Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Politics of Owning and Remembering EDSA

A monopoly on history is a monopoly of power. A monopoly of telling the narrative can only match the writer's ideological standpoint. What really happened in EDSA? Who were the protagonists? The bad guys? Those who chose to sit on the sidelines? What was the context in which the event happened? Was it planned or spontaneous? What were the events that led to it?

If remembering is a way to reconstruct events in history, then different sections of society will see the past through multiple views. The view from the left is not the same from the right. The view from the top cannot be the same as that from the bottom. What is not contested is that the People Power revolution was good. This is probably why so many camps seek to co-opt EDSA to suit their own purposes today. Co-opting EDSA endows one with magic/legitimising properties. Co-opting EDSA allows one to be morally right. And so it seems, rarely do we 'remember' in an entirely objective manner. On such a momentous event as the People Power revolution, the politics of remembering is rife.

Perhaps the tendency to multiple views on EDSA 1986 is a measure of how fractured and segmented we remain. In a sense, what was true twenty-four years ago remains true today. Those who would insist that no such fractures exist are ideologically blind if not idiots.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The conventional wisdom goes, going through hardship makes us good people. Philosopher Julian Baggini doesn't seem to think so. So how did this nugget of wisdom become conventional? Baggini has a proposition:
Why then do so many persist with the idea that suffering is good for us? The religious need to, of course. If suffering is not, on balance, a good thing, then there can be no benevolent creator in charge of this show. But even without a theological motivation, the thought of so much suffering without redemption can be almost intolerable. Believing it has a point can be the only way to make life bearable.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Agora: a film review

(Spoiler free!!!)

"You do not question what you believe. You cannot. I must."

One pithy line neatly illustrates the tensions in Alejandro Amenabar's latest - Agora.

The "robe and sandal" epic portrays the ancient city of Alexandria in the twilight years of the Roman empire. The fraying political hold of the Romans leave a vacuum for religious factions to take over. Christians, Jews and Pagans all struggle to maintain influence over the city's governors and governed. And in the middle of the maelstrom, Hypatia, Neoplatonist philosopher/mathematician and part-time political advisor.

Based on real characters and events from the fifth century, the themes tackled in Agora are still very much contemporary. Amenabar's directorial eye casts reflections on humankind's search for meaning and order in the universe. The film also depicts the problematic posed by the intersection of the religious and political realms. And at the heart of it all, the struggle to reconcile faith with reason.

Oh, and let me say, atheists, agnostics, feminists, scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, RH advocates and people with non-universalizing tendencies will probably love this film. :-)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel for Senator

I have absolutely zero qualms endorsing Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel for Senator. I know her to be an uber hard-working member of Congress. She seems to be in so many places all at once, working on policy issues of import to the Filipino people. Too, it doesn't hurt that she's really easy on the eyes. She's even better looking in person believe you me. Hehehe.

Here is "GMA" stating her reasons for not endorsing Rep. Risa for senate.

And here is the story behind Risa's signature scarf.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Noynoy and Great Expectations

Sen. Noynoy Aquino was twenty minutes late. The Blogwatch livestream interview had been scheduled at 6:00pm last Saturday and there were around 20 bloggers in attendance. I arrived a little after 5 o'clock at the designated venue, earlier if the traffic lights nearby had been working properly. This is democracy in action. Traffic flows bitch on all of us in equal measure.

He didn't come with a swarm of guards, in he strode in sombre black - bright, naked. His face was clear though, belying the long day of endless talk and consultation. I have met many politicians in the last year and a half. Sins committed in wielding power weather faces quickly. Lying and cheating shadow eyes. Too, I have become quite adept at detecting bullshit. I do not impress easily. I was neither impressed nor lied to.

He sat in comfort in front of us, the bloggers on either side, cameras in corners. It was an intimate tête-à-tête. I was less than 1o feet away. One quivers in the presence of power, invisible strings pull the spine to straight, the feet to point in the correct direction. One is instantly on alert - as when a predator eyes her prey. I felt no such tension in the presence of the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino. I took pictures freely, tried to key in notes, whispered side comments with other bloggers. I slouched.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Show me the Money!

