Showing posts from April, 2006

Hyperventilating over a doomsday scenario

If we are to go by media reports, it looks like everyone is not only gearing up for a major showdown on May 1; everyone is raring for it. And media is all agog with anticipation.

Media of course has its handy excuse for doing cartwheels to cover the minutest detail of how the militants and the government are preparing for the showdown: the public needs to know (apparently the public is that perverse, we want advance information on how they intend to clobber each other in the streets). Clearly, ABS-CBN intends to devote full coverage of the expected May 1 mayhem and they have started justifying their intent in their latest sermon on the role of media featuring Maria Ressa, Chari Villa and Luchie Cruz, the gist of which can be summed up in six words: we are always correct, of course.

I can understand the preoccupation on how the latest Supreme Court ruling on CPR will play out on May 1. But analysis is one thing, prophesizing, nay, anticipating mayhem is another thing. Excitement is st…

Waving pink flags is our best shot?

To push his newest wrinkle, MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando hammed it up for the cameras yesterday and got rewarded with coverage in last night's news broadcasts and in today's papers. The pictures were not exactly flattering. It showed a poker faced Fernando holding a forlorn-looking pink flag (had he been astride a horse and wearing a costume, he would have made a good impression of Don Quixote). But I must hand it to this guy; he is someone who is not scared of being called silly, or of looking the part. Where else in the world will you find something that borders on the farcical - a pink flag - qualify as an officially-sanctioned government project designed to address one of the major headaches of Metro Manila?

Fernando likes pink. I guess there is nothing wrong with pink, but did it have to be in that exact dark shade bordering on fuchsia? (There is an urband legend that says the color is actually his tribute to his wife; if this is true, I dread the thought of what will h…

A Day Without Filipinos

What follows was sent to me as an email. I can not vouch for the veracity of the authorship, or the identifying information of the writer. However, it does make for good reading if only because very often we do tend to be guilty of self-flagellation.

A Day Without Filipinos

By: Fr. Jess E. Briones
SVDSuperior Delegatus
ArgentinaOficina: Calle Mansilla 3865
Residencia: Calle Paraguay 3901
Tel.: 4824-0270 ext 43

Let's imagine then, not just California, but the entire world, waking up one day to discover Filipinos have disappeared. I'm talking here about the six or seven million Filipinos currently working overseas in countries with names that run the entire alphabet, from Angola to Zimbabwe.

Let's not worry first about why or how the Filipinos disappeared; in fact, it becomes academic whether it's a day or a week. Just imagine a world without Filipinos.

Think of the homes that are dependent on Filipino housekeepers, nannies, caregivers. The homes would be chaotic as kids cry o…

Coming soon: a new school year

While watching TV passively last night, I came across a short feature on the impact of the spiraling oil prices on ordinary Filipinos. If there is something that reminds us of how things are inextricably connected in this world, it is oil prices - fluctuations in the world prices of crude oil reverberate across many facets of our lives: prices of commodities go up, transport groups demand fare increases, etc. But what caught my interest was that along the course of interviewing mothers who were doing their marketing at a wet market, the TV reporter stumbled on a related topic of interest. Most of those interviewed commented that they were tightening belts and going on a strict budget on account of the impending opening of classes. One particular harassed-looking mom noted "ngayon pa na malapit na ang pasukan."

My heart goes out to mothers like that - people who put a premium on the educational needs of their children. In this country, the opening of classes is always a major …

Let Students Be

I am bothered by the pronouncements of Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor and the officials of the Cavite State University regarding that protest (actually a heckling) incident involving a graduating student during this year's Commencement Exercises where the President was the guest speaker. The graduating student, Maria Theresa Pangilinan unfurled a "No To Cha-Cha" banner and shouted "Patalsikin si Gloria" while the President was delivering her speech.

