Monday, December 20, 2010

Ars Singapura

Singapore is hypermodernity in a few hundred square kilometres. Hyper-efficient, hyper-clean, hyper-sped. A friend said to wait ‘til I see what crawls underneath. I said I do not need to see to know. Money sloughs off every gleaming building, every zipping luxury vehicle, every tinker of laughter at the night spots. But the ostentatiousness is relatively restrained. It is matter-of-fact, tasteful, very Chinese. Professor O says they are renovating the faculty for the nth time because they need to keep workers employed to stimulate the real economy, versus the fictitious one, ‘money laundering.’ I said they must call it something else. I had a mental picture of the city-state sitting in a bathtub of its plastic notes, sudsy, with rainbow-coloured bubbles on top even as grimy particles accumulate below the surface of the South China Sea.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Diasporic Filipinos

Stumbled on this essay. Some interesting propositions. An excerpt:

Firstly, the problem with the diaspora as an imagined community is that, unlike the traditional nation-state, the diasporic population often fails to constitute a viable body politic; more than just difficulty in imagining itself as possessing real political power, the Filipino diaspora also has a historical susceptibility to marginalization, either in the home country or the adopted one. This sense of liminality often creates dangerous slippages. The Flor Contemplacion episode is one such instance. Here, the Philippines’s attempts to secure mercy on one of its citizens (a domestic helper), accused of murder and sentenced to death, in Singapore in the mid-1990’s offers the grossest example of the discrepancy between the home country’s ability to extend ancillary support to its migrant population(s) and the material reality of dislocation that puts the OFW subject beyond the tentacles of the State. Similarly, the reports of employer abuse, sexual harassment, and discrimination puts the OFW in a curious, and dangerous, position — one in which the State is both responsible and helpless.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wikileaks - leaking power in the 21st century?

Power in the olden days was constituted by those who had the ability to muster means to make people comply to their wishes. The ability to hold life and death in one's hands, i.e. military might, was power. The acquisition of military power, in turn, meant being able to organise society in ways so as to extract economic surplus to fund war machines, which can then be deployed to engage in wars of expansion and the amassing of more wealth to fortify power-holders.

Naked displays of power are still apparent today. However, overt displays of violence and coercive force are now frowned upon, unless you are the preponderant hegemon (the United States). It is perhaps no accident that Julian Assange and the entire motive force animating Wikileaks have targetted the US in their 'exposes'. The 'US' is not so much a territorial entity here as an ideational construct representing who and how power is wielded in the world. Since entities such as Wikileaks cannot contest the 'US' in terms of the old definition of power, they find ways to diminish newer ways in which power is exercised today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Return to Myself

What it means, to nourish
These long weeks, consuming words
With so little time to truly reflect,
Ingest, ingesting them I have
Had little space to breathe
And think and write
Down to my very toes
My shriveled-up soul calls
Come home, come rest here
Stand at the very edge again,
At the very edge
To see beyond, to see behind
To see light, light those fires
Again, kindle mine
Truth to tell, truth to find
Myself, look to the precipice Sparky

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Year Ago: The Ampatuans

Human Rights Watch recently published a report on the Ampatuan Massacre last year:
This 96-page report charts the Ampatuans’ rise to power, including their use of violence to expand their control and eliminate threats to the family’s rule. It is based on more than 80 interviews, including with people having insider knowledge of the Ampatuan family security structure, victims of abuses and their family members, and witnesses to crimes.

See the full report here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Juana Change on the RH Bill - New, with English Subs!

Pretty detailed for Juana Change vids. Cool cameos. :-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Migdal on my mind

A glaring omission on my part, I cannot believe I have only just read Joel Migdal. Written twenty-two years ago, this sounds so achingly familiar. On weak state leadership:

Their basic weakness in the face of continued fragmentation of social control has led them to a political style and policies – the politics of survival – that have prevented the state from enhancing its capabilities by not allowing the development of complex organisation in state institutions. Rulers have used similar styles and policies to pre-empt the development of large concentrations of social control outside the state organisation.

As long as the fragmentation of social control has continued, denying state leaders effective mass political mobilisation, rulers have been reduced to ruses and stratagems; they must build and rebuild coalitions and balances of power centres while using state resources to reinforce existing distribution of power and wealth in society. Such mechanisms may at times encourage economic growth, but they do not create a more capable, autonomous state.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Once more, with feeling

Here I thought I was going to start this leg in my life's journey by immediately beginning to write a seminal piece, an innovative, brilliant contribution to humankind's collection of knowledge. Was I dead wrong. Here I am finding myself reviewing everything I have come to know in over a decade of scholarship. And then I find I have to recalibrate and reorient myself. Where to position my guns? To whom must I aim? I am told I must engage an audience. Why do I need to kowtow to the dominant scholars? To gain legitimacy? To write something publishable? All my critical, rebellious instincts are primed to flee.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Imagining our nation

We are, by nature, prisoners of our bodies and its position in space and time. A change of location affords a different perspective about one's object of inquiry. From my current perch, my mind's eye contemplates our nation as a stranger might a foreign land. Having been removed from its urgency, its demands, its paranoia, I see her as she sits, hands placed demurely on her knee, naked.

As I attend to my life here in the land of zero politics, she flutters in the periphery, her full-throated laughter alternating with wails of despair. While my conscious must set her aside, I see her still in the literature I read. I read her in my newsfeed. I recognize her in the face of a yaya walking her charge to daycare. She sits there alternately mocking, pleading, begging my attention. Mi patria adorada.

What makes a patriot? What makes a Filipino? Must I be home? Must I answer her calls? Can we not imagine her from where we are, wherever we are on the planet? I used to dream of her once, dressed in the best possible garb of hope. Justice, love and wealth deferred. She was, then, too from a distance, a bundle of potentials. I came home, for a while, and lived her existence. There I sat, steeped in her urgency, her demands, her paranoia. A dutiful daughter can only take so much.

Can we not imagine, together, a nation on the brink? Can we not tell this story, our story, from where we are on earth? What do you see from where you are today? How do you see? How would you, with the luxury of distance, write our story? How would you imagine our nation?


I am happy that Filipino Voices is back on the interwebs. And I am happy to be writing for FV again :-)

Friday, October 01, 2010

"On Carlos Celdran's Arrest" by Mahar Abrera Mangahas

Lifted from Mahar Abrera Mangahas' Facebook Note, this is an excellent defense of Carlos Celdran:
Other than the UAAP Final (a game I actually watched and enjoyed, temporarily overcoming my aversion to anything athletic), a few other significant happenings have occurred in the past few hours. First is President Aquino actually sticking up for the government and willing to face excommunication over the issue of reproductive health; and second is the arrest of Carlos Celdran, walking tour guide extraordinaire who was arrested this afternoon for heckling Cardinal Rosales while the latter was conducting a mass at the Manila Cathedral.

Some have commented that Celdran deserves his punishment because what he did was offensive---that certain places are special and thus should be immune to an individual's demonstration of his politics. A church, some argue, is not the place where politics should happen. Never mind that it too is very much a public space. (Which, seeing that it's not taxed, is indirectly subsidized by the government.)

The thing is, what makes a church special? Because we believe it is? Because it was consecrated? Sanctified?

The truth is it's just a pile of cement which has become special because people just say it's so. Dangerously, the idea that this space is special has given its occupants more armor against criticism. The Church has shown it is willing to engage in public demonstrations against government---in fact, that's part of its threat to oppose reproductive health bills---but apparently, for a citizen to show displeasure in a creative manner at a church is forbidden because it just isn't done.

