Tuesday, May 16, 2006


POLITIKA AT LIPUNAN / the world through the eyes of an ordinary young man from the Philippines

This blog is humbly dedicated to Professor Resil Mojares. I can only bow to the man for his brilliance in observing the life and ways of the Filipino. This weblog, an accompanying blog to my original RADIOACTIVE ADOBO, is my humble tribute to his life’s work.

I am not worthy to even tie the laces of his shoes.

Dr Resil Mojares, Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore (NUS)

Resil B. Mojares has a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of the Philippines. Except for brief stints in universities in the U.S. and Japan, he has always been with the faculty of the University of San Carlos (Cebu City), where he was founding director (1975-96) of the Cebuano Studies Center, a pioneering local studies center in the Philippines.

He has authored books in Philippine history, literature, and politics, the most recent of which is WAITING FOR MARIANG MAKILING: ESSAYS IN PHILIPPINE CULTURAL HISTORY (2002). His current project looks at the emergence of the modern disciplines in the Philippines through the careers of three Filipino intellectuals (Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes), whose writings span the years 1876-1933 in fields like history, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology.

Monday, May 15, 2006


By Resil Mojares

“The notion that we are a people troubled by a lost or unquiet soul is not new in Philippine intellectual history. At the turn of the century, the time of our great nationalist awakening, the ‘Filipino soul,’ Alma Filipina, was a theme popular among Filipino writers and intellectuals, who saw in it the sign of a people’s dream of selfhood, autonomy and freedom. Soul: the word had an elevated, edifying sound to it, properly reverential before what it invoked: the People, the Nation.

“... Today, the language has gone out of fashion; we are suspicious of what it insinuates. In a time more secular, less expansive, and (seeing who now sits in Malacañang) distinctly anti-intellectualist, to speak of soul seems sentimental and archaic; it is a word we are embarassed to use in public.

“Indulge me then as I resurrect the word. What was often mere rhetoric to decorate patriotic articles and speeches was, in fact, a deeply-rooted idea, a power-laden word ...”

Address during the plenary session of "Localities of Nationhood", Ateneo de Manila University

Source: Philippine Post Magazine c/o Alfred Yuson

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Filipinos must learn to place their faith in institutions, not individuals

Monday, Jul. 11, 2005

Will another people power uprising in the Philippines topple beleaguered President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? No. The political configuration just isn't right. There is anger but no infectious outrage. There is serious disappointment but no viable alternative leader. There is a lot of political heat but not enough to bring things to a boil.

The 1986 People Power revolt that ousted Ferdinand Marcos was different. Clustered around Manila's main artery EDSA, it was heroic, miraculous and magical, dismantling an entrenched dictatorship and restoring democracy. The January 2001 EDSA Dos that led to the fall of Joseph Estrada was a poor photocopy; it forced out a dysfunctional presidency and followed the constitutional line of succession by ushering in Arroyo, who was Estrada's Vice President. The riot of May 2001, dubbed EDSA Tres and instigated by Estrada's fanatical supporters, completely debased the notion of People Power.

Today, amid the allegations of vote rigging and corruption swirling around President Arroyo, the talk in Manila is about People Power fatigue. There's a palpable—and desperate—sense that the more we change things, the more they remain the same. Once again, it seems, we are trapped in a destructive political cycle: we elect Presidents and expect them to be superhuman—solving every conceivable problem and delivering the nation from misery and failure; when they fail to live up to such lofty demands, we seek to depose them.

Filipinos act this way because we have an unduly large expectation of what a government can and should do: create jobs, provide subsidies, desist from taxing the people. Over time, we have assembled a large state sector expected to deliver the goods. But the ordinary citizen is reluctant to pay for a large state burdened by a wide assembly of public enterprises that chronically lose money. The upshot is a system in constant fiscal difficulty, and disposed to heavy borrowing that mortgages the future.

Filipinos have a schizophrenic view of their political leaders, from town mayors to provincial governors to Presidents. They must be generous patrons, doling out to people in need—as if they were benevolent Sultans with bottomless purses. But they must not be corrupt. In our personality-driven culture, clans and ritual bonds are important; ideologies and government programs are not. When things go right, it's because leaders are heroes of epic proportion. When things go wrong, we replace personalities rather than reinforce institutions and processes.

In our culture, rules do not arbitrate the interaction of people; it's people who arbitrate the application of the rules so that interpersonal relations proceed smoothly, unimpeded by the law. It's a culture that has stunted the development of strong institutions. The legal system that we have, the voluminous regulations and procedures: all these form a thin veneer of a state that seems to resemble those in the West. But beneath lies a complex web of fixers and power brokers, go-betweens and patrons, geared to make things happen—whether negotiating a business deal or tax settlement, bringing government projects to a district, or, it would seem, adding up the votes. This complex web baffles outsiders, who often complain of the "high cost of doing business" in the Philippines.

But we Filipinos shudder at the thought of depersonalized institutions and processes, fearing the harshness of laws untamed by individuals. We have never understood that the more depersonalized systems are, the more efficiently things get done. We are quite comfortable with weak institutions and strong leaders. And when the corruption of formal rules and procedures becomes all too evident and therefore unsettling, we eject leaders for their lack of finesse. We replace them with others, hoping against the odds that they can make things work. We invest too much in the possibility that people of extraordinary capacities will save us from the tendency of the system to break down.

Deep in our guts, we know that a President phoning an election official when votes are being counted—as Arroyo has admitted doing—is most likely not unusual. The scandal generated over Arroyo's calls is both contrived and hypocritical: we are not supposed to know this happens, but because the conversations appear to have been caught on tape, our explicit code of proper civic behavior compels us to feign disgust. We have to go through the motions of being scandalized. One side of our schizophrenic political culture must be appeased. After we are done with the ceremonial self-flagellation (or, if I am mistaken, a more emphatic purging such as People Power or a coup), we will settle back to a comfortable regime of elastic rules and mediated processes. It is our culture—and our fate.

—Alex Magno is a professor of political science at the University of the Philippines in Manila

From the Jul. 18, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine

Friday, July 08, 2005


July 8, 2005
Manila, Philippines

ONCE again, I must involve myself in what I hope and prayed to be spared from, after devoting the best years of my life in the service of our country and at a price that included the highest anyone can pay. But duty to one's country in a critical time cannot be shirked. It is my difficult duty now to ask for a supreme sacrifice to be made.

I will not judge the lapse of judgment that the President had the humility to confess but I cannot escape the conclusion that is plain for all to see: the country cannot continue in its present tumultuous state; good and effective government has become an impossible undertaking.

Without this sacrifice, our country faces only a future of danger to its freedom and progress. That sacrifice must be made by the President as soon as possible. I told her this personally when we met last night.

At this juncture only two constitutional paths remain open for the peaceful and democratic resolution of the present crisis crippling the government and endangering the nation.

The first and most expeditious is the President’s voluntary resignation for a smooth transition to her constitutional successor, the vice president, and a swift return to normalcy for the country. This is the fastest and most orderly path to take. And it is one in which her undoubted abilities will play a major role.

Ang una at pinakamadaling paraan ay ang kusang loob na pagbibitiw sa posisyon ng ating Pangulo para sa mapayapang paglipat ng kapangyarihan sa ating pangalawang pangulo.

