Demonizing our tricycle drivers

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ONE OF THE favorite punching bags of netizens, at least those in my social circles, are tricycle drivers. The most common complaints include overpricing, refusing to convey, and rudeness.

While I believe that some passengers do have legitimate concerns on certain instances, and it is well within their rights to file a formal complaint ant to rant on social media, I lament that tricycle drivers have, in general, been treated contemptuously and have been “othered” as if they are cruel predators from another world.

I have read a fair amount of literature on tricycle drivers, particularly because one my past thesis advisees, Ralph Lasaten, had the tricycle drivers of Batac City as the subject of his sociological study. Among the observations that struck me was of Colbert Bellevue, an American. He said that because tricycles are in demand in most cities and towns in the Philippines, “tricycle drivers can command and exact chartered fare prices without any room for bargaining or haggling for a fair fare.” He went on to say that “the glitter of money in the heart and soul of a tricycle driver extinguishes the human kindness, compassion, helpfulness and goodwill to strangers; and henceforth, he becomes a ‘crocodile’ and a ‘wolf’ waiting for a prey at a corner of the road.”

I wouldn’t dispute Colbert’s observations. Indeed, the world is filled with opportunistic beings, and some of them happen to be tricycle drivers. In Batac where I work, complaints against tricycle drivers are also aplenty, and the famous line, “Dobliemton, ading” (Please double the fare) is met with revulsion. In Vigan and elsewhere, there have been cases as well of overcharging.

I usually have a great deal of tolerance with people ranting on social media, and this includes their ordeals with tricycle drivers, but a young lady’s Facebook post particularly caught my attention. You be the judge if the tricycle driver deserved the badmouthing he got from the lady’s sympathizers.

The young lady, a college graduate, rode a tricycle in queue (nakapila) at a shopping store in downtown Laoag. The tricycle driver said that if the lady was willing to pay twenty pesos, they would go immediately. The lady complained that it was too much and that with twenty pesos, she could already pay a bus fare to Batac. She noted that the jeepney terminal she was going to was just near. “It’s okay, but would you be willing for another passenger to go with you?” the driver asked. The lady agreed. But perhaps because of her impatience, she later told the driver, “nayunak to lattan,” she will just give an extra amount. So they went. Upon reaching the destination, the lady paid the driver 15 pesos. It is four pesos more than the regular 11-peso fare. However, the tricycle driver demanded 20 pesos because that was the amount she had earlier asked from the passenger. The lady reasoned out that she never promised to pay twenty pesos, and that she only offered to give something extra. After the short spat, the lady grudgingly paid 20. Shortly after, she ranted on social media, there posting the tricycle’s sidecar number.  The lady gained support from her friends who branded the tricycle driver as “abusado.” Many suggested that the tricycle driver be immediately reported to the police, to which the lady agreed.

As I said, there’s no denying that some tricycle drivers may be rude, some are choosy with their passengers, while others demand for more than the usual fare. But let us analyze the case of the young lady.

The tricycle driver was in a queue. He may have been in the line for at least half an hour. When passengers are scarce, the wait for a tricycle driver’s turn to get passengers could take an hour or more. It is definitely justified for them to have at least two passengers. But the young lady wanted special accommodation (she wanted to have the tricycle go pronto and all to herself) and that is why she offered to pay extra. The tricycle driver thought the young lady was willing two pay 20 pesos, but it turned out she would only give 15. I am not good in math, but I am sure that if only the lady was willing to wait, she would have paid only 11 pesos, and the tricycle driver would have earned at least 22 pesos, 33 if there were two other passengers, and even more if their destinations were farther, as 11 pesos was only good, according to the official fare guide, for the first one kilometer. Pray, tell me, how could the lady, in good conscience deprive the driver, who waited a long time for his turn, with the earning he rightfully deserves?

Five pesos. That’s the difference between what the lady was willing to pay and what the driver expected. Five pesos. The reason why the tricycle driver was portrayed as a monster, a crocodile, a dirt and abomination of society.

Hinay-hinay lang naman, mga kapatid. Please take it easy on them. Life is hard, yes. The tricycle drivers’ lives could even be more difficult than ours. Most of them do not have their own vehicles and have to pay a daily boundary to tricycle operators. In Laoag City, it’s around 250 a day, and that does not include expenses for gasoline. Only after they produce boundary and gasoline do they start earning for themselves. It should also be noted that the current minimum fare of eleven pesos was set by the Laoag City government in April 2011, that’s over seven years ago when prices of fuel and basic commodities were considerably lower.

“It’s not our fault that the queues are long, or that the driver does not have his own tricycle, or that transport fares have not been adjusted, or that life is unfair” one may justify, but it totally shows a lack of empathy for one’s fellowmen. Tricycle drivers, let me make this clear, are not our enemy.  They suffer like we do, and they even surely struggle more than the rest of us who can afford to spend a lot of time ranting on Facebook.

Because of scarce parking spaces, I prefer to commute when going to the centro, and tricycles have always made life easier. I pay more than what they ask. I pay more when the heat of the sun is punishing, or when the rains have the drivers soaked all day. I pay even more especially when they don’t ask for more. I do so not only because I can afford it, but because I want to. And each time I alight from the tricycle and hand them my fare, I say a word of thanks.

Like anyone, I could also be short-fused when the tricycle drivers are rude and in which case I don’t try to hide my disgust, but those are very rare instances, and as much as I could, I just take a deep breath and say a little prayer that God may help the fellow get past a bad day. I wouldn’t report anyone to the police—who already have more than enough in their hands—unless I am seriously aggravated. If it’s just my ego that’s hurt, I try to suffer a little, let it pass, and still keep my faith in my fellowmen.

It’s funny though that many professionals and high earners tend to be harsher in treating tricycle drivers. I know many of them. In stark contrast, Manang Glory, our help for  many years who has since retired, to this day refuses to use her Senior Citizen privileges, pays the regular fare, and most of the time gives even more. “Kaasida met” (I pity them), she would say. What a show of empathy. What a redemptive humanity!

This leads me to reflect on why tricycle drivers are easy targets of complaints both on social media and in the police station. And why people feel entitled to use the harshest adjectives on them.

While tricycle drivers are very much a part of our daily lives, we have become insensitive to their own concerns, blind to their sufferings, deaf to their pleadings, and while we ride their vehicles as they bring us safely to the comfort of our homes, we have only always seen them for their use but never for their worth. We have shamelessly “othered” them. And because they are disempowered and lowly, we easily pick on these tricycle drivers, for the smallest reasons, to be at the receiving end of both our personal frustrations and social disillusionments.

