

This was supposed to be a no-brainer job. I was supposed to save the thinking for the classroom. But I can’t help thinking the worst. When I click, delete and scan, when hundreds of lives pass through my hands, I feel sullied.

10 things I didn't know about Australia and Australians

1. I knew beforehand that they spelled English the British way. Therefore realize is realise and color is colour. What I didn't know was that in Australia traveling is travelling. I predict this will confuse my internal spell-checking system more than it already has (i.e., I sometimes confuse development vs. developpement, address vs. adresse, for the past few years I've been spelling appartment with two p's because that is how it is spelled in French).

2. Aussies like to go about barefoot, weather permitting. Permiting? Permitting. They would like to be rid of as many items of clothing where appropriate. For example, it is not uncommon for Aussies to take off their shoes in the classroom or walk about shoeless in campus (especially when it is raining). You will also see barefoot kids and younglings walk about in malls and other public spaces not remotely close to the beach.

3. They don't like Americans much. This is a barely suppressed sentiment that surprised me when I first got here. When I asked my housemate from Melbourne why there is this not-so-apparent dislike of Yanks despite sharing an Anglo-Saxon culture, he says, "They think the world revolves around them." The Canadians go out of their way to say they're Canadian.

4. Every Australian of age is required by law to vote. The fine for not voting is pretty steep at $180(?). Imagine that. At 20 million, it is a smaller population, and so I imagine it wouldn't be that difficult to make sure everyone does their democratic duty.

5. The political ads can be very personal. Since this is an election year and politicians are jockeying for position, you can see some pretty nasty political ads on TV. The government has also caught flack for spending so much on information campaigns. The ones most commonly seen on the tube are about quitting smoking, work relations, women's abuse and drink (yes, not drunk) driving.

6. Like the Philippines, Australia is saturated by American culture. 99% of movies screened are Hollywood, and prime-time TV shows are also dominated by Hollywood. Most of the gossip glossies feature the life and times of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

7. I knew that Australia was skin cancer capital of the world before coming over, but I didn't know just how...powerful the sun can be. Being from the tropics, I am no stranger to sunshine, but the sun here is weird. Maybe its because the angle of the rays hitting the ground is more oblique? Because the air is purer? Because the island-continent is closer to the hole in the ozone layer? I don't know. But the sky can be so frighteningly blue at times. And the brightness can be literally blinding.

8. It's cold in winter. Damn fricking cold. I didn't think it snowed, but apparently down in Victoria it does. Up here in Queensland, it isn't so bad, but 6 degrees celsius at night is 6 degrees closer to freezing point. Brrrr.

9. At risk of making sweeping ethnographic observations, it seems the colder the clime, the colder the people. When we went down to Sydney and Melboure during school break, it amazed us how so few people seemed as friendly as folks up here in Gold Coast.

10. If the newscasts of the past few days are to be believed, blue collar workers (at least up here in Gold Coast) have the potential to earn more than white collar workers. They call electricians, plumbers, bricklayers etc. "trades." One other thing I noticed since I got here - where people who do manual labour in the Philippine strive to be as invisible (i.e. unnoticeable) as possible, folks here who round up trolleys (grocery pushcarts), sweep grounds, cut trees, clean windows, take out the trash etc. etc. are loud. They don't care if they make as much noise as needed to get the job done.

Two Pinoy Indiefilm Makers in France

Omigod. One of my former students won first prize in the Festival International du Film in Marseille. I feel so old. Haha. I almost failed this kid. But while he wasn't good with words, apparently he's good with telling stories in images. Bravo.
Works of Filipino filmmakers Sherad Anthony Sanchez and Raya Martin have now been recognized in Europe.

Huling Balyan ng Buhi (international title: The Woven Stories of the Other) bagged the Prix Premiere or The First Film Prize Award in the First Film and Sound Competition at the recent 18th FID (Festival International du Film) or the Marseille Documentary Film Festival in France.

This indie film, which was named Best Picture in the 2006 Cinema One Originals Film Festival, tells the story of a priestess' conception of stigmata.

Monday, July 23, 2007

SONA 2007

I was hoping for a webcast or something on YT. Maybe someone will upload soon. In the meanwhile, DJB's recorded podcast is the next best thing. Thanks DJB.

Edited to add:


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Sunday, July 22, 2007

UP Forum's "Gloria’s Economy: More Than Meets the Eye"

Via uniffors a.k.a the snarky diplomats' blog. Check out their cartoon. Somebody must've seen Transformers when they thought of this forum's title. Tongue in cheek or just plain cheeky?

Regina Bengco of The Malaya reports:
Prof. Benjamin Diokno of the UP School of Economics, Prof. Leonor Briones of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, and FDC president Ana Maria Nemenzo were the presenters in the UP Forum "Gloria’s Economy: More Than Meets the Eye," which was held in anticipation of Arroyo’s seventh State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Diokno was the budget secretary and Briones the national treasurer of President Joseph Estrada.

Diokno, in his presentation on "The Real State of the Nation," said the real per capita growth in the past six years is "not enough to make a significant difference in the lives of most Filipinos."

Just a reality check to keep in mind when La Gloria addresses the nation tomorrow. Wish there were a webcast. Somebody please tape it and upload to YouTube!

Some of the points Diokno addresses in the forum:

1. The Arroyo administration "has consistently failed to meet its own gross domestic product growth target, except in 2004 and that further reforms are 'highly unlikely' because of what he said was her government’s weakness."

2. The "misery index" (inflation rate plus unemployment rate) has progressively increased in recent years.

3. "Filipinos are paying more taxes but most of these are being spent by government on debt service while it is spending less for education and basic health care."

4. "The Arroyo administration incurred the highest budget deficits in recent history, as measured in terms of national government deficit, public sector borrowing requirements and consolidated public sector deficit."

5. "Debt servicing has become the government’s top priority, with interest payments at 26.8 percent of government spending from 2001-2004, and rising to 31 percent lately, compared to 19.5 percent during the Estrada administration and 20.7 percent in the Ramos administration."

6. "Interest payments as percentage of GDP rose to 4.8 percent in 2001 and peaked at 5.5 percent in 2006. He said the amount needed to service the government’s debt, both interest and principal, in 2006 is 'almost equal' to the P785.2 billion in taxes that it collected from January to November."