My call for her resignation joins the call of those who, like me, have no other interest in making it other than the highest one of saving our country.

The second path is the long and inherently contentious process of a congressional impeachment that can only generate more divisions in society and cast more suspicions on the threatened institutions of our democracy.

I ask the President to spare our country and herself from this second option and make the supreme sacrifice of resigning.

Hinihiling ko sa ating Pangulo ang pinakamatimbang na personal na sakripisyo, para sa kapakanan ng ating mamamayan.

I say this fully acknowledging the good work she has done in office, and the industry and dedication she has consistently displayed. Her qualities were acknowledged by her most important cabinet members when they resigned today because it is no longer possible for her to govern and for them to do their work.

I ask the President, in all humility and with full awareness of its difficulty and pain, to make this supreme sacrifice to spare the country from the violence that threatens it from those who seek in her lapses of judgment, not a reason for reform, but an excuse to subvert the Constitution, grab power and destroy our country.

The sacred oath that she and I took to uphold that Constitution by every means in our power, and which compels me to speak out today, now urges her to relinquish the presidency.

Ang aming banal na panata na itaguyod ang ating saligang batas ang siya ring nag-udyok sa akin na magsalita ngayong araw na ito.

The best of those who call for her resignation mean her no harm but only the very best that is still possible for her and our country by her resignation. I hope she will trust us to be there for her, as we trust her to do the right thing for the country in this hour of trial.

God bless and guide the President.

Mahal na Panginoon patnubayan Ninyo po ang Pangulo.

Pagpalain tayo ng Panginoon.

Maraning salamat po.


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's radio message on the clamor for her resignation
Study Room, Malacañang (07 July 2005)

Mga minamahal kong kababayan.

When I was young and my late father Diosdado Macapagal was president of our country, I thought of him as the "good guy" and his political opponents on the other side were the bad guys.

Because of my father's influence, I had always thought of myself as on the side of the good. Thus, it's very painful for me to know that among many of our countrymen today I've been demonized as the bad guy. This is unfair, but it's a cross that God in his wisdom has given me to bear. So I will bear it. I've never questioned God's ways before, and I will not do so now.

When I first entered politics in 1992, little did I know that within a decade, I would become president of our country. And little did I expect that within another five years, there would be calls from civil society for my resignation from office or for the formation of a 'truth commission' regarding some of my political actuations.

When I spoke before the nation some two weeks ago, I did so against the advice of my legal counsel. But I thought that speaking before you, the Filipino people, was the right thing to do. Shameless people have peddled the lie that I confessed to cheating. What I disclosed was that I talked to an election official, but that this had taken place after the certificates of canvass had already been used to proclaim the winning senators, and it was those same certificates of canvass that showed that I won by around a million votes. That is the truth.

Indeed, it's right for our country to confront the truth. But if we do so, let's confront the biggest most painful political truth. The big truth that we are aware of deep in our hearts but that we collectively sweep under the rug. The big truth whose debilitating effects on our country, year after year, decade after decade, have developed into feelings of disgust, hopelessness and even despair among large segments of our society.

The truth that I discovered from my beginnings as a neophyte politician in 1992, rising to become a veteran politician through the years is this: over the years, our political system has degenerated to such an extent that it's very difficult to live within the system with hands totally untainted. That is the truth. In addition, our system has degenerated to such an extent that more often than not it's political agenda first and national interest last. For example, we have endless investigations and scandals in aid of politics and media projection, rather than in aid of legislation or executive action. That is the truth. Because of this system of politics, our country has been left behind by other countries in the region, and our best and brightest, the cream of our youth are bolting with their feet to leave the country. That is the truth.

I do not blame any individual or political bloc for this sad state of affairs. It's simply the truth that the political system that I am part of has degenerated to the point that it needs fundamental change. We are collectively to blame, so we must collectively be the solution. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. To those who feel that they cannot cast the first stone, I invite you to help in the solution.

My proposed approach to reform our system of politics and governance is something that I had wanted to bring forth during the upcoming state of the nation address. However, because our country is hungry for a resolution to the political uncertainties that have plagued us these past few weeks, I will bring it up now.

First of all, I am not resigning my office. To do so under circumstances that connote an EDSA tres would condemn any successor to the possibility of an EDSA 4, then an EDSA 5, and so on. Unless our political system were first reformed to make it more responsive to the people's will such that changes in leadership come about in an orderly and stable manner.

The world embraced EDSA 1 in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA 2 in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA 3 in 2005 but would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable, and the Filipinos as among the finest people in the world but who always shoot themselves in the foot. Under those circumstances, who would invest money in the Philippines? How would we weather the difficulties arising from the price of crude oil being at its highest in history?

What I intend to do is to work with legislators and civil groups who believe that changes in the fundamental law of the land are necessary in order to confront such basic issues as federalism, the character of our legislative process, reducing red tape in government processes, running for public office under a true party system and with less need to raise campaign funds, modernizing the economic provisions of our constitution, and so forth.

At the same time, I will restructure and strengthen the Cabinet, giving it a free hand to meanwhile reform and manage our day to day governance with as little political interference as possible, even from me.

This is how we will proceed.

First, I'm asking my entire Cabinet to tender their resignation in order to give the executive a free hand to reorganize itself. I'll ask our sectors to give me names of candidates that we can invite to replace those who will not return to the cabinet or even to help out at other levels of the executive.

Second, the Cabinet will be given a free hand on governance while I focus on the fundamental changes that we need to put in place.

Third, I will begin to reach out to the political and civil sectors that have an interest in the various advocacies that are relevant to our constitution. Federalism, for example, is an advocacy that I had espoused long ago.

This is neither political ploy nor gimmick. I believe that this process will quickly lay the foundation for deep reforms in our society including reforms in our political way of life. This would be a legacy that our generation of politicians and citizens could collectively be proud of.

I now have grandchildren to play with and help bring up. Like all of you, I want our children to grow up in a better Philippines. I have prayed on this, and I hope that I have discerned God's will properly.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.


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Beaming President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro shake hands as they pose before the Malacañang lensmen prior to the start of the Cabinet Meeting Friday (July 8) at Malacañang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room. (Edwin Paril -OPS-NIB Photo)


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Arroyo opts for impeachment process
July 08, 2005 Updated 06:03pm (Mla time)
Lira Dalangin-Fernandez ldalangin@inq7.net

(UPDATE) PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo challenged her political opponents to take their grievances to Congress where she said she was willing to face the impeachment process, as she rejected calls anew for her to resign.

Arroyo issued the statement in response to former president Corazon Aquino's appeal to her to make the "supreme sacrifice" and step down.

"As former president Aquino is well aware, the President is charged by the nation to defend our hard-won democracy at all costs. To those who have forgotten this I say, take your grievances to Congress where I am very willing to submit to due process as called for by our Constitution," she said in a recorded statement aired on radio and television.

Arroyo lamented that the country has fallen on a "dangerous pattern where the answer to every crisis is to subvert due process rather than work within the system." "This must stop."

In the meantime, Arroyo said she would focus on the "business" of giving people a better life.

She said she would announce in the coming days the new members of her Cabinet who would be "committed to the nation and the democratic principles."

She said the team would concentrate on getting the economy going and would move away from political bickering.
Reason enough why I believe the President is the only person right now who is so sober and rooted to reality regarding the crisis surrounding her. Now, if only more people will think the same, we could all move on.


