Sunday, August 8, 2010

We're back!

Hello Everyone,

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we have been unable to write (or at least post on this blog) and had to lie low for awhile, We (at least I, Manda) are back. In the next couple of months, I hope to resume posting on a regular basis. I will still be critical especially about the current conditions in the Philippines. But our main goal is to present thought-provoking ideas with the hopes of encouraging the Filipino youth to think and dream beyond the typical Filipino mentality. Although a long shot and will be met with so much resistance, the ultimate goal is to start a mass behavioral change for the betterment of the country. We have to start somewhere. Thank you for visiting and reading our blog. Salamat po.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Excerpt from Stanley Karnow's In Our Image America's Empire in the Philippines

This is a brief excerpt from Stanley Karnow's In Our Image America's Empire in the Philippines. It was first published in 1989, a few years after the Marcos regime was overthrown by the so called Peoples' Power, another Philippine revolution. Mr Karnow made an observation as this book was being completed that the People's Power was not a revolution at all. Nothing was changing by 1989. One corrupt and equally incompetent administration was replaced by another.

We choose this excerpt to post because it clearly explains the Filipino psyche and how it perpetuates a culture of corruption. This was evident with the recent congressional election. It has been over 20 years since the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were removed and four administrations later, the Philippines is as dismal as ever.

They found in the Philippines a society based on a complicated and often baffling web of real and ritual kinship ties – the antithesis of the American ideal on a nation of citizens united in their devotion to the welfare of all.

Again history explains the phenomenon: Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Filipinos belonged to no social group larger that the village, which was in fact their family. Catholic priests spread through the countryside, further sanctifying the family by exhorting the Filipinos to identify with the Holy Family – God the powerful father, the compassionate Virgin mother and Christ, whose suffering and humiliation matched their own misery. The friars also introduced the Catholic custom of godparenthood, which fused with the pre-Hispanic practice of blood covenants with tribal allies to create a network of compadres, or ritual relatives. The sponsors of a child’s baptism, for example, became the ceremonial kin of its parents, and the ritual family could expand to astonishing dimensions as well through weddings, funerals, and confirmations. Calculating the possible permutations, Filipinos outdo Chaucer’s man from St Ives. Historian Theodore Friend has reckoned that a father with five children who enlists four sponsors, each with a family of four, can theoretically weave a fabric of nearly five hundred kin. The system has lost its original religious character as Filipinos, out expediency, forge secular links with professional partners, army comrades, and schoolmates.

Filipinos are absorbed into these alliances from infancy. Children, always invited to celebrations attended by real and fictive relatives, learn to feel comfortable at an early age in the warm fold of parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and ritual kinfolk. But they also learn as they grow up that there ties impose reciprocal responsibilities and must be observed to avoid the worst of all fates: exclusion from the extended family.

Personal rather than institutional relationships guide Filipinos, making them less sensitive to the rules of society that to the opinions of their real or ritual kin, whose esteem they must win and retain. Hence their obsession with hiya, a Tagalog term that conveys the supremely important concept of “face.” To behave decorously toward family and friends, to display respect for an elder, kindness toward an underling, deference toward a superior - all show exemplary hiya and are ways to gain face. Failure to exhibit these qualities is a walang hiya, to act shamelessly and thus lose face in the eyes of others. Equally vital is utang na loob, the “debt of gratitude” that Filipinos are ethically expected to repay in return for favors, lest they be guilty of walang hiya. A Filipino who renders services piles up credit for the future, since those he has assisted become indebted to him.

At its best, this mutual obligation pattern is an ideal social security mechanism. Filipinos help to raise siblings and later care for their aged parents. If they become wealthy or rise to high office, they are required to support their relatives or find them government jobs. Even the poorest scrape to aid their more indigent kin, and no house is so humble that it lacks a spot for an unfortunate relative. Thousands of Filipinos rely on remittances from their children in the United States. Four hundred thousand Filipinos are employed abroad, mostly in lonely places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Working on contract for two or three years as technicians, nurses, drivers and clerks, they send an estimated $1 billion a year home – a sum equal to one fourth of the country’s earnings from exports. Numbers of women serve as domestics in Singapore and Hong Kong, many ending up as prostitutes. Guaranteed the hospitality of cousins and in-laws, Filipinos travel around the islands for only the cost of air fare. They take cheap charted flights to America, then sponge off an uncle in San Diego, a sister in Chicago or a nephew in Boston...

...The Philippines also owes its worst abuses to the strong blood and ceremonial alliances, whose mutual obligations spawn pervasive corruption. Greed alone is not the motive. Public figures rely on their real and ritual kin to win elected or appointed office, and once in authority, they then must reimburse licenses and other favors, both legal and illicit. The recipients in turn kick back a proportion of their profits to the cooperative officials, and so the cycle of graft and fraud becomes normal practice...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

6 Billion Reasons Monthly

Every time a politician says that improvements, i.e. road system, for the country cannot be done right away because the government does not have enough or no money at all, he or she is lying through his teeth. Here are some numbers to consider regarding the remittances sent by all Filipinos living abroad:

Let’s say Filipinos abroad send between $100-1000 to the Philippines monthly. On average, individuals send about $550 (1000 + 100/2). Let’s say 250,000 (50,000 plus OFWs, and the rest are immigrants and naturalized citizens – this is definitely an under estimation) Filipinos send remittance monthly. Every month the Philippines receives 250,000 x $550 = $137,500,000 or 137.5M dollars or (times 47.50, 1.00 $US to PH peso exchange) 6,531,250,000 PH pesos or 6.53B Philippine pesos. This is the kind of money that is available to the politicians. As the money enters the Philippines, 30% of 6.5B pesos or 1.96 B pesos (1,959,375,000 PH pesos) in the form of bank fees, and taxes and ‘processing fees’ immediately goes to and divided between the financial institutions and the government. The remaining 4.57B PH is the spending power of the Filipino people. Of the 4.57 B PH, another 10-15% or 450-680M PH goes back to the government mainly in the form of sales tax. Retail is big business and generates big revenues for many local and foreign manufacturing companies as evident by so many huge shopping centers, mega-malls, popping all over the country. In recent years, Filipinos overseas are pumping additional money with purchases and investments in real estate. Tax from real estate is providing significant revenue for the government.

