The Final Insult To The Filipino Mind

by jun asuncion

This SONA 2009 sounds like a desperate appeal to the public of one of the most unpopular presidents of the Philippines- Gloria Arroyo- to change their perception of her for the better before she steps down the throne of power where, for years, she overstretched the meaning of political corruption in the Philippines. Aside from that, she tarnished badly the image of a woman politician in the Philippines- to the disadvantage of some promising and competent women politicians in the country like Loren Legarda.

To divert the attention of the public, she used strategically such positive words as “work”, “lead”, “protect”, and “preserve”. To qoute her: “I did not become President to be popular. To work, to lead, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President. When my father left the Presidency, we were second to Japan. I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years..”

She associated her name with the memory of her father who allegedly placed the Philippines second to Japan during his time. These are all cheap psychological tricks employed to manipulate the public mind and shape their perception of her- in other words, to polish her image. This going back to history to use it to one’s advantage in face of the actual desolate situation of the country in many levels- social, political and economic- is a typical myopic perception of somebody from a political dynasty. Myopic because vested interest has always the self- or ego, or the clan if you prefer it- as point of reference, and not the all-encompasing goals set by the Philippine Constitution.

 It is this megalomanic and egocentric political system in the country that prevents it from joining the first world, a goal set by Arroyo to achieve within 20 years. This is an illusion, a wishful thinking, and should not be confused with positive thinking and visonary leadership for she did not possess this patriotistic and moral uprightness characteristic of a visonary leader like Gandhi, Mandela or Obama. An illusion leads a country to nothing. To insult the Filipino mind several times by the number of corruption scandals within her family, the high records of human rights violation and killings of investigative journalists during her administration, the high rate of emigration of Filipino nationals, the astronomic foreign debts of the country which doubled during her presidency, etc. – all attest to misgovernace and dissatisfaction of her government and to the reality of her delusion. To join the first world, the Philippines must in the first place build a stable  political base, reform the electoral process, penalize corruption practices and must have a nationalistic, democratic and morally strong national leader. I think Arroyo have missed correcting these flaws in our country and even missed correcting her own self. So this good sounding dream of joining the first world lacks sincerity, just thrown into the air to insult you and me.

When people flee, it’s never a sign of happines. When killings and corruption scandals are never solved, it’s never an indicator of democracy, social justice and functioning five pillars of justice or checks and balance system- but of strings being pulled behind to the center- the self. Economic statistics never tell the truth when used by an unpopular president whose intention is to repair her broken public image. So it’s hard to buy the figures she’s selling out here. They are designed to insult the Filipino mind.

Being an economist, she claims authority on this subject, claiming that the world finacial crisis did not ruin the Philippines as it did to other countries. The Philippines was spared of it- thanks to her economic programs- like the OFW which sends her billions of dollars annualy. Again one must exercise caution here. The world crisis was a bank crisis in the first place. The Philippines do not have giant banks that invested huge amounts outside the country- like the UBS of Switzerland where it lost billions of dollars in the US. But this involves mainly the UBS and not the whole country of Switzerland. Jobs were lost naturally, but the whole Swiss economy is as strong as before. It is mainly because of a stable social and political system- not because of its giant banks like UBS and CS. Local and foreign investments abound because of peace and political stability.

 As we all know, political stability is never a strength of the Philippines since decades  already- so don’t expect economic stability as stressed in SONA 2009 by Arroyo. Her very own administration was from the very beginning  also unstable. It is ridiculous how she stands all alone before the nation and flamboyantly cites  proofs to the rising economic wealth of the Philippines under her presidency- but immediately calls the aid of her lawyer to explain for her before a group of inquiring concerned citizens  her own remarkable growth in wealth she has accumulated up to now. Why a lawyer? Does she honestly not consider her own wealth as a direct result of the rising economy of the Philippines under her own economic programs?It’s funny how she displays her honesty.

 Here’s the latest proof of this instability and the all-pervasive odor of corruption that has engulfed her administration from the beginning till the present:


 MBC asks Arroyo to explain remarkable growth in wealth

RUBY ANNE M. RUBIO, GMANews.TV 08/14/2009 | 07:08 PM | |

 An influential business group joined the growing calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to explain her accumulated wealth after her net worth doubled every three years as a public servant for 16 years. In a statement, the Makati Business Club said the business community would be particularly interested in the remarkable growth of Mrs. Arroyo’s net worth when her personal wealth soared by 2,032.84 percent to P143.54 million in 2008 from P6.73 million in1992 based on a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). “Held against the light of economic reality and the First Couple’s declared assets and income sources, the impressive growth of Mrs. Arroyo’s wealth is difficult to fathom,” MBC said.

MBC noted Mrs. Arroyo’s stock portfolio grew by 41 percent per annum from P55 million in 2006 to P110 million in 2008, at a time when the Philippine Stock Exchange index fell by 21 percent. “Like Caesar’s wife, the President must be above suspicion. As the highest public servant in our country and in the interest of good governance, Mrs. Arroyo must set an example by making a full and transparent accounting of her and her family’s wealth. She owes the Filipino people an explanation,” the group added.

The group lauded PCIJ for a “job well done” on its three-part series on Mrs. Arroyo’s “still-to-be-explained wealth.” “The press serves a watchdog function and, disagreeable as it may be to those who have suffered its nasty bite, we must allow the press to perform this function, without coercion or threats,” MBC said. “It now behooves the President to personally respond to the issues raised by the PCIJ article. It is unfortunate that instead of clarifying matters, the President has opted to call in her legal advisers who have tried to attack the message as well as the messenger rather than respond in any meaningful and germane manner,” it added. Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, defended the President, saying his client did not manipulate her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Macalintal has served as her lawyer in an electoral protest. “Through her lawyer, the President has stated that she stands by the ‘truth and veracity’ of her SALN, but it is difficult to accept her statement at face value if all that she has to substantiate her claim is the paltry information provided in the document and her spokespersons’ explanations that only lead to more unanswered questions,” the MBC said.

See related articles:

“RP gets poorer, Arroyo gets richer”

‘Arroyo foreign travels cost P1.6-B more’


The Eye Of The Storm

There is also calmness not only before but after the storm only that there is much to be done: rebuild bridges or homes, look for missing friends or family members, nurse the wounded and eventually bury the dead.

For the government and rescue leaders that’s the time for damage assessment and evaluation of its disaster management performance: To what extent ist the damage to persons, crops and infrastructures? How did the rescue team perform according to  its operating standards, in which area is it especially successful and in which did  it miserably fail?

These are routine questions asked after any disaster. The main thing however is to draw concrete lessons from the whole event and use them to improve the disaster management system- and put more money in it in terms of personnel training and acquisition of technical facilities and equipments.

It is wise to invest in such things because typhoons and flooding will continue to be our number one natural calamities as opposed to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or meteoric attacks.

So why not consider this problem seriously and sincerely by now by creating an expert group that will study the general patterns of typhoons as they enter Bulan and how flooding  generally develop by pinpointing flood „epicenters“ in Bulan. The main goal of this is to gather Bulan-specific data (histories of typhoons and floods, catch-basins, damages, etc…) that will guide any program related to typhoon and flood management. Scientific prediction is never based on an empty paper or entrails of chicken but on collection of data. Therefore, any disaster management not based on the locally-collected data is blind, incomplete, unsystematic and not optimized. This is more costly in the long run. Whereas prediction and estimates supported by science is effective and less-costly with time.

Again, flooding reminds  us of one important aspect which is adequate canal systems under the streets of Bulan and construction of pumphouses in key areas of Bulan. As I have seen we have no canal system that channels household and rain waters to a place outside the town or ideally to a sewerage plant. Functioning underground canals reduce the water level above in case of flood.

The whole thing demands political will and people’s participation- and attitudinal change! A town official may take pride of his great income and luxurious life style only if such problems had been solved first and when he doesn’t have to leave his luxury house and flee uphill in times of flood. Otherwise, such a display of luxury and vanity is out of place  and only attest to illegal practices which choke the town people and flood the town with unsolved problems. This being-out-of -place reminds me of Iglesia Ni Kristo church amidst the shanties, making the poor people appear dirtier and poorer against such a well-built and cleanly-maintained Gothic religious edifice. You’ll intuitively know why these poor people near such a church  are ten-percent poorer than those who are far away  from it. The good thing is that you can run away from such a religious mafia and settle somewhere else.

In any case, we don’t want  the town people to appear dirtier and poorer beside the municipal building or beside their municipal officers and their families. But when the government behaves like an Iglesia Ni Kristo establishment, then there is a grave problem  for you cannot run away from it. People will be more than just  ten-percent poorer, and if you live far from the town you maybe  much more impoverished. However, be it the church or the government that’s making the people  poor, the people must not only be self-reliant but must be politically conscious and active and must resist the corrosion of their collective values.

There is, however, one stumbling block to the collective- and that is the problem of jealousy that looms in each Bulaneño. This may sound very ordinary but this is the crab mentality that we have been talking about which is very real not only in paper but in the daily life of Bulaneños. But we display such mentality (or emotion) rather discretely- and quietly in the true sense of the word.  In short, we don’t talk about things over which we are jealous  for some reasons. Not to talk about something  is almost synonymous with not supporting that something.

Exactly the same with things or topics that we hide or want to avoid. You would easily sense that somebody is hiding or avoiding something by the contortion of his face, the sudden jerking of the body to one side as if avoiding a Pacquiao  left uppercut  once you hit a hot issue-  or one simply hides  behind somebody as you pass by to prevent you from smelling the pungent odor of  his or her dishonesty.

Not many things escape your eyes when you come to observe things and people. But it’s funny to find out that those who are observing you are usually the people you come to observe.

So be calm and let the eye of the storm go by.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer


Bulan, Sorsogon, May 8, 2009-

As a show of solidarity with the People of Magallanes Town, Bulan Town Mayor dispatched on May 6 & 7, the Bulan Rescue Team headed by Councilor Simmy Gerona to assist the residents of the landslide-ravaged barangays of Magallanes Town.

The team headed by Councilor Gerona also included Team Members Darius Razo & Antonio Amilano. They stayed in Magallanes where they helped and assisted in the transfer, by the use of the Bulan MDCC Rubberboat, of relief goods and people to areas which are in accessible by land transportation.

Magallanes Mayor Abelardo Arambulo immediately conveyed his gratitude to the people of Bulan, through Mayor De Castro’s office.

It can be recalled that the People of Bulan also pooled in their assistance to the People of Albay during the typhoon Reming and Mayon Volcano landslides where thousand were killed years back. Mayor De Castro sent a rescue and retrieval team to the devastated area. Several truckloads of relief goods and clean water were also dispatched by LGU-Bulan with the help of various volunteer groups and the whole community.

Meanwhile, Municipal Administrator Luis G. De Catsro, Jr., PIO Antonio G. Gilana and Ryan Cantre attended in Sorsogon City on May 6-7, a seminar workshop on Disaster Management and Risk Reduction sponsored by the Provincial Government, World Vision and Green Valley Development Foundation. They also trained on Rain Recording as part of the Disaster Preparedness Program of the Municipality.


Arroyo’s AO 255: The Last Insult To The Filipino Mind


Chiz Escudero seems to be reading Bulan Observer for now he just dared President Arroyo to “show sincerity in her moral renewal campaign”, this just after I have posted Strengths And Weaknesses Of  The Filipino Political Character where I used the concept of sincerity as the foundation of a sustainable political culture. Yet,  kidding aside, such a simple concept as sincerity can make a big world of difference to the status of a nation. This is the very reason why the Philippines is not Switzerland – it’s because of the lack of sincerity among our heads of states. Take away sincerity among the Swiss politicians and you’ll get a poor and languishing Switzerland, perhaps poorer than the Philippines because its geography is poor, just piles of gigantic rocks and ice.  No matter how  the Philippines islands abound with natural wealth, poverty is everywhere when leaders are not sincere,  though one thing  is sure to abound: corruption.

But Eduardo Ermita declares that corruption is unknown in Malacanang, suggesting that his president is a very sincere public official when he points out that, “There’s no question whatsoever that President Arroyo has the highest moral standard to make a call on moral recovery” being elected president and head of some 89 million Filipinos.

Again, such statement can only come from the logic of greed – that’s why the distortion of facts. First, Arroyo achieved the highest ascendancy of power by electoral fraud  and vote buying, not by having the highest  ascendancy of moral standard during and after the election. The end does not always justify the means. She partly bought herself to power ( ask Joc-Joc Bolante for details) and partly “called”  herself to power (call Garci also for details). Second, becoming a president by whatever means does not automatically put you into the highest ascendancy of moral standard, you  have to work for it once in office and in case of Mrs. Arroyo she should have instructed her husband Mr. Arroyo to stay away from Broadband and World bank projects and other frauds.  An Abbu Sayyaf rebel, were he to become president would not automatically remove the terrorist in him. Third, she’s head only to those who elected her legally and out of free will and choice but certainly not the head to all the other Filipinos who

  • elected her not by by free choice,
  • did not exist or once existed before 2004 but dead since then ( but whose names appeared on the list of voters)
  • and to those who did not elect her at all.

Ermita is good at reminding us that there are now 89 million Filipinos, but his logic of greed would want us to believe his shallow  trick again with this figure by associating it with  calculated subtlety the pleasant adjectives “elected” and “head of state”, suggesting to our subconscious the  mandate of 89 million Filipinos to Arroyo. What a head is this Ermita. I guess, he attended some lectures in general psychology, if not, a magician school somewhere in Quiapo. Without Arroyo, he might have been a successful executive magician by now. Again, be that as it may, I hope the Ifugaos, Igorots, Tausugs, Samals and all the other national minorities, the MILF including  Abbu Sayaf and his people, the  communist NPA and the opposition sector, the many OFW’s, the missing student and union leaders and journalists, those millions of jobless, those parents and relatives of the victims of extra-judicial killings, the Smoky Mountain people, those  living families housing in cemeteries, those children in prisons or children working in mines and all the sex workers  were also included in this 89 million Filipinos who- as Mr. Ermita claims- consider Mrs. Arroyo as their head. Again, what a head.

In summary, the 2004 election was not an affirmation of Arroyo’s moral ascendancy, as Ermita claims, but a negation thereof.

Do you consider somebody your president even if you did not elect her? Perhaps a good performance would change your mind, but in Arroyo’s case the Philippines plummeted into abysmal depths of corruption scandals and human rights violations, rated very low internationally in all categories, so I don’t think you would change your mind. It’s  not only too late, but your trust is simply not there. And she is not being sincere. And without sincerity, how would she lead a moral renewal program-  and all that  in the last minutes? She reminds me of Jose De Venezia whose logic is familiar to us; he also called for a last minute- moral revolution.

Arroyo implemented last January 30 the Administrative Order 255 (AO 255) “directing the heads of the executive departments to lead moral renewal in their agencies”. Again, a tricky order for if you examine it closely, this is an empty order for the agencies for it doesn’t hit the core of the issue- i.e., the whereabouts of the stolen money or money to be stolen in the future. But this maybe is  substantial for her own interests in connection with the corruption charges facing her husband. Empty for it doesn’t provide solid legal  mechanisms that could help investigators in the corruption hearings  in the senate to-date and in the future. All in all, this AO 255 sounds fairly similar to a Sunday sermon that people listen to but forget the next moment.

Escudero countered and showed more substance when he –  in conjunction with this AO 255- dared Arroyo to “show her sincerity by endorsing the passage of SB No. 1746, which aims to exempt government officials from the Bank Secrecy Act, and SB No. 1242 that seeks to penalize influence peddling or the mere act of representing oneself to another person having a transaction or request with the government.”

That’s what has been lacking in this administration,- substance,  a substance that would have assured each Filipino family three square meals a day and send their children to  school and find employment. We know that Arroyo neglected our educational system, sacrificed national interests for her own private interests, that her administration has practically squeezed out everything that is positive in the Filipino and stripped the country of its remaining decent clothing before the world. Now, she wants to make up for everything by calling for a moral renewal, which is the last-  we hope – of her series of  insults to the Filipino mind. For her dance with Cha-Cha we know that she has no more chance and barely the time that should hold her calculating, capricious mind.

 Hence, it is propitious that we have vigilant young senators like Escudero, Lacson and Legarda that serve as our windbreak from the typhoons that come from Malacañang that have  for years blown the Filipino spirit to apathy and catapulted millions of citizens out of the country. We have to respect these young senators, judge them not according to some trivial issues, but to the substance of their legislative works and political arguments.


 jun asuncion

Bulan Observer


—————-Related News———————————-

Senate Press Release

February 18, 2009

Show sincerity in moral renewal drive
Chiz dares Arroyo to back 2 anti-corruption measures

Senator Chiz Escudero on Wednesday dared President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to show sincerity in her “moral renewal” campaign by backing two anti-corruption bills seeking the exemption of government officials from the Bank Secrecy Law and imposing penalties on influence peddlers in government.

He made the call after Arroyo ordered Cabinet officials to lead a “moral renewal” campaign following the latest allegations of corruption involving the First Gentleman and other former solons and officials of her administration. “A legacy of corruption is the last thing you want the public to remember you by when you step down from office,” he said in a statement.

Escudero said Arroyo can show her sincerity by endorsing the passage of SB No. 1746, which aims to exempt government officials from the Bank Secrecy Act, and SB No. 1242 that seeks to penalize influence peddling or the mere act of representing oneself to another person having a transaction or request with the government.

He pointed out that the allegations of bid-rigging in the World Bank road-building project, as well as the purported payoffs in the case of the “Alabang Boys”, requires immediate, strong corrective responses from government.

“The law should not be a refuge of scoundrels posing as public servants,” said Escudero.

Last January 30, Arroyo issued Administrative Order 225 ordering cabinet officials to launch “moral renewal” campaigns in their respective agencies.

“The public trust in government has been eroded by numerous allegations of wrongdoing by government officials and personalities close to the administration,” the opposition senator said.

As chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, Escudero held a hearing last Tuesday on proposed changes to the government procurement act. He filed SB No. 1476 in 2007 in a bid to plug loopholes in the Government Procurement Act.

“Transparency and open governance should be the norm because that’s the only way we can truly clean up the system and restore public trust,” he emphasized.

Escudero said it is the poor who are ultimately the victims of corruption in government, pointing out that it diverts funds intended for crucial social services – such as healthcare, education and housing.


PGMA’s election in 2004 affirmed her moral ascendancy, says Ermita , Press secretary

As an elected leader of the land, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has all the qualifications, particularly the moral ascendancy to lead the nation in the implementation of a moral renewal program for government agencies.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita pointed this out in reply to some administration critics questioning the credibility of the President in the implementation of Administrative Order 255 (AO 255), which she signed on Jan. 30 “directing the heads of the executive departments to lead moral renewal in their agencies.”

“There’s no question whatsoever that President Arroyo has the highest moral standard to make a call on moral recovery,” Ermita said noting that in 2004 she was elected president of the philippines and head of some 89 million Filipinos.

Last week, the President issued AO 255 tasking all her Cabinet officials and agency heads to implement a moral renewal program in their respective agencies in coordination with religious and civic groups that include measures for values formation and zero tolerance for corruption.

Under the AO, the President wants all Cabinet officials and heads of offices to ensure that all attached agencies and bureaus adopt and implement the Integrity Development Action Plan (IDAP), which is part of the National Anti-Corruption Framework for the executive branch.

The President said the department heads should also expand and strengthen the membership of the integrity committee in every department, agency, bureau and office and the moral renewal should also include the conduct of values formation activities with the Presidential Council on Values Formation.

All agencies shall submit their respective action plans for their Moral Renewal Program to the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC), copy furnished the President, within 90 days upon the effectivity of the administrative order.

Agencies were also directed to allocate a portion of their maintenance, operations and overhead expenditures budget to fund values formation and anti-corruption programs.

The President said the PAGC would monitor and evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the moral renewal program to include surveys of personnel from all levels.

Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Filipino Political Character

by: jun asuncion

Part 1: The Virtue Of Sincerity As The Foundation Of Sustainable Political Culture

Lack or flawed sincerity  underlies our socio-political underdevelopment. What is sincerity? Webster dictionary defines it as honesty of mind and intention. It is therefore closely related to honesty. The political Filipinos have the fondness of making things complicated; they corrupt a simple thought or action habitually and they are now trapped within this system they created themselves. The whole nation seems to have been trapped by this system. Personal interaction is reflected in national politics. For after all, the individual trees define the quality of the forest.  This is implied in the Confucian’s Analects which contain the following statement in Chapter I:

(主忠信。毋友不如己者。過,則勿憚改。)Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.”

Simply put, a sincere leader produces sincere followers. A sincere president gathers around him sincere public officials.  Just look at what the insincere presidents in the past and the insincere incumbent president have done: They have ruined the political culture and the national economy. These presidents produced insincere politicians all over the country and an overall primitive and stupor political culture, making all existing political structures dysfunctional. While blessed with abundant natural resources and enough labor force inside and outside (OFW), and while the world organizations are sincerely sending their developmental funds to Manila, the  character-deformed and greed-driven politicians were- and are busy channeling these funds to their own bank accounts under the protective shields of  Bank Secrecy laws  and the constitutional Right Of Privacy.

Lack of sincerity complicates and weakens human transactions of all kinds. Not to support Abbu Sayaf, Al-Qaeda  and any form of terrorist or mafia organisations or rebels like the Tamil Tigers, NPA or MILF, etc., but I guess,  viewed within their organisational and operational context, sincerity is not a rare commodity among these people for the price of insincerity is very high. The result of their success is obvious for until now government forces the world over have failed to destroy them and the truth of their indestructibility is proven with each day. On the other side, our laws paradoxically protect the insincere and erring government servants. It appears therefore that all efforts displayed publicly of fighting poverty, corruption, insurrection and a better political system are helpless for  until now we still do not have a government that’s sincerely addressing these issues.

It’s not that we Filipinos are born thieves but we are not sincere with our ethical-moral standards, leading us easily to transgress them in case of  material insufficiency, opportunity or  power afforded to one by virtue of his office. The Philippines is one of the most plundered nations in the world- by its own civil servants. And when a president, a state prosecutor or an agrarian under-secretary steal public funds, it is definitely  not only a case of character weakness but  an act of treachery. This logic of greed cascades from top to bottom at high speed from the national to the local governments down to the barangays, thus destroying the very foundations of political culture and the socio-economic structures of the nation almost irretrievably.

What is Character?

Again our Webster: 1. Character is the sum of qualities by which a person (or a thing) is distinguished from others ; 2. Charater is the stamp impressed by nature, education or habit.

Filipino Weaknesses: 

1. Utang Na Loob (Debt Of Gratitude). Up to a certain point it is a virtue, but too much is a trap in itself.  We Filipinos exaggerated this trait unwittingly believing this was natural to us, hence, good. In truth, this is a colonial residue. This is not strength but rather a weakness for it is built upon our belief that we Filipinos were of lesser value. This resulted to over-subjugation in order to survive. Filipinos did survive, but heavily damaged from within. This exaggerated Utang Na Loob prevented the Filipinos from developing that Selbst-Bewusstsein or Self -Confidence necessary to get out of our miserable situation. The revolutions freed the Filipinos from the oppressors physically, but the oppressed has remained in their psyche. Applied into  politics, this trait is at the core of corruption for this prevents the mind from siding to the ideals of common good but rather reduces it to side with things or with people whom the political Filipinos are indebted to -or beholden to- in one way or another.

2. Crab-Mentality. This is what divides the Filipinos as one people and therefore prevents the building of a  progressive nation. For instead, we pull each other down out of envy or just plain egotism. We cannot replace  burdensome administration  if each of us chooses rather to solo his fight and achieves nothing. This is the weakness of the opposition against the incumbent administration: Each prominent opposition politician is running for presidency instead of rallying their forces together behind one candidate of their own. The opposition in the Philippines is splittered, kanya-kanya. In politics, nothing great is accomplished by a lone wolf. The administration has the greater command because aside for its  established political machinery, they have the support of local governments who are dependent on them, and so it is  most likey that the administration’s candidate will win the election. And so the stupor of governance remains; our nation doesn’t move forward but rather backwards- like a crab.

3. Ningas-Cogon. This reinforces the crab in us for this means total retreat after taking a few steps to the front. Good politics can achieve something substantial if it is held on a steady course over time. The same way with fighting for a cause. Nothing will happen if the people cannot stay and fight to the end. To come and go as you wish is never a big help to your team. With this, nothing will ever be accomplished.

4. Mañana Habit. This is the reason why everything has been delayed in our country. We push everything for tomorrow, so don’t ask for progress now for with this habit, progress will never be a thing of today but will always be a thing of tomorrow. This habit, combined with ningas-cogon, utang na loob and with the crab on top with bad choice and lacking in sincerity, then you have the perfect picture of the Philippine society of today – and, maybe, of tomorrow. A number of beautiful laws have been created but their implementations are pushed for tomorrow, good bills are made to wait for years before passed into laws therefore allowing crimes  to happen which could have been prevented.

Hiya or Shyness, false modesty, self-deprication are interrelated qualities which are typically overemphasized among Filipinos. Again, depending on the degree of manifestation they could be “strengths” in that they give the Filipino character that distinctive flavor or even attractiveness for other observers. Psychologically, it is an expression of a deep-seated complex of inferiority – being hit by the rod for centuries.

 Filipino Strengths:

1. Strong Family Orientation (Family-ties). After all these years, I still consider this trait as our strongest strength for it is the reason behind why the Philippines is still existing even in the face of high migration, internal conflicts, political and economic crises: The Filipino families just stay together. Filipinos abroad normally go back home even after years of being away simply because of their loyalty to their family and relatives. This is not class-specific for it is indeed a strong trait observed not only among the poor but even among the affluent Filipino families.

2. Utang Na Loob (Debt Of Gratitude). As mentioned, this is a Filipino strength when kept in proper place (private life), hence doesn’t rob us of our objectivity and correct performance of our public duty. This trait shows our thankfulness- or of looking back- to people and situations that have touched our lives positively. This is inherent in all other strengths of the Filipinos.

3. Pakikisama (Social Flexibility).This is the result of long experience and contact with foreign cultures since the beginning of Philippine history. Closely related to Pakikiramdam or Pakikipagkapwa-tao, I translate this as social flexibility for this what is all about being a Filipino in a social setting – that of striving for harmony in our interpersonal relationships. This makes us attractive to other nationalities for we can easily connect with them and give them the feeling that we understand and accept them. To this belongs the habit of subordinating ourselves to others- especially to the white skinned-nationals, which I consider a learned reflex developed during our long history of ambivalence-eliciting colonialism. The rod had for centuries shaped our reflexes that we still have today, conditioned our pattern of responses to certain social ideas and situations. The idea for instance that to be involved in politics is “meddling” with the affairs of others (the politicians) when in fact politics is everybody’s business.

But Filipinos’ early exposure to other languages like Spanish, English, Chinese and Japanese contributes to this flexibility and social competence facilitating social connections even in international settings. The many Oversea Filipino Workers scattered all over the globe has also the effect of contributing to the Philippines’ linguistic know-how for many of these OFW and expatriates bring with them the languages they have learned in their many years of working and living in many countries of the world. I suppose the Philippines is one among the polyglott countries in the world.

4. Endurance. Also a product of our difficult historical struggles. Extreme social, political and economic problems resulting from colonizations, wars and recurring natural catastrophies have moulded the Filipinos into a strong people when it comes to dealing with difficult situations over an extended period of time. This is the foundation of our patience. Patience is never a natural gift but is a result of experience. With this strength, Filipinos survive difficult situations at home or away from home. Resoluteness is very much related to this, a trait we badly need in our political leadership and for us to counter the ningas-cogon tendency.

 As you can see, strengths and weaknesses of character of the people are to some extent interrelated and dependent on the context and to the degree in which they are manifested. Like the trait of Utang na loob, this is inherently a social strength but its presence in political affairs seems to rob the Filipinos of their objectivity and sense of duty. Endurance is in itself a positve attribute but this reinforces the mañana habit in a certain way which in turn prevents the Filipino to develop that attitude of urgency, causing him not to look for solutions to the problems immediately. Strong family orientation is a virtue but it easily slides to clanism, hence builds up political dynasties,  augments expediency, kanya-kanya attitude and crab mentality but diminishes the  perception of common good and  nationalism.

Technically, if character is a collection of habits, and habit  a conditioned behaviour or sets of responses, and character determines our behavior to a particular situation or groups of situations, modifying habits through training can therefore effect a change in character and ultimately our behavior.

This is what the politicians, civic and church leaders mean by moral revolution, which is a term so vague that they end up not really knowing what to do but  to the  false belief  that reciting long litanies and holding hands together in circles  they could already solve this national dilemma.

Of course, nature (genetics) also accounts for the development of character but this is another topic by itself. What interests us is the effect (stamp according to Webster dictionary) of culture and habit (experience)  for this is the more practical way of explaining the Filipino political character and of devising a model of political character building with the habit as the starting point of modification.

 Part II: Is Utang Na Loob- Debt Of Gratitude Or Debt Of Goodwill?

We begin with the language by agreeing that Debt Of Gratitude is the commonly accepted English translation of Utang Na Loob in our Philippine culture. Taken at face value, this English translation suffices to explain what Utang Na Loob means to a non-Tagalog speaker,- and it’s just alright if we Filipinos, not the Americans, have decided to use Debt of Gratitude as the equivalent English translation. The main point now is not to debate about the suitable English translation for there is none, but to describe what Utang Na Loob means in our culture. Utang Na Loob really means more than Debt of Gratitude if one would dig deeper beyond the semantic usage. The source of confusion is surely in its English translation, for as Filipinos we know exactly what is meant by Utang Na Loob. Debt of Gratitude should be shipped back to America where it is rightfully used and understood.
Utang Na Loob is more than just being able to pay back the performance you received and then to have no more obligation thereafter- as in a contractual transaction between you and a plumber whom you hired to fix your drainage. In interpersonal relations the western people will thank you for the favors you have given them- and that’s it, the thing is settled, no other obligations.
In our country favors received are paid back with a moral obligation that is long lasting. It is not merely being indebted to somebody that ceases once repaid, but it is being unquantifiably indebted to somebody be it your parents who nurtured you, your older brother or sister who sent you to college,  your doctor who saved your life- or the politician who gave you the job or your share of the graft.

Translated literally, Loob means within, interior, inside, internal, inward, inner, deep : hence Utang Na Loob could mean by way of:

1. Negative definition- as to be deeply indebted to somebody morally, obliging involved party or parties to a reciprocal responsibility;

2. Positive definition -as the Filipino attitude of Sincere Deeper Thankfulness.

Debt Of  Gratitude-as we understand this English equivalent is more of common ethical condition of being indebted , whereas Utang Na Loob as we practice it is a cultural attitude of sincere deeper thankfulness.

This is my understanding or definition of this traditional Filipino value. Debt of Gratitude is very much similar to Schuld der Dankbarkeit– its German counterpart. At the surface, these two foreign equivalents mean the same as our Utang Na Loob. The difference enters in practical application for then other cultural traits mingle with it and so the resulting different expressions causing observers to a qualitatively different observation and understanding of it, hence the incongruence and inadequateness of the English and even German translation.

Other traits/constructs that may explain the difference:

Personalism vs. Impersonalism:

Personalism emphasizes the rights and centrality of the individual human being in his or her social, political, intellectual, etc. milieu.

Impersonalism is the practice of maintaining impersonal relations with individuals or groups.

To simply illustrate: Filipinos are often heard complaining about the Westerners as cold, lacking human emotion or warmth, lacking in compassion. The Whites or Westerners in turn complain about the emotionality, close to hysterical reactive behaviour and exaggerated friendliness of the Filipinos. The reason for this is the personalistic trait or approach of the Filipinos and the impersonalistic trait or approach of the Whites. This trait explains partly the difference between Utang na Loob and Debt of Gratitude or the German Schuld der Dankbarkeit; personalized approach to life and events are as a rule is emotionally charged. In general, Filipinos put a higher emotional value to his experiences than say a white American or European who take things rather with a business-like, impersonal attitude. In other words, Filipinos tend to sentimentalize experience and cling longer to its effect as opposed to the emotional distance observed among Westerners.

This personalistic approach to life and events has its advantages in areas and situations where “human touch” or feelings are sought for by the recipients, Orientals or Westerners alike. An example to this are our medical and health workers who are in demand abroad for their known compassionate approach in nursing their patients and in their dealing with their patients’ relatives as well as with their co-workers and superiors.

Personalism permeates the Filipinos society- among people in the streets, in business and politics. This is evident in the bondingswe Filipino unconsciously form among ourselves in our social transaction. Men address each other as Pare (Kumpadre) or Brod, Kuya, Kapatid and women call each otherAte, Kumare or Tita even when they are not blood- related at all or even among strangers who just met.

Hence, it can be said that we have an inclusive attitude in our dealing with one another and even with strangers or guests- as opposed to the exclusive, separatistic and individualistic Western attitude. The term Kapwa (fellow, togetherness or own kind)) along with Pakiramdam (one’s estimation of other’s emotions or sensitivities) also play a big role in our social psychology. Our famous Hospitality Trait can only come about because of these elements mentioned.

Circular Thinking:

If our social approach can be characterized as not direct, less offensive and considerating, then we can already infer that our thinking also follows a circular pattern, a pattern which we share with our fellow Asians. This thinking is largely guided by emotional contents and intuitive elements and the centrality of human sensitivities. Our considerate and inclusive approach leads our thinking to take circuitous ways as opposed to the Aristotelian Western logic which is a more linear, hence focused, style of thinking-  goes direct from point A to point B without much regards to feelings and emotions; this thinking is guided primarily by concepts and structures. Asian philosophical, medical and religious traditions- represented in the works of Lao Zu(Taoism) are examples of circular and inclusive thinking; a good outcome of this is the Chinese Traditional Medicine which is primarily based on Chinese old philosophical concept of the interdependence of things and events.

It is in the emotional intelligence that Filipinos excel- a kind of intelligence which Salovey and Mayer (1990) defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” On the other side of the globe, conceptual and structured thinking- or cognitive intelligence has produced brilliant minds from Einstein to Beethoven, From Darwin to Karl Marx.

However, this fact should not lead us into wrong conclusion that the West is more intelligent than the East. Intelligence – when we mean by it as the capacity of abstract reasoning- is not a monopoly of the Western people; intelligent- as well as retarded- people are found in any country and an IQ of 160 in a European child has the same quality in a Filipino child when both have taken the same standardized Intelligence Test and scored the same. It is in the different cultural context that the expression of cognitive intelligence differs. A child – Asian or European- with an IQ of 160 raised in a culture where linearity, conceptual and structured thinking is emphasized will have more of his 160 IQ translated into high material performance than if the same child is raised in a culture where circularity, emotionality and intuitive thinking is emphasized.

We are familiar with the idea that Westerners are extroverted type of people, ready to solve the problems and to change the world so it  fits their needs; colonization was (and is) propelled by this type of thinking. While the Easterners are more introverted type of people, concerned with their inner world, ready to adjust their desires to the realities of the world and live with them; hence as a rule no desire to go out and colonize others (except the Imperial Japanese during World War II).

Though we have been exposed to Western mentality, I still consider that our fundamental mindset is still Eastern. Perhaps this explain why we have problem with western concepts as bureaucracy and democracy in our nation: they just do not work as they should. These concepts are products of linear thinking and impersonalism. We all know that we Filipinos are Western in written form, – our Constitution is Western style and is one of the best written body of laws and political concepts in the world, – yet we cannot fullfil the promises of our Constitution because in practice we are simply the Eastern Filipinos, our practical actions being propelled by our very own type of circular thinking and personalistic view of the world.

Democracy and bureaucracy are too abstract for us for they demand equality, rule of law and justice, loyalty not to somebody but to rules and regulations, professionalism, exactness in procedures- concepts that the Western mind adore and put with passion into actions. Whereas we Filipinos also adore them theoretically, but in practice they collide with our passions.

Democracy- as we have taken it over from the West, or forcefully injected in our mind- doesn’t fit with the strengths and weaknesses of our political character. The question that I’ve been carrying a long time already is this: Shall we change ourselves to fit to the concept of Western democracy or shall we slowly adopt a form of government that fits to our strengths and weaknesses? Or, is it easier to change ourselves or the system of government? You may help me wrestle with this question.

Back to Utang Na Loob. From the discourse above, it is implied that the Western mind would see favors as a “problems” to be solved at once, while our mind would see them as “problems” to live with. And all these elements discussed above seem to weave in and out together in our daily social interactions thus giving us a clue to a better understanding of Utang Na Loob and that of typical Filipino social personality profile.

There is more inside our Loob than just Utang Na Loob if we would examine ourselves much deeper.
Loob is a core concept in the psychology of the Filipinos which has been studied in depth by Filipino psychologists. From the very beginning, our culture seemed to have been fascinated with what is inside the Filipino and this word or concept of Loob has been a very useful tool in describing complex internal (emotional, mental and spiritual) events in the Filipino personality leading to the coining of a series of words denoting value contructs with the suffix –loob. I consider this psycho-linguistic phenomenon a very original Filipino achievement and I am even inspired to consider it as a new branch of psychology- the Loob Psychology (or Filipino Depth Psychology), which could easily fit the department of Ethnopsychology.


Here are some of the compilations by Filipino psychologists in their efforts to understand more the Filipino mind:
Nakikingutang ng loob, to seek a favor from someone
Ipagkaloob – to entrust
lagay ng loob – mood, one’sstate of mind or feeling
lakas-loob – courage
tibay ng loob – inner strength
tining ng loob- clarity of thinking, feeling, volition
kababaang loob – humility, literally “lowness of the inside”
kabutihang-loob – good naturedness
kagandahang loob – generosity, noblemindedness
may kusang-loob- one who does his work without prodding
payapang loob – a peaceful, calm person
mapagkaloob – a generous person
mahina ang loob – a coward
malakas ang loob- a daring person
malamig ang loob – an indifferent person
pikit ang loob – one who is blind to injustice
mabigat ang loob- the state of being sad, heavy-hearted
maluwag sa loob – one’sexperience of a state of being willing, cheerfully ready, literally to feel “loose/open on the inside”
wala sa loob- a state of beingunwilling, literally to “not have it in oneself”
tapat na kalooban- the state of havinga sincere inner being
masasamang-loob – criminals, literally, “those with bad inner beings”
kapalagayang loob – confidante, intimate
pampalubag-loob – consolation
kagaanang-loob – something to pacify intense emotion such as anger
The word loob, simply taken as “inside” and not a construct, is also used for “looban,” which means an interior compound, or community; and for the term “manloloob”, which means “robber,” literally “someone who enters.” (source: wikipedia )

You see now that it is worth examining the Filipino soul- or Loob. I just observed that “Walang Utang Na Loob” is not in the list above (or are there some more ?). Now, it is interesting how you would translate this into English- No Debt Of Gratitude or No Debt Of Goodwill?

But I do think that how we understand it  when somebody tells us “Wala Kang Utang Na Loob!”  is the key to understanding now the real meaning of Utang na Loob. It is not only about being indebted, but of possesing- and expecting from others-  the attitude of sincere and deeper (loob) thankfulness.

Part III   From Code Of Kalantiyaw To Mt. Sinai

 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 who were not 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 encomienda 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 which requires other cultural tools or constructs that are either foreign 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, for 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 for 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. Instead, I look at it as post-colonial form of sabotage. Destruction of the people through colonial oppression 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?

Still, I wish the Philippines a happy Independence day !

(To be continued)

  jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Talking With The Mouse Only


The Mouse says : “The rapacious desire to amass great wealth for own satisfactions. It is a never ending want for more money until the bleeding country falls into catastrophic chaos of pathetic despair and bankruptcy”.