This is foolish. No edifice should be allowed to isolate and protect people, notably leaders, religious or not, from the very criticism that we deserve and have the right to deliver. Various pulpits across the country have been used as platforms against government, individuals and philosophies present in society. The difference is we are vulnerable to the Church wherever we might state our issues against them, as they are allowed to entreat their followers to harass officials at the gates and shout down public meetings from the rafters. Yet they are the privileged who can retreat to their sacred spaces and continue to deliver the worst of the their messages with relative impunity.

So Carlos Celdran took the fight to where they least expected it. Good for him. They should learn that they cannot retreat and escape from any criticism. The reason why the Church likes a public demonstration is it generates greater emotional impact. Perhaps it is time they learn how it feels themselves; they have been able to ignore everything else so far.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Filipina Migrant Wives and Sacrifice

From Lieba Faier's "On being oyomesan: Filipina migrants and their Japanese families in Central Kiso", a grounded insight:
For most of the women I met, being oyomesan meant managing two sets of domestic obligations - to both their natal and their affinal households. These women often spoke to me about the toll taken on them by these dual pressures of home...While the difficulties these women faced could be onerous, they also invoked them as evidence of the hardships they were willing to endure to be good family members. For example. many Filipina women in Central Kiso invoked a Catholic rhetoric of self-sacrifice to describe the ways that by fulfilling their roles as oyomesan they both negotiated their relationships with their Japanese in-laws and supported their families in the Philippines. Such discourses of sacrifice and suffering are heavily gendered in the Philippines.

...She sometimes described her relationship with her husband's paretns as 'my trials'; other times, however, she would ask rhetorically in Tagalog of her Filipino family's persistent requests for money and household items...Hanggang kailan? Such a statment might be understood not only as questioning how long Cora's family in the Philippines would expect her financial support but also as a query of broader global political economics...Cora's question thus might also be glossed: until when will the unequal political-economic relationships that force people in the Philippines to depend on remittances from foreign labor migrants for daily subsistence be allowed to persist?

Monday, August 30, 2010

In deep

It is week four of the semester and I feel tired already. Why does it feel as though I've been here much longer than a month? A change in location perhaps, but essentially doing the same thing ... only the efforts are more serious and hopefully rigorous, and the terrain politically diverse. Politicking, politicking in academia can be such a bitter exercise. The American is bearing the brunt of it - because of who he is. Being from the Third World, and a woman to boot, every little thing that comes out of my mouth is brilliant! Novel! Miraculous! Ah, the comparative advantage of low expectations. Must make hay while I can.

As far institutions go I feel I have chosen well. The uni is heavily invested, it seems, in my research topic. Never mind my department. It can go hang. The other week i had a glimpse of how professionals behave in their natural habitat. Surprisingly there was very little ego. You had a sense that they took their vocation seriously, especially the ethical implications of their research.  I had no doubt it was cutting edge. I googled and nobody else was doing it. The whole exercise was, above all, a collegial effort. The proverbial blind men struggling to describe the elephant in the room. They came from all over the planet, the UK, Sweden, the US, Korea, India, drawn together by the need to understand and explain. This is what drives them, I think. This drive for cognition. And the politicking, well, its the baggage the comes with being a professional I suppose. Resources, after all, are finite.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The world in a bowl of laksa

Contrary to some people who insist that the Philippines is exceptional in all things despicable or idiotic, Singapore, like Australia, seems obsessed with being "world class." It seems its people know they have already achieved a level of development and excellence compared to its neighbors and contemporaries, but this doesn't mean it isn't aiming higher.

In a class last night, this was made evident to me when a Singapore national compared his country's "livability" vis-a-vis the ROW. Sure, in Asia, it is probably one of the best places to inhabit, but compared to the world? He shakes his head. Perhaps this obsessesion to be "world class" stems from the fact that such a small country seems to want to draw in as much of the world as it could.

Winnie Monsod explains how farmers at Hacienda Luisita are at the losing end

Some people can be quite paranoid about the issue of land reform or anything to do with land. You bring it up and people immediately accuse you of being on a particular end of the spectrum. Land is really quite a legitimate policy issue for many countries, not to mention one that has land laws dating back to Spanish times.

Well, nobody will accuse Winnie Monsod of being a leftist. Here she explains how Hacienda Luisita's farmers got the short end of the stick.

Monday, August 02, 2010

(Blogwatch) Noynoy's First SONA

How refreshing, a State of the Nation Address (SONA) that isn't self-congratulatory. I suppose this can be expected, given that this is President Noynoy Aquino's first. He doesn’t have a laundry list of accomplishments to trumpet. Instead he has a laundry list of things the previous administration did wrong. It is always good to juxtapose his administration from the last one. That is a gift that will keep on giving. He reminds us of the horrors of the Arroyo reign, and anything compared to that can only be good. Of course he makes special mention of Pampanga, just to remind us in case we’ve forgotten.

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Ethnographic Notes, Week 1

Mid-morning was bright and shiny. My Philippine budget airline delivered me to the Singaporean budget terminal along with dozens of other souls who braved the 6h25 flight. At immigration bodies queued up to be inspected and deemed fit to enter Singapore’s sovereign space. Two pairs of women were singled out from the line and called to report to a room for questioning. I felt humiliated on their behalf. I pictured how many times a day such a thing happens. Did every flight bring women travelling alone who could potentially be trafficked? The Philippines has never come down from Tier 2 of the Trafficking in Persons Report. Our porous borders and poor security make it easy for human smugglers to get young women out of the country to service Bangladeshi construction workers in the northern part of this country.

Now I wonder what it was about their ‘profile’ that alerted the immigration authorities. Was it the way they were clothed? Was it how they carried themselves? Was it because unlike me, they didn’t wear a bored look on their faces? Ours was the only flight that arrived at the budget terminal so the immigration business was quick. The lady in front of me presented her papers and was subsequently whisked off to the questioning room. It was my turn and I gave the immigration lady my papers. She scanned my passport and had a look at my ICA letter. Stamp stamp welcome to Singapore with a smile. The discipline of borders and visas and passports is a cruel thing.

I had only been to SG once. On my flight home from Australia two years ago I flew on Singapore airlines and had a six-hour lay over in Changi airport so naturally I took advantage of the free city tour. My friend B says it’s like a never-ending Makati. It certainly looks that way, only cleaner and minus the pollution from vehicles.

The advantage of travelling in rich countries is that there is a discernible logic in their public spaces. The transport system can be confusing at first, but you’ll soon have the hang of it. Theirs isn’t as precisely timed as the buses on the Gold Coast, but then this is a city-state of five million. In an interview some months back I was asked what I missed most about Australia, I said the public transport system. But these days owning a car in Manila doesn’t lend the same privilege as, say, five years ago. This was why I rarely ventured out of Quezon City. Think about it. Traffic used to be bad only during rush hours. Now even at high noon all major roads are choked. To and from Ortigas. To and from Makati. EDSA. I think of all the time and productivity lost in traffic. Somebody did the math for it once. How many billions?

I have said before I felt caged in Manila, held hostage by the elements (i.e. rains + floods) and gridlock. I couldn’t go where I wanted without shortening my lifespan through stress. Before I left for Oz in 2006 we had to have water delivered by truck for months because Maynilad was having some crisis. And earlier this month before leaving for here we had no water for weeks, another water crisis. The same reason we weren’t too adversely affected by typhoon Ondoy made it difficult for water to course through our pipes. They have floods here too, I’m told. Orchard Road was under water for 20 minutes and everyone was in panic. I’m also told complaining was a national pastime. I suppose it would be if you’re used to have everything working. There are advantages growing up in Manila. We’re made of stern stuff. Nerves of steel.

