Thursday, March 31, 2005

Isa na namang balitang nakakayamot!

Onli in da Pilipins nga naman na ang biyuda ng isang ex-Presidentiable ay maisipang "pamalit" sa kanyang yumaong asawa. Ano ba itu?

*Flashback Famas Awards: On behalf of my husband I would like to accept this award. Sniff Sniff.*

Katawa-tawa at tunay nga namang nakakayamot na ngayo'y tila nag-aalsa na naman ang isang grupo ng mga politiko, artista at mga samu't saring asungot na nais yatang manggulo habang ang administrasyong Nunal ay mala-bampirang humihigop sa mga kusing at sentimo ng bawat Pilipino.

Halatang sinasamantala ng grupo ng mga asungot na ito ang kasalukuyang pagkadismaya ng mga tao sa iba't-ibang paraan ng pagtugon sa krisis piskal ng pamahalaan at ang mga epekto nito; ang VAT, ang pagtaas ng petrolyo, pamasahe, toll, tubig, kuryente, mga pamilihin at liposaksyon!

Ang tanong, ano kaya ang ang pakay ng mga asungot na ito na hanggang sa ngayon ay ginagamit ang tila mala-agimat na pangalan ni FPJ?

Sa palagay kaya nila ay mag-aalsa masa ang mga fans ni FPJ upang itaob ang Administrasyong Nunal? At kung gayon, alam kaya ni Susan Roces na pihong gagamitin lamang s'ya at ang alaala ng kanyang lasenggong asawa upang maisakatuparan ito? At mauunawaan naman kaya ng mga Pilipinong target ng moro-morong ito na sila'y gagamitin rin upang ang Grupong Asungot naman ang pumalit sa gobyerno at magpatuloy na magpasasa sa yaman ng bayan?

Tunay ngang nakakatawa sapagkat sa bayang ito, ang pulitika ay talaga namang parang pelikula. May script, may mga aktor at lahat ay nagaganap sa entablado ng media. At pagkatapos na magpalitan ng mga maanghang na salita at ng mga pangako ng kaginhawaan, magsisiuwian ang mga manonood, papatayin ang mga ilaw at magsasara ang teatro.

Pagkatapos ng moro-moro ay wala namang tunay na nagbago. Magpapatuloy na magpayaman ang mga pulitiko sa kaban ng bayan at magpapatuloy ang pag-inog ng kanya-kanya nating mundo. Papugak-pugak at lalong naghihingalo, pero umiinog.

Kailan kaya tayo titigil sa pagtitiis sa mga kundisyong ito kung saan lahat tayo'y kailangang mabuhay? Kailan kaya natin mauunawan na ang lipunang ginagalawan natin ay patuloy na bulok sapagkat hinahayaan natin ito?

Hemingway, tuloy ang ligaya ni lola Susan habang nalalanta naman ang pamumukadkan ng Pangulong Nunalin. Siguro bulag at pipi na lang ang di makakapagsabi nito. Kailangan pa ba ng mga sarbey sarbey? (Oo, kasi kailangan ng trabaho ng is prop ko sa UP dati.) Hay gulay. Ganyan talaga ang buhay. Sige mga ka-blagista. Ilabas na ninyo! Ilabas na ninyo ang nagngangalit ang naghuhumindig ninyong buwisit at pagkadismaya sa mga weblag n'yo! Hala! Humayo't magparami!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

In the Inquirer the other day, Walden Bello writes:

Afterthoughts : Debt and denial
Or how to make sure that the Philippines will end

FINANCE Secretary Cesar Purisima recently characterized the Philippines’ debt burden as a “lingering issue.” This reflects not so much the nature of our debt problem but that the government is in denial. The truth is, the Philippine national debt that has now reached 3.8 trillion pesos, or 69 billion dollars, is out of control. Total public sector debt is now estimated at 130 percent of GDP as of the end-2003.

Of the 3.8-trillion-peso debt, 1.8 trillion pesos, or nearly half, is foreign debt, according to the official story. However, according to some sources, about 80 percent of the total debt is owed to foreign creditors, including resident foreigners.

These are indicators not of a “lingering problem” but of the biggest economic problem we face. We are staring default in the face. Yet our policymakers are paralyzed.