If only we could be angry with corrupt politicians as much as people verbally assault a tricycle driver for asking a few pesos he has rightfully earned, we could live in a better place. But no, we call our officials “honorable” even as they plunder millions from the public coffers. There is no enough outrage for inefficient and corrupt public works contractors, greedy capitalists who can’t let go of contractualization, no anger for the leeches in electric cooperatives and water distribution utilities, no disdain for big-time thieves and scoundrels.

For there is always the tricycle driver to hate and demonize.

And we could always feel better about ourselves.

God bless our trip.

Laoag City doctor a veteran abortionist

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“Sir, I am in deep trouble.. you’re the one I am sharing this with because I know you are understanding.. I am not yet ready sir,” read the text message my former student Brent (not his real name) sent me.

Sensing what the problem was, I replied with a question, “How many months?” to which the eighteen year old answered, “Two to three, sir… I know it’s my fault, but I am not really ready.”

Then Brent asked me if I know any abortionist they could go to. I was shocked.

Part of the subject Sociology 1, I teach Family Planning to my students, and because I believe in free, informed, and responsible choice, I present both the natural and artificial birth control methods. But never have I encouraged abortion, fully aware of its risks and its ethical and legal implications. In fact, I always tell my students that If anyone of them unwillingly gets pregnant or impregnates anyone by chance, I will take it as my personal failure as a teacher.

I tried to talk to Brent against resorting to abortion, but he was firm and resolute. He and his girlfriend have talked about it seriously and there is really no way, and giving birth to the baby is no longer an option for them. He said they want a medical doctor to perform the procedure to make sure it’s safe, and he asked me again if I can recommend anyone.

I don’t know any doctor who performs abortion, I told him, and even if I do, I would not make any recommendation. And what self-respecting doctor would perform abortion here in Laoag City? But I assured Brent that I am not judging them as persons despite what they were planning to do, for I am sure they have really given the matter a great deal of thought leading to their firm conviction that abortion is the only  solution to the biggest problem they have had to face in their teenage lives. I assured him of my prayers. He reminded me that the matter is confidential.

Two weeks later, Brent texted again. “Successful, sir,” he said, “a doctor performed it.” And when he told me who the doctor was, I was startled. I was in great disbelief. Continue reading “Laoag City doctor a veteran abortionist”

Gloria attends pro-RH gathering in Laoag City

NO, she did not wear a neck brace, and, no, she was not out on bail. It was the better Gloria I have previously written about who joined Ilocanos, mostly young people, at the foot of Gilbert Bridge last August 6 for a candle lighting ceremony in support of the Reproductive Health Bill.

It was a crucial moment for the controversial piece of legislation which has stagnated in Congress in the last one and a half decades, no thanks to the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. (I have to say “hierarchy”, dear karikna as all national surveys say a great majority of Filipinos, the Catholic faithful included, strongly support the RH Bill.) Congress was to vote whether to proceed with the prolonged and circular debates or to terminate the interpellations and push for the bill’s second reading in the Lower House.

It was a crucial moment, and the significance of the activity was not lost on Gloria Portela Valencia, 55. Taking time off from her many chores as a house help in Laoag City, she joined well-meaning citizens, composed mostly of young people, in the silent activity for the RH Bill.

Frail and shy, Gloria came in a red shirt she usually wears when attending mass. She lit a candle, stood there, and joined the group in the brief gathering. But Brigette Mayor, a field reporter of GMA’s Balitang Ilocos noticed Gloria among the crowd and interviewed her. “Manang, apay supsuportam ti RH Bill?” asked the young journalist who may have been expecting a generic answer, but hit a pot of gold in her interviewee’s moving response.

“Agsaksakripisyoak ta kayatko laeng a magun-odda ti ar-arapaapenda ngem saan met ta sabali met ti napaspasamak. Nasakit unay ti nakemmo a nagannak ta kasta met ti nagbanagan dagiti annakko.” (I sacrificed because I wanted my children to realize their dreams, but something else happened. As a parent, I feel sad about what my children had to go through.)

Gloria hails from Barangay Bacsil in Dingras town. Manong Rolando, her “First Gentleman,” is a tobacco farmer who tills less than a hectare of land that is not theirs. The eldest among her siblings, she started working as a kasambahay at age 13. When she got married and bore kids, this devoted mother quit her job and stayed home to take care of her growing family. She gave birth to six kids. Eight years ago, however, when two of her daughters started going to college, Manang Gloria decided to stage a comeback as a househelp so she can help send them to school.

A few years ago, Gloria’s world crumbled when she found out that one of her daughters, already in third year college, got pregnant by a married man. When that happened, she could not sleep at night though tired from the day’s work. She would stare blankly at nothingness, mulling why things went wrong. She did her part, she sacrificed, she prayed hard, but why? Two months after, as if her troubles were not enough, this mother discovered that her other daughter, also in her junior year in college, was pregnant, too. Both of her girls had to quit school to take care of their young, and Gloria was totally devastated.

Don’t get me wrong, dear karikna, Gloria loves her two granddaughters and are proud of them, but she knows that things could have been better. Her apukos could have been born at a better time and under appropriate circumstances. Continue reading “Gloria attends pro-RH gathering in Laoag City”

Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’

And we did it again.

Ten years ago, I wondered in an essay why this Catholic Nation has produced only one saint so far while Thailand, Japan and China–all non-Christian countries–have more. Maybe, unlike Filipinos, I said then, people from those nations have more sensible things to do than creating miracles by desperately looking for images in the stains of tree trunks and forcing statues to shed bloody tears.

Recently, an image of a woman, believed by many as Mama Mary, reportedly appeared at the midsection of the Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. With pictures of the ‘apparition’ circulated on Facebook, the phenomenon generated public interest, especially after it was featured on national television evening news.

Make no mistake, I love Mama Mary, and I always turn to her for guidance and protection, but, on a personal level, and with all due respect to anyone who does, I don’t believe the image is extraordinary. The blurry figure is obviously a product of stain and discoloration which any old structure, such as the 400-year old Laoag Bell Tower, would have. You can find stains anywhere and assume them to be something, anything. My friend Luvee from Pagudpud says there are also a lot of stains in their toilet wall, and, as a child, it was her hobby to spot them and identify certain images, some of them religious. Rizal Javier, a retired philosophy professor from Batac, is obviously no longer a child but he still spots some images in their restroom and has actually considered publishing those in his Facebook account. There was one problem though: he does not have a Facebook account. Continue reading “Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’”

The (other) Lady at the Capitol

Nana Gretchen: Homeless in the City

Matilda Ricardo Mandac, 63, is a truly powerful woman, and it’s not because she has stayed and worked at the Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol, and has seen 5 governors in a span of over three decades.