Jul 7th 2005 MANILA

There is no good alternative to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, despite what look like serious errors

JUDGING by past precedent, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's days as president of the Philippines should be numbered. By her own admission, she telephoned an election official amid the counting of votes in last year's presidential election, in what could be construed as an attempt to rig the vote. In 1987, similar suspicions of ballot tampering led to the demonstrations that brought down Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines' strongman of 20 years. Meanwhile, Mrs Arroyo's husband, son and brother-in-law have been accused of pocketing bribes from illegal gambling syndicates—exactly the charge that prompted the Philippines' second “people power” revolution, against Joseph Estrada, in 2001. Despite this record, however, most Filipinos seem disinclined to oust their president this time round.

The claims of election fraud stem largely from a long series of recordings of a man, allegedly election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, speaking by mobile phone to various people about the progress of the vote count. In one tape, a woman, said to be Mrs Arroyo, asks about provinces where her henchmen were accused of subtracting from the opposition's votes while padding her own tally. In response, the man says, “What they did to raise yours—it was done well.” Mrs Arroyo's spokesman at first claimed the tape was doctored, and that no such conversation had taken place. But Mrs Arroyo herself subsequently admitted telephoning an unnamed election official, without confirming or denying the authenticity of the tapes. She says she spoke to him not to rig the vote, but rather to guard against any such attempt.

According to a recent poll, 59% of Manila residents believe that the president was trying to fiddle the ballot, while only 29% accept the claim that she was trying to protect her votes. But only 18% of those polled want her to resign (earlier polls, it is true, had a higher figure). Less than 1% want another “people power” revolution. A far higher proportion—20%—want the country to put the episode behind it.

The president's detractors have not managed to turn out more than 10,000 demonstrators so far, compared with the hundreds of thousands who rallied against Presidents Marcos and Estrada. The opposition lacks leaders with the appeal of Corazon Aquino, who took over from Mr Marcos, or of Mrs Arroyo herself, who was vice-president and succeeded Mr Estrada.

Mrs Arroyo's main rival in the suspect election, Fernando Poe junior, died last year. Mr Estrada, who never accepted his own removal, is still popular with poorer Filipinos, but is under house arrest while standing trial for corruption. He has endorsed Susan Roces, Mr Poe's widow, as a potential figurehead for the opposition. But she has no political experience and no obvious following. Neither the Catholic church nor the army, which were both instrumental in the past two “people power” uprisings, has turned against Mrs Arroyo. A few Catholic bishops have called on her to step down, but the leading Catholic prelate in the country, Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, has advised his flock to respect the constitution.

The constitution does provide for a president's removal from office for misconduct. The House of Representatives must first pass a motion of impeachment, whereupon the Senate would sit as a glorified jury in a trial presided over by the chief justice. The House is due to take up such a motion when it returns from recess on July 25th. Mrs Arroyo has said she would welcome impeachment as an opportunity to clear her name. But that is disingenuous: her allies dominate both houses. Moreover, no one seems to think very highly of the vice-president, Noli de Castro, a former news anchorman who is first in the line of succession. So far, only one congressman has deserted the president's camp.

Mrs Arroyo said on July 7th that she herself would not step down but that she had asked her entire cabinet to do so. This followed some other dramatic announcements apparently designed to improve her standing. Last week, she revealed that her husband would be leaving the country indefinitely, to preclude any further talk of influence peddling. Her son, a congressman, is taking a leave of absence and going with him. The agriculture secretary, Arthur Yap, has stepped down to face charges of tax evasion.

The departure of the cabinet is designed to let Mrs Arroyo pursue some big legislative plans. She hopes to amend the constitution, to transform the Philippines from a unitary state with a presidential system into a federation with a parliamentary one. She wants to balance the budget by the end of her term in 2010. Last week, the Supreme Court unintentionally highlighted the importance of the president's fiscal rectitude by suspending a new law empowering her to raise the rate of value-added tax (VAT). The stockmarket plunged by almost 5% in a day.

That hints at Mrs Arroyo's greatest strength amid all the current scandals. During the ructions that unseated Presidents Marcos and Estrada, many protesters were motivated not so much by outrage at suspected vote-rigging or corruption, which are unfortunate facts of life in the Philippines, but by a broader concern that their leaders were driving the country into the ground. Mrs Arroyo, on the other hand, although by no means a model president, has taken sensible steps to improve the country's finances, reform the bureaucracy and—ironically—overhaul the electoral system. Whatever turns out to be the truth of the allegations dogging her, for now she looks like a bulwark against chaos, not an agent of it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


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Farewell to the Republic?

By Rene Ezpeleta Bartolo
“Ricochet,” The Mindanao Times

“Let us establish an independent nation in Mindanao,” said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, on June 12 during his television program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” “and we will call it the Republic of Mindanao.”

As many times as he was interviewed by local media this past week, Mayor Duterte has made that statement. The predicate of that pronouncement is the on-going political turbulence in Manila, the seat of government.

“Every time they do not like a sitting president,” said Duterte, “people in Manila go to the streets to drive from office the president. They do that on their own without consulting the people of Mindanao and they call it EDSA. I will talk to the Bangsa Moro people to put up our own government in Mindanao. It will be a federal government.”

Many may have thought the Mayor was playing with words, especially because the words were buttered with a smile. I don’t think Duterte was joking. Independence is not a joking matter.

Mayor Duterte is, by his own admission, loyal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But by the implication of his pronouncements, he is more loyal to the people of Mindanao. If the people in Manila cannot get their acts together, then he will get the people of Mindanao to fashion their own act of nationhood – the Republic of Mindanao.

To the Arroyo government, that may sound like a statement of support (a reiteration of loyalty?) To the people of Mindanao, long relegated to the periphery of nationhood, that sounds more like the dawning of a new day.

Long history

The bid for self-rule for Mindanao – ranging from federalism to outright secession – has a long history. The Muslim separatist movements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their continuing armed struggle are tragic daily reminders of the Mindanaoans’ desire for self-determination.

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Federal Republic of Mindanao (in rebellion, April 1986)

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4 Oct 1990- 6 Oct 1990 Federal Republic of Mindanao (in rebellion)
(These two photos researched by Dylan Yap Gozum; source: The Philippines

The persistent prejudice of the national government against the island and its people spawned the Mindanao Independence Movement of Ruben Canoy in the early 80s. The movement was silenced after it broke out in the open in Cagayan de Oro, but the feelings remain festering.

Many Mindanaoans continue to believe that the island is better off as a self-governing state. If this is not realized through federalism, then let it be by the dismemberment of the Republic.

To the mind of Duterte: “If you cannot solve your suicidal bickering in the nation’s capital, then we will call our own shots.” That is what his pronouncements say.

Mindanao could have settled for federalism; it still may. This push for federalism was given a pull during the May 2004 presidential campaign when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promised to work for the federal form of government when elected. For Arroyo, the campaign promise may not have gone beyond vote-baiting but for many in Mindanao, it was a serious promise that should seriously be kept.

This column has always been for a federal form of government. It will always be. At every little chance we get, we fan the federalist fires, so to speak.

Why federalism will work

The Encyclopedia Americana defines “federalism” as the principle according to which two levels of government, general and regional, exist side by side in the state, each possessing certain assigned powers and functions.

