Friday, December 07, 2007

Ideology and Ideologues

Today's money quote, most apt for the times, again from my favourite Italian philosopher:
One must therefore distinguish between historically organic ideologies, those, that is, which are necessary to a given structure and ideologies that are arbitrary, rationalistic, or ‘willed.’

To the extent that ideologies are historically necessary they have a validity which is ‘psychological’; they ‘organise’ human masses, and create the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc.

To the extent that they are arbitrary they only create individual ‘movements’, polemics and so on (though even these are not completely useless, since they function like an error which by contrasting with truth, demonstrates it).
EDSA is dead, long live EDSA.

Dying to Come Here

This news item breaks my heart. Justice was meted out to a couple for enslaving a Filipina in a small town up in Queensland.
The Weipa man who repeatedly raped a Filipina woman he used as a slave has been jailed for eight years.

His wife was jailed for four years for her lesser role in the case.

Zolton John Kovacs, 59, and his Filipina wife Melita, 49, were found guilty after a Supreme Court trial of possessing and using the woman as a slave, and of arranging a sham marriage for her in the Philippines so she could get an Australian visa.

The Reina in Spain

Emma-Kate Symons of The Australian has some choice words for La Gloria. The news article/opinion piece doesn't even bother to disguise its vitriol:
EVEN by The Philippines' world-renowned corruption standards, Gloria Arroyo's Imelda Marcos-style tour of Europe is setting new records for official decadence.

Scandal swirled again around the President when it was revealed she chartered a flight for almost 200 cronies and family to go on a state junket to former colonial master Spain, as well as France and Britain.

The retinue set off on a Philippine Airlines flight on Saturday only days after Ms Arroyo waved off a botched attempt by army rebels to overthrow her during a six-hour siege of Manila's Peninsula hotel.

The European trip list, leaked to the opposition, named her closest political allies from the congress, businessmen, ministers, staff and family down to her grandkids, partly and perhaps fully paid for by millions of desperately poor taxpayers.

Those entitled to an estimated $US9000 ($10,300) trip included at least 30 lower house MPs (plus spouses and companions); three senators; 50 business allies; Ms Arroyo's allegedly highly corrupt husband Jose "Mike" Miguel; her three children and her four grandchildren. The delegation is living it up at the five-star Melia Castilla hotel in Madrid, at a cost of at least 12,000 pesos ($326) a day, double what many Filipinos earn in a month.

Opposition congressman Nonito Joson claimed Malacanang Palace had paid the expenses ofthe junketeers, including $US3000 "pocket money" for each traveller as a reward for not impeaching the President on a recent third attempt.

But press secretary Ignacio Bunye retorted that the President was the victim of a "disinformation campaign". He said MPs would cover their expenses, and even claimed King Juan Carlos of Spain was paying for some of the delegation's expenses because it was an "official visit".

"That's a big delegation to Europe," Senate president Manuel Villar said.

"It would have been OK if it was in Asia. But the cost of living is high in Europe."

The Daily Inquirer reported that among the junketeers was Ms Arroyo's best girlfriend, the aptly named Amelita "Girlie" Villarosa, who admits she recently handed out cash-stuffed envelopes to MPs.

One administration critic, Teodoro Casino, told the Congress he was "shocked" at the size of the presidential delegation: "I can't imagine what their role is in the presidential trip."

Explanations were thin, with some MPs saying they would be meeting groups of overseas Philippines workers and drumming up local business.

At home, the absence of so many MPs has stalled an urgent bill to try to cut the artificially high costs of basic medicines.

Ms Arroyo regularly charters flights and travels with a huge entourage. However, this is the first time recently that she has voyaged with more than 100.


Me: You're not Aussie are you? You sound British.
Cabbie: You're quite right young lady. I hail from Manchester. But I have beeeen living here for almost two decades.
Me: See, I've been here long eough I can finally tell between British and Strine.
Cabbie: I've been to the Philippines recently you know. Me and my wife were there in June.
Me: Oh really, how did you find it?
Cabbie: Oh, Manila is a dangerous place isn't it? But we had a fine time at this gigantic shopping centre...
Me: Do you mean the one shaped like a ship?
Cabbie: Yes, that one. The Mall of Asia. My wife had a lovely time shopping. Lots of bargains.
Me: Yeah, I suppose its quite cheap when you convert from AUD to the Peso.
Cabbie: My wife just couldn't take the toilets.
Me: Oh, you mean that there's no soap and tissue paper? Yeah, you have to bring your own. Or just bring a hand sanitiser.
Cabbie: It was quite shocking for us. Especially her. I suppose you make do with what you're used to. Especially if you never know anything else.
Me: Well, if you go to the fancy shopping centres, the ones for pommies, they have soap and toilet paper.
Cabbie: That's quite sad isn't it? Don't the ordinary folk deserve the same? I mean, filthy is filthy whoever you are.
Me: You're right. When I get back home, I will have to get used to the dirt again I suppose.
Cabbie: Or you can start a campaign for soap and toilet paper in all toilets. *Cackle*

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Bizarre Case of Misrepresentation

Just wondering why we look black in this poster entitled U.S. Imperialism: Uncle Sam Invites the Hungry Philippines to Share Its Prosperity. The caption below reads: "There's plenty of room at the table. Why not invite the little fellow to sit down?"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

EDSA is Dead, Long Live EDSA

Para sa kapwa ko Pilipino.

Notes on Grugel

On Jean Grugel's Democratisation: A Critical Introduction.

Democratisation’s many definitions: “a discourse, a demand, a set of institutional changes, a form of elite domination, a political system dependent on popular control, an exercise in power politics and a demand for global solidarity” among others (Grugel 2002: 4).

Studies range from transition to consolidation.

A minimalist definition is the holding of elections. The author favours a more substantive definition: “introduction and extension of citizenship rights and the creation of a democratic state (Grugel 2002: 5).”

This definition means more than being able to jot down names on a piece of paper, but whether the “people” are endowed with power to hold the governing body (the state) accountable.

While democracy is a political order, its efficacy depends on certain preconditions. In the developing world some modicum of citizens’ economic stability directly impinge on their ability to exercise their democratic rights and duties. Operating on “one-cannot-eat-one’s-right-to-vote” principle, “citizens” are more than willing to trade the sanctity of the ballot for a week’s worth of grocery money.

Globalisation shapes contemporary democratization in various ways:
1. Culturally, through the creation of a global communications network and a global culture
2. Economically, through the establishment of a global capitalist economy
3. Politically, through the establishment of institutions of global governance

Globalisation is inherently an uneven process, its impact is much greater on developing states than on developed ones. This means that it is possible for global forces to push this form of restricted democratization more strongly in the underdeveloped world. It is not an unambiguous support for democratisation, as it has sometimes been assumed.

Some of the philosophical and political questions for which democratic theory posits tentative (contingent) answers are – who constitutes the people, in which ways can their interests be aggregated and articulated in public governance, what kinds of rights do they possess and how are these rights to be safeguarded, who sets the agenda to which the people respond, how to balance individual and collective rights.

Liberal democracy = infusion of liberalism with democracy, the best way to safeguard democracy is through the individual.

Marxist critique: “Democracy was stunted by its marriage to capitalism, and political rights without economic equality were meaningless because they could never become real. At the same time, the exploitation and alienation generated by capitalism prevented people from realising their potential and society as whole to live in harmony (Grugel 2002: 16).”


“Structural power explains why policy-making is not democratic, even where elections are free and air and civil liberties are respected. Secrecy and elitism in government are also important mechanisms for the reproduction of non-democratic forms of policy-making (Grugel 2002: 21).”

The end of the Cold War resulted to a “hegemonic” definition of democracy, that of the liberal model in the industrialised “West.”

The scholarship on democracy saw a move form a discussion of the concept as a philosophical one to one of “descriptive” democracy. Grugel posits Schumpeter’s democracy as one of competition between elites – “Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them (Schumpeter quoted by Grugel 2002: 19).”

Another problem of empirical democratic theory is its Western bias. In many ways, the conditions in mature capitalist societies are vastly different from those elsewhere. Also, it concentrates on the observable (measurable) facts of democratic process and thus “promotes a procedural understanding of democracy (Grugel 2002: 21).”

Making political rights real = ensuring economic rights

“By tying democracy to actually existing democracies, empirical democratic theory managed both to establish the idea that there was a dichotomous distinction between democracy and other forms of government, and to set out transparent criteria for measuring democracy…Democracy was taken to mean simply the creation of procedures for free and fair elections and the alternation of political leadership…Culture, society and the economy were, by and large, ignored (Grugel 2002: 30).”

Motor of democratisation in the 19th century – class. 1980s onwards, a mix of social conflict, state-building and external influence.

Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens: the contradictions of capitalism generated pro-democratic forces.

In Britain gradual opening of political spaces followed the social upheavals of the industrial revolution and consequent compromises of various actors/classes.

Chances for democratisation are great when:
1. capitalism is the dominant national mode of production
2. civil society groups are active and politicised
3. class and other social conflicts are resolved through political enfranchisement and the incorporation of new social groups into polity rather than through their exclusion
4. the state is relatively autonomous and has not been captured exclusively by a small elite
5. the state has sufficient resources for redistribution and to enforce the rule of law
6. the international order promotes and encourages democratisaion and ostracises non-democratic regimes (Grugel 2002: 45)

Three main theories of democratisation : modernisation, historical sociology and transition.

Modernisation theory – capitalism equals democracy. Critiques include its ahistoricity (that a set of conditions in one context can be easily replicable somewhere else). Markets and the bourgeoisie are not necessarily always pro-democratic. Agency is taken for granted and replaced with economic determinism.

Historical sociology – a critique of modernisation theory’s simplistic framework as well as an effort to bring politics (the state) back in.

Transition studies – democracy is created by certain agents – self-conscious actors. Democracy can be created independent of context.
- pact-making between political elites, “pacted transition”

Grugel’s alternative approach – draws from historical sociology and the importance of structures, but also from transitology and the importance of agency.

Grugel’s three concepts (Grugel 2002: 65)
1. the state
2. civil society
3. globalisation

Rueschemeyer et al see democracy as the reform of the capitalist state, that is no just working in the interest of certain classes. The role of subaltern classes is important.

The State

Full democratisation of the state includes:
- institutional change, representative change, functional transformation (what the state does, what are its functional responsibilities)

Some obstacles to the democratisation of the state – national identity, issues on sovereignty, poor state capacity, authoritarian legacies, political fallout from economic reform (Grugel 2002).

“…introduction of elections and the writing of new constitutions do not, in themselves, challenge non-democratic state cultures and practices. Nor do they transform power relations within society (Grugel 2002: 91).”

Civil Society (see ch. 5)


Until the 90s, democratisation was largely seen as developing domestically, with little attention to the role of external events (Grugel 2002: 116).

External support for democratisation only plays a complementary role to domestic pressures.

Pressures of global political economy are not necessarily pro-democratic. They generate patterns of exclusion and in many ways exacerbate poverty. They weaken the state apparatus on account of liberalisation and prescriptions of global governance bodies. The West also has ideological power over the definition of what constitutes “democracy.”

Monday, December 03, 2007

More Comfort in Platitudes

A Democracy is more than just elections. Electoralism is an American disease. - Sparks

Comfort in Platitudes

It is too easy to be original by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing; this is just mechanical. - Antonio Gramsci

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pwede Ba?!?

Sa mga "move on" crowd at sa mga "mamemeke ng people power," pwede ba pag isipan n'yong mabuti kung gusto n'yo ng demokrasya. Eto simpleng-simple, pag-isipan n'yo.

“To be a democrat is to have faith in people, to believe that people have inalienable rights to make decisions for themselves, and to be committed to the notion that all people are equal in some fundamental and essential way (Grugel 2002: 12).”

Ngayon, kung 'di kayo naniniwala sa ganito, hala sige, magsitalon na kayo sa bangin. O sumakay kayo sa barkong ipapahanda ko papuntang Africa. Baka doon mas may silbi pa kayo.

At sa mga taong tulad ko na kamot ng kamot ng ulo habang tuluyang nasusuya sa mga nangyayari, pwede ba pag-isipan n'yo rin ito. Kung feeling n'yo hindi n'yo kayang magdesisyon para sa sarili n'yo, kung feeling n'yo merong mas marunong at magaling sa inyo sa larangan ng pamamalakad ng bansa, kung feeling n'yo wala kayong maitutulong kahit konti, hala sumakay na kayo sa bapor ko. Magsaka kayo sa Malawi. Magtanim ng kape sa Kenya. Mamitas ng saging sa Zimbabwe.

At sa mga nag-fee-feeling na tulad ko. Pag-isipan nating mabuti hane? Hanggang sa makurta ang utak nating lahat. Sige magreklamo kayong lahat. Bawal lang ang sumuko.


Join the TFC

I am joining the Trillanes Fan Club. Courtesy of Philippine Comedian, here is our logo.

Related entries:
The Soldier is a Drama Queen
Communists are Dead so What's All the Fuss?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hero Complex

Manong Trillanes, kung ang pakay mo talaga ay isalba ang Pilipinas, hindi ka nasindak ng teargas at putok ng baril. Jusme. Kung gusto mo'ng magpaka-bayani, panindigan mo. Sayang naman ang machong tindig mo. Guwaping ka pa naman. Huwag mong hintayin ang pagdating ng mga tao, kasi kung ikaw lang din ang mamumuno ng "rebolusyon," huwag na lang. Ngayon, kung naglaban ka kahit man lang konti, pwede pa siguro. Pumili ka na kasi. Ano ka ba? Sundalo o Senador? Tagapagligtas ng bayan o mambabatas? Ano ba talaga kuya?!?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Philippines' Low Intensity Democracy

Ha! In my paper on US foreign policy, democratisation and the Middle East, I stumble across this is article published in the Third World Quarterly journal. It was written in 1992 - fifteen years ago, but it could be describing what is happening this very moment.

By serependity (i.e. tadhana) this article is written by the co-author of the first ever book I've ever read on political economy - Barry Gills, and a Filipino scholar activist, Joel Rocamora.

The authors' case study of Argentina, Guatemala, the Philippines and South Korea show that the model of democracy as defined in the West is incompatible with "societies characterised by extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite (Gills & Rocamora 1992: 514)." Here are the defining characteristics of a low intensity democracy:
Low intensity democracy is a fragile political system. On the one hand, the new democratic order widens the space for popular mobilisation and therefore raises the possibility of increased social instability as radical demands threatening the establishment are articulated. On the other hand, the military hovers over the scene...always suspicious of the lessening of social control and the threat to the established interests this entails. The military wields a silent veto over the extent of change permissable under low intensity democracy.

The conservative leaders of the democracies must constantly look over their shoulders to the barrakcs of and the officers' club. Thus, the new democratic order is threatened with destabilisation from both the left and the right...Their leanings are, however, distinctively to the right and to ruling coalitions with the military. The civilian conservative government is usually a willing accomplice to the military. Together, they and the business elite form a hegemonic bloc. The difference between the previous dictatorships and the new 'democratic' regimes lies in the relationship between these three fractions of the elite (Gills & Rocamora 1992: 514).
Oh, and here's the money quote. Remember, this was written fifteen years ago.
Despite what may seem to be major changes, precious little real change occurs under a regime of low intensity democracy. The maxim of the 'enlightened' elite is that 'the more things change, the more they stay the same (Gills & Rocamora 1992: 519).'

Monday, November 19, 2007


Ang Kiukok, Idealist

Tuwinang nalalapit
Sa mga basag at kulang-kulang
Sa mga larawang mabigat,
Marupok ngunit malaman.
Mga multong naghahanap
Ng karamay sa dusa
Nananaghoy nang tahimik
Kay ingay ng pag-iisa.
Maliwanag ang dilim
Kaakit-akit ang timpla
Sa nais lamang magbahagi
Ng kaunting saya.
Bakit kaya kay igting
Ng pakikiramay sa salamin
Sa kung ano ma'ng nais kupkupin
Sa naglalagi sa lalim.
Marunong na mangmang
Mangmang na marunong
Mga basag na kalul'wang
Mas mainam na katuwang.