Nana Gretchen, as Mandac is popularly known (it is said that a tricycle driver named the lady, for reasons unknown to her, after actress Gretchen Barretto), has been selling cigarettes and snacks at the vicinity of the Capitol since 1980, during the term of Governor Elizabeth Marcos Keon. Over the years, she has endeared herself to a lot of people. A former governor once regarded her as “anting-anting ti kapitolyo” (amulet of the capitol).

When she still had a small stall inside the perimeter fence of the Capitol, Nana Gretchen had gross sales of around three hundred pesos a day, from which she had a net income of less than fifty pesos. However, when the Capitol had a major facelift last year, the fence had to go, and she was displaced. Today, she sits in front of the Dap-ayan, a food center near the Capitol. Left without a stall, she carries three bags: one bayong contains a couple of cigarettes packs she sells, another is filled with empty plastic bottles she gathers and later on sells at the junk shop, while a third one—a shoulder bag—contains other personal effects.

But she does not really have a lot. Not now when her daily sales have fallen to below a hundred pesos, as no one, except her old clients, knows that she is selling cigarettes. She brings out her wares when someone buys, and keeps the container immediately after. She scrambles when rain comes as she does not have a shade. She owned a broken umbrella, but lost it.

Nana Gretchen used to live with relatives in Brgy. 4, Laoag City, but was displaced by maternal kins in 2004, leaving her homeless. While she tried to seek help from the Public Attorney’s Office, she could not pursue the claim in the absence of a land title. Efforts to negotiate with her relatives failed.

And so Nana Gretchen stays at the vicinity of the Capitol, whole year round, and that includes cold Christmas Nights and New Year’s eves. She would take daily baths at a faucet in an inconspicuous part of the Capitol garden. Note, dear karikna, that it is not at all a public scandal as she does it at 3:00 a.m., when almost all of us are in deep slumber. And with her clothes on.

A picture of bliss and serenity

Nana Gretchen looks neatly dressed, but don’t get confused. With only two sets of clothes—blouse and slacks—she uses each pair every other day. It is not unusual that her clothes won’t dry enough, so she would end up sporting a wet outfit.

Buying ten pesos worth of Pan de Sal at Town Bakery every morning, the store is kind enough to pour hot water on her coffee cup (actually a reused plastic container of instant noodles). A sachet of instant coffee costs her five bucks. When her purse allows it, she would have budget lunch at a carinderia. For dinner, what dinner? She spends the long nights with an empty stomach eagerly waiting for next morning’s pan de sal.

Living in the streets comes at the cost of safety, but we already know that. And I am not only talking about typhoons and other calamities that she has to contend with. Nana Gretchen has been mauled by a mentally deranged man five times already, and counting. Her head would ache with the man’s powerful jabs, but Nana Gretchen is thankful the injuries she has sustained have not warranted a trip to the hospital.

She has not, in fact, been hospitalized all her life, and thank God. But, at her age, one could not help but worry how she would cope in the face of a serious disease. In the dark corners where she spends the night, mosquitoes abound. And it just takes one bite from a dengue vector to send anyone, rich or poor, to harm’s way.

Meantime, she nurses herself when faced with illness, aided only by a large dose of faith, which she nurtures by attending Sunday services at the Christ the King of Glory Fellowship. Holding no resentment towards God, she says she is just thankful to be alive. While Nana Gretchen admits to occasionally crying in her lonesome, she appears to have a very positive attitude. She tells herself, “saan met siguro kanayon a kastoy.” (Maybe it will not forever be this way.)

Year 1987 was a particularly trying year for Nana Gretchen. In June, she gave birth to her only child Lucky Marjorie. But the baby girl was born prematurely and lived only a few minutes. Three months after, her husband Dominador was murdered. Those two deaths in a year punctuated her chance of belonging to a family. Lone child of Simeon, a farmer, and Guillerma, housewife, Nana Gretchen is a product of a dysfunctional home.  Her parents, now both deceased, parted ways when she was a baby. With her mother suffering from a mental ailment, she was then left in the care of an aunt in Dibua South, a barangay in the outskirts of Laoag City. Her aunt saw her through grade school.

Nana Gretchen has to be strong, and it is not a choice but an imperative in the urban jungle where she lives. Maybe this is the reason why some people get the impression that she is “mataray,” an impression I also had before I talked to her. And so while hers is one of my dream interviews, I dilly-dallied in doing it. But then I finally found myself one afternoon sitting a few meters away from her in front of the Dap-ayan. Looking at her, I felt intimidated. While I have done interviews with people of prominence, I was clueless how to approach the lady. Noticing my stare, she responded with a warm smile. What a joy! It did not take long before I warmed up to the lady, and, before I knew it, she began talking about life.

The reason I am drawn to Nana Grechen is that, unlike Christopher Lao—the bratty UP alumnus who blamed government for his failure to realize that his car is not a submarine that can traverse deep bodies of water—Nana Gretchen does not feel that anyone, her government included, owes her anything. Not demanding help, she just quietly strives to earn a living for herself. All that she has formally claimed from government is a senior citizen’s card that she does not really find any use for. As for Governor Imee Marcos whose renovation project consequently affected her livelihood, Nana Gretchen only has respect and admiration. She concedes that the Capitol lawn, without the fence and her stall in it, looks better. “Personal sacrifice for the public good,” is a principle she understands more than most politicians I know. The Dap-ayan is also expected to be renovated soon, but that is another problem she wants to face on another day.

Her toothless smile may conceal it, but I know how difficult it must be to be in her shoes. My heart breaks when I see old people live in miserable conditions. People who have toiled all their lives deserve the pleasure of simply enjoying the good life—say, play mahjong and bingo while waiting for pension, or, for the religious, like my mom, spend as much time as they want in church. Yet Nana Gretchen harbors neither bitterness nor envy. And no, not pride. While she does not beg, she would not refuse a sandwich when offered by a kind stranger.

“That kind of fulfillment is something that I envy. I wish I have that kind of bliss and serenity,” says my friend Jun during a few rounds of SanMig Light on a Friday night, and I couldn’t agree  more.