The United States of America, from which our own democratic institutions were patterned, has a federal system of government; while ours is unitary which makes all the regions of the country hopelessly dependent on the national government.

Under a federal system, regional governments have assigned powers and functions which the national government cannot arrogate nor usurp; and within the sphere of those powers and functions, the regional government is autonomous and independent from intervention.

The powers of the national government and those of the regional governments are defined and assigned by the Constitution. Under the common concept of federalism, the regional governments operate directly upon the people within its jurisdiction, exercising independence in matters of legislation, taxation and administration. Thus, the regional government has the power to pass laws responsive to the particular needs of the people in the region; impose the necessary taxes; and administer without interference its own internal affairs.

On the other hand, the powers usually assigned to the national government are those of the regulation of commerce, defence, immigration, currency and foreign affairs. It is the national government that ensures that goods from the regions are competitive in the world market; defends the whole country from internal and external aggression; controls the influx of non-citizens; maintains the integrity of the national currency; and enters into treaties abroad.

Federalism is desirable in a country divided by differences in language, religion, culture, tribal origin, social organizations, varying economic interests, or a historical perception of being previously a separate state.

Under a federal system, the regional governments can institute mechanisms to articulate and protect the differences to which value is attached—like religion, culture or language—and ensure that these differences are protected. The most effective of these mechanisms is equal representation in the national legislature.

The federal system is particularly appealing to communities which desire a limited union for limited purposes while maintaining autonomy. That desire to unify for added strength is best seen in the birth of the United States over two centuries ago and in the European Union today.

But really, we can understand why Malacañang is adamant to the federal proposal. Imperial Manila has always taken a hard line against it.

Mindanao props up Manila

Manila is mulcting Mindanao. If Malacañang does not want to cede central control of the islands resources, it is because they do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. They do not want to let loose the cow that gives them milk.

But as things are going today, and as Rody Duterte warned, Manila may lose altogether both the goose and the cow.

Consider, dear reader. Mindanao is the richest island in the archipelago. It supplies 40 percent of the food that the country consumes; 80 percent of raw materials and 60 percent of other agricultural products. Manila siphons from Mindanao its very life-blood; a greater part of the island’s income is used to build the infrastructure that makes Manila “premier and capital” city of the nation.

Take away the resources and income from Mindanao and Manila will hardly be able to stand on its feet. Mindanao props Manila up; take away the prop, it falls flat on its face.

Under a federal system, Mindanao will use its own income and resources for its own purposes – the central government will receive a lesser percentage (between 10 to 20 percent for its upkeep, depending on the provisions of a federal constitution). With a Mindanao Republic, they will not get a measly centavo.

We all want peace and prosperity. If they cannot have it in Manila, we want it for Mindanao. We want a nation strong and pushy enough to compete with the rest of the world.

Let our leaders forge a nation of independent, autonomous states that derive strength from their being different; not one that is weakened by a forced, fallacious sense of being the same.

Any presidency that succeeds in creating a federal Philippines during his/her term may yet come out as one of the best presidents of the country by the verdict of history tomorrow.

But if Manila continues with its governmental grip, its sordid scandals, its covered-up corruptions, its dismal failure to lead the nation forward, then it may wake up one day to the reality of a neighboring, and infinitely more prosperous, nation.

The Mindanao Republic.

The author writes a daily column, “Ricochet,” for The Mindanao Times.
www.Cyberdyaryo.com 06/21/05

Thursday, June 30, 2005


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Not quite but I'm not surprised if her supporters insist that she head the rallies to topple the President. PGMA must play her cards right now. She just lost a major battle - that of keeping Roces out of the limelight.

We all know what widows are capable of doing in this country. Already, the peso crashed to a 5-month low of Php 56.05 to the $US after Roces rejected PGMA's apology in a fiery speech at the Club Filipino which, incidentally, was also the same location where Cory Aquino took her oath of office. This symbolism will not be lost on the public.

But of course, considering the political scene and the rising fuel costs, this could just be a knee-jerk reaction by the market.

"A nagging issue this will turn out to be", says a stock broker. He's so right.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


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Came across this photo while researching. The two men behind the President during her swearing-in at the EDSA Shrine could also turn out to be the reason for her eventual downfall.

Is this the end? I fear so much, not just for her, but for the nation as well.

May God have mercy on the Philippines.

The EDSA Dos crowd


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Statement on the Issue of the Tape Recordings
Study Room, Malacañang
(27 June 2005)

Mga Minamahal kong Kababayan,

For the last several weeks, the issue of the tape recordings has spun out of control. Tonight, I want to set the record straight.

You deserve an explanation from me, because you are the people I was elected to serve.

As you recall, the election canvassing process was unnecessarily slow even after the election results were already in and the votes had been counted. I was anxious to protect my votes and during that time had conversations with many people, including a Comelec official. My intent was not to influence the outcome of the election, and it did not. As I mentioned, the election had already been decided and the votes counted. And as you remember, the outcome had been predicted by every major public opinion poll, and adjudged free, fair and decisive by international election observers, and our own Namfrel.

That said, let me tell you how I feel personally. I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgment. I am sorry. I also regret taking so long to speak before you on this matter. I take full responsibility for my actions, and to you and to all those good citizens who may have had their faith shaken by these events. I want to assure you that I have redoubled my efforts to serve the nation and earn your trust.

Nagagambala ako. Maliwanag na may kakulangan sa wastong pagpapasya ang nangyaring pagtawag sa telepono. Pinagsisisihan ko ito ng lubos. Pinananagutan ko nang lubusan ang aking mga ginawa at humihingi ako ng tawad sa inyo, sa lahat ng mga butihing mamamayan na nabawasan ng tiwala dahil sa mga pangyayaring ito. Ibig kong tiyakin sa inyo na lalo pa akong magsisikap upang maglingkod sa bayan at matamo ang inyong tiwala.

I took office with a mandate to carry out a plan for the nation. Since that time, I've focused on making the tough but necessary decisions to make up for years of economic neglect. We passed a comprehensive fiscally responsible national budget; raised new and necessary revenues to reinvest in the people, and implemented new anti-corruption measures that have led to the highest collection of taxes in history.

Nothing should stand in the way of this work, or the next phase of my reform agenda, which includes new investments in education and social services with our new revenues, and an expansion of our successful anti-corruption and lifestyle checks.

That is why I want to close this chapter and move on with the business of governing.

I ask each and every one of you to join hands with me in a show of unity, to help forge One Philippines, where everyone is equal under the law, and where everyone has the opportunity to use their God-given talents to make a better life.

Our nation is strong and getting stronger. The progress is steady and I ask you to walk with me on this journey to rebuild our great nation.

I remain your humble servant and promise you that I will fulfill my constitutional oath of office to serve the people to the best of my ability.

God Bless the Philippines!

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Whether in the process of seeking justice in interest of knowing the truth, the nation should always come first. I don't see this now, where opposition groups are dying to take over PGMA's seat even before she is proven guilty.

I wonder what the common man thinks of all this hoopla.

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(Photo by Ray Javier, 2004)


Too much political noise. Can't stand it anymore.

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Friday, June 24, 2005


In commemoration of my favorite city's birthday, i would like to veer away from using the official logo and would like to remind Manilans of its proud past as a Royal City.