7. "Social services in 2001-2004 dropped to 29.8 percent, as compared to 32.2 percent in the Estrada administration and 28 percent during the Ramos administration."

8. "Arroyo neglected education and basic health care, spending P5,467 per pupil in 2001-2004 (based on 2000 prices), as compared to Estrada’s P5,830. He said public expenditure on education in the Philippines is only slightly better than Indonesia’s."

9. "High school dropout rate peaked at 15.81 percent and at 10.57 percent for elementary in school year 2005-2006 and the completion rate is dropping. He said Indonesia has outpaced the Philippines in terms of quality high school education."

10. "More kids are dying young, at a mortality rate of 34 percent for those under 5 years old and 26 percent for infants."

Diokno asks, "What profit would it be to balance the budget if you are killing kids and neglecting education and infrastructure?"

The UP School of Economics is probably the second most conservative college in UP (after CBA). Again, very strong language from the centre. When they ring the alarm bell, something really wrong must be happening.

Cebu Prison Inmates De-stress

Via cvj, I came across these videos of inmates from the Cebu Prison and Detention Rehabilitation Centre. Gave me a big smile waking up today. :)

Here they do their rendition of Michael Jackson's thriller.



And Jumbo Hotdog by the Masculados.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lungs and Taxes

If I stay in Australia much longer, I'm going broke. Cigarettes cost an arm and a leg. The cheapest I've found so far costs $13 per pack of 30 sticks. That's 16.50 Pesos per stick. Ouch. You can only buy ciggies in certain places. I suppose the most common are in the news shops and in the grocery. I found it curious that in the grocery the ciggies are hidden from view. They keep them behind an opaque glass case. The case is covered with a Quit Smoking hotline. You never see cigarette ads on TV. There are plenty of Quit Smoking ad reminders from the government and Nicabate (the Aussie Nicorette version) commercials. They REALLY want you to quit so they have all these helpful reminders and they tax cigs to the heavens.

Speaking of taxes, my favourite economist and TV personality Winnie Monsod writes in her column how the Tax Amnesty Bill surreptitiously passed into law:
It took them nine years, but they did it. They finally succeeded in pushing a tax amnesty bill into law. And it was so quietly (the more accurate word may be “sneakily”) done that I didn’t even know it until I read it in one of the newspapers a couple of days ago—the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the tax amnesty law are already being prepared and will be released very soon.
Winnie must have been very upset by this news because this is the strongest language I've read from her column so far:
Yet another example of the common good being sacrificed for personal interests. Another example of tax-paying Juan de la Cruz getting the short end of the stick in favor of the cheats and evaders—with no more white knights in the Senate to save him.
Nine years these tax evaders lobbied government to be "forgiven" their debt to the Filipino. They must be very happy their "investments" paid off. In the meantime, we of the salaried-about-t0-be-extinct Middle Class have no such recourse. I think its bizarre how they named it "An Act Enhancing Revenue Administration and Collection By Granting an Amnesty on All Unpaid Internal Revenue Taxes Imposed by the National Government For Taxable Year 2005 and Prior Years." How does it enhance revenue collection when you let tax evaders get away? This government must really love George Orwell.

If you're curious, read the Senate Bill 2479 for yourself here. Don't you just looove the internet?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Why It Sucks to be a Filipino Muslim

You are a minority in your country. Central government in the past decades enacted policies to have Christians from Visayas migrate to your land, displacing you, dispossessing you [1]. In the late 60s, 28 of your brethren who were being trained by the Philippine military to fight for Sabah, were slaughtered by their Christian superiors due to insubordination. In June 1971, Christian militias murdered 70 of your own, mostly old folks and children, the majority of whom were found inside a mosque. Is it any wonder then, that the MNLF and MILF came to be in the 60s and 70s? Armed movements wanting freedom for you, to make a land of your own, a country of your own to be governed by your own? In the wars of secession since, around 120,000 have been killed and 1,000,000 rendered homeless. 200,000 of you have sought refuge in Malaysia, where you are still foreigners, unwanted aliens [2].

You have to suffer stereotypes from other Filipinos - that you can't be trusted, that you're dishonest, that you have a higher propensity to steal. Until very recently, Eid'l Fitr, your version of Easter, has never been declared a holiday. Why should Catholics celebrate your religion anyway? Why should the majority acknowledge the minority?

Mindanao, your homeland, is the poorest island in the Philippines. It suffers the highest incidence of hunger when it has vast tracts of land dedicated to agriculture. Six of the poorest provinces in the country are in Mindanao, four of them in Muslim Mindanao.

In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law largely because of you and your people's secessionist movements. In 2007, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo looks set to put the blame on you again. You are the enemy. You are the other.

Fellow Christians, imagine what it would be like if to be born a Muslim in the Philippines. Imagine the weight of history, of social inequity and injustice, of difference one must bear on her shoulders. Imagine the feelings of resentment, of anger, of neglect. Given this, why would the Muslim want to be Filipino when the Filipino has only brought heartbreak for the Muslim?

----

[1] Noble L. (1976). The Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines. Pacific Affairs, 49 (3), p. 406
[2] Quimpo N. (2001). Options in the Pursuit of a Just, Comprehensive, and Stable Peace in the Southern Philippines. Asian Survey, 41(2), p. 274-8

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Conspiracies?

For the record, I think Mon Tulfo is so stereotypically uber-macho its not even funny. But he's a journalist. So presumably he has sources and less given to sloppy/wishful thinking. He writes:

Akbar got 800 firearms from unidentified sources before the senatorial and local elections and distributed these among his men and other groups, my source said.

Some of the firearms were allegedly used in the ambush of the Marines.

Apart from rifles, the MILF and Akbar’s men used rifle-propelled grenades and 81 mm mortars in ambushing the Marines.

According to my source, the MILF has RPGs or rifle-propelled grenades, but they don’t have 81 mm mortars. Only Akbar has.

Question: Who provided Akbar with the 800 M-16 and M-14 rifles and 81 mm mortars?

On the subject of air support, an OV 10 attack helicopter and two MG520 hovered over the scene of the fighting, but left without firing a shot, said my source.

The UH1H helicopter also hovered over the area, but left also without firing a shot. A gunner of one of the “Huey” choppers was hit, forcing the pilot to return to base.

