Monday, April 26, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Are we really simply a bunch of oversensitive humorless bleeding hearts who take offense at the most innocuous comments, or on the contrary, the problem is precisely that we do not assert ourselves enough, that we have gotten used to being ridiculed, embarrassed, humiliated in the global stage that the bullies in this world have an easier time dissing us in public?
Or should we just take some comfort from the fact that the problem is not really us, or any other minority or third world people for that matter; the ones with the problem are the racist, bigoted, prejudiced haters in this world who pick on others just because they think they are entitled to it? I have been mulling these questions in my mind in the last few weeks on account of that recent Adam Corolla incident.
In case you have been so engrossed on the goings-on in the local political campaign scene and have therefore been blissfully unaware other things happening in the world, it’s essentially another case of someone who tried to be glib, funny and smart-alecky, failed dismally, and instead managed to insult many people, in this case, Manny Pacquiao and Filipinos in general.
To be fair though, Corolla already apologized to Manny Pacquaio and to the Filipino people. Pacquiao readily accepted the apology. Some people insist that we should let the matter rest already since Corolla has apologized even if the apology seemed halfhearted.
When I discussed the issue among some colleagues of mine, the opinions were divided. Some thought that the best response was to ignore the ranting—in essence, not to dignify something crass. Some felt that the better response was to give the guy the metaphorical equivalent (all right, some thought being literal was more appropriate) of a whopping punch on the face. The first reaction, of course, was “sino ba tong Corolla na to, sikat ba siya?” (roughly, is this Corolla worth our time?). This knee-jerk reaction is actually very common and this was representative of many of the comments in the blogosphere relating to the issue.
The sad thing is that this reaction is no different from the very stimulus that people are protesting against to begin with: That some people are not worthy of our time, that the value of one’s statements or the worth of one’s opinions is measured by one’s popularity or achievements in life. By dissing Corolla and his background, or lack of global popularity, we’re essentially doing what he did to Pacquiao and the Filipinos in general when he said, in essence, that we are bunch of ignorant, stupid people whose fortunes are dependent on the fate of one boxer with dubious capabilities.
Corolla’s recent tirade against Filipinos was not an isolated case of Pinoy bashing. We had quite a string of them in the recent past including that unfortunate episode in that television series Desperate Housewives and that satirical piece written by a Hong Kong columnist.
A standard defense has always been one of sincere intent not to hurt. In the case of Corolla, he tried to justify his verbal diarrhea as “brand of humor.” In the case of that Hongkong columnist, the defense was writing style. I find this defense pathetic. It’s like saying that if I don’t understand something, it is my fault. Well, excuse me. While I do believe the reader or the audience has some responsibility to try to understand the message the main responsibility still lies with the writer, artist, or speaker. Otherwise, it’s really just intellectual snobbishness or personal gratification; one may as well write or do podcasts or produce radio shows purely for one’s enjoyment.
However, I think that we need more rational and effective responses to cases like the Corolla incident. At the individual level, we all must do something to correct wrong perceptions about ourselves as a people and as a country. But we also need to put in place national programs that propagate national esteem—it’s really about time that we purge ourselves of all the negativity and all the baggage that we seem to carry as a nation and as a people.
I’m writing this piece in Davao City where I wish I could take up residence in—at least for the rest of the summer months. I arrived here Thursday early morning last week not expecting any respite from the sweltering, blistering, scorching punishment that Metro Manila - and I am told Luzon—residents have been subjected to since February. Truth be told, I didn’t want to come here because I figured that if I had to suffer more of this oppressive summer heat I would want to do it in the comforts of my home where there is at least air conditioning, readily available refreshments, and reliable company.
But surprise, surprise! The temperature in Davao City has been averaging 34 degrees. There was even a downpour Thursday night—a major one at that which got some streets flooded. Friends tell me it has been raining here almost every day. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to see rain falling down in torrents from the heavens, to feel rain on one’s face and skin, to hear rain beating down tin roofs. The cool breeze created by the rain is also refreshing in a different way precisely perhaps because the experience is multi-sensory.
As we sat there picking on the remains of the tuna meal (very fresh in Davao, of course), we all prayed that the rains would soon come to Luzon and Metro Manila if only to replenish the dams which produce water for Metro Manila and its environs. I have been writing about the need for more information and education campaigns about the need to conserve water not only during the drought season but all throughout the rest of the year because I am convinced that water is the next crisis. Unfortunately, I guess such an advocacy would rank low among the priorities of a third world country.
In fact, despite the dire warnings from the water concessionaires about an impending water shortage, people are still not conserving water. One only has to visit washrooms of restaurants and even those of buildings in the commercial district and will readily spot the many ways in which we continue to waste water. I jestingly called the attention of a neighbor recently about the fact that they were wasting a precious resource by watering their plants three times a day using a hose (she said it was necessary because the summer heat was taking its toll on her precious plants) and she responded— partly in jest but I know there was some honesty in her answer as well—by saying “let’s enjoy it while it is still available.”
This got me thinking that perhaps this feast-or-famine attitude is more entrenched in our culture than many of us would like to believe. Many Filipinos do have this penchant for enjoying anything and everything to the max while it is there; consequences be damned. Thus, many Filipinos would rather feast for a day even it means subsisting on virtually nothing for the rest of the month. So perhaps all this urgent appeals for people to conserve water to stave off a shortage is producing the opposite effect. Instead of getting people to act wisely, it is encouraging people to go out and splurge.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
I promised my politics-weary friends that I would try to refrain from writing about politics every single time this column comes out regardless of the aggravation from the ongoing campaign season. A very difficult task, I tell you, because most things in this country are related to politics and given that it’s barely a month before election day, one can’t go beyond five minutes without being confronted by a political issue.