The wealth is plainly obvious. Due to lack of space, rich people’s houses aren’t all that ostentatious. They aren’t situated in gated villages. I’ve seen over a dozen luxury cars just zipping by on the road. Two Porsche Carreras passed by when I was waiting for the bus yesterday. There is another Porsche and a Ferrari parked alongside the road near my student hostel. Just sitting there on the side of the road with people and other vehicles passing by! This area near Bukit Timah road, I’m told, is an upscale neighborhood. I’ve come across dozens of Filipina nannies and domestic helpers on the streets. I wonder how much they get paid. I suppose only the truly wealthy can afford such a luxury.

The ordinary people live in HDBs, that is, public housing built by government. Imagine rows upon rows of buildings. The spaces are quite cramped. I know because I’ve been viewing rooms to rent near my uni. But while the living quarters are small, the external spaces are generous. The MRT during rush hour isn’t as bad as in Manila. There are parks for people to congregate. Rush hour traffic isn’t traffic at all by Manila standards.

The poor people are older people. I’ve seen a couple of “beggars” in the underground passages near MRT stations and malls. There was an older gentleman playing the violin the other day. And an old lady with sores on her legs selling tissue. The beggars don’t just have their hands extended for alms. I suppose they have to offer some kind of service. I’ve yet to see a young beggar though.

I told B last night I think Singapore could be a demographic sample of the world’s population, except the South Asians should number about as much as the East Asians. There is a smattering of Africans and Caucasians. Is this what all cities would look like in a hundred years? And many of the signs are in English, Chinese, Hindi and Bahasa.

Are Singaporeans truly embracing multiculturalism? It’s a big word in Australia in the prosperous years of the Howard government. Now that Australia is coming out of the tail end of the global financial crisis, it wants to restrict immigration. But apparently Singapore is enjoying an economic boom these days. And migrant workers are welcome, if susceptible to abuse the lower they reside in the hierarchy of this slice of the global labor force. My friend B says his coworkers from other Southeast Asian countries are not getting their salaries regularly. His other Filipino co-worker didn’t get paid for months at his former employers. I thought this kind of thing only happened in places like China where labor laws are poorly implemented. But it happens here too. Slavery in the 21st century in high-tech, cosmopolitan Singapore.

The other day as I was opening a bank account with DBS (which took all of 15 minutes including the card), I saw a bus driven by a woman wearing a hijab. It struck me as odd as I feel Singapore is, in some ways, conservative. But there she was, a female bus driver. In all my life in Manila, I have never seen one. There is no outward sexism that I’ve seen so far. But then I’ve yet to see local TV.

While people aren’t necessarily warm and friendly, they seem helpful. Well, at least helpful of lost newbies asking for directions. In my apartment hunt I must’ve asked over a dozen people for directions the other day. People were eager to help, even those who don’t speak English very well. Singlish is a challenge. I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves countless times. And on my part I’ve learned to slow down my speech.

Perhaps SG has eased up on its authoritarian ways because I have yet to see police presence. Perhaps surveillance is done by subtle means. Technology makes this possible. For example information about you as a visitor is centralized. Immigration, school, bank. They all seem to share the same data about you. There are also a lot of cameras in the commercial areas, although I’ve yet to see one here in the residential areas.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Comings and goings

Eight days. Leaving in eight days. I haven't packed. I haven't been obsessing about travel details. I remember what it was like before I left for Oz over three years ago - excited, nervous, ecstatic. Now I feel strangely calm. Like my trip isn't going to take me to live in another country for the next four years. But Singapore is close, so maybe my subconscious figured it would be like a trip to Davao or something. I don't have a place to stay yet, and for the first week I'll be slumming at a student hostel. But I'm not panicking. I guess age brings chill.

(Blogwatch) Engendering rights and other things of ambition

In August last year the Magna Carta of Women finally came out of the legislative wringer and was signed into law. Many feminists were ecstatic, despite a close call just as the bill had been consolidated at the bicameral level. Literally a call from a man of cloth had delayed the bill’s transmission from the House to the office of the President. But no matter, the temporary delay was a mere hiccup in the nearly decade-long history of this piece of legislation. The men of cloth were particularly wary of some provisions on reproductive health services and the prohibition of the expulsion of female faculty and students on account of getting pregnant. But nevertheless these provisions survived intact.

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception - not so much a review as a blubbering fan-girl rave

I didn't bother to read the plot, I just knew it was Chris Nolan and that it was some type of sci-fi flick. From the moment I discovered Memento, I was hooked. For the more Hollywood-friendly flicks he revived the Batman franchise. I've seen The Prestige thrice, and I don't rewatch films often. But this is the first film I've ever seen where half-way through I thought I needed to see it again. Nolan makes you work hard. I had my brows creased a good majority of the movie. If you drop your concentration you'll lose the thread of the narrative but rest assured you will be rewarded for your efforts.

This is a thinking man's film. It references psychoanalysis, physics, principles of art, postmodern philosophy and god knows what else. Its ambitious in scope and in the technicalities of film making. I don't know who Nolan's editor is but he or she should win an award for this one. In hands less adept this could've turned out to be a first class disaster. Ask M. Night Shyamalan.

Watch Inception. This film will literally blow your mind.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Inequality is literally bad for your health

I should like to get a "copy" of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Alas, the pirates of the internets have yet to make them available online.I will have to wait to get to a library :-)

The blurb:
It is well established that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. Now a groundbreaking book, based on thirty years’ research, takes an important step past this idea. The Spirit Level shows that there is one common factor that links the healthiest and happiest societies: the degree of equality among their members. Not wealth; not resources; not culture, climate, diet, or system of government. Furthermore, more-unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them—the well-off as well as the poor.

The remarkable data assembled in The Spirit Level reveals striking differences, not only among the nations of the first world but even within America’s fifty states. Almost every modern social problem—ill-health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness—is more likely to occur in a less-equal society. This is why America, by most measures the richest country on earth, has per capita shorter average lifespan, more cases of mental illness, more obesity, and more of its citizens in prison than any other developed nation.
Wilkinson and Pickett lay bare the contradiction between material success and social failure in today’s world, but they do not simply provide a diagnosis of our woes. They offer readers a way toward a new political outlook, shifting from self-interested consumerism to a friendlier, more sustainable society. The Spirit Level is pioneering in its research, powerful in its revelations, and inspiring in its conclusion: Armed with this new understanding of why communities prosper, we have the tools to revitalize our politics and help all our fellow citizens, from the bottom of the ladder to the top.

Here is an excellent review.

And here is a podcast with the authors discussing the book along with Barbara Ehrenreich and Harry Holzer.

(Blogwatch) Health Secretary Ona supports artificial FP

President Noynoy Aquino was notoriously vague on his stand on the Reproductive Health bill during the election campaign. On principle he was not against artificial family planning but did he or did he not support public funding on family planning commodities such as condoms and pills? Was he purposely being vague so as not to antagonize the church? Did he replace former Health Secretary Cabral, a staunch RH advocate, with La Sallite Brother Armin Luistro to please the bishops? Well, now we wonder no more.