Escudo of the ever loyal and noble courtesy of Felipe II

Manila began as a Muslim settlement at the mouth of the Pasig River along the shores of Manila Bay. The name came from the term maynilad, literally "there is nilad." Nilad is a white-flowered mangrove plant that grew in abundance in the area.

In the mid-1500s, the areas in present-day Manila was governed by three rajahs, or Muslim community leaders. They were Rajah Sulayman and Rajah Matanda who ruled the communities south of the Pasig, and Rajah Lakandula who ruled the community north of the river. Manila was then the northernmost Muslim sultanate in the islands. It held ties with the sultanates of Brunei, Sulu, and Ternate in Cavite.

Arrival of the Spanish

In 1570, a Spanish expedition ordered by the conquistador Miguel López de Legaspi demanded the conquest of Manila. His second on command Martin de Goiti departed from Cebu and arrived in Manila. The Muslim and indegenious Malay natives tentatively welcomed the foreigners, but Goiti had other plans. The Spaniards marched through Manila and a battle was fought with the heavily armed Spaniards quickly defeating and crushing the native settlements to the ground. Legaspi and his men followed the next year and made a peace pact with the three rajahs and organized a city council consisting of two mayors, 12 councilors, and a secretary.

Intramuros today

A walled City known as Intramuros, at the southern banks of Pasig River was built to protect the Spanish colonizers.

Escolta, circa 1899

On June 10, 1574, King Philip II of Spain gave Manila the title of Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad ("Distinguished and Ever Loyal City").

In 1595, Manila was proclaimed as the capital of the Philippine Islands.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Jaime Lachica Cardinal Sin, 1928 - 2005

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For being the right person at the right time in our history, thank you.

And to God, all the the Glory forever and ever.

Friday, June 10, 2005


This particular blog is the result of a shock we got today in the canteen when we found out that our favorite one order of fried chicken (two minute pieces dipped in batter and fried) has been elevated to stellar status by Php 7, from Php 28 to Php 35. All in one day. And the VAT law hasn't been passed yet, sa lagay na ito. Had I known, I should have ordered it all yesterday as today may be the last day i'd ever order it again. Given the reasoning of increasing cost of chicken meat (said with a glum look by the cashier), I'm not biting, thank you very much.

Why? Because I go to the market myself. Chicken prices haven't increased a bit since December. Depending on the weight, one can still get an entire chicken for Php 98 to Php 145 per, and that's in the supermarket. A chicken can have be chopped into 12 pieces, thus this computation: 12 pieces / 2 pieces in one serving * Php 35 per serving = Php 210 pesos, which allows our canteen around Php 70-80 net profit per chicken (if bought at Php 105 per, with the cost of oil, gas and batter already taken into consideration).


During the course of dinner, a colleague asked my why bootleg DVDs are so popular these days:

A: "Bakit kaya usong uso ang pirated DVDs ngayon?"
D: "You should look at it at a historical context. Bakit kaya usong uso ang vaudeville at zarsuela noong panahan ng mga Hapon sa Pilipnas?"

Murmurs of understanding all around.

It's escapism, man. During difficult times, Filipinos are wont to amuse themselves to forget the hardships of life. Like the vaudevilles of old, a (pirated) movie a day these days keeps the hunger away!

In Manila, it costs Php 65 to see a movie in the SM Cinemas. To bring a family of, say, four would cost Php 260. And that's excluding fare to and from the mall. Of course, how can a parent possible resist the kids' insistence to eat at their favorite Jollibee? A day in the mall would bust a month's paycheck for the ordinary laborer! The savings a pirated DVD or CD gives can free monies that can be used for other things.

Escape routes: God and Mammon.

Our dinner conversation eventually drifted to microeconomics (naks!):

"One of the best signs of a weakening purchasing power is the introduction of the sachet into the market. The ads sells the tag line 'convenience' when what we should really look at is the tag 'affordable'. We've never had soy sauce in sachet before. Tomato sauce in sachets. "Piso-piso Dagdag sa Load" promos by cellphone companies. These are all danger signs of a failing economy. ACNielsen said it is already telling retailers to go the sar-sari store way: to reach more [poor] Filipinos, to encourage impulse buying [because it's cheaper by the smaller serving] in order to win in the Philippine retail scene."

A survey done by AC Nielsen showed that sari-sari stores make up 90 percent of total retail stores in the Philippines and they account for 31 percent of peso sales.Consumers specially in D-E classes consider sari-sari stores as extensions of their kitchen. ACNielsen's Retail Establishment Survey showed there are 557,807 retail outlets 509,345 sari-sari stores, 41,619 market stalls and 824 supermarkets.

The trusted sari-sari: affordability, conveniance, at pwede pa lista muna!

If young people working in call centers and fast food companies earn between Php 8,000 to Php 15,000/month and still complain about how far their cash actually goes, imagine the multitude of people who are jeepney drivers, fruit vendors, primary school teachers, stevidores (sic), etc. and earn far less.

Yesterday, the Universal Bank of Switzerland (UBS) said that the VAT Law, if passed, would increase the cost of living in Metro Manila by 1.75%. I don't think the term 'belt-tightening' applies anymore. It's already THE status quo.

Everyone is now enjoined to find creative ways to survive.

Go figure.

Quo vadis, kabataang Pilipino?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Came across this article today in INQ7.net. There are more stories from many Philippine hospitals around the country enough to fill an entire book of horrors. More on this later.


Controversy is brewing as to why the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the PAGCOR are charging the Stanley Ho-owned Jumbo Palace Restaurant, currently docked on the complex's bay side, only Php 150,000 a month when the business is reportedly earning Php 300,000 A DAY.

Cash-strapped CCP is duty bound to explain this seemingly lopsided deal.


Confessed "jueteng" operator Wilfredo Cimanis Mayor finally spilled the beans in a Senate hearing yesterday and confirmed what many already believe (as opposed to ' know'), that Pampanga representative Mikey Arroy, the President's eldest son, has received payolas or bribes from jueteng operators in Pampanga. Read more here.
At any rate, we have to wait and see whether there is any truth to this allegation. I don't know whether to be excited or be worried. While this entire exercise will definitely bring down the enthusiasm of the business environment, it is about time we get to the bottom of this embarassing issue.
Will this Senate inverstigation go anywhere? Judging by the failure of the past investigations to produce any results (read: charges being filed in the courts), my fingers are crossed on this one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I was walking along calle Pedro Gil today when I passed by a group of very young women who, if not for their ultra-tight clothes which were barely covering their nubile bodies and the cigarettes they had between their lips, I wouldn'y have given them a second look. But hey, they were obviously very young (18 to the untrained eye) but for someone who has had training in recognizing red flag signs of abuse in children, it was pretty obvious that they were only between 13-16, and were already being made to work as prostitutes (on the street at 5.30PM). The teased hair didn't do enough to hide the young years behind their almost blank stares.

I suddenly remembered my friend Vince who wrote the screenplay for a short film entitled 'RITWAL' (Ritual), submitted to the CCP last year, regarding a mother who was getting her daughter prepped for work - as a prostitute. And thus the ritwal or rite of passage takes effect.

Just like the boom-bust cyclic trend the Philippine economy is notorious for (no wonder Moody's won't budge from the ratings it just gave us lately because scoring in our tax collections last April wasn't enough reason for an upgrade unless it is sustained), the cycle of life in Filipino society has remained the same for decades. Old prostitutes fade, new meat (sorry) take their place.

It is very sad to see that the oldest profession in the world remains to be a career of choice of women in our country. This says much about how far we have "prospered" as a nation and as a people.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


This is how electrical and telephone lines are put up in the Philippines. Makes one wonder how we can possibly govern a nation if simple things like this go awry. No need to say more.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005


Came across this today. Very nice political cartoons. Visit it here.

Friday, May 20, 2005


The hype surrounding the film 'Bikini Open' by Jeffrey Jeturian ('Tuhog', 2003) finally came to a head the other night when i went to see it at Robinson's Place Manila.

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The hype was too much to resist - a "mockumentary", they call it. In an industry dying (pardon the pun) to do something new, whatever, just to get the attention of a waning audience, any new idea could sell a film in the same way that the first digital film project, the gay-themed 'Duda / Doubt', was a hit among its target audiences.

I can't be so sure how 'Bikini Open' performed at the box office. Suffice to say that at the pace the terribly written narrative was going, any person wise enough to know it would have walked out of the theatre immediately and rectified his mistake by slipping into the next theatre showing a much-interesting film. While the original aim was to amuse, titillate and vilify, 'Bikini Open' was very successful in its ways to irritate. I had to control my frequent sighings, which became louder by the minute.

While I admit the production design was very good, it was pretty obvious that they were trying to achieve something. I can't seem to put my finger on it but if Director Mark Meily of 'Crying Ladies' (2004) was seated somewhere in the audience, i would have pointed it out to him that they were trying to ape his style.

Sorry, Jeffrey Jeturian. Maybe a mockemuntary really isn't your forte. I suppose it is true that a material finds its own master. You may have done it with 'Tuhog' but lightning never stikes twice. Better luck next time.

Cherry Pie is good, as always. She is so irritating here though. I wish they got Dina Bonnevie (sic) instead. Sigh.


It bewilders me no end why the DENR and the business association of Boracay are acting on the island's problems only now when the issue has become grave.

I am pretty sure they have learned from the the red flag signs years ago when the once pristine waters were infected with coliform bacteria, yet nothing seemed to have come out of it.

Now, there's the problem with the dump. Then the issue of who actually owns the island remains unresolved. Over and above these two, the original settlers - the Aetas - are being rounded up and pushed back inland.

Trouble's definitely brewing in paradise.


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President Gloria must be so restless in her sleep these days; that is, if she still gets any sleep.

Judging by the way the son, Vice-Governor Mikey Arroyo of Pampanga, was summoned to the Palace early in the morning only to be handed a copy of the PDI and asked to deal with the issue with the press, the First family obviously is in distress.

Will she suffer the same fate as her predecessor? Let's hope not. If we were to lose her now, I feel it is time for me to go too. Out of this country that is. I'd rather that this country is run like hell by GMA than run like heaven by Noli de Castro (I doubt it).

"Magandang gabi, bayan!", it is not.

Monday, May 16, 2005


This overdependence on trade with traditional markets like the United States has made us ‘blind’ to other potential markets like Latin America. I can’t understand why we, despite having a Spanish-speaking President at the helm, we don’t have a clear trade policy with the Spanish-speaking nations of South America.

The days of Banana Republics are gone and are perhaps best remembered on the tee shirt (even that is laos na rin!) and South American economies have boomed beyond our wildest imagination.

A check on our trade data with the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB) with these countries show that we only had (in US$ thousands of dollars, 2003 data) US$ 35, 823 worth of exports to South America (Brazil, followed by Argentina), while we exported more to East Asia (China, Japan, HK, Korea and Taiwan) at US$ 14, 812, 357 followed by North America (USA, Canada) at US$ 7,581,984 and Europe (mostly to the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain in that order) at US$ 3, 302, 810.

The data, however, doesn’t say what exactly we exported to the said continents. No, human labor export doesn’t count. That’d account for incoming remittances.

I am curious to know who among our non-Spanish speaking SEA neighbors have gained significant headway as to trade with that region. That’d be the day we’d get the shock of our lives. It defies good common sense that we have not used our Spanish connection to the fullest.

If the US$ 30 million annual ODA we get from Spain is any indication, we definitely have lost the Crown’s favor.

Que barbaridad indeed.

For quick reliable facts about the Philippines, visit http://www.nscb.gov.ph/.


Exhibit of Philippine National Scientists and their work at the Philippine Science Heritage Center

It has been said before, but it appears that we need to say it again. Fidel Ramos’ PHILIPPINES 2000!!! (Inquirer columnist Bambi Harper used to ask how to read this given the three exclamation points) identified it before as an important component to achieving a Newly-Industrialized Country (NIC) status (say whaaat?!)

Here goes: There is no way we could achieve any form of industrialization in the Philippines if we do not have enough scientists in this country to support any scientific activity. Madame President, the future of our country doesn’t rest on that naphtha-cracker plant we’ve been dying to get for decades now. The future is in our schools, and in our educational system (if ever we can still call it that).

No thanks to the freaking vintage Hueys we’re getting from the US in exchange for our unqualified support of their Iraq intrusion, we’re losing our national scientists faster than we are making them (how have we honored former Philvocs Chair Punongbayan for his work now that he’s dead?).

Forgive me for forgetting my facts once in a while (I am already 29) but I have yet to inquire with the DOST re the ratio of Filipino scientists to the number of Filipinos living today. How far have we gone in our scientific endeavors? Have we discovered the secret yet as to how to make our rice impervious to the weevil? (No, you tell me!) Wait, I even read last time that we already have fortified the lowly mami noodles with vitamins! Oh yes, that’d surely pave the way to industrialization (although I will praise to high heavens the fortification of salt with iodine).

Why do we still insist on claiming as our own Agapito Flores, who supposedly invented the fluorescent lamp (ever heard of Friedrich Meyer, Hans Spanner and Edmund Germer? Thomas Alba Edison, perhaps? How about General Electric, which brings good things to life?), and the others (Moon Rover by NASA scientist Eduardo San Juan, 1978 TOYM Awardee? So what? Filipinos would never go to the moon although if good-paying jobs were offered there, we can never tell, si?). It pains me to know that Abelardo Aguilar MD, who in 1949 discovered in an Iloilo graveyard the now-mother macrolide Erythromycin (the founded-in-1903 Philippine Medical Association surely will have records of him) was never indemnified for his work because the US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, to which he offered the patent and market the product as Iloson, never paid him for it. Tragic, tsk.

No point crying over spilt milk though. Let’s strengthen our Math and Science curriculum now before it is too late. Actually, it already is late but true to Filipino fashion - all together now! - better late than never!

Sigh. I just love this country.


I really see nothing wrong in Senator Nene Pimentel’s (PMP, Misamis Oriental) suggestion that we just legalize jueteng so we can tax the popular numbers game instead of having to pour millions of taxpayers’ money into an anti-jueteng drive which, judging by the years spent in a losing battle with the illegal game, is futile din naman. Already, it has claimed the career of one President of the Republic. How many more will fall to its prey?

I lived in Pampanga for over ten (10) years and my yaya has never failed to make a taya with her favorite jueteng taga-lista. And that’s like what, a ten-peso bet everyday! It’s a way for her to make an extra buck; at the same time, it’s also the lifeblood of many people who depend on the game for their food. Unfortunately, that exactly is the downside to it. The concept of easy money based on luck (“swerte”) is just the bane of poverty alleviation efforts. It’s not teaching the people how to fish. It’s akin to waiting for government dole outs whenever disaster strikes.