My notable quote for the day is from a Pakistani Muslim intellectual Egqbal Ahmad on negotiating Islam with Democracy:
“One must make an effort to understand the past, understand it with compassion, sympathy, and criticism. The reason I am stressing that is that many of us Arab and Muslim intellectuals, know more about the West, more about modern history, more about the ideas of the Enlightenment than we do about our own [history and culture]. No significant change occurs unless the new form is congruent with the old. It is only when a transplant is congenial to a soil that it works. Therefore, it is very important to know the transplant as well as the native soil.”
We Filipinos might take some pointers too, in our continuing search for ourselves as well as our place in the world. We must look back to see the future.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Ang Kiukok, Mother and Son

Nais kong magbalik sa'yong sinapupunan.
Ang kalong mo'y 'di tiyak,
Ang yakap mo'y matamlay.

Kung maglalagi rito sa mundong ibabaw
Magbibilang ng araw
Ang katawan ko'ng nakaratay.

Iniluwal mo'ng bulag at pipi
Sa saliw ng naghihiyawan.
Paanong maglilibot ng palayo
Sa lingap ng 'yong kandungan?

Nais kong magbalik sa'yong sinapupunan
At na'ng sa loob mo ay hanapin
Ang nawawala, ang kulang.

Nais ko'ng imulat
Ang mga matang 'di sanay
At ibuka ang bibig
At magsimulang magsalaysay.

Sukubin mo ako ngayon
At iluwal kinabukasan.
'Pagkat 'di na kayang maglagi
Sa kalong mong mababaw.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

PDI's Leftward March?

Today's thought bubble: I can't help but notice that in the past year, the country's most popular newspaper among broadsheet-reading citizens has become progressively

First, notice the front page - the positioning of issues and even the pictures. The language they use has also become very strong both in the headline banners and in editorials.

Since I have been a long-time reader, I know that Inquirer columnists have been typically critical of any sitting administration, but since GMA...they seem to have lost all sorts of restraint (?).

I have noticed this trend for some time now, and it just makes me wonder, cynic that I am, what has possessed the owners, advertisers and staff of PDI?

Given that it is a corporation, it is still operating on principles of profit-making. Have they noticed that people buy more when the headlines are more "shocking?" The larger the market share, the more businesses will advertise. Since I left the telecoms usually have whole page ads every single day. I assume nothing has changed. So here you have a convergence of media outlets, which by their nature, influence how we communicate and what we think and talk about.

This is not to say that I disprove of what PDI is doing. I worry for the newspaper organisation and its stakeholders. If I were an aspiring dictator, PDI would be my enemy number 1. Which makes me wonder, if the powers that be at PDI are feeling invincible at the moment. Are they perhaps being a bit too cocky? Belligerent event? Do they know something we don't?

Just wondering out loud. *Chin stroke* Yun lang.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Infantilising, Infanticidal World

K is a 25 year-old Canadian. Perversely, his thinning blond hair does not quite match his surfer-toned body nor his penchant for t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. Living two units away, I often see him zip by on his skateboard. My friend M, with whom he lives, says he is never without his "boards." A 25 year-old man trapped in a 15 year-old's body, K is from a well-to-do family. Obviously, otherwise he wouldn't be able to afford schooling in Australia's most expensive university. Endless partying is the the refuge of the carefree. Rid of cares, rid of responsibilities, rid of worry. How infinitely banal life would be for those who have been liberated of need and want. Happiness is elusive, thus the constant need to be entertained.

"Pop culture," as it is sold in rich countries, is awash with the needs, wants and desires of youth. Deferred gratification is non-existent for the emotionally immature, and so children - regardless of age - make the best customers. Start them young and you can feed their infantile fantasies for a lifetime. The rich are so obsessed with youth, they must dress and look the part. Cosmetic surgery is improving as the quirks of demand must be satisfied by quality supply. No age in human history has been so afraid of death and growing old. We are doing criminally unnatural things to stem the natural cycle of life. 12 year olds are used to sell women's fashion. Clad in provocative dress, rouged lips are beacons of the wanton. Living for the moment in a country with an epidemic of pedophilia, the desire for youth equals cannibalising the young.

Youth is a luxury most precious. It should priceless but it is not. What does it cost to be young? To yearn for four o'clock in the afternoon for permission to play outside, safe from the harsh afternoon sun. To dread school chores, to worry about the monggo seeds, to pick which playmates would make the best patintero team. To fashion improvised drums and tambourines and count the treasures of karoling. To eat, sleep, play and agonise over Milo or Ovaltine. What does it cost never to have to worry for your family's livelihood, for your father or mother or siblings? What does it cost to lay safe in bed at night, thinking only of the the coming day to visit the next-door neighbours and their newborn puppies? What does it cost to be child?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Full of Hope, Not Hopeful

Random ideas floating through the ether:

From Manong Abe Margallo, a comment on Manolo's blog:
After two upheavals, the expectations are greater (such as Leah’s?) that the next exercise of People Power would propel the transitioning into a “new qualitative state.”

The new state may be approximated by answering a few questions such as, off the top of my head, the following:

On the economic front (and this is directed more specifically to the country’s wealth creators): Why are we exporting people - teachers and young mothers like Marilou Ranario - instead of producing competitive goods and services that create value-added? Why has the Philippines been lagging behind its peers in the region or why a war-ravaged Vietnam is poised to overtake America’s first empire, once a regional powerhouse in the 50s and 60s?

On the political sphere: Should the process of building a working democracy be bottom-up or for the most part brought into being by the wise, the learned, the elites by the process of re-entrusting? If our borrowed democracy be redefined, should it continue to be based on some preconceived foreign notion or principally upon our own unique experience? How much power the sovereign people should retain and not delegate until public servants prove their worth?

And ultimately, the fundamental question: How much do we love our country?

So, People Power III should not just arrange to force a sitting president from power, it must “press on” to graduate from the same retrograde state the country is in.

A crucial part of the initial dialogue is the question of representation in governance where various interests should adequately be given a voice. So is the “to do list” during the first 30 – 60 days of regime change.

On the other hand, justice to those who breached the public trust should be swift, predictable yet humane but only after appropriate charges are substantiated by due process of law.

There’s plenty of work to do. Indeed, as the experience of People Power I and II tells us, removing someone from the seat of power could be the easy part.

No, EDSA is not dead. On the contrary, to borrow from Salud Algabre, each EDSA is “a step in the right direction.”
Manong Abe also refers to Randy David's column. I quote here some important ideas:
Realizing its marginal role in Philippine elections, the middle class, the harbinger of modernity, has favored non-electoral modes for effecting transitions -- people power, impeachment, coups, calls for resignation, etc. It is this class that gave the country its two women presidents: Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, both of them the beneficiaries of people power.

But people power is caught in a paradox, which limits its potency. Its spontaneous and unorganized character, driven by a strong moralism, is the source of its vitality. It is also its fundamental weakness. Middle class activism seldom leads to anything sustainable, like the formation of mainstream political parties. Even when, to its own surprise, it scores electoral victories, as in the case of Fr. Ed Panlilio’s successful run for governor of Pampanga province, the engagement tends to stop at the polls.

Without a party on which to anchor itself, the middle class espousal of modern governance is quickly drowned out by the pragmatics of political patronage. No wonder, in the end, “trapo” [traditional politicos] like Ms Arroyo and Estrada will always find it easier to deal with one another.

Save Marilou Ranario

Please take a moment of your time to sign the online petition addressed to the Kuwaiti Emir to pardon Marilou Ranario. She has been sentenced to death for the murder of her employer in 2005. Court hearings are currently ongoing and a final decision is expected by January or February next year.

From Bulatlat, some of the abuses Filipinas must suffer to provide for their families back home:
As a domestic worker, Rosebelle used to work from 4 a.m. up to 2 a.m. everyday. She barely had two hours of sleep daily, and had no day off. “Bawal umupo, tuluy-tuloy ang trabaho,” (I was not allowed to even sit down. I had to work continuously.) complained Rosebelle, adding that there was also not enough food to give her overworked body the strength for the whole day. She said she was allowed to eat only at 3 p.m., if there is left-over food. She said she survived on the biscuits that she brought from the Philippines otherwise she could have died of starvation.

In only a year in Kuwait, Angel, not her real name, had four employers.

Though she did not experience being beaten up in her 11 months of working with her first employer did not mean that she was treated any better, she said. Instead of giving her the left-over food, she said, her employer would take them all to their room upstairs. The left-over food would be left to spoil up to the next day, she said regretfully. She was not given any food and was also not allowed to go to the grocery to buy for her personal needs.

She was also prohibited to have a cellular phone. It was a problem for her because she had no means to inform her parents that she had remitted money or about her conditions there.

Because of these, she had an unpleasant relationship with her employer. She was sold to other employers. With her second employer, she was the only one doing the chores in a big house, plus taking care of the five children. Despite the workload, she was not fed at all.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Protest Against Panggagago

Via Manolo, the Black and White Movement is arranging a mass post-card sending event on Friday, November 9 at the post office. They're also planning simultaneous symbolic gestures in key cities with Diasporic communities.

Again a minor caveat on this movement's slogans, I don't know if they are being self-consciously bourgeois (and thus inclusive) or they're making fun of the apathetic middle class. See, the message behind the postcard below:

Remember I didn't like their slogan "Patalsikin na, now na!" in previous mass actions. But really, this is just piss-poor translation of Lincoln's quotable quote. Sheesh. I humbly propose a better one, without (hopefully) losing the oomph:

Kayo mong linlangin ang lahat ng mga mamamayan sa ilang pagkakataon at ang ilan sa kanila sa lahat ng pagkakataon, ngunit 'di mo kayang gaguhin ang lahat ng mga mamamayan sa lahat ng pagkakataon.


Hehe, thank god the Pinoy Big Briber movement made some modifications to their translation.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Economia by Geoff Davies

Geoff Davies, geophysicist, on reviving the corporate contract:

"Commerce is not possible without an ordered and healthy society. Corporations exist because society created them and allows them to exist. Corporations are intended to facilitate certain kinds of commerce, which are intended to serve the interests of people and society…The social contract between corporations and society needs to be revived and redrawn. Ultimately, society owes corporations nothing, since corporations are creatures of society, created to further the public interest…Wealth is generated by a confluence of knowledge, initiative, effort and money…Yet in our economic system wealth accrues primarily to those who provide money. Those who provide knowledge and effort are regarded as a burden rather than as vital contributors, and paid as little as possible…Thus in our system wealth accrues primarily to owners and senior managers, and the main conduit for their rewards is the corporation (p. 175)."

Sunday, November 04, 2007


...ang aburido. :( Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jo Koy

Filipino-American comic Jo Koy wears his heritage proudly on Jay Leno.

The Story of Our Country?

Pasensya na puro quotes na lang ako sa mga binabasa ko. Mahirap ang semester na'to kaya walang panahong magsulat for leisure.

May minsang nagtanong sa'kin kung bakit mas gusto ko ang IPE (International Political Economy) kaysa sa mainstream IR (International Relations). Napa-isip tuloy ako. Oo nga naman, bakit kaya? Ang IR kasi sinasagot ang mga tanong nga kung ano ang pinagmumulan ng digmaan sa pagitan ng mga bansa. So ang pinag-uusapan dito kung paano pigilan ang conflict, paano mapapaigiting ang kapayapaan. Medyo "masculine" ang mainstream IR kasi puro security issues ang mga paksa.

Ang IPE ang tinatanong - Paano yayaman ang bansa mo sa isang mundong tumatakbo sa sistemang kapitalista? Ano ang koneksyon ng nangyayari sa loob ng bansa at sa mga nangyayari sa abroad? Meron ba'ng connect? (Naturalmente meron) Ano ang koneksyon ng pulitika at ang paglikha ng yaman (wealth creation)?

Since wala naman tayong kaaway kundi sarili natin, ano nga ba naman ang logical na pagka-intersan ko?

Hemingway, pagdamutan ninyo ang talatang ito mula kay Barry Clark - Political Economy A Comparative Approach:
Because government can supersede the market’s distribution of income, citizens may attempt to use governmental authority to benefit themselves. Moreover, this process often becomes self-reinforcing.

As some individuals or groups gain benefits from government, other citizens conclude that money flows to power, and power requires organisation. Interest groups proliferate and demands on government intensify.

This politicisation of the economy may contribute to disorder in two ways. First, productive resources are diverted to the political struggle for control of government, resulting in slower growth and reduced competitiveness. Second, when government becomes a major determinant of individual success in a society lacking consensus about social justice, resentment toward government erodes support for public authority.

Citizens perceive government as s imply a tool with which some groups maintain privileges at the expense of others. The combination of a sluggish economy and political alienation results in social disorder (Barry 1998: 15).
Hindi dapat ganito pero ganito ang katotohanan ng Pilipinas ngayon. Ang malaking tanong, hahayaan na lang ba natin magpatuloy ito? Ano? Aalis na lang ba tayong lahat? Maglilipana sa kung saan-saang dako ng mundo?

Ang tanong ko sa mga estudyante ko nu'ng isang taon bago ako umalis - bombahin na lang kaya natin ang Pilipinas at nang lumubog na sa Pacific Ocean? Tapos lahat tayo refugees...E di tapos ang problema 'di ba? Nagtawanan ang mga estudyante ko. Absurd nga naman ang tanong. Pero matapos ang hagalpakan - isa-isa silang nagbigay argumento kung bakit hindi dapat sumuko. Parang panatang makabayan ang dating ng mga litanya nila....

...Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas. Ito ang aking lupang sinilangan...ito ang tahanan ng aking lahi.....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Glorietta Blast (Updated)

Citizen journalists upload some footage.

An anonymous user uploaded this on Google Video:

From inthethickofthings on YouTube:

From verin18 on YT:

From partyphiliac on YT

See updates at the Inquirer Site. Also check out Manolos' blog roundup.


All hail the camera phone! This is a "video scoop" on the GMA news website. It looks like another citizen took some footage inside the mall immediately after the explosion.

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

From tonyocruz on YT:

The Story of Our Lives?

I have never read it put so succinctly, but isn't this the story of our lives? From William Lazonick's Business organization and the myth of the market economy:

When an individual invests in the development of his or her productive capabilities, he or she may expect to reap returns in the form of stable and remunerative employment that will permit a decent standard of living over a period of some forty to fifty years.

For many individuals, such economic security represents the foundation for the achievement of other goals such as work satisfaction, luxury consumption, and social mobility for themselves or their children. Through inheritance, gambling, theft, extortion, speculation, and so on, individuals can reap where they have not sown. But for most people in a capitalist society, the development of productive capabilities is a prerequisite to stable and remunerative employment, which is in turn the primary means to achieve personal goals.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands?

Trawling the internet...I stumble across Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands: The Politics of High-Tech Production in the Philippines.

Please find an excerpt chapter here.

Thankfully, this books is locally available in the Ateneo Press.

From a book review by Jane Hutchison:

McKay starts with a detailed account of the history and structure of the electronics industry in the Philippines. In essence, the industry was established in the early 1970s, but did not take off as the leading source of national exports until the mid-1990s, after there was a significant change in state investment policies on the ownership and operation of export processing zones (EPZs).

World Bank reports have commented very favourably on the technical sophistication of Philippine exports due to the expansion of the electronics industry; however, McKay cover§ the negatives as well - the high concentration in semiconductor assembly and testing phases, a lack of forward and backward industrial linkages and the resultant, strong dependence on imports of inputs.

As local value-added is overwhelmingly labour-based, it is not a surprise that multinational firms are attracted to the Philippines by the quality of its English-speaking workforce. But in addition to these national attributes, McKay stresses the significance ofthe emergence ofa new generation of smaller, privatised EPZs as "stateof-the-art" enclaves for electronics investment. He argues these mark a new era in the political economy of industrial development ih the country because they entail a shift to a "regulatory" state form which is characterised by interventions to shield corporate interests from social and political forces.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quo Vadis Democracy?

It took over two weeks, but my book on Democratisation has finally arrived! Bless you Booktopia for importing this all the way from the US with no extra charge to me. I first encountered Jean Grugel's seminal work while doing a grad class on Democracy a few years back. The core ideas I took away from reading one chapter was that political plurality can be reached through compromises between competing power groups. The "compromise" may not necessarily be reached through non-violent means however, as history will attest to (think French Revolution).

What most people neglect to remember is that political plurality means nothing without economic plurality, as our own experience has shown us. What do you do with political independence when you cannot even guarantee a minimum of socio-economic independence. The classic critique against our so-called democracy is, "Can you eat your right to vote?" We all agree that our public institutions have not been in the service of the public good (however we choose to define the term). Our public institutions are corrupt - corruption being a symptom of an unfinished democracy.