From the remittances alone, the Philippine government receives an enormous amount of money. This is not including the locally generated revenues which are taxable also. But despite of all that money, the country is in a Third World state. One may ask why? The obvious answer, a well-known fact, is its leaders, the politicians, steal from the national treasury. And this is the reason why there are so many - whether qualified as having the education, training, and experience, or not - run for office. Gaining some kind of government position or seat in office whether locally or nationally has a big incentive of not just having power but gaining access to huge amount of money. The amount of potential financial gain is staggering just from the remittance alone. This is not including the money to be gained from criminal dealings in the form of kickbacks, bribes, and payoffs.

Over the years and true to its reputation as one of the two most corrupt countries (second only to Indonesia), Filipino politicians have demonstrated all kinds of ways to steal from their national treasury. Some at the highest level, especially those with a sense of entitlement, blatantly take money directly from the coffer since there is no one above them to stop or hold them accountable. Many prefer embezzlement as seen throughout all levels of the government including the military. Others, especially those that know they will be in office for some time and will be succeeded by relatives, are a little more subtle and discreet as they skim and siphon from reserved funds. Some are a little more creative as they partner with cronies in phony government-related businesses and projects to misappropriate government funds. A few forego the cold, hard cash, but somehow acquire expensive properties and live lavishly well-beyond their means, their income and personal assets prior to getting elected. One does not have to ask where the money came from to afford such luxurious lifestyle.

For the politicians in the Philippines, stealing money from the national treasury has become a sort of custom. It has transformed to an accepted practice, even to the world, as the Philippines continues to live up to its history as a country that always has a corrupt government run by incompetent and ignorant people. There is no such thing as moral responsibility, righteousness, from government officials. For all civil servants from the president on down to the lowest ranking public administrator, there is no shame for misdeeds and criminal acts against the country and its people. There are also no consequences for crimes against the state; perpetrators go unpunished. There might be some moans and groans in the form of staged protests and political grandstanding from ‘concerned politicians’. But at the end, nothing happens to the accused even if found guilty. He or she is eventually set free for whatever reason. Already lacking morals (as well as mental capacity), most politicians are not discouraged from committing crimes. As a result regardless of who are elected, the country remains in its dismal state and its national treasury is sucked dry year after year.

The congressional election is less than one week away. As always, political-related killings and intimidation are rampant – another tradition. Bribes and ‘campaign gifts’ are flowing in all directions – also another tradition. Candidates will try to get elected at any cost. And just like all the previous politicians, all the candidates are making the all-too-familiar empty promise of ending corruption. And just like before, all those elected will succeed in stopping or ending corruption briefly as promised. Right before they are sworn in, right before they take office, there will be no corruption. But as soon as they lower their right hand, their new brand of corruption begins. But why? One reason, well, at least 6 billion reasons to be exact!

Ano ako? Gago! Hindi ako gagastos ng gano-ong kalaking pera sa eleksyon kung hindi ko siguradong kikita at makikinabang ako ng matagal. Kayo talaga, naniwala na naman at hindi pa rin natututo. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Global warming? Bumanat na naman!

Ayaw talaga nang mga Pilipino na hindi makakasama ang Pilipinas sa buong mundo. Ngayon naman, nakiki-global warming din. Magandang hangarin ang itigil o gawa-an ng para-an ang sinasabi na global warming. Pero ang Pilipinas ay napakaraming problema bago asikasuhin ang global warming.

Kung gustong may maitulong ang Pilipinas, ibaba ang carbon dioxide emission. Pero ano ang pinakamalakas maglabas ng carbon dioxide emission? Jeepneys! Matatanggal ba ang mga jeepneys sa Pilipinas? Hindi! Malalagyan ba ng emission control ang makina ng mga jeepneys? Hindi! Sa madaling salita, hindi magagawa-an ng para-an ng Pilipinas ang pagbawas sa carbon emission. Halos lahat yata na sasakyan, itim na itim ang usok na lumalabas. Hindi ba ninyo halata na pagpunas ninyo ng ilong o mukha ay maitim na libag ang napapahid. Biglang itim nang puti na panyolito. Hindi ito normal. Ang Mexico City mayroon din na emission problem pero hindi katulad ng Pilipinas. Tingnan ninyo ang mga edipisyo, may itim na alikabok na nakadikit. Hindi ito normal. Pilipinas lang ang mayroon nito.

Hindi na nga maayos-ayos ang mga kalsada, global warming pa. Y’ang tinatawag na superhighway o expressway ay para lang eskinita sa Japan o China. Hindi pa patag at hindi pantay ang pagkakagawa. Bago babanat ng gagawa-an ng para-an ang global warming. Unahin muna ninyo ang mga kalsada!

Pag-uulan kahit hindi malakas bumabaha. No-ong kapanahunan pa yan ni President Quezon. Hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin nagagawa-an ng para-an. Siguro kung ang mga Amerikano at Hapon ay hindi gumawa ng mga drainage system no-on sa Maynila pati Pobres Park ay binabaha ngayon. Hindi pa nga na-aayos ang problema ng baha, babanat naman ng global warming. Hindi normal na palaging pinapasok ng tubig ang bahay. Marami sa inyo na ya-an na ang kinagisnan kaya sanay na kayo. Pero hindi normal ya-an. Unahin muna din itong baha bago ang global warming.