It could not be determined why the reinforcement aircraft left and literally fed the ground troops to the dogs.

Good News

A powerful short film about the importance of a free press in the dissemination of truth and in monitoring government performance and accountability - all vital in a functioning democracy.



This is part of the human rights campaign initiated by the Free Jonas Burgos Movement. Produced by Digital Cheese, directed by Pam Miras.

The Biznez of War



Didja knows dat da Philippine government has received $260 million worth of "military aid" from the United States from years 1999 to 2004?

At a P48 exchange rate (I'm just guessing that's the average between those years), that's P12,480,000,000.

Tumatagingting na 12.48 billion pesosesoses to aid Uncle Sam in making puksa terorismo in the Pilipins.

Sa'n kaya ginastos ang sandamukal na tung-dats na itu? At magkano kaya ang papasok na Foreign Military Funding (FMF) ngayong na-unveil na ang shining, shimmering splendid na HSA?

Huwell, depende sa decision ng US Congress, pwedeng mag-triple from $11 million to $30 million for next year alone! At between now and then, kung kunyari bati na ulit ang gobyerno at MILF, pwedeng mag-request ang Pilipins na extra $30 million for a "job well done" in forging farce. Eherm, feace fala.

So, matanong ko lang, bakit di makaya ng powers ng AFP na puksain ang kaaway despite the sandamakmak "military aid" from the benevolent Uncle Sam? Saan ba ginagastos ang FMF na itu? Tanungin n'yo yung mga nag-mutiny sa Oakwood. Siguro alam nila, kaya nga sila nag-mutiny eh. Charing!

O di kaya, tanaw-tanawin n'yo lang ang ilan sa mga naglalakihang mansyon in your nearest five-star gated communities. Or pansinsin n'yo lang ang bagong tsikot ng anak ni general. Tip ko, makisakay na lang kayo, para naman mapapakinabangan n'yo naman kahit paano ang FMF na 'yan. 'Di ba?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wanna know where your taxes go?

How nifty is this?!?! The Department of Budget Management has the budget allocation for this year online!

Ever wondered where your hard-earned 10% goes? Or where the VAT goes? Well, wonder no more! The politicians may talk the talk, but do they walk the walk? They may have promised you the moon and stars last elections, but do they deliver? One clue is scrutinising the annual budget. The numbers don't lie. They clearly show were our government priorities lie. Oh me oh my, that rhymes by the by.

Presumably every Filipino wants their money to be spent on these agencies:

1. Department of Education - P126.8 billion
2. State Colleges and Universities - P17.3 billion
3. Department of Health - 11.4 billion
4. The AFP - P25.6 billion

Pero bago ang lahat, bayad utang muna:

5. Debt Payment (principal) - P303.8 billion
6. Debt Payment (interest) - P318.1 billion

How nice no?

Pinoys on the HSA

The Pinoy blogosphere's reacts to the HSA:

Frontbone Engineer wonders if "this is just a sweeter, a more pleasing-to-the-ears way of saying martial law."

Blackshama says it is a "watered down" and "toothless" law but its better than nothing. The "hysterical left" he says "needs to reassess itself, react in a non-hysterical manner and DISARM. By doing so they will cease to be terrorists and be protected under the liberties provided by the Constitution."

Jonnabebeh uploads a poster that states 5 reasons to oppose the HSA. Reason number three should give us reason for pause - "the Anti-Terror Council consists of human rights violators."

Mong Palatino says "most of the members of this Council are aligned with repressive governmental policies; they are not really known as defenders of civil liberties." He mentions Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales.

Jetti Burleysa implores us to be more like Harry Potter "faced with our very own Voldemort."

Uberjam reacts to the government's inconsistent statements:
(On Gen. Esperon's volte face) What kind of crap is he trying to feed us? You brand an entity as a terrorist. Now you're saying you want to negotiate with terrorists?...Why declare an all-out war against this communist plague, if you claim that the communists themselves are doing the killing --- of their own? Self-contradicting. Meaningless. Illogical. Pathetic. Hindi ba nakaka-bobo? Mukha ba kaming tanga?
The Legally Inclined Blog reminds us the recently adjourned Congress had a P12.51 billion budget and enacted 148 Republic Acts. Which means, that in theory, the HSA could have cost us P84 million.

Jmtuazon questions the context within which the law was passed:
When was it passed? Why was it rushed? What's the political situation in the country? What are the possible implications of its enactment? Clearly, one only needs to peek behind the curtains of this one spectacular show.
Via Kontradevagg, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center- Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth-Philippines:

Given the regime’s track record of mounting atrocities and human rights abuse, the unreformed military and the police forces, the national security-mindset of the HSA’s architects and implementors and the red-baiting and labeling of groups , organizations and individuals critical of the government’s policies and actions—we have all the reasons to doubt the so-called safeguards that the HSA contain against arbitrary acts and abuse.

The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc:

We deem it fitting and proper, then, to call upon President Arroyo not to implement the Human Security Act of 2007. Its implementation will certainly run counter to the present peace initiatives between the government and the revolutionary fronts. Besides, it may just breed more discontents and anger among the people against the government.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Tale of Two Letters

Dear Madam President,

First, let us congratulate you for the latest accomplishment of your administration, the Republic Act 9372. It gives our organisation more means to swiftly round up our enemies and punish those who dare to destablise the government and this country. Through the Human Security Act, we can ensure stability and order. Through the Human Security Act we can finally defeat the enemies of the state and achieve peace and prosperity throughout the land. Through this new law we remind the people that there is clear and present danger from communist-terrorist elements. But the people need not fear, we are here to protect all law-abiding citizens.

Lastly, we thank you, Madam President, for making us relevant, for making us look like we actually serve a function in a time where the country has no external threats. We thank you and the Bush administration for linking the Philippines, specifically Mindanao, in the global war on terror. We thank you for giving us renewed vigour to fight these barbaric Moros and allowing us the means to keep our mansions in San Lorenzo. In return, we promise to let you keep your seat. We promise to keep fighting these dangerous elements, reminding the populace that they need us.

Love,

The Armed Forces of the Philippines

------------

Dear Madam President,

First, let us congratulate you for the latest accomplishment of your administration, the Republic Act 9372. It gives our organisation more means to finally achieve our ultimate goal - to liberate Mindanao from the clutches of Christian Filipinos. Through the Human Security Act, we are again, enemy number one after some years of little to no media exposure. Through the Human Security Act, we are again at the forefront of the country's security agenda. Through this new law we have new justification to radicalise young Moros to join our cause. Because admittedly, Madam President, we are in dire need of new blood to revive our movement.