Last I checked this book could not be found in UP, ADMU or DLSU's library collection, which is a real pity. In any case, I'll see if I can come up with a book review once I finish reading the whole thing. In the mean time, here is an excellent overview of what this book is about. The items underlined and in bold are my own emphasis. From the Introductory chapter of Democratisation: A Critical Introduction, Jean Grugel writes:

This book analyses one of the most exciting developments in contemporary politics: the sustained attempts, which have gradually gathered pace since the 1970s, to subject government to popular control and to make states work in ways that favour the broad mass of the people. Struggles to establish democracy have their roots in the belief that everyone deserves to live in conditions of dignity, tolerance and respect. This book explains how a range of global pressures and events combined to open a political opportunity for democratisation at the end of the twentieth century. It also analyses the fate of some experiments in democratisation.

In brief, it presents the view that, despite the range of global pressures for democratisation, the consolidation of democratisation is nationally determined. Where democratisation is successful, it is due to two factors, namely the emergence of a strong, dense and vibrant civil societies that work consistently to democratise politics and to hold the state accountable, and the existence of a capable and flexible state....

....democratisation is a slow and painful business. Elite commitment to democracy can weaken and is often contingent; structural factors frequently impede the deepening of democratisation; and globalisation can be as much an obstacle as an assistance....the creation of democracy is a radical and challenging business, during which groups with interests embedded in the maintenance of the non-democratic status quo have to be either defeated or reformed.

The question we can now all ask ourselves is this - where is our democracy going? And how will we get there?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Looking Back to See the Future

Over three years ago I suggested Filipinos were the first Iraqis. Trawling the internet on current debates over IR theory, I stumble into the familiar names of Anna Agathangelou and LHM Ling. They write:
Liberalism fails postcolonial states. Its social ontology of fear and property necessarily alienates the Other, whether embodied in an individual person, a society, or an institution of power like the state. Along with class, this alienation carries connotations for race, gender, and culture as well. We find echoes of the current war in Iraq, for example, in the US annexation of the Philippines in 1898 not just in terms of military violence, political manipulation, and economic exploitation but also ideological rationale.

Please find the rest of this working paper here.

World vs. Bank

At 9:00 am Central European Time (5pm here and 3pm in Manila), those with precious free time and broadband connection might want to witness a public hearing of the World Bank's poverty alleviation policies in the developing world.

Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South Philippines will be one of those who will give the opening address.

Hopefully we'll be able to access the live streaming of this rare event here or here.

From the Bank Information Centre:

The Tribunal's jury will analyze two policy ‘cases’ of the World Bank: economic conditionalities and the funding of extractive industry projects. As in the recently held Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank in India, the European Tribunal will hear from witnesses from Southern continents who will give testimony of the impacts of World Bank policies and practices, especially in the areas of conditionalities and fossil fuel project funding. The hearing will also serve as a "forum for a debate on the future of the World Bank, the current development model and potential alternatives."

The Programme



Overview of the history of the World Bank with reference to the Tribunals in 1988 and 1995, and the reasons for this Update Hearing

Lidy Nacpil (Jubilee South, Philippines), Antonio Tricarico (CRBM, Italy)


Artist presentation



Testimonies on the impact of privatisation, liberalisation and fossil fuel project funding with questions from the expert panel


Gonzalo Salgado, National Consumer Defence Network, Nicaragua

Miguel Palacin, CONACAMI Peru

Collins Magalasi, Action Aid Malawi

Temo Tamboura, CAD Mali

Svetlana Anosova, Berezovka Initiative Group, Kazakhstan

Michael Karikpo, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria

Expert Panel

Maartje van Putten, Former member of the World Bank Inspection Panel

Francesco Martone, Senator, Italy

Marcos Arruda, TNI and PACS Brazil

Medha Patkar, Founder of the National Alliance of People's Movements, India

Charles Abugre, Development Economist, Ghana


Video interview

Video interview with Bert Koenders, Dutch Development Minister


Concluding remarks

Concluding remarks and looking forward by the President of the Expert Panel



With music from the Philippines

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Scammer Nation?

Ranting to Up Dharma Down, Corinne Bailey Rae and Robin Thicke

Banality: The Postindustrial Disease

Ranting to Mazzy Star

Monday, October 01, 2007

Week Four

Just letting you all know I'm still alive, but running out of steam I think. I know I'm not here on vacation, but the feeling of not having any purpose is starting to get to me. I want to go home and soon.

It is week four of my third semester. There's still Christmas and New Years a few more months then its all over. I'm not on vacation I know, but some enjoyment wouldn't hurt. But I'm antsy and impatient and useless in Australia. I'm almost done Manila...Konti na lang.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spot Sparks

Hopefully, some of the Asia Pacific's future leaders.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

APEC Sydney

When these heads of state come together during these pow-wows, you wonder if they compare notes on how best to police their borders and 'protect' their people. Australia's new anti-terror law has come under fire lately, and people are seriously questioning whether civil liberties are being sacrificed at the altar of anti-terrorism. Sydney has been in complete lock down this past weekend to make way for the APEC summit. Human rights watchers are critiquing the expanded powers of Sydney police impinging on Sydneysiders' rights and whether they have not been overly 'forceful' in enforcing security.

The latest news on TV show burly police offers, all conspicuously not wearing their name tags, carting away a young woman who has gone over the agreed space of protest. There's also been footage of officers pushing a female journalist so hard she fell on the ground. One thing I noticed though, the police didn't carry batons and those plastic shields. So, its really not as bad as what Manila protesters contend with during rallies.

Here is a short doco on the preparations of anti-war, anti-Bush and all sorts of activists to welcome the APEC Summit leaders.

And here's a clip showing the heads of state in their Aussie costume, the driza bone (dry as a bone) coat they wear in the outback. Watch out for the commentator's hilarious quip about GMA. Hehehehe.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


It is tricky having to share domestic space with two strangers, trickier when you don't particularly like them. Well, not that I dislike them, just that I've finally accepted the fact we can't be friends. I share nothing in common with either J, a Chinese Malaysian or A, an Aussie from Melbourne. When you are making dinner sharing the kitchen, or have democratically decided on which TV program to watch, it is a strain to make conversation.

In her own fashion, there is much to recommend about J. For a young woman of 22, she is not frivolous or shallow. Not irritatingly girly, not loud. She seems to be incredibly self-sufficient for someone so young, and a hard-worker. As her cultural background dictates, she is never wasteful. Not with the dishwashing liquid, not with the use of electricity, the washing machine, dryer or dishwasher. Given time and maturity, I expect I will probably come to respect her. She was here first when I came in January. There was a bit of a fuss on how controlling she was over the management of the house. So controlling in fact that our first housemate A from Canada, had to move out. But after one heated altercation last April, when all were grouchy and tense over finals and assignment deadlines, we have made our peace.

A is a boy encased in a grown man's body. Some would say he is quite attractive, if not for the receding hairline. Stereotypically macho, all he he seems to like doing is watch footy (rugby or Aussie football...I forget what's what, there's so many variations of the game), play footy in real life or play footy on his Xbox. I wouldn't say he's a dumb jock however, but it is difficult to make conversation when you don't share points of interest. I have been living with him for four months, but his accent is so weird it's embarrassing having to ask him to repeat himself still. So far, he has brought home four girls that I know of. 2 girls he met here, and 2 girls flew in from Melbourne. Nothing scandalous, no overt display of anything...I guess he doesn't want to embarrass either J or me. J herself has had her boyfriend C come stay with us a couple of times already. But anyway, C's a likable fellow and when he is here they probably make sure I'm not in the house whenever they do the horizontal tango as the wall between J's room and mine is quite thin.

I make acquaintances quite easily if I choose to apply myself, but my housemates remind me I don't make friends easily. Maybe because friendship for me means more than doing things together. I was telling my Indonesian friend A the other night, boy or girl, we gotta have chemistry. Which is shorthand for conversation should come easily and I shouldn't have to censor myself on the topics of conversation. There would be genuine exchange of ideas, whether they be about the Chinese in the Spratlys, the meaning of life or Justin Timberlake's delectable hiney.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


"Hegemony is the result of control over the ideological state apparatus, following the seizure of state power at the political level. The various apparatuses of the State must not be smashed but rearticulated."

- Carl Boggs, Gramsci's Marxism

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mga Nilalang sa Hayupan ni George Orwell

Insired by Jego, who has begun translating CS Lewis into Filipino, I begin my translation of George Orwell's Animal Farm. He was probably spurred by the discussion at Manolo's blog over the lack of good translations of English works into the vernacular. I took the liberty of changing the setting from England to the Philippines. Inihaw, pagdamutan po ninyo ang aking pagsasalin.


