Archive for July, 2017

So much Imbecility

Vile imbecilesis exhausting. Wanda Teo’s tourism charts. Bilibid boys threatening to recant. Alvarez’ wife saying he became a Manobo. Certainly he was always a bobo. His Senate counterpart Pimentel is just as much of an asshole, but I think he isn’t as stupid. Touché for Atty. Mandy Anderson. Kudos to the new culture of directness in the Philippines. If the President can insult people, so can others hit back at those who think they are higher. The Ombudsman telling the President “wala siyang pakialam”, that her work is none of his business, is not imbecility but a language every Filipino gets.

It was a matter of time before the crowd that ASec Lorraine Badoy termed as “ninnies” would hit back. Chito Gascon of CHR telling Panelo to focus on his job. After Panelo told Gascon to resign, which he constitutionally has no right to. Fixed-term appointees were purposely created to provide checks and balances – it would be terrible if one group had all the power without any critics. Malacañan saying that commissioners serve at “the President’s pleasure” (link) is another imbecility. Do they think the President is an absolute monarch, like the erstwhile Louis XIV of France?

How often indeed has the President spoken of himself as the owner of the Philippines – may-ari ng Pilipinas? How often has he spoken of my police, my army, my weapons? Louis XIV indeed said “I am the state” but also said in his old age that “I will die, but the state will remain”. Duterte would destroy the government if he had his way (link) but has not laid out any vision of the “more efficient system” that he would like to have in its place. Will it be barangays with drug lists – decentralized impunity? Plus centralized impunity against Lumad schools and the like (link)?

In the meantime, the real deals with China may have been sealed with the visit of the Chinese foreign minister. Will it indeed be joint exploration close to Palawan – with a sizable Chinese military presence to guard it? Fortunately, few were imbecilic enough to see the lapu-lapu being “gifted” by the Chinese to Filipino fishermen as generosity. Or a few firearms as real assistance. Maybe they are like the expensive underwear allegedly gifted to prostitutes by some pimps – with money they earned in the first place. Or even worse, just Woolworth underwear in Palmer’s plastic bags.

20 million Filipinos remain poor (link). What will be done for them? Will they be sent to work on Chinese oil rigs, since the construction worker jobs will allegedly be given to Chinese? And how about the education of the Filipino in general? Seems free tuition is gone by 2018 (link). Does the present administration want a stupid people to call its own? A slave race, with them as overseers? And the city the Chinese plan to build in Manila Bay, will it be like Intramuros? No Filipinos after dusk? Might they let some Chinoys become “Insular Chinese”? How imbecilic will Filipinos be?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 29 July 2017

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Quo Vadis, Mindanao?

Philippine territorial map 1880 MINDANAOis the question – especially who will benefit from the extension of Martial Law? Marawi residents and refugees in the area seem not happy with martial law. There are ideas of IDs for Muslims which are highly discriminatory, even downright insulting. Lumads continue to allege military harrassment, some are unhappy now that they voted for Duterte. There are stories of numerous private armies and vested interests in the mining business. There are those Mindanaoans like Duterte, Pimentel and Alvarez, called Bisaya by Muslim Mindanaoans – the Christian settlers.

During Marcos’s time, Mindanao was like Terra Incognita to most people in Manila. Even the Visayas were hardly heard from. What was going on in Luzon was the horizon most of us had then. Now one hears from the likes of Samira Gutoc of Marawi, or from reporters on the ground close to the fighting – like Froilan Gallardo. Before 1920, when Mindanao was turned over to the Interior Department of the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands, Mindanao was a territory that the United States fought hard to get under control. Spanish control before was patchy in practice.

Yes, there was the fortress of Zamboanga. There was Dapitan – where Rizal was exiled to. Even today, Mindanao is still seen as a place of exile, for example for errant policemen. The Moro Wars of the early 20th century were bloody. There were in the late 19th century a number of Spanish attempts to have more than just nominal control over Sultanates like Sulu. The times after 1920, especially the 1950s, brought resettlement from the Visayas and Luzon. American-initiated plantations like Dole, mining and logging – commercial and settler interests versus those who were there first.