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

(Kamundohan) Global land grabbing: When bankers turn to farming

In recent years global “land grabbing” has been fueled by food insecurity and a chance to cash in on biofuels demand. Arable land-scarce countries are looking at “outsourcing” their agricultural production to other nations. Some have responded to the demand for biofuels after the spike in petroleum oil prices in 2008. Apart from governments seeking to secure their population's food security, investors as varied as agro-industrial corporations, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and foundations are looking to lease or purchase foreign land. The global financial crisis of 2008 may have also spurred the acquisition of more “solid” investments as prices of liquid assets fell or disappeared into thin air.

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Defective Filipinos and Values-formation for Migrants

“Filipinos suffer from a cancer, a cancer that starts here and that we take with us abroad, a cancer that needs to be cured even before you leave. Values, priorities, beliefs, attitudes: this is defective in the Pinoy.”

- Instructor, Pre-departure Orientation Seminar, POEA

Quote lifted from Robyn Magalit Rodriguez' Migrants for Export: How the Philippine State Brokers Labor to the World.

This kind of 'values-formation' training has been fully internalized by Pinoy expats here. It seems to me that the psychology of the Benign0 school of thought is a complex mix of love and hate.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Unpacking the Church

In "Chastising Democracy: Does the 'Conservative Turn' among Filipino Catholic Bishops Mean a Retreat from (Democratic) Politics?" Prof. Raneses argues the Church, despite itself, may help deepen democracy in the Philippines. The liberal and leftist critiques of the church as an actor dismiss its role in pluralizing voices.

The article also provides a review of literature on the Philippines and theories of democratization.


Chastising Democracy: Does the “Conservative Turn” among Filipino Catholic Bishops Mean a Retreat from (Dem...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

(Blogwatch) It Augurs Well

We’re inclined to believe the worst in our leaders. It is the automatic option. Faced with a choice between blind faith and skepticism, we are apostates. Is it borne of our revolutionary tradition, this distrust of authority? Or more a fruit of our useless labors throughout the years? How does one cope with perpetual disappointment? A refusal to believe in the possibility of anything.

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wang Wang Ina Mo!

The vehicles with the privilege of using wang-wang:

1. uniformed police and military vehicles
2. Ambulance
3. Fire vehicles
4. Presidential car
5. Senate President's Car
6. Speaker of the House's Car

Lourd de Veyra rocks :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Politics for Hope

If the writing is exceptional it shakes one's complacence, not make one roll one's eyes. It makes one want to act, not vomit. Reading should make one think and reflect. Like this 20 year-old Roselle. On the EDSA Revolution she writes:

Perhaps the error was in reinstating into power the very same bloc that dominated the pre-authoritarian clientilist State. Perhaps the blunder was in the return to State strategies that employed both discursive and actual violence that muffled alternative voices in the ground. Or did we perhaps commit a mistake in waging the Revolution, as it was just a blanket of fictitious hopefulness for the country? Reverting to the final explanation is dangerous: it invites the notion that revolutions are mere fantasy formations conjured out of thin air—a transitory drug that sterilizes dismal conditions in order to prepare for a bigger, brighter future where there can no longer be any faults. This perspective snatches away the interwoven narratives, experiences and struggles that lead up to a political revolution. Moreover, it relegates the animating spirit of revolutionary action into a mere mechanism of governmentality. In defining revolutions as such, we are courting the specters of anti-democracy—its ethereal charm, its powerful guarantees, its poisonous evocation of ungrounded victory—back into the polity. In contrast to all of these, revolutions are political encounters, exchanges, and even opposition by warm bodies in the public space.

In retrieving the spirit of the democratic revolution and allocating it to our own political topography, there is a supplemental need to reappraise our notions of hope and change. A metaphysics for these concepts is inspiring and a good critical juncture at best, but if we leave them hanging within the ranks of collective highfalutin phantasmagoria we betray the struggle purportedly waged in the name of politics. Freedom and democracy are far from empty words: they are charged with the baggage of history and a responsibility for the future. What is asked from us by the active reminder of our revolutionary past is a response in the form of a politics for hope—one that harks back to the past either to ensure that unfreedom will never happen again or to learn valuable lessons from it; one that toils with and for others at the present; and one that commits itself to a future that does not dictate a singular end. The radical democratic spirit solicits much from the ethos of revolutions (though not exclusively); hence, our commitments for democracy must go beyond the realm of attitudes and structures that coddle us from the ruggedness of genuine political life so that we may bring about a transformation of the very processes that shape our constitution as individuals and as a people.

See? She is critical minus the self-loathing. Substantial. Maybe a little difficult to read. And she doesn't make tautological explanations that essentially say - you're stupid because you're dumb!

My greatest pet peeve is writing with a sneer. Some people are able to carry it off because they're brilliant. Some just make me want to roll my eyes. Oh lordy, why do I have to suffer such affront. But hey, the web allocates space for bad prose and even worse political analysis. It is a democracy so all sorts are welcome. Now if only the voices amplified spoke on behalf those who can't and not waste space screaming you're stupid because you're dumb!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Notes from Fanon

“Intellectual alienation is a creation of middle-class society. What I call middle-class society is any society that becomes rigidified in predetermined forms, forbidding all evolution, all gains, all progress, all discovery.” – Frantz Fanon

Is it not possible to celebrate the self without false aggrandizement? To celebrate the self without auto-castigation for perceived overreach or exaggeration?

For the young to be so full of cynicism is a sin committed by those who have come before. For received claims of knowledge to be recycled, and with which to pummel ourselves in perpetuity is my generation’s greatest tragedy. Would some have us in a rotoscope loop to live and re-live the same piece of narrative over and over and over?

To make these claims would have our people frozen in time. If we cannot tell new stories, new stories of and for ourselves, then we should lay down our arms and cease to write.

I’d rather thought this anguish over self-identity was dated. But for it to be exhibited in a 21 year old shows me it is not.

Love, Passion and Patriotism

The book by Dr. Raquel A.G. Reyes Love, Passion and Patriotism: Sexuality and the Philippine Porpaganda MOvement 1882-1892 was featured on the Sunday Inquirer magazine today. It is locally available at the Ateneo University Press. It looks mighty interesting.

The blurb:
Love, Passion and Patriotism is an intimate account of the lives and experiences of a renowned group of young Filipino patriots whose propaganda campaign was a catalyst for the country's revolt against Spain. José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano López Jaena, and the brothers Juan and Antonio Luna were talented writers, artists and scientists who resided in Europe during the 1880s and 1890s. As expatriates, they lived outside the social constraints of their own society and were eager to explore all that Europe had to offer. Provoked by racism and allegations of effeminacy and childishness, they displayed their manliness and urbanity through fashionable European dress, careful grooming and deportment, and demonstrated their courage and virility through fencing, pistol-shooting and dueling.

Their studies exposed them to scientific discourses on the body and novel categorizations of pathology and disease, ideas they used to challenge the religious obscurantism and folk superstition they saw in their country. However, their experiences also radically shaped their ideas of sex and sexual nature of Filipino women. Raquel A. G. Reyes explores the paintings, photographs, political writings, novels and letters in their passionate patriotism, and their struggle to come to terms with the relative sexual freedom of European women, which they found both alluring and sordid.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

(Self)Critical without the (Self)-loathing

Since our "culture" seems to be under the microscope, here is a list of old blogposts that tackle culture. I think they are critical minus the hate.

What Damaged Culture?:

The point here is, cultures evolve and whether the evolution is judged "good" or "bad" is subjective. A culture is a way of life. And if our culture today means under-the-table deals, graft and corruption, crab mentality, then there was a reason for this. This culture didn't appear out of nowhere. And it is not a natural state of being.