Lastly, we thank you, Madam President, for making us relevant, for making us look like we actually serve a function in the lives of Filipino Muslims. We thank you and the Bush administration for linking the Philippines, specifically Mindanao, in the global war on terror. This gives our group prestige which may allow us to gain support from other Islamic groups who fight for the liberation of their own lands. If you bring in any more US troops, we're certainly going to need financial and logistic support from the networks you accuse us of associating with. In return, we promise to keep shoring up our ranks to show that we are a force to contend with, reminding the populace that they need to fear us.

Love,

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front

-----

I'm doing a lot of this today. Edited to add - a third letter has come in.


To Her Excellency President Arroyo and Her Generals,

Madam, Gentlemen, our management of the public and shaping of public opinion is so far yielding the expected results.

Humbly yours,

Your dedicated team of Spin Doctors, Linguists, Cognitive Scientists, Media Practitioners and Political Advisers inspired by the hugely successful Bush techniques

---

I have said before that GMA was brilliant. She survived Oakwood. She survived Hello Garci. She said she wouldn't run for President but went back on her word. Miraculously, she managed to get comelected. She survived the coup dud of February last year. Record-high numbers of journalists and activists have gone missing. Now her administration has passed the HSA into law. How in the hell could we have let this happen???

There must be a lot back-slapping and self-congratulating going on. At this point, they probably think anything is possible. So sure, let us merrily go along and live our lives shall we? Let's all move on until the proverbial excrement hits the ventilateur.

I congratulate you, Madam President, for undoubtedly hiring some of this country's best and brightest to work for your cause.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Human Security Act: Is there anything to fear?

I was worried when I woke up this morning to read that Republic Act 9372, has finally come into effect. I was sure to find something ominous in this law, but I didn't read anything worrying for opposition movements who do not bear arms.

Terrorism is clearly defined by six articles in the Revised Penal Code and a few other decrees and laws. Unless you're an outright criminal, the most worrying for anyone critical of the government would probably be Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection) which is defined as:
Art. 134. Rebellion or insurrection; How committed. — The crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Philippine Islands or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.
What can be a little hairy is the part about 'rising publicly and taking arms against the government.' It doesn't say 'rising publicly' OR 'taking arms' against the government, so if you 'rise publicly,' as in public protests or rallies, you shouldn't be classified a terrorist. Therefore the government cannot lawfully proceed with this:
SEC. 7. Surveillance of Suspects and Interception and Recording of Communications.
...a police or law enforcement official and the members of his team may, upon a written order of the Court of Appeals, listen to, intercept and record...any communication, message, conversation, discussion, or spoken or written words between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist [groups]...or any person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.
So, those who are vocally against the government are not terrorists. Which makes me wonder why this law was passed at all. A deterrent to those who are plotting to overthrow the government? Check. A reminder that the State has the only legitimate right to use force in the land? Check. Something to intimidate the whole population? Perhaps. Something to remind the population that we need the State for protection? Perhaps. The first of incremental steps to increase the policing and monitoring reach of the government? Probable.

In a classic strategy of any governing power to gain compliance and mute opposition of those governed, the government resurrects the usual suspects. I do wonder at the perfect timing of the soldier beheadings. It makes you wonder if the government staged the whole thing, especially since the MILF has denied responsibility.

Before there were Communists. Now there are Communist-Terrorists. Before long they'll probably be called Communist-Terrorist-Islamists. I think the government should be very careful what other nasty things this new law resurrects. Does it want the Philippines to be a front on the global war against terrorism? Do we want an excuse for US military interventionism? Do we want the attention of Islamic fundamentalists networked all over the world? Do we want to make targets 8 million overseas Filipinos working in 190+ countries and territories abroad? Do we want to alienate Filipino Muslims any more than our masalimuot history already has? Do we?!? Do we really?!?

In the Arroyo administration's naked and very short-sighted machinations to consolidate its power, it has compromised our real human security. R.A. 9372 should be re-named Human Insecurity Act. Or State Security Act. Even National Security Act. This law protects the State apparatus and those in control of that apparatus. It does not protect Filipinos.

The United Nations was the first to coin the term Human Security to replace the old notion of National Security. In the UNDP's 1994 Human Development Report, it shifts the focus of 'security' away from the protection of nation-states to the protection of individuals. The report defines human security as having two main aspects - "safety from...hunger, disease and repression" and "protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life."

True human security for the Filipino people should be our freedom from want. This is what the government should be spending our taxes on. This is what the government should be expending all of its bureaucratic energies on. This is what the government should be planning for and thinking about day and night. It should not waste its manpower and precious resources on making sure whoever occupies Malacanang stays in Malacanang.

------

Edited to add:

Micketymoc has called me out on insinuating the Marine beheadings were staged to make everyone go along with the HSA. He writes:

Wait, are you theorizing that the government actually fired on its own people and beheaded ten of them? Seriously?

In the case of the Basilan ambush, the reports from the different parties suggest otherwise. Only wishful thinking would suggest that GMA would be directly responsible for this. It's not "suspicious timing", it's an inconvenient coincidence.

GMA is not Marcos. Not saying that GMA is incapable of potentially becoming as evil as Marcos, but I'm only saying that if we want to stop her from getting there, we have to be more careful with the truth and avoid wishful/sloppy thinking.


To which I responded:

See, I don't believe in convenient coincidences. I'm not home, so I don't know what you've been seeing on the news, only what I read on the online news sources. I haven't seen the 'brutality' of the beheadings. I haven't seen the footage. I haven't been exposed to the desired effect of this event - that is, a subtle reminder that there is a 'threat,' therefore we should all shut up and let the government do what it should to 'protect' us.

I'm not suggesting GMA directly ordered anything. I realise GMA can't control all her generals, i.e. the likes of Palparan.