Nana Gretchen reminds us of sheer pleasure in little things—of owning an umbrella, of wearing dry clothes, and of simply being able to take a bath in naked glory.

At the end of the interview, I gave her a tight hug, and I felt power and wealth that could only come from the inside.

Jubileeconomics

St. William Cathedral, Laoag City

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Laoag, established in June 1961, celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, and I should feel excited. This must be something big and meaningful. After all, Ilocanos are a deeply pious lot and we, as with the rest of the nation, are predominantly Catholic. But I feel uneasy, dear karikna, because of certain circumstances that surround the celebrations.

I came to know of the Church’s golden jubilee in a rather odd way. In November last year, Luvee Hazel Calventas-Aquino, a friend and colleague in the university, expressed to me her discomfort over a tarpaulin streamer that was hung very conspicuously near the side entrance of the St. William Cathedral in Laoag.  Most churchgoers take the side entrance, and so it is very difficult to miss the streamer. “Why post it there?” Luvee asked. And it is not only Luvee, many other well-meaning parishioners shared the same sentiment.

Let me describe to you the banner. It is huge, really huge, billboard sized.  Even if you have an eye problem, it would be difficult for you not to notice it. Featuring the latest model of a car brand, it bears an attractive picture and a catchy line which goes, “Find out why 10,000 customers chose the new Honda City.  Honda: forever change the rules.” In the middle of the streamer is an invitation which goes: Inquire Inside. Continue reading “Jubileeconomics”

Refusing ninonghood

I received today another invitation to a baptism, it reads: “I, Chery May, invite you to come and join me to witness my christening on the 27th day of April, 2011, 10:00 a.m. at Saint William Cathedral, Laoag City.” I am asked to be a godfather to the cute baby whose photo appears in the invitation, together with an image of Hello Kitty.

I have made it clear to my friends that I am uncomfortable being a “ninong,” given the serious responsibilities attached to it. I am not referring, dear karikna, to the customary gifts during Christmases and birthdays, but to the guidance I have to provide, and this is the most important function of a ninong, on how to grow up a good Catholic.

How can I be a credible witness to the Catholic faith when I am in the middle of a campaign for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, a vital piece of legislation that the Church, using medieval logic, vigorously opposes? How can I help usher a young soul to a faith that still considers homosexuality as a natural anomaly? And how will I explain to an adult Cherry May all the hypocrisy in an institution rocked with scandals of every kind?

It is not, however, easy to turn down invitations to ninonghood because, in Filipino culture, such has great implications in the social context more than in the spiritual realm. Refusing to be a ninong can be insulting to the refused, and the reluctant godparent may find himself a few friends poorer. Good thing that I am not a politician, and have no intentions of seeking any elective post, not in the near future, and neither in the most distant tomorrow.  And so I can say “no, sorry, can’t be a ninong.” Continue reading “Refusing ninonghood”

Now, the book

“Since reading Herdz’s 2000 essay on the problem of being ‘Filipino,’ I knew that a progressive radical writer was in the making, someone who would challenge the herd mentality of our time. The essays in this volume attest to a worthy successor of the great subversive Filipino intellectual, Isabelo de los Reyes, also nurtured in Herdz’s homeground. Accessible and provocative, Herdz’s writing is sure to blast open closed minds to the winds of change.  I welcome Yumul’s intervention into the bloody arena of our society undergoing tumultuous upheavals, hopefully advancing toward the day of national-democratic liberation.”  E. San Juan, Jr., Social Philosopher

Herdy Yumul  was one of my students—he is bright, brooding, and sensitive. I can assure you that he is not a fool.  I am glad we have young people like him who can write with tremendous courage. We may disagree with him, but we cannot fault the depth of his feelings.

Is this how we train budding sociologists in UP?  We train our students to be critical of their surroundings as well as to be responsible for their actions.  We want them to live with hope rather than wallow in despair.  If the boldness of our ideas is what it takes to remain hopeful, then I would encourage it – as I would encourage you very much to engage Herdy Yumul’s insights into the Filipino condition.  Randy David, Sociologist

Naghagis si Herdy Yumul ng tanong na ayaw marinig ng lahat.  Nag-umpisa sa isang article sa dyaryo, umikot sa Internet, umabot sa isang programa sa TV, at ngayon nasa libro. Binagabag ng simpleng tanong ang mga Pilipino.  Baka gusto mo ring itanong sa sarili mo.  Bob Ong, author, Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?

Komiks at mga tabloid lang dati ang binabasa ko, pero nang makabasa ako ng essay ni Herdy La. Yumul, naging fan niya ako kaagad. Seryoso ang mga topic niya pero nakakaaliw ang pagtatalakay.  Malalim ang mga kaisipan ngunit simple ang lenggwahe. Hindi man mataas ang pinag-aralan mo, puwede mo siyang basahin. Mararamdaman mong may paggalang at malasakit siya sa’yo. Para lang siyang nakikipagkuwentuhan sa isang kaibigan.  Feeling ko nga, bespren ko na siya.  Boy de Jesus, security guard

Herdy fits into the whole continuum from cool as in “Provincial Bliss” where he details his decision to come home to Ilocos, to furious as in “Brilliant Agca, Stupid Quezon” where he rescues a fledgling affronted.  Straightforward and unabashed, he shows unflinching courage to challenge authority and conventions, but within the parameters of dignity and taste.  The motorcycling Herdy with the mandatory helmet has, in the past ten years, hit the road to becoming the young Ilokano blood who wields trilingual writing prowess and finesse.  With The He(a)rd Mentality, he arrives, and with much success.  Alegria Tan Visaya, Chief, Center for Ilokano-Amianan Studies, Mariano Marcos State University

He was not simply teaching you the works of his idols, he was showing you what he thought about them. He was not only asking you questions on how much you know about the topic, but he also wanted to see how much you’ve thought about it. He thrived on thoughts and ideas, not only those of his inception, but also from everyone around him. He magnifies even the simplest of ideas, scrutinizes it, then arpeggiates it to the point where all nuances are validated or rejected, never shelved. That is his profound effect on me. That is the power the immutable Sir Herdy so generously brings to the He(a)rd.  Marc delos Reyes, an “immensely cheesy, beer-loving” former student of La. Yumul

I first took note of Herdy Yumul when someone forwarded a blog he wrote for the Internet, questioning the value of being a Filipino, and the logic of believing in God.  I was fascinated by the way he wrote, having journeyed along the same path during the early course of my life.  In a way I considered him a twin-soul.  Of him may be said, as Carlos P. Romulo once said of me when I was his age, “In the manner of the celebrated dramatist, Eugene Ionesco, he does not stop asking questions, a supreme quality which is characteristic of an engaging and living mind.  And in the questions he asks, we are able to perceive the glimmer of the significance of the human effort in our own society and time.”