It is a blessing that mice do not need money, that all they need are crumbs of bread (if they are lucky, maybe they’ll find crumbs of cheese) and little shelter to house their families. Mice are unemployed, don’t have salaries, don’t own acres of lands but they don’t  plunder the house where they happen to live, or hide. We know that they also collect in their nests little things they find along the way but we still cannot attribute to them Greed as we know it among us human beings. I was convinced at one point in my life that the Earth would have been better off without the human beings walking on it and making all the mess of wars, pollutions, bankings, ideological and religious extremisms, perverse politics and- according to you Mouse, – greedy and plundering politicians.

As I look  across the clear sky one night, I imagine the planets talking to one another and try to listen what our Mother Earth has to report to her (humans declared the Earth feminine) fellow planets: Is she proud of the humankind that populates her, the bloody wars that occur on her skin, the man-made cities built deep within her surface with all its toxic and pungent refuse, the giant industries, the billions of motorized vehicles, the oppression of man toward man, and man toward animals and plants, rivers and seas. And how about the moralizing Popes, the Jihad-preaching Imams and the brutal types of men in the likes of Marcos, Hitler, Stalin, Polpot, the noises of politics across the globe? And how about social injustice and poverty amidst plenty? Mother Earth finally says, ” It’s heavy with each passing day…”

The other planets pity the Earth, and Mars, being close to the Earth and has witnessed all these events, comes quick with comforting words: ” Well, don’t worry sister, all things shall pass, the human species, too, just a little patience more and soon you’ll have a break “. All the other planets agree and cheer their sister Earth.

The Sun from the other aside has heard the conversation among her children and, being the mother, cannot see any longer how her daughter Earth suffers and so, fair as she is, she comes with the final word: ” My daughter, I think you need a break now, give me right away all these that worry you and I’ll take care of them.” The Moon in between them smiles after he hears everything and shines that night even brighter.

You may wonder Mouse what kind of things will the Earth hand over to her mother Sun before she takes a break. I think you already know that the Earth will never give you away for she’ll keep with her things not greedy and destructive and noisy so that she’ll peacefully enjoy her break. As once a wise man said, “The meek shall inherit the Earth…”.

 Back to our town , I hope that our children above will inherit a brighter smiling Bulan, too, when their elders have grown old after years of hard work. Nothing is given free, everything requires us to exert effort. Even these children have to start fighting for a brighter Bulan now that they are bigger already; fight for their own kind of democracy when they’re old enough to sense the imbalance of events happening around them.

When one of them would someday emerge as their town mayor, I do wish that he would manage the town not with this logic of greed that has destroyed many in the past but wit the logic of compassion and the vision of an eagle. And he should not own vast acres of land to prevent him this feeling that he owns the town and the people are beholden to him, that he is the lord and the rest are his vassals, that only those who can donate land are allowed to lead. Here comes the illusion of power, the illusion of medieval politics, this Feudalism, which was the source of revolutions that changed the face of Europe. In Bulan, this would be the start of his own destruction- as a leader. Great leadership springs only when the mind is free from the burden of material wealth and obsession of one’s security and when the heart is dedicated to serve only.

The world could be so distorted, fractured and broken down that she is, but true models of leadership still exist. Don’t gaze toward Manila to look for it for there you’ll find only countless crooks, but look across the ocean  right into the Capitol Hills, and witness how their new leader who owns nothing leads a big nation which was handed over to him already in the brink of total collapse, and yet manages everything with such a graceful dignity, with Audacity Of  Hope. Yes, it is still possible these days, Mouse. Just never give up hoping.

 jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

The Perfect Society


Man has always been moved by tendencies to dominate, be dominated and be free. These have given rise to man’s  various political philosophies and forms of government throughout history: Monarchy, Dictatorship, etc. Political Dynasties were also the result of  these instincts; few families’ instinct to dominate is made possible by the peoples’ instinct to be dependent, to subjugate themselves and surrender their fate to the stronger families. And man’s instinct to free himself from any form of subjugation arises not only because of his capacity of reflection but because of the imperfection of the ruling parties and their imperfect system of government which causes him to suffer. Pain and sufferings are sensations that activate the instinct to flee. Hence, flight reaction is the biological foundation of this thing we call freedom. This is the main difference between man and animals; the world of animals is perfect than man’s world when by perfect we mean their stable form of government and the members dedication to their leaders and to their duty. The society of the ants or bees is a perfect example of a perfect society that has been around for millions of years already, never changing because every ant or bee benefits from the system and the system benefits from every ant or bee. So there is no reason for ants or bees to shout “yes, we can !”, no need for  freedom, for change or rebellion.

In man it’s a story and history of wars and rebellions because our society is built upon these tendencies mentioned. Our story started with tribal clans to divine kings and dynasties  and dictatorships of all kinds. But most of these monarchies and dynasties had been wiped out; and brutal dictators all over the globe have mostly met with tragic end. Today we can count the remaining  dictators and monarchies in the world and most of them are disappearing. There is really nothing essentially wrong with political dynasties in the Philippines if  these people were equipped to govern rightly but unfortunately this is not case, hence the unstable Philippine economic and political situation for  in any country with flawed or no democracy, ‘only the worst gets to the top’ according to the Austrian 1974 Nobel Laureate in economics Dr. F. A. Hayek. The Philippine politics is the most obvious proof to Dr. Hayek’s observation. Political dynasties in the Philippines have brought the country to a dead-end for, propelled only with greed and equipped with their capital and political power, political dynasties’ only task is to stop any political candidate from the grassroots or win him to work for them. In this sense, there is really no democracy in the Philippines for the elective office is reserved mostly to  few moneyed families. Our system of governance has been built around the vested interests of these families. Progressive and truly democratic countries  are devoid of political dynasties, hence the system of  check and balances is a reality. The USA has some powerful political families (Kennedys, Bush, etc.) ,too, but they are not dynasties as we Filipinos understand it  for  anyone among them with political ambition still has to prove his worth. And  though it is a country with problems of corruption also, power has long been decentralised with their system of checks and balances. They had it in their minds when these waves of liberal  and democratic Europeans fled Europe being fed up with their feudal lords and kings and powerful church bishops and founded the USA with the intention of never ever repeating their bad experience with tyranny in  Europe.

But in our case, this group of Europeans who landed in the Philippines- the Spaniards- were not fleeing but were looking for new territories for their king where he could extend and establish his dominion. He was successful and it lasted long. When they had to leave because of their imperfect governance that had led to rebellion, they left us with their churches and powerful and infuential land owners all over the country out of  which  some of the present political dynasties came. In this way colonization was not really put to an end – and most of us do not realize this- but practically continues  until this day in our country in the form of Catholicism and Trapos (traditional politicians) who share a common mission: to keep the Filipino masses just where they are- poor and dependent, wherein the Catholic Church is interested only in the life thereafter and in the collection of offerings and its shallow crusade for moral betterment  but not in birth/population control  while the political dynasties keep the monopoly of  political rule to themselves. We know that poverty and lack of education diminish the people’s sense of independence and augment the people’s weaknesses and feeling of debt of gratitude. This explains why we are overly-thankful when a Congressman or President releases funds for a project in our city or town as if the the money originated  from their own wallet, not from the people’s taxes. With increasing population and poverty, the Catholic Church is actually supporting the continued existence of our political dynasties; for like the Church, political dynasties  feed  themselves on poverty and ignorance of the greater population. An aspiring politician from the base is forced to sycophancy and blind obedience to the one on top to reach his goal in politics but at the expense of his moral integrity and independence of the mind. By being corrupted, he joins the big machinery that tramples the rest of the population and the chance of some equally able- or may be much better- political aspirants but cannot and do not want to buy a government office. Lack of  morals among these politicians prevents the whole nation or town from shining and of correcting the equally corrupted perception of the people towards election. For people themselves can be very mean towards candidates who cannot or do not want  to buy votes; they are simply ignored and belittled if they cannot buy them a drink. Political reality is far from just being one way affair- it is a two way affair. As the politicians used to say “The people just get the government they deserve”. That ‘s why our government is  more often than not very unsatisfactory partly because of people’s poor choice.

Democracy is not the invention of the politicians but a reflection of the people’s political maturity: an immature society of people produces an immature- or flawed democracy. In short, when things get boring and difficult in our country, we’d rather start blaming first ourselves rather than the politicians that bought us. So don’t complain when Arroyo presents us yearly  with high statistical figures during her SONAs and claims before  our Asian neighbors that the Philippine economy is on the verge of take-off. You know that this is fiction yet  you have been paid to believe it. On the other hand, honest citizens know that Arroyo’s figures are not the proof of a shining country or town. The best indicators of a shining country or town are the people themselves: If they look dark (poor), then those figures presented were fictional, written in a dark room. In contrast to the poor people, it is again this logic of greed, not poverty, that augments  the character weaknesses of our rich oligarchs and  politicians that,  while they shamelessly amass their wealth by plundering the national resources, they continuously destroy the already fragile pillars of  the Philippine society and threaten the whole nation to sink in the deep and dark bottoms of the Pacific.

Back to the ants and the bees I’m tempted to say that they are happier than human beings. And although they seem to be greedily working the whole day, what really moves them is not greed but their loyalty to their group and dedication to their duty. Work hard and save for the rainy day… Hence, the ants and the bees are perfect politicians, concerned about their tomorrow and the welfare of each. They may appear  just blindly obeying a genetic programm or look like robots without the faculty of thinking. But who told you that they are not happy and that they do not think? Though neither an ant nor a bee has ever whispered to me that he is happy, I prefer to consider him  happy for apart from working hard together, they always go back home and never rebel against their society. Filipinos have rebelled and many who left home are not interested in coming back to the same situations that have literally driven them away. And in all corners of the earth human beings have fought wars, turned vast acres of land to  sticky red, killed their kings and presidents. So would you rather prefer the life of an ant or a bee or your life as a human being? Or you  still prefer to be where things still need to be done?

“To each his own”, commented the reader  Marianne Gotladera in this site to the topic of Political dynasties in the Philippines. Well, if each one does not own things that do not rightfully belong to him or to her, why not? But this is far from being realized in the Philippine setting. Our president knows why. For with EDSA II she drove Erap from his seat because of Jueting only to continue it with her husband and sons. This is the face of our politics- makapal. And with this “Kanya-Kanya” attitude (To each his Own), we Filipinos will never be able to build up a cohesive society let alone produce political leaders that think in this direction. I, Me, Mine and To Each His Own are things that sound familiar to us but they are like the blue and sometimes dark waters that separate the many Philippine islands, Bulan from San Jacinto and Masbate.

On the other side, I tend to play play with the idea that Filipinos  are not made to succeed. For if we were we would have gotten it long ago. Yes, maybe we do not need success for we  fear we cannot handle the tremendous responsibility and costs that success brings with it. Success would rob us of our freedom to violate laws and leisurely life-style and perception of time, would make us irritable and impatient, would cover more fields with asphalts and cements, would congest our towns with high-rise condominiums, would break down our family structures, would increase heart attacks and suicide rates, would have us pay more taxes, would increase working hours, would produce more volumes of garbage and CO2-emissions that would pollute more our environment, etc. Who knows, it could be that our present socio-economic and political situation is already perfect for our Filipino character, so why desire for more? We only accomplish that which is directly proportional to our strengths and weaknesses, what we can and what we cannot and our present situation is maybe that what fits to us, that which keeps us apart from the Japanese or Thais. So why change ourselves and be like them? For this, our debt of gratitude should go to the greed of political dynasties and to our people’s uncommitted attitude towards politics; they have saved us from the discomforts of being rich and progressive. Indeed, our society is perfectly made for us, by us.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Nanette Vytiaco And Tony Ariado : A Retrospect

Or, Bulan’s  Past Brothers And Sisters in Arm

Every political ideology began by man finds its end also in man. First, people killed for communism and in the end people killed communism. Fascism (National Socialism), Anarchism, Monarchism, Imperialism, etc., had also met the same fate. What we still have in abundance today in Asian continent are political dynasties, which is not really a political ideology but a political practice with roots in feudalism and the smell of  decomposing corpse of colonialism buried beneath the earth. But this (political dynasty) is also subject to natural death as history has shown us: it dies due to lack of next generation that will continue 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 rebellions 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. Along with that, political dynasties will all disappear when democracy reaches its full development in each Asian country.It’s just a matter of time. Today’s highly democratic countries in Europe and in other continents are practically devoid of political dynasties. Europe was once the bastion of powerful political dynasties with Kings and Queens, Emperors, Dukes, Princes, Counts, etc., as their rulers for centuries and now they’re mostly gone, and of the some still existing, they really have no more real political power and are slowly becoming extinct. The need for economic progress had shown them that only through democratic system of governance and democratic dealing among men could a country solve its problems, not by swords and guns and titles of nobility. And they succeeded.

Marcos may have succeeded in killing thousands of  the leftist fighters, at that time legitimate freedom fighters, intellectuals whose educated minds had been insulted by the human-negating policies of the dictator. But Marcos failed to kill the spirit of freedom in our country. I was young when I saw the lifeless body of  Tony and that of  his comrades, all aligned on the bare cemented ground in front of the old Municipal building of Bulan. In another time, I went alone inside the Bulan Parish Church one morning to bid farewell to Nanette Vytiaco, where she was kept in a coffin, ready for the last trip to eternal peace. They had fought for a cause- for freedom and social justice. My lack of understanding about what really was going on at that time did not prevent me from sympathizing with these fallen Tagabulans. For me, they were simply one of us and it was sad and horrifying to see more and more mutilated, bullet-ridden dead bodies almost everyday being displayed inside the Municipal vicinity, as I used to pass by it after school just to check and see-  and count, something that became routinaryfor me. But deep inside, my purpose was to capture conversations among the adults around for I wanted to understand. For this reason I wanted to meet my older dear cousin L. Asuncion hoping to get some answers to some questions, but in vain. I had not seen him even once before I left Bulan, met him finally three years ago in Bulan after over thirty years but time constraints prevented me again from talking with him. Must I wait another 30 years? In Manila, year 1981, just a few weeks after college, I was told by my mother that a classmate of mine came by looking for me. I knew who it was and his intention. He wanted me to join their ranks in the mountains. But at that time- as now- I aready knew that revolution of such kind is not the answer to our social and economic problems.

But Nanette Vytiaco, Tony Ariado and their comrades did not die in vain. For today we still remember them and they’re just part of our time in Bulan. These people had a dream for their country and countrymen. And they were sincere and courageous, fought and died for their cause. They were the noble men and women of Bulan, our local heroes. Within the context of their time, what they did was justified. Even as we now know that communism did not survive the test of time, these freedom fighters were after all not prophets, but human beings of flesh and blood driven by their idealism. Their fight, however, was not only for communism but first and foremost  a fight against the Marcos dictatorship. If I were at their age at that time, I would have been surely one amongst them roaming the hills of Bicol, fighting not really for communism but for freedom from Marcos’ tyranny.

That’s the difference of their group with today’s armed people roaming around the hills. Idealism has been lost but what survived is a kind of ism that’s defined only by their action now. In any case communism has failed and Marcos is no longer around. Today there are still communist political parties in the world, not only in the Philippines, and in some countries they are just any other legal political party. Though the social and economic preconditions that made communism popular in the past still exist today in many countries, I think most people know by now that communism is only beautiful as a theory but in practice it’s ugly as hell for it negates freedom and human instincts. I have personally talked with Russian, Czech, Polish, former  East German, former Ex-Yugolavian, Albanian, Bulagian, Romanian and Chinese friends or colleagues of mine and asked them about their experiences of communism (and indeed variations of communism for each of these countries had each version of communism). Most of them described their experiences and the system negatively and would never want to experience communistic life again and those who answered rather indirectly said that it is nice to live in freedom, be respected, be paid for your work and to own what you can afford. In the Philippines, the mountain rebels of now are sort of stragglers who do not want to recognize that their battle has already ended, whose legitimate officers have already left them long ago and are now helping the fight for progress by working just like the rest. Devoid of a valid cause and legitimate leaders, these armed men and women are vulnerable to manipulation by any moneyed private individual or corrupt politician. It is  a sad  for it does no justice to the original freedom fighters who had respected the people and had  paid with their lives. This is the irony of the story for these people represent now the exact opposite of the original cause, indeed, a sort of a  heraclitic enantiodromic phenomenon.

I was 12 when Martial Law was declared in 1972. I think it was a certain Sgt. Magno who was killed the very first in an ambush somewhere between Bulan and Irosin, aboard an army jeep, in that sharp uphill curve whose local name I have already forgotten. It was dark but I went to the Municipio to check and see that ambushed jeep. I had not seen Sgt. Magno anymore but what had stuck in my memory were  the huge bullet holes behind the driver’s seat; it sent chills down my spines. Astonishing is human memory, for until now as I write, after more than 30 years, I can still see clearly the details of that jeep. Indeed, the details of Bulan from my standpoint throughout those 17 years I spent there are well stored in my mind. Now ambushing still occurs sporadically in Bulan but this has no longer a deeper meaning for the people. In fact, people are now being outraged to hear such a senseless but violent attack for it runs counter to the aspirations of the people- to live in peace and unity, fight for progress by hard work and respect for all.

This Christmas Day of 2008, let us honor Nanette Vytiaco, Tony Ariado and the rest of their group who died with good visions in their minds for Bulan and who activated good things within each of us we didn’t know  existing. We should remember our genuine freedom fighters and draw lessons from them in our fight for progress the peaceful way. I personally express my highest respect to the man who knew and suffered with  Nanette Vytiaco more than anybody else, and that is Mr. Antonio Vytiaco, Sr., of Sta. Remedios, the father of Nanette. To you sir and the rest of your family I wish you a Merry Christmas. Now is the time to celebrate for justice has been served.

 For A Brighter Bulan!

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
Album: Brothers In Arms
Year: 1985


These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day youll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And youll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve witnessed all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the suns gone to hell
And the moons riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But its written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
Were fools to make war
On our brothers in arms


………………………………………………related News……………………………….. 

Bicol Mail Online

December 04, 2008

Anti-Marcos heroes hailed
QUEZON CITY — Addressing a crowd here of illustrious men and women and relatives and friends of the victims of the bloody “Dekada 70”, Naga City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo underscored that the lives sacrificed by our heroes and martyrs duringthedark years of Martial Law would not be in vain if we, the living, continue the fight against deceit, decadence and oppression which are once again threatening the nation.

Robredo has been invited as guest of honor and speaker at the Bantayog ng mga  celebration honoring this year’s martyrs and heroes last Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 2, 2008.

The site of the celebration was the Bantayog Memorial Center located at the intersection of Edsa and Quezon Avenue here where the names of over 170 heroes and martyrs are etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance near a 45-foot sculpture by Ed Castrillothatdepicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son.

This year’s honorees are: Prudencio Nemenzo, Sedfrey Ordonez, Lucio de Guzman, Alfredo Jazul, Bayani Lontoc, Catalino Blas, Nimfa del Rosario, Pastor Mesina, and Alex Torres.

An estimated 10,000 Filipinos, mostly young students, are believed to have suffered and died during the Marcos dictatorship that ended in 1986.

“Perhaps the reason [why I was invited] here is that I come from Naga, a small city of Bicol martyrs and heroes in the time of rage against a dictatorship,” Robredo told his audience that include former Sen. Jovito R. Salonga, chair emeritus of Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, and its Chairman, Alfonso T. Yuchengco.

He said Naga City is in the heart of Bicolandia that in the time of Marcos was a forsaken land in search of liberation from poverty and oppression “where the blood of a hundred or so young heroes and martyrs were spilled over its abandoned hills and barren farmlands”.

Robredo said he could remember the names of some of these heroes from Naga and Bicol: Tony G. Ariado; Jemino L. Balaquiao, Jr.; Floro Balce; Alex Belone; Dr. Juan B. Escandor; Romulo Jallores alias Kumander Tangkad, and his brother Ruben, also known as Kumander Benjie; the brothers Ramon, Jesus and Tomas Pilapil, and; Nanette Vytiaco, among others.

