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”

Kris Ablan

Saramsam Cafe, Laoag City, July 7 (Tue), 6pm.  Kris has undergone a successful Lasik Eye Surgery but continues to wear his glasses because people have difficulty recognizing him sans the spectacles. Interview held while lone bodyguard waited outside.
Saramsam Cafe, Laoag City, July 7 (Tue), 6pm. Kris has undergone a successful Lasik Eye Surgery but continues to wear his glasses because people have difficulty recognizing him sans the spectacles. Interview held while lone bodyguard waited outside.

IT’S BEEN five weeks since I did an interview with the young man, but I have been dilly-dallying on writing about him.

    And it’s not because the congressional-son-cum-Sangguniang-Panlalawigan-member is uninteresting. In fact, Kris is any journalist’s ideal interviewee. He is brilliant, conversant, open, candid, reflexive, and, above all, sincere. He is also sensitive. You can talk to him for hours (in my case three) without ho-hum.

    But then you may say that I am an academic, and, being such, I can stand long conversations even with the nerd of nerds with the thickest spectacles ranting with nosebleed-inducing jargon. Maybe so, but not quite. Continue reading “Kris Ablan”

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”

(un)Quotable quote

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“Now, whatever they [critics] say, let it be. I hear it on my left ear and I let it go out on my other ear.”

-Laoag City Mayor Michael V. Fariñas, referring to the critics of his Rang-ay ti Barangay program, wherein city officials go to every barangay to conduct consultation and socialization with the folks.


I personally believe that the Rang-ay program is well-intentioned, but something is ironic with the statement coming from a person who projects himself as a believer in dialogue. While feedback is an important element in a democracy, a man who hears unfavorable comments on one ear and lets them go out through the other (without mention of any processing that goes in the gray matter in between), only fuels more speculations on the sincerity of his acts.


The mayor could have said it this way, “I respect my critics’ opinions, which I have given enough thought and consideration. But after carefully weighing the issues, I remain deeply convinced of the importance of the program, and in the interest of service I decide to carry on.”


But this is so ideal. I concede that when the pidit-pidit (earlobe) gets oh-so-hot, we say things we don’t really mean… or mean things we don’t actually say.

Hitler’s visit, unbearable speeches, amazing Miss Laoag tilt …and other notes on Pamulinawen Festival 2009

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Let me begin by saying ‘Congratulations’ to everyone behind the festival. I know they put in a lot of hard work in the fiesta preparations. By now, I hope they have managed to catch up on sleep, and that their eye bags have disappeared.

I acknowledge that writing a review like this one is a breeze, nothing compared to all the organizers’ sacrifices. They were actors, I was just a spectator. They labored while I savored the moments. I will therefore cushion the blows. Continue reading “Hitler’s visit, unbearable speeches, amazing Miss Laoag tilt …and other notes on Pamulinawen Festival 2009”

NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations

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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”

Obama finally calls up Malacañang

obama_on_phone

After ignoring Malacañang for quite a while (leading to the hallucination of Eduardo Ermita), US President Barack Obama finally calls.  With a warm and jovial voice, he says…

May I speak with that small-but-great Filipina who is the pride of all Filipinos?

(The Philippine president goes kilig-to-the-bones, blushes, and then uses her phone’s loudspeaker so everybody, including the media, could hear the conversation.)

Continue reading “Obama finally calls up Malacañang”

Ubba ni Ama

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Roughly translated, this Iluko phrase means: “Father carrying a child”.