Let me clarify: An effective solution to our current fiscal crisis would consist of three prongs: raise revenue, cut borrowings, rein in debt service. The first two do not elicit much controversy, though there is little confidence that the government will be effective in either raising its revenue collection or refraining from going to local and international capital markets to finance its deficit. When it comes to renegotiating the debt, however, there is strong resistance in influential circles.

For instance, at a recent forum sponsored by the Management Association of the Philippines in which I participated, former central bank governor Gabriel Singson and World Bank country chief Joachim von Amsberg warned us not to even raise the possibility of debt renegotiation as an option. Why is the foreign debt such a sacred cow?

To answer this and understand the deleterious impact of our debt policy on the economy, we need to reach back into recent history. It is time we stop blaming all our debt-related ills on the Ferdinand Marcos regime. The Corazon Aquino administration and its successors played a key role in aggravating the situation. And the IMF and Mr. Amsberg’s institution, the World Bank, also figured prominently.

Crossroads in the mid-1980s

Let me focus on the foreign debt. At the beginning of the Aquino period, the Philippines’ foreign debt had risen to over 26 billion dollars from 21 billion dollars in 1981. This led the World Bank and the IMF, under strong pressure from the big commercial creditors, to put the emphasis on debt repayment in their agenda for the new administration of President Corazon Aquino. Fairly quickly, international finance faced the fledgling democratic administration with an unpalatable choice: either limit debt service payments or fully comply with debt obligations in order to preserve creditworthiness even at the risk of throttling growth.

The first position was espoused by Solita Monsod, who became director of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and some of her colleagues at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, who wrote: “The search for a recovery program that is consistent with a debt repayment schedule determined by our creditors is a futile one and should therefore be abandoned.” The central bank and the Department of Finance, dominated by figures with links to international finance, lined up behind the second position. Then-governor “Jobo” Fernandez of the now-defunct Central Bank, a Marcos holdover, “warned of the risk of ‘economic retaliation against the country’ should it take unilateral actions in defiance of its creditors. Trade credit lines could be withheld ‘paralyzing foreign trade,’ and foreign assistance could be terminated.” Then Citibank President John Reed visited the Philippines and warned that debt repudiation “would produce immense suffering and difficulty for the people.”

The so-called “model debtor” strategy won out, partly because proponents of the opposite position like Monsod did not put up more than token resistance. This was a mistake, notes economist Jim Boyce, in the light of concurrent developments:

The credibility of these threats is … open to serious doubt. Brazil defied its commercial creditors for 18 months, beginning with the unilateral suspension of debt service announced in February 1987. Its defiance provoked much posturing by the banks, but little genuine retaliation. The holders of paper assets proved to be paper tigers. Similarly, the well publicized but less drastic debt service ceiling imposed by Peruvian President Alan Garcia did not bring grievous penalties; the Garcia government’s heterodox economic program ultimately failed despite the debt policy, not because of it. More quietly, Bolivia halted most debt service payments in 1984, and three years later won [a] very favorable debt buy-back deal.

The “model debtor” strategy was inaugurated with President Corazon Aquino’s Proclamation 50, which committed the government to honoring all of the Philippines’ debt, including odious debts like those contracted to build the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant as well as the so-called “behest loans” made by cronies of the Marcos dictatorship. The strategy was institutionalized by Executive Order 292, which affirmed the “automatic appropriation” of the full amount needed to service the debt from the budget of the national government that was originally mandated by Marcos’ Presidential Decree 1177.

Impact of the model debtor strategy

A financial hemorrhage marked the succeeding years, with the net transfer of financial resources to external creditors coming to a negative 1.3 billion dollars a year on average between 1986 and 1991. In late eighties, foreign debt servicing came to 3.5 billion dollars a year, or about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. A decade later, in 1999, the level of outflow of financial resources continued to be massive. The fundamental irrationality of the process was underlined by the fact that as overseas workers were remitting hard earned dollars into the country, an equal if not greater amount was leaving it.

Making constantly rising debt payments a sacred cow legally not only made the national budget structurally prone to deficits. Government is usually the biggest and most important investor in developing countries like the Philippines. Owing to the prioritization of foreign debt repayment, government spending has been, over the last two decades, confined largely to financing salaries and other operating expenses. For the last 18 years, very little of the budget could be devoted to capital expenditures, thus practically eliminating government spending as an engine of development. In our neighboring countries, in contrast, government spending became the catalyst of development and sizzling economic growth.

