BULAN, Sorsogon, Philippines (JGL) – In 1943, the Japanese Imperial Army started building an airport in a small sitio of Bulan, Sorsogon so their soldiers can easily escape if General MacArthur were to return with his Allied soldiers during World War II.

But because of the extraordinary grit and resiliency of the Filipino guerillas (militias), they were able advance the timetable of MacArthur’s return, which caught the Japanese by surprise.

As MacArthur was carpet-bombing Leyte from the nearby Leyte Gulf, the Japanese Forces abandoned the airport they were building in what is now believed to be sitio Oyango in Bulan that ends up in Ticao Pass, a part of the Luzon Strait that connects the Philippine Sea to the South China Sea (Philippine Western Sea) in the western Pacific Ocean.


(LOLO BOBBY M. Reyes (right) surveys the extend of the runway of the Bulan Airport, which he said he will complete if he were elected Sorsogon governor on Monday, May 9, during his visit to the area recently in Bulan, Sorsogon, Philippines. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

Several Philippine presidents since Liberation had dreams of reviving the construction of the airport but an independent candidate for provincial governor LOLO Bobby M. Reyes would like to finally help the people of Bulan (Bulanenos) have their own airport if he is elected governor on Monday, May 9, 2016. Government officials who tried to build the airport just put the money for the airport in their pockets that’s why nothing had come out of the airport, Mr. Reyes said.

Mr. Reyes said he could make the Bulan Airport a reality if his patron, Sen. Grace Poe, is elected president on Monday.

Mr. Reyes, who celebrated his 70th birthday last May 1, said the completion of the Bulan International Airport (BIA) is going to be one of the flag-ship projects of his administration out of the ten priority projects to “reinvent” the Quality of Life in Sorsogon and its “Isles of the Future” and create 300,000 jobs.


 Taking a page from Sorsogon’s longest-serving governor, the late Juan G. Frivaldo, who sported the name “Tata (elderly) Juan,” Mr. Reyes said his moniker “LOLO,” which means grandfather in Bikol, stands for “Law and Order, Less Government and Opportunities equally for all.”

As a long-time Balikbayan from Los Angeles, California, where he was a lifelong community activist, LOLO Bobby returned to his boyhood and high school-age home of Barangay Bibingcahan in what he now calls “Bacon-Sorsogon (Bac-Sor) City” with all the wisdom and perspectives he accumulated so that he could pay back his dues to his  province of birth.

Based on his writings from his travels on his own mabuhayradio.com and Facebook posts, LOLO Bobby now wants to put those ideas into practice if he luckily wins the majority vote of the 425,025 Sorsogon voters, who had an 83.71% voting turnout record in 2013.

Bobby decided to run for governor of Sorsogon when he started to urge Senator Poe to run for president, when nobody did, thru his Facebook posts, which generated tens of thousands of likes and followers and when nobody from the crop of candidates for governor in Sorsogon supported Ms. Poe. Bobby was introduced to Ms. Poe by his daughter, who was a classmate of Ms. Poe from grade one in Antipolo City to high school.

Because Bobby is not allowed to host a radio program a few weeks in the run-up of the elections, he asked some of his friends, including this reporter and Bubot Laguna, to sub for him in spreading his message over Catholic radio station (DZGN-FM, 102.3mHz)(11a.m. to 12 noon) hosted by Psalm Geraldino and PADABA (103.9 FM) (4 p.m.-6 p.m.) hosted by Bhem Emmanuel Desabayla.


withfarmersIn his visit to Purok 7-B in Bulan Airport with this reporter, LOLO Bobby told the people, who turned the 10-lane runaway of the airport into palay drying platform, that with the grace of God if he were elected Sorsogon governor, he foresees the airport to be his flag-ship project that could generate hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.)

“I will make sure that you will earn a minimum of P1,000 (US$22.22) a day in contrast to Manila where P450 (US$10.00) a day is the minimum daily wage,” Bobby told one of farmers who were drying his palay over the ten-lane runway.


(ASIDE FROM THIS Terminal building, only the 10-lane runaway is the only visible task that was constructed from an alleged release of P15-M (US$333,333) to construct the airport in 2007. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

When asked why he is making Bulan Airport his main project, Bobby said, “I am the son of Cristina Mercado, who hails from Bulan. And I am the only candidate out of the eight candidates for governor, who hails from Bulan.”

It was reported by the Bulan Observer that sometime in 2007, there was funding for the airport in the amount of P15-M (US$333,333) for the parcellary survey, to complete the runway upgrading and right-of-way acquisition that was supposed to be completed by 2008. It did not mention if the terminal building that is the only visible building in the airport was part of the funding.


(HIS EXPANSIVE runway that was started by Japanese Imperial Forces was being rebuilt by every administration after World War II but has yet to be completed. LOLO Bobby M. Reyes, a son of a native of Bulan, Sorsogon in the Philippines, wants to finish this Bulan International Airport if he is elected Sorsogon governor on Monday, May 9. The runway ends in Ticao Pass, a part of the Luzon Strait that connects the Philippine Sea to the South China Sea (Philippine Western Sea) in the western Pacific Ocean. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

Aside from the airport and the other priority projects he wants to pursue, Mr. Reyes said he wants to introduce economic development in Sorsogon because it is one of the 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines. “It’s about time somebody has to do positive things for the province and of course I want zero corruption. I would handle peace and order under a law and order program that will stop corruption and stop crimes from rising, especially drug epidemic.”

He said his projects have been posted on his Facebook page and website, mabuhayradio.com.

Although nobody is bankrolling his campaign, LOLO Bobby likes his chances to be elected governor as he has been rated fourth among the eight gubernatorial candidates by a Sorsogon radio station.


(BECAUSE HE has no money to pay for his own billboard, Independent candidate LOLO Bobby M. Reyes is very pleased to see and thankful that the office of Sorsogon City Mayor  Sally A. Lee and the Sorsogon City Tourism Office have included his name and photo in the billboard of six of eight Sorsogon gubernatorial candidates. LOLO Bobby said that the “catch” of the ad is actually a backhanded endorsement of one of the candidates, Eric Dioneda (PDP-Laban), whose educational attainment was portrayed as a college undergraduate first-year midwifery education. Mayor Lee’s son, Bobet Lee Rodrigueza (Liberal Party), is portrayed as a holder of a BSBA-Management degree while LOLO Bobby Reyes is a college graduate in AB Journalism. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

Mr. Reyes said on or before July 1, 2016, the first day of office when he takes over the “Sorsogon Interactive New Government (SING),” he will launch simultaneously 10 or more crash-programmed projects designed to raise dramatically the “Quality of Life (QoL)” of the people of Sorsogon that will lead to eliminate unemployment and underemployment.

 “PROJECT 2021”

 He said ten separate task forces, with at least 100 trained staffers each, will be organized and fielded to implement the projects that will translate into hundreds of thousands of new well-paying and permanent jobs.

All local-government units (LGU’s) will be asked to provide more manpower and support to the task forces.

The priority projects will be classified into short-, medium-, and long-term goals that shall be the vehicles needed to accomplish the so-called “PROJECT 2021.” “They will be treated like items in a conveyor belt of an assembly line, so that a long-term project can become a short-term goal if the circumstances and needed resources are present,” Bobby said.

Among the “PROJECT 2021” that will take Sorsogon from 20th to the 21st century (2016-2021) are introducing to the province a Health Maintenance Organization that will provide “Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/216368558400241); education reforms, including retraining of teachers, increasing their salaries, lowering teacher-student ratio, school-provided meals to elementary students and acquisition of modern equipment (https://www.facebook.com/groups/390671054351428/); inspection and retrofitting of concrete buildings in the province, including churches, followed by school-based earthquake-and-other-disaster-preparation classes and training and fielding of trained volunteer fire-and-disaster brigades;

Organization or re-organization of tree-farming co-ops in all the province’s 541 barangays (barrios) and crash program of planting cacao, coffee and cash crops and their shade trees, including an extensive cultivation of bamboo, so as to double the income of participating families in five to ten years, thereby wiping out poverty;  organization and reorganization of fishing co-ops in all the coastal barrios of the province, including the massive cleaning (every weekend) of Sorsogon Bay, the province’s 50 rivers and numerous springs, brooks and other bodies of water and reforestation of their watershed areas. (http://www.mabuhayradio.com/ecology-and-the-environment/the-save-our-sorsogon-sos-bay-initiative);


(LOLO BOBBY M. Reyes (extreme left) paid a courtesy call on Flor Solis (second from left), widow of the late Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis (whose photo is hanging above) of the second district of Sorsogon, who lobbied for the construction of the Bulan Airport, in the house of Mrs. Solis and her daughter-in-law, Joanne Solis, who is running for provincial board member for the second district of Sorsogon, Bubot Laguna and journalist, Joseph G. Lariosa. (JGL Photo)

The fresh water of Sorsogon’s 50 rivers and other springs, brooks and streams can be harnessed and exported to different parched countries as today clean potable water is more expensive than crude oil or even gasoline. Launching of food-production centers with grain-storage silos, solar-powered refrigerated warehouse and other equipment; Concreting of the runways, aprons parking spaces of the Bulan and Bacon airports, the construction of control towers, with electronic-and-electrical facilities and fuel depots. (https://www.facebook.com/notes/bobby-m-reyes/how-to-complete-the-bulan-airport-as-revised/10202484307966425); the “New Uber-like Parcel Service and Postal House” (www.nupsph.com); solving the growing squatter problem; massive tourism development program; launching of a law-and-order campaign with a “reinvented” Sorsogon Provincial Sheriff’s Office and fielding of one law-enforcement officer (LEO) with training of five employees that will compose a security force of 5,000 to safeguard millions  of domestic and foreign tourists.
And many other projects that include development of stock market, title insurance industry, workmen’s compensation industry, crop-insurance and/or health-insurance industry, broadband industry, call centers, water parks, solid waste, waste-water (for the Bac-Man geothermal plant) and sewage treatment plants and other environmental friendly energy projects. (

Videoclip:  https://youtu.be/oUize3Zp4g4

Joseph G. Lariosa
Journal GlobaLinks
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Suite 30110
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Website: jgli.net
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Twitter: @jogalar

Impeachment As A Rite Of Passage

by jun asuncion

Cleaning government  institutions of corrupt officials  through legal measure such as impeachment is like cremating old habits in our political culture that hinder the progress of the Philippines. Impeachment is only possible in a democracy since it is an inherent tool in a genuine democracy. During the time of Mrs. Arroyo, impeachment complains against her did not prosper because she was in control of everything, not only of elections. Hence, it’s stupid for Mr. Corona to accuse President Aquino of dictatorship. The  impeachment process against the Arroyo Ombudsman Mrs. Gutierrez  in the first year of the Aquino administration, though aborted through the issuance of TRO by her ally,- the Chief Justice Mr. Corona,- was still a success for it culminated  in her resignation.

Now, it really interests me whether the Supreme Court still has the power to issue a TRO on the ongoing impeachment trial against the Chief Justice himself, when, according to Senator Santiago, the SC had no  jurisdiction over the impeachment court. My observation is that some people in the judiciary have become very arrogant and have been misusing  their knowledge of law and rules for their own vested interests. This must have been the reason behind this corruption mess in the judiciary. Court administrator Midas claimed recently that the Sandiganbayan (People’s Advocate) court couldn’t touch him-   for he knows the rules. Again, he might be legally right but that doesn’t spare him the public’s suspicion of him being entangled  in the judiciary’s mess that’s now being revealed to the public and ultimately his knowledge of law doesn’t protect him from the higher principle of justice. It’s just a matter of time, I think, when the Sword of Damocles would fall and pierce through this arrogant head.

In this ongoing  impeachment, I expect a conviction not because I can prove it but because the figure of Mr. Corona is for me not beyond reasonable doubt. Public knowledge is not to be underestimated. The public knows in one way or another, sooner or later and it builds on this knowledge  its impressions about a certain public official.

So, ideally, only those who enjoy public trust are qualified to stay at their public posts. Those who do not should actually voluntarily resign and refrain from hiring an army of top lawyers for defense for it only proves their guilt and their lack of respect to the people. Just recently, after a week of controversy, the President of the Swiss National Bank resigned from his position voluntarily after being suspected of engaging in currency speculation equipped with insider’s knowledge. Though the details of his transactions happened within legal frames, he resigned because  he said he couldn’t prove his innocence before the people. This shows us that in a genuine democracy, public officials rely heavily on public perception. Impeachment (except for the Bundesrichter or Chief Justice) of a  public servant also doesn’t exist in Swiss constitution because in practice, a grossly erring public servant usually resigns when the pressure gets strong.

Democratization is a painful process and requires sacrifices. If the people are the victims of an undemocratic regime, the victims or sacrifices in real democracy are unclean public officials. Mr. Corona failed to see this  within a greater context, hence his suspicion of dictatorship and conspiracy against him and the judiciary. It’s indeed lamentable for a Chief Justice, a lawyer with a doctorate, not to use his education for a greater purpose and  to continue clinging  to a culture of impunity. Equally lamentable are his supporters – mostly lawyers themselves who follow blindly their Chief Justice and go to the streets like feral black cats. Before, maybe some of these lawyers were one of those street-and netcitizens decrying corruption and this culture of impunity. Now that for the first time a  President has vowed to end these two evils among many, they accuse him of dictatorship.

If Mr. Corona is really convinced that  he is fit for his post because he had done nothing unconstitutional, then he should actually help the prosecution arrive at the truth as quickly as possible. But by being aggressively defensive, the  message he is sending to the Filipino people is that of being guilty of the charges levied against him.  Why employ delaying tactics when there is nothing to be afraid of? Why block the presentation of BIR witnesses and issue- relevant body of  evidence when according to him he was not stupid enough to commit such charges as ill-gotten wealth and corruption? (Was his accepting of midnight-appointment not a sign of stupidity then?) Well, his chief defense counsel Mr. Cuevas argues that the “issue of ill-gotten wealth is not covered by Article 2 of the articles of impeachment on Corona”. But what if proven to be true basing on his income tax returns? Would this not be considered a criminal act and would this not lay any weight on the impeachment process or scratch Mr. Corona’s reputation as Chief Justice just because it’s not covered by article 2? With due respect to this seasoned litigator, Mr. Cueva’s argumentation and his lecturing on technicalities is not the truth but academic and philosophical attempts to evade the ultimate end of justice which is the truth. He should rather lecture Mr. Corona  to appreciate justice and to face the truth.

What makes it so hard to buy Mr. Corona’s defense arguments? I think it’s the tradition where he came from, – the Arroyo tradition which was famous the world over for its corruption. Within that administration, one could only survive and even win favors if one would only play by the rules consistently. And I think Mr. Corona was one of the major consistent  players in that  kleptomaniac Arroyo administration that’s why he survived well and even got awarded as Chief justice the night before Arroyo’s end.

An international study published last year known as ” The Puppet Masters: How the Corrupt Use Legal Structures To Hide Stolen Assets And What to do About it”  reported that “large-scale corruption through bribes, embezzled state assets and other “official” criminal proceeds is being kept under wraps via legal entities such as foundations, trust funds and others”… and how ” providers of legal, financial and administrative (management) services – including banks, financial institutions, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals known as trust and company service providers (TCSPs) – can be employed to facilitate corruption.” So the study.

The Supreme Court of any country is the highest court for it has the final decision on legal matters, hence, it embodies truth and justice. Supreme court justices, therefore, are expected to have the highest standards of moral integrity, sense of judgment, objectivity and impartiality. But experience shows that they are also corruptible. Midas’ adamant defense of “his judiciary and Chief Justice” became suspicious to me as this impeachment battle goes on. Is he afraid of something to come out more when his Chief Justice falls? This World Bank loan anomaly has robbed him of his sleep the last weeks, I guess. For this time, I think Justitia, the blindfolded Lady carrying scales and double-edged sword, should temporarily remove her blindfold for her to see for herself what’s really happening with our Supreme Court officials and if this study mentioned above applies to our Supreme Court.

This over-a -cup-of-coffee- argument of mine would have no chance before this impeachment court because I cannot give “hand carry”  evidence. But concerned citizens (or the public) are not obliged to prove whether they trust or don’t trust a certain public official. On the contrary, it is the public official that must prove to the public that he or she can be trusted. It is right that a senator-judge now hearing the impeachment trial with other senators is not obliged to explain why he or she is  for Mr. Corona’s conviction or acquittal for a senator is a people’s representative. If the senator has doubts on Mr. Corona’s person, he or she would convict him even if Mr. Coron’s team outwits the prosecution team for this is not about which team can deliver better arguments but whether the people’s representative can send back Mr. Corona to his post as Chief justice beyond reasonable doubt after this trial.

 Impeachment, as I see it, is one kind of rite of passage for a coming of age democracy. I don’t know how Mr. Corona sees it.


Obstruction Of Justice – In Good Times And Bad Times

by jun asuncion

It was like a chess championship match with the brave sacrificing act of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima leading to the checkmate of GMA. The thrill reached its peak as GMA attempted to flee from her impending checkmate – using  her ailment as cover up and with her team of lawyers exhausting her cornucopia of legal means so she could  escape prosecution – these in dizzying alacrity. Not to be dismissed as boring were the acrimony between the lawyers of each camp, political observers and netizens and  the diverging  opinions of the senators and constitutional experts on the legal imbroglio and pandemonium that transpired the last days.

Beside offering a cerebral entertainment, this match was a crossing of the Rubicon for Aquino’s administration with its determined fight against the culture of impunity – the catalyst and stabilizer of corruption engines – and its entrance into a culture of accountability with the arrest of GMA last Friday.

Big change shakes the foundations, brings with it conflicting situations and demands sacrifices and strong will. Though it was GMA’s histrionics that dictated the tempo of events, it was the seemingly collision of  the fundamental right to travel and the right of the state to prosecute high crimes and the contumacious actions of  Justice Secretary De Lima vis-à-vis  the Supreme court that interested keen observers the most. On top of that one questions: How absolute are human rights, the Constitution and the orders of the Supreme court? And how powerful is the judiciary against the executive? Was there a constitutional crisis? Opinions differed on these questions among lawyers and constitutionalists.

Everything appeared paradoxical and dramatic. Secretary De Lima was unfazed, controlled,  tough and very quick on the trigger. She had her angle  all the time and she’s proven her worth as Justice Secretary. For her justice must be served by all means – even to the point of disobeying a Supreme Court order- this Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).  Senator Escudero was among the antagonists who espoused blind obedience to the law and was quick to praise the Court’s decision.  Were he in command, GMA would have escaped prosecution.

Justice vs. the right to travel?  It was another instance of two good things colliding at a given space and time. Had Senator Escudero viewed the whole situation not as a lawyer but as visionary politician, he would have been part of the entourage that crossed the Rubicon. Hence, he was left behind with his myopic, legalistic view of the world. He cut a pathetic figure last week. The constitutional right to travel should not be used to obstruct justice and crimes committed should not be blinded out or relegated to the background as lawyers engage themselves in textbook debates on law. Accused persons must be tried by all means.

Crossing the Rubicon is disobedience yet groundbreaking. President Noy Aquino and his team have crossed the Rubicon in order that justice be served in the Philippines. This is reflective equilibrium, visionary politics, epoch-making leadership.

Democracy is not only about rights and individualism but also about duties and collectivism. GMA’s insistence on her human and constitutional right to travel (since when did she insist on human and constitutional rights?) must be viewed not in isolation or purely as an article in the 1987 Constitution but within the context of the crimes imputed to her. That’s why it was a piece of impudence and out of context  for her legal advisers to equate GMA’s deprivation of her right to travel as endangering all Filipinos’ right to travel. Not all Filipinos are Gloria Arroyo.

If Democracy is a balance of rights, duties, individualism (personal welfare) and collectivism (common good), then decisions involving conflicting rights or principles must also be balanced. Secretary De Lima was right when she mentioned the balancing of the situation before arriving at a decision. Some members of the Supreme Court seemed to have problem with balancing last week, hence, this TRO was far from being democratic because it was decided without this greater sense for justice, sense of social responsibility and in sheer disregard for the accountability of public officials and suspected criminals.  The  state’s decision for justice, accountability and to end impunity outweighs GMA’s personal right to travel. Naturally, GMA was in a hurry to leave for she knew that without the case being formally filed before a court-and with her one -way TRO ticket in her suitcase – she could still defy the Watchlist Order of the Justice Department. A fleeing suspect in prestissimo has no right to blame Judge Mupas and the Southern Police District  if they’re catching up with her tempo. Railroading a woman suspect on wheelchair? Had she not displayed the intention to follow the example of Ramona Bautista, everything would have been settled in adagio manner. So GMA was in command of the metronome last week – but to her disadvantage.

If the government represents democracy and if sovereignty emanates from the people, then the people who voted for Pres. Aquino and his promise to fight corruption surely supported all actions taken by Pres. Aquino’s team in preventing Arroyo from leaving the country until her arrest last Friday. That TRO could hardly be taken as representing the interest of the sovereignty. An ordinary Filipino doesn’t need the service of a  lawyer to decide not to entrust his child to somebody with records of stealing, violence and pedophiliac activities or send his housemaid he  highly suspects of stealing his  money for a vacation in her province before he has confronted her about the situation. Using the same common sense he would likewise not allow GMA to leave and escape prosecution.

GMA is famous for her inconsistencies, very poor credibility rating,  betraying Public Trust and for being accused of committing a dozen of crimes, among these being electoral sabotage and plunder. So why let her go before her cases are cleared? The Supreme Court’s voting for TRO was  legally right but did it respect or consider the people’s covenant with the President? The Supreme Court justices – including the Chief Justice – who voted for TRO, all being appointees of GMA when she was still president, decided in favor of their ex-boss, a situation we could easily link with Utang Na Loob. Lawyers interpret a legal situation differently. The fact that the Supreme Court justices  were divided in their judgement on TRO issuance, supports this argument. Hence, the TRO was a personal gift for Arroyo, a one way ticket for  a world tour.