Unang Kabanata (a)

Lango sa alak, nalimutang itangkal ni Manong Juan ang pinto ng manukan. Tangan ang dumuduyan-duyang lampara, siya’y tumawid patungo sa bahay. Sa likurang pinto, kanya’ng inalis ang bota, at saka naghanda ng huling baso ng tuba bago pa man umakyat sa silid-tulugan. Naroong malalim na ang tulog ng naghihilik na asawa’ng si Aling Huling.

Sa saglit na namatay ang ilaw sa silid, napainlanlan ang mga kaluskos sa mga maliliit na gusali ng bukirin. Buong araw na’ng kumakalat ang balita’ng mayroong nais ibahagi si Tandang Kapitan, isang pagkalaki-laking baboy-ramo. Nais nitong ikwento ang napanaginipan ng nakaraang gabi. Napagkasunduan ng lahat na magtipon-tipon sa kamalig sa oras na mahimbing na sa tulog si Manong Juan.

Gawa ng paghanga’t paggalang kay Tandang Kapitan, handa ang lahat na magpuyat ng kaunti upang marinig ang kung anumang nais nitong sabihin.

Sa dulo ng kamalig, sa ibabaw ng isang maliit na entablado, naroong nakahimlay si Tandang Major sa palumpon ng dayami. Sa nagdaang labin-dalawang taon, malaon na itong tumanda’t nanaba, ngunit bakas pa rin sa tindig nito ang kakisigan.

‘Di nagtagal at nagsidatingan na ang mga hayop. Nagsi-ayos ang mga ito, naghanda’ng makinig. Unang dumating ang tatlong aso – sina Bughawin, Jessie at Pingkian, pagkatapos ay ang mga baboy, na agarang pumuwesto sa harap ng entablado. Tumuntong ang mga inahin sa may bintana, habang ang mga kalapati’y dumapo sa mga kilo ng kamalig. Ang mga tupa’t baka ay nagsi-pwesto sa likod ng mga baboy at nagsimulang ngumuya ng damo. Ang dalawang kabayong sina Bugoy at Caring ay sabay na dumating. Marahan silang naglakad, ingat sa paglapat ng kanilang mga paa sakaling mayroong maliliit na hayop na naikubli ng dayami.

Si Caring ay isang inahing kabayong nasa kalagitnaan ng ng buhay. ‘Di na nagbalik pa ang magiliw nitong hugis matapos iluwal ang ika-apat na anak. Si Bugoy ay isang pagkalaki-laking kabayo, halos labing-walong dipa ang taas, at sinlakas ng dalawang karaniwang kabayo. Isang puting tanda ang sa mukha nito’y gumuhit. Nagdudulot tuloy ito ng anyong kamangmangan. Sa katunayan nga, ‘di rin naman ito katalinuhan, ngunit batid ng lahat ang kaniyang matatag na ugali at kalakasan.

Matapos ang mga kabayo ay ang puting kambing na si Mariel, at si Benjamin, ang asno*. Si Benjamin ay ang pinakamatanda sa kabukiran, at ang pinaka-mainitin ang ulo. Madalang siya’ng magsalita, at sakali man ay madalas itong pakutya. Halimbawa na lang, sinabi nitong binigyan daw s’ya ng Panginoon ng buntot upang bugawin ang mga bangaw, ngunit mas mamaraptin na lamang raw n’yang mawalan ng buntot. Sa gitna ng iba pa’ng mga hayop, hindi s’ya tumatawa. Kung tinanong, ayon sa kanya’y wala naman daw katawa-tawa. Sa kabila ng lahat, kahit di pa man nito aminin, ay lubos ang kaniyang pag-ukol kay Bugoy. Madalas ang dalawa’y nanginginain ng damo ng magkasami sa may likuran ng kural ng kabayo. Magkatabi, ‘di kailanman sila’y nag-uusap.

Ang dalawang kabayo’y kakahimlay lamang nang nagsipasok ang mga bibeng nawalay sa kanilang ina. Nagsisihuni’t nagpapagala-gala upang makahanap ng lugar kung sa’n sila’y di matatapakan. Itinuwid ni Caring ang kanyang mahabang hita, at saka nagsisilong ang mga bibe’t dagliang nagsitulog.

Pagkatapos ay pumasok si Milay, ang ‘di katalinuhang kabayo na humihila ng kariton ni Mang Juan. Mahinhin itong pumasok habang ngumunguya ng kaunting asukal. Umupo ito sa may harapan at saka naglandi. Tawag-pansin ang puti nitong buhok na tinirintasan ng pulang laso.

Huling dumating ang pusa, na agarang naghanap ng pinakamalamlam na pwesto - sa pagitan ni Bugoy at Caring. Doon, ito'y mahinang nag-mimiyaw sa kabuuan ng talumpati ni Tandang Kapitan, ‘di alintana ang anuman nitong sabihin.

Ang lahat ng mga hayop ay naroon maliban kay Moises, ang maamong uwak. Ito'y natutulog pa sa may likuran ng kamalig. Na’ng nakita ni Kapitang ang lahat ay sabik na’ng naghihintay, siya’y nagsimula:

“Mga kasama, inyo na’ng narinig ang tungkol sa aking panaginip nitong gabing nakaraan. Ngunit bago ang lahat, nais ko’ng ipaalam sa inyo’ng nalalapit na ang aking wakas. Bago pa man ako pumanaw, marapat ko’ng ibahagi sa inyo ang dunong na aking nakalap sa tana ng aking pamamalagi sa daigdig. Sa aking pagninilay-nilay, palagay ko’y malalim na ang aking pag-unawa sa gawi ng buhay. Patungkol dito ang nais ko’ng sabihin sa inyo.

“Ngayon, mga kasama, ano ba ang katalagahan ng ating pamumuhay? Dapat nating akuin na ito’y nakahahambal, kay hirap at maikli. Tayo’y isinilang, tayo’y pinakakain lamang nga husto upang manatiling buhay. Ang ilan sa ating mayroon pa’ng lakas ay sapilitang pinagta-trabaho sa huling tagaktak ng ating pawis. Sa sandaling tayo’y wala nang silbi, tayo’y walang habas na kakatayin.

“Walang hayop sa Pilipinas ang nakalalasap ng kasiyahan at mga sandaling malaya matapos ang ika-unang kaarawan. Walang hayop sa Pilipinas ang malaya. Ang buhay ng isang hayop ay tunay na kaaba-aba. Tayo’y mga alipin, at iyan ang katotohanan.

"Ngunit ganito na lang ba ang payak na sistema ng kalikasan? Sadya ba’ng kay hirap ng ating bayan kung kaya’t hindi maaaring ang lahat ng nabubuhay rito ay marapat na matustusan? Hindi mga kasama! Hindi! Ang lupain ng Pilipinas ay mataba, ang klima nito’y mabuti. Kaya nito’ng magpatubo at maglago ng pagkain para sa lahat ng mga nilalang na dito’y naglalagi. Ito’ng ating bukirin lamang ay kayang bumuhay ng dose-dosenang kabayo, dalawampung baka, daan-daang tupa – at lahat sila ay mabubuhay ng matiwasay at mahusay, bagay na ngayo’y isa lamang panaginip.

“Bakit nga ba tayo patuloy na umaayon sa ating kaaba-abang kalagayan? ‘Pagkat halos lahat ng bunga ng ating pagod ay ninanakaw ng sangkatauhan. Narito, mga kasama, ang kasagutan sa ating problema. Ito’y saklaw ng nag-iisang kataga – Tao. Ang tao ang nag-iisang tunay nating kaaway. Sa sandaling alisin ang Tao dito sa atin, ang sanhi ng gutom at kapaguran ay tuloy na’ng mapapawi.”



*asno - donkey

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Manila Standard Today WTF Are You Doing?

So. It has come to this. Malu Fernandez' supposed resignation was not accepted by MST, and her column resumes on Monday, September 3. I don't get it. Is their editorial board courting disaster?

Manolo writes:
However, if the potential for the re-escalation of the issue is fulfilled by the resumption of the column -which would also firmly lay the passions raised firmly at the feet of the paper and no longer the magazine- things would get possibly worse. After all, all the to-do about an apology and a resignation, would be proven either insincere, or merely a gambit: those arguing for moderation or a more nuanced approach would have been proven naive. Then we might have the media equivalent of a conversation Louis XVI supposedly had with a courtier, upon being told of the storming of the Bastille.

