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Showing posts from April, 2015

Political patronage

My April 28, 2015 column. It’s too bad the case of John Phillip Sevilla, the beleaguered former chief of the Bureau of Customs, happened at a time when the country was preoccupied with many other seemingly more pressing things.  There’s the historic boxing match between Filipino champion Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather happening this Sunday, which many in this country are looking forward to like it’s the Second Coming.  I understand that Pacquiao is identified as a Filipino in all his fights and carries the national colors onto the ring.  But seriously, folks, let’s not get overly carried away with the metaphors about how Pacquiao is risking his life for the sake of Filipinos everywhere in the world.  We all want him to win over the trash-talking Mayweather, but our fortunes as a nation are not directly connected to Pacquia’s triumphs or losses. There’s the eminent execution by firing squad this week of May Jane Veloso, the Filipina convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia – pre…

Books that dumb down

My April 26, 2015 column. “You must write a book!” When I was younger, this was the suggestion often made at social occasions to someone who has had a string of achievements, or had a colorful life, or went through a major learning experience. The suggestion was indicative of how people used to equate being a book author with a certain threshold of wisdom, or at least quality experiences – the idea being that one writes a book so that people can learn vicariously from the author.   For example, I recently picked up Armida, the book on Armida Siguion-Reyna because I knew it would yield a veritable trove of insights. Siquion-Reyna has been a strong force in the local culture scene, thanks to her feisty disposition and the many causes and battles that she immersed herself in, from propagating the kundiman, to producing and acting in movies that dared to explore new themes, to abolishing censorship, etc.  This is the same reason I picked up and read similar books in the past about titans …

Breaking the cult of personality

My column today, April 21, 2015.


We know the countdown to next year’s national elections have started because politicians who think they deserve consideration for national posts have intensified their efforts to get noticed.  I was in Davao City for a few days the other week where all the telltale signs of a movement to launch Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for a national post was pervasive. There were tarpaulin signs all over proclaiming Duterte as everyone’s champion (“Atin To”  or in Cebuano - “Ato ni, Bai”).      I was told by relative and friends that a tri-media campaign in Mindanao was already operational.  At the Davao International Airport on my way back, I was on the same plane with a horde of Duterte campaigners.  They were all wearing yellow shirts that displayed Duterte’s unsmiling mug on the front and a smashing fist at the back.  They were carrying all kinds of campaign materials including rolled up tarpaulin posters.  In the past, Duterte would immediately and openly squash rumor…

In search of talent

My column today, April 19. 2015.


Between trying to catch up on our reading and trying to observe some traditions, what got us preoccupied during the recent Holy Week was watching reruns of episodes of Asia’s Got Talent on cable television. The show has since then moved into the semifinals and we’ve tried to catch subsequent editions of the show whenever we could. AGT is being held in Singapore. The auditions were the usual merry mix of genuinely talented artists, not-so-talented but superbly packaged performers, people with average talent but huge egos, and the usual bunch of dimwits who tried to elevate some perverse or weird ability into an art form. Shows like AGT are difficult to watch because it is almost impossible to compare objectively one performing art discipline to another. It eventually boils down to individual preferences. But it’s often unfair because classically trained artists such as great ballet dancers or superb cellists cannot hope to win over a group of breakdance…

Going digital

My column today, April 12, 2015.


We finally gave in to Sarah Geronimo.  We believed her claim, done through caterwauling and lots of gyra-ting, that buying that darned magic black box would improve our lives dramatically.  As it turned out, we were not the only gullible people in this country.  The first two stores in the Mall of Asia that we went to had already sold all their stock.  We got ours from a computer store.  As promised, the contraption did improve the quality of the images and the sound emanating from the TV set; we are now able to examine closely the intricate patterns of Kabayan Noli de Castro’s tie or appreciate the sophisticated lighting designs of the soap operas of ABS-CBN.  Television in this country has gone digital.  The black box came with its own antennae and, not surprisingly, its own ABS-CBN cellular SIM card.  We understood why when we switched on the black box and got connected.  Certain services can be had by texting a specific number and keying in a speci…

Snafu time

My column today, April 7, 2015.


We know the Lenten Season has expired, and with it all our resolve to be better Christians, because everyone has resumed a fighting stance and everything seems back to usual.   The newspapers yesterday carried a token picture and a story about Christ’s resurrection, but 99 percent of the news was already about political conflict and the usual litanies of what doesn’t work in this country.  The House of Representatives announced the resumption of hearings on the Mamasapano massacre amid strong warnings from the so-called Makabayan bloc that they would not drop moves to make the President of the country answerable for the Mamasapano massacre.  Legislators started positioning themselves on both sides of the Bangsamoro Basic Law debate.   Senator Alan Peter Cayetano accused Mindanao Peace advocate and actor Robin Padilla of being a political assassin of the Tingas – his family’s political rival in the fiefdom called the Taguig-Pateros area.  The finger-poin…

Holy week traditions

My column today, April 5, 2015.


We’ve always made it a tradition to prepare something—a vegetable dish or native delicacy—on Good Friday to share with some of our neighbors in San Andres, Manila. In our hometown in Leyte, this tradition is observed by almost everyone so much so that between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on Good Friday, the streets would be full of people walking to and fro, with various containers of food in their hands.  This tradition was supposed to have been inspired by the miracle of the Last Supper when bread and fish was multiplied as an act of sharing.  Thus, when families sat down for lunch on Good Friday, they invariably sat down to a feast of vegetable and fish dishes and a selection of delectable desert.  I know—people in other places fast on Good Friday.  To our credit, we can insist that at least the feast is 100% vegetarian. I haven’t been home for Holy Week for almost a decade already but I have always missed our town’s Good Friday tradition.  I’ve always had t…