Defensor seethed against the act, which he said was reflective of poor taste and lack of decorum. Maybe. Like I said before, there should be some respect for the chair GMA is sitting in. But I have serious reservations about publicly chastising "poor taste" and "lack of decorum." I think the better approach is to take the higher moral ground, express tolerance for the exuberance of the youth, and declare respect for their activism. We may not always agree with the mindset of the youn…

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata

Something that should be pretty evident by now is that I am not a lawyer nor a political scientist. My training is in the behavioral sciences, thus, my perspectives tend toward "understanding motivations" rather than in analyzing the (political, intellectual, social, ideological, etc) implications of things. I am putting this caveat forward before going on to write about what I want to write about today because one of the things that dismays me is that there are many so-called experts out there who speak with the conviction of the all-knowing without regard to the most basic of facts: their views are based on a specific worldview hewn out of a specific discipline; they are not generic one-size fits all panacea. So what follows is either ignorant blabbering of a politically naive person, or valid musings from an imaginary couch.

Having said that, let me state that I view the Supreme Court decision on EO 464 as a possible harbinger of sorts of the collective stance of the magi…

Participating vicariously

I have spent a great part of the last three nights vicariously experiencing iblog2 and the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace Conference from various blogs (mainly through links at MLQ'S blog). I salute the efforts of bloggers who are painstakingly documenting the proceedings and offering insights on the various papers being presented and the discussions that are happening. As someone who started blogging only in September last year, and mainly as a means of personal expression (but who consequently and accidentally found himself at the maelstrom of a major public debate), I take special interest in these events. I fear that my alleged "mainstream" views will probably be an oddity at these events; but then again, I cling to the belief that the concept of free expression embraces everyone -pro or anti, or somewhere in between, despite the often exclusivist perspective of some people. A friend I am conversing with online in YM as I write this post dismisses the discussion…

Summer Memories

I am officially going home to my home town in Leyte for a few days in May. The flight has been booked and the arrangements have been made. It has been quite some time since I last went home, so I am somehow looking forward to this trip. Summer is usually the time when most of us "promdis" do our own exodus back to our barrios, and for good reason: this is the time when most barrios and sitios celebrate their respective fiestas. I am going home actually for a fiesta celebration. For reasons that only make perfect sense to parents, I have found myself as this year's hermano mayor of the fiesta in the barrio where the family farm is. And according to my mother, aside from ensuring that people are fed and intoxicated, I have to be personally present to carry the religious icon of San Isidro Labrador otherwise..., well, I really did not not want to know what the rest of the unwritten contract with the Saint was. I have long given up trying to win an argument with my mother on…

Blog Power

A friend of mine who got acquainted with the blogging world because of that letter has hit upon the realization that bloghopping beats reading the op-ed pages of newspapers. At the very least, she said, the opinions are more real and funnier and the comments more authentic and representative. I couldn't agree more. (Another friend who is HR manager of a large firm shared the sentiment in an emai and he said reading blogs has become a daily habit for him).

I personally have gotten into the habit of just skimming through the op-ed sections of the newspapers before deciding what I want to read in full. It is just so much more convenient and worthwhile to read MLQ's daily roundup of the more sensible things people are saying out there.

I understand that the conference on blogging is ongoing at UP (yesterday and today). I received an invitation to participate, but unfortunately I already had something scheduled. It would have been interesting to finally be able to put names, ideas an…


We still have to get settled into the old routine after the holy week respite, and here we are right smack in the middle of a gridlock already. I am not talking about traffic on the road (which thankfully has been alleviated somehow by the reduction of vehicles on the road due to the fact that students are on vacation, but aggravated just the same by the infernal heat); but to the gridlock that is happening in the national scene around some issues. But what is happening on our thoroghfares is indeed a fitting metaphor to our problems as a nation.

What is it about us Filipinos and our inability to suspend judgment on anything until further enlightenment? Are we really that opinionated that we automatically jump the gun and weigh in on issues even when the facts are not clear yet? It does seem that we have a long long line of people all wanting to talk and to be heard, and nobody wants to listen.

Last week, there was this whole hullabaloo about FPJ's selection as National Artist for c…

Hot Monday

So maybe I was wrong after all. It does seem that there are many many Filipinos out there who attach some meaning to Easter Sunday given the fact that I woke up yesterday to find 38 text messages in my phone's inbox containing various Easter messages - from the religious to the profound to the ribald (about easter eggs). It seems the cash registers of the cellphone companies were ringing loud yesterday and I am sure the whole-page ads of Globe and Talk-n-Text announcing the lowering of SMS rates to 90 cents were worth it.

The text messages invariably spoke the same message: there is always hope for redemption in this world if we learn to accept God's will. I sincerely hope so. But I wish that people would walk the talk on this one.

Like I said, I rarely give Easter Sunday messages from the powers-that-be a second thought, except that yesterday, the President commuted the death sentence of more than 1,000 in death row. Naturally, the act has been given a political spin.

I am 101% …

Hope, Faith, Redemption

By the time you are reading this, you must have already come across some Easter Message from someone in power. I have never really taken Easter Messages seriously before; and I wonder how many Filipinos out there actually watch out for these annual homilies. But I do recognize that being a predominantly Catholic country, we must constantly remind ourselves that the bedrock of our existence lie in the Easter messages of hope, faith, and redemption. But given the way Holy Week has somehow lost its meaning, I doubt very much if these annual attempts at profundity has any significance to the ordinary Filipino.

My family was never big on Easter Sundays. I actually held my first easter egg when I was already working when some well-meaning friends would bring left-over colored eggs from their easter egg hunts. I do know that eggs and rabbits have long been the favored symbol of spring and abundance and that Easter came from the name of some Pagan goddess of spring. But I am sure that someone…


I have been sitting in front of my laptop for sometime now trying to get fingers and brain and heart to work together to write something. My mind is still with Mae. But I know that Mae would like everyone to move on with our lives, which is why I am still sitting here trying.

Death is truly devastating. It makes us come to terms with certain inescapable truths. Just a few weeks ago, the mom of one of my students (Miguel) passed away after a long bout with cancer. But last Tuesday night, Miguel and his brother came to my birthday party and it was great to see them laughing again.

That party was marred by an incident that has also been on my mind these past three days. The scene was straight out of Romeo and Juliet, Filipino style - a super protective mom crashed my private birthday party to chastise me for allowing my party to be the rendezvous of her daughter (who is my student) and her boyfriend (who is also my student)) which the family disapproves of. Her actions didn't make sens…

Thinking of Mae

We can all feel bad about losing money to a thief, or a cellphone to a snatcher, or even the occasional heartbreak when we lose someone to another person. But all these can not compare to losing someone so young, so full of life, at a very young age, to one of life's unexplained mysteries - aneurysm.

Mae Isabel Frances Vargas, a student of mine (one of the very very few students - I can count them with the fingers on one hand - who was able to take four courses under me) passed away at 3am this morning at the ICU at Saint Luke's Hospital. She collapsed Tuesday evening, went into coma on the way to the hospital, and was declared clinically dead since yesterday morning. They removed all life support systems yesterday at noontime, but she heroically maintained a heartbeat until mid afternoon; at which point the doctors decided to make one last herculean effort to revive her. But at 3 am her body finally gave way. Her heart just stopped beating.

The doctors said it was congenit…


In the next few days, Metro Manila will be one of the most ideal places to be in the Philippines. For a few days, the metropolis will be everything one would want it to be and more. For once, one can actually drive an alfa romeo 33 around; not that I have one, or that I can afford one in this lifetime, nor do I aspire to have one ( the last comment is aimed at student activists who trash me in their blogs for being too "burgis" ). But you get the drift - it is one of those rare times when Metro Manila is a little quieter and less frenetic. Too bad holy week happens towards the summer when it is so godawful hot hot hot and one can't go to Baywalk (on the off chance that one wants to go there just to check out what is so darn special about the place to begin with) to marvel at the trash floating at Manila Bay or behold those what-was-Mayor-Atienza-thinking street lights. Nevertheless, Metro Manila is the place to be during the holy week.

This is why I have made it a poi…

Fallacy of the lesser evil? My response

(Published in the Inquirer yesterday was a letter written by Mr. Michael Francis Ean Vega II. Below is my response to it. I am not sure PDI will print it, but given my experience with that paper, I very much doubt it).

This is in response to the letter of Mr. Michael Francis Ean Vega II ("Fallacy of the lesser evil," PDI, 4/8/06). I thank Mr. Vega for widening the contours of the debate beyond the name-calling and class generalizations, and in a civilized way. Although he finds my kind of reasoning lamentable and calls me a pragmatist (*grin*), these descriptions are an improvement over the savage name-calling others have indulged in. I am grateful because I truly think that there is space for courteous exchanges of divergent opinions even in these troubling times and Mr. Vega has just proven that. Perhaps it is time to remind everyone our there that just because we disagree we are not necessarily enemies. Perhaps it is time to bring the discussion to a higher level without l…

Same old hackneyed song from the same tired singers

That New York Times editorial which described GMA as a Marcos-in-the-making has been making the rounds and has raised a number of points - both valid and without basis, depending on where one stands. I do not think there is anything more I can add to those that have already been discussed in many blogs, except to note that 1) there is nothing in that editorial that has not been raised by a number of Filipinos, and perhaps with better clarity and more accuracy (I guess when the sentences are printed on better quality newsprint, they assume more weight?), and 2) I think the suggestion of the NYTimes that US President Bush issue a warning to President GMA is disturbing, it labors under the assumption that the Philippines is under the sovereignty of the USA. I am amazed that that part of the editorial is being glossed over by many people.

We have been issued a stern warning by dear old big brother. Whoa, big bleeping deal!

Okay, so it is good to know that people abroad are showing some conc…

In the Mood for Victor Hugo

My friend Tin shared in her blog her fascination with Victor Hugo which she has just "rediscovered." This brought back powerful memories of my high school days when we had a literature teacher who was a hugeVictor Hugo fan. She made us read Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. I had to recite Victor Hugo's classic poem Man and Woman in some contest (and won, *smile*). Just to provide a brief respite from the usual blog topics, here is that poem, which I know will get some feminists worked up; let's just remember this was written ages ago and reflected an entirely different time and setting. Read it and be swept away by the sheer profundity of Victor Hugo's words:

Man and Woman
By Victor Hugo

Man is the most elevated of creatures, Woman the most sublime of ideals.
God made for man a throne; for woman an altar.
The throne exalts, the altar sanctifies.

Man is the brain, Woman, the heart.
The brain creates light, the heart, love.
Light engenders, love resurrects.


Thoughts on a birthday

On the way to work today, I was listening to AM radio (it helps wake me up, by the time I get to work, I am all worked up and raring to go). I know that many AM radio people are not specimens of sense and reason, but is it too much to ask that they show at least some refinement (or to borrow MLQ's term: civility?) I know, I know, hold your horses please - I know some of you are thinking "Mr. Austero, if you do not like what they are saying, turn that godawful thing off." But I am not ranting about what they are saying - I am ranting against how they are saying it. There is a huge difference. For crying out loud, radio commentators elected themselves to be a mouthpiece of public opinion and if that is the way we as a people carry our polemics, pupulutin talaga tayo sa kangkungan.

Exceptions do not represent the whole of Philippine media, I know for a fact that there are many media people out there who continue to be responsible and fair - but sadly, a few rogues do cast a …

A letter for my son

(My son R-jay graduated from high school last night. It was a poignant moment particularly because as President of his class, he helped put together the simple but meaningful ceremony. He was given a special surprise award, Model Student. I wrote this letter when I got home from the revelry. This is a very personal post and I would appreciate if you would spare this post from political nitpicking).

Dear Son,

Tonight, as I watched you and your classmates throw your white graduation caps into the air and give each other high fives and tearful hugs, I couldn't help but remember my own high school graduation more than two decades ago. I saw the same fire in your eyes that used to be there too in the eyes of many of my high school classmates : you want to make something of your life, change the world, be the best you could ever do, make a difference. A few years ago at our silver homecoming, many of my classmates were jaded, bitter, and over kegs of beer recited a litany of woes and affl…

Deadma is the name of the game

I got back to Manila today after an out of town gig to run a training program for a top auditing firm and saw on TV our national leaders displaying how they have mastered the art of deadma (dead malice, conversational term for ignoring someone). Cardinal Rosales was officiating at his first mass as newly-minted prince of the church and as can be expected, the politicians were in full force. Media made a big to do with the fact that President GMA and President FVR were standing next to each other but refused to hold hands during the singing of The Lord's Prayer, but did exchange a perfunctory handshake during the offering of peace part of the mass. Warring ex-partymates Senate President Drilon and Manila Mayor Atienza ignored each other.

Despite claims to the contrary, it does seem that not everything is purely "professional" and have in fact gotten personal in the national scene. The non verbal language among our leaders can best be described as frosty. Who can blame ordi…