“Some of their names, I believe, are etched on this Wall of Remembrance,” the mayor said.

Robredo said he was a second year high school at the Ateneo de Naga when the wounded Romulo Jallores, alias Kumander Tangkad of Ocampo, Camarines Surwascornered and peppered with22 gunshots by Philippine Constabulary agents inside his relative’sapartment along Ateneo Avenue in the afternoon of December 30, 1971.

Ka Jemino Balaquiao, too, died a horrible death in the hands of Marcos soldiers. While lifeless, his face was desecrated and his bloodied body dragged by a tricycle on the way to the Army camp.

His brutal death in 1980 prompted a Naga-based local paper to strongly condemn it. His fellow students at the NagaParochialSchool where he finished his elementary grades before entering the Philippine Science High School and UP honored him so deeply. They kept vigil over his sealed body at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral where he used to be a student-altar boy.

During those times, even Naga’s and Camarines Sur’s prominent political leaders were fiercely anti-Marcos. These men included human rights lawyer Joker Arroyo, constitutionalist lawyer-priest Joaquin Bernas, House Minority Floor Leader Ramon H. Felipe, Jr. the late Justice Francis Garchitorena, then ConconDelegate Ramon Diaz, and local practicing lawyers Luis General Jr., J. Antonio Carpio, and Ramon San Andres. Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros was then a young activist who edited an underground news magazine.

Acknowledging the heroes’ courage and unwavering love for liberty and freedom, the mayor said their deaths were for a higher purpose that should be carried on by the present generations by continuing to serve the people in the best way that they can.

“Let us all be heroes [like them], more so in the absence of tumult and war,” Robredo stressed.


………………………………………….(News article referred by mr.rudyb)


The case of 2 ‘missing’ girls   

By Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:42am (Mla time) 12/27/2008Filed Under: Youth, Armed conflict, Civil unrest
MANILA, Philippines-Since the Supreme Court adopted over a year ago extraordinary measures to curb human rights abuses, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been on the defensive, receiving a barrage of complaints in connection with extrajudicial executions and disappearances.
But in a little publicized case in February, the AFP’s Civil Military Operations (CMO) found itself in an unusual court battle: Helpingparents secure information from leftist groups about two missing teenage girls who they believed had joined the New People’s Army (NPA).
The parents of Khristine Calido and Marissa Espedido sought a writ of amparo, from the Spanish amparar-to protect-adopted by the high tribunal from a successful judicial procedure in Guatemala to combat military abuses in the midst of a rash in political killings and kidnappings of activists.
This time, the respondents were leftist groups that, the parents averred, had recruited Calido and Espedido to pave the way for their membership in the NPA.
The girls were barely 18 years old when they left their homes and abandoned their studies, says Col. Buenaventura Pascual, CMO head.
“Filing the writ of amparo was the only solution so that those who knew where the girls were would be compelled to produce them in court,” Pascual says.
The case was lodged in the Regional Trial Court in Antipolo City against leaders of the Kabataan party-list group, Bayan Muna and individuals who included youthleaders accompanying Khristineand Marissa when their parents last saw them before they went missing.
The groups vehemently denied that they were responsible for the girls’ disappearance.
Volunteer educator
One respondent claimed Khristine gave “volunteer education to tribal folks and farmers” in Tanay, Rizal, on Dec. 26, 2007, but that she had never been seen after that.
Pascual says the court case uncovered the lives led by the girls since they joined the leftist youth organization Anakbayanwhile attendinga national high school where they were both enrolled.
Searching amongthe girls’ belongings, their parents discovered their diaries where they detailed their activities that included joining lightning rallies, “MOBs” or mobilizations, and campaigning for Bayan Muna in last year’s midter

Continue Your Good Work!

I have been contemplating whether to share or not share with you this email I got just this afternoon. This cold evening, after thinking things out over a cup of coffee, I finally decided to share this with you. The way that this mail has warmed my heart after reading it, I also hope this would do the same to all observers of Bulan as well as to our Mayor Helen De Castro and her Team. I firmly believe that we can reach our good sides and most importantly that of our public servants if we establish a way of constructive communication with one another and focus on good intention and reward for any good work done.

Bulan Observer was launched with this objective in mind, and not to cultivate hate among us; it doesn’t support anybody indiscriminately but support only his/her good intention and achievement for our town. “Continue your good work!” are words that summarize our approach in politics, words that should motivate us to do good works in any form for our community. By the way, these words came from a fellow Bicolano, from Senator Francis Escudero, words that I just cannot keep for myself  for his message is for all of us. Here’s his email:


Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:16 AM

Good afternoon! Thank you for sending an e-mail through my Online Office. Feel free to browse the website. It was put up in order to provide Filipinos a venue for understanding my legislative work and position on national issues. Through features like the forum and comment box, site visitors can send their thoughts and criticisms that serve as an opportunity for self-reflection and self-improvement.

I admire your work on the Bulan Observer. Its long-term goal of creating a huge non-partisan Bulan On-line Community that let members post their thoughts on corrupt practices and injustices in the town is impressive. It is really admirable that you harness new technology in encouraging pro-activeness and vigilance among people. Continue your good work!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


I join Chiz in wishing  you all in Bulan  a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!
jun asuncion
Bulan Observer

“Hello Obama!”

Or, Arroyo’s Frustration  (reaction to J.A. Carizo’s and Atty. Benji’s comments)

   I expected somehow that Arroyo would not support Obama but rather McCain for Arroyo knows exactly that she cannot hide behind Obama should he become president; Obama is just too transparent, hence  not a good hiding place for Arroyo. For Obama, it was and is just fitting for him to avoid Arroyo for he knows right from the start how corrupt her administration is. This would only tarnish his image. The pro-active Obama doesn’t want to remove but rather avoid from the beginning a rotten apple to land in his basket. And so right on day one he did not want to hear sweet-talking and lies from Arroyo, perhaps that’s the reason why he did not pick up her “Hello Obama!” call  to congratulate him. It fits his profile and I think he did it wisely. For after all he is not a small fish like Garci. So it’s right that he should send a signal right from the start that he doesn’t endorse corruption nor personally appreciate corrupt leaders. He will have to continue the foreign relations with the Philippines and it’s wise for Obama to avoid his foreign policy to be based on personal relationship and sweet-talking to avoid falling into deadly trap of Utang Na Loob (debt of gratitude), a mistake done by Bush by being too close with other presidents. Bush was too pliant with Blair and even with Arroyo and at the same time too harsh with his adversaries resulting inadvertently to black and white or good and evil political perception. This is also a two-edged political sword for in the end Bush destroyed both his allies and foes; it led to Blair’s resignation and Arroyo’s regression. Most of all, it has led to senseless wars and injustice. But European leaders were quick to recognize the danger and so distanced themselves from Bush. A victim of his harsh attitude was Saddam Hussein. Saddam was surely not an angel for he let killed a lot of Kurds. But he never threatened the USA directly. Hence, to attack the whole nation of Iraq and to hang Saddam for ungrounded reasons was  pure injustice. No wonder why Arroyo favored McCain for McCain was a kind of Bush in many ways,- aristocratic, a warrior and an old father figure; Obama young and lacking in experience, a social worker – and black.

But we all had the chance to observe the two candidates Obama and McCain in depth for quite a long time during the election campaign: The social worker Obama was always dignified and well-defined in his ways (gestures) and speech (thinking) whereas the aristocratic McCain was very erratic in both. Obama defeated both Clinton and McCain just using his concept of Change all through the campaign, whereas McCain was always changing his concept in an effort to keep up and damage Obama but it did not work for McCain’s base was not strong and less-defined from the very beginning. We don’t need to elaborate on Palin for she was a bad accident in that election. I have observed though that when one is losing sound arguments, one resolves consciously or unconsciously  to the primitive weapon of racial supremacy- in gestures and insinuations- in trying to shake the firm Obama’s tower. All these three white candidates resolved to this weapon in their helpless attempt to reactivate among white Americans the fear of the dark skinned and their (the white Americans) historical supremacy over them. I was considering the idea that if Bush administration were popular, and if McCain were not too Bushy, Obama wouldn’t have won this election. So that’s the biggest credit that history would give to Bush- for preparing Federal America ripe for an Obama. Bush the sacrificial lamb.

There is a kernel of truth to say that the Filipinos still prefer “tisay” or “kana” (white-skinned people). That’s the result of being nurtured by the whites for a long time. Filipinos are discriminating to their own fellow-Filipinos, be it in the Philippines or abroad. It is known that they would serve first the white than the brown-skinned in cafes, restaurants, shopping stores, etc. This is sad to observe. But I do think this is more of a conditioned reflex brought about by colonialism: The white, my protector and provider, the brown my rival. Its well-known by-product is our crab mentality which is continuously reinforced by the extended lack of unifying figure in our political leadership and the ensuing moral decline in social behavior. The irrationality and dogmatic stance of the catholic church has also led to its failure in accomplishing anything of genuine moral base for the multi-cultured Filipinos. Going to church is therefore more of a conditioned behavior (habit) among us than deep religiosity and moral reflection for the problems that beset us then and now continue to be a moral one in character. Self-respect and sincerity are values that we urgently need  to develop for us to grow as one nation.

That Obama seems to abandon the Philippines is something that we must perceive as part of our growing-up process. We cannot lean on  forever to our dear Uncle Sam and forever assume this beggarly attitude. At one point we must leave our adolescence and enter adulthood, must learn to be independent  and self-reliant. This is perhaps that needed push we need- to be snobbed, be ship-wrecked and abandoned, alone between China Sea and the Pacific Ocean so we learn to depend on ourselves, get united and swimm together in order to survive and be proud of  our own accomplishments. Perhaps only then will the world community start to take us seriously. Alas, the original Filipino Identity!

The fact is the USA cannot totally do away without the Philippines if it wants to maintain its influence and improve its popularity  in the East and Southeast Asian region. American popularity has declined worldwide during the entire Bush Administration. Now Obama is set to repair it and for that he cannot ignore the former allies in Asia. Arroyo did not see in Obama the needed support only because she was snobbed during her last trip (June) to the USA; she saw it in McCain. But here she was again mistaken. Obama actually wrote Arroyo-as recently announced by her  executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita- and talked about common  interests such as “climate change, food security, poverty reduction, the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, human rights in Burma and defense reform.” Obama’s foreign and strategic policies as a candidate is summed up in the so called Phoenix Initiative report and this includes 1. counter-terrorism, 2. nuclear proliferation, 3. climate change and oil dependence, 4. the Middle East, and 5. East Asia. So the Philippines still has the prospect of doing business with the USA.

Obama’s presence will still continue to be felt in our region and knowing that he had once attended a multi-cultural and multi-religious primary school in Indonesia and with childhood classmates still residing in Asia, Obama has surely a fair share of good memories from there and with this Asian experience he could also be a unifying figure in our region and add to that that he stands for dialogue diplomacy- a stance heavily criticized by Bush, McCain and Palin which escalated during the campaign, becoming louder and louder, echoed softly back and silenced these three loud ones in the end. This is elegance à la Obama.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

A Transcendental White House

Obama, Or the Clash Of Ideas, Not Of Emotions Or Races

The Obama effect on me was that sigh of relief the day he won this historic election. Think about the real significance of this event for the black race as well as for the white and all other colors in between. For the Afro-Americans, a historic triumph with effect comparable only to that of Abrahan Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1863, which is not to be confused with Britain’s The Emancipation Act on August 1, 1834, which did not abolish servitude, but the first significant promise of freedom. 

 But this time with Obama, this is the realization of the great black dream to be set on equal footing with the white-their former master-, a dream expressed by Martin Luther King in his famous speech I HAVE A DREAM delivered on August 28,1963. This dream was more of a vision. For not far away- just two years earlier-on August 4, 1961- Obama was born to give a concrete form to this dream 45 years later which for the blacks almost an elusive dream even a few moments before he was declared the election winner last November 4. Now it’s reality; Obama becomes the first elected black President. Racial barrier to White House has been crossed, broken down. For Obama it was everything but an easy task. It took hard work and fluid intelligence for Obama from the very beginning to this symbolic victory. A graduate from the Harvard Law School, it is his education, not only emotion and passion, that brought that needed Liberation of the black Americans. Education as light of the people- this was probably what Rizal had in mind when he wrote this line, or when he was in America as he described what he saw in this country in his letter to Mariano Ponce on July 27, 1888, (25 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation) :

  “I visited the largest cities of America with their big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions. Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects. There is no real civil liberty. In some states, the Negro cannot marry a white woman, nor a Negress a white man. Because of their hatred for the Chinese, other Asiatics, like the Japanese, being confused with them, are likewise disliked by the ignorant Americans. The Customs are excessively strict. However, as they say rightly, American offers a home too for the poor who like to work. There was, moreover, much arbitrariness. For example, when we were in quarantine.
They placed us under quarantine, in spite of the clearance given by the American Consul, of not having had a single case of illness aboard, and of the telegram of the governor of Hong Kong declaring that port free from epidemic.
We were quarantined because there were on board 800 Chinese and, as elections were being held in San Francisco, the government wanted to boast that it was taking strict measures against the Chinese to win votes and the people’s sympathy. We were informed of the quarantine verbally, without specific duration. However, on the same day of our arrival, they unloaded 700 bales of silk without fumigating them; the ship’s doctor went ashore; many customs employees and an American doctor from the hospital for cholera victims came on board.
Thus we were quarantined for about thirteen days. Afterwards, passengers of the first class were allowed to land; the Japanese and Chinese in the 2nd and 3rd classes remained in quarantine for an indefinite period. It is thus in that way, they got rid of about 200  ( or 643 coolies, according to Zaide ) Chinese, letting them gradually off board.”

So was Rizal’s taste of discrimination in the USA, a traumatic one for sure. Luckily Rizal was traveling first class- as implied in this letter- otherwise he would had been quarantined for an indefinite period and this could have changed the course of Philippine History!

Both American and British Emancipation Acts, the latter predating the former for 31 years, did not totally abolish racial discrimination and slavery, The Afro Americans though released from slavery, suffered more than a hundred years after the signing of that Emancipation Proclamation with limited civil liberties (no right of suffrage being black and being a woman, for instance),  while the more than half a million slaves in Britain’s Caribbean colonies had to wait for another four years for the most elementary liberties for the government feared that the situation would be out of control while the plantation owners feared the economy would collapse as forced labor would no longer be available. This is important to know because presently our Philippine government’s labour export policy is not genuinely based on goodwill but of fear that abolishing the OFW would only lead to our economic collapse, a fear secretly shared among our national politicians, revealed in a slip of the tongue that happened to Arroyo last 2001 in Singapore. Slave trading  being conducted in a more modern form, transported in modern vessels, revenues electronically transmitted? This is in no way to insult the OFWs but to view this phenomenon as a living proof of our government’s inefficiency and seemingly callous attitude towards its people. A government with vision works hard to keep its people at home or  to bring home those people away from home- like what South Korea did to its workers abroad. All I know is that Filipino oversea workers are driven home from time to time only because of their families and relatives, not because of their government and public officials. In truth, Filipinos abroad would never go back home because of Arroyo and Co. And even in their own host countries, they’re just ashamed to talk about our politics and political figures.

The election of Obama proved once again that with all its defects, America is still a democratic country whose face is changing with time, adapting to the challenges of all kinds in order to survive. Millions of young white American voters have opened their eyes and seen that it’s no longer sustainable to be just conservative for conservatism’s sake  and be against anyone for reason of skin color. Arguments and solutions count, not  skin color. Obama is the most palpable proof of change in the American perception. And Obama broke all the records and brought a quantum of solace for millions of Americans- and billions of people around the world. After all the paranoia brought about by the traumatic events that happened the world over in the past decades and the over-all negative effects of the unpopular Bush’s administration, it is interesting to observe that humanity did not fall into apathy and total disillusion. The way that the world favored Obama  in all the continents and reacted with euphoria and sense of release is a sign of good mental health for the world population. The archetypal need for a good and unifying leader, in short, for a hero, is still intact. On this historic day, not only the American voters, but the whole world voted for a hero, not only for an ordinary president. This explains the electricity of how the world citizens reacted to Obama’s election. In fact, if the world were allowed to cast  their votes, the results would have been more catastrophic and depressing for McCain! It’s good to know that the majority likes you. And Obama reacted just the way a hero is expected to react: a felt sense of tremendous responsibility as seen in Obama’s face and in his words. He did not dance around nor give any grandiose gesture of winning the battle. He was serious in his looks and speech. For him, the battle has just begun. There is no time to celebrate. The financial crisis, the problems at home and the all that mess that Bush has done, the world community- all these require Obama’s attention.

Most of you who are familiar with my little writings here in Bulan Observer would have already noticed that I am for a noble kind of leadership, for a leader who works hard for his/her people and values the unifying power of his/her position as a mayor or whatever, that I have been talking about redefining Bulan politics, that I am for working together as a team if we want Bulan to move forward and that we should transcend political affiliations and personal emotions when it comes to solving the problems of the town. For this reason I call Obama my Obama even if he doesn’t know me. It’s because of the kinship of our basic political ideas and attitude (don’t get me wrong for I am talking only about kinship not of talents for he has more than enough!). Now that he is building up his team, it awes and amazes  me how he approaches his bitter campaign rivals like McCain and Hillary Clinton, etc., asking them or offering them options to work with him. And that after all the mud hurled at him during those long campaigning periods! Obama is a living testimony of a leader who transcends and unites in order to solve the major problems now facing America and the world- and he is a leader who is very transparent in his ideas. This is why I see the White House more transparent and transcendental than ever with Obama moving in. And with his wise strategy, I think Obama is already ripe for his second term- even before his first term has ever started!

Back to Bulan, I ask you all political leaders and public officials to draw significant lessons from Obama’s political culture and to try to integrate them in your daily political thinking. Remember to put the town first. This is one step to transcendental politics.

For A brighter Bulan!

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Two-Edged Swords

by jun asuncion

( My reaction to rudybellens interesting contribution ” Lessons We Should have Learned…)

This situation analysis about Taiwan and the Philippines boils down to the most basic fundamentals again that we have been talking about: education and character, with all its strengths and weaknesses. To illustrate this I quote hereunder salient portion of rudybellen’s report:

“The Philippines still has an edge in being an English speaking-country and in having many natural resources, unlike Taiwan that only has its people as resource. However, its sole wealth in people, enabled Taiwan to tap its greatest potential in developing high-technology industries. ITRI, an agency with more than 5,000 researchers and more than 1,000 Ph.Ds, has enabled the spin-off of many technology companies.”

Taiwan has a high quality educational system as we have seen in PISA results. Wealth is a matter of quality not of quantity. Quantity-wise, we are richer than Taiwan in terms population, about 23 million (Taiwan) vs. about 90 million (Philippines). But this “wealth” of ours is more of liabilities than assets when it’s not educated in the modern sense as Taiwan; Taiwanese are highly educated and this is the big difference. The other thing that contributes to their success is their character. The Taiwanese engineers and scientists trained in Silicon Valley in the 80’s and 90’s returned to their small country and helped boost its economy in the succeeding years. This is loyalty and patriotism, a character trait that seems to be strongly anchored among the Taiwanese.

The Philippines’ claim of having an edge being an English speaking-country is a farce, outdated in my view for it did not/doesn’t contribute substantially to the country’s economic progress. We were made to believe by the American colonizers that by adopting their language and lifestyle we would boost our economy, i.e. get rich. The fact is that many countries that are rich and successful are not English-speaking ones,-Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and many more. The Philippines learned English early yet remained poor until now. So where is this edge? These countries acquired English much later but now they write and speak much better than most of us; they have learned their lessons well, thanks to their better equipped teachers and schoolrooms.