Just to remind everyone, I made a video highlighting parts of Fernandez' July 30 column in MST. Parang naghahamon ang pahayagang ito. Sige.

Feel free to spread the news. Find the embed link here.


ETA: Thanks to micketymoc for the head's up on Carlos Celdran's post:
In fact, what happened to Malu could happen to quite a few other members of the upper classes. Just last week, I heard that some of her other friends were commenting how she kinda "took the bullet" for everyone, so to speak. And this I consider as a sign of how detached the Philippine rich (and their wannabes) are from the realities of our country. I mean really, the Philippine elites are a completely blessed bunch who do not know or care just how blessed they are. Just look at the PIPC scandal. Some Singaporean guy named Michael Liew runs off with U$250million from the pockets of the Pinoy perfumed class and both our country and it's economy are still standing. Php250 million! That's almost the entire Gross National Product of the Solomon Islands or the cost of a brand new international airport and yet nary a dent was put on our currency nor our stock markets. This only proves that that the Philippine elites have the financial capacity to pull the country out of poverty but yet it's their apathy and lack of priorities that prevent them from using this money to achieve social progress.

Related posts:
Putting on the Other's Shoes
The Democracy of the Pinoy Blogosphere a.k.a Malu Fernandez, Take Your Cue
Let Them Eat Cake
OFWs are No Heroes
The Philippines' 1st Cyber Counterculture Movement: Malu Fernandez, Hala Lagot Ka!

Pinoy Dies in the Outback

A Filipino OFW recently died under suspicious circumstances somewhere up in the Northern Territory. Three months into his work term, Pedro Balading's remains were found on the road as he was reportedly thrown off a speeding vehicle. His body was flown home in June.

Balading, along with 2 other Filipinos were reportedly targets of racial discrimination, abuse and were made to do tasks in violation of their 457 skilled worker visa. Another Pinoy was also killed last March as he was crushed by 2 slabs of granite in his workplace north of Perth. The Philippine embassy and the Australian government have called for review of said visa. Australia Malcolm Knox writes:

HIS body aching, his hands bristling with splinters, Pedro Balading phoned his wife Maria Magdalena on his 35th birthday and said he wanted to come home to Manila. The university-educated Filipino piggery supervisor had had enough of living a modern-day version of Wake In Fright in the Australian outback.

Instead of performing the skilled work prescribed by their visas, Balading and two Filipino co-workers on a cattle property on the Gulf of Carpentaria had become targets for bullying and discrimination, were underpaid and ordered to do back-breaking unskilled jobs.

The circumstances of his death remain the subject of an official investigation, but witnesses say that Balading's death resulted from the same harassment and exploitation that characterised his brief tenure in the territory.

Ten weeks after his death, his destitute and distraught widow has received no report on what killed Him and scant information on her entitlements, which include unpaid wages and accrued leave, workers' compensation and life insurance.

Territory and federal authorities have maintained a veil of secrecy around the death. Balading's employer has washed his hands of responsibility. When Maria Magdalena was notified of her husband's death two days after it happened, she wept: "Now they will let him come home."
In the Pinoy blogosphere, Geejay, himself a migrant worker here in Australia, writes:
Now, I’m not saying that all working conditions for migrants in Australia are as bad as what was depicted in the two articles. However, I just want to remind you, if you are interested in working here, to be extra vigilant. Don’t be lulled into thinking that working in Australia is without any risks. Do your homework and do not let yourself be abused. I strongly urge you to read the two articles in its entirety to get some ideas of what to watch out for.
From oodles of goodles:
There is just too much pent-up urgency in me to do something right about this. Perhaps, other than suggest that we boycott the agency which sent Balading to his death in a foreign land and send a barrage of furious email or letters to employers Paul and Stuart Zlotkowski, we can divert some of that passion, anger, unity we incited when Malu Fernandez made fun of OFWs and convert it into a microcosm of social relevance.
From sette:
It seems ironic that these days workplace reform, rights of workers and equality in the workplace are hot topics in the political arena and yet there are blatant breaches of overseas worker privileges in our own backyard.

Related news:
Foreign workers "enslaved"
Manila hits out on work visas
Hundreds ride the conveyor belt to fortune
Deaths prompt calls of 457 visa inquiry

Race: The Floating Signifier?

Eminent scholar of Cultural Studies, Stuart Hall, discusses race.

"Race is more like a language than it is like a way in which we are biologically constituted. Signifiers refer to the system and concepts of a classification of a culture to its making meaning practices. And those things gain their meaning not because of what they contain in their essence but in the shifting relations of difference which they establish with other concepts and ideas in a signifying field. Their meaning because it is relational and not essential can never be finally fixed, but is subject to the constant process of redefinition and appropriation."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blood Red Moon

The lunar eclipse will be visible from this part of the world tonight.
A COSMIC ballet will bathe much of Australia's east coast in an ethereal red glow as the night sky becomes lit up by crimson moonshine. But forget high-powered telescopes. A dark spot and roof tops will give some of the best views of tonight's Blood Moon eclipse. At exactly 8.37pm (AEST) the Sun, Earth and Moon will be in total alignment, scattering light as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere and bounces off the moon in hues of bronze and red.
You should see it in Manila by 5:52pm. Will try to see if my puny cellphone cam can catch it.

Update: 8.35 pm. The moon is red now. The live webcast is supposed to be here. But I guess everyone's trying to access the page, so goodluck!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Semiology of Skin

Edited to add: This post is in no way normative. I am not making value judgments on what should be. I guess I need to put a context to this post. It comes from me looking at photos of young Filipinas in search of foreigner husbands on the online dating site I work for. I do not consider myself a prude, but some of the photos enrage and sadden me. I do my best to edit unnecessary cleavage, or just crop the upper half of whole body shots of young women in skimpy outfits. The photo below is actually very tasteful, it is a mere hint of some of the photos we get. By far, most photos are head/shoulder shots. Some though, look more like this one on the right. Yes, and that's a German url, so you know to whom this photo is addressed. I'd rather not think of what happens to young Filipinas in the provinces. Really, I'd rather not. I've read news about trafficking and white slavery. I've heard of anecdotes from friends and colleagues. It is a different thing, however, to see their faces.


When you look at the two photos above, you are not merely looking at lines, shapes and colours. Now, probably more than ever, there is truth to the adage - a picture speaks a thousand words. But these photos communicate more than words. They tell a story. They string more pictures together within our brains. They make connect-the-dots associations of concepts and ideas that denote more than the literal message - that they are two young, attractive females.

What does the one on the left tell you? What story do you see unfolding when you look at this photo? Does it tell you where this photo may have been taken? Does it tell you, who this young woman might be? Does it tell you anything about her character? What about the photo on the right? Let's pretend she isn't a well-known celebrity. As she smiles at you, with her Oriental eyes and her European features, what sorts of other images come to mind?

The photo on the left will probably say, it was taken somewhere in the provinces. The woven sawali wall behind here connotes a nipa hut, probably near the beach. She is wearing around her neck what looks like a string of seashells. She has on her face, a relaxed, open look. Just as relaxed as her body. Now, what sorts of other images do these connotations tell you? Do you think, well here is a woman in an idyllic setting. Here she languishes, her shoulders lightly leaning against the woven wall. She's probably looking at the waves crashing and contemplating...something. Contemplating what? Or maybe, dressed up as she is, she's waiting for something or someone. Maybe she's waiting for you? And who are you? Are you a man? Or a woman? Are you perhaps a fellow probinsyana nearby? Are you straight or gay? Are you a weary urbanite from the capital? Or maybe someone who needs a passport to come see her?

Now look at the photo on the right. She obviously has mixed parents. She is not, what some would call, a "pure" Filipina. Would you say, that this photo connotes the exact same messages given by the one on the left? Would you say, this was taken in the provinces somewhere? Probably not. You would think, well this photo was probably taken in the city. Most likely in Manila. Looking at her neatly coiffed hair, her fair skin and toned arms, would you think she denotes the exact same messages as the one on the left? Do you see them switching places? Probably not. More importantly, looking at the woman on the right, who are you?