I may be no fan to America, but the greatness of human spirit transcends geography, race, religion, and even time… and so he has my respect. No man has inspired humanity in recent times more than this guy. Continue reading “Ubba ni Ama”

A tale of two Glorias

IN AN EFFORT to show that the benefits of the government’s much-trumpeted economic efforts are trickling down to the masses, the president spent a considerable amount of time honoring everyday heroes in her eighth State of the Nation Address which she delivered two weeks ago before fashionable members of congress. Wearing a pale fuchsia pink “modernized Maria Clara” gown created by top designer JC Buendia, our head of state recognized—to the exaggerated applause of a friendly audience—farmers, lady welders, and ordinary folks who made a difference in their lives and, by induction, in the nation’s.
Allow me to follow Her Excellency’s lead by writing about “the other Gloria”, one of my everyday heroes. In doing so, I will juxtapose Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, referred to here as La Gloria and “the other Gloria”—Manang Gloria, our househelp.
Please do not raise your eyebrows, the president herself claims to be a granddaughter of a labandera and is proud to be so. Thus, she is not at all offended when people taunt her with the novelty song: “Gloria, Gloria, labandeeeeera!”. This, I say, deserves our praise.
Gloria Portela Valencia, 51, 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 (makitaltalonda laeng). The eldest among her siblings, Manang Gloria 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 their family. Eight years ago, however, when her children started going to college, Manang Glory decided to come back as a kasambahay so she can help send her children to school.
Honesty and integrity are among Manang Gloria’s many virtues. We could trust her with anything, even the most valuable of our possessions (and secrets). Given her deep sense of fairness and delicadeza, natalged ti riknami iti uneg iti pagtaenganmi. (We feel at ease inside our home). In contrast, under La Gloria’s watch, the Philippines has been largely perceived as the most corrupt economy in East Asia. It does not help that members of her family have been tagged in a number of scams and shady deals. As a result, La Gloria figures in the surveys as the most distrusted post-Marcos president.
On the day of the SONA (for which 200 million pesos of the Filipino people’s money was spent), there were no traces of the national crisis in the newly-refurbished Batasan. La Gloria and her cohorts were in the perfect mood to take a bite of Hollywood by walking on a long, thick, red carpet even as the nation was ailing—very much like dancing the papaya dance in an Intensive Care Unit. Manang Gloria has never set foot on a flashy red carpet but she knows door mats and cleaning rags pretty well—trapos are her tools, but she is not a trapo.
Manang Gloria is no saint, but when she commits a mistake, she says “sorry” and means it. She accepts her blunders and strives to make amends. Such was the case when she broke the glass cover of an expensive cooking pan. She looked sincerely regretful, offered to pay for the damage (which we refused), and promised to be more careful next time (which she did). Two years ago, a teary-eyed La Gloria delivered over primetime national television a well-rehearsed (but poorly performed, said veteran actress Susan Roces) “I.. am… sorry” speech for an offense she would never admit and, ergo, would never rectify.
A Doctor of Philosophy in Economics, La Gloria posits that the E-VAT is one of the best things that happened to the economy. While not claiming to be a financial technocrat, Manang Gloria, who only reached grade six, knows with certainty that E-VAT is a curse to the Filipino masa.

In her SONA, La Gloria declared: “I care…” and “nag-aalala ako” for her suffering constituency. Manang Gloria may not be as eloquent in expressing her feelings but she shows that caring entails sacrifice and self-denial. La Gloria, along with a typically bloated delegation, went on with a junket to the US of A even as Typhoon Frank lashed the country and left hundreds of casualties in the deep blue sea. Manang Gloria would not have been as callous to do the same. In fact, she once volunteered to postpone her day-off when the rains poured heavily and leaks on the roof plagued our abode.

Because of her good nature, Manang Gloria has no known enemies unlike La Gloria whose foes are as abundant as the pirated DVDs sold just a few steps away from the Laoag City Hall.
Wait, Manang Gloria does have two critics: me and my dad who sometimes complain of her salty cooking (naapgad/maalat). But well, saltiness is something very easy to remedy compared to a leadership turned sour.
We want to keep Manang Gloria for as long as we can, but we know that she will have to leave us in due time, certainly when her children become professionals, so she can go back to being a full-time nanang. Yes, we want to keep Manang Gloria beyond 2010!
Her poverty notwithstanding, Manang Gloria says she sleeps soundly at night. We can only hope that La Gloria enjoys the same luxury. ###