It is not to be disputed that the Philippines is endowed with rich natural resources compared to Taiwan, that in fact our wealth is still not fully tapped and converted to economic wealth yet -though we have already ravaged our ecosystem to a greater extent due to ignorance, greed and lack of political foresight. This is sad but I believe that there is still much left to be saved and recovered for us now and for the next generations. Let us not be pessimistic about our environment for in the long run it’s not we human beings that shape nature, but nature us human beings. Naturally we have to maintain our immediate environment clean (less pollution) if we want to survive and harvest something from it or else commit a planetary suicide.

This is an option left for us to decide. But such things as global warming and climate change, etc. are nothing new in the history of our planet and solar system. Central Europe was not always a temperate zone; hundreds of thousand years ago it was a tropical region with corresponding flora and fauna; there used to be palm trees like coconuts in Luzern for instance during those times. Glacial ice melted here and there millions of years before the invention of cars and Al Gore’s birth. Behind man’s exaggeration and hysteria about the climate is his belief that he is the center of all things and thus being in control of the world. Our realistic responsibility is to keep our surrounding clean and productive, nothing more. The universe takes control of the whole- even us little creatures.

How are we related to cows and milk? Well, they reveal a lot about our weaknesses and strengths. I do not mean the strength you get from drinking fresh cow’s milk every morning nor the weakness from the lack of milk, but about our political will and character.

To quote again rudybellen’s report to us:

“A foremost backer of a strong dairy industry was former Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, who launched her White Revolution years ago to bring in Indian cows and bulls to propagate higher yields of milk and meat in the country. The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) also developed in vitro fertilization (IVF) to propagate better breeds, including some from Hungary, to increase the number of livestock for milk production. Dairy farmers have complained that there is little incentive for milk production even though there are large pasture areas in the country that have not been adequately exploited”.

You see clearly that it’s not the lack of brains in our country but the lack of political will to continue something good that has been started like this White Revolution launched by Senator Shahani. Mr. Ningas Cogon and Mrs. Crab Mentality are names that dominate the government’s payroll. They are the enemies of our economy for they come only to search and destroy, instead of to search and preserve or further develop. These large pasture areas in the country have been adequately exploited not for the dairy industry but for residential subdivisions, an example of those projects that are a two-edged sword for though they create, they destroy much more than what was created.

There are other solutions to solving the housing problems of a growing population. First, control the population, and second, design housing structures vertically, not horizontally. We know that global food crises come and go- only to come again. We are experiencing it at the moment. Yet I have never heard until now of such problem as global housing crisis where countless people die in a short period of time. There is always a way to find a little corner to sleep or a roof when it rains- and survive. To find food however is too difficult when every inch of the land has been cemented; you would survive after you have eaten your grass-deprived cow or goat, but not long.

We should therefore be avoiding converting vast areas of lands for housing purposes but should preserve them for our cows, rice and grass. Building subdivisions is destroying the economy and landscape and investing huge money in an economically poor project; it has zero-returns for the whole country and other related industries, hence a passive investment. The land should produce crops and offer living space for productive animals.

In the same manner that two-edged swords destroy our economy, death penalty in Saudi Arabia destroys heads every week in public squares. An Erap head should have rolled all along the Edsa Highway, instead of being house arrested with all the luxuries of a first class prison and getting pardoned in the end by an egoistic Arroyo. Death penalty is a tool that I think is reserved only for a very just government where, to quote rudybellen “we only need to implement the law rationally”, and justice for all- if I may add something to it. We have already seen in Arroyo’s action that such death penalty is also a farce in a corrupted political and legal system. Where money and power rule, death penalty is a joke for the rich and powerful criminals but of course feared like hell by smaller criminals.

Have you ever heard or- in case you are an OFW in Saudi Arabia- seen an Arabian Prince or influential public official hanged in those many execution squares in Saudi Arabia on charges of corruption? Saudi Arabian politics is unequalled in bribery and corruption- even before they discovered their oil. It is often called as the Kingdom Of Corruption- and it has the most advanced and active death penalty of the world!

Death penalty in this country is a tool used by corrupt officials to protect their status quo by propagating fear (deterrence) among the little people, but not to stop corruption itself. Take note also that countries with less or no grand scale corruption are countries without death penalty in their legal system – with the exception of the Philippines. In a public act (display) Arroyo aborted death penalty in our country yet her term has the highest record of extra-judicial killings. Whatever the motives behind these two events, and whether there is relationship, is open for interpretation. This is my observation.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Of Greener Pastures, Brain Drains and Headhunters

 (A response to J.A. Carizo’s comment on A Lesson from From Shamans…)

Colonization actually started also with the dream of greener pasture which, as in the case of Spain, not really to spread Christianity and glorify their God and His Ten Commandments like Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall love thy neighbor etc. , for in fact they came in search of resources and employment and, worse, conquered, enslaved the natives, murdered and looted the whole Philippine archipelago. In the Philippines alone, colonization provided jobs for tens of thousands-perhaps millions- of Spaniards at that time in the Philippines and surely substantially increased Spain’s GDP during this pillage that lasted for 333 years. How about if you add to that the colonized South American countries? You may recall the Galleon Trades en route Mexico-Manila-Spain resulting to sinking some of these ships for being overloaded with golds, silver, goods and slaves. Some treasure hunters are still on the way mapping out the oceans with the hope of locating these lost  cargo ships. Now, we may just say it was the past and we just happened to be one of those unlucky nations that fell into the hands of those European colonizers. Some European friends of mine also admit that they were the ones who started the troubles in this world. It was painful for the colonized, glorifying for the colonizers. But from today’s modern perspective, for the former colonizers, what they did was a shame and source of remorse, for the former colonized ones, it was the birth of nationalism and authentic heroism, in short, a source of pride. You see, how situations and meanings change with time, true to the maxim that time heals if you were the victim, time injures if you were the perpetrator. In other words, time brings justice. From the modern, civilized, humanistic perspective, the Philippines is a proud nation for it has a clear conscience unlike Japan, Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and America who unti now suffer from this collective guilt and in some cases have to pay reparation fees.Viewed against this context, we can shout  with clear conscience to the whole world “Mabuhay Ang Pilipino!”.

However, we now can comfort ourselves with the idea that the Spanish colonizers’ landing on the shores of Mactan was far from being an exact planning. The work of Professors Feyrer and Sacerdote of Darmouth College showed that it was wind direction and speed which decided where Europeans settled first and not by cherry-picking, i.e. choosing consciously better islands to settle. In short, by chance. Good or bad luck for us, you may say, for in truth colonization had both its negative and positive sides. Spain helped accelerate our development in many areas like education, arts, literature, sciences, engineering, architecture, nation building and -whether you like it or not-religion and Catholicism; they planned and built our cities, towns, universities, hospitals (and churches!) etc. The same with our American and Japanese colonial periods; they also contributed to the development of these areas mentioned. In effect, it has united us as one people, gave birth to nationalism, provided the platform for the development and cultivation of the Filipino mind and stimulated our political consciousness. We are all familiar with the negative sides of colonization so it’s about time we talk about its positive sides and use these with our modern insights to help us overcome those negative ones for as a nation we cannot afford to linger forever in the past and keep romanticising the pains of colonialism; we have to move forward.

Translated into our Bulan politics, we should act in such a way as to help those people in our municipal government be aware of their own good sides and good intentions so that they’ll think and act accordingly resulting to positive achievements for the town. This is what I mean by redefining many things in Bulan. We have been acting and behaving for ages according to the old definitions we carry in our subconscious that’s why we never move forward. We have to define our politics anew if we want progress: For the politician or politician-to be, think of how you can enrich your town while in office or if elected; for the political opponents including their supporters who lost the election, think also of how you can help those elected enrich the town. Fair play and teamwork is needed for the town to grow. This is simple but hard to do for this means transcending the ego for a higher end. This is difficult for it goes against the natural man in us and requires a civilized step we call reflection. Not transcending selfish motives and hate means staying by the old definition of politics and therefore against the idea of Bulan moving forward. The mayor should respect her office and use it to motivate and unify our people and act according to our new definitions of things in Bulan. This is the only way for Bulan to move to the next form.

You have mentioned OFW. The same way that Spain suffered a big outflow of human capital at that time the problem of human capital flight in the Philippines is as old as our colonial history itself. Think of the years spent by Rizal, Luna, Hidalgo, etc. outside the Philippines during their most productive years. Brain drain, originally coined by the Royal Society to describe the emigration of scientists and technologists to North America from post-war Europe, is not a new phenomenon and familiar causes of emigration are conflict, lack of opportunity, political instability, etc. -reasons also known to Rizal in his time. But we should not forget that it was not one sided at that time. Our country profited during that time also from  a huge in-flow of human capital or brain gain; educated European brains settled in our country and improved our GDP by bringing with them their knowledge and skills we never had before they came. Actually it was the colonizing-and later the war-torn Europe- that first suffered from brain drain. The families and relatives of the OSW, or Oversea Spanish Workers, knew already long ago the sentiments we Filipinos are experiencing now with our own OFW. Actually, brain drain in the Philippines started in the 1970’s due to the government’s adoption of international contract work known thereafter to us as Oversea Contract Workers whose first wave landed mostly in Saudi Arabia and in other Southeast Asian countries as well. There are by now around 8 million Filipinos working abroad (more than the population of Austria, Finland and Switzerland) and last year they sent home over 10 billion dollars which is about 12% of the country’s GDP. Arroyo’s government is happy about this money that’s why it boasted last July 25 of “coffers with monetary reserves” to face the world’s food and fuel crisis. But this is the hook to it: The lack of nurses and doctors and other medical personnel is continuously damaging the country’s health care system (resulting to closures of hospitals) – this with around 15,000 nurses leaving the country each year.

The problem in our country is that our political and economic situation is only conducive to brain drain but not to brain gain, i.e. in-flow of highly skilled individuals. Many foreigners are hesitant to invest their money, time and knowledge in our country for we do not meet the requirements of these people; it’s unthinkable for instance for European or South Korean nurses and doctors to apply as such in our country. However, brain drain is not only a problem among developing countries, it is a global problem. On the other hand, countries benefiting from brain gain (human capital) and economic gain (financial capital)  are countries that invested and continously invest in education and research and are politically and socially stable ones. A case in point I know so well is Switzerland, one of the best headhunters in the world. This is a place of brain gain from almost every imaginable discipline. I can say with certainty, as an example, that at the moment in history, the best brains of theoretical and astrophysics are gathered in Geneva working for CERN’s recently opened Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator. Whereas, to talk about headhunting in the Philippines is still taken literally by many foreign nationals, which understandably triggers fear and flight instinctive reactions in these people.

To qoute J.A. Carizo, “Aren’t the municipality missing guys like you and Atty Benjie and the rest of the Taga-Bulans who are now in Manila and other places living far from your hometown for lack of opportunities?”. Well, Attybenji would somehow find it easy as a lawyer to find a job in Bulan. I could imagine him as practicing lawyer, a competent politician or as a legal counselor to our mayor, for instance. But for a clinical psychologist, I think it woudn’t be easy to find clients in Bulan, a psychiatric hospital or a psychological clinic/research institute. Or, am I mistaken? I stand to be updated here!


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer






When A Shaman Runs Amok

Or,  The Problem Of Depression And Violence In Finland

It happened just a few hours after I have posted my previous article about Finland: In Kauhajoki, Finland, a Finnish gunman ran amok killing  several students in a classroom. This horror echoes last November 11, 2007 ‘s student shooting -also at a classroom in Finland- which is known as the “Jokela High school Massacre” in the town of Tuusula. It sounds paradoxical as we have just been  praising the Finnish educational system and economy. But one thing is clear that these student shootings are not part and parcel of the educational program of Finland. But the question is why does such drama  happen in such an educated society? Education is just one aspect of the Finnish society, it is not everything, it’s a great accomplishment yet is not a panacea, a cure-all medicine of the ills of the society. This incident brings us rather to the nature and culture (upbringing) of the Finnish men and women as they went through the tunnel of time and experience. We mentioned the high rate of suicide and alcoholism in Finland, and this was already a problem even before their economic boom. The World Health Organization’s Survey of 2003 showed that  “at 26.6 per 100 000 population in 1993, the Finnish suicide rate  was by far the highest among the reference countries…” Suicide is a form of self-inflicted violence, and when this act involves other persons than oneself (take others with you, so to speak), then it is called extended suicide, a phenomenon observed in many industrialized countries. In trying to answer the root cause of this suicide phenomenon we must go back to the individual Finn and find a trait that could give us a clue which relates to this destructive behavior. The historian  Anthony Upton, concurs that even in the 19th century “Finland was understood to be two to three times more violent than Western European countries”. Statistics show that the Finnish suicide problem  is higher among the finnish male. Common sense will therefore tell us that Finnish men are more violent than women since suicide is by definition a form of violence. A study conducted by the Finnish sociologist Johanna Kantola confirms Upton’s statement when she found out that domestic violence in Finland has also the highest rate in Western Europe. Finnish men are indeed violent, with 40 % of women being victims of their violent men, as her study has shown. Violent behavior is a negative indicator of psychosocial-well being, which means that not all but many Finnish men are unhappy and do not find socially adequate means of expressing their emotions. This is mostly the result  of the social perception of the role of men in Finland (as in other cultures as well)-that of being like a Viking, hardened and strong, shielded from the attacks of the outside, no display of emotions. This is the weakness of their firewall system for nothing can come out anymore thus resulting to emotional suffocation, leading the system to break from within due to this accumulated pressure. The result is violence- either in form of direct suicide, indirect suicide (as excessive alcoholism and drug addiction) and/or domestic violence.The demand of a high-performance society is intense and this alone can cause depressions due to stress, mobbing, failures and broken relationships. You add to that the effect of the weather and climate, which in Finland is characterized by freezing temperatures and darkness for extended periods-not really a balsam for the soul- then you have the perfect ingredients of producing depression. The formula is simple: depression (seasonal, reactive or endogenous) combined with inward violence plus alcohol and modern drugs, mixed all together in a  stressed body and frustrated soul, result to Finns mostly hurting their partners, killing themselves and others (extended suicide )- a story we know also from Japan or even Switzerland.

Free education, industrialisation and economic boom have also their price: people, especially young people, are put under high pressure. In Finland-as in the Philippines- women outnumber men when it comes to attaining tertiary education. This fact makes the men understandably uneasy and in Finland with such a “macho” Viking past, men are placed under intense pressure. This adds more fuel to their violence inside. Entering a university is not at all easy even if it’s free of tuition; a student must bring the necessary high scholastic qualifications and competition among students is high. For this reason, it is not surprising that many Finns go abroad to study. These successive school massacres in Finland is already an indicator of young men’s frustration and violent attitude towards their educational institutions. However, these two recent Amok in Finland represent only the few extreme cases. Idealism (right-extremism) seemed also to have played a crucial role in both incidents. This time it’s an example not worthy of imitation.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

A Lesson From The Shamans, Witches And Magicians

Or, Education in Finland

by jun asuncion


What do I know about Finland aside from my nokia handy and the outstanding PISA ranking? I digged down and remembered Alvar Aalto, (February 3, 1898 – May 11, 1976)  a celebrated Finnish architect and designer, the Kalevala which is a book and epic poem compiled from the Finnish and Karelian folklore by the Finn Elias Lönnrot, herds of reindeers and moose, the thousands lakes, the Vikings that occupied it, the Lapland region with white snow and unspoilt nature and vast wilderness. For me it is a mystical place that has since excited my imagination, a place so remote that even now when I think of Finland I remember instantly  those Finnish women co-workers of mine who were white as snow covered in golden hairs, reminding me of skilled ancient Finnish witches, magicians and shamans who used music by singing special spells, herbal medicines and also by entering a trance, letting their souls travel to foreign places.

Hunger is not a specific Philippine problem.The worst famine in European history happened in the soils of Finland, killing 15 per cent of its already small population. Added to that, as a Finnish friend tells me, “During the second world war, we have lost almost all our men in Finland”. Finland fought against the Soviet Union and the Nazi-Germany and incurred heavy losses. Heavily dependent on Soviet union as its primary trading partner, Finland suffered deep recession in the early 90’s when the Soviet Union collapsed, simultaneous with its banking crisis, political mismanagement and with the global economic downturn at that time. Not to forget,  this agricultural country was and is better known also for having globally the highest suicide rate and high alcoholism. Alcohol has become the leading cause of death in Finland for men and for women and is surely a contributory factor in suicides, and is involved in deaths caused by accidents or violent crimes.

The population did not rise dramatically even when the economy became better after the second world war. With a total land area of 338,145 square kilometers and an estimated 2008 population of only 5,320,000, Finland is one of the sparsely populated lands of the world. By contrast: The Philippines is only 38,145 square kilometers smaller than Finland. Imagine now if the Philippines had only over 5,000,000 inhabitants! Bulan would have been empty, a wild park.

To survive, the government liberalized its economy and spent large amounts for high-tech education, training of highly-skilled teachers (mostly with master’s degree). This investment in education has paid off. Now Finland is one among the leading  global economies with highly-skilled work force. 

It is said that  Kalevala, that precious book of epic poems had provided the inspiration for the national awakening that ultimately freed the Finns from Russia in 1917. As I see it, the seed of their high-tech culture was already contained in that book, as described in the practices of the shamans like letting their soul travel while in trance, this astral projection as we used to call it. My brother-in-law studied architecture and design with Alvar Aalto in Finland and he provided me some of the most interesting reports about his master teacher Aalto and about Finnish culture in general. One specific story that got stucked in my memory was his story about the practice of mental telepathy by the local Finns. He was told by these people that it was natural for them to communicate with their friends and relatives via mental telepathy for there were no phones (at that time) and they live in great distances from each other. In winter it is cold and dark, thick snow and ice hinder travel even by foot. Telepathy was borne out of this necessity to communicate over wide distances and harsh weather conditions. Astral projection and mental telepathy? What do they have in common? It’s a wireless technology! This technology has always been there looming in the souls of the Finns; they seem to have this natural affinity to wireless technology since the beginning. Now, Finland  is the world leader in wireless communication technology. Just recently, I have read a report about it in a newspaper and reproduce here salient features of it:

-“Nowhere has mobile communication caught on as it has in sparsely populated Finland, where nearly 70 percent of the 5.3 million residents are armed with wireless phones and an ever-expanding array of tools, games and services they can use on the fly.”

-” Finland’s role in wireless development has been a boon for the country that only a decade ago was overly dependent on slumping wood-products industries and doomed trade with the Soviet Union.”

-“Although the phones can’t do all that a home PC can, Finnish companies have soared to the forefront with services that allow users to check news, sports and weather wherever they are, as well as read their horoscopes or biorhythms, order food, pay bills, buy Christmas presents and collect e-mail.”

-” What you see happening here today will be happening in other markets very soon. We’re just a year or two ahead of other Europeans, and Europeans are just a bit ahead of the United States,” says Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, chief financial officer for Nokia, the world’s largest wireless communications provider.”

-“Only about 25 percent of U.S. citizens own mobile phones, compared with about half the European population. Finland’s current 67 percent market penetration is expected to exceed 70 percent by the end of the year, a higher rate than in any other nation. Finland is followed by Hong Kong, Norway, Sweden, Israel, Japan, Denmark and Italy in the ranks of top cellular consumers.”

-“Wireless operations also allow Terentjeff to custom-fit the work environment to his employees’ needs, he says, noting that one valued co-worker has negotiated a protracted maternity leave on condition that she keep an eye on her projects via wireless conference calls from home.”

Tangible results of huge investment in education and research:
-“Gross domestic product rose more than 30 percent in the five years after 1992 and is projected to post an additional 20 percent increase by the end of this year. Unemployment has dropped from 20 percent at the start of the decade to 10.5 percent now — a level not expected to change despite healthy increases in new jobs each year because of the specialized training needed for the country’s new high- tech focus.”  ( source: San Francisco Chronicle.)