Eh yo-ong tubig pa. Sa umaga pagnagkasabay-sabay ang bukas ng tubig nawawala-an ng pressure. Kung minsan pumapatak lang. Mabuti na lang kung napuno yo-ong tanke sa gabi para mayroong matatabo sa umaga. Kung hindi, wala man lang panghilamos. Bago babanat ng global warming. Tatlo na ya-ang dapat unahin muna.

Kung talagang gustong alaga-an ang kapaligiran at karagatan, maraming problemang dapat gawa-an ng lunas. Ang basura nga lang nakatapon dito nakatapon do-on, nakakalat lang Ang mga ilog at sapa ay tinatambakan ng mga basura.

Marami pa ring mangingisda na gumagamit ng dinamita. Pagsabog, lahat na hayop-dagat patay, pati yo-ong maliliit pa. Kaya nauubos ang mga isda dahil walang nakakalaki. Ang mga endangered na pawikan at ang dugong ay hinuhuli at kinakain pa. Hindi na ba sapat yo-ong mga isda at ang mga ibang hayop-dagat.

Karamihan ng mga bayan at baranggay na malalapit sa dagat, inaani at ibinibenta ang mga rare corals at seashells. Maraming nakabilad sa araw sa mga kalsada. Lahat ng buhay at hayop sa dagat hinuhuli. Kinakain at ipinagbibili. Pati ang puti na pino na buhangin minimina. Lahat na.

Dati no-on maraming mga musang, bayawak at labuyo (hindi yo-ong sili). Ngayon wala na kahit na sa liblib na probinsya. Naubos na sa paghuhuli parang gawain lang na pulutan. Sa ngayon, ang mga kababata-an ay hindi alam kung ano ito na mga klaseng hayop. Hindi na nila masisilayan.

Eh yo-ong illegal logging pa. Yo-ong malaking mga puno na gumagamit at nagtatanggal ng carbon emission sa atmosphere pinuputol. Bago hindi naman nagtatanim at pinapalitan yo-ong mga pinutol. Isang malaking purhisyo din ang illegal logging. Pero nagagawa-an ba ng solusyon ng gobyerno? Hindi! Kaya taon-taon lumalala ang mga mudslides. Hindi lang carbon emission, nakakapatay din ng mga tao. Di ba dapat itong unahin din?

Kung tutu-usin maraming mga problema ang Pilipinas na dapat munang asikasuhin bago pakialaman at makisale sa global warming. Pero nauuna ang ambisyosong ugali na wala namang kaya. Kaya ngayon, hindi maka-ahon ang Pilipinas na Third World Country na bansa. Unatin muna ninyo ang baluktot na pagiisip. Mahilig makisakay o makisabay pero wala naman sa lugar at wala din naman na kaya. Kaunting isip lang at common sense. Kung hindi, pagtatawanan na naman ng buong mundo ang Pilipinas. Unahin muna ang mg dapat asikasuhin.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Don Pedero's Starstruck Ignoramuses

As always, we apologize for re-posting this WITHOUT permission. We also share Don Pedero’s sentiments. As you can see, this article was original published in Philippine Star on October 2000. It’s been almost 7 years and still nothing has changed in the Philippines. Everything that Pedero/Nasty mentioned in the article is as true as ever. Many will disagree with this because the Philippine peso has gained almost 5 pesos against the US dollar in the last 3-4 years. This is quite misleading and hardly an accurate account of the bigger picture. Just walk around Manila and you’ll notice that the sights and sounds have not changed. If you’re lucky or privileged enough to be able to see the view from any of the high-rises in Manila, I’m very sure that you will be reminded of the real situation by all those enclaves of slums scattered all over the city. How about when it rains? Why is Espana always flooded? Sampaloc? Malabon? Navotas? Tondo is still Tondo. Why are there always so much garbage around Quiapo? The areas along Manila Bay might have improved a little - maganda na! - with the addition of a few park benches and coconut trees. But the view is still the same - floating garbage. What about the brownouts? What about the unreliable water supply? What about the children selling chewing gums, cigarettes, and leis of sampaquitas on the streets? Child protection and labor law? What about all the politicians still accusing each other of wrongdoings but nobody seems to be responsible, let alone found guilty, of anything? Why isn’t the media, the voice of the people, calling out or holding all the corrupt and incompetent politicians accountable? We could go on. And that’s why we’re going to continue writing.

By the way, does anyone have the contact for Don Pedero? Or a copy of “Little Brown Americans”? We’re very much interested in everything that Nasty said. We would like to post it here too. Salamat po.

'The Philippines is a nation of starstruck ignoramuses'
by Don Pedero
Philippine Star 29 October 2000

Last July 23, I wrote about Nasty (short for Anastacio), a balikbayan from Los Angeles, who, while vacationing in Manila, had nothing to say but negative comments about the Philippines and the Filipinos. The article elicited a deluge of comments from our readers. Though some agreed with his curt observations, most were enraged at the repulsive way he acted and whined.

For me, he was the classic epitome of the "crow perched on a carabao," thinking and acting nauseatingly superior just because he has become an American citizen, inequitably comparing everything here to how they are in the first world. I was particularly irked by his repulsive "know it all" attitude and peeved no end by his irritating Waray-American twang.

Those who have not read that article may access and click archives, then select July 23 and click Lifestyle. The article is entitled "Little Brown Americans." As a backgrounder, here is an excerpt:

The next day, I took them on a little city tour and accompanied them to do extra shopping at the duty-free shop. They were to leave two days later for their respective provinces (Randy is from Pampanga, Nasty, from Samar).