I valued the quality of his mind enough to devote a series of broadcasts to answer the questions he asked, all in all, in 24 pages of text and three weeks of daily broadcasts on radio DWBR-fm and television UNTV, recently included in Chapter 8 of my latest book, Make My Day Book 25, Heaven and Hell.

I know for a fact that our dialogue which continued in subsequent telephone conversations, has profoundly influenced his mind (and mine) and made him a true believer in the destiny of the Filipino people, and in the existence and goodness of God. Hilarion “Larry” Henares, Jr., past chairman, National Museum of the Philippines

Sana’y puwede ako–at ang marami pang iba–na mag-enrol sa Herdiology–mukhang maraming mapupulot sa kursong iyon.  Jess Santiago, poet and songwriter

Yosi. Laklak. SanMig.  Epal.  Astig. Dedma.  As a Filipino living in the states for the past forty years, I would not have known what these words meant if not for one writer I have followed more than any other. Herdy Yumul—an eclectic mix of spunk and diplomacy, of the profound and of the profane—educates and reeducates me on my noble roots.  Lolita Chestnut, New Hampshire, USA

It is in his seemingly mundane everyday experiences that Herdy draws out a treasure trove of discussion points about Filipinoness. He needs no complicated quantitative analysis to draw out certain realities that make us who we are. His life is the big social experiment where what is commonsensical to many of us (in our haste to escape the moment) is magnified under his sociologist’s eye and stripped layer after layer to expose what kind of social animals we are. And in so doing, to render who he is in a dignified attempt at self-reflexivity.  Alona Ureta Guevarra, Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University

As a writer, Herdy’s loyalty is to writing itself.  The 55 essays in The He(a)rd Mentality will comfort and unsettle the author’s readers, order and re-order their beliefs and advocacies, and offer them a tentative perspective while they’re looking for one.  I expect the readers to find in his humor the highest level of thinking (In Herdy’s San Beda College it was called philosophizing) that is written in excellent prose.  Jose Ma. Arcadio Malbarosa, Department of Political Science, De La Salle University

Pinilit ako ng mga magulang ko na mag-enrol ng Nursing.  Ayaw ko talaga ng kursong ‘yun pero wala akong magawa.  Naging magulo ang utak ko at tinangka ko pang magpakamatay. Nu’ng mabasa ko ang mga sanaysay ni Sir Herdy, nabigyan ako ng lakas at pag-asa, sinunod ko ang tibok ng aking puso at nagpasyang maging malaya.  Naglayas ako at pumasok sa isang paaralan ng musika.  Op kors, nagalit at nag-alala sina ermats, pero naunawaan din nila ako, at ibinilhan pa nila ako ng astig na gitara. Sana’y marami pang mga kabataang tulad ko ang maalalayan ni Sir Herdy, and idolo kong bagama’t hindi tumutugtog, ay isang tunay na rakista.   Power to the pipol, mga kuto!  Rock and roll!  Vincent Jose, Musikero

Why beer is better than religion

MY FRIEND Rommel, a highly regarded scholar from Cagayan, observes that going to church is no different from frequenting a videoke bar. You go to these places to find relief from life’s cruelties.

The great American statesman Benjamin Franklin posited that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

I argue that beer is better than religion, and here are 18 reasons why. Continue reading “Why beer is better than religion”

Church of the Pool on the take?

BUT OF COURSE.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an indefatigable anti-jueteng crusader, revealed recently that eight to twelve Catholic dioceses are benefitting from illegal gambling operations.  One wonders if the Diocese of Laoag is among them.

This sense of wonder is not without basis.  A retired archbishop, the longest-serving leader of this lone diocese of Ilocos Norte, openly admits that his beautiful house was built for him by a known jueteng lord.  My sources also attest that some structures in the diocese were either built or renovated with help from operators of the popular numbers game.

Note, dear karikna, that I am not against jueteng per se.  As a sociologist, I have previously written that jueteng exists not much because government officials and the police allow it, but more because the people need it.  Where the government and church fail, jueteng fills gaps and satisfies needs.  It provides jobs, it gives people hope.  “False hope!,” some people may point out,  but false hope, dear karikna, is always better than no hope at all.

You see, jueteng to me is not among what I would consider as major, major social problems.  What disturbs me is the patent hypocrisy by which the church deals with it.

“Receiving money from and betting on jueteng is a grave sin,” says Sergio Utleg, Laoag bishop, citing moral grounds.

A more candid stand, however, was made no less by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, the most influential Filipino prelate ever.  “If Satan appears to me and gives me money, I will accept the money and spend it all for the poor. It is not the practice of the Church to ask donors where their donations come from. Our duty is to make sure all donations go to the poor,” he posited.

At least, Sin had the interests of the poor in mind. Under Utleg, the first structure to be constructed was not a church and neither was it a facility for our impoverished brethren.  It was, of all things, a capricious swimming pool by the bishop’s palace. Continue reading “Church of the Pool on the take?”

Book

I FINALLY agreed, dear karikna, to pursue what well-meaning friends and readers have been prodding me to do:  write a book.

I made the decision the other week when I opened our refrigerator and saw my newspaper column wrapped around a bundle of Saluyot.  I asked mom why, she said it was, anyway, from an old issue.

Even with the amounts of time, and energy, and sanity that go with writing a regular weekly column, I have always known that yesterday’s paper is today’s junk, and there was no way I would have been so sensitive and felt offended.  Still, not unlike in a melodramatic soap opera, memories came flashing back because of that incident.  I remembered how many hours of sleep I missed to meet deadlines.  The cups of coffee downed, and the many bottles of SanMig Light I gulped to reward myself for articles that I was particularly happy with.

I recalled one time when I hit the keyboard while a nasty typhoon pounded the city.  Because my laptop ran only on battery, I had to adjust the screen to its dimmest, and to my eyes’ protestations, so that the power would last.  And then there were times when internet access would be faulty, and, aboard my good old bicycle, I would brave the rains or the scorching heat, to find a computer shop with a working connection so I can transmit my work.

But the most difficult part lies in determining what to write.  There were countless moments when I would stare blankly on the screen, trying to balance, not with ease, the varying interests of a wide range of readers.  There are those who would complain when I write about local issues, which they cannot relate to because they are not from Ilocos.  But then, how could I be significant as a writer if my essays are so not-here?  I see things in the locality, and I get affected by issues in the community.  How can I not write about them?