But how can the government assert a moral upperhand in cracking down on illegal gambling when gambling, courtesy of PAGCOR, is an official activity? (Trivia: PAGCOR is our third largest source of revenue after the Customs and the Internal Revenue).

What a conundrum indeed. One can’t help but wonder if the Philippines was cursed at birth.


Over breakfast of creamy and herby omelet and Thai dilis, I commented to Thai-Fil friend Steve Alfafara, Cebu Zee Quarterly’s Travel Editor, how Thais go the extra mile in embellishing their foodstuff. Take the lowly dilis, for example. While we Filipinos have gotten used to eating dilis we either fry with sugar or mix in monggo soup in lieu of the killer chicharon, the Thais are already selling theirs in ready-to-eat airtight packs! And that’s not even the point; their dilis is covered in sesame seeds.

Tough luck that we’d even imagine it served that way. Steve, however, said that this is normal to the Thai people. With no conscious effort to be better than its neighbors, Thai products almost always amaze the buyer with “extras”. Everydayland: dilis. Thai Way: dilis with sesame seeds. Everydayland: fried bananas. Thai Way: fried bananas with langka and sesame seeds.

We really have one or two things to learn from our Thailand sister (who is probably the Philippines’ only ‘true friend’ in Southeast Asia, no offense to Indonesia and Malaysia, who are hosting our peace talks with the MILF).


President GMA's State Visit to China, 2004

Sure. The United States is “worried” about how the Philippines, its former colony and traditional ally in the SEA region, is slowly cozying up to the new giant China. With the exchange of diplomatic visits between the two Asian nations, it seems that the Philippines is slowly weaning away from its overdependence on US trade. Trade between China and Ma-yi (the ancient Chinese name for Mindoro and the islands in general) began long before Spain and the US came into the picture.

Lately, President Hu Jintao made a State Visit to Manila to commemorate the 30th anniversary of our diplomatic relations and brought with him gifts worth US$ 1.5 B in support of the “golden age of Sino-Philippine relations”.

As said before, we must be cautious of men bearing gifts. What does China want in exchange for these gifts? Continued support of the One-China Policy? That’s a given. After all, we cannot rely on our own military, much less on our mutual defense treaty with the US, to protect us from China if we decide to recognize Taiwan.

What we don’t see, however, is that China, aside from being a vast potential market for Philippine goods, is actually our largest competitor. Already, we have lost our major US share for Christmas trimmings to cheap Chinese labor.

Soon, they will overtake our other major industries (garments, for one) where we used to excel over other SEA nations. Stories about pirating have been rife, with Filipino designers being hired by Chinese companies to learn, observe, and eventually copy original Philippine designs in furniture and interior accessories.

Limahong’s descendants obviously still lurk about. While we – excuse this term - pander to the giant, it may be too late to realize how it is has ‘killed’ us while weren’t looking.


This sex video craze has got to stop. What started it all were the sex video scandals more known now as the ‘La Salle Scandal’ and ‘Dumaguete Scandal’ which came out last year, then followed by every imaginable ‘scandal’ from every town and province. Suddenly, everybody wanted their own claim to fame. From Pampanga to Davao, the whole breadth of the islands was swamped with young men and women huffing and puffing on amateur video.

Next came naked photos from a stolen camera of a so-so TV personality (antedating Paris Hilton by a year), and now this: sex videos of actors and actresses have hogged the talk shows every weekend, during which Filipino families spend all day watching TV with their kids. The affected parties are, of course, doing the rounds to deny (categorically, as usual, ho-hum!) that they are the ones in the videos.

This craze (‘crazy’ is more like it) has got to stop. There are many ways to make a living or boost a sagging career. Titillating as these may be, it’s hardly helping shape our identity as a nation. If anything, it has opened us to the sad possibility that we actually are a voyeur nation.

And I thought Japanese porn was the height of voyeurism. No, really.


With world tourism figures going up, there is no way this small corner of our world will allow all that to pass us by. Armed with bloated national treasuries (for some, not all) and bursting with national pride (same, same. Just for some), Southeast Asian nations have invested heavily on aircraft, infrastructure and waved generous mileage points to tourists around the world.

They even have banded together to promote the ASEAN as one, uh, fabulous destination hub but which to choose from the ten (10) totally different choices from the ASEAN cafeteria? Here’s a peek at individual country tag lines.

Singapore: “Amazing Singapore”

Amazingly clean streets. Amazing museums (I never realized culture can be bought until Singapore came along). Fast claiming the crown as “Entertainment and Cultural Center of Southeast Asia” from the Philippines, thanks to the many Filipino entertainers working in the city-state. Amazing theaters (I can’t wait to get a whiff of that huge durian they call Esplanade) Amazing public transportation system (one card swipes in all of them).

Near-zero birth rates and boring sex lives, according to a recent survey. Amazing la?

Thailand: “Heaven on Earth”

Formerly ‘Amazing Thailand: Enjoy the Wonders of a Kingdom’ but the avian flu and tsunami changed all that. I guess dying on their white beaches is not exactly the Aussies’ idea of heaven. The Thailand Elite card? Well, only if you can afford it. Phat Pong? Now we’re talking!!!

Malaysia: “Truly Asia”

Meaning what, exactly? I thought individual country personality is what tourists are after. Better change it to MalASIA.

Cambodia: No need. Just say Angkor Wat, and they’d come.

Republic of Indonesia: No idea. Too many problems to think of tourism at the moment. I am pretty sure there’s more to Borobudur and Bali.

Vietnam: No idea. Wonderful airline though. Cheers!

Myanmar: Has SEA’s largest collection of Buddhist temples but military regime isn’t helping bring tourists in. Maybe Suu Kyi has the secret formula tucked in her cell somewhere.

Laos: Sigh. Yes, over and above the mystical Mekong, there exists a national airline called Lao Aviation. Russian-made aircraft will definitely be the main selling point.
Say what??!

Brunei Darussalam: Passengers love to chip at the national airline’s ashtrays, wondering if these are actually made of real gold; otherwise, basing it on the trip Che-che Lazaro made there in her show, there’s not much to see beyond the Istana Nurul Iman (which was designed by a Filipino, by the way).

The Philippines: “WOW Philippines”

Formerly “Islands Philippines” but scuttled after realizing that 7,100 islands was just too much to offer the bewildered tourist (the theme song and video, however, was the best ever made of the country). Besides, more than half of those are pretty much inaccessible.

Focus is now limited to ten (10) points of destination which, surprisingly enough, still included Manila. Manila’s Pied Piper Carlos Celdran will give me his sternest glare at this but really, let’s just spare our tourists the trouble, okay?


Philippine Airlines changed its tagline five times in 15 years, from the late 80’s “Shining Through”, the 90’s “Wings for the Filipino” and “Flying High on 50”, pre-Asian financial crisis “Asia’s Sunniest” and today’s “It’s All About Experience”.

Other minor tag lines include the 60’s (?) “The Hong Kong Airline” when it flew its then-modern Vickers Viscount to the former Colony, and circa 70’s “The Last Great Bargain in the Orient.” Of course, nothing beats its original tag line: “Asia’s First Airline”, which was used at the height of its popularity, with routes covering almost half of the world.