"God, ang dilem-dilem naman ditow (it is so dark here)!" screamed Nasty in his characteristic Taglish slang, "At ang inet-inet pa (and so warm)!

* * *

All throughout the day, Nasty complained about everything. He griped that all Filipinos he encountered were dense and inefficient (I hope that didn't include me!); that the traffic was horrendous and drivers "drove like they were late for their funerals"; that the pollution from the smoke-belching vehicles was irritating his dainty, surgically-pinched nose.

He was disgusted that water closets didn't work; horrified that there was no toilet paper in public toilets ("God, how do you people do it?" he bewailed); petrified by street children begging while soaking wet in the rain ("Where are the parents of these kids?" he nagged).

He moaned about the proliferation of slums, people crossing the superhighways ("There should be underground or overhead walkways for pedestrians!" he demanded), the potholes on the streets, the disgusting garbage and filth all over the city, and the annoying floods! And all these he observed in just one day!

Weeks after the publication of the article, I took Nasty's silence to mean that of contempt and anger. I must admit that I didn't care because I was really turned off by his arrogance. The good news is, Nasty has finally decided to break his silence and give us his side, loaded with a big piece of his mind. The bad news is, he hits more sensitive chords and it stings.

* * *

Nasty's E-Mail
Dear Dero,

My Zen master says, "Never fight fire with fire." So, I sat in a lotus position, imbibed the ethereal qualities of cool mountain water and stoically resisted the temptation of answering back to defend myself in rebuttal of your article. I kept quiet while you and your readers had a charlatan holiday, dissecting and fanning sarcasm on my every comment about your country and your people.

I am not mad at you for writing that piece. I was never upset at any point, even after your readers from all over the world e-mailed in their two-cents' worth. In fact, I found it rather amusing and carnival-like.

I even felt happy that people still came to the defense of your Philippines!

If you noticed, I now refer to the Philippines and Filipinos as your country and your people. Every time I went back there for vacation, my Filipino-ness always took the better of me (blame those damn green mangoes smothered with bagoong!) and made me forget that I am, in all reality, what you aptly called a "Little Brown American." I have come to terms with my own identity- I am, after all, an American citizen carrying an American passport!

What precipitated my quick decision to sever my ties with your country (aside from your ***** of an article) were the Abu Sayyaf abductions (que barbaridad!), the Payatas-like downslide of the peso (eat your hearts out, I earn sweet American dollars!), the "devoid of conscience" graft and corruption in your government (this has gone on for the longest time-how shameful!), and lately, the stupid "Juetengate" and juicy but enraging "Boracay" mansion gossips. With all these, who would be proud to be a Filipino? Besides, to tell you frankly, those Erap jokes are no longer funny- they are passé and leave a bad taste in the mouth and heart. No Apology If I sounded brash and insensitive with the way I threw my comments, well, I cannot do any-thing about that because that is the way I am, and I offer no apology. Here, in America, you have to tell it like it is or you'll never be taken seriously. I have learned to drop my "Pinoy sugarcoating" because out here, you get nothing done if you are meek and sweet and pa-api. Hindi puwede mag-Anita Linda dito!

When I commented about your pollution, street children mendicants, slums, potholes, toilets that don't work, garbage, floods, and most of all, the Pinoys' chronic lack of discipline, I was merely putting into words what I saw. I can't blame your being blind about your country's situation.

My Zen master says, "One cannot easily see the dirt in one's eye." I am sure though that you are aware of those sordid details, but have grown accustomed to them (like most Manilans have). All the complaints I aired may have hurt your pride but what I wanted you to realize is this: The things I pointed out are all symptoms of a failing, falling nation!

Suffering A National Karma?

Could yours be a country cursed with a huge national karmic debt? It could be payback time, you know. Look back into your history, look deep inside your hearts-what could you have done as a nation to deserve this fiasco you are in today?

What you are faced with didn't just happen overnight-it developed and grew into a monster in the course of time. Deeply imbedded in the psyche of the Filipino is the amalgamation of the characters and events that have impacted your lives - Dona Victorina, Dona Concepcion, poor Sisa as well the other hilarious and tragic characters of Dr. Jose Rizal... Stonehill...the notorious gangsters immortalized by your Filipino movies like Asiong Salonga (hmmm!), et al...the killers in your (I thought they'd never end!) massacre movies...those cheap, appalling titles of your movies...those staged "religious miracles" that your naive masses men with pushy queridas (mistresses)...your crooked politicians, undependable police officers and greedy customs collectors...your bribe-hungry court judges...Imeldific, gloriously smiling and crying at the same time, bejeweled. (How very Fellini!)

What you are is the sum total of your history, your heritage and culture, your education, the crap that your press sensationalizes, the bad icons that your movies glorify, the artificial values your advertising extols, the bad examples your leaders and role models project. What you feed your country's mind is what it becomes. You have become the ugly monster that you've created. You are now crying all the tears your sickeningly sentimental movies wailed out for years and years! Your Biggest Fault If there is one thing that comes to mind, I think your biggest fault would be your individual greed. "Ako muna!" seems to be the national mantra. The trouble is, very few people think for the common good in a deplorable "to each his own kurakot" festival. Coupled by your crab mentality of pushing down others, this can be fatal. You think barangay, not national. Hello, everybody else around the world is thinking global! Europe is unshackling her national boundaries while you are building fences around your nipa huts.

Do yourselves a favor and look at your nation as a ship. All of you are in it and it is sinking! Realize your oneness-what hurts your brother hurts you, too. Think about the future of your children and the succeeding generations, and do something about it quick before your poor little banca plunges forever into the irretrievable depths of despair.