If television is the modern opium of the masses, then our people today must be drugged beyond the absurd. Have you seen prime time TV shows lately? 4 to 5 solid hours of brain-frying hallucinogenic experience. And since there are two major stations airing them, then that makes 8 to 10 hours total. Whew. Who needs X when you've got GMA-ABS-CBN?

In a Wowowee State of Mind:

But poverty isn't merely a state of mind, it is a social condition. Contrary to little "nuggets of wisdom" we, the educated folk, have been taught since birth, poverty cannot be overcome by simple hard work. An ambulant vendor can work 15 hours a day every day for fifty years and still die with nothing to show for. And the "good life" these days mean that in order to be happy and fulfilled, we need a lot of things to show for.

Poverty is social because it does not mean anything divorced from the environment. Poverty is social because it is relative. Poverty can be measured by a sense of lack. And when we see people in our vicinity having many things that give them happiness, why should we begrudge ourselves of these essential elements of the good life?

The Alipin is not a Slave:

Far from arriving at the same conclusions as Idiot Savant, I read an entirely different insinuation from this American historian. Which really goes to show that we are all colored by our own individual mental/ideational maps. Which probably means it’s pointless to argue this point at all, because we not only see eye to eye, but see through different kinds of eyes entirely.

Rape, Hypermasculinity and Philippine-American Relations:

Was Nicole completely faultless? Did she know she was courting danger by having a few drinks and dancing with these killing machines? Could her rape have been avoided had she behaved more prudently? Had she been born elsewhere, had she not grown up in our post-colonial context with our post-colonial mental maps, then perhaps she would not have consorted with these men. Ours is a story of seduction and false promises. Our culture today is replete with evidence of surrendering to the seduction of a “superior” race. Our indoctrination in the early days has been: All things American is what you little brown brothers must aspire for. American education, government, culture, the American way of life. We are but extensions of the original. The Eve to his Adam.

The Philippines as Open Pussy Country?

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

Excising Cinderella, Maria Clara and Inang Maria from Our Minds:

Let us go back then, to the Specters of Cinderella, Maria Clara and the forbearing Inang Maria haunting our nation. These (re)presentations are a product of a particular context in our history. They are a product of colonial enslavement and ideological inferiority. While those days are long over, these specters persist because they have been embedded deep in our culture. This explains the incongruence of these mentalities with the actual events of recent years.

Are We Poor Because We're Lazy?

I know there exist people who have absolutely no incentive to work - thus they laze. What little income they get they spend on non-wealth generating activities. One might say, they engage in rabid consumption - of alcohol and nicotine, gambling and entertainment (not coincidentally the more robust industries in our country). Some engage in criminal activities because in doing so their "talents" yield greater wealth. There are public criminals and there are private ones. Evidently, public criminality is the best means to accumulate wealth in our society. But we can't all be public criminals.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Capital's limitless growth

David Harvey suggests global capitalism's long-term survival is premised on a mathematical impossibility. He presents a truly radical idea - the world should aim for zero growth and distribution of wealth.

He distinguishes growth from development. "Development is about investing in people's creative capacities and powers. You don't need growth to do that. So you can have zero growth and at the same time you can also have radical transformation..."

I don't think the world has exhausted growth possibilities quite yet. There are still places on earth we have yet to plunder and emerging markets with new consumers. Imagine the huge Chinese and Indian markets. There are still virgin forests in Latin America and Africa. Plenty more oil to drill in Eurasia. And who knows what new treasures the ocean might offer once the technology becomes available?

I'll give it a century more. Then humanity will have to reckon with what it has created. We'll all be dead by then, so who cares.

Exporting Labor

A new typology in an era of transnationalized "flexible" labor is emerging in literatures as varied as sociology, anthropology, economics, international studies and political science. Scholars have called it the "labor-exporting state." Robyn Magalit Rodriguez calls it the "labor brokerage state."

In Migrants for Export she writes:
"Labor brokerage is a neoliberal strategy that is comprised of institutional and discursive practices through which the Philippine state mobilizes its citizens and sends them abroad to work for employers throughout the world while generating a profit from the remittances that migrants send back to their families and loved ones in the Philippines. The Philippine state negotiates with labor-receiving states to formalize outflows of migrant workers and thereby enables employers around the globe to avail themselves of temporary workers who can be summoned to work for finite periods of time and then returned to their homeland at the conclusion of their employment contracts."

It may well be that the period of migration-for-settlement is coming to an end. In the United States, by far the world's largest migrant-receiving nation, the debate rages whether they should expand their "guest-worker" programs. This would allow flexible labor in but would deny citizenship."Guest-worker" or contractual labor programs have long been the practice in the Middle East, the Asia Pacific and recently in Europe. Citizenship confers political rights. Temporary worker status does not. Should this trend continue, increased precariousness of immigrant workers should be expected.

In the literature on international migration the Philippines is considered the most organized labor-exporting state in the world. And there is evidence that our state institutions and practices are being copied elsewhere. As yet, there is no global regime that would oversee "trade in workers" as the WTO does trade in commodities and investments. But it is not improbable. As the Doha Round finds the WTO regime at an impasse, a spate of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements have been inked. In some cases they include provisions for worker mobility, as with the recently inked Australia-ASEAN-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Forgive me Iya, I no longer watch TV

My rejoinder was too philosophical and the kids seemed to have missed the point. So, here is a less abstract reply to a young disciple of Manong Benigs.

“Arnel Pineda, Charice Pempengco, and boxing champion Manny Pacquaio, these are the few world-renowned Filipinos who have instigated a sense of so-called “Pinoy Pride” among the attention-seeking Filipinos who, after realizing within themselves that as a state, we have achieved practically nothing, would bask in to the achievements of the individuals mentioned in order to feel some sense of self-worth. However, I do not blame people like Pacquaio for precipitating a false sense of pride among the Filipinos. After all, it’s not their fault their “kababayans” have a distorted culture.”

- It seems Ms. Justimbaste has been remiss in her history books. Her professors should be castigated. If she wants to measure Filipino pride on personalities, then let us mention a few Filipinos who are “world-renowned.” Let’s start with the first guy to use the word “Filipino” to mean all inhabitants of the Philippine islands – Jose Rizal. Indonesian revolutionaries greatly admired him long after his death. There are still Indonesians who name their children Rizal. There are scholars on either side of the Atlantic who have written about him and the Philippine revolution. Then there’s Cory Aquino. People Power is a big deal. We invented it. It is a formula that has been used successfully and unsuccessfully around the planet. Google “Tiananmen Square” and “Velvet Revolutions.” Cory was also one of the first female heads of state.

Sex Education and the Religious of the Virgin Mary

I got my period when I was 11 years old. Among my four friends, I was the late bloomer. The prettiest in our group, AA, got hers when she was 9. AB and LG got theirs when they were 10. CE got hers a few months before me.

I remember the day quite vividly, mostly because of what my paternal grandmother made me do. She said to soak my blood-stained underwear in warm water and to wash my face with the water so I don’t get pimples. My maternal grandmother was a little late on the scene, and she said I should’ve directly wiped the blood on my face. I was 11 years old, what the hell did I know?

Great Book Blockade Officially Over

Well, the Great Moled One signed EO 885 before the end of her term. Better late than never.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

(Blogwatch) Remitting love in a time of global recession

In sterile, technical language, what the finance bureaucrats are reporting this month basically means love trumps global financial crises. “Notwithstanding concerns over sovereign-debt problems in some European countries, remittances from overseas Filipinos continued to show strength amid the gradual recovery of the global economy,” says the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. From January to April this year, $5.9 billion worth of love poured in the country, 6.6 percent more than the same period last year. Standard & Poor's, a company that assesses the credit-worthiness of countries, is essentially saying remittances comprise a force-field protecting the country from "global turbulence."