Gloria Arroyo’s theatrical performance at the airport was aimed to tickle that Filipino traits of Awa and Utang na Loob. But  she has been unmasked by the people and so it was a flop for no Awa came to her rescue. “Persecution, cruelty”, according to her husband. It’s amazing how justice can change someone’s vocabularies. This much heard promise of returning home may have been true but has anybody thought of asking them (Arroyos) when? Two weeks could also be stretched to twenty years. Or maybe forever – like their promise when they were wedded, to be together in good times and bad  times.


The Devil is in the Details

by jun asuncion

The MILF’s walloping of the AFP last October that killed 19 marines and wounded many  has sent a shockwave to global Filipinos. It was such a lamentable loss should not really  happen in modern warfare. This carnage showed us again the loopholes in our armed forces and government and that modernization is badly needed in the whole country – not only in the armed forces.

Peace talks and law enforcement? That’s music to our ears.  But if two notes collide at a given space and time in this music, for which note would you decide? I would opt for  law enforcement. Peace talks can be very broken-sounding.

This dilemma has exposed a certain weakness  in President Aquino and his political, security and communication advisers. No doubt, P-Noy is performing well in his anti- corruption campaign but he appears to be sailing on stormy waters when it comes to armed conflicts. The Luneta hostage crisis has already given us an inkling in this direction.

Appearing before the media after the Al-Barka massacre, he stressed  that he would continue with the peace talk and that he was against the idea  of an all- out war  against the MILF. He sounded broken and ill-advised and so was his adviser Mr. Leonen who described the massacre as “isolated” case, hence, negligible. It seems that too much diplomacy has robbed these two men of their manhood.

This all-out justice method should have been Pres, Aquino’s very first word.

Thus, his reputation suffered a blow, for he projected weakness and  more of saving his political face and of siding with the MILF than with his fallen soldiers and their aggrieved  families. He appeared in the first place as to be more concerned about  defending his politics and of begging the MILF peace panel not to walk out and start attacking villages again.

In times of crisis and real pains, the people need to feel the sympathy of the leader –  and real action. It was such a great loss and a heavy insult to the AFP, hence the people  and the military expected some hardness to come out from his mouth. But P- Noy missed that moment.

But a day or two after came out his concept of all-out justice and  the government forces started with counter attacks against the devious MILF.

This  all-out justice was a compromise with a face-saving value for P-Noy. He then learned that the people wanted vengeance. Employing the strength and touch of strong retaliation contained in the phrase “all- out” and replacing  the word “war” with the more civilized word “justice”,  this seems to have  appeased the people and the MILF peace panel. But this is in theory, in practice, it’s the same more or less- that of pounding the  MILF’s position with minimal civilian damage and of capturing or killing their leaders.

But the Aquino administration was wounded already.  The rumor of destabilization – true or just a product of fertile minds – was  born out of Aquino and Co.’s “amateurish” and “bookish” – according to Escudero-  handling of this entire peace negotiation and business with the MILF.  As if it were not enough, the public has learned  that Aquino had authorized the giving of PH 5- Million aid to the MILF and about Ph30-M  to another break away leftist group. This added more fuel to public dissatisfaction and demoralization… And what about the MILF’s  ATS? (Area of Temporary Stay)? This is a big disappointment for  Filipinos who recognize the territorial and political integrity and sovereignty of the Philippine nation as defined in its constitution, that there is only one Philippine government, one constitution, one territory,  one armed forces and one commander-in-chief. Those militant subgroups (such as the MILF, Abu Sayyaf  and even the NPA) who don’t call themselves Filipinos and don’t obey the laws of the land and use violence against the state and its  citizens are simply criminals and enemies of the state, their acts of violence be suppressed and their secessionist political agenda be given no support whatsoever.

But listening to the ongoing discussions one gets the impression that some Malacañang officials seem to be treating the MILF as a separate and recognized government already, nurturing it and even giving it a cash advance of PH5 million for the education of its future leaders. By definition, the MILF is a militant group, a “Liberation Front”, hence, leadership training is  understood in the first place as  military training, of training their fighters to fight in front to liberate themselves and parts of the southern Philippine territory. Government aid of any kind should take place only when the MILF (or any terrorist group) has surrendered its arms and has vowed to cooperate. Used or not used for ammunitions that killed our marines in Al-Barka, the truth is that the government will never get this money back, and if the MILF doesn’t get what it wants from these peace talks and leaves the table disgruntled, then you know already what it will do with this money and with our soldiers in Mindanao.

Giving money to a rebel group before or during the peace talks is a sign of weakness and political incorrectness. I’ve heard of critics accusing P-Noy of buying peace- or of bribing the MILF-  with that money. But how can you buy something from MILF which it doesn’t sell or is not in its assortment, namely PEACE?  The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was the first to separate from the MNLF and for reasons other than peace:   “(1) Bangsamoro Land should be an Independent Islamic State, and (2) the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters should not negotiate with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines”.

With this in mind, one wonders about the outcome of these peace talks. Peace negotiation is genuine only when the rebel group of any type would surrender its arms to the government and renounces war and all forms of violence  as means to its ends. Without this being done, any peace talk is a calculated talk and  a cover only to build up their fire power and resume violence. In the case of the MILF, its leaders should realize the impossibility of attaining their goal of separating Mindanao or regions of it from the rest of the Philippines and the futility of war for these only  subject their “own” people to indefinite period of  poverty and isolation. Impossible because this is not supported by the majority of the Filipinos who are Christians (80 percent being Catholics). It is true that in a multi-ethnic, multicultural nation like the Philippines, the government must always negotiate in a position of integrity and of strength to prevent the total disintegration of the nation when each minority group would start building  its own armed forces and demanding autonomy or separation.

There are  legitimate grievances and  justifiable historical grounds to demand for autonomy but these should be within the right framework. A unitary form of government like the Philippines is not the right framework for the MILF’s demand for autonomy or independent sub-state. Several sound compromises could be supported in a Federal form of government but even then this demand for an independent Islamic State for the Bangsamoro could not be accommodated in a Federation. And at present, I think the Philippines is ready for everything except for Federalism.

How can a government give such a  dole out using the tax payers’ money to these state enemies who not only terrorize the people but don’t even pay their taxes to the government? President Aquino must be experimenting here with something new  but I doubt if he’s on the right direction. Peace talks and ceasefire with active militant groups have never culminated in a harmonious way as examples in other countries show us- the IRA in Ireland, ETA in Spain, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, etc.,  as long as they continue to hang on to their secessionist plan and choose to load and sharpen their arms in the midst of peace talks.

The Philippines need peace but peace must be won sometimes and be enforced all the time. Peace, not war, is won in battlefields. It’s not a sign of peace when marines were and are being beheaded inside their own country. It’s not a sign of one country when the armed forces of the Philippines are not allowed to move in some regions to  fight for peace and order. I read PNP chief  Director General Nicanor Bartolome saying  “I think the best way to win a war is through peace,” ….  Well, it’s a wise sounding statement but it needs relativization. Active armed confrontation can indeed be prevented through peaceful means but it depends on the enemies and what’s at stake. The MILF would readily shake hands with us and kiss our cheeks if we  would just acquiese in their demands, if we would just give them the whole Mindanao and wash our hands of it. Giving is holier but one cannot give everything away. From the past till today, peace has been and is being won through wars. It was  only when Japan surrendered and Hitler defeated that peace came to Asia and Europe. A revolution ended recently Gadhafi’s reign of terror in Libya. Government should not trust armed rebel groups for they are devious and treacherous –  and it’s a natural strategy because they are weaker and in the minority, hence, their series of ambuscade, dry-gulching, bombings, kidnappings and other tricks such as peace talks and ceasefire.

Pres. Aquino’s desire to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao is good but it’s an illusion for the devil is in the details. There is a family background to Pres. Aquino’s ardent zeal of taming the MILF when we will recall that her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, also tamed Nur Misuari- the MNLF commander who caused too much headaches to Marcos- when she talked peace with  him in Sulu which resulted in the passing of the  Republic Act No. 6734 known as the ARMM (Autonomous Region Of Muslim Mindanao) Organic Act  in 1989 as mandated in the 1987 Constitution. But even this, as we can see, did not bring lasting peace in Mindanao. So, President Noy Aquino should rather focus on law enforcement, education and economic programs to end extreme poverty in our nation. Extreme poverty and perceived social injustice are among the major details that make up the devil.


Playing With Our Values : On Zubiri’s Resignation

by jun asuncion


On its face value, the resignation is a  good example for others to follow who have served the Arroyo machinery of deceit for the last nine years. As there are still many of them in the government, those who know that they won the 2007 elections ( the winning of which also helped them won the 2010 elections in one form or another) through fraud should voluntarily leave their posts now for the sake of the nation. As Zubiri himself opined,

“No amount of power, position or wealth is worth sacrificing one’s honor and integrity.”

Honor and integrity weigh more in the end when the truth comes out, the issue becoming more intense and starts hurting the whole family and the whole clan.

Zubiri himself denies vehemently his winning through electoral fraud in 2007. He could be telling the truth but he could also be unmindful or unaware of the truth. But the 2007 political circumstances were definitely against him. We know that it will not smell rotten if there is nothing rotten somewhere.  And the political circumstances during Arroyo’s time were rotten that this rotten smell went even beyond the Philippine territories. The whole world still remembers how the Philippine politics smelt so bad at that time. And Zubiri should consider that a rotten fruit in a basket ruins the rest. Coming himself from this basket, he should not wonder why he carries that rotten smell on his shirt.

The 2007 election was grounded itself on the rotten 2004 election which still smells pungent today, providing a lot of air purifying work for the Aquino administration. And then again, the 2004 election was itself grounded on an unconstitutional coming to power  by the then Vice-President Gloria Arroyo (Edsa II) in 2001 when Erap was ejected from his office without due process of law. The Philippine political scene on those days was marked by political conspiracies. Looking back, I think  Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo has done nothing in her political life but to ruin  and dishonor her father’s name.

Back to Zubiri. Philstar reports: “The SET is deliberating on an electoral protest filed by Pimentel. It was alleged in his election protest that votes in Maguindanao in the 2007 midterm elections had been manipulated to favor Zubiri and other candidates of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Zubiri won the 12th Senate slot, based on election results. Zubiri, who comes from a powerful political clan in Bukidnon, denied he had cheated.”

Zubiri denied he had cheated. If  Arroyo cheated for him, then he was telling the truth.

But the case of  the detained Lintal Bedol and Zaldy Ampatuan seems to shed a bit more light to Zubiri’s situation.

While the detained Zaldy Ampatuan claims massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections, Zubiri seems to discount its possibility with his statements that:

– it’s ““highly suspect” that witnesses recently surfaced to claim there was massive fraud in the 2007 elections.”

– “Armed merely with their vocal chords and without any supporting documents to prove their allegations, these alleged witnesses are now shouting out loud and, as if with full orchestration, that my election was marred with irregularities,”

– “While my counter-protest is still pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the revision and recounting of the ballots are going on smoothly to find out the truth on the parties’ allegations, a number of highly suspect ‘personalities’ suddenly cropped up recently, claiming that they were allegedly ‘witnesses’ to the alleged frauds and irregularities during the 2007 elections…  ”

Now, if not in captivity and not threatened with perhaps life imprisonment (in China and Japan, death penalty), do you think Zaldy Ampatuan would claim  those massive election cheating? And, trading places with Ampatuan, do you think Zubiri would deny this said election cheating?

We should remember that the patronage politics of Arroyo was in need of strong political allies in the south and that the Zubiri and Ampatuan political clans were in the same Arroyo basket.

But it seems that two different situations produce two different arguments even among basket members. Who is lying now, Zaldy Ampatuan  or Juan Miguel Zubiri?

As I have noted, Zubiri could be innocent and could be telling the truth and he has the right to defend his truth. My problem lies in his utter denial of the 2004 and 2007 poll irregularities. Why deny the obvious and argue as baseless and groundless the joint target of the DOJ and Comelec investigations? Here he becomes – to use  his own words –  “highly suspect” for me.

His resignation is not just a pure gesture of delicadeza for there is something more to it. His whole behavior is funny in a way. If duly elected as senator – as he claims – why resign and not fight for it? In this way, he would be giving honor to the people (including his own clan) who voted for him. The family is important, and not to hurt his own family is much more important. But it should not be used as an alibi for everything.

If I try to zoom in to Zubiri’s picture, I can see somebody who wants to save his own skin by appealing to the psychology (pag-hanga and awa) of the Filipino people and he shows a great deal of ambivalence in his actions. His last minute sweet talking and gesturing all point to his angst and appeal for help and awa. I can see someone who smells but deny the Arroyo smell on his shirt and now hurries home to change it with a fresh one in the hope of a fresh and successful political return. This man is playing with our values.

We will see as we wait for the DOJ and Comelec final findings.




To Correct History?

by jun asuncion

Brain drain is a fact.  That we still have brilliant brains  in the Philippines is also a fact.  Among such brains I have considered are Senator Escudero and Senator Legarda. But it seems that intelligence is something and motivation is another thing. That a personal motive – especially a political one – sometimes could override intelligence which results to a nearly stupid kind of logic coming out from such brilliant brains.

A case in point is Escuderos statement today in Philstar’s headlines  “DOJ ready to probe 2004, 2007 poll fraud ”
where he talked of correcting history:

“To correct history”

Escudero said he would file a joint resolution for the purpose of gathering representatives of the DOJ and the Comelec once the second regular session of the 15th Congress starts next week.

Escudero recommended a retired justice to head the fact-finding committee.

“The objective is not to establish that ex-President Arroyo indeed cheated in the past elections and not to jail her. The objective here is to establish who really won in the 2004 elections and give the person proper place in history,” Escudero said.

Escudero said the purpose of the committee is not to render void Arroyo’s term.

“This (proposed committee) is not to invalidate President Arroyo’s term. This is a rare opportunity for our country to correct history,” he said.

 So far, so good. But if you would look at it closer, something is wrong with his thinking. Hence, so near, so bad. And this prompted me to ask to myself this morning as I read these lines, for heaven’s sake, “what happened to this mind?”, “What is his motive that twisted his logic?” And where is his legislative and/or judicial  impartiality?

First, look at the term Fact-finding. To find a fact is to find all facts related to the case in point. The real case in point is the electoral fraud of 2004 and 2007 which involved Arroyo.

Therefore, what’s the use of creating  a fact-finding committee when at the onset you already exclude possible facts that might point to Arroyo having cheated in the past elections? You don’t need to read between the lines when he says that “The objective is not to establish that ex- President Arroyo indeed cheated in the past elections and not to jail her…” And how can a lawyer-senator utter such comforting words to a suspect before the trial and weighing of factual evidences before a legal court? Where is impartiality and professionalism here? What does he want to achieve by sweet-talking Arroyo?

Sweet talking continues: ” The objective here is to establish who really won in the 2004 elections and give the person proper place in history,” Escudero said.

Well, it’s proper to give credit to whom it is due – in this case either to Arroyo or Poe. But supposing Poe really won the election by votes, wouldn’t this fact automatically establish Arroyo as the cheater? The simple Bulaneño logic would say  “yes, it would”.

Correcting history or giving a person proper place in history includes both sides of the coin, the victim and the crime perpetrator. When we think for instance of the holocaust, we give honor to the victimized Jews and dishonor to Hitler. In our case, why emphasize Poe, the victim and let go the cheater Arroyo? Would this serve as a good example of criminal jurisprudence? Is election cheating on the presidential level  not covered by law?

Before the court has spoken its verdict, Arroy0  naturally still enjoy  her legal  right to presumption of innocence though the public knowledge speaks of Arroyo as the cheater. For Senator Legarda, it’s already clear that Arroyo was the cheater and Poe the cheated when, “reacting to Escudero’s proposal, Legarda suggested placing Poe’s photograph in Malacañang, which she said, would be an “unprecedented way of correcting history.” 

Is electoral fraud not a crime in the Philippines but just a matter of media entertainment and gossips? In the US it is a crime. Remember Watergate?

For us, It seems that it is not when we listen to Senator Legarda: ” There is the need to go after the people involved in the electoral fraud. It is also important to know what happened… but there is no longer a legal way to address the entire process. Will you invalidate the services of GMA (Arroyo) and (former Vice President) Noli (de Castro)? Can you declare FPJ (Poe), who died because of ill-feelings on this?” she asked.

This is another example of derailed logic. What happened to our brilliant brains in the Philippines? Why sound suddenly so forgiving and idiotic at the same time? Yes, no one can invalidate Arroyo’s services in the past but a crime done in the past (and even when proven of planning to do it sometime  in the future) is  punishable by law. A crime such as electoral fraud is not a public service but an insult to the public. It  is a crime against the people, the electorate and against the rules of the Comelec.

Correcting history is a  blurred concept. Correcting the criminals with appropriate punishment is much clearer. Today’s government officials like Escudero and Legarda should rather face their responsiblities.







CHICAGO (jGLi) – When I was covering the mayor’s offices of Rizal province in the Philippines in the seventies, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mayor of Antipolo in near tears when I told him politicians should pave the way for other aspirants when they had grown tired of their jobs or had run out of ideas to improve other peoples’ lives.

“Joseph,” the mayor told me, “what will happen to me when I leave the town hall? Running for mayor and winning the job is the be-all and end-all for me. I don’t have any other marketable skills to boot.”

If you get a similar response from politicians in your neighborhood, you should be ready to stick by him for a long haul.

These kinds of politicians might not have heard of the Peter Principle propounded in 1968 by educator Dr. Laurence J. Peter, who said that: “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence … in time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties … Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

This theory met its match when the United States Military has required that certain ranks should be held for no longer than a set amount of time, a lack of compliance of which could render grounds for dismissal.

We can just imagine if the Philippine military will ignore the Peter Principle. What would have happened to the Philippines if thefts of comptrollers of the Philippine Armed Forces like Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot or AFP Chiefs of Staff like the suicide-driven Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu were not exposed? Don’t you think they would ever leave their posts if they were not detected?

And if these kinds of generals were given the option to retire from office like a United States Supreme Court justice who has lifetime tenure, where will the Philippine government get its depleted funds?


Look at what happened to other generals abroad, whose rise to power had remained unchecked. There were Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Augusto Pinochet or Col. Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi to name few, who are shoo-in for entries into the Hall of Shame.

And this takes us back to our local politicians, like my favorite provincial governor in Sorsogon, Atty. Raul Lee.

Governor Lee is your typical Filipino politician, who believes that, like the mayor of Antipolo, Rizal, or the Hall-of-Shame generals that they are the only competent people who can improve other peoples’ lives.

If Governor Lee will be voted off, he can no longer game the system. His position will be a fare game to all comers, who believe that he no longer have an iota of competence.

Ever since his political rival in Governor Juan Frivaldo died after becoming the longest-serving Sorsogon provincial governor, Governor Lee seemed to have carried a chip on his shoulder because he could no longer break Mr. Frivaldo’s winning streak.

With term limits now in place, like any other politician protecting his turf, when Gov. Lee will just about to be termed out, he will let his wife, Sally, run for his position so he will not lose his touch of power. And he can run again for the same position in case his wife is also about to be termed out.

But if they have outlived their competence, as they never age like wine, I believe, Governor Lee should just cede his position to his vice governor and “cut his losses.”


Instead of enjoying his retirement, the 69-year-old Mr. Lee is now re-enforcing his mini-dynasty that he would only be dreaming if the aging “Tata Juan” were still alive. He is now grooming his son, the incumbent Sorsogon City Vice Mayor, and his grandson, the incumbent SK Federation President, for his position.

I don’t mind if his dynasty takes root for as long as can improve the peoples’ lives till Kingdom Come.

But why is he now so insecure like Marcos? Governor Lee has also now usurped the power of the provincial legislature called Sangguniang Panlalawigan by reducing its budget?

The last I heard, in order to silence his critics, Governor Lee has also taken over the appointing power of his vice governor (Antonio H. Escudero) and suddenly became a micro-manager.

After being named to answer for the fertilizer scam, Mr. Lee turned the table on his opponents in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan by hitting them where it hurts most: deprive the SP the ability to hire and keep their own staff.

All appointments by the SP will now have to go thru the eye of his needle so he can buy their loyalties.

His vocal critique, SP member Vladimir Frivaldo, the grandson of “Tata Juan,” was deprived of his “proposed staff complement” after Governor Lee learned that the grandson of his former foe was opposing Lee’s support for STL (small town lottery) operation, the controversial operation of mining in Barangays Balocaue and Cabagahan both in Matnog, Sorsogon and demand for liquidation of the loan obtained by his wife, Sally Lee, in the amount of 260-M pesos (U.S.$ 5.7-Millions) before Lee can obtain a new 350-million pesos (U.S $8.75-M), the biggest loan in the history of the province.

Mr. Vladimir Frivaldo reminded Gov Lee that it is the duty of the SP to approve the annual budgets, the request by the office of the Governor to obtain loan, to oversee that programs and projects are implemented properly within existing laws, guidelines and procedures and make implementors accountable, and not the governor’s.

I don’t know how Gov. Lee can circumvent the fertilizer scam filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman. If he can steer clear of the charges, the people of Sorsogon can always gather enough signatures to start the ball rolling for his unprecedented recall. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)




In Not So Recent Memory

by Oliver Geronilla

Taking a stroll down memory lane always makes me smile. I smile for all the things I did in the past—both good and bad.

March and April are special months. They are the months when graduations are held—the time when many– if not all school friends– say goodbye to each other. They’re also the months when I reminisce the graduations that I was a part of. At BNCS-A, I lead the graduates of school year 1991 in reciting the “Pledge of Loyalty.” We didn’t wear academic gowns then.