Public finance is probably not such a hot topic for opinion-makers and news writers. We do not often hear about the state of the country's national purse - what we make, what we save (if any), what we spend on, how much goes to what. Numbers probably seem a snooze compared to the political scandal of the moment.

But think about it - public finance deals with the most intimate aspect of our political identity - the money we are obliged (coerced) to give to our country. If you tally all that is automatically deducted from your income, what could you have bought instead? Would you have been able to send another sibling to school? Better medical treatment for your folks? A house? Seen this way, 'public' finance suddenly becomes very personal. What have we given up to the state, what have we sacrificed in our personal lives to be able to pay taxes?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Being Human

To deny the body its due is to deny an essential aspect of the human condition. While we are beings of reason and of will, these are tempered by the materiality of hunger and pain. Who we are and what we believe are products of the conditions in which we live. Our values – the things we value, are shaped by our material circumstances. To illustrate, a Canadian might not think twice about leaving leftovers in a restaurant. A Filipino would. Food does not comprise a substantial percentage of a person’s income in Canada. It does in the Philippines. And so, Filipinos value food more than Canadians – and behave in ways that reflect this value.

Interrogating the voters’ motivations for voting a certain way, Cocoy is disturbed by the reasons given by the poorest - “Feed us. That’s the only thing that matters. We don’t’ care whether you steal. We don’t care about your fight. Just feed us.”

He writes, “What I think this survey tells us is that right here, right now, more and more Filipinos are focusing on the material, the bodily needs, rather than the big picture.” Indeed, this may be true. But this reasoning has a logic all its own. Those who suffer hunger will make rational decisions - food and comfort now will weigh more than a nebulous future. When one makes do with P200 a day for example, what is the point of living beyond the mere moment?

Also, valuing a president who “cares for the poor” more than one who is “not corrupt/clean” reflects two things – the condition of powerlessness and quasi-feudal values.

The powerless will not think to question the actions of the powerful. The inhabitants of Tondo will not think it their place to question whether Manny Villar has behaved according to the dictates of the law. What is the point when they cannot do anything about it anyhow? All they will care about is that Villar, the quasi feudal lord, will provide as he sees fit. This system of patronage does not only exist between politicos and the many poor. It is endemic in our entire political system.

It is good to dream the impossible dream. But surely, we all must temper idealism with a little bit of humanity.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Manny Villar's C5 at Taga Explained in Seven Minutes

Here is a brief explanation of what the C5 extension brouhaha is all about.

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Winnie Monsod explains:
"On the basis of the map, it is clear... there are two alignments - MCTEP and the C5 extension project. It is also clear that one of them was unnecessary. Why? It has to be the burnt orange project because the other project had already been approved earlier. It is also clear that the C5 extension project is gonna be more costly because it is longer and it is built wholly on government funds. Third, because what the government spent on the road right of way for the old project will now go to waste. Why will it go to waste? Well really, can you imagine the joint venture partner building this project when there is this road parallel to it, almost beside it, sometimes overlapping it. Who will want to pay toll when there is a free road right next to it. And finally it is very clear that the greater length of the C5 extension project enables it to pass through all the Villar properties...

There remains the issue of the overprice of the Villar properties...there were 22 properties that had to be bought to get a right of way for the C5 extentions project. The average price paid for the non-Villar properties was P2,422 per square meter. The average price paid for Villar properties was P11,519 per square meter for mostly raw land."

Monday, February 01, 2010


This house. It used to fill with noise. Now it is mostly quiet. Human denizens have been replaced with mewing, barking creatures. This house of my youth, my childhood. Ghostly quiet, a mute witness to nigh three decades of history. Underneath the gray of neglect, I see the white walls. They used to echo laughter, idle talk, forceful anger. I care not to have repairs made. The peeling paint, the dripping ceiling, the rot in the wood are all in mute understanding, this house will soon lay to rest. And with it shall be buried lives fully lived. I have not regrets. Soon I shall leave, far longer than before. I am fine with the possibility of never coming back for good. With me I take memories of good and bad. My parents’ house, the shrine to their dreams fulfilled. They were never mine. The mango tree blooms for the nth time, its fruits even now falling useless on the roof, on the ground. I remember when it was planted first. I was five. It is beautiful in shadowlight.