Star-Struck Nation

You are a nation of star-struck ignoramuses. You are easily awed by your movie stars who are usually nothing but uneducated, aquiline-nosed and light-skinned ******** picked up from some gutter somewhere. I have seen what these artistas illusionadas can get away with. They just flash their capped-tooth smiles and policemen let them get away with traffic violations; they bat their false eyelashes and customs officers impose no duty on their suspicious balikbayan boxes.

Worst of all, with the Filipino movie industry taking a nosedive, hordes of actors and show personalities went into politics. It is, as they say, the next best "racket"-there is more money to be made in the politicking business than in show business! (And what is this I hear that in the coming elections, more are jumping into the arena? Mag-hara-kiri na kayo!) How can you expect these comedians and actors, who only know how to take directions from their directors, to direct your nation? For them, politics will just be an "act". No big surprise here, for they are mere actors with no original scripts to speak, no original visions to share. So what can you expect but a government that is a comedy of errors. Serves you and your star- struck nation right!

My Zen master says, "Give unto Caesar what is due to Caesar, but keep Charlie Chaplin on the silver screen to make us laugh." To survive, you must teach your citizenry to say no to three things - no to drugs, no to stealing and graft and corruption, and no to artistas in politics. I hope you've learned your lesson by now. (Yours is the only country where Mexican soap stars are received like royalty in the presidential palace. How shoddy! God forbid-Fernando Carrillo might end up being your next president. At least he has great abs and doesn't wobble like a penguin when he walks!)

For those artistas who honestly believe that they can make a positive difference in the Filipino masses' life, they must first study law, business and public administration, and immerse themselves in the life and passion of Mother Teresa. Politics is not an art for dilettante artistas to dabble in. It is called "Political Science," hello?!

Educate Your Masses

Educate the masses - especially your electorate. What you need is an intelligent vote aside from, of course, intelligent candidates. The University of San Carlos in Cebu City, founded in 1595, and the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, established in 1611, are the oldest universities in Asia, and are even older than Harvard. But the standard of Pinoy education has deteriorated so much that the Philippines ranks among the poorest in the educational hierarchy of Asia.

Education, education, education-that's what you need in this age of information, information, information.

If all your social, religious and political sectors don't sit down now and decide to take the Right Way, the Philippines and your children's children will be grand losers in the worldwide rush to the future. Education is one sure way to salvation. Teach what is right, good, beautiful and beneficial.

Downplay all negativity if you cannot eliminate it altogether.

The Ideal President

I've got news for you. (As if you didn't already know.) No matter whom you put up there as your leader or president, it will be the same banana. Even a holy man can turn into another J. E. (Judas Escariot) for a few pieces of silver. Kumpares, alalays, relatives and cronies will encrust like flies and maggots on his cordon sanitaire. And it will be the same despicable "Sa amin na 'to!" hullabaloo all over again.

Take an advice from Aling Epang: "Pumili ng matanda, mayaman, mabait, at madaling mamatay." Get a president who is old - so that he is full of wisdom, rich - so he won't need to steal more money, goodhearted - so he will render heartfelt service to his people, and is in the sunset of his life - so that he will think of nothing but gaining good points to present when he meets his Creator. And may I add: At iisa lang ang pamilya! This is, of course, asking for the moon. Just pray fervently for an intelligent leader with a pure heart who genuinely loves the common tao!

Magpakatotoo Kayo! Wake up and look at the real you. Enough with looking at your reflection in glorious, self-embellishing mirrors. The tropical sun can play tricks, you know. Do not wait for darkness to fall before you take that much-needed long, hard look at your real situation. Magpakatotoo kayo, ano? This isn't a wake-up call-it is the final alarm!

Save the ship while you still can. Don't wait till your people have no more dreams left to hang on to, no more hope to sustain their broken spirits. I came home, spent my penny-pinched savings so that even in the minutest way I could help your bruised economy. Your politicians sit on their fat, farting butts and get balatos (kuno!) in the millions. Receivers are as guilty as the givers. Now, tell me, who is really nasty?

I Have Made My Decision; So Should You.

My Zen master says, "Life is all about decisions, not choices." I have made a decision which I know will be very hard for me to keep- You will never hear from me again (not in this vein) and I will not even think of visiting or buwisiting your Manila ever. This is my way of letting you know that I have given up on you. Bahala na kayo! Only you can help yourselves because at the stage you are in, nobody would want to help you. My Zen master says, "You have to fall to learn to rise again." How much lower do you want to go?

Anyway, regarding the Philippines as a tourist destination, you have a lot of cleaning up and face-lifting to do before foreigners would dare go to your islands again. The Abu Sayyaf episode has done your tourism industry more damage than you could ever imagine, and it will take a long time before the world forgets. (By the way, your tourism projects are lusterless and have no global impact. If you want real business, spruce up your infrastructure and do aggressive marketing on the World Wide Web!)

Of course, I would gladly reverse my decision if someone offered me exclusive lordship over lotto, bingo, jueteng, pintakasi and the jai alai. Think about it: this will be to your advantage because I never give tong or blood commission to anyone! (If only your president used the millions he received from those gambling lords to build homes for the masses, you wouldn't have any more squatters. Huling hirit: defrost those Marcos billions, pay off some debt, place the rest in high-yield investments, feed your hungry, and spread bounty and joy to every Filipino! Are you stupid or what? - That's your money sucked from the blood of your people!)

I have made my decision, now make yours. I would hate for the day to come when I'd have to say, "I told you so!" Good luck! (You need it.)

An ex-Filipino,

J. Anastasio "Nasty"

P. S. My Zen master says, "Vox populi is not always the voice of God."

P. P. S. Come over to L.A and I'll show you a great time!

P. P. P. S. Our friend Randy says hello! We will be going to Vancouver to feast our eyes on the colors of autumn. Wish you could join us.