Pre-school begins at age 6
Comprehensive school: age 7 to 16
Upper secondary school or vocational school: 16 to 19
Pupils in Finland, age 7 to 14, spend fewest hours in school
Higher education places for 65% young people
Second-highest public spending on higher education (source:oecd)

Major features:

The World Economic Forum ranks Finland’s tertiary education #1 in the world
-Free Education: No tuition fees are collected in all levels – elementary, secondary and tertiary education, be it public or private school.

– school health care and a daily free lunch

– school pupils are entitled to receive free books and materials and free school trips

-teaches the same curriculum to all pupils


Like all of you, I also wish we would have free education in the Philippines and all the other benefits like the Finnish system. Why not? It pays off in the end for the whole country. It would break the poor education-poverty cycle that we have talked about before. Other things being equal, all people could have education which in turn would give them the chance to work and get out of poverty. With educated population and a country without poverty, the Philippines would move forward. Here is one sad fact about our current educational system: it is elitistic and discriminating, fosters poverty and social divide. It attacks the family itself: for in a family of five or more children, the average parents could only send perhaps a child or two to college and what about the rest of the chiildren? So the system injects into the basic unit of society itself  the evil of division and discrimination. What kind of educational system is it then?

I do not believe that Singaporean minister’s statement  that increasing the teacher’s salary-as rudyb shared to us- is not the solution to the problems of education. It may apply to Singaporean teachers but not to our own teachers. It is indeed not the only solution but it is one of the solutions to encourage the teachers for in my view, the teachers are very much underpaid in the Philippines. In our country, things are a little bit more complex for our politics doesn’t understand the importance of education- and of educated politicians.

Going back to Bulan, I respect the Bulan Teacher’s Day  as started by Mayor Helen De Castro (see her 2007 report- Edukasyon). This is one of the many ways to give incentives to our teachers and teachers to be.

Otherwise it’s about time for us to consult and to learn the lessons from the shamans, witches and magicians. They know the way.


Bulan Observer





The Great Filipino Dream

Or, Greed Over Education


(This is actually my response to attybenji’s comment on Teachers, Don’t Leave Us Kids Alone!)

You may recall that Mrs. Arroyo refers to college education as the ‘great Filipino dream’. Indeed she’s right this time considering that, as the DepEd says, out of 10 students entering Grade 1, six will complete the elementary course, four will get through high school and two will enter college. If these two would finish college and if they would get a job is another story, or another dream!

The country is “on the verge of take off” Arroyo told us during her  SONA 2005. And she talked about increased  government spending on education for “better trained teachers in more classrooms; 30,000 additional classrooms and computer access to more than 3,000 high schools in the past four years; and a “healthy start” breakfast program for young schoolchildren.”

The truth is, the education sector continues to suffer from yearly budget cuts. The results are poor state of classrooms and school facilities and the severe shortage of teachers in public elementary and high schools nationwide.This is the worst crisis in public education. According to Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), in this school year, “classroom shortage is pegged at 57,930; teachers, 49,699; and desks and chairs, 3.48 million. Until now, 445 barangays (villages) in the country still have no elementary schools. Six municipalities still have no high school.” Based on these facts, I would rather say that the country is on the verge of a crash.

Education is supposed to narrow down social divide, hence foster social equality and justice. But it seems that in our country, the present state of education widens the “social scissor” ever more. A good education fosters social mobility, the absence of which fosters poverty and social alienation. And many of those who have made it through college have already left the country and many who are left at home are contemplating to leave, on the “verge of take off.” This is probably what Mrs. Arroyo meant. For as she said in her visit to Singapore in 2001, the Philippine economy will remain heavily dependent on Filipino overseas workers sending home some eight billion US dollars annually (stand of 2001). Last 2007, the OFW’s remittances amounted to about 14.7 billion dollars. Today, she still promote labor-export policy. Though the Philippine economy profits from these remittances, this kind of labor- policy is a clear sign of defeat on the part of the government, of failed politics and poor national housekeeping. It’s a proof of our third-world status. According to The International Monetary Fund, the Philippines is the third largest recipient of remittances among developing countries next to India and Mexico (World Economic Outlook Report in 2005). For Ninoy Aquino it is elusive justice after 25 years, for millions of young Filipinos it remains an elusive dream after twenty-one years of 1987 Constitution  to go to college as unabated hikes in tuition- both in public and private colleges- continue to plague tertiary education due in part to the Education Act of 1982, particularly Sec. 42. Tuition and Other Fees.- “Each private school shall determine its rate of tuition and other school fees or charges. The rates and charges adopted by schools pursuant to this provision shall be collectible, and their application or use authorized, subject to rules and regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports”. This has led to continuous hikes in tuition.

The crisis in our public education is aggravated by the fact that the  Arroyo’s education budget amounts only to two percent of the GDP, which does not even meet the minimum standard prescribed by UNESCO which is six per cent of GDP. This is certainly not in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution which mandates the state to provide for the highest budgetary allocation for education. Arroyo spends very little for education, yet brags of “coffers” in her SONA 2008 filled with monetary reserves to meet the food and fuel crises and insists on rice rationing to feed the poor and malnourished pupils with her breakfast program, capitalizing on and misusing the result of the Asian Development Bank study  that poor nutrition among children whittles down the IQ by 10 to 14 percent. This is nothing but deception of a bigger scale, opportunism and showmanship only, insulting the poor Filipino people and the OFW who send billions of dollars annually to the country. Arroyo is certainly not an educator but more of a politician from showbiz that brags than a graduate economist of reputable universities. This again is the logic of greed dominating education.

Given the present situation, it is indeed a great Filipino dream to study in college for millions of our young people. Arroyo is right this time. And for the tens of millions who are jobless, left alone without a future in their homeland and wanting to find a job abroad, the country is definitely on the “verge of a take-off” to Middle-East, Japan or the USA. Arroyo seems to be always right on things that should not be.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

The Rice Terraces Strike Back

Filipinos are still aware of  what’s happening in their country and they still know what they want or not want. In the latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) they sent the president diving. But as we have observed in her SONA 2008 she’s not to be blamed for her abrupt decline in this satisfaction rating but the rising rice and fuel prices!
To quote the presidential management chief Cerge Remonde, “President Arroyo’s -38  net satisfaction rating may have been the result of the rising rice and fuel prices in the country, …which should not be blamed on the government.” ( I have been observing how lousy are the people employed as presidential or mayor spokesmen in our country- no creativity in giving out statements about their bosses, that they mostly  damage their bosses instead of defending them adequately!) Filipinos may be generally poor economically but they still have good memory. They have not forgotten the scandals of this president- the election fraud-related hello garci tape, the ZTE scam, the human rights violations (killings  of investigative journalists, human rights activists and patriotic student leaders soared high in this regime ) the diversion of fertilizer funds, the Jueting scandals of Mr. Arroyo and this NFA rice rationing which is powered not by love for the poor but a sheer taking advantage of the world food and fuel crises to polish her image. And now this latest move to push the cha-cha (charter change) along with the switch to federalism with the aim of bringing a long lasting solution to the insurgency problem in Mindanao. All these things are clothed with her ambition of staying longer in power which is possible scenario to happen once her proposed Constituent Assembly would come into being because this would have the unlimited freedom to amend and revise one or two provisions of the constitution- to her advantage. Mr. Pimentel and Co. should only be watchful that their authored Senate Resolution No. 10 (Federalism)  will not be misused by the admiminstration. You know after all the mess she had done before and during these actual difficult times of food and fuel crises, it is just right that she goes diving now and stay down there unti 2010 to give our country the chance to grow. The people want a decent figure now at the top to lead the country out of this dead-end. If ever I would be asked about  the prime advantage of Federalism in the Philippines I would point out the reduction of the powers of the president. Our presidents with enormous powers have always been a burden to our country for the last four decades. Too much power corrupts the mind of man.
Remonde opined that “such an assessment of Mrs Arroyo is unfair  …  it’s never easy to be president of the Philippines”.  To become a president was easy, just a hello to garci, and that was it, she got her second term. But she should not expect an easy dasein as a president after all the deception and scandals she has caused herself and her husband. Remonde was not being fair here. And to blame not only the food and fuel crises but also the typhoon Frank for Arroyo’s very low net satisfaction rating is absurdity. Frank was not born yet when journalists and student leaders were being harrassed or killed in the Philippines, or when Arroyo was calling Garci and when Garci himself disappeared.
To make the matter worst, deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo doubled by saying she was  “not surprised with the net satisfaction rating because the country is plagued by several problems… these problems are not within the government’s control.” Not within the government’s control? The real problem was and is Arroyo and she controls the government, therefore, how can the government control the problem? How can Arroyo control herself when the mind has long been corrupted by too much power?
To sum it up, Fajardo said, “It is lonely at the top. Where else shall the people look for relief but from the president and government? The dissatisfaction does not come as a surprise. As a country, we are all suffering from the world economic downturn, factors beyond our control have seriously assaulted our economy and our way of life”. I don’t know if you would hire Lorelei Fajardo  as your spokesperson if you would be the first president or prime minister of the Federal Republic of the Philippines. The fact beyond control that asssaulted our economy and our way of life and, If I may add, the image of our nation abroad for decades by now were our very own powerful presidents made possible by our unitary sytem of government. Green light then for Federalism, for the State of Bicol ? I would say yes, but exercise caution  as we cross the road. 
jun asuncion
Here is the report:

18 July 2008

Second Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey:
PGMA’s net rating falls to record-low -38

Social Weather Stations

The Social Weather Survey of June 27-30, 2008 found 22% satisfied and 60% dissatisfied with the performance of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, giving her a Net Satisfaction rating of -38 (% satisfied minus % dissatisfied), which is a new record-low for Presidents since 1986, surpassing the previous record of -33 in May 2005.

The new net rating is a 12-point drop from net -26 (27% satisfied, 54% dissatisfied) in the First Quarter 2008 Survey of March 28-31 [Chart 1, Table 1]. It is the fourth consecutive quarterly drop in her net rating since June 2007, when it was a neutral -3.

In all areas, majorities are dissatisfied

For the first time, gross dissatisfaction is at majority levels in all study areas: 63% in Metro Manila, 60% in the Balance of Luzon, 56% in the Visayas, and 62% in Mindanao.

The President’s net satisfaction rating in the Visayas, where she customarily draws her strongest support, fell by 18 points from -15 in March (36% satisfied, 51% dissatisfied) to a record-low -33 in June (23% satisfied, 56% dissatisfied) [Table 2, also Chart 2, Table 3].

In Mindanao, it fell by 8 points, from -33 (26% satisfied, 59% dissatisfied) to -41 (21% satisfied, 62% dissatisfied), also a new record-low for the area.

Her net satisfaction ratings fell by 13 points in Balance Luzon, from -25 (26% satisfied, 51% dissatisfied) to -38 (22% satisfied, 60% dissatisfied), and by 3 points in Metro Manila, from -37 (23% satisfied, 60% dissatisfied) to -40 (23% satisfied, 63% dissatisfied). The existing record-lows in those areas are -47 (May 2005) in Balance Luzon and -48 (June 2006) in Metro Manila.

Between March 2008 and June 2008, President Arroyo’s net rating fell by 11 points in both urban and rural areas: the former from -27 to -38, the latter from -26 to -37.

Ratings hit record-lows in all socio-economic classes

The June 2008 survey found dissatisfaction worsening in all socio-economic classes, with the middle-to-upper classes or ABCs just as dissatisfied now as the masa or class D.

The net satisfaction rating of Pres. Arroyo fell the most among the middle-to-upper classes or ABCs. It fell by 23 points, from -14 (34% satisfied, 48% dissatisfied) last March to -37 (22% satisfied, 59% dissatisfied) in June [Chart 3, Table 4]. The previous record-low for ABCs was -34 in May 2005. It had been positive in February, June and September 2007, when the ratings for the lower D and E classes were negative or zero.

Her net rating fell by 11 points among the class D or masa, from net -24 in March (28% satisfied, 52% dissatisfied) to net -35 in June (23% satisfied, 58% dissatisfied). The previous record-low for Class D was -34, also in May 2005.

The President’s net rating fell by 8 points in Class E, from net -37 in March (23% satisfied, 60% dissatisfied) to -45 in June (20% satisfied, 65% dissatisfied). The previous record-low for Class E was -37 in March 2008.

Survey Background

The Second Quarter of 2008 Social Weather Survey was conducted over June 27-30, 2008 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, the Balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages and ±6% for area percentages). The area estimates were weighted by National Statistics Office medium-population projections for 2008 to obtain the national estimates.

The quarterly Social Weather Survey on public satisfaction with the President is a non-commissioned item, and is included on SWS’s own initiative and released as a public service, with first printing rights assigned to BusinessWorld.


Sad For My Country

An old article authored by The Call Of The Wild


I recently read an article in the newspaper about the current squabbles between the son of the former Speaker of the House, Mr. de Venecia, and the first Gentleman Arroyo.  I can not help but chuckle.  I was not surprised with the involvement of the husband of President Arroyo.  He has had his fingers on every scandal related to graft and corruptions.  And the President is not going to stop him or do anything about it.  It is good for their family. 

They are going to amass billions of dollars before her term is over.  It is good business to be President of the Philippines and good business to be the husband of the president.  It seems like the First Couple are trying to compete with Bill Gates.  However, Bill Gates amassed his billions by working….

That is the difference.  The First Gentleman is immune from prosecution. Who will dare to go against the greedy couple? They hold the people HOSTAGE by using their police and their military. The military and police are not there to protect the integrity of the constitution, to “Protect and to Serve” the welfare of the people. They are there to protect and to serve the interest of President Arroyo and her husband. What happened to Mr. Lozada ? That was part of intimidation…  Do you believe that??  Do you think the whole Filipino people from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are that stupid to believe it? 

Since the time of Marcos up to the present, they use the same tactics of intimidations: killings, kidnappings, murders, the disappearances of people that were brave enough to express their thoughts and opinions, the disappearance of student activists that held rallies in the streets to express their fight against the cuddling of corrupt officials that includes the First Couple. As I went through the list of journalist killed, I can’t help but ponder what the hell is going on in the Philippines? Many journalists were killed because they were brave enough to announce to the world what is going on in the Philippines.  They were the true martyrs.  I salute those who died in expressing their beliefs and principles and to those journalists that are struggling right now and risking their lives for the sake of true journalism, keep up the good work, we are with you. We salute you.

Where are the people and journalists that were picked up by the military?  Where is justice? These poor people went in the streets to  express their rights as Filipino citizen and were  supposed to be protected by  free speech as written in the constitution.  Where are they? 

Of course, you can almost predict the outcome of the rivalry of the two powerful families.  They are all mixed in the same pot.  The other family tolerated and connived with the First Couple as long as they both benefited from sacking the government’s coffer. No more, No less.  Each and every one of them had their fingers on the golden pot in all the government dealings that involved making more and more money.  The big problem is that THEY ARE ALL GREEDY.  When it involves big time kickbacks, everybody was scrambling to get into the Chinese pie. And lo and behold!  It was not a surprise that the First Gentleman got the bid and the kickbacks. Of course, the other family did not like it and wanted revenge.  Now, the”BAHO” start to come out. They started to spill the “MABAHO BEANS” and all went into chaos. The first couple scrambles to find a scapegoat. Beware, my friends and people of the Philippines. Watch this……




Of course, the president will give a speech denying the allegations of graft and corruptions involving her husband. She will say it was politically motivated etc, etc, same old mabaho sh__….

Of course, there will be massive rallies, speeches by those politicians that did not get a share of the Chinese pie or (millions of dollars in kickbacks) Honest daw sila. Do you believe it?

Of course, the president will order an investigation about the graft and corruption that is plaguing the nation. A FARCE!

Of course, the president and her cohorts will try to find a way of getting out of this predicament…… Let’s divert the attention of these pesky protesters.

Of course, it was the works of Al Qaeda and the president will cry to the U.S. please help us ( to get more money from U.S.) and blame the NPA.

Of course, the president will mobilize her police and the military and hunt for the Al Qaeda, the NPA and the Invisible Foe.

Of course, now the president will have an excuse to declare an Emergency proclamation to curtail the rights of the people, to intimidate, to silence targeted vocal protesters, kidnappings, disappearances of young students who are idealistic and potential enemy of the administration.

The rampant killings without mercy and hesitations whether that person was a husband with children and wife or a young bright student whose only fault was being idealistic and patriotic. The many decent people whose only fault was that they expressed their feelings, opinions and beliefs were killed by their own countrymen. By the very same police and soldiers whose duty was to protect their countrymen not to kill them.  All for the benefit of the president……

Where is the UN and the Human Rights Organizations? Where are they? There are so many killings going on and they are killing the people with impunity. There is so much lawlessness and the country is continuously annihilating its own intellectuals. It is becoming like a pogrom. The judges, the SC judges, the magistrates, the ombudsmen were all powerless to serve the oppressed. It seems.

When the late dictator Marcos was deposed, there was great jubilation and relief amongst the people. At last, we can have a president that is more concern of the people and their welfare and the improvement of economy and prosperity. But look what happened?  It is the same sh__ with a different smell.  We were successful in kicking out Marcos, but look who replaced him? His very own wife and children that had bankrupted our government coffers.  The same people with the same last names whose role models were corrupt leaders and the mother is a flamboyant greedy hypocrite thief.

Who is replacing the old corrupt politicians?  Their children!  Their children found out in their early age that to be successful and rich, you have to be in politics. The family of  de Venecias, the Macapagals, the Arroyos, the Estradas, the Marcoses etc, etc.  

They don’t want bright, uncorrupted, idealistic young individuals who are on their way to change the way the government is being run.  They are eliminating our young children who are bright and full of vigor and vitality and ideals.  They are eliminating our future generations of more honest and idealistic individuals that are the hope of the future. We will end up having leaders that are products of the same families of politicians that had no hesitations of enriching themselves at the expense of the people. 

The people’s power was successful in kicking out Marcos a few decades ago hoping that the deposed corrupt leader will be replaced by a decent honest leader. But, look if you think Marcos was a brutal dictator, Is Arroyo better than him?  Undoubtedly, the president is practicing Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. Read on….

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, You and I know that this is the same sh__ that has happened so many times, you can almost predict it. So, what shall we do?  Sit and twiddle our thumbs?   Do nothing?  Join the rallies and cry our hearts out?  Run away and go to Japan and become a japajuki?  Go to Arab countries and be their slaves?  Not a bad idea.   The government doesn’t want you to progress here in the Philippines. They want you to join the rest of the OFW that are enslaving themselves so that they can support their families and in turn support the government.

 It is a big bucks man. No kidding. Millions of dollars are flowing in to support the Philippine economy. The government doesn’t care how you earn the money you send. Whether you prostituted, enslaved yourself, worked in the ditches. The government wants you to go away. Never mind if you are away from your family. Just get out of here and make some money abroad.  The government says; just send me the money, honey. And you gladly do it because you are a true Filipino who loves  your family.  You will be gone for five, ten years? Your children barely remember your face! Your wife or husband have a kabit on the side. You can not blame him or her. You were gone too long! 

 These are the results of the ineptness and the horrendous massive corruptions of the top leaders of our government. Their priorities and concerns are for themselves. This is truly a sad, sad story of my country.

The Pen or The Sword?

The perennial question involving  pen and sword: Which is mightier? Well, you have read atty. benji’s exposition about this matter in his article “badil vs. tabil“. As of now I’m inclined to say that both of them could be  useless or mighty, depending on ( or relative to ) time, place and circumstances and above all to the person  holding the pen or the sword. Let’s try first to put things in proper perspective. Let’s start with the last one- the person. The person is the most important element in this equation for he is the one that puts either the pen or sword in action. Without him both pen and sword are useless or neutral. The person defines the usage of both, i.e, depending on his motives so the usage. Either for defense or attack, to protect or to insult (pen), cut or kill (sword). Next, the person determines the quality of results, i.e., intelligence and training (background) influence the quality of the result. A genius can produce out of a cheap pen an immortal poem or create a complex mathematical equation, an excellently trained samurai defeats ten swordsmen of inferior training. Not to insult, but a pen is useless in the hands of an idiot ( mentally retarded) so as the sword in the “hands” of a totally crippled man (physically disabled). Now the two in relation to time. In times of peace, the pen is mightier than the sword, or better, the pen is used more than the sword, whereas in times of actual war or combat or immediate danger, the sword is mightier than the pen in the sense that it is the right tool for the moment. But the way the events of war or whatever social turmoil during or  thereafter are recorded by the pen could make a whole world of difference.