Weeks before the most anticipated day, we rehearsed two “graduation songs” (If We Hold on Together and The Greatest Love of All) which until now I still remember very clearly–both the lyrics and the melody. Our teachers painstakingly taught us how to pronounce the words correctly.  Mrs. Lilinda Golloso repeatedly told us to say MOUNT’NS and not MOUNTAYNS.

During the Closing Ceremonies, everyone was in high spirits except for me. I was disappointed– terribly disappointed. I felt bitter that time despite the two medals I received—a bronze medal for being the first honorable mention, and one gold medal for being the representative of our district to a science quiz bee.  In my mind, my teachers “cheated” me. I knew I wasn’t the best pupil, but I knew I was the second best among us.

I told mama and papa about my disappointment, but they just smiled at me; they were happy for what I achieved. They were proud of me. That’s what mattered.

From the processional down to the recessional, I wasn’t excited. But I could see that all parents were. We, the graduates, were there… just there trying to remember all the things we had to do. It was more of a performance.  There were speeches. There were rounds of applause. It was an academic pageantry that I wanted to erase from my memory.

That childhood angst lingered for more than a decade. I just couldn’t see beyond the end of my nose. Acceptance, or should I say “closure,” came only some years ago when I personally witnessed how academic rankings were actually done. It was far more complicated than I thought. That  gave me a blast of the past with a twist I failed to recognize.

Maybe it’s too late for me to personally extend my gratitude to my teachers back then at BNCS-A. After all, without them, I wouldn’t have learned the ropes of the English language. My elementary school teachers, for sure, played a pivotal role in shaping my future. That’s a fact of life I can’t deny. And that’s something I should forever be grateful.

Some of them are no longer with us mortals; some of them are now enjoying their retirement days. Some of them may still remember me: the lanky boy who didn’t copy the notes written on the board. I do still remember most of them. Who could forget, for example, our math teacher from  the 5th grade to the 6th grade? Her weapon was not the quintessential rod or stick –which every school teacher had that time–which could leave a bruise on our skin when we’re hit, but her (right?) thumb and index finger that could skillfully grab our sideboards …to either pull them up or down.  Addaayy!!

There’s, of course, our SIBIKA teacher who was fond of delivering monologues mouthing out all the names, places, and dates he could muster from our textbook.

(to be continued)

An Asuncion at Mensa- Switzerland

A personal note, written primarily for my relatives and for those interested in child psychology.


Way back in the 1980’s, during my college years in Manila, my favorite psychology subjects were psychological testing (psychometrics), projective techniques, psychopathology, mental hygiene, theories of personality, experimental psychology and seminar on exceptional children. In projective techniques, the student learns the rudiments of administering and evaluating personality tests. Throughout these courses, the student begins to be confronted with the question of personalities, the reality of individual differences, inborn and acquired traits, the nature of intelligence in all its theoretical aspects.

A college freshman is faced with these basic questions: First, what is personality? Second, what is intelligence? And then you slide into the third: Is there a direct correlation between personality and intelligence? Do intelligent people have more pleasant personality than less intelligent ones or is there no direct correlation at all between these two factors? The next thing that confronts the student is the relationship between high intelligence or genius and insanity? Is this true that geniuses are prone to mental illness and personality disorders whereas the normal ones not? Or is this just a myth or a hollywood invention? And then comes this simple issue: Are intelligent people practical and independent?

Well, four years of basic psychology studies will not give you instantly the answers to these questions and give you peace of mind. I have learned that my favorite subjects had only given me a good starting point to continue the inquiry. One thing that I have learned after all these years is that everything is a matter of definition and the context to which this definition is being applied. Or, even better, let the context offer the definition of such things as intelligence, normalcy, perfection, etc. The other thing that has taught me more is experience. Experience gives you a solid understanding or even doubt about the subject. My years of experience in observing psychiatric patients have no doubt taught me more than anything else to evaluate roughly a person almost at a glance: Is he/she a schizophrenic, a psychopath, a drug dependent, an alcoholic, a manic-depressive one, a borderline personality, suicidal person or a sexual deviate; or, to evaluate indirectly by way of any available product of that person: a written piece, a drawing or illustration, etc.

But intelligence is something else. It requires more to gauge it. A mere glance cannot tell me if one is an average, genius or retarded (except for genetic abnormalities as Down syndrome, etc.). But this time, through indirect way, i.e. by way of a written piece or work of art, etc., I could tell more about the intelligence of the person.

On the other side, my experience has shown me how tricky this aspect is: For example, relying on school performance alone does not give you the real intelligence of a child or a youth. Behind an average or even below average performing child could be a gifted one. It is in the extremes of appearances that we have to exercise caution and observe more. But in general, we can say that a child is intelligent if it grasps abstract relationships within a short time than other children and translates his ideas successfully into concretely observable results for the observers. But what if this translation doesn’t occur, or if the child consciously – or even unconsciously – distorts this translation? It follows that our picture of the child is also distorted.

Then it’s time that we observers, parents or educators must look at ourselves. Are we competent enough to make the right judgment(evaluation) and do we have the necessary experience in this area?

I always recommend observing the child who has problems at school  in the totality of his behavior and when needed to send the child to a recognized testing institution for aptitude and intelligence test. Ideally, school – pubic or private –  should have also a team of counsellors which includes one or more school psychologists to help troubled parents and children.

In my neighborhood, I have given advice to concerned and troubled parents this way and even offered my on – the – spot analysis of the child’s personality and general mental aptitude drawing out of my experience in this field. I admit, that though it’s really hard to determine the child’s intelligence, still I can say that experience gives me  a solid ground to base my guess or intuition. I was right in many cases because these grown-up children are now high achievers, out of the initially hopeless situation when they were in the elementary years.

But now, we come to my experience of this subject within the four walls of my home, an experience that has given me doubts about what I know and challenges that  almost went beyond our limit as parents. And that is when my second son, Samuel, came into our life. From birth, I already sensed that he is intelligent. As a child he rarely cried, was very quite, curious and independent in his ways. At age three, he was reading until three in the morning that at times I had to switch off his bed lamp so he would sleep. At this age he had memorized the books he had in his room, performed weird chemistry experiments, etc. He protested by crying when we brought him to a play group but showed great joy when we brought him to a painting group for children.

 His week, together with his older brother Cyril, was full of activities already before the age of five: music group for pre-school children and,  a few months after, violin lessons where he always astonished his teacher for his excellent hearing, private English, French and cooking courses every Saturday for several years and swimming where he also excelled. Later on he switched to piano and about the same time he started with hip-hop dancing course from a known dancer and teacher and won second place in the Swiss dance team competition. With 16, he started teaching this dance style, now with 18, he resumed his Thai boxing lessons and intends after graduation this summer to go to Thailand for Muay Thai boxing teacher course.

Before entering primary class, he underwent a thorough intelligence and aptitude tests in a private human potential evaluation clinic that took the whole morning with a short break in between. The results showed  him belonging to the top 2% of the population of  children of his age group. The effect was that he jumped directly from kindergarten to Grade 2 and parallel to normal schooling, he had to attend special courses for gifted children organized and supported by the city of Zürich where they learned other supplementary subjects as chemistry, mathematics, physics, philosophy, etc. This satisfied all of his “mental needs”. During this time, at age 9, he was admitted to Mensa-Switzerland whose only criterion for membership is an IQ score in the top 2% of the general population on a battery of standardized intelligence tests (“normally” from above 130 IQ scores). But this too went not without a little problem because he was “under age”, which means below 15. But they readily made an exception to the rule. And so it went that he became the youngest member in the history of Mensa-Switzerland.

Parents can only be proud of this story but we had our own worries. His normal schooling went on not without problems for he showed little interest in his homework and in most of his teachers in the public school who were not trained for such a child with a different quality of perception. In fact, some of his new teachers in the primary school considered him below average. He was –  and is even now – behaving like that so that, at age 12, I let him undergo another intelligence and aptitude test, this time administered by the school psychologist in that private school we found for him after we pulled him out from the Volksschule. I was there again to observe as he made his written and oral examination for hours. From the answers to the oral tests I heard and the awed facial expressions of the psychologist , I knew already that he was still in his “old” intellectual status. Hence, nothing was changed only that he needed the right environment that suits his needs.

But he remained an ordinary boy before the eyes of our  friends and relatives and with time we got used to this fact. Only a handful of his friends (who are gifted themselves) realize and appreciate the gift that is in him. Same feathers flock together? Intuitively, I observed, they do.

With 15, he was turned down by many firms as he applied for apprenticeship because of his not-so-shining secondary school grades. Again, another problem for all of us. Until he was admitted to a  Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or ETH (Einstein’s alma mater) spin-off  IT firm. There his mentor, an ETH IT lecturer, himself  a very intelligent man, has told us that “no doubt, your son is very intelligent”.

So, what’s the problem? Samuel will graduate this summer at age 19 as IT specialist. /

jun asuncion


If You Would Ask Me

 by jun asuncion


 Or let me say, if I may ask you.

 By chance, I read yesterday that the 18-year-old,  fresh high-school graduate Alexandra Mills of Lousville, USA, won the Miss World beauty pageant. This reminded me of our Bicolana beauty queen Venus Raj- and most of all to the question: “What was the major mistake in your life and what did you do to correct it?”…it goes something like that. What would have been Miss Mill’s answer if asked the same question, I thought…

 Although I never watch beauty contests, the “Major, Major” controversy, however, had caught my attention after that Miss Universe contest. And weeks after that, it was followed by the hostage crisis at the Querino grandstand, an event which I monitored from the beginning.

I was also a bit disappointed by Venus’ handling of the question and very much disgusted by the  handling of that hostage crisis by our government and police officers. At one point we became the laughingstock for the whole world. I was sure  that  at that very moment, élite rescue teams from different countries were monitoring how we would handle the crisis in the hope of learning something. But what we showed them deserved no respect.

I did not lose my respect to Venus, though the Miss Universe beauty pageant did not interest me at all. My interest came when I read from yahoo news about the only gaffe in the pageant which was Miss Raj’s answer to the question from a hollywood panelist. Indeed, ” Major, Major” echoing from a stage carrying the most beautiful women in the world in a given moment to be followed afterwards with “Minor, Minor”  performance at the Querino grandstand where some innocent Hong kong Chinese tourists were butchered and where weeks before a major positive change in our national leadership was proclaimed.

Personally, I love majors and minors. For jazz musicians, major and minor chords account much in the improvisation. For beside the dominant, diminished and augmented chords, it is from the sound qualities of majors and minors where musical landscapes made up of improvised lines are created. There are excellent and mediocre players but it’s alright,  the main thing is that it doesn’t cost the lives of the musicians and of the listeners.

However, improvisation has no place in a rescue operation involving real people in danger. Here, the minutest detail must be planned and the whole operation exactly orchestrated. There is no need to go into the details for everybody has seen in TV’s and YouTube how the whole improvisation became so fatal. It couldn’t be blamed to the policemen on the front but to those who were giving the commands – the police directors and the politicians behind. If it were a musical catastrophe, the conductor would have been out of his mind and been divested of his prestigious function for his failure to differentiate a minor from a major chord.

But what happened is past. The only thing good is to learn lessons from it. The PNP has always been a problem child in our country and that without a valid cause: Political corruption in the past. Hence, we can point to it being the problem parent of the problem child. Corrupt politicians till the recent past have maltreated the PNP, used it for their own political survival. Therefore, the PNP and its entire command channels did not develop to the desired professional status. It remained primitive and  incapable of complex and planned operation. The whole proof to it is still to be seen in YouTube so to deny it would be a spinal reflex again  than a cortical reflection.

How about Miss Venus Raj’s controversial answer, was it a slip of the tongue, a  spinal reflex or a poor cortical reflection? Or a poor improvisational talent? It must have cost her the crown but still she somewhat queenly tackles the whole controversy around that answer. That’s the main point there, of being able to stay beautiful, decent and somewhat pure after  a painful mistake. Well, who among us doesn’t commit a mistake? And many are uglier after committing a mistake but I guess not so with Venus. Venus remained beautiful after that answer,  a major issue that made her even more popular, a major reason for those green-eyed monsters who are jealous with her looks. Yes, Major, Major, she being true to her name Venus, the Greek God of beauty.

Well, seriously if the PNP commits a major mistake, how much more a beauty queen? The only difference was that her mistake did not cost more than eight lives and had caused no damage to our tourist industry. So, are you not ready to forgive such a blunder by Venus? I am, for it was not a crime.  And Venus did no finger-pointing after that, a gesture that for me would have cost more her crown.

But now back to you, what  would you answer to such a question? How would the PNP had answered such a question?? Away from that bloody Querino grandstand and back to that beauty-packed stage, the question posed to Venus would have sounded so simple yet, seen in the right context, it was a complex and catchy one.

The question automatically puts one in a position of either telling the truth or not. To invent a scenario would be a case of lying which would cost more the crown.  To tell the truth would always be the best. But what if really no  major mistake has happened yet to your young life like Venus’? What would you tell the whole world who is listening and not only expecting an honest answer but an intelligent talking?

It was not Venus’ answer itself that disturbed me but the psychology behind her attitude which this time did not work -as expected- in that Western context. Sensing that her answer was not very convincing, she attempted an emotional coup d’ etat by an overly show of gratitude or thankfulness, hoping intuitively to defuse the jury’s cerebral mechanism. I mean she was not asked to show a sample of the Filipino trait of Utang Na Loob! That’s why it failed because it was not the right place for it, prompting the Western media to call it  a “social” gaffe.

I’m not a beauty queen, but if you would ask me, Venus should have argued this way: ” The major mistake that I made in my life was that of allowing myself for a time to be a helpless victim of poverty and feeling marginalized and inferior due to our social status and to my growing up without a father…I realized too soon that I must be positive in my outlook to have a brighter future for me and my family…this was I think my way of correcting that mistake and which has brought me to where I am now…”

Well, who could prove such argument as a lie or not? In fact, seen against Venus’ biography, one can easily take it as an honest answer; not perhaps for a psychologist, but we don’t want to dig  that far.

I think the Filipino emotionality and traits are still contained in these lines without however sacrificing the cerebral aspect. I’m sure it should have appealed to the Western mind (the jury and the media most of all).

A balance of emotion and thinking-I guess- has a  more deeper and beautiful impact to the society.

What do you say to that if I may ask you?


From Code Of Kalantiyaw To Mt. Sinai


by jun asuncion


This post is not intended as an academic work but just my personal thoughts on this Independence Day and as my reply to a comment on my earlier post Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Filipino Political Character.


A Hindu-Muslim Archipelago. We know of Datu Puti as one of the Bornean Datus who ruled in the south during the pre-Hispanic period. During the Spanish time Raja Colambu was the King of Limasawa, Rajah Humabon of Cebu, Sultan Kudarat Of Maguinadanao, Datu Lapulapu of Mactan, Rajah Lakandula of Tondo, Datu Macabulos of Pampanga, Datu Urduja of Pangasinan and Rajah Sulaiman III of Manila. There were many other Datus and Rajas all over the archipelago whom the Spanish colonial power called Las Islas Filipinas,  the Islands of the Philippines. Hinduism came to the Philippines via traders between 1350 and 1389 from the island of  Java during the Majapahit Empire (1293-1500) and exerted great influence on the natives of the archipelago only to be superseded within a short time by the Islamic conquest of Majapahit empire and the coming of Islamic Indonesians and Arab missionaries in the 15th century. 

Hence, the archipelago was dominantly a Hindu- Muslim archipelago as Sultans, Datus and Rajahs are all Hindu-Muslim titles of rulers and nobilities. If I identify myself with the pre-Hispanic archipelago, then I’m a Hindu- Muslim; if I identify myself with the time and culture I was born in, then I am a Christian. 

Genetically of Malay race, our dominant ancestral, pre-Hispanic civilized society was a Hindu- Muslim society. However, not all people at that time were Hindu-Muslims as there were people who were trapped or isolated themselves up in the mountains and were neither islamized when the Muslims came nor catholicized with the coming of the Spaniards. They still exist today as “cultural minorities” (a label I dislike) like the Igorots, Aetas, Ati (Negritos ethnic group) etc. with their own culture, political organisation and system of beliefs.

 The very first people who inhabited the archipelago- or some places of it- long before the invention or evolution of today’s dominant religions were animistic in their belief and world view. If I identify myself with those primal ancestors of 20-30 thousand years ago – in the belief that my family and genetic lineage can be traced back to them-  then I am an animist, a being who is one with the forces of nature and see spirits in them, or much later a syncretist of Hinduistic origin who believes in Anitos, Diwatas or Bathala.

Hindu-Muslim Social Hierarchy. The independent Hindu-Muslim barangays in the archipelago and the sultanates in the south all attest to existing social communities, communities with hierarchical systems of Ruling class as Sultans, Datus or Rajahs, of Intermediate class as the Freemen or Maharlikas and of the Ruled or Unfree-class as the Alipins or slaves. 

There were interbarangay commerce, cultural exchanges, etc., all transactions suggesting a kind of confederative co-existence,yet  no common identity,  no common laws, no central government that kept them together or a court that settled interbarangay conflicts. The mythical legal code of Kalantiyaw which was supposed to bring order to the folks of Negros was proven to be a forgery.

From Code of Kalantiyaw to Mt. Sinai. This changed with the coming of the Spanish colonizers who already have in them the concept of  national government, of a nation or country, of a central powerful monarchy that rules over vast territories and colonies. But before that there was this catholization that took place, the biblization of the Hindu-Muslims, and later the changing of names, like Rajah Humabon becoming Carlos, or Mariano Kagalitan to Mariano Asuncion. 

But the social structures remained the same, more or less. Allowed to keep up their lordships over their barangays, the now catholized datus had to subjugate themselves however to the new ruling class, the Spaniards, or to the new omnipotent Catholic King of  Spain. In effect, the whole archipelago with all its barangays was reduced to the lower class level, if not to that of oppressed or slaves, the Alipins. In fact the new ruling class introduced a new form of intricate slavery- the polo y servicio which is a system of forced labor within the encomienda throughout the island colony. 

From Suppression to Explosion. The suppression of emotions through centuries of encomiend and hacienda slavery and injustices ultimately led to explosion. This big-bang in the history of the archipelago gave birth to the concept of freedom and nation during this colonial period which culminated by the end of the 19th century; by June 12,1898, 112 years ago, the Spanish dominion (which historically started in 1649 with the Sumoroy uprising in Samar) has ended and the first Philippine Republic was born. 

This short historical review is not meant to refresh our knowledge but to remind us that the past explains a lot of things the way that the Filipinos are now, our character strengths and weaknesses and offer us clues as to why reciprocity, “debt” of gratitude, passive-aggressive traits and the like are so intense and complex among the Filipinos for the Western observers. 

As one Western commenter has observed about Reciprocity and Utang Na Loob: 

“I am guessing that this (Reciprocity) basically a very deep instinctual drive in all cultures, but I am curious as to why it is so exaggerated and complex in Philippines…Philippines has intensely hierarchical family and tribal structures, probably even before the foreign oppressors arrived. Within such a system those beneath perceive themselves to be powerless and lacking in rights. Without rights, any act of support would therefore seem like a gift rather than a duty. I am guessing the intensity of Utang Na Loob is derived from this.” 

Utang na Loob is a form of reciprocity which, as the name suggests, a Filipino version or expression of it. The short historical review has shown that for the majority of the Filipinos- before, during and even after colonial times- their history is a history of slavery or servantry, from our tribal past to the alipin sagigilid or mamamahay during our Hindu- Muslim past and   to encomienda,  hacienda and peonage slaves during the catholization. (It is said that  peonage was the employed by the conquistadores wherein the Filipino workers were granted debt to their own slavery afterwards for failure to work off the debt, becoming permanently tied to their Spanish employers). Even up to now, the servantry is still very much a part of our  socio-economic culture. Only that now, the government exports this “labor force” to other countries. 

With the coming of other colonizers, the Americans and the Japanese, the Filipinos were again forced to assume the slave mode and to suppress aggression in order to survive. 

Nature or Nurture?Against this historical backdrop and if we believe that personality is also moulded by external forces, then we can rightly assume that the Filipino collective personality is a product of his total experience which is layered in complex mixtures of genetics and external circumstances over a long time. The resulting product is a distinctly Filipino character. This explains the complexity of our traits when juxtaposed against other Asian people and other cultural groups. 

We Have Our Own Identity. Hence, this cry for the search of Filipino identity is a travesty, a political distortion in my view aimed at controlling the masses by sneakily activating their slave mode. We already have our own identity. I’m very cautious when I hear such phrase as “landslide victory” for then I suspect that the old trick has functioned again, that  psychology has been politically abused or misused again. Also, it’s not wrong when a Westerner observes that there is exaggeration in our reciprocity trait, wrong maybe in the sense that it collides with their Western concepts of democracy and bureaucracy but in themselves our Filipino traits can never be wrong. It is not the search for identity but it’s about the search for a political system that fits our own character without sacrificing universal virtues as justice, freedom, human rights, etc. 

In truth, the past still lingers in us and this is where self-serving politics get their power. Our Western commenter has mentioned that “a number of deep human traits… could potentially be exploited. One of these was called reciprocity”. 

Landslide Win.When politics is just about power, then it’s only there to exploit available resources to support that power. This is very visible in our politics especially during elections. The character traits of the people are the number one target of this exploitation, material resources comes next to it. It’s not the vote that’s being bought but that Utang Na Loob of the people. A politician who is good in that will have that landslide win. 

Still In Progress. Indeed, the trait of Utang na Loob- as all other Filipino traits- has evolved out of this collective past, of the confluence of events and the need to survive physically, psychologically and socially. All traits had developed and been retained because they have this survival value. And while our social evolution is still in progress, I think that these traits that we have are also undergoing some mutations. Our Filipino traits are not static and final, we are changing or are being changed by events and time. We ourselves are witnesses to how these traits conflict with things new to us or  things which require other cultural tools or constructs that are either foreign to or less develop in us. 