P. P. P. P. S. The new Miss America, Angela Perez Baraquio, is of Filipino ancestry. Dero, her parents hail from Pangasinan just like you! But keep in mind that she is an American (in case some wise fools over there claim her to be Filipino like they always do whenever someone becomes successful).

Wait for the girl to say it- don't put words in her mouth!

P. P. P. P. P. S. Mabuhay kayo (SANA)!

P. P. P. P. P. P. S. Sa totoo lang, MAGDUSA KAYONG LAHAT! (Don't you just love my Waray-Kano accent?) He-he-he!

- Same

* * *

My Short Reply

Dear Nasty,

Thanks for your e-mail. I swear you sort of stole the words from right under my tongue. Now, I am utterly speechless.

Send my regards to Randy. Wishing you the best!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Keep Digging!

It’s the first week of May 2007. The typhoon season is less than a couple of months away, and I’m very sure that within the next six months the Philippines will be asking Japan, Australia, and the US for disaster aid. Apparently, just like last year and all the years before that, the Filipinos still have not learned anything from the hard lessons brought by disasters. Last year several provinces in the Philippines suffered greatly from mudslides and flooding after getting hit with typhoons. Many towns and entire villages were buried in mud or completely submerged under water, resulting in hundreds of deaths and displaced people with no houses or towns to go back to. To a civilized country or just for people with a little common sense, these catastrophic events that are direct results of powerful storms should not be allowed to occur again. Typhoons come every year. Measures should be taken to decrease its devastating effects. But that seems to be not the case in the Philippines. Even after hundreds died, it appears that those lost lives are not enough to address the current existing problems, those problems that worsen the effects of a storm.

The first and foremost, an age-long on-going problem, is the drainage system. There is no such thing in the Philippines. Any kind of drainage system for both rain water and raw sewage is limited in a few areas in Manila, and in the planned, gated communities constructed in recent years. Raw sewage either drains in septic tank constructed underground beneath the house (for those that can afford it) or in the shallow canals dug around the neighborhoods. It is common for many neighborhoods to be reeking from the stench of sewage water once it becomes stagnant. Incidentally these putrid canals become the breeding ground for dengue and malaria-carrying mosquitoes and the source of other communicable diseases. The problem of not having a drainage system creates other problems with serious and even fatal, far-reaching consequences. Hundreds of children die from dengue and malaria every year.

Some areas are fortunate to have a natural drainage system, the rivers and streams. Bamboos used as drain pipes can be seen jutting from underneath of houses built alongside rivers and streams. Human excrement from those houses along with animal waste from pig pens and chicken coupes is dump directly in those bodies of water. It is also a common practice to dump or float garbage out in the canals or in the streets when the canals overflow during a storm. For most Filipinos, this is the proper way of getting rid of trash. Many do not care where the garbage ends up as long as it is not in their area. Naturally the canals drain in rivers and streams, and they are clogged with garbage. But if the garbage does not clog the rivers and streams, they eventually get deposited in ponds and lakes where the rivers and streams empty or out in the ocean. It is not uncommon to see most bodies of water in the Philippines to be polluted with all kinds of rubbish, floating and decaying. And over the years as they fill up, they eventually become cesspools and more breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Just like the polluted rivers and streams, garbage that get dump in the ocean eventually comes back ashore and litter the beaches. All kinds of garbage from plastic containers, old tsinelas (flip-flops), old tires, and carcass of dead animals can be seen floating or washing up ashore. This is part of the seascape from the famous Baywalk in Manila Bay. (When dining at any waterside restaurant in Manila, never dine al fresco or get seated on a table right over the water).

In many areas away from bodies of water, low-lying areas develop into black, filthy swamps from the water run-off including raw sewage. Because the canals do not empty to any kind of reservoir, the run-off naturally flows and pools in the low-lying areas. These low-lying areas now become cesspools. It would appear that these cesspools, these wet wastelands, would become inhabitable. The opposite happens.

As survivalists and making-do of what is available (because they really have no choice), poor Filipinos build houses right on top of those cesspools. Piece by piece, houses made from all kinds of scrap materials are built on bamboo stilts right over the putrid water. A network of catwalk-like bridges also raised on stilts connects all the houses and leads to the higher dry land. Water supply is carried in pails and plastic cans. And electricity is eventually supplied and rigged throughout the whole neighborhood through a self-installed connection from the main power line. Ingenious! Both housing and utility problems are solved. Unlike with the houses on dry land, they do not have any problem with drainage and garbage disposal. Everything from human waste to solid garbage is just thrown out the window. The whole surrounding is the garbage dump. What a way to live a life but it’s the life for many Filipinos today. Incidentally, hundreds of children are born in those slums, and 2-3 generations will grow up in those areas only knowing that kind of life.

So from a single problem of lacking a drainage system stems additional problems ranging from the propagation of communicable diseases to the creation of slums (that create more poor people and cement their life of poverty). It is the beginning and continuation of a vicious cycle.

Typhoons come every year, can the floods be prevented? The answer is “yes!” There are a few simple steps that can be taken to prevent flooding. But the Filipinos are not taking any action. As always, it appears that they are waiting for the WHO, the Peace Corps, or even missionaries to lead them, to tell and show them what to do. It is no wonder that the world views the Filipinos as lazy and ignorant people!

Flooding is a foreseeable problem that is a direct result of having too much water concentrated in one place at some time. A logical solution would be is to create a place for the expected or anticipated huge amount of water that a certain area cannot hold. The answer to flooding can be solved by three little words – dig, dig, and dig.

The Philippines will never be short of man-power. Anywhere and at anytime of the day, there are so many people just hanging out, loitering, or doing nothing. Maraming mga istambay (standbys). (There are also many hard-working and productive people but the lazy ones greatly out-number them, and that is why it appears that most Filipinos are indolent. Those that are diligent, masipag, and making a living are getting lumped together with all the tamad.) Those able bodies that are not employed or not doing anything productive should be armed with a shovel and made to dig ditches and dump sites for garbage.

First of all, Filipinos should learn how to dispose of garbage properly. This means designating and digging a dump site (at every town and municipality) so garbage can be buried and rot underground. The current way of disposing garbage is just dumping above ground (if not in the lakes and rivers) that create hills and eventually mountains of garbage; hence the many burning Smoky Mountains all over the Philippines.

By disposing and burying garbage underground, natural bodies of water such as lakes and rivers are prevented from getting clogged and polluted. Water run-off from storms can flow freely and reduce or prevent flooding altogether. Mountains of garbage that contribute to unsanitary conditions and diseases are also eliminated.

Being near the Equator, the Philippines receives at least one meter of rainfall annually. It is a significant amount of water. Flooding is almost always guaranteed because there is no drainage system. Again, there is a simple solution that only requires man-power. Digging canals and ditches with a volume of at least one cubic meter, and can drain to larger bodies of water should decrease or prevent flooding. And if the nearby bodies of water are not enough to hold the water brought by storms then make and dig reservoirs that will hold the excess water. This is not something new or innovative. Throughout human history, people have been managing water for different reasons. Canals and dykes were built in Holland and Venice to protect the city. The canals also serve as waterways for people to travel. In many desert countries where fresh water is extremely valuable, reservoirs are built to capture whatever very little amount of rainfall they receive yearly and for storing desalinated water from the ocean. In the United States, many land-locked states made - dug - lakes to capture and save water from rain and melting snow. Those man-made lakes are then used for all kinds of water recreation and the main source of water for irrigation. As a result, the farms in the US are able to maximize their production despite of a shorter planting season due to the cold winter months. This is the opposite in the Philippines where farming should be year-round.

In some areas that are a little mountainous and do not have large inland bodies of water like in Batangas and the Negros, planting season is only 3-4 months long. Once the rice or sugar canes are harvested, the land stays untouched and dries up until the next rainy season. For over half a year, the land is not being used because there is no water. But if there are reservoirs, the rain during the rainy season can be trapped and used for irrigation throughout the year. The farm, hacienda, workers will not have to suffer starvation too. They can plant and provide food for themselves rather than depending only on their meager income as a hired hand for planting and harvesting cash crops.

In addition to flooding, mudslides also result from large amount of water brought by storms. But the mudslides are in catastrophic proportions due to the conditions created by illegal logging and kaingin, slash-and-burn farming, just like what happened in Isabela and Leyte. Instead of just muddy water and mud that wash down from the hills and mountains, whole side of mountains collapses and buries everything in its path including towns and villages.

Because many farmers are driven out or bought out from their farms by greedy land-grabbers, they are forced to farm the unconventional way, kaingin, slash-and-burn farming on sides of hills and mountains. They are left to farm the sides of mountains because that’s most likely the only piece of land available to them. They also don’t have to worry about the land-grabbers because those strips of land is undesirable mainly because its location is difficult to farm. First the farmers have to clear all the natural vegetation and the quickest way to do this is to cut down everything then burn the whole area. By burning the vegetation, the area is then fertilized. Then right after the rainy season, the area is farmed, usually planted with cash crops. The planting season last only a few months since there is no irrigation. Every thing dries up during the dry season. Then right before the rainy season begins, the whole area is burnt again. This is the condition for the catastrophic mudslides. After the ground has been cultivated for a couple of cycles, it becomes very loose and porous. And when torrential rains come during the rainy months, it saturates the ground. And since there is no longer any vegetation to hold the ground together, the whole area crumbles down.

The same condition results from illegal logging. In addition to mud, all debris from the top of the mountain including the cut down logs comes down ramming and destroying everything along its path.

Incidentally, it’s not hard to believe that the government or elected leaders in the government are not involved with illegal logging. It is very difficult to hide and transport large objects like the cut down trees. It also requires buyers, and the government or someone connected in the government are the only ones that can make this arrangement.

It’s 2007 and typhoon season is right around the corner. Granted, the government did allocate some supplies and equipments, and prepared the military to deal with the aftermaths. But this is not addressing the root of the problems. Planning for the aftermath is like making coffins and digging graves for healthy people. Forget the disease that they might contract or an injury that they might suffer while they are living. Just plan for the end to bury them. But the government should not have to worry about burying people if whole sides of mountains come down. Nature would do the job for them. And those buried cannot really complain so there is no problem after all.

Dig now to prevent flooding. Or dig for buried bodies later. The choice is yours.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Francisco Sionil Jose's Why Are We Poor?

Just like with our previous re-posting of other papers, we apologize for posting this paper by Francisco Sionil Jose WITHOUT permission. But we believe in F Sionil Jose, his invaluable insights of the Filipino psyche, and his love and patriotism for the Philippines as expressed in many of his works. It would be a great injustice to the Filipino people if we do not spread his message. You are a living national treasure of the Philippines. We are truly honored to be living in your lifetime. Maraming salamat po.
In one of the luncheons he hosted recently for clients of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco asked the writer Francisco Sionil Jose to share some of his observations of the current scene. This is the paper Mr. Jose read on that occasion.

What did South Korea look like after the Korean War in 1953? Battered, poor - but look at Korea now. In the Fifties, the traffic in Taipei was composed of bicycles and Army trucks, the streets flanked by tile-roofed low buildings. Jakarta was a giant village and Kuala Lumpur a small village surrounded by jungle and rubber plantations. Bangkok was criss-crossed with canals, the tallest structure was the Wat Arun, the Temple of the Sun, and it dominated the city's skyline. Rice fields all the way from Don Muang Airport - then a huddle of galvanized iron-roofed bodegas, to the Victory monument.

Visit these cities today and weep - for they are more beautiful, cleaner and prosperous than Manila. In the Fifties and Sixties we were the most envied country in Southeast Asia. Remember further that when Indonesia got its independence in 1949, it had only 114 university graduates compared to the hundreds of Ph.D.'s which were already in our universities. Why then were we left behind? The economic explanation is simple. We did not produce cheaper and better products.

The basic question really is: why we did not modernize fast enough and thereby doomed our people to poverty. This is the harsh truth about us today. Just consider these: some 15 years ago a survey showed that half of all grade school pupils dropped out after grade 5 because they had no money to continue schooling. Thousands of young adults today are therefore unable to find jobs. Our natural resources have been ravaged and they are not renewable. Our tremendous population increase eats up all of our economic gains. There is hunger in this country now; our poorest eat only once a day.

But this physical poverty is really not as serious as the greater poverty that afflicts us and this is the poverty of the spirit.

Why then are we poor? More than ten years ago, James Fallows, editor of the Atlantic Monthly came to the Philippines and wrote about our damaged culture which, he asserted, impeded our development. Many disagreed with him but I do find a great deal of truth in his analysis. This is not to say that I blame our social and moral malaise on colonialism alone. But we did inherit from Spain a social system and an elite that, on purpose, exploited the masses. Then, too, in the Iberian peninsula, to work with one's hands is frowned upon and we inherited that vice as well. Colonialism by foreigners may no longer be what it was, but we are now a colony of our own elite.

We are poor because we are poor - this is not a tautology. The culture of poverty is self-perpetuating. We are poor because our people are lazy. I pass by a slum area every morning - dozens of adults do nothing but idle, gossip and drink. We do not save. Look at the Japanese and how they save in spite of the fact that the interest given them by their banks is so little. They work very hard too.

We are great show-offs. Look at our women, how overdressed, over- coiffed they are, and Imelda epitomizes that extravagance. Look at our men, their manicured nails, their personal jewelry, their diamond rings. Yabang - that is what we are, and all that money expended on status symbols, on yabang. How much better if it were channeled into production. We are poor because our nationalism is inward looking.

Under its guise we protect inefficient industries and monopolies. We did not pursue agrarian reform like Japan and Taiwan. It is not so much the development of the rural sector, making it productive and a good market as well. Agrarian reform releases the energies of the landlords who, before the reform, merely waited for the harvest. They become entrepreneurs, the harbingers of change. Our nationalist icons like Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada oppose agrarian reform, the single most important factor that would have altered the rural areas and lifted the peasant from poverty. Both of them were merely anti- American.

And finally, we are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings. We condone cronyism and corruption and we don't ostracize or punish the crooks in our midst. Both cronyism and corruption are wasteful but we allow their practice because our loyalty is to family or friend, not to the larger good.

We can tackle our poverty in two very distinct ways. The first choice: a nationalist revolution, a continuation of the revolution in 1896. But even before we can use violence to change inequities in our society, we must first have a profound change in our way of thinking, in our culture. My regret about EDSA is that change would have been possible then with a minimum of bloodshed. In fact, a revolution may not be bloody at all if something like EDSA would present itself again. Or a dictator unlike Marcos.

The second is through education, perhaps a longer and more complex process. The only problem is that it may take so long and by the time conditions have changed, we may be back where we were, caught up with this tremendous population explosion which the Catholic Church exacerbates in its conformity with doctrinal purity.

We are faced with a growing compulsion to violence, but even if the communist won, they will rule as badly because they will be hostage to the same obstructions in our culture, the barkada, the vaulting egos that sundered the revolution in 1896, the Huk revolt in 1949-53.

To repeat neither education nor revolution can succeed if we do not internalize new attitudes, new ways of thinking. Let us go back to basics and remember those American slogans: A Ford in every garage. A chicken in every pot. Money is like fertilizer: to do any good it must be spread around.

Some Filipinos, taunted wherever they are, are shamed to admit they are Filipinos. I have, myself, been embarrassed explain for instance why Imelda, her children and the Marcos cronies are back, and in positions of power? Are there redeeming features in our country that we can be proud of? Of course, lots of them. When people say for instance that our corruption will never be banished, just remember that Arsenio Lacson as mayor of Manila and Ramon Magsaysay as President brought a clean government.

We do not have the classical arts that brought Hinduism and Buddhism to continental and archipelago Southeast Asia, but our artists have now ranged the world, showing what we have done with Western art forms, enriched with our own ethnic traditions. Our professionals, not just our domestics, are all over, showing how an accomplished people we are!

Look at our history. We are the first in Asia to rise against Western colonialism, the first to establish a republic. Recall the Battle of Tirad Pass and glory in the heroism of Gregorio Del Pilar and the 48 Filipinos who died but stopped the Texas Rangers from capturing the President of that First Republic. Its equivalent in ancient history is the Battle of Thermopylae where the Spartans and their king Leonidas, died to a man, defending the pass against the invading Persians.

Rizal - what nation on earth has produced a man like him? At 35, he was a novelist, a poet, an anthropologist, a sculptor, a medical doctor, a teacher and martyr.

We are now 80 million and in another two decades we will pass the 100 million mark. Eighty million - that is a mass market in any language, a mass market that should absorb our increased production in goods and services - a mass market which any entrepreneur can hope exploit, like the proverbial oil for the lamps of China.

Japan was only 70 million when it had confidence enough and the wherewithal to challenge the United States and almost won. It is the same confidence that enabled Japan to flourish from the rubble of defeat in World War II.

I am not looking for a foreign power for us to challenge. But we have a real and insidious enemy that we must vanquish, and this enemy is worse than the intransigence of any foreign power. We are our own enemy. And we must have the courage, the will, to change ourselves.