Along with the structural adjustment measures imposed under the guidance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the strategy of making debt repayment the national priority -- which has been followed by every administration since Marcos -- has created a condition of structural stagnation -- what Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Rudiger Dornbusch describes as a low-level trap in which low investment, increased unemployment, reduced consumption, and low output interacted to create a vicious cycle of stagnation and decline. This is the source of what we have called in a recent book the permanent structural crisis of the Philippine economy.

Almost 20 years after the beginning of the Aquino presidency, our foreign debt has nearly trebled, from 26 billion dollars to 69 billion dollars. We are still servicing the debt incurred for the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant! This is a case of skipping the possibility of death through a nuclear accident for the certainty of slow death through debt repayment. Debt servicing rose from 46 per cent of national government expenditure in 2002 to 81 percent in 2004 and is expected to hit 89 percent in 2005, according to former National Economic and Development Authority head Cielito Habito.

Another way of looking at this is that in order to enable the government to keep functioning, we must resort to borrowing from foreign and local creditors to stay current on our debt servicing. However one reads them, the figures underline one thing: We are essentially back where we were in the early 1980s, which is that of borrowing new money at increasingly disadvantageous rates to pay off old debts. And so long as our debt service remains uncontrolled, any sort of measures on the revenue side, such as more effective tax collection, tobacco and alcohol taxes, or the value-added tax will have little impact in terms of stabilizing government finances. Sure, some of these measures must be implemented, but they must go in tandem with debt devaluation.

Our policymakers, however, are still talking about maintaining the model debtor strategy that has brought us so much grief. Again Finance Secretary Purisima: “[W]e need to be responsible players in the international financial community, and honoring our obligations is one that we need to take pride in.”

Read the rest here.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Anti-Development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines

I've finally finished a book I bought off the shelves of the UP Press last December. I am writing a comparative paper on the democratization of South Korea and the Philippines, and The Anti-Development State, written by my favorite scholar/advocate Walden Bello and his two proteges, has been a major eye-opener.

This seminal work is an excellent diagnostic tool for what ails our country today. In his usual lucid and very engaging writing style, he makes the argument that the Philippines is unable to develop due to the weak State that has historically been held hostage by factions the elite oligarchy. And that revolutions of the EDSA kind, are more "revolutions of our heads" than they are real social change.

I highly recommend that this book be read by any Filipino who wonders why the shit in the Philippines always hits the fan.

Prof. Lanuza of the UP Department of Sociology reviews:

The most recent book of Walden Bello, The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines, which he co-authored with three younger research assistants, has once again proven how prolific Walden is as an author.

In The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines Walden finally provides his readers a systematic account of the major structural problems confronting the Philippines in n the light of globalization and the crisis of post-Edsa State.

The book is teeming with a lot of data on Philippine economy and political situation: from import and export to agriculture, from the impact of globalization on land reform to the crisis of NAPOCOR, from the ascendancy of Edsa II state to the looming bankruptcy of Maynilad Water Services, Inc. For those who want to have a glimpse or synopsis of Philippine political and economic situation Walden’s book will definitely be a good starting point.

The second virtue of the book is the acute analysis and framework that informs the analyses and arguments of the book. Without this second virtue, the book will be a mere exercise in investigative journalism, an incoherent account of Philippine economic crisis.

Personally, I find Chapter 7, which demystifies the popular conception that our people’s poverty is due to corruption, as the most interesting and the most theoretically engaging part. This chapter goes beyond the common moralistic discourse against corruption and the so-called value-orientation study (derived from modernization theory) that purports to explain the culture of corruption as the explanandum of our people’s poverty. The conclusion: we are corrupt because we are poor, and not because we are corrupt, that we are poor.

The book is not another cynical portrayal of Philippine economic crisis. To the contrary, the book is a rich source of social hope—that longing that we can get out of this national and global mess. After all, this crisis is structurally generated and is therefore not an iron cage to which we are forever condemned. Ironically the book analyzes the “permanent crisis” to show that this crisis is not as “permanent” as it might appear.

Let me end with a quote from my favorite chapter, Chapter 7:

"Ideas survive and flourish not necessarily because they are empirically or analytically sound but because they are useful for advancing and protecting the interest of certain people—forces who would then have the material incentive to ensure that such ideas are perpetuated and propagated (page 286)."