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

(Kamundohan) Anatomy of high-tech suicide at Foxconn

China is now the world's largest producer of electronic products. In its industrial zones, all along the coastline, reside high-tech factories which supply the world’s largest multinationals. American-owned Hewlett-Packard and Dell, Taiwanese-owned Acer and Chinese-owned Lenovo all make up nearly half of the global PC market. From mobile phones, motherboards, computer chips and optical mice, Chinese workers produce them all for an increasingly hungry global market. They ship to other Asian countries, to North America, Europe and even Africa. China has become the world’s factory, producing everything from milk to shoes to flat screens. But at what cost?

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Celebration of the World Cup

Like many Filipinos, I don't really follow the sport. But in solidarity with peoples of the Earth, I'll do the next best thing - look for World Cup hotties. Ugh. What a chore.

Here they are in no particular order.....

Argentina's Mario Bolatti

So many good-looking Argentines. His eyes match the color of their flag!

New Zealand's Winston Reid

Without a doubt the most good-looking Kiwi I have ever laid my eyes on.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Malacañang’s Magic Machine

I completely understand why our new president, Noynoy Aquino, is hesitant to live in Malacañang. After nearly a decade of having been inhabited by its current occupant, it now comes equipped with its own version of reality. It is a kind of “virtual” reality, an alternate universe separate from that which unfolds outside its walls. In this parallel universe, all data, all information, can be manipulated to reflect a world of one’s own choosing.

Read the rest at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Friday, June 11, 2010

(Kamundohan) Gaza Strip Blockade: Security vs. Humanitarian Imperatives

Israel and Palestine have been at an impasse for over half a century, their hot and cold wars a rich source of human misery. As the oil flows all around these two nations, so too, it seems, does the blood. All too easily the conflict might be misconstrued to be rooted in religion, as often protagonists invoke the name of the Almighty in all its permutations. In the name of Allah, in the name of Yahweh, in the name of God, flags have been waved, battles waged. These kinds of assumptions do not form the whole picture however, and may even be precarious assumptions to make. Because in dealing with absolute faith, it would be difficult to find a resolution based on reason.

Read the rest over at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

(Kamundohan) North Korea: Fighting to Stay on the Axis of Evil?

In an age of unprecedented cross-border exchange of goods, capital, people and ideas, North Korea is something of an anachronism. Where Cuba at least welcomes clandestine tourists from all over, Kim Jong Il’s little kingdom remains tightly sealed from the outside world. Here is a living, breathing relic of the Cold War era, widely regarded as a loose cannon this side of the Pacific. It is led by an icon of sorts, much derided for his oversized sunnies, his bouffant hair-do and his penchant for elevator boots.

Read the rest over at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

(Blogwatch) Rh, elections and the Catholic vote

For four Congresses, the Catholic hierarchy has been successful in putting pressure on the legislature not to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. An effective tactic employed is the threat of the “Catholic Vote.” Through the pulpit, the clergy would wield its influence on the faithful, enjoining them to shun electoral candidates who strayed from the path of the straight and narrow.

Read the rest over at the Philippine Online Chronicles

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Dancers on CP Garcia

As dancers glide from stage left to right, their feet took tiny steps as they crossed CP Garcia. His skin of dark hue set off her fair. Locked in a lovers' embrace, his right hand was sunk deep in her shoulder-length hair. Her head turned upwards, eyes fixed at some point in the early evening sky. I slowed the car, uncomprehending.

I had come from Chinese class, full of sheer joy in learning. I could read characters now. I could read! Laoshi showed us a nifty little Word download that would turn pinyin into script. Like a child with a new toy I was so eager to get home to try it on my computer. These days I so very rarely get this simple unadulterated feeling. It is cool-warm, a lightness of breath, an anticipation. But the joy was short-lived, aborted by the dancers on CP Garcia.

They grew large as I drove close. At full stop I let them cross, a lissome pair locked in tandem. Where before I could not make out his face now I see it to be distorted. His teeth are bared as he whispered her sweet nothings. Her face I could not see, but her neck was long, distended. His hand in her hair pulled closer, I see her body acknowledge the pain.

It couldn't have lasted more than mere moments but the image of the pair was imprinted on my brain. As I drove on past I imagined him doing to her what he could barely suppress in public. I winced. My neck hurt, my jaw ached, the floor fell from underneath my feet. My skull crawled as bright lights exploded behind my eyeballs. The little spurt of joy was extinguished and it stung. But I knew it was nothing compared to her pain.

Picking on Esperanza Cabral

Recently I went to a conference and met an awe-inspiring Thai pharmacologist, Dr. Krisana Kraisintu. For the last eight years she has been helping peoples all over Africa to produce and distribute essential medicines that would combat Malaria and HIV/AIDS. Without a doubt, of all regions of the world, Africa is devastated the most by HIV/AIDS. There are over twenty million people now living with the disease in the poorest countries. Liberia, Burundi, Mozambique, Botswana. Dr. Kraisintu also served in the Thai Ministry of Health.

As pictures of her flashed on the screen I couldn’t help remember the predicament of our own Department of Health Secretary, Esperanza Cabral. Here was a Thai doctor, from a still developing country, now able to transfer knowledge on how to combat a fatal disease to even poorer countries. In the Philippines, Sec. Cabral was excoriated by the Catholic Church for daring to give out condoms last Valentine’s Day in an effort to raise AIDS awareness. When she refused to back down, the bishops wanted her axed.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dora the Explorer: Exploring the America's Illegally?

For over a decade, Dora the Explorer has been regaling children in the United States and elsewhere with her tales of fun and adventure. A creation of Nickelodeon, the Spanish-speaking cartoon character now finds herself in the middle of the immigration debate. Last week, various American media outlets picked up this composite picture of Dora’s mug shot as an “illegal immigrant.”

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Black Keys - Brothers

The Black Keys have a new album out entitled "Brothers." I.Am.Ecstatic. They don't make the blues as good as this anymore. And these boys make 'em just like how I prefer my ice cream - dirty. Yum.

Monday, May 31, 2010

(Blogwatch) Freedom of Information: Antidote to Tyranny

Tyranny may change in form, adapting to the milieu in which it must be deployed and exercised, but it never changes in principle. In the olden days, a naked display of power – an army of mercenaries or soldiers – is enough to subdue an uncooperative populace. The tyrant commands through the monopoly of instruments that physically coerce - instruments of hurt, instruments of pain. The constant principle is that the tyrant gets what she wants, no matter the opinion of those whom she rules. This is the very antithesis of democracy.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Farewell My Concubine

Last Friday I met a couple of Japanese filmmakers at a conference. They were here only for the weekeend. Questions. They asked if the food we were having for lunch was 'Filipino.' I said no. Green salad, some bit of chicken with mushrooms and lapu-lapu lathered in cream. No, I said. Not Filipino.

Where does one go to eat authentic Filipino food? I struggled to think of good restaurants. There was Abe. I didn't think Barrio Fiesta served edible food anymore. There was Kanin Club. And...what else?

Where does one go to purchase pirated DVDs? Well. Our collection is quite extensive. I boasted of having seen titles from as far as the Czech Republic.You go to this place in Makati, or this place in Ortigas. Oh and Quiapo of course. You wouldn't find it difficult, the DVDs will come to you.