Our Utang Na Loob is easily related to our slave mode than to our noble or lordship mode. This trait can only develop with such intensity and character out of social and economic survival necessity. You cannot experience the attitude of thankfulness with such intensity for things that are natural to you or that you have in abundance. Hence, from those who live in paradise, don’t expect Utang Na Loob; the same with our Tabon man in Palawan, our pre-historic ancestors who inhabited our caves thousands of years ago. I don’t think they knew Utang Na Loob as we know it now- or Hiya, Delicadeza, Freedom, Corruption, Alipin or Injustice. These things came to the archipelago with Islamization and Catholization. With these foreign oppressors, heaven is won but paradise is lost. 

You’ll find this Utang Na Loob in abundance from those who experienced hell or deprivation of basic things. For the majority of us our history was a history of deprivation. Those were hellish times under foreign enslavement. There were some Filipino families who profited from these periods of hell, who maintained their feudalistic vast haciendas even until now, who still practise landgrabbing and colonial slavery practices as peonage and force labor and many of them are in the government posing as public servants. But in truth they are masters of exploiting Utang Na Loob, Hiya and Pakikisama. 

Passive-Aggression. Certainly, with such a background of slavery where it was not safe to express anger or opinions but rather safer to resort to suppression and pakikisama in order to survive, we can only expect that passive-aggression is a part of colonized Filipinos’ coping or defense mechanisms. We know in psychology that families who forbid or deny their children the natural need to express feelings of hostilities produce adults who have this disorder. But it’s out of context to say- as our Western commenter has said- that it is a form of national sabotage if he means by it that Filipinos are using passive-aggression actively and consciously to destroy their nation and political development.

A Happy Nation? Though I can confirm the presence of this negative trait in our society, I disagree with its willful or conscious use of national sabotage. Yet I believe that this goes on in the unconscious level in our political dynamics and hinders progress. Passive-aggression might have been a form of rebellion- or sabotage- against the colonial government at that time, a conscious one. But now, I look at it instead as extension of colonial destruction. For the destruction of the people through colonial oppression and maltreatment doesn’t end with the disappearance of the oppressors but it continues, this trauma, this learned helplessness and passivity. Combined together, i.e., Spanish, Americans, Japanese, those were 425 years of trauma, suppression and slavery, of abuse and insult to the Filipino psyche. And add to that those nightmare decades under Marcos and Arroyo. Do you expect a healthy and happy nation by now?

I wish the Filipinos a happy Independence Day!


Change or Keep The Change?

 by jun asuncion

 Part I: Notes of a silent traveller.

It seems that I was not alone who went home  to capture the election “fever” in the Philippines. I was in Bulan for actually just two full days (May 4-5) to deliver medicines to the Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic and left for Manila in the early morning of May 6. Just two days of walking and driving around and enjoying the sights and sounds of Bulan community. I made an unscheduled visit to the Municipio to talk with Mayor Helen De Castro but she wasn’t there ( though I listened intently to her speech in Canipaan the evening I arrived; but better luck next time!).  I noticed a long queue of young people on the first floor just before the mayor’s office. I supposed they were job-seekers, or there to claim what has been promised to them.

Before Bulan I was already in many places in the northern part of Luzon. That’s the reason why I said to some people there in Bulan that our town is relatively a clean town, cleaner than the other towns I saw. I used to go  before 6: oo in the morning to the market and at this time you could already see some workers dusting up the main streets of Bulan. I particularly enjoy Maclane Street for its proportions: for a town, its such a long and wide street. Now that it has lamp posts on each side, one feels like being in a city. A City? Well, for a town we love there is no limit to the dreams we can dream for it. For we only desire the best for it, isn’t it? Personally, that’s the reason why I sometimes laugh about our politics because this diverts us from our most common dream for Bulan. I am for leaders who don’t miss this dream, who don’t abuse their power and do not enrich themselves at the expense of the people. It’s not about Guyala, Gotladera or De Castro but about  leadership with social responsibility and conscience.

With the daily temperature of 39-39 degrees centigrade, the election day was sweltering hot, a real fever. But I have seen how the people braved the heat the whole day queuing just to give their votes. In a place where I receive the ballots per mail, read the issues in the quite of my room, make my choice in between sips of coffee and then just drop them in the next mailbox, I could only give my highest respect to those voters last May 10 who waited for hours. I especially think about those people who did not sell their votes but voted according to their convictions. I think the future of a better Philippines rests on these people- and on the political candidates who opposed this bad tradition of vote-buying. Still, it’s in opposition that change can happen.

But what is basically wrong with this tradition of vote-buying and why don’t we just tacitly consent it? In my view, money used in this context robs the people (including the politicians) of their senses. This explains all our problems.

A tradition is always hard to change, but it can be changed, and I guess that’s the point that every Bulaneño should know. We don’t need a bloody revolution for that. All that is needed is reflection and a little sacrifice. A political candidate who is proudly sure of the support of the people because of good leadership and achievements doesn’t need to buy the people, and the people who support the agenda of a politician, do not need to sell themselves. You may again blame poverty for this behavior, but there were many poor local voters who did not sell themselves. I guess that if people wouldn’t prefer to “keep the change”, decent change would occur.

I was in Biton for a swim. The sea was clean and the scenery fantastic. So I was in my element for such experiences always inspire me-  no longer to swim but just to sit and walk around and absorb and be absorbed by the beauty of being. It should have been a perfect day had it not for this ear-rupturing comment that I heard from a German who lives there: “Ohne corruption, würde es keine Filipinos mehr geben”- that “Without corruption, Filipinos would cease to exist.” What a disparaging generalization coming from somebody who doesn’t even know Heine or Feuerbach. The poetry of the day was instantly gone! Now comes dirty  politics again- in a place I never expected. But that German did not expect the same that this time he won’t go unpunished for his arrogant comments. The winds changed direction as I began to frame the debate within the greater context of world history and current events in Germany. Were it not for the gentle kicks under the table and oculesics coming from my “camp” telling me to slow down, the place would have burned- in the fire of my apologia, naturally.

Yes, incompetent leaders, corrupt presidents, justices and generals, Ampatuan monsters, astronomic foreign debts, corruption, vote-buying, political violence, poor education and ignorance have increased our vulnerability. You can’t help but defend- it’s instinctive – even if you know there is a kernel of truth  and even when it comes from a primitive German whose trunk reminds one of a huge barrel of beer about to break. (He told me his family name is Krüger. Krug is the German for jug or pitcher, and Krüger means a jugmaker. There is a German idiomatic expression which says, “Der Krug geht so lange zum Brunnen, bis er bricht.” or, ” The jug goes to the well until it breaks”, which means, one day you’ll take it too far and you’ll come to grief. I think Mr. Krüger went too far that lovely afternoon…but we sailed home quick before the breaking.)

Now, as a nation, as a town, how do we manage vulnerability, how do we keep ourselves from breaking totally? This brings us back to the old discussions about electoral, political, educational and moral reforms. For now, I would say go for change, but avoid keeping the change for when money dictates, the bad tradition continues and so as this social order with all its problems.

Noynoy Aquino has vowed to combat corruption, hence, to introduce vulnerability management-“If there were no corrupt, there would be no poor.” He said that “Corruption is the single biggest threat to our democracy. It deprives the poor of the social services they badly need. It destroys the very moral fiber of our society. No reform agenda will succeed without a determined program to eradicate corruption.”

Well, this sounds good to start with. Good intention deserves support. Be reminded, however, that a campaign mantra is not a solution yet to the problem of corruption. I expect to see his concrete vulnerability management plan as soon as he assumes office.

But it’s in planning that one is faced with various factors that must be considered: He needs to have a solid presence in the Congress; the huge national debt of over P4.358 trillion and the pressures from the international lending institutions (IMF, WB) will surely have effects on his policies on taxations and budget spending. Fighting corruption means not only law enforcement and putting behind bars corrupt colleagues but-in my view- a fight against poverty and for better education. And here I see the problem that Aquino will face in his fight against corruption: it’s the problem of capital. How can he spend more  for education and against poverty amidst the huge national debt and pressures from the lending institutions? Don’t you know that you owe these institutions P47, 247? Yes, each of us 92 million Filipinos carry this debt burden.

But still, the point that he is determined to fight corruption is already a good attitude (what Arroyo has lacked) as president-elect. For as Nietzsche  says “‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how”.  I suggest though that the people should support Aquino’s why but be cautious with his almost anyhow. Pay back the debts, but not at the expense of education and health programs.

Back to the poor people, it is right not to forget the poor and aim for the reduction and elimination of poverty in the Philippines – this is a social and moral responsibility of modern man. But in my observation, this slogan of helping the poor is a tool being used and abused by the rich, the oligarchs, and trapos to maintain their power and status quo. Truth be told, politics (Erap para sa mahirap, Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap, etc…) and religion in our country capitalize on the poor. It is easy to manipulate a hungry man or community, the reason why vote-buying works perfectly(and this first automated election has intensified it because there were no more ballot boxes for politicians to hijack) – the same with the promises of better (After-) life by materialistic religious preachers. 

But did Philippine politics and church ever mention  protecting, sustaining and strengthening  the middle class? The middle class in the Philippines is disappearing and many of these people have been displaced outside the Philippines – those skilled migrant workers and intellectual capital. We know that the middle class stabilizes the society, it’s not easily manipulated, hence serves as the catalyst of social change and reforms. As Aristotle had observed during his time- and that was between 384-322 BC!- “The best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class”.  I think  Aristotle would find in Switzerland of today a fine example of  his community.

What made the voters brave the sun and wait for hours just to vote a corrupt candidate? That bloated German would argue that they were paid, that’s why. But even if I were paid, I would back out just because of the heat and the thirst and would not fall in line again. Indeed, faith moves mountain. For in that election day, I travelled around Luzon to observe and I was moved by the scenes I have seen. I thought that there must be something more to this. It’s neither just because of the most despised Arroyo administration nor of the cash that the politicians distributed but I think the Filipinos of today still have this faith that they could improve their country – and repay the debts we owe.

But there is a backlash to this, and that is the psychology of Filipino voters: This month’s election has shown that Filipino voters- bought or not – vote in terms of what is familiar already regardless of the records. Old names like Marcos, Estrada, Revilla, Enrile, Aquino- and even Arroyo or Ampatuans are back or have remained in the political scene. This mental attitude prevents change and gives the impression to any observer that Filipinos have impaired memory or simply “crazy” to vote for an ex-convict for president or support murdering political clans in the south.

And still, there are the local municipalities with their entrenched ruling warlords who won’t be ready to give up their extra sources of income like jueting, illegal logging, mining or sneaky little daily forms of deceit like that of adding an extra 0 (zero) on the receipt/check than the amount actually spent or issued (900 pesos is swiftly earned out of 100 pesos!). Laws against such crimes already exist, what Noynoy needs is to “enforce” law enforcement. Noynoy was not a high performance congressman of Tarlac(1998 to 2007) and senator (2007-2010) and not a single bill that he passed became a law but he could use his “moral” and political capital in defining his position in the country and using the right momentum to get things running  from Day One, a difficult task for he has to wrestle first against  the midnight sabotage that Gloria Arroyo has orchestrated.

Well, again we have an economist as president-elect and we all hope that he is not for keeping the change as Arroyo was but for a reduction of our national vulnerabilities, no matter how “noynoy” (little) it is.


He Laughs Best Who Laughs Last

by jun asuncion 


Post-Easter Reflections

Accused, convicted and resurrected- three events in the life of Jesus at the end of his earthly existence. But before disappearing, He made a new covenant with men, a covenant of peace and love, of moral uprightness and compassion, of obedience to the law of God and of men.

The Philippines observe easter celebration for centuries already. I think, the fact that we take this event as a time for families to gather is great. Hence, it serves clearly its purpose on this level.

Talking about Christian themes (and I guess Islamic as well) to anyone is not always easy and does not come as natural and without any sense of uncertainty as when one talks about Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Jainism, etc. The reason is partly due  to the dark, conflicting  and politicized history of the Catholic Church and  to man’s tendency to compare scientific and biblical arguments. But I think that religious experience is a very personal one, i.e., your belief and understanding of phenomena lying between science and religion is defined ultimately by your own experience, not as taught or retold  but through  the intimate experience of the numinosum as revealed  inside of you.

But all the while, I’ve been tempted to believe that either it’s not in our nature-  or maybe the time hasn’t come yet-  for us to learn the lessons of Christ on a political level. If you  insist on separating religion and politics  or state,  you have the right to do so. But does this hold true with the teachings of Jesus? Is there such a conclusive moral or legal ground to insist on their separation? Of separating peace, love, moral uprightness and compassion, obedience to the law  from our politics or state affairs? Jesus and real politik? Well, Jesus had not written anything but had pursued a life of action as he was confronted daily with hard facts that people face as injustice, corruption, persecution, poverty,  prostitution, sickness, death, etc.,- things that are politically real.

The same way, whatever you understand about Jesus is a purely personal experience and is not church-bound. The message of Christ was transcendental, cross-cultural, non-partisan and globally sustainable for it is about justice, love, compassion and obedience to the law and He did not only preach but lived abundantly what he preached. From this aspect alone it’s already night and day difference if you think of how the church leaders of today live in abundance of  luxury, political power, moral pretensions and sexual perversions. The church, be it Protestant or Catholic, can no longer fool the people to believe in the illusion of morality that they’ve sold to them as evident in the fact that people- at least in Europe- are seceding in swarms from their churches. In the face of all these socio-economic uncertainties, people are disillusioned with the church when- instead of spiritual comfort- they receive shock from news of grotesque crimes within the walls of monasteries and cover-ups from the Vatican.

Jesus’ life was a life of compassion on one side and opposition on the other. He served the poor, fed the hungry and healed the sick but opposed the greediest of the hypocrites of the religious and secular movements. All his life, he showed to his disciples the  way to righteousness and the love for truth,-  things that should liberate us from our lowly and purely instinctive existence.

Because of  this He was betrayed by a disciple, arrested, accused of inciting rebellion and blasphemy, was convicted not beyond reasonable doubt, tortured and crucified.

The whole story shows us that many people cannot stand law and order, truth and compassion, that many self-proclaimed followers cannot stand His teachings and would rather prefer pieces of silver in their pockets  than priceless virtues in their hearts.

Next month’s election is another show of silver and gold. May this not lead to the crucifixion of the most basic tenets of democratic electoral process and to massive fraud and manipulations of results. This is the first electronic voting to be held. Some say this system would eliminate fraud since the results would be  known faster than the conventional method. Yet, some others claim the contrary, that massive fraud and manipulations would be carried out much more faster than the old method.

Frequent power outages are now being observed in some places in Manila. We are a generation who grew up with brown or blackouts. For the adults in my time, they were unspectacular but for us young ones they were in a way a source of excitement and sometimes an excuse for not doing the school homework.

In view of the coming election, such power outages may acquire a new socio-political dimension when election results would depend on them, hence, the future of the nation. For we know that sudden loss of power or voltage surges when power is restored damage computer systems and other electronic storage devices resulting to data loss. And this time, maybe it would be the most influential adults running for elective office who would rejoice over power outages should they occur on May 10.

Accusation and convictions are the buzzwords today. We know of accused and convicted corrupt and murdering politicians and terrible homosexual and  pedophile priests and bishops, of the pope covering up all these abuses, of  lying cardinals defending the pope. Infallibility with regards to the doctrines? What kind of doctrines? What has happened to the self- appointed vicar of Christ on earth, Pope Ratzinger? Still tongue doesn’t make a wise head if it only obstructs justice.

Well, men of politics and religion are human after all- fallible and succumb easily to all sorts of neuroses. The hypocrisy lies in politicians’  claim for public trust and accountability and the churchmen claim for being Christ’s representative. Jesus would have rebelled again against this hypocrisy and Gotteslästerung- or blasphemy.

Accountability and transparency are also lacking among the churchmen, the reason why all these sexual abuses in the Catholic Church have escaped the public eye and the eye of the law. Playing politics or playing down heinous crimes?

In any case, for both politics and religion, it’s all about power and material possession. And whoever has them has the control of the people and of the territory. Again, the reason why the Philippines seem to have a hard time moving forward for it is being controlled and plundered by politics and religion-  from within and without. To spread Christianity was a misnomer, for in truth colonization was to access the territory and control the people, nothing more. A chicken and egg question: which comes first to your mind when you hear corruption, religion or politics?

In truth, it’s more practical to ask why people of such institutions as government and church are prone to corrupting their very own raison d’ etre. This is because of the opportunity that their office affords them. A priest abuses young people who stand in relationship of dependence to him,- novices in seminaries or friaries or repenters in their parish community. Politicians having access to public funds become blinded by the glossy golden public coffers. The fact that such misconduct or crimes easily get scandalized is attributable to their enantiodromic nature which blows the public’s mindset and send off aftershock tremors across the continents, across the web.

 Not a case of imitatio Christi, but Attybenji’s courage to draft and propose a covenant for a new election culture in our Bicol region, particularly in our town Bulan is the first of its kind. Indeed, if the town of Bulan is different, then Bulaneños are different people! It is in the relentless pursuit of a better place that drives us to take new step that should break that parochial mental stupor and broaden our horizon. We are for the retention of good traditions but not of certain traditions that stunt or have stunted the growth of our town.

Until now no single candidate has signed or even left a comment on the posted covenant for peace and order, clean and honest election. But this should not bother Attybenji and the rest of the observers. What is important is that we have given the signal that we are for a better election culture in our region. There is nothing wrong to desire for good things even when this would make us to be the laughingstock of the village and to some people who want to keep their mental stupor and political myopia.

Still, it holds true that all politics is local, and any wise Bicolano knows that he laughs best who laughs last.  /


Reflections On The Realities Of Social Change


 by  jun asuncion


Part I


I. Bulan Observers and Social Change

Social change comes in different ways,  from different directions, tools- and even distances. The “mighty pen” is one of the most economical tools for social change but its message cuts across time and space. So it’s not bad to be away from home because  then we are left only with this economical yet powerful option. To go home and actually change the politics sounds also interesting but, for me and for now, we just leave it to our people in Bulan as we continue with our goal of creating a big Bulan-On-line Community of observers. Writing and observing have also their proper place in social change and in the culture of Bulan in general and has a deeper effect on Bulanenõs perception.

 For social change begins in the minds of the people, a perceptual re-organization as people adjust to the totality of their experience as Bulanenõs resulting to changed behavior. To this experience belong also things that they read, see and hear.

 Hence, it is important that communication exists between our people and our local leaders, between people like us who are away yet send messages if we sincerely desire to contribute to a positive change in Bulan. Writing alone can not effect change, so as leadership that is just concerned with power and self-aggrandizement. It needs this communication in form of a constructive dialogue, a working together for the good of each. 

We cannot change the system in Bulan if there would be no change in the national level in terms of concrete electoral reforms or totally blame the De Castros for their permanent political  eminence for as many other local political clans throughout the country, they are just beneficiaries of this defective democratic culture, defective from the perspective of people who suffer from its imperfections, or from a nation whose reputation internationally is bad, but a perfect democracy from the perspective of those who benefit from its imperfections.

The least thing we can do is to help in a way as to make Bulan a different town from the rest, – a growth-sensitive town with freedom-loving and responsible people, support only the good intentions of the De Castros and those of future leaders so that when the electoral reforms  become a reality, Bulan would be the first to respond positively.

Going home can not change the politics that we decry for it is about the whole system that is to be changed. To paraphrase Marx, “Filipino intellectuals have only interpreted Philippine politics, the point however is to change it”.

In our setting, this change  is not to be achieved through revolution or “call to arms”  for these had already achieved their goal, namely, that of restoring  some pieces of democracy in our recent history, or, as  in the earlier revolutions, that of achieving freedom from foreign oppressors.  Some pieces because “our”democracy is incomplete when leadership and constituency are still miles apart from each other, meaning, political leadership that can not respond to the needs of the constituency and a constituency which has no proper representations in Congress and which has no direct influence to the affairs of government except during election every three or six years wherein things do not go properly anyway for votes are sold and bought, politicians promise fictions, cheat and kill one another, voters tyrannized, misled or abused.

It is neither achievable through moral revolution for we really do not know concretely what it is or what constitutes moral revolution. For me this is an empty phrase that’s why it has never functioned in the Philippines,  a phrase invented by those leaders to excuse themselves from their corrupt practices and to fool the masses.

But before everything, it is proper to ask this: Did we ever have a democracy before? I’m afraid there was  none not even during the time of the Americans who took pride in introducing it to the Filipinos. What we inherited was a corrupted form of democracy over a hundred years ago when the Americans left and plundered what  the Spanish plunderers could no longer take with them. What Marcos did was to corrupt it more that the pain went beyond what was  tolerable, forcing  the people to regain it by force. (You see that the strength of tyranny depends after all on  the capacity of the people to be patient with it. At the moment, the Iranians are losing their patience with their dictators and it’s just a matter of time before the whole repressive system will collapse. Social change in Middle East  happening before our eyes.)

Again, the  “democratic” America helped Marcos in all his endeavors of ridiculing this “American” legacy.  I still vividly recall how George Bush, Sr. lauded Marcos for his “adherence to democratic principles” during his visit in Malacañang, a capitalistic statement that pierced through the hearts  of repressed and suffering Filipino people. Well, this is real politik, a face with many ugly faces.  America has a double definition of democracy.

In essence,  during the EDSA  revolutions what we regained or restored was the old form of corrupted democracy. Hence, the pain continues.

 This pain is the reason for all of these outcries for systemic change and reforms, the reason for all our acute sensitivities to all forms of social inequalities and political corruption.