Let me assure the readers that I concur with most of the analyses of the authors not so much because they reflect the interests of the authors but because they represent the interest of those who want to end the permanent crisis of Philippine political economy. Also, I am convinced that the arguments that the authors are defending in the book are not just convincing, but more importantly, they support the interests of those who, by the fact they bear the brunt of this crisis, want to radically overhaul our present political and economic structures. I therefore invite readers to seriously read the arguments and analyses of the book and to judge for themselves what and whose interests do they espouse. After reading the book readers may as well ask themselves whose side they are on! That is the challenge of the book.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Reading the blogs on my blogrolling links, I came across Mell Ditangco's post:

Do Filipinos’ have a Victim’s Mentality?

I must confess that I am frustrated. Why? You ask. I really thought that micro-lending is the answer to the poverty that is gripping more than 60% of our countrymen in the Philippines. Based on my research results, the government’s initial micro-lending program was a failure. According to an independent study by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants, recipients of the micro-loans thought that the funds received from the government were grants. The government’s micro-lending program was designed to be self-sustaining, but since too many beneficiaries defaulted it effectively shut down the program. This failure seems to imply that even if poor Filipinos are given an opportunity to improve his/her life he/she will manage to screw it up.

The Philippine government is always seen as a bastion of corruption. However in this case the common Juan Dela Cruz squandered a golden opportunity to improve his lot in life. Had those beneficiaries paid back what they were loaned, they would have had the opportunity to borrow larger sums in the future to further grow his/her business.

Filipinos need to change his/her mindset before he/she can improve his/her condition. I am afraid that a good number of Filipinos, whether from the lower and middle class, suffer from a victim’s mentality. Rather than look for ways to improve his condition, he would rather blame the government, the multinational corporations, the Americans, corrupt elite, etc.. Let me make myself clear, I am not saying that there are no injustices occurring in the Philippines, but let us not play the blame game and quit trying to improve our lives. Let self-reliance be our battle cry to combat the injustices that we see. Let us not sit idly by and let opportunities pass us by.

We have no right to hope for our beloved Philippines if we do not change our ways.
To which I responded:

I agree with this statement, absolutely. But material conditions structure people's lives. It is not as easy as saying "change our mindset." Being born of a poor family means being disadvantaged from the womb. The baby will come out malnourished, will stay malnourished from birth, and will tend to be under-educated if not uneducated altogether. Under these conditions, how can one "beat the odds" when one doesn't have a fighting chance from the beginning? "Mindsets" are the result of the material environment. So, the culture of "kawawa" didn't come out of nowhere. And if human basic needs aren't ameliorated, how does one expect a change in mindsets?

Now if only solving poverty were as easy as micro-lending. With financial institutions running the whole world, there shouldn't be any poverty left.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Commodification of Culture: From Black Oppression to Black Coolness

How could Identities pose a viable revolutionary alternative when ‘identities,’ racial, religious or cultural, can and are co-opted?

Nowhere is the exploitation of culture and differences more evident and indeed tragic, as in the United States. Hip hop as a culture of marginalized African Americans has in the past two decades been gradually integrated into the mainstream. As an art form of potential radical roots, it has been sacrificed on the altar of the American music industry.

Emerging out of the ills of urban America, hip hop was descriptive of the social conditions wherein economically marginalized Americans found themselves. Undoubtedly, the legacy of slavery casts a long shadow over black people today. Latinos who emigrated from South America, now the largest non-Caucasian minority, are recent additions living in similar conditions as African Americans.

Hip hop used to be in the underground. It used to speak of the language of oppression, a running social commentary on the deprivations people of color suffer in urban areas in arguably the richest country the world. But Hip hop has lost its edge. Its potential for an articulation of social ills and racial, economic and political discrimination has since died with Martin Luther King.

It is not clear, to me at least, how the transition occurred. It could have been due to the stagnation of the music industry since the demise of ‘alternative music’ (best represented by the Seattle-based grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam) in the early to mid 90s. Big Business was in search of something novel, something edgy, something radical and divorce from the stale and formulaic pop and rock music. It seems far fetched but the idea of ‘flexible accumulation’ based on product innovation seems to apply.