And where does one go to see "interesting" places? I figured filmmakers might like Cubao X. Mogwai was there. Maybe they had something good screening. But no, they'd already gone there the night before. I blame the heat on the roof deck where we shared a lunch table. I couldn't think of an "interesting" place in all of the city. Well what about the music scene? Where do musicians go to play? There were some places in Makati, but no, I explained, I don't go out anymore. I felt not a bit of shame. I have known you far too long and familiarity has bred ambivalence. My fascination, my appetite for the novelties you offer has waned. No longer a stream of endless possibilities. No longer the malleable paradise of my imaginings. For now.

Two years has been too long. And while you will always be home, like my mother will always be my mother, in you I fear I cannot fully self-articulate. The familiar, the known, the old structures and ways of being all combine to dampen, to repress, to hold back. My city of twelve million has me in a choke-hold. As I roam the planes of your belly and feel the beat of your very heart, I feel to want to cleave unto you again I must away.

In two months, I shall leave again. And in the leaving, the loving.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Filipino Rice Policy

A Film By: Magee Clegg

'Filipino Rice Policy' is an eye-opening short documentary that explores the world of politics surrounding Agriculture in the Philippines. Myths, corruption, and the lack of understanding have allowed the Philippine Department of Agriculture to guide Filipinos towards a facade of food security. Former Secretaries of Agriculture Carlos Dominguez, Senen Bacani, and Roberto Sebastion along with many other well known rice policy experts believe that the Department of Agriculture has been leading Filipinos in the wrong direction for too long, and it is now time to change direction.

Filipino Rice Policy from Magee Clegg on Vimeo.

Population matters. Didn't expect RH to somehow be incorporated in this!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

First Article with Blogwatch

I am a new contributor to the Philippine Online Chronicles and Blogwatch. You may read my maiden article "Dear Noynoy" here.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Rule of Kings, Rule of Government

It seems, at times, we are caught in a time warp. Similar configurations from the past revisit time and again as though to punish those among us hard-pressed to learn the lesson. Some say we could be where we were in 1986 and that the magic of People Power will once again be put to test. It is the same power blocs jockeying for position playing by old rules in this tired old game.

Are we truly stuck in a time warp or are we progressing onto something else? I have, from time to time, thrown my hands in exasperation. I am, like you, too close to the action to discern any real change in the way we conduct our politics. I am, like you, alternately exhausted, befuddled, aghast, bemused. But my current location, that is, my position in our polity, affords me little perspective. Once in a while, however, one might glimpse a glimmer of … something new.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Mobile Reproductive Labour

Now that foreign women are doing much of domestic work in countries all over the globe, perhaps the "domestic" will now cross into the realm of the public domain. The person cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry is, after all, no longer mommy, auntie or older sister. It is a Filipina, a Bangladeshi, an Indonesian, an African. And of course a foreign worker could not be bound by invisible ties of love, filial or maternal duty to provide the gift of free service. She must be compensated. And as an autonomous provider of domestic work now commodified, is surely as deserving of rights and protections as one who labours in traditional sectors of the economy.

Providers of reproductive labour - that is, labour necessary to "reproduce" life - now comprise half of the world's migrants to date. The kind of work women do in many societies has traditionally not been accounted for in the measure of productivity. But as women in rich, industrialized countries continue to move from domestic spaces to participate fully in the labour force, someone still has got to take care of hearth and home.

As more and more women seek their fortune by taking care of the children and the elderly of countries not theirs, they suffer a double handicap. First, they have neither the privileges nor the rights conferred by their nationality. Second, the very nature of their work, bounded by the veil of privacy of the home, makes abuse all but a foregone certainty.

For more information, read the Human Rights Watch report on the "Protection of Migrant Workers in Asia and the Middle East."


Read also:
Fruits of Her Labour

Unpacking Choice and Reproductive Rights

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forces of Good?

In this televised debate on the BBC, Stephen Fry probably best captures how I feel about the church.

The kicker is this bit: "It’s the strange thing about this church, it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes, we are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude, we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly, because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult, it’s a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell."

Right from Wrong

Currently enjoying Michael Sandel's lecture series on justice. How do we know - what is the right thing to do?

This is the first hour-long lecture/discussion of a 12-part series. In this episode Sandel and students from Harvard university talk about pushing a fat man off a bridge to save lives and the merits of cannibalism. If only my Philo 1 prof were as engaging or interesting. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Preying on the Weak

Every once in a while, our version of reality blurs and we get a glimpse of what its like in the 'real' world.

J of thenutbox recounts the nightmarish ordeal his mother went through, allegedly, at the hands of some police officers stationed in Talipapa, Novachiles, Quezon City.

Last April 14, my mother went to visit a friend named Janet who lives in a slum area in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. That friend owes my mother some thousands, which my mother decided to collect because she needs money for her medication. My mother was accompanied by an old friend, Maximo Gabriel.

At around twelve noon, just when my mother and Gabriel were about to leave Janet’s place, two plain-clothed policemen- one called Allan and another named Mar Palic- approached them, accusing them of drug possession. My mother and her friends aghastly denied this, and before the two cops could search them they showed their bags to the police officers and emptied their pockets to show that there was nothing incriminating inside. Still, the cops “invited” them for questioning. 

Read the rest here.

Its an extraordinary story. Most of us would never dream of such a thing ever happening. But these insects - they prey on the weak.

Monday, April 26, 2010


In Jose Saramago's novel 'Seeing' an imaginary electorate in an imaginary country came out in full force to vote. But at the end of the tally, 83 percent of the ballots were blank. The remaining 17 percent were votes for the p.o.t.r (the party on the right), the p.o.t.l (the party on the left) and the p.o.t.m (the party in the middle). But what had happened to the majority of the votes? Were they stolen? Was this the result of massive electoral fraud? Or the work of terrorists?

After having read Saramago's political allegory, I wondered if such a thing were possible in real life. What if, come May 10, all registered voters were to vote for absolutely no one? What if, by some unknown force, the governed refused to choose the next set of those who would govern?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Democratize the Catholic Church

By god, I never thought of the Church this way. But this is so spot on. Thanks to Emily on FB for the link!

The Catholic Church is an authoritarian institution, modelled on the political structures of the Roman Empire and medieval Europe. It is better at transmitting instructions downward than at facilitating accountability upward. It is monolithic. It claims the unique legitimacy of a line of succession going back to the apostolic circle of Jesus Christ. Its leaders are protected by a nimbus of mystery, pomp, holiness, and, in the case of the Pope, infallibility—to be sure, only in certain doctrinal matters, not administrative ones, but the aura is not so selective. The hierarchy of such an institution naturally resists admitting to moral turpitude and sees squalid scandal as a mortal threat. Equally important, the government of the Church is entirely male.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

CenPeg on Comelec Striptease

 If we have a failure of elections, I think Comelec is probably most deserving of a lynching. (Thanks to Blogwatch for the link)

The money quote:
...the country will have an [automated election system] that has been stripped of processes and features designed to resist attacks by third parties, data manipulation, and fraud...
CenPEG on Comelec Striptease April 5 2010

Diagnosing Symptoms

A new discovery, UP Prof. Bong Mendoza's blog. Don't be intimidated by the tone of the language (just keep plugging on), this is an excellent summary of what is wrong with the Philippines'...

economic system:
The failures of the Philippine state and politics are highlighted by the inability to sustain and realize a promising economic growth potential (as of the 1950s) when the country was supposed to be second in Asia only to Japan in terms of economic development.  At the core of this failure is inconsistency and incompatibility of economic policymaking with the requirements of sustainable growth since 1946.