The cry for social change  that fosters social justice is in the heart of every compassionate Filipino. There are however stumbling blocks to these goals aside from the reforms in question. Namely, people tend to be very passive and concerned with their own security. This stops them from involving themselves with social change movements. Or, as in culture theory of social change, there is this problem of free-riding, meaning that if someone believes  the movement will succeed without him, “he can avoid participation in the movement, save his resources, and still reap the benefits“.

This is naturally bad to have such “social change parasites”, but this is a phenomenon everywhere. We just don’t have to focus on that but rather on those people who want to actively shape the future of their town and nation- and I  guess there are many of them in Bulan.

Hence, we  can view Bulan Observer as a movement for social change, not just an ordinary blog, but a movement that aims to mobilize Bulaneños at home and abroad to be sensitive to the greater  principles that shape a brighter future for Bulan. As pointed out, there are many ways and small intermediate steps that lead to this goal as we (actively) wait for that legislative  national reforms. In the same way that we care for our town’s future, we should not forget that Bulan has also an active role to play in achieving those urgent reforms that the nation needs. Bulaneños can show it this coming election by choosing carefully the right group of candidates to occupy the legislative and executive seats of the national government.

 II. To The Victor Go The Spoils

Social change in Maguindanao

 Looking back, the Ampatuan massacre has shown us that it is not after all impossible to dismantle  powerful and murderous political families  in the Philippines. Any Filipino president- as this experience has shown us- is after all also able to enforce justice,  peace and order if he or she is willing or possesses the right political skills.

But no one would buy it that Mrs. Arroyo was willing in this case- she was just  forced to yield to the pressure from the Filipinos and from the international community.  Thanks to modern technology which allows communication to spread with a lightning speed, hence, allowing people to quickly  expose  such disasters or tragedies.

Not willing? For according to the presidential spokeswoman Fajardo (who  left her post already), President Arroyo remains friends with the Ampatuans despite allegations that the clan perpetrated the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last November 23… that the president “would not turn her back on political allies even though they (Ampatuans) were in that situation”. Yes, perhaps declaring Martial law in Maguindanao was one of the ways of not turning her back from her political allies who cheated and intimidated Maguindanao folks  a couple of times for her to win the previous elections.

This is a murderous statement of loyalty: murderous for the Filipino people, for truth and justice and for journalism. This is the dirtiest political statement I have ever heard, a president declaring her loyalty to bestial criminals. Or was Fajardo just out of her mind to issue such a statement before the  world? In a way we sympathize with Fajardo for she’s got a difficult job of always lying for the president. So we just hope she was lying on her own at that time.

Ideally, people from the political  clans should also be subjected to punitive measure when they commit felony, should be treated like any criminal offender. But political patronage also distorts the judicial, the legislative, the military and to some extent the private and business sector- even the arts and education. On the other hand, big time businessmen and industrialists expecting  government favors- are also instruments of corruption in the Philippines for they are the ones offering bribes.

But the greatest mistake starts with the power of the president to appoint “his or her “officials and the lack of control mechanism (which is again due to this patronage system) in the Philippines, high-level appointments made by the president go uncontrolled by the legislative branch. Therefore,  in the Philippines the president has her private chief justice, her private ombudsman, her private  generals,  etc.

Hence, what can you expect when the president has privatized the country,  having her fingers everywhere? The nation is dirty- and bloody, the same situation as the Marcos’ time.

Marcos appointed allied generals and even let them occupy civilian posts, a practice started by Ramon Magsaysay only that he got good intention; Marcos who had the selfish intention of remaining in power by all means abrogated  democracy and used  the military to achieve his ends.

As I have mentioned somewhere, this massacre just went out of proportion and so it became a problem for Arroyo. Critics say that declaring Martial Law over Maguindanao was just a trick to help the Ampatuans because then the  administration can limit public access to important objects and places that could be very relevant for the trial against the Ampatuans.

In any case, this Ampatuan massacre  will be the legacy- or, if you want it, the diploma-  of Arroyo’s presidency. I have no idea why she’s running for a congressional seat this coming election. Has she not given up the idea of charter change and her ambition of becoming a prime minister?  To make up for her mess- or to continue with her mess? Well, with the Ampatuans in jail, she has lost one of her important allies and protectors, with some military generals and officers  suspected of being involved in this massacre she had lost some personal bodyguards. And there are other corruption cases waiting for her outside the doors of Malacañang once she steps out of it. Would congress offer her the needed sanctuary of her troubled soul, would it shield her from eventually joining her southern allies in prison?

Praying for a peaceful election?

These political candidates on the lists for the 2010 election- whether from a political dynasty or not-  should not just be proud in telling the nation that they are praying for a peaceful election. They should rather realize by now the urgency of the need for electoral reforms, that to have peace in the Philippines is  to serve the people  in the first place and to put into practice the democratic principles that have existed in theory already as early as  1935.

The Philippines is in need of a good president next year, not a movie star, but somebody who respects the laws and push for these urgent reforms,  a president who puts the country first and not his political allies and who is willing to lead the millions of hardworking Filipinos to a better and decent place they deserve.

 It’s the system that corrupts any good politician from realizing his or her initially good dreams for the town, for the country, that the system should change for the Philippines to improve. But since the system can not change itself, it needs a strong president who knows how to use properly his  great deal of authority as provided by the constitution. A president with political skills and  the strong political will  to change the system by strengthening the existing democratic institutions (Congress, Supreme Court..) and push for the realization of  political reforms we all have wanted since ages, like:

1. Abolishing or Prohibiting Political Patronage

 Political patronage ruins the Philippines because:

–  it leads to widespread political corruption, poor and inefficient governance and delivery of basic services. This happened in the U.S. in the 1800’s, the time when the Filipinos  were still fighting for freedom from Spain.

–  it  interrupts continuity. This is typical characteristic of political patronage system as a wholesale turnover occurs when a political party losses election. Appointed positions being taken over by the next appointed people who supported the victorious party or official during the election campaign; unfinished projects of the predecessor will not be finished or continued.

– the power to appoint positions by the executive official undermines democratic process and growth for such appointments are generally not being checked; sinecures- or paid offices without responsibilities- are created.

– Patronage is the pervasive political virus. It infects  all other institutions- the Judiciary, the Legislative, the Ombudsman, the military officers and so on.

The nucleus of the patronage system is the Filipino Utang na loob, a negative trait within the Philippine political context. Any candidate for higher government position who wins the election appoints people who helped campaign for him. This contributes to the downgrading of public service as important positions may go to unqualified appointees or spoils.

The Civil Service Commission is mandated by law to safeguard the quality of public service. I’ve visited its site and was impressed by their missions and visions, the professionalism, etc. But I wondered why we still have all these serious problems of quality service in the Philippines, prompting me to think that this commission is also suffering from the Lip Service Commission that is very dominant in our country.

 2. Abolishing the Pork Barrel & Budget Process

These two institutions nurture corruption at the national level in the real sense of the word because they give the money to the congressmen of each district and senator and the freedom to deal with them at their own discretion, uncontrolled.

This Pork Barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund does not reach its proper benefactors, namely, the local communities represented by each congressman, funds supposedly for infrastructures ( hospitals, school buildings,  roads…) environmental projects and other developments.

(And if the Congressman representing our region is not really in good terms with the governor and/or with the town mayor, then there are problems with funds for certain projects, perhaps  like what is happening until now with our sick Pawa Hospital.)

 The Budget Processing that occurs in Congress offers the opportunity for our greedy congressmen to inject more pork barrel in their departmental budgets with the argument that public funds appropriation is a legislative priority. This “legislative priority” opens the door to their kickbacks. Indeed, many of our  lawmakers are there to break the law and to cheat the public.

3. Enforce The Development Of Strong and Program-Oriented Political Parties

This is the only way to abolish personality politics (usually screen, sports, media personalities- or  young military coup leaders) in the country, prohibit “political prostitution”– or the shifting of party depending on the politicians’ caprice, and re-introduce the  straight party voting.

Historically, it was America who left behind a colony in the hands of those they had used for their own colonial purposes, namely, the  landlord families and few elite- the first oligarchs in the Philippines who made it a point to control the masses just where they are, namely, away from affairs of the government- for there  are the instruments for  social change which could only threaten the way things as they are now.

Leave  things as they are now? This cannot be. For as long as there are enough people with the ability to reflect, the reality of social change is inevitable.

And we are for a brighter nation. We are for a brighter Bulan.

Part II

Marcos’  Revolution From Within, or The Abduction Of The People.

Revolution is the twin brother of dictatorship, and Marcos the dictator had his twin brother- this Revolution From Within. The world has produced ruthless dictators with their ruthless twin brothers: Hitler annihilated over 6 million Jews, countless other people like the the European Zigeuner or gypsies, socially misfits and regime enemies, not to mention all the other civilians killed during its occupation and/ or attacks on countries like France, Poland, Finland and Russia; Lenin Stalin with their October Revolution, Mao, with his Cultural Revolution and Great Leap, Mussolini, Pol-pot , Suharto, the Military regime in Burma, all those African, Caribbean and south American military dictators had also their own bloody style of revolution. Hence, Marcos had to invent one for him and he called it the Revolution From Within.

With him and his revolution, the Philippines had involuntarily joined the list of nations that had produced high-profile dictators. But Marcos’ revolution from within did not help our national treasury from remaining within the country, as opposed to Suharto who kept the money within Indonesia. No wonder why the Indonesians also kept him when he died, while Marcos was also shipped out of the country when he fell, with his remains when he died being allowed only to be shipped back for “humanitarian” reason.

Bloody revolutions as vehicle for social change? Definitely. The Filipinos had fought several wars and revolutions already within the country’s borders and even outside its borders as in Korea and Vietnam. Its war against the communists and Muslim separatists movements are its longest wars being waged. Wars  had definitely changed the Phiippines- socially, culturally and economically.

But had all these revolutions changed the Filipinos from within? Did it change his Kaloob-looban? Did he learn from these experiences?

Definitely the Filipino psyche was changed after all those revolutions and social upheavals. But to what extent and how?

This is the point that tells us that it is difficult to talk about moral revolution or revolution from within an individual and take it as a starting point for socio-political chage for the whole nation. It is true that a group is after all made up of individuals, and that the kind of individuals define the quality of the group.

But for a nation it is futile to wait for every Filipino to change for the better for there is no way to gauge it and then use this moment so to speak to make a complete turn. In fact, many of us are already inherently good within but these good qualities do not come to the fore because there are no good political structures and political culture that support and stimulate such good intentions. A political culture needs good leadership, a series of national leaders and reforms that would serve as the basis of a new and sustainable political culture in the Philippines. Here, the picture of a “single stone that ripples, spreads out and creates bigger circle” is actually more fitting in this context: a good national leadership ripples and creates bigger circle at a predictable time and quality of social change.

The OFW experience shows that within a good system, Filipinos can also shine and deliver excellent performances in their fields.

Hence, quite the contrary to Marcos’ concept of change, I believe that change must start from those who have the power and the tools, from government leaders, from within Malacañang, Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, the Military and the police, the Civil Service down to the local governments.

I’m not suggesting that the individual political attitude and degree of consciousness are not important (in fact, Bulan Observer is focussing on these areas). They are important catalysts of socio- political change (especially in countries with direct democracy like Switzerland) but the igniter of such catalysts reside in our government leaders in a country where the people have no direct political influence except during elections.

As I have observed, only corrupt politicians and dictators sell this idea of revolution from within or  moral revolution. Elsewhere, where government leaders are competent, honest and sincere, you don’t hear them urging the people for moral revolution or revolution from within.

Centuries of colonization and foreign oppressions had instilled in the Filipino mind that it is inferior and that those who are at the helm are superior. Filipino intellectuals call it as a social ill or social cancer and ill-willed politicians used it to their advantage.

Marcos, who had the intention of controlling the whole nation according to his own greed-dominated logic, did it, hence his concept of revolution from within to divert attention and fool the people by making them responsible for the social decline during his rule of repression and plundering.

You may also call it a social cancer or whatever but this is not proper for there is no cancer but just this habit of viewing ourselves as victims. But this is an old habit, not really a grave illness that invalidates the Filipinos, for Filipinos could be very energetic, patient, productive and industrious when motivated. And is not a good national leadership a valid motivation?

Having seen what Marcos did during those years, I found no convincing reason to read his written works. It must have been better if he were a dictator in his writings, but a democrat in his actions. In this case I would have been impelled to read his books.

But then again, to put things in proper perspective, Marcos’ Revolution From Within was politically a revolution against the people of the Philippines, against the democratic processes. This occured in 1973 when Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1102 proclaiming his personally tailored 1972 Constitution as ratified by the Citizen’s Assembly, an assembly consisting of  individuals hand-picked by Marcos to substitute for the Congress which he disbanded earlier and as substitute for the people themselves when he stopped the holding of the initially announced and scheduled February 1973 plebiscite by issuing the General Order No. 20. With the backing of the Supreme Court and the military, Marcos easily achieved his goals. In essence, this was a revolution within the government or within the Malacañang or of the highest executive office against the people.

It is against this background that we have to understand Marcos’ concept of social change, a social change through a revolution against the people at the same time advising the people to help him by undergoing a kind of moral revolution in order for his New Society to prosper. Wasn’t everything a form of deception? How could anyone call this a better solution to the alleged social ills of the Filipinos? Treachery and deception are no solutions. The 1986 revolution- a revolution from without, or outside the Malacañang-  had shown that they were indeed not the solutions.

Part III

Change or Keep The Change?

It seems that I was not alone who went home to capture the election “fever” in the Philippines. I was in Bulan for actually just two full days (May 4-5) to deliver medicines to the Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic and left for Manila in the early morning of May 6. Just two days of walking and driving around and enjoying the sights and sounds of Bulan community. I made an unscheduled visit to the Municipio to talk with Mayor Helen De Castro but she wasn’t there ( though I listened intently to her speech in Canipaan the evening I arrived; but better luck next time!). I noticed a long queue of young people on the first floor just before the mayor’s office. I supposed they were job-seekers, or there to claim what has been promised to them.

Before Bulan I was already in many places in the northern part of Luzon. That’s the reason why I said to some people there in Bulan that our town is relatively a clean town, cleaner than the other towns I saw. I used to go before 6: oo in the morning to the market and at this time you could already see some workers dusting up the main streets of Bulan. I particularly enjoy Maclane Street for its proportions: for a town, its such a long and wide street. Now that it has lamp posts on each side, one feels like being in a city. A City? Well, for a town we love there is no limit to the dreams we can dream for it. For we only desire the best for it, isn’t it? Personally, that’s the reason why I sometimes laugh about our politics because this diverts us from our most common dream for Bulan. I am for leaders who don’t miss this dream, who don’t abuse their power and do not enrich themselves at the expense of the people. It’s not about Guyala, Gotladera or De Castro but about leadership with social responsibility and conscience.

With the daily temperature of 39-39 degrees centigrade, the election day was sweltering hot, a real fever. But I have seen how the people braved the heat the whole day queuing just to give their votes. In a place where I receive the ballots per mail, read the issues in the quite of my room, make my choice in between sips of coffee and then just drop them in the next mailbox, I could only give my highest respect to those voters last May 10 who waited for hours. I especially think about those people who did not sell their votes but voted according to their convictions. I think the future of a better Philippines rests on these people- and on the political candidates who opposed this bad tradition of vote-buying. Still, it’s in opposition that change can happen.

But what is basically wrong with this tradition of vote-buying and why don’t we just tacitly consent it? In my view, money used in this context robs the people (including the politicians) of their senses. This explains all our problems.

A tradition is always hard to change, but it can be changed, and I guess that’s the point that every Bulaneño should know. We don’t need a bloody revolution for that. All that is needed is reflection and a little sacrifice. A political candidate who is proudly sure of the support of the people because of good leadership and achievements doesn’t need to buy the people, and the people who support the agenda of a politician, do not need to sell themselves. You may again blame poverty for this behavior, but there were many poor local voters who did not sell themselves. I guess that if people wouldn’t prefer to “keep the change”, decent change would occur.

I was in Biton for a swim. The sea was clean and the scenery fantastic. So I was in my element for such experiences always inspire me- no longer to swim but just to sit and walk around and absorb and be absorbed by the beauty of being. It should have been a perfect day had it not for this ear-rupturing comment that I heard from a German who lives there: “Ohne corruption, würde es keine Filipinos mehr geben”- that “Without corruption, Filipinos would cease to exist.” What a disparaging generalization coming from somebody who doesn’t even know Heine or Feuerbach. The poetry of the day was instantly gone! Now comes dirty politics again- in a place I never expected. But that German did not expect the same that this time he won’t go unpunished for his arrogant comments. The winds changed direction as I began to frame the debate within the greater context of world history and current events in Germany. Were it not for the gentle kicks under the table and oculesics coming from my “camp” telling me to slow down, the place would have burned- in the fire of my apologia, naturally.

Yes, incompetent leaders, corrupt presidents, justices and generals, Ampatuan monsters, astronomic foreign debts, corruption, vote-buying, political violence, poor education and ignorance have increased our vulnerability. You can’t help but defend- it’s instinctive- even if you know there is a kernel of truth and even when it comes from a primitive German whose trunk reminds one of a huge barrel of beer about to break. (He told me his family name is Krüger. Krug is the German for jug or pitcher, and Krüger means a jugmaker. There is a Geman idomatic expression which says, “Der Krug geht so lange zum Brunnen, bis er bricht.” or, ” The jug goes to the well until it breaks”, which means, one day you’ll take it too far and you’ll come to grief. I think Mr. Krüger went too far that lovely afternoon…but we sailed home quick before the breaking.)

Now, as a nation, as a town, how do we manage vulnerability, how do we keep ourselves from breaking totally? This brings us back to the old discussions about electoral, political, educational and moral reforms. For now, I would say go for change, but avoid keeping the change for when money dictates, the bad tradition continues and so as this social order with all its problems.

Ninoy Aquino has vowed to combat corruption, hence, to introduce vulnerability management-“If there were no corrupt, there would be no poor.” He said that “Corruption is the single biggest threat to our democracy. It deprives the poor of the social services they badly need. It destroys the very moral fiber of our society. No reform agenda will succeed without a determined program to eradicate corruption.”

Well, this sounds good to start with. Good intention deserves support. Be reminded, however, that a campaign mantra is not a solution yet to the problem of corruption. I expect to see his concrete vulnerability management plan as soon as he assumes office.

But it’s in planning that one is faced with various factors that must be considered: He needs to have a solid presence in the Congress; the huge national debt of over P4.358 trillion and the pressures from the international lending institutions (IMF, WB) will surely have effects on his policies on taxations and budget spending. Fighting corruption means not only law enforcement and putting behind bar corrupt colleagues but-in my view- a fight against poverty and for better education. And here I see the problem that Aquino will face in his fight against corruption: it’s the problem of capital. How can he spend more for education and against poverty amidst the huge national debt and pressures from the lending institutions? Don’t you know that you owe these institutions P47, 247? Yes, each of us 92 million Filipinos carry this debt burden.

But still, the point that he is determined to fight corruption is already a good attitude (what Arroyo has lacked) as president-elect. For as Nietzsche says “‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how”. I suggest though that the people should support Aquino’s why but be cautious with his almost anyhow. Pay back the debts, but not at the expense of education and health programs.

Back to the poor people, it is right not to forget the poor and aim for the reduction and elimination of poverty in the Philippines- this is a social and moral responsibility of modern man. But in my observation, this slogan of helping the poor is a tool being used and abused by the rich, the oligarchs, and trapos to maintain their power and status quo. Truth be told, politics (Erap para sa mahirap, Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap, etc…) and religion in our country capitalize on the poor. It is easy to manipulate a hungry man or community, the reason why vote-buying works perfectly(and this first automated election has intensified it because there were no more ballot boxes for politicians to hijack) – the same with the promises of better (After-) life by materialistic religious preachers.

But did Philippine politics and church ever mention protecting, sustaining and strengthening the middle class? The middle class in the Philippines is disappearing and many of these people have been displaced outside the Philippines- those skilled migrant workers and intellectual capital. We know that the middle class stabilizes the society, it’s not easily manipulated, hence serves as the catalyst of social change and reforms. As Aristotle had observed during his time- and that was between 384-322 BC!- “The best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class”. I think Aristole would find in Switzerland of today a fine example of his community.

What made the voters brave the sun and wait for hours just to vote a corrupt candidate? That bloated German would argue that they were paid, that’s why. But even if I were paid, I would back out just because of the heat and the thirst and would not fall in line again. Indeed, faith moves mountain. For in that election day, I travelled around Luzon to observe and I was moved by the scenes I have seen. I thought that there must be something more to this. It’s neither just because of the most despised Arroyo administration nor of the cash that the politicians distributed but I think the Filipinos of today still have this faith that they could improve their country- and repay the debts we owe.

But there is a backlash to this, and that is the psychology of Filipino voters: This month’s election has shown that Filipino voters- bought or not- vote in terms of what is familiar already regardless of the records. Old names like Marcos, Estrada, Revilla, Enrile, Aquino- and even Arroyo or Ampatuans are back or have remained in the political scene. This mental attitude prevents change and gives the impression to any observer that Filipinos have impaired memory or simply “crazy” to vote for an ex-convict for president or support murdering political clans in the south.

And still, there are the local municipalities with their entrenched ruling warlords who won’t be ready to give up their extra sources of income like jueting, illegal logging, mining or sneaky little daily forms of deceit like that of adding an extra 0 (zero) on the receipt/check than the amount actually spent or issued (900 pesos is swiftly earned out of 100 pesos!). Laws against such crimes already exist, what Noynoy needs is to “enforce” law enforcement. Noynoy was not a high performance congressman of Tarlac(1998 to 2007) and senator (2007-2010) and not a single bill that he passed became a law but he could use his “moral” and political capital in defining his position in the country and using the right momentum to get things running from Day One, a difficult task for he has to wrestle first against the midnight sabotage that Gloria Arroyo has orchestrated.

Well, again we have an economist as president-elect and we all hope that he is not for keeping the change as Arroyo was but for a reduction of our national vulnerabilities, no matter how “noynoy” (little) it is.


Doing Things Right and Doing the Right Thing



By Oliver Geronilla


 Most of the columns that I write for dailies and the articles that I turn in here at BO dwell on empirical matters that reflect our current state of affairs including, of course, my take on them.

For the columns that I write or co-write for newspapers, I get paid. For the articles I write for BO, I don’t get paid, but I feel elated. In both cases, I do my best to turn out highly credible and well-written commentaries. That’s my pledge, my commitment to the art of writing. And that, for me, is the right thing to do, isn’t it?

 Here at BO, after reading some pieces or comments, observers can opt to do many things. In fact, they have a wide range of alternatives to choose from in order to express their views on what they read and perceive. They can talk about them with their neighbors, their colleagues, their friends, and their family members; they can also keep a journal; or they can even “harness” BO as a platform to share their thoughts and ideas. After all, it is a “place” where such observations can be expressed and hopefully read and understood by the readers.

 Talking about reading, we all know that there are what we call passive readers and active readers. Both of them are observers, but not both of them are active participant-observers. When participation takes place, that observer joins the discussion by giving comments and suggestions or by writing articles. Mr. Jess Guim is a good example of an active participant-observer. He does not simply pontificate, he practices what he preaches.

 We have more examples of active participant-observers who have graced the electronic pages of BO with their well-thought-out articles. Sometimes, you see them, sometimes you don’t. Just like good neighbors, we refrain from being intrusive, from giving unnecessary provocation, from being snooty. We just give them all the space and time that they need; and in some rare occasions, we coax “observers” to say their piece in a unified prose. Alas, only a few have risen to that challenge. Do I have qualms about that? No, I don’t. Not even an iota.

 That’s doing the right thing.

 Going back to the subject of writing, we know that normally, effective writers are good observers. But are good observers also effective writers? Your guess is as good as mine. Writing style is a matter of taste. Effective writing is a matter of discipline; it reflects erudition; it promotes learning. There’s no single formula towards achieving fluidity in prose. Otherwise, it’d be like math where precision and accuracy reign.

 Writing should not be confused with the rules of grammar or diction. Writing is the end-result of our experiences, both professional and personal.

 So, my question is: why do we give pieces of advice on the ropes of writing when some of us have not even shown a proof of what constitutes “good writing”? Remember, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

 Our discussion on “writing” has drawn many comments from our readers. I just don’t see the need to tell others what to do. Even in writing workshops, we try to do away from giving run-of-the-mill suggestions. What we usually do is to encourage and guide participants to express themselves more succinctly without sacrificing clarity and content. And this entails practice and professional training. That’s doing things right.

 I am a writer, and I know what it takes to be one. For the serious ones, writing is a highly cerebral artistic expression; for the uninitiated, it is nothing but a mere form of human communication.

 Sadly, I can see a correlation between the issues we’ve tackled here about writing and the issues that haunt the kind of politics and politicians that we have in Bulan. They share the same problem.

 We always seem to know what is right. We always tell them what to do. And when we don’t get what we want, we raise a hue and cry about them.

 But can we blame them? Can you blame us? Until now, the LGU appears to have been under a spell of silence. Its PIO has remained mum about my queries. Is this the right thing to do? Is he doing things right? My blind horse neighs. Is it because I am just crying wolf? Beats me.

 Well, Mr. Gilana is an able participant-observer. And he is a good writer too. That is sure as God made little green apples. But what happened? Has he been reduced to silence with my questions?

 I am sometimes tempted to give him unsolicited advice—to do this, to do that. But that is simply not me. And that is not the right thing to do.


From Everything To Nothing


by jun asuncion


Transparency and accountability are two things that are so earthly. You don’t blame the universe if it’s hard for people on Earth in responsible governmental positions to cultivate these two qualities while in office and having access to the material which the Bible calls the source of evil: Money. But one time I reasoned out that it’s not money but our basic instincts that are the real causes of our “evil” actions- the instinct of hunger, the libido instinct, etc. Later, I realized that instincts per se  are not evil for how can they be evil  if they keep you survive, protect you from dying?

What is the source of evil then, a source that is true for all men? I found out, however, that- to come to a satisfying answer to this question- first we should know what is evil. What then is evil? What  is an evil thought, what is an evil action?

Again, I realized that there are many definitions of evil, depending on the  discipline from which you view it, – philosophical, legal, theological, psychological, etc. I also think that it is indeed a relative case because people from different professions, cultures, and people having different views of the world have different conceptions or even experiences of evil. Therefore, since, I had no intention of writing a  lengthy “Treatise On Evil” for anyway I just wanted to make use of my coffee break  and post my thoughts as soon as it was time to go again,  I’ve concluded that evil is hard to define and so I just went back to the most personal knowledge of  evil or source of evil as I view it.

And exactly here,  I bounced my head against a thick wall  where I no longer knew what I know, where my thinking has failed me and led me  from everything to nothing. But in truth, it was not that there  was nothing left in my head but it was  my thinking that seemed to prevent me from arriving at a quick and simple solution to my coffee break dilemma: what is the source of evil?

About to go back to the music room when I remembered a video clip that was forwarded to me  by my  music teacher some years back. It is called the Black Hole. Alas, I found the answer in the middle of being within a black hole myself. It is Greed, that I think is the source of evil, and evil is the  negative, painful or destructive result or results that it brings to others and to the doer itself. Greed is not a basic instinct but is a distortion of the basic ones. For  there are no greedy animals, only hungry ones.

 And we know of greedy human beings even though they are not hungry. It can afflict everybody, rich or poor, weak or strong, educated or not, religious or not. If Greed is a human problem, then evil is a human problem. If  it’s our intelligence that created human civilization, it also distorted our instincts and the corresponding negative events that accompanied civilization.

 Hence, greed is the distortion of basic instincts by way of the mind. Colonization, wars, etc.. were basically driven by greed. On the personal level, it is responsible for many of our problems in human relationships like failed marriages, felonies of all sorts and even leads us to self-destruction or  self-imprisonment. Let’s watch the video:

Greed among our government officials is the root of all our problems in the Philippines, of all the evils of our society such as poverty. Poverty is evil because it is not supposed to occur in a country with abundant natural resources. It is evil because it leads to many other problems; it is evil because its root goes back to the greed of our political leaders. But at least its the same root that destroys them, the same evil that leads them  from everything to nothing- to their own black hole.

This video speaks the truth.


From Nothing To Everything


by jun asuncion


Today’s condensed thoughts while reading the write-ups of  Mr. Guim,  Mr. Geronilla and  Mayor Helen De Castro.


On Chess and Politics. Up to a certain point,  chess and politics do fit together because they both are concerned with power and winning. Only that in chess, the players have more intelligent options to choose from, whereas in politics you hardly have options, let alone intelligent ones; in chess you can sacrifice a move for the good of all, in Philippine politics, things or even people are sacrificed for the good of a few only.

Desire into action? It’s important that good desires be translated into action while in office; but of course there are lots of actions occurring in Philippine politics but mostly they are  translations of these permanent personal desires (interests).

Therefore, our people should empower themselves, should not wait to be empowered for the system does not allow it and- as the ruling class tend to see their power as God-given-  it would never voluntarily pass it to other people. The first step to empowerment of the people is for the people to realize that the power that their leaders enjoy is not God-given but People-given, that sovereignty resides in them and that all government authority emanates from them.

Leadership as God-given? Mayor Helen de Castro’s New Year 2010 Message to the people of Bulan has an over-all quality of a humble  reflection, But there was just this line in there that seem to reflect and reinforce the notion that our leaders still cling to the idea, albeit subconsciously, that leadership is God-given.

I qoute:

“Help us pray that we leaders must realize that we are nothing, and that from God emanates everything, especially this gift of leadership.”

Said privately this line is a prayer- and would not be open to interpretation or misinterpretation,  done publicly and in a Church,  it is, both ways. At the outset, I already saw  that  it collides  with the Article II,  Section 1 of the constitution which states  that “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. We acknowledge that life emanates from God, but that by His act of grace, we humans have been given this ability and intelligence to organize ourselves, make rules and laws for ourselves (positive law) to provide for peace, security and protection for our  rights  and responsibilities so that  a just society of humans be made possible.

We don’t take issue on the fact that our good human qualities- including the gift of leadership- have their origin from God, but we should formally separate  leadership that’s  emanating from God (God-given) from leadership that’s emanating or mandated  by the people; separate Church and the State, religion and politics.

 We know that political leadership is connected with power and authority, rights and privileges and that all of these- in a republic and democratic state-  should rather be viewed as emanating  from the people, thus making sure  that our government does not slide to Absolutism or Theocracy by putting things in proper places.

Therefore, it’s a tightrope walk for a  municipal executive  belonging to a local political clan to combine words like “especially”, “gift”, ” leadership”, “God” , “emanation” and to choose a church as a venue to deliver such a speech. But verily I think that this is not done on purpose – at least this line in the speech- but only a heedless sentence construction.

I think that  for an elected public leader, it is more safer to use such phrase  like God- fearing or God-inspired leadership,

Or, if I may rewrite this line in the speech, it would be simply like this: ” God, from whom all good things flow, guide us leaders  to humbly serve You as we lead and serve the people of Bulan.”

Popular sovereignty:  A Filipino illusion? Popular sovereignty is defined in most dictionaries or in Wikipedia  as the “belief that the legitimacy of the state is created by the will or consent of the people who are the source of every political power.” The Philippine Constitution clearly defines it as residing in the people and that all political authority emanates  from them.

But where are the Filipino people and where is this popular sovereignty? The fact  is that this sovereignty is not well-respected in the Philippines by our government officials. They make use of this sovereignty during the election and forget about it the next day once they got elected. Our presidents- with the exception perhaps of the late President Cory Aquino- were leading in this respect. The best proof of this is this culture of impunity and corruption. Only the chief executive can be held responsible for such a mess when corrupt or criminal people from politics, business and military go unpunished. Such a mess is an insult to people’s sovereignty, an abuse of the power entrusted to them.

Indeed, it is true that popular sovereignty is just a concept, it is not a full reality in our society, not yet;  for now, it begins and ends with election. In some societies, this concept as defined by Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke and Franklin is a fully translated reality and the absence of  culture of impunity, grand scale corruption and state treasury  plunderers are  proofs to this.

Hence, the key to our progress definitely lies in this concept of popular sovereignty. This constitutional “desire” could be translated into action in two ways: The government should respect and protect it, and the people should be aware of it and use it effectively. One concrete example: For 2010 candidates, don’t buy people’s votes, for the people, don’t sell your votes. This is a simple working definition of respected popular sovereignty. 

Kairos: From Nothing to Everything. Back to chess and politics: When politicians humbly sacrifice anything, it is done to make something in their favor, like a chess player sacrificing the bishop to capture the queen. Hence, to show humility, make oneself small by acknowledging nothingness and asking for  forgiveness before a crowd of constituents has actually the hidden effect of making oneself bigger and stronger in the minds and hearts of the people. Who would not forgive a kneeling and pleading Ina san bungto? But don’t fail to see that forgiving is accepting, and that acceptance by the people is precisely that what every politician highly desires. For this means secured votes in the coming election; hence, from nothing to everything.

Contrasting points or events in a speech, play or music are moments when magic things happen, from nothing to everything, when this Kairos happens, a  Tyllichian-inspired word as  employed in our mayor’s New Year’s speech,  this part of which I now quote:

“Ini na presente na panahon nato niyan, nan an maabot na mga adlaw nan taon, kisyera maging sayo na Kairos, o panahon sin pambihira na engkuentro san Mahal na Dios nan Tawo. Let 2010 be a Kairos, a supreme moment of encounter between us and our God. Let it be a Kairos, o momento na kun haen an mga krises sa buhay ta maging panahon sin oportunidad. Let this year be a Kairos of Grace.”

Kairos means time for the ancient Greeks, the right time  or  supreme moment, hence, is qualitative in nature as opposed to  chronos which is the ordinary sequential time, hence, quantitative in nature.

However, it is unknown to many of us that Kairos is a rhetorical technique employed  by the ancient Greek Sophists.

Election is a Kairos in itself, a special moment for the country and for each candidate. But then again, it is also a rhetoric time,  a time of promises, of verbal combats, of personal advertisement in every imaginable venue- even a Church.

This reminds me of those inuman sa kanto in Canipaan or elsewhere in Bulan where verbosity increases with the number of shots of gin. That’s also a moment of Kairos when the discussants reach the heights of their geniuses and  agree without knowing, in loud, drunken voices that everything  discussed shall be forgotten the next day.

We are not suggesting that Mayor De Castro’s prayer for a Kairos of Grace  will lead to nothing the next day. For already at that very  moment of delivering her New Year’s speech, a Kairos  of Grace already occurred to her because the people who were  in the  church were also in search for a Kairos, for magic moments.

                                                   ———– end———



This Or These: The Tyranny Of Words And The Agony Of Choice


by  jun asuncion


 To Bulan Observers

We always enjoy constructive discussion or criticism for it  leads us to improvement or stimulate our thinking- as opposed to discussion or criticism that is closed, no substance, undifferentiated, egoistic and even sadistic.

On Perfection and the striving for Excellence

I give credit to the arguments presented both by Mr. Geronilla and Mr. Bulan in conjunction with Mr. Geronilla’s posted article  Have A Way With Words  in as much as we are operating within the context of constructive discussion.

Language is a tool to convey our thoughts and feelings, the very substance of communication. If you can get this substance across with simple English, then why not? This is what Mr. Bulan had in mind, a more practical application of the tool.

But language as a tool becomes an art when one strives to use it to show the beauty of its form; hence, the striving for excellence  according to Mr. Oliver Geronilla. This entails sticking to the formal rules. And so, if you can get your substance across in an artistic way, why not?

The next thing  is that this tool can become not only as an art but a profession. And here is the crux of the matter, of this discussion.

What’s the signficant difference when a pistol is in the hands of a trained law-enforcer- as in the hands of a criminal? The pistol is in the hands of  someone restricted by laws and by profession with respect to his public behaviour and right usage of the pistol (or any other weapon) at any given situation.

This is Oliver’s situation; he carries this responsibility in any given (written) situation  for that is his profession and this explains his being particular in expressing himself in perfect English. Why not express (write) the professional way?

But, if I may add something, it’s not totally fitting when he says that he is not striving for perfection but for excellence, for it is by trying to be excellent that we are actually striving for perfection, and also because these two words are just the two sides of the same coin; perfection is that ideal form (the highest state or goal) and excellence is the striving (action) for this ideal form.

But perfection is not equal to impossibility- at least when talking about the language. If you abide by the agreed or standard rules of  the American English grammar for instance, you can surely construct a perfect sentence and then a perfect paragraph. Isn’t it so?

Hence, to  recognize the error and to correct it is just a proof of our striving for perfection.

Nobody is perfect?

This is a cliche’ and normally by this we mean or understand that  everybody makes mistakes or has some flaws in character, judgement or in appearance.

But who’s definition of Perfection is being used in this statement?

 We will not go deeper into it it but at least let us mention Aristotle’s definition of perfection (In his book of Metaphysics) which is,  that 1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts; 2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better; 3. which has attained its purpose.

Therefore, if I would look at any normal  human being or an apple tree with Aristotle’s definition of perfection, I would say that human being or apple tree is perfect.

If human being could be perfect, why not a sentence or a paragraph?

But, roughly speaking, if you prefer Mr. Bulan’s view of accepting imperfections as along as the argument has a substance, it is also alright for this view has also its philosophical tradition, namely that of another Greek, Empedocles, who maintained that the world is imperfect and  that imperfection possesses that pull to completeness and ultimately to perfection as it develops with time, a concept adopted by the Italian esthetics in the baroque period by insisting that perfection is completed in the mind and imagination of the one viewing an art work.

Viewing an art work?  How about in reading a comment or article here in BO with such minor lapses in grammar or spelling? Can we really apply here Mr. Empedocles’ view on perfection?

Of Bulan pupils perfecting in their minds the imperfect  grammar or spelling they are noticing here in Bulan Observer?

Well, there is a hope. Because if they “notice” such errors, this means they have learned their lessons well at school.

Hence, it is imperative for the language instructors in our schools in Bulan to master the language they are teaching.

The other side of the coin:

A Necessity

“Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity.” Karl Marx

 Mr. Geronilla is right to say that edition is needed for any printed message. For me alone, an editor would have a very hard job editing “my” English, a language which-before I even  had the chance to master it, has been buried deep in time, eaten up by the worms of oblivion when I went back to it  for a purpose. I wasn’t sure anymore if I could ever use it to even  form some basic phrases. I tried because there was this necessity.

Now, had I let myself be intimidated by English, I wouldn’t have met some good friends from Bulan. Sometimes you just need to do it, don’t wait for perfection for it will never come- at least in my case! That you just go for it. This is the lesson I learned in jazz music. Afraid to play an improvised solo in front of an audience? Forget it, just play! My guitar teacher was right. Perfection is a goal in every artist, even for the ones whom we think are already at the crest of the wave. The way to it is only through practice and deep reflection- this is the only way, again the way to something we cannot after all reach- at least subjectively. For perfection is not only the technical side of the craft, but it involves the question of the longing of our soul for something even better, something new- the will 0′ the wisp.

Afraid to make mistakes? Well, who’s not? Again, it takes courage and the will to overcome that which we set as our own limits. Courage can indeed open up new horizons, new possibilities for positive changes. At least you have tried- even you have failed, but definitely you also have learned something during the entire process.

Kein Master ist vom Himmel gefallen as they used to say it in German- or No one is born a master. No one, yes but it seems that for some it doesn’t take long to be one. No matter in which group you may belong, there is no reason not to try to master any craft available here on earth and to try other crafts as well. In this way you don’t waste your precious time.

My back  up against the wall

I’ve been writing English for two years now and I’m still glued in the most basic level. There were moments though when I was  almost eaten up by my doubts that I almost removed Bulan Observer from the net. But the strong pull to send message to Bulaneños took the upper hand and so BO exists until now.

Now we have grown a little bit, we Bulan netizens. I’m glad about this development.

BO was conceived not as an On-Line Newspaper for flawless plain reporting or write-ups but as a platform where Bulaneños could loosely meet and express their views. That’s the reason why I was not particular about editing comments or contributions. One thing more, it needs a lot of time even- as I’ve mentioned- for my own posted articles alone. It is right that lapses in grammar in written form are not permissible to protect the young mind from being corrupted at least in this subject. I cannot argue against it.

LIFE itself is a flux

But, in essence, all our mistakes here are not intentional, and so,- placed against a greater context,- forgivable. That greater context is LIFE itself. Life allows growth, trials and experimentations; it allows spontaneity of activity, of emotions, fantasy and thinking. In short it is free. And for those who try, they make mistakes. For those who do not try, don’t make a lot of mistakes, just a bigger one.

In BO everybody is welcome to participate in this freedom. We will keep this blog form still for a while since it reflects our philosophy of life as a flux, a continues flowing event. A new message covers the last one; what is gone, is gone; the moment is the most important for here is the chance to be free, to be better than the past.

Like The back Of Our hands

Going back to language, there is no doubt as to the beauty and advantages of having mastered it, so in effect there’s nothing else to write about it. How about just being at the basic level, is there also beauty and advantages left to it?

I think there is: One is forced to be simple and make the most out of one’s limitations. Isn’t it great also? This is very much in line with our goals for our town: To be a different town from the rest aside from its given limitations.

With time, I have observed though that my limitation is becoming my strength for I can – with my simple style- give form to my simple way of thinking. Why make it complicated? My way of thinking has always been between intuitive and analytical, my writing expositional. The focus is primarily on insights and logical argumentation. For this purpose, it suffices an English level for everyone, with the set of vocabulary that we know like the back of our hands. Indeed, I discovered- without suggesting anything in my favor- that many great writers/thinkers whose impact were far-reaching and have changed history (Marx, Einstein…) were so simple in their writing style, without idioms overdrive or distortions, or as we say, without being  flowery. I’ve read their works in German.

Language and Thinking

The survival value or goal of communication through language is for two or more persons to make their personal needs or perception be known to others or for them to have common understanding of whatever issue that concerns them.

Hence, verbal and non-verbal forms of communication are of central importance and are present in all human societies and in lower animal forms as well. Language use is the expression of thoughts in man and in lower animals as well. But since man’s thinking is motivated by variety of needs and largely determined by his particular cultural setting, language has grown to be a very complex and specialized phenomenon.

With the increasing speed and specialization in communication technology, the global proliferation of subcultures on internet platforms, miscommunication seems to be increasing also as new words are coined all the time. How would you explain to your grandfather (or even to your wife!) words like Software Engineering, Blogging, Netizens, Netbook? Or Cloud Computing, Buzz Compliant, Green Washing? Many of us “younger” ones do not even know instantly the meaning of these words.

The tyranny of words

But even before the global invasion of these hi-tech neologisms, we even have to continue wrestling with the many idiomatic expressions that come across our reading or listening dasein. If you have to do with westerners you will notice that they just “open fire ” at you with their mother tongue(s) loaded with never-heard idiomatic expressions, words half-eaten but with the velocity of a bmw sports car- without the slightest respect to your language of origin. This is a sign of their assumed superiority or dominance, the expectation being that you should adjust to him- not he to you- if you want to understand him. Very much the same situation during our colonial times when they came and opened fire at us; thereafter, they decreed that we  learn their languages, on the condition that we keep our mouth shut.

The Agony Of Choice

Whether This or These, our tongue has been a split and twisted since the invasion of the aggressive and dominating Europeans and north Americans, forcing the local inhabitants to adopt their languages and relegate their own behind for they were inferior. The reason why most of us write in English and not in Tagalog for we are “educated,”- educated the western way, not the Filipino way, hence, we are not- as a rule- masters of our own mother languages. For this reason, we suffer this agony of choice, a suffering symptomatic of the lack of cohesive cultural identity.

 Too many choices split not only the tongue but also the mind,  hinder the mastery of anything we can call “perfectly” our own. I have always dreamed of writing in a mother language, of how it would feel to observe foreigners writing in Tagalog, have often envied a good German friend of mine with whom I write some articles in German, his own mother language. Speaking about language,  Germany is a country without too many choices and therefore had produced people like Heine, Goethe, Nietzsche, Kant, Marx, Böll, Grass and all other philosophers and poets that we know. All of them wrote their masterpieces in German, their everyday language!

On Idioms: a cultural invasion

Idioms are great to spice up the language and I wish I possessed this knowledge. Idioms for idiot? Why not. I’ve read that both idiom and idiot came from Greek root “idios” which means “of one’s own” or “private”, that at that time idiot meant someone not interested in public affairs- a key duty in ancient Athens. Huh, If I don’t know these idioms, I should at least be interested in Bulan public affairs!

Roughly speaking, I have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards idiomatic expressions-  or the overly use of them: On the one side, idioms seem to facilitate communication, on the other, they seem to obscure communication as they inject- mentally or even just visually- unwanted associations. But evidently idioms of a foreign language appear illogical to non-native speakers.

Idioms are “figures of speech” whose meaning is derived not from the meaning of collocated words literally but from a group’s consensus or experience of how a phrase should mean whose meaning naturally evolves with time. But basically, idiom is a colloquial language (partly a slang) , hence, is understood only within a particular cultural context.

 And there are many of these cultural contexts! But what’s the connection, you may ask. It is because we are- as average language users (as opposed to language super-users, like Mr. Geronilla), are frequently encountering idioms in the English language that are in themselves not originating from the English or American cultures but from other non-English speaking cultures as well. These foreign idioms are translated in English naturally. Take for instance this expression Not hanging noodles on your ears. Originally, this is a Russian expression which means in American idiom Not pulling  someone’s leg – or not  kidding  or fooling someone. It appears that to know all these idioms, it is like seizing the moon by the teeth (has nothing to do with capturing Bulan by the teeth), this time a French expression for attempting the impossible. And what has death to do with Kicking the bucket? And how about these:

To reheat cabbage: to rekindle an old flame (Italian).

When the crayfish sings on the mountain: never (Russian).

Cleaner than a frog’s armpit: to be poor, broke (Spanish).

To think one is the last suck of the mango: to be conceited (South American Spanish).

Onions should grow in your navel: a mild insult (Yiddish).

Brew tea from dirt under another’s fingernails: to learn a bitter lesson (Japanese).

Belch smoke from the seven orifices of the head: to be furious (Chinese).

Don’t be intimidated by just these few examples for there are tens of thousands of them.

It is interesting to note that many academic elite, scholars take pride in using idiomatic expressions to delineate their higher status from others, mostly from the less educated social strata or subgroups, when in fact most idiomatic expressions originated from these subgroups, from the street people, from the ghettos, from the urban working-class, rural folks, from the farmers, fishers…

The How’s and Why’s Of Language

Idioms- along with phonetics and phonology (the study of speech sounds), morphology (word structures), syntax (word combinations, sentences), semantics (actual  meaning of words and sentences), pragmatics (role of context)- are subjects of study  belonging  to the science of linguistics, or psycholinguistics. Here, you go deeper than just learning the rules, spellings, idioms, vocabularies and writing style,  a field which is very interesting  for it takes into account the  psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, comprehend and produce language.

A great authority on this subject is  the psycholiguinguist ( and a politica observer)  Noam Chomsky, whose concept of generative grammar- his term for syntax- is based on the concept of Universal Grammar, an innate apparatus in every human being and is simply evident in the tremendous speeed the children absorb the language(s) around them, able to form complex sentences right after they have learned the most basic features. This connects us to depth psychology, to Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of the archetype (such as the mother, hero, animus, anima, etc.) which is all about the innate psychological dispositions- or prototypes of human experience as contained in the collective unconscious-  in man. But this will bring us too far and too technical so we’d rather stop at this point.

But why do human beings communicate with such distorting and seemingly illogical combination of words as in idiomatic expressions? Indeed, there seems to be a lot of psychology and a lot of Freudian components in each language. Why for instance say Wait till the fat lady sings when one can simply say wait till the final moment? I wouldn’t use it when a lady twice my weight is sitting beside me.

The German language is also overflowing with such expressions and they even take  more grotesque forms in some cases. Expression like In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen (literally translated, in dire straits the devil eats flies) which is roughly equivalent to Beggars can’t be choosers. But why the words devil (Teufel) and flies (Fliegen)?  In any case, this whole affair with the idioms shows us that language communication does not allow only perfectly constructed sentences but also combination of seemingly unrelated words  or  “imperfect” sentences. And if  you would do a study on the text messages of our young Bulaneños today, then I wish you by now good luck.


Have A Way With Words


by  Oliver Geronilla


The power to communicate effectively and wisely sets us apart from our primitive roots, but it’s the ability to understand and respond pragmatically and strategically that clearly makes us truly civilized.

Last year, BO readers were exposed to all sorts of communicators. Some were glib if not voluble; others were taciturn and even curt. You could easily tell it from the way they communicated their ideas using logos, pathos, and ethos which all got entwined all in the name of being heard and read. This only tells us one thing: there’s a need for us to have a “reliable” platform like BO where people can freely express their innermost thoughts and even simple observations without the fear of being censured.

Ceteris paribus, it’s simply beyond me when I see or read BO contributors turning in articles or comments decrying politicking when in fact they themselves engage in it verbally or otherwise. That’s the pot calling the kettle black!

This is quite contagious; and we can see this form of verbal malady all over the country. Unfortunately, the incumbent Mayor did not spare herself from being a victim of this political disease which GMA was a victim too. In Mayor De Castro’s 2009 Year-End Report to the People of Bulan, she did not mince (her) words in telling her constituents about how she felt being “criticized” by her political rivals.

That should have been stricken off the report as it did not help bolster her sense of leadership; nor did it help her exude her favorite catch-phrase “Ina san bungto.” In fact, it weakened the almost linguistically well-polished speech she (and perhaps her speech writer) prepared. That destroyed the spirit of Christmas which, according to Christopher Dilts, is all about “seeing the goodness in others, recognizing, acknowledging and reflecting this goodness back to them. This can be done with a loving look, a kind gesture, a warm embrace, a few words of encouragement, or an expression that is as rich and elaborate as you wish.”

Well, she somehow saw the goodness in it by saying that “naging danun ini para maging inspirasyon na lalo namo pakay-adon an pag-administrar nan paglingkod sa iyo.” That and only that. The other elements were missing which I believe would have made her a better ‘mother” had she gone further by hinting at the possibility of working together despite the ugly past that has put them at a very awkward position in being role-models of goodwill and statesmanship.

A doting mother, as we all know, welcomes back to her arms all her children, prodigal or not, without conditions. But that’s far from the gist of her accomplishment report which reeked of angst and frustration. As such, the glaring paradox in her annual accomplishment report has made me wonder how she could continue being a good mother of our beloved town when she still harbors ill-feelings towards those “people who might have gone astray.”

Had she not used the word “ina’ in her report only to bash her critics around prosodically, I wouldn’t  have any qualms about her sincerity in leading Bulan towards a united, progressive, and God-fearing community.

Alas, she’s not properly coached to use language more skillfully to unite her constituents.

Still, I tip my hat to the present corps of leaders of Bulan for continually communicating with us (and hopefully continuously next time)–a step more important than the political junkets that most candidates would be busy undertaking these coming local and national elections.

My (desired) present for everyone this year: the gift of the gab minus the roar of the tiger.

Happy New Year!


Choose Freedom First

by jun asuncion


The year 2010 is finally here- and lucky are those who survived because 2009 was a year of calamities and human tragedies for the Filipinos.

Still, the tired Filipinos have the right to wish for a better year this time, a year with less natural devastations and a new national leadership that would give them back the face of dignity that they have lost and inspire them to continue fighting for the virtues they dearly hold.

Hence, this new year is our chance to go a step forward by choosing a president that has a stately character and the intelligence that’s focussed on how to improve our situation. That’s why choose freedom first above everything else and then choose your president this year.

I can no longer imagine another four or eight years of weak national leadership , another years of deception and series of insult to the Filipino mind. That’s why be wise this time, protect your mind, consider a bigger cause and then choose your president this year.

The Philippines is still not the nation we have envisioned. It is deep within it fragmented and has no direction- the reason why there is no peace and progress.

Though we may proudly declare ourselves anytime and anywhere of being friendly and hardworking Filipinos,  in truth we have no common defined goals on how to change the situations that for decades have been hindering our progress. That’s why we need a national leader that will give us this definition that we need and support our personal struggles for a nation. A multi-ethnic place like the Philippines needs a strong and incorruptible national leader who will work for and not against a Filipino nation, who will put to end this culture of impunity and replace it with culture of justice and human rights; a national leader that places national interests first than  patronage politics.

This could be too much of an expectation for this means to go against the flow of the Philippine real politik. But this is exactly we need in this socio-economic dead-end, somebody who will break the old wall and lead us to the other side where there is more space for positive growth and development.

The same way with our local governments: Choose freedom first and then choose your mayor and governor. Respect your local officials  and political candidates but don’t trade freedom for slavery. It’s more human to be poor yet free than to be poor and be a slave. Avoid manipulation of all kinds, fight for your integrity and choose freedom first.

This is the privilege we enjoy each start of the year – to reset ourselves inwardly and  to dream again for a better Philippines. Indeed, it’s a new beginning for each of us, but an end to those who choose to remain un-free and who have stopped dreaming.

Personally, you might have lost good friends and/or failed to reach your goals you have set for yourself last year. But this should not stop you from dreaming anew. The new year will also bring you new friends when old ones are gone and a new hope so that you can set up new goals again.

Friendship and politics are two things that go hand in hand: Good friendship stays and endures the test of time and expectations, hence has a deeper  quality and meaning. Good politicians are friends to the people for they work for the people’s welfare and never turn their back on the people once they have secured the power but maintain this friendship in an atmosphere of freedom and trust. The result is good governance.

To talk about freedom may sound altmodisch or old style. But for all we know- or for all that we don’t know- freedom needs to be defined and redefined constantly in a society that’s changing and struggling  like the Philippines. It is as old as philosophy itself but still remains the sine qua non of our political dasein and humanity. I’m experiencing that even in places considered to be the most free, progressive and democratic ones in the world, the people’s fight for freedom has never ceased. On the contrary, it’s omnipresent in their daily political debates and in their everyday dealing with one another.

 As a matter of fact, freedom is an issue as pressing as the issues on global warming and climate change and in a way, these issues affect one another: People who choose freedom first and whose freedom is respected have more impact on industries and government decision-making, hence can achieve more in their fight for a cleaner environment than their less-free counterparts in countries that don’t acknowledge such freedom.

The bottom-line now  is to keep your dream  and your passion for a free life. There, exactly in that place where you feel you’ve reached your own dead-end, break that wall and start again. This is really the only way to go to another higher definition within your self. Avoid people and situations that seem to compromise your inner balance or people who attack gladly your own weaknesses. Ignore them and focus on your own strengths so that you’ll be more happy and successful in your own ways.

And finally, don’t underestimate the value of dreaming for a better world for yourself because it is actually your good dream that keeps you alive in this world and keeps you breaking the walls.


The Logic Of Christmas

by  jun asuncion


I have always considered the teachings of Jesus Christ not only as a philosophy of morals but also of transcendentalism, Jesus being the first transcendentalist, way back earlier than the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who had maintained that “all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects.”

According to its adherents, transcedental philosophical and religious principles are not based on “falsifiable sensuous experience, but from the inner, spiritual or mental essence of the human”.

The most famous, human experience-transcending teaching of Jesus is: ” Love Your Enemy”.

The whole verse is to be found in Matthew 5:43-44:

“You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).”

Jesus has been telling his disciples to get out of the ordinary by asking them for instance what is being special or extra-ordinary in loving only the people who love you already?

Hence to be a Christian is to be extra ordinary- to be a transcendentalist, obviously not an easy discipline to practice for many of us.

This is how I understand the yearly celebration of Jesus’ birth, of Christmas Day, which is to remind us not to give up this difficult teaching but allow it to become part of our morals as we mature in our spiritual existence.

This is a concept not easy for anyone to grasp whose mental focus is very much fixated or embedded in the material sensation only. Only intuition and a very personal religious experience reveals to the person the immediate meaning of this particular teaching of Jesus.

So for me, when someone wishes me a “joyous Christmas” it is not an easy task but I thank that someone for helping in reminding me of this difficult teaching  of  “joyously” Loving Your Enemy.

On a very personal level, this Jesus’ teaching and this joyous wish are even much more complicated and maybe painful,  yet interrelated. If you let me explain why, here it is:

In human experience, enemies (of varying degree and classification perhaps) do not come out of the blue or out of total strangers but they come mostly from your own personal acquaintances or friends- hence from people you once respected or even loved!

They come not directly from strangers for on the contrary, we usually win acquaintance or friendship from meeting with strangers, of getting to know the unknown.

Do you not notice also that when you’re in actual trouble they are your friends whom you lose the first and mostly help comes from just  shallow acquaintances or even complete strangers?

Hence, it is friendship that also breeds enemies for expectations and interests of each one involved collide with time.

Jesus is right again in His logic: To Love Your Enemies should actually not be a difficult task for these enemies were once our friends we had loved and perhaps once shared our dreams and visions. 

“Merry Christmas!”

jun asuncion


Cultured Corruption, Not Culture Of Corruption

by  jun asuncion


It’s impressive this Culture Of  Honesty among ordinary Bulaneños and interesting how it supports the findings of the Reader’s Digest Global Honesty Test conducted last 2007 wherein Manila placed 5th among other world cities tested (see report below).

There is reason to have faith then in our people’s inherent integrity and sincerity, indispensable values for the town to progress.

However,  in man everything is there, all these polarities and paradoxes of values ( a fact that the physicist Heisenberg himself had problem understanding how in a system, i.e., in man, good and bad traits – honesty and dishonesty, sanity and insanity, etc. –  can exist and function at the same time).

Hence, to inhibit the negative and to elicit the positive in us, we need- aside from educational system- role models in our society.

Here is where the problem comes at least in the Philippines. For it is a common public knowledge that the incumbent national administration is marred with corrupt practices. The whole world knows about this.

This is a burden to the people and to all other local executives that may actually be honest to their constituents for there is a strong tendency for the public to generalize. And if there are anomalies or scandals in their local government- proven or not- this tendency becomes reinforced, things heard taken as true, becoming common public knowledge.

It’s difficult then for Filipino politicians in the present time. Had the president  et al  been honest and sincere, the Filipinos would have been more positive  in their perception of the local public servants also.

Judging from his publication, Bulaneño was specifically talking about the culture of corruption in the local administration of Bulan based on the COA’s findings and recommendations. In his blog he presented only these facts, no more, no less. But if he had fabricated these facts by himself, then that would be utmost denunciation, pure dishonesty. One thing more, he should prove his allegation before the court, not before the people (for they have no direct judicial power). And the court is not interested in this “common public knowledge” but only in hard evidence.

However, the fact that these issues got publicized again just a few months before the election would lead anyone to believe that this is indeed politically motivated.

Be that as it may, we just leave it to our Culture Of Honesty in Bulan to decide for itself.

In effect: Cultured Corruption, not Culture of Corruption, should properly describe the effect of the Arroyo administration to public perception, national or local.

jun asuncion


Reader’s Digest’s Global Honesty Test

Are people honest?

Reader’s Digest conducts global cell phone honesty test: Researchers ‘lose’ mobile phones in 32 cities, and two thirds are returned

By Reader’s Digest Association

Jul 23, 2007 – 6:02:20 PM

If you were sitting on a park bench and noticed that a “lost” cell phone was ringing, would you answer it? And if so, and a stranger’s voice on the other end asked you to take time from your busy day to return the phone, what would you do? Hang up? Keep the phone? Or, agree to return it?

That’s exactly what Reader’s Digest editors wanted to find out. And so the world’s most widely read magazine used its network of global editions to conduct an informal test of honesty around the world, asking reporters in the most populous cities in 32 countries to leave 960 mid-priced mobile phones in busy public places.

Local researchers from each country arranged and conducted their own tests, observing the mobiles from a distance. They rang the phones and waited to see if anyone would answer, and then watched to see if the person would (1) agree to return it, (2) call later on preset numbers that were programmed into the handsets, or (3) keep the phones for themselves. After all, these were tempting, brand-new phones with usable airtime.

The researchers tallied the results, interviewed test participants, and filed their reports in many of the August editions of Reader’s Digest, including the Web edition of U.S. Reader’s Digest (www.rd.com) and U.S. Selecciones magazine. While the study was not scientific, the results provided a fascinating human interest story.

“What we found out surprised and intrigued us,” said Conrad Kiechel, Editorial Director, International. “In every single city where the test was conducted, at minimum almost half of the phones were returned. And despite the temptation that people must have felt to keep the phones, and the fact that the test imposed on everyone’s time, the average return rate was a remarkable 68 percent, or about two thirds of the 30 phones we dropped in each city.”

The test followed last year’s Reader’s Digest Global Courtesy Test, which made headlines worldwide. Like the 2006 test, it was developed and overseen by the magazine editors in each of the participating countries. Both programs dramatically illustrated the magazine’s remarkable geographic “footprint” by conducting simultaneous local tests and reporting the results globally.

The highest percentage of returned phones was in the smallest city, Ljubljana, Slovenia, with a population of only 267,000. All but one of 30 cell phones were returned. From a nun at a bus stop to a young waiter at a coffee shop (who also retrieved a leather jacket the reporter had accidentally left behind – not part of the test!), the residents in this picture-postcard city in the foothills of the Alps were almost universally helpful.

Could the citizens of a major metropolis, with all its stress and pressure, be as honest? The people of Toronto, Canada (population 5.4 million), came close, returning 28 of 30 phones. “If you can help somebody out, why not?” said Ryan Demchuk, a 29-year-old insurance broker, who returned the mobile.

Seoul, South Korea, was third in the rankings, followed by Stockholm, Sweden, where Lotta Mossige-Norheim, a railway ticket inspector, found the mobile on a shopping street and handed it back. “I’m always calling people who’ve left a handset on my train,” she said.

Tied for fifth place in the rankings with 24 returned phones were: Mumbai, India; Manila, the Philippines; and New York City.

In many countries, people said they believed the young would behave worse than their elders. Yet, in the test results, young people were just as honest. In New York’s Harlem section, 16-year-old Johnnie Sparrow arranged to meet a reporter later that evening. Arriving at the scheduled time flanked by a group of younger neighborhood boys who clearly looked up to him, Sparrow was surprised to learn that the lost phone wasn’t lost at all. But he was proud of how he reacted when he found it.

“I did the right thing,” he said with a smile.

Parental influence weighed heavily with some. “My parents taught me that if something is not yours, don’t take it,” said Muhammad Faizal Bin Hassan, an employee of a Singapore shopping complex, where he answered a ringing phone.

Many adults accompanied by children were keen to show the young people how to behave when they spotted a phone. In Hounslow, West London, Mohammad Yusuf Mahmoud, 33, was with his two young daughters when he answered a phone in a busy shopping street. “I’m glad that my kids are here to see this. I hope it sets a good example,” he said.

Women were slightly more likely to return phones than were men.

All over the world, the most common reason people gave for returning a phone was that they too had once lost an item of value and didn’t want others to suffer as they had. “I’ve had cars stolen three times and even the laundry from the cellar was taken,” said Kristiina, 51, who returned a phone in Helsinki.

So, how did planet earth perform in the honesty test? Everywhere, the locally based Reader’s Digest reporters heard pessimism about the chances of getting phones back, especially given economic and other pressures. And yet, globally, 654 mobiles, or 68 percent, were returned.

The Phones we got back, city by city Rank City Country Phones Recovered (out of 30)

1 Ljubljana Slovenia 29 (Phones)

2 Toronto Canada 28

3 Seoul South Korea 27

4 Stockholm Sweden 26

5= Mumbai India 24

Manila Philippines 24

New York USA 24

8= Helsinki Finland 23

Budapest Hungary 23

Warsaw Poland 23

Prague Czech Republic 23

Auckland New Zealand 23

Zagreb Croatia 23

14= Sao Paulo Brazil 21

Paris France 21

Berlin Germany 21

Bangkok Thailand 21

18= Milan Italy 20

Mexico City Mexico 20

Zurich Switzerland 20

21= Sydney Australia 19

London UK 19

23 Madrid Spain 18

24 Moscow Russia 17

25= Singapore Singapore 16

Buenos Aires Argentina 16

Taipei Taiwan 16

28 Lisbon Portugal 15

29= Amsterdam Holland 14

Bucharest Romania 14

31= Hong Kong Hong Kong 13

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 13


The Anatomy Of Destruction

by jun asuncion


The two super typhoons that went through and above the Philippines have reminded us again of our human vulnerability, but this time with such an intensity that hundreds of thousands of our countrymen were displaced from their dwellings, hundreds lost their lives, properties destroyed. Total chaos, total misery.

What is left now are the  vestiges of destruction,  the digital images of our sufferings that one can view anytime in internet and the herculean tasks of sustaining lives and of rebuilding all the damaged infrastructure. Today’s technology help much in spreading  our catastrophic situation and our call for help throughout the world. The millions of  Filipinos constituting the diaspora were in pain as they watch the videos and photos of their troubled countrymen; the same with the concerned international community. And they reacted quickly by organizing all forms of help. Sending financial help and fund-raising are also done swiftly with today’s technology. Thus, on one side, we are lucky that this destruction happened with this technology on hand. Still, it is a race against time; additional  suffering should not be inflicted to our homeless people by delaying the distribution of relief goods, the clean-up and rebuilding  of all infrastructure.

Are we Filipinos born only  to suffer and are we not entitled to a bit more comfortable existence? Being on the typhoon belt- and an average of 27 typhoons a year-  we are doomed to suffer losses in crop production and its effects. Crop producers and small farmers suffer the most. Invested capital and labor are lost. Unlike in some industrialized countries, farmers and crop-producers are subsidized and their products are insured from elementary hazards like water and fire. So after a virulent flood or hailstorm, farmers and crop-produces do not come out totally empty.

Our Filipino farmers have always been eeking out a living on the edge of existence. If we cannot move the Philippines away from the typhoon belt, then something should be done on the political level to improve the situation. It’s not politically correct to criticize the government in this present dire situation. But  typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng have  also exposed the anatomy of destruction in the Philippines brought about by corruption, exposed the unsubstantial  presidential speeches we heard not too long ago. The Philippines is  economically not after all on the verge of a take-off  but on the verge of drowning.

Before these floods, Filipinos were already flooded to apathy by empty debates in Congress and entertained to poverty by late night wowowee shows in Malacañang. Indeed, these devastating typhoons have also blown open the havoc of the myopic logic of greed that predominated the Philippine politics. With just thirteen rubber boats and with no budget allotment, how could the National Disaster Coordinating Council NDCC effectively and extensively perform their rescue operations? The financial resources went somewhere else.

Being frequented by typhoons every year, the Philippines should in fact be a world champion in typhoon-and flood disaster planning, should have anticipated such scale of destruction and should have been in possession of rescue materials like hundreds of rubber boats, rescue helicopters, etc. But the world has witnessed a capital city without such needed equipments and  materials. Malacañang was laid bare by Ondoy and globalized the truth of its lies and inefficiency.

It’s not wrong to be poor, but its wrong to continue being unrealistic. To hate the presence of the Americans in our country is- in my opinion-  one among our unrealistic ideas. Again, Ondoy and Pepeng have shown us that we need them. The presence of  US navy ships off the shore of Pangasinan, their rescue helicopters and rubber boats, their trained personnel, etc. have surely help the Filipinos in this emergency situation. Abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement VFA after that? That would be heedless – and lacking in utang na loob.

 I was once in favor of this idea, but not too long ago I found my attitude unrealistic- not because of the typhoons, but because of the terrorism and insurgency problems that we have in the Philippines. Alone and with empty arsenals, equipped only with pride, and with leaders at war with one another, we cannot combat these problems in the long run. Hence, not abrogate, just define the terms clearly and work with the Americans.

Wait till the fat lady sings or rather consult our advisers Ondoy and Pepeng?  //


Bulan Observer


Of Green Vegetables And Green-Eyed Monster in Bulan

 jun asuncion


“There is a family that live adjacent to the property. When my nephew planted the vegetables and were almost a foot tall, these people had their little children (ages 8-12) went over the fence and trampled on all the growing vegetables. When my nephew went there to see his plants, almost all were damaged from being trampled. This is the kind of mentality I find it hard to understand.” – Dora The Mouse

It is true. I have experienced this when I was a young pupil in Bulan South Central School. We used to have our gardening class under the late Mr. Gillego who was a strict teacher though,  I think,  was a very kind and considerate person. It just happened that one day we found our rows of vegetable plots all ravaged, pechay (chinese white cabbage)  twisted. So it was already common at that time to take revenge, express resentment or envy indirectly by destruction of plants. I have known this behavior but have forgotten it with the passage of time. Dora’s report made me sit down and write my thoughts about it.

Well, what a way to show crab mentality. For parents to tolerate such an anti-social and anti-nature destructive behavior is  “jenseits von Gut und Böse” (Nietzsche) – beyond good and evil.

In the face of poverty, this attack is also directed against the culprits themselves without them maybe realising this. But there is more to this phenomenon if we try to examine it closer.

Let’s go back to the roots- not the twisted roots of our pechay- but to the motivating forces behind such a behavior.

Envy. It is a very strong human emotion and it is activated only within inter-personal relations;  defined as an “emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it” or “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.”

Therefore,  it has something to do with one’s perception of him/herself  in relation to the other. Usually it leads to valuation of oneself in relation to the other, hence, self-esteem is very much connected to the emotion of envy. In general terms, people with low or negative self-esteem tend to be more envious of others. But low self-esteem is a human character trait, hence, not a poor-specific negative trait but is to be found even among the super rich and highly-intelligent  individuals.

Philosophers and psychologists have studied this human emotion at great length. For instance,  Aristotle  defined it  as “the pain caused by the good fortune of others”, and  Immanel Kant as “a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s”. Now, Bertrand Russel goes a step farther when he says that  envy not only renders the envious person unhappy  but also wishes to “inflict misfortune on others.”

To inflict misfortune on others.With these Bertrand’s words, the social component of envy now enters the scene and this is the point where this emotion becomes not only a purely personal affair but it becomes the cause of much of human social-interaction problems. As a rule, one intense negative emotion triggers another one such as anger which then translates itself into overt, aggressive action as trampling the garden vegetables or other things belonging to the other, directly or indirectly  hurting the other or in extreme cases to a much more heavier crimes like burning the other’s house, poisoning or murder. Between  families or clans this has led to vendettas or tribal hostilities, and among nations this has led to great wars- inflicting misfortunes on others.

Instinct of Competition. There is much more hidden in the seemingly normal and harmless emotion of envy. Beneath it is the mother of all survival instinct- that of competition. Biological creatures compete for natural resources as food, water, light, niche and mates and the denser the population in a given area, the more intense is the competition among men, among animals and among plants,- the “fittest” survive, following the law of natural selection.

 Mankind has  been competing for more other things than the plants and animals but as of now not for air to breath, which  may become  a reality in the future when air pollution has advanced to a deadly degree, not in all areas of the earth maybe, but which in turn would trigger spill-over problems to the neighboring countries and finally to competition for land and other resources due  to the exodus of population in search of air to breathe. A horror scenario which I hope only remains in my theoretical consideration.

In my own observation, envy in Bulan greatly mixes with another human emotion-  that of  pride. That people just trample the garden products instead of stealing and eating them is a sign of envy-motivated aggression and pride. It is just aimed to create damage to the neighbor, the object of envy.

Constructive and Destructive. Competition is the driving force behind social change, market economies and human interaction. It improves race,  culture, products, learning and knowledge. Some sociobiologists say that competition can be classified as constructive and destructive competition, whereby the former promotes mutual survival among competing groups whereas the latter seeks only the destruction and elimination of the competing groups. This is true in extreme cases and in lower forms of organisms (which strictly speaking may also be constructive in so far as  it serves in the end the survival or self- propagation of the specific organism).  But I think that these two classifications overlap in practice and among civilized humans it is a matter of degree and conscious choice. For even  two warring groups of human being, for instance, it is in each group’s interest to avoid deadly clashes as much as possible. This behavior already implies an unconscious  need  for mutual survival. In this case, to compete is more closer in meaning to the original latin word  “competere”, which means “to seek together” or “to strive together”.

This problem in Bulan regarding trampling and destruction of garden vegetables  may be classified not only  as a destructive form of competition and- in my view- a fruitless (unproductive one) for the motive is just to destroy and not to gain commercial advantage over the victim. A purely emotional affair that doesn’t benefit anybody in Bulan.

Does election benefit anybody in Bulan? When Bulaneños compete for an elected position, we hope that they don’t trample one another or twist each other’s neck but rather that it be more constructive in nature where each party thinks not only of winning but  strive together to solve the problems of Bulan community-  even after the election. Transcending envy, pride and resentment may not be easy but I guess there is the key  for Bulan’s improvement. In a  town  where green-eyed monsters and hatred rules, there will be no progress. But perhaps progress only for one’s own family or clan.

But here is an interesting point about the theory of evolution and politics: If the strongest and most superior in all aspects and he who has the most of the materials and money to buy votes dominate and win each election,  is he to be considered the fittest, hence,  morally superior being also? And does it improve the moral superiority of his offsprings? Or has the darwinian theory evolution (whose goal is the improvement of the species through natural selection) nothing to do with the genealogy of morals, which means that the most morally base candidates are the “fittest” in the Philippine elections?

The Religious Bulan. Every Sunday, the Bulan Parish Church is filled with more or less the same people occupying more or less the same seats. Hence, it is normal to expect that people should be familiar with the  catholic teaching that envy is considered as one of the seven deadly sins, together with pride, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust and wrath. The corresponding biblical passage is found in The Book of Exodus (20:17) which states:

 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

To covet is one of the synonyms for envy. That we should not covet “anything that belongs to your neighbor” – including the neighbor’s  garden with its fruits and vegetables- is a clear instruction for the christian community. Every Sunday the parish church of  Bulan is preaching on this moral value and it is  for each individual- from an elementary pupil to a politician- to implement this into action in his daily life. Small thing that makes a difference.

By the way, looking at this list of seven deadly sins I am inclined to sum it all up in one word- which is corruption.

Schadenfreude or delighting in others’ misfortune. Closely correlated with envy is Schadenfreude, a German word which is used as a loanword in English to denote the pleasure derive from the misfortune of others, a definition that brings us closer to the psychology of sadistic behavior. If according to Aristotle, envy is the pain caused by the good fortune of others, then Schadenfreude is the defense mechanism that reverses it. From pain to pleasure principle. For it is not enough that the envy person suffers. He must do something against it. Pechay or tomatoes trampled and destroyed or if a misfortune occurred to the envied person and thinking  “buti nga sa’ yo” (it serves you right) or giggles within is a typical Schadenfreude manifestation.

Is it right to delight in other’s misfortune? Common sense tells us that it is not right; and parents also do not teach their children to do it among themselves or to delight in their parent’s misfortune like grave sickness, accident, or death. Immanuel Kant would negate it for in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics  he proposes that you should  “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law ” – his known concept of Categorical Imperative. Thus, strictly speaking,  Schadenfreude is a clear example of something that we cannot will to become a universal law.

Or if you prefer a Biblical passage to justify it, here it is:  “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18 )

Perhaps Schadenfreude, sadistic thinking- or as the medieval church called it  morose delectation-  is as old as mankind, prohibited by the medieval church, considered morally base by some ethicists, yet exists today and accompanies our daily social life. This cannot be annihilated, yet tempered by training and deep reflection. Cogito, ergo sum– I think, therefore I am-  a mental formula handed over to us by Descartes.

If you think the catholic people do not practice what they learn every Sunday, then visit a Buddhist friend or a Buddhist monk to give you some explanations. For unlike most other people from other churches or religions, Buddhist people practice what they preach or the instruction they receive. They don’t kill because they’ve been  instructed so. In history, we learn that christians have enjoyed butchering one another. They even took joy conquering and colonizing other people, plundering and abusing them for centuries- all in the name of Christianity.

Wisdom and compassion to all characterize Buddhistic philosophy. It is not heaven that will make you happy, but it is in being happy now that will bring you to heaven, a buddhist acquaintance once told me. No wonder why Buddhism possesses also a counter formula to our primitive Schadenfreude or envy- and this is called mudita or happiness in another’s good fortune. Happiness and not pain, herein lies the difference, herein lies the key to understanding what that buddhist friend told me. The Buddhistic logic tells us then that compassion means unhappiness at another’s misfortune, not  “buti nga sa ‘yo” or to celebrate it, dance around and even thank God for it.

Reality Check.  Where else but in a brain research laboratory can we verify the truth in Proverbs 24: 17-18 or the Buddhist compassion. With today’s super computers and medical equipments such as CT (Computer Tomography), MRI (Magnet Resonance Imaging), PET (Positron-Emission Tomography), etc., there is almost no more place to hide your emotions- and soon perhaps your thoughts.  These equipments will scan every millimeter- and maybe  soon every nanometer (a billionth of a meter!) of your brain,  transforming its electrical activities to colorful images.

 Indeed, some studies conducted to measure envy, Schadenfreude and compassion have shown that Proverbs 24: 17-18 was right in its admonishment  to “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth”. For namely, the brain reward or joy centers of subjects in these studies were stimulated or activated when they heard that people whom they envied had met with a misfortune and the like- our famous Schadenfreude at work!- or their brain empathy centers  lit up when people in the experiment whom they perceived as good (or not as subject of their envy) received electric shock which caused them pains or unjustified suffering.

Well, will the truth really set us free? The coming 2010 election is the best opportunity in Bulan to observe Envy, Schadenfreude and perhaps also Compassion.

Till the next cup of coffee..

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

The Death Of A Political Dynasty

(Or, Rediscovering Apolinario Mabini)

by jun asuncion


“…  Political dynasty  is also subject to natural death as history has shown us: it dies due to lack of next generation that will continue it or the shift in interest or lack of energy of the new generation, or continued strife with other political dynasties has led to total annihilation of the dynasty/clan members, continued political turmoils and rebellion leading to mass murder of clan members, loss of properties (lands, houses) and financial capital, internal strife among dynasty members, or simply sickness and death of all the remaining members.” (from my post Nannette Vytiaco… A Retrospect)

I wrote these lines a few months ago. The decline of the Kennedy Political Dynasty seems to be because of the first and last causes I cited above, which are the shift of interest or lack of energy of the new generation and death of the remaining members.

 With the death of Eduard “Ted” Kennedy, the Kennedy Dynasty is “over”, says Ben Bradlee, vice -president of Washington Post, or as Wilfred Macclay- political professor at Pepperdine University- says, ” The family has lost its vigor or momentum”.

The Kennedy held the “Kennedy Seat ” in American senate since 1947. With Ted’s death, the citizens of Massachusetts will decide in January for his successor.  However, it’s no more certain if it would be somebody  from the dynasty. Two persons are in question, namely Victoria Kennedy- the widow of the deceased senator and Joseph F. Kennedy II, a nephew of Teddy, and son of Robert “Bobby Kennedy, the senator, justice minister and presidential candidate who was murdered in 1968. Though most of the younger Kennedys are active as philanthropists, educators, environmental activist, founders of  charity organizations,  it seems though that no one among them has the political  interest or the profile to fullfil what  Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the founder of the clan, has set as the Kennedy’s motto: ” Win, don’t come as second or third. That doesn’t count”.

Months before his death, the deceased senator has declared his niece Caroline Kennedy-  daughter of president John F. Kennedy- as his successor. She tried last year- perhaps pressured by this expectation- to apply for Hillary Clinton’s seat in the senate. The news spread like fire and soon there were  brigades of journalists around her. Some of them started asking for her qualifications aside from being a Kennedy and being a daughter of a famous president. Soon the pressure came from all sides and she gave up her candidacy.

There is shadow where light is. And the Kennedys were not without scandals that shed shadows to their brilliant status: women, alcohol and drug addictions have also a share in their clan history. Joseph Kennedy II has political experience in his portfolio being a member of the American congress for six legislative periods but a book published by his ex-wife where she revealed his shadows forced him to give up his further  political ambitions. He is at the moment the boss of his “Citizens Energy”, a non-profit organization which supplies heating oil to the socially disadvantaged. The same with Patrick Joseph Kennedy, the son of  Ted Kennedy himself. He would have been the carrier of the Kennedy’s political shining legacy for he is still a member of the American congress representing Rhode Islands. But politically, he pales against the bright shining background of the past Kennedys. And he was also in the headlines for his drug  and alcohol addictions. The future is bleak for the political Kennedy, for the once strongest American political dynasty. And the way things present themselves today, it’s almost over.

Worth mentioning also is  the other  twin shadows that have accompanied  the luminary Kennedys which is tragedy  and cancer. Some of them ended tragic like John F. Kennedy Sr., and Robert Kennedy who were both assassinated, Joseph was killed in a plane crash during the Second World War, to be followed  decades later by his nephew John F. Kennedy, Jr. whose plane crashed into the waters around New York, one Kennedy was accused of rape-  though acquitted later on, ski and car accidents. Ted Kennedy himself was involved in a plane crash which he luckily survived. But the 1969 Chappaquiddick-scandal where, after an  alcohol party, the car he was driving fell into the river, causing the death of  his woman front-seat passenger, had definitely ended his journey to the White House. To round it all up, Jaqueline Kennedy died of cancer and, just recently, Ted Kennedy himself of brain tumor. You may think of a curse against the Kennedy Dynasty. But for sure, their risky lifestyle and their popularity contributed much to all these tragedies.

Back to the Philippines, we should never confuse our understanding of  Philippine political dynasty and attempt to justify it by referring to that  of  American political dynasty, for with all its flaws, the  American democratic institutions still function and this is where the difference of meaning and practice of political dynasty between these two countries start. The American politicians-whether belonging to a dynasty or not- still work as public servants and not as public plunderers of the nation’s wealth. Ted Kennedy used his 46 years in the senate  vigorously representing the socially weak  and creating laws for their welfare. The   U.S. electoral process alone already tells us that anybody eyeing for an elected position would readily give up as soon as a slight bad personal record has leaked to the public. In the Philippines, anybody can be president as long as he has the support of the wealthy people or political clans or the media  popularity or the undifferentiated voters and masa (populace). An ex- convict ex-president, a national gambler and alcoholic may even run again for presidency; or an incumbent president who, with her allies who support her Constituent  Assembly, tampers the 1987 Constitution for her own dynastic needs, not really for the welfare of the socially weak.

But since the political logic runs different in the Philippines, it follows that there is more to the inner logic that dictates the end of a political dynasty. For instance,  the Marcos dynasty was ended by a revolution, the Jueting republic of  Estrada suffered the same fate. It’s not only the lack of interest of the new generation or  the natural death of dynasty members but a revolution is inherent in this logic of social change- whether we like it or not- as long as the present political condtions persist and the voters  continued to be politically undifferentiated, hence, manipulable. For otherwise, a differentiated populace expresses its concepts of change through democratic ways and a differentiated government supports only democratic ways.

Therefore, we can aptly say that the Sword of Damocles hangs over the political dynasties in the Philippines. Their destruction is pre-programmed by the very logic that it has in itself. We just have to look at the European welfare states how they attend to the public needs now. They, too,  were once dominated by all sorts of political dynasties but with time all of them were destroyed. Destruction and Creation of new forms- the  two forces of social evolution.

In our modern language, it is simply not sustainable, this kind of political landscape,  for it doesn’t allow for growth. The dynasties in our country- busy with their self-aggrandizement politics-  don’t realize their impending doom which could be very violent. We don’t presume to know when this will definitely end in the Philippines but it has  its own timetable. An evolving society changes its structure and adopts  a form that will keep it survive as a whole. For me, this form means higher civilization.

This is Self-Aggrandizement when you travel the Philippines: you see a school building with the inscription, “A Project of President Arroyo“, a  bus waiting shed with “A Project Of Governor…”, a basketball court with “A Project Of Barangggay Captain…” , a pavilion with  “A Project Of  Mayor…”… and so on. Arroyo has for sure some projects accomplished. But there is nothing personal about them for the money used was from the people, from the taxes paid, not from her own wallet. And as a public servant, you are elected and paid to work  and do something for your country or town. Or must the people  beg for you for these things, expect them to be overly thankful when you have done something?  Only a politician who has bought all his votes behaves this way for he feels he owns the people, he owns the country, he owns the town.

So why steal the money and honor from the people? Self-aggrandizement is defined like this by our politicians: I steal people’s money, make a project out of the rest of it and then use this project to cover up my stealing  and to improve my image. This is outright deception. So people of the Philippines, people of Bulan, I understand what you feel whenever you see such personalized, privatized  public amenities. Now,  the more you see such structures or banners with such inscriptions in your town, in our country when you’re traveling, the more you know that there are lots of public thieves around you, displaying their honorable names voluntarily to insult you.

This Self-Aggrandizement (and to my view, political corruption, nepotism and dynastic politics) has its root in Aguinaldo, according to Mabini, which to him also the reason why the Philippine Revolution in 1896/98 failed. In his book  La Revolution Filipina. he wrote:

“To sum it up, the Revolution failed because it was badly led; because its leader won his post by reprehensible rather than meritorious acts; because instead of supporting the men most useful to the people, he made them useless out of jealousy. Identifying the aggrandizement of the people with his own, he judged the worth of men not by their ability, character and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him; and anxious to secure the readiness of his favorites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions. Because he thus neglected the people forsook him; and forsaken by the people, he was bound to fall like a waxen idol melting in the heat of adversity.God grant we do not forget such a terrible lesson, learnt at the cost of untold suffering.”

He wrote further:

“Mr. Aguinaldo believed that one can serve his country with honour and glory only from high office, and this is an error which is very dangerous to the common welfare; it is the principal cause of the civil wars which impoverish and exhaust many states and contributed greatly to the failure of the Revolution. Only he is truly a patriot who, whatever his post, high or low, tries to do the greatest possible good to his countrymen. A little good done in an humble position is a title to honour and glory, while it is a sign of negligence or incompetence when done in high office. True honour can be discerned in the simple manifestations of an upright and honest soul, not in brilliant pomp and ornament wich scarcely serve to mask the deformities of the body. True honour is attained by teaching our minds to recognize truth, and training our hearts to love it. The recognition of truth shall lead us to the recognition of our duties and of justice, and by performing our duties and doing justice we shall be respected and honoured, whatever our station in life.”

This was probably what Apolinario Mabini had in mind also – a civilized Philippines-  when he wrote these  lines at the last chapter of his book  La Revolution Filipina :

“Let us never forget that we are on the first rung of our national life, and that we are called upon to rise, and can go upward only on the ladder of virtue and heroism. Above all let us not forget that, if we do not grow, we shall have died without ever having been great, unable to reach maturity, which is proper of a degenerate race.”

 A degenerate race? Well, that’s tough.

 jun asuncion

Bulan Observer