Hip hop music is now the new pop. The Philippines being a barometer of what is popular in American culture, one need only turn on the radio and hear local stations churning black music constantly these days. Today’s contemporary artists, far from pioneers such as Dead Prez and Public Enemy, now speak the ‘good life’ marked by superficial indicators of success such as cars, easy women and ‘bling-bling’ (jewelry). “Gangsterism” is glorified, highlighting the depiction of the violent black male. The tragedy is that this image is a self-fulfilling prophecy as the ‘gangsta’ life is increasingly portrayed as not only the epitome of cool but a viable vehicle of deliverance from social and economic marginality.

The sublime message of today’s hip hop artist seems to be “I am from the ghetto. I hustled, I sold drugs, I was a gangsta. This is my life and that is why I rap about it. I am black, I’m tough and I made it in the entertainment industry (because I wasn’t physically gifted to make it in the sports ‘industry’). I now sell millions of records world-wide. I am successful. I now have my own clothing line, produce and act in movies. If I can make it, you can make it.”

The promise of escape lures black Americans today. Recent Latin-American artists mirror the co-optation. Hip hop is a clear example of identities stolen for profit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Balitang Nakakayamot!

Matapos na paslangin ng ating kagila-gilalas at kagalang-galang na kapulisan ang 22 presong pinaghihinalaang mga miyembro ng walang-kamatayan at walang 'sing tinik na Abu Sayyaf, tila ambon na unti-unting lumalakas ang mga pahiwatig ng hinanakit ng ating mga kapwa-Pilipinong Muslim.

Ang kadalasa'y nanahimik at abala lamang sa pag-smuggle at pagbenta ng ating mga paboritong Debedeh, ngayon ay malapit na yatang maghimagsik sa sama ng loob dulot ng engkwentrong ito.

Ang tangkang pagtakas ng mga preso noong Lunes ay umabot sa pag-hostage ng kulungan, ang Camp Bagong Diwa. Ang pag-iiringan sa pagitan ng dalawang grupo ay umabot din ng 24 oras, at tuluyang tinuldukan ng ating matitikas na pulis noong Martes.

Kung 'di ba naman ginagamit ang PhD-utak ni Presidente GMA, kanya pang pinuri ang madugong bakbakan na walang-awang kumitil sa 22 buhay ng kapwa n'ya Pinoy. Siguro kase, nagpapabango na naman sa mga Kanong puros "terrorismo" ang nasa utak. Ay, ang mga gunggong.

Ayon sa balita nitong gabi, malakas ang ugong na maaaring bumuwelta ang Abu Sayyaf. Bantay-sarado naman ang mga daungan, paliparan at malalawak na pampublikong lugar bilang paghahanda sa maaaring karahasang maganap.

Sa akin namang palagay, bukod sa paghihiganti laban sa pulisya, nasaring din ang "pride" ng mga Abus, kung kaya't tuloy ang pataasan ng ihi. Ay, ang mga gunggong!

Kung 'di mag-iingat ang ating mala-dwendeng Pangulo, maaaring pagmulan ito ng "civil unrest" mula sa ating mga kapatid na Muslim. Kung ganito man ang mangyayari...paano na ang supply ng ating mga Debedeh?!?!?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Ang lahat ay nagaganap
Sa panaganip,
Tulad natin.

Ngunit kailangang
Imulat ang mata't
Ang mga pangarap
Na naglalaro
Sa kamalayang himbing.

Kung saan man
Umabot ang pananaw
'Wag matakot magtangkang
Ang lahat
Dahil ikaw
Ay ikaw,
At ikaw
Ay magaling.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

On Democracy

Ruling People

Democracy presupposes everyone is equal in the most fundamental of ways. That we all have equal capacity to discern what is right, what is wrong, what is best for everyone else. As one scholar says, “to be a democrat means having faith in people.” While ‘rule of the people’ and the ideals of democracy, the empowerment of the individual are certainly worthy and noble values to strive for, is it really practicable? Realizable? For in truth, not everyone is created equal. Are we?

‘Created’ of course might be a controversial word in that…what conditions and factors ‘create’ people? The environment? Genetics? Social structures? History? In truth, aren’t human societies fraught only with inequalities? Of the powerful and the powerless? Of the systematic disenfranchisement of certain groups of people? Like women, children and non-Caucasians?