Hell, for all we know GMA is doing her best to placate her generals so they won't launch a coup and take over. I know the government isn't a unified body, there's got to be some serious power struggles going on in there. Maybe the HSA is a middle ground, a compromise between the executive and the military. GMA has already appointed so many former and present military men in her cabinet. Keeps everybody happy with power sharing.
He says its wishful/sloppy thinking. The idea that the government would knowingly sacrifice its own soldiers certainly sounds fantastical. But then we've heard of news stories where certain elements of the AFP actually sell armaments to the enemy. Preposterous? I don't think so.

-------

Edited to add some more.

Micketymoc responds:

“For all we know”… we might say that all we like, but that doesn’t prove anything. “For all we know” also suggests that there’s an equal likelihood of the rebels OR the government planning the ambush.

What unnerves me about the opinions you’ve posted so far is the casual way you calculate certain values – that the idea of government sacrificing its soldiers in such a gruesome way is as “preposterous” (and therefore just as likely) as corrupt quartermasters making a killing off illegally-sold firearms. The profit-to-cost equation simply isn’t the same for either.

A general who’ll sell government firearms for a quick buck, yes, easy to find; not so easy to find is the general who’ll order the beheadings of his own soldiers, or a President who’d order the same.

You suggest your lack of exposure to the news here has protected you from the “desired effect”… well, congratulations. I would also ask you to keep in mind how your distance from the action might shield you from some inconvenient facts: that the area where the ambush occurred happens to have been MILF-controlled territory; that it’s easier to attribute our soldiers’ vulnerability to stupidity and not malice (Hanlon’s Razor); that there’s no likely connection between the timing of the ambush and the passing of the HSA (this is what I meant by the phrase “inconvenient coincidence” – the fact that it was a coincidence is inconvenient to your conspiracy theory).

The MILF accepted responsibility for the firefight, but denied they ordered the beheadings of the soldiers. Read the article you linked to more carefully – the MILF’s Mohaguer Iqbal could only answer, “Who has the motive?” to questions about the beheadings. What’s far more likely – MILF troops getting carried away and mutilating enemy bodies in revenge, or government soldiers doing the same thing (in the heat of battle, mind you) to their fallen comrades? Hello, Occam’s Razor?

Beneath our political differences, we do want the same things for ourselves and our countrymen – prosperity, justice and real security. I simply believe that indulging in fantastic conspiracy theories won’t get us any closer to those shared objectives, just the opposite.

To which I say:

Micketymoc: "What unnerves me about the opinions you’ve posted so far is the casual way you calculate certain values."

If you are suggesting I have become inured to the reality of Philippine politics, that I write off-hand about what you call my conspiracy theories, maybe you are right. But I am writing with baggage, all that I have learned, heard and read about the how politics works perhaps make me jaded. Cynical even.

How should I have expressed my opinion? How should I have written my insinuation? Was my tone not properly grave enough, should I have expressed grief and reverence for our fallen soldiers? Was I not patriotic enough?

If you question how I casually "express my opinions" then I apologise for reavealing the ugly, immoral and dirty dynamics of Philippine politics. I apologise for revealing a truly nasty version of humanity.

Micketymoc: "I simply believe that indulging in fantastic conspiracy theories won’t get us any closer to those shared objectives, just the opposite."

You picked out a sentence in a very long post. The point of the whole essay was to question the motives of the Human Security Act and to suggest the true meaning of human security for Filipinos.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Breast Milk is Still Best for Babies

I remember reading about the "milk wars" since before I left almost seven months ago. US companies, headed by the US Chamber of Commerce are still lobbying hard to open the Philippine market to formula.

The DOH has blamed the milk companies for the decline in breastfeeding rates, specifically, the aggressive and unethical marketing of breast milk substitutes. For 2006, milk companies have spent P2.5 billion in advertising for the first half alone, according to AC Nielsen Media Research. A small amount compared to the P21 billion annual profit of the milk companies, which, according to the DOH, is a conservative estimate.

This decline in breastfeeding rates in the country has resulted in death and malnutrition of children under 5 years of age. In 2004, there was a reported 82,000 under 5 deaths in the Philippines, making the Philippines one of the 42 countries that account for 90 percent of under 5 deaths.

Read the rest here. Read PCIJ's timeline of the Philippine Milk Code. Know more about breastfeeding here.

The Ills of Postmodernity

We are literally re-making ourselves.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

History Majors' take on PIMP PIMP's Comments

There is an anonymous commenter who goes by the name PIMP PIMP, who made the following comments to substantiate his/her arguments in my previous post below. I have asked him/her to mention some references so I can read his/her claims for myself. S/he, unfortunately, has not gotten back to me. All I know is the his/her IP address says s/he is in Sydney.

So, inihaw, I consulted some history majors on my mailing list, to respond to PIMP PIMP's comments:
Pimp: "This may apply to the Austronesian ethnic groups, that is the Malay. But you must also keep in mind that there is a lot of Chinese culture that has permeated the sexual culture of the ”native" groups even before and during the arrival of the Spaniards. And as we know, the Chinese are confucian and patriarchal in their way of life, so this has a lot of influence in the sexuality of women. One just has to look where most of these Chinese settled, and you will see the conservativism of women who are the forebears of the Chinese influenced ancestors."
Me: So my question is, were the Chinese here in great number pre-Spanish times? And did they wield any influence outside of the Manila area?
History major Mark: Unang una sa lahat, sino / ano ang batis mo ng mga pahayag na ito? Ang Malay ay isang “misnomer”. Ang teorya ni H. Otley Beyer na “Waves of Migration” ay matagal ng sinalungat ng panibagong pag-aaral ni Peter Bellwood kung saan wika ang ginamit niyang basehan ng migrasyon ng mga tao sa Asya. Malaking bahagi ng mga mamamayan sa Timog-Silangang Asya ay kabilang sa mga tinatawag na uring Austronesyano at hindi Malay. Maaaring tumukoy lamang ang Malay sa mga naninirahan sa Tangway ng Malay nhunit hindi sa kabuuan ng Asya.

