What were they thinking?

This was my column on the date indicated above.

It was bad enough that someone tried to copy the logo of the Polska tourism campaign of the Republic of Poland and pass it off as an original inspired idea to help sell Philippine tourism. We thought it was just another plagiarism issue (not that plagiarism is a simple issue, just that…well, we all know what the Supreme Court of the Philippines, the highest court in the land, said about when plagiarism can be justified).

And then came that rejoinder from Campaigns and Grey, the advertising agency co-opted to help design the campaign, which said in so many words that there was really serious and deliberate intent to copy the Polska logo. The agency people said that shamelessly replicating the logo was the marching orders given to them!

Honestly, what were the officials of the Department of Tourism thinking? That nobody in this country had ever been to Poland or Europe? Did it ever cross their mind that the similarities between the two logos were so striking even someone legally blind could see them?

Of course Campaigns and Grey now washes its hands of the whole stinking mess. If we are to believe the agency, it was used, abused, confused by the guys over at the Department of Tourism. The agency people said their participation in the whole thing was not really official because they didn’t have a contract and that they understood that the whole thing was preliminary and still subject to a complicated bidding process, that they gave ample warnings about the need to test the materials, etc, etc. The guys came this close to saying they were not really in control of their mental faculties when they were helping out.

But the agency failed to provide answers to a basic question: Why did they allow themselves to be an instrument of that very obvious and shameless attempt to copy the Polska logo and pass it off as an original piece of work? Unless someone was pointing a gun at the artist that substituted the words Polska with Pilipinas and added a smiling coconut tree and a tarsier, there really is no justification for the attempt at plagiarism. The way I see it, they could have flatly said “thanks but no thanks, we draw the line on plagiarism.”

It was bad enough that our Tourism officials ditched “Wow Philippines” simply because it was identified with the previous administration. This penchant for changing things just because they are identified with a former administration did not really start with the P-Noy government. But one wishes that they came up with something more original and better thought out. “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” just does not hack it for a number of reasons most of which have already pointed out by others. But really now, “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” conjures images of Little Miss Gay Barangay Gumamugam.

Yes, it really begs the question: What were they thinking?

An observation made at the height of the very recent controversy involving inappropriate tweets issued by the President’s speechwriter comes to mind: It seems that the prevailing attitude among many of the people who comprise this administration—particularly those without previous experience in the workings of government—is one of moral superiority. It’s as if they cannot do wrong and that their points of views are the only correct ones.

How else can we explain the practically careless, seemingly cavalier, and often utterly matter-of-fact way in which people make one blunder after another?

People should really remember that they are on the other side of the fence now. They are now part of government, not anymore members of some militant or civil society group that could act holier than thou, be quick with criticism, and be able to mouth endless litanies of how things should be without fear of being truthful or correct.


Like millions of other residents of Metro Manila, I was stuck in the middle of a monstrous traffic jam Monday evening. Media attributed the traffic jam to heavy rains in some parts of the metro. Apparently, an hour’s worth of rains immediately transformed many of our streets into instant lagoons and rivers.

Okay, so there’s really not much we can do at this point to immediately alter the effects of global warming. We are told that the volume of rainfall has become increasingly heavier than usual so much so that a few minutes of rain would be equivalent to a day’s worth of rain two years ago. Fine. So man is no match for nature’s fury.

What I don’t get is how we are being conditioned to simply accept flooding and monstrous traffic jams as natural consequences. Heavy rains we can attribute to nature. Flooding and traffic jams are man-made disasters.

Last Monday’s monstrous traffic jam was particularly irritating because there really was very little reason for it other than the fact that there was utter breakdown of traffic systems. Sure, there was flooding in some parts of Quezon City, but that could not be the justification why there was heavy traffic on JP Rizal Avenue in Makati near the boundary of Manila. Sure, there was flooding in some parts of Edsa but that wasn’t really the reason why Metro Manila’s major thoroughfare was instantly transformed into a parking lot.

The real reason Metro Manila ground to a complete halt for a couple of hours Monday night was that traffic enforcers disappeared from our roads and there was no emergency response systems in place. A number of vehicles were stalled in many of the major thoroughfares due to overheating or other mechanical problems and they remained stuck in the middle of the roads obstructing the flow of traffic. On my way from Manila to Pasig, I encountered at least five instances of vehicular accidents and there were no traffic cops to untangle the mess, mediate, or document the accident.

Of course a large part of the problem is that we’re now right stuck in the middle of the flooding season and our canals and waterways are still to be dredged and cleaned up. Small wonder really that our roads get easily flooded.

The question that begs to be answered then is: What do our authorities intend to do with this problem? Surely they don’t expect people to just seethe in private the next time they are caught in another monstrous traffic jam.


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