The big challenge, I realized, is in striking a balance, a synthesis.  The order of the day is to show how the issues we face as Ilocanos are  not remote and isolated, but are rather inevitably linked with the struggles of the Filipino people, and with the sojourn of humankind. Continue reading “Book”

Yes to Jueteng!

I AM HAPPY that P-Noy himself clarified categorically that while he is against jueteng, eradicating the illegal numbers game is not on top of his to-do list.  “That’s a low priority for me,” he said.

I surmise it saddened Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a staunch anti-gambling crusader, although I suspect that a good number of bishops heaved a sigh of relief, for they, too, receive jueteng payoffs.  Good example is an Ilocos prelate whose retirement house was built by a jueteng lord, a fact the man of cloth does not deny.  Then there are churches built or renovated using jueteng money, and sadly this includes the cathedral I used to frequent as a child.  The late Cardinal Jaime Sin justified this, saying “the church will accept money from the devil as long as it goes to the poor.”  Holy cow! Continue reading “Yes to Jueteng!”

Ay, supot!

THE AFTERNOON RAINS in past days reminded us that summer may be ending soon, which means time is running out for the ritual of passage that is male circumcision (“tuli” in Filipino and “kugit” in Ilokano).

Various  groups, ranging from media organizations to the Philippine National Police to civic and religious organizations, sponsor their respective “Operation Tuli” projects which intrigue foreigners because the Philippines is one of the few countries left in the world that insist on  penile mutilation.

A month before I entered sixth grade, my brother Herry accompanied me to the then Ilocos Norte Provincial Hospital to undergo almost every Filipino child’s very first surgery which, medical practitioners now agree, is done for reasons not medical. Continue reading “Ay, supot!”

200

That, dear karikna, is not the number of yellow shirts I have purchased.  I surmise not even Noynoy Aquino has that many in his wardrobe. Two hundred pesos is the current rate in the vote-buying operations for the first congressional seat in this province.  I have firsthand information that two of the strongest contenders for the post have started special operations as early as the first week of April.

With a strong grip of barangays in Laoag City, one candidate operates through barangay officials who hold a list of registered voters for each household.  Upon payment, a recipient is asked to sign beside his/her name.

Another candidate, who promises a fresh brand of politics, seems to find difficulty veering away from the dark shadows of his old man.  His camp, however, has a more legal way of doing things.  They give allowances of two hundred pesos to every volunteer.  This seems acceptable because candidates really have to take care of their volunteers.  The problem is that just anyone and everyone can be a part of their payroll.  All that you have to do is go to their headquarters and fill out a form.  The result:  some barangays would have hundred, if not thousands, of barangay coordinators.  If this is not circumvention of the law, what is?  Same pig, different collar.

While it does not shock me anymore that this happens in every nook and corner of the archipelago, it disturbs me that it’s not only the poor who accept dirty money from politicians.  Almost everyone now does, and this includes my friends who are professionals, and even those who live comfortable lives.  God, I even have friends who are involved with the election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting who admit to ‘selling’ their votes. Continue reading “200”

Eloquent Rudy, idealistic Kris, and confused Atong

(L-R) Rudy Fariñas, Kris Ablan, and Atong Peralta photos by Czaryna Zai Mari

I WANTED Teteng Sales to be in the forum sponsored by student journalists of the Divine Word College of Laoag last Feb. 24. The former Pagudpud mayor, who claims he won the congressional race in 2007 over incumbent Roque Ablan Jr., intrigues me. I know so little about his position on issues, and I wanted to validate the general impression that he is an intellectual lightweight.

Apparently, however, he ignored the invitation to the event, the first congressional forum to happen in the province after the filing of certificates of candidacy. According to organizers, Teteng’s camp received the letter of invitation, and no less than his wife Maja was informed of the undertaking, but that they never sent a word, which is worse than begging off.

Former Sarrat Mayor Chito Ruiz was also unable to attend as he was in Manila, but his staff took time to convey the candidate’s regrets.

There was another congressional forum that was supposed to transpire last Feb. 26, the Anti-Kadiri Movement’s Congressional Hour. It was postponed, however, because Gibo’s visit to the province on that day made some personalities unavailable. Leaders of this anti-trapo movement say Teteng has also been ignored them.

This is sad, dear karikna, because candidates owe it to us, the voting public, to explain their stands on matters of public concern. Teteng’s popularity in the past was mainly due to the people’s tiredness of the old Ablan, a traditional politician who has been a fixture in the local political scene for decades. I say this will no longer be enough political capital for Teteng as he now faces four other candidates: Ruiz, Former Congressman/Governor Rudy Fariñas, Board Member Atong Peralta, and Ablan’s son Kris.

Rudy Fariñas was in his usual element. He was eloquent and sharp, an observation shared by Prof. Fides Bitanga, forum moderator. Continue reading “Eloquent Rudy, idealistic Kris, and confused Atong”

Nang pitong araw na hindi nag-smile ang araw

NAMISS natin sobra ang maliwanag na sinag ng haring araw.  Kung dati ay panay ang reklamo natin dahil sa init ng panahon, ngayo’y ating napagtanto na di hamak na mas mahirap ang basang-basa at madilim na buhay.

 Nakalulunos ang pinsalang idinulot nina Ondoy, Pepeng, at ang pampagulong si Quedan.  Ilang buhay ang nasawi, mga bahay na nagiba, ari-ariang tinangay ng agos, at mga kinabukasang nawala na parang bula.

 Gayunpaman, ang trahedyang ito ay patunay na naman ng pagkamasiyahin ng Pinoy, ng ating kakayanang bumangon mula sa anumang pagkakalugmok, ng ating magaan na disposisyon sa buhay. Napangingiti na lamang ako kapag nakikita ko ang mga biktima ng mga pagbaha na panay pa ang pagkaway at pakyut sa likod ng mga reporter sa telebisyon.

 Marami akong mga kaibigan sa NCR na labis na naapektuhan ni Ondoy. Habang naglilinis sa kung anuman ang natira sa kanilang mga putikang bahay ay panay pa ang hagikhikan. Itong si Dennis, ang kaibigan kong nasa Amerika, bagama’t nalulungkot at sinira ni Ondoy ang kanilang bahay, kagamitan, at pati na rin ang bahagi ng kanilang kabuhayan sa Cainta, ay labis ang pagpapasalamat at wala namang nasawi sa kanyang mga mahal sa buhay. Natatawa siya nang ikuwento sa akin na ayaw pa sanang umalis ng kanyang tatay sa kanilang tahanan bagama’t napakataas na ng baha, subali’t napilitan din itong lumikas nang lumulutang na ang hinihigan niyang kama. Continue reading “Nang pitong araw na hindi nag-smile ang araw”

Preparing the thumb for the stains of politics

One of the letters I received was from William S. of California USA.  His letter merits attention, because he suggests I write about something he finds important.

Part of his letter reads:

“I am one of your avid readers in the Ilocos Times Online.  Based in the west coast USA, I make sure I read your column on a daily basis during my free time at work. It is a matter of principle that we really need to give you due recognition for providing enlightening information on the various social issues in the provincial and national levels. The issues you tackle span the judicial system, social economic system, political system and educational system. I admire some of your articles when it bites the “status quo” of those people in power, whether in elective or appointive positions, who are holding and discharging their duties for their own and circle-of-friends’ benefits. I also came to believe that the Ilocos Region seems to be the “Wild-Wild-North” of the entire archipelago since it is all the same since I left to this date. The conflict resolution in the political arena undermines the rule of law.

“The reason for this email is to suggest that we educate the local voters for the upcoming 2010 local and national elections. I was wondering if you could mention in your column how to value their votes for the right candidates in the upcoming election. There has to be a way to gauge budding political figures versus those who would like to perpetuate the political family dynasty. The electorate has to realize that there is always an alternative, a fresh start and new faces to select from instead of the “traditional.” There is always a political process to use if we elect the person who does not meet the people’s expectation. We also need to address those folks in the rural areas to stay home during election day if they are not aware of the issues affecting them and if they do not know the political agenda of the candidates. We need to emphasize to the rural folks and others that a few cans of sardines and a couple kilograms of rice should not subvert the voice of the people during elections.”

Continue reading “Preparing the thumb for the stains of politics”

Empanada Festival awe-inspiring but untruthful

As promised, I am featuring in this column a critique written by Ianree Raquel on the Empanada Festival held recently in Batac City. Raquel, who teaches Arts and Society at the Mariano Marcos State University, is cultural coordinator of the College of Arts and Sciences, and is an alumnus of the renowned Nasudi Cultural Troupe.

Read on… Continue reading “Empanada Festival awe-inspiring but untruthful”

Scandal!

PIDDIG sex scandal, Burgos scandal, Pangil scandal, (rumored) Dingras scandal, 5-sisters scandal, Hayden Kho scandal, and all those campus scandals.

If you cannot beat them, join them? That we do nothing to kill the monster we call pornography; that we have accepted perversion as part of everyday life; that we have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of the least of women and children, our women and children, that to me is the gravest of all scandals.

How does one solve a problem like pornography?  This issue has always been the subject of fierce debate.  What delineates art from pornography?  Does censorship infringe on our freedoms of expression and of the press?  Is digital exhibitionism an inevitable consequence of modernity? Continue reading “Scandal!”

Mga Larawan sa Maharot na Dilim (Huling Bahagi)

(Heto po ang ikalawa at huling bahagi ng sanaysay na sinulat ng isa sa aking mga pinakamahusay at pinakamasigasig na mag-aaral—si Cherry Gatiw-an. Tungkol ito sa kanyang mga karanasan sa pagsasagawa ng pananaliksik sa red district dito sa Ilocos. Si Cherry ay isang third-year Sociology student ng MMSU. Siya ay tubong Pudtol, Apayao.)


SA CLUB NA IYON, walang guwardiya. Mas magulo. Mas marahas ang mga tagpo.

Tumayo ang isang pareha at lumapit sila sa may counter. Halatang lasing na ang babae, nakaakbay sa kasamang lalaki. Kung tama ang dinig ko, may nabanggit na “1500”.

“Ana ‘diay 1500?,” siniko ko ang kasama ko.

Bar fine!”ang maikli niyang tugon. “Inruardan.”

Saglit pa, humarurot na sa labas ang isang motosiklong tatlo ang nakasakay. Nakapagitna sa dalawang lalake ang babaeng sa tingin ko ay mas bata sa akin ng di hamak.

Nanggagaling ang kita ng mga bahay-aliwan mula sa mga perang ipinapasok ng mga GRO. Sa bawat lady’s drink na inoorder ng mga kostumer, 50 pesos ang komisyon ng GRO at sa management ang 100. Ibig sabihin, tumataginting na 150 ang bayad ng isang bote ng inumin na inoorder para sa tumeteybol na GRO. Depende sa tapang ng sikmura at tibay ng katawan, ang isang GRO ay maaaring kumita ng humigit-kumulang limandaang piso sa bawat gabi. Kung makuha nito ang kiliti ng kostumer, may tip pang dagdag iyon. Hindi pa kabilang diyan ang nakokolekta nilang 20 pesos na show charge sa mga kostumer. Show charge ang tawag sa bayad ng panunood sa mga floor show, ang sayaw ng mga GRO. Kinokolekta iyon pagpasok pa lang sa club. Sisenta porsyento ng kabuuang koleksyon ang paghahatian ng mga nagsayaw, ang matitira ay para sa management.

Mukhang ayos ang kita, ‘di ba? Continue reading “Mga Larawan sa Maharot na Dilim (Huling Bahagi)”

Mga Larawan sa Maharot na Dilim (Unang Bahagi)

(Nais kong ibahagi sa inyo ang isang sanaysay na sinulat ng isa sa aking mga pinakamahusay at pinakamasigasig na mag-aaral—si Cherry Gatiw-an. Tungkol ito sa kanyang mga karanasan sa pagsasagawa ng pananaliksik sa red district dito sa Ilocos. Si Cherry ay isang third-year Sociology student ng MMSU. Siya ay tubong Pudtol, Apayao.)

PARADISE of the Low-Flying Palomas kung tawagin ang lugar na iyon. Ang mga babae ay mga mumunting kagamitang may katapat na presyo, mga paninda. Bilang isang babae, nasasaktan ako.

Hawak ang kapirasong sulat na pirmado ng aking guro, pinuntahan ko ang kontrobersyal na pook. Agad kong hinagilap ang pangulo ng samahan ng mga may-ari ng mga bahay-aliwan. Pagkaraang makatanggap ng pahintulot mula sa kanya, agad kong sinimulan ang aking pakay— ang gumawa ng pananaliksik kung ano ang totoong nangyayari doon. Sa tanang buhay ko, noon lamang ako nakapasok sa tinatawag nilang night club.