Ang mga “Confucianism” ng mga Tsino ay isang pilosopiyang nagtatakda o nagbibigay ng pagpapaliwanag sa mas maayos na pakikitungo o “social relationship.” Kabilang ditto ang ugnayan sa pagitan ng asawang lalaki sa asawang babae. Subalit hindi maaaring sabihin na ditio maiuugat ang pagiging patriyarkal ng mga sinaunang grupong etniko sa kapuluan ng Pilipinas sapagkat kung tutuusin, mas nauna ang mga Muslim na dumating sa kapuluan. Ang pagiging konserbatibo ng mga kababaihan sa Pilipinas ay likas na sa kultura nito. Masasalamin ang konseptong ito sa mga epiko ng bawat lalawigan. May tinatawag ngang ”binukut” o mga babaing nakakubli lamang sa loob ng tahanan. Dapat ding tandaan na ang mga mangangalakal na Tsino ay hindi naman talaga naglagi sa kapuluan. Sa panahon ng pakikipagkalakalan, iniiwan lamang nila sa dalampasigan ang kanilang mga kalakal at binabalikan na lamang sa itinakdang panahon. Nalagi lamang ang mga Tsino rito ng magkaroon ng isang tiyak na lugar para sa kanila noong panahon ng kolonyalismong Espanyol. Halimbawa nito ay ang parian.

May mga lugar sa Pilipinas partikular ang mga lugar-kalakalan ng pinupuntahan ng mga Tsino subalit hindi sila dito naglalagi ng matagal. Maliban na lamang noong panahon ng Espanyol kung saan itinakda ang isang lugar para sa kanila.

---------------
Pimp: "There are also variations in the gender culture of malay and non-malay (negrito) tribes. Some of them are feminist, while some are patriarchal. "
"Hence, during the Spanish conquest, some defeated tribes where easy to converty to Christianity because the teachings were advantageous to the male-dominated Datu-ruled societies. While female dominated Babaylan ruled ones had to be violently suppressed and converted through Spanish inquisition methods."
Me: This last bit is really ridiculous. Anyone care to answer?

History major Mark: Alam mo ba na hindi agad agad tinanggap ng mga sinaunang katutubo ang Kristiyanismo? May mga pag-aalsa lalo na sa Kabisayaan (Tapar, Bancao, etc.) na nagnanais na ibalik ang sinaunang kaayusan – ang katutubong paniniwala.

Bukod sa mga datu, isa rin sa mga naagawan ng kapangyarihan sa pagdating ng mga Espanyol ay ang mga babaylan na nagpasimula ng mga pag-aaklas na lumaganap sa Kabisayaan at sa ilang bahagi ng Mindanao. Ang mga babaylan ay mga sinaunang pari na namamahala sa institusyong panrelihiyon at may malawak na impluwensiya at kapangyarihan sa sinaunang lipunan. Ngunit sa pagdating ng mga Kastila, sila’y naagawan ng katungkulan at pinalitan ang dating pananampalatayang anituismo ng doktrinang Kristiyano. At upang lalong mapaigting ang pagtanggap sa bagong paniniwala ay siniraan ng mga prayleng ito ang mga babaylan at tinagurian silang mga bruha at mangkukulam. At pati ang mga kanilang mga ritwal ng panggagamot at pakikipag-ugnayan sa mga anito ay sinabing pakikipag-usap daw sa mga demonyo kaya ang mga ito’y hindi dapat paniwalaan at sundin.[1] Dahil dito, ang mga babaylan ay nagdaos ng sarili nilang mga pag-aalsa bilang pagtatanggol sa katutubong paniniwala at dahil na rin sa pagkadimaya ng mga ito sa mga bulaang pangako ng kaginhawaan at kapayapaan sa banyagang relihiyon.

Pinasimulan ni Tamblot ang pag-aalsa ng mga babaylan noong 1622 nang mahikayat niya ang humigit-kumulang dalawang libong mamamayan ng Bohol laban sa bagong relihiyon. Ipinahayag niya na tutulungan sila ng mga diyos at diwata na makamit ang masaganang buhay na walang tributo at bayad sa simbahan kung sila’y babalik sa dating paniniwala. Sinunog nila ang mga simbahan dito at at kinuha at sinira ang mga krus at rosaryo bago sila nagtago sa kabundukan. Ang pag-aalsa ni Tamblot ay nasupil ng mga katutubong sundalong ipinadala ni Don Juan de Alcaraza, ang alcalde mayor ng Cebu.

Sinundan ito ng pag-aalsa ni Bancao noong 1622, dating pinuno ng Limasawa na nagpabinyag at naging Kristiyano sa pagdating ni Legaspi noong 1565. Ito ay naganap matapos niyang konsultahin ang isang babaylan upang hikayatin angn mga nasasakupan na patalsikin ang mga Kastila at bumalik sa dating relihiyon. Lumawak ang sakop ng pag-aalsang ito mula sa Carigara hanggang sa ibang parte ng Leyte. At tulad din ng nangyari sa Bohol, daan-daang mga Pilipinong sundalo angang ipinadala mula Cebu sa ilalim ng pamumuno ng opisyal na Kastila upang labanan ang mga nag-aalsa.

Medyo kaiba ang naging takbo naman ng pag-aalsa ni Tapar na isa ring babaylan sa Panay noong 1663 sapagkat kahit na ang layunin nito’y ang pagbabalik sa dating relihiyon sa tulong ng mga anito at diwata, ay nagkaroon ng “pag-aangkin”[2] sa ilang elemento ng Katolisismo tulad ng pagtatalaga niya ng katauhan ng Diyos Ama, Diyos Anak, Diyos Espiritu Santo at Birheng Maria. Mahalagang banggitin na ang tinutukoy ditong pagbabagong-buhay ay kapapalooban ng mga pangyayaring “supernatural” tulad ng pagiging isda ng mga dahon, ang balat ng kahoy ay magiging tela at ang ‘di pagputok ng mga baril ng kalaban. Tila hindi pa kinukwestiyon ang mga pangyayaring ito noong mga panahong iyon dala na rin marahil ng malakas na puwersang ipinamalas ng mga babaylan at ang malalalim na ugat ng natibistikong paniniwala.