The model of Democratic Autonomy puts the principle of autonomy/liberty as the rationale for effective rule of the people and active participation in government. It is highly idealized in that every single ‘citizen’ is capable and literate in political involvement. Already, this idea is problematic. How can one partake of government when one’s energies are completely consumed by providing for one’s basic needs? When one is eking out a living, literally subsisting from one meal to the next, how can one even think of the society’s concerns? Herein lies the opportunity for the ideals of democracy to be corrupted. Certainly, in states wherein citizens are far from achieving their full potential as individuals, then the system of equal opportunities and rights may well be abused, as is the case in the Philippines where votes are bought and sold at a pittance.

Liberal Democratic theory in general has little to say about socio-economic or other forms of structural inequalities either within states or globally because it presumes that they are unimportant for the exercise of citizenship. But the experiences of the Third World suggest that equal citizenship cannot take root alongside extreme income inequalities.

Is true Democracy ever possible? Or is it more of a vision? A lodestar? Not quite of this earth?

Theories arise out of historical conjunctures. They do not drop out of the sky like manna from heaven. Theories are not objects divorce from subjects. Humans make theories. Humans are products of their collective experiences and are necessarily shaped by their interests and biases. Theories are versions of truths. Theories are peddled to interpret truths.

What is the Moral of the (Hi)Story?

My History teachers have failed me. In my learning experience, history has generally been portrayed as nothing more than facts, dates and figures, as though the events of the past were an artifact displayed in a museum somewhere, to be ogled and viewed like an ancient relic divorced from the now.

The period of colonialism is similarly dismissed as though it were a terrible nightmare from the past best forgotten, and that the best way to do so would be to move on as if nothing happened. There was never an acknowledgment of the impact three and a half centuries made on the Filipino psyche, assuming of course that there is even one. If nothing, the story of the colonial experience is much like a Filipino soap opera, one of a perpetually tearful, oppressed and long-suffering protagonist being victimized by the much stronger villain for no other reason than s/he could do so. The script ran from one tearjerker moment to the next. Boohoo. So what??? I don’t believe this question was ever answered by my history teachers.

“History is both contextual and constitutive.” History is not a relic displayed for us to view behind the glass casing. History is not a rupture between the past and the present. Much the same as the colonial experience did not end just because the US declared it to be true in 1945, or in 1898 even. These dates were markers, dividers, separating the Before and After as if there was no continuity in between.

Periods in time both encapsulate and perpetuate. Periods in time are characterized not just by events and actors, but by the events’ impacts and the actors’ intentions. History reflects the human condition, humanity’s story. It is reflective of who we are, and boy, the mirror reveals spectacular moments of atrocity. I wish my history teachers taught me that.

Of Gods and Monsters

In a world that is increasingly ephemeral, where symbols and ideas now more than ever proliferate the globe, penetrating artificial boundaries, Realities are being created and destroyed, meanings transformed. In today’s world, these Realities are shaped willfully and consciously to advance the interests of those who have the instruments to do so.

Democracy is one such commodity being refashioned in the image of hegemony. It is marketed and advertised as a global good. The values of so-called ‘Freedom’ and ‘Rule of the People’ are the popular tag lines attached to this abstraction. ‘Otherness,’ whether indirect or in direct opposition to Democracy is re-cast as its antithesis, the Evil versus the Good.

Depicting non-democratic societies and cultures as the ‘Other’ necessitates delineation from democratic societies. Making concrete the boundaries between, emphasizing the most obvious of differences and overlooking commonalities in social structures underlying.

Images and identities are hewn in the superficial and what is easily identifiable. In a supposed global village, ethnicities, religion and cultural identity are in the forefront of explaining away conflict. Projection of Hegemonic Democracy as a must in every society calls for the annihilation of ‘Otherness.’ Values differing from those imbued in Democracy are ascribed as incompatible with this global good and therefore seen as obstacles to a now universal goal of democratization.

Humankind is being made into the image of Good, all wise and all knowing.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Memories of EDSA


I've both cold and warm feelings remembering the first EDSA revolt in '86. Warm because I was a six-year old kid in kindergarten who was only too glad school was out, and my parents stayed home on a couple of weekdays for a change. Cold because there was nothing on TV, there were terrifying aircraft zooming overhead every so often and old folks were talking about "Marcos" and "Cory" and people getting killed in either hushed tones or lively banter. The radio was on until that was cut short too. And there was nothing to do but play with my brother and a gaggle of other school kids who were on vacation as well.

There was a rumor that spread among us that "Cory" actually lived only a few blocks away. It became a little adventure as we all trooped to "her house" and tried to catch a glimpse of her yellow outfit, her glasses and short curly hair. I wanted to see Cory so badly and maybe to even speak with her and ask her what the fuss was all about.


I'd always thought I'd wanted to be a lawyer. Why? Because everyone seems to think it’s a blast to be one. It pays relatively well, and carrying the title "Atty." before your name is carrying a talisman to ward off evil, misfortune and over-all unhappiness.

But the Moro-moro of the Erap impeachment trials single-handedly destroyed any left-over respect for the professional guardians of the sanctity of law. There is no such thing as “sacred” in this country in the first place, because respect for written rules is virtually non-existent, and what is customary is arbitrarily changed depending on the whims of the powers-that-be.

And so the plot unfolded with its heroes and villains and the politics of play. The masses were entertained, the middle-class exasperated and the elite determined to survive any changes in the power configuration. And I? I was equally entertained, exasperated and determined. Determined to exercise my political right to march the length of that historic avenue and howl at the fugly bronze statue at the shrine.

I marched aplenty during those days. I’d never walked so many kilometers in my life. To oust a perceived villainy, to kill that fat bastard of a penguin, I walked with friends and sat waiting amongst strangers. It felt absolutely marvelous, doing my civic duty. And that historic Friday, the 21st of January, it felt good to be drenched in confetti.

Looking back, I miss that old self where black never bled into white.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Transitions to Adulthood and Quarter-life Crisis

Whoever said the adolescent years are a turbulent and precarious period of a human being's life must not have lived long enough to reach his/her twenties. They don't call it quarter-life crisis for nothing. Lately the pressures of being in my twenties, particularly when I'm 3 months away from the big "quarter" of a century, is proving to be harrowing, depressing, and exhausting.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend writing her masters theses on "transititions to adulthood" has made me explore previously unknown avenues in my brain and has unlocked even more anxiety in my already paranoid and quasi-insomniac psyche.

The interview lasted an hour and a half. After which I felt as though I'd run a 10k marathon. My throat hurt, but my mind hurt more. I was able to reach deep-seated thoughts and feelings about my "transition to adulthood" but for some reason, this question I found, was the most difficult.

"What do you think makes someone an adult? Is it career? If you have a job, does it make you an adult? If you've finished college? How much money you make? If you're married? When you have children?"

Wow. So, what makes one an adult? I vaguely remember saying; "I guess it's in a person's perspective, or self-evaluation. If you think you're an adult, if you've decided you're an adult and no longer a child. Then you are one. It's really very subjective."

What a load of crap. I didn't know what I was talking about, and even now, I wonder if I really believe what I said. I've a relatively stable job. I make a decent living. I pay my taxes and SSS dues. I've never committed a crime against humanity or
beasts. I drink in moderation and have recently stopped smoking. I've never voted, but I do so in principle. I maintain reasonably healthy social relationships. I drive on the right side of the road and practice my rights as an individual consumer
assiduously. But do all these make me an adult?

What makes the twenties so difficult, especially for women, is this sense that you're running out of time. You've only roughly a decade to devote solely to yourself, on your self-development, career, life plans. Because, if you want to procreate then it
means you've got to have children by 30. If you push the limit you run the risk of having a difficult pregnancy or producing offspring with less than optimum capabilities as can be generated by you and your spouse's combined alleles.

But before having children you've gotta find the right mate. And God knows when you're about to hit the big 2-5 then you get this feeling the time for "fun" and "games" is fast diminishing in the horizon. Less time and space for fooling around and toying with other people's feelings. Less time and space for casual dates and flings. It's time for some serious natural selection; do I want my children to bear his genes? Will he be capable of providing food, shelter and a home?

But before finding a mate, any self-respecting woman of my generation, socially conditioned to make full use not only of the uterus, but of other equally working body parts, would like to make "something" of herself. What this something is, is usually nebulous. But you know its something bigger, greater, more relevant than yourself. And certainly as relevant as creating another life and providing for it decently.

So you see, a woman has got to make all the right decisions that will affect her entire life in her twenties. Finish studies, work, produce, consume, mate and breed, all while that clock is ticking. Not doing any of the above in the right sequence, and at the right time makes one a social anomaly. Abnormal and strange yes, but probably more stress-free.