 A history that is manipulated can mislead generations, affect their perception, thus, their collective identity positively or negatively. In our time, the meaning of both is relative to the place. In the Philippines or Zimbabwe, for instance, or in other places where democracy is flawed or no democracy at all, the sword is the actual tool that’s employed. By contrast, in  Switzerland or Sweden for instance, or in other places where democracy lives to the fullest, the pen is the actual tool used the most. In such places, whoever resorts to the sword is an outcast and primitive and is immediately removed from the society, i.e. tried and imprisoned, no exception or special treatment, president or janitor. The sword in such places is therefore  primarily  used to protect democracy, to reinforce law and order or to protect internal security from terrorism and the national borders from outward invasions, but never to influence another by force ( intimidation ) or to attack another country. In other words reason rules as opposed to brute force. In Zimbabwe or the Philippines (especially during elections), the sword, not the pen rules. In other words, brute force ( power, money, ) rules as opposed to reason.

This is really the only small difference yet this is what separates light years away the first world from the third world countries, a categorization we dislike but has its justification for it’s a matter of conscious choice, of being able to learn lessons from the past (some countries have difficulty drawing lessons from the past; they keep on repeating the same mistakes, thus, they hardly move forward ) , that the first world countries are now harvesting the fruits of their hard work and good decision ( and not just a matter of fortune or favorable historical events. Switzerland had also suffered from wars and internal strifes and just over a hundred years ago, it is one of the poorest nations in Europe)- that of laying down the sword but instead use more the pen to deal with one another. This is the birth of democracy and of teamwork and progress. The sword cuts and divides, whereas the pen allows exchange of ideas. In the Philippines, swords are there not primarily to reinforce the written law and the first three pillars of justice-  Investigation (Police), Prosecution, Courts, but to violate them or render them ineffective ( we all know those election-related violence, for instance, where the police are reduced to lame ducks or how our presidents are using the armed forces of the Philippines to reinforce their unlawful, vested self-interests like the martial law by Marcos or Arroyo’s declaration of state of emergency in February 2006 ). Hence, the sword ( power, connection, money ) is the law, not the pen ( justice, truth,  democracy), in our country. There, as in Zimbabwe, one can rightly say that the sword is mightier than the pen. In Switzerland or Sweden, the pen is mightier than the sword.

 Now we have seen that this famous saying “the pen is mightier than the sword”, noble as it is, nor its inversion, “The sword is mightier than the pen”, self-evident as it is, cannot be generalized for it is relative to the setting of time, place and circumstance and the person (society). It was 1839, in Act II of his play Richelieu where Edward Bulwer-lytton used this saying thru his play character Cardinal Richelieu when he challenged  the monk Joseph who contrived a plot against him by saying “Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword”, for as a priest he couldn’t challenge him to physical fight.

This brings us now to Jose Rizal who was an adept sword athlete  himself yet was known for his statement “My Pen, The Only Tool I Had”. It was his pen, not his sword, that catalyzed the revolution at that time, it was his pen that moved the sword, it was his pen that put another hero into the limelight- Andres Bonifacio, the warrior armed with the sword! Indeed, the pen mightier than the sword? Or Rizal over Bonifacio? Now, we have entered the most debated issue in our nation: Who deserves to be our national hero, Rizal or Bonifacio? Well, as I have observed then and lately ( see Bik-Lish ) scholars and laymen alike have practically exhausted their minds in trying to answer this question. For me the reason for all these headaches is simple: The question is wrong and so was the answer. Put into proper perspective, history needed both Rizal and Bonifacio for the revolution to be initiated and culminated. Thus, seen against the background of revolution, both Rizal and Bonifacio were justified to be called our national heroes,  which means that both of them deserve to symbolize those men and women who took part in the revolution -the Rizal or Bonifacio way, or, the pen or the sword method, thus catalysing the end of Spanish regime. In short, the revolution made use of both tools, the pen and the sword fighting side by side, all the way till victory. ( Revolution must not be confused with immediate danger to life and limb as they occur in daily life, thus necessitates the sword as the right tool only. Revolution is a social unrest over an extended period of time where pen and swords find their moments of use ). Rizal ( the pen, the idea ) alone would not have realized the revolution, and so Bonifacio (the sword, the action), which tells us clearly that both principles were needed for the complete reality of revolution to assume shape.

 Rizal and Bonifacio, the two sides of the revolution. This is the way I see it. A revolution cannot be one-sided, as any reality. This myopic, one-sided thinking was a mistake for it has misled us. It divided us, the strategy , I suppose,  used by the American colonizers intelligently by sponsoring (favoring) Rizal as the national hero, thereby relegating Bonifacio, Mabini, and all the rests into the background and forcing and limiting our mind for decades to think only in one direction, one sided, as opposed to a holistic perception of our Filipino reality. The effect was devastating for it produced doubts in us. There are many among us Filipinos of today who still are victims of this “colonial mentality”, who still harbor doubts within themselves and who are still either “in favor ” of or “not in favor ” of , pro or contra Rizal or Bonifacio. This is sad for they debate on the wrong question suggested in  their subconscious by the subsequent colonizers. Psychologically we remain with  respect to this issue a divided nation of Rizalists and Bonifacians, which means colonization still has us in its grips.

We must free ourselves from this mental bondage by redefining what a hero is in our modern Filipino understanding in relation to our present goal of achieving a progressive nation, our fight against poverty and corruption, in our attempt to treat our sick nation. In truth, today we need both Rizal and Bonifacio to guide us, the idea (pen) and the action (the sword), to revolutionize our moral make up for our nation to progress. Simply put, let’s broaden our horizon and avoid playing Rizal and Bonifacio against each other for it is a waste of time, mental energy and above all an insult to these two great historical figures. For sure Rizal, if alive today, would not agree with the idea of being the national hero himself, he would refuse it, and would have a totally different answer. And Bonifacio? Although he disdained his personal hero Rizal towards the end, I still believe that he would refuse to be the national hero were he alive today and offered this honor.  We only invented this debate to repress our own doubts about ourselves.

Both Rizal and Bonifacio were true to their own personal methods of approaching a problem- and of expressing their patriotism-  till the very end. Opposing methods as they appeared to be in surface ( Rizal at that moment in time being against the revolution and Bonifacio being in favor of the revolution ), in reality, i.e., seen in totality, history needed both of them to provide us a story and a reality distinctly Filipino. And it functioned! Only that we were taught to interpret our history the wrong way- and we failed to examine what had been taught to us. That’s the effect of the mighty pen used against us- it has misled us for decades even until now.

This is the way I see it. You may disagree which means you have your own way of seeing it. And that’s good like that. This is reality. Never one-sided.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

The Logic Of Greed

(Or, The Long Process Of Moral Evolution)


We Bikolanos can only hope for a miracle: That in view of 2010’s election, these trapos(traditional politicians) are also thinking genuinely about the welfare of the Bikolanos, and not only that of maintaining their staus quo. However,given this more or less the same configurations of trapos in Bicol region running for “Office” in 2010- and most probably the same story in all other regions of the Philippines- I see 2010 not really as a chance for a profound or deep change in the politics of our country but just to keep things the way they currently are. So we Bikolanos should rather expect more from ourselves with regards to our own personal political education and thinking for a deep, qualitative social change will happen only if each one of us arrives at this level of political maturity and wisdom, that missing factor that is at the root of all these socio-political chaos in our nation. I also do not believe in the battlecry for moral revolution now happening in Manila for it is again just an emotional campaign of some people whose motives and consciousness are corrupted themselves as in the case of Jose de Venecia, Jr., the former Speaker of the House of Representatives.We may recall that, during the height of his power, de Venecia was the epitome of the corrupt traditional politician.

 “We need a moral revolution today and make a fresh start, we badly need cleansing,” says de VeneziaI. But I suspect such loud cry for cleansing for behind it is again the abuse of the Christian doctrine of repentance and forgiveness. That after all my transgressions, all my cheating, my killings, denunciation, injustice done to the society, corruption and plundering the town or the nation,I can simply turn to my catholic belief and ask for spiritual cleansing. Thus a “moral revolution” that will “dramatically reduce political corruption in the country,” so the ousted Speaker de Venezia. He goes further,“When I say this, I mean I am not without sin,…I am 70, and I want to leave a good legacy for my country, for my children and for my grandchildren. We must now do something to lead our country from corruption, from despair and from poverty.” Yes, suddenly this urgency from a former Trapo King, now leading the crusade for moral revolution (a case of a trapo king becoming a political saint?) while sounding like confessing to a bishop for his own salvation. His salvation, but not for the nation.

 Corruption cannot be curbed this way if we want to be honest with ourselves. For as we have said before, corruption is just the tip of an iceberg. It takes more than just a ningas cogon to remove it, more than just a moral revolution and it needs a lot of time. Therefore, I think the the real thing is moral evolution, a natural social evolutionary process of replacing gradually our present moral make-up with something that has a future and sustainable for each one and for the whole nation to survive, where objectivity and rationalism, maturity and genuine political will has the upperhand and not the other way around,yes, this other way, where and how we are at the moment- a nation run like hell by emotions and by the logic of greed, hypocrisy and pseudo-morality – and corruption.

 Our current moral make-up has no future, and so our current political culture for it is badly flawed. Our elected public officials are the rebels themselves against the law of the land. Now, how can a sane man expect them to deliver basic services and social justice to the people when they become interested only in their own pockets and lowly desires the moment they are exposed to the power a government office brings with it? The Filipino politicians regress to primitivity and to his jungle past once given the chance to govern. This is a sad fact, an attest that there is something fundamentally primitive yet with our social perception.The Philippines is governed by thieves from Malacanang down to many municipalities- including Bulan. So don’t expect our nation and our town Bulan to progress as long as our system is rotten and as long as we have not evolved morally into politically-matured people.

 Paraphrasing Hegel, Karl Marx noted that each historical fact repeats itself twice–the original drama becoming a farce. But Marx proved himself wrong for history has shown us that history repeats itself much more frequently. Look at the facts: Before de Venezia, Marcos himself cried out for reforms and self-discipline (“Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan”) But what happened? Estrada advocated the same.What happened? C. Aquino did the same. What happened? Ramos cried out for the same moral revolution? What happened? And the sitting Arroyo? Let’s listen to her speaker Ermita ,” the President has pushed for the creation of the transparency group that monitors public biddings; the conduct of automated counting and anti-dynasty bill as part of several political reforms, and the Executive branch has been strongly supporting the independent function of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights(CHR)” and that ” it has been the duty of every leader to pursue a program on moral revolution to provide a better future for the people.”

 Defending like a rotweiler dog his Honorable President, he continued , “It can come out in any other term, any other form, but definitely the stability of our country, the welfare of our people, and the moral stability of our country is paramount in the mind of every leader, every President, and that includes definitely President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” so the blinded Ermita. I just wonder how much he was paid for talking as idiotic as this. Statements like this one from Ermita is a proof that the age of Enlightenment has not yet arrived in our nation’s history. We still are in the Dark Ages like that time in Europe, when lies were a plenty so as political murders, corruption and religious persecutions for the church dictated politics at that time,- as it is today in the Philippines. But things have changed since then in Europe, though it slid back from time to time in its history to situations comparable to the Middle Age. This is simply the mechanics of social evolution.

Albert Einstein once said that “one cannot cure the ills of society from the very consciousness that created the ills in the first place.” Therefore, be catious, my fellow Filipinos, may fellow tagaBulans. De Venezia’s consciousness is corrupted itself and his motives is one of egoism, of revenge. And there is something suspicious with his method when he surrounds himself with bishops from different churches of the country. This is more of a religious crusade, reminds me somewhat of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages that burned the church heretics. (see my Response To Timothy). This is leading to nowhere for this movement is superficial,hypocritical, very emotional and childish and is doomed to last only short. This applies naturally a considerable pressure to Arroyo but in the long term- or at least for 2010’s election- this will not result in having morally upright people getting elected. We need to progress morally but we need a new ground to start with for as I see it, everything that we have now in our moral department has only led us to defeat and failure as a nation. Something must change fundamentally with our character if we really want to get out of the pit.This is possible to happen, though it will take hundreds of years if we follow the natural course of social evolution. Events to come will gradually transform us to new social beings with genuine sincerity, rationality, better moral instinct and politically mature individuals, a nation of people which has transcended its past and its old maladaptive personality.This moral revolution movement now and in the past is just a small, natural step to this moral evolution in its long process. So again, don’t overrate (or expect too much) this moral revolution happening now for it will not yield good fruits in the coming 2010 election. But in the long run, this is part of those natural procesess that are shaping our future as a nation. Deep within our collective soul, the process of natural self-correction is running incessantly, slowly but surely, in an effort to adapt and survive as a nation. It simply needs a lot of time. And history has shown us that societies evolve and tend to be better with time. In this sense, Taoism’s doctrine of ” do nothing and everything will be done” applies.

 Middle Age is also present in Bulan and is best exemplified by the present government of Bulan. For there is no trace of rationality, transparency but an apparent lack of political understanding and social responsibility. They, too, are rebels against the law of the land, against the constitution, against the Bill of Rights and is ruled not by democratic logic but by the logic of greed. How do you expect them also to deliver genuinely basic services to the people of Bulan? Like a decent hospital and better school buildings in the remote barangays, security and protection for the people, environmental protection. These things are not in their heads for the logic of greed follows that they think first on how they can run away with their spoils of war as they go on fooling the people of Bulan by a little feeding program here and some repaintings of old walls there.This is trickery and superficiality. It is therefore not upon an oath to serve the people and upon an oath to protect the law of the land that this municipal government is based but upon rebellion against the people and of the existings laws of the land.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer























Or, A Change Must Come From Within!

by: atty. benji

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
Watch your words, they become actions;
Watch your actions, they become habits;
Watch your habits, they become character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Ours is a nation (or a town, province) gravely afflicted with interlocking diseases of poverty, passivity, cheating, graft and corruption, exploitative patronage, nepotism, factionalism, political instability, love for intrigue, lack of discipline, lack of patriotism, greed for power and the desire for instant gratification, etc. A cancerous growth is affecting the vital organs of our society to the extent that we seem to be in a state of paralysis; the patient is not responding to the problems confronting it. The times call for analysis of the social cancer.

And, we are both the doctor and patient. As Jesus Christ said in quoting the proverb: “Physician, heal thyself”.

Many years back, then former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, in her sponsorship speech calling for Moral Recovery Program (MRP), has emphasized that “the sickness afflicting this country is moral in nature.” It is her view that at the bottom of our economic problems and political instability is the weakness and corruption of the moral foundations of our society. We don’t need an economic recovery program; we also urgently need a moral, intellectual and spiritual recovery program.

Senator Shahani continued that “aside from the widespread problem of corruption, there is violence, hatred, hostility, greed for power, divisiveness which has become part of the everyday atmosphere which we breathe. We have to cleanse our national body, to rid it of its poisons and toxins, if the country is to survive. This times demand self-examination. Let us remember the words of the Greek philosopher, Socrates when he said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Let us translate this wise saying to the national level and examine our own character as a people to ensure that we are growing in the proper direction, with proper values and proper priorities.”

Why concentrate on the weakness of the people, it might be asked? and you might be asked too?

-Because, as in every sick person, we must analyze his disease or diseases. There is a need to examine how society shapes our character, of how Filipino children are brought up. If the children and youth age 12 to 16 years old are already encouraged by their parents to practice child prostitution to add to the family income, can we expect these children to be upright and law abiding citizens? If the child sees so much physical violence and brutality at home and in society, is it normal to expect that he will long to handle guns and keep company with goons at a later age, not only during the period of elections but on a daily basis?

Is the economic situation so desperate that thousands of our women refuse to learn other skills other than selling their bodies several times over every night? Why do we always disobey traffic rules and regulations? Why has cheating become a normal way of life in the Philippines particularly during the elections?

Several years ago, the Philippine was considered one of the most promising counties in Asia. Today, the Philippines is still called the “Sick Man of Asia”. What has gone wrong? Can’t we put our own house in order? Why is there such a big demand for pornography and smut?

It is also important to realize the extent of this sickness and to be aware that in order to eliminate graft and corruption, society as a whole must change and we must change too. This means not only the government but the private sector and the entire people as well.

Do we have the political will to change ourselves, undergo a major surgery, make the necessary sacrifices and go back to the basic virtues of honesty, self-reliance and responsibility for the community and the nation, and in our town, too. Can our educators realize that it is not enough to change the child and the homes but also the whole of society?

“Let us minimize our weakness and strengthen our virtues, of which we have many. Let us look inward and cleanse and heal ourselves before it is too late. We cannot expect to implement our national vision unless we have a clean hands and pure hearts”, said President Fidel V. Ramos in his Proclamation No. 62 .

After the sponsorship speech of then Senator Shahani on the Urgent Need for Moral Recovery Program (MRP) and the Senate Resolution No. 10 adopted on September 18, 1987, which directed Senate Committee on Education, Arts & Culture, & the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Development to conduct joint inquiry into the strengths and weaknesses of Filipino character with a view to solve the social ills and strengthening the nation’s moral fiber.

-Reinforced by Presidential Proclamation No. 62, issued by then, President FVR on 1992 declaring a Moral Recovery Program of the government & calling for the active participation of all sectors of the society in the MRP.

After that mukhang walang nabago sa ating mga Pilipino, ganun parin tayo!

Sa kabila ng itinatag na Moral Recovery Program ng ating gobierno upang itaguyod ang mithiing maka-BAYAN, maka-TAO, maka-KALIKASAN at maka-DIYOS, ay laganap parin ang kurapsyon at kawatan sa lahat ng sangay ng pamahalaan, dayaan sa eleksyon, gahaman sa poder, palakasan o padrino system, laganap ang prostitution, talamak ang bintahan at paggamit ng bawal na gamot o droga sangkot ang kapulisan at tagapagpatupad ng batas, kawalan ng paggalang sa magulang at nakakatanda, tahasang paglabag sa batas trapiko, walang disiplina sa sarili, kulang sa pagmamahal sa bayan, kanya-kanya o walang paki-alam syndrome, crab mentality at iba pa.

In short, bagsak ang “moral character” o “moral values” nating mga Pilipino.

Thus, there is a need for self examination as a means to transform the nation, as advocated by Senator Shahani.

There is an urgent need for moral revolution to eradicate moral decadence in our community, and government, (or in the municipal government of bulan). Mabuhay ang maka-tao, maka-bayan, maka-kalikasan at maka-diyos na Pilipino.

It is the moral character which determines the destiny of an individual as well as that of the nation (town, or province). For an individual and nation to survive with dignity and prosperity that character has to be based on moral and ethical values.

Our greatest hope lies within ourselves! Sabi nga ni dating Presidente Marcos, “Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan”.

Tayo ba ay may disiplina sa sarili? tayo ba ay masunurrin sa ating batas? tayo ba ay masunurin sa ating mga magulang? at may pagpapahalaga sa ating kalikasan at sa bayan?


Or, Belated Happy Mother’s Day.

by : attybenji

Honor thy Father and thy Mother – is the best and everlasting presents that child can give to the his/her parents, specially the mother (free of charge), when we all celebrated the MOTHER’s DAY a week ago – though the message is a little bit late, but it does’nt matter, as the saying goes “better late than never”.