Bagama’t ang pag-aalsa ni Juan Sumuroy sa Samar noong 1649 ay bilang pagtutol sa pagpapadala ng mga lalaking trabahador sa mga pagawaan ng galleon sa Cavite, kakikitaan din ito ng katangiang panrelihiyon sapagkat ang ama ni Sumuroy ay isang babaylan na masasabi ring nagbigay ng direksyon sa anyo ng pag-aalsa.[3]

Bilang karagdagan, mapapansin sa mga pag-aalsa nila Tamblot at Sumuroy na maliban sa pagnanais na bumalik sedating kaayusan g panrelihiyon, may malaking papel na ginampanan ang malaking suliraning pang-ekonomikong nag-uugat sa paniningil ng buwis at ng sapilitang paggawa at ang epekto nitong lalong nagpahirap sa isang komunidad na hindi naman ganun kaunlad kung ihahambing sa mga kasabayan nito sa Luzon. Samaktuwid, ang mga pag-aalsang ito ng ilang mga babaylan ay maaaring nagkukubli lamang sa maskara ng natibismo[4] upang maitago ang materyal na ugat ng kanilang pagbangon – ang problemang pang-ekonomiko.
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Pimp: In reading history, you'll find that Luzon peoples are more male-dominated. That's why they were the ones that helped the Spaniards in conquering the Visayas and Mindanao."
Me: Are the Luzon peoples really more male-dominated? Say, compared to other cultures in Europe?
History major Mark: Hindi dahil ”male-dominated” ang Luzon kung kaya’t sila ang ipinadala upang supilin ang mga pag-aalsa sa Visayas at Mindanao. Narinig mo na ba ang konseptong ”divide et impera”? Istratehiya ito ng mga Espanyol sa kanilang pananakop dahil na rin sa kakulangan ng tropang Espanyol na ipinadala sa Pilipinas. Ito rin ang masasabing ugat ng rehiyonalismo ng mga Pilipino.
[1] Ferdinand Llanes at Rhina Boncocan, “Pakikibaka ng Bayan,” Kasaysayang Bayan: Sampung Aralin sa Kasaysayang Pilipino, (National Historical Institute at ng Adhika ng Pilipinas, Inc.: 2001). p.134.
[2] Llanes, p. 136.
[3] Llanes, p. 135.
[4] Constantino, p.112.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tulog ng Gising

Pagod na ang katawan
Ngunit gising pa ang malay,
Naglalakbay.
Paroo't parito,
Ang mga larawan ng kahapon at ngayon
Ay binabalasa ng isip.

Ang mga hugis at hubog na tinunaw
Ng bilis ng pagsasalin-salin
Ay naglalaro, nagsasayaw
Sa likod ng natatanaw.
Ano'ng tunay, ano'ng likha?
Mga ala-alang nangungutya
Sa nagnanangis, sa lumuluha
Sa nagbibilang ng panata.

Kung bakit ba naman
Ayaw dalawin ng idlip
Ang diwang nagpupumilit
Na ikahon ang ngayon at kahapon.
Ipagpabukas ang kabanata
Ng kwentong hinahabi,
Upang sa kasalukuyan
Ay gisingin ang panaginip.

Humimlay, huminga
Magbilang ng mga sandali.
Magparaya sa daloy ng panahon,
Magtiwala sa mga alon.
Huwag pilitin.
Huwag lumangoy,
Huwag lingunin ang panaghoy,
Pagkat ang malunod sa kawalan
Ay s'yang paghinga ng katawan.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My Simpsons Avatar

Hair's a little too poofy, otherwise, it sort of looks like me. Make your own Simpsons avatar here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Excising Cinderella, Maria Clara and Inang Maria From Our Minds

Recognising that 'reality' is socially constructed between you and me, and recognising the need for a different approach (i.e. the primacy of ideas over the material), let us turn the question of the Cinderella mentality on its head.

(Re)presentations of women in our culture and the reality of womanhood in our culture seem to be incongruent. I have said previously that we refer to our country in feminine terms. She is our Inang Bayan, used and abused for centuries. In high school, weren't we taught that Maria Clara is Rizal's classic interpretation of the nation? Due to the helplessness of her situation, she must also exhibit Inang Maria's forbearance and faith amidst all that suffering.

From a dominated position, it is perfectly normal to paint the nation in these terms. In fact, it is desirable to do so. From the indignity of occupation and ideological inferiority, dignity is reclaimed from a position of victimisation and oppression. These representations then alternately reinforce helplessness and passivity in face of adversity. But are they necessarily reflective of the events of the past few decades?

Going back to migration, the dominant interpretation of this phenomenon has been usually negative. I am also guilty of this. We see people leaving as a loss of resources - in particular, human capital. While this is true, the trade off is in the augmented income of families with migrant breadwinners.

In migration literature today, migrants have been re-named 'Agents of economic development.' Far from the arguably patronising term "Bagong Bayani," I like this new term much better. It does not connote sacrifice and self-abnegation. It connotes choice and agency. The question now lies in fulfilling the promise of economic development not only through smart investment of remittances, but also through transfer of skills, know-how and values acquired abroad.

An overwhelming majority of migrants today are women. Of contract workers who left in 2005 for example, they comprise 72%. Contrary to Cinderella waiting to be rescued, she has taken the initiative to seek increased income abroad.

Resty O. asks, where do our local girls, specifically those I mentioned husband-hunting on the internet, get their Cinderella mentality? This is an interesting question, given that certain aspects of our pre-colonial notions of gender and sexuality seem to have survived Spanish Christianity's male-female binaries. Let me explain.

I believe the distinction of male and female is reflected in the morphology of Spanish in particular, and Latin-based languages in general. Embedded in the words, and consequently embedded in the ideas, are masculine and feminine things and concepts. Our local languages have no gender and are therefore much more egalitarian. This perhaps reflects the more egalitarian relationship of men and women in pre-colonial times? There is no ello or ella, no he or she, only siya. There is no man or woman, only tao. We are more open to those with different sexual persuasions. While admittedly there is still discrimination, I have yet to hear of homosexuals beaten to death. Because the dividing line between male and female is blurred, we are more open, more tolerant to difference. This is a part of culture we should embrace and be proud of.

In the past decades (if not since forever) our women are much more visible in the public sphere. I reported a few months back that we top the survey on countries with the most number of women in senior managerial positions. The newly elected House of Representative has the highest number of women in history. We have had not one but two female heads of states since we started voting for our executives again. Nobody can dispute GMA has balls, misplaced they may be. That country from which we model our democracy, the United States, has been electing presidents since 1776, and they have yet to choose a woman to lead them.