...The source of policy inconsistency is identified in the literature as reflective of incomplete elite class differentiation in the country.  For example, as the country’s elite groups are involved in almost all lines of business such as external trade (imports and exports), real estate, commercial agriculture, manufacturing, and finance—there has been for a long time no elite consensus on trade and foreign exchange policy.

Calling on all Readers of Political Blogs

Dear All,

If you have a few minutes to spare, you might consider being a participant in Grace Mirandilla's research on political blogging. For details, see below. Cheers!


A Call for Survey Respondents: Filipino Blogging and Political Participation Study

Good day! Do you read political blogs*? Can you spare 10 mins. to answer a survey? Then, please read on.

My name is Mary Grace P. Mirandilla, an independent researcher conducting a study on "blogging and political participation among Filipinos,” which is funded by the SIRCA** grant program of IDRC*** Canada. This research wants to look at (1) why Filipinos read political blogs; (2) how they participate in politics--both online and in the real world; and (3) whether and how political blogs affect their participation.

I’m looking for respondents to answer a survey that inquires about these research questions. If you want to participate, you must be Filipino, at least 18 yrs old, and read political blogs (or have read them at some point during the past year). It only takes 10-12 minutes to answer the survey, which will be administered via email.

If interested, please send me a PM or email me at mg(dot)mirandilla(at)gmail(dot)com. Rest assured that your identity and response will be kept confidential.

I hope to hear from you by April 15. Thank you very much.

Grace Mirandilla

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Pimping Manny

Advertising has a single purpose - sell. Gizmos and gadgets, consumer goods and in these elections - political candidates. Here is Greg Macabenta's enlightening view on the way Manny Villar has handled his campaign:
...At any rate, Villar apparently listened to his new creative brain trust and, together, they came up with some very impressive commercials, based on some very bold claims, expressed in very memorable language.

To solidify Villar’s positioning as the "champion of the poor," they concocted the line, "Nanggaling sa hirap. Tumutulong sa mahihirap." (From the poor. Helping the poor.)

To portray him as the role model for the upward-striving masses, they attributed his rise "from poor boy to billionaire" to "Sipag at Tiyaga." Industriousness and diligence. Yes, indeed, what better formula for success?

And to really, truly, effectively, dramatically, and memorably drive home the point, they created the gems: "Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura?" (Have you ever bathed in a sea of garbage?) and "Nakaranas na ba kayong...mamatayan ng kapatid dahil wala kang perang pampagamot, wala ka namang magawa?" (Have you experienced the death of a sibling because you had no money for medicine and you could do nothing about it?"

No soap opera writer could have spun greater tearjerkers.

And that was not all. Armed with such fantastic creatives, Villar decided to make sure that every man, woman, and child in every corner of the archipelago would have an opportunity to see these products of communications and creative brilliance.

Read the rest. Its a tidy little summary of the campaign so far.


I have not seen my father in seven years. And yet I remember every feature, every crease on his face, every mole. I remember the timbre of his voice, slightly nasal, not unlike mine. This quiet week, my unconscious unearthed snippets of memories. A Sunday morning when I was very small, looking up at spiders on the wall. His fingers as they caressed piano keys and sang with me Beatles. My father praising his alien daughter, so wise for someone so young. How do the dead look when they’re up in heaven? Do they eat? Do they look as they did when they died? Gunshot wound, cancer-wracked, diseased? Do they wear clothes? I was ten or eleven. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, that look on my father’s face. My father of humble truths sat in awe of a little being he helped create.

Where is my father now? Is he in heaven if there is such? He could not be in hell, could he? While wholly imperfect, my father was not a bad man. He lived. And in his quest to be happy, he lied. But little sins seem unimportant. Now all I want, all I have really, are memories of how my father was good.

Friday, April 02, 2010

No sense in the senseless

Here is a rather interesting article on the Swede giant IKEA battling with the hairy monster of corruption in Russia. I thought this part rings especially true:
Corruption is irrational: its very existence is fatal for a state. This makes it an ideal accompaniment to the realm of the absurd, its operating system. You don't have to understand how it works, but it is has a very convenient function which any idiot can grasp. Press the button and you get a result. Survival in such a state depends on not looking for sense. If you do, then any acquaintance with the news bulletins in the Russian internet soon turns into a psychedelic bad trip. You experience a veritable avalanche of negative emotions: fear, horror, shock, outrage but, try as you will, you cannot find a cause-effect link...

Family Planning Advice

It doesn't guarantee protection from STDs....but no chance of conception here.

Thanks to Eloisa for plurking the image! LOL.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Morality in the 21st Century

The latest guest on Philosophy Bites is American moral philosopher Susan Neiman. In this short podcast she discusses morality in the 21st century.

Neiman suggests that fundamentalism may well be a reaction to this period's unbridled consumerism, that in effect those yearning for a return to the fundamentals reject that the end-all and be-all of life is to amass as many consumer goods as possible. How then can one search for a meaningful life other than what advanced global capitalism permits? Neiman suggests a re-examination of the Enlightment period and the values it has to offer. The other choices would be to settle for a nostalgia in pre-modernity or the cyncisim of the postmodern where nothing is of value, which implies nothing is worth doing. Neiman says the the most crucial element of the Enlightment project is the idea of progress, that is, it allows one to be self-critical, to build from those critiques and move forward.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Spirit of the Law and the Ghouls of Arroyo

There are two ways of looking at a country’s legal system. One is that it embodies a set of rules that regulate actions of those bound by the law – legal personalities who inhabit the country in question. It is ‘unlawful’ or ‘illegal’ to steal from your neighbor. The capacity to say that it is wrong to commit such an act shapes the behavior of those who commit themselves, as citizens, to the legal community (i.e. country). To add teeth to the law, there are also all sorts of punishments levied upon those who transgress what is lawful or legal. You pay a fine, you do community service, your liberty is taken away. Seen this way, laws are a set of rules designed to regulate or harmonize a community. They assure order and a measure of peace so that citizens might go about their daily lives with as little hassle as possible.

But what makes stealing unlawful? Or killing? Or rape? These are not ‘unlawful’ just because. The rules by which we abide are moral judgments. It is morally wrong to steal, kill and rape. Why? Because those who have drafted these laws and the community which protects and/or abide by them have put value on one being able to keep one’s possessions and one not being killed or raped by any random person. These values, in turn, are also underlined by a chain of other values – the sanctity of private property, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of dignity. And so on.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Reading Che

This is one of the books I'm reading at the moment. Unlike most biographies, Jorge Catañeda's Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara is an engaging account of a near-mythical figure in revolutionary times.

Che clearly wishes to help others (usually patients) and concurrently sketches a broader vision of 'the order of things.' He is appalled by the poverty and desperation stemming from inequality and helplessness of the poor, but has reached a level of sophistication where he establishes a causal link between the deplorable destiny of 'the proletariat around the world' and an 'absurd sense of caste' - that is, the economic, social and political status quo.

Yet the remedy he proposes is still quite limited. It is a typically middle-class lamentation, within the most simplistic common-sense approach. Governments must stop spending on their own exaltation (like Peron), and pay more attention to the poor. Little is said of why governments act as they do, or what can be done beyond the ritual incantation that they should stop acting as they habitually do. Che's appeal is moral, not really political, arising from an individual, ethical stance against the way things are. With time, his political acumen would become more focused and complex, as befits a leader. But it would never entirely lose that original innocence, springing from the young medical student's encounter with pain and suffering, and strangely but also lastingly, from a certain distance, a deliberately assumed marginal position.

Thanks to B for pilfering this from his school's lost and found. Hehe.