So today, I will write about a different kind of aggravation, something that most of us are exposed to on a daily basis: The breakdown in basic courtesy on the road among motorists.
I must admit though that what set me off on this piece was an incident that was still related to politics. We were doing the Visita Iglesia Maundy Thursday last week when we came across vehicles around churches in Makati that were decorated with campaign paraphernalia. I am not talking about cars with giant stickers of a yellow ribbon that morphs into a bird or those with an orange checkmark that is a trademark violation of the logo of that famous brand of shoes. I am talking about cars with windows boarded up with posters of candidates, vans with their external walls plastered with the smiling mugs and the hackneyed slogans of this or that politician, and jeepneys adorned with streamers and other flotsam and jetsam of the electoral campaign.
One would expect that people who are on a campaign sortie would be a little more courteous and would in fact go out of their way to be nicer to people; they are courting votes, after all, and presumably want to be in the good graces of people. Sadly, this is not always the case. I hope that people realize that campaigning for candidates is a task vested with certain responsibilities, foremost of which is projecting the image of being friendly, pleasant and law-abiding. Behaving like you have absolute right of way and flaunting power such as having traffic cops or barangay tanod stop traffic so your convoy of vehicles can get through without delay actually harm the candidates one is campaigning for. People get the impression that the candidates have the tendency to abuse authority.
Unfortunately, courtesy on the road particularly among motorists is a virtue that is almost extinct. Here are, to my mind, ten common acts of discourtesy committed by motorists. I am not talking about following traffic rules and obeying laws—those are pretty much required; I am talking about seemingly simple things that manifest lack of concern for others, or simply lack of civility.
Easily topping the list is this penchant of many drivers to immediately honk at the car in front the moment the traffic light turns green. I really have no idea why people do it. If the car directly in front is stuck or taking its own sweet time, I can understand the impatience. But see, many drivers just automatically honk the horns of their car the moment the green light is on as if everyone still needs an auditory stimulus to add to the visual traffic sign.
Related to this is the annoying habit of some drivers to press their horns repeatedly and loudly in protest or in exasperation when they get blocked or when someone—usually a taxi or jeepney driver—cut them off or did something wicked. I understand the frustration. The problem is that these drivers forget that a car horn being pressed with extra force and for extended periods of time are painful to the ears of people who are not cocooned inside cars such as those aboard a jeepney in front of the car or standing on the sidewalk next to the car.
Many Filipino drivers simply do not respect pedestrians and pedestrian lanes. It is very easy for one who is riding vehicles to forget what it is like to be walking on the road. I know a lot of people whose paradigms is that vehicles have right of way over pedestrians—even at designated pedestrian crossing areas. Motorists should give way to pedestrians crossing the street, particularly on pedestrian lanes and most especially during downpours or when under the scorching heat of the sun. It’s basic kindness. In other countries, one runs the risk of having their cars damaged by pedestrians if it happens to block a pedestrian lane. That’s because respect for pedestrians is highly valued in these countries.
And then there are motorists who stop to pick up or unload passengers right where they are—in the middle of the road, two lanes from the sidewalk, or just when the traffic light turned green. Jeepney drivers are notorious for doing this, but motorists have also picked up on the annoying habit. It seems many drivers just can’t be bothered to bring their vehicles to the curb to load or unload passengers.
Accidents do happen and when they do, I am aware that the right thing to do is to wait for a traffic cop to assess the situation for the corresponding paperwork required. In situations like these, traffic is held up as the vehicles are left where they are. On many occasions, the damage is minor or the culpability can be decided on amicably between the two drivers anyway, so why prolong the agony and inconvenience more people on the road? People should practice quick problem solving right on the spot. Again, I am not saying this should be the norm. Some accidents need the intervention of traffic cops. But really, minor accidents should be settled quickly and amicably.
There are drivers who are obviously new to a place and have difficulty finding an address they are looking for. These people hold up traffic as they slow down, look at signs, or ask people for directions. This can be avoided by just being a little bit more proactive. People should get directions ahead of time. The problem is that some people decide to wing it and therefore cause traffic or inconvenience people on the road unnecessarily.
Some drivers are unbelievably obstinate. I’ve come across many drivers who, after missing a turn, or failing to swerve to an inner or outer lane before an actual turn, still insist on having their way rather than doing what should be logical—move to the next intersection and go back. They force their way and cause bedlam on the road. The problem with these drivers is that they think other people should just adjust to them and their mistakes. They actually think “tao lamang” (we’re just human) is an excuse that is applicable in all situations.
Some drivers are unable to manage their tempers and pick fights with others. In addition to the fact that losing one’s cool is potentially hazardous to one’s health, it really doesn’t help anyone. Most of the time, it is better to just let things go. When someone cuts the path directly in front of you, or does something stupid on the road, the better course of action is to forgive and to let go; to resist the temptation to roll down the window to curse or throw invectives, or worse, coins, cellphones, or the car’s stick shift at the other driver.
Some people attribute this to the so-called crab mentality syndrome, but I’ve always wondered what it is that causes drivers to insist on claiming a few inches of road space ahead of them just because the traffic light has turned green even when they know that the road ahead is jammed and gridlocked. This results in monstrous traffic jams as those who are trying to cross the road get blocked.
And finally, this is what I consider a supreme act of discourtesy on the road: Not giving way to student drivers. Everyone has to start somewhere so we all need to be patient with student drivers as this is one sure way to perpetuate good behaviors on the road.