No, “Plane Always Late” isn’t part of the official list. By contrast, Thai International Airways stuck with their “Smooth as Silk”, Singapore Airlines with their “What a Great Way to Fly”. The world’s favorite tagline, “The World’s Favorite Airline” of British Airways, remains to this day.

What got me falling of my chair was India’s Air Sahara tag, “Emotionally Yours.”

What the %$#@!!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Luxuries almost or never made available to many Filipinos

While brushing my teeth and washing my face in the lavatory, my attention lingered on a work mate who spent his time preening before the mirror, washing his hands, perfuming, fixing his hair and while at it, used at least thirty (30) sheets of paper towels.

Yes, 30 sheets, each 1’ X 1’ in size. I sure can dry my very wet hands using two sheets, tops! After all, there’s always the electric hand dryer. I really am bothered by liberal toilet paper use, especially by those who think these grow on trees. *grins*

At any rate, after 15 minutes of puttering about and 30 paper towel sheets after, he decided to top it all off by drying his hands on the electric hair dryer. Great habits, dude! I only able shook my head in amusement and disbelief.

I suppose there’s something wrong when things like this happen. I mean, yeah, free stuff is provided in lavatories these days but must we abuse them? I don’t want to sound so sure as to where this behaviour is coming from and I leave that to our eminent social psychologists to discuss, but one cannot deny that hoteliers all over the world know for a fact that a Filipino guest means one thing: missing bath towels, for one.

Alright, I admit have this habit of collecting hotel door notices (those that say ‘Do Not Disturb’) but these are for bragging rights, and are not as expensive as, say, a thick white bath towel. My cousin, for one, likes hoarding complimentary postcards upon her entry in a hotel room but at least those are free.

But towels? Wasting toilet paper?



The advent of cheaper travel within Southeast Asia will surely bode well for a region still reeling from the devastation of the tsunami, and SARS and avian flu of last year and the year before that.

Air Asia of Malaysia, and Tiger Airways and JetStar of Singapore, now pose a challenge to older, bigger airlines like CX, PR, and SQ whose rates continue to be prohibitive. A cursory check of Air Asia’s Clark-Jakarta route costs only Rh 210,000 (or roughly US$ 1 = Rh10, 000 = Php 54).

This means, Clark-Jakarta costs only about Php 3,888 one way! On the other hand, Clark-KL starts at Rh 99.99 or Php 1, 949! It’s just like going to Batangas or Baguio, and more! And how much does it cost to go to, say, Cebu or Caticlan these days? An arm and a leg plus the hassles of delayed flights to boot! Why bother at all when you can go elsewhere?

Between the usual white beaches of the Philippines (plus the now-familiar rude and clumsy PAL flight attendants) and getting the chance to see the world, the smart Filipino traveler wouldn’t have difficulty deciding.

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism can now kiss the ‘I LOVE PHILIPPINES’ program goodbye (Secretary Ace Durano, it’s not helping that you enjoy hiding from the press, you know!).

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


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Tuesday, May 10, 2005


We are a very unlucky people.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005


What a sad turn of events.

I have always thought relations are only bound to become better between Japan and China (PROC) but recent spate of events prove that hurt and sad memories continue to haunt many Chinese. A review of Japanese atrocities would be in order here but I am not in the best position to discuss the matter. I can only think of the 1937-1938 Rape of Nanjing where about 300,000 civilians were killed by the invading Japanese army (explained to me in detail by JGC), and know that it definitely is a sore point in Japanese-Chinese relations.

And now this. Filipinos are aware that Japanese textbooks continue to conceal from the younger generation the truth about Japan's role in World War II. However, despite several on-and-off apologies ("palliatives", I call theme) issued by Japan (but only by the Prime Minister but never by the Imperial Family!), their textbooks somehow still do not reflect these things as seen in the recent changes made in Japanese textbooks that continued to gloss over many sad facts in history.

I suddenly remembered how, in 1995, during a visit of a group of student from Sophia University to Xavier University (we were sister schools, both being Jesuit-run), we partner-guides were requested not to discuss the war with them "because they don't have any idea about what happened, and that our guests might just end up being offended." In fact, WE were ones who felt offended by this "request".

When the Japanese came, it turned out that they were the ones who demanded that we discuss the war with them, and this we did although only when the University people are not around.

Flag burning in China

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao, APEC Summit 2003

These recent events are results of a tension building up since last year, no thanks in part to US intervention in the matter (how it intends to cash in on the tension, I have no idea).

During her Asian tour last March, Rice repeatedly stressed that Washington would back Japan in the region and supported the Japanese desire for permanent UN
Security Council veto status. In Tokyo she called on Japan and other countries in the region to unite and demand that China "eventually embrace democracy." She
openly opposed the recent effort of the European Union to lift the 1989 arms embargo on China as well, and warned of a new Chinese threat against Taiwan.

Last December, under US "encouragement", the Koizumi government issued its 10-year defense program which for the first time openly named China as a potential threat. Two months after, in February, Japan explicitly agreed with Washington that the Taiwan Strait was a "common strategic concern" of Washington and Tokyo.

This is the first time Japan has involved itself so directly in the postwar period in the Taiwan issue,and was, not surprisingly, viewed in Beijing as a brazen interference in China�s internal affairs. To add oil to the fire, on February 9 Tokyo announced the Japanese Coast Guard would officially take control of
the disputed Senkaku Islands (Diaoyo in Chinese). As well Japan was the only major nation outside the USA to oppose the EU plans to end the China arms embargo.

Washington has repeatedly urged Japan to rearm and increase its military profile, as well as promising Taiwan that should China use force to prevent a Taiwan declaration of independence, the US would go to war on its behalf. Little wonder that anti-American sentiment in the region is rising (except perhaps in this little part of the world called the Philippines).

Why Japan continues to do this is unusual and totally regrettable. Has it ignored that fact that in the longer-term, it faces a daunting demographic challenge? According to former World Bank - China Department head, S.J. Burki, by 2025 China will likely be the world's largest economy. Japan at the same time is pre-programmed to decline dramatically with drastic population shrinkage after 2010, that is in
five years. Japanese male population in 2004 already declined by a small percent. At the same time, Burki notes China will likely demographically stabilize around 1.4 billion people and is heavily weighted owing to their population policy, to males. Compared to Japan and the USA, China is relatively debt free and its external debt is small and covered by trade surpluses.

It is in Japan's interest that it should foster and strenghten ties with its giant neighbor. This isn't the 1940's. The war is over. The risk for Japan is not small. In the past decade, especially the past 5-6 years Japanese industry has massively invested in outsourcing to China for its manufacture. Between 2001 and 2004 Japanese exports to China rose 70%. At the same time China dependence on Japan has diminished. During the 1990�s Japan was China�s most important trade partner. By 2004 the EU had replaced them followed by USA and then Japan as third. Over the past several years, ASEAN trade and investment has markedly shifted from the US to China
as main focus.

This is a great topic that must be discussed in the next ASEAN + 3 Security Forum.

I hope that these two countries realize that continued peace between them will benefit not only their relations, but ASEAN, Asia, and the world as a whole.

This really is the last thing we need at the moment. As if our problems with Myanmar, the Philippines' South, and North Korea are not enough.