Let us go back then, to the Specters of Cinderella, Maria Clara and the forbearing Inang Maria haunting our nation. These (re)presentations are a product of a particular context in our history. They are a product of colonial enslavement and ideological inferiority. While those days are long over, these specters persist because they have been embedded deep in our culture. This explains the incongruence of these mentalities with the actual events of recent years. They are remnants of our past which have refused to go away. I say it is time to finally be rid of them. As we transition to a new period in our history let us shine the light where shadows of insecurity linger. Let us not shy away from our weaknesses. Instead let us recognise the reasons for our weaknesses so that we may turn them into strengths. Only then can we banish these outmoded ghosts of the past, as they inhibit the social construction of a mindset that befits our future.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Philippines as Open Pussy Country?



I recently started work in an online dating company based here in Oz. This explains why I haven’t written anything lately. My free time simply can’t be spent on thinking some more! But anyway, I recently read an entry over at kapenilattex about the Philippines being an “open pussy country” in the global call centre industry. Here, kapenilattex shares anecdotes about Filipinas who sleep with their foreigner bosses to either climb up the corporate ladder or get married and migrate abroad.

As one who reads through and approves profiles in our dating website, the Philippines is notorious for being nuisance members, for a number of reasons. Although we have niche markets that cater to specific regions in the world, to specific religions and even sexual orientations, Filipinos, more specifically Filipinas, can be found in any number of them. I am ashamed to say that in our training manual, the Philippines has been marked as a possible source of scammers, i.e. those who ask other members for money on grounds of extreme poverty, or those who just want a free ticket to leave the country. These Filipinas literally either sell themselves online and the line between ‘marriage’ and prostitution is blurred.

Interestingly, not a lot of our neighbours in the Southeast Asian region apply to be members of these sites. This may be explained by any number of reasons, including internet access and their limited knowledge of English. But I am afraid it is mostly explained by our pervasive colonial cum victim cum Cinderella mentality.

Taken individually, these mentalities as aspects of our culture colour our perception of self-hood as a nation, and our identities as Filipinos and Filipinas. In combination, this three-pronged mentality is detrimental to the way we situate ourselves both locally and internationally. Our colonial mentality is deep-seated. Everything Western, particularly American, is superior by all counts. Which implies that what is local is necessarily inferior. The Americans have left decades past, but we have proven to be better colonial masters than they were. 70 years later, the colonial mentality is alive and well, nurtured by pop culture, by elite culture, by us all.

From this logic it follows that we are constantly looking outward. This may be because the 'outside' has shaped our fate us a nation for so long. The 'outside' is portrayed in the media as this oasis of material comfort. So many of us have left. 1 million last year. While I do not begrudge the decision of those who have thrown in the towel, whether permanently or temporarily, those who stay are seen as idealistic fools. But the local politics and economy are powerful inducements to uproot and seek a better life elsewhere. Indeed, what rational being would choose to stay? The colonial mentality will interpret such idealistic notions as irrational, if not plain stupidity. The colonial mentality does not allow for an alternative way of looking at reality, and alternative solutions. Why isn't it rational for people to stay and fight for political stability and economic development at home?

The victim mentality goes hand in hand with our colonial past as that female 'Pearl of the Orient' fought over by male external powers of the past. This is our self-identification as a nation enshrined in our national anthem! This victimhood takes place in the context of extreme unequal distribution of wealth in our country today, where one in four is going hungry involuntarily. The poor identify themselves as such, and are powerless to see themselves as anything other. Victims of the rich, victims of the system, victims of the local. Salvation cannot be found in the Philippines. Colonial mentality, coupled with victim mentality show salvation can only be found elsewhere.

I have addressed the Cinderella mentality in a previous entry some years back. In it I question the most common narratives we see on local TV in recent years (if not since forever):

Beautiful But Oppressed hails from the hinterlands or some other rural area toiling away at the fields. Meets Dashing Rich Debonair on vacation. The two fall in love and would live happily ever after if not for the Older Baddie. And so the requisite insult-hurling, cat fighting, and not to forget Big Time Oppressing (for no apparent reason but for the sheer evil of Big Baddie) must lengthily unfold before our eyes before Beautiful But Oppressed learns to fight the dirty fight and finally triumphs over Older Baddie. Its easy enough to see the box-office appeal of these Tagalog-speaking hispanics, their soaps could have been local if not for the "better" looking actors.

Local soaps usually make the same juxtaposition of the Poor and Oppressed in the rural areas being treated cruelly by both Destiny (as though it were a given that, well, they're just poor period), and the Rich from urban Manila. Its a cheap play on modernity vs. tradition, town mouse and country mouse but its a hit for the masses (and some from the non-masses) because it must strike on similar cultural sensibilities.
The Cinderella mentality allows no other option for us as a nation but be supplicants to masculine fate, waiting, waiting to be rescued. As Filipinas, this mentality combined with the previous two, is probably why so many young ones are prostituted by their parents to foreigners, whether through bride sale or old-style prostitution. The advances in telecommunications has only facilitated this process. So many young, nubile, exotic Filipinas are foreigner-husband-hunting online today.

You might say, well, it is easy for me to deplore these practices of prostitution/mail-order-brides. Being bourgeois, I can afford my economic independence. I can afford my morals. I can afford my indignation. But for so many young women from the provinces, a full stomach in a cold clime may be enough.

Historical materialists will say, the material conditions dictate the ideological. From this follows the argument that better material conditions of living in the Philippines will lead to better ideas about the Philippines, a better self-perception as Filipinos. In this paradigm, the order of of the material and the ideological is unidirectional. Therefore better ideas about the Philippines cannot possibly precede better material living conditions. It is hopelessly pessimistic. And besides, those who are already materially well-off don't necessarily have better self-perception and self-identification as Filipinos. Arguably, it is worse for our elites.

But could it be that another approach needs to be taken? Since our culture of colonial-cum-victim-cum-Cinderella mentality reinforces the material poverty of the majority and the two are locked in a vicious cycle, why not begin with improving our ideological self-image?

Since I have been away, I can mercifully tune out of the news of the country's permanent crisis. This time last year I remember being depressed by everything. In the media, among colleagues and friends, the only alternative to hopelessness was celebrity scandals. No wonder the likes of Kris and Ruffa have gained notoriety, prostituting their lives to the public so hungry for distraction from our culture of self-defeatism and self-flagellation.

As one equally bourgeois Italian once said - pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. In colloquial terms - Habang may buhay, may pag-asa. Better yet - Wasak na wasak na wasak...pero kaya pa. :)