This fifth commandment (in the Old Testament) is a command rather than a request. No “ifs” no “buts”. That regardless of their character, (whether they’re wicked, irresponsible, etc.) children are bound to honor and respect their parents. No condition! That’s an order…

Hereunder are the lyrics of “Nanay ko Tatay Ko”, a popular bicol song has a sentimental message to the “ANAK” – to shower her “TATAY y NANAY” with love, care and respect without condition, because of his “Dakulang Utang na Boot sa Magurang”.

“Si Nanay si Tatay”

Si Nanay si Tatay di co babayaan.
Balaquid na boot an sacuyang utang
Si pagdara saco nin siyam na bulan
Gatas cong dinodo di co mabayadan.

Ay Nanay ay Tatay con ako humale,
Hihidawon mo man sa gabos mong aki
Macacoa ca man nin macacasangli
Dai macaarog kan sacong ugali

Ay Nanay ay Tatay kun ako maraot
Pogotan nin payo ibontog sa lawod
Con mahiling nindo na naganod-anod
Ay Nanay ay Tatay sapuda man tolos.

But today, the realities of life differ from the actual message of the above song under the following incidents, please consider the day to day headlines news as published in the newspaper tabloid, FRONTPAGE headlines: such as, Ama pinatay ng sariling Anak: Drug Adik na Anak, kumitil ng sariling Ama: Anak minasaker ang kanyang Nanay at Tatay: Anak na pasaway, binaril ang sariling Nanay: Anak naghuramentado, pinagpapatay ang sariling pamilya: Anak na ayaw padisiplina, tinaga ang sariling Ama; etc…

The reason is simple – kawalan ng disiplina sa sarili at paggalang sa magulang, at sa batas.

What many seemingly have never learned or forgotten is that duty to parents does not end with childhood days at home and under parental supervision.

A very famous song entitled “ANAK” popularized by Freddie Aguilar has another message – is about the child who disobeyed his parents despite love and care given by his parents, but in the end, “Ang Anak ay Nagbago at Nagsisi”.

by: freddie aguilar

Nang isilang ka sa mundong ito,
Laking tuwa ng magulang mo.
At ang kamay nila
Ang iyong ilaw.

At ang nanay at tatay mo,
‘di malaman ang gagawin.
Minamasdan pati pagtulog mo.
Sa gabi napupuyat ang iyong nanay
Sa pagtimpla ng gatas mo.

At sa umaga nama’y kalong
Ka ng iyong amang tuwang-tuwa sa iyo.
Ngayon nga’y malaki ka na,
Nais mo’y maging malaya.
‘di man sila payag,
Walang magagawa.

Ikaw nga’y biglang nagbago,
Naging matigas ang iyong ulo.
At ang payo nila’y,
Sinuway mo.

Hindi mo man lang inisip
Na ang kanilang ginagawa’y para sa iyo.
Pagka’t ang nais mo masunod ang layaw mo,
‘di mo sila pinapansin.

Nagdaan pa ang mga araw
At ang landas mo’y naligaw
Ikaw ay nalulon
Sa masamang bisyo.

At ang una mong nilapitan
Ang iyong inang lumuluha.
At ang tanong,
“anak, ba’t ka nagkaganyan?”
At ang iyong mga mata’y biglang lumuha
Ng ‘di mo napapansin
Pagsisisi ang sa isip mo,
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali.

What is the true way to honor parents? To live a godly and decent life before all men! The greatest honor a child can bestow upon his parents is to live a consecrated and faithful Christian life.

True honor begins with genuine love for parents. It is manifested even in “little things,” like keeping in contact with them, showing interest in their lives, as well as doing those things for them that need to be done. Letters, calls, gifts, remembrances, words, visits, honor of their views and respect for their advice are such things that parents may lawfully claim and expect from their children.

Charity is not the only thing that begins at home, but also thoughtfulness, truthfulness, honesty, uprightness, good citizenship and respect for authority all begin in the home. Lawlessness often begins in the home because there one can learn to disrespect authority as well as learn to respect it. If the world is ever going to be a better place there first must be better homes.

The welfare of society rests in the family and the reconstruction of family virtues and values, parental authority and responsibility, and the obedience of children to their parents.

The fifth commandment, learned, believed and obeyed is one of the surest safeguards, and is a near guarantee for correct and righteous human behavior. It gives the blueprint for the reign of law and order. It makes possible a life of peace, security and happiness. It will provide, especially for the young, a solid foundation upon which life can be built and lived as God would have it. When children obey their parents they learn to obey those in charge of schools, government officials, employers, and all others with whom they will have to deal in life. While children obey parents they are doing more than learning the right ways and obeying parents.

Christ set the example for honoring parents. His first miracle was undertaken at the request of His mother. As He died on the cross He remarked, “Woman behold thy son,” and to another (probably John) He said, “Behold thy mother.” In this fashion, even as His life was going from Him, He showed care and concern for His mother and instigated the means for her continued provisions in this life.

The obligation children have to parents is not a one-way street. Parents have obligations to their children. There is no law of God that says children must obey their parents in doing that which is wicked. Many parents are not respected because they are not respectable. To be honored one must strive to be honorable. Parents must in some measure earn and deserve respect as well as demand it. Parents earn it and children learn it. It is futile to expect children to respect parental authority when the same parents do not have respect for divine authority.

Belated HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the mothers out there! Kayo po ang ILAW NG TAHANAN. Mabuhay!



“I have persevered against difficulties,
I rose up against defeats &,
I conquered the failures of the past”.


by atty. benji

A billboard in one of the sweepstakes ticket outlets in Quiapo, reads “A quitter never wins; a winner never quits”. Of course, if you quit or stop dreaming you will never win in any contest, challenge or any kind of endeavor that you wanted to carry out. If you fail, never, never, never, give up! Failing is a vital component of growing up process. It’s a baptism of fire!

If you encountered fiascos and failures in your board exams in the past, this is a must read article for you! – Be inspired and enlightened!

If you encountered setbacks in your political career or business in the past, this is a must read for you, too.

If your experienced frustrations and desperations in your chosen profession or vocation, this is a must read for you, also.

And, if you encountered denials and rejections in courting a woman of your choice, never give up, this article is probably a must read for you. I hope so, he-he-he. -Be inspired! Believe that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

I would like to share this article to all of you, who, or to whomsoever, (as an inspiration, motivation or a challenge) had experienced the pain and nightmare of failing in their chosen career, business & profession several times already (e.g. exams, sports or politics, etc). Failure is an inevitable circumstance! That’s  life!

I did experience several tumultuous failures and frustrations in my chosen career. I did encounter my first major debacle in my chosen profession in 1996 onwards when I flanked the bar exams. But, failure/s did not stop me from pursuing my dream until I claimed victory over it, and conquered the disaster of the past!

Despite depression, I did not surrender; despite desperation, I did not quit; despite anxiety, I did not give up my dreams, my mentor called it, “Spirit”.

The “pyerdido” (loser) of yesterday will be the “ganador” (victor) of tomorrow, I believe so, after all, our past does not define our future!

With this, I was reminded by a comment of a certain “Lazarus” in the sorsogonnews blog against the Guyalas branding them as “pyerdido na politico”. The comment of Lazarus, regardless of his motive or intention, (whether to insult them or otherwise) is uncalled for. For nobody knows, and who knows in the near future, the Guyala will become the next Mayor of Bulan, or Congressman of the 2nd District, or Governor of Sorsogon, or even Senator of the Republic someday. Time will come that a loser will emerge as the victor, and time will come that Guyalas’ debacle will be translated into victory someday. (Sabi nga sa Biblia, an mga nauuna ay mahuhuli at ang mga nahuhuli ay mauuna) –And, time will come, I’m sure, na an kadaghanan san mga botantes sa Bulan magsasawa man sa mga de Castro sa maabot na panahon! And that time is yet to come. Though, the Guyalas, particularly (atty. rene) had lost several times in his political bid many years back but time will come he will emerge as victorious man on earth.

The case of the late Senator Rene “Compañero” Cayetano is a classic example of success after so many setbacks in politics. He lost several times in his bid to challenge then incumbent Congressman Dante Tinga of Taguig-Pateros District (laging talunan nuon si cayetano, hindi man lang nakatikim ng panalo) but when the opportunity comes right during the Ramos Presidency, he instead ran for Senator and topped the senatorial elections. You see! For man’s past does not define his future.

Likewise, the compelling story of Abraham Lincoln is one of the best examples of success after so many defeats in politics.

Lincoln had a very strong desire to make a difference, so he entered politics. In August, 1832, he finished eighth out of 13 in a race for the Illinois House of Representatives.

In 1834, while practicing law in a firm he had established with several partners, Lincoln ran for and won a seat in the Illinois Legislature. He served a four-year term, and he soon developed a reputation as a capable and honest politician.

Unfortunately, over the next decade he experienced numerous business and political setbacks. But unlike most people, Lincoln did not let any of these challenges — including a business and personal bankruptcy — discourage him from going after his dreams.

In 1836, Lincoln won an election to Congress. It was during this time that he took an unpopular stand against President James K. Polk regarding the Mexican War. Abraham thought the war was unjust.

After his term ended in 1849, Lincoln took the next five years off from politics and focused on his law practice. Again, he encountered more business setbacks. But again, he persisted, and did not let “so-called” failures discourage him.

In 1854, he returned to the political arena. One of the first things he did was to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which threatened to extend slavery to other states.

In 1855, he ran for the Senate but was defeated. The next year he went after the Vice Presidency position, and was also defeated.

With so many failures, a lot of people, in Lincoln’s position, probably would have given up. But because he was determined and committed to make his political dreams come true, he would get up each time he was knocked down. He knew the only way to gain ground, to move forward, to march on, and to turn his goals into reality, was to learn from his setbacks and failures.

Finally, in 1860, Lincoln’s years of persistence and hard work paid off when he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.

Abraham Lincoln represents the finest example of persistence. Although he faced countless defeats throughout his life — many that must have seemed insurmountable — he never gave up on his dreams.

LINCOLN LOST EIGHT ( 8) ELECTIONS, failed in business many times, and suffered a nervous breakdown. He could have quit many times, but he didn’t. Instead, after each defeat he would pick himself up and press forward until he achieved his aspirations.

Malaysian international speaker, Billi Lim, in his Dare to Fail magazines’ series said that from school days we are indoctrinated to adore success. Success and failures are like heaven and hell.

Heaven forbids that you should fail. Many believe when we fail, we are condemned. Failure is not an irreversible chemical reaction. Numerous success stories have their origins in failures. Sowing the seeds of failure brings the fruits of success. A lot of successful people were once called failures.

Failure is not a black hole that we fall into and get stuck there permanently. It is only temporary. Failure is success delayed. We have merely postponed our success. David Ireland authors the book aptly entitled “Failure is Written in Pencil”. Failure is erasable. It is not cast in stone. Erase failure now and begin a new life on a brand new page!

Failing must be courageous!
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever hope to achieve greatly” says Robert F. Kennedy

During World War II, Japanese Kamikaze pilots sang patriotic songs before they flew their fighter planes in suicide mission. They pledged to their beloved country that they will strike deep into enemy’s territories and would perish in their dangerous missions. Because of their courage to die for their country, kamikaze pilots often returned alive.

Failing is a privilege!
Failure is not an option. We don’t chose to fail neither we opted to become a loser. It is an honor to fail. Failure is the baptism of fire. Failure is a wake up call. From failing, we evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. We scout for opportunities and prepare for threats.

Failure is not final!
“Success is never ending; Failure is never final” says Robert Schuller. Failing does not issue death sentence. It is not the end all. There is always another opportunity to try again. Likewise, success is not a final destination. It is a journey that we strive continuously. Failure shall not drown us. Instead, it is the bridge that connects us over troubled waters to success. “He is no failure. He’s not dead yet” say W.L. George

We must not be ashamed of failures!
It is a daily test of our courage and ingenuinity. Failing is not a taboo. Failure occurs mainly in isolated cases and is often beyond our control.

We must distinguish failures from the acts of failing. If we cast ourselves as failures, it leaves behind a psychological scar. Don’t take failure as an act of not attaining certain bench marks, we can still walk upright with pride. “We do not fail ourselves; it is primarily the work we do that fails”.

We must permit ourselves to fail!
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we at the same time give ourselves permission to excel”, says Eloise Ristad

We must not fear failure. The minute we stop trying is the minute that heralds failure.

We must not stigmatize Failures!
“He that lies on the ground cannot fail” according to Yiddish Proverb.

The Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) practice a traditional ritual for gang members who failed in their missions or assignments. They chop off their fingers to atone for their failures. Failing is not a stigma. We must not punish ourselves for failures like Yakuza members whose cut fingers are permanent reminders of their failed missions. Failing is honorable. It is not a misdemeanor. Just remember every genius was once a failure. Ask any genius!

“Even the best of men get knocked down many times in a lifetime. Occasional knock downs are not anything to be afraid of. In fact, they make the game of life interesting; they are the hazard and bunkers and sand traps that force us to keep our mind on the game and play our best”, says Clinton Bernard.

Failure is a prelude to success!
We treat failure as the wrong answer and success as the right answer. Failure is not actually the opposite of success. Failure is actually the step preceding success. If we make a decision, it will inevitably result in two results – failure or success. If the result is failure, acknowledge it is a learning process before success beckons. Failure is necessary part of success. In the book entitled “Think & Grow Rich”, I forgot the name of the Author, it says that “failure is a fertilizer of success”. That’s correct!

In fact, many people on the failure track are so close to success when they call it quits. Only if they persevere a little longer, success will be attained. Success is like the bride waiting at the end of the aisle. Thomas Edison hit the nail on the head when he said “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”

Failure is an asset!
“Every adversity, every failure, every headache, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit”, says Napoleon Bonaparte

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart”, says Robert Ingersoll.

“Our greatest glory is not never falling but rising every time we fall”, says Oliver Goldsmith.

Never, never, never give up!
“There is no failure except in no longer trying”, says Elbert Hubbard. The annals of history were laced by great people who failed. Sir Winston Churchill once admonished, “Never, Never, Never give in, in whatever you do”.

Do not judge people who try and fail but those who fail to try. Tom Hopkins, Americas Top sale trainer, advocates, “I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed. The number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I fail and keep trying”.

The genius, Sir Albert Einstein failed many times! He disliked schools because of strict regimentations and structure. At 15, he dropped out of school, He taught himself calculus. Einstein’s poor memory especially for words led to his dismal performance in Greek. His teacher belittled Einstein, “No Matter what you do, you will never amount to anything”. Another teacher ridiculed him, “Your mere presence spoils the respect of the class for me”. His father once sought his head master’s advice on what profession Einstein should pursue. The head master admonished, “It doesn’t matter, he will never make a success of anything. Albert Einstein was named by the Time Magazine as the Person of the Century. Einstein famous theory of relativity led the foundation for the atomic bombs that were dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It forced the Japanese to surrender and brought WWII on an abrupt halt.

Another genius, Sir Thomas Edison has failed several times too!
At a press conference, a young journalist asked Sir Thomas Edison how many times he failed before he invented the light bulb. Thomas Edison politely replied, “I was actually successful in knowing 1800 ways of how not to make a light bulb. In his wisdom Edison further enlighten him, “In every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”.

If you fail once, twice, thrice and more already in your chosen career, don’t be discourage, and don’t lose hope for there is always sunshine after darkness, as there is always a rainbow after thunderstorm. That’s for sure!

Believe that there are no failures. We merely postpone our success. There are no failures in life, only delays.

But I’m sure you can remember Robert F. Kennedy, the man who failed to be President. You can remember Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela waited 27 years to be President. And President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea; he has been beaten, kidnapped, imprisoned, sentenced to death but he not only became President, he has also been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2000.

Many of us don’t understand why sometimes we have to lose. In fact sometimes to win we have to yield just like the grass yielding to the great wind. Those who can’t yield sometimes got uprooted by the great typhoon.

Kusog lawas, labanan an mga Kabiguan sa buhay! Mabuhay kita gabos!

God bless us all. Keep fighting, never give up!


(You can be Billionaire even if you are School Drop outs)
By atty. benji

A bachelor degree is just a piece of paper. (e.g. PHD stands for Permanent Head Damage, just kidding) It is not the degree that makes the man. It is man who makes himself.

“You can be a millionaire or billionaire even if you are school dropouts”, says Billi Lim

Below is a very interesting and compelling part of the speech delivered by Lawrence “Larry” Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corp. and the 2nd richest man in the world, at the Yale University last month.

“Graduates of Yale University, I apologize if you have endured this type of prologue before, but I want you to do something for me. Please, take a good look around you. Look at the classmate on your left. Look at the classmate on your right.

Now, consider this: Five years from now, 10 years from now, even 30 years from now, odds are the person on your left is going to be a loser. The person on your right, meanwhile, will also be a loser. And you, in the middle? What can you expect? Loser. Loser hood. Loser Cum Laude.

In fact, as I look out before me today, I don’t see a thousand hopes for a bright tomorrow. I don’t see a thousand future leaders in a thousand industries. I see a thousand losers. You’re upset. That’s understandable.

After all, how can I, Lawrence “Larry’ Ellison, college dropout, have the audacity to spout such heresy to the graduating class of one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions? I’ll tell you why.

Because I, Lawrence ‘Larry’ Ellison, second richest man on the planet, am a college dropout, and you are not.

Because Bill Gates, richest man on the planet .. for now, anyway – is a college dropout, and you did not.

Because Paul Allen, the third richest man on the planet, dropped out of college, and you did not.
And for good measure, because Michael Dell, No. 9 on the list and moving up fast, is a college dropout, and you, yet again are not.

…. Finally, I realize that many of you, and hopefully by now most of you, are wondering, “Is there anything I can do? Actually, no; it’s too late. You’ve absorbed too much, think you know too much. You have a built-in cap, and I’m not referring to the mortar boards on your heads.

…. I want to give hope to any underclassman here today. I say to you, and I can’t stress this enough: Leave. Pack your things and your ideas and don’t come back. Drop out. Start up. For I can tell you that a cap and gown will keep you down just as surely as these security guards dragging me off this stage are keeping me down…”

– End of speech –

Your Welfare is my Concern

“The Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer is a public opinion survey that has been administered around the world each year since 2003. The Barometer explores how corruption affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens, asking about the general public’s attitudes toward corruption, the extent to which they believe corruption pervades public institutions, their experience with petty bribery and their sense of how the fight against corruption will fare in the future”

 “Key findings in the Global Corruption Barometer 2007 are:
The poor, whether in developing or highly industrialised countries, are the most penalised by corruption. They are also more pessimistic about the prospects for less corruption in the future.

About 1 in 10 people around the world had to pay a bribe in the past year; reported bribery has increased in some regions, such as Asia-Pacific and South East Europe

Bribery is particularly widespread in interactions with the police, the judiciary and registry and permit services.

The general public believe political parties, parliament, the police and the judicial/legal system are the most corrupt institutions in their societies.

Half of those interviewed – and significantly more than four years ago – expect corruption in their country to increase in the next three years, with some African countries the exception.

Half of those interviewed also think that their government’s efforts to fight corruption are ineffective. ” Global Corruption Barometer

 We all know that the topic of corruption is not a new subject for us TagaBulans, for us Filipinos. But if you want a thorough read about this subject, then visit the website of Transparency International (see Blogroll).

Study results and strategies suggested by TI (Tranparency International) represent only one thing. Corruption is an attitude, a mode of social behavior and interaction. That means that without the individuals’  “willingness” to leave this attitude behind, all those studies and strategies are of no use.

 The fact that we have a problem of corruption, I think, is a proof that our dream of democracy will remain a dream. For the first step in building a democracy is the reversal of corruption, which means, switching to “your- welfare- is- my- concern”- attitude. Only upon this attitude can you start building democracy, the attitude that’s in the minds of advanced democratic nations.

On the other side, a reversal of this attitude to “my- welfare -is my -only -concern” is the downfall of democracy also, a trend noticeable in the politics of highly-capitalized  democratic countries of today where people think only of nothinh else but profit after profit. Here, the zenith is almost reached and so the machiavellian’s wheel of history rolling down again.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer