Paano Ngayon?

Mount Malinaoewan ko na. Baka naman talagang mas komportable ang karamihan ng Pilipino sa mga mukhang magiging mga Senador ngayon (link). Mas katulad na nila sa ugali at lahat. Hindi na iyong mga nakakainis na elitista. Hindi na iyong mga disenteng mga ipokrito. Hindi na iyong mga gustong sundan ang lahat ng batas na sobra-sobra ang borloloy. May ginagawa talaga! Patayin ang adik, linisin ang Boracay, durugin ang Marawi. Pinaninindigan ang alam, lalo na iyong mga destabilizer at mga dilawan na mareklamo!

Magwalâ muna

Pero hayaan muna mag-migrate ang mga iyan, mga hindi tunay na Pilipino (link). Paingles-ingles, padiyos-diyos, tapos puro Constitution. Tanginang mga Inglesero. Tanginang mga Katoliko. E sa Limasawa pa lang, swapang iyong pari na nagmisa. Kapag ang mga Bisaya nag-inom, kasama lahat, hindi lang iyong sa harap ang meron! Tapos ang pinakain sa mga Waray iyang tinapay na matigas at puti at maliit pa sa puto. Anong klaseng pagsasama iyan. Tapos ang sex life nating malandi noon, pinigil nila!

Sino ang di mawiwili sa mapupula mong pisngi?
Lalu na’t mainit-init ang matambok mong pu-
So ko’y lumulukso, dahilang sa ganda mo
Pwede bang mahipo ko ang malaki mo’ng su-
Kat ko’ng akalain, masarap ang balimbing
Pwede bang makatikim ang mahaba ko’ng u-..

Iyan tayo (link)! Kaya dapat malibog ang pinuno natin, hulog mga panty sa kanya (link)! Aanhin natin ang mga Abnoy na ayaw ng mga babae, kesa nakadalawang asawa na! Umalis na nga dito iyong mga gustong maging mga Amerikano, at doon sila kung saan sila puwedeng magsabi ng baklang thank you Sir, please Madam, tayo hindi ganyan. Tignan ninyo si Sass kung paano niya hinarap iyang mayabang na BBC na Ingles (link)! Ngayon, aalis na ang mga puti kasama iyong mga tuta nilang dilawan. Goodbye Felicia!

Pero bakit

Nakakapagod magkunyaring DDS. Pero bakit ba parang pagiging hangal na kaluluwa, bastos, ignorante, bobo at tanga na talaga ang peg ng pagiging Pilipino. Panahon ni Andres Bonifacio, normal pa sigurong marinig mo ito sa ordinaryong tao (link): Mahal ni Chel higit sa lahat ang batas. Pero mas may mahal pa siya sa batas – ang katarungan”  ngayong araw, sa propesor mo lang maririnig o kaya sa mga nasa unibersidad, sa ibang lugar baka sabihan ka pa ng “UGOK!” kapag sinabi mo iyon.

Baka akala ng maraming Pilipino diyan na walang kuwenta ang may pinag-aralan. Posibleng hindi nila nagamit ang pinag-aralan nila dahil napilitan kaagad mag-Saudi. Baka akala nila kahit sino puwede magpatakbo ng gobyerno dahil bulok ang takbo. Huwag sana silang magtaka kapag lalong bulok ang magiging takbo habang tumagal. Sige na nga, ano kayang magandang magagawa nila Bato, Imee, Manny atbp. diyan! Mga nakapunta na sa maunlad na bansa: may mga ganyan ba sa mga Senado nila?

Kinabukasan

Para saan pa kung makakapag-hapi-hapi na ngayon? Manood ng Senado araw-araw. Alisin na ang Eat Bulaga at ilipat doon. May budol-budol muna, tapos may inom at biro. Hay naku, baka makapasok pa si Bam Aquino. Boring naman, baka hindi siya sumama. Sobrang mag-iisip samantalang wala nang dapat isipin. Sagot na lahat ng mga Tsaynis. Di bale kung may utang na maiiwan, problema na iyan ng mga hindi pa ipinapanganak. Pero huwag silang maging pasaway. Kahit dose anyos kulong sila, pag malas tokhang!

May mga natatauhan na sana, pero kulang pa. Hindi ako lubos na naniniwala sa resulta daw ng botohan. Sobrang marami pa ring mga nauuto pa pero may mga nagising na. Kaya lang madalas sa lipunang Pilipino, kung sinong maingay at gago ang naririnig. Mga matitino baka tawagin pang takot o bakla, o pinakagrabe sa lahat “isip ng isip”. Tsaka palalabasin na kaunti lang ang mga tahimik pero matino – kaya siguro pinalabas na tambak ang resulta ng botohan. Ewan ko na talaga kung anong mangyayari ngayon.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, ika-13 ng Mayo 2019

Letting Go

Heavy traffic sa EDSA-Tramo (Pasay)(2017-08-04)is something that makes sense for me with regards to the Philippines, no matter what the outcome of the May 13 elections will be. My life does not depend on them, though it would be sad to see the Philippines go into what for me and many others is just wrong. But then again, what do I really know about what the Filipinos who might just vote for China, Duterte and (feudalistic/tribalistic style) Federalism truly want for themselves? Trying to understand put knots in my head, which is why I have not written for a while.

My Way

There is the phenomenon of My Way Killings (link) in the Philippines, people getting killed for singing my way in a way someone else in the audience obviously doesn’t like. The person who decides to be judge, jury and executioner at the same time is not so far from President Duterte who openly justifies EJKs in Davao (link) with this: “in the matter of elements of progress, Davao is in the forefront and only because we decided..”. Let us look at the logic behind this, even if it is alien to the logic of morality and rule of law.

Think of Metro Manila traffic where there is a lot of law of the jungle in action, including people who choose to force counterflow. My Way. Many junctions in Metro Manila have concrete barriers between lanes to prevent people from crossing them. The abstract idea of rules imposed by lines and lamps seems to evade many. I have seen videos about how rules that should be daily fare on EDSA have to be imposed by cops. In a society of many My Ways, no willing common consensus, is the true solution force?

Our Way

The other solution that has been tried is to limit independent thinking. Aside from the cults that abound in the Philippines, there are cultish elements in its politics as well. Tagging of perceived enemies of one’s own group is the norm – see recent matrices. The Philippine Left, in particular the Communists, purged itself savagely in the 1990s. Groups with a nationalistic bent tend to search for Westernized aspects in the “others”. The variety of Otso Diretso’s slate is NOT something that was typically Filipino before.

Filipino groups often tend to be highly exclusive of anyone who is not within a very narrow range of similarity. Too educated, too rich, too poor, too uneducated, too white or dark? That alone can make people make mean jokes, or want you to “fall off a motorcycle”. Don’t know what I am referring to with the latter? Sorry, then you can’t sit with US hehe. A society that was mostly rural just decades ago and still is very clannish. How does pressure to conform work on migrants and OFWs – or returning academics?

Covenants

Yuval Noah Harari has noted that mankind derives its capability to achieve great things from common ideas. Different religions, but also political ideas, including the liberal-democratic standard ideas like democracy, rule of law, human rights are examples. Having been colonized, Filipinos often did not truly adapt the ideas of the conquerors – they only adjusted, sometimes just to the corrupted form lived by some representatives. Duterte saying the Constitution is nothing to him (link) is in a way just being very honest.

A Constitution is a covenant – or a social contract if one wants to sound more secular. Basically an agreement by a group of people on how they intend to get things together. Society with internalized rules is more pleasant than the  “damaged” kind of Filipino culture – often among the “My Way” clientele – where people get mad if you ask them to follow ANY rules. Or worse, pay their debt, if one was foolish enough to lend money. That clientele might admire Bong Revilla for his chutzpah with plundered money (link).

If the majority of Filipinos are just that way, will Mainland China be the suitable partner? And is a combination of Mao Zedong’s “power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (link) and Digong’s equally cynical and contemptuous approach all that will keep them in line? Or will Filipinos go more for the likes of Chel Diokno, who was recently said by a law school dean (link) to love the law most of all, but love justice even more than the law? How many will have understood that these are not just empty words, not to everyone?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 May 2019

Why is he still alive – asked President Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte listens to the report of Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerreroof a police office who had accused him and his former adviser – a Chinese citizen – of involvement in the drug business (link). Maybe not anymore shocking even to those from the West who have already heard enough of Duterte in the past three years. Probably not shocking to many Filipinos, as the political culture has known these kinds of figures for a long time, with Ramon Durano of Danao who was Congressman of of Cebu’s first district from 1949 to 1972 as an example, described in an article (link):

Ramon Durano is described as a “contradictory figure”.. [he] projected himself as a modest, unpretentious, devoutly Christian family man and patron.  People easily warmed to his authentic folksy provinciano ways.. Ramon’s opponents knew him differently. He had a callous and fearsome reputation. He was known to operate by brutal intimidation, assassination and corruption. Ramon enforced his will using an army of frightening gun-toting goons, who later expanded into killer vigilante squads..

Durano’s wife was Beatriz Duterte, sister of President Duterte’s father Vicente Duterte. One might theorize that the pre-colonial ruling class, coopted by the Spanish, then later naturally using American-style democracy to further their rule upon economically very dependent people, somehow forgot its mandate to serve its own people along the way. But unfortunately the reign of fear seems to have pre-dated Spanish colonialism, as this article which is mainly about the babaylan, precolonial female healers, documents (link):

..A datu’s hold onto power was enhanced by the people’s popular belief of the datu’s arcane knowledge of pangkukulam or pambabarang, a type of black magic that allegedly harms the datu’s enemies.

William Henry Scott (1994) listed some of the most feared supernatural powers of the datu. Ropok was a curse that allowed the datu to control and enslave the mind of any person. Bosong was another type of dark magic that caused swelling in a person’s intestines. Panlus was a spear that also caused intense swelling in the victim who steps over it. Kaykay was believed to be a highly advanced form of dark magic that allowed the datu to pierce his enemy just by pointing at him or her from a distance. Hokhok, the most feared among the datu’s powers, was believed to cause instant death just by the datu’s touch or breath..”

By that catalogue, Duterte is unimpressive. He needs police and military to kill, has no magic like the rulers of old. But certainly he still means well, which is what some of his followers still seem to believe, if one is to go by Manuel L. Quezon III’s satire (link):

For them, being the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Chief Executive — in other words, the Mahatma or Great Soul of Malacañang — means the President, even when he is wrong, is right, because by being wrong, he rights other wrongs. Confused? Let us stipulate that as one name for the liquidation scheme (Oplan Double Barrel) suggests, the so-called war on drugs takes a shotgun approach. There will be, as the President has told us frankly, collateral damage.

Let us also stipulate what the President has also said, that he was shocked — shocked! Dismayed! — to discover that some policemen were liquidating people without regard to his own carefully crafted rules of engagement. Two years ago, the President even shifted antidrug operations from the police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) because of this.

Third, the President himself has pointed to various government agencies as the sources of information for his lists, saying he trusts them. This means that the escape clause in such statements is that it is entirely possible that officials will, from time to time, turn out to have abused the President’s trust.

So he does not even have magic discernment, and is reliant on OTHERS for infos? That severely violates the Filipino rule of Thought called When you Know, you know. Well, now we know the Golden Age has passed – how shall we deal with our sorrow?

And though Duterte knows Chinese cruise missiles can hit Manila in 7 minutes (link), one may still ask why he is offering China everything, including national patrimony (link). Is that what datus wanted of subjects – and gave to overlords? Full submission? Hmm..

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 31 March 2019

What is it, gonna be, honesty or jealousy?

Crab Nebulais part of a refrain of a French 1995 funk/hip-hop song (link), but recent events in the Philippines have made it clear how much this seemingly strange choice is the choice. Those who say there is no true honesty (link) are those who are dripping with jealousy. Who will NOT forget Digong’s smirk when he repeatedly told Mar Roxas: “Nooo, you are not a graduate of Wharton!” (link) during one of the Presidential debates of 2016. Roughly, I translate the French of one of the passages of the song I mentioned:

Car la réussite gêne (because success annoys)
L’envie est naturelle (envy is natural)
Mais quand celle-ci est malsaine (but once it is unhealthy)
Ca nous donne (SELF DESTRUCTION) (it gives us SELF DESTRUCTION)
Et tu le sais (SELF DESTRUCTION) (and you know it SELF DESTRUCTION)
Mais tu le fais ! (but you do it)

The Philippines is known for crab mentality, no doubt. Crab mentality has two parts: envying those above and putting down those perceived as below. The pecking order of a postcolonial and hierarchic society breeds a lot of feelings that simmer unseen. (link)

..I am also a parvenu, raised in the provinces by a middle class family, by brave and loving parents who did their best to give I and my sister the best they could afford. They did it despite the fact that my father had to struggle with progressive debilitation and my mother with unimaginable difficulties. I never wrote about this openly, but I also faced during college days discrimination and mockery from the Manileno elites and posh boys and girls for my strange accent (it was more pronounced back in the days) and embarrassing ignorance of pop culture; they looked down at me with all their well-moneyed basic education and privileged American-accented culture. There is so much more I could share at the risk of sounding vindictive (I’m actually cool now) and radical (I’m a social democrat), so i will keep those old wounds out of sight..

Richard Javad Heydarian writes this – the successful, internationally known professor. He says “those humiliations at the hands of the feckless elite helped me better understand Sassot and many ordinary folks like me who have now suddenly found power and platform after years of marginality.” Well, Prof. Heydarian, I understand these people too. But I don’t underestimate the lion’s den you are walking into. Vindictiveness and resentment often hits the first available target, and often outlives its usefulness:

The power obviously does not heal the wound inside, the true reason for the jealousy. Those who are jealous can never be truly honest, as they feel they lack something real. Why else the need, in Imee’s example, to make up college degrees that just don’t exist?

The song has a part which also says: “Ras l’bol des gens qui devant vous vous complimentent et qui derrière souhaitent votre descente” (had enough of people who give you compliments in front and behind you want your descent). That was the old Philippines pre-Duterte in many ways. Today is the age of open jealousy and vindictive malice. I did experience forerunners of that among Philippine migrants and high-level overseas professionals, probably feeling “empowered” being outside the traditional Filipino structures and having someone there who by his speech and background represented everything they felt hurt by. They just want to see you fall and laugh at it. But does Mar Roxas falling from a bike give true joy? Or just hollow, bitter snickering?

Could be that some Filipinos have realized the bad road that jealousy has led them into. Reviving the old heckling about Mar Roxas (link) and VP Leni (link) isn’t quite clicking, while the most refreshing example of honesty one can see, Pilo Hilbay, is smiling (link).

There are of course those who want the normal Filipino to yell at every perceived “elite” and “colonialist”, like Sassot confronting a truly hapless BBC reporter in Manila (link).

There is no honest agenda behind that, just jealousy. And you know it but you do it..

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 10 March 2019

Common Filipino Fallacies – and why they are harmful

Manny Pacman Pacquiao 2The past few months and weeks looking at Philippine politics have shown a number of very harmful fallacies common in Filipino thinking. Certainly my perspective is foreign. But then again, every country has to deal with foreign perspectives about them (link), including the famous “Xenophobe’s Guides” that humorously show quirks of nations, or “Meet the Germans” (link) by Deutsche Welle, with Rachel pointing out German quirks. But having seen familiar fallacies resurface, I cannot help but point them out right here:

  1. Too much Democracy is Harmful for Filipinos. Manny Pacquiao recently said this. But then, it is not the first time I have heard this. Now if Filipinos think democracy is the right to choose which side of the street they want to drive on, he is right. Well I am exaggerating this time, but clearly one has to “take care of one another” (link) as communities in order to have successful democracy and not anarchy.
  2. Criticism is Destabilization. Well, if the one in power is not really interested in the common good but only in the good of a certain group, then it IS destabilization – of a rule not according to the (theoretically) agreed rules defined by the Constitution.
  3. Loyalty is to the Government. The government is just the present management and staff running the state, and the state is supposed to serve the entire nation. Those who want to remove students for being critical are expecting subservience.
  4. Making abuses known abroad is betrayal. The assumed consensus that all people are for certain “measures” of government could probably be due to intimidation and ignorance. Other countries have to deal with reports from abroad as well. Very progressive countries like Germany even have their own Deutsche Welle reporting on issues within the country, without seeing this as an admitting failure.
  5. Admitting mistakes or saying sorry is either weakness or hypocrisy. The assumption that there are no honest mistakes is very much part of the culture. Trolls recently attacked VP Leni for a typographical error, assuming malice (link). Such a cultural attitude CANNOT, by any stretch, understand that Germany has really (mostly!) learned from its mistakes in World War 2. It gets: BBM and Imee.
  6. Criticism is Malicious. Just as there is no concept of an honest mistake, there is no idea that criticism can be a useful catalyst to keep everybody on their toes, keep them from getting too comfortable. Some Filipinos say that in Germany everything is perfect but people keep complaining. An Austrian friend of mine once said stuff is close to perfect over here because of complaints. Japanese Kaizen (link) is based on constant improvement of what is already good enough.
  7. Debates and discussion are useless. One group of Senate candidates maintains. Sure, many Filipino debates are one-upmanship and verbal showmanship without purpose. Often it is merely about who is to blame, which is why people often don’t give in an inch, as a witch trial or Inquisition attitude often still predominates. Think of the Dengvaxia matter which now has scientists who made no mistake being charged with homicide (link) and has caused measles to spread because people became afraid of vaccination. Proper discussions are there to help define the scope of issues, help compare solutions to decide which one(s) to take, and monitor the solution(s). Even errors can be stepping-stones to improvement. But that means assuming that honest mistakes exist, which is hard in a culture of distrust that throws out a Supreme Court Chief Justice on a mere technicality, but acquits Bong Revilla who clearly had strange money coming into his account.
  8. When you know you know. Admitting errors in judgement means incompetence. Doesn’t matter if you were fed incomplete information. Pretending that “drug matrixes” are without error even if some of those listed are already dead is “firm”. Such an attitude works in a village where you can easily verify with your senses. Wider geographical and social contexts mean you will ALWAYS have uncertainty. Meaning that consistent reporting and monitoring standards become important. Fake news and distortion of facts and context becomes even worse. Of course you cannot, like Mocha once did, say there are no EJKs ’cause you don’t see any. That is probably not just “illiterate” or “ignoramus” like some would say, but malice.
  9. Speaking Truth to Power is Disrespect. There is the story I read of a Korean air line that taught its crews to be polite but direct in emergency situations – after an accident where a co-pilot was too “respectful”, meaning indirect, to a pilot about how much fuel the plane still had – until it was too late. There are probably hundreds of ground-level situations in the Philippines where theory and practice are not aligned, but either those below do not speak up – or those above don’t want to hear. The story of MMDA wanting to press charges against someone who uploaded a video of a footbridge with electrical cables showing (link) is an example of power that does not want to correct mistakes, just HIDE them.

Of course it is possibly all just OK. It is logical, actually if one assumes that power and status make right, malice is to be assumed, and those lower are “resilient”, meaning they adjust and don’t complain about stuff like Westerners, yellows and reds all do. That there are no honest mistakes, just honest thieves who are way better than hypocrites, and that nobody ever learns anything after the new age of criminal responsibility, 12 years, because once you are conscious and when you know, you know all is clear.

If that is how the majority thinks – like the abandoned kids in Lord of the Flies – it is hard. Also if the preservers of culture stubbornly insist that a damaged mindset is correct and a more productive mindset is “Western”. But hope springs eternal and so let us just see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 March 2019

Truth vs. Honor?

Stretcherbondis that the issue when it comes to libel laws? Well, the Philippine definition of libel is (link) as per Article 353 Revised Penal Code: Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. Causing dishonor, discredit, or contempt is the main thing, it seems.

Shaiming the shameless

The Philippine Penal Code is an old Spanish colonial law in spirit, so Filipino libel sounds a bit like one Don Bigote making it impossible for any paper to write that he and his goon Pancho Tarzan actually stole grain from some windmills, unless Art. 361 applies: Proof of the truth. — In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true, and, moreover, that it was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the defendants shall be acquitted. Well, what does good motives and justifiable ends mean? And besides, seems the one accused of libel is considered guilty until he has proven the contrary.

There was this famous misspelled poster “Stop Shaiming President Duterte”. Certain public officials in the Philippines, it seems, do not want to be “shaimed” or exposed. Those who expose seem to be considered bad by the supporters of the entitled one.  This is very much unlike Japanese shame, where those whose wrongdoing is exposed are very ashamed and sometimes even commit suicide. Bong Revilla is the opposite. Well, let us be “happy” he is not trying to use libel law to cover up that he did get 124.5 million pesos (link) though he acts as if he did not know about the money’s dirty origin. The absence of the vanity necessary for “shaim”, the peculiar desire to appear saintly when one isn’t, might be the old hypocrisy disappearing – but in an undesirable way.

Bricks and honor

Germany also still criminalizes libel. But (link) §186 (Defamation) of the German Criminal Code says: Whosoever asserts or disseminates a fact related to another person which may defame him or negatively affect public opinion about him, shall, unless this fact can be proven to be true, be liable..” while § 187 (Intentional defamation) goes even further: Whosoever intentionally and knowingly asserts or disseminates an untrue fact related to another person..” with substantially higher penalties for intentional defamation. Only facts count, whether they are true of not, and whether unproven negative speculations or untruths are intentionally and knowingly spread – not fuzzy stuff like “motives” and “malice”. Harder to abuse such a law.

But enough to protect honor. Because someone who does a bad thing has already damaged his own honor whether people find out or not, point it out or not. True honor is like solid bricks as opposed to an “Honorable” entitled Filipino hiding behind libel laws, whose “honor” is like hollow blocks easily destroyed by a few stones thrown, or by wind. Though what the Filipino public believes and who it respects sometimes puzzles me. Picture like these (link) do show VP Leni’s true (good) colors. Why adore Imee (link)?

Truth and bilib

Pepe Diokno – Chel Diokno’s Dad (link) – said that “Filipinos seek God’s help because we have been made to believe we cannot help ourselves”. Or they seek a trapo’s help. Unlike the Swiss who started their freedom off by ridding themselves of local tyrants. Some Filipinos see certain “strong” figures they can hitch a ride on – even if that ride is funded with money stolen from other groups of Filipinos or even the whole country – as a way to get by, as a way to survive. Imee Marcos with her brazenness fits that profile.

Someone who says (link) “I entered Princeton and as far as I know, I graduated.” though Princeton itself says there are no records of that (link) and calls herself Manang gets the bilib (admiration) of those Adings who want to hitch a ride on her gravy train. Defining a false truth, a house made of hollow blocks and GI sheets, is much easier than a house of solid brick walls and brick roof. Wind that huffs and puffs is not wanted. And if it does come like the Big Bad Wolf and one is without a house, blame Mar Roxas! Exaggerated libel laws, fake degrees, lowest common denominators like being rude, fake news like pictures of Iloilo faked as Davao are signs of people who fear the truth as they might not really “bilib” in themselves. For some it is too late. For others maybe not.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17 February 2019

Fundamental Disrespect

Taho2was shown to the Filipino policeman thrown taho at by a Chinese student in Manila (link). This is the same category as slapping employees and making them walk on all fours like a Chinese firm recently did (link). Or like the way Japanese slapped Filipinos in World War 2. It is fundamental as it robs the other person of the right to be treated as a fellow human. There are certainly hierarchies everywhere, but once contempt comes into play it is nasty. It may also contain the aspect of demanding “respect” – but as superior treatment.

Well, maybe that kind of respect is what the Chinese woman wanted from the policeman. Similar to the kind of respect whites once demanded from blacks in the American South? Maybe similar to the kind of respect some Filipino politicians demand from the “ordinary”?
Or the respect a certain type of Filipino cops demand from the poor people they harrass? Demanding respect that denies the Other fundamental respect isn’t anything I respect. Fundamental respect is I think the most basic thing between people and groups of people.

The MRT might indeed be one place run like hell by Filipinos, but its rules are its rules. Often conquered, Filipinos are indeed sensitive about foreigners telling them what to do. But there is I think a difference between Australian Sister Fox, deported for “disrespecting” the presumed prerogative of Filipino authorities to violate the human rights of their people, and the entitled sense of superiority of one from a nation that is acting aggressively today, with numerous incidents that look like contempt for Filipinos, brown Asians and Africans.

Unfortunately, parts of the Filipino ruling class have been known to trade solidarity with their own people for power – in exchange for subservience to a foreign ruler. Not different from the way datus sometimes acknowledged a paramount chief in exchange for favors, as detailed in books such as Raiding, Trading and Feasting (link) – or like Congressmen today switch to the majority in exchange for pork: modern raiding, trading and feasting. Datus, then principalia, American-era politicians, Japanese collaborators and now trapos.

Every step essentially brought the leaders of the archipelago further away from their base. There are enough of those who “respect” the people only with fake smiles and envelopes.  There are also the sincere responses defending the right of the simplest Filipino to dignity. Vice-President Robredo, Congressman Gary Alejano, Florin Hilbay and Senator Lacson are those that I have read about until now, there are surely more. May their tribe increase. And fundamental respect, something lacking more and more in today’s world, in general.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 10 February 2019

A Broader Picture

Koppu's flooding and sediment over Manila Bay and Pampanga River 2015-10-21 0250Zis forming for some Filipinos, finally. Memes of how the “Manila Bay cleanup” was nothing more than a beachfront cleanup in Manila only, showing how big Manila Bay is compared to the front that was cleaned, are one example of how this is happening. Used to be that even UP academics excused their being unable to efficiently use maps of European cities by saying that maps were a European colonialists view of the earth. There are also memes showing how the President’s office has overspent since 2017.


Part I: Parochialism vs. Progress

National and Local

Larger geographical areas, millions in any kind of money, longer spans of time are often not something Filipinos grasp well. The heritage of smallness (link) that Nick Joaquin wrote about is very real. Manuel L. Quezon III also expressed it very well in this tweet:

Well, probably national is barely understood by many in a country where the word for village and country is bayan. I have seen social media statements stating that Manny Pacquiao is a good Senator because he helps a lot of poor people with his money.

It goes further: there are Filipino migrants abroad, just a generation removed from their peasant origins, who say that Leila de Lima is a drug lord because everybody in their clan that migrated all over the world is saying so. The village gossip mindset as “proof”. Easy to evaluate gossip in a small community where you see the people you are dealing with and have enough small clues to their character to sift the nonsense out. The mental jump to a more complex world is not yet fully accomplished among many.

When you know, you know

In a simpler society, truths were also clearer – at least those needed for one’s daily life. Once a Filipina told me “when you know, you know!” because I got lost in a city I had not visited for a while. A very parochial view which does not know how memory works when someone has been to dozens of countries and hundreds of towns in a lifetime. But even most of the Philippine media have an islander’s view of things, assuming that the context is known to all, and that you have to catch up by yourself. I twittered this:

The “when you know you know” mindset will of course favor those who are familiar with a very narrow domain and never go outside it. President Duterte is that kind of person. Philippine House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, who says that experience is superior to science when it comes to making decisions (link) is also that kind of parochial mind. Good science puts together multiple perspectives = experiences and observations. Besides, the Socratic attitude of “I know that I know nothing” leads to learning more.


Part II: Who do we bilib more?

Dengvaxia is the Devil – and Children aren’t Angels

Unfortunately, never having to admit a wrong is seen as a sign of “strength” by many. Sanofi, which was simply being honest by giving out a warning based on new findings, may now be like some former “White Gods” islanders turn against in a corny B-movie. While Persida Acosta, who keeps insisting things that have no solid proof whatsoever, might be seen as correct by many whose main mindset is “when you know you know!”. Even Duterte is now appealing to Filipinos to vaccinate, as diseases are now spreading.

Duterte, who is definitely several rungs above Acosta on the totem pole. Who has been believed so often when he came out with “drug matrixes”. His daughter is probably seen as magical as well, so was her opinion that “children are not angels” so important (link)? Well, there is a certain truth to what she says, as street children in poorer countries can be harsher than those in more affluent countries. The struggle for survival shapes them. But does it justify putting them in cages like wild animals, which Filipino jails in fact are?

No silver bullets

A Filipino hybrid electric train is coming out soon (link), not due to the Wakandan power of Digong Duterte, but due to years of R&D by DOST that started in Aquino III’s term. One major adaptation to Philippine conditions was to line the windows with mesh wire, because stones are thrown at trains in the Philippines that pass along large slum areas. It takes a bit of common sense to adapt technologies and techniques from abroad to local conditions. For techniques, it is often more difficult to see where things don’t fit.

Silver bullets (link) don’t exist. Many Filipinos who might have lost their “bilib” in the way things are done in the West might now have moved their magical thinking unto the Chinese whose trains, CCTVs and telecommunications are seen as “miracle cures”. Somewhat like “stateside” was magical just a generation ago. But there are no miracles in this world. The MRT along EDSA ran smoothly in the beginning, but some neglected the maintenance of a complex system of rails, wagons, wheels, stations, and electricity.


Part III: Why so long and complicated?

Bilisan mo na!

There is very little patience with complex and long-term solutions in the Philippines. Ideally, it should be built by foreign Gods (formerly white and now Chinese) and work. When it comes to governance, same. It is harder to properly implement rehabilitation for juvenile delinquents and drug addicts than to simply jail them or kill them, that is clear. Just like it is easier to throw garbage out of the window of one’s SUV like some rich do in the Philippines. Quick solutions that ignore long-term repercussions are preferred.

Much of the weakness of today’s Philippine government are in its bureacracy, I think. The system was certainly excellent when set up in the 1930s with the help of the USA. Good enough to run on its own, with some modifications in the 1970s and the 1980s. Probably woefully inefficient compared to what is possible with modern IT and modern ways of working adapted to IT. But what happened to CJ Sereno who tried to modernize the justice system using information technology? Reactionary forces certainly hated her.

Bridging the gap – to solve problems

The modern system thinkers for now seem outnumbered by those who are “practical”. The Boracay cleanup seems to have been a mess, in detail. Marawi is still in ruins now. Manila Bay is a big toilet, only the seat is clean now. Few Filipinos probably care about the West Philippine Sea as no one has relatives living there, I guess. A broader picture is not that easy for those who are trying to survive. And even competent practitioners must find the right balance between “analysis paralysis” and thoughtless actionism.

Renato Constantino, in his “The Miseducation of the Filipino” (link), wrote that  “People don’t even think it is their duty to know, or that they are capable of understanding national problems. Because of the language barrier, therefore, they are content to leave everything to their leaders” (Page 11). Nowadays, many think they can apply village logic to national issues, and deride formerly admired foreign – or Western – expertise. The theoretical/practical gap as a result of the diagnosed miseducation is still very wide.


A problem-solving mindset includes putting together observations into a broad picture, then defining solutions, prototyping and piloting them, rolling them out, and correcting. There is understanding the stakeholders, then convincing them to go with the solution. Those who are good at the former in the Philippines are often not that good at the latter – and vice-versa, with VP Leni’s Angat Buhay program as a major example of both parts working hand in hand smoothly. More of that in the future please. And less nonsense.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 February 2019

Developing its People

0202jfMapangpang San Felipe Rizal Science City Munoz Ecijafvf 40NOT letting them rot and then punish them – should be the priority of any smart country. It is the way of South Korea, Japan and Singapore – but not of Brazil or the Philippines. The recent discussion about jailing 9 (or 12) year old children has shown a symptom.  Poverty without hardly a chance to move up – exceptions prove the rule – is the cause. The reasons for that are many – a public education system which was still excellent in the 1950s, but was allowed to rot, like many things after the American colonial period. An antiquated legal system with a Penal Code dating back to 1887, with jails and prisons that belong in movies like Pirates of the Carribean or the Count of Monte Cristo, not in modern times. Pre-modern beliefs on many matters including crime and justice.

Rousseau and Hobbes

are not Calvin and Hobbes. The first, Rousseau, basically believed that people are good by nature, while Hobbes believed that primitive men were nasty, brutish and short. Well, he actually said that their lives were nasty, brutish and short, not that they were Digong. Which of the two are right? Because one might think some extreme liberals believe more on the Rousseau side, while those who hate human rights advocates are more on the Hobbes side. Probably it isn’t that simple. People who grow up in positive places – they don’t even have to be ultra-modern, they just have to have needs met and be free of fear, will probably mostly be good, while those who grow up in negative places will most probably be nastier. Parents and their outlook on life certainly play a big role also.

Then of course circumstances. Hunger might make the most decent people steal to eat. Places were life has been an unfair struggle for centuries can develop cynical attitudes to life, passed on to children until the culture as a whole is damaged. Groups of people whose original bonds are destroyed by crises can become outright nasty to each other. Unless there is something that brings them back together, this can mean self-destruct. Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote “A Short History of Mankind”, postulates that people are held together by common beliefs. Religions, organizations, money, government, nations are held together by beliefs. Even languages (and their cultures) imply certain beliefs. Therefore what is considered “correct” in common parlance affects what is believed.

May isip na

means already conscious, already able to “think”. Batang may isip na is a child from 7. What those who argue that a child of seven is already able to “know” things consciously ignore is that children have not yet developed a sense of responsibility for what they do. Possibly, many Filipino lawmakers never advanced from that stage, never developed any sense of responsibility at all, so they believe that a child of nine already is mature. Or did their childhood and adolescence consist mainly of bullying and hazings, recently reported a lot, and most possibly THE schooling in the ethics of impunity (link) which “protect the powerful, not the powerless”. Possibly “maturity” for some in the Philippines is accepting that life basically goes by the same rules as in “Lord of the Flies” (link).

For that maturity, it doesn’t take much time, maybe one can realize that at the age of 12. Forget all naive dreams of a better world. Though the places where they teach their children those naive and humanistic “dreams” are indeed the better places on earth. Possibly this just proves what Harari said about beliefs. And is the rest just Hobbes? Certainly, the main difference between rich politician kids caught with drugs and poor kids making the life of the middle class hard by stealing is the resources they have. Whether a rich person throws garbage out of the window or a brash SUV owner counterflows is just as callous and inconsiderate as the poor throwing trash into rivers. The poor at least have the struggle for survival as a reason, the rich no excuse at all.

Shaping things up

will not work with the kind of self-hatred that Filipinos very often manifest, which shows itself in the hatred of the poor – who are a sorry image of what most Filipinos used to be. Only that in 1970s UP Balara, there was still space for chickens, and I remember (as we lived in UP Area 1 on the hill just above) how even pigs were occasionally killed there. Urban poor in the Philippines just brought their old way of life to the city – until the city no longer provided them with the space for that, not even goats for sale near SM North. Filipinos around 1910 lived either in ancestral homes (a minority) or in bahay kubos. Progress is not a bad thing, but runaway progress put Filipinos with means in private subdivisions, their kids into private schools, and they shop not in city centers but malls.

That responsibility for public matters (res publica in Latin, the original root of “republic”) is hardly there is not surprising at all. Senyorito-like disdain for the poor combines with the consumerist attitude of seeking a quick fix into support for tokhang and jailing kids. Civic thinking (a good American trait) plus charity and compassion (good Catholic traits) are only present among a minority of Filipinos, one has the impression, or else Duterte would not be President, and Congress would not have simply tried to jail young people. Recent suggestions like that of Mar Roxas to finally institutionalize 4Ps – which make it more likely that children go to school – or that of Senator Drilon to build institutions to help children in trouble before thinking of changing the law are but a few rays of light.


Modernizing the penal code was something Senator De Lima tried to do in 2014 (link) when she still ran DOJ, but it seems that was too modern for the Philippines – it was hardly discussed. Going further like shorter sentences for youth, was that considered? Making the entire system of justice more efficient – to prevent the poor from rotting in jail for years without even trial – and overhauling the toilets called jails has not been done. Even Dr. Rizal called the Philippine justice system antiquated, compared to the British. 132 years after 1887 when the Penal Code was enacted, many Filipinos dream of being Singapore but think that being like Davao will make it so. Possibly, a number have fallen out of that delusion already. Whether enough have will be seen in the May elections.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27. January 2019

Philippine History Part V – Ngayon. 2018.

Flag-map-of-philippinesKudos to Rappler for it’s overview of 2018 (link) top stories – even if the most read and most mood vote stories are more of a picture of interest and mood of the readership, missing some important things that happened to the Philippines in a very hard year. Nonetheless, excellent in looking back and trying to filter the noise – and there is a lot of noise in the Philippine bayan, the word for nation and village. Looking back is important in being able to see things in proper perspective, reviewing good, bad and ugly things.

Harassment of “enemies”

Senator De Lima remained in jail inspite of numerous appeals, local and national. Christmas was the first time she got to meet her mother since she was arrested.

Rappler was harrassed from the beginning of the year:

  • In mid-January its registration was revoked (link) due to “PDRs”,
  • Pia Ranada was refused entry to Malacañang (link) in mid-February,
  • Omidyar donated the “PDRs” to Rappler managers (link) in late February,
  • in December, Maria Ressa of Rappler posted bail in a tax evasion case (link)
  • but was also named among the Persons of the Year by Time Magazine (link)

During New Year’s Eve in New York, Maria Ressa was among those to “drop the ball”. Both the PDRs (originally accepted) and the tax evasion case seem to be threadbare.

Chief Justice Sereno was ousted via “quo warranto” by her fellow justices on May 11. The judgement was seen as an “abomination of justice” in one dissenting opinion. Follow-up by Solicitor General Calida strongly indicated a direct hand of the President.

Senator Trillanes‘ amnesty was revoked by the President in early September. One court ordered his arrest on a bailable charge in late September, while in late October Judge Andres Soriano did NOT issue a warrant of arrest on a non-bailable charge. Weeks of being in the Senate to avoid premature arrest by the PNP, which had been observing him and harangued Judge Soriano about when he would issue the warrant, ended. In these weeks, an opposition prayer group led by Will Villanueva got started.

International matters

In late April, an “OFW rescue mission” in Kuwait involving Mocha Uson and RJ Nieto aka “Thinking Pinoy” (link) caused major diplomatic troubles. The beginning of the end for Mocha Uson and Secretary Cayetano, who resigned months later for other reasons.

Boracay was suddenly closed from April 26 and reopened in late October after “rehabilitation” which was controversial. It is not clear whether it helped the island. Foreign tour operators might remove the Philippines due to unpredictability.

A new complaint was filed before the ICC by the families of drug war victims (link) in August, and the ICC on December 5 said it would continue its examination (link), the withdrawal of the Philippines in March (by President Duterte alone) notwithstanding.

President Duterte visited China in April (link) and Xi Jinping visited the Philippines in October (link). Defense Secretary Lorenzana floated the idea of reviewing the MDT (mutual defense treaty) with the USA in December. Hardly any benefits for the country, most projects finished this year were old PPP projects from the previous administration, while illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines became an issue to the year end (link). Chinese military buildups continued (link) in the South China sea, among other things.

Travel advisories for the Mindanao were issued by Australia and the UK (link) at the end of the year, not long after the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. An advisory on security issues was also issued by US and Guam officials for Manila’s NAIA airport.

National matters

While the President moved more towards his generals and against his former leftist allies (link), including wanting to “hamlet” the Lumads, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made a comeback in July as Speaker of the House (link) in dramatic scenes before the SONA. This resulted in a (very controversial) draft for a Federal Constitution that would abolish term limits and otherwise favor political dynasties. She was acquitted of charges of 2007 electoral sabotage while Mikey Arroyo was acquitted of tax evasion (link). Isidro Lapeña, former Customs Commissioner, was not charged with anything by PDEA in December (link) inspite of his possible involvement in a major shipment of shabu slipping through customs in August, after which he was transferred to TESDA.

Bong Go was involved in a procurement scandal for Navy warships in January (link). Seems that how Rappler covered the case was one reason for their harassment. Also, Bong Go was over-advertised on placards and events during the entire year. Wanda Tulfo had to leave as Tourism Secretary, but the alleged 60 million pesos that her brother was paid for commercials has not been returned. Similarly, Bong Revilla was acquitted of plunder but made to return the money, which he is refusing to do (link).

Meanwhile, killings continued, the most shocking cases being that of a priest killed (link) after mass in Cagayan on April 29, and the Mayor of Tanauan shot by a sniper during a flag ceremony (link) on July 2, with Duterte afterwards claiming he had drug links (link).  In mid-December, Duterte made threats towards bishops, especially Ambo David of Caloocan (link). Just before Christmas, pro-Duterte Albay Congressman Batocabe was shot dead (link), causing an outcry among previously silent administration politicians.

Satur Ocampo and ACT Teacher’s party list Rep. France Castro were arrested for “trafficking” after trying to help Lumad children in late November (link) and two NDFP peace consultants, Rey and Patricia Casambre, were arrested early December (link).

More than a year after the end of hostilities on 23 October 2017, Marawi stays broken, its residents only partly able to return due to bomb-clearing operations taking very long and reconstruction stalling. Samira Gutoc has emerged as a leader out of that crisis.

Politics and Economics

Both opposition and administration announced their senatorial slates for May 2019. Though Bongbong Marcos was unable to unseat VP Leni by his electoral protest, what will happen during the coming elections is unclear and the coming months decisive.

Dengue and measles cases rose due to fear of vaccines induced by the Dengvaxia scare. HIV cases also seem to be rising. Defunding Project NOAH probably also was a reason for landslides during typhoon Usman, as it seems hazard maps were not used.

Finally, Dalian trains have started to used on the MRT, and a several year long overhaul program has started. Unfortunately, traffic in Manila has not improved but seems worse. The closing of the Pantaleon-Estrella bridge to build a Chinese one will aggravate more.

Deficits probably rose due to a 3.8 trillion budget in 2018 versus a 3 trillion 2016 budget. The Philippines is running on a re-enacted 2018 budget as the 2019 budget was not passed, fortunately there is no government shutdown in this case like in the USA now.

Of the laws passed in 2018, the “Mental Health Act” and “Act strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law” are by Senator Hontiveros, while the Bangsamoro Organic Law is authored by Senator Bam Aquino. Info on the real work of politics is very scattered.

Scandals, Sex and the Church

What made big headlines in the Philippines and the world were sex and blasphemy:

  • Duterte saying God is stupid for allowing original sin (link) in June
  • Duterte kissing an OFW on the lips in South Korea (link) in July
  • Duterte saying many beautiful women in Davao increase rape (link) in August
  • Duterte saying beliefs in the Trinity and crucifixion are silly (link) late December
  • Duterte confessing or telling a story of molesting a maid (link) also in December

The early 2018 issue of Isabelle Duterte using Malacañan for a photoshoot (link) pales. A possible junket to Europe with PSG in tow around Christmas is nearly forgotten too.

The Ateneo bullying scandal of December (link) is almost forgotten now also, though it, together with the challenges to the Catholic Church and moral precepts – especially the last story of the maid – may have triggered some real soul-searching (link). About time!

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, Three Kings Day 2019

P.S. Yes, there were the movies Liway and Goyo, and Miss Philippines Catriona Gray (half-Aussie, half-Bicolana whose mother is from Albay) became Miss Universe.

P.P.S. feel free to comment on whatever I may have missed, even on details.