Everything parallels the way the Philippines north of Mindanao became the way it is today. In the Visayas, not only Lapu-Lapu resisted colonization. The Boholanos Tamblot and Dagohoy come to mind – the first was a native priest who rejected Christianity in 1621, the second was a rebellion that started in 1744 and held out until 1828 in resistance to forced labor, but sparked by the refusal of a priest to give a Christian burial to the brother of its original leader, a barangay captain. In the Dagohoy uprising, folk beliefs in magical powers of the leader played a role in holding out.

The likes of Duterte now find themselves in a strange role. He and his followers act a bit like Dagohoy and his followers – towards certain groups in Manila. The personalism of the leader, the belief of people in his capabilities and collective resentments play a similar role. On the other hand, Mindanao Christian settlers are similar to Spanish colonialists towards Muslims and Lumads there. There is the Karpman triangle which describes how roles can change from victim to villain or even rescuer. How that triangle plays out in Mindanao might decide the future of the Philippines.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 23 July 2017


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Many Filipinos abuse their Servants

The native farmer and his faithful servant (from "The history and conquest of the Philippines and our other island possessions; embracing our war with the Filipinos in 1899")and a President who called them his bosses was abused, while a bossy, even abusive President is respected. President Aquino and his people were hands-on in the Zamboanga siege, during the Bohol earthquake and Yolanda. The only time Aquino was hands-off was Mamasapano, and that was when he was blamed a lot. He indeed will have to answer for using a suspended public official – Purisima of PNP – during that operation. That is where the law will run its course, and he will bow to it I think.

New and Old

President Duterte did not go to Marawi because of rain. He delegated work. I know from a lot of old-school Filipinos that it is somehow seen as lower to be hands-on. While Vice-President Robredo nearly always mingles with the crowd, Duterte and the likes of him usually sit on a stage in front of the crowd – even in Qatar with OFWs. Even Mar Roxas I found quite annoying wagging his hand at his secretary, ordering her to take notes in Tacloban while discussing with Mayor Romualdez. Very weird.

Because most managers in Germany take their own notes. Secretaries still exist of course, but to handle mail, incoming calls and other routine work. INCOMING calls. Outgoing calls are made personally – I wonder if the kind of Filipino boss that asked people to make calls for them still exists in the age of speed dial and mobile phones. Yes, there used to be the old kind of German boss that still ordered their secretaries to brew coffee for them. But these men had their heyday in the 1950s. Times change.

Romanian partners in a project I was involved in a decade ago were positively surprised that German bosses also work and don’t just order people around. Younger Romanian people who wanted to catch up with the West and cast off the still present legacies of Communist dictatorship and corruption in their country. There were also those born after 1989 who were nostalgic for the easy days of Communism were everyone had the same share of very little. They seem to have lost, at least for now.

What people want

People in Romania seem to want not only giving less of their hard-earned money to corrupt officials, they seem to want more personal independence. The Romanian diaspora is estimated at 8 million while the population of Romania is 20 million. Probably the direct influence of people who have gotten used to independence by living and working in more modern countries reaches into nearly every family by now. The old society with its system of local bosses seems to be shaking. It may change for good.

Filipinos seem to want the kind of change where they can just move up the ladder, personally or as families. The perceived enemy are “yellows”, seen to be in control of everything due to their Western-oriented education. Fil-Ams seem to be the ones who favor more personal independence, which is why a strong support based for Vice-President Robredo there is not surprising. But the always thin Western veneer, the paint coat on Filipinos, seems to be shedding to reveal what most really really want.

A highly hierarchic order where discipline means do what those above tell you. Never mind if they can’t wear a uniform properly or admit to having shirked ROTC (link). Those who are higher have the prerogative to be less disciplined or even lazy, it is not the prerogative of those below to question that. That would be highly disrespectful. Those above need not respect those below, in fact they may dare them to prove their innocence (link), as it is the prerogative of those above to determine who is guilty.

Filipino paradise?

Even what is true and not to be determined by those who are higher, like doctrine and dogma in the Catholic Church (link) – only that secular hierarchy replaces religion. There is a hashtag #PlsDontKillUs against EJKs which I find disturbing – it sounds too much like the “Lord have mercy on us” prayer in Church. Is Duterte now the Lord? Pleading assumes he has the right to kill in the first place. Domine, devora me was a joke by my Latin teacher in German senior high school – Lord, eat me. No, por favor.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 15. July 2017


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Smart and Strong

Bongbong Marcoshave a different meaning for some Filipinos. Sandra Cam might be seen as smart and Antonio Contreras as strong. Devious and thick-faced Bongbong Marcos as both. Ethics of people who I think don’t believe in fairness, civility or honesty – possibly because they have never seen much of it in their lives. “Those who have known hunger have a scar, and may behave as if they are hungry all their lives” is wisdom I have heard from someone who knows the school of hard knocks. Makes me think of how Imelda wore just hand-me-downs in her youth, being from the poor branch of a mestizo clan. One wonders to what extent the attitudes from a scar can be passed to children. I don’t see the Binay kids behaving as desperately, eternally hungry as their boodle-fighting father. “Take what you can, give nothing back” is what they say to each other in Pirates of the Carribean. Wonder how much of the attitudes of some Filipinos date back to times of galleon trade and forced labor in the barangays.

A different Philippines already had been taking shape. Modern jobs and opportunities had come, showing that you just have to perform at work to get somewhere. Whether it was in BPO outfits or in factories run by foreigners. The old Philippines of ass-kissing towards higher ups and pushing down those below was disappearing. Seems those left behind, or those who simply wanted a bigger piece of the cake more quickly, have won this time. They may yet kill the goose that lays their golden eggs. There was always a conflict between the old, rent-seeking Philippines and the modern, liberal Philippines – I think from the moment the first ports opened for free trade in the 19th century, European migrants came in with the first modern factories, and even America started to trade with the newly opened colony – long before colonial ambitions were even in its mind.

In the rent-seeking, old Philippines, you earn your place by loyalty to certain powers that be. Whether you are Mocha Uson or Thinking Pinoy. Others in turn will have the chance to earn a place at your table and benefit from your largesse. Or even ride in your helicopter, like the one Mocha Uson recently took from Manila to Clark. Nobody really questions that. You may even hear things like – why are you so envious? People get their luck in life! Those who share their “luck” like Binay did are seen as “good”. Only those who don’t are considered “bad”. But why are people so mad at hard-working professionals or successful businessmen, and not at corrupt politicians or crooks? Well, it seems to me that those who build their affluence by design are considered greedy! Makes sense if you think all businesses are rent-seeking and all good jobs are gotten by ass-kissing. And that even good education is just a designer label that you can buy because you have money. That what you learn there is just empty words.

Oh well, maybe they are right. Possibly we are just slaves over here in the West, condemned to learn things properly and then work long hours and not even have maids or houseboys at home. Maybe the Philippines will take off, with a hierarchy that is even more pyramidal than in the Gulf States, as soon as Bongbong Marcos is Vice President. Even if it is 99.99% likely that he isn’t, who cares about the truth in the Philippines today? Perhaps we are fools over here in the West, telling the truth even to those minions that don’t deserve to be told the truth. 30 days of vacation even for ordinary workers. Who do they think they are? Fast public transport. Who needs that? Mochau Uson can take the helicopter, those two rungs below her can wang-wang, I have heard it is back. Sure, there will be a lot of people that protest in case Vice President Robredo is removed, which I think is nearly certain. But will it have an effect? Possibly some provoked violence, then nationwide Martial Law and arrests.

And the quiet rest of Filipinos? To them, what Rizal said in El Filibusterismo via the character of the native priest Padre Florentino will most probably continue to be true: “as long as we see our countrymen feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed; as long as we see them wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty, why give them independence?”…”if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow”. To spare their families, they will acquiesce – or even collaborate so that their families are just one rung higher on Jacob’s ladder. This is a principle that rulers of Filipinos have exploited for so very long. Even a relatively simple-minded man without his father’s intelligence – yes I mean Bongbong Marcos – knows that. And this time, he might make sure things stay that way.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 13 July 2017

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A Malay Leader

Joko Widodo 2014 official portraitis in Hamburg these days – representing his country in the G-20. Joko Widodo if dressed like the crowd would not stand out in most parts of the Philippines, he smiles much like a Filipino yet manages to look dignified at the same time. He is even eyeing that Indonesia join the Financial Action Task Force or FATF (link) – something the Philippines is far from even imagining (link).

President Duterte on the other hand looked terrible in badly worn military clothing on his attempt to go to Marawi (link) – stopped due to bad weather. The wrong undershirt and loafer shoes with weird socks. Most Southeast Asian men manage to look better in slippers and traditional peasant clothing, yes there are pictures that show barely clothed native warriors with enormous dignity – like those of Eduardo Masferre (link).

Hare and Tortoise

Indonesia became independent 3 years later than the Philippines – in 1949 – and was seemingly way behind then. Yet I have heard stories that unlike the Philippines, they bought the houses and lots of their Embassies in Europe way back in the 1950s and 1960s. A minor detail, yet it shows more strategic thinking. Other evidences were how students abroad were taken care of, and how technology was not only bought, but skills transferred. Today, Indonesia builds its own naval boats.

In the 1960s, the Philippines was richer than South Korea and behind only Japan. The Deutsche Mark and the Peso had a 1:1 exchange rate. Of course photos of Manila then showed big American cars, and English-speaking Filipinos often considered themselves superior to their fellow Asians, even until the 1970s just laughing about them. Now Indonesia is helping the Philippines patrol common waters (link) and is clearly positioning itself as a regional leader (link) – even in opposition to China.

The strategic aspect

Indonesia had enormous crises, including a spate of killings in 1965 that by far dwarf anything the Philippines has ever seen, even now. And the Suhartos are also in the notorious Top 10 most corrupt worldwide list – together with Marcos and Estrada. So what has made Indonesia succeed, and the Philippines seem to keep having phases of growth that turn out to be wasted momentum in the end – the 1960s, the mid-1990s, and most probably the recent boom as well? Maybe also the 1890s. And the 1930s.

My previous article dealt with how many Filipinos like to show off materially, spend on consumerism. Napoles’ daughter partying with Justin Timberlake comes to mind. Or the need to send one’s kids to Oxford at all costs. Another article (link) dealt with Filipino impatience in wanting to buy the latest technology always – without slowly building the capabilities to handle it. The MRT-3 fiasco is one result. Indonesia for all its mistakes managed to have people like B.J. Habibie (link) in leadership positions. There are also those who say that inspite of all corruption, the Suhartos at least spent most of their money in Indonesia, unlike the Marcoses who bought jewelry or condos in New York. Economically speaking this makes sense, as local spending fuels local jobs. And of course it is smarter to develop own industries like Habibie managed to do. Somewhere I read that German public transport is heavily subsidized. But where does Germany most probably buy its train parts? Not abroad like the MRT-3 does.

The cultural aspect

The Malay language (link) existed as a lingua franca throughout the region, making it easy to establish Bahasa Indonesia as a national language, without the conflicts that the Philippines had with Visayans rejecting Tagalog as the national language. English is fine, but it is probably easier if your school language is related to your language at home. I know Germans who had to learn High German in Grade 1, having spoken a dialect at home. But at least the structures are similar, making it easier to “migrate”.

As for state: the old empires of Majapahit and Sri-Vijaya were on future Malaysian and Indonesian soil, respectively. So there was already an idea of how a real state works – unlike the Philippine state which was established colonially and still is a bit of a foreign body for many Filipinos. Often it seems that the Philippine state is seen as spoils of victory to be exploited, like in colonial times – not as something of long-term value to be maintained properly. Plus Filipinos act as if their leaders are personally known to them, using first names. And as if a state could be run like a barangay, where the datu whimsically changes the rules based on favoritism or mere caprice, where the favors of the state automatically accrue only to those who support the winning datu. The principles of utang na loob recently seen in President Duterte’s giving positions, or who was taken along on government trips, as if the presidential plane was merely a balanghai, a ship of the datu. Or Duterte’s personal view towards both AFP and PNP.

Back to dignity: the native elite of the Philippines was coopted first by the Spanish, then by the Americans – and even by the Japanese for a while. They usually managed to act like snakes shedding their skins for new languages and styles – to the extent that they are seen as foreign by many Filipinos. Colonial criticism of Filipino natives was also used by native elites to keep their countrymen in place. It is no small wonder that the behavior of Duterte and his group often resemble a caricature of the Indio as described by the most racist among Spanish friars. And that their attitude is the exact reverse of colonial racism which put foreign whites above native whites, mestizos below whites and natives at the lowest rank – with the strange exception that it places the Chinese where the whites used to be, and seems to a favor a number of Chinese mestizos. The damaged self-esteem caused by colonialism is at the root of many dysfunctional behaviors, including what is happening just now. Those perceived to be “oppressive” are hated on: the UN, the USA, the EU, educated people, old middle classes, the Church. Those perceived to be “lower” are put under pressure: Filipino Muslims (link) and slum dwellers for example. Weirdly, affirmation is looked for among those one claims to hate: “NASA and the Best President in the Solar System”, anyone? The language/learning issue and the barangay mentality are easier to fix than self-esteem. Maybe wearing clothes properly is a start? They don’t have to be new.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 8 July 2017






Luma na iyan!

Old House, Baaoang paboritong pananalita ng iilang Pilipinong nakakainis. Baka sabihin pa nilang BADUY. Ngayon naman, may isang Badoy na nagrereklamo tungkol sa mga lumang gamit na pinakinabangan ni Bisepresidente Robredo para sa kanyang anak sa Harvard. Sa bandang huli, si Badoy ang nagmukhang bakya dahil hindi niya yata alam na normal sa US ang makinabang sa lumang gamit. Basura ang tawag niya doon. Salitang kastila ito. May basura ba ang katutubong Pilipino? Ewan ko lang.

Baduy at Badoy

Dalawang extreme na uri ng Pilipino ang nadanas ko. Meron iyong mga galing sa hirap, marunong magtipid, alam pakinabangan ang lahat ng bagay-bagay sa paligid nila. Meron ding mga galing sa hirap na kapag kumita ng unang pera, gastos agad para sa pakitang-tao. Gustong pumorma, gustong magpasiklab, gustong magpasikat. Minsan pagtatawanan pa nila iyong unang grupo, mga baduy daw. Samantalang para sa akin, mas Badoy iyong pangalawang grupo. Walang bibilib sa mga hanggang porma lang.

Tulad ng iilang mga migrante sa New York, halos bagong salta, na mahilig magkuwento kung paano sila magshopping sa New Jersey. Matagal na ito, pero hindi ko malimutan kung paano ako nag-iisip-isip kung ano iyong Sikokos na pinagsasabi nila, iyon pala Seacaucus kung saan may malaking mall. Tuwang-tuwa pa silang magkuwento kung paano “nagalit sa pera” iyong isang kasamahan nila noong isang weekend. Iyan ba ang uri ng Pilipinong gustong ipagmalaki ni Badoy? Eh di wow!

Luma at Basura

May mga Pilipinong nagsasabing luma lang naman daw ang mga building sa Europe. Di bali, maayos namang tignan. Ako naman, naalala ko iyong kintab at ganda ng Ali Mall noong itinayo ito sa Cubao – at kung gaanong kadali itong nagmukhang bulok pagkatapos lang ng isang dekada mahigit. Ang MRT3, dalawang dekada lang bulok na. Ang mga linya sa Berlin, kadalasan mahigit isang daang taon nang tumatakbo, mas maayos pang tignan at tumatakbo ng maayos. Bakit kaya naging ganyan sa Pilipinas?

Siguro dahil naisaloob ng maraming Pilipino ang mababang pagtingin sa kanila ng iilang mga Kastila. Na mga basura raw sila. Baka basura rin sa Espanya ang nagsabi. Ano naman ang ginawa ni Juan at Juana? Binasura ang sariling kultura. Nasaan na ang magagandang mga lumang bahay sa Pilipinas? Sa Europe hindi ginigiba ang luma, binibigyan ng halaga. Binasura ang sariling itsura. Ibinabalot ang sarili sa imported goods, kaya nagpapakatuwad para sa dolyares. Sarili binasura. Sayang.

Pati tao binabasura

Sa mga kalye ng Pilipinas, pati tao ngayon binabasura – nakabalot ang mga ito ng masking tape o packing tape, ewan ko ba kung ano ang tamang tawag doon. Kadalasan doon sa mga lugar nila, ang dami nang basura sa kapaligiran. Baka hindi lang tamang pag-alaga sa gamit, sa tren at building ang dapat matutunan ng Pilipino kundi tamang pag-alaga sa tao – pagdating sa kalusugan, sa pag-aaral, sa makukuhang trabaho. Huwag na iyong maarte at nagmamataas na “Pweh, BASURA”! Tama na iyan.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, ika-2 ng Hulyo 2017

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