The seaside idyll of the woman on the left is seductive in its...simplicity. To get away from the chaos of the city, of modernity, you're going back to basics. Its the same kind of thing those characters in "The Beach" are looking for. You're looking for something in the past. Something pure. And here she is, the perfect simple woman. With her long black hair and her willing posture, she would welcome you. You would expect her to be soft and submissive, open to your demands. Would you say she was rich? Would you say, she bought her clothes, put on her make-up and her string of seashells? Probably not. It is artifice. You might think, living in her sawali hut, that she is probably poor. Just as her dark skin tells you she is poor.

What about the woman on the right? Do you think she is poor? Do you think her soft and submissive and languid and waiting in her hut? Waiting for you? Probably not. She looks like she put on her own clothes. She looks like she went to an expensive department store and bought her own make-up. Her arms suggest she probably has money to spend in Fitness First. Does she look like she needs you? Even as she looks you in the eye, do you think she needs rescuing? Or is she more your equal? Not so feminine, so soft, so powerless as the one on the left?


Your might also want to read:

Of Postmodern Sex
Mga Puta

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Power of Name-Calling

Early in the Harry Potter series, the warlock who killed Harry's parents, Voldemort, was often called "He who must not be named." He is so menacing, so powerful, he cannot be labelled. When something cannot be named, it is not a thing. We cannot make it an object to our Subject - something separate from us, something that is part of our objective reality. If it cannot be labelled, if it cannot be named, then it is beyond our grasp to manipulate.

When we name something, it is the power to pin down what was before something we cannot control. Naming something gives it a face - an identity, a bounded reality. Naming gives us the power to say that Object X is not Object Y. On X, we as Subjects, bestow traits. We dictate what it is. We dictate what it is not. Naming gives the Subject the power to create objects. Naming gives the Subject agency - the capacity to act on an objective reality. History then ceases to be something that merely occurs. It becomes something we can change.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Her divilacious highness had the grace to resign. Bravissima. Thanks Jae, for the heads up. And thank god for YouTube!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ang Pera

Ang pera ay pagod
Sakit ng likod
Kakulangan ng tulog
Rayuma ng tuhod.

Ang pera'y magang mata
Ngawit ng leeg
Panahong ginugol
Di sa layaw, di sa hilig.

Ang pera'y panukat
Ng talino't galing
Ng tapang at sipag
Ng abilidad, ng tulin.

Ang pera'y panukat
Ng obligasyon at paglingon
Sa utang na loob
Sa pagkalingang naipon.

Ang pera parang wika
Nagbabadya, nangungusap
Ng kasiyahan o ng kakulangan
Ng ganda o kapangitan.

Ang pera nga ba
Ang s'yang namamagitan
At kumakatawan
Sa pakikipagkapwa't ugnayan?

Ang pera nga ba
Ang simbolo ng tatag
Na s'yang naghahayag
Ng pagkatao't kalooban?

The Philippines' 1st Cyber Counterculture Movement: Malu Fernandez, Hala Lagot Ka!

Has it been two weeks? Since Jae's post, and my first response to this issue, the Malu Fernandez blogging spectacle has taken on a life of its own. Every day, there are more pages on Google and Technorati when you search her. Congratulations Malu, you're now viral. I imagine your articles and the unfavourable (to put it kindly) reactions to your articles are now circling the globe over and over and over.

Anton De Leon, himself and OFW in Dubai, has called on us to "put on" the badges he made in support of the OFW Blogger's network. He is irked at Manila Standard Today's silence to this date. They have issued no statement other than publishing Malu's column on July 30, suggesting we're all ignorant twats. I've sent them heaps of e-mails as well, and as you can see, now their site crashes from time to time from heavy traffic. The Pinoy has reposted it here. De Leon suggests MST's silence may be because they don't want to ruffle VIP feathers. But he is optimistic the fight is far from over, it has only begun.

If you want to participate in (dare I suggest) the Philippines' first cyber counterculture movement, I say, put on the badges and let yourself be heard.

Tingog has posted the the official statement of the Filipino Press Club-Dubai. Here are some highlights:
A print medium that aspires for relevance in today’s competitive media world cannot hide under the skirt of press freedom for its licentiousness to insult a group of people. One’s freedom to poke her fingers begins where someone else’s nose begins.

Ms Fernandez’s unrepentant response to the barrage of angry reactions from OFWs and their loved ones (“I obviously write for a certain target audience and if what I write offends you, just stop reading”), simply adds fuel to the fire.

A nation like the Philippines that aspires for renewal and regeneration needs a responsible press with a high level of sensitivity to all sectors that comprise it.

We strongly demand that the publishers of People Asia and Manila Standard Today to take full responsibility and do the right thing: give Ms Fernandez and her editors a disciplinary action and apologise to the people insulted by these articles.

Elsewhere in the Pinoy blogsphere, people's latest reactions.

Sassy lawyer, herself an MST columninst says:
I tell you, there is nothing more useless and unreasonable as an angry, unthinking mob. And there is nothing more dangerous than a mob with an agendum—lest we forget, the Philippine blogging community is a medium too and hardly exempt from the mentality that anything goes if it translates to readership/audience.
Professional heckler lists some things one might say when one sees MF. The good bits:
9: “You’ve got more issues than PEOPLE Asia and the Manila Standard Today combined!”
8: “A sharp tongue does not mean you have a keen mind.”
7: “Do you still love nature, despite what it did to you?”
6: “If your conscience could be surgically removed, it would be a minor operation.”
4: “You are the reason God created the middle finger.”
A good point from a very angry luthien:
ang mga "hot money" inflows sa atin lumilikas kapag may mga market "shakes" like nitong nangyayaring US subrpime/credit crunch na nangyayari pero ang OFW remittances anjan pa rin, to keep our economy afloat.
Ivan Henares catalogues the growing list of bloggers on MF. He writes:
As a travel writer, I am unimpressed with her article. It does not give readers a sense of place of where she's been. Who cares if you used gold, open-toed sandals to climb the Acropolis? It's pathetic that the Hellenic attractions were only mentioned in passing. As a Filipino, I am appalled. How dare you call this country God-forsaken!
A truly tongue-in-cheek post from bananachoked:
Really, my heart goes to her and this she owes to me. For crying our loud, send me a bottle of the rare perfumes that you reviewed at the expense of the stinky overseas Filipino workers whose smell suffocated you. Let me try the ones you sprayed on your underarms to prevent the glands from sweating too much or the ones you put on your groin to avoid rashes.
Yveethetraveler posts the letter she sent to MST:
If your writer does not think she can bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes in our country, what may I ask, is her role in your paper? Of course I do not expect her to bridge gaps between our country’s social classes, but I do expect her to possess ethics appropriate for a journalist. Isn’t objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability included in a journalist’s principles?
Fleeting thoughts comments on the comments:
It’s so fun reading the outbursts of enraged people. No offense, I don’t mean to express amusement at any display of emotion, especially for something that is so sensitive but this kind of thing does not happen regularly in the open (for me, that is). In a world where people must observe some level of civility, outbursts like these can be really interesting.
Ingrid Holm writes:
Take this from a person with the same 'socio-economic background' as you, bitch. What a pitiful excuse. I also happen to read things 'thicker than magazines', I go to University in London where I will finish with an Honors Bachelors Degree in May. I have a 1 year Marketing Economics degree from a business school in Oslo, and I graduated with an International Baccalaureate Diploma at age 17, if you were wondering. So no fucking excuses. You could do so much more than you think, yet you choose to act like a proper twat. The kind of twat that people with some brains laugh at, the world over.
An interesting take from Gigo:
People from the "elite realm" (for lack of a better term) amuse me. They are sources of entertainment as much as circus freaks provide me with a dose of something so surreal, its an escape from the reality that I am in. There's just something about their lifestyle which is so monotonously spread out in sheets of lifestyle magazines, that I find really peculiar, it merits a few chuckle from time to time. Imagine flaunting the crevasses of your pockets, clad in chameleon clothes with engorged egos, striking it fierce in a photograph to be pasted on a magazine sold alongside substance- twenty sheets adorned with pictures of hunger, strife, discord, and dissatisfaction. That is irony "fabulousified" (excuse my French).

Related posts:
Putting on the Other's Shoes
The Democracy of the Pinoy Blogosphere a.k.a Malu Fernandez, Take Your Cue
Let Them Eat Cake
OFWs are No Heroes