Hindi naging madali ang pagpunta ko lugar.

Paano ko makalilimutan ang taas-babang tingin sa akin ng mga tricycle driver sa tuwing sasabihin ko kung saan ako papunta? Ako na pabalik-balik sa bahay-aliwan—paano ko sila mapaniniwala na hindi ako tulad ng iniisip nila? Continue reading “Mga Larawan sa Maharot na Dilim (Unang Bahagi)”

Portrait of a writer as Ilocano:A tribute to Sozimo Ma. Pablico (1938-2009)

(Sosimo Ma. Pablico, agriculture columnist of The Ilocos Times, passed away last April 22 at age 70. Survived by his wife Barbie and son Paul Ethelbert, his remains lie in state in San Fernando, La Union.)

I FIRST knew about SMAP (read as ismap, by which he was fondly called) when I was doing research as a graduate student in Sociology. I came across an article he wrote about Ilocano rituals and practices for the dead, which was published in a national daily. Short but instructive, his article was of great help to my study.

When I applied for a teaching post in MMSU, I was excited to meet the man, to tell him how much he has inspired me as a writer and social researcher. Thrilled I was to be assigned to the Social Sciences Department of the College of Arts and Sciences where he belonged, only to find out that he had retired a few years earlier. I had to be content with looking at his face in a group picture (which proudly adorns a wall in our office) with other “pillars” of the department.

Later on, SMAP and I would cross paths, albeit only in the pages of The Ilocos Times where I write an opinion column, and where he was the agriculture columnist. Having no agricultural background, I must admit that I could not fully understand most of his articles. Behind the technical jargon, however, I could sense his intense desire to uplift the life of farmers, and to promote efficient and sustainable farming methods and strategies. In his writings, I felt the energy of a man many decades younger his age. Continue reading “Portrait of a writer as Ilocano:A tribute to Sozimo Ma. Pablico (1938-2009)”

Laoag dads dignify ‘palakasan’, adopt Mikey Arroyo as son

mikey_arroyoJUAN MIGUEL “MIKEY” MACAPAGAL ARROYO, eldest child of the most distrusted president in Philippine history, was recently declared by the Laoag City council as an adopted son of the city.

Based on a news report written by Dominic Dela Cruz and published inconspicuously in an inside page (meaning: treated as a story of little significance) in last week’s issue of the Ilocos Times, city officials explain that the resolution “seeks to recognize Arroyo’s assistance to the marginalized sector of the city through his endorsement of their medical cases to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) which in turn granted medical and social services to the needy constituents of the city”.

The sponsor of the said resolution is Laoag Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president and city council ex-officio member Chevylle V. Fariñas, who is strongly convinced of Arroyo’s worthiness of said recognition.

According to the feng shui-guided Fariñas, also the city’s first lady, the PCSO would not have denied the people’s request but that the Pampanga solon’s recommendation—being a son of the President of the Republic—made it easier and faster (emphasis mine) for those who need help to be granted their requests. Continue reading “Laoag dads dignify ‘palakasan’, adopt Mikey Arroyo as son”

Church unwittingly endorses vice

ash-tray

I visited the Catholic Church in Batac recently, and found this among the souvenir stuff they were selling at the parish office.  While I would not say that smoking is evil and that smokers are baaad folks, I feel uncomfortable with this apparent endorsement of the vice.  I would appreciate your thoughts on it. Continue reading “Church unwittingly endorses vice”

Top town dad earns Socio degree

AS A POLITICIAN, Rommel T. Labasan is currently busy attending commencement ceremonies in a number of schools. He is usually a guest of honor and speaker. On April 3, however, it will be his turn to wear a toga and march, this time as a graduate.

Labasan, the number one Sangguniang Bayan member of Pinili town, is one of nine candidates for graduation for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.

On March 13, the three-term councilor successfully defended his thesis entitled, Perceived Effectiveness of Gender and Development (GAD) programs in Pinili, Ilocos Norte. He was under the advisorship of Herdy Yumul who describes Labasan as “very humble and receptive”. Continue reading “Top town dad earns Socio degree”

YOUTHFUL VOICE IN AN ANGRY SEA OF APATHY AND DISBELIEF

(This is an oratorical piece I wrote for my nursing students at the Trinity University of Asia. It is now also being used in speech classes in other universities and colleges in Metro Manila. I am sharing this with you because by all accounts, the election fever has begun, and the youth should play spectator no more.)

ERAP RESIGN! ERAP RESIGN!

Eight years ago, in the year 2001, our voices were heard, loud and clear for the world to know that after all, we, the youth, have enormous power to change the course of history.

Yes, sometimes, you may see us, young people, who compose over 40% of this country’s population, getting engrossed with mundane and trivial pursuits, like malling, Friendster or online computer games, but, in my short talk today, allow me to show you what many don’t see. Continue reading “YOUTHFUL VOICE IN AN ANGRY SEA OF APATHY AND DISBELIEF”

Legalize Marijuana

michaelphelps

So, Michael Phelps, that guy who won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, the most in human history, was caught on photo in an apparent act of smoking pot.

The photo (which I am not posting here out respect for him) was met by mixed reactions of disappointment, dismay, and puzzlement.  For why would a legendary athlete, who has the world on his hands and history on his side, resort to Marijuana?

Michael did not disown the picture and in an admirable fashion atypical of real drug users (like the Philippines’ Alabang Boys), he says: Continue reading “Legalize Marijuana”

NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations

bb-pp2

Not once, but twice!

As with the past years, at least two beauty pageants are touted as highlights of the 2009 Pamulinawen Festival. The Search for Ms. ABC (Association of Barangay Councils) was held on February 4 at the Centennial Arena while the Search for Ms. Laoag is slated on February 10 at the same venue.

More mature societies have already shunned the idea of the traditional beauty pageant. Radical feminist groups, in particular, have lambasted beauty tilts as a form of exploitation of women and the perpetuation of a patriarchal concept of human aesthetics.

For what is a beautiful person? Organizers, of course, harp on the idea that beauty comes from within, blah, blah. But the competition criteria belie this. The minimum height requirement is 5’3”. Plus, you must look good in a swimming suit and, ergo, you must have a softdrink-bottle-shaped physique.

Such pageants, of course, would claim that they promote beauty with a purpose. This is why they are known for tokenism as well, which means doing something in a highly visible manner, though with almost-